Authors: Jackie Williams
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Teen & Young Adult, #Contemporary Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
“It’s probably not entirely your fault at all, but I’m going to lose my shop and my friends are all going to be out of work because of the development that you have something to do with. I was at the meeting before yours.
Cathy works for me,” she lifted her chin towards the dance floor where her friend danced among the crowd. “She’s devastated and so are the others I employ. We only came out tonight to cheer ourselves up but I certainly wasn’t expecting to see you here.” She glanced at his hand on her arm and he released her immediately.
The warmth stayed with her as she turned to walk away from him, but he caught up again, this time steering her towards the bar, his firm hand warm on her bare shoulder. His touch was lighter than she would have expected from a man of his size and t
he prickling electric sensations started up yet again. His charcoal eyes roamed over her coming back to her face a few seconds later. He bent closer to her ear.
“Look we’ve got off to a bad start here. Let me buy you a drink and we can talk it over.” He shouted over the electronic beat of the music as he tried to give an encouraging smile.
She laughed out loud and reluctantly shrugged off his hand.
“In this racket? I don’t think so. And what is there to say anyway? It’s a done deal for both you and me so I just have to put up with it and move on. There’s no other option for me.” His hand fell away from her shoulder. She took a step away from him again and this time he let her go, staring after her, as she swivelled her way to the dance floor, where Cathy was gyrating furiously with two other men.
tried not to think of him at all while she danced but it was difficult. He stayed near the dance floor, his dark eyes constantly searching for something. They fell on her often, but always looked quickly away. He was impossible to miss, standing so much taller and more handsome than all the other men there, his long dark hair constantly flopping forward onto his face. Once or twice he came onto the dance floor with one or another of the women in his crowd, and danced with a fluidity she’d not seen in a man his size before. She had to keep her back to him or she would have stared.
The two men dancing with Cathy had disappeared and the
women walked back to the table to finish their spritzers. Caroline bought another for herself as Cathy had forgotten how tiring dancing could be and decided quite soon that she’d had enough. After checking that Caroline didn’t mind being deserted so early and calling for a cab, she left her friend to dance the night away alone.
She knew that she wouldn’t stay much longer. She needed to be up early too if there was any chance of making enough money to tide her over what would surely be a tough few months but she didn’t want to miss the chance of a couple more dances.
Caroline moved back onto the dance floor wishing she could go nightclubbing more often. She hadn’t had many chances to indulge since opening the shop. She raised her arms above her head and let the music fill her as the D.J. racked up the volume. She let her hips sway to the rhythm, her whole body moving with the music. She let it wash over her; take all the stress of the day from her.
She tried not to look at anyone as she danc
ed, but the two men who had danced with Cathy were back on the dance floor with her, making it obvious that they were keen to take things further. However, as friendly as they seemed, she just wasn’t interested. Men were the last thing on her agenda at the moment. She moved away, not wanting to encourage them, then went and drank a little more of her spritzer. She stood and finished the glass, hoping that the two men had taken the hint and wouldn’t join her on the dance floor again. But just to make sure she waited for a few more moments, scanning the area carefully.
flashed and the crowds were making her feel uncomfortably hot. The ladies’ room beckoned and she turned and started for the toilet, but the two men were there yet again. They were becoming annoying but as she went to step round them, she felt the room tip slightly sideways. One of the men tried to catch her arm as she staggered past, but she flung up her hand and stumbled away from him, desperately trying to keep to her feet.
’ room vestibule had only a couple of women standing in front of the mirrors re-applying their make-up, but the room sounded full of noise. Caroline couldn’t follow their conversation at all and she wobbled to a cubicle feeling very odd.
The noise in her head continued as she sat
on the toilet and tried to remember why she was there. Her head spun sickeningly. She dragged herself to the sink and splashed her face with cold water. She was horribly tired and her arms felt as heavy as lead. The cool water refreshed her slightly, but she felt no more co-ordinated She couldn’t hold her vision still and the room seemed to slip away under her feet as she walked towards the door.
The other two women had already left and she stumbled away from the sinks, eager to return to the dance floor
in the hope that dancing would dispel the weird feeling that was threatening to overwhelm her. She opened the lavatory door onto the corridor and jumped back in fright when she found the two men from the dance floor standing right outside, grinning widely at her.
She stumbled against the wall in surprise.
One of the men leered at her, his eyes raking her body up and down as the taller man stepped forwards.
