Blue-Eyed Devil Page 84

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I didn't like the sound of that. "So what happens when Nick gets a narcissistic injury?"

"He may try to frighten you in some way, which to him is another form of supply. And if you refuse to react, it may very well escalate the situation."

"Oh, great. Does that mean more phone calls? More unexpected visits?"

"I hope not. But yes, probably. And if he's angry enough, he may want to punish you."

There was silence in Susan's small office while I digested the information. It was so unfair. I had thought that divorcing Nick would be enough. Why did he have to pull this crap with me? Why did he expect me to go on being a supporting player in the movie of his life?

"How do I get rid of him?" I asked.

"There's no easy answer. But if I were you, I would save this e-mail and document every interaction with him. And try to go no-contact, no matter what he does. Refuse gifts, don't answer e-mails or letters, and don't discuss him with anyone who might approach you on his behalf." Susan looked down at the e-mail, frowning. "If a narcissist is made to feel inferior to something or someone, it eats away at him until it's relieved. Until he feels he can walk away as the winner."

"But we're divorced," I protested. "There's nothing to win!"

"Yes there is. He's fighting to retain his image of himself. Because without that image of superiority and dominance and control . . . Nick is nothing."

The session with Susan had not done a lot for my mood. I felt anxious and angry, and I wanted comfort. And since Hardy was still not answering his cell phone, he had moved close to the top of my shit list.

When my phone finally rang on Sunday, I checked the caller ID eagerly. My hopes were deflated as I saw it was my dad. Sighing, I picked it up and answered morosely. "Hello?"

"Haven." Dad sounded gruff and self-satisfied in a way I didn't like. "I need you to come over. There's something we have to talk about."

"Okay. When?"

"Now."

I would have loved to tell him I had something else going on, but no convenient excuses sprang to mind. And since I was already bored and moody, I figured I might as well go see him.

"Sure thing, Dad," I said. "I'll be right over."

I drove to River Oaks, and I found Dad in his bedroom, which was the size of a small apartment. He was relaxing in a massage chair in his sitting area, punching buttons in the control panel.

"Want to try it?" Dad offered, patting the arm of the chair. "Fifteen different kinds of massage. It analyzes your back muscles and makes recommendations. It also grabs and stretches the thigh and calf muscles."

"No, thanks. I prefer my furniture to keep its hands to itself." I smiled at him and sat in a nearby, ordinary chair. "No how's it going. Dad? What do you want to talk about?"

He took his time about answering, taking a moment to enter a massage program into the chair. It began whirring and adjusting the seat position. "Hardy Cates," he said.

I shook my head. "No way. I'm not talking to you about him. Whatever it is you want to know, I'm not — "

"I'm not asking for information, Haven. I know something about him. Something you need to hear."

Every instinct urged me to leave right then. I knew my father kept tabs on everyone and would have had no compunction about digging up dirt from Hardy's past. I didn't need or want to hear anything that Hardy wasn't ready to confide. Besides, I was pretty sure I knew what Dad was going to tell me: about Hardy's father, and his prison time, and the DUI arrest. So I decided to stay and hear Dad out, and put him in his place.

The room was quiet except for the whirring of mechanical gears and rollers. I summoned a cool smile. "All right, tell me."

"I warned you about him," Dad said, "and I was right. He sold you out, honey. So it's best to put him out of your mind and go find someone else. Someone who'll be good to you."

"Sold me out?" I stared at him in bewilderment. "What are you talking about?"

"T.J. Bolt gave me a call after he saw you with Cates on Friday night. He asked me what I thought, about you taking up with a rascal like Cates, and I told him."

"What a pair of busybodies," I said in annoyance. "Good Lord, with all the time and money each of you has, you can't think of any thing better to talk about than my love life?"

"T.J. had an idea to expose Cates for what he is . . . to show you what kind of man you're keeping company with. And after he told me about it, I agreed. So T.J. called Cates yesterday — "

"Oh, hell," I whispered.

" — and offered him a deal. He said he'd sign the lease contract Cates offered him a while back, and forgo the bonus completely. If Cates promised to drop you for good. No dating, no socializing of any kind."

"And Hardy told T.J. to go screw himself," I said.

My father gave me a pitying glance. "No. Cates took the deal." He leaned back in his massage chair, while I absorbed the information.

My skin was prickling and crawling. My mind rejected it — Hardy would never have taken such a deal. Not after the night we'd spent together. I knew he had feelings for me. I knew he needed me. It didn't make sense for Hardy to throw it all away. Not for some leases he would have probably gotten in time, anyway.

What the hell was going on in Hardy's head? I had to find out. But first . . .

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