"I can't see why you are so upset about this. I love you and want to marry you. That … the other … has nothing to do with it," Geoffrey said, keeping his voice so low that I had to lean in close to hear him, near enough to smell the sex on him, to see how he'd misbuttoned his shirt in his haste to follow me. The bastard was actually going to try this line of reasoning? Could this day get any worse?

"Well, sorry, but cheating is cheating," I spat back at his classically handsome face, just that one slight break in his nose from a lacrosse stick in seventh grade. Tossing back the shot of whiskey, I motioned the bartender for another; Geoffrey couldn't hide the sneer as another glass appeared. This was so not his kind of place; I'd picked it because it reminded me of days long gone, filled with blue-collar townies with tattoos, the hard vowels of the working people who sat around the tables and played pool in the back. "I guess I'm not cultured enough to accept fucking the hired help."

"There is no need to be vulgar." Geoffrey dropped into his courtroom voice, that damn pretentiousness where he acted like a lawyer even though he was only in his second year at Harvard. God, but he was such a royal prick. What the hell was I thinking?

"What? You can do the act, but the word 'fuck' bothers you? Jesus, Geoffrey, you are a piece of work. I can't believe I moved halfway across the country for you. Goddamn it all to hell." Honestly I was as mad at myself as I was at him; I'd been the one who was trying to please everyone else with this relationship, and now I was going to pay the price for getting out of it. Mom and Ralph were going to be pissed, but I'd deal.

"Listen to me." Geoffrey loomed over me, using his height to try and make me cower like some witness on the stand. When he thought the other person was weak, he was a bully in a $5000 dollar suit with a smooth façade that hid the aggression beneath the surface. Daddy issues; having met Morton Geoffrey Randolph Donerall the Second, I can attest to the fact that he is demanded a lot from his son, but he was right that Geoffrey was a spoiled little rich boy who could be an asshole. "No one breaks up with a Donerall. It simply isn't done."

"This Barney botherin' ya'?"

He was a townie, from his sunglasses perched on buzz cut dark hair down to his shit-kicker boots; tight jeans with holes from wear, not bought that way, white tank top that hugged his muscular chest and bared his arms and Irish cross tattoo. The blue-grey eyes were hardened by life – the man had been to prison, I was sure of it – and a red-hot jolt of lust speared right down into my crotch; the image of my hands wrapped around those biceps as he thrust inside of me knocked me on my ass. I grabbed the full shot glass on the bar, tilted it back, and let the heat wash over me. I had this thing for bad boys, something genetic considering my own deadbeat dad died in prison when I was four. And, goddamn, this guy was fucking sex on a stick.

"This is none of your business," Geoffrey sniffed. What an idiot. Did he really think that his money mattered a damn here? Townie could chew him up and spit him out without breaking a sweat – and probably wouldn't mind bending me over right in front of Geoffrey's bleeding body. Well, shit. I was on my way to being drunk enough to just let him do it.

"Ah, is it now?" He'd already been tense, spoiling for a fight, flexing his fingers … really nice, knobby fingers of someone who knew how to use them … and Geoffrey didn't even seem to notice it. Oh, yes, I wanted to let him do it, let him tear into the smug bastard, but my body had very different ideas. My nipples were tight already just thinking about the feel of a brick wall against my back as he took me, rough and fast. Yeah, that was the way to go. At least I'd have some fun before I had to deal with tomorrow's tears and guilt trips.

"Actually, you could help me out," I all but purred, rolling the empty shot glass between my fingers. "He wouldn't be bothering me nearly as much if I had a couple more of these."

Those eyes changed color as he caught my drift, blue-green now in the low lights of the bar. "Got a whole bottle of Jamison at the table if ya' want to slum it." His smile sent tingles to my clit; I caught my lip with my teeth and wiggled, just a little, rubbing against the inseam of my very expensive designer jeans. Eyes narrowed as he watched, knowing exactly what I was doing.

"Emily," Geoffrey warned. He had no idea that his disapproval would only make me want it more; he really didn't know me at all, and that was my own fault. I'd shoved this part of myself away, pretended to be something I wasn't for far too long now.

