Read Letting Go Online

Authors: Sloane Kennedy

Letting Go (5 page)

Casey had no doubt that Jonas cared about her but even his friendship couldn’t bring her peace and she had to struggle not to flinch each time he touched her. No other person knew her better or looked out for her the way he did yet she couldn’t let go and give him the only thing he had ever wanted…her trust.

As if he could read her thoughts, Devlin said, “He’ll be okay, you know.”

“Who?”

“Your boyfriend. He seems like a capable young man.” Devlin chided himself for the ridiculous and not so subtle attempt to learn more about her relationship with Jonas. He shouldn’t care…he didn’t.

“He is” was all she said.

“Seems a bit young for you though.” She fixed her gaze on him as he studied something on his cell phone. Apparently she hadn’t thrown the damn thing hard enough to break it.

“Is there a question in there somewhere Mr. Prescott?”

He lifted his eyes and held hers for a moment before returning to his phone. “Just trying to make conversation Miss Wilkes. Your love life is of little concern to me.”

“I guess your private investigator was a little lax in his job because otherwise you would know that you’re more Jonas’s type than I will ever be. In the future, I’d suggest that if you have any more questions about myself or Jonas, who’s seventeen by the way, that you save your money and just ask me directly. It’ll save us both from having to endure such stimulating conversations in the future.” She turned her attention back out the window, missing the smile that briefly crossed Devlin’s lips.

Silence fell again until the limo came to a stop at a small airport. Casey got out with Sampson on her heels. Devlin looked at the seat across from him in disgust. Large brown dog prints and a streak of dog drool covered nearly the entire seat. He looked down at his last clean suit which he had changed into after his earlier encounter with Sampson. Satisfied that he was still spot free, he got out of the car.

Casey was leaning against the side of the car, her eyes scanning the airport. She watched as the limo driver pulled her duffel bag as well as Devlin’s suitcase from the trunk. He flashed her a quick, friendly smile. She didn’t return it. As Devlin came around to stand near her, she muttered, “The airline will expect Sampson to be crated.” When he didn’t respond, she said, “If Sampson doesn’t get on the plane than neither do I.”

Irritation filtered through her as Devlin remained unconcerned. His relentless ability to remain composed was driving her crazy. Forcing herself not to give into the childish desire to stamp her foot, Casey fell silent and followed Devlin when he started walking around a hangar. On the other side of it was a large private plane. The door opened and stairs were lowered. The limo driver handed their bags over to the man who had opened the plane’s door.

Devlin made his way to the stairs and then stopped and turned to face her. His gaze, however, was on Sampson. “Sampson, after you,” he said with a sweeping motion of his arm. The dog darted up the stairs and disappeared into the plane. Devlin remained at the foot of the stairs and glanced pointedly at her.

“Miss Wilkes, after you” he said, humor glinting in his eyes

Smug bastard
.

***

 

Snow was starting to fall as the private jet landed at LaGuardia a couple of hours later. The plane came to a stop just outside a large hanger where a limousine was already waiting. As the door opened and the stairs descended, Sampson appeared in the doorway and bolted down the few steps. Within seconds, he was happily covered in a fresh layer of dirty snow. Casey followed the dog from the plane and smiled as she picked her way down the stairs.

“I don’t know what happened Mr. Prescott – I guess Sampson was a little more airsick than I thought. I hope that leather was scotch-guarded.”

Devlin appeared in the doorway of the plane, his expression murderous. The bottom of his pant leg was dripping a sticky, yellow substance. As he made his way down the stairs, he flashed Casey a withering look.

“Would you like to go change? We don’t mind waiting,” she said sweetly as she patted the dog who sat innocently next to her.

He bit back a nasty comeback, muttered a sharp “No” and stalked past her to the waiting car. Casey watched him go before turning to the dog.

“Sampson, let’s go for a ride.”

Sampson bolted for the open car door and jumped inside. An instant later there was a string of curses. Casey smiled, willing to take any perks she could out of this trip.

