Russell frowned as he paid the cab fare. Heather had abandoned him, racing into the hotel to look for Brant and Avery. Leave it to Heather to race off when it was time to pay the bill.
He'd held up his end of this scheme by finding out to where Brant and Avery had traveled. Sometimes, flirting with the right women at BBK Pharmaceuticals could yield priceless information. Besides finding out all about the business trip, he'd also been able to discover that Brant had arranged for a single bedroom suite for their lodging. Russell could only hope Avery wouldn't walk willingly into Brant's slimy arms.
Russell stepped into the hotel and looked around the lobby. He could give Brant a little credit; the hotel he'd chosen was classy. No doubt it was just as expensive as it was classy, meaning that every inch of floor space in a room would cost a regular week's pay to a working man. Of course Brant would never understand that, but Avery would. Then again, that's probably what Brant had counted on, wooing Avery with his millions.
Russell's frown darkened his features as he thought of Avery and Brant sharing a room in this hotel. The thought of Brant even being allowed in the same state with Avery made his blood boil, but to think that Brant would get Avery alone in his quest to seduce her made Russell as close to homicidal as he'd ever be.
"Oh there you are," Heather said as she turned and waved gently to him from the front desk, "He does tend to dawdle," She said as she turned back to the clerk, "So I trust everything is in order?"
"Of course Mrs. Denton," The clerk said softly as he flashed her a smile, his graying hair and reserved manner befitting his position, "Our concierge, Gary, will see to all your luggage."
"Mrs. Denton?" Russell questioned with wide eyes as he wondered if he had heard correctly.
"That's right," Heather smiled as she turned and put her arm around his waist. She drew him to the side, "I had to tell them something so we could get a room."
"A room? You couldn't get two rooms?"
"Nope," She replied with a shrug, "It appears the entire hotel is booked except for one lonely room, and here's the real kicker. It's the honeymoon suite."
"Excuse me?" Russell choked out, "Wait, how did you manage that?"
Heather smiled as she took his hand and slapped a credit card into his palm, "I paid for it with your credit card," She giggled softly before she turned and followed the concierge to the elevator.
Russell attempted to speak but no words formed. Instead the deep lines of a heavy frown washed over his face as he looked down to the credit card in his hand. Now he would have proof that the rooms in this hotel really did cost an entire week's paycheck. As he stalked towards the elevator, he thought to himself that Avery had better appreciate his efforts on her behalf.
"Come on now, honey," Heather said as she reached out for Russell's arm and yanked him into the elevator just before the doors closed. She smiled as she wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed herself against him, "The concierge says that there's a huge masked ball tonight, and Steven Davies is hosting it."
"Really?" Russell asked dryly as he looked to the concierge, "You wouldn't know where we could pick up some costumes, do you? I'm sure Steven wouldn't mind if we dropped by and said hello."
"Yes sir," The concierge nodded, "There's a dress shop that works in coordination of the hotel," He said as he took a card from his pocket, "This is the number you can call to arrange for costumes."
"Thank you," Russell said as he looked over Heather and stuffed the card down her cleavage, "Hold onto that, would you dear?"
The concierge looked a bit shocked before he turned his eyes away from the couple.
Heather grinned as she glanced to the concierge, "I think you're making our concierge nervous."
"I wonder how nervous he would be if I spanked you right about now," Russell pondered openly before the doors of the elevator opened and the concierge rushed onto the floor.
Heather chuckled as she and Russell followed the concierge down the hallway. The concierge opened the door and stepped inside, holding the door open for his guests. Russell began to step inside before Heather tugged him back.
"What?" Russell asked blandly.
"Aren't you going to carry me over the threshold?" She asked with a sparkling grin.
He rolled his eyes before he knelt and heaved her over his shoulder, carrying her inside the honeymoon suite as if she were a sack of potatoes. He moved to the sofa and dumped her onto the cushions. He turned and placed some bills in the concierge's hand before pushing him out the door. After the door was closed, Russell nailed Heather with a harsh glare, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Having some fun," She said with a smile, "Do you have any idea what fun is, Russell?"
"I'm well aware of what fun is, and this isn't my idea of it," He said roughly before he made his way to the phone.
"What are you doing?" She asked as she turned on the sofa and watched him at the desk.
"Getting us some costumes. You do want to crash this party with me, don't you?" Russell asked as he dialed the phone.
"I want to do anything that gets Brant to me where he belongs," Heather said with a grin, thinking ahead to wrapping her arms around Brant and never letting him go again.
Brant stepped up to the bedroom door of the hotel suite knowing that
eventually Avery would have to face him again even if she would rather
not. They’d promised Davies that they’d make an appearance and given
the deal at hand, Brant wouldn’t go back on that promise. Then again
the thought of having a reason to coax Avery out of the bedroom and onto
his arm again also played a part in his eagerness.
“Avery,” Brant tapped on the door gently hoping to capture her attention as he looked to the package that had just arrived.
“Brant, not now,” she groaned from the other side as he tapped on the door again.
“Avery, you can’t avoid me forever,” he challenged folding his arms in front of his chest as his black cape dangled behind him, “we’ll be late for the Davies party if you don’t get out here soon. He’s sending a car out for us…”
“Well you can tell him and his car, to take a flying…” she began as Brant knocked on the door once again.
“Avery, quit stalling and get your beautiful butt out here,” Brant offered knowing that would get a rise out of her as she threw open the bedroom doors.
“The last thing I want you thinking about Brant Ashford is my behind,” Avery spat back at him as his jaw nearly dropped at the sight of her.
Unable to fight the impulse to stare, Brant’s gaze swept over the scoop of the costume’s shallow bust line as the top curve of her very generous cleavage spilled excitedly over the line of the shirt teasing him with the eyeful he’d dreamt about for so very long. Following the dark lines of the body suit, Brant was able to visualize her every curve in living color as his gaze lingered over her legs as the pants tapered out a bit, giving accent to the sexy, black boots that topped off the costume.
“Oh Avery, you look yummy,” Brant blurted out unable to resist himself as a smile touched over his lips. He stepped towards her using every ounce of restraint within him not to reach out and ravish her as she stood before him looking grudgingly miserable. His grin widened as his gaze involuntarily dropped over the full line of her cleavage once again.
“They’re called breasts, Brant,” Avery placed her hands over her chest as if to showcase them to him giving them a quick bounce before she shot him a scathing look, “and you won’t be getting acquainted with them later so you can put your eyeballs back in your head again.”
