Authors: Shady Grace
“Because I want you to trust me, and Terry couldn’t tell you himself. He can’t call you and report our actions.” He lifted a teasing brow and Mary wanted to hit him. “I’m sure he’ll make it up to you somehow. So, what do you say?”
She took a shaky breath.
Why am I even having this conversation with him?
Maybe she could skip town and go on a vacation or something. Let Terry stay here on his own and fend for himself.
“I don’t know, Gabe. This is insane.”
“Not really.” He chuckled. “It’s not like he’s a complete stranger to you. Think of all the fun you could have.” He waggled his eyebrows then winked, showing that strange humor she was still trying to get used to.
“I . . . .” She turned and moved a safe distance away, her cheeks burning knowing he was right. “I have a hard time trusting people, especially after what happened.”
“You can trust me, you know.”
She whirled around. “Why? Why does Mima trust you after everything that happened? We had a simple life until you guys showed up.” Tears filled her eyes from the harsh memory of Ben cutting her breast. Almost of its own will, her hand lifted to the scar, a small ridge about an inch in length above her right breast. Physical proof of how crazy some men really are. It didn’t seem to matter who set foot into her life, if he was a man, he was bound to eventually hurt her both physically and emotionally.
Gabe glanced around the room, perhaps trying to find the right words. “Terry and I both feel horrible about what happened. I certainly didn’t plan to crash my plane, and we didn’t know what Ben was up to.”
She blew out an impatient breath. Her hand settled back to her side, but the scar would never be forgotten. “I know, but still. Our lives aren’t the same anymore.
not the same anymore.”
“None of us are the same anymore. Look, all I can say is Mima’s my world. I truly believe fate brought us together, and I’m about to give her this.” He reached into his pocket and when he opened his enormous hand a gorgeous diamond ring twinkled in his palm. “I’m going to ask her tonight, but I thought I should tell you first.” He shrugged, but Mary saw the color of embarrassment in his cheeks. “Kind of like asking your permission, I guess, since you’re her only family.”
Her throat felt tight. Her heart felt empty. What did Mima see in this man? She eyed him critically. He was built like a brute and had the face of a man weathered by a harsh life. He may be handsome in his own way, but nothing to die for. In her eyes Gabe wasn’t a sex symbol, he was a symbol of take it to the death by any means necessary kind of man. But Mima fell in love with him. She was attracted to him, and Mary would probably never understand why. Maybe they were perfect for each other. Big versus small. Harsh versus soft.
A slow smile touched her lips. “You don’t need my permission. I know she loves you. I have no idea
, but I know she does.”
Gabe nodded, his grin almost childish. “Not all men are assholes, Mary. You’ll find out soon enough.”
She cleared her throat and wiped her eyes. “My answer is no, Gabe.”
Fifty-grand you idiot!
But Mary walked him to the door before she changed her mind. “Please tell Terry I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. Good luck with your proposal tonight. I know what her answer will be.”
Gabe nodded and let the screen door smack behind him. “Take care, Mary. We’ll see you soon.” He started his old Ford pickup and backed out of the driveway.
Mary returned to the kitchen with a heavy heart. How lucky Mima was to have such a big and powerful man love her so much. She was envious, even knowing Gabriel wasn’t exactly a model citizen. Not everybody is perfect, and not everybody gets what they want. Mary was well aware of the brutality of people and life in general.
When she heard the truck pull away she returned to the kitchen and polished off the rest of her Irish coffee.
A vision of Terry filled her mind. He was the opposite of Gabe. Terry had a long and lithe body, and his face could grace any popular magazine. He was tough but he had class. He could be deadly, but he could kiss her into liquid, too.
She closed her eyes and allowed herself to imagine how pleasurable it could be in his arms. It was just a fantasy. A dream. Nothing good could ever come from a tryst with Terry McCoy, son of a notorious crime boss. But she was allowed to fantasize in her own home, on her own kitchen chair.
She pictured his soft, kissable lips on a face with a hint of stubble to scratch and excite. She imagined his smooth, low voice whispering sensual words against the soft spot below her ear, before he trailed those hot lips down her body.
Naturally, she parted her robe and slid her middle finger between wet lips and softly stroked her sensitive clit, wishing a bad boy was giving the attention.
God she was pathetic.
Her finger moved faster, more forcefully.
She wanted more. Wanted it all. Needed to be touched and loved and spoiled.
What she really needed was to let go.
With a heavy sigh, she let her head fall back as she slid her bum closer to the edge of the seat, while her finger brought her closer to the edge of release.
What have you done to me, Terry McCoy?
Terry pulled onto the teardrop driveway at the family estate near Saanich Inlet. He bounded up the massive stone steps, velvet box in hand, and walked right in. The house was silent as he entered the parlor and made his way into the great room, where his father liked to read the paper by the windows.
He strolled over to the round table. The paper lay untouched, his reading glasses sitting atop. No Colton. Terry stared out the big picture window as a sailboat drifted along the waterway. With his mind in chaos, he stared out over the water, wishing he could disappear in those clear blue depths.
Too many windows. Too exposed.
The McCoy estate, designed by a wealthy old coal baron, had sweeping ocean views from every waiting room, and all seven bedrooms. Even two of the four bathrooms had a lovely view of a natural waterfall with its immaculate surrounding gardens. The property even had a creek and a small beach to add to its list of perfections.
The imperfections consisted of the people inside.
