Read Letting Go Online

Authors: Sloane Kennedy

Letting Go (8 page)

Knowing it would take her hours to choose a book, Casey closed her eyes and ran her fingertip along a row of books and then stopped and pulled out the one her finger had come to rest on. She carried the heavy book to the nearby leather couch and sank down into it. The lamp overhead was dim enough to remind her of her flashlight days and she smiled as she flipped open the book. Within moments, reality faded as she eagerly absorbed each word and finally managed to escape to another world.

***

 

Exhausted and still reeling from that morning’s confrontation, Devlin threw open the door to his study, intent on finishing the merger contract that would again bring profit to his ever-growing company. He was pleasantly surprised to find Casey curled up asleep on the sofa. A book was lying open across her chest. Devlin quietly closed the door and moved to stand next to her. The peaceful expression on her face made something twist painfully deep inside of him. Reluctant to wake her, Devlin pulled a throw from the back of the couch and settled it over her legs and lap. He carefully sat down next to her and reached for the book. As he pulled it away, she woke with a start and struck out at his outstretched arm.

“No! Stay away from me!” she screamed.

He grabbed her wrists and shouted, “It’s me! It’s Devlin.” She stopped almost immediately and looked around the room.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she pulled her hands from his grip and sat up.

“It’s all right – I’m sorry if I startled you.” She shook her head and waved her hand as if dismissing the notion. She put her head in her hands as if trying to come to terms with something. A haunted look had taken over her. Not knowing what to say, he reached down and picked up the book. She gave him a guilty look.

“Um, I didn’t mean to snoop or anything. I just remembered all the books you had,” she began.

“It’s fine.” He looked at the title of the book. “The Odyssey. Interesting choice.”

She studied him for a moment and then shook her head and pushed the throw off her legs.

“What?” he asked in confusion.

“Why don’t you just say what you mean?” She got up and started to leave but he caught her wrist and pulled her back down.

“What I meant was that it was an interesting choice.”

“No, what you meant was, what’s someone like me doing trying to read a book with such big words in it?” She again tried to stand but he wouldn’t release her. She was about to order him to let her go but the image of him hugging Isabel popped into her mind. The warmth the image evoked warred with the disgust she felt at his touch.

Holding off on the explanation he’d been about to spout off, Devlin studied her. She was staring at his hand which was still wrapped around her wrist. She seemed entranced by it. He struggled to understand what might be going through her mind. Deciding to experiment, he gently rubbed the inside of her wrist with his thumb. When she trembled but didn’t move away, he ran his hand over the back of her hand, his fingers drifting over fisted ones. Instead of pulling away, she relaxed her grip and opened her fingers. As his thumb stroked her palm she lifted her eyes to his. She seemed completely confused. It was as if she had never been touched before. His thought was interrupted by a commotion outside the study door. An instant later, it was thrown open by a portly woman in her early fifties. Casey jumped up from the couch as if she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Devlin saw the woman smile slightly and realized she’d seen the intimate scene and was already jumping to conclusions.

“Madelyn, what a surprise,” he said as he stood. His tone made it clear that he wasn’t thrilled to see her but she didn’t seem to care.

“Your woman let me in,” she remarked as she waved her hand over her shoulder to indicate Mrs. Potter who stood behind her. Mrs. Potter shook her head at Devlin in denial. He gave her an understanding nod and then turned his attention to Madelyn.

“So, to what do I owe this pleasure Madelyn?”

She ignored him and moved further into the room, her eyes on Casey who shifted nervously under the woman’s intense scrutiny. Madelyn glanced pointedly at Devlin.

“Madelyn, I’d like you to meet Casey Wilkes. Miss Wilkes, Madelyn Cragen.”

Casey took the woman’s outstretched hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you Ms. Cragen.”

“The pleasure’s mine Miss Wilkes. How is it that you’ve come to know our Devlin here?”

“She’s an old friend,” interjected Devlin, his tone warning her not to pursue the subject. Madelyn looked Casey up and down once more, open curiosity in her eyes.

“My apologies for interrupting your…meeting Devlin.” She smiled brightly before continuing, her attention now solely on Devlin. “But I come with a matter of great importance.”

“I’m not going Madelyn.”

“I already told the Committee you would be there. You wouldn’t have me humiliated in front of all my dearest friends would you?” She attempted a pout but failed miserably.

“You dug your own hole Madelyn. You know how I feel about those things.”

“Those things? Since when is showing one’s appreciation for another’s efforts one of ‘those things’?”

Devlin went to his desk and started searching for the contract. “Have Howard do it.”

“And have him throw up on Matilda Rasnor again like he did last year?” she said in a high-pitched voice. She strutted over to the desk and looked him straight in the eye. “The Committee isn’t interested in showing their gratitude to my husband – they want you and only you. Now, we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way.”

Devlin hid a smile as she waved her finger at him, her chubby features drawn into a serious line. He finally nodded and was rewarded with a victorious smile. She turned to leave the room but stopped when she saw Casey still standing in the same place. “Miss Wilkes, would you prefer the duck or the salmon?”

Casey looked at Devlin in confusion. His expression was cool and calm as he said, “She’ll have the duck Madelyn.” With a nod, the woman left as quickly as she had come.

“What duck?”

Devlin looked up at Casey and tried to figure out how he was going to explain his way out of this one. “For dinner next month.”

“Dinner?”

“Yeah, it’s a celebration for the opening of a new wing at the children’s hospital. My company had a hand in the fund-raising.” He finally found the file folder he was looking for.

“Why would Madelyn think I was going to the dinner with you?” asked Casey, the concern in her voice going up a notch.

