I’m walking back toward the kitchen when I hear my phone buzzing on the table in the entryway. I dig it out of my purse and cringe when I see Rose’s name. I was supposed to call her last night and let her know that everything was okay with Lucian and me. Her first words, when I answer the call, are, “I’m getting myself a new best friend because you suck.”

“Er…good morning to you too, sunshine,” I say, in an attempt to lighten her up with a joke.

“You completely left me hanging. If you’d bothered to climb off that sex god of yours anytime last night, you would have noticed I called you like fifty times! I was on my way over there when Lucian finally returned the text I sent him and swore to me that everything was all right between you two.”

“You talked to Lucian last night? He didn’t mention you were trying to reach me,” I say, surprised.

“He said you were already asleep. I figured that was code for sex.” She snickers.

I laugh along with her not bothering to point out that Lucian would have never stopped to return a text message if we had been having sex. He must have heard his phone later on. He’s not a heavy sleeper. I figure that was largely because he was afraid of his usual nightmares about Cassie. I hope that now he’s talked to someone about what had happened that night, maybe he can finally begin to heal from the guilt and pain that has haunted him for so long. “I’m sorry for not calling you.” Knowing how badly my attack has affected those close to me, it was thoughtless of me to worry her like that.

“I’m going to forgive you this time,” she sighs, “but don’t do that again, chick. It’s all your fault that Max lost so much sleep last night.”

“Ah, sorry,” I say automatically before her last sentence sinks in. “Wait—what about Max?”

“First, I want you to know that I feel kind of bad about using you as an excuse to call him,” she says, sounding just a tad guilty. “I mean, I was really worried, so that wasn’t a lie. I thought that maybe he’d talked to Lucian about some lawyer stuff or something. When he said he hadn’t, I may have possibly exaggerated the level of my concern a bit…or a lot.”

“Oh God,” I groan, picturing poor Max trying to deal with an intentionally emotional Rose. The poor guy probably didn’t know what to do.

“It wasn’t that bad,” she protests weakly. “He should have been home shortly after midnight.”

“You made him come to your apartment?” I ask incredulously. How in the world did she pull that off? What was I even thinking? Stuff like this was child’s play to someone like Rose.

“He was resistant at first,” Rose admits, “but when I threw in the part about being scared of Jake, he cracked almost immediately.”

I feel like my head will explode as I try to keep up with the erratic flow of the conversation. “Jake? Why would you be scared of him? Has he been bothering you?” The last I’d heard, it was the other way around. Jake was running for his life from Rose since she’d discovered he was cheating on her. I mean, she’d shot out his tires with her pistol, broken into his apartment, and sewed up the leg holes on his pants and who knows what else. If I were he, I would have left the state—heck, maybe the country—and never look back.

“Nah.” She snorts, sounding as if the very thought is hilarious. “Max doesn’t know that though. You know how much alike he and Lucian are. They’re super overprotective of the little women. There were only so many times I could use the excuse that I needed to be talked out of doing something to Jake. He was starting to figure that out. When I called him all upset about not being able to reach you, he was so sweet and soothing. But, when I ran out of things to say, I panicked and blurted out that Jake has been bothering me with nasty texts and emails.”

Shaking my head in resignation, I point out, “You know that can be checked, don’t you? You don’t have any actual proof since it never happened. What’re you going to do if Max wants you to produce those threats so he can see them?”

“Oh, I covered that before he even got to my apartment. I used my burner phone to send myself a nasty message. I made sure I didn’t notice the text until Max was already there.”

“What’s a burner phone?” I ask, almost afraid to know.

“Um…a prepaid phone,” she says slowly as if I’ve asked something ridiculous.

I know she’ll consider this another dumb question, but I ask it anyway. “Why would you have a burner phone?”

“Daddy says that everyone should have an untraceable phone on hand. Our government tracks everything through our cell phones. My friends received jewelry for their sixteenth birthday—I got a pistol and burner phone.” Her tone is matter-of-fact as if we’re discussing the weather.

I’m not surprised at her father’s gift. I’ve come to think of him as some kind of modern Adolf Hitler or, at the very least, a close relative of his. What kind of man buys his daughter a membership in the National Rifle Association and gets angry with her if she doesn’t solve her problems with a gun? In the time that we’ve been roommates, I’ve never actually met him. I have seen her mother fleetingly and she dresses almost exactly as Rose. Demurely and expensively. Apparently, she took after both parents. Heck, maybe it was the required dress code in their house growing up. “That’s…different. Don’t feel bad,” I joke, “my mother didn’t even remember my birthday. I treated myself by going to the library and staying until they closed so at least it was a peaceful one for me.”

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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