“Care to make a wager on that one,” Brant teased with a wink, “the way I see it, they are just looking for a reason to get more acquainted with me…that is if you’d stop being so stubborn,” he leaned forward feigning as though he was going to reach out and touch her.
“Watch it Zorro,” Avery warned throwing out the sword that came with her costume as she held it firmly against his chest, “or else you might become up close and personal with my friend here.”
“Oh Avery,” Brant made a tsking sound as he placed his finger over the sword gently easing it away from the center of his chest as his eyes lit up with mischief, “if it’s a sword that excites you, then I’d be more than happy to let you have a handle on mine.”
“Brant, I wouldn’t touch your sword if my life depended on it,” Avery shuddered as she lowered her sword to her side.
“Now Avery, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” Brant flashed her a sexy smile, “I can guarantee once you get a firm grasp on my sword, you’ll never look back again. It’ll change your life.”
“I have no doubt about that,” Avery stood taller, “but disappointment isn’t on my agenda tonight so I think I’ll stick to what I have,” she waved her sword once again, “it suits it’s purpose it would seem.”
“It’s never quite as entertaining to engage in such vigorous activities on your own,” Brant challenged lifting a brow, “a duel would present much more of a rousing experience considering anticipation is half the fun--the not knowing where things could lead after a few heated strokes,” Brant’s eyes traveled over her body once again.
“Enough already,” she hissed back at him folding her arms in front of her chest, “what did you want?”
“You of course,” Brant shrugged his shoulder casually as he cast another perusal over her.
“That’s it,” Avery turned towards the bedroom door, “I’m not going to the party.”
“Avery, oh alright,” Brant reached out to her slinking her back into his arms as she began her escape, “I’ll stop.”
“Now why don’t I believe that,” Avery tossed her hair back over her shoulder as she looked at him.
“Really, I’ll stop,” Brant released her as he stepped aside offering a simple smile, “otherwise we might not make the party…not that I wouldn’t mind engaging in a little,” he winked at her, “ ‘combat’ with you myself, but there are other things to attend to.”
“Such as?” she raised a skeptic brow as he lifted a box from one of the small tables before her.
“Such as your ring,” Brant explained in a nonchalant tone, “while Davies didn’t call me on it earlier, I could see the fire in his eyes challenging my position in your life,” Brant allowed the words to linger for a moment as his gaze swept over her appreciatively, “and we don’t want that happening tonight.”
“If he tries to challenge me, well I’m afraid you might not be the only one in the running with an intimate encounter with my sword,” Avery pointed out matter of fact.
“Even so,” Brant rose from the box, holding a smaller box in hand, “I accept nothing but the best and for my bride to be, that’s exactly what I want you to have tonight.”
“And just what goodies did you bring with you now,” Avery questioned sarcastically as she peered over at the box in his hand.
“Well since you’re out for blood tonight,” Brant turned the jewelry box towards her as he lifted the ring to display it, “I thought that this would be appropriate.”
Avery’s eyes widened as she felt a gasp spill over her lips. She blinked once, twice, not really sure she was seeing things clearly as she looked to Brant again. “Is that what I think it is?”
“It’s a two and a half carat natural red diamond ring,” Brant boasted lifting the ring from it’s protective covering, “it’s nothing short of sheer perfection.”
“Brant this ring is…well it’s just,” Avery found herself at a loss as he raised it to her finger, “do you have any idea what this is worth?”
“As I said nothing but the best for my bride to be,” Brant slipped the ring on her finger proudly, “and tonight that’s exactly what you are.”
“Brant, I don’t know if I should be wearing this,” Avery began as the weight of the ring felt so foreign over her finger, “I mean knowing what this is worth…”
“Avery, it’s where it was meant to be,” Brant lifted her hand to his lips pressing a kiss upon her soft skin, “You’ll wear it well and it will be just what you need tonight at the party.”
“But what if I lose it,” she eased the index finger of the hand opposite of the ring over the gold setting.
“You won’t,” Brant shrugged his shoulders, “and at one point nine million a carat there, I’m sure that you’ll be able give it the kind of showcase that it deserves.”
“How did you get your hands on this,” she questioned in awe.
“I’m Brant Ashford,” he replied in a cocky tone, “I always get what I want.”
“So it would seem,” Avery found herself at a loss.
“It’s one of the perks of being me,” Brant stepped in closer towards her, “I have an eye for beauty it seems and when I heard about this one, I knew there was only one place for it and that was on your finger.”
“It’s stunning,” Avery couldn’t help but admit as her eyes were continually drawn to the ring.
“Just like you are,” Brant offered as he stepped in beside her holding
out the mask that came with her costume towards her, “Shall we get going?”
“Brant, I can’t walk out of here with this on,” Avery decided after a long moment, “knowing that I have this much just sitting on my hand, waiting to become the next big disaster waiting to happen, well it’s a bit unsettling.”
“I trust it’s in good hands with you,” Brant smiled down at her, “After all as I said before, I don’t trust my lifeline with just anyone.”
“Brant, I appreciate that and while I know I said quite a few things to you before,” she stammered shaking her head in refusal, “I can’t wear this tonight,” she finished reaching out to remove the ring.
“Avery no,” he placed his fingers over hers stopping her from taking the ring off, “it’s exactly what I wanted for you and tonight, well, wear it with the poise and perfection that a gemstone like this deserves,” he leaned in closer to her whispering into her ear, “if you look at it long enough you’ll see it was made for you.”
“It was made for a princess,” Avery stated simply, “not for me.”
“On the contrary, tonight you’re my princess Avery Morrison--of course you‘re my luscious, tempting vixen princess,” Brant winked at her stepped aside offering his arm out to her, “That being said, you’re my fiancée and we’re about to show Steven Davies that if he even thinks about hitting on you again, well he’s going to live to regret it.”
“Somehow I doubt that one,” Avery rolled her eyes watching him put his mask on as she tried to focus on something other than the sparkling stone on her finger.
“My love knows no limits,” Brant placed his palm over his chest throwing out a bright smile as she rolled her eyes.
“You have to have a heart to fall in love,” Avery reached for her sword stepping forward.
“Even so, for tonight, whatever it is that we have, it works,” Brant decided offering her a gloved hand, “shall we?”
