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“I assure you, we do,” Chase said. “And I’m sure JUSTIS would be very interested to hear how one of Boston’s most upstanding pillars of polite society has secretly been involved in illegal sport and various other unsavory pursuits.”


“That’s insane,” Gates refuted with a scowl and a dismissive shake of his head. Then he turned a pointed glower solely on Nathan. “If you think humiliating me in front of my daughter and my peers will change my promise to you tonight, you’re sorely mistaken.”


At Chase’s questioning look, Nathan grunted. “Mr. Gates made it clear to me that he does not approve of my interest in Jordana and won’t permit it.”


“He threatened you?”


Nathan shrugged. It hadn’t fazed him then and hardly mattered now. After the way things went down tonight—the way Jordana looked at him, so hurt and betrayed—he doubted Gates had anything more to worry about when it came to Nathan’s intentions with her.


She might never want to speak to him again, would most likely never forgive him for taking her father away from her. She might despise Nathan forever for breaking her heart.


And he wouldn’t blame her.


He had never deserved her. Their worlds had been too different from the start, and tonight had proven that.


Bitter truth, and it didn’t make the cold hollow in his chest ache any less.


He wanted nothing more than to go to her now and offer comfort, explanations. Reassurances that everything would be all right.


But as he watched her father protest and begin to squirm under his interrogation, Nathan knew he couldn’t give Jordana any of those things.


Martin Gates’s guilt was written all over him. He was a man with deep secrets, secrets he’d apparently kept hidden for many years. His darting, anxious gaze said he knew the respectable mask he’d worn for so long was about to be ripped away. Gates had been living a lie that was suddenly about to be exposed.


And when it was, nothing in Jordana’s life would ever be the same.


“I have no intention of putting up with this thuggery for a moment longer,” Gates announced, one final, obvious bid to halt the disturbing conversation before it went any further. “I demand you release me at once, or I’ll—”


“Or you’ll what, Mr. Gates?” Chase interjected calmly. “Go running to law enforcement? Complain to your Darkhaven cronies and country club colleagues? Or maybe you have other alliances you think you can lean on. The kind of alliances you and Cassian Gray thought you could keep in the shadows, along with your other less-than-respectable business dealings?”


Gates’s expression went slack. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”


Chase stared at him in dangerous silence. Gates endured the prolonged quiet for a few moments, his gaze flicking from Chase and Nathan standing before him to Jax, Eli, and Rafe positioned near the door of the interrogation room.


Abruptly, he bit off a curse and vaulted to his feet. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to this bullshit. I’m leaving. You can expect to hear from my lawyer—”


Nathan took a half pace forward, subtly blocking Gates’s path. There was no need for words or physical persuasion. Gates took one look at the flat intent in Nathan’s eyes and immediately backed down.


As Gates dropped into his seat again, the last of his bravado fled and he peered up at Nathan, studying him nervously. There was defeat in the male’s face, the kind of look that told of a crushing burden carried for far too long.


Gates lowered his head. When he spoke, his voice was subdued, reduced to a thready murmur. “Have you known all along, then?”


“You and Cass covered your tracks very well,” Chase answered. “It took us a while to unravel it all, but you couldn’t hide forever. We know you own La Notte. Cass may have run the place, but the club and all its profits—illegal and otherwise—belong to you. Now we need you to tell us about any other dealings you’ve had with him.”


Gates looked up, eyes narrowed. “Since when does the Order have the license to police a citizen’s private or business affairs?”


Chase wheeled on the vampire with a snarl. “Since the night last week when Opus Nostrum tried to blow up a global peace summit.”


“Opus Nostrum,” Gates replied, genuinely taken aback. “Are you saying you suspect that I—or Cassian Gray—had anything to do with that?”


Chase lifted a shoulder. “I haven’t heard you say you didn’t.”


