Breaching the Billionaire: Alethea's Redemption
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Lil shook her head. “No way. I’m careful about where I go and that’s good enough for me. For special events, yes, I can see how we need it to deal with the press, but I don’t want to live with a constant shadow.”
The hair on the back of Alethea’s neck went up at the knowledge of how unprotected her friend was. She wanted to demand that she do more for herself and her child. She wanted to spill the details of everything she knew. But she didn’t.
All she knew so far was that Stephan’s IP address was involved in the coding errors and someone had sent a photo of Judy through his email.
Neither was enough to convince anyone present they were facing a potentially lethal threat. They wouldn’t believe her. Nothing would be gained, and Marc would never trust her again.
Abby put down her tea and said, “The reason I asked all of you here is because things have gotten rocky between us lately and I believe we’ve lost sight of what is important. We have a wedding to plan. Lil, stop putting off the date and pick one. We’ll all be there.”
A huge, hopeful smile spread across Lil’s face. “There is nothing I want more than to have the people I love the most at my side that day.” She looked back and forth between Abby and Alethea. “I love you both so much. I couldn’t plan a wedding while you were at odds. But seeing you here together, I know we can work this out. I want to drag all of you wedding dress shopping, cake tasting, make you listen to a slew of possible bands.”
Abby hugged Lil. “You deserve to have your big day without worrying whether we can get along or not. The past is the past. All that matters to me is whatever happens from this day on.”
Lil reached across and took Alethea’s hand in hers. “I couldn’t have said it better than Abby did. A fresh start sounds good to me.”
Nicole joked, “And the sooner the better. Stephan and I would love to be next.”
Marie looked across at Alethea and said, “I’ve judged you harshly in the past, Alethea. I’m protective of my boys and I adopted Jeremy the moment I met him. Jeisa, too. I can’t say I agree with how you treated either of them, but I can agree to let the past be the past. You impressed me today. I didn’t know what to think when Abby suggested this meeting. But I can see that you genuinely want this to work out as much as we do. You’ve done a lot to help those I care most about, and I hope this is the start of a friendship between us.”
The next two hours passed quickly as they chose days to get together, possible locations for Lil’s wedding, and in general laughed over fun ideas they tossed around. Alethea didn’t mention the challenges each proposed location faced when it came to security. She didn’t share what all those days would mean to her work schedule and projects. No, she smiled, laughed, and did her best to avoid saying anything that could rock the boat.
She excused herself to go to the bathroom and Lil came with her, hugging her all the way. “Al, today worked out better than I dared dream it could. I’m getting married. I’m actually getting married, and you’re going to be there.”
She hugged her friend back, fighting the voice within her that screamed to be careful. Abby was right. The past doesn’t matter here. I bring it to every encounter I have. Is that why I can’t be happy? I find ugly everywhere because I look for it?
Just for today, I want to see the world the way Lil does.
She hugged Lil and gave in to an enthusiastic bounce. “You’re getting married. You’re really getting married.”
They giggled together just as they had when they’d been much younger, and it felt good.
They returned from the bathroom, both smiling and laughing.
Abby’s phone beeped and she checked it. She smiled and then frowned. Holding the phone so everyone could see the photo, she said, “Stephan just sent me a photo of the babies and Rosella at the park. That’s weird. He’s never sent me a text before. It doesn’t look like they even know he’s there.”
She looked at Nicole, who shrugged and then at Alethea—who froze.
Across town, Marc placed his list of names on Dominic Corisi’s desk. “With Alethea’s help I went through every name you gave me. There is a brief summary next to each. We used every source we could to learn what these people have been up to and determine if they have the skills needed to pull this off. I wish I had good news for you.”
Dominic looked over the list quickly and then handed it to Jake. “Jeremy, tell me you found something.”
“I found a network of dummy IPs that lead backward from Stephan’s. The good news is that Stephan’s not doing this. The bad news is, whoever is doing this—he’s good. Real good. I hate to say it, but I think Alethea is right on the money with this one. Someone put a whole lot of effort into this . . . over a few years. If we stop looking at the coding errors as the problem and think of them as a taunt, we’re dealing with one sick bastard.”
Jake said, “But one that Stephan may have met. If he worked for him, there has to be a photo of him. Or surveillance video. Something.”
Jeremy said, “There is no record of Stanley or the other alias at Andrade Global. They store their surveillance videos digitally, and those files have been wiped clean. I guess we could have Stephan work with a criminal sketch artist, but other than that, we’re at a dead end.
Marc looked at Dominic. “Can I use your computer?”
Jeremy’s eyebrows rose. “No offense, Marc, but if there was something to find here, I would have found it.”
