Authors: J.P. Bowie
Tags: #General Fiction
Table of Contents
A PORTRAIT OF EMILY
When Peter Brandon is commissioned to paint Emily Hastings’ portrait, his psychic awareness unlocks the dark secret that has haunted her since childhood. Now on the brink of at last finding happiness in the arms of the man she loves, she is faced with her father’s manic desire to ruin her life.
Charles Hastings, Emily’s father, is found murdered and the police consider Emily, along with her brother, Anthony, the prime suspects. It is up to Jeff Stevens, Peter’s lover, to try and clear their names. His investigation becomes even more personal when Joey Fernandez, who had disappeared from Jeff’s life some years before, is also found murdered. Jeff now has to track two killers, at great risk to himself.
His discovery that Hastings was involved with a child prostitution ring enrages Jeff and he agrees to be the bait in a police ‘sting’ operation…but when that goes wrong, the outcome is no longer certain.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2010 by J.P. Bowie
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of International Copyright Law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines and/or imprisonment. This eBook cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this eBook can be shared or reproduced without the express permission of the publisher.
MLR Press, LLC
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Albion, NY 14411
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Cover Art by Deana C. Jamroz
Editing by Kris Jacen
Printed in the United States of America.
My thanks again to Laura Baumbach, owner and publisher of MLR Press, also to my editor Kris Jacen for her ongoing support, and to my partner and friend of sixteen years, Phil - love always.
Some years ago…
Emily lay in the dark, her eyes wide open, listening for the sound of his approaching footsteps. She had lain this way night after night for as long as she could remember. She could feel her heart thump within her chest and her breath become ragged with fear as the time drew near for his visit.
He came to her almost every night. He would smile and whisper close to her ear that he loved her above all others. She was his favorite, he would tell her, his pet. She knew he was lying, for she knew he loved her sister too, in the same way. They had spoken of it one day, when the burden of what they were concealing from each other, and from their brother Anthony, became too much.
The words had tumbled from their lips; their hatred and loathing for what he had done to them at last manifested in their sharing. They had cried and held each other, the two of them. There was some comfort now in the fact that they had spoken of it, but that comfort was dispelled when they were alone in their rooms—and he came to them.
There was no protection for them within the family, for they both knew the truth—their mother was fully aware of her husband’s perversion and would not, dared not, interfere. Emily had overheard her parent’s conversation, when her mother had confronted him with the fact that she knew what he was doing to his children.
“How could you?” her mother had whimpered through her sobs. “Have you no shame at all?”
He had threatened her with all kinds of recrimination if she ever breathed a word of what she knew. He would throw her out, take the children away from her, tell her friends she was frigid and a worthless wife. His daughters would never betray their father, of that he was sure, and as Emily listened outside the door, she knew it to be true. They would never have the courage to admit to the humiliation they were forced to endure—and so it continued.
Paula finally begged her mother to help them.
“Shut up!” her mother had screamed at her. “Don’t say such disgusting things about your father! You’re a liar!”
Paula had stumbled away, incredulous that her mother would not help her. The sisters sought solace in each other’s company, and the bond between them strengthened over the years.
When Paula left to go to college and Anthony to military school, Emily thought her heart would break. She was all alone, and without the support of her sister and brother her life became unbearable.
The first time she tried to kill herself by slashing her wrists, but her father found her and rushed her to a doctor friend of his who stitched her up, ignoring his duty to report such incidents to the police. The second time she almost succeeded. She waded out into the lake near her home, submerged herself and opened her mouth under water. She lost consciousness, but a group of boy scouts had seen her and swam out to save her. With great efficiency they revived her and she begged them not to tell anyone what she’d done.
It was then she decided she should live…and her father should pay for what he had done.
eter Brandon glanced from the canvas in front of him to his subject seated on a chaise in his studio. He smiled at her, and she, dazzled by his good looks and the cobalt blue of his eyes, smiled back at him in what she hoped was a sultry,
Gloria Pedersen was a beautiful woman. Her smooth pale complexion, limpid green eyes, and a startling crown of long golden hair made her the center of attraction in any crowd. She wore a black velvet gown, deeply cut to reveal her ample breasts. Hanging from her neck was a stunning diamond pendant which she now held between her thumb and forefinger and played with somewhat suggestively.
Peter chuckled and grinned at her. “Now, now, Gloria. You know I’m a happily married man.”
“Darn it, Peter. You could at least
as if you might be interested.” She rose from the chaise and crossed to where he stood adding a few deft touches to the almost completed portrait. She kissed him on the cheek and stroked his bottom as she looked at his work.
“Mmm, nice buns…” She draped herself over him. “Do my breasts
look that big?”