“Well if we must,” Avery teased accepting his hand as she prepared to face Steven Davies and his house full of guests knowing she was about to pull off the biggest act of her life, yet as she looked to the ring on her finger, she couldn’t help but smile realizing that perhaps there would be one perk about the evening. It couldn’t be all that bad.
Blake stepped into the emergency room at CCR. When she'd received the call, she'd been sure that something had happened to one of her brothers, but the nurse had quickly informed her that she had been left as an emergency contact for Caitlin.
She approached the admissions desk and asked as to Caitlin's whereabouts. The nurse escorted her down the hall to a private treatment room at the back of the emergency room. Blake stepped inside and frowned as she spotted Caitlin lying upon the gurney.
"Blake Ashford, right?" Mindy asked as she stepped forward, "My name is Mindy Carmichael. I work with Caitlin."
"Did you find her?" Blake questioned as she moved towards the gurney.
"Yes," Mindy nodded, "Some guy attacked her in the parking garage at the Courier. It was just lucky that I was there. I have a feeling he would have done much worse to her if I hadn't showed up when I did."
"Probably," Blake nodded, "How is she?"
"They just gave her something for pain so she's a little groggy, but they've already taken x-rays and a CT scan," Mindy said as she bit her lip in nervousness, "I think I need some fresh air. Can I get you anything?"
"No, I'm fine. Thank you Mindy for everything you've done for her," Blake said with a soft and appreciative smile.
"No problem. Caitlin's my friend, and I know she would have done the same for me," Mindy replied with a weak smile before stepping out of the room.
Blake approached the gurney and gently touched Caitlin's cheek, "Hey, you awake?"
"Hmm," Caitlin murmured as she turned her head to glance up at Blake. She reached up to the bandage adorning her head and frowned, "They shouldn't have called you. I'm fine."
"Fine? Caitlin, you were attacked. I'd say that in itself puts you a long way from being fine," Blake lectured as she watched Caitlin close her groggy eyes, "What happened?"
"I was walking to my car, and boom, it just happened."
Blake looked around the room to make sure they were alone before she spoke again, "Was it Jimmy?"
Caitlin's eyes opened and focused upon Blake in a moment of cold fear, "No, it couldn't be. I mean…no," She stammered for a moment, "He…he couldn't have found me," She said as she felt tears rising in her eyes.
"Shhh," Blake urged as she gently took her friend's hand, "It's okay. You're going to be safe. I promise you that."
"You can't promise me that, Blake. No one can," Caitlin trembled as she glanced around the room, sitting up before raising her fingers to her head.
"What do you think you're doing?" Blake questioned in confusion as she watched Caitlin.
"I have to get out of here," Caitlin sobbed as her tears slipped down her cheeks.
"Hey," Blake stopped her as she placed her hands upon Caitlin's shoulders, "You're not going anywhere until the doctors say you can."
"But if he's out there…"
"He won't get in here," Blake declared as she walked to the phone on the wall and dialed a short number, "Yes, this is Blake Ashford. I need security in the ER's private treatment room to protect a woman who was attacked this evening. I want security with her until she is discharged, understood? Good." Blake shrugged as she hung up the phone, "So being at home does have its perks," She said with a dry smile before she reached out to her friend once more, "Have you spoken to the police yet?"
"No," Caitlin said quickly, "I can't talk to them."
"Caitlin, you were attacked. You have to talk to them."
"No," She shook her head, "They'll be asking questions about him, and I don't want to answer any. I don't even want to think about him anymore. That was part of why I came to Coral Valley. You said that if I ever needed to get away, that if I was really ready to start fresh, I could do that here. I really need to be able to do that, Blake."
Blake nodded, "We'll find a way to make that happen. Lie down. Get some rest."
"How can I? What if it was him?" Caitlin asked, fighting against the effects of the pain medication.
"If it was him, I'll make sure he regrets ever coming to my town," Blake declared firmly, "Now lie down. You look like you're about ready to fall over."
"Blake," Caitlin sniffled as she tenderly lay herself back upon the small pillow on the gurney.
"Yes?" Blake asked as she took Caitlin's hand once again.
"Thank you for being here. Thank you for being someone I can count on," Caitlin said through a tear soaked voice.
Blake squeezed Caitlin's hand, "I'll always be here, Caitlin. I'll be right here," She assured her as she thought about the man who had attacked Caitlin and if it was the man they both feared it could be.
Seth stepped out of the limousine finding himself in the darkened alley
as a frown touched over his lips. So much for finding a pleasant
way of dealing with Cameron, he thought to himself as he looked in the
distance noticing another car turning into the alley. He stood taller
trying to ignore the warning signals going off in his head as he wondered
why in the world he’d even considered working for Cameron Stone.
Now as he thought of the position he’d found himself in, he realized that
there was no way out with Blake and Jade at risk. He’d have to find
a way to help them, but that would take time and he feared that wasn’t
something that would work in his favor.
Seth eyed the other car intently as a burly looking man stepped out of the front seat, moving towards the back of the car and opening the door as Seth figured this was all a part of Cameron’s attempt to scare him. The alley, the secret meeting, the threats--they all oozed with the kind of motif that an old ‘private investigator meets the wrong client’ movie. Something about Cameron Stone cried out a need for drama and his bidding, but as the door to the dark colored car before him opened, he noticed a pair of long legs stepping out onto the alley. Surprised by the turn about, Seth blinked back at the woman before him wondering what was going on as she began to stride with determination in his direction. The man who’d opened the door for her followed behind her as the butt of his gun glimmered in the darkened alley. There was no mistaking that the man meant trouble--probably Cameron’s means of scaring Seth, but the woman, she was something of a surprise.
“I hope you didn’t have to wait long,” she broke through the silence giving Seth a quick once over. When he said nothing, she eyed him expectantly, “well did you?”
“Did I what,” Seth questioned in confusion as he noticed that despite her beautiful features, her eyes held a wickedness to them.
“Did you wait long,” she smiled sweetly as she tilted her head taking the opportunity to give Seth a slow perusal appreciatively.
“We’ve been here for about ten minutes Ms. Valentine,” the driver explained from the darkness behind Seth.
“I see,” her smile faded as she turned to face the bulky man beside her. She stepped in closer to him, curling her finger for him to lean in closer to her as if she had some sweet, seductive secret to share with him, but as he inched in towards her, she hoisted her knee up into his groin and the man curled over in agony. Watching as she threw her fist into the man’s jaw, Seth felt himself wince as this striking woman was capable of such violence, but then as if there had been a switch working her, she faced Seth again with that same sugary sweet smile.