Jake agreed. “I’ve gone through every possible online database we have. Nothing. It’s like this guy never existed. If we’re even hunting for the right guy. There is nothing that says the man who worked for Stephan and the guy who is doing this are the same person.”
Undeterred, Marc walked behind Dominic’s desk and took his seat. He stopped and looked at Dominic. “Password?”
Dominic told Marc and then shrugged. “I don’t know why I use one when apparently everyone can access everything regardless.”
Marc accessed the Internet and followed his hunch.
“What are you hoping to find?” Jeremy asked.
Marc answered, “Just give me a minute.”
Dominic looked around the room angrily. “Where the hell is Stephan?”
Jeremy pointed his thumb at the window in a vague reference of location. “He’s working with Jake’s parents to secure his server. It’ll take time to find and close every access point.”
Dominic growled, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. Who would go this far just to fuck with me? What could they get out of it?”
Marc spun Dominic’s monitor around and asked, “Dominic, do you recognize anyone in this photo?”
Dominic walked over, flanked by Jake, and bent to look at the photo of a man looking irritated by the birthday cake on his cubicle desk. “Who is it?”
Marc straightened. “That’s Jack the first year he worked for Andrade Global.”
Jeremy nodded in admiration. “Social media. You’re a genius, Marc.”
Shaking his head, Marc said, “Not a genius, just savvy to the fact that everyone posts everything online and I figured the coding department at Andrade Global wouldn’t be anything different. You can wipe databases clean, but try getting someone to take down an embarrassing photo of you. This one even had him tagged. I bet it meant nothing to him at the time and he forgot all about it.”
Jake said, “Dom, we know him.”
Dominic looked closer. “It can’t be Kurtis from college. It looks like him, though.”
Jake straightened and explained. “Dom and I met at Harvard. We planned Corisi Enterprises over pizza and some serious beer. But we weren’t alone. Kurtis Vine was involved at first. At least at the very beginning, when we were still writing everything on napkins. He was brilliant and for a while we thought all three of us would take over the world together.”
Marc asked, “What happened?”
Dominic frowned. “He and I didn’t share the same vision.”
Jake smiled. “You know, the one where Dominic gets all the glory and everyone else is grateful to go along for the ride.”
Dominic glared at his friend. “You want to be the face of Corisi Enterprises, Jake, just say so. It comes with this great desk and all the blame for anything that ever goes wrong.”
Jake raised his hands with a placating smile. “I’m perfectly happy to take the copilot seat.”
Marc said, “But Kurtis wasn’t. Why didn’t you mention him last night when we were generating a list of possible suspects?”
Dominic shrugged. “It was a long time ago. When we split ways, all we had was a vague business plan written on napkins and scrap paper. He didn’t contribute anything of value.”
Jake continued. “We designed our first software interface after he left. We didn’t screw him out of anything.”
Marc turned the monitor around and did an Internet search. Failed company. Failed company. Then nothing. He dropped off the map just about the time Jack Mineoff was hired by Stephan. “Looks like he had some good ideas but couldn’t pull them off. He failed at everything he’s tried since college. He probably resents the fortune you’ve made, Dom. It has to be him. He disappeared from the record just about the time Jack was hired by Stephan.”
Jeremy said, “He must hate you for doing so well when he hasn’t.”
Jake asked, “Enough to mastermind something like this? Why?”
Dominic’s face darkened with memories of his own journey. “Revenge.”
Alethea spun on her heel and said, “I’ll be right back.” She practically sprinted down the hallway to get out of earshot of the other women. Her first instinct was to race to the park herself, but it would take too much time—just as it would to convince Abby to have the kids brought back to the house.
Instead, she called Marc. When he picked up, she didn’t give him time to speak. “Abby just received a photo of Rosella in the park with the kids. It came from Stephan’s phone.”
“Shit,” Marc said. “I’ll call my men. No one was supposed to go out today. They said they’d all be there with you. Hold on.” He spoke rapidly into a small radio he always carried with him and instructed his men to get Rosella and the babies home. Immediately. He also instructed two men to do a perimeter sweep for anyone unusual. After a moment of listening to his men report back in he said, “Alethea, they’re fine and en route back to Dominic’s. You did the right thing by calling me. Was there a message with the photo?”
“No,” Alethea said. “Just a photo of them walking. Marc, I’m worried. This is an escalation of the baby monitor. He wants us to know that he’s watching—in person. Did Jeremy find anything? It’s a warning.”
“Don’t worry, we’re handling it. We believe we know who this guy is. I’ll tell you more about it tonight when I see you. The important thing is that we keep this to ourselves. You can’t tell anyone what you know, Alethea. It would only scare them unnecessarily.”