Satisfaction: A Lawless Novel, Book 2, Coming January 3, 2017!

The sizzling second novel in a sexy new contemporary romance series featuring the Lawless siblings—from New York Times bestselling author Lexi Blake.

Brandon Lawless is a man on a mission: obtain the information that will clear his father’s name. He’s willing to do whatever it takes—even seduce his enemy’s personal assistant, the beautiful and innocent Carly Hendricks. But with her beguiling smile and captivating intelligence, Brandon soon realizes he doesn’t want to deceive Carly, he wants to win her over—both in the boardroom and the bedroom.

Then a twisted crime leaves Carly vulnerable and Brandon finds himself reeling. The stakes of his mission are now life or death—Carly’s life. And Brandon realizes he’s lost his heart to an amazing woman and his plan must succeed, because the stakes are no longer just revenge, but a once in a lifetime love.

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Reviews

4 Stars! "This emotional entry into the Lawless clan’s quest for vengeance is also a journey toward healing." ~ RT Book Reviews, RTBookReviews.com

I am fully invested into this series now and can’t wait to get the next book. That ending! I did not see that coming at all I think I opened and closed my mouth about ten times before I yelled WHAT! Satisfaction is one suspense filled read and one that I recommend. ~ Janna, I'm A Sweet and Sassy Book Whore, ImASweetAndSassyBookWhore.com

The chemistry between Brandon and Carly was sizzling. There was mystery, intrigue, suspense, hot alpha men and as you can expect from most books from Ms. Blake some moments of humour. I love Lexi Blake’s writing style; no one does romantic suspense like she does. ~ Erin, MI Bookshelf, MIBookshelf.blogspot

This story hands down was my favorite of the series. There were so many twist and turns and let's talk about that shocker of a ending.Fans of suspense will be thrilled with this series as it keeps you guessing. I, in a million, billion, trillion years DID NOT see that coming at all!!!! I had to read the last chapter over again to make sure I was reading it correctly. I can not wait to see how everything ends in Revenge. ~ Shelly, Shelly's Book Corner, ShellysBookCorner

OMFG the twist at the end of this book had me repeating over and over again "I cannot believe it." It was such a shocking ending and OMG now I cannot wait to read Book #3 as Really, Lexi Blake you had to end this one of a cliffhanger and give us that surprising and shocking ending. If you love revenge plot stories and romantic suspense stories, then the Lawless series is the books for you. ~ Paula, The Phantom Paragrapher, ThePhantomParagrapher.blogspot

Bran is my favorite of the Lawless boys. He is H.O.T! He's determined and strong and learning that undercover work isn't as easy as it sounds. His chemistry with Carly is off the charts. They are the cutest couple. She's bet nerdy and nervous and he's a rough around the edges and total alpha male. Together they have just the right amount of spice for the reader to be more than satisfied! ~ Heather, White Hot Reads, WhiteHotReads.com

Holy horde of monkey balls, this book was amazing!! Ms. Blake has always managed to find the perfect balance of hot, sexual chemistry, gut-wrenching betrayal, and mind boggling suspense…Satisfaction is no exception! From the very first word, to the very last, I was absolutely hooked. ~ Kristie K., Pardon My Blurb, PardonMyBlurb.com

Lexi Blake has another hit with Satisfaction and I'm dying for the next book in this series. ~ Christina, Romance Reviews and More, RomanceReviewsAndMore.blogspot

Satisfaction has plenty of twists and turns, intrigue, suspicion and surprises as Carly and Bran work together to find a way to accomplish Drew’s goals and bring down Carly’s boss. They have a natural chemistry that doesn’t take long to combust, and their scenes together were oh so yummy! ~ Oh My Growing TBR, OhMyGrowingTBR.com

If you are a fan of Lexi Blake’s or love a good suspenseful romance story, then this is the series to read. There are so many webs weaved you can’t help but get tangles all up in them. ~ Jennifer H., Book Bitches, BookBitchesBlog.com

