Home > Carter Reed 2 (Carter Reed #2)

Carter Reed 2 (Carter Reed #2)
Author: Tijan

“There’s a man watching you.” Theresa nudged me with her elbow behind the table. As soon as the words left her, a hush fell over the group. We were at Joe’s for drinks after work with our coworkers, and all eyes turned my way.

I didn’t want to look, so I didn’t. Picking up my beer instead, I shrugged. “It’s probably paparazzi—”

“It’s not.”

My words died in my throat. Theresa had become a good friend. She knew what I went through—the real story, not the story every media outlet was reporting—and in the beginning, she enjoyed the attention. Everywhere we went, the reporters were there. Carter Reed was their obsession. He was gorgeous with wolf-like blue eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and broad shoulders that tapered to a thin waist. Even though he was usually photographed in a business suit or a tuxedo on the way to formal events, I knew thousands of women’s mouths watered at the thought of what he looked like underneath those clothes. Carter was gorgeous, which made the reporters and their audience love him. But what really made them salivate for any shred of information about him was his association with the Mauricio family.

In addition to being gorgeous, Carter was dangerous. He was known to be an assassin for a local mafia family, but what wasn’t known to anyone beyond a select few, was that he was out. He’d bought his way out, and he’d done it for me. He’d also bought my life back after I killed a member of a rival mafia family while trying to save my friend. Those were our secrets.

Almost a year later, when my choices had seemed to be die or run for my life, I went to Carter: my brother’s best friend from childhood, the guy I knew because he’d slept on our couch for so many nights. This was still how I preferred to think of him, not as the man the city knew as the Cold Killer, Carter Reed. He was my soul mate.

But when I heard the low warning tone of Theresa’s words, every part of me went on alert. My expression didn’t change, but I mentally ran through the possibilities of who this man could be and why he might be watching.

A low buzz began around the table and then someone asked, “What do you need from us, Emma?”

I looked toward the voice, confused.

It was a secretary for one of the senior officers from The Richmond. Her eyebrows were fixed forward, bunched together, and her lips pressed in a flat line. I’d never talked to her before we sat together this evening. Six months ago, I would not have gotten this reception. People would’ve gossiped and judged. But now, as I surveyed the rest of the table, it seemed they wanted to help.

Then I felt a presence at my elbow and looked up. It was Thomas, the security guard Carter had appointed as my personal bodyguard. I had three of them at all times: Thomas, Mike, and Peter. They all looked the same. Tall. Imposing. Built like professional athletes, but with the skills to disappear like ghosts or stand and fight the best of the best. Carter trained all his men himself. I knew they moved with the gracefulness of a cat, appearing and disappearing when they chose, but the abrupt arrival of one of my bodyguards could still cause my breath to catch in my throat. Once again, a hush fell over the group around the table. Half of the girls recoiled from the intimidating presence, while the other half were probably trying to figure out how to take Thomas home with them.

“We should go, Miss Martins.”

I shot him a look.

The corner of his mouth lifted. “Emma.”

“That’s better.”

His hand came to my elbow and he said again, so politely and yet with authority, “We should be going, Miss Emma.”

Ah. A compromise. I saw the flash of humor in his eyes and shook my head as a grin tugged at my lips. I slid off my stool and turned to Theresa. “Did you want a ride?”

She started to shake her head, then grabbed at the table for balance. With a laugh, she replied, “Yeah, maybe. I think I drank that last pitcher all by myself.”

A woman laughed from across the table. “You and me, Theresa. I think we shared it.”

“Yeah. Probably.” Theresa gave her a slight smile, grabbing her purse and straightening her clothes as she stood. She moved close to me and gave a nod. “I’m ready to go.”

Oh, yes. Theresa had forgotten to pay. Laughing softly, I reached into my purse and laid a hundred-dollar bill onto the table. It would cover the two pitchers we ordered and the pizza we shared with the rest. The group called good-bye behind us as we headed out the door, and I lifted a hand in response. Theresa bent her head forward and was already out the door, moving in front of me. When I felt the cold winter air, I grabbed the sides of my coat and pulled them tight around me, bunching my shoulders together. I mimicked the way Theresa crossed the sidewalk to the waiting car. Dashing in after her, as Thomas held the door, I heard that guy calling from farther down the sidewalk.

“Miss Nathans!”

Whoever that was, it wasn’t me. He had the wrong person. I relaxed a little bit. He wasn’t someone I needed to worry about. I climbed inside, and Thomas sat beside me, shutting the door.

I glanced at him, surprised. He usually shut the door and went to the front seat, but not this time. Another guard was already seated inside the limo, across from us, and he avoided my gaze. He pressed his intercom. “We’re good to go.”

The car moved into traffic.

Theresa groaned, folding over to pinch her forehead with her hand. “That last pitcher was too much.” She lifted tormented eyes to me. “When am I going to remember I’m a wine girl? I’m getting old, Emma. Beer doesn’t sit well with me anymore.”

I chuckled, letting go of my unease and forcing myself to relax. Patting her on the back, I asked, “Do you want us to take you to your place or Noah’s?”

She groaned again. “Not Noah’s. He’ll just gripe at me.” Some fight returned to her tone. “He’s been on this kick lately that I shouldn’t go to Friday night happy hour. We had a big fight about it last week. He actually forbade me to go tonight. Can you believe that?” Her voice sharpened. “Forbade me? Like he could even do that, even if we were in a relationship. Forbade? Unreal. He started to tell me you shouldn’t even go, but he stopped himself. When I pushed him on that, he said it was none of his business if you went or not. I’m allowed to see you. That was his term. Allowed.” She barked a bitter laugh. “As if I’m some damn submissive wife. Hasn’t he learned anything over the years? Allowed. What a joke.”

I frowned, keeping my thoughts to myself. Noah was CEO of The Richmond, an international chain of hotels. Theresa had grown up with him. She worked for him too, but the real status of their relationship remained complicated. Her parents had been close with his before they died, so she’d been taken in by his family. I knew Noah had good intentions when it came to Theresa, and the two bickered like an old married couple, but he was never one to be controlling.

In fact, his initial concern about our friendship had faded as quickly as he had voiced it. He’d known Theresa wasn’t a fan of Carter, but as we all got to know each other, Noah and Theresa, along with Amanda—my last friend from my old life—had become like a small family to Carter and me. I owed them so much. They’d been there for me when my roommate, Mallory, was killed a year ago, and I’d been hunted by the Bartel family.

But it seemed Noah might have some reason for his current concerns. Something was going on. A man had been watching me inside, then from the street, and I’d heard him calling me, even if it was by the wrong name. Add in Thomas’ change in the usual seating arrangements and that added up to…something.

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