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Page 68 of Just Desserts (Holland Springs 4)

“Romanov’s take. Romanov’s conquer. They want and get.” He slashed a hand through the air. “Did I not say those very words to you?”

“Yes,” she said softly. “But you apologized. Would your dad have apologized?”

No, but it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. “I only apologized for my words, not my deeds.” He turned away from her, moving to the window and looking out.

“Quit trying to push me away.” She placed a hand on his shoulder and he tensed. “You’re a better man than he is, and you’ll be a better dad, too.”

Christ. He’d nearly forgotten about the baby. Yet another reason why he should support Daisy financially and leave her and their child the hell alone. They’d be better off without him. “When Vladimir had a stroke, I put him in a hospital that would sooner kill him than heal him.”

“Oh, well, he had it coming. I don’t feel bad about saying it either since he got out of that place and died in an accident on a yacht with a female friend.”

He let his forehead fall to the windowpane. “I tried to destroy my brother’s career by letting pictures of him snorting coke go viral on the Internet.”

“His bad decisions, his bad consequences. Besides, you took the blame for him. That’s a great big brother. Looks like their situations were more about results than your evil plans,” she said, her tone on this side of teasing. She was trying, God love her, to make the situation not as bad as it was. As it had always been.

“It was my fault Vladimir and his mistress were murdered, because I refused to honor past deals with certain entities.”

“Wow. Those world domination fellows mean business.” She snorted. “Guess horse heads are too seventies, huh?”

Was there nothing he could say that would make her not be on his side? “Bloody f**king hell, Daisy, would you be serious?” He whirled around, intent on shaking some sense into her. Instead, he froze at the sight of tears on her cheeks.

“I’m trying, but I can’t.” She shrugged, more tears falling. Her lashes were black and spiky, mascara running at the corners of her eyes. In her hand, she still held the towel that she had gotten for his cheek.

Because she cared about him. No, because she loved him.

In the space of a heartbeat, he held his arms open and she threw herself into them. “I’m sorry, love.” He tucked her against him, stroking her back. “I need some time…a few hours to think.”

“Okay.”

“Afterward, I’ll come to you at The Hall. We’ll spend the night there and decide what to do later.” He already knew what to do. The money she needed had already been transferred to her bank account, and all that was left was the Board’s vote, but he wouldn’t wait that long. The sooner she was back to her old life, the better.

Leaning back in his arms, she tipped up her chin. “Can we sleep in the bedroom that isn’t haunted by the ghost of the bride who stabbed herself in the heart after finding her husband doing the maid?”

He gave her a look of disbelief. “That’s the story they’re telling now?”

“Everyone in my tour group ate it up. So I told the one about the ghost who haunted the well that my Aunt Jeannie and her sons use to make moonshine. The Feds won’t go near that place. Except once, but that was during the day.”

Oh, his giddy aunt. Where the hell had Ivan been? “You went on a tour, by yourself?”

“No, Ivan was there. You know, he has a really hard time blending in.”

“I don’t pay him to blend in,” he said, fighting the urge to smile. “I pay him to keep us, you especially, safe.”

A teasing light entered her eyes. “From all the other world dictators who get mad when you out dictator them?”

He guessed it wasn’t the end of the world if she thought his dad had been a regular bloke. “Of course.”

“Do you want me to wait to eat dinner, until you come home?”

“Eat without me.”

Those teasing eyes of hers narrowed. “But you will come home tonight.”

“I promise, and you know how I feel about promises made to you,” he said with a playful wink. However, on the inside, all that resided was pain, betrayal, and old memories he had been forced to relive.

He managed to keep himself in check while the maid helped Daisy pack her things by organizing his art supplies. Though after tonight, he’d never touch them again. Painting was something his mother had taught him to do when he’d been little. But now he suspected she had taught him to do it so he’d leave her alone.

While Christian had been the talkative actor, Sebastian had been the quiet one. The one who’d rather stay with his mum than venture out to meet new people. Even then she had pushed him away, preferring his brother over him.

The pencil he’d been holding snapped in two. He threw it away with the rubbish.

Daisy rushed in the room, bringing her vanilla and honey scent with her. One last kiss goodbye and she was gone. He waited until the gates closed, before he pulled out his phone.

Text me when you get to the Hall safely.-S

Which bedroom? ~D

A grim smile fit his lips. Mine.-S

Slipping his phone into the back pocket of his jeans, he strode to the lounger.

Chapter Twenty-Six

It was almost ten by the time Sebastian showed up, hair mussed, scratches on his arms, and smelling of smoke.

Daisy sat up in bed, her heart beating like hummingbird wings. “What happened to you?”

“Doesn’t matter.” He stalked to the bed and picked her up. “I need a shower.”

“But you’re still dressed,” she pointed out. She wanted to talk to him. The entire time he’d been gone, she’d worried. And all that worrying had led to four fingernails bitten to the quick, a burnt pot of soup, and bleach on her favorite shirt.

“And you’re nude.”

She clung to him as he strode to the bathroom and turned on the lights. The shower here was even more impressive than the one at The Rectory. He smacked the wall. Water poured from the interior of the shower and steam filled the air.

“I need you.”

She gazed into his eyes. “You have me.”

Stepping inside the shower, clothes and all, he pressed her against the wall and covered her mouth with his, tongue forcing its way inside. “I want to do things to you.” He bit her lip hard, then soothed the sting with a little kiss and let her legs slid to the marble floor. “But I’m not sure you’d like it. Hell, I’m not sure if you’ve ever done what I have in mind.”

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