Ellie drew in a deep breath and forced herself to cross the restaurant dining room. She knew this had to be done, but once it was done, she and Ben would be, too, despite the past couple of weeks they’d spent consciously together. But she couldn’t let someone get away with almost murdering her or with what else Chelsea Krieger had done.
“Oh, it’s you...” she repeated what she’d said that night as she joined her attacker.
She hadn’t remembered who that had been until after Ben had finished his investigation and presented her with the truth. Then, insisting that she was perfectly safe, she’d set up this meeting. She wanted to confront her attacker again.
“Why?” she asked, as she dropped into the chair across from the pregnant woman.
“You haven’t figured it all out yet?” the other IRS agent asked.
Ellie had been sent here to take over the audits Chelsea Krieger had started before her maternity leave. “About your kickbacks and cover-ups?” she asked. “You destroyed the files you took from me that night and the emails, but my bodyguard found more evidence—enough to get you arrested.”
The red-haired woman glanced around. “Where is he then? I heard he never leaves your side.”
Except for his trip to the police department the first day she’d awakened, he hadn’t.
“He’s made it damn inconvenient for me,” Chelsea continued.
Did she know she was caught, or did she just not care? Ellie marveled at her boldness; she’d thought she was such a nice woman.
“But at least you’re here now,” Chelsea said, and she reached inside her purse. She didn’t pull her weapon all the way out, just far enough that Ellie saw the end of the barrel pointed directly at her.
Ben had been right, and he was going to be furious. He hadn’t wanted her to come here, hadn’t wanted her to confront her attacker. But she’d convinced him that Chelsea was too smart to try anything in public.
“We’re not staying, though,” Agent Krieger said as she stood. “We’re going out to the parking lot now.”
Ellie remained where she stood. “What are you going to do if I don’t?” she asked. “Shoot me in a room full of witnesses?” She gestured at the busy dining room. Most of the people present weren’t patrons but plainclothes police officers.
“I’ve got nothing to lose now,” Krieger said.
Ellie shook her head. “You have a baby on the way,” she reminded her. “Every reason to do the right thing.”
“He’s the reason I did the wrong thing,” Chelsea admitted. “The fertility treatments weren’t covered by insurance and it was so damn expensive.”
So she’d started taking bribes and kickbacks. Ellie almost felt sorry for her. Ben did not, though, when he turned away from the table he’d been waiting on and stepped between them. “It’s over,” he told her.
“Yes, it is,” the woman replied.
Ellie was behind Ben, so she didn’t see what happened. She just heard the shot and saw his big body drop. And a scream tore from her throat. “No!” She crumpled to the ground next to him, reaching out for him.
And he reached back, pulling her against him. “I’m fine,” he assured her.
“What about...” Had Chelsea killed herself?
“She’s fine.” Sobs racked the woman’s body as police officers pulled her to her feet and led her off in handcuffs. “Her purse took the worst of it,” Ben said. He had a gash on his hand, though, where a bullet must have grazed him. Blood dripped from the wound.
“You need to go to the hospital,” she said.
He shuddered. “I spent enough time in one of those.”
Panic squeezed her heart. She knew where he wanted to go. “You want to go home.”
“Yes,” he said, as he pulled her closer to him. “With you...”
“You’re not going back to River City?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Not without you. I’ve fallen for you even though I know I’m not good enough—”
She pressed her fingers over his lips. “You’re perfect,” she assured him. “Perfect for me.”
“We’re perfect for each other.”
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