“Marie’s in charge from now on. You sleep here. You rest, do what you need, but other than that, she’s your go-to. Got it?”
Seriously. I fought to keep myself from saluting him. That was not mature.
Kash had started to return to his room, but paused and raised an eyebrow at my sound.
There those hands went again, jerking a little. I held them flat against my sides. “Is there a way I could get my old laptop?”
“It’s like air to me. I need it.” Did Marie know? “I’m a hacker, Kash. The fact I’ve gone this long without my computer is a miracle. Be glad I didn’t find one of yours in the house and go to town.”
Marie studied me, her head tilted to the side. I ignored her. Kash only narrowed his eyes before moving his head up and down in a stiff nod. “Yes. You’re right. Peter’s the same.” He turned to Marie. “I’ll have someone retrieve hers, but get her an extra desktop from the house in the meantime.” He began to move again, then stopped. “You don’t have work to do while you’re here, do you?”
“I was working on a new security program, but no, not really.”
And that was all he needed. He spoke to Marie again, speaking in that authoritative tone, like he was used to giving orders. “If there are projects you need done around the house, put her on it.”
Marie’s face sharpened. Heavy disdain lined her words. “Projects? Like what? Printing recipes for the kitchen staff?”
“Like writing code for a robot rabbit that Cyclone is working on. Projects like that.”
A robot rabbit?
I perked up.
Tell me more.
I mused, “I thought intelligence was passed down through the mother.”
Kash snorted, leaving for real this time. Disappearing down the hallway to his room, he called over his shoulder, “Who said anything about you being intelligent?”
I started at that. Frowning.
He just burned me.
I jerked forward, calling, “Don’t be jealous, Colello, just because I could write a new program to lock you out of your own house and you’d have no idea how to get it fixed.” I was smiling. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Then I turned to find Marie still studying me. Her eyes were harder than before, and that smile dropped immediately. “Hi.”
Yep. They were slits now. “Don’t you mess with Mr. Colello.”
“We were flirting. Foreplay.” I wiggled my eyebrows.
I heard another snort from in his room.
Marie didn’t get the joke. She turned for the door again. “You go and get dressed. Come to the main house. Be there in twenty minutes. Do not be late. You hear me?”
Definitely don’t piss her off. I nodded, knowing I already had.
“Yes. Got it.”
She harrumphed before leaving and I was alone, still in my pajamas from the night before.
“You’re fighting it.” Kash spoke from behind me. His hands were in his pockets and his head lowered. His hair was messed a little, giving him a dark and broody look, and it wasn’t affecting me at all. That little tickle in my stomach wasn’t from him.
Nope. Not at all.
I ignored it, and I also didn’t pretend not to know what he meant.
He added, “We’re not the enemy, Bailey. Those men who tried to kidnap you, they are. Don’t forget that. I get you don’t like how you’re being introduced to the family, but it’s unavoidable.” His head lifted up, his eyes never leaving mine. “You’ll see that too, eventually, and you’ll be grateful.” He indicated the door. “That woman is almost a second mother to me. You hurt her and you and me will have a problem. I don’t have problems. I eliminate them. Got me?”
I nodded. “Yeah.” Then, “Are you sure my mother is safe?”
“Going after the mother would hurt the child, not the target. Peter Francis doesn’t tend to care about his exes once they part ways. He doesn’t do it to be mean. It’s just how he is. His mind works in a different way. He’s on to the next project.” He began to step back toward his room, leaving me with, “I have a feeling you might be like that, too.”
I heard his door shut a second later.
I wasn’t like my father in that way at all.
It felt wrong to walk into a stranger’s home alone. I felt like I was invading their privacy when I went to the main house, but no one cared. No one questioned me. No one even paused along the way to ask who I was, why I was there.
The side door opened onto a hallway. Marble floors. Pure white walls. I heard people from one end and headed that way. Gold and crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. As I neared the door, people were hurrying back and forth.
Clap, clap! “Let’s keep going. Not a moment’s delay, people.”
More rushing back and forth.
Coming to stand in the doorway, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They weren’t dressed like Marie, but they had a similar uniform. Their tops were blue with gold trim, matching the chandeliers, which were hanging above their heads in this room, too. They were in the kitchen, and when I say “kitchen,” I really mean a cafeteria-like room used to make food for an entire company. This room was double the size of the kitchen at my high school.
I was pretty sure my mouth was on the floor.
Twenty-plus people were inside, whipping around in a frenzy. Trays upon trays were being loaded, checked over, loaded onto a staff member’s shoulder, and carried out a separate door. Even how the staff member approached the door was a ceremony in itself.
It was a three-person job.
The person would hoist the tray up, stand at the ready, nod to someone at the door. That person would look out the window, nod to another person, and wait for a signal before opening it. They would follow it through, stand, hold it open. The person with the tray would whisk through.
There were people at the grill. People at a separate stove. People dicing up other food, sliding it into containers, those containers being covered and then put into a line of fridges that lined one entire wall of the room.