Aftershock - Page 16

Author: Sylvia Day

I headed to Rossi’s after work. My family was right; it was time to fix things with Vincent.

He was working happy hour at the bar when I came in, but he spotted me straight away, scowling for a moment before returning his attention to the drink he was mixing. His serving style wasn’t the same as Nico’s. He didn’t flirt shamelessly, but he got the same number of girls following him with their eyes everywhere he went. The dark and broody thing worked for him.

I snagged an empty barstool and watched him work. There were a few contenders trying their hand at capturing his attention, but he was eyeing me, I knew, even though he didn’t spare me another glance. The same couldn’t be said about our parents, who couldn’t stop looking our way every few minutes.

When Vincent neared to serve a beer to the guy sitting on my right, I broke the ice and said, “I’m sorry.”

He sucked in a deep breath and straightened his spine. Then he grabbed the five spot tip off the bar, rapped his knuckles on the polished wood in thanks, and dropped the cash in the tip jar. “I’m taking ten,” he told Jen, the gal working the bar with him.

“Got it,” she said, giving me a smile.

Vincent met me on the other side. “Office,” he said, gesturing me ahead of him with an impatient wave of his hand.

It was impossible not to be reminded of Jax when I entered the back office, but I pushed the memory from my mind and faced my brother.

I got to the point. “I need you to forgive me.”

He crossed his arms. “I did that a while ago.”

“You did?” I blinked through the rush of relief that had me leaning heavily against our dad’s desk. “Then why won’t you talk to me?”

“To punish you. Plus, I don’t want to hear any excuses about what you did. If being with Jax means losing who you are, you need to get out.”

“He didn’t have anything to do with how I handled Deanna. I don’t know why he told you that.”

“Because he knows he did.” Vincent held up a hand to cut me off. “I’m walking out of here if you don’t understand this real quick: you dealt with the situation like a Rutledge, not a Rossi, and you learned how to be like that from him.”

I let that sink in. Then I took a second to glance at the family portrait on the wall, before finally nodding my agreement. “You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right.” He ran a hand over the top of his head, then made a sudden grab for me, enfolding me in a hug.

I started bawling. I hadn’t expected it, hadn’t even known it was bottled up in me until I was wrapped in love and safety again.

Vincent cursed and gripped me tighter. I knew he hated tears and had a hard time dealing with crying women, but I couldn’t stop and it felt so good to let go.

“Cut it out,” he muttered, with his lips at the crown of my head.

“I missed you,” I sobbed.

“For fuck’s sake. I was right here.”

“I miss Jax, too. He’s been gone for days.”

His chest heaved with a sigh beneath my cheek. “I know.”

I pulled back, my breathing reduced to stuttered inhalations. “I d-don’t know what to do.”

Vincent’s jaw tightened. “Stop crying for one thing. Then stop worrying about Jax. He’s getting his shit together.”

“What? What does that mean? How do you know that?”

He stepped back. “He told me.”

I frowned and wiped at my cheeks. “Why would he tell you that and not me?”

“Because I’m probably one of the few people who won’t try and talk him out of it.”

“Can you speak English, please?”

He snorted. “I’m not smoothing the way for him, Gianna. It’s his deal, and however it goes, it’ll be up to him to lay it out for you.”

“You’re irritating me, Vincent.”

“Good. You deserve it.” He tossed an arm around my shoulder. “I’ve got to get back to the bar. I’ll make you a drink.”

“I wish you’d make sense instead,” I complained, bumping into him so he stumbled a step.

“Watch it.”

We returned to the restaurant and my steps slowed. I recognized the head of pure white hair from across the crowded room. As if he felt me staring, Parker Rutledge turned and found me. When he visibly relaxed, I knew he’d come to seek me out.

I couldn’t help but be worried. Was something wrong with Jax?

“Holler if you need me,” Vincent said, squeezing my shoulder before returning to the bar.

I watched Parker approach and hoped my eyeliner and mascara hadn’t smeared. I ran my hands over my skirt, wishing I’d taken a minute to freshen up in the ladies’ room. Jax’s dad was dressed in a sharp black suit and pale blue tie, and he looked ready to conquer the world. I was afraid I looked defeated.

“Gianna.” He pulled me into a brief hug. “I’ve been hoping to speak with you.”

“Is everything all right?”

“I’m afraid not. Can we talk?”

“Sure.” Because he looked and sounded so serious, I asked, “Would it be better to go to the penthouse?”

His lips twisted ruefully. “Jackson gave me strict orders not to bother you at work or home, although I confess I was about to anyway if you hadn’t come to Rossi’s tonight.”

I glanced over at the bodyguard who went everywhere with me. Had he tipped off Parker? Not that I cared either way.

I caught my mother’s eye and gestured at an empty table, letting her know I was taking it. She nodded and crossed it off the seating chart.

“I have to talk to you about Jackson,” Parker began the minute he settled into the chair. “He’s making a terrible mistake.”

