Keisha remained sitting behind her desk, a weary look drawing lines into her forehead.
Dell Jacobs turned, his cane taking the brunt of his weight, puffed his narrow chest—as much as he could—and blocked Gabe’s view of Keisha. The old man was protective of his daughter. Gabe filed away the tidbit. He never knew when some bit of information would come in handy.
“What are you doing here, Campos?” Dell demanded.
“Watching your business implode.” He strode into the room, stopping next to a small replica of a classic car, something red and sporty with fins. It reminded him of spending the night in the auto shop with Keisha. A twinge of guilt made its way across his skin.
“You’re not satisfied with trying to push me out of my own company anymore, huh?” The old man’s bravado came through loud and clear in both tone and the way he pushed up on his cane to make himself appear taller.
“No.” Gabe picked up the car, and the pointed fin jabbed the center of his palm. “Just taking your company isn’t punishment enough.”
Even breaking Jacobs Fine Furnishings into matchsticks wouldn’t satisfy Dell’s debt to Gabe’s family. It wouldn’t make up for the years his mother suffered in silence. It wouldn’t nullify the blood money Gabe had played with so carelessly never knowing where it had really come from and why. It wouldn’t absolve the sins of the slack-jawed man in front of him. But destroying the business Dell Jacobs built and loved would feel good. Really good. Of that he was absolutely confident. He had to be.
“With all of your money, why are you so obsessed with Jacobs Fine Furnishings?” Keisha circled around her desk, her full hips swaying with each determined step. “The Gabe I met last night wouldn’t be.”
Dell’s hair jerked around to his daughter. “What are you talking about?”
“He spent the night at Fix ‘Er Up.”
The old man spun around, the speed making him teeter on his unsteady feet. “I sure as hell had better have misheard you, Keisha Louise Jacobs.”
“His car broke down on the highway.” She grabbed her father’s elbow, steadying him. “I couldn’t leave him out to freeze to death.”
“Would’ve been fine with me.” The prickly bastard shrugged off his daughter’s touch.
“I wouldn’t have expected any less from you, Mr. Jacobs, after what you did to my father,” Gabe said.
Keisha rounded on Gabe, her normally expressive eyes deadened with ice-cold fury. She stomped over to him and jabbed her finger in his chest. “My dad is a small business owner in Salvation, Virginia. How in the hell could he hurt some fat daddy, Harbor City, rich dude like Cesar Campos?”
“Cesar isn’t my father.” Gabe’s jaw nearly cracked from how hard he was gritting his teeth as he fought to keep his emotions from breaking the surface. Dell Jacobs didn’t deserve to see his pain, only his fury. He exhaled a slow breath and swept Keisha’s hand from his chest. “My father was Hector Hernandez, the man your dad killed.”
Every muscle in Keisha’s body quivered with barely restrained fury, and it took everything she had not to knee Gabe in the nuts so she could watch him crumple to the ground in a twisting heap. No one came into her office and called her dad a murderer. No one. Especially not Gabe Campos.
“Have you lost your damn mind?” she bellowed loud enough that his hair should have moved.
“No. I found out the truth about my father, and yours, a few months ago.” He answered her question, but his flinty blue eyes never left her father’s face. “Your secret’s out, old man.”
“I never killed anyone.” Her dad half sat, half collapsed onto the chair, an ashy pallor taking the life out of his craggy, lined face.
“Maybe not with your own hands,” Gabe growled. “But there’s blood on them just the same.”
Her dad cringed, defeat curling his body inward. “The accident wasn’t anyone’s fault.” On the last word, her dad’s voice hitched with emotion.
Keisha’s lungs clamped shut, and she stumbled back a few steps. She must have misheard him.
There’s no way—
Then she noticed the resignation and remorse etched into every line on her dad’s face, and she didn’t know whether to scream or cry. A wave of icy confusion crashed over her, leaving her shaking where she stood as her knees threatened to give way.
Gabe wasn’t similarly affected. He practically grew in size as he stalked across her office. “You think a retired race car driver lost control of his car because the streets were a little rainy? Right after his business partner steals all his best clients and leaves him high and dry. Sound familiar, Dell?” He snorted dismissively. “No way. He had more than enough knowhow to make a deliberate choice look like an accident. He slammed his car into the overpass for the insurance money because you’d stolen everything he had.”
The room tilted as her head floated, barely attached to her neck. The light-headedness rocked her back until her hip struck the desk, but the sharp jab scarcely registered in her muddled brain. Reaching out for something to anchor her to the here and now, she accidentally slashed her hand through the stack of bills. They fluttered to the floor like snowflakes of doom.
“Why now?” Her father sighed. “Why after all these years?”
“Because I just found out who my real father was, and that the cash I used as seed money to make my first million came from my father’s life insurance.” Bitterness scrapped Gabe’s voice raw, revealing the unearthed resentment and pain underneath.
It couldn’t be true. There was no way. Not her dad. She held onto the belief as tight as a child’s chubby fingers wound around a balloon string. Gabe was wrong.
“Son, I don’t know what you think you know, but your dad had his own way of doing things, and they weren’t always the best options.” Soft and calm, her dad acted like he was talking to an animal that had been spooked by thunder. “It’s true we were business partners before he died, but our partnership ended weeks before his accident. I couldn’t do things his way anymore. He kept coming in half tanked. Made too many risky decisions. Borrowed money from the wrong people.”
“A likely story,” Gabe said.
Her dad shook his head. “Have you talked to your mother about this?”
“I don’t need to.” Rage shook Gabe’s voice, and the vein in his temple looked ready to burst. “You drove him to his death as sure as if it was your foot on the gas pedal.”