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Dirty Rich Secrets Part One (Dirty Rich #11)
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He was passion and the reason I breathed. I loved him, trusted him when life taught me to trust no one. He was nothing I thought he was. He wasn’t even the man he said he was. He was dangerous. Everyone told me to hide, to run, but now he’s back. He came for me and I’m not running at all. Because he’s still the man that gave me a reason to breathe and if that’s dangerous, that’s a risk I will have to take.
Ashley’s story – you met her in Dirty Rich Cinderella Story, and now she’s ready to tell her story. You do not need to read any book prior to this one.
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Ashley (Sandy for now)…
Witness protection sucks.
After three months, I haven’t settled into acceptance of this new life at all, and most definitely haven’t stopped looking over my shoulder. A strong pull has me fighting that urge now, but I resist. Instead, I nervously huddle into my coat, pushing through the short walk home from work, the chill of one of the few cold days in Austin, Texas catching between the downtown buildings, the sun dipping behind the steel high rises. All the while, I’m wishing that I could turn back time. Wishing I never met Noah. Wishing I’d never fallen in love with a man who destroyed my life. Wishing I was back in New York City, still a paralegal, still an aspiring attorney, still named Ashley, still the right hand to one of the partners for the powerhouse law firm that had transferred me there from Houston.
But no, now, I’m a travel agent named Sandy, fighting that urge to look over my shoulder.
Because they even took my name, the only thing I had left that my parents gave me, except for my memories. Of course, being alone made me a target, no one to miss me and all that stuff. It also made me stupid silly for a hot man who went so far as to propose to me, when he ultimately would have killed me. I should have killed him. And I would have done it with the gun he taught me to use, all poetic justice perfection. A fantasy that’s interrupted by the increased intensity of that tingling sensation.
I scan the area, and my unease makes the few blocks to my apartment feel too far. I cut right toward a busy Mexican restaurant that won’t be kind to my waistline, but I need to just sit, calm down, and take some time to breathe. I’ll blow my diet without hesitation if it allows me to do those things in a busy restaurant where no one can grab me.
I enter the spacious location with wooden chairs and tables and soft Mexican music that adds to the environment. Mexico and Mexican food are a part of this city’s culture, which I might enjoy if I didn’t just want to be back in New York, where I had a job and friends. The hostess greets me and offers me a table by a wall of windows, but I decline when I would normally accept. I don’t need another way someone can watch me. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel safe by a window again.
I end up at a table in the corner that allows me to see the entire restaurant which is now packed with about thirty people, fifteen of whom are all at one big party table that sits between me and the door. A waiter, who is in his mid-thirties with dark curly hair, greets me, and I’m relieved when he barely looks at me. I spent a big portion of my life wanting to be the gorgeous redhead my mother was and feeling as if I wasn’t. Now, I’ve ensured I never will be as I’ve gone brunette, even though I was told I didn’t have to, but it feels like an extra shield. Just like the karate and weapon handling classes I’m taking do as well. Classes he of all people convinced me to take back in New York, and ones I’ve continued here in Texas. That fact still makes no sense to me. None of it makes any sense.
The waiter reappears, and I order food that I don’t really want and then sink back into my seat, scanning the restaurant again and frowning at the man sitting in the opposite corner of the restaurant behind the bar. I can only see his hands, and this bothers me. They’re strong hands, and as silly as it might seem, they feel familiar.
My mind conjures an image of him, of Noah—tall, dark and good looking with wavy black hair and chiseled features. He was gorgeous, of course, but he was so much more than looks. He was charming and intelligent, and we had so much in common. I want to laugh at this, at myself. He was a CIA agent with a law degree who turned traitor, not an attorney turned financial consultant as he had presented himself. We had nothing in common.
And damn it, I tell myself not to do this, but as I have so many times, looking for reason in it all, I’m back in the past, reliving the first time I met him.
I hurry through the lobby of my office building, eager to get to the courthouse for a filing for my boss. Cole Brooks is taking on a case for a woman accused of killing her sister, and he believes she’s innocent. If anyone can get her off, he can. He’s that good, but if I don’t make this filing and the case stays in this district, it could get messy, and no one will care that there’s a rare Houston snowstorm starting to flare outside.