My hands flattened on the table. “How?”

“He can’t just walk away. The game is in his blood. But more than that, he has a responsibility to this country. He has what it takes to shape the world in profound and necessary ways.”

Clearly, Parker thought I was up to speed on what Jax was doing, and I figured it might be better not to tell him I was clueless. So I puzzled it out as best I could and tried not to get too excited about the possibility that Jax was thinking about stepping away from the family business. So to speak. “I’m sure he’s doing everything he can.”

“He can’t say that until he runs for office.”

“Oh.” I’d never even considered that possibility. A game changer. The little spark of hope I felt quickly died. “I didn’t realize he wanted a career in politics.”

He leaned forward. “Jackson told me how you handled that reporter. You’re an asset, Gianna. You’re what he needs to reach the next level. With you at his side, he could make it all the way to the White House.”

The very idea scrambled my brain. “The White... Are you kidding?”

He sat back. “Don’t you believe he could do it?”

I stared at him, blown away by the grandeur of his dreams for his son. “Jackson can do anything he wants. He’s amazing.”


“As long as I’m part of his life, I’ll support him in whatever he chooses to do.” I took a deep breath. “But...”

He studied me. “But what?”

There was no easy way to say it. “Do you know that he blames the stress of a public, political life for his mother’s alcoholism?”

Parker straightened abruptly, his shoulders rolling back. “He’s stronger than she was.”

I couldn’t disagree with that. “I think he’s more worried about me.”

“I know,” he agreed, with an emphatic nod. “That’s why you have to speak to him. Tell him you can handle it. Make him believe it.”

My gaze moved to the bar and met Vincent’s. His earlier words about being one of only a few people who wouldn’t talk Jax out of “it” abruptly made sense. “Do you know where he is?”

“D.C. I can get you there.”

I looked at him. “I’m ready whenever you are.”

* * *

I’d expected to end up at the Rutledge mansion, but found myself knocking on the door to a high-rise apartment instead. Not too long ago, I would never have thought I’d be used to flying by private jet, but my life was different now. I was adjusting as quickly as I could. Still, one thing I had never learned to deal with was living without—

“Jax,” I said, when the door opened and he stood in front of me. My heart gave a little leap. He looked edible. The bespoke three-piece suit he wore didn’t soften the edge created by the shadow of stubble on his jaw and the slightly too-long hair. His gorgeous face was leaner, his gaze intensely focused.

He didn’t say a word, just grabbed me and kissed me as if he’d been dying of thirst and I was a cool glass of water. I wrapped my arms around his neck and opened my mouth, letting him lick and thrust, whimpering as he ate at my mouth with erotic ferocity.

The nervousness I’d felt on the flight dissipated into oblivion. Whatever he was doing by staying away from me wasn’t because he didn’t want me anymore.

He pulled me into the house and kicked the door shut, pinning me against it. “I’ve got to take a call in a minute,” he muttered against my lips. “Then I’m going to fuck you for a really long time.”

I hit him on the shoulder. “What the hell are you doing in D.C.?”

“You know. That’s why you’re here.” He released me and backed away. “Did Parker send you?”

“He provided the means. I came because I wanted to.”

“He’ll get the hint eventually.” He turned away from me and pointed at a set of double doors to the left. “Bedroom’s in there. Get naked and wait for me.”

I bit back a smile at his arrogance, knowing he was baiting me on purpose. “Dream on.”

He glanced my way when he reached a desk set up in the living room. The apartment was considerably smaller than the penthouse in New York and barely furnished. There was a sofa and coffee table, but no television or artwork. Only the desk had anything on it, and it was littered with pens and loose papers.

“I’ve done nothing but dream of you the past two weeks.” He picked up his smartphone and leaned back against the front of the desk. “I’ve always seen white picket fences in your eyes when you look at me. I was positive I wasn’t that guy. I was wrong. One of these days, when you’re ready, I’ll give that dream to you. And you’re going to give me a gorgeous little girl or two with your dark curly hair and smiles that slay me.”

My chest tightened. “Jax...”

His phone rang and he answered it. “Dennis...No, you heard right, which is why I wanted to touch base with you about reaching out to Parker going forward...No, he won’t be bringing me up to speed. I’m out.” He looked at me. “I’m getting married. Yes, that’s a good thing...Thank you. Good luck in the next election, Senator.”

I watched him kill the call and set his phone on the desk.

He crossed his arms. “You’re still dressed.”

“I don’t sleep with engaged guys.” I fought to stand still while excitement pounded through me. There was something different about him. Something that reminded me of the Jax I’d met in Vegas. I liked it. A lot.

“I didn’t say I was engaged—” his mouth quirked up on one side “—yet. Didn’t say I wanted to sleep, either.”

“You’re awfully sure of yourself.”

“You’re crazy about me.”

“Or just plain crazy.” I crossed my arms, too. “Is this where you’ve been?”


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