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A Guy Walks Into a Bar
damien listening guitar
Title: A Guy Walks into a Bar
Rating: R (language and mild sexual situation).
Author: rogoblue
Summary: Stanton challenges Peter and Jared to identify the hottest female bartender in LA. Damien, inadvertently, takes it from there with Hanna and Carmen reviewing his work.
Spoilers: Very minor throughout seasons 1 and 2.
Words: 6,800+.
Disclaimers: The toys are not mine but the idea is.
Dedication: To my co-mod at the Reed Diamond community and twitter buddy on her birthday (upon which she will have endured at least one law school exam). You’re the best!

“Let’s all go and have a few drinks, shall we?” Stanton Infeld suggested, as a particularly dull partner’s meeting limped its way to a close.

Damien Karp nursed a fine headache and simply wanted to go home and, likely as a result, wasn’t sure who said, “We’ve certainly earned it.”

“Where?” asked Evander Mills, a man nearly as tiny as Franklin who always posed that question.

Stanton smiled beatifically. “Whatever bar in the metro Los Angeles area employs the most attractive bartender of the female gender. Gentlemen,” he looked to Franklin and Bash, “enlighten me.”

Silence Damien hadn’t expected. In fact, up until this moment, he’d been convinced that those two were incapable of it.

That’s complicated,” Franklin finally ventured.

“By what?” Stanton demanded. The boys exchanged a series of uninterpretable looks and Damien just wanted to slip away. “By what, Peter?” Stanton insisted. “Jared?”

“Fiona is as close to perfection as it’s possible to be,” Bash disclosed and Franklin smacked him upside the head. Damien tried to muster interest in the uncharacteristic hesitation and enjoy the conflict. “But her bar is maybe a little too … ah …”

“Low brow,” Franklin offered.

“I’ve spent time in the merchant marine,” Stanton said. “As a consequence, I’ve been in low brow establishments beyond counting. I remember a remarkably seedy little place in—.”

“Low brow, it is,” Hanna Linden interrupted.

“Absolutely,” Damien said, inclining his head to her grateful look for him seconding the motion. “What’s the address?”

“Look,” Bash said, “Fiona is a total Irish hottie, but she hangs with a rough crowd.”

“A rough crowd that’s thrown us out of her bar,” Franklin admitted. “More than once.”

As if buoyed by these glad tidings, Damien’s head ceased to throb. “Is it because he’s too small?” Damien asked, not even bothering to point to Franklin.

“It’s because his mouth isn’t,” Bash supplied, frowning at Franklin and surprising everyone in the room in the process.

“What did he say?” asked the estate planning partner. Darren Patterson had looked to be on death’s door himself for years but remained sharp as a tack and sometimes took it upon
himself to rein Stanton in a bit.

“Oh, God, what if he did something else with his mouth?” muttered the tax guy, who was, to Damien’s mind, the single most boring person on the planet.

“Projecting much!” Franklin said. That insult fell so far below the midget’s usual standards Damien actually felt sorry for him for an instant. “I might’ve suggested Weight Watcher’s for Men to Nate.”

“All hell broke loose,” Peter added.

“How was I supposed to know Nate was a crowd favorite?”

“The handwriting is on the wall for a reason, Jared! You’re supposed to read it!”

“The address?” Stanton prompted.

Bash provided it. Damien shared a glance with Hanna. There’d been enough Stanton Infeld-inspired tangents to tonight’s agenda to last everyone for weeks. A distraction would be welcome and one in the form of an attractive bartender certainly had something to recommend it. Damien gathered the papers arrayed before him. “I have to get a few things from my office, but I’ll meet you there.”

“Don’t be long,” Stanton insisted, judgmental eyes lingering on his nephew. As usual, Damien resisted the urge to give his uncle the finger.

* * *

“There you are, Damien,” Stanton emoted from a table with Franklin, Bash, Hanna and an empty chair. Awesome. “Get yourself a drink and join us.”

He squared his shoulders and approached the bar. The Infeld Daniels crowd didn’t blend with those who sat at or nearer to it. Jesus Christ, what have we walked into? Everyone else wore denim and looked as though they were very comfortable with fully automatic weaponry and sharp implements of various ilks. Damien rubbed tired and now wary eyes when he reached his destination, but his first look at the bartender changed everything. Bent over something or another, the perfect ass in tight fitting jeans made his mouth water. He heard a snicker and met the eyes of the guy seated two barstools away.

“Don’t blame you,” the guy said. “I take a long hard look at Fiona’s bottom, at least six times a night.”

From the other direction, Damien heard, “Can’t wait for Fi to put the suit in his place. A slow night needs something like that to liven it up.”

