Read Wayward Dreams Online

Authors: Gail McFarland

Wayward Dreams

BOOK: Wayward Dreams
4.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Wayward Dreams

Gail McFarland

Genesis Press, Inc.

Indigo Love Spectrum

An imprint of Genesis Press, Inc.

Publishing Company

Genesis Press, Inc.

P.O. Box 101

Columbus, MS 39703

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, not known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission of the publisher, Genesis Press, Inc. For information write Genesis Press, Inc., P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.

Copyright© 2010 Gail McFarland

ISBN-13: 978-1-58571-622-7

ISBN-10: 1-58571-622-7

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition

Visit us at www.genesis-press.com or call at 1-888-Indigo-1-4-0

Dedication

To my mother, who is no longer with me.

To my father, who is always with me.

For the friends and neighbors I will always love,

And especially for the friends who think that I am a star,

Thank you for your love and constant faith.

Acknowledgments

Every writer should be as blessed as I am to have such talented and creative friends as my loyal flock of Reading Angels. They keep me, the characters, and the stories honest, so I offer my thanks to Susan Lawson, Nancy Martin, and Kim Sims, among so many others.

This is also where I have to admit that I speak no Japanese and have to give BIG credit and thanks to Bernadette Lorenzo and her international experiences. Thanks, Bernie, for helping me to give flavor and romance to Bianca and Harry's story.

And then there are all of you who have patiently put up with my chasing you down to tell “the rest of the story.” You know who you are, and I will always love you because you allow my insanity and obsession to entertain you.

 

“A woman has got to love the wrong man

once or twice in her life in order to recognize

the right one and be thankful.”

—Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

 

“There is a place where you can touch a woman

and drive her crazy…her heart.”

—Melanie Griffiths

CHAPTER 1

Today is the worst day of my life.

Bianca Coltrane stood ankle-deep in tossed and torn denim, muddied and ruined silk, and shredded lace and leather. Police officers watched her with suspicious eyes, while her staff stared at the mess around them. She stabbed numbers into her cellphone for what felt like the tenth time, refusing to cry when the call went straight to voicemail.

It's not supposed to be like this! I had to beg, borrow, and damned near steal to get this far, and people just came and kicked in my doors and snatched whatever they wanted.

According to the police, the thieves had done more than just kick in the doors and snatch things. Cases of merchandise that she was still in debt for had been ripped open and strewn about. Her computer, the case broken, the hard drive smashed, lay under three inches of steadily leaking water. The intruders had cut the phone lines and disabled the security system before pulling the security gates from their moorings.
Then
they kicked in the rear doors. Not that the details mattered; the damage was done, and Bianca's throat was scratchy with unshed tears.

Damned snatch-and-grab thieves took the best of my merchandise and then made sure the rest was unsellable. Vive la Reine means “Long Live the Queen,” and it's supposed to be a dream, not a nightmare.

It's not supposed to be like this!

She couldn't stop the thought, even as she turned her back on Jenni, the Spelman College coed who had opened the boutique this morning. Sobbing dramatically, with one hand flung across her damply flushed face and the other clutching the sleeve of a handsome Atlanta police officer, Jenni appeared to be taking the loss personally.

Ignoring the young woman, who had once confessed that her goal in attending Spelman was to find the right husband, Bianca pushed her booted foot through a pile of True Religion jeans that would never be the same. Estimating the cost, more than she wanted to imagine, she wondered if maybe Jenni's idea wasn't smarter than it sounded.

Bianca squeezed her eyes shut and punched redial, and the call went straight to voicemail—again.
Why can't he be here for me? Just this once?

Almost from the beginning, Bianca had known Kelvin Michael Payne was never going to be Mr. Right. He was never going to be anything more or better than Mr. Right Now. She'd known who and what he was for six months. Eating a bigger slice of reality than she had a taste for right then, she let her thoughts drift back to the previous November and the fashion show fundraiser sponsored by MYT Ltd. and Project ABLE.

Just had to get myself in there…
Knowing the high-powered sports figures represented by Marissa Yarborough Traylor through MYT Ltd., and the moneyed supporters of Project ABLE, she had gone to the event trolling for sponsors for her new line of street wear.

Watching the show with envy and hope warring in her heart, Bianca had scattered her business cards liberally among the glittering attendees. Pleased when her name was occasionally recognized, she'd worked the moneyed crowd like a day job and only halted her single-minded self-promotion when she spotted AJ Yarborough's broad shoulders. Handsome in his tux, he held his wife's hand and looked blissful when she'd smiled up at him.

That night Marlea Kellogg had looked like a woman in love as she accepted congratulations for her work with Project ABLE. Her dress, a long, silvered column of midnight blue, flowed seductively over the curves of her breasts and hips, slicing high to flash a delicious, well-toned length of leg. When she turned, the gown's hem shifted and Bianca couldn't help looking at her feet.

