Keira doesn’t hesitate to call me on it. “I know, but that’s who you are. I didn’t think you were capable of not taking over.” She pauses, her top teeth digging into her bottom lip before releasing it. “I misjudged you, and I’m not too proud to admit it.”
I reach for a random bottle and splash another three fingers into my glass. “Don’t start giving me credit for qualities I don’t have.” Her first impression of me is much closer to the truth. I toss the whiskey back as carelessly as she did. Maybe getting drunk tonight isn’t a bad idea.
“Stop. Please. This is important to me, and I’m going to get it out whether you want to hear it or not.”
I lower the glass to the bar with a nod and cross my arms over my chest to wait.
“You were different. This was different. I . . .” She trails off again for a beat. “I hate talking about him. Especially now.” Her gaze drops to the floor.
When she says him, a rumble of possession roars through me. I spit his name out so she doesn’t have to. “Hyde, you mean?”
“What about him?” My tone sharpens with each word dealing with the subject of the man. I hold myself stiff, wondering what comparison she’s going to make between us, knowing it can’t possibly be in my favor.
“He had to be the center of attention, have the most say in any conversation. I was the one who grew up in that distillery like it was my second home, and he’d been there for all of five minutes before his ego was nearly too big to fit through the door. I was the CEO, but he marginalized me at every opportunity. We were supposed to be a team. That’s what he promised me. But he didn’t understand the first thing about teamwork.”
My hands curl into fists. I wish I’d killed the fucker personally, because obviously he did more damage to her than I realized.
“Hyde was a low-level con, through and through. You weren’t equipped to see it coming.”
“Maybe not, but I was dumb enough to fall for it,” she says, blinking back tears.
Hoping Saxon made that piece of shit suffer, I hold up a hand to stop her. “You didn’t stand a chance, and I’m not insulting you when I say that.”
Keira turns away, lifting both hands to her face, and I imagine she’s wiping away tears. Tears that motherfucker is still causing from the grave. This ends now.
I wrap a hand around her arm and turn her to face me. “Stop. He doesn’t deserve another fucking second of your time, let alone another tear.”
“I just feel so stupid. And then I’m barely free of him and you swoop in, probably because you realized I’m such a fucking idiot and an easy mark. I didn’t stand a chance against you either, did I?”
I release her and drop my hands to my sides, consciously flexing my fingers out from the fists they instinctively curl into.
I lower my voice, but every word is perfectly clear. “Don’t fucking compare me to that piece of shit. I am not Brett Hyde.”
Another tear tips over her lid, and I can’t stop myself from reaching out to cup the side of her face. She flinches as I touch her, and I hate causing that reaction. I swipe a thumb beneath her lid and catch the next one that falls.
“I don’t need to overshadow you in your element. This is your world. I expect you to go out there and conquer it.”
She sniffles and brushes away the remainder of the tears—and my hand. She doesn’t realize I never offer comfort, and having it rejected is a sharp jab into a raw spot I didn’t know I had.
I step back, gripping the bar with both hands, and wait for her to lift her gaze back to mine. When she does, I tell her the absolute truth.
“And no, you didn’t stand a chance against me. I always get what I want.”