Opening the folder, I pulled out the photo inside. It was taken on the day of my wedding, at the very moment I first kissed Eva as her husband. The beach and the pastor who had officiated at the ceremony were behind us. I cupped her face, our lips touching softly. Her hands held my wrists, my ring sparkling on her finger.
I turned the picture around so that it faced him. I slid a copy of the marriage license into place beside it. I used my left hand, proudly displaying my ruby-encrusted wedding band.
I wasn’t sharing such personal things to prove a point. I intended to provoke Kline, which I’d been deliberately doing from the moment he arrived in New York. When he reached out to my wife again, I wanted him off-balance and at a disadvantage.
“So you and Eva are done,” I said evenly. “If you doubted it, now you know it for sure. In any case, I don’t think you want my wife as much as you want the memory of her for the band’s use.”
Kline laughed. “Yeah, paint me as the sleaze. You can’t handle the thought of her seeing that tape. You’ve never made her get that wild and you never will.”
My forearms twitched with the need to pound the smugness out of his face. “Believe what you like. Here are your options: You can take the two million I’m offering, give me the footage, and walk away—”
“I don’t want your damn money!” Setting his hands on the edge of my desk, he leaned toward me. “You don’t get to own my memories. You may have her—for now—but I have those. Fuck if I’m selling them to you.”
The thought of Kline watching the footage . . . watching himself f**k my wife . . . set my blood on a slow boil. The thought of him suggesting that Eva sit through a viewing of it, knowing how that would shatter her, pushed me to the raw edge of violence.
Keeping my tone even was a struggle. “You can reject the money and keep the existence of the footage to yourself until you die. Make it a secret gift to Eva she never has to know about.”
“What the f**k are you talking about?”
“Or you can be a selfish ass**le,” I continued, “and hit her up with it, shocking her with the goal of destroying her marriage and making yourself more famous.”
I stared him down. Kline stood his ground, but his gaze dropped for a fraction of a second. A small victory, for what it was worth.
With a swipe of my hand, I withdrew the contract Arash had drawn up. “If you care about her at all, you’ll make a different decision than the one that brought you to New York.”
He grabbed the documents off my desk and ripped them in half, throwing the pieces back onto the glass. “I’m not leaving until I see her.”
Kline strode out of my office, bristling with anger.
I watched him go. Then I placed a call via a secure line. “Did I give you enough time?”
“Yes. We took care of the laptop and tablet in his luggage as soon as you took him upstairs. We’re handling his e-mail and backup provider servers as we speak, and the backups to those servers. We searched his residence over the weekend, but he hasn’t been there in weeks. We cleaned everything on both Yimara and Kline’s equipment, as well as the accounts and equipment of those who received teasers of the full-length footage. One of the execs at Vidal had a full copy on his hard drive, but we wiped it. We found no evidence that he forwarded it anywhere.”
Ice slid through my veins. “Which executive?”
Fuck. I gripped the edge of my desk so hard my knuckles cracked with the strain. I remembered the video of Christopher with Magdalene, knew how perverse his hatred toward me was. Thinking about him seeing Eva so intimately . . . so vulnerable . . . took me to a place I hadn’t been since I’d first heard about Nathan.
I had to believe that the private military security firm I’d hired had dealt with the situation thoroughly. Their tech teams were trained to handle far more sensitive information.
I shoved the mess on my desk into the folder. “I need that footage to cease to exist anywhere.”
“Understood. We’re on it. Still, it’s possible there’s a hard copy floating around, although we’ve searched Kline and Yimara’s transaction records for security deposit boxes and the like. We’ll continue to monitor the situation until you say otherwise.”
I never would. I’d search for a lifetime, if that was what it took, for any hint that the footage survived somewhere outside of my control. “Thank you.”
Hanging up, I left my office and headed home to Eva.
“YOU’RE really good with those,” Ireland said, eyeing Eva as she lifted a chopstickful of kung pao chicken from its white box to her mouth. “I never got the hang of ’em.”
“Here, try holding them like this.”
I watched my wife adjust my sister’s grip on the slender sticks, her blond head a bright contrast against Ireland’s black hair. Sitting on the floor at my feet, they both wore shorts and tank tops, their tanned legs stretched out beneath the coffee table, one long and lean, the other petite and voluptuous.
I was more of an observer than a participant, sitting on the couch behind them and envying their easy rapport even while I was grateful for it.
It was all so surreal. I hadn’t ever imagined a night like that, a quiet evening at home with . . . family. I didn’t know how to contribute or even if I could. What could I say? How should I feel?
Besides awed. And thankful. So very thankful for my amazing wife, who brought so much to my life.