He laughed, the sound harsh and brittle as he turned back to face her. “Talk? About how our marriage is a fucking lie? Or about how you planned to take off after leaving the most pathetic note. Do you know how insane with worry I would have been?”
She cringed at the anger in his words because he was right. Wiping her damp palms on her jeans, she took a step toward him, but he moved back, flinching as if she’d struck him. Her throat tightened. He didn’t even want her to touch him and she couldn’t blame him. “I’m so sorry, Harrison.” She had so many things to say to him, to explain and make him understand, but knew her words would fall on deaf ears right now. He was too caught up in his own anger and she didn’t blame him. “Where are you going?”
“Something happened with Lizzy on her way home from work,” Harrison finally said after a moment of silence.
It took a moment for his words to register. Her throat tightened as panic set in. “Is she okay?”
He nodded, his expression hardening. “I’m on my way to see her now.” When Mara made a move to go with him, he shook his head.
Her own anger flared. “You might be pissed at me—and you have every right to be—but I’m going. She’s my best friend.”
He snorted. “Is everything you told her a lie too?”
Tears stung her eyes at his angry tone and words. She looked away from him, hating the way he was looking at her and hating herself for the lies she’d lived with.
“Fuck,” Harrison muttered. “Don’t cry, Mara. Fuck, fuck, fuck.” He shouted the last curse and turned away from her. “Come on. I have questions and you can answer them on the way or in front of Lizzy and Porter if you want.”
Swiping at her eyes, she shoved her hands in her jeans pockets and followed him through the living room into their kitchen where one of the security guys he’d brought in was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. The stocky guy stood when he saw them, but Harrison motioned for him to sit back down.
“We’re leaving. I’m taking the detail outside with us. You and the rest of the team stay put. Anything happens, call me immediately,” he snapped.
The man nodded and didn’t glance Mara’s way. She’d noticed that none of the team had looked at her since they’d arrived. Hell, they’d barely glanced at Harrison. He wasn’t acting like his normal self. He’d been abrupt and harsh with all his guys, snapping at them for no reason. She hated that he was behaving this way because of her.
After calling one of the men standing guard outside their house and telling him that she and Harrison were leaving, he got into the SUV and she followed suit.
The mood in the interior of the vehicle was just as icy as it had been inside their house. Her stomach bunched in pain. And worry for Lizzy had Mara even tenser than she had been. “What happened to Lizzy? Is she hurt?” Oh God, what if Perdue had gotten to her?
“She wasn’t physically hurt. There was an incident, but she’s fine and safe with Porter.” His words were clipped.
She allowed a small measure of relief to slide through her veins, but before Mara could ask any more questions, he continued. “How long were you with them?” His question cut through the vehicle with quiet intensity.
She didn’t need him to specify. “Eight years.” And she’d loved her job—until her last assignment.
“Why’d you leave?”
That was a complicated question. “I…got burned out.”
He grunted, but didn’t say anything else as they drove to the high rise Lizzy now lived in with Porter.
Once Harrison’s brother buzzed them in, they entered the underground parking garage. Mara’s flat black slippers were silent against the concrete as they headed to the elevators. There were two men in black suits standing there. Her heart rate increased until she realized she recognized one of them. Of course Porter would have extra security after the scare with Lizzy. She wanted more details about what had happened, but Harrison had assured her that Lizzy wasn’t hurt. As long as that was the case, she could hold off on finding out what happened until she saw her friend. Hell, it had been clear Harrison wouldn’t answer her questions anyway. The man was like an ice statue right now.
Harrison nodded at the men then punched in a code to the elevators. It wasn’t as if Porter owned the whole building and she knew the guys downstairs couldn’t stop anyone from entering, but they would alert Porter to anyone using the elevators. And something told her there would be more men upstairs outside his place.
Sure enough, when they stepped into the tiled entryway outside his condo, there were two guards wearing black suits similar to the men downstairs. The door opened before they’d even reached it. Porter gave her an assessing look, his pale blue eyes not exactly angry, but wary. As the oldest brother, he was two years older than Harrison, but they looked so similar at that moment. The annoyance pulsing off both of them potent and consuming.
Her stomach dropped. Just great. Lizzy would probably hate her too. Mara didn’t make friends easily—that being an understatement—but she loved the other woman. They’d been friends for years, even before she and Porter had gotten together, and now the thought of losing her too… Mara sucked in a ragged breath, fighting more traitorous tears. God, she never cried, but it was as if she’d let the floodgates open and they refused to stay shut. Even if her friend hated her, she just had to know that she was all right and Perdue hadn’t somehow gotten to her.
