At Shooters on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Saturday afternoon, December 21, 2013, 3:15 p.m.
Chloe Carlton and John James Temple were having beers and a late lunch on the deck at Shooters, a well-known Fort Lauderdale bar and restaurant on the Intracoastal. The wide waterway was lined with beautiful homes, condominium buildings, and waterfront bars and restaurants. It was a liquid highway for boats of all shapes and sizes that separated the mainland and the barrier island that formed the Fort Lauderdale beach area. The sun was sparkling off the light chop on the water, and there was a brisk breeze. The dock was packed with big and small boats that had brought many of the patrons out on the glorious December afternoon.
“J.J., there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. It’s a little touchy…”
“What, babe?” John Temple glanced over at her. His attention had been riveted on the big-screen television and the pregame, talking-heads sports show that was a preface to Sunday’s football game.
“Well.” She hesitated. She had thought about bringing up this subject for a while, but had not wanted to rock their boat. “Why have I met so few of your friends?” All of a sudden, his relaxed Saturday afternoon expression was gone. He looked—she didn’t know what—hesitant, wary, worried. In any event, the look on his face didn’t bode well for this discussion.
“What are you talking about? You’ve met some of my friends. That’s ridiculous.”
“I saw you give that guy who was walking toward our table a few minutes ago the ‘get lost’ look. Maybe you should hoist a distress flag over our table to warn your friends that there’s a plague aboard.”
“Now you really are being ridiculous.” He was starting to look cornered and angry.
“Are you ashamed of me, Temple? Do I not dress well enough for your fancy buddies and their society girlfriends? Do I not make enough money because I’m not a lawyer or a stockbroker?” Chloe knew she was going too far. She should have kept it to the basic question—Interrogation 101. She was wearing her heart on her sleeve, and she hated that, just hated seeming desperate or needy. These questions had bothered her for some time, but she had hesitated to voice them. She knew J.J. didn’t think she had seen his gesture. But she had, and she couldn’t let it go any longer.
“Chlo, you’re being absurd. I don’t think we need to have this conversation.”
“What happened to all of that open, honest communication that the lifestyle is supposed to be so famous for?”
“That’s not fair, baby. I guess maybe I just wanted to keep you to myself. I didn’t want to expose you to…”
“Oh, please. That is a load of crap. It didn’t seem like you wanted to keep me to yourself at that sleazy club in Pompano you took me to a few weeks ago. I thought I would need a biohazard shower after that place. Just be honest, J.J. I need to know what’s going on with you, and I can’t let it slide any longer.”
He seemed to regroup and suck it up. “Okay, Chloe. I guess the truth is that while I’m crazy about you, I can’t exactly introduce a vice cop to my lifestyle friends or take you to my regular club. The confidentiality issues…”
“Confidentiality issues? You have to be kidding. If anyone can be ‘confidential’ it’s me. Have you ever been undercover for weeks at a time on an investigation? No? I didn’t think so, Mr. High-End Real Estate Lawyer.” She knew her emotions were showing on her face and in her body language, and right now she was crushed. She embarrassed him. Didn’t that just suck the weenie? And she had sucked his plenty. This hurt like a bitch. She had been falling for him. He seemed like a nice, upstanding, stable guy with a great job, nice home, nice car, not a lot of personal baggage. So his sexual tastes were a tad kinky. She could live with that, even enjoy it. J.J. was tall and extremely good-looking with wavy, sun-streaked hair he kept in a conservative cut, gorgeous blue eyes, a great smile, and a killer body. “Fine. I can see where your head is. That’s just fine. You’re entitled to your feelings. I’m entitled to mine. My feelings right now are that I’m getting a cab and going home. Have a nice life, Temple. I hope you find a sub or girlfriend or whatever who meets your social needs.”
* * * *
John Temple didn’t know what to do as Chloe got up from the table and stalked off toward the front of the restaurant. He wanted to get up and stop her, but he also didn’t want to make a scene. He knew several people who were in the bar right now, and yes, he had warned them off. He wasn’t proud of that. He watched her fabulous butt in those snug, straight-leg jeans stalk away as she searched her huge, rust-colored leather shoulder bag for her cell phone. The black cashmere sweater and high-heeled pumps finished the look. She could have stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. What the hell was she talking about? Women.
Temple was dismayed. He hadn’t planned on having this discussion with her—probably ever. He knew it was a touchy subject, and he wanted to steer clear. He really enjoyed Chloe Carlton, but to be honest, her job as a Broward County Sheriff’s Office detective working out of the secretive Strategic Investigation Division handling narcotics and vice cases did not exactly jibe with his BDSM lifestyle. He couldn’t very well take Chloe, as beautiful as she was, into The Black Iris Club owned by his friend, Jack Dalton Brown, or introduce her to some of his friends and partners at the firm who occasionally used drugs recreationally. It didn’t seem fair, but it was a fact of life. Chloe’s job made people nervous. While he didn’t do any drugs himself, some of his friends sometimes indulged.
When John had met Chloe at a club one night about six months ago, he’d thought she was the most beautiful girl—long golden blonde hair, big brown doe eyes, long legs, big boobs, and an ass to make a guy cry. She had been out with her girlfriends celebrating something or the other. And that fact just made his case. Her friends were Kaylin Gallagher, a BSO homicide detective, Gabriella Delaveccia, a Broward County Assistant State’s Attorney, and Nicollette Sommers, a criminal defense attorney. They were all gorgeous, but he was immediately drawn to Chloe.