I loved every minute of Satisfaction It was sexy , thrilling, fun and addictive. After seeing how this book ended I cant wait to get my hand on the next book. ~ JoJo the Bookaholic, JoJoTheBookaholic.blogspot

As always, author Lexi Blake focuses on the fact that family is not necessarily about blood relatives, but it is what you make it. Carly’s conversation with Ian Taggert is illuminating-and sidesplitting funny. Overall, this is a jewel in the author’s crown of contemporary romances.~ Purest Delight, Shadow, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews, GuiltyPleasuresBookReviews.com

Their story was full intrigue, danger, suspense and smoking hot romance. It’s a hot romance series with a mystery that keeps the reader guessing. I highly recommend this series and can’t wait for the oldest brother’s book.~ Cori, Reading In Pajamas, ReadingInPajamas.com


Excerpt

Chapter One

Carly let the sunshine hit her face and sighed. A whole afternoon. One entire afternoon off and she was doing what with it? Meeting some ridiculously hot guy at a restaurant who would take one look at her, turn, and run. Drew. His name was Drew and the picture the matchmaking company had sent showed a blond man in his thirties who should probably be on the cover of a magazine. Had it been an online service, she might have felt more comfortable. People on those always used the absolutely most flattering picture they could. Sometimes they were years old and pounds of weight ago. Sometimes they were flat-out lies.

But the service she was using actually took the picture themselves. No lies. No hedging the truth. He was that hot.

She hesitated on the street outside the restaurant. It was a tiny Italian place in the middle of the old city. She loved this part of St. Augustine, with its cobblestone streets and tourists walking around. The sea was never far from here and she could feel a breeze from the Atlantic.

What was she doing? Why was she even trying?

Her cell rang, the sound emanating from her massive bag. It had to be massive because she was forced to carry around anything Patricia might need. That was her. She was a walking, talking convenience for the Antichrist.

Who was probably calling to revoke her afternoon off. Patricia rarely giveth, but she was awfully good at taking away.

This was one time it might come in handy. She grabbed her phone and frowned as the real reason she was standing in front of a restaurant wearing her finest Spanx and more makeup than normal was smiling from the screen. She flicked her hand across, accepting the call. “Hey, Meri. I thought you were finishing up class.”

“I got out early and I wanted to make sure you’re where you’re supposed to be.”

Sometimes her sister’s instincts were scary good. “I’m at the restaurant, but only to tell him I changed my mind. This was a mistake.”

Meri groaned. “No, it’s not. Come on, Carly. I read the file on this guy. He’s hot.”

“How did you read the file?” Not that she should be surprised. Along with good instincts, Meri also had the tenacity of a pit bull with a particularly juicy bone.

“I took a peek last week when I was at your place.”

“That’s called invading my privacy.” She tried her best big sister voice.

It didn’t faze Meri at all. “Yes, it’s my favorite hobby! And that Drew guy is superhot. They should have the dudes take their shirts off.”

“Hello, sexist much? What are they teaching you at that school?”

“That men have objectified women for thousands of years and we need to catch up. When he gets there ask him if he has those notches on his hips. That is so hot.”

“I’m not asking him to strip down. I’m asking him to leave,” she admitted. “I’m not ready for this. Even if I was ready for this, it wouldn’t be with him. I want a nice, normal guy. One who isn’t a felon. That’s a hard line for me.”


“Not every man in the world is Roger,” Meri pointed out.


No, they weren’t, but that one mistake wouldn’t seem to go away. She thought about the message she’d gotten a few days before. Her husband owed money and they were coming after her for it. She’d tried telling them they were divorced and she wasn’t responsible for some debt he’d taken on in prison, but apparently the mob wasn’t big on divorce.

She put it out of her head. She would go to the cops. It would all go away. First she needed to deal with the problem of hot Drew and her sister’s need to get her laid.

