Dirk lifted his gaze and looked at Case.
Case still ignored him. “Everything is fine, Cassini. We’ve just got more business than we can handle right now. Without enough workers to fill demands, it’s stressful. We have to wait until our payments come in before we can hire more workers. Just a bunch of bullshit you don’t need to worry about.”
I detected the annoyance in my brother’s voice, so I backed off. He was a grumpy man like Father, rarely cracking a smile and being anything but serious. I’d never seen him with a woman, and I couldn’t imagine him being delicate or kind.
“Yeah,” Dirk added. “So don’t worry about it.”
After lunch, we watched the game in the living room.
One of my phones lit up with a text message. Where are you?
I glanced at it and put it away, not wanting Case to see it. He was right beside me.
Case drank his scotch and kept his eyes on the TV. “How are things…at home?” He asked questions without wanting to know the answers, but he felt obligated because he cared about me. Even if there was nothing he could do to help me, he wanted me to know he was there.
“Good.” They’d been much better since Balto came into my life. I had something to look forward to, something that got my blood pumping, something that made me smile…made me shake. It wasn’t just the fact that I was sneaking around that got the adrenaline going. It was the fact that I was taking a big risk for an even bigger reward. But at this point, I was addicted. I was addicted to that man and all the things he could do to me. “He’s in Turkey right now. He asked me to come along, but I didn’t want to.”
“Turkey is a wasteland.” He kept his green eyes on the TV. “You wouldn’t have liked it.”
I wouldn’t have liked it because Lucian was there. I preferred living in his mansion when he wasn’t there, when I could pretend he didn’t exist at all. I could eat whatever I wanted and keep my legs closed. “Probably.”
“When will he be back?”
“That’s a nice vacation.”
Every time he was gone, it was definitely a vacation.
“Is he gone on the weekends a lot?”
He nodded. “That’s good.”
My phone started to vibrate again, but this time it was Lucian calling my phone.
He almost never called, and I hoped this wasn’t a new tradition. “Speak of the devil…” I rose from the couch and took the call, knowing I had to drop everything I was doing and give him the attention he wanted. He wasn’t just my husband, but the man who owned me. Sometimes I still ground my teeth at the knowledge, but I’d learned to accept it. “How are you?”
Even his voice was oily. “I’ve been better. I miss you.”
I stopped at the window and looked over the quiet countryside. There were no neighbors on this side, so I could only see Florence in the near distance. My throat went dry as the acid built in my stomach. My teeth ground together because I didn’t want to repeat the words back to him. There was no way he could possibly think I meant them, but he probably got off on controlling me like a puppet. “Miss you too…” I cringed once the words were out of my mouth, and my self-respect disappeared. When I said those words to Balto, I meant them. He was someone I thought about randomly throughout the day. But I never thought about Lucian unless I had to.
“The weather here is nice.”
He really called to make small talk? “The end of summer is always a beautiful time of year.”
He turned quiet, like he didn’t have anything else to say.
Why did he call in the first place? Was he really so dumb to think I actually liked him? That I’d just flipped a switch and suddenly found him desirable? My pussy went from sandpaper to lubed because he somehow changed my mind?
My pulse quickened in my wrists and behind my ears. It was the kind of question he’d never asked before. He never concerned himself with my daily activities. Thankfully, I wasn’t with Balto because I would have struggled to conjure a believable lie. “I’m with my brothers. Case made lunch, and we’re watching the game.”
Lucian didn’t seem suspicious. Maybe he was just asking to start a conversation.
Or maybe he was onto me.
He responded smoothly. “The four of us should get together for dinner. I haven’t seen your family in a while.”
My brothers couldn’t stand Lucian. They hadn’t come to the wedding, and they never made an effort to have any kind of relationship with him. Case couldn’t hide his loathing, and Dirk could quickly turn violent when he was pissed. Lucian was dead to them, for all intents and purposes. I never mixed them all together. “Yeah…we’ll see.”