The ringing phone continued to vibrate in her hand. Hunched over and using her knees for support, she wiped the back of her hand across her mouth. Another wave of nausea rolled through her and she fought to keep it together. Straightening her stance, she whipped the phone to her ear. “Yeah?”
“I’m coming,” she said, the words clipped.
“You’d better be.” His voice crowded out everything in her mind. Everything except fear. “You have it?”
She looked down the plunging neckline into where she’d stuffed the jump drive. “Yeah.” She stood, commanding herself to focus. “Yes,” she said louder, trying to force steel into her voice. “I’m almost there.” He hadn’t taken her condition into account. Of course, he couldn’t.
“You have two minutes.”
“Damien, I said I have it. I’ll be there in thirty seconds.” The line went dead and she continued up another flight of stairs, being careful not to catch her heels on a lip. The fluorescent hotel lighting outside each room wavered dim and all she could smell was the foul stench of popcorn and footlong hotdogs from the carnival around the corner.
Door 306 swung open, bathing the hallway in murky cigarette smoke. Damien stepped through the door. His physique used to feel like coming home, but he now repulsed her- the swanky gray work shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, the sleeves rolled as if she were joining him for drinks. She clenched her jaw, tilting it upwards as if she were in control.
He glanced down the hallway and yanked on her wrist to pull her inside. “Where is it?” His ice blue eyes were laced with red and the scent of mouthwash danced on his words.
“Someone’s going to find out,” she said. She wasn’t sure if she meant for the double entendre to leak through her words.
The smack came so fast she never saw it coming. Her hand flew to her jaw, to catch the sting, to strangle her cry.
“Why are you doing this?” she fired back.
He scoffed at her. “You didn’t think it was so bad, when you were on the receiving end. No one forced your hand, Jilly.”
The name was a slip. He used to call her that in the beginning. He wasn’t totally wrong. She had enjoyed sneaking around with him. Something about the forbidden nature of an office romance. But then things got out of control. By the time she realized the money they’d been skimming wasn’t the first time, wasn’t the tiny amount he’d claimed, the signs of the life inside her had already started.
“Give it to me,” he said, cutting the distance between them.
She swallowed, dabbed at the blood on the corner of her mouth, smoothed her auburn hair behind her ear and hardened her gaze. Slowly, as if a lover’s taunt, she reached down her shirt and pulled out the drive.
Relief washed through his features, softening the creases around his eyes. She hated herself for the thrill that shot through her at the amount of power she palmed with that little drive. The account number for a bank account was worthless. She was sure he’d masked his identity. But the list of shell corporations purging the money of any illegal stench was something else. She’d compiled the list.
As it had been so eloquently explained to her, it was the list, or her life.
It implicated her as much as it did him, so the odds of her going to the cops were slim. But, Damien was never one for loose ends.
“Here,” she said, her voice soft and gritty.
He snatched it from her, holding it up to the light like a prize.
The words sat on her lips. She owed him the truth. He was the father of her child, after all. Maybe it didn’t have to be this way. She had proved herself by showing up, by bringing the drive. Maybe it was the fear driving him to this insanity. Even though she hated him, she loved him. A love tortured and strangled by secrets and half-truths. They could start again. She opened her mouth.
Damien pocketed the drive.
“I’m pregnant,” she said, the words flying out of her.
His mouth dropped, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he tried to process. “What?”
She blinked, nodding, her breathing shallow. Waiting.
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