Peter laughed, putting his arm round her waist. “Bigger, actually. I’ve refined them, somewhat.”
.” She giggled and kissed him again. “I need to get out of this damned dress. Unzip me, darling. I’m having afternoon tea with Carol, and she’s a bitch if I’m one minute late.”
Peter complied, and she turned to face him wearing only her bra and panties.
here you could go for?”
“You are, without doubt, a shameless hussy, Gloria. And I don’t think that very large and well-muscled husband of yours would approve of your wanton display in front of
He might resort to violence.”
“Are you joking? Johnny loves you and your gorgeous Jeff. Never stops talking about how great you guys are.”
“Well, I’d like to keep him a fan of ours, thank you.”
Laughing, Gloria blew him a kiss and disappeared into the bathroom to finish getting ready for her appointment.
Peter hadn’t known Gloria long, but her fun loving nature and easy conversation had quickly drawn her to him. Her husband, Johnny Pedersen, a successful defense lawyer, had contacted Peter asking if he could commission him to paint his wife’s portrait for her thirtieth birthday.
Peter had agreed, meeting Gloria for lunch in Laguna Beach near Peter’s home to set up a sitting schedule. They had warmed to each other immediately and a few days later she invited Peter and his partner, Jeff, to dinner at her home in Corona del Mar.
Johnny and Jeff, both being ex college football players, had a rapport going the whole evening while Gloria had monopolized Peter’s company, anxious to hear his version of his recovery from a coma that had claimed three years of his life. She had listened with wide eyes as Peter recounted the aftermath when he and Jeff had discovered who was behind the attack that had killed his former lover, Phillip, and left himself severely injured.
“God, Peter, how awful for you to find out a family friend was behind all of that.”
“Yeah, it was pretty devastating. These days I’m a little more wary of people.”
“That poor detective’s wife…Susan, was it?”
“Mmm, she really had her life fall apart in front of her eyes. Practically overnight her husband changed from being her dream come true to being her worst nightmare.
“You have to wonder why she was attracted to him in the first place.”
“Seems he was a different man around her. He loved her with as much passion as he hated everything else he couldn’t understand.”
“Well, I was a part of it. Jeff too, but it really started out as plain greed. He was
to attack Phillip and me.”
“What a bastard,” Gloria said vehemently. “What happened to his wife?”
“She moved back with her folks and, hopefully, is getting over it by now.”
“And you? How are you after all this?”
“I’m one of the luckiest and happiest guys around. How can I not be, with Jeff in my life?”
“You certainly did bag first prize.” Gloria looked over to where Jeff stood talking with her husband. “That man is one of the cutest I’ve ever seen.”
“Cute?” Peter laughed. “Rugged and butch is more like it.”
“Whatever—you’re a lucky son of a gun.”
And Peter had to agree he
lucky. Since Jeff had moved in with him the previous Christmas Eve, he had felt himself completely healed from the trauma that had gone before. Even the nightmare of being held at gunpoint by a psycho cop had faded to a merely unpleasant memory. Jeff’s presence in his life had brought him a feeling of love and security he had not realized he needed until then…and because of that, his desire to create and paint had increased. He was now even more prolific in his output than he had been before his coma. Gloria was just one in a long line of clients anxious to commission him to paint their portrait. He knew this was due in part to the publicity forced on him by the drama of past events. People seemed to have some kind of need to know those who’d been close to danger and death. The lurid and unusual was a powerful aphrodisiac for some.
Jeff’s business had also benefited from the press exposure. He had moved his office south to Laguna a month after moving in with Peter and had been forced to limit the number of new clients he could take on. Even Andrew Connor, Peter’s friend and physical therapist, now found his engagement calendar totally full. He had laughingly told Peter that one patient had blatantly told him she wanted ‘the same hands that had massaged that divine artist’s body’ to be the only ones to touch hers.
“She was furious when I told her I had no opening for her,” Andrew had told Peter in amazement. “I mean, how kinky can you get?”
Gloria, returning from the bathroom, interrupted his thoughts.
“Have to run, sweetie.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek, picked up her bag, and headed for the door.
Peter walked her downstairs. “I should be finished with your portrait in the next few days. Do you want me to arrange for the framing or do you want to choose one yourself?”
“I’ll leave it to your impeccable taste, darling.” Gloria gave him a hug. “And don’t forget—you and Jeff are the guests of honor at my party for the ‘Grand Showing.’”
“Oh, we’ll be there.” He watched as she ran down the steps to her car, then he returned to his studio to wash out his brushes and straighten up the studio. He picked up a couple of dirty glasses, taking them down to the kitchen. As he slipped the glasses into the dishwasher, the phone rang.
“Is Jeff there?” The man’s voice had a slight accent Peter couldn’t quite place.