Going through all of this, I’d lost track of time. I knew it was longer than I thought, because I recognized the stiffness in my back and neck. My ass was protesting, and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in—I had no clue, but my bladder was screaming at me.
I shoved it all down and got to work.
I took all of Marie’s files. All. Of. Them. And there was no voice telling me this was wrong. That woman had hurt me. I didn’t care, at that moment, if she meant well. She had filleted me, saying I was a fraud. Well, honey, let’s see who the fraud is after this evening—
My screen froze, fritzed, and it began to shut down immediately.
No, no, no.
I was scrambling, my pulse picking up.
They found me. That was fast. I was good—damn good. I could cover my tracks. I went through back doors they didn’t know were there. Unless … Fuck. I gulped. Unless my father himself wrote his own security measures, but who actually did that? He was too big-time now.
Still. My screen was flashing at me now. I had only seconds to erase my final trail.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I screamed, shoving back the chair and typing faster than I had in ages.
“No!” I was up, and I yanked on the cord, cutting the connection, and once that was done—I couldn’t move.
What had I just done?
I raised a hand to my forehead, feeling the sweat up there. I’d been in the zone. I’d been doing things I hadn’t even realized I was doing. Shame was spreading through me at an alarming rate, and I fell to my knees, my mouth gaping.
What had I done? Oh my God. What had I done?
I was hurt. I took it. I digested it. And then seeing my stepmother had been too much for me, knowing my mother would’ve compared herself to that woman. I’d been blind in my need to strike back.
I hadn’t—I hadn’t been thinking. Walking from that house, feeling a bombshell going off in me, I only reacted. I needed to do what I did, and the computer was it for me.
My hands were trembling. My knees too. I couldn’t even get up.
They would know it was me. There was no way they wouldn’t. One alert to Kash and he would know immediately.
I looked around. I had to get out of here. Where, I had no clue, but I had to go. Now.
Pushing to my feet, I grabbed some clothes from the closet and stuffed them in a bag. I had shoes and sneakers already on. Purse. My wallet. I had a few essentials with me. The phone, I took it out and gazed at it mournfully. I’d miss the guy, but that was the easiest way to track me.
How to get out without them realizing?
Cyclone said there was an event going on. I’d just go and hitch a ride in someone’s trunk. Once I was gone, I’d figure it out from there. On the bright side, I could see my mom again.
I couldn’t believe I was doing this, but after the security breach I just performed, they couldn’t keep me here. They wouldn’t. I’d punched a hole the size of a fist in their system. They shouldn’t have found it right away, but it was there.
Looking at the clock, seeing it was almost six by now—the time had gone by that fast? Wow. But when I was in the zone, I could lose entire days.
It was time to go.
Six steps. That’s how far I got. I glanced back to make sure the door closed, but I didn’t complete that last step before I hit a hard chest and two hands grabbed my shoulders. The whole Uh-oh voice went off in my head, and I looked up.
Blistering and furious eyes glared down at me. Yep. I should have listened to that voice earlier.
Kash clipped out, “Inside. Now.”
I was going to jail.
“She hacked into all of our hard drives! “All of them!”
I was sitting outside an office in a separate section of the estate, and I could hear Quinn Francis screaming from inside. After meeting her in the hallway, I wouldn’t have imagined this side of her.
But there it was.
Kash was saying something.
“I don’t care!”
I winced. To give her credit, I thought most of this was the mama bear coming out. She was upset when she talked about her files. Her voice rose another decibel when it came to Seraphina. I heard Matt’s name mentioned and it went up again, but when she got Cyclone’s … Full. On. Screaming. I couldn’t tell if it was because he was the baby or because he was her favorite. My guess is that it was a mix of both.
“… get it all back.”
“You’re damn straight you’ll get them all back,” she snapped. My chair wasn’t even right next to the door. There was about five yards separating me from the door, and when someone walked inside and I glimpsed her, I saw that she was completely on the other side of the room. Her heated level was impressive. She had to be close to boiling.
Kash was talking again. I couldn’t make out the words. He was being more discreet, but I could hear his own frustration. Judging by how he’d handled me when he caught me, he was as pissed as she was. He was just keeping it together. After sitting here, I knew another reaming was coming, once he got me alone. That was, if he got me alone again; if they reported me or kicked me out, I was sure Kash Colello would find time to kick my ass. I had a gut feeling that if anyone did any of his charges wrong, he annihilated them.
I let out a sigh, resting my head back against the wall.
There were two security guards standing at the ready, one at each end of the hall. It was because of them that I wasn’t paying attention until I heard, “A friend of Kash’s, huh?”
Aw, not good.
Matthew Francis was coming my way, his hands in his pockets and his eyes fixed right on me. He was dressed in trendy skinny jeans, a black long-sleeve hooded shirt, and a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead.
I didn’t know what lie to go with, so I kept silent, watching him warily.
Instead of sitting, he grabbed the chair next to me and turned it around so he was facing me. He sat down, straddling it, and folded his arms over the back, his head leaning forward to scrutinize me better.
I looked down.
He was studying me way too intensely.
“Bullshit,” he breathed out.
“What?” I looked back up.
His nostrils flared. “I say bullshit. If Kash walks out of that room—”
“I don’t care whose daughter she is, I want her gone!”