I was still high on adrenaline, ready to fight with anyone who crossed me. If Clay hadn’t already dropped me off, I would have strongly considered giving him a piece of my mind for tattling on me to Blake. I’d be like a Chihuahua barking at a bullmastiff, I realized, and filed that scenario under never-going-to-happen.

“Brian Cooper’s brother, Trevor, is running M89.”

He paused. “How do you know that?”

“Before his bat-shit crazy mother came onto the scene, he basically admitted it to me. And that they’d both be eternally happy to witness your ruin. You might be right about the not negotiating with terrorists thing. He didn’t seem open to making peace.”

“So you’ve probably just pissed them off more is what I’m hearing.”

“What he’s doing is illegal. Can’t we just call the police and get his things confiscated?”

“He’s running a virtual operation. If you think he doesn’t have fail-safes in place to cover his ass, especially after what happened to Brian, you’re crazy. Now that he knows you’re onto him, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the authorities resolving this for you.”

I muttered a curse under my breath before I remembered the envelope. I pulled it out of my pocket to study it again. “Have you heard of AcuTech Investments?”

“No, why?”

“He’s getting checks from them. Like, huge checks.”

“Send me the info. I’ll look into it while I’m out here.”

“Okay.” I calmed down a bit and immediately regretted that Blake was already hundreds of miles away. The past forty-eight hours had been intense in more ways than one, and we’d done nothing but bicker through most of it. “How long will you be gone?”

“Hopefully just a couple days. We’ll see how things go.”

“I miss you.” I worried my lip and fought to keep my voice even. Blake hearing me upset would only add to his frustration at being gone.

He sighed on the other end of the line. “I know, baby. I miss you too.” His voice was lower, softer. “Can I ask you a favor?”

“Sure,” I said quickly, anxious to occupy my thoughts with something other than missing him terribly.

“Can you check in with Heath while I’m gone? Maybe grab lunch or something. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but he hasn’t been back long. I want to make sure he stays on track.”

“Of course.”

“Thanks. I’ll call you later, okay?”


“No more crazy stunts either.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. I hung up, collapsed onto the bed, and gave myself over to sleep before the sun had even gone down.


Risa seemed confused when we climbed into the back of the Escalade. We both wore tailored black suits and heels, and for once I felt I’d put as much effort into pulling off a look this morning as she did.

“Who’s he?” she whispered as Clay settled in behind the steering wheel.

I had failed to mention that we’d be chauffeured by my security detail. “This is Clay. He’s my bodyguard slash babysitter.” I made sure he could hear me from the backseat. “He makes sure I stay out of trouble. Isn’t that right, Clay?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He pulled out smoothly onto the busy street and steered us toward our destination.

I caught the hint of a smile in the rearview mirror. I grinned in reply though I wasn’t sure if he saw it. That was as much of a scolding as he was going to get from me. Bryant’s office was out of the city, so I sat back and sifted through the emails on my phone to kill time.

“Oh, no.”

Risa stared down at her phone, her hand cupped over her mouth. My heart sank, hoping she didn’t have bad news about the site.


“Breaking news. Mark MacLeod was found dead in his apartment this morning. He was the one you were dancing with at the gala, wasn’t he? Max’s friend?”

I stared at her blankly, my jaw agape and no words coming out. What could I say? I shut my mouth and made an effort to mask the panic. My mind spun, trying to make sense of the news.

“What happened?” My voice wavered. I swallowed hard, pressing my damp palms to the seat.

She scrolled through the article for a few more seconds. I wanted to rip the phone out of her hands to read it myself but refrained. “Apparent suicide but they aren’t saying how. Says a toxicology report is pending.”

Mark was dead. Dead. I silently repeated the fact over and over in my mind, willing myself to believe it.

The worst nightmare of my life was gone forever.

I stared out the window, trying to grasp the magnitude of the news Risa had just shared. I waded through the emotions that flooded me. The relief was unmistakable. No longer would I live in constant fear of the man, dreading how his presence would color every moment spent getting to know my father.

As these realities slowly dawned, a heaviness lifted. As if I’d been given a gift, a prayer answered. Tears welled, and I bit my lip to still its quivering.

“Did you know him really well?” Risa’s voice was quiet and laced with all the appropriate sympathy one should have in a moment like this.

What she didn’t know about the truth of the matter could fill volumes.

I cleared my throat and straightened. “No. I’d met him briefly before through Blake’s investment firm. I think he had a thing for me, but I barely knew him. It’s shocking… Sad.”

Was it? This wasn’t a tragic accident, and as relieved as I felt, I couldn’t shake my uneasiness. Mark had killed himself, but why? With everything he had going for him, I couldn’t understand it. Mark seemed to take special interest in tormenting me emotionally since he’d come back into my life. What else could be at play? I knew nothing about him except the personal hell he’d created for me.

Clay dropped us off at the building entrance a minute later. Risa and I made our way to the elevators as I tried to regroup emotionally.

“Are you okay? I think I could probably do this meeting on my own if you need some time.”

I punched the button to go up. “I’m fine. Let’s do this.”

She took a deep breath and smiled. Normally I would have been nervous, but nothing seemed as important next to the news I’d just heard.

Our meeting with Bryant’s marketing director was mercifully quick, which was good because I was having a really difficult time concentrating on anything the man said. He didn’t have a lot of time blocked out for us, so I let Risa take the lead presenting the details of our proposal. She was appropriately concise and delivered well. Whenever she hesitated or stumbled, I chimed in. Between the two of us, we made a pretty compelling pitch. The director seemed satisfied and said he’d run it by his team and get back to us as soon as he got approval.

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