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Home > Denied (One Night #2)(12)

Denied (One Night #2)(12)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

‘How could you let her go like that?’

‘I kept her close for years, Olivia. Letting her loose in my world was disastrous. I stood back and watched her drown men in her beauty and spirit, watched them fall for her. It tore my heart out every f**king day, and she knew it. I couldn’t take it any more.’

‘So you banished her.’

‘And I wish to every god that I hadn’t.’

I gulp back the lump forming in my throat. Everything William has told me might fill a massive hole in my history, but it doesn’t fill the hole in my heart. Despite his tale of tortured love though, she still abandoned her daughter. There’s nothing he could tell me to make that right. I glimpse across the table at the mature, handsome man whom my mother was in love with and, crazily, I can appreciate it. And even crazier was that I went to find my mother, tried to fathom her mentality. I took her journal and tracked down those men she wrote about, desperate to figure out what she found so appealing. But instead I found comfort in her pimp. My short time with William when I was seventeen showed me a compassionate, caring man, a man who I fast became fond of, a man who cared for me. There was no desire, nor was there any physical attraction, despite his good looks, but I can’t deny that I felt a certain sense of love for him.

‘How did you not know who I was?’ I ask. I survived a whole week before William worked it out. I remember his face, the realisation . . . the anger. I know that I look scarily like my mother. How had he not seen it?

He takes a deep, almost frustrated breath. ‘When you turned up, it had been fifteen years since I’d seen Gracie. The resemblance was uncanny, but I was so blindsided by that alone I didn’t stop to consider the possibility. Then I did, but the maths didn’t add up.’ His eyebrows jump up accusingly. ‘Wrong name, wrong age.’

I look away, ashamed. I’m humiliated and shattered. Some things are best left dead, and my mother is one of those things. ‘Thank you,’ I whisper quietly as our risotto is placed before us.

William lets the waiter fuss for a few moments before flicking his hand, silently ordering him to leave. ‘For what?’

‘For sending me back to Nan.’ I look up at him and he reaches over and takes my hand. ‘For helping me and not telling my grandmother.’ That was what did it. William’s threat to pay a visit to Nan terrified me more than anything else because it would have killed her. She was in a terribly dark place. As far as Nan is concerned, I ran away to escape the harsh reality that my mother’s journal represented. I couldn’t add to her grief. Not after everything she went through with her daughter and then Granddad. ‘But I read her journal.’ I let the words tumble from my lips in a moment of confusion. ‘That’s how I found you back then.’

‘A little black leather book?’ he asks with an edge of resentment to his tone.

‘Yes.’ I’m almost excited that he knows what I’m talking about. ‘You know of it?’

‘Of course I do.’ William’s jaw has noticeably tightened, making me sit further back in my chair. ‘She was kind enough to leave it on my desk for a bit of bedtime reading once.’

‘Oh . . .’ I pick up my fork and start poking at the rice dish that I’m not hungry for – anything to escape the potent bitterness pouring from William.

‘Your mother could be a cruel woman, Olivia.’

I nod, the purpose of the little black book suddenly very clear. She really did get a thrill from writing all of those passages, describing endless encounters with endless men, all in vivid detail. But it wasn’t because she relished doing it. Or maybe she did. Who knows? The primary reason was to torture William. Her thrill was knowing the hurt and anger she’d cause the man she was in love with.

‘Anyway,’ he sighs, ‘that’s all history . . .’

I scoff at his insult. ‘For you, perhaps! For me it’s a daily mystery as to why she’d give me up.’

‘Don’t beat yourself up, Olivia.’

‘Well I do!’ I’m outraged that he can pass off my abandonment with such flippancy. Trying to convince myself it was of no consequence that she cleared off was easier than facing the harsh reality. A story of tortured love doesn’t make this all better, nor does it make me understand.

‘Calm down.’ William leans across the table and gives my hand a soothing rub, but I snatch it away. I’m furious with so many aspects of my life, and I feel like all of it is out of my control.

‘I am calm!’ I yell, making William sit back in his chair with a look of exasperation on his handsome face. ‘I’m calm.’ I start playing with my risotto again. ‘Do you think she’s alive?’

The harsh pull of breath that stems from the man across the table is full of pain. ‘I . . .’ He’s shifting in his chair again, avoiding my eyes. ‘I’m . . .’

‘Just tell me,’ I say evenly, wondering why I care. She’s dead to me anyway.

‘I don’t know.’ William collects his own fork and pokes at the dish. ‘Gracie and her ability to make men insane with frustration and lust could have quite possibly driven someone to strangulation, too. Trust me, I know.’ He drops his fork, the conversation clearly sucking up his appetite. I follow his lead and do exactly the same.

‘She sounds like a handful,’ I say, because I don’t know what else there is to say.

‘You have no idea,’ he sighs, almost on a smile, like he’s reflecting. ‘Anyway, back to the matter at hand.’ He brushes off the reminiscing quickly and turns all businesslike, and I imagine that’s exactly how it was all those years ago with my mother. Even just talking about her exposes vulnerability in this hard-faced, powerful man. ‘Miller Hart.’

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