Authors: Kathleen Brooks
Allegra washed the shampoo from her hair and the cleansing mask from her face. “Finn?” Had she just heard the door again? She wiped the steam from the glass and looked out. No Finn, but a white box sat on the counter. Ah, her surprise! She quickly conditioned her hair and turned off the shower.
Grabbing the large fluffy towel, she patted her hair dry and rubbed the drops of water from her body before picking the box up. She pulled at the white satin ribbon and let it fall to the floor. Allegra bit her lip in excitement as she opened the box and pushed aside the tissue paper.
“Oh my gosh!” Allegra set aside the card and pulled out the sexiest underwear ever. The bra and panties were made of delicate white silk. Allegra shook her head as she relaxed. She had forgotten to ask Finn, but apparently he had been the one who changed out her underwear the other day. He must have a thing for white.
She picked up the note and turned it over.
was typed out on the pretty card. For tonight indeed.
Finn was having a hard time focusing on his meetings. He didn’t want to tell Allegra, but every day he grew more and more worried for her safety. With her permission, he had called Damien each of the last two days to see what news there was. Harry Daniels was on the run. He’d withdrawn some money from his account, called in sick at work, and disappeared with his car. But they all knew where he was—New York.
When Finn was with her, he knew Allegra was safe. But he felt anxious when he was in meetings. In the pit of his stomach, he knew this wasn’t over. So today he funneled his anger and anxiety into the negotiations.
“Man, I don’t know what was in you today, but I like it,” Kane said when the last person left the conference room.
“Humph,” Finn grunted as he put the papers into his briefcase.
“You got them to almost double their offer. Man, you are the shit!” Kane thumped him on the back and smiled at him.
“I’m glad you’re happy, Kane. It’s a great opportunity for you. It’s also a lot of leverage when your contract with the Golden Eagles comes up next year.”
“Damn right it is.”
Finn reached into his pocket and pulled out an invitation to the party that was starting soon. “I’ll see you and Kelly there. I don’t need this anymore,” he grinned.
“We’ll see you there.”
Finn said his goodbyes and hurried out of the building. If he rushed, he could make it back to the condo to change and only be ten minutes late. He couldn’t wait to see Allegra. His gut tugged at him just as it did before a big game. He held out his hand and waved down a taxi.
Allegra was used to the routine. Waiting in the hallway as the officer swept her apartment, she tapped her foot impatiently. The day had been a success. The houses she had a stake in were creating major buzz. Celebrities were begging to be dressed by her houses, and magazines were dying to do editorial shoots with them. Overall, Fashion Week had been a big success.
Allegra thanked the officer and hurried to her bedroom. She opened the box Finn sent and pried off her Spanx. They did wonders, but tonight she was going to wear Finn’s gift. The soft silk felt cool against her skin. It didn’t offer much support, but it looked sexy as hell.
Allegra stepped into the tight silver dress. It hugged her curves and the sides were cut out to expose her upper hips, waist, and part of her midriff. It was a daring dress, but loving Finn made her feel confident enough to take on the challenge.
She reached behind her and struggled to reach the zipper. She circled round and round as she twisted to reach the damn thing. Sweat started to break out, and she was nowhere close enough to zipping it up. She let out a huff and did what any woman would do. She marched out her door, lifted her hair, and turned her back to the security officer escorting her today.
“There you go, ma’am,” he said as his fingers fumbled with the clasp.
“Thank you, you’re a life saver.”
“No problem. I do it for my wife all the time. Are you ready to go now?”
Allegra smiled. “Let’s do it!”
* * *
“Oh my gosh, your body is to die for.”
“Look at those shoulders.”
“And the way his waist tapers down into his muscled thighs.”
Finn was flattered, really he was. But he was also cold. “Um, David, Josh, can I put the shirt on now?”
“All right. But only if you promise to model for us once,” David told him as he handed him the tailored shirt.
“Isn’t that what I’m going to be doing for you tonight?” Finn asked as he buttoned up the shirt. It fit snugly over his body, and the black button-up shirt with silver accent threading highlighted all his best features. With his dark skin, he had a dangerously sexy vibe as well. “Damn, guys. This looks great.”
“One modeling shoot,” Josh told him again with a smug look.
“Only if it’s an editorial about Simpson Entertainment in one of the fashion magazines. And if it is, I get to pose with women I represent. They'll wear both yours and Allegra’s clothes while I wear just yours. Think you can make it happen?”
“Please. Did you see how those magazines were drooling at our show? You have yourself a deal, Mr. Williams,” David said with a huge smile on his face. “Now, we need to get going, or we’ll be beyond fashionably late.”
