Over the next two days, she only saw Gabe during dinner and other than retrieving endless glasses of water for him, he hadn’t said much of anything to her other than asking how her arm was on Wednesday.
Which was perfect.
She hadn’t seen him during the day. For all she knew, he wasn’t even home, and Devlin was like one of the ghosts in the house. She’d see him out of the corner of her eyes and when she’d turn to acknowledge him, he was gone.
Devlin was probably checking to make sure her jeans didn’t have holes in them and that she wasn’t falling down any more sets of steps.
And so far, she hadn’t, but every time Nikki went up and down any stairs in the house, she looked over her shoulder.
She hadn’t been able to shake the possibility that Sabrina had pushed her, but whenever she really sat and thought about it, it seemed crazy to her, that Sabrina would do something so insane.
It just couldn’t have been her.
Mainly because Sabrina would’ve been petrified of breaking a nail.
Which left the question of who or what had done it, and Nikki had no idea. All these years she had spent in this house, she only felt uncomfortable a few times, but now she walked through the silent rooms and halls feeling like someone was always with her, right behind her.
Nikki was making her rounds Friday afternoon, cleaning the game room that had a fully stocked bar, when her phone vibrated in the back pocket of her jeans. Well, they really weren’t jeans jeans. They were jeggings—the lovechild of denim and leggings, and the best pairs actually had pockets, so no one could tell the difference.
She practically lived in leggings.
Setting the bottle of scotch on the bar, she pulled her phone out and saw that it was a text from Rosie. A smile tugged at her lips as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
Drinks & bad life decisions commence at 8pm tomorrow night!
Rosie was a riot. Nikki had met her during her freshman year at UA. The tiny redhead was several years older than Nikki and was taking the scenic route through college, meaning it was taking her, on average, two years for every year it took a normal student to complete. It didn’t help that Rosie had changed her major three times since Nikki had known her.
She’d finally graduated the same semester as Nikki, obtaining a degree in philosophy.
Nikki would never forget the first time she learned how old Rosie really was. The woman looked ten years younger than thirty-three and acted roughly Nikki’s age. Not that Nikki acted immature. Well, if she was being honest, she had her moments, but Rosie still had this thirst for life that Nikki wondered if it came from the freedom of not really being bogged down by a career, a significant other, children, or a mortgage.
Nikki sent a message back.
Can’t do this weekend, but can do next Saturday.
A frownie face emoticon came back and then Rosie texted the first message over again, changing the date to next Saturday. Nikki slipped her phone back in her pocket, actually looking forward to seeing Rosie. She’d been home a couple of weeks before she started working here and she hadn’t done anything other than have dinner a few times with one of her childhood friends and visit the local animal shelter. She needed to get out of her house and hooking up with Rosie in the evening would be perfect since it would give Nikki most of Saturday to spend with her mom.
She’d been getting home from the de Vincent compound after her mom was already asleep, worn out by the toll treatment was taking on her. So Nikki had now taken to dragging her butt out of bed an hour early to eat breakfast with her mom before she left for work.
Breaking a sweat lifting the damn bottles and climbing up and down the stepladder, she was on the tips of her toes so she could place the last bottle when she heard footsteps outside the hall.
Her stomach dropped a little as she twisted at the waist. She knew it wasn’t her father. He was out running errands. Stretching as she gripped the top of the stepladder, she tried to see in the hall, but from what she could see, there was no one.
She bit down on her lip.
A wave of sharp tingles danced along the nape of her neck as she turned back to the shelves. Probably Devlin out there, creeping—
The sound of glass scratching across wood was like a blast of cold air to her stomach. Turning at the waist so fast she was shocked she didn’t fall off, her gaze dropped to the cherry oak bar top.
Five recently cleaned tumbler glasses sat side by side, like she’d left them.
All except one.
One of them was several inches to the right of the group.
Nikki’s lips parted on a sharp inhale as the fine hairs on the nape of her neck rose. “This damn house,” she whispered.
Those glasses were super heavy. If she threw one and hit someone in the head, it would knock them right out. No way would it just move.
“Nope.” She crept down the ladder and reached out, hesitating for a second. “Not today, Satan. Knock it off.”
Picking up the glass, she quickly put it away and did the same with the rest. Then she moved out from behind the bar, almost done. Thank God. The dark, windowless room was starting to creep her out.
On her way to the door, she saw a balled-up napkin under the pool table and veered over to it, shivering. Was it her or did this room feel substantially cooler than the rest of the house? Probably the fact there was no windows for the sun to beat heat through. Or there was definitely a ghost.
There were no in-betweens.
She was just glad there weren’t any staircases nearby.
Bending over, she snatched the napkin off the floor.
The male voice startled Nikki. She jerked up, smacking the side of her head on the bottom of the pool table. She fell back, landing on her butt as she pressed her palm to the side of her head. “Ouch!”
A deep chuckle raised her hackles. What the hell was funny with her nearly giving herself a concussion? Or the fact that this house was trying to kill her?
“I’m used to women throwing themselves at me, but not knocking themselves out. That’s a new one for me,” the oddly familiar voice said. “Are you okay?”
Squinting against the dull ache, she saw a hand appear in front of her face. Her gaze tracked up the arm, over the white dress shirt that was rolled up to the elbows.
“Hello?” he said, wiggling his fingers.
Her gaze shot to the man’s face as she lowered her hand from her slightly throbbing head. Oh crap. No wonder she recognized the voice.
It belonged to Parker Harrington.
No way was she taking his hand.
She’d rather reach into a burning inferno than take his hand.
What in the hell was he doing roaming here? Usually her father was on the ball, making sure no visitors had free, random access to the house and Parker knew that. He’d been to this house thousands of times when Nikki was younger, being that he was close to the brothers, and she guessed even more so now that Devlin was marrying his sister. Still, no one but the family moved about these halls without being escorted by someone. But since her dad wasn’t here, obviously Parker was taking advantage of that.
Refusing to take his hand, she pushed to her feet and stood, ignoring the ache along the side of her head. “You startled me.”
“I can tell.” His pale-blue gaze, the same as his sister’s, dropped to his empty hand. He slowly lowered it with a slight frown. “I’ll admit I was being quiet. Saw you in here, and well, I was admiring the view.”
Not only did Parker behave the way she remembered, which was like a creep, he looked the same, just older. His light blond hair was styled back from a face that was attractive but also hawkish. He had this intense way about the set of his thin lips that always reminded her of a bird of prey. He was younger than Sabrina, around Lucian’s age.
“Hell, I haven’t seen you in forever,” he continued. “Look at you.” He checked her out so blatantly that it crossed that line on what was respectful and belly-flopped straight into disrespectful territory. “All grown up now. You’ve really filled out nicely, Nikki.”
Nikki stepped back, clutching the damn napkin in her hand. “Nice seeing you,” she said, getting her tone short. “Hope all is well, but I need to get to work.”
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