“I know that. But it was really bad and I need more me time.”

Meri sighed over the line. “It’s been two years. It’s going to dry up. I learned that in my anatomy class. If you don’t use it, a vagina turns to dust.”

Her sister was so nasty sometimes, but Carly had to laugh. “Well, I will sweep that sucker up, then, because it’s gotten me into a lot of trouble in the past.” She sighed, missing her sister since she transferred to Duke. “I’ll meet him and talk to him, but don’t expect more than that.”

“It’s all I ask,” Meri replied, sounding chipper. “Well, and that you give me all the dirty details. Tell me something. Have you thought about dumping Patricia the Terrible and moving up here with me? I found a job at the school you would love.”

Yeah, she likely would. And then her sister might see the inside of a prison cell. Two more years. She had two more years until the statute of limitations ran out and her sister was free and clear. “You know I love my job.”

There was a pause on the line. “I know you say that. I don’t know how much I believe it. All right. I love you. Call me later and tell me everything and stop frowning.”

The line clicked and she put her phone back in her bag. She wasn’t frowning. Well, maybe a bit. The waitress showed her to a table on the patio overlooking the street.

She would smile, shake his hand, and they would both laugh about the mistake. They were horrifically mismatched.

She glanced down at the menu. Of course, he might not show at all. She might get to sit here in the sun and have a lovely meal that didn’t include salad and she would pull out her tablet and read. That would be awesome. Lasagna and a book. Maybe a glass of pinot and some cheesecake. All alone.

She was sure that sounded pitiful to some people, but it was the perfect afternoon for her. Peace, quiet, solitude. No overbearing bosses or their lecherous husbands. If that man accidently touched her ass one more time, she wasn’t going to care that he was eighty- seven. He would get a colonoscopy the hard way. She would shove that cane of his right up his keister.

She glanced out and saw a man walking up the street. Whoa. Now, there was a man she could look at for days. With dark hair that curled around his ears, he looked like a movie star. She noticed two other women stopping to stare at him as he passed.

Was there a movie filming in town? No. Patricia always knew about those. She would try to get the stars to give her magazine an interview or get them on her show to talk about home decorating tips.

Of course, Patricia had been distracted lately. Ever since she’d come back from the funeral of an old business partner, she’d been distant, not quite her old evil self. Oh, she humiliated Carly at least twice a day, but she lacked the vigor and glee she used to have.

Carly had to wonder if Steven Castalano had been the one true love Patricia had talked about that night when she’d gotten too drunk, the day before her wedding when she’d acted almost human. That was the night she’d seen the devil cry.

Five more minutes and she would declare herself free and clear. Maybe she would switch restaurants in case this Drew guy was the kind of man who showed up super late to a date. Columbia wasn’t far away. She could get some sangria and Cuban food.

Anything to enjoy her one afternoon to herself. Soon they would go back to LA and the guest house she stayed in there. It was close to Patricia’s Santa Monica mansion. Close enough that she could be at Patricia’s side in less than a minute. She knew that because Patricia had timed her and told her not to go over that minute. The guest house was nice, but it had nothing of Carly in it. She would miss her townhouse.

Two more years. Just two more years.

She watched as the incredibly hot man walked her way. Not hers, of course, but in the general direction she was sitting in. Not general. Actual. He was walking right toward her, and that was when the grin hit his face.

When his lips curled up, he went from brooding god to an angel. The dark, fallen kind who could do all manner of dirty things because they weren’t stuck up in heaven anymore.

When the hell had she gotten so creative?

He pulled out the chair across from Carly. “Hey, my name is Brandon Lawless.”

She looked around. This was some kind of joke. It had to be. Or he was seriously mistaken. He didn’t look drunk, but some guys hid it well. “Um, you have the wrong girl.”

His grin moved to a full-out smile and she had to catch her breath. “Nope. I’ve got the right girl. Carly, your boss murdered my parents twenty years ago. What do you say you help me bring her to justice?”

