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He loved her. Fuck, he had never stopped loving her.

She had said that she had tried to give him up, but he didn’t really think he had ever really tried that hard. She was ingrained in him somehow. She had been since day one, when she had stared up at him completely unfazed and asked him one question that changed everything. How could he walk away from someone like that?

Well, the answer had been simple: he couldn’t. If he was honest with himself, and he usually was, Erin had just been filler. A poor man’s Liz. And it was cruel to think it, but f**k, she was.

Erin would never be Liz. He had always known, but it had been a nice distraction. Then when he had just f**king dropped everything that night in October at a chance of seeing Liz, just so he didn’t have to think about her crying . . . yeah, that had been the tipping point.

One desperate drive out there, one look, one kiss. It had been over.

He had broken up with Erin as soon as his plane touched down in D.C. Erin had cried, and he had felt bad, but nothing compared to how he had felt when Liz had called crying. He had felt like he was dying. That had only sealed the deal.

He remembered how angry Erin had gotten.

I thought you loved me. How do you suddenly stop loving someone? Is there someone else? Is that what this is?

Brady shook his head as he took the stairs to the second floor. There had always been someone else.

He didn’t know what he would have done if Liz hadn’t ended up calling him. At this point he didn’t even want to think about it. He had too much else to worry about.

The hall was clear when he made it to the landing. Brady took a left turn and then opened the door to the first bedroom on the right without waiting for a response. Clay turned around quickly from where he was standing with a phone pressed to his ear.

“Hey, hold on,” Clay said into the phone. “What’s up, man? Where the f**k were you?”

Brady shut the door. “You should probably end your phone call.”

Clay’s brow furrowed. “Andrea, I’m going to have to call you back.” Clay hung the phone up and tossed it onto the bed. “What’s this all about?”

“Clay, I know that we’ve had our differences in the past,” Brady said, taking a step toward his brother. “I know we haven’t always agreed. You’ve gone your way. I’ve gone mine. I accepted that we were never going to be close.”

“What the f**k is this, Brady? Are we bonding all of a sudden?” Clay asked.

“You could say that.” He took another step. “Now, as I was saying, I know we were never close. But I thought we had a certain understanding.”

“Is this about Liz?”

Brady was on him in two seconds, slamming Clay’s back roughly against the wall and shoving his forearm against Clay’s jugular. “Don’t say her name.”

“Fuck, Brady!” Clay managed to get out as he was held against the wall.

“You’re a f**king piece of work, you know that?” Clay just glared at him fiercely. “There are reasons I have the things that I have in my life. And there are reasons why you will never have what I have, Clay. Don’t think I’m stupid enough not to know why you went after her in the first place.”

Clay swung at him but Brady just increased the pressure on his throat and swatted his hand away.

“She might have been naïve enough to almost fall for your game, but just know that she never will be again. You’ll never get close to her. You’ll never touch her. You’ll certainly never kiss her again. She’s mine. And if I ever even get a hint that you’re trying to take what is mine, I don’t think I’ll just be using words.”

“Fuck you!” Clay spat.

“She did.”

After he made his point, Brady lessened the pressure on Clay’s throat and started to back off.

“You think I’m the piece of work?” Clay said. “If you care about her so much, then why was she f**king that ass**le reporter this whole time? Yeah, probably because you weren’t there. You had no claim on her. Fair game.”

“You have a f**king girlfriend,” Brady roared. “Why don’t you fair-game her ass and leave everyone else’s alone!”

Clay scoffed. “It’s just Andrea.”

“This, this right here!” Brady said, gesturing to Clay. “How the f**k are we even related?”

“Is Liz your girlfriend?” Clay asked with a snide smirk.

Brady shook his head and then slammed Clay back into the wall again. “I said don’t say her name. And I don’t ever want to hear you talk about someone else f**king her. Imagine what we would be talking about right now if you had succeeded in your stupid mind game.”

“I’m imagining,” Clay said defiantly.

“You’re imagining yourself dead?”

Clay opened his mouth to respond when the bedroom door swung open again. “Clay, Mom just asked me to . . .” Savannah trailed off as she took in what she saw. “What is this? What’s going on?”

Brady growled under his breath and then dropped his arm. He wasn’t going to do this shit in front of Savannah. He had gotten his point across to Clay. That was going to have to do. Clay wasn’t stupid. He had been trying to do all of this shit behind Brady’s back. He wasn’t going to blatantly go against Brady once it went public. Clay didn’t like to be in the papers. He had to stay out of them if he wanted to be the attorney general one day.

“Nothing, Savi,” Brady said, dusting off his hands on his pants and striding across the room. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Don’t tell me not to worry about it. You had him against the wall. Why are you guys fighting? Why are you always fighting?” Savannah asked. “And where have you been?”

“I had to get away. I’ll tell you about it later,” Brady said. He walked toward the door and was almost out of the room before Clay spoke up.

“That’s it! You’re just going to leave it at that. Not even going to tell your precious little sister what a terrible guy you really are?” Clay spat.

Brady sighed and stopped in the doorway. Great. He had riled Clay up. He should have just beaten the shit out of him. Then his brother wouldn’t have had any comebacks.

“Clay, don’t be an ass,” Savannah said, rolling her eyes.