“You’re doing a good job of proving it.” She rose up on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to mine. “And you haven’t even been trying.”

“I hope I’m around to try later. ’Cause now I have to talk to your dad.”


As we approached Hallie’s house, I didn’t know if I was more afraid of pissing off Paul Girard or pissing on myself.

“I’ll be right there.” She pointed to her dance studio. “I’ll leave my phone on in case you need a lift to the hospital.”

“You aren’t helping.”

“I wasn’t trying to. I don’t want you to sustain injury.” She held up crossed fingers, and then she was gone.

I wished I’d added another swipe of deodorant as I walked to Girard’s office and knocked on the open door. “Sir? I’d like a minute, if you have one?”

“Come in.”

I handed over the crystal ball we’d stolen from the hotel.

He nodded and put it on his desk. “No problems?”

“No, sir.” I didn’t move.

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“Is there something else?”

“Yes, sir.” I didn’t mean to blurt it out, but my mouth had other ideas. “I want to bring in some of my friends—colleagues—from the Hourglass.”

He studied me for a second. “Can’t handle this by yourself?”

“It’s not that.” I pulled at the collar of my shirt, and then dropped my hands, trying for confident body language. I just needed my armpits to agree. “There was a development last night. A serious one.”

I explained the possessions and watched him pale.

“Is my daughter all right?” he demanded, standing up and starting for the door.

“Wait.” I held up my hand. “She’s fine. She’s in her studio.”

Now he stopped cold. “Does she know you’re telling me this?”

I shook my head.

“But she’s okay?”

“Yes, Mr. Girard. I swear.”

“Trying to get back in my good graces?” He crossed the room to a table that held crystal tumblers and an almost empty bottle of Maker’s Mark, poured a glass, and looked me over. “You broke your promise to me in the first week of your employment. The only reason you’re still here is because Hallie drives a hard bargain.”

“No, sir. Hallie is the priority. The protocol needs to change. I’m the only person here who can see the same things she can, besides Poe, and they aren’t on speaking terms.” That you know about.

He took a drink. “Your reserves. How many are there?”


“I have to go out of town for a couple of days. I was content to leave Hallie in the care of my security staff, since that’s the way we usually handle things, but I don’t think that’s going to cut it.” He rubbed his upper lip. Took another drink. Paced. “I can hire all the bodyguards I want, but they don’t know the players or the stakes, and there’s an advantage to numbers.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean, sir.”

“Are your friends male or female?”

“Two of each.”

He nodded. “We have three fully equipped guest rooms, as long as you don’t mind doubling up.”

I did the math and frowned. “That’s six—”

“I want you and Poe here, too.”

Suddenly, I was really glad he hadn’t guessed the nature of the relationship between Hallie and me.

“There will still be security, and the ladies will be located very far away from the gentlemen, but if all of you can see what she can, then you can try to protect her from it. I’ll be in touch with the guards while I’m gone. If things don’t stay aboveboard, I’ll reassess.”

I knew, in this case, reassess meant I’d be fired, and if he found out about Hallie and me, possibly castrated.

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Take care of my daughter.”

“I’ll guard her with my life.”

Chapter 16


Dune was in my dad’s office. I just hoped I would hear the ambulance over the music.

Since I was alone, I decided on a quick session of warm-ups. The familiar routine usually allowed me to leave myself behind, just for a while. I tried to let my mind float, but Dune eased his way in, keeping me anchored.

Even so, I let out a shriek when I saw him at the window.

I opened the door and waved him inside. “You’re not dead. That’s good.”

“Are there cameras in here?” he asked.

“Not in the changing room.”

He grabbed my hand, dragged me in, and shut the door. Then he planted a fat one on my lips, and opened the door again.

“Not that I’m complaining, but what the hell is going on?”

I was still in the dressing room, but he was already out in the studio proper.

“The Hourglass is on the way,” he said.

“He said yes.” I was shocked. Dune had been in his office fifteen minutes, max.

“They’re staying here.”

My stomach pitched. “Okay.”

“So is Poe.”

I stared at him.

“And so am I.”

We waited at NOLA, Emeril’s restaurant on Saint Louis Street.

“Are you okay?” Dune asked.

“I’m shell-shocked.”

“They were already halfway here.”

I nodded. “What if Dad had said no?”

“They would’ve stayed in a hotel.” He took my hand. “They want to help you, Hallie. It’s not like they’re coming down so we can all do illicit drugs and have orgies.”

I snort laughed. “How did we get permission to meet them in the Quarter?”

“Your dad’s setting up extra surveillance and he wanted you out of the house while he put it in,” he confessed.

“You’re a tech genius.” I grinned, thinking about how he’d looked on my bed. “How long will it take to reroute it?”

“I’m not going to. I promised your dad I’d take care of you, and I intend to keep it.”

It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner. The place was almost empty, except for the waitstaff preparing for the evening rush. The quiet was getting to me.

Then the front door burst open.

“We’re here!” A blond blur zipped across the room, followed closely by a guy with dark, shaggy hair.

“Glad to see you.” The guy did the handshake-and-one-armed-hug combo with Dune before he held his hand out to me. “Hi, Hallie.”

“Hi, Michael.” I recognized him from the picture I’d seen in Dune’s bedroom. He had the self-confidence of someone much older. “That makes you Emerson.” I turned to face her.

“Hi.” In person, the perky cuteness I’d seen in the photo was tempered with something. Sorrow in her eyes, but strength, too. “We’re all so glad to meet you.”

Now Dune hugged a guy with a few piercings and visible tattoos.

“Kaleb,” the guy said, turning to me. The picture hadn’t done him justice. “Thanks for having us.”

“According to Dune, you were all going to visit, anyway.”

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