That didn’t reassure me very much.
“There are serial numbers on the cameras. We can try to trace that back to whoever bought them. Seller has his best techs working on this, Gabriella.” Emmie ran her fingers through her hair, messing her tresses as she blew out an exhausted breath. When she looked back at me, her eyes were full of regret. “For what it’s worth, and I’m sure it’s not much, I’m sorry about all of this. You got pulled into our nightmare by saving Mia. Now… Now it looks like you’re stuck in it with us.”
Seeing the tears in Emmie’s green eyes had me pushing some of my own worry down. I moved to the coffee table in front of her chair. Sitting on the edge of the table, I reached for one of her hands, finding it ice cold. Mine weren’t much warmer, though. Surprise showed on her face when I gave her fingers a firm squeeze. I could understand her surprise. Hell, I’d surprised myself. At one point I would have bet good money that I would never offer Emmie Armstrong comfort, yet there I was, holding her hand. “It’s going to be okay, Emmie. We won’t let anything happen to Mia.”
Her gaze lowered to our joined hands. “I thought it was over. Hoped, anyway. Now…this.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Will this nightmare ever end?”
I couldn’t lie to her. “I don’t know.”
“I’m calling Wroth,” Liam announced, stopping his angry pacing. “Emmie, you might want those gorillas out there, but I would feel better with Wroth watching our backs.”
My head snapped around to look at him. “Bringing Wroth into this means pulling Marissa into it, too. She won’t want to stay back in Tennessee if he’s here. Do you want to put your sister in danger along with the rest of us?”
His face paled even more, if that were possible, but he squared his shoulders and picked up his phone. “It’s something we’ll just have to chance, little Brie. I love you too much to not want to protect you. Wroth will give you better protection than any of Seller’s men.”
Thinking about dragging Marissa into it had another terror crossing my mind. “Jordan,” I whispered, turning my gaze back to Emmie. “Jordan and Lee-Lee. Are they in danger too, Em?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about them, sorry.” She lifted her own phone and started texting away. “I’ll have Seller send over a man to watch over them too.”
“No,” I said, knowing there was no way Jared would let that happen, “I’ll call her. She can go spend time in Italy with Jared’s family. They will be safer there. Jared’s father’s house is basically a fortress and the old man has his own security detail.”
Emmie grimaced. “Then maybe you should go stay with them too.”
A snort escaped me at just the thought of having to spend time with Jared’s older brother and sister-in-law. I hated Monica Giordano almost as much as I’d once hated Emmie. “It’s safer for my sanity if I stay here,” I told her with the first signs of a smile since Emmie had walked through my door that afternoon. “Safer for Monica’s hair, too. Last time we had to be in the same room together I nearly pulled that bitch bald.”
“Huh,” Emmie murmured. “I figured you’d gotten over that when Lexie married Jared.”
“It takes a lot for me to forgive. Or didn’t you already know that?” A ghost of a smile lifted her lips and I winked at her before standing and going back to the couch to call my beloved cousin.
It was close to midnight before Emmie showed up with Charles Seller.
Harper was sitting on the couch in the sitting room of the penthouse we were going to be calling home for at least a few more days. She had a cup of tea in her hands and Ranger’s head on her lap as she tried to focus her attention on the rerun of some old sitcom she’d always loved. I was munching on the leftovers from the room service we’d ordered earlier.
Peterson, who’d been sitting by the window and messaging Seller for a while, stood. Harper, still shaky after Peterson had told us about the cameras in our house before we’d sat down to eat earlier looked up at him. “What now?” Her voice had just the slightest quiver in it and I wanted to wrap her up in my arms and never let her go.
“Theo is bringing Emmie and Seller up.”
Her brows lifted and I lowered my plate of half-eaten appetizers. “Why?” Emmie would have called me directly if something else had happened. She wouldn’t have let something like this catch us off guard if it was bad.
Peterson shrugged, something I’d learned over the years he’d worked for us that he did when he didn’t have answers but wanted them just as badly as I did. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what they want.”
