“We’re asking that Mr. Landon’s bail be denied.”


Dean shook his head, seeming perplexed. “This is a nonviolent crime, Your Honor.”

The prosecutor continued. “This man is a walking weapon. All he needs is a computer to commit his next crime and compromise sensitive information.”

“My client has a clean record,” Dean argued.

“Not three months ago he was brought in on assault charges.”

“Which were promptly dismissed.”

“Not surprising for a man with his reach,” she countered.

The judge peered at her above her glasses. “Are you questioning the integrity of the court, Counselor?”

“Of course not. All I’m saying is that this man is under investigation for rigging a state-wide election. None of us can know what he’s capable of.”

“The accusations made against him with regard to the election are as yet unfounded and have no bearing here,” Dean argued.

“I disagree. Mr. Landon is a known hacker, and we are only beginning to uncover what could be a host of fraudulent activity. In one evening he was able to hack into the mainframes of a major banking institution and a state university. He has vast informational and financial resources. He is not a man to be underestimated.”

“All of this is speculation,” Dean noted.

“Considering the charges being brought against him today, anyone’s identity and personal information is at risk, including yours, Your Honor.”

“Bail is denied.”

“Your Honor—” Dean began.

He was cut off by the short bang of the gavel. “This court is dismissed.”

Dread swam in my veins, punctuated by a sob that I immediately recognized as my mother’s. I turned and she was several rows back. My father’s arm was around her shoulders, tucking her to him. Fiona was tearful, and I guessed she probably didn’t know the half of it. Fucking Parker.

I wanted to blame him, but the truth was I only had myself to blame. Other than a few unanswered messages from what appeared to be one-night stands from many months prior, Parker had checked out fine. And here I was because I’d let my concerns get the best of me.

The rest of my family looked like they were at my goddamn funeral. Then there was Erica. Stoic. Her jaw set firmly. Her eyes were tired and swollen. Under that strong facade I knew she was as devastated as I felt. The knot in my gut grew, bringing a kind of numb rage with it.

Turning to Dean, I glared at the man who rarely flinched but had the decency now to look apprehensive.

“Fix this.”

“That’s what you pay me for.” He sounded confident, but his eyes told another story. They darted away from me, roaming over the bustling of the courtroom.

My attention shifted back to Erica, who was moving out of the courtroom with the rest of my family. Her back was to me, and everything inside me wanted to go to her. I wanted to hold her through this storm, knowing we’d get through it together somehow. But we weren’t going to be together. We were going to be miles apart, spending every night wondering about the other.

I swallowed hard and watched her walk away, feeling completely gutted.

The bailiff approached, and I leveled a cold look at Dean.

“Move accounts to Heath. Do whatever you need to do. I need to know Erica’s going to be taken care of if this goes sideways.”

“Consider it done. I’m going to work on getting you out of this mess first though.”

“I’ll be fine. She’s your priority.”

“You’re the priority, Blake. If Erica can handle you, she’s strong enough to get through this. She’ll be all right.”

The bailiff cinched the cuffs around my wrists. As the cold metal circled my skin, my heartbeat spiked and my body grew uncomfortably warm. I’d go willingly, but this was the third time in two days I had to wrap my head around the restraints, and I harnessed all my willpower not to fight against them.

Something about this time felt final. Like the rapid clicks sliding into place was a sound I should get used to.

Dean’s mouth kept moving, but the part of me that might have cared about what other assurances he could give was dying. Erica was a fighter. I wasn’t sure that I was anymore.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

ERICA

I stepped out of the flow of people and retrieved my phone from my purse. Blake’s family was huddled outside the courtroom, speaking with the lawyer. I would have been with them if I’d had any faith in the legal system to fix this injustice.

With trembling hands, I pulled up Daniel’s number, dialed, and let it ring. His voicemail picked up. I ended the call and dialed again. When he didn’t pick up again I listened to his voicemail all the way through. Brief, cold. Like the man behind it.

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