“Well, I didn’t. Neither did Cass, I promise you that,” Gates said. Then he exhaled a sigh and leaned back in his seat. “I should hope the Order has better leads on the attack last week than whatever supposed evidence you seem to think you have linking me, or Cassian Gray, to those terrorists of Opus Nostrum.” Gates paused, pointedly cleared his throat. “If there is nothing further—”


“He’s not telling us everything.” Nathan approached him, taking in the look of relief on the Darkhaven male’s face. “The club isn’t the only thing he’s invested in with Cassian Gray. What else are you trying to hide?”


Gates scoffed. “Cassian Gray is my friend. Our business dealings are between us. We may not run in the same social circles, but last time I checked, that wasn’t a crime.”


Nathan grunted. “Do you have many Atlantean friends?”


Gates stared, unspeaking for a long moment. “If you have questions about Cass, maybe you should ask him, not me.”


“I would,” Nathan said. “But unfortunately, someone took his head last night.”


Gates’s mouth moved soundlessly. He swallowed then. “Wha—what are you saying?”


“Cassian Gray is dead. He was attacked and killed outside La Notte.”


“Dead.” Gates’s face went white. “He worried that he’d risked too much. Stayed in the city too long. He was fearful when I saw him the other day. That didn’t seem like Cass.”


There was shock in the Breed male’s voice, and true grief as well. He’d lost a friend, and it took him a moment to process what he’d just heard.


Then a new shock seemed to overtake him. There was an even greater hush to the Darkhaven vampire’s voice. “Ah, Christ … Jordana. I must see Jordana right away. Cass made me promise, should this day ever come …”


Nathan exchanged a look with Sterling Chase. “What about Jordana?”


“Where is she?” Gates asked, a franticness creeping into his voice. “Dammit, I have to get out of here.” Gates rose, his muscles tensing as if he were about to bolt for the door. “I have to talk to Jordana right now. I need to make sure she’s safe.”


Chase stepped in, scowling as he faced Gates. “What the hell does any of this have to do with her?”


The Darkhaven male turned a troubled look on them. “My God,” he breathed. “You really had no idea, did you? My friendship with Cass, the business partnership. It was all about her. Jordana is Cassian Gray’s child.”


23


JORDANA STOOD IN THE CENTER OF THE MUSEUM LOBBY, PARALYZED, watching in a state of numbed detachment—of staggering, surreal shock—as her father was taken away and the exhibit party abruptly ended, all of her guests scattering in the Order’s wake.


There were whispers and curious, pitying glances as people hurried out. A few murmured reassurances that it must be some kind of mistake, just a terrible misunderstanding that Martin Gates could have somehow run afoul of Lucan Thorne and his warriors.


Jordana wanted to believe that.


She wanted to believe Nathan would come back any moment and tell her it was a joke or a bad dream—anything to alleviate the ragged hurt inside her.


A hurt that told her this was no mistake.


Her father hadn’t acted like an innocent man. He’d fought and fumed with a desperation that had made Jordana’s heart quake as she watched Nathan take him away.


Jordana had never seen him like that before, so terrified and combative. As though he knew he had something awful to hide.


As for Nathan … the hurt Jordana felt tonight was all the worse when she thought of him.


Had she been wrong to get so close to him?


Could her father have been the reason Nathan had shown any interest in her?


Nathan told her from the start that he wasn’t the kind of man she might have wanted him to be. He’d told her that as recently as last night.


By his own description, once locked on a target, he pursued, he conquered. Then he moved on, never looking back.


Oh, God.


Jordana felt physically ill. Had he used her to buy the Order necessary time or opportunity to go after her father?


Was that all she’d been to Nathan—a means to an end?


He hadn’t pretended to be anything other than what he said he was: a warrior, a Hunter. Jordana had fallen in love with him anyway.


Last night she thought she’d seen a different side of him. A tender side, as though he’d let down some of his armor and shown her the wounded, noble man behind the forbidding wall of impenetrable stone and cold, cutting steel he reserved for the rest of the world.


At the party tonight, and during their stolen passion in her office, Jordana had felt as if she were seeing Nathan in a way no one else ever had. He’d made her feel special, as though she meant something to him.


