Still, doubt crept up his neck. He had to know. Without second guessing, he went with his gut and dialed the number he knew by heart.
“Jacobs Fine Furnishings,” the cheerful voice chirped.
“Dell Jacobs please.” Just saying the man’s name left a hole in his gut.
“Sure, hold on just a minute.”
Sixty seconds later, Dell answered with a weary sigh. “Dell here.”
“What in the hell do you want?” The old man was snarly and on guard, not that Gabe could blame him.
Girding himself for a harsh rejection, he made his request before he could change his mind. “The truth.”
“My dad and his accident.”
Silence weighed down the phone line like a lead balloon before Dell spoke. “You know, sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.”
“This dog is already awake.” He wasn’t going to turn back now. That wasn’t how he functioned.
“What do you want to know?”
He closed his eyes, wishing like hell he had any other request. “What happened that day?”
“Your dad and I were in business together. For me, it was a side company to help alleviate the risk of putting all my eggs in the Jacobs Fine Furnishings basket. For your father, well, it was something else. Your dad wasn’t a bad man. He just lost his fight with some nasty demons.”
“Alcohol?” Not that he needed to ask after what Carlos found, but he had to ask.
“Your dad loved fast cars, fast people, and fast highs, but he couldn’t keep up the pace.” Dell paused as if gathering his strength. “The day of the accident, we had a huge fight, and I told him I was never going back into business with him. I couldn’t take it anymore. If only I’d known what would have happened next.”
The images from the accident whirled around in his head. “None of us knows that,” Gabe mumbled.
“And ain’t that a damn shame.”
Dread chilled Gabe’s blood.
What in the hell had he done?
The offer came—finally—when Keisha had already used up her last yes.
The official e-mail from Epson and Callahan Interior Design had announced its presence in her e-mail inbox with an ordinary ping, like any other message. Her hand shook as she clicked the mouse to open it.
Excited to offer…hit the ground running…start immediately….
Disappointment stung her eyes, and a strangled groan climbed over the lump in her throat to escape from between her lips. She’d made the right decision to stay in Salvation. She had. Abandoning her family in its time of need wasn’t how she worked, but that didn’t mean doing the right thing didn’t hurt like a bitch.
“Damn, damn, damn,” she muttered under her breath.
The noise caught her dad’s attention as he sat in her office and read through the financials. “What’s wrong, Baby Girl?”
Life was about choices. No one guaranteed they were easy. Or painless.
Dell sat up straight, tossed the papers to the side of her desk, and considered her. He scrunched up his mouth until it looked like he’d just sucked a lemon.
“Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining,” he groused. “I know that look on your face. It’s the same one you had when you told us that no-good son of a bitch fiancé of yours had been cheating on you for the entirety of your engagement.”
Keisha’s toes curled inside her wool socks, and she tucked her body as deep as possible into the cyan cushion on her chair back. “It’s not that bad.”
“Uh-huh.” He crossed his arms until his forearms rested on his pot belly. Translation: bullshit. “Talk.”
Her gaze bounced from the red silk mums in an antique milk glass jug to the crystal knobs on the storage cabinets to the built-in shelves stacked high with design books—anywhere but her dad’s all-too perceptive eyes. This was not a conversation she wanted to have, but just like she knew puce was the ugliest color ever, she knew her dad wasn’t going to leave her alone until she spilled everything. Dell had the gift.
She shrugged. “It’s not a big deal.”
He drummed his fingertips on his cane’s cushioned handle. “I’m gonna tell you now what I said when you cried on my shoulder about that idiot ex-fiance of yours.” He leaned forward. “Everything in the world that’s important to you is important to me, and if anything hurts you, I will make it bleed.”
Yeah, he’d said that, but having to deliver that particular piece of shitty news to her parents hadn’t been the worst part of the night. Pushing past the pain and the fear she’d forever associate with that night at its aftermath, she forced a light tone into her voice. “Really? What I remember from that conversation was you storming off the front porch with your shotgun.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled, but his cheeks flushed. “Who’d have thought a sudden stroke would save me from going to the pokey? God does work in mysterious ways.”
Guilt twisted up her insides as she stared at the financial paperwork covered in red ink that lay spread across her desk.
Keep your mouth shut, K. You can’t hurt him again.
“Enough stalling. Fess up. Now.” His voice held just enough fatherly concern and don’t-fuck-with-me finality to make her ignore her inner warning.
She considered her dad, who had raised her, loved her, and pushed her to always follow her heart. She’d been so scared of killing him off, she’d forgotten to live her own life. That wasn’t fair to her or to him. The epiphany lifted the rocks she hadn’t realized were weighing her down.
“It’s a job offer from Epson and Callahan Interior Design in Harbor City.” The words tumbled from her lips.
He gnawed his bottom lip as if he was chewing the confession into bite-sized morsels. “They just called you out of the blue?”
In for a penny, in for a second stroke. God, she hoped not. “The trip I made to Harbor City a few weeks ago…it was an interview.”
“Why not tell me?”
It wasn’t censure painted on her dad’s face. It was surprise and confusion. She had to make him understand. She’d never meant to hurt him. “Everything here seemed to be going well with Tyrell, and they’re one of the top interior design firms in the country. I thought it was finally time for me to branch out.”
“You want this?”