Read Letting Go Online

Authors: Sloane Kennedy

Letting Go (7 page)

“Shit,” he said as he covered his mouth with the tips of his fingers. That’s just great,” he said as he climbed to his feet. He pulled a tissue from the dispenser on the nightstand next to the bed and dabbed at his mouth. Casey stood and took the tissue from him.

“Let me see,” she said as she examined the wound and then dabbed at the few remaining drops of blood. Her free hand moved to his cheek to keep his face steady. He stilled at the touch of her hand on his skin and watched as she carefully cleaned the small cut. His skin tingled from where she was touching it and he felt his body harden with desire.  His eyes dropped to her mouth and he had an overwhelming urge to taste it, to run his tongue over the tiny mark she had inflicted upon her lower lip. When she felt his eyes on her, she lowered her free hand. He gently caught her other hand by the wrist before she could step back from him.

“We match now” he said softly as he skimmed the mark on her lip his thumb. She inhaled sharply and tried to tug her hand free.

“Please let go,” she said, a note of panic in her voice.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said quietly.

“I…please just let go.” He released her hand and watched her step back.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said.

“You didn’t. It’s just…” Casey couldn’t bring herself to say it. He wouldn’t understand.

“It’s just what?”

She shook her head and said no more. He didn’t press her. Instead he said, “I’m sorry for what I said downstairs. I had no right to assume anything about you.” He took the tissue from her and bent down to pick up her bag so he could tie the broken strap to the end of the bag where the clip had failed.

He put the fixed bag on the bed and said, “It took a lot of guts for you to come here and that fact that you did it for your own reasons instead of for the reasons I tried to force on you…well, those are characteristics that not even the most expensive college education can buy.” He went to the door.

“Mr. Prescott?” He stopped and turned to face her. “You can send the cab away,” she said. At his nod, she pulled the bag over to the closet and started emptying it out. Devlin studied her for a long moment before closing the door behind him.

Chapter 6

 

 

When the early morning light forced its way between her lids, Casey squinted her eyes and rolled away from the offending rays and right into a warm, furry body. Forcing her eyes open, she looked at her bedmates. Sampson lay next to her, his long body taking up nearly half the bed. Isabel was asleep in the crook of the dog’s body, her head resting on the dog’s front legs. Carefully getting out of the bed, Casey disappeared into the bathroom. When she returned a few minutes later, dog and girl were still in the same spot. Surprisingly, she had not felt them crawl into the bed with her. She’d had only one nightmare and had blessedly been able to wake up before getting too lost in it. Within minutes, she had fallen back asleep and the rest of the night had gone undisturbed.

Feeling the morning chill seep through her thin T-shirt, Casey hurried to the closet and pulled out a sweatshirt and heavy socks. She left the room and carefully pulled the door closed behind her. At the top of the stairs she saw Ryan leaning against the banister, his head cocked to one side as he listened to the voices that rang out below. Casey stood next to him but the shape of the stairs and their distance from the entry way made it impossible to make out what was being said and who was doing the talking.

“Good morning Ryan,” she said.

“Good morning.”

“What’s going on?”

“They’re here for Isabel,” he remarked quietly, almost sadly.

“Who is?” she asked in confusion.

He shrugged his shoulders. Devlin’s loud voice carried up the stairs. “You’re an hour early. She’s still asleep.”

“I better go wake her up,” said Ryan as he turned and went down the hall.

“She’s in my room,” said Casey. The boy seemed unsurprised as he turned and went into Casey’s room. Devlin’s voice again made its way up the stairs and his anger was impossible to miss.

“This isn’t good for her! It just mixes her up.”

Surprised by the emotion in his voice, Casey made her way down the stairs. A man and two women were squared off against Devlin, their backs to Casey. Mrs. Potter was standing near the front door.

“Mr. Prescott, you will need to take this matter up with the court,” said the larger of the two women.

Shaking his head, Devlin suddenly saw her and let out a muffled curse. The trio swung around to look at her. Casey was just reaching the last step when recognition slammed into her. As the breath left her body, she grabbed on to the banister for support. The older woman studied her for a long moment before shock registered on her face.

“Casey?”

“It can’t be,” said the man as he took a step towards her to get a better look.

“What’s going on here? Who is this?” asked the other woman in confusion.

“She’s our daughter,” responded the older woman, her gaze never leaving Casey’s.

