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Justina's Awakening: Where She Belongs, The Saga-Book 1

 

Justina’s Awakening

Where She Belongs

The Saga-Book 1

By

Lisa Vandiver

 

 

 

Published by Deadly Reads at Shakespir

All rights Reserved

DeadlyReads.com

Copyright 2014 © Lisa Vandiver

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners

Shakespir Edition License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to wherever you bought it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

 

Dedications

 

I want to thank my creator for the gift of storytelling. To Matthew, my husband, for his support. My daughter, Keira, for motivating me. I love you Keira. To my mother, Frances Brashier. Because I grew up watching how much you loved to read, I developed great love for the art as well.

Finally to my readers, thank you for giving me the chance to entertain you with my stories. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

 

Special Acknowledgements

 

Romance Novel Covers

The first stock image website developed

specifically for the romance novel industry.

 

Cover designed by

Deadly Reads Author Services

 

Edited by

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Table of contents

 

[+ Title Page+], [+ Copyright+]

[+ Dedications+]

[+ Special Acknowledgements+]

[+ Book Description+]

 

[+ Chapter 1+], [+ Chapter 2+], [+ Chapter 3+],

[+ Chapter 4+],Chapter 5, [+ Chapter 6+],

[+ Chapter 7+], [+ Chapter 8+], [+ Chapter 9+],

[+ Chapter 10+], [+ Chapter 11+], [+ Chapter 12+],

[+ Chapter 13+], [+ Chapter 14+], [+ Chapter 15+],

[+ Chapter 16+], [+ Chapter 17+], [+ Chapter 18+],

[+ Chapter 19+], [+ Chapter 20+], [+ Chapter 21+],

[+ Chapter 22+], [+ Chapter 23+], [+ Chapter 24+],

[+ Chapter 25+], [+ Chapter 26+], [+ Chapter 27+],

[+ Chapter 28+], [+ Chapter 29+], [+ Chapter 30+]

[+ Message from the Author+]

Book Description

 

After her Aunt Elizabeth is murdered, Justina Lindsey inherits a lucrative advertising business, and soon finds herself on a path leading to unfamiliar destinations. Feeling alone, she seeks comfort in the arms of sexy, bad boy Nick Cabara, the son of a mafia kingpin in Dallas. Nick has a dark side and many secrets, but Justina has secrets of her own. Justina believes she has found her place in life that is until she meets Matthew Kingston, a successful lawyer. Matthew is arrogant and frustrating, but Justina desires him and soon finds herself torn between two men.

When her secrets begin to unravel, Justina finds herself set on a collision course with destiny. Will her choices destroy her or will she survive with the knowledge that she has found, Where She Belongs.

Chapter One

 

Matthew Kingston groaned as he heard the alarm clock ring. He slapped at it, knocking it to the floor but effectively silenced it. Matthew wanted more sleep. Instead, he pulled himself from the bed and made his way to the kitchen. He poured a cup of coffee while he reflected on the previous night’s events. Having consumed too much alcohol had resulted in carnal pleasures with a woman. Linda was just one of many women he had called upon from time to time when he got that itch that needed to be scratched.

Matthew did not have time for a serious relationship and he did not really want one. He was too busy with his daughter, Kate, who he affectionately called Katie. She had him wrapped around her little fingers the moment he saw her. Katie was the reason Matthew continued living after his wife, Leslie died; just one year after Katie was born. Matthew pushed back a tear as he thought of his late wife. She was as beautiful as she was smart and Katie resembled her in both looks and actions. He stirred from his thoughts by the ringing cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Hey, where are you?”

“Is Katie all right?” Matthew asked with anxiety.

Jim Lawton replied with calmness, “She’s fine, did you forget about our stakeout?”

Matthew slapped his forehead, “Oh man I did, I’m sorry.”

“I gathered some very interesting information on Mr. Kevin Jenkins. He’s having an affair.”

“Do you have pictures?” Matthew asked.

“Of course,” Jim scoffed. “Did you have any doubts?

The two men chuckled and Jim continued, “There’s more. Jenkins seems to have a taste for men as well as women.”

Matthew cleared his throat and put his cup down on the counter before he dropped it. “Wait, wait, did you say Kevin Jenkins is gay?”

Jim laughed loudly, “The proper term is bisexual.”

“That’s awesome, Jim. This will give Mrs. Jenkins the edge she needs for her divorce. I’ll meet you in the office and we can discuss this with our client.”

Thoughts of how he was going to spend his half of this client’s check flowed through Matthew’s mind while he dressed. Perhaps he would take the trip to Hawaii he had been planning. He knew Katie would love going to Hawaii.

Matthew always enjoyed entering his and Jim’s office. He especially enjoyed looking at the sign posted on the door: KINGSTON AND LAWTON II, Attorneys at Law.

Jim and Matthew enjoyed their law practice, but their true passion was their P.I. Work and working with the F.B.I. on occasion.

Caroline, Matthew’s sister, took great care in decorating the office and it was beautiful. The waiting area had the old style, stained mahogany benches with daisy flower print cushions tied to them for comfort and the matching mahogany walls were accented with elegant pictures of eighteenth century settings. There was a small refreshment booth sitting to one side of the room so their clients could help themselves to coffee and rolls. Caroline had turned one of the rooms into a classroom where she homeschooled her daughter Kalien and his daughter Katie.

Jim and Matthew’s offices were located at the end of the hall and across from each other. The contrast in colors and abstract art made Jim and Matthew’s offices flow with professionalism and beauty. Upon entering Jim’s office, the large mural behind the desk was the eye catcher of the entire room. The mural of Lawton’s Ranch was really quite lovely. Other pictures of the family farm and ranch decorated the remaining office walls. Along one side of the wall set a large trophy case, which displayed trophies and awards Jim had won at numerous rodeos and shows. The curtains clinging to the windows were brown with images of horses hand sewn into the material. Jim’s cowboy hat rack was attached to the wall, just to the side of the window. The matching brown leather sofas and chairs were placed next to the small kitchenette designed to the right of Jim’s desk. Jim was a cowboy through and through.

Matthew was more of a modern type guy and his taste shone through the style he had chosen.

The mahogany walls, which stretched along the hallway between the two men’s offices, ended at Matthew’s office door. When anyone entered Matthew’s office, the first thing anyone noticed was the elegant glass chandeliers, which clung to the high ceilings. The walls were painted a burnt orange with abstract art Matthew had created. Pictures of landscapes and high-rise buildings clung to the walls, which Matthew had taken. Directly behind his desk, awards, and trophies he had won from the local art society stood proudly on a small, stained wood table. The large glass windows were framed with colored stained glass as its border with large venetian blinds completing the look. A long sofa sat between the kitchenette and office area. Two recliners sat nearby, which surrounded a glass coffee table, art magazines were neatly placed on it. Jim often teased Matthew about his style. “You’re cool enough for the both of us.”

Matthew took the comments as compliments. He enjoyed being up to par with the latest fashions and fads.

Jim and Matthew greeted Christina Jenkins with big smiles as she entered their office. When they filled her in on their findings, she was not shocked. In fact, she appeared to be very pleased.

“Who shall I make the check to?”

“Kingston and Lawton. If there’s ever anything you need from us between now and our court date, please call us.” Jim eagerly waited with his hand stretched open.

“Oh be assured, gentlemen, I will.” Christina winked at Matthew, “And if there is anything I can do for you, you just let me know, and I do mean anything,” she purred in her southern drawl.

“Oh, I will.” Matthew shot her his flirty smile as she waved a final good bye.

“What are you thinking man?” Jim’s eyes narrowed at Matthew after Christina left the room.

Matthew shrugged his shoulders, “She sure is a beautiful blonde. Did you see the curves of that body, not to mention those legs?”

“Yes, but she has a dark side to her.”

“I agree, but I like dangerous women. Now let’s discuss our next cases.”

“Not so fast. We’re going to the bank, then I’m taking our lovely assistant to lunch and then to bed.”

“Oh, I really don’t want to hear about your affair with the assistant. Why, here’s the lovely assistant now,” he winked at his sister as she walked past him.

Caroline struck him on his arm as she walked to Jim and kissed him.

Matthew shook his head in feigned disgust, “Kids, kids, take it home.”

Caroline rolled her eyes as Jim grinned like a Cheshire Cat.

“So, did you guys get the big check?”

“We sure did and there appears to be bonus.”

Matthew chuckled as Caroline walked past and tried to take the check from him. He pulled it away from her reach.

Jim sat down and watched their usual brother and sister antics.

Caroline finally managed to take the check away from Matthew and ran to her husband for safety.

“I let you have it,” Matthew chided.

Jim shook his head, as he defended his wife. “She took it.”

They all laughed as Jim stood from the chair. “Do you want to have lunch with us?”

“Yes.”

“I need to finish up with the girls’ class for the day.” Caroline walked out of the office and shut the door behind her.

“Matthew, I want to take Caroline to look at that new SUV she has had her eyes on.”

“My sister is lucky to have you, man.”

“She deserves the best. I still can’t believe that gorgeous redhead even looked twice at this dumb country boy.”

“You bought her a mansion two years ago when we finished the Armstrong case. Let’s see, I’d say she’s the lucky one, stumbling onto a rich country boy like you.” Matthew walked to the filing cabinet with an armload of files and shoved them into it.

“Meet us at the diner when you finish up here. I’m going to find my lovely wife and tell her how much I love her,” Jim grinned as he made his way toward the door.

Matthew glanced at his partner and made a gurgling noise, “Phew, you’re getting mushy again and my stomach can’t stand it.”

Jim pointed his finger at Matthew. “You make fun all you like, but one day, and I hope I’m around to see it, some gorgeous woman will soften that hard heart of yours again.”

“I don’t think so man, my heart is stone, and I know when it’s time to cut and run,” Matthew winced. “And I have the speed of a tiger; there’s no woman fast enough to catch me

Chapter Two

 

Matthew stepped into the diner and as always, he felt warmth in his heart. He was sure the Lawton’s were busy with their daily routines, and they would not want it any other way. Lawton’s resort had been in the community and in Jim’s family for generations.

While, at the resort, visitors found many activities to occupy themselves, the most enjoyable for families were the horse tours. The tours consist of maneuvering through the valley and camping sites along the way.

In the late summer, the Lawton family hosted a kid’s camp each week for poor and deprived American children. The entire Lawton family involved themselves in this annual event. Matthew swore it was a prerequisite for anyone who wanted to become a part of the Lawton family.

The wonderful memories Matthew had here were too many to count, but the one that stood out the most was the one of them teasing the girls, one of which he had married.

Matthew’s father, George, and Jim’s father, Ben, met in law school and as fate would have, they became best friends. As the years passed, each one married. Ben’s wife, Donna, and George’s wife, Frances, became instant friends as well. Each time Matthew’s family visited the ranch, George found it hard to leave. When Ben asked George to enter into law practice with him, he jumped at the chance and moved his family from New Orleans to Dallas. Ben’s nephew, Roger, came to live with the Lawton’s after his parents and infant sister were killed in a car crash at the same time.

After settling in, Frances resumed her medical studies and became a doctor, but also helped Donna in her floral business from time to time.

Matthew spotted Jim and Caroline in a corner booth. The same corner booth they had always sat in when they were children, near the kitchen and the back exit. It was important to Donna that the guests not be disrupted by the antics of rambunctious boys and silly chitchat of girls.

Tender memories flooded Matthew as he watched his lifelong friend and his little sister together. His thoughts were interrupted by his mother’s approach with his daughter in her arms.

“Thank you for everything you and dad have given me, Ma. I might have never met Jim, I might have never fallen in love with Leslie, and we might not have had this beautiful little girl. We all found our true loves and our lives here.” Matthew cleared his throat as he fought back a tear.

Frances touched her son on the arm, “Oh, honey, it’s been a while since you’ve been so sentimental, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Ma. I’m just having one of these tender moments you say are healthy to have.”

Frances laughed as he stressed the word, “tender” as if it were a bad word. She worried about all her children, but especially Matthew. Since Leslie’s death, he had become a cold, bitter man, and he rarely spoke of her or the night she died. He got angry with anyone who dared speak of it, except for Jim.

Matthew had quit attending church and drank heavily for a few years. He avoided religion and God; it was as if he blamed God for Leslie’s death. When Leslie found out she was pregnant, it was one of the happiest occasions of their lives, but the happiness was short lived when she found out she had a heart condition. They prayed together for healing, and went to the best doctors; however, nothing could be done while Leslie was pregnant. She, of course, chose to have her baby. Matthew continued to pray for his wife. Unfortunately, the strain of the pregnancy caused more damage to her already weakened heart, and one year later, Leslie went into cardiac arrest and died. He swore he would never fall in love again.

Frances feared her son would be without love. All she knew to do was to put him into God’s hands.

Matthew kissed his daughter, “Who loves you, Precious?”

She held her head up and smiled, “You do, Daddy. I love you, too.” She unexpectedly jumped out of her daddy’s arms and ran to Jim. “Where’s Kalien?”

Jim pulled Kate into his arms and smiled, “Oh, no hug, and kiss for Uncle Jim?”

Kate squirmed away from him and giggled, “Where’s Kalien?”

Caroline grinned, “She’s in Noah and Lauren’s office.”

“Bye, Daddy.”

“Hey, you just said hello,” Matthew fussed.

“I gotta find Kalien.” Kate ran off toward Noah and Lauren’s office with Frances close behind her.

“Haven’t they been together all day?” Matthew quizzed. “Don’t they need a break?”

Caroline pointed her finger at her brother, “Oh, how we forget.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You and Jim were just like our two girls, inseparable and always in trouble.”

“There you go; it isn’t the same because our girls never get in trouble.”

“That’s because you two spoil them.”

Matthew looked to Jim for help, but Jim shook his head. “I think she could be right, we do spoil our girls.”

“Smart man, you could take some lessons from this guy, big brother,” Caroline quipped.

“You’re pathetic man, won’t even defend your best friend. I can’t believe it, pushed aside for a woman,” Matthew shook his head and displayed a pretend, disgusted stare.

Jim and Caroline laughed.

“Ah yeah, I have to go home with her tonight.”

“You have a point there, man. That’s why I won’t fall into the clutches of a woman.”

“You guys are getting too loud,” Caroline whispered.

Jim and Matthew both blurted out at the same time, “We’re sorry, Mommy.”

“There’s no hope for you two. I think you guys are real brothers, somehow, maybe, you were really twins and one of you was given to the best friend for safe keeping,” Caroline thought she had made a clever comment and was proud.

Caroline walked away, saying nothing as Jim and Matthew laughed loudly, so loudly that Fran, followed by Donna came walking toward the table.

Jim saw Mr. Russell, Ben and George’s law partner sitting in a nearby booth with his wife, Inez. The couple shook their heads and laughed at the humorous commotion. He grinned at the elderly man. “Oh no, we’re really in trouble now, here comes the mamas,” Jim smiled his biggest smile and waved at the approaching women. “Hi, Moms, how are the two best moms doing today?” Jim assumed buttering up the mothers would help, but he was wrong.

“We don’t know what to do with these boys; they just never grow up, do they?” Frances commented.

Mrs. Russell defended Matthew and Jim. “They do keep their mamas feeling young and alive? Those boys always did lighten up the mood.” Inez Russell continued, “I’m sure my boys drove you crazy a time or two.”

Frances and Donna laughed as they remembered the days when the boys were young. Donna playfully replied, “Yes, however, we all know who the ring leaders were.”

Mr. Russell smiled at Donna, “I always enjoyed having all our boys at the firm.”

Matthew gave Mr. and Mrs. Russell a thumbs-up and everyone burst into laughter.

Donna turned to Frances, “Fran, if they get loud one more time, let’s just throw them out for the night.”

Frances agreed with a nod.

“We’re sorry moms,” Jim said.

“Yeah, we love you. We won’t do it again,” Matthew added.

“Ah, who can be mad at these faces?” Frances playfully pinched Matthew and Jim’s faces.

Matthew whispered to Jim as he noticed their fathers approaching, “Help’s on its way.”

“What are you ladies doing to our boys?” Ben asked Donna as he put his arm around her.

George kissed Frances on the cheek and playfully fussed at her, “You’re always picking on this child. Why?”

Jim pointed his finger at their mothers and playfully taunted, “Ha-ha, now you two are in trouble.”

Matthew jabbed his friend in the arm, “Shut up, man.”

Jim rubbed his arm as if the punch really hurt and laughs all around erupted. He kissed the women on their cheeks as Caroline and the kids came from the offices and joined the group.

Matthew looked around at all of them. This was his family; he was proud of them and proud to be with them. He found himself hoping his mother and Donna were right, that Leslie looked down on the family and made requests to God on their behalf.

“That’s my family, God; help me take care of them.”

Matthew looked on the wall and found his wife’s picture, which hung there. He whispered, “Thank you, baby, oh, and you too, God.”

Chapter Three

 

The president of Beth and Lin Advertising Company, Justina Lindsey sat in her elegant, posh office behind a desk stacked full of files, and mulled through paperwork.

Though her office had all the latest amenities, Justina never used them, well, except for the coffeepot. A small kitchenette lay just to the right of the room as one entered the office. The kitchenette walls were red with black and red floor tiles, resembling a checkerboard.

Outside the kitchenette, the main office walls were covered in dark colored paneling. There was a black leather sofa and loveseat sitting in front of a cherry wood finished coffee table. Several entertainment magazines covered the table.

Large cherry wood frames clung to the dull paneled walls and displayed various photos of clients who stood in front of their businesses.

Justina never cared for the dull colors Elizabeth Carr, her benefactor, and caregiver had selected the decor of the office. The only thing she did like about the office was the large glass sliding doors behind her desk. These glass sliding doors led to the small balcony, which overlooked the beautiful scenic downtown Dallas and its beautiful streets.

She really wanted to change the decor and setup of the office but never seemed to have the time for it. If truth were told, she had lost her desire to change anything after Elizabeth was murdered. Instead, she busied herself in an attempt to establish herself as leader of the company, to prove to Elizabeth’s employees, clients and friends that she would be able to carry the load Elizabeth had once carried.

Justina beamed from a phone call she had just received from Kevin Jenkins III, the owner of Jenkins’s Jewels. He was praising her for the commercial she had worked on recently for his company. He bragged about how his sales had jumped up seven points soon after the commercial had aired.

Justina smiled as she pulled her best client, the Lawton’s, from the stack. The Lawton’s businesses included a luxurious resort, ranch, farm, lodge, a cafe, a green house business, and their law offices. Her lead advertising agent Joyce, who happened to be married to Roger Lawton, had been handling the Lawton business for years, even before Justina was in charge.

She heard a knock on the door and when she looked up from her desk, she smiled to see Joyce.

Joyce took a seat on the sofa and waved her hand playfully at Justina. “Hi,” she playfully squinted her eyes, as she stared at Justina’s desk. “Hey, where’s your desk? Oh, wait, I think I see it.”

“I pulled some files out which need to be updated,” Justina stated, not laughing at Joyce’s last joke.

Joyce rolled her eyes and laughed, “Great, now its lunch and I’m starved.”

“Go on home; I know you and Roger have plans to leave tonight to visit your family.” Justina suddenly had an idea. “Joyce, the Lawton ads are yours, why don’t you take their files and do a little business this weekend.” Justina held up a pile of files in her arms and waved them toward Joyce.

Joyce took the large stack of files from Justina, but laid them back on the desk and shook her head, no. “Why don’t you come with us?”

Justina kept working on her current project. “Where’s Maggie? She’s related to the Kingston’s, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she’s George’s niece, but she’s not going to work on the project for you this weekend either. She, Ted, and the kids are in Maine. Besides, it could be good P.R. for the company.”

“Why do you think it would be good P.R.? You’re related to them and have always taken care of their advertising.”

“Yes, that’s true, but you are the boss, Justina. I’m just your representative. Their contracts are ending soon. You have been so wrapped up in the Jenkins Company; you are ignoring our other clients.

“I’ve met with the owners, Ben and Donna Lawton on several occasions. What else do you think I need to do?”

“You could come to the resort, meet all the Lawton’s since it is a family business. If they see you’re personally interested in their businesses, then it will go a long way in securing their contracts.”

Justina stood up, walked over to the filing cabinet, and fiddled with some files. “You haven’t even checked with Roger, he might not want me to tag along, since I’m the girlfriend of Nick Cabara, and besides, it is your anniversary. You and Roger don’t need me tagging along.”

“Roger said he didn’t mind if you came for the weekend. There are plenty of things you can do without us. We are going to have dinner with Caroline, Jim, and Matthew and then have a private celebration later in the evening.”

Justina laughed, “I can see ten years of marriage hasn’t cooled your romance, that’s wonderful.” She then shrugged her shoulders, “I would have thought Roger would worry about his reputation. He doesn’t like Nick.”

“You’re right, he doesn’t like Nick, but it’s because he’s involved with illegal things.”

“Can Roger prove it?”

“Roger’s word should be enough for you.”

“I don’t understand what he has against Nick.”

“Roger is a prominent photo journalist in the Dallas and Fort Worth area. Nick has suspected mafia ties, what is not to understand? Roger reports on the bad guys not socialize with them,” Joyce’s voice echoed with impatience. “Oh, Justina, don’t be naïve. You have to know the Cabara family has ties to the mafia.”

“Nick is his own man, he makes his own decisions.”

“Justina, think about what you just said.”

“Nick isn’t controlled by anyone.”

“If his family is involved with the mafia, so is Nick.” Joyce hesitated before continuing, “Be sure the mafia is the one in control.” Joyce took a deep breath, “I’ve said too much.”

Justina knew Joyce cared about her and only wanted the best for her. They were friends and had been for a few years, but were from very different backgrounds. Joyce’s father was a doctor and her mother was an attorney. Joyce was a raven-haired beauty with blue eyes and a perfect figure. She had been the rich, popular cheerleader who won all of the awards in school. Justina had been a short, chubby, brown-haired orphan child; the troubled youth. Always in trouble for fighting, sulking in school, and being expelled.