"Well, now, isn't that a coincidence?" I slid off the stool and dropped some money to cover my bill. He followed my every movement as I walked towards him. "Emily Jamison, nice to meet you." I reached out a hand; he paused, thinking it through, cutting a look at Geoffrey before he covered my fingers with his. Rough callouses rubbed along my palm; I dragged my fingers along his as I pulled them back, and his full attention snapped to me. "I happen to enjoy Irish whiskey and, trust me, hanging with stuffed suit over there is slumming it. You look like you know how to have fun."

"I can see you're bent on doing this. I will call you tomorrow." Geoffrey cocked an angry eyebrow at me; I turned and gave him a little wave.

"You can do that. Or you can find someone else to lay there for two minutes and silently wait for you to finish. 'Cause I'm not doing that anymore." I turned my back on his sputters of rage and walked away with the other man. "You're not going to get all noble on me, are you …" I said to my new friend and hopefully future lover.

His grin spoke of mischief and, god help my libido, I could imagine those lips doing much more. "Jem," he offered. "And ain't nobody going to call me noble. You offer up that fine ass, I'm going to take it. Won't mind helping you get that stick out Barney's ass."

He led me over to a table in the back, signaling the waitress for another glass. "Oh, it wasn't a stick in his ass. That would be the pool boy's dick."

Jem paused, then threw his head back and roared with laughter. "Fuck, woman, can't imagine picking a cock over you."

"Me neither," I laughed, shrugging out of my Ralph Lauren blazer – I hated it, always have, way too bland for my tastes, but it's what a future Mrs. Geoffrey Donerall would wear – and peeling off the oxford button-up, leaving just the white camisole that hugged my breasts, pink straps of my bra exposed, a deep vee of cleavage on display. I'm curvy, a nice way to say I'm not a stick thin model; usually I have to hide it under tailored clothes, but now I wanted Jem to get a gander at the whole package. Seeing the way his eyes roved over my body, lingering on the pebbles that were my nipples pushing through the thin cotton and the denim lines around my crotch, was like a drink of smooth whiskey to my system.

"Come on, let me introduce ya'. You play pool?" He filled a glass with the amber liquid and we drank together. I was hitting the sweet spot, that place where I'd drunk enough to turn off all the filters in my brain, the "you're not supposed to do that" voice of society's rules, but not yet too shitfaced where I'd wake up in an alleyway and remember nothing. When he put his hand on the small of my back, I could feel the jagged edges of lust, and my breath hitched; he grinned as my breasts rose and fell, one eyebrow sliding up at my body's response.

I casually ran my fingers over his bicep. "Been doing the good girl who doesn't really like sex thing for a while. So done with that."

That hand slipped down to cup my ass as I passed and gave me a squeeze. "Might need to work that out of ya' system. Happens to be I like a little wildcat in my bed."

"Oh, are we making it to your bed?" I winked and swung my hips as I moved to the pool table, feeling better than I had in a long time. "Maybe for round two assuming you can keep up, big boy."

The bulge in his jeans was noticeable, and I felt powerful, knowing I could make him want me, that I hadn't given all of myself away yet. I reveled in it, taking every opportunity to tease him. They were just starting a game, and I conveniently forgot to tell him I'd been hustling pool for money since I was twelve; I just took the cue, leaned over the table so he got a perfect view of my breasts, and broke, sinking six balls in a row. If I could, I'd bend over right in front of him, ass up, legs spread, and by the third time, his hands were shamelessly holding my hips as he bumped his erection against me when he moved behind me. Intentionally missing a shot, I let the other guys have a turn so he could slip a hand around my waist and press himself along my side.

"Ya' a shark, woman," he laughed in my ear. "Something tells me ya' ain't no barney, not under those fancy clothes."

"You can take the girl out of the Southside, but you can't take the Windy City out of the girl." His ass was taut under my fingers, and my palms itched to feel those muscles clench beneath them. "Momma married money."