“I apologize for my driver’s incompetence,” she dusted off the sleeve of her jacket, “as it was never my intention to make you wait.”
“Who are you,” Seth questioned cautiously as the woman stepped in closer to him.
“Cameron sent me to give you your first assignment,” she explained matter of fact extending her arm out towards him as Seth remained still unsure of how to respond to her. Her smile widened, with a bit of menace behind it as Seth reluctantly accepted her hand, “I’m Thea. Thea Valentine and from now on you and I will be in direct connection with one another about the work you’re doing for Cameron unless he instructs otherwise.”
“I was under the impression that Cameron wanted to see me personally tonight,” Seth withdrew his hand as Thea circled around him.
“He’d planned on it,” she confessed sliding her finger over Seth’s shoulder as she encircled him with a predatory stride, “but I asked if I could get a glimpse of the new guy. How I do enjoy seeing Cameron’s new blood and in this case,” she made a whistling sound as she stood before him once again, “Cameron made an excellent choice. You’ll suit us just fine Seth Alexander.”
“And just who are you again to Cameron?” Seth lifted a curious brow not sure he really wanted to know.
“I could be your greatest fantasy,” she curled her fingers over the center of Seth’s shirt yanking him towards her as her lips formed a scowl, “or your worst nightmare if you don’t play your cards right,” she finished shoving him back into the alley, “You’ll find everything you need to know about your first assignment is in that briefcase,” she paused snapping her fingers as her wounded driver rushed over to her side despite the pain she’d inflicted upon him.
Thea snapped her fingers again and the man opened up the briefcase to reveal a small package. She reached for it, picking it up with great ease before she turned to Seth again. Offering up the package she flashed him a warning grin.
“I trust that you won’t screw this up,” she spoke slowly, her words carrying a menacing air as Seth reluctantly took the package, “Cameron expects a full report in three days.”
“Three days?” Seth repeated, “look lady what he asked me to do is not something that can be done in three days.”
“You’ll get this part of your assignment done in three days,” Thea stepped forward, her eyes laced with malice as she spoke sharply, “or else it would reflect poorly on your overall ability and Cameron would be forced to take matters into his own hands…” she paused as a smile swept over her features, “or mine. In which case, you don’t want that to happen,” she finished taking a step back, “it would be best if you started on this right away,” she waved her hand dismissively as she turned on her heel making her way back to the car she’d arrived in with much the same chilling presence as she’d had in her arrival.
Now as Seth watched her leave, he realized that Cameron Stone had seemed menacing, but Thea Valentine was downright evil. Something about her, left a very unsettling feeling in the pit of Seth’s stomach as he watched her car pull out of the alley and he realized that things were about to get ugly on some level. He just hoped that he could find a way out before that happened.
Russell frowned as the edge of his sword poked at his side once again.
Looking over at Heather as she pranced around in her warrior princess costume,
he was starting to have some serious reservations about crashing this party.
He hated being in these places with people he found absolutely intolerable
and as he drew in a breath, he turned towards her once again, “This is
“No, it’s not stupid,” she defended as she stood taller, “if we want to find a way to get Brant and Avery exactly where we want them, this is absolutely necessary.”
“We aren’t going to find them in this place,” Russell noted looking around the room, “they could be anywhere.”
“They could be, but then again, when it comes to Brant I have my own tracking system,” she offered cryptically as her gaze cast over the crowd, “I will find him.”
“I’m about as confident about that as I am about you winning him over yet again,” Russell rolled his eyes slightly as his thoughts lingered to how Heather had yet again put the costumes on his charge card only after she’d insisted upon getting on the phone with the man working at the shop to find out what Mr. And Mrs. Ashford had rented. That thought of Brant speaking of Avery as his wife, made Russell furious and now as he looked over the bustling crowd, he fought to keep his rage contained.
“I have a feeling before this night is over, we’ll both get what we want,” Heather broke through his thoughts as he turned to face her again. Sure, she was beautiful, sexy as all hell, but impossible to deal with. She had her ideas in her mind and the more Russell stewed over them, the more he wondered just what they’d accomplish tonight, “You know if Brant’s dressed in this getup, well, then Avery is going to want to be far away from him. She’s not into these macho displays of bravado as it turns her off.”
“Does it?” Heather inquired raising a curious brow, “and just what does it take to turn Avery on since you seem to be the expert on her?”
“Certainly not a man like Brant Ashford…” he paused contemplating those words, “at least not willingly…”
“Brant Ashford can turn on any woman,” Heather defended as a bright smile pressed over her features and she reached out to Russell poking on his arm, “and it would seem that you were wrong about your precious Avery. It seems she’s enjoying the theme Brant has going,” she motioned towards the crowd as Russell followed the direction she’d pointed out to him. He frowned as he noticed Zorro and his sexy companion in one another’s arms out in the middle of the dance floor dancing too close for his comfort.
“It looks like Brant does have a way with her after all,” Heather smirked before her smile faded and her eyes shifted to the look of determination that Russell had gotten used to over the short time of knowing her, “now let’s go fix that.”
“Do you have a plan?” Russell questioned as Heather tugged him through the crowd.
“We’ll wing it,” Heather vowed as she marched through the hordes of people determined not to lose Brant to that lady lawyer he was fixated on.
“Brant,” Avery spoke firmly as she threw out an icy smile in his direction.
“Yes darling,” he flashed her a bright, white smile as he dipped her on the dance floor.
“I strongly suggest you keep your hands near my waist because if you keep grabbing me like you’ve been doing,” she reached for his hand planting it on her hip, “then I’m going to have to follow through on those threats back at the hotel.”
“Can I help it if your body wants to make an effort to get closer to me,” Brant squeezed her in against him, the fire behind his words, “we are after all, a happily engaged couple.”
“Only in your dreams,” she breathed as his lips hovered over hers. The warmth of his breath spilled over her mouth as his palm pressed in against her cheek lifting her eyes to his.
“You have no idea just how incredible my dreams of us can be,” Brant whispered leaning in towards her as Avery felt her heart pounding in her chest. Suddenly the nearness of Brant began playing with her head as she pushed her palm to the center of his chest bringing a distance between them.
“I need a drink,” she blurted out as a frown touched over her lips.
