Breaching the Billionaire: Alethea's Redemption
Page 29

 Ruth Cardello

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Abby’s strained voice carried across the room. “Is there anything else you’re holding back?” She pinned each of the men down with the fury of a protective lioness. “God help the one of you who thinks hiding something from me now is a good idea.”
Jake made an uncomfortable face. “She sounds more like Dom every day.”
Lil turned to Jake and, if looks could kill, an ambulance would have been needed at the very least. Her voice was equally high and emotional. “I know you use sarcasm when you don’t feel comfortable, but I’m holding on to my sanity by a very thin thread, Jake. A very thin thread. You should have told us what was going on. Someone should have told us.”
Marie said softly, “Someone did.”
Although her name wasn’t uttered, everyone got her reference.
Nicole pulled back a bit, looked up at Stephan, and said, “She tried to tell me that you were involved. Actually, she said your IP address was. I didn’t believe her.”
Marc stepped outside of his normal silent role to defend the woman he loved. Loved. No use denying the undeniable. He loved her. And so would these people if they began to see her as he did. “Alethea was trying to clear Stephan’s name.”
Tears welled in Nicole’s eyes and she searched Stephan’s face. She asked, “Is that true?”
Stephan nodded and addressed the others in the room. His face was twisted with torment. “Yes, someone hacked my server and now my phone. I had no idea. We know who’s doing it. I hired him and gave him access to my systems and then to Dominic’s. This is my fault, Nicole. All of it.”
Ever the voice of reason, Jake interjected, “You had no idea he was planning this.”
Stephan’s face reddened and he asked angrily, “So, you knew I was innocent?” He looked across at Dominic. “Or did you instantly believe the worst of me? What do I need to do to prove to you that last year was a mistake I deeply regret?”
Nicole tried to reassure her fiancé. “They know that, Stephan.” She left his side and crossed the room to her brother in quick strides. “Tell him, Dom. Tell him that you knew he was innocent,” she pleaded.
Never one to lie, Dominic said nothing.
Lil pointed back and forth between the men. “It’s sort of understandable. I mean, Stephan was out to get him for years.”
Abby cautioned her sister softly. “Lil . . .”
Over the head of his sister, Dominic growled at Stephan, “I’m not doing this right now. Your feelings don’t matter when I’m receiving texts like this.” He held up his phone.
Abby read the message out loud. Her voice started strong, then tapered to a horrified whisper. “Next time, I’ll take more than a photo.”
She hugged Judy closer to her despite the baby’s cries. “Oh, my God.”
Dominic pulled both wife and child into his arms. “We’re going to get this guy, Abby. It’s an empty threat.”
Marc crossed the room and looked at the text. “This was sent a few minutes after the photo. Still using Stephan’s phone.”
Lil put her daughter down and took out her phone. She whipped it open and removed the battery. “Alethea taught me that. She warned me to upload encryption software, but I didn’t.”
Stephan took out his phone to do the same, but Jake waved a hand at him and then motioned for him to hand it over. He took out his own phone, then held out his hand to collect everyone else’s. Even Marc’s. He walked out of the room and then returned without them.
Jake said, “Leave your phone on, Stephan. Jeremy and my parents can wipe ours clean and double-check our safeguards. They can also try to trace whatever virus was put into your phone. But Lil is right. Until we have this guy, we have to assume our phones can be used as listening devices.”
Nicole put a shaky hand up to her mouth. “Is this about what happened last year?”
Marie put an arm around a sobbing Rosella. In a firm voice, she said, “Forget last year. We need to focus on what is happening right now. Not old wounds. We all just had a good scare. Take this as a reminder to never relax our guard. No one becomes successful without encountering people who want to take that success away. Life was easier when you all felt you had nothing to lose, but with happiness comes the responsibility of protecting it. So, I don’t want to hear about last year, or five years ago. I want to know who this asshole is and how we are going to fucking get him.” In the shocked silence that followed her tirade, she said, “I swore. Get over it. Someone threatened my babies today. I’ve never been this angry. I want this bastard found.”
Dominic rubbed his forehead roughly. “Marc, how close are we to finding this guy?”
“Jeremy has his real name and is searching every legal databases, and some that are illegal, too. We’ll have a breakthrough soon. Then it’s just a matter of cornering the rat. This time we won’t simply shut Sliver down—we’ll drive him out of his hiding place.”
Dominic walked to the corner of the room, picked up the landline, and dialed a number. He turned his back to the others in the room and said, “I’m calling in your debt.” After listening to the reply, Dominic said, “Yes, and I need someone with political immunity to do it.”
