Blue-Eyed Devil Page 80

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"Go right ahead," I said immediately.

"Thanks." Hardy flipped the phone open and moved through the crowd to a door that led to an outside wraparound balcony.

Left alone with Gage, I smiled up at him uncertainly, wondering if I was about to get a lecture.

"You look great," my brother said, running an appraising gaze over me. "You look happy."

It had been a long time since anyone had said that to me. "I am happy," I admitted, feeling a little sheepish. "Gage, I'm so sorry if it makes things difficult for you, me taking up with someone from Liberty's past . . . "

"It doesn't make things difficult for me," Gage said gently. He surprised me by adding, "You can't always choose who you're attracted to. When I first met Liberty, I thought she was one of Dad's side dishes — and I'm sorry to say I behaved like an ass**le." He smiled wryly. "But even then, there was something about her that got to me, every damn time I saw her." He slid his hands in his pockets and frowned slightly. "Haven, considering how Cates helped you at Buffalo Tower, I'm sure as hell inclined to give him a break. But if he hurts you . . . "

"If he hurts me, you have my permission to beat the tar out of him," I said, making him grin. I drew a little closer, mindful of the possibility of being overheard. "If it doesn't work out, though . . . I'll be okay, Gage. I'm stronger than I was a few months ago. He's helped me get over some of the problems I had after Nick. So no matter what he does in the future, I'll always be grateful to him for that."

Hardy returned, and I knew from looking at him that something was terribly wrong. There was no expression on his face, but he was chalk-white under his tan, and he had the distracted tension of a man whose mind was working on a multitude of levels.

"Haven." The voice, too, was different, as flat and scratchy as a sheet of sandpaper. "I just got a call from my mother. There's some family stuff I've got to deal with, and it can't wait."

"Oh, Hardy . . . " I wanted to pull him close, do something to ease him, comfort him. "Is she okay?"

"Yeah, she's fine."

"We'll leave right now — "

"No," Hardy said at once. Hearing the unnecessary force in his own voice, he made an effort to relax. "This isn't the kind of thing you need to be bothered with, honey. I need to handle it alone."

Gage broke in. "Is there anything I can do?"

Hardy nodded. "Please take care of Haven. Make sure she gets home safe." He looked at me, his eyes opaque. "I'm sorry. I hate to leave you like this."

"Will you call me later?" I asked.

"Of course. I — "He stopped, as if words had failed him, and he

glanced at Gage once more.

"I've got Haven," Gage said immediately. "Don't worry about her.

"Okay. Thanks."

And Hardy left us, his head bent, his strides eating ground as if he were preparing to plow through obstacles ahead.

"Maybe one of his brothers is sick, or was in an accident," I fretted.

Gage shook his head. "No telling. Except . . . "

"Except what?"

"If it was something like that, I think he would have said so."

I was swamped in worry for Hardy's sake. "He should have taken me with him," I muttered. "I hate being left out of things. And it's not like I'm going to have a good time here when I know he's out there dealing with some mystery problem. I should be with him."

I heard my brother sigh. "Come on, let's go find Liberty and Carrington. I'd rather be watching a tank of man-eating fish than wondering what trouble Hardy Cates might be getting into."

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

I had asked the concierge to call me when he saw Hardy arrive at 1800 Main. "No matter what time it is," I had told him. If he thought that was a little strange, or wondered why I wasn't expecting Hardy to call me himself, he didn't say a word.Checking the phone messages, I saw nothing but two hang-ups, both of them from a Dallas number. It had to be Nick. I had cut all ties to the other people I had known in Dallas, the people I'd worked with at the Darlington, and the people in Nick's circle who had known me as Marie. Nick was furious with me for rejecting him, for showing no interest in getting Gretchen's bracelet back. For going on with my life. I hoped that ignoring him would cause him to back off. If he persisted in trying to get in touch with me, I would be forced to do something about it. Maybe a restraining order?

Except I remembered Hardy's cynical comment . . . "A restraining order only works if you handcuff yourself to a cop."

I wondered what Hardy was doing at that moment, what kind of problem he was dealing with. I was sorely tempted to call him, but I figured the last thing he needed was his cell phone ringing while he was in the middle of some difficult situation. So I took a long bath and put on sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt, and I tried to watch TV. I must have clicked through a hundred cable channels, but there was nothing good on.

I slept lightly, my ears pricked for any sound. And then it came, the phone giving one shrill ring before I grabbed it and pressed the talk button. "Yes?"

"Miss Travis. Mr. Cates just came through the lobby. He's in the elevator now."

"Great. Thank you." I glanced at the clock and saw that it was about one-thirty in the morning. "Um, did he seem okay? Did he say anything?"

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