Justina had tried to snatch Elizabeth’s purse one day and that is how Elizabeth entered her life.

“Justina,” Joyce stepped over and touched her on the arm. “Are you all right?”

“Nick produces software for companies; that’s all. Don’t you think I would know if he was involved in something other than the software business?” Justina did not know whom she was trying to convince more, herself or Joyce.

“No, I don’t think you would know. I’m sure Nick knows how to cover his tracks. What kind are they?”

“What kind of software?”

“No, what kind of companies does he do business with?”

“I don’t know. I never asked to see a list of his clients. He never talks to me about his business and I don’t ask.”

“I think you should quiz him, just a little, to see if he’d tell you about it. He knows all about your business after all.”

“That’s because his family’s company is one of my clients.”

“Okay, fair enough, but if you intend on marrying this guy, don’t you agree there should be no secrets between couples?”

Justina raised an eyebrow, “Who said anything about marriage?” Justina hesitated. “Everyone has secrets, don’t they? Aren’t there things you haven’t told Roger?”

Joyce thought for a moment, “Sure, but he knows about the important things.” Joyce walked to the couch and sat down. “I don’t think you should keep secrets from anyone you love and trust.”

Justina felt uncomfortable and she nervously walked to the window and stared out. “Well, yes, I suppose if you love someone and truly trust them, then I suppose big secrets could be bad,” Justina’s heart raced. She had secrets of her own; secrets she had not shared with Joyce. She knew Joyce loved her but did she love her enough to forgive her and still be her friend? Could Joyce handle the truth about her past? Justina knew Nick could not handle the truth.

Elizabeth and Justina chose to keep their personal lives private. She had always referred to Justina as her niece.

“I’m sorry, I’ve made you upset; that wasn’t my intention. It’s just you’ve been working too hard, I worry about you.” Joyce led Justina to the couch. “Lie down for a while. You are as pale as a ghost.” Joyce laid an afghan over Justina. “You work late every night and you take files home with you and work there.” Joyce poured a glass of water and handed it to Justina, “Drink some water. It’ll make you feel better.”

Justina took the glass and held it as Joyce continued; “You do all that volunteer work in the Deep Ellum district and downtown. You never do anything for yourself. You’re like a robot that doesn’t have an “off” switch.”

Justina smiled weakly at her friend, “I just want to help people. I enjoy it.”

“I know, I like helping people too, but you need to take care of you.”

“I don’t want you to worry about Nick and me. I’m still just getting to know him.”

I don’t think Nick is your Mr. Right,” Joyce confided softly.

They laughed as Joyce stood to her feet, “Now don’t go rushing off to Billy’s Honky-tonk without me.”

The two friends laughed like two schoolgirls. “You could just start out slow in the fun department, like joining the family for the weekend at Lawton’s,” Joyce tilted her head sideways. “That’s all I’m saying,” She stretched. “Oh, the directions to the lodge are sitting on your desk if you change your mind.” She pointed toward the desk. “And, we’re leaving at 2:30 pm; it takes about thirty minutes to get there, depending on the traffic and on how fast you drive, so it’ll take you ten minutes,” She laughed. “One more thing; two suites are reserved and at no charge. We get to eat free at the lodge and the diner. How great is that?” Joyce turned around and winked at Justina sarcastically. “It’s all about whom you know, kid.” She waved goodbye as she shut the door.

Justina could not help but laugh at Joyce’s clowning. Joyce was the same happy person all the time and the people at the office loved her for her upbeat attitude.

Justina wished she could be more like Joyce, but she had to be completely professional about business. She noticed the staff treated her with respect, but they treated Joyce with admiration. Joyce once advised Justina to try to be polite to them. When she had taken Joyce’s advice, the staff had given her a card for Christmas.

Justina pulled herself off the couch and stretched her arms as she glanced at the clock. She looked out her office door and whimpered. “I guess everyone has gone out of town except me.”

Justina looked at her file-covered desk and drew a long breath. As she thought of going home, she frowned. Even Trish, the maid that Nick talked her into hiring two months ago was out of town for the weekend. She walked over, stood just in front of the desk, sifted through them until she found the Lawton file and read the caption on the top corner. ‘GOOD FOOD. GOOD REST. GOOD FUN.’

“That’s what I need; rest, relaxation, and fun.”

She looked down at the desk and saw the directions Joyce had left her and picked them up. She grabbed the files she had selected for the weekend, her purse, and briefcase and slowly walked to the door, her decision had been made.

Chapter Four

 

The day turned out to be unusually warm for late February, which pleased Justina just fine. Although she enjoyed watching the snowflakes fall in winter, she enjoyed the warmer seasons so much more.

She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel as her mind found its way back to business. Her company was financially stable. She had not taken a break from work since she took over the company after Elizabeth’s death last year. This was a good weekend to take a much-needed break. It had taken her many late nights and hard work to establish herself as the company leader, but she now felt as though she had succeeded in the task.

Joyce had become a loyal companion on many of those late evenings, which is when the two women became to be such good friends.

Justina recalled Elizabeth’s pride in her when she graduated high school two years early. Justina knew she would never have made it without Elizabeth’s support and tutoring.

She remembered how Elizabeth supported her as she made some life changing, perhaps even life saving choices that year. Because of her testimony, many children were saved from being put through the same turmoil Justina endured for so many years at the orphanage, and it was the same year she had come to live with Elizabeth on a permanent basis. After Justina had graduated with a degree in marketing, Elizabeth asked her to come to work at Elizabeth’s advertising company as a junior partner. Justina smiled when she thought of how strange and fantastic things had worked out for her, almost like a fairy tale.

She looked out her car window at the darkening sky. All that she had become she owed to her beloved Elizabeth. She missed her so much, but somehow, Justina knew Elizabeth still looked out for her.

As she approached Lawton’s Lodge, she wondered why they called it a lodge. It was not a lodge at all, at least not according to her definition of the word, Justina laughed as she recalled Joyce’s words. You have no romantic sense about you.

Justina parked her car in the parking garage and immediately noticed the very beautiful green Corvette parked next to her Mustang. She loved Corvettes, especially the older ones. This one was in mint condition.

After stepping off the elevator and into the lobby, Justina found herself surrounded with elegance. A huge fireplace rested in one corner while another smaller one sat in the opposite corner. An enormous staircase stood boastfully in the middle of the room. It was beautifully designed with small carvings of horses and cowboys inside its railings and steps. It matched the western theme of the Cherry wood furniture that was placed throughout the lobby. The lobby was full of people who mulled about, sat chatting with one another, or simply sat in the chairs near the fireplace with books and pamphlets in hand.

Justina walked to the desk that lay just to the right of the grand staircase where a handsome blond man greeted her.

“Hello, my name is Jonathan, how may I help you?”

“Hi, my name is Justina Lindsey. I have a reservation for the weekend.”

“Yes, and you have arrived just in time Ms. Lindsey,” Jonathan stated as he handed her a confirmation slip. “Here is your key card.”

“Thank you.”

“My wife Karen and I are managers of the lodge,” He pointed to the attractive brown-haired person walking toward them.

Justina smiled graciously, “You’re managers of the ranch too, am I right?”

“That’s right, Karen and I manage the lodge, and I co-manage the ranch with my older brother, Jim, who is an attorney, and Noah, who manages guest relations with his wife, Lauren.”

“You folks must never rest. I’m only in charge of one company, and that keeps me busy enough. I can’t imagine having to juggle five or six different companies.”

“It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Everyone in the family pitches in and helps when they can. It’s actually quite enjoyable, isn’t it honey?”

Karen smiled as she nodded in agreement.

“This land has been in the Lawton family for generations and it’s very sacred to us all. There’s no place I’d rather be than right here, doing what I love.”

Justina gazed around the large room. “This is a beautiful lobby. I can’t wait to see the rest of it. I can see why my friend Joyce likes it,” Justina pointed at the fireplace. “I could curl up on the floor there and get lost in a good novel or just enjoy watching the fire.”

“Please allow us to set you up with one of our best riding tours tomorrow,” Jonathan turned to his wife. “This is Matthew and Jim’s weekend for the tours, right?”

“Yes, Jonathan, that’s right.”

“She keeps up with the scheduling and she keeps me straight.”

They all laughed together.

Karen commented, “Jim and Matthew both are good tour guides. They know this land inside and out.” Karen turned to her husband, “All you guys do.” Then she looked back at Justina, “These guys were all raised on this land. They’ve found secret passages and hidden caves all over the valley.”

“Yes, that’s right. Jim, Roger, and Matthew were always the explorers, though. The rest of us boys were more interested in what was going on here with the guests,” Jonathan confessed through chuckles.

It sounds like a wonderful place to grow up as a child, Justina thought.

“So, I can add your name to the tour list?” Jonathan questioned.

Justina decided she was here for a mini adventure. “Yes, that would be great, thank you.”

“I will add you to the morning tour; that way you’ll have some time in the morning to enjoy our delicious breakfast here or at the cafe.”

Jonathan typed up some papers and handed it to her. “Joyce and Roger are at the diner. Would you like me to buzz them for you?”

“No, thank you; I’ll walk over. I haven’t eaten; what do you recommend?” Justina asked.

“Everything is delicious; it’s hard to pick one thing over the other.”

Karen suggested, “If I were you, I’d choose the sampler plate.”

Justina approved of Karen’s suggestion. She said goodbye and left her bags with Jonathan.

She took deep breaths, and hoped the other Lawton family members were as nice as this couple was.

After exiting the beautiful lodge, Justina enjoyed the scenic view of the woods as she followed the small cobblestone path, which led to the diner. Upon exiting the path, Justina walked toward the wooden steps leading to the diner’s front door.

The steps were made of a maple wood. The handrails, made from the same kind of wood, had beautiful western images carved in them.

There were several wooden rocking chairs and porch swings sitting on the porch. There were frames made out of what Justina guessed to be oak hanging behind each rocking chair and held some exquisite homemade quilts; each quilt was amazing.

Justina read the plaque that clung next to one of the framed quilts, and from what she understood; this particular quilt was made in 1872. All these quilts were made by members of the Lawton family. She was surprised to see these quilts in such good condition after all these years.

She had been so entranced with reading the inscriptions below each quilt she had not noticed that someone had approached her until she felt a tug on her arm.

Turning around, she noticed a little green-eyed girl smiling up at her. She smiled back at her and pushed her hand out. “Hello, my name is Justina. What is your name?”

“I am Kate Kingston and my grandpa and grandma Lawton own this land.” Kate walked over and sat down in one of the rocking chairs. “You want to sit by me?”

Justina could not refuse the request of such a beautiful little girl, so she followed Kate over and sat down in a rocking chair next to her. “Do you live here too?”

“No, my daddy and I live in the city. We’re just visiting for the weekend. I like it here better than the city, don’t you?” Kate smiled then took a sip of her drink.

“Well to be quite honest with you, this is the first time I’ve been out of the city in many years.”

“Why would anyone not visit the country?” Kate wrinkled her face. “I bet you ain’t never fished, have you?”

Justina laughed aloud at the girl’s total astonishment that someone had never fished before. She took an instant liking to Kate and began to relax some. Justina imagined all who met her had the same feeling.

A young couple with another little girl approached her. “Who is your new friend?” the young man asked Kate.

Kate smiled, “This is Justina.”

Justina stood and smiled, as she held out her hand, “I am Justina Lindsey.”

The man smiled and shook Justina’s hand, “I’m Noah Lawton, and this is my wife, Lauren.” He smiled at the other little girl. “This is Kalien Lawton, my other niece.”

“Are you all alone?” Kate blurted into the conversation, looking at Justina.

“I am right now, but I’m meeting some friends here, Joyce and Roger Lawton and their daughter, Samantha.”

Kalian showed confusion on her face, “We don’t know no Samantha.”

Noah and Lauren laughed, but then Noah explained to Kalian, “I think she’s talking about Sammie.”

Kate flashed a big smile and jumped up and down, “Oh, yeah! Sammie’s my cousin.”

“We all play together and have lots of fun,” Kalien informed Justina.

Kate smiled as she looked at her cousin. “Let’s go find her,” Kalien and Kate said in unison as they ran away to find Sammie.

Lauren smiled at Justina, “We’re all supposed to meet in the back room of the cafe; we can show you where it is.”

Justina thanked her and followed the young couple into the dimly lit cafe. She noticed a huge fireplace to her right. There were small couches and chairs sitting in front of it. There were people waiting for seating, but they did not seem to mind at all. In fact, they were laughing and smiling.

Noah opened a door at the end of the hall and allowed the two women to enter first.

Joyce jumped up and hugged Justina, squealing with delight, “I’m so glad you made it.”

“It’s great to see you,” Roger whispered.

“And she didn’t think you liked her,” Joyce whispered to her husband.

He frowned, “I like you just fine; it’s your boyfriend I don’t like.”

“At least you’re honest and I appreciate that,” Justina replied. “I had decided not to come, but I kept hearing Joyce’s voice in my head, saying, ‘it’ll be fun.’ So, I decided to go for it, and to listen to her.”

“I hear her voice, too, during the day Justina, and it’s scary,” Roger teased.

Justina laughed, but Joyce playfully hit her husband on the arm with her fist and looked cross. “Ha, ha, that’s so funny, baby.”

“You know I love you, sweet heart,” Roger kissed his wife tenderly.

Joyce then turned to face two sets of couples and introduced Justina to Donna and Ben Lawton, and Frances and George Kingston.

The conversation naturally turned to Elizabeth and the company.

“Elizabeth was the only one I ever trusted to handle my advertising,” Ben grinned, as he spoke of Elizabeth while George nodded in agreement.

Donna and Frances smiled brightly as Frances chimed in, “She was our friend, and I still miss our Friday brunches in the city.”

Donna spoke with laughter in her voice, “And the shopping afterwards.”

George held up his glass and the others copied his action as he toasted Elizabeth respectfully. “To Elizabeth, our friend; although she’s gone, she’s not forgotten.”

“Here, here,” Everyone said in unison.

After the toast, Joyce introduced Justina to Jim and Caroline Lawton. Jim was six foot tall and thick with muscle. His beautiful curly hair danced wildly, but attractively around his neckline. When he removed his large cowboy hat, Justina saw baby blues staring back at her.

Caroline Lawton was an attractive red head with big brown eyes and a soft smile. Justina breathed easier at the realization that all of the Lawton’s were indeed friendly.

Justina was pleasantly surprised when she saw little Kate approach her. They laughed as Justina bent down and hugged Kate.

Over Kate’s shoulder, she saw a man in the corner display interest in her while she hugged Kate. As she straightened up, she wondered if he might be Kate’s father.

His dark hair lay attractively against his neckline. He had the most beautiful brown eyes she had ever seen and a magnificently sculpted body. What was she thinking? She realized she had stared at him a bit too long at the man, so she quickly looked away in the hope that no one had noticed her reaction to this complete stranger. Once she composed herself, she took a seat next to Joyce and the others.

***

One minute Matthew Kingston was smiling and joking with his family and the next minute he was acting like a kid who had just seen his first piece of bubble gum. He licked his lips unconsciously and felt his chest race with excitement.

He was curious as to how his daughter knew this beautiful woman. She had long, brown hair and beautiful eyes. Matthew had difficulty in pulling his eyes away from her slim body and the long, luscious legs.

He sensed the sparks as they sailed across the air between them; she could not seem to keep her eyes off him either.

When he looked away, he noticed Jim was rubbing his chin and looking at him in a way that usually meant Matthew had done or said something ether funny or stupid.

Jim nodded his head toward the lady, and then whispered to prevent anyone else from hearing, “She’s quite a beauty isn’t she?”

Matthew, ignoring Jim walked over to the sofa where Justina sat. “Hi. I’m Matthew Kingston,” he extended his hand to her.

Justina stood and smiled at him, “I’m Justina Lindsey.”

Matthew sensed the tension between them as she shook his hand and stood close to him.

“Do you work with Joyce?” He stared into her dark, disturbing eyes. They were the darkest green he had ever seen on anyone, and so captivating. Or, were they blue? Matthew questioned in his mind.

“Yes, I do.”

“Oh, you are Justina Lindsey,” his brain suddenly clicked.

Jim slipped up to him, put his arm around him, and whispered, “Damn boy, you catch on quick, don’t ya?” Jim winked at Justina and the three laughed.

Jim turned away, leaving them to continue their conversation alone.

“Are you Kate’s father?”

“Yes, I am, and how do you know her?”

“I met her and Kalien just outside the cafe. They were with Noah and Lauren.”

Matthew shook his head and grinned, “My daughter never meets a stranger.” He felt the tension ease and relaxed. When her food arrived, he followed her to a table where they sat together.

“It’s the sampler plate.” She handed an extra fork and plate to him. “Care to try some?”

“I’ve already had dinner but thank you. The sampler plate is a great way for first time visitors to figure out what they like best.”

“That’s what the Lawton’s suggested.” She fiddled with her food, turning her eyes on him. “Jonathan and Karen.”

“You’ve just got a few more people to meet,” Matthew teased in an attempt to make her feel more comfortable.

“Oh, that’s just great,” Justina teased. “When Joyce said the Lawton’s wanted to meet me, I didn’t realize it meant the whole clan.”

“Well, it’s a family business and has been for generations, dating back as far as the beginnings of Texas. I was married to Leslie, Jim’s youngest sister. Kate is our daughter. Leslie died when Kate was just one year old.” Matthew picked up his glass of wine and took a long gulp before speaking again. “Jim is married to my little sister, Caroline, and Kalien is their daughter. Jim’s younger brother, Noah and my sister, Lauren are married but have no children. You have already met Jim’s older brother, Jonathan and his wife, Karen. She is not related to us Kingston’s. They have two boys together, James and Connor. My eldest brother, Brian is married to Jim’s older sister, Tabitha. They have one son, Timothy. My youngest brother, Michael runs the local golf course, owned by the Lawton’s with his wife, Sarah, no relations to the Lawton’s. They have one son, Daniel. Finally, as you know, Roger is Ben’s nephew. He came to live with Ben and Donna after his parents and baby sister, Rebecca, were killed in a car accident in Memphis, Tennessee. And that’s the fullness of the Kingston’s and Lawton’s.”

Justina sucked in deep breaths and shook her head, “Oh, my! Is there going to be a quiz on this later?”

Matthew chuckled, “Might be, but don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. I’ll be around to help you remember.”

Justina’s face warmed and her head swirled as she listened to Matthew talk. She worried this was not going to be a relaxing weekend after all.

Now she wondered what cologne he was wearing. It teased her already heightened senses as she sat close to him. Several times, she felt him touch her on the arm, and it sent chills through her.

A few times, she pulled away and looked at him. The last time he touched her, she felt compelled to let him know she was in a relationship. “I have a boyfriend.”

What would Nick think? Would he be jealous? Why was she feeling guilty? She had not done anything wrong. She expected Matthew to get up and walk away, but he stayed. He sat there calmly.

“Where is the lucky guy?”

“He’s out of town on business.”

“You’re all alone this weekend. That’s too bad,” Matthew smiled devilishly.

“No, I..I’m not…alone. Joyce and Roger are here and Sammie too, so I won’t be alone at all.” Justina heard her speech stammer, and she cursed under her breath.

“If you need an escort this weekend, you just let me know, and I’ll be glad to oblige,” Matthew winked at her.

He turned on his charm and Justina had trouble resisting it. She felt as if she were drowning in his soulful eyes and his sexy smile. She was relieved when the others joined them.

As they talked, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company, Justina could see that these people were not just family, but friends as well. After some time had passed, Justina looked at the clock – midnight. Where had the time gone?

“We’re taking a stroll by the lake, Justina. Do you want to join us?” Joyce asked.

“Thank you for asking, but I’m tired. I think I’ll retire to my suite.”

A hand touched her shoulder as she turned to leave the room.

Matthew flashed his dimpled smile, “A stroll with you would be enjoyable.”

Justina blushed at the sound of his raspy, low tone. Ooh, he had the charm, no doubt, and that is exactly why I should decline, she thought. “No, thank you, Mr. Kingston, I’m quite tired and would prefer to go to bed if you don’t mind.”

Matthew cleared his throat as chuckles echoed throughout the room. He just could not let this pass by without responding with some clever remark.

“Why, no, Ms. Lindsey, I don’t mind at all, but the question is, will you still respect me in the morning?”

Justina gasped, but realized she should have chosen her words more carefully. “I, I meant I wanted to go to my room, alone and go to sleep, alone.” Justina heard the tone of her own voice become a little more intense. Why did he say that? He must have known what I meant. Perhaps he was just testing the waters. She inhaled deeply, “You may be handsome and charming; Mr. Kingston, but I don’t melt that easily.”

He laughed softly as they stared into one another’s eyes.

Justina blushed when she saw others in the room staring at them.

“Ah, but you do melt, Ms. Lindsey,” Matthew replied smartly.

Justina shook her head as she shot back at him, “Oh, Mr. Kingston, I’m not one of those bimbos that fall at your feet,” she thought that was a fine response.

“Wow, that sounded like a challenge,” Matthew whispered to her.

“Call it what you want, Mr. Kingston.”

“Oh, it is definitely a challenge and I’m going to enjoy it very much.”

“Oh, you bet you will and so will I when you’re the one falling at my feet!” Justina quipped.

Matthew shot her a surprised look. She could not believe what she had just said to him. That really had sounded like a challenge.

Everyone stared in amused silence at them, wondering what had just occurred between her and Matthew, including the both of them.

Chapter Five

 

Three men walked into a darkened warehouse, and then suddenly found themselves blinded by bright lights all around them.

A deep voice called from beyond the light, “Stay where you are. Don’t move until you are told to.”