I got up to put Ranger in our bedroom, not wanting the dog to distract from whatever kind of conversation we were about to have. Ranger didn’t like it, but I gave him a stern look and pointed to the bed. “Sleep.” With what sounded like a huff, the dog jumped up onto the bed and laid his head on Harper’s pillow.
Minutes later the front door opened and Theo stepped back to let first Emmie and then Charles Seller into the room. I moved fast, going straight to Emmie and wrapping my arms around her. When Peterson had told us about the cameras in our house, he’d also said there had been two at Emmie’s and a handful at Liam’s house. The ones at Emmie’s had been set mostly to watch over Mia.
My gut churned. Mia. My precious niece who owned a special part of my heart. Some sicko had been watching her and I didn’t know why. I barely understood why this chick was doing this shit to Harper, but Mia’s part in all of it boggled my mind. She was only six, so what the fuck had she done to anyone?
Was it because I loved her so much?
Was anyone I loved safe?
It was the worst feeling in the world to not know if loving someone was going to put them in danger. The knowledge that I couldn’t protect them—any of them, it seemed—only made it ten times worse. No man wanted to admit that they weren’t strong enough to protect those that meant the most to them, yet I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t protect my family from this.
Fuck, it was enough to make me want to put my fist through a wall.
Emmie’s arms went around me, holding me just as tightly as I held her. “How are you?” she asked quietly as she looked up at me with her big, green eyes full of so much worry it broke my heart.
“We’re okay, Em. How are you? How’s Nik? Mia?”
“He took the kids over to Jesse’s house. We didn’t tell Mia. She wouldn’t understand and I don’t want to add that kind of stress to her when she’s just now starting to sleep through the night again. Roger is with them, and Seller sent a few other men over there.” She sighed tiredly and stepped back. Her green gaze went to Harper and she forced a smile for my wife. “Hey, babe. How are you holding up?”
“I should be asking you that,” Harper murmured as she stood and came over to hug Emmie too. The two women embraced, holding on to each other for a long moment.
Charles Seller, a huge beast of a man whose eyes told their own story—that he’d seen every kind of nightmare the world had to offer and carried the secrets of how to survive them with him—stood with Peterson and Theo. I hoped he could give me answers and even some pointers on how to get through this shit.
If this person had been after me, I would have let them have me. Would have let them take me and do whatever the fuck they wanted. But it wasn’t me they were after. It was Harper and Mia—and apparently Gabriella as well. I didn’t know what to do to make this person leave them alone, to make them go away. Which was all I wanted, for them to go away and leave us alone to live our lives in peace.
Yeah. Okay. That was a boldfaced lie. I didn’t just want them to go away. I wanted to know who they were. I wanted them tied up and bowing at my feet. I wanted fucking answers…and then I wanted to show them the same kind of pain they had forced on me for months. I wanted to make them beg for mercy. I wanted to eviscerate their entire life and make their family feel the kind of pain and stress mine had.
Seller cleared his throat. “Emmie, we should get to this.” His deep, deadly sounding voice was quiet for once, as if he were trying to be gentle with her.
Emmie finally stepped back from Harper but didn’t release her. Instead she took her hand and pulled her to the couch. She sat, pulling my wife down beside her. She tucked Harper close as if she were ready to protect her from the world—which I had no doubt she would do as best as she could.
Finally, she turned those green eyes back at me. “Sit down, Shane. Seller has questions.”
My body tensing even more, I crossed the room and took the spot on the other side of Emmie since they hadn’t left room for me beside Harper. Seller dropped his six-foot-two, wide-as-a-door frame into the chair across from us. Peterson went back to his place by the window, but kept his gaze on the big man. Theo, who always seemed more laid back, took a place at the small table where some of our dinner still sat. He grabbed a few fries off of Harper’s plate and stuck them in his mouth.
“Have you learned anything else?” Harper was quick to ask Seller before I had the chance to open my mouth and ask the same question.