At that very moment, the bartender straightened and turned. Damien swore his heart stopped. Long curly dark hair, pale skin, gray eyes, slender, lightly muscled arms, ample chest—what’s not to like. Ok, so maybe Franklin and Bash know their business with respect to female bartenders. Fine, no maybe about it. She’s flat out gorgeous.

His heart made up for the sit down strike by shifting into high gear, as Fiona slowly looked him over upon approach. She put both elbows on the bar and leaned toward him. “So you’re the infamous Damien.”

Remembering that Stanton had called him by name just now and not caring to know what Franklin and/or Bash had told her about him, Damien halved the distance between them and murmured, “The infamous is only honorary.”

Fiona had a remarkable laugh and the joke had evidently reached the ears of several of the people at the bar who shared her favorable reaction to it. “Ok, Damien of only honorary infamy,” she said, “the vibe we’ve established at Eddie’s doesn’t do well with suits, ties, medium starch and all buttoned up and battened down.”

“I understand, but … um … you’re kind of overrun with suits tonight.”

“This is true.” Her frown shifted in an instant to a sly smile. “The best way forward as I see it, assuming you’re interested, of course …”

“I am.” Damien enjoyed bantering with women, always had. Fiona leaned forward. Look her in the eye, idiot. In the fucking eye. She’s got something in mind and me drooling over the ring side seat she’s given me to her magnificent chest isn’t going to get us there.

“You should let me remedy the situation.”

He liked her smile but didn’t understand it. “What does that mean?”

“Do you agree to proceed as I suggest?” The challenge in her tone escaped no one within hearing distance.

Damien’s instinct was to rise to it, but caution prevailed. “I don’t know what you’re suggesting.”

“What would be the fun of telling?”

He chuckled. “Fair enough.” Damien glanced at the guy who admitted to admiring Fiona’s ass. He shrugged and made no move to disguise the fact that he intended to bear witness to the proceedings. The presence of an audience didn’t thrill Damien, but the buzz of anticipation in the air felt more positive than he would’ve expected from this crowd. Curious, he met Fiona’s gaze and said, “I agree to whatever it is you intend.”

“That is most excellent.” Eyes locked on Damien’s, Fionna strutted around the bar and arrived to stand next to him, close enough to share body heat but not touching.

“What happens now, Fiona?” he asked, wincing at the slight breathlessness in his tone.
She unbuttoned his light gray suit coat, walked around behind him and slipped it off of his shoulders. Sighing softly, she hung it on the back of the barstool to his left. Hyper aware of her, Damien maintained eye contact using the mirror behind the bar.

“Now on to phase two,” she whispered and reached for his tie.

* * *

“Damien seems to have made a new friend,” Hanna Linden observed, smiling at the incredibly erotic visual of the young Irish beauty mesmerizing Damien with her eyes as she untied his tie. His slightly parted lips and rapt expression reminded her of how intently Damien was capable of focusing on a woman who’d attracted his attention.

“What’s she doing?” Bash blurted, gesturing grandly and quite unnecessarily in Fiona’s direction.

“Sliding Karp’s tie from around his neck,” Franklin said, horror evident in every syllable.

“I know that!” Bash snapped.

“Then why’d you ask?”

“It was a rhetorical question,” Bash said, groaning as they watched Fiona fold the tie
neatly and tuck it into the right front pocket of Damien’s suit jacket.

Not even trying to resist the temptation to needle, Hanna said, “I wonder how far your favorite bartender intends to go.”

“No further,” Franklin and Bash replied in unison.

Franklin continued, “There’s got to be some kind of rule against removing more than two articles of a customer’s clothing.”

Bash frowned impressively. “That’s clearly limited to uptight customers.”

“I thought that went without saying.”

Talking over Jared’s interruption, Bash said, “I think it’s probably more of a guideline, though.”

“Who cares, so long as it’s in effect!”

Fiona placed her hands on Damien’s shoulders with her thumbnails resting lightly against his throat. Hanna imagined the tension humming through her former lover. The tiny stab of jealousy hit right on cue. Damien was the one that got away, the one her mother, little sister and best friend still talked about, the only one who ever showed up in Hanna’s dreams. They were friends now, better ones than they’d been before they became lovers. She was good with that and frankly couldn’t wait to tease him a little about this developing situation.

When the bartender tapped a fingernail on the top button on Damien’s dress shirt, Bash declared, “I’m calling Carmen.”

“Why?” Hanna asked.

“She and Fiona are friends. Carmen will put a stop to this travesty.”

“If she doesn’t, I will.” Stanton’s quiet declaration had the layer of malice aimed toward Damien that always creeped Hanna out.

