Page 61 of Hardline (Hacker 3)

He cursed, his expression suddenly tight. “Erica, you’re maddening sometimes, you know that? The man hit you and threatened to kill me. God knows what else he’s done that warrants a lifetime behind bars.”

“He’s my father, Blake. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture perfect family like yours. My mother’s dead and my stepfather started over without me. Unfortunately, Daniel’s the only parent I’ve got. I’d rather not live the rest of my life with the knowledge that I put him behind bars for killing the man who nearly destroyed my life.”

He shoved a hand through his hair, a gesture that always betrayed his growing frustration, usually with me.

“So what now?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. Before, I was just a girl Mark was hitting on the night he died. Now I’m officially his stepsister and the illegitimate daughter of a powerful man with a multi-million dollar campaign on the line. The discovery is bound to raise eyebrows. They’ll have more questions without a doubt.”

“You definitely told the police that Mark was coming on to you that night?”

“Even if I hadn’t, it was obvious in the photos. They had a whole series of shots of us dancing. Him...talking in my ear.” I shuddered, the memory creeping over my skin.

Blake stared off in silence a few moments.

“Why would there be so many photos you that night? There were hundreds of people at that event, and I don’t remember seeing a ton of press there. You were stunning, obviously. I can’t deny that you would have caught anyone’s eye that night. But doesn’t that strike you as uncanny?”

I couldn’t disagree, but I couldn’t come up with another answer that made sense. I’d never really thought about the unlucky existence of the photos when the detectives came to the apartment last month asking questions about Mark. I was too nervous about protecting Daniel and sounding natural doing it. But what luck to have so many shots of a man the night he died? Of all the people there, the who’s who of the city, that someone would take an interest in us, in me...

Then it struck me.

“Oh my God.” My hand went to my mouth.


My stomach fell, and I thought I might be sick.

“Shit,” I whispered, shaking my head in disbelief.

“Erica. Talk to me,” he pressed, pulling my hand away and slipping it into his palm.

“Richard.” I looked up. “Richard was covering the event that night with a photojournalist. And he knew I was going to be there. I remember, Marie told him to look for me.”

Blake and I shared a knowing look.

“What else has she told him?”