It was time for Trina to reach out and comfort the sisters.
“Truth is,” Andrea started, “teaching you the ropes might be exactly what we need to move forward, too.”
“You can stay in Alice’s house, check things out . . . see if this is something you want to do,” Diane suggested.
Trina cocked her head to the side, looked at Lori. “Is there a house in Texas?”
“If you want to call it a house. I seem to remember something about twenty-five acres and several horses.”
“No cows,” Andrea teased.
“Our sister didn’t care for New York. She only went there in the end to be close to Fedor.”
Andrea lightened the mood. “The weather here sucks, not gonna lie. But hey, we have air conditioning.”
“And when the power goes out,” Diane continued, “we have all the resources needed to power it back up.” She spread her arms wide, as if the company singlehandedly took care of all the coolness they’d need to survive the heat.
Suddenly the world didn’t feel so dim. “I need to close up the house in New York.”
Andrea and Diane chuckled.
“So you’re in?”
Trina glanced at Lori. “I don’t see any reason for you to walk the dark halls of Fedor’s estate if you don’t.”
And just like that, Trina changed her life once again. “I’m in.”
Diane stood. “Great. Let me invite the rest of the board in.”
Andrea patted her on the back. “Most of them are Texans. Treating women with respect is way high on their priority list.”
Trina’s stomach rolled. “You better not be lying to me.”
Diane opened the door, and the room flooded with boots, hats, and a whole lot of testosterone.
“Change of plans,” Lori announced when she walked into the room at the hotel.
“You finally decided to try skydiving?” Reed teased. He was sitting by the window, his laptop open.
“You wish. No . . . but horseback riding might come into play.” She moved to the closet and removed her suitcase.
He closed his computer. “Horses include luggage?”
“You’re a funny guy.”
Reed moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “I crack myself up all the time.” He kissed her neck.
Her spine chilled. “None of that. We’re going to Trina’s.”
“Across the hall?”
“That would be a bit crowded. No . . .” Lori rolled out of his arms and into the bathroom to gather her toiletries. “Alice left a ranch to Trina.”
Reed moved to the doorway, leaned against it. “Let me guess, one of those houses is right here in Texas.”
She picked up her makeup bag and patted Reed’s cheek as she walked by. “Funny and wise.”
“I take it today’s visit to the oil company went well.”
“It did. Trina is finally starting to absorb all of this and has decided to spend the next few months here to see if she wants a part of Everson Oil.”
Reed continued to watch her as she bounced around the room, packing.
“What does Trina know about oil?”
“Nothing. But she’ll learn.”
“You sound very sure of her talents.”
She paused. “I think anyone who has been through as much as she has this year and isn’t rocking to the voices in her head in a corner somewhere is capable of just about anything.” Lori zipped up her suitcase, turned, and placed her hands on her hips. “What are you just standing there for? Pack.”
Reed moved to the table where he’d placed his laptop and grabbed his suitcase from the closet. “Ready.”
An hour later, they descended upon Alice Everson-Petrov’s miniranch.
The humidity slapped Lori’s face once again as they exited the car. Only this time, instead of looking over a parking lot or a tarmac, she had something better to take her mind off the uncomfortable heat. The rolling landscape of the ranch was as green as the hills in Southern California were brown. The single-story ranch home sprawled behind a circular driveway. A huge barn sat to one side and beyond that appeared to be a guesthouse.
The twenty-five acres that surrounded Alice’s ranch appeared larger in person than on a map. Acres of adjacent properties buffered one home from the next.
Lori watched Trina as she tossed her head back and opened her arms. “It’s so quiet.”
“Peaceful,” Avery echoed.
Carl stood to the side of Trina and moved when she did.
The front door opened and a woman in her late sixties walked out. “Mrs. Petrov?”
Avery swung her arm around Trina and walked her up the steps.
Lori hung back with Reed. “This is a little crazy, even for us.”
“What do you mean by that? Even for us?”
“I have some wealthy friends, but this landing in Trina’s lap is beyond imagination.”
Reed narrowed his eyes. “She had to know she married into a wealthy family.”
“Yeah, she knew . . . we all knew. But just because you marry wealth doesn’t mean you’re going to be wealthy.”
“I’m missing something.”
“Trina married a wealthy man, but she wasn’t.”
“They were married, it became theirs.”
“Nope. Remember, prenuptial agreement. Compared to what she made as a flight attendant, that agreement made her wealthy, but not this rich. This would set Trina back her entire paycheck.”
“Paycheck?” He laughed.
“Divorce settlement.” How had she let that slip? “You know what I mean,” she backpedaled. “What I mean is this . . . this is wealth.”
Reed looked around. “Which is why security for Trina is paramount.”
“Yeah.” Lori’s smile faded. “I should probably call Sam.”
Reed was starting to see the connections inside Lori’s head. Security and secrecy were Sam’s role. Legal was Lori’s.
He shadowed Carl as they walked around the house.
Lori slipped away to make a call while Trina and Avery were given a grand tour.
Carl was close to Reed’s age, had the military haircut that men who have been in the service either embrace or run the opposite way from. “Didn’t I hear Lori say something about Trina’s home in New York being bugged?”
“That’s what I was told.”
Reed ran his hand along the frame of a massive window that overlooked the back of the property. Fences housed several horses that grazed on the grass growing in the field. “Might be a good idea to see if there are any here, don’t you think?”
Carl shrugged. “Mrs. Petrov lives in New York, her place was an expected target.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but her trip to Texas would have been a likely event, given she inherited a portion of the company.”
Carl chewed on that for a few minutes.
“And considering Alice Petrov’s ex-husband is the reason for your service, and that man knows about Alice’s assets . . . I don’t know. Seems like if he had the New York house bugged, he might have gone through the trouble of bugging anything that Trina now owns.”
Instead of agreeing or disagreeing, Carl turned and worked his way back to Trina’s side. “Mrs. Petrov, a minute, please.”
Reed watched from a distance as Carl spoke to Trina in hushed tones.
“Really? How likely is that?”
Reed stepped closer, pulled out his phone, and opened up a Google page.
“I’ll bring in a team to sweep the place just to make sure.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“What’s ridiculous?” Lori asked when she walked into the room.
“Carl seems to think he needs to look for bugs.”
The housekeeper overheard her and gasped. “I keep a clean house.”
“He means microphones. Spy stuff.” Avery lowered her voice as if it were a joke.
The older woman squinted. “Why would someone spy on us?”
“Have you had any work done recently on the house? Any maintenance from outside companies?” Carl asked.
“It’s a home, we have our share of problems. The Internet could always be better.”
“Service people coming in the house?” Reed asked.
“Of course. We know horses here, not technical stuff.”
Lori turned to Carl. “It won’t hurt to look.”
He took that as his green light and picked up his cell phone.
“In the meantime,” Lori looked between Trina and Avery, “private conversations should be taken outside.”
Which was what Reed would have suggested had he been given the chance.
The question was, how many private conversations had taken place in the hotel before he’d found the bug?
And what had Sasha learned?
“I know it’s not skydiving, but hey . . . horses.” Lori leaned over and patted the mare’s neck.
It was close to dusk, and the temperature had dropped a good fifteen degrees, making the ride pleasurable instead of a sweaty mess for the horses and the riders.
“I haven’t been on the back of a horse since I was a kid,” Reed told her. He stood in the saddle and repositioned himself. “I’m not sure I’m going to be of any use to you when we get back.”
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