Chapter 8

Wyatt was conscious of everyone and everything as they entered the grand foyer to Forest’s home. Iris held onto his arm, as if she were his date for the evening. Other than her security team and his most trusted people, no one actually knew they were married. Looking back he wondered if he should have courted her longer, given her a huge wedding that she deserved. Of course she’d no doubt hate something like that. Truth was, he would too. He didn’t need something overdone and garish to show the world how much he loved her. He’d just needed to lock her down.

Not that it mattered. She’d run from him. At least she was with him now, even if it was on a temporary basis. Wearing a formfitting black dress covered with small silver bursts that reminded him of fireworks, she moved with a liquid grace that had him wanting to shove her dress up and take her against the nearest flat surface.

But she wasn’t remotely thinking about sex. Though her expression was casual, he could feel the tension humming through her as she spotted Keibler and the rest of his crew standing at the foot of one of the curving staircases that descended into the foyer. Two men wearing dark suits watched them carefully from the high balcony above where the stairs joined. They were no doubt armed. Forest’s security. Wyatt had seen them on multiple occasions with the man when he’d actually ventured out in public.

Wyatt murmured that to Iris who only nodded. “They’re in my files.” Her lips barely moved as she spoke.

Yeah, Wyatt didn’t doubt that Red Stone Security had extensive files on anyone and everyone he might come in contact with over the next week. He’d given them all the information he could think of, but they had a lot of resources. Which was one of the reasons he’d hired them.

Keibler’s expression narrowed on Wyatt when he finally spotted him. He flicked a glance at Iris, then paused and practically undressed her with his eyes as he scanned her from head to heeled feet. Wyatt wanted to pummel the guy for even looking at her that way, even though he couldn’t blame him. She looked beautiful.

“Breathe,” Iris murmured and he realized his jaw was clenched tight, his body completely tense. When he met her gaze, she gave him a half-smile. “He’s just looking at me to piss you off. Don’t let him get under your skin.”

Nothing ever got to him. Until Iris. He’d never cared if anyone looked at his dates. Iris was different. And she was wrong about why Keibler was looking at her, but she was right that he needed to breathe. While Wyatt had more to offer Forest in this deal, Forest was also eccentric as hell. He could decide to sell the company to Thorton Enterprises because he liked the color of Thorton’s tie. Wyatt forced himself to relax.

Iris leaned close until her mouth was close to his ear, her warm breath making everything around them funnel out for a second. He could drown in her scent, in the pure essence that was all her. “I think the woman is part of his security. Females in this business are rare so I’m surprised I don’t know who she is, but she moves like a pro. Maybe she’s new. Either way, steer clear of her.”

“You know you’re the only woman for me.” His words were as low as hers.

She quickly averted her gaze and swallowed hard. “Stay close to us, we’re using the opposite staircase,” she said quietly to her team.

He belatedly remembered about her earpiece and that everyone had just heard what he said. While her team might know they were married, this was still her job. It rankled him that she had to keep that cool façade up at all times, but he understood it. He’d pulled himself up from nothing so on that level, he got why she was always professional. Didn’t mean he had to like that he couldn’t pull his wife into his arms the way he wanted.

As they headed for the west side staircase, Wyatt gave a brisk nod to the other group. He knew Keibler would take offense and imagine it was somehow a slight, but Wyatt was used to the other man’s paranoia.

At the top of the stairs they were immediately stopped by the two guards he’d spotted when they arrived. And two more men in suits appeared from the shadows, heading toward the east staircase to stop the other group.

After they were patted down and turned over their weapons—which could be retrieved when they left—Iris, Wyatt and the others were led down a long hallway with intricately carved crowned molding gilded with gold. There were also priceless paintings hanging every few feet. Wyatt recognized more than a handful of them, two as original Picasso’s—an artist he’d never learned to appreciate. In his opinion, art should be appealing, not a visual nightmare. Their group was silent, but farther down the hall behind them he could hear Keibler’s obnoxious voice and follow up laughter from the female. God, he hated these in-person meetings when this bullshit could all be taken care of over a conference call. Or a more neutral location.

He might have hired Iris but now that they were actually out in public and the threat was looming over him, he couldn’t shake the feeling that anything could happen to her. And he knew deep down he wouldn’t let her protect him from a bullet or anything else. He’d die trying to protect her.

