Home > Damage Control (Dirty Money #2)(5)

Damage Control (Dirty Money #2)(5)
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

The car halts, and once again her gaze is averted, any answers I might find in it hidden. I’m hoping like hell she really does stay and that a table in the restaurant will offer her the security to tell me the truth, no matter how ugly it might be. I fight the urge to reach for her hand and hold on to her, instead stepping to the side and facing forward. She joins me, standing beside me to watch the doors open, as if ready to launch herself forward, and I remind myself that one way or another, I’m getting my answers, and despite my desire that she stay, letting her escape and following where she leads might be the easiest answer.

The two men with us exit, clearing our path, allowing us to walk into the corridor, and in that moment, I say to hell with making it easy for her to run. She lied to me. Leaving won’t be easy. I reach around her waist and snag her hip, aligning our legs as we walk, preventing her escape. “Shane, I—”

“It’s dinner,” I say. “You’ll have an audience to protect you.”

She digs in her heels and stops, turning to face me, her hand landing on my chest again. “I don’t need to be protected from you. You need to be protected from me.”

Red flags go up all over again. “Do you know how many ways I could read that? Are you trying to warn me here or what?”

“No. Yes. No. Not from what you are thinking.”

“What am I thinking?”

“You already told me you think I’m spying on you, and I’m not.” She presses her hand to her face. “This is not working.” She drops her hand and looks at me. “I have to go.” Abruptly she pulls back from me, and being that we’re in public I have to let her go, and we both know that.

She turns and takes a step, gasping and stopping dead in her tracks as my father steps directly in front of her. “Mr. Brandon.”

Tall, with thinning gray hair, his custom blue suit hangs on his now frail, cancer-ridden body like it belongs to someone else, but there is nothing frail in the way his gaze lands on Emily.

“Emily,” he states. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

She grips her purse with a death hold, her spine going ramrod stiff, and a wave of protectiveness overcomes me that says much about my instincts with Emily and my father. I step to her side, close; my palm settling possessively on her lower back. “Why are you here, Father?” I ask, the demand short and clipped by design. I’ve told him to get his damn mistress out of the Four Seasons, considering I’m in the residential side of the building.

His gray eyes, still so much like mine, cut sharply to me. “I came to see you,” he declares, reaching into his blue suit jacket and producing an envelope, which he offers me. “The deed to your apartment as requested. I’ve signed it over to you.”

Aware he has a self-serving motive of some sort, I snatch the envelope from him, stick it in my pocket, and disinvite whatever conversation he hopes to have. “Go home to your wife.”

“She’s occupied,” he says. “As she is far more often than you realize.”

Holy fuck, I want to ask what that means, but I don’t give him the satisfaction. “Do you blame her?”

His lips tighten, the only telltale sign that I’ve hit a nerve, but his reply is not what I expect. “No actually, I do not. I’m going upstairs to the apartment I still own, and will continue to own.”

“That’s not acceptable. I want you, and your plaything, out of my home.”

“Well then, son, you’ll be pleased to know that the doctors say you won’t have to tolerate it for long. I’ll be dead soon.”

A tight hot knot forms in my chest, tension tightening my body, and Emily’s fingers flex into my arm, her hip pressing ever so slightly into mine. “The dead-man-walking card doesn’t work with me.”

“We both know that’s not true, son,” he says. “If only it worked as well on your mother as it does you.” Instead of using this as more bait, he leaves us to stew, ending the conversation. “I’ll leave you to your evening.” He flicks Emily a look. “We’ll talk in the morning.” He steps around us and starts walking, but I make no attempt to move, nor does Emily dart away, which she well could in this moment. I stand there. She stands there. And much to my irritation, he’s right. He’s hit the human side of me, my emotional side, which is reacting to the promise he will soon be dead. I inhale, working to contain rather than reject what I feel, which is too damn much. Because you can’t control what you reject, and me having control is absolute survival for me, and perhaps my entire family. Perhaps Emily too.

My hand presses against Emily’s back, intending to urge her forward, when I hear my father’s voice again. “Son.” I stop but I do not turn and he adds, “Come by the house Sunday night. Derek’s coming. It’s time we finish that chess game once and for all.”

The air shifts and I know he is gone, leaving those words hanging in the air as the taunt they are meant to be. Every family get-together, my brother and I continue a game that has stretched years, and my father is telling me it has to end soon, and one of us has to be the winner, or the board will go to a sudden death vote for control. And my father is the king manipulating the tournament that I hope like hell doesn’t involve Emily. She’s either in trouble or she is trouble, and somehow, this night isn’t going to end without me finding out which one.

I could start walking again, but I don’t. I wait and I do it for a reason. Emily wanted to leave. Let her go. I will find her. I will find her secrets.

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