Monday, October 29, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Chapter 11


Chapter 11

 
Sam couldn’t get Ethan out of her mind. And wouldn’t it figure the one night she hadn’t been visited by Alexis, her dreams had consisted of being held in Ethan’s arms, his mouth teasing, arousing making her ache even after she’d woken. She knew she shouldn’t want him, she shouldn’t even be thinking about him. Colleen was right. He had baggage. Yet he continually popped into her thoughts.

What she needed to do was go to him and set him straight. She couldn’t get involved with him, at least not until after his divorce was final.

Reaching the top floor of the bookstore, she saw Ethan’s office. With her hand shaking, she knocked on his door. She really should just leave, never come back, and avoid the bookstore all together.

“Enter.”

Too late, Sam thought as she inched the door open. Seeing him on the phone, she stood patiently and glanced around the room. His office was small, box like, and ordinary. The desk was at the back of the room to the corner by the window, one filing cabinet, and two chairs. Even the walls were bare. It made her think he didn’t spend a great amount of time here.

“Sorry to keep you waiting. That couldn’t wait.” He set the phone down as he spoke. “What a wonderful surprise.”

His smile was so damn disarming that she couldn’t help but smile back. Why had she come here again? Right. “We need to talk.”

“I can’t seem to get you out of my mind, Samantha,” he said as he walked toward her.

So he felt it too. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I should have stayed away. I should have walked away before knocking on your door. I should—” He silenced her with another one of his mind-blowing kisses. And when he pulled her closer, and their bodies pressed tightly together, her mind went totally blank.

His hands slid from her arms to wrap around her body as hers slid up his back to pull him closer. She could smell his cologne, strong yet not overpowering and knew the scent would be ingrained in her system forever.

His taste was something she would never forget. And when his tongue slid between her lips to toy with hers, she felt the sensation right to her toes.

Her back bumped into the door and she couldn’t for the life of her remember moving. He pressed her against the door and then his hands sent her to heaven.

They skimmed along her arms, sliding slowly up, then down before linking her fingers to his. He pulled them to his chest, pressed them beneath the jacket then releasing them to cup her face in his palms. She wanted him more than she wanted air at this point. And that’s when her mind decided to click in.

She pushed him away, took a deep breath before speaking. “We can’t do this.”

“I can’t go on without having you.”

She ducked under his arms, cursing herself for thinking with her brain and not her libido. “Someone saw us kissing the other day in the stock room.” She turned around and that was a big mistake. He was so damn gorgeous, and seeing his lips pursed made her want to run to him and devour them.

But she went with her brain, again.

“You’re still married—I know, you’re separated, but legally, you’re still married.”

“I’m free to be with anyone I want. It’s only a piece of paper that binds me to the woman I married.”

“I love my family, and I value the respect they have for me. They know we kissed because someone here saw us and Colleen found out. I don’t like disappointing my family. We can’t see each other anymore.”

 “Would you like some coffee?”

She blinked in surprise. “Did you hear what I just said, Ethan?”

“I did. I’m just not sure what to say to that.”

“There’s nothing to say except…goodbye.” Why did that one word make her feel like the ground had just cracked open beneath her feet?

 “I respect your morals, Samantha, but I know there is no way in heaven or hell that I can let you go.”

“Ethan, please.” She backed up when he stepped toward her. “This is hard enough. Maybe when your divorce is final, we could…get together.”

He sat on the front of his desk, his long legs clad in perfectly pressed black trousers stretched out before him. “You’re willing to wait for a year, maybe two, or more, to be with me? I’m not sure I’m that strong.”

“Do divorces usually take that long?”

“They can take longer, depending on if the couple can agree on a settlement.”

“You anticipate yours taking long?”

He stood from his spot and walked to the small cupboard at the opposite side of the room to pour himself a cup of coffee. “Gwen—my soon to be ex-wife—has decided she isn’t happy with the amount of settlement offered to her. She’s decided she wants much more.”

   “How much more?”

He turned to her, his cup in hand and spoke blankly. “Millions, plus a share in my company and a spot on the Board of Directors, as well as my home.”

“Millions? Do you have that?” she asked with unease. She knew he owned the bookstore, but she found it hard to believe he’d have that much money.

“And more.”

Her jaw dropped and she found herself just staring at him.

“You’ve never heard of Montgomery Industries I take it?” he asked with a smile

“Industries?”

He smiled again and her heart flip-flopped in her chest. “My grandfather started out with one simple business. A clothing store. He worked his way up to own several other properties. When my father took over, he expanded the company to include other properties across Canada and in the United States. I’m in charge of all of that now that both my grandfather and father are gone.”

“Holy shit!”

“And then some.” He grinned.

“And your wife wants to be a part of that?” She looked up at him. “Didn’t you have her sign a pre-nup?”

He took his coffee and sat on the front of his desk again. “Sometimes love clouds the brain. Mine was in a permanent fog with Gwen.”

“Wow, that really sucks.”

“That’s putting it mildly.” He took a sip from his cup, swallowed before speaking. “What I am about to tell you cannot leave this room.”

“Okay.” He sounded so serious.

He set his cup down on the desk, took a breath then began. “She claims to have papers indicating me in embezzlement of my own company.”

“Is it true?”

His eyes went a little wider. “Of course not!”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“She has documented evidence. For the life of me, I have no idea where she would have gotten it. I certainly didn’t withdraw money from my company for my own gain, but my signature is on the documents. She claims if I don’t give her what she’s demanding, she’ll take it to the media.”

“If it’s not true, and you have proof, then so what?”

He let out a long breath. “The problem is the doubt she will cast upon me not just to the public, but to the board members. The investigation alone could…Well, it’s all just very complicated, and I don’t want to bore you with it.”

“I’m not bored. So what are you going to do then?”