Chapter 5

 

 

As the limo slowly made its way down the slush covered streets of Manhattan, Casey was amazed at the number of people that braved the unfriendly weather. The last and only time she had been in this intimidating city had been just before her mother had married her second husband. After the death of her first husband, Caroline Carver had been determined to leave behind the middle class existence that her husband’s military career had forced upon her. Her first step in snaring herself a new, wealthier husband had been the search for a new wardrobe. In a rare move, Casey, then six, and Amanda had been included in the spontaneous trip from their suburban Connecticut home to the fast paced world of New York City.

Although the girls spent most of the trip in the care of the hotel babysitter, the time spent with their mother had been a blessing of sorts since the death of James Carver only two months earlier. Desperate for their mother’s love and attention, both girls had thrived on being near her even though she paid them little attention. Within a week, their mother had shed her housewife image and inherited the lifestyle of a socialite. And three days before they were scheduled to leave for home, Caroline’s good looks and financial insatiability paid off and led her straight into the arms of Elliot Dane, a successful Hartford pediatric surgeon in town for a medical conference. Caroline’s plan had worked and the fated trip that had meant so much to two little girls had suddenly become the catalyst that would ultimately consign them both to a living hell.

Despite the heated leather seat, a chill went through Casey as she was assailed with memories of her mother and stepfather. She shifted her weight and turned her gaze from the window. If she couldn’t see the city, then maybe none of this was happening…maybe she could delay the inevitable. But the man across from her was impossible to ignore. He was punching keys on his laptop like a man possessed. The few minutes that he had managed to drag himself away from it had been spent on his cell phone, his deep, commanding voice undoubtedly sending tremors through the poor soul on the other end. She recalled that he’d been on the phone last night when she had gone to his hotel room. He had been speaking to someone about his son – his wife probably. It struck her then how little she knew about this man and the situation he was about to throw her into.

“How old is your son?” she asked.

He looked up from his work as if surprised to find that she was speaking to him. “He’s seven. His name is…”

“Ryan,” she interjected. “I know. I heard you call him that when you were talking to your wife last night.”

“I’m not married. My wife died a long time ago.” He dropped his gaze back to his work.

“What happened to my sister?”

He hesitated and then removed his fingers from the keyboard and gave her his full attention. “She was taking Ryan to soccer practice but she got lost on the way there and ended up in a bad neighborhood. While she was stopped at a light, a man walked up to the side of the car, pulled out a gun, and forced her to get out.”

“And did she?”

“Yes,” he responded.

“Then why did he shoot her? Why not just let her go?” Casey couldn’t keep the anger and hurt out of her voice.

“Because she tried to stop him.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Ryan…she tried to stop him from taking Ryan. He wouldn’t let her get him out of the car. When he tried to get in, she grabbed him and he shot her. Witnesses said the guy panicked and took off. He left the car and my son behind.”

Casey was stunned. Her sister - her shy, frightened sister had attacked a man to save the life of a child that wasn’t even her own? Despair filled her as she realized that the sister she had left so many years ago had become an entirely different person – a person she would never have the honor of knowing. The irony hit her then. This man, this stranger that sat across from her, was her only link to learning who her sister had become. She almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. And then another realization hit. Amanda had saved his son.

“So that’s it – that’s why you’re doing all this – payback. Amanda saves your son, you secure her daughter’s future. Now it all makes sense.”

Instead of attempting to defend himself, he remained silent and returned to his computer. Casey struggled with the new found knowledge. He didn’t care about the little girl – he just wanted to repay his debt. Isabel was a business transaction and nothing more. God, how had she gotten herself into this mess? Even if she managed to keep Isabel from her mother and stepfather, she’d just be tossing her into a different fire. Casey bit back tears as she realized that she was not only going to fail an innocent child but also the sister that she had already failed once before.

