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An Avoided Collision
damien listening guitar
Rating: R
Author: rogoblue
Summary: A chance meeting in the Infeld Daniels lobby has unexpected and unanticipated results.
Spoilers: Minor throughout season 1.
Words: 4,800+.
Disclaimers: The toys are not mine but the idea is.
Dedication: To everyone who thinks Damien is a bit more than he appears thus far.
Author’s Note: The idea for this fic came about in a series of comments to some posting in the Franklin and Bash community. I have no idea which posting but my partner in crime in that instance might recall.

“I’m not arguing, Stanton,” Damien Karp insisted, exiting the elevator into the Infeld Daniels lobby, attention firmly on his uncle. “I’m stating that I have no intention—.” He spotted the young woman out of the corner of his eye and stopped just in time to avoid a collision.

“Excuse me,” she said, lowering arresting hazel eyes, possibly to hide her reddening cheeks. “I picked a bad place to pace.”

Eyeing their fashion plate receptionist disapprovingly, Stanton Infeld addressed the potential client. “Have you not been helped, my dear?”

“She’s waiting for Franklin, who is out to lunch,” the receptionist supplied, meeting Stanton’s eye without an ounce of fear, “and has declined to make a selection from our liquid refreshment menu.”

Thinking out to lunch a good description of Franklin at any time and strangely tempted to offer something a bit stronger than coffee, Damien asked, “Could one of us help you?”

“I can’t imagine why you would,” she mumbled.

Damien glanced at Stanton, who shrugged and said, “I’ll expect you at 8:00 pm,” before heading for his thrice weekly post-lunch massage.

Since shouting in frustration at Stanton’s determination not to take no for an answer would accomplish nothing, Damien redirected his attention. “Why not? Does the midget owe you money?”

She smiled and shook her head, sending wavy, shoulder-length dark hair into motion. “He owes me a favor and I’ve come to collect.”

“Are you planning to make him do something demeaning and, if so, may I watch?” He thought her laugh a pleasant uncomplicated sound.

“You must be Damien.” He frowned and his shoulders tensed. Surprisingly, she offered her hand. “I’ve been wanting to meet you. I’m Rachel.”

Intrigued yet wary, he shook her hand and indulged in an assessment. Guessing her height at 5’ 7” or so, he noted the pale skin, trim, nicely proportioned body and full lips that he couldn’t help imagining in a playful pout. “Why would a woman who’s owed a favor by Jared Franklin be interested in meeting me?”

“Morbid curiosity,” the receptionist offered, aiming a broad smile at Damien, coaxing an answering rueful one from him.

Rachel looked Damien over far more obviously than he had her, he hoped. “I can think of a few reasons,” she said, sharing a conspiratorial smile with the receptionist, whose name escaped him at the moment.

“Name one,” he challenged, the two against one sadly reminding him of his interactions with Franklin and Bash.

“Broad shoulders and slim hips encased in an impeccably cut suit,” Rachel said.

“Amen,” the receptionist added.

“Isn’t that two or maybe three things?” Damien asked, because the situation seemed to call for contrariness and he prided himself on his abilities in that area.

“Aren’t you the stickler?” Rachel asked, stepping closer and tapping his tie with her forefinger. “Since I’m already over the limit, there’s no harm in adding excellence in the corporate dots category.”

Damien had never enjoyed phrases he didn’t understand. “Corporate dots?”

“Ties like yours,” she murmured, as she pretended to straighten the article under discussion. “With dots or, as in this case, dot equivalents arrayed in a regular pattern.” Rachel nodded and aimed a slow smile up at Damien. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“About the tie?” he asked. Rachel exchanged an unfathomable look with the receptionist. Damien refused to label their expressions as pitying. “Your interest in meeting me?” She shook her head. Unable to keep the disappointment from his tone, he asked, “You aren’t going to do anything demeaning to Franklin, are you?”

“You’re getting warmer,” she said. “I’ve decided to offer you an alternative to whatever the guy you were talking to before has planned for 8:00 pm.”

“Thereby retaining the favor you’d planned to call in,” Damien said. To her nod, he said, “I’m listening.”

Rachel took his right hand in both of hers, calling his attention to how cold her extremities were and raising an issue that had always bothered Hanna—his core temperature ran hotter than hers. “There’s a party—not a Franklin and Bash pour tequila down your throat until you puke event—more of a sip fine wine, eat canapés and converse intelligently deal. I’d like it, if you’d come with me.”

