Before the valet noticed him, Dare got out of his car and looked over the roof. “Bishop Alexander?”
Molly’s father looked up.
Predatory anticipation filled Dare. “Got a minute?”
Taking off his glasses, Bishop stared toward Dare. “Do I know you?”
Dare didn’t move from his relaxed position outside the driver’s side of his SUV. “We haven’t formally met, but your daughter has told me about you.”
Bishop went still, but only for a second. A calculated expression reshaped his features, and he slunk closer with caution. “Which daughter would that be?”
Of course the bastard felt safe. They were in front of an exclusive club where only members were allowed. Bishop wouldn’t realize that Dare went where he wanted, when he wanted. Getting past the gate had been child’s play for a man of his means.
For Bishop, his money and social influence were his strength. But Dare didn’t give a shit about any of that.
“The daughter who’s been missing.”
In an instant, Bishop’s jaw firmed, and he surged forward with the confidence of a man used to power and prestige. “What do you know of that?”
So he realized Molly had been missing. Interesting. “I found Molly, and I thought you might be interested in the…details.”
That did it. After waving off the approaching valet, Bishop moved to confront Dare. Voice lowered and infused with suspicion, he said, “I don’t know what this is about, but if you think to blackmail me, I can tell you that it won’t work. You won’t get a single cent from me.”
It took all of Dare’s resolve not to plant his fist in Bishop’s face. Feigning a boredom he didn’t feel, Dare said, “Does that mean you’re not curious about where she was, or how she got there?”
On uncertain ground, Bishop flexed his fingers while trying to gauge his opponent. Finally, after smoothing his already smooth hair, he tweaked the collar of his golf shirt and played blasé. “I assumed she was off on another research trip.”
“Yeah?” Arms relaxed, stance negligent, Dare smiled. “And you thought I’d blackmail you over that?”
“What else?” All decorum fled as he said, “Thanks to her absurd vocation, Molly gets herself into preposterous situations.”
“Like what? Being kidnapped?”
“Kidnapped?” For only a moment, Bishop rocked back in shock before realizing how loudly he’d spoken. Appalled at himself, he again looked around to ensure no one had overheard him.
“That’s right. Taken against her will.” Enunciating slowly, Dare said, “Abducted.”
“But…” He blustered in disbelief. “That’s absurd.”
Dare shook his head. “It’s a fact.”
Not missing a beat, Bishop asked, “But she’s safe now?”
Did the man care? Or was he pondering his own position in things? “She’s safe.”
After letting out a breath, trying to shush Dare with his own example, Bishop said, “Look, this has nothing to do with me.”
“You’re her father.”
“An irrefutable fact.” Bishop sounded pained by the relationship. “But you’d have to understand my daughter. She is not conventional. She is not circumspect. It’s a fault I have lamented for years.”
Dare said nothing—which prompted Bishop to say a lot.
“Just what the hell do you want from me? You certainly can’t expect me to take charge of Molly’s every misfortune.”
Being kidnapped was a misfortune? “You’re a real as**ole, aren’t you, Bishop?” Dare didn’t bother being circumspect, which prompted Bishop to another quick survey of their surroundings. “Do you have any idea where your daughter was?”
“Since I didn’t know of any of this, how could I?”
“Do you even care?”
Bishop flattened his mouth—and refused to reply.
Deep down, rage simmered in Dare, but he didn’t show it. “You know, I have to ask myself—why would a father be so indifferent to his daughter’s well-being—unless he was the one who had arranged her misfortune.”
Jaw going slack and face coloring, Bishop blinked in an effort to reconcile himself with the accusation. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” And then with new heat: “What the hell are you talking about? Do you know who I am? Do you know my standing in society?”
Hmm. He had looked genuinely surprised by it all.
Dare decided to press him. Coming out from around the SUV door, he closed the distance to Molly’s father. At around five feet, nine inches, Bishop stood damn near a half foot shorter than Dare. He was lean, toned, but he lacked any real strength.
