Rival Page 90

“Are you okay?” I asked, pulling back to get a good look at him.

His light brown hair was slicked back, and his face—usually clean shaven—was scruffy as hell with his usual patches of gray showing. He was wearing a black Armani suit, favoring the necktie like Jared and Madoc instead of the bowties everyone else wore.

“Fine.” He nodded, rubbing my arms. “Sorry that I worried you.”

I wanted to ask him questions, but I knew this wasn’t the time or place, and he generally didn’t tell me much, anyway. He trusted me, but I think he thought it was better that his daughter not know about his seedy business, as if I didn’t pick up things on my own anyway.

“Sir, I’m Madoc.” My husband reached his hand out. “In case you don’t remember.”

They had only met once, that I know of. But my father would definitely remember him. Especially after everything that had happened.

He hesitated only a moment and then took Madoc’s hand. “I remember. And I know everything.” His look was a warning. “This is the wrong place to talk about this, and there are things I want to say to both of you, but for now, I’ll just say this.” He narrowed his eyes on Madoc. “You are aware of the burden of this marriage, right?”

Madoc grinned down at me. “Fallon’s not a burden, sir.”

“I’m not talking about Fallon,” my dad shot out. “I’m talking about me. You do not want me as a pissed-off father-in-law. It would be safer for you if my child stays happy. Got it?”

Wow. Awkward.

“She’ll be happy,” Madoc asserted, looking my father in the eye.

I smiled at both of them. “I’m already happy.”

I could tell it was hard for my father. He’d barely had me growing up, always contending with my mother and his risky business. Neither let him be the dad he wanted to be, but those were his choices, and I wasn’t going to feel sorry for him. I loved him. But I chose Madoc. And I would choose Madoc forever.

“Congratulations.” My father kissed me on the cheek. “But please tell me you were married by a priest.”

Madoc snorted, and I told my father all about it as we walked to the table.

By the time we got there, we saw that everyone else was seated. Jared and Tate together, an empty seat for Jax next to Jared, then Katherine and Jason, followed by three empty seats for Madoc, my mother and me.

But there’s no way in hell she was sitting at this table, so I sat my father down, and Madoc and I took the two remaining seats.

I made introductions for my father to Tate, Jared, and Katherine. But Jason didn’t wait for me when it was his turn.

“Ciaran.” He nodded, placing a napkin in his lap.

“Jason,” my father responded.

And that was about as much as they talked. Jason defended guys like my father, but he didn’t necessarily want to be seen hobnobbing with them, either.

And he definitely feared for his son being attached to the Pierces.

I was loyal to my father, but I understood where Jason was coming from.

Waiters started coming out with trays of the first course, and everyone started relaxing more. Katherine and Jared were talking, probably still wondering where the hell Jax was, and Tate relayed to my father and me the story of how Madoc asked her to Homecoming senior year. With totally unromantic motives, I was assured.

If not, I may have had to stop their runs together.

The band hummed with a soft jazz tune, and since the appetizers were circulated while everyone socialized and danced, the seven-course meal started off by moving right into the soup. An excellent creamy white asparagus soup was served, and although it was good, I still couldn’t believe people paid ten thousand a plate to get in here tonight. Well, not per plate exactly. Per meal. But that’s high society charity, I guess.

“I hope everyone’s enjoying the evening.”

My mother came up behind us, and I warmed at the feel of Madoc’s hand at my back.

“Ciaran, Katherine,” she greeted. “Certainly not the crowd I anticipated this evening. You’ve got some nerve.”

I couldn’t see my mother. And I wasn’t going to look at her, either.

But I saw Katherine’s eyes widen and then drop. “That’s enough,” Jason intervened. “I notified you that I’d be bringing Katherine.”

“Your whore is sitting in my seat.”

Jared shot out of his chair, nearly knocking it over as it rocked on its legs. “If you don’t stand up and control that bitch,” he warned Madoc’s dad, “then I’m taking my mother out of here.”

Jason stood, trying to squelch the situation. “No one’s leaving. Patricia. You’re making a scene. Stop.”

“Stop? But I’m already out.” She crossed her arms, her small bag dangling from her wrist. “Why would I care about making a scene? In fact, I’m just getting started. I may lose this battle in court, but your slut will sink down into the mud in front of everyone. I haven’t even started.”

Just then, two cell phone ringers sounded, and everyone pulled their attention off Jason and Patricia.

Unsure whose phones were going off, everyone reached for theirs.

But then a few more ringers went off until we were all getting messages.

I heard Tate groan, “This can’t be good,” and I wondered what was going on.

Jason arched a brow at my mom before he paused their argument to check his phone as well.

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