“Look into her claims and find out how she came about some of the documented reports.” He stood now, then knelt at her feet, taking her hands in his. “I understand your point, Samantha, and I would hate to besmirch your honor.” He lifted their joined hands to his cheek and rested his face on them. “You’ve done something to my heart, Samantha Dowling, something I never thought possible. To have you walk away now, would only rip it out.” He kissed her fingers before releasing them to stand. “But I’ll honor you and let you walk away.”

When he stepped back, she felt her heart crack.

“I have to attend a meeting downtown.”

She sat where she was as he walked to his desk and grabbed his briefcase. When he came back beside her, she wanted to stand up and beg him to take her in his arms.

And when he simply planted a kiss to the top of her head, she nearly melted away.

The door closed and he was gone.

“Holy Cow!”

“Not now, Ed.” Standing, Sam took a breath before leaving the office.

Stupid honor.

***

Sam had the list of names and acquaintances of the Donaldson family beside her on the floor. She’d picked it up after she’d left Ethan’s office, her mind still reeling from what he’d said to her.

She needed to concentrate on finding Alexis Donaldson and her killer. Not on Ethan and the way he made her feel, how he’d turned her heart to mush and muddied her brain. She needed to solve this before it drove her crazy. Sleep did not come peacefully for her these days. And she was pretty sure after what Ethan had said to her in his office would only make matters worse.

How was she supposed to get him out of her mind, and out of her system?

She gave her arms a shake, blew out a deep breath, then focused on the task at hand.

“Okay Alexis, show me who it is.” So far she hadn’t seen anyone with the initials of D.B.

“It’s not healthy to talk to yourself. People might mistake you as crazy.”

She kept her eyes on the names and not her ghostly roommate. “No one’s here to see me.”

“I’m here,” Trent pointed out, setting himself down beside her.

“You don’t count. You’re dead.”

“Boy do I feel the love.”

She looked up, pursed her lips. “You know what I mean.”

 “That’s a lot of names.” He pointed to the paper on the floor.

 “And then some. So how come you can’t help me? It would make things so much easier if you could go talk with Alexis, gather the information for me, and help me close this case?”

“Because it doesn’t work that way. We’re both in different dimensions of death. Alexis is in the realm of torment because her soul is still captured in the living.”

She nearly choked on her own saliva. “Seriously?”

Trent nodded.

“Oh my God!” And here she was, complaining about not getting sleep when the child who was keeping her awake was in torment.

“I know it’s hard for you to hear that, but there was no other way to tell you why I couldn’t help than the truth.”

She swallowed the pain forming in her throat.“What dimension are you in?”

“Oh, my soul’s fine. I can go any time I like.” He smiled sweetly at her.

Sam narrowed her eyes. “Then why are you still here bugging me?”

“Because this is my home and I refuse to part with it.” He leaned in so close that she could feel him slip inside of her. “And because you look so good when you’re naked.”

She shook him out of her, shuddering. “If my father heard you joke like that he’d banish you in a second.” She tossed the paper on the floor. “This isn’t getting me anywhere.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Anyone with the initials of D.B.. Alexis spelled it out for me, but I woke up before I could ask any questions.”

“And you’re thinking those initials are for the person that killed that little girl?”

“Yeah. Why else would she spell it out for me?”

He shrugged. “See anyone on that list with those initials?”

“Not so far. Damn it!” She pushed up from the floor to pace. “This is so frustrating. I feel so helpless. She takes me to her and I can feel her, I can smell her and I know the pain she endured. I even know what her favorite color was, but I have no clue who killed her. What good am I if I can’t help her?”

“You’re there for her and she knows it. You’ll find the person, Sam. You always do.” With that he vanished.

Yeah, she always did, but it was never easy.

Looking down at the names on the Donaldson’s list, Sam frowned. This was getting her nowhere. She hadn’t done enough research. She needed to do more.

Grabbing her keys, Sam flew out the door.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Chapter 10

Chapter 10


Not Professionally edited
Ethan sat behind the desk in his office, the nerves rattling inside of him beginning to show as he tapped his fingers restlessly on the wood. The coffee he’d poured himself moments ago, going cold and untouched.

What the hell was taking her so damn long?

When his office door flew open and Gwen stepped in, looking annoyed, the nerves suddenly turned to anger. “Forget to knock?”

“You order me to your office and you expect me to give a damn about being courteous.” She flipped her blonde locks in an arrogant move as she came to a stop in front of his desk. “What do you want, Ethan?”

He pulled the file out of his top drawer and slapped it on the desk. “Where did you get this information?”

“I told you, I found it in the desk drawer in your home office. You probably should have cleaned it out when you stormed out on me. Something this incriminating could easily fall into the wrong hands.”

He stood, meeting her face to face. “Everything in here is a lie. I have not now, nor have I ever taken money from my own company for my own gain.”

She examined her nails in an obvious attempt at looking bored. “That’s not what the book says that I found in your home office.”

“There is no book, Gwen. And there is no proof I embezzled money because it never happened.”

“And who do you think the board will believe? You, or the proof?” She tapped the file, her eyes staring at him arrogantly.

“I want to see this so called book.”

She laughed haughtily. “That is not going to happen.”

“Then you can take this little attempt of extortion and leave. I do believe you have two weeks to get yourself and your belongings out of my house.” He sat down behind his desk, pulling out his keyboard and began to work, indicating he was through with her.

Gwen leaned over the desk, getting right in his face. “And if you don’t call your lawyer and revoke the eviction, I will make a call to the local news station with a tip on how newly appointed Ethan Montgomery has been milking money from the Montgomery accounts since the day he took over after his father passed away.” She jumped back when he pushed up from his seat.

“Do not threaten me, Gwen.” When his intercom buzzed, he took a moment to take a deep breath before answering. “Yes, Marianne.”

“Just a reminder that you have a business meeting in fifteen minutes with Hayward and Associates,” As his secretary spoke, Gwen slammed the door in her wake.

