But I hit play because I know I need to see this.
“Hi,” says Pamona from the computer screen. She’s sitting right here, in this room, and for a second, I turn around, as if expecting her to be behind me. Of course she isn’t.
“I debated making this video,” she adds, and I turn back to the screen to watch her. I study her curves, the delicate arch of her neck. The way her pert, supple lips part around these words. “But in the end, I decided that the cause was worth it. The risk was worth it. Whatever happens in my future from here, I accept it.”
Pamona, please don’t.
“I am Pamona Badiary. Daughter of Calvin Badiary. That man, my father, has ruined the lives of the Lochlans—his business partner Andrew Lochlan, his wife Meredith Lochlan, and his son, Farrow Lochlan.”
I swallow hard around a lump in my throat.
“My father did terrible things. Things I never knew about. But now I know who he truly is. I understand the depths of his monstrosity, and a man like him, like my father, needs to be brought low. He cannot go on getting everything he wants in the world, when he uses and abuses everyone around him to get it.”
Pamona leans forward, closer to the camera, and my heart skips a beat.
“Anyone who works with Calvin Badiary needs to stop immediately. Divest yourself of any interests you have in his company. Cut yourself off while you can still save yourself. He will ruin you, stain you, and drag you down with him.
“Do not give my father anything. Leave him to his dark choices so he can rot alone with them. That’s the kind of monster he is. The kind who cannot be trusted with anything.”
Pamona looks right into the lens now, and I tense, feeling like she’s looking through the screen, at me instead.
“I learned about my father’s past from a man I used to think was just as wicked. But now I see the truth. That man loved his mother and true love makes people do crazy things.” She smiles, then, and laughs a little, shaking her head. “After all. Here I am making this video.” Then she straightens, serious once more, although a faint blush stains her cheeks. “I hope you listen to me. I hope you take my advice, before it’s too late. For your own sake.”
She reaches across to stop the video, but I continue staring at the last frame, a frozen image of Pamona leaning across the desk, lips tilted in a tight, desperate expression that I recognize.
I let my head fall into my hands. Groan faintly.
What did I do? I stole her, used her, tried to force her into helping me, when all along, this is the woman I was dealing with. A woman so pure and perfect that I don’t deserve to touch her…
“Is it good enough for you?”
I startle, bolting upright. I turn to find Pamona leaning in the doorway, arms crossed. Watching me watch her.
She’s still here, thinks part of me, crazily. And then I’m moving without thinking about it. Bolting from the chair and crossing the room to wrap her in my arms. Pull her tight against me and bury my face in her hair.
“Why did you do this?” I whisper against her hair.
She laughs. Tilts her chin up to catch my eye, smirking. “Did you even watch the video?”
I frown, confused, but she plants a kiss on the corner of my mouth, teasing.
“I said it right on the screen, Farrow.” Her eyes bore into mine, dark and serious. “I love you. Of course I’d try to help you.”
There’s no way to describe the feeling that lights up my chest then. Bright and hot as a flame, but without the pain. Not now. Now it’s all light and relief and how could she love me, but she does, those eyes of hers are innocent and bright and hopeful, and that she loves me is all that matters now.
I cup her chin in my palm, tilt her face up, and kiss her softly. She wraps her arms around my neck, kissing me back. The rest of the world falls away and all I can think about now is her.
“That’s the last of them,” Farrow calls from the hallway as he sets a box down on the entry table.
“Don’t leave them in there,” Betsy scolds from the kitchen. “Those are the plates; we need them in the kitchen.” Betsy exchanges a knowing glance with me and chuckles indulgently. “Boys.”