Part 3

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I frowned. Because genetic medicines are illegal? Because only the wealthy can get them? Because if it was found out, he’d be railroaded through the system and executed? The Turn wasn’t that long ago, and people were still scared.

“Rachel,” he prompted, and I quit fiddling with the vents. I wasn’t his employee and I wasn’t his girlfriend, but he cared what I thought of him—which made me uncomfortable even as it flattered the hell out of me.

“What did he give you? Votes?” I said bitterly. Damn it, why did every man I like end up to be dirty or too scared to put up with the crap my life could dish out? I do not like Trent. Why am I doing this?

“He gave me his silence,” Trent said flatly.

Exhaling, I slumped where I sat. It was more than likely that Trent was being blackmailed, even if he did seem to like the man. Part of me was all for walking away, but I also  knew how vulnerable Trent was. A lot of good came out of Kalamack Industries too.

I’m too tired to figure this out right now, I thought, feeling like a hypocrite. “I don’t like being tricked into doing something illegal.” I looked across the car at him, my eyebrows high.  “You should have asked.”

His hair shifted in the wind off the river, and he brushed it aside as I smothered the urge to do it myself. “You wouldn’t have done it if I had asked,” he muttered. “And to say otherwise is both insulting and ridiculous, but if it means anything, I’m sorry.”

My air puffed out, and I looked over the dark dockyard as it passed. “Not for the right reason, you aren’t.”

The tension in his voice pulled my attention back to him. “Look. Reading people is my job.  If I do it wrong, I might end up on the pavement, and you, Trent, are not sorry.” He frowned and I added, “Okay, maybe you’re sorry that your evening was marred by some unexpected blackmail, but you’re not sorry that you used me to watch your back when you knew damn well I wouldn’t have said yes if you had asked me flat out.”

“Then you admit you would have said no,” he accused, his hands white-knuckled on the leather-covered wheel.

“If you were sitting in your office, yes! I’m not naive, Trent. I know things happen, things that need to be taken care of immediately, and I’m not so callous that I would’ve walked off and left you to fend for yourself in the middle of the street!”

He turned to the gate, the expensive car bouncing over a rut. “I’m not helpless.”

“I never said you were, but working the Hollows with no one watching your back is dumb. Dumber than not asking me to help.”

The car jerked forward as his foot slipped off the clutch. His eyes were narrowed in the scant light coming off the dash, and something in me liked seeing him like this. He was always so calm, so in control. It was nice knowing he was as human as the rest of us. “Then what are you mad about!” he exclaimed, and my elbow slipped off the window.

“You didn’t ask,” I said, giving him an up and down look. “You assumed, and I’m not your employee.”

“Ah, technically. . .”

I pointed at him. “I’m not your employee,” I said again, louder. “If you would’ve told me what had happened, I probably would’ve agreed just so I wouldn’t have to look Quen in the eye and tell him I left you alone at the docks. But you didn’t. You used me with as much consideration as if I was one of your horses or secretaries. You took my ability to make a decision just because it made your life easier. And you’re not sorry. Not for the right reason.”

He was silent. Before us, the Lincoln crept through the security gate, taillights flashing as they took a left turn and were gone.

“Never mind,” I said, head propped up on my hand as I put my elbow back on the open window. “This is my fault, not yours.” I should have known better.

 Trent’s jaw tightened as we came to a gravel-popping halt at the automatic gate. “I am sorry,” he breathed, a glimpse of frustration showing as he leaned to reach the keypad. “Tonight was unavoidable, and it wasn’t my intent to engage your services for anything other than the fund raiser. I am sorry that I didn’t ask for your help, especially . . .” His eyes met mine, and something in me fluttered. “I’m sorry, and you have my assurance it won’t happen again.”

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