Sometimes I think I should tell them, but I don’t know what good it would do. In the end, they’d probably hate me—they’d hate Lawrence even more than they do now, but it isn’t fair how Madeline and Lucian are treated and it isn’t right what they believe. I know the truth. He knows the truth. If he tries to cut them out, like I know he will, I’ll do it. I’ll show them all the proof. It will hurt my boys, but I will not let him do this to them.
Julia stopped reading and closed the journal. Rubbing at her eyes, she told herself she really had no business prying through this. Reading the journal first to make sure there wasn’t anything potentially upsetting in it was a flimsy excuse. She was being nosy and she really should stop—
A knock on the bedroom door caused her to jump. She rose, but before she could take a step forward, her door swung open, and her stomach dipped in the most pleasant way.
Lucian stood in the doorway, dressed like he’d gone to a gym or something, but . . . lost a shirt along the way and found a bar. He held a whiskey bottle in one hand.
“Hey,” she said, drawing the word out as she reached behind her and picked up the journal. “Get done . . . working out?”
“Yeah.” He swaggered into the room. “About five or six hours ago. Maybe more. I don’t know.”
Her brows lifted as she turned, watching him make his way toward the bed. His walk was a little strange. “Did you get lost or something then?”
“Kind of hard to get lost in your own house,” he replied, looking around the room as he took a drink from the bottle.
Of course. They had their own gym. Why not.
“Did you get lost?”
Julia placed the journal in the basket. “Get lost how?”
He turned to her, lowering the bottle. His eyes were slightly unfocused. “To my bedroom?”
“What?” She coughed out a laugh.
“You should’ve found your way to me.” He leaned forward, and she caught the strong scent of liquor. “Instead I find you in here doing . . .” He looked at the bed. “I have no idea what you’re doing.”
“Well, I didn’t come to you, because . . .” She folded her arms. “I was reading between the lines.”
“You need to read better then.”
“Because there are no lines.” He held up the bottle, pointing a finger in her direction. “That I’ve written or said that would indicate that I wouldn’t want to see you again.”
Her eyes narrowed, and then he sat down on the edge of the bed—well, dropped down more like it. She shot forward, grabbing the bottom of the bottle. “Are you drunk?”
Lucian snorted. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She arched a brow. “You’re so freaking drunk.” Tugging on the bottle, she sighed when he didn’t let go. “Have you been drinking this whole afternoon?”
“I couldn’t drink and run at the same time.” He rolled his eyes, still holding on to the bottle when she pulled again. “I mean, back in the day, when I was younger, probably. Not anymore.”
“That’s good to know. I guess. Why don’t you give me the bottle?”
Lucian pulled—pulled hard enough that she inched toward him. “Why didn’t you come see me?” He stared up at her with those eyes of his. “Didn’t you want to?”
Julia knew he was drunk, but her breath caught nonetheless. “I did,” she admitted.
“Then why not?”
She was losing the battle with the bottle. “Because I didn’t want—I don’t know. I just don’t know what I’m doing.”
A lazy grin appeared on his mouth. “Well, guess what, Ms. Hughes? I don’t know what I’m doing either. Let’s just not know together.”
Despite his condition. Julia laughed. “Give me the bottle, okay? Just for a little bit.”
“But I like the bottle.”
“I’ll take good care of it.”
Pressing his lips together, he dipped his chin. “Promise?”
“Okay.” He let go.
Shaking her head, she walked the bottle over to the small kitchen table and placed it there, hopefully far enough out of his reach.
“Come back,” he called, stretched out onto his side as he craned his neck. “Come back here.”
She fought a smile. “I’m right here.”
“No you’re not.” He let his head fall to his shoulder. “You’re all the way over there, protecting my whiskey.”
Julia laughed. “Would it make you feel better if I was sitting next to you?”
“Yes.” He rolled onto his back then and lifted his arms over his head, stretching until his back bowed and all those muscles flexed and coiled. “It would make me feel so much better. You know why?”
“Why?” She walked back over.
“Because I like you, Ms. Hughes. I really do.”
Her dumb little heart did a happy jump. “I like you too—” Julia yelped as he sat up, wrapping an arm around her waist. One second she was standing and the next she was lying on her back beside him. “Holy crap, even drunk, you’re fast.”
“I’m always fast.” Sliding his hand across her stomach, he reached just below her navel and stopped. “I like you best right here.”
Drunk Lucian was an . . . interesting Lucian.
Heart pounding, she turned her head toward him. He was looking at her, and suddenly, he looked so incredibly young.
“I think I . . . like you too much,” he said, and her lips parted on a sharp inhale. “Someone once said, and I don’t know who, that a drunk man’s words were a sober man’s thoughts. What do you think about that?”
“I think you’ve drunk a lot of liquor.”
He chuckled. “I think I’m just more honest. So, what were you doing in here?”
She shifted onto her side, facing him. “I was going through the photo albums and stuff.”
“Oh, stimulating shit right there. Now I’m even more glad that I decided to barge into your room.” He cast his gaze to the ceiling. A moment passed. “Did you overhear Dev and me today?”
Julia didn’t even think about lying. “Yes.” She wasn’t sure if now was a good time for her questions, but drunk people did tend to be more loose-lipped. “Is there a reason why they’re investigating his death?”
He snorted as he shook his head. “None of us really think he killed himself.”
Surprise filled her. “Really?”
Lucian shook his head. “We could be wrong, but Lawrence was . . . he would’ve outlived all of us. There wasn’t a note and there were scratch marks along his neck.” His brow creased. “Who knows? You know, I don’t even care. How terrible is that? He wasn’t a good man. I’ve said that before. I’ll say it a million times more.”
Julia didn’t know how to respond. She fully got that his father was a horrible person, but to not care if he’d been murdered? “At the end of the day, he’s still your father,” she said carefully.
Tipping his head back, he laughed loudly.
“What?” she demanded.
“You don’t know?” A small smile tugged at his face. “I call Lawrence my father because he raised Maddie and me. In that sense he is our father, but he’s really not.”
Julia sat up and stared down at him. “He’s not your dad?”
“No.” He laughed again. “He never let us forget it either—Maddie or me. Mom got busy with someone else.”
That note—oh my God, she’d been right. It had been an affair. “Does anyone else know? I mean, I assume Gabe and Devlin do.”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Richard and Livie do. So does my bud Troy. You’ve never met him. He’s a detective. You’d like him. Anyway, Father even left the company and all the money to his heirs, naming Dev and Gabe.”
And then Lucian fell silent. He said nothing as he stared at the ceiling and tapped his hands off his bare chest.