***

 

By the time the limo pulled in front of a large townhouse on the Upper East Side, Casey was nearly numb with grief and fear. Her fingers bit into the thick folds of Sampson’s neck as if the dog were her only lifeline. She felt the car pitch as Devlin got out and then another lurch as the dog pulled from her grip and jumped out of the car. It was her turn but she couldn’t move.

“Miss Wilkes?” His voice penetrated her foggy brain but her limbs wouldn’t respond. He leaned into the car and called to her again, this time in a soft, gentle voice. His tone caught her attention as did the warm fingers that closed around her hand. He gave her a gentle tug that finally got her moving. Once she was outside the car, she pulled free of him and straightened her shoulders. While she struggled to regain control of herself she surveyed the area and saw only huge, carefully landscaped and well-constructed properties with expensive cars lining the streets and driveways. Her eyes settled on Devlin’s townhouse. The huge neo-Renaissance limestone mansion was four stories tall with a large walk out deck on the third floor, another deck on the roof and an arched doorway surrounded by beautifully landscaped shrubs and vinery.  She couldn’t help but think how out of place the palatial home looked. It should have been sitting in a French countryside somewhere and it’s almost gothic-like appearance made her think of dark rainy nights and the Grim Reaper.

She followed Devlin up the walkway and stopped in front of the door that Devlin threw open. Unable to bring herself to take the final step, she was content to stay where she was until the limo driver let out a loud cough behind her. She looked over her shoulder to see the thin man right behind her, his arms full with luggage. Entering the house, she moved out of the driver’s way and nudged herself into the corner of the entryway. To her right was an ornately carved wooden banister with a winding wood staircase that led to the next floor. Ahead of her lay a long hallway lined with gold framed pieces of artwork and a couple of expensive looking vases and statues. To her left appeared to be an office of some sort and to her right just before the staircase was the living room. Everywhere she looked was the presence of some object or decoration that screamed money. What she didn’t see or feel was a sense of warmth – of family. No photographs, no child’s carefully constructed artwork, no toys.

Devlin was busy stripping off his gloves when footsteps rang out overhead. Casey looked up to see two children standing halfway up the stairs. The boy had his father’s penetrating gaze but the warmth of childhood gave him an almost angelic look. His dark hair was carefully brushed and he wore neatly pressed pants and a knit sweater that looked like it had never been played in. Her gaze shifted to the little girl. If she hadn’t known that she was Amanda’s daughter, one look at the child said it all. She did have her mother’s beautiful blonde hair and the same inquisitive, gentle eyes which happened to be green instead of blue. Barrettes in the shapes of butterflies held her shoulder length hair back and a crisp white and blue polka dot dress with Mary Jane shoes completed the picture of Amanda’s perfect daughter. As the little girl started down the stairs, the boy climbed on the banister, intent on sliding down it.

“Ryan, no!” commanded Devlin. The sharp rebuke caused the boy to quickly jump off the banister and quietly make his way down the stairs.

“A pony!” shouted the little girl when she reached the bottom of the stairs and saw Sampson who stood next to Casey. Surprisingly, the dog seemed unsure of what to make of the tiny girl.

“It’s a dog stupid,” said the boy as he came to a stop next to her.

“Ryan, Isabel, this is Miss Wilkes.”

The children glanced at her momentarily before returning their attention back to Sampson. Casey was at a complete loss as to how to respond to the children. It had never occurred to her that she wouldn’t have any idea how to interact with a child. She glanced at Sampson who hadn’t moved. “His name is Sampson,” she finally managed to say.

Isabel was the braver of the two. She took a couple of small steps towards the dog, then a few more when he didn’t move. “He won’t eat me, will he?” she asked. Before Casey could respond, Sampson closed the distance between them and gave the little girl a long lick that nearly knocked her down. Within seconds both of the children and the dog were happily rolling around on the floor.