“Hey! There you are gorgeous. We’ve been waiting for you.” The man
’s voice echoed strangely in her head. It sounded as though he was speaking from far away and the movement of his lips was out of synchronisation with his words.
tried to tell him to back off but her tongue felt as though it was swollen, almost too big for her mouth. Her words came out in a slurred and confused jumble. She attempted to push round the man and walk into the corridor but her arms flailed uselessly at her sides and she wobbled dangerously in her high heels.
he heard herself cry out as the other man grabbed at her bare shoulders. He pulled her into a rough embrace, his hard hands digging into the soft skin of her back, his thin lips very near to her face and his sour, beery breath swamping her.
“Come on baby. Don’t be like that. We know you want it really. You’ve been putting it about all night.” His voice drooled over her, breath stinking as he leaned in very close.
She turned her head away sharply and opened her mouth to scream but he put his sweaty hand over her lips, cutting off any sound. He clutched her tightly to his thick, clammy body with his other arm, laughing at her feeble attempts to escape.
odour almost overwhelmed her senses, reeking in the back of her nose
The second man came in close and started to run his rough fingers through her hair.
ars sprang to her eyes as his calloused hands tangled and pulled some of the long, silky strands from her scalp. He caught hold of her hair more firmly, twisting it in his grip and pulling her head backwards to expose her throat.
And then she was being dragged
towards an emergency exit, her brain caught up with her body as at last she realized that she wasn’t going to be able to escape the two of them.
the first man’s hand abruptly jerked away from her face and she could breathe clearly again. There was a blur of frantic movement and she saw him sink to the floor.
The second man was spinning, arms flailing,
before he went flying through the air as Mercedes Man launched his massive fist into the attacker’s stomach. She heard loud whooshing sound as his breath was forced from his lungs and he crumpled into a ball, arms around his middle. The first man was trying to lift himself to his feet, but it was a feeble attempt and Mercedes Man stepped over the second assailant and punched him again, hard, in the face. This time he fell back and lay still, groaning in pain, blood pouring from his nose and mouth.
Caroline let out a great so
b as her rescuer moved forwards towards her, his face contorted with rage as he stepped over the felled attacker.
She tried to take a step back but his long arms reached out to her as she began to topple uncontrollably sideways. He caught her in an iron embrace before she hit the floor, pulling her close to his chest
and cradling her in his arms, his dark eyes wildly searching hers.
fore she could even think that she should hate this man too, his cool peppermint breath washed over her clouded senses and blackness closed in.
Warmth surrounded her as
she woke. She kept her eyes closed as she listened to soft music coming from somewhere around her. She lay very still, trying to get her bearings, her head pounding painfully and her heart beating wildly in her chest. She waited until it slowed slightly before even thinking of moving.
A few moments of calm breathing had her feeling brave enough to open
her eyes. She shut them immediately as brilliant sunlight made them water. She waited again for a few seconds and then opened them again carefully, blinking rapidly as she peered out over the thick covers at the unrecognized room.
The ceiling was extraordinarily high and t
he sun was streaming through high arched windows that appeared to be all be placed along one wall. The other walls were painted a brilliant shade of white and had fantastic pieces of modern art displayed on them.
There was a bedside table next to her and a large leather chair by the door. She could see her black dress slung over one arm of the chair and a man
’s jacket hanging over the other.
Two pairs of shoes were placed tidily beneath
the chair. One pair high and red. The other brown and huge.
quickly turned over in the bed hoping to God that there wasn’t anyone in it with her. She hadn’t been with a man for several months, the shop having taken up all her free time, but she couldn’t remember leaving the club with anyone last night. Cathy had left early but she couldn’t remember much after that. She scrabbled about in her brain for some kind of memory but nothing came to her. Though it wouldn’t be the first time she’d woken in another person’s bed, on the other occasions she had at least known who she was sleeping with. Her few previous relationships had been built on companionship and trust. This was a ghastly new experience for her.
The bed was empty beside her and from the look of the duvet and pillow, nobody had lain there
but she couldn’t be sure. She quickly ran her hands down her body and was relieved to discover that she was dressed in a huge and deliciously soft white t-shirt that came down to her thighs. It smelled vaguely familiar and she pulled at the material, bringing it to her nose to breathe the scent in more deeply.
She dropped the soft fabric as she heard gentle footsteps outside the door. She dragged the covers up to her neck and sat up as someone tapped lightly on the wooden panel.
“Yes?” She answered the tap slightly nervously, and tried to pull the tangles out of her impossibly long hair as the door opened noiselessly.