Approached from behind, searched and their weapons taken from them; the men were led to a large office where Robert Cabara sat, leaning back in his chair.

Robert stared at the men, took a cigar out and bit the end of it off, put it in his mouth, and lit it. He puffed on the cigar for a brief moment and then leaned forward in his chair. He puffed on the cigar twice more before he stood and walked to the man who stood in the center. “Joey, do you respect me, son?”

“Of course I do, Mr. Cabara, I always have.” Joey glanced at Robert nervously. “Sir, what is this about? Are you doubting me or concerned about the product I’ve been bringing you?”

Robert moved so close to Joey that there was hardly any room between them. The two men looked each other in the eye. Robert drew in deep breaths as he put his arm around Joey’s shoulder. He thumped Joey’s head with his finger and shook his head to show his disappointment. “I doubt your brain, kid.”

Joey looked down as Robert walked back to his desk. “I have disappointed you in some manner and for that I am sorry. Tell me what to do to make up for my mistake.”

Robert held up his hand for Joey to stop talking, “I just want to know why you brought cops in here.”

Joey shook his head, “I don’t know who…” He looked at the two men that came with him and then gulped.

Two shadowy figures approached from behind Robert’s desk and stood just to the side of the desk, yet still in the shadows.

Robert turned toward the dark figures and hissed, “Do it, boys.”

Joey fell to the floor, covering his head as soon as he heard the first shots fired. He laid there for a several stressful moments before he finally dared to look around. The two men he had brought with him were lying on the floor, dead.

Two men approached Joey from behind, lifted him to his feet, and dragged him to Robert’s desk. It was then he looked up and saw Robert’s eldest son, Marcus Cabara, had been one of the shooters. He and the other shooter, who remained in the shadows, aimed their guns at Joey.

Robert ordered them to put their guns away as he stood and retrieved his overcoat.

“Joey, you have to check out the guys you hire for jobs,” Robert stared into Joey’s eyes. “Those guys were F.B.I.” Robert walked past Joey and to the door. “The boys will look at the goods and finish the meeting. I want you to remember the lesson Marcus teaches you tonight. Your life will depend on it because, with me, I decide how many strikes you get before you’re out.”

Marcus and the two men on each side of Joey put on gloves while the other shooter remained in the shadows, watching.

Marcus picked up a bat, “This is going to be fun.”

Chapter Six

 

Matthew sat in the lobby of Lawton Lodge sipping on a cup of coffee while thoughts of the beautiful and sassy Justina Lindsey swirled through his head. He wondered just how full of sass she really was and he imagined he would enjoy finding out.

“I’ll give you a penny for your thoughts,” Caroline whispered to Matthew as she and Jim sat near him.

“Oh, I don’t need a penny to be able to read Matthew’s thoughts this morning,” Jim joked.

“Okay, Buddy, what are my thoughts?” Matthew brushed his hair back with his hands.

“Justina Lindsey and how she steam rolled over you last night,” Jim’s laughter filled the air.

Caroline laughed as she commented, “Oh you aren’t accustomed to being brushed off. You’re accustomed to women just fainting in your presence.”

“Laugh all you want to, but the lady’s attracted to me and she’ll warm up to me by the end of the weekend,” Matthew said with confidence as Caroline and Jim shook their heads in amusement.

“Good morning. It certainly is a lovely morning, isn’t it?” Roger said as he approached them and stood next to Caroline.

Caroline responded with a nod, “It certainly is, Roger. Where’s Joyce?”

“She’s showering and getting dressed. We enjoyed a late night together. She said she would meet us at the cafe.”

Matthew stood and pointed toward the door, “Let’s make our way over there, I’m starving.”

As they began walking, Caroline asked Roger, “What did you do that was so much fun, Roger?”

Jim put his arm on his wife’s shoulder, as he joked, “Now honey, some things are just not any of our business.”

They all laughed as Roger commented, “We took a romantic walk by the lake, and afterwards I took her to the hot springs.”

Matthew held up his hand, “We can picture the rest man, we’ve all had a woman or two there.”

Jim closed his eyes and waved his hand vigorously behind Caroline’s back, but it was too late.

Caroline looked at Jim, who gave her the most innocent smile he could muster.

“How many girls did you take to Lawton Springs, Jim?” Caroline asked with raised eyebrows.

“Oh, sugar dumpling, don’t be silly,” Jim answered slowly through nervous laughs. “So Matthew, are we golfing today?” Jim asked in an attempt to change the subject.

“Yes, I have one trail ride today.”

Roger spoke up, “I’ll be your second man on the ride, Matthew.”

Matthew grinned at Roger. “Roger, I’m glad you’re with me today.” His eyes darted to Jim. “Jim, I still owe you a beating for the last game we played.”

Jim laughed as they climbed the steps of the cafe. After they found a table and took their seats, he turned to Caroline, “What’s on the ladies agenda today?”

“We’re going on the trail ride with Matthew and Roger this morning.”

Matthew looked at Caroline with interest. “Did I hear you correctly? You, Joyce, and Justina are going on the trail ride with me this morning?”

“Yes, we are.”

Matthew scoffed, “I can’t believe Justina Lindsey can ride a horse. She doesn’t look like the type.”

Caroline shrugged, “She’s not, but Jonathan promised her she was in good hands with you.”

Matthew laughed, “This is going to be a very interesting ride.” Matthew’s expression resembled a pupil’s first crush. The others could not bridle their laughter.

After the laughter had stopped, Matthew asked Roger a question that had been troubling him. “Tell me about Justina. Is she serious about Nick Cabara?”

Roger frowned, “I’m not sure. They’ve been a couple for a while.”

“Nick Cabara?” Caroline asked with obvious shock. “How did she get mixed up with a criminal?”

“The Cabara family is one of Justina’s biggest accounts,” Roger whispered as a waitress approached the table.

“Oh, I see,” Caroline commented.

After the waitress had left the table, Jim whispered to Caroline, “Honey, how many cases do we have pending?”

“We only have two. The one Matthew agreed to yesterday and the one you agreed to this morning for Mr. Bindley.”

“We can get the information Roger has and we can compare notes with Fred.”

Matthew and Roger nodded in agreement as Justina and Joyce approached the table.

Joyce kissed her husband as Justina took her seat.

Justina accidentally brushed against Matthew as she sat down and she quickly pulled away as if the touch burned her.

Roger smiled at Justina, “Did you sleep well last night, Justina?”

“Yes, I did, thank you, Roger. The suite is very lovely and the bed very comfortable.”

When Matthew imagined Justina lying in a big comfortable bed, a slight smirk came across his face.

Jim slugged his friend in the arm, “I know what you’re thinking, man.”

Matthew and Jim laughed, and then everyone turned to look at them. Jim cleared his throat, “It’s certainly a lovely day.”

Justina responded, “Yes, it is and the lake is so beautiful and peaceful. I took my morning run along the lake path and I really enjoyed it.”

Caroline smiled, “I enjoy sitting by the lake and feeding the ducks and swans. They will come right up to you and eat out of your hands.”

“I must do that before I leave tomorrow, it sounds like a peaceful experience.”

Joyce teased, “Justina doesn’t get out into nature too often.”

“Well, I am a city girl.” Her telephone rang, interrupting the conversation, “Hello Nick, how are you this morning?” She waited for a response and continued, “I’m fine. I’m at Lawton Farm and Ranch this weekend. Where are you?”

Matthew noted the haughty look Justina had just shot him as she stood and walked away. He grimaced at the thought of the beautiful woman tied up with such a low life.

When Justina returned, she addressed Joyce, “Nick is in Hawaii this weekend.” She flashed Matthew another cool stare as she took her seat.

Matthew took this as another challenge, and commented with a smirk, “So, there really is a man out there brave enough.”

The others fell silent as they observed the interaction between Matthew and Justina.

Justina flashed a fake smile at him, “Yes and you’d be surprised at just what kind of man he is.”

“Oh, I have a pretty good idea of just what kind of man you’re into.”

“Is that right?”

“I’d say you like the bad boy, ah, the playboy, maybe even a classy gangster. Am I right?”

“It sounds to me like you described yourself except for the classy gangster part,” Justina huffed. “Your reputation as a playboy is well known.”

Matthew shot Justina a slight smirk, realizing he had affected her as much as she had affected him.

As the meal progressed, he chatted with Jim and Roger, but could not resist his urge to look at Justina. As he watched her carry on conversations with the ladies, he recalled the night before and how restless he had been over her. He could not get this woman out of his mind. Every time he would drift off to sleep, sensual images of her invade his dreams.

“Lord, have mercy.”

Jim brought Matthew back to reality with a friendly shove, “Matthew, are you ready to go?”

“Yes.”

Chapter Seven

 

Justina observed Matthew as he assisted an elderly couple saddle their horses. After helping them, he stepped over to where Justina stood in front of a chestnut American Quarter horse. He took the saddle and placed it onto the saddle blanket already on the horse’s back. As he cinched up the saddle, he said, “This is a fine horse. Her name is Dolly and she has a gentle personality. Her breed is known to be very gentle with children even though they’re known for their speed, so we have many Quarters on this ranch for the guests.”

Justina took the saddle strap in her hands, “I love her color. It’s so beautiful. Thank you for the information on Dolly, but do you think that I could try to saddle her?”

“Her color is Chestnut. Sure, I’ll be right here if you need my assistance.”

Justina finished saddling Dolly as the others stood back and watched her. She noticed the impressive looks from the others and smiled proudly.

Matthew inspected the saddle and gave his approval, “Good job!”

“You are a fast learner. I’m impressed.”

“It came easily to me after I watched you do it a few times.”

Matthew walked to a brown Andalusia, mounted it, and led the eight guests out of the stables.

As they rode down the trail, he talked about the land.

As Justina and Joyce rode their horses side by side, Joyce commented to her, “I can’t believe you’re doing so well for a first timer. You’re a natural.”

Justina laughed, “This is easier than I had imagined and a lot of fun.”

“I knew you’d enjoy it if you ever tried it.”

Justina pointed toward their tour guide, “Is he always so exasperating and so arrogant?”

Joyce laughed at Justina’s curiosity, “No, he’s usually fun-loving, yet quiet, reserved at times especially around people he doesn’t know, but I was surprised at the way you two reacted towards each other. That certainly was unlike either of you.”

Justina shook her head, “He just got under my skin right from the start.”

“I think there might be chemistry there.”

Justina gave Joyce a shocked expression, “I don’t think so.”

They continued riding for a while until they came to a creek and stopped for lunch. Everyone dismounted and pulled their lunch bags from their horses while Matthew led the horses to the water’s edge for a drink.

Justina dismounted and felt her legs quiver. She wondered just how sore she might be later. She saw Caroline and Joyce lay out a picnic blanket. Roger grabbed their picnic baskets and followed them to a shady spot. She watched Matthew lead the horses to the water’s edge to drink and decided the polite thing would be to offer to help him. She forced her feet to move bravely to his side by the water. “Do you need some help, Matthew?”

“Yes, thank you,” Matthew smiled and handed some of the horse’s reigns out to her.

Justina’s heart raced as she saw him smile. It was an incredible smile and she suddenly felt shy and blushed.

“You’re a good rider from what I saw. It’s hard to believe you took to it so well since you’re such a city girl and all.”

Justina laughed, “I can’t believe it either. It feels so natural to me; like it was in my blood.”

“Did your parents ride or did you have horses when you were young?”

“I was raised by Elizabeth and we didn’t have horses.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”

“It’s all right. That’s how you get to know someone.”

After they had finished watering the horses, Justina followed him to a shaded area under a patch of trees where Matthew tied off the horses.

Matthew, without thinking, rested his hand on Justina’s shoulder then asked, “Are you hungry?”

“Yes,” Justina whispered.

“I am too, so let’s get a bite to eat, Ma’am.”

Matthew’s hand burned where he touched her, and his pulse raced as he watched her blush and tremble from their connection. He wished he could touch more of her, but quickly pulled his hand away as they approached their friends. They rested on the blanket and Matthew could not keep his eyes off her, nor was he able to hide his attraction for her.

As Joyce, Roger, and Caroline chatted, Matthew noticed Justina was as silent as he was. Her eyes trailed back to him; she gave him soft smiles and amorous stares. He was confident she wanted him. He was usually quick witted and confident, but for some reason in this particular situation, he did not feel either attribute. He knew Justina Lindsey was the reason for his sudden boyish shyness, but he could not control the feelings he experienced for her. He was disappointed when it was time to remount and ride on.

As Matthew prepared to lead the group back to the ranch, Roger approached him.

“Do you want me to lead the group back?”

Matthew grinned at Roger and nodded, “Sure.”

Everyone mounted their horses and Matthew saw Caroline and Joyce conversing with the other guests. He found this to be an opportunity to have another conversation with Justina, so he rode alongside her and tipped his cowboy hat to her.

“I think it would be a disgrace if you didn’t come back out and ride again, Justina.”

“Thank you, Matthew. I am really enjoying myself. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here.”

Matthew pointed toward the land, “I love this land, and I’m so thankful for being raised here. I wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else.” Sincerity rang in his voice as he stroked his horse gently and spoke softly to him.

“What’s his name?” Justina asked.

Matthew smiled with pride, “This is Cody, and he’s been mine for many years. He’s more than just a beautiful animal, he’s my buddy, aren’t you Cody?”

“He’s so beautiful. His skin shimmers like velvet. His color looks like it’s almost on fire.”

Matthew laughed, “Yes, I guess it does, doesn’t it? He’s a magnificent animal and comes from a most popular breed that is rich in history.”

“I’ve got the feeling you aren’t always a playboy. You may actually have a soft side to you after all.”

Matthew laughed, “Careful now, Ms. Lindsey, or the ice you’ve encased yourself inside, may begin to melt.”

“Hmm, not likely, Mr. Kingston, that would take a lot of heat,” Justina said coolly.

Matthew raised an eyebrow at her, “You are presenting me yet again with the same challenge darlin’.”

“And you just hate it, don’t you, and you are not accustomed to women withstanding your charm. I must also reiterate I’m not one of your bimbo’s.”

Matthew caught the haughty glare from her as she prodded her horse past him and into the stables. “No, you aren’t, Ms. Lindsey,” he whispered to himself. “But, it’s going to be fun making you melt.”

Chapter Eight

 

When the women arrived at the Kingston home after shopping, Caroline took them to the room she used for her dress shop when she was at her parent’s home. She gave Justina and Joyce the gowns she had designed for their company dinner, which would be taking place the following week.

“They’re beautiful,” Joyce squealed with delight as she took the dress and held it up to her body, staring at it in the mirror.

Justina stood behind Joyce and nodded, “Oh, yes, they’re lovely. I can’t wait to wear it, thank you, Caroline.”

Caroline beamed with pride at the compliments, “Thanks, ladies, I worked extra hard, just for you. I’m really looking forward to starting my own design company. These are my first line of designs, what do you think?”

Justina danced her fingers through several dresses, jeans, and other designed clothes hanging in a corner of the room. “I love them, and I so need new clothes for the season.”

“Yes, I love them, too!” Joyce piped in. “You should have started your company a long time ago.”

Caroline nodded with beaming pride, “I’m glad you girls approve. I have hired someone to replace me as office manager at the firm, and Kalian and Kate are enrolled in private school for the fall, so everything is in place for me to do this now. I’m very excited.”

“I’m very excited for you,” Joyce said as she hugged Caroline.

Justina spoke up, “And your first ad campaign will be on me.”

Caroline’s eyes grew big as she hugged Justina, “Whoa, thanks, Justina, that’s very generous.”

“Consider it a grand opening gift.”

Caroline nodded, “I know my business advertising will be taken care of in your hands.” She looked at her watch, “We have to be going now. I bet the others are waiting for us to show up for lunch.”

***

Justina stood just behind Joyce and Caroline as they greeted their husbands. Matthew flashed a sexy smile her way, “Hi, Justina.”

Justina felt her face flush, “Hi, Matthew.”

Ben Lawton stepped to the front of the group and whistled, “Listen up everyone, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to eat some good Texas style barbecue, and you all know me, I like to eat. I also want to say we’re all pleased to have Miss Lindsey with us this weekend. I hope you are enjoying yourself,” he said, looking in her direction.

Justina smiled and waved her hand in the air, “I am, thank you.” She took her seat as Matthew, with his mother behind him, greeted her.

“Hi, may I sit next to you?”

“Sure,” Justina’s pulse jumped as she watched him take his seat.

Frances smiled brightly at Justina as she stood next to her chair. “I’m so pleased you joined us for lunch, Justina though some of the family is missing today.”

“You have such a lovely family. They’re all so polite and welcoming,” Justina replied.

“Thank you for saying so,” Frances said, just before George pulled her away.

Matthew leaned over to Justina and whispered, “Mom just loves all her kids and grandkids.”

Justina confided to him quietly, “I’m a little jealous. I had no brothers or sisters, so it was a lonely childhood for me at the foster home.” She quickly corrected herself, “I meant when I visited the foster home.”

Justina squirmed uneasily in her chair as she overcorrected herself. She appreciated Matthew catching the hint and changing the subject.

“Well, it wasn’t all fun here. We each had our chores to do and, of course, we thought there were too many of them,” he laughed.

A laugh slipped out of Justina as she listened to Matthew recant stories of his and Jim’s antics on the ranch and farm.

“You have a very pretty smile. It was one of the very first things I noticed about you when I first met you,” Matthew whispered to Justina as they ate their lunch.

“Thank you, Mr. Kingston, but your flattery won’t work on me.”

“Oh, it will. I just have to be patient and I’m a very patient man, Justina,” he winked at her. “Justina, I’m sorry for the comment I made about your boyfriend and I hope you’ll forgive me. I was out of line.”

“It’s all right, and I do forgive you.”

Matthew flashed a sexy smile at Justina, “I had a relaxing lunch with you. I knew you’d warm up to me.”

Justina scoffed as shook her head, “Do you ever give up?”

“No, and you don’t want me to walk away and leave you alone, either, so don’t pretend you do.”

Justina began to reply, but her friends interrupted her. She lingered her gaze on Matthew longer than she had intended. She could not stop wondering what his lips would taste like, how it would feel to have his muscled arms around her. As she stared at him, she swore she saw the same curious look in his eyes. On the other hand maybe it was just her wish.

“What’s going on with you two? I could have sworn you didn’t like each other,” Joyce commented.

“Justina and I have aired out some of our differences and are going to try and get along,” Matthew stated.

“I still think you are an arrogant man,” Justina whispered as Kate approached them.

Everyone laughed.

Matthew whispered back to her, “Oh you are so attracted to me, aren’t you?”

Justina began to reply, but he held his finger to his lips and whispered, “Not in front of my daughter.”

Justina turned to greet Kate with a big smile on her face as Matthew chuckled.

“Hello, Katie. How are you, sweetheart?” Justina’s heart melted each time Kate smiled at her.

“I’m fine, Justina. When are you gonna play with me, Kalian, and Sammie?”

Justina bent down so she could see them eye to eye. “When would you like to play?”

“Are you gonna be here tomorrow?” Kalian quizzed.

“I’ll be leaving sometime tomorrow.”

Kalien grinned, “We can play tomorrow after breakfast.”

Justina nodded, “That sounds like a fine plan.”

Chapter Nine

 

While the others took a stroll through the grounds, Roger and Matthew sat down to talk. Roger pulled out some pictures and looked cautiously around to make sure no one was near enough to hear his words. “This is Nick and Marcus Cabara meeting with some Capuano family members.”

Matthew looked closely and recognized the Capuano’s from previous photos. “This is the first photos I’ve seen with these two sets of family members together.”

“These pictures are one of a kind, Matthew. This is the only link that exists between these two families we’ve found so far.” Roger pulled out another picture and pushed it toward Matthew. It was a photo of an officer and his wife lying on a floor in a pool of blood. “They didn’t kill the children, but the cruel thing is these children were forced to watch their parents die viciously.”

“I remember seeing this on the news. The information in the newspaper pointed to the officer being a heavy gambler who couldn’t pay his debts and paid the ultimate price.”

“The officer, Phillip Walker, had found some piece of evidence which could cause some trouble for the family members; that’s why he and his wife Monica were murdered.”

“This murder case may never be solved.”

“Yes, I know, but if I can bust the Cabara clan or stop them from hurting someone else, then I will feel like I’ve avenged this officer and his wife.”

Roger handed Matthew some folders. “This will be a good starting point.”

“I know we weren’t supposed to put our plan into action until next week, but she’s here so I’m going for it.”

“Joyce wouldn’t like it much if her best friend came out of this with a broken heart,” Roger responded grimly. “I feel like a heel for setting her up.”

Matthew winked at Roger, “I promise to be a gentleman; no broken hearts.”

They concluded their meeting, found Jim, and left for an afternoon of golf.

Upon arriving at the golf course, they were surprised when they saw Matthew’s brother, Michael. His face was bruised and his eyes were swollen. Matthew touched his little Michael’s cheek, “Whoa, what happened to you?”

Michael shrugged, and then brushed Matthew’s hand off his face, “I was assaulted downtown last night. I’m not confident the police will find the guy. I didn’t see him well enough to give a good description.”

“I’ll do some snooping, see if I catch wind of anyone bragging about it, Michael.”

Michael shook his head, “That won’t be necessary. The cops are checking it out, Matthew. They’ll handle it.” Michael’s phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at it. “I have to take this, catch you all later.”

After Michael had walked away, Matthew turned to Jim and Roger and asked, “Did my little brother seem a bit edgy, or is it just my imagination?”

Jim whispered to Matthew, “He acted very strange.”

Roger nodded in agreement, “Yeah, I agree, a more than a bit strange.”

Matthew could not help but wonder what kind of trouble his brother had found himself in now. He brushed the troubling thought out of his mind for now but planned to do some snooping around whether Michael wanted him to or not.