As he continued his conversation in a lower tone, Marie pried a crying Judy from Abby’s arms. “Rosella and I will take the babies to the other room.” When Abby moved to follow, Marie said, “Judy doesn’t know what’s going on. She’ll be happy with a bottle and a nap. Stay with your husband. He needs you right now.”
Abby nodded and went to Dominic’s side, linking her hand with his. Her unspoken support for whatever he was planning was clear.
And the move touched Marc. They were a team. Strong. Solid.
That was love.
Alethea was the only woman he could picture having that with. More than just chemistry—she had the potential to be a real partner. He respected her intelligence, admired her spirit. Sexy as hell and passionate about the same things he was—she was his future. He’d never been as sure of anything as he was of that.
When Dominic hung up the phone and rejoined the group, Nicole looked around frantically and said, “Stephan’s gone.”
Jake rushed out of the room and then quickly returned. “He left his phone, but his car is gone.”
Nicole went to the window. “He’s going after Sliver himself.”
Jake shook his head. “That’s not wise. We don’t know what Sliver is capable of. We don’t even know where he is.”
Marc added his thoughts from across the room. “Stephan has leads of his own. He might be following one of those. I’ll see if Jeremy has found anything. I’m in radio contact with my men. If you want to send me a message, contact me that way. The line’s encryption algorithm is changed daily so it should be secure.”
Dominic said, “I’m coming with you.”
“No,” Marc answered firmly. “This is what you pay me to do.”
“If you think I am going to sit here while . . .” His voice cracked with emotion. Abby tucked herself under Dominic’s arm and hugged him.
Marc nodded toward Abby. “You need to be here in case Sliver tries anything else. I’ll find Stephan and get this guy. You keep your family safe.”
Jake pulled Lil closer. Marc completely understood. Risking their necks in foreign countries while completing dubious government deals had always been a thrill. Waiting for the next move of a sociopath who threatened the ones they loved—there was nothing exciting about that. That kind of threat was a game changer.
Nothing else mattered.
Not the financial empire they’d built.
Not their power or influence.
This was war.
Marc was headed toward the door when Lil called out his name. He stopped and turned. She said, “If I know Al, and I do, she’s going after him, too. She may be angry with me, but she would never walk away while any of us were in trouble.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I tried to text her right after she left, but she’s not answering me. If your paths cross in this, tell her that I love her. And tell her to be careful.”
With a nod, Marc turned and walked out. Behind the steering wheel of his Lexus, he confronted his greatest fear. I might not be in time. He had to get a step ahead of her before she faced Sliver alone. This time I’m bringing everyone out alive.
How would Alethea find Sliver?
Back at Andrade Global, Stephan met with the team he’d assembled when he’d first learned that his server had been hacked. Only the most loyal to him had been informed of the threat, and even then they were not told the whole story. They were told a hacker was trying to sabotage Dominic’s company and he was using his prior access to Andrade Global to do it.
“Do we have any new leads?” Stephan demanded loudly.
One of his men stepped forward with a folder. “We found a loft apartment in the Meat Packing District that Jack Mineoff bought under his real name. He still pays utilities there.”
Stephan took the folder and looked over the photos and descriptions inside. Sliver is smarter than this. It’s almost as if he wants us to find him. “I don’t like it,” he said. “It feels too easy.”
His head of security shrugged. “Maybe he didn’t consider that you’d become close enough to Dominic to be able to discover his real name.”
“Maybe,” Stephan said. “I still don’t like it. We need to check out if he still lives in that loft. Two of you will come with me. The rest of you, I want you here digging up anything and everything you can on this guy. If he went to the dentist in the past few years, I want to know about it. Everything.” Walking over to his desk, he said, “Meet me in the outer office in five minutes. I need to make a call before we go. Wear your tactical vests. This guy is dangerous.”
The men nodded and left, closing the door behind them. He punched in an international number on his office landline and waited.
His father instantly switched over to English. “Are you all right? You sound upset. Has something happened?”
“Not yet, but I have something I need to ask you.”
There was a short pause and then Victor said, “Anything. You know that.”
He knew his father meant it, and if there was time he might have taken him up on his offer, but what he had to do couldn’t wait for the time it would take his family to gather. “If anything ever happens to me, I need to know that you and the family will take care of Nicole.”
He didn’t try to hide the seriousness of the situation. Victor was the strongest man Stephan had ever met—a good man who deserved better than this from his only son.
“What’s going on, Stephan?”
“I can’t tell you, Dad. Just promise me that you’ll be there for her. I don’t want her to ever feel alone or afraid again.”
“Are you in some sort of trouble?” Victor asked urgently. “Tell me what you need. We have friends who can help. Influential friends. Have you spoken to Dominic?”