The friend of my friend
She did not. Deciding to be direct in a situation that would no doubt be anything but, he said, "Why are you here Camilla?"
As he expected, Will followed his lead but with a good deal more emotion. "What are you talking about? Who told you my dad's selling Hitman?"
She leaned forward. If Will was distracted he didn't show it and he probably was not. She claimed his father was being threatened. He would pay little attention to Camilla's breasts.
"They're not selling it because they feel like selling it. Gemma Wilson is blackmailing them she wants half the studio, she wants Slim's half and that's why both of you are here."
He glanced at Rayne who looked stricken and tired and she held his gaze as if asking for help. Whatever she needed from him, he would provide it. She was cold, he could at least help with that. "It is chilly by the door," he told her. "Stand nearer the fire cara."
Will sat down, stared at her, turned around and looked up at Duff. "She's talking about this woman blackmailing my father. That requires a lot more discussion beyond drawing up papers and signing them. I need details, don't you? Regardless of what's happening tomorrow, we need to have a conversation."
Duff looked at Camilla who was for some reason contemplating the floor or more likely her shoes. "Camilla, you will explain clearly, no one here wants to listen to something incomprehensible for an hour. Get on with it."
Camilla sat uncharacteristically silent before leveling her gaze on Rayne. "Maybe I didn't make myself clear or maybe you've decided it doesn't matter what I said but I do not want you here. You have nothing to offer and I don't want to bother with the complaining and arguing and questioning. Duff can you take care of this please?"
It was an incredibly presumptuous and insulting request. Rayne had every right to sit or stand anywhere she pleased. She was not a dog scratching at Camilla's legs. He drew a deep breath, trying to control his anger, and turned and looked at Rayne. Her expression was blank. He did not want to accommodate Camilla on this, was furious that she asked, but Rayne's feelings came before his own. He would leave the decision to Rayne.
"If this is about my father, I should know what's going on. I have to know Duff. Please don't send me away." Rayne lowered her gaze, her body still, quiet.
That small gesture, Duff knew, was monumentally difficult for her. When it came to her family, no one was fiercer than Rayne. Softly he murmured, "I'll allow it but cara, you must promise to sit quietly and we will discuss everything later. I do not know what she's doing. I do not want you hurt by her outbursts."
Her mouth curved in the tiniest of smiles as she fleetingly looked at Camilla before dropping her gaze demurely. They'd come so far in such a short amount of time and Duff was immensely proud of her. He'd reward her for her acquiescence later.
"Thank you Duff." Rayne gently smoothed the front of his shirt and stepped back.
Mindful of Will, trying to be careful, Duff swung his attention back to Camilla. "This is her home as well as mine, Camilla. She stays where she pleases."
They looked at one another for a moment in silence, then Camilla shrugged and began again.
"Except for Jimmy Breaux Gemma hasn't done anything memorable which is her real problem she doesn't do anything memorable and she is utterly forgettable. You also know about the contract Slim cancelled when Jimmy died, the one everybody got so upset about. Everybody knows about that."
"So she has a problem with Slim. Why do you think she is asking them to give her part of the studio, and why do you believe she is blackmailing them? I have limited time tonight, Camilla. Get to the point. Tell me what this has to do with me now."
"That is the point! She wants to hurt Slim and she has something on Cooper that she's using to threaten Slim. It's always been Cooper and Slim always protects him. It's Slim she's going after. That's why she isn't asking for the whole studio, she wants Slim's half. She is deliberately grinding Slim down into the dirt and will take every single thing he has right down to the chair he sits in and she's making Cooper do it for her."
She was looking directly at Slim's son who sat frozen, looking back at her. "I won't let her. That's why I'm here and you're going to help me. We're buying the studio, the three of us. We have the means but we need to act. If Slim and Coop don't own the studio Gemma has nothing to threaten to take from them because it's already gone."
Nobody moved or said a single thing for a long, tense ten, twenty, thirty silent seconds. Duff cast a quick glance at Rayne who met it. Her blank expression had become stony.
Will leaned forward, eyes fixed on Camilla. "Let me get this straight. Gemma Wilson is blackmailing Dad and Cooper into giving her half of the business, my dad's half. You're suggesting we stop it by buying him out, buying both of them out. What happens then? Why wouldn't she use whatever she's got anyway, burn down the house on her way out? And how the hell do you know any of this?"
