“I trust you. I don’t trust your husband.” He offered a tight smile.

“Do you really believe Blake did this?” I asked him the question without anger or persuasion. I genuinely wanted to know if he could believe what I knew to be untrue.

“I’m not ruling it out. He’s never been a big fan of mine.”

“And the same is true for you. Why would he incite your anger when he already knows how much you distrust him? How would that benefit him or me?”

He shook his head. “You can’t deny that he wants me out of your life.”

“You were out of my life.”

“Blake is an extremely wealthy man. I’m sure you know this by now. I may not have the kind of money he does, but I have power. What this has done is not only sabotage the powerful position I had won, but it’s threatening everything I’ve built outside of this election. My reputation at the head of the firm. As a community member. I’m on boards. I have sway that has taken me this far, and that foundation has been shaken.” He gestured, pressing his fingertips to the coffee table between us. “That foundation, Erica, is my value, and every day that goes by, it’s being stripped away. That puts me under people I’ve never had to answer to before so they can get what they want from me, and your husband would be among them.”

My earlier patience had grown perilously thin. I groaned, halting his ridiculous tirade. “Goddamnit, Daniel. He didn’t do this,” I insisted, trying to keep my anger in check. “Beyond that, whoever believes their value comes from their political power seriously needs a vacation. Is that really how you see yourself? That’s what you bring to the world?”

His jaw tightened and he regarded me coolly. “All I can tell you is that whoever is behind this will pay for it. One way or the other. I’m not the only one who had an interest in me winning. And I’m not the only one who wants answers.”

“If you want answers so badly, help me find them. I know who did this. I found him once, and I need your help to track him down again so the FBI can bring him in. As long as they believe Blake did this, they’ll think you were involved in some way. Helping him helps you too.”

He was silent a moment. “Who are you looking for?”

“His name is Trevor Cooper. He’s someone from Blake’s past—a hacker who used Blake’s code from an old project to rig the machines. I honestly don’t think any of this has anything to do with you. All he wanted was vengeance on Blake, and unfortunately you paid the price.”

“If all this is true, why aren’t the police looking for him?”

“Because they don’t know he exists. At least not until I find him. That’s why I need you.”

“This sounds like an elaborate story, Erica. Is Blake spinning this? I didn’t think you could be this gullible, but maybe being in love has blinded you.”

My anger flared again, and I struggled to keep from yelling. “Love hasn’t blinded me. It’s made me see more clearly than ever before. And yes, I will do whatever I need to do to clear his name. And you’re going to help me.”

He muttered a curse and rubbed his neck.

I wasn’t going to win this by berating him. I wanted to. It felt good to. But I needed him invested. I needed him to feel a fraction of the desperation that I now felt. I wasn’t sure if he was capable of it, but I had to at least try. There were still so many things I’d never said to him.

“Daniel.” I waited until he looked up, meeting his blue-eyed gaze with mine. I took a breath and hoped to draw in some courage with it. “Blake is going to be the father of my child. You said once that wouldn’t matter to you . . . Is that still true?”

He grew pale and stared at some invisible point on the floor. In his silence, I carried on. I struggled to keep my voice steady as my heart skipped.

“I’ll admit that I brought you here because I wanted you to see Marie again. It scares me a little bit to bring you into her world, however briefly, because I can’t ever know what you’ll do. But somewhere in your cold, power-mongering heart, I know you care about something other than this goddamn election. I hoped that for a minute you could open your eyes and see that she’s been like a mother to me since Mom died.”

“I’m grateful she’s been here for you,” he said quietly, still avoiding my gaze.

“Me too.” I closed my eyes a moment, trying to speak over the knot in my throat. “After the shooting . . . I was scared to death that I’d never have a chance to be a mother. I thought about it so much. More than anyone would ever know. I wished for it, and then, by some miracle, I was given that chance. And the most incredible part is that I was given a chance to share that experience with a man that I love deeply, with every piece of my soul.” My voice broke, but I pushed on in a whisper. “And I want to do better. I want to give this child more than I had. More than this.”

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