“Because you are,” he said as he moved past her and left the room. When his words sunk in, Casey turned and followed him.

He was already halfway up the second flight of stairs before she caught up with him. “What are you talking about?” He moved down the hallway and past several closed doors. “I’m not going anywhere with you. That wasn’t part of our deal,” declared Casey.

Entering the last door on the left side of the hall, Devlin went to the nightstand next to the king sized bed and pulled several papers off of it and stuffed them in the file folder.

“It is now,” he said in response.

“I don’t understand.”

“Damage control.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Casey as she crossed her arms over her chest in a defiant pose. Devlin tossed the folder on the bed and went to the closet. As he started speaking, Casey moved closer to the closet so she could hear him. He had stripped off his shirt and was reaching for another. She tried not to notice how well built he was and how his broad shoulders tapered down to a flat six-pack abdomen. Averting her eyes she allowed her gaze to drift over his well-appointed, masculine bedroom.

“Your parents are very powerful people in this city. They aren’t real eager to have it known that they’re caught in a custody battle with me for their granddaughter. They also aren’t going to want it to get out that one of the best pediatric surgeons in the country is facing allegations of physical abuse from his long lost stepdaughter.”

“What the hell does that have to do with dinner?” asked Casey in mounting irritation.

He came out of the closet, his shirt still unbuttoned and a tie in his hand.

“Madelyn saw us together, alone in a dark, quiet room with me holding your hand.” A moment passed before what he was saying sunk in. She let out a shocked laugh.

“You can’t be serious. That woman doesn’t really think that you and I…I mean it’s ridiculous.” Flustered, she shook her head. “No one would believe that we…for God’s sake, you’re old enough to be my-” She stopped in embarrassment.

“Madelyn lives for gossip. She’s probably on her phone as we speak. I could care less about what she or anyone else thinks but the bottom line is that people are going to wonder. If we don’t play the game their way, there will be more questions. For Isabel’s sake, I’m just as eager as your parents to keep this quiet.” He finished buttoning his shirt and stood to tuck in to the waistband of his slacks.

“So you actually want me to pretend to be your…’old friend’?” she asked in astonishment. This wasn’t really happening, was it?

“As long as people are focused on what’s between the two of us, they won’t be paying attention to what’s really going on.”

“No,” she said simply.

Devlin tried to subdue his frustration. “Miss Wilkes, the only way we control this is if we make the rules. The more you try to keep them out of your life, the harder they’ll fight to get at the truth. I don’t want people knowing why you’re really here because it could interfere with the custody case. If pretending we’re in a relationship keeps people from asking too many questions then we do it.” He finished his tie and shrugged on a dark jacket.

“I’m not like them Devlin – they’ll see right through me.” Her quiet distress caused him to turn and look at her.

“I’ll take care of everything. Trust me,” he said as he grabbed the file folder off his bed and left the room.
Trust me.
She almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of his statement.

***

 

When Devlin returned an hour later Casey was hiding out in her room, reluctant to confront him again. Unfortunately his reasoning for the charade forced upon them by Madelyn Cragen made sense. Even though she knew little of Devlin’s business dealings or social life, the fact that Senator Caulfield had heard of him meant Devlin held a position of power and status in his world. That made him a target of gossipmongers. She definitely wasn’t ready to have her past dragged through New York’s society pages which meant Devlin was right. The only way to keep her past a secret was to become someone else. As much as the idea revolted her, she knew that she had little choice in the matter – Isabel’s future and Senator Caulfield’s career were at stake.

A light knock at the door ripped her from her thoughts. “Come in.” Balancing a plate with a sandwich in one hand and a full glass of milk in the crook of his arm, Ryan opened the door.

“Mrs. Potter said I should bring you this,” he explained as he carefully walked over to her, his eyes on the milk as it rocked back and forth in the glass. Behind him, Sampson was eagerly waiting for the inevitable to happen. After several tense moments, Ryan handed the glass and the sandwich to her and then took a deep breath, relieved to be rid of the precious cargo.

“Thank you. Peanut butter and jelly – my favorite.”

“I made it myself.” He took a few steps towards the door but then stopped and turned to face her again and hesitated. Deciding it was okay to bring up the subject, he finally said, “Daddy says you’re here to help Isabel. Can you make it so that she stays here?”

“I’m gonna try.”

“I mean she’s kind of a pest and she follows me around all the time-” he began.

“But you like having her around.”

“Yeah. Come on Sampson,” he called as he gave her a sheepish smile and then left the room, the dog following obediently. Casey put the milk and sandwich down next to her on the bay window she was sitting in. Another knock on the door, this time heavier.

“Miss Wilkes?” came a woman’s voice. Casey turned to see a tall, thirty year old woman in a smart business suit standing in the doorway.

“Yes?”

“Miss Wilkes, I’m Julia Matthews.” She extended her hand and shook Casey’s firmly. Her thick hair was carefully pinned in a French twist and a small notebook and pencil were in the firm grasp of her left hand.

“Please, call me Casey.”

“All right.” Julia looked her up and down and then wrote something in her notebook. Casey glanced down at her own clothes – a wrinkled dark grey flannel button up shirt and faded jeans.

“What are you doing?” she asked Julia.

“Just a few notes.” Julia walked slowly around her as if she were a bull at the county fair.

“For what?”

“Is that your natural hair color?”

“What?” Casey twisted around to watch Julia as she finished her walk around.

“You wear contacts?”

“No…who are you?”

“Julia Matthews…”

“I know that. I mean, who are you? What are you doing here?”

“I work for Mr. Prescott.”

Casey waited for further explanation but Julia didn’t continue. “And?”

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