“Good morning, Cindy. No, Lia is on her way home. She had a doctor’s appointment this morning. I decided to come in for the rest of the day afterwards.”

Cindy crooks a brow at me and finally calls bullshit. “She kicked you out, huh?”

I grin as I say, “Something like that. Has Aidan had any problems while I’ve been away?” I know without a doubt that Cindy knows exactly what’s been going on at Quinn Software, so she’s my first stop before calling Aidan in for a status update.

“Things have been running smoothly, Luc. Aidan met with Kenson yesterday and said it went well.” Kenson is a software company I’m interested in acquiring. They are one of Quinn’s partners and would prosper under better management. Their current owners are too busy bickering amongst themselves to realize what a goldmine they’re sitting on. It’s a good time to buy while they hate each other and are ready to walk away.

“That sounds good. Can you have him come to my office, please? And Lia is doing well. It’s been tough for her, but she is starting to get back on her feet again.”

“I’m glad, Luc,” she says softly. “I’ve been praying for you both.”

I incline my head before walking into my office. It still looks exactly the same as when I left it in a panic to go find Lia weeks ago. I walk behind my desk and settle in my chair. Damn, I never knew how much I missed this normalcy until now. Before my unusual sentimental thoughts can continue, Aidan knocks once before walking in. His face looks drawn and tired, and I feel a stab of guilt at dumping so much on him so suddenly. “Luc! Good to see you back here, man. I wasn’t expecting that for at least another week.” I stand as he gives me a brief bro-hug before settling into one of the chairs in front of my desk. “So, I take it that Lia is doing well if you’re here?”

“She is doing better. She had a check-up this morning and was able to remove the splint from her nose.” Her usual pert nose was still swollen and now has a small bump on the ridge of it.

“That’s great, I’m glad to hear it. How is she doing…with the other stuff?”

I recline back in my chair, thumbing a pen on my knee. “It’s been hard for her. She’s dealing with a lot, but I think she’s turned a corner. Lia is much stronger than people imagine; she’s had to be. She caught me doing a line a few days ago,” I admit, needing someone to talk to about it.

His eyes are huge as he processes my words. “Shit! I thought you were trying to quit?”

“I was…I am,” I say as I run my hands through my hair. “After we made it home, some shit happened, and it just fucked with my resolve. Even though it makes me sick that she knows, maybe it’s better. I have to stop, no matter what it takes, and it was getting hard to hide. She deserves better than that.”

“So do you,” Aidan adds softly, ever the loyal friend. I think back to Lia staring at me in shock as I prepared to snort a line, and I want to be whole again for the first time in eight years. And not just for her. Finally, I want it for myself. I want to be a man Lia is proud to have by her side…always. There is no way her childhood Prince Charming used coke. I refuse to be another person in her life who has disappointed her, and that is exactly what I felt like. Even though she handled it better than I would have imagined, it was still a humiliating moment that I don’t want to relive. Aidan grimaces. “Does this mean you’re going to continue your new chain-smoking hobby?”

I shake my head, wanting to cringe at the thought. “Hell, no. I’m not sure why that offends you so much since you smoke.”

“I’m just a social smoker,” he grins. “Well, maybe a stress one, as well. Plus, the chicks dig it.”

“You fucking liar,” I deadpan. “In my brief time of smoking, I saw more female noses turning up as I walked by than I care to admit. My aunt may actually be relieved it’s not my vice of choice.”

Aidan almost falls out of his chair as he leans forward. “You’re not seriously going to tell Aunt Fae you’re doing cocaine?”

“I am,” I say calmly, although inside I’m just as nervous as he is. I love my aunt, but she’s probably going to kick my ass. I need her help, though. I don’t want to enter a treatment facility, but I know it’s going to be too hard to stop on my own and possibly even dangerous. I need her medical expertise.

“Dude,” Aidan shifts looking nervous, “please don’t rat me out. I haven’t done any of that in ages.” I give him a look that lets him know his life is his own. He knows I’d never betray his trust just as I know he wouldn’t betray mine. “So, you mentioned some stuff going on since Lia’s been home?”

I realize in that moment that Aidan and I haven’t had a chance to really talk in the last few weeks, which is unusual. He has been my confidant since we were boys, and there is very little of importance that goes on in my life that he doesn’t know. “Well, I know who Lia’s father is.”

He looks thoughtful for a moment before saying, “And this isn’t good news?”

Aidan, of course, isn’t surprised that I would look into Lia’s background. He doesn’t know that, unlike other women I’ve been involved with, it was almost an afterthought. I don’t think there could have been anything which would have kept me away from her. I was too far gone from the moment I met her. “You’ve heard of Lee Jacks?”

“Of course,” he answers before his mouth falls open. I seem to be surprising Aidan a lot today, which is hard to do. “You aren’t saying…” When I incline my head, he whistles. “Holy shit! How in the hell did that happen?” Before I can make a sarcastic comment, he waves me off. “I know how, smartass. I mean, how did Lia’s mother end up with Jacks? From what I’ve gathered, they wouldn’t exactly run in the same circles.”

“I believe that their circumstances were more similar at one time than they are now. It was just a brief thing, and he never knew about Lia. Actually, if I hadn’t tipped him off by checking into his personal life after finding out about the association with Lia’s mother, he would probably never have known.”

“Wow,” Aidan muses still looking shell-shocked. “Jacks is somewhat of a mystery man. But there are rumors and plenty of them. Does she know?”

“No,” I admit, “but I don’t know how long I can keep it from her. He’s pushing hard to tell her, but I think she needs some time to recover from everything she’s been through first. This will be a huge shock to her.”

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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