Silence stretched between us, and I couldn’t ignore the foreboding feeling that he was not going to let this go, possibly ever. I rubbed my forehead, willing away the headache that had resurfaced suddenly.

“I’m afraid,” I admitted. “I’m afraid you’ll do something terrible again, and I’ll get caught in the middle of it. I don’t want to lie to protect you anymore.” The truth, finally. Words I’d wanted to say for a long time.

“Did the police talk to you again?” His voice was quieter now and tainted with a different kind of concern.

“No, but it’s only a matter of time.”

He paused again. “What if I assured you no one’s life would be in danger?”

I wouldn’t believe you.

“I don’t know.” They seemed to be the only words I knew. If I kept saying them, I wouldn’t have to give him a real answer.

“You’ll never be rid of me until you give a fucking name. It’s Blake or it’s someone else. You decide.”

No, no, no. Tears formed in my eyes. Why was he doing this to me? Why was he so set on revenge?


I stifled a whimper. “Richard Craven.”


“His name is Richard Craven. He’s a reporter for The Globe.”

He exhaled audibly. “You told a fucking reporter?”

“No,” I said, irritated that he would think that about me.

“Then how the fuck did he find out?”

“Stop yelling at me!” I shouted, unable to take this aggressive line of questioning with him any further.

I heard him breathing on the other end of the phone. “Explain to me, please, how the reporter Richard Craven knows that I am your biological father,” he said more calmly, but with evident strain.

I brushed a tear away angrily and took a steeling breath of my own. I had no idea how to explain this without throwing Marie into harm’s way too. That I wouldn’t do. I wanted to believe he’d never hurt someone close to me, but I could never know for certain with him. His moral compass had proven to be calibrated quite differently from my own. Still, I knew he wouldn’t let this go without some answers, and I didn’t want him believing I’d leaked the information myself. As much as I didn’t trust Daniel, I knew he didn’t exactly trust me either.

“He’s been dating an old friend of Mom’s. She…” I closed my eyes, praying that I was doing the right thing. “She’s been like a mother to me since Mom passed. She knows who you are. She didn’t mean to hurt either of us. He’s been manipulating her to get information about me to hurt you.”

“Who is she?”

“I gave you what you asked for, and I expect you to keep your promise. I don’t agree with what Richard’s done any more than you do, but I don’t want any more blood on my hands. Daniel, promise me. Promise me that no one’s going to get hurt.”

A second later, the line went dead. I stared at the phone, stunned by what had just happened. I replayed the conversation over in my head, second guessing everything I’d said. In the end, he’d left me with no reassurances.

Somewhere in the flurry of emotions, I felt relief that I’d spared Blake from Daniel’s wrath. The relief quickly dissipated when I realized I could have put another man’s life in grave danger.


Even after Daniel’s disturbing call, I managed to sleep away most of the weekend. Monday morning came quickly, and I tried to ignore the niggling worry that I’d put Richard in danger. I toyed with the idea of meeting with him. I had plenty I wanted to say, but maybe I could somehow convince him to give up this interest in Daniel’s world. Somehow…

I ducked into Mocha to dodge a reporter and grab my morning fuel. Simone let me sneak to the back and get to my side of the building undetected. Opening the door to the office, I stood frozen.

My heart pounded frantically, my palms damp at the sight before me.

At our conference table sat Sophia, and beside her, the man who’d been trying to nose his way into my business for months, Isaac Perry. Alli sat across from them, tensely silent.

“What’s going on here?”

Relief washed over Alli’s countenance when our eyes met, quickly followed by concern. She got up and walked to me.

“They’ve been here since I opened up this morning. They wouldn’t tell me why. Said they had business to discuss and you needed to be here.”

I stepped around her, glaring at them. “What are you doing here? Get out.”

Isaac rose, looking far more tentative than Sophia. “Erica, have a seat so we can talk.”

I stood by the table, ignoring his request. “Out.” I pointed toward the door, glaring at Sophia.

She sat back casually in the chair she occupied next to Isaac. She wore a tight black paneled dress, her long legs crossed over each other. A pen pressed to her curved lips. “Have a seat,” she said flatly.

Fine. I dropped down at the head of the table. “Talk. Quickly.”

Isaac drew in a breath. “First of all, congratulations on the sale of the business.”

I stilled. “How did you know about that?” I asked quietly.

“Alex Hutchinson and I have been working on our own deal for quite some time. We came into town last week to finalize everything.”

He averted his eyes but I continued to stare, trying to penetrate him with a look designed to kill.

“What deal?”

Sophia leaned in, spreading her manicured fingers over the table. “The deal where Perry Media Group acquired Clozpin, along with several other entities under Alex’s domain.”

My stomach fell to the floor. Sickness tore through me.

Alli let out a sound of pure shock. “Why would you do that?”

Isaac cleared his throat. “I know this comes as a shock, but this deal has been in the works for a long time with Alex. Acquiring Clozpin was a new development, but one that made sense for us.”

“Who’s us?” I asked.

“My company, and Sophia. She holds an interest in Clozpin and will be taking an active role in the business. Remotely, of course, but we’re here often so we can meet as frequently as you need.”

I let out a caustic laugh. Isaac was talking like Alex. Like this was all business as usual. Except I had no business relationship with Isaac. Blake had wanted it that way, and ultimately I had supported his position. And I sure as hell wasn’t doing business with Sophia.