When his hands slid down her hips in a sensuous stroke, she froze. What was he doing? Her mind told her to pull back and out of his embrace before they did anything stupid. But it was hard to care about reason when he was holding her so tight, when she could practically feel the sensual energy pulsing from him. She started to place her hands on his shoulders until she realized what he intended. Then it was too late. He’d reached into her pocket and plucked the key out.
His eyes glinted with frustration and a touch of anger. “You want to tell me what this is?”
Rage and embarrassment burned inside her that he’d used her attraction to him against her. She could feel her cheeks flame. She’d been about to throw her arms around him when he’d simply been feeling her up for that key. Despite her heated face, she held his gaze. “Not particularly.”
“Then why’d you lie?”
“What. Is. This?” Each word was punctuated and precise.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t know, okay?”
“Where did it come from?”
The note her brother had left said not to trust anyone but Porter wasn’t just anyone. And he had resources she didn’t. “If I tell you, you have to promise you won’t tell your brothers…Or your father or anyone at Red Stone.” She figured covering all her bases was the smartest thing she could do under the circumstances. Porter was smart and would figure out a loophole if she let him.
He stared hard at her, his eyes turning glacier cold for a moment. She could practically see the wheels turning in his head. He glanced down at the key and turned it over in his hand. His expression was thoughtful. “I’m pretty sure this is a safe deposit box key because I have one just like it. Is this from your brother?”
She didn’t respond.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he muttered. When she didn’t say anything else, he growled at her. “Do you know why Orlando came after you? I can’t believe you’re holding back information when your best friend could have been hurt today.” There was no hiding the disgust in his voice.
She jerked back. His words were like a slap across the face, stinging and brutal. She would have never done anything to endanger Mara or…anyone. “I told you I don’t anything about Orlando’s motives and I’m not lying!”
“Then what aren’t you telling me?” He stared at her as if he didn’t quite believe her.
Lizzy rubbed her palms against her skirt. “Benny left me a note the other night. All he said was that he left me something in our childhood hiding place and that I’d know what to do with it. But I don’t. I have no clue what that key goes to or if it’s a safe deposit box key like you said. And if it is, I don’t even know what bank it’s for.”
Porter shoved the key in his pocket. “Do you still have that note?”
Her lips pulled into a thin line as she nodded. “Yeah, it’s in my purse.”
“Good. I want to see it now.” There was none of the softer, gentler side of Porter she’d come to know in his voice or his expression. Right now he was angry with her and she wasn’t sure that she blamed him. She doubted there was anything in the note he’d be able to decipher that she hadn’t, but a twinge of guilt slipped into her veins. Maybe she should have told him about it from the beginning. She shouldn’t care what he thought about her but right now she hated the mistrust she saw in his eyes. Aloofness or annoyance she could deal with, but this was a side of Porter she never wanted to see again.
* * * * *
Orlando slammed the door to his office shut and headed for the balcony of the second story room. Even the perfect sunny view of the Atlantic did nothing to calm his rage.
None of his men could find Benito Martinez. At least part of his plan to scare Elizabeth had gone into effect but with Benny missing he lost a lot of leverage with her. He couldn’t threaten to hurt her brother if he wasn’t around. Not to mention Benny still owed him money.
Yes, it was a pittance compared to what he was bringing in monthly but in this business he couldn’t appear weak. Especially since he’d just taken over for his dead father.
Right now people in the industry were looking at him, judging him, wanting him to fail. No doubt expecting that he wouldn’t be able to fill his father’s shoes. As he blindly stared at the ocean one of his private cell phones rang in his pocket. He didn’t give this number out to many people, so even though he didn’t recognize it, he answered on the second ring. “Yeah?”
Speak of the devil. “Where the hell are you, Benny?”
The other man snorted softly. “Like I’m going to tell you.”
“I’m eventually going to find you so make things easy on yourself and—”
“Enough. I’m not paying your money back and you are going to leave my sister alone. Forever.” Benny sounded sober and sure of himself, a very rare occurrence for this pathetic man.
Orlando gave a sharp bark of laughter as he walked back into his office. “You just keep digging yourself into a deeper hole, amigo.”
“I’m not your friend and I’m going to tell you exactly why you will leave Elizabeth alone. I have something of yours and unless you want me to release it to the Feds, you’ll do what I say.”
