Mr. Drake’s face was dark, his forehead furrowed as Veronica moved toward him.
This had gone far enough. They were going to get away if I didn’t act fast.
I flicked the phone open and dialed the last number, leaving it ringing silently on the wooden boards of the dock. I stumbled around the corner like I’d been running, my chest heaving dramatically.
All eyes landed on me, Veronica’s gun barrel twitching as she tried to decide whether to cover me or Chase Drake.
“Take me with you, Lex,” I said, moving closer, raising my hands in the air. “You were right about me. I only wanted Chase when I thought he was the powerhouse behind the business. The successful one.” I breathed heavily, holding a stitch in my side. “I want to come along…”
“Stay right there, bitch!” Veronica’s hands shook as she trained the gun on me.
Something in my chest tightened in reaction to staring down the barrel of a real-life gun, but I steadied my emotions.
Keep going, Isabeau. You can do this. You have to!
Chase Drake needed me to keep a cool head, and that was exactly what I was going to do.
I stopped, but trained my eyes on Lex. He looked incredulous, but ran a hand over his chin, looking me up and down in a way that made my skin crawl.
“I was always attracted to you, but…” I looked guiltily at Mr. Drake. “I didn’t want to ruin my chances with him while I had a good thing going. Please, Lex. Take me with you. We can be together now. Now that I know who the real man is.”
“What?!” Veronica’s pink lips were pulled back in a snarl. “First you take my Chasey and now you’re making a play for him?” She turned to Lex, her barrel drifting away from my chest. “Tell her to go to hell, baby!”
But Lex had a twinkle in his black eyes like all of his Christmases were coming early, and I knew I had him.
“I want you, Lex,” I said, my voice breathy and high. “Please. You know how much fun we can have together. It’ll be so good…”
I stepped closer, and Veronica practically bristled as she looked back and forth between me and the man she’d planned to run away with. She turned the barrel on him, and his eyes widened.
“Tell her, Lexy! Tell her!”
He reached toward her, his eyes pleading. “C’mon, baby. Lower the gun. Don’t be hysterical.”
“Hysterical?!” Veronica’s face reddened and she ground her high heel into the dock. “You tell me I’m all you ever wanted, that you can love me better than Chasey ever could, and now you’re seriously considering letting this gutter-trash-slut come with us?”
“Baby, it’s not like that…”
“THEN WHAT’S IT LIKE?”
Lex’s gaze shifted, and I could tell he was trying to think of something, anything, to get him out of hot water and onto his yacht before things could get any worse. And that was why neither he nor Veronica saw Mr. Drake lunge for the gun.
It all happened so fast, that if I had blinked, I would have missed it. Chase Drake’s hand closed around the barrel, twisting it out of Veronica’s fingers. She screamed bloody murder, and Lex tried to scrabble up the ladder of his boat when Mr. Drake shouted.
“Hold it right there! Drop to the dock, Lex!”
Veronica raised her claws like she was planning to scratch Chase’s face off, and that’s when I leapt into action, tackling her onto the dock. She thrashed in my grip, and I crushed her into the planks.
The wood thudded beneath me, and suddenly I realized it was the impact of several pairs of boots approaching at a run.
“Police! Smith, get down on the ground!”
Officers in blue surrounded us, guns drawn. I raised my head just in time to see Lex Smith getting dragged off his ladder like a kitten out of a tree, and grinned.
Veronica had frozen beneath my body, and now a police officer held a hand out to me. I gripped it and let her pull me to my feet, smiling all the while as she cuffed Veronica and recited her Miranda rights.
I looked over at Mr. Drake and saw him looking back at me, his face glowing with pride.
We’d really done it. The employee pensions were safe, and so were we.
“You’ll never be anything but trash, Isabeau,” Lex yelled as two police officers gripped his arms. “You’re nothing! You hear me?”
“Wait a second,” I said to the officers, and they paused, holding Lex still.
I walked up to him and leaned in close to whisper in his ear. “It must be hard, being such a small, small man, living in the shadow of a giant.”
My knee shot out before the police could stop me, nailing him right in the balls. He wheezed, his eyes filling with tears.
“Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the number one scumbag on your cell block. There’s always something to hope for, Lex. Keep your head up.”
I heard one of the officers snicker as I walked away, my eyes locked on Chase Drake.
It was finally over.
I sat wrapped in a thick blanket on Mr. Drake’s leather sofa, snuggled up next to a roaring fire. He poured me a cup of brandy and handed it to me, the firelight playing over his strong jaw and wavy hair, making me want to reach up and trace the lines of his face, to run my fingertips over his lips. Instead, I sipped the golden liquid, sighing as its warmth spread through me.
“I couldn’t have done it without you, Isabeau.”
His voice was barely over a whisper, a low rumble that filled my senses, causing my tension to melt away like the fragments of a dream.
“Good thing you didn’t have to,” I said, grinning up at him.
Maybe it was the sip of spirits, or maybe it was just the relief after a suspense-filled day, but I felt almost giddy, there with him, safe and sound in a mansion I was slowly getting comfortable in.
“I mean it, Isa.” He took my glass and set it aside, then captured my hands in his. “The police wouldn’t have found us in time if the cell phone signal hadn’t led them right to us.” He paused, kissing my fingers. “You’re just amazing.”
I looked down at our hands intertwined, at his long fingers holding mine, his touch making me tingle from head to toe.
“I could say the same about you. The way you took the gun from Veronica. Hell, just the way you discovered what he was up to in the first place.”
His face darkened. “I should have seen it sooner. The employees deserve better.”
“You are their hero, today.”
He paused, staring at me with those green eyes that made my knees turn to jelly.