I did debate whether I would write this in first or third person. We'll see if the guys are as adamant as they were back in February about the POVs. But for now, it's in 3rd. I've included an unedited excerpt from Chapter One.
Copyright 2014 Lexi Ander
Sammy applied more powder to the bruise below her left eye. The blue-green swelling sat atop the apple of her cheekbone. The dark smattering of freckles that usually covered her cheeks and nose were barely visible under the thick foundation, and powder and yet the bruise was still faintly visible. She had already reapplied the eyeliner twice now but couldn't control the wayward tears that streaked the meticulously applied make-up. She couldn't appear before Paul less than perfect.
Taking a deep fortifying breath to steel her nerves for the meeting she would have with her boyfriend, Paul Bishop. Her packed suitcase sat on the foot of the bed. Soon she'd leave, out from underneath his controlling thumb. She had known what she was getting into when she became involved with the head of the west coast mob. She hadn't realized that she would be with him this long. The more time she spent with Paul, the more she wanted to take a gun and riddle him with holes, especially after last night. A small shiver shook her body at the memory.
Two more deep breaths, she picked up the tube of lipstick and applied it to her bow shaped lips with a surprisingly steady hand. Paul served a purpose, she reminded herself. Her search was almost over if she could make it through seeing Paul one more time, without slipping up. The thought of her trip to Miami pushed away the dark memories causing her to smile at her image in the vanity mirror. After all of this time, of all the sacrifices would be worth what waited for her in Miami. She was so close to her goal.
Running the hairbrush through her long wavy brunette locks one last time, a light squirt of Paul's favorite perfume she rose from the vanity and approached the black Gucci dress hanging on the back of the closet door. The sleeves were long, perfect for hiding the additional bruising on her forearms and upper wrists. The scoop neck would showcase the heavy necklace Paul had selected before he left her alone this morning. The skirt reached her knees but she didn't have to worry about covering dark blemishes on her legs.
Slipping the dress on, it hung in perfect silky waves. She tugged gently on the cuffs ensuring no mars on her skin were revealed. It wasn't her fault she bruised but if one of Paul's colleagues caught a glimpse of one, Paul made her surfer for making him appear bad to men he respected or who he needed to respect him. Beating a woman was passé nowadays, something only thugs did, not men as influential as Paul Bishop. She promised herself never again would a man raise a hand to her.
Donning black Prada heels, the tasteless necklace Paul used to proclaim his ownership of her and her handbag and exited the bedroom suite. The shoes clacked against the marble floor. Sammy allowed herself a moment to detest the noise, just as she despised the mansion and all the evil hidden by the glamour and money. The place had been sucking the life out of her soul but another half an hour and she would be free.
One of Paul's musclemen, Marco Kinsley, stood outside the office double doors. He was one of the few of Paul's men who never made her feel like a piece of meat. Paul required those who entered the house or who would be seen with him to wear suits. As always, Marco appeared very monochrome in his black suit, black shirt, and black tie. He never wore another color. Once when Sammy felt a little bold, she asked him why he chose all black. Black, he had said, hides the most gruesome of messes at first glance. After that, Sammy didn't ask him anymore questions. "Good morning, Ms Teasdale, the boss is waiting."
Sammy gifted him with a bright smile. "Thank you, Marco." He hurriedly open the door and stepping aside to allow her to enter the room.
Paul's office was designed to intimidate. His large walnut desk and chair were austere enough to impress a first time visitors into thinking Paul sat on a throne, a place of power. Sammy had witnessed both good and bad men crushed in this very room. As a house rule, murder was never conducted within the mansion or on its grounds, but that didn't mean the demise of an individual wasn't planned here.
"Samantha, dear, the care is ready to take you the airport." Paul merely glanced up at her from the contents of the manila file he studied.
Sammy gave him a wide smile but only after faltering for a moment. He caught the hesitation. "Are you still upset over last night? Did James not deliver my apology this morning?"
She fingered the ring, a five carrot sapphire set in a circle of diamonds. She hated it. "You're gift is beautiful and I am thankful. You are too generous. I only worry I'll upset you again."
Paul finally sat straight and gave her his full attention. He was a handsome man with a charming smile and cold eyes. He was in his mid-forties but he had turned prematurely gray after he turned thirty. Now his hair was silvery white and instead of taking away from his appearance, the look added the air of refinement to him. Paul held out a manicured hand to her. Sammy forced her feet to move, loathing to touch him, if only briefly.
Once her palm slid against his, he pulled her down into his lap. "I already explained last night it wasn't your fault. William Harte will pay for what he made me do last night." He ran knuckle under the covered bruise on her cheek.
His cellphone rang and after glancing at the name on the screen he answered. "Your status?"
Sammy wanted to move from his lap but his firm grip on her hip told her to stay. He would tell her when he wanted her to get up.
