Bodyguard Dearest (Bodyguard #1) (10 page)

BOOK: Bodyguard Dearest (Bodyguard #1)
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 15


he gate guard stares at me. It’s taking him a moment to comprehend it’s me behind the steering wheel of the SUV. I want to call him by his name, Marcus, but I’m not completely sure that is his name. My father hires and fires security men more often than he gets his shirts pressed.

Marcus doesn’t have the feel of someone who’ll be around much longer. He panics to the point he can’t say a word or push the button to open the gate. Whatever instructions he was given did not include a provision about what to do if I were to randomly return on my own. Whether to let me in through the gate or call someone first becomes the greatest riddle he’s ever faced.

“I need to use the bathroom,” I tell him, employing one of my most innocent smiles as I begin to chew on a fingernail.

This shakes the man out of his stupor. “Of course, Miss Kane,” he mumbles, finally lifting the bar to let me in.

I drive up the long driveway to security parking. I hit the opener to Tanner’s personal garage. If my man were still running things and someone had gone rogue, all the locks and security codes would have been changed by now. This new security crew is already slipping.

Speaking of Tanner, I wonder if he’s awake by now and I wonder how mad he was when he figured out I had mixed Benadryl into the chai latte I gave him before we went to bed. He noticed it was off somehow.

It wasn’t planned but when I saw the bottle of Benadryl it kind of whispered to me. It seemed like it was meant to be. The drug combined with the wine and margaritas we had before put Tanner into a sleep deep enough to allow for my early morning escape.

Thinking about him now will not help. I’ll never be able to keep it all together when I face my father. I need to stay in a happy denial of all my iffy decisions just to survive the next few minutes.

I mean it’s ridiculous that I already miss Tanner so much it hurts. I am determined to protect his life like he has protected mine. If I am the one that destroys him, if I cost him his freedom or even his life, I would never be able to live with myself.

I choke a little on my own spit at that last notion. Could my father really order a hit on a man that served him loyally for so many years, a man that protected his business and his family day and night? What’s more, could he harm a man knowing his daughter has deep feelings for him?

Truth be told, I don’t know how to answer that. My father has always been a mystery to me. I guess I preferred to stay in the dark a little, getting little glimpses of his dealings with nefarious people, and only developing certainties about his most obvious wrongdoings.

Fraud, money laundering, intimidation.

hen it’s your father, you don’t want to dig much deeper into the chasm of criminal possibility. You lie to yourself. You tell yourself you know, but you don’t really know and it’s better that way.

The front living room is empty when I enter the house except for the majestic Christmas tree. I feel lightheaded suddenly and take a seat opposite the tree to catch my breath.

I stare vacantly at the gold and red ornaments and ribbons. When we were little we helped decorate the tree, now a service does it. Through our floor-to-ceiling windows, Hollywood Hills loom under the mid-morning sun in all their preposterous glory. My father has always wanted to be among people of fame and power. People he can be proud to call his neighbors and friends. It’s a chip he has on his shoulder since he was a young man—my father desires to be respected above all else.

If only people knew what really goes on behind these walls. I close my eyes for a moment before rising, unsure if I should look for my parents or go straight to my room to change. It’s strange that the house is so quiet after Christmas and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because of me.

As I reach the second floor, I hear some voices finally. My mother and my sisters, Margot, Elsie and Alice, are sitting in the loft surrounded by packages, some opened and some waiting their turn.

Margot, my oldest sister who turns twenty-seven in a month, catches first sight of me. “Tris, you’re here,” she says, setting down the package she’s holding to come and give me a hug.

Margot is the daughter who looks most like my mother—blonde and tall with cute little freckles on her nose and cheeks. She’s also been nice to me most of the time, often taking my side in arguments with Elsie and Alice when we were younger. We kind of all live our own separate lives now, rarely hanging out with each other even when living under the same roof.

I hug my sister and then my mother who’s about to cry.

“Merry Christmas, baby,” my mother says, squeezing me tightly.

