A serial killer, a stock broker, and a police chief’s daughter clash in this mysterious tale of greed and love. Michael is forced to choose between his most precious asset and the love of his life, when a serial killer tries to take what matters most to him.
Police chief Mark Tame and his team hunt for clues with Michael’s help, when they realize that the killer is linked to Michael. Jessica has the love and protection of both men, but will that be enough to keep her safe?
“WHAT DO YOU WANT WITH ME!” she shouted. As she bent forward, her fists clenched.
“Just relax,” he said, removing the backward ski mask from her face with a thrust. Her hair stuck to the mask with mid-winter static cling.
“What am I supposed to do? Sit here and piss myself?” she spat.
“If you need to relieve yourself, just ask.”
“SCREW YOU!” she yelled as he tossed the handcuff keys on the dresser. She was handcuffed to a brass bed, layered with a king-sized mattress and box spring. Anybody under six feet tall would need a ladder to climb on.
He stood at the dresser and wrote something down on a piece of paper. Then he took the wooden chair beside the bed and sat about three feet from her.
“Tell me what you know about Saigon.”
He stared at the paper with the pen in his hand and looked at her after a few seconds.
She looked at him and furrowed her brows.
“Saigon? What’s there to know? It’s a stupid stock, that’s all. Is that why I’m here?”
He inhaled deeply and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger, squeezing slightly and pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Don’t play the fool with me.” he said, dropping his hand.
His cheeks reddened. There was a bead of sweat on his forehead, just below his almost non-existent hairline. Dark brown hair lay interspersed on his crown, slicked back. His slim body sat relaxed in the chair, but his face registered anxiety.
“I’m not playing anything! Why don’t you ask Michael? He’s supposed to be your friend, isn’t he? Although after this I’m sure that’ll change!” she said, turning to face him.
“You’ve got some nerve! Michael trusted you!” she yelled, tears forming in her eyes.
“Don’t worry; he’s got nerve too.” he said, rising from the chair.
“You’re such an asshole!” she screamed, kicking the side of the bed.
He pursed his lips. “I’m so sorry about all this.”
She looked at him through tears, her eyes dark with anger. “Yeah. Well, you’ll be sorry. Have you met my father?”
He looked at the floor and walked to the dresser. There was a brass bell on top of a white doily. He picked it up and placed it on the bed within her reach.
“If you need anything, just ring it. I’ll be outside.” he said, nodding towards the door.
He closed the door behind him. She kicked the side of the bed harder, “You SON OF A BITCH!”
She felt his leg crossed over her body as she woke. A deep breath came from one of them, causing them both to stir. Michael’s hand was on her upper arm and it moved to her cheek.
“Morning sunshine,” he said, “Sleep well?”
He reached up and kissed her on the other cheek and she caught his lips with hers.
“Mmmm…” He groaned, “Very nice.” Michael glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand. “You can have the shower first.” he said, “I have time.”
“But the alarm hasn’t even gone off yet,” Jessica said, rubbing his chest.
Michael leaned up far enough to turn the switch off on the clock, and far enough for him to kiss her on the neck. She gently caressed his buttocks as he looked down at her with widened eyes.
“My you’re naughty first thing in the morning.”
She giggled. “You started it.”
Michael hungrily kissed her, and she ran her hands through his matted hair, grabbing a handful. He encircled the sensitive skin on her chest with his warm mouth.
“Oh Michael…” She breathed out and arched her back.
His breathing quickened as he filled her. “It won’t take long.”
She ignored the comment and wrapped her legs around him. The bed began to squeak at an even pace until she cried out. Michael sped up until he cried out and collapsed onto her.
Michael lay on her for a moment, then licked his lips and swallowed hard. “Sure beats coffee.”
Jessica took a cleansing breath and rubbed his back. “I think that’s record time.”
Curious, Michael looked up at the clock. He frowned. “Yup.”
‘What time do you have to go in today?”
“Around nine; but I’m working late tonight.”
“Again?” she said, heading for the shower.
“Yes, again. Haven’t you had enough of me already?”
Jessica guffawed. “Very funny. Remember you’re going away this weekend?”
Michael got up to brush his teeth.
“That’s not definite yet. It depends if Jack gets the account. We won’t know until tomorrow.”
Michael’s friend Jack was an executive at his former employer and they planned to celebrate if he won this major account deal with one of the top selling cell phone companies in North America.
“You’ll go anyway—you guys always do,” Jessica said matter-of-factly.
“Maybe. What are you going to do this weekend?” he asked with his mouth full of toothpaste.
