He let out a slow breath. “It would have never worked. I did her a favor by ending it. She wouldn’t have been happy with this life.”
“Then why would I?” I threw my hands up, exasperated.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked back to me. A long moment passed between us.
Looking into his cool blue eyes filled me with conflicting emotions. We were supposed to be important people in each other’s lives. A father, a daughter, and here we were, sparring and threatening. Our hearts were filled with anger and mistrust. Under all of that, there had to be something worth protecting, but it was so faint and buried so far deep under all the muck that I could barely believe it existed.
He broke my gaze and pulled out another cigarette. His hands shook slightly as he lit it. “So you’ve made your point. Now what?”
I sighed. “No more stalking. I never want to see Connor’s fucking face again. And no more threats. You stay away from Blake and me unless, at some point, I feel like I can trust you again.”
“He knows everything now, I gather.”
“Don’t concern yourself with him. I know it’s hard for you to trust me, but I’m not really giving you a choice.”
“Maybe he’s the one I don’t trust.”
“Hurting you would hurt me. And he loves me too much to do that.”
He paused. “What if he stops loving you?”
The words settled over me. I’d spent days in agony, afraid he’d done just that. I’d given him plenty of reasons to stop, but he hadn’t given up on us. “I’ll never give him a reason to.”
“And the campaign work, I suppose you’re hoping to bow out of that as well?”
“If I know I can trust you to stop this madness, I will help you. I spoke with Will and we came up with a good plan that would allow me to consult with your team without giving up the business. He seemed to think it would be a great solution, but he wanted to run it by you. I’m assuming he didn’t do that.”
He shook his head and a smirk lifted his lips.
I frowned. “What?”
“I honestly can’t figure out if you’re more like me or her at this point.”
I couldn’t hold back a small smile.
“Yeah, sometimes I wonder about that too.”
I fidgeted a little. This whole conversation had become somewhat surreal. Had I really just won an argument with Daniel Fitzgerald?
“Listen, I need to go before Blake sends out a search party.”
“He didn’t know you came?”
“God, no. I had to sneak out of the apartment and past a pack of bodyguards. He’s probably completely freaking out right now.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “Well, I guess I don’t need to worry about him not taking care of you.”
I laughed. “Yeah, not a concern, trust me.”
He exhaled heavily and flicked his cigarette. “All right. We’ll drop this for now, but I’d like to meet again soon to talk about logistics.”
I hesitated, sensing an authoritative tone in his voice that threatened to bring us right back to where we’d started.
“I’ll call you. Frankly, I need some time to put my relationship and my business back together after all of this.”
He nodded. “Fine. Connor will take you back home. Assuming you can handle that?”
“Yeah, as long as he doesn’t plan on killing me and dumping my body in the river.”
I called Blake on the way back. He’d called dozens of times since I’d left and I knew he was going to be a mess.
“Erica, where the fuck are you?”
“I’m on my way home. Please calm down.”
“Where have you been? You leave me a note telling me not to worry, and then you completely disappear?”
“You’re not calming down. I will be home in ten minutes. Tell the SWAT team to stand down.”
“Where were you?”
“I’m fine. Everything is fine, I promise.”
Connor dropped me off down the street. As much as I wanted to see Clay and his friends jump Connor, that wasn’t really in the spirit of peace I was trying to cultivate with Daniel. I approached the entrance of the apartment building. Blake was pacing like a mad man, spouting heated words to Clay and another brawny man dressed in black.
As soon as his gaze landed on me, he started toward me. I was expecting him to start yelling and freaking out, but instead he trapped me in a hug that left me breathless it was so tight.
He released me enough to look me in the eyes. His face was tense, his skin tight over the angles of his beautiful features. His hand trembled slightly as he caught my face in his palm. “Don’t ever leave like that again. Promise me.”
I nodded and swallowed hard, feeling less brave and more guilty with each passing moment.
“Promise me, Erica.”
“I promise. I’m sorry. I had to see him and set things straight.”
His eyes widened slightly. “What? Who?”
He stepped back and shoved his hands through the fine strands of his hair. “You’re kidding me. Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Everything is fine now. I reasoned with him. He was pissed of course, but I think I finally got through to him and made him understand where I’m coming from. He’s going to leave us alone.”
“How do you know? What if he was just appeasing you? What if he’d… Christ, Erica. I can’t even believe you did this.”
I thought it over for a second. My meeting with Daniel could have gone all wrong, completely different from how it had. Blake would have never forgiven himself if something had happened to me.
“He’s my dad, Blake. He’s horrible sometimes, but he’s not going to hurt me.” I sighed, grateful that I could finally believe that. “We came to an understanding. He promised to back off.”
“And you believed him?”
“I believe him.”
I spent the rest of Saturday regurgitating my conversation with Daniel to Blake, trying to get him to believe that we were going to be okay. He was still skeptical, but I had at least convinced him that he didn’t need to release any damaging information to the public for now. I made him swear on our relationship that he wouldn’t.
Risa and I agreed to meet at Mocha on Sunday morning. She’d suspect something was wrong, but I had to see her face to face. It was my best chance to get more information on what she and Max were up to behind the scenes.