“Are you insane?” She looked around again. There was definitely a camera hidden somewhere. She wouldn’t put it past some network to talk Patricia into pranking her assistant. She would do it in a heartbeat if she thought it would help her image.

“Not at all. I’m quite serious.”

So pretty and so crazy. “Look, I’m waiting for a date so I don’t have time to talk.” Something about what he’d said earlier clicked in her brain. “How did you know my name?”

He sat back, his eyes piercing into her. “I know everything about you.”

A chill went through her as she realized exactly who this person could be. “Who sent you?”

He frowned, the expression marring his beauty not one bit. “Sent me? No one. You were supposed to meet with my brother, but he was going to confuse things and turn this whole operation into one big spy game. Our sister married a guy who’s kind of a spy. He works for the CIA from time to time. I think Drew’s jealous of Case. He’s always thought he would make a good James Bond. But our last spy thing went horribly wrong and my new sister-in-law got arrested and almost walked out on Riley and . . . I should start at the beginning. First off, call me Bran. Everyone does. I’m not fond of Brandon.”

He talked super-fast. She didn’t understand most of what he was saying, but she needed to get her point across. “Tell DiLuca that I don’t care what Roger is doing in prison. His debts are no longer mine. Get with the damn twenty-first century. We’re divorced. Shiv him or something. I don’t care, but stop harassing me.”

“What?”

She started to push her chair back. “You heard me. Tell your boss I’ll go to the cops if he calls me again.”

She stood to go, but he was faster. He got into her space, his hand shooting out to grasp her wrist. The touch sent a wave of heat through her. He didn’t tighten his grip or try to force her to sit back down. The hand that wrapped around her was gentle and his eyes softened.

“Are you in trouble, sweetheart? Because I can help you.”


She almost believed him. “You can let me go.”


His hand dropped immediately but he was still in her space, his big body towering over her. She wasn’t tiny but this man made her feel practically petite. “I can’t. Please let me explain myself. I’ll pay for lunch and everything. I’m not from this DiLuca person. He’s not my boss. My brother would tell you he’s the boss of me, but I protest. He’ll probably try to fire me for fucking this up, but I don’t think you can fire your little brother.”

He was so close but somehow she didn’t feel overwhelmed or threatened by him. His words were almost sweet. Still, she knew her instincts were a faulty thing. “I should go. I don’t know what’s going on with your brother, but it’s none of my business.”

“Let me make it your business. Carly, I’ve studied you and I think you’re a good woman trapped in a nasty world. My parents were in your position twenty years ago and Patricia Cain murdered them. I don’t want that to happen to you. Please let me make my case. If you can look at me and tell me the Patricia Cain you work for isn’t capable of murder, then I will apologize for interrupting your afternoon and let you be. If you can’t, please help me. I’m not looking for revenge. I’m looking for justice. For my parents.”

There was absolutely nothing in his manner or demeanor that told her he was lying. This gorgeous man was asking her for help and she wanted to turn him away. Years of working under that woman and her marriage to Roger had turned her cold and uncaring of anyone but her sister. It was the only way to protect herself. She would do the smart thing and simply walk away.

Carly moved back, her hand on her chair as she began to sit down. He immediately moved in, holding the chair for her and easing her back to the table.

She was still the same idiot she’d been years ago, and suddenly there was something comforting about that knowledge. She wasn’t as hard as she’d thought. The minute the chance to help someone else had come up, her dumb ass was sitting back down and trying to do the right thing.

“Hey, are you all right?” He was standing above her and his hand came down, thumb running over her cheek to catch the tear she hadn’t realized she’d shed. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

She took a deep breath. “I’m fine. Please tell me your story because we both know that she’s capable of anything.”

It was a risk. He could have been sent here by Patricia herself to test Carly’s loyalty, though Carly doubted it. Patricia was too self-centered to think Carly could hurt her.

