Read Letting Go Online

Authors: Sloane Kennedy

Letting Go (6 page)

“What can I do for you Miss Wilkes?” he asked softly.

She hesitated and he noticed that her gaze had shifted to his hands. When he pulled them off the desk and settled them in his lap and out of her sight, she seemed to snap out of her daze. “Um, it’s about Isabel,” she began. “I was wondering…I mean, I think it would be better if she didn’t know.”

“Know what?”

“That I’m her mother’s sister.” Devlin noticed that she didn’t use the word aunt but didn’t call her on it. At his silence, she continued nervously, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea that she-” Her voice dropped off.

“You don’t want her to ask you about her mother” Devlin supplied.

Shame flooded her cheeks as she stammered, “It’s just that I won’t be here that long and it doesn’t seem fair.” She dropped her eyes. He didn’t miss her attempts to blink away the tears that had pooled in her eyes.

“I agree with you. There is no need for Isabel to know who you are or why you’re here.” She seemed surprised at his acquiescence. Nodding, she shifted her weight in her chair but she didn’t move. Another lesson - he hadn’t yet dismissed her. Nausea rolled through him as he tried to figure out what to say.

“Perhaps you’d like to get some rest before dinner?” She seemed to accept the comment as the dismissal she required because she stood up and turned to leave the room. “Miss Wilkes?”

She stopped and turned slowly to face him. “Would you promise me something?” he asked.

Suspicion clouded her features but she nodded her head.

“Would you promise me that you’ll try not to see him whenever you look at me?” It was clear she didn’t understand. He got up and went to stand in front of her. She shifted uncomfortably but didn’t move.

“Casey, look at me,” he said softly. The use of her first name caught her attention and she forced her eyes up to meet his. “I’m not your stepfather.” She didn’t get it right away but then she looked at the chair she’d been sitting in and then across the desk to where he’d been sitting. Tears of humiliation formed as she realized what she’d been doing. “Don’t,” Devlin said gently as he put his hand across her cheek and forced her to look at him. A tear escaped and slid down her cheek and disappeared under his thumb. He was tempted to pull her into his arms but the look in her eyes stopped him and he dropped his hand instead. “Why don’t you go get some sleep, okay?” She nodded and then hurried from the room.

***

 

“Miss Wilkes?”

The quiet voice penetrated the fog in her brain as did the soft knock on the door. As she forced her eyes open, there was another knock. “Miss Wilkes?”

“Yes?” she managed to rasp.

“Miss Wilkes, Daddy says you should come down to dinner.” Ryan. Reality came flooding back to her in an instant.

“I’ll be down in a minute,” she said.

“Okay.” She heard Ryan’s footsteps disappear. Still dressed and lying on top of the heavy brocade bedspread, Casey pushed her hair out of her face and tried to rub the exhaustion from her eyes. The humiliation that had caused her to run up the stairs and crawl under the bed cover in an onslaught of tears after her meeting with Devlin had not abated. How could she ever face him again? She hadn’t even realized that she had reverted to the behavior instilled during her childhood years but he had seen it. He probably thought she was the weakest, most pathetic excuse for a human being he had ever known. And now she had to go down in sit in his dining room…no, his
main
dining room and endure his disgusted, pity filled looks. For the millionth time, she cursed her stepfather and his cruel lessons.

Climbing off the bed, she went to the bathroom and threw some water on her face. She forced herself to look in the mirror. Seeing the rat’s nest her hair had become, she pulled the rubber band from it and ran her fingers through it. Not much of an improvement. She left the room and hurried down the stairs. Ryan was waiting for her on the bottom step.