He shook his head. “No. We checked for prints on the pictures and the cameras. Nothing. However, the envelope had three sets of prints. Yours, the receptionist’s, and the boy in the mail room who said the package was waiting for him when he got to work this morning.”
Her violet eyes narrowed. “You don’t think it was Hannah, do you?”
Seller shrugged. “She’s been added to our list of suspects, but after checking her background we’ve placed her at the bottom of that list. I still need to talk to her, though, so I’ll let you know once I’ve done that.”
“Why haven’t you yet?” I demanded. Right then anyone who was a suspect should have been questioned the same way I imagined some militant group in a third-world country would—with water torture or some shit until we got the answers we wanted. I didn’t care how they got the answers. Didn’t give two fucks if they had to beat the information out of anyone, if they had to torture each and every person until they were half dead and begging for mercy.
I just wanted fucking answers.
The expression on the security expert’s face didn’t change as he turned his eyes on me. “We know that whoever is doing this is a woman from your past, Stevenson.”
“I already knew that shit,” I snapped.
“We know that she’s apparently jealous of Harper’s relationship with you and for some reason has decided to target your wife because she feels slighted in some way.”
“Nothing new about that either.” Seller’s expression still remained neutral even though my tone had been sharp, fed up with everything. Everything. “Tell me something I don’t already know.”
“The receptionist—this Hannah—she’s not likely to be the suspect, even though we will keep our eye on her, simply because she isn’t into men. Meaning she isn’t likely to be jealous of Harper. If you had been the target then I would say yes, but you’re not.”
“Oh…” Harper murmured, her cheeks filling with pink. “I had no idea Hannah was a lesbian.”
“She’s a professional,” Emmie told her with a small smile. “She wouldn’t share that kind of thing at work. When I talked to her briefly this morning I got the vibe that she had a crush on you, though. She was torn up when you were crying.”
The thought of anyone crushing on Harper, male or female, had my jealousy and possessiveness rearing its head, but I quickly pushed that down. No one needed me to go all caveman right then, and I knew that Harper would be upset if I did. My rage over the day’s events was too close to the surface and adding those two emotions to the simmering pot already threatening to boil over wasn’t going to get us anywhere.
But Hannah being a lesbian didn’t mean shit to me. “Is she gay or bisexual?” I asked Seller, hating to think about my past but knowing that the question had to be asked. “There’s a difference, because I’ve had plenty of experiences with bisexual chicks over the years.”
“From my reports she’s never been in any type of relationship with a man.” Seller didn’t hold back from elaborating. “She doesn’t do the party scene and as far as I could find, has never even been to a Demon’s Wings’ concert. Like I said, we will still be keeping an eye on her as a person of interest, but she is at the bottom of the list.”
Clenching my hands into fists, I leaned forward, wanting to pace so fucking bad it took most of my willpower to stay seated. “I know that this idiot is from my past and that’s why she’s after Harper, but why the hell is she doing this to Mia too? What have I done that would make her target her?”
“I don’t think you’ve done anything,” Seller told me with calm honesty, blowing me away with his answer. “I think it’s something Emmie did to her.”
“Emmie?” I glanced at my surrogate sister. “She hasn’t done anything.”
Her jaw tightened as she shook her head. “You don’t know the things I’ve had to do to get rid of the girls in the past, Shane. Some of them were hard to make go away, and I wasn’t gentle with my efforts. Seller has been talking to some of his profiler friends within the FBI.” She swallowed hard and glanced at the big man across from us. “Tell them.”