He backed me into the table then, wrapped those sex-dream inducing hands around my waist and crushed his lips to mine. The man didn't kiss; he plundered, taking what he wanted, tongue snatching my breath away. He could have had me right there, pushed me onto the felt and I'd have welcomed him, the smooth whiskey making the others irrelevant to the pulsing throb between my legs that was demanding his agile mouth take me apart, both inside and out. But he heard the jeers and pulled back, pupils blown wide with his desire for me. Me. Oh, holy hell, no one had looked at me that way in … well, in a damn long time.

"Let me finish this game," I said, running the table, slamming the balls in the pockets in quick succession and tossing the cue down. "Sorry boys, but Jem here's got something better to do. Me."

"Fuck, woman," Jem said.

"That's the idea, big boy."

We made it back the hallway; Jem opened doors until he found a small supply room, and then he was devouring me, sucking in my tongue, teeth grazing my lips. My ass hit the edge of a sink, and he lifted me up; I wrapped my legs around him, bringing his raging hard-on to grind against me. For a time we tangled together, almost fighting to get our hands on bare skin, to twist and remove our clothes for the aching places. My clit was pulsing, little shocks winding through me, with each hard slide of his jeans against mine. There was nothing safe or soft or romantic about any of it; I wanted him inside of me so bad that my teeth were aching to sink into some skin.

"Knew ya' were a spitfire," he whispered along my neck, licking a stripe before sucking hard, bruises forming in his wake. "Bet you're already wet, ain't ya'?"

"You going to talk me to death? I can think of better things to do with that mouth." I got my hand between us and pressed the heel of my palm along his rigid length; he drew in a breath and growled then his mouth closed over my left breast, teeth nipping through the fabric as I bucked, crying out my need. Desperate now to feel his heavy weight in my hand, I fumbled with his jeans, getting them open only when he stepped back with a curse and yanked them down himself. I lifted my hips as he stripped my own jeans off and then his fingers were stroking the soaked silk of my underwear, earning a chuckle from his lips until I wrapped my fingers around his large cock, hard and ready.

"Fuck," he groaned. "Gonna make you scream." Moving the fabric aside, his fingers parted me and pinched my clit, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger. I shouted then, a curse mixed with a plea, coming just from his touch and the promise of more. I squeezed his cock, running my finger over the leaking liquid and smearing it along the vein underneath.

"Not if I make you come first." I gasped and then stroked him, twisting the head lightly; his eyes flashed, danger rolling off of him like the headiest of cologne. Oh, god, I'd missed this, being taken and taking in return, sex as a battle where both sides win. With a tight grip, he yanked my hand away, opened my legs wide, and shoved inside me, fast and hard, filling and stretching me.

"You're tight, hot pussy is begging for me." His hands seized my ass as he thrust in again, and I lost my voice as I could feel the force all the way into my throat. "I'm going to come inside you, baby. Fuck you hard and long, then I'm going to take you home and eat you out until all you can do is sob my name."

My only option was to hang on as he pounded into me, every single jolt pushing me upwards; I was panting now, head thrown back, and then he stroked my clit and I went over the edge into the most intense orgasm I'd ever had.

"Come on baby," I crooned, running my fingers down his neck, feeling the tense muscles there. "Come inside me, so hot and tight and wet for you. Fuck me, Jem." Holding onto that magnificent ass, I rode his powerful thrusts, clenching my fingers to pull him further in; he was cursing the whole time as he stuttered and spilled inside me, dropping his head onto my shoulder as he finished.

Why had I forgotten how good this could be, just raw sex and sweaty bodies and the most primal of needs being met; I hadn't had a damn orgasm since I started dating whatshisname and now I'd had two in less than ten minutes. Messy, half-dressed, sitting on a dirty sink in a local bar, legs wrapped around a guy – I only knew his nickname at that – I was sated and satisfied.

"You are one hot piece of ass." He gave me a shit-eating grin. "Ya' want to get the hell out of here?"

"I have a bottle of Bushmills that needs drinking." I smiled back, high off of the rush of good sex.

