I thought I would share a rather long excerpt of my current WIP, Keeping Faith, with y'all today. Last year I wrote a free read, Playing for Keeps. This the sequel to that short story. In Playing for Keeps, Trent, Brock, and AJ are in college and under a lot of pressure when their relationship is whispered across campus, endangering their future careers. Trent's father, William Hart, pressured him to leave AJ and Brock. It's a nice story, about 22k, so not very long.
Like I said, Keeping Faith is the sequel and we'll be revisiting our three love birds, getting to know them better, and see how their relationship will hold up under external pressure. This will lean more towards a romantic suspense instead of the usual contemporary angsty relationship plot.
The first several chapters I may have to shuffle around. I think there is some unwritten rule to not start out the book with a scene that doesn't include your main characters but that is what my Chapter One currently has, secondary characters who are essential to the plot. What this also does is set the tone of the book. I won't lie, Sammy and Aldrich are favorites of mine. I hope you like them as well. And because I'm bored, the excerpt is the full first chapter (3k). I think there is some rule on that as well, but as you can see, I'm being a bit rebellious. :D
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 deposed 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 to 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 individuals 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 ting, 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 strikers 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 heat 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 other 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 possible 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 clamps 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 eye 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.
From the window in Paul's office, Aldrich watched the Mercedes carry Samantha away. Would she heed his advice? He hoped so for it would soon be very messy around here.
"Are you going to tell me why you're here or will you simply stand there like a stick in the mud?" Paul groused, not looking up from what he read.
He knew he made his uncle nervous. To everyone else, Paul commanded him, but they both knew better. Long ago, Paul found out he could push Aldrich only so far. He may have been raised to kill for his family but he chose who. His uncle was still pissed he refused to kill the undercover FBI agent who had been snooping around. By the time Paul had contacted another assassin to dispose of the agent, the FBI had received an anonymous tip their man had been made, and his number would be up if he wasn't removed immediately. Aldrich had no qualms killing scum but even he held to a set of standards. Some lines he refused to cross.
Paul shifter nervously in his chair. Pulling an envelope out of the inner pocket, he crossed the room and handed it to Paul. His uncle snatched the envelope in a flare of temper. Aldrich watched his uncle closely, not missing the flair of nostril, the tightening around the eyes as he had approached Paul's desk.
"Imagine my distress when I came home for a visit to find my mother in the hospital. They said you paid her bill." The cold ball of anger in Aldrich's chest pulsed with each beat of his heart. Because of what he did for his uncle he was not allowed to see his mother, go to her home, or meet her where others would see them. None could suspect they were related. She would be in danger if word got out the mysterious Gentlemen had a weakness. There were people who would use her to get at him and he couldn't allow it. Just because he couldn't see her didn't mean that he didn't watch her. Over the last couple of years a trend had started, one that Paul meticulously worked to keep covered up.
He had been separated from her since the death of his father at the age of ten. His uncle had stepped in and sent him to a boarding school overseas until his turned fifteen. Withdrawn from school, his training began, overseen by his uncle. Regardless of what Paul instructed, Aldrich's mentor passed on some sage advice. There would become a time when it would be time to clean out Bishop's house. Aldrich would need to choose carefully the when and the how. He would have only one opportunity, leave no loose ends. When the time came, be ruthless.
"What kind of man do you take me for? Of course I take care of my baby sister, you don't have to worry about her. I'll handle Daryl personally." Paul pulled a set of pictures out of out of the envelope. The photos were of Aldrich's mother in the hospital bed, her once beautiful face so deformed the surgeon couldn't guarantee she'd appear the same after the surgery that would repair he shattered eye socket.
Aldrich drew a second envelope from his inside pocket and dropped it on the desk. "Don't bother."
Paul stared a long moment at the sleek black rectangle, the envelopes Aldrich reserved for delivering the results of a kill mission. Without touching the picture, Paul dumped the single photo on the desk. He'd give Paul credit for not cringing at the sight of his best friend, Daryl Owens, cut into a half dozen pieces and arranged neatly in a freshly dug hole.
