Slow Burn
the information.
    Rick wasn't sure this qualified as an actual crime, but he knew Marty had more than a couple civil lawsuits in his future. He would never be considered employable by any decent company ever again. If Cynertex went public with the information, Marty would be one of the most reviled men in his field. He almost felt a little sorry for him. Almost.
    Instead, he'd taken the low road. Dropping the change Marty had given him for coffee on the table with a sad smile on his face, he'd said, “Here ya go, boss. I think you're going to need this much more than I will.”
    It had been petty, but the look of shock on Marty's face had been completely worth it. He'd walked out of the office with one last salute and then headed upstairs to debrief Wallace. The rest of the afternoon had been devoted to generating a list of security fixes so they could avoid future leaks. He hadn't been able to get out of the building until after six-thirty.
    Guilt and apprehension gnawed at his gut as he drove over to Tessa's house. He had a feeling this was going to get pretty ugly. He knew he had to come clean about all of it though. As much as he regretted the fact that she'd been a suspect, he couldn't lie. That was no way to start anything with her.

Chapter Eight

    When Rick finally showed up, Tessa was moments away from a full blown panic attack. The second she heard the knock, she stopped pacing the dining room and hustled to the door. Pulling it open, she immediately asked, “What the hell happened, Rick?”
    He held up a hand. “I'll explain. Let me first apologize. I didn't mean to scare you. I just couldn't tell you.”
    “Okay,” she said hesitantly as she sat down on the couch. “You couldn't tell me what exactly?”
    “My real name isn't Rick Dante. It's Rick Diamond. I'm a private detective. The CEO of Cynertex hired me to investigate a possible leak within your department. It turns out Marty Thompson was selling company secrets to Armitage. Remember last year when they beat you to market on the new polymer based flooring?”
    Tessa nodded. “That was Marty?”
    He nodded and said, “Yeah. With the wonder wood or whatever you guys are planning to call it, there was no way Chase was going to let that leak. He hired me to pose as an intern.”
    A stricken look on her face, she asked, “So none of this was real?”
    “Everything I feel for you is very real. Some of my cover story was made up. I was a cop for a while, not with the military. That's when I got shot and then started the agency. Mike and I run it together, now. I'm not in school. I'm sorry, Tessa. More sorry that you can even imagine. I couldn't tell you because I had no idea who the leak was. Everyone was a suspect.”
    “Wait,” she said, holding up a hand. “Everyone was a suspect? I was a suspect?”
    At his uncomfortable nod, she asked, “When did I stop being a suspect?”
    “Last night was when I had definitive proof Marty was guilty. All that I had that gave me any indication you were involved were the copies you hid from me, the phone call I overheard, the house you bought right after Armitage released the flooring, and the fact you told me you were leaving Cynertex soon. It was all circumstantial, but it added up. I had to follow the clues. I didn't want to think you were guilty.”
    “They were invitations for my niece's birthday party, Rick. The phone call was my crazy sister calling about them because I hadn't dropped them off yet. The house, I bought with the money I inherited when my father died. The job? I'm hoping to leave Cynertex to teach at Saint Marks. I just had the second interview the other day. Is there anything else you needed to know?”
    “I was doing my job, Tessa. Exploring all the avenues. Do you really think I could have gone to bed with you if I thought you were guilty?”
    “I have no clue, Rick,” she shouted. “I don't know anything about you, apparently.”
    “Anything you want to know. I'll tell you anything.

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