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Virgin Bride(8)

By:B. B. Hamel

He narrows his eyes. “Tell me.”

“He doesn’t have many personal items in his house,” I say. “It’s mostly things for his daughter. I snooped around but I didn’t find anything like drugs, not so much as a bottle of Tylenol. There’s barely any alcohol in the house either. He has a couple bottles of whisky, and that’s it.”

“That can’t be true,” my father says.

“It is true,” I respond, bristling a little. “I’m home alone with his daughter all day long. I have free reign of that house.”

He pauses for a second and watches me. “Tell me about the daughter.”

I frown. “She’s cute. Just a little girl.”

“How old?”

“One and a half.”

“Interesting.” He folds his hands together. “Maybe we can use her.”

I don’t like where this is going, not t all. “I agreed to help you spy on Griffin,” I say. “I didn’t agree to bringing his daughter into this.”

“We need every advantage we can get,” father snaps at me. “Do you understand that?”

“Yes,” I say. “But she’s innocent. There has to be something about Griffin you can use. Just give me more time.”

“How much more time do you possibly want?” he asks. “Don’t you hate working for him?”

I hesitate. “Of course,” I say.

But my father isn’t fooled. Say what you want about Rick Fisher, he’s an asshole and a control freak, but he can read people very well.

His smile is sweet and scares me. “You like him,” he says.

I decide to tell the truth. “I like his daughter,” I answer. “She’s sweet. And innocent.”

“Maybe. She is young, after all.” He leans forward. “But I don’t give a fuck about that, Erin. This is about the business.”

Of course, The Business. That’s what he calls it, what he’s always called it. The Business is absolutely everything to him.

“There could be something about her mother,” I say, trying to change the subject away from my feelings.

“We have had trouble identifying her.”

“I might be able to find that out,” I say. “I’m going to need more time, though.”

He sighs and pours himself another drink. He watches me for a second then shakes his head. “I never knew if I could trust you, Erin,” he says. “You’ve always been… flighty. Maybe a little weak. You take after your mother that way.” He pauses as he sips his drink. “Can you handle this job?”

“Yes,” I say softly, but I know that’s probably a lie.

If he can see through me, he doesn’t show it. “No more bullshit, Erin. No more worrying about the little girl. I don’t care if you like her, we need to destroy Griffin McGrath. We need leverage in this negotiation, otherwise he’s going to destroy everything I’ve built. Do you want that?”

I shake my head. “No,” I say, but I’m not so sure anymore.

“Good.” He throws his drink back. “I don’t want that, either. The family needs this business. You need this business. And you need to do your job.”

“I am,” I say.

“Do it better.” He glares at me. I can already see the alcohol starting to take effect. “Don’t embarrass me and let me down. Get me something I can use. Don’t prove me right.”

I take the bait. “Right about what?”

“Your weakness,” he sneers.

I look down at the ground. “I’ll try.”

“Try harder.” He pours himself another drink. “You’re dismissed.”

I don’t need to be told twice. I get up and walk quickly out of his office.

As I get into the kitchen, Ward is sitting there waiting for me. “Well?” he asks.

“Well what?” I say, brushing past him.

“Did Father tell you what’s what?”

I clench my jaw. “Leave me alone, Ward. You have nothing to do with this.”

“Yes, I do,” he hisses. “I’m a part of this company now, unlike you. I don’t think you even care about the business, do you?”

No, I think to myself, I don’t. “Leave me alone,” I say instead.

I head upstairs, leaving Ward down in the kitchen. I don’t want to hear it from him as well. I’m fuming by the time I get into my room and shut the door, locking it behind me.

What the hell am I doing? I’m twenty-four years old, and yet here I am, still living at home, still letting my awful family boss me around. They’ve been doing this my whole life, doubting me, yelling at me, embarrassing me. When I was living abroad, those were the best years of my life, because I was away from my awful family.