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The chill that broke out over Tori's skin wasn't completely owed to the air-conditioning. "Look, I know my Dad. Integrity was his code. He would never have been involved in something shady, and he'd never double-cross a client. There has to be another explanation."
"There may be. But under the circumstances..." James took his wallet from his pocket and withdrew some bills. "Perhaps it would be better to part ways now. If nothing else, there's a possible conflict of interest here."
Fury, hot and ripe, clogged in her throat. And something else. Something that felt suspiciously like hurt. It took effort to nod, to reach for a calm tone. "Because you think that my dad sold you out twenty years ago. And me...I'd just do the same, is that it?"
Because she refused to reach for it, he dropped his hand, still holding the bills. "This isn't about you or me. You're reacting emotionally, but we have to consider the facts."
The knowledge that he was right did little to defuse her anger. "Damn right I'm reacting emotionally. I tend to do that when someone calls my father a crook. Or worse yet, an accomplice to murder. But that's just me." She bared her teeth, fingers scrambling for the door handle. "You're right. It'd be better for both of us if we parted ways." She pushed the door open, swung out of the car. "And you can keep your money. I don't want it. I'll see this through on my own, and when I do find proof disputing your ridiculous scenario, I'm going to take great satisfaction in making you eat your words."
She went to her nearby car. But when she reached it, James was already there, his palm placed flat against the window. Gone was the cool reason he'd just treated her to as he'd dismissed her. Gone was any semblance of civility. Menace shimmered off him in waves. "You're off this case, Tori. All the way off. You no longer work for me in any capacity, and that means you won't be doing any investigating in this or related issues. It's over."
No doubt competitors quaked beneath his narrowed blue gaze. But she wasn't so easily cowed. "Wrong, ace. I may no longer work for you, but I can investigate whatever I damn well please. And I will. The only difference is, now I no longer have to keep you posted regarding my findings. Now get your hand off my door, unless you want to chance losing it."
His piercing regard didn't waver. His mouth was flat and grim. "You don't want to piss me off, Tori. I make a dangerous enemy."
Her smile brittle, she fumbled for sunglasses, jammed them on her nose. "Surprise, surprise. Here's a news flash for you. You make an even more dangerous employer. This is a battle you can't win. There's nothing you can do to stop me."
She shoved his hand off her car, and surprisingly, he let her. Yanking open the door, she slid into its suffocating heat and turned the key in the ignition. "You have far better things to worry about than me, at any rate. Like the person who wants you dead. You might want to concentrate your energies on that instead of wasting them defaming a dead man's reputation."
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