To Terry this place held no more meaning than a pretty decoy, like the hotel in Victoria. A convenient lie covering the nasty bones of this business his father worked hard to build. A business that would be his one day—whether he liked it or not.
This is only the beginning.
Adolfo had him all worked up wondering what the hell those words were supposed to mean. Should he be scouring the house for a bomb? Was there a hit man on the property ready to put a bullet through the window right where he stood?
Fuck, I hate living like this.
He scowled at the happy couple on the sailboat, drifting at a languid pace only a few hundred yards from the house on the shore. They embraced each other by the wheel. No worries. No end in sight. Champagne and strawberries. Maybe they weren’t even married. Maybe she was his mistress or perhaps an expensive escort. Hell, she could be his best friend’s daughter.
They may not be able to see him through the window, but he saw everything.
He saw too much and knew too much. Felt too much. Emotions always got the best of Terry, and Colton was quick to remind him:
“If you’re going to survive in this business you have to shut yourself off.”
He honestly believed he’d never be able to flip off the switch and continue to live like a puppet. This life his father had thrown him into was seriously getting to him. It all came down to being accepted. Would he ever be good enough? It seemed like his life revolved around pleasing his father no matter the cost.
He’d almost got Gabe killed—the one man he’d promised to protect all those years ago when they were kids, after Gabe’s dad died in a plane crash up north.
The guilt bore a massive hole in his soul.
The sailboat disappeared. Just like the innocence of his youth.
He stared at the wake from the boat. A long time ago he was a boy living the life of a regular kid at this estate. He didn’t know then what he knew now, that when his father told him to go outside and play, somebody was getting their throat slit in the library.
Even his mother didn’t know the real man to whom she’d given her heart. She saw only the best in her husband. When men came to visit, Eliza believed they were business associates, married with children, living in their perfect glass houses. Everyone else knew better.
Eliza loved Colton McCoy beyond the moon and believed the man who swept her off her feet was simply born of a family with old money—not a man who earned his wealth from drug smuggling.
How naïve and beautiful she was. He was her spitting image—reminded of her every time he looked in the mirror. He missed her every day. Missed her long golden hair, blue eyes, and warm, genuine smile. She was a child born of nature, loving her gardens and every bird perched high in this dark place. A place bloodied by death.
Life wasn’t fair, and an innocent woman lost her life because of what she saw that day. The day Terry’s life had changed.
Doc said the heart attack killed her instantly. If only that was true.
He hung his head, accepting the great weight upon his shoulders. A weight his father held even more than him, for Colton worshipped the ground Eliza had walked on. Even though Terry knew he couldn’t be to blame for his mother’s tragic death, in some small way he wished he’d been old enough to know better. To have had the opportunity to take her away from this place before the business sunk its claws into him.
But she never would’ve left her husband. If her heart would’ve held fast, Terry knew, deep down, she would’ve stuck by Colton’s side no matter what.
There was too much pain and heartache in his life. All the jokes and jabs were a mask to cover the lonely beast he’d become.
A beast who deserved to be alone. Just like Gabe had been, before Mima pulled him out of his mangled plane.
He pressed his palm to the glass. A dark vision filled his eyes of that night he’d reached out and grabbed Gabriel’s hand through the bars of the cell a Columbian cartel had trapped him in. They’d ripped away his clothes and his pride. Stabbed him. Thrown the wreck of the man he already was into a watery pit to be slowly eaten alive by the bugs. Terry and his team arrived in the nick of time. One more day and Gabe would’ve been dead.
Terry was the one who’d pulled him out, but Gabe always had Terry’s back. He was so full of regret it made his stomach turn. Even the memory of Ben hurting Mary haunted his dreams at night.
What could he possibly do with a good woman like Mary? How did Gabe win the heart of Mima? How did anyone fall in love and stay there?
Maybe I should try calling her again, or will she tell me to fuck off?
Everything was his fault, and his alone.
Mary deserved better than him, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and listened to her last voicemail for the hundredth time.
“If I don’t hear from you in a couple days I’ll assume I’ll never see you again. It’s okay, you know. I’m a big girl.”
God her voice sounded so sad; so beautiful. But how could he see her without his father sending a tail? How could he possibly be alone with her to explain himself?
Everything tortured him. He was sick and tired of this life. If he really had his way this business wouldn’t exist. He’d gladly run a proper hotel and leave all this torture behind. If only he could step up to the plate, be a man and walk away, without guilt making him turn around and run right back.
“Are you all right, sweetheart? You look ill.”
He blinked, realizing how pathetic he must look standing there touching the window like a blubbering fool. Maybe there were tears in his eyes—he couldn’t be sure. He turned to face Wanda, his father’s second wife, and forced a smile for her benefit. After all, if it wasn’t for her his father probably would’ve killed himself in his grief.
He stepped away from the window and slipped the velvet box into his jacket pocket.
“I want to see it,” she said, and lifted her hand.
Terry cleared his throat and stared at her in disbelief. “What? Why?”
“Because I want to see. Don’t argue with me.” Palm up, she fluttered her fingers impatiently.
Against his better judgment he reluctantly handed her the velvet box.
He watched her in confused silence as she held the box in delicate fingers and opened the lid. She didn’t cry, didn’t bat a lash, didn’t even make a sound, but to Terry it seemed as if seeing Adolfo’s finger hurt her soul. He didn’t want her to suffer as his mother did. The dirty bowels of this business should never be seen by innocent eyes.
He may be a monster, but he’d never intentionally break another’s innocence.