More Than Want You by Shayla Black

  He scowls at me—nothing new—as he barges inside, dragging a huge suitcase on wheels behind him. His overstuffed briefcase dangles from one big hand. “Took you long enough. What are you doing, jacking off?”

  “No. Nothing you’d care about. Welcome to Maui. This is unexpected. Does your sudden visit have something to do with Mom leaving?”

  “Your mother, that ungrateful bitch,” he huffs, then plops himself on the couch. “I fed, clothed, and supported her for thirty-five years. I bought her a lavish house, took her on extravagant vacations all over the world, gave her designer everything. She had two responsibilities. Two. Throw good parties—something she’s never managed without a caterer—and to give me a good-looking family for corporate Christmas cards. You and Griff were exactly what I had in mind, but she had to get knocked up a third time.”

  I want to butt in that it takes two to conceive, but clearly he thinks the responsibility for not getting pregnant rested solely on my mother, never mind that he’s both the aggressor and the one with the sperm. What a dick.

  He hasn’t changed a bit.

  “But fine. Whatever.” Dad tosses a hand in the air. “Harlow was a cute kid. Her fucking wedding is going to cost me a fortune. But Linda couldn’t even manage to raise you kids while I worked my ass off without constantly wanting my input or for me to straighten you boys out. How fucking hard is it to change a few diapers and drive someone to soccer practice?”

  My father gives me a disgusted sneer. I can’t imagine why I’m stunned. He’s never hidden the fact that he wants nothing to do with his kids. Playing the family man gave him good corporate optics at a time that shit mattered. He’s good at his job. Great, even. He should be since he’s a workaholic. He has no friends and doesn’t value his family. With every passing year, he’s grown more cynical and bitter.

  I can’t stand him.

  Even as I’m staring at him, thinking what a grade-A asshole he is and that I shouldn’t let him upset me, the fact that I was nothing more to him than a clean-cut face on a card sent to his associates once a year cuts me deep. Maybe it bothers me so much now because I’m already agitated by the kiss Keeley shared with Griff. I’m fucking bleeding inside at the thought. I don’t need my father’s attitude right now.

  “Have you gone mute?” my father hisses, then rakes a hand through his hair. “Jesus, I gave you good genes to work with. Your mother was a beauty queen with half a brain. I’m a self-made billionaire. What’s your problem?”

  “It’s just been a long day and I wasn’t expecting you,” I bite out. “So Mom has never been all you want her to be and…what else?”

  “She left me. Me. Are you fucking kidding? What did I not give that bitch? My thirty-five best years, a fortune—”

  “You didn’t give her love,” I cut in, vaguely aware that I’m sounding like Keeley. Then I swallow because I know Dad won’t understand a word I’ve just said. The shit is about to hit the fan.

  “Oh, boo hoo. I knew I shouldn’t have left you here when I moved back to San Diego. Apparently, you’ve grown a vagina since then. You know love is all greeting-card crap.”

  Yes, I’ve known how he felt my whole life.

  “Linda knows that, too. Love was never part of our deal.”

  That throws me for a loop. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he approached marriage like a business agreement. Somehow it kinda does.

  “So Mom has finally decided to leave you? Why do you care?”

  I don’t know why I’m trying to understand. Dad will cut off her access to all other funds, and within a few weeks she’ll most likely come home. This drama played out when I was four, again when I was eight, and for a final time at fifteen. Since then, their marriage has seemed steadier, though not necessarily happier. But after they came through three incidents in roughly ten years, I’d hoped the last eighteen years without separation meant something.

  Obviously not.

  “I care because it looks bad! She claims that she’s fallen in love with Marco, some asswipe she met on a dating site for the over-fifty crowd. He likes old movies, antiquing, and wine weekends.” My father rolls his eyes. “What kind of pussy does that sound like?”

  The explanation that all people are different and each have various likes and dislikes will only be lost on him. I know from experience, so I don’t waste my breath. But Dad’s explanation still manages to shock me.

