There had been a time in his late teens and early twenties when Ben had found his family to be cloying. He had longed to prove himself and, despite the advantaged start they had given him, he thought he’d succeeded very well on his own merit. When he had first partnered with Kaine, he had considered them equals.
Things had turned contentious when Ben’s samples had turned sour and Ben had wanted to punch the man in the face for going after Gizi. Smart and independent as Gizi was, in his head she was still a naive ten-year-old given to believing romantic notions about earrings and eternal love.
Kaine had fallen in love with Gizi, though, and Ben had taken the heat for the fraud. He and Kaine had been in a cold war of sorts for Gizi’s sake and would have avoided each other indefinitely if Kaine hadn’t gone after Vincent with him.
Kaine had been as invested in bringing down Vincent as Ben was, but Ben hadn’t expected the man to shadow him into the jungle and counsel him so earnestly against cold-blooded murder.
“Your baby needs a father. Tell the authorities and let’s get home to our women.”
Ben hadn’t wanted to settle for merely seeing Vincent arrested. At least assault charges were added to the insider trading and fraud, though.
Now Ben was back in New York, exhausted and referencing an email from Viktor to find his new address while Kaine’s offer of start-up capital for a reboot of Barsi Minerals was still ringing in his head.
His upended life was righting itself. His family no longer faced dire straits. He could hold his head high again, even go back to a version of his old life.
There would be no off-grid explorations for rare metals, however. Not with a baby in tow. He had always seen himself as the type of parent who might have one or two business trips a year, but otherwise wanted to be involved daily with his children.
He had imagined his wife would be the same.
I didn’t have anything worth staying for.
He had been sleeping with an employee. That had definitely needed to end. At the time, he had even understood her desire to avoid being seen as getting ahead through any means other than her genuinely excellent work.
When he thought back on it now, he remembered her suggesting they wait until the job was finished and inviting him to get in touch if he wanted to pursue their relationship again.
He had forgotten that when he returned to the site, concerned by reports of wildly different sampling and learned she had fled. The betrayal at that point had been so deep he was sickened. He’d gone after her, but unlike Vincent, when Henriqua disappeared, she did it right.
Had she run again? The penthouse was silent, the master bedroom empty. He swore wearily and had a much-needed shower. He would have fallen into bed, but couldn’t recall when he had last eaten.
As he walked down the hall in a towel, he glanced into the guest room and halted.
There she was, fast asleep under a throw. Her auburn hair spilled across her pale cheek. She had one hand tucked under the pillow, the other curled beneath her chin.
The emotion that moved in him had him swallowing and padding softly across to stand over her.
He had never seen her sleep. They’d always made love in the dark, biting back their cries of pleasure to hide their affair. He had always left before light, guilty and regretful, hating himself for what felt like a weakness because he couldn’t seem to resist her.
Damn, she looked innocent.
Because she was innocent. She’d been a virgin. She hadn’t betrayed him.
He sank onto the edge of the mattress, humbled.
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