“What do you want me to say? I barely touched her. I’m doing time here for nothing.”
I saw red. Every muscle coiled, ready to fight.
“You used her to get to me. And my fist was the only reason you didn’t get any further with her. You know that as well as I do, you sick piece of shit. You have no fucking idea what she’s been through.”
“She slept around, Blake. Mark even fucked her. Just because she’s your wife doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a past. I mean, she was asking for it the whole time she was dealing with Angelcom. What kind of woman pitches a room full of men and—”
I lunged across the table. Gaining a grip on his hair, I slammed his head down onto the table between us. I held him down by the neck. Rage coursed through me.
A gurgled cry left his throat. “Let me go!”
“Mark raped her, you stupid son of a bitch.”
He struggled against my hold. The noise in the room fell, though never went completely silent. Still, I felt the eyes of onlookers nearby on us. But something wild and reckless had taken hold of me. Where else, if not in this hell of a place, could a man like Max face the kind of wrath he deserved? If it came at my hand, so be it. The measly time he’d serve wouldn’t be enough. A lifetime wouldn’t be enough.
He struggled and I loosened my hold only to slam him down harder, feeling the tendons in his neck bend under my grip. I bent, hovering over his ear.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like for me to not be able to touch my wife because she thinks I could be you? Or him?” I paused, letting my ragged breath feed the surge of adrenaline pumping through me. “I should have finished you that day. I should have ended you and your pathetic existence. You’re goddamn lucky Michael pulled me off.”
He grimaced. “He didn’t want to.”
“Because you’re a worthless piece of shit, and even Michael can’t deny it now.”
“You! Hands the fuck off!”
I snapped up, eyes narrowed at the approaching guard. Much as I may have wanted to give him and any number of others the same treatment I’d given Max, the guard was twice my size with a billy club in his hand that I could only assume he used with some regularity.
“Don’t fuckin’ look at me that way, rich boy.”
I released Max and stood back from the table. Max retreated to the bench, hands to his throat as he gasped for breath. Whatever consequences might come, I’d face them and I’d do it again. If being here afforded me nothing more, it might be the chance to give Erica justice from this side of the wall. That was a purpose I could get behind.
The guard took Max by the back of the neck, matching the hold I’d had on him.
“What the hell!” Max yelled, his arms flailing helplessly until he tumbled to the floor.
“Get up,” he barked.
“I didn’t do anything. He jumped me!”
The guard leaned down, hoisting the stick high in the air. Max flinched back about a foot.
“First thing, you don’t know what the fuck it’s like to be jumped. Second, you’re in here for attempted rape, so you should get your pussy ass up or you’re going to find out.”
Terror flashed behind Max’s eyes as he scrambled to his feet. A quick scan around the surrounding tables revealed a host of menacing glares eating up Max’s present vulnerability.
“Get the fuck up before someone makes a lesson of you.”
Max took his tray, got rid of it quickly, and retreated to an empty table at the far end of the room.
The guard leveled a dead stare my way. “Watch yourself,” he warned.
* * *
One step into the office and the concerned looks on everyone’s faces told me that they already knew something was very wrong.
James’s blue eyes peered up at me from behind his computer before he rose. “Erica, I heard about Blake. Are you okay?”
I stepped past him and set the thumb drive on Sid’s desk. Sid tugged his headphones down around his neck.
“I have a new project for you,” I said.
“What’s this?” He glanced between the drive and me.
“I’m not one-hundred-percent sure, but I’m guessing it’s the code that was loaded onto the machines that tallied false votes in Fitzgerald’s favor.”
He pursed his lips. “Do I want to know how you got this?”
“No. Your job is to look at it and find a way to prove Blake didn’t write it.”
He blew out a slow breath. “That’s all, huh?”
When I didn’t respond, he put the drive into his computer and started tapping keys. His eyes darted back and forth over the screen while Geoff, Alli, and I stared expectantly.