Another well-dressed woman who appears to be in her thirties is waiting when I step off the elevator. Unlike the frosty one earlier, this one is wearing a smile that actually looks genuine. Craig stays inside, I assume to return to the lobby. “Miss Adams, welcome to Falco. Can I get you anything at all? We have coffee, a variety of teas, sodas, and of course, bottled water.” She seems so eager, I almost hate to say no, but this isn’t a social call. I can’t help but be impressed by how friendly everyone suddenly seems to be to a stranger. Well, except Craig.
“Oh, no, thank you. I…er just wanted to see Mr. Jacks for a moment. Would that be possible? I promise it won’t take long at all.”
“Well, of course, Ms. Adams. Mr. Jacks is just finishing a call, and then he’ll be right with you.” She is leading me toward a plush waiting area when a tall, blond-haired man, who looks somehow familiar steps out of the double doors behind what I assume is the receptionist desk. “Oh, Peter,” the woman says fondly, “I was just showing Miss Adams to a chair until Lee is free.”
The man stares at me with a stunned expression for several long moments before the woman between us clears her throat. “Yes, thank you, Liza,” he says to the receptionist before extending a hand to me. “I’m Peter Jacks, Lee’s brother.”
I take his hand hesitantly, keeping the contact as brief as I can. The way he is looking at me makes me uncomfortable, although not in a threatening manner. It’s more the strange feeling that we know each other, and he seems to feel the same way. “I’m Lia Adams; I just needed to discuss something with Lee. I could come back later if he’s busy.” I’m on the verge of making some excuse to leave when the double doors open once again and a man looking very similar to the one standing next to me appears in the doorway.
“Oh, Lee is free,” Liza ushers me forward and past the man staring at me just as his brother had been. Lee Jacks and his brother Peter enter behind me and shut the door.
Lee Jacks walks behind his desk and almost appears to slump into his chair. What is going on here? I’m terribly uncomfortable by this point, and ready to run for the door. I must have interrupted something. God, why hadn’t I called instead? Maybe something happened and I stepped right into the middle of it. Why in the world did the receptionist say it was okay for me to come up when clearly it isn’t? “Um…Mr. Jacks, I’m sorry to just drop in…I could come back later…”
Like his brother, Lee Jacks is blond, tall, and muscular. He is a striking man, but somehow intimidating. He rubs his temple, as if trying to soothe a headache, and says, “So, Quinn has finally told you. I was beginning to think I would have to take that decision from his hands.”
What is he talking about? Then it hits me. I know why his name seemed so familiar. “I met you while Lucian and I were having dinner. We talked for a while.” My mind is whirling wondering what this new information could possibly mean.
He inclines his head, giving me a brief smile. “That is correct. I really enjoyed our conversation that night. You’re a very intelligent woman. I wanted to tell you then, but Quinn thought you had been through too much to handle another shock, and I reluctantly agreed with him.”
I still have no idea what he is talking about. Tell me what? Had he paid for my schooling as some type of charity and Lucian didn’t want me to know? Trying to make sense of this strange conversation, I say, “It wasn’t a mistake that you paid my tuition, was it?”
He looks puzzled by my question. “Of course it wasn’t. It’s my right and obligation as your father to take care of your expenses. I’ll have a credit card issued to you for anything else you might need.”
My father? My ears are roaring and the room is spinning as I sit deathly still, trying to process the insane words he has just uttered. My hand is shaking as I again pull the receipt with his name on it from my purse. “I…no. I just came to bring this to you. They made a mistake.” I get unsteadily to my feet and put the piece of paper on his desk. “I have to leave…I can’t stay here…”
I hear a curse from behind me as Peter gently takes my arm. “Lee, she doesn’t know. Shit, she has no idea who you are.” Bile rises up my throat and I know I’m seconds away from being sick. I put my hand over my mouth and look around frantically. Peter, as if sensing what’s happening, leads me a few feet to a door and pushes it open. I find myself in a pristine bathroom, with marble floors and countertops. I don’t have time to appreciate it, because my stomach has other plans. I fall to my knees and purge everything from my system. I don’t know how long I remained on the floor until there was a knock at the door.
“Miss Adams, it’s Liza. Honey, I’m coming in to help you get cleaned up.” The door opens slowly and the once-smiling receptionist is now frowning in concern. She takes a cloth from the cabinet under the sink and wets it before squatting to gently wipe my face. “Can you stand?” When I nod, she helps me to my feet and hands me a glass of water. Within a few moments, I feel more human as I brush my teeth with the new toothbrush from the cabinet. It’s certainly a well-stocked bathroom. “Are you all right? Pete and Lee are really worried about you.”
“I…I’m okay. I just think maybe I misunderstood something they said.”
She pats my arm with a smile, saying, “That’s probably it, honey. I’m sure they’ll straighten it out for you.” She ushers me back into Lee’s office where both he and his brother halt their pacing to stare at me in concern. Liza walks quietly out of the office, shutting the door behind her. I fight the urge to beg her to stay.
Lee steps forward, giving me a wary look. “Lia, I apologize. I assumed Lucian had talked with you, thus prompting your visit here.”
I’m still no closer to having the answers I need and before I can chicken out and run, I ask, “What’s going on? You obviously think I know something that I don’t. I came here because I found out that you paid my college expenses and I thought there was some mistake. I didn’t want your son or daughter to show up for school and have problems because of it.”
“Maybe you should go home and talk with Quinn,” Peter says, shooting a quick look at his brother.
Even though I already know the answer to my question, I ask anyway, “Does Lucian know what you’re talking about?”