“So we’re back where we started. We don’t have any proof.” Matt grimaced. “He killed my entire unit, tried to kill me, killed my father and god knows who else, and he’s just going to get away with it.”
No one spoke. He wasn’t wrong.
Matt’s jaw clenched. “How is this possible? How is there nothing we can use to incriminate him? To see him tried for his crimes?”
“He’s good at covering his tracks. He always has been,” Jackie interjected, anger threading through her voice. “I’ve tried for years. The best I could do at Capital Confessions was take some shine off of his reputation. But I could never actually find something to pin on him.”
That was the thing about people like my father. They were slippery as fuck.
I looked at the circle; five grim faces stared back at me. No one wanted to see him win, but it felt like David going up against Goliath. How did you take down someone who had more money and power than you could ever dream of?
“What are you guys going to do?” Blair asked.
Matt shook his head. “I don’t know. We need to get out of town.”
We’d been prepared for this. Part of me didn’t even mind it. The leaving, at least. But not like this. I wasn’t going to run with my tail tucked between my legs. If we were going to leave, then it was going to be on our terms. I was going to light a match and burn this motherfucker down.
We needed to hit him where it hurt, to find the one chink in his armor …
Oh my god.
“What if we didn’t need proof?” The idea slowly took root. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it was better than nothing. It was something we could cling to.
“What do you mean?” Jackie asked.
“What if we didn’t need to prove what he did? What if we just needed to make it look like there was something suspicious there? We don’t necessarily need to connect the dots; we just need to prove that there are dots to connect. Let the authorities investigate him. Let public opinion condemn him.”
“Yeah, but we don’t know who he has on his payroll,” Blair pointed out. “What if we take this to the FBI or something, and then they just bury it? How do we know who we can trust?”
She had a point there. I thought about what we knew, how my father operated, mentally discarding options …
“So we don’t go to the authorities.” My gaze met Jackie’s. “We know one person that we can trust. One person who isn’t afraid to print things about our father. One person who has the kind of audience to shine a light on this whole thing, to garner the level of attention we need. The kind that will ruin his career.”
Her gaze narrowed speculatively, and then her lips curved into a smile, ruthless and beautiful. “You want to use Capital Confessions. You think Sean will do it.”
Sean Dell was the editor of Capital Confessions, and while the man wasn’t exactly trustworthy under normal circumstances, Jackie had been his best blogger for years, and even though he didn’t show it in a touchy-feely sort of way, I did genuinely believe he had a sliver of a slightly soft spot for Jackie. We’d both provided him with information and some of his biggest stories, so in a way he owed us. Especially Jackie. Besides, the man would sell his grandmother for a good story, and this one had all the markings of the ultimate scandal—plus he’d get an exclusive.
“Yeah, I do,” Jackie answered. “He’ll have to be careful with how he handles the information, but that’s right up his alley.”
Jackie and I grinned at each other, and I knew that whatever she’d decided when she quit Capital Confessions, there had always been a part of her that craved this. We were a bloodthirsty pair; maybe it was the genes.
My gaze swept the rest of the group. I couldn’t read Matt, but Will and Gray looked resigned, as though it wasn’t their fight, but they would fight it anyway for the women they loved. They’d both had their dirty laundry aired in Capital Confessions, so I figured they had their reservations—justifiably so. Blair looked worried, and knowing my cautious sister like I did, I figured she was already thinking of all the ways this could backfire and blow up in our faces.
And there were many.
For a moment I just looked at my family, my sisters, the men they loved, and thought of the lives they’d built, the challenges they’d overcome. They had bright futures ahead of them, and as much as I knew they hated our father, it wasn’t their fight. Gray and Blair were just starting out, trying to put their baggage behind them. Will’s political future was huge, and Jackie had worked so hard to build her career in an industry that wouldn’t understand her involvement in chipping away at a prominent senator’s power. It would embarrass his party, possibly implicate some of his many political allies. It wasn’t worth it. She had way too much to lose.
I enjoyed my job at the CIA, but it was just a job. No matter how this played out, we would never really feel safe if we stayed in town, if we didn’t shed our identities. And I knew that my father was just one crooked politician in a long line of many, but I needed to feel like all of this had meant something. That the years Matt and I had suffered had some purpose. I needed this.
“I think you guys should sit this one out.”
Jackie made a face. “Are you joking? After everything? I started this.”
“I know.” My gaze shifted to Will. “If you get tied up in this, how is it going to look for Will’s political career?”
She closed her eyes.
“How’s it going to look for your career? You love what you do. You’re good at what you do. Really good. So is Will. You guys are already making a difference in this town. Don’t screw that up.”
Jackie opened her eyes, and I saw the resignation there. “What about you?”
I shrugged and my gaze connected with Matt’s. “I think I’m ready to try living in the shadows for a bit. I’ve done the spotlight thing and hated it. I’m never going to get to be ordinary. Never going to get to put this shit behind me. Neither one of us can. So instead of trying to force our future into something we can’t have, I’m going to go out on my terms.”
Blair shook her head. “I don’t want all of this to be on you.”
Gray squeezed her hand and I knew that in my absence, Blair would never be alone.
“It is on me. I need you to accept that. Let me handle this. I’ll talk to Sean. I’ll leak the info. And then we’ll leave D.C.”
“Are you sure about that?” Matt asked.
“Yeah. I am.”
“Are you really going to go through with this?” I asked Kate after everyone had left, when we were alone in the hotel room, still trying to come to terms with her plan, with all that she was willing to risk and give up to be with me. “There might be another way.”
If I were in her place, I’d do the same thing, no question. But it was still hard to be okay with it, to accept that she was going to be closing this chapter of her life and moving on to a future that was a giant unknown. She was putting everything on the line for us, and that scared me more than anything. What if she hated the life I had to offer her? What if we couldn’t stay safe?
She shook her head. “There isn’t. You know that. We’ve looked at everything, and he’s always one step ahead of us, and if anything, he’s shown us that he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to destroy us. We can’t win. This is the only way to try to make a difference. The only way to take him down.”
“Even if it means we have to run?”
She nodded. “I think it’s best. And I don’t really think of it as running. It’s the only play we have here. The only thing that makes sense. It’s just good strategy.”
She was right. Even as I hated it for her, I saw the acceptance in her eyes and knew it was the only hope we had of having a future together.