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Authors: Sherri Hayes

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance

Trust (13 page)

BOOK: Trust
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The first thing to cross my mind was that I wanted to talk to Stephan, but I knew that was impossible. It was too risky. I had to make this decision on my own. No one could make it for me.

“What would it mean for Anna, though? I mean, would she have to testify?”

I hadn’t thought of that, but it was a good question. Jade had been a good friend to me. I didn’t know how I’d ever repay her.

“It’s possible,” Emma said, “although we could include that in the conditions of the agreement—specify that only as a last resort would you be required to testify, Anna. I’d like to hope that once Pierce’s lawyer sees your statement, he won’t want to pursue the charges in court. I don’t think a jury would react well to your story. They’d want to burn him at the stake. Any lawyer worth his salt in this town would know that. “

“Okay,” I whispered.

The two women looked at me with concern. “Are you sure?”

I took a deep breath, reached up to touch the one part of Stephan I had with me, and gave her my answer. “As long as you can protect Stephan, then I want to do it.”

“Anna . . .”

Turning to the side, I met Jade’s worried gaze. “Even if it means I have to testify in front of all those people.”

Jade’s shoulders lowered, defeated.

“Very well, then. I’ll get something on paper and have one of our criminal attorneys look over it. Once I have everything put together, I’ll give you a call.”

Walking out of Emma’s office, I felt a pressure I hadn’t realized was there lift from my shoulders. Stephan was going to be okay. I was going to make sure of it.

Chapter 11

Stephan

It was hard to believe a week had gone by since my last meeting with
Ross. Our lunch this week wasn’t as tense as the last one. He gave me a rather brief update on Brianna, which included him insisting that reading my letter had upset her, the opposite of what he’d expected. Ross did comment, however, that whatever I’d said had made a difference in her eating habits. I’d known he hadn’t been completely truthful when I’d inquired about how she was eating. Brianna internalized when she was upset. I knew that would more than likely spill over into her not eating as she should.

Once he shared all the information he was willing to regarding Brianna, we moved on to the less emotionally charged topic of the fall gala. It was just over three weeks away, and given his company donated a significant amount of money to the foundation, someone from his family typically attended. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work this year with Brianna living under his roof. Would he bring his girlfriend and leave Brianna by herself, or would he choose to come alone? I hadn’t seen his RSVP, but I would guess he’d marked it as plus one. That would make sense given he and Jade had been dating for over a year.

I tried to pay attention to the conversation as much as possible, but my mind kept slipping back to Brianna. What was she doing while we were sitting here eating lunch, trying to act as if we were friends instead of two people who merely tolerated each other? She’d been upset with my letter, although I had no idea why. I couldn’t think of anything I’d written that would have garnered such a response.

The walk back to my office was relatively uneventful. There’d been breaking news of some sort of political scandal this morning. Most of the reporters had left their post for something juicier than the mundane activities outside an office building. The few remaining reporters kept a respectable distance.

Jamie glanced up as we stepped off the elevator. She’d been less hostile this week. I had a feeling Lily had said something. My assistant even managed a small smile as we passed by her desk.

The door to my office closed behind us. I strolled over to my desk and took a seat. We both knew he wouldn’t stay long—this was all for show after all.

When Cal began to pace, it drew my attention away from my computer monitor. He was clearly agitated about something. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him what his problem was, when he turned abruptly to face me. “I have something for you.”

When he didn’t elaborate, I said, “Okay. What is it?”

He sighed and reached into his back pocket.

When he handed the item to me, I realized it was an envelope. It was sealed and had no markings on the outside. I raised my eyebrow in question.

“It’s from Anna. She wanted to write you back. I’m not happy about it, but I promised her I’d give it to you.” Before I could reply to his rushed explanation, he turned on his heel and rushed toward the door as if someone were chasing him. “I’ll see you next week.”

As soon as he was out of sight, I stood and made my way over to the door to shut and lock it. I didn’t want anyone to disturb me. Brianna had written me back. I took a deep breath—the first real one since the day she walked out my door—and sat on the couch.

Maybe I should have savored the moment, but I didn’t have it in me. Ripping the envelope open, I then removed the folded paper inside. Seeing Brianna’s handwriting made me smile. She’d always been better at putting her feelings down on paper, and I couldn’t wait another moment to see what she’d written.

Stephan,

When Cal told me he had a letter for me from you, I was excited. Thank you. I know you didn’t have to write me, but I’m glad you did. Cal isn’t happy I’m writing you back. He doesn’t understand why I cried reading your letter, but I think you will.

At least, I hope you do.

I’ve been trying to eat better the last couple of days. You’re right. I need to eat. Cal and Jade seem to be happy about that at least—that I’m eating more. I don’t know what it is, but nothing tastes the same, even the premade stuff. It’s probably just me.

Cal wanted me to talk to someone—that was the deal he told you about. It’s not something I want to do, but maybe he’s right. I used to talk to you, and now I can’t, so maybe this is a good thing. I’ve only had two meetings with Dr. Perkins so far. The first one didn’t go too bad, but I had a panic attack during the second. She gave me a sedative and sent me home with Cal and Jade. I’m supposed to go back Monday. You probably won’t get this until Wednesday when you see Cal, so I will have already seen Dr. Perkins.

Hopefully I don’t panic this time. I want to get better.

Maybe this will help.

Yours,

Brianna

I read over the letter twice more before I let it fall to my lap. She was going to therapy. He was making her
talk
to someone.

Anger, followed by fear, surged through me. Within moments, I was on my feet marching toward the door. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do exactly, but I needed to do something.

