I knew it.
She knew it.
Everyone who knew my father knew it.
He would fight for Nova for the sheer sake of winning, and if we lost, we lost everything.
I couldn’t let that happen.
I knew what the end would look like. I felt it in my bones, and if I walked into that house, told Duke again that I wanted to compromise with Nate, he would tell me to either get out or get behind him. It was an either/or scenario with him. There was no gray. No in-between.
It was how it had always been.
I wasn’t ready for that.
“I have to go.” I said it so faint that I barely heard myself.
But I was already reaching for the phone to end the call. “I have to go.”
The light on my phone cut out, and I was alone in a studio with snow falling all around me.
A sob caught in my throat. I didn’t want to feel right now.
I wanted to dance.
So I did.
Later that same day
Nate: I want to see my daughter today.
Quincey: Give me a few days.
Nate: I want to see my daughter today.
Quincey: I’ll bring her to you.
The next morning.
Nate: Legal papers will be drawn up concerning my daughter. My question is, what stance should I let my lawyers take? Is it a full-on custody battle, or are you going to be cooperative?
Quincey: I am asking you for a few days.
Nate: No. You brought Nova to me, then left. You and I need to talk about this ourselves.
Quincey: I. Need. More. Time.
Later the next day.
Nate: Fine, but I want Nova here for the whole day. My sister is flying in to see her.
Quincey: I’ll bring her within the hour.
Three days later.
Quincey: I’m ready to talk.
Quincey: My lawyer’s office. I’ll text you the address. 3 pm.
Nate: See you then.
I was nervous. I didn’t want to be, but I was.
Who was I kidding? I was always nervous for almost everything in my life. I just hid it well. Dancing and being Duke Royas’ daughter would do that to anyone.
“You ready?” Phillip was a friend from college. He was also my personal lawyer now.
“Okay. So I’ve done some research of my own since you called me. Logan Kade doesn’t specialize in child custody cases, so that’s a plus for us. It’s also a plus that he’s the only lawyer coming today. That’s a good sign. I think Mr. Monson will be open to working with you, that is, if this is still what you want to do?”
I couldn’t risk losing Nova.
I jerked my head up and down. “It is.”
“Okay.” His phone buzzed then, and he hit the button. “They’re here, Annette?”
“Should I show them to your office?”
“Please. Grab coffee and drinks for everyone, too.”
He released the button, and then we waited.
No. I should be sitting.
No. That was rude. I should be standing.
I stood again, just as we heard murmuring from the hallway.
Phillip’s secretary was getting their drink requests as she opened the door.
“Just water,” Logan said, leading the way. He was dressed in a three-piece suit and carrying a briefcase.
But my eyes were on Nate. I couldn’t pull them away.
He was also dressed in a suit, a coat over, and damn, he looked good. I couldn’t speak for a second. I could only stare at him, at the broad shoulders and jawline.
I was getting warm, but that was my nerves. Yes. My nerves. I was going with that, and I turned, tearing my gaze away.
Phillip coughed next to me, moving forward. “Mr. Kade.” They shook hands. He turned to Nate, who stepped inside the room. “Mr. Monson.”
Nate gave him a nod before his eyes drifted back to mine. “Where’s Nova?”
“She’s at the family estate with her nanny.”
Nate’s eyes flickered, and his mouth twitched, but he didn’t respond.
“Quince?” Phillip’s soft tone had me turning back to him.
I always liked Phillip. We dated briefly before finding out we were better suited as friends. We became study partners instead and spent most of our hang-out time in the school library. He was also not from my father’s legal team, which I was sure Logan and Nate had noted.
“Quince?” Logan repeated, leaning forward. His eyes sharpened. “Are we on a nickname basis all around? Can I call you Phil?”
Phillip groaned, but a small grin showed as he indicated for all of us to sit at the table in his office. He waited for Logan and Nate to take their seats. I was next to Phillip, and then he sat, saying, “I’ve known Quincey since college. We spent many days in the library. Hence the nickname.”
“When you went to Gammit?”
Phillip nodded. “Yes. You both went to Cain, correct?”
Logan nodded while Nate was staring at me.
Just staring at me.
He hadn’t stopped staring at me.
I felt the heat of his gaze, and my heart was pounding itself out of my chest, but I wouldn’t react. I wouldn’t show anything. Years of discipline had instilled that in me. I could stay in the same position for hours if needed.
Logan and Phillip were still conversing. I’m sure both were feeling the other out. Phillip was a genuinely good guy, so for all I knew, he might’ve just been chatting. I didn’t understand the ways of lawyers, only the way my father used his lawyers. They were sent out as sharks looking for blood, but that was not the point of this visit.
Nate cut through their conversation and abruptly sat forward, folding his hands together on the table. “What’s the point of this meeting?” He glanced at Phillip before looking back at me. “Why do you have your own lawyer, Quincey?”
He ignored his friend, only studying me. “Cut the bullshit and tell us what’s going on.”
Phillip held a hand out. “Quince—”
Fuck it. I was showing my cards. I had to.