Casey gasped for breath but couldn’t take any air into her lungs. Devlin pushed past her mother and stepfather and stood directly in front of her. “Casey, look at me,” he said firmly. Since his body blocked her view, she was able to drag her eyes to meet his. She managed to draw in a long breath. He held her eyes and said, “Everything’s all right. Just go back upstairs and I will explain all this later.” Her brain heard him but refused to command her body to move.

“My darling, we’ve been so worried about you,” exclaimed Caroline as she moved into Casey’s direct view. Devlin turned to see Caroline take a few steps towards her daughter. He felt Casey’s fingers bite into his arm with an unnatural strength as she moved behind his body.

Caroline Carver Dane’s frown looked genuine as she watched her daughter with worry. Time had been kind to Caroline. Her natural blonde hair continued to shine with only a hint of silver that actually gave her a mysterious air. Her trim body was encased in a crisp pants suit with matching high-heeled shoes that few other women would have been brave enough to wear in the winter weather. Gold and silver jewelry glittered on her hands and neck but it was the huge diamond ring on her right hand that earned the most envious looks. It caught the light as she moved her hand to cover her husband’s hand as his arm slipped protectively around her.

Not quite as tall as Devlin, Elliot Dane was still an imposing man but his elegant good looks and charismatic charm made him even more lethal. Worry and concern was etched in the lines of his face as his gaze traveled up and down the length of Casey’s body.

“Where have you been Casey?” he asked softly.

Devlin felt her hand tighten on his sleeve and realized the viselike grip was the only thing keeping her standing. Speech had completely escaped her.

“Darling, are you all right?” asked Caroline.

“She’s fine Caroline” Devlin replied coldly.

“She’s not fine – look at her. What have you done to her?” she asked furiously. Devlin glanced at the other woman who was watching them with open curiosity. She was buying every bit of Caroline and Elliot’s act.

“He’s turned her against us. Just like Amanda” observed Elliot. He took a step towards Casey. “Casey, honey, please” he implored as he took another step.

“Devlin,” she whispered pleadingly as she moved behind him. He put his arm out to stop Elliot’s forward motion. Elliot stopped abruptly, the open challenge evident in his eyes. Tension crackled throughout the room.

“Now let’s just settle down folks,” said the other woman diplomatically.

“Daddy?” All eyes turned to see Ryan halfway down the stairs, a sleepy Isabel in tow.

“It’s all right. Take Isabel up to her room.” He cast a glance at Mrs. Potter. “Would you go get Isabel ready?”

“Of course sir,” she said as she hurried up the stairs, clearly relieved to be escaping the tense situation. She ushered the children upstairs. Devlin turned his cold eyes on Elliot.

“I believe it would be better if you and your wife waited outside,” he said.

“No! Now I want to know what the hell is going on here. Where did you find her? And why the hell didn’t you contact us?” At his sharp tone, the woman took another step closer to the two men.

“Dr. Dane,” she began.

“I want some answers damn it!” His rage was palpable but Devlin was unmoved.

“Dr. Dane, I am going to ask you for the last time to wait outside.” His polite threat enraged Elliot even more but Caroline’s hand on her husband’s arm stopped him from taking the stand off to the next level.

“Come Elliot, let’s go start the car so it’s nice and warm for Isabel.” Several long moments passed before he seemed to realize that an outsider had witnessed his rage. He glanced pointedly at the other woman and then nodded his head.

“Of course. Casey, it’s good to have you home” he said gently as he moved towards the front door.

“Honey, we’re glad you’re safe. You come home whenever you’re ready, okay?” said Caroline. She gave Casey one last longing look before she took her husband’s hand and followed him out of the house.

“Mr. Prescott, I trust that you will be able to adequately explain all this to the court?” said the other woman sternly.

“Yes ma’am, I will.”

“Good.” She left the house.

Devlin turned to Casey who hadn’t moved. Her eyes were glued to the floor. “They’re gone,” he said. She looked at him and then scanned the empty room. Devlin pried her fingers from his sleeve.

“What are they doing here?” she asked as the reality of it all started to sink in.

“They have visitation every other Saturday.”

“No, I mean what are they doing here in New York?”

“Your stepfather moved his practice here from Connecticut two years ago.”

She looked at him in disbelief. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I was afraid you wouldn’t come if you knew they were in the same city.”

“You’re damn right I wouldn’t have come,” she said irrationally as she turned and started up the stairs. He grabbed her wrist.

“I’m sorry about this. I was going to tell you this morning before they got here but they were early.”

