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Authors: Sherri Hayes

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance

Trust (5 page)

BOOK: Trust
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Oscar sighed. He sounded slightly irritated. “I told you Brianna was fine over the phone.”

“I understand that, but I’d like to hear that from Emma.”

She looked up, meeting my gaze. “Nothing major has happened to change Ms. Reeves’s well-being.”

For the first time since receiving Oscar’s phone call, I felt I could breathe a little easier. “Thank you.”

Oscar motioned to the empty chair in front of him. “Stephan, if you’ll have a seat we can get started.”

I took my seat, eager to find out what had prompted this impromptu meeting.

They didn’t make me wait long. To my surprise, however, it was Emma who began speaking. “Ms. Reeves wants me to offer a deal to the FBI.”

That got my attention. “What do you mean? What kind of a deal?”

“In exchange for giving you immunity from any and all charges surrounding your involvement with Ian Pierce and the purchase of Ms. Reeves from him, she would agree to testify against him.”

“What! Absolutely not,” I shouted, surging out of my chair.

“Stephan, sit down. She’s not finished.”

I looked down at Emma, panic causing every muscle in my body to tense. Brianna couldn’t do this. I wouldn’t let her. She was to worry about herself. Take care of
herself
. Not me. That was Oscar’s job.

Emma raised one eyebrow, clearly waiting for me to sit back down before she continued with whatever other nonsense she had to share. Taking a deep breath, I eased myself back into my chair.

“Apparently you’re not the only one who feels the way you do about her suggestion. Cal Ross had a similar reaction.”

For once, Ross and I seemed to be on the same page. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

“He’s offered a countersuggestion. I ran it by Vince here.” She motioned to the man I didn’t know. “He’s a criminal attorney in my firm and knows a lot more about that side of the law than I, or even Oscar. I’m also going to run it by Ms. Reeves, because ultimately it’s her decision. She’s my client, not you and not Mr. Ross.”

She paused, and it took everything I had in me not to demand she get on with it already.

“Cal Ross has offered to speak on your behalf, Mr. Coleman. He would go on record, publicly, in support of you and what you did for Ms. Reeves. He agrees, as I do, that Ms. Reeves will have to make an official statement regarding what happened to her during her time with Mr. Pierce, but he is hoping that his statement, along with Ms. Reeves’s, will be enough to force the FBI’s hand and get them to stop pursuing you in this matter.”

Although I still didn’t like the idea of Brianna being involved at all, I’d known keeping her out of it would be nearly impossible once Jonathan Reeves confessed. The FBI knew her name, and they were going to want to know everything else about her as well. Sooner or later, the story was going to come out. It was only a matter of how.

“What do you think, Oscar?”

“Actually, I think you need to hear what Vince has to say first.”

Refocusing my attention on the other man, I waited for him to begin speaking.

Vince shifted his weight and crossed his arms as if settling in for the long haul. “I think it’s a bad idea. Right now, all the FBI has on you is a monetary transaction, correct?”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

Vince nodded. “Then my advice is to leave it at that. Unless Ian or Brianna or someone else who knows what that money was for starts talking, then all they are going to be able to do is guess. They can’t prove anything.”

“So what you’re saying is you think we should do nothing.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. This Agent Marco is trying to spook you into doing something that will give him the ammunition he needs to go after you. I say we don’t give it to him.”

“But what about Ian?”

“My guess is he won’t say anything either. It’s not really in his best interest.”

That made sense, and it would keep Brianna out of things as much as possible. “So what now?”

“We wait. We wait and let Ian make the next move.”

I didn’t like that. “And if he decides that since he’s going down he wants to take me with him?”

“Given your position in the community, I think we could discredit anything he said. Worst-case scenario, we can always fall back on Ms. Reeves and Mr. Ross’s suggestion. I just wouldn’t recommend it at this point. While Agent Marco is fishing, he doesn’t have anything solid against you. If he did, we’d be having this conversation in an interrogation room rather than an office. Besides, approaching the FBI with a deal before an arrest makes it look like you have something to hide. While technically you do, we don’t want it to look that way.”

I closed my eyes and ran through my options. There weren’t many, so it didn’t take that long to decide.

“All right.” I paused. “If something happens, though, I’m going to need you to arrange for me to see Brianna. Press or not, we’ll figure something out.”

“Stephan, you know that wouldn’t be a good—”

“I don’t care if it’s a good idea or not, Oscar. There’s no way I’m letting her sacrifice herself for me.” I turned to level a hard look at Emma. “Do you understand that? Under no circumstances am I allowing Brianna to throw herself under the bus to save me. I’ll spend the rest of my life in prison before I let that happen.”

Chapter 4

Stephan

I spent another hour in Oscar’s office going over the plan, which
basically amounted to everyone involved going about their business and keeping their mouths shut. It also meant I was no closer to seeing Brianna. Oscar felt it was still in everyone’s best interest to keep us apart. He didn’t think I’d be able to keep my hands off her if we were in the same room together, and he was probably right, especially if I thought she was hurting in any way. I was constantly hounded by the press nowadays. Suggestive pictures of us wouldn’t help the situation if the worst happened. We needed the public to be on my side, and the press had the power to influence that for better or worse. Right now, they were only curious. We were trying to keep it that way.

The parking garage seemed unusually cavernous as I pulled into my parking space. I turned off the engine and rested my head against the steering wheel. I missed Brianna. I missed coming home to her. Talking to her. Sharing my day with her. The last thing I wanted to do was go up to my condo and her not be there.

Closing my eyes, I remembered the feeling of her in my arms. How she used to sit in my lap and play with the buttons on my shirt. I reached up and touched the button to the right of my heart, the one she always went to first. It had been so long since I’d heard her voice or felt her breath against my neck as she told me about her day. More than anything, I wanted to hold her and know she was all right.

