Outside the gloomy, gray day seems fitting, as if the universe is in sync with my feelings. Caught up in my head, at first I’m startled as a strong arm grabs me from behind, pulling me into the alleyway just a half a block away from my intended lunch destination. But something familiar hits me, and for a few short seconds, I think it’s Vinny being playful. Then my arm’s wrenched back further, causing pain to shoot from my shoulder to my wrist, and I realize I’m wrong…Vinny would never hurt me.

One of the hands gripping me moves to cover my mouth and the other locks both my hands in one of his, using a shoulder to slam my back into a brick wall. Hard. The force knocks the wind right out of me.

“What kind of a game do you think you’re playing, Miss Michaels?” My eyes widen to find Senator Knight’s face inches from mine, scathing anger mars his normally perfectly refined features, his practiced smile nowhere to be found.

His hand tightly over my mouth, I couldn’t respond if I wanted to, although it doesn’t take long to realize he wasn’t expecting a response.

“My life has value. Unlike that drug addict and her violent spawn. If you think you can just waltz in and destroy me, you’re sadly mistaken. No one will give a shit if they were to be lost in a tragic accident. Do you understand me?” He increases the pressure on his hand covering my mouth.

I stare, frozen in place, unable or unsure if I’m expected to respond this time.

“Do you understand me?” he screams loudly, his eyes wild, our faces nose to nose. It’s not the volume that scares me, it’s the anger and desperation in his voice that makes me believe his words are more than just a threat. I shake my head as much as I can with his hand still pressed to my mouth, pinning me against and the wall.

“And this time, I won’t show any mercy.” His voice is so detached, there’s no question in my mind that he’s capable of what he promises. Senator Knight’s hand at my mouth loosens slightly, “Kill the story. Or whatever happens is on you.”

Releasing me from his grip, he stands tall, straightening his suit and running his hands through his hair to tame the few strands that dared fall out of place. The smile I’d met when I interviewed him slips back into position. An icy chill sweeps over my body at how easily this man can transform. Taking one step back, he smiles at me, every bit the perfect politician the world thinks he is. “Good day, Miss Michaels,” he nods his head and turns.

I watch from the alley, still unable to move from where he held me against the wall, as a dark town car pulls up to the curb just as he exits the alleyway. Opening the back door, he gracefully steps in and never looks back. The entire two minute exchange is so surreal, it makes me wonder if I’ve just dreamt it.

Chapter 44



It’s been two days since Senator Knight’s visit, yet I still can’t get his threats out of my head. Sometimes my heart tells me one thing, and my head tells me another, leaving me conflicted as to how I’m supposed to feel. Senator Knight’s visit did not leave me feeling there was any room to wonder if his threats were serious. My heart and head both in agreement, his words were not a veiled threat. They were a promise. One I’m certain he would make good on and then go about his day as if whatever heinous acts he has committed, never even happened.

I need to take my mind off of work for a little while, the only problem is that my work and personal life have become so tightly entwined, it’s difficult to know where one starts and the other ends. Two days without seeing Vinny leaves me feeling anxious and sad, I can’t imagine what a lifetime would do to me.

Walking into the restaurant where I’m supposed to meet Ally for drinks before dinner with Vinny, I’m surprised to find her waiting with her brother Matthew.

“Hey,” I smile and greet Matthew, who stands as I approach. “This is a nice surprise. Ally didn’t tell me she was bringing her bodyguard.” Matthew’s five years older, he’s always been our protector. Only now it’s official, since he’s a detective with the Chicago PD.

“Someone’s gotta keep an eye on you ladies.” Matthew leans down and kisses me on the cheek. “Plus, she talked me into driving her here.”

“Driving her here? It’s only a six block walk,” I question, as I shrug off my jacket, which Matthew is behind me to quietly take. Such a gentleman, he reminds me a lot of his dad. When I was little, I remember going places with the Landry’s and always loving the way Mr. Landry jogged around the car to open Mrs. Landry’s door for her. It’s funny the things you take away from watching adults as a child that stick with you.

“I can’t walk six blocks in these.” Ally points down to her black open toe shoes. Silver buckles adorn the front, clasping the black leather material together from just above the toes to high on the ankle. The inside of the six inch heel is a bright girly pink, a stark contrast to the sleek, rockeresque shoe you see from the front.

“I don’t get why she buys shoes she can’t walk more than a few steps in,” Matthew says, smiling and shaking his head. Turning his attention to the bartender pouring drinks at the other end of the long bar, he motions with a simple wave of his hand for her to come over. “Still drinking cheap wine?” He looks to me for confirmation and I nod and smile.

Leaning on her brother’s shoulder, Ally responds to Matthew’s earlier comment, “I wear them because they’re hot.”

“Creepy Al. My sister’s shoes can never be hot. Nothing about my sister is hot.”

“Bet you would think they were hot on Liv.” She teases, something catching her attention from the other end of the bar, Ally waves to a guy with a goatee. “I’m gonna go say hi, he’s in one of my classes. Watch as my shoes work their magic.”

A full hour goes by and Ally never glances back in our direction…so much for happy hour drinks with my best friend. Although it gives Matthew and me a chance to catch up. It’s been a long time since we’ve really talked. When Ally and I first moved in together, he helped us move and then even came by a few times with his girlfriend Brie.

“How’s Brie?”

Matthew shrugs, “Over.”

“What happened, she seemed really nice?”

“She was. Just wasn’t there.” His face sincere, almost saddened at the recollection, Matthew draws a long pull on his beer and sets it down on the bar. “Can’t control it, although life would be a hell of a lot easier if you could.”

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