“What is it that you do exactly, anyway?” I ask, interrupting him.
He stops talking and tilts his head, studying me in that coolly assessing way of his. It makes me uncomfortable and I want to squirm in my chair. “Are you all right?”
I shrug, trying to play it off. But my head is spinning and I swear to God, I’m seeing spots. Gripping the edge of the table once more, I tell him, “I’m fine. Could you answer my question?”
He doesn’t even protest. I think he wants to stay on my good side. “I’m, ah, a private investigator. I run my own company, do investigative work for a variety of clients.”
“Like Pilar,” I add.
“Yeah. Though truly, she’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met.” He shakes his head, his lips quirked into a weird little smile. I like those lips. Especially when they’re kissing me …
No. I can’t think like that. Remembering the way he kisses me is the path straight back to danger.
“How so?” I ask, taking another drink of my Coke. It feels like the sugar is swimming in my veins and my head is still woozy. I blow out a calming breath, trying my best to steady … everything, but it’s not working.
I feel like I’m walking on a rocking ship and we’re headed for even choppier waters.
Max schools his expression. “Lily, let’s be real. She’s bat-shit crazy. And if you want my opinion—I’m afraid for your safety. And Violet’s. Hell, your entire family is at risk when it comes to that woman.”
My heart falls, and my expression must reflect it because he’s quick to correct himself.
“I know Violet’s safe because she has Ryder McKay by her side. And Rose is married, so she has her husband. But you.” He takes a deep breath, his gaze never leaving mine. “I don’t want you alone. Not until this—thing is wrapped up.”
“Why not?” I whisper, everything inside of me aching at the possibilities that aren’t being said. I’m scared. I’ve been running scared, but was I ever truly frightened of Pilar? Of what might happen to me? Of what she could do to me?
Like an idiot, that would be a no.
“Near the end, right before I left Maui, Pilar threatened that she would … hire someone else to get the laptop if I couldn’t get the job done.”
“But you did get the job done,” I stress. “You took the laptop. Didn’t you?”
He looks cornered. Trapped. I know the feeling. “I did. But I didn’t give it to her. Not after what Levi and I discovered.”
I frown. “Who?”
“He works for me. Computer expert, probably as good as you are.” His pause is weighted with about a hundred unasked questions. “I had no idea about your technological skills.”
“You never asked.” It’s not something I’m comfortable talking about, especially with him … a guy I met and fucked around with a little.
He’s more than that and you know it.
Max lets the subject drop. “You played with fire when you challenged Pilar, Lily. And now she’s an inferno, ready to burn you up. She’s dying to burn me, too. I crossed her and she’s not going to let me forget it.”
“How did you cross her?”
“I told you. I didn’t give her the laptop.”
“So you do have it.”
He nods. “It’s in a safe in my apartment.”
I’m dying to see his apartment, even though I shouldn’t care. I should hate him forever for what he did to me. Yet I can’t help but want a glimpse into the personal haven of Max … I don’t even know his last name. “Why did you keep it?”
“Lily.” His voice is soft, his expression incredulous. “I couldn’t hand your laptop over to her, not after what I discovered on there.”
“You mean the photos?” I’m embarrassed that he saw them, but he’s seen me naked up close and personal, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.
But it is a big deal. I’m humiliated. I feel so … silly, knowing those photos are there. They’re old—they feel like they’re from a past life, that it’s another woman in those photos, not me.
His cheeks turn ruddy, like he’s embarrassed. “I saw them. So did Levi.”
Oh, God. Someone saw them besides Max? Could I be more humiliated? “Great,” I say, letting out a shaky breath.
“Don’t worry. Levi is the most serious, stand-up guy I know. He won’t tell anyone, he wouldn’t copy them—nothing like that. If he were to ever meet you—and I want you two to meet—he won’t acknowledge those photos, Lily. I swear. He’s got integrity.”
After what Max did to me, I believed he had no integrity whatsoever. He stole from me, for a job he was paid to do. How ethical can he be?
Reminds me of Rose and her husband, the former professional thief. He almost stole a very valuable diamond necklace from her but in the end, he couldn’t do it, because he was in love with her.
Not that I expect Max to fall in love with me after spending a few days together in Maui, but didn’t I matter to him at all? Did he have any remorse for what he did? Regret?
That he has the laptop shows that maybe he did.
“I believe you.” I draw my finger across my glass, through the condensation that’s formed there. “I took those photos a long time ago, for a stupid guy … a couple of stupid guys.”
He’s quiet, and I finally look up at him to find he’s watching me. “Say something,” I tell him when he remains silent.