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Authors: G. J. Walker-Smith

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BOOK: Star Promise
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Bridget glanced back at her uncle. “True, Ry?”

“Probably. I’m cheap like that.”

“Hide it somewhere,” she urged her father in a very loud whisper. “Near my girls.”

Adam nodded. “Understood.”

Bridget returned to Ryan and grabbed his hand. “Ready, Ry?”

“Born ready.” It was too bad if he wasn’t. Bridget was already dragging him out the door.

I stood in the doorway until they reached the elevator, shamelessly eavesdropping on their conversation.

“You have to use your money for the dinner, Ry,” Bridget instructed. “I don’t have any.”

“Maybe it’s time you got a job then,” he replied.

She didn’t miss a beat. “I will when I’m six.”

I closed the door, chuckling, but the moment was lost the second I turned around. Adam was on the couch pulling wads of screwed-up money out of Bridget’s bag.

“Where the hell did that come from?” I asked, aghast.

He finished counting it before replying. “Apparently every time Dad sees Bridget he slips her fifty dollars,” he explained, dropping the pile on the coffee table. “There’s seven hundred bucks there.”

“How dare he?” I was appalled. “She has no clue about money.”

“I know,” he replied. “That was evident today when I tried to get her to part with it.”

I listened as Adam filled me in on the debacle. Hearing the details didn’t make me feel any better. I was furious. “You have to tell your father that it’s not okay to do that!” I stared at the stack of money. “I am so sick of being undermined all the time.”

“Me too.” Ire was noticeably absent from his tone. Maybe it was because he’d had all day to stew over it, or perhaps it was because he had other things on his mind. He leaned to the side, pushing me onto my back. My body sank into the cushions as he pressed against me.

I put my hands to his face in a futile effort to keep him at bay. “You’re thinking about imaginary sex again, aren’t you?”

When he grinned, my thumb moved to the dimple in his cheek. “It’s getting closer to reality now,” he replied, expertly unbuttoning my shirt with one hand.

It had been a long time since we’d had an evening alone together. Spending it in bed was a wonderful idea, but Adam seemed to think I needed convincing. His hand crept inside my shirt, trailing a gentle line across my body. In a very unsexy move, my stomach chose that moment to rumble.

He lifted his head. “Hungry, Charlotte?”

“Starving,” I reluctantly admitted.

“Well that won’t do.” He got up, reached for my hands and pulled me to my feet. I stepped forward and pressed my body hard against him. “Dinner can wait.”

“You need to keep your energy up.” He gave a wily grin. “My imagination ran wild this afternoon. I have big plans for us.”

***

I opened a bottle of wine while Adam stood mindlessly watching the plate turning in the microwave.

“There’s something very wrong with this picture,” he lamented. “Our daughter is probably enjoying filet mignon for dinner and we’re having reheated leftovers.”

I wrenched his folded arms apart and worked my way into his hold. “I’m hungry enough to eat it. I worked through lunch.”

“I didn’t,” he replied. “I had to bribe Bridget with nuggets so she’d be quiet in the office.”

I looked up at him but Adam didn’t meet my eyes. “You went to work today?”

“Only for a few hours,” he replied. “I had a few things that couldn’t wait until tomorrow.”

Jean-Luc’s visit suddenly made sense. No wonder he was pissed. The only thing that would’ve infuriated him more than Adam being a no-show would’ve been Adam turning up with Bridget in tow.

I suddenly felt incredibly selfish. Taking Bridget to the office would have been a nightmare. I’d tried it once, and vowed to never let her set foot in the gallery again. How had Adam coped?

“What did Bridget do while you were there?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Played with her girls and typed emails on a calculator.”

“And what did you do?”

He looked at me. “What do you mean?”

“I tell you about my job all the time. You never talk shop. I don’t even know what it is that you actually do.”

Adam kissed me, connecting with my lips at the exact time that the microwave dinged. “It’s just not that interesting, Charli,” he murmured, breaking our embrace. “To either of us.”

I used the time it took him to plate up dinner to think his words through. I had always been under the impression that Adam was cagey about his job because it was complicated and stressful. The truth was much simpler: it bored him.

“I’m interested,” I insisted. “Will you tell me?”

