"Cat, what were you thinking about?" Nate shaking her pulls her out of those terrible memories, "Are you OK? You're pale as a ghost, Cat."
Snapping out of her waking nightmare, Cat opened her eyes to see Nate lean over her around the desk.
"I'm fine Nate. Just thinking about what happened to Claire."
"Yeah, I heard that Alex and you were there when Katharine found her. You look pretty shaken up about it. You should have just taken the week off. I'm sure Alex wouldn't have minded."
"Yeah yeah, I know everything is fine. C'mon, you need some food and caffeine in you."
He proceeded to lead her to the cafeteria and opened the glass doors for her. Nate pulled out a chair for her as they were shown to a table near the windows overlooking the New York skyline. They placed their order, Nate ordered coffee for them both and a BLT for himself. While they waited, she looked at Nate and thought about how he had always been so sweet to her. He had been her first ever boyfriend who'd actually looked past her painful shyness and high IQ to actually like her for who she was. He was a good friend and someone who expected very little from her. Maybe that's why she was never able to take things far with him.
She'd never felt an all-consuming sensual awareness nor the sweet pain of ecstasy with Nathan that she always felt in Alex's presence. He never challenged her as Alex did. Or make her lose her mind by expecting everything from her and more like Alex demanded, never made her crazy with just one look, never made her feel so guilty for... Cat shook her head to shake off the thoughts that pulled her into that quagmire of hopelessness again.
Focusing on the conversation she tuned in to listen to whatever Nate was telling her.
"...things been with you? Last I heard you left school to go work for some hotshot startup?"
So the rumor mills had circulated this fallacy after her abrupt departure. Still, it could have been worse. After all, no one knew the truth about why she had left except Max and her.
"Yeah, I was with a fledgling investment company which folded after a few years due to some bad business decisions. But it had shown promise, so I thought it was a good bet."
"Yeah, you were always too smart for your own good."
"But you were one of the few who managed to look past that."
"It was easy. Once I got to know you, I saw the sweet, vulnerable girl underneath waiting for someone to see her."
That sweet, vulnerable girl is now gone. Forever.
He brushed his fingers lightly over Cat's wrist and she noticed the gleam in Nate's eyes. She quickly pulled her hand away, not wanting to send out any wrong signals as she changed the subject.
"So how did you end up working for Alex? I thought you guys didn't get along that well."
"That was only because of-er, well you know," He looked at her pointedly.
"... And I was already working for Sebastian, Alex's grandfather before he came along. The company was in dire straits; Sebastian owed a lot of debt to the Government when he undertook a project that couldn't be completed. But a few months after Alex came on, he turned the tides and built back the company bigger and better than ever. We expanded from Milan and re-hauled our Eastern offices. It was a good thing they buried the hatchet before Sebastian passed away," He added quietly.
"Oh," was her only noncommittal reply.
"Though I don't know what happened there exactly. According to office gossip, Sebastian disowned Alex's mom right after she ran away with his dad and it's said he never bothered with her again. Even after his daughter had begged the old bastard to meet his grandchild. He was one ruthless son of a bitch."
He certainly was. Alex had suffered for years before Sebastian had found him and finally deemed him worthy of the Knight legacy. But she knew Alex, he wouldn't have just agreed to all this unless there had been some other reason. She knew how Alex had felt conflicted and pained about his mother wanting to heal the rift with his grandfather who'd rejected them in the first place.
Now that she knew his grandfather had passed away so soon after Alex took over, it must've been one of the deciding factors to keep running Knight Inc in memory of his mother. She felt unbearable sadness and pain on behalf of him. It had been a long time coming, but it was too little, too late for Mary Danver Knight hadn't been alive to witness the healing that had torn her family apart.
"How did Alex take his grandfather's passing?"
"Not well, I think. He just buried himself in work and didn't come up for air. I think it was harder on him than he led people to believe. Also, the company was just starting to tide over, so a lot of people assumed he was respecting his death that way and gave him his space."
Her heart broke a little at hearing Nate's words. She couldn't allow herself to feel anything for Alex again. It couldn't happen. She was here to gain information for the Theta Project that was going to help her get one step closer to revenge. She had to focus on that.
"I'm sure he was back to his master-of-the-universe ways soon after that. But enough about him," She intoned carelessly. "After what happened with Claire, I'm sure a lot of people have questions about it. What do you think happened? Was she involved with something dangerous?"
"She was a good girl. Serious, hard-worker, a little flirtatious but I don't know anything about her being involved in anything dangerous. Why the hell would someone want to kill her is beyond me. But obviously, if she wasn't involved or something, then she must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and maybe surprised someone?"
His theory made more sense than he knew, but Cat just couldn't shake off the feeling that Claire was doing something she wasn't supposed to. "So you guys never, you know...?" She trailed off knowing he hadn't confessed to his relationship with Claire and that Alex had claimed they had been in.
"Ummm...we-" He blushed and Cat giggled.
"Nate, you know we're friends, right? It's not awkward and you dated other girls after me in college. Seriously, you can tell me."
"Yeah, but you should know that I was a fool to break up with you. In fact, if you hadn't left school, well-"
"It's all in the past now," She quickly added before he could finish the sentence.