Chapter Ten

 

When Justina arrived at Wranglers, one of the posh restaurants located inside the lodge, for dinner that evening, Matthew could not pull his eyes away from her wardrobe. Her designer jeans fit her snuggly. The cream color blouse Justina wore had attractive pearl buttons down the front with ruffled sleeves. The two buttons at the top were loose and gave those looking a slight peek at her cleavage.

Matthew unconsciously licked his lips as she approached. “Are you enjoying the view?” Roger asked.

“I sure am,” Matthew replied with a bit too much zeal.

Everyone laughed at him as he downed a brisk drink while he watched her take the seat next to him.

“You look lovely this evening Justina,” Matthew whispered. He watched Justina blush at his compliment. She was beautiful when she blushed. He had seen her do it several times during their conversations through the course of the weekend. He wanted to pull her to him and kiss her deeply, “Ma’am did I leave you speechless?” He spoke with a deliberate, playful southern accent, which caused Justina to laugh.

“Are you making fun of my southern accent, Mister?”

Matthew held his hand up as if to defend himself, “No ma’am, I wouldn’t do such a thing.”

They both laughed as they stared flirtatiously at one another.

Joyce leaned over and whispered to the others, “Do you think there might be romance blossoming there?”

Caroline shrugged, “One could only hope for Matthew.”

“Not our playboy,” Roger joked.

“Nope, I don’t see it happening anytime soon,” Jim agreed.

After dinner, some restaurant staff surrounded Roger and Joyce and began singing a short love melody. The server placed a cake on the table that read: Congratulations Roger and Joyce on ten years!

Joyce opened the small box to reveal a necklace that held a picture of her and Roger on their wedding day. On the other side was a picture of their daughter when she was born. Joyce declared, “I love it! It is so beautiful, Roger, and you are so wonderful and thoughtful.” Joyce had tears flowing down her face, as did Caroline and Justina.

Matthew and Jim were making funny faces and gestures to which only Roger could see. Roger grinned as Joyce kissed and hugged him again. He gave Matthew and Jim both thumbs up.

Joyce gave Roger a box containing an engraved pocket watch with his initials and pictures of her and Sammie on it. “I love it, baby,” Roger kissed Joyce passionately as the others cheered and laughed.

After everyone enjoyed the cake, and a few more drinks, Roger and Joyce parted ways with the others.

Matthew asked Justina to take a stroll through the park with him, Caroline, and Jim. He was pleasantly surprised she had accepted this invitation from him. As they walked, everyone made small talk about the park.

“Look at how the moonlight is illuminating the park. It’s so beautiful,” Justina said with awe.

Caroline replied with a smile, “The Park is full of lovely views.”

Matthew pointed to the sky, “I love to come here just to stargaze. I could do it for hours.”

Justina answered him with delight, “Oh I love looking up at the star-filled sky too.”

Matthew was glad they had at least one thing in common. He was curious to find out what else they might have in common. He grinned, “It’s very relaxing for me.”

Jim put his arm around Caroline and snuggled with her, “Our favorite place to view the park is from the lake.” He and Caroline shared an intimate stare. Jim winked at her and bowed low before Caroline. “Milady, will you do the honor of taking a romantic boat ride with me?”

Caroline licked her lips playfully, and answered, “Why, yes, kind sir, I will.”

Jim turned to Justina and bowed low before her. “Milady, I leave your charming company, but I leave you in good hands.”

Everyone laughed.

Matthew waved his arm at Jim and Caroline, “Have fun.”

“Yes, enjoy your evening,” Justina said.

Jim and Caroline waved at Justina and Matthew and then walked away leaving them alone.

Matthew turned to Justina and held her gaze while holding out his arm to her. “Shall we stroll further into the park?”

Justina nodded, “Yes, let’s continue.” She pushed her hand through Matthew’s arm and the two walked. They walked for a while without speaking, just staring up at the sky. Justina stopped suddenly and pointed to the sky. “Look there, a shooting star.”

“I see,” Matthew whispered. “It’s beautiful.”

After looking at the sky for some time, Matthew turned to Justina and stared at her for a long moment. “You are beautiful.” He saw Justina trembling. He gently pulled her into his arms and whispered, “I’m not going to do anything you don’t want me to do.” He slowly tilted her head and tenderly kissed her. Her lips tasted as sweet as he had suspected and soft as silk. He was lost for a moment in their kiss. He sensed she enjoyed the kiss as much as he had.

She then kissed his neck with gentle passion that sent chills soaring through his body.

He really wanted to push his hand inside her blouse and feel her nipple, but knew he had to forbid such an act, and perhaps even stop this encounter for so many reasons.

“What’s wrong?” Justina asked between kisses.

“Nothing,” he raised her head and kissed her lips again as he slowly caressed her neck, inching his way down, toward her blouse. Just one touch, he thought.

Matthew gently kissed her upper chest area that was exposed and Justina moaned with undeniable pleasure.

“I just don’t want to hurt you or confuse you.”

Justina looked at him strangely.

“I’m trying to be a gentleman, believe it or not. I just don’t want you to regret this in the morning.”

“I understand there’re no strings attached. I already have strings attached.” Justina pulled back and gave him a weak smile. “You sound like the one that might wake up tomorrow with regrets.”

“The only regret I’ll be having tomorrow is not finishing what we began tonight,” he gave her a wink. “I have a feeling we’ll get another chance darlin’.”

Justina gave him a soft kiss on his cheek. “I don’t think you and I will ever be in an intimate situation again, so let’s not dwell on it, okay?”

Matthew shrugged his shoulders as he kissed her lips. “You can’t stop fate. If it is meant to happen, then it will happen when you least expect it, but it has to be the right time. Neither you nor I can determine when that will be, so we just need to relax and allow fate to set the course.”

Matthew saw Justina cock her head to one side and give him a bizarre look.

“You’re weird but cute, so I’m going to allow you to walk me back to my room.”

Matthew laughed as he curtsied to her. “Thank you, madam, for the honor of your presence this evening.”

“You’re quite welcome, sir,” she answered softly.

“Ah, you do like me after all. I told you that you would.”

“You’re all right for an arrogant playboy,” Justina quipped.

Matthew replied, “I am arrogant and I am a playboy, but I am a gentleman through the whole process,” he winked.

After he had got her safely back to her room, he stood with her outside her door. He could not keep his eyes off her. “You are so beautiful and Nick is a lucky man.” He slowly reached his hand out and gently stroked her face. He felt her trembling beneath his touch. Matthew whispered, “He doesn’t deserve you. You should really reconsider this relationship thing with him.”

Matthew swooped in and possessed her lips. When his lips touched hers, he had to give into the urge to deepen the kiss. He heard her gasp and knew she was experiencing the heat he had just experienced. He pushed her against the door, wrapped his arms around her slender body, and pushed himself against her. When he felt her arms go around his neck and heard her murmurs of pleasure, he immediately hardened. He groaned with pleasure as the heated kiss lingered between them. He wanted to push the door open, throw her onto the bed, and take her. Instead, he gathered his strength and pulled away.

“I have to go.”

“I know,” Justina said in a raspy voice.

Matthew took the key from her and ushered her into her room, but stopped just inside it. “If I stay here long, I won’t leave at all.”

Matthew could see Justina struggling for the right words. He smiled softly at her as he leaned in and kissed her cheek gently. “Thanks for a lovely evening. Try to get some sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow.” Not giving her a chance to reply, he turned and walked out of the room, fighting to restrain his passion.

***

Justina enjoyed the drive from the lodge to Ben Lawton’s home. She parked her car next to Joyce’s car. She watched with admiration as Roger opened Joyce’s door for her. Justina walked over to Joyce and hugged her. “Did you two have a good time last night?” Justina saw their eyes twinkle as she asked the question.

“We took a romantic boat ride on the lake and drank some Champagne, and then we went back to our room.”

Justina held her hand up and laughed, “I can figure out the rest.”

Joyce quizzed Justina on her night as the three of them walked into the home and joined the others in the dining room. “So, how was the rest of your night, after we left you?”

“It was a pleasant evening and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll. Nothing special,” Justina whispered as she glanced over at Matthew and he had that sexy half-crooked grin. She felt her face heating up.

“I can’t figure it out, tell me,” Jim chided Matthew, with a grin. Caroline slapped Jim playfully on his arm. “Caroline and I want to know what you two kids got into after we left you in the park, all alone. Have you called a truce? I hope you didn’t because I was enjoying watching the sparring.”

Justina wondered if her face gave away the awkward feeling, she was experiencing inside her mind. She was grateful when Matthew answered Jim. He looked to be in more control of his thoughts. Her mind was still reeling from the incredibly hot kisses he had given her last night. She had struggled to turn her mind from him last night after he left. When she finally went to sleep, he invaded her dreams. Oh, what a lustful, sexual dream it had been, too. She had awoken with her thighs trembling and her center wet. Justina felt her center moistening even now, and her face warming at the memory his kiss and the dream she had of him.

“We walked back to the lodge where I said good night to Justina, and then I came home.”

“I was glad to get in, too, because I was so worn out,” Justina added.

Matthew shook his head and grinned slyly. “So was I.”

Justina’s eyes widened, “I meant only I was tired after all of the activities I had involved myself in and…” Justina decided she would be better off if she did not say anything else as the others burst into laughter.

Justina sat at the kid’s table during breakfast. She tried to ignore Matthew’s stares, but it was very hard for her. It was evident by the stares she now received; she was not hiding the lust she now experienced in every ounce of her body.

***

After spending some time in the girls’ playhouse as promised, Justina took a stroll through the grounds to take in more of the beautiful landscape. When she walked through the driveway, Justina noticed the same green Corvette she had seen in the parking garage of Lawton’s Lodge. She reached her hand out to touch it.

“Are you admiring my ‘Vette?” Matthew’s sexy voice tingled her ears and his breath tickled the back of her neck as he leaned in, whispering his question to her.

“I should have guessed this car belongs to you,” Justina whispered back as she turned to face him. He was so close to her and she felt her body tremble.

“Oh yeah, do you like a Corvette man?” Matthew asked her as he took another step toward her.

Justina backed up against the car. She leaned her head to the side as she asked, “I’m not sure. What exactly is a Corvette man?”

Matthew shrugged his shoulders, “I’m a Corvette man. I have had a love affair with Corvettes all my life. A Corvette man enjoys many kinds of love affairs.” He pushed both his hands out and laid them on the car, affectively closing Justina in between them.

“You, uh, you just can’t stop yourself, can you?” Justina stammered nervously noticing there were mere inches now between them. She stared up at him, feeling helplessly lost in his eyes. They were boring into her. His smirk told her he knew she was feeling amorous at that very moment. He closed the gap between their bodies and Justina uncontrollably let out a whimper as their bodies touched. She was shocked to feel his maleness tight and hard against his jeans. She swallowed hard as he moved his mouth closer to hers. When their lips connected, Justina’s mouth involuntarily opened, allowing his tongue to enter and connect with hers. The kiss lingered and Justina felt her center moistening. She wrapped her arms around his neck without thought, “Hmm, Matthew.”

“I’m sorry.” He suddenly broke the kiss and stared down at her with unmistakable passion, biting his lower lip. “You’re right, I can’t help myself,” he slowly backed away from her. He raised an eyebrow, “But I do own more than one.”

“You have another Corvette?”

“Yes, I do; three more in fact.”

“I just love their speed and I love the way they look. I’ll have one, some day.”

“I suspect you can do anything, Justina, if you put your mind to it.”

Justina felt her face flushing, but managed a smile, “Thank you.” Taking deep breaths, she walked past Matthew and pointed toward the house. “I really must say goodbye to everyone.”

Matthew pushed out his arm toward Justina, “May I walk in with you?”

“Yes, thank you,” Justina said, taking his arm.

They shared one lingering stare before entering the home together.

Upon entering the house, Joyce pulled Justina into a corner to have a quiet conversation, “I want to hear the real story of your evening with Mr. Kingston.”

Justina smiled at Joyce nervously as everyone entered the room. Justina pulled some small boxes from a bag she carried. She turned to Donna and said, “I stopped by the gift shop this morning and picked up a few gifts to show my appreciation for all the hospitality I was shown this weekend.” She gave an assortment of perfumed bath oils to all of the women. They peeked into their bags and thanked her.

Donna smiled as she, too, pulled a small box from behind her back. “That was very nice, Justina, thank you. We also got you a small gift, to thank you for the hard work you do for our companies.”

Justina could not hide the smile that crept across her face as she opened the box. It held a lovely broach with matching earrings. Justina exclaimed with excitement, “Oh, they’re lovely, thank you all. I really must get back to the city, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the weekend.”

“We’ve certainly enjoyed having you here,” Donna replied. “Please, come back to the resort soon, and here, to our home.”

Justina walked out of the house and to her car. Just as she was about to get into her car, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. She turned to see Matthew staring at her. He took hold of her hand. Justina really wanted to feel his lips on hers again and his arms wrapped around her. “Thank you for a lovely weekend,” Justina whispered.

“It was my pleasure,” Matthew answered as he moved his face closer to hers. Instead of kissing her lips, he kissed her cheek. He pulled back and waited for her to get into her car.

Justina got into her car and drove away with amorous thoughts and fond memories of Matthew Kingston. Her thoughts suddenly drifted to Nick and she felt guilty about last night, but should she? After a year of dating, Justina and Nick had made no real commitment together. She and Matthew had not made any plans to see each other again. She shook her head as she exclaimed, “Oh, I have to get that man out of my mind.” She turned the radio on and as the music played, she began feeling relaxed.

The weekend turned out to be exactly what it was supposed to be, a fun and relaxing time. Justina definitely had experienced fun, but now she was going back to the city and back to her life. That is exactly what she wanted

***

Matthew watched Justina’s car pull away and he could still smell her perfume in the air. His body quivered at the thought of this woman and the moments they had shared. The memory of her kisses and her delicate, perfect little body trembling in his arms, from his touch, were still vivid in his mind.

“So let’s hear about what really happened last night after we left you and Justina,” Jim said as he approached Matthew.

“Where’d you come from?” Matthew asked, looking around.

Jim laughed, “I was packing the car and couldn’t help but overhear you and the lady talking. Don’t tell me you just walked her to the lodge and said goodbye. I’ve seen the stares you two have been giving each other.”

“You know I don’t kiss and tell,” Matthew stated somberly.

“But this situation is unique,” Jim whispered, looking around to make sure he and Matthew were alone.

“I just want to use some discretion with some of the things occurring or that might occur between us,” Matthew responded quietly.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Jim said with concern resounding in his voice.

“I do,” Matthew replied in a reassuring tone.

“An affair with Nick Cabaras’ girlfriend could be your last encounter with anyone,” Jim warned.

Matthew appreciated his friend’s concern. “I know and I promise to be careful and not slip up.”

“What do you mean by slip up? Do you mean to slip up and fall in love? Oh, you mean you’ll be careful not to get caught,” Jim said sarcastically.

“I don’t intend on getting caught,” Matthew answered dryly.

Jim shook his head and whistled, “Justina is vibrant and appears to be a sweet fruit and one taste wouldn’t be enough.”

Matthew agreed with his friend’s analogy, “I can’t hide anything from you. You have no idea just how sweet she is.”

Jim gave Matthew a suspicious look, “I know you like a book. It’s obvious you are attracted to her.”

“We didn’t make love, but she gave me a night of pleasure I haven’t felt in a long time,” Matthew confided.

Jim frowned, “You forget the real purpose for attempting to get close to her.”

“No, no way am I hooked on a woman with whom I’ve had only one night of passion with.”

“She’s gotten to you, man. You can’t deny that.”

Jim was wrong with his accusations; Matthew had not lost his focus, he was just cautious. “I’m not losing my touch with women.”

Jim chuckled at Matthew as he mocked him, “Oh you have a touch that can’t be turned around on you, eh?”

“That’s right. I’ve already told you, there’s not a woman out there that can catch me.”

“I know, you have a heart of stone and the speed of a tiger,” Jim mocked him again.

Matthew threw his hands up at him in surrender, “All right, I give up Jim. I can see I can’t make you believe I’m too tough to tame.”

Jim patted Matthew on his back as Caroline approached them. “I’m not the one that needs convincing. Justina Lindsey affected you.”

Matthew scoffed at his friends’ mockery and they both laughed. Matthew could not lie to himself; she had left quite an impression on him with her kisses and he wanted more.

Chapter Eleven

 

Justina was busy at her desk with paperwork when Joyce came walking in the door.

“If you aren’t swamped this morning, we need to look over the invitation list for Saturday night’s annual company celebration banquet

Justina stopped her work and looked at her friend. “Joyce I haven’t decided on a theme, the colors, the flowers, or who’s catering this year. I hope we can get someone at this late date.”

“We talked about this a couple of months ago. Maggie and I spoke with the appropriate people weeks ago.”

Justina sighed, “I promise I’ll help you as much as I can before I leave for my trip.”

There was a knock on the door, Justina turned to see Maggie and Christopher smiling.

Christopher took a seat by Joyce, who winked at Justina and Maggie. “Oh no, the finance police are here.”

Christopher took out a pen and a note pad and said, “I just want to make sure you girls stayed within the budget I laid out for the banquet. You three are just like my wife with money involved; there’s no end in sight.” The three women all threw pillows at him. “That’ll cost you,” he shouted at them with laughter.

Justina’s intercom phone rang, “Hello,” Justina said as she pushed the intercom button.

Bonnie Dolman, the front office clerk, spoke through the speakerphone. “Justina, you have a call on line one.”

“Thanks, Bonnie,” Justina said as she pushed the flashing red light on her phone and put it on speaker.

“Hello, Justina.”

Justina thought her heart would stop. She lost her voice for a moment as she recognized Matthew’s voice.

“Hello, are you there?”

“How are you this morning, Mr. Kingston?” Justina stumbled through her words as she reached over and took the conversation off the speaker.

“I’m fine and it’s Matthew. How are you, Justina?”

“I’m fine, Matthew,” she swallowed hard, taking a calming breath. “What can I do for you?

“Yes. Ah. I called to confirm I’ll be attending your dinner Saturday evening.”

“I’m pleased to hear it, Matthew.” Justina attempted to appear calm though she was anything but calm.

“I’m looking forward to it and to seeing you again, Justina.”

There was silence in the room as Justina focused on her caller. Her pulse continued to race when she heard the desire in Matthew’s voice. She fought her tension as she answered him.

“Yes, that’ll be lovely for me as well, Matthew.”

The moment of silence lingered, but finally he broke the awkwardness in a low tone. “Have a good day, Justina. Goodbye.”

“I hope you have a pleasant day too, Matthew. Goodbye,” her face was on fire. She could not understand why he was affecting her in such a way. She ended the call and turned back toward her curious friends to begin their meeting.

***

Matthew was glad he had mustered the courage to call her. She seemed excited by his call and that excited him. He had a talent for getting women to swoon over him, and it was a talent he so enjoyed using to his advantage. The buzz of the intercom disrupted his moment of satisfaction, “Hello Jane, how are you today?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Kingston; thank you for asking. Roger Lawton is waiting.”

“Tell him to come on in.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jim and Roger entered Matthew’s office together. Roger handed some files to each of the men as they took their seats and began reading the details aloud.

“Robert Cabara is sixty years old, married to Rosa Marie Jennings for thirty years and they have two sons, Marcus, and Nicholas, or Nick as everyone calls him, and one daughter, Isabella. Robert came to the United States when he was three years old with his family. His father worked for an off shore oil company, his mother was a housekeeper in New Orleans. Robert was sent to live with his uncle Mel when he was thirteen. He ran errands for him from his antique store, which really was a cover. He became the child Mel never had and when he got old enough, he managed all the bookstores Mel owned.”

“Robert became sole beneficiary of all Mel’s assets and got all of Mel’s money and property after Mel died a suspicious death. It was then that young Robert moved his parents here to live out the remainder of their lives.”

“Robert Cabara has an early history with crime. Interesting,” Jim commented.

Roger and Matthew nodded in agreement. Roger continued, “I have just recently come into possession of bank transactions connecting Wendell Capuano and Mel as well as pictures of Joseph Capuano, Wendell’s son, with Robert.”

Roger stood up and poured himself a cup of coffee. “And that’s how Robert Cabaralinski or Cabara for short came to live in Dallas.”

“Are there any more links between these two families you know of?” Jim asked.

“Through the years Mel and Wendell had several meetings in Dallas and Chicago where several other crime bosses such as Catalina, Ran pone, and Catono were present. There were agents who infiltrated themselves into some of these mafia families. They witnessed drugs and diamonds being transported through binders of books and behind some of the paintings being ‘bought’ or ‘traded’ at these secret meetings.”

“Why didn’t Mel ever go to jail after the agents found this information?” Matthew inquired.

“Agents disappeared or were bought out. The one brave soldier who stepped forward to testify was sold out by the judge or his attorney,” Roger answered through sips of coffee.

Jim leaned back in his chair, “What happened to him?”

“He cleaned out his bank account sent his wife and children out of town. He left shortly after with his parents and in laws,” Roger answered.

“They had some help from the FBI with relocating, didn’t they?” Matthew asked.

Roger shook his head, “No. He didn’t tell anyone his plans. He and his family were to be taken somewhere after he testified, but he didn’t trust anyone in the bureau, so he made his own plans. No one has seen or heard from him again.”

Matthew stretched out his hand and let out a puff of air, “These guys don’t play nice.”

Jim took a sip of his drink and commented, “No they don’t and that’s why we need to use caution.”

Roger nodded and looked at Matthew with concern, “Yes, Matthew, don’t ask too many pointed questions regarding the Cabaras and their associates I mentioned. Most of these people were Elizabeth’s clients. Now, they’re either dead or old, but their sons and grandsons are now Justina’s clients.”