“You’ve come just in time,” Elsie says, pointing at all the presents.

“That stack back there is all yours,” Alice says with a wide smile.

The pile of presents we get every year. Right. Usually, I look at them with disdain as they are reminders of our gross privilege. Now I kind of miss being a part of all these traditions. I want a new, simpler life, but it’s only natural to miss the old life a little.

I come out of my fleeting nostalgia realizing something is off. They were all there when Tanner knocked my father over with a single punch and then ran off with me. They should have a million questions. They should be pressing me for answers. Instead, it’s all about the stupid presents.

This is all staged. I am sure my father has directed their behavior.

“Can we cut the crap?” I say, right as Elsie offers me one more hug. “Do you really think I can’t see through this? Are we all Daddy’s puppets?”

“We’re just trying to be discreet,” my mother says. “We don’t want to force you into a conversation you are not ready to have.”

“Oh, please. You showed zero surprise to see me. Zero. You were informed I was on the premises before I even set foot in the house. Don’t tell me you’re not even a little curious about where I’ve been, or why I came back, or why Tanner felt the need to rescue me.”

“Rescue you? Oh dear,” my mother says, shaking her head. “Do you need rescuing from us? And please, tell me there’s nothing romantic going on between you and our head of security. Are you trying to kill your father?”

“No, mom, it’s actually the other way around.”

I don’t get to explain my words. Alice wraps an arm around Mom’s shoulders. “Today’s a happy day, Tris. Let’s not ruin it. Right, mom?”

Alice is barely a year older than me but she never misses a chance to condescend me or act like she’s the voice of reason, but right now she’s totally lost me. How is this a happy day? I’ve been gone a day and a half.

“That’s sweet of you, Alice,” I say, “but, come on, aren’t you all laying it on a little thick?”

“Typical Tris,” Elsie says. “This isn’t about you. Warren proposed and Margot accepted at the Christmas dinner. They’re engaged. We’re going to have a wedding. And no one’s going to get punched.”

That’s better. Thank God for Elsie and her bullshit-proof honesty.

Margot extends her hand, sporting a huge engagement ring. The diamond is so big it could be a minor meteor. That definitely explains everyone’s good mood. Warren Clifton is heir to the Clifton Telecommunications Corporation and a bunch of other smaller companies. He is handsome, intelligent and has impeccable manners. By any standards he’d be considered a catch and a perfect match for my elegant sister. I can only imagine how excited my father must be with the news of this important addition to the family, a stark contrast to what I’ve put him through.

“Wow,” I say, taking Margot’s hand in mine. “He did put a ring on it. Congratulations, Margot. Daddy must be over the moon.”

Maybe that means he’ll go a little bit easier on me if he’s happy. I am sure the proposal was a welcome change in tone at his big dinner after the incident with Tanner and our shocking escape.

“Trista!” His booming voice makes me jump out of my skin a little.

“Hello, Daddy,” I say, still holding onto Margot’s ringed finger as if it were some kind of shield against my father.

“Well, well, my darling, I knew you wouldn’t let us down,” the great Jordan Kane says, looking at my sisters one by one before his gaze fixes on me. “This is your house now and always. It’s not the same without you.”

At least he actually acknowledges the fact that I was gone.

“I need to talk to you,” I tell him before I lose my nerve.

“Can’t it wait?” my mother cuts in. “You should open some presents.”

Oh, please, mom, what world do you live in?
“No, it can’t wait,” I say, trying to sound casual. “It will be brief.”

My father’s face betrays nothing. I don’t know if he’s furious at me, if he’s decided to try and lure me back with honey, if he’s in on this little charade my mother and sisters have attempted.

“In my study,” he says. He turns to my mother. “Tell the cook to make that roast that Trista likes for dinner.”

Against all odds, I manage to control myself and not make a comment about how patronizing it is for him to assume I’m staying for dinner. Tanner Hayes has rubbed off on me a little, I’m not the same impulsive Trista I was just days ago.