Yes, it was a risk, but maybe it was a risk that would pay off.

He sat back down across from her and picked up his menu. “Lunch is on me. It’s a long story. I think we’ll need some wine.”

She nodded. She could definitely use a drink.

* * * *

She was so much more beautiful up close, where he could see her small expressions and the way her eyes lit up when the wine was placed in front of her. He’d watched her carefully, taking in all the tiny tics that made up who she was. Her lips had curled up as she’d taken a sip of the rich pinot noir she’d requested.

He’d asked her to order, realizing this was a woman who rarely got to be in charge.

“I think you’ll like the lasagna here. Somehow they make it so it tastes almost light and fluffy,” she said.

“I’m sure it’s delicious.”


“Not many men allow a woman to order for them.”


“Not many men are as awesome as me.” He said it with a grin that had her grinning back.


“What if you don’t like it?”


He needed to put her at ease. From what he understood, her first marriage had been a bit of a nightmare. Her husband had been known for cheating on her, and his criminal activities likely hadn’t endeared him, either. “I will. First of all, anyone who doesn’t like lasagna has serious issues. Second, I will pretty much eat anything that’s put in front of me, so we’re cool. I learned a long time ago not to let a meal go by because I didn’t like the food, which is funny because my older brothers tell me I was the world’s pickiest eater when I was a kid.”

“What changed?”


“I got shipped into the foster care system.”


Her eyes went round with sympathy. He got that a lot, too. “After your parents were killed? You didn’t have relatives who would take you in?”

“No. And we were split up because no one wanted four kids. My older brothers got shipped to a group home and me and little sis entered the system. We ended up getting split up after a couple of months and she got adopted. They attempted to get me into their home, but there were political issues.” He always wondered what his life would have been like if the Danvers had been allowed to adopt him.

“That sounds horrible.”

She didn’t know the half of it and she never would. “Some foster parents were awesome. Some weren’t so great. I survived, but I did learn to appreciate the food in front of me, so stop worrying that I won’t like it. I suspect anyone who works for one of America’s premiere cooks knows food.”

She snorted, but somehow it was cute on her. “Oh, Patricia doesn’t eat. She doesn’t actually create those recipes, either. She’s got a staff.”

“That makes sense. I would hate to think that someone so evil could come up with her chocolate cake recipe. My sister made it before she realized what magazine it had come from. By then the damage was done, and I’m not one to waste cake.” He’d had too little of it in his lifetime.


No birthday parties for him. He could vaguely remember one when his mother had lit the candle and put it in front of him. It had been some kind of superhero cake and he could still remember how she’d leaned in, her arm on his shoulder.

Make a wish, my baby boy. Make a wish.

He wished she hadn’t died. He wished his father was still here. He wished he was meeting Carly Fisher because he’d swiped right on his phone and needed a date.

He wished he wasn’t about to use her.


“So why do you believe Patricia killed your parents?”


He noted there wasn’t a hint of suspicion in her voice. She wasn’t sitting there thinking he was crazy now. She was calmly and coolly trying to figure out what was going on. Or she was attempting to gain information she could take back to her boss.

That last voice in his head had sounded an awful lot like big brother’s. He was sure Drew was sitting in the background with Hatch somewhere, cursing his name and the fact that he’d tossed his earpiece and didn’t have on a mike.

Let Drew know what it felt like to be helpless and left behind.

Shit. He wasn’t going there. This wasn’t some revenge on his brother. This was about playing Carly more fairly than they’d played Ellie, his now sister-in-law.

“My father was an engineer. He developed a cable that helped speed up the way we used the Internet way back when it was starting out. He formed a company with a couple of savvy investors. When they had the chance to sell the tech, my father balked because he thought he could use it better than some major corporation. My dad was a bit of a dreamer.”

“The investors didn’t like that, did they?”


“No, they did not.”


Her eyes narrowed and a shrewd look came over her face. “Patricia made her initial money off tech investments. You think she had your father killed so the company could sell the product.”

