His gaze darkened when he focused on the pictures. “Where did these come from? A fan?”
I shook my head as the tears fell faster. “Someone…here. In the building.”
He turned without another word, leaving me there. Broken. My heart cracked and lay hemorrhaging into my chest cavity, making it almost impossible to breathe. I just sat there on the floor, my head lowered to press against the cool rim of my metal trashcan. My eyes closed, but I quickly snapped them open as the pictures flashed across the backs of my lids.
Body trembling, I forced myself to move and pushed myself up and into my chair. Pushing my tear-dampened hair back from my face, I searched for my phone in my purse and pulled it out. My thumb hovered over the two names that were most recent in my call-log. Shane. Dallas.
Who did I call? Who could I handle seeing right then?
I ached to call Shane even as my heart cracked a little more and the force of the blood spilling out choked me. I couldn’t do it. Not yet. I couldn’t bear to see him after just having proof of one of his past conquests so cruelly waved in my face.
Angrily, I wiped my tears away with the tips of my fingers and swiped my thumb over Dallas’s name. It rang all of two times before my best friend answered. “Morning, Harp.”
“Dallas.” Her name came out in an anguished sob.
“What’s wrong?” she demanded. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” There was real fear in her tone, but I didn’t know how to answer her.
I was definitely not okay and I was so hurt I could feel myself dying a little more with each passing second. “I need you,” I told her honestly. “I’m…I’m at work.”
“Please,” I whispered. “P-please.”
“I’m getting dressed now. I’ll be there within the hour.” I could hear her moving around, could hear Axton’s voice in the background asking what was wrong. Could even hear my precious godson crying.
I should have felt guilty for taking my bestie away from her child so early in the morning, but in that moment I couldn’t feel anything but the gut-wrenching pain that was eviscerating me.
“Harp?” Her voice was sharp, and I realized she’d been trying to get my attention for a few seconds. “Harp, are you okay? Is Peterson with you? Talk to me, babe. What’s going on?”
“He’s…with me,” I murmured. “I-I can’t…I don’t know…Please, just hurry.”
“I’m coming, sweetie. I’m coming.”
The line went dead and I dropped my phone down on the desk. It landed on top of the last picture I’d looked at, the one that had finally cracked my heart open. Unable to look at it, to have it’s vileness destroy the peace that I’d always found at my desk at work, I raked my hand across the top, not caring that I sent more than just the pictures scattering across the room.
In that moment I didn’t care about work or anything else. I just wanted the pain in my heart to stop. Wanted the ache in my chest to ease. I wanted the last five minutes to disappear, wanted a do-over so I could just throw that piece of heartbreaking bullshit in the trash to have shredded.
Peterson was back within a few minutes. He had two security guards with him as well as Hannah and Rex. Hannah came around the desk and put her hand on my shoulder. “Harper?” Her tone was soft, as if she were talking to a small wild animal. “Harper, come with me. Let’s let Peterson and the security guys do their job.”
I couldn’t find the strength to so much as nod. Rex appeared at my other side and he and Hannah helped me to my feet and guided me out of my office. I couldn’t remember the walk down the hall to the conference room, didn’t notice when Rex pushed a glass of brandy into my hands and urged me to sip it. Didn’t feel the burn as the amber liquid slid down my throat and settled in my still-tossing stomach.
I had no recollection of time passing. Didn’t hear Peterson come and get Rex or even when Emmie arrived and took charge. None of it mattered. All I could see were those fucking pictures. All I could feel was the pain in my heart that was numbing the rest of my body in a survival mechanism to keep the rest of my body—my damn sanity—from collapsing.
Cool, soft hands touched my face and only then did my eyes focus on anything other than the opposite wall. I met the bright-blue gaze of my best friend. Seeing the concern in her eyes and the frown wrinkling her brow as she crouched down in front of me was the stone that broke through the wall I’d pushed up against the outside world and I found myself crumbling.