“Alright, then let’s go get one,” he extended an arm out to her, “shall we?”
“Actually,” she drew in a nervous breath trying to quell the unsettling reaction her body had to being this close to him. She couldn’t allow herself to feel for Brant Ashford. It would just be foolish after everything, “why don’t you go on over to the bar and I’ll take a trip to the ladies room if you will?”
“Okay,” he nodded flashing her a sexy smile, “one apple martini coming up.”
“Thank you,” Avery smiled politely watching him move across the room as she stood in the center of the dance floor. Something about tonight, about being this close to Brant…well, it was all a bit much. Earlier she’d wanted to rip his head off for the things he’d done, for the plans he’d made for her despite his promises that nothing would happen between them, yet as she found herself in his arms at Steven Davies’ party, it was truly a night that would haunt her from this day forward. She’d wanted to tear Brant apart, yet once they’d arrived at the party it seemed easy to fall into the role of his fiancée and that in itself had Avery very on edge.
Now making her way towards the balcony in an attempt to get herself some air, Avery vowed to try to have a good time. This night wasn’t all that bad as in his own way Brant had spared her from having had to deal with Steven Davies. A shudder passed over her as she stepped out into the night, moving towards the edge of the balcony as she looked to the world below her. Something about the beauty of it all swept over her as she heard footsteps from behind her. Turning in the moonlight, she saw a man standing close to her as he was dressed in a pirate’s costume.
“Avery,” he spoke her name as Avery instantly recognized Steven Davies before her, “I was hoping I’d get a moment alone with you.”
“Actually Brant should be on his way out here,” Avery began nervously as she leaned back against the railing, “he’s just getting me a drink.”
“The bar is swamped,” he explained with a hint of a smile, “which means it’ll probably take him a while. Look about earlier…”
“It’s okay,” Avery stepped aside hoping to put a distance between her and Steven.
“It’s not okay,” he shook his head as he followed her movement, “it’s not okay at all and I was hoping there was some way I could make it up to you,” he reached out to her his hand grazing over her shoulder as a shiver rushed over her.
“There’s no need,” she smiled politely as she turned to leave.
“But there is,” he seized her arm tightly pulling her in closer to him again, “I insist.”
“Really it’s more than okay,” Avery tried to shrug out of his touch as his fingers contracted around her arm, “let go of me.”
“You know you’re wasting your youth away on a man like Ashford,” he explained tugging her in closer to him, “you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that.”
“Let go of me,” Avery’s voice rose through the darkness as she could smell the alcohol on his breath.
“Not until you face the possibilities that the night has in store for you,” Steven leered over her as Avery tried to pull out of his reach once again.
Suddenly in that moment the world went into a tailspin as Davies released her with a gasp, sending her flying across the balcony as she landed near the edge. She looked up to see Brant standing before her in his Zorro costume, his voice full of a rage and darkness that Avery could barely make out as he threw a fist into Steven Davies’ jaw sending him flying across the balcony in the opposite direction of the one Avery had landed in. She felt her head swimming with the situation as Brant stepped in closer to her extending his hand out to her in order to help her off of the ground. She reached out to him, allowing him to pull her into his arms securely as her eyes filled with tears of worry.
“Are you alright,” he whispered as he held her, his breath above the back of her ear as she clung to him. She nodded not wanting him to hear the fear in her voice as she thought of the way Davies had approached her. Hugging him tighter, she felt his fingers through her hair as this night had taken a turn for the worse. Davies hadn’t gotten a hint and even with knowing that she was Brant’s fiancée, he still had his mind set to making her something he would claim.
“Do you see now what I was saying about him,” she blurted out fighting the tears that threatened as he squeezed her tighter.
“It’s okay,” he promised faintly as Avery sank into his chest relieved to be in Brant’s arms for the first time for the evening, but as he held her, the clean, crisp scent of his rugged after shave captured her full attention and she pulled back slightly turning her eyes up towards him in the moonlight and in that instant it suddenly dawned in on her that the man she was holding onto so desperately was no Brant Ashford.
He touched her cheek gently as if to alleviate her fears as Avery took in a breath feeling her gratitude transformed into something else, something a bit more primal as the realization of what he’d been doing there dawned in on her. His index finger swept over the center of her lip as she struggled to keep him from seeing that she knew his secret. She closed her eyes allowing him to caress her lips as the horror of Davies’ attack on her faded and the lack of his faith in her swirled over and over again in her mind. He’d traveled all this way to spy on her. Russell Denton and his damned hero complex had followed her to Steven Davies’ party and he had the audacity to not trust her to follow her heart and her head in doing what was right. That was enough to send her blood into a boil as she opened her eyes once again.
“Brant,” she murmured his name in a sultry tone as she massaged her fingers over the center of his chest, “how ever can I thank you,” she breathed as she tipped up on her toes, kissing the side of his neck teasingly, “you just saved my life…”
He said nothing as Avery could feel his body stiffen at her calling him Brant yet again. Served him right, she decided as her fingers traveled down over his body, to his flat abdomen. She pressed herself in against him as she continued to speak in her scorching tone.
“Surely there must be a way for me to repay you for your selflessness in protecting little, old me,” she murmured as she leaned forward moving her mouth over his in a daring motion. Leaning forward, she nibbled on his lower lip as he stood motionless--probably wondering if she’d figured him out no less. Damn Russell for his stupidity and lack of faith in her. If he was going to play games, well he was going to pay big time. She suckled his lower lip before taking a step back and smiling at him, “how about we get out of here and get back to those plans I had for us back at the hotel? You know the ones with me and my black, leather…well, you know…” she winked at him as he opened his mouth in protest, “Shhh…” she placed her finger over his lips, “just stay right here and I’ll take a quick trip to the ladies room and then,” she dropped her finger over his chest in a quick, teasing motion, “we’ll find our way to heaven together,” she winked before stepping back into the party despite the fact she’d wanted nothing more than to make him burn for all of his nerve.
Shaking her head Avery stood taller plotting ways in which to make Russell suffer as her gaze lingered over the still hopping party. She wasn’t sure where Brant was, but as she cast an eye over the busy crowd, she noticed the trashy blonde across the way. Despite the fact it was a costume party, Heather Gibbons stuck out as a sore thumb and it didn’t take much for Avery to put two and two together after she’d seen Russ with Heather the other day. That enraged her as she thought of Russ teaming up with that tramp in order to sabotage her.
