Authors: Karin Tabke
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Katy swooped in and grabbed Evan’s phone that stopped a half a foot from her tennis shoe. She smirked when she used his old password to unlock it. Quickly, as Rosie had one violent convulsion after another, she downloaded the spy app on his phone and entered the required info.
Patrons in the café rushed to Rosie’s aid as Katy worked on the phone. The swollen crowd concealed her actions, pushing her farther away from Evan. Just as it was supposed to, once the app loaded and the necessary information was entered, it disappeared in Evan’s menu, and from this point forward would be undetectable. She kneeled, reached through the throng of bodies gathered around Rosie and Evan, set the phone down on the floor beneath the little coffee table, turned around, and hurried out of the café.
Adrenaline pumped through her body. She turned the corner, pulled her cell from her sports bra where she had shoved it, and went to her own spyware manager app and laughed out loud when Evan’s phone came up.
Ten minutes later, an out-of-breath but smiling Rosie came around the corner.
“Oh, my God, Rosie we did it! We did it! Look!” Katy cried as she held the phone up for Rosie to see.
Rosie sobered. “May I remind you that you can go to jail for this, Katy.”
Katy nodded. “Only if I get caught.”
“Don’t get caught, sweet pea. Orange is not your color.”
She hugged Rosie tightly. “Thank you for helping me.”
“Yep, just call me Aiding and Abetting.”
Once she was safely back in her apartment, Katy started going through Evan’s texts. Immediately, she realized this was not the same phone or number he had used when they texted. There were only a few numbers in his address book and fewer still in his call log and text log. She didn’t recognize any of them. But the most frustrating part was that the texts were ciphertexts.
She was an expert at cracking code—genetic code, that was. She’d bet her life savings she’d find the key to Evan’s ciphertexts buried somewhere in his research background. And as much as she wanted to take a crack at it right now, she needed to prepare for her meeting with Ms. Fuentes in the morning more.
To that end, she spent the rest of the day putting together a comprehensive timeline of her tenure at BioGen, what she had accomplished, who her assistants were, what transpired, including Lockford’s unsolicited advances and her handling of them. She created the same detailed timeline for her time at Genomtec, including the evolution of her involvement with Evan. She stopped just shy of the last time they were together in San Diego. The thought of one of Simon’s old flames knowing the details of their torrid encounter was humiliating enough, but the thought of their tryst going public mortified her. Her lips were sealed unless she was legally compelled to testify, and even then, she might plead the Fifth.
And just like that, her thoughts banked a hard right and wrapped completely around Simon. With the exception of his text with Veronica’s address earlier, he had made no effort to contact her. So easily forgotten, was she? If he was telling the truth, he’d be relentless. That was his nature, was it not? So he was lying or he had moved on.
“Not your problem, Katy,” she said, as she neatly organized the printed timelines in separate color-coded file folders before sliding them into her worn black leather portfolio. “Not my problem.”
And yet, she spent another restless night dreaming of Simon and what she could be doing if he had been a better liar and she less judgmental. She woke grumpy and lethargic, cursing Evan Scott for everything bad in her life. Stumbling from bed, she took a quick cold shower to wake her system; she’d worked well into the wee hours the night before. As she toweled her hair dry, she squinted in the mirror. She looked like hell. She had her work cut out for her if she was going to look at all presentable. And work it was, but it paid off.
Hair dried, cosmetics applied, Katy chose a classic navy Chanel skirt suit and a pair of caramel-colored linen Jimmy Choos. Instead of wearing her glasses, she popped in her contacts. Instinct told her that Veronica and Simon were more than friends, and Katy was damned if she going walk into that office and fade into the wallpaper.
An hour later, fifteen minutes early for her appointment, Katy strode into the swank marble and chrome law offices of Miller, Stern, and Fuentes. So Veronica was a partner in the prestigious firm? She must be a hotshot. She’d been so preoccupied with Simon it hadn’t occurred to Katy to research Ms. Fuentes. Had she been her normal, thorough self, she’d know the last dozen cases Ms. Fuentes had won.
