Authors: Kathleen Brooks
Finn closed the front door when he heard Allegra call Nate. He had gone out to apologize for the uncomfortable exchange they had just had but had frozen when he heard her call Nate. Finn had slunk back inside and quietly closed the door. The worries from last night bombarded him and this one now just added to it. Was she making fun of him to Nate?
Finn felt his heart harden. He knew this was a mistake. He was just too out of her league, and he had to get out while he still had his pride intact. He would wait until the last minute and cancel tonight, claiming he needed to work late. And it would be better to sleep at his place so Mallory didn’t accidently shoot him. He felt so betrayed he was sick to his stomach. The empty feeling only worsened as he gathered his things from Allegra’s home and left.
He watched her smile and talk animatedly into her phone. She was wearing his present. She was becoming his. He followed close behind her as she made her way to her car in the garage behind her house. He could smell her perfume and inhaled deeply, savoring every scent.
“I can’t believe it. I’m so happy. These gifts he’s been getting me are so nice and then after this morning, I think he may have marriage on his mind,” Allegra said into her phone. She was probably talking to one of her sisters. Power surged through him. He was doing this to her.
“I don’t know if he’s going to ask. What would I say? I mean, it’s only been a short time, but I love him so much. I’ve known for six months I wanted to be with him. I want to say yes. Heck, I want to yell yes over and over and leap into his arms and never leave them.” Allegra laughed as she opened her car door and slid in.
She shut the door, and he could no longer hear her, but he’d heard enough. She was in love with him. He’d known she was going to be his from the first time he saw her, and now he was slowly making her his own. She was wearing the clothes
told her to and the lingerie
picked out for her. His plan was working. The overwhelming urge to be near her filled him. Soon . . .
Nate stretched out his long legs in Allegra’s office and grinned at her. She’d given up working an hour ago when Nate came into town. She’d been gushing about Finn ever since.
“No wonder I couldn’t get a hold of you,” Elle said as she walked into the office. “Hi, Nate. It’s good to see you again.”
Nate rose and gave Elle a hug. “It’s good to see you, too.”
“When did you get into town?”
“Just an hour ago.”
“Do you have any plans tonight? We’re having dinner at Mom’s house. I know she’d like to see you.” Elle sat down and kicked off her heels before crossing her legs.
“Is your mom making one of her pies? If so, I’m in,” Nate said seriously. Everyone took Margaret’s pies seriously because they were so good you thought you’d died and gone to heaven.
“I’ll make sure of it when I call to tell her you’re coming. So, what’s going on? I assume you’ve told Nate.” When Nate nodded, Elle continued. “Has Mallory gotten any leads?”
“She’s out trying to work one now. They found the prostitute, but she wasn’t any help. It seems there have been a couple of hits on Harry’s debit card. He’s pulling out large sums of cash. Mallory is looking at the security from the ATMs, but so far there’s no luck. Somehow he knows which ATM’s cameras are blocked. A teenager stuck his gum on one, and an hour later that’s the one he withdraws money from. After he gets his money, it’s like Harry seems to disappear off the face of the Earth.” Bree sighed as she ended her summary of the investigation.
“Mom’s a wreck, as I’m sure you are. She wants to lock you up somewhere until Harry is caught,” Elle said.
“Probably in my old room where she can feed me soup, as if it would cure the problem.” Allegra loved her mother, but as the baby of the family it had taken her a long time to get out from under everyone’s thumb and grow to be her own person.
“Is Finn coming?” Shirley asked as she wheeled into the office. “Hey, good-lookin’. You need a love interest in your next movie?”
Nate laughed when Shirley winked and got up to give her a hug. “It’s good to see you, Shirley. I have a feeling you’d turn Hollywood on its ear.”
“Ears are not the body part I was thinking of. Anyway, you joining us for dinner tonight?” Shirley asked as Allegra got a good look at the
Ask me about my cure for stress
banner on her walker.