* * *

“Fiona?” Damien ventured, when she showed no sign of stopping after unbuttoning the top two buttons of his favorite black and gray striped dress shirt.


“I don’t think I qualify as buttoned up anymore.”

“You don’t,” she readily agreed. “We’re working on the battened down bit now.”

“I see.” He swallowed as her fingernails lightly grazed his chest when she advanced a
button too far in his opinion.

“Almost there, Damien,” Fiona murmured before shifting her attention to his right cuff.
She smiled at his sigh, likely recognizing the relief in it and swiftly rolled the sleeve up to just below his elbow.

“I’m wearing a suit and tie tomorrow,” declared the guy to Damien’s left.

“It takes more than that, Marcus,” Fiona said.

“Hey, Damien,” Marcus called, “where’s a man score some infamy in this town?” Both men laughed as the bartender repeated her actions with Damien’s left sleeve.

“If I’m not mistaken, I got mine from the two young guys at the table under the Budweiser sign.”

Marcus frowned. “The frat boy and the little dude?” He brightened considerably. “I’d rather get anything at all from the lady sitting with them.”

“An extremely wise choice, Marcus,” Damien said.

Fiona’s soft sigh drew his attention back to her, as she’d undoubtedly intended. She took a step back and looked Damien over as a sculptor might assess the form taking shape out of stone. “You’ll do,” she declared and pointed to the bar stool behind him. He took the hint and sat. As she returned to her place behind the bar, a phone rang. “For now,” she added with a wink. After a quick glance at the caller id on her cell, Fiona laughed and said, “I’ll make this quick and be back to take your order, if that’s all right, Damien.”

“Sure.” Fiona wandered to the far end of the bar and Damien took a few deep breaths. They didn’t help much. The beautiful bartender had well and truly gotten under his skin.

“No fear, man,” said someone to Damien’s right. “Not an ounce of goddamn fear.”

“Stared Fi in the eye, until she messed with his sleeves,” said a companion of his,
Damien assumed. Damnedest thing ever!”

“I’d watch her touch me, if I got the chance. Wouldn’t you, Charlie?”

“Hell, yes!”

“What was his name again?” asked Charlie’s friend.

“My name’s Damien,” he said, realizing Fiona’s interest and his response thereto had made him an instant regular.

“I’m Charlie. Gabe and I are buying your first drink.”

Knowing full well Stanton intended to pick up the tab, he said, “You don’t have to—.”

“Small price to pay to see what happens next,” said Gabe.

The concept of a next move on Fiona’s part drew his eyes back to her. She and a group of women shared conspiratorial smiles and looked in his direction. What the hell does that mean? Seconds after Fiona tossed her phone aside another one rang.

* * *

Peter Bash held up a hand to silence Jared Franklin’s demands for information. Hanna enjoyed the overly dramatic pleading gestures Franklin mimed but didn’t like the way Stanton Infeld stared off into the middle distance with eyes that didn’t seem quite focused.

“Carmen says that Fiona told her our advance press wasn’t accurate.”

“We advertised Karp using the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Franklin asserted derisively. “So help me God.”

“According to Fiona,” Bash said, “the things we told her about Damien led her to expect someone fairly non-descript with good posture, not a clothes horse with pretty blue eyes and a sense of humor.”

Bash said, “I rate his eyes as average at best,” at the same time as Franklin
observed, “I thought Fiona didn’t like sarcasm.”

“Damien inherited his arresting eyes,” Stanton said, pointing to his own. “See.”

Hanna laughed when Bash relayed the honorary infamy story and all three of the men at her table looked as though she’d betrayed them.

Frowning, Franklin said, “There’s a big leap of faith required to get from a nifty bit of wordplay to a sense of humor worthy of the name.”

“As Fiona should know,” Bash added.

“We should remind her,” Franklin said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Damien this comfortable chatting up a bartender,” Hanna said, delighted to add fuel to the fire.

“She’s back for more?” Bash asked. “Rhetorical again, Jared.”

Franklin closed his mouth briefly. “She can’t really be interested in Damien, can she?”

“You think she’s just being polite?” Bash asked.

“It would be a different approach for her.”

“She’s branching out. That makes more sense than her actually finding him attractive in any way.” Belatedly, Bash looked to Hanna. “No offense.”

“None taken.” She gestured toward the scene at the bar. “That looks real to me.”

“We’ll see about that,” Stanton intoned imperiously.

* * *

“What can I get you, Damien?” Fiona asked, her smile making the wait worthwhile.
“Bourbon neat. Maker’s, if you have it.”

“I do.”