“Not sure yet.” She paused to rinse her face, “I might go visit my parents at the cottage.”
“Oh yeah? We haven’t been up there forever.”
Jessica laughed. “Don’t tell me you’d rather go there?”
“We can go up next weekend,” Michael said, spitting out the toothpaste. “You want coffee?”
Jessica exited the shower and left the towels on the floor. Michael’s sink was disgusting. Then she remembered it was Thursday and the housekeeper would be in. Michael walked past the bathroom into the bedroom.
“Don’t bother making the bed; Marsha’s in today,” she said.
“Okay. Hey, when’s the new guy start?”
“Tomorrow; rumor has it he’s a bigger ass than Ned.”
Ned, Jessica’s current boss, was a pompous, self-centered egomaniac. He thought he was the best thing to happen to the film production company she worked for. They were gaining higher ground in animated movies and Ned had been slipping for the past year since his last promotion. He was too old-school for his position, and his mature thinking had dragged the company down. When he met with other executives the previous month regarding their latest project, Ned was the only one who wasn’t on board with everyone else’s cutting-edge ideas. There was a major office meltdown, and Ned got the boot.
“Come on. Nobody could be more of an asshole than Ned,” Michael argued.
“As long as he doesn’t scratch his ear with his key and act like I didn’t see it, all will be good.” Jessica said, walking into the closet with her hair wrapped in a towel.
“Eeesh,” Michael said, sticking his tongue out in disgust. “Is he younger? Older?”
“Oh god! If he’s any older he’ll be a corpse!” Jessica laughed.
Michael playfully slapped Jessica on the bottom as he walked by into the shower. “So are you taking old Ned out for lunch on his last day?”
“No, but I think the bigwigs are. It should be nice and quiet today.”
Jessica finished putting on her skirt and top and followed Michael into the bathroom.
“So where are you guys going this weekend anyway?”
“I don’t know. Maybe to Alex’s boat—not to Vegas again, I know that.”
“Oh really?” Jessica laughed.
“Yeah, oh geez. Jack nearly lost his shirt the last time.”
“Got a bit carried away, did he?”
“A bit? No, Jack’s bi-polar. He wins these accounts and wants to celebrate until he hits rock bottom and then he stops.”
“I can see why you were excited about the thought of going to the cottage instead.”
Jessica couldn’t help but remember the last time she and Michael went to the cottage. Her parents had gone away to visit her aunt in Florida for the weekend. It was summer, so that’s all the heat they could handle. Jessica asked if they could use the cottage; it was rare for her to ask.
* * * *
As they drove up, Michael grasped Jessica’s hand and placed it in his lap, leaving him only one hand to steer.
“Did you bring enough food, or do you want to stop? We’re almost there,” Michael said, pointing at the sign leading into town.
“No, the cooler’s full. We can make a stop tomorrow if we run out.”
As they turned into the driveway, Jessica peered at the lake just behind the cottage. The water was lapping up gently onto the beach; their own private little beach. She noticed her mom left the muskoka chairs firmly planted in the sand right by the shore.
“Gosh, it’s so beautiful, isn’t it?” Jessica said, inhaling the fresh sea air.
“Your parents were really nice to let us use it while they’re gone.”
Michael exited the car. Jessica followed as they began unpacking their gear.
When they got settled in, Michael fired up the barbecue while Jessica prepared the salad for dinner. After they ate and washed the dishes, Michael invited Jessica to join him by the fire and offered her a glass of wine.
“Long day?” he asked, placing his arm around her as she sat next to him on the couch.
Jessica nodded. “How about you?”
“Can’t complain. But things are looking up.” He winked, taking a sip.
“Do you have much work to do for the weekend?” she asked, interlacing her fingers with his; their hands in front of them.
“No not really. Just the usual maintenance of accounts and such. Nothing I can’t do when you sleep.”
Jessica’s eyes narrowed jokingly and she looked directly at him so they were nose to nose, “You know I’d rather you slept. I don’t mind if you have to work. That’s why I asked.”
Michael nodded, “I thought I sensed a tone in your question.”
“Not at all, Michael. It’s your job, I understand.” She kissed him tenderly on the nose.
Michael brushed her cheek with his index finger, “That’s what I love about you. Everyone else gives me grief. Jack, my mom, half my family—”
Jessica interrupted. “That’s because you don’t pick your moments right. You work when you should be spending time doing other things.”
Michael smiled. “Am I picking the right moment now?”
“Depends what you had in mind,” Jessica answered coyly, still nose to nose.