Stanton viewed suspicion as suspect, but Damien didn’t. “You planned to strong arm Franklin, but you’re asking me. Why is that?”

Giggling, Rachel put her hands on his shoulders and shook him a little. “We’re taking a trip back in time, Damien. To toddlerhood, as a matter of fact. One of these things is not like the other. Decent wine, fancy appetizers, cerebral discourse and Jared. Agreed?” When he nodded, she said, “You, on the other hand, would fit in quite nicely.”

Something nagged at Damien and the moment he could articulate it, he did. “That’s plausible and flattering but not the real answer.”

“I can put it more simply,” Rachel offered, clasping her hands behind his neck.

“Please do.”

“I prefer men to boys.” Giving him the impressive pout he’d imagined earlier, she asked, “If you’re even slightly tempted, I’ll need two of your business cards.”

“Why two?” he asked, even as he produced them.

“One so I can get in touch with you.” A business card disappeared in her purse. Either that or it transformed into the pen she used to write on the back of the other. “Two so you know where to pick me up at 7:30 pm, if you’re so inclined.” She handed the second back to him. Rachel kissed him lightly on the lips and whispered, “I hope I see you later.”

Damien hit the elevator call button for her and they eyed each other until one arrived and Rachel stepped inside. As soon as the doors shut, he faced the receptionist. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of keeping this between us.”

A smirk looked really good on her and Damien wondered, not for the first time, where Stanton managed to find such attractive employees. “I’ll play your fairy godmother and keep this very interesting chance encounter to myself until midnight,” she said. “After that, all bets are off.”

* * *

“Come on in and zip me up.” Damien Karp stepped across the threshold into a deep blue foyer and encased a nicely formed back and lavender lace bra within a deeper purple dress, once he’d freed the stuck zipper. “I do like punctuality in my men,” Rachel added, as she spun to face him, smiling big. “We have time for a drink before we go. Can I pour you something?”

“Whatever you’re having is fine,” he said, taking in the aggressive interior design of her living room.

“What if I’m planning to mix something pink and sweet?”

The spring in her step and laughing eyes called to him. “You aren’t,” he said, watching Rachel as closely as he did witnesses during cross examination. Her smile drew a smaller version to his lips. “Are you?” he asked. Giggling, Rachel took his hand and tugged him over to an intricately carved cabinet. He admired the fine work while she deftly opened a bottle. Wine very nearly matching the color of her dress sloshed into two stemless glasses.

“Here’s to spontaneity,” Rachel said, raising hers. Not wanting to admit or consider how little of that he had in his life, particularly since he’d joined Infeld Daniels, Damien tapped his rim to hers and drank. As if she’d read his mind, she asked, “Do you often accept party invitations from women you’ve just met?” When he shrugged, she took his hand again. “You’re regretting accepting mine, aren’t you?”

“A little,” he admitted without disclosing that he hadn’t realized it before she asked.

“Let’s sit down,” she suggested, gesturing to a chocolate brown leather couch. Dutifully, he complied. Rachel frowned impressively. “Tell me what’s wrong, Damien, and please don’t insult my intelligence by saying nothing. You tensed up just now and I’m not sure what I did.” She raised a hand, as he opened his mouth to speak. “No clichéd it’s not you, it’s me either. Do me the courtesy of telling the truth.”

“The truth is,” he began but more words wouldn’t come. Rachel squeezed his hand slightly in encouragement. Suddenly tired and feeling like an idiot, Damien sipped his wine. Finally, he managed, “I … I guess this was a bad idea. I’m sorry, Rachel.”

“Are you worried the evening won’t go well and I’ll tattle to Jared and Peter?”

“I wasn’t, because the thought hadn’t occurred to me.” Sighing softly, he mumbled, “I am now.”

She cocked her head and nodded slowly, as if assimilating a particularly interesting bit of information. “So … this is a bad idea from your perspective, because …?”

Stanton’s image floated into Damien’s brain and his shoulders slumped. “Because I should be—.”

“Where you want to be,” Rachel interjected with a somewhat stern look she couldn’t sustain. “Which is where, Damien?”

“Objection, leading.”

“I’ll allow it,” she said, punctuating her ruling with a slow, deliberate and provocative crossing of her legs. “The witness will answer the question.”

“Anywhere but at my uncle’s in,” Damien consulted his watch, “nineteen minutes.”