As though he might even have loved her too.


Had it all been a facade meant to lull her into trusting him further?


Could he and the Order have been plotting to spring some kind of trap for her father with her as the unwitting bait?


It staggered her to think so.


Her heart wanted to reject the idea outright, but doubt ran like oil in her veins.


“How are you doing, sweetie?” Carys’s heels clicked lightly on the marble as she came out to the lobby, turning off the museum lights behind her as she approached. “Everyone’s gone now, and I’ve closed up. Come on, let’s get you home.”


“No.” Jordana numbly shook her head. “No, I don’t want to go home. I want to see my father. I want to see Nathan. I need to know if what happened tonight was his plan all along.”


Carys’s brows pinched in a mild frown. “Jordana, you have to know Nathan would never—”


“I don’t know anything anymore,” she replied hotly, hurting so badly she thought her chest might crack open. “I need my father to tell me what he’s done. I need Nathan to tell me that he hasn’t been using me, playing me as part of his mission for the Order. I need to know if the two men I care most about in this world have been lying to me this whole time.”


When Carys reached out with a touch meant to soothe, Jordana wrenched away from her. “I’m going there now. I can’t stand by another minute without knowing the truth.”


“Jordana, wait.”


Ignoring her friend’s plea, she started across the lobby, heading for the exit at a brisk pace.


She didn’t get far.


From behind her, Jordana felt a disturbance in the air. Carys sucked in a sharp gasp, then went utterly silent.


Jordana spun around—just in time to see her friend’s legs crumble beneath her.


A large, hooded figure dressed in a black trench coat stood over the fallen Breed female. As he released Carys’s limp body to the floor, the man lifted his head, his face obscured in deep shadows.


He bore no weapon, but his palms were bright with an unearthly glow as he stepped away from Carys to stalk toward Jordana.


She screamed.


Panic exploding in her breast, she lunged for the exit.


She pushed the glass door open, inhaling a breath of chill night air as another scream built in her throat.


No sound left her lips.


Her feet simply stopped moving. All her fear—all conscious thought—went softly, swiftly silent as her skull filled with sudden heat and light …


Then all went dark.


“Cass made me keep his secret,” Martin Gates said, misery in his voice and in the droop of his mouth as he spoke. “He made me vow she would never know he was her father—not unless the worst should occur and his enemies caught up to him.”


Nathan had to admit, there was a part of him that wasn’t completely shocked to hear that Jordana’s true father was Cassian Gray. Aside from a passing similarity in their fair coloring, in hindsight Cass’s visit to Jordana at the museum the day of his death had been more telling. Had he gone there because he feared his enemies were closing in, and he wanted to see his child one more time?


As for the fact of Jordana being the child of an Atlantean father, that in itself was hardly a revelation. Although the truth had been unknown for many centuries, and was still kept secret from the public at large, a couple of decades ago the Order had discovered the link between the Breed and the immortal race that had fathered the rare females born Breedmates.


“If Cass wanted to keep her safe from enemies among his own kind,” Nathan said, “he would’ve done better to leave Jordana in your care and stay far away from Boston.”


Gates nodded. “He tried. And he never stayed in the city more than a few weeks at a time, just in case he might be found out. But Jordana meant everything to him. Cass loved her just as much as I do. I think that’s why he understood when I couldn’t make good on the other part of my original promise to him.”


“What promise was that?” Chase interjected, narrowing a hard look on the Darkhaven leader.


“That I take Jordana as my mate before her twenty-fifth birthday.”


Nathan recoiled at the idea, confused and suspicious. “Why the hell would he ask that of you?”


“Cass wanted her blood-bonded to someone he trusted. Someone he knew would keep her safe.” Gates gave a slow shake of his head. “I couldn’t be that man. I raised her as my own child. Jordana was my daughter every bit as much as she was Cass’s. No matter what I promised all those years ago, I couldn’t force my blood onto her. As she got older, I knew I had to safeguard her some other way. I had to find someone else I could trust with her secret.”

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