Slender arms wrapped around my shoulders and she pulled my head down onto her chest. My hands went straight to her ever-growing baby bump and felt my goddaughter kick at me, as if offering me the same comfort her mother was. Sob after sob shook my body, but I was helpless to control them.
Fingers combed through my hair. Dallas’s voice was soft as she promised me over and over again that it was going to be okay. That she had me and wasn’t going to let anything hurt me.
The sun was already beating down on me, making me sweat twice as much as my feet pounded down the beach. Ahead of me, Ranger ran happily through the surf, playing and enjoying our usual morning run/bonding time. Seriously, I didn’t think the dog even knew I was alive unless it was time for a run. Sometimes we went twice a day and it was something we’d both missed over the summer tour.
I was halfway through my run when my cell rang. I whistled for Ranger to come back and stopped to pull the phone off the armband attached to my left bicep. Seeing that it was Emmie, I grinned and lifted it to my ear.
“Morning,” I answered as I wiped sweat off my brow and looked out at the awesome view of the Pacific.
“Get to Harper’s office. Now.”
That was all she said before she hung up. No explanation. No, “love you, Shane’. Nothing. Realizing that whatever was going on was bad, I turned and ran back toward my house like the hounds of hell were chasing me. Ranger sensed my change in mood and followed, keeping pace with me.
I didn’t bother to change my clothes as I ran into the kitchen and grabbed my keys. For about five seconds I debated about whether or not to take Ranger with me, but decided to leave him in the house. He’d probably be in the way at Rock America’s headquarters and it was safer for him at home.
In the garage I bypassed my truck for my Jaguar and didn’t give a shit if I got ten tickets or not as I hauled ass into L.A. A hundred different scenarios played through my head at what could be wrong. Since it had been Emmie who had called me and not Harper, the possibilities were ten times scarier.
Was she hurt? Had someone tired to take her? Was she scared?
I didn’t know and I didn’t want to stop long enough to call Emmie back and demand answers that I wasn’t even sure she had. What I did know was that I needed to get to my wife. Now.
Luckily there was a free spot across the street from Harper’s office building, but it wouldn’t have mattered even if there hadn’t been. I’d have left the car double-parked and wouldn’t have cared if it got towed or not.
Security was normally a little laid back on the first floor, the staff there more for decoration than anything else. Today, as soon as I entered the lobby, I was stopped at the front door. “ID,” a guard I didn’t recognize ordered.
I didn’t have my wallet because I hadn’t taken the time to get it out of the bedroom. “Does it look like I have my fucking ID on me?” I snarled at the rent-a-cop.
“Then you’re not getting in.”
“Look, motherfucker, I’m getting in one way or another. So move the fuck out of my way before I put you through the gods damn floor.” I had no control over my voice it seemed, because it had all come out in a near bellow.
I was two seconds away from pounding my fist through the motherfucker’s face when another guard appeared at the first guard’s side. “Mr. Stevenson. Please come in, sir. You’re needed on your wife’s floor.”
Pushing past the first guard, I jogged over to the elevator and hit the button for Harper’s floor, barely noticing that t
he normal crowd on the first floor was practically non-existent. The elevator took me straight up to the floor I needed, never once stopping, when I was used to it stopping multiple times for other people. That only made my anxiety rise, but it skyrocketed when I stepped off the elevator.
The first thing I saw were the two security guards standing on either side of the elevator doors. I heard Rex tossing out orders and Emmie’s commanding tone demanding answers before a deep voice—Peterson’s—told her that there wasn’t anything new to tell her. Yet.
But what had my heart stopping in my chest were the sounds coming from the end of the corridor where I knew the conference room was. Pushing through the mass of people running around, I hurried toward that heartbreaking sound that belonged to Harper and I’d only ever heard it a handful of times in the entire time I’d known her.
