Read Sarasota Bride Online

Authors: Talyn Scott

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic Erotica, #Suspense

Sarasota Bride (2 page)

BOOK: Sarasota Bride
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He moved to grab his best friend, to give Avery the support he so obviously needed right now. Then Dylan noticed the blood trail still pouring from his throat. “A,” he said quietly so Payton wouldn’t hear, but motioned frantically for one of the paramedics attending her, “you…you’ve been shot.”

Chapter Two

“Come here, Elizabeth.” Trey draped his arm over Libby’s shoulders, but she flinched and hugged the car door. He sighed. “You’re shivering.”

“Not your problem,” she shot back, staring through the window. Her childhood home blurred as they drove away, and Libby realized she was crying.

“You’re practically my wife, which makes your problem mine.”

“Now isn’t the time to remind me of that fact.”

“Too bad, consider yourself reminded.” Without placing his arm back over her shoulders, he pressed the length of his body against hers.
She could sense his warmth and smell his scent. And that’s when she realized she’d known his scent since she was sixteen. Obviously, he’d changed colognes over the years, but Trey still smelled like Trey. Damn her for wanting to bury her face against the column of his throat and inhale for a while, forgetting everything…just forgetting he was the epitome of assholes.

“Dylan said Payton was going to be okay.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Then why was she transported to the hospital in a helicopter?” She turned to search his face. “People aren’t transported in one of those things unless their situation is dire!”

Drake met her eyes in the rearview mirror, his knuckles turning white around the steering wheel. “Avery was shot, and our family practically paid for that damned copter. The hospital’s not going to let it sit there when they can transport an Easton, if for nothing more than gratitude. Payton is practically an Easton now, too.”

“You didn’t say Avery was shot!” She curled her fists on her knees, breathing deeply and glaring at Trey. “You didn’t tell me everything!”

“You’re already nagging.” His hand covered hers, his fingers toying nervously with her engagement ring.

“Feel free to back out of the engagement then.” Libby didn’t believe for one minute that he was marrying her. In fact, it had taken her five minutes, after the shock of it all, to realize their engagement was only another way of Trey sticking it to her father. When he got whatever satisfaction he felt was owed him, Trey would dump her and go about his life. She sincerely hoped he would keep his promise, though, and not turn in her father for participating in the insider trading. Even if he did, she couldn’t exactly blame Trey. She loved her father, for his willingness to turn his life around in spite of all his flaws, but a sixteen-year-old Trey never, ever deserved to be beaten within an inch of his life for touching her. And although Gilda Easton had turned his life around like a modern-day fairy godmother, Trey lived with daily pain. Then his eyes…half the time he couldn’t see much. Still, she was torn down the middle. None of this was her fault, but her father’s, and Trey shouldn’t have turned her life inside out so cruelly. Yet she couldn’t help but feel guilty for her father’s sins.

Drake was shaking his head, while veering the SUV left. “I can’t believe our illustrious head of security was responsible. No wonder there was so many security slip-ups.”

Trey leaned back, slightly spreading his legs. “We gathered the whole mess was an inside job. Unfortunately, Michael was always there, running the internal sweeps along with the outside company we hired.”

“Never again,” Drake said. “We’re going external all the way now. I will trust no one.”

“Agreed.”

Libby checked her phone, finding several missed calls from Noah. “You mean that military hottie caused all of this?”

Trey curled his lip. “What do you mean hottie?”

She knew better than to think he was jealous. “Is he the one who attacked Payton at the firehouse?”

It was Drake who answered, “We don’t know.” Though he looked like he wasn’t telling Libby everything.

Trey added, “Even though our fingers are pointing in Michael’s direction, it wouldn’t be prudent to assume he had no other accomplices besides Marla.”

Libby phoned Noah, he was saying hello when she asked Trey, “Marla?”

Trey released another sigh. “She was Avery and Dylan’s ex-mistress, and she was also in on his destruction. Someone’s saying hello on your phone, Elizabeth, a frustrated man.”

Obviously, his other senses were heightened since he couldn’t see well half of the time. “Noah?”