“Make it a double, Fi,” Charlie said, wearing an expression fierce and determined enough to keep Damien’s protest about him and Gabe paying for his drink unuttered.

“Wait a second, Fiona,” Damien said, pleased that she didn’t hesitate to abort her turn toward the array of bottles. “Why did you do … um … what you did?”

She nodded, more as though he’d met an expectation rather than in understanding of his question. “I thought I could keep you at the bar longer, if you were a little more comfortable.”

“In more ways than one.” She laughed in agreement. “You accept me, so your regulars do too. I get that, but why did you want to keep me at the bar?”

“I’m intrigued.”

He shook his head. “Maybe the third time’s the charm. Why do I intrigue you?”

“You look like you have a story to tell, Damien. Something to get off your chest,
maybe.” She tapped herself on the breastbone. “Tonight, I’m in the mood to listen.”

Damien wondered if the slight hesitation between the words mood and to was intentional and what it meant if he was right.

“Perfect,” Stanton Infeld said, smiling at Fiona, Damien’s start of surprise or maybe both. “You very much remind me of a woman I met in Dublin, my dear.” Stanton launched into one of his patented bullshit stories. Damien closed his eyes and counted to twenty, while concentrating on not letting his hands form fists. Stanton talked, gaining in animation and volume as he went. Damien didn’t try to follow the narrative. He stared down at the top of the bar and waited for Fiona to utter some breathless exclamation of amazement.

A smaller hand came to rest on one of Damien’s and the thumbnail thereof stroked the inside of his wrist. He looked up and into warm gray eyes that he imagined could look stormy and wild when Fiona was angry or otherwise aroused. The realization that he wanted to see them that way came quickly and emphatically. Fiona’s eyes drew him in, muted Stanton’s voice and the rest of the bar noise, banished his peripheral vision, narrowed his focus to her and her alone. All of the things that had been weighing on Damien’s mind suddenly seemed trivial or, failing that, manageable at a later date. A sense of peace and of possibility descended upon him. So did a larger hand on the shoulder opposite where Stanton might still be standing.

“Sorry to interrupt,” said a mountain of a man who obviously did something active for a living. Grinning sheepishly, he added, “I’m awful thirsty.”

“The usual, Nate?” Fiona asked.

“If you would be so kind.”

She looked back at Damien and bit her lip. Blushing slightly, she murmured, “What brand of bourbon did you call again?”

Marveling that Fiona might’ve been as entranced as he’d been, Damien replied, “Maker’s.”

“Do join us once you’ve been served, Damien,” Stanton said in an odd tone before making a dignified retreat.

Nate tapped Damien on the shoulder. “You with them lawyers?”

“I work with them,” he admitted, “and I understand the young midget has pissed you off royally at least once.”

“He took a shot at me.” Nate laughed with his entire, remarkably muscle bound body. “I respect that in anyone that small, even if I have to slap it down. The other one tried to mess with Fi.”

“I’m not messing with her.” Damien tried on a small smile. “If anything, she’s messing with me.”

“She’s not.”

Damien wasn’t sure what to do with Nate’s flatly intoned certainty. Fortunately, the woman in question arrived with his bourbon, a pitcher of beer and a frosty mug.

Nate said, “Thank you, darlin’,” as he tipped the pitcher toward the mug.

“That’s a righteous pour,” Damien offered, gesturing to his drink.

“I take care of my favorite customers.”

Risk taking didn’t come naturally to Damien, but this situation surely called for making an effort. “I’d like to see you, Fiona. Buy you dinner, maybe.”

“I’ve been working seven days a week lately. Trying to pay off some debts.” Before he could frown, she added, “I have someone fetch me a meal from a place down the block around 8:00 pm every night. You could join me.”

“How about I bring you dinner tomorrow?”

“That’s fine, if you’ll dine with me.”

“We have a deal, Fiona. What sort of cuisine do you prefer?”

“Surprise me.”

“Roger that.” He took a deep breath. “I should head over to my table.”

“Probably,” she said, even as she crooked a finger at him, beckoning him closer.
Dutifully but not obediently in his view, Damien leaned over the bar. Fiona gave him a light yet firm kiss on the mouth, prompting much in the way of noise and comment.

Nate sharply smacked Damien on the shoulder.

Marcus toasted, “Give it up for infamy.”

“No fucking fear,” commented Charlie.

“Fuckin’ A right,” added Gabe.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Damien,” Fiona whispered.

“I’m already looking forward to it.” Damien squared his shoulders, picked up his drink and suit coat and headed over to the Infeld Daniels crowd. Every single one of his partners watched and waited. He endeavored to brace himself and draped his suit jacket over the empty chair at what he preferred to think of as Hanna’s table. “Cheers,” he said, raising his bourbon as he sat.