Damn it! “Thanks, Marianne.” He disconnected and dropped down in his seat. Gwen wouldn’t take this false evidence to the media, would she?

He knew better than that. She would do it in a heartbeat.

***

She was taking a huge chance here, a risk that could backfire on her if it ever came out. Sam was hoping her luck held. Ringing the bell, she waited for someone to answer. When the door finally opened, Sam saw the resemblance between the woman before her, and the young girl who was asking her for help. “Mrs. Donaldson?”

“Yes?” The tall blonde-haired woman tilted her head. “What can I do for you?”

“My name is Samantha Dowling, I’m an investigative reporter. I was hoping I could talk to you about your daughter, Alexis.”

 “Of course. Have you found her?”

How could she stand here and lie to a woman who had such high hopes that her daughter would be found, alive? “I’m afraid I’m not with the police. I’m a reporter and I was hoping to get some information from you that might help to find your daughter.”

 “Oh, right.” The woman shook her head. “I heard investigator, and well…Why are you here again?”

“I would like to ask you some questions about your daughter,” Sam repeated, understanding why the woman would be a little scatterbrained. She couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to have lost a child.

“You said Dowling. Would you be any relations to Jessica Dowling, the anchor woman on the news?”

Sam nodded. “She’s my mother and the reason I’m here today.” Please Lord; don’t strike me down for lying. “Could I come in and talk to you about Alexis?”

“Oh, yes, yes. Sorry. My brain is a little scrambled.” She stepped aside to allow Sam into the house. “Come in.”

Sam followed her to a quant looking sitting room with floral furnishings and fancy crystal vases that held fragrant flowers. “First, I would like to say how sorry I am.”

 “I have every confidence that my little girl will be brought home to me, alive,” Mrs. Donaldson stated, vehemently.

She wished with all her heart that were the case. “Of course.” Sam took a seat on one of the floral chairs while Mrs. Donaldson sat on the sofa. The tight skirt and suit jacket she’d decided to wear was beginning to restrict her. She just wasn’t used to wearing a dress, she was much more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but Sam figured for this sort of thing, dressing up would be better. Made her look professional.

 “My mother wants to do a story on missing children in hopes someone will know something and call in to help.”

“That’s a wonderful idea. How can I help?”

“If I could get a list of everyone you and your husband knew, anyone that knew Alexis: her friends, teachers, etc.” Sam pulled out a small notebook she’d brought with her.

“Oh my, that’ll be quite the list.”

Sam nodded. “I’m aware of that.”

“May I ask why you need it?”

Sam shifted, her skirt making her feel uncomfrtable. “I would like to talk to anyone that knew Alexis, get a feel for the little girl that she was.”

“Is,” Mrs. Donaldson corrected.

Watch your mouth. “Yes, of course.”

“I suppose I could get one together for you.”

“If I could get it by tomorrow, I would really appreciate it.”

“I’m sure I could manage that.”

“Thank you.” Sam drew in a breath.  “Do you know of anyone that would want to do harm to Alexis, someone that would be capable of taking her?” Of killing her.

Mrs. Donaldson shook her head, her blonde hair falling over her shoulders. “Anyone we know wouldn’t be capable of taking our daughter.”

Sometimes, it’s the one you least suspect. “Did Alexis ever mention anyone following her, talking to her that was out of the norm?”

“Not that she ever mentioned to me, or her older sister.”

“An older sister? Is she home?”

“No, she’s at school.”

“I would like to talk to her, if possible.” Maybe this was her ticket to the answers.

“I don’t want Crystal involved. She feels guilty enough about that day.” Mrs. Donaldson sighed as she looked down at her hands.

“Guilty?”

“Crystal blames herself. She told Alexis to go on home without her, told Alexis she wanted to stick around and play with some of her friends. As a rule, I don’t allow that, but…” She let out a long breath. “Anyway, you can understand why she feels guilty and you can understand why I don’t want her involved.”

Her heart nearly burst. That poor child who felt guilty now was going to be in a world of hurt when the family finds out the truth. “That’s a heavy burden for a young girl to carry around with her.”

“Indeed.”

“If you could ask her, maybe, if she saw anyone in the week before Alexis went missing, and get back to me on it. It would be really helpful.”

Mrs. Donaldson stood, indicating she’d had enough and wanted Sam to leave now. “I’ll see what I can do. I’ll get that list and have it ready for you tomorrow.” She walked Sam to the door. “I’ll do anything to get my little girl back home safe with us.”

Sam wanted to weep. Alexis would never be home again. “Thank you for your time, Mrs. Donaldson. I’ll stop by tomorrow for the list.” As she stepped out into the sunlight, Sam felt the overwhelming need to weep. Holding it in, she climbed into her car and drove off.

***

The dinner table at the Dowling house was definitely not a calm one. Food flew, arguments got rowdy, and teasing was the norm. It was exactly what Sam wanted, and needed, particularly now. She was about to smear mashed potatoes on her brothers face for the sexist comment he’d made seconds before, when her father stood up.

“Samantha, put the potatoes down. I think it’s time for a toast. Here is to my eldest daughter. May she sell many items and become stinking rich so she can support her parents in their old age.”

Andrew snorted. “Please, you’ve got your own money.  She can support me.”

“Dream on, bro. My money is my money. Get your own.” She tapped her glass against his, shooting him a toothy grin.

“You always were the greedy one.” Andrew sulked.

“And you always were the moocher in the family, still are.”  She leaned in and kissed his cheek, despite his screwed up face.

“Sam, why don’t you tell your mother more about this new case you’re working on?” Her father urged on.

“Actually, I was going to talk to you about it later.” She turned to her mother. “I kind of used you to get some information, she blurted out.”

Her mother’s eyes perked up. “Used me, how?”

“I went to see the mother of this little girl who’s asked me for help. She was kidnapped and murdered and she wants me to find her and her killer, anyway...” She took a deep breath. “I told the mother I was working for you, gathering information for a story you were working on relating to missing children.”

