Grounded (Up in the Air, #3)

Grounded (Up in the Air, #3) by R. K. Lilley


Mr. Cavendish

We sped towards Manhattan in a luxurious town car. Stephan and Javier sat close together, clutching hands, their eyes fixed on me in concern. James held me close against him, his hands comforting as they stroked over me.

I’d found out just a few days ago that my father had remarried after my mother’s death. On the tail of that revelation, I had found out that I had a half-brother who was just one year younger than I am. That meant that my father had been with this other woman for years before my mother had died. Before he had killed her.

I had no love for the woman, Sharon, who my father had married. In fact, I felt a cold distaste shiver through my body at just the thought of her.

I’d just discovered that she had been killed last night, and in the same method that my mother had been. I hadn’t liked the woman, but since I had discovered her existence, I had felt the need to warn her about my father. I was positive that she must have known firsthand just how abusive and violent he was, but I had wanted to warn her just what he was capable of, if only to clear my conscience.

I had tried, several times, to get ahold of her, but I’d had no luck. Logical or not, I felt a crushing guilt at my failure. James seemed to sense my inner turmoil, and sought to comfort me with his touch.

He just held me for several minutes before breaking the heavy silence that had overtaken the four of us. “Would you guys like to have breakfast at a restaurant or at our apartment?” His tone was polite.

Stephan didn’t hesitate. “Your apartment. I saw a spread on it in an interior design magazine a few weeks ago. I’ve been looking forward to getting a tour.”

James nodded. “Good.” He checked his watch. “Unfortunately, I only have about an hour before I need to get back to my office.”

I stiffened, feeling unreasonably disappointed at the news, though I hadn’t even thought he’d be there to meet us at the airport. He had mentioned several meetings today, but I still couldn’t seem to help feeling let down that we wouldn’t get more time together before he had to go back to work.

He seemed to feel the change in me and began to rub my back comfortingly. He spoke softly to me. “I should be able to cut my workday short, and make it back to the apartment by four, but I’d still love for you to come by my office for lunch. Say around eleven? I—“

“I’ll be there,” I told him quickly, wanting any time with him that I could get.

I felt needy for him, as though we’d been parted for weeks or months instead of days. I hadn’t been this desperate ever before, even during the time I’d forced him to stay away for nearly a month. I thought I was more desperate now because I had allowed myself to begin to think that he and I might actually have a future together. The thought both excited me and made my gut twist with an acute anxiety.

He kissed the top of my head but didn’t say anything more about it. We let Stephan and Javier chatter excitedly about their plans for the day, which included a jog in Central Park and a Broadway show, though they couldn’t decide on what.

“Do you guys mind if I make us all early dinner reservations? I’ll make it somewhere good, though that may be my own bias showing, since I’ll most likely own the place.” James smiled that self-deprecating smile of his that I always wanted to trace away with my fingertips.

Stephan and Javier agreed enthusiastically. I thought it was sweet of him to think of it, but I felt just a tiny bit disappointed. I wanted time alone with him, and even a few extra hours of waiting seemed torturous.

Clark drove us to the underground garage elevator without having to be told, giving me a very friendly smile as James helped me from the car. I smiled back. James’s chauffeur/bodyguard was apparently pleased that we’d gotten back together. I thought it was nice that he seemed to approve of me.

Stephan was restless with excitement as the elevator climbed to the penthouse.

James gave us a rather rushed tour through the opulent space, making a point of showing off all of the spaces that now sported my paintings. I flushed every time he did that, still uncomfortable with compliments about my favorite hobby.

The whole place was modern and sleek with the Cavendish designer touch all over it. I’d seen it all before, and even I was impressed.

He led us down a long hallway with stark modern gray wood lining the floors, ending the tour at the intimidating dining room.

Stephan and Javier immediately moved to the window that lined nearly the entire wall of the room and looked out on the spectacular view of Central Park.

“Wow,” Javier said quietly.

“Amazing,” Stephan breathed.

I moved to the window beside Stephan, equally awed by the now familiar view.

James wrapped himself around me from behind, leaning down to my ear. “I need to go. Your security will be waiting at the elevator at ten thirty to take you to my office. If you need to go anywhere before then, just call the security number saved into your phone.”

A door opened from the kitchen, a smiling Marion peeking in. She got our breakfast orders and cheerfully bustled back into the kitchen.

“Walk me out?” James asked softly, mouth still right at my ear.

I shivered, nodding.

James said his goodbyes to Stephan and Javier, tugging me swiftly from the room.

He took a shortcut to the elevator. Or rather, I thought it was a shortcut, right up until he was yanking me into a small sitting area.

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