My gut clenches, but I keep my voice level as I say, “I remember.”

“The thing is, this last attack was more unexpected and violent, which was harder for me to get over, but…this is my normal, Lucian. It wasn’t the first time he put his hands on me. That he touched me that way. As sick as it is, I’m not as messed-up as I should be because I long ago learned that it was something I had to lock away in order to live my life. If I didn’t, the shame and humiliation would kill me. I’d crawl into myself and never come back out. Therefore, as much as I never wanted to tell you this or admit it to you, I’m okay because I long ago accepted that I had to be. Otherwise, he wins every time, and that is something I cannot live with, even now. I hate him. I fucking hate that he gets to breathe the same air I do. But even though he’s brought me down time and again, he hasn’t kept me down. I’ll never let him have the satisfaction of doing that to me. Maybe that makes me a coward for accepting what I’ve never been able to change, but it’s how I’m still here.”

“Oh, baby.” I pull her closer, once again feeling awed at her strength and destroyed at what she’s gone through. “Don’t ever think of yourself as a coward. There isn’t a weak bone in your body. You are an amazing woman, and I…”

“Luc, are you in there?” We both gasp when a voice rings out in the next room. “Max is here to see you. Should I send him in?” Lia squeals in horror, jumping to her feet and grabbing frantically for her clothes.

I can’t help it; the whole thing is comical to me. Lia is shooting daggers at me as she hops around with one foot in her pants, trying to balance while she finds the other opening. “Lucian! What are you laughing at? For God’s sake, put some clothes on and tell Cindy to wait! She wasn’t at her desk when I came in. Sam brought me up and then left for lunch. He was supposed to pick me up in an hour.”

I finally pull myself to my feet and stroll naked out of the room and into my office. I’m far from a prude, but the last thing Max probably wants to see today is my cock. I push the button to answer Cindy’s page. “Give me just a minute; I’m…finishing up something here.” I see Lia in the doorway of the workout room with her pants now on. She is attempting to snap her front closure bra and fumbling because of the cast on one hand. My dick is watching her tits bounce in rapt attention.

She sees my hardening length and holds up a hand as if to ward me off. “No, oh, no! Put that thing away now.” I know it’s evil, but I can’t help but tease her first. I palm my cock, stroking it as I stare at her. Her hands stop as she watches me mesmerized. I walk slowly, continuing my movements until I’m directly in front of her. “I…I…”

I chuckle as she continues to stammer out words that make no sense. I know with certainty that if I touched her now, she’d let me go balls-deep again without protesting. We are both slaves to our desire for each other. I point to her tits, tossing her earlier words back at her. “Put those away before someone comes in.” I help her with the snap before I move to find my own clothes. Having a little fun at her expense probably wasn’t the best idea. I wince as I stuff my hard cock back into my boxers and then my slacks. I gingerly pull the zipper up and shift my dick to a more comfortable location. After running and having sex, I could desperately use a shower, but there is no time now.

By the time I finish dressing, Lia is fully clothed and waiting in my office. I put my arm around her, pulling her into me for a brief kiss. I have my hand on the doorknob, turning it to see her out, when she looks back over her shoulder and says, “I love you,” before pulling the door open. I melt inside, now starting to crave those words from her instead of dreading them. I wonder if she has any idea that those same words had been on the tip of my tongue when Cindy interrupted us.

There is no more time to think as Max walks toward us, looking nervous while Cindy and Sam are smiling as if Christmas has just come early. What in the hell is wrong with everyone today? “I’ll call you later, baby,” I say to Lia as Max walks into my office. “Sam, make sure Lia gets into the apartment before you leave.” As I shut the doors to my office, I see Cindy beaming at Lia. Yeah, she’s the golden child here now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m in a mellow, relaxed mood after my lunch encounter when I settle behind my desk and wait for Max to begin his rant on Lia’s friend. Maybe she mauled him in his car again. I am in no way expecting the words that finally come from his lips. “Jim Dawson is dead. Carly called me a few hours ago and told me his body had been pulled from the French Broad River last night.”

“Son of a bitch,” I hiss. That’s the last thing I was expecting to hear. “He drowned?”

Max shakes his head, looking somber. “No, cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. They estimate he’d been in the water about eight hours before he was caught on a tree branch and someone walking by saw him.” My mind goes to Lee Jacks’ absence, and I can’t help but wonder. The man in me who’s Hell-bent on retribution for Lia wants to fucking shout for joy. Regardless of Lee’s need to make Jim Dawson suffer for his crimes against Lia, we both knew she would never really be free while he was still alive.

I give my lawyer and friend a blank look, saying, “If you’re looking for some sign that I give a damn the bastard is dead, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. Good fucking riddance to another piece of trash the world doesn’t want nor need.” I think it’s the kindest statement I can make about someone I loathe so much.

Max exhales and leans back in his chair. “Personally, Luc, I agree with every word you just said. Professionally, I’d advise you to keep those sentiments to yourself. I don’t expect it to be anything other than a formality, but the police want to question both you and Lia.”

“You’re kidding!” I look at Max incredulously. “Why in the world would we be questioned because that bastard is dead? No one’s heard from him since he attacked Lia.”

“I know, Luc, but you’re both the most likely people to have had a grudge against him. I can tell you now, though, that the police are just going through the motions with this one. There’s not going to be anyone on the sidelines jumping up and down, demanding justice. It’ll be a quick few questions about your whereabouts and whether you’ve had any contact with him.”

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance