Chapter Thirty One

High winds in Newark had delayed Zach’s flight and it took three mimosas in first class to settle him down. About an hour and a half into the flight he decided to give Jessie a call. Angry wouldn’t cover it if he got to the apartment and didn’t find her there waiting for him. 

“Hello?” Jessie said.

 “Jessie, it’s Zach,” he said, in a low voice.

 Right away Jessie sensed the tension in his voice. “Hi Zach,” she answered, sweetly, trying to sooth him, “is everything okay? Weren’t you supposed to be coming home on a later flight?”

 “Why? Am I infringing on your busy schedule?”

 “No,” Jessie answered, amazed at the comment, “how can you think such a thing? I was just wondering if there was something wrong. Either way I’m delighted that you’re getting home early.”

 “You wouldn’t know it by all the going out you’ve been doing.”

 “I’ve been home plenty Zach. We just seem to be experiencing some lousy timing. Sure, I go out, but it’s to the mall, or the beach or to get something to eat.”

 Jessie was frustrated. Why was she explaining herself? She had never given him any cause to doubt her. Why was he starting now?

 “I’m starting to think you don’t even miss me when I’m gone, working my ass off to make a future for us,” Zach said, in mock concern. He already could hear the tables turning in his favor.

 “You know how much I support you at The Wave, Zach. That’s not fair.”

 “You could have called me Jess. You knew where I was staying..”

 They were talking at each other not to each other. “I called you Zach. The other night,” Jess said, getting a little angry, “you remember, the night a woman picked up the phone?”

 Zach grabbed the arm rest in anger, his eyes narrowing. “I already told you, the hotel must have transferred you to the wrong room.” It was time to pull out the big guns. “You know Jessie, the lack of trust between us has me really concerned and..”

 “And what?” Jessie asked, scared at what Zach might say.

 “I’ve been thinking things over and maybe we should re-evaluate things,” Zach said, matter-of-factly, pausing, with a sigh, for effect. “I don’t think..”

 “Zach, I’m sorry,” Jessie interrupted, her voice jittery with fear.

 Just the response he had anticipated. He had tightened the emotional screws and Jess had caved. By questioning her sincerity and trust he had taken the focus off of him.

 “I don’t know Jessie..”

 “Please Zach, I don’t wanna talk about this over the phone. Please, just get home so we can talk..”

 “I don’t wanna fight,” Zach replied, bluntly.

 “I promise we won’t fight,” Jessie said, “just talk.”

 Zach stroked his chin arrogantly. He had won, for now. “I should be home within the hour. We’ll talk then.”

 “Thank you,” Jessie said, just before Zach hung up.

    It felt good to be home. Home, Lynn scoffed. This was no home. You’re such a damned hypocrite, she thought, scolding herself. What would Kelly’s little friends in kindergarden think if they asked Kelly about her house or coming over to play as kids did, and she told them that she lived at a hotel? As soon as she picked up Kelly at the bar she would bring her back to the hotel, see to her cold, and place a call to her mother.

If there was one good thing about having wealthy parents it was being able to hit them up for money. She would open the topic with her mother, letting her know that Kelly needed a permanent address before it was time for her to enter the first grade, driving in the point by saying she would like to have enough time to find a nice house in a safe neighborhood within a good school district. Appearances being everything – not to mention the fact that supporting Lynn in her own home would be cheaper than continuing to pay for her stay at a pricey hotel – Lynn was pretty sure it would be an easy job of convincing her.

Reaching her door, Lynn opted to take a quick shower before going to get Kelly. Setting her bag down by the bed she was just about to start undressing when she saw something on the bed. Thinking it was something the hotel staff had left for her, she opened it up. A scrawled note was taped to a videotape. Lynn’s eyes widened when she read what it said:

‘No cops, no telling anybody about this or your world and everything you love about it will come to an end. Don’t even think about not doin what I tell you or you’ll be very sorry. Happy viewing!’

Lynn was speechless, her hands shaking with rage. Looking up she noticed the message light on her phone was flashing. Grabbing the phone, she desperately retrieved her messages. It was Nick again, just like the last time, threatening her, reminding her that she was in just as deep as he was. Message after message he seemed more agitated, the final message scaring Lynn to death:

‘Meet me outside the bar, in the alley, at 5. This is your last warning bitch. Don’t show and I’ll start off by sending Jessie a telegram telling her how you got us both drugged and staged your own sick little porno shoot. That should go over big. Next I’ll distribute copies of this hot amateur porn flick to all the adult book stores in Dade and Broward, after I have a copy hand delivered to Daddy Moneybags. Have I got your attention yet? Huh?! No one makes a fool out of me Lynn, nobody! Don’t fuck with me or that little brat of yours will wish she was never born!’

Lynn’s body surged, and she shook, experiencing a sense of rage unlike anything she had ever felt before. Breathing erratically, in short shallow bursts, Lynn dove for the mini bar. Wrenching the top off the first bottle she grabbed, Lynn downed it all at once. My baby can’t see me like this, her mind screamed. She had to be in control, even if it meant artificially reining in her wild emotions by swigging a few drinks. “Whatever it takes,” Lynn swore, grabbing another bottle and finishing it.

 Her agile mind went to Kelly. Shit, I have to call Mitch and stall. Taking a few deep breaths until she was satisfied that she was calm enough to make the call, she grabbed her cellphone and dialed the bar.

 “Dusk To Dawn..”

 “Mitch? Hi, it’s me..”

 “Where are you Lynn?” Mitch sighed.

 “Stuck in this damned traffic. There must be a pile up ahead or something because I haven’t moved in the last hour and a half.”

 “Well..” Mitch said, starting to calm down, “just make it back as soon as you can. Kelly’s doin’ better but she misses you.”

 “I miss her too,” Lynn said, shutting her eyes and biting her lip to avoid crying. “Tell her Mommy is on her way. I’ll see you guys soon. Mitch?”

 “Yes Lynn..”


 Grabbing a fistful of mini liquor bottles, Lynn walked over to the TV and VCR in the other room. Plunking down on the sofa, she hit the play button, her jaw dropping open when the first of the footage filled the screen. Oh my God, Lynn thought. Nick had rigged a video camera and taped her that night they had had wild sex in his motel room. Never having seen herself in action before, Lynn blushed hotly, cursing herself for not seeing the double cross coming.

Unlike in the photographs they had taken of Jessie, Nick had positioned the camera at a forty five degree angle so that every raunchy move, every facial expression, every sound they had made was picked up by the camera. You could clearly see that it was her on the tape. What was worse she  looked like she was enjoying it in every way, even talking dirty to Nick.

 Having seen enough, Lynn stopped the videotape. She needed to think. Nick was counting on Lynn losing her cool, allowing her rage to overshadow her smarts. What he hadn’t counted on was that Lynn was just as savvy as he was and was on to him, albeit a little late in the game. Maybe it was the fact that she had Kelly, but all Lynn knew was that she couldn’t mess this up. There was way too much at stake.

 Lynn decided that a shower would help clear her head and sober her up at the same time. She made one stop before heading for the bathroom, to the door of her hotel room where she double checked that the dead bolt was in place, engaged the added safety latch and wedged a chair under the door knob, just in case.


“Gee Mitch,” Nick said, taking a seat on a barstool, “you don’t look so good. Maybe you should take the day off.”

Mitch shook his head as he held his hand up to his throat, the remnants of the ice cube he was sucking on slipping down his throat. “I’m fine,” stated Mitch, wondering firstly why Nick was at the bar this early and second why Nick was concerned for his well being all of a sudden. “You’re in early..”

“I left my jacket in the employee lounge last night,” Nick lied, “it’s getting’ kinda cold so I came by to get it.” Truth was Nick had come by to see if Lynn was there or if anyone knew where she was.

“Ah,” Mitch said, not quite buying it. “So.. can I get ya anything?”

“Just a Bud,” Nick said, eagerly taken up the mug as soon as Mitch laid it down. “So how’d you get sick?” Nick said, just shooting the shit.

“My little girl has the flu,” stated Mitch, his back turned as he washed his hands at the sink.

“Shouldn’t a sick kid be with its mother?” Nick asked, as casually as possible.

“She went out of town for a few days. Besides, Kelly just got sick last night.” Mitch rubbed the mugs he had just washed dry and hung them up. “You know Lynn?”

“I’ve seen her here plenty of times. Hell, she even came up to the band one night to let us know how much she liked our set.”

“Oh?” Mitch said, turning away as he started to cough again. “Glad she enjoyed it,” Mitch said, clearing his throat. “We’ve been getting a lot of compliments about you guys. Our arrangement really seems to be working out.”

“Really?” Nick grinned. “That’s great.” She wouldn’t like him so much after tonight. “Well, thanks for the brewski, but I gotta split. Got some stuff to do before our set tonight. Later.”


Jessie had finished getting dressed and gazed at her handiwork in the mirror. It was kind of chilly, so she had opted to wear an off white cashmere long sleeved pullover with a low, scoop neckline, tucked into a pair of glove soft black leather pants that fit her like a second skin, and a pair of short black leather boots. Not too shabby, Jessie thought, turning around in front of the full-length mirror in the corner of the bedroom so that she could see herself from all sides.

Jess hadn’t appreciated Zach’s attitude over the phone, especially the way he had tried to lay all the blame on her for the problems they were having. Maybe when he saw just how good she looked and realized that she felt good enough about the situation to dress up, Zach would let her have a chance to talk.

Jessie brushed her long, golden brown hair, leaving it down instead of in a ponytail, since she knew Zach liked it that way. Her makeup was light, since it was early afternoon, just enough to play up her big green eyes. She even bought some of that lipstick that was shiny like lip gloss and applied a coat, smiling at its sexy effect. Slipping on a pair of small silver hoop earrings, Jessie spritzed some perfume behind her ears and she was set. Now it was just a matter of waiting for Zach to get home.

Not really all that hungry, Jess grabbed a beer from the frig and switched on the TV. Sunday meant football and she might as well watch the game while she waited for Zach. Seeing all those guys blatantly flaunting their strength got Jessie thinking. Why should men be the only ones that are looked up to for their confidence and strength? She was so tired of allowing tough situations fill her with fear, stifling the strength she knew she had inside. It was that very same strength that had gotten her to the top of her class in high school and college. Gee, Jessie thought, for a smart person she hadn’t been acting very smart.

Brains she always had, but in concentrating on her furthering her career Jessie had totally ignored another asset she had at her disposal – her body. Taking a sip of beer Jessie wondered why it had never occurred to her before. Zach loved pretty women, his eye going to the hottest, prettiest women in the room. Yeah, he was a jerk for his obvious drooling over women – he was her boyfriend. Hell, now he was her fiancé. But she had to stop kidding herself. Once a ladies man always a ladies man. He wasn’t going to change, not unless she kept his attention firmly centered on her.

Jessie made a decision, then and there, to make use of the apartment complex’s fully equipped gym. Without telling anyone, she would work out and kick her bod into shape, even if it meant sneaking in workouts before or after work. Maybe by increasing her physical strength she would empower herself to be stronger person as a whole. By making the conscious decision to take the power back in her life Jess already felt stronger, as she stretched out on the sofa in front of the TV.


Zach was pumped. From the way Jess had sounded on the phone he knew it would be a simple task to drop all the blame into her lap. Cockier than ever, he strode into the apartment, sure to find Jessie in submissive mode, rushing to greet her fiancé at the door. But it wouldn’t be that easy. Zach was determined to make Jessie pay for her lack of attention. He would take her firmly in hand, setting the precedent for how things would be once they were married.

Hanging up his coat in the entry closet, he was sure Jessie would be at his side by the time he shut the closet door, but she wasn’t. Zach slammed the closet door with a loud thud. Where the hell was she? He checked the bedroom, throwing his carryon bag on the bed, then the bathroom. Nothing. Then he heard it. The tv in the living room.

“You really know how to make a guy feel welcome around her,” Zach said, spotting Jessie on the sofa.

“Hi,” Jessie said, turning around. Jessie’s brow furrowed. Zach’s body language spoke volumes. Arms crossed, he frowned at her. Jessie sighed. She really wasn’t in the mood for this. “Sorry,” she said, getting up, “I didn’t hear you come in.”

Zach hadn’t seen Jessie when he had first come in, so when he saw what she was wearing a mix of emotions came over him. Zach maintained his stern stance, making Jessie come to him. She stood on tip toe and raised her chin for a kiss. Her hands came up to the sides of his face, cupping his set jawline, as she pressed a soft lipped kiss onto his mouth. Zach didn’t want to, but he found himself kissing Jessie back, dipping his tongue possessively into her mouth.

“Mmm,” Jessie smiled, “I missed you,” she continued, wrapping her arms around him and pressing her body against him.

Zach’s hands instinctively moved to his fiancées sides, skimming down the softness of her snug cashmere sweater, down to her ass. Leather pants? Zach thought, where had she gotten those? His grip tightened on her butt, sending an erotic thrill up Zach’s body.

Jessie smiled. Cranky or not it was good to feel Zach in her arms again. “Did you miss me too?” Jessie teased, looking up at him.

“Sometimes,” stated Zach, his eyes devouring Jessie’s body.

Jessie sat back down on the sofa. “Just a little?” she smiled, leaning back.

Seeing her in the form-fitting outfit had been an unexpected surprise that was turning him on. The sweater clung to her firm breasts, the leather pants fitting Jessie like a second skin. Zach sat down, easing back against Jessie.

“Sure I did,” Zach said, matter-of-factly, “but you made it pretty hard..”

In a way Zach was telling the truth. By not calling as much as he thought she should and being out when he called her, Jessie had pissed him off. He would have been even more pissed if he hadn’t gotten some Candi, his libido went on forever. But now, as he ran his hands up and down her leather clad legs, Zach remembered why he was so ticked off. Jessie was hot, even more so now, in her sex kitten outfit.

“I did?” Jessie answered, nibbling on the back of Zach’s neck, acting dumb, “how?”

Wanting more intimate contact, Zach turned around, resting his head against Jessie’s left shoulder. He was snug against her legs that were spread just enough for him to fit. Zach ran his hand up Jessie’s flat stomach to cup her right breast, teasing her nipple through her sweater. Jessie leaned back and giggled, moving her legs sensuously against him. Dragging his hand down, he traced the fly of her pants down the seam between her legs, pressing her crotch with his fingertips.

“We’ve been over this before,” Zach said, sternly, concentrating on stimulating Jessie, “you’re never home.. you didn’t call..”

