Sins of My Father (Black Brothers #1) (5 page)

BOOK: Sins of My Father (Black Brothers #1)
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“Knox and I used to pocket money from the fountain at the mall,” I finally revealed.

“Hey.” She smacked my hand lightly. “You stole people’s dreams for the future.”

My gut twisted. Things hadn’t changed much.

“We didn’t have a choice. We needed to eat.” I chuckled, angling to lighten the moment.

Sadness flashed across her face, further entrenching the remorse and guilt simmering inside of me. “Then, you’re forgiven.”

I smiled faintly. If only she’d offer those same words when I finished destroying Senator Wharton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

Langley

 

“Just one more set of ten. You’re almost done.” I loved helping my patients get their life back, and Mr. Wright wasn’t an exception. Three months ago, he fell off a ladder cleaning the leaves out of his gutters. Two bulging discs that pressed on his root nerve made him a candidate for surgery, or at the very least, shots. He decided to try physical therapy first. Now, he was back at work and almost as good as new. He probably had one or two weeks left before I would release him from my care.

“You’re a slave driver,” Mr. Wright said as he started another set of sit-ups on the silver exercise ball.

“You need to improve your core strength to support your lower back,” I said, adjusting the angle of his head to minimize any neck strain.

I counted down his final reps. “Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten, and you’re done.”

“Thank God,” Mr. Wright said, rolling off the ball onto his back before standing up. “How much longer until I’m done with rehab?”

I shook my finger at him. “One week. Maybe two, but that doesn’t mean you can stop doing your exercises, or you’ll end up back here or in surgery.”

He groaned as he lifted his gym bag. “I know. I’ll see you on Friday.”

I barely had time to finish my paperwork before Winnie peeked inside the front door of my office. “Hey,” she said, lifting her hand in greeting. “Are you ready for lunch?”

“Yes, but I only have forty-five minutes before my next appointment, so it has to be quick.”

Winnie held up a white paper bag. “I figured as much. You’re always overscheduled, but never fear, I brought take out.”

“Did I ever tell you that you’re amazing?”

“No, but don’t let that stop you from singing my praises now.” Winnie dropped the bag of food on the desk and plopped down on the small black side chair. My office wasn’t impressive. It barely qualified as an office. It was more of a glorified cubicle with a door.

“So what’s for lunch?” I unrolled the top of the bag and peeked inside.

“Kale salads and cold-pressed juice, but there’s a surprise at the bottom, so wipe that frown off your face.”

“Magic bars,” I held up the bag of cookies and dangled it in front of me. “I love you.”

“I know. Most people do.” She laughed at her joke as I placed the salads and green mystery drink in front of us.

“You’re not working today?” I asked as I poured the dressing on top of my salad.

“Not really. I went in for a couple hours, but they sent me home.”

Winnie was a paralegal. Normally, she worked at least sixty hours a week, but everything came to a grinding halt three weeks ago. The partner she worked for had an emergency surgery and he hadn’t returned to the office yet. The other attorneys had given her a few small projects the first week, but now she didn’t have anything to do except make a few phone calls every day.

“Any word on Mr. Brandt?”

She shook her head. “Nothing, which makes me think it’s really bad. If I don’t hear anything by the end of this week, I’m going to start looking for another job.”

“That’s probably a good idea.” I took a sip of the green juice, and my sour taste buds went on high alert, flooding my mouth with saliva. “What the hell is in here?”

Winnie smirked. “Lots of lemon mixed with spinach, avocado, and a dash of pineapple juice.”

“Don’t buy it again.”

“It’s supposed to lift your energy and wake you up.”

“Wake up your taste buds, you mean.”

She took a sip of her juice. “Yeah, I see what you mean. It’s a definite no repeat item.”

“It even sounds terrible. Why did you pick it?” I took one more drink and tossed it in the trash.

“The guy at the counter recommended it.” She bit her lip and turned to the side. “He was cute and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

“So you decided to hurt us instead.”

She laughed. “I guess so.”

“Stick to the basics next time.”

Winnie tapped her fork on the side of the black plastic salad container. “I saw the picture of you with Archer Black in the paper.”

“Yeah, so did my stepdad. He summoned me to his office the next day to discuss it. He warned me to stay away from him.”

Winnie rolled her eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me the picture you texted me was of him?”

“I didn’t know at the time.”

“How could you not know?”

I leaned back in my chair. “We shared a taxi. He introduced himself as Archer. I didn’t ask any other questions.”

“You do know he’s possibly the most eligible bachelor on the east coast, right?”

“I might have read something about that.”

