Reckless Kiss: Episode 21
Reckless Kiss: Episode 21
“You were right about looking deeper into the rumors,” Hope said as she pushed a large envelope across my desk. “There are some connections. I’m not sure they mean anything but they’re all in there.”
“What kind of connections?” I was doing my best to track down every scrap of information I could find on the Nashville team, Edmund Brown, and the current payoffs. My clients had nothing to say to me, which was as disconcerting as it sounds. I got to know these men, their secrets, their hopes and dreams. I negotiated their futures and buried their pasts.
“Well for one, they all used the same real estate agent and car dealership, but that’s not surprising.”
I had an old friend who was known to do some hacking and other borderline illegal online activities. I contacted him to see if he could find me some names. A week later I had five. None of the information was official but it was assumed at the time that these five Nashville players were the ones involved. Hope was looking into what connected them to each other.
“They spent their money in the same place, got it. Anything else?”
She shrugged. “They took a few vacations together. Again, nothing of use. The only really interesting thing about most of the information in that folder is that these five were really close. The other guys on the team didn’t use the same real estate agent or car dealership. They didn’t go on vacations together. It was just these five. And then . . . ”
That sounded promising. “And then?”
She squirmed. “They all belonged to the same club. The Secret. It’s a—”
I put up my hand to stop her. “I know what The Secret is.”
She stopped squirming and smiled instead. “Oh really? Why do you know about The Secret, Leo Hancock?”
I gave her a hard look. “How do you know about The Secret, Hope Siolo?”
“I know people and I’m an excellent investigator.”
“Yeah, well I have clients who are members.” I grimaced. “I’ve had to kill more than one story involving it.”
The Secret was an exclusive sex club for celebrities, athletes, and the very rich. There were locations in several major cities, including Nashville.
“Touché,” she said. “Again, this isn’t information that means anything. But it is odd that all five of them were members at the time. There are a few reports in the folder from people I trust. It’s worth a look. Maybe you’ll see a connection I don’t.”
“Thanks Hope. I appreciate this.”
“No problem. How does your girlfriend feel about you digging around in her father’s business?”
I walked her to my door. “She doesn’t know.” And I had no plans to tell her.
“Oh. Well, be careful Leo. Lies by omission have killed many a relationship.”
* * *
Something must have happened after I left Claudia and Seth in New York because I got a call from Butler asking if I could accompany Claudia to the game. I picked up Esme from the university and now the three of us sat prominently behind the umpire as Butler stepped up to the plate.
The Mantas were down by two in the fifth and everyone in the stadium vibrated with hope that Butler would dig them out of a hole once again, driving in the runner on second with a home run.
“Are you going to make me ask?” I said.
Esme looked between Claudia and me. Claudia kept her gaze focused on her boyfriend. Boy toy? Booty call? I didn’t know anymore.
I heard the snap of a baseball hitting a catcher’s mitt at ninety-five miles an hour.
“Did you tell him?” I tried again.
She closed her eyes and I saw a mix of emotions pass over her face. “We had a conversation.”
“What kind of conversation?” For some reason I felt the need to hold Esme’s hand so I blindly reached for her. She took my hand and squeezed.
Claudia glanced at the motion from the corner of her eye. Her shoulders dropped. “You two are really sweet. I need to break up with him.”
“He’s not sweet to you?” Esme leaned across my lap to talk to Claudia, cutting me out of the equation. I suddenly realized my error in sitting between them.
“That’s the problem. He’s incredibly sweet sometimes. And then . . . it’s like he forgets I exist.”
“And it’s good enough that you get your hopes up, that maybe it can be good all the time.”
I didn’t care about Claudia anymore. My attention was completely on Esme.
You get your hopes up.
Maybe it can be good all the time.
“I know this time of year is crazy for him and there are so many expectations,” Claudia said.
There was a loud smack. All our heads turned to the field. Butler was on his heels, the bat touching the ground by his feet, his head tilted toward the sky as the ball sailed toward the back wall.
Claudia shot to her feet. “Go. Go. Go!”
The ball sailed clear of the wall by several feet. Home run. Butler was a hitting machine. It was great for his career and mine, but not great for building a lasting relationship with a woman. I switched seats with Esme and let the two of them talk. By the end of the game Claudia had her game face on. She was going to talk to Butler and this time she wasn’t quitting when things got real.
“Thanks for that.” I tucked Esme’s hair behind her ear. “I don’t think Claudia has a lot of female friends she trusts.”
“She’s nice. I hope Seth pulls his head out of his ass. They could be really good together.”
“I agree.” I kissed her forehead. “Hey, do you mind waiting out here for a minute? I need to talk to someone.”
Knowing she was safe down here with her access badge and the higher level of security, I made quick work of finding Butler and congratulating him on a good game. “Claudia’s waiting for you in the VIP Lounge.”
“Thanks, Leo.” He shook my hand.
