“You’re sure?” he asked Reyna.
“Yes. Do this with me.”
“I don’t want to risk you.”
“Some risks are worth everything.”
Her eyes said what she didn’t have to. You were. You were worth everything.
“No,” Beckham said again.
“I believe I am in charge of this operation, Mr. Anderson,” Sydney said formally. “I think it’s the start of a plan. We need to flesh it out, but if Reyna is willing, I think it’s the best chance we have.”
“Sleep on it,” Beckham said.
“I won’t change my mind,” she said defiantly.
He bared his teeth in frustration. “We’ll talk about this later.”
“It’s been a long night for everyone. Get some rest and meet back here at fifteen hundred hours,” Sydney said as a dismissal.
With the decision all but made, Reyna felt a sharp sense of relief flood her system. She was doing something. Sacrificing anything to stop these farms from being implemented…to find a way to get Brian back.
Beckham herded her toward the exit. Her exhaustion was winning out. She stumbled through her steps. Her eyes were drooping. The adrenaline was wearing off and she had nothing left to give.
They were in the hallway when Beckham growled, “You can hardly walk.”
“It’s been a long night.”
“Should I carry you?”
“I’m okay,” she lied.
She was far from okay. Even further from fine. Catatonic was the correct word.
“Beckham!” Penelope called behind them.
They both stopped and turned around to face her. Reyna braced her hand against the wall to stay steady. She really didn’t want to deal with Penelope right now. Not after the night she’d had.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Reyna needs to rest.”
“Okay…so she’ll rest. But where are you going?”
His patience was clearly on a razor-thin edge when he responded, “I am going with her.”
It felt like a line was drawn in the sand. A line that had been drawn over and over again. But never in this way. Never this forcefully. Never in front of Reyna.
Penelope crossed her arms. “I can’t keep doing this.”
“I’m the one who has always been there for you. I’m the one who changed your life. I’m the one who brought you to Elle,” Penelope said. She tilted her chin up. “It’s me. It’s always been me.”
“You’re really doing this now?” he asked.
“When else am I supposed to do it? I’m Penelope Sky. I’m the mayor. I’m educated and rich and gorgeous, Beckham. When are you going to get a clue that there is nothing better than what is right in front of your face? This charade has to end. You and I, we’re perfect together. We should be together,” she said, her voice raising an octave. “The mayor and a senior vice president of Visage together, working to make this a better future. That’s us! Everyone can see it but you. I deserve you.”
Reyna’s eyebrows rose at the entitled tone of the conversation. “I…uh…maybe I should…” She hitched her thumb over her shoulder and started to back away from the conversation. She didn’t need to hear this. Beckham could handle the situation.
“Oh no!” Penelope snapped, “By all means, stick around. It’s not like what I’m saying should come as any shock to you. I thought it was already obvious that I was better than you in every way.”
“Penelope,” Beckham said, his voice cast low and disapproving.
“What? We all know it’s true. I don’t accept that this ends any other way for me. There is no way that you fuck me, drink from me for over a year, and then leave me for some warehouse rat. I always get what I want and what I want is you.”
“No, you want what you cannot have. I have already told you time and time again that this is not what I want. We are not together,” Beckham said, putting himself between Penelope and Reyna. “I didn’t want to have this conversation in front of Reyna, but you’re leaving me no choice here.”
“No choice?” Penelope laughed in a short burst. “You had every choice. You could have picked me! I’m a hell of a lot better than someone like her. Christ, look at me, Beckham. I am the most sought-after woman in this city. I could have anyone I want, but I want you. You and me against the world.”
“Penelope, it was never you. You know it was never you. And you and I were over long before Reyna entered my life. So, don’t try to pin it on her,” he said, holding up his hand to forestall her protest. “We were a dalliance. We had fun. But I never gave you the impression that this was going to be long term.”
“You never gave me the impression?” she nearly shouted. Her eyes widened, round as saucers. Her eyebrows lifted incredulously. Her mouth dropped open. “Are you fucking kidding me? I just…I can’t believe you’re even saying this. We were supposed to be together and now you’re painting me as the crazy and delusional one for believing the lies you told me. A fucking dalliance, Beckham?” She shook her head. “I have nothing to say to that absurd notion.”