The Boss Vol. 6

By: Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

My transformation had been inner as much as outer. Over time, I’d hardened until no one could pry away the pieces that held me together or see inside past the slick veneer. The opacity went much farther than the surface.

Much like the glass I—we—loved.

“I had to. I was born dirt poor. The kind of poor you couldn’t imagine until your grandmother died and left you penniless. I didn’t know,” I continued, sensing she was winding up to blast me. “I had no idea the state of your grandmother’s finances.”

“Oh really? Then why were you at her house the day before she was found dead?”

“Because she invited me. She called me, quite out of the blue, and commanded I make room in my schedule to see her. Immediately. And I was to come to her, of course, since her time was more valuable than mine.” Despite the difficulty of the subject matter, thinking of Annabelle’s absolute imperviousness made me smile. She was a hell of a woman. Life had never knocked her down for long.

She was more apt to do the knocking. I should know. And I did, all too well.

“I did as she asked. She’d helped me at a time when no one was taking my calls. Hell, I might as well have been a ghost for all the recognition I got in architecture circles. Your grandmother’s connections and money helped pave the way for me.” I kept my voice level as if I didn’t notice Grace’s spine stiffening degree by degree. “If not for her early assistance, Carson Covenant would probably still be struggling. I would’ve gotten there eventually. But it would’ve taken a lot longer.”

“And since you’ve already denied being lovers, I’m to believe she helped you out of the goodness of her heart.” Suspicion threaded through Grace’s words, thick and hot. “Just her way of giving back to the community. Or perhaps she…saw something in you.”

From Grace’s tone, I could tell she was still tangled up in the notion Annabelle and I had been intimate—or had at least circled around some kind of flirtation. Which was wrong on a million levels.

“Not quite.” The corner of my mouth ticked up. “She knew my father. I believe I mentioned that to you before.”

“Knew or knew-knew?”

Again, I smiled. That was Grace, my Nancy Drew in-training. “She never clarified that for me, and I’ll admit to not wanting to think too hard on it. But I have my suspicions. She acted as my benefactor to send me to art camp at Beacon school because she knew Robert. She claimed to have known him for many years. That she was extremely fond of him.”

“But if you were sixteen, I was thirteen, and that means my grandfather had only died seven years before. She wouldn’t do that. Not to my grandpop. He was the love of her life, Blake.”

“Whatever that means,” I mused, and watched her eyes flash hot like a summer storm.

“I don’t know what her relationship with Robert entailed,” I continued, keeping my voice low and soothing. “I’m not sure it matters. Everyone who would’ve been involved is dead now.”

But God, it was so refreshing to see Grace’s cheeks stain pink with indignation over possible slings and arrows against her long-dead grandfather. We had nothing but supposition, nothing but the scantiest information, and she was ready to leap to his defense.

“It matters. Honor isn’t something to throw on and off like a pair of pants.”

“Oh, Ms. Copeland.”

“Don’t.” She wagged her finger at me and shoved off the stool to start walking around the counter again. “I know you think I’m a naïve fool.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Then what else am I? I was in a class with you for years, and I never even knew. I walked into your office one day to try to get you to see reason about my house, and you knew who I was right away. You always knew, and I just blithely ignored every clue you gave.”

“Not knowing what to do with a piece of information isn’t the same as ignoring.” When she would’ve sputtered at me, I pressed on. “Your grandmother called me to her house, as I said. And she asked me to promise that if something happened to her, I would buy it. No, she begged me. Flat-out begged.”

“Why? Why would she do that?”

I had my theories, and maybe someday I’d share them with Grace. In the meantime, I went with my old standby—deflection.

“It’s late.” I moved forward and closed the files on the laptop. “This can all wait until the morning.”

“No, dammit, you’re not shutting me down like that. Not tonight.” She slammed down the lid on the laptop, nearly slamming my fingers in the process. “She left behind a video saying I might be in danger, for fuck’s sake. You can’t put me in a glass box and keep me from the truth.”

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