I follow my father to his private study, a small room with bookshelves covering three walls and an old mahogany desk where my father almost never sits. He prefers the armchair by the window.

Nostalgia hits me again with the smell of this room, paper and wood and Old Spice. It’s how my father smells, too, even if he rarely reads now and the books are mostly decorative, old collector’s tomes.

“Take a seat,” my father says, pointing at his favorite chair. “Was it a long drive here? My men say there was some leftover snow on the vehicle.”

Did I just give away Tanner’s location? Shoot me now. I’m trapped. I can never leave until I know Tanner has left Big Bear and is safe.

I go on the offensive. “Let’s have it, Daddy. What is it you think I should know about Tanner? You said you’d tell me if I came. Well, here I am.”

My father rarely betrays any emotion but there’s satisfaction written all over his face. “Are you sure this is something you want to hear?”

“I’m sure. And I won’t believe a word without proof.”

He takes a step closer and puts his hand on my hair, petting me like he would a dog. “Have I ever lied to you, Trista? You’ve always been the baby. Maybe that’s the problem. Your mother and I spoiled you.”

Ha! Okay, whatever
. “I swear, if you don’t start talking…”

“I would not hire anyone without complete proof of his past,” he says, sitting behind his desk. “I would be putting myself at great risk.”

I follow his example and sit down, my mind racing at the speed of light as I try to imagine what it is that my father has on Tanner.

“You know he was in the military for years,” he begins. “Five to be exact, two of them in Afghanistan. The Marines. He had become Sergeant by the time he was discharged after being seriously injured.”

“So far he’s an American hero,” I tell him.

“Yes,” my father agrees, interlacing his fingers to support his chin. “But like most military hero stories, it gets complicated. What you probably don’t know is that Sergeant Hayes got a girl killed while he was in Afghanistan.”

My throat feels parched but I won’t ask for water. It would only betray how nervous I am. “What do you mean he got a girl killed? In battle? Like collateral damage?”

“Your boyfriend,” he begins, stressing the vowels to make the word sound ridiculous, “got involved with a local girl while he was serving in Afghanistan. A Muslim girl of some repute. He knew perfectly well that he shouldn’t but that didn’t stop him. Sound familiar?”

The world closes in on me. I feel a rock in my gut. “A Muslim girl? You mean a woman. We’re called women, Daddy. So what? What
did she have and why the hell does her reputation matter?”

“She was nineteen and her notoriety didn’t matter except that it riled up the locals and made her a target. Tanner thought he could protect her.”

“No, not so fast, do you know why she was a target?”

Daddy sighs. “It was something about her expressing an opinion about education for women in her town.”

“You’re fucking kidding me?” I say. “This makes you a target over there?’

“She was aware of the world she lived in.”

“Of course you’d say that,” I say. “So what happened?’

“Your Sergeant Hayes hid her inside the base. You can guess the rest. The base was attacked. A suicide bomber disguised as a local police official made it inside. The young woman died in the explosion along with three American soldiers. Tanner himself had a serious head injury.”

“How did he get a bomb inside a U.S. base?”

“They think materials had been hidden inside which allowed the assassin to collect them and build a small device on the premises. The only reason Tanner was not charged and sentenced is because his men protected him. They lied for him and he never came forward to put the record straight. He kept his dirty secret from his commanding officer and the Marines and the United States.”

I’m staring at my father, speechless, unable to grasp the meaning of any of his words. Tanner told me there was a woman in his life once, someone who died. Is this what he was talking about? Damn, I need that glass of water so bad. “You said he got her killed,” I say finally.

BOOK: Bodyguard Dearest (Bodyguard #1)
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Day of Deliverance by Johnny O'Brien
Come to the Edge: A Memoir by Christina Haag
Yours Always by Rhonda Dennis
Rescue Breathing by Zoe Norman
Lawless: Mob Boss Book Three by Michelle St. James
Kidnapped Colt by Terri Farley
Lay Her Among The Lilies by James Hadley Chase
Smoke and Rain by V. Holmes