Torrid - Book Two(10)

By: Jayne Blue


I ran my hand across my jaw and nodded. “I do. And I appreciate it. And I wouldn’t ask if it didn’t matter.”

Reed smiled then and reached across to pat me on the knee. “It’s good seeing you, Jackie,” he said. “It’s real good. We’ve missed you.”

I put my hand over Reed’s and squeezed his back. The skin over his knuckles was thin and I felt every vein. My heart ached a little. Reed Burnett really was one of the last connections I had to my parents. He wasn’t ancient, but he wasn’t hearty and I wanted him around a good long time yet.

“I’ve missed you too,” I said. “And I’m thinking about sticking around Chicago, at least for a little while.”

I held out my hand to help Reed up and got rewarded with a middle finger. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Good, so you’re steering clear of The Maples this year, then, huh?” Reed said.

I narrowed my eyes. It was such a specific question for him to ask. When he saw the look on my face, Reed set out a deep sigh.

“Shit,” he said. “Coulda just kept my mouth shut.”

“About?”

“Maybe it was after you left but Seth told everyone he’s taking that girl there next week for the Legacy Foundation retreat. Thinks he’s gonna lock down the party donors at it. You’re still on the Legacy Board, aren’t you?

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. So he either assumed I’d be there to grease the wheels for him, or he’s dumb enough to think he doesn’t need me to. But he’s taking Tora there?”

Reed gave me a crooked smile. “Stay away from her, Jack. That girl’s bad news.”

The air went out of my lungs. I didn’t think R.J. ratted me out so it meant my poker face where Tora was concerned worked for shit around Reed. He put a hand up when I opened my mouth to say something.

“Save it, Jackie,” he said. “Don’t start lying to me now. Never mind she’s married to your stepbrother. There’s something way off about her and you don’t need that. Skip that retreat this year. You let your Aunt Margie and me find someone for you.”

I put my hand lightly on Reed’s shoulder. “All right, all right. I won’t bother lying. As long as you don’t bother trying to play matchmaker. I’m thirty-seven years old. I like my life just fine the way it is. Plus, work on R.J. He needs a hell of a lot more help than I do.”

Reed laughed. “He’s a lost cause. You, I still have hope for.”

Before he could protest, I gave Reed a quick hug before I turned to leave. Never mind the lecture, it was nice having someone looking out for me. As I hit the elevator button, he bellowed something about Margie’s bowling partner’s daughter’s cousin ... or something to that effect.

I waited until I stepped out on the street before punching my assistant Vince’s number into my phone. He answered on the second ring.

“Tell me you’re getting off a plane and heading straight for me,” he said.

“I’m on the next one out of here, promise,” I said. “But I need you to do something for me. Can you find that invitation to The Maples retreat?”

“Yeah,” Vince said, drawing out the vowels. “Jack, that’s next week.”

“Right.” I said. “Book me in the Crystal Suite again, will you?”

I didn’t wait for Vince’s string of epithets before clicking off the phone.





Chapter Five

Tora

From the air, I could easily see how The Maples got its name. The resort sat on a large peninsula on Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake; the shoreline dipped and curved, forming a Maple-leaf shape. I got a clear view of the pristine waters at the base of the looming Blue Ridge Mountains as our pilot circled twice before landing. I saw winding trails cutting through a thick green forest at the north end of the peninsula. If I were here with anyone else or for any other purpose, it would be perfect. I hoped the tranquil surroundings would bring me at least some peace as I spent the week with the men who took my father away.

We landed on the resort’s private airstrip and Seth had a car waiting to take us up to the lodge. Lodge was really a poor description for what it was. The Maples Lodge housed over fifty luxury suites, a banquet hall, tennis courts, two indoor pools and private valets for each guest – at least, according to the brochure Seth gave me on the plane.

Tonight I’d sleep under the same roof that had previously covered presidents and kings. The same roof as George Pagano. I scanned the grand lobby as I waited for Seth to check in. Was Pagano here already? Would he take a massage in his room? Bitterness cold as ice formed in my gut at the thought of it. Pagano would sleep fat and pampered tonight just as he’d done every night for the last thirteen years while my father stared up at rusted springs on the underside of a bunk bed.

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