He turned around, a plate in each hand. “I’ll tell you everything you want to know,” he replied. “And then we’re going to bed.”

***

Adam Décarie was a corporate lawyer. That much I knew. What I didn’t know was exactly what that meant. His explanation was an education and a half. Liaising between companies, negotiating mergers and drafting agreements sounded seriously hard-core. It also went a long way to explaining the ridiculous hours he worked.

“Did you always want to be a corporate lawyer?”

His dark blue eyes lit as he smiled. “Always.”

“Why?”

“You ask a lot of questions, Mrs Décarie.”

I took a sip of wine. “You’re not usually this open with me,” I told him. “I’m taking advantage of your candidness.”

“My plan for tonight was to take advantage of you.”

His grin was distracting, but I wasn’t quite done. “Why corporate law?” I asked.

He let out a sigh. “Because it’s less adversarial than other aspects of law,” he explained. “I don’t usually deal with wronged parties or criminals or people who’ve been ripped off. It’s all about negotiating and closing amicable deals.”

“So, you like your job?”

He grinned. He knew I was trying to garner some sort of confession out of him. “I like lots of things.”

He pushed back his chair, making room for me on his lap. “Give me an example,” I demanded.

“I like you,” he murmured, slipping his arm around me. “I like you a lot.”

“And?”

“And our kid,” he added.

I smiled at him. “I like her too.”

Adam dropped his head, whispering his next words into my ear. “Can we please go to bed and make another one?”

After toying with the idea for a year-and-a-half, the decision to have another baby had finally been made a month earlier. Meeting my little brother was the clincher. Convincing Adam that the time was right took no effort at all. If he’d had his way, we would’ve had a flock of free-range babies by now – and they probably wouldn’t have been growing up in New York.

***

Running with the good cop, bad cop style of parenting only seemed to work for us some of the time. The biggest problem was, the little crook favoured the bad cop. Adam was much stricter with her than I, but Bridget relished the challenge.

The latest battle in the very long war played out over breakfast. Bridget was still keen to offload the small fortune her grandfather had given her, and Adam wasn’t making it easy for her.

She wanted him to take her back to the store he’d carried her out of mid-tantrum the day before, and her pleas were falling on deaf ears.

“I will spend my money nicely,” she assured him.

Adam stood and picked up his empty coffee mug. “Not happening, Bridge.” He leaned down and kissed her as he passed her. “You chose to be a brat. You don’t get two bites of the apple.”

She twisted in her chair to look at him. “I love apples,” she countered.

I laughed, but Bridget wasn’t seeing the funny side. She was too busy plotting her next move. “I’ll make a deal, Daddy.” I wasn’t surprised by her offer. Bridget and Adam liked to make deals. It was their thing.

Adam drew out her agony by making her wait for an answer. He poured another cup of coffee and sat back down at the table before uttering a word. “I’m listening,” he said finally.

“I’ll spend my money nicely and that’s the deal.”

Her smug tone was a little premature. Her father’s stance didn’t waver.

“Your negotiation skills need some work, Bridget,” he replied. “Revise your offer and get back to me.”

Bridget pointed her spoon at him. “I will,” she declared.

As entertaining as breakfast wheeling and dealing was, it didn’t last long. Adam left for work, Mrs Brown turned up to watch Bridget, and I made my way to a very familiar address on Fifth Avenue.

***

Fiona was expecting the delivery of the artwork Jean-Luc had bought, but she was not expecting me to deliver it. “Have you been demoted, darling?” She wasn’t even kidding. She looked truly looked concerned.

“No.” I huffed out the word in a laugh. “I just wanted to bring it over myself.”

Her frown made way for a bright smile and open arms. “Come,” she urged, waving me through the door. “It’s lovely to see you.”

I set the picture on the table in the foyer and offered to unwrap it. “Do you want to see it? He chose well.”

Fiona grabbed my hand and spun me to face her. “No, darling,” she replied looking me up and down. “I’d rather look at you. You always look so beautiful when you make an effort.”

I dropped my head, glancing down at my outfit. I didn’t think there was anything particularly special about the pale blue dress I was wearing until I remembered that she’d bought it for me. “It’s one of my favourites,” I lied.

Her face lit up. “I adore shopping for you – and for Bridget.”