“This woman thinks she’s in love with you, Stevenson. The profiler thinks she has gotten it into her twisted mind that you love her too. Something has triggered her—set her off. She had sat back and hadn’t done a thing when you and Harper dated. Nothing when you got married. Four years of nothing from this woman that we know of. Now, she’s feeling threatened for some reason. She’s tearing things up. Nearly killed your dog and would have probably stabbed anyone else who had been on the bus if she’d encountered them.” His gaze went from me to Emmie then to Harper as he spoke, keeping us all in the conversation. “Then she went quiet for a while, so whatever was her trigger must have calmed down. Only for her to be triggered all over again weeks later and she trashed your bus again and then, when presented with the opportunity, she took Mia. That time was worse because she had come with a gun instead of a knife, so we can be sure that she would have shot more than the Moreitti woman if she’d been presented with the chance.”
“What triggered her?” Harper whispered.
“That’s what we need to talk about,” Emmie muttered. “I think I know what triggered her, but you have to be the ones to tell Seller. This is your secret to tell, not mine. I’ve kept my mouth shut and haven’t even told Nik, but you have to tell Seller now.”
My head snapped around and I looked straight at Harper. What little color was in her face drained and I reached across Emmie to grab her hand. “Beautiful.”
Harper swallowed hard. “But how?” she breathed, shaking her head. “No one knows. No one. I didn’t say a word.”
“What, exactly, are you talking about, Harper?” Seller’s voice pulled her violet eyes back to him.
I watched as her tongue came out to dampen her lips before she spoke. “When… When the fertility clinic in Germany leaked the story about my…issues,” she said, grimacing and shaking her head, “well, we let them run with that story. The truth is—” Tears filled her eyes. “Hell, I don’t even know what the truth is now. It hasn’t been working, but Dr. Bambach has me on a new hormone therapy treatment that might give us a chance at getting pregnant.”
The man’s eyes narrowed. “You said you told no one?” She nodded. “How does the doctor get in touch with you?”
“They call my cell and I’ve gotten a few emails with reminders about follow-up appointments as well as one or two asking how I was handling the new dosages.”
“Work emails?” he demanded, getting to his feet.
It was her turn to shrug. “I only have one email account. I get work and personal messages sent to it. It’s just…easier.”
“Does anyone at the office know how to get into your account?” Emmie voiced before Seller could.
Dread churned in my stomach as I watched Harper’s face fall. “A handful
of people can. Hannah, for one. My personal assistant, Sean. A few others.”
“I need their names, Harper. All of them. Did you get any emails from the doctor around the same time as the two bus incidents? If this person saw an email that led her to believe that you might be able to get pregnant with Shane’s child after all, it might have been enough to make her have a mental break.”
Violet eyes darkened as she tried to remember. “I had an email from Bambach’s nurse the day before the first one. She was doing a follow-up about my treatments. Asking if I was still keeping to the schedule she’d given me, about when to take my injections, and if I had any questions. The second time…” She sucked in a ragged breath and wrapped her arms around herself as she shivered. “It was because I’d needed to change my dosages and Bambach had emailed me personally, because he wanted to tell me that two more women in his test study had finally gotten pregnant. I’d been so excited I’d sent him back a long email thanking him for all of his help and telling him that I was confident that he could help me as well.” She swallowed hard and lowered her head. “That doesn’t seem to be the case though. I had a visit with him this past Friday and I told him if this round of treatments doesn’t work then I’m done.”
“I’m sorry, Harper,” Emmie murmured, putting an arm around Harper’s shoulders.
Harper gave her a trembling smile. “It’s okay. I’ve finally admitted to myself that it isn’t likely to happen for me. Once I’m done with this round, Shane and I are going to start the paperwork for adoption.”
“That’s great, sweetie. I’m so glad you want to go that route. Adoption holds a special place in my heart after the way four Demons seemed to have adopted me and took me away from my worst nightmares.” Emmie hugged her. “I’ll love him or her just as much as if they were your biological child, I swear it.”
Seller’s eyes darkened as he watched them for a long time, but I could almost see the wheels turning in his head, taking it all in and probably seeing all the different dangers that I couldn’t. The urgency on his usually neutral face as he turned his eyes on me had my heart racing. “If she does get pregnant before we figure out who is doing this, she’s going to be in twice as much danger, Stevenson.”