“Is that even possible?” she asked. He nodded and Rachel rose with an absurd level of grace and strutted over to the liquor cabinet to grab the bottle of wine. Rachel watched him watch her return. “I’m going to top off our wine. You’re going to turn off your phone. We are going to drink and have a pleasant conversation until your nineteen minutes have elapsed. At which point, I will kiss you full on the mouth in celebration of you being at a location of your choosing.” She smiled slyly. “If I don’t sneak one in beforehand, because I’ve been thinking about you all afternoon.” Laughing, she added, “The pain of prolonged torture by someone who knows his business couldn’t make me disclose how many different outfits I tried on before choosing. I felt like I was back in high school, but I didn’t care. That’s not like me, I’ll have you know. I typically hate that sort of blast from the past. I, for one, do not want to be seventeen again.”

“I, for one, am glad you are no longer seventeen,” Damien said, as she poured more wine.

“Your turn,” Rachel said, motioning toward him with her wine glass.

“Hmmm?” he asked. She rolled her eyes and crossed her legs again. “Oh, yeah, right.” He fished his phone out of his pocket and acted in accordance with Rachel’s plan. “Done.”

“Now, the one thing we aren’t going to talk about is whatever your uncle has on tap for you. Anything else is fair game.”

Figuring to gather some intelligence, he asked, “Why does Jared Franklin owe you a favor?”

“Excellent choice,” Rachel said. “That’s a long and amusing story filled with all sorts of interesting details you might want to commit to memory.”

“I’m all ears.” She launched into a tale worthy of the finest sitcom, which was Arrested Development to Damien’s mind. No one other than Franklin and Bash would attend a country club party dressed like the cheapest of rent boys—an event sponsored by Franklin’s father’s firm, no less. Rachel bore witness to the comedic moments from her position as the country club’s events coordinator and had an uncannily accurate way of impersonating both stars of the show.

Pausing in mid sentence, Rachel smothered Damien’s laughter in a kiss. Her soft supple lips moved against his with an utterly feminine form of confidence, leaving them both a bit breathless when she pulled back slightly. “You are now officially late,” she whispered, as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “How does it feel, Damien?”

“Not as good as it did a few seconds ago.” Rachel’s slow smile demanded attention. Damien’s kiss ended with Rachel astride him working his tie from his throat. She draped it around her neck like a winter scarf and pressed her body against his. Desire slammed through him with uncommon intensity. Damien bit back a groan and nearly didn’t hear her question. “Would you consider it a bait and switch if we stayed in tonight?”

“This positioning being the bait would be worse,” he murmured. Her giggle became a near purr, as they settled in to kissing. Before Damien could protest her eventual leaning away, Rachel licked her lips and worked her upper body free of her dress. “God, you’re gorgeous,” he whispered.

“Does that mean you’re not going to mind skipping out on your social obligation?” she asked, tone as teasing as her rocking hips.

“Objection, leading.”

“Overruled,” she whispered, while unbuckling his belt.

“Yes,” he breathed, both an answer to the outstanding question and an affirmation of her action. Rachel’s court then adjourned for quite some time.

* * *

“I took my own advice,” Rachel said.

“How is that?” Damien asked, his head resting on the same pillow as hers. The memory of her insistence that they shift the proceedings to the bedroom after their first time made him smile. Naked, sweaty and very recently sated again, they regarded each other.

“Do you mind?” she asked as she burrowed closer. “Some men don’t like to snuggle afterwards. They’re too hot or something.”

“I have no complaints.” Damien pulled her tight against him and kissed her feather lightly. “What advice?” he murmured.

Rachel completely melted into him and Damien’s eyes fluttered closed. “I stayed where I wanted to be tonight, throwing off the shackle of should.”

“Is that as foreign for you as it is for me?” he asked, stroking her back, not to arouse, just to connect.

“I’d guess, almost. I don’t have the responsibilities you do.”

He tilted her chin to be able to see her expression, but the weight of her words somehow precluded his question. “It’s late. I should let you get some sleep.”

“I’ll sleep better next to you,” Rachel whispered, “I’m an unrepentant cuddler and willing to offer a massage of indeterminate length to induce you to try sleeping in a strange bed.”

“You don’t have to do that,” he said.

“I don’t mind.” She raised up to straddle his chest and apply clever hands to his shoulders. “Are you ever just the Damien who is or is there always an overlay of the Damien who should be?”

“You’ll be disappointed in the answer to that question.”

“Could you come to trust me enough to be yourself with me?” she asked, as she deepened the massage. He groaned and she repeated her question.

