Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheap Halloween Thrills

Restless and unsatisfied with her life, Lacey is looking for answers. But the recurring dream that haunts her sleep delivers only more questions. When the fierce brigand of her nights seeks her out, Lacey’s tormenting dreams become reality and her past becomes her present.

Three steps onto the garden path, a metallic blink caught her eye.

A gold coin?

The surface was smooth, the ancient imprint barely visible, but the weight was solid and genuine. Four steps later, she spotted another, leading her left at a split in the path. By the time she had five coins, she was well into the garden.

“I can accompany you on your way out.”

Pivoting on her toes, Lacey came nose to nose with Mr. Vaughn.

The coins clinked in her palm. Business first, she reminded herself.

Taking leisurely steps back, she replied, “I’m not headed anywhere in particular...just enjoying the night.”

Matching her step for step, he said, “I can think of better ways to accomplish that.”

Lacey was forced to stop when freshly trimmed hedge branches scraped the back of her arms. Calling up the earlier blush, she lowered her voice to a shaky whisper. “Don’t you think we should settle business matters first?” She ran her fingertip along the edge of his black dinner jacket, feigning deep interest. “Then we can see to other matters.”

He shook his head and took her ribcage in his square hands, pulling her toward him. When he spoke there was no threat in his tone, only the confidence that millions buys. “I don’t like to wait.”

A natural smile curved across Lacey’s mouth, and she laughed. “There’s something we can agree on.”

“Excellent. That makes three of us.”

Even before she looked, she knew who’d approached.

“If you’ll excuse us, sir” he said, staring at Mr. Vaughn, “I’ve come to collect something from the lady.”

“Perhaps you could speak with her later?” He didn’t let go of her, but spoke over his shoulder. “As you can see, we’re...involved.”

The man’s gaze dropped to Lacey’s fistful of coins and then came up to connect with hers. “There’s not time to wait,” he said.

When he sensed Mr. Vaughn’s implied refusal, he strode forward and swept him aside. Without pausing, he grabbed Lacey’s arm and dragged her along.

Scrambling to right herself and tug her arm free at the same time, she trotted beside him, stumbling when he ducked around a corner. He stopped short, and she slammed into his chest.

His muscles flexed beneath the suit jacket, causing the sleeves to bunch up as he gripped her arms. Locks of black hair fell into his eyes, but he ignored them. His gaze raked across her face and his breath came in sharp puffs.

For a mad instant Lacey was sure he was going to kiss her, but it was the rush of disappointment when he didn’t that surprised her.

Struggling to get some control over the situation, she raised her fist. “If you wanted the coins, all you had to do was ask.”

She uncurled her fingers, revealing only the soft skin of her palm. “The coins...”

He took her empty hand, turned it over to kiss her knuckles. “Were only there to lead you to me.”

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