Discretion (The Dumonts) - Karina Halle



Ten years ago

Grasse, France

I can still taste her on my lips.

Soft, sweet musk. Nectar from a fallen angel.

I close my eyes, breathing in deep, trying to hold on while everything fades. I can feel the memory of her growing smaller, the taste turning into something bitter, like coins under the tongue.

It’s over now. Everything.

Everything I’ve ever had, everything I’ve ever known.

I’m only twenty years old, and my life is about to change forever.

Across from me is the man who holds all that power in his hands, those cruel fingers that never worked a real day in their life.

My uncle.

He’s just sitting there and watching me, legs crossed with ease, slowly tapping those fingers along the velvet arm of the chair.

Marine is long gone. So far gone that I fear I may never see her again. It’s probably for the best, but it still does something to my heart, like an anchor has been lodged in there, slowly dragging it out.

I try not to think about her.

I try not to think about what my uncle is going to do next.

Because he is going to do something.

He always does.

My uncle’s pride is as fragile as ice in springtime. Solid to the naked eye but cracking easily under pressure.

“How long has this been going on?” he finally asks me. I can’t tell if seconds or minutes have passed in this dark room. It feels like an eternity. Outside, the moon is hanging low over the lavender fields, and I swear it wasn’t there a moment ago.

I stare down at my hands, knowing I can’t lie. I’m a damn good liar, but Uncle Gautier is better.

“Six months,” I tell him.

He sucks in a sharp breath. “I see.”

I could try to justify things; I could protest, tell him he has it all wrong. But again, he’d know. In fact, he’s already made up his mind about what he’s going to do with me.

It won’t be painless.

“Olivier,” he says, his voice growing quiet. He’s most menacing when he’s quiet, a shark hunting in silence. “What you’ve done violates the most sacred trust there is. Do you know what trust that is?”

I say nothing. I can’t.

“The trust of family,” he goes on, his fingers continuing to rap methodically against the chair. “You’ve poisoned the bonds between us all. Your blood, my blood, your father’s blood. We’re all one and the same. All Dumont. What you do touches everyone. If you bleed, we bleed. You know this. Oh, how I’ve been there for you all these years, Olivier, stepping in when your father was too busy to spare his time. And this is how you repay me.”

Of course he would make this about him and not about Pascal.

I swallow, trying to find the remorse, to at least fake it. The problem is, there is none. I hate Pascal, which is why I didn’t hesitate to begin with.

Gautier leans forward on his elbows, his watch catching the dim light from the kitchen. That watch costs $200,000, something he’ll tell you more than once. He’ll also tell you that hard work will get the same results. But with him, he’s coasted on my father’s coattails all this time. The Dumont name, the Dumont fortune, none of it would matter today if it weren’t for my father.

Gautier knows this too.

It’s why he’s become my father’s opposite. His foil. He’s never had to earn any of it. He’s only learned to take advantage.

My father is too trusting to see it.

But I do.

Of course, now I’m in a great deal of shit, so none of it matters anymore. I’ve let my own father down