Trials and Tiaras (Untouchable #7) by Heather Long




Chapter One





Living with Lies





Archie



As soon as the car came to a halt, I slid over and opened the door without waiting for the driver. Jake exhaled as he followed me. I’d told him he didn’t have to come with, but he’d just glared at me. Two plane tickets later, we were on our way to New York. With both of us gone, that left Bubba and Coop to keep an eye on Frankie.

My heart fisted as I headed for the main doors. I couldn’t focus on Frankie too closely right now. My temper was still on edge, and if Bubba and Jake hadn’t sat on me, I’d probably be in jail for murder. I had a plan. I just needed to stick with it.

Phillip, the doorman, gave me a nod as he opened the doors to let us in out of the frigid February air. Instead of spending Valentine’s weekend with our girl, we were here in New York on a Sunday morning to track down my mother. Inside, I pulled a keycard out of my pocket and swiped it at the elevator before pressing the call button.

Jake let out a low whistle as the doors slid open to reveal a comfortably appointed elevator where no expense had been spared to make it appear as opulent as the building it served in. Inside, I pressed the penthouse button, then ran my swipe card again and entered the code. Only then did the doors close.

“You didn’t have to come,” I reminded him.

Arms folded, Jake shot me a smirk. “Fuck off.”

“Right. So what?”

“Nothing, just forget how much money your family has sometimes.”

“Good,” I said. “I don’t want to be known for the money.”

“But you’re more than willing to use it.”

I shrugged. “It’s an asset. Right now, it’s a powerful one we have to protect her. You really complaining?”

“Fuck no,” Jake said. “Just makes me think about our plans and I’m glad you’re on my side.”

I nodded. “Ditto.”

Then the elevator doors opened to the penthouse. Express access never took long. The interior was lit from all the windows facing out over the city. Unsurprisingly, a butler greeted us.

“Mrs. Standish is still in her room, Mr. Standish…”

“Is she alone?”

“Sir?”

“Is she alone or does she have a guest over?”

“I’m afraid I couldn’t—”

“That’s fine, I know where it is,” I said, waving him off. Whatever, if she had someone in there, Jake would help me throw him out so I could talk to her. “You should probably make coffee and get the vodka out if she needs a shot after this conversation.”

Across the living room to one of the halls tucked just out of sight, I followed it to the master suite. I knocked twice and then gripped the handle. Deep breath. It would hardly be the first time I walked in one of their dalliances.

It was how I’d figured out the Maddy equation in the first place. Not that they’d seen me.

The interior of the master was much darker, with only one window offering partial light through the drapes. Jake paused at the doorway.

“Archibald,” Muriel said with an aggrieved sigh. “What is so urgent you can’t even wait a polite fifteen minutes for me to make myself presentable?”

Robe on with her hair already coiffed, she held her phone in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

“This isn’t a social call, Muriel, and I couldn’t care less if you are presentable.”

“Don’t take that tone with me,” she began, and I sliced a hand through the air to cut her off.

“Not in the mood, Muriel. We need to talk, and I have questions. You’re going to answer them.”

She arched a plucked eyebrow. “And if I refuse?”

“I can make life very unpleasant for you. I’m sure you want those accounts to stay accessible, but since they are part of a larger Standish estate funding, I can redirect that entirely or tie it up in enough paperwork, you’ll have to jump through hoops to order a cup of coffee.”

I’d come prepared.

She lowered her cup and eyed me. “You’re serious.”

“Yes, Muriel, contrary to your opinion, I’m quite often serious. But right now, what I want are answers and you have them. So the only thing you need to decide is whether we’re doing it in here or out there.”

“Let me get my coat and my shoes.”

With that, she turned back into her closet, and I walked out to the hall to wait with Jake.