As I reached for the doorknob, the sound of voices outside halted me. What was I doing? I wasn’t supposed to have any contact with Brianna. She’d chosen to leave in an effort to protect me. No matter how much my instinct to protect her was screaming at me to do something, I had to respect her wishes. Didn’t I?

Taking what I hoped would be a deep calming breath, I walked back across the room to retrieve Brianna’s letter from where I’d let it fall to the floor in my haste, before going back to my desk. I refolded the letter and tucked it into the pocket of my jacket.

It took me a while to calm down. No matter how frustrated I was with the whole situation, I couldn’t react without thinking it through first. For the rest of the day, I contemplated my options. There weren’t many. I could do nothing, call Cal and give him a piece of my mind, hoping that he’d let Brianna out of this ridiculous deal she’d made with him, or since Brianna had given me the therapist’s name, I could do some digging on her myself.

The first truly wasn’t an option. There was no way I could sit by and do nothing with the information I’d been given. Calling Cal, while tempting, wasn’t likely to produce positive results. The only real option, then, was to find out all I could about this Dr. Perkins.

Picking up the phone, I dialed Oscar’s number. As much as I would have loved to do the research myself, the last thing I needed was the press or even Agent Marco getting wind of what I was doing and put two and two together. I was sure both of them would find some way to spin the information to their advantage.

“Davis and Associates.”

“This is Stephan Coleman. I need to speak to Oscar, please.”

“One moment, Mr. Coleman.”

She put me on hold for roughly thirty seconds before Oscar picked up the line. “Stephan. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you today.”

I hadn’t been expecting to call. “Could you stop by my condo on your way home tonight? There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”

“Sure. I can do that. Everything all right?”

“That’s what I intend to find out.”

“Sounds ominous. I have some things to finish up here if it’s not urgent.”

“That’s fine.”

“Okay, then. I’ll see you . . . say around six?”

“I’ll see you then.”

After hanging up with Oscar, I glanced down at my desk and realized how little work I’d gotten done since reading Brianna’s letter. The clock on my computer read three fifty. I hadn’t left the office early by choice since Brianna left, but today I felt it necessary. I wasn’t getting any work accomplished, and I’d snapped at Jamie the one time she’d knocked on my door. Since I didn’t want to end up apologizing to everyone on my staff that I came in contact with, I figured going home was the best option.

I walked into my condo and was greeted with blissful silence. Sarah had been spending more and more hours working with that business owner Daren had set her up with, which meant she was gone most of the day. That was good, because I needed time to think about my upcoming conversation with Oscar. The Dom in me wanted to take action. Of course, that was warring with the logical part that said even though Brianna still wore my collar—at least as far as I knew—she wasn’t my responsibility right now. Circumstances dictated that she couldn’t be. I had to trust her. The problem, however, wasn’t that I didn’t trust Brianna—I did. Who I didn’t trust was this Dr. Perkins. I knew nothing about her, and after what I went through after the death of my parents, I inherently didn’t trust psychiatrists.

While I waited for Oscar, I read over Brianna’s letter again, this time taking note of the small things. She said she thought I would understand why she’d cried over my letter, and reading her words again, I did. Our separation was hurting her. She missed me as much as I missed her. I had to find a way to end this, or at least make it safe for us to see one another. Being apart wasn’t good for either of us.

The monitor coming to life drew me out of my reverie. Seconds later, the door opened, and Sarah came breezing into the condo with a grocery bag on her hip. “Oh. You’re home.”

“I came home early.”

She frowned. “Everything okay? Nothing happened did it?”

I knew what she was asking. Agent Marco had made the rounds with my friends as well. “No.”

Sarah sighed and ambled into the kitchen to put the food she’d bought away. “That’s good. I can honestly say that if I ever have to talk to that Agent Marco again, it will be too soon. He’s a class-A jerk, if you ask me.”

There wasn’t any point in responding since I agreed wholeheartedly. The man was like a dog with a bone that wouldn’t let go. I couldn’t worry about him right now, though. Oscar would be here soon, and I still hadn’t figured out how I was going to get him to do what I wanted. Sure, I could remind him that he worked for me, and if push came to shove, I’d do just that.

“How was work?” Sarah plopped down on the couch across from me with a soda in her hand.

“You shouldn’t be drinking that, you know.”

She took a drink of the beverage anyway and rolled her eyes. “I only had one cup of coffee today,
Doctor Coleman
.”

“Fine. Do what you want.” I got up and went to the kitchen for some water. Most of the time I didn’t mind having Sarah here, but right now I didn’t want to deal with her brattiness.

A hand touched my left arm as I reached into the refrigerator. Sarah stood there, worry creasing her brow. “I’m sorry. I know you’re only trying to help.”

I didn’t comment as I removed the pitcher of chilled water and poured myself a glass.

“Hey. Talk to me.”

Taking a sip of my water, I met her concerned gaze before setting my glass back down on the counter. “Oscar will be here in a few minutes. I’m going to go change.”

Not giving her time to respond, I marched across the living area and into my bedroom, firmly closing the door behind me.

True to his word, Oscar showed up a few minutes after six. Sarah let him in and then reluctantly retreated up to her room. I knew she was curious, but after talking it over shortly after her moving in, we’d both agreed it was best if she made herself scarce when my attorney made an appearance. There were some things she was better off not knowing.

We settled ourselves in the living room. I didn’t waste any time with pleasantries. Oscar had known me all my life, and we both preferred the direct approach. “I need you to look into someone for me.”

He cocked his head to the side, and his face became guarded. “Who?”

“All I know is that her name is Dr. Perkins and that she’s a therapist somewhere in town.”

BOOK: Trust
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