“I’m waiting at the hospital,” he said. “I’ve been trying to call you.”

“I’m sorry. We’re pulling in right now.”

“I’m waiting for word,” his voice cracked. “They haven’t told me anything.”

“I’m told Payton’s fine,” she assured him.

“Oh, thank God,” Noah choked out.

“I’ll see you in a sec,” she whispered, hitting end. Libby caught the tail end of Trey and Drake’s conversation.

Trey said, “We must delay our trip to France.”

“Tell me about it.” Drake griped, pulling up to the hospital, “One of our jets is on the tarmac waiting, what a mess.” A horde already waited with cameras. Even the local news was setting up their van and mobile tower.

“I can’t imagine what’s running through Dylan and Avery’s head, the fucking walk down memory lane they’re taking, but I’ll be damned if I jot around the world and leave them hanging.”

“You might not have a choice.” Drake maneuvered around the crowd, cameras already going off in their direction. “If your delay also causes construction delays in France, that’ll just add to Dylan’s stress.”

“Plane is on the tarmac?” Libby interjected. “You were taking me to France?” She couldn’t believe that he would just expect her to jump on a fucking airplane with him without any notice or explanation whatsoever.

He straightened and gripped his cane. “It was supposed to be a surprise.”

She shook her head. “You just can’t put me on a plane. I have a business to run. You were giving up those parking places for my renters. And my job… Hell, the theater has a new show in production.”

“I’ll donate to the theater in your name, Elizabeth. They won’t fire you.” He put his hand on the door, when Drake stopped at entrance B. “As far as the firehouse goes, the gas lines are still being repaired. Do you really think I’d allow you to risk your life by working there before the structure’s deemed safe for occupancy?”

“Allow me,” She sputtered. “You didn’t just say that.” People were pushing cameras to the glass, snapping pictures.

“Smile,” he demanded as he picked up her hand, not looking at it but grazing his fingertips lightly over her mammoth ring. She plastered on her smile, though it slightly wavered when he said, “We have a deal, or would I be mistaken?”

“That deal doesn’t include dictatorship.”

“It included a lot of things. I won’t allow you to step foot in that firehouse until I have no less than three reports agreeing the gas lines are stable and operational.” Trey didn’t wait for her replay, now addressing Drake. “Isn’t there a back way we can take to avoid this crap?”

Drake snorted. “Yeah, the emergency room and the hospital actually blocked it off after Avery and Payton were brought in. Get out here. You know how to handle them. I’ll catch up with you after I park.”

Trey stepped out of the SUV, adjusting his cane, and reached a hand out for Libby. She reluctantly took it, sliding out of the car into a sea of people and questions. Even cameras from the local news were pointed in her face. Trey had his arm around her, pulling her into his side. Libby wouldn’t object, this time. All she wanted to do was get to her friend, and navigating the vultures was difficult.

When questions popped out about Dylan starting the fire, Trey shook his head. “I suppose it’s far better drama to wish one of us created this disaster than to listen to the truth.”

One shouted right at her ear, making her wince. “The police are staying quiet, do you have anything to add?”

“Never get that close to her again,” Trey seethed, his body going rigid as they reached the sliding glass doors.

The reporter tried again, “Mr. Easton we have…

Hospital security teamed with dark suited men Libby assumed worked for Trey met them at the door. “Right this way, Mr. Easton.”

Trey ushered her in front of him, keeping one hand on her back and the other on his cane. “Speak to no one other than family and friends, Elizabeth. No one.”

Twenty minutes later they were herded into a small boardroom, the hospital administrator personally seeing to their privacy as a multitude of faces gathered at all hospital entrances. When Trey moved deeper into the room, speaking with his cousins, Libby flicked her engagement ring around so Noah couldn’t see and yanked her best friend into her arms for a strangling bear hug.

Dylan cleared his throat next to them, and she pulled back. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” he said with a wane smile. Then his eyes met Noah’s, both looked at one another frostily but neither said what they were really thinking.

