Beneath These Lies (Page 30)

And that one particular person had some explaining to do.

IT WAS HARD TO BELIEVE I was once again parking my Tesla across the street from Rix’s house. This was a neighborhood I never should have set foot in to begin with, and here I was making it a regular stop.

Again wondering if my car would be there when I returned, I locked the door and crossed the street. The metal gate opened soundlessly on well-oiled hinges, and I picked my way over the cracked path and up the porch steps before hammering on the door.

I could have done this via text or phone call, but I wanted to see Rix’s face when he tried to explain why he did it—and I was going to use the opportunity to press him about Trinity again.

There was no answer.

I remembered that the doorbell didn’t work, so I ignored it and kept up with my pounding on the door.

Still nothing.

In my hurry to get here, it hadn’t occurred to me that he might not be home for me to unleash my tirade on. I pulled out my phone and found his contact.

VALENTINA: Where the hell are you?

I wasn’t in the mood to be nice, and yes, once again, I’d decided any rules about Rix being scary didn’t apply to me.

At least this time, his response was almost instant.

RIX: Busy.

Busy? What the hell? He wasn’t allowed to be busy. No, he was not.

VALENTINA: Get unbusy. I’m on your doorstep.

RIX: WTF, duchess? Go home. Now.


RIX: Stubborn woman. Be there in 5. Wait inside. It’s unlocked.

I stared down at my phone. He leaves his house unlocked? In this neighborhood?

Maybe when you’re the leader of one of the most notorious gangs in New Orleans, you’re not worried about someone breaking in.

I chanced a look over my shoulder before I tucked my phone away and reached for the door handle. Sure enough, there were at least two men watching my every move. One had a phone in hand, and his thumbs were moving furiously. So maybe Rix didn’t need to lock his house if he had people watching it. The man texting looked up at me and gave me a nod.

It didn’t take a genius to guess who he was texting with. Apparently I’d been given the official go-ahead.

Twisting the handle, I pushed open the door and stepped inside the house. It was quiet and still, and I felt like I was trespassing, even though I had permission to be inside. Then I decided that feeling was ridiculous because Rix clearly hadn’t felt the same way when he’d broken into my house multiple times and now my place of business too. And he’d snooped and stolen from me.

Now it’s my turn.

Because I was a rebel, I left my shoes on—after wiping them carefully on the rug—and started my survey of Rix’s domain. It was clearly a bachelor pad, and minimalist at best. There was a comfy couch in the living room, and a giant brown leather recliner that showed more wear than the rest. Apparently Rix liked his creature comforts.

The glass coffee table was empty except for some discarded mail. My curiosity ramped up when I realized his full name had to be on the mail. Crossing the worn wooden floor, I picked up an envelope. Rix Jones.

Well, that was boring, and it sounded fake. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was. Given that he was involved in less-than-legal activities, would he really use his real name?

Replacing the mail on the table, I surveyed the living room more closely. A giant flat-screen television hung on the wall, but not a single picture. Actually, the entire room was devoid of knickknacks. I was headed out of the living room when the front door opened and the man himself stepped into the entryway.

I wasted no time.

“Why? It was one thing to take the picture I painted and keep it for yourself, but why the hell would you take one and put it in my gallery where someone could mistake it as a piece for sale?”

Rix didn’t deny anything. “Because your pictures should be hanging on the walls of that gallery. I just gave you a push. Bet someone already bought it, didn’t they?” He came toward me. “Is that what’s got you all fired up?”

I propped my hands on my hips, refusing to back down. “You broke into my house—again—and stole from me—again—and then you broke into my business. That’s what I’m fired up about! You can’t just do whatever you want. There are rules.”

“I make my own rules.”

“I’ve heard that before, and guess what? It’s bullshit. Did it ever occur to you that my work wasn’t in my own gallery because I made the decision that it shouldn’t be?”

Rix took another step toward me. “Did it ever occur to you that you’re wrong? Your shit deserves to be on those fancy walls you own just as much as anything else. Now tell me, duchess, how fast did it sell?”

Gritting my teeth, I refused to give him the answer he wanted to hear. “That’s not the point.”

“I’d say it’s a really fucking important point.” One step closer and we stood toe-to-toe. “How fast?”

“My friends bought it, so it doesn’t count,” I said in a rush of breath.

One side of Rix’s mouth lifted. “Did you tell them it was yours?”

“No,” I admitted.

“Then it fucking counts.” He lifted a hand, caught a lock of my hair, and held it between his thumb and index finger. “How much did you sell it for?”

I glared at him and snapped, “Shouldn’t you have priced it too? I mean, since you went to the trouble of making sure it ended up for sale?”

“How much?”

“Several times more than the price I asked.”

That’s when Rix started laughing. A full-bodied, deep laugh. The kind that came from the gut. “Figures. Guess you should be thanking me.”