I don’t think the hotel had ever been so glad to see guests leave.
Everyone started filing out, shuffling along in their hangover blues, but I stayed put, waiting for Dawn to come past. When she did, I quickly shot Max a “fuck off” sneer, which worked, and gently grabbed her by her forearm, pulling her over.
“Hey, are you okay?”
She seemed to stop with a sigh and looked up at me, eyes tired. The fire I saw last night was gone. “I’m okay.”
“I’m sorry,” I said awkwardly, feeling like a thirteen-year-old all over again. “I heard what happened last night. I never heard anything, otherwise I would have—”
“I know,” she said, cutting me off. “I heard you had a big night. You deserved it.” She seemed to relax a little. “You were amazing last night.”
There was sincerity in that. It hit deep, the warmth spreading. “Thank you.” Then I smiled and added, “You were amazing, too.”
A blush crept up on the apples of her cheeks, and she looked down at the floor with a grin. “That’s not exactly what I meant.”
“But it’s what I meant.” I wanted to grab her—really grab her—and pull her to me. I wanted to kiss her in front of everyone, even though the band and crew were already outside by now.
“I heard you’re officially single,” she said, her voice now flat. That certainly put a damper on my erection.
“Oh no,” I said, hoping she’d understand. “That was just…Jacob said…”
“Monsieur Knightly?” A man called from behind me.
Dawn looked past my shoulder and then back to me. “I should go to the others. I’ll tell them you’re held up.” Then she turned and trotted out of the hotel, her red hair bouncing behind her.
I rolled my eyes. Fucking great timing. I turned around to see the hotel manager looking at me.
“What?” I asked impatiently.
He stepped out from behind the marble front desk and waved a cream-colored envelope at me.
“I have something for you.”
He came up to me and placed it in my hands. I turned it over. It was totally blank except for my initials.
“What is this?” I asked.
“A letter,” the manager said.
I raised a brow. “From who? I’m listed as Mr. Underhill at this hotel.”
He gave me a heady look. “It’s from the housecleaner, Mr. Knightly. It’s an apology.”
Damn if my chest didn’t feel like it was filling with ice water.
“Is it an apology from her or the Prince of Darkness?” I asked him.
He raised a thin brow. “I’m afraid I do not understand.”
I smiled caustically. “No comprende, eh, Hombre?” I patted the man on the shoulder. “Gracias.” I turned and walked through the lobby, sliding the envelope through my hands. I was terrified to read it but knew I had to. I just didn’t know if I should do it by myself or with someone else.
I stepped out into the rain and was immediately ushered into a waiting limo. The letter would have to wait for now.
We arrived at the train station in record time, though I was disappointed that Dawn took a cab with Max and the sound guy while we had Angeline in the limo with us, insisting it was part of her job. I caught Jacob’s eye a few times, knowing he was noticing her increasing pushiness. I also tried to tell him I got a letter from the crazy housekeeper, but I guess my telepathy skills weren’t up to par.
Once we were on the train, we had assigned seats, and Angeline was forced to make do with Tricky while I was with Jacob. Dawn and Max were a few rows behind us.
“So,” I said to Jacob as the grey buildings flew past the train’s windows, “that was Paris.”
“That’s Paris when you’re in a band. At least you got to see the Louvre,” he said, bringing out a magazine.
I looked behind me again at Dawn and Max. He was also reading something while her head was resting against the seat back, her eyes closed. Max noticed my gaze, looked up at me, and smiled, just the corner of his mouth slyly jerking up. I quickly turned around before I did something very Jimmy Page.
“Tell me,” I said to Jacob. “Why is it that Max and Dawn are together every time I look at them. Is this part of your planning?”
He didn’t look at me, just licked his calloused thumb before turning the page. “My doing? No. Max is good for her; you should just leave it alone.”
I didn’t want to leave it alone. “I can be good for her.”
That made him pause for a second. Then he licked his thumb again. “You could be.”
I hated these fucking cryptic answers I got from him sometimes. It’s not that I expected him to play hopscotch with me, but man, the guy used to be immortal. He knew eons of shit I had no idea about and yet ninety-nine percent of the time, he went around pretending he was absolutely normal. That could fly most of the time—most of the time I forgot—but this was not one of those times.
I brought the letter out from the inside of my jacket pocket. “I got a letter.”
“From the housekeeper.”
That made Jacob stop short, closing his magazine. He looked at me hard, his face drawn, eyes sparking. “What?”
I handed it to him. “I haven’t opened it. The manager gave it to me as I was leaving.”
Jacob inhaled sharply through his nose and looked around him to make sure no one was looking on. He pulled his nail file out of his pocket and poised it at the corner of the envelope.
I nodded. He deftly ripped the file through it. We both paused, waiting with bated breath for smoke or some fucking curse or something to waft out. Nothing.
