“You need to tell Riley.”
I shook my head. “It’s too dangerous. I can’t bring her on the trips if she knows. If she said something wrong, gave it away—I’ve worked too hard on my cover.” And I had. A pile of money spent burying any trace of Elyse on the Internet. False documents, backgrounds, and paper trails in place. If someone researched Brett Jacobs, they found me. If someone investigated Brett Betschart, they found next to nothing. Certainly nothing about Elyse. Certainly nothing that would link the two identities.
“Think on it.” She pressed.
She held firm, holding eye contact, and, for a brief moment, I realized how proud I was of her. An egotistic thought. “You are allowed to be happy, Brett,” she said quietly. “You can let that happen.”
“I know that.”
I did know that. But it still felt wrong.
3 months before
I stretched out, my red toenails peeking at me as I propped my feet on the deck railing, the cushion beneath me warm against my wet skin. Around us, navy blue water as far as the eye could see.
“Happy?” I felt his hand tug through my hair before he played with the strands. I looked up to see Brett looking down, a smile on his face.
“How could I not be?” I patted the cushion beside me. “Come lay down.”
“Sunbathing isn’t my thing. I don’t like to turn on all the seagulls.”
I laughed, rolling over and running my hand down his stomach, his abs hard beneath his T-shirt. “Then ... why don’t you turn me on instead?”
He squatted, bringing his face level with mine, and leaned in, pressing his lips to mine, his hands running up my arms and to my neck, my bathing suit top undone and stolen before my mind had a chance to catch up. He stood, smiling down at me, my hands tight to my chest as I lay on my stomach and glowered at him. “Give that back,” I hissed.
“You’re missing the benefits of yacht ownership. We are fifty miles from anyone … just you and I on the boat.”
“So?” I looked around furtively.
“So...” He pulled off his glasses, then the T-shirt, his hands quick as he unbuckled, unzipped, then ditched his shorts, his body completely exposed. “So, I want to fuck you in the sunshine.”
He stepped closer, leaning over me, his cock pressing into my shoulder as I felt his fingers pull at the strings of my bikini bottom, the material falling away as he rolled my reluctant form over, my hands rising to cover myself, his touch gentle as they pushed my hands away, proof of his attraction growing thicker and stiffer before my eyes. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” He leaned over, crawling onto the cushion and on top of me.
“You say that to all of the girls,” I scoffed, running my hands down his chest, his cock bare as it bobbed between us.
“I’ve never said that to anyone.” He parted my legs, wrapping them around his waist, his eyes on mine when he cupped his hand over me, his thumb against my clit as he pressed his fingers inside, his other hand fisting his cock. I moaned, arching my back and pulling at his neck, wanting him closer, wanting him everywhere.
“Let me get a condom,” he whispered.
“Not yet,” I begged. I squeezed with my legs, ground against his hard cock, and watched his eyes darken with need, his hand moving faster, his fingers inside me quicker, the soft pant of his breath the most erotic thing I had ever heard. I ran my hand through his hair, and he bit my neck. I lost my breath in the start of an orgasm and finished with his groan in my hair. I felt his control break and loved that power belonging to me.
The first girl I’d ever saved was Marcia. She was a tiny brunette who was on heroin when Joel and Chris brought her in. I’d stood in the kitchen of a Bahamian rental and looked at the girl before me, her jaw working, her eyes dull and vacant, ribs showing, and felt my chest tighten. Wanted a Xanax. Wanted to walk out of that kitchen and never see another woman ever again. That life was not one I’d known. I knew butlers and Italian marble floors. I knew lobster in Tahiti and Miami Heat skyboxes with my name on the door. I hadn’t known what to do with a strung-out girl who had spent the last sliver of her life servicing the needs of animals.
I had chewed at my bottom lip as I leaned against the edge of the fridge and stared at the girl. “How much did you pay for her?”
I’d closed my eyes at the sum. Wondered, in the moment before I opened them, how much her parents would have been willing to pay. Her boyfriend. Her husband. I would have paid a hundred million for Elyse. I’d wondered, as my gaze found the girl again, her teeth chattering in the quiet room, how much Elyse sold for, how much the man who’d killed her had paid for the right.
“Buy as many as you can.”
6 weeks before
My first visit to Fort Lauderdale began in the middle of a storm, Brett’s plane circling the perimeter of the city for ninety minutes before our gas levels forced us to touch down. I closed the window shades, gripped the armrests for dear life, and gave a sermon-worthy prayer in the four minutes it took us to descend.
When the wheels touched down, it was rough, the plane slamming onto the runway, my shoulders jerking forward as if I’d been yanked. I didn’t care. We had landed, I was alive, and I wanted to get off that freaking plane as fast as humanly possible.
When the door opened, he was there, wetness plastered to his face, rain pelting down, his arms gathering me into his soaked chest, his mouth desperate against my cheek, my neck, my mouth. “God, I was worried,” he ground out, stepping back and helping me down the steps, my magazine held over my head doing a piss-poor job of protecting me from the rain. When I hit the ground we ran, through the heavy rain, toward the hangar.
I was laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, my blouse plastered to me from his wet embrace, our run through the rain pointless, the downpour one of the soak-your-bones variety. I hiccupped, a slight chill passing through me in the form of a shudder. Brett noticed, pressing a button on the side of the wall, the hangar door sliding shut. I looked around, the large, empty space big enough to hold my house. “Doesn’t the plane need to come in?”
“It can wait.” He pulled me closer, dragging us both down the side of the space until we reached the small kitchen. His hand was quick and efficient as he popped the front button on my jeans, my purse falling from my hand as he unzipped my pants and squatted, peeling the wet fabric down my legs, my feet lifting to help, his fingers tickling when they pulled off my sandals. “This is purely in concern for your health,” he murmured, opening the dryer and tossing in my jeans, the appliance door hanging open as he returned to me, his eyes traveling from my feet, up the length of my legs, lingering on the white triangle of my panties before he shook his head, a small smile crossing his lips. He stepped closer, his hands shaking a bit as he unbuttoned the front line of my blouse, his hot mouth along the line of my neck as the shirt was carefully removed.