Feel free to check out the earlier chapters of Asena first.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. My eyes were wide and my hands balled into fists. This could not be happening. Not now.
“Can’t I just stop by?” he asked, his charming grin that had let him pull a thousand cons sliding into place. He looked older but not by much. His hair was still full and wavy. The deep black color struck a handsome contrast to his pale skin. His eyes seemed even darker, but he looked healthy enough. He wore a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his black pea coat was draped over his arm.
“No, you can’t,” I retorted, crossing my arms and sitting down.
“It’s good to see you too, princess,” he said and slid into the chair Marlene had just left. I flinched at the pet name and dug my fingernails into my palm. I didn’t want him to see any kind of reaction.
“I thought you were out in New Hampshire?” I asked, trying to catch him off guard.
Instead, he smiled broadly. “Checking up on me?”
“Making sure you’re not hurting innocent people. Like that widow five years ago,” I said cooly.
“You really have been keeping tabs on me,” he said and leaned back. He hung his coat on the arm rest and crossed his legs. I straightened mine, realizing I was mirroring his position.
“Nope,” I answered. “But I did have a run-in with your former partner who thought I’d make a decent ransom to get the money you conned him out of.”
“What?” he asked, his smile gone. “If he laid a finger on you–”
“I can handle myself,” I said, cutting him off. “I’ve already dealt with it.” Huh, I thought. If that wasn’t what had brought him through my door, I wasn’t sure what else it could be.
“That’s my girl.”
“I’m not your girl anymore,” I spat out. I unclenched my fist a few times and slowed my breathing while he stared at me with a small sad frown tugging at his lips.
“You will always be my baby girl, I don’t care how much you grow up,” he finally said.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. I held my hands tightly together to avoid fidgeting.
“I wanted to see you. And see this new business you’ve got,” he said, smiling as he glanced around the room. “How many clients do you have?”
“Any exciting jobs?”
“Nothing really,” I said and narrowed my eyes at him.
“C’mon, there has to be something. Fill your old man in.”
It clicked as I realized what he was fishing for. He wanted Marlene for his next mark. “I’m gonna kill him,” I said, my nostrils flaring. There was only one way he would know I was working with her.
“What?” Harold asked, and for a second it finally looked like I had thrown him off his game.
“When did you see him? How long has he known you were coming?”
“I don’t know what–”
“Don’t you protect Danny. He had no right to tell you about my life!”
“You always were clever,” he said, frowning. “But don’t blame the boy. He’s always been an easy one to con. It sounds like I’m not the only one who’s been doing it. He told me about your meeting in the jail. I don’t think you were really looking for info on me, were you, princess?”
“Get out of my office,” I said quietly.
“Princess,” he drawled.
“GET OUT!” I stood up, knocking the chair back.
The door to the office slammed open, making both of us jump. Marlene stood in the doorway, her hair wild and her eyes big. Her cell phone was in her left hand and a canister of mace was in the other. She glared at Harold as if he was pure evil.
“If you don’t leave right now, I’ll call the police and have you thrown in jail for trespassing.” Her voice shook slightly but she stood her ground.
Harold blinked, wide eyed and stunned for a moment.
I tried to stop smiling but couldn’t. Marlene looked like an avenging angel and Harold was more surprised than I had ever seen him.
“You heard the lady,” I said, chuckling lightly. “Out you go.”
He turned to look at me and slowly got out of his chair. “I’ll be back, princess. I’m sticking around for a bit. Someone needs to watch out for you.”
“Someone already is,” I said and was surprised that I meant it. I looked over at Marlene and threw her a grateful smile. She gave me a tense one in return.
“Huh,” he said and swung his arms into his coat. He gave Marlene a long look as she let him pass out the door. Once he was down the hallway a bit, she ran to the door and slammed it shut, locking it behind her.
“Are you okay?:” she asked. She stared at me as I giggled slightly. “Are you in shock? Should I slap you?”
That sobered me a bit and I shook my head.
“Marlene, you just met my dad.”
“Oh,” she said and guilt flooded her face. “I thought…”
“You were amazing. But what are you doing here? I thought you left?” She flopped back on the couch on the far side of the room and I walked over, sitting next to her.
“He was in the hallway when I left. He seemed to be waiting for me to leave and I was pretty sure he had a gun in his coat pocket when he took it off. I rounded the corner and then waited outside after he went in to make sure you were okay.”
I opened my mouth to say something and realized I had no idea what to say. Though she had been wrong about me being in danger, she had just rushed in to save my life armed with nothing but a close range spray and a phone against a gun.
“You didn’t have to do that,” I said quietly.
“I know,” she said emphatically. “But whether you like it or not, you’re my friend. And friends look out for each other. You’re stuck with me.” She crossed her arms and looked at me sternly, waiting to hear my disagreement.
I was pretty sure Harold didn’t have a single person who would have done the same for him.
“Partner and friend? That’s a lot, but I guess I can make it work.” I said with a small smile. Olive branches were pretty new to me but I must have done it right, because she shrieked and hugged me tightly.
“That doesn’t mean I take back what I did,” I said, detangling myself. “But I’ll let you know next time.
“I’ll take what I can get,” she said with a laugh. “Do you think you’re dad is gonna hate me now?” She bit her lip.
I laughed out loud. “That was probably the best first impression you could have given him.”