Mercedes Man strode purposefully into the room carrying a tray
bearing a plate of toast and mugs of tea. The smell of the fresh toast wafted over her.
Caroline groaned inwardly
. She dropped the hand stuck in her hair and covered her eyes as he smiled devastatingly at her, dark eyes searching her face as the dimple in his cheek twitched.
He brought the tray to the bedside table, walking gracefully
in bare feet, his fitted denim jeans skimming over hard thighs and his huge torso encased in soft white cotton, every muscled contour showing through the tight material. It was impossible not to notice him and her breath hitched in her throat as all her senses went into overdrive. He looked God-like again and Caroline, now peering through her parted fingers, couldn’t help admiring this time.
-head. How are you feeling today?” His voice was slightly mocking as he handed her one of the mugs.
I think. Is it afternoon already?” She drew away from him for a moment but as he raised an eyebrow she took the mug and showed her face at last. “How did I end up here? I mean, did we…?” She asked self-consciously, drawing her knees up as she glanced at the empty space beside her. From his confident manner it didn’t appear that it was unusual occurrence to find strange women in his bed. She hoped that his ego wouldn’t be offended that she couldn’t remember a thing about the previous night.
He stared at the space too.
“No, no. We didn’t. Nothing happened.” He reassured her gently, frowning slightly. He fell silent as he stared at her.
out a relieved breath and was about to take a sip of the scalding tea when her memory came flooding back to her. She jerked her head up at him, her eyes wide and lips trembling as she spoke.
“Oh my God! Those awful men
! They were all over me, wouldn’t leave me alone. They followed me to the bathroom.” Her expression was appalled. “I couldn’t get away from them; my body wouldn’t do anything properly. I lost all co-ordination.” Her whole body started to shake and her words tumbled from trembling lips. He took the mug back from her as the tea threatened to slosh over the brim.
y were touching me, pawing all over me. Ugh!” She sounded revolted and very frightened at the same time but then another memory came back to her. Her head shot up as she suddenly remembered how Mercedes Man had flattened both of the pigs. “I can’t bear to think of what they might have done to me if you hadn’t turned up.” She looked up at him with grateful eyes.
He sipped his tea and shrugged.
“Hey, it’s okay. They barely had chance to touch you. You’re safe here now.” His voice was firm and reassuring. “I’m sorry I didn’t take you home but you didn’t have I.D. with an address.” He looked guiltily at her. “Sorry… I searched through your bag to see if I could find out where you lived, but I couldn’t find anything very helpful. You were pretty far gone so I thought it best if I brought you back here anyway.”
Caroline stared up at him, her brain aching with shock.
“Why didn’t you take me to hospital if I was unconscious?” She felt it was a reasonable question given the situation but he just shrugged.
“What? And sit around in an overcrowded casualty for hours. You weren’t completely out of it and they probably would have assumed you were drunk. I called my own doctor instead. He is far more reliable in that sort of situation. I would have taken you after his assessment if you had needed it.”
Caroline presses her fingers to her forehead. “What happened to me? One minute I was fine and the nex
I was only drinking spritzers but I could barely stand up straight. I couldn’t even remember why I was in the toilet.” Her voice was a fraction firmer. He sounded so confident and it was rubbing off on her.
He sat on the edge of the bed and handed her the tea again. She took it and sipped the hot liquid gratefully, feeling it burn
her dry throat as it went down.
“I think they drugged your drink
, you seemed to go downhill fast and you haven’t woken properly since. I called my doctor out to you. He came as soon as we arrived back here, but as you appeared in no immediate danger he said it’s just best to let you sleep it off.” He watched her face, carefully looking for signs of distress as he spoke softly.
She gulped another mouthful of the tea.
“I can’t thank you enough.” She gasped out, the relief washing over her as fragmented images of the way he’d rescued her leapt into her head and her thoughts lingered over how he had held her so closely in his arms just before she had blacked out.
His smile was wide now, the dimple showing deeply.
“That’s okay, it was my pleasure. I love rescuing damsels in distress. And I got a bit of a workout into the bargain.” He held up an arm and flexed one of his massive biceps at her. She swallowed another sip of tea and tried not to stare as his huge muscles stretched his soft t-shirt.
s they will have learned their lesson. One of them is going to have some serious dental bills coming up and hopefully even some cosmetic surgery on his nose. The other, well, with a bit of luck I ruptured something. He didn’t look like he was going to get up anytime soon. I shouldn’t think that they’ll try it again.” His eyes were twinkling, laughing at her expression, and then he was suddenly serious as he added, “They must have put something in your wine while you were dancing. Rhohypnol I’d guess, well that’s what Dan, my G.P. reckons it was. Apparently you can’t taste it. Perhaps it would be best to not leave your drink unattended another time.”
