“It’s okay, Dad. I’ll get my coat.”
Rain fell in buckets from the sky and gushed into storm drains on the street. Wind whipped it against their backs. Ryan braced one arm behind her and held her hand with the other, shielding her from the elements on the short walk to the car. If her father was watching this display of gentlemanly behavior, he’d be so impressed.
“You drove all the way from Grand? Why not fly?” she asked once Ryan had positioned himself behind the wheel. He didn’t seem to notice or care that they dripped water all over the AMG’s custom interior. Rain pounded the windshield.
“I think best when I drive.”
And it was obvious he had a lot on his mind, because he’d driven quite a distance.
After fifteen minutes of silence, and they’d turned off the I-90 and onto the I-290, it became obvious that sharing his thoughts wasn’t part of his plan. Some questions might be in order.
“Are you kidnapping me?” she asked.
The windshield wipers tapped left, then right. The line of his jaw shifted in acknowledgment of her pitiful attempt at a joke. “Your father took a picture of my car and the license plate as we were pulling away, so it’s safe to say that my kidnapping plot has been thwarted.”
“I’ve told you how protective he can be. And I’m pretty sure you didn’t make a favorable impression on him.”
The right side of Ryan’s cheek kicked up a full inch. When he cast his gaze sideways at her, she saw he was smiling. “I figured it was too late for that anyway, so decided I’d expend my efforts on the person who matters most.”
That smile stole her breath. She was soeasywhen he went all Black Bart on her. Where was her pride?
She went back to staring through her window at the streets passing by. The car was quiet for a few moments more. She folded her hands on her belly. Sadness tightened her chest. Ryan wouldn’t be interested in the little changes in her body that fascinated her so much.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
So much for that conversational thread. She tried again. “How are the boys?”
“As obnoxious as ever. Ace has Jonas in mental health counseling until he’s ready to open up about his sexual orientation.”
“That’s reasonable. He hasn’t come to terms with it.”
She gave up trying to make small talk after that and allowed him to concentrate on traffic while his GPS gave him directions.
They took an exit into an upscale neighborhood about ten minutes outside the city limits. He pulled curbside in front of a brick-and-stone, Spanish-style mansion. The mansion was surrounded by well-established, decades-old trees on a large corner lot. Shrubs and flower beds suggested the gardens would be spectacular whenever someone took them in hand. A concrete path meandered from a wrought iron gate to the front door.
“This is where I lived as a little kid,” he said.
He sounded matter-of-fact about it, but the way his white-knuckled fingers strangled the life from the steering wheel suggested he had a whole lot of issues swirling around in his head. He’d decided to face his childhood trauma and she could only imagine how hard this must be. He’d beenseven years old.
She tossed pride aside and reached for his hand. “I’m so sorry.”
He transferred his chokehold to her fingers, but she didn’t complain. He was too lost in his head and she didn’t want to intrude. His whole attention was transfixed by the house.
He pointed to the second level. “See that third window, to the right of the front door? That was my bedroom. It had race cars on the walls. My dad painted them himself.”
One more reason for him to like cars and speed—they connected him to his father.
“He was a great dad,” Ryan continued. “A lot of happy memories were made in this house, not just the bad ones. But let me paint a more complete family picture for you. Giaco approached me a few months before he passed away. Turns out he’d known where we were all along. He offered me money if I’d move back to Chicago and take on his name again. I’m the last of his line and he didn’t want the name to die with him. I told him what he could do with his name and his money and figured that would be that, but he left the money to me anyway. It came from legitimate holdings he used to keep him respectable, in case you’re wondering.”
“I wasn’t wondering.” Because she knew him. He would have burned every dishonest dollar.
She regretted ever thinking of him as cold, because it only reinforced how he viewed himself. He was definitely tormented—she’d seen it from the first and known it would never be easy to live with—but he’d done so much to rise above what he perceived as his failings. He had a mind-boggling amount of inner strength. This would be the luckiest child alive to have him for a father.
He wasn’t quite ready to hear that about himself, though.
“Why did you take the money if you didn’t want it?” she asked.