“Do you think Justina knows about all of these things or could she even be involved?” Jim blurted out the question, as the other men shot him a disturbed look.

Roger shook his head without hesitating, “Absolutely not Jim, I am, however, afraid she may find out the ugly truth one day.”

“The possibility has to be explored,” Jim commented.

“Have you tried warning Justina about Nick and his family?” Matthew asked.

“I personally haven’t, but Joyce has advised her. Justina tells Joyce that Nick is in control of his own life.”

“She’s fooling herself,” Matthew said sarcastically.

“I’m afraid she’s in danger,” Roger worried.

“We’ll protect her as much as we can,” Jim responded.

Roger paused for another drink of coffee before continuing, “Robert’s daughter, Isabella, operates a cozy little coffee shop and eatery downtown where these men and their friends often meet. Marcus runs a nightclub called ‘Marc’s,’ but he also works for his daddy as a collector and all that goes with that. Nick is the president and CEO of Daddy’s lucrative Investment Company and owns a software company too, but I believe it to be just a front. I’m not quite sure what Nick’s real place is in the family.”

Matthew posed a question, “Does Nick own any stock in Justina’s company?”

Roger replied,” Justina owns eighty percent and Christopher Carter owns twenty percent. Elizabeth would not allow Robert and Nick to buy into the company. She made Justina promise her to never sell the company to anyone or allow anyone to invest in the company. I know firsthand the Cabaras were not too happy with Elizabeth. Some people even quietly suggest there could be a cover up regarding her murder.”

“Why was Christopher Carter allowed to buy a portion of the business?” Jim questioned.

“He’s been their financial advisor and book keeper for several years. I suppose they trusted him and wanted to keep him,” Roger answered.

Jim thought for a moment and shook his head, “There’s something not right with this picture. I’ve got a strange feeling that there’s more to Elizabeth and Christopher’s story than what meets the eye.”

Roger shrugged, “I think it all boils to a few simple facts. One: Elizabeth and Christopher’s mother are best friends. Two: Elizabeth never had kids of her own. She spent most every holiday with Christopher’s family. I think he became her surrogate nephew; so naturally, she wanted to make sure he had a good start in life. I know Christopher and his family. They are good people, Jim, and Christopher is a good man. I think you’re chasing things that have no value to us.”

Jim caught a hint of agitation in Roger’s voice and decided to let the subject of Christopher go. “I wonder what Elizabeth knew about her clients and if it was something that got her murdered.”

“They caught the man who killed her,” Matthew commented.

“They caught a used up crack head,” Roger grunted.

“You don’t believe Reynolds Johnson was Elizabeth’s attacker,” Jim surmised.

“There wasn’t anything taken from Justina and Elizabeth’s apartment. Justina was in Memphis that weekend. When Reynolds was first brought in, he claimed he did not kill her. Two days later he had a visit from Robert Cabaras attorney and he suddenly changed his story.”

“Was Justina dating Nick at this time?” Jim questioned.

“No. They began dating after Elizabeth died.”

“The bum that coughed up the confession was he connected to the Cabara family?” Matthew asked.

“Yes,” Roger raised an eyebrow. “I’ve often thought something funny was going on there, but couldn’t prove it, and didn’t have any facts to base my theories on.”

“What was the connection?” Matthew quizzed.

“Reynolds was a bartender at Marcus’s club for a while and then he became one of Robert’s errand boys.”

“There had to be evidence left at the scene,” Jim guessed.

Roger exhaled as he answered, “The only evidence found connecting Reynolds to the scene was a small patch of blood on the bedroom floor and a few fingerprints. During the investigation, there was no mention of semen being present on or near the body, but the coroner who conducted the autopsy said there were definite signs of sexual activity prior to death, yet his report was lost or separated from Elizabeth’s files.”

Matthew shook his head in doubt, “There has to be someone out there who’s heard something closer to the truth. Why would this guy confess to a crime he didn’t commit?”

“I know Robert Cabara is responsible for Elizabeth’s death, I just don’t have the details or proof, but the truth will be revealed. It always comes out somehow,” Roger said thoughtfully as he looked at his watch. “I’ve got to go. I have two more meetings to get to today.”

“We’ll walk you out. We have court this afternoon,” Jim grabbed his suit jacket.

Matthew nodded, “Oh, yes, two hearings I’ve been trying to avoid.” After standing and retrieving his own jacket and briefcase, Matthew caught up with them and cut the light off as he exited the office.

***

Justina had just finished her meeting when Nick walked into her office, “Nick, darling.” She stood and gave him a hug and kiss as the others gathered up their paperwork. As they exited, Joyce frowned, Maggie rolled her eyes, and Christopher smirked. Justina stared at them all with disapproval.

“I’m cooking dinner at my place tonight.” She turned and sat down on her sofa while holding his hand. “Is 7:00 pm good for you?”

“Oh yeah, that’s a perfect time and so is this,” Nick pulled her close to him and began kissing her.

Justina pulled away from him, “I have too much work to catch up on, Nick.”

Nick ignored her as he brought her into his arms again and kissed her. “Stop, Nick.”

Nick stood, “What’s wrong with you? You act as if you don’t have time for me.”

“I’m just tired and I have so much work to do.” Justina kissed him on his cheek and whispered, “I’ll see you tonight.”

Nick stormed out of the office without saying goodbye.

Joyce returned soon after and noticed Justina appeared distracted. “What’s wrong?”

Justina gazed at her friend with a smile. “Did we pass Christopher’s budget limit?”

“No. We went over, but he said he’d take it out of your paycheck.”

The two women laughed together.

“You were supposed to fill me in on what happened between you and Matthew.”

Justina said nothing.

“I know something hot happened and you might as well tell me.”

“You are so mistaken. I wasn’t attracted to him in the least.” Sarcasm seeped out of Justina’s mouth.

Joyce laughed, “The sparks were flying between you two! Everyone noticed them.”

Justina grunted as Joyce laughed at her and sat down with her on the sofa. “Joyce, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just felt an instant attraction to him that I have never felt before. Does that make me a bad person for being attracted to one man while being attached to another man?”

“No, it just strengthens the fact even more that you aren’t supposed to be with Nick.”

“I think you might be right about that.” Justina let out a deep breath and continued, “Matthew kissed me Saturday night. I have never been kissed like that before. I have never felt such passion. I feel guilty over his kisses.”

“You want to see him again.”

“I have to stay away from him and for sure not be alone with him. I am intimately involved with Nick.”

“You’re afraid of falling in love with him.”

“I know this man’s reputation and it’s of an untamed playboy, the same as Nick. He’s not capable of a serious relationship. He’s arrogant and self absorbed.”

“You’re harsh on a man you just met. I don’t see that in him at all. Nick divorced his wife. Matthew’s wife died; big difference.” Joyce stood and walked to the fridge. She got them some drinks. “If the right woman came along, then she could change his wild ways.”

“I’m not the right woman and I don’t want to change anyone’s wild ways. I just want to be left in peace. I’m confused enough over Nick; the last thing I need is to involve myself in another doomed relationship.” Justina decided she did not want to work anymore, so she grabbed her bags and stood. “I have to buy accessories for Saturday evening; want to tag along?”

Joyce stood and grabbed her handbag, “I never turn down a good shopping trip.”

Chapter Twelve

 

Matthew made connections with some of his street contacts and now was waiting in Deep Ellum for some feedback. He was a patient man when it came to investigation work, unlike Jim who would avoid stakeouts if possible. He thought back to the discussion with Roger and Jim.

“We have to get Cabara on a murder charge,” Matthew bellowed out.

“A Misdemeanor wouldn’t be pleasing to anyone,” Roger piped in

“All we need to do is to get one link connecting the Cabaras and Officer Walker’s death,” Jim reminded them. “It is possible to do that.”

Matthew cursed as he thought about how dire the situation was. His cell phone buzzed bringing him back from his thoughts. He answered his cell phone after he saw Jim’s name flashing at him.

“Talk to me, Jimmy.”

“I have our meeting with Reynolds Johnson set up for in the morning. Don’t be late,” Jim snorted.

“I’ll be there with bells on brother.”

Jim laughed, “We’ll see.”

Matthew ended the call just as Gerald opened the car door and got in. “Hi, Gerald, tell me you have something for me.”

“I don’t have any information on the cops or the old lady’s death, but I can tell you there was no assault on anybody on Market Street last weekend.” The information contradicted what his brother had said about his attack. Matthew wondered what kind of trouble Michael was involved, and how he could help him out of it. Matthew refocused on Gerald’s words.

“Two federal agents’ bodies were found in a nearby alley on Sunday morning, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were witnesses to the agents’ murders, but none willing to talk about it,” Gerald concluded.

“How were they killed?” Matthew began to feel sick as he thought of the agents.

“Bullets; lots and lots of bullets. They had to be identified by dental records. I’ll find out what I can and get back to you. I’m not going to promise you any results, though, the neighborhood seems tighter lipped lately.”

“Thanks, Gerald,” Matthew looked for an alley to allow his informant to exit the car without notice.

Gerald looked over Matthew’s Corvette and joked, “This car will do nicely as a payment.”

Matthew chuckled, “You’d owe me for life on that kind of deal.”

“Later, man,” Gerald pulled his jacket and hood over his head, walked briskly away from Matthew’s car, and disappeared into a dark alley.

Matthew sat there for a moment and thought about his brother, Michael. He hoped he was not gambling again. It would break his parent’s’ hearts, not to mention Michael’s bank account. Matthew cursed as he dialed Jim’s number, knowing he had to talk this through with Jim or he would never get any sleep that night.

***

The following morning, Jim and Matthew entered the prison for their meeting.

“Can you remove the chains?” Jim asked the guards.

“Yeah, Warden gave us special permission to do so.” The officer removed the chains and looked sternly at Reynolds Johnson. “I’ll be keeping my eyes on you.”

Matthew thanked the officers as they left the room. “Mr. Johnson, we appreciate you agreeing to speak with us on such short notice. We want to hear about the night Elizabeth Carr was murdered and the events leading up to that evening.”

“It’s just like I said. I flirted with that snobby little bitch at the club, she turned me down, and it pissed me off so I went to her apartment after her, but the old lady was there, so I decided to take my frustrations out on her. I didn’t mean to kill the old broad, but things just got out of hand.” Reynolds Johnson looked down at the floor.

Jim and Matthew took the action as an indication he was lying.

“Look, Johnson, we know you’re lying about the killing. The way I see it is you have nothing to lose by telling us the truth, and you could possibly escape the death sentence,” Jim spoke to Reynolds in a strong tone.

“I’m the one who killed the old broad and that’s all you need to know,” Reynolds answered with hostility in his voice.

Jim suddenly had a thought, “Mr. Johnson, if you have a family member being threatened by the Cabaras then I’m in a position to assure protection for you all.”

Reynolds shifted nervously in his chair, “I’m not saying anything else to you two.”

Matthew was about to say something else when he noticed Jim motioning for the officers to enter.

Jim turned to Reynolds, “Thank you for meeting with us, Mr. Johnson. If you can think of anything else to assist us, please, get into contact with me.”

On their way out of the prison, Jim and Matthew remained silent. When they entered Jim’s car, Matthew frowned as he looked at Jim. “Why didn’t you push the guy? I trust you to have good reason and I’d like to hear it.”

“He’s protecting someone. I want to know whom. Let’s do a good background check on him. That way, we’ll know how to approach him next time to find out who he’s protecting.”

“That’s a brilliant plan, partner,” Matthew chuckled.

Jim smiled as they began driving away. “I know; I can’t believe you ever doubted me.

Chapter Thirteen

 

Nick entered his office to find his brother and father with three men dressed in black suits. He politely shook the tall, dark- haired man’s hand standing next to Robert as his father made introductions.

“Nick, this is Steven Catalina, he’s son to Jacob Catalina. Jacob is preparing for a hiatus and Steven is prepping to take over the business while his father is away. The gentlemen standing near him are his, ah, associates.”

Nick shook Steven’s hands, but only nodded to the other men with Steven. They might have been called Steven’s associates, but everyone in the room knew what they really were, Steven’s bodyguards. The men did not acknowledge Nick’s nod, which certainly was a telltale sign of guards.

“What your father so kindly avoided saying is my father’s in prison at this time and until he’s free, I’ll be running the Atlanta operations,” Steven’s expression appeared to be sullen.

“Please, give him our regards when you see him again,” Nick said, as they all took seats.

“Thank you,” Steven turned to Robert. “I’m here to discuss the problem you encountered this past weekend. It disturbed me to think such a thing could occur.”

Robert nodded and frowned, “The situation was resolved, and no one suffered any income loss or was compromised in any way.”

“Not this time, but my business associates are concerned this may occur again and we might not be so fortunate next time,” Steven countered with a serious tone.

“Joey was dealt with severely,” Robert attempted to assure Steven.

Steven stared into Robert’s face for a long while, silently studying Robert’s expression. He stood after the long silence and looked to the men behind him. He nodded his head and they immediately filed in line behind him.

Steven shot Robert another serious glance, “I certainly hope so.” Followed by his guards, he exited the office without speaking further.

After the man had left, Robert turned to his sons. “Go visit Joey again. Make him aware that this incident was his last mistake with me.”

***

Nick and Marcus sat in a back corner booth at Isabella’s, with a bottle of wine and three glasses sitting in front of them while waiting for their meeting with Joey.

As they waited for Joey to show, each man sipped on their drinks.

Marcus, being one with no patience, and his usual arrogant self cursed and tapped his fingers against the table.

Nick leaned against the booth seat, puffed on his cigar, and enjoyed his drink. He was just the opposite of Marcus. Nick was patient, thoughtful, and quiet, unless he had something important to say or was angry. When he was the latter, most everyone knew to stay out of his way. Nick heard the bell clang as the front door opened and he looked up to see Joey walking toward the table. “Our boy’s here.”

“It’s about damn time. I’m going to smack him around just for making me wait.”

Nick laughed as Joey stopped just in front of the table. He pointed to a chair and spoke to him as he poured a glass of wine for him. “Take a seat, Joey. We have some things to discuss. We met with an associate today who wasn’t too happy about the last drop.”

All three men had taken a drink before any anything else was said. Marcus and Nick sat there with cold, threatening stares, while Joey trembled with fear, barely able to hold the wine glass. After taking in a long drink, he placed the glass back on the table.

“The next time you bring cops into our midst, we will make sure you suffer greatly before taking your last breath,” Marcus snapped.

Joey’s eyes grew round, and he stuttered nervously, “I know it could have been a bad…”

“Shut up, Joey, we aren’t interested in hearing you talk,” Nick growled.

“Our father thinks you are still useful. We disagree, but must obey him,” Marcus cursed.

“All right, you can go now, boy. Contact us when you have another potential buyer,” Nick chided.

“Now get out of here before I decide to go against my father’s wishes and shoot your ass right now where you stand,” Marcus reached over and slapped Joey’s face harshly.

Joey immediately stood and gave Marcus and Nick a serious look. “Please, tell Robert I’m sorry for the trouble. It won’t happen again. I won’t let him down next time.” He walked swiftly to the front door and exited.

“You just don’t like that man do you?” Nick asked.

“No. And I hope I’m the one that gives him what’s due to him and his brood.”

Nick gulped his wine down, “Pop says he’s got special plans for him.”

“Yeah, yeah I know, but that doesn’t mean pop is always right with his decisions.”

Nick finished off his drink as two nearly naked women approached their table. One of the women walked over to Marcus and stood directly in front of him. Marcus reached out his hands and pulled her into his arms and down onto his lap. “Come on baby, and take a ride on me,” As he groped her body.

Her friend walked over to Nick and smiled softly. Nick playfully slapped the girl on her buttocks. “You do look inviting, but I’ve got to run, but next time, baby, I promise.”

Marcus groaned as Nick stood, “Where you going little brother, don’t you want to have a little fun?”

Nick laughed, “Not tonight, “I’m off to take care of some personal things.”

Marcus waved his brother away, “Go on then, your loss, my gain,” Marcus motioned for the other girl to come over to him. When she reached him, Marcus pulled her tightly against him and fondled her with one hand as he continued fondling the girl sitting in his lap.

Nick laughed as memories played out in his mind of the times he and Marcus had shared women between them, including their wives. He also remembered the times they had shared women with their father.

When Robert called to have his daughter in laws sent to his private penthouse, Marcus and Nick learned early on not to argue and eventually came to enjoy those times as well.

Nick did not know how much fun sex education could be, but he quickly realized that it would be the best times he would ever share with his father and brother.

Nick looked over his shoulder at his brother and laughed. He then shook his head to clear his mind as he exited the cafe. Nick needed to swing by his office to grab some paperwork from his assistant before he made his way to see Justina later in the evening. He imagined it would be fun to introduce Justina into his kinky, sexy world, but he did not think she was quite ready. Soon, but not yet.

Chapter Fourteen

 

Jim looked at his watch as he heard his office door open. He stood from his desk, shook hands with Roger, and then proceeded to pour them some coffee.

Roger took the cup of coffee offered to him, “Where’s your sidekick?”

Roger and Jim laughed as they sat down in some chairs near Jim’s desk.

Roger joked, “Mattie boy couldn’t be on time if his life depended on it.”

“I have to say he was actually on time yesterday morning when we met Reynolds Johnson,” Jim said through his laughs.

Roger displayed a shocked look on his face, “Really, that’s hard to believe.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Jim filled Roger in on their meeting with Reynolds after they ceased their laughter at Matthew’s expense.

Roger nodded his head, “I agree with your suspicions that Johnson is protecting someone.”

Suddenly, the office door opened and in strolled Matthew. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down in a recliner near the fireplace.

Jim and Roger gave each other amusing glances as they moved from their chairs and stood by the fireplace mantle.

Roger raised an eyebrow and shot Matthew a humorous look, “So, how late were you out last night?”

“And who were you with, exactly?” Jim chimed in.

“I bet it was Linda Jones,” Roger guessed. “Man, she sure is a looker and her legs go on forever, don’t they?”

Matthew closed his eyes as he shook his head, “Who do you two think you are my guardians?” Matthew then chuckled. “You couldn’t guess who the lucky lady was if you had hours to guess, and you don’t.”

Jim smiled, “I know who it was.”

Matthew shook his head and stated flatly, “No, it wasn’t her, so let’s move on to the meeting, shall we gentlemen?” A smirk spread across his face because he knew Jim thought it was Justina. “I don’t kiss and tell.” Matthew kept his eyes closed as he laid himself back in the recliner. He had thought about Justina all week, even while he was with Stephanie Bolero the previous evening.

“I don’t know who your informant is, Matthew, but ninety percent of the time he’s right.” Roger took a drink of coffee and continued, “Two agents were found dead in an alley near the warehouse just as your informant told you.”

Jim and Matthew shot each other a disturbed look as Roger stared into the fireplace, silent for a long moment, as if he were in deep thought before he spoke again. “They’d met a man at Billy Club and stayed there for two hours. About an hour later, they were seen going into the Hyatt. That was the last visual and verbal from them.” Roger pulled out some files and loosened the string on the outer binder. Jim emptied his cup as Matthew stood and walked over to the mantle.

Jim asked Roger, “Was there a description made on this guy?”

“Yeah, he was described as 5’9” and medium build. He has short dark-brown hair and clean-shaven with either blue or green eyes. My informant says he’s seen him around before with the Cabaras, but more as a lackey than an associate.”

“Does your informant put a name with this guy?” Matthew questioned.

“This guy goes by Joey, no last name mentioned.”

“Matthew, ask your informant, Gerald, if he recognizes the name or description,” Jim suggested to Matthew. “I’m going to investigate Reynolds’s personal background and see what I can dig up.”

Roger pulled some pictures from the file and extended them toward Matthew and Jim. They began looking them over with care as Roger pointed at the pictures. “This is Kerry Winston; he got married six months ago, just before he went underground. This is Leroy Jackson. He has been in the agency for twenty years. He put his retirement request in to begin after this assignment was finished. He knew it would be his last one, but not like this. He and his wife Helen had bought a home in Honolulu. She flew back Saturday morning to meet him. Leroy never missed a date with his wife, ever in all the forty years of marriage.”

The three men remained silent for a moment. “I know these men personally and when an agent dies, in any agency, and I meet their families and hear their stories, I feel as though I know them and I mourn with their loved ones. But, you two know as well as I do, the risks we all take when we’re on assignment with the Bureau.”

Jim and Matthew watched Roger wipe his face. All of them had been employed by the bureau before, and they all knew the pain of losing fellow agents. Roger packed up the pictures and mumbled through his cracking voice. “Promise me, if something happens to me, you will do your best to explain to my wife why I kept secrets from her.” He gave his friends a demure look before exiting the office, leaving two speechless men greatly admiring just how tough his job with the Bureau as Records Agent, really was.

***

Joyce’s suspicion was right and she could not wait to tell Roger. She jumped to her feet with excitement when she heard the front door open.

“Joyce, I’m home,” Roger called out after shutting the door.

Roger’s voice was like sweet music to Joyce’s ears. She ran with excitement and jumped into his arms, bathing him in kisses.

Roger saw a familiar glow in her eyes, one he had seen before when she had told him she was pregnant with their daughter. He felt his heart race faster as he stared into her smiling face.

“Darling, I saw Dr. Kingston today and she confirmed what I’ve been feeling for a couple of weeks now. I’m pregnant!” Joyce announced with happiness.

Roger’s face heated and he imagined it glowed just as Joyce’s face did. He wrapped her tightly in his arms and pulled her into a passionate kiss. “Whoo-hoo! I want to make love to you right now!” He suddenly let her go and looked at her with concern. “That is if it’s okay; are you okay? Is the baby okay?” he rubbed her tummy softly.

Joyce nodded and with the big smile still glued to her face. “Yes, Dr. Fran says we’re okay. We can make love as long as things continue smoothly. I’m healthy and I want to make love to my sexy husband right now!”

