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Savage Lover: Chapter 14


Out of all the devious and criminal acts I’ve committed, taking Bella for lunch is the most repugnant.

I honestly think I would have found kidnapping a school bus full of children less distasteful.

I have to sit across the table from her in the Poke Bar, listening to every stupid thought rattling through her brain, while smiling and pretending to be interested.

I fucking hate pretending.

It doesn’t help that I had to dress like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Button-up shirt, polished shoes . . . it’s not for Bella’s benefit. It’s so I don’t draw the attention of the security guards once we head over to Alliance.

I let Bella think it’s her idea. I ask her a couple of questions about where her dad works—questions I already knew the answers to—and she says, “It’s right across the street—do you want to see it?”

I check my watch—12:38. I’ve already watched Raymond head out to lunch at precisely 12:33, three days in a row. I love a banker who keeps a tight schedule. It makes him so conveniently predictable.

I have no interest in actually running into Raymond. Actually, I want him out of the way so I can poke around all the places I’m not supposed to visit, with clueless Bella as my guide.

But instead of dear old Daddy, we bump into Camille instead.

She looks like I’ve slapped her.

I know how bad it looks, me and Bella dressed up like a fucking Ken and Barbie doll set. I want to tell her it’s not what it looks like. Which is the stupidest excuse in the world. Except for this one time, when it’s actually true.

Not that I owe her an excuse at all. Camille and I aren’t dating. All we did is kiss.

But that kiss . . .

Okay, maybe it did mean something. I don’t know what, but I can’t deny it had an effect on me.

So I’m not enjoying the look on Camille’s face, like I’ve stabbed her in the heart. Even worse is her expression when she starts to figure out that there’s something hinky about me poking around the bank.

Camille is too damn smart for her own good. Her eyes are darting around the lobby while Bella is blathering on, and I wanted to put a muzzle on Bella and simultaneously tell Camille not to fuck this up for me, because she’s looking one part pissed, one part hurt, and a whole lot suspicious. The perfect recipe for disaster, if she wants to blow this whole thing up in my face.

Luckily, she takes the hint and leaves.

I really don’t feel any better, watching her stomp out through the double glass doors. Actually, I kinda want to chase after her. I want to explain—or at least assure her that this is a business lunch and nothing more.

I can see her standing out on the sidewalk, looking lost, like she can’t decide where to go next. She looks small from a distance. When she’s standing right in front of me, eyes blazing and arms crossed in front of her chest, she’s kind of intimidating. I forget that she’s actually quite petite.

“What are you looking at?” Bella says, impatiently.

“Nothing,” I reply, shaking my head.

I want to slap myself. I’ve got to get my head back in the game and soothe Bella’s ruffled feathers. She’s always had a bug up her ass about Camille.

“What is she even doing here?” Bella snipes. “I feel like she’s everywhere I look lately! God, it’s worse than high school! Why doesn’t she just stay in her shitty little shop like she used to?”

I want to tell Bella that when you don’t get a five-figure allowance from Daddy every month, you kind of have to go places and do things. But I stuff that thought down deep, plastering a smile on my face.

“So you can’t go down to the vault room yourself?” I say to Bella, pretending to check my watch. “I better get going, then. I don’t think I have time to wait around for your dad . . .”

“I really wanted him to meet you,” Bella pouts.

Yeah, I bet Raymond Page would love to meet me, too. My father is one of the few movers and shakers in Chicago who doesn’t keep his money here. Ironically, it’s because he thinks Raymond is too dirty. Papa always says, “Don’t break the law while you’re breaking the law.” What he means by that is you should only commit one crime at a time. Otherwise you draw attention to yourself. After all, Al Capone never would have gotten caught for bootlegging if the feds couldn’t prosecute him for tax evasion.

The fact that the Gallos don’t do business with Page is exactly why I’ve got no problem robbing him blind. He’s not under our protection.