“Well, we’ll just see who has the last laugh tonight,” Avery vowed as she motioned for one of the waiters to come towards her.
“Yes Madame?” he questioned eagerly as Avery pulling a fifty dollar bill out of her bra and began tracing it over the swell of her breast capturing the man’s full attention, “can I, help you with something,” he gulped.
“Actually, you might be able to,” she smiled up at him innocently, “you see that woman over there,” she pointed Heather out, “she’s been seeking out Brant Ashford all night and I was wondering if perhaps you could,” she extended the money onto his tray, “let her know that he’s out on the balcony expecting her.”
“But of course,” the man’s voice beamed with enthusiasm as Avery leaned up to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Why thank you,” she smiled spotting Brant over by the bar as she walked through the crowd with a confident stride. Stepping in behind Brant, she laced her arms around his waist and whispered, “hey stranger.”
“Avery,” he spoke her name in confusion as he glanced back at her.
“You know,” she smiled seductively at him, “I was thinking perhaps it’s about time for you and I to get back to the hotel.”
“That’s a change,” Brant turned to face her, “what happened?”
“I just had a run in with Davies,” Avery frowned slightly, “and it got kind of ugly.”
Brant’s smile faded as he searched the crowd, “Where is he?”
“Forget him,” Avery curled her finger towards him urging him to move in closer to her, “we have bigger problems ahead of us.”
“Such as?” Brant moved in closer to her as she wrapped her arms around him.
“The press followed us from Coral Valley,” she stated softly, “it’s that paper that’s been doing those negative stories on BBK and I think they’re looking for a reason to crucify us…”
“I see,” Brant looked around the room trying to spot the intrusive reporters. Normally he might’ve been interested in tackling them and taking them on, but as Avery kept her hold on him, the hotel was sounding like a better and better idea by the moment.
“Brant, let’s forget about the martini and get going,” Avery urged leaning up to kiss him quickly as if to give the impression everything was just fine between them as they were a happily engaged couple wanting to slip away to dive into one another.
“Alright,” Brant agreed nodding his head eagerly as he lead Avery away from the bar taking her from the party, Steven Davies and Russell Denton’s bothersome intrusions. One way or another she was going to prove to Russ that he had no business butting in on her personal life anymore--even if it meant giving Brant Ashford exactly what he was hoping for.
Blake looked to Caitlin who sat beside her. The blow to the head hadn't been serious and had only bled freely because of its location. The doctor had reluctantly released Caitlin into Blake's care, and Blake had insisted upon taking her friend to the Ashford mansion for the night.
Blake knew Caitlin was terrified. She had seen the look of fear in Caitlin's eyes before and knew all too well how Caitlin had suffered at the hands of her so called lover. Blake wasn't about to allow Caitlin to become a target as long as she could help it.
The car stopped at the front of the mansion, and Blake looked to Caitlin who drifted in out because of the pain medication, "Caitlin, let's go inside."
"Wait," Caitlin said groggily, "Who's going to be in there?"
"My brothers probably and our housekeeper."
"You can't tell Kenneth what happened."
"What? Why not?"
"Because I'm trying to start over, and I'm working on a story with him. I don't want him to know about…about…"
"Jimmy," Blake said the name with a heavy sigh as she considered Caitlin's request, "Kenneth could help. He's an attorney. He could get you a restraining order or.."
"No," Caitlin declared firmly, "I don't want him involved. I don't really want you involved, but there's nothing I can do about that now. Please don't tell your brother."
Blake shook her head, "I can't believe I'm even considering this."
Blake met her friend's eyes and saw the desperation within her. She reluctantly nodded, "Okay, I'll keep your secret."
"Thank you," Caitlin said as she gently hugged Blake, "Thank you for everything."
"I haven't done anything," Blake reminded her, "Come on. Let's get you inside where you can rest."
Caitlin nodded before they got out of the car. Caitlin teetered for a moment, struggling to gain her balance. Blake quickly wrapped her arm around Caitlin's waist to steady her as they made their way slowly into the house.
"Annie?" Blake called out as she entered the house, "Annie?"
"Annie's out at a movie," Kenneth announced as he stepped into the foyer from the den, "What happened?" He asked as soon as he spotted Caitlin.
"She was attacked in the newspaper's garage," Blake informed him, "The police said they think it's a random attack," She added, knowing her brother would want more information.
"Not likely," He said as he stepped beside Caitlin, "Are you okay? Have you been to the hospital?"
"Yes and yes," Caitlin nodded, "I'll be okay," She said as she started to take a step on her own. Her legs gave out from under her, but Kenneth swept under her quickly to prevent her from crashing to the floor.
"Yeah, it certainly looks that way," He said with a frown as he lifted Caitlin into his arms, "I'll carry her up to the guest room. Will you get her a glass of water?"
"Of course," Blake agreed as she turned to go to the kitchen.
Kenneth began up the stairs with Caitlin in his arms, "Did you tell the police about the phone calls?"
"No," Caitlin whispered as she lay her head upon his shoulder.
"Why not? It was probably your attacker. This attack was personal," He advised her as he carried her down the hallway to a guest room and stepped inside. He bumped the lights on with his elbow before carrying her to the bed and placing her safely upon the mattress, "Caitlin, do you have any idea who did this to you?"
"No," She repeated the answer as she turned and snuggled into a pillow, allowing the pain medication to win its fight to lull her to sleep.
Kenneth stood upright and frowned as he watched her get comfortable. If she wouldn't tell the police about the phone calls, he certainly would.
Blake entered the room with a glass of water and placed it upon the bedside table, "She finally fell asleep, huh?"
He remained silent as he looked at her, "She knows who did this to her."
"What?" Blake questioned quickly as she looked to her brother, "Come on, Ken. If she knew, she would have told the police," She reasoned, trying to keep her promise to protect Caitlin's secret.
"She's been having lots of hang ups on her cell phone, and at the hospital, there was a phone call which upset her," He noted the evidence, "Someone was trying to scare her before they attacked."
"Kenny, leave this alone," Blake warned before she turned to leave the room.
"Blake, what do you know that you aren't telling me?" He asked as he followed her out of the guest room after switching off the lights.
"Nothing, but this is Caitlin's business. If she wanted us to know about the phone calls, she would have told us and the police for that matter," She shrugged as she opened the door to her room.
