Blink, страница 1часть #2 серии Breathe Series
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Works by Lila Kane
Sneak Peek: BREAK
Breathe (Book Two)
Copyright © 2017 Lila Kane
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Previously published as Kenna Avery Wood.
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Books by Lila Kane
FIANCEE FOR SALE
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
Enemies to Lovers
Struck, Inside Out, Driven
Handyman for Hire
KEEPER OF THE FLAME
Fated: A Keeper of the Flame Novella
I thought cutting Finn out of my life would fix everything. But instead it left a gaping hole in my heart and nearly destroyed me.
I can’t fight it anymore. I love Finn with too much passion to hide it.
But with new threats around every corner, I’ll have to fight with everything I have to keep my new life and the man I love beyond reason.
It was the longest week I’d ever had.
Even longer than the week I’d decided to leave Mark for good. That week had been full of planning and hiding and secrets and fear. I’d almost felt like I didn’t have enough time.
But this…this was a whole new kind of torture.
The kind that dug deep into my heart, my gut, and threatened to rip me apart.
I missed Finn.
Getting ready on Thursday morning in my apartment, I went through the ritual of dressing and putting on makeup and brushing my teeth. But it was just a routine. A way to zone out while my mind fought battles with itself.
I’d broken up with Finn last week. I’d given in to what Mark wanted. And since then, I hadn’t done anything but worry about my next step.
But what was I supposed to do?
Following my heart meant putting Finn in danger. Standing up to Mark meant putting myself and others in danger. But playing along meant staying safe. For now.
With a sigh, I dumped the rest of my coffee into the sink and grabbed the pad of sticky notes on the edge of the counter.
I jotted down Tables and Auction Slips and then tapped the pen against my lips. The Oasis Gala was this Saturday. I had my dress, I had all the details in order. The only thing I didn’t have was Finn.
We’d have to see each other at the gala. There was no way out of it. We had to present a united front. We were showcasing Oasis to the world.
Rubbing my hand over my cheek, I sighed. A speech. One—or both—of us was going to have to get up there and welcome everyone. Say a few words about the place and how it came about. Our vision for it moving forward.
How had we overlooked this? I had the itinerary, I’d talked with everyone else, I’d prepared. With another sigh, I wrote Finn’s name on the sticky note as well and ripped the small square of paper off the pad.
Of course. I hadn’t been talking to him this whole week. And last week I’d been distracted.
Shit. It was my fault I wasn’t on my game, and my fault Finn was stuck in the middle.
Checking the time on my phone, I frowned. If I didn’t leave now, I was going to be late. If nothing else, I had my job. I had the main thing I’d come here for. I couldn’t lose that.
And if Mark tried to make me give it up…
No, I couldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t let that happen.
I snagged my purse off the counter and the sticky note vanished.
Grumbling, I turned around, looking on the floor. No note. I looked at the cabinets and even checked my skirt in case it had stuck to that. No luck.
With another heavy sigh, I rewrote the note and walked to the door.
When I opened it and saw Dustin, I yanked in a sharp breath.
“Sorry,” he said kindly. “I was about to knock.” He checked his watch. “Just making sure everything is okay.”
“I’m—I’m running a little late.” I closed the door firmly behind me and listened for the automatic lock. “You really don’t have to—”
“Yes, I do,” Dustin said with a smile that was just as kind as his voice. “It’s my job. Powell posted me here, so please, Ms. Evans, let me do my job.”
I gave a small laugh. I was well aware of how intimidating Curtis Powell could be. He was head of security but he had far more experience than simply working at Oasis. Finn hadn’t disclosed all of it, but Curtis knew what he was doing.
I trusted him.
Then why aren’t you telling him the truth? I asked myself. Because I was afraid. I was afraid of the cameras. I was afraid John, the security guy, would see. I was afraid he’d tell Mark. I knew they were working together—just as I knew I had to make a move soon—and it scared the hell out of me.
“Ms. Evans?” Dustin said, gesturing down the hallway.
“Of course. Sorry.”
Inside the elevator, I heard my phone ring from my purse pocket and pulled it out. The phone calls for the gala had been nonstop this past week. It was a welcome distraction.
I barely even glanced at the screen before answering. “Charlotte Evans.”
