The Deception (Filthy Rich Americans #3) - Nikki Sloane
AS THE GLASS ELEVATOR CARRIED US UP, Boston spread out before me in a tangled, weaving mess. The city hadn’t been planned, and the narrow roads were laid atop horse trails from the seventeenth century. Snarling lines of concrete were wedged between skyscrapers. Traffic was a nightmare.
I felt a similar kind of chaos as my gaze focused on him.
He wore a black suit and a black tie dotted with silver specks. To everyone else, he’d look powerful and confident, but I saw through it, down to the uncertainty that lingered behind his blue eyes. It was unnerving to see him like this. I’d known him my whole life and only witnessed it a few times.
Breath seized in my lungs as his hand curled around mine and wove our fingers together. We were alone in the executive elevator, but the glass walls left me feeling exposed. Like anyone could see us. I wasn’t supposed to be here.
The pad of his thumb brushed absentmindedly over the set of rings on my left hand, and it forced the words from my mouth, coming out like I’d discovered a great secret. “You’re nervous.”
He delivered a cool, irritated look. “Of course not. Why would you say that?”
I glanced down at our joined hands and back to him, wordlessly presenting his behavior as evidence. Currently, I didn’t work at Hale Banking and Holding, and even if I did, displays of affection had no place here at the office, out where anyone could see.
He raised an eyebrow. “I wanted an excuse to touch you before the meeting.”
It was a lie, but I didn’t call him out on it because he had good reason to be nervous. He was about to walk into the most important board meeting of his life. A decision had to be made, and it would settle once and for all what had been in the works for years.
I didn’t know which Hale was going to come out on top.
He didn’t either, judging by his unsteady tone. “He doesn’t have the votes.”
There was too much anxiety in me to offer a response. It was like I’d swallowed broken glass and the shards jangled together in my stomach with each shallow breath I took. Everything had led up to this moment. Once the elevator stopped and the doors opened, things were going to get much harder.
My gaze flicked to the panel of buttons, and my nerves made my finger itch to reach out and press one—any floor below the one that was already illuminated.
He must have sensed my trepidation because his grip on me tightened. If he’d meant to reassure me, he failed. My pulse climbed higher with each floor we passed, and my heart ground to a halt the same moment the elevator did. He dropped my hand and stepped away from me, putting a professional amount of distance between us.
“Thank you for coming with me,” he said in the quiet before the doors peeled back with a mechanical whine.
Like I had a choice.
I sucked in a deep breath, both wanting and dreading the next part.
He gestured through the now open doors. “After you.”
My knees wobbled beneath my skirt, but I held my head up and fixed an indifferent expression on my face as I stepped into the hallway. I was Marist Hale on the outside, the perfect goddess, ready to rule alongside the other Olympians. And inside, I was the monster Medusa, preparing to take my victims.
I’d only made it a few steps before my husband turned a corner and spotted me in the hallway.
“Marist?” Royce’s questioning look shifted from me to the man at my side.
As my husband’s gaze crawled upward, his eyes widened, and the distance between us filled with ice. Darkness overtook his expression, and he turned to stone.
Gone was the unease that had plagued Macalister in the elevator moments ago. In the hallway, he was as comfortable as a general heading into a battle with twice as many men as his opponent. Bright, cruel victory flashed in his eyes.
I was the secret weapon he’d just deployed against his son, and a sinister smile spread across his lips.
Eight Months Ago
MY HEART THUDDED ERRATICALLY IN MY CHEST like it had been placed inside a box and kicked down the grand staircase I was hanging on to. My fingers dug into the carpeted step, desperate not to fall, even as gravity seemed determined to pull me away.
Only it wasn’t gravity. The unstoppable force working to rip me from the stairs was solid and