“You’re not going to put your jacket back on?” Franklin asked even as he raised and sipped his beer.

“You are definitely out of uniform, Karp,” Bash noted but drank as well.

“This establishment’s dress code was eloquently explained to me,” Damien said.

“I’ll say,” Hanna agreed with an attractive smirk. “You made a very attentive listener.”

“I’m trying to do better than I did with respect to the orchids.” She inclined her head at his reference to her allergy to orchids in particular and indifference to flowers in general and the explanation of both that had more or less gone in one of his ears and out the other.

“You’re supposed to talk to plants, Karp,” Bash stated. He nudged Franklin on the upper arm with his elbow. “Although the fact that he listens to them might explain a few things.”

“What self-respecting plant would talk to him?” Franklin mused.

“Valid point,” Bash allowed, even as he frowned at the smaller man shooting down his theory.

“A plant with low self-esteem might.” Bash brightened, but Franklin continued and killed his buzz. “Orchids strike me as high strung, though. Aloof almost. Surely they’d have
higher standards.”

Evidently tiring of an analogy he couldn’t make work to his satisfaction, Bash said, “If you aren’t going to give us a hint about the orchid thing, then please offer up an explanation, and make it plausible, for the attention the luscious Fiona paid to you.”

Picking up an odd vibe from Stanton, Damien decided to choose his words carefully. Hanna didn’t. “Women like surprises in the form of a well-dressed man.”

“To paraphrase ZZ Top.” Bash looked as though he couldn’t decide whether to be impressed by the referent or appalled by its application.

“Which is not necessarily a good thing,” Franklin interjected, as if sensing his partner’s distress.

Before any debate over the merits of ZZ Top lyrics could gain traction, Damien said, “She said I looked like I had a story to tell, but I never got the chance.”

“What would you have said?” Hanna asked, clearly intrigued.

“Not a thing about any woman I might have met in Dublin,” he said, inwardly smiling at the start of surprise from his uncle and silently admitting that Fiona ignoring Stanton had been one of the best moments he’d had in months. “That didn’t go anywhere.”

“Seriously, Damien,” she persisted. “What would’ve been your play?”

“Yes indeed,” Stanton said, “please give us all the benefit of your vast expertise and experience in the pursuit of women.”

Hanna apologized with her eyes. Damien shrugged and glanced back at Fiona, hoping for inspiration. “I’d have asked her what sort of story she’d like to hear and gone from there.”

Stanton snorted derisively. “Passivity will get you nowhere with a woman like that.”

“That’s not passive; that’s determining what expectation you’re trying to meet.” Peter Bash smiled winningly at Damien. “Not a bad move.”

Moving his chair away from Bash minutely, Franklin said, “What if she said she wanted to hear something naughty?”

Having sex in the front seat of the car of a stripper turned summer associate, while meeting the criteria, wouldn’t send the right message. He smiled as his sipped his bourbon. “My story would begin something like ‘A tired and irritable guy walked into a

“And behind that bar, he saw a behind worthy of worship from as close as the owner was willing to let him get?” Bash suggested.

“Not quite, but that’s the idea. The story would be about an average day becoming extraordinary.”

Peter pointed at Damien. “You’re smoother than you look.” He turned to Hanna. “I get it now. I apologize for thinking you were temporarily insane during your Karp phase.”

“So …” Franklin paused to smirk in the way that never failed to annoy Damien. “When are you going to tell her this tale of magic, wonder and unresolved sexual tension?”

“Tomorrow over dinner, if she still wants to hear it.”

“Damn,” Franklin muttered.

“I second that motion,” Bash said, frowning in Fiona’s general direction.

“You’ll have to let me know how that goes,” Hanna said, tapping the edge of Damien’s glass with hers.

“Updates as events warrant!” Franklin and Bash grinned at each other, making Damien wonder if they rehearsed saying things like that in unison.

“Don’t get your hearts set on receipt of any such updates,” Stanton said, as he removed his credit card from his wallet.

“C’mon, Damien,” Franklin said, “it’s nice to share.”

“Yeah, we’re living vicariously here. You’ve got to give us something.”

“Gentlemen, examine your criteria,” Stanton said. “If events don’t warrant, an update is quite unnecessary.”

“Ouch.” Damien didn’t know or particularly care which of the boys had spoken. Tension tightened his shoulders almost to the point of pain.

“Have fun tomorrow night,” Hanna murmured in his ear before kissing him on the cheek. He relaxed a bit. She’d always had a knack for at least partially defusing the bombs Stanton routinely armed.

