“That’s nice of you.” I smiled.
The waiter came and took our order. Salad and mimosa for Darlene and chicken for me.
“So, you and Preston seem to have happened pretty fast.”
Here we go. This wasn’t a get-to-know-you session, this was an interrogation. One thing I was learning from Preston was that the truth could be taken a lot of different ways, but it was still the truth. Keep it vague without it being a lie. Guess it was my turn to test his tactics.
“Really fast,” I said. “Like, ‘what’s your name, wanna get married?’ kind of fast.” I smiled wide, loving how the truth—sort of—felt good to say.
Darlene didn’t seem as amused.
“So you must be really thrilled that John is giving Preston his three percent as a wedding present?” she hissed. My mouth hung open and shock tingled along my spine. “Oh, did I spoil the surprise?”
“I didn’t know John had made a decision.”
“I find it interesting that Preston turned up to be engaged so suddenly and even more odd is that the wedding is happening so soon.”
“We have our reasons for that,” I muttered, trying for confidence but not wanting to go into those “reasons,” like my father’s illness, with this woman. Or the other fact that Preston did want to get married because of the three percent. It looked like Darlene wasn’t an idiot herself. She was obviously a schemer. The way she played Preston was enough for me to dislike her.
“Oh, I’m sure you do. Preston, he always has a plan after all. Don’t think that I’m blind to that or that I am going to let John sign over the stake of the company to him. Charlie is the oldest, legitimate son. And married or not, I know the kind of man Preston is. He’s never going to produce a family. Whatever you’re up to, I’ll find out.”
Okay, that’s it. “What goes on between Preston and I is none of your business. And what John decides to do is up to him. I don’t care what you think you know about Preston, because he’s not yours to think about.”
“Oh, look at you. Defending him like you mean it.”
I understood right then Emma’s obsession with bitch-slapping. Because in that moment, there was nothing I wanted more than to smack Darlene. Fine, she had a hunch that something was up and that was technically true. But she had played her hand with Preston a long time ago and lost. Despite how our relationship started, I cared about Preston, and whatever Darlene was aiming to do wasn’t good.
“He must not have caught you up on all the family gossip if you’re still this hung up on him.” She ran her fingertip along the rim of her glass and the evil glare in her eye made me feel really, really uncomfortable—like at any moment she was going to poison me with her mere words.
“I think I’m pretty well caught up,” I went to stand but her words stilled me.
“So he told you about his mom?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I know that his father stepped out of the marriage and Preston and Charlie have different moms.”
She pursed her lips and eyed me. “No, I don’t mean about the fact that John cheated. I’m talking about what happened to Preston’s mom.”
“She passed away.”
The grin on Darlene’s face could only be classified as pure evil. She leaned in and licked her lips like she was ready to devour a helpless baby deer.
“I’m not surprised he didn’t give you details. Preston doesn’t open up to many people. But…”
Rage started to boil and I reminded myself that this was a sad, scorned woman who passed on a great guy like Preston for Junior Mc-Stink-Eye and was obviously upset about it now. Especially now the coveted three percent was being dangled in front of her.
“I think you should know what went on since you’ll have to live with Preston’s…fits.” She took a drink of her mimosa.
I sat back down. “Fits?”
She nodded. “Every year on the anniversary of his mother’s death, Preston goes into rages. Drinks excessively. Acts crazy. It was amazing I got out of there untouched.”
Wait, what? Was she insinuating what I think she was?
“Are you claiming something about Preston? Because if you are, I’d think long and hard before you say things that aren’t true.” A super pissed-off pitch coated my words. I was done with her and this maliciousness. That she would even hint that Preston would ever hurt her, or any other woman, was absurd.
“Calm down, I didn’t say anything. No, Preston never hit me. I’m just saying he gets crazy.”
Oh, I think I was currently staring down the barrel of crazy. I had grown up with Kate and been around her bipolar mother a few times to unfortunately see what rage looks like in a person. The look in someone’s eyes before they struck was something you could never forget. Preston wasn’t that person. He was private, but not hateful.
“I’m sure Preston would tell me if there was an issue.”
Darlene scoffed. “He didn’t even tell you how she died.”
I frowned. Darlene clearly had more information than I did and couldn’t wait to spill. So she didn’t.
“The woman killed herself. Slit her wrists in the bathtub. Preston was thirteen when he walked in and found her.” Darlene leaned back and waved her hand in the air. “He pulled her out, tried to save her but she had been dead for hours. Blood everywhere. Total scandal.”
My mouth hung open and Darlene looked almost excited and happy to be talking about this. “Why in the hell would you say something like that?” My voice was somewhere between a growl and a whisper.
“Because it’s true.” She shrugged and forked her salad.
“No.” I snapped my finger at her and she had the grace to look me in the eye. “I mean, why would you say it that way, like it’s a piece of gossip?”
“I’m doing you a favor, Megan. I just thought you should know what you’re getting into. Whatever Preston promised you, it isn’t worth his dark moments.”
“Oh, I’m very clear on what I’m getting into.” I set my napkin on the table and stood. “If you have a soul at all, you’d be wise to not talk about Preston, or his mother’s memory, like that again.”
She stared at me and I didn’t bother letting her speak. I just walked away. Rushing to the elevator, I prayed Preston would be at the penthouse or the office. I needed to talk to him. Now.