Home > Going Down Fast (Billionaire Bad Boys #2)(13)

Going Down Fast (Billionaire Bad Boys #2)(13)
Author: Carly Phillips

“He was wrong,” Lucas said in a more modulated voice. He ran a hand through his hair, taking a minute to calm the fuck down.

She nodded in agreement, which went a long way toward chilling him out.

“I know that now,” she said. “But right after, I was so lost and depressed, searching for answers, and that was a point Keith kept hammering home. That it was my fault. Added to the postpartum depression, I couldn’t help but fall deeper into depression and guilt.”

Lucas stared down at her hand, running a thumb over her silken skin. “My brother knew how to manipulate people’s emotions and not in a good way.”

She drew a deep breath. “He was angry. Angry that I lost the baby and that I turned to you that night.”

Never mind that he hadn’t been around, Lucas thought in disgust. But he’d figured that was part of the problem. He and his brother hadn’t spoken since he’d seen Lucas at the hospital until one night when he’d been drunk and run into Lucas in the lobby. Keith had warned Lucas to stay the hell away from his wife.

“Did he take his anger out on you too?” His entire body stiffened at the thought.

“Not physically. Keith preferred mental abuse.” She shuddered at the memory. “It built up gradually, his manipulation. At first things were good. Then he started coming home later, claiming he was at work. When I figured out the truth, I confronted him. He agreed to work on the marriage. Looking back, I think things spiraled after he fell into debt. His behavior became more erratic. And I was tied to him by then, first with work, then with the pregnancy.”

Lucas inhaled, drawing a deep breath of chocolate, which served to remind him of where they were. Though they were sitting in a room full of noisy people, the world had shrunk to the two of them.

Oblivious, Maxie continued. “After that night, when he didn’t show up until the morning, reeking of booze and other women… I told him I was done. Leaving him.”

Lucas’ entire body froze. “What happened?”

Her tongue darted out, moistening her lips. “He said all it would take was a whisper or two in the right ears to let the SEC think there were violations going on at Blink. That he could derail the IPO and ruin you with one phone call.” Her fingers dug into his skin as she revealed yet another despicable layer to his brother.

“That bastard.” Every time Lucas didn’t think things could get worse, another bombshell dropped. “And you believed him.”

She lifted one shoulder. “I had no reason not to.”

So Maxie had stayed in a miserable, emotionally abusive marriage because she’d been protecting him.

And didn’t that make him feel good.

* * *

Lucas arrived at the office bleary-eyed and exhausted, something that was obvious when Tessa, his assistant, walked into the room and handed him a cup of steaming-hot black coffee.

“Drink it,” she said. “It might help get rid of those dark circles under your eyes.” Her whole tone and demeanor were too perky for this hour of the morning.

Smartly, she read his mood and disappeared, leaving him alone. But she had a point. It was after nine a.m., and he should be more alert and functioning.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. Not after learning his brother had emotionally stripped Maxie bare and blamed her for the tragic loss of their baby. Not after he’d discovered Keith’s threat to ruin Lucas if Maxie left him.

Lucas stared at the wall across from his desk, to the large photo on the wall of Lucas, Derek, and Kade, ringing the bell on the New York Stock Exchange. A crowning achievement for three nerdy kids who’d never fit in until they found each other. It wasn’t bad enough that Lucas had been bullied and picked on by other kids, he hadn’t even had home as an escape. No, he had Keith waiting to do more damage. Was it any wonder he lost himself in computer games where he could vanquish the bad guys and come out on top?

He wished he could focus on the positive today and not things he couldn’t change. But he was preoccupied with the past. And it killed Lucas that his brother had manipulated and hurt Maxie. That he and Maxie had lost years of friendship, if not the chance for something more, due to Keith’s blatant lies. But it was more than lost time that bothered Lucas now. It was the way his older sibling had played them. And he was continuing to play Lucas from the grave.

And he was allowing it. As long as he didn’t take what he wanted with Maxie, Keith was still getting what he wanted.

Frustrated his brother was gone and he had nobody to confront, Lucas shoved everything off his desk with a furious roar.

“If it wasn’t nine in the morning, I’d have a fucking drink,” he said out loud in the empty room.

“And I’d pour you one.” Derek stepped inside the office and closed the door behind him. “At least you didn’t hit a wall like Kade did when he was having issues. What’s going on? Problems with Maxie?”

“Problems with my dead bastard brother. How’s that for a heap of guilt and anger I can’t get rid of?”

“Guilt?” Derek asked, sounding incredulous. “Why? Because you hate the bastard? Look, I understand it isn’t easy to hate a sibling, let alone one who died young, but Keith made your life a living hell often and for no reason other than jealousy. I’d let the guilt go.”

Lucas braced his hand on the back of his neck and stretched from side to side. “It’s hard when my mother’s still crying over her son.”

   
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