“No, I don’t!” She sat forward again and took my hands. “I’m trying, though. Explain it to me. What am I missing? I mean, I know in the grand scheme of things, dresses and earrings don’t really matter. I’m not that shallow. Sure, it was a Dior gown, but…we’re speaking of matters of the heart here. Right?”

“You could say that,” I said, standing up. “I don’t think I can do this without more coffee.”

Layla handed me her mug. “Fill me, bitch.”

Returning with full mugs, I resumed my place beside Layla. “So. He went to all this effort, right? Sent me anonymous ten-thousand-dollar checks every month for a year, then collected me and told me he owned me. Blindfolded me and got me to trust him, which isn’t easy. Told me he’d been watching me for a long time but wouldn’t say why. He got to know me. Showed me bits of who he was, and Layla—this man is incredible. I can’t even tell you. He’s huge and gorgeous and domineering and just totally alpha-male, but he’s thoughtful and attentive and considerate—”

Layla leaned close to me, interrupting. “When you say ‘huge,’ what exactly do you mean?” She grinned, biting her lip, eager for all the salacious details she knew I was holding back.

I couldn’t help a blush. “HUGE, Layla. Huge.” I grabbed her hands and squeezed. “He’s a f**king god. And I mean that very literally.”

Layla squealed, leaning back and giggling. “I knew it. I knew you were holding out on me. Tell me more!”

I had to sigh as I tried to figure out where to even start. “He’s a master of foreplay. He spent days, actual days, teasing me and torturing me. You sidetracked me earlier. One of the first things he told me was that he wouldn’t have sex with me unless I begged for it. Who even says that? I didn’t believe him, obviously. I mean, I don’t beg. Not anyone, not for anything. But he…I’m not gonna call it seduction, because that implies a sense of underhandedness or something. He just knew exactly what to do and what to say to make me crazy.”

I was glad for the opportunity to hide from the real issue for a few minutes. I wasn’t ready to talk about the way things had ended. I closed my eyes and relived the way he’d touched me. “I can’t even count how many times he made me come, Layla. And that’s all before he took off my blindfold. He never let me touch him. He was focused solely on making me insane, on making me come. And he succeeded. I’m still a bit sore.”

Layla groaned in frustration. “I’m so jealous of you right now, you don’t even know. I think I actually hate you a little bit.”

I nodded seriously. “You should. You absolutely should be very, very jealous.”


“I still don’t get it. He sounds amazing. Sexier than Alexander Skarsgård, richer than God, hung like a horse, able to make you come with mere words…what could possibly have gone wrong?”

I braced myself for the truth. Wrapped both hands around the scalding ceramic of the mug, accepting the burn on my palms for the distraction from the ache inside me. “He…was involved in Dad’s death.”

Layla spat coffee, swearing and wiping at her face. “He what?”

“That was his secret. That was the reason for the blindfold, for the secrecy, for the whole crazy way things happened. He thought I’d recognize him. I mean, I did, but I didn’t put things together until he explained what had happened.”

“Wait a goddamn minute.” Layla set her mug down, grabbed mine from me, and put it aside as well. “He told you? You didn’t, like, find out accidentally?”

I shook my head. “He told me. Yesterday morning. After the most—I don’t even know the word—after the most…earth-shaking sex I’ve ever had, he sat me down and told me he was involved in Daddy’s death.”

Layla just blinked at me for several moments. “Why? Why would he tell you? If you hadn’t figured it out by then, what are the chances you ever would have?”

I shrugged. “The chances of me ever putting two and two together on my own were very near absolute zero. I met him once, for, like, five seconds two months before Daddy’s death. That was it. One glimpse. And I never knew his name, never knew the role he played in Daddy’s business. There was no evidence connecting him, and there still isn’t, I don’t think. The police said it was a mugging gone wrong, and they closed the case when they never found a single shred of evidence after, like, two years of looking.”

Layla frowned. “So…what are you going to do? You found your father’s killer. So are you going to turn him in?”

I shrugged miserably. “It’s not that simple.”

“Not that simple? Jesus, Key! He murdered your father!”

I shot to my feet and paced away. “I know it’s not simple! But he didn’t kill my dad. Not really. It was an accident. Roth was trying to force Daddy to sell his company. He had this plan for a big merger, and Daddy’s company was a key component in the deal, but Daddy wouldn’t sell. So Roth…maneuvered him so he basically had to sell. But Dad…went a little crazy, Roth says. Got desperate. Showed up in Roth’s parking garage, threatening him with a gun. Daddy pointed it at Roth, and they ended up fighting over the gun. It went off, and…the bullet hit Daddy in the heart.” I stood at the window, staring out at the sunny summer day.

Layla remained sitting, thinking. “So he didn’t mean to. But that doesn’t change things. And…you said he maneuvered your dad into selling. What does that mean?”

I lifted a shoulder and shook my head, sniffing. “Apparently, according to Roth at least, Daddy was…not entirely legitimate.”

“Not legitimate? He sold f**king auto parts!”

“I know. That’s what I said. But apparently he was also into prostitution.”

“Says Roth.”

I nodded. “Yeah, says Roth. But why would he make that up? Why would he tell me all this if it wasn’t true? I wouldn’t have ever known any of it. And I mean, I was just a kid. Growing up, all I knew was that Daddy was gone a lot. He’d come home late at night and leave early. He could have been doing anything. People lead double lives all the time. I don’t know what to think, Layla! I don’t want to believe it about my father, but…it’s plausible.” I hesitated, thinking of a distinct memory from my childhood. “I remember, when I was thirteen, Daddy came home late one night. Super late. I was in bed asleep, and he came in to my room, pulled the blankets up over me. I woke up, and he sat down and gave me a hug. I remember…he smelled funny. Like perfume. But Mama never wore perfume, so I remember thinking it was odd. But I was half-asleep, so I just…figured it didn’t matter. I don’t know. But now? Either he was cheating, like, having an affair, or Roth is telling the truth about Daddy running a high-end escort service and…sampling the wares.”