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Trashy Conquest by Gemma James (1)

1. Lawyer Up

Cash


I’m surrounded by four slab walls. No windows except for the small rectangle of glass in the door. A camera blinks in the corner of the room, catching everything from its anchor in the ceiling. I spotted less intimidating rooms on the way in, so I’m guessing Detective Riley wants me on edge.

This isn’t happening.

Those three words are on repeat in my head, bouncing off the foggy walls of my mind. Riley is talking, but I’ve succumbed to a blanket of shock since they told me about the woman they found dead in our fucking living room.

The fact that my wife isn’t the one in a body bag right now is my only comfort. I wrap myself in that knowledge as I watch Riley’s lips move. A furrow forms in the space between his thick brows, but none of it registers. Even if it did, I wouldn’t recognize suspicion from sympathy anyway.

His forehead creases, and I realize he asked me something and is expecting a response. But what does he want from me? Am I supposed to be shocked? Worried? Terrified for my wife?

All I am is poleaxed, and not in a good way.

“I’m sorry. Can you repeat the question?”

“Do you know where your wife is?”

“I already told you I don’t,” I say with a shake of my head. I’ve tried calling her cell, but it keeps going straight to voicemail.

He shifts in his seat across from me. “How did your wife know the victim?”

Lydia Hirsch.

The woman I interviewed two months ago for the personal assistant position.

The woman Monica said was a friend.

The woman who’s now headed for the morgue, and I can hardly wrap my head around it.

“I don’t know how they knew each other. Monica said Lydia was a friend.”

“You don’t seem to know much about any of this, do you, Mr. Montgomery?” There’s a sarcastic edge to his tone that I don’t miss. “Can you at least tell me where your wife might have gone?”

The photo of her with another man assaults my mind, and I resist grinding my teeth. “She was having an affair. I suppose it’s possible she’s with him.”

“Do you have an address for this guy?”

I shake my head. “I don’t know who she’s screwing either.”

“How do you know your wife is having an affair?” He’s watching me with keen blue eyes, as if searching for a telling sign.

“Someone sent me a photo.”

“I bet that made you angry.”

“It would make anyone angry.”

Riley’s expression levels out, and he gives me a slight dip of his chin. “When did you receive this photo?”

“About two months ago.”

“And you don’t know who sent it?”

“No.”

The detective’s partner enters the room, and Riley gets up and turns his back to me. A folder exchanges hands. Their words are spoken in low tones, not much more than whispers. I can’t make out what they’re saying, but it’s clear they’re talking about Monica. A minute later, the other man leaves, and Riley returns to the seat opposite me, pen in hand.

He lets a beat pass. “You said you weren’t home earlier today?”

“Correct.”

“When was the last time you saw your wife?”

“Yesterday morning.”

His pen pauses over the notepad. “You didn’t see her the entire weekend?”

Fuck. He’s had me off my guard from the beginning, and it didn’t occur to me to lie because I’ve got nothing to hide…

Except for the fact that I was with Jules. A ball of dread lands in my gut. “No, I wasn’t home.”

He takes several photos from the folder and places them on the table. “Is that not you?”

I lean forward to get a better look. The images are grainy, undoubtedly taken from the surveillance footage in the parking garage of my building. The man in the photo appears to be arguing with Monica as she unlocks her car door, but in the next few shots the two are kissing.

The man appears to be me.

I raise my eyes to the detective. “When was this taken?”

“Earlier today after someone reported a disturbance coming from your unit.”

A tight fist of anger clenches my gut. Betrayal storms through me, rampant in its destruction. “That’s not me,” I say, gesturing toward the photos.

“Let me guess,” he says with a derisive tilt to his mouth. “You have a lookalike out there somewhere.”

“Actually, I do. My twin brother.”

Riley affords me an arch of his brow. “A twin brother, you say? I’m assuming the two of you are identical then?”

“Yes.”

He shifts in the seat across from me, tapping the pen against the notepad. “Where were you today, Mr. Montgomery?”

Jesus. Dragging Jules into this mess is the last thing I want, but I don’t see any other option. “I was with my assistant.”

Again, he pauses, hand hovering above the notepad. “Working on a Sunday? You must be really dedicated.”

“I wasn’t working.” Several beats pass as we regard each other. “We spent the weekend inside her apartment.”

“I see.” Riley slides the legal pad to me, his lips sloping into a frown. “I’ll need your assistant to corroborate.”

“That won’t be a problem.” I jot down Jules’ contact info. Her name is a scrawl on the paper, drawing my eye. She’s no doubt wondering where I am since I told her I’d call her. I drag a hand through my hair, antsy to get back to her. But it’ll be hours before I’ll be in the clear. After Riley is done with his line of questioning, my father will be on me next, issuing the rundown on press releases and coaching my behavior for the foreseeable future—from what I say to the media, how I act at the office, to the hours I shop for fucking groceries. His top priority will be the company image.

And then there’s Kaden…

He’s got some fucking explaining to do.

The photo of Monica with her lover flashes in my mind’s eye, but instead of seeing a faceless man, this time I see my brother. I shake the vision from my head.

“I have a few more questions for you.” Riley leans back in his seat, fingers brushing his clean-shaven chin. For a detective, he’s young—probably several years younger than my thirty.

“Of course.”