“Well . . .” Bella says hesitantly. “I can still take you down! We just can’t go inside without Daddy.”

“Are you sure?” I say.

“Yeah, of course!” she replies, trying to sound more confident than she looks.

She takes me over to the private elevator, guarded by a scowling gorilla in a suit.

“Hey, Michael,” Bella says to him. “I want to show my friend the vault room.”

“Is he in the appointment book?” Michael grunts.

“No,” Bella giggles. “I’m never in the appointment book.”

“I better call up to Mr. Page,” Michael says, stubby fingers reaching for his walkie-talkie.

“Okay,” Bella says carelessly. “He’s in a lunch meeting right now.”

Michael hesitates.

“It’s fine,” Bella says, in a passive-aggressive tone. “He’ll be less mad if you interrupt him than if you don’t help me.”

Michael’s fingers drop away from the walkie-talkie.

“Okay,” he says. “You can go down. Don’t touch anything, though.”

“Of course not.” Bella smiles sweetly.

Michael hits the elevator button and lets us inside. The doors close, and we drop down to the underground vault.

As we descend, I say to Bella, “I bet your dad knows everybody important in Chicago.”

Bella flushes with pleasure. “He knows everybody,” she agrees. “Every time he takes me to a party, he knows everybody’s names, and they all know him. The mayor, all the CEOs, even celebrities . . .”

While Bella’s talking, I’m noting the control panel in the elevator, and the location of every camera and sensor.

When we enter the vault room, I walk slowly and deliberately, counting my steps. The stupid cuff links I’m wearing aren’t just so I can look like a finance douche. Every time I adjust the one on my right wrist, I’m taking a picture. I can angle the cuff link in any direction to snap shots of the elevator, the vault room, and the vault door itself.

There are no decorations down here. No handy niches or vases I could use as a hiding place. I have a secondary camera I want to stash in situ, but I can only see one good place for it: over by the fire extinguisher. I wander over in that direction, asking Bella, “So what’s in the vault? Gold bars or something?”

“All kinds of stuff,” Bella says. “Actually . . .” she sidles over to me, lowering her voice. “I heard my dad talking on the phone. He said he had this big diamond from some Russian guy . . . but I guess he died? And nobody’s come back since then. He thinks the rest of them don’t know about it.”

My heart skips a beat. It’s hard to keep my expression neutral, like this means nothing to me.

The Griffins killed Kolya Kristoff this winter. He was the head of the Bratva. And he was a flashy fucker. I could see him stashing some rock in here, without telling the rest of his men.

Poor Raymond must be horribly tempted . . . knowing that there’s no record of the giant stone in his possession, but terrified to sell it, in case the Russians find out . . .

Maybe I should solve his dilemma by relieving him of the diamond.

While I’m talking to Bella, I reach behind me, out of view of the security cameras, and stick my own little camera under the nozzle of the fire extinguisher.

The only problem with this tiny device is that I have to place the receiver above ground, within a hundred meters of the vault.

“So your dad built this bank recently?” I ask Bella.

“Three years ago—if that’s recent,” she giggles.

“Did they build the vault at the same time?”

“I guess so.” She giggles again. “It was definitely here when I visited. You want to look at anything else?”

“Nah.” I grin. “I get the idea.”

As we head back up, I say to Bella, “You seemed to know Michael pretty well.”

“He’s always guarding the elevator,” Bella says. “He’s a bit of a stick, but he’s nice enough.”

Meaning, he lets her do what she wants in the end.

The doors open, and I hold out my hand to Michael.

“Thanks for letting us take a tour,” I say, shaking his meaty paw.

Meanwhile, I stick my receiver right on top of his walkie-talkie. It’s black metal, about the size of a screw. Unless he looks closely at his antennae, he won’t notice it at all.

It will silently beam the images from the hidden camera right out of this building, all the way to my laptop at home.

“Come back soon,” Michael says politely.

I intend to.


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