“Oh, Sam.”

“What else was I supposed to do? Anyway, you could do it, the story.” Sam hoped.

“I could, but in truth, Sam, one missing child doesn’t make big news, as sad as that is,” her mother admitted sadly.

“It’s a local interest story. I’m sure you could convince your producers to do it.”

“I hear begging on your knees is more affective.”

She slugged her brother in the arm and continued. “I think it would make a great story.”

“Another news flash. Sam thinks.”

“Shut up, Andrew,” both Sam and Colleen chimed at once.

“Jesus, bitchy.” He dodged the blow from both sisters. “Couldn’t you have had at least one more child? Given me a brother to help me defend myself against these two barracuda’s?” he asked his mother with pleading eyes.

“If I‘d had another son, you wouldn’t be as special to me.” She reached across the table to touch his hand lovingly.

“You love the attention, bro. If there was another male child, you wouldn’t be able to wrap mom around your little finger the way you did the other day and get money from her,” Sam pointed out.

“Shut up,” Andrew said through gritted teeth.

“Excuse, me, what was that about money?” Her father sat up, his eyes darting from his son to his wife.

“Sam’s dating a married man,” Andrew blurted out.

“I am not.” She kicked him under the table, satisfied when he winced loudly.

“No, then how do you explain you smooching with him by the stock room the other day.”

Nothing could have shocked her more. “How did you…? He kissed me. That’s different. Ho…how did you find out?” Sam stammered.

“Colleen told me.”

Sam turned to her sister for answers. “And you found out how?”

Colleen shot Andrew a heated glare. “I told you that in confidence. Tammy Masters saw you two kissing,” Colleen informed Sam, turning back to her. “She’s not known for her silence and spread it all over the store. Sorry.” Colleen pursed her lips with a look of sympathy on her face.

 “Sammy’s in trouble,” Andrew chimed in musically and received yet another kick to the shins. “Jesus, that hurts, you know. Brothers, is that too much to ask.”

Her father turned to her, his face disappointed. “Care to explain yourself, Samantha?”

He only called her Samantha when he was being authoritative, or when she was in trouble. “No. Like I said, he kissed me. We are not dating. I am not involved with him and even if I was, it would be my business.”

“He’s married,” her father stated firmly.

“In the process of a divorce. I’m not seeing him, okay. Can we drop it?”

Her father glared at her for a few moments before he turned to Andrew. “Now your turn. Let’s discuss this money you swindled from your mother and how you plan on paying it back.”

Grateful the spotlight was off of her, Sam gulped down her wine.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost: Chapter 9


Not professionally edited
Chapter 9
 
With butterflies doing the polka inside her stomach, Sam walked into the Langston Gallery. Olivia greeted her with a smile, and then turned back to the customer she was dealing with. Shifting the soft leather briefcase to her other arm, Sam wandered the shop. She imagined her paintings hanging on these walls, imagined her sculptures adorning the wonderful shelves. If all things went well, they would be.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Miss Dowling.”

“Please, call me Sam, and it’s no problem.” She shifted the weighty case one more time. “I appreciate you taking the time to see me, Olivia.”

 “Well, with someone like Ethan Montgomery on your side, how could I not.” Her bright pink lined lips lifted in a sweet smile. “Please, come this way.” Her high heels clicking on the stone floor, she led Sam to a small office just off the main entrance, and left the door open.

“I’m alone here today so I have to keep an eye on the door.”

“I understand.” Sam sat, resting her case on the desk. She hoped her nerves didn’t showing.

“Well now, let’s see what you’ve brought me.” Olivia took a seat behind the small ordinary looking desk.

Sam often wondered how people didn’t notice even a small disturbance when an apparition was present. The shabby gentleman she’d spoken with the night before in the front room sat in the exact chair Olivia just took, melting their images as one. Sam tried to ignore his antics and opened her case.

“I love doing this.” He lifted a finger and stuck it up Olivia’s nose.

Sam bit back a giggle and did her best not to pay attention. “I’ve had this a while now, because it’s rather dear to my heart.” Sam set the black plaque on Olivia’s desk. “I’ve been reluctant to part with it.” What Olivia didn’t know was why. It was an image of a young boy who’d come to her in her youth, asking for help. And with every dream, she’d seen more and more of what had happened to him. His older brother had taken it upon himself to rid his parents of the anguish of dealing with a handicapped child, and had drowned his little brother in the backyard pond.

It was such a tragic story and touched Sam even now, years later. So using wood, painting it black, she’d carved the image of the little boy at the edge of the pond, tossing pebbles into the water. She preferred to remember him that way.

Happy.

“This is incredible, Sam!” Olivia took the plaque, ran her fingers delicately over the carved images. “The detail is impressive. The way the water is rippling looks so real.  I can feel the love you put into it. Who is he?”

“Someone I once knew.”

“Well it’s exquisite.” Olivia set it down carefully and glanced up at Sam. “This wasn’t in your portfolio when I looked it over last week.”

“As I said, I’ve been reluctant to part with it.”

“I can see why. I want to showcase it.” Olivia sat back in her seat, folded her hands on her lap. “You really are quite good. Mr. Montgomery wasn’t exaggerating. I went by the bookstore to see your Mother statue. I love it!” She stood, held her hand out. “Welcome to the Langston Gallery, Samantha.”

Giddy, Sam felt as if she could burst. “You have no idea how happy you just made me, Olivia.” And while they went over the agreement, Sam wondered if she should thank Ethan, or continue loathing him instead.

***

An hour later, Sam raced into the bookstore in search of her sister. The store was the closest to the gallery and Sam so desperately wanted to tell someone her good news. She turned the corner and nearly ran right into Ethan.

“Hello, Samantha. What brings you here today?”

He always looked and smelled so good and as always, it did things to her system she wasn’t prepared to deal with. “I came to see my sister.”

