She appeared innocent, unthreatening, untouchable.
She stopped in the middle of the room and stared down at Lilly. Her head tilted to the side, and for a moment, regret flashed in her gaze.
Desmond sat down slowly in his chair, his hands resting casually on the arms as he leaned his head back and obviously fought with the realization that they may have failed.
“You always were a nosy little bitch.” Angelica sighed as she glanced at Isaac’s fallen body before turning back to Lilly. “You should have returned as my daughter rather than some little whore determined to destroy what I’ve built over the years. Really, Lilly? A call girl?” She shook her head. “I truly hope the money you made whoring was worth the loss of your life now.”
Lilly eased up until she was sitting on the floor, partially shielded by Travis’s larger body. “Anything would have been worth escaping you,” she told her mother quietly. “I only wish I had remembered why I decided to remain dead to begin with. Tell me, what did happen the night you killed father?”
Angelica just glared at Lilly for what felt like hours, then sighed. “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter now if you know since this will be over soon.”
Lilly swallowed in relief, hoping that she had just bought them all a little more time.
“The night of the party, your father had been acting very strange. Actually, he had been acting strangely for several days before that. He had been very distracted and he claimed that he had been tied up in work, but I had a feeling that it went deeper than that. I knew he had been looking into the embezzlement of funds from our and other families’ accounts, and up until that point I hadn’t been the least bit concerned that he would trace anything back to me. Nothing could be traced back to me, after all. When Jared began working for Dunnolly & Dunnolly, I had gotten access to his password during a lovely family visit, and that’s how I got the passcodes to the accounts of some of the other families. My accountant got the rest. He made it look like the accounts had been hacked from the outside, and after that, the money was difficult to trace, and even if they did trace it, none of the accounts were linked to me in any way. If any suspicions were to fall, it would probably fall on Jared. I suspect MI5 had him in their sights for quite some time. And besides, who in the world would suspect Angelica Harrington of pulling off such a crime? Really, it was the perfect setup.”
“And you were just computer savvy enough to make it work with just a little help,” Lilly said, her eyes narrowed. “I always was impressed with the skill you’ve managed your own wealth.”
Angelica pursed her lips in annoyance. “Your father managed to trace one of the offshore accounts back to my accountant—the idiot.” She looked scornful. “Once he matched that up to the fact the other families who were targeted were all represented by Dunnolly & Dunnolly, it eventually led him to suspect me. I had noticed that he was missing from the party that night and I went looking for him. He was in his study, on the phone. He sounded agitated, so I listened, trying to find out what he was talking about. Apparently he was on the phone with his MI5 contact and he told him or her that he knew who was behind the embezzlement and that he wanted to come in with the information. I couldn’t let that happen.
“While he was finishing up his call, I slipped into my office next door, got the gun I kept in the safe there, and went in to confront him.” She laughed. “Actually, I should say that he confronted me. He asked me if I had overheard his conversation and I told him that I had. He asked me to turn myself in, which I found hilarious. Really, why would I want to do something like that?”
“So you killed him,” Lilly said, her tone tight with fury.
“Yes,” Angelica said, coldly. “That would have wrapped things up nicely. The party was still in full swing and the study was far away enough that no one heard a thing. I was just about to call one of the associates here and tell them to dispose of the body when you came knocking. I hid behind the door, and when you came in, I knocked you unconscious.”
“And your so-called associates put Lilly and her father in the car and sent it over the cliff,” Travis said. “You were hoping that the explosion from the car crash would disguise the fact that your husband had been shot.”
“So clever,” Angelica said mockingly. “Yes, that’s what I was hoping. And I was sure that I could move the process along quickly enough that no one would look at his body too closely. Who wouldn’t try to accommodate the grieving Lady Harrington who had just lost her husband and daughter in such a tragic accident?” She looked at Lilly. “Well, almost lost. I had been convinced that your body had been washed out to sea.” Angelica shook her head. “Well, we’ll see if we can’t make your death a fact this time around.”
Lilly laughed. “Oh, and how will you manage it this time? That bullet to the brain wasn’t exactly fun, Mother.”
“You’re such a disrespectful little bitch,” her mother sneered. “Do you think I’m not aware that you spied on us? Sitting in the trees watching the family from afar? You would have never stayed away. Eventually, you would have returned. And we couldn’t have that. The trust fund your uncle watches so closely is too important. The charity.” She smiled slowly. “Well, it needs your money far more than you do.”
The charity. Lilly felt her heart speed up further, a sense of realization flooding her senses.
“The charity is a terrorist fund,” she whispered, her hands beginning to shake as the weapon tucked at the small of her back began to burn against her flesh with her need to use it.
“Of course.” Her mother smiled. “Those quarterly donations of the interest ensures that I have a steady supply of men to do what needs to be done. The world is in horrible shape, darling. It needs some discipline.”
Discipline. The world needed discipline.
“Lilly Belle has such enemies as well.” Angelica clucked. “Such a shame. They broke in while I was shopping and killed you, your lover, and your uncle and his bodyguard.” She looked at Isaac’s still form. “Handsome man. It’s a shame he had to be so damned ethical.”
A movement at the front of the room, behind the men surrounding Angelica, caught Lilly’s attention. Nik. He was slowly easing along the edge of a heavy armoire to assess the situation.
“Poor Mother.” Lilly sighed. “You can’t get your way, so you kill. But do you truly believe we’re the only ones who know this?”
Angelica laughed. “You have no proof, darling. What you do have, however, is the ability to irritate me and to take the money I promised my friends.” She glanced to one of the hard-eyed men beside her. “Truly, there’s nothing you can do. It’s over, darling. You’ll die for good, you’ll be mourned, and I can grieve the death of yet another husband who died trying to save you from the people you managed to tie yourself to. Whores such as yourself do manage to create bad situations. It’s a proven fact.”
“You watch too much television.” Lilly followed Travis as he eased to his feet. “It’s not going to be that easy.”
Angelica stepped closer, her expression hardening. Her hand lifted and she slapped Lilly across the face. Lilly didn’t even try to avoid it. She took the blow. When her mother was dead or in prison, then Lilly wanted no doubts in her own mind as to the choices she had to make.
Nik was now in position. Desmond was slowly sliding his hand into the side of his chair. Lilly prayed he was moving for a weapon. She realized that Isaac was conscious, as she saw his good hand slide beneath his body.
This was the only chance they were going to have.
“Your weapon, Mr. Caine,” Angelica demanded as she turned to Travis. “Your reputation is far too good. I think I’d prefer you not keep it.”