The Insiders

Page 6

I didn’t get a response. I didn’t expect to.

“I’ll let you know my answer in the morning, and not a second before.”

Then I slipped inside, not feeling satisfied at all.

I checked the peephole. Two guards were outside the door. I’m sure they had one at each stairway, maybe even at the elevator too.

Chrissy came out from the bedroom. “This place is amazing.”

Yeah. It sure was. Amazing.

She headed for the bathroom. “They gave us clothes … and what’s this?” She picked up a small bag, unzipping it. “And toiletries. There’s almost everything in here we need, but no…” She was sifting through it. “I’m going to need some Tums. With the wine I’m planning on drinking tonight, my reflux will not be pretty.”

“They probably have some in the lobby. I’ll get you some later.”

I couldn’t bring myself to interrogate her throughout the rest of the day.

Maybe I’d already made my decision.

Maybe I wanted to enjoy this last day with my mom.

Or maybe I was already tired, knowing that tomorrow we’d be ripped apart, and I didn’t really know how long this would last.

Or maybe, just maybe, I didn’t want to hear her excuses for the lies she’d told me all my life.

Nope. I just wanted a day with my mom. I was going with that reason.

We ordered in lunch. Ordered coffee. Ordered wine.

It was after dinner when I needed to get a breather.

I used the excuse to get her Tums.

The guards didn’t want me to go, but I needed space. “Look…” I was suddenly exhausted. “I’m going with a feeling that Peter Francis owns this hotel. Am I right?”

They didn’t answer. Again, I didn’t expect them to.

“That means you probably have the entire hotel scoped out with security footage. That you probably have a perimeter set up around the hotel. That anyone questionable or someone who raises red flags will be removed quietly, but quickly. Right?”

Still no answer.

“So the risk assessment is probably less than ten percent if I go to the lobby to get my mom some antacids.”

Still no response. They just stared at me.

“Sixty percent of the adult population experience some type of reflux. That’s around seven million people.” I was quoting straight from the Healthline website. “I’m not asking to go buy a gun. My mom will be vomiting tonight if I don’t get her some Tums.”

Screw it.

I started down the hallway. “I’m going, whether you want me to or not.” But they were right behind me, and I was right. There was a guard down the hall, by the exit door, and he was moving to take point outside the room I just left. My mom was safe.

The lobby was deserted when we got there.

A gold and red rug spread over a marble tile floor, with red and white chairs against the far wall. The front desk itself had a gold trim around the edges, and there were two sweeping stairways that led up to the second floor, separating around two large posts. The same red and gold carpet covered the stairs and the second floor.

The lobby was small, but intimate and grand. I wasn’t surprised. Of course it would be, if Peter Francis owned it.

I started for the clerk but then saw a small shop across the lobby.

I asked the front desk clerk, “Can I get some antacids charged to my room?”

He started to nod, his hands going to his keyboard, but that’s when everything stopped and went into slow motion. This was the second time today that something similar happened.

The hotel doors swept open and in strolled Asshole Kashton.

Like Bright and Wilson, the guards all stood at their tallest height, shoulders back, head up, hands slapped to their sides. The store clerk almost mimicked them without realizing. He was ramrod straight and the epitome of professionalism as he bobbed his head in one firm nod. “Mr. Colello.”

Tension spread around this man.

Lovely. I was already tired of him.

He didn’t look over, but he was aware of me. I knew it like I knew I had two hands. I just did.

“Is he in?”

The clerk’s words almost tripped over themselves in his rush to answer. “Yes, Mr. Colello. We stopped allowing more guests as well.”

Mr. Colello. That’s what he called the guy. I could give him a different nickname.

Mr. Asshole.

Asshole Dipstick.

I could go on.

“Okay. Thank you.”

I was standing across the lobby, inside two walls of shelves that made up their store.

He turned without pause.

His eyes went right to mine, not stopping or hesitating on the guards.

Those tingles from before were back, spreading through me, racing up and down my spine, and I felt heat in my belly.

I wanted him.

And I wanted him badly, and holy hell, I hated that. I hated feeling that, knowing that, and as his eyes darkened, I knew he knew it all, too. The side of his mouth lifted up. I wanted to curse again, because he knew exactly the effect he was having on me and he found it amusing.

A whole new wave of humiliation crashed over me.

I had never been affected by someone like this, ever.

He started for the elevator.

Relief hit me, but also disappointment.

I just scowled.

But nope. We weren’t done, because the guard spoke up behind me. “Ma’am. We need to clear the lobby.”

Which meant I was elevator bound too.

He was walking ahead of me. It was almost like he was a living, breathing weapon. He had an inherent athletic grace to him.

I stepped to his side, then moved another step behind him.

It was petty. I felt like everyone knew why I did it, but I did it anyway.

I was not beside him. Beside him meant something, like I was there to engage, like I was his equal. Behind him meant something else totally, like I was submissive to him, like he was the boss and I was another of his employees.

So I was behind him and to the side. I did not want to engage, but I was not submitting either.

And he knew it too.

His mouth curved even higher.

The elevator door pinged open.

He went in, moved to the side, and now his eyes were on me.

He watched me step in next to him and raised his head to the guards. “Stay. I’ll send it down.”

“Oh hell no.” I started to step out, but his hand caught my wrist.

A zing of sensation went through me.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.