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“Can I help you?” his father said.

I shook my head. “No. But you can help your son.”

At first, he appeared somewhat defensive after my comment. But then it was as if something clicked, and he said, “You’re the girl he talked about. The one who has the same middle name?”

I nodded, and he invited me inside his home. When I sat on the couch across from him and began to tell him what had transpired, I grew more and more nervous, thinking my plan might not work out. But the second he agreed to help me, I instantly relaxed. I knew I couldn’t fight this alone.

My hands are shaking right now, despite the fact that Owen’s father is sitting right next to me. I don’t think anything could calm me down in this moment, because if it doesn’t work out in my and Owen’s favor, I’ll have just made things a whole lot worse. My heart is in my throat as we wait for her to arrive.

I’ve been awake for more than twenty-four hours now, but adrenaline is pumping through me, keeping me alert. I wasn’t even sure if his phone call would convince her to show up today, but his secretary just buzzed through the speaker to let him know she’s here.

In a matter of seconds, I’ll be face-to-face with Lydia.

I expect she’ll be angry. I expect she’ll argue. What I don’t expect to see when she finally walks through the door is the man standing behind her. When Trey’s eyes meet mine, I can see the curiosity cloud his face. There isn’t any curiosity on Lydia’s face. Just a world of annoyance when she witnesses me sitting here.

She gives her head a shake as she pauses across the boardroom table from us. “This was the emergency?” she asks, waving her hand in my direction. She gives a huge roll of her eyes, and she turns and looks at Trey. “I’m sorry I dragged you into this,” she says to him. “I didn’t realize it had to do with Auburn.”

Trey’s expression is tight, and he glances from me to Owen’s father. “What’s this about?” he says.

Owen’s father, who insisted I call him Cal the second he found out how I knew Owen, stands and motions for them to take two seats across from us. Trey chooses to remain standing, but Lydia sits directly in front of me. I can see her glance at the cut on my lip, but she doesn’t ask about it. She darts her eyes to Cal as she folds her arms over the table. “I have to leave in half an hour to pick up my grandson from preschool. Why am I here?”

Cal shifts his eyes to mine briefly. I warned him about her, but I think he may have thought I was exaggerating. He straightens out the papers that are in front of him, and then he leans back against his chair.

“These are custody papers,” he says, pointing at the papers laid out in front of him. “Auburn is requesting custody of her son.”

Lydia laughs. She literally laughs and looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. She begins to stand up. “Well, that was fast,” she says. “I think we’re done here.”

I hate that she so easily dismisses the notion. She turns to walk out the door, and I look at Trey, who is still eyeing me. He knows I’m up to something, and my confidence is scaring him.

“Trey,” I say to him, just as Lydia reaches the door. “Tell your mother we aren’t finished yet.”

Trey’s jaw grows tight, and his eyes narrow in my direction. He says nothing to Lydia, but he doesn’t have to. Lydia turns and faces me, and then moves her focus to Trey. Trey won’t look at her because he’s too busy trying to threaten me with his glare, so she looks back at me. “What’s going on, Auburn? Why are you doing this?”

I choose not to respond to her. Instead, I place my phone on the table. I open up the file, and I press play.

“You think I’m just going to forget the fact that you attacked me? That you destroyed Owen’s studio? That you’re framing him?”

I pause the recording and watch as all the color drains from Trey’s face. I can almost hear his thoughts, they’re written so clearly across his face. He’s trying to think back on last night and what he might have said to Owen or me on the way to the police station. Because he knows whatever was spoken inside that vehicle, I now have it on my phone as evidence.

He doesn’t move a muscle, other than tensing his arms and shoulders. “Should I play the rest of our conversation from last night, Trey?”

He closes his eyes and looks down at the floor. He lifts his leg and kicks the chair in front of him. “Fuck!” he yells.

Lydia flinches. She’s looking back and forth between Trey and me, but he doesn’t look at anything other than the floor. He’s pacing back and forth.

He knows his entire career is in my hands now.

And the fact that Lydia is sitting down again proves that she realizes it, too. She’s staring at my phone with a look of defeat, and as much as I want to say her expression pleases me, it doesn’t. I never wanted it to come to this.

“I’ll stay in Dallas,” I tell her. “I won’t move back to Portland. You can still see him. As long as you aren’t living in the same house as Trey, I’ll even give you weekend visitation. But he’s my son, Lydia. He needs to be with me. And if I have to use your son against you in order to get my son back, then so help me God, I will.”

Cal pushes the paperwork toward her. I lean forward across the table, and for the first time in my life, I’m not scared of the woman sitting across from me.

“If you sign the custody papers and Trey drops the charges against Owen, I won’t forward the e-mail that contains this conversation to every single officer in Trey’s precinct.”

Before Lydia picks up the pen, she turns and looks at Trey. “If that happens and someone gets hold of whatever she has on that recording . . . will it affect your career? Is she telling the truth, Trey?”

Trey pauses his frantic pacing, and he looks directly at me. He nods a slow nod but can’t even verbalize a response to her. Lydia’s eyes close, and she exhales.

The choice is in her hands. Either she can allow me to be a mother to my son, or I’ll make sure her son pays for what he’s done to Owen. For what he almost did to me.

“You realize this is blackmail,” Trey says.

I look up at him and nod calmly. “I learned from the best.”

The room grows quiet, and I can almost hear him trying to come up with a way out of this. When Trey doesn’t offer up an alternative, and Lydia realizes they have no choice, she picks up the pen. She signs each form and then pushes them across the table toward me.

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