Reckless Love: Episode 9

Reckless Love: Episode 9

 
 
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“We have to ditch these assholes.” I looked out the back of the car as we left The Hamiltons. As usual we had two cars following us. 

“You want to go to the bunker?”

I grabbed him by the tie. Not too hard, just enough to keep myself from coming apart. “Jonathan Eubank? This can’t be a coincidence. There’s too many possibilities right now. My head is spinning. I need data. I need to put all this up on the board and see what it looks like.”

Leo twisted his mouth off to the side. “All right, I’ve got a plan.”

I loved a man with a plan. Smart men were brain porn. Intelligent conversation put empty smiles and bad pickup lines to shame. To my surprise Leo drove me to campus, parked in the garage beside the research building, and parked. 

“What are we doing here?”

He killed the engine. “Throwing them off. You work strange hours. Maybe at dinner you realized you forgot something in your office or needed to do something at your desk.”

He exited the car and waited for me to join him, then escorted me to my office. He flipped on all the lights and moved around the blinds. “Turn on your computer. Look like you’re doing something professor-y.”

“Professor-y?” I sat at the desk and input my password. 

Leo concentrated on his phone. “Yeah. Grade a paper. Answer an email. Whatever it is you might do after dinner on a Wednesday night.” He pulled off his tie and removed his jacket. One by one he slid the buttons of his dress shirt free and for a moment I thought I might just be getting a little show.

But as it turns out Leo was just turning himself into a disheveled student.

I must admit I didn’t care for it. “I can see how the frat look is probably something you could pull off well but I much prefer the polished ‘designer suit look’ on you.” There was just something about his attention to detail that did it for me.

He ruffled his hair and untucked his white undershirt. “I’ll keep that in mind for future escape disguises. Now you.”

“Me?”

He spun my chair and leaned over me, his hands braced on the arms. “I love the pencil skirt and blouse but they’ve got to go. Professor Brown needs to become college senior Esme Brown.”

At first I panicked. Unlike Leo I couldn’t simply untuck a shirt and change how I looked. I was in heels! And dammit. My hair looked good tonight. I managed that perfect pin curl and it had held all through dinner. But then I remembered I kept a changed of clothes in my bottom drawer. 

I pulled out the stack of clothes, the toiletries kit, and the ball cap. I really didn’t want to put on the ball cap.

“Do you have an entire closet in there?” Leo chuckled. 

“As I’m sure will completely surprise you, I occasionally overwork and end up sleeping here.” I left the sweater in the bag. That was too close to my professor wardrobe, but the rest turned out to be pretty perfect. Five minutes later the curls were gone and I was in jeans and a funny shirt about being Wonder Woman. I even had a simple pair of Keds in there. 

“Hat,” Leo held it out.

I whimpered. “But my hair.”

“Looks good no matter what.” He kissed the top of my head. “I love how girly you are at the strangest times.”

“I love my hair.” I grumbled one more time, as if by making my disdain for the hat verbally it would somehow let my hair know I really regretted ruining it. “And I much prefer it when you’re the one sullying my hair.”

“Well,” he growled, putting his arms around me and gripping a fistful of hair, “then allow me the honor of sullying your hair before the hat goes on.”

I sighed as the tug on my hair sent tingles through my body. “Don’t make fun of my vocabulary choices.”

“Sully, sully, sully, sully,” he whispered softer and softer as he kissed my cheek, behind my ear and then down my throat. 

His phone dinged. He pulled back. “You ready?”

“For what?”

“Our escape, of course.” Then pants and moans and the clear sounds of hard fucking came from his phone. He set it on my desk and moved toward the door.

“I’m sorry . . . what is happening right now?”

He stopped with his hand on the door and a glint in his eyes. “Those bastards and agents that follow us around already think all we do in this office is fuck. So I’m playing a porno while we walk out the back door. With any luck they’ll never notice.”

And sure enough we did just that. We exited through the rear doors (the ones by the smelly dumpsters) walked across two more buildings and to an Uber waiting by the curb. We both checked ahead and behind us the entire drive but no one followed us, and since it was later at night it was much quieter on the roads. It was easy to pick out cars. 

“Do you really think they don’t know about this place?” Leo asked as the car pulled to a stop a block away from the bunker.

I shrugged. “I don’t think so. I’ve never seen them creeping around and I have security cameras posted in all directions. But even if they knew they clearly haven’t been able to get a warrant to go inside.” The moment this was over I was destroying everything. There were copies of the most important evidence in security deposit boxes. Everything else was getting shredded, burned, or wiped. 

I couldn’t wait.

We slipped in the side door. I disabled the security system and unlocked all the locks. Once we were inside I reengaged the security system and relocked all the locks. Someone would either need a teleporter or a superhero to get in here with us. 

