Beneath This Ink (Page 70)

And God, did I ever want to see him.

The wildcard was whether he could look at me and not think about what had happened to his parents.

At least Con no longer had to carry the guilt of thinking he was responsible for their deaths. It was a tarnished silver lining.

A knock sounded on my office door.

I tensed, glancing at the clock on my wall. It had only been an hour and a half since the meeting started. How could they be done already?

“Come in,” I called.

Elle poked her head in, and I relaxed in my seat.

“Hey, babe. How are you holding up?”

I waved her in, and she shut the door behind her before sliding into one of my guest chairs.

“Okay, I guess. Don’t have much of a choice. Are rumors flying yet?” Lucas had given me the go ahead to tell Elle, surmising accurately that I’d be unable to keep it from her.

She shook her head. “No. None that I’ve heard anyway. Everyone is just shocked by Archer’s death and very sad. That bastard.” She looked up at me. “Sorry. I probably shouldn’t say that around you.”

“It’s fine. It’s nothing worse than what I’ve already called him in my own head. And you didn’t even hear him. There was absolutely no remorse. He was so confident that he’d done the right thing. He was… sick. But that doesn’t excuse his actions. I mean, I want to believe that he’d just gotten old and senile, but he’d been doing this for at least a decade, Elle. That’s insane.” I met her eyes as she slouched in her seat.

“I know. And now we’re all going to be out of a job. Which sucks, because I like being underemployed. Now I’m going to have to go back to being a trust fund kid while I look for another job I’m overqualified for.”

I was shocked her words could pull a halfhearted smile from me.

“So,” she continued. “Enough about Archer. What are you going to do about your man?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure yet. I’m waiting for the board’s decision. I need all the facts before I can go to him.”

She narrowed her gaze on me. “You sure you’re not just procrastinating?”

I’d considered that already. “I’m sure.” I leaned over and pulled a folder from the box at my feet. “And I’m going to give him back this.” I flipped it open to reveal the deed.

Elle chewed on her bottom lip before saying, “Yeah. I can see why you’d want to do that. It’s not like we need it now. So then what?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Are you going to try to get him back? Or are you going to let him walk away?”

“You make it sound like I have a real choice.”

“You always have a choice, Vanessa.” The words were so similar to some Con had once spoken to me.

We sat in silence while I considered them. “I don’t know what to do,” I admitted.

Elle opened her mouth to say something more, but another knock stopped her.

“Come in,” I called.

This time it was Lucas.

“Vanessa. Ms. Snyder.”

“What did they decide?” I asked without preamble.

Elle rose. “I’ll leave you two alone then.” To me, she added, “Let me know if you need anything.”

“I will.” Elle closed the door as she left my office.

I couldn’t stand the anticipation. “So? What’s the verdict?”

Lucas didn’t sit. He just crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “We’ve decided to turn the entire matter over to the Attorney General.”

It was what I expected. It was the right way to handle it. Anything less would be highly unethical and illegal. After all, the charity division of the Attorney General’s Office was the ultimate authority the foundation was accountable to as a nonprofit in the State of Louisiana. I considered what that meant. Likely a very public exposure of the scandal and a complete dismantling of the entire organization. All of the funds would probably be doled out to other charities in the state, and maybe some even given back to the families of the victims. Which would also make sense.

“That’s the choice I would have made.”

“Anything less would make the whole organization as guilty as Archer.” Lucas paused. “And the CFO. He admitted to being complicit in Archer’s plans and has been living above his nonprofit salary for years. Says Archer used his personal money to pay him off. He’ll face criminal charges. Herzog knew as well.”

A chilling thought struck me. “Archer didn’t kill Herzog, did he? That was natural causes, right?”

Lucas nodded. “Herzog was getting regular kickbacks from Archer, too. It was unlikely he’d been hit with a fit of conscience at this stage in the game. I think it’s safe to say his death was unconnected.”

“Okay. Then I guess it’s time I handed in this.” I slid my resignation across the desk. I hadn’t had to change much more than the date from the last time I’d printed it.

Lucas picked it up. “And what if the board wants you to stay on during the investigation?”

“How could they? I’m family. It wouldn’t be right. There’d have to be a conflict of interest there.”

“So you’re saying you wouldn’t, even if they asked?”

I bit the inside of my cheek. I wanted so badly to agree, to say that I would stay for every single minute they would let me, but I knew it would be that much harder to walk away when it was time to leave.

And there was one other giant reason I couldn’t stay.