Katy was greeted by a male receptionist who smiled pleasantly and offered her a list of refreshments as he escorted her down the hall to a private waiting room. It was well appointed with luxurious butter-smooth leather furniture that had a decidedly feminine feel. The warm reds complimented the gilded wood of the Louis XV tables. To the right was another desk adorned by yet another handsome young man. Ms. Fuentes’s assistant, she presumed.
“Good morning, Dr. Winslow,” he said, his voice low and husky. He stood and walked toward her.
Katy smiled in return. “Good morning, Mister … ?”
His smile widened and he extended his hand. “James, Ms. Fuentes’s personal assistant.”
Taking his hand, she shook it. It was on the tip of Katy’s tongue to ask if he had any personal assistant friends, but she didn’t. A soft series of chimes echoed from his desk. “Ms. Fuentes will see you now.”
He guided her to the large black and chrome door down the small hallway to their left. Opening it with a subtle flourish, as if Katy had just been admitted into one of the world’s great wonders, James escorted her in. She liked this woman’s style immediately. The décor was feminine but powerful. The subtle earth tones accentuated by deep gem tones were soothing, sexy, and dominant. “Dr. Winslow,” a deep, though distinctly female voice said coming from behind an open door to the left to the office.
“Ms. Fuentes?” Katy said as the door closed and one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen smiled warmly at her. Classic Latina bombshell. The attorney could pass for a younger Raquel Welch. Holy hell, Katy had never had a lesbian thought in her life, but if she were ever going to switch-hit, it would be with this woman.
“I’m Veronica. Simon told me you were beautiful, but he didn’t say how beautiful.”
“I—he—um, thank you.”
While she appreciated Simon’s compliment, Katy felt like a common daisy standing beside this exotic hothouse orchid.
Veronica extended her hand, and Katy blurted, “He said you were the nastiest shark in the shark-tank.”
Veronica smiled, showing beautiful white teeth. “He should know!”
As Veronica guided her to a large comfortable chair at a polished mahogany table, she said to James, “Please bring us a fresh pot of that doughnut coffee I like, and those bad creamers, too.”
Katy set her portfolio on the table as she watched Veronica glide like a queen into a chair across from her. She opened a rather large file folder on the table and said, “I’ve pulled everything that is public and some things that are not so public,”—she smiled like the shark she was—“but still legally obtained, on BioGen and Genomtec. Please join me for a cup of coffee while we get started with your case.”
“Okay,” Katy said slowly, still a little dumbfounded by the beauty, confidence, and charisma of the woman sitting across from her. Instinctively, Kat knew there was no way Simon or any man could resist this temptress. So why wasn’t Simon with her? There was history here, and it bugged her more than it should have. How could she or any woman compete with the epitome of all things sexy?
Moments later, James arrived with a tray of finger-sized pastries, a silver pot of aromatic coffee, china cups and saucers, and several crystal creamers that he told her contained everything from skim milk to heavy cream.
As he poured a cup for Katy and handed it to her, he glanced at Veronica, who was going through the file folder. “Will there be anything else, ma’am?” He moved around and poured for his boss, then stood at the ready for her next command.
“That will be all for now.”
As James reached for the door to exit the office, it swung open from the outside, and, looking better than any man should look, in strode Simon. Katy scowled, set her cup down on the tray, and hoped no one noticed her hand shaking.
Uncertain, James didn’t move. Simon grinned, obviously enjoying himself. “Good morning, ladies. Sorry to keep you waiting, but crime waits for no one.”
“Simon,” Veronica breathed. Katy stopped herself from scowling at the woman, even though she could fully understand Fuentes’s dilemma—she knew better than anyone how hard it was to let Simon go. “I haven’t seen you in, what has it been? Three years? And you look better than ever.” As he strode toward her, she stood and Katy could have sworn the shark’s knees wobbled, as she practically threw herself into Simon’s arms. Simon took no issue with the intimate and very unprofessional act. He hugged her tight and kissed her on the cheek.