“The horror,” Finn said dryly as the group headed for the limo.
Finn sat back and listened to David and Josh talk shop. It was interesting to hear their creative minds at work. Allegra was like that. She could see something completely ordinary or old and, amazingly, turn into something new and beautiful. She could take an idea and make it tangible.
“Here we are. Now, whether you like it or not, we are sending every magazine over to take a picture of you tonight so no leaving early with Allegra, got it?” David teased.
“Got it. And thanks a lot, guys. I didn’t want to embarrass Allegra at her big event. I’m man enough to admit I don’t know much about fashion.”
“Oh, you’re man enough all right,” Josh said with a sigh as the door opened and cameras flashed.
Finn smiled as he, David, and Josh posed for pictures. He tried not to be that boyfriend who looked all over for his girl, but he didn’t need to worry. Some sense inside him told him right where she was. As soon as they had their pictures taken, the men headed to where she was chatting.
“Dammit,” Finn whispered. She was talking to both guys he’d encountered in Atlanta and one he hadn’t.
“What’s the matter?” David asked.
David and Josh looked at each other and then at the man Allegra was talking to. “The tall one, that’s Nate Reece. He’s a huge Hollywood action star who we are dying to have as the face of our company.”
“I know. He’s always all over Allegra. So who are the other two guys?” Finn asked, not taking his eyes off Allegra.
“If it makes you feel better, Allegra said she and Nate have been friends from high school. I didn’t get any sexual vibe there. However . . .” Josh started before cringing.
“However, what?” Finn asked.
“However, the man in the $10,000 suit is Asher Woodcroft IV. His family hails from England in the old days of dukes and whatnot. But, they moved to Atlanta at the beginning of the 1900s and are famous for being famous. I really have no idea what Asher does besides sleep with every model, socialite, and actress he can. He has a trust fund with enough money to buy his own country and his goal in life is to enjoy it. I wouldn’t trust him. The other guy—I have no idea,” David whispered as they drew closer.
Finn had a choice he had to make in a split second. What kind of boyfriend would he be—the overprotective, overbearing type or the man who trusted his girlfriend? It was an easy choice. He smiled as he came up behind Allegra and slid his hand around her waist before dropping a kiss on her cheek.
Finn held out his hand and smiled. “Nate. It’s good to see you again. We met at Bellerose.” Nate smiled at him suspiciously but took his hand and shook it anyway.
“Yes, it’s good to see you again.”
“Actually, I’m glad you’re here. This is David Bell and Josh Rose of Bellerose,” Finn said smoothly. David and Josh shot him an appreciative look before homing in on their prey.
Allegra laughed as the three men headed for one of the small tables in the nightclub. The place was rocking out. Live music erupted from the stage, lights flashed over the dance floor, drinks flowed from the bar, and tables of celebrities from artists to singers filled the club. Kane and Kelly were dancing, and Finn spotted more of his clients from every corner of the entertainment industry.
“Finn, these are friends of mine, Jasper Hale and Asher Woodcroft. And this is my boyfriend, Finn Williams,” Allegra introduced.
Finn held out his hand and shook Jasper’s hand first. The man only nodded. He was an average-looking man with rectangular black glasses and hipster hair. Finn gave him a small smile before shaking Asher’s hand. “It’s nice to meet any of Allegra’s friends. How are you enjoying the party?”
“It’s fantastic. But of course, anything Allegra does is going to be a hit,” Asher said as Jasper looked on at Allegra.
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Finn said proudly. Allegra smiled up at him and slid her arm around his waist. He felt like a superhero when she looked at him like that.
“Oh, there’s China Kingsley. She’s always up for a bit of a good time. If you’ll excuse me? Finn, it was nice meeting you,” Asher said before heading straight for the actress.
Jasper gave Allegra a serious smile and then turned and disappeared into the crowd.
“I’m so glad you’re here. You look so sexy I almost want to ditch my own party,” Allegra whispered to him.
“Well, if we can’t go home yet, at least we can dance.” Finn took her hand and led her out onto the dance floor.
He watched them from the shadows of the party. Allegra should have known better than to think he wouldn’t be there. Of course he was there. He couldn’t stay away. Even as he pounded back another drink, he tried to calm his excitement. Tonight was the night. Tonight he’d make her his wife. She was trying to deny it, but he’d have her begging for him soon.
