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Authors: Kathleen Brooks

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BOOK: Fashioned for Power
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Allegra tightened her grip on Finn’s hand, but when she looked over she saw Finn struggling not to laugh. Suddenly she felt it. The constriction in her stomach moving up her chest and then it happened—she laughed. For the first time in a year, she laughed about her situation. Finn was right. It wasn’t her fault. It was Harry’s fault for having a small winkie.

“Well, you were right not to like him,” Allegra said as she tried to stop picturing Harry and his small appendage. “He refused to accept that it was over. For six months he tried to win me back by sending me love letters, asking me out, and calling. Finally, I had to tell him there was no chance of us getting back together. I had moved on.” Allegra looked at Finn and smiled.

She had fallen in love with him slowly while working together late at night as she helped him with reports. She loved the way he cared so much for her family’s company and for how much he respected her sisters and herself. It took a strong man to admit he wanted to learn more, and Finn was unashamed of his desire to learn as much as possible. He was smart and picked up things remarkably fast. It was a major turn-on for her. And then when he took her to his gym, well, she’d already fallen in love with his mind. When she saw him strip off his shirt . . .

“That’s when I started getting nasty texts and emails from an anonymous source,” Allegra continued.

“Oh, no. Why didn’t you tell me, Leggy?” Bree asked. Having gone through something similar, Bree understood the scariness of anonymous threats.

“If I recall, you didn’t say anything for a while either,” Allegra pointed out.

Bree cringed. She hadn’t mentioned anything until a building was blown up with her in it.

“What kind of notes, honey?” Margaret asked, her hands clasped tightly.

“First they asked me out and were signed as a secret admirer. When I said no and told him to leave me alone, they got worse. They called me names. Told me I was his and his alone. That I belonged to him, and then when I got closer to Finn told me I was putting Finn and myself in danger. That he wouldn’t tolerate his woman seeing other men.”

“Is that what happened at Bree’s wedding?” Reid asked.

“Yes. I got over four hundred text messages calling me a whore.”

“I’ll kill him,” Reid said through clenched teeth.

“Get in line,” Finn told him.

Allegra just rolled her eyes. She was so angry, they’d have to beat her to it. “Finally, I confronted Harry after I moved and changed my phone number.”

“I thought you said you lost your phone,” Margaret said.

“I lost in when I threw it into the ocean.” Allegra managed a weak smile.

“But, why did you move?” Elle asked.

“I can’t explain it, but I think Harry was in my home. Nothing was out of place, but there were many times when I would wake up and swear I heard something, a creak of a board, the clicking of a door—
just something
. Then there was when I felt as if I had been touched while I slept. I dreamt it, but when I woke up there was the smell of cologne.”

Margaret put her hand to her mouth. “Oh my gosh,” she whispered. “My baby!”

“It’s okay, Mom. I moved. I confronted Harry and threatened to file charges.”

“Did he back off?” Bree asked.

“For a while. I haven’t gotten any more texts or emails. Everything was fine until New York. I got a delivery of flowers. There was a note from Harry with it. Then when I refused to stop seeing Finn, it escalated. Tonight when we got back from my after-party, my bed was torn to shreds and two knives were impaled in the pillows.”

“Why would he destroy your bed?” Margaret wondered.

“Because they’ve been doing the nasty, playing hide the salami, knocking boots, rolling in the hay.” Shirley shook her head at Margaret’s confused face. “They were having sexual relations. Geez, after four kids I thought you’d know what those terms meant. What the heck did you call it?”

“We called it getting to know someone biblically,” Margaret said a little embarrassed. Somehow, that made Allegra feel better. She’d just been outed as having sex before marriage to her mother, but it was her mother who was embarrassed.

“How scary!” Elle jumped up from the couch and enveloped Allegra in a hug. “I’m so glad you’ve told us. Is this the reason for your weight loss? I’ve noticed you haven’t been eating as much.”

“Or sleeping. You’ve been looking tired,” Bree said as she joined Elle in hugging Allegra.

“It’s hard to sleep or eat with all this going on. I never know if I’m being watched or if someone is in my house. I’ve tried to ignore it. I was in denial for so long, but this is too much. Something has to be done.”

“We need to call the police,” Margaret said, her face white with worry.

