“Crap, crap, crap...” I pace around the dining table, my arms hugging my stomach in attempt to quell the nauseating churn as I dwell on the contents of those e-mails.
The confidential ones that Henry told me under no circumstances to read.
Now I know why.
Henry’s a... what, a rapist? Is that what that lawyer, Dyson, meant when he said Kiera is pressing criminal charges for forced sexual intercourse? What on earth did Henry do to his last assistant? His married assistant.
Whatever it was, it was enough to try and buy her off with a couple hundred thousand dollars and a gag order. That’s what Henry and his dad were talking about, that day I overheard them talking on the phone. Kiera is the “unfortunate situation” that Henry was sure was resolved, which means Henry’s father knows all about this.
Is it true? Is it possible that this beautiful, complicated man who made sure I didn’t end up at the bottom of the bay that first night, who didn’t so much as kiss me back when I drunkenly threw myself at him the first night, is the type of man to force himself on a woman?
I don’t know Henry at all. I can think I know him. I can pine over those intimate moments—about him carrying my inebriated butt home, about him in the woods that day, with his protective arm around me to calm me about the grizzly, about the worried look on his face when I was sick on the boat—and I can convince myself that he would never force himself on a woman. I can picture his handsome face and perfect masculine form, and tell myself that he’d never have to force himself on anyone because no woman would ever not willingly give herself to him.
But I don’t really know him. I’ve known him for a hot minute. I’d be an idiot to convince myself otherwise. I’d be the silly farm girl everyone believes me to be.
I groan. My exciting summer of escape, my chance to shed the pain that Jed caused and the control my mother holds over me, this intoxicating cloud that has consumed me since the moment I met Henry, it’s all over. Everything has changed with the accidental stroke of a key.
Why did I have to read that e-mail? Why couldn’t I have remained ignorant?
Then again, if what that lawyer says is true, I’ll be hearing about it soon enough anyway. Around the same time that everyone else does. And then they’ll all be looking at me, his new assistant. Wondering, questioning. Has the billionaire heir to Wolf Hotels forced himself on his latest assistant, too? Am I one of those “similar indiscretions” that Henry and his lawyer will want to discuss? How many are there?
What if everyone figures out that we’ve slept together?
What if they call me to testify at Henry’s trial? I’ll be under oath. I’ll have to admit that we’ve slept together but that it wasn’t rape, that it was consensual—very consensual—and then the media will hear about it and report it. It’ll be all over the newspapers, and Mama and everyone in Greenbank will be talking about how I willingly had a sexual relationship with Henry Wolf, the rapist, and Reverend Enderbey will preach at Sunday service about how I was tempted by the devil.
“Crap, crap, crap!” I can barely breathe, my chest is so tight with panic.
I just don’t get it! Henry is aggressive and mercurial and he can be an outright ass in public, but he’s never actually done anything to harm me, or that I didn’t want, or enjoy. So what exactly happened between him and this Kiera? Does he have a thing for sleeping with his assistants? Did she say no and did he not accept it?
A squeal escapes me as the shrill ring of my work phone cuts into the silence of Penthouse Cabin One, temporarily paralyzing me.
There’s only one person who could be calling me on that line.
I let it ring once... twice... three times, and if I don’t get it soon, he’s going to know I read those e-mails that I wasn’t supposed to read. Should I even care? Do I have a right to be 100 percent appalled with him and not feel guilty? Hell, yes, I do!
Unless there’s been some big misunderstanding. Unless that tiny voice in the back of my head that tells me this can’t be true is right.
Either way, I’m not going to find out by avoiding his calls.
“Get it together, Abbi,” I mutter as I round the table and head for the desk where my phone sits. Where he had me naked and spread out only yesterday morning. God, it was only yesterday! I’ve only been working for him for a week! For all the time we’ve spent together, it feels like an eternity ago. It’s like the moment Henry touched me, I fell through this strange rabbit hole into an alternate reality, where time and intelligence don’t matter.
All that has mattered is hot inappropriate sex with my boss.
But now I’ve been kicked out of that rabbit hole, and into a swirl of confusion, panic, and overwhelming disappointment.
“Hello? Hi. Hey.” I purse my lips together to stop myself from babbling, as I tend to do when I get nervous.
“I need you in the lobby right now.” Henry’s deep melodic voice fills my ear, only now it’s the abrupt version I get whenever we’re in public, not the husky one he reserves for sending shivers through my body.
I know what I’m supposed to say. Yes, Mr. Wolf, I’ll be right there. I’m supposed to grab my things and run to him. But when I open my mouth, I’m hit with the overwhelming urge to demand the truth. I let this man inside me, after all. I gave him something personal and private and cherished. I gave him me. I have a right to know if my life is about to be thrown into a mixer and set to high speed because of something horrible that he did.