He lifted it up and peered inside. “A photograph,” he said uneasily.
He shook the envelope until the photo fell out into his hands.
It was a black-and-white amateur photograph of a stuffed animal, a horse or unicorn maybe, with its eyes gouged out, its legs torn off, and the stuffing ripped out of it. It didn’t mean anything to me, but it made shivers run down my back just the same.
“Do you know what this is?” I whispered to Jacob.
He shook his head sharply. “No.” He took it from me, peering at it up close and then turned it over. On the back it said, She won’t doubt me next time.
I automatically looked behind me at Dawn, even though my bones were starting to feel more like lead. She was still sleeping, and Max was gone from his seat.
“Brothers can be so cruel,” Angeline said, and I snapped my head back to see her peering over at us, her eyes fastened on the horse. Jacob quickly covered the photo with a magazine.
“What do you want, Angeline?” Jacob said tersely.
She shrugged lightly and smiled. “Just making sure everything is going according to plan. That’s what I’m getting paid for.” Then she straightened up and walked down the aisle. I followed her every move until she sat down next to Dawn.
“What a fucking nutter,” Jacob said, looking back at the photo and searching the envelope for further clues. It was hard to tell if he meant the housekeeper or Angeline, yet somehow I knew that neither of them could be so easily dismissed as merely crazy.
I kept watching Angeline. She was just sitting in Max’s seat, flipping through his magazine while Dawn was still sleeping, but deep down inside there was something about her that told me to keep watching, to not trust her.
Brothers can be so cruel.
What the fuck did that mean?
I was about to voice this to Jacob when I noticed Angeline leaning across Dawn and whispering something in her ear. Dawn’s eyelids fluttered and she moved slightly, settling in her seat, but she didn’t wake up. Okay, this was pushing the limits of normalcy. This bitch had an angle I just didn’t know about.
I looked up and saw Max approaching the seats. He stopped a few feet away as soon as he recognized Angeline’s head, and a weird fucking look came across his face. Realization and horror, like when you wake up with a hooker you don’t remember paying for.
He quickly walked over to the seat and placed his hand on her shoulder, sneering down at her. Over the trundling wheels and the metallic groan of the train, I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Max looked pissed off and so did Angeline. Dawn slowly woke up and as soon as she did, Max pulled Angeline up, his nails digging into her arm. She didn’t cry out, she didn’t protest—she just smiled like the cat that ate the canary.
I looked back at Jacob, but he was still engrossed by the photo.
I wanted to ask him about her and see what he really thought, but now she was walking away toward the end of the train car and Max was sitting next to Dawn, who was undoubtedly asking him what the hell that was about.
What the hell, indeed.
I got up from my seat, pushing past Jacob, who grunted in surprise, and marched down the aisle after Angeline. I could feel Max’s and Dawn’s eyes me as I went. But I needed to know.
I followed her until she disappeared into the crowd in the bar car. It seemed a little too perfect. I sighed, wondering if I was losing my head or if the drugs were fucking with me or what the hell was going on. So I took some time to think. I sauntered up to the bar and ordered a few shots of whiskey in a row. I downed two of them, then four of them, and I stayed in that car for the rest of the seven-hour ride to Nice.
Thank God I had the nerve to pass out after my fifth drink.
I woke up to a glass of cold water being thrown in my face.
“Christ, man,” I swore, trying to sit up.
“Watch your language,” Max’s voice said.
I opened one eye and realized I was sitting on—well, leaning across—a park bench. It was dark, nighttime, and the air was warm and smelled like the sea. Max was standing in front of me, an empty cup in hand, his back illuminated by a nearby streetlamp.
I slowly eased myself up and looked around me. I was in a courtyard off a quiet street. Palm trees. Cobblestone. Yellow buildings.
“Are we in Nice?” I asked.
“To you?” Max asked. “Well, I reckon you had enough of being sober for the day—I mean, noon, what an ungodly hour—so you headed to the bar car to fix that malady. Judging by your bill, which I paid by the way, it seems you got quite a few drinks in before you passed out on the table. Lucky for you, brother, that all happened in an hour or two. You slept in your seat for the rest of the train ride.”
“I said watch it.”
I gave him a funny look. The fact that I was asleep for so long explained why I didn’t feel as bad as I thought would. “Where’s Dawn?”
“At the hotel. I was lucky enough to be your babysitter tonight. I could only drag you as far as this bench before your pal Tricky feigned a cramp in his leg and took off for the nearest bar. Hotel is just around the corner.”
“Is Dawn okay?” I asked.
Max studied me for a moment, though I still couldn’t see his face in the shadows. “She’s okay. I do have to say, and I’m not trying to stir shit up by voicing it, but I reckon she was a little bit worried about you running after Angeline like that.”
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