We straightened our clothes enough to get us out the back door and to catch a cab to my place, a condo I'd bought in Back Bay as a bit of rebellion and distance from Geoffrey's family's mansion in Beacon Hill. Nothing too flashy – I didn't grow up with money, and thank god I didn't see the need in waving the cash around – but he certainly didn't care what the inside looked like because he pulled his shirt off soon as the door was closed. The whole way in the cab he'd been rubbing his fingers over me, keeping me hot and bothered as he whispered dirty things he was going to do to me in my ear. Now he stripped out of his jeans until he was standing naked in my living room, cock jutting forward, engorged and red.

"Lemme see ya'," he said and waited, his eyes hot on my skin. That look brought the slut out in me, and I caught the hem of my camisole, pulling it slowly up and over my head, taking my time rolling my jeans down my legs, jutting my hip out and running my hands back up my stomach and over my lace covered breasts. His eyes followed every move as I unhooked the front clasp and freed them, full and heavy, and I could feel the weight of that heat. Sliding my panties off, I walked over to the bar in just my heels and poured us both a glass of whiskey. Before I could turn, his hands reached around me, trapping me against the cabinet, his hard cock pressing into the crack of my ass. I expected him to grind down, but he calmly picked up the glass, took a sip of the liquor then put the glass to my lips. I could see us in the mirror, his tattoo plain as his arm curled around me; the drink burned as it went, a peaty flavor that would always remind me of this night. He sat it down before he cupped my breasts, his thumbs teasing my nipples to hardness. "Betcha Barney was too good to touch ya' like this, to make ya' so hot ya' creamed yourself just thinking about his cock slamming into ya'."

"God, no," I groaned. "Bedroom, at night, missionary position, with all the lights out." I arched up into his hands as he squeezed hard, sensitive nerves shooting pleasure into my brain.

"Fuckin' cocksucker didn't know what he was missin'."

I had to take another swig of whiskey as one of those amazing hands moved down my stomach, nimble fingers targeting in on my clit. "Ah, fuck, Jem. Make me come again."

"You're cunt feeling lonely?" His fingers traveled a little further, and one pushed inside of me. "See? Sopping wet with my come in you already and you want to go again?"

"Yes. Oh, fucking hell, yes." I had to get my hands on him, that need stoked by the second finger that he used to fuck me, none-to-gently, and it felt so damn good. Reaching behind, I grasped his hips and rocked back into his cock; his smile turned feral and I knew I should be scared, but the fission of fear only turned me on more. In a blink, his fingers left and he threw me onto the couch, dragging me by my ankles, balancing my ass on the arm, my shoulders and head on the cushions. There was no time to think as he spread my legs, dropped to the floor on his knees and buried his face into my crotch, tongue licking over my clit then stabbing into my throbbing pussy. Plunging in and out, swirling and sucking, he drove me into another climax when he rubbed his thumb along my clit, chuckling as I tried to buck him off when he kept working me as I clenched around his tongue.

"Wildcat," he called me as I lay gasping, hands scrabbling to pull myself up. "Look at ya', ready to be fucked again, begging me for it." He stood and hauled my ass over the edge, sinking his cock into me; it slid home easy, passage already slick with my own juices, his spit, and his come from before. I felt completely open as he pounded into me, leaving bruises on my thighs where his fingers gripped me. Finally getting leverage, I rose up on my elbows and lifted my hips to meet him, my teeth jarring with the force as he drove inside again and again. So. Damn. Good.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck ..." That was my voice, chanting in rhythm to our bodies slapping together.

"Wildcat, hot fucking pussy, such a tight little cunt …" Jem's language grew coarser and more guttural and he gave no measure, taking everything he wanted and then some. The more he demanded, the more inflamed I became until I could swear we were going to burst into flames and take the whole damn brownstone with us.

He came first, face contorting as he shot into me; even as he collapsed from the effort, he fell down onto me, sucking one of my nipples into his mouth and biting down. The pain took me with him and I climaxed one more time, unable to stop the wanton part of me from reverently calling his name as if he was some sort of pagan god of sex. It wasn't that ridiculous a thought; as he pulled out of me, he made his way back over to the bar, completely naked, semen on his shrinking cock, sweaty muscles on display, and he could be mistaken for one of those Greek statues.