A braver woman might’ve taken the opportunity to air her grievances regarding excessive gift-giving, but I wasn’t brave. I smiled and thanked her instead.

“Come,” she said, leading me toward the stairs. “I have something to show you – a gift for my granddaughter.”

A hundred excuses for not accepting it ran through my mind as I followed her, but none were polite enough to say out loud.

“She really doesn’t need any more presents,” I said gently. “Maybe you should keep it until her birthday.”

The queen spun to face me. “Nonsense. Her birthday has only just passed.”

“Which is exactly why you shouldn’t be buying her gifts.”

Fiona frowned, but wasn’t angry. I’d hurt her feelings, which was ten times harder to deal with. “She’s the only grandchild I have,” she said pitifully. “Please don’t taint that with rules.”

“I won’t,” I mumbled. I’d let Adam do it.

Fiona led me into her bedroom and disappeared inside her massive walk-in closet. I remained near the doorway, unsure of what to do. The only thing that dulled the awkwardness was the fact that she kept talking.

“Bridget’s going to love this,” she predicted, from somewhere deep in the closet. “I’ve had it on order for weeks.”

I felt like closing the door and locking her in; I could use the time alone to bounce on the massive four-poster bed. The thing was magnificent. Thankfully I managed to hold myself back.

“I’m sure she’ll love it,” I called distractedly.

The second she reappeared I wanted to rescind that statement. Whatever she was holding was oddly wrapped in a small pink blanket. The closer she got to me, the more I convinced myself that it was alive – or at least once was.

She was cradling it like a baby, and when she peeled the blanket back I understood why. I peered across, working hard to keep my expression straight as I studied the creepiest looking doll I’d ever seen.

“Isn’t she exquisite?” asked Fiona.

“That’s one word for it,” I mumbled.

“She’s handmade,” she explained. “Very realistic.”

Too realistic
. I half expected it to start crying at any second. Perhaps Fiona did too – she was rocking it in her arms.

“Bridget’s too young for something that precious,” I reasoned. “She won’t care for it properly.”

“Nonsense,” scoffed the queen. “It’ll be good practice for her.”

“For what?” My voice sounded as horrified as I felt.

“Well, I’m sure she’ll have a little brother or sister one day,” she hinted. “And there’s Jack, of course.”

I forced myself to have another look at the waxy corpse thing in her arms. “Jack looks nothing like that.”

“Of course not,” she replied, fussing with the blanket. “This one is a girl.”

I couldn’t think of a thing to say that would dissuade her from giving it to Bridget. All I could do was prepare her for the certain abuse it would receive in her care.

“Have you seen Bridget’s doll collection?” I asked. “She pulls their arms and legs off so they’re easier to dress.”

Fiona glanced down at baby creepy. “You mustn’t let her do that with this one,” she warned. “It was hellishly expensive.”

It was going from bad to worse. Not only was the hideous doll soon going to be living in my house – I was in charge of protecting it.

“I’ll do my best,” I promised listlessly.

The queen perked up in an instant. “Wonderful, darling,” she crowed.

***

I was genuinely interested to see how Jean-Luc’s new artwork would look in his home office, but after spending so long fussing with her fake grandkid, Fiona didn’t have time to show me. “I’ve got an appointment downtown in an hour,” she explained, checking the time on her watch. “You’re welcome to stay and hang it yourself. Jean-Luc had a contractor in to put a hook in the wall yesterday.”

She rushed over to the closet and I found myself in hot pursuit. “You paid someone to drive a hook into a wall?” I asked incredulously.

“Of course.” She turned to face me, holding a pair of black heels in each hand. “Which ones, darling?”

I looked her up and down before pointing to the shoes in her left hand. As expected, she ignored me and went with the ones in her right. “Just lock the door when you leave,” she instructed, slipping a foot into her shoe Cinderella-style. “Or stay, and we’ll have a late lunch when I get back.”

“I can’t. I’m working.”

“Of course you are, darling.”

She was humouring me, but I let it go. Whether she believed me or not, I really did need to get back to the gallery so Bronson could make his mid-morning escape. I followed Fiona downstairs at her rushed pace, trying to pay attention to the list of demands she was throwing at me.

BOOK: Star Promise
6.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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