There he goes again, Jessie thought, laying it all on her. If Zach thought that trying to turn her on would mean she would let him get away with it he was dead wrong. It was Jessie’s turn to turn Zach on. Lifting her hips, she grinded them against Zach, as her hands reached around, tracing his waistband. It was working. She could feel Zach squirm. Jess would just act like she hadn’t heard him.

The tv was still on, the sounds of cheering fans making Zach feel like he had an audience of thousands, cheering him on. Jessie was pressing her tits against his back as she toyed with his growing erection.

Jessie reached for the bottle of beer on the coffee table, brushing the beads on condensation on the outside of the bottle against her neck. “Ooh,” she grinned, “looks like they’re gonna score.” Jessie brought the beer to her lips suggestively. “Sip?” she asked, tipping the bottle towards Zach.

Again she had brushed him off and Zach was pissed. “Since when do you drink beer in the early afternoon?” Zach asked, sitting up. “Your friends are a bad influence on you..”

“My friends,” Jessie said, taking another sip, “have nothing to do with this. I won’t have you badmouthing them either. I can have a beer and watch the game whenever I want to. Don’t even start talking about my drinking habits Zach, especially since I know a two martini lunch is a normal part of your work week.”

Zach was stunned. What had gotten into Jess since he had left on his last trip? First the new, sexy look, now the sassy attitude. What had gotten into her, or should he say whom? Zach’s blood boiled at the possibility of Jessie screwing around behind his back. Anger flashed in his eyes as Zach leaned towards Jessie ominously.

“Who is it?” Zach demanded.

“Who’s who?” Jessie asked, looking at Zach quizzically.

“Who’s the guy that’s got you acting like a tramp, hmm?” Zach continued, glaring at Jessie. “Answer me!” he yelled, turning her chin roughly to him.

Jessie swatted Zach’s hand away. “Have you gone totally crazy?” Jessie asked, moving away from Zach.

“I forbid you to go back to that pick up joint your so called friends call a bar..”

“Oh really?” Jessie laughed. “You forbid me?”

“Did I stutter?”

“Last time I checked I was a legal adult and my father is in Ohio.”

“I’m your fiancé and soon to be husband..”

“You can’t forbid me to do anything Zach, you don’t own me.”

“As my wife you have an image to uphold,” stated Zach, sitting up. “I can’t have a wife wearing slutty clothes and gallivanting around South Florida at all hours of the day and night.”

“My clothes didn’t seem to bother you a few minutes ago,” Jessie replied. “So now you’re adding wardrobe approval to your list of husbandly rights, huh? What’s next? One of those prison anklettes?” Jessie asked, shaking her head in disbelief. “We need to have a serious talk Zach..”

“That’s the first logical thing you’ve said since I got here,” Zach replied, deciding it was time to pull out his trump card. “As I said on the phone, I’m starting to think we need to rethink this..”

“Oh I couldn’t agree more,” Jessie answered, looking Zach dead in the face.

“Trust seems to be a major issue between us. I called you many times while I was in New York and you were never here..”

“Funny, one particular phone call sticks out in my mind,” Jessie answered, cool as a cucumber. “You remember the one I mean, when I called you at the hotel and a woman answered?”

Zach grunted his frustration, sweeping the pillows on the sofa sprawling all over the floor. “How many times do I have to tell you?” Zach asked, getting close to Jessie again. “For an intelligent woman you’re acting pretty dumb..”

“Nope, you brought up the trust issue. If there’s anyone who has cause not to trust someone it’s me, given your colorful track record.”

For the first time in a long time Zach felt himself starting to panic. There was no way he could talk his way out of that statement and he knew it.

“Jess, I swear, it was all a mistake. The hotel transferred you to the wrong room,” Zach continued, his eyes pleading with hers.

Zach reached up to brush a long strand of hair out of her face. Suddenly his eyes went to Jessie’s forehead and he quickly pulled his gaze away, a fact that wasn’t lost on Jessie.

“Trust apparently isn’t our own issue,” Jessie said, trying to mask her disappointment in his reaction to seeing her scar. “I saw you just now, turning away in disgust from me..”

“No I didn’t, you’re seeing things,” Zach answered, quickly.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened either. It’s a scar Zach,” Jessie said, brushing her hair up and out of her face. “See? The stitches come out tomorrow but there’s a good chance there’ll still be a scar there once the stitches are removed.”

“We could always go see a plastic surgeon..”

“Plastic surgeon?” Jessie laughed, aghast. “You’re a piece of work Zach. Yes I know, you like your women to be perfect. Thing is I never claimed to be, not since that day we met back at Wheaton. But I’m the best you’re gonna get.”

“Jess,” Zach said, reaching out to touch her hand.

“Don’t!” Jessie yelled, getting up. “I see the way you cringe when you see my scar, so don’t try to act like it’s no big thing to you now.”

“I’m sorry..” Zach was amazed that those words had tumbled out of his mouth so easily.

