The Insiders

Page 23

I hadn’t realized I’d done that much damage.

“I’m sorry.” My voice was a hoarse whisper as I sat down.

“What were you thinking?” He stepped closer to me. “Did you want attention? Your dad’s not here. He’s in New Zealand. Did you want payback? You said people had said some messed up shit to you—was it them that you wanted to hurt? You went through your siblings’ social media, their emails. You downloaded a copy of Seraphina’s online journal. Why would you do that? She’s in tears. Tears! I heard her crying when Quinn called me. She’s humiliated by whatever you found in there.

“Marie—” He stopped, taking a deep breath. He started again, calmer, but only slightly. “Marie said she’s completely wiped out of her computer. She said it’s all gone. You took everything and you left a blinking middle finger icon as her wallpaper. It pops up every time she tries to put a password in.”

I mashed my lips together at that one.

It wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t. Nope.

I started coughing, remembering how I had laughed to myself when I programmed that in. Hearing it from Kash now, it was so totally not funny.

But it was. It was hilarious.

I coughed some more, pushing that tickle away. No good would come if I let that out.

“Yes. I…”

Kash snorted. “You don’t even sound remorseful. You sound like you’re about to apologize for being thirty minutes late for curfew. I’m not your father. This isn’t a situation where you merely get grounded. The shit we have on you, you could do prison. It’s that bad. Your father has files on those computers. National security files. You launched an attack that could’ve compromised those files. I say the word, give my go-ahead, and your father’s lawyers could make this go all the way in the black. You could be hauled off and never see your mother again.”

I felt the blood draining from me. That tickle was replaced with fear, real fear, the kind where I felt a cold trickle of sweat on the back of my hairline.

He was right.

He was so right. I knew the laws. I knew the risks. I knew my father had job contracts with the government. I’m not playing in the little leagues. I messed with a professional, a big and powerful professional who may or may not have any sentimental feelings toward me. He probably had none, to be honest. I was a risk to his empire.

Then I asked, “He’s in New Zealand?”


“There was an event here earlier. I thought—”

“It was a charity brunch. Quinn does a lot for nonprofit organizations. But no. Your father wasn’t in attendance.”


I swallowed over a lump in my throat.

Why did I care?

I shouldn’t. I mean … yeah, why did that bother me so much?

Kash sighed. “You wanted to get your dad’s attention?”

“No.” I said the word quickly. Too quickly.

“It’s okay if that’s what you were doing.”


Another wave of embarrassment rode through me, crashing. He was right. I was acting like a child. I was almost twenty-three, and I had acted out like a rebellious teenager. It was the equivalent of drinking too much, taking drugs, racing cars—what some wealthy kids might’ve done. Not me. I crashed their internet. I basically walked up to their house, and instead of knocking like a normal person, I set it on fire.

“I’m sorry.”

Kash was silent a moment.

“I am.” I smoothed my hand out over my shirt before looking up again.

He was standing a few feet from me, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyebrows pinched together. He didn’t believe me.

I said it again, “I really am sorry. I … I wasn’t thinking. And you’re right. I was told to go back where I came from, in essence, and I reacted. I was mad, and hurting, and I lashed out in the way I can lash out. I am truly sorry.”

His chest rose slowly. He drew in some air before letting it back out, just as slowly. He shook his head. “I know. I can see that.” His eyes softened. The lines around his mouth smoothed out. “Look, they won’t be told who hacked into their privacy. They won’t know it was you.”

“Matt knows.”

“Matt knows nothing. Matt will know what I tell him to know.”

He said it so swiftly, with a hint of violence, and that familiarity was whispering at me again. How he said those words, that cold look in his eyes … What was bugging me?

“You need to put back what you took, and you need to delete what copies you made. By now, the team’s got most of your bugs out of their systems. You will go in and remove the rest.”

“Go in? What do you mean?”

Not … No way. He gave me a meaningful look.

My eyes widened. “You mean go into their security room and use one of their computers?” I didn’t know if I was salivating at the chance to see what they were working with on their end or dreading it because they would see me in person.

“Quinn wants you removed from the estate. I won’t allow it. But you will not be free to walk around any longer, not until you’ve earned trust back.”

“Trust? Whose trust?”

“Mine.” His eyes were heated again, smoldering at me. “You will earn my trust. After removing your viruses, you will be stripped of computer privileges—”

“You can’t do that! I need to work on my graduate project. I—” I surged to my feet.

“Watch me.” He met me, surging right back at me.

I didn’t move. Neither did he. We were almost touching, staring back at each other, both angry, heated breaths coming in and out, and I was suddenly hot for a whole other reason.

God’s sake.

I needed to look away. I did. I couldn’t.

I wanted to reach out. I wanted to touch him, and my gaze fell to his chest. I could see how his shirt molded to him, hugging him so perfectly, and I could desperately imagine the feel of him against me. So strong, firm. Earlier, I had thought there wasn’t an inch of fat on his body, and now I was salivating, wanting to test my theory.

Kash broke first, stepping back. His voice came out ragged. “Your punishment is this: You will remain in this house. You will only walk on the grounds with a security guard, and when I feel you can be trusted, you will earn your freedom more and more.”

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