The vein on the right side of Paul's forehead popped as he ground his teeth. "Why?" he asked with surprising calm.
"Now, now, Uncle." Aldrich allowed the chill of contempt to fill his voice. "You made sure I had the finest training to shape me into the tool you desires. I am very good at what I do. Research is just as important as how many ways I can murder a man without leaving evidence. Did you believe you could hide the fact this is the fourth time in two years that Daryl had beat her to the point hospitalization was required? Did you think I wouldn't find out you know and hid it."
"She was your responsibility. She was injured in your care by your best friend. That is not taking care of family. That,"—he jabbed a finger at the graphic photograph—"that is taking care of family." Fear flickered across Paul's cool demeanor. "You made me a promise, Paul. What I do for you ensures her security and safety until my inheritance came to me when I turn thirty." Inheritance that Aldrich's grandparents deigned to include their two children in. Paul blackmailed his way into have executorship transferred to him, effectively giving control of Aldrich's monthly stipend. Paul had made his fortune and had not need of his parent's money. Aldrich's mother on the other hand was dependent on Aldrich.
"Yes, she's in my care and I'll deal with the situation as I see fit! As we agreed, you are no longer a part of her life. Should I tell that her darling boy isn't romping around Europe but a paid assassin? How do you think she would look at you then?" Paul grabbed and threw the photo of Daryl. It glided off the desk to gall over the side between the desk and the wall. "Never stick your nose in my business again or you might find it cut off. I made you who you are and I can take it all away."
A knock sounded at the door before Marco stuck his head in. "Dutch is here, Boss."
"Both of you come in. Gentleman, you stay. I have a job for the three of you." Paul grabbed the pictures on the desk top and threw them in a desk drawer.
Marco opened the door wider allowing Lance Easton, known by the self-chosen nickname of Dutch, entered with an over confident swagger. Regardless of Paul's insistence on a dress code, Aldrich believed there wasn't a suit that would allow Dutch to disappear in polite company. Sleeves of tattoos extended past Dutch's wrists to cover the back of both hands and few of his fingers. His neck from his collarbone to the underside of his jaw was covered with colorful blue-green feathers. His dark hair was short on the side but lone enough on top to sweep to the side. The face of the black Rolex was almost four fingers across. The arrogant ass wore a pair of black ray bans, a smug expression spreading across his face upon seeing Aldrich.
"Hey, Gent." Dutch grinned and clucked his tongue when Aldrich chose to ignore the upstart.
Turning his attention to Marco, Aldrich noted no visible identifying marks, only the Marco tendency to wear black on black. Instead of making him appear thuggish, Aldrich thought Marco's wardrobe somehow helped him to disappear into the background. The bread and hair was expertly cropped close and added to the non-intimidating aura Marco wore. Where Dutch was sloppy, Marco was near perfect.
Once the door was secured, Paul didn't waste time. "William Harte has stolen twenty million dollars from me and now his middle man to the South American contacts is dead. I have people searching for William but he's proving elusive and I don't have time to wait for him to venture from hiding. I'm going to flush him out. It seems he has an estranged son living in Miami." He slid the manila folder across the desk to Aldridge. "Here is what I have on Trent Harte. I want to you to go to Florida, find him, and hold him until you hear from me. The Gentleman is in charge of the operation."
Aldridge picked up the file. This would be tricky. He paged through the minuscule information in the file. Whoever put this together didn't include Trent Hart was a public figure. Glancing up at his uncle, by the smug expression on Paul's face, he knew exactly who Trent was. He asked them to accomplish the impossible. If they did this then they would be captured or killed. He fully understood this was his reprimand for murdering his uncle's best friend. Aldridge suddenly grinned with delight. Fear briefly flickered across Paul's expression. Aldridge handed the folder to Marco on his way out of the office. Two could play a game of cat and mouse.
Thank you for reading!!!