  “Mom is dating someone else?”

  “Yeah. She says she’s moving in with him. Apparently she’s been seeing this bastard for almost a year. And fucking him that long, too.”

  Good for her, finally getting some on the side. “Did her decision have anything to do with you finding another new mistress?”

  “I suppose.” He slumps down on the sofa, almost pouting like an overgrown kid. “I never hid them. Your mother and I had an understanding. I pulled her out of her dirt-poor farming town in Nebraska, and she performed the two wifely duties I outlined. She never liked sex much, so our arrangement worked. She lost her mind when I told her that Amanda was pregnant.”


  “My most recent mistress.” He sighs. “She’s due in April. I’m too fucking old to be a father again.”

  My world has just tilted on its axis. Now I have to sit down, too. “How old is this woman?”

  He doesn’t meet my gaze. “Twenty-five.”

  I hate to be judgmental…but I’m grossed out. I never imagined that my old man gave up his mistresses, but I’d hoped that they had somewhat aged with him. “She’s Harlow’s age.”

  “I don’t think about it like that. Amanda looks fucking hot in Victoria’s Secret. Or she did.”

  Now I’m even more grossed out. “How did you not take precautions to ensure that Amanda didn’t get pregnant?”

  “She said she was on the pill. Hell, I’ve seen her prescription since I spent half my nights at her apartment in the city.”

  “You could have gotten a vasectomy years ago. You should have if you didn’t want more kids.”

  He rears back and stares at me like I’m stupid. I know that look well since I’ve seen it all my life. I actually know what he’s going to say before he even opens his mouth.

  “No one is cutting off my balls. Besides, Amanda conceiving was a fluke. She seemed equally mortified when the doctor confirmed that she was knocked up. But she refused to have a damn abortion, even when I offered to pay for it.” He waves his hands at me. “Before you unleash whatever blah blah bullshit I see all over your face, she and I are over now.” He shudders. “Never could stand fucking a pregnant woman. Big bellies and leaking tits… Ugh.”

  I try not to roll my eyes. The universe has always revolved around him—at least in his mind. Why shouldn’t a woman growing another human being in her womb keep her pre-pregnancy shape for dear old Dad?

  “So, you two broke up. Has she asked you for child support?”

  “You know she has.” He sounds cynical and pissed off. “I’ll be DNA testing that kid the minute he pops out—it’s another boy. If he’s not mine, I’m going to rip Amanda a new asshole.”

  Because that’s what every new mother needs. Why can’t he just thank his lucky stars and move on since he doesn’t want the baby, anyway?

  I shake my head at him because I really don’t know what to say. “And if it is yours, now you’ll have four kids.”

  “Six,” he grumbles.

  “What?” I stare at him like I don’t even know who he is. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t be shocked but I can’t seem to help it. “I have two other half-siblings?”

  Dad hems and haws and does his best impression of a bobblehead while stalling. Finally, he sighs. “I have a daughter named Bethany who’s six months younger than Griff. Evan, my other son, was born three days before Harlow. Both kids have different mothers. But I’ve paid for everything—”

  “So what? They grew up without a father. God, you’re a selfish bastard. Forking over some cash doesn’t excuse you from bei
ng an absent parent. You had a responsibility to those kids.” And to the ones my mother gave him.

  When I stare at him, he’s wearing his I-don’t-give-a-fuck expression. “A father’s responsibility is to provide. I think I’ve done that handsomely. What good would I have done by being a more involved father?”

  Actually, he’s right. He would only have warped us kids more. Mom was unhappy and worn down by life, but she at least tried to be kind and occasionally affectionate. Dad made her too brittle to love us, I think. She tried her best, but he mentally belittled her and beat her down, just like he has everyone else in his life.

  I, too, know exactly what it’s like to feel small and inconsequential after a chat with him. In fact, I feel like that after virtually every conversation we share.

