“The matter was investigated and dropped for lack of evidence,” he said evenly. “After that I left the force voluntarily.”

From the tone in his voice it was obvious he was done with the discussion. But his response didn’t make it clear if the charges against him were accurate, but couldn’t be proved, or if they were false. The truth lay buried beneath the impossible-to-ruffle gaze, and her mind kept drifting back to the hard, lethally cool look on his face in the alley.

She cleared her throat, trying to ease the tension. “Being ex-FBI must have helped your business.”

He shot her a pointed look. “As much as having William Wolfe for a father has helped your career.”

The statement was like an elbow-jab to the gut, and Carly’s stomach folded protectively into a knot. Her dad was her least favorite subject, and she wished the Shakespeare-singing and dancing men in the buff had driven Hunter away. Clearly he didn’t scare easily. The next few minutes were going to be rough.

Remember the mantra, Carly. Cool. Easy-breezy.

“It didn’t help as much as you’d think,” she said lightly. “My dad always insisted I make it on my own.” Which she had confidently set out to do, back when she’d believed hard work alone was enough. “When I landed my first job at one of his California papers no one learned who my father was until a year later.”

He studied her face, as if surprised. “That must have caused a few ripples.”

“My boss was certainly nicer after he found out.”

Or he had been nice up until she’d made an iffy decision and scandal had rocked her world—both personally and professionally. And, true to his word, her father had never intervened on her behalf...not even when she’d needed his help the most.

The pain sliced like a freshly whetted knife, and Carly clutched her armrest and stared at the stage, grateful the music was loud as Hamlet belted out his monologue, bare-assed and lifting Yorick’s skull further skyward with every high note. Her father’s approval had always felt unattainable. But if she earned her current boss’s confidence, and a little leeway to choose her stories again, she’d regain a bit of the dignity she’d lost after her mistake.

“California is a long way away,” Hunter said when the music died down. “Your dad must have been happy you were hired on at the Miami Insider and moved back to town.”

Carly bit back a bark of humorless laughter, staring at the stage. “You would think so,” she said. “But you’d be wrong. My father thinks a weekly online paper will fail. He’s convinced I made a disastrous career move.”

Or, more accurately, a second disastrous career move. As always, his lack of confidence in her rankled. But after his prediction she wouldn’t leave even if the Miami Insider did take a nosedive at perilous speeds. She was hell-bent on proving her dad wrong.

“As a matter of fact—” Carly sent Hunter a wry smile “—he’s probably eagerly waiting for the paper to fold just so he can be proved right.”

Hunter narrowed his eyes skeptically. “You’re saying your father had nothing to do with you winding up on Brian O’Connor’s show?”

This time there was no holding back the harsh laugh. The suggestion was so absurd it hurt. “My father would never show me that kind of favoritism.”

“Seems a big coincidence we ended up at the very station your father owns.”

“He had nothing to do with it. I contacted the producer of the show—”

“Who wouldn’t have given you the time of day if not for the family name.”

She wasn’t so foolish as to deny it. “Okay, so that part is true.” Having the last name Wolfe had to be good for something, because the parental aspect wasn’t so hot. “But Brian O’Connor is a fan of my column and was on board with the idea from the start.”

“On board for what?” he asked dryly. “Ganging up on me?”

She blew out an exasperated breath. “You handled us as easily as you handled Thad and Marcus. And you know,” she said, fed up with the entire conversation as she twisted in her seat to face him, “I asked to come on Brian’s show simply to state my beef with your app. You weren’t even supposed to be there.”

His brow creased with suppressed amusement even as his eyes remained unyielding. “Too bad for you I showed up.”

Carly’s lips pressed flat as she remembered how he’d goaded her into losing her temper. Was that his intention now?

His intense gaze was relentless as he went on. “I want you to end this public dispute.”

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