“Well, don’t work too late.”
I forced a smile. “I won’t.”
I listened to his footsteps walking away, and then I went back to the report, grateful for the silence. Maybe it made me a freak, but I sort of liked working when the office was nearly empty. It saved me from awkward, stilted conversations with my coworkers. I was here to do a job, not to make friends. I was here to learn everything I could about what happened that day in Afghanistan when my fiancé, Matt, had never come home from his Special Forces mission.
We’d dated throughout high school, gotten engaged my freshman year of college after Matt had decided to give up his future at Intech, his father’s private security firm, and instead enlisted in Army. I’d only been eighteen, and my parents had definitely not approved, but I hadn’t worried or questioned my decision for a second. We’d had the kind of relationship that had been solid, and my future had always seemed like it was meant to include him.
Until I woke to a phone call telling me that his unit had been ambushed, and he’d been killed in Afghanistan.
There hadn’t been a body to bury; details had been scarce. Much of it was swept under the “classified” rug, leaving me with a whole lot of questions and a wound that seemed impossible to recover from.
I wasn’t stupid; I knew the odds of me finding out any information on Matt’s death were slim to none. I was at the absolute bottom rung of the CIA food chain, and my access to information was limited at best. Not to mention, I couldn’t exactly advertise what I was looking for. No, I had to hope I got lucky, or that I performed really well and they started increasing my access level.
It wasn’t just the need to know what had happened to him, it was the suspicion that there was more to the story, the mounting evidence that my father, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was somehow linked to what had gone down in Afghanistan nearly four years ago. It was a mission I’d picked up a year ago, a vendetta I wasn’t willing to let die. Even if it meant I was dead girl walking.
If I was going to go out, then I was going to go out in a fucking blaze of glory—
And take everyone down with me.
I left Langley and drove home, searching for a parking spot in my neighborhood. The city was even busier with the crowds celebrating the Fourth, and I had to park several blocks away from my apartment building.
I walked down the sidewalk, pushing through the crowded streets. It was dusk and the fireworks had yet to start, but the sidewalks teemed with people enjoying the warm D.C. summer. I lengthened my strides, hating the crowds, ready to collapse on my couch, watch TV, and finish off the Lebanese food I’d bought last night.
Suddenly, a chill slid down my spine. Again.
I froze. My head whipped around as my gaze swept my surroundings.
Groups of people walked down the street behind me, laughing and chatting as though they hadn’t a care in the world. How long had it been since I’d felt like that? Since I’d felt normal?
A body collided with mine.
“Hey, watch where you’re going.”
I mumbled an apology to the man, ducking my head and picking up the pace, my street nearly in sight.
It was stupid, and I’d probably become paranoid, but I swore it felt like someone was following me. I’d had the feeling for weeks now. I couldn’t pinpoint why, had never seen anyone behind me; it was just a feeling. One that had me looking over my shoulder, wondering when I’d pay for the shots I’d taken against my father’s reputation.
All it’s going to do is get you killed.
My sister Blair’s words when she’d learned that I’d been selling information about our father, Senator Edward Reynolds, to Capital Confessions hit me again. Okay, yeah, maybe I knew why I felt the way I did. Why I had trouble sleeping. Why I kept a safe-deposit box full of information in case of my death.
I wasn’t sure when my life had become a Greek tragedy, but I didn’t doubt my father would kill me if I got too close to the truth of what had happened to Matt in Afghanistan—if it were true and my father had really been involved.
I couldn’t resist the urge to peer over my shoulder again, not sure if I was relieved or annoyed to come up empty. After weeks of this, I was ready to face whoever was after me. Maybe I was crazy. I at least consoled myself with the thought that even my father wasn’t likely to have me killed on my own birthday.
Although, if he were going to do it in a way that minimized the scandal to the family and presented him with the perfect political opportunity, having me mugged on my way home would be the optimal cover.
I still lived in the same tiny one-bedroom apartment I’d lived in during college. It wasn’t in the best part of D.C., but it was cheap, and since I’d cut off ties with my parents after Matt’s death, I’d paid for my own college education and living expenses. I had some money in trust from my grandparents, but four years at Georgetown had been expensive, as had my apartment, shitty though it might be. The CIA paid okay, but it wasn’t anything crazy, so I tried to live pretty frugally.
It was a testament to twenty-two years of being a Reynolds that I could easily envision the speeches and the piece of legislation my father would sponsor decrying the high crime level on the streets. Yeah, if I were going to have me killed, I’d go with a mugging.
My heart raced as I walked up to my building, unlocking the front door and slipping inside, the door shutting behind me immediately.
I released a breath, my body sagging. I steadied myself for a moment and then I made the trek up six flights of stairs until I reached the front door of my apartment, unlocking it and heading inside.
I got comfortable, changing into a pair of cotton shorts and a tank top. My apartment didn’t have the luxury of central air—nothing like the seven-thousand-square-foot home I grew up in—and it was boiling today. I threw on an episode of an old nineties sitcom and feasted on the last of my chicken shawarma from last night’s dinner. As far as birthdays went, I’d had worse.
I read through texts from my sisters, Blair and Jackie, responding with promises to call later. Jackie and her fiancé, Will, had plans to attend the big concert at the Capitol this year. Will was newly elected to a state senate seat in Virginia so it helped for them to be rubbing elbows with D.C.’s movers and shakers. They’d invited me to join them, but I’d spent more of my childhood than I cared to remember being dragged to things like that, and it wasn’t an experience I wanted to repeat.
Blair had moved to Boston with her boyfriend, Gray, and had decided to spend the holiday up there, working an event her nonprofit had put on for the families they served. Even if she had been here, I wasn’t sure we would have spent the day together. Things had been tense between us ever since she found out I had been working with Capital Confessions last year—and was responsible for the blog outing her relationship with her then–law professor. We’d mended fences for the most part, but our relationship remained strained.
I missed my sister. Our personalities couldn’t have been more different—Blair was poised and polite and I was more of a bull in a china shop—but we’d still been pretty close. Growing up the way we had, we’d banded together out of both love and necessity. Besides, living our lives in the public eye had made it difficult to let a lot of people in. Trust was the ultimate commodity, and you learned pretty quickly that this town ran on power and everyone wanted to get close to the people who held it. As the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, my father was the ultimate power broker. He was also an asshole.
It wasn’t just the affairs, or the way he’d treated my sister Jackie, the illegitimate daughter he’d fathered and abandoned, or how we butted heads at every turn. He wasn’t just an asshole; he was the kind of guy who would take anyone down if their interests threatened his—including me. And he was definitely involved in some dark shit.