Authors: Kathleen Brooks
Allegra hurried through her emails. She was meeting David, Josh, and Nate for a photo shoot in fifteen minutes. Last night had been miserable. She hadn’t slept at all. Every time she took a deep breath, she caught a tease of a scent in the air that wasn’t hers or Finn’s. It scared her even though she knew the alarm had been set, and she was probably imagining things.
There was no sign of Harry Daniels. He had disappeared, so the idea that he was just walking around Atlanta was crazy. But somehow she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched. Yet, when she turned around, no one was. Add that Finn still hadn’t called her, and it made for one sleepless night.
Her phone rang, and she picked it up without taking her eyes from her computer. “Allegra Simpson,” she answered distractedly.
“Hi, Allegra. It’s Jasper.”
“Hello Jasper,” Allegra mumbled as she typed out an email.
“I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to you in New York, but I’ll be in town for a Golden Eagles game this weekend. I didn’t know if you wanted to join me.”
“Oh, thank you for the invite, Jasper. But I’m afraid I’m so worn out I hope to do nothing but sleep this weekend. Finn might be there though.”
“Then I’ll keep my eye out for him. Again, it was a real pleasure seeing you. I hope we can do it sometime soon.”
Allegra stared at the phone after she hung it up. She was surprised. That was the most she’d ever heard Jasper say for as long as she’d known him. She wondered why he was calling now. Maybe Asher was right; maybe Jasper did have a thing for her.
“Hmm, so it’s true,” Shirley said as she wheeled into the office.
“That you and Finn are screwing up the best thing y’all have ever had.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Really, because you both look like crap.”
“Then he shouldn’t have ditched me last night. I didn’t do anything.” Allegra slumped back in her chair. “Well, I didn’t, but Harry has. Who in their right mind would want to date me with some crazy guy out there?”
“I don’t think that’s it. By the way, who’s Tigo?” Shirley asked with interest.
“He’s the owner of the gym we go to. Why?”
“I heard Finn muttering about if I was younger I’d be perfect for Tigo.”
“You heard him muttering?”
“Okay, I heard him talking to Kane, and I might have been down the hall with my ear pressed to the wall. When I turn these puppies up, I get great reception,” Shirley admitted as she tapped her hearing aids. “Hmmph, if I was younger . . . I’d show him.”
Allegra managed to laugh as Shirley rolled out of the office. The security guard with Mallory’s firm stepped inside with a familiar box in his hand. “This came for you. It looks clean.”
Allegra jumped from her chair and raced to grab it. Finn hadn’t forgotten about her. She tore it open and pulled out the typewritten card.
I’m sorry I missed you last night. This is for you to wear and think of me at night.
She unfolded the tissue paper and pulled out a slinky white silk nightgown, if it could even be called that. It was beautiful. Finn really wasn’t mad at her. He really did have to work. She shouldn’t have let her emotions run wild with her like that.
“I have the car out front. I’m ready whenever you are,” the guard said with a slight blush to the top of his ears as he averted his gaze from the sexy sleepwear.
“Perfect. Let’s go.” Allegra grabbed the box and her bag and hurried to the car. Her mood lifted; she was about to spend the day with her friends and the night with the man of her dreams.
Allegra walked side by side with her bodyguard. The photo shoot was only a few blocks away so she decided to walk it. It was a nice fall day. The leaves were turning vibrant colors and the bite to the air was invigorating, especially after a night with little sleep.
“Allegra!” a man’s voice called out from behind. Her bodyguard whipped around and stood in front of her.
“It’s okay; it’s a friend. Hi, Asher,” Allegra called out from behind a wall of man.
Asher laughed as he came forward with an older man and woman Allegra instantly recognized from the papers and magazines as his parents. “Fabulous accessory. By Milan, everyone will have one,” he joked.
Allegra laughed, too. She did feel a bit ridiculous, especially here in Atlanta. At the same time, she couldn’t forget the feeling that she was being watched. Even now. “He’s very handy.”
