Sam laid her hand over a dozen other folders. “And these?”
“At risk. Easily rectified if we were to have them re-sign or make a small change to their current contract. So, after going through the files, I have some good news and the bad news.”
“The good news is, Alliance doesn’t have to take the fall.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible,” Sam said.
Lori pointed to her chest. “I do. I’m the one that will be brought before the bar. An investigation will shut down my practice—”
“We don’t want Alliance blown open.”
“We will lock it down tight.”
Lori waved a hand at the files. “Every one of those cases are public record.”
Sam picked her file out of the pile. “The only thing public about this one was my wedding.” She grabbed several others. “All of these are happy marriages. As for the rest, we tackle the current cases first. Have them re-sign.”
“And the others?” Lori asked.
“Nothing. Don’t act guilty of anything . . . we’re not. Nothing here was illegal.”
“Lawyers are brought up on ethics. We seldom break the law.” And that was where Lori was screwed.
“We know Petrov is after Trina . . . that is the case we need to focus on and do our best to make sure no one ever finds out the truth behind Fedor and Trina’s marriage. Carter is having lunch with Paul today.”
“And Shannon made it clear she had no intention of making any further claim to Paul.” Lori started to pace.
“It’s only right I take the fall if it comes to—”
“Sit down, Lori. No one is going to fall.”
Lori was leading with emotion, while Sam was deducing from the facts. In the back of her head, all she could think of was how none of this would have been brought up had she not gotten so close to Reed and said too much.
Reed’s ass had melded to his desk chair as he searched the Internet for pictures from the cruise to get an image of Sasha. Trying to find out the names of the people on the airplane he had shared with Lori en route to Texas was a waste of time. TSA had shut those things down like the locks at Fort Knox.
Pounding on Reed’s front door shook him from his caffeine coma.
He reached for his gun, loaded the chamber, and slowly walked to his door.
“Put it away, Reed.”
Sad that Reed had already learned the sound of Rick’s voice.
He relaxed the grip on his weapon and opened the door. “What now?”
Rick ducked his head into Reed’s apartment. “Dude, you need to clean up around here. Women hate slobs.”
“Everyone’s a critic.” He opened the door wider.
Rick didn’t bother walking in. “C’mon.”
“Where are we going?”
“Sasha used the credit card.”
Reed shook the dark away. “’Bout time.” He ran through his apartment, turned off his computer, grabbed his cell, his keys, and put on a jacket to hide his gun.
“Where are we going?”
“She checked into a hotel? We can’t be that lucky.”
“She bought a drink in the hotel bar.”
“Anything else?” Reed asked.
“Just the one drink, the charge batched through at midnight,” Rick told him.
“So she could have been there anytime yesterday.”
“She could be there right now. And since you’re the only one who knows what she looks like, guess what you’re going to be doing?”
“No, that’s my job.” Rick reached over to the glove compartment, opened it, removed an earpiece. “You’re across the street.”
“What if she leaves through the garage?”
Rick looked at him as if he was crazy. “Really? Name one woman who can resist shopping on Rodeo Drive?”
“Someone who doesn’t have money?”
“Like that stops them.”
So as Rick walked into the finery of the Wilshire to pretend to be some kind of businessman, complete with a copy of the Wall Street Journal and a laptop, Reed loitered on one of the most prestigious corners in America. The only thing he was missing was a piece of cardboard asking for change.
“Can you hear me?” Rick asked through the tiny earpiece.
“This is a nice place. Might need to take the Mrs. here.”
“Best woman ever. Okay, log into the Internet.”
Reed removed his phone, kept an eye on those coming and going from the hotel as he multitasked.
“Type this in.” He rattled off a series of letters and numbers that made little sense. But once he pressed enter, Reed found himself on a secure site.
“It’s asking for a password.”
Rick started laughing. “The number four and the words fire ants, capitalize the last letters.”
The earworm Avery had placed started to sing again. “Very funny.”
“We thought so.”
The password brought on a video from inside the hotel bar.
An elderly couple walked out of the hotel, and he immediately dismissed them.
“I’m moving you around. Let me know if anyone looks familiar.”
The camera swiveled around the room. Not one patron had a feature worth remembering. “Nothing.”
“Okay . . . keep the webpage open but save your battery. I’ll clue you in when someone new walks in.”
It was Reed’s turn to laugh. “So I stand on the corner and you act like the crazy man talking to himself in a fancy hotel.”
“I’m bigger than you. People ignore crazy when you’re bigger than them.”
Reed couldn’t argue that.
“Does this street ever close down?” Reed asked his unwanted partner through the mic.
“If you sold shoes at a grand a pair, would you close the door?”
“That’s just crazy.”
Reed glanced back down Rodeo Drive, his eyes landing on the storefront of Jimmy Choo.
A woman walked out carrying bags in both hands. Apparently buying one pair at a time wasn’t acceptable in some circles.
He was about to look away when his eyes fell on a woman with olive skin, dark hair, big sunglasses . . . she carried herself with poise, her head just a little higher than everyone around her.
“I think I see her.”
“She’s headed into a shoe store.” Reed looked at the opposing traffic. No way to jaywalk with so many cars buzzing by.
“Keep your distance,” Rick instructed him.
“Do you think I’m new?” Reed crossed the street and blended into the crowd.
It didn’t take long before she walked out. The woman looked left and right before putting her sunglasses back on.
Reed released a sigh. “Not her.”
“We draft up everything. Consider every possible scenario before you file.”
Lori watched as a nervous Ana Maghakian paced her office. “He won’t know I’m here?”
“Not until we tell him. By then we need to have you out of the house.” Preferably with some kind of restraining order, but that wasn’t likely, since the wife wasn’t willing to press charges.
“If I move my stuff out, he’s going to notice. He’s controlling.”
“Most abusers are.”
“I’ll have to move when he’s out of town.”
“Do you have a house staff?”
“Do they have regular days off?”
“So which days of the week are the most quiet?”
“Tuesday is my housekeeper’s day off, and the groundskeepers are there every day but Monday.”
“Cook, driver?” Lori rattled off a few more occupations.
Mrs. Maghakian mapped out her household routine while Lori took notes.
It felt as if she were in the thick of a crime in progress. Then again, her life had turned into some sort of a soap opera of late.
“Do you have someplace secure you can go?” Lori asked.
“I have money. I’ve managed to put enough away for this day.”
Lori leaned forward on her elbows. “I’m not talking about a hotel. I’m talking about someplace he can’t get to you.”
“What’s more secure than a hotel with witnesses and cameras everywhere?”
Lori placed her pen on her notes. “What do you anticipate your husband doing when he learns that you’ve left him and filed for divorce?”
Sheer fear filled the other woman’s face.
“We need you safe. I know people that can help you.”
“I can’t go to some shelter.”
“Do I look like I work with a shelter?” Lori didn’t mind pulling strings for women like Ana.
An hour later, with more billable hours than any psychologist, Lori managed to plant the seed that Ana would survive her current situation, she just needed the right resources, resources that Lori could recommend.
It was empowering to have something to focus on other than her life, even when she knew it wasn’t the healthiest of practices to put all her energy and emotion into one client. Truth was, Lori had placed all of her focus in the whole of her practice. Yet at the end of the day, when she was alone in her bed and her brother’s snores drifted to a low roar . . . Lori sensed him. Reed was embedded in the walls of the room, the scent of him in her bed, her pillows. A doctor would tell her she was imagining him there, but she’d deny the doctor’s logic. Reed had left an imprint on her life that lasted beyond any relationship she’d had before him.
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