He’d expected Harrison to argue, but his brother simply nodded then motioned with his head toward the hallway. “Let’s talk before you guys leave.”
“I’ll only be a sec,” he said to Lizzy.
Nodding, she wrapped her arms around herself in a protective gesture. She might be keeping something from him—and he planned to find out exactly what it was—but no matter what, he planned to keep her under his protection at all costs.
“Why aren’t we calling the police?” Lizzy asked softly.
Porter glanced at her as he steered away from Harrison’s house. That was one of the things his brother had wanted to talk to him about before he left. “Harrison already has. The security team is making a statement about what happened but they’re leaving your and Mara’s names out of it.”
His brother hadn’t come out and said it but Porter hadn’t needed to ask. “We don’t want either of you down at the police station right now.” Where they’d be open targets. He trusted the cops, especially considering Grant was one, but the idea of dragging both women down to the station when Red Stone Security had more resources than the police department was simply a waste of time. Sure they had a gang squad and theoretically could start looking for suspects, but Elizabeth hadn’t actually seen anyone she could identify. The security team was making the report and that’s all the cops needed. It’s not like the cops could put her in protective custody once she made a statement anyway. Even if they did, Red Stone could still do a better job. They protected dignitaries and government officials all over the world. Security was their business. Not to mention, Porter didn’t trust anyone but himself to keep Elizabeth safe.
“So that’s not a vague answer or anything.” Slight sarcasm laced her words as she shifted against the passenger seat.
“We’re going to take care of this situation ourselves.” More specifically, he was.
She softly snorted. “Situation? Is that what you call someone shooting at us in broad daylight?”
Against his better judgment he reached out and squeezed her leg. Partially to convince himself she was unharmed. When she gave him a startled look he pulled back and had to force his eyes back on the road. Right now she appeared so lost and scared and all he wanted to do was gather her in his arms. “Harrison said you can work from my place if you want, but he wants you to delegate most of your work if possible.”
When she let out a soft huff, he bit back a smile. “It’s only temporary and you’ll still be getting paid.”
“I don’t like getting a paycheck for work I’m not doing,” she muttered.
Another reason he respected her so much. Before he could respond, she continued.
“I’d like to stop by my parent’s house on the way to your place. With everything that’s happened in the past twenty four hours I want to tell them in person what’s going on and I really want to check up on them.”
More than anything Porter wanted to take her straight to his place and keep her under lockdown but he understood her need to see her family. “Okay.” After radioing the guys in the SUV following them and letting them know the change of plans, they headed to her parent’s house.
* * * * *
Lizzy fidgeted with her hands as she waited for her parents’ gate to recede and let them up the driveway. She wasn’t necessarily worried about her parents since they had top of the line security and a giant wall surrounding their estate, but she still needed to see them. Even if she dreaded telling them what had happened with Benny. It would give them more ammunition against her brother, but they had a right to know. And she’d never been particularly good at lying to her mother anyway. So while she knew she could keep it a secret for a little while, eventually she’d slip up and it would create more drama from her parents later. Something she’d rather deal with now than in the future.
As they pulled under the stone covered entryway by the front of the palatial house, her chest tightened even more. This was it. Part of her wished she’d let Porter take her straight to his place but she couldn’t be a coward.
“Hey. You okay?” Porter reached out and lightly brushed her cheek with his knuckles. The action took her off guard, as did the concern in his eyes. Okay, the concern wasn’t really surprising, but she couldn’t take how sweet he was being. It only reminded her of how amazing he was. Sure he was dominating and sometimes a little pushy, but when she needed him, he was there for her.
Her throat tight, she nodded and turned away because she didn’t trust her voice. No, she wasn’t okay, but getting this over with as fast as possible was the best way to go. Like ripping off a band aid. When it was done she’d be going back to Porter’s place. The thought of being cooped up alone with him was terrifying on too many levels. Part of her was looking forward to it more than she should, especially considering the circumstances. But the other part, the part that lived in the real world, knew that her emotions were high right now and if anything physical happened between them it would be a mistake they’d both regret.