“Shane,” Emmie’s voice barked behind me but I didn’t pause to see what she wanted. “Shane!” she called again, and I thought I heard running feet.
A small hand caught my wrist and with surprising strength stopped me in my tracks. With a hard yank she pulled me around to face her before I could reach the conference room’s door. Emmie’s face was pale, her jaw tense, and her green eyes wild. “What?” I tried not to yell at her, but still had no control over the volume of my voice.
Her other hand grasped my free wrist and she gave them both a firm squeeze. “She doesn’t want to see you right now. Give her a few more minutes to process it all.”
“What the fuck do you mean she doesn’t want to see me?” My heart was pounding even harder now. I couldn’t concentrate with the sobs coming from behind that closed door tearing me apart. All I wanted was to see that my wife was okay and hold her in my arms. I wanted—fucking needed—to make whatever was hurting her so badly go away.
Emmie pressed her lips together. “You should come with me. It’s not life or death, Shane, but…” She trailed off and shook her head. “Please. Just come with me and have a look for yourself.”
Everything inside of me was screaming at me to go to Harper, but the look on Emmie’s face told me that I needed to listen. With a rough nod of my head I let her lead me back down the corridor and straight into Harper’s office.
That was where the true chaos was. Peterson and Theo were wearing gloves as they searched over the entire room, but there were two security guards standing across the office as if protecting the mess of papers piled up on the floor.
“More hate mail?” I muttered.
Emmie shook her head and moved around one of the guards. I followed and crouched down beside her when she dropped to her knees. Pulling a pair of gloves from her jeans pocket she slipped one on and picked up one of the papers. I frowned, recognizing the paper for the cheap stock photo paper that Harper sometimes used when she brought her work home with her.
Holding the picture by a corner, Emmie turned it over and I nearly fell back on my ass.
No. No. Oh, fuck no.
I felt all the color leave my face and I turned my eyes away from that damn picture, disgusted with the evidence of the fucked-up life I’d led before I’d met Harper. I didn’t want to remember that time in my life. I thought of myself as two different people. There was the me I’d been before Harper, and then there was the me after her. I hated the me I’d been before her. That me was a disgusting fuckup.
The me now? He was the man who deserved the life I had with Harper.
Harper’s sobs made perfect sense now. She’d seen my past, something I knew she had never wanted to hear about, let alone see in print.
I wasn’t a stranger to fear. I’d had to fear my stepfather growing up. Feared losing Emmie when she’d been pregnant with Mia. Even feared for everyone I loved during that fucking summer tour. But suddenly I was more scared than I’d ever been in my life. What if… Fuck, what if Harper was so hurt and disgusted that she didn’t want me anymore? What if those damn pictures had killed her love for me?
Pushing those thoughts away, unable to think straight with those thoughts going through my head, I turned a cold glare on Emmie. “I thought you and Nat burned this kind of shit?”
Big green eyes told me she knew that I was hurting and how sorry she was. Dropping the picture back into the pile on the floor, she put her other hand on my shoulder and gave it a loving squeeze. “We do. All the fan mail is supposed to go to the PO Box. I’ve even had the mail room downstairs forward all the fan mail that gets sent here to the post office.”
“So how the hell did she get this trash?”
Emmie grimaced. “It’s not fan mail. It came from someone inside the building.”
“Emmie.” We both looked up when Peterson called out to her from across the room. “Get everyone out of here.” He nodded at the two guards and Rex, who was standing by the door watching everything with tormented eyes. I knew Harper’s boss cared about her, thought of her as his prodigy and even treated her like family. This must have been a nightmare for him nearly as much as it was for me.
Emmie didn’t even question Peterson as she ordered everyone out. Rex opened his mouth to protest but whatever he saw in Emmie’s eyes made him think better of it and he followed the two security guards out. Once they were gone, leaving us with just Peterson and Theo, Emmie closed the door and turned to face Harper’s two bodyguards.