Allegra saw Nate look at it, too. She and Elle shook their heads at him when he was about to ask Shirley about it. “I sure am. Want be my date?” he asked instead.
“You betcha. How do you like your eggs? I want to be prepared for the morning,” Shirley winked and Nate burst out laughing.
“No wonder you have to date men half your age, Shir. Otherwise you’d give them a heart attack.”
* * *
Finn sat in his office and stared at his phone. He was due at Margaret’s house in ten minutes. Finally he pulled up Allegra’s phone number and sent a text, letting her know he was delayed at the office. He was too confused to see her now. He felt like he was in the middle of a tug-of-war game with his own heart.
When Allegra had explained about Harry, he understood. But how could he understand this? He knew he would have to confront her. He just didn’t want to tonight. At the sound of a light knock on his door, he looked up.
“Miss Eddie, what can I do for you tonight?”
“I think you know perfectly well what you can do for me tonight,” Raven purred as she dropped the trench coat she was wearing.
Allegra looked down at the text from Finn and frowned. He told her he was wrapped up at work and would see her tomorrow. She missed him so much already and maybe it was silly, but she wanted him with her family. Suddenly the fun festive dinner was no longer that. She felt alone at the table as her family and friends teased each other.
First Mallory ditched her and sent some rent-a-goon in a very expensive suit. Not that Shirley minded. Shirley was currently trying to tell him how sex relieves stress and is good cardio. But when Finn ditched her, she wondered if she’d done something wrong.
Damn Harry. He was ruining friendships and relationships. It took her months just to trust Finn enough to tell him what was going on, and now she had the feeling that she got the brush-off tonight. She would have to talk to him tomorrow. Maybe Harry threatened him. Finn loved her; she knew he did. Threatening her was the only reason that Finn would back away from her. This relationship meant too much for her to sit back and do nothing as it fell apart.
“Here, honey, have a piece of pie. It’ll put a smile on that beautiful face,” her mother said as a slice of pumpkin pie was placed in front of her.
“Thank you, Mom,” Allegra smiled. She felt better. She wasn’t going to sit back and watch life happen to her. No, she was going to take a page out of her sisters’ book and go after what she wanted.
“You know what else will put a smile on your face . . .?”
“Shirley!” the women all groaned as Nate and Reid laughed. The bodyguard could only cringe.
* * *
He slid the key to his house into the lock and turned the knob. The alarm beeped and he smiled to himself as he entered Allegra’s birthday. The alarm continued to beep, and his smile slid from his face. He entered his soon-to-be mother-in-law’s birthday, but the alarm continued to beep. He pushed back his anger and concentrated. He knew everything about her, and he knew he’d get the right passcode. He thought about Allegra and what she held the most dear. Then he smiled and entered the day she first started Simpson Fashion. The alarm turned off, and he straightened up.
He ran his gloved hand along the granite island in the kitchen and opened the cabinets. It felt like home. His wife had found them the perfect place to live. He opened the refrigerator and took the last beer. He twisted off the cap and took a long drink as he walked into the living room. He took a seat on the couch and picked up the remote. Turning on the television, he was able to catch the last few minutes of the basketball game as he finished his beer.
The game ended, and he grabbed the bottle by its neck and stood back up. He meandered around the living room. There, over the gas fireplace . . . that's where he would put their wedding picture. He’d have it done in oils and it would be the centerpiece of the room. He thumbed through her DVDs and smiled when he saw his in there. He’d been bringing more and more of his things over during the last couple of months. He was glad they hadn’t been damaged in the move.
He pulled out one of his movies and put it on the television. Tonight, when Allegra turned it on, she would think of him. He walked through the formal dining room where he pictured Thanksgiving dinners and then into the master bedroom at the back of the house.
He set the beer down on the side table and lay down on his bed. Breathing deep, he smelled Allegra on her pillow. The slight mixing of her soft perfume with her own essence was enough to make him close his eyes, dreaming of them together in their bed.
