Home > Damage Control (Dirty Money #2)(10)

Damage Control (Dirty Money #2)(10)
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

Holding my breath, I watch the steel doors open and reveal an empty car. I step inside and this time, I punch the garage level, but then have second thoughts. Seth is smart. He’ll be looking for me at the obvious escape route. I’m not dressed the way he expects, so I just have to be determined in my actions. I’ll walk right out the front door. The elevator stops moving and once again, I hold my breath, waiting for the door to open. Waiting for Shane to appear. The steel doors part and a redheaded woman in ridiculously high heels rushes forward, ignoring my need to exit.

Once she’s entered the car, I walk into the corridor, nearing the lobby and willing my heart to slow before it beats right out of my chest. I have to own this plan and the path I’m walking and I do. I cut right toward the exit, not left as I’d traveled with Shane, and I do not allow myself to look for him. I keep moving and it’s not long until I’m exiting the hotel, cold air blasting me in the face and chilling my neck. I turn left, toward the 16th Street Mall area where there will be plenty of places to disappear. It’s also toward my apartment, which I can’t return to. I’m not sure where I’m going except away from Shane.



Seth and his team search for Emily both inside and outside the property, while I check every spot in the hotel her access key and codes will get her, thinking she could be hiding out to throw off our search. After checking the restaurant and bathroom again, I end up in the gym, which seems like a possible hiding place, only to find it deserted at this nine o’clock hour, with no sign of Emily. Frustrated, I walk to the floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping the spacious facility, pressing my hand to the glass, my gaze sweeping the twinkling downtown lights, without truly seeing them for the fear clawing in my gut. I see again the panic, torment, and terror in Emily’s eyes when we were in that bathroom. She told me the truth tonight. She didn’t betray me, but she is in trouble, and I’ve let her escape to face it on her own.

My cell phone rings and I fish it from my pocket, answering Seth’s call. “Tell me you have her.”

“I was hoping you’d say you do. I pinged her cell phone. Shane, it’s in your apartment.”

“I’m on my way,” I say, already striding through the gym. “I’ll call you when I get there, but her coat is there. She could have left her phone as well, so don’t assume she’s not trying to slip past you.” I end the call and exit to the hallway. While punching in my floor in the elevator car, I try to remember if Emily ever took her phone from her purse. I continue wracking my brain to no avail. By the time I’ve reached my apartment door, I’ve surmised that Emily had been on the balcony when Seth arrived with his bombshell about her. She could have set her phone down there, but she does have a key to get in too.

I enter the apartment and softly shut the door behind me, listening for any sound that tells me she is here. Seconds tick by like hours, but there is nothing. No sign of Emily. I consider calling out or searching the apartment, but something tells me that won’t be productive. I retrieve my phone from my pocket and dial Emily, and grimace when her coat pocket rings. “Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.”

I shove my phone back in my pocket and grab her jacket, removing her cell. Shoving aside the clawing sensation in my gut, I check her call log and messages. Both are blank except for my number, but if she cleared any calls, the right tech person can find them, and her, I hope.

My phone starts ringing, so I stick Emily’s phone in my shirt pocket, and grab mine. I press my hand on the wall by the rack and lower my chin, that damn clawing sensation returning.

“She’s not here.”


At the sound of Emily’s voice, I go still. “Where are you?”

“Somewhere you won’t find me,” she says, and there is no noise echoing her words; no wind that says she’s outside, no voices that indicate she’s in a public place in the hotel. “And that’s how it has to stay.”

I squeeze my eyes shut with the certainty that she not only means those words, but believes they will hold true. “Then why call me?”

“I needed you to know I didn’t leave because I wanted to or because I’m guilty of being aligned with your family or your enemies. You have to trust your instincts to become the head of the Brandon empire, and I won’t be the reason you misstep.”

“I’m not doubting my instincts. I know you’re running and I know someone is pulling your strings. I also know I can help you cut the ties.”

“I don’t need help. I need to explain.”

“Explain in person.”

“The night I met you,” she says, going ahead anyway, “I didn’t know we’d turn into what we did.”

“What we are,” I correct, amending her use of the past tense. “Which is why you should be here now.”

“No,” she says. “No. It’s why I can’t be there now, and now that I took away your ability to play hero, I can do just what you said. Explain things.”

“I don’t play at anything, most especially protecting you, me, or my company.”

“I know that, Shane, but—”

“You don’t know that or we wouldn’t be talking on the phone right now. We’d be naked and—”

“You wouldn’t know who was fucking who.”

“That was—”

“Doubt,” she says, “of me and your instincts. Don’t tell me it wasn’t. I can tell that you want to believe I didn’t betray you, but you can’t be sure I didn’t. So I’m going to tell you everything I can tell you that is the absolute truth, without pulling you into this.” She inhales and lets it out, still no background sounds to clue me into where she is, before she begins. “I’m blond. Seth’s file won’t say I took the LSAT, but I did. Seth’s file will say my parents died in a plane crash, but that’s not true. That night you were tormented by feeling love and hate for your father, I confessed the same, along with my father’s suicide. That was real. My dad killed himself when I was thirteen, and my younger brother, who is also not in Seth’s file, was eleven. And that suicide was the catalyst to the hell I’m in now.”

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