The Insiders

Page 24

“My God,” I bit out, but I wasn’t sure if I was reacting because of the punishment or something else. I stepped back, drawing more air. I needed to clear my head, because it was swimming.

“Prison,” he said. “You could be made to disappear and never come back. That’s a drastic measure, but in a way, it’d clear up your father’s problems a whole lot easier for us. You need a reality check of what I’m saving you from. Quinn wants you gone. She doesn’t give a shit about keeping you protected. I’m doing this. Me. You’ll do as you’re told and you’ll do it without an attitude or, so help me, Bailey, you can get fucked in a thousand different ways here. None of them pleasurable. Deal with it.”

Really. Those exact words.


That burned.

I wanted the entire summer with my computer. I wanted a head start on my graduate project, and I couldn’t do any of that now. I had screwed up, but damn, it was going to be a hard one to swallow.

He started to move away, and then he stopped. He was half turned toward me, his head tipped back, stormy eyes taking me in.

“You never asked who noticed your breach in the first place.”

My throat swelled up for some reason. “What do you mean? I thought their system would’ve caught me.”

His phone buzzed in his hand, but he ignored it. “You disabled their alert system almost right away. It was one person who realized you were in the system. If he hadn’t, who knows when they would’ve realized you were there. Quinn and your siblings didn’t know you hacked them until they were told to check their accounts. They were in, doing their own thing at the same time you were in there, taking their things.” He paused, his eyes narrowing slightly. “It was the same person who shut you down, too.”

I felt it. The burn was back. It was spreading from my throat, to my stomach, to my feet. Traveling all the way down my legs, setting every nerve on edge.

“Who was it?”

A look flared in Kash’s eyes. Menacing, a warning, but there was something else there. I wasn’t quite sure what it was. And he said, “Your father. He’s the one who caught you. You got your wish.”

A beat.

He looked at his phone.

“Your dad’s coming back. He’s on the plane right now.”



Adrenaline was high.

He was coming. My childhood idol. The guy who was my sperm donor. I went through varying phases of excitement, fear, loathing, anger, impatience, and back to excitement. No matter the home front, no matter how he had hurt my mom—

And eeek. Ground to a halt. Hold up.

He hurt my mom.

That stomped everything.

Once I remembered that, dread took hold of me for the night and through the next day. But I was on pins and needles, expecting a guard to knock on the door at any moment.

None came.

The phone didn’t ring.

Kash had to return to where he was before the whole hacking incident, and even he didn’t text.

Nothing. I was on radio silence. Or I was on prison silence. I was in isolation.

The entire first day, I was waiting. Just waiting. Waiting to meet my father. Waiting for Matthew to sneak in. Waiting for Kash to show up and scold me for something. Waiting, waiting, waiting. That transitioned to a little less waiting the second day.

Boredom hit me that afternoon. Drastic, dull, soul-consuming boredom. I even took a trip to his garage to see what parts were there, if there were extra wires lying around. Maybe it was time to build a robot to keep Cyclone’s robot rabbit company, and once that thought hit me, I remembered that I had saved his entire file. It was one that I saved to my phone, not to the computer or internet. My phone, the one thing I still had access to. It’d been an automatic response when I saw it. I knew I’d want to read it later on, maybe even before bed. That was my version of nighttime reading.

Kash didn’t say I couldn’t—

No, he actually did, but would he really be that pissed if I peeked ahead, trying to help Cyclone? I could hide that I read it? He said no Wi-Fi. Technically, my phone didn’t have Wi-Fi anymore. It had satellite connection, but I was honoring our agreement. He said no computer stuff. It was hard. It was painful. But I was sticking to it.

So that night, I curled up on the couch and started reading.

I kept reading his file, all through the night, until I realized it was three in the morning. Three thirty-two, to be exact. Putting it away, feeling my stomach growling, I dismissed both and headed for bed. Cleaning up, brushing my teeth, I pulled on some pajamas and crawled under the covers … only to reach for my phone again. There. I saw a text that I had missed somehow.

Clicking on it, I saw it was from Kash.

Cameras show you’re being good. Did you tamper with the feeds?

I snorted out loud, then wiped the grin from my face. I wasn’t supposed to find that funny.

I’m being good. Reading on my phone, if you want to know the specifics.

Buzz from him.

Someone will come to the house tomorrow just after seven in the morning. You’ll be taken to the offices to finish cleaning up your mess.

A second buzz from him.

Go. Clean everything. Go back to the house.

A third buzz.

Your father had to stop in DC for something, fyi.

Oh. That—

Nope. That didn’t matter to me. He had hurt my mother. That’s all I cared about now.


I started to go back to my reading, but then I texted again. I couldn’t help myself.

Me: You broke the cardinal rule.

Kash: What’s that?

Me: You didn’t ask what I was reading. You can’t have that many books in your library to not be a book lover. You should know that rule.

Kash: I already know what you’re reading and you lied.

I almost dropped my phone. How did he—

And it hit me. I forgot for a moment. Cursing, I typed out again, almost punching the phone.

Me: Not fair. Not right. No privacy.

Kash: You lost that privilege.

A second buzz.

Kash: Earn it. Earn. It.

I didn’t have a response to that, and after I didn’t text again, he didn’t either. Sighing, curling up on my pillow and tucking the cover to my chin, I folded my arms over it and brought my phone back up.

I read almost the entire file that night, finally stopping around five in the morning.

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