Page 24

But then something else got his attention. A boat a couple sleeves down from his own was having a party. A very loud, raucous one, by the sounds of it. On a hunch, Jameson made his way down to it. No one was guarding the stairs that led to the plank, so he made his way inside.

On board, the deck was covered in wall to wall people. He found her on the far side, leaning against a railing. She wasn't alone. She was talking, laughing, with some man. He looked vaguely familiar. Jameson scowled. He hadn't seen her smile in so long, and the first time he really got to see it again, she was giving it away to someone else. He walked up slowly, so he was right behind her. She didn't say anything, but he knew that she was aware of him.

“Oh, looks like he found you!” the man laughed. Tate laughed as well, but still didn't look behind her.

“I knew he would. He always does,” she teased, but Jameson could hear the edge under her voice. He almost laughed as well.

Better remember that, baby girl.

“And you are?” Jameson asked, staring at the other man.

“Bill. Bill Matthews,” the man said, holding out a hand. Jameson shook it.

“Your boat?” he asked. Bill nodded.

“Yes, yes. We haven't met, but I've heard of you, Mr. Kane. Glad to finally meet you,” he said. Jameson managed a smile.

“Thank you. Now if you'll excuse us, I'm sure Tatum would like some rest. She's had a long day,” Jameson explained, reaching out and gripping her elbow. She jumped at his touch, but didn't pull away. Bill looked surprised.

“Oh, sorry, didn't mean to keep her from you. I -,” he started, but Jameson just walked away, pulling Tate along beside him.

“I see your manners haven't improved,” she growled at him.

“Why would they have?”

When they were back on the dock, she yanked her arm free and surged ahead of him. He lengthened his stride to keep up with her. She was still refusing to look at him, but he could tell that something was different. She had made some sort of peace with his little ploy. He figured he was safe, at least for the night. She wasn't going to run away quite yet.

“So what, I'm a prisoner, now? I have to stay locked in your stupid boat?” Tate snarled as they walked up behind his yacht.

“Of course not. But Sanders has been worried. I had to find you, or he would've driven me insane,” Jameson explained.

She stomped down the plank. He had thought maybe she would comment on his boat, on the style or size, but Tate didn't say anything. She continued moving, striding across the deck. Sanders was coming out at the same time, and the relief was obvious on his face. Tate steamed right up to him.

“I'm very happy to see you. I was so worried that -,” he started, when she slapped him across the face.

Jameson was shocked, but he didn't hesitate. He immediately moved between them, grabbing her by the wrist in case she tried to swing again. Sanders looked completely bewildered. He had a hand pressed to his cheek, where she had hit him, and his eyes were huge as he stared at her. Tate glared right back at him, struggling against Jameson's grip.

“You're a traitor! You told me not to make you choose, but it's kinda obvious you already had your choice made! I never even stood a chance! Traitor!” she yelled at Sanders. His jaw dropped open.

“Hey!” Jameson barked, and everyone's attention snapped to him. He forced Tate backwards, out of reach of Sanders. “None of this was his fault. I asked him to help me. Apologize to him, now,” Jameson growled, glaring down at her.

She burst out laughing, and he was surprised.

Someone's gotten braver since I saw her last.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” she cackled. Jameson nodded.

“You can hit me all you want, but if you touch him again, I'll throw you off this fucking boat,” he warned her. Her laughter escalated for a moment.

“Ooohhh, what a threat, being thrown off a boat I don't even want to be on,” she hissed.

Before Jameson could respond, Sanders whirled around and left the deck. Disappeared inside, walking so fast, he was basically jogging. Jameson could see the shock on Tate's face, and then it fell away. Replaced by sadness. Guilt. He let go of her wrist.

“Whatever kind of relationship you think you have with Sanders, you should remember, I am practically his father. The only family he has got anymore, so of course he is going to help me when I need it,” Jameson warned her. Her bottom lip trembled, and she continued staring at the door Sanders had gone through. “But you should also know that Sanders would never do anything to hurt you, even if it meant disappointing me. If he brought you here, even under false pretenses, it's because he thought it was for your own good.”

Tate still refused to look at him. She strode towards the doorway, ignoring his existence. He let her go. There were only so many rooms on the boat, she would find her own.

Jameson sighed and sat down heavily in a cushioned deck chair. Things hadn't gone as badly as they could have, but they sure as shit hadn't gone well, either. Sanders had warned him that her feelings hadn't changed, that she was trying very hard to hate him.

It didn't matter to him. Two months was a long time. During the short amount of time they'd spent together, Jameson had grown ridiculously attached to the stupid girl. All his preaching and ranting and warning, telling her repeatedly that she should never expect him to be anything more than he was – he should've listened to himself once in a while.

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