“That doesn’t explain what you were doing outside the garage,” Blake pointed out.
“I didn’t realize until I tried to enter the club that it was exclusive to members. I thought it might be possible to use a different entrance.”
He made me think of a reporter who’d once contacted me, wanting an interview. The asshole had trailed me everywhere, refusing to back off. He’d had no compunction about lingering around whatever buildings I entered and always did his best to get inside. Thankfully, he eventually got bored and returned to whatever hole he crawled out of.
Blake raised a brow at Linton. “You were planning to sneak into my club?”
“I doubt I was the first,” said Linton.
“No, it happens on a weekly basis,” Blake confirmed. “That doesn’t make it fucking acceptable to me, especially when your objective was to get near my woman.”
Eyes glinting with interest, Linton turned to me. “I must say, I really do find it fascinating that you would gravitate toward someone such as Mr. Mercier.”
“I’m right here,” Blake ground out.
Linton blinked. “I don’t mean to be rude. But it is fascinating. There are some similarities between you and Michael—”
“Don’t try fucking with my head, Linton,” I snapped.
“I’ve insulted you.” Linton sounded sincerely surprised by that. “It wasn’t my intention. I was of the understanding that you loved your stepfather.”
Blake leaned forward, eyes hard and flinty. “You and I are going to come to an understanding here and now, Linton. You will not try to approach Kensey again—not in any kind of setting. You will leave her be. You will stop calling and leaving messages on her phone. You will, effectively, disappear from her life. If she changes her mind and wants to speak to you, she’ll call you. Unless that happens, you’ll leave her be. That understood?”
“I don’t mean to cause her any upset, I just—”
“Is that understood?”
Linton’s jaw hardened. “It’s understood.” Adjusting his tie, he stood. “It was a pleasure speaking with you, Miss Lyons. I’m sorry we weren’t able to talk longer.”
Watching him walk away, I sighed. “He didn’t say anything that made me think he’s Smith. Of course, it’s worth considering that he wouldn’t say anything that might clue me in.” Groaning, I put my head in my hands. “I was really hoping that talking to him would help, but it hasn’t.”
Blake rubbed my back. “Like I’ve already said, we can’t assume it’s anyone. Whether he’s Smith or not, I want him gone from your life. Hopefully, this little chat will be enough to make him leave you alone.”
I lifted my head. “Hopefully.” But, being a writer myself, I knew there was nothing easy about dropping a story. If Linton was in fact writing a book, I doubted he’d walk away from it so easily.
“Don’t let this get you down, baby. You’re strong. Brave. Don’t let this situation make you forget that.” Blake gave me a soft, lingering kiss. “Hmm. You taste like muffin and chocolate.”
I smiled, despite my mood. “Want seconds?”
His mouth curved against mine. “Always.” And then he kissed me again.
Watching Blake charm my mother, I could only shake my head in bemusement. As we’d eaten dinner, he’d cruised his way through her interrogation in much the same way he dealt with everyone’s questions—with a whole lot of evasions and answering without really answering. Clear hadn’t even noticed, because she was so used to having Michael control their conversations.
It was right then, as Blake expertly circumvented my mother’s line of questioning, that I realized how little he did that with me now. Oh, there were still no-go subjects and stuff, but he didn’t use that politely distant tone or rapidly change the topic of conversation anymore. We were making progress.
I could see that she liked him a lot. More, she liked him for me. Each time Blake massaged my nape, played with my hair, or even smiled at me, Clear just about melted.
“Kensey, you didn’t tell me you’ve met Blake’s family,” said Clear. To her, meeting his family signified something huge. It implied that I was important to him on a level that overjoyed her.
“Well, it wasn’t planned,” I told her. “I just happened to be in his apartment when his stepsister showed up.” And eavesdropped into Blake’s conversation with her, just as I had with his midnight call from Tara.
Speaking of Tara … As he’d predicted, she’d sought him out the day after her drunk call. He’d been in his office at the Vault, and I’d been in the attached bathroom. Curious as to what she’d say while not knowing I was within hearing distance—and not whatsoever caring that I was becoming a regular eavesdropper—I’d waited out of sight …
“I was hoping I’d find you here,” said Tara.
I heard Blake sigh. “Tara—”
“No, I’m so embarrassed; please just let me get this out, Blake. I’m so sorry about what I did. I shouldn’t have called you. I shouldn’t have piled my shit on you. I was drunk and missing Levi so much, and the only person who knew him as well as I did was you.”
“That’s not an excuse, Tara.”
“I know, I know. I wish I had one, but I don’t. And I’m sorry for spouting shit about K-Kensey,” she added, stumbling over my name like it left a sour taste in her mouth. “I hope I didn’t cause an argument between you. I’m sure she must have been upset that you were taking a call from another woman in the middle of the night.”
“You didn’t cause an argument.”
“Oh. Good. Glad to hear to it.” Tara sure didn’t sound glad to me. “You seem to like her a lot and, well, I don’t blame you. What’s not to like? She’s hot. Confident. I love her eyes. And she has—”
“Don’t,” Blake bit out.
“Don’t objectify her. Don’t talk about her like she’s a faceless fuck to me. Don’t think about playing your games with her. She’s mine. She’ll stay mine. And you and I will have a big fucking problem if you try to interfere with that.”
“Okay, I hear you,” Tara clipped, defensive.
“And what is it you hear, Tara?”
“Damn right she is.”
At that moment, I walked out of the bathroom and over to Blake, who said, “Kensey, Tara has something to say to you.”
Tara looked like she’d rather swallow glass, but she said, “I’m sorry for what happened. And I’m sorry for what I said to you on the phone. I was … I won’t bother with excuses, I’ll just say that it won’t happen again.”
“It won’t?” I asked, my expression telling her that it had better not.
I gave a brief nod, silently accepting her apology. Not that I believed a word of it. With that, she left. And I realized Blake was staring at me, his expression odd. I raised my brows in question.
“What did she say to you on the phone?” he asked. “You never said.”
“You never asked.”
“I’m asking now.”