“I gave her the rest of the day off.”

“Why?”

 “She wanted to spend the day with your father and she’s put in plenty of overtime so I figured she was entitled to it. You look nice today.”

She stepped back when he lifted his hand to her face. If he touched her, she might crumble. “Did she say where they were going?”

“No, I’m sorry she didn’t. How did your meeting go with Olivia?”

“Perfect, actually. She took one of my plaques. Sam just couldn’t control her excitement, and when his lips curved up, showing off those sexy dimples, she nearly sighed.

“That’s wonderful. We should celebrate! Have a drink together. Perhaps after work I could pick—”

“Not going to happen. What is it with you? Are you trying to drive me nuts?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“You are one smooth talker. You take me to dinner, make me believe you’re interested in me then tell me we can’t be together because of your divorce. Now you’re here, wanting to take me for a drink after work. I—” Her breath whooshed out when he yanked her against his chest and covered her mouth with his.

He had a mouth made for kissing. It was soft, skillful, and so damn delicious. And he was blowing the top of her head right off.

When he finally released her, it took her a moment to compose herself. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

 “I can’t seem to stop myself, Samantha,” he murmured, leaning his head on hers.

God, she wanted to melt in his arms. “I wish you’d stop saying my name like that.”

“Like what?”

“With that sexy undertone. The way you say it creates shivers in places I would rather feel.”

Smiling, giving her the softest look she’d ever seen, he stroked her cheek with his finger. “Is that so?”

“I don’t want you making me shiver, Ethan.” Oh God, yes she did.

He pulled her closer in one quick jerk. “And I don’t want to feel as if I can’t breathe unless I kiss you.” Before she could speak one syllable of a word, he crushed his mouth down on hers again, only this time, the kiss was hard, urgent and greedy. 

Her head spun out of control and every thought she had, vanished. The only thing that remained was the hard driving need, to take more. Lifting her hands, she slid her fingers into his thick dark hair and angled her head, encouraging him to deepen the kiss. His hair felt like satin against her palm and she curled her fingers around the strands. She wanted to devour him, to allow him to devour her.

When he finally broke the kiss, she looked into his dreamy blue eyes and sighed.

She knew from that moment on, she was lost.

“I think you’ve just damned me, Samantha.” Turning sharply, Ethan fled the room.

Closing her eyes, Sam held tight to the moment.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost: Chapter 8


Chapter 8 

She heard the weeping, but couldn’t see where it came from. The scent of stale dirt and defecation stung her nose, making her gag. The darkness surrounded her like a heavy cloak, preventing her from seeing anything. Relying on her touch alone, Sam moved in the darkness. Something bulged from her pocket. Confused; she reached a hand inside and felt the cool metal. Slipping it out, she saw it was a lighter and flicking it on, she gasped.

Stumbling back, she hit a wall, her eyes wide at Alexis, the little girl she saw in her dreams. The flesh left on the tiny figure had decayed grotesquely. Before she had time to adjust to what she saw, scenes flashed before her. 

Alexis lay weeping, her clothes soiled from the dirt she sat on, damp from the urine she’d secreted in her fright. Blood coated her face, bruises beginning to form around her left eye, her bottom lip swollen.

“I’ll get you out of here,” Sam spoke in a whisper then jerked when the heat from the lighter singed her hand. “Damn it!” 

Fumbling with the lighter, Sam touched it and realized it was still too hot to use. Behind her she heard a creek, then light spilled into the dark room as a door opened up. She turned to see who it was, but the sunlight shot into her eyes, preventing her from seeing.

The door closed, the light was gone and darkness surrounded her once more.

“It’s time, little girl,” the male voice echoed.

“No, please don’t hurt me anymore,” Alexis pleaded.

“Stop it, leave her alone,” Sam cried out, waving the lighter in her hand to cool it down. She had to see who it was.

“It will only hurt for a bit, and then it will all be over.”

Sam heard the crunch of dirt as the man moved closer. “No, stop, leave her alone,” she cried out again. The lighter slipped from her hands and frantically, she scrambled in the dirt to find it.

“I want to go home,” Alexis sobbed.

“I can’t let you go. They’ll figure out what I’ve done and come after me.”

“I won’t tell,” she cried harder.

He laughed and Sam felt it slide into her like cold steel. “Yes, you will.”

No!” Sam screamed as the sound of flesh being cut echoed in the darkness.  Ignoring the heat, Sam flicked the lighter on. Before her was Alexis, tucked in the corner against a cement wall, her throat hanging open and blood spilling from the wound. When her tiny hand moved, Sam jumped back.

In the dirt, Alexis wrote in blood. D.B.

Sam shot awake and her stomach rolled. She swallowed it down. “Oh god, no!” Pulling her legs to her chest, Sam wept. She’d been there, she’d seen and she’d heard the last remnants of life being taken away and she hadn’t been able to do a damn thing to stop it.

Cursing her ability, she cradled herself and wept.

She was still there an hour later when the doorbell rang. Ignoring it, Sam closed her eyes and let the tears fall. The jingle of keys had her eyes opening.

“Sam?” her father called out.

“In here,” she managed through a shaky voice. It wasn’t unusual to have any one of her family just walk in. Her home was their home and they all had each other’s keys.

“Still in bed, lazy bones? Were you out partying it up all night?”  He stopped short when he entered her bedroom. “What's wrong?”

“Oh, Dad. I hate it, make it stop,” Sam sobbed and eagerly went into her father’s arms when he came to her.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I wish I could.” He stroked her hair gently. “Tell me what happened?”

She sniffled, lifting her hand she reached out for the tissues beside her bed. “He hurt her. Oh God, he touched her and took away her innocence. Then he killed her because he didn’t want anyone to find out. I couldn’t stop him.”

“It’s okay, sweetie, sshh now.” He stroked her face with gentle hands. “You were there?”

