My heart sank a little. “All over?”
“Now that they’ve met you, they’re going to be hounding me nonstop about you. Don’t think for one second this is going to be your last Landon family dinner.”
I laughed. “Listen to you, Mr. Angst. You make them sound so burdensome. You’re incredibly lucky.”
Our eyes met and he took my hand as we walked. “I don’t mean it like that. They’ve always been great. I guess I was too caught up in being with you to realize that you’d probably enjoy this a lot more than I typically do.”
“I don’t have much to compare it to, but I’d give anything to have a family like yours, you know? Don’t ever take them for granted, Blake. Everything can change in an instant.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Ahead of us, at the edge of the enormous property, stood a gazebo. We walked up some old wooden steps from the beach. Inside, the structure was ornately built and offered an impressive view of the skyline. Daylight was fading now, and the ocean air cooled around us. I sat close to Blake, and he wrapped an arm around me as we settled back to take in the scenery. I rested my head on his shoulder as he traced circles down my arm.
“You were right about Risa,” I said after a while.
“Yeah. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“I think so. My question is, how did you?”
He stayed silent.
He sucked in a slow breath that whistled through his teeth. “You’re not going to like it.”
“So what? Tell me.”
He pushed the errant strands of hair away from his face only to have them fall back. “I hacked your email account.”
I stilled. “What?”
“I was worried about you.”
“That’s a major invasion of privacy, Blake! Why—”
“Trust me, I wasn’t the only one worried about you. Marie even reached out to me at one point to grill me about what I did to upset you so much.”
My jaw dropped. Marie. Damn it all.
“I just wanted to take a spin through your mail to see if there was anything I should be concerned about. While I was in there, I checked out Risa’s and Sid’s, purely out of curiosity since you’d decided to shut me out of the business for the time being.”
“And you saw her messages to Max?”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“I don’t understand why that specific information would be helpful to him though.”
“The investment company you told me about…the one who’s sending Trevor fat checks? It took me a while to get past all the layers of corporate privacy, but I finally tracked down the people behind it.”
“Seems like our friend Max is using the company as a front to fund Trevor’s efforts. He’s basically been paying Trevor to run this group and be a full time pain in my ass.”
“But the attacks stopped.”
“I’m not totally sure why, but my guess is that once he had an in with Risa, compromising the site was possibly doing more harm than good. Wasted effort maybe.”
“Why would he need our data though?”
“I have no idea. Have you spoken to her yet?”
“No, not yet. I’m not sure if she’ll tell me when she finds out she’s getting fired though.” I thought for a moment, trying to piece everything together. “Did she reach out to you for the meeting today?”
“No, I contacted her.”
“I wanted to feel her out. With very little effort, I’d convinced her to leave your company and come work for me, and we’d made plans for a more intimate dinner this weekend. She was willing to jump ship, screw your ex, and finagle herself into my business before we’d even gotten the bill.”
“You’re an asshole.” I started to move away but he pulled me back.
“What? I was testing her. Obviously I’m not interested. Relax, baby.”
“Why would that be so obvious? A few days before that Sophia was all over you, and I didn’t see you protesting.”
“You don’t need to worry about Sophia.”
I stood up and walked to the other side of the gazebo. I steadied my hands on the rail, holding on tightly as anger rushed over me anew.
“Sophia was here on business, like I said. Outside of our shared stake in her company, there’s nothing there beyond friendship.”
I turned to face him. “Maybe for you, but she’s borderline obsessed with you. Do you know how happy she must have been to know that I was out of the picture finally? She’s probably counting down the days until she can be your little submissive again. And for the record, I don’t appreciate you talking about our sex life with her.”
His brows drew together. “What do you mean?”
“Sophia told me about your little heart-to-heart.” I tried not to sound as bitter about it as I felt, but I couldn’t help it. That he’d confided in her hurt me more than I wanted to admit.
“Did she say something to you?”
“Yeah, she seemed really broken up that I was seemingly unable to satisfy your kink factor.” The sarcasm was coming out thick now.
He blew out a breath. “I’m sorry.”
“I know I might not be the most experienced person with this ‘lifestyle’ as she calls it, but I never thought you’d be one to kiss and tell, especially to her.”
“She asked about you. I told her we’d broken up, and she asked if you were submissive. I didn’t go into details, but I was kind of a mess at the time. She was trying to be a friend.”
“A friend? Are you kidding me?”
“I get it. You’re jealous. She’s jealous of you too, but I can’t cut her out of my life. You’re bound to run into her now and then with our business dealings.”
I started to leave.
He bolted up to stop me. “Erica, wait.”
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s go back to the house.”
He stood at the entrance and blocked me. “I didn’t know what to think about why you left, all right? I thought maybe I was too rough with you that last night we were together, and that’s not a conversation I can run by too many people. Frankly, I’m still worried that is why you left.”
The memory of that night invaded my thoughts. The intensity of letting him hurt me, of desperately wanting him to. What if I take things too far, and it’s something we can’t come back from? His words echoed through me. If he’d thought that’s why I left, I struggled to imagine how much that would have hurt him to believe it.