The Enemy's Daughter(8)

By: Anne Marie Winston

But when they'd parked, Adam turned to her and said, "Are you going to see me again?" and his face was so sober that the constraint between them earlier immediately returned in a rush.

"I—I'd like to," she said. "I'd really like to. If you want."

"Of course I want to see you," he said. He picked up her hand and lightly rubbed his thumb over the knuckles, then raised it to his mouth and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. "I wish we didn't have to sneak around behind your father's back, but I respect your concerns. But after the election, no more stalling. No matter what the outcome of the election, we tell him. Agreed?"

She nodded, huge butterflies taking wing in her stomach and making her feel oddly breathless. "Agreed." Happiness rose in a steep, giddy rush. The election was still weeks and weeks away.

Weeks and weeks in which Adam clearly assumed they would still want to be together. She couldn't think of anything that would make her happier.

* * *

He drove out to Crofthaven after dropping Selene off at the edge of the historic district where she said she intended to take a cab. Ian had called earlier in the morning and asked him to meet him at the Danforth family mansion at four.

He parked in front of the palatial estate a short time later, barely noticing the grandeur of his family home. He thought about the ghost sightings every time he drove onto the property lately. And since his father's campaign had begun, he'd driven out here a whole lot more than he normally did.

"What do you want?" he murmured. "Can I do anything to help you?" Was it significant that she'd been seen inside the house, as Selene had wondered? Even when he was a child, he'd been enthralled by the stories of ghostly visitations in his home. Oddly enough, he'd never been afraid. He could remember waiting at windows, sneaking out after dark on the rare occasions he'd spent time at home, hoping for a glimpse of the ghost. But he'd never caught so much as a flicker of another presence.

"Hey, my partner!" His cousin Jake stood on the front steps waving at him, suitcoat slung carelessly over one shoulder.

Adam felt a rush of affection. Jake. Slightly taller, seriously broader through the shoulders, the two men still resembled each other enough that people often assumed they were brothers rather than cousins. Only a year apart, they had been buddies since childhood, often uniting against the older or the younger kids when squabbles arose. It had seemed natural for them to go into business together. Jake had approached him about it even before he'd graduated from college, and they'd begun planning immediately. Then Adam's older brother Ian wanted a piece of the action, although he hadn't wanted in on the operation. He'd offered to go in as a silent partner, and the combined investment of the three of them had paid off handsomely, thanks to Jake's and Adam's hard work. He was proud of D&D's, proud of what they'd accomplished.

"What's up?" he responded rhetorically to the greeting. He'd just seen Jake in a meeting yesterday before they'd gone their separate ways to check on various arms of their corporation.

"Don't know," Jake said as Adam reached him and they climbed the steps together. "Ian called and asked me to come out."

"Me, too." Adam puzzled over it for a moment. "Guess we'll find out in a minute. How's my man Peter doing?" he asked. Peter was Jake's four-year-old son, a son of whom he'd just become aware earlier in the year when Jake's old college friend Larissa had been forced to reveal their son's existence to Jake before a reporter did. A reporter who'd gone on the trail of Danforth dirt the moment the campaign was announced.

"He's good," Jake said and the warmth and pride in his tone dissolved Adam's moment of annoyance. "The asthma seems to be under control for the moment, and he's been bugging me to take him fishing again."

Adam chuckled. "So you're adapting well to fatherhood."

Jake grinned in response as he pushed open one of the massive doors. "Well enough that we're considering giving Peter a sibling one of these days."

They stopped inside the massive foyer, letting their eyes become accustomed to the lower light. It was cool and comfortable, but as always, Adam felt like a stranger there.

Not unwelcome, exactly. More … unnoticed. Just as he had when he was a child and his father had been too busy for any of his offspring.

Then a head peered out from around the door of the library, several yards down the main corridor. "You coming in here anytime soon?"

"Hello to you, too, Ian," said Adam with mock sarcasm. "Awfully good to see you."

His oldest brother grinned and Adam and Jake approached. "And even better to see the two of you, you money-making machines."

