“Nope.” And he just smiled at her. “Do I get my kiss now?”
“Boy, you sure did fixate on that, didn’t you?” Violet muttered, but she considered him for a long moment. At least he was out of the damn bar. “Brush your teeth first.”
“That’s yes, Ms. DeWitt,” she corrected in a sassy voice, then wanted to slap herself for flirting with her drunken ex-lover. Terrible idea, Violet. This man was bad news. She just needed to keep reminding herself that. “Go on.” She wiggled her fingers in the direction of the bathroom. “Brush up.”
He bounded up from the bed—and nearly cracked his head open, running into the wall. She smothered a giggle and sat down on the edge of the bed as he wove his way, stumbling, to the bathroom and began to vigorously brush his teeth. He kept glancing back to her as if checking to make sure she was still on the bed and hadn’t escaped.
If it had been anyone but Jonathan, she would have been amused.
But since it was Jonathan, she was just . . . confused. He’d been so upset over their fight that he’d taken to drinking, and now that she was with him, he was acting like a giddy—albeit drunken—schoolboy. It didn’t make sense, really.
Unless everything she’d thought about him was a lie.
Maybe he really hadn’t known about the baby. She wanted to ask him about it, to get a real, straight, honest answer out of him, but he was drunk. There was no point in questioning a drunk man. It would have to wait. She clasped her hands and watched as he rinsed his mouth, then used mouthwash with great gusto, swishing away to ensure his mouth would be clean enough for their kiss.
Then, he wobbled back into the room and gave her a slit-eyed smile, his eyes practically closed out of a mix of exhaustion and alcohol. “Kiss me now?”
“Lay down,” she commanded, getting up off the bed and patting one pillow.
He more or less staggered into the bed and then looked over at her, waiting. She leaned in, and then at the last moment, kissed him on the forehead.
“Cheat,” he murmured, eyes closed.
“You’re too drunk to appreciate anything more,” she told him.
He made a sound that might have been affirmation, and before she’d even pulled the blankets up over him, he was asleep.
She stared down at him, thinking. She didn’t know what to do with him. Or what to think. Jonathan still drove her crazier than crazy in every possible way. Why was it that ten years apart felt like an eternity . . . and yet it felt like yesterday at the same time?
He rolled over in the bed and hugged the pillow, exposing his backside and the wallet sticking out of his pocket. Oh, right. She reached over and pulled it out of his jeans so it wouldn’t disturb him while he slept, intending to put it on the nightstand. Instead, she stared at it for a moment and then snuck another peek at him. Still fast asleep.
So she opened his wallet, unable to resist her nosiness a moment longer.
It was full of money. That was no surprise to her; he was a billionaire. That interested her less than what else was in the wallet. Was it stuffed full of condoms? Pictures of other women? She dug around, knowing it was a shitty thing to do and not caring. Behind several platinum and black credit cards, she found a picture tucked away. Aha.
But when she pulled it out, it was her own face staring back at her.
The picture was creased, the edges worn, and it was obvious that it had been carried in this wallet—or others like it—for a long, long time. The photo was of Santorini, her and Jonathan standing in front of the Akrotiri ruins, both of them wearing hats and stripes of white zinc on their noses. They looked like dorks.
They looked so happy.
Nineteen-year-old Violet’s braids were hanging over her shoulders and she was gazing up at a smiling Jonathan with an adoring look. Violet felt a weird little lurch in her stomach at the sight of that. Once upon a time, she’d adored him. And judging from this photo, that was how he’d wanted to remember her.
She carefully put the folded photo back into his wallet and looked for any other photos of women. There was nothing, just the photo of her. Frowning, she closed his wallet and put it on his bedside table.
At her side, Jonathan moaned in his sleep.
She stiffened, listening and watching him. To her horror, a harsh sob racked his body. “Violet,” he moaned.
He sounded so tortured. Heart aching, she reached out and touched his arm. “I’m here, Jonathan. Go back to sleep.”
Immediately, his sobs died down and his breathing calmed, and he returned to sleep.
Violet stared down at the man she thought she knew.
She didn’t know what to do. For a long, painful moment, she wanted to turn and run right out of his room, out of the hotel, and keep running all the way back to Detroit. Pick up her nice, safe, quiet little life again and forget all about the billionaire who’d used her and hung her out to dry. Running away was sometimes a lot easier than staying and facing things, and she was a big fan of running.
But she didn’t leave. Instead, she reached over and brushed the curls off of Jonathan’s brow and then sighed when he didn’t wake up. Well, shit.
She spotted his phone on the other nightstand and got up, heading for it. It was a smartphone, and she slid her thumb across the button, wondering if it was password coded. Nope. Her heart thumping, she went to his list of recent contacts. Several businesses scrolled past the screen, and then she found a name. Cade.
Chewing on her lip, she considered it for a moment, and then dialed.
It took a few rings before someone answered. Then, a man’s cheerful voice came on the line. “Hey man, what’s up?”
“I— Is this Cade?” Violet tried to keep her voice calm. “Are you a friend of Jonathan’s?”
