Read Just Friends Online

Authors: Delaney Diamond

Tags: #seattle, #billionaire, #friends to lovers, #family series

Just Friends (8 page)

BOOK: Just Friends
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“But hasn’t he searched before?”

“He has, but he’s never used Cyrus’s
guy.”

At the mention of their older brother,
Trenton raised his eyebrows. “Cyrus’s guy already ran a background
check on Lucas.”

“That was a preliminary report to see if
there was any dirt on him. I told Cyrus to have him dig deeper, to
leave no stone unturned. I don’t care how long it takes. I want
something for Lucas. Anything.”

“If anyone can find Lucas’s family, he can.
And if you’re willing to wait…”

“I’ll wait.” She smiled tentatively. “I hope
I don’t have to wait too long, though.”

Trenton chuckled. “Too late now. You put it
out there.”

“I know.” She sipped her wine. “Oh, I ran
into Lana the other day. Love the changes she’s made to her
appearance. She looks great, doesn’t she?”

Trenton frowned. “Yeah, I guess.”

“You guess? She looked fabulous. I almost
didn’t recognize her.” Ivy stabbed the fries with a fork and took a
bite. “Her eyes are gorgeous. You can really see them now without
the glasses.”

Trenton grunted.

Ivy arched a brow. “Okay, what’s going on?
What am I missing?”

He searched for the right words to articulate
his feelings. “She’s changing,” he said.

“How?”

“She just is.”

“I don’t understand. Do you not like her new
look? I think she looks so much better. Considering the way she
used to dress, she made Catholic nuns look like a bunch of
hussies.”

Trenton chuckled. “Come on now.”

“Well…”

“Okay, okay, I get your point, but I know
her, and this isn’t her. Fixing her hair and getting rid of the
glasses aren’t so bad, but the way she’s starting to dress…I
dunno.” He shook his head and bit into the sandwich.

“Seriously, Trent, what’s wrong with the way
she’s dressing?”

Trenton finished chewing and swallowed the
bite. “What was she wearing when you saw her?”

“Skinny jeans and a really cute top. You have
a problem with her clothes? Does she have to run her outfits past
you first?” Ivy narrowed her eyes and looked at him with
interest.

Trenton took a big bite of his sandwich and
chewed slowly, using the time to consider how much of his thoughts
to share with his sister.

“I don’t think she has to dress the way she’s
starting to dress to get a man’s attention. She’s pretty on the
inside and out, so it’s not necessary. But I have a feeling you’re
not going to agree with me on the clothes issue, so I’m not even
going there. I know you’ll agree with me on this, though.” He sat
forward on the edge of the booth’s chair. “She’s seeing a new guy,
someone from her job. His name is Connor and she says she doesn’t
want to introduce me to him because I’ll scare him off.” He
snorted. “Ridiculous, right?”

Ivy shrugged. “Doesn’t surprise me.”

“What?” His hand froze halfway to his mouth
with a fry between his fingers.

“You either badmouth the men so bad she
breaks up with them, or you scare them off with your big brother
routine.”

“You’re nuts.” He waved his hand dismissively
and popped the fry in his mouth. “If that were true, why did I
encourage her to date TJ in accounting?”

“Because you don’t consider him a real
threat.”

“A real threat to what?”

“Your relationship with Alannah. I swear,
sometimes I think you want her to be alone so you can have her to
yourself.” Ivy paused and narrowed her eyes. “Is
that
it?”

“Of course not. You just accused me of
sabotage and what…holding a crush for my best friend? You’re being
ridiculous.” Heat crawled across his scalp.

“I don’t think so,” Ivy said slowly, eyes
narrowing even more. “In fact, now that I think about it, you
sabotage all her relationships.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Saboteur,” she said, pointing. “How can you
even deny it?”

“I let her—”

“You
let
her?”

He sighed and shook his head. “You know what
I mean.”

“Yes, I’m afraid I do.” Ivy wiped her fingers
on a napkin and tipped her head to the side. “You don’t even see
it, do you?”

“See what?”

Her brow wrinkled as she mulled the next
words. “You’re jealous.”

“Are you crazy?” Trenton let out a bark of
laughter and dropped his sandwich to the plate. He stared at his
sister, who’d clearly lost her mind. “That’s my girl, my best
friend.”

