What kind of son would he be if he questioned his mother?
Annoyed by the direction of his thoughts, Gabe’s fingers tapped out a tune on the steering wheel. “I’m sure she did have her reasons, but it doesn’t matter because now I know, and I’m finally doing something about it.”
“He agreed to sell?” Real excitement punctuated Carlos’ question.
“Sort of,” Gabe hedged.
Silence filled the car’s interior. Well, as much quiet as there could be with the mangled roar of the loaner car’s engine as he turned onto Highway Twenty-Eight headed for Fix ‘Er Up to check on the Aston Martin’s diagnosis.
Carlos cleared his throat. “Continue.”
“We made a bet. Whoever makes the best piece of furniture in two days wins.” So much for being a titan of business. He’d gotten suckered by a wily old man who somehow knew how to push all Gabe’s buttons. Dell Jacobs had done everything short of spitting on his palm and triple-dog-daring Gabe.
“I’ve seen the desk you made.” Carlos spoke slowly, obviously choosing each word with care. “But do you really think you can beat a trained professional?”
“I’m not going up against the old man.”
“His daughter, Keisha.” She of the snarky one liners, amazingly soft skin, and the ass that could make the most intelligent man in the world babble like a total loon. Damn, she’d been pissed to see him in her office. Really pissed.
“Oh, now I get why you just had to go down to Salvation yourself instead of sending a lackey. Is she as hot as she sounds on the phone?”
“Who said she sounded hot?” Gabe glared at his phone.
“Do you remember Thursday night? After the fourth beer, you wouldn’t shut up about her, going on and on about how she had the voice of aged whiskey, whatever the fuck that means.”
Embarrassment scorched his ears. Yeah, he remembered all right. “Shut it, Carlos.”
“And you think you have a chance?”
“With her?” Damn, Gabe hoped so. Who said billionaires couldn’t be fools?
“Not with her. Against her.” Carlos snorted. “Priorities, man. Then again, maybe you finally have them straight after going on this nut job quest to avenge a father who never needed avenging.”
“I’m not going to let anything, or anyone, stand in my way.” Of that, he was damn sure. He hadn’t turned one hundred thousand in seed money into a billion in fifteen years by letting his little head rule the big one.
Carlos sighed, his weariness coming through loud and clear despite the static connection. “You’ve got me really regretting ever telling you about the police report.”
“I don’t have time for regrets.”
An ice-cold calm filled him as he focused his energy on the two-lane road ahead and the dot on the horizon that would grow into Fix ‘Er Up. “If I wanted a lecture, I’d have told my mom where I was going this weekend and why.”
“Ever think that maybe the fact that you didn’t should tell you something?”
An ache built behind Gabe’s right eye, dull but growing in strength. He loved his cousin, in truth they were more like brothers, but on this topic, he couldn’t deal with any touchy-feely-TV-doctor bullshit. “Was there a purpose for this call?”
“Your cousin can’t call just to check in?”
Yeah, right. “What are we, chicks?”
“I found the medical examiner’s report from your dad’s accident.”
An investigator at Maltese Security in Harbor City, Carlos had the computer skills to get his hands on almost any document in the world.
The ache turned into a sharp knife jabbing Gabe right in the eyeball. Fix ‘Er Up sat a mile up the road, and he started to slow down way before he needed to. “And?”
“You’re not going to like it.”
What else was new? He forced himself to loosen his white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel. “Rip off the Band-Aid.”
“He was drunk.”
Gabe turned too sharply into the Fix ‘Er Up parking lot and jumped the curb with his right, front tire. He bounced in the seat but quickly recovered. He pulled to a stop in front of the closed bay doors. “No way. That would have been in the police report.”
“Point one four blood alcohol level. I saw it plain as day.” Carlos paused. “My hypothesis is that it was a one-car accident, and no one else was hurt, but the driver left behind an eight-months-pregnant widow. The cops probably thought they were doing your family a favor by failing to mention it in the report. Where it asks for B.A.C., the response is undetermined. I doubt the insurance company would have paid out if it could be shown your dad was at fault for the accident.”
His cousin may have kept talking, but all Gabe heard was the word drunk stuck on repeat like a scratched DVD. Little things his mom had said jumped to the forefront. The constant warnings to never drink and drive. The refusal to let him get a driver’s license until he was in college. The ever-present reminders that even one drink was too many. It must have all sank in, because to this day, his alcohol consumption barely made a blip on the radar, and he hadn’t bothered to get a driver’s license until he was twenty-three.
His lungs seized, squeezing out the oxygen and leaving him wanting. “It can’t….”
“It is. Sorry, man.”
He fumbled for a viable explanation. A reason he could grasp as tight as he’d held the steering wheel minutes earlier. Drunk—.14. At fault. Insurance. Confusion swirled where there’d been only certainty, roiling his stomach.
Desperate for a defense, he latched onto the best bad reason he could imagine. “It doesn’t matter. Dell Jacobs drove my dad to that bottle.”
“You don’t know that,” Carlos said. “For all you know about your dad, he could have been a raging alcoholic. It’s not like you’ve ever told your mom you knew the truth, let alone asked her about him.”
Bullshit. He knew what he knew. What he had to believe. “Are you done?”
“Yeah, I am. The question is, are you?”
“Not by a fucking long shot.” Gabe punched the end call button without saying goodbye.
Ever since he’d accidentally discovered the truth about his father and the accident six months ago, the only thing he’d thought about was bringing Dell Jacobs to his knees and making him pay the debt owed. He’d pushed and prodded associates to look elsewhere with their business. He’d plotted and planned his revenge, right down to the look on the old man’s face when he realized the company he’d spent his life building lay in ruins.