Darius didn’t yet see that her family’s scandal wasn’t something he could master or control. That was why he’d been so angry that she’d protected him ten years ago with her silence. He still somehow thought, if he’d known the truth back then, he could have prevented disaster.
She looked up through the window, seeing flashes of blue sky between the skyscrapers like a strobe light. Darius would get a dose of reality today. He’d discover how toxic the Spencer name was, even now. It had been even worse at the time of her father’s arrest and trial, when reporters and angry, tomato-throwing hecklers had camped outside her father’s pied-à-terre on Central Park West!
Let Darius get just a glimpse of what he would have been up against if she’d actually followed her heart and married him ten years ago instead of setting him free. He didn’t appreciate the way she’d tried to protect him? Fine. Still staring out the window, she wiped her eyes hard. Let him just see.
The rain had stopped. The sky was blue and bright on the first of September. As they drove through Manhattan, puddle-dotted sidewalks were full of gawking tourists, standing still like islands as a current of New Yorkers rushed past them, coming up from the subway, hurrying back to work after lunch.
When their car stopped at a red light, Letty glanced at a fancy chauffeured town car stopped beside them. In the backseat, she saw a man speaking angrily into his phone and staring at a computer tablet, totally wrapped in his own bubble. Rich people lived in a separate world. Letty hadn’t fully realized that.
Not until she’d fallen out of it.
After her father’s confession that awful night long ago, after she’d tried her best to protect Darius and his father by getting them away from the manor, she’d begged Howard to go to the police and throw himself on their mercy.
He’d loved her, so a few months later he’d done it.
The police and Feds had descended on him like the hard-case criminal they believed him to be. Within six months, he was in prison on a nine-year sentence.
Letty had tried to remain in one of the exclusive small towns on Long Island near Fairholme. But it proved impossible. Too many people recognized her and didn’t hesitate to yell or even—more than once—physically take the few dollars in her wallet, saying her father owed them. Manhattan had been even worse, and anyway was way out of her price range. So she’d moved to a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn where she could be anonymous. No one bothered her. Mostly, people were kind.
But without money or family or friends, Letty had learned the hard way what it meant to struggle and always have too much month at the end of her paycheck.
No one likes self-pity. Help someone else, baby. Letty could almost hear the whisper of her mother’s voice, so kind, so warm, so loving. Almost see her mother’s eyes glowing with love. The best way to feel better when you’re sad is to help someone who’s hurting more.
Taking a deep breath, Letty turned to Darius in the sports car. “So tell me about your charity, the one benefiting from the Fall Ball tonight.”
Driving, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “It provides college scholarships for foster kids.”
“Nice,” she said, surprised. “But I never pegged you as the society-ball-hosting type.”
He shrugged. “I have the time. Might as well use it.”
“You could just waste your days dating beautiful women and spending your obscene amounts of money.”
He pulled his car to a curb where a valet waited. “That’s exactly what I plan to do today.”
“You’re going on a date?” Then she saw his look and realized he meant her. She blushed. “Oh.”
The door opened, and Letty stepped out onto Fifth Avenue, which was lined with exclusive designer shops from famous international brands to quirky boutiques less well-known but every bit as expensive. The last time she’d shopped on this street she’d been a pampered seventeen-year-old looking for a white dress for the graduation ceremony at her private school, Miss Parker’s. She hadn’t fit into society, even then. She’d been too bookish, too tenderhearted, too socially awkward.
But now Letty was actually scared. She glanced at the people coming out of an exclusive department store, almost expecting one of them to tell her to get lost, that she no longer belonged here.
“Which shop first?” Darius asked, his dark eyes smiling.
“I changed my mind,” she muttered. “I don’t want to go.”
The smile disappeared. “Too late for that.”
Ignoring her protests, he grabbed her hand. Letty tried not to notice the sizzle of electricity from their touching palms as he pulled her into a famous luxury store.
As soon as they passed the doorman into the store’s foyer, a salesgirl came up to them, offering a tray of champagne. “Monsieur?”
He took a glass. “Thank you.”
Noting Letty’s pregnant belly, the salesgirl didn’t offer champagne. “And for madame? Some sparkling water, perhaps, some juice of pamplemousse?”