He took another drink as he watched Finn holding her tight against him as they danced. If only he could go out there and slam his fist into the guy’s face. But he couldn’t. Not until his wife was his. So he waited. He waited as Finn ran his hand over the exposed skin along her stomach. He took another drink to keep himself from killing Finn right then. He could get away with it. He was untouchable. But if he did, it would be harder to get Allegra to submit to him.
So he waited. Waited until he saw her leave the dance floor and head to the restroom as Finn went to the bar. His time had come. He pushed away from the shadows and strode confidently to the back of the nightclub. His palms were sweaty with anticipation as he closed in on the door to the women’s restroom.
Allegra had never been so hyped before. She had a man who loved her, her line was a success, her houses were the talk of the town, and her after-party was such a hit there was a line around the corner of press and people dying to get inside. She had done it! And dancing with Finn was the icing on the cake.
Allegra closed the door to the stall and hung her purse on the hook. The restroom was quiet compared to the dance floor. And for one moment, she could enjoy being alone. The bass from the music still pulsed in the room, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It was a nice reprieve from the craziness outside. She lifted her dress and pulled down her panties.
The door to the restroom opened and the music flooded in, ruining her moment of solitude. She sighed as she stood up and flushed. She was straightening her dress when she paused. It was then she noticed she didn’t hear any footsteps. Maybe someone didn’t come in? Maybe they changed their minds or accidently opened the wrong door? Either way, it set her nerves on edge. Her mother always told her to be aware of this feeling, and this was just strange.
The sound of Allegra sliding the metal hinge open filled the tiled restroom. She was being silly. She was in a club full of people who knew her. What did she have to worry about? She slowly opened the door and was about to step out of the stall when a shadow crossed the floor. Suddenly the door opened and a rush of models poured into the restroom.
“Oh, Miss Simpson!” Kelly said before introducing her friends. “Your show was amazing. Thank you so much for letting me keep the outfits I walked in. That was so kind of you.”
The models crowded the mirror and fixed their makeup as they all asked Allegra about Fashion Week and told her which shows they walked in.
“Come on, Miss Simpson, we can go out together. Finn grabbed a table with Kane for us. I’ll show you where,” Kelly said with a bubbly smile.
The girls filed out of the restroom and with one last look back, Allegra could have sworn she saw a pair of men’s black shoes under one of the stalls before the door slammed shut.
Allegra couldn’t shake the feeling someone had been in the restroom with her. It was only a split second, but she knew she saw those shoes. Every nerve in her body told her to run. Instead, she took a deep breath and sat down next to Finn. When he put his arm around her shoulder, she snuggled in closer and stared at the door to the restrooms. She saw some people coming and going, but no one stood out to her. Ever since she’d gotten those flowers, she’d been freaking out at the smallest things. Now she was imagining someone coming into the bathroom.
She was determined to enjoy the night and stop her mind from always going down the dark path. Tonight was a success, and she was in the arms of the man she loved. So Allegra tore her eyes from the restroom and threw her head back to laugh as Kane told her about the Scottish pirate commercial.
Finn held Allegra close to him as people came by the table to talk. He wasn’t trying to stop her from talking. He wasn’t trying to keep her next to him. Instead, he felt he needed to protect her. Ever since she came back from the restroom, something had been different. She had been pale and a little shaky when she sat down next to him. Then she had burrowed into his side as if she were hiding. Slowly, she’d been relaxing and enjoying herself again, but he still felt her vulnerability.
He leaned down and put his lips near her ear. “We can go whenever you want. I’m yours to command tonight. You just let me know what you want to do.”
He enjoyed the fact her face had flooded with color. That got her looking better.
“I’m exhausted. It’s two in the morning, and I’m pretty sure this party will go most of the night. Let’s make the rounds and then head home.”
“Sounds good, sweetheart. I have plans for the night,” Finn whispered. He couldn’t wait to give her his surprise. He’d taken a massage class and had a bag full of scented candles and massage oil. He couldn’t wait to pamper Allegra after her chaotic week.
He followed as she led him around the room saying goodbye to all the people who had helped make this week a success. He smiled, shook hands, and even laughed as David and Josh flattered him.
“We have three reasons to celebrate tonight. First, Fashion Week was a huge success. Two, we landed an editorial for Simpson Entertainment’s new VP as he wears Bellerose, and three, Nate Reece has agreed to be the face of our new line!”
Finn smiled as Allegra gushed.
“I didn’t doubt for a second you all could land that editorial. I look forward to it. Here’s my card. Call me when you’re ready for me. And thanks again for tonight,” Nate said to David and Josh as he handed them his business card.
“It was our pleasure. Why don’t you get the car? We’ll walk Allegra out,” David told him as he slid Allegra’s arm into his.
