Bonus Scene: Suspicion, a bonus Lainey scene for Savage Vandal
Congratulations on 1000 reviews for Savage Vandal. You guys are amazing! It seems kind of surreal that this is actually my fifth bonus scene for Savage Vandal, however, back when I did them for every hundred reviews, you guys were on fire! So we had to alter the trajectory to 200, 500, 1000—etc.
With that in mind, this is a very special bonus scene. It absolutely contains spoilers for later in the series, so I would suggest you don’t read it unless you’ve finished at least Ruthless Traitor.
But, you’re here and you love Vandals, so you’re all caught up, right? *winks*
Grandfather was late, but his secretary called thirty minutes earlier to let me know a meeting had run long. She offered to reschedule our lunch or I could wait for him. Honestly, I didn’t have anywhere else to be and I was very fond of the seared scallops and creamy spinach stuffed salmon in the perfect garlic butter that Jacques served.
I didn’t eat at the club that often, but it was my favorite when Grandfather and I were able to steal away. Without hesitation, I’d ordered them along with the honey roasted duck that my grandfather preferred. They wouldn’t bring the meal out until he arrived, in the meanwhile, I enjoyed the sparkling water and nibbled on the charcuterie they’d brought me out to tide me over.
The combination of cheeses, smoked meat, and nuts with different jellies and compotes definitely teased my palate. So much better than school food. With a sigh, I checked my watch. In all likelihood, Grandfather would be another—
The chair across from me moved abruptly and I glanced up to find Adam sliding into the seat.
“I’m sorry,” I said, keeping my voice even. “I’m saving that seat for a man I actually like.”
“Well, when your grandfather gets here, I’ll excuse myself.”
I did not roll my eyes. “You can do it now. I’m perfectly fine sitting here in this lovely establishment, drinking water and eating cheese.” Not to mention I hadn’t invited him nor was I interested in having this little tēte-á-tēte. “Thank you for your concern.”
“I’m not concerned,” he replied in a droll tone, but his attention wasn’t on me. The waiter approached but he didn’t give the man time to speak. “Schloss Reinhartshausen Erbacher Markobrunn Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Rheingau, 1959. Two glasses.”
“Right away, sir.” The waiter obeyed the crisp instruction just like most people in our lives obeyed Adam or his father. They spoke with a careless kind of ease. They expected to be obeyed. They didn’t throw their weight around or yell. Most of the time, they didn’t even have to raise their voices.
“What?” he asked as I continued to stare at him. The problem with Adam was he knew he was in control, he thrived on it, and everyone around us always rushed to obey him.
Everyone except me and maybe Ezra.
“Nothing,” I said, demurring from the fight. This was a chance to eat at my favorite spot with one of my favorite people. I would not let Adam spoil it for me. So, I opened my purse and pulled out my phone.
As social faux pas went, this was quite rude. However, he started it when he invited himself. His soft chuckle rankled but I refused to let that show. Instead, I checked my messages, then my email. Tally was on holiday with her latest conquest and she’d sent me photos from the slopes in St. Moritz.
There was only one photo of her with—oh, what was his name? He was just the latest in a string she’d collected since the beginning of the fall term. Since I somehow doubted he would make it much past the winter break, I didn’t worry about it.
Emersyn’s messages were quiet still. Nothing from her since she’d gotten to Braxton Harbor. There were only a few stops left on the tour, she couldn’t wait to be free. But she was going to take advantage of the break to rest and work on her routines.
Going quiet while she had performances wasn’t unusual, but I missed her. The waiter returned with the wine, he took the time to open the bottle and presented a taste to Adam before he filled the two glasses and set the bottle into the ice he’d brought for it.
As soon as he was gone, Adam moved the second wine glass to me.
“You know I’m not old enough,” I reminded him.
“No one is going to say a word to you, enjoy the wine. Your grandfather will probably not make lunch at all.”
I frowned. “Why would you say that?”
