by, JA Coffey
“You’re doing the right thing by talking Lance out of tearing the holdings of your father apart.” Theresa sniffled and Betty Lou patted her shoulder. She could scarcely make out the conversation behind the closed door, but she was determined to help Holt if she could.
“Okay,” Theresa took a deep breath and nodded. “I’m ready.”
“Holt? We’re coming in.” Betty Lou’s sweating palm twisted the knob, flinging the office door open with the force of a hurricane.
A gunshot exploded in the silent office like a child’s firecracker. Her ears rang, but with adrenaline and fear gripping her gut, Betty Lou charged in the office just in time to see Carina slump to the floor with a soft whoosh. “Oh no!”
Lance looked aghast. His gaze darted from the still smoking gun in his hand to the woman crumpled on the floor and back.
“Sonafabitch.” Holt balled up his fists and landed a left hook that laid Lance out on the floor next to Carina. He bent over Carina’s lifeless form, inspecting the damage. Theresa Wright moaned softly and wrung her hands.
“Wait, here.” Betty Lou crept further into the room as Theresa nodded gratefully, then fished in her handbag for a tissue.
“Is she…? Are you….? Did he…?” Betty Lou scrounged for a First Aid kit in the filing cabinets, throwing pens and notepads to the floor in her haste.
“I don’t think so. She’s still breathing. I don’t see any wounds.” Holt sank back on his heels.
“So she…faked it?” Betty let out the breath she was holding with a whoosh.
Carina cracked an eye and stared up at them. “Hell yeah, I did. Did it work?”
“Like a charm.” Holt jerked his chin toward the prone Lance lying on the floor next to them.
Carina prodded Lance with the pointy silver toe of her shoe. He didn’t move. “Good. Help me up.”
“Oh, thank heavens you’re all right.” Betty Lou extended her hand, gratified that Carina only paused a moment before accepting it.
“Glad you got here in time. The asshole was making me delete the files. I caught him in the act of shredding.” Carina shrugged. “Who’s that?”
“Theresa Wright. Lance’s natural mother. Which makes her the legitimate heir.” Holt smiled. “Our ace in the hole, thanks to Betty Lou’s persuasion.”
Carina’s head jerked back. “Wait, that means Lance is-”
“Shit out of luck.” Holt finished for her. “I’ve already sent it over to the legal team. Lance has no legitimate claims to any of Wright and Sons holdings.”
“The authorities are already on their way.” Which meant this misadventure was almost at an end. Betty Lou bit her lip. She wasn’t exactly sure where she fit in this company scheme, now that Lance was out of her life for good. One thing was certain. She wouldn’t hesitate at the opportunity to work with Holt Bastion.
With, on top of, under…hell, she’d work him until they were both too tired to speak. All he had to do was make her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Carina whistled through her teeth. “That’s it then. My work here is done.” She brushed her hands together.
Holt quirked a brow. “I said the company’s safe, Carina. There’s no reason to get melodramatic.”
“I’m not, Holt. But, I do think it’s time for me to move on. Maybe start a little business of my own. Something that’s equally close to my own heart as BCI is to yours.”
“If that’s what you really want.” Holt crossed his arms. Betty Lou wondered if he’d miss Carina once she left. The woman seemed indispensable to him.
Carina nodded. “Starting my own yoga studio is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of. And it leaves you free to pursue what you really want. Good luck, Bastion.” Carina gave Betty Lou an appraising, but grudgingly approving stare. “I think you’re gonna need it.” She left the office in a swirl of red hair.
“Without Lance’s bogus claims, it appears I now own two companies.” Holt glanced at Betty Lou and held out a hand. “And with Carina’s departure, we have an opening. I’d like to propose a new, seamless integration. A long term partnership. Interested?” A faint smile played along the corners of his mouth. A mouth that promised days and nights of more interesting proposals and provocative mergers. Betty Lou felt a warm tingle spread from the top of her head to the toes of her flip-flops.
“Ohhh, my head. What happened?” Lance sat up groggily. The far-off whine of police sirens sounded outside the receptionist area.
“I’m afraid there’s been a change of plans, Lance.” Betty Lou stepped into Holt’s warm embrace, tipping a pile of paper shreds onto Lance’s head in her haste. “Consider this your early retirement.”