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Smart, Sexy and Secretive(2)

By:Tammy Falkner



My parents love me, but it’s not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

“You should partner with him, Dad. Because I never will,” I grouse. I can’t count the number of times in the past few months I have had this conversation.

My dad heaves a sigh. He is a master at business, but he knows very little about relationships.

“Do you plan to see that boy while you’re here, Emily?” my dad asks.

Only every chance I get, if he’ll have me. “I doubt he’ll want to see me. I left him without a single word and haven’t talked to him since.” He’s probably angry at me. So angry that he has moved on. My heart lurches at the very thought of it.

I knew that I was giving Logan up when my dad paid for his brother’s treatment, but I didn’t think it would be permanent. I look down at the tattoo on my inner forearm. My father hates it; I love it. It’s a key with Logan’s name printed down the shaft. Logan unlocked my world. He accepted and loved me exactly as I am, or at least how he thought I was. I just hope he still does.

It’s taking forever to get to my apartment. I have to listen to my dad talk about how fit Trip would be as a husband the whole ride. My mom makes a face at me. She makes me laugh. We have a new understanding since I spilled my guts to her after coming home. I think she gets it, and she’s on my side. But that doesn’t make things any better with my father.

“If that boy is smart, he’ll stay far, far away from you,” my father nearly snarls. He’s adamantly opposed to me being with someone so poor.

Logan is rich in all the ways I wish I were. He’s rich in family, steeped in love and compassion, and he loves what he does for a living. Logan’s an amazing artist, and he works at his family’s tattoo parlor, putting his fabulous art on people’s skin. The last time I talked to him, he wanted to go back to college. He got a scholarship, but he had to get a deferment when Matt got sick. They took out a lot of loans to pay for Matt’s first treatment, and when Matt couldn’t work anymore, Logan quit school and took over for him.

“If that boy has any sense at all,” Mom says, “he’s just waiting for you to come back to New York.”

I hope that’s the case. But so much can happen in three months. Women throw themselves at Logan every day. It’s asking an awful lot for him to wait for me for three full months while I find my way back to him.

Mom pats Dad on the knee. “How is his brother doing, darling? I know you get reports.”

I scoot to the edge of the seat. Please tell me he’s okay. Please. I have asked him this more times that I can count, and he refuses to answer me, reminding me of the bargain we made.

“Fine.”

That’s all he says. Just that one word. I flop against the seat back.

“Elaborate, please,” my mom says, smiling at my dad.

“The treatment is working, but he’s not out of the woods. He has to have scans every month, and then they’ll start spreading them out as time goes on.”

My heart clenches in my chest. Matt is better. My sacrifice wasn’t for nothing. Tears start to burn my eyes, and Mom reaches over to squeeze my knee. “That’s good, darling,” she says to Dad. “I’m so glad you were able to help him.”

“I did it so she would come back home,” he says. He glares at me. “Our deal was that she would come home, not go to Julliard.”

Mom pats his knee again. “She did come home, darling. And now she’s going to Julliard.”

“I just hope he stays away from her,” Dad grumbles, more to himself than to either me or Mom. We all know who he is. And he had better not stay away from me. Not for a day. Not for an hour. Not for a minute.

We arrive at my apartment, and my dad scowls. “This is the best you could find?” He glowers at my mother.

“It’s perfect,” I say. It’s pretty, with a small garden out front. I’m on the tenth floor, and that’s all right with me. There’s a doorman, an older gentleman, and he smiles at me, bowing to all of us as we walk into the building.

“Ah, Mr. Madison,” he says. He knows who my dad is. He doesn’t hold out a hand, though he does take mine when I extend it. I am not better than this man, and I want him to know it. “Miss Madison,” he says, grinning at me. “Henry is my name.”

“Mr. Henry,” I say, squeezing his hand in my grip.

“Just Henry will do.” He looks over at my father’s scornful face.

“Don’t make friends with the help, Emily,” my dad warns.

Henry’s face falls.

I wink at him. “I wouldn’t dare try to make friends with Henry,” I say. “He’s way too good for the likes of us.”

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