How was your week? Mine was great! Not that anything big happened. It was typical routine which I think is why it made me so happy. I like to feel productive and I managed seven thousand new words on Vittorio this week. A nice win!
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Actually, I tell a lie. There was a small drama this week when MrC pulled a muscle in his shoulder. Initially he didn't think it was a big deal, but when the pain became excruciating, he wondered if it was a heart attack. (It wasn't. He's fully recovered now.) But he had me drive him into the hospital and we saw this lovely sunset along the way. Yes, I pulled over to capture it. We were pretty darned sure it was not a heart attack.
Let's get to your #SampleSunday!
If you missed the previous posts, they're here:
Here Roman discovers who Melodie's father is and begins to plot his revenge:
~ * ~
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Heat climbed up her chest into her throat.
She licked her lips and moved along the balcony toward the outer stairs, trying to escape the moment of silly make-believe, but now that it was in her head she couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to live with this savagely beautiful man.
Hard, she thought. But the right woman might be able to soften him.
The stairs descended in a curve to the area beside the pool. She stopped at the top and waved behind herself.
“She’ll have a train. We’ll fan it out here.” She twisted as she indicated the puddle of imaginary silk and lace. Lifting her gaze, looking back over her shoulder at him like this, was a bad idea. She was too far into the dream, unguarded and vulnerable. She had accidentally left herself open to his reading her thoughts. Her entire body became paralyzed in a kind of thrilled panic, as though he’d happened upon her naked, but she wasn’t afraid or ashamed. She was a nymph caught by a god.
He went statue-still.
Her phone looked small in his hand, clicking, but practically forgotten as he looked past it and kept his eyes on her, taking his time as he toured her shoulder blades and waist and bottom and legs. The term ‘brutally handsome’ came into her head and she understood it for the first time in her life. Roman was so gorgeous it was an assault to the senses, squeezing her lungs and pulsing heat under her skin.
He frightened her, but she wanted him to pursue her. It didn’t make sense, but from everything she’d heard about hormones, they were never big on logic. They were the opposite and hers were responding unusually well to him. That was what frightened her. Not him, per se, but her reaction to him.
He abruptly glanced at his watch. “Ingrid has been delayed,” he said, touching the device. “She thinks she sprained her wrist. She’s at the clinic and asks if we can reschedule.”
He could have asked Melodie to stay for lunch, but he didn’t. He had his driver take her back to her hotel. He wanted time to consider how he was reacting to her before pursuing her openly.
Powerfully was the answer to how he was reacting. Taking her photo had been an excuse to study her and he hadn’t seen a single thing he didn’t like. And even though he was far beyond getting hot over photos of women, clothed or not, for some reason he’d been fixated as he had watched her pose. There was definitely a strong sexual attraction between them, but more than that, he’d found her magnetic.
He shook off his perplexity as he pressed his thumb pad to the sensor in his office and tapped the screen, bringing up the security report he’d ignored earlier.
He swore aloud as the contents became clear.
Apparently the experts were right. He was a security genius, if late to the party this once. The myriad details that his gatekeeper and even his own eyes had missed had been refined by his closed circuit camera and proprietary software, filtered against online content, then tagged to warn him of an attack even more insidious than the one he’d suffered all those years ago.
A handful of matches had come up. He glanced through them, stomach knotting. The surname comparison could be dismissed as coincidental. Melodie had given his guard the name Parnell, which had been tagged to Parnell-Gautier. Two and a half decades ago, a model named Patience Parnell had hyphenated to Parnell-Gautier when she married.
He flicked to a dated glamor shot from a defunct fashion magazine. Patience stared at him, young and nubile, her gamin face bearing a striking resemblance to Melodie’s big eyes and wide mouth. And there she was holding a baby girl named Charmaine. Not Melodie, but the date would put the baby into her early twenties today, precisely the age Melodie appeared to be.
Roman had met Patience once, very briefly, he recalled now. But he’d never considered her a direct threat because she’d gone into some kind of medical care several years ago.