She nodded, blew her nose in the tissue. “She took me there, but I couldn’t do anything. I was there while he slit her throat.”

“Did you see who did it?”

“No, it was too dark.”

“Tell me about her.” He wiped the hair from her face.

She blew her nose one more time. “Her name is Alexis Donaldson and she was six. She was sexually battered and killed by some sick bastard who has no regard for the innocent. God, I heard him slice her throat.” It was a sound she would never forget.

He rubbed a hand along her arm. “I’m so sorry, sweetie. Is this the one you came to me about?”

Sam nodded, wiping her eyes on a fresh tissue. “I only just found out her name by searching through old newspaper archives. She went missing in February.”

“Any clues as to who might have taken her?”

She frowned then it hit her. “Yes! D.B. Before I woke up, she wrote D.B. in the dirt.

 “Any idea who he is?”

“None. I don’t know what to do, Dad.”

“All I can tell you, Sammy, is to keep researching, look for clues, talk with people.” He lifted her chin, angled his head in sympathy. “I wish I could do more.”

“I love you for that alone.” She didn’t know what she would do without him.

“I never wanted this for any of my children. Your mother and I discussed it for a long time, weighing the pros and cons as to whether we should have children or simply adopt.” He ran a hand through his hair. “But we wanted our own, so we took the chance. You paid the price.”

“Dad —”

“It might have been easier if you had been a male.”

“Excuse me, what did you just say?”

“How about I make you my special breakfast? It’s been a while,” he said quickly, lifting from the bed.

“Whoa there, buckaroo. You’re not going anywhere.” She jumped out of bed and blocked the doorway before he could leave. “What did you mean by that?”

“It’s okay, sweetie. Just relax.” He patted her cheek then tried to scoot around her.

“You are not going anywhere after such a sexist statement. I’m not some weak minded woman, you know. I can deal with this just as well as any man could. Even better.”

“I know that, and now you know it too.” He tapped his finger to her nose, grinned.

He was the sneakiest person she’d ever known, and it pissed her off. God love him. “That was dirty.”

“You were on the verge of giving up, or saying you couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t let you humiliate yourself like that.”

The smirk slipped out despite her control. “You are a nasty man.”

“And you love me.” He kissed her nose.

She narrowed her eyes. “Did you get the patch?”

“Get dressed. I’ll get started on the waffles and while we enjoy my masterpiece, you can fill me in on how one of your art pieces ended up being displayed at the Montgomery Bookstore.”

“How did you—Colleen,” she sighed. “You didn’t answer my question, Dad?”

 “Yep. Now hurry up. I’m starved.”

***

C.J. was busy making waffles when he felt the familiar prickle at the back of his neck. Without missing a beat, he spoke. “How is she holding up, really?”

 Trent moved in beside C.J. “She has her moments, but she’s tough. Didn’t even bat an eye when she took care of that gentleman the other night.”

Now C.J. did pause, angling his head to look at Trent. “Care to expand on that? What gentleman?”

“Ethan, somebody.” He waved it off with a pudgy hand. “Tall, lean, dressed like someone who owns everything. He gave her a check for that statue, you know, the one I love so much.”

“The Mother?” When Trent nodded, C.J. continued. “What did you mean when you said she took care of him?”

“Good morning, Trent. You’re not gossiping about me are you?” Sam warned, waging her finger at him.

“Me? Never.” He sent a warm smile Sam’s way. “I’ll have a huge stack of those waffles, C.J.”

Laughing, C.J. filled his daughters’ plate. “I bet you would.” He topped it off with whipped cream and strawberries.

“Being dead sucks.” Trent pouted, his heavy frame sinking into one of Sam’s kitchen chairs.

“You know, I believe I’ve heard that before.” C.J. turned to his daughter. “So, let’s start with how one of your pieces ended up at the Montgomery Bookstore.”

“I sold it to the owner.” She dug into the waffles, sighing. “As always, these are the best, Dad.”

“Thanks. How exactly did that come about? You selling it to the owner of the bookstore?” He plugged on, watching his daughter eat and her ghostly roommate drool beside her.

“It just did.” She stood to pour herself some coffee.

“You’re evading, Sammy. That tells me you’re trying to hide something.”

“You know, that’s the reason us kids preferred talking to mom instead of you. With you it was always an interrogation.”

He let it slide. It hadn't been meant to be hurtful and they both knew it. “That’s what fathers are for. Besides, your sister never has a problem talking to me.”

She licked whipped cream from her lips. “That’s because she doesn’t have a life and always has her nose in a book. Now, if she were to get laid once and a while—”

“Sam, please.” He held his hand up, stopping her. There were some things a father didn’t want to discuss with his girls. “You haven’t answered my question, Sammy girl.”

“I am well aware of that, Daddy,” she said with sarcasm. When he crossed his arms over his chest and stared her down, she caved. “Fine, I went out to dinner with him.”

“With Ethan Montgomery?”

“Yes. Anyway, he inquired about my work so I brought him back here after we ate and showed him the Mother and—Oh god!” Her eyes went wide, her mouth gaping. “Alfonzo Demarra made a bid on it. Fifty thousand dollars, Dad! Can you imagine that, fifty?” she said again, full of excitement.

He enjoyed her excitement and patted her hand. “Well, you are good.” And he wasn’t just saying that because he was her father and obligated to tell her that. He really thought his daughter was talented.

“That’s what Ethan said too.” She stuffed more waffles in her mouth.

C.J. lifted an eyebrow. “On a first name basis, now?”

“Dad.”

“I’m just curious how it is that you would attend dinner with a married man and be on a first name basis with the guy.”

“He’s getting a divorce.” When he didn’t waver, she gave in. “No, I did not sleep with him. Jesus, have a little faith in me.”

“I do. I’m proud of you, Samantha.” He beamed with a father’s pride.

Her brow lifted. “For what, not sleeping with him?”

