I shot Rue a text before bed last night after dinner and asked if she wanted to meet up somewhere to catch up. She responded sometime overnight, the text said three a.m. She was definitely a party animal so it was to be expected. She and Howie used to drag me out when we were teens to get me drunk.
The blankets were just too warm to part from. After dinner, Neil and I made our way back up to bed where he found his hidden surprise under my dress. The new lingerie was now shredded in a pile on the floor. One time use wasn’t on the tags but he made sure they fulfilled the order.
“Darling, wake up. I’ve got coffee downstairs for you.” His Irish accent was husky and richer and reflected his tired eyes.
“Thank you. I need it after round two last night.” He gave me a cocky grin and pulled the blankets from me. His trailing kisses down my shoulder threatened round three if I didn’t get up. I don’t think I could take it. My muscles were deliciously sore and tired. I’d savor the feeling all day.
“I’m meeting Rue today for lunch, I’d love it if you could join us.” He agreed as he finished buttoning up his freshly pressed shirt. I grabbed my work bag and headed off.
As traffic held me up on my way into the office, those two envelopes of photos left me feeling uneasy. I decided to keep them in my locked desk drawer at the office. I didn’t need Neil accidentally stumbling upon them at our place. I had enough to explain already.
The day flew by as I went down my monthly list of audits for the IRS. Paperwork had to stay in order to keep them off our backs.
A knock at my door sounded as my phone rang. I called the person in as I lifted the receiver and answered. Neil came in with a few papers, eyebrows furrowed. I held up a finger to him to take care of the phone call.
“Loreinna Rossi.” There was no answer on the other end and I repeated my name again and when no one replied I hung up the phone. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the first of many ghost calls I’d receive. I shook off the tiny pricks that crawled up my neck as Neil stepped forward.
“So the Greyshore accountant messaged me this morning and sent his bank statements. Someone deposited and then withdrew forty-five thousand dollars just a couple of days ago within an hour time frame. I wanted you to look over it and see if you recognized the other account involved.” My stomach dropped to my feet. Hudson’s blackmail already catching up to me. I forced myself to stand and cleared my throat.
“Sure, I’ll look into it after I get back from lunch. You still want to come to meet Rue?” He ran a hand through his hair and cursed under his breath.
“Honey, I’m sorry I forgot all about it. I scheduled a meeting over Skype in twenty minutes. It’s with an Irish client. I won’t be able to reschedule this in a timely way, they're nearly six hours ahead of us.” I understood completely. He often had to stop his whole day to meet with clients from different countries to accommodate their different time zones.
“It’s fine Neil. She should be in town for a while, we can have her for dinner later this week or something.” He pulled me by my waist and sighed heavily. He hated breaking promises with me even though if anyone was understanding of why it would be me. I saw every day how hard he worked for what he has. It takes just as much effort to maintain too.
“Alright. Come to my office when you’re back from lunch. I’m sure I’ll still be on the call with Ireland.” He offered me a long kiss in apology before he left my office.
I couldn’t bear to look at the paper so I tucked it under my laptop and grabbed my coat to head to lunch. This was all my fault. I should have figured out something different instead of screwing around with live accounts and real clients.
Cold rain made the day dreary and intensified my stress over letting Hudson blackmail me. I swallowed those feelings and pep-talked myself up. I could handle Hudson. He was not a force to be immediately worried about but I didn’t doubt his watchful eye over Stephanie. I needed to find a way to contact her and Howie without it coming back to me. Someone was watching my every move now. I just knew it. The dead-end phone call especially made me on high alert.
I sipped my glass of water and decided against drinking for lunch. I needed to figure out a way to smooth things over with Greyshore’s accountant.
I muddled over my explanation when Rue finally showed up. She flopped down in the seat in front of me, a wide grin plastered on her face like usual.
“What’s wrong toots? Miss me? Daydreaming of me again?” I blushed feverously as her fingertips grazed my cheek and down my neck. If that had been Neil’s hands, I’d be a hot wet puddle. I just felt so shy around Rue. Never had I had any romantic feelings for her.
“Rue you look great. I love that color blue hair. It’s like, neon.” She grinned wide and twisted her long blue locks around her finger. Her colored contacts matched perfectly. She leaned forward and pushed up her breasts over the edge of her top, showing off her large red rose chest tattoo. The vines snaked up her neck and stopped just before her jawline.
“Thanks, toots! You didn’t order without me, did you?” I shook my head no as our waiter approached. She didn’t miss a beat hitting on him as well, flattering him about his neatly pressed dress slacks and his wingtip shoes to polish off the high-end restaurant waitstaff look. She flew both ways but preferred women from the history of serious relationships I knew about.
He left our table blushing and speechless. I let the poor boy escape her grasp before turning my attention back to her. A brief silence fell over the table. It was the same weight of silence that came before people mustered up the courage to ask about Howie.
“How you been, Lo?” I knew when she called me by my actual name, the games were put on pause. I pushed around my napkin in my lap and avoided eye contact. Not out of fear of crying but fear that I wouldn’t be able to produce fake mourning.
“Fine. Thanks. Neil and I are engaged.” I quickly changed the subject and she swallowed the lump in her throat with a sip of wine. She produced a genuine smile and took my left hand to examine the ring.