Harrison cursed next to Mara, and taking her by surprise, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her tight against his lean, hard body. He was tense, but his grip was still somehow reassuring. Leaning down he pressed a surprisingly soft kiss to the top of her head. “You’re not going to your executioner,” he murmured.
He might be so angry he could barely talk to her, but the fact that he was still trying to reassure her stripped her bare. God, she didn’t deserve Harrison. Trust had never come easy to her. Hell, right before they’d gotten married Harrison had admitted his past to her and the first thing she’d thought was that he wanted something from her. Because everyone always had an angle. She’d wondered if he’d known about her past and had been using her. But he hadn’t been. The more time that passed, she’d known with absolute certainty that he just loved her as much as she loved him. She’d had more than one opportunity to tell him who she was, but she’d been too scared.
God, she was so broken and screwed up she couldn’t even make her marriage work. And it was definitely her fault. Maybe she was more like her mother than she thought.
She slid her arm around his waist and hugged him back, thankful for his surprising support.
Harrison and Porter’s shoes made soft thudding sounds along the tiled hallway. Mara had been here once before he’d married Lizzy and she could see a lot of improvements as they entered what had once been a bare, cold living room. She was vaguely aware of the bright throw pillows, afghans, and actual family pictures placed strategically around the retro chic room.
Lizzy stood where she’d been sitting at a long, sleek white couch. Her dark hair was pulled up in a ponytail and she was wearing one of Porter’s Marine Corps T-shirts that was probably a decade old along with yoga pants. She was clearly okay though, at least physically. Relief flooded her that Harrison had been telling the truth. Even with her internal relief, Mara automatically steeled herself for whatever reception Lizzy would give her.
Lizzy flew across the room before Mara and Harrison had taken more than a few steps inside. Her dark eyes filled with concern. “Are you okay?”
Mara blinked as Lizzy pulled her into a tight hug. The other woman was at least six inches taller and she had a serious grip. “I think I should be asking you that. What’s going on? Are you okay?”
Stepping back, Lizzy linked her arm with Mara’s and led her to the long couch where Mara practically collapsed. Harrison sat on the opposite, smaller loveseat. The glass coffee table in between them had a mug of steaming tea on it. Having one sounded like heaven right now, but there was no way she was asking.
As if she read her mind, however, Lizzy looked at Porter. “Will you please fix Mara some tea? She likes it the same way I do.” She smiled prettily at Porter who just grunted but disappeared from the room.
She looked back at Mara. “I didn’t park in the garage at work today because I’d had a meeting a block over early this morning. I didn’t see the point in driving when it was so nice outside.”
Lizzy paused as Porter placed a mug with steam curling off it and a tea bag still inside down on the table before sitting next to his brother. Mara murmured a thank you but kept her gaze on Lizzy. She didn’t want to see Harrison’s expression or even look at him. She’d get distracted and she couldn’t bear the thought of seeing more anger in his dark eyes. Especially since she was the one who’d put it there.
“You shouldn’t have walked,” Porter muttered.
Lizzy ignored her fiancé as she continued. “I nearly ran into a blond haired man as I was crossing the street. I’m not really sure what his deal was, but he looked at me as if I’d surprised him. Like he was excited to see me or something. It was strange and a little creepy. He tried to act subtle, but I could tell he was following me. Instead of heading to the other garage where I’d parked I ducked into a coffee shop and texted Travis Sanchez because I’d just been talking to him in the lobby before I left.” She shot Porter an annoyed look when he made a grumbling sound. “I knew he was close and he’s incredibly good at his job. It’s the only reason I didn’t contact you first.”
Mara nodded, hoping she appeared calm as inner alarm bells went off. She didn’t know all the employees for Red Stone Security but she knew Travis. He’d been at the last barbeque Grant and Belle had at their house. The man had piercings, tattoos and a Mohawk. He was not only qualified, but he looked intimidating too. “So what happened?” Mara tried to keep the panic out of her voice. Her friend was sitting right in front of her. She was unscathed and there were thousands of blond men in Miami. Still…Neville Perdue had blond hair and just thinking about him being close to someone she cared about sent chills down her spine. Not that she even knew it had been him.