Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2) (2 page)

BOOK: Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2)
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He waits a minute, drawing out the silence, then abruptly gets up from his desk and comes around to me. I stumble back a step and hit the door. He stops a foot away from me, and for a second, I swear I see anguish cross his gorgeous face. But then it’s gone. A figment of my fevered imagination.

We stand like that, with his dark eyes on mine, and my heart's beating so hard I’m sure he can hear it. God, he’s sexy. I want to hate him, but that electric tension between us is as strong as it was at the mansion that night. We stare each other down, and my breath quickens. We’re alone in here. No one’s coming. The things we could do on that big desk of his…

He runs a hand through his hair and breaks eye contact. “Let me take you to lunch.”

I let out a surprised laugh, breaking the tension, and raise a hand to my mouth. Definitely not what I expected him to say.

His expression hardens, and I almost want to say yes to lunch, but if I say yes, it means I’m just another pathetic Kaidan Stone fangirl. And no matter how much he turns me on, I can’t risk falling into bed with him again. A little thrill shoots through me as I straighten and meet his brown eyes. I know I look confident and sure of myself.

“No,” I say simply, denying him whatever twisted thing he wants from me.

His face is a hard mask, and I can’t tell what he’s thinking. He gives a slight nod of his head, not meeting my eyes, and reaches past me. His woodsy masculine scent leaves me off-balance, and as his warm hand brushes my bare arm, it sends a shiver through me. He turns the knob and pushes the door open.

I swallow hard and stumble back out into the hall. I’m sort of in shock at what just happened. It barely feels real that I was able to turn him down after spending days fantasizing about what I’d do if I saw him again. If he really wanted to fix what he did, he should have tried harder.

The door clicks shut behind me, and I hurry down the hall, breathing too hard, in search of the right office. I find Smarmy Jim’s office, and when I knock, he calls me in. Last time I was here, he acted like a creeper. If he does it today, I might just lose it.

At the look on my face, Jim leans back in his chair, crossing his hands over the paunch barely contained by his expensive suit. An irritated expression crosses his face—like he’s pissed off I’m late or annoyed I’m even here.

I sink down in the leather chair. “What did you call me here for?”

“You’ve lost your money.”

“What?” The saliva dries up in my mouth, and I go rigid. Panic floods me at his words. “All of it? What do you mean? Does Rowan know? It’s just gone?” My voice rises with every word.

My lawyer sniffs and leans forward, his icy eyes meeting mine. “You know I can’t discuss Rowan. And I guess I should say—you’ve lost a portion of your money. Not all of it.”

“What. Happened?”

He retrieves a file from his desk and hands me a spreadsheet I can’t make sense of.

My hand shakes as I stare down at the numbers, and they blur before me. “What is this?”

“It’s all money held in trust,” he says. “Some of your father’s investment choices weren’t the best.”

“What’s that mean?”

“A major fund your father invested in folded yesterday. It was a bad gamble.”

I grit my teeth, and my stomach churns so hard I might be sea sick. “And? How much? How much is left?”

“You lost a quarter of it.”

I lean back in my seat, stunned, and take a deep breath. A quarter lost is better than
all
of it. I can fix this. “How do we get it back?”

An ugly amused look spreads on Jim’s face, and I want to slap it off.

“We can’t.”

“Who controls it? What do I need to do to make sure I don’t lose more?”

“There’s one thing we can do.” Jim taps a stack of papers on his desk. “The investment firm needs your signature to reinvest in safer stocks. That’s why I called you here.”

He hands me a pen and pushes the papers over to me. I stare down at the big stack, all requiring my signature.

“But the money’s not mine yet.”

“But you’re the beneficiary, so I need your signature.”

I blow a breath out and start signing, page after page after page. The amount of money I just lost is dizzying. And it’s not even mine yet. My dad hired these people to take care of his money.

I look up from signing. “How do I know they’ll pick better investments this time?”

Jim looks like he’s trying to hide a smile. “Do you know anything about investing, Hayley?”

