I pulled back. “I can do that? We can do that?”
He nodded behind me, at his laptop. “You can use that to check in on her if you want. Your mom had a security system installed. I’m assuming you can figure your way in to see her? It has your father’s program to erase your trail, though the bad guys already know you’re with me.”
Bad guys. Right. His grandfather.
I suppressed a shiver, heading over and grabbing his laptop to take to the couch with me. Putting my coffee on the end table, I folded my legs and pulled his computer onto my lap, a pillow underneath.
Now this was heaven.
Kash shirtless. Coffee. Me in his shirt. A night of hot and intense sex. And a computer.
I was almost purring.
Opening it, I saw he already had it ready for me, and it didn’t take long for me to find her security system or to hack in. I was surprised at the security cameras; they were everywhere except—I had to snort—except her bathroom. Of course. Her toilet time was precious. Zooming around, I found her in the living room, snuggled on the couch, a blanket over her. She was lying down. The television screen on channel four, the late morning news on.
Then I noticed the popcorn bowl of tissues on the floor. How she sat up. How she wiped at her face with the back of her arm. How she stood and looked like an eighty-year-old, not the forty-five-year-old she was. Her skin was pale, gaunt. Her eyes were sunken, her cheekbones the same. She reached to pick some of the tissues, and she wavered, her hands shaking.
Pure horror settled in my bones.
She was not good.
I whipped around to Kash. “Did you know this?”
He frowned. “Hmm?”
“I thought you had men watching her. Weren’t they seeing this and reporting it?” I motioned to the computer, my finger pointing.
I was angry. I was livid.
“Kash!” I yelled, when he took too long to answer, turning the stove off and coming over the back end of the couch. His frown deepened as he saw what I saw, and he didn’t respond. “Kash.”
He ignored me, picking up his phone.
Moving to the bedroom, I heard him. “Who’s watching Chrissy Hayes right now?” Then he shut the door and I could only hear the sounds of an argument on the other end. I couldn’t make out the words, but it wasn’t long before it quieted and he came back in.
He stopped in the open doorway, staring starkly at me, cradling that phone like it was a barrier between us. “I’m sorry.”
I was on my feet, his computer dropped on the couch. His shirt grazed the tops of my thighs. “What’d they say?”
“She’s not eating. She was devastated when she woke at the hotel. No one reported to me, and I was distracted.” His eyes wavered, the ends of his mouth tucking in. He was cringing.
A wave of shame flooded me.
I was distracted too. This wasn’t just on him.
I sat, my legs numb, folding underneath me. I cradled my head in my hands. “I should’ve asked. I should’ve bugged you. I … was…” I’d been focused on the possibility of a new father, siblings for the first time. A new family.
A sob was wrung from me, and then Kash was there. He was lifting me, sitting me on his lap. He wrapped his arms around me, his head folding over mine.
He whispered, “I’m sorry. I am. I’ll make it right. I will.”
“Kash.” He couldn’t, unless he told her where I was. “I thought she knew I was okay?”
“She was supposed to have been told. I’ll figure out the breakdown. I promise.” He brushed some of my hair from my forehead, kissing me there, then my cheek, finally my lips. “I’m so sorry.” He ended, resting the side of his face against the crown of mine.
After a moment in silence, he jostled me a bit. “Tell me about your mom.”
I sat up, giving him a look. “You probably know everything.”
He grinned. “But not from you. I want to know from you.”
It felt odd to talk. While I was growing up, not many people asked for my free thoughts on someone or something. I was asked where Chrissy was. I was asked what school I was going to. I was asked what scholarships I was trying for. I was asked who my friends were, what grade I got. I was asked questions to put me in a category so others understood me, but questions like this were far from normal, and that made me feel embarrassed. There’d been a drunken mistake in college, and a clumsy kiss when I was lonely one night, but that’d been it for guys. And I hadn’t had close friends growing up. My cousins were the outgoing ones. They were popular, going to parties. I’d been the “brain.”
Maybe another reason I migrated toward the computer.
I understood that world. The outside world, not so much. This world.
I was suddenly feeling tongue-tied.
Kash noticed, his eyebrows going up. “What’s wrong?”
“All that’s happened. I just realized you’re my first guy guy.” If we were even that, and I was really shy now. What if we weren’t? I was so late to the game here.
“Hey.” I’d looked down. He tipped my head back up. “You said not just for one night. In my book, that makes me your guy. Got it?”
“Got it,” I whispered, and I knew he could feel the heat radiating from my body.
His thumb spread over my cheek. “Tell me about your mom. I want to understand her through you.”
So I did. I told him she was a Gemini, how she took that to heart. She had the “mom” side that was strict and prideful. No help from anyone who might have strings attached. She had learned that lesson somewhere along the line. I had to go to school, go home right after. She didn’t like not knowing where I was, even if she was working the second shift. She’d call the landline by four every afternoon to make sure I was home, and would call on each of her breaks so I didn’t have time to sneak out and get kidnapped—her words, and the significance was now just setting it.
“Oh my God.”
“She knew. You’re right. She knew. She was worried about me being taken.” My chest tightened. “I thought that was just something every mom worried about, you know, just being a mom.”
“That is something every mom worries about.” He was watching me intently. “Just had an extra meaning with her, that’s all.”
“Tell me about the other side to her.”