Still The One (Family Stone #4 Jack)(8)

By: Lisa Hughey

Jack bristled. “Believe me I have a vested interest in this guy. He pissed in my backyard.” Besides the fact that he had a favor to repay to Judge Adams, the opportunity to give Ava peace of mind burned like a fire in his gut.

“Excellent.” Jillian sauntered to the door of her office and glanced back one more time. “This situation needs to have a happy conclusion.”

She closed the door with a muffled thump. And Jack and Bliss were alone for the first time in thirteen years.


Suddenly the silence was laden with tension. Jack needed to hold onto his anger. But it was hard to stay angry in the face of her obvious changes when what he really wanted to do was ask her what had happened to her. But that was far too personal a topic for the strangers they were now.

Anger. Anger. Anger. He tried to channel the anger so he could stay immune to the underlying sorrow that he sensed in her. “So Fernandez knows she’s escaped. Do you think he has any idea that Adams-Larsen was involved in relocating her?”

“Most people are unaware that we do anything but PR and image consulting.” Bliss ran one long elegant finger over a line of type in the report. “We’ve maintained a ninety-nine percent success rate with our clients by being overly cautious.”

Jack had been briefed by Judge Adams, Marsh Adams’s father, about the other more secretive services that the company offered. But it had been a very short and succinct recitation. They relocated witnesses and people in mortal danger and gave them new lives where they could be safe. “So I’m a special case.”

She jerked involuntarily before she could control the movement. “Yes. That information is usually very high clearance and individual case basis. And normally you wouldn’t need to know.” Bliss kept her attention on the reports. “But Fernandez has resources in high places, and if he is aware of our...other business, then anything we put online or over the airwaves could be tracked.”

Jack agreed.

“I think we should go completely radio silent on this.” Bliss finally held his gaze for one long fraught moment.

She wanted him to cut contact with his office. His first instinct was to argue, but then he thought about the fact that Ava had slim ties to the missing woman Maria Torres. And the fact that he had Connor looking into Fernandez’s background. Maybe Bliss had a point.

“I have my brother digging for any information he can uncover on Fernandez.” Jack figured they needed to share information and now was the wrong time to hold back. “What if he needs to contact me with information?”

“Phones off.” She crossed her arms over her chest, the move plumped her breasts slightly, the hint of cleavage only a shadow in the V of her button up shirt. “No compromise. Maria’s life is at stake. You’re talking about a guy who had no qualms about leaving her trapped in a basement for eight years.”

Jack swallowed. “So....” If they had no contact with anyone else, it meant the two of them would be working extremely closely together.

“It’s just you and me,” she said grimly.

Him and Bliss. A hitch of some emotion he refused to name constricted his chest.

He needed to remind himself that there was no him and Bliss for the long term. Just in the context of this case for a very short period of time they would have to work together. Distance. Perspective. Focus on her new life. That didn’t include you, you dumbass.

She’d clearly done just fine. Without him.

Jack’s blood pressure rose. Stress and worry pushed at his skull from the inside. Fuck. He did not need to pursue that line of thinking. Business. Keep his focus on business.

“Is Maria your typical client?”

“I can safely say that I’ve never had to relocate someone who has been basically held hostage for eight years in a basement, who never saw the light of day, or anyone besides her captors.”

Jack bent forward in the fancy brocade chair, the more delicate frame groaned as he shifted his two hundred and fifty pound bulk. He bunched his fists and scowled. “That bastard.”

“Yes. Which is why we need to find Maria before he does,” Bliss returned solemnly.

Jack was in complete agreement. “Where do you think she went?” He leaned closer to her and her jasmine perfume teased his senses.

Bliss subtly leaned back in her chair, increasing the distance between them. “That’s it. I don’t have a clue.” Jack could see that she was beating herself up over the fact that she couldn’t intuit what Maria had been thinking. “I should have had some idea that she didn’t trust us. I should have realized that she was going to bolt.”

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