“I need them for my practice.”
I slam his head into the wall to knock some sense into him, then right him and make him look at me. “Erase the fucking files or I’ll erase you.”
He nods frantically and glances at Bruno, who is still meticulously laying out photo after damning photo. I’m not sure how he obtained those, but that’s why he gets paid what he gets paid. Tilbury pushes some buttons on the server, and I watch as file after file is deleted. When it’s finished, I aim my gun at the box and empty the magazine into it. Tilbury screams as if I were shooting him.
The door opens, and the two men who just left rush back in. Bruno picks up his briefcase, and we walk toward the door.
“Excuse us,” I say, pistol in my hand at my side. It’s empty, but they don’t know that.
“Those photographs have just been delivered electronically to the authorities. You may want to make yourselves scarce, gentlemen,” Bruno says.
They look at each other, glance at the photos, and turn to rush out. I don’t look back as Bruno and I walk out of that building and drive off the grounds, feeling like I need to bleach my fucking skin after that encounter.
This explains things. It explains everything.
Iwake up alone feeling groggy and even more exhausted after a restless night. I’m confused as I look around the unfamiliar surroundings. Light filters in from around the edges of the heavy drapes, and I roll onto my back to look up at the ceiling, then at the empty space beside me. I touch a hand to the pillow.
Remembering last night makes me flush hot with embarrassment. He rejected me. But I’m not sure what I was thinking by practically mounting him. I’d had the nightmare again and given the events of the day, I don’t know. It messed with me even more than usual, and I didn’t want to be alone.
I get out of bed quickly—too quickly because a dizzy spell hits, and I have to hold the nightstand as the room momentarily tilts, then rights itself.
A shower. I need a shower. Stripping off my bra and panties and trying not to think about last night, I step into the large, glass-walled stall and let water spray my face. Spray some sense into me. I need to figure out where my head is. I’m confused and upset. I’m glad that Bastian wasn’t hurt worse than he is, but the fact that Lucien could command that kind of manpower and pull off what is essentially kidnapping and torture scares the hell out of me. What else is he capable of? And the comment about Dad not being surprised at the news of the accident. Was he just trying to fuck with me because I’m not sure Bastian thinks so.
But I need to keep a clear head right now. Today, I’ll sign the necessary paperwork to transfer controlling shares of Russo Properties & Holdings to me. Well, to Amadeo, I guess. But I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It can’t. Even though there’s a nudge of guilt over it. Over me handing over my father’s dream to a man who hates him. Who will erase him. But once it’s done, I can go back to Italy. Go to Emma. Maybe we’ll even stay there. Live Dad’s other dream.
Bruno said he had contacts who would push my application for guardianship of Emma through. That same contact would then handle Lucien’s application. But that doesn’t matter to me. He’s not getting near Emma. I won’t allow it. She’s out of the country, and I’ll keep her hidden as long as I have to in order to keep her safe from him.
I try to focus on the fact that by the end of the day, I’ll be on my way back to Emma and this whole big mess will be mostly behind me. I should be happy. Well, as happy as someone in my situation can be, given all that’s happened. But the thought of walking away, leaving Amadeo and Bastian, upsets me, and I don’t know why. It makes no sense, but it does.
Once I’m finished showering, I grab a towel and wrap it around myself. I pick up my panties and bra from the floor and go back into the bedroom. My suitcase is in the room just two doors down, and I have my hand on the doorknob when I remember something. I turn back to Bastian’s side of the bed and walk over to the nightstand. Those pills are still there, but the glass of water is empty.
I pull open the drawer where he’d crumpled and dropped the note that had been left for him, and I see it. Just a little wad of paper. I reach in to pick it up, my heart racing. Something tells me not to do it, to leave it alone and let it be.
But I’m not the leave it alone type. Never have been. So I flatten out the little scrap of paper and read it.
Bruno and I are going to see Tilbury. Get some rest. I’ll let you know what we find.
The room goes sideways again, but this time, it isn’t because I stood up too fast. I drop down onto the unmade bed and stare at the carpet, unseeing.
Tilbury. Dr. Tilbury.
I shiver with cold as the bedroom I’m in fades, and I’m in a windowless white room with white lights in the ceiling. They never turn those off, and it’s too bright. I can’t tell if it’s night or day. The room smells like a hospital. I sit up, groggy, set my bare feet on the cold tiled floor and look at my hands. The skin is dry and cracked and red in places. My nails are cut so short they clipped skin.
I turn them over back and front and remember the feel of a gun in my hand. The weight of it. The antiseptic smell is gone then, replaced by an animal scent and blood and rot. I see the kneeling man in front of me in that barn and try to remember what I felt when I pulled the trigger. Try to remember what I thought.
Men’s voices come closer, a door opening.