A moment later, a woman appeared from down the hallway. Tall and thin with her silver hair in a neat bun, the sixty something year old woman nodded at Devlin and said, “Mr. Prescott,” in polite greeting. She reached for his coat and carefully draped it over her arm. Upon seeing the neatly dressed woman, Sampson made a beeline for her. Devlin stepped in front of the dog and grabbed him by the dirty nylon collar around his neck.

“Oh no you don’t. Kids, why don’t you take Sampson out back.” As both children took hold of the dog’s collar, Devlin said, “Coats and gloves.”

“Yes sir,” the children said in unison as they disappeared down the hallway.

“Miss Wilkes, this is Mrs. Potter. She manages the townhouse while we are in residence.” He turned to Mrs. Potter. “Mrs. Potter, would you show Miss Wilkes to her room?”

“Of course sir.”

He glanced down at his pants and said, “I’ll be in my study as soon as I change.” He hurried up the stairs.

Mrs. Potter gave Casey an assessing and ultimately disapproving glance before saying, “May I take your coat Miss Wilkes?”

Thrown off by the formality, Casey shrugged out of her coat and handed it to the old woman who didn’t even attempt to hide her distaste at having to handle the dirty garment. She put the jacket along with Devlin’s coat in a nearby closet and then motioned to the stairs. She picked up Casey’s duffel bag and started up the stairs.

“Follow me please.”

With her shoulder bag in hand, Casey followed her up the stairs and into a room on the second floor. She inhaled sharply when she entered the room. The massive four-poster canopy bed took up only a small portion of the huge room. Near the bay window across from the bed was a sitting area complete with white leather sofa, recliner and a flat screen TV. A walk in closet took up one wall and the bathroom, complete with Jacuzzi and another flat screen TV, was on the opposite side of the room.

Mrs. Potter went to the closet and pulled open the doors. It was completely empty. “Would you like assistance in unpacking?” she asked, although her tone suggested she was less than eager to perform the task.

“Um, no thank you,” muttered Casey as she wandered around the room.

“Fine. Dinner will be served in the main dining room at six-o-clock. Please be prompt.” Mrs. Potter left the room, pulling the door closed behind her.

Casey came to a stop at the bay window and pulled back the rich fabric of the expensive curtain. Beneath her, Sampson was playing with Isabel and Ryan. Casey envied the dog’s ability to make himself at home so quickly. She released the curtain and went to the closet. Plenty of fabric covered hangers hung on the rack and one side of the closet had endless drawers and a shoe rack. Casey reached for her duffle bag to start unpacking but then stopped and looked around the room. She wasn’t ready to unpack so she dragged the oversized bag to the bed and forced it underneath. It took her several seconds of pushing and kicking but the bag finally disappeared underneath the lacy bed skirt. As Casey stood up a trapped feeling overcame her. As beautiful as the room was it was still going to be her prison and she needed to escape it for just a little while longer.

***

 

Devlin was scanning the contract in front of him when he heard the hesitant knock on the door of his study. “Yes,” he said.

Casey carefully pushed the door open and searched the room until her eyes came to rest on him. “Mr. Prescott, may I have a word with you?” she asked nervously. Devlin lowered the pen he’d been holding and nodded. Her approach was slow. She acted as though she expected him to jump up from his chair and leap over the desk at her at any moment. He almost wished for one of her shows of temper so he wouldn’t feel like such an ogre.

“Please have a seat Miss Wilkes.”

She took the seat across from him, her back straight, her hands carefully folded in her lap. Something about the pose bothered Devlin – he’d seen it before. He waited for her to begin but she remained silent. It was almost as if she was waiting for him to say something. Then it hit him. He had played this scene out before. Her sister had always had that same posture, that same silence, that same look of foreboding in her eyes. He finally realized that both girls had been doing what they were taught…don’t speak unless spoken to first. Anger and disgust flashed through him as he understood that he was playing the role of Casey’s stepfather in this twisted scenario. He purposefully relaxed his shoulders, smiled lightly and folded his hands together in front of him on the desk in what he hoped was a non-threatening position. His attempt to put her at ease seemed to have no effect.

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