Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(30) by Susan Mallery
Mindy thought Elissa should come clean, just tell him what had happened and get his take on things. It was sound advice, rational even. But what if he didn’t believe her? Walker might claim a troubled relationship with his grandmother, but Gloria Buchanan was family. When push came to shove, Elissa knew who he would side with. He hadn’t known Elissa long enough to trust her. If Gloria denied everything, then Elissa was totally screwed and right now she didn’t need the pressure.
Still, she had to do something. While Mindy’s offer of moving in with her had been sweet, it was impossible. She, Elissa, could stay away from Walker, but how did she explain to her daughter not to talk to their nice neighbor anymore?
“I hate this,” Elissa muttered. “I hate all of it.” The fear, the uncertainty, the pressure of having other people control her life.
The phone rang. Elissa hesitated. Was it Walker? He’d already left a message saying he wanted to talk. What was she supposed to say to him? The truth? Some form of it? Nothing?
She chose to be cowardly and let the machine pick up. But a familiar “Hey, babe” had her lunging for the receiver before Zoe heard any more of the caller’s message.
“Hello,” she gasped.
“Elissa. You’re there.”
She clutched the phone as tightly as she could and turned her back to the living room. “How did you get this number, Neil?”
He laughed. “I have my ways, babe. You know that. Long time, no talk. How’s it going?”
How was it going? Her life was a disaster. Hearing from him was the last thing she needed. “I don’t have any money.”
Neil sighed heavily. “You always say that, but you manage to find some anyway. The thing is, Elissa, this is different. I want to get clean.”
She rolled her eyes. How many times had she heard that before? “Good for you.”
“It’s for the music. I can’t write anymore. Not with this shit screwing up my head. So I’m going into rehab. I thought I’d come see you first, though.”
Fear clutched her chest and dug in sharp, heavy claws. “I don’t want to see you. Don’t come here.”
“You can’t stop me, babe. I don’t say that to threaten you, but because it’s true.”
Then why did it feel like a threat?
“How’s the kid?” he asked when she didn’t respond. “Don’t forget, she’s mine, too. I’ve been real good about letting you keep her, but that could all change, Elissa.”
She wanted to scream. When she’d found out she was pregnant, Neil had insisted she get an abortion. She’d refused, he’d beaten the crap out of her, then gone out to party. She’d escaped, taking only what she could carry.
“Stop calling, Neil,” she said quietly. “There’s no money and you’ll never get my child. No court would ever allow you to even see her. You’ve never cared and you don’t care now.”
She hung up, then quickly put the receiver on the table so he couldn’t call back.
They’d played this scenario out countless times before. Sometimes he made good on his threat and showed up in Seattle, and sometimes he didn’t. She never knew which it was going to be. All she knew for sure was that he would never get his hands on Zoe. She would do anything to protect her daughter. She would run. She would disappear. She would even kill Neil if she had to.
WALKER STRODE into his grandmother’s office. He’d always hated the white-on-white decor. Even as a child, he felt the place was cold and hungry. Like a giant white moth, waiting to swallow the unwary.
“Walker,” Gloria Buchanan said as she rose from behind her large gilded desk. “How lovely to see you. I was going to make an appointment for you to stop by and here you are, all on your own.”
She smiled welcomingly and held out her arms, as if expecting them to embrace. He kept his distance.
Her smile never wavered. “I wanted to talk about you joining the company. Now that you’ve finally realized you never belonged in the Marines, you can take your place here. There’s so much work to be done. Our most recent president quit. I don’t understand what it is about businessmen today. None of them have any staying power.” She sighed as she led the way to the sofas in the corner. “I’m getting older, Walker. I won’t be able to run things forever.”
He continued to stand in the center of the room. She perched on the edge of the sofa and raised her thin eyebrows.
“You’re not going to join me?”
“No,” he said flatly. “I’m not here to have a polite conversation.”
“If we’re going to talk about your future—”
“We’re not,” he said, interrupting. “I have no future here. I don’t give a damn about you or the restaurants. There’s nothing you can say or do to get me to work here for thirty seconds.”
She looked more bored than intimidated. “You’re being dramatic.”
He ignored that. “I’m not here because of my future. I’m here because of Elissa.”
Gloria didn’t pretend not to know what he was talking about. Instead she stood and glared at him. “I don’t know what that little bitch has been saying—”
“Nothing,” he said, cutting her off. “I haven’t spoken to her. I’m here to talk to you.”
He walked toward the sofa until he stood in front of his grandmother. “You’re going to tell me exactly what you said and how you threatened her. Every single word.”
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