Jake made a rude noise. "Takes one to know one."

"You got that right." Ian held the door wide and beckoned them in. "Anybody want a drink?"

Adam shook his head. "No, thanks."

Jake eyed Ian speculatively. "Am I going to need one?"

Ian shrugged as the three men took seats in the club chairs in one corner. "Maybe."

"Why are we meeting here?" Adam said, making a gesture that encompassed their surroundings.

"Because this is one of the few places I'm certain is private and hasn't been bugged." Ian took a deep breath. "I've got a bad feeling about this Colombian corporation."

Adam sat forward. "The same one that tried to intimidate you into buying our coffee beans from their recommended sources by blowing up your offices?"

"And the same one we think was behind Marcus getting questioned by the police in June," added Jake. Marcus was Ian and Adam's younger brother, a lawyer for the family firm run by Ian.

"The same," Ian confirmed. "They're still trying to dictate to me. They've hinted that there will be more trouble for Marc if I don't cooperate."

"Hell." Jake stood and stalked to the window. "What are you going to do?"

Ian shrugged. "I don't think there's a lot I can do. But I can't give in. I'm positive the legal side of that business—the coffee bean business—is just a front for drug and money-laundering activities."

"So what do you want us to do?" If there was anything Adam could do to protect his younger brother, he'd do it.

"I don't know." Ian sighed. "I just want you to be aware that something could happen. Be on the lookout for anything weird or unusual."

Jake turned from the window and rolled his broad shoulders beneath the white dress shirt he wore. "Have you told Marc?"

Ian nodded. "We talked this morning. He's still pretty shaken by those questions about racketeering that got thrown at him in June."

"I bet." Adam stood, too. "I don't know about you, Jake, but I've changed my mind about the drink."

The men talked for another quarter hour, tossing around information and ideas, but no great strategies came to mind.

"We have to handle this carefully," Adam reminded them. "Ian can't be implicated in anything illegal. It would blow Dad's campaign right out of the water."

"Yeah, but if Marcus gets in trouble, the end result is the same," Jake reminded them.

"God, I wish I knew how to resolve this," Ian said. "I can't go to the authorities. It would leak, and can't you just see the headlines?"

"Yeah," Adam said, bitterness rising as he thought of his own experience being the target of a media manhunt a decade earlier. "You're guilty until you're proven innocent."

"Danforth Son Allegedly Involved In Drug Deal," said Jake. "Drug Cartel Controlling Danforth Family? They skate right on the edge of libelous language without going far enough to get nailed."

"Exactly," said Ian.

The brothers and their cousin talked for a few minutes longer, then Ian said, "I wish I had something more specific to go on, but there's nothing I can pin down." He rose and Adam rose as well.

"We'll keep our eyes open," Jake promised, moving away from the window.

As they walked into the foyer, the front door opened and a shaft of sunlight fell across the marble floor. Abraham Danforth stepped into the room and stopped short when he saw the three younger men.

"Well," he said, "this is a surprise. Ah, welcome."

"Hello, Dad." Ian's voice was cool. "We borrowed your library for a meeting. We're just leaving."

"It's your home, Ian," Abe said. "You can use the library any time you like."

"Thank you."

There was an awkward silence. Abe said, "Hello, Adam."

"Hello, Dad." It was an echo of Ian's greeting.

"Hi, Uncle Abe." Jake cleared his throat. "I've got to get going. I promised Larissa I'd cook tonight."

"We've all got to go," said Adam. "Tell Nicola to call if you need us at any campaign functions in the next few weeks."

"All right. Thanks."

Adam thought his father's voice sounded wistful but he wasn't about to stick around and find out. He and his old man had never had a single conversation of any consequence that Adam could recall. It was hard to have any conversation with a father who was either traveling all the time or too busy for his kids. Why start now?

As the front door closed with a heavy thud behind them and they started down the steps, Ian shot a look at Jake. "You're cooking?"

"I'm a good cook," Jake said defensively. "Besides, if I want to get out of the house to play soccer on Saturday, I have to help out during the week."

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