The Boss Vol. 6

By: Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

One





Blake





My assistant was in danger.

My lover.

My…Grace. She was mine in so many ways, and I’d wanted her for so long that I scarcely remembered what it was to breathe without her in my head. She’d intoxicated me from the first day I’d laid eyes on her so many years ago.

Now I had to worry someone wanted to cause her harm. Worse, that her grandmother’s tangled past and my own misdeeds would be the catalyst.

“It doesn’t make any sense.” She stared at the files from the old thumb drive plugged into my CEO Jack Hollister’s borrowed laptop, scouring them as she had been for hours. Jack had left a while ago, and I’d said Grace and I would be heading to bed.

But she couldn’t pull herself away. And because I’d intended to get her to sleep only so I could do some digging of my own once she was safely resting, neither could I.

“Why would she hide diary pages on here? In code, no less? Never mind all the rest of this stuff. It’s going to take forever for us to go through it all.”

“Who’s to say why anyone does anything?” It was a pat, hollow answer, and I wasn’t at all surprised that Grace narrowed her eyes at me.

She’d been surrounded by enough liars that she could probably identify them at fifty paces. I didn’t doubt one bit that she far from fully trusted me.

As she shouldn’t, because I was lying to her too.

“She lived a long, full life,” I began, shutting up as Grace lowered her head and turned her attention back to the computer screen.

Longer than some, sure. Long? Not nearly long enough. Annabelle had still been in the prime of her life and vibrant. Indicating she’d had a lot of years had to sting considering she was gone, and her granddaughter missed her every single day.

The last thing I wanted to do was hurt Grace. Even though I already had, numerous times. And would again. It was unavoidable.

“She had so much left to do,” Grace said softly, moving her hand over the trackpad. She continued to scroll through the endless documents, searching for what, I didn’t know. A clue. A memory. Answers.

Some reason why her grandmother had left a video before her death, saying Grace was in danger. Probably that reason had a lot to do with the recent break-ins by supposed “kids” at her grandmother’s house.

My house now. As hard as it was for Grace to come to grips with that, she wasn’t the only one. I’d forever be the young boy peering longingly through the windows even though all that glass now belonged to me.

Grace shifted on the stool, locks of her silky blond hair slipping down her back, and all I could see were the parallels between those windows and Grace.

Both seemed transparent. Both blocked out just as much as they let inside.

“I know.” I cleared my throat and tried to shove down everything but what mattered now.

The facts. Only the facts. Muddled and full of what the fuck as they happened to be.

“The grandmother I knew rarely dated. My grandfather died years ago, and then it was just her and me. But in her diary, she mentioned two younger men. I don’t know when she saw them. When she even had time to see them, since she was so focused on me and my activities. As I grew older, she would’ve had more opportunities, of course. But when I first came to live with her and when I was a pre-teen, then a teenager—well, I thought her life was an open book.”

“It’s hard for children to see their parents or grandparents as they truly are,” I hedged.

“What is that supposed to mean? I saw her just fine. Or I thought I did. She just had hidden sides. So many parts I never knew about.” Blowing out a breath, she braced her chin on her hand and stared at the screen. “What the hell is this?”

I glanced from her to the laptop and couldn’t stop my quick intake of breath. I was on her screen. Oh, the picture was grainy, and she probably wouldn’t recognize me from that long ago. Not right away. I wore my hair longer back then, in a messy style that made me cringe. I’d had on the full complement of denim and leather, and a surly expression dominated my face.

But it was definitely me, standing outside the Beacon School. With a perfectly coiffed Annabelle at my side, all smiles. We’d been surprised by the picture taker, my teacher. Ms. Phelps had wanted to add some “fun” shots to her classroom wall, and Annabelle was a prime benefactor of the art program, so she was a natural choice to photograph.

Me, I’d been an unhappy bystander. Caught outside smoking and tugged into conversation with a woman I mostly tolerated because of her granddaughter.

Grace.

“Photographs too.” My voice sounded rusty from disuse.

“Yes, Blake, photographs. There’s a ton here. A bunch of my grandmother with people from town, with me. Some with my parents. But this one.” She closed the one of me and Annabelle and immediately opened it again. “This is at the Beacon School,” she said slowly.

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