“Daddy thought you might get lost,” he said. Annoyed, Casey followed the little boy down the hallway but her irritation subsided as she realized the townhouse was even bigger than it looked and if Ryan hadn’t been leading the way, she could have been searching for the dining room well into Christmas. Several hallways and countless doors later, they entered a large dining room with a long mahogany table in the center. A chandelier with what appeared to be thousands of reflective crystals hung over the center of the table. A well-stoked fire warmed the room. Each place setting was carefully laid out with more silverware than Casey had seen in her life. Devlin sat at the head of the table and a subdued Isabel sat quietly on one of the chairs at the middle of the table. An exhausted Sampson was asleep under the table. Ryan took the seat across from the little girl which left the opposite end of the table for Casey. While the distance between her and Devlin wasn’t great, it wasn’t close enough either that she’d have to be staring into his gloating eyes throughout the entire meal.

“Miss Wilkes, I trust you are well rested,” he said as he watched her take her seat.

“Yes, thank you,” she said politely. Devlin nearly sighed in relief when he heard the strength in her voice. Although she still looked like she could use a week’s worth of sleep, the fear had disappeared from her eyes and she looked at him with a trace of challenge in her eyes.

“And your room is to your liking?” he said, adding an extra amount of casualness to his voice that he knew would irritate her.

“It’s adequate,” she said.

“Good. Please let Mrs. Potter know if you should need anything.”

“I’ll do that,” Casey said tightly as she studied him. No look of triumph anywhere. Instead, he seemed relieved, relaxed even. Puzzled, Casey tore her eyes from him and looked at the children who were watching her. Both had put their linen napkins in their laps and she realized they were waiting for her to do the same. She grabbed her napkin and dropped it into her lap. The instant she did, two maids dressed in crisp black uniforms appeared from the side door and began serving. A creamy soup was followed by some unidentifiable game bird and then a cup of fruit drizzled with white sauce.

The dinner went by quickly; not a word was spoken. Casey kept glancing at the children, waiting for some kind of action from them but they remained silent and focused on their food. The scene was eerily similar to the dinners spent in her parents’ home growing up but she recognized that something was different about it. Isabel and Ryan weren’t waiting for some unforeseen attack – there just simply wasn’t anything to talk about. Devlin was focused on the tablet sitting next to his plate. He missed the few longing glances that both children threw his way. A surge of pity shot threw her as she realized the children wanted to talk to him.

“Did Sampson show you his trick?” she finally asked. Three pairs of eyes looked up and stared at her. Devlin returned to his tablet. The children looked at him and then back at her.

“What trick?” Ryan finally asked.

“I’ll show you. Sampson, come here boy.” The dog, although clearly wiped out, got up and went to her. She pushed back her chair and reached for a leftover stalk of broccoli on her plate. “Sit,” she said to the dog. Ryan kneeled on his chair so he could see and Isabel twisted in her seat for a better look.

Once the dog had sat down, she placed the broccoli on top of his head and said, “Wait.” None of the three noticed as Devlin lowered his tablet and watched.

Casey removed her hand from the broccoli and again said, “Wait.” Sampson sat perfectly still. Casey finally said, “Okay!” The dog just sat there. “Okay,” she said again. The dog still didn’t move. She looked up at the kids and said, “I guess I forgot the magic word.”

“Magic word?” whispered Isabel.

“Is it Abbra Cadabra?” asked Ryan.

“I’m not sure – why don’t you try it?” When he said the phrase again, this time louder, Sampson still didn’t move.

“Hocus Pocus,” shouted Isabel. Sampson merely turned his head to look at the girl. The children dissolved in laughter as they yelled out several more phrases.

When they were out of guesses, Casey said, “Oh, now I remember.”

“What is it?” asked Ryan.

“It’s not a word – it’s a magic spot on his head.” She reached for Sampson’s left ear and gave it a light tug. Sampson snapped his head back, causing the broccoli to fly. He caught it in his mouth on the way down. Casey and the children applauded. As she looked up Casey was surprised to find Devlin’s penetrating look on her. He held her gaze for a moment before he politely nodded his head as if congratulating her on the accomplishment and then returned to his paper. She wasn’t sure if he was mocking her or not.