“Yeah, you should be. I’m sorry that my fiancé, the man whose supposed to love me so much that he wants to marry me, can’t be more compassionate. But you know what? I’m tired of this shit. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we have to reconsider all of this. I need someone whose gonna love me for me, good and bad included.”

“Jess, please let me explain..”

“No explanation needed really,” stated Jess, going over to the kitchen counter to get her purse and keys. “But I think it’s best I go before either of us says something we’ll regret. I don’t know when I’ll be back..”

And with that Jessie was out the door, feeling more empowered than she had in a very long time. Now this I could get used to! she thought, boarding the elevator.


Always an avid people watcher, Tara Matthews looked around her at the people who would accompany her at the commencement of her journey. Her keen eye was one of her biggest assets as a freelance photographer, that and a sixth sense about what was going on behind people’s eyes. After several years and hundreds of rolls of film, Tara knew a good shot when she saw one. People watching was a good way to keep her talents honed. What better place to practice her favorite exercise of fill in the blanks than on a plane?

Two chairs down was a man in a business suit, intently staring down at a state of the art laptop, clicking away wildly on the undersized keyboard. This one was easy. Businessman, Tara thought, gotta be.. right down to the pin stripes. Not far down the aisle was a girl who must have been in her early twenties tops, who tugged at her gum as she read a magazine she had poised on her knee.  People, Tara noticed, that only partially concealed her bare stomach peeking out from under her floral belly shirt, that girls her age found so popular nowadays - the nouveau Hippy wannabees. The rest of the passengers just kinda blended together - they could be anyone, from any town USA.

 "Welcome aboard American Airlines Flight 1455 to Fort Lauderdale. Please take a moment to give the flight attendant nearest you your attention while he or she demonstrates the plane’s safety equipment..”

 Fort Lauderdale, Tara smiled. Hip - well not as hip as New York but it would do.  Hell, just the warm weather and laid back attitude would be a welcomed change. Look out South Florida, Tara Matthews is on her way..

 Jared smiled nicely at the middle-aged woman sitting next to him as he tried as best he could to settle into his aisle seat before the plane took off. Used to traveling in first class, the smaller, more confined seats of coach made getting his laptop under the seat a tricky proposition. Jared had decided to fly to Fort Lauderdale at the last minute to start his background research on Zach Blair and Candi Daniels. To his dismay there were no seats left in first class. Luckily Jared always landed on his feet, making the most out of every situation. So he was flying coach. This way he would travel in relative anonymity. If any celebrities were on the plane there would be less chance of him being spotted and asked about his trip to Florida.

At least he would only be roughing it for about three hours, Jared mused. A room in a first class hotel room awaited him in Fort Lauderdale. Not knowing he would be making the trip, let alone how long he would be staying, Jared had left his two roommates, his two Persian cats, Apollo and Athena, back at his apartment. At least he knew that someone would be checking in on them and feeding them. A quick visit to Mrs. Peabody, his doting next door neighbor, telling her he was off to visit his grandmother had given him the peace of mind that his cats would be taken care of while he was away. No one else, not even his own staff, knew where he had gone. He couldn’t take any chances.

 Always on the move, Jared searched for a way to pass the time. The in flight magazine and safety flyers just wouldn’t cut it, but he knew something that would. Jared reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his digital camera. No more worrying about rushing to have pictures developed. It was just a matter of aiming and shooting, then uploading the shots onto his laptop. He would even be able to preview the pictures, picking and choosing which were good enough to keep. He could hardly wait to try his hand with the new camera on South Beach.

 Usually the one who wrote the words that brought the pictures to life. It would be a nice change to dabble in another aspect of his job. Maybe he’d find another way to make a mark in world of journalism. Might as well practice using the camera during the flight, Jared thought, switching it on. Scanning the aisle, he marveled at the crispness of the detail of the image in the view finder. Holding the camera steady, Jared searched for an interesting subject to shoot.

 Tara  was trying to read her book but she kept getting distracted by a black blur in the corner of her eye. Glancing to her right, she spotted a man dressed head to toe in black. What did this guy think he was doing? Tara thought, noticing that he was snapping pictures with a digital camera. How rude. She couldn’t see he was a seat ahead of her, yet he already had two strikes against him in her book. A photographer herself, Tara frowned upon the new, less detail oriented digital cameras. Give her a high quality still camera that she could tweak to get just the right shot any day. These new cameras were for lazy, weekend warriors that didn’t wanna work for a shot.

 The other factor that bothered Tara was the fact that the man was snapping pictures of a captive audience without even asking their permission. From the looks of his clothes Tara could tell he had money. Black sweater, black dress slacks and impeccable black leather loafers. Probably another egocentric rich boy who was used to getting everything he wanted. What was worse was that no one was saying anything to him, probably because he seemed a little imposing in his all black attire.

 “Excuse me,” Tara said, leaning into the aisle, “should you really be doing that?” She waited for the man to turn around but he never did. “Yo, Johnny Cash..”

 Jared heard her this time and turned around. “Me?” he chuckled.