“Exactly. There was a fire in our house one night when I was eight. The doors were locked and barricaded so we couldn’t get out. My oldest brother managed to break through and get us all into the backyard, where luckily a bunch of neighbors had gathered. I sometimes wonder if someone was waiting in the shadows for us. I wonder what might have happened if those neighbors hadn’t been there.”

“You don’t think the fire could have happened naturally? I’m not trying to be rude, but children often remember things differently than an adult would.”

Yes, he remembered the fire as a monster threatening to eat him alive. Sometimes he still dreamed about it, dreamed of being dragged along by Drew as he looked back and saw a gaping mouth of flames coming for him. And then it always morphed into the real monster, the one he met when he was sixteen. Real monsters were always human.

“I understand your hesitance. If you read the police reports, which I expect you’ll do, you’ll find that they believe my father murdered my mother and then turned the gun on himself, but only after setting the fire that would ensure his whole family died.”

She leaned forward, curiosity plain on her pretty face. “Why not shoot you, too?”

“Isn’t that a good question. It’s one they never properly answered. They’ve never given a proper motive beyond the fact that he was probably mentally ill. And yet he passed many a background check and several psychological evaluations, one only a month before. He did some work for the government from time to time. Look, Carly, this is the truth. My father loved his family. There was nothing violent about the man, despite what the reports will say. So my real evidence for you is that three days before the fire occurred, your boss sent fifty thousand dollars to a bank account in Switzerland that we’ve managed to associate with a contract killer. His going rate at the time was two hundred thousand dollars and two other major shareholders in the company also deposited fifty grand into the account. Have you ever heard the names Stratton and Castalano?”

Her eyes went wide, proving she had. “StratCast. Patricia was an investor in the beginning. She used the money from the IPO to start Cain Corp. Steven Castalano died recently.”

Yes, that was a fact he knew quite well. “But only after he attempted to kill my brother and sister-in-law.”

She’d gone a bit pale and he refilled her glass. “This sounds serious.”

“It is.”


“Why are you coming to me?”


“Because you’re close to her. Because no one knows her the way you do.” He noticed her hands were shaking slightly and he reached out, covering them with his own. “It’s okay. If you don’t want to help, it’s all right. No one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. I promise you that.”

It was why he’d tossed his earpiece and made this play. He couldn’t stand the thought of this woman going through what Ellie had, not when there was no chance of the end playing out the same. No white knight was going to carry Carly Fisher away the way Riley had with Ellie.

All Bran could offer her was honesty, maybe friendship.


Maybe sex if she wanted him. Definitely sex.


But he was getting ahead of himself.


She straightened up, though he noted she didn’t move her hands.

“I don’t know what I can do to help. I don’t even know that I should. What’s your plan?”

He leaned back, breaking the contact, and was surprised at how much he didn’t like that. She was warm, her hands fitting into his like they’d been made to nestle there. “I can’t tell you the plan unless you’re all in. I understand that might not happen. I’m only going to ask you not to talk to her about it if you decide to pass.”

“Why do it this way? Why come at me through some dating service?” Carly asked.

“Like I said, my brother likes to play a deep game. His plan was to date you, charm you. He would have maneuvered his way into your life, maybe managed to get a job on the set of Cain’s show and manipulated it from there.”

Her lips firmed and she frowned. “Well, you can tell him it wouldn’t have worked. I was planning on telling this Drew guy that I’d changed my mind.”

Wasn’t that interesting? “You didn’t find him attractive?”

“No. I found him too attractive. It’s ridiculous that he would be matched with me. I knew something was up the minute I saw his picture, but I thought it would be less rude if I explained in person that I was no longer interested in dating.”

“Are you? Is it only Drew you object to or is it all men?”

She suddenly seemed to find her glass infinitely interesting. “It was a mistake for me to sign up for the dating site in the first place. I only did it because my sister pushed me. I’m not ready to date. I might never be. My first marriage was pretty rough.”

