Here’s a bit of a teaser for all you lovelies. To set the scene up, this is right after Troy and Kade rescue Ellie from the abandoned fishery. Troy has gone to visit the unconscious Ellie in the hospital and is alone with her in her private room.
WARNING: If you’ve not read Dark Secrets yet, there are some spoilers in here.
“Oh my god! My poor baby!”
I spun around so fast I nearly gave myself whiplash. Two people stood in the doorway, and I blinked, my brain skidding to a halt. I could not reconcile what my mind was telling me I was looking at. How could it be, anyway? Eleanor’s parents were somewhere stateside, in hiding, under protective custody and probably about to spend a shitload of time in court. I looked past the elegant blonde to the tall sable-haired man behind her. Grey-green eyes stared back at me with undeniable recognition, and I stared right back, unable to move. Murray and Winifred Reardon were the last fucking people I ever thought I’d see in this hospital.
Winnie didn’t seem to notice I was there, for she rushed to the other side of the bed, cooing and fussing over her daughter, the tears already flowing down her cheeks. From the corner of my eye I could see she hadn’t changed a bit since that photograph of her in Garrick’s office was taken. She was still beautiful, still posh, and still unbelievably kind.
Murray on the other hand, looked like absolute shit. And let’s just say I didn’t feel sorry for him. The skin under his eyes was saggy and dry, his hair was thinning out, and it looked like he hadn’t shaved in at least two weeks. His appearance was slightly confusing, seeing as how his wife looked like she had just come from a day at the spa.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he asked, his gruff voice startling his wife.
“Murray!” Winifred gasped.
I ignored her and raised a brow, surprised he would address me in such a familiar fashion. “I could ask ye the same bloody question.”
He took a step forward and pointed to the bed. “That’s my daughter, you bloody prick.”
“And I’ve been taking care of her for the past two months!”
“Well ye did a fine job of that, now didn’t you?” he said, crossing his arms.
“Murray, what the heck are you doing?” Winnie snapped, stepping away from the bed. With shaky fingers she pulled out a tissue from her pocket and dabbed her eyes. At closer inspection I could see that she wasn’t as put-together as I initially thought. “He saved our baby’s life, and you’re just going to stand there and yell at him?”
“It’s alright Mrs. Rear—”
“The fucking balls on this man!” Murray roared, throwing his arms up in the air. “Defecting from the family just to turn around and work for the Feds, and tricking my daughter into your care so you could fill her head with lies! You were like a son to him you ungrateful little shit.”
“Ye must be joking, old man,” I growled.
“You left when Garrick needed you most!” he snapped. “How dare you show your face in here, especially now? You’re supposed to be playing dead remember? What were you just doing with her anyway?”
I looked at Winnie who blushed from embarrassment, turning her head away. I couldn’t believe this. I shouldn’t have been surprised my fake death didn’t fool him. I wondered if Garrick also knew. Then I thought about it.
Of course he did.
“If you cared more about your daughter than your business, you’d realize that it was Garrick’s partner’s son who did this. That makes him yer partner too, doesn’t it? Isn’t it yer job as her father to protect her from assholes like Jeremy Faustein?”
Murray raised his hand, pointing his finger at me. His pupils were as tiny as pinholes as he addressed me, and I could hear Winifred’s nervous tsking from behind me. There it was, the famous Reardon stare. It certainly ran in the family, from uncle, to father, to daughter. It was the kind of stare that could shrink your balls and leave you without even a shred of pride.
“I don’t know how you convinced her to be her bodyguard, and I don’t care. I also don’t care about your damn motives behind it because after today, you’ll never see her again. Do I make myself clear?”
I crossed my arms, my heart filling with so much hatred I nearly cramped from the pressure. Slowly, the black ooze of panic seeped through my veins, and I felt the control of my situation, the control I’d barely managed to hold on to for the past two months, begin to slip away. His icy green eyes stared me down, challenging me to argue with him. Luckily for him, I wasn’t able to act on my hatred. The door opened again, and in walked my favorite person.
“Martin,” I said levelly. “Just in time.”
Without batting an eye, she walked in, gave Eleanor a two-second glance and turned to me. “Thank you Mr. McQueen. That will be all.”
“Miss Martin,” Winnie began.
“Agent Martin,” she corrected, her lips turned up at the ends, which could by no means be considered a smile.
“Agent Martin,” Winnie amended. “What happened? What happened to our daughter? Was it really Jeremy that did this?”
Martin lifted her shoulders high and gave a reassuring nod. “I promise I will relay all the details to you momentarily. Mr. McQueen, if you could come with me?”