Finally he dragged himself from the bed and wandered into her closet. He touched her clothes and picked out his favorites. She needed more white clothes. She looked so beautiful, so innocent, in that color. He pulled out a drawer and found her nightgowns. Most of the time she wore T-shirts or flannel PJs, and they were cute. But if he was going to be coming home after a long day of work, he wanted her to look her best. Now he knew what her next gift would be.
He opened another drawer and found her panties. He saw the white ones he had gotten her and smiled. Glancing around, he saw the white blouse as well. Yes, he was slowing making her his.
Walking out of her closet, he headed into her bathroom. He opened the medicine cabinet and looked around. Anti-inflammatory, gel shoe insoles, birth control . . . He grabbed the contraceptive pills and made sure she was taking them. Sure, he wanted her to be pregnant with his child, but not until he’d had his fill of her. Then she could quit her stupid little hobby to stay at home raising their children and hosting parties for him. He knew the first time he saw her that was her destiny. Looking around the house only confirmed what he already knew—Allegra Simpson belonged to him.
* * *
Finn hit the bag over and over again. Sweat trickled down his face, his arms, and his bare chest. He didn’t bother to wipe it away. He just continued to vent his frustrations on the bag. Hit after hit allowed his mind to go blank.
Finally his arms shook with exhaustion, and he stopped. Breathing deeply, he took off the boxing gloves and tossed them on the bench. He picked up a towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes. When he looked up, Tigo was standing there with his arms crossed and a glare on his face. “What?” Finn asked.
Tigo just raised one eyebrow. The man was in his late fifties and was as close to a father figure as Finn had. His dark black hair was parted on the side and had a streak of gray in it. “You have to ask?” he said in his slightly Hispanic-accented voice.
Finn shook his head and wiped the towel over his face again. “You don’t know what’s going on.”
“I don’t? You bring a young lady and her family here. They’re nice,” Tigo continued. “You’d have no idea they were rich. They seem to care about everyone here, from the janitors to me. You personally train with Miss Allegra, and I see the way you look at her—eyes full of love. Then you stop coming together. Yet she comes to see me and has Tigo train her. She asks me to teach her to defend herself . . .”
“It’s not that. I would never hurt her,” Finn defended.
Tigo placed his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes at him. “I think you've already hurt her. Not physically. No, you would never do that. But let Tigo finish. She wants to know how to protect herself from a man trying to sneak up on her. She wants to learn how to be aware of her surroundings and how not to freeze up if she’s scared. She wants to find her own voice, her own power. What does that tell you?”
“She’s being stalked. It’s an ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I know all about him.”
“Ah, so she trusts you enough to tell you when she wouldn’t even tell Tigo. Then ask yourself this, would a woman scared out of her mind not want the man she trusts with her?”
“I thought she did, but every time I turn around she’s running to another guy. A movie star,” Finn said with an eye roll. “Let’s just face it. I’m some kid from the hood, and she’s so above me. I was naïve to think it would work.”
“How long have I trained you?”
“Since I was a stupid kid,” Finn said with a soft smile.
“Bah! You’re still a stupid kid. You know how to fight. You have confidence and cunning, yet you’re telling me a peacock can win your woman?”
“Do you know Shirley?”
“No, who is this Shirley? Why would I know her?” Tigo asked with a wave of his hand.
“I’m pretty sure you’re her long-lost son.” Finn laughed. Tigo looked confused and Finn laughed even harder. “It’s a compliment. She’s very wise.”
“Ah, then I look forward to meeting her. Now, get your head out of your
and do what a real man would do to win back the woman he loves.”
“Fight for her?”
“Ha, no . . . beg.” Tigo laughed as he turned around and headed for his small office.
Finn laughed as Tigo’s shoulders shook. Finn had never been a quitter, yet fear was holding him back with Allegra. He was going to confront her and Nate to find out what was going on. It couldn’t be worse than not knowing the whole story. And if Nate was looking for a fight, then Finn was going to give it to him. He loved Allegra heart and soul. One way or another, tomorrow she was going to know it.