“You should cyberstalk him to figure out how to accidently run into him again, and this time you need to get his phone number and at least one date.”

I stuffed a pile of kale into my mouth to prevent me having to reply right away. Four days had passed since Archer took me out to lunch.

“I have his phone number, and we did go on a date last Sunday. We had a great time. He gave me peonies—my all-time favorite flower. We ate at my all-time favorite restaurant. The conversation never lulled. His goodnight kiss was perfect in a ‘make my knees weak and my lips tingle kind of way.’”

“What?” Winnie slammed her hands on the top of my desk. “And you never said a word? What kind of friend are you?”

I fiddled with the paper napkin in my lap, twisting it until it resembled a feminine hygiene product. I totally misread our date. I would’ve bet half my trust fund that a second date lurked on the not too distant horizon. Now that four days had passed without a single word, I wouldn’t bet one dollar. Apparently, he succeeded at impressing me, but I didn’t do the same.

I sighed. “The first couple of days after the date, I was slammed with patients. Now it’s irrelevant. He hasn’t called me. I don’t think he’s interested.”

“You don’t know that. He could be out of town. He could have crazy things happening at work. Four days is nothing.” She waved her hand in front of her face to emphasize the point.

“Okay, so how many days before I write him off?”

Winnie corkscrewed her finger in her hair over and over, and then released it and started the process over again. She’d done this since we were kids when she was thinking or stalling. It was a miracle she still had any hair on the right side of her head. “A week.”

My eyebrows scaled my forehead. “A week,” I echoed. “And what if he calls after a week? What does that mean?”

“It means he’s not really that interested, or that he’s a wannabe player or a flat-out jerk. Either way, on the eighth day, your wait is over. If he calls after that, you don’t want to talk to him anyway, and if he doesn’t call, you move on. Erase his number and scrub him from your memory.”

“So I have four more days of waiting.” I sagged in my chair. “That sucks. I thought the date went really well. I don’t get it.”

“I know. Dating sucks. When we were kids, I thought we’d both be married or in a serious relationship by the time we hit twenty-five.”

“Hey,” I said, holding up my hand, “you may be twenty-five, but I still have three more months of my early twenties, and I intend to live every one of them without fast-forwarding through the last ninety days.”

Winnie pointed at the dry erase board calendar on my wall. “It’s actually more like eighty-five days.”

My eyes narrowed, but the corners of my lips twitched. “You suck.”

“Wait.” She giggled. “You told me I was amazing twenty minutes ago. You’re giving me whiplash.”

“Yeah, well, now I’m retracting my compliment.”

Winnie gathered up her salad and plastic utensils and stuffed them into the white paper bag. “No you’re not.”

“You’re right. I love you.”

“Right back at you,” she said, brushing invisible crumbs from her lap. Winnie wasn’t the touchy-feely sort, but I meant it. I did love her. She’d been my best friend since the first day I started middle school in D.C. My mom had yanked me out of my school in L.A. a week after my dad died of a drug overdose and moved us across the country. She grew up in Potomac, Maryland, so my mom figured I should too. According to her, there was no reason to stay in L.A. after my dad died.

Going from L.A. to Maryland at the age of ten, I had experienced an immediate and heavy dose of culture shock. I don’t think I would have remained sane through all the changes in my life without Winnie as a best friend. I was permanently indebted to her for befriending me and so many other things she’d done for me over the years.

“Do you want to go out for drinks after work on Friday?” she asked as she opened my office door.

“Sure. Text me the place and the time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

Archer

 

“Do you have plans tonight?”

Deafening silence hummed through the phone. If I concentrated hard enough, I could hear the sound of the wireless radio waves rippling through my phone. Five, almost six, days had passed since I made contact with Langley. At least ten times during the week I picked up my phone after mentally composing a text or scripting the beginning of a phone conversation, but I never pulled the trigger, which was a bad move judging by Langley’s lack of an immediate response.

“It’s Friday night,” she finally answered, as though those simple words said everything, and they did, or at least for most of the single population.

“I know what day it is.”

“And that means I have plans.”

“What kind of plans?” I planted my feet on top of the smooth walnut surface of my desk. It had been a shitty week. Meeting after meeting with new and existing clients kept me from doing anything except work, which was great for the future of Black Investments, but not so great for developing a relationship with Langley, and I needed to get her on my side, at least temporarily.

“I’m going out for drinks.”

“Can I join you? We can go to dinner after.”

Papers rustled in the background. “I don’t know. Maybe some other time would be better.”

Nope. This wouldn’t work. I fucked up this week, but I didn’t have time to be shoved off for another week due to my utter stupidity. Everything had to be perfectly timed for my plan to succeed. “Look, Langley. I’m sorry I didn’t call or text earlier. I never intended to blow you off for five days.”

