“Nothing like that has happened on our street before,” her mom returned, and then she let out a heavy sigh. “But I guess there’s a first time for everything. Some kids need a stronger hand when it comes to discipline.”

Nikki couldn’t agree more. How bored and utterly reckless could you be that you spent your spare time throwing rocks and objects at cars? But that was what the police believed even though they didn’t see anyone outside. Granted, both she and Gabe had been so shocked that it would’ve been easy for someone to run away without being seen. And what had the young officer said? The type of car Gabe had been driving would’ve drawn a lot of attention.

Gabe hadn’t exactly responded well to that.

Needless to say, Nikki never made it to the shelter. Not with the whole waiting-for-the-police thing and then having to go home to make sure she didn’t have glass on her. And she had. Everywhere. Even down her shirt.

She still had no idea how she didn’t get scratched. Just like when she’d fallen down the steps at the de Vincent compound, she should’ve been seriously injured but wasn’t.

Maybe she really did have a guardian angel looking out for her.

Nikki swiftly changed the subject with her mom to some of the apartments she’d been scouring on the internet earlier. She hadn’t wanted her parents to keep questioning what was up with Gabe’s unexpected visit, because her parents weren’t stupid.

Any de Vincent being in their Creole-style cottage was not normal.

Luckily she was able to get them somewhat distracted. Now that it was Monday and she was currently walking into the kitchen, she still wondered if she’d hallucinated Gabe’s visit.

It still didn’t make any sense to her.

Or Rosie.

Because Nikki had called her friend after the police and Gabe had left and told her all about the conversation. Even Rosie had no idea what the hell was up with Gabe, but she’d thought it was a good sign.

A good sign for what, Nikki wasn’t sure, but the fact that he admitted to knowing what was happening that night had lifted some of the unseen weight off her shoulders. He’d known it was her, at least that night he had, but what did that really mean? That he had wanted her or . . . or that he’d just been drunk enough to want her?

None of that mattered now. It couldn’t.

It didn’t.

Pushing those thoughts aside, she walked over to where her father was placing a ceramic canister on a tray. He turned to her. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Sure.”

Picking up a tray with two cups and saucers, along with a steaming pot, he turned to her. “Can you take this to Devlin’s office? He’s with the senator, but we’re expecting the arrival of an electrician any second, and I need to be down here for this.”

“No problem.” She just finished dusting rooms that were never used. Taking the tray, she started to turn, but her father stopped her.

“I’m going to be leaving early today to spend some time with your momma while she receives her treatments,” he reminded her. “Are you sure you’re okay here without me?”

Holding onto the tray, she nodded. “I know the landscaper needs to be paid today. The check for that is in the staff office. Bev already picked up dry cleaning, and there’s no dinner tonight since Devlin is going to some charity thing.” Thank God. “So, don’t worry. Spend time with Mom. I got this.”

Her father smiled as he stepped around her and kissed her temple. “Yes, you do.”

Taking the tray, Nikki pivoted and made her way up the back staircase toward Devlin’s office. It was at the end of the hall, beyond the paneled, double doors. One was ajar. Using her elbow, she knocked.

“Come in,” came Devlin’s voice.

Nudging the door open with her hip, she stepped into the office. All the blinds were up, letting the sunlight pour in. Half of the rounded walls were lined with built-in bookcases filled with digests that looked about as interesting as reading the dictionary. The other half were covered with certificates, licenses, and degrees.

Nikki thought about what Gabe had said about the pictures in her parents’ house. There was nothing personal at all about this room.

Devlin sat behind the large cherry oak desk, but it was the older man who sat in the chair with his elbow propped on the arm and his chin in his hand that unnerved her.

Senator Stefan de Vincent was the identical twin of the brothers’ father. Seeing him now, knowing that Lawrence was dead, was like seeing a ghost.

With dark brown hair turning silver at the temples, the senator was handsome like all the de Vincents were. He was proof that each of those brothers was going to age very well.

He was also proof that money could almost certainly ensure you could get away with just about anything.

She made herself walk at a normal, sedate pace as she crossed the rather large room.

“Nicolette Besson,” the senator said, one finger resting just below his lip. “It has been a very long time since I’ve last seen you.” His gaze flicked to Devlin. “Women from the past are having a habit of reappearing lately, are they not?”

“Appears so,” commented Devlin.

Nikki had no idea on how to respond to that, so she just smiled and nodded as she placed the tray on the credenza. She started to turn to leave, but realized that she needed to pour the tea.

Ugh.

Eye roll.

“I’m still not sure why you’re so worried about the Harrington financials,” Devlin was saying as Nikki turned the cups over. “With my marriage to Sabrina, I gain control of the shipping businesses. Besides, it’s not like they’re in dire straits. You can tell Parker he can keep his new penthouse.”

Nikki kept her face blank as she poured the steaming tea.

“This has nothing to do with Parker,” the senator replied.

“Oh, really?” mused Devlin. “He was here last week, worried that I would end my engagement to Sabrina. I doubt it was out of brotherly concern.”

“You haven’t set a date,” the senator said. “You can’t blame Sabrina for having concerns.”

“If she has concerns, then she should come to me. Not her brother. Not you.”

Wholly aware of the senator watching her as she placed the cup in front of Devlin, she tried to ignore his stare and not eavesdrop, but it was hard.

Rich people always talked in front of their staff like they weren’t even in the room. It was insane and Nikki knew better, but this was juicy. Was Devlin thinking about ending the engagement?

He should.

He really should.

“You know how Parker is,” the senator replied. “But I’m more concerned about their ability to donate to my upcoming campaign than whether or not Parker gets a sizable allowance once their father passes.”

“Which I hear won’t be too far from now.” Devlin sat back as Nikki placed the little canister on his desk. She started to put the spoon down, but realized the little dish was for that. “Perhaps you should be worried more about that missing intern than the campaign donations.”

Oh, dear.

Nikki turned back to the tray, blinking rapidly as she picked up the teapot again.

“I’m sure Ms. Joan will turn up, sooner or later.” There was a pause. “Funny how people go missing or die under mysterious causes around these parts.”

“Hmm?” Devlin murmured.

This conversation was turning dark.

Nikki poured the senator’s tea.

“Like that police chief who was investigating Lawrence’s death. Died in a car accident—a single-vehicle car accident,” Stefan continued. “That journalist from the Advocate contacted my office again, wanting to talk.”

“I do believe they said the chief suffered a medical emergency before the crash,” Devlin replied. “And Ross Haid can call all he wants. No one is talking to him.”

“I guess Mr. Haid is curious about the chief’s death. Odd considering the chief was a healthy man who didn’t believe for one second my brother hung himself.” Stefan didn’t lean back as she placed the tea in front of him, so she had to stretch over his leg, and of course, the cup clattered off the saucer.

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