It was time to come back around to something she’d said in the beginning. He might be able to help her out, too. That would be so much better. Quid pro quo. He liked to have the scales balanced. “It sounds like he’s still causing you trouble. Who’s DiLuca?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”


“It does if I can help. We might be able to help each other.”

“What are you looking for? I seriously doubt she’s got a journal detailing her plots and evil plans hidden somewhere. She’s careful. I’m not sure what I can do for you.”

This part was murky. He wished he could explain exactly what he needed, but they weren’t entirely sure how the information had been kept. “She had something on Castalano, some kind of proof of what happened. All three of them did from what I can tell. Mutually assured destruction in case one of the others tried to flip on them.”

Carly nodded. “That sounds like Patricia. She hoards information. She always says information is better than gold because gold won’t buy everything. Information is leverage in her world. She keeps files on everyone. Including me.”

“I want to look at those files, Carly.”

“She keeps them private. I don’t have access to them. They’re not even here. She keeps them in LA.”

“And you’ll be going there in a few weeks.”

She grimaced as though thinking about something unpleasant. “Yes, we’ve got a big fund-raiser and naturally it’s all being filmed. But I’ll have to be beside her when we’re in LA.”

“That fund-raiser is at her house, right?”

“Of course,” she affirmed with a huff. “She has to show off how beautiful it is. But if you’re thinking I can slip up to her office, you’re high. She keeps me at her side all night because she can’t remember names. I won’t be out of her sight.”

He had a plan for that. Or rather Drew had one. He’d simply substituted himself in. “But your boyfriend would likely go unnoticed. Especially if you got him a job in security. Or if you could convince her to hire a more friendly security firm. She likes to fire people. We could, perhaps, arrange it so her current firm is no longer useful to her and point her to one my brother-in-law works for.”

“Somehow I don’t think she’ll go for that.”

“I think she will when she realizes what a great story it could be. Have you heard of the film Love After Death?”

She rolled her eyes. “Who hasn’t? And before you tell me it’s crap, you should know I’ve seen it five times and it’s awesome.”

Touchy thing. “Do you know the story behind it?”

“I know the woman who wrote the book married a man who worked for a security firm and she got a lot of inspiration from them. I read an article about it. Mc-something.”

“McKay-Taggart. My brother-in-law is Case Taggart. He’s a former Navy SEAL, decorated for valor in combat. Imagine a real-life hero heading Patricia Cain’s security. Imagine what we could do with all that access.” It had been the plan all along. They intended to use the McKay-Taggart cache to tempt Cain into giving them access. Once they were in, the McKay-Taggart boys would do the job and do it well, and Drew would do his, too.

“That could work,” Carly agreed. “She’s always looking for publicity. So you’re looking for some file that proves she hired an assassin to kill your parents.”

“Yes. And beyond that, we’re looking to find out who the fourth conspirator was. We don’t know his name. He’s remained hidden for the last twenty years.”

“How do you know it’s a he?”

He didn’t. “It could be a woman, but men tend to be more vicious when it comes to money.”

There was that cute snort again. “Spending time with Patricia will disabuse you of that notion. I don’t know. I’m going to need to think about this.”

At least she wasn’t kicking him to the curb. “Think about it. Do some research. Now tell me about DiLuca and how I can help you.”

“You can’t and I don’t even need it.”

He sat silently, watching her because he’d already made his demand. He didn’t need to make it a second time.

Sure enough, Carly squirmed under the silence. “Fine. He was someone my husband owed money to. Owes money to. You would think after he went to jail, he would stop gambling.”

He wasn’t so sure about that. From the files he’d read on her husband, Roger Fisher had been the kind of man who could rack up some serious debt. “Why don’t you let me check into it? I can prove to be helpful to you, Carly.”

“And if I decide not to play the spy for you?”

His brother would gleefully murder him and Bran wouldn’t have to worry about the problem anymore. “I would still help you.”

