“How you going to handle Victoria?”
Victoria? Kash had mentioned her earlier. I waited to see what he’d say, but he only jerked a shoulder up, before unbuckling his jeans. “I’ll handle her.” He paused, raking us both with a look. “Can you both get out? I need to change my pants.”
Matthew started laughing. “Now I know she really ain’t your girl.” He nodded to me, still smiling. “Come on, Little Mystery. If you’re going to snoop in Kash’s place, you’re not going to find the right spots. I’ll show you where he keeps the good booze.”
My gaze skirted to Kash at the snooping word, but he didn’t seem to mind. His head cocked to the side, his fingers waiting, holding on to his waistband, he looked annoyed. Trailing after Matthew, I tried to wrap my head around everything.
My brother was right in front of me.
He had caught me, questioned me, then tried to grill me. Now he was showing me where Kash hid his booze, which wasn’t a secret place at all. Down the hall. To the kitchen. He wound around the island to the pantry, and that was where a whole row of bottles was shelved.
“Wow,” I deadpanned, waiting in the doorway as he grabbed a few of them. “You’re right. I never would’ve found those.”
He shot me a grin, going past me and setting them on the island. “It’s the only place with fun stuff in Kash’s house.”
He turned to me.
I thought he needed to go past me for glasses, but he didn’t. He only leaned down, purposely getting in my space, and his eyes were hard. His words were blunt. “I don’t know what the fuck’s going on, but I know something is. If you actually did know Kash, you would’ve known he keeps all his real shit in his downtown apartment.”
“Why do you keep thinking I was snooping?”
Yeah. Well. “Why do you insist that I was looking for the ‘real shit’? How do you know I wasn’t up there because he has a freaking library? Did you see those bookshelves? Sue me. I like reading. Hide some books somewhere, and I’ll sniff ’em out. Hidden talent of mine.”
He straightened his back again, sneering in disbelief. “Whatever you say. You’d know he only uses this house when he’s forced to stay on the estate, which ain’t that often. Another fact I know you don’t know about my boy, so why don’t you cut the bullshit. Nerd aside, who are you? Really.”
I let out a sigh.
Kash was padding barefoot down the hallway and starting to cross the room. He had changed into sweatpants that fell low on his hips. Matthew’s back was to him. He didn’t know Kash was there, and I frowned slightly, a brief flash of familiarity nagging at me. Kash walked so quietly, he was soundless.
He had covered for me in his room, but this was the real test.
A dark warning flared in Kash’s gaze. I ignored it, meeting my brother’s gaze, and I shifted back a step so I could think. “Fine.” I made sure my voice cracked. “You’re right.”
Triumph flooded over his face. He narrowed his eyes. “Still waiting.”
“But you’re wrong about most of it. I don’t know Kash that well, but I do know his family. I was neighbors with Judith and Martin.” I paused, wondering, “You know them?”
He stiffened. “Kash doesn’t talk about his family, hardly ever.”
So he really was a mystery, even to them? Even if he grew up with them, as he said?
“I was good friends with his cousin, Stephanie.” I didn’t pause to ask if he knew her. I was betting he didn’t. “And anyways, I am going through a hard time right now. It’s a bad breakup, okay?” My voice wobbled. My bottom lip trembled.
Could I get a tear?
I tried. I did. Chrissy would’ve been all over that, but it wasn’t a talent of mine. Still. I was convincing, because my half brother was looking at me with a mix of sympathy and guilt.
Good. He should feel guilty, for wasting away all the privileges he got as Peter Francis’s eldest son. Not going to be interested in computers, my ass. He was insane. Peter Francis might be my sperm donor, but I still would kill for an internship at Phoenix Tech.
It was in my blood. Literally.
I turned, pressing into the island counter with my fingers. I couldn’t pick at it. It was one giant piece of stone, so I did the best I could, rubbing the bottoms of my fingers against it. “I … I got to a dark place, okay? Stephanie was alarmed enough”—I nodded in the direction of Kash’s bedroom—“she called in a favor. I remember Kash when we were younger. He visited for a few years, but yeah, I’ve not seen him for almost twenty years. Don’t matter. Stephanie said I needed to get out of there, said I should stay here until I was better. A change of environment would do me good.”
I waited, holding my breath.
I didn’t dare look up. My brother was sharp, seriously sharp. He’d had one whiff of something not making sense, and this was his second attempt at figuring it out.
“I feel like a dipshit.”
My knees almost gave out from relief. He bought it.
Instead, I looked up, keeping sure my facial expression was locked up. “Yeah?”
He rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why I thought something funny was going on. Kash never brings girls here, but I don’t know anything about his family. Who am I to interrogate you, you know?”
Hell yes, but I only smiled. “It’s okay. You’re being protective.”
He snorted at that. “Don’t know why. If anyone doesn’t need it, it’s him.” He was watching me again. The suspicion was still there. “But you’d know that much, right?”
A hand reached inside my spine and took hold of it, in a viselike grip. That’s how it felt, because he was still testing me.
Enough was enough. I pretended not to see it and moved away. “Hmm, yeah. He always was when he was little too.” Opening a shelf, I asked, “You know where the glasses are? If we’re going to have a drink, we need a few of those.”
Hearing a door close from down the hallway, Kash must’ve gone back. He was alerting us, or alerting Matthew. Walking out, he yawned and tossed his phone on the couch as he passed it.
I searched his face, but there was no indication he’d heard anything that was just spoken.