“You are beautiful as always, counselor.” He looked over her shoulder to Kat, who wanted to rip his lips off. “Good morning, Kat.”
Simon gently set Veronica from him. “Careful, I got my heart sliced open and handed back to me on a platter over the weekend. Be gentle with me.”
“Poor Simon, whose heart did you break this week?” Veronica tsked.
Katy gathered her portfolio and purse. “What are you doing here, Simon?”
“I’m here to help.”
“Simon,” Veronica started, clearing her throat and composing herself. “Regardless of your relationship with Dr. Winslow, I don’t think it’s prudent for you to be present during our meeting.” Her tone was firm, and while it was an I-really-don’t–want-to-have-to-spank-you firm, the point was made.
“I don’t want you here, Simon,” Katy firmly stated.
His face darkened. “Can I have a word with you, Doc?”
Katy exhaled loudly, stood up, and he gently pulled her to the door, stopping just short of opening it.
“There is nothing you can say to change my mind about this, Simon. I can’t trust you without you giving me more.” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Look, I can only give you this, but no more. You decide if you’re going to go with it or not.” He leaned into her and softly but firmly said, “I’m not married.”
Stunned, she blinked, his intense gaze holding hers. He was telling the truth. Wasn’t he? “I want to believe you, but I don’t trust you—yet.”
“That’s okay, Kat, I don’t blame you. I’ll prove myself by helping you get your job back.”
He pulled a flash drive from his pocket and handed it to her. “I just came by to give this to you in exchange for your promise not to do any crazy-ass shit.”
The color drained from her face. Did he know what she and Rosie had done? Of course not. How could he?
“What is it?” Katy asked, taking it from him. He held on to it. “Promise me first that you won’t go Nancy Drew on me?”
“I won’t,” she lied.
He let go of the drive. “After our chat yesterday, I did some investigating on my own. Your friend Dr. Scott, his lovely bitch of a wife, Dr. Shah, and your old friend Lockford are quite the cozy group.” He looked over her shoulder and said, “Ronnie, make sure you take a look at what I have there. I can follow up on anything you might deem helpful.”
Katy stiffened at Simon’s pet name for his former flame. Hell, maybe after this meeting, they’d pick up where they’d left off?
Simon ran his fingertip along her bottom lip. “What’s got your dander up, Kat?”
She nipped at him. He was quick to get it out of her way. She would have bit it off. “Nothing.”
He leaned closer and softly said, “I’m just trying to help.”
“I don’t want your help.”
“After I came clean to you, that hurts.”
“Stop it,” she hissed.
“I miss you,” he said.
“I don’t miss you.”
“Yes, you do.”
“You’re a liar!”
“With a cause.”
“It doesn’t matter why you lie.”
“Of course it matters.” He traced his knuckles along her cheek. “It matters a lot.”
She pushed his hand away. Veronica coughed and they looked guiltily over at her, like two kids who had been caught making out behind the bushes.
“Simon, it’s time for you to leave.”
“Got it,” he said, and promptly exited the office.
efore the door closed behind Simon, Katy turned toward the attorney and pointedly asked, “Ms. Fuentes, what exactly are your intentions toward Simon?”
Perfectly arched raven-colored brows rose in question. “Come again?”
Standing her ground, Katy elaborated. “Are you interested in him? Sexually? Romantically?”
Pursing her lips, Ms. Fuentes inclined her head toward Katy. “Normally I would say that’s none of your business, but since I understand why you’ve asked me, to that end I will answer. My answer is no.”
Ms. Fuentes’s luminous brown eyes narrowed. “But let me assure you, if I were interested in him sexually? It would have no impact whatsoever if, one, I take your case or, two, do everything in my power to win it. I have not gotten where I am today by allowing something as simple as emotions to get in the way of any case or client relationship.” She leaned forward. “I go for the kill shot every time. If that means I sell my mother to the highest bidder, then I sell her.” She straightened and opened the folder.
