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(Thanks to Shawhollow for taking so much time to edit so many of my stories. Thank you.)

*Your private life and public life are never separate because the brain never stops thinking*

“Are you going to tell me what that was about?” I hint to Echo as my car pulls away from the charity event.

“I can’t right now,” she furrows her brow. “I need to think a few things over.” There is a lull in the conversation for over a minute then, “Dominic, do you have any family?”

“Ah, no,” I answer. “Dad did his drunk driver thing and Mom got septicemia after she got hurt on her job. There are no brothers or sisters. Why are you asking?”

“The world is a dangerous place, Dominic, and Michael Harrow is a dangerous man,” Echo warns me kindly.

“The guy is a bully and a thug…a well-connected, rich one but I’ve dealt with his kind before,” I grin, trying to put her at ease. You be a super-smart charity case at a prestigious school for the insanely rich then stack it on by jumping two grades at a time and see how often you get stomped on for the sake of amusement of kids who didn’t know that lawyers existed in schools of less than three.

“And you just told him that you can prove that the man we met tonight is not the real Michael Harrow,” she points out. I shrug; it isn’t my problem.

“Dom, has it occurred to you that if he isn’t the real Michael Harrow then what happened to that guy thirteen years ago and if he’s not Michael Harrow then who is he?” Echo prods.

“It’s not my problem,” I inform her; an answer that doesn’t go over well with her.

“I…forget about it,” she groans. There is another long silence as I drive closer to her home.

“So, beyond the fist-fight, how did you enjoy our second date?” I inquire. Our first date involved her using police entrapment to force me to my place, tricked me into handcuffing her hands behind her back and stripping her before engaging in oral sex.

“Yes, beyond cold-cocking a woman who put you on your ass, fighting with your ex-girlfriend and watching you be molested by your boss while dancing the waltz, I had a good time,” Echo gets snarky.

“That was a black tie affair,” I give her a pained smile. “Wait until you see that crowd at Happy Hour.”

“Is your life filled with working 9 to 5, parties, fast cars and whatever woman finds you attractive?” Echo shakes her head. “Don’t you have any tangible attachments?”

“I care about Brad Pierce all the time and Rachel some of the time,” I counter. “I tried to care about Stephanie but all we really were was a perfect couple with none of the fire. Then there is you; I haven’t decided how I feel about Echo Ashaz yet.”

“At least you are acquainted with honesty, but you still aren’t having sex with me tonight,” she informs me. I take a deep sigh because in my original plan I was supposed to have swept her off her feet by now.

I get back to her place and she’s developed a good head of steam and is gone from my car before I’m even out of my seat. I still go after her because high-brow boarding schools teach you how to be polite on the surface, especially if you are a scholarship kid. After racing up two flights of stairs she slows down by the door to her apartment.

“Good night Echo,” I say as I extend my hand. “I apologize for not showing you a better time tonight.” She turns and regards my hand, following up the line of my arm and shoulder to my eyes and I can’t determine what she makes of me.

“Why didn’t you report me for that stunt that you refer to as our first date?” she inquires.

“Pity,” I answer. That pisses her off terribly.

“Thanks,” she bites off her curt reply.

“It’s not what you think,” I explain. “When I was young I was a really small for my age; add to that I was a dirt-poor kid in a school where the other students couldn’t decide what continent they would spend Christmas on plus I was a ‘freaking genius’ and you can imagine how unpopular I was.” Echo nods with some level of comprehension.

“Benjamin Corbin – I was getting my weekly beating in my dormitory bathroom when he walked in. He was sixteen, I was ten and my attackers were ten or eleven years old. He had no idea who I was and he wasn’t even supposed to be there but he had come over to visit his younger brother and heard the noise. He beat the crap out of those five guys.”

“We ended up in the Headmaster’s office because some of those other kids’ parents were richer than Corbin’s and, well, I was a nobody. I couldn’t figure out why he did it so I broke down and asked him. Did you know what he said when I asked him why he would put his neck out for me and taken on so much trouble?” I relate.

“It had better have been something important,” Echo suggests.

“He said the world wasn’t supposed to work that way – the strong tormenting the weak”. He said that “it wasn’t up to the weak to seek justice but for the strong to ensure it, I recall like it was yesterday. “I thought that was the dumbest, most naïve thing I’d ever heard. I thought he güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri was mental.”