Ivy leaned across the table. “You’re jealous,
Trent. Admit it,” she whispered.

“She’s dated guys over the years.”

“And they all had to meet your approval.”

“So what?” His voice had gotten a little
loud, and he stopped right away. He and Ivy glanced around at the
other tables, but no one paid attention to them. Nonetheless, he
lowered his voice. “I was looking out for her. If you want to know
the truth, I was protecting her from men like me. I know the signs
and who they are, because I’m that type of guy. She needs someone
nice, not a man like me who comes with a lot of baggage. Besides,
she’s too good for me, and I’d hurt her. If I hurt her, I’d never
forgive myself.”

Ivy ran her tongue along the inside of her
cheek, an odd expression he couldn’t decipher on her face. Slowly,
he rewound the words he’d spoken.

“Trent,” she said gently.

“Don’t.” His throat tightened and he sat back
in the booth. The food on his plate no longer looked appetizing,
and the atmosphere at their table took a nosedive.

They stared at each other, and his gut
twisted. All of a sudden, the clank of the dishes and conversations
at neighboring tables sounded louder.

“You’re a good person,” she said. “No one is
too good for you. You deserve—”

“Stop.” He held up a hand and pulled in a
difficult breath. He couldn’t look at her as he gathered his
thoughts. When he lifted his gaze he saw pity in Ivy’s eyes, which
made him angry. He hated pity. “Stop trying to psychoanalyze me,”
he said in a hard tone. “You’re not qualified.”

Ivy nodded. “Okay, I’ll stop.”

An insufficient response, because she didn’t
understand. If she did, she wouldn’t look at him as if she wanted
to pull him into a hug and stroke his head.

“I need to get ready for my meeting,” Trenton
mumbled. He slipped from the booth.

“Trent.”

He pulled out his wallet. They owned the
restaurant and didn’t pay for meals, but the server had to be
tipped. He tossed a hundred-dollar bill on the table.

“Trent,” Ivy implored.

He looked into her pleading eyes and flashed
a quick, false smile. “I’m fine.”

Walking away, Trenton abandoned the meal and
his sister’s company. Striding through the restaurant, he kept his
head held high. He’d call her later and apologize, but right now he
had to get out of there and away from the truth he didn’t want to
face, about himself and his past. The truth of why he’d come to
live in Seattle in the first place.

Chapter Nine

“I’m at home now. We’re good?” Trenton asked,
wrapping up the conversation with Ivy.

He parked his white Range
Rover in the garage of his condominium tower on the corner of
Virginia and Fourth Avenue, in the heart of Seattle. Only steps to
shopping, trendy hotspots, and restaurants, the location offered
the convenience of a twenty-four-hour concierge, a rooftop terrace,
and a fully equipped gym that he took advantage of whenever he had
the opportunity.

“Of course. Take care, okay?” Ivy said.

“I will. Talk to you later.”

He disconnected the Bluetooth on the call and
pinched the bridge of his nose. He’d called to apologize for his
behavior at lunch. They didn’t dwell on why he’d reacted the way he
did, but she’d accepted his apology.

Trenton exited the vehicle and took the
elevator up to his two-bedroom penthouse on the thirty-fourth
floor. The cabin opened into a private vestibule and he entered the
interior door. After pushing a button on the electronic panel on
the wall, the large open space became bathed in light, while at the
same time, the low, soothing music of stringed instruments poured
through hidden speakers.

He crossed the hardwood floor to the kitchen,
a chef’s dream that contained a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Miele
appliances, and plenty of counter space. It seamlessly flowed into
a spacious living room with an eleven-foot ceiling and large
windows that spanned the height of the room. During the day he had
a clear view of South Lake Union in the distance, but at night the
dominant scenery consisted of little squares of lights in the
nearby buildings.

Trenton removed a beer from the refrigerator
and took a huge swallow, mind still unsettled because the
conversation with Ivy made him think about the past. After another
swig, he frowned down into the dark brew.

Ivy had accepted his apology because she knew
he had some issues. Who wouldn’t when your own mother didn’t love
you enough to keep from hurting you? When she hated you so much she
took away the one person she knew you loved most in the world.