Roger shot her a sensual stare as he picked her up into his arms and carried her to their bed. They never broke eye contact as they slowly and lovingly made love to each other, taking their time to enjoy each other completely.

After they had finished making love, they held each other for a long while and talked about the happy future they had to look forward to, together with their children.

Suddenly Roger realized he was the only one talking and looked down to find Joyce asleep, he chuckled as he stared at her. He felt at this moment that he was the luckiest man in the world. Roger whispered a thank you prayer to God just before he surrendered to a contented rest.

***

Matthew and Katie usually had dinner with Caroline and her family at least once during the week. Tonight, they enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs.

Caroline went out of her way to help Matthew take care of Kate and him. She would buy clothes and toys for Kate every time she bought clothes and toys for Kalian. Every time they went on trips such as the zoo, circus, or other special places, Jim and Caroline always invited Matthew and Kate. They were more to each other than family; they were friends.

Matthew wanted to show Caroline his appreciation so he bought her a dozen roses and a card.

Caroline smiled brightly as she hugged him, “Thank you, big brother.”

Matthew whispered, “No, Caroline, I thank you.”

Vacations were the only times they set aside to be on their own.

Last year Jim took Caroline and Kalien to the Grand Canyon while Matthew took Kate to Montana.

Dinner had been tasty as usual and they all enjoyed playing board games and listening to the girls as they told their fathers about their day at the zoo.

Later in the night, at his home, Matthew laid his daughter on her bed ever so gently, but she raised her head and put her arms around him, “I love you, Daddy.”

Matthew’s heart warmed up every time he heard those words from his little girl. “I love you too, baby. Are you too tired for bed time prayer?”

“Will you say it tonight?” the little girl whispered as she yawned.

Matthew began to say the Lord’s Prayer and as he suspected, Katie was asleep before the prayer ended. He kissed her goodnight on her forehead and turned out the light, feeling as Leslie always said, refreshed.

Matthew took a shower and before he went to bed he sipped on a glass of wine, which usually relaxed him enough to doze right off to sleep, but it was not happening tonight. He closed his eyes and his brother’s face flashed before him. Why had Mike lied about his assault? He would have to get to the truth, somehow.

Chapter Fifteen

 

Justina stepped off the airplane and made her way to her car after retrieving her luggage. Her cell phone rang. It was Joyce on the line. “Where are you?”

“I’m at the airport and on my way to the Hyatt.”

“Did everything go well with you this week?”

“I got the Clifford’s to sign on with our company and I promised I’d have an idea to pitch to them when they arrive.”

“That’s fantastic, Justina. I’ll meet you at the hotel and we can sit down for a quick chat.”

The two women ended the call as Justina pulled into her company’s garage. As she got out of her car and headed toward her private elevator, she thought she heard someone approaching her, but when she turned to look, she saw no one behind her. Justina was thankful when the elevator doors closed behind her. She gathered up the paperwork she wanted from the desk in her office and headed for the elevator. On the way, she stopped by the security desk and made a request to David, the night-guard.

“Will you escort me to my car, David?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He immediately walked around the desk and the two walked to the elevator. “I don’t mind at all to do this for you or any of your female employees, Ms. Lindsey. That’s what I’m here for.”

Justina appreciated his kind gesture. “I’ll be sure to let them know, David. The garage is dark and a bit scary sometimes, especially in the evenings.”

When they reached Justina’s car, she quickly unlocked the car, “Thank you, David.”

David nodded his head and smiled, “My pleasure, Ma’am. I’ll stand here until you exit the garage.”

Justina got into her car and drove away as David watched her.

After Justina’s car pulled out of the garage and David stepped back onto the elevator, a tall, thin man stepped out of the shadows, staring after Justina’s car as it turned the corner.

***

Justina was happy with the decorations Joyce and Maggie had selected for the Valentine’s themed party. The white walls of the hall were decorated with red and white hearts. Each table had a lovely vase with red and white roses. Each vase had large red and white bows attached to its side as a centerpiece.

“You and Maggie are supreme, thank you. Valentines is the perfect date for this party.”

Joyce gave Justina a wide grin and said, “Now I have something to tell you.” She waited a moment while Justina fixed her eyes on her and said, “I’m having a baby in late fall.”

“Oh, congratulations, Joyce; Roger must be ecstatic! How did Sammie react? Did…”

Joyce held her hand up and laughed, “We’re fine, and Roger is very happy. We’re going to tell Sammie tonight.”

Justina waved behind Joyce’s back and grinned, “There’s the happy daddy now.”

Roger walked over to the two women and hugged his wife. He nodded his head at Justina, “Hi, Justina, how are you doing?”

“I’m doing well, Roger, and you.”

“I’m doing great,” he looked at his watch. “But we’ve got to be going if we’re going to get everything done before the party.”

Justina nodded, “I need to go too. I’ll walk out with you two.”

The three reached their cars where Justina and Joyce hugged once more before leaving.

Fifteen minutes later, she was at her penthouse. When Justina entered the foyer of her penthouse, she heard a noise inside her home-gym, which laid just to the right of the front room. She placed her briefcase down and walked to the gym’s door. When she glanced through the sliding glass doors, she saw Nick inside, working-out on the equipment. He obviously gave the door attendant theI cannot find my key story to get in her home. Nick had a way of getting most everything he wanted.

Justina shook her head, she should be mad at him, but he was just Nick, and she really did not mind him being there. They had shared a smile before he continued his workout and she made her way through her living room, up her spiral staircase, and into her bedroom.

Justina was ordering a nice Italian dinner when he walked past her toward the shower, already half stripped.

With her mouth watering from the view of Nick’s sweaty, muscled body, Justina hurried through her call and slipped into the bathroom to find him already inside the tub. She pulled back the shower curtain and stared at the naked, sexy man, and her mouth watered once more with desire. He was sexy, from his blond hair to his chiseled chest, to his ripped abs, all the way down to his most prized male attribute. As she watched him allowing the water to run over his ripped body, Justina licked her lips. The scene before her eyes made her pulse rise with desire, which caused her to shiver, and moisten all the way to her core. Lost in her lust for his body, she did not see him turn toward her until it was too late.

He snaked his hands out and gently rubbed her cheek.

“Your look tells me, you like what you see.”

Justina blushed, “Yes, very much so.”

Nick suddenly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her aggressively into the tub and into his arms. He pushed his mouth down to hers and kissed her thoroughly.

They both laughed as she pulled from the tongue-entangled kiss, “Oh, Nick, now I’m all wet.”

Nick’s eyes twinkled as he moved his gaze over her slim figure, “Hmm, not nearly as much as I want you to be, honey.”

Justina’s face flushed as he kissed her neck, drawing his lips closer to hers. She groaned with passion as he moved his hands over her clothed body. “I, hmm. Oh, Nick, I want you; take me.”

“Good, because I want you too,” he smothered her lips with hot, passionate kisses as he quickly undressed her. After he had thrown her last piece of clothing out of the shower tub, he pushed her against the side of the tub wall and did what she asked him to do – he took her. They made love for quite a while before they were finally brought to their satisfying climaxes.

Just as they exited the shower, the elevator buzzer sounded. Nick hurried and threw on his pants. “That must be dinner. I’ll let him up.” He winked at her before leaving the bedroom.

When he returned, he was already eating. “This was a good choice, baby,” Nick grinned, as he shoved another meatball into his mouth.

Justina knew that above all food, an Italian meatball dinner was Nick’s favorite.

“It’s your favorite dish and I wanted to do something special for you. I always enjoy the vegetables and salad they send along with it,” Justina responded as she sipped on her wine. “Are you coming to my party tomorrow night?”

“You are always so generous and thoughtful, baby, that’s why I love being with you. Of course, I’ll be there,” he patted her on the hand. “Are you worried about the party? You’ll do fine.”

“Thank you for your vote of confidence,” Justina leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“Are you going to fill me in on your trip?” Nick asked as he poured himself another glass of wine.

“I secured the contract and they’ll be here in two weeks to see what I’ve got for them.”

“That’s great, Justina. I knew you could do it.”

Justina took a deep breath and changed the subject. “So, how are things going with your work, Nick?”

Nick was vague as usual. “Work is good. It’s also a boring subject so let’s not dwell on it.” He took her hand and kissed it tenderly as he pushed himself away from the table. He gently pulled Justina out of her chair and led her into the living room. Nick stopped just in front of the sofa where he took Justina into his arms and kissed her passionately.

As they shared their lustful kiss, they each hastily undressed the other and pushed their bodies together to close any gaps between them. Nick pushed her head back, bathed her with more kisses, and flicked his tongue down her neck to her breasts. Justina groaned with pleasure as he lingered on her breasts with his lips, flicking his tongue in and out of his mouth, tasting her skin. She ran her fingers through his hair and held onto his shoulders as he moved his mouth down to her stomach and on to her most feminine area.

After Nick pleasured Justina, she in turn pleased him in similar fashion.

Nick suddenly and aggressively pulled Justina into his arms, carried her to the sofa, and laid her down there. He covered her with his hard body and entered her with gentle, yet heated passion.

Justina awoke the next morning to find a note: Justina, I had fun last night and I will see you at your party. Love Nick.

Justina fondly thought of their love making the previous night and sighed. There were no complaints about their sex for sure, but something was missing. She pushed her thoughts away as she got out of bed and walked toward the shower.

Chapter Sixteen

 

Matthew stepped out of his car, handed the young man the keys, and walked inside the large hotel plaza, making his way to the grand ballroom. When he stepped inside the room, he saw his family standing together in one corner, chatting. He made his way over to them where everyone greeted Matthew with nods as Frances and Donna hugged him.

“Oh, you are so handsome, Matthew,” Frances spilled out with delight. “I have such handsome boys.”

Donna patted Matthew’s face tenderly, “Oh, Matthew you really are so handsome in a tuxedo.”

Jim and the others rolled their eyes as the two elder women carried on over Matthew.

Jim teased, “I assure you, Matthew, they told us the exact same thing.”

The others laughed together as Matthew gave the two women his bright smile. He kissed each of them on the cheek and whispered, “I know I’m the most handsome of the clan and I know neither of you can show favoritism. It’s okay.”

Donna patted his shoulder softly, “And humble, too.”

Frances laughed, “Oh, my, the humble part, I’m not so sure about.”

Jim pulled at his tie and walked over to Matthew, fussing, “You look more comfortable in that thing than I do, what’s your secret?”

Matthew laughed at his friend as he fixed his tie for him. “There’s no secret, Jimbo. You give it some time and you’ll forget the tie is on you, trust me.” Matthew gave him a hit on the back and continued, “You look pretty good in this suit, I think you should wear one more often.”

Jim chuckled and pointed at a table where Kevin Jenkins was sitting. “His wife isn’t with him.”

They both stared at the man for a brief moment. Matthew joked, “She’s probably already got her claws in some other poor rich sap.”

“Did you ever meet up with her in a private conference?” Jim raised one brow.

“No. Did you really think I was going to touch that woman? She’s an obvious succubus looking for fresh prey. Their court date is coming up and we need to decide who’s taking it.”

Jim shrugged his shoulders and chuckled, “I will,” he whispered as they walked to their table. “Besides, I don’t think you can resist her if you actually were alone with her.”

Matthew nodded, “You know me too well!”

“Excuse me, folks, your tables are ready now. If you follow me, I’ll take you to them.”

The Kingston and Lawton clan fell into line and followed the waiter to their table. As Matthew approached the table, he thought the decorations were lovely. It was obvious that Justina had taken great care to make sure everything had been precisely organized for the evening, which was something else for which he admired her.

There was a name card setting in front of each chair and everyone easily found their places as their drink orders were taken.

Joyce stepped to the front of the hall, looking radiant in the ocean blue evening gown she worn, which flowed to the floor. Her hair curled down around her face.

“Hello. We are so glad you came to be with us. The meal you will enjoy this evening is from the talents of Chef Lauren Lawton and Chef Tabitha Kingston from Lawton’s Diner.”

Matthew was enjoying his soup with his family when he felt a tug on his shoulder. He turned to look straight into Roger’s camera lens.

“Okay, Kingston’s and Lawton’s cuddle together for a family shot.” Roger snapped a few photos and nodded with approval. “That’s going to be a good one. I’ll make sure you all get a copy.”

“So you’re the photographer for this evening’s events. I bet you’re having fun,” Matthew teased.

“I wasn’t really given a choice,” Roger said dryly.

“Oh, you’re having fun, man, just admit it,” Jim chided as Roger snapped another picture.

“At least it saves me from having to play nice with the scum sitting at my table.” Roger pointed to the hostess table where the Cabaras were sitting. Their attention was quickly averted to the stage when they heard Justina’s voice.

Matthew’s eyes took in every inch of the lady. She was wearing an emerald green evening gown with pearls and diamond sequins perfectly placed on the gown. Her long hair was curled into a small bun atop her head, with strands of it hanging sensually down her shoulders and around her face. Eloquent diamonds danced beautifully on her neck with the perfectly accessorized bracelet and earrings. The neckline was just low enough to tease the men’s senses and the gown was snug enough for her sexy figure to be admired.

What a woman, Matthew thought to himself.

“You should see your face brother. You can’t hide what you think about that woman; it’s written all over you,” Jim whispered as he and Roger chuckled together.

Matthew could not believe the affect she had on him and he turned away, but not for long.

“Hello everyone, I’m Justina Lindsey and I now employ one hundred wonderful people who are very valuable to me. I want all of you to know I appreciate everything you do on a daily basis.” She turned and took a plaque from the table behind her. “I want to present to Christopher Carter my financial director, this lovely plaque. Without him, the money wouldn’t make it to the bank, the bills wouldn’t get paid, and most importantly of all, none of us would get paid.” A ring of laughter was heard as Justina motioned for Christopher to step up front.

Christopher took the plaque and hugged Justina. “Thank you, Justina; I’ll treasure this always. God, I enjoy my job. I want to thank everyone for their hard work.” He turned to Justina and whispered to her privately as the room of people clapped. “Elizabeth would be so proud of the work you’ve accomplished since her passing and I’m very proud of you too, kiddo. I have watched you learn from Elizabeth through the years and you have become quite the businesswoman. You’re smart, beautiful, and a leader worthy of trusting and following,” Justina hugged Christopher with tears in her eyes. She stepped from the stage with her hand tucked in Christopher’s arm. As she walked toward her table, she greeted people along the way. After talking briefly to Kevin Jenkins and those at his table, Justina made her way to Matthew’s table.

“Hello, everyone, I hope you all are having a nice time.” Justina addressed the large table of Lawton and Kingston’s family members sitting together. Everyone greeted her with smiles. Justina listened to Caroline as she spoke of her plans for her design business.

Justina could feel Matthew’s eyes on her. She tried to ignore how they made her pulse quicken. When she looked at him for the first time that evening, they each spoke simultaneously. “How are you this evening?” They shared a smile and stopped speaking. She watched him scrunch his lips, as they waited for the other to speak.

Matthew finally broke the silence. “I’m doing well. You look lovely this evening.”

Justina’s face heated as she heard his words, “Thank you, Matthew.” She wondered if anyone noticed her trembling. From the slight smile on their faces, she supposed that they noticed.

“The evening is going well for you, I think,” Matthew guessed.

“Yes, it is. I hope you are enjoying yourself too.”

“Yes, thank you for asking,” Matthew pointed to the dance floor. “Perhaps we can share a dance later.”

“That would be enjoyable.” Justina wondered by all the curious stares at the table if she answered too quickly and blushed. She then watched Matthew’s smile fade and gazed around to see what had taken his dimpled smile away. She bit her lip nervously as she saw Nick had approached.

“There you are. I wondered what was taking you so long,” Nick whispered in Justina’s ear as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

“I told you I was going to be greeting guests,” she answered.

“Yes, but our food is being served. You can play hostess after we eat.”

Justina gave everyone an apologetic look as Nick whisked her away.

After she was gone, Donna commented, “I don’t like that young man.”

“Nor I, Donna, and I don’t know how on earth that sweet girl became involved with him,” Frances added as Matthew and the other men sat back down at the table. “When Elizabeth was alive, she told me Nick was trying to get close to Justina even though she asked Nick to leave Justina alone,” Frances continued.

Donna nodded, “Yes, and she had suggested to Justina he was bad news.”

“Oh, I bet Elizabeth isn’t happy as she’s looking down on her niece now.”

“I know you’re right, Frances. Justina needs a nice young man who will be good to her.”

As the two elderly women continued speaking, everyone glanced at Matthew with humorous looks.

“It’s obvious you and the lady are attracted to each other,” Jim echoed quietly to Mathew and chuckled before he turned his attention to his wife.

***

After eating, Justina excused herself and stepped to the microphone. She acknowledged the long list of employees and companies who had been loyal to her. “I’m promoting Joyce to Director of Campaigns and Maggie to Advertising Director. The loud applause from the employees demonstrated everyone’s approval. The three women hugged. Justina whispered to them, “I love you both very much. “

“I love you too,” Joyce said through tears.

“Thank you, Justina. I love you so dearly,” Maggie laughed with delight. They made their way back to their table.

Robert Cabara gave Justina unpleasant looks when she sat down with Nick. “You certainly have spent a lot of money on this party tonight little lady. If you aren’t careful you’ll run out,” Robert frowned.

Justina glanced over to see Roger rolling his eyes and biting his tongue as Joyce stuffed her mouth with food.

“Now, don’t you worry about Justina’s business or personal accounts, Mr. Cabara because I can assure you they’re healthy and getting healthier by the day,” Christopher declared.

Justina held her breath as she heard Roger snicker.

“Well, it’s good to know you’re looking out for her, son. Your mother would be proud of you.”

“God has been good to me this year and I wanted to show my employees I appreciate their hard work,” Justina spoke up. She then turned to Joyce and Maggie, “Oh, by the way, I’m sending you and your families to Disney World.” She turned and shot Robert a challenging stare.

“You pay them, and that’s all you are required to do,” Marcus said gruffly.

“It isn’t enough for me, Marcus, and I have to do what feels right for me.”

“What you need is a committee of well balanced and financially stable men who can direct you in proper ways of managing a company and handling employees,” Robert stated in a commanding voice.

“That’s exactly what she doesn’t need, and it contradicts everything Elizabeth ever wanted for the company,” Joyce said with annoyance.

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” Marcus growled.

“Marcus, don’t talk to my friend like that. She’s right. Elizabeth would never want a committee running her company, and I won’t break my promise to her,” Justina replied.

Marcus pointed at his brother, “Nick, you need to control your girl.”

“Justina, you need to apologize to my brother,” Nick said harshly.

Justina gave Nick a blank stare before turning to Marcus to make sure he understood her. “Marcus, no one controls me and I’m not Nick’s girl, I’m my own person.”

Christopher turned red with anger, “I’m the closest thing to a committee Elizabeth would’ve wanted for the company. Furthermore, Justina is doing a fantastic job and I’ve never once had to tell her she’s spending too much money.” He looked straight at Marcus and said harshly, “I also don’t like the way you talk to Justina, and I’d appreciate it if you show her the respect she so deserves.”

Nick stood up and took Justina by the hand as he escorted her to the dance floor. She shot her eyes back to her table and saw Roger and Joyce grinning, the Cabaras looking grim, and Elaine looking very proud of Christopher. She unconsciously maneuvered her eyes on Matthew. She felt herself giving way to the memory of what had occurred between the two of them that weekend at the resort. She blinked to make the image go away, but not before their eyes met. She felt the heat of his eyes bearing down on her. She pulled her eyes away from him and she continued dancing with Nick.

“The party seems to be relatively successful, Justina.”

Justina pulled her head back to look at Nick. She knew there would be a “but” in his words and she was right. “But my father is right, you are too generous to your employees and I didn’t appreciate your tone with them. You were on the borderline of disrespecting them and that won’t be tolerated.”

Justina could not believe she was hearing him say these things to her and she became irritated. “You don’t give me orders, Nick. Furthermore, you don’t talk to me in this manner again, because the tone you’re using with me right now won’t be tolerated.” She left him standing on the dance floor.

Marcus’ cell phone rang as Justina and Nick took their seats. He listened and whispered something to his father.

“Justina, I would like to thank you for the delicious dinner, and the fascinating evening. I hope you will not hold my opinion against me,” Robert commented as he placed his napkin on the table.

Justina supposed that was as close to an apology as she was going to get from him. She smiled politely and responded, “Mr. Cabara, thank you for coming, sir, and I’m not one to hold grudges.”

She turned to Marcus and politely whispered a goodbye to him, but he simply turned and walked away without a word.

Nick stood, and stared harshly at Justina, “I have to go. I’ll call you later.” He followed his brother and father out of the room.

“I’m so proud of you for standing up to that man,” Joyce whispered. “I can’t believe he had the nerve to talk to you like that in front of us.”

“I can’t believe he had the nerve to talk to me like that at all. Alone or in a crowd, no one talks to me like that,” Justina groaned, and then took a gulp of her champagne.

Roger patted her on her shoulder, “I didn’t know you could stand up for yourself. I was under the impression he spoke to you in that manner a lot.”

“Roger, I can’t believe you thought so little of me.” Justina appreciated his honesty. “The truth is Nick has never spoken to me in such a manner before. He’s always been so kind and affectionate to me.” She winked at Christopher and said, “And besides, I’ve been taught a few moves from Christopher so I can do a little karate if I have to,” to which everyone laughed.

They all stood and began making their way to the dance floor, leaving Justina at the table. Roger leaned over and whispered to her, “It’s not that I thought so little of you, it’s just I believed you had lost your way and was not thinking clearly when you got involved with him.”

“I have lost my way, but I’m going to find my way back soon.”

Roger smiled, “I’m glad to hear that. If you need my help, all you need to do is ask.”

After the others left her alone at the table, Justina still raged inside over the incident and decided to take a stroll out to the patio for some air.