“Oh,” Echo sounded disappointed in my assessment.

“I helped his kid brother with his studies until I opted to go to college early; long after Ben left. He went to Annapolis and then flew aircraft for the Navy – not jet fighters but still. Since that day in the Headmaster’s office I have never talked to him,” I finished up, “but there are times in my life I ask myself what Ben would do. You were one of those times. I call it pity because I don’t want to think about what else it could be.”

“You never told him what an impact he had on your life?” she says in a different voice.

“Ben didn’t do what he did for me. He did it because it was what he felt was right,” I answer. “What could I tell him that he didn’t already know?”

“Damn it Dom, why do you keep surprising me?” she now sounds both happy and upset.

“I don’t know but now that you are in a better mood, can I talk you into going out with me tomorrow?” I press my luck.

“How about I call you tomorrow and see if we can do something for tomorrow night?” she counters.

“Cool; I can live with that,” I grin. She steps up and gives me a tight hug, a kiss on my cheek before pulling out her keys so she can go inside. She’s half way through the door when she looks over her shoulder.

“Dominic, if anyone asks about me, tell them my name is Aisha Bashir, a second generation Syrian-American and that Echo is a nickname you use for me,” she requests.

That seems a weird thing to ask. I usually keep in reserve my long-practiced skills of deception.

“Are you going to tell me why?” I question.

“I can’t right now,” Echo assures me, “but it may turn out to be nothing.” It is not lost on me that cops carry guns for a reason and there must be over a hundred TV shows and movies that show why undercover officers use false names.

I am still mulling that over when I get to the parking garage beneath my apartment tower. Only when I get to the elevator do I realize that not only am I not alone but the other person is walking toward me. Better yet, it is the ice princess that was on Michael Harrow’s arm; the one he identified as his daughter.

“Mr. Umstead,” she calls out once she realizes she’s no longer sneaking up on me.

“Ms. Harrow,” I give her a tired grin back. “How is the head?”

“I’m doing fine,” is her chilly responses. “As pleasant as our conversation is, that is not why I am here Mr. Umstead. Mr. Harrow would like you to come by his mansion tomorrow morning at seven.” The elevator door chimes open and I step into it.

“I am not sure that will be a good time for me,” I confide in her. Her eyes flash and she steps up and interposes a hand to stop the elevator doors from closing.

“That wasn’t really a request Mr. Umstead,” she threatens.

“Please call me Dominic,” I sigh. “What do I call you?” Besides annoying.

“I will pick you up at 6:30,” she informs me then lets the door start to shut.

“Believe what you like,” I chuckle, “but I’m locking the door and disabling the doorbell.” Her hand barely wedges open the doors this time.

“Why are you trying to anger Mr. Harrow when your firm needs his business?” she glares.

“Get in or get out, but move your damn hand…Tara,” I insist. She thinks about that along with whether or not to punch my lights out for a second time tonight, no doubt.

“My name is not Tara,” she growls as she steps in and lets the doors shut. I punch the button to my floor.

“Okay Julia,” I smile wickedly, “I’m not trying to anger Mr. Harrow but I don’t work for him so I’m allowed to not present myself like a call girl whenever he desires my presence – unlike you.”

“My name is not Julia and are you calling me a whore?” she says with lethal intent.

“Not really,” I muse. “He owns you so that would make you more of a slave but I thought calling you that was rude.” Yes, my sexual frustration is showing through. The door opens; she continues to glare and follows me to my door. “Listen Irma, or whoever you are, I have nothing personally against you or your boss but you have been lying to me from the moment we met. I put up with that from my ex-girlfriend but I’ve known her for a hell of a lot longer.”

I unlock the door, keeping her in my peripheral vision because she’s creeping me out.

“Come in,” I allow. Surprisingly she takes me up on my offer.

“You will go out that door at 6:30,” the woman repeats, “and stop trying to guess my name.”

“You must have blown all your karma on looks because you are a lousy conversationalist and your personality only comes in two flavors: frigid and scolding hot,” I explain. “Also, I am not trying to guess your name. I asked what it was, you didn’t tell me, so I’m assigning you names until I find one that works.”

“Not meeting with Mr. Harrow could be unfortunate,” she changes tact.

“Mmmm, go away,” I yawn. “I have no clue what your job güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri description is and it is no longer important. Go tell Mr. Harrow I will never meet with him if he sends one more God damn flunky. Get out.” She reacts by getting in my face.

