The Insiders (The Insiders Trilogy #1) by Tijan



Click.

It connected, one last, final, and resounding click into place.

Detective Bright broke the silence. “You were taken because your birth father is—”

I spoke at the same time as her, and together we said his name. “Peter Francis.”

Peter Francis was the CEO of Phoenix Tech.





THREE



Bright’s voice was emotionless, cold almost. “My partner and I are here as a personal favor to your father. We’ve done work with him before and are familiar with your case.”

Father. I had a father. Not the one I thought I had, but someone else. Someone new. Someone powerful. Of course he’d want to be cautious.

There was a camera pointing at us from the corner of the room.

Bright cleared her throat. “You’re here as a precaution.”

“For what?”

She didn’t answer, watching me a moment before her eyes slid toward my mother.

I couldn’t follow. I couldn’t look at her. If I did, if I spoke to her, I’d lose it.

She had lied. All this time.

Chrissy Hayes raised me right. Violence was bad, unless defending yourself. And even though it felt like someone was attacking me at the moment, I was too shocked to do much except sit here, pretend I was a fully functioning human at the moment.

But.

Holy effin shit.

Peter Francis.

“Honey.” Chrissy knew it was her turn to step up to the plate. I had to give credit to her survival instincts. Her voice was starting quiet, all demure like.

I couldn’t look at her, but my voice dropped low. Hoarse. “You gave me my first Computer Weekly in fourth grade. I found it early. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift, but you gave it to me anyway. You special ordered it from the UK.” I remembered the feel of it, how much it weighed, how it felt like the clouds parted and choir music started singing. “They did an article on him. November twelfth.” I saw his picture, how black his hair was, how he had honey-brown eyes too, but they were covered by glasses. “I can tell you the journalist’s name, the byline under it. ‘Computer Genius, Peter Francis.’”

“Honey.”

I was not done. Not now, when I was just starting.

My voice matched Bright’s, emotionless and monotone. “I have two uncles, one in California. The other in New York. Both work in Phoenix Tech branches. Four cousins to the California one. Another cousin in New York. Two half brothers. One half sister. He has an estate on the outskirts of Chicago, in Ashwick.”

Which was an hour from where I lived.

I looked. I had to.

My mom was looking down at her lap, her hands twisting around the sleeve ends, and after her chest rose and fell once, she lifted her head.

Still no words. Fine. I could keep going.

“You said you worked for him one time.” Fifth grade. She told me over the phone, when I asked if I could join the computer club. They had an extracurricular program. “I nearly crapped my pants when you told me.”

“I took care of his mother when I was in nursing school. In Saint Louis.”

“I asked if you met him.” My voice rose, same as my blood had. “I asked you. You said no!”

“I didn’t say that…” But she looked away, because she had, and she knew she had.

“Okay. Let’s pause for a moment.” Bright held up a hand. She was wincing. “You’re shouting.”

I hadn’t realized.

I didn’t care.

I wrote my application essay on my father, the father that was a goddamn lie. I thought he served in the military, and I wanted to show my respect in my own way. But it was a lie.

Calm. I needed to be calm. Calm was mature. I was twenty-two. I could be calm.

Screw it. I couldn’t be calm.

I threw my arms up, shoving the chair back and standing at the same time. “What else have you lied about?!”

“Nothing!” Chrissy shot to her feet, her hands up. “I swear. Nothing else. It was—”

I stopped. Everything stopped. I felt my heart thump hard. “What? It was what?” My head inclined forward. I rolled to my toes, lifting off the balls of my heels. “You what?”

“Nothing.” The temporary fight left her. Her shoulders folded in on themselves, and she sank to her seat. Her elbows rested on the table. She buried her head in her hands. “I’m so sorry, Bailey. I really am. I—” She choked off her next word, looking up with haunted eyes.