“Would you like me to come in with you, Miss Hathaway?” The depth of Clay’s voice startled me.
“No, I don’t think that would be a very good idea. Just wait here. I shouldn’t be long.”
I walked up to the front door, steeling myself for an awkward visit with the Cooper boys’ mother. I rang the bell and waited patiently. After ringing it again with no answer, I knocked loudly on the off chance the doorbell was broken.
Finally the door opened, and before me stood a young man with long black hair that fell over his eyes. He was ghostly pale and not much taller than I. My breath caught, but I kept my composure.
“Is Ms. Cooper home?”
“What do you want?”
“It’s a private matter. Would you mind if I came in?”
He eyed me cautiously before finally moving away from the door, leaving it open for me to enter. I followed him in, stepping into a dark living area. Every curtain was closed. Only the persistent sun peeking through the edges of the blinds lit the room. Other than the general clutter, the house seemed new.
The young man made a half turn toward a hallway at the end of the room before stopping to stare at me.
“What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t.” Adrenaline rushed through me, giving me the courage to speak again. “You must be Trevor.”
His eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
“Erica Hathaway. You know, the one whose business you’re trying to destroy?” I had no proof that he had any such intention, but he was the best lead I had, and if he was involved, I probably wouldn’t be getting very far with a polite line of questioning. “But I have a feeling it’s not me you’re really interested in.”
“Get out.” He grimaced and walked toward me.
I stood my ground. Worst-case scenario, I was pretty confident I could hold my own. Plus, I had Clay. I held up my hand to stop him.
“Not so fast. We need to talk.”
He stopped short in front of me.
“I’ll call the cops,” he said through gritted teeth.
I laughed, genuinely amused by the threat. “Go ahead. I’m sure they’d be very interested in the contents of your computer.”
He didn’t blink.
“You’ve been terrorizing my site for weeks and you’ve made no demands.”
I frowned at his question. “Clozpin.”
The corner of his mouth lifted in a satisfied smirk that solidified my suspicions. That little shit. I’d had no intention of coming face to face with the person hacking our site, but now that I was, anger rushed over me.
“What the fuck do you want?” I yelled, no longer able to control myself. I was the worst negotiator ever.
His smile disappeared, replaced by a haunted seriousness.
“Tell Landon I want my brother back.”
I stilled, uncertain where to go from here. I hadn’t expected this. I thought I’d be appealing to Brian’s mourning mother for information about Trevor. I hadn’t thought beyond that.
“You need to make peace with what happened,” I said in a more controlled tone.
“You need to leave.”
Fine. Maybe I couldn’t appeal to him on a personal level, but what he was doing was blatantly illegal.
“I can have you investigated. Everything you’re doing will be exposed.” I hesitated over what I’d say next. “You’ll end up just like your brother if you don’t stop this now.”
He sneered and took a step closer, bringing his face inches from mine when a voice called his name from the back of the house. Like a startled animal, he jumped back and looked in the direction of the noise.
I dug in. “I’m not going anywhere until we figure this out.”
He rolled his eyes and disappeared at the sound of a crash in the hallway. “Ma. Are you all right?”
“Yeah. Who th’ fuck is in there?”
Ma sounded like she’d swallowed a box of nails soaked in vodka. The loud rasp of her voice made me reconsider my decision not to leave.
I scanned the room quickly, desperate to find something, anything, that could help me get to the bottom of this. The dining room table was covered with paperwork and mail. I pushed through some of it until I spied a piece that had been opened. A check in the amount of over ten thousand dollars made out to Trevor. The envelope below it showed it had been sent from an investment firm in Texas, a name I didn’t recognize.
I heard Ma stumbling through the hallway, their voices getting closer and louder.
“I don’t want no fuckin’ strangers in this house. How ma’y times I gotta tell ya?”
“I didn’t bring her. She just came in. She knows Blake.”
I froze for a second. Fucking Trevor had dimed me out to his crazy mom. I left the check on the table and stuffed the envelope into my pocket just as they emerged into the living area. Ma was a heavyset woman in her forties dressed in a tracksuit. Her blond hair was dyed with grown out roots and matted slightly. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot as she jerked out of his grasp. I took a few steps back as she approached, shaking her fist at me.
“Lil’ bitch. You think you can come here, waltz right in. You tell Blake he can come here and face me!” Her eyes were glossy and crazed with emotion.
She lunged at me and I back away quickly. She lost her balance and stumbled. Trevor rushed to her and she cursed again, swinging her arm back at him.
I couldn’t talk to either of them. The situation was spiraling beyond my control so I slipped out the door and ran down the path toward the Escalade.
Clay jumped out and opened the door for me.
“Drive,” I ordered, glancing over to see Trevor’s mother making her way down the path, Trevor chasing behind her. She was hurling slurred expletives that I couldn’t make out as Clay pulled away, leaving them in the rearview.
“Do you want to tell me what the hell you’re doing?”
I could tell by the quality of the call that Blake was calling me from the plane. That he’d bother while he was still in the air was a testament to his hyper concern over my safety, but I bristled at the fact he was scolding me when he was the one who’d got us into this mess.
“Blake, for once in your life, shut up and let me talk.”
“I’ve only been in the air a few hours and Clay’s telling me you’re getting chased out of someone’s house.”
“I’m getting to the bottom of a situation that you have been ignoring for far too long,” I snapped. “You can hear me out before you start flipping out.”