“Ah, Clare. Really? He’s still talking about her?” She shakes her head with a sad smile. “She likes this one.” She points at Hugh.
Asshole. Stealing my friend’s woman. Shit. Maybe I am drunk. “I think that one likes you.” I tilt my head in Hugh’s direction, thankful he’s talking to Violet and not making eyes at my girl.
Rose blushes. She actually fucking blushes. Christ, she’s cute. “He does not.”
I crane my neck to check him out. He’s still chatting with Violet, but I see the way his gaze slides to Rose every few seconds, lingering on her face, her chest, her whatever he finds particularly appealing.
Can’t help but wonder if he would find my fist connecting with his nose appealing? Probably not.
“Yeah. I think he does.” I can grudgingly admit he’s a good-looking fucker with the dark hair styled in an expensive cut, the high-end suit he’s wearing, and that gleaming smile that probably cost a fortune.
I hate him.
“Well, it doesn’t matter, because I’m here with you.” She leans into me, her mouth right at my ear, her lips moving against it when she speaks and making me shiver. “I missed you.”
Her confession pleases me more than I care to admit. “Yeah?” I tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, my gaze roaming over her pretty face. “Did it really go okay? The meeting?”
She shrugs and pulls away from me, reaching out to grab her drink and take a sip. “It went as well as I expected.”
“And that means?” I press. I’m not one to push. If she doesn’t want to share details of her personal life, I can deal with that. I’m sharing the most intimate experience with this woman two people can have. I know her body inside and out. But we don’t talk about personal things. Our private lives. She mentioned she gave notice at Fleur and that surprised me, but she never went into detail and I didn’t push. We told each other that first night, lying in bed together in the hushed quiet of the hotel suite, that we wouldn’t push. We wouldn’t ask too many questions.
I regret making that promise. More and more as each day passes by.
It’s stupid. How can we ever turn this into something more if we don’t really talk? Does she want to turn this into more? Do I?
I go back and forth. Having Hugh Watson show up is not helping my case, either. He’s the type of man she should be with. One who’s her equal, not a criminal who’s faked through most of his life and doesn’t know how to let a woman get close.
“It means that my relationship with my father is what I would call strained at best.” She looks sad. I hate it. I want to chase away her sadness and make her feel good. Help her forget.
“My relationship with my father sucked too,” I admit, feeling the need to share something. A bit of my life I’ve never really talked about with anyone. Mitchell knows what happened to my dad and so does Whitney, but we’ve never really spoken of it. No one talks about suicide.
“Really?” She sounds curious but she says nothing more. Probably doesn’t want to press for more.
I nod and draw my finger through the ring of condensation my glass left on the dark table. “I was a shit growing up.”
“Nooo,” she drawls with a little laugh, making me chuckle.
“It’s true. I was spoiled rotten. He created the monster and then I think he regretted it.” I know he did. He created a monster out of all of us, including himself. Spending money like it was nothing, buying us whatever we wanted. Eventually, all that cash he spent became money he obtained illegally. Money he stole from clients. Investors who had faith he would do them right. Instead he did them wrong.
And then he did us all wrong by ending his life like a chickenshit.
“Do you guys still talk?” she asks, her voice as gentle as the glow in her eyes.
“No.” I take a deep breath. “He died a long time ago.”
Her eyes go instantly dim and she settles her hand on my arm, the sympathy written all over her face so clear. “I’m so sorry,” she murmurs, her fingers squeezing. “I lost my mother, too, you know.”
I nod in answer. I watched the documentary on Dahlia Fowler. They mentioned the girls’ mother and that she died when they were young, but they didn’t offer many details.
“I don’t remember her, though. I was too small.” The look on Rose’s face … I can only describe it as heartbreaking. “I wish I’d known her. I wish I had the chance like Violet did and especially Lily, since she’s the oldest. There’s only a couple of years between me and Violet, so she doesn’t remember her much, but at least she has something, you know?”
That we’re having this conversation in the middle of a crowded pub surrounded by people is frustrating beyond belief. I want to take her hand and drag her out of here. Go back to the hotel where we can talk some more, and then get her naked and offer her comfort in the only way I know how.
“You two look awfully serious,” Nigel interrupts, trying his best to look terribly serious as well but failing miserably. His stony expression cracks in an instant when we both turn to him and he bursts out laughing, clutching his gut like it was the funniest thing ever.
Clearly he’s beyond drunk.
“He’s had way too much,” I tell Rose.
“Nigel.” She shoves at his shoulder, which makes him stop laughing. “You didn’t text Clare this afternoon, did you?”