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“Yes.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Then I walk out and give someone else my story. I chose you because Jackie worked for you, because I’ve given you information in the past, because even though you screwed me with Blair, you aren’t afraid to take on Goliath, and quite frankly, that’s more important right now than the fact that you’re kind of a dick. But I can’t do this if I don’t trust you, and if you don’t make these guarantees, this won’t go any further.”

“You sure you’re not overstating how big this is?”

I met his gaze. “I don’t fuck around. I’ve read your posts lately. You’ve been following what’s happened in D.C. and Virginia—my mugging, James Ryan’s murder, the explosion in my apartment building, the shooting two days ago at the Lincoln Memorial. You’re a smart guy; you wouldn’t have gotten where you are if you weren’t. You know there’s something bigger at play here besides a stupid crime wave.”

He hesitated, and I could see him mentally weighing it out, his greed and curiosity warring with each other until he gave me a nod and my heartbeat slowed.

“Fine.”

Thank god.

I’d totally been bluffing. We didn’t have another option; there weren’t any other media sources that I knew well enough to trust. And I hadn’t been lying before—I didn’t necessarily trust him; he wasn’t really an honorable guy. But he was a guy whose behavior and motivations were predictable. If he was anything, he was consistent. The story mattered to him more than anything, and this was a hell of a story.

“Can I record you?” he asked, opening his desk drawer.

“Yes.”

He pulled out a recorder and hit a series of buttons.

“Is your father behind it?”

I took a deep breath and got ready to bring the house down. “Yes.”

“Do you have proof?”

“Sort of.”

His expression was skeptical. “What kind of sort of proof do you have?”

So I started at the beginning and told him all of it—every single piece of information, everything that had happened to Matt and me—making him turn off the recorder when I spoke of Matt still being alive. I held nothing back. His eyes got wider and wider with each detail I gave him, as I tied my father to every single one of his crimes.

It was a crazy story, the kind of story that if anyone else had sat in his office and made the same claims, he likely would have dismissed them as a crackpot. But he knew me and he knew Jackie, and this was one instance when my last name definitely worked in my favor.

“In addition to all of that, I have stuff that’s been collected over the years on some of the less scrupulous sides of his dealings. It’s not as juicy as what I just gave you, and none of it is criminal, but none of it looks very good, either.”

Sean leaned back in his chair, a gleam in his eyes. “That father of yours is a real sonofabitch, isn’t he?”

“That he is.”

“He know you have all of this? That you’re going to ruin him?”

“Maybe. Probably. He’s been one step ahead of us the whole time, so if you’re going to move, you’re going to need to move fast.” I gestured toward the papers and recording. “And find somewhere safe to put that stuff. He isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and if you don’t leak it quickly, he’ll come after you, too.”

Sean laughed. “Do you know how many death threats I get on a daily basis? How many times I’ve pissed off a heavy hitter? I have this.”

“I know you do. That’s why I came to you. I’m just warning you not to underestimate him. I have several times and I’ve almost died in the process.”

“Copy.”

I hesitated. “Don’t screw me on this, either. I’m not my father’s daughter, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t take a hell of a lot of notes growing up in that house. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.”

“Noted.”

I rose from my seat, deciding this meeting was over. Matt and I were leaving D.C. tonight, and I still had to say my good-byes.

“When will you have it up on the site?” I asked.

He grinned. “It’s not enough to put them into the ground, you have to see it, too?”

“Something like that.”

“Let me get on the phone with my attorney, sort some stuff out. I’ll rush it. It’ll be up in time for the crowd to get home from work and log on to their computers.”

“Good.”

His gaze ran over me, his expression curious. “So what’s next for you? You can’t plan on sticking around after setting this city on fire.”

“I don’t. I’m out of the game after this one.”

“Smart play.”

Only play.

He hesitated and then he stood, extending his hand to me. Surprise filled me. I reached out and shook his hand as a weird sort of understanding passed between us.

I’d always thought that Capital Confessions was a nuisance, occasionally a means to an end, but more than anything a giant pain in my ass and a threat to those I loved. But now I saw that we were all just part of the same machine, fighting our way through this town. It was more than broken engagements, gossip, and sex tapes. It was a rein on power, a source outside of the system of checks and balances that fought for a justice of sorts. It wasn’t perfect, and I certainly didn’t think Sean Dell was altruistic, but there was something to the work he did, shades of gray in a city that thrived there.

He released my hand. “Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

“And tell your boyfriend I said thank you for his service. And his sacrifice.” He gave me a proud smile. “My son’s a Marine.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, the words so unexpected, the emotion catching me off guard. I nodded and gave him a small smile, and then I turned, walking out of the Capital Confessions offices already feeling lighter. I hadn’t just dumped the files and years of dirt, it felt like I’d passed the baton on to someone else, and I knew without a doubt that Sean Dell wouldn’t let me down.

I walked down the street, the need to take in my surroundings and look for potential threats now as familiar as breathing. I spotted Matt standing on the street corner waiting for me, his head covered in a baseball cap, his eyes obscured by dark sunglasses. He closed the distance between us, coming to greet me, his mouth tightened in a hard line.

“How did it go?”

“Well. He’s going to handle it. I told him everything. I trust him.”

Matt let out a sigh of relief and it looked like his whole body relaxed. “Good.” He held his hand out to me. “Are you ready to go say good-bye?”

I nodded, not sure I would ever be ready to say good-bye, but knowing it was the right thing anyway.

I placed my hand in his, our fingers linked, and looked up, taking a moment to appreciate the D.C. skyline, the view of the Capitol shining in the sun, wondering if I would ever see it again.

And then we went to say our good-byes.

Chapter Twenty-three

Senator Reynolds will have some questions to answer regarding his involvement …

Capital Confessions blog

Kate

We met back at the hotel. Matt left to go pick up our documents—we had over fifty hours of travel ahead of us and lots of connections to cover our tracks—and to prepare everything for our departure that evening. The plan was for us to lose these IDs on a stopover en route to Bali and switch over to new docs that he’d had prepared for us. The whole thing was crazy, and our odds of success terrified me, but I trusted Matt and I went with it, because honestly, there really wasn’t a better solution.

I stayed with Blair and Jackie while he took care of business, enjoying my final hours with my sisters. Blair came prepared with a box of pastries from our favorite bakery in D.C.—the one we’d ordered from for so many Sunday brunches. The lump formed in my throat at the sight of the familiar lettering and the move that was so classically Blair. It made me feel better to know that she and Jackie would have each other in my absence, not to mention Gray and Will.