“See,” Willa said excitedly. “It must be true, she’s leaving.”
“Leaving won’t stop us from talking about you!” Pru called after her.
Elle responded with a single finger gesture that had them all cracking up again. She pushed open the door to the courtyard, and as was her habit, which she never admitted to, her gaze automatically slid up to the second-floor walkway to Hunt Investigations.
Someone was coming out of Archer’s offices and she stilled because it wasn’t Archer.
Nope, it was worse. It was her sister.
Frozen in place by shock, Elle watched Morgan vanish into the elevator. What the hell? She found herself moving across the courtyard and got to the elevator just as it opened.
Morgan stepped out and then did a double take at the sight of Elle standing there.
Elle gave a short laugh. “See, now I know why I’m surprised to see you. But I have no idea why you’re surprised to see me since I work here.”
Morgan recovered quickly. “Look at that, you can string together more words than no and goodbye. Good to know.”
“Just tell me why you’re here, Morgan.”
Her sister settled her purse strap higher on her shoulder. “Because you’re so sure that I’m up to something, right?”
There was actually more than a little hurt in Morgan’s tone and it gave Elle pause. Morgan didn’t do vulnerabilities. Morgan didn’t do weaknesses.
Morgan didn’t do family.
So why then was her sister suddenly breathing a little too fast? Why were her eyes so suspiciously shiny, like she was on the very edge of a breakdown? Elle took a deep breath for calm. “Just talk to me.”
Morgan arched a brow. “You sure you don’t just want to slam your door on my nose again first?”
“I’ll decide after you tell me what you were doing in Archer’s office.”
At this, Morgan smiled. “Jealous?”
“Okay, forget it,” Elle said and she spun on her heel to walk off.
“Dammit, Elle, wait. Look, I’m a bitch when I’m up against the wall, and . . . well, I’m sorry, okay?”
Elle turned back. “You’re in trouble?”
Morgan blew out a breath. “Not like you’re thinking.”
Elle walked back to her. “Keep talking.”
“I’m sober,” Morgan said. “I’m going to school. I’m working on getting and keeping my shit together. I’m looking for a job and my own place, and I need references.”
“Been there, done that,” Elle said. “When we left Mom, remember? We lied about my age so I could sign the lease. Same with the credit cards we got to keep us going, the ones we put in my name to build and establish credit since you’d already trashed yours. And then you bailed on me. I was sixteen and alone and you up and vanished, leaving me holding the bag for twelve thousand dollars of debt that you’d racked up. And then you showed up two years later and we did a wash and repeat. And okay, that time was on me. Fool me once and all that. I was stupid for trusting you again.”
Morgan closed her eyes and when she opened them, there were tears of regret. “What do you want from me, Elle? I’d say I’m sorry for every shitty thing I’ve done but we’d be here all day, and in the end I’m not sure you’d believe me anyway.” She paused and sighed. “But I am, you know. Sorry. I was such a shit and I hate that and I wish I could take it all back, I really do.”
“Just tell me what you really want.”
Morgan made a low sound of frustration. “Is it so hard to believe I might have really changed this time? Have you lived your own life so perfectly that you can really look down your nose on me? You don’t have anything you’re ashamed of?”
Of course she hadn’t lived her life perfectly. She’d made more mistakes than she cared to admit. But as for being ashamed of anything . . . No. She couldn’t say she was.
Except for maybe this—she wasn’t willing to believe that Morgan had changed her stripes. She couldn’t, because if she did, then she also had to admit she gave up on a sibling when she shouldn’t have.
“Look,” Morgan said quietly. “I can tell you one thing I didn’t come here to do, and that’s fight with you.”
“Why were you at Archer’s?”
“Because you shut me out and I need help.”
Guilt niggled at her. But so did anger. “You shouldn’t have gone to him. We’ve cost him enough.”
“Maybe,” Morgan said. “But go figure—the big, tough, hard badass has quite the heart beneath that broad, sexy chest of his.”
When Morgan had walked out of the courtyard, through the wrought-iron gate, and vanished onto the street, Elle tried to talk herself off the ledge. She was going to go upstairs and bury herself in work until all murderous urges faded. She even passed the elevator, deciding that taking the stairs might expel some of her temper.
But nope. At the top of the stairs, she was breathing heavily and her toes hurt . . . but she was still mad as hell. Enough to forget her Archer embargo and head into his office instead of her own.
Mollie smiled at her from behind the reception counter. “Hey, you. Great dress and pretty little crop sweater to go with. But aren’t you cold?”
Elle looked down at her sleeveless baby blue wrap dress and the lacy sweater that wasn’t really a sweater so much as something that was too pretty to leave hanging in her closet. “Freezing, actually,” she admitted, “but I bought some summer stuff on sale and this one didn’t feel like waiting for a season change.”
Mollie laughed. “What’s a little discomfort to looking good, right?”
Exactly Elle’s thinking.
“So what’s up?” Morgan asked. “What can I do for you?”
“I just need a moment with your boss to strangle him—er, talk to him.”
“Oh, do go for the first,” Mollie said. “I could really use the rest of the day off.”
Elle smiled grimly and headed back. Archer’s office door was closed but she didn’t let that stop her. He was in the middle of a meeting with Joe, Max, and Trev, the four of them bent over a set of plans. Carl was sprawled across the middle of the floor, taking up nearly all of it, snoring. The big Doberman lifted his head, eyeballed her, and leapt to his feet, eyes hopeful and on the lookout for a treat.