 “Yes, don’t you think that’s rather rude?” Tara said, meeting Jarod’s gaze, his icy blue-grey eyes twinkling mischievously at her.

 Now there was a subject, Jared thought, pivoting in his chair so he could get a better look. Her big brown eyes scrutinized him from beneath a mass of tossled, shoulder length blond hair. The fringe of her camel colored suede jacket swayed as she leaned into the aisle towards him, the cropped wine colored sweater she wore hiking up to expose her flat stomach. Definitely the eclectic, artsy type, right down to the trendy embroidered jeans.

“I’m sorry, I had no idea I was disturbing anyone,” Jared grinned. But the woman looked back at him with disdain, unamused. “Aw, don’t look at me that way.. Miss..”

 “Matthews, Tara Matthews,” she said.

 “Miss Matthews,” Jared repeated, “I'm Jared. I just got this thing,” he continued, waving the camera at her, “I was just testing it out.”

 Jared continued to grin, like a small boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. What amazed him the most was that he was even bothering to explain himself to this, a total stranger, that he’d probably never see again.

 “How would you like it if someone took pictures of you without you knowing it?” Tara said, crossing her arms.

 “You seem to know a lot on the subject. Are you a model?” Jared asked.

 “Me?” Tara said, a laugh escaping her lips. “I don’t think so..”

 “Well from the way you talk it sounded like you’ve had some experience with paperazi.”

  “My experience comes from being on the other side of the lens,” Tara said, lifting up her camera bag.

 “Ahem,” a woman said, clearing her throat. She sat in the row in front of Tara   and seemed rather annoyed at the loud conversation across the aisle. Her infant son sat next to her and was fidgeting, restless and unable to sleep.

 Jared mouthed a silent sorry to the woman, opening his eyes wide at Tara, when she waved Jared over, moving one seat over so that Jared could join her.

 “Do you think we can manage to not piss anyone else off during the remainder of the flight?” she asked, smacking Jared in the arm.

 “Ow, what was that for? Okay, okay! So sue me for wanting to have a decent conversation to pass the time..”

 They talked til the plane landed. Jared marveled at his continued luck. Tara was a freelance photographer who enjoyed people watching as much as he did, the one difference being that she made a living at it. She it seemed had traveled south as a change of pace from the maddening world of New York City. All Jared told her about himself was that he was a writer on vacation. He asked Tara for her card in case he ever needed a photographer in the future, and, pocketing her business just in case he ever needed a photographer and the two parted ways into the bright Florida sunshine, each embarking on their own private journeys.

Krystal came into the house, sweaty from the long ride she had just taken. It was a beautiful day for a ride, cool, bathed in the defused, unintrusive light of Florida in the fall. Orion, her favorite horse, a gorgeous black Arabian, had been in the same high spirits of his owner, galloping gleefully across her property. All her dedication had paid off, his lame rear leg completely healed. Nothing could make the day any better, or so Krystal thought, until she heard the phone ring.


“Hey gorgeous..”

Krystal beamed. It was Sid. “Hi yourself,” she replied, twirling the phone chord around her finger like an excited school girl. “What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing much,” Sid said, “I’m just making something to eat..”

“Whatcha makin’?”

“Well, why don’t you come over and find out?” Sid teased.

“Okay,” Krystal replied. “You want me to bring anything?”

“Nope, just you. Tonight I’m going to pamper you.”

“You spoil me!” Krystal laughed, giddy with happiness.

“Only the best for you baby,” Sid answered.

“A girl could get used to this,” Krystal said, “I’ll come right over. Just tell me how to get to your place..”

“Patience sweetheart,” Sid urged, happy to hear how eager Krystal was to see him again. “I need a couple of hours to prepare. Grab a pen. We’ll be together soon..”


Mitch was annoyed. Kelly had fallen asleep waiting for Lynn to arrive. This couldn’t be right – a sweet little girl being shuttled back and forth between two parents who weren’t even together. She needed to be outside, playing in the fresh air, secure in the knowledge that she was happy and safe in the love of a family. Mitch decided to talk to Lynn about it when she arrived.

“Mitch,” Angel said, climbing the stairs to the loft. “We need to talk.”

“Sure, but we need to do it here. Kelly’s asleep and I can’t leave her alone.”

“Okay,” Angel said, taking a seat on the couch, and flipping through the papers on the clipboard. “We need to go over the inventory. There’s a lot of stuff we need to reorder once the new freezer is delivered.” Angel groaned, remembering how much money they had already spent on both the new walk in freezer and fixing the faulty dishwasher. “Gina said it should get here by tomorrow morning so we need to set up special early deliveries if we intend to feed anybody tomorrow..”

It took all the courage Lynn could muster to get out of her car. The fact that Kelly was in the same building as Nick egged her on, the sooner she met with Nick the better. With a little luck she’d put this nightmare behind her. Lynn walked into the busy bar head held high. The last thing she wanted was for Nick to see she was scared. Hugging her purse to her side, Lynn sat down at the first open table she found and took a quick look around. The place was packed, Mitch and Angel were nowhere to be seen.