The man’s tone immediately became more guarded. “Who’s this?”
“My name is Violet—”
“Oh, damn. Violet, huh?”
She frowned. “Yes. Why?”
“That Violet what?” she snapped at him, growing irritated. What did this man think he knew?
“From a long time ago? The one who broke his heart?”
She felt her cheeks heating. “That’s personal.”
“That’s also not a no.” The man’s voice grew kind. “What can I do for you, Violet? And why are you calling me on Jon’s phone?”
She glanced over at the man sleeping in the bed, his brow furrowed as if his dreams still tormented him. “I think I broke him again,” she whispered.
Cade agreed to head to New Mexico, but he couldn’t get away for another day. In the meantime, Jonathan woke up, surly and dark, and headed right back to the bar. The front desk called Violet again—as if she could stop him!—and through more cajoling of a drunk man, she managed to get him back to his room to sleep it off again.
She didn’t know if she could keep doing this. It was too hard on her heart. Her mother had drank herself into a stupor so many times that Violet felt herself mentally distancing every time someone picked up a bottle. Now, Jonathan was doing the same thing, and it made Violet’s soul ache. Jonathan was being impossible and refused to listen to reason when she tried to talk to him. It was like he was trying to shut everything and everyone out, and the bottle was the only way he could do so.
Which was why she was ridiculously relieved when she got a text from Cade on her phone. I’m here. Shall we meet?
Violet raced down to the lobby. She hoped desperately that Cade would know what to do with Jonathan, because she was running out of ideas—and he was starting to get frustrated with her bribes of chaste forehead kisses.
The man waiting in the lobby for her was dressed in an elegant gray suit and had to be just about the prettiest man Violet had ever seen. He was angelic looking, from his blond hair to his shining blue eyes and his perfectly tanned skin. Good lord. “Um, Cade?”
He strolled forward, extending his hand. “Cade Archer.”
She shook it, giving him a nervous smile. “Violet DeWitt.”
“You look just as Jonathan described you.”
She blinked in surprise. “He described me to you?”
“In glowing terms,” Cade said, tucking her arm into the crook of his and leading her toward the hotel’s elevator. Then he gave her a wry grin. “He was also drunk as a skunk.”
She wanted to laugh, but it only made her feel a bit bitter. “So he only brings me up when he’s drunk?”
“That’s the only time Jonathan ever opens up,” Cade agreed. “The rest of the time, he’s locked down tighter than Fort Knox. If you want to go cliff diving, he’s your man. If you want to talk about feelings, he’s the last person you’d head to.”
Violet chewed on her lip as she considered this. “Does he have a drinking problem, then? I can’t seem to get him to stop.”
Cade shook his head. “I’ve known him to drink all of twice in the time I’ve known him. The other time was at his father’s funeral. He was beside himself with grief. Got drunk, talked a ton about you, and then clammed up and refused to speak of anything again afterward.”
Well, that didn’t make her feel much better. “I don’t know what to do to get him to stop drinking right now. I . . . We fought and I said some harsh things. I guess I hurt him worse than I imagined.”
He gave her a friendly smile. “I find that hard to believe.”
He also hadn’t seen Jonathan the last few days. Violet shrugged. “He’s in a funk. We’re supposed to be searching for a message left for us from my father, but Jonathan won’t get out of bed. Or if he does, he heads to the bar. I’m trapped until we finish this.”
“Trapped?” Cade looked curious.
“Trapped,” she agreed flatly. “He’s basically bribing people to keep me at his side, all under the guise of being charitable.”
“That . . . also doesn’t sound like Jonathan.”
“Is that so,” Violet said politely. “Perhaps you and I should compare Jonathans and see which one is the real one. Because he and I seem to be having a hell of a time together.”
“Well,” Cade said as they strolled across the lobby. “The Jonathan I know is extremely loyal. Very passionate about his work, and willing to do anything to win someone over to his cause. He’s a bit single-minded but a good man. Very intense. Very determined. And a bit of an adrenaline junkie.”
Okay, so that did sound like him. “Don’t forget the part about not being able to keep his hands off of women.”
That time, Cade gave her a curious look. “Really? I’ve never known Jonathan to act like that. He’s been groping women in front of you? The Jonathan I know keeps himself closed off. I don’t ever recall him having a steady girlfriend.”
Her cheeks pinked. He’d been groping her, not other women. She thought of the photo in his wallet. No condom, no other women’s phone numbers or pictures stuffed into his billfold. Just a picture of her with zinc on her nose. “Like I said,” she fidgeted. “I guess we’re seeing two different men.”
“Strange,” Cade murmured, but he didn’t argue with her.
They went up to the bar. It was busier due to the time of night, but Violet still had no trouble finding Jonathan’s table. She just looked for the one with the most bottles in the darkest corner. Yep, there he was. Violet sighed and pointed. “At the table in the back. He’s busy trying to drink himself into a stupor again.”
“Damn.” Cade rubbed his jaw and looked over at Violet curiously. “What exactly did you say to him?”
“It’s . . . personal. So you’ll handle him from here?”
“You don’t want to stick around?” He looked surprised.