Page 40 of Hardline (Hacker 3)

“What is all this?” I tossed my bag down and leaned against the island to watch him.

“If I did everything right, it should look and taste like beef wellington. Julia Child would be proud, I think.”

I smirked, enamored by the gesture and a little proud too. Not surprisingly, Blake was amazing at anything he put his mind to.

“If I knew getting on my knees was going to result in home cooked meals every night, I would have done it sooner. You know food is the way to my heart.”

He grinned. “Watch that mouth. I might have to punish it later.”

I hummed with a giggle. “Sounds intriguing. I hope you put it to good use.”

He flashed me a dark look. “Don’t mistake my culinary prowess for weakness, sweetheart.”

“I wouldn’t dare. Nothing you do is anything less than perfectly dominant. Just don’t make me call you Master while we eat, okay?”

I came up behind him and circled his chest with my arms, giving him a hug as he placed tiny springs of herbs on top our plates.

“Fair enough. Come on, let’s eat,” he said.

I let go, and we walked to the table. My cheeks heated at the memory of being tied down to the very thing, having come home to a far less amiable Blake.

“What are you thinking about?”

I widened my eyes as if I’d been caught in the very act. “Um…the table.”

He laughed and popped a bite of steak into his mouth. “You’re trying to rush us through a gourmet meal so I can tie you up, baby?”

“No. I like to unwind a bit before you start practicing your rope work. What has you so chipper anyway?”

He leaned back in his chair. “Max is out.”

My eyebrows shot up. “Out of Angelcom? That’s amazing. How did you do it?”

“Unfortunately, my chat with Michael was pretty fruitless. He said exactly what I thought he’d say. Always wants us to work it out between us, not get involved. So I worked it out.”

“How did you do it?”

“I was talking to Heath about pulling our investment from Sophia’s business. He’s invested too, you know. I’m not sure it can be done without—”

“Wait, what does this have to do with Max?”

“Basically, I looked into every investment I shared with the dissenting board members and figured out the absolute worst move I could make on each of them. A few short conversations later, I had consent.”

“Wow. You fight dirty.”

“This surprises you?”

“No,” I admitted.

He shrugged. “I could have hacked their bank accounts and bled them dry. I was being nice.”

“Did you tell Max?”

He shook his head, the undercurrent of contentment still glittering in his eyes. I hated Max, sure. But I loved seeing Blake finally happy after what he’d put him through.

“I had one of the admins send him a copy of our minutes with our sincerest apologies. He’ll get the message.”

I chewed in silence for a moment, trying to imagine Max’s reaction to the news. I wondered if he cared as much about getting kicked out as Blake did about getting him out. If nothing else, Angelcom was a major channel into Blake’s affairs that gave Max opportunities to hurt him again in the future. Without access to that, Blake was safer. We were safer.

“You must be relieved.”

“I am. And I’m hopeful too, because while we were voting on board positions, I had them add someone new.”


“The future Mrs. Blake Landon, of course.”

I stared at him in shock and searched for words.

“I think some of the trust issues that we have maybe root from the fact that I’ve been involved with your work, and you have virtually no involvement in mine. I’m happy that you came to me, Erica. I can’t tell you what a relief it’s already been. But I don’t want you to think that you have no power in our relationship, that you have no say. And I don’t want to discourage your growth as an entrepreneur. It’s that spirit that attracted me to you after all, so the last thing I want to do it dampen that flame in you. I’ve thought about it, and I think a position on the board would be the perfect place for you to participate with your experience as a startup.”

I set down my fork and swallowed over the tightness in my throat. The words and the gesture were almost too much for me to process right away. Everything that I was so scared of having taken away from me felt that much safer in Blake’s hands. In his control. Maybe all I had to do was give up a little control to have it come back to me in a different way.

“Thank you. I’m flattered that you would even consider it. But are you sure? I mean, I already feel like I’m in over my head at any of these industry events. I can’t imagine sitting on the board and holding my own. Involving me at that level is a huge decision.”

“Deciding to marry you was a huge decision. Adding you to the board was easy. You’ll have these guys won over in no time. You’re smart and beautiful, sassy as hell. They won’t know what to do with you, the same way I don’t half the time. I can’t wait to sit back and watch, frankly.”

“Aren’t they all investors, though? I’m not an investor. What place do I have?”

“You’re my wife, or you will be. And this is what I do. I find new projects to invest in. When I decide to drop one or five million into a new project, you’ll be a part of that decision process now.”

I toyed with my napkin on my lap. “I have no wish to ruin this amazing night, but maybe this is a good time to talk about that. I mean, I’m assuming you want a pre-nup, right?”

We hadn’t talked about ownership of assets, or any of those things since he’d asked me to be his wife. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to shake the inequity between us when it came to money. As much as he reassured me that it meant nothing, I wanted to earn my way, make my own contribution to our lives.

The warmth in his eyes faded a little, a seriousness coming over him. “Make no mistake, what’s yours is mine. I don’t need a legal document to make me feel any safer in our marriage. If you decide to divorce me and rake me over the coals, I’m not sure any amount of money would ease the pain of losing you. It’s a non-issue for me.”

“That seems rash. You’ve spent half your life amassing your wealth, and you want to risk it all now?”

“Are you a risk? Usually when you leave me, you just take my heart. That’s the biggest risk of all, I’d say.”