“I don’t know.” He pulled her down next to him and kissed her gently. “I could probably be persuaded to try.” His second kiss was harder but no more urgent. They shifted to find the most comfortable entwined position and touched and kissed to soothe and send each other off into deep restful sleep.

* * *

The clock struck midnight. Well, truth be told, many clocks did, but none of them could have been heard over the cacophony at the home of Jared Franklin and Peter Bash. However, a certain attractive receptionist informed her hosts that Damien Karp, of all people, had stolen Jared’s date. Rachel’s name and description had heightened the drama, pleasing her greatly. She’d thoroughly enjoyed her stint as fairy godmother.

* * *

Damien Karp started awake and hadn’t a clue as to his current location or what had woken him, but he felt warm and safe and held a distinctly feminine form in his arms.

Rachel sighed, as a chime sounded three times in succession. “I’ll be right back,” she whispered, as she extricated herself from his embrace, sat up and turned on a small bedside lamp. “Oh, God, Damien, please don’t move. I want to think of you waiting for me, looking just like that.”

“Sleepy?” he mumbled, rubbing his hand on his chin, feeling the stubble he’d shave in a few hours.

“Naked and disheveled. Vulnerable yet sexy.” Rachel donned an obscenely short, bright blue robe.

The doorbell rang yet again. “Does someone think you’ve met with foul play, because we didn’t attend your function?” he asked.

“I’d love for it to be that simple,” Rachel replied, tying the belt pulled the robe even higher on her succulent thighs. “Back in a few.”

The unfamiliar bedroom closed in on Damien. He didn’t do this. He did not sleep with women he barely knew, partly because he liked women and enjoyed getting to know them and partly because he shied away from sex without the intimacy of shared experiences. He closed his eyes against the memories, because he typically didn’t have wild, utterly out of control sex either. Damien preferred to go slow and lavish attention on his partner. He was responsible, reliable and reticent. Alliterative, too, evidently. The man Rachel had undone so completely was a stranger—an utterly sexually satisfied stranger but a stranger nonetheless. As he should’ve done earlier, Damien rolled out of bed and dressed. Rachel’s concerned friends constituted a literal and figurative wake up call. He accepted that, but his feet dragged and his fingers rebelled. Too tired to figure things out, Damien looked back with regret when he closed Rachel’s bedroom door behind him.

Carrying his suit jacket, he descended the stairs. The raised voice that demanded, “What in the hell are you doing?” was unfortunately familiar. Peter Bash. While he had no interest in facing either of the dynamic duo, Damien realized he had little choice.

Rachel said, “You have no right to come here and question my choices.” The venom in her tone stunned Damien.

“Then stop making questionable choices,” Bash countered.

“I admire your restraint in using the term questionable under the circumstances,” Franklin asserted. “Damien Karp?” The man in question hesitated on the stairs. “Seriously, Rach?”

“When will you two learn that it’s not a crime to be serious?” she muttered and Damien smiled at her exaggerated sigh. “Or responsible, for that matter?”

“The same time you admit those lifestyle choices are boring,” Franklin said. Damien imagined a self-satisfied smirk on the midget.

“Ok, Rachel, I’ll bite,” Bash said.

“Of course, you will,” Franklin interjected. Damien liked to think the little one was now on the receiving end of a glare from the big one.

“Why was serious and responsible attractive to you tonight?” Bash asked.

“I didn’t want to go to Tad’s party alone.” The hesitance in her voice surprised Damien nearly as much as the ensuing silence.

“Karp could maybe beat Weller at his own game,” Franklin muttered, as if each syllable pained him.

“How’d that go?” Bash demanded.

“We didn’t,” Rachel said. This silence felt like the calm before a storm.

“What does that mean, exactly?” Franklin ventured.

“Use your imagination, Jared.”

“My disbelief can only be suspended so much, Rach.”

“I’d like you both to leave.”

Sounding incredulous, Bash said, “I thought you were done doing things to spite me.”

She uttered a supremely feminine noise of exasperation. “Attention, please, Peter. The people I choose to spend time with are not selected with you in mind. At all. Full stop.”

“You don’t know anything about him.”

“I know he’s a thoughtful man who puts me first, unlike certain other males in my life.”

“He just wants to get in your pants,” Bash asserted.

“Dude,” Franklin inserted, “it’s Karp and Rachel. Keep both in mind.” The mocking lilt to Franklin’s tone dynamited Damien into motion.

“Do you have any idea—,” Bash began.

