Torrid - Book Two(4)

By: Jayne Blue

“Pagano.” He said it as a statement rather than a question. “He’s involved in this.”

What lie would work? I’d gotten so used to spinning them that I almost forgot I was standing in front of the one man who’d seen through all of them and seemed to want me anyway. I couldn’t stop it, my body started to tremble. Not from tears or fear, but the reality of my situation came down on me as if it had physical weight.

I nodded.

“How deep?”

“Jack ... I don’t ...”

“How deep?!” His hands on my shoulders shook me once, hard enough to make my teeth rattle.

“Deep.” I spat out my answer. “As deep as it gets. Seth said he’s the one who had Miranda frame my father. Of course Seth doesn’t know I’m connected in any way to Declan McLain. I told you, he flew into a rage the other night because Pagano wouldn’t come to the wedding.”

“Jesus.” Jack let me go. He stepped away from the desk and paced a circle around it. “Jesus! Your dad is doing time for Pagano?”

I nodded. Hot tears stung my eyes.

“Tora, you have to get out of this. Pagano’s as connected as it gets. If Seth thinks he can pull his strings with what he knows ... he’s going to end up dead before he even gets the word out. And if you’re close to him when it happens ... Tora ...”

I sighed. “So now you see the only way I stand a chance at proving any of this is from the inside out.”

Jack’s eyes were tortured and it tore at me when he looked at me. I didn’t want to hurt him. But I was starting to need him way too much. I had to stay focused.

“What do you want from me?” I pleaded. As much as this tortured Jack, it broke me apart as well.

“Everything.” Jack’s answer came without missing a beat. He crossed the room and took me in his arms again. His hands went everywhere – over my arms, my cheek, the hollow of my throat, over the slope of my breasts, then he smoothed them down over my waist and pulled me tight against him. “I want everything from you. You matter to me, Tora. I can’t help it.”

I didn’t want him to. I wanted him just as badly. “Jack,” I said, somehow finding the strength to pull myself away. “I can’t. Not now. But I do need you too. I need you to be my friend. Please?”

A tiny pulse beating in his temple belied the turmoil that must have gone on inside him. Something similar was happening in me.

There was a soft rap on the door and Jack flinched. R.J. opened it a crack and peered his head in. “S-sorry, guys. Tora, you need to get back to your party. Seth’s kind of degrading and you’re supposed to throw a bouquet.”

Before he could stop me, I rushed past Jack and gave R.J. a weak smile as I stepped around him and out the door.

Chapter Two


I let her leave. What else could I do? You could throw her over your shoulder and drag her off, caveman style. The idea wasn’t entirely without merit, but Tora was right about one thing: I alone knew exactly what it felt like to lose a father to Miranda Manning.

But George Pagano? The guy was Godfather-level trouble. I didn’t have the heart to tell her, but if he was behind all of this – even if Seth sky-wrote his confession – Pagano would find a way out of it.

“You coming, Jack?” R.J. still stood in the doorway with an expression that was equal parts concern and exasperation. I couldn’t blame him. He had to think I’d lost my damn mind where Tora was concerned. On many levels, he wasn’t wrong.

“Yeah,” I said. “I get that you don’t understand why I’m still protecting this girl.”

“I really don’t,” he said. So now we were going to get into it. “She’s after Seth’s money. She as much as admitted it. I’m sorry ... I’ll play by your rules on this one ... I’m kind of ethically bound to even if I wasn’t your friend, but ...”

I put my hand up. “Just save it. And I appreciate that you’re giving me the benefit of the doubt. I really just need you to trust me that there’s more going on here than meets the eye.”

“What are you going to do?” R.J. asked.

That was the zillion-dollar fucking question. “For now, nothing.”

R.J. sighed and pressed his thumb against his brow. “Can I ask you something?”

“I might not answer.”

“Yeah. Got it. Are you in love with this girl?”

I sighed. I put a hand on R.J.’s shoulder and squeezed it. “Probably.” It was an honest answer.

“Does she know it?”

“That’s two questions.”

R.J. narrowed his eyes at me. “Don’t be an asshole. And you’re forgetting who you’re talking to. You’re bad at this, Jack. Like epically bad at this. There’s a reason why you do better with ... uh ... contractual relationships instead of real ones. I’ve seen the carnage you leave behind, remember?”

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