Finn looked to Allegra, and when she gave a small nod of her head, he kissed her cheek and headed outside.
“You’re keeping him, right?"
Allegra laughed as David and Josh talked over the top of each other.
“Yes, I’m keeping him.”
“That’s good. I like him, Leggy,” Nate said as he strolled over with a model on his arm.
“I’m so glad I have your approval, guys,” she said sarcastically.
“Really, he’s a good guy. He’s smart and down to earth. He is what he is. No pretending, which is rare in this world,” Nate told her as they headed outside.
“Thanks. I think so, too.” Allegra saw Finn leaning against the limo. They shared a smile, and she knew he knew they were talking about him. What she loved was that he seemed confident and perfectly at ease with who he was. It was something Tigo had been teaching her, but all she really needed was to look at Finn as an example.
She said her goodbyes and got into the limo. It was a short ride back the condo, but she would enjoy every moment. As soon as the door closed, she shifted in her seat to face Finn. The limo was dark with black leather seats and black carpet. A light from the minibar cast a faint yellow glow across the luxurious interior.
“I have something to show you,” Allegra said as she kissed him gently. Raising her skirt, she intended to show him she was wearing the panties he got her. The dress was tight and when she tried to shimmy it up her hips, she lost her balance. With a squeak, she fell off the seat and landed with a thud on the floor at Finn’s feet.
“Well, that was showing me something all right,” Finn said as he tried not to laugh, but his quirking lips gave him away.
“I was trying to show you the panties.”
“Trust me, sweetheart, I can see your panties just fine. I just didn’t know sprawling on the floor was the best way to show me.” Finn bent over and lifted her onto his lap with ease. “Now, let’s get a better look.”
Allegra’s eyes closed as soon as his lips came down onto hers. He cradled her in his lap and kissed her senseless as one hand slowly moved up her calf, then her thigh, and finally to her hip.
She felt a tug and lifted her hips just enough for him to pull the panties over her bottom and drag them slowly down her legs. The soft silk wisped against her skin and sent shivers up her back as his lips worked magic along her neck.
“Hmm. Very nice indeed,” Finn said with a smirk on his face as he held up the scrap of fabric that probably cost him a fortune. “Too bad we have to put this on hold. You may want to put your legs down. We’re home.”
With a sigh, Allegra slid from his lap as he shoved her panties into his pocket a moment before the door opened. The off-duty officer opened the door, looked at Allegra’s flushed face and Finn’s smug smile, and grinned.
“I’ll make a quick tour of your condo and be on my way then.”
Allegra blushed harder and Finn’s smile just widened. He still held the panties in his hand inside his pocket as they rode the elevator up to the penthouse. He couldn’t wait to get her alone inside.
“Wait here, please,” the officer said as he made his way into her condo.
Finn stood behind Allegra and placed a soft kiss on the crook of her neck as they waited. How long did it take to clear the condo? If this officer didn’t hurry, he’d come back to find him taking her against the wall.
However, the second the officer came into view with his gun drawn was enough to kill the mood.
Finn tightened his grip on Allegra and felt the moment she saw the officer. She tensed in his arms, and Finn had the overwhelming urge to leap in front of her to protect her from whatever was in her house.
“Ma’am, sir, please come inside and lock the door,” the officer said before grabbing his cell phone and calling dispatch.
As soon as he hung up, Finn had to know. “What is it?”
“What did it say?” Allegra asked as her voice shook.
“Not so much said as did. Come with me, but don’t touch anything. We’ll be sweeping the condo for prints.” The officer turned and led them down the hallway toward Allegra’s bedroom.
Finn held her hand tightly in his, and when they stopped at the door he was afraid she’d faint. The bed was shredded. The feather pillows had large hunting knives sticking out of them and the mattress looked as if someone had tried to rip it apart. White downy feathers covered the room like a fresh blanket of snow.
“It’s okay, Allegra. They’ll find him,” Finn said quietly as he pulled her into his arms. The scene was a message all right, and no words were necessary.
“That bastard!” Allegra pushed away from Finn so fast it surprised him. He knew she would be angry. He just didn't quite expect this.
“I’ve called Agent Wallace to let him know. But you need to be careful, ma’am. He’s escalating.”
“Good. The sooner I can get my hands around Harry’s throat, the sooner I can kill him!” Allegra cursed some more as Finn and the officer took a step back. They both realized when someone was about to lose her temper. Rumor had it that the rare times Allegra lost it, she
“Sweetheart,” Finn started to say. When Allegra looked at him, he just closed his mouth.