After Ryan and Isabel each took several turns getting Sampson to perform his trick, Devlin excused them for bed. They made no argument and quietly slipped from the room with Sampson on their heels. Casey made a move to clear the dishes.

“Leave them Miss Wilkes. They’ll be cleared later.” Devlin swiped the screen on his tablet. She’d been dismissed as well. Casey got up to leave but thought better of it.

“What should I do?” she asked.

“What?” he asked as he looked up from the tablet.

“What should I do?

“With what?”

“With myself – here. What am I supposed to do all day for the next month or two or however long all this takes?”

Devlin seemed unconcerned with the question. “Relax, enjoy the time off.” He returned to his tablet.

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Because I’ll go nuts, that’s why not.”

“What are you suggesting?” he asked, not looking up from the screen.

Casey got her irritation under control before saying, “Maybe I could get a job.”

“No,” he said, a hint of laughter in his voice.

“What do you mean no?”

“I mean no, you won’t be needing a job while you’re here.”

Disbelief flashed across her features. Was this man actually trying to order her around? He might have controlled how she’d ended up in his house but she’d be damned if he was going to tell her what to do and what not to do. “Are you serious?” she asked, making no attempt to hide her growing anger.

Devlin finally lowered his tablet and looked directly at her. “Look, Miss Wilkes, I’ve taken care of everything – there’s no need for you to run yourself even more ragged bagging groceries or flipping burgers.”

His remark caused more hurt than she would have liked. “Is that all you think I can do?”

“No college, high school drop-out…” He let the statement hang and turned his attention back to the tablet.

“Mr. Prescott, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from making judgments about me based on something you read in a file that some jerk put together because you paid him to. I may not have a piece of paper that tells the world how smart I am but I suggest that you not assume that the lack of said paper makes me stupid enough to sit here and take your orders or your bullshit.”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out fifty cents and put it on the table. “Do you mind if I use your phone to call a cab? This should cover it,” she said as she pushed the money towards the center of the table. As she stood, she tilted her head slightly and looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Then again, with my limited education, you may want to count it.” With that, she left the room and Devlin let out a colorful curse before he got up and went after her.

***

 

Once in her room, Casey pulled the cordless phone from the cradle on the nightstand and dialed the operator. “Can you connect me with a cab company? Upper East Side.”

Casey made her way around the bed. Devlin appeared in the doorway a moment later. She didn’t even spare him a glance. “Any company is fine…yes, fine. Thank you” she said into the phone as she dropped down to her knees and stuck her free arm under the bed in search of her duffle bag.

“Miss Wilkes.” Devlin came around the bed to stand behind her. “Miss Wilkes, would you listen to me for a moment please?”

She ignored him. Her hand closed around the strap of her bag. She gave a hard tug but the overstuffed bag got caught. She gave it another yank as she said in to the phone, “Yeah, I need a cab at-” Glancing over her shoulder, she said to Devlin, “What’s your address?” When he didn’t respond, she spoke back into the phone. “I’ll have to call you back.” She hung up the phone and got up. Sweeping past Devlin, she walked out of the room. He called her name again as she went down the stairs but she didn’t slow her stride. She threw open the door to his study and began searching his desk. Within moments, she found what she wanted and by the time Devlin caught up with her, she was back on the phone. An envelope was in her hand. Devlin recognized it as mail he had received that very day.

“Miss Wilkes, look-” he said as she began to walk past him again. He grabbed her arm to stop her.

“Don’t touch me,” she said harshly as she ripped her arm free and left the room.

Back in her room, Casey finished reading off the address to the person on the other end of the phone and then hung up. She went to work on freeing the duffle bag.

A frustrated Devlin entered. “Would you just stop for a second and listen?” When she continued to ignore him, he kneeled down next to her. Instead of reaching for her, he put his hand under the bed, grabbed the duffle bag strap and pulled hard. The metal clip holding the strap on one end of the bag gave way as he yanked the bag towards him. The small clip hit his lip with enough force to draw blood.

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