“I’ve talked with Damien. He notified the local police and state troopers. Further, as soon as I got a threat in New York, he contacted the FBI. All the agencies are working together. Damien has arranged for me to meet with the FBI and local officials in a couple of hours. They’ve already been looking for Harry. So far, they haven’t been able to find him.”

“Thank goodness. I won’t be able to stop worrying until he’s captured. Do you want to stay here?” Margaret asked as she clutched Allegra in her arms.

“I’m fine, Mom. Finn will stay with me. But, I want you all to know what’s going on. Maybe we need to restrict visitors to Simpson Global as well for a while.”

“Of course,” Elle said as she pulled out her phone to email security. “Send me a picture of Harry, and we’ll have it in the hands of all security personnel. I’m glad you told us, Allegra. Now we can help you catch this guy.”

“You’re not worried how this will look? I mean, I’m so weak. I don’t want it to reflect badly on Simpson Global.”

“Oh, Leggy!” Bree cried as she grabbed her sister’s hands. “You’re not weak. You are so brave to have gone through this. I’m so proud of you for being strong enough to stand up for yourself.”

“You are the victim, Allegra. You did nothing wrong, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Simpson Global and your family will stand by you and praise you for standing up to this horrid man. By being brave and not being quiet about it, you’ll bring light to this issue. Think of all the women and men who suffer at the hands of stalkers because they never report it. Never be afraid to ask for help. Never,” Elle said passionately.

Allegra wiped the tears from her eyes. She’d been so embarrassed to admit she was being stalked because deep down she feared it was her fault. But now she wished she’d told them about it when she received the first email. She would make up for it. She would meet with the police tomorrow and find Harry Daniels.

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

Finn sat quietly as he held Allegra’s hand. She was showing the investigators all the evidence she had. After leaving her mom’s house, Finn, Allegra, and the investigators sat in a twenty-four-hour diner and produced a timeline of all the events. They had explained how tricky it was to prosecute stalkers because victims tended to be in denial for so long that they hadn’t collected enough evidence for an arrest.

Allegra had turned over phone records, text messages, and emails. The NYPD sent a copy of their file, and Damien pushed for the investigators to go with a crew to her old house and look for more evidence.

“She said she heard things. I think you should fingerprint the place,” Damien told the group.

“It’s been over a month,” one of the investigators stated nonjudgmentally.

“I still own the house. It’s just been sitting empty. No one should have been in it since I left. I hadn’t even sent the cleaning crew in. I just wanted to pretend it never existed. Thinking about the house brought back the fears. I had nightmares about someone in my house while I tried to sleep,” Allegra explained.

“We can sweep it. It doesn’t hurt to try. And this is good,” the FBI investigator said, holding up the timeline. “The question is, how long will it take Harry to make it back to Atlanta? I’ll pass along his photo and the information on his car to the state police for all the states between New York and Georgia, the train stations, and the airports.”

“If you feel uncomfortable at anytime or get any more messages, contact one of us immediately. You’re not alone in this. We’ll find him, Miss Simpson,” the woman from the police department said as she took Allegra’s hand.

Allegra managed a weak smile. She felt better having a team behind her. She now had someone believing her when she said she heard things going bump in the night. For the longest time, she didn't even believe herself.

 

Finn walked out of the FBI’s office with his hand on the curve of Allegra’s back. What she must be going through . . . it made him feel both angry and vulnerable at the same time. He had to protect her, but what would he do during the day when he was at work or when he had meetings?

“Allegra, I think we need to call Mallory in on this, too. I’m sure Elle has already filled her in. I don’t like the idea of you alone during the day.”

“I already did,” Allegra smiled as she looked at the leggy blond in black leather pants and red deep V-neck sweater, leaning against the door of an obscenely expensive sports car. “Hi, Mallory. Thanks for coming.”

“As if I wouldn’t. You’re like family to me. So, we’re going to be hanging out for a while.”

“Until Harry is found, yes.”

“I’m having my guys work on that.”

“The police and FBI are, too,” Finn told her as he pulled Allegra closer to him. He hated the thought of leaving her to go to work, but he’d seen Mallory in action. The pearl necklace at her throat and blond-bombshell, high-society look was just on the outside. Underneath the pearls was a woman who’d kick ass first and ask questions later. Just the type of person he wanted looking out for Allegra.