Stilettos
, she had noted with a barb of shame. Not sandals, the keen-toed black evening shoes were beautifully made and appropriate to the gown Marlea wore.
After her accident, who would have thought that she would ever be able to wear a shoe like that?
Then Bianca remembered that after losing her toes, the woman had run world-record-setting races.

From the moment AJ met her, he was lost to me forever.

Smiling and looking red-carpet ready, AJ and Marlea shook hands with the mayor and posed for pictures. Bianca had lifted a glass of champagne from a passing tray and brought it to her lips. Watching the couple over the rim of the glass, she'd swallowed a cool draught of envy and remorse. Dateless, Bianca Coltrane had never felt so alone in her entire life. When they walked toward her, looking so much like lovers, she'd had a moment of panic.

Not wanting to face them, she'd slipped around a corner only to come face to face with his sister, Rissa, standing next to her husband, Dench Traylor. Faithful as a sheepdog, Dench was in no way a man Bianca wanted to have to confront—even in friendly circumstances.
And yet, there I was.

Bianca had swallowed the last of her champagne and exchanged the empty glass for another as a waiter passed. She took a gulp from the new glass and smiled when Rissa's eyes stayed on her, the corners of her mouth tight.
Take control,
she'd told herself.

“Surprised to see you here,” Dench said, sliding a protective arm around his wife's waist.

“And I'm surprised to be here,” Bianca had returned, instantly thinking,
Okay, that was dumb; calm down, say something nice, and leave.
“I mean, I'm surprised that you chose a fashion show as a fundraiser, but it turned out beautifully.” She had taken Rissa's fingers and squeezed lightly. “I know you'll raise a lot of money. Congratulations.”

Thinking back, Bianca congratulated herself on her escape.

It felt a little surreal now, standing in the middle of her ruined business, remembering how she had slipped from the main room into a smaller one. Eyes wandering, she had caught the eyes of a man across the room. His eyes, almond-shaped and dreamy, had lasered in on hers, leaving her shaken. Tall and solidly built, there was something welcoming about the tilt of his lips and the warmth of his heavy-lidded eyes. Exotic in a way she couldn't readily define, she had been intrigued by the threat of his slow smile.

When a second man walked up with an attractive woman on his arm, the man broke eye contact but Bianca found she couldn't stop staring. Feeling as though she had been dropped head first into some kind of fairytale, she wondered why her feet wouldn't move. Aware that her parted lips were dry, she'd watched AJ and Dench join the trio. Apparently, AJ knew the gorgeous man. Her eyes measured the men as they stood side by side, wondering if he had ever played football. Surely, she would have remembered him if he had, and yet…

His eyes rose, returning to hers, and he'd raised a dark brow in question. Suddenly embarrassed, Bianca had turned away and stumbled drink-first into the Armani suit of a man who steadied her, kept her from falling over her own feet. She would never know whether to call that first encounter karma or kismet; either way, it brought KPayne into her life.

But that night…was it really only six months ago? That night, Kelvin Michael Payne had been the right man, at the right time. Slick and self-assured, he'd taken her hand, slipped it under his arm, and led her to one of the round tables set up in the marble and glass atrium. Then he'd talked, whispered mostly, staring deep into her eyes and closing her hands in his. His every word had been a promise, a promise that she was the woman of his dreams and that her every dream was his pleasure. He promised her everything except himself.

At first he was more than willing to indulge all her costly fantasies. It was his money—or at least the loan of it—that had helped Bianca to make Vive la Reine a reality, but the money didn't come without strings. He'd made her sign a loan agreement, offering an amount she could not get anywhere else, and she'd only half-read the documents, thinking that she had a future with him. And now he was ignoring the damned phone.

Thinking back to their first date, Bianca remembered soft strings playing in the background when he'd offered her that first flute of champagne. She remembered the reflection of starry light in his green eyes and the music in his voice when he'd smiled at her across the table and asked her how they should spend their life together.

She had believed every word that crossed his lips. Maybe because he promised what she wanted to hear. But she hadn't made it easy for him.

She'd made him spend time and money to woo her and convince her of his sincerity. She'd made him spend time at the High Museum and the Alliance Theater, and he even had to sit in the congregation a Sunday or two at Ebenezer Baptist. She'd let him take her to dinner at Justin's and Nikolai's Roof, and held his hand on carriage rides along Peachtree Street. Maybe she should have stopped there, because that was when his skilled seduction hit her full force. With the romantic sound of violins and the exotic scent of enticing food and expensive candles in the air, he'd made a proposal over a $1,400 bottle of Bordeaux—
Château d'Yquem
.

