“Stole?” Her voice rose in agitation. She reached out and yanked the papers from his hand. The words, schematics, blurred before her eyes. An internal e-mail, printed out, obviously from his company ISP address, stared back at her. Sensitive information. Detailed building plans for an upcoming bid in a major international city. Photocopies of the drawings. None of it made sense.
She raised her head and stared him in the eye as her world crumbled and shattered around her. “You think I stole these?”
“They were in your bag. Don’t insult us both by denying it now. I want you out of here.” He made a show of checking his watch. “You now have twenty-five minutes remaining.”
The knot in her throat swelled and stuck, rendering her incapable of drawing a breath. She couldn’t think, couldn’t react. Numbly, she headed for the door with no thought of collecting her things. She only wanted to be away. She paused and put her hand on the frame to steady herself before turning around to look back at Chrysander. His face remained implacable. The lines around his mouth and eyes were hard and unforgiving.
“How could you think I’d do something like that?” she whispered before she turned and walked away.
She stumbled blindly into the elevator, quiet sobs ripping from her throat as she rode it down to the lobby level. The doorman looked at her in concern and offered to get her into a cab. She waved him off and walked unsteadily down the sidewalk and into the night.
The warm evening air blew over her face. The tears on her cheeks chilled her skin, but she paid them no heed. He would listen to her. She would make him. She’d give him the night to calm down, but she would be heard. It was all such a dreadful mistake. There had to be some way to make him see reason.
In her distress, she took no notice of the man following her. When she reached the curb, a hand shot out and grasped her arm. Her cry of alarm was muffled as a cloth sack was yanked over her head.
She struggled wildly, but just as quickly, she found herself stuffed into the backseat of a vehicle. She heard the door slam and the rumble of low voices, and then the vehicle drove away.
Three months later
C hrysander sat in his apartment brooding in silence. He should have some peace of mind now that there was no longer any danger to his company, but the knowledge of why was hardly comforting. He stared at the pile of documents in front of him as the evening news droned in the background.
His stopover in New York was going to be short. Tomorrow he’d fly to London to meet with his brother Theron and have the groundbreaking ceremony for their luxury hotel—a hotel that wouldn’t have happened if Marley had gotten her way. A derisive snort nearly rolled from his throat. He, the CEO of Anetakis International, had been manipulated and stolen from by a woman. Because of her, he and his brothers had lost two of their designs to their closest competitor before he’d discovered her betrayal. He should have turned her over to the authorities, but he’d been too stunned, too weak to do such a thing.He hadn’t even ridded his apartment of her belongings. He’d assumed she’d return to collect them, and maybe a small part of him had hoped she would so he could confront her again and ask her why. On his next trip back, he’d see to the task. It was time to have her out of his mind completely.
When he heard her name amidst the jumble of his thoughts, he thought he’d merely conjured it from his dark musings, but when he heard Marley Jameson’s name yet again, he focused his angry attention on the television.
A news reporter stood outside a local hospital, and it took a few moments for the buzzing in Chrysander’s ears to stop long enough for him to comprehend what was being said. The scene changed as they rolled footage taken earlier of a woman being taken out of a rundown apartment building on a stretcher. He leaned forward, his face twisted in disbelief. It was Marley.
He bolted from his desk and fumbled for the remote to turn the volume up. So stunned was he that he only comprehended every fourth word or so, but he heard enough.
Marley had been abducted and now rescued. The details on the who and why were still sketchy, but she’d endured a long period of captivity. He tensed in expectation that somehow his name would be linked to hers, but then why should it? Their relationship had been a highly guarded secret, a necessary one in his world. His wish for privacy was one born of desire and necessity. Only after her betrayal had he been even more relieved by the circumspection he utilized in all his relationships. She’d made a fool of him, and only the knowledge that the rest of the world didn’t know soothed him.
As the camera zoomed in on her pale, frightened face, he felt something inside him twist painfully. She looked the same as she had the night he’d confronted her with her deception. Pale, shocked and vulnerable.