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Thank God for the wine. Tilting my head back, I close my eyes, the spellbinding voices of Mirella Freni and Pavarotti weaving their magic through my house. I’m calm, which should alarm me, but after my hysterics this morning, I have given into my fate. I know what I have done is horrible. So wrong, that it doesn’t matter anymore. As soon as I land in Manhattan, I will have to atone for my sins.

Lifting my head, I blink at the large living room. Yellow, it’s my favorite color. It makes everything cheerful and fresh.

I love my house and my neighborhood. It has green lawns, and everyone has a dog, a kid, or both. It’s home. So why do I feel like I might not be seeing it for a while? Shaking away my morose thoughts, I stand and take my empty wineglass into the kitchen and rinse it. Looking longingly at the half-empty bottle, I know I need to stop. I have responsibilities, and it’s not like I can go ahead and drink the whole bottle and forget. I’ve tried that, yet somehow I still remember, still crave him, hate him.

The doorbell rings and energy instantly surges through my body. A wave of dizziness seizes me. Slowly, I walk to my front door taking deep, calming breaths. Hesitating a moment, I unlock my two dead bolts and open it.

It’s like I have gone back in time. Except Jay is in Santa Monica, California instead of New York. He looks the same. The man must be in his midforties, but he looks the same.

“Jay, thank God they sent you.”

The tears sting my eyes. He removes his mirrored aviators, his dark suit looking out of place in my family neighborhood.

“Tess, you get more beautiful every time I see you.” His smile is real. Not being able to stop, I throw myself into his arms.

He stiffens at first, then pulls me in for a tight, warm hug.

“I’m sorry,” I mumble. “I know this is completely unprofessional.” Sniffling, I wish I had a Kleenex.

“I need a friend. Tell me you’re on my side. Please, Jay, I need at least one person from their camp on my side.” The wine has not helped. If anything, it’s making me lose it. I pull away and look at him. He does look good—besides the lines around his eyes, the man looks exactly the way he did when we were teenagers. Realizing that we are standing outside on my brick driveway, I motion for him to come in.

“Can I get you something to drink?” He looks around my house. His eyes zero in on my half-empty bottle of wine.

“I’m over twenty-one now, Jay. You don’t have to worry about losing your job,” I snip, suddenly feeling like I’m fifteen again.

“I never worried about losing my job.” He looks up and down at my décor. “That’s what always amused me with you three. So arrogant and sure of yourselves and how your lives were going to turn out.”

He puts his hands in his pockets. “Brad hired me to do a job, Tess. That job was to protect his sons and you. I gave them a detailed report every Monday morning at nine a.m. sharp on everything you guys did that week.”

“Brad had you spying on us?” I knew Brad was sneaky, but I had no idea he basically planted a mole in our group. Jay went everywhere with us. Jax was sure they had cameras. Instead, it was Jay.

“You ready to go back and face him?”

“Of course!”

“I hope so. Don’t show weakness. Otherwise, he will eat you up. And you could lose everything.”

I blink at him. His ominous words hang in the air. “He can’t hurt me unless I allow him to.”

Jay stops eyeing my walls and looks at me. “He can and he might. Wrap your mind around it.”

We’re both silent, letting his words sink in. Sighing, he stares at his polished shoes. “You did what you did. And now you need to come clean.”

I swallow and nod. “That’s why I’m going. Is…?” I swallow again, trying to relieve my dry throat. “Is he there?” I croak out.

Jay’s eyes assess me. “Picked him up this morning, dropped him off at the estate.” He turns away, again inspecting my art on the walls. Any other time I would happily discuss it, but not today, not right now.

“I need to know,” I say.

He keeps looking at one of my favorites. “What is it you need to know, Tess? I was told to come get you. Here I am. I was told to make sure you bring everything. I’m assuming you understand what that means and that you are cooperating?” He lifts a dark questioning brow at me.

I turn toward him, “Who said that?”


Panic races up my back, causing goose bumps on my arms.