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Authors: Sherri Hayes

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance

Trust (2 page)

BOOK: Trust
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Jade chuckled and circled her arms around my neck. “No one said you had to like it, but this isn’t about you. It’s about Anna, and right now she needs us—both of us—to be on her side.”

I nodded.

She smiled and brushed her lips across mine in that sensual way she did that drove me insane and made me putty in her hands. I grabbed hold of her ass and pulled her hips against my growing erection.

Jade laughed.

“Not so fast. Emma’s going to be here soon.”

I groaned and let my head fall to Jade’s shoulder. “I forgot.”

Jade reached between us and rubbed her hand up and down my semi-erect cock. “I promise to make it up to you later.”

Closing my eyes, I stopped the movement of her hand. “Not helping.”

This only made her laugh harder. Jade and I had to adjust our sex lives after Anna had moved in with me. Given her history, we didn’t think it would be good for her to see or hear anything of a sexual nature. That meant most of our recent escapades had occurred either as quietly as possible late at night or in my office. We’d snuck away to her apartment a couple of times when we were desperate, but I didn’t like to leave Anna alone more than I had to.

As it was, Jade and I had adjusted our schedules so Anna was only in the house by herself a handful of hours during the week. I started my workday at six in the morning, rather than the eight or eight thirty I used to, so I could be home no later than three. Jade didn’t leave the house until ten or eleven, depending on her class schedule. That meant sometimes she didn’t get back until late. I had to admit it had taken its toll on our relationship, and not just the sexual part of it either. Taking care of Anna meant she was the focus of our lives more often than not.

“What are you thinking about?”

I gave Jade a chaste kiss before stepping back. “I was thinking about how much our lives have changed since Anna moved in, and how much you’ve had to put up with.”

“They have changed, haven’t they?”

I reached in the cabinet for a mug before pouring myself some coffee. “Yes.”

We stared at each other for several minutes, not speaking but saying plenty. Jade stepped closer and reached out to brush her fingers along the back of my hand.

Turning my hand over, I laced our fingers and squeezed. We stayed like that, trapped in the bubble we’d created, until there was a knock on the door.

“I’ll get it. Why don’t you let Anna know Emma’s here.”

Jade nodded.

Once she was inside Anna’s room, I opened the door and invited Emma in. “Morning, Emma.”

“Good morning, Cal. How are you?”

“As well as can be expected at eight thirty on a Saturday morning.”

She stepped inside, tucking her long blond hair behind her ear while adjusting the strap on her briefcase over her shoulder. “You’re used to getting up earlier than this now, aren’t you? I’d expect you to be ready for anything at this point.”

I took a sip of my coffee, shrugged, and closed the front door. “Can I get you some coffee?”

“Yes, please,” she said, walking over to set her briefcase down on the kitchen table.

I could hear her opening her case and the sound of papers being shuffled around as I worked in the kitchen. For her age, Emma was already a prominent attorney. She’d been named as one of the best in Minnesota, which was a huge accomplishment for someone in her early thirties. Anna was lucky to have her. Then again, Anna had Emma because of Stephan and his money. At least he was good for something.

The door to Anna’s room was still closed, but I knew it wouldn’t be for long. There was only one person who was guaranteed these days to get Anna to come out of her room, and that was Emma. Two weeks after Anna moved in, I’d gotten a phone call at my office from Oscar Davis, Coleman’s lawyer. We’d talked for over an hour while he filled me in on what was happening. Apparently Coleman had thought it might go over better coming from Mr. Davis than from him. He was probably right.

Things were getting complicated. The feds were now involved, and they were insisting on going through not only all of Coleman’s personal financials but also those of The Coleman Foundation. A team of lawyers had been brought in, hand selected by Mr. Davis. The media, of course, was all over it given Coleman’s position in the city. It was swiftly becoming a circus.

That was where Emma came into the picture. Both Coleman and his lawyer felt Brianna needed to have legal counsel in order to protect herself from whatever fallout there might be. They were going to try to keep her out of it as much as possible, but with her father telling anyone who would listen that Stephan Coleman had kidnapped and brainwashed his daughter, the chances she’d not have to get involved were slim.

It had taken only one meeting between Emma and Anna for them to form a bond, which given Anna’s aversion to people in general was strange. She was a woman, so that helped. There was also the fact that she was there to help Anna in any way she could. Part of that was keeping Anna up to date on all things Stephan Coleman.

I placed Emma’s coffee on the table far enough away from her papers so nothing would get damaged. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” She took a sip and then placed the mug back down on the table. “How’s Anna doing this morning?”

“She ate. That’s all I know. She hasn’t—”

I was just about to comment on how she hadn’t come out of her room yet, when the door opened and Anna took a step out into the room. She had a faraway look in her eyes, and I could tell she’d been crying. Her demeanor changed instantly, however, when she spotted Emma.

Anna’s steps were measured, as they always seemed to be, as she crossed to where Emma waited at the table. Jade appeared in the doorway but remained unmoving as Anna approached. This was always iffy. Anna had a fight or flight response that always leaned toward flight. If something startled her, she would be across the room faster than seemed humanly possible.

Once she’d taken a seat, we all relaxed some. “Would you like some coffee, Anna?”

She shook her head and focused on Emma. “How . . . how is he?”

I closed my eyes, trying not to let my temper get the best of me, and walked back into the kitchen. Jade joined me and wrapped her arms around my waist, trying to comfort me. It didn’t work, but I appreciated the effort.

“It’s not great, Anna. I’m sorry. The feds aren’t backing off. They seem to want to make an example out of him.”

