Finally, she zeroed in on his motivation. The tension in her body, preparing for a fight-or-flight response, eased a fraction. She’d found the thing she could appeal to and manipulate to free herself from his grasp, and his gun, to avoid abduction. Because from the sound of it, that’s what he planned to do—hold her against her will at gunpoint until she agreed to his terms.

Like hell I will, you pathetic, egotistical, spoiled brat.

Calming herself, she reassessed the situation. He wanted her to do something to set his information leak in motion. That’s where she’d start. “I didn’t realize you understood what I needed, Alexander,” she murmured, injecting seduction into her voice. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“You didn’t want to hear it,” he grumbled. Then he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What took you so long to figure it out?”

She knew Zander was incredibly smart. A bait-and-switch tactic wouldn’t work with him. She needed to lead him to her own “false” suggestions subtly. “I didn’t think you wanted me that way.”

His snarky grin returned. “Well, now you know. To stick it to Trey, all you need to do is enter your password for Soren Security and hit Enter.”

“I’d like that,” she lied. “As soon as he found out I couldn’t have children, he threw me aside. But you wouldn’t, right, Alexander?”

“You know I won’t.” He practically salivated as she came around the desk and approached him, turning the laptop around to face them both. Which put her closer to the gun. “We’re meant to be together. You and me, we’ll bring the world to its knees.”

Although the creepy slither in his voice made her shudder, she said, “Yes. We’ll make them bend over and take it. After the way Trey trashed me, not to mention that bastard, Adam.”

“I have to plug in my pass key to enter my code.” She dipped her hand into her purse and withdrew the SOS thumb drive Adam had given her when he’d claimed an emergency signal would launch to all the heads of security, including him, and, more importantly, Trey. She inserted the thumb drive into the slot. “This should come up any second.”

As she plugged the thumb drive into the USB port of his laptop, she prayed the SOS signal executed immediately. Regardless, she wouldn’t let him destroy Trey’s company. If she had to rip out his Wi-Fi card and grind it in the garbage disposal, she would. Even if it meant losing the SOS signal.

Otherwise, she’d have to come up with an alternate plan of escape that might involve her getting shot, or even killed.

*

While Cade, Adam and Liam rehashed stories about their former bad lovers and breakups over the years—from the amusing to the appalling—Trey sipped his beer with zero enthusiasm. He didn’t want to get drunk. He just felt like crap, and no amount of alcohol would cure that.

Though he laughed, frowned or nodded on cue, his gaze kept wandering around his living room, seeing ghosts of the dreams he’d envisioned playing out in this home.

At one point, Devon had told him she’d prefer swimming with piranhas over going camping. So he’d revamped his initial thoughts about his fireplace. Instead, he’d opted for a giant slate fixture that looked like it had come out of a quarry, with a wide hearth that anchored his living room. That way, they could still sit around a fire and roast marshmallows and make s’mores without fending off mosquitoes. He’d also considered the excellent layout of Logan and Allison’s first floor space, realizing how the open concept lent itself to a better family flow. He could be making a fire in the hearth or playing with Peanut while Devon cooked or set the dining room table for a big sit-down dinner, and she’d always be within view.

Since the future bedrooms would be situated in a two-story structure over his garage, he’d thought about keeping the current three bedroom layout of his ranch, dedicating two of the lower level bedrooms as home offices. Plenty of space for her to set up her elaborate computer station.

Looking past the drywall-dust-covered shag carpet and the half-wall of spindles blocking the cramped kitchen, he saw his current place overlaid with John’s architecture plans, transforming his house into something great and beautiful. And he saw Devon in every room, in every part of those plans. He failed at any attempt to exclude her from the visions of his future.

As long as she was here, did he really have to fill his house with kids? That had always been his expectation, but who was he to put parameters around the term “family?” He thought back to what Devon had said the night they went into the mountains to gaze at the stars. “You don’t get to choose your family, Trey.” All this time, he’d kept a list in his mind like boxes he could check off on a form. When the checks lined up and met his criteria, he’d find happiness.

Except, life rarely went according to plan. Losing his dad the same week he broke up with Jenna had cemented that truth.

Maybe he needed to ditch the checkboxes. Maybe the life with Devon that would make him so happy required flexibility and compromise. Even sacrificing some dreams to fulfill others. To find completion with the woman he loved, instead of waiting for some made-up ideal that might never materialize.

“Earth to Trey.” Adam’s voice penetrated his thoughts.

Liam with his spot on pitch sang lyrics to a David Bowie song, “‘Ground Control to Major Tom…’”

Trey blinked and glanced at the guys, who stared at him with varying expressions of investment on their faces. “What?”

“We didn’t stage an intervention to come here and be ignored,” Adam groused, sending his elbow into Trey’s ribs.

“Then you should’ve brought a keg instead of two six-packs,” Trey retorted. Two beers apiece barely made for a drunken night in. Realizing the beer he held had gone warm in his grip, he tossed the half-empty bottle into the trash. “Look, I know what you’re trying to do, and I appreciate it. But talking about your breakups isn’t helping.”

“I told you we should’ve changed the subject,” Cade muttered.

Suddenly, Adam’s phone buzzed with a strange ring tone. Followed by Cade’s phone, Liam’s phone, and his own. “What the…?” He lifted cell.

Devon’s number.

He shot to his feet. “This is Devon.”

“Shit, that’s the signal.” Adam stood, too. “The prototype me and Allen Guthrey made is supposed to send an SOS to all of us, if one of our clients is in an emergency.”


Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense
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