Moments after she rang the doorbell, the oversized, ornate, custom-made door flew open. Abigail, the older woman who kept order in her parents’ house, let out a yelp of delight. “Lizzy! You don’t come by here enough.” She quickly pulled Lizzy inside and into a tight embrace.
The petite, dark-haired woman Lizzy considered a second mother finally stepped back and looked her up and down with a critical eye. She frowned, like she always did when she saw her. “You’re too skinny.”
Lizzy bit back a smile at Abigail’s standard phrase—she also told her brothers they were too thin when they came by. Turning to Porter, she said, “Porter, this is Abigail. She takes care of everything around here.” And she did. When Lizzy and her brothers had been young, Abigail had watched all of them when her parents worked—which had been very often. When she wasn’t watching them, she was keeping an eye on every other employee in the house. Gardeners, housekeepers, it didn’t matter. If they needed something, they went to Abigail first, not her parents. Nothing ever got past her.
After introductions were made, Abigail took Lizzy’s arm and led her toward the back of the house, to the lanai no doubt. “It’s Wednesday so your parents are still at the country club but they’ll be home soon and…”
Lizzy half-listened when she heard Porter’s phone ring. He glanced at the caller ID then immediately answered. From the conversation she guessed he was talking to Grant. Though guilt jumped inside her, she realized this would be the perfect time to figure out what her brother’s note had meant. Benny had told her to check their secret childhood hiding place and until she knew what he’d hidden there she didn’t want to tell anyone else. Even Porter.
“Abigail, would you mind bringing us tea and snacks out on the lanai?” she asked quietly.
“Of course not.” Abigail patted her hand and hurried off in the direction of the kitchen.
Once Lizzy and Porter stepped outside, she made a vague motion with her hand that she’d be right back. He frowned at her but didn’t stop talking to his brother. After walking the length of the pool, she then rounded the corner of the pool house. Without turning her head she knew she was out of Porter’s line of sight. Picking up her pace, she practically sprinted across the yard to the corner where a giant oak tree stood.
In the past decade it had grown larger but the odd shaped knot near the base hadn’t changed much. When she and Benny had been kids they’d often hidden notes there for each other. Barely nineteen months apart in age, they’d been much closer with each other than with their other two brothers who were five and six years older.
Reaching through the small slit opening at the center of the knot, she felt around until she grasped a small metal box. Quickly she pulled it out and opened it, not sure what to expect. Her brow furrowed at the gold key inside it but she took it out and shoved the box back where she’d gotten it.
Opening her palm as she stood, she turned the key over. It was gold and smaller than her house key and there was an ‘M’ engraved on it, but she had no idea what it was for. Benny had said she’d know what to do with whatever she found here, but as she stared at it, she didn’t have a clue. Just great. Why did her brother have to be so cryptic?
“Lizzy.” Porter’s deep voice caused her to freeze for a moment before she spun around to face him.
His pale blue eyes glittered like flecks of ice as he assessed her. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” Shrugging, she shoved her hands in her pockets. The skirt she wore was slim fitting and she knew once she removed her hands he’d be able to see the outline of something in her left pocket but there wasn’t time to hide it anywhere else.
She thought about telling him what she’d found but quickly brushed that idea aside. Porter had already made it clear what he thought of Benny and she wanted to find out what the key opened first. If it posed a danger to her or anyone in her family, she didn’t want to be responsible for putting it in the wrong hands.
He stalked toward with the grace of a jungle animal. Her heart jumped in her throat. Not because she was afraid he’d hurt her, but because of that unmistakable predatory look in his eyes. He used to look at her like that right before kissing her. The distance between them closed in seconds.
Before she could think about backing away, his big hand closed around her waist and held firm. Instinctively she started to tug against him, but he wouldn’t let her.
“You are a terrible liar,” he murmured before leaning so close his mouth nearly touched her ear.
She tried to suck in a deep breath but found it impossible. Her lungs refused to expand. The spicy scent of his cologne and something that was pure Porter twined around her. It made her think of sex. Hell, everything about him made her think of that. Her breathing was shallow and all she could hear was the sound of her own heartbeat. Like a bass drum it thumped in her ears with no reprieve.