“Is there a problem, Rachel?” Damien asked, stepping into view. As it was nearly 1:00 am, he suspected the receptionist had outed them.

Bash looked apoplectic when Damien halted just within Rachel’s personal space. Franklin stepped between the two men, staring hard at Damien.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” she replied, as she stepped closer and slid her arms around Damien’s waist.

“Undoubtedly, but I don’t understand why he’s all bent out of shape.” He nodded at Bash, who actually bared his teeth when Damien rested his hand on Rachel’s hip. “You came to Infeld Daniels looking for Franklin.”

“Amazing, appalling and truly frightening don’t begin to describe this … this truly startling development,” Franklin said, while matching Bash’s sharp dart to the right. He pointed at Damien. “Given the proximity, the nature of the touching, the bedraggled appearance and the vibe, I can only assume you had sex with a woman without even knowing her last name. I so didn’t think you had that in you. I may have to reevaluate a tiny bit.”

“What are you talking about?” Damien snarled, as fed up as he could ever remember being. “I know Rachel’s …” He faltered, searching his mind for a very simple bit of information and not finding it. Franklin moved with Bash again, all the while smirking up at Damien. Looking from that smirk, to Bash’s blazing eyes to … to … pretty much the same damn eyes set in Rachel’s beautiful face, Damien took a deep breath and donned his suit coat in self defense.

“He really is smarter than he looks,” Franklin announced in much the same way he routinely closed his arguments before judge and jury. “Who’d have thunk it?”

“This is payback for Lily, isn’t it?” Bash asked, now looking more fatigued than battle ready.

“How the hell could it be, when I didn’t know you were related?” Damien asked. Rachel’s rising anger rapidly becoming an issue, he added, “You could think of it that way, if you like, but your … um …”

“Little sister.”

Jesus fucking Christ! “She won’t thank you for it,” Damien concluded.

“I asked you to stay in bed, Damien.” Everyone turned to Rachel.

“I thought maybe I should go,” he replied, wincing at her withering look.

“The door’s right over there, big guy,” Bash said, gesturing grandly to the front door.

“She asked you idiots to use it earlier.”

“After you.”

Rachel stepped into Damien. “You agreed to try to just be you when you’re with me. Free of everyone else’s expectations.” She kissed him lightly. “I thought you’d enjoyed it.”

“Don’t fish for compliments, Rachel. You know I did.” Gesturing to Franklin and Bash, he said, “In case it’s escaped your notice, I’m not just with you at the moment.”

“That sorry situation is about to be rectified,” Rachel said. She slowly turned toward Franklin and Bash. “Goodbye, Peter, Jared.”

Franklin looked up at Bash expectantly. “If you hurt her, Karp, I’ll fillet you myself,” Bash said.

“If I don’t beat you to it,” Franklin added.

“You won’t.”

“I might.”

“In your dreams.”

“I’m your worst nightmare,” Franklin added.

Smiling slightly, Bash pointed at Damien. “He’s my worst nightmare.”

After due consideration, Franklin allowed, “Point taken.”

“Go home,” Rachel insisted and cheerfully slammed the door behind them. Smiling up at Damien, she asked, “Where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?”


She smiled wickedly. “Are you tired?” He nodded. “Too tired?”

“I think I could muster a little energy for you.”

“Only a little?” Rachel pouted.

“Try me,” Damien challenged.

* * *

9:42 am Monday Morning

“Good of you to join us, Damien,” Stanton Infeld noted, blue eyes tracking his nephew’s progress to an open spot next to Hanna Linden.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Damien said, focused on his usual chair.

“Don’t ask why, Stanton,” Franklin said. “It could be awkward.”


Damien saw Stanton’s self-satisfied smile and eagerly gleaming eyes in his mind’s eye. “Over slept,” Damien muttered.


“Forgot to set my alarm.” He’d been shaving when Rachel appeared in his master bath, gloriously naked. They’d moved the party to his house midday on Saturday. She’d declared that they couldn’t be official, if he wasn’t late for work. He’d suggested that they were official, if they decided they were. She’d smiled in a way that stoked him and eyed him avidly as she knelt and unfastened his pants. A little while later, he’d carried her back to his bed and they’d driven each other well beyond distraction.


“You sound like Em,” he muttered, but Stanton seemed unperturbed by the comparison with Damien’s four year old niece, Emily, who wore out the word why routinely. Meeting Stanton’s eyes, Damien decided to go on the offensive. “I inherited forgetfulness from my father.” Damien found his uncle’s flinch profoundly satisfying.