There were two more men in suits waiting at the last door on the right. The dark-haired one on the left looked over the security team in an assessing manner, barely looked at Iris, then he focused on Wyatt. “You can bring in one person.”

“The deal was two.”

Iris tensed beside him, but he gently squeezed her arm.

The guard shrugged. “It’s one now.”

Wyatt gave him a shrug of his own. “Fine.” He turned to leave, Iris and the others following, but the guard stopped him.


Wyatt turned back to find the guy murmuring to someone clearly not the other guard. He probably had a similar earpiece to the one Iris was currently using. He tilted his chin at the closed door. “You can bring two.”

Iris still didn’t like it. Her posture and expression were tense, her back bowstring tight.

“Maybe you should stay out here and I’ll bring in another of the team with me and Jay.” He couldn’t stand the thought of her coming in there with him. Considering how paranoid Forest was and from the security he’d seen tonight, Wyatt knew it was unlikely that anything would happen, but he still didn’t want to bring Iris into possible harm’s way. At his house he’d broached the subject of her not coming and they’d fought. Even though it wasn’t in him to ever back down, he had.

For her.

It was his own damn fault for insisting on hiring her. He wanted to kick his own ass for his shortsightedness. Yeah, she was with him 24/7, but she was also putting herself in harm’s way.

As if she read his mind, Iris’s dark eyes spit fire at him, her jaw clenching tight before she pasted on a bright smile that didn’t fool him. Her fingers dug into his arm for a fraction of a moment before she looked at Jay. “Let’s go.”

Vincent, Kell and the others in the Red Stone group stayed behind as he, Iris and Jay entered. In each corner of the room stood men wearing dark suits; silent and armed like the rest of the security. A long conference table sat in the middle with Forest at one end, sitting there like he was a king. There was a buffet of food and drinks behind him, which told Wyatt he expected negotiations to go on for a while.

Forest stood and greeted Wyatt with a real smile. With salt and pepper hair, wire-rimmed glasses and a lean frame, the seventy-four year old was in good shape for his age.

“Who is this lovely woman?” he asked, his voice permanently raspy from the attack he’d suffered a year ago. Forest strode toward them, his movements steady.

Wyatt nodded between them. “Henry Forest, this is Iris Tarango.” He didn’t offer up anything else because it wasn’t the man’s business. As they stood and made small talk, Wyatt felt Iris tense as she subtly shifted and eyed Thorton’s group enter the room. He watched them out of the corner of his eye, careful of their movements. They might have been frisked before entering, but he was pretty sure Iris had managed to smuggle a knife in so it was highly possible any of that group was carrying a weapon.

Even though he was focused on the upcoming negotiations, it was difficult to ignore the feel of Iris’s lush body pressed up against his. Her light scent that always reminded him of springtime wrapped around him, driving him crazy. It wasn’t perfume either, it was something that was pure Iris.

Right now clothing separated them, but soon enough, he’d have her under him, begging for a release he’d gladly give. As he felt himself start to harden, he shoved those thoughts away and scanned the group of Forest’s men, then Thorton’s group again.

He needed to stay focused because once this job was over, it would be a hell of a lot easier to pinpoint any threats. Though he hated to think Keibler would stoop so low as to hire an assassin, he had to assume the other man was behind the attempt on his life. Wyatt didn’t have any other big deals in the works at the moment. This was the only one that would draw the kind of attention of a hit.

Internally sighing, he nodded and politely smiled at something Forest said to him and Iris. Yeah, long and boring night ahead.

* * * * *

For two hours Wyatt, Forest, Thorton and Keibler talked, shouted, and went back and forth over numbers and some other stuff Iris didn’t completely understand. The one thing she did realize, however, was that Thorton reeked of desperation. Both he and Keibler did. They needed the company and the hack proof software in a way Wyatt didn’t seem to. Or maybe Wyatt was just cooler under pressure. Despite their relationship, he was hard to read sometimes—okay, all the time.

That didn’t concern her right now. The woman Keibler had brought to the meeting did. She’d been introduced as Fae and had been perfectly polite and polished. She was sitting next to Keibler, her expression blank, as if she was bored, but something about her was off. First, why would they have brought this woman into the meeting unless she was security? Maybe she was, but she hadn’t interacted with any of the other security Thorton had arrived with and it would have been easy to tell. Even when Iris and her team weren’t vocally communicating, they all worked as one cohesive group. It was subtle, but they were all teammates and acted as such.