“Just drink the wine, Lainey. We’ll order your favorites. Then when we’re done, I’ll take you home.” The patience in his voice just roughed over me like sandpaper.
“Why do you think my grandfather isn’t going to make it?” I studied him. Adam’s attention still didn’t seem to be focused on me. It would be a mistake to think he missed anything. Still, I picked up the wine glass and shifted so I could follow his line of sight.
I almost wished I hadn’t. Turning, I found Adam’s cool, assessing eyes locked on me and seeing almost too much. Too bad I’d noticed Bradley Sharpe. The man made my skin crawl and Adam loathed him.
“I had no idea he would be here,” I said rather than ask why his presence irritated Adam.
“Of course not,” he said almost dismissively. “Drink your wine, Lainey. Have you ordered your salmon and scallops?”
“Have I mentioned how much I hate you?” Damn him, the wine was good. The first sip was crisp and swirled over my tongue like a good mystery on a cold night.
“Not recently,” he said, his tone damn near indulgent. “I’ve almost missed your acerbic wit. You keep hiding at school. Would it help your appetite to say something now?”
I snorted. I hadn’t been hiding at school, I’d simply elected to forgo coming back for the holidays. The last time Adam and I had any kind of a conversation—it had been not long after his mother’s funeral.
That sobered my reaction.
“No,” I answered before my phone began to vibrate with a mad number of messages. I wasn’t alone. Several patrons seated throughout the dining room were reaching for their phones. I’d barely silenced the buzzing when I spotted the first headline.
Missing Heiress Sought in Disappearance of Dance Partner
My stomach sank even as I clicked on the message to open the article. A glass smashed across the room and I shifted in my seat. Adam was already rising and he moved around to block me and my view.
“Where the hell is she?” Bradley Sharpe’s harsh, cold words were like little stabbing bits of ice burrowing into my flesh. A hail storm raining down too fast to escape the stings.
I rose, but kept my distance. Not that I needed to worry.
“Elaine has no idea, Mr. Sharpe,” Adam said in a tone that bordered on threatening. “I suggest you withdraw and mind your tone and manner when speaking to her.”
“I wasn’t speaking to you.” Flecks of spittle left his lips as he went to sidestep Adam, but Adam was having none of it and this whole scene had the riveted attention of the restaurant guests.
“You’re not speaking to her, either,” Adam cut him off and I took a step back to give Adam the room to stay between us. I wasn’t afraid of Bradley Sharpe. But I didn’t like him.
And I definitely didn’t trust him.
He pinned those pitiless, dark eyes on me. “Where is Emersyn? I know you won’t leave her alone. Where is she? What did you do?”
Honestly, I was at a loss.
“I told you,” Adam said, this time he gave Sharpe a hard shove back. “She doesn’t know. Come at her again or try to speak to her again—”
Bradley threw a fist. Adam let him.
He. Let. Him.
Adam’s head rocked to the side. It was more of a slap than a punch, but the fist he returned knocked Bradley Sharpe down on his ass and I caught his arm before he could continue the assault.
The manager, the waiters, and even security were converging on us.
“Mr. Sharpe is clearly disturbed,” Adam said in that same superior tone. The muscles of his arm flexed under my grip, but he didn’t pull away. “Please escort him to his vehicle and away from here.”
“Of course, Mr. Reed.”
“Right away, Mr. Reed.”
Then in a matter of moments, the scene was over—Sharpe was gone, the other guests returned to their conversation and Adam turned his hand over under mine.
“Now,” he said, the calm so depthless it was eerie. “Let’s have our wine and order your food. Then if you want to tell me anything about Emersyn, we’ll take care of her.”
Tell him anything?
I swore my heart crumbled as I shook my head. “I really don’t know.”
It wasn’t until he helped me back into my seat and took his own that I saw something in his eyes that disturbed me to my soul.
It was pity, not suspicion.
That made me reopen the article.
Emersyn Sharpe was missing and my heart sank all over again.