* * *

Carmen Phillips sat at the bar at Eddie’s, watching Fiona wait for Damien Karp to arrive. Her nonchalance would fool anyone who didn’t know her like Carmen did. Fi busily made sure everyone had a new beverage as the appointed time approached. She
clearly wanted this and Carmen silently admitted curiosity as to how it would go down.

A few minutes before 8:00 pm, a fully laden Infeld Daniels senior partner strode through the door. He caught Fiona’s eye and smiled. Carmen hoped her own jaw didn’t drop unbecomingly. That Damien Karp looked kinda hot in a light gray, V neck cashmere sweater and black jeans did not bear mentioning to Peter and Jared.

When Damien dropped the bags onto the bar, he said, “I have a few more” and disappeared. The aroma wafting from the large paper bags made Carmen’s mouth water. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Fiona had just set another beer in front of Carmen when Damien reappeared, nearly equally loaded down. He shrugged at Fiona’s raised eyebrow. “I brought a little extra.”

From the lone bag sporting a grocery store logo, Damien lifted paper plates, napkins and plastic forks, knives and spoons. The man hadn’t forgotten this wasn’t a restaurant, earning some positive style points to Carmen’s mind. He moved on to the unmarked bags and efficiently and methodically emptied them, arranging the various containers logically. Soup together. The small containers next to them were probably salads and appetizers and the larger ones grouped together looked to be entrees.

He opened the paper plates, grabbed one and asked, “What do you like, Fiona? Fish? Raw or cooked? Beef, chicken, pork, vegetarian?” Carmen approved of covering all of the food bases.

Smiling, Fiona said, “Fish both ways, vegetarian and a little beef.”

“Done,” Damien said and made Fiona a plate of what looked to be spectacular Japanese food. “Grab a plate, Marcus,” he said. “We’ll need help to polish this off.”

“I’ll say,” Marcus agreed and didn’t hesitate to take a share.

“Can we try a little?” asked one of a group of three women at the other end of the bar.

“Sure,” Damien said. “That goes for everybody.”

“Even me?”

He visibly tensed; evidently, he hadn’t noticed my presence. “Even you,” he muttered. “Tell me; are you here in an official investigative capacity?”

“Strictly unofficial. Mostly, I just wanted to see my friend.”

“That’s a lot of food,” Fiona said, when Damien offered a plate to her. “Share with me?”

“Ok, but I get my own miso soup.” Damien’s glanced around the bar. “Do you have 23 shot glasses?” When Fiona didn’t answer immediately, he added, “Any small glass will do.”

“I can hook you up, if you tell me why.”

Damien commenced unloading bottles from the final bag. “Sake.” Fiona lined the glasses up and Damien poured. Every patron took one. Two extras were procured when Nate and a friend entered and eagerly took up plates.

“Toast!” Marcus demanded.

“The one you made yesterday is apropos,” Damien said. “Give it up for infamy.” Everyone drank, whether they understood or not.

Fiona emerged from behind the bar, as Damien procured his soup and some more plastic cutlery. Carmen noted he poured more sake only for himself and his date, proving the supply wasn’t endless. She suspected he wanted to go a little over the top to impress Fi and prove his seriousness about pursuing her but not enough to make her or anyone else uncomfortable and thought he’d done it so far.

“You want me to move, Fi?” Marcus asked, because there was only one barstool between his and mine.

She shook her head. “I want Damien here.” When he took the empty chair, she sat on his lap and draped her right arm across his shoulders. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Damien said, his left hand coming to rest on Fiona’s hip.

“Good,” she murmured, leaning into him and shifting to get more comfortable. Fiona fingered the material of Damien’s shirt. “You look nice, tonight.”

“No suit, tie, starch or buttons.” He smiled and gave her a brief one armed hug. “I’m not sure I’m on the right side of battened down, though.”

“Anything in combination with black jeans qualifies, unless it fails one of the other tests.” While Damien laughed, Fiona took a taste of her miso soup. “Yum!” She frowned when he lifted the bowl to his lips. “You have a spoon, Damien.”

He flicked the utensil away. “That’s too small to eat soup with. Besides, it’s socially acceptable to eat this particular soup this way.”

Oddly, Carmen didn’t feel like a voyeur, even though she watched the couple closely. God, Fi and Karp. No one could’ve seen that coming.

As if she read Carmen’s mind, Fiona rolled her eyes. “I like him. Adapt.”

“You know I will. Pindy too. I promise nothing with respect to Peter and Jared, however.”

Fiona speared a piece of sashimi. “Remember what I always say, Carmen. What’s this, Damien?”



Damien smiled in a lazy way that obviously worked for Fi and Carmen could understand why. “What do you always say, Fiona?” With nary a pause, he asked, “Would you prefer me to call you Fi? It seems like everyone else does.”