His war, Roman had always believed, was with Anton Gautier and Anton’s father, Garner Gautier. Aside from one recent photograph, the daughter hadn’t been linked publically to either man since childhood.
He studied the photograph from a newsfeed dated two months ago. Melodie’s profile from her approach in the taxi today had been set against the profile in the news piece where a backlit woman, wearing a black hat with a netted veil, stood next to her American senator father as he bowed his head over a casket. Behind them stood Anton. The caption mentioned that Patience Parnell-Gautier was survived by her loving husband, stepson and daughter, Charmaine M. Parnell-Gautier.
How vile and just like Gautier to send his second spawn into Roman’s house like this. To use his PA’s mother to infiltrate his home.
He immediately dismissed any thought that Ingrid could be in on the scheme. She’d proven her loyalty again and again over the years. And it had been his idea to host the wedding, not hers. High society circles were small and tight. She had connections he didn’t. He wouldn’t care about being accepted at that level if it weren’t for the fact that it was the one area the Gautiers had an advantage on him. He’d volunteered his home to even the playing field.
What he couldn’t understand was how Melodie had captivated him to the point that he’d ignored the security alert rather than read it and ordered her off his property. He wasn’t so uncivilized he’d have had her thrown out the way he’d been physically expelled from her father’s campaign office twelve years ago. Battered and kicked so badly he could barely walk away. Anton had been the thief, but Garner had had the power to turn it around and call Roman the criminal. He’d had the power to ruin Roman, which he had.
A red haze of fury rose with the recollection. He would not allow the Gautiers to play him again. Rage urged him to hurt them, deeply, for daring to try.
Despite being a man who actively sublimated everything resembling feelings, he found himself able to taste delicious vengeance on the tip of his tongue. He’d been longing to get back at this family for years, biding his time, wanting to first overtake Gautier Enterprises in the arena that would cause them the most discomfort: financial.
For years, their two companies had been neck and neck in a two-horse race, both improving on the same software that he, Roman, originally had written and that Anton had convinced him his father would back. Instead, the men had stolen his product, finished it, then made a mint while Roman had scraped by for another five years, rebuilding everything he’d lost and finally entering the marketplace so far behind them he’d despaired of ever catching up.
Finally, early last year, he had begun to see parity. It wasn’t enough. Not for him. He’d risked everything and had thrown all his resources behind completely re-engineered software. The gamble had paid off. Corporations were dropping the dated, Gautier knock-off and stampeding to Roman’s new, far superior product.
Gautier’s bottom line had to be feeling the pinch by now. It followed that they would send in a scout, thinking to once again steal what they wanted and step back into the top position.
Roman wasn’t just going to win this time. He would send a message to the Gautiers they would never forget. He would crush them into nothing, starting by flattening their emissary without a shred of mercy.
His first instinct was to have Ingrid fire Melodie immediately, but he forced himself to more cool-headed contemplation. The Gautiers had let Roman believe he was on the path to success right up to the moment when they explained his services with the software design were no longer needed and they would be taking possession of his ticket to a better life.
Therefore, he would ensure he had another wedding planner in place, so there was no inconvenience to Ingrid. Melodie would lose her contract and any chance of continuing in that field. Nice of her to drop the detail that it was a new venture, he reflected. He didn’t think for a moment she was serious about making a career of wedding planning, but as with any con artist’s ruse, the Gautiers would have put funds behind making it seem real. He was glad to at least cost them their investment.
A few investigative keystrokes later, he saw that Melodie lived alone. Surprisingly modestly, he noted. So had he, back in the day, but he’d still lost his home and all he owned. He knew that his eye-for-an-eye retribution wouldn’t have the same impact. Melodie would simply run home to Daddy, but it was the right message, so he started the wheels rolling on getting her kicked out.
The final touch would be the simple, crystal-clear message that they’d failed. The sweetest retaliation of all.
~ * ~
Somehow I broke in weird places for the first two posts. If only I could blame an incompetent Virtual Assistant, but it's all me! The rest will be better, I promise.
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