“It’s gorgeous. Where is that redhead anyways? I thought he was coming?” I shook my head and explained the meeting. She understood and sat back, out of conversation topics that weren’t too heavy for lunch after being away for so long.
“How’s your business? Alex mentioned you’ve got Japanese clients now. Was that the inspiration for the hair and eyes?” She snorted through her nose an unfeminine laugh. I remembered I'd always catch her falling asleep to anime shows on her phone while the guys did all the heavy lifting when she'd make deliveries.
“No it’s because of-” she blushed before continuing. “Gretta. She’s my girlfriend.” I nearly jumped for joy. Someone finally reigned in this girl.
“Gretta? She seems to be a good person if you keep her around long enough to give her a title?” She blushed a deeper shade of red and sat back in her seat as the waiter returned with our food.
“She is. She’s an elementary school teacher.” I nearly spit out my sip of water. “She also rehabilitates rabbits who otherwise wouldn’t make it long in traditional pounds and adoption agencies.” I let my mouth gape in awe.
“Not only do you have a girlfriend but she so… so…. Normal?” Rue rolled her eyes as if I wasn’t the first to be so shocked. With her knife in one hand, she pointed it at me, threateningly.
“She is the love of my life and I won’t have you calling her such things! Normal?! No. How about she’s compassionate? Caring? Smart? Dedicated? That’s what she is, Lo. all that and more.” I was speechless and wiped my mouth with my napkin and gave her a warm smile.
“She sounds perfect, Rue. I’d love to meet her sometime.” She shoved a slice of steak in her mouth and went on and on about Gretta till our lunch was finished and we both were sore from exchanging hilarious stories.
“I should be heading back to the office. I’ll call you this weekend and we can meet up with Alex and Angelina. You’ve got to meet Daniel. He’s a two-foot version of Alex but with Angelina’s soft personality. He’s gonna be a lady’s man.” She gushed over the idea of him before hugging me tightly and taking off down the street for a cab.
As I came back from lunch the rain had picked up again and I forgot an umbrella so by the time I made it to the front door I was drenched. I stopped in the lady’s room on the ground floor and dried off with paper towels the best I could.
As I left the bathroom I can’t help but overhear a conversation being had rather loudly from the men’s room.
“No, she didn’t talk about him… He’s not dead. We’ve got to use the girls against him. It’s the only thing that will draw him from hiding.” A pause in the conversation led me to believe this was being discussed over the phone. I didn’t recognize the man’s voice but I could hear a faint accent through the echo down the long hallway. I didn’t wait to figure it out as my nerves kicked into high gear and I practically ran for the elevator. I pressed the button four or five times knowing it wouldn’t call the carriage to this floor any sooner.
As soon as the doors began to close I felt like I could breathe again. A folder stopped the doors from closing all the way. The tall steel doors slide back open and an average-looking man dressed in an expensive suit came in.
“Sorry, I don’t want to be late for my meeting.” I gave him a nod and took several deep breaths trying to calm my still racing heart.
“I’m sorry I would have held the door for you had I seen you.” He gave me a warm smile and nodded.
“You seemed to be in a hurry also.” I froze. This was the same man that was on the phone. The one I was spying on. My hands turned to fists inside my pockets and willed the elevator to climb to my floor quickly. I wished then I had my gun on me. I left it in my bag in my office like a dumb ass. I'd have to start wearing it again.
As the doors slid open I wished him a good day but he stepped out on the same floor as me. Neil’s executive's only floor.
I didn’t wait for him to strike up another conversation. Instead, I went to the board room where I knew my fiance would be on his Skype call.
Voices were loud as I entered the room quietly. The conversation seemed quite heated. So I sat out of sight of the camera and Neil glanced up at me. He held out his hand for me to stay where I was. I was glad for it, not wanting any part in the conversation that was so intense.
“No, we’re not- absolutely not, running anything drug-related for you. Period Gaylan. I told you after John screwed me I’m fucking done. I don’t want to see another Curran for as long as I fucking live. John Curran can rot in jail for all I care. I have a lot to protect here, a lot on the line. Things you still depend on as well, Gaylan. You’d do well to remember the favors I did for you all those years ago.” The man on the other end slammed his fist down and it made Neil stand up and button his suit coat. He was furious. His eyebrows were crossed and his shoulders stiff and square.
“You can’t just abandon your Irish line just because you found some Italian bimbo-” Neil slammed the laptop shut and took several deep breaths before looking up to me again. My cheeks stained pink with shame. I knew it would happen. As many times as he promised our relationship wouldn’t affect his work, his Irish connections, it was. Right now, before my eyes.
He made an effort to close the gap between us but before he could speak someone knocked on the door. It was his secretary and she looked flustered, no. Scared. Why was she so startled?
“Forgive me Mr. Flynn there’s someone here to see you but he doesn’t have an appointment. He’s being very insistent he sees you now. It’s a Mr.-” Before she could even finish speaking the man from the elevator pushed past her and opened the door.
“Neil Flynn, my good to see you, man!” He came in and embraced Neil as if they were old friends. Somehow his accent now was more noticeable now that he was here, with Neil.
“Tyler Curran, what the hell are you doing in my board room? What the hell are you doing in The States?"