His throat bobs and his hands slowly lower. “What does that mean?”

“I’ll let your imagination run wild. And I suggest you get out of here, before I change my mind and decide to honor what I believe to be her wishes. I can almost hear her shouting in my ear: Kill him. Kill him.”


He turns a ghostly white and looks like he’s about to shit his pants. I’d laugh if I wasn’t envisioning my hand on that gun, pulling the trigger while my other hand was on his throat, choking him to death. Another rush of adrenaline surges through me. “Get out!” I shout.

He turns and rushes for the door, bursts into the hallway. The door slams hard behind him and I grab my phone and call my man again. “Screw proving Ryan’s guilt. I want every business contract he owns. Every bank account. Every piece of real estate. And then I want a plan on how to make it all disappear legally.”

“That’s going to be expensive.”

“Which means there are plenty of people who’ll do the job, and do it well—so don’t go getting greedy on me. I want answers this week or I’ll replace you.” I hang up and set the phone on the desk and my hand shakes. My hand never fucking shakes.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I’m sorry, Rebecca.” Suddenly the darkness that had threatened is here, and I’m on my knees. I don’t even know how I got there, or how long I’ve been there, or how long the tears have streaked my cheeks.

The phone on my desk buzzes and my security manager’s voice sounds. “Crystal Smith is here to see you.”

“Send her away,” I all but growl, but then it hits me. “No. Wait.” My mind races and I struggle to my feet.

I didn’t scare Rebecca away, and I cost her her life. I’m repeating the same thing with Crystal. “Send her to my private quarters.” It’s time to end this—and I know just how to make sure she leaves for good.

Part Four

Rules

Crystal

When Blake and I are allowed through the gates of the massive mansion, we’re informed by security that Ryan is in Mark’s office. I’m a nervous wreck for fear that we’re too late. With two suit-clad security men framing us, Blake and I rush up the steps to the double red doors where another man in a suit greets us. We step inside the foyer of white tile, framed with expensive art I’m sure Mark selected himself.

Several feet away, Kurt, the head of security that I met on my prior visit, stands in front of a magnificent winding stairwell covered in red carpet, in heated debate with a tall, good-looking man in slacks and a pullover.

“Ryan,” Blake murmurs softly. “Mark hasn’t killed him yet. That’s a positive development.”

“Yes,” I agree, “but what about Mark? Is he okay?”

Ryan breaks free of the conversation with Kurt and charges toward us, his intelligent eyes raking intimately and uncomfortably over me before landing on Blake. “Get him on a leash,” he snaps, his voice darn near guttural.

“Kurt doesn’t work for me,” Blake replies dryly.

“Mark,” Ryan grinds out. “Get Mark on a leash.” I let out a silent breath of relief. Mark is okay. Maybe not emotionally, but physically at least. Ryan continues, “Or I swear to you I’ll sue you, him, and anyone who ever breathed his name.” He flicks me a look. “Who the hell are you?”

“My father calls me ‘Trouble.’ My mother, ‘Sunshine,’” I say, my survival skills honed by my two arrogant brothers and my father, the king of arrogance. “I’ve always liked the name Rebecca though, if you’d like to call me that?” It’s out before I can stop it and I don’t even know where it came from.

His eyes flash and he makes a move toward me that’s thwarted by Blake stepping forward, his hand on my shoulder. “Ironically,” Blake says, his tone amused despite the tension pulsing off of him, “my father called me ‘Trouble,’ as well. So push me—please. I enjoy a good reason to break a few rules.”

I suddenly love Blake Walker, despite barely knowing him and I’m very relieved that he’s on Mark’s side.

Ryan’s lips twitch, sardonic amusement tinging his reply. “Breaking the rules comes with a price—if you don’t know how to cover your tracks. I’m betting you’re more a ‘do it, and deal with the consequences’ kind of guy. The kind I eat for lunch.” He steps around Blake, and his near-confession that he’s hidden his involvement with Rebecca’s murder has me fighting angry.

Blake replies, “If I’m lunch, I bite back like a hungry shark.”

Ryan’s laughter cackles behind us as the doors open and close, and it’s not the cold, nearly dawn, air that sends a shiver down my spine. It’s the certainty that Mark is right about Ryan. He was involved in killing Rebecca.

Kurt in front of us. “Mr. Compton would like to see you, Ms. Smith.” He glances at Blake. “Alone.”

“Yes,” I say, eager to see Mark. “Take me to him.”

Blake glances at me. “Are you sure you want to do this? He’s not exactly himself.”

“Which is all the more reason I need to do this.”

“Then I’ll be right here waiting for you,” he replies. Then his phone beeps. He checks a text message, cursing under his breath. “I need to go out to the search site. Jacob, one of my men, is at the exterior gate.”

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