Black Jack (Elite Ops 4)

Page 58

So where did that leave her with Travis?
“Are we arriving on time, or fashionably late?” he asked as he came up behind her at the mirror and adjusted the bow tie at his neck.
For a moment, a spurt of fear washed through her, a premonition that she was going to lose him. She could almost see him walking away from her, refusing to look back, leaving her cold and alone. She had to prepare herself for that. Nothing lasts forever; she had learned that lesson already. In the blink of an eye, or the shot of an assassin’s bullet, it could all be wiped away.
“You’re not answering me, Lilly,” he pointed out, his voice gentle. “Are you feeling well?”
“I’m supposed to be greeting guests with Mother.” She breathed in deeply as she fought to pull herself back from the mist of knowledge and memories she could feel awaiting her. “It’s a welcome-home party as well.”
A celebration, her mother had called it. A time to celebrate with their friends the fact that Lilly had returned, that she wasn’t dead.
The explanation given to friends and family had been a simple one. That she had run away, that she had hidden as she tried to come to terms with what had happened that night with her father’s death.
The crash had been declared an accident. Lilly’s father had been behind the wheel, and several eyewitnesses had sworn they had seen them driving from the estate together.
It wasn’t possible. She didn’t know who had been driving the car that night, but it hadn’t been her father. He had already been dead. She knew that. It wasn’t something she sensed or suspected, it was one of those things she knew without the memories to back her up and substantiated by Travis. According to him, this was what she had told him as well.
When Lilly had had no answers for where she had been or what she had been doing for six years, her mother had gone looking for those answers. She had found far more than she had wanted to find.
It was as though her mother had assumed no one else would bother to hunt for the identity her daughter had used those six years and conduct an investigation into it. And what did she think the journalists, who had been like rabid dogs after her release from the hospital, were doing? Twiddling their thumbs?
“You’re worrying again,” Travis stated softly as he laid his hands on her shoulders and stared at her in the mirror.
“Perhaps I have things to worry about,” she retorted as she moved away from him and smoothed her hands down the hips of the sapphire ballgown she wore.
She checked her appearance one last time, adjusted the string of sapphires at her neck, checked the tips of her sapphire blue heels for any smudges, then turned back to him.
“Why are Santos Bahre and his sidekick showing up tonight?” she asked point-blank, knowing he would at least have an idea why.
“Curiosity perhaps.” He shrugged. “They could be hoping a part of you will want to return to your old life, or that any memories that resurface will give them some sort of business edge.”
Her brows lifted. “I can’t imagine how their business interests would coincide with my family’s.”
“You’d be surprised.” His lips quirked in amusement. “Santos and Rhiannon are extremely astute business people. They have many more interests than that of business managers.”
“Business managers?” Her lips tightened. “That’s a hell of a title to give them, Travis. It’s my understanding they’re no more than high-priced pimps.”
He surprised her.
Gripping her arms, he swung her around and glared down at her furiously. “I’m growing tired of hearing you call yourself a whore, Lilly. You were never a whore.”
“What else do you call a high-priced call girl?” she snapped back.
“The title that damned investigator used was far from the truth,” he growled as he swung away from her then and paced to the end of the bed.
As he turned back, his eyes seemed to flame with anger.
“You were paid for a service rendered, and that service was not necessarily sex. You were trained for combat, for covert operations, and as a companion in dangerous situations. You were not paid for sex. If you had sex with the men you worked with, then it was your choice, not your job.”
Lilly glared back at him. “Tell me, Travis, once the press gets hold of that story, how do you think it will be viewed? And they will get hold of it.”
He shook his head to that. “That investigator wrote his report based on accounts given by less than reliable sources,” he growled. “Santos and Rhiannon operate a legitimate business. Their ‘escorts’ are advertised as those of a personal security nature. Do you truly believe they would risk either their reputations or their clients with anything less? They may get a hint of the trouble-making inclinations you see
med to have, or the less than savory individuals you may have worked with. But there is not a client that requested the services of Escorts Etc. that will ever claim you or the other girls to have been a whore.”
Lilly’s chin lifted, her lips tightening. “That is not the impression that was given while I was working,” she bit out. “Don’t deny it, Travis.”
“Impressions and truth are two different things,” he growled. “Escorts Etc. have reliable, reputable clients that will swear differently should anyone dare to accuse you of being anything less than a glorified bodyguard. Outside that, yes, you were known to deal with less than reputable individuals. Yes, the investigator may have spoken to one or more of them. But trust me, should the press actually manage to get one of them to talk, they will never dare to say you were less than a beautiful, companionable bodyguard. That cover will hold, Lilly, I swear it to you.”