"What do you mean he hasn't touched his accounts? Harte is a pampered elitist. He doesn't know the meaning of going without. He must have other accounts you haven't found. Dig deeper, I want that man found!"
Her gaze scanned the desk. A silver five by seven framed photo of Paul's elegant wife, Patricia, sat next to the computer monitor. At first she had been guilt ridden when she discovered Paul was married. That was until she met Paul's wife. Patricia came from an influential family in Europe. For two weeks every year, Patricia came to the states to visit with Paul. On one such visit, Patricia had walked into Sammy's suite of rooms in a flourish of expensive silk and designer accessories. She appraised Sammy as if she were an item up for auction. "You're a pert one, aren't you? (need to give Sam's age here) As always, Paul, your tastes are impeccable." With a pat on the cheek, Patricia accepted Paul's proffered elbow, the two leaving Sammy standing in the middle of the room in stunned silence.
Paul hung up the phone with an angry growl.
"Sweetheart, I'm going to miss my plane." Sammy refrained from trying to wiggle away. Patience was the key when dealing with Paul.
"I won't be joining you in Miami with this unfinished business with Harte. You will cut your trip short and be back here at Christmas Eve." Paul stroked her thigh, his fingers stopping at the edge of the dress's hem.
"Of course," she replied as if it were already a given.
Paul patted her leg, the signal for her to rise. Dutifully she leaned forward to give him a kiss. He caught her chin. "Not now, you're wearing lipstick and I'll never get all of it off." He grasped her chin and turned her head where he pecked her on the cheek. "Now, go."
Sammy moved from his lap and adjusted her skirt so it fell properly. "I'll call you when I arrive," she promised. Not that she would be returning.
Paul grunted in acknowledgement and she knew he had already mentally dismissed her, the manila folder opened once more. Before she could cross the room again, the oak door opened and man only known as The Gentleman, Gent for short, entered the room. He paused upon seeing Sammy. Her steps faltered. Of all the people to run into before leaving.
She was one of a handful of people who knew The Gentleman's name and relationship to Paul. Sammy never ever let on she knew their secret for it was something they closely guarded. She doubted she would live long if they suspected she knew Paul's personal assassin was his sister's only child, Aldrich.
Sammy's heart pounded in her chest. Even knowing what she did, Sammy couldn't bring herself to dislike him too much. Aldrich had always been kind and courteous. She knew he was dangerous for she had heard the rumors, bits of conversation here and there that hinted out the viciousness of Paul's 'dog'. Maybe she had spent too much time living in this world of ambiguous morals, black deeds, and cut throat business. When she looked at Aldrich she didn't see the monster others claimed him to be. She guessed him to be around her age of twenty-five but she couldn't be sure. She found she would miss seeing him, even if he sometimes scared the hell out of her. Not because of what people said about him, but because of everyone who associated with Paul, Aldrich was the only one who'd possibly discover her true identity and why she had become Paul's mistress.
"Samantha, I'm glad I caught you before you left."
She held out both of her hands, a ritual since she first met him four years ago. A head taller than her, he bent at the waist slightly to claspe and kiss the backs of both of her hands. A lock of wiry dark brown hair fell to cover one of his crystal blue eyes as the soft hair of his close cropped beard brushed her knuckles. She held her breath as his thumb brushed the cuff of her sleeve, barely revealing a purple bruise. He stared for a second before his lips brushed the discolored skin, his thumb covering it back up as he straightened. Whereas Paul wore a dark blue pinstripe three piece suit, Aldrich wore a tan Gucci jacket and vest, with a plaid button up shirt and a blue and red striped tie. His white trousers were rolled up at the ankle to reveal he wore no socks with his two tone brown and white wingtips. She knew Paul detested his nephew's choice of clothing and she suspected Aldrich dress as such to annoy Paul.
Those light blue eyes pinned her when a small slip of paper was pressed into her palm. "This place won't be the same without you around. You do bring a ray of sunshine to this tomb."
"Quit flirting with Samantha, she needs to catch a plane and doesn't have time to dawdle with you." Paul sighed in exasperation.
Aldrich gaze squinted slightly as the back of his knuckles grazed her sore cheek under the hidden bruise. For a breath, his eyes turned to ice and just as quickly the look disappeared. She couldn't stop the shiver that crawled up her spine.
"I won't keep you. Have a safe trip." His low voice held a hint of warmth that Sammy dared not analyze.
"It was nice seeing you," she replied before leaving the room. The butler stood at the foyer and opened the door for her. The Mercedes waited at the bottom of the steps, with her bodyguard holding open the rear door. Gracefully she slid into the buttery soft leather seat. She didn't dare glance at the note until sat on the plane.
"Don't come back." Was written in an elegant hand along with a bank name and account number. She tucked the slip of paper into her purse swallowing down the nausea that threatened her suddenly delicate stomach.
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