were Armageddon.

”So! ” Tessa inquired, washing Ashleys back with a sponge, ”What next? ”

”I have a plan, but we will need help. A lot of help. ”

”What kind of help are we talking about here? ”

”Professional services. The best that money can buy. I have made some calls, and an hour later, I am expecting some guests. ”

”Umm, Ash, you need to stop being vague. What services? What kind of professionals? ”

”Aces. From corporate law. From private security. Finally, we will need an investigator. ”

Tessa paused the sponging and leaned in to speak closer to Ashleys ears.

”We have a retainer lawyer, Ash. A security team is with us at all times. In as much as, why the hell do we need a detective? ”

Ashley turned around to wash Tessas back.

”The Grayson corporate lawyer also works for Palmer, ” she explained. ”Scarlet has him under her thumb. Her goons knocked out your security guard in the hotel, remember? It clearly shows how dispensable your team is. We are completely clueless about the attackers, and we need some concrete information to plan ahead of time. Should I go on? ”

”Fine! Fine! You don have to treat me like a kid. ”

”I wouldn dream of it. ”

***

The girls exited the shower and toweled each other off.

”I wish to have a body like you when I grow up, ” Tessa murmured as she stooped to wipe Ashleys moist hips. ”You have the shape of a supermodel. ”

”You are a beauty, ” Ashley replied, turning around and tickling Tessas perky body. The teen giggled and backed away.

”But of course, once we put this problem to rest, I will introduce you to my trainer. ”

”Cool! ”

”Okay, now tell me, do you have an office? ”

”What did you think? ” Tessa scoffed, handing a bathrobe to Ashley. ”I am a twenty-five percent shareholder in the company. Furthermore, I run several nonprofits. ”

”There is a pretty swanky office on the twentieth floor, ” she added with an air of pride.

”Perfect! ” Ashley said. ”I will find something to fit me in your wardrobe and meet you in your office ASAP. Inform your secretary that we are expecting guests. And for Gods sake, dress like an employer! No jeans and t-shirt, please! ”

Tessa made a face at the suggestion but finally agreed. Ashleys wish was her command.

Half an hour later, the duo was behind a desk in Tessas office. Both were in collared button-ups and trousers.

Compared to Jakes office, Tessas was futuristic. It had white paneled walls, a smart desk with three curved monitors, and galvanized odyssey chairs.

Tessa was a sci-fi enthusiast from the looks of it. There was no liquor bar, while a modest cafeteria lurked in the corner. Light beamed in through oval-shaped windows. The lounge space was spacious, with a floating walk-in garden. It took some time for Ashley to take it all in. The little girl was quite the interior decorator.

”I wanted to ask you something. ” Tessa began.

”Go ahead. ”

”How do you feel about– ”

”About? ”

”You killed someone, Ash– ”

Ashley took a deep breath and bit her lip.

”I am yet to process it. However, if you ask me right now, I felt nothing. Nothing at all. At that moment, my sole concern was to protect you. If I had to do it all over again, I would not think twice. ”

Tessa was almost teary-eyed. Ashley extended her hands to pull her cheeks.

”No more cheek-pulling! ” the eighteen-year-old complained, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. ”We are partners, okay? ”

”Okay, ” Ashley agreed, ”Partner. ” A twenty-five-year-old and an eighteen-year-old would make quite the team.

There was a knock on the door, and Tessas secretary, Dmitri, walked in. The latter was a greasy-haired youngster, fresh out of Yale. Tessa had hired him for quite a fortune. He was worth his wage though.

Dmitri could make mincemeat of analysis reports and balance sheets. At the same time, he was sensitive enough to take care of pets, babies, and stuffed animals.

The secretary held a document folder in one arm and carried a kitten in the other.

The cat hopped down from him and skittered towards Tessa, whose face lighted up.

”Leia! ” Tessa exclaimed, picking up her pet. ”You missed me? ”

”Miss Grayson. Miss Palmer, ” Dmitri announced, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. ”There is a Mr. Elijah Wood in the waiting room. He says he is a corporate attorney. ”

Tessa and Ashley exchanged glances.

”Send him in, ” they said together.

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