Broken Queen

Page 45

“Yes, sir.” I salute him, then pretend he’s not standing there as I carry my glass to the couch where I curl up, taking the folder out of my bag as he closes the door behind himself. Once he’s gone, I set the legal papers aside and take out the phone. I switch it on, expecting it to be empty, but find one contact on it. My brother.
I remember our conversation. His response when I asked him about Hannah. As far as he was concerned, they were in love. The thought of a grown man having thought that, believed it, makes me shudder. But which is worse? Believing that or raping a girl? Is he truly possible of the latter? Is he fucked up enough to believe the former? I understand it was rape either way. She was too young to make that decision for herself, and he was already a grown man. But what was going on in Lucien’s head?
Lucien and I have never been close. Not remotely so. He doesn’t like me. Never has. He’s made no secret of the fact. I understand it now. My mother was Dad’s mistress while he was married to Lucien’s mother. When she got pregnant, he set his wife aside and married Mom. I get why Lucien hates me. Why he blames me. Maybe I would be the same if I’d been in his shoes and he in mine.
Growing up, Dad always made sure he or someone he trusted was around when he was on business or traveling with Mom. When I was little and Lucien deigned to play with me, he decided the game and he made the rules. At first, I was happy to have someone to play with. I didn’t have a lot of contact with other kids growing up, but the more I got to know Lucien, the less I wanted to be around him. Even as young as I was, I felt the danger of it.
More than a few times, I got hurt. The worst was a broken arm. Dad was furious, and I know he punished Lucien fiercely even though I tried to tell him it was an accident. He seemed to believe it wasn’t. And I can’t remember what I believed. What I knew, though, was that if Dad punished him today, Lucien would punish me tomorrow. I learned to steer clear of him for the most part. Soon after that, he was sent to boarding school, so I only saw him during holidays and summers.
But even given all of this, rape is something else. A different sort of violence. And with Hannah having been so young, I just can’t wrap my brain around it. I don’t want to believe it.
A banner alerting me to a text flashes across the screen. It looks like two messages were sent hours ago, but since I just turned the phone on and it picked up a signal, they’re only now delivering. The messages are from Lucien. I read the first one.
Him:Vittoria. I instructed Brady to put the phone and the cash in your envelope. He told me they didn’t search you. Let me know when you’re online.
I pause for a moment, not expecting this. I read the second text.
Him:Believe it or not, I am trying to help you. And yes, I’m doing it for myself as much as you. You’ve always thought me selfish, and you’re right. I am. Call or text me. Hear me out.
Me:I’m here.
Him:I’m glad they didn’t find the phone.
Me: What do you want?
Him:Those crooks you’ve got yourself mixed up with are no good. They will steal what is ours. What would be for the children you or I will have one day. And they will destroy Dad’s legacy. I know you don’t want that. They kidnapped you and Emma. They’ve stolen your inheritance. I will get you out of there and have that marriage annulled. No judge will let it stand. Not to mention their enemies. They will come after you, too. You’re a target.
I consider his message and type my response.
Me:Why do you care? You hate Emma and me. You’ve made that abundantly clear.
Him:Like I said, I’m selfish. I want what’s mine.
The thought that Amadeo and Bastian aren’t going to let me go circles around my brain as I respond.
Me:How can you help us?
Lucien:I have a contact in Naples. A powerful contact.
Lucien:He can get you both out.
Me:Out to where? Are we just going to be someone else’s prisoner?
Lucien:For fuck’s sake, do you want my help or not?
Me:What I want is to be free.
Me:Who is it? Your contact?
Lucien:Their uncle. He hates them.
Uncle Sonny. I shake my head. Am I surprised he’s Lucien’s ally? What does it say about my brother? I glance up at Amadeo’s desk and notice the leatherbound book they’d given me to read sitting on it. I guess someone brought it downstairs over the past few days. I think about what it accuses Lucien of. Think about the Lucien I know.
Lucien:I can’t believe this is something you need to think about. I didn’t think you had a lot of options, sis.