Page 11 of Tripping on a Halo

“So?” Nate prompted. “What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know.” He thumbed one corner of the steam cleaning discount offer. “That’s why I called you.”

“Ah. The voice of reason. Thinker of brilliant thoughts. Deviser of schemes—”

“Drinker of beers and clogger of toilets,” Declan interrupted. “Don’t give yourself too much credit. Ever since Carter got married, you’re the best friend I’ve got. The choices were slim.”

“Ouch.” Nate winced, tilting back and finishing off his beer. “That’s harsh.” He fell silent and Declan looked back down at the piece of paper, rereading the name and address.

Autumn Jones

444 Frolicking Lane

Tallahassee, Florida 32311

“Hey.”

Declan looked over to find Nate’s phone out, his attention on the screen.

“Bridget says to look her up online.”

Autumn Jones’s Facebook profile was private, and it was one of the few things they found. She wasn’t on Linkedin, and no company site listed her as an employee. She was, shockingly enough, listed in the phone book, and they found her home in the tax rolls—a two-bedroom in a nice neighborhood in the southern part of town. A records search came up empty, so she’d paid cash for the house four months ago, which was interesting. Where had that money come from? Nate speculated stripping, combined with an aggressive investment strategy. Declan thought a large ransom payout was more likely.

Bridget had called about an hour into the search, wanting to know everything and promising donuts and coffee if they would give her the girl’s name.

Nate had perked up at the idea of food. Declan had flatly refused, and their research had hit a dead end at the Facebook page, which offered a profile photo and nothing else.

The profile photo was of the woman, and it was definitely her. Same long blonde hair. A sunburnt nose. She was scrunching up her face in the photo, her cheek being licked by a pig. No joke. A freaking pig was licking her face.

“She doesn’t look crazy,” Nate remarked. Declan flipped past a Seinfeld episode, the channel descriptions still in Chinese, and ignored the comment. She had chosen, out of every possible photo in her life, to represent herself with a pig. A pig that was licking her. It was the definition of crazy.

“She’s actually pretty cute.”

“Great,” Declan drawled. “You find out who she is. Maybe she could be your next train wreck of a relationship. A psychotic trash thief seems right up your alley.”

“As much as I appreciate your crazy cast-off, I’ve got my hands full.” Nate opened the door to the fridge.

“As long as they aren’t full of Benta Aldrete,” Declan muttered. The Brazilian had finally signed off on their contract before catching a plane back to New York, with threats to return in another month for site visits. Their new project was made more complicated by the fact that she was negotiating between three different parcels, each which would require different building footprints. She wanted to see their sketches for each parcel, which would help her decide which location to move forward with.

It was a gigantic waste of money on her end but would give them some much-needed income. Assuming, of course, that Nate didn’t fuck everything up for them.

“I’m telling you, she’s perfect.” Nate shut the fridge, two beers in hand.

“You need to stay away from her, at least until this project is over. Six months, okay? Then you can go up to New York and go nuts on her.”

“You’re acting like I will fuck this up. Women love me. You know this.”

It was annoyingly true. He won hearts as often as he broke them, smoothing every parting with a slick smile and flash of that dimple. He was, as Declan had experienced himself, impossible to stay mad at. And the women kept coming back for more, even after he’d broken their hearts.

“Benta isn’t most women,” he reminded Nate. “You screw her over and she’ll cut your balls off and deliver them to our office in a glass jar. Assuming she doesn’t put it on her mantle instead.” He found a late-night talk show and stopped, waving off the beer that Nate offered him.

Nate winced, one hand moving in front of his crotch. “Dude. Why would you say something like that? They can hear you. Besides, I’m not screwing her over. I can barely get a reaction out of her.”

“I thought you just said that women loved you.”

“Fine. Most women.” He settled into the other end of the couch, setting the extra beer on the end table. Declan passed him a coaster. “She’s just proving a little harder to crack.”

“Well, stop cracking. We need this job.”

“What we need is to figure out what we’re going to do about Autumn Jones.” He pointed to the laptop, still open on the coffee table. “I think you should invite her to be your friend.”

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