“Can you answer Dixon’s email?” Tuck asked Jackson.
“Easy. But he’ll have to stop somewhere and log on in order to see it.”
“He might not check,” said Amber. “The point of the whole exercise was to get away from everything.”
“He’s been away from everything,” said Tuck. “It’s time for him to come back.”
“Before he’s ready?” she asked. She understood Tuck’s frustration, but Dixon had a right to take some time to himself.
Tuck sat up straight and his voice rose. “How much time does the guy need?”
“You tell me.” Her annoyance gave her a renewed shot of energy. “You’re the expert. You’ve had nothing but time to yourself for years now.”
He frowned. “Not by choice.”
“They held a gun to your head?”
Jackson rose, closing his laptop. He muttered something about having work to do as he headed for the suite door.
Tuck didn’t react to him leaving. His attention remained focused on Amber. “They did everything possible to keep me at arm’s length.”
She found that hard to believe.
“You think I’m lying,” he stated.
“I know you had an office. You had keys to the building. Dixon invited you to meetings.”
“Meetings where my father took great pleasure in setting me up for failure.”
“By cornering me with arcane questions to prove I didn’t know anything.”
“Did you know anything?”
He glared at her and she regretted the question.
“I mean,” she said, attempting to backtrack, “you could have studied up, surprised him, turned the tables on him.”
“That seemed like a lot of work to impress a guy who only wanted me gone.”
“Why would he want you gone?” Tuck might be a bit of a rebel, but what father wouldn’t be proud to have him as a son?
“Because he liked Dixon better. Parents aren’t all perfect, Amber. They don’t automatically love their children.”
“Your father loves you.”
Even as she uttered the statement, Amber realized she had no idea how Jamison felt about Tuck. She was under no illusions about automatic parental love.
She shook her head, regretting her words. “I’m sorry. I don’t know that. I don’t know anything about it.”
Tuck blew out a breath. “It’s okay.”
She gave a little laugh. “I don’t even know whether my own mother loved me.”
His gaze turned sympathetic.
Uncomfortable, Amber sat up a bit straighter, attempting to explain. “I’m not sure my mother knew how to love anyone. She said she loved us. I even think she wanted to love us. But she was so incredibly self-absorbed, she couldn’t see past her own needs and desires.”
“And your father?”
“Long gone before I had any memory of him.”
“Did he support you at all? Financially?”
Amber couldn’t help but cough out a laugh. “I’d be surprised if he stayed out of jail. My mother had extraordinarily bad taste in men.”
“Where is she now?”
“She died. It happened while Jade and I were still teenagers.”
Deeper sympathy came up in Tuck’s eyes, softening his expression, making him look approachable, sexy. This was not good.
“How are we talking about me?” she asked.
They needed to get back to arguing.
“You helped raise your sister?”
“She was sixteen when it happened. I was eighteen. There wasn’t much raising left to do.” And by that time there hadn’t been much of an opportunity to change any of Jade’s habits.
“That’s when she dropped out of school?” he asked.
“She took off after a few months. I didn’t hear from her for a while.”
Tuck rose and helped himself to a bottle of water, holding one out for her.
She nodded and accepted it.
He sat down at the opposite end of the sofa. “What did you do?”
“I graduated from high school and got a job.” She twisted the cap and broke the seal. “With Dixon. He took a chance on me.”
“That’s surprising,” said Tuck.
“I worked hard. I promised him I would, and I did.”
“I believe you.” Tuck stretched one arm along the back of the sofa. “No wonder you have no patience for me.”
“I wouldn’t say—”