“Has Duke Royas reached out to your mother at all?”
The waiter had come over, and he was in the midst of lifting his glass for a drink. He froze right before the glass touched his mouth at my question. Then he set it down and scowled at me. “You’re serious?”
I had to ask. “Yes.”
“Fuck no. I hate that dipshit. Not only did he fuck over my mom, and he wasn’t in the standing to do that in the first place, but he’s been in Quincey’s head all her life. He’s turned her against us. Swear to God, she felt guilty about just having a meal with us.” He made a gun motion pointing at his head. “That’s how engrained he is in her head. Poisoned my own sister against us, against all of us.” He paused, frowning, and gripped his water tighter. “Why are you asking?”
“Because Quincey moved in with me.”
My statement was the equivalent of a mic being dropped.
Graham could only gape at me, and as far as I’d known Graham, he wasn’t a guy to gape. Always charming. Ever smooth. Maybe one or two retorts to Logan, but he was mostly a laidback and unshakeable guy.
Graham Robertson was shook now.
“You kidding me?”
“When? I mean, fuck. Fuck! That’s great, right? That means you have Nova then?”
I nodded. “We dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, but we have her. Both Quincey and I do.”
“In your house?” He jerked upright and shook his head briskly. “Wait a minute. You have a house here? Since when?”
“About four weeks ago, maybe a little less.”
“Holy shit. You Fallen Crest people move fast once you know what you want, huh?”
“Want my daughter? Fuck yes. You have kids?”
“I don’t, no. Val was the first in the family to have them.” Graham winced, reaching for his beer again. “Is that why you’re asking about Duke? Is he making things hard on Quince? Fuck, of course he is because he’s a dick.”
I nodded. “He’s been quiet lately. I was wondering if I needed to be gearing up for a fight that I can’t see coming.”
“Oh. Well.” He thought about it, taking another sip of his beer. “I mean, if Quincey and Nova are with you, then there isn’t much he can do. Right? Unless…”
“Unless?” I raised an eyebrow.
He took another drink of beer and grimaced as he swallowed. “Man, I don’t know if I should say anything. I mean, that’s for Quincey to tell you.”
“Quincey isn’t sharing. If I need to know something, then I need to know. I can’t fight a battle if I don’t know all the plays.”
“Yeah. Yeah. I can see that. But I feel like I’m betraying her if I tell you.”
I couldn’t fault him, but it had to be said. “This is Nova. She’s who we’re all protecting at this point.”
He grunted. “Fuck.” He hissed that word. “I know, and I can totally see Quincey not sharing because yeah, I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. He’s been in her head all her life, literally. She’s probably detoxing from his toxin, you know? There’s absolutely no way he’ll go to any of us to move against her. No way in hell. He knows that’s a lost cause. We all hate him, but the only move I can see him making is either declaring you unfit or declaring Quincey unfit.”
“He has no standing against me.”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t think so. He’d know that, too. You’re stacked with everything. Job. Money. Family. Connections. I can only imagine shit you might’ve pulled when you were younger, but I can’t see any judge taking him seriously. So, then, it’s Quince.” He was grimacing again.
“I have to know, Graham.”
“I know. Just feels wrong to tell you this way.” He took another drink, downing half his beer.
I had yet to touch mine.
“Fine.” His shoulders slumped down. “She’s not had an easy life. Duke fought for custody of her, and he fought nasty. He went deep into our mom’s history, pulling up a history of drug use. And it wasn’t that bad. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t anything current. She had a time in her life when she got dark, and she sought out drugs. That’s when she met Duke. It was a bad couple of years, but she got sorted. She and my dad are happy again and have been for a long time. She lost Quincey, though, and the way the lawyers painted her, it was bad. Real bad. I was young, but I remember when they’d come back from the courthouse some of the times. I just felt empty, like I knew something bad was going to happen. But yeah, I’d imagine he might try that with her. Dig up and air whatever dirty laundry that fucker can.”
“With what? I need to know what ammunition he might use.”
“Him, to be honest. He’s the bad shit in her life, but that’s not how the lawyers will put it. She had an eating disorder for a good while, and I know it’s cliché with the dancing world, but it happened. They might say other things, but I think that was the biggest issue for her for a while. She wasn’t taking care of herself.”
My mouth dried up, thinking about that, thinking about Quincey being in that position. She was full of fight from the moment I met her. She’d only been about the fight.
“But, yeah. It’s him. He’s the root of anything bad she’s been through.”
I sighed on the inside, because damn. That meant a lot of personal hell Quincey was going to go through.
“You think he’ll do that to his own daughter? His only flesh and blood?”
He considered my question, his fingers tightening around his glass. “Yeah, man,” he bit out. “Quincey was always a possession to him. He wouldn’t allow anyone else to have her, and I have a hard time believing he won’t think the same about Nova. In his mind, Nova became his when Valerie put Quincey down as her guardian.” He gave me a hard look. “You’re the card he didn’t plan for, so with you in the deck, I’m not sure what he’ll do. I wouldn’t put it past him to go after Quincey, though. If he got her out of the way, then it’s between him and you.”
I nodded, feeling a heaviness that was always there, but I was just reaffirming what I already knew was coming. “Thanks, Graham.”
He picked up his beer. “Do me a favor?”