He was a sucker for a damsel in distress.

“All right. His name is Tommy DiLuca and he’s been sending me nasty e-mails threatening me if I don’t pay Roger’s debt. He started texting me, too. I have no idea how he got my number.”

He could easily find out everything about Tommy DiLuca in a matter of moments, but he would slow play this, allow her to think it took him days. “I’ll see what I can find out. And you should get back out there. In the dating pool, I mean.”

A single brow rose above her left eye. “Really? This happens and you think I should try again.”

She was so cute when she was pissed. “I think you should never stop trying. You’re a beautiful woman and someday you’ll find a man who deserves you.”

It wouldn’t be him, but he might be able to make her happy for a while.

“You think you know me that well? Maybe I deserve to be alone.”

“No, not you. Tell me something. I’ve been thinking about it for days. Why did you stay on with Patricia Cain? Did she threaten you after your husband’s arrest?”

She stared at him for a moment. “How did you know that?”

“I’m good at what I do.” Which was reading the reports he got from Drew and Case. And maybe reading between the lines a little.

There was a moment of silence as she obviously contemplated whether or not to talk. “She needed to have her image rehabbed after a magazine did a hatchet job on some of her business practices.”

“No, hatchet job implies that the article is bent one way or another. I assure you everything in that article was true. I know because I did the research myself. I’m the one who handed the reporter that story.” He and his brothers were always looking for ways to fuck with the men and woman who had killed their parents. Patricia Cain had made it easy and he’d been able to hurt her without a hint of his name getting out.

Now he wondered if he’d hurt Carly as well. He would do it again. Patricia Cain really had been abusing those workers. It seemed like no matter what he did, the woman in front of him was collateral damage. He needed to figure out a way to minimize the pain.

“She came after my sister,” Carly explained, her voice quiet.

She had a younger sibling who was in college. Bran understood the need to protect and be protected. “How could she do that?”

“Because my husband used her in his schemes. She was very naive and let him put some of the money in her name.”

An excellent way to hide something he didn’t want found. Unfortunately for Carly, Cain was smart. She likely saw an opportunity and took it. He’d seen the interview where Carly had tearfully told the nation about how kind her boss was, how supportive. That interview had gone a long way to repairing Cain’s image. It had been a good play. This was what kept happening. He and his brothers would make a move and Cain would counter. It was time to end the game, time to get the queen in check.

“How much longer do you have to work for her?”

“At least two years, though I’m not entirely sure she won’t have something else planned for me by then. Somehow I can’t see her letting me walk. She uses people until they are utterly hollow and then she throws the shell away. I’m still useful to her.”

“Not if she’s in jail, you’re not.” He needed to make his plea as appealing as possible. “If you don’t do it for justice, do it to get your sentence reduced. She’s got you in prison. I can break you out.”

“Not without my help you can’t.”

This was a woman who needed to be needed. She was probably invisible most of the time. The key to winning her over was to show her that he saw her. Which he did. He saw her beauty and her resilience, even if she did not. “You are the missing piece, Carly. We’ve been trying to take her down for years, but we can’t do it without you. You’re necessary, which is why I pray you’ll think about becoming our partner in this.”

The waitress chose that moment to return, bearing a tray full of what smelled like heaven. She set the plate in front of him and he breathed it in. It was a beautiful day and he was sitting with a gorgeous woman about to eat something delicious. It was a win. He didn’t sweat the stuff to come. It would come whether he enjoyed this moment or not. He’d learned that long ago.

“For now, sit and talk with me and let’s enjoy the afternoon. No more talk about the mission until you make your decision. Tell me about yourself.”

She picked up her fork. “I don’t know that there’s much to tell.”

“Oh, I think we can find something to talk about.” He winked her way and proceeded to enjoy the day.

Carly Fisher would come around. She would say yes. He just knew it.

Copyright 2017 Lexi Blake