His voice had been soft and his emerald eyes admiring as they caressed her bare shoulders. His whispered invitation had touched the romance threaded through her heart and lured her into going home with him. Her things were moved into the Peachtree Street condo by Monday afternoon, and life felt good.

That was six months ago, and the novelty had worn off.

Now, here they were in the middle of April, and he was treating her like an accessory, dragging her to rap shows and clubs.

“Ms. Coltrane? I'm going to need you for a moment,” the policewoman said.

“Why? I've answered all of your questions, haven't I? I let you fingerprint me and all of the staff, didn't I? You've stepped all over everything that was left and left that nasty black powder on everything else. You can't tell me who did this, or help me get my stock and cash back, can you?” Hurt, Bianca clutched her cellphone, gritted her teeth, and noted the officer's name tag—G. Ruiz. “What else can you possibly need me for?”

“We have a few more questions.” Neat in her APD uniform, her shining black hair twisted into a knot at the nape of her neck, Ruiz was all business until she smiled. Curving lips and bright white teeth warmed her dusky complexion, inviting confidence. “Let's sit, shall we?”

Not fooled by Officer Ruiz's just-us-girls approach, Bianca followed her across the room and sat in the chair she was offered. Ruiz took the chair facing her. Legs crossed and her thumb tracing her cellphone, Bianca swallowed hard. “You think I did this, don't you? I can't believe that with all the recent robberies at Buckhead-area boutiques like mine, you're treating me like a suspect.”

“Believe it.” A stocky blue-suited man with a wrestler's build, drill sergeant's graying buzz-cut hair, and hard cop's eyes dropped into the third chair. “Keyes,” he said, handing her a business card.

Bianca accepted the card. Looking into the flinty hardness of the detective's eyes, she was tempted to let a few tears fall, just to soften him up a bit. AJ had once told her that she was one of the few women he knew of who could cry prettily. AJ was also the man who said that she'd picked his pocket, drop-kicked his heart, and left him trying to pick his face up off the floor. Bianca's thick lashes fluttered low.

“None of this looks random,” Keyes muttered, looking away.

A bright tear shimmered at the corner of her eye. “Why would I do this to myself, Detective Keyes?”

Ordinarily, Keyes was a man easily swayed by a pretty face, especially if the long-legged lady behind the face had a body like this one, but he grunted and sat up straighter. This pretty face was getting no benefit of the doubt. She was too pretty—the kind of pretty that rarely, if ever, had to work for anything. “For the insurance money.”

“Excuse me?” The tear fell. Bianca blinked hard and fast. “That's crazy. I put more into this place, had to borrow more, than these people stole. They kicked in the walls, for Christ's sake! I'm responsible for that? Do I look like I can kick in walls? The insurance doesn't even cover my losses, let alone the property damage. And what would I do with that much clothing? Why would anyone think I did this?”

“People have done more for less.” Keyes looked at her, refusing to belabor the obvious.

Ruiz slid to the edge of her chair, propped her elbows on her thighs, and let her voice go soft. “Ms. Coltrane, the evidence we found here in your boutique is real. The evidence simply is what it is and it's our job to follow up on it, to collect and document, you can understand that. We found broken glass on the outside of the boutique; it was broken from inside. The door was opened with a key, though there are no clear fingerprints, not even partials. The security company verifies that the alarm was disarmed with your personal code, and the broken security gates were found unlocked.”

Shaking her head, Bianca's hands stilled. “That can't be right.”

The corner of Keyes' mouth ticked. “Your salesgirl, uh, associate, says that the recovered register receipts show that you had way too much money on hand, and now it's gone. She says there should have been less cash on hand for thieves to walk off with. She said that you should have made a trip to the bank to drop the cash off, but you didn't. Why not?”

“It was late when we finished last night. We had a group looking for clothes for a photo shoot. It was after eight when they finished, and we were rushing. I never thought…” Looking from Ruiz to Keyes and back, Bianca thought about tears and heaved a sigh instead.

Keyes's voice was low and a little dangerous, even as he tried not to notice the lift of Bianca's generously sculpted bosom. “Your safe was obviously opened with the combination. On top of that, only high-end stuff, the most costly items in your inventory, were taken.”

“Two-hundred-dollar jeans are pretty high-end, and they were trashed and left behind,” Bianca snapped, then wished she hadn't.

“But it was the ones that you had tagged at over five hundred a pair that walked out the door,” Keyes said, standing.

BOOK: Wayward Dreams
4.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Traveling Soul by Todd Mayfield
Captive Bride by Hampton, Sandi
Damaged and the Saint by Bijou Hunter
Lonesome Beds and Bumpy Roads (Beds #3) by Cassie Mae, Becca Ann, Tessa Marie
The St. Paul Conspiracy by Roger Stelljes
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
A Conspiracy of Violence by Susanna Gregory