My cheeks redden at his condescending tone. “Not much.” I go back to signing.

When I’m done, I drop the pen on the stack and get to my feet. “And the one condition? Have you figured out how to get rid of it? I can’t get that diamond back.”

Jim gives me a flat look. “I’m working on the condition. And every time we’ve talked, I’ve told you that. I will
call
you when I find a workaround.”

I stand there a moment more, expecting something else, some better assurance, but he walks around his desk and opens the door to get me to leave.

“The changes the firm makes should help protect your inheritance. I’m sorry this happened,” he says, but he hardly sounds sorry.

“Thanks.”

He rests a hand on my arm and squeezes. “That invitation to dinner still stands.”

I freeze, trying not to visibly shudder, and meet his gaze. “I’m busy,” I choke out. “Call me when you fix the condition.” I shrug his heavy hand off of me and feel like I might puke as I head out the door.

I’m not in control of this situation. Other people manage my money. Other people control my future. Just like always.

I hurtle down the hallway, just wanting to get back to my car so I can process the massive amount of money I just lost, but I’m stopped at the door by two burly guards. They won’t let me pass.

I stop and glance around the lobby, confused. My breath catches when I find Kaidan, sitting in one of the chairs, hands folded across his chest. His expressionless gaze is on me, and my heart beats faster.

“I need to leave,” I say weakly.

He gets to his feet and strides over. I clench my bag tighter and try to keep my breathing even.

His face changes as he reaches me, and he rests a hand on my arm, his eyes crinkling with concern. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie, looking away.

Kaidan gently lifts my chin, forcing me to meet his eyes. “Are you sure?”

He looks genuinely concerned, and I want to just sink into him, have someone hold me and tell me this is all going to get better. I flush with embarrassment and step away from him. He is not the guy for me, and he proved that. “I’m fine. I gotta go.”

“We’re taking you out the back door, so the paps don’t see you again.”

“You don’t need to. I—”

“We are.”

I glance out the doors and then back down the hall. I just want to get out of here as fast as I can and away from Kaidan and this terrible feeling.

“Okay. Whatever,” I say.

The guards lead the way to the back of the office building, with Kaidan trailing a few steps behind me. I can’t decide if I feel protected or like a prisoner.

The guards take us into a tiny gated alcove behind the building. There’s a dumpster, and Kaidan’s sleek sports car is wedged between it and the building.

The guards go to unlock the gate, and I finally look up at Kaidan, wrinkling my nose at the rotten smell permeating the space.

Kaidan raises his brows. “VIP parking.”

I laugh, despite how sick I feel. V.I.P. Very. Impressive. Penis. Does Kaidan know people whisper about
his
V.I.P.?

The guards have the gate cracked open and are scouting for paps, and Kaidan takes a step toward me until he’s practically on top of me.

He gazes down at me, and his eyes soften. “I’m sorry about what happened at the party,” he says quietly.

“Doesn’t matter.” My eyes are burning, but I’m determined to keep it together.

He searches my face. “It
does
matter. I was drunk, and I said the wrong thing.”

My throat tightens, and I want to run away, but I feel stuck in place, his deep brown eyes sucking me into their depths. I never noticed the flecks of gold in them before.

“I gotta go.” I try to pull away, but he grabs my arm.

“Wait. At least let me explain.”

I whirl to face him and cross my arms over my chest. “There’s nothing to explain. You thought I was—”

“No.” He cuts me off by lifting a finger to my lips. “I was drunk and screwed up. But I knew
exactly
who I was taking to bed.”

Heat surges through me at his words, and my cheeks warm. My face is probably bright red… and the familiar ache between my thighs is inconveniently back.

He drops his finger from my mouth, and I bite my lip.

“I’ll admit half that night is a little hazy, but…” he says, “I remember telling you I thought you were leaving.
She
didn’t leave. I thought
you
left. I swear that I never, not for one moment, thought you were her.”