“Any news? Can… you tell us what’s wrong with her?” Libby could feel the tension rolling off her best friend’s body and she hurt for Noah anew. She put her hand on his chest, feeling his heart thunder beneath her palm.

“Payton has a small wound to her shoulder.”

“From?” Noah prompted.

“Marla’s knife.”

“The redhead in the picture I sent Payton,” Noah seethed. “Wasn’t it enough you were fucking her, too?”

“You sent Payton a picture?” Dylan raised his voice and all stopped talking. “What fucking picture?”

Libby looked at the others, making a faint gesture with her hand so they would ignore them. “Noah,” she pleaded, “whatever this is…now’s not the time.”

“I want to see it,” Dylan said. “Marla was in on this mess, helping Michael. She tried to kill Avery, Payton and me.”

Noah’s eyes flicked to Dylan’s when he showed him the text he’d sent to Payton.

“That was the night Payton was attacked at the firehouse,” Dylan surmised.

“So you were fucking her?”

“I was arguing with Marla in that moment, but I can see how you or anyone else would misconstrue the image.” He held Noah’s gaze. “Shadows cast whatever anyone wants to see. So you, in particular, would never understand how much I love Payton when looking at that picture, would you?”

Libby shook her head. “This isn’t getting us anywhere. So if she only has a small knife wound, we should be able to see her, right?”

Dylan briefly closed his eyes. “Her arm was dead weight, hanging precariously to her side. The paramedics didn’t suspect it was broken but the shoulder partially separated.”

Libby cupped her mouth. “That sounds terribly painful.”

“We think it happened during the first explosion.”

“F-first explosion…oh, God,” Libby whispered. “There were actual explosions?”

He nodded. “I jumped atop her body.” Dylan stopped a second, thinking. “Or maybe it was Avery at first. I can’t recall. Anyway, we hauled her off the ground and took a headlong dive into the pool.” He swallowed roughly, his hands scrubbing his face. “Trey’s personal surgeon has been with her since she arrived, and he’s ordered full body scans to commence after he’s finished with her arm. He says Payton needs no surgery. That she’ll be sore and slightly limited for a while.”

“And Avery?”

“I just left his side a few minutes ago. The doctor’s removing shrapnel from his arm, stitching him up,” Dylan explained. “His throat was grazed by Michael’s bullet. He feels fine considering, but it was too close…much too close. I almost lost my family today.” His aquamarine eyes took on a haunted look. “Again.”


Libby dropped her hand from Noah’s and lifted it to Dylan’s forearm. “You’ll take them home soon.” At this point, she had no idea if Payton would go with Dylan and Avery, but she needed to be the bearer of hope to someone who obviously needed it. A thousand deaths were flashing across his eyes. She couldn’t imagine them facing yet another fire and nearly losing yet another woman they claimed to love.

“Trey Easton?” A man in scrubs was at the door, glancing around the small group.

He reached out his hand for Trey to shake. “I’m doctor Ramah’s assistant, Jared Reese.”

Dylan put a hand on Jared’s shoulder. “Is it Payton? Is she okay?”

“This is highly, uh,” he stopped and glanced pointedly at the open door leading to the hospital corridor. Noah shut it, leaning against it and raising and expectant eyebrow.

“Well, spit it out, man.”

“Shoulder was slightly separated,” he spoke quickly, “and she’s fine. We honestly can’t even find a head injury, which is miraculous when compared to everything I was told she went through.”

Dylan looked to the ceiling, blinking his eyes rapidly before returning them to the assistant. “When can I take her home?”

“I’ll let Dr. Ramah discuss that with you. I’ve ordered intravenous IVs to be administered for that small knife wound.” He started walking to the door. “And no one saw me come in here and say anything on or off the record.”

“And off the record,” Trey said low, “I can guarantee the expansion to the rehabilitation wing Dr. Ramah is proposing to our hospital board.”

Jared blew out a breath and clasped Trey’s hand, shaking it. “You always come through.” He nodded to the door. “Do you have a moment?”

Noah opened the door for them as Trey and Jared stepped into the corridor. “You want some coffee, Lib?”

BOOK: Sarasota Bride
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