"Not if she was scared into keeping silent," He pointed out, "Blake, if you know something that could help the police…"
"I'd tell them in an instant," Blake assured him, "It's been a really long day, Kenny. I just want to get some sleep now. We'll deal with this tomorrow," She said as she went into her room and closed the door, effectively ending the conversation.
Kenneth frowned as he glanced back down the hallway to the guest room where Caitlin slept. He wanted to help her but no one seemed willing to give him the information that would allow him to do so. He would have to find a way to help her even if she didn't want his help.
Jade unlocked the door of the apartment she shared with her brother and stepped inside. She glanced around the living room and frowned, seeing a few empty containers lying around but no sign of her brother.
"Seth?" She called out as she stepped into the kitchen, "Seth?"
"Yeah," Seth answered as he walked into the apartment behind her.
"Where have you been?" She asked as she looked him over.
"I just went out for some fresh air," He lied as he sank onto the sofa, "Did you just get in?"
"Yeah," She nodded as she sat on the arm of a nearby chair, "How are you feeling?"
"I'm good. Tired but good," He shrugged as he glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow at her outfit, "That's a bit tame for you, isn't it?"
Jade looked down at her sweater and slacks before shrugging, "I don't see anything wrong with it."
"I didn't say anything was wrong with it," He pointed out, "You just usually push the envelope. What happened? Did Grady tell you to cover it up?"
"No, he didn't," She rolled her eyes, "In fact, he rather likes my normal outfits. I just decided to change my tune a little."
"Does there have to be a reason?"
"With you, there always is, Jade."
"Seth, why do I even bother with you?" She groaned as she stood and made her way towards the kitchen.
"You're getting worked up. That means there's definitely a reason behind it."
"Bite me, Seth," She snapped as she opened the fridge and removed a soda pop. She opened it before she stopped, "Wait, where are these containers from?"
"Those are from Blake. She brought me dinner to take care of me," He boasted as he stretched out on the sofa.
"She did what?" Jade asked with wide eyes as she stepped out of the kitchen and directed her eyes towards her brother.
"Yeah, she came over, and we even watched a movie together."
"You're joking right?"
"Brat Ashford was here? In our apartment?"
"Why is that concept so difficult for you to understand?"
"Because she's a snob, and we're not part of the country club crowd. I'm sure she about died when she found out we didn't have a butler."
"Blake isn't like that, Jade."
"You're going to defend her? Seth, I'm really starting to believe that your injury was a lot worse than we thought," She sighed as she sat back in her chair.
"Jade, you don't even know Blake."
"Neither do you, Seth," Jade reminded him, "Look, I know you said the money was good, but…"
"No, I'm doing what I have to do, Jade."
"You don't have to do this. You just want to," She said before taking a sip of her drink.
"No, I have to do this. There's a lot at stake, and I can't walk away just now. This has to be done," He said firmly.
"Trying to convince me or yourself?" She asked as she looked to him, "Seth, I'm just worried about you. I don't want you getting sucked into their twisted little world."
"I'm not," Seth said as he thought back to his time spent with Blake, "I'm learning that the Ashfords, well Blake anyway, aren't what people think they are."
"Really? Or is that just what she wants you to believe so that she can have more fun when she finally decides that she's tired of slumming it?"
"Why do you have to think the worst of Blake?"
"Because I watched her in action at the hospital, Seth. She's not Florence Nightingale no matter how much you might want her to be," Jade stood and walked across the room. She stopped at the edge of the den and turned back to face him, "I just don't want you to get hurt, Seth. I love you, you know."
"I know," He said with a knowing smile.
"Good night," Jade said as she turned and went to her room.
"Good night," Seth said softly as he thought about his newest assignment
from Cameron Stone and what it could mean to not only his future but the
safety of his sister and of Blake Ashford.
The lights were off throughout the offices of Denton Legal Services. Only one lone office remained occupied as it did many nights. Grady sat behind his desk reading over legal precedents. It wasn't an exciting night life, but it was his. Russell had lectured him about his lack of adventure more times than he cared to count, but Grady wasn't about to change his life just to make Russell happy. When the time was right, he would know it.
Jade. Why did she keep invading his thoughts? Why couldn't he focus on work instead of focusing on her? Why was it that he couldn't get her face out of his head? He knew why. He just really didn't want to think about it right now.
A knock at the door rescued him from further thoughts of things better left unexplored. He made his way to the door and opened it, "Can I help you?"
"Yes, at least I hope so," Cameron said as he extended his hand, "My name is Cameron Stone, and I need to retain the services of an attorney."
"Grady Denton," He introduced himself as he shook the man's hand, "We're usually closed this time of the evening."
"I realize that, and I must apologize for the hour. However, it's imperative that I speak with you. I need the services of a reputable attorney, and your name comes up quite a bit when I've mentioned a distaste for the Ashford family."
"What exactly do you need an attorney for?" Grady asked, knowing he didn't want to be used only because a man hated the Ashfords…though that was a perk of his job.
"I'm intend to sue BBK Pharmaceuticals," Cameron said as he met Grady's eyes, "Would you be interested in handling such a substantial case?"
"Come in," Grady spoke as he made his way back towards his desk. When he sat and watched Cameron doing the same he spoke again, "What's the basis of your lawsuit?"
"An investment was made by my father in BBK Pharmaceuticals when it was a lowly regional distribution center. The terms of the contract were that once substantial profits of one hundred thousand dollars or more per year were reached, a return would be paid to my father in yearly stipends. That has never happened," Cameron said as he opened the briefcase he'd been carrying and placed a large brown file in front of Grady, "That's the contract as well as all amendments and addendums added over the years."
Grady looked to the file before looking back to Cameron, "And your father?"
"He's dead, but the family business and all his estates passed to me. The contract was made under our company's name, and I believe you'll find that all our papers are in order. BBK is in breach of contract, and I only want what should have rightfully been my father's," Cameron said simply as he adjusted his tie, "Would you be willing to take the case?"
"I'll have to look over the contracts to see if what you think about the contracts is true," Grady said as he glanced at Cameron, still not quite sure about the man's motives.
"I assure you the contract is just as I have described, but please, feel free to read it over," Cameron smiled, "I'm more than willing to give you a retainer of one hundred thousand dollars for your services."
Grady raised a curious brow, "Why would you do that?"
