Page 90 of Coercion

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“And—” Another name, too quiet to hear.“Keep an eye on him, okay?He’s been handsy with the servers.I warned him away, but if he keeps it up, security needs to escort him out.Quietly.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Vivian wrinkles her nose.“Really?Ma’am?”

“It’s respectful.”Joe grins.

“Call me Vivian.”

“Ms.Constantine.Final offer.”

She rolls her eyes.“That’s not better.At least once a day, I think about buying a fake identity, dyeing my hair, and disappearing in the night.”

That.That right there.Sounds like a joke.It’s not.I know that cadence, that delivery, like the back of my hand or the color of my brother Emerson’s eyes.First, because he has the same eyes as me, and second, because he says things like that all the time.Like a joke, but it’s true.

The bartender’s eyes flick over me, never landing, and then he leans in and says something to the woman.Vivian Constantine.Her sister Elaine has made the gossip rags enough that I might recognize her.Not Vivian, though.She would never make it above the fold on TMZ.If she’s anywhere she’s probably on some society page covering an art museum opening.That’s what she’s doing here, even as she sips her Moscow Mule.She’s watching over her family like a mother hen.

“It’s harder to disappear into the night than it used to be.”I take a sip of my scotch.“What with facial recognition and IP tracking.”

She changes.Just like that.Stands up straight.Her eyes go sharp.Vivian looks me up and down, and it’s not just the back of my neck.It’s every tiny hair on my body, pulled up tight.Then she’s moving toward me, a crackle in the air around her.She steps deliberately into my space.“Who are you?”

“See something you like?”

She snorts.“Hardly.”

I give her a little smile.She’s lying.I normally wear adventure clothes, but I look damn good in a suit.And she noticed.

“Sinclair Leblanc.”

A small pause.“Leblanc.”

“You’ve probably met Will.He works with Phineas.”


“And my brother is married to a Morelli.Which I suppose makes us…what?Enemies?”

“The feud is ancient history.”

“Ancient, hmm?”


“I’m always interested when people try to insist that something’s dead and buried.It’s the journalist in me.”

Her eyes narrow.She doesn’t like that.She likes me in a suit, but not the fact that I’m someone who asks questions for a living.“Why are you here?”

The fabric of her dress can’t hide how gorgeous her body is.Plain.Ordinary.That’s what the dress is trying to say.It lies, the same way she lies.“I’m enjoying the view.That’s what I’m doing here.Admiring the show.”

Two blonde eyebrows go up.“The show?”

“The one where you pretend to be a liar.Do you always tell the innocent bartender your secrets while you’re babysitting an entire ballroom?”

For less than a second, her face freezes.Then it’s right back to business as usual.“You’ve had too much to drink.”

“When you have your fake identity and your new hair, where’s your private plane going to touch down?”

Another freeze, followed by a laugh that vibrates through the ice in my drink on a soft, untouchable frequency.“That was a joke.”

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