Read Letting Go Online

Authors: Sloane Kennedy

Letting Go (3 page)

Chapter 3

 

 

His cell phone to his ear, Devlin paced the length of the large, luxuriously appointed hotel suite. While the room was clearly designed for romantically inclined vacationers, Devlin made due. His laptop, tablet and several newspapers were spread out over the elegant glass coffee table. The big screen television was on but muted. It was tuned to a news channel with the stock prices running along the bottom of the screen.

“Are they still up?” he asked in irritation. A quiet knock at the front door caught his attention but he didn’t end the call. Instead, he walked over to the door, yanked it open, and motioned for a very worn out looking Casey to enter. “No, I want them in bed now.”

Devlin motioned for Casey to sit on the couch. She made her way to the plush, oversized couch but didn’t sit. Instead, her gaze wandered around the lavish room. The hotel was more of a resort complete with a professionally designed golf course, a health spa and a five-star restaurant. With its exceptional location on Lake Superior’s waterfront, the resort had become a popular escape for the rich and semi-famous, which, in turn, had put Ashland on the map. Summers were especially popular since the nearby marina allowed boaters and island hoppers the chance to explore the majestic lake in detail.

“Listen, I won’t be back in time for the meeting with Ryan’s tutor tomorrow. No, don’t reschedule – have Julia take the meeting. She’s stopping by to pick up some papers in the morning.” Casey threw a cautious glance at Devlin who ignored her and then began to wander around the room. Freshly cut exotic flowers in thick, crystal vases were spread out throughout the suite. A silver champagne bucket complete with two delicate crystal glasses sat on a small side table near the gas fireplace. She cast another look over her shoulder at Devlin before disappearing into the bedroom.

The king sized bed looked small in the massive room. Another gas fireplace along with a cozy loveseat took up one wall. The bathroom was nearly half the size of the bedroom and included a Jacuzzi and an oversized shower with several strategically placed showerheads. A small smile drifted across her lips as she thought of the lovers that belonged in this room. But they’d probably be too enamored with each other to even enjoy the luxurious appointments. As she turned to leave the bathroom, she nearly collided with Devlin who was standing in the doorway, watching her with curiosity. Caught off guard by his presence, she let out a small squeak of surprise and jumped back several steps. Amusement flickered briefly across his features before he was once again expressionless.

“My apologies for startling you Miss Wilkes.”

“No, no, it’s my fault. I was just-” her mind frantically searched for the words. “I was just trying to picture you in bed.” Devlin didn’t even try to hide the smile that passed across his lips as he watched a burst of color flood her cheeks. “I mean-” she stammered hopelessly. He took mercy on her.

“It’s okay. I know what you meant. This room isn’t exactly to my taste seeing as how it’s the honeymoon suite and all but it was the only thing available on short notice.” He moved out of the bathroom doorway and allowed her to walk past him. She fled out of the room as if the fires of hell were on her heels.

“Can I interest you in some dinner Miss Wilkes?” he asked as he came out of the bedroom.

“Um, no, I’ve eaten – thank you. I actually just came here to tell you…”

“A drink then.” He pulled on his suit jacket and opened the door before she could even respond. Seeing no way to refuse him, she left the room.

Moments later, they were making their way across the beautiful lobby towards the restaurant. Casey slowed her steps when she realized where they were headed.

“Mr. Prescott.” He stopped and turned to face her. “I can’t go in there dressed like this.” She shifted uncomfortably as his gaze traveled up and down the length of her. Her faded blue winter coat was too big for her slim body and her jeans had several tears in them. To top it off, she still had on her work boots which were covered in a thick layer of mud.

“Don’t worry about it. You look fine,” was all he said as he started heading towards the restaurant.

“No, Mr. Prescott, you don’t understand. This is the most expensive restaurant in town…they have a dress code,” she explained.

He studied her for a moment with practiced patience and then reached for her arm. She flinched at his touch but he ignored it and pulled her gently along. “It’s not a problem,” he said casually. Within moments, they were standing in front of a stiff, well-dressed maître d’.

“Mr. Prescott, welcome. Party of two?” he asked. His eyes slid briefly over Casey but if he disapproved, he didn’t show it. Devlin nodded in response. “Right this way sir.” Within moments they were both seated at a booth in the far corner of the room near the crackling fire. Floor to ceiling windows offered them a tremendous view of the moonlit beach a few hundred yards away.

A waiter appeared within moments. “May I bring you something from the bar?” he asked. He glanced pointedly at Casey.

“Um, just some water please.”

“Of course. And for you sir?” he asked Devlin.

“Scotch on the rocks.”

“Yes sir.” The waiter disappeared leaving Casey with no one to focus her attention on except for the hard looking man seated across from her. But one look at his cold eyes and she quickly turned her gaze across the room. It wasn’t busy but the few patrons who had braved the cold weather had definitely noticed her and weren’t as subtle in showing their disapproval of her attire. She glanced at Devlin once again but either he hadn’t noticed or he didn’t care. She expected it was the latter.

“I appreciate you coming to hear me out Miss Wilkes.”

“Mr. Prescott…”

“Devlin,” he said softly.

She hesitated and then continued. “Devlin, I just came here to make it clear to you that I can’t do what you’re asking me to do.” She shifted uncomfortably in her chair when he remained quiet. The waiter appeared with their drinks. Casey reached for hers as she continued her explanation. “Look, Mr. Prescott, Devlin, I know my life may not seem like much to you-”

“I’ll pay you one hundred thousand dollars,” he interjected.

