The Insiders

Page 19

I didn’t wait for her response. I left, and going down one hallway in the direction of where I thought I’d come in, I had to stop.

There were three hallways breaking off from mine, but no door. No kitchen either.

I was completely lost.

Karma was a funny bitch indeed.



I was going down hallway number 233.

Okay, that was sarcasm, but it felt like I’d been wandering this mausoleum for an hour. Part of it was my fault. I could find someone, get directions (I still couldn’t get over that I would need to get directions in a house), but the point of sneaking out was to actually sneak out. Marching up to someone and asking them how to leave violated the whole point of my exit. Because of that, every time I started to hear voices at one end of a hall, I took the next hallway. It didn’t matter if it led up, down, left, or right, and if I had to brake and back up, I did.

I did not need to be told anymore how unwanted I was here.

I was just trying to move along, convince myself it wasn’t actually ripping out my organs to see I did have a family with siblings out there. They just didn’t want me—the father anyway.

“How did you meet?” I’d asked Chrissy two nights ago, arms wrapped tight around my knees, my heart in my chest as I waited for her to tell me.

“Oh, baby.” She had wiped a tear away.

And she told me.

They met when she was doing clinicals in nursing school. She was hired to care for someone who was dying.

Her eyes were closed. Her hand didn’t move from that bottle. She held it suspended in the air, as if she had frozen in time.

Then, with a rasping gasp, she continued. “I took care of his mama for a year, a full year…”

She wouldn’t look at me as she continued. He was married. He was unhappy. They shouldn’t have done what they did, but it was the last night.

“The night she died, no one was there for him. His wife never came.” Her voice grew hoarse. “I was crying. He was crying. They came and took the body, and I went to him.”

Another pause. Her eyes closed. Another tear fell down.

“I’ll never regret it. It was one night. His wife came the next day, and we acted like nothing happened.”

That hadn’t been all of it. There’d been more, but those were the words I couldn’t get out of my head.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Kash.

Where are you? Marie said you’re at my house, but cameras aren’t showing you.


And wait—he had cameras on me?

Took a wrong turn about 823 turns ago. This house is freaking huge. I’m in a mall. An empty and deserted mall. Everyone’s at the Gap.

Kash: What?

Me: I’m lost.

Kash: You’re lost?

Me: Yes.

Kash: Where?

Me: In the house.

Kash: What house?

Me: The big kahuna.

Kash: Did you ask for help?

I grinned.

Me: Why would I do that?

Kash: So you’re not lost.

Even through the phone, I could feel his irritation.

I was loving it. More foreplay.

Me: What if I’m just lost in life? No one to help me with that one.

Kash: What the hell

I paused. He’d stopped midtext. That wasn’t a good sign, until my phone rang in my hand.

Double shit.

I answered, not even looking. I knew who it was. And before he could snipe at me first, I started in. “You need to understand that a girl in my position, with my background, there’s not much I have.”

He growled, “What are you talking about?”

“You see that you don’t see. I don’t have much here, on my end. I’m not that kid who saw too much, et cetera, growing up, but I did see one or two too many guys come in our home. I saw a couple that treated her right. I saw a few who didn’t, and I learned how I wanted to be, growing up.

“Now, I can’t say I know what morals Peter Francis may have, but I feel I can say with almost an eighty percent certainty that I got my morals and values from living with my mother. Chrissy tried. She really did. She’s a hard worker. She was in her third year of nursing when she got pregnant with me. Took a year off to have me, then went right back. She finished while she worked, and I don’t think she could’ve got more than five hours of sleep a week.”

I was starting to ramble, but he was quiet. He was listening. No one was around, so I was going with it.

“So you see, when I’m here and I’m being told that I’m a lie, and I’m being told I should go back home, and I’m being told everyone would be better off without me, well … wandering a bit in a gigantic house is not that big of a deal. Not enough for you to call me with a growl in your voice, because I have integrity. And if you don’t mind, I’m going to keep the last bit of it I have, and I’ll find my way out of this house eventually without asking for help.”

I didn’t give him a chance to reply. I hung up, and I powered off the phone for good measure. Sticking it back in my pocket, I turned—only to reel backward.

I didn’t know for sure, but since she was exquisite and had a sunlight-wheat color to her blond hair, which was swept up and pinned to the top of her head, I assumed that I was staring at Quinn Francis. She had clear cornflower-blue eyes, the same teardrop shape as Cyclone. High cheekbones that swept out, a chin that molded down to complete a heart-shaped face, and the plushest lips I’d seen in person.

She was stunning.

There were no other words, and she was gazing at me, not a whiff of anger, suspicion, or even warmth. There was confusion, as if she wasn’t sure if I was real or not.

The image was completed by a soft-hue pink dress that had a scoop neckline, a layer of white lace, and a hemline that fitted just above her knees; the rest was the same hue of pink tulle that fell to the floor. There was no jewelry anywhere, even on her hands. My heart ached because I knew that my mother had kept up with Peter Francis, and if this was who my father had married, then my mother had compared herself to this woman. And there was no comparison. My mother would have won, hands down, for the mere fact that she was Chrissy Hayes, and no one could compete against Chrissy Hayes.

I readied myself, figuring she’d overheard me, and I waited to see what she’d say.

Her mouth parted. She was studying me up and down, all over, and damn it, I knew I was going to break first.

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