If Friday had been chaos, Monday was mayhem.
Without a federal bailout or the capital from my scrapped deal, DBG
collapsed, sending shock waves through the financial world. Market turmoil reached dizzying heights, and the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) swooped in to manage the aftermath.
The mood in the office was somber. The far-reaching implications of a major bank failure aside, my team had worked their asses off on the buyout, and I’d killed it with no explanation or warning. I couldn’t tell them the truth behind my decision, so I made up an excuse about risk management that only half of them bought.
It didn’t make me the most popular person in the office that day, but I didn’t care. I didn’t mind being the villain if it meant protecting the people I loved.
“Will that be all, sir?” Caroline asked after our daily briefing. She was professional enough not to display her rancor, but a trickle of it leaked through in her ramrod-straight posture and tight mouth.
I nodded, distracted by an incoming call from Kai. I waited until she left before I answered. “Don’t tell me there’s another bank failure on the horizon.”
“Not exactly,” he said. He sounded so stunned I instinctively straightened. “Check Twitter. It’s…fuck, I’ve never seen anything like it. It makes DBG’s collapse look like child’s play.”
Kai’s uncharacteristic drop of the f-bomb sent every hair on the back of my neck on end. Even if Roman hadn’t killed me, I might die from adrenaline overdose before the week was over.
I didn’t have to search hard to find what Kai was talking about. It was all over Twitter—and Facebook, and Reddit, and Instagram, and TikTok, and every other information-sharing platform I could think of.
It wasn’t a white paper. It was a signed contract between two parties for services rendered that laid out, in painstaking detail, how the new CEO of Sunfolk Bank hired a private mercenary company to take down their competition by any means necessary.
Martin Wellgrew, Orion Bank. The white paper, DBG.
And just like that, the wildest Monday in decades got even wilder.
It took experts only a few days to verify the authenticity of the contract. The mercenary company’s name and details were redacted, but it didn’t matter.
Tug on one loose thread and the whole scheme unraveled.
Jack Becker, the CEO of Sunfolk Bank, recently took over after his father died. The bank was already struggling compared to its competitors, and Jack’s reckless, impulsive management style had dug its grave deeper.
Facing immense pressure from the board either to resign or turn the company around, he’d opted for a third choice—take down his competitors until Sunfolk was the last one left standing.
It was an implausible, mind-boggling plan that was straight out of the movies. It was hard to believe anyone in real life would be bold enough or stupid enough to try and pull something like that off, but idiots were born every day.
“Anything?” Alessandra wrapped her arms around me from behind.
We’d returned from a dinner date earlier and I’d checked the news while she showered.
I shook my head. It’d been a week since the contract leaked, and Roman was gone in the wind again.
I didn’t know what made him turn on his company. He’d been home free after convincing me to scrap DBG’s buyout, but whatever it was, it’d made him target number one. People like his former employer wouldn’t stop until they’d hunted him down, and I lived in dread of the day his body washed up or, worse, wasn’t found at all.
“I’m sure he’s okay,” Alessandra said softly. “He knows how to handle himself.”
“I hope so.” I turned my head and gave her a soft kiss. I didn’t know where Roman was, but at least she was safe, sound, and by my side.
I’d fired my old security company and hired Christian Harper’s team instead. The switch had been a long time coming, and within twenty-four hours, his men had completely revamped my home, office, and personal security. Alessandra was still living in her apartment, so we’d accounted for her and Floria Designs as well.
If Roman’s old employer targeted me because of my relationship to him, I was ready, though I hoped that day never came. If Alessandra got hurt because of me, I would never forgive myself.
Later that night, when she was sound asleep, I stole out of the bedroom to check the news again. It was a compulsion I couldn’t shake. Some people were addicted to social media or video games; I was addicted to scanning the headlines for mentions of anyone who could be Roman.
Unknown caller. A surge of unease leaked into my bloodstream.
“Hello?” Caution shrouded my voice. The caller could be one of two parties, and when I heard the soft breath on the other end, a tingle of relief loosened the fist around my heart.
Somehow, I knew. We weren’t brothers by blood, but some things transcended blood.
“If you need me, I’m here,” I said quietly. The longer he stayed on the phone, the greater his risk of exposure. “Take care of yourself.”
A catch in his breath, then…nothing. He’d hung up. “Everything okay?”
Alessandra asked drowsily when I returned to the bedroom. She was a light sleeper, and the sound of the door closing must’ve awakened her.
“Yes.” I climbed into bed and brushed my mouth over her forehead.
Roman had risked his life by reaching out, but he made sure I knew he was okay. Perhaps I was doing him a disservice by underestimating him. He was a survivor; we both were. “Everything’s perfect.”