We wake up sometime later, too early to be morning but too late to be night. I continue kissing his chest and snuggling against him.

“You know what I need?” I ask seductively.

“Hmmm?” he mumbles, clearly still waking.

“I need some chocolate!” That gets his attention. He sits up directly and reaches for his cell. Within minutes he has a bakery on its way with treats, and he is getting ready to put some strong coffee on.

“We’re not getting all the way up, are we?” I ask. I was hoping for a nice bedtime snacking session.

“No time like the present! Things to accomplish in our brave new world,” he says cheerfully.

“Oh my god,” I murmur. “You’re a morning person.”

I manage to wake up enough to be good company as we drink our coffee and eat sweets. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I sure know last night will stand in memory as one of the best nights in my life.

“I don’t want to drag up old crap,” I say tentatively. “But, why do you think Blake started talking about my father yesterday. His death was a blow to me like none other, yet, I can’t imagine your brother knowing or caring about that.”

“Blake was trying to dredge up your guilt. He knows guilt is one of the most powerful ways to get inside someone. If you can activate the guilt button, people will let you bother, control, or harm them without defense.”

“But that didn’t work.”

“No, instead of pushing your guilt button, he just succeeded in pushing my anger button.” Mark laughed.

“Well, I don’t feel guilty about dad. I miss him every day, but I know he would be really happy with the changes I’ve made in my life and I know his love is always with me.”

“Good. The less guilt you have in your life, the less people can get you down.”

I pause for a moment, taking a deep breath. He’s right, of course. Guilt will kill a relationship faster than jealousy, apathy, or boredom. I let out a deep sigh that clues Mark in to the fact something big is coming.

“I do have something I feel guilty about,” I say slowly, playing with my coffee stirrer and refusing to make eye contact. “I lied to you, Valerie, and pretty much everyone but Janice.”

“About what?” He puts his coffee down and frowns in my direction.

“There really is a big story at Lynx I’ve been hiding. It’s a make or break story and I didn’t tell you about it because I didn’t trust you and I thought you might be working for Blake or to get the story for Valerie. If Lynx folded, I was going to use it to start over.”

“Well, I knew that bullshit about a ‘source list’ was a lie, but I couldn’t figure out what you might be hiding and decided to let it go. What’s the scoop?”

“I hired a college kid who was going to intern at Tilden-Jennings. I figured that firm works with every other firm on Wall Street so I might find a story or two. Bosses tell interns everything in order to impress them, and I hoped I’d get lucky. Well, I hit the jackpot. By then end of her semester, my source was given information about stock colliding, where the firms pretend to be rivals but secretly pick a stock to dump and battle over it. Smaller, less experienced firms see the big ones fighting and snap up the inflated stock—”

“I know what stock colliding is,” Mark says. “And I know it’s illegal. I also know the kinds of firms that get ripped off are the ones who handle retirement funds and small investors who can’t afford to lose the money.”

“Anyway, I have names, dates, emails, and proof that Tilden-Jennings and three of the major firms on the street were engaged. They brought down a number of college endowments, pension funds, and new businesses. I’ve got it all. I wrote it at home and kept the payments, source and research out of the office to protect the source. They must have seen some messages from me about the big story but other than that I’ve been super careful.”

“Holy hell, Julia. You’re going to piss off every power player in New York.”

“That’s not the point, Mark. The point is I have the story and it is written and ready to run. I’m leading off the next issue of Lynx with it. I’m going to put us back on the map.”

“You think Blake’s opposition was bad? Julia, even if Valerie had found that story, she wouldn’t run it. It’s a hornet’s nest!”

“Valerie wouldn’t run it because most of her friends are in it!” I counter, getting a bit angry. I thought he’d take my side but I can see the cutting edge is no place for a well-set businessman who cares more about the bottom line than a teacher in Iowa losing her retirement.

“Think twice before you do this. Blake was a spark. This is fire.”

“I told you about it because I felt guilty keeping the secret, not because I wanted your advice,” I snap, getting off the stool and heading to the bathroom where I hung my clothes to dry.

“I don’t want to fight with you.” I hear his footsteps follow behind me.

“Then stop talking.”

I leave without so much as a goodbye kiss. He offers to drive me home but I tell him I’ll hail a cab. I ask him not to reveal the story to anyone and he promises he won’t. As I walk through his door, I hear him say one thing under his breath that chills me to the bone.

“I can see we still have a lot to learn.”

Chapter 29

Blake Stone being trussed up and stuffed in a police car not only did something good for the city, it enlivened my entire soul. I spent the weekend in a whirlwind of energy doing laundry, coming up with layout and story leads, calling employees to tell them they were all rehired, and writing my editorial column for the next issue of Lynx. I even managed to go over to Janice’s for lunch and take a quick trip for some new clothes.

Blake wasn’t out of his cell in time for dinner, as he predicted, but did manage to get bailed out the next day. I wasn’t too worried about him. On the advice of his new lawyer, he is staying home and laying low until trial. Mark spent his weekend at the office, helping investigators plow through the files and build a strong case. We talked on the phone a few times. I apologized for leaving angry, and he said we both had to do what we thought was right.

I didn’t need an alarm clock to get me up Monday morning. I arrived at the office about a half-hour earlier than normal to find most of the staff already there. They brought in donuts and juice, and Janice put up a big banner that said, “Welcome back Miss Sharp.” It had been purposely written to say “Welcome back Miss Shark” but there was a strike out through the “k” and a “p” had been put in its place. The staff clapped and cheered as I opened my office door. There is a flower arrangement from Mark on my desk. I stand in the doorway and my smile could have lit a small city at midnight.


Tags: Priscilla West Billionaire Romance
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