The Billionaire's Seduction(10)

By: Kristi Avalon


On her mother’s deathbed, she’d lied.

She’d told the woman who’d sacrificed everything for her, that she’d start her own business, become her own boss, because she wanted to. But she hadn’t.

Mom had been obsessed with the notion. Sohpia was here, today, in this abysmal room, because of that unwavering dedication to Mom’s dream.

“Sophia,” Liam prodded gently. “Have you ever lied to someone you respect? Someone you love—?”

“Stop. I have,” she interrupted his repetition. As she moved the cap to the middle, closest to her heart, she felt remorse. An innate internal failing that she couldn’t grasp or explain.

“I see.” His hand touched hers, and she would’ve given anything for that warmth to stay. “Can you tell me about that experience?”

A hard shiver came over her. “Actually, I wish anyone had asked me that. Years ago.” Unexpected tears pressed against the backs of her eyes. She focused on the cap beneath her forefinger, making figure-eight patterns with it. “Mom wanted me to start my own business. She’d encouraged me toward that for as long as I can remember. She’d worked for other people all her life. She’d tried to take out a loan to buy a house when I was a kid, but she was denied for lack of credit. So I’ve spent my life making my credit spotless. I am about to make her dream—our dream—come true,” she said.

Her heart lay heavy in her chest.

She stared Liam straight in the eye. “If the price I pay for following a dream is why you’re here, then you can tell Mr. Atlas I’m guilty.”

His eyes widened.

“I’m guilty of wanting to be my own woman. To have my own business. To make my own money, independent of anyone else.” She was done with this interrogation. “Tell Mr. Atlas, if he’s mad about me leaving his company, we could’ve solved this over a drink.” She crossed her arms defiantly. “I have nothing more to say.”

A broad smile spread across Liam’s lips.

The effect dazzled her to the point of dizziness. He stood abruptly. “I’ll let him know. We’re done here.”

Oh. Okay. About time.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

He looked deeply into her eyes as if he could see her soul. Those tropical eyes were stormy, roiling, unfathomable. They took her breath away. “We’ll see each other again, Sophia.”

I hope so.

But the second he turned his back on her and closed the door behind him, she knew Mr. Atlas would demand a full report—if he hadn’t been watching every word via the cameras—and come to his own conclusion. She feared that what little hope she dared to put in Liam might not be enough.

She might need to demand her purse, with her cell phone in it, and finally call that lawyer.

*

Liam Soren had never left an interrogation speechless.

Today was a first.

What the hell had Alex Atlas been thinking? Asking him to travel from Denver to Las Vegas on a private jet, last minute, just so Liam could tell him that his accused had not committed a crime? Atlas had authorized him—encouraged him—to harshly interrogate the brazen thief caught red-handed.

Only, Sophia was no thief.

That reality had been painfully obvious the second he’d walked into the room and stopped short. The women held in the space he’d just left had nothing to do with the theft Atlas had accused her of committing. She didn’t have it in her.

Then again, Liam had grown accustomed to noticing details about people that others missed. He’d made a good living at it during his bounty hunter days, and had perfected the ability over years of self-taught training.

To the untrained eye, he supposed his uncanny accuracy could seem borderline spooky. The way he solidified deals with difficult clients. The way he could reach into someone’s psyche and extract their hopes and fears, discern lies from truth.

He’d had nothing to gain by putting Sophia through the usual rounds of tactical manipulation and observation. That’s when he’d come up with the idea to use the water bottle cap to make her more comfortable communicating. She didn’t deserve to be manipulated. She was suffering enough.

In no way shape or form had Sophia embezzled fifteen million dollars from the Atlas empire.

The notion bordered on ludicrous. In fact, she had caught Liam off guard when he’d walked through the door, the polar opposite of what he’d expected. The first few minutes of the interview confirmed it. Her eyes were haunting…round, innocent, so stunning at first he thought she wore colored contacts. But no, her eyes were naturally a clear, burnished brown, a few shades lighter than her hair. They resembled dark amber—almost bronze—like two shining pennies, and they’d quickly solidified her innocence. She was one of the few people he’d ever come across who possessed zero guile. She couldn’t lie her way out of a paper bag, let alone cover up an outrageously bold act of grand larceny.