The next hour passes in a flurry of more questions, from Monica’s routine at home to her duties at MontBlake to the names of her closest friends. How Lydia ties into this is unknown, but I answer everything he throws my way without hesitation, despite the fact that my head is in a tailspin. The situation is too surreal, and somewhere in the back of my mind I know it hasn’t hit me yet.

Because she left a note.

A fucking suicide note.

Then there’s the medicine cabinet, left open in Monica’s haste to leave. The detective found a prescription for benzodiazepines, but the pill bottle matching the paperwork is missing. He doesn’t have to tell me that mixing them with alcohol can prove fatal.

Something about all of this doesn’t add up, and the detective knows it.

I know it.

“Am I being charged with a crime?”

He raises a brow at my blunt question. “No, this is merely an interview.”

“Then if you don’t mind, it’s late.” I push up from the stiff-backed chair, making it clear I’m done with his questioning for the night, because he’s been going in circles.

“I’ll be in touch, Mr. Montgomery.” There’s an undercurrent of suspicion in his words, and that gives me pause.

“Do I need a lawyer?”

Stupid question. I should have lawyered-up the instant they brought me to the precinct. As if fate is looking out for me, someone knocks on the door. The attorney MontBlake has on retainer strolls inside the room and instructs me to stop talking.

“Mr. Montgomery is my client,” Thomas Blackwell tells the detective. “Unless you’re charging him, he’s leaving with me now.”

“He’s free to go.”

Blackwell ushers me from the room, and I wait until we reach the front of the precinct before speaking. “My father sent you?”

“Yes.” He stays close to my back as we make our way outside to a black luxury sedan. He opens the back door where I find my father waiting for me. I slide onto the cold leather seat, and the attorney slams the door before taking the passenger seat in the front.

“Why the hell didn’t you call me?” Dad demands. A partition shields our conversation from Blackwell and the driver.

“I didn’t think about it. By the time I did, they were already questioning me.”

“I hope you kept your head on straight in there.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Bullshit. Where were you?”

“With Kaden.”

“Try again. Kaden hasn’t seen you this weekend.”

“You talked to him?”

“At least one of my sons has the decency to answer his phone.” He folds his arms across his chest and penetrates me with a shrewd stare. “It’s just you and me now, son. What the hell happened today?”

“How am I supposed to know? I wasn’t home.”

“That’s what I’m gathering. Where were you?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“The hell it doesn’t.”

I shoot him a glare. “Do you even care that someone is dead, or that Monica is missing?”

“Of course, I care,” Dad huffs.

The driver takes the next exit on the freeway and heads toward my parents’ house, and I fist my hands, already feeling trapped by the hours to come.

“Drop me off at Kaden’s. I need to talk to him.”

“You’re coming back to the house. We need to go over a game plan for tomorrow. I’ve called for a press conference first thing in the morning. Besides, Ned and Roni are waiting for us. Your brother will be there too.”

I’m tempted to ask if Monica’s parents are half as worried as my father is not, but I bite my tongue.

“I’m not going to ask you again, Cash. Where were you?”

“Clearing my head.”

“Why did you need to clear your head?”

I meet his gaze head on. “I was planning to file for divorce.” My admission brings on stony silence, but the storm gathering on his face stiffens my spine, and I wait for the eruption.

“Are you out of your mind?”

“I don’t expect you to understand.” Not after his uncaring reaction the night of my birthday dinner when I dropped the bomb of Monica’s affair.

“Are you screwing another woman?”

My silence is all the answer he needs.

“Damn it, Cash! How could you be so stupid? Or do I need to remind you of the infidelity clause? You know what’s at stake!”

“A woman is dead and my wife is missing! I think the stakes are already fucked.”

“Exactly. We have enough to deal with without adding your whore to the mix.”

An intense desire to plant my fist in his face heats my blood. Instead, I press the button that lowers the partition. “Pull over. I’m getting out.”

“Are you sure, sir?”

My father shoots out a hand. “Don’t you dare stop this car,” he shouts at the driver.

“Stop the fucking car!” I’m already grabbing the handle.

The sedan slows in front of a gas station, and I push the door open before the driver has a chance to come to a full stop. My dad exits the car, followed by Blackwell, and they come after me, both shouting my name at the same time.

“Leave me the fuck alone.” I toss a glare over my shoulder, but their footsteps increase. Seconds later, a hand grabs me by the arm.

“Get back in the car, son.” My father’s tone is calm and even. He’s reined in his temper in order to gain control of me. It’s his number one tactic, and even knowing this, I falter.

“My personal life is off-limits,” I say, turning to face him and Blackwell. The car’s reverse lights are on, wheels rolling to eat up the short distance.

“So you’re willing to risk everything over a piece of tail?”

“I mean it. Off-limits.”

My father is about to say more when Blackwell interjects. “Going to war with each other won’t solve anything.” He stands tall at my dad’s side, and I find his impeccable suit annoying as hell. He’s as put together as if he just dressed for the day. I can’t say the same for my father. Lines of stress sharpen the angles of his face, and his lids droop over tired eyes.

He relaxes, apparently convinced I’m not going to take off again. “Blackwell’s right. We’ll work this out at home.” He glances around our deserted surroundings, save for a guy in a red truck pumping gas, and a woman in scrubs entering the store adjacent to the gas station. “This isn’t the place to have this conversation.”

I’m tempted to start off down the street anyway, but my father and his vulture of an attorney aren’t about to give me breathing room. With a sigh, I let them usher me back to the idling car.