My head snaps up to find Winston looking down at me, his hands clasped behind his back.
“What do you mean, ‘Ready for me’?”
This guy’s poker face is epic. And more than a little freaky. His mouth is relaxed, his eyes impassive—it’s the face of a mannequin. Or a very good, very cold, hit man.
“This way, please.”
Olivia steps into the room, looking curious and so very tiny next to Winston’s girth. Her eyes drift over Henry in the leather chair by the fireplace, then she smiles when she sees me across the room.
“What’s going on?”
I search her face and my own memory—looking for some sign I missed. Something that would’ve made me suspect…but there’s nothing.
Olivia worries her lip, staring at my blank expression.
Winston swivels the computer screen on the desk toward her. “These are the headlines that will run in the Daily Star. It’s a tabloid.”
HIS ROYAL HOTNESS’S UNWANTED SECRET HEIR
ROYAL TEEN PREGNANCY ENDS IN
MISCARRIAGE—ALL THE DETAILS
Her face pinches in horror. “Oh no! How…how did they find out?”
“We were hoping you could explain that to us, Miss Hammond,” Winston says. “Since you are the one who told them.”
I hate that I agreed to this—agreed to let Winston take the lead, do the questioning.
“What are you talking about?” Olivia turns my way again. “Nicholas?”
Winston slides a sheet of paper in front of her. She stares at it hard, brow wrinkling with concentration. “What is this?”
It’s a mortgage statement for Amelia’s—for the building of the coffee shop and Olivia’s apartment in New York—that was in foreclosure five months ago.
It was paid off in full last week.
Winston tells Olivia as much.
“I don’t understand. I just spoke to Ellie yesterday—she didn’t say anything.” She takes a step closer to me. “Nicholas, you can’t really believe I would do this.”
My gut rebels at the idea—but the black-and-white evidence taunts me. “I’m not accusing you.”
“Yeah, but you’re not exactly defending me, either.”
I take the paper off the table. “Explain this to me. Make it make sense.” Even to my own ears, it sounds like begging. “Make me understand what happened.”
She shakes her head. “I can’t.”
It’s like a thousand weights are sitting on my shoulders, bending my spine, trying to snap me in half. “I would forgive you for anything, Olivia. Did you know that? Anything. But…I won’t be lied to.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Maybe you told someone, accidentally. Maybe you mentioned it to your sister or Marty or your father?”
She takes a step backward. “So, I’m not a scumbag but my family is?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“That’s exactly what you said.”
I throw the bank statement on the table. “For ten years there hasn’t been a whisper of this in the press. Then weeks after I tell you, it’s splashed across the papers and it just so happens your family’s mortgage is paid off at the same time? What am I supposed to think?”
Olivia flinches, running her hand over her forehead.
“I don’t know what to say.”
My voice booms. “Tell me you didn’t do this!”
She looks me right in the eye, chin raised, eyes simmering. “I didn’t do this.”
But then, when I don’t say anything, her face falls like a collapsing castle of cards. “You don’t believe me.”
I look away. “Put yourself in my place.”
“I’m trying to.” Her lip trembles. “But I would believe you, so I can’t.” She shakes her head. “When have I ever given you a reason to think I want money out of this?”
“Maybe you weren’t after money…in the beginning,” Winston interjects, like a barrister setting up a question during a trial. “But then you came here and saw firsthand the wealth that was to be had. Perhaps with your departure so close, you made the choice to get what you could while you could.”
“Shut your mouth!” Olivia lunges at him.
But I grab her arm, pulling her back. “That’s enough.”
Our eyes meet, hers so big and begging. Begging for me to believe her. And, Christ, I want to. But uncertainty twists my heart around in my chest, making it hard to breathe.
“I’ll call my father,” Olivia declares. “He’ll tell you it’s a mistake.”
She slides her phone out of her pocket, dials and waits. After what seems like fucking forever, she looks up at me, nervously. “There’s no answer. I’ll keep trying.”
While she redials, I ask Winston, “Where did the money come from?”
“We haven’t been able to trace the transfer yet; we’re working on it.”
My voice is strong—commanding. “I need that information, Winston. It’s the only way to know for sure.”
Slowly, Olivia lowers the phone from her ear. And she looks at me, staring, like I’m a stranger. No—worse—like I’m a monster.
“After everything that’s happened, everything I’m willing to give up for you, everything we’ve said and been to each other for the last five months…you need more information until you can decide if I’m the type of person who would take one of the most painful secrets of your life and sell it to a supermarket rag?”