Oh lord. Oh God.
Why did I come here again?
I’m quickly losing focus. Can’t think of anything but him moving inside me, all those windows facing us, his tongue in my mouth…
“Money,” I blurt. “Just the money. I d-don’t trust you now, Jack.”
He curses, rolling his forehead around in the curve of my neck. When he pulls away, every muscle in his body is strung tight, his jaw on the verge of shattering. “Right.” He shoves his hand through his hair. “Creed said your cut was two million. Neither he nor the membership contract decides how it’s distributed. Therefore, you’ll receive one hundred thousand dollars a month over the course of twenty months. In order to collect the payment, you’ll come to my house and have dinner with me.”
Indignation gathers inside me like a storm cloud. No, he can’t be serious. He’s not. Is he? “That’s…you can’t d-do that. It’s wrong.”
“I can do that. What I can’t do is hand you two million dollars and let you walk out of this office, no idea if I’ll ever see you again.” His attention slides down my front, lingering on my stomach. “You could be pregnant with my child, Maisy.”
The way he says it…
It’s almost like he hopes that’s the case.
“The purest asshole you’ll ever meet?” His features are unreadable now. Cold. “I believe I told you that myself.”
I’ve waited until now to play my hand—and I’m glad.
I might not be the CEO of a major hedge fund, but I listen to books, dammit, and that makes me pretty intuitive when it comes to people and their motivations. Jack Lincoln is more complicated than any fictional character I can remember, plus he’s standing right in front of me, enticing me, making my pulse race. But he’s not the only one with an advantage.
On the ride from my apartment to his office, the loose ends I’ve been trying to tie together finally formed a knot. Finally made sense. Though I still need a lot more clarity.
“How long have you been watching me?” I ask, watching him closely.
Jack goes very still. No movement, except for a subtle eye twitch. “I’m sorry, what?”
I don’t give him time to recover. “I asked how long you’ve been watching me,” I say clearly, trying not to fidget under his penetrating blue stare. My nerves are almost enough to quiet me, but his reaction tells me my theory isn’t crazy. So I trust my gut and keep going. “I couldn’t figure out why you would bid on me remotely. Why you would show up and join that club…all for me. How did you even know I was at Winston Creed’s house that night, unless you were having me followed?”
He tilts his head, regarding me as if my line of questioning is adorable. “I make it my business to know everything happening in my world, Maisy. I might not have belonged to the club, but those men are more or less my contemporaries.”
I shake my head. “No. You make it your business to know what’s happening in my world. And if you lie to me one more time, I’ll leave and you won’t see me again.”
A note of panic dances across his features.
“My mother is your housekeeper,” I say, pressing on. “That is how you know me, isn’t it? How you knew my address?”
Again, he says nothing. I think, because he wants to lie.
But his chest is rising and falling faster now, the skin around his mouth tense.
It’s the final confirmation I need to know I’m right.
Garnering my confidence, I close the distance between me and Jack. Run my hand up his silk tie. “You’re so determined to make me think you’re a bad man. A pure asshole, as you put it. So why are you paying my mother a fortune every week to clean your house? Why did you swoop in and try to save me on Friday night? Bad men don’t do things like that. Only complicated ones.” I mold my palm to his rigid jawline and study his expression. It’s hard, shuttered, but his eyes are another story. They don’t want to look at me, but he can’t seem to help it. He’s waging a battle. Doesn’t want to show me a hint of vulnerability. “The pay increase started six months ago,” I whisper. “Is that how long you’ve been watching me?”
Several beats pass.
“Yes,” he rasps finally, closing his eyes.
“That pay increase was for my benefit?”
He finally leans in to my touch with a gruff noise, then nods stiffly.
I already knew the truth, but it sinks in now, opening up a wound in my chest. “My mother didn’t tell me. She said we were broke. It’s why I didn’t register for classes this fall.”
Rage crackles to life around him like a brush fire. “What?”
Heat presses to the backs of my eyelids. “I don’t know what she’s been doing with the money. Paying rent, yes, but—”