Michael sat at a large desk in the middle of an enormous room. For a man who had the world at his fingertips, he seemed to have nothing around him. The surface of his desk was almost entirely free of clutter, save a notebook, laptop, and pen. Every surface gleamed. Every decoration was perfectly positioned.


Michael came to his feet. His eyes regarded me almost cautiously as I walked toward him. “Erica. I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I know. I’m sorry for that. It was important.”

“Of course. Have a seat.” He showed me to the sitting area in what appeared to be the west wing of his spacious office. He took a chair opposite a matching sleek black leather couch where I sat. “What brings you to Dallas?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Blake. I imagine you already know about the trouble he’s in.”

He nodded slowly. “Yes, the police came to me, so I know some of the details. I haven’t spoken to Blake about it, though.”

I was reassured that the police were at least doing their due diligence with Michael, even if their first suspect was Blake.

“They asked you about the Banksoft source code?”

“Yes.”

“What did you tell them?”

He eyed me for a moment, his lips an unmoving line.

“I told them that to my knowledge, outside of a very select few trusted staff members, no one else had access to my copy of it.”

“Is that the truth?”

“Erica, I’m not one for games. What are you getting at?”

I steeled myself to say what I’d flown halfway across the country to say. “I want to know if Max had access to it.”

Michael smiled tightly and clasped his hands together. “It’s feasible. Max has been involved in many of my business dealings.”

“I believe he gave the code to a man named Trevor Cooper. He’s a hacker—”

“I know who he is.”

I was stunned silent a moment. “You do?”

“He’s a programmer who’d been working for Max for a while, helping him with some side projects. We funded his work through one of the investment companies that Max and I once jointly held.”

“All that money was used to try to take down several of Blake’s ventures, my company among them.”

Michael held my gaze steadily. “If that’s true, I’m very sorry to hear it. As you may already know, Max and I no longer have financial ties. And when we did, he was rarely involved in my daily business activities. I helped fund several of his projects, if only to keep him from wanting to be too involved with mine. I knew Trevor in name only because the company had cut checks to him.”

“Do you know where Trevor is now?”

“No. The investment company was dissolved and all its accounts were closed shortly after your engagement party. I don’t know what became of Trevor.”

Damnit. I felt like I was climbing a mountain and the top of it kept eluding me.

“Michael, I need you to help me find him. He used Blake’s Banksoft code to rig the governor’s election knowing that it would implicate Blake. If anyone wants to see Blake suffer more than Max, it’s Trevor. He’s held a grudge against him since before you took Blake into the fold.”

“I’m not sure how I could possibly help.”

“Reach out to him. Draw him out. Or tell the FBI what you really know. That Max very likely gave him the code. If the FBI knew it, they would at least start looking for the right person and stop investigating Blake for a crime he didn’t commit.”

“You’re asking me to implicate my own son, Erica.”

“I’m asking you to help me bring Trevor in. Whether you like it or not, Max was a part of this, and he’s been systematically trying to take Blake out of the game for years. I thought you cared about Blake. Are you willing to watch him go to prison for this?”

His countenance was tight, betraying his discomfort. This was why I hadn’t called. Face-to-face he couldn’t deny the truth. And the truth was that his son, his flesh and blood, had a hand in this.

“There has to be another way,” he finally said, casting his gaze to the floor.

“There is no other way. Michael, please, I’m begging you. Help me find him. I can’t—” I can’t do this alone. I struggled for words. I tried to push down the overwhelming emotions bubbling to the surface. Maybe I could explain to Michael just how desperate I was, but I didn’t want to lose his respect by breaking down the way I wanted to right now.

Before I could find the right words, he moved to sit beside me. He took my hand in his. His hand was warm and dry, tanned by the sun. His eyes were soft and almost sad.

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