“Good morning,” he said in his deep, smooth voice.
My heart jolted. Mark. Words clogged in th
“I see you still have an escort,” he said.
I glanced at Dustin. He was minding his own business, hands tucked behind his back and eyes on the display over the elevator doors.
“It makes the most sense,” I said tightly.
“Feisty.” There was a smile in Mark’s voice. “Just an observation. Soon you won’t need them. It’ll just be me and you.”
Bile rose in my throat. I blurted the first thing that came to mind as the elevator dinged. “I’m on my way to work. Can we talk later?”
I regretted the words instantly, but what else was I supposed to say? I didn’t want Dustin to get suspicious. I didn’t want anyone to get suspicious. I had to make Mark believe I was doing what he wanted. I had to play along or else I might not have another chance to make it through this.
“Absolutely,” Mark said. “I’ll be in touch.”
I ended the call, casting Dustin a smile at the same time. “Last minute Gala details.”
“Sounds like it’s going to be quite the party.”
We left Housing and walked into the Commons. It was bright inside, with people strolling or rushing on various paths to get to work or to get home, or to get coffee from one of the many kiosks Finn was smart enough to add. The air smelled like sunshine and water and it almost felt like I was taking a stroll through the park instead of walking inside a gigantic dome of a building to get to work.
But that was the point. It wasn’t supposed to feel enclosed. It was supposed to feel spacious and comfortable. Oasis was supposed to provide all the amenities and comforts of the real world, but with a lot more ease. So that people had time to enjoy the little things. To be able to free up time to have a real life instead of living for work and priorities.
So far, it didn’t seem to be working for me. Work was the only thing that had managed to keep Mark off my mind, although what I really wanted was time with Finn. A chance to explain. A chance to say sorry.
We reached the Business Community and Dustin held the door for me. “Powell would like for me to escort you to the gala and stick close throughout.”
I glanced up at him, a mix of emotions rushing through me. I was supposed to go to the gala with Finn. But it was better this way.
“So I guess you’ll kind of be my date, then?”
He nodded at the security guard as we passed. “If you don’t mind me saying, it seems like a pretty good deal.”
I smiled. “I don’t mind you saying. I’ve got it from here.”
He waited with me by the elevator until the doors opened. “I’ll be close by.”
Inside, I let out a breath and closed my eyes, mentally preparing to see Finn. I had too much to do today to avoid him. We needed to make sure we were on the same page with the gala. I straightened when the elevator dinged, and the doors opened to release me into the lobby of our office.
Leslie smiled at me from her desk, turning her mouth away from the phone to say, “I like that skirt.”
I returned her smile. “It’s new. It makes me feel like my third-grade teacher.”
“Your third-grade teacher must’ve been hot,” she said and then continued her conversation smoothly while I laughed.
My gaze flicked to Finn’s office. I could only see the empty table in front of the window and a few chairs. But not Finn.
He was probably at his desk. Hopefully at his desk, so I’d have time to grab a muffin and get to mine.
I ducked into the break room and then nearly tripped when I saw Finn at the counter picking through a basket of fruit. He stepped forward with a smooth fluidity that I might have appreciated if he hadn’t been cupping my elbow to keep me from falling. His fingers were warm on my skin, sending tingles all the up my arm.
Oh, God, I missed his touch.
Exhaling, part in surprise, and part in longing, I stepped back. “Sorry.”
He smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. “You okay?”
“Of course. I—” My words jumbled in my throat when he took a step closer to me again. “Finn.”
He bent and snatched something off my purse. He held up the sticky note that I had lost this morning, eyebrows lifting.
With a nervous laugh, I said, “My to-do list.”
His gaze swept the paper. “Tables. Auction forms…Finn?”
“No, that’s not—” I snatched the sticky note from him, wading it up even as heat wormed its way into my cheeks. I shoved the waded paper in my purse and then held it close to my body like it might somehow inspire me to stay calm. “I mean, yes. I put your name on the list because I need to talk to you.”
He tossed an apple from one hand to the other, his strong fingers dwarfing the fruit. It was only last week that those hands had been all over me. Seeking, taking, driving me crazy. And I missed them. But it wasn’t just his hands or his body, which was covered in a three-piece suit that nearly had my mouth watering. It was the security of him being there. The knowing that he was there for me. Only me.