She ran her hand down the center of his chest. “I really like how you say Fiona.”

“Awesome!” Looking shy in an endearing way for just a moment, he said, “I think it suits you better than the diminutive.”

“In much the same way that I prefer men to boys, which is what I always say by the way.” After sampling a morsel of maguro dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, Fiona
said, “Peter and Jared haven’t quite made that leap yet.”

“Something we agree on.” Damien faltered slightly. “Not the preference part. The Peter and Jared not leaping part.”

Fiona wrapped both of her arms around Damien’s neck. “I was never in doubt of either.”
“Thank Christ,” he muttered.

“Maguro is …”

“Tuna. Sorry, Fiona, I forgot.”

A sincere apology on top of everything else? I’m not sure who you are but leave the real Damien Karp wherever you’ve stashed him. Carmen considered all she’d seen and heard as conversation lagged while people ate and was forced to conclude that Damien and Fi had serious chemistry.

* * *

“You’ll spoil me, if I let you, won’t you, Damien?”

Fiona’s level gaze precluded utterance of the cavalier response that flew into his brain. “Not if you don’t want me to,” he replied.

“That would bother you, I think. Not being able to buy me things.”

He couldn’t figure out her angle. Don’t all women want to be spoiled at least a little bit? Then again, Hanna had no use for flowers. When did they change the rules? Not wanting to concede the point, he asked, “What else is money for, Fiona?”

“The usual stuff. Paying debts, saving for retirement or a tropical vacation, providing for your family.”

“True enough.”

She shifted on his lap and Damien bit his lip. Fiona looked almost angry as she murmured, “You have all of that covered already, don’t you?”

“That depends.” He risked a smirk. “How big of a family am I going to have to provide for?”

“Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m not, Fiona. I swear I am not. I just want to understand.”

Tension thrummed through her body and she seemed to be struggling to rein in her emotions. Damien held his breath. When she finally spoke, her low pitched voice seethed with what he could only term as rage. “Men who buy women things, particularly expensive things, develop expectations. That’s what they call them—reasonable expectations under the circumstances—fancy words for I’m calling the shots from here on out, sweetness.” A shiver worked its way down her spine, a physical manifestation of her bitterness. “They think they’re entitled to all kinds of things. To dictate how you dress. Sex however they want. A fucking whore to display as they see fit.”

She exuded the pain of past experience and Damien felt sick that any man could’ve made this incredible woman feel so badly about herself and a bit bewildered that she’d shared so much with him so soon.

“Say something, Damien,” she said, her voice small and inflectionless.

That tone sent a bolt of anger through him. “I don’t know what to say, other than I’d like a shot at whoever treated you that way.”

Fiona shuddered. “No, you don’t.”

Deciding it prudent to accept that as truth, he said, “Not all men are like that, Fiona. I actually think it’s fair to say, most aren’t.”

“I know, but I can’t risk it, Damien. I just can’t.”

Untargeted anger at the man or men who hurt the gorgeous woman on his lap would get them nowhere. He needed to be pragmatic. “Give me a budget.”


“How much are you comfortable with me spending for a single meal, present, surprise. Tell me!”

She kissed him lightly on the lips. “Can I get back to you on that?”

“Don’t blame me if I break the rules in the interim.”

“That’s fair.”

Sensing the rightness of the question didn’t diminish his hesitance to ask. “Anything else you want to say, now that the conversation has taken a serious turn?” She looked away. “Fiona?” When she studiously ignored him, he said, “I’m going to buy a ridiculously priced black pearl necklace on line right now, if you don’t talk to me.” Damien fished his phone out of his pocket to surf the Web for deals on pearls.

Fiona snatched the phone from his hand. “No!”

“Tell me,” he demanded.

She leaned into him, shifted her ass delightfully yet again and whispered into his ear. “Sometimes I need pain to get off. Not a lot but not a little either. Will you … hook me up?”

That question held myriad complications and potentially disastrous pitfalls. Damien navigated them slowly. Finally, he said, “I’ll give you what you need, so long as you ask for it and are specific as to how much it’ll take.”

“After a while, you’ll know the signs.”

Damien shook his head. “If you can’t or won’t ask for it in the manner specified, I won’t believe you want it.”

Fiona smiled slowly. “You’ve played this way before.”

God, he wanted to play right now. After taking a deep breath in an effort to calm down, he said, “Enough to know I need to be careful with it.”

Shouts of “Eddie” resounded throughout the bar. Fiona all but leapt from Damien’s lap.