“What is it?” She kept her voice low so that no one could hear her on the other side of the door if they happened to be listening in.
Peterson’s jaw was clenched hard enough to break his back teeth as he pulled something from the bookshelf where Harper kept a few pictures of us, our family and even Ranger. There were framed pictures of her favorite covers of Rock America that she was particularly proud of and a handful of her favorite books.
Stepping forward, Peterson showed us what was in his hand and I had to move closer to see what it was. It was a tiny little box that no one would have noticed had they not been looking for something specifically. “This is a camera. It’s on a live feed. Someone has been watching Harper.”
My blood turned to ice. “The stalker from the tour?”
The other man shrugged. “That would be at the top of my list of suspects, yes.”
Emmie blew out a frustrated breath. “So…” She shook her head. “So are you saying that whoever did all that shit over the summer works here?”
“It’s a big possibility.”
I’d known that the stalker bitch from the summer tour was still out there. That she was probably waiting and planning her next move. Now she obviously had, only further confirming that the cunt was someone from my past.
Rage boiled in my veins, my heart like a block of ice while guilt churned through me.
That this person could actually work in the same building with Harper had never crossed my mind. That the most precious thing in my life was so close to the psycho, probably saw this person on a daily basis and possibly spoke to them regularly was almost too much to take in.
Who the hell was doing this to my wife? Who was doing this to us? Why did it fucking matter that we were together?
“I’ll call Seller and have him bring a team in to do a sweep through the house,” Peterson was telling Emmie now, pulling me back to the present with a vengeance.
“The house?” I bit out. “You mean this shit could be in our home?”
Peterson shrugged. “It’s possible. They could have snuck in and planted them while we were all gone for the summer. Or…” His face clenched yet again. “It could be someone you know and have let into the house.”
“Motherfucker.” I thrust my fingers through my hair as I yelled and turned away from the three people watching me. I wanted to hit something—wanted to fucking destroy whoever was doing this to us. I wanted to protect Harper and it was possible—so very possible—that I’d let this lunatic in our home.
Emmie’s soft hand touched my back, calming me slightly. I cupped my face in both my hands and to
ok in one deep breath after another, trying to gain control over my emotions. Her arms wrapped around my waist, hugging me, offering me her strength like she had always done.
“We will figure this out, Shane. I promise you. We’ll find this bitch and deal with her.”
Her promises didn’t leave me feeling any better. This time I knew she might not be able to move heaven and earth to get me what I so desperately wanted: Harper not sobbing so hard that I could hear her even through the closed door of the office. Harper safe.
“He’s going to go through your house too, Emmie.”
We both looked up when Peterson spoke. I felt Emmie tense. “Mine?”
“She targeted you through Mia. She’s not just after Harper. For some reason this person wants to hurt both of you.” He shook his head and glanced at Theo. “Take Emmie home and tell Roger not to let her out of his sight. Seller can send a second to watch over Mia at school.”
“No.” Emmie released me and crossed her arms over her chest, back to being the commanding force that normally kept my life in order. “Call Roger and send him over to stay with Mia. I don’t care how much the school bitches. He’s not to let her out of his sight. I’m not leaving until I make sure Harper is going to be okay. Once the two teams are done checking Shane’s and my house for bugs and other shit, send them over to Jesse’s and Drake’s houses. Then Axton’s. Fuck, Natalie’s house too. We can’t be too careful.”
There was a sharp tap on the door seconds before it opened. Dallas stuck her blond head into the room, her gaze moving from person to person until it fell on me. It didn’t surprise me that Harper had called her best friend instead of me. After seeing those disgusting pictures, I knew my girl needed her bestie to hold her. Didn’t mean it didn’t sting that she hadn’t called me, though.
Dallas’s eyes weren’t full of the frost I feared they would hold, but she wasn’t smiling either. Did that mean she didn’t hate me as much as I was sure Harper did right then? “Good, you’re here. I think she’s ready to see you now.”