Mallory smiled. “I’m sure they are. But, my guys don’t get caught up in all that legal red tape. They kinda just skip right over it. After all, we’re not going for prosecution. We’re trying to find him immediately.”

“Have you learned anything yet?” Allegra asked as she pushed her hair back from the wind. Winter was coming to Atlanta early this year, and she shivered as another gust hit her.

“He’s gone dark. We tracked him to a hotel outside Atlanta, but it was over a week ago. I sent some guys there. They saw security tapes of him with some woman going in for a quickie. The woman left an hour later, and he spent the night. The next morning he drove off, and that’s the last anyone has seen him. My guys are tracking the woman down now. After they question her, they’ll turn everything over to the investigators. Now, shall we go to work?”

Finn leaned down and gave Allegra a kiss on her lips, a quick kiss that conveyed all the promises he wanted to make to her. “I’m going to be really late tonight. I have a lot to catch up on.” When he looked up, Mallory was grinning again. “Take care of her.”

“With my life,” Mallory promised.

 

Allegra looked at the pictures the casting director had sent over for the European leg of fashion shows and ground her teeth together. She thought she had made her stance on models clear, but she was looking at everything she told them she didn’t want. She tried to stay out of the way of the designers as much as possible, but this was one area she put her foot down. She picked up her phone and waited for the director to pick up. His job was to hire the models to walk for her fashion houses at the various fashion shows.

“Matthew, I’m looking at the pictures of the models you chose,” Allegra said without bothering to identify herself or even say hello.

Her mother would be horrified. Mallory just looked up from the corner of the room where she was working on her laptop and raised her eyebrow in question. Allegra held up the pictures, and Mallory frowned.

“You will not hire any of these women. Half of them look like children, and most of them are malnourished.”

Matthew sighed over the phone. “Miss Simpson,” he said patronizingly, “models can be sixteen years old in Europe when they walk the runway. And this is what is on all the famous runways this year.”

“Well, they aren’t on mine. Either find models over eighteen and at a healthy weight, or I’ll find a director who can. Do you understand me?”

“Miss Simpson, clothes don’t fit models as well when they’re bigger.”

“Bigger? Matthew, I’m a size eight. Am I so fat that I can’t wear any of the clothes from my own fashion houses?”

Mallory snorted and Allegra listened to Matthew stutter. “No, Miss Simpson. Not at all. You’re lovely.”

“Good. Then find more models like me since the clothes look so good on me.”

Allegra hung up, and Mallory broke out in laughter. “I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. I don’t get this industry at all. Why would I want to buy clothes a child is wearing? She can’t go to the clubs I go to. Hell, she can’t even drive a car, and she’s going to tell me what’s sexy? Please.”

Allegra closed the binder and sat back in her chair. “I’m ready to go home. This day has been hellish. I’m tired and hungry.”

“Let’s stop at that place on Peachtree that has those good burgers,” Mallory suggested.

“Peachtree Center?”

“No, Peachtree Street.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go.”

 

* * *

 

He smiled at the cashier as he passed her three hundred dollars in cash. She wrapped up the sexy silk blouse and smiled at him. She would be his type. Young and blond with fake tits and big hair, but he was spoken for now. He could look but not screw.

“Is this for your girlfriend?” she asked him with a hint of suggestion that told him that if he said it was for his sister, she would go down on him in the dressing room.

“No. It’s for my wife.” He liked the sound of that. The most powerful, sexy woman in the world was his wife. And he’d be the one controlling her.

“She’s a lucky woman,” she said wistfully.

“I’m the lucky one,” he said as he took the bag and headed out the door.

 

* * *

 

Allegra waited for Mallory to look in all her closets and under all the beds. “All clear,” Mallory called. “Looks like you got a present though. Should I worry about it?”

Allegra felt her heart pound and her body shake as she waited for Mallory to bring the present out of the bedroom. Her mind flashed to the card with the word
Whore
written on it. Instead, it was a white box exactly like the one Finn had given her in New York with her lingerie set in it. She let out her breath and smiled.

“No, that’s from Finn.”

“I wonder what it is?” Mallory asked as she handed it over.

Allegra opened it and pushed away the white tissue paper. She pulled out the printed message and read out loud.
For you to wear tomorrow and think of me while you do.
She reached into the box and pulled out the white silk blouse.

