Read an excerpt from the final book of the trilogy:
I get up and get dressed while Penelope is still asleep, and knock on Haley’s door. She greats me with a somewhat bleak expression. “I think I’ll skip the champagne this morning. Did we really have two bottles, or did anyone else drink our wine?”
“I’m afraid that was all us. Listen, Haley, I was wondering if you’d mind having dinner by yourself tonight.”
She is amused. “I kind of expected that to happen.”
“You could go see a Broadway show, have a few hours at the spa, have a nice dinner somewhere?”
“Relax, I’m not arguing. I’m a big girl, I can entertain myself for one night. I can come to Penny’s speech though?”
“Yes, of course. I’m not that terrible.”
She yawns. “You know, in fact you’re not terrible at all. I assume you have something special planned?”
“Kind of. Thank you so much.” I return to our suite where Penelope is starting to stir. For a moment, the temptation is almost overwhelming. I love waking her like that, meeting her in the space between sleep and awareness, starting the day with pleasure…as it is, my phone rings. I take the call in the living area. It’s Colette, finally, and she has something that’s close to good news.
“Tell your guys to lay low. We’re close to finding Laurier, and once we do, we’ll make sure to ask her about everyone who might have helped her. Should Penny’s name come up, you’ll be the first to know, but frankly, I doubt it.”
“Thank you. You know I appreciate this.”
“Don’t worry,” she says. “This will be over soon.”
One way or another, remains unspoken between the lines.
I make a visit to another local office where the staff seems surprised, but content to see me. The numbers have been good, great even. A little further away from home, and the news of an FBI investigation dried up fast, especially when the alleged victim of abduction is now my wife. Some of them I haven’t seen since before my wedding. Carrie and Alison, both in management, present me with reassuring numbers after congratulating me. I stay for a quick lunch, then check in with Nick and Linda to find out nothing has changed.
“You know when the FBI brings in the big guns, it’s serious. I want you guys to keep a low profile.”
Nick sounds dubious. “That could give some people time to cover up their tracks.”
“By some people you mean Penelope? Come on, don’t be stupid. She’s here with me in
and getting ready for her presentation. She’s not covering up anything.” New York
“I’ll coordinate with Linda.” That’s as much of a concession as he’s willing to make. “Let me know if there’s anything new we should know, and…be careful.”
Once everything is taken care of, it’s almost time to go to the venue and be proud of my wife.
Penelope seems a bit nervous at first, but she catches herself early on. University certainly gave her experience speaking in front of groups, though I doubt they’ve been this big. Listening to her speak, I forget once again about the trouble that has followed us even here.
Traci was right about her being a good choice for the company and this department specifically. No one doubts that she has a right to be here as Penelope lays out a detailed plan as to where Forbes Inc. is supporting humanitarian organizations that put a focus on projects for women and girls. I feel pride indeed for the transformation she has gone through in only a year. I might not be above wanting to take some credit.
“We support this focus. We might still have a long way to go towards equality, but there are people around the world working hard for it, some under most difficult circumstances. The least we can do is further those efforts best we can. Thank you.”
Next to me, Haley looks astonished, and she has reason to be. It’s not just the expensive clothes. I’m sure she never saw Penelope in a context like that—to her friends and family, she was this diligent, always busy person, never time for a break. There’s so much more to her, an intelligent, sexy young woman who is not afraid of the darker side of me. I couldn’t be more grateful for whatever twist of fate brought her to me, and I knew from the start there was no way I could let her go.
Lucky for me.
“That was pretty amazing,” Haley says.
“Yes it was. I’m sorry for kicking you out tonight, but…”
“I understand. You don’t have to say another word, because that might be…TMI.”
Penelope takes some time talking to guests. She looks comfortable, not at all like someone who’s doing this for the first time. All of a sudden, I can’t wait to have her all to myself. I made a reservation, but I can always push it back some, and I’m not above using privilege in this situation.
When Penelope joins us, she’s practically glowing. “That was okay, I think?”
I pull her into my arms. There might be some hate group protesting outside, but in this context, no one will say anything about a brief public display of affection. I might see it in the papers tomorrow, but I don’t care. At this point in my life, very few people can tell me what to do.
“You were great,” I whisper. “I knew you would be, so I made some preparations to celebrate in style.”
“She has a great night ahead of her, and so do we.” I’m not making any promises for her and the girls coming back sometime soon. It’s not like I’ll be okay being apart from her for more than a day anytime in the near future. I don’t even feel sorry.
“Where are we going?”
“First, to the hotel. There’s a table with a nice view waiting for us later.”
I know that smile of hers. Most of the time it means you don’t have to work so hard to impress me. She has no idea. I have to work a lot harder on that before I’m truly comfortable.
“That’s good. My surprise will work for that.”
I almost say it out loud, maybe it’s not a good idea. The last time she got me a surprise was the day she sat in a café with a woman who is stealing from me. Those words sound crazy even when they’re in my head only.
“Okay, let’s see what you have.”