Archer lifted a brow.
“What?” she said defensively. “She’s my sister. I can talk to her like that.”
Morgan stilled, her eyes going suspiciously watery.
Elle narrowed her gaze. “What now?”
“You just called me your sister,” Morgan whispered and put a hand over her own trembling mouth.
Archer watched Elle struggle to hold on to her anger and fail. She could be as cold as ice when she needed to be, but she also had a heart of gold. He’d always thought that a weakness, but now he was starting to see it was really the opposite. It was a strength. And it made her a far better person than he could ever be.
Elle reached out and slid her hand into Morgan’s. “You are my sister,” she said gruffly. “You’ll always be my sister. And if you meant any of what you said when you first came into town—”
“I did,” Morgan said fiercely.
“Then tell me everything,” Elle said. “Everything, Morgan, or so help me—”
“I know, I know. Stapler upside the head.” Morgan nodded. “Okay, so you know Mom and Lars worked together back in the day. He had her doing cons for him, for a bigger payout than she could get by herself. She often pretended to be a Russian gypsy who could read fortunes. She went around finding ‘family curses’ and promising to remove said curses, which of course she always located in their priceless, heirloom jewelry. Sometimes she had me play the part of the curse expert on the phone—”
Elle frowned. “How did you let him sucker you into that?”
“It was Lars. But all I had to do was make a few calls to the mark. And again, this was years and years ago. But as we both know, one of the cons went bad. The police got involved and Mom rolled over evidence to stay out of jail. Lars wasn’t so lucky. He was out on bail and then the case got delayed but eventually he went away for a few years. When he got out, he immediately messed up and violated parole and then went back for a few more years. He just recently got out again, and he somehow has it in his head that I still have the pot of gold—or in this case, a suitcase full of jewelry from that job.”
“Which you don’t,” Elle said. “Because all you had was the brooch, and I returned that the night we all got caught.”
The now infamous night, a night Archer had always looked at as a tragedy but that wasn’t true at all. It was the night that had brought Elle into his life.
“You don’t still have the loot,” Elle repeated tightly to Morgan. “Right?”
Morgan sucked her lower lip into her mouth. “Not a whole suitcase.” She grimaced. “But I do have a nineteenth-century pocket watch that supposedly belonged to Russian royalty.”
Shit, Archer thought. Here it came.
Elle stared at her sister. “Why?”
“You’re not going to understand.”
“Try me,” Elle said tightly.
“You don’t let emotions rule over logic,” Morgan told her. “You have a healthy mistrust of feeling deeply for anyone, and honestly, I wish I was more like you.”
For the briefest flash, Elle looked like she’d been slapped, but she recovered quickly. “Tell me about the watch, Morgan.”
Morgan rolled a shoulder. “He cheated on me. Once way back during the time of the first con, and then again when he was out on parole. I was angry and betrayed. I wanted him to feel some of that. So yeah, I took the watch. I’m not exactly proud of it and I didn’t do it to sell the thing out from beneath him or anything like that—although I thought about it. But it was more of a . . . victory prize. He didn’t want me, he threw me away. Mom told me to think of it as my tip.”
Elle just stared at her. “If Mom taught us anything from day one, it was to never hold on to anything, not for sentiment, not for love, not for profit, not for anything because it would take you down, every single time.”
“It wasn’t for profit,” Morgan said as she closed her eyes. “But it was for sentiment.”
“What does that mean?” Elle asked.
Morgan opened her eyes and looked at Elle. “I kept the watch because it reminded me of you.”
“Because it was from that night,” Archer said quietly, understanding Morgan more than he expected.
“The watch goes with the brooch you returned,” Morgan said to Elle. “And now I’ve set Lars on your trail because he thinks that I have more than that. I’ve broken your trust and screwed everything up.”
Elle sighed. “This isn’t all on you. It’s also on Mom.”
“And me. I did this,” Morgan said. “But I can fix it.”
“No,” Archer said. “But I can.”
They both turned on him at that, two sisters unexpectedly unified. “This is our problem,” Morgan said. “My problem.”
“She’s right.” Elle met his gaze. “I can’t let you get involved, Archer. Not again. God knows what we’ll ruin for you this time.”
He took her hand in his, needing her with him on this. “This is right in my wheelhouse, Elle. I need you to let me and the guys handle this.”
“Only if you let me in,” she said. “I’m not letting you do this without me.”
“Or me,” Morgan said, equally stubborn.
Well, hell. This had all the makings of a complete clusterfuck but he had these two women looking at him, trusting him, and all they wanted was for him to do the same. “We do this my way,” he warned. “Which means you’re both still staying with me.” He looked at Morgan. “No more vanishing. If you leave this building, you go together or you take one of my men with you.”
“Can I have the cute one with the tats?” Morgan asked.
“Reyes?” he asked. “Definitely not.”
“Because you’ll eat him alive,” Archer said.
“Well of course I will,” Morgan said on a laugh. “But I promise you he’ll like it.”
Elle rolled her eyes.
Morgan cocked her head in her sister’s direction, still looking at Archer. “You must be doing something wrong if that annoys her. Need some pointers?”
Archer was rethinking his stance on strangling her when she laughed again and stood up. “Okay, I’m going upstairs to earn my keep.” She paused. “But I just want to say again . . . I’m sorry. I know that’s not good enough, that I should’ve trusted you sooner. But I really am sorry.”