“Wow! Who knew Finn had such good taste? That’s an expensive blouse,” Mallory said as Allegra held it up in front of her. The blouse was of such fine silk it was almost see-through. The front buttoned to the top of her breasts and then formed a wide V as it went up to the collar.

“It’s beautiful. I’ll wear it tomorrow. So, what should we do now?”

“Movie?”

“That sounds wonderful. Put in some popcorn; I’m going to change into my pajamas.”

Allegra changed into an old pair of flannel pajamas, tied her long hair into a loose ponytail, and slid on a pair of fluffy socks. She was prepared to relax and even more prepared to get to bed. Knowing Mallory was here would finally let her sleep well and, she hoped, keep the nightmares at bay.

 

* * *

 

He quietly put the key into the lock and turned the doorknob. It was late and all the lights to Allegra’s house were off. He heard the soft click and turned the knob slowly. He stepped into the entranceway and was greeted with a gun barrel to his temple.

“Don’t move or I’ll shoot you.”

“It’s me,” he said as calmly as possible.

“Finn, do you really think sneaking in was the best idea?” Mallory asked as she holstered her gun.

“I didn’t want to wake Allegra. I’ll call you when I’m outside next time. Damn, Mallory. I know you’re a badass and all, but seeing you in action is something completely different. Would you really have shot me . . . or him?”

Mallory shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve done it before. But, now that you’re here, I’ll head out. See you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight,” Finn said automatically as he watched Mallory pick up her designer purse and slip on a sexy pair of high heels before heading out the door.

Finn locked the door and set the alarm before heading to Allegra’s room. He quietly got undressed and slid into bed. Allegra jerked in her sleep. She quickly curled up in his arms as he whispered goodnight. He held her tight as he stared into the darkness over her head. The feelings he had for the woman he held could be overwhelming at times. His desire to keep her safe . . . no, his
need
to protect her . . . came from a primal part of him that was hard to even understand.

How someone wanted to hurt her was beyond him. Allegra was all that was good in the world. She was smart, caring, and sympathetic. She was a natural leader at the same time. She was everything he’d always wished for and never thought he’d have. And somewhere in the pit of his stomach, he wondered if he did have her.

She hadn’t met his mother or seen where he was raised. What would she think of him then? Would the differences be too much for her? He saw the looks they got from some of the older generation. That was in the business world where most people tempered their feelings. What would happen when he brought her into his neighborhood? What would old Mr. Browning say when he brought a strawberry blond girl with a luxury car into the neighborhood? Would Allegra turn and run as she realized some of the challenges of being with him? Yet, Terrell hadn’t cared. He cared more that Allegra didn’t seem to return his feelings. His mother would only care that Allegra loved him. Maybe he did still have a chance. He’d find out sooner or later because at some point in time he was going to have to take Allegra home.

 

* * *

 

Allegra twirled in front of Finn in her new blouse. She’d paired it with a black pencil skirt for her meetings today. The feel of the shirt sliding smoothly against her skin and caressing her body reminded her of Finn’s hands that morning. She should be scared out of her mind with Harry out there, but instead she’d gotten a wonderful night’s sleep safe in Finn’s arms.

“What to do you think? I just love it!”

“Looks wonderful on you. You look beautiful in everything you wear . . . or don't wear.” Finn grinned.

Allegra rolled her eyes. “You’re so bad. We have dinner tonight with my family. Are you in?”

“Of course. Your family is practically my family already.” Finn slammed his mouth shut. “I meant since I’ve known your family so long, not because we’re married. Married, who said married?”

Allegra had stopped twirling and stood staring at him. Was he bringing up marriage as if he’d been thinking about it? She hadn’t thought about marriage. Had he? She hadn’t even thought a relationship was possible, but marriage to Finn filled her heart and made it beat happily in her chest. No, it was too soon. Was there a too soon in her family though? When her sisters had found their husbands, they’d fallen hard and fast.

Allegra stammered, “Well, I have to get to work.”

Finn leaned stiffly down and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Um, yeah, have a great day. I’ll see you at your mom’s house?”

“Yep. See you there.” Allegra hurried out the door and let out a long breath. That was awkward—way awkward. She pulled out her cell phone and called the one person she could talk to about it. “Oh my gosh, Nate, you won’t believe what just happened.”

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