“If because of my past or present relationship with Simon, you have any reservations with regard to my commitment to you as a client and or my capable handling of this case, then I will be happy to recommend another firm to represent you. But I assure you, you have no reason to fear I would sabotage your case.”
Katy smiled and extended her hand. “You had me at ‘I’d sell my mother.’”
Veronica took her hand in a firm handshake. “I always buy her back, usually for much more than I sold her for.”
“A shark with a heart, Ms. Fuentes?”
“An oxymoron, for sure. And please, call me Veronica.”
“Only if you call me Katrina.”
“Okay, Katrina, let’s see what we have here.”
Katy withdrew her files and slid them across the table to her attorney. “Everything you ever wanted to know about BioGen and Genomtec but were afraid to ask.”
“Excellent. Now, with your permission, I’d like to record this meeting. Normally, James is present to record what is said, but Simon explained that we’ll be talking about sensitive matters, leading me to believe you’ll be more comfortable if James is not present. I require a recording so that you have my undivided attention as we discuss your case and I have a point of reference to fall back on.”
Katy hesitated, knowing what full disclosure meant. It was one thing to say it, another for Veronica to make notes, but it was a whole different animal knowing it was recorded.
“For my ears only, Katrina,” Veronica said.
“Okay,” Katy reluctantly agreed.
“Now, start from the beginning and tell me
up to this very second.”
Over the next two hours, what had begun in a pragmatic businesslike tone slowly unraveled into an emotional purge. In effect, Katy spilled her guts.
Veronica downloaded the data from Simon’s flash drive, giving the original back to Katy. She would take a look when she could give it her full concentration. It wasn’t until they were wrapping up and she caught the predatory glitter in Veronica’s deep brown eyes that Katy began to believe that perhaps her accusers just might get what was coming to them.
“Do you think I have a case?” Katy asked.
“I don’t like to give my clients any false hope, Dr. Winslow—Katrina—but I think, if we can document your claim and prove everything you’ve told me here this morning, we have one hell of a case. That means we should be able to do some serious financial damage to both companies as well as restore your good name.”
Exhaling loudly, Katy finally relaxed her tight muscles and sank back into her chair. “Thank God.”
Veronica pressed a button on her phone. The office door opened immediately and James entered the room. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Please bring me Dr. Winslow’s paperwork.”
“Yes, ma’am.” As he turned to leave, Simon strode past him into the office.
From the stern look on his face, Katy knew he was irritated.
“What?” Veronica asked him.
“There’s been a warrant issued for Kat’s arrest.”
Katy nearly fainted.
“Who issued it and what’s the charge?” Veronica asked, not seeming too concerned. Katy was devastated.
Simon cocked a brow at Veronica. “DOJ. A slew of conspiracy charges. I confirmed it through my agency.”
He stood glowering at them both. Katy had a sinking feeling there was more.
“What else?” Veronica asked as Katy felt her life slipping out of her control.
“You know I can’t tell you anything more …” he inclined his head as if saying, “Think about what more there could be and run with it.”
Veronica nodded and pointed to the door. “Give us a moment, Simon,” Veronica said. But he was already on his way out.
“What’s going on?” Katy demanded, trying valiantly to maintain control of her emotions.
Very calmly, Veronica explained. “I’m going to guess, based on everything you’ve told me this morning, your friends at Genomtec are trying to cover their asses by burning yours first. They’ve managed to convince an AUA, assistant US attorney, to file bogus charges. Now, if they haven’t already, they’re going to issue a warrant to search your house and workplace for your computers and phones—hell, all of your electronic devices that have a digital footprint. They may be there as we speak.”
Katy gasped, horrified. What if they found out about her little stunt yesterday?
“What should I do?”
“I would advise you to turn them over.”