“Mother, Father, this is Allegra Simpson. She runs Simpson Fashions, part of Simpson Global. Allegra, this is my mother, Georgiana Woodcroft, and my father, Asher Woodcroft III.”
Allegra shook their hands and pasted on her fake society smile to match theirs. “A pleasure,” she purred.
“The pleasure’s ours. How do you know Ash?” his father asked.
“Allegra is a friend of mine, Father. We run in all the same circles,” Asher replied for her.
Allegra laughed. “Not all. I’m mostly here in Atlanta. But, yes, we’ve heard about each other for so long through all of our mutual friends. And then we finally got to meet at the beginning of this year. We’ve been friends ever since.”
“I saw her show in New York, and it was a huge hit.”
“Really?” his mother asked. “What kind of clothes do you make?”
“Clothing for the professional woman. Something that can make her feel good about herself at the workplace without being too exposing or too boxy.”
“Intriguing. I’ll have to look at them. Would you care to join us for lunch? We are just heading to a little place down the street.”
Allegra smiled kindly. Sure, they were a little stiff, but it seemed they had good hearts. “I’m so sorry, but I have a fashion shoot with Nate Reece.”
“Nate?” Asher III asked. “That name sounds familiar.”
“Yes, he was in New York with me. We’re very close. He’s an actor, but he’s doing a commercial shoot for one of my houses.”
Recognition dawned. “Ah, yes. A playboy just like my son.”
Allegra’s smile froze in place, but Asher laughed. “I don’t know if I can even compete with Nate.” Asher shot her a wink and chuckled again. “He’s a nice guy. I partied with him at his club, NITE.”
“Yes, he is.” Allegra smiled at the group. “It was nice to meet you both.”
“Likewise,” Mrs. Woodcroft said with a soft smile.
Allegra gave one last smile and a wave. She turned to follow her new fashion accessory, but she’d only made it a couple steps before her phone buzzed. She dug it out of her coat pocket and stopped in her tracks.
“He’s here,” Allegra gasped. She whirled around, her gaze darting to every shadow and window. All she saw were people walking. The Woodcrofts were walking away from her, people from Simpson Global were coming in and out of the big glass doors, but no sign of anyone watching her.
“Come on, Miss. Simpson. Let’s get you to the photo shoot and then call the investigation team. I'd rather get you out of the open as quick as possible.”
He put his arm around her and tucked her against him. He was like a boulder protecting a pebble, and it made her feel better as they hurried down the street. The phone beeped again, and she looked at the screen.
Too many men, not enough time, huh, Allegra?
“He’s watching me. Oh God, why can’t they catch him?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got you now.” He pulled out his phone and pressed a single number. “Code Red.”
Rushing away so soon? We have so much to talk about. You’re mine, Allegra. Don’t forget it.
Allegra had never been happier to get off the streets before. She hurried into the studio, and her bodyguard shut the door and locked it. Everyone from the photographer to Nate stared at her.
“What’s going on?” Nate asked worriedly.
Allegra’s hands shook. “He’s here. He saw me talking to Asher. He flipped out and starting texting me.”
“Have you called the investigators?”
“Yes, I notified our office and everyone is being contacted now. They’ll be here shortly,” her bodyguard told them.
“What’s going on?” David asked as he and Josh came forward.
Allegra felt like an idiot for getting so worked up over some text messages, but she was freaked out. “I’m being stalked by an old boyfriend who doesn’t want to let me go. He followed me to Fashion Week, and now he’s back here.”
“Oh, honey. That’s horrible. Guys!” David called out to get everyone’s attention. “I want this place locked down tight. I want someone at every door. I don’t care if that means we do makeup in the stairwell, you got it?”
People started moving as they grumbled to one another about crazy designers. Allegra gripped his hand. “Thank you for not telling them why. I’m just so embarrassed for all the trouble this is causing everyone around me.”