Physically, he was half the man Dare was. In character, he was a worm.
“So, Bishop,” Dare said, “it would surprise you to learn that your daughter was snatched out front of her apartment building?”
“That’s ridiculous. Who would want Molly?”
God almighty, Dare wanted to hit him. One good pop to the nose, that’s all. Bishop wouldn’t be so smug or condescending with his own blood splattered over his face. “And I guess you didn’t know that she was taken to Tijuana, held captive, starved, tormented and threatened?”
“I don’t believe you,” Bishop blustered. The earlier hot color leached from his face. He said again, “I don’t believe you.”
“She was taken, all right.”
Even while shaking his head in denial, Bishop muttered, “But…why?”
“That’s what I want to know.”
Perplexed, Bishop looked down in thought, then glared at Dare. “This is hard to accept. And what do you have to do with it, anyway?”
“Not a damn thing, except that I’m the one who found her.”
With even more suspicion, Bishop asked, “In Tijuana?”
“Yes.” Keeping it vague, Dare gave a bare-bones assessment. “I was there for unrelated reasons, and I saw her. Her condition was not good.”
“What do you mean?” And in accusation: “You said she was okay.”
“She’s alive, and she’s healing.” Physically. Emotionally… Dare just didn’t know. “But she was poorly treated.”
The seconds ticked by; Bishop swallowed. “Raped?”
“She says not.” The rapid-fire questions felt more devious than frantic.
“Who had her?”
“People who deal in white slavery.”
Bishop blanched in horror. “Dear God. White slavery? But surely… Where is she now?” He looked around aghast as if expecting her to suddenly appear. “She’s not with you, is she?”
“I told you, she’s safe. I have her well away from here.” Away from you.
“I see.” Though he tried to hide it, Bishop’s evident relief couldn’t be missed.
It wasn’t relief for his daughter’s safety—the bastard.
“Well.” Bishop tugged at his tailored shirt. “I’m pleased to hear that she’s all right.”
“I didn’t say that.”
Disregarding Dare’s statement, Bishop forged on. “She obviously can’t come back home.”
“Home?” Dare inquired.
His eyes narrowed. “To where you live, you mean?”
As if justified, Bishop said, “There would be a ghastly scandal. The media would have a field day if they got wind of this, and knowing Molly, she won’t even attempt to keep it quiet.”
“You would expect her to?”
His chin shot up. “For the sake of her family, and to protect our good name, of course that’s what I expect.”
“She didn’t ask to be taken, you know.”
“Maybe not in so many words.” Bishop curled his lip in disdain and distaste. “But still…”
Wishing he could demolish the smaller man, Dare asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“She’s my daughter. Of course I care about her well-being. But odds are she brought this on herself.”
“Are you fu**ing kidding me?” Dare had seen some hideous people in his time, but Molly’s father beat them all.
“With that filth she writes and the way she—”
As Dare stiffened in fury, Bishop trailed off.
Through his teeth, Dare gritted out, “It is not her fault.”
“This is absurd.” Bishop dismissed the topic with a shake of his head. “I’m not going to continue this conversation with you. I don’t even know your name.”
Straightening to his full height, Dare glared down at him. “But I know yours, Bishop. And if I find out you had anything to do with Molly’s abduction, I’ll damn well take you apart, piece by piece.”
His mouth fell open in disbelief. “You’re threatening me?”
Bishop obviously couldn’t believe such a notion.
“I’m explaining the facts to you.”
Umbrage stiffened the older man’s spine. “I don’t have to listen to this.”
As he turned away, Dare said, “Fact number one is that Molly is coming home.”
That stalled Bishop in his tracks.
“She needs to know who did this to her. And so do I. The best way to find that out is to confront people.”
“That’s outrageous! Good God, man, you don’t brag about it when you’ve been defiled. You show some common decency and you cover it up.”
“Fact number two,” Dare said, speaking over Bishop’s protestations, “is that Molly isn’t going to hide anything—but you are.”