"She won't. Don't you see? If she gets the half studio okay maybe all of the studio I mean as if Coop would keep the other half, she would have a studio and a whole industry ready to ruin her. If she doesn't get the studio she's still got a chance to be a successful agent unless she burns down that house. If she burns down the house she still ruins herself and still gets nothing because what's she going to do then? Nobody is going to work with her as an agent. She had one shot and she's taken it and it's not going to work."
Finally, as if it were an afterthought. she added, "She's not particularly good at keeping her things to herself. You can stand on the first floor in that building and hear a toilet flush on the third."
Unexpectedly, the woman who had been diligently and obediently quiet said, "This is ridiculous."
Duff looked at her, surprised. Will, halfway to his feet anyway, looked at her and then back at Camilla. Camilla was caught in another mid sentence, and stopped, and looked at Rayne with equal surprise.
Rayne sat back in the chair and folded her arms. "You heard something through a wall? Unless you've been spying on her and I mean real spying, not listening to toilets flushing, you don't know anything at all. All you know is that Gemma hit on Heydon."
"Right, yeah, uh-huh, okay." Will turned and started walking away from them. "I'm going to go upstairs, run some numbers and work something out. And I'm going to call my dad."
He should end this. Camilla had given them enough information to at least consider her request. There was no reason to allow her to stay any longer.
He began - "Camilla, you've told us enough - "
She cut him off while still focusing on Rayne. "I am not leaving. You can follow Will upstairs or you can stand there and look at me but I'm not leaving."
Neither was she staying without his permission and she knew it. For Rayne's sake though, he would give her a few more minutes. Rayne should have the chance to push her if she so chose, and she obviously did. Her point might appear reasonable if they were dealing with anyone but Camilla. "You may have a few additional minutes."
Camilla glared at him. Rayne's expression was neutral. She touched her cheek though, an uneasy gesture that did not necessarily mean she was intimidated.
"I will be back shortly," he said, and reluctantly turned to leave them alone with one another, ready to quickly return. Rayne was trying to give him what he wanted and needed in their relationship. He had to give her what she wanted as well and that included allowing her to fight her own battles. It was no easier for him than it was for her.
As soon as he turned his back, he heard Rayne begin again just where she had stopped. "How do you know all these details about what she wants and how she wants it done? You can't possibly know by listening at walls! Come on, Camilla. What does Gemma have on my father? How do you know? You'd have to be...well you'd have to be Gabe to do something like this, and you are not Gabe!"
Duff hesitated near the staircase. Once again, Gabriel Lombardo entered the room. It was a pity he had never met the man. He must have been one impressive son of a bitch.
"I don't have to be Gabe. It's not as difficult as you think, other people can do some of the things he did." Camilla looked relaxed, at ease, in control, and she normally would be, and at this moment still was. "What would you do if you knew what Gemma can claim Cooper did? Threaten her? How? You can't protect him that's what Slim's tried to do. You would do what you've always done and somebody will suffer and it won't be Gemma Wilson. I will not tell you what I know and I will not tell you how I know it."
Her voice tighter, angry and low, Camilla paused then struck out even harder. "Do not presume to tell me what Gabe would do. You don't know anything at all about what Gabe could or would do. You don't know anything about him and he would not remember you. He wouldn't recognize you if he fell over you on the street."
Rayne laughed. "Oh yes he would and I did know him. It might not have been the way most people know each other but I knew him. The gift he gave me when I was a little girl is still sharp enough to cut to the bone, and if I needed help, Gabe would have helped me and he would not bullshit me. There is no way he would do what you're doing. Don't tell me not to talk about him. You don't own him Camilla. No one ever owned Gabe."
Rayne fell quiet. Duff waited, prepared to intervene if Rayne faltered, but Camilla looked down and said nothing. It was as if Gabriel Lombardo reached back from the dead and held her hands and silenced her.
Rayne stood up, went to the bar, brought out a bottle of wine and two glasses. The vintage was a good one, one of the best he would keep in a bar in the living room, and she would know that, and so would Camilla. Camilla followed her.
"He changed my life." Rayne set down the glasses. "More than anyone else, from the time I was a little girl, he changed my life. That's how I recognized Duff. I knew he was mine because of Gabe."
Rayne handed her a glass and Camilla took the wine.
Rayne held hers, standing motionless.
Camilla lifted her glass. It was a toast. "Blood in the water".
"And a blade in the hand."