Chapter Seventeen

 

Justina stared out at the city lights, fuming over the way Nick had talked to her.

“A beautiful lady shouldn’t have such a grim look on her face, particularly on Valentine’s Day.”

Matthew stepped over to her with a fresh glass of champagne along with a red rose.

“Thank you,” Justina watched Matthew smile. It was a warm smile, soft and genuine. Her heart rate accelerated just by looking at his smile. When she tilted her head to look at him, she caught her breath as she stared into his caramel-colored eyes. They seemed to dance and they captivated Justina as they gazed at her. Her body quivered, and though he did not say it, Justina could see that Matthew knew his presence was setting her ablaze.

Instead of saying something coy, Matthew acted in a most gentlemanly fashion. He immediately took off his suit coat and placed it around her shoulders, brushing her shoulder with his hand.

As his skin touched hers, Justina swore she had been struck by electricity. Oh, how his touch burned her. Her body uncontrollably quaked all the way to her inner core. When he pulled his hand away, Justina wanted to pull it back to her. She did not understand why this man was affecting her in such an erotic way. No one had ever turned her on so much, not even Nick. Her body was on fire. Lord, help me if I were to really fall into bed with him.

Instead of reaching out for his hands, she grasped the tops of the suit coat and pulled it around her.

Matthew leaned his arms on the rail and stared out at the dancing lights of the city. “A young woman who takes over a business and keeps it thriving and growing in her first year, well I’d say that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”

“You certainly are full of compliments, Mr. Kingston.”

“They are genuine compliments, Justina. All of this, you have accomplished on your own, and I’m impressed by that.”

Justina just decided she did indeed like this man. “I wish Nick saw it that way, but he thinks I should let his father buy a portion of my company and bring on a Board of Directors to direct me on how to spend my own money.” She cringed at the thought of having to answer to a board of old, stuffy men.

Matthew attempted to make her feel better about her choices. “If you want my opinion, I think Nick’s a fool for suggesting such a thing for your business. He and his father just want a piece of it for themselves.”

“I’m so upset over this. Nick knows what kind of hell I went through after Elizabeth died. I was terrified for months in that apartment until Roger suggested to me to let the apartment go. He and Joyce were right, the nightmares I was experiencing about Elizabeth being brutalized began to subside after moving. I still had a business to take care of and somehow with the help of Joyce, we made it to this point. Instead of being happy for me, Nick finds things to criticize me about then he lies to me, and cheats.”

Justina stopped and realized she was blubbering over her boyfriend to another man. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking to you about this.”

“It’s okay. I’m a good listener and it sounds like you need to talk to someone.” He pulled his suit coat tighter around her shoulders. “Nick doesn’t realize just what kind of woman he has; he’s going to regret losing you.”

“Do you think he’s going to lose me?” Justina asked.

“Yes, if you are the kind of woman I think you are.”

“Oh, and what kind of woman do you think I am?” Justina questioned, not sure if she wanted to hear his description. She cuffed her hands together in an attempt to warm them up.

“I think you are a woman who avoids attention if possible, but will defend yourself if you need to.”

Justina leaned her head to the side as she looked out toward the city lights. “Yes, you are right. Nick still doesn’t have it figured out, he’s too busy with his job and seducing women. How did you figure me out so quickly?”

Matthew burst out with laughter, “Are you kidding me?” he shook his head. “You’ve been defensive with me from the beginning.”

“Yeah, I guess I have. I apologize. It’s just I had gotten the impression you were a ladies’ man who wasn’t accustomed to hearing the word, ‘no.’”

“You’re right, I’m not accustomed to hearing, ‘no,’ but I can’t help that I’m so damn irresistible.”

She could not help but laugh at the comical way he glanced at her.

Matthew reached to pull Justina into his arms and she resisted. “Oh, are you going to test your theory?”

Matthew pulled back and he held his hand up. “No, it’s just you look really cold and I was trying to be a gentleman and warm you up.”

Justina slowly stepped into his arms. “I do hear some soft music playing, so I guess one dance won’t hurt, will it?”

Matthew folded his muscular arms around her slender body, as he whispered, “No, I don’t think it will hurt at all.”

They began dancing slowly and he held her close, so close Justina felt his heart beating against her. She closed her eyes and boldly put her arms around his neck. Her pulse beat faster when she felt him place his hand on her lower back. Justina could not deny the passion she was experiencing for Matthew, and could feel her anger and stress dissipating as he held her in his strong arms and comforted her. How she wished, she could know what he was thinking about her at this moment.

***

Matthew’s body responded with an increased heart rate when he felt Justina’s breath on his neck as they danced. Leaning his face against her forehead, he tenderly kissed her there. He heard her breath catch and release as a small gasp of delight. Slowly, he moved his lips from her forehead down to her cheek and kissed her there. Soft expressions of pleasure escaped her as he trailed his lips from her cheek down to her neck and back to her cheek where he applied yet another tender kiss.

A kiss returned to his neck was a pleasant surprise. Matthew moved his lips to hers and he kissed them lightly. As he withdrew his lips from hers, he heard her whisper, “Don’t stop.”

He pulled back just enough to look her in the eyes and with a raspy voice said, “You are so beautiful.” He pushed his lips to hers once more and held them firmly there. He gave into his desire to pull her into a deeper, lustful kiss.

While gently placing her back against a nearby brick wall, another sensual surprise awaited him when he parted her lips and pushed his tongue inside; their lustful kiss became a seductive, tangled dance. Matthew’s hardness poked at his trouser’s zipper, demanding to be freed as he pushed his hard body against hers, eliminating any space between them.

“I’ve had you on my mind all week,” Justina whispered as their lips parted.

“You’ve been on my mind too, Justina,” Matthew groaned between the soft kisses to her neck.

He gently stroked her back with his hand and wanted to explore her body with them, but fought the urge.

She wanted him and he knew it. Her soft caresses to his neck told him all he needed to know, but he also sensed her doubt, her fear. He, too, experienced a desire to pull back, not out of fear, but out of respect for her. God, he wanted her. There was no doubt about it, but not here. Not now, this was not the right time, not yet.

Matthew kissed her passionately once more and then gently released his strong grip. He continued to hold her in his arms as he whispered, “This feels really good, Justina, but…”

Justina touched his lips with her finger. “You don’t have to say anymore. I understand.”

He looked straight into her eyes and touched her face. “I want to see you again.”

She looked away. “I want to see you again, too, but I’m involved with Nick.”

“You have nothing to feel guilty where Nick is concerned, but I won’t push you. I want you to call me when you’re ready to see me again or if you need anything.”

He leaned down and kissed her as he took his coat and whispered in her ear, “You should go in first so no one becomes suspicious.” Matthew rubbed her arm, “And because you are freezing.”

Justina pulled out of his arms and they stared at each other. She suddenly leaned over and kissed him once more with fervent passion. “I don’t understand what you’re doing to me. I’ve never been so bold before; I’m sorry.”

Matthew winked at her and whispered hoarsely, “I’m pleased with your boldness.”

She let out a deep breath as she removed his jacket from off her shoulders and then walked away from him and back inside the banquet hall.

***

As Matthew approached Justina’s table, he tried walking past without being noticed, but to no avail. Roger invited him to sit down. He caught Justina’s eye on him and he could sense she was not sure what to do, and she was blushing. He could not help noticing Roger and Joyce giving him strange looks, he ignored them and turned toward Justina, smiling. “Justina, this evening is going well; you are a fine hostess.”

“Thank you, Matthew, I’m actually enjoying myself.”

Matthew smiled once more at her before turning to Roger and Joyce, who were still giving him strange looks. They talked a few more minutes. As he was turning to leave, he turned back to Justina. “Justina, you owe me a dance.”

“Perhaps another time, ask me again soon.”

He nodded his head and walked to his table. It was nearly empty as most everyone was on the dance floor except for Jim and Caroline.

Jim looked up at Matthew, who stood by his chair and nearly choked as he chuckled, “Did you enjoy the fresh air?”

“Oh, I don’t think he stepped out for the air.” Caroline laid her head on Jim’s shoulder to smother a laugh.

“The fresh air was just what I needed,” Matthew shot back at them. Why are they laughing at me? He questioned himself in his mind. He narrowed his eyes at them as they continued to snicker and stare at him.

“I really do like that shade of lipstick you’re wearing tonight, brother,” Caroline said through the snickers.

Jim could not hold back his amusement, and bellowed with laughter.

Matthew took a napkin and rubbed his face. Sure enough, there was lipstick on the napkin.

***

Justina took a deep gulp of champagne, avoiding Joyce and Roger’s suspicious glances toward her. She could do nothing to alert Matthew to the several smudges of lipstick smeared across his face, neck, and lips.

“Did you see the lipstick on his face?” Joyce asked with laughter.

Roger nodded and grinned, “Oh yeah, and the best part is he doesn’t even realize it’s there.”

Justina finished off her last glass of champagne and stood. She pointed to the stage, “I need to say goodbye and, ah, thank everyone for being here.” She turned to walk away when Joyce motioned for her to stop.

“You might want to retouch your lipstick, Jussie!”

She quickly pulled out her compact mirror and looked into it. She moaned when she saw her lipstick was indeed smudged. She reapplied more as Roger and Joyce laughed. She drew in deep breaths and frowned at them, then childishly stuck her tongue out at them, which caused them to laugh again. She shook her head as she turned and walked toward the stage. If they did not know for sure the lipstick on Matthew’s face belonged to her, they did now.

After Justina had finished with thanking everyone for attending, she stepped off the stage and felt a hand touch her shoulder. “You promised me a dance.”

Justina held her hand up in protest, “I don’t recall making a promise to you, Mr. Kingston.”

“If you walk away and leave me standing here, you will bruise my reputation.”

“We can’t have that now, can we?” Justina spoke softly as she took his hand.

Matthew led her to the dance floor, pulled her close to him, and softly whispered in her ear, “You smell so good.”

“I… As do you.”

Their eyes met, causing Justina’s heart to race, as she danced with the handsome man.

“You look beautiful tonight.”

“And you are so strikingly handsome in the tux.”

Their eyes met and locked together for an instant. As they stared into each other’s eyes, each one sensed the passion building between them.

Justina closed her eyes and pushed her body into his to break the mesmerizing, intense moment.

As they maneuvered their bodies closer to one another, he leaned into her ear and breathed the perfect words into them. “I want to see you again and it has nothing to do with putting a notch on my belt. I like you and I want to get to know you better.”

Justina groaned, “I’m involved with someone else.”

“You’re questioning that involvement; if you weren’t, you wouldn’t allow me to get so close.”

“Oh, you really are arrogant, aren’t you?”

“I’ve never denied it, but you are shaking, Justina, I know I’m having an effect on you and you should know you have one on me too.”

She laid her head on his shoulder. “Nick wouldn’t understand and he’d be so mad.”

“So don’t tell him. Just keep it between us until you have made your mind up about him.”

Electricity flowed through Justina’s body as Matthew brushed his lips across her earlobe.

“I don’t want to be a cheater or a liar.”

“No one would see you as a liar or cheater; you have the right to explore other options.” He gently pushed his body so close to hers that there was now no distance between their bodies.

Justina groaned under the sensual connection.

Matthew, too, moaned with desire as he ground his body against hers.

“Uh, um, Matthew.”

He pushed his lips to hers and connected into a lustful, heated kiss, which caused their lips to join in a seductive dance of their own.

After the pleasurable embrace and kiss had ended, Matthew placed one last gentle kiss onto her face.

“I’m going to leave you for now. Let you think about what you want.”

He slipped a piece of paper into her hand.

As Justina watched him walk back to his table, she saw his family display shocked curious looks at them. She glanced at the note as she approached her own table, and her breath caught in her throat. It was his phone number.

Chapter Eighteen

 

Several weeks had passed since the party and Justina had been busy at work, but the Valentine’s weekend was still heavy on her mind.

Justina recalled the argument she and Nick had. It still angered her. When she thought of the trip she had taken with him to New Orleans the following day, her anger somehow subsided. In its place, passion came strutting alongside her, reminding her how she could not resist Nick, no matter how angry she was at him.

Justina had wanted to talk to him about their relationship, but he was too busy with his friends; he did manage to find time to seduce her, and take her to his bed.

Justina felt her pulse rising at the sensual memory and laughed to herself. It had not really taken much for her to be seduced into lovemaking with Nick. He could persuade her into sex with little effort, just about anywhere they might find themselves together. His private plane was not an exception. She blushed at the thought of now being a member of the mile high club.

Justina’s mind took her back to her encounter with Matthew at the Valentine’s dinner. Her face flushed with desire as his handsome face flashed in her mind. Her body trembled at the memory of Matthew holding her in his arms and kissing her passionately. Thoughts and fantasies flooded her mind about the few moments she had spent with him, and how it might be if she ever experienced intimate, private moments with him in bed. She shuddered with heated desire at such a prospect. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m acting like a crazy woman, desiring two men at once.

The desire to call him was overwhelming, but Justina kept finding reasons why it would be a bad idea. Justina took a deep breath as she stood and shoved the phone into her bag. She quickly prepared for her meeting with the Cliftons.

Justina was impressed with the feast Lauren Lawton had prepared for them, which was set up in the boardroom. There was a huge table full of fruits, vegetables, and small bite-size sandwiches at one end of the table. At the other end of the table, there were several drinks and dessert choices.

Justina, Maggie, and Joyce spent the remainder of the day with Zack and Paula Clifton at the Dallas Aquarium and the Dallas Arboretum.

After leaving the group in the afternoon, Justina drove to her penthouse where she had a business teleconference. After finishing, she stepped out of the penthouse elevator and into the parking garage. Footsteps behind her caused her to turn and look, but when seeing no one there, Justina continued walking to her car. After she had driven away, a man wearing a beige hat and trench coat came walking out of the shadows and stood there, watching her drive away.

Chapter Nineteen

 

This morning, Jim posed as a sales representative and met Carol Wilson, Reynolds Johnson’s sister, at her home. Jim learned Reynolds Johnson had taken care of her and her children after the death of her husband Mark, who was also employed by the Cabaras.

Carol informed Jim that Nick and Marcus came by each month with an insurance check. Jim had a feeling the “insurance check” was nothing more than a payoff for Reynolds’ silence and his agreement to take the blame for Elizabeth’s murder in exchange for Carol’s protection. Later, when Jim discussed this with Matthew and Roger, they all agreed this was the key to getting Reynolds to open up to them.

“I have our next meeting with Reynolds after the Easter break,” Jim stated as the men stood and completed their meeting.

After Roger had left them, Jim and Matthew discussed Matthew’s planned meeting with Gerald that afternoon.

“I’ve got less than an hour.” Matthew stuffed some papers into his briefcase along with his camera, then reached into his desk drawer and pulled out his handgun and put it in his side holster.

“I am going to tag along with you on this one. You’ll need backup in the event someone catches you snapping pictures of the Cabaras or that Joey character,” Jim said with concern.

Matthew shook his head, “You don’t have to worry, Jimmy. I’m going for a couple of snapshots of this fellow, that’s all.”

Matthew stood and grabbed his briefcase, “Come on. Walk with me to the garage.” Matthew waited for Jim to grab his briefcase and suit coat. As they approached Matthew’s car, he saw Jim’s concern. He threw his briefcase into the car and turned to Jim. “I’ll be fine, Jimbo.”

“Call me as soon as you’re finished, all right?”

Matthew grinned as he stepped into his car, “I will call you, Jimmy. Scouts honor.” He slammed his car door shut and sped out of the garage. Matthew drove downtown to the corner of the bus station where he picked up Gerald. He next proceeded to Isabella’s Cafe and parked his car on the opposite side of the road from the cafe. “I need you to be sharp now, let’s not miss this guy.”

“Chill out, Matthew, I’m not going to stir you wrong. My source is good,” Gerald answered.

They had just gotten comfortable when a stretch limousine drove past and stopped in front of the cafe. Matthew grabbed his camera and began snapping pictures of the Cabara men and the women with them.

Gerald laughed, “I don’t think these women are the wives.”

The Cabara men began kissing and groping the women while standing on the steps of the cafe. Matthew quickly pulled out pictures of Marcus and Robert’s wives. Gerald was right.

“Who’s the broad with Nick?”

Gerard shrugged, “She’s definitely not Nick’s wife. She’s just another bimbo wanting to be seen.”

Matthew raised an eyebrow up in interest and looked at Gerald. “Nick’s wife, I thought he was divorced from Cindy Thomasine?”

“No, not divorced. They don’t work that way. You never divorce the Cabaras. If a woman wants out of a Cabara marriage, she’s killed, period.”

Matthew felt the hair on his neck stand up, “Where is the wife?”

“She’s at home with their kid, I guess. Just like Marcus and Robert’s wives, they are dutiful wives, standing behind their men through everything, and not disagreeing or disapproving of anything they do. Moreover, they like it that way, so long as the men give them the credit cards, the jewelry, and the rest of the ritzy shit. Give them those things and they’re satisfied.”

Matthew wondered what Justina’s reaction would be if she knew Nicky boy had a wife. From their conversation at her company party, she apparently had no idea about Nick’s other life. He shrugged his shoulders as he thought about Justina. Why should he be thinking of her? She had not even bothered calling him. He thought about calling her, but he did not want to make her feel pressured and quite honestly, it was not his style. Matthew did not have time to think about her long. He noticed another vehicle stopping in front of the cafe.

“Is that Max?” Matthew asked Gerald.

“No, that’s just one of their middle men, Joey.”

Matthew pointed his camera toward the men. He was surprised to see his brother Michael through the camera lens. “Huh, did you say this man’s name is Joey?”

“Yes, that’s right, Joey. He’s been a Cabara bitch for years now, stuff like deliveries and collections here and there.”

“Has he ever killed anyone for them that you are aware of?” Matthew questioned.

“Not to my knowledge.”

Matthew tried hard to hide his shock and disappointment as he snapped pictures of his brother standing next to the Cabaras with a strange woman at his side who had her hands all over him. “Have you ever seen this ‘Max’?”

“My link to the organization says no one other than the Cabaras has seen Max up close and personal. It’s as if Max is a ghost or shadow. I don’t understand, my connection said he overheard Marcus telling Nick that Max would be meeting with them tonight.”

They watched the Cabaras and Michael walk into the cafe with the women. Matthew sat there another two hours, and no one who fit the description of Max ever showed up, so they decided to call it night.

Matthew was driving home with a lot on his mind; his fears were true. Michael was into more than even Matthew realized. He had a bad feeling about the whole situation. He picked up the phone and called the one person he knew he could trust, Jim.

***

The following morning, Matthew met with Jim and Roger; he could not hide his disappointment. “I thought things were all right too.” He leaned back in his chair. “He, Sara, and Daniel were at Mom’s and Dad’s last weekend and they seemed to be getting along, but you know how that is; it could just be an act.”

“You’re right, they seemed happy, they were polite to each other, and even Daniel seemed content,” Jim noted.

“Do you think he’s on drugs or has a gambling problem again?” Roger asked.

“I don’t know. I had no idea my little brother was involved with this scum.”

“Where do you want to go from here?” Jim asked with concern in his voice.

“He’s your brother and we’re all family, I’m willing to take this slow and handle it with ease for the family’s sake,” Roger said in a calm, steady voice.

Jim suggested, “I think Easter would be a good time for you to talk to Michael about the situation. We’ll all be at the lodge, then at Mom’s and Dad’s that weekend.”

Matthew swallowed hard at the thought of confronting Michael but nodded his agreement.

Chapter Twenty

Justina met the Clifton’s for breakfast. Afterwards they met up with Joyce, Roger, and Maggie then they visited the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. The remainder of the day was spent at West End.

Justina noticed a tall man wearing a beige hat following them for a while which made her a bit nervous, but she said nothing as they continued their day.

As Justina stepped off the elevator the next morning and began walking to her car, she had a strange feeling she was being watched but brushed it away. She kept walking to her car, but she thought she heard footsteps, so she walked faster to her car and hurried inside. She looked around the garage but saw no one.

As Justina’s car sped off, a strange man stepped out of the shadows and watched her car speed away.

Justina arrived at Jim and Matthew’s office and waved at Joyce and Roger as she parked.

“I’m excited about this presentation,” Joyce said as Justina approached them.

“You’re a wonderful speaker and your ideas are usually right on,” Justina assured Joyce.

Roger smiled at them and teased, “You two act like you’re sisters with the way you encourage each other.”

Joyce shrugged, but laughed, “Well, she has become like a sister to me. I’m closer to her than I ever have been to my own siblings.”

Justina nodded in agreement, “You feel like family to me. Heck, you and Christopher are the closest things I have to any family.”

Roger paused and gently patted Justina’s shoulder, “Justina, you are always welcome in our lives. In fact, you’re welcome to spend the holidays with us this year, if you’d like.”

Joyce shot Roger a frown but said nothing.

Roger then coughed uncomfortably, “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you don’t celebrate holidays. I…”

Justina saw the discomfort on both of their faces and felt sorry for them. Though Elizabeth had always made grand attempts to make every holiday festive, specifically Christmas, Justina had not been one to celebrate any holiday.

She could not recall one time in her life where she awakened the next morning after losing a tooth, to find money under her pillow, nor did she ever see anything resembling a giant Easter Bunny hopping around giving away candy, or a big jolly guy running around in a red suit doing good deeds. Besides, Easter and Christmas was supposed to be about Jesus Christ. She had not really bought into all the religious hype, so there really was not any reason for her to participate in holidays, except for the ones, which honored America and the American Veterans.

Justina cleared her throat, laughed and looked at her watch as she gave Roger a sympathetic look. He had really meant well by the gesture. “I know you were just polite. It’s okay, really, now, we have meetings to attend.”

