Going in Deep

By: Carly Phillips

(Billionaire Bad Boys Book 4)

Chapter One

A man didn’t make mistakes. He made choices. Bad ones stayed with him for a long time but, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, hopefully not forever. With planning and diligence, he could make amends. And that had been Julian Dane’s blueprint for how to live his life for the last two hundred and seventy days.

He’d been clean and off drugs for way longer, but the time since he’d acted like a lowlife dirtbag and hurt an innocent woman haunted him more than his past addiction. So he counted his sobriety from that day on. The day he’d decided to act like a decent human being, make amends, and truly change.

He walked out of his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, his close friend and sponsor by his side. He’d tried Narcotics Anonymous, but at the suggestion of his old therapist, he’d related more to the people in the A.A. meetings, their twelve-step program suiting his needs—beginning with admitting he was powerless over his addiction, including making apologies and amends, and ending with practicing everything he’d learned in all his affairs. And everything in between.

“You up for dinner?” Nick Cantone, his sponsor, asked.

They often caught a bite after a meeting.

“I told Lauren I wouldn’t be home until later, so she’s grabbing something to eat with friends,” he said, referring to his wife.

Julian’s empty stomach grumbled in agreement. “Sure,” he said with a grin.

They headed for a small diner on the corner, a typical New York City haunt, and chose an empty booth, sitting across from each other on the plastic seats. Julian didn’t need to look at the laminated menus. A burger and fries would suit him fine. The waiter poured them water and took their orders.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Neither man spoke about what went on inside a meeting unless Julian brought it up first. And though he was feeling pensive, he wasn’t in the mood to talk about his past. He wasn’t currently struggling with sobriety, didn’t miss the pull of drugs. There had been a time he’d self-medicated as an escape, and he had lost himself for a while. He had his shit together now but didn’t kid himself. A slip was always possible, so he worked the program.

“So I was thinking,” Nick said as Julian picked up a glass of water and took a drink, “it’s time you got back into the dating game. I want to introduce you to a woman I work with. I think you two would hit it off. I happen to know she’s looking for a decent guy. And if you’re not interested in a relationship, I know another chick who’s more into a no-strings hookup.”

Julian raised an eyebrow in surprise. “You playing matchmaker now?”

A grin split Nick’s face. “No. I just happened to overhear water cooler conversation at the office.” Nick owned a real estate company, and Julian had no doubt he heard his fair share of gossip.

“I’m too busy to worry about dating.” Julian’s freelance cyber security business was picking up. He’d hired outside contractors and things were finally going well. He wanted to keep his focus where it belonged.

“Next thing I know you’ll tell me your hand is working just fine,” Nick muttered.

Julian rolled his eyes. Everyone thought they were a comedian.

Although he’d be the first to admit he did give his hand a workout considering he wasn’t currently dating and hadn’t had a hookup, as Nick called it, in a while. He could date the last time he’d buried himself between a woman’s sweet thighs, but that would lead him to think about her. And that train of thought always led nowhere.

“Jesus,” he said to Nick, annoyed with where the conversation had taken him. “I’m… not ready to date… or fuck. I have loose ends I have to tie up, and until I do that, I’m not getting involved with anyone else.”

Julian had apologies left to make, one in particular, which brought him back to thoughts of her—and he couldn’t get near Kendall Parker to have his say. He’d tried, but her brother-in-law, and Julian’s one-time best friend, Kaden Barnes, wouldn’t let him close.

Not that Julian blamed him. Julian and Kade had a nasty history, made worse by Julian’s addiction and piss-poor choices. You didn’t sue an old friend, drag up his hidden, ugly past, use his sister-in-law, and walk away unscathed. Julian had done all those things. And more. But Kade didn’t know the man Julian was now, how hard he’d fought to put the past behind him and move forward.

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