Page 53

A familiar voice brought her attention down the hall.

Reed.

He stood beside a uniformed police officer, and a man who wore a badge on the belt of his suit. One of the ER attendants pointed her way.

Reed caught her eyes.

The suited officer walked her way, smiled when he approached. “Ms. Cumberland?”

“Yes.”

He glanced over her shoulder. “Your brother’s in there?”

“They’re fixing him up.”

He nodded.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Reed being led to a wheelchair, she saw blood.

“Do you know what happ—”

“Excuse me.” Lori half ran toward him, only stopped when she knelt by his side. “Are you okay?”

His soulful eyes melted as they looked at her. “Flesh wound.”

She reached out and pushed away at his shirt covering the hole in his arm.

He winced, turned a little white. “How is Danny?”

“Cracking jokes.”

“Good, that’s good.” Reed looked over her head, leaned forward.

Her first reaction was to retreat, but he held her arm and kept her in place. His lips moved close to her ear. “Answer their questions, just keep Alliance and Neil’s team out of it.”

The scent of him, his nearness, brought tears. “Okay.” She placed a hand on the side of his face. He leaned into it.

“Okay, Mr. Barnum, time to clean you up.”

Lori stood and let the nurse take him away.

The doctors kept Danny overnight and released him into the solid care of Nurse Lori and Nurse Avery. Between the two of them, he didn’t have to lift a finger.

Sam brought over a care package complete with the latest gaming system and a half a dozen popular titles. When Lori saw it, she laughed. “He isn’t twelve.”

“Are you kidding me? This was Rick’s idea.”

Sure enough, when they gave it to Danny, he was as giddy as a five-year-old at Christmas.

Avery worked to set the system up, with Danny giving bedside directions. Lori and Sam left them to it.

“How did you handle the police?” Sam asked once they were sitting.

“They asked what I knew. I told them I received a call demanding files of my deceased client. I knew they had Danny. I panicked, was too afraid to call the police.”

“They bought that.”

“I never once thought to call the police. It wasn’t a lie. I told them I’d received an indirect threat from a client’s family member and took the precaution to hire a bodyguard.”

“Did he ask who the family member was?”

“Of course.”

“And?” Sam asked.

“I pleaded attorney-client privilege. The detective reminded me that people were dead, that Danny could have died . . . Reed.” She hung her head.

Sam held her hand.

“Ruslan’s thin threats would never hold up for a restraining order. If I could prove Ruslan was behind this, I would tell the police everything.”

“I can’t imagine that will hold the police back.”

“I don’t know. He seemed appeased, made a comment about my boyfriend being a PI who managed to extract my brother from a room full of hired mercenaries without more than a bullet to the arm. All without discharging his firearm.”

Sam smiled. “We do have a few friends inside that can let us know if this investigation is moving forward or sealed.”

“If they link Petrov to this incident, my name will be brought up.”

“And if that happens, we do everything we can to nail his ass to the wall.” Sam took a deep breath.

“I’m glad it’s over.”

“Me too. Who knew arranging marriages would have led to all this?”

“We’ve all learned some valuable lessons.” Reed’s image flashed in her head. She shook it free.

“And on that note,” Sam paused. “Alliance has been a great beta program.”

Lori narrowed her eyes. “What?”

“Beta . . . a test to a new venture.”

“What new venture?”

“An executive matchmaking firm . . . where one may or may not need a prenuptial agreement.”

“Alliance with a twist?”

Sam grinned. “We’ll figure out the details later. We suspend new acquisitions indefinitely to ensure this can’t happen again.”

“Probably the smart thing to do.”

Sam stood, her high heels clicking on the hardwood floors. “Rick wanted me to relay something to you.”

“What?”

“He wanted you to know that they’ve been working with Reed for more than a week to find Susan Wilson, or whatever her name really was.”

“He felt guilty.”

“I’m sure he did. Rick also said that if you were his sister, he’d encourage you to give Reed another chance.” Sam kissed her cheek and headed for the door.

“Sam?”

“Yes?”

“Thanks for everything.”

She tilted her head. “You took all the hits for this one, you have no reason to thank me.”

Danny’s and Avery’s laughter rang through the house.

Chapter Thirty-Six

Two Weeks Later

“Okay, the first official meeting of the First Wives Club is coming to order.” Avery needed a gavel. Lori made a mental note to buy one for her and have it engraved.

“Didn’t our first meeting happen in Spain?” Shannon asked.

“Okay, our second official meeting of the First Wives Club,” Avery conceded.

They were in Avery’s condo, having a wine and cheese meeting. Trina had flown in, happy to spend a weekend in LA.

Shannon poured wine and handed everyone a glass. “What is on our agenda tonight?”

Trina laughed.

“We have two very important items to discuss, and we need to start our bylaws.”

Shannon leaned over, pretended to talk quietly, when everyone could hear her. “Man, she’s taking this seriously.”

“I’m learning from Trina, our resident student of business.”

Trina lifted her glass in acknowledgment.

“Okay . . . rules.”

“We have rules?” Shannon asked.

Avery rolled her eyes. “Everything we say here is confidential unless otherwise stated.”

“I like that,” Lori said.

The other two chimed in.

“We meet every quarter.”

Trina leaned lifted her glass. “If the wine is always this good, we should meet more often.”

“Every two months?” Avery amended and wrote it down.

“We vary the locations, with one meeting each year over a long weekend or a week.”

“I apparently have a home in Costa Rica on a beach, and another one in Germany,” Trina added.

Avery looked at Lori. “Who says stuff like that?”

“Like what?”

“Apparently I have a home in Costa Rica and Germany!” Avery’s snark was full of laughter.

Trina grinned. “I do. I think I’m going to sell the house in New York.”

“Not for a year,” Lori warned.

The two of them started chatting, and Avery slapped her hand on her knee. “No work. Not during our meeting.” She started to write the rule down.

“We aren’t voting?” Shannon asked with a laugh.

“I’m the president this year, so I’m pulling executive order.”

Lori sat back, tucked her legs under her. “We need to vote in an executive order,” she said with a laugh.

“No, we don’t.” Avery started laughing, sipped her wine.

“Why?”

“Because I said so.”

They all laughed.

“Enough rules,” Shannon said. “What are our discussion items?”

Avery put her pen down. “Lori brought us all together in Spain so that we could help pull each other along after our marriages. To help find out where we fit next, in life and with men.”

“Right.” Shannon patted Lori’s knee.

“Seems like we need to repay the favor.”

All eyes turned to Lori.

She slowly lowered the glass from her lips. “What? I fit, my life is fine.”

Oh, no . . . she could sense the glow of an intervention coming on.

“How is your love life?” Avery asked, already knowing the answer.

Her lips pushed together. The image of Reed in a wheelchair flashed before her.

“Quick, who did you just think of?” Avery asked.

Lori wasn’t sure she liked this game. “Reed. But we all know how that turned out.”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Shannon said. “I think you need to give that another try.”

Lori’s jaw dropped.

“I agree,” Trina said.

“He really is genuinely sorry for his douchebaggery,” Avery added.

“And you would know this how?” Lori asked her.

Avery looked at the faces around the room. “I might have had a couple conversations with the man since he messed up.”

“You’re talking to him?”

Shannon raised her glass. “I’m guilty, too.”

“Oh my God.”

Trina lifted a finger but didn’t make eye contact.

“Seriously, guys. He made a fool of me, of all of us.”

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