I went straight to the wall and started stripping away the old ideas I’d unsuccessfully followed. “It’s not my father and I don’t think it’s anyone who works for him . . . ” I stopped with my hand over the photograph of my brother. I didn’t discard him. Instead I moved him to the top of the board.

“How can I help?”

“The computer. Over there. It has a virtual private network I configured myself. Can you look up Jonathan Eubank?”

“On it.” 

I did a double take of Leo’s ass as he sauntered across the room, then refocused on what I was doing. “I need pictures. Of Jonathan first, then all the rest of the commissioners.” I had to see them. It was how my brain ordered everything. That’s why the wall had been so instrumental in helping me reconstruct what I did a decade ago and what was happening now.

“And then after that can you analyze any odd plays from the last two weeks? Give me a list? Names and franchises would be helpful.”

It was late but I buzzed with adrenaline and the excitement that comes from feeling your goal finally in your grasp. Just one more hour and I might figure it out. Just one more minute and the answer might emerge.

I kept saying that for the next three hours as we covered my wall like a murder board. The commissioners on the left side, my brother in the middle, and all the strange, game changing plays we could identify on the right. 

I moved Jonathan’s picture over beside William’s. “They hated each other.”

“Sometimes hate is really a mask for something else. Fear, hurt, desire. It can even be a defense mechanism.”

“You’ve just described every student at Bellingers Prep.” Bellingers was the super exclusive school all of us heirs-to-fortunes attended. It was where Marie and Natalie’s father went, where I went, where William and Jonathan went. “You want to talk about toxic? We all hated each other. The bullying is insane. And then the really fun part: all these kids grow up and run their empires together.”

“It’s like royalty,” Leo mused. “Some of you are married off to merge fortunes, some are at war, secret back room dealings, spies . . . ”

“Spies,” I repeated. “You thought I was a spy.” That word niggled at me for some reason. “So William and Jonathan hated each other at prep school, but you’re saying that maybe it was a defense mechanism.” That might make sense. William was a pretty closed off kid except for me and a handful of friends. If anyone pushed, he pushed back. His walls were firm and impenetrable.

“Hate also makes sense though. Jonathan’s family is as fucked up as ours. His dad is a real asshole. I only know this because I remember a screaming match between him and Edmund and afterward my father called him a selfish asshole. I obviously found that to be pretty ironic, all things considered. But for a selfish asshole to call that out so emphatically I got the impression old Mr. Eubank was extra wonderful.”

And by wonderful I obviously meant a horrible, horrible human being.

“So your father is the devil incarnate and you see another kid in your class with a crappy home life, but he’s happy and popular . . . you get angry. Marie said William trained Jonathan in college?”

I nodded, trying to picture Jonathan as a kid. “All I remember is thinking he was scrawny. I don’t know enough about this time period to get anywhere today. Let’s skip to college. Something happened that changed everything. They became friends, they struck some sort of mutually beneficial deal.”

“The middle finger to their fathers?”

“Maybe? Edmund would shit a brick if he knew William played piano.” It was the stupidest thing and really said a lot about my father’s masculinity that it could be threatened by a musical instrument. 

“So this Jonathan kid never threw a ball with his dad and William looks like a linebacker. Maybe they decided to actually talk one day? Realized they didn’t really hate each other. Maybe they even realized they liked each other. It must be nice to have someone to vent to about your weird rich family.” Leo shrugged. 

I enjoyed having Marie to talk to these last few weeks. I hadn’t realized there was a hole in my life until she filled it. I had my work friends. They spoke my language and loved the same things I loved, but I could never relate to their lives outside of work. So yeah, maybe William and Jonathan found an unlikely but needed friendship in each other. 

“They go from pranking and hurting each other, to helping. Jonathan appears to be pretty fit these days.” Leo tapped the computer screen that had some pictures from an image search. 

The scrawny kid I remembered was definitely gone. Replaced by a very eligible bachelor. “How does a kid who never threw a ball wind up on the commission of the football league?”

“And are they still friends?”

Excellent question. “Maybe he just really loves football.”

“Or,” Leo frowned, “maybe he really loves gambling.”

I turned to look at Leo. “My motivation was revenge. That doesn’t necessarily mean I share the same motivation with whoever is behind this. You think it might solely be financial?”

I always felt—down to my bones—the connection was personal but I couldn’t ignore the reality. Fixing games meant millions of dollars every single week was being controlled by whoever was doing this. They decided who won and who lost, and, by association, who made millions and who lost them.

“I think we’re missing another very big piece of the pie here.”

“Vegas,” Leo said simply.

“If this is about the money then we have to go to the source. There has to be a connection to the betting houses. Those odds are specifically calculated.”

“Specific calculations that can be manipulated by certain players on the field.”

We both turned back to the dozens of players we thought were involved. “We need one of them to talk.”

Leo put his arm around me and tucked me against his chest as he kissed the top of my head. “We will. I’ll make sure of it.”

 

Thank you for reading Episode 9!

Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9

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