“Erica, I don’t have time for this.”


“I don’t care if you have time for this or not. I’ll never ask you for anything ever again. I’ll stay out of your life forever if that’s what you really want. I’m just asking for this one thing.” The words came out in a rush, before I had a chance to realize what I was promising. But the truth was that I’d say anything and do anything to get Blake out of this, and Daniel could be my last hope to find Trevor.

He paused. “We shouldn’t be talking like this. It’s not safe.”

“Fine. Then let’s meet.”

He sighed. “Where?”

I thought for a minute, spinning over the best options. Daniel was probably right to be paranoid, but I was grateful he was agreeing to meet me. Seeing him face-to-face required more than privacy, though. I needed him to really hear me. I needed to say things to him that I’d bottled up for weeks, and this might be the last time for that.

“Let’s meet outside the city. I’ll text you the address.”

“Fine.”

An hour later, Marie and I were standing in her kitchen. Her hands were curled over the edge of the counter. I shifted my weight between my feet and checked my watch again.

“Why here?”

The distress in her voice made me regret the decision to invite Daniel over to her place to talk. It was a crazy idea, yet something told me this could be the perfect place to really get through to him in a way that I never had been able to before. I hoped too that having Marie nearby would give me the strength I needed to face him again.

“Right now he thinks Blake ruined his chances to be governor. I need to convince him otherwise, and we needed a safe place to talk.”

She released her grip on the counter and crossed her arms over her chest. “Erica, I warned you about him. He’s dangerous and you’ll never be able to trust him.”

“Yes, you warned me. In my defense, I had no idea what to expect from inviting him into my life. Saying ‘I told you so’ at this point doesn’t help. He’s here and right now, I need to get through to him if I’m going to have any chance of getting Blake out of this mess. You told me to fight, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

She sighed. “I just worry about you. Richard . . .” Her throat moved with a swallow. “He died getting tangled up with Daniel’s affairs.”

True enough, Marie’s ex-lover had met an untimely end by getting too close to the investigation around Daniel and his stepson’s supposed suicide. I still remembered the determined look in his eyes moments before his life ended and mine irrevocably changed at the end of a gun.

Maybe in a way Richard had been as headstrong as I am. He was a reporter and that was his job. He wasn’t Daniel’s daughter, though. I pitied the man who crossed Daniel, but deep down, I believed he cared about me, if only because he’d once loved my mother.

A knock sounded at Marie’s front door and she jolted.

“That’s him.”

She stared toward the door and hesitated. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I need to talk to him, Marie, and I need him to trust me.”

She nodded quickly and walked to the door, opening it to Daniel.

He blinked rapidly, looking her up and down. He was dressed casually in khakis and a blue shirt.

“Hi, Daniel.”

His shocked look morphed into a wince. “Marie?”

A small smile tugged at her lips. “You remembered.”

“Of course. How could I forget?”

He seemed different suddenly. Uncomfortable, almost vulnerable. Not the Daniel I knew. Any version of him.

“It’s good to see you again,” he said.

I knew she wasn’t happy to be seeing him again, and I hated to put her in this situation. My mother had made her promise not to tell me about the identity of my father, and yet here he was, knocking on her door. And she had every right to be protective. Daniel was not a man to be trusted.

She stepped to the side and gestured for him to enter. “Come on in. She’s waiting for you.”

He came inside and our eyes met. “Erica.” His tone was serious, but not as aggressive as it might have been if we’d been alone.

“Hi. Have a seat.”

We sat down across from each other in Marie’s living room while she went upstairs to give us privacy.

“Interesting choice for a meeting place,” he said, once she’d left.

“Call it a show of trust.”

Letting him know that Marie was still in my life was a risk, but a little part of me believed it could be a reminder too—an important one. This election debacle would be a turning point for him, no doubt, but it wouldn’t be the first. He’d made a choice a long time ago. He’d chosen to turn away from the woman he loved and the child she carried. He’d made the choice, or maybe the choice had been made for him, all for the opportunity that had so recently slipped through his fingers. He’d made a choice that would lead to this place and time, yet despite all his dreams and grand ambition, nothing had gone according to plan.

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