“You don’t have the authority to make that demand.”
It wasn’t Quinn’s scream that startled us, though the scream took precedence. It was Kash’s calm retort that had both my brother and me rearing back in surprise.
We could hear her gasp from inside.
“No offense,” Kash snapped, “but her placement isn’t up to you, Peter, or anyone else. It’s up to me, me alone. And I say she stays here.”
“Enough, Quinn.” He was walking to the door. His voice was getting louder, clearer. “I’ll get her to erase everything she took, but she stays where she is. That’s final.”
“Kash! Do not walk out that door, not like that, not after what she’s done. Kash—”
He shoved open the door, took in the sight of me, took in Matt’s presence, and raked a hand through his hair. “Fuck me.” Then he was off. He snapped his fingers, pointed at me, and barked, “Follow. Now.” And he didn’t stop.
Matt hopped up from his chair, hurrying after us. “Hey, Kashy. How’s it going?” He snickered under his breath, shoving his hands back in his pockets.
“Not now, Matt.”
Coming up to the door leading outside, Kash turned, grabbed for my arm, and used his back to slam the door open. It was one of those that could be pressed and shoved open. He pulled me with him without missing a beat, and once we were outside, he urged me next to him. His hand came to the small of my back, but once he saw that I was keeping up with him, his hand fell away. He leaned forward a little, his shoulders hunching forward, and he shoved his hands in his pockets almost the same way Matt had as he walked toward me in the hallway.
My brother wasn’t walking that way now. He jogged to catch up, moving past us and turning to dart backward. His eyes were dancing, sparking even, and half of his mouth was up in a grin. “So. Can we talk about the elephant on the estate here?”
“Matt,” Kash warned. “Don’t start.”
Ignoring him, Matt smirked at me. “Can we make this all official? Is she my full-blooded sister or half-blooded? What are we talking about here?”
“Matt,” Kash growled in warning.
Matt got too close to Kash, veering over, and instead of going around him, Kash lifted up a hand and pushed him aside. All without breaking stride, just like inside.
Laughing, Matt started walking sideways, his long legs crossing over each other. “Come on, Kash. She’s here. No one comes here. What she did, the secrecy about who she is … I might be going out on a limb, but it’s obvious who her father is. I’m shocked more haven’t figured it out.” Matt narrowed his eyes on me. “She looks my age, so sometime around the end of Dad’s divorce coming through? Maybe in that whole middle time after I was born? I heard there was a five-year period where it was just messy between the two. You know, my mom suffering postpartum and Dad just straight cheating. Nasty, nasty time for both of them.”
His mom suffered postpartum?
“Stop, Matt. I mean it.” We were nearing the sidewalk just outside of the villa. I didn’t know how we got there so fast, but I was guessing Kash knew some shortcuts. Coming up to the door now, he led the way. Opening it, he went in first, stepped back. I ducked inside, and he had a hand out, stepping behind me to meet with Matt. “I said no.” His tone returned to the authoritative command he used when talking to Quinn earlier. Without another word, as Matt stepped back from reflex, Kash stepped inside, shutting and locking the glass doors.
Matt’s mouth dropped open. “Come on! Are you serious?” His hands went up in frustration. “Come on!”
Kash hit a button on the wall and two curtains flew down, shutting Matt out completely from seeing inside. Then it was just him and me, and he turned that furious gaze on me.
My stomach slipped to my feet.
This was not going to be good.
He shot a hand up, his other rubbing at his forehead. “Save it.”
I did. Closing my mouth, I sank down on one of his couches and saved it.
His hands went to his hips and he continued to look down at the floor. He hadn’t moved from the door, and when he started, his voice was low. “You have no idea what I was in the middle of when I got the call two hours ago. There was an online security breach. They found it and began tracing it back to the location it was coming from. We’ve had breaches before, and just shutting them out isn’t usually what we do. We like to eliminate the risks completely. That’s what they did. But while they usually move faster, get a location quicker, they were stalled because this hacker … this one had put up security walls behind her. Behind ‘them.’ That’s what they called you, these computer specialists that are some of the best in the world. They work for your father, who is the best, and I quote, they said, ‘These guys have to be a team collective. They’re moving fast and at the same time putting up firewalls behind their tracks at a speed that no one person could manage.’ Not one person. A team. And one reported to me that this must have been in the planning for months, not at the fucking sudden whim of a pissed-off child—”
I shoved to my feet. “I’m not a child!”
“You’re acting like one!”
I had no comeback. He was right. So I just sighed. “I’m out of my depth here. I’m—”
“I get it. I do!” He started to pace now, his head still bent forward, one hand rubbing at the back of his neck.
The exhaustion came off of him in waves now. Exhaustion and frustration. It was then that I took in his clothing. Black. All black. Black shoes. Black pants. Black long-sleeve shirt. All. Black. Familiarity teased me. There was something, something about him, about how he was standing, about his voice, about his clothes … I couldn’t place it, though.
“Christ, Bailey!” He stopped, his head up and his eyes blazing at me, piercing me. “One day. One fucking day and you rip through their online security like it’s candy. Like it’s Halloween and all you have to do is put on a costume, knock on a door, and you get the treats handed to you. One person. One fucking afternoon! It took them three hours to locate you. Three hours. Your walls were so good that they had to keep shutting down their own programs because your viruses were that good. This is one of the best in the world, and you crumbled them to their knees in a day. Not even a day.”