“No! Well, yes, but that’s best not discussed. I’m proud of you for having one of your pieces showcased.”

She smiled up at him, her own pride filling her face. “I’m pretty excited by it—oh crap, what time is it?”

C.J. looked at his watch. “After ten.”

“Oh man, I need to get going.” She pushed from the table, taking her dish to the sink.

“What's the rush? I was hoping on a daddy daughter day. You, me and Colleen, out shopping, eating, spending some quality time together.”

“Oh, I wish I could, but I have an appointment at one.” She raced into her room, C.J. followed. “What should I wear?”

C.J. ducked just in time as the red dress flew past his head to land on her bed. “An appointment? With who?”

She tossed a shirt in pale blue over her shoulder. “Olivia Langston. She owns a gallery on fifth. She wants to discuss my work and the possibility of displaying it in her gallery. I’m really sorry, Dad. Rain-check on the daddy daughters’ day?” Kissing his cheek, she darted off to the shower.

“Sure.” He heard the water engage. “I have all the time in the world now.” Sulking, he showed himself out. He hated that his doctor had put him on such a strict regimen of no work and only relaxation. He was getting damn tired of sitting around doing nothing,

Oh well, one daughter was busy, he would try the next and if she was busy, there was his son. He wondered if Andrew was done sulking yet that he’d refused to lend him more money.

When was the boy going to learn to save his pennies?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost: Chpter 7


Chapter 7

 

Sam could actually hear her sister panic as she stared up at her boss. Sam, however, kept her cool and simply glared in his direction.

“Mr. Montgomery. We were just —”

“Relax, Colleen.” He gave her a reassuring smile. “Don’t you have some work to do?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll just….” Colleen stuttered, then turned to her sister and mouthed, Please don’t get me fired, before walking away.

“Boy, you just snap your fingers and get whatever you want, don’t you?” Sam spat disdainfully.

“I don’t recall snapping my fingers.” He held out his hand. “Shall I take you to your statue now? I’ve had several people inquire about it and its creator.”

“I’m not going to apologize for the jerk comment,” Sam informed, ignoring his comments about her work and the hand held out to her.

“I never asked for one.”

“And I don’t want you treating my sister badly just because I dislike you.”

“That’s unfortunate, your dislike for me. And as for your sister, she has no cause for alarm. I separate my work from my personal life.” Taking control, he took her hand in his. “Shall we go see your piece now?”

Yanking her hand free, Sam lifted her chin. “I know perfectly well where it is.” No she didn’t, but be damned if she would admit that to him.

“By all means then, lead the way.” He held his hand out, challenging her.

Damn it, now she was stuck. All she knew was that it was on the third level, but where specifically, she had no clue. Keeping her head high, she started for the stairs, in silence.

Ethan followed her. “If you had given me some business cards, I could’ve set them out with your statue.”

“I don’t have any business cards,” Sam muttered, heading up the stairs. Why did he have to look and smell so damn good?

“You might want to think about having some printed. It would help sell your pieces.”

“I don’t want your advice.”

“Samantha, about last night.”

“Is this the guy that pissed you off?” Ghostly Ed broke in, appearing out of nowhere and Sam suspected he hadn’t really vanished before after all. “He’s cute. I could have so much fun with him, so much fun using him. Just think of all the bitches I could score in his body.”

“Get lost,” Sam shouted at Ed, but in the direction she aimed her voice and eyes, the shouted command looked directed at Ethan.

Ethan grabbed her arm before they could reach the top of the stairs and pulled her to the wall. “Look, I realize you’re upset with me for what I did last night, and you have every reason, but I never meant to hurt you.”

“Right, just use me.”

“I admit what I did was wrong.”

“Good for you.” She tugged her arms free, her eyes shooting warnings.

“I am attracted to you, Samantha, but I realized last night it would be wrong of me to involve you in a messy divorce. I’m sorry.”

“What do you expect me to say, ‘that’s fine, Ethan, I understand you treated me like shit last night and that you’re attracted to me, but you don’t want to involve me in a messy divorce.’ Bullshit. And if you think I’m just going pine away for you until your stupid divorce is final, you’ve got another thing coming, pal. Get bent.”

“You tell him, girlfriend,” Ed cheered her on.

“Shut up!” Sam snapped at Ed then realized her blunder.

Ethan blinked in surprise. “I haven’t said anything yet.”

Oh how she wished both men, living and dead, would just leave her alone. Sure, Ed was trying to be supportive. Still…she didn’t need him interfering.  “I anticipated a rebuttal.” Pushing away, she stomped up the steps, and there it was. Her statue. Sam’s breath caught as she moved closer. Her work was actually showcased. And as she walked toward the glass case she saw the black velvet it sat on, and her name etched on a gold plate at the Mothers feet.

Pride swelling inside of her, she felt like weeping. “It’s absolutely perfect here.”

“I thought so.” Ethan came up beside her and the scent of his cologne went straight to her belly, arousing her. “And as I said, I’ve had several inquiries as to the artist. Perhaps you could have some cards made up for me to set out for people.”

Her eyes shimmering, Sam simply nodded. She couldn’t stop staring at it. This was her work. Hers. And it was set up for all to see. It was a dream come true.

“Mr. Montgomery, you have a phone call.”

Ethan turned to the petite young woman and smiled. “Thank you, Tori. I’ll take it in my office.” He waited until Tori left, then took Sam by the shoulders. “It really is a marvelous piece of work, Samantha. A reflection of its creator.” Leaving that said, he walked away.

Sam sniffled, her heart nearly exploding. Why did the guy have to be so charming yet be such a total jerk?

***

The Gallery was packed with everyone from the upper class to the average Joe. There were big spenders, dressed for success with checks ready. And then there were those who came to simply imagine owning something worth more than a house alone.

Sam understood both sides.

