I smiled. He had no idea, but I’d know more about his life than any employer would in a few hours. Bank statements would be the least of my findings. I shook my head. “Not necessary. If I have a problem with you, you’ll know it. In the meantime, be good to her. Very good. She probably won’t tell one of us if you break her heart, but I’ll make a point to find out if you do.”

“And what makes you think I’m going to break her heart?”

“Grabbing girls’ phone numbers at nightclubs isn’t a great testimonial.”

He relaxed back in his chair. “Why do I get the feeling I’m going to be guilty until proven innocent when it comes to you?”

Parker’s cool demeanor reminded me too much of my own. I wasn’t sure if I liked that about him, or if Fiona should be running for the fucking hills. Either way, I wasn’t going to waste any time scrounging up every last shred of information I could on him.

“Dessert, boys!” my mother called out from the kitchen.

“Thank Christ,” Heath muttered.

I smiled inwardly, all too aware of Heath’s general disinterest in dealing with conflict. He was the fun-loving one. He’d have better luck getting information out of Parker over drinks and a game of pool. Unfortunately, Parker would probably get more out of Heath, walk away with an ally, and then I’d have two skulls to crack. Such was my life as the eldest child and one I’d grown to accept.

I entertained a flurry of questions from Alli about the trip over dessert and took the first chance to excuse myself. The sky had grown dark. Erica was probably sleeping, but I didn’t want to be away from her any longer than I had to. We’d spent nearly every minute together for the past month, and as much as I’d craved her presence before the honeymoon, I was downright dependent on it now.

I crept into our bedroom. The lamp at her bedside table cast a warm glow across her features, peaceful in sleep. My mother was right. Erica looked better, a thousand times better, than when we’d left. She never seemed to attach any great importance to her beauty, but that didn’t diminish it. She took my breath away. In simple moments like this, wearing nothing but one of my T-shirts, she was a goddess, made just for me. Her chest moved with her steady breaths. I wanted to touch her, kiss her breathless, and make her mine.

Instead I switched off the light and left the room without a sound.



I poked at my eggs and toast, no less exhausted than I’d been the night before. I wanted to blame the time difference for my restless sleep, but my thoughts had been a jumble all day and likely had carried over into the night.

I’d wanted to talk to Blake about Max’s sentencing, but a part of me was still coming to terms with it on my own. With all the money and influence behind the Pope family, I should have been grateful that he would serve any time at all. Men like him usually got a slap on the wrist for having their way with unwilling pretty girls. Mark hadn’t been any different. A young man of privilege who had skirted past consequence for years.

Max too had grown up in the lap of luxury, with an incredibly successful family behind him. Now he’d be spending every day behind bars in the company of criminals. Would his hatred for Blake and me only amplify in that time? Or could he possibly change for the better? It was all too much to comprehend.

Blake stood silently in front of the coffeemaker, mug in hand, while the pot filled.

“Eager, are we?”

He made an unintelligible sound and rubbed his forehead.

“Were you up late?”

“Later than I expected.” Unwilling to wait any longer, he filled his mug, placing the pot back in the cradle with a sizzle.

“Catching up with Heath?”

He turned toward me, his eyes tired. “No, something else.”

“What did you think of Parker? You were giving him the third degree.”

He sighed and slid a hand through his disheveled hair. “Yeah. I don’t know. Something about him put me on edge, I guess. But he checked out fine.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

Before he could answer, a loud knock startled me.

“I’ll get it.” He set his mug down and moved for the door. Beyond the threshold stood a man dressed in a brown suit.

“Blake Landon?”

Blake’s stance in front of the stranger was wide and defensive. “That’s me. Who the hell are you?”

The man narrowed his eyes at Blake, and my stomach burst into a flurry of nerves. Blake’s cockiness had no bounds at times.

“I’m Agent Evans. I’m with the FBI.” He flipped open his wallet, revealing his ID. “Can I come in?”

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