Lacey fought tears as Jason drove up the dark two-lane road that snaked through acres and acres of forest. They were on 294, moving farther from civilization. She hadn’t just gotten herself into trouble. She’d put Jason in danger, too.
Ruben had told her to let it go. He’d said he would take care of it when he got back. Why hadn’t she listened?
At the time, she’d just been trying to be a good employee. Then she’d found fraud and turned it over to Ruben. That would have been the end of it if Darla hadn’t shown up in her driveway.
“You couldn’t just leave well enough alone.” Ruben’s words closely echoed her own thoughts. She didn’t need any more regret heaped on top of what she already felt.
But that was what she was going to get.
“If you’d have listened, none of this would be happening.”
How could she respond? What he’d said was true. If she’d have gone home with the other employees the night before Ruben left on his trip, there would have been no fire. No hospital stay. No allergic reaction. Darla would still have her job.
And Jason wouldn’t be driving them both toward their deaths.
Ruben leaned forward. “Turn right up here.”
Jason navigated the turn. Lacey knew the area. They were headed toward Hiwassee Dam.
“I really don’t want to have to do this, but you’re leaving me no choice.”
Lacey turned toward him. “You have a choice. Medicare fraud is minor. Look up some codes, add a charge here and there and pocket the money when it comes in. No big deal. That’s something you can live with.”
It was too dark inside the vehicle to see his eyes. The stretch of 294 they’d covered didn’t have a single streetlight, and neither did the dam access road. Were her words swaying him at all?
She forged ahead. “Murder isn’t something you can live with. I’ve known you long enough to know you’re not a killer. You do this and it’ll destroy you.”
“You’re probably right. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to jail.”
After several more curves, a white sign on the left announced that they were entering the Hiwassee Dam area.
“Slow down,” Ruben said. “You’ll be turning on Powerhouse Road, but the gate’s going to be locked.”
The reason for the bolt cutters. When Ruben had walked in on her in his garage, it had taken him several minutes to decide what to do with her. Then he’d snatched the bolt cutters from his tool wall and led her out the door.
When they reached Powerhouse, Ruben waited with her in the vehicle while Jason cut the lock and opened the gate. Then they followed the road down to the recreational area at the bottom of the dam.
The headlights spilled over the grassy area that bordered the parking lot. Beyond that was the river, a glossy ribbon of black glinting in the moonlight.
Ruben opened his door and slid from the seat, his weapon aimed at her. “Get out, both of you.”
She followed him out of the vehicle. “You won’t get away with this.”
She’d said the same thing to Ivan last night. She’d been confident then, knowing if she died, Ivan would pay for the crime.
Now her words were an empty threat. Regardless of how the investigation progressed, no one would suspect Ruben. Even Darla wouldn’t be likely to say anything. Any examination of the company’s files could get her arrested.
“Walk down to the river.”
She moved away from the vehicle, Jason next to her. Her thoughts spun. It was two against one. There had to be something they could do. But holding the weapon, Ruben had the advantage.
She’d worked closely with him for the past six months, had known him longer than that. Never in a million years would she have dreamed he’d kill her. But it wouldn’t be the first time a man had murdered for greed.
Advanced Medical Billing was a profitable business. It kept six percent of everything collected. But that wasn’t enough. Ruben wanted more.
To fund his gambling habit. Suddenly it was clear.
She’d always known he enjoyed gambling. What she hadn’t realized was that he had a gambling addiction. Not until she’d overheard the conversation with his wife. That was probably the reason for the delayed payments to clients, too. He was likely using company funds to float himself loans.
Why hadn’t it clicked when she’d first heard Camille’s words? If she’d have just walked out and gone home at that point, she wouldn’t be in this predicament.
And neither would Jason.
The urge to turn around and throw herself into his arms was almost overwhelming. She couldn’t let him die without telling him how she felt. She loved him. And he didn’t even know.
He’d come back to Murphy to help his mother. Instead he’d rescued Lacey from a burning building, and everything had gone downhill from there.
Last night, he’d been shot by her ex-boyfriend. Tonight it was going to be her boss.
God, this is my fault. Whatever happens, please protect Jason.
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