I was breathing through my nose, barely keeping it together.
“Where?” I ground my teeth together.
Her head jerked upright. “She’s with my father. That’s all I’m going to tell you—”
I didn’t let her finish talking. She, whoever the fuck this was, didn’t deserve that. I asked her, “She’s your daughter?”
Her chin raised. “As I said before, Valerie died and left me half guardianship.”
“Valerie doesn’t get that option. If I’m Nova’s living father, then I decide. Why six months?”
She jerked. “What?”
“She’s been dead for six months. Why the wait to contact me?”
She looked away, her throat moving up and down. “Right. Next time my sister dies, I’ll get right on that, notifying the guy who could take Nova away from us. Forget the funeral, forget the meetings with her lawyer, forget mourning, forget deciding to investigate you, forget all of that. Next time, I’ll just get right on that.”
She knew sarcasm, that was for damn sure.
I didn’t reply. I got it. Six months, though. Fuck.
I was going through everything I needed to do in my head.
A paternity test.
She squared her shoulders, and her face grew hard. “Nova is mine now. Sign those papers, and you can go on and have a child with someone else.”
Locking my gaze with hers, I saw the steel determination radiating from her.
I didn’t give a fuck.
Leaning forward, I spoke slowly but clearly. “This is how it’s going to be. You will bring her to me. I will have my own physician do a paternity test, and depending on those results, we’ll discuss what exact rights you think you may have. Got me?”
I shoved up to my feet, already knowing I would need everyone to fight this.
She stood, mimicking my moves, rattling the table. Her hands were in fists, pressing into the table. “You can’t do this.”
“The fuck I can’t.”
She was heavily breathing, her chest moving up and down rapidly. “You can’t. Valerie told me you wouldn’t care—”
“Valerie was dead wrong.”
She flinched at my words.
I would care later. Right now, after what blow she just dealt, I couldn't care less about her feelings.
I held out my hand. “I want your information, and I want your phone.”
Her eyes grew wary, but she passed me her phone.
I took it, programming my number into it, and I took everything from her contact info that I could before she’d start balking.
I was still working on her phone.
“What are you doing?”
I ignored her, going faster.
I wanted everything I could get from it.
“Hey!” She rounded the table, reaching for her phone.
I held on. I wasn’t done.
She tried to jerk it out of my hands, and I was in her face. “I will not fight fair.”
She paled, her eyes growing big, and her hands went slack.
Not for long, though.
Right as the fight blazed in her and her hand tightened back over her phone, I added, “I will fight dirty. I will fight nasty if that is my daughter. I don’t care what Valerie wanted, or what her fucking lawyers, or whoever else has an opinion on the matter, says. If she’s mine, then she’s mine. Not yours.” When I let go, she fell back a step, holding her phone.
I leaned forward, ignoring the pulsating vein sticking out from her neck or how wide and fiery her eyes were. I promised, “You might’ve done your research. Your PI might have a file on me. I’m telling you right now that whatever you’ve read or been told says nothing about me or the lengths I’m willing to go. Your mistake was informing me about my daughter. Your second mistake was assuming I’d simply walk away, when and if that’s verified. If she’s not mine, I don’t even want to know your game. But if she is and you fight me on Nova, I won’t just destroy you. I will destroy your family. I will destroy everything and everyone you love except for Nova.”
I’d said enough.
If I said any more, I could get in trouble with my own lawyers.
I was already gearing up for a fight, but damn her. She came expecting this fight.
I said one last thing. “To me, you are standing between myself and potentially my daughter. I’d highly recommend your lawyer reach out to mine at the earliest hour so we can start these proceedings. Got me?”
She didn’t answer.
I didn’t know if she was capable of responding.
I nodded to her phone, which she was grasping with white knuckles. “If your PI wasn’t thorough enough to give you my contact information, my number’s in there. I’ll be in touch.”
The knock on my door wasn’t surprising since I’d made some calls as soon as I left her in the hotel bar downstairs.
What was surprising was the time. Six in the morning.
I went over and opened it. I didn’t need to look.
Mason Kade stood on the other side with a backpack slung over his shoulder, and that was it.
Mason had been my best friend for so long, then there was a group of us who were family. He’d been playing professional football with one of the best teams in the league, so not only was traveling alone a challenge for him, he didn’t have the time for it either.
The fact he arrived less than twenty-four hours later meant a lot.
His head had been down, but he straightened, looking me over. His eyes flickered once before he nodded. “You look better than I would.”
I grunted, stepping back.
He came inside, tossed his bag onto the couch, and took the bourbon that was still in my hand.
I should protest—no. No, I shouldn’t.
He tossed it in the sink, then set the glass down and moved to the coffee machine. Fingering through what contents I had, he frowned and went to the phone. He ordered a whole pot of coffee from room service before turning back to me.
“So.” He leaned back against the counter behind him, crossing his arms over his chest. “Tell me what you know.”
Right to business. That was Mason.
I tossed my phone on the couch, and Mason went over to scoop it up.