Jump, he could just jump. And it was over.
Was that what his father had thought? With the lies and the embezzlement being exposed, with Rosalinda’s death a harbinger for the dirge of discovery, had William come here because he alone knew the true extent of what he had done and the depth of the hole that had to be dug out? Had he recognized that the game was up, his time was coming, and even with all his financial acumen, he wasn’t going to be able to solve the problem he’d created?
Or had he decided to fake his own death—and failed by succeeding?
Was somewhere, out there, perhaps in an offshore account or in a bank vault in Switzerland, under his name or another’s, everything that had been siphoned off?
So many questions. And the lack of answers, coupled with the stress of having to fix it all, was the kind of thing that could drive you insane.
Lane refocused on the waters. He could barely see them from this height. In fact . . . he could see nothing but blackness with the merest hint of a shimmer.
There was, he realized, a certain siren call to the coward’s way out, a pull, like gravity, to an end that he could control: One hard impact and it was all over and done with, the deaths, the deceit, the debt. Everything wiped clean, the festering infection that was going to hold no longer and was about to be unleashed publicly nothing to worry about anymore.
Had there been sleepless nights for his father? Regrets? When William had stood here, had there been a to-and-fro about should he/shouldn’t he fly for a few moments and be done with the terrible mess he had created? Had the man even once considered the ramifications of his actions, an over two-hundred-year-old fortune wiped out not even in a generation, but in a matter of a year or two?
Wind whistled in Lane’s ears, that siren call.
Edward, his older, formerly perfect brother, was not going to clean all this up. Gin, his only sister, was incapable of thinking about anything other than herself. Maxwell, his other brother, had been MIA for three years now.
His mother was bedbound and drug-addled.
So everything was in the hands of a poker-playing, former manwhore with no financial, managerial, or relevant practical experience.
All he had, at long last, was the love of a good woman.
But in this horrible reality . . . even that wasn’t going to help him.
• • •
Toyota trucks were not supposed to go seventy-five miles an hour. Especially when they were ten years old.
At least the driver was wide awake, even though it was four a.m.
Lizzie King had a death grip on the steering wheel, and her foot on the accelerator was actually catching floor as she headed for a rise in the highway.
She had woken up in her bed at her farmhouse alone. Ordinarily, that would have been the status quo, but not anymore, not now that Lane was back in her life. The wealthy playboy and the estate’s gardener had finally gotten their act together, love bonding two unlikelies closer and stronger than the molecules of a diamond.
And she was going to stand by him, no matter what the future held.
After all, it was so much easier to give up extraordinary wealth when you had never known it, never aspired to it—and especially when you had seen behind its glittering curtain to the sad, desolate desert on the far side of the glamour and prestige.
God, the stress Lane was under.
And so out of bed she had gotten. Down the creaking stairs she had gone. And all around her little house’s first floor she had wandered.
When Lizzie had looked outside, she’d discovered his car was missing, the Porsche he drove and parked beside the maple by her front porch nowhere to be seen. And as she had wondered why he had left without telling her, she had begun to worry.
Just a matter of nights since his father had killed himself, only a matter of days since William Baldwine’s body had been found on the far side of the Falls of the Ohio. And ever since then Lane’s face had had a faraway look, his mind churning always with the missing money, the divorce papers he had served on the rapacious Chantal, the status of the household bills, the precarious situation at the Bradford Bourbon Company, his brother Edward’s terrible physical condition, Miss Aurora’s illness.
But he hadn’t said a thing about any of it. His insomnia had been the only sign of the pressure, and that was what scared her. Lane always made an effort to be composed around her, asking her about her work in Easterly’s gardens, rubbing her bad shoulder, making her dinner, usually badly, but who cared. Ever since they had gotten the air cleared between them and had fully recommitted to their relationship, he had all but moved into her farmhouse—and as much as she loved having him with her, she had been waiting for the implosion to occur.
It would almost have been easier if he had been ranting and raving.
And now she feared that time had come—and some sixth sense made her terrified about where he had gone. Easterly, the Bradford Family Estate, was the first place she thought of. Or maybe the Old Site, where his family’s bourbon was still made and stored. Or perhaps Miss Aurora’s Baptist church?
Yes, Lizzie had tried him on his phone. And when the thing had rung on the table on his side of the bed, she hadn’t waited any longer after that. Clothes on. Keys in hand. Out to the truck.
No one else was on I-64 as she headed for the bridge to get across the river, and she kept the gas on even as she crested the hill and hit the decline to the river’s edge on the Indiana side. In response, her old truck picked up even more speed along with a death rattle that shook the wheel and the seat, but the damn Toyota was going to hold it together because she needed it to.
“Lane . . . where are you?”
God, all the times she had asked him how he was and he’d said, “Fine.” All those opportunities to talk that he hadn’t taken her up on. All the glances she’d shot him when he hadn’t been looking her way, all the time her monitoring for signs of cracking or strain. And yet there had been little to no emotion after that one moment they’d had together in the garden, that private, sacred moment when she had sought him out under the blooms of the fruit trees and told him that she’d gotten it wrong about him, that she had misjudged him, that she was prepared to make a pledge to him with the only thing she had: the deed to her farmhouse—which was exactly the kind of asset that could be sold to help pay for the lawyers’ fees as he fought to save his family.
Lane had held her, and told her he loved her—and refused her gift, explaining he was going to fix everything himself, that he was going to somehow find the stolen money, pay back the enormous debt, right the company, resurrect his family’s fortunes.