Page 36

I frowned but didn’t push about what just happened on his end. “Yes, and Matteo’s playing here on Sunday. I’m going to go and take Quincey.”

“If she’ll want to go. Does she like football?”

“That’s not been a conversation we’ve tackled, but I will in the future.”

“Good. You should, considering her brother and our guys.”

I hid a smile. “Right. Thanks for the advice.”

“Well. I am your lawyer. I’m all about giving advice, but I’m not cheap.”

I barked out a laugh. “Yeah, yeah. And yes, if she wants to go, I’ll take her. No one’s said anything to Matteo about Nova?”

“No. We’ve been on lockdown, just me and Tay and Mase and Sam. That’s it. Even the kids don’t know, so they won’t spill to Heather and Chan.”

“I’m going to have to tell them, too.”

“That’ll be a good conversation. Heather and Channing are cool. They won’t care about the timeline of when you’ve shared with everyone. You don’t have to share all the shit about Dick Royas.”

“Yeah, they are.”

We were both winding down. The emergency had been successfully put off for the next phone call.

Logan was on the same wavelength, saying, “Okay. Have your dinner. Text us when you can do a call.”

“It might be late.”

“That’s fine. You know that.”

We said our goodbyes, and I was moving back through the basement for the stairs when I heard someone coming down. Quincey had worried eyes and carried a glass in her hand. She paused on the stairs, gripping the railing tight. “Hey.”

I paused, too, taking her in. Something was going on. I was expecting this, but the look she was wearing now seemed like a different sort of something happening. Something bad. Something that needed to be handled now. The problem: I didn’t know what the something was, and I didn’t know how to get her to say what the something was.

This girl had walls.

She had wall after wall after wall, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had walls even to herself.

What I did know was that she wasn’t as hard as she first pretended to be. I got glimpses of the little girl inside her at moments, and this was one of them.

“What’s wrong?”

She let out a gust of air. “How do you do that?”

I migrated closer. “Do what?”

“Look at me and know what’s going on inside me?”

She seemed genuinely curious. I frowned a little. “I’m getting to know you, that’s all.” I moved closer, putting one foot on the bottom step. There were three separating us, and she was gazing right down at me.

I asked again, “What’s wrong, Quincey?”

She tore her gaze away, bending her head. “This was a bad idea.”

“What was?”

“This. Coming here. Asking them to be allies…” She trailed off because I was done hearing this. I climbed the stairs, placing a hand on her hip as I gently moved her closer to the wall so I could go past her. “What are you doing?” Her voice rose an octave.

I ignored her, going up and stepping out into the hallway. We were just off the kitchen, where I saw more people had arrived. I skimmed over everyone, and conversations quieted. They were getting tense, straightening into an upright position where they’d been leaning or slouching.

I saw the mom. The husband

I saw the other sister, and that was the problem.

She wasn’t alone. She’d brought another two friends.

I lingered on them, studying them.

Then I turned to Graham’s girlfriend, who’d been laughing with the girls. Her eyes were a little glazed, but not much. She seemed flushed on the forehead, not the face. She was nervous.

Graham was my last stop, and he’d been waiting.

He was not happy.

He transferred his gaze to Quincey, who’d followed me up but was standing at a distance behind me.

Fuck this.

I jerked my head at the two friends. “Who are they, and why are they here?”

Calihan got red. Her chin jerked up, and she turned to face off against me.

I narrowed my eyes. “I’m going to stop you before you say something you’ll regret. This is not a social fucking outing. You think this is easy for Quincey to be here?”

Calihan’s eyes flashed. She raised her chin up even higher.

I kept on. “I don’t know the exact history or the details. Nor do I give a shit about that.” I swept everyone with a look before finding my target. “What I do give a shit about is my kid. That’s why we’re here. I’m an outside observer, but observing, I can tell it’s a big deal that Quincey reached out and came here. You might have anger on your end concerning her, and I’m guessing that’s the reason you brought two more friends; to shit on this night for her, but girl, you’re not just shitting on only her anymore. I’m in the mix now and so’s Nova. If you’d like to salvage some of the night, your friends have to go. And if you can’t drop the chip on your shoulder for the night, you best be going with them until you can see beyond your own issues and to the one who’s really needing everyone to be together on this. Nova.” I waited for a beat because I’d thrown a lot at her. “You decide.”

And I waited again.

There was silence in the group.

I skimmed a look at Graham, who seemed surprised, but not in a bad way.

“Graham,” Calihan hissed.

Okay. That’s all I needed to know. She thought this was the moment she could call in her reinforcements, which meant she thought there was space and time here where I’d allow that to first be negotiated. No. There were no negotiations right now. Her shit came later. Nova was first.

I reached behind me and took Quincey’s hand. “We’re out.”

I began leading her to the front door.

The mom dropped something. It clattered to the floor, and she hurried in front of us, blocking us with her hands up and spread. “Wait. Wait. Please.”

Quincey had a tight grip on my hand.

I stopped, and she moved all the way up against me. I could feel her tension, and I could feel her chest rising up and down at a rapid rate. That was too rapid for my liking.

I locked eyes on the mom. At a glance, she seemed nice. She also seemed desperate. She tried looking at Quincey, who moved behind me, her head ducking down into the back of my neck.

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