All or Nothing(3)

By: Catherine Mann

Standing here in the intimate confines of the elevator, with classical music piping through the sound system, she could only think of the time he’d pressed her to the mirrored wall and made love to her until she could barely think, much less remember to ask him where he’d been for the past two weeks.

And still he wasn’t talking, damn him. “Well, Conrad? You don’t have anything to say?”

“The real problem here is not me. It’s that you don’t know how to trust.” He skimmed his finger along the chain strap of her black metallic shoulder bag and hitched it back in place. “I am not your father.”

His words turned residual passion into anger—and pain. “That’s a low blow.”

“Am I wrong?”

He stood an inch away, so close they could lose themselves in a kiss instead of the ache of all this self-awareness. But she couldn’t travel that path again. She stepped closer, drawn by the scent of him, the deep ache in her belly to have his lips on hers. The draw was so intense it took everything inside her to step back.

“If you’re so committed to the truth, then how about proving you’re not your father.”

When Conrad had been arrested as a teen, the papers ran headlines, Like Father, Like Son. His embezzling dad had escaped conviction as well for his white-collar crimes thanks to that same high-priced lawyer.

In her heart she knew her husband wasn’t like his old man. Conrad had hacked into all those Wall Street companies to expose his father and others like him. She knew intellectually...but the evasiveness, the walls between them... She just couldn’t live that way.

She reached into her large, dangling evening bag and pulled out the folded stack of papers. “Here. I’m saving you a trip to the lawyer’s office.”

She pushed them against Conrad’s chest and hit the elevator button for her floor, a guest suite, because she couldn’t stomach the notion of staying in their old quarters, which she’d once decorated with hope and love.

“Conrad, consider yourself officially served. Don’t worry about the ring. I’ll sell it and donate the money to charity. All I need from you is your signature.”

The elevator doors slid open at her floor, not his, not their old penthouse, but a room she’d prearranged under a different name. Her head held high, she charged out and into the carpeted corridor.

She walked away from Conrad, almost managing to ignore the fact that he still had the power to break her heart all over again.

* * *

Conrad had made ten fortunes by thirty-two years old and had given away nine. But tonight, he’d finally hit the jackpot with his biggest win in three years. He had a chance for closure with Jayne so she wouldn’t haunt his dreams every damn night for the rest of his life.

He stalked back into the lobby toward the casino to turn over control for the evening. Once he’d been alerted to Jayne’s presence on the floor, he’d walked out on a Fortune 500 guest and a deposed royal heir, drawn by the gleam of his wife’s light blond hair piled on top of her head, the familiar curve of her pale neck. Talking to Jayne had been his number-one priority.

Finding her thunking down her ring on 12 red hadn’t been the highlight of his life, but the way she’d leaned into him, the flare of awareness in her sky-blue eyes? No, it wasn’t over, in spite of the divorce papers she’d slapped against his chest.

She was back under his roof for tonight. He folded the papers again and slid them inside his tuxedo jacket. As he walked past the bar, the bartender nodded toward the last brass stool—and a familiar patron.

Damn it. He did not need this now. But there was no dodging Colonel John Salvatore, his former headmaster and current contact for his freelance work with Interpol, work that had pulled him away from Jayne, work that he preferred she not know about for her own safety. Conrad’s wealthy lifestyle and influence gave him easy entrée into powerful circles. When Interpol needed an “in” they called on a select group of contract operatives, headed by John Salvatore, saving months creating an undercover persona for a regular agent. Salvatore usually only tapped into his services once or twice a year. If he used Conrad too often, he risked exposure of the whole setup.

The reason for the missing weeks that always had Jayne in such an uproar.

Part of him understood he should just tell her about his second “career.” He’d been cleared to share the basics with his spouse, just not details. But another part of him wanted her to trust him, to believe in him rather than assume he was like his criminal father or a cheating bastard like her dad.