“Mr. Lincoln.” She opens her mouth, closes it. “What is this? Where is my daughter?”
Call me a bastard, but I take great pleasure informing her of the situation. “She’s coming home with me. Permanently, if I get my way. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure I do.”
If possible, her eyes widen even more. “I-I don’t understand.”
I take a handful of underwear and drop it into the suitcase, followed by Maisy’s headphones, some toiletries and a framed picture of her in a graduation gown. Then I close the lid and engage the buckles. “I’ve been abandoned, Miss Whitaker. I know what it’s like to think it’s your fault. To wait and wonder and be disappointed when no one shows.” My lips pull back from my teeth. “Knowing you were going to force that kind of baggage on her…”
What I’m implying dawns on her, but instead of looking ashamed over her plans to make for greener pastures and leave her daughter behind, she sprints for her bedroom, wailing in frustration when she finds her stash missing. There’s a loud crash, the sound of fists hitting the floor, drawers slamming.
“You can’t do this!” she screeches, sprinting back down the hallway and throwing herself at my feet. “I earned that money. It’s mine!”
I pick up the suitcase and step over her, perfectly content to walk out the door with not so much as a single glance back. “You’re fired.”
It’s not until I reach the limousine that I start to feel shitty.
There’s my angel, curled up and trusting that she’s safe and sound, which she is. I won’t have it any other way. But how would she have handled her mother? A lot different than I just did, I’m guessing. She’s already shown me how forgiving she can be, allowing me three days to win her over after I broke an important promise.
And put her money into a twenty-month trust to benefit myself.
Man, I’m a bastard.
When she sits up and smiles at me through a yawn, I can’t even bring myself to tell her what happened. That I just fired her mother without letting the woman plead her case. Took back what I consider rightfully Maisy’s without a second thought.
A cutthroat attitude is what makes me a nightmare when negotiating a deal or making risky investments, but I’m starting to worry I could have used a little more finesse. Or understanding. The way Maisy would have done.
Especially when we’re halfway home and she slides her hand into mine between us on the seat, placing trust in me that I’ve already started to bend without thinking.
I have to do better.
Starting now, I will be the kind of man who deserves her.
I’ll figure out what that means.
And pray it’s not too late.
The single time I came to pick up my mother from Jack’s estate, I stared up at the modern mansion with my jaw on the ground. Yet somehow I wasn’t intimidated by it, the way I was by Winston Creed’s home. Maybe because it reminds me so much of the man who lives inside. Sleek, cocky. Edgy with a playful side.
On the east side of the driveway, there is a five-car garage. Two men are outside washing a low yellow sports car. They wave at Jack and he sends them a salute, before helping me out of the limousine. My feet touch down on onyx pavers that lead to the wide mouth of the entrance, simple white double doors complemented by the gray stone face of the giant house. There are no fountains, like at Winston’s house. Instead, there are lamp posts with fires glowing in their frosted glass globes, lighting our way up the well-kept walkway, succulents planted among white rocks on either side.
The front door of the house swings open before we reach it, a man in a suit stepping back to let us inside. “Maisy, this is the grounds manager, Charles.”
I smile. “Nice to meet you.”
Jack has me tucked under his arm, my suitcase in his opposite hand, but he sets it down now inside the entrance and gestures to a nearby maid. “Bonnie, have this brought to my room, please.”
“Ready in one hour, sir.”
We move farther into the house and I’m immediately distracted by the unexpected charm of the living room. There aren’t a bunch of dusty pieces of furniture to display his wealth. The space is clean and open, decorated in masculine tones, gold, burgundy, navy blue, gray. High ceilings that are currently showing the final reaching fingers of streaky pink sunset. Gray suede couches, glass tables and a floating fireplace. The scent of dinner cooking.
It’s almost like coming home.
Or what home should be like, anyway. I’ve never even felt this welcome when walking into the apartment I share with my mother.
Will I continue to live with her after what I found out?