Once I was there, he felt my heart racing and cursed before hugging me tighter.
“Why haven’t you come to us sooner? God.”
I hugged him back, and I saw the faces watching us. It was almost too much to take in. The guards. Marie. Theresa was behind Marie. And still farther, down the hallway, I saw Quinn holding Cyclone’s hand. A younger girl was next to her, her hand over her mouth. They shouldn’t have been able to see us, but somehow an opening had formed. The guards shifted to the side, almost like they weren’t sure whether to stay or to leave, and that was how we were on display for more than twenty people in that hallway.
I just closed my eyes.
I wanted two things.
I wished I had come to them sooner.
And I wished that it was Kash holding me.
* * *
“No one overheard me that didn’t already know,” Matt was saying into the phone, with Kash on the other end. He was walking in a circle, his hand pressed in his other ear to help him hear. “I know. I know.… No. Trust me. No one heard. I mean, Marie knew. The guards knew. Well … shit. Theresa knows now, too, but that’s it. Theresa is Marie’s daughter, so it’s cool. She wouldn’t say anything anyways. No one else could’ve heard.”
He raised his hand to get one of the guards’ attention. He motioned to the hallway, saying over the phone, “Theresa needs to sign that NDA, just in case. It’s a specific one about—” He nodded to where I was sitting.
If sitting was even the appropriate word to describe how I was.
I was half crouched on the floor, half curled in a ball, and half resting on the balls of my heels, bouncing in place. It would be a killer on my leg muscles tomorrow, but I still wasn’t feeling any pain. Slowly, over the last hour, the shock had started to subside, but there was still a healthy amount with me.
Everyone had been told to leave, urged to return to their beds.
The guards were outside, so it was just Matt and me in the room when Kash called. I was waiting till the report was done.
“Okay.… Yeah. Okay.” Matt paused, nodding his head. “Yeah, yeah. I will. Okay.”
He turned to me, staring at me, listening to Kash, then nodded again. “Here she is.” He held the phone out to me.
I took it, feeling foolish in one second and grateful in the other. I should not be like this, needing to talk to him, but I was. And I was weak enough, scared enough, not to fight it. This time.
I moved across the room. “Hello?”
His voice was low and raspy. “Are you okay?”
A rush went right to my knees. I didn’t know why, but I was suddenly gripping this phone like it was my lifeline and biting my lip to keep that perspiration from sliding down my face even more. Seriously. Embarrassing.
I croaked back, “I’m—” Bite. Breathe. I could do this. My voice didn’t need to tremble. “I’m fine. Yes.”
“Why don’t I believe you?”
I half laughed at that. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t believe myself.”
He was quiet. “Then why are you pretending?”
“Didn’t you know? That’s why I’m here. To pretend.”
He was silent again. Then a soft sigh came over the phone. “I can’t get away from where I am or I would.”
Why was he telling me that? It shouldn’t matter to me.
God. Why did he have to sound so concerned? It was breaking me. There was more sweating happening. I tried to talk, but only a whisper came out. “I’m—I was just scared.”
Bending my head low, I walked to the wall and rested my head against it. My back was to Matt, and I whispered, my voice breaking, “It was like before, when they burst in. I had a second’s notice before—” I couldn’t speak. My throat was closed off, and those tears were strolling back down my cheeks.
“Breathe, ba—breathe, Bailey.” He was so soothing, tender almost.
My chest swelled up and the tension eased, just a bit.
He continued. “You had a traumatic thing happen to you. There’s going to be residual effects; this is just one of them. You will be fine. I promise.”
I was gripping that phone so tight, holding on to it like it was a life jacket. “You promise?” God. I hated crying. Hayes women did not cry. “Yell at me.”
“Yell at me.” I groaned, clasping my eyes shut tight. “Please. I need a distraction.”
He laughed. “If that’s all you’re worried about, I think you’ll be fine.” He was silent a second. We both heard my sniffling. “I have to stay where I am for a while. Does that make you stop crying?”
I bit my lip. It did, but there was an ache in my chest. Why was that fucking ache there?
“Bailey?” he prompted.
I wanted him to come back, but that was ridiculous. Instead, I said, “Stop spying on me all the time. It’s creepy.”
A chuckle from his end. “You sound better. Matt said your phone’s probably at the villa. Call me when you get in.”
“Just do it,” he snipped at me—and just like that, I relaxed.
We were on firm ground again, ground I was familiar with.
I handed the phone back to Matt. He spoke a few more words before hanging up. Turning to me, regarding me with raised eyebrows, he asked, “What would you like to do now?”
We both knew I wouldn’t be sleeping.
I took a deep breath and considered what I needed to know to feel safe.
I needed to know the lay of the land. I wanted to know all of the security measures they had in place, physical and cyber, and I wanted to gauge any holes myself.
Matt said, “Tour it is.”
They had a bowling lane.
A pool with a waterfall. A tennis court. I already knew about the basketball court, the nine-hole golf course. I knew about the water fountains, but there was one inside the house as well. A movie theater room. Cyclone had a room where his friends could play air hockey, foosball, a pool table, a basketball hoop that I’d only seen at arcades. Seraphina had her own friend room, too, with a modeling stage, a photo shoot area, a selfie booth, and a rotating closet with clothes for dress-up. There were three makeup tables along the wall.