Mari snuck what felt like her fiftieth look at Tyler as he drove toward the Drake estate. He was subdued, his jaw set and eyes hard just as they’d been that night on the beach and then again with Sam. This time she had no clue what caused it and it unnerved her. He’d already been in his mood when he picked her up from work ten minutes ago. Unbidden, her father and Gage’s concerns about him came to mind.
“Tyler,” she probed gently.
“Yeah?” Short and terse.
She hesitated but pushed on. “Is everything okay?”
He blew out a sharp breath. “Yeah, honey. Everything’s good.”
She didn’t call him on the blatant lie. Obviously something was wrong, but she didn’t push him further. She couldn’t hide a sigh of relief when he pulled up in front of the guesthouse and turned off the truck. For a moment she’d worried he would leave. He stroked a hand over her hair before cupping her neck.
“Let’s get you inside.”
She gave him a weak smile and climbed out of the truck.
“Give me a minute to change and we can go down to the beach. Sound good?” she asked over her shoulder as she unlocked the door and pushed inside.
He nodded and dropped down on the bed, kicking his feet up as she pulled her bathing suit and a pair of shorts from her dresser. She paused in the door of the bathroom to look him over. He was relaxed in the bed, even smiled at her, but there was still something wrong. She smiled back and shut the door behind her.
She took her time stripping out of her clothes. Something was eating at Tyler and she wanted him to share that weight with her like he always encouraged her to do with him. She just wasn’t sure how to coax him into it. Usually he shared so easily.
As she dressed she remembered the night they talked about Sam and how he’d let her in when she teased him. A smile curved her lip as she tied the strings of her bikini top and settled on her strategy. She unholstered her gun to put away and swung the bathroom door open.
She stopped there in the threshold, a frown marring her features. Tyler moved fast, but not fast enough to hide the light of the laptop screen before it went black. She didn’t mind if he used her laptop, but that he tried to hide whatever he was doing immediately raised her suspicions. Her cell phone wasn’t where she left it either. He knew the passcodes, she was sure. They’d been together long enough and she never tried to hide them from him.
Raoul, Todd, and Gage’s words all echoed in her head. They all tried to warn her in their own ways. What would Tyler need with her computer and phone?
He looked up at her and smiled from the chair he relaxed in. She loved that crooked smile, the way his lips quirked up in lazy pleasure. She had a sinking feeling it wasn’t genuine and it wasn’t really for her. Whatever Tyler wanted, it wasn’t her.
“You ready to hit the beach?” he asked pushing up from the desk and coming toward her.
She forced a small smile and let him wrap his arms around her waist. She automatically slid her arms around his back return. It was natural, easy. Everything always was with him, maybe too much so. Why hadn’t she seen that when the others had?
Because she couldn’t imagine having anything he thought he had to seduce her to get.
“What is it?” he asked quietly.
His thumb caressed her lower back as she continued to turn the question over in her mind. Maybe he worked for another touring business looking to expand into Sakina. Something in her ached to believe otherwise, but she wouldn’t turn a blind eye to the red flags. He unsettled the three most important men in her life. She’d seen the hard glint in his eyes on more than one occasion. She knew the way she left her things. She wouldn’t live a lie, no matter how tempting that lie was. She sighed and cupped his face with her free hand as the other tightened on her gun just behind his back.
“Is there a reason you’ve been going through my things, Tyler? Uh uh. Please don’t move.”
“What makes you think I’ve been going through your things, sweetheart?”
“I don’t think. I know. You’ve got one minute to explain before I decide I don’t care and ask you to leave.”
They locked eyes in silence. She felt his abrupt turn moments before he tried it and drew back, instinctively raising the gun and aiming it at him as her heart began to race. For the first time since she met him, she feared Tyler Ross.
“Tyler, please don’t.”
How had it come to this? This was the man who held her in his arms at the end of a long night, teased her, made her laugh, and kissed her senseless. She adored this man. Yet, here they stood with her gun between them.
“You ever use that on a person before?”
“You want to find out how well I shoot at close range?”
They stared each other down until Tyler raked a hand over his hair. “Put the gun down, Mari.”
She wanted to. More than that, she wanted to start the whole night over. She wanted to spend an extra minute in the bathroom and miss the signs that said Tyler wanted something from her other than her company. She couldn’t. The only thing she could do, would do, was face this head on.
She wanted to chuck something at his head. He stood there looking like the same man who picked her up from work and greeted her with the sweetest kisses while simultaneously putting her on edge. What was going on?
“Why are you looking through my things? I won’t ask again.”
His eyes searched her face until he sighed and sat down on the bed.
“What I tell you can’t leave this room.”
“I’ll decide that. Start talking.”
“It doesn’t leave this room.”
There was the security face again. Whatever he was about to reveal she had a feeling it wasn’t as simple as a rival touring business conspiracy and she suddenly wished it were.
“The men on this island will tear you apart if Raoul or Gage don’t get to you first. I decide what leaves this room and what doesn’t. Now start talking.”
“Raoul Drake is not your father.”
“He’s the only father I acknowledge.”
“Your biological father is Blake Mason.”
She stilled. No one knew who her biological father was. It was a secret Miranda Drake kept from her and Raoul, ultimately taking it with her in death. There was no way Tyler could know the truth when they didn’t.
“And what makes you think that?”
“I don’t think. I know,’” he echoed her earlier words and stared her squarely in the eye. “And I know because I’m here to get access to him when he comes for you.”