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Ssdei: Captive to the Dark(3)

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For a split second her teeth disappeared behind the frown. “I wasn’t talking about the boat. I was talking about Jordan. What do you think of him?”

“Oh.” The surprise didn’t escape my tone. I should have known she was referring to him. “He’s okay, I guess.”

“Okay?” She shook her head. “He’s gorgeous, and,” the smile returned as she leaned in closer, “he’s the son of Julian Brighton. The Julian Brighton.”

To say I didn’t know who that was would be a lie. Julian Brighton was the owner of the company Charles worked for. Julian and my father went way back, although I’d never personally met him. Maybe my dad was too embarrassed to introduce me. Or maybe what they shared was more of a behind-closed-door sort of thing. There was no telling. I wouldn’t necessarily say I knew my father all that well. He wore his masks better than anyone I’d ever met. You only saw what he wanted you to. For me, that was disappointment. Even after I’d tried my hardest to change in his eyes.

“I didn’t know Julian had kids.”

“Four, actually. Jordan is the oldest. Twenty-six, next month.” The way Bethany twisted her mouth had me feeling uneasy. “I’m going to be honest, it was father who hinted for me to introduce the two of you. He knows how close Charles and Jordan are and he thought it’d do you good to get out more. Figured you’d have chemistry with someone who fit your personality. Watching the way you both looked at each other, I think he may have been spot on.”

Bethany’s shoulder nudged into mine and she let out a little giggle. On autopilot, I went through the motions of pretending I was embarrassed. All the while, I felt anger stir.

My father. He did this. That only meant one thing. He expected me to give this everything I had. Wanted me to end up with someone that would look good for his reputation. I could already hear it. Wow, did you see who Mary Hagen is settling with? Jordan Brighton. Governor Hagen must be so proud. Yeah, it made me not want to talk to the guy even more. Although I craved the approval, the hate I held for my father’s callousness over the years pretty much nulled that. Yet, I found myself conflicted and wasn’t sure what to do. The repercussions might be bad if I completely thumbed my nose at Jordan. Maybe if I were nice, but appeared uninterested, he’d get the hint. Hell, maybe I’d luck out and he wouldn’t be interested at all. It’s not like I looked like my sister or anything. And he was Jordan Brighton. He could have any girl he wanted. Probably already had, twice over.

“I’ll get to know him.” It was a lie, but one I said for the benefit of my sister. She didn’t need to know that I had every intention of steering clear. The show I’d put on when she was around would make her feel better, but I wouldn’t do a single thing to lead him on. It had to work.

“Yay.” Bethany clapped her hands, reminding me of more a teenager versus a thirty-two year old woman. We could have easily switched ages. Mentally, I felt older by at least fifteen years. I didn’t relate well with the whole partying college crowd, and that’s still what my sister and Charles reminded me of. It was as though they’d never grown up, just accumulated more money. But what did I know? We hadn’t left yet. Maybe I’d be surprised.



****





For four hours we cruised further away from San Francisco, toward the Oregon coast. Bethany said Charles had to meet an associate there and pick up some paperwork for a project he was working on. I brushed it off and kept my eyes on the horizon.

The water was relatively smooth and I was happy I’d escaped the dreaded sea sickness up until that point. Before I knew it, the sun was starting to set and Charles anchored close enough for us to see the lights in the distance of some unknown Northern California town.

“I’m going to go down and throw something together for dinner. You should make yourself comfy in the hot tub. Relax. Enjoy yourself.” Bethany winked and scooted out of the booth, nudging Charles, who followed her. I felt like groaning, but kept it in.

Jordan glanced in my direction and stood. Surprisingly, my heart leapt. Now that wasn’t right. A frown came to my face and I looked down at my hands clutched in my lap.

“It’s beautiful out here, isn’t it?”

I hesitated, but met his gaze. “It is.” The slight narrowing had me wondering what was on his mind. He didn’t once break his stare from my face.

“So, you’re the infamous Mary I’ve heard about. Never thought I’d see the day we’d meet.”

“What do you mean?” Well, that had caught my attention. Infamous?

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