The jukebox played loudly, competing with the Dolphin’s game blaring on the large screen tv. Carefree patrons laughed, talked and drank, not a care in the world. Lynn couldn’t help but envy them. What she would give to turn back the clock to a time when she didn’t even know who Nick was. The stage stood empty and Lynn was wondering if Nick was late when she saw him, entering the bar and heading straight for the back, stopping long enough to give Lynn a wicked smile and motion to her.

Lynn followed silently, deciding to access the alley through Mitch’s office to avoid being seen making her hasty departure. Where was Mitch? Part of her wished he or at the very least the rather large Angel were around in case she needed backup. Her heart pounded as she shut the door and headed down the alley, back behind the dumpsters. The trash stank to high heaven, brown murky puddles splashing under her feet. Lynn turned, looking around quickly, sure she would see a rat scurrying at her feet, instinctively backing away.

“Not so fast,” Nick said, stepping out from the shadows, lighting a cigarette and snapping his lighter closed.

“Why do we have to meet back here?”

“Nice and quiet,” Nick grinned, puffing on his cigarette, “no one to bother us.”

“Make it quick. This place is disgusting..”

“You my dear are in no place to demand anything,” stated Nick, enjoying himself. “You’re not going anywhere. Not until we’re finished.”

“What do you want?”

“What we all want. Money, power.. and you’re my meal ticket. You and the lovely Jessie will be instrumental in getting me everything I ever wanted.”

“I don’t have any money. Just let me go, okay? I won’t tell anyone about this I promise.”

“You should have thought about that before you stepped into my motel room that night. You wanted to hurt Jessie just as much as I did. I really wanna thank you Lynn. You and I make a great team.”

“Shut up!” Lynn said. “You were the one who.. molested her!”

“You were the one who took the pictures baby. You’re in this just as deep as I am.”

“I won’t tell Jessie anything, I swear,” Lynn said, backing up.

Nick circled behind Lynn blocking her escape down the alley. “I’m not gonna say this again. Don’t move!” Nick yelled. “You know too much. So you’re gonna do what I say when I say it or else..” Nick knew that she had Lynn where he wanted her. “That videotape is just for starters. I want fifty thousand dollars or that tape will be everywhere.”

Lynn’s head started to spin and she started to panic. “I don’t have fifty thousand dollars..”

“So get it. Ask Daddy for it, cash in your trust fund, sell your body.. I don’t care. Just pay up. Or else,” Nick said, taking Lynn’s chin in his hand., “things are gonna get ugly.”

“Don’t touch me,” Lynn cried, cringing.

Lynn’s backing away pressed a deep set button in Nick. All his life he had been pushed around by the wealthy, being made to feel like he wasn’t good enough. Anger unleashed, he grabbed Lynn popping two buttons off the bodice her dress as he roughly grabbed one of her breasts.

“You don’t want me now?” Nick asked, eyes blazing, “huh?! You begged me to screw you bitch. You’re mine. I’ll do whatever I want with you or to you,” Nick continued, his hands molesting Lynn’s body.

Lynn froze, her knees shaking. “Please.. don’t hurt me,” she pleaded.

Nick devoured Lynn’s neck, breathing hotly in her ear. “Yeah baby, beg. I love it when you beg. It turns me on..”

Lynn’s panic grew, sensing that if she didn’t do something Nick would rape her right there in the alley. “I’ll get you the money.. anything you want. Just please let me go..”

“Oh you got that right. You’ll do anything I say or I’ll tell all your friends just what a bitch you are. You won’t be able to show you face in this town again. Mitch will despise you for hurting his beloved Jessie. He’ll take that little brat away..”

“Kelly?” Lynn moaned. Not Kelly, not her baby..

Nick smiled. It was the first time he had heard true concern in Lynn’s voice. “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly,” Nick said, chanted, torturing Lynn, “such a pretty little girl. Just like her mommy. This can be as easy as you want it to be baby. You do what I say and Kelly will be just fine.”

Lynn’s eyes burned into the gray walls of the alley. With a protectiveness only a mother could know, Lynn was suddenly transformed into a fierce lioness. Forgetting her own safety she confronted Nick.

“You leave Kelly out of this,” Lynn demanded, staring Nick down.

Nick laughed. “There’s the spitfire I know,” he asked, shoving Lynn, “or what?”

Lynn’s heart pounded, as she felt her back slam against the moist cement wall, her purse slipping out of her hand onto the ground. “I swear Nick. Hurt Kelly and I’ll kill you..”

Nick rushed at Lynn, pinning her painfully against the wall. Anger at her defiance, lust for her body each combined to push him over the edge. He would show Lynn who was boss.

“If there’s anything left of you after I’m through with you,” he barked, backhanding Lynn, his knee going between her legs, wedging them apart.

Lynn screamed, scratching wildly at Nick’s face as she tried to break free.