Mrs. Potter appeared at the top of the stairs with Isabel in hand. The little girl was holding on to Sampson’s collar with her other hand.

“I don’t wanna go with Gramma and Grandpa Uncle Dev.”

Devlin released his grip on Casey and went to kneel in front of the little girl. “I know you don’t darlin but it’s just for a little while. They’re gonna take you to see all the animals at the zoo. You like the zoo, right?”

The little girl nodded pitifully and ran her hand over Sampson’s head. “Can Sampson come?”

“No honey, he has to stay here. Otherwise the people at the zoo might want to keep him and you don’t want that, do you?” She shook her head and wrapped her arms around him. The display of affection tore through Casey like a knife. “You be real good, okay?” he said as Mrs. Potter urged her down the stairs.

As she passed Casey, Isabel softly said, “Bye Miss Wilkes.”

“Bye Isabel.” As she watched the little girl disappear out the front door, her anxiety about her parent’s close proximity to her was temporarily forgotten.

“How can you let them take her?”

“I don’t have a choice. If I don’t comply with the court order, they’ll put her into foster care until the custody suit is settled.”

“But you know what they’ll do to her!”

Devlin struggled to remain calm even though the helplessness that consumed him was pure torture. “I couldn’t prove that you and Amanda were physically abused. And without proof, the court wouldn’t deny visitation. But it’s supervised visitation – that woman was an officer of the court. Isabel is never alone with either of them.”

The explanation offered her little comfort as she dropped down to sit on the stairs. “What happens next?”

“We’ll go see my lawyer on Monday – he’ll start the process of drawing up your affidavit describing the physical abuse you suffered as a child.  It might even be enough to get a temporary injunction on the visitation.”

“And if you lose?”

He didn’t answer. He moved past her and said, “Mrs. Potter will make you some breakfast whenever you’re ready.”

***

 

Casey sat on the edge of the bay window, her gaze on the light flurries that were just starting to cling to the leafless trees. The omelet breakfast with toast and coffee that Mrs. Potter had brought her an hour earlier remained untouched. Surprisingly, the older woman had taken it upon herself to prepare the food. The scene downstairs seemed to have caused the woman to rethink her earlier disapproval.

Her thoughts drifted to Isabel. Anxiety rolled through her as a thousand images ripped through her but she forced them away. Devlin had said the little girl was never alone with them. That had to be something. Elliot and Caroline’s outward image mattered more to them than even their twisted need to overpower those who were weaker than them. In her mind, Casey had readied herself a hundred times over for her first meeting with them but nothing could have prepared her for what had happened that morning.

She had expected to encounter them once and only once in a hearing with a judge and lawyers. She’d been ready to sit behind a large wooden table with Devlin and his lawyer next to her, blocking her parents’ view of her. No direct contact with them would have been necessary and Devlin’s lawyer would have done all the talking. But to come face to face with them like that after so many years had crippled her. All the mental preparation she had done, all the strength she had tried to dig up from the depths of her soul had failed her the moment they had turned to face her. If Devlin hadn’t been there, she would have melted into a helpless puddle on the floor.

Her thoughts moved to Devlin and the way he had treated Isabel. She’d seen the helplessness in his eyes, had heard it in the thread of his voice as he gently explained to the little girl why she had to go somewhere with virtual strangers who called themselves her Gramma and Grandpa. He’d pulled the tiny child in his strong arms and had given her the only comfort he could. A moment of envy had passed through her as she watched the interaction between man and child. She’d been wrong about his motives for protecting Isabel. Whatever may have started out as payback had turned into something greater that he probably couldn’t even explain. Amanda had seen it and that’s why she had entrusted her child’s future to Devlin. Love was a far greater motivator than obligation.

Casey looked around the quiet room and then climbed to her feet. Desperate for some kind of distraction, she left the room and made her way to Devlin’s study. She had heard him leave the house shortly after her parents had left so she pushed the door open without knocking first. She glanced around the room which was bathed in shadows with only a couple of small lamps that gave the space a surprisingly warm glow. Her eyes found what she had come here for – the books. Endless shelves of books took up an entire wall of the room. A small ripple of excitement went through her as she ran her fingers down the spine of a leather bound volume. Reading had been a past time that had provided the much-needed escape from her childhood. Perfect worlds had existed in those books and she had often risked a beating by staying up late at night and reading under her blanket with a tiny flashlight that did more to strain her eyes than anything else. But she hadn’t cared – things never seemed as bad when Nancy Drew was hard at work solving a mystery.

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