Home>>read No Longer Forbidden free online

No Longer Forbidden(5)

By:Dani Collins

That thought fuelled his unwanted incendiary emotions so he shoved it firmly from his mind. He was having enough trouble hanging on to control as it was.

“No,” he forced out, trying to work out why he’d been able to hold it together in front of Sebastyen, who was closer to him than anyone, but struggled in front of Rowan. He feared she would see too deeply into him at a time when his defenses were disintegrating like a sandcastle under the tide. He couldn’t look into her eyes. They were too anxious and demanding.

“No, there’s been no news. But it’ll be a year in two weeks. It’s time to quit fooling ourselves they could have survived. The lawyers are advising we petition the courts to—” He had to clear his throat. “Declare them dead.”


When he looked for her reaction he found a glare of condemnation so hot it gave him radiation blisters.

With a sudden re-ignition of her temper, she spat, “You have the nerve to call me a freeloader, you sanctimonious bastard? Who benefits from declaring them dead? You, Nic. No. I won’t allow it.”

She was smart to fling away from him then, slamming through the door into the kitchen and letting it slap back on its hinges. Smart to walk away. Because that insult demanded retaliation, and he needed a minute to rein in his temper before he went after her and delivered the set-down she deserved.

As Rowan banged through the cupboards for a kettle she trembled with outrage.

And fear. If her mother and Olief were really gone …

Her breath stalled at how adrift that left her. She’d come here to find some point to her life, some direction. She’d made quite a mess of things in the last year, she’d give Nic that, but she needed time to sort it all out and make a plan for her future. Big, sure, heartless Nic didn’t seem to want to give her that, though.

He pushed into the room, his formidable presence like a shove into deeper water. She gripped the edge of the bench, resenting him with every bone in her body. She wouldn’t let him do this to her.

“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” she seethed. “You don’t have a sensitive bone in your body. You’re made up of icicles, aren’t you?”

He jerked his head back. “Better that than the slots of a piggy bank,” he returned with frost. “It’s not Olief being gone that worries you, but his deep pockets—isn’t it?”

“I’m not the one taking over his offices and bank accounts, am I? What’s wrong? The board giving you a hard time again? Maybe you shouldn’t have been so quick to jump into Olief’s shoes like you owned them.”

“Who else could be trusted?” he shot back. “The board wanted to sell off pieces for their personal gain. I kept it intact so Olief would have something to come back to.”

She’d been aware in those early weeks of him warring with Olief’s top investors, but she’d had her own struggles with rehabilitating her leg. The corporation had been the last thing on her mind.

“I’ve looked for them even while sitting at his desk,” Nic continued. “I paid searchers long after the authorities gave up. What did you do?” he challenged. “Keep your mother’s fan club rabid and frenzied?”

Rowan curled her toes in the tight leather of her boots, stabbed with inadequacy and affront. “My leg was broken. I couldn’t get out in a boat to look for them. And doing all those interviews wasn’t a cakewalk!”

He snorted. “Blinking back manufactured tears was difficult, was it?”

Manufactured? She always fought back tears when she couldn’t avoid facing the reality of that lost plane. Snapping her head to the side, she refused to let him see how talking about the disappearance upset her. He obviously didn’t see her reaction as sincere and she wasn’t about to beg him to believe her.

Especially when she had very mixed feelings—some that scared her. Guilt turned in her like a spool of barbed wire as she thought of the many times she had wished she could be out from under her mother’s controlling thumb. Since turning nineteen she had been waffling constantly between outright defiance that would have cut all ties to Cassandra O’Brien and a desire to stay close to Olief, Rosedale—and, she admitted silently, with a suffocating squeeze of mortification, within the sphere of Olief’s black sheep son.

But she hadn’t wished Cassandra O’Brien would die.

She couldn’t declare her mother dead. It was sick. Wrong. Rowan swiped her clammy palms over the seat of her jeans before running water into the kettle. She wouldn’t do it.

“If you want to run Olief’s enterprise, fill your boots,” she said shakily. “But if all you want is more control over it, and by extension me, don’t expect me to help you.” She set the kettle to boil, then risked a glance at him.