The usual ample parking in front of the bar was full and Jess had been forced to park a block away. As she walked towards the bar, Jessie heard what she thought was a scream. Increasing her pace, she strained to hear the sound again, above the noise of the surf and the people frolicking on the beach. Then she heard it again – a woman’s scream.

Rushing forward, Jessie came upon the alley, the sound of a scuffle drawing her eyes to the back of the alley. Early evening meant that the sun was already low on the horizon, and Jessie strained to see who the people fighting were.

“Hey!” she yelled, running into the alley. “Stop!”

Nick almost had Lynn on the ground, her dress at her waist. Nick saw red, as red as the blood trickling from the stinging nail scratches on his cheeks. The only reason he paused was because he had recognized Jessie’s voice.

Lynn took advantage of Nick’s moment of hesitation, kicking him with all her might in the groin. Nick bellowed in pain, as she scrambled for her purse, crawling away. During their scuffle, one of Lynn’s heels had snapped off and Lynn tripped as she tried to stand.

“Help!” Lynn screamed, “please help me!”

Jessie’s eyes widened in horror when she realized the woman being attacked was Lynn. “Lynn?! Oh my god! What’s happening?!” Jessie exclaimed, racing towards Lynn.

Nick, wild eyed with rage, roared his anger, commanding the two women to stop. “Get out of here bitch!” he yelled, “this has nothing to do with you!”

“Nick?” Jessie asked, her jaw dropping open in shock. “What are you doing? Are you crazy?!”

Whipping open a switchblade, Nick closed the span between he and Lynn. “Just turn around and leave,” Nick stated, “you don’t want any part of this.”

Lynn’s chest heaved, horror and adrenaline coursing through her body. Hearing Nick’s footfall, she whipped her head around, crawling backwards as her shaking hands fumbled to unzip her purse. “Oh my god,” Lynn cried, seeing the knife gripped tightly in Nick’s hand.

“Nick!” Think about what you’re doing!” Jessie said, trying to calm the enraged Nick down, as she inched towards Lynn. “You don’t want to do this..”

“Don’t tell me what to do!” yelled Nick. “You don’t know what a bitch she is. Does she Lynn?” Nick laughed, maniacally. “Don’t you get it? She hates you! Maybe I should tell Jessie just what you’re capable of, huh Lynn? Then we could finish you off together!”

Jessie was finally at Lynn’s side. She was crying, shaking violently, her usually perfect makeup smudged, mascara staining her cheeks. Her dress was torn, her legs were scratched and bruised, muddied from crawling on the filthy alley floor. “Lynn, give me your hand,” Jessie whispered, reaching for Lynn. “We need to get out of here..”

Lynn looked up at Jessie, her eyes pleading for help. Like a cornered animal, she remained rooted in place, gripping her purse. “No!”

“Fucking priceless!” Nick laughed, seeing Jessie’s concern for Lynn. “she wants to destroy you, you stupid bitch!”

Jessie knelt down, slipping her hands under Lynn’s arms. “Come on, we need to get out of here,” Jessie said, trying to remain calm, as she helped Lynn to her feet.

Realizing what Jessie was trying to do, Nick sprang forward, wielding the blade. “No!”

Mitch and Angel had come downstairs to do a physical inventory in the back room. Betty was babysitting Kelly upstairs, feeding her dinner.

 “If Louie doesn’t straighten out his act we’re gonna have to find a new supplier,” Angel groaned, realizing that their liquor stock was almost in as bad shape as their frozen foods after the freezer went on the fritz.

 Mitch was busy counting the stock on the shelves when the two men heard the sound of a gunshot. Mitch jumped, almost knocking over the shelving unit he was working on as he bumped into it. Angels’ eyes widened, having heard that very sound many times during his stay in New York.

 “What the hell was that?” Mitch asked, racing for the door, Angel on his heels.

  “Since when is there shooting on Hollywood Beach?” Angel asked.

 * * * * *

Will Zach and Jess be able to stay together? What does Sid have planned for his evening with Krystal? Who shot the gun outside the Dusk To Dawn? The answer to these and many more questions, tune in for next episode of Dusk To Dawn..

Copyright © 1998 Susana Audrain 
and Richard Tingle All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this novel or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.

As a thanks for your patience, click the forward arrow below to check out my fun new page - "Who Do You See Playing The Characters of Dusk To Dawn?" Look over the people I have come up with and see if it matches who you have visualized in your own mind. Please take a moment and go to the bulletin board (via the button on the feedback page) and let me know who you'd cast in each role. There's no one who could decide that better than you the reader! 

Okay guys. I keep checking the counter on the main page and see that there's a steady stream of visitors coming to read Dusk To Dawn. Yet very few of you are taking the time to write me with your feedback on the story. It's a little disheartening to say the least. You guys - my readers - are the only ones who can let me know how I'm doing, what you like, dislike etc. Please take a moment and write me, letting me know what you think of the story thus far? Okay?


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