  “So what’s your next move?” I ask. “Are you actually getting divorced this time?”

  He raises a brow. “I hear she’s trying to serve me with papers. I am not giving that bitch fifty percent of everything I’ve broken my back to earn. She took half the money in our checking account. Fine. It’s a pittance. But my portfolio is substantial. I’m not giving her a penny of that.”

  Mom deserves it. Hazard pay for putting up with him for so many years—the mental abuse, the infidelity, the single parenting and corporate bullshit. But I’m keeping my opinion to myself. It’s not worth the argument. He’s not worth it. I can’t change the fact that this small-minded, bitter man is my father. He’s right that he gave me life and one hell of an expensive education. But I learned by his example, and I’m not proud of it. He also gave me anger and baggage and years of misplaced indifference toward most everyone around me.

  “How are you going to avoid that? You can’t sidestep being served until Mom can claim abandonment. You’re talking years. You’ve never been able to stay away from the office for more than seven days.”

  “I’m still working on that. Right now, I’m taking a vacation while I sort out all the legal stuff. I’m talking to a cutthroat lawyer who can ream your mother a new asshole before we ever make it to court.”

  “What leg do you have to stand on?” I ask before I can think better of it. I’m outraged on Mom’s behalf.

  But as soon as I’ve spoken the words, I know the dragon I’ve tried to slay for years is going to turn all his fire on me.

  “Oh, because I’m the philandering prick? Because I wasn’t ‘sensitive’ and didn’t let her carry my balls in her purse? I provided for her, gave her identity and community. She was someone because she was married to me. I bought her diamonds in Paris. I made sure she became PTA president when she wanted to run. I never missed a birthday, holiday, or special occasion. You think the courts are going to punish me because I don’t believe in love?” He scoffed as if he found that laughable. “Your mother knew exactly who she was marrying when she said, ‘I do.’ She told me she would do anything to ensure she didn’t have to go back to Halsey, Nebraska, population 144, the day I met her. She was Miss Blaine County and had earned a scholarship because of it, so she’d managed to get as far as the university in Lincoln, but that wasn’t far enough from home for her. She wanted to move somewhere warm and never worry about money again. I gave that to her. She swore she’d never care who I fucked and vowed never to divorce me. In the last few months, she’s gone back on her word in every way, while I’ve lived up to every promise I ever made her. And you think I’m the bad guy here? Fuck, you’ve turned into a whiny little bitch, like I always said you would.” He stands and reaches for his suitcase. “I’m going to your brother’s. He’s got more steel in his spine. That’s why you always played first loser to his winner.” He claps me on the shoulder. “Until you pull your head out of your ass and be a man, you always will.”

  I want to scream at him that I’m not a loser, but I bite the knee-jerk defense back. Instead, I hit him with something he’ll understand and respect. “Fuck you. I’m the number one real estate agent on Maui, thank you very much. I’ve earned that. Griff has been chasing my tail for the last three years.”

  My dad shrugs. “Call me when you’ve made your first hundred million. Then I might be impressed. But I know you, Maxon. You lose to him every fucking time because you lack the killer instinct. Your mother coddled you too much as a kid, until I told her to stop ruining you. By then, it was too late. I even tried pitting you two boys against each other in the hopes that you’d grow some real balls. But only Griff’s got bigger because you didn’t accept that even your brother can be your enemy. Instead, you rolled over and showed him your vulnerable belly and tried to make him your friend.” He shakes his head like he’s utterly disgusted at me. “Dumb ass. What a waste. I’m going to go stay with the winner. Does Griff still live in the same place?”

  I can barely digest all the ugliness in his speech. Worse, I know this is Dad’s version of truth. He really believes everything he’s saying. Mom is ungrateful because he did her one decent favor when she was nineteen. Never mind the ensuing thirty-five years of terrible. He really doesn’t understand why she’s no longer kissing his loafers. Just like he doesn’t understand that Griff and I never wanted to be at each other’s throats. My brother was simply better at hiding it, and half the time I let him win so that Dad wouldn’t berate him and tear him down. I could tell my father that, but he’d only respect me less, and he’s settled on a reality that works in his head. I’ll never change it.

