Gove’s eyes softened. “This could be a while, Erica. He wants you to go home.”
My heart fell. “You take orders from him too, huh?”
He laughed softly. “For what he pays me, you’re absolutely right.”
“It’ll be a small price if you can get him out of this mess.”
“That’s what I’m here for. Don’t worry, all right? We’re taking care of this.” He nodded toward the automatic doors opening and closing in front of me, bringing gusts of crisp air into the lobby.
“Fine, but please have him call me as soon as he can.”
“I’ll give him the message. We won’t be here a minute longer than we need to be. I need to get back there before they try to pull any stunts with him though.”
Reluctantly I made for the doors. I caught sight of the black Escalade at the end of the block. Clay would take me back home, where I’d wait and wonder. I wanted more answers than I had, and I wouldn’t know any more until they let Blake leave.
I pulled out my phone, went to my contacts, and pulled up Daniel’s number. We hadn’t spoken in ages, but if anyone could shine some light on this shit storm it might be him. After a minute, the ringing switched over to his voicemail. I hung up and sent off a short text, hoping somehow he’d help me get closer to the truth.
E: We need to talk. Please call me.
If Daniel had made arrangements to tip the votes in his favor, after everything he’d done to try to win, I wouldn’t be surprised. If the loss of his stepson had once made him sympathetic to voters, an advantage he’d been well aware of when he’d put the hit out on Mark, I’d put nothing past him now.
But if Daniel didn’t rig it . . . who did? The police clearly thought they had their man.
A few seconds later my phone chimed with a text.
D: Don’t call. Don’t text. Stay far away from all of this.
I cursed under my breath. He’d seen my call and ignored it. Bastard.
E: The FBI is talking to Blake. I need answers.
When he didn’t respond, a truly hopeless feeling washed over me. Suddenly, more than anything, I needed Blake’s reassurance that we were going to find our way out of this, but he was at the center of it, and I had no idea how long they’d keep him.
I’d started toward Clay when I heard my name. Something about the male voice that uttered it sent a shiver down my spine. I turned and my heart seized.
We were face-to-face, inches apart. Not yards, which is what the restraining order had dictated after he’d attacked me. This close, Max looked haggard. His usually cropped blond hair was unkempt and stubble lined his jaw. Always clean-cut, he was as worn down as I’d ever seen him.
A sickening mix of panic and revulsion spread through me. What was he doing here? The question caught in my throat but never passed my lips. I swallowed hard and took an unsteady step back.
“You’re supposed to be—”
“The judge gave me some time to get my business affairs in order. I’m being processed today.” He shook his head, and his lips drew back in a bitter smile. “Can you imagine it, Erica? Having your freedom ticking down by the minute?”
My adrenaline surged. We were in public, but it didn’t make me feel any safer. My lips trembled as I found my voice. “I have a restraining order. You can’t be here,” I insisted, praying he’d turn around and leave.
He took a step toward me, regaining the distance between us. “Won’t matter soon.”
I took another step back, blood thundering in my ears. “I have to go.” I had to get the hell out of here, and fast.
“Wait.” He caught my arm, keeping me from fleeing.
I struggled for air, fear shooting through my veins. “Let me go!”
He grimaced and tightened his hold, painfully pinching my skin. “He’ll ruin you. All of you.” He spoke the words through gritted teeth.
I twisted away and stumbled backward, nearly falling to the pavement. I caught myself when he let me go. As I put a few steps between us, he stood stock-still, his eyes devoid of emotion.
“He’ll ruin you . . . the same way he ruined me.” There was something final and hopeless in his tone.
In a flash, Clay was between us, obscuring Max’s figure with his broad frame. “Sir, back away.”
“We were just talking.”
“I’m not going to have any choice but to physically move you if you don’t start walking in the other direction right now.”
“She’ll never see me again. Trust me.”
Clay stood his ground and Max turned. Hands stuffed in his pockets, eyes cast to the ground, he climbed the stairs to the police station and disappeared into the building I’d just left.