“That little prick thinks he can ruin my life all because I broke up with him. Well, he has another think coming.”
“I’m going to call Troy and get the plane ready. I think it’s time we go home, Allegra. We can’t stay here tonight. Somehow he’s able to get in here. It’s not safe.” Finn took a deep breath and casually slid his hands to cover his balls. “And we need to tell your family.” He waited for the kick he thought would be coming, but instead Allegra’s shoulders sagged.
“You’re right. I have to tell them.”
“I’ll be right there with you the whole time. Your family loves you.”
“I know they do. I was being stupid not to tell them what was going on. It’s time to tell them everything. Let’s go home, Finn.”
He watched them as they climbed the stairs to her private jet. Didn’t she see that Finn was just using her for her money? Finn was nothing but a gutter rat and he was endangering his wife. He had to protect her. And he did. He might have lost control a little bit in the bedroom. He was man enough to admit that. But when he saw the panties
wife as he stood in the next bathroom stall, and then saw Finn with his arm around her . . . he became enraged. And now Finn was going to feel his wrath. They were going home, and home was where he was at his best.
* * *
Margaret Simpson’s house was ablaze at five in the morning. Every light in the two-story house in the suburbs was on, and her driveway was filled with cars. Allegra gripped Finn’s hand as he pulled his car to a stop in front of the house. The second the car was turned off, a loud rapping at Allegra’s window made her jump in her seat.
“Sweet magnolia, Shirley. You scared me to death,” Allegra said as she opened the door. She couldn’t take any more surprises. Not after the past six months.
Shirley, her father’s former secretary who now ran the office . . . rather, spied on the office, stood outside with her walker. No one knew how old she was. Allegra guessed she was closing in on ninety, but it was hard to tell since Shirley acted like she was eighteen. Today’s banner on the walker read
. “Are you knocked up?”
“Is there a bun in the oven? Are you in the family way? Did the rabbit die?”
“No!” Allegra cried.
“Then why the heck did you drag us out here in the middle of the night?”
“Shirley,” Finn warned in a tight voice.
Allegra watched as Shirley turned around and rolled toward the now open front door.
“Are you married?” her mother called out. Margaret Simpson was the epitome of Southern charm. Her red hair was always perfect, and her slacks always had a crease in them.
“You know, did you tie the knot? Elope? Did he make an honest woman out of you?” her mother asked as they walked up the sidewalk.
Allegra turned to Finn. “I can’t do this. It’s too humiliating.”
Finn stopped her and waited until she looked up at him. “This isn’t your fault. It is his. He’s the one with the problem, not you. You should not be ashamed of this, Allegra.”
Allegra took a deep breath. “Okay, here we go.” She turned to her mother. “No, Mom, we’re not married.”
“Then why the emergency meeting in the middle of the night?”
“Mrs. Simpson, let’s go inside and talk,” Finn said firmly.
“Oh no. It’s something bad,” Margaret’s fingers twisted together with anxiety as she hurried them into the house. “I was hoping it was something else. This has to do with why you’ve been acting differently these past six months, doesn’t it?”
“She’s been acting differently?” Reid asked from the couch. Her brother was thirty-seven years old, but for some reason he hadn’t picked up the ability to read females in all that time . . . even his own sisters, bless his heart.
“Duh,” Bree said as she rolled her eyes.
“What is wrong with you, Reid? Even Drake noticed,” Elle said.
“Yeah, Logan did, too,” Bree told Reid as she held hands with her new husband.
Logan turned to Drake and shook his head. “I don’t know if we’ve just been insulted or praised.”
“I don’t either. What’s going on, Allegra?” Drake asked.
Allegra gripped Finn’s hand and suddenly saw seven pairs of eyes zero in on her. “I’ve been hiding something.”
“Told you she was pregnant,” Bree whispered to Elle.
“I’m not pregnant!” Allegra yelled.
Elle’s eyes widened and Reid sucked in a breath. “Shit. We’ve made her mad. Duck and cover,” he said in warning to his siblings.
“Okay, enough of this,” Shirley said as she moved to sit down. “I was in the middle of a dream about the Thunder from Down Under, and I’m determined to finish it. Now, what is this about?”
“Last year when I broke up with Harry Daniels, he didn’t want to take no for an answer,” Allegra started.
“I never did like him. He gave me a weird vibe, and you should always listen to your gut,” Margaret told the group.
“Yeah, small men usually have small winkies and it makes them irritable,” Shirley said as if she were a therapist. “Look at Napoleon . . . small winkie.”