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Page 27

“His tower?”

  I laughed. “That’s how I think of it. He owns a building in Manhattan, and he had the whole top floor custom built into this…just ridiculously palatial home. It’s not a condo or an apartment, though. I mean, it’s a mansion, but it’s in a high-rise. I think he must have had the building custom-built for him, because there were, like, things in this place that shouldn’t have been possible in a high-rise. Like the library. It was, and I mean this very literally, the library from Beauty and the Beast. Shelves full of books going up to the ceiling, which was easily fifty feet high. He had actual suits of armor that had been used in battle in the fourteenth century. First-edition copies of, like, Pride and Prejudice and this hand-transcribed copy of Dante’s Inferno. No kidding. Super crazy-rare books. ” I waved my hand. “That’s not the point. Yeah, he’s crazy rich. That’s not really relevant. ”

  Layla gaped at me. “Not relevant? How in the f**king hell is that not relevant?”

  I shrugged. “It’s just not. I mean, it was amazing. I’m not gonna lie. He did some truly incredible things for me. He took me to the opera at the Met. And get this: he had a Christian Dior gown made for me, and jewelry that must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And his personal driver-slash-bodyguard-slash-pilot, Harris, whom you met last night, flew me to a private dinner in a restaurant he’d closed down just for us. Flew me, in his helicopter. And then he took me to the Met in his Maybach. We went sailing, too. He’s this amazing sailor, and we went all the way around to Long Beach and back, and had dinner at this tiny restaurant in Little Italy…. ” I sighed. “I know I was there for only a short time, but it seriously felt like a lifetime, Layla. Everything is different. ”

  “So if it was so amazing, why are you here? What happened?” She grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “And, more importantly, where is the Dior gown and jewelry?”

  I laughed at her. “I left it all there. I mean, he did give it to me, but…none of it matters. ”

  “Doesn’t matter? Are you on drugs?” Layla flopped back against the couch with a groan. “Only you would say that. After all you’ve been through, you go and do something crazy like leave behind a fortune. ”

  “You don’t get it, Layla. ”

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  “No, I don’t!” She sat forward again and took my hands. “I’m trying, though. Explain it to me. What am I missing? I mean, I know in the grand scheme of things, dresses and earrings don’t really matter. I’m not that shallow. Sure, it was a Dior gown, but…we’re speaking of matters of the heart here. Right?”

  “You could say that,” I said, standing up. “I don’t think I can do this without more coffee. ”

  Layla handed me her mug. “Fill me, bitch. ”

  Returning with full mugs, I resumed my place beside Layla. “So. He went to all this effort, right? Sent me anonymous ten-thousand-dollar checks every month for a year, then collected me and told me he owned me. Blindfolded me and got me to trust him, which isn’t easy. Told me he’d been watching me for a long time but wouldn’t say why. He got to know me. Showed me bits of who he was, and Layla—this man is incredible. I can’t even tell you. He’s huge and gorgeous and domineering and just totally alpha-male, but he’s thoughtful and attentive and considerate—”

  Layla leaned close to me, interrupting. “When you say ‘huge,’ what exactly do you mean?” She grinned, biting her lip, eager for all the salacious details she knew I was holding back.

  I couldn’t help a blush. “HUGE, Layla. Huge. ” I grabbed her hands and squeezed. “He’s a f**king god. And I mean that very literally. ”

  Layla squealed, leaning back and giggling. “I knew it. I knew you were holding out on me. Tell me more!”

  I had to sigh as I tried to figure out where to even start. “He’s a master of foreplay. He spent days, actual days, teasing me and torturing me. You sidetracked me earlier. One of the first things he told me was that he wouldn’t have sex with me unless I begged for it. Who even says that? I didn’t believe him, obviously. I mean, I don’t beg. Not anyone, not for anything. But he…I’m not gonna call it seduction, because that implies a sense of underhandedness or something. He just knew exactly what to do and what to say to make me crazy. ”

  I was glad for the opportunity to hide from the real issue for a few minutes. I wasn’t ready to talk about the way things had ended. I closed my eyes and relived the way he’d touched me. “I can’t even count how many times he made me come, Layla. And that’s all before he took off my blindfold. He never let me touch him. He was focused solely on making me insane, on making me come. And he succeeded. I’m still a bit sore. ”

  Layla groaned in frustration. “I’m so jealous of you right now, you don’t even know. I think I actually hate you a little bit. ”

  I nodded seriously. “You should. You absolutely should be very, very jealous. ”

  “I still don’t get it. He sounds amazing. Sexier than Alexander Skarsgård, richer than God, hung like a horse, able to make you come with mere words…what could possibly have gone wrong?”

  I braced myself for the truth. Wrapped both hands around the scalding ceramic of the mug, accepting the burn on my palms for the distraction from the ache inside me. “He…was involved in Dad’s death. ”

  Layla spat coffee, swearing and wiping at her face. “He what?”

  “That was his secret. That was the reason for the blindfold, for the secrecy, for the whole crazy way things happened. He thought I’d recognize him. I mean, I did, but I didn’t put things together until he explained what had happened. ”

  “Wait a goddamn minute. ” Layla set her mug down, grabbed mine from me, and put it aside as well. “He told you? You didn’t, like, find out accidentally?”

  I shook my head. “He told me. Yesterday morning. After the most—I don’t even know the word—after the most…earth-shaking sex I’ve ever had, he sat me down and told me he was involved in Daddy’s death. ”

  Layla just blinked at me for several moments. “Why? Why would he tell you? If you hadn’t figured it out by then, what are the chances you ever would have?”

  I shrugged. “The chances of me ever putting two and two together on my own were very near absolute zero. I met him once, for, like, five seconds two months before Daddy’s death. That was it. One glimpse. And I never knew his name, never knew the role he played in Daddy’s business. There was no evidence connecting him, and there still isn’t, I don’t think. The police said it was a mugging gone wrong, and they closed the case when they never found a single shred of evidence after, like, two years of looking. ”

  Layla frowned. “So…what are you going to do? You found your father’s killer. So are you going to turn him in?”

  I shrugged miserably. “It’s not that simple. ”

  “Not that simple? Jesus, Key! He murdered your father!”

  I shot to my feet and paced away. “I know it’s not simple! But he didn’t kill my dad. Not really. It was an accident. Roth was trying to force Daddy to sell his company. He had this plan for a big merger, and Daddy’s company was a key component in the deal, but Daddy wouldn’t sell. So Roth…maneuvered him so he basically had to sell. But Dad…went a little crazy, Roth says. Got desperate. Showed up in Roth’s parking garage, threatening him with a gun. Daddy pointed it at Roth, and they ended up fighting over the gun. It went off, and…the bullet hit Daddy in the heart. ” I stood at the window, staring out at the sunny summer day.

  Layla remained sitting, thinking. “So he didn’t mean to. But that doesn’t change things. And…you said he maneuvered your dad into selling. What does that mean?”

  I lifted a shoulder and shook my head, sniffing. “Apparently, according to Roth at least, Daddy was…not entirely legitimate. ”

  “Not legitimate? He sold f**king auto parts!”

  “I know. That’s what I said. But apparently he was also into prostitution. ”

  “Says Roth. ”