  “I don’t know, Dad. Griff and I haven’t spoken since a few months after you moved away.”

  “Did you argue about a deal or a girl?”

  Does it even matter? “Both.”

  “It’s too late to tell you to wrestle that deal to the ground and hump it into submission, I’m sure. But fighting over a woman… Tiffanii?”

  I have no idea why he wants to know. “Yeah.”

  My father shrugs. “She might have been good in bed but she wasn’t worth losing a deal. Get your fucking priorities straight.”

  I feel as if an elephant stepped on my chest. I can’t breathe. “You slept with her?”

  “It was easy.” He says the words as if any idiot would have logically made the same choice. “Girls like it when you flash cash and give them attention. She was more than happy to put out in return. Don’t look at me like I just took away your toy. I didn’t think you’d care. After all, I was willing to share my mistress with you when you turned sixteen.”

  God, I’d blocked that out. When Dad summoned me to his office right after I’d gotten my driver’s license, I’d hoped it was because he wanted to congratulate me, maybe finally tell me he was proud. No, he just wanted to introduce me to Danielle, his latest assistant/fuck doll. He told me that she was going to make me a man. The whole thing was both tempting and skeevy. I tore out of there, heading straight home.

  “You were a pussy even then,” he barks. “When Danielle dropped her dress, you nearly pissed your pants, then ran home to Mommy. My father got me laid at fourteen, and I was damn grateful. So was your brother when I gave him your same opportunity with AnnaBeth a few years later. He was far smarter than you. I think he even came back for seconds when he thought I wasn’t looking. He’s always had the killer instinct. I don’t know how the fuck I went wrong with you.”

  I can’t take any more. This whole day has been too much. Rob and Britta both threatening to quit. Then Keeley disappearing for hours…only to find out she’s kissed Griff. Hearing that it’s not a big deal to her if she has sex with my brother. And now my father dropping all his shit in my lap and making me feel like an inadequate boy all over again. Worst of all, Keeley is just on the other side of her bedroom door, no doubt hearing one of the most terrible, demeaning conversations of my life. Seen through the filter of my father’s eyes, he’s still trying to man me up. But through Keeley’s lens, she knows just how tainted my soul is and why. She probably has no problem understanding the reason I was all business and bravado when she met me. And now she knows for certain that I’m not redeemable.

  It’s killing
me to know that she’ll never look at me again the same way.

  At the thought, every joint aches and every bone feels as if it’s about to break. But I can’t look at this hateful bastard for another second.

  I pick up his suitcase and walk it to the door. “Get the fuck out.”

  He stands slowly, laughing. “Look at you, suddenly all defiant. It only took you thirty-three years, Maxon. But that doesn’t change anything.” He hoists his briefcase onto his shoulder and meanders to the door, gripping his suitcase as I open the portal. “You’re still a loser, and you’re always going to be one, especially where your brother is concerned.”

  “And you’re always going to be an asshole, you miserable bastard. You’re going to die alone, old and bitter, knowing that no one cares about you. And I’m going to cheer because we’ll all finally be free from your toxic cloud. I hope to fuck you’ve learned something by then. But you’re so stupidly self-important I’m not counting on it.”

  I slam the door in his face and throw the latch. Finally, he’s out of my life, and I should be happy. Right now, I just feel exhausted and turned inside out.

  I lean my forehead against the door and drag in labored breaths. I know I have to turn and face Keeley, who will be emerging from the bedroom any second… But I can’t catch my breath. My heart races. My fingers are tingling again. I can’t hold myself together.

  I’m so fucking angry he unloaded on me, that I still feel like a kid again after being verbally whipped by the old bastard and his slurs, that Keeley will know me at my absolute weakest and worst.

  No. No! Fucking no!

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