Home > Damage Control (Dirty Money #2)(6)

Damage Control (Dirty Money #2)(6)
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

“I’m staying,” she says, linking her arm with mine.

A few minutes ago, I’d have asked her why, but now it doesn’t matter. Now, my father has reminded me that anything, any answer, can be a form of manipulation. The only thing that counts from this point forward is the truth I need from Emily, no matter how I get it. Even if it means that I revert to my original inclination, take her back upstairs, tie her to the bed, and fuck her until I get my answers.



I turn Emily and me around the corner and into the lobby, down the white-tiled path leading to Edge, the hotel restaurant. I don’t speak. Emily doesn’t speak. There is just her hand on my arm and the long row of tables to our left with cushioned chairs around them, busy with patrons. Those things and the damning silence. I don’t fill that space with words, and neither does she, but then, unless her staying has come with a change of agenda, she still won’t tell me what I want to know. My father isn’t all that different. He won’t tell me anything but he alludes and plays. He is the ultimate player playing the players, and will be all the way to his impending deathbed. And fuck me a hundred times over, I care that he is dying, despite all of these things. Like Emily makes me want to trust her when I have a family that has taught me not to trust.

I lead us left again, directly into the interior of the dimly lit bar, couches and tables framing our path, red drop lights dangling above them. My father’s visit weighs on me as heavily as Emily’s secrets. He’s going to die, but most likely he’ll end up bedridden first, and instead of letting us be a normal family that spends quality time together, and makes amends for past sins, my father is pushing me to take part in his.

We reach the rectangular glass and leather bar to my left, passing a row of stools, while Frank, one of Edge’s managers, a stout muscle-head who I hit the weights with every once in a while, lifts a hand. I give him a nod, and we’re finally at the entry to the dining room when Emily suddenly lets go of my arm.

I turn to face her and she says, “Shane…” She seems to want to say something more, but changes her mind, motioning toward the arched entryway to a bank of bathrooms. “I’ll be right back.” She doesn’t wait for a reply, turning and rushing away, but not before I see the look of helplessness on her face that reaches inside me and touches the part of my soul that only she has visited. She’s running scared and not from me, and while I can’t afford to be stupid, the idea that she might be in danger is a hard blast of reality. I’ve known she had secrets she wasn’t ready to share, but yet I just attacked her for that very thing. Had I asked questions instead, had I given her the chance to explain, maybe she wouldn’t have withdrawn. She was right. I’ve let my family dictate my response to tonight’s bombshell, when this woman is the only good thing in my life right now. I can’t be wrong about that or her.

I reach in my pocket and at the same time flag down Rita, the twenty-something redheaded waitress who I, and every regular, know well. “Hey there, Shane,” she says. “What’s hot tonight? You or your father?”

I ignore what I know from our past exchanges is a joke about my father and his mistress. “Don’t let anyone into the ladies’ room for a few minutes,” I instruct, palming her a hundred dollar bill.

“Are you kidding me?”

“Kidding isn’t my thing,” I say, already heading toward the bathroom, and I don’t stop until I’m pushing open the door to the ladies’ room and stepping inside.

“Shane,” Emily gasps, as I enter and find her standing in an enclave with a sitting area and mirror.

I’m in front of her in an instant, pressing her against the wall, my legs framing hers. “Are we alone?”

“Damn it, Shane,” she says pressing on my chest. “What are you doing?”

“Are we alone?”

“Yes but that could change any minute. You can’t keep coming into women’s bathrooms.”

“I paid someone to ensure our privacy,” I say, my hands bracketing her waist. “Why did you stay?”

“Why does it matter?” she repeats. “I’m here.”

“It matters. I told myself it didn’t, but it does. Why did you stay?”


“Answer the question.”

“Because your father gets to you like few others, and if you somehow connect us, even emotionally, you will come at me hard and fast. And you will not stop until it ends in trouble for one or both of us.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“The kind you need to be able to deny.” She balls her fists around my shirt. “Plausible deniability, Shane. I need you to let me go. Don’t follow me. Don’t do Internet searches on me. Already Seth could have gotten me attention I can’t afford.”

There is desperation in her, real fear that I do not believe could be about my family, and if it is, she is not operating of her own free will, and someone is going to pay. “Sweetheart,” I say, softly covering her hands with mine. “You’re safe. You’re with me. You have to know that.”

“Seth dug around in my background, Shane. I’m not safe here anymore and you won’t be either, if I stay.”

“Seth is an expert at being invisible. He didn’t expose you and he can help you stay invisible.”

“He thinks he’s an expert. You don’t know—” She stops herself. “And you can’t.”

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