High-Powered, Hot-Blooded(3)

By: Susan Mallery


“Just tell me,” she said quickly. “What did he do?”

“He embezzled from my company.”

The room tilted slightly. Annie’s stomach lurched and she wondered if she was going to join little Cody in throwing up on her skirt.

Tim had stolen from his employer. She wanted to ask how that was possible, but she already knew the answer. Tim had a problem. He loved to gamble. Loved it way too much. Living only a five-hour drive from Las Vegas made the problem even more complicated.

“How much?” she asked in a whisper.

“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

Her breath caught. It might as well be a million. Or ten. That was too much money. An impossible amount to pay back. He was ruined forever.

“I can see by the look on your face, you didn’t know about his activities.”

She shook her head. “The last I heard, he loved his job.”

“A little too much,” Duncan said drily. “Is this the first time he’s embezzled?”

She hesitated. “He’s, um, had some problems before.”

“With gambling?”

“You know?”

“He mentioned it when I spoke with him earlier today. He also told me that he owned a house and that the value exceeded the amount he’d stolen.”

Her eyes widened. “No way. He didn’t.”

“I’m afraid he did, Ms. McCoy. Is this the house he meant?”

Now she really was going to be sick. Tim had offered the house? Her house? It was all she had.

When their mother had died, she’d left them the house and an insurance policy to split. Annie had used her half of the insurance money to buy Tim out of the house. He was supposed to use the money to pay off his college loans and put money down on a place of his own. Instead he’d gone to Vegas. That had been nearly five years ago.

“This is my house,” she said firmly. “Mine is the only name on the deed.”

Nothing about Duncan’s cold expression changed. “Does your brother own other property?”

She shook her head.

“Thank you for your time.” He turned to leave.

“Wait.” She threw herself in front of the door. Tim might be a total screw-up but he was her brother. “What happens now?”

“Your brother goes to jail.”

“He needs help, not prison. Doesn’t your company have a medical plan? Can’t you get him into a program of some kind?”

“I could have, before he took the money. If he can’t pay me back, I’ll turn him over to the police. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, Ms. McCoy.”

“Annie,” she said absently. It was more money than he knew. “Can’t Tim pay you back over time?”

“No.” He glanced around at her living room again. “But if you’d be willing to mortgage your house, I would consider dropping the charges.”

Mortgage her… “Give up where I live? This is all I have in the world. I can’t risk it.”

“Not even for your brother?”

Talk about playing dirty.

“You wouldn’t lose your house if you made regular payments to the bank,” he said. “Or do you have a gambling problem, too?”

The contempt in his voice was really annoying, she thought as she glared at him. She took in the perfectly fitted suit, the shiny gold watch that probably cost more than she made in three months and had a feeling that if she looked out front, she would see a pretty, new, fancy, foreign car. With good tires.

It was too much. She was tired, hungry and this was the last problem she could deal with right now.

She grabbed the electric bill from the in-box and waved it in front of him.

“Do you know what this is?”

“No.”

“It’s a bill. One I’m late on. Do you know why?”

“Ms. McCoy…”

“Answer the question,” she yelled. “Do you know why?”

He looked more amused than afraid, which really pissed her off. “No. Why?”

“Because I’m currently helping to support my two cousins. They’re both in college and have partial scholarships, and their mom, my aunt, is a hairdresser and has her own issues to deal with. Have you seen what college-age girls eat? I don’t know how they get it all down and stay skinny, but they do. Follow me.”

She walked into the kitchen. Surprisingly Duncan came after her. She pointed at the dry-erase board. “You see that? Our family schedule. Kami is an exchange student. Well, not really. She was in high school. She’s from Guam. Now she goes to college here. She’s friends with my cousins and can’t afford her own place. So she lives here, too. And while they all help as much as they can, it isn’t much.”

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