“Anytime. Thanks for the extra ticket.”
“No problem, man. So you’ve settled down?”
“Very much. What about you?”
Butler’s eyebrows jumped. “Me? You mean Claudia? We’re just having fun.”
I was afraid of that. “You’ve been together for a while now. The public is starting to get attached. You might want to consider how it’ll affect your image if you keep this up.” I hated speaking agent when it came to relationships but it was a necessary evil, especially when my clients weren’t seeing the attachment the public and the girl were developing. Better to try the image angle first.
“Yeah?” He rubbed his chin. There was a glimmer of anger in his eyes.
Maybe there was hope for Butler yet.
“Just something to consider if you’re only having fun.”
He eyed me like he wanted to punch me, then gave a single chin nod. “I’ll think about it. Enjoy your night, Leo.”
* * *
Sometimes you can feel a storm brewing long before you see the first signs. It’s the energy. A big storm needs a lot of it. So it gathers, drawing everything toward its center. Two days before a hurricane, hundreds of miles away, you can tell there’s one out there because of the energy in the air.
That’s how it felt that morning when I arrived at work. Nothing was different. Not that I could tell anyway. But I stood behind my desk for several minutes trying to figure out what was wrong.
When I found nothing I decided to try to work. An hour later I’d answered a dozen emails, returned three phone calls, and talked a tennis player out of quitting because she didn’t like the tournament colors. Apparently yellow was bad luck.
Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe the quiche Esme made for breakfast had bad eggs. I was forced to dismiss my misgivings and focus on work. Today we had a big planning meeting for the next quarter. We were evaluating current clients, potential new clients we’d been monitoring, and mapping out a strategic plan for a potential hockey strike. Marie sat at the back of the conference room watching while Oscar asked for advice on how to handle a football client who couldn’t stay out of trouble.
“You hire him a babysitter,” Maddie quipped. “Just make it a male babysitter. We can’t afford for him to have another affair with an employee.”
“Hey now, all those allegations are false, remember?” I shot her a playful look to go along with my healthy heaping of sarcasm. They weren’t false and we all knew more than we wanted to.
Gwen gagged. “Maybe he’s more trouble than he’s worth.”
Unfortunately it was something we’d all been thinking. The scandals were taking up more and more of Oscar’s time and it wasn’t great for our public image. But then again, our clients were happy with the work we were doing so we’d gotten a few more very large names signed. The money was good. The drama made my skin crawl.
“For now we support our client,” Marie said without looking up from her tablet. “But if he goes down in flames I won’t shed a tear. Moving on. Gwen?”
Gwen took over at the front of the room. She was in charge of the strategic plan so I had to pay attention and chime in when necessary. Still, my mind kept drifting.
I knew Esme turned off the stove. I remember hearing the knob click.
She smiled and kissed me before she left for work.
My car hadn’t made any strange noises.
Our meeting was progressing well.
So what the hell was bothering me?
That’s when the conference room door opened and our security guard poked his head in. “Mr. Hancock?”
The room fell silent.
“Yes?” My weird feeling turned into an itchy sensation. It was like my skin didn’t quite fit any longer.
“There are a couple of gentlemen here to see you. They don’t have an appointment but it seems important.”
I glanced at Marie. She waved me away.
“Show them to my office. I’ll be right there.” I took my sweet time gathering my stuff before sliding quietly out of the conference room.
My office door remained open so I could see the two men were wearing matching suits. “Special Agents Capp and Dixon?” I closed my office door.
The one of the left looked surprised. “Yes. How do you know our names?”
I had to force down my desire to be sarcastic. I needed to be cool and emotionless. “I make it a point to know who follows me around like a lost puppy. Can I get you anything to drink?” I didn’t plan on actually getting them anything. I wanted to sound bored when really I wanted to throw them both out the window.
“No thank you. Mr. Hancock we’re here because we need to ask you to come with us.”
I sat behind my desk. “Go with you? Where? Why?” The hell I was going anywhere with these two.
“We need to ask you a few questions.”
“You can ask them here.”
The one on the left fixed me with a stern look that I’m sure was his I mean business look. It was highly ineffective in my opinion. I’d be laughed out of contract negotiations if made such ridiculous expressions. “Mr. Hancock, we have questions that need to be asked on the record. You can come with us willingly or we can arrest you. It’s your choice.”
I faked a shiver. “Oh, so very serious. I’m appropriately terrified. Sit your asses down if you want to talk to me. I’m sure your phones have the ability to make recordings?”
Capp and Dixon glanced at each other. I liked that they looked thrown. Flustered people don’t think clearly.
Dixon shrugged and pulled out his phone. He rattled off the date and location before asking me to confirm my identity and that I consented to the recording. “You understand that you’re voluntarily answering our questions without a lawyer present?”
“Yes I do. I have nothing to hide, gentlemen. Ask your questions.”