He barely had time to frown before a deep resonant voice intoned, “I had to meet the man who inspired my bartender to ask for Sunday off.” Damien shot Fiona a smile. She blushed. “You must be him.”

“Fi’s caught herself a lawyer,” Marcus offered.

“A lawyer? You wouldn’t know anything about zoning, would you?”

“A whole lot, Eddie.”

“This isn’t the time or place, obviously, but I’m having an issue with my joint across town and I’d love to have a conversation about that.”

“Of course,” Damien said and reached for where the pocket of the suit coat he wasn’t wearing would have been, belatedly realizing he had no business cards.

“Here,” Carmen Phillips said, offering a card to Eddie. “This is the main Infeld Daniels number. Just ask for Damien, there’s only one.” She waved away the thanks of both men.

“Look forward to talking business with you, Damien,” Eddie said. Laughing, he added, “This probably goes without saying but I think it’s only fair to spit it out. You mess with Fi; Nathan will make sure you eat with a straw for at least six months.”

“I’m playing by her rules. She’s spectacular.”

Eddie nodded his approval.

* * *

“I thought for a minute that you weren’t going to rise to the occasion.” Damien Karp’s sudden fascination with his beverage made Carmen smile. “I’m not talking about any physical response you might’ve had to Fi wriggling around on your lap and touching you everywhere she could reach without being obvious obvious.” Certain he was pondering the difference between obvious and obvious obvious, she said, “Fi didn’t seem disappointed though, so I’m guessing—.”

“What did you mean, then?”

“The way I see it—you dodged two bullets.” On a whim, she let those words hang between them.

“Are you going to make me guess?”

“You didn’t argue or make light of her concern about buying her things before you knew the depth of it.”

He sipped his drink and she nearly didn’t hear his mumbled, “I asked her how big of a family she was talking. That’s pretty damn close.”

Carmen waved his concern away. “Fi opened that door when she gave you the litany of better uses for your money.”


“Will you really be good with a budget?” she asked, wanting to understand why the bundle of contradictions that is Damien Karp stoked Fi.

He laughed. “I’ll exploit every loophole and there’re a lot of them.”

“Wow me with a few,” Carmen challenged.

“Split things up,” he said. “Buy the stones separately, then the setting.” Damien gestured vaguely to encompass the entire bar. “Nights like this. I spent more than she’ll say is ok, but it’s not just for her. It’s for everybody.” He smiled. “Same for vacations. It’s you and me together, sweetheart. I need to get away and no one in their right mind goes to Paris alone.” He turned soft blue eyes on Carmen. “You won’t condemn me to that fate, will you, Fiona?”

“You’re good.”

“Never thought I’d hear you say that.”


Damien opened his mouth but shut it immediately. Meeting her eyes, he ventured, “I made the mistake of assuming you think like they do. You don’t.”

“Neither do you and that’s why Fi’s draped all over you.”

His eyes narrowed. “Explain.”

“Fi needs some darkness in her man. Trouble is, she tends to hook up with guys who have a lot. You, sir, are a happy medium.”

“How do you figure?”

His confusion called to her. “You told her you wanted a piece of the guys who hurt her.”

A smile tugged at his lips. “I farm the bruised knuckles out, as you well know.”

“All the red ball is in the street bullshit aside, you did what you felt necessary to protect your uncle. I respect that.”

“That was a mistake.”

“You pulled the trigger; a lot of men don’t have the balls.” She bumped Damien’s shoulder with hers. “Just like you set the ground rules for Fi on pain in the bedroom.”

“Eavesdropping is unbecoming,” he snarled, which Carmen found really cute.

“That was the most intense bit of flirting I’ve ever had the pleasure to overhear.” She grinned at his obvious discomfort. “

Why are we having this conversation?” he asked.

“In part, to show Fi I’ve adapted to her liking you.”

“What’s the other part?”

She smiled. “To show you the same thing.” Carmen rose and raised her arms above her head to stretch her back muscles. “Thanks for dinner, Damien.”

“You’re welcome, Carmen.”

“Sounds like someone done some adapting of his own,” she said, as she slipped into her black leather jacket.

Damien said, “Maybe,” and shrugged, but Carmen knew a corner had been turned and wondered how the boys would take it.

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Well, I hope Damien was awesome enough for you. I did my very best in that regard.

I was wondering if you'd notice that I included a Gabe. I should've known you would've.

I've always thought of Damien as a romantic and, as such, if there's a will, there's a way. He will spoil her in a way that she's comfortable with.

Herself as Fiona is a nice image.

I was kind of surprised by the somewhat serious turn this took, but it seemed to work out ok.

I am pleased to have eased the burden of studying if only for a little while. Hope you had a great day!

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