“They can’t!”

Her scream pierced through my heart almost as much as her tears did.

“I’m sorry, Anna. I really am.”

“There . . . there has to be something. Something I can do.”

Emma became motionless, and for the longest time, the only sound in the room was Anna’s near silent sobs.

“There is . . . something. Maybe.”

This got Anna’s attention, as well as mine and Jade’s.

“You hold a lot of power here, Anna. More so than Stephan, really.”

Emma leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. I knew by her posture I wasn’t going to like what she was going to suggest.

“You lived with Ian Pierce for ten months. You have firsthand knowledge of what he did. What he’s capable of. All Stephan has is hearsay and observations, outside of the evidence of him purchasing you, which doesn’t help his credibility. You could offer to testify against Ian in exchange for Stephan’s freedom.”

“No!”

Everyone, including Jade, jumped at my intrusion.

“There is no way you can make her stand up in front of the man who tortured her for ten months and talk about the things he did to her. No.”

I looked over at Anna and saw a determination in her eyes that had been missing since that evening in Coleman’s condo.

“No one is making me. It’s my choice.”

“Please, Anna. Don’t do this. It will destroy you.”

She turned away from me and faced Emma again. “I want to do it. I have to.”

“Anna, you understand this will most likely mean that the media will find out who you are. Not just your name but what you look like, and maybe even where you live. People are going to have a lot of questions. They’re going to want details of your time with Pierce. Are you sure you’re ready for that?”

“Stephan saved me. I won’t let him go to prison for it.”

Everyone was silent. I don’t think any of us could quite believe this was happening.

“Okay. I’ll approach the federal prosecutor with your proposal and get back to you.”

Emma didn’t stay long after that. She did bring Anna a stack of papers to look over as she always did. I had no idea what they were—Anna never shared that with either of us.

As soon as Emma drove away, Anna retreated into her room, and I was left to stew over what had just happened.

“Are you all right?” Jade asked.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“She’s right. It is her decision.”

“I wish it wasn’t.”

“It’ll work out. It has to.”

As much as I wanted to believe Jade, I’d seen enough of the world to know that wasn’t always the case. “I have to do something.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. I need to think.”

An hour later, it came to me. I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t thought of it before, but I immediately picked up the phone and called Emma. Thankfully, being the weekend, she hadn’t spoken with the other lawyers yet and agreed to meet me for lunch.

We sat across from each other outside a little café with our food, when she decided I’d been quiet long enough. “I know you aren’t pleased with Anna’s decision, but I hope you know that as her attorney, I have to abide by her wishes.”

“I’m aware of that.”

“So what is it you wanted to talk to me about, then?”

“What about a compromise?”

“I’m listening.”

“Anna is scared to death of people. You know that. Getting in front of an entire court room . . . I’m not even sure if she
could
do it. No matter how much she wanted to. What if . . . what if she made a statement instead. Couldn’t they use that just as easily?”

“They could. It’s not as effective with a jury, though, if it goes to trial.”

“What if Jade and I added statements about our observations of Anna? That combined with Coleman’s and Anna’s has to be worth something, doesn’t it?”

“It’s possible. Let me feel out the prosecution and see what kind of a deal they are willing to make. As I told Anna, I think it’s more that they want to go after Stephan. Make an example out of him. I’m not sure why, though. He’s done a lot for people in this city.”

“He’s a rich boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth who thought he was above the law.”

She smirked. “Something like that.”

“Look. As much as I don’t like Coleman, I don’t really think he deserves to go to prison. He saved Anna. That has to count for something.”

“Are you willing to make a public statement to that affect?”

I nodded.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Anna off that witness stand.”

Chapter 2

Brianna

I sat on my bed hugging my knees to my chest as I stared blankly out the
window. It was sunny today. Probably warm since it was the third Monday in August. That was only a guess, though, since I hadn’t been outside for almost a month. Other than to see Emma, my lawyer, I’d only left my room a handful of times, when Cal’s or Jade’s pleading did me in. I didn’t want to be around anyone. It had nothing to do with them. I felt . . . lost and . . . hollow inside.

Reaching up, I skimmed the edge of Stephan’s collar with my index finger. About a week after I’d moved in with Cal, he’d tried to get me to take it off. Jade had to come in between us, begging him to let it be, after I’d locked myself in my bathroom for most of the day. I knew Cal still didn’t like Stephan—just thinking his name caused me to whimper and my chest to constrict—but I wouldn’t let go of the one part of Stephan I had left. The only part that was still mine.

My gaze drifted to the nightstand beside my bed where I kept the papers Emma had brought. From the very beginning, she’d seemed to understand my need to know what was going on with Stephan, and this was her way of doing that. Anytime Stephan was in the papers or on the news, she would catalog it for me. She would never know how grateful I was to her for that.

Moisture pooled in my eyes as I let the sadness I felt engulf me. I missed him. I missed him so much. It hurt every day.

Jade kept telling me it would get better—this horrible feeling I had in my chest—but it hadn’t. It had been over two months since I’d seen him, touched him. Oscar said it had to be this way, and I understood. I would do what was best for Stephan. I had to. He’d done so much for me. Risked everything. I would be strong for him now. I would do what needed to be done . . . even if it killed me.

Oscar had arranged for me to have Emma. He’d come to see me himself a week after my birthday and brought with him the car Stephan had bought for me—the one I’d never gotten up the nerve to try and drive yet—along with the birthday gifts I’d left behind at Stephan’s condo. “Stephan says they’re yours, and you should have them with you.”

BOOK: Trust
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