Home > Fall (VIP #3)(12)

Fall (VIP #3)(12)
Author: Kristen Callihan

“Oh, really.”

“Yeah. Antacid.”

I can’t help it; I laugh.

His pugnacious expression melts away, and then he’s laughing too. The sound is rich and warm, and we stand there laughing like two lunatics. Until it occurs to us that we’re standing there laughing like two goofs, and our hilarity fades like a sad trombone.

John clears his throat and straightens. “Scottie warned you off, didn’t he?”

“Actually, he said that if any issues should arise in regard to you, I am to contact him immediately.”

He scowls at this, but then huffs out a laugh. “Yep, sounds like the bastard.”

“What did he mean, exactly, by issues?”

John’s expression expands into a wide, slightly evil smile. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure them out, you know …” He slips into a proper British accent, perfectly mimicking Mr. Scott. “When said issues arise.”

“Cute.” I look him over slowly. “I’m not going to have to go buy a bunch of fire extinguishers, am I?”

Wide, innocent eyes of grass green stare back at me. “Of course not. The apartment already has plenty.” He winks. With that, he strolls past, heading toward the elevators.

Unfortunately, I’m going upstairs too.

John glances over his shoulder, and his brows lift. “You following me, Button?”

“Only because you’re going to the elevator. And stop calling me that.”

The elevator doors open, and we step into the space. I should have taken the next car. The space is too small, and John Blackwood takes up too much space with his enormous ego.

He leans against the wall opposite me, casually crossing one long leg over the other. The stance has the unfortunate side effect of plumping up the thick bulge between his legs. I keep my eyes on his face as he gives me a lazy look. “Can’t help it. You’re cute as a button, with those round cheeks and all those little freckles. I swear, my first year crush used to have a doll that looked like you. I think she called it Chucky.”

Must not kick rock star. His body is probably insured.

“Wow, I’ve never heard the Chucky joke before.”

He laughs. “I’ve been told I’m an original.”

“Original what?” I mutter before giving him a benign smile. “You know how Chucky dealt with people he didn’t like, right?”

John tilts his head, considering me. “Maybe I’m the one who should be worried about possible issues arising.”

“Sleeping with one eye open might be the safest option.” I mimic his stance, which, sadly isn’t as sexy when you’re vertically challenged. “You clearly know the mysterious owner of the penthouse I’m staying in.”

“Clearly,” he agrees, cheeky smile still in place.

“Which means you know Stevens and Hawn.”

John’s mouth twitches. “Yes.”

“Then why aren’t you pet sitting?”

His smile drops a bit. “Stevens doesn’t like me,” he mumbles, examining his fingernail.

“Stevens? But he’s sweet and cuddly. He’s a total lover, not a fighter.”

John’s broad shoulders lift with a shrug.

I eye him carefully. “It must be something you did.”

He throws a baleful look my way. “I accidentally stepped on his tail one time. One time!”

I can’t help grinning. “And poor Hawn? Does the little goldfish have a beef with you too?”

“Not yet. Though, to be fair, Hawn is new. Before her, there was Locks. But she died. Very sudden, you know.”

The elevator reaches our floor, and we step out into the small landing between our doors.

“Locks?” Goldilocks. I grimace. “Oh, God, that’s bad.”

John chuckles. “Just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Killian’s crazy.”

I stop short. “Killian? I’m watching Killian James’s pets?”

John grimaces. “Shit. I don’t think I was supposed to say anything.”

“Wow.” I glance at the key in my hand and then at the door to my temporary apartment. “That makes so much sense now.”

Wearily, John eyes me. “You’re not going to get all weird about this, are you?”

“Me? Pffft.” I wave him off. “Why would I freak about Killian James’s pets, if I’m not even awed by the infamous Jax Blackwood?”

The second I say it, I’m sorry. John instantly deflates, his jaw bunching.

Regret makes my voice thick. “Hey, I didn’t mean—”

He holds up a hand. “No, it’s fine.” But his expression is cold, those green eyes that were once snapping with life, dead. He turns for his door and quickly opens it. “Welcome to the building.”


“If you need anything, remember to call Scottie.”

With that, he’s gone, and I’m left alone in the hallway, fearing I’ve just made a terrible mistake.

Chapter Five


* * *

Stevens makes a place for himself on my lap and purrs. The warm, vibrating weight of him is a comfort as I pick up the phone and dial.

Absently, I stroke Stevens’s silky fur and wait, each ring increasing my agitation. Stevens presses into me, as if trying to bolster my spirits.

“Mitchell speaking,” a man answers shortly.

I’m fairly certain he knows who’s calling but I tell him anyway. “Hi, Mitchell, it’s Stella Grey.”

A chair squeaks, and Mitchell clears his throat. “Ms. Grey, always a pleasure to hear your voice.”

“Yes, thank you, Mitchell. I was wondering …” I lick my dry lips. “Have you any new info—”

“Ms. Grey,” he cuts in with an expansive sigh, “you know I’d call if I had anything for you.”

My grip tightens on the phone. “Yes, I know. I just … wanted to see …”

“I know,” he says, gentler now. “I’m sorry, kid. Your dad isn’t an easy man to find. He uses aliases, doesn’t file taxes, lives totally off the grid. Hell, I’m not sure his name really is Garret Grey.”

I snort but it sounds like a stifled sob. “Probably not. But it’s the only name I have to go by.”

“Look, I don’t feel right about continuing to take your money when I’m only running into dead ends.”

Dully, I nod, even though I know he can’t see me. Mitchell isn’t the first person I’ve hired to track down my dad. But he’s going to be the last.

I lick my lips again and find my voice. “Perhaps it would be best to take a break. Thank you, Mitchell, for trying.”

He grunts. “I’ve failed you, and we both know it.”

My smile is wobbly. “Not your fault you can’t find him. The man has devoted his life to slipping away from people.”

“At the risk of sounding patronizing, maybe it’s for the best. A dad who walks out on his kid isn’t worth finding.”

Despite Mitchell’s gruff, well-meaning sentiment, my vision blurs with hot tears that I rapidly blink away. “How right you are.”

I hang up and hug Stevens close. My nose and eyelids prickle and burn with unshed tears. I feel like a fool searching for my father when I know damn well he doesn’t want to be found. If he did, he’d know just where to find me. Or he would have before I’d moved. Now?

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