A Breath Away

By: Wendy Etherington
1



“WHERE’S MY PILE of money?”

Pissed off after an excruciatingly frustrating morning at the Atlanta airport, Jade Broussard glared at her cousin across his desk.Rising from his black leather chair, Lucas grinned—the man was too charming for his own good. “Did I mention money?”

“A pile.”

“Mmm. I suppose I did.” He extended his arm toward one of the plush chairs in front of his desk. “You look exhausted. Coffee?”

Jade shook her head and instead prowled the room. His sleek yet posh office with its stunning view of Midtown was impressive. But then, she expected nothing less from Lucas. Everything he touched turned to gold, even though these days he was doing more pro bono work than litigating multi-million-dollar cases.

Instead of contemplating his attack of conscience, she recalled the phone conversation they’d had the night before.

“What do I have to do for this pile of money?”

“What you usually do—provide protection, investigate the crime.”

“The police investigate crimes,” she’d said, though he had her attention, a fact he no doubt realized.

“Just come. Please.”

She’d come. What else could she do? He was the only family she had left.

“I’m not exhausted,” she said finally.

“I should hope not. I sent a limo.”

“I’m furious. Do you have any idea how crazy that airport is? Landing delays. Terminal changes. People ambling everywhere talking on cell phones. Security is a mess.”

“They frisked you, didn’t they?”

“They tried.”

As if he’d expected her travel woes, Lucas had the nerve to smirk.

“I’m walking through the airport, minding my own business, when some overly paranoid, jerk-face citizen spots my Beretta beneath my jacket. All hell breaks loose, people ducking, diving and screaming.” She stalked toward him. “I’m a professional. I have a permit.”

“Of course you do.”

“I didn’t draw the damn thing, you know.”

“Though I imagine you were tempted.”

She planted her hands on her hips, remembering—with renewed fury—the humiliation of being escorted to airport security. “You’re damn right I was tempted. Freakin’ terrorists. They’re ruining this country.”

“No doubt their goal. Perhaps if you’d waited until you got in the limo to retrieve your gun from your carry-on bag…”

She shrugged. “Yeah.” She didn’t feel whole without a side piece, though. She felt vulnerable. Exposed. Alone.

Shaking off the thread of irritation, she finally dropped into the chair in front of Lucas’s desk and crossed her booted ankles. “What’s this case about?” For double her usual fee, there had to be more to it than “provide protection, investigate the crime.”

“A favor for a friend.”

“What friend?”

“The friendly kind.”

She smirked. “Cute. Where did you meet this friend?”

Lucas grinned, and his green eyes lit with an obviously favorable memory. “A bar. Yours, in fact.”

“Beau’s?”

“You own another bar?”

She frowned, ignoring the pang of grief that had never fully faded—even more than a decade after her parents’ murders. Beau and Katy Broussard had been a staple of the bluesy French Quarter. Their deaths had completely changed the course of Jade’s life. She’d inherited the bar, and eventually gotten vengeance on their killer, but she didn’t have them—their laughter, their touch or their guidance. Revenge had been a hollow victory, just as she’d been warned it would be.

Normally she liked verbal sparring with her cousin, but if this case was somehow connected to her personally—through Beau’s or her past—she didn’t intend to waste time with chitchat.

“Who’s the friend, Lucas?” she asked, her tone hard.

“Remington Tremaine.”

Jade fought a flinch, but apparently didn’t quite pull it off, since Lucas nodded.

“He said you’d know him.”

Her mouth had gone dry, but she forced herself to think fast. Tremaine was not someone she wanted anywhere near her cousin. Dangerous didn’t even begin to describe the man. “How long ago did you meet him?”

“Three years ago. We bonded over a glass or two of Southern Comfort, and he’s been a client ever since. His family has old San Francisco money, mostly from real estate and vineyards, but Remy loves art.”

No doubt stolen.

“I’ve arranged for the sale of some beautiful and rare pieces over the past few years,” Lucas continued.

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