I’m grateful he doesn’t say her name.
Peyton.
I’ll cry if I hear it from his lips right now. I want to believe him. He
did
say he thought I was leaving… so maybe he’s telling the truth. But even if he is, do I want to be some stupid doppelganger?

“Will you let me take you to lunch?” he asks again.

I want to take my mind off the bomb my lawyer just dropped. And I want to trust Kaidan. I feel adrift, in need of an anchor, and his solid, strong presence feels like exactly that, despite his confusing behavior. How does he do a 180 like that? Go from acting like an asshole I can say no to, to being someone I only want to say yes to?

All that’s waiting for me is a lonely penthouse with a near-empty pantry and fridge. I don’t want to go back to that. So I nod, not trusting myself to speak.

He gives me a satisfied nod in return and places a hand on my lower back, guiding me to the passenger side of his car.

I get in and run my hand along the cool leather seats, trying to blink back the tears forming in my eyes. I feel so helpless about my situation.

Kaidan gets in beside me, tearing me from my black despair, bringing me into the present moment. I sneak a glance at his profile as he eases the car out of the tight space and into the street.

He sees me looking, and that little smirk of his reappears. My heart flutters in my chest, and I stare straight ahead as he drives.

I’m hanging out with
Lust List
Bachelor #1. I’m just going to try to enjoy this lunch with no expectations for what this thing between me and Kaidan is. And I’m going to do my best not to think about my problems, even if only for an hour. I have the rest of my life to figure out how to climb out of this pit I’m in.

We sit in awkward silence as Kaidan drives us toward the beach. Well,
I
sit in awkward silence. I have no clue how Kaidan feels. He looks comfortable in the driver’s seat, but I feel unsettled. The party was a one-night-stand gone very wrong, and how do you act normal after that? How do you just… go on a date?

Is this a date?

I smooth my damp palms down my leggings and gaze out at the scenery until Kaidan pulls up outside a small restaurant right on the water. We both peer out the windows for paparazzi, but it looks like we made a clean getaway.

He comes around the side to help me out of the car, and when his hand grasps mine, my heart starts pumping an uneven rhythm, like a bad Cylon Smash song.

“Thanks,” I say, pulling my hand from his as quickly as I can.

He smiles ruefully in response to my brush-off, then leads the way into the restaurant. He holds the door for me, and I thank him but avoid making eye contact. This is going to be a long lunch if I don’t figure out a way to lighten up and pretend what happened at the party didn’t happen.

The place has old-timey marine decor—all worn rope and brass portholes—and is pretty dead at this hour.

Kaidan murmurs something to the hostess, and she leads us up a narrow, winding, metal staircase to the second level. There’s a bar up here, but she takes us outside to a covered wooden deck that looks out over the water. The space is dotted with a few wrought iron dining tables with white tablecloths on them.

Kaidan pulls my chair out, like a perfect gentleman, and I murmur thanks as I sit.

“Your waitress will be right with you, Mr. Stone,” the hostess says.

“Can you please tell her I’d like my usual to drink? And she,” Kaidan says, catching my eye, “would like something… fruity.”

“No thanks. I’ll have a water,” I say.

“Get her a drink,” Kaidan repeats to the hostess.

I press my lips together, slightly annoyed, but a tiny part of me thrills that he remembered what I ordered at the club. Then the sea salt air lifts my hair off my face, and I close my eyes as it caresses me. Despite everything, a small smile buds on my lips. I’d often avoided the beach during summer vacation here. I’d almost forgotten this—forgotten how much I loved the scent of the ocean, the sound of waves crashing against the sand.

My mom brought Rowan and me to the beach all the time when we were little. It was the one time she’d send the nannies away and actually play with us—splashing in the tide pools, building sandcastles just to knock them over with us. She’d laugh and be fun—a totally different person than the mom she was when we were home at our old mansion. After she died, I stopped wanting to come out here. But that old pain seems faded somehow, in light of my current situation. Which I swore I wouldn’t think about.

BOOK: Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2)
13.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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