Beneath These Scars (Page 36)

“Yve,” she said. “Please. Do it for me.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t. I have to do this for me. This is my life. I’m done letting him rule it.”

She shook her head. “You’re making a mistake.”

“Then so be it.”

Ginny nodded, and her arthritic hand shook as it lifted to my face. “You’re a good girl, Yve. I don’t want anything else bad to happen to you. I just wish you’d let me protect you.”

“I’ll be fine. Thank you for coming to let me know, but I’m going to have to protect myself.”

She pulled me in for a hug. “Be safe, my dear.”

“And if you learn anything at all, please tell me.”

She stepped back and released me. “You have my word. Good-bye, Yve.”

I watched as she made her way back to her BMW. Once she’d driven off, I turned back to my apartment and stared up at it with dread. My keys still hung in the lock, and I really, really didn’t want to go in there and see whatever might have been moved or missing.

Sometimes being self-sufficient just plain sucked. In that moment, I wished I had someone I could lean on. What would that even be like?

If I’d had a father, would this be a time that he’d come and check under the metaphorical bed for monsters? If I’d ever figured out how to date and have a normal relationship, maybe I would’ve had someone I could call to go in first and check things out.

But no. I just had me. And Yve counted on Yve.

Sure, I had friends. I could call Elle and she’d send Lord. Or I could call my former employee and good friend, Charlie, and she’d send her fiancé, Simon. Even Con would come if I called him. But they all had their own lives, their own issues. They didn’t need little old me pulling a Chicken Little when I didn’t even know if Jay had been in my place. Was it likely? Sure as shit, yes. Who else would have done it?

My stomach cramped as I stared up at my apartment door.

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.

I sat down on the bench and dropped my head into my hands. Maybe a little cry would do me good. No one would ever have to know.

CLANDESTINE MEETINGS WITH POLITICIANS WERE even worse than regular meetings with politicians. Because clandestine meetings were all cloak and dagger and required a secret password at the door of some club that men like me—men who weren’t born with the keys to this city—didn’t otherwise know existed.

The doorman shut the heavy leather padded door behind me and I stepped inside the dimly lit club. A blonde on ice-pick stilettos nodded to me.

“Welcome, Mr. Titan. Right this way, sir.”

Apparently while I hadn’t known about this club, they’d known about me. I followed her, my gaze dropping to her ass out of habit, but not with interest. Absently I noted the short black skirt and seam up the back of her stockings, but nothing in me was moved by her top-notch body. No, I seemed to have developed a fixation on a sassy, curvy woman who would rather run from me than spend a moment in my company. All claws and teeth—and sexy as hell. It was undeniable proof that I was a masochist.

The blonde slowed in front of a closed door but didn’t reach for the handle. “They’re inside, sir.”

Cloak and dagger, indeed.

I pulled it open and found four Louisiana state senators seated inside, puffing on cigars and looking like the Southern politicians they were.

“Gentlemen,” I said in greeting.

“Titan, come in. Close the door.”

I did as he asked and crossed the room to the low gathering of chairs around a poker table. There were cards and chips on the table, but no hand in play.

“I didn’t realize we were planning to play.”

“We’re not,” Hendricks said, one of the three Democrats in the room. “We just needed a reason to gather.”

“Afraid of the Gestapo finding you out?”

“Not the Gestapo. Haines.”

The name of the senator who had demanded the open-ended favor surprised me. “Haines?”

Shuman, the sole Republican among them, replied, “He put out the word that if you came around asking for favors, we might not find it in our best interest to entertain them.”

That son of a bitch. “Is that so?”

“Damn right. For some reason he’s gotten very territorial over you.”

What the hell? “Why is that?”

They all looked at me like I was an idiot for even asking the question. “Because you’re a good man to have a marker from. We’re guessing he doesn’t want anyone else to have the chance to get something from you.”

And this was why I despised politics.

“So, why are you here?” I asked. “If you’re not willing to go against Haines, then why even agree to meet with me?”

Winchell spoke up again. “Because we want to know what it is that would get a man like you to start asking for favors.”

“Curiosity. That’s why you’re here?”

They all smiled.

“And yet you have no intention of helping me, regardless of what it is, because Haines put out the word that I wasn’t to be helped?”

Nods went all around the table.

“Why the hell do you think I’d tell you a goddamn thing?”

Truman spoke up. “Because whatever it is, if there’s a chance we can help you behind the scenes in exchange for, shall we say, generous campaign contributions, we might be willing to pull some strings.”

Greed and curiosity. It would have been interesting if it wasn’t so infuriating.