The Insiders

Page 72

I really liked her now. Poppy. What a name.

Still scared, though.

She and Marie exchanged a heated look, extending into a stare-off, until somehow both slowly edged their heads up. A shared look of respect passed between them.

Chrissy was eyeing everything, like me. One eyebrow slightly raised, chin down as if no one knew what we were doing, and half turned toward the front of the room. Matt was still eyeing the sly girl but trying to get the other one to join in.

Glancing across the table, I saw faint amusement on Peter’s face as he watched my mother. Kash was not looking at anyone. His eyes were sharp, tired, and frustrated. They were trained on the windows behind Martha, but as if feeling my attention, they shifted to me. I felt a zap, like I always did when our gazes met. He gave me the slightest of grins before looking to Martha.

“Okay. Well.” Martha clasped her hands together, rubbing, those pink nails flashing together before she dropped them to her hips and braced her shoulders back. She stood up, a full inch from that gesture. “Let’s do this.” Her gaze swept over the entire table and her team. “We have multiple fires to extinguish here.”

She started with the smallest, reporting that a few articles were posted about the pending Bonham divorce proceedings. The guy moved fast.

She added, “But that story has not been linked to the smallest of our own pile.” Her eyes flicked to Matt and held. “Thanks to Mr. Colello’s employee at Naveah, no leaks came from the nightclub connecting Bonham’s appearance and Matt’s incident.”

Matt snorted at that. “Incident. Nice.” His mouth thinned. “I was poisoned. The fucker—”

“Matt.” A soft warning from Kash.

Matt swung his gaze over, and Kash met his with a not-so-soft glare.

A small breath out and Matt nodded. “Fine. Great.” His tone was biting, and he jerked his chair to face forward, noticeably not in Kash’s direction.

Peter was looking between the two, his eyebrows furrowed with a small amount of concern, but he didn’t say anything.

Chrissy, on the other hand—her hand shot up. “I have a question!” She was loud about it, too.

Martha was about to proceed, but paused. “Uh. Yes. Miss Hayes.”

“It’s Ms. Thank you.” Chrissy didn’t give her time to digest that. Her elbows rested on the table and she leaned forward. “What’s your plan of action when it comes out what Bonham did? Because it’s a matter of time. Court reports can be public, and I can see Bonham wanting that to happen, just to be a pain in the ass for Matthew.”

“Uh,” Martha said, “I will handle that when we get to that, but until then, the next biggest problem for us to cover is Matthew himself.” Her head clicked to the side, focusing on Matthew. “There’s a fair amount of stories focusing on your drug overdose at the club.” She glanced to Peter, then to Kash. “It’s not as many as there would’ve been without the other two stories breaking, but it’s enough to worry about.” She paused. “Enough where it could come back and bite Matthew or yourself in the rear.”

Peter nodded, straightening in his seat. “What are your suggestions?”

“Now, we have two other, bigger problems happening at the same time.” Her eyes lingered on me, then Kash. Her words were for Peter. “Your daughter and Mr. Colello.” Then she frowned, noting where I was sitting and where Kash was sitting. She coughed before proceeding. “There are images out there of the two touching—”

Kash’s gaze sharpened. “Excuse me?”

See. She’d been all gung-ho, hear me roar woman. Now, under Kash’s attention, hesitant little lamb. Made me feel all hot and bothered.

She cleared her throat again, glancing down, tapping the table with her nail before swinging her head back up. “There are pictures of you and Miss…” She glanced to me, then my mother. “Hayes.” A pause. “In an intimate setting.”

Oh God.

Matt was grinning at me.

Floor, pull me down. Let me melt and disappear.

“What pictures?” Kash’s voice was clipped.

She nodded to one of her staff members.

Joy. It was the sultry one.

She slid the pictures to Kash first. His jaw tightened, then he slid them toward me.

My mom leaned over to see.

“Whoa.” That was Matt.

“Honey.” That was my mom.

Me. I was dying. Again.

The picture must’ve been taken just as Torie stepped out of our private suite. She was to the side, moving away. The door was starting to swing closed, and Kash’s body was on top of mine. Our feet were entwined, and he was starting to sit up. A good amount of flesh was seen from just under him, along with my shirt pooled at my waist.

No boob or even side boob was showing. Hallelujah.

Still. I was embarrassed.

Kash was on his phone, and as it buzzed, he slid it over to me. I caught it, reading a text from Torie.

I’ll have security look, but maybe your girl could find them faster?

I typed back on his phone.

Kash: This is Bailey. I’ll look after this meeting.

Torie: Look now in case there’s more going out.

I sent him the phone back. The entire meeting was on hold, waiting for us. Kash read the text, then nodded to me. He stood up. “We’re leaving.”

“What?” Martha piped up, her eyes widening.

“Bailey’s tech skills are needed, and at the earliest.” He nodded to the photographs. “Those should’ve been brought to my attention the second you knew about them.”


Peter stood, going to a corner of the room. He picked up a briefcase and brought it back, opening it again. “Excuse me, but I do think this will allow my daughter”—he paused, his eyes moving to me as he said that word—“to do what she’s going to be doing and we can all remain here.” He pulled out a laptop, opening it for me. “This meeting is needed, Kash. You should stay.”

I didn’t wait for Kash’s response. I was already up and moving around the table.

Peter was pulling out a mouse and a pair of headphones. I almost purred like a cat, and I was soon going at it.

I was trying not to focus on it, but I was having a moment. Again.

It was in the back of my mind. I was trying to push it back there, way back there, but I was on Peter Francis’s laptop. His personal laptop. The memory size alone had me blinking in shock, and the speed of his bandwidth—more melting moments for me. The good kind, the nerdy tech hacker kind. Plus, this guy had been my idol growing up. Finding out who he really was, how he’d been ignoring me, that put a damper on that, but there were years of history of idolatry there.

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