There was no reason for her to do those things. None at all. And there was a part of him that couldn’t believe she’d done it for a story. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.
He picked up his phone and dialed her number. It went straight to voice mail, unsurprising, really, since she was likely to still be flying. He hung up, his mind racing. He had doubts. And he had to know. He had to know for sure.
Colin Fairfax. That was who he needed on the line. Colin Fairfax was responsible for this, and he would answer for it.
He pressed the intercom. “Connect me to Colin Fairfax. New York Herald.”
In a few moments, the phone was ringing, and a man answered. “Fairfax.”
“I need to speak with you about Sophie,” he said.
“Who is this?” Fairfax asked, his voice sounding concerned.
“Do I need an introduction?” Zayn asked. “I should have thought you would expect a call from me.”
“Sheikh Al-Ahmar.” And now his voice had crossed over into terrified. “I mailed Sophie the tape already. As promised. And whatever she does with it after is not my business. She said she’d destroy it, that’s the deal. But she’s the person you want to deal with. Not me.”
Zayn’s mind was racing, trying to piece together what Fairfax was saying, unwilling to look like he wasn’t in the know. “What else might Sophie do with it?” he asked, thinking this line of questioning might be best to find out what he needed.
“Sell it to another media company. But I’d sue the hell out of her for it. Anyway, that wasn’t what she wanted. She said she wanted the tape destroyed, and in exchange she told me the thing about Leila. But the story about the pregnancy was already broken. It’s not slander to fill in the details.”
“I don’t want to sue you,” Zayn growled. “I want to tear your limbs from your body. But it will have to wait.”
“You have lost your chance to apologize. Or explain. Be very hopeful that I do not change my mind about acting on my desires.”
He hung up the phone, trying to sort through the implications of what Fairfax had just let slip. There was a tape. It pertained to him. Sophie had made a deal so she could destroy it, and that was why she had told him about Leila.
Heart pounding, he stood and was walking out of his study before he even realized what he was doing.
She had not betrayed him. Sophie had not betrayed him. He had known it, deep in his soul he had known it.
But he had sent her away. In a rage. He had said he would not see her again, and with Jasmine, those words had been prophetic.
Terror, anger, pain, gripped his stomach. Echoes from the past tearing through him.
He had to go to her now.
Because he had already lost one person he loved with nothing but venom hanging between them when she’d breathed her last.
He would be damned if that happened again.
* * *
She hadn’t thought to bargain for her job. Oh, well, you couldn’t have everything. Sophie ran across the street, and made it onto the last block that she had to walk to get to her apartment, her arms aching from holding the box that contained all of her possessions. Well, not all of her possessions, just all of the possessions that had been in her desk—her shared desk—at the Herald.
Colin was playing hardball. Which, he said, a person like her should appreciate. Too bad she wasn’t the kind of person he thought she was. Too bad she was just heartbroken.
She imagined that wedding coverage would start soon. She needed to find a very fluffy blanket to hide under until it all passed. She imagined not even a fluffy blanket would be able to insulate her from that kind of pain. But she couldn’t watch Zayn pledge himself to another woman.
Christine would fall in love with him, that was a certainty. Because how could she not?
“But I loved him first.” She said the words angrily, defiantly, as she continued to walk down the street.
She was the one who had known he wasn’t just stone. She was the one who knew he was flesh and blood. A beating heart.
There was someone standing in front of her building, a tall man, dressed in a suit. She slowed her walk, her eyes pinned to him. His posture was familiar, the way he stood was familiar, everything about him was familiar. But that was impossible. It couldn’t be him. He wouldn’t be here.
He lifted his head, and his eyes locked with hers, and even at this distance, she knew. She stopped, and the box slipped from her fingertips, falling to the sidewalk. A little ladybug planter that had been inside popped out the top of the box and landed on its back on the cement. She looked at it for a moment, but only a moment. Then her eyes went back to the man who was now walking toward her.