It was the sweetness of realizing how much he loved me. And toward the end, I realized I loved him, too. Because of that, I’d had to let it all go.
But part of me wondered if I’d ruined it between us forever. Finn’s eyes were shadowed and he looked tired. But he didn’t look vulnerable. His jaw was tight, shoulders tense. Nothing in his stance or his face was welcoming. Open.
If I lost Finn forever, this time it was my fault. It might keep him safe, but it might break us both in the meantime.
“I have a few minutes,” Finn said, still tossing the apple. “I’m assuming this is about the gala.”
I nodded. “I have the speakers lined up but I wanted to see if you were going to say something.”
“I have a few words prepared,” he said. “I’ll introduce the place. You.” His eyes softened just a little. “Say a little something about the inspiration for Oasis. And then encourage people to make donations, of course.”
Swallowing and taking my eyes from his, I nodded again. “Sounds like you’ve got it covered.”
I inched toward the door. “I’ll have you sitting at the table closest to the stage. I noticed Jake was on the list—I’ll make sure he has a place next to you.”
“You’ll be there, of course,” Finn said, bringing my gaze back up. “At the same table?”
I smiled. “Right.”
“I imagine you don’t want me to come pick you up.”
His words made my heart squeeze. There was hurt behind them that radiated all the way to my soul. “Finn…it’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
I wanted him to take me but he couldn’t. It was a bad idea. And I wanted to tell him that. Then my gaze jerked to the corner of the room, the small camera tucked up at the ceiling.
“I should really get back to work,” I said.
Finn followed my eyes. His jaw flexed. “I understand.”
He looked like he wanted to say something else but before he could, I turned and hurried to my office. I passed Tucker with a quick wave but didn’t stop. Inside my office, I looked up to the corners of the room, searching for the cameras. There didn’t appear to be any. But that didn’t mean there weren’t.
Was there anyone else besides John who knew the locations of every camera? If there was some sort of list, I’d know the safe zones. I would know where I could talk to Curtis and maybe get this resolved. And then maybe I could talk to Finn, too. Explain to him the situation.
“Charlotte?” Tucker said from the doorway.
I jumped, whipping around with my heart racing.
“Whoa,” he said, holding one hand up. “I’m sorry. I thought you heard me.”
Rubbing my hand over my eyes, I seated myself at my desk. “I’m sorry, Tucker. It’s…It’s been a long week.”
He smiled, nodding his head in understanding. “I know. I already have ten messages for you just from this morning.” He set the papers on my desk and then pointed to the one on the top. A fo
I angled my head. “Just now?”
He nodded. “When you came out of the break room. He scribbled a note at Leslie’s desk and gave it to me.”
“Thank you, Tucker.”
He left the office and I reached for the paper. Easing it open just enough to see Finn’s strong, masculine handwriting, I read his message.
No cameras in my office. Will talk when you’re ready.
I slapped a hand over the paper, afraid for a moment someone might see it. One of those cameras I was worried about.
Did it really make sense to get Finn involved in this again? Before I’d made some sort of plan? If I talked with him, if there was a chance at a relationship with him again, it was just a matter of time before someone found out.
No, before John found out. He’d see us on one of the cameras. Or Finn would convince me to do something that would give us away.
And then Mark would know.
I slid Finn’s note off my desk and into the trash. No, I couldn’t talk to him. Not yet.
I’d get through the gala first and then I’d make my plan. I’d have to tell Curtis.
And I’d have to be discreet about it.
I’d already been on my feet for hours, arriving early to help set up and make sure everything was just as it should be for the gala. To my surprise, Finn arrived early as well, wearing an onyx tuxedo and stealing my breath. He was the epitome of success and sophistication, and he looked hot.
Although it was a masquerade ball, I got the pleasure of seeing him before people started to arrive and the masks went on. Mine was bloodred, the same shade as my dress. It glittered in the dim lighting of the room, the sequins sparkling and feathers ticking my cheeks every time I turned.
As guests were mingling and finding their seats, I located Paige at the table nearest to mine. I’d made sure she was sitting next to Tucker and Leslie for company. Her dress had hints of aqua that matched her mask and made me think of a mermaid.