He set the beer on the concrete countertop
with a heavy hand.

On the way back to his bedroom, Trenton
started stripping out of his clothes. The tie he yanked off landed
on the bed. The rest of his clothes came off quickly as he tried
not to think about his difficult childhood, or why it bothered him
so much that Ivy brought it up. Usually he could handle thoughts
about his past, but not tonight. He felt off and needed to escape
the memories.

Standing naked in the bedroom, he dialed
Alannah’s number, but the call rang four times and rolled to
voicemail. He rubbed the back of his head, where a dull throb had
emerged as the memories slithered closer with the dangerous intent
of a snake.

“Hey, wanted to see what you were up to
tonight. Maybe we can get into something.”
Need you.
“Hit me
back.”

Trenton disconnected the call, knowing she
would get in touch as soon as she saw he’d called. In the meantime,
he went into the bathroom and entered the glass-enclosed shower
stall. He turned on the water as hot as he could stand and lathered
his skin, but he couldn’t wash away the painful memories of
abuse.

He didn’t know why his mother didn’t love
him. At that young age, he had been unable to come up with a
reasonable explanation for why she constantly hurt him, and to this
day couldn’t explain. The therapist had said that the problem lay
with his mother, not him. Logically, he understood, but emotionally
he grappled with the whys of the situation.

What had he done? What would make her put out
cigarettes on his back to “teach him a lesson”? Why did she lock
him in a dark closet so often that up until he started college, he
could never sleep in total darkness?

Like many abusers, she’d threatened him to
prevent him from telling anyone, including his father—because, as
she said, not only did he deserve such treatment for his bad
behavior, but the consequences would be much worse if the police
came to take her away. She’d convinced him his father couldn’t care
for him because he traveled all the time and he’d be left all alone
to fend for himself. A fate, according to her, ten times worse than
what he experienced at her hands.

Through snatches of conversation over the
years, he’d learned that his mother had been an aspiring dancer,
and his birth had killed her chances of going professional. Bitter
and angry, she’d turned to drugs, which explained the random rages
that usually ended with him suffering in some form or the
other—emotional or physical abuse, oftentimes both.

His mother had always been careful to
concentrate the attacks on his back and upper arms. Doing so made
it easy to hide the damage under his clothes, caused by the
cigarettes or the crack of the electric cord tearing through his
flesh.

She steered clear of his face, but she’d
attacked him there three or four times that he could remember. When
she had, it was as if she couldn’t help herself. On one occasion
she’d given him a black eye, and he’d missed a week of school so
she wouldn’t have to explain the bruising. Another time she’d hit
him across the face so hard, the belt buckle had drawn blood at his
temple. To this day he still had a barely visible scar that peeked
from behind his hairline. After those episodes, Trenton had learned
that keeping his head down was the best defense during her
rampages.

He couldn’t see the scars on his arms and
back anymore and most days didn’t think about what they
represented—hate, helplessness, to be unwanted, to be unloved. The
tattoos hid the marks, but the most important one didn’t hide
anything. It was on his chest, in the design of a sun. Inside the
sun was the anniversary date of his parents’ deaths—October
sixteenth.

The murder-suicide of his parents occurred
when he was seven years old. Neighbors called the police after
hearing gunshots in the apartment where he lived with his mother
and where his father visited whenever he returned to Philadelphia.
The police arrived on the scene to find him covered in blood and
initially thought he had been shot. But he hadn’t been. The blood
belonged to his father.

Within twenty-four hours of learning about
the deaths, his Uncle Cyrus, his father’s older brother, and his
wife Constance flew in, and days later brought him to Seattle
amidst the media circus that broke out. During the entire ordeal,
the only witness to the crime, Trenton, didn’t speak. In fact, he
stopped talking for an entire year. Talking had gotten his father
killed.

After he told his father what his mother had
been doing to him, he came to take him away. Trenton would finally
be safe, and they’d be together—except that dream never came true.
The day his father came to get him, his mother was in an agitated
state. During the resulting argument, where she stood between
father and son to keep them apart, his mother produced a gun and
shot his father twice, right in front of Trenton.

BOOK: Just Friends
2.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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