“You have something of mine?” Doubtful. Orlando was ruthless in checking people when they came to his home. No wires, no weapons, and he had scramblers set up all around his house to make it almost impossible for the Feds or the locals to listen in on him. Not that he did much business at his house anyway. But it paid to be careful.
“Why don’t you check that false bottom in your desk and tell me?” There was a smug satisfaction in Benny’s tone. Also something he’d never heard from the other man before.
For the first time in as long as he could remember, Orlando experienced real fear. As Benny’s words registered, something glacial slithered over Orlando’s skin, chilling him straight to his bones despite the even temperature in the room. “What did you just say?”
“Check it,” Benny ordered.
Orlando’s hands actually shook as he did what the other man said. It took a few tries to get the bottom off—the seaming was impossible to see with the naked eye thanks to brilliant craftsmanship.
His hiding spot was empty.
A dull ringing started in his ears as if he’d been smashed in the back of the head with a bat. Benny had stolen from him?
His father had always taught him to hide things most treasured in plain sight. Safe deposit boxes were discovered, safes could be broken into and those were often the first places anyone with any training looked. So Orlando had kept his most cherished possession close at hand—in case it needed to be destroyed. He’d always felt smug that it was hidden right under everyone’s noses.
Now, all smugness was buried and only the rising bile in his throat remained. “You son of a—”
“Save the threats and the curses. I just want to be left alone or I go to the Feds. But not before I make copies of what I took and send it to everyone you work with.”
Those words almost stopped Orlando’s heart. Or at least that’s what it felt like. “When did you take it?” He wasn’t sure why he asked. That wasn’t important. But some morbid part of him needed to know.
“When you invited me over for that fight.” Now Benny laughed, the sound sharp and cutting. “I didn’t even know if I’d find anything in your office but you have the same ridiculously expensive desk as my dad. Imagine my surprise…” He trailed off again for a moment before continuing. “I thought that was why you brought me to your house yesterday, because you knew what I’d done.”
The other man’s words hung heavy in the air and heavier in Orlando’s heart. Getting Benny to place that large bet on the televised UFC fight had been part of Orlando’s ultimate plan to blackmail Elizabeth into aligning herself with him. Of course he’d checked everyone when they’d entered his home but when they’d left…Orlando never would have considered Benny enough of a threat to take anything of value from him. Least of all this. He’d gotten cocky and stupid in his desire to use the pathetic junkie. “You have signed your own death warrant and that of all those closest to you. I’ll start with that pretty sister of yours. But I’ll play with her for a long time before I kill her,” he growled.
Benny sucked in a sharp breath. “Anything happens to her and I’ll not only do everything I said, I’ll post copies of it on the Internet.” The phone line went dead.
For a moment, Orlando stared at the phone, disbelieving that Benny had actually hung up on him. Him.
With a snarl he heaved his arm back and threw his phone across the room. It splintered into pieces against the wall before falling onto the plush carpet with a soft thud. Orlando’s hands balled into fists. He needed to break something. Namely Benny’s face.
As he stared at his Louis XV style vintage desk he wanted to rip it apart with his bare hands, one piece at a time. The desk had been his father’s. Expensive, sturdy, masculine. He’d kept it out of respect for the man and because it had always made him feel powerful sitting behind the large thing. Now it could burn to ashes for all he cared.
His father had been wrong and now Orlando would pay the price for it. But not if he got to Elizabeth first. No matter what Benny said, Orlando knew the degenerate wouldn’t let her die. He’d trade his soul before that happened.
As he managed to calm his erratic breathing he realized that things had drastically changed. He needed Elizabeth now for more than just arm candy and he didn’t care about the collateral damage anymore. One way or another he’d find and keep her. In doing so he’d bring Benny to his death and keep all his secrets. If he didn’t and what Benny had stolen got out…Orlando was a walking dead man.
Porter tried to keep his eyes on the road but was finding it increasingly harder to keep his focus off Elizabeth. She wore a form-fitting, strapless dark blue dress that hugged all her curves and showed off miles of sexy tanned legs. Sitting in the passenger seat next to him, her legs were crossed, causing the slit that ran up her thigh to splay open seductively. But he knew she wasn’t trying to tease him. She’d been completely distracted from the moment they’d gotten into his SUV. Probably because they’d left the relative safety of his home and she knew she wasn’t as guarded anymore.