He bristled at the order. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What is it you think I need to hide?”
“That we’ve met, that you know Molly is safe with me and that I’m hunting for the one responsible. You aren’t going to say a word about this to anyone. No one is to know about Molly, not until she or I tell them.”
Bishop narrowed his eyes and pointed a finger at Dare’s chest. “You do not dictate to me.”
“Yeah, I do.” Dare stepped closer until that rigid finger touched him. Bishop jerked his hand away and retreated, but Dare didn’t allow that.
He caught Molly’s father by the front of his shirt. “Because, Bishop, fact number three is that you don’t want to be on my bad side. I can destroy you. I will destroy you if you cross me on this.”
Squirming to get free, Bishop feigned courage that he didn’t possess. “You don’t know who you’re talking to. I am not a man you can bully.”
“That’s a claim I can put to you, Bishop.” Dare knew the slow show of his teeth looked like pure evil. “I have contacts in businesses that you can’t even imagine. I have friends in high places, and better friends in low places. No matter what you do or where you crawl away to, I have ways of getting to you. Cross me, and I will obliterate you, Bishop, socially, financially and personally.”
Teeth gritted, Bishop tried to knock Dare’s hand away, but couldn’t. “Just who the hell are you?”
“I’m the person who knows all about you.” He dragged him closer, up onto his tiptoes until their noses almost touched. “I know about your summer house, and your apartment in the city. I have access to your various accounts, a detailed record of your worth and a list of all your business acquaintances.”
Breathless, fearful, Bishop whispered, “You’re bluffing.”
“I don’t waste time bluffing.” Digging up info on Bishop Alexander had been insanely easy for Trace. “I know you’re cheating on your wife and on your girlfriend. You’re considering an offer to sell part of your company, without telling any of the shareholders. You have a dental appointment in two days, and you just bet two grand on the outcome of your golf game.”
Bishop went pale, gasping like a fish out of water. “How…?”
“Even better, you don’t know jack shit about me, do you? Where I live, how I get my info, when I’ll be back…or if you’ll see me when I do return.” After that ominous threat, Dare released him with a small shove. “I don’t like you, Bishop. You’re a shitty father, a cheating husband and an unscrupulous businessman.”
Dare shook his head. “Save your breath. I don’t care about your excuses or justifications. Just know this—I want answers, and they better be truthful.”
“But…” With a fleeting look around, Bishop appealed to Dare. “We can’t stay here. People are starting to take notice of us.”
Like he gave a shit? Being around Bishop soured his stomach and quadrupled his sympathy for Molly.
“Believe me, I don’t want to extend this visit any longer than I have to.” In fact, he was damned anxious to start the drive back to see Molly. He’d wasted a good portion of the day waiting for Bishop to finish his game, and he still had a little more surveillance to do. Hell, by the time he finished, it’d be late, much later than he’d first intended.
He glanced at his watch. Was Molly lonely? Worried? Without him there, would she have another episode of near panic? He’d have to check in with Chris…. No.
Never before had he been a person to fret, and he damn well wasn’t going to start now. Molly was a strong woman, and she was in good hands with Chris. If anything had happened, Chris would have called.
The glare he put on Bishop had the man swallowing hard. “This will take less than five minutes,” Dare told him, “as long as you’re straight with me. If not…well, then, we can be here all fu**ing day.”
“Fine.” Trying to regain his aplomb, Bishop rested a hip on the hood of Dare’s SUV and attempted a cavalier pose. “Let’s get this over with, then.”
That Bishop kept trying to take charge should have sent Dare’s temper to the breaking point; instead it reinforced just how obnoxious and pretentious the man was.
How the hell did Molly stand him? Had she gained her incredible willpower through necessity, from dealing with such a cold, uncaring father? Dare thought of her mother’s suicide, and how Molly’s life must’ve been after that loss.
Molly’s choices had been to be strong, or take the same path as one of her parents. She’d chosen strength.
And damn, he admired her as much as he wanted her.