"Yes, sir. I'd be glad to fix you a nightcap before I leave, sir. I really think you'd better have something to settle yourself."
"Aaah!" Galt growled. "I'm too old to need a mother, Chester. You carry that.44 of yours?"
"You wearing it now?"
"In the house, sir?"
"Yes, damn it! From now on! In the house and everywhere – even to bed with you, and my apologies to Christine." There was the sound of her grandfather's hand clapping firmly and affectionately onto Chester's massive, muscle bound shoulder, and then his voice was entirely at ease and robust. "I'll have that drink, now. You worry about me too damn much, Chester. A good blow now and then does me good. Without my dear wife any more, I've got to blow it off one way or another, don't I?" he chuckled.
"I wouldn't argue with that, sir," Chester said, his tone indicating there was a big grin spreading over his face.
Monica heard their steps fade toward the den. She let out her breath slowly. Her mind reeled. Even her legs didn't work right as she went back to her bed and sat on the edge in the darkness.
This time, the pieces did fit. She didn't know whether to feel enlightened or perfectly outraged. It was clear that every move she and Whit made was known to their grandfather.
Every friend was checked. Even the parents of their friends. And when Chester or Louis drove them somewhere, they were more than just drivers or chaperones. They were armed bodyguards!
God, it was incredible! It shook her to the core and made her shiver and hug her breasts tightly. Did Whit know all this? Is this what he'd been keeping from her?
She made a face of revulsion and shuddered. She'd had no idea her grandfather was that kind of man – running their father off, paying him to stay away from his own children!
Monica just barely remembered her father. She drew forth the image of a stocky man with broad features and dark hair. A man with a startlingly handsome smile and a smooth voice he used to sing her to sleep with when he sat beside her bed in the darkness.
She'd loved him. She'd been only a small girl.
She hadn't understood why he'd left, why she and Whit and their mother had moved in with Grampa, why her last name had been changed to Sanderhoff.
It began to make sense now. The restrictions and close guard made sense, too. If her mother had been kidnapped and ransomed and murdered, then she could understand why her grandfather had kept her and Whit isolated from the outside world.
She understood that he was trying to protect them, and the feeling of revulsion left. She shivered again. The possessiveness in her grandfather's voice when he'd said it was going to happen again was scary now.
"Oh, Burke…" she cried softly.
Not Burke! He couldn't be part of anything like that!
She sprang from the bed. She had to talk to Whit. She had to talk to somebody!
She started out her door. She heard Chester and her grandfather still talking, their voices coming from the den. She could just see Chester's white-coated back in the doorway.
She closed her door silently and hurried to the French doors leading to the outside balcony. She could go down it and make the short jump over to her brother's balcony and go into his room without any chance of being seen.
She looked over the railing at the terrace below, one story down. She climbed lithely over the wrought railing and stood on the foot-wide edge of her bedroom balcony and looked straight ahead. She'd done it before. Years ago, when she'd met Whit's dare to follow him. Still, she licked her lips and felt them suddenly dry.