“What is your relationship with Dr. Rosalind Brown?”
Dixon nodded because he already knew this. “She is currently living with you, correct?”
“You know this. You sit outside our house like a stalker.”
Another one of those limp expressions crossed his face before he looked down at his notes. “Has she ever been allowed access to this office while you were gone?”
I admit his question threw me and I let that confusion show. “Not that I’m aware of.”
“You’ve never left her alone in here when she was visiting you for sex on your lunch break?”
I damn near lunged across my desk for that comment—but I didn’t because that was exactly what he wanted. Somehow I managed to encapsulate myself in stone instead. “Esme has never been alone in my office that I am aware of.”
“What about this floor? All of Bancroft Sports? Is she allowed to walk freely up here?” Capp asked.
I slowly turned my attention to him. “No. As I’m sure you’re aware we have a strict security protocol. All guests must be signed in. They’re accompanied by a security guard.”
“But after? She could have walked around?”
Could she have? Probably. Had she? No. She’d only visited my office a few times and on each occasion I never let her out of my sight, for obvious reasons. “Not that I’m aware of. She is always escorted to my office and then I escort her out.”
“What about at home?” Capp pushed. “You have a home office? Do you have files there? Does she have access to your laptop?”
What the actual fuck kind of questioning was this? My stomach twisted. “Yes I have a home office. No she doesn’t have access to my laptop.”
“You are aware that Dr. Brown is capable of cracking passwords, correct?” That was Capp again.
I set my jaw. “I am aware that Esme is brilliant and it does not surprise me in the least she would be able to hack my computer if she so desired. But to answer your next question, because I can already see it on the tip of your tongue, I know she hasn’t hacked my computer because we employ the best cyber security in the business. We have to in order to protect our clients. My laptop requires two passwords and a fingerprint to access. Also, our security team monitors every single piece of electronics from our cell phones to our desktops. She hasn’t accessed my data, but that isn’t how I really know for certain.”
Dixon’s head snapped up. I had both men’s full attention. “How do you know for certain?”
If I was reading their line of questioning correctly, they were under the impression Esme was using me to obtain sensitive information. My Esme. The anthropologist who loved her students and her lab. The delicate woman I’d been learning moan by moan. If she was using me I’d eat my own hand.
“Two reasons.” My mind was a wreck. It collected and discarded possibilities with each heartbeat. “One, I’m not an idiot. I have eyes and the ability to reason. I’ve never once seen her act in a manner that would cause me to question her behavior.”
She was protective of herself, closed off but not a liar. If anything, she’d given me information, not the other way around.
“And what’s the second reason? Mr. Hancock?”
I had to force myself to focus on Capp’s ugly face as he repeated the question.
“Because.” I ran my hand over my chin. I wondered what these two were going to think about my answer. I wondered how I was going to feel about it later. “She simply could have asked me for it.”
Dixon blinked. “You would have given it to her? Are you admitting to this?”
I still didn’t know what this was. “No. I’m simply stating a fact. She hasn’t asked for anything, but she knows she could.” She could ask me to jump off the Skyway to prove my love and I’d do it.
“So you’re admitting to what exactly?” Capp scratched his temple.
Jesus, these guys were dumber than rocks. “I’m telling you that whatever you’re thinking, it’s wrong.” It was as if they thought she was a spy or something.
Fuck, she wasn’t a spy, was she? No. Maybe a corporate spy? No, still no.
But then again, she did tell me she wasn’t a victim. She was exactly where she wanted to be . . .
“So if there are no more questions.” I needed these men to leave because something terrible and brilliant had just occurred to me and I needed to talk to Esme now.
“We have literally dozens of questions,” Dixon frowned.
“Yes, well. I have a meeting. Why don’t you give me the address of where you’d like to interview me? I’ll meet you there at five.”
“Five?” Capp repeated.
“Yes. At the end of the workday. Are you aware you don’t need to haul people off? That you can make appointments?”
IF YOU HAVEN’T READ:
EPISODE ONE| EPISODE TWO | EPISODE THREE | Episode Four | Episode Five | Episode Six | Episode Seven | Episode Eight | Episode Nine | Episode Ten | Episode Eleven | Episode Twelve | Episode Thirteen | Episode Fourteen | Episode 15 | Episode 16 | Episode 17 | Episode 18 | Episode 19 | Episode 20
Thank you for reading episode 21 of Reckless Kiss! New episodes will release in my newsletter every Tuesday. If you enjoy this story please check out my free book Tease. It has a very similar style, level of heat, and types of characters and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Some characters from my previous books will be appearing in this serial. If you haven’t already, check out When Lighting Strikes, to read Marie Bancroft Hamilton’s story, Summer Heat, Night Games, and Last Fall to meet more of the Bancroft Sports gang. (But you absolutely do not need to in order to enjoy Reckless Kiss. This book is 100% it’s own story!)