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He placed a finger over her lips. “I don’t want to give you that option, but I know it’s too soon. So I’ll make that deal. If something changes, I’ll be honest, but I want the same from you.”

He leaned up on his elbow and dropped his hand to her shoulder.

“I can do that.”

Wade sealed their deal with a kiss that didn’t go beyond a handshake with their lips. When he let her go, she turned to climb out of bed and paused. “What just happened here?” she asked more to herself than to him.

“You just told me you’re going to be my girlfriend.”

She glanced over her shoulder, her long hair falling over her bare breast.

“That’s bound to tick off your mother.”

Wade winced. “Do not bring my mother into this conversation, with you sittin’ there naked and tempting.”

Trina giggled when Wade leaned forward and took the back of her head in his hand and kissed her again. When she opened her lips to accept more, he moaned and broke it off. With a slight shove, he pushed her from the bed and patted her naked butt when she stood.

“You order food. I’m going to find a drugstore.”

Trina smiled all the way to the shower.

Wade had ducked out to follow up on the search for a value pack supply of condoms while Trina rinsed off.

Wearing a bathrobe and toweling her hair dry, Trina stepped out of the oversize bathroom in search of a room service menu. The second she walked into the living room, her stomach caught up in her throat and her heart jolted with fear.

Sitting at the dining room table was a long, lean woman dressed entirely in black. Her boot-clad feet were kicked up on an adjacent chair, and her right hand was playing with some kind of chain.

Trina backed up into the wall and caught her breath.

“Hello, Katrina.”

“Who are you?” Trina took another step back, intending to run for the phone and call for help.

“What does your boyfriend not understand about white on rice? He speaks English, doesn’t he?” The question unnerved her, especially since the woman spoke to Trina in Russian.

“Who are you?” Trina asked again, switching languages. She felt for the door behind her.

“I’m Sasha.” She dropped her feet to the floor but didn’t stand.

The name rang a bell in Trina’s head, but she couldn’t place her.

“Have we met?”

She shook her head. “No. But I know you. We have a mutual acquaintance.”

Trina waited.


She felt her heartbeat start to slow. “You work with Reed?”

Sasha shook her head and stood. Even from across the room, the woman intimidated. A single ponytail held her hair back, the spandex pants and heeled black boots looked like something Catwoman would wear. The only thing this woman was missing was a mask.

“How did you get in here?” Trina wasn’t ready to let her guard down completely with only the mention of Reed’s name.

“Your boyfriend has one job . . .” Sasha looked her up and down. “Maybe two.” The sly smile told Trina that Sasha guessed what she and Wade had been doing that afternoon. “I’m not here to hurt you, but the next guy will be.”

Trina started breathing fast again. “What do you know?”

Sasha pulled a key out of her back pocket and tossed it in the air.

Trina dropped the towel she’d been holding to catch the key with both hands. “Interstate Bank on the corner of Penrose and Brooke outside of Houston, by the oil company’s main headquarters. It’s a safe deposit box in your name. I removed the contents from Fedor’s safe three months ago. Information I’m sure you don’t want to become public.” She held up her hand. “Before you ask, no. I had nothing to do with the cleaners. People I would have hired wouldn’t have trashed the place.”

“Do you know who did?”

“I can guess. You can, too, if you looked hard enough.”

Trina held her robe tighter. “You need to talk to the police.”

“The police just get in the way and jump to the wrong conclusions.”

A watch on Sasha’s wrist made a noise. She glanced at it briefly and turned toward the door.

“Wait.” Trina took a step forward.

Sasha stopped.

“Why are you helping me?”

She didn’t answer. She shook her head and opened the door of the suite.

To Trina’s surprise, Wade was standing there with a bag in one hand, the key to the room in another.

His eyes widened in shock.

Sasha walked right up to him and placed one manicured finger on his chest. “White on rice, Cowboy. Don’t fuck up again!” Then she was gone.

“Who was that?” Wade asked as they watched her disappear down the hall.

Trina pulled Wade inside, locked the door, and followed up with the inside latch.

“I hope you bought a big box,” she told him as she reached for her purse to grab her cell phone. “Because that woman reminded me how easy it is to break into a hotel room.”

Wade’s face turned to stone. “Did she threaten you?”

“No. I need to call Reed.”

“I’ll go after her,” Wade said.

Trina grabbed his arm, stopping him. “She’s not the problem.”

Reed picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”

Trina stared at the key in her hand. “Who is Sasha?”

By the time room service arrived, so had Reed and Lori from the hospital.

Rick was stationed outside Avery’s room, and Jeb had taken up residence in the spare room in the suite.

“I told you about Sasha last year, that’s probably why she sounded familiar,” Reed said.

He’d asked her about the encounter over the phone but didn’t explain anything until they arrived at the hotel.

“She worked for Alice . . . at least that’s what she told me.”

“Alice is dead.”

“Some people are on payroll beyond the grave.”

Trina held on to a cup of tea while Wade stroked her back.

“Do you know what she did for Alice?” Trina asked.

Reed glanced at Wade, then back to her.

“She was keeping an eye on you.”

Trina’s chest tingled. “Why?”

“I don’t have the details. My guess is Ruslan.”

“Ruslan hasn’t been sighted in over a year,” Trina reminded him.

“That doesn’t mean he isn’t out there,” Lori said.

Wade spoke up. “Can y’all back up here a little bit? Alice is . . . ?”

“My late mother-in-law,” Trina told him.

“Ruslan is the nasty father-in-law.”

“The first person everyone in this room thought of when the police asked if anyone had threatened you,” Lori said to Trina.

“Distraught words of a man who lost his son. We haven’t heard anything from him or about him. Last time we checked, he was working on some new scheme in Munich, right, Reed?” Trina asked.

“That’s what our intel told us.”

“You have him being watched?” Wade asked.

“Have your friends close and your enemies closer. He isn’t on a round-the-clock surveillance, but we do have people reporting in.”

“People? What people?” Trina asked.

Reed paused. “Sasha.”

“So she does work with you.”

Reed shook his head. “No. She leaves a message, offers information, albeit brief, about Ruslan, and then disappears for weeks. She’s virtually impossible to trace. The fact that she showed up here at the very moment you stepped out of the hotel . . .” Reed looked at Wade. “Tells me something is brewing.”

Trina wanted to mention the key to the safe deposit box but decided it might be best to tell Lori when they were alone. Her guess was Fedor had his copy of their marriage contract drafted by Alliance. Papers Trina wasn’t quite ready to tell Wade about.

“Do you think she knows who attacked Avery?”

“If she did, my guess is we’d know by now. Avery wasn’t her charge, you are.”

Trina felt her hands start to shake. “Are you telling me I’ve had a shadow all this time and didn’t know it?”

“Maybe. If not physically, virtually,” Reed explained.

“What does that mean? Virtually?” Wade asked.

“There are cameras everywhere. City streets, department stores, hotels, airports. All she would need is a tracker on you and the hacking skills of a second-year computer nerd at Caltech, and boom.”

“That’s scary,” Wade said. His hand covered Trina’s.

“What’s scary isn’t her tracking you, it’s Ruslan tracking you.”

Trina shivered. “How can they? It isn’t like someone put a microchip under my skin like a dog.”

Lori turned to stare at her boyfriend. “Oh, let’s see . . . Reed snuck a pen in the trunk of my car, bugged the wine corks in my condo . . . what else was there?”

Reed growled. “That’s it. Pens and corks.”

“You tracked your girlfriend. Isn’t that stalkerish of you?” Wade said with amusement.

“I wanted to keep her safe. Anyway, this isn’t about me, this is about you.” Reed changed the subject and looked at Trina.

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