I could almost get choked up, having her here in front of me. I didn’t realize I missed my sister so much until now. “Skype just doesn’t cut it, you know,” I say, my voice rough as I clear my throat past the emotional bubble clogging it.
Violet rolls her eyes and smiles. “I totally agree. But guess what? You’re stuck with me now. No more going back to London for us except to visit.”
I’m so grateful for her warm acceptance of me that I can feel the tight knot in my chest slowly unravel. I was scared to death this morning as I prepared to come into Fleur. Seeing Daddy, Grandma, Rose, and Violet … and worst of all, that evil witch Pilar … I wasn’t looking forward to it, and that’s the understatement of the year.
I was petrified really, afraid of what any of them might say. I’d rather pretend the fact that I ran away to Maui to escape my problems—especially a problem that neither I nor Pilar wants made public knowledge, I’m sure—was swept under the rug.
I don’t even want to talk about Maui and what happened there. The man I met. The man who somehow, some way, double-crossed me. Stole from me …
I have my suspicions about why Max did what he did. Nothing confirmed yet, but come on. I had jewelry in my suitcase—expensive jewelry. Cash in my wallet and stashed away in my travel bag. Yet he took my laptop and that’s it. The fucker stole from me.
Could he be working for Pilar?
No. It couldn’t be possible, just some weird coincidence. Maybe he didn’t steal from me. Maybe one of the hotel employees snagged my Mac. I hadn’t checked on it in days. For all I know, it could have been missing since the day I stashed it up on the shelf in my closet.
That’s the problem. I don’t know what happened, when it was stolen or why. I can suspect Max all I want. It makes sense in a way. He held me close until I fell asleep and when I woke up in the morning, groggy and hung over, he was gone. Disappeared like he’d never existed in the first place. He didn’t even leave a note. I searched for him everywhere. By the pool, in the lobby, down by the beach, in the hotel restaurants, but he wasn’t there.
I went to his hotel room only to find the door cracked open and the maids inside, cleaning. His stuff was gone. The maids let me know he’d checked out that morning.
He didn’t even bother saying goodbye.
It hurts that he didn’t believe me worthy of a goodbye. Worse, he lied to me. Said that we would see each other again and then ditched me. I don’t get it.
What did I do wrong? That last night, when we had sex, I gave him everything I thought he wanted. I wanted to please him, wanted to be the submissive woman, not only to make him happy, but because it made me feel … good. I liked handing over the control to Max so I could get lost in the pleasure. It aroused me, his controlling ways, the words he said, the demands he made on my body. I wanted more. I wanted all of him …
And he didn’t want me at all.
Coming home set me on edge. Just booking the return flight nearly sent me into a panic attack. I’d taken a Xanax on the flight home to help me relax and I ended up sleeping through practically the entire trip. Went home and crashed into bed only to wake up at three in the morning, wide-eyed and petrified. Deciding to give in to my alert state rather than fight it, I got up, picked out my outfit, took a long, hot shower, went over what I would say to everyone again and again in my head while I blew dry my hair, and hoped like hell I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself.
Violet is my first obstacle and so far, so good.
“I thought you were serious about staying in London indefinitely,” I tell her as she goes around her desk and settles into her chair as if she’s never been gone from the Manhattan headquarters of Fleur. They kept her office intact and for good reason. She’s such an integral part of the company and will most likely be running it one day. And I’m sure Daddy realized quickly that she couldn’t stay away for too long.
I settle in the chair opposite her desk, amused by the exaggerated grimace on her face. “We didn’t want to deal with Pilar—that’s why we stayed away for so long. Ryder and I both thought it was for the best. But then grumbling started happening around here. Lots of rumors of how people weren’t happy with the direction she was taking the company in. And then Father started finalizing the marketing and release plans with our perfumes, telling me constantly he needed me here. Even Grandma called me, asking me to come back.”
I go tense at first mention of Pilar’s name. I always forget that Pilar and Ryder used to be a thing, which I shouldn’t because hello, that’s huge. And weird. Though I don’t fault Ryder, since Violet told me about his background and what a shitty life he had growing up.
“There’s grumbling about the direction Pilar is taking the company? What are you talking about? What sort of control does she have, anyway?” I ask, curious. If Pilar had her way, she’d bump all of us and take over completely. Not that I’m a threat per se since I don’t even work at Fleur, but I still own a percentage of the company and I know that drives her crazy.
I know all three of us make her crazy. That’s why she’s plotting and scheming, coming up with ways to take us out—and Violet’s her biggest target.
I should tell my sister my suspicions, that I believe Pilar is trying to sell trade secrets to Fleur’s competition, but how? How can I break it to her without completely freaking her out and sending Ryder on a murderous rampage? I can’t risk it.