The Insiders

Page 11

We were going past a smaller brick building, with three garage stalls on the side. It looked like the security headquarters. Two golf carts were parked outside of it. A sidewalk wove past it on the lawn, sweeping up to the larger and main house, which is where we were heading.

And …

We went right past it.

It looked like a mausoleum, or a small medieval castle. It had brick and stone on the outside. A grandiose doorway that probably stretched up three floors just by itself. The steps going up to the doors put the steps at my last high school to shame. There were pointed arches on wings that were setting out from the house.

Then we turned, driving around the main building and heading to the right of it. I glimpsed the backyard, which was just as impressive. A pool. A tennis court. A cobblestone patio that stretched out and had different levels to it. One section had a campfire section, swinging chairs set up around it. Another section had a large grill and kitchen area built into the rock. A third section was where the sidewalk met the back of the house. There was more back there, but we were too far away for me to see it.

A whole line of trees blocked my view from seeing what else was back there.

We parked and I turned around, and my mouth fell open once more.

It should just stay there. I could start sweeping, get paid as a maid while I was here.

Jokes aside, I wasn’t fully gaping. On the outside, I probably had wide and alert eyes as I was taking everything in, but the mouth was cleaning floor on my insides.

The door opened, and I stepped out to see another mansion.

Villa was a cute word for this home. This was huge, just not as huge as the other one.

A cobblestone walkway led to the front, a whole white brick porch. A set of wrought iron doors opened to a front entryway, and there was another set of doors after them. And going through there, it was all man inside.

Sleek, dark gray trim. Granite floor that covered the entire first floor. The main floor had an open layout. I could see the living room with the fireplace that ran all the way to the ceiling. The wall across from me was mostly made up of windows, floor to ceiling. The kitchen had European shelving and a waterfall kitchen island. The backsplash was white rock.

Stairs went up to the next floor from my right. A walkway connected to another back section of the house.

“Did you just have that one bag?” Kash touched the small of my back, just one touch before he passed by and went to his kitchen.

I sucked in my breath.

He went to a pile of mail on his counter, picking up an envelope. I still hadn’t answered, so he lifted his head. “Bailey.”

“Hmm?” I jerked out of my trance.

I was a mess inside. Seeing everything my sperm donor had, knowing I had left my mom behind, knowing they wouldn’t have let her come here—I was feeling some bitterness.

She was my mom. I had been his kid. If he’d given her a little extra, she could’ve—no, no, no! I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t. Thinking like that was toxic. Be glad for what you get in life. Be thankful and you never have to feel the pinch of “Why not me?” syndrome. That was poison if you let it take over.

“You okay?”

The back of my neck was getting warm, but I coughed. Why did he have to actually sound like he cared? All concerned and sympathetic. “Yeah. Yeah. So…” I was supposed to stay here? With him? I heard it before, but I hadn’t fully thought about it. Him. Me. This house. Plus the whole secrecy about who I was. I was getting the distinct impression I was in way over my head.

“Will that be all, Mr. Colello?” The driver came in behind me, a suitcase in hand. “Would you like this brought to your room?”

Kash gave him a nod. “Thank you, Edward. You can leave that right there.”

I knew an Edward once. Edward Vance. He was my seventh-grade math teacher. He was supposed to teach me algebra and instead I offered to figure out how he could get a tax refund bonus for extra credit. At the end of that year, he asked my mom out and they dated through the summer. That’d been awkward. I didn’t need to hear how Edward Vance could take the van all the way home.


“Yes!” I checked back in. “Where’s my room here?”

I was freaking.

This was post kidnapping.

This was post learning a huge fucking lie.

This was not-knowing-what-was-going-to-happen-in-my-future freaking.

This was just plain freaking.

Everything was hitting me all at once.

My stomach twisted up inside.

“Bailey.” Kash was frowning at me, the mail down on the counter.

I clamped a hand over my mouth. “I don’t feel so good.”

His eyebrows shot up, and he was at my side in a flash.

Opening a door, he pushed me down to the floor. The toilet lid was shoved up, and then I let it rip.

Worst. Day. Ever.

Wait. Scratch that. I forgot about the kidnapping.

Second worst. Day. Ever.



“Well.” I groaned, falling to rest against the wall behind me. “That was embarrassing.”

Kash had stepped back.

I gagged. I dry heaved. It was like a premature ejaculation experience.

There was no follow-through, no meat to my girth.

I didn’t perform. I underperformed. Air. That was all that came out of me—and a small little snot that fell from my nose.

And, remembering it, I wiped it away, tucking my hand down. I was going to press it on the floor, but that was gross. Kash was here, watching me, and these were his floors.

“Here.” He tore off a couple pieces of toilet paper and handed them over.

I took them, feeling that heat all over my body now. Embarrassing.

“Thanks,” I croaked, unable to meet his gaze.

He leaned against the counter, folding his arms over his chest. “All of this must be a lot to take in.”

I snorted. “A little?”

And another thing of snot came out. Gah. So embarrassing. I wiped at it quick, praying he hadn’t seen that, but knowing he had. This guy had hawk eyes. He saw everything. I doubted there was much he didn’t notice.

“Listen.” His voice gentled and he slid down to sit across from me, his feet on both sides of my legs.

I should’ve scooted back, put some respectable distance between us, but I didn’t. His legs touched mine and I … couldn’t bring myself to move away. If anything, my leg sagged a little bit against his.

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