Casey stared at him in disbelief as the glass of water slipped out of her hand and crashed on the table. “Son of a…” she muttered before catching herself.  She watched as the water seeped into the expensive white tablecloth. She grabbed a linen napkin and began dabbing at the water. Within moments, the waiter and maître d’ appeared and quickly cleaned up the mess. All eyes were definitely on her now.  She cast a glance at Devlin who was patiently sipping his drink. Irritated and unnerved by his composure, Casey bit down hard on her lip until the commotion died down and the gawkers returned their attention to their meals.

“Why do you do that?” he asked her suddenly.

“Do what?” she asked, confused by the abrupt change in topic.

“You bite your lip. You do it hard enough to draw blood.” She inhaled sharply and then ran her tongue over her lower lip as if checking to see if he was telling the truth. He was stunned to feel his body tighten in reaction.

Ignoring the question she said “I don’t want your money,” a surprising edge of steel in her voice. He had obviously touched a nerve.

“Wanting and needing are two very different things Miss Wilkes. Now, if I’m not mistaken, a hundred grand will not only fix up the buildings and grounds, it’ll also get the IRS off your back.”

“How did you know about that?”

Devlin ignored her question and continued. “Whoever left you that property may have managed to pay off the mortgage but failed miserably with taking care of the property taxes.” He paused to take another sip of his drink. “You’re sitting in the middle of nearly 3000 acres of prime development land. The land around you is worthless unless your acreage is included in the deal. A lot of people are looking to get you out of there. I can make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Stunned by the amount of information he knew about her situation, Casey leaned back against her chair and played nervously with her napkin. The waiter appeared with a fresh glass of water but she seemed not to notice. Once the waiter left, Devlin continued his verbal barrage.

“Two hundred thousand and a guaranteed thirty thousand dollar donation to your shelter every year for the next ten years.” Half a million dollars. The huge amount of money should have been a relief, something she should have snapped up the instant the offer left his mouth. Instead, it made her stomach churn and she fought back the bile that crawled along her throat. He didn’t even have the grace to look like a desperate man. This man had barreled into her life and turned her world upside down yet he sat across from her and acted like they were having a casual conversation about the weather.

“How long would I have to go for?”

“Probably a couple of months.”

“No.  No, I can’t be gone from the shelter that long.  Why can’t I just write a letter or something?”

“Your parents are going to fight me at every step of this.  I need to be able to count on you to be there for all of it.  It will send a statement to the judge that I have your complete support and since you are the only other next of kin…”

“I could just fly out each time.” She fell silent when she saw his obvious skepticism. She nodded her head slowly in understanding.  “You think I’ll run – that I won’t keep my end of the deal.”  She was surprised by how much that hurt.

“Look, once we file your affidavit your parents’ attorney is going to have access to your information, including your address.  I can protect you from them but I need you to be near me to do that.”

“And when it’s all over?”

“You know your parents better than me – do you think they would come after you?”

She choked back a harsh laugh.  Devlin felt a stirring of sympathy – she was on the losing end no matter what happened next.  “I can give you a new life – set you up somewhere where they can’t reach you. Jonas too. The shelter would also be taken care of.”

“Why are you doing this?” she asked, surprised by how steady her voice sounded considering how her insides were churning.

“Do we have a deal?” was all he said.

Biting back a harsh response, Casey scanned the room and studied the other patrons. The thought entered her mind that if she refused him he could retaliate by telling her parents where she was. If that happened, she and Jonas would have to run again. Overwhelmed by the thought, Casey pushed it from her mind. As she turned her gaze back towards Devlin, something caught her eye. A tall, elegantly dressed man in his early fifties sat on the other side of the room. His lean build suggested he still worked out often but the warmth in his eyes showed that he had come to appreciate the finer things life had to offer. The fact was reinforced by the easy smile that drifted over his lips as he studied the beautiful woman sitting across from him. About ten years younger than her companion, she was a truly striking woman that time had been kind to. She said something that caused the man to let out a deep, rich laugh that made Casey’s heart constrict with longing.

Devlin took advantage of the fact that she was temporarily oblivious to his presence to study her more closely. Although she had changed her clothes, she still had the same disheveled look about her. Her hair remained caught up in a tangled ponytail of sorts and not a lick of makeup covered her nearly flawless skin. In all his thirty-six years, Devlin had never met someone with so much natural beauty who did nothing to promote it. In fact, she seemed to downplay her features as if they were more curse than gift. But even her rumpled, oversized clothes and riotous hair couldn’t hide the natural grace or sharp wit she possessed.

However, it was her strength and resolve that intrigued and worried him most. It had taken a strong will to get her this far. Her sister had possessed the same will but in different measure. From the little he had learned about Amanda from his short time with her as well as the details the private investigator had dug up, motherhood had given her the focus and direction she needed. Amanda’s strength had been born of her need to protect her child. Casey’s strength came from somewhere else – somewhere that had left its mark on her. It made her a worthy opponent, which, for once, he was not pleased about. He knew she couldn’t be bought. That meant he had to bend her to his will in some other way. While he wasn’t proud of the tactics he was going to have to use, the fact that a child’s future hung in the balance made it possible for him to tamp down on his guilty conscience and play dirty. He followed her gaze to the couple across the room and frowned. For once, the thrill of victory would not be so sweet.

***

 

Casey knew she was staring but she couldn’t seem to help herself. It was only when the man and woman stood and started walking towards her that she realized they had recognized her. She inhaled sharply and swung her gaze to Devlin who was watching her with curiosity. Ignoring the couple, she said a silent prayer in hopes they would walk right by her. They stopped right next to the table.

“Casey, we thought that was you earlier,” remarked the woman as she glanced at the wet tablecloth. “It’s good to see you. How are you?”

“I’m fine Mrs. Caulfield. How are you?” she managed to ask as she forced a smile to her lips.

“Good, good. You remember my husband, Peter, right?”

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