“But what if there was something on one of my devices that shouldn’t be on there?”
“I asked for full disclosure, Katrina,” Veronica sternly said. “What did you leave out?”
“I—have this spy app that tracks texts.”
“I loaded it on Evan’s cell phone yesterday to track his texts and e-mails.”
Veronica held out her hand. “I’d like to borrow your phone for a few days if I may.”
“I need to call my friend Rosie first. Is there somewhere private I can do that?”
“There’s a small kitchen and bathroom through that door.”
Katy hurried and called Rosie. If the cops saw she had been researching the spy app on her computer, they’d kill for her phone. Her research was on that laptop, all of her pass codes to her cyber storage. No way was she going to take a chance that they would lose her laptop or damage it.
“Hello,” Rosie said, her voice chipper as ever.
“Rosie, I need you to go into my apartment right now and get my laptop off my desk and the one in my hall closet. Take them to your place.”
“Now! Please, Rosie,” she cried, “I’ll tell you everything later!”
When she hung up, she sucked in a huge cleansing breath, and then slowly exhaled. Her life had become a
Law and Order
Katy exited the kitchenette and as she walked back into the office, Veronica held out her hand for the phone. Her attorney took it and slid it into the top drawer of her desk, then looked pointedly at Katy. “I confirmed the arrest warrant. We have a few options. You can wait for them to come to you, mostly likely within the next seventy-two hours, at which time you will not say a word except to identify yourself and demand counsel. Depending on where I am and what I am doing at the time, you will have to wait for me, and if timing is on our side you’ll be arraigned that day and you’ll be released on your own recog. Or, we do it now.”
“Who? Who’s coming for me?”
“The feds? Why?”
“Corporate espionage is a big deal, especially if there is suspicion or evidence that the information is leaving this country and going to a hostile.”
Veronica’s desk phone chimed. “Excuse me.” She picked up the phone and listened for a moment. “Yes, James. Fine.” She hung up and came around to Katy who, for all her bluster and bravado, had lost her confidence. She was going to be arrested.
The door opened and Simon strode in. His confident command presence filled the room. When he was near she always felt safer. Closing the door behind him, he stood at the threshold.
Katy swallowed hard and looked at Simon for answers. “I didn’t do anything wrong. How can I be arrested for something I didn’t do? I don’t understand.”
His face softened as he walked over and sat down next to her. Taking her hand, he pressed it gently. “Everything is going to work out, Cinderella.” He smiled softly. “I promise.”
Shaking her head, Katy wracked her brain, trying to understand how this had happened. There wasn’t a shred of evidence that could link her to any wrongdoing. Well, except for the spyware. But she was clean as whistle.
Simon cupped her face in his big hands. “Trust me, Kat.”
“Yes, you can. I’ve told you things and done things for you that could get me into a lot of trouble.” He pressed his lips to hers and whispered. “I told you once to let me be your hero. Now let me do what I do, what I was trained to do.”
Resisting the Simon pull was hard. All she had to do was melt into him and let him take charge.
And then what?
Things would be like they were. Him playing the man of mystery while she wondered. Something had to change.
She pressed her hand to his. “Okay, Simon, but on my terms this time.” Straightening, she stood and looked at her attorney. “Let’s get this over with. I have things to do.”
Her arrest, subsequent booking, and appearance before a federal judge was the most humiliating experience of her life.
As Katy stood with Veronica at the intake desk getting her jewelry back, her anger gathered steam.
“You’re growling, Katrina,” Veronica said as Katy tried to secure her watch clasp for the fifth time.
“I have never been angrier or more humiliated than I am at this moment. And trust me, I have had my share of angry, humiliating moments in my life. Each and every one of them caused by a man. I’m sick of men and how they infect my life with their selfish testosterone-driven lies.”
“Kate,” Veronica said patiently, “I’ll be busy sorting your case over the next few days. Take a few days and get out of town. Not more than one hundred miles, as Judge Sapra said, but just go away and clear your head.”