The phone rang, and seeing it was a blocked number, I went to my phone.
Hitting accept, I said, “This is Monson.”
“You don’t know me, but I’m Nico Mancini.”
I froze, mid step. “Why the fuck are you calling me?”
He laughed. “Maybe you do know me.”
A growl ripped from me. “You got two seconds to explain this call, or I’m hanging up and contacting police I know.”
A second laugh. “You can’t touch me.”
“You misheard me. I didn’t say the police. I said police that I know.”
He was quiet now, because we both knew there was a difference. You call the police, they’re supposed to follow protocol. You call you police you know, that protocol was really fucking iffy and after Royas’ police visit he called in for me, I made sure to reach out and get to know a couple. Just because I’m not dumb.
He bit out, “Fine. I’m calling you as a favor. Don’t forget that.”
“I doubt that.”
He sniffed. “Whatever, man. I figured you should know that my lawyer made me take a deal. My time’s been shortened, and I don’t want anything to come back and bite me in the ass. So because of that, I’m letting you in on the know about a call I got last week.”
I froze for the second time, before another growl was working its way up from my stomach. It was burning a path on its way, and it hurt to fucking talk around that burn. “And?”
“And he was willing to throw money my way, wanted me to say that Val never told you about the kid because she was scared of you. Said you threatened her in your relationship with her.” He wasn’t done, adding in a lowered voice, “And also he wanted to know if I had a stash of something extra. You know. Something that could be found somewhere else. He didn’t say, but the way I took it was that ‘somewhere else’ wasn’t going to be on any of my property. You get me?”
“I get you.”
I got him.
I got him real good, and fuuuuuck Duke Royas.
“You’re telling me why again?”
He was quiet for a beat. “Look, whatever. I’m just saying I did care about Valerie. I made mistakes, but I would’ve cared for Nova, too.”
“You’re going to stay the fuck away from her. That’s what you’re going to do.”
Another beat of silence from his end.
He spoke slowly when he spoke, “Yeah. I got you.”
I was replaying the conversation in my head, over and over again.
Duke Royas tried to set me up in two different ways.
“We’ll handle him. Don’t worry,” Logan said.
I glanced over in my vehicle.
Logan had flown in for this meeting. He didn’t know the extent of the call, just that I wanted to meet with Royas. Because of that, he was smirking at me. One foot was kicked up on the dashboard, and he was lounging back, his phone in front of him. I didn’t want to know what game he was playing, but it was annoying.
“Who picked the back alley of an abandoned warehouse, fifteen miles outside of the city for this meeting?”
Logan went back to his game. “He didn’t pick the location.”
“Me.” He was punching at virtual buttons on his phone, and he cursed. “Damn. Fuck. They got me.”
“Logan.” I took the phone from him. “Why did you pick this location?”
That got a scowl from me.
“I thought it was funny, and I was hoping to talk Channing into sending some of the guys from that motorcycle club he knows.”
I was calm. I already wanted to do murder, but Logan didn’t know.
He couldn’t have known.
Except this stupid fucking game.
Except he kept wanting to call in that motorcycle club.
Nope. I wasn’t mad.
It wasn’t like we needed more gas thrown on the fire.
Not at all. Meeting here, calling in the MC—that wouldn’t turn a campfire into an inferno. Not one bit.
I rolled my window down.
I tossed his phone out the window.
“Hey! What the fuck?” He shoved open his door and scrambled around the SUV. “What the hell, Nate?!”
“This is a guy who could try to take Nova from me, and you thought this place would be funny? You better be kidding about the MC because if this was Taylor’s dad or you were dealing with Mason’s kids, you’d never want to get an MC involved, and you know it. And let go of the fucking MC. Channing’s made it very clear he wants nothing to do with them.”
He shot me a dirty look before picking up his phone. Studying it, he growled before stuffing it back in his pocket. “If that had been broken, you and I would’ve had problems.”
“You and I do have problems.”
He came back, and I was tempted to lock him out. So tempted.
That would’ve been immature, right? As immature as tossing the asswipe’s phone out the window, for sure.
Mason would’ve done it.
He got inside and shut the door. “Listen. I’m sorry. You’re right about all of that. And I’m mostly joking about the MC, but I did call Channing.”
“Did he actually take that call?”
“He hung up on me after he threatened to send one of his guys after me. But look, the court case against Dick Duke got tossed out, and he didn’t fight it. I don’t trust this guy. I don’t think it’s above him to try something shady.”
That was a fucking understatement.
I shifted back and resumed glaring out the dashboard window. “He better not do a goddamn thing. I’m the one blocking him from Nova now.”
Logan frowned at me. “How’s that all going?”
“All what going?”
“With the missus. And her family. You said Graham looked like he had connected with Quincey. Any movement forward?”
I shook my head. “No. She called her mom one night because she was worried about Nova, but that’s it. Quincey’s been busy. I don’t think she’d even have time to see her family.”
“Right. You said she’s in a dance production.”
“I have tickets to the premiere night. Aspen’s flying in for it. She wants to see Nova, too.”