His words caught Carmen off guard. “What do you mean, Damien?”
“I am tired of playing games, Mother.” The iceberg that Damien could turn into was beginning to emerge. Katie noticed Jax and Charlie glance at each other. They knew that something was about to happen as well. Damien continued, “I am not stupid. Did you think you could lie to me forever?”
He then turned his attention to Katie and looked her directly in the eye. He said cooly, “And we promised to never keep secrets from each other. Remember?”
He had never been so cold to her before, and it chilled Katie to her core. She crossed her arms across her chest and nodded. Katie was beginning to feel like this was a trap.
“Good,” Damien continued. “Everyone needs to get one thing crystal clear. I am not Grandfather.” Everyone was silent for a moment, and Damien continued, “I am also no longer a child who needs protecting.” He walked across the room to his desk, opened the drawer, and pulled out a file. Upon returning to the seating area, he took a seat in the chair at the head of the table. He placed the folder on the table in front of him but kept his hand on top of it. He continued, “I have been looking after Grandfather’s affairs for some time. There were indeed a few things I was unaware of until today. But I am not as obtuse as some of you seem to think.”
Damien looked directly at his parents. “Mother, I don’t mean to sound rude, but I can read you like a book. You might have Father fooled sometimes, but I see you. Father, you need to open your eyes. You miss everything that goes on around you. How can you protect this family if you don’t even see something coming?” Everyone was silent, and Damien continued, “I appreciate the fact that you are all trying to protect me. Honestly, I do. I need you to all realize that I don’t need your protection.” Katie had never seen this side of Damien before, but judging by the looks on some of their faces, they had. “Secrets are what got this family in the mess it is in now.” Damien looked at Katie and said, “You promised to never keep anything from me. Remember?” Katie nodded but didn’t look directly at him. He raised his voice slightly and repeated, “Remember, Katie?” Katie flinched at the tone of his voice. The man before them now was not like her Damien. “I remember.” She said softly. “Good,” Damien replied a little softer.
“Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.” Damien opened the folder in front of him. “After seeing how the two of you reacted when Caroline showed up and the fact that Martha suddenly became tired and needed to lie down, it became evident to me that I needed to find out why.” Damien looked at Katie, “I know that you noticed too. That is why the minute I left, you asked Mother what was going on.”
“How did you know that? Were you watching me?” Now Katie was a little angry. She had agreed to be honest with him and not keep secrets, but she disapproved of him spying on her.
“Katie, it showed on your face. I didn’t need to spy on you. How did I know that you would ask Mother? It is simple. You trust her. You know you can read her. Most importantly, you knew she would tell you.” Damien softened, “Listen, I don’t blame you for asking her. I hoped that you would tell me, that is all.”
Katie now felt a little guilty. He had given her a chance to tell him. “I am sorry, Damien. I just didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Katie lies always hurt more than the truth,” Damien said.
“ Do you mean to blackmail them before they blackmail us?” Katie was stunned at the turn the night had taken.
“I would say, to remind them that it is mutually beneficial for them to remain silent…without the money,” Martha stated as she leaned back in her chair.
“Martha makes a good point. If we get to them before they get to us, we are in control.” Jonathan seemed to agree with Martha. Carmen nodded in agreement too.
Katie was a little irritated. “I am sorry, Damien. I love you, but I have to say this.” Katie was a little nervous, but she had to say what was on her mind. “You say that you want everyone to know that you are not like David. You want everyone to know that they can’t blackmail you. Well, how is what you have done the past few days any better?”
“Katie, I have not done anything except protect my family.” Damien was visibly upset.
“You threatened people! You blackmailed people!” Now it was Katie that was standing and talking in a raised voice. Everyone seemed shocked that she would stand up to him. Everyone except Martha anyway. “Do you think I don’t know what you did? I know that you are why nothing more was said in the news. You are the only reason the world doesn’t know that Leo was David’s son or that Lilly was my birth mother!” Katie sat back down and said in a quieter voice, “Please explain to me the difference.”
“The difference, Katie, is that I am not paying people to keep quiet about things that I have done wrong.” Damien pinched the bridge of his nose. Katie had seen him do this once before, the day he walked into her studio. She knew that he was trying to control himself. “Katie, please try to understand. I will do whatever it takes to protect the people I love, you especially. I won’t apologize for that.” Damien took a deep breath and continued in a much calmer voice, “I know that it seems like I have a double standard. It is not like that. These people are just as guilty as Grandfather was. Yes, they know a lot of dirt on this family.” Damien scoffed, “Do you think there is any family in this circle that is not full of dirt?”
“It would be my guess that you have more on them than they have on you,” Martha stated dryly. “After all, you learned from your grandfather.”
Damien looked a little pleased. “I do.” He smiled back at Martha.
“Grandma, you are really ok with all of this?” Katie asked skeptically.
“Darling, in this society, you must be the one to act first,” Martha said gently. “I warned you that no one was ever all good.” Katie didn’t know what to say.
“Then it is settled,” Damien said as he stood up and began collecting the papers to put them back in the folder. “Father, you and I have some phone calls to make in the morning.” Damien was not happy about this, but he knew what he had to do. He wanted everyone to know that he was not the man to cross. Above all else, Damien knew how important it was to come across as powerful. He was not going to let anyone take that power from him.
As everyone left the study, Katie lingered back. Damien knew that he had upset her, and perhaps he should have said something earlier. However, it was important that everyone, including Katie, realized that he didn’t intend to play games. He was serious about protecting his family and his business.
“Let’s go upstairs,” Damien said as he reached out his hand.
Instead of taking it as he assumed she would, Katie said, “Go on. I will be up in a little while.” Damien did not expect this response from her.
“Katie, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Damien started to speak, but Katie stopped him.
“Stop right there,” Katie said. “You say that you didn’t mean to upset me. I don’t believe you. You had no problem trying to embarrass me or talking to me like I was a child tonight.” Katie was angry and hurt, and she wasn’t afraid to show him. “You kept reminding me that I promised to be honest with you. I am sorry that I didn’t say anything about Caroline. I didn’t see the point in hurting you with something that you couldn’t change.”
Damien took a step towards Katie and reached for her. “Katie,” He said, but Katie stepped back and held up her hand.
“Let me finish.” Katie tried to calm herself. “You have no problem reminding me of my promises, but what about yours?”
“What do you mean? I have been honest with you.” Damien said.
“Really? Have you?” Katie asked sarcastically. “Then why didn’t you say something earlier?” Katie shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes. “Look at how many times you have kept things from me so that I wouldn’t worry. Hmmm?” Katie continued, “But that isn’t really the promise I am referring to.”
“Then what are you saying, Katie?” Damien did not like arguing with her.
“You promised we would be a team. You promised that you would keep me safe, that you would protect me.”
“Can’t you see that is what I am doing?” Damien said.
“Really? Well, tonight, I felt like I needed protection from you.” Katie held her hand up to fend him off as she walked towards the door. “You ambushed me tonight.”
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