"Because I want someone on this case who isn't going to cow tow to the Ashfords. I've done my research, Mr. Denton, and I know that you're not intimidated by their money. That's exactly what will be required on this case. I think you're the man for the job, and I don't take no for an answer," Cameron said with a slight grin.
Grady looked to the large file before him for a moment before he nodded, "I'll look over the contracts and give you a call tomorrow. Where can I reach you?"
"My new offices in town," Cameron said as he extended a business card to Grady, "I'll be in and out of the office tomorrow as I inspect my holdings in the area, but my assistant, Ms. Valentine, will be available to take your call. She's privy to all aspects of my business, and you may discuss anything with her that you would with me," He said as he extended his hand to Grady, "I hope this is the beginning of a very successful relationship."
Grady returned the man's handshake before Cameron left the office. He
looked down the file in front of him and frowned. Something about Cameron
Stone's intensity bothered him, but for a hundred thousand dollar retainer,
Grady knew he could put that feeling aside for the foreseeable future.
Heather Gibbons smiled brightly knowing that this was her night indeed
as she thought of the way the waiter had approached her alerting her that
Brant was waiting for her on the balcony. So he’d seen her arrive
at the party, she grinned thinking about how long she’d waited for him
to cave in. She was finally going to be with the man she loved and
he was admitting to himself that he loved her too. Life couldn’t
possibly get any better. Now as Heather opened the doors leading
out onto the balcony, she noticed Brant standing beside the railing looking
out onto the night as she adjusted her costume ready to take the step towards
destiny that she knew had been meant for her.
“You’re not getting away this time,” she announced boldly, reaching out to him as she spun him around to face her. Throwing her arms around him eagerly, her lips devoured him as his arms flailed out in a moment of protest, but as Heather worked her passion over him, she felt him cave as he slid his arms around her waist crushing her against him.
“Oh yes,” she purred against his mouth as she slid her tongue moistly between his parted lips. He let out a soft sound, but as her thoughts lingered to their reunion, she promised there would be a great many other sounds of pleasure coming from him before the night was over. She slid her palm over his spine, crushing her against him as her leg curled around his body as she wanted nothing more than to ravage him here and now in front of all the others at the party. He was hers and he was going to see just how good they fit together and the world could be damned because she was with the man of her dreams. His kisses proved just how much he still wanted her and now as Heather squeezed him desperately, she wanted nothing more than to lose herself in his arms until he broke away from the kiss leaving her craving more.
“Heather,” he breathed her name as she felt the pounding of her heart sending a rush of sheer thrill over her senses as his kiss had awakened so many sensations that she’d forgotten about as she reached out to him again, gently massaging her fingers over the muscular planes of his chest.
“Yes Brant?” she questioned lazily drawing a circle over his chest.
“I’m not Brant,” Russell replied with a sharp rush of air as she looked up at him in confusion.
“What?” she questioned reaching out to pull his mask off as she realized that the luscious kiss she’d just savored--the kiss that had set her body on fire was with the wrong man!
“He did what,” Brant questioned in horror after he’d listened to Avery’s
tale of Davies and his unwanted advances on her, “he knew that you were
off limits and he still tried something like that?”
Avery nodded, “I told you he was a pig,” she sighed as she slumped over in the chair she’d taken a seat in upon arriving at the hotel room, “and if it hadn’t been for that guy who walked out on the balcony when he did…”
“Did you catch his name?” Brant questioned pondering all the information that Avery had given him as he paced around the hotel room.
“No,” she lied omitting all the information about them being followed by Russ and Heather, “but I just want to forget about it.”
“Easier said than done,” Brant frowned as he crossed the room reaching into his briefcase, “you were right and I was wrong, Avery. I should’ve listened to you about Davies.”
“You were just trying to cut a deal,” Avery sighed watching Brant as he opened his briefcase pulling out the pages Steven Davies had signed earlier binding him to BBK.
“Even so, I’m not doing it at your expense,” he announced tearing the papers as Avery’s eyes widened and she rose from the chair in surprise.
“Brant, what are you doing,” she questioned blinking back at him in confusion as he tore the papers to shreds.
“Davies is out,” Brant announced tossing the fragments of the contract to the floor as he stepped in towards her, “and I swear to you if he ever lays a hand on you again…”
“Brant, you wanted this deal for so long and that…” she looked down the floor, “I can’t believe you just did that…”
“Avery, I told him that you were mine,” Brant stated matter of fact as he moved in closer towards her, “and if he wasn’t willing to accept that, then clearly he’s not the man I want to be in business with because no one tells me how to run the show.”
“But all that time and money…” Avery shook her head in confusion as Brant’s actions left her speechless.
“To hell with it,” Brant shrugged his shoulders casually as he tossed the last piece of broken paper from his hand, “I’m not in a position financially that I can’t recover from this and I’m sure eventually I’ll find someone just as eager as Davies to invest in BBK, as long as they realize that you’re off limits.”
“Brant, I…I don’t know what to say,” Avery confessed in an obvious state of shock, “I mean…”
“Shh…” Brant whispered pressing his finger over her lips to silence her, “what’s done is done and as far as I’m concerned, Steven Davies has no ties what so ever to BBK from this moment on.”
“But Brant…” she began again noting the look of determination upon his features.
“Avery, you mean more to me than his money does,” Brant confessed lowering his finger from her lips as he placed his arm around her waist drawing her in closer to him, “I’m not going to lose you because of this…”
“Brant, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere,” she admitted finding herself seeing Brant Ashford in a whole new light as the strength of his arm curled around her, holding her against him in a tender embrace.
“Good,” he whispered a breath away from her as a smile touched over his lips, “because I wasn’t planning on letting you leave me.”
“Leaving wasn’t an option,” Avery confessed sliding her arm around his neck as something strange was brewing inside of her, “it never crossed my mind.”
“Good,” Brant smiled in approval as his touch cast over her face gently tapering off into her hair, “because I couldn’t bear the thought of that,” he finished tipping down to capture her lips in a slow, savory kiss as Avery held on to him feeling a change in Brant Ashford as his kiss suddenly made her weak in the knees.
“Brant,” Avery whispered his name feeling herself buck into him as her legs gave out and the strength of his arms kept her from falling. She searched his features wondering how she could go from wanting to strangle the man moments earlier to wanting to get lost in him, but as his lips beckoned her into another heated kiss, she realized the hows and whys were irrelevant as being near Brant Ashford was the only thing in this moment that seemed to make sense.