The Billionaire's Embrace Page 58

“You’ve said that before,” I said. Careful, careful. “Doesn’t that seem a little, I don’t know, Mission Impossible? I’m not saying you’re imagining things, but maybe the stress—”

“Yeah, maybe,” he said, wiping his face again, but then he shook his head. “No. I’m not going crazy. There’s been a white van parked outside my house for the last two months, and another one outside the office. What are they doing there, listening for signals from UFOs? Somebody’s following me.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I said again. “Look, why don’t you tell me what happened, and I’ll see if there’s anything I can do to help.”

“Thanks, Sutton,” he said, with an expression of such naked gratitude that I had to look away. I couldn’t believe he was so naive, but desperation had made people do far more foolish things than this. He was a frightened, hunted man, and he had turned to me because he didn’t know where else to go.

We sat there in the restroom of the Silver Cross while he told me everything: the insider trading, the Mafia connections. I listened, and nodded when appropriate, and prayed that my wire was picking it up.

His torrent of words ended finally, and he sat there and stared at the floor, empty, a ruined man.

“Let me make some calls tomorrow,” I said. “I can’t make any promises, but...” I trailed off, letting my silence make the false promise for me.

“Thanks,” he said. “Thank you. I really appreciate it. Anything you can do. I’ll be—I’ll owe you.” He looked up, and as our eyes met, I saw in his the knowledge of how little his gratitude meant to me. What benefit could I gain from having him in my debt? He was grateful, yes, but he also hated me for it, for the fact that he had cause to be grateful.

I looked away. The entire situation made me feel dirty. I wanted to go home and call the FBI and wash my hands of all of it.

The party dragged on for several hours more, until finally even the most die-hard of partiers realized it was after midnight on a work night, and packed it in for home. Alone, I gathered my things, settled my bill with Germaine, and left the club—possibly for the last time.

Well. Goodbye to all that.

Chapter 19

“We got it,” Hernandez said, sounding giddy. “Everything.”

“Everything?” I asked, not quite believing my ears.

“Everything,” he repeated. “The whole confession. This is the last piece we need to put him away. He’s going to jail for a long time. The Bureau is your debt, Sutton.”

Too many people were indebted to me. I didn’t want any of it. “My duty as a patriot,” I said, trying to keep things light.

“We may need you to testify at some point,” Hernandez said. “I hope that won’t be a problem.”

“I would prefer not to, but I will if it’s necessary,” I said. Hackett was no idiot; he would put two and two together and figure out that I had betrayed him—and I didn’t want to face him in a courtroom and see his hatred shining from his eyes.

“Of course,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully it won’t come to that. Thanks again. We’ll be in touch.”

We hung up, and I rubbed my hands over my face and exhaled noisily. That was it. A year of work, and it was all over.

I had expected to feel proud or victorious. Instead, I merely felt empty.

I stood up from my desk and walked over to the window, gazing down at the sidewalks far below, bustling with people, all of whom had their own lives, their own stories. I had interrupted Hackett’s. Every line he wrote, from now on, would be guided by the hand of my treachery.

I couldn’t think of it like that. I had done the country a service. Hackett broke many laws, and destroyed many people’s dreams for a secure retirement, and he deserved whatever punishment was deemed suitable to fit his crime.

The words rang hollow even to me. I sighed and turned away from the view of the city. I was becoming melodramatic in my old age. My conscience would forgive me, surely, given enough time.

It was 4:30: time enough to accomplish some decent work before the end of the day, but I didn’t feel like working anymore. I firmly told myself that I had been putting in 60-hour weeks for years, and it was okay to play hooky on the occasional Friday afternoon. Regan was still at work, of course, but I called her anyway.

To my surprise, she picked up on the third ring. “Carter? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, of course,” I said, puzzled. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Well, you usually just send a text message,” she said. “But, I mean, I’m happy to talk to you even if it’s not an emergency. How was your party last night?”

“We got him,” I said. “He spilled it. Everything. I talked to my contact earlier, and they got everything on tape. Every word.”

“That’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Congratulations. I know how much time you’ve spent working on that case.”

“Yes, well,” I said. “I lied to his face and told him that his secrets were safe with me. They weren’t, of course.”

“You’re feeling guilty?” she asked. “Don’t. Obviously I don’t really know what he did, but if the FBI is investigating him, I’m sure he’s done all sorts of terrible things. He probably lied to a lot of people, right? So if you have to lie a little in order to catch him, that’s okay.”

I let out a slow breath and closed my eyes. Regan’s absolution, for whatever reason, lightened the load I had been carrying on my shoulders since the night before. “I know. You’re right. It’s just that I try so hard to be honest in all of my dealings.”

“I know,” she said. “And you are, right? With people who deserve it. He didn’t deserve it. This doesn’t make you a bad person! Do you want me to come over tonight? I think I should. You need some distracting. We can make dinner and, you know.”

I grinned. Regan, for all her sensual abandon in bed, was completely unable to talk about sex in anything more than vague euphemisms. “Oh, I know,” I said. “Tell me what you’re wearing under your clothes.”

“I’m at work,” she said, and I could hear her blushing. “I have to go. I’ll come over as soon as I’m done with work, okay?”

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