She’d grown up with wealth, and now, on her own, understood the need to budget for everything. The ten thousand Ethan had paid her for the Mother statue would come in quite nicely. It meant she didn’t have to hurry and find a job that would take away time from what she loved most in life. Her art. And it also meant she had the time to work on Alexis Donaldson’s case.

“It’s a nice piece, isn’t it? But I think it would look better this way.”

A shabbily dressed gentleman came up beside her and tilted the painting which consisted of a multitude of colors blended in a bizarre landscape. “You’re right, it does look better like this.”  And she noticed then that he wasn't with the living. “But I’m sure the artist would disagree.” She tilted it back, hoping no one had seen.

“What do artist know,” he commented lightly, frowning at the artwork in its natural position.

“I resent that, being an artist myself,” she responded quietly, hoping no one heard her speaking to air.

“My forgiveness.” He bowed, tipping his brown hat.

There were few men like that these days, pegging the gentleman at the early nineteenth century. “You’re forgiven.”

“Miss Dowling?”

“Yes.” Startled, Sam turned and saw a stunningly beautiful blonde-haired woman dressed in a formal black gown. She hoped she hadn’t heard her talking to herself.

“Olivia Langston. I had a moment to look over your portfolio and I must say, it’s impressive.”

“Thank you.” Why did Sam get the feeling there was a but to come next?

“But,” Olivia smiled charmingly and Sam cringed. “I already have a full clientele to deal with. I wish you luck with your endeavor, though.”

“Excuse me for interrupting.” Ethan stepped to the right of Sam, flashing his dimpled charming smile that made her pulse—and she was sure Olivia’s as well—race wildly. He wore a tailored black suit this time, with a silver tie and looked as usual, very dapper and incredibly handsome. “I don’t mean to intrude, but I overheard your conversation and I must say, I think you are making a grave mistake.”

Sam said nothing but stood and listened.

“I’ve recently purchased a Dowling original and have it showcased in my bookstore. I’ve had several inquiries about it and its creator. Please, forgive my rudeness. The name’s Montgomery, Ethan Montgomery.” He held his hand out to Olivia.

The man definitely had class.

 “Montgomery, of Montgomery Industries?” Olivia stammered with wide eyes.

“One and the same.” He flashed that winning smile again, and Sam noticed she wasn’t the only woman affected by it. “Just this morning I had an offer for a sizable amount on Miss Dowling’s statue. I declined, of course. Only a fool is parted with his gold.”

He was a charmer, Sam thought, watching him work. It wasn’t just his stunning good looks or those nearly crystalline blue eyes that drew you in. That deep husky sophisticated voice sucked you in and wrapped around you like a lovers arms.

“I’ll tell you what, Miss Dowling.” Olivia turned to Sam. “Why don’t we set up an appointment for tomorrow, say, one o‘clock, and we can discuss your work.”

Sam’s heart sped up but she kept her excitement contained. “One o’clock sounds perfect.”

“See you then.” She turned back to Ethan. “Mr. Montgomery. I hope you’ve found something here of interest to you?” 

“A few pieces actually.” He smiled, then tipped his head as she left. “You’re welcome.”

Sam turned to Ethan, the smile she’d been wearing slowly fading. He might have talked his way into having Olivia look at her work, but that didn’t mean she had to be nice to him. “I didn’t say thank you.”

“I know. I anticipated. You look stunning tonight.”

She wore a plain black dress with a scoop neck, her red curly hair pinned up to hang flirtatiously around her face. It had taken her hours to get everything just right. “I just threw this together,” she said dryly.

Scooping two glasses of champagne from the waiter as he passed, Ethan held one out to her. “Here’s to no longer being a starving artist.”

Taking the wine glass, Sam rejected the toast and took a sip. “Why did you just do that?”

“Because, you’re good.”

“Thank you.” She knew when to accept a compliment.

“See, I knew it was in there somewhere.” Once again he smiled, but this time Sam looked away, not wanting it to affect her. “The gentleman I was referring to, who made me an offer on your work, was Alfonzo Demarra.”

Sam choked on the wine she’d just swallowed.

Ethan patted her back. “You’ve heard of him then?”

She took a breath. “Who hasn’t? My God, the Alfonzo Demarra, billionaire Alfonzo Demarra as in Demarra Galleries, inquired about my work?” The man was beyond famous in the art world not only for the art he collected, but for the artists he helped rise to fame. Then it hit her, and the glee vanished into a cloud of hurt. “You made that up to impress Olivia.”

He shook his head. “Oh, Samantha. No, I did not make it up. He really did inquire about your work.” 

She felt that giddiness returning. “Okay, I’ll bite. How much did he offer you for it?”

He leaned in real close, close enough that she could smell his cologne and found it incredibly pleasing. And when he whispered against her ear her pulse soared. “It’s still in negotiations according to him, but the last offer was for fifty thousand.”

Once again she choked, this time on her own saliva. Coughing harshly, she tried to catch her breath. “Fifty thousand dollars?”

“Breathe, Samantha.” He continued to rub her back while she hyperventilated.

“Can’t. Oh God!” She felt dizzy. To combat it, she took a sip from her wine. “Fifty thousand?” she said again, still in shock.

“Yes, Samantha,” he laughed.

“Give it to him.”

“No.” He lifted his glass and sipped.

She blinked in surprise. “What? Why not? What do you mean by saying no?”

“I’ve purchased it, it’s mine. I refuse to sell it.”

“This is Alfonzo Demarra we’re talking about, the owner of some of the finest galleries, and museums of ancient and famous artwork. The Alfonzo Demarra, Ethan.” She could be famous.

“I am well aware of who he is and his status. He’s been a family friend longer than I’ve been around. But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to part with your piece.”

“Then you’ll ruin me,” she said with clear anger in her tone.

Reaching out, Ethan lifted her chin with one finger and gave her the most incredibly alluring look. “No, Samantha, I’m going to make you famous. Just have patience.”

Slipping his hand away, he left her standing there gaping.