"Ya' going to lay there like that?" He was laughing at me, but I couldn't muster up the energy to give a damn.

"What? I think the 'been fucked into the couch' look is sexy." Hell, I could only imagine myself, legs still wide open. I finally did manage to roll over and off, hoisting myself up, unsteady but standing. "You gonna bring me some of that? I might be talked into finding some leftover Chinese to heat up."

He brought the glasses into the small kitchen, his body filling the room; he stalked, like some animal, watching me as his prey the whole time, never taking his eyes off of my body. This, this was what I missed, real sex, this intensity that bordered on risk, skirting right along the edge of smart. It made me feel alive; all the money and cars and clothes and old family names couldn't give me this.

"Ya' know, the more times you buck under me, the more Southside I hear in ya'?" He leaned back onto the breakfast bar, resting on his elbows, the move highlighting the curvature of his muscles, hair tapering down from his navel to just above his now flaccid cock.

"Easy enough to slip out of the mask." I pulled out some white cartons – kung pao shrimp, pad thai, a variety of dim sum from another night – and started heating them up. Okay, I don't cook and I get the munchies when I drink. "Mom may have forgotten where we came from, but I haven't."

He took his plate without comment, liberally dosing it with the soy sauce I set out before he started eating it. "So ya' end up with in-the-closet dude? For mom's sake, I take it? 'Cause, Cat, let me tell you, you'll be scratching at my door in less than a month if you marry him, money or no money."

"Mom and Ralph, my stepdad. They want to be sure I'm taken care of. Like I can't do that myself." I snorted a little at the thought. "But damn straight I'd find me a lover, someone like you who'd let me in because I give earth-shattering blow jobs." A bit of rice fell off my fork, dropping onto my chin; he reached out and caught it with his thumb, sucking it clean in his mouth. "Stick around after this fine dinner and you just might find out."

We ate at the bar, comfortable in our nakedness, arguing Blackhawks vs. Bruins, White Sox vs. Red Sox. He told me about the best Italian in the North End and Mike's Pastries; I told stories about hustling while Mom was dancing and running the sister con on unsuspecting business men. It was easy to keep the simmer going with little brushes of hands and knees, a low boil that gave us breathing room to get ready for the next round. When he was done, he finished mine and I rinsed the plates off, leaving them by the sink. We were making a good dent in the Bushmills, and a haze of lust and whiskey settled around us; I caught his hand and pulled him after me, into the bedroom, plans already in my head, a list of fantasies that I thought I'd never get a chance to fulfill suddenly options. I hadn't made my bed that morning – I'm not the neatest person and thank god for maid service – and he let me tumble him onto his back amid the wrinkled sheets and cotton comforter. Giving him a secret smile, I took my favorite silk scarf, the one Mom had brought back from her first trip to Paris, and climbed onto the bed, straddling his chest.

"Ya' going to let me tie you up?" He said with a laugh; he knew exactly what I had in mind.

"Nope. Going to ride me a Townie." I slid one silk covered hand up his arm; he grabbed the spindle of the headboard with both, enjoyment writ large on his face. I looped the scarf around his wrists and tied them off; as I reached up, he lifted his head and swiped his tongue along my nipple, grinning at me, so I clenched my thighs as I pulled back and sat up. "Be good now."

"Ah, Cat, ya' don't want good, ya' want really bad."

I shut him up with my lips and tongue, biting his bottom lip before I licked my way along his jaw, the column of his neck, and onto his chest. He cursed at me when I nipped at his nipple, drawing circles around it with my tongue before sucking hard. Inching down his body, I slid myself over his stirring cock, mouth following the line of dark hair that flowed from his belly to his crotch, teasing him with my breasts as I squeezed his cock between them. By the time I was kneeling between his legs, he was hard again and those blue-grey eyes were glittering at me.