The sound of my cell phone ringing caused me to open my eyes. I dug the phone out of my pocket, looked at the caller ID, and cursed. It was Sarah. Glancing at my watch, I realized I’d been sitting in my car, hunched over the steering wheel, for almost two hours.

“Hello.” My voice sounded as if I had sandpaper in my throat.

“Stephan, where are you? I’m here with dinner, and your doorman says he’s not heard from you and I’m not on the
approved
list.”

I could see her rolling her eyes in my head, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“I got . . . caught up in something that took longer than I expected. Let me talk to Tom.”

“Always so bossy.”

“Always so bratty.”

She laughed, and I knew I was forgiven.

I heard movement in the background, then Tom’s voice. “Mr. Coleman?”

After exiting my vehicle, I hit the locks as I walked toward the elevator. “Hi, Tom. You can add Ms. Evans to the approved list.”

“Of course, Mr. Coleman. Did you want me to go ahead and send her up, or shall I have her wait a few minutes?”

I should have known Tom was watching my entrance from the security monitors. “You can go ahead and send her up, thanks.”

There were a few more words exchanged between Tom and Sarah I didn’t quite make out before Sarah came back on the phone. “I’ll see you in a minute.”

The phone cut off, and I shook my head. That woman was badly in need of a spanking. It made me wonder if she currently had a Dom, and if so, how he was dealing with her behavior. Then again, she might have been acting this way because it was me and we had a history. Sarah was extremely intelligent and rather good at reading people. There had been many times when she’d gone out of her way to act out in order to get a reaction out of me. Was that what she was doing now? And if so, why?

Letting myself into my condo, I went straight to my bedroom and removed my jacket and tie. I was on my way to the kitchen when the monitor lit up to let me know Sarah had arrived.

I paused to take a deep breath before opening the door. Sarah stood on the other side, hand on her hip, carrying a large plastic bag. I could already smell the sweet and sour chicken, her favorite. She swept into the room, and I had a moment of déjà vu. Lily had done something similar in the past. It made me wonder why I’d originally thought Lily would make a good play partner. Was it because in some ways she reminded me of Sarah? It was certainly something to consider.

“Thank goodness for the Internet. You left your office in such a hurry earlier I didn’t have a chance to ask you where you typically get your Chinese food around here.” I opened my mouth to speak, but she continued talking, not paying any attention to me. “I didn’t ask you what you wanted earlier, so I just got your usual and a double order of sweet and sour chicken. I figured if your tastes had changed, you could always share mine. You always did like to steal some of my chicken anyway.”

Although I didn’t typically order beef and broccoli anymore, I could still eat it. She was also right that I’d most likely steal some of her chicken as well. It was one of the many reasons I tended to order multiple dishes now. I liked to have a variety.

Without my saying a word, Sarah began laying everything out on the dining room table. I walked to the kitchen to get us some drinks.

Once she had all the food out of the bag and arranged how she wanted it, she pulled out a chair and sat down. I’d barely reached for my own food before Sarah started in. “What’s she like?”

I paused for a second before resuming opening the carton containing my beef and broccoli. “Why do you want to know?”

“Come on. I’ve known you almost six years now, and never once have you ever fancied yourself in love with anyone. Plus . . .” She hesitated, and I looked up to find her with an expression on her face that told me she was thinking hard about her next words. “You’re different.”

“How so?”

“You’re going to make me work for this, aren’t you?”

“You don’t have to work for anything, Sarah, but I’d like to know why you think I’m somehow different than I used to be.”

She pursed her lips. “Well first of all, you seem depressed. Granted, I didn’t see you after you broke it off with Tami, but I never got the impression when we talked or e-mailed that you were anything other than your normal self, if maybe slightly ticked off. You also used to be very . . . controlled. Even when we’d let loose in college, I could always tell you were in complete control of yourself. Today, though, I saw you go into a near panic when your lawyer called. You’ve changed, and that’s not a bad thing, but it makes me want to know the reason for that change.”

I started eating and thought about what she’d said. Sarah wasn’t wrong. I’d never come close to falling in love before Brianna, but was I different? Based on what she was telling me, I was. Brianna was the most important thing in my life. Her happiness, her safety, trumped everything else. Looking at it that way, I guessed I was different.

My throat clenched tight with emotion as I opened my mouth to speak. I took a drink of water and tried again. “She’s . . .” Closing my eyes, I tried not to let my emotions overwhelm me. “She’s beautiful. Inside and out.”

Sarah didn’t respond, which was strange for her. Keeping quiet had never been one of her strengths.

When I looked over at her, her eyes were glassy, and I could tell she was on the verge of tears. Another oddity for her.

We sat in silence for several minutes until I couldn’t take it anymore. “Sarah?”

She jerked, picked up her napkin, and turned to the side, dabbing the corner of her eyes. I could tell she was somewhat embarrassed by her display of emotion, although I didn’t know why. Again, it was unusual for her, but I’d seen her cry in the past. I wondered if it was the cause of her tears that had her feeling self-conscious or something else.

I was about to ask her about it when she turned back around, laid her napkin on the table with a flourish, and stood. “May I use your bathroom?”

It took me a few seconds longer to answer than it should have. “Of course. There’s a bathroom up the stairs and to your right.”

“Thank you.”

She was up the stairs before I could gather my thoughts on her weird behavior. Although Sarah and I hadn’t seen each other in nearly two years, we did keep in touch, and this wasn’t like her. She wasn’t prone to sudden outbursts of crying. In the year we’d been together, I’d seen her cry twice outside of play—once when her grandfather died, and the other when her mom had called to tell her she was leaving Sarah’s father and filing for divorce. Both times her tears had made sense.

BOOK: Trust
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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