Caroline shook her head quickly, ignoring the pain shooting through her temples.
“No, never again.” She agreed fervently as her heart started beating erratically. “I can’t believe I was so stupid, I don’t go to night clubs very often now and I never even gave it a thought. You think that sort of thing only ever happens to someone else.” She paused for a second, breathing deeply. “I don’t even know your name. I’m Caroline Masters, but you probably know that since you’ve checked out my I.D.”
He smiled and nodded.
“Yes, I knew, and I’m Adam Cavendish.” He handed her some toast as he took a bite from a slice himself, but she didn’t eat it immediately. His name was not unfamiliar. He was constantly mentioned in the newspapers, having owned or designed many of the most prestigious developments in the country.
“You may not want crumbs in your bed.” She held the toast carefully, looking at the crisp white bed linen, trying not to think of how much it may have cost, and at the same time trying not to drip butter onto it.
“That’s okay, it’s not my bed. You’re in one of my spare rooms. I’ll ask Tricia to change the sheets later, so dig in,” he encouraged, smiling broadly at her.
Caroline was mortified, her jaw dropped.
“God, your wife knows I’m here? She must be a very understanding lady.”
He laughed out loud at the stricken look on her face.
“No, don’t worry, you’re not about to have your eyes scratched out by a jealous spouse. Tricia’s my cleaning come house-keeping lady. She made the toast incidentally; I’m completely useless in a kitchen. No, there’s no wife, or even a girlfriend at the moment. I couldn’t stand anyone around me all the time. I’m far too busy building a decent future.”
Caroline frowned slightly
as she remembered who he really was and what he was doing, even inadvertently, to her.
“Yes, of course. T
oo busy having small businesses thrown out of their premises and ruining them in the process. I’d forgotten about that for a moment.” She was suddenly fierce and her green eyes narrowe
alarmingly at him.
Adam sat back, shocked at her sudden animosity.
“Now hang on just a moment. It’s nothing personal.” His voice was hard and a muscle twitched under his solid jaw. “I’m creating something great here. It will be a fantastic development, hundreds of jobs will be made in the long run and you could still have your shop there anyway.” He defended himself, his forehead creased in frustration at her.
Caroline glared up at him, wishing she didn’t feel so small and insignificant.
“And what do I do in the months until its ready? Sit and twiddle my thumbs?” She was furious now and carried on without waiting for an answer. “And my staff… What do they do? What about their jobs? Aren’t they important too?” Caroline put the toast and mug down firmly on the tray. “Just because I have a small business, you think you can walk all over it and me. Well, you can think again. I’m leaving.” She swung her slim, bare legs out of the bed and stood up swiftly, preparing to fetch her dress but the sudden movement had her swaying violently.
leapt up and grabbed her before she collapsed on the floor.
His muscles tightened on her body as she fe
ll limply into his hard chest. Her head spun dizzily as she breathed in his scent and his heat soaked into her skin. He didn’t let go as she pulled in great steadying breaths of air. He kept her encircled by his embrace as he brushed his hand down her long hair, pulling on it very gently until she looked up at him. His dark eyes burned into her light ones. It was not an unpleasant sensation to gaze into the magnetic grey and she didn’t struggle against it.
“Stop this.” His voice was gentle and the frown was gone, leaving his forehead
unlined. “You’re not ready to leave yet. The drugs are still in your system. They’re going to make you feel pretty unsteady for a while. Wait until you’ve recovered properly; you can shout at me later and then I’ll take you home.” His tone was full of concern as he tried to read her expression.
She gradually relaxed in his iron arms as the spinning faded and his
velvet voice filled her ears but she felt overwhelmed by him, the whole situation. Completely out of control, she began sobbing hopelessly into his t-shirt.
She could hear his deep steady breathing as his muscles tensed around her body, holding her quite still while she wept into his hard chest. He brus
hed her thick locks down her back with a warm hand, his fingers twisting through the silky mass, almost massaging her, until her crying stopped.
He scooped her up easily into his arms, lifted her gently, and put her back into the bed. He leaned over her, arms braced cage
-like, either side of her body, not giving her the room to try and slide away from him. His eyes travelled over her face once again and she was sure for an infinitesimal moment that he was going to touch his lips to hers.
closed his eyes for a long second then breathed in deeply and pushed off the bed to stand up straight.