“This is not how Mr. Harrow does business,” she menaces.

“Show up at my door at 6:30 and I’ll call the cops,” I repose. I can see the wheels turning behind her eyes. “It is highly improbable he sent you here to succeed.” She doesn’t believe me.

“Fine; you are not my physical type, you have the diplomatic skills of a hormonal rhino and if I wasn’t going to knuckle under to him, why would I bow to you?” I explain.

“I don’t need to be diplomatic,” she simmers. “I clarify things.”

“Mission success,” I exhale. “I got it; 6:30. You can go now.” She gives me one final look then strides from my place. Maybe I should have ‘clarified’ for her that all I wanted was for her to leave – mission success.


Someone has been beating on my door for fifteen minutes. I decide to get out of bed because they are obviously not going away. When I arrive what I see disturbs me; my door is a quarter inch open which could only happen if someone had a key…or picked my lock. Fortunately I had a rough time in school and I learned a little trick – to block your door, slip some forks underneath to wedge it shut. The harder you push, the more the forks dig in.

There is another ‘knock’ on the door which sounds much more like a kick. I think I’ve really pissed someone off and a quick look at my watch suggests to me it’s the chick from last night. Maybe if Stephanie and I hadn’t fought at least twice a week a neighbor would have called the police by now, but this seems to be another gift from my ex that keeps giving and giving.

“Good morning Karen Starr,” I communicate through the intercom which I had disabled along with the doorbell last night before crashing. “What do you want?”

“Open the damn door,” she seethes, “and stop making up names for me.”

“I don’t think that would be a wise course of action,” I reply. “I think you are furious with me right now and I have no desire to spend this morning in an emergency room, a police station or with Mr. Harrow.” There is another big kick against the door.

“You will regret this,” she growls.

“Lady I’ve had nothing but regrets since I’ve met you. Now I’m going to dial 911 unless you get your ass out of here right now,” I inform her. It is a lie; I don’t call the cops, I call my boss, Brad Pierce. I bring him up to speed with my encounters with crazy ice princess. We both agree that Harrow is a nut job, though a filthy rich one. He tells me not to worry about it; he’s going back to sleep.

Since I’m now awake I elect to wait a few minutes for the crazy lady to leave before heading down to the complex’s gym for a good workout. Thirty minutes into it, my phone rings with a number I don’t recognize.

“Dom, this is Michael Harrow,” is the way he greets me in a calm cool manner. “My underling appears to have gone beyond the bounds of protocol. I find her actions in this episode very disappointing.”

No, that’s not an apology. I doubt he has one in him. I am not sure why I saw what comes next.

“Actually she was very convincing and I think we developed a certain level of trust and understanding. Unfortunately I retain a certain schedule that helps me in my work, including aspects of my morning exercise that I hate to deviate from. A man has to be the master of his own fate after all,” I finish up.

“That was not communicated to me,” Harrow sounds displeased.

“I would blame the undeniable sexual tension between Ms. Danvers and me for any miscommunications. I was lonely but she was certainly getting sexual satisfaction elsewhere and I was keeping her from such a liaison,” I fib.

“You should have taken advantage of her,” he taunts me or someone else close by. “She would have performed well and she has some skill.”

“Sir, I don’t even know where to begin with how wrong that is except to say you are only saying this because she’s somewhere close by,” I am deeply disappointed.

“We went down that road last night” I continue. “Dr. Morse clearly has affection for you; terribly loyal and willing to violate the law on your behalf. I won’t abuse that devotion – it is not manly.” Slap! Take that you asshole.

“As you will learn Dominic, Men take what they want,” Harrow sneers.

“You are a super-rich, super-successful guy but still feel compelled to prove yourself to everyone you meet. I have a lot less but I possess the confidence that says I have nothing to prove to anyone, especially you. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it now; you don’t matter to me. Your money doesn’t matter, your legion of employees doesn’t matter, and all your trappings mean nothing to me,” I sigh.

“If you find me difficult to work with, please feel free to stop calling, if you want my services contact my boss and if you güvenilir bahis şirketleri punish Ms. Blake remind yourself that leaders take responsibility while incompetents find someone else to blame for their failings,” I attempt to help somewhat. There is another long pause.

“Why all the different names for Ms. Harrow?” he inquires.

“I pick the name of a random blonde super-heroine each time since she won’t give me her real name,” I answer.