Michael took both their wine glasses and placed them on the coffee table at their feet. He then wrapped his arms around her, and she reciprocated. He took a long, deep breath and closed his eyes.
As he exhaled, he put his forehead on hers. “Marry me,” he breathed.
Jessica craned her neck back, aghast. “What?” she whispered.
“I love you Jess. You’re all I want.” He looked at her with pleading eyes.
“I…wow,” she said, shaking her head like something flew into her hair. She emptied her wine glass and placed it on the table, not looking at Michael. He sat there, hoping she was playing around.
A moment later, she took a deep breath and laughed, like someone had played a bad joke on her.
“I sure didn’t expect that,” she said, still not looking at him.
Michael was speechless.
It seemed like hours passed before the silence was broken. Finally, Jessica took his hand in hers. Part of him thought she would say yes, but he wasn’t stupid.
“I like things the way they are,” she said, putting her forehead on his.
“I do too, Jess. But I want us to belong together. I want you to be my wife. I want a family.”
Jessica lifted her head off his and looked into his eyes, “I need some time. I love you and I want to be with you, but I’m not sure I’m ready for this.”
Her eyes became glossy and she kissed him tenderly on the lips. Michael nodded and held her face in his hands.
“Whatever you want. You want time, I can give you time.”
* * * *
Michael opened up the shower door and the sound of the glass hitting the wall pulled her from her reverie.
“We’ll be fine. Just need to stay clear of any gambling,” Michael said, peering down at the mess of dirty towels.
“Are there any clean ones?” he asked. Jessica was painting a perfect warm red line on her lips and turned to him.
“The pink one.”
Michael pursed his lips as he stooped down to pick up the semi-damp towel. He had a sour look as he smelled the stench from his last shower on it. How Jessica could turn out so messy, as opposed to her tidy mother, was beyond him.
“Maybe we should have Marsha come in twice a week,” he said, dropping the towel and walking out of the bathroom, dripping wet.
“I can call and ask,” Jessica said, applying mascara.
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Michael said, searching for a towel in the linen closet. All he could find was a balled-up hand towel with an unknown hotel insignia embroidered on the upper right hand side. He dried himself, returned to his soiled sink beside Jessica’s and began shaving.
Jessica twisted her hair into a knot and clipped it in the back with a plastic jaw clip. Michael had shave cream lathered all over his face and his blue eyes contrasted nicely with his dark hair. His broad shoulders were soft and he had a gentle cascade of curly hair down his back.
“You want to learn?” he asked, smiling at her.
“Depends what you’re going to teach me.”
Michael was tempted to give her pointers on how to tidy up the house, but thought better of it.
“Your mother doesn’t have whiskers, does she?” Michael asked, bracing himself.
Jessica’s mouth opened wide and she was about to smack him, but he put down his razor and grabbed her by the wrist, twisting her gently and tickling the inside of her ribs.
“Michael, stop it!” she laughed, trying to fight her way out of his hold. She grabbed his towel and let it drop to the floor, so he stood there naked.
“You think that bothers me?” he laughed.
“I’ll find your tickle spot one day!” she said, bending over so he couldn’t reach her side easily.
He turned her around and used both hands to aggressively tickle her rib cage on both sides. She yelled out, “Okay! Uncle! Uncle!”
Michael laughed and released her, “Where did ‘uncle’ come from anyway? You always say that when we mess around.”
Jessica smoothed her shirt, “It’s a safe word. My dad taught Jen and I when we were small.”
Michael furrowed his brows, “Safe word?”
“Yeah, you never heard of that before? You use it when you want to surrender; when you’ve had enough.”
Michael nodded and took a pass with the razor over his face, “So, what word do you use when you don’t want me to stop?”
Jessica didn’t answer; instead she slapped him on the shoulder and walked away. He watched her, and waited.
She walked into the kitchen and could smell the fresh aroma of coffee brewing. As she looked towards the window overlooking the sink, she saw a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the counter; pink and white roses in a red heart shaped vase.
“Oh Michael! They’re gorgeous!!” she said, inhaling their fragrance.
“I thought you’d like them. I wanted to help you celebrate your last day with the douche bag; especially since I’ll be working late,” he said, walking into the kitchen with half his face still covered in shave cream.
“I love them! Thank you!” She said, putting her arms around him, being careful not to get shave cream on her outfit.
He stuck out his lips as she did hers, so they could kiss without disturbing the cream. It looked like a scene from Popeye and Olive Oyl.
Jessica looked over at the flowers and sighed. “They’re just like the first bouquet you bought me. Remember them?”
He looked at her with his arms still around her. “Like it was yesterday.”