Home > Kept (The Enforcers #3)(4)

Kept (The Enforcers #3)(4)
Author: Maya Banks

   His lips twitched in ironic amusement. It wasn’t lost on him that a similar thing had happened to Drake months ago when Evangeline had caught his attention the moment she’d entered his club and he’d seen her on the surveillance camera. The difference, however, was that Silas didn’t believe in love at first sight. Fascination, yes. Love, infatuation, even emotional interest, no.

   He couldn’t say why she’d intrigued him so much or why her obvious distress and desperation had touched a part of his black soul that had never once touched the sun in all the years of his existence. He could only say that the feeling was . . . exhilarating. A rush he hadn’t expected and hadn’t welcomed at all. And yet he had been unable to deny himself the opportunity to observe her unnoticed. He’d taken in every single detail. Her beauty hadn’t escaped him, but what had stopped him in his tracks and made him take intense notice was the innocence and obvious, inherent goodness that shone from the depths of her soul, despite her weary, exhausted expression and the defeated look tugging at the delicate features of her face.

   Perhaps he was just getting old and growing too soft, or maybe Evangeline was to blame for his instant keen sense of protectiveness when he’d laid eyes on the girl. No, not girl. A young woman, but hardly a girl. But it was easy to look at her and see Evangeline. Young, innocent and as of yet unjaded by life. For all practical purposes she had been Evangeline before Drake had swept into Evangeline’s life and spoiled her and lavished attention and focus on her.

   Hayley Winthrop was twenty-two years old according to the application, and she was a student at a music college he recognized. Small but prestigious. From what he knew, admittance was extremely competitive and only the brightest, most gifted musicians were accepted. He frowned, however, when he saw that she’d listed herself as a part-time student but that she had two full-time jobs as well as a variety of other temporary jobs. No wonder she’d been dismayed when Miles had given her the price of rent for the vacant studio apartment. She had no way of affording it.

   She listed no family. Not even an emergency contact person. Was she completely alone in a strange city? Much as Evangeline had been? He shook his head. Yes, it had to be the parallels between her and Evangeline that had touched a part of his heart he would have sworn hadn’t existed before meeting Evangeline. That was the only reasonable explanation.

   Men like him certainly didn’t give in to infatuation or even fascination, and they definitely didn’t disrupt plans to renovate the entire upstairs into one huge apartment that would be his private domain where no one save him had access.

   He sighed. It was done and there was no going back. He didn’t want neighbors. He’d never rented out the two apartments lying vacant on either side of the one he resided in, having always planned to remodel it into his quarters. But he couldn’t in good conscience rescind his offer to Hayley. Not when she was so obviously in need and had been so devastated when she’d realized she had no way of affording the usual rent. He could have simply had Miles inform Miss Winthrop that he’d misquoted the rent on the basement studio apartment, so she’d be as far from him as possible, but there were two problems with that. She would likely be suspicious over the drastic change in rent on the already-quoted unit, and, well, she wouldn’t be next door to him, where he could monitor her comings and goings, and he knew he would be keeping a very close eye on his new neighbor.

   He would just have to do so very discreetly.

   He checked his watch with a soft curse, knowing Drake would be wondering where the hell he was and impatient to go over the results of Silas’s task the night before. It wouldn’t do to keep him waiting any longer.

 

 

3

 


   Hayley sank further into the heated seat of the luxurious car as they sailed through traffic, and she smiled, unable to believe her good fortune. How fast things changed and how quickly she’d gone from desperation and resignation to excitement and optimism about her future.

   Tears glittered and clung to her eyelashes.

   I’m going to make it, Dad. Just like I promised. I’ve found a place I can afford to rent. I can continue school like you and Mom wanted. One day you’ll see me playing with a prestigious symphony. This is all for you, Dad. For all you sacrificed for me. I only wish you were here to see me the first time I play with a symphony.

   A fierce ache besieged her chest and she rubbed, blinking furiously to rid herself of the tears that burned her eyes. It was hard to accept that her biggest—only—supporter was gone. First her mom, whom she’d lost when she was but a child, but Hayley still clung to the fleeting memories she had of her mother. Every time she looked in the mirror she saw her mother’s face. As her father often fondly remarked, she was the picture of her mother.

   It was bad enough to lose one parent. Why did she have to lose both? The only two people she had in the world?

   She leaned forward in the seat when she saw that they were approaching the street where her current residence was located.

   “You can let me off at the corner,” she said to the driver, who hadn’t uttered a single word during the ride. “I’ll walk from there. It’s not far and the rain has stopped.”

   The man glanced in the rearview mirror, obviously staring intently at her, though she couldn’t see his eyes behind the shades he wore despite the overcast day.

   “I would feel better if I dropped you in front of your building,” the man said, surprising her with the firmness of his statement.

   Hayley smiled. “No, it’s okay, truly. I’d like to walk so I can clear my head. It’s been an eventful morning.”

   His lips tightened but he didn’t argue further as he pulled to the corner and glided to a halt. When she would have opened her door to duck out, he sent her a look of reprimand that froze her in her tracks. He got out and unhurriedly stepped around the car to open the passenger door not facing the street.

   She smiled at him again, ruefully this time, and offered her thanks, squeezing the hand he’d offered to help her out. To her shock, the staid, somber man’s lips turned into a semblance of a smile, only the corners slightly tipping up.

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