Things were making more and more sense. Preston’s reaction to the bathtub and his method of vague truth. I searched the penthouse. He wasn’t there so I walked across the hall to the office and rushed in. There were two men in suits sitting on the other side of his desk and all three sets of eyes landed on me.
“Megan.” Preston stood and so did both the men. “Everything okay?”
I swallowed hard. He looked legitimately concerned and to be honest, no, everything was not okay. I wasn’t one for the dramatics but I didn’t think I could wait to talk to him.
“Gentlemen,” he looked at my face then at the men, “can you give me and my fiancé a few moments please.”
The men mumbled, “Of course” and showed themselves out.
Preston apologized and shut the door behind them. He was on me in two long-legged strides cupping my shoulders.
I shook my head. “Darlene…”
Preston’s hands dropped and he looked at the ceiling. “Christ, what did she do?”
I frowned at the ground. I had no idea how to proceed. How to tell him what she had said. He should know, right? That she was saying these things? And because it was so awful I wanted to comfort him or tell him it was okay. I wanted to do something. Anything! My mind just wouldn’t spit anything out.
“Megan. We went over this last night and again this morning. I told you she would try to mess with your mind and use our past to hurt you. But she’s nothing. I don’t—”
“I know. She didn’t tell me about you two. She told me that your father was going to sign over the three percent to you as a wedding present. Then she questioned our relationship. Said she was going to find out what was really going on. Did you know about this?”
“I spoke with my father this morning. It’s good news but was bound to upset Charlie and Darlene. She’s grasping for anything to help her case.”
“Preston, I…she hit me with so much.”
He glanced at his watch, completely unaffected. “Everything is fine, Megan.”
“Everything is not fine, Preston. She told me about your mother.”
He took a step back and I looked up at him. His face was hard as marble. “You barged in here, interrupted a meeting with foreign executives, because of that?”
“Preston, it’s a big deal. Darlene was so…harsh about it. She said you found your mother and—”
“Enough!” I snapped my mouth shut. “If this was something I wanted to discuss, don’t you think I would have?”
“I don’t know. That’s the problem. I have no idea what you would or wouldn’t tell me.”
He flexed his jaw. “Really? I did a background check on you and I know what I need to know. But I never pressed you for details. You want to tell me about Tim?” His sinister tone could have cut me half. “Do you want to tell me how much of your parents’ current situation is really your fault? You want to tell me just how close you got to your ex-boss and exactly what you did for him?”
Breath left my lungs at the low blow. Anger and sadness washed over me. If he was trying to hurt me on purpose, he just did a hell of a job.
“I didn’t do nearly as much for him as I’m doing for my current boss,” I snarled the last word.
In that one sentence, I had let Preston paint me my worst nightmare. I felt cheap and stupid. Tim had kissed me and I tried to stop it. Regret didn’t begin to explain how terrible I felt about it. And even worse, I talked my parents into dealing with him. It was the same reason Preston used to his advantage over me right now. I was in a lose-lose situation. He and I both knew it.
“I came here because I was worried about you,” I said, forcing back tears, which popped up out of nowhere. “You didn’t prep me on how to handle information about your past.”
“I didn’t think Darlene knew the f**king details,” he growled and stood behind his desk.
I tried to dodge all the negativity flying around the room and focus on what my goal was. I came here out of instinct. Preston was my concern.
“I just wanted to make sure—”
“Make sure what, Megan?”
“She said a lot of things, Preston. And I just wanted to see you, is all.”
“Oh yeah?” He walked around his desk, slowly drawing in on me with each step. Intentionally prolonging the torture like a lion circling its prey. “I don’t give a shit what she says about the past or the present. I don’t want to hear it, nor is it your place to come in here and think you have any right to my business, personal or otherwise.”
I shook my head. “She said things about you Preston. Said that you have fits of rage.”
He stepped closer.
“And you believe her.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. One I rejected quickly.
I shot my chin in the air and looked him dead in the eye. He was not my favorite person at the moment, but even now, one thing remained true.
“I’m not afraid of you, Preston.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t and don’t believe her. I was shocked and wanted to come see you. That’s it. I’m not forcing you to talk or even acknowledge anything, but I’m here if you want to.”
I turned to leave. He grabbed my arm and I stopped, turning to look at him over my shoulder. Fiery anger shot through his eyes, but behind that mask was a hint of vulnerability. There was so much hidden deep within Preston Strauss and I had a feeling I had only scratched the surface of a long-standing nightmare. This was more than I was prepared for and in that moment, I had no idea what to do or why I had signed up for this mess in the first place.
“Why are you doing this, Megan?”
“I was just asking myself the same thing.”
“Megan, honey, are you okay? You sound upset.” My mother’s voice on the line was the kindest thing I’d heard in a long time.
I sat on my bed in my apartment. It was cold and still, but I was happy I had somewhere to go. Emma wasn’t home and from the looks of it, hadn’t been for a night or two.
“I’m fine mom, just tired. How are you? How’s Daddy?”
She sighed. “I’m fine. Daddy is…well he’s doing alright.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. I knew that tone. It had been several days since I had talked with her last. Since our conversation with the doctor several weeks ago, our conversations had been brief—one of which was telling her more cash would be wired weekly. I had gotten off the phone before she could argue.