“I’m not going anywhere with ye until you explain what’s going on. Where the hell were they? How did they get here so bloody fast? Why isn’t he in bloody handcuffs?”
Her small brown eyes tightened with annoyance. “On what charges? He’s merely here as a concerned parent.”
“Excuse me?” I snapped again.
Martin’s eyes narrowed. “Come with me. Now.”
I rolled my eyes and followed her out of the room, pivoting around so I wouldn’t lose eye contact with Eleanor through the window of her room. Martin turned on me and I blinked in surprise as she stepped inside my personal space.
“Do you understand what having Murray Reardon on your good side means?” she hissed.
I quirked a brow. “Have you gone completely mad?”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “We have him right where we want him. He’s upset, his family business has fallen apart, his own daughter a victim of his choices. He is a key witness against Jeremy Faustein and the Piotrovskis, and maybe even the Reardon family himself. We need to keep him happy so he’ll cooperate with us. Do you understand?”
“Do you really think he’s going to testify against his own family?” I whispered incredulously. “And what the hell does this have to do with me?”
“If he wants you gone, get the hell out of here. If he doesn’t want you to be near his daughter again, you disappear. Get it?”
Realization dawned, settling over me like dust. I blinked into Martin’s bland face, the blunt haircut that always seemed in place, her thin lips with cracks of lipstick in them. She wasn’t the bad guy, not to the extreme some might want to imagine. But she wasn’t that good either. And fuck her. I didn’t like my job that much. If I wanted to see her I was going to. Period. “He said this would happen.”
“Who? Said what would happen?”
Kade. He called it that day in the forest. Martin would find a way to fuck me over, he warned. Little did I expect for him to prove me wrong, twice in one day.
“And if he doesn’t agree to your demands?” I asked, ignoring her question. “Eleanor’s still in danger and yer just making it worse by letting him be here. Ye can’t keep the three of them together, it’s asking for trouble.”
I looked again at the men guarding the door. None of this felt right to me.
Martin rolled her eyes. “As long as their daughter is here, they’re not going anywhere.”
“How did they get here anyways?” I asked. Not that it really mattered.
She crossed her arms and angled her head, as if really seeing me for the first time. “You really underestimate me that much?”
When I didn’t respond she shook her head and gave a small laugh, which surprised the hell out of me. She turned back towards the window of Eleanor’s room and spoke to her reflection. “I would do anything to save my children, but that doesn’t mean I have to throw all my training out the window to do it.”
I kept on forgetting that Martin’s family was a victim in this little shitstorm too. If it hadn’t been for Jeremy and the Piotrovskis kidnapping Martin’s son—which was strange enough because I couldn’t imagine her loving anything as much as her job or herself—she wouldn’t have hand-delivered Eleanor over to the very same bad guys Martin was so desperately trying to catch.
She turned around and faced me, once again the embodiment of control. “That little prick was so sure that I would comply with all his demands that he didn’t even bother to check that her parents were where I was supposed to bring them.”
She shook her head again and gave me a small smile. “You did well, Troy. But it’s time for me to take over. Your work here is done.”
“But she’s not even…”
“If you could make it down to the agency, Monica will take your statement and then I’ll be down later to…”
“… awake yet. It’s dangerous to leave her here by herself and ye know it!”
“…talk about your place in the agency.”
“C’mon Martin, what’re ye doin? Murray’s not goin’ to give you shit.”
“He will if he doesn’t want to die in jail.”
“That threat is getting a little tired, don’t ye think?” I sneered. “What the hell are you going to charge him on anyways? An expired yachting license? The Reardons are gone, Angela, scattered.”
“You have overestimated my patience, Troy,” she warned. “Now go.”
By now the officers standing guard at the door were staring, and I suffered no illusions that Murray was ignorant of my verbal sound-lashing. That he could run his life like the rules didn’t apply to him, then turn around and get angry with me for protecting his only daughter while he was on holiday was the most infuriating thing I’d ever had to deal with in my life.
Without asking permission, I sidled around Martin and leaned into the doorway. “Murray.”
With his mouth set in a thin line, he turned around slowly, glaring at me with those mean eyes of his. I was almost shy to say this in front of his wife, but he needed to be taken down a level.
“Just so you know,” I said, “your daughter knows who you are and what ye’ve done. Ye can stop me from seeing her all ye want, but she’s all grown up now, and she knows the truth.”
Winnie whimpered and looked down at her daughter. She probably knew more than anyone what this would mean. Murray’s jaw tightened with anger, the white-knuckled grip on the bedrail a clear indication that I’d struck a nerve.
“I bet she doesn’t know all the truth,” he jeered icily. “Now does she?”
He raised his brow menacingly, and I knew what he was implying.
We were both monsters.