I jump at the bark in my ear. “Yes?”
“Did you hear me?”
This isn’t a conversation for the phone. “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
“No, I won’t be there. I need you to greet the reporter from Luxury Travel magazine.”
I frown. “Roshana Mafi?” The exotic beauty who is receiving flowers with a personally written card from Henry? I thought he was meeting all the key media contacts himself.
“Yeah. Sure,” he mutters dismissively. I can hear his dress shoes click against the floor. He’s likely in one of the lower-level staff areas. Wherever he is, it’s quiet and he’s walking quickly.
“What time will she be there?”
“How the fuck would I know?” he snaps, but then heaves a sigh. “Ask Belinda. I have some important calls I need to make.”
Not any I scheduled because his calendar is clear for greeting key guests. I’m guessing one of those calls is to his attorney. Henry’s stressed, that much is obvious.
“Should I have Belinda greet her instead?”
“No. There was an incident between them years ago. She hates Belinda.”
I roll my eyes. I’m not going to ask for details. “Okay. Is there anything specific you want me to tell her?”
“That I’ll see her later. Actually, send Michael to her for an in-room massage. She’ll like that and it’ll keep her occupied.”
“Okay.” I hold my breath, waiting to hear the line go dead so I know I can hang up.
There’s a long pause. “What took you so long to answer?” Suspicion laces his tone.
“Peeing. I mean, restroom,” I blurt out, because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. I cringe, waiting for him to call me a liar, to confront me.
“Make sure she gets settled in.” The line goes dead.
~ ~ ~
“Who did he say he’s meeting with?” Belinda’s black patent heel taps impatiently on the marble.
“He has a few important calls to make.”
“More important than this? Show me his calendar.” Glossy crimson claws stretch for my iPad, but I hug it tight to my chest, earning her sigh of frustration. “Well, doesn’t he have you trained well already.”
I say nothing and stare out at the dark blue waters and, beyond that, an endless sea of evergreens reaching all the way to the mountain range, still capped with white in mid-May. Alaska is still as breathtakingly beautiful as the first time I took it in.
Only, the magic of Wolf Cove has been sullied.
“Does this have to do with his father coming in? Because I swear, every time William Wolf is within a mile radius, Henry starts acting all reckless.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. He didn’t say.” That e-mail from the lawyer makes me think that telling Henry’s father about the pending charges and the lawsuit is not going to be easy. I wonder how his father is going to react. It sounds like he holds Wolf Hotels’ reputation on a pedestal.
The ferry rounding the corner distracts Belinda from pressing me for more information about Henry’s whereabouts. “Okay, ten minutes and counting. Here’s her room key.” She thrusts the card toward me. “She’s staying in Penthouse Cabin Two.”
“Beside Henr—I mean, Mr. Wolf?” Henry was adamant that he is always Mr. Wolf outside the privacy of his cabin walls.
“Yes. As requested by Mr. Wolf, himself. Call Housekeeping and ask them to deliver her welcome package in exactly five minutes; we don’t want the ice bucket melting. And have her liaison ready. She needs to be fully entertained until Mr. Wolf frees himself from whatever it is that he’s doing.”
“Already taken care of. Michael will be coming shortly.”
I nod. “Mr. Wolf’s request.”
She gives a small nod of satisfaction, adjusting her heavy black-rimmed glasses and smoothing her movie-star blonde waves. “Roshana Mafi needs to be impressed. We need nothing short of an exemplary review from her. Can you handle all of this?”
“Really? Because your breasts are practically hanging out.”
My eyes drop to my gaping shirt in a panic, where the top button has slipped out of the slightly too-large buttonhole again. It’s a replacement blouse, after Henry tore the buttons off my other one. “This button won’t hold,” I mutter, fumbling with it as my cheeks heat.
“The cleaners should have a safety pin for you to use until we can get you another shirt. Button your blazer. That might help.” At least Belinda doesn’t sound mad about it. As the hotel manager, she’s next in charge below Henry. She also wears low-cut tops that intentionally flaunt her breasts, so this is a pot and kettle moment if there ever was one.
I fasten the single oversized button at my waist. I don’t know how much that really helps though. It’s more for fashion than function.
“Okay. Do you remember everything I told you?” She’s never hidden the fact that she thinks I’m dimwitted.
I make sure my head is turned away when I roll my eyes. “Yes. I’ll be fine.” In truth, I’m so preoccupied with the e-mail bomb I opened this morning, I’ve barely listened to a word Belinda has said. But I’m not too worried, because if what Henry’s attorney wrote is true, then no exemplary review will save Henry or Wolf Hotels from the coming shit storm.
“Oh, and one more thing... Roshana’s a viper. Don’t take anything she says personally.”
I heave a sigh. Great. Can’t wait.