The woman patted Jonathan on the back. “Don’t be scared,” she whispered. “Remember you’re among friends.”

Whatever had driven him into the elevator, now pulled him out into a wide hall thronged with people. Even before the clicking of her high heels, like the clicking of a  gave her away, Victoria wedged herself between the woman and Jonathan. She wrapped her arm around his waist and pulled him close.

“Dallas,” she cooed. “I missed you sooo much.” Her piercing voice not only ricocheted against the marble floor and walls but also against the insides of his skull. She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder and fluttered her eyelashes at him. The eyelids were painted a dark purple, a color that matched her short, tight dress. “You were awesome last night,” she whispered in a low voice, but not low enough for everyone around them to hear.

“I see,” the woman from the elevator said and a world of disdain lay in those two words. She sent him a chilly smile, nodded curtly at Victoria and disappeared into the conference room.

Jonathan felt the urge to run after her and tell her she didn’t get it at all. That even he didn’t get it. That he had nothing to do with the blond monstrosity and that he had no business at all at this meeting. That he didn’t want her to go, that he wanted, no needed to listen to her voice. He tried to shake Victoria’s arm off, but she strengthened her grip and lead him into the conference room, where she pushed him into a back row seat.

She nestled down next to him, blocking his way out. “What did Ms. Wheeler have to say to you? Did she try to draw you out? Offer you anything?”

“Ms. Wheeler?” he asked. He wiped his forehead, not particularly happy that Victoria sat next to him but glad he could sit for a moment.

“Lisa Wheeler. She’s with Yahoo. Competition. Off limits.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he mumbled.

She looked at him. Her lashes no longer fluttering, her gaze as piercing as her voice, until she shrugged. “I watched our little movie from last night,” she said, so soft that he could barely pick up what she said. She clawed her nails in his arm. “You are one violent man, Dallas Bard. You’d sell like crazy on a porn site.”

Slowly he turned his head toward her. Her face was not more than two inches from his and he could smell her sugary breath. The radiant, girly glow in her eyes had changed into an icy cold one. “What movie,” he stuttered. Suspicion crept up his spine like a scorpion ready to sting.

“You know,” she said, now a wide grin across her face. “You. Me. Bed. Sex. Violent sex. Webcam.” Her bleached teeth lit up in the half-darkened room like the fangs of a snake.

Unable to speak, Jonathan rose from his chair.

She caught him and with surprising strength pulled him back. She moved in closer, her nose touching his. “Leaving?” she hissed, squeezing her eyes to slits. Her lips brushed against his. “Whereto?”

“Away,” Jonathan growled. “Home.” He wrenched his arm loose and got up, but before he could even lift his butt off the chair, a steel hand landed on his shoulder and forced him back.

“I don’t think you’ll get far if we go public with this particular movie,” Matt Turing said, as he stepped over the row of chairs from behind and sat down on Jonathan’s other side. He spoke as softly as Victoria, but the threat loomed in his voice. “You have no idea how vulnerable and underaged V can look with the right lighting. And how agonizing and heart-breaking she can cry and beg. I know you Dutch have a liberal name to hold up, permissiveness and whatever tolerance you all blab about all the time, but this, my friend, this is rape and I’ll bet my ass that you folks ain’t liberal about that.” He moved in closer. “It’d suggest you stick around a little longer.”

 

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