Wed By Deception(6)

By: Emilie Rose



“You must have been terrified over the possibility of being unable to help support your mother and sisters.”

Lucas turned and she didn’t like the hard, uncompromising look on his face. “Your father said you couldn’t handle being saddled with a cripple.”

He’d ignored her comment, but she let it pass. She’d never met a man who liked to admit fear or weakness. “And you believed him? You didn’t trust that I meant it when I promised ‘for better or worse’?”

“You’d been a pampered princess all your life. Did I think you’d want to live in poverty and play nursemaid to a guy who couldn’t even piss by himself? No.”

She flinched at his crudity and his assessment. Then anger pulsed through her veins. Why did the men in her life always assume she was a useless screwup?

Okay, so maybe she’d made a few silly mistakes, but still…Her father and Lucas had no right to make a decision of this magnitude for her.

“You should have given me the chance to prove myself instead of presuming I’d fail.”

She looked him over, trying and failing to imagine him helpless. From what she could see he was even more muscular and fit than he’d been eleven years ago. And unless she missed her guess—which was unlikely because she knew her designers—his suit was Hermès and the shoes, Prada. Either Lucas wasn’t a struggling landscape worker anymore or he’d come into some serious money. “You’re not paralyzed now.”

“Thanks to a series of surgeries and months of rehab.”

“And you’re here.” She waved a hand to indicate the opulent penthouse level. “Why are you here?”

Did she imagine his hesitation or that he’d shifted his weight on his feet? “I own the building and I live across the hall.”

“You own a fifty-story piece of prime real estate in downtown Dallas?” Definitely serious money.

“Yes.” The pride and confidence in that single word were unmistakable. “Why are you here?”

“This is—was—my father’s place.”

His eyes narrowed to silvery-blue slits. “My attorney sold this apartment to an investment company CEO.”

“No, my father bought the property under a dummy corporation he sometimes uses.” Mitch had done a little digging after the reading of the will to discover that interesting tidbit. The question was, why had her father wanted to keep ownership of this place a secret from everyone including Mitch, his right-hand man?

Lucas snapped to attention and looked annoyed.

Then it hit her. The strength leeched from her legs. She leaned against the entry table. “My father engineered this.”

“Engineered what?”

“This meeting. Dad died. His will requires me to penthouse-sit for a year. He must have known I’d eventually run into you. Why would he do that?” She paced a circle in the foyer, sneaking peeks at Lucas every few steps. What had the attorney said? Something about her father realizing he’d made some mistakes that he’d hoped to right. And look how his meddling had brought both Rand and Mitch love.

Surprise stopped her in her tracks. “Unless he’s trying to get us back together.”

Lucas snorted an unamused sound of disgust. “Not a chance.”

“He must be. Daddy buying the apartment across the hall from yours in a building you own is too big to be a coincidence.”

“Nadia, your father paid me to get out of your life and never contact you again. And he threatened to ruin me and my family if I did. He wouldn’t try to hook us up.”

Her stomach sank like the Titanic and a chill enveloped her like icy water closing over her head. Déjà vu. Buying off people was her father’s favorite way to get rid of someone he found undesirable. He’d done it multiple times to both her and her brothers over the years.

“You took money to dump me?”

Lucas swiped his jaw with his hand. A dull flush covered his face. “He claimed that’s what you wanted.”

“How much?”

“Nadia—”

Her eyes and throat burned. A tremor worked its way outward from the frozen pit of her stomach. “How much did it take to make you forget me, Lucas?”

“I never forgot you. Or our baby.”

“How much?” she repeated through clenched teeth.

His jaw shifted. “He covered the cost of my surgeries and rehab, and he offered tuition for my sisters and me to go to the colleges of our choice.”

“Give me a number. I want to know exactly how much my love was worth to you.”

He expelled a harsh breath. “Roughly, two million.”

She closed her eyes as a fresh wave of pain, disappointment and betrayal deluged her. Her father hadn’t intended this meeting to be a joyful reunion  . He’d wanted to make sure she knew that the one man she’d worshipped, the one she’d kept on a pedestal for more than a decade as an icon of perfect love, was no better than the rest of the greedy schmucks who’d leeched off her or taken Everett’s payoffs over the years.

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