The last bit of avarice in his gaze dimmed, then blinked out completely.
“If you were smarter,” I went on, “you would’ve leveraged for long-term gain instead of an immediate payout. Instead, you’re going to sign the contract I’m about to put in front of you and walk away with a check for a quarter million.”
He straightened. “Fuck that! You said one million. That was the deal.”
“Which you didn’t accept.” I stood. “It’s no longer on the table. And if you take any longer to decide, the new offer won’t be, either. I’ll just run you into the ground and straight into a jail cell. It’s enough that I can tell Eva I tried.”
As I walked away, I shoved the flash drive into my pocket, where it promptly burned a hole I couldn’t ignore. My gaze met Arash’s as I passed where he sat at the bar waiting for his cue to step in.
He hopped off his bar stool. “Always a pleasure watching you scare the hell out of someone,” he said, before heading toward the seat I’d just vacated, the necessary contract and check in hand.
I stepped outside the dim bar into the bright San Diego sunshine. Eva didn’t want me to view the footage; she’d made me promise I wouldn’t.
But she was feeling something for Kline. He remained a very real threat. Seeing them together, intimately, might give me the information I needed to fight him off.
Had she been as sexually raw with him as she was with me? Had she been as desperate and greedy for him? Could he make her come like I could?
I squeezed my eyes shut against the images in my head, but they wouldn’t go away.
Remembering my promise, I crossed the parking lot to my rental car.
Is it silly that I’m nearly as excited to be your “friend” as I am to be your wife?
I laughed inwardly as I read Eva’s text and replied. I’m as excited to be your lover as I am to be your husband.
OMG . . . fiend.
That had me laughing aloud.
“What was that sound?” Arash looked at me over the edge of his tablet, having made himself at home on the couch in my hotel suite. “Was that a laugh, Cross? Were you seriously just laughing? Or were you having a stroke?”
I flipped him off.
“Seriously?” he shot back. “The finger?”
“Eva says it’s a classic.”
“Eva’s hot enough to get away with it. You’re not.”
I opened a new window on my laptop and logged into my social media profile, linking it to Eva’s with the Engaged to designation now that we were “friends.” As I waited for her to accept the relationship link, I clicked on her profile and smiled again at the cover image she’d selected. She was exposing herself to the world for the first time, and she was doing so as the woman who was mine.
I texted her back when she approved our joined status. Now you’re both.
I’m keeping my half of our deal.
My gaze moved from the message window to the photo of us on her profile. I brushed over her face with my fingertips, resisting the urge to go to her. It was too soon. She needed what space I could bear to give her.
So am I, angel mine.
THE theater in the casino wasn’t a huge venue, but it wasn’t small, either, and it was easier to fill. It was better for Six-Ninths to boast sold-out concerts than to risk embarrassingly empty seats, even in their hometown. Christopher would’ve thought of that.
My brother was good at what he did. I’d learned not to tell him so, though. It only made him more of an ass**le.
As the rows of seats slowly emptied, I made my way toward backstage. Not my turf, despite the all-access pass I carried as primary shareholder of Vidal Records. Kline definitely had the advantage.
But I hadn’t been able to stay away until morning, even though I knew it was the wiser move. Then, he’d be exhausted. Possibly hungover. I would have the upper hand then.
I couldn’t wait that long. He had the footage. He would’ve watched it at least once. Maybe more than that. I couldn’t stomach the thought of him watching it again. Getting it away from him was the most important thing on my agenda.
And I wanted him to know I was close by before he met with Eva. I was marking my territory, so to speak, and I chose to do so in the jeans and T-shirt I’d worn when I met Yimara. Anything to do with Eva was a personal matter, not business, and I wanted that to be clear the moment Kline saw me.
I entered stage left and walked straight into chaos. Scantily clad women f**ked up on their drug or booze of choice lined the scuffed, narrow corridor. Dozens of tattooed and pierced men broke down and packed up equipment with efficient, practiced skill and speed. Hard-grinding music piped out of hidden speakers, clashing with the tunes spilling out of individual rooms. I weaved through the pandemonium, searching for a distinctive head of frosted spikes.
An achingly familiar blonde stumbled out of an open doorway several feet away, her hair falling around her shoulders and drawing attention to the lush curves of a great ass.
My footsteps slowed. My heartbeat quickened. Kline followed her out, a beer in one hand and the other reaching for her. She caught it and pulled him out into the wing.
I knew how that delicate hand felt, how smooth the skin was. How firm the grip. I knew how those nails felt digging into my back. How those fingers tugged at my hair as she came against my mouth. The electric sizzle of her touch. The primal awareness.
I stood frozen, my gut knotting. She stood close, too close, to Kline. Her shoulder leaned against the wall. Her hip was cocked provocatively, her fingertips brushing suggestively over Kline’s stomach. He gave her a cocky, flirtatious smile, his hand rubbing her upper arm in a far too intimate way.