Nate by Tijan



But, damn.

Maybe my anger wasn’t anger at all as a tear worked its way up my throat. I was not doing that shit. I couldn’t. Tightening my hands around the steering wheel, I forced that emotion to the bottom of my stomach, and I was hoping to wash it out of me forever. I would not could not break down now.

No way.

Not ever, to be honest.

Ring, ring.

I reached over to hit the accept button on my car and heard my dad’s voice come over the car’s speakers. “Are you there?”

I heard shrieking, followed by high-pitched giggling, and I automatically smiled. “Is that Nova?”

“It’s the kid I kidnapped on the way home from the bakery today.”

I flicked my eyes up, but I was relaxing. “Not funny, Duke.”

He was my father, but in so many ways, he wasn’t fatherly at all. I’d been calling him by his first name since I was ten years old. He never said a word about it, and neither did I. I was supposed to follow orders, and I had all my life, except now.

I wasn’t following his orders. I was following Val’s.

“Are you there yet?” he asked again.

“No. Not yet. But I’m not far.”

My hands tightened on the wheel once again, and just then, I turned the corner, and the hotel where he was staying came into view. The Corebar Hotel was small and exclusive and well-known among the famous and wealthy.

“I’m here.”

I was so tense.

I felt like two fists had been thrust into my stomach, holding my organs with a firm grip, and wouldn’t let go. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted them to let loose or just rip my organs out of me. It was an I-need-a-drink kinda feeling. A strong drink. I should have gotten trashed before I saw him.

I still could.

I wasn’t a drinker, never had been with what I did for my profession, but today was an exception. A very big exception. My body would forgive me eventually.

“How’s everything at home with Nova?” I needed a slight distraction.

“She’s good. You know Nova.”

Yeah, I did. And I loved her, so that was why I was doing what I was doing.

Emotion swept through me, causing my throat to close up. Again.

God. The breakdown.

No, no, no.

And I gripped that steering wheel like it was about to fall off. “It’s not fair.”

I waited, but he didn’t reply.

I knew he wouldn’t.

I could almost hear what he’d inevitably say because he’d said it so many other times.

Life wasn’t fair. There were winners and losers. If I didn’t want to be a loser, I needed to “buck up,” get my head on straight, and wage war with cold ruthlessness. It was better to keep walking over the bloodied corpses than to join them. And my father thought anyone who shed a tear deserved to be a bloodied corpse.

I never knew if he actually meant bloodied corpse as in dead people, but that was another topic—like how I called him Duke instead of Dad—that never got discussed.

I didn’t think I wanted to know how he would clarify that phrase.

Fucking dammit.

I’d gone the block and another.

I stifled a second curse. “There are no parking spots. I’m going to have to valet the car.”

He was quiet for a moment. “You do what you need to do. The nannies are here, so you stay as long as you need to get this done.”

“I know.”

I was mentally saluting him. When he said take my time, he meant it. I brought a bag even though we lived just outside the city. Nate Monson was staying at this hotel, so as long as it took, I would be here as well.

Pulling up to the front of the Corebar Hotel, I grabbed my purse first. I’d get the bag later if it was necessary. I was still hoping it was a last-ditch effort.

“Carl did a full workup on this guy. Besides his investments, he has shown no indications he wants to settle down. I’m sure we’re in the clear here.”

My dad was trying to reassure me, going over what our PI brought to us after his cover was blown. My personal opinion? I thought Carl wanted his cover to be blown. We sicced Carl on Nate Monson because we didn’t know him. I knew he existed as Valerie’s bed buddy, but I hadn’t known him known him. Just that he, as a person, existed.

With the reason I was here, we needed to know everything we could about him, hence why we hired Carl.

And Carl wanted Monson to know he existed. That didn’t sit right with me, but it was what it was.

I was here, and I had a job to do.

“Thanks, Duke. Here’s to hoping.”

“Right.”

The valet guy was approaching the car.

“I gotta go.”

“Call me when you get settled.”

“Will do.”

That was the plan.

Get in. Get settled. Then scope out the lobby until Nate Monson showed up.

I was hoping to have a couple of drinks in me before that happened.

My door opened, and I handed my keys to the valet guy. “Miss.”

“Thanks.” I took the card he gave me and headed inside.

I went straight to the bar.





4





Nate





I was two bourbons in when she walked into the bar.

The world tipped over. That was what I was feeling, and I could only stare for a moment.