His Touch(12)By: Melinda Minx
Nadine is in her early forties, though she could pass for a few years younger. She has dark hair that would spill down to her shoulders—that is, if it wasn’t always tied up in a tight bun on top of her head. Her cheekbones are high and sharp, and her white skin is nearly flawless. There are some wrinkles starting to show, but on her they look well-earned. The signs of aging make her appear stronger.
She gives me a forced smile. Something has her worried, but I don’t feel like prying. We try to keep out of each other's personal lives.
I’ve never fucked her. I never even really considered it, to be honest. When I first met her, she was my brother Damon’s high school sweetheart. And then Damon died.
Nadine could have just left my family after that--she and Damon had only been dating for eight months or so--but she stuck with us--she acted like a member of the family. She felt like she’d been more than his girlfriend. I’m sure she’d have married him if he hadn’t driven his car off a bridge.
She faded from my life when she started college. She’d call me from time to time and check up on me--she’d started to feel like an older sister, but not that close. Sometimes she only called me once or twice a year. When she got pregnant, she stopped calling.
I heard from her again a few years after Celia’s dad was completely out of the picture, and Nadine was already rising up within Sencorp’s ranks.
I didn’t pass judgement on her for not raising her daughter. I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted to be stuck with a kid when I was in my early twenties.
I was mostly being a fuck-up around that time anyway. I barely passed high school, and I’d been working at a tattoo shop. Not even as an apprentice or anything, just cleaning toilets and helping at the counter. I saved up all my money, and I bought stolen shit from the Chinese and Greek mafia. I bought in bulk, and then sold it for a killing. It was all going well until I owed so much money that both the Chinese and the Greeks wanted to kill me.
Nadine bailed me out. She gave me a no-strings loan. She probably thought I’d just fuck up again, but I paid back my debts, re-invested, and once I had the money to go legit and get out of my life of crime, I did. I started my own company, and soon my wealth eclipsed Nadine’s. I paid her back in full, but I still feel like I owe her. I’d be dead if she hadn’t helped me when she did.
The court clerk is an older man with a deep frown. The frown gets even deeper when he looks at me.
“You’re sure about this, Ms. Haze?” he asks, ignoring me.
“Yes,” Nadine says. “Hunt, are you sure?”
I think of Elise in my bed, and how bad it could be for Nadine. This is my last chance to tell her. But if I tell her, she’s fucked anyway, isn’t she? Sencorp will go under without my help.
Nadine struggled for decades to rise up to the rank of CEO. She watched incompetent fucks above her squandering the company’s capital on half-baked ventures, and she still wasn’t in a high enough position to stop them. Only when things got really bad did they hold an emergency meeting to make her CEO. She finally got what she’d always wanted—instead of raising her daughter, she had sacrificed everything for her career —but it was a trap. The only reason they made her CEO was so that she could captain the sinking ship. So that she could be responsible for the failure that others had worked so long at creating.
If I don’t save her, no one will. It’s my one chance to pay her back for saving me.
“I’m sure,” I say.
“Sign here,” the clerk says.
We both sign.
“I don’t suppose you want to kiss,” he says, the frown nearly swallowing his face.
“No,” Nadine says.
“We’re done here then,” he says. “Don’t come to me if you change your mind, Ms. Haze.”
“Thanks for your concern, Dustin,” Nadine says.
“So…” I say. “I guess we’re married now.”
Nadine and I step outside the courthouse to share a cigarette in the cold air. Neither of us usually smokes, but this is one of those occasions that calls for one.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“You already told me you don’t give a shit, Hunt.”