“Then why did you? On Sunday, you said you wanted to meet for lunch this week. Well, this week is pretty much over.”

Squeezing my phone harder than necessary, I blew out an exaggerated breath. “Work. It’s been a strange week. I had appointments with new clients every day and I couldn’t—”

“So many appointments that you couldn’t spare twenty seconds to send a one sentence text?” She scoffed. “Oh please. I’m not eighteen. I can read between the lines. You’re not that interested.”

“No, you’re wrong. I’m definitely interested. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.”

“You’re right. It won’t, because I’m not big on second chances anymore. They’re a waste of energy at the beginning of a relationship. If it starts bad, it ends bad. No need to experience all the torture in the middle.”

“Is that your motto?” I slid my feet from the desk and stood up.

“No, but it’s a good one. I think I’ll adopt it and put it into action starting with you.”

“Langley, I’m sorry.”

“Look, I’m running late. Maybe we can talk in…oh….” She paused as though she were evaluating her calendar. “Five more days. I’ll call you if I’m not too busy at work. How’s that sound?”

Fuck. Total miscalculation on my part. Shocked by how much I enjoyed our date, I wanted to put some space between us. It was fine if she fell for me, but I didn’t have that luxury. “Wait. Don’t hang up.”

“I’m busy. You didn’t have time to talk this week, and I don’t have time to talk right now.”

“Give me five minutes.”

“Why? You couldn’t give me twenty seconds all week.”

“Tell me where you’re going. I’ll meet you there. I’ll make it up to you.”

“Sorry. I don’t have time. People are waiting for me, and I don’t like to make people wait unnecessarily.”

“Just give me the name of the bar.”

“No.”

“How about the address or latitude and longitude?”

“No. Not happening. I’m meeting someone. I don’t want you there.”

“A date?”

“Yes.”

“Like with another guy?” I picked up my jacket and tossed it over my arm. Langley hadn’t dated anyone since Brandon, so it didn’t seem likely, but what did I know?

“No.”

“Okay, then give me a clue, and if I’m able to decipher it, you’ll give me a second chance. If not, then this ends here and now. I won’t bug you again. You can embrace your new motto and move on to the next guy.”

“Are you serious?”

“Dead serious,” I responded without even second-guessing it. I’d use every last resource in my arsenal to track her down. I didn’t have an alternative. Sure, I could have copious amounts of peonies delivered to her house all weekend, but I needed to see her in order to move things forward.

“Hm. I don’t know. Let me think about this.”

“You won’t regret it. I promise.”

“How do you figure?”

“If I track you down, I’ll buy your drinks and your dinner.”

“That’s a given. I need a better incentive.”

And there it was. I heard the smile in her voice loud and clear. She was going to cave. I pumped my fist in the air. Adolescent, I know, but I’d been waiting my whole life to get revenge. “I’ll buy drinks and dinner for you and your friends.”

“No matter how many. You’re not going to limit the number of friends, right?”

Fuck. I didn’t care. I’d buy dinner for thirty people, no, a hundred. “Within reason.”

“Fine. I’ll give you a clue, but if you fail to show up, don’t bother calling me again.”

“Agreed, I’ll delete your phone number, except I have to insist on an Act of God clause.”

“An act of God—what in the hell are you talking about?”

I chuckled. “You know, the clause in every contract that excuses performance for things or events outside the control of either party.”

“Like what?”

I pressed the button to call the elevator. I needed as much time as possible to figure out her clue. “You know…earthquake, hurricane, tornado, terrorist attack.”

“Got it. I think we’re safe on that front.”

“You never know.”

“Okay, then barring an act of God, you have until nine to find me. Good luck.”

The elevator opened, and I stepped inside. I prayed my phone had a strong signal, and it didn’t drop the call before I got the clue. “Wait. I need the clue.”

She chuckled. “Get with the game. I already gave it to you. See you at nine.”

“What?”

“That’s right. Figure it out.”

The line went dead, whether from the elevator or Langley disconnecting the call, I didn’t know. Shit. I had less than four hours and counting to find her. I should’ve taped our conversation so I could replay every word. Now I only had my memory to rely on, and I’d been preoccupied trying to get the hell out of the office and start my search.

I replayed the highlights of our conversation and cross-referenced it with bars in the city.

Mottos.

Second Chances.

Dinner.

Friends.

Acts of God.

Nine.

I chuckled as I opened the passenger door of my car service. Well played, Langley.

BOOK: Sins of My Father (Black Brothers #1)
7.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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