In her purse she carried an envelope with a check, one that would ease her conscience and free her from Harrison’s hold. No matter what kind of deal Azalea had worked out with him, Rose wanted the loan to be paid in full. The legal way, the right way. Every way that neither of her parents had chosen to use.

She pushed the first door opened and entered the bank. This time she let a small smile push at the corners of her lips. More than a few patrons and employees actually smiled back. Her hands shook and her stomach cramped. Maybe Sasha and Skye had been right.

Her father’s secretary looked her over and rolled her eyes. “You have an appointment?”

Rose lifted her chin. “Don’t need one.” She went inside Harrison’s office, shutting the door behind her.

Harrison glanced up from his work. “I’d figured you’d come by sooner or later, sugar.”

“This is for you.” She dug in her purse, pulled out the envelope and set it on his desk. “It’s the balance of the loan.”

He didn’t pick it up, merely looked at her with his cold gray eyes. “Your momma—”

“I don’t care what kind of deal the two of you cooked up. I’m paying back the loan. It’s done,” she said with a firm nod, then turned to walk out the door.

“She wouldn’t marry me. Though I asked her at least a dozen times through the years.”

Her hand froze on the doorknob. “Why are you telling me this?”

He placed a hand on her shoulder and she fought the urge to shrug it away. “I loved your mother, but she wasn’t content with just me.”

“You expect me to feel sorry for you?” His hand fell away and she turned to face him.

“I was there when you were born,” he said. “She ever tell you that?”

No, her mother had never cast Harrison Collins in any kind of positive light, which had made Rose wonder why Azalea had insisted on Rose seeing him. “What do you think?” She reached for her throat. She couldn’t handle any more confessions.

He took off his glasses and tucked them into the front pocket of his shirt. “I’d like to start over with you, Rose. I’m man enough to admit I was wrong.” He sat down on the edge of his desk and looked up at her, his eyes filled with pain and regret. “It doesn’t have to be right away. You let me know when. This is on your terms.”

Rose grabbed the chair in front of her, her knees shaking. “Only in private?”

“You can tell the entire world, Rose.”

“I don’t understand. All these years you’ve insisted—”

“Wasn’t my idea.” Harrison’s jaw worked. “That was Azalea’s and it was the only way I could see you.”

“Why me and you?” She took a deep breath, then another. “Why not Skye and her dad?”

“To get back at me.”

“For what?” Rose clutched the top of the chair harder.

“Marrying Lorelei.”

“But you said she wouldn’t marry you.”

“Didn’t mean she wanted me to be with someone else.” He smiled sadly. “We’ve tried to get back at each other for years now and I’m done. I’m too old, too tired, and too damn sick of these games, because the only ones getting hurt are my girls.”

His girls? Rose wasn’t going to touch that last statement. No telling what she’d find out if she did. “Is that why you loaned me the money instead of giving it to me?”

“Would you have taken it?” A knowing look entered his eyes. “One thing you got from me and your momma is pride, honey. There’s not a damn thing wrong with wanting to do it your own way.”

“That’s why I’m paying it off.” She glanced around the room, noticing for the first time pictures of her and her sisters tucked into the shelves. “Those new?”

“I’m not ashamed of y’all.”

That part of her that wanted to stay forever angry at her dad twisted tight, like a wet cloth being wrung out. She didn’t know what to think. The mother who raised her, didn’t want her while the father who supposedly shunned her, wanted a relationship in public. But she didn’t quite trust him. “I don’t want you pushing Jason Everett on me again.”

“Insulting him in front of hundreds of people made your point.” Harrison frowned. “Did he do something to you?”

She had the absurd notion to tell him exactly what the ass**le had done, so that he could wreak some kind of fatherly vengeance on Jason. “He’s not someone I would choose.”

“But Romanov is?”

She shrugged and moved to the door again.

“To think I believed Jason when he said the man was g*y,” Harrison muttered.

“Jason says lots of things.” Rose turned the knob. “I’ll need a receipt to show that I’ve paid off my loan.”

“How about you come by tomorrow? I’ll take you to lunch, and give it to you then.”

“No.” She pulled open the door, then looked over her shoulder. Her father’s face had fallen, but her next words transformed it. “You can drop it off at Carolina Dreams later this afternoon. I’m trusting you to keep your word.” Then she walked slowly out of the bank, her head held high.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Sleep hadn’t come easy to Rose for the past week. Her dreams had been filled with images of the crow that had invaded her room… and Sasha, with him needing her and she couldn’t shake them. For one horrible moment last night, she’d reached for her cell, then stopped in the nick of time. No good would come of it anyway.

She rolled over in bed and sighed, refusing to acknowledge that a new day had dawned. Yet another one without Sasha and without Ivy.

Heavy breathing and slobbery kisses made Rose’s eyes pop open. Warm brown eyes crinkled and a toothless mouth covered her nose.


Ivy babbled and grabbed Rose’s braid, jerking it around.

She caught the baby up in a hug. “How in the world did you get here?”

“She flew in on a magical carpet.”

Rose jumped. “How did you know I was here?” She untangled her hair from Ivy’s hand.

“Where else would you be?” Summer sat on the corner of the bed, eyes bloodshot while her make-up was flawless. She swung her tall black boots as she continued, ignoring Rose’s question. “She wouldn’t quit crying. She wouldn’t let me hold her, console her. I tried feeding her, but she refused to take the bottle until she was beyond hungry.”