The Insiders

Page 25

It was the doorbell that got me up in the morning.

It was who was ringing that bell that woke me up.

Peter Francis stood on Kash’s doorstep.


* * *


Kash said “someone.”

Well, someone it was.

I had hoped, but a part of me assumed it’d be a guard. Nope. My da—Peter Francis, I mean.

It was actually him.

I wouldn’t pass out. Nope. No way.

My heart was pounding, and holy hell; my hands were all sweaty. When did they get like that?

I remained quiet because this was his show. He showed up. No doubt he was pissed, and here I was. The outlier child, messing up his cyber security, and he had to fly all the way back just for me.

I should’ve been overjoyed.

Okay. I kinda was.

This was my father. Holy shit.

Back to the sweaty palms.

He’d been my idol, growing up. That awestruck doesn’t go away. It’s in the blood, but I was fast remembering my circumstances, and that I was still not wanted here, so that was helping with the fangirling going on in me.

Still. Quiet. I could do that.

I swallowed.

He was staring me down, studying me. I was studying him right back. Dark hair. Blue tint to it. Hazel eyes like me.

I had his brain.

This was my sperm donor. That was for sure.

He was taller in person.

I knew his stats. I knew his weight, 190 pounds. His height at six feet exactly. He probably shaved once a day, and there were some whiskers showing, so I figured he’d skipped it this morning.

And he was one of the most powerful men in the cyber world.

I was about to hyperventilate here.

“Are you ready?”

That was it. Those were the first words my father ever said to me.

Was I ready?

I blinked. I couldn’t have heard that right. “What?”

He stepped back, moved aside, and gestured to the main house. “Kash said you would fix everything, since you could do it the fastest. I’m going to watch you while you do it.”

Watch me.

He was going to walk me there, watch me, and then what?

“Really? That’s all you have to say to me?”

He shifted again, his head down, and he tightened his mouth.

“Some of your breaches are time sensitive. You broke them. Kash is right. You’re the best one to fix them. I could, but it would take me longer.”

This was Kash’s idea? I thought it’d been Peter’s.

Peter was moving forward, but then stopped. He was waiting for me. He didn’t look back at me again but was still pausing. It was obvious. I got the unspoken message, and with a heavy sigh, I walked with him.

My heart was sliced in half.

As we walked, pieces of me split off. I was leaving a trail behind me.

He was here for work. For time-sensitive shit. Because I could fix everything faster than he could.

There went another piece, just thinking of that.

We kept going and my mind was racing.

I should make him explain everything to me.

I should confront him about Chrissy, about how he left her, why he left her. Why everything. Did he know about me? Did he not know about me? If he did, why didn’t he reach out to me? Talk to me? Even send a card? Something. Anything.

Why wasn’t I good enough?

What was wrong with me?

Why didn’t he love me?

All those questions were ricocheting in my brain, but at the same time I was memorizing everything about him.

I was walking next to my dad. Whether I would like him after this or not, love him after this or not, hate him after this or not, this was a day I would always remember. It would be in my brain, and not because of my photographic memory. This was a day that any child in my shoes, either forgotten or left behind, would remember until the day their heart stopped beating.

He wasn’t dressed how a business dad would dress—or maybe he was. He wore khaki pants. A dark blue warm-up jacket. There was a white collar underneath, so he had a nice-looking white shirt, one that could be a polo.

He had a Rolex Daytona on his wrist. Rose gold band.

A wedding ring.

His shoes were Nike sneakers.

His hair had been combed to the side. There was a part from where his fingers wove through it, brushing it over. His face was tan. His hands tan. He spent time in the sun, maybe from golfing. I didn’t know. I remembered a magazine article that said he enjoyed rowing.

Who rowed around here?

Well, maybe he did.

I was still going with the golfing though. His house was in the middle of his own personal golf course.

He walked with a slight bounce that pushed him further, to go faster, and as if sensing my scrutiny, he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. His head went down. His shoulders bunched forward, and he picked up his pace.

He wanted to get this done with.

He wanted to be done with me.

We went past the main house, around to the side, and to that building with the three garages I had noticed when we drove in. As we drew nearer, the back door opened. A guard came out, holding the door for us.

No words were exchanged. The guard didn’t even make eye contact.

Peter moved forward, leading the way.

I paused, just on the doorstep, and looked up at the guard. I don’t know why I did that. Maybe I wanted to memorize him, too.

Or maybe I wanted one more second to remember this morning.

Seven in the morning.

A slight chill in the air.

The sky was a pewter gray.

I heard the sounds of birds. Ducks. Others chirping.

I felt mist in the air. Knew it would rain later.

This morning was the day I walked beside my father.

This was what I wanted to memorialize, because once I went in there, when I sat behind a computer, I wouldn’t think about this again. I would get sucked into that world and all of this would go away, so I drew a breath in, waiting one beat, knowing everything was committed to my long-term memory, and then I went inside.

He was waiting for me, a funny look on his face.

I ducked my head, avoiding his eyes.

He opened a door, and going through it, I was in the main control room.

This was my world, my haven.

The main computer was already booted up. He waited at the door, and there was no reason for words after this.

I sat down, got up close to the computer. There were headphones at the ready, and once I started, someone brought me coffee. I didn’t ask, and I knew it wasn’t him, because it was a slender wrist, but I drank it. I kept working.

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