"Been a while since I had a big boy like this in my mouth," I told him as I ran my forefinger up the underside, circling the warm head as it jerked in response. Bending my head, I flicked my tongue across the slit and he groaned, pulling on the scarf as if to release his hands; emboldened, I cupped his balls with my hands, squeezing, then spun the tip of my tongue just under the velvety edge.

"Holy fucking hell," he cursed through gritted teeth.

I circled the base of his cock with a thumb and finger, tightening enough for him to squirm and then I opened my lips and glided halfway down; closing them I sucked hard, once, and then slicked my way back up and off. This was something I'd refused to do for Geoffrey, and now I was damn glad I hadn't. I forgotten how good it felt: the heavy fullness in mouth, salty tang on my tongue, scrape across my teeth, pearly beads forming as I sucked him down until he bumped the back of my throat and I groaned around his length. I felt him all the way to my hot core, as if he was fucking me from the top down, shoving out everything but the real me, the girl who lived on her emotions, took what she wanted, fucked who she liked.

"That's it, take it all, all the way in." His hands tangled in my hair, griping hard as he pistoned his hips up, taking over, holding me still as I almost gagged on how deep he was going. Laughing at my angry look, he dragged a thumb down the side of my face, pausing with his cock all the way in. "Ya' didn't think a little knot would hold me, did ya'?"

In answer, I sucked hard, hollowing out my cheeks as I felt him jerk, and then I didn't think anymore as he thrust faster, and I took it all, loving it even as my jaw ached. He called me all sorts of pet names until he was right on the edge of exploding; I pulled his hands away, and slipped out of his grip to sit up, wiping the spit off of my chin.

"Goddamn it, woman. Ya' trying to kill me?" He caught my wrist and hauled me up towards him.

"I'm trying to fuck you," I argued, but he was too far gone; he got his hands on my hips, silver rings biting into my skin, and I barely had enough time to balance myself before he impaled me on his stiff cock, driving up inside of me with his hips at the same time. I saw stars, so intense was the ecstasy as he hit my bundle of nerves; staying upright was a challenge, but his hands kept me in place and the fast pace fell into a rhythm that I found myself joining, rising and falling, using my thigh muscles. I was going to be damn sore in the morning, but I didn't feel it now, too far gone in the sweat, the sounds of bodies sliding in and out, the grunts and groans and moans, my breasts bouncing, the rapid increase of thrusts. Wanton and reckless, I gave myself over to it, riding him to a simultaneous climax, my vision whiting out as the tremors racked my body, and I dropped, boneless and exhausted, onto his chest as he came inside me with a final deep-seated pulse.

"I am gonna to feel this for days," I groaned. "Don't get a big head, but, damn. Four? Really? Can you bottle that 'cause I'd buy it." I could feel his laugh all the way into my breasts as his cock, still buried in me, vibrated.

He smacked my ass, hard enough to leave a mark, and I jumped and groaned at the stir of interest. "Sorry, babe, my head is big already, and I ain't for sale." He rolled onto his side, slipping out of me as he did, putting me on my back and tossed his arm and leg over my body, holding me down. "But ya' did wear me out, and that's damn hard to do."

I could barely keep my eyes open; I was out-of-sex-shape and was going to have words with my trainer tomorrow about more thigh exercises for sure. That was the last thing I thought before I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep

Sunlight filtered in, early morning rays that slanted across the bed as I moved into an easy doze where my body was weighted and boneless and stretched full as he pressed in me from behind. He'd pushed my knee forward, supporting my leg with his, coarse hair tickling my inner thigh as he withdrew all the way; a tiny sob came from my throat at the emptiness and I blinked my eyes open. Slow press, full to bursting, his hand curled around the round globe of my breast, and his lips tasted the skin behind my ear

"Morning, Cat," he said. "Wanna see you come in the daylight." Out again, a delicious torment as he took his time, then inside, tilting my hips back to seat himself as deep as he could. He worked his other arm underneath my side and stroked the curve of my stomach before dipping into my pubic hair and grazing my clit. It was like waking into a dream, intense and unreal, thrilling stab of ecstasy that could only be part of a fantasy.