“Nonsense. You have to be careful. We all understand that. My sister’s ex-husband stalked her. He’s in jail now, thank goodness. It was scary,” David told her.
“Yes, and my friend Rusty was stalked as well by some woman he bumped into at the grocery store. Thank goodness she went away after the police talked to her. The important thing is to be safe. And you have this beast of a man—I totally mean that in a good way,” Josh said to her bodyguard. “It appears you’re taking all the right steps.”
“Thank you so much, guys. Enough about me,” Allegra waved her hands and looked over the set. “Before all the cops get here, let’s get some photos done.”
Finn shut the door as soon as Kane left and dialed Allegra’s extension. He talked to her secretary and found out she was at a photo shoot. Should he wait for her to get back or should he go to the address Allegra’s secretary had given him? He stared at the address and thought of going another minute without talking to Allegra. The answer was easy. He shoved his chair back and sprang to his feet. In two long strides, he was across the room with his coat in hand.
He hurried down the hall and tried to dodge all his employees wanting a moment, which he knew would turn into thirty minutes. He buttoned his coat as he hit the sidewalk and strode quickly toward the location of the photo shoot.
What was he going to say? Did she even realize he had blown her off last night? Was it too much to show up at her photo shoot? No, he loved her, and he was tired of all these misunderstandings. The only way to know for sure was to talk to her. He wasn’t going to just assume the worst and blow his best chance at love.
He found the location and went to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He knocked, and the door was flung open by a huge monster of a man. His beefy hand shot out and grabbed Finn by the coat. Finn broke the hold and jumped back.
“What the hell?”
“Mr. Williams!” The man sounded surprised. “I’m so sorry, there was an incident and . . .”
“Incident?” Finn pushed through the door. “Is Allegra . . .?” What he was going to ask died as he looked at a half-naked Nate Reece with his arms wrapped around Allegra, laughing. She kissed him on the cheek and then playfully swatted at him when he smacked her butt.
“I’ll give you an incident,” Finn muttered as he reached Nate in no time. He pulled Allegra out of Nate’s arms and slammed his fist into Nate’s pretty face before Allegra even had time to scream.
“Oh my gosh! Finn, what are you doing?” she yelled as she went to her knees beside a bleeding Nate who was sprawled out on the floor.
“Lawdy,” Josh whispered somewhere behind him.
“I think the better question is what are
doing? I come here to talk to you and you’re all over a half-naked man?”
“It’s not what it looks like,” Allegra stuttered as she turned red. She looked quickly between Finn and Nate. “I swear.”
“Hard to swear when I just saw it, Allegra. I’ve waited and waited for you. I’ve trusted you with my heart and then this? It’s over. God, I’ve been so stupid.” Finn spun and was out the door at the same time the first investigator pulled up to the curb.
“Damn, that hurt,” Nate moaned.
“Oh, Nate. Are you okay?” Allegra asked as she tried to stop the tears from falling down her cheeks.
“I’m fine. You need to go after him.”
“And say what? He’s not going to believe there’s nothing between us. It was hard enough the first time when he saw us outside my building.” Allegra sighed and sat back on her heels.
“I’m sorry, Leggy. I know we play around, but it never occurred to me how it would look.” Nate lifted his head as the makeup artist rushed to his side.
“It’s okay, Nate,” Allegra looked back at where the investigator stood. “I have to go talk with them. The photos so far are fantastic.”
Allegra tried to smile as she walked over to the investigator. She was pretty sure he was the one from the FBI. He looked like a young gun who would someday run for office. He had perfectly cut sable hair, a suit that was a little nicer than should be worn in the field, and a killer smile.
“Looks like I’m changing my number again.” Allegra just handed it over to him after unlocking the screen to show him the messages.
“Thanks. We’ll get to work on these text messages. With your permission, we’d like to hold your phone and keep this line open. We want to see if he sends you any more messages.”