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Lori released a breath she seemed to be holding. “That’s a great idea. I’d love to know that she has someone close that she can talk to.”

Avery glanced toward the dining room table, where Danny was collecting empty wineglasses. “He’s a bad idea . . . isn’t he?” she whispered to Lori.

“He’s my brother!”

“Okay, okay . . . when are you flying home?”

“Saturday morning.”

“I’ll fly out Friday. Can you water my plants while I’m gone?”

Lori narrowed her eyes. “Do you have plants?”

Avery laughed. “No.”

Lori nudged her. “I’ll let you know if the building catches fire.”


Lori turned her attention to Reed.

He nodded toward the living room.

She followed.

He placed a hand on her waist and pulled her close until he could circle her with his arms. “You take care of everyone, don’t you?”

“You noticed.”

There was a tension in her frame, in her eyes. “Who takes care of you?” he whispered.

Her strangled smile fell. “I’m good.”

“Everyone needs someone to look out for them once in a while.”

“I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time.”

Laughter from the kitchen had them both looking back.

“Sorry about tonight,” she told him.

“You know . . . for a strong, independent woman, you sure do apologize a lot for things you can’t control.”

“I do?”

“Yes. You do.” He kissed the tip of her nose. “Call me when you land in New York.”


Yeah, why had he told her to do that? Then it dawned on him. “I want to know you arrived safely.”

For the first time since they’d met, doubt crossed her face.

“Okay?” he asked.

“The chance of a plane dropping from the sky is less likely than me biting it in the car on the way to the airport.”

God, she was adorable when she went all lawyer on him.

“Then text me when you get to the airport, and then call when you land in New York.”

She blinked several times. “Fine. I’ll do that.”

“Did that hurt?” he asked.

Lori started to shake her head before she turned that shake into a nod. “Yes.”


Chapter Seventeen

Lori stepped away from her priority seat on the commercial airline slightly frazzled. The hour delay on her flight gave her very little time to commute into Manhattan for her two o’clock meeting with Mr. Crockett and Trina. Thankfully, she didn’t need to stick around the airport for luggage since she only had a carry-on.

“I’m late,” she told the driver she’d hired to pick her up from the airport. The second he closed the door and settled behind the wheel, she said, “I’ll pay for your speeding ticket.”

He glanced at her from the rearview mirror and sped off.

Gotta love New York. Hand gestures and horns, the drivers took a “hold no prisoner” approach to driving in order to get where they wanted. How any of the cars there survived was a mystery.

Lori fingered through the files on Alice Petrov and her estimated wealth that she’d obtained before Trina married Fedor. During her flight, she’d spent the first hour reading before lingering jet lag knocked her out. When she woke, she had barely an hour to refresh her memory about the Petrov players. Who was going to be happy with Alice’s decision to leave her estate to Trina, and who was going to fight?

Up until the last months of Alice’s life, she was an active member on the board of the oil company her family had founded. She was the eldest of three girls, all of whom were given equal shares of the company upon their father’s death.

Lori placed a hand against the seat to keep from toppling over when the driver cut off a horn-blaring car.

She turned the page of her document, skimmed the next page of Alice’s bio, the part where she took a philanthropic role in many organizations: Women’s Health United, Women for Women, Empowering Girls, Battered but Not Broken, Federation of the United . . . and finally, Girl Scouts.

A corner of Lori’s brain started to itch. Something, or some chain of events, must have prompted this path of philanthropy.

Her body lurched forward as her driver pulled to an abrupt stop before the high-rise on Forty-Second.

She looked at her watch.

One fifty.

“You’re good.” She pulled a hundred-dollar bill from her wallet, added that to predetermined fare.

He handed her his card. “Anytime you’re in the city.”

“I’ll keep you in mind.”

He jumped out, but she was already one foot out the door before he could open it for her.

Cars honked behind his double-parked effort, not that he seemed to care.

Before she reached the doors of the building, her phone rang.

She answered without looking at who called. “I’m on my way in right now.”


The voice threw her. She was expecting Trina on the other end.

“You didn’t call me when you landed.”

She damn near tripped as she hustled through the glass doors. “Reed?”

“Were you expecting someone else?”

His call was so unexpected she stopped walking when she should be running. “My flight was late, I fell asleep . . .”

“I was worried.”

The wind in her lungs rushed out.

She started walking again and found herself flat in the middle of a massive chest.

Looking up, her heart beat for entirely different reasons. “Mr. Petrov.” She took a giant step back.

“Ms. Cumberland. I was hoping to speak with you.”

Behind Trina’s father-in-law were his two cronies. Massive men who screamed Don’t fuck with me in multicolor.

“I’m late for a meeting.” She attempted to walk around him.

He blocked her.

“Lori?” The voice came from the phone.

“I won’t take but a moment,” Ruslan told her.

“You can make an appointment with my secretary,” she told him.

He laughed. “I make my own appointments.”

She stepped to the side.

One of his musclemen blocked her.

Squaring her shoulders, she lifted her chin and straightened her arm that was holding the phone to her head.

Although the hair on her neck was straining, she looked around and noticed several meandering people close by. New York was a good many things, but it wasn’t full of wimps. If she found herself being dragged out of this building screaming, someone would jump in.

“I have nothing to—”

He lifted a finger to her lips, touched her.

She backed away.

“My dear Alice wasn’t thinking right when she passed.”

She opened her mouth.

He lifted a finger to it again.

Lori jerked her head aside.

“I’d hate to see everything you’ve built collapse because of my poor, sick wife.”

Her teeth grew cold. “Ex. Wife.”

“In the eyes of God, we are still married.”

“What do you know of God, Mr. Petrov?”

His smile unsettled her.

“I know which one of us will see him first.”

Keeping her face neutral was one of the hardest things she’d ever done.

“Is that a threat?”

He looked her up and down . . . slowly. “I’m clairvoyant.”

“No,” she told him. “You’re just an asshole.”

Both his hit men stepped around her.

Ruslan stopped them with a hand in the air.

He leaned in.

She held her ground until his lips were close to her ear. “We will speak again.”

Ice ran down her spine.

Ruslan Petrov brushed past her and out the door.

She took a step forward, felt her knees shaking as adrenaline dumped into her system.

“Lori? Talk to me, damn it. Lori!”

She glanced at the phone in her hand, confused. Then she realized that she’d been on the phone. “Reed?”

“What the hell is going on?”

“Did you hear all that?”

“I heard enough. Where are you?”

“I’m fine. I’m headed into my meeting. I have to go.”

“Did that man threaten you?” Reed’s frantic voice matched the pulse under her chest.

“It’s not the first time that’s happened,” she lied. The elevator doors opened. “I’ve got to go.”

“I don’t like this.”

“We can talk later.”

“How long is your meeting?”

She started to answer when her phone lost the call as the elevator shot to a higher floor.

His skin itched, and not in a good way.

Reed scrambled through papers on his desk until he found a blank notebook.

The tone of the man Lori was speaking with meant business. Russian accent. Reed heard the name Petrov.

And that man had threatened Lori with her life.

That, Reed heard loud and clear.

What kind of man did that?

Reed typed in Katrina Petrov and started his search all over again.

Lori had caught her breath by the time she reached Mr. Crockett’s office . . . five minutes late.

The secretary walked her back to the office, where Trina sat on the other side of a desk, hands folded in her lap.


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