“So you say,” Stanton noted. Palpable tension notwithstanding, the meeting resumed, but Damien knew he wasn’t out of the woods.

* * *

That Evening

Damien Karp had no interest in crossing the threshold before him, but Jared Franklin and Peter Bash had won another absurd case and Stanton wanted everyone involved to party with them at the Man Cave. Damien had written a few motions, so he couldn’t plausibly deny involvement and he certainly didn’t want to draw any more of Stanton’s ire. He viewed one drink as participation.

“You never tire of playing with that thing, do you?”

“No.” Dutifully, Damien looked up from his phone, unsurprised by Hanna Linden’s exasperation.

“Riva and I are going to Bolivar’s for a drink a little later,” she said. “Will you join us?”

Much like Hanna, Riva Davies embodied elegance and sophistication. “Riva’s here?”

“She graciously declined my invitation to slum.”

“Smart lady,” he noted.

“I admire Riva’s knack for making you laugh more than her intelligence,” Hanna observed as she deftly nabbed Damien’s phone and slid it into his suit coat pocket. “I wish you’d laugh more.”

For reasons he had yet to fathom, he found Riva’s brand of upbeat amusing, rather than grating. Hanna’s discomfiting observation required a slight redirection of the conversation, however. “How is Rhymes With Diva, these days?”

Hanna smirked. “She asked about you over the weekend.”

“So you texted,” Damien said, instinctively treading carefully.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t tell Riva. She might have taken your failure to reply personally. I did.”

“You shouldn’t have,” he said. “I turned my phone off to hide from Stanton on Friday and forgot I had.”

She raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “You … forgot?” Hanna took his arm and maneuvered Damien out of the press of people and into an empty hallway. “What brought on this spate of forgetfulness in the most organized man I’ve ever known?” Damien shrugged and Hanna caught his chin when he tried to look away. “You don’t like that question. How about this one? Why were you ducking Stanton?”

“To avoid being chastised for shirking familial duties, my dear.” Stanton Infeld stood to their right, holding an electric blue drink. He sipped and then regarded his glass, as though the taste had insulted him personally.

“You created that bizarre confluence of circumstances, Stanton,” Damien said, crossing his arms before him. “You needed to deal with it.”

“And so I did. Splendidly. Which I should have known better than to expect of you.”

“I’m failing to see a problem here, Stanton,” Hanna said, wearing her most fierce expression.

“Other than two attractive people without appropriate drinks.”

Damien and Hanna turned to the newcomer and accepted beverages of a more approachable hue than Stanton’s. “Thank you,” Hanna murmured, raising her glass to their benefactor.

He smiled. He couldn’t help it. “Thanks, Rachel. I didn’t expect to see you.”

“Jared said your uncle would twist your arm to get you to come here tonight,” she replied, bumping his upper arm with her shoulder. “I took a chance he was right and am glad I did.”

Stanton cleared his throat. Damien ignored him. “So am I,” he said, slipping an arm around her waist. Smiling happily, she kissed him lightly on the mouth.

“Being the uncle under discussion, I really must inquire as to who you might be, my dear,” Stanton intoned. “As well as make the observation that she’s a bit young for you, Damien.” Pot calling the kettle black much?

“I’m Rachel,” she replied before taking Damien’s hand.

“Rachel Bash,” Franklin supplied with an ear to ear grin. “Peter’s little sister. Gotta love the irony.”

Hanna squealed, an unprecedented event in Damien’s experience. Franklin and Stanton wore nearly identical astounded expressions, both eyeing their female colleague as if wondering who she was and what she’d done with the real Hanna Linden. Sobering quickly, Hanna said, “That’s awesome,” no doubt deliberately using one of Damien’s favorite words. “Riva would love to meet Rachel. You both should join us.”

“I’m not up to three against one,” Damien admitted.

“I am,” Franklin said. After an exuberant bit of shadowboxing, he added, “Always.”

“I’ll be on your side,” Rachel whispered, smiling up at him. “What can I say? I’m a sucker for serious and sexy, because that often translates into seriously sexy and you are definitely not the exception that proves that rule.”

“I could force myself to sit at a table in a high end bar with three beautiful women,” Damien allowed.

“Well, then,” Hanna said, winking at Rachel as she took Damien’s left arm.

“Let’s do this,” Rachel said, taking his right.

“Bravo, Damien,” Stanton murmured, which somehow made everything right.