"Jem," I breathed, a languid feeling invading my limbs; I couldn't have moved even if I wanted to.

"James," he said as he continued to fuck me slowly. "James Coughlin." And that was in no uncertain terms a claim he was making, that only he could do this to me, could strip me bare back to the essence of myself.

"James. Oh, God, is this real?" I'd heard about orgasms that took you somewhere else, to some space beyond, and I felt like I was floating, watching us even as I was dragged down into my core as the bliss coiled into a tight little ball.

"So fucking real that you'll never forget." He thrust harder now, tipping me further to the edge of this new experience. "Gonna call my name when you're with your rich barney."

"Oh, fuck, oh, shit, Jem, I'm going to … JAMES." His fingers were moving faster, pinching, adding tinges of pains to the aching throb tensing, readying me … and then I was falling, bucking and clenching, tension released and flinging me into a heady place of nothing but bliss and his body and breath and touch.

"Promise me, Cat." I could hear his whisper there among the waves of pleasure. "Don't forget who ya' are. Ya' got out; stay out, but never forget."

I mumbled a reply, promised him everything he asked, and floated back into sleep.

He was gone when I woke up again, but I'd expected that.

The next time I saw him was on the front page of the Boston Globe, almost six months later, his mug shot part of an exclusive story. I read it at the breakfast table with Mom and my new father-in-law, Morgan Donerall, and, even though I waited until later to cry, Mom knew somehow. I'd done her a disservice; there were no recriminations or tears or guilt, just solid family support through the whole messy situation. My father-in-law knew as well; he'd said he didn't care that Geoffrey wasn't the father, and I believed him when he vowed that all he wanted was an heir who'd carry on the Donerall legacy. Although, I was sure he hired a private investigator because a manila envelope appeared at my door one day, pictures and yearbooks and little stories about Jem's life neatly paper clipped together inside. I filed them away for the day I told my son about his father.

Turns out, my father-in-law had made his way up in the world by defending mob bosses and criminals; his greatest failure, he told me not long after the wedding, was letting his blue blood wife have too much influence on Geoffrey's upbringing. He didn't give a damn that his son was gay, just that his son was a coward who wouldn't stand up to him and a bully to those weaker than he was. After the wedding – a quick one because Geoffrey was off to open up the new European office, or so we said – my father-in-law agreed that James Morgan Geoffrey Donerall should be raised in a completely different way. He'd already bought season tickets to the Sox and the Bruins before little Jem was one-year-old, and we both decided to send him to a charter school that took the best from all the districts in Boston, providing a mix of ethnicities and races, townies included. First time I called him "my little Jem," the gossip columnists had a field day talking about what a doting mother I was. Then, when Morgan called him "the gem in my crown" and gifted me with a lovely lapis lazuli ring for Christmas – the blue stone capturing the changing colors of little Jem's eyes, his father's eyes –it went a long way towards softening Morgan's reputation with the Boston elite.

When Geoffrey got himself caught in a scandal in Italy just eight months after Jem was born – pictures of him and a notoriously corrupt politician with underage boy prostitutes were splattered all over the tabloids and picked up in the New York media – he was quickly disinherited, leaving little Jem the sole heir to the Donerall fortune. Seems a Donerall could get divorced after all. And if I went out to certain bars, hustled a little pool, drank some Jamison's, well, who really gave a damn what people thought? That was where I met the most amazing man; a marine sniper, back from Afghanistan, just as messed up as I was – his father in jail for killing his mother, raised in orphanages, a brother who turned to crime and tried to kill him. He's someone who has an edge of danger, fucks me like there's no tomorrow, and is a great father, teaching Jem how to play baseball and shoot a bullseye.

Sometimes, when I'm in the condo in Back Bay and not at our new place in New York near his job, I'll pour a shot of whiskey while my husband and son play video games in the next room and toast James Coughlin. I kept my promise, I tell him, for me and for his son. We'll never forget who we are and where we came from. And a part of me thinks that Jem would be glad to know that, even now, he was fucking with the establishment, that his son was being groomed to be a powerful force in Boston. Yeah, I'm sure he'd love it.