“Oh…I’m not familiar with Dr. Blake,” he redirects the conversation.

“Lady Blackhawk – DC Comics; she’s a superior human as opposed to super-human figure – really good with planes,” I inform him.

“You have time for comic books?” he chuckles.

“Mr. Harrow I remember everything I’ve ever read, seen or heard. Quite frankly, I treasure these workout sessions to let my brain slow down for a while and that is why I don’t normally take phone calls from strangers at these times,” I hint.

“Why did you take my call?” Harrow pries.

“I want Ms. Lance to fix my door; she damn near kicked it down and I don’t seem to have a mailing address to send the bill to,” I lie once more.

“Lance?” He questions.

“Black Canary,” I roll my eyes. Some of these aren’t even hard.

“The door will be fixed,” Harrow allows. “We may meet again. Good day.” With that the connection is severed and I can get back to my workout. Three hours later two guys show up to fix my door and floor. Saturdays? Unions? Work permits? I know jack about home repair but I am a wizard about costs, billings and this job isn’t looking kosher.

“Dominic, it’s Echo, do you want to do lunch?” last night’s date asks me as I answer the phone.

“Do you want me to pick you up or are you coming by?” I reply.

“I’ll meet you at the Fat Burger on Cilantro,” she says. “See you soon?”

“Actually I have two mystery men fixing my door and floor because Mr. Harrow’s daughter came by last night, was really annoying and then came by this morning and tried to kick her way in,” I chuckle.

“Are you okay? Do you want me to come over?” she requests with some urgency.

“If you promise to wear that white yoga suit of yours, sure, we can sit around and wait for them to be done,” I grin. She hesitates but not for reasons most people think. As far as I know she doesn’t have a white yoga outfit or even any color yoga suit.

“Sure thing,” she tries to sound sensual but comes across more as anxious. “See you soon.” I’m a twenty-first century yuppie, pretty self-absorbed and blasé. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

“Hey Brad,” I greet my boss over the phone next.

“Hey Dom, don’t tell me you’re at the office,” he yawns. “What happened to that amazon I saw you with last night?”

“I meeting her for lunch but I thought I should tell you that I’ve got two guys who have magically shown up to do some home repairs on my door and floor,” I snicker. “I know oddities like this interest you.”

“I didn’t know you had any home issues but it is good to know you can get someone to come out on a Saturday morning,” he yawns again. “You’ve woken my companion up so I need to go; you understand.”

Come on now, I handle billions of dollars. What kind of moron would allow his home security to be violated by two unknowns? Sometime this afternoon Brad is going to have a few of our security contractors come by, change my lock and sweep my place for illicit electronic devices. The first time Brad had them do it for me I thought it was James Bond-cool.

Now it is persistent, a little annoying but necessary, though learning that Stephanie had a spy cam installed to record our bedroom antics was actually fun. They still had to remove it; pillow talk being what it is. That was okay; if Stephanie was feeling kinky we went to her place upstairs.

Forty-five minutes later Echo shows up at my door while my two new buddies are cleaning up their work area. I’m pretty sure her yoga pants and leotard are brand new in the same way I can tell Lydia’s have some wear and tear because she actually does yoga. I walk up and give a quick kiss to Echo. It is time to start selling their cover story and treat them like bimbos.

“Hey Bunny Ears,” I smile. Before Lydia can do more than snicker once, I wrap Echo’s smaller partner up and start some forceful foreplay.

We include kissing, licking, hands all over her front and back ending in grabbing two handfuls of ass; Lydia keeps pace, catching on pretty quick. She’s the social chameleon of this crime-fighting duo.

“Damn I’ve missed you,” I smile down at her. “If you weren’t my sister we would be making babies right now,” I add a playful pant. Lydia nearly collapses in hysterics.

Lydia pats my crotch affectionately and with feigned familiarity.

“That’s why we always use condoms Bro,” she winks.

“She’s my sister, not yours,” Echo joins into the act with a playful swat to my shoulder, “and shouldn’t you be over here?” motioning me over to her side, joining in the con job Lydia and I have been playing for benefit of Harrow’s men.

“Half-sister,” Lydia clarifies, “and it isn’t like I’m planning to steal your new boyfriend.”

“Where’s my previous boyfriend?” Echo teases Lydia right back. Lydia shrugs innocently. We keep up the play but the physical aspects quickly get put on the back burner.

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