When they reached Kingston and Lawton Law Firm, the receptionist politely greeted them, “Hello, Mr. Lawton, you may go in. They will be with you shortly.”

“Thank you, Jane,” Roger answered as he walked past the desk.

Joyce and Justina followed Roger through the door and to the conference room where Roger proceeded to make himself comfortable. He poured them all some coffee and served them a doughnut from the small kitchenette while Justina explored the conference room.

Justina was impressed with the beautiful decor. The round, wood stained conference table was as long as it was wide, stretching across the office, and displayed on an authentic Persian rug. There were large bronze frames clinging to the colonial gray walls.

The view of downtown Dallas from the large glass window was picturesque. Justina liked the view from Lawton Towers much better than the view of Dallas from her office window.

Soon Caroline, followed by Jim and Matthew, entered the conference room and immediately the women greeted one another.

“I love that dress you’re wearing, Caroline, is that another Caroline original?” Justina asked with a smile.

“Yes, thank you, “Caroline replied as she twirled around to show off her blue and white, flowery bodice dress. The dress cascaded down to her ankles.

Joyce agreed with a nod, “I love the open back, and how the straps cross one another.”

Caroline giggled like a schoolgirl, and then reached up to the straps attached on her shoulder and unsnapped them. She followed through with the motion by unsnapping the back ones and removed the straps from her arms. “The straps are removable, and the dress is reversible!”

Caroline and Joyce laughed as Justina exclaimed, “It is a strapless dress that can be worn two ways how smart and diversified this beautiful dress is. I want one!”

“Me too, but I want mine in a peach color on one side and the other green, oh, and a yellow and white one too.”

Justina chirped in, “I want mine in beige and blue, ooh and one in green and yellow.”

Caroline giggled once more and hugged them. “Thanks, girls, I’ll get them done for you before summer.”

The men stood by watching the women act like schoolgirls and could not help, but laugh. After the women had stopped laughing, Caroline pointed toward the door. “We will have our meeting in my office.”

Justina walked past Matthew as she followed Joyce and Caroline out. Her eyes met his and she swore he could read her thoughts though she could not even begin to read his.

Matthew gently placed his hand on Justina’s arm, “It’s good to see you again, although I’m a bit disappointed I haven’t received a phone call from you.”

“I have wanted to call you, but there’s always excuses why that would be a bad idea.”

“All right, I understand Justina. I just hope you don’t regret one day that you didn’t follow your desires.”

“My desires?” Justina gave him a bewildered look as he flashed his sexy smile at her.

“Me.”

“Oh, you really are confident with yourself, aren’t you?” Justina bit her bottom lip nervously.

Matthew whispered as the others turned toward them, “I am confident you want to see me as much as I want to see you and I’m confident it will happen.” He mustered up his most charming smile at her as she gave him an incredulous look and walked past him.

***

Caroline was happy with the presentation for her new clothing line commercial and did not want them to change any of the things they had planned.

Upon entering Matthew’s office, they found the children there.

Justina picked Sammie up as the little girl said, “I love you, Justina.”

“I love you too, kiddo,” Justina squeezed the little girl tightly.

“You have spoiled my child,” Roger said. He turned to the others. “Every time Justina and Sammie see each other, Justina slips Sammie money. They think they’re clever, but they aren’t.”

Everyone laughed, including Justina.

She looked at her watch as she placed Sammie back to her own feet. “I have to get going, I’m meeting Zach and Paula for lunch and then taking them to the airport.”

As Caroline shook Justina’s hands again, she said, “Thanks, again for taking on my clothing company as a client. I hope you have a nice Easter holiday, Justina.”

Justina smiled politely, “Thank you, Caroline and I hope you have a pleasant one as well.”

“Justina isn’t one for celebrating holidays or special occasions,” Roger commented.

Caroline looked at Justina with surprise. “Aren’t you going to spend it with someone?”

Justina shrugged her shoulders. “No, I haven’t made any plans, I have so much work to do, and enough to keep me busy all weekend.”

“Come and spend it with our family.”

“I couldn’t intrude on your family, but I appreciate your invitation.”

Matthew wanted to say something to convince her to come for the weekend, but not wanting to appear pushy, he took a seat without a word.

“I know our folks would enjoy having you there. Easter is one of our family’s biggest holidays and it is always a big affair,” Jim cheerfully echoed Caroline’s invitation.

“Roger is right. I’m not big on celebrating holidays unless it’s one, which honors our soldiers or our country. I’d rather be doing volunteer work downtown or work on company projects, but thank you again for the kind invitation.” She turned slightly toward Matthew and said, “It was nice to see you again, Matthew.”

“Take care,” was all Matthew replied. He watched with uneasiness as she exited his office.

***

“Good morning son. I’m glad you’re up for the family breakfast,” George said heartily.

“I apologize for sleeping late. I hope I didn’t wake anyone when I came in last night,” Matthew replied as he walked down the staircase. He followed his father to the den where they each took a seat.

A sly, devilish grin crossed his face as he recalled the intimate details of his evening spent with Spanish beauty, Jennifer Gomez.

His father shook his head, “Those wild women are going to get you into trouble son.”

George then smiled at Matthew and whispered, “I had my share of wildness too, but keep it between us.”

The two men laughed as Matthew crossed his fingers over his heart, “Scout’s honor, Dad!”

After they had ceased their laughing, Matthew changed the subject, “I looked in on the girls when I came home and they were all sleeping soundly.”

“We stayed up late watching those kids play video games, but when we finally got them into bed, we fell asleep and a tornado couldn’t have stirred us.”

“I’ve never seen cousins get along as well.”

George shook his head as he sorted through his mail, “Yeah, well, those girls have been together since birth; they couldn’t be anything else, but best of friends.”

The door burst open and the girls came running and screaming while being chased by little boys. The girls ran over and stood behind Matthew and George.

The boys stopped close by, and all were laughing. George put his finger to his lips, “Shush, what is all of this fuss about?” He looked at his son and the children. “These kids are the very images of you running around here.”

Matthew saw his father smile and knew he was happy with his life. Matthew realized how lucky he was to be in such a wonderful family.

“We were trying to fish and the girls won’t leave us alone, so we told ‘em that we were gonna dunk ‘em in the pond when we caught ‘em,” Conner blurted. Matthew and George tried not to laugh as George began fussing on the boys, “Now boys were you really going to dunk the girls in the pond?”

“No, Grandpa we really wasn’t gonna do that, but they won’t leave us alone, so we just made sump’um up,” Timothy replied.

“Yeah, that sure got rid of those pestering girls when we told ‘em that, Grandpa,” James blurted out. The other boys shook their heads in agreement as George and Matthew laughed.

George touched Kate and Sammie on the shoulders, “Girls you aren’t going to be dunked in the pond.”

“You children go play a while longer and boys, behave,” Matthew suggested.

“What are you kids up to now?” Brian asked as he walked into the room. “It’s almost time for breakfast and afterwards we’ll go to the lodge for the Easter party.”

All of the kids yelled with excitement at the thought of the big Easter dinner and egg hunt. Every holiday was fun at the lodge for them.

***

Later in the day, the Lawton and Kingston families gathered at the lodge with the guests. The ladies combined all the boiled and decorated eggs together and as tradition dictated, George and Ben hid all the eggs and the great Lawton Lodge and Resort egg hunt commenced.

Matthew and the other men were all standing under a tree and talking amongst themselves. Michael walked away from the group and toward the gazebo.

Jim whispered to Matthew, “Now would be a good time to talk to your brother.”

Matthew followed his brother to the gazebo.

“Hey, there, Mike. What are you doing?”

Michael shrugged his shoulder and held up a cigarette, “Taking a smoke; what’s up, Matthew?”

“Did Sara tell you I called you a couple of days ago?”

“Yes, it was late when I came home from the office and I had to rush back to the office early the next morning,” Michael shifted his feet nervously. “What did you need to talk to me about?”

“I wanted to know if there was any more information on your attacker.” Matthew watched his brother’s smile fade.

“No, they don’t have any leads.”

“I’ll see what I can do next week.”

Michael shook his head and became irate. “I told you to stay out of it Matthew and I meant it.”

Matthew forgot he was supposed to be easing into the conversation slowly and blurted out, “Are you afraid I might discover something dark about you, Mikey? Perhaps drugs or gambling?”

“You’re stupid and wrong in your accusations.”

“You were seen in front of Isabella’s Cafe with Robert, Nick, and Marcus Cabara along with a woman at your side and it wasn’t Sara.” Matthew sat there as Michael thumped out his spent cigarette but lit another.

“I don’t know where you got your information, but it’s a lie, I was in the office until 1:00 am working on paperwork for an upcoming audit.”

Matthew stood and walked over to his younger brother and looked him straight in the eyes. “What did you know about the disappearance of two agents a couple weeks ago?”

I’m warning you, stay out of my business brother.”

“Are you threatening me, Mike?” Matthew stared angrily at Michael. “I can’t believe you’re threatening your own brother.” Matthew watched his brother began to squirm and added, “Their bodies were found in an alley a few blocks from the bus station.”

“I was not threatening you. I am trying to protect you, Matthew.”

Michael blinked and turned away from Matthew as he quietly spoke, his breathing becoming rapid, “You’re my brother and I love you. I don’t want you to get hurt, so please take my advice, and stay out of my business.”

“I love you, too, little brother, and I want to help you. I can get you out of whatever mess you’re in if you will just open up to me. Tell me everything I want to know about the Cabaras and their friends.”

“I don’t need nor want your help, Matthew. I have everything under control; let it go.”

Michael began to walk away, but Matthew took hold of his arm. “Think about what I said, Mikey. I have friends in certain positions that can help you, but you have to meet me half way, man.” Matthew looked into his brother’s eyes and could not see any of his words sinking in, but continued speaking, “You are supposed to be watching out for Sara, your son, and your unborn child. You aren’t doing such a great job little brother, but together we can work this out.”

“I’ll think about what you said, Matthew. Can you promise me you’ll take care of Sara and my children if something does happen to me?”

“I will.”

Matthew watched his little brother walk away from him. Matthew decided he needed to be alone to clear his thoughts before returning.

***

Saturday morning Justina had driven to the orphanage and helped by assisting with breakfast and laundry. She was proud of the fact she had helped several children find homes with some of her clients. Each time she checked on those families, she discovered both parents and children were satisfied. Justina felt as though this was her most important work above all else. It served as a reminder of where she came from and made her appreciate what she had now.

Justina shook her thoughts away as she heard her elevator bell ring. She hoped things would go well with Nick tonight. They could never seem to get a break. She stood and walked out into the foyer and waited for Nick to exit the elevator.

Nick held in his hands a bouquet of roses. He gave her a twisted grin.

“Oh, Nick, they’re so lovely. Thank you,” Justina kissed Nick tenderly on the lips.

“They aren’t as beautiful as you, but I know how much you like them,” Nick pulled her into a full and firm kiss. “I wish we could stay in, but I promised Father I’d be there for Isabella’s cafe’s one year celebration.”

Justina smiled, “I understand. We’ll have a private dinner here soon, okay?” She retrieved her purse and coat from the arm of the sofa.

“Sounds good,” Nick took her by the hand and led her out of the penthouse and toward the elevator.

At dinner, Justina felt out of place at Isabella’s Cafe.

“You look utterly bored this evening,” Nick grumbled at Justina.

“I’m just tired this evening; I’ve had a long week.”

“I’m a little tired, too, but I was looking forward to seeing you tonight,” Nick slipped a kiss to her as he led her to the dance floor.

After the dance, Justina excused herself, but as she walked down the hallway, she had difficulty in finding the ladies room through all of the reconstruction.

When she decided to choose a door, but she quickly realized she had made a poor choice because she saw a man standing in the corner of the room looking through a desk.

“I’m so sorry. I was looking for the bathroom.”

“It’s all right, miss; not a problem. My name is Charlie and I’m the assistant accountant.”

“I’m Justina Lindsey,” Justina pushed her hand out to Charlie’s hand and shook it.

They were shaking hands when footsteps could be heard coming down the hallway.

He suddenly pulled her close to him while pushing something into her hands as he whispered, “Take this and get the hell out of here. Don’t let anyone know you have this, especially the Cabara clan.”

Justina tried to pull away, but he held her tighter. He pulled her to a door opposite from the one she had entered. “Please, Justina, do this for me. Keep this for a few months, then go to the F.B.I. Office in Dallas, and give it to Fred Cummings. Now go before they catch you here.”

“Are you going to be all right?” Justina asked as fear filled her over his well-being. “Come with me.”

“Don’t worry about me. Go through here and when you leave that room, take a left, it will lead you back to the dining room. Now go, and remember you can’t tell anyone about this or you could be in great danger!” Charlie shoved her through the open door and closed it. He quickly turned to face the men who had just walked into the room.

Justina’s mind swirled, she quickly made her way through some boxes and to the door leading the way out, she stopped and dropped down behind the boxes and sat there, silent. Her heart raced and she was terrified, but something told her to hide and observe what was about to happen to Charlie.

She peeked around a box when she heard loud voices and wrestling occurring in the other room. She peered through the glass window into the office where Charlie now stood with Marcus and Nick. They were pulling Charlie from off the floor. Nick shoved him into a chair sitting in front of Robert. Two men and a woman stood behind them.

Robert glanced over at Nick and Marcus, “Boys, what do you think I should do with this thief?”

“Pop, you always taught us there could be no redemption for a thief,” Nick replied.

“Nicky is right, Pop, I still remember the beating I got for just sifting through yours and mom’s jewels at home,” Marcus barked harshly.

“Well go ahead boy, deal with him,” Robert ordered Marcus.

Marcus laughed as he turned and punched Charlie in the stomach, “Do you want some brother?”

Nick threw some punches into Charlie’s face and as Charlie fell to the floor, Nick and Marcus kicked him and punched him some more.

Robert turned to the woman standing there clad in black leather. “I want you and Clyde to take Charlie to the warehouse; I and the boys will join you shortly.”

Clyde and the leather-clad woman escorted Charlie out of the room as the others laughed.

“Call Joey and tell him to come to the warehouse.”

Justina’s body froze in fear. She realized she had just witnessed the side of Nick she had been warned was there. As she shoved the black circular object into her purse, she decided she had better go. She had just settled back into her seat, sipping on her beer when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She trembled.

“I’m sorry, babe; I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Justina looked into Nick’s eyes and hoped she could hide her fear. “I just thought you had abandoned me.” Justina forced a smile out as Nick sat down next to her, “Is everything all right Nick?”

“Yes, Justina everything is fine, but I’m tired and ready to go. I promise to make it up to you,” Nick gulped down a drink.

Justina took his hand and the two of them walked out of the cafe and stepped into the limo.

Nick remained silent on the way to Justina’s penthouse. “Wait for me here; I won’t be long,” Nick ordered the driver.

As they made their way to Justina’s private elevator, Justina saw a man standing in a shadowy area of the garage and she felt the panic rush through her, but remained silent.

“I have to take care of some business,” Nick said as they entered the elevator.

“I understand, but this is getting to be annoying.” Justina was surprised those words had just slipped out of her mouth. The last thing she wanted to do was to begin an argument between them.

“Justina, I find you to be annoying right now. I told you, I have to go.”

“I’m not stopping you, but I’m just letting you know I’m beginning to get bored with the way you pop in and out, and how I have to change my schedule for you.”

“It might be a while before I see you again. I suggest you take that time to think about your future, and what’s best for it. I also suggest you don’t try to pin me in a corner.”

“Oh, as you have done to me,” she retorted as they stepped off the elevator into her penthouse foyer.

“Justina, I will call you when I find the time.”

Nick reached out to kiss Justina, but she backed away and huffed, “No,” she said as she opened the door separating her foyer from the front room of her penthouse.

“I’m leaving now before you say something that we’ll both regret later,” he commented as he stepped into the elevator and pushed the button.

“I’m not going to be here waiting for you anymore Nick. I’m so over it,” Justina answered with agitation.

Nick stared at her with a bit of surprise but did not have time to respond before the doors closed. Justina could not believe she had been so bold with him and she wondered if that was such a good idea after what she had seen at the restaurant, but she did feel a little proud. She felt herself shiver as she thought about that man, Charlie. She wondered what they were going to do to him for stealing from the cafe. She also wondered what the object was that Charlie had given her.

She walked into her penthouse and sat down on her sofa, pulled out the object, and looked at it. She examined it closely and continued pushing on it until she heard a click. When the object opened, it revealed a tiny camera!

Justina wondered what was on the camera and why it was so important to Charlie to get it to the FBI. She played the scene again in her head and she felt her whole body tremble as she recalled his words, “Get out. You’re in danger. Take this to the FBI and give this to Fred Cummings.”

Taking deep breaths, she stood and walked over to her desk and sat down and copied the camera’s contents into a file on her computer. She closed the camera back up into its original position and put it back into her purse. She did not want anyone getting their hands on this. She turned back to her computer and looked at the pictures she just copied and was shocked at what she saw.

***

After the festivities of the day had been over, Matthew decided to visit the lodge’s club in hopes to lighten his mood after his argument with his brother, Michael. When he ran into Linda Jones, he did indeed find himself in a lighter mood and he turned his charm on. Soon they were at her home and entangled in each other’s arms.

Matthew awoke around midnight and looked over at the beautiful, naked brunette lying next to him and he smiled to himself. He had a way of charming women and used that charm to swoon them into bed. He had used his charm to its fullest and enjoyed the benefits.

On the way home, Justina popped into his mind. He blinked in hopes to erase her from his memory, but it was not working. He just did not understand it. Something was different about her. She was not falling for his charm as the others had, and that posed a challenge for him. He wanted to see her, and he usually got what he wanted. He was not giving up on her just yet for more reasons than just one.

The Lawton and Kingston families celebrated Easter in their usual custom. This year, the private family day was spent at the Kingston’s home. They shared breakfast and then afterwards, everyone gathered in the family room where the host of the day, which would be George this year, read the Easter story from the Holy Bible. They soon had the egg hunt in which James found the $50.00 egg and celebrated with his parents.

Matthew went through the day experiencing a booming headache from his wild romp the previous night with Linda. The aspirin he took eventually took effect and he had eventually survived the day. He tucked Katie into bed and together, they prayed their bedtime prayer. He could not imagine his life without her.

“Thank you God for allowing me to have this special little girl,” Matthew whispered his own prayer to God and somehow knew that in his mercy, God was listening even to him.

***

Sunday was a bad day for Justina. She stayed in her penthouse, afraid to go anywhere. She kept hearing strange noises in the penthouse and she jumped at every little noise, her imagination was running rampant. She tried working on some papers she brought from work, but she just could not concentrate. Charlie kept crossing her mind and she wondered what Nick and Marcus had done to him. Justina knew there would be no way she could find out without causing herself the trouble.

She looked over at her computer and thought of those dreadful pictures she saw last night. Why would anyone take pictures of dead people? She asked herself as she walked over, clicked the pictures back up, and looked at them again.

There were pictures of several dead people with the same type of wounds. The most dreadful pictures that haunted Justina were the ones of the family being tormented before being killed.

Justina felt her body tremble as tears fell down her face. What happened to the baby? Justina wondered. Did they kill the baby? Was the baby in the car with its parents or taken out of the car with the boy? Justina felt sadness for this family and hostility for Nick and his family. They were responsible for these people’s deaths and Justina feared Nick was even crueler than she or her friends even realized.

Charlie asked her to turn this over to Fred Cummings. Justina knew it would mean certain trouble for Nick, but she had to do the right thing. What happened to these people were beyond criminal. Justina took another deep breath, “How did I find myself here? What do I do now?” Justina knew one thing for sure. It was going to be another sleepless night.

***

Jim spent the first hour of Monday morning filling Reynolds Johnson in on the things he had learned about his family’s involvement with the Cabara family. “I promise you, we can help you and your family, but you must tell us the truth about the night Elizabeth Carr died.”

“I didn’t kill her, but I was there when she died. I know who killed her and I have pictures and recordings to prove I’m telling you the truth,” Reynolds finally broke down and spilled it.

“Where is the proof?” Matthew asked.

“They’re in my sister’s basement. There were other witnesses there and one of them still works for the old man, Reynolds shifted in his chair nervously. “I won’t say another word until you move my sister to safety.”

“After we have the recordings and pictures in our possession, we will help you and your sister as we have promised you,” Roger replied.

Reynolds hesitantly agreed and wrote something on a piece of paper. Matthew motioned for the guards to enter the room. As Reynolds was escorted out of the small room, he nervously glanced over at Jim.

“I told you to trust me. I promise everything will be fine,” Jim reassured Reynolds.

After Reynolds had left the room, Jim picked up his cell and made a call to Fred Cummings.

“I have a job for you and I need for you to do it as quickly as possible.”

***

Filming the first commercial at Caroline’s clothing shop was huge success. All the women were astonished when Jim presented Caroline with roses, champagne, and a card, particularly Caroline who gave her husband a kiss and an adoring smile. Jim glanced over at Roger and Matthew, flashing his big goofy smile at them. They playfully rolled their eyes.

Justina was about to leave when she bumped into Matthew.

“Hi,” Matthew spoke softly.

“Hello, Matthew.”

They stared at each other.

“It’s good to see you again,” he whispered.

“You too, it looks like your sister is very happy today.”

“You had something to do with that I think,” Matthew scrunched his lips.

“This was Joyce’s project and as always, it was a good job,” Justina bit her lip nervously.

Silence fell between the two as they stared at each other; Matthew sensed something was bothering her. He reached out and touched her on her shoulder. “You seem distracted almost worried, are you all right?”

Justina put forth her best smile, “Yes, but thank you for asking,” She whispered. “It was good to see you again, Matthew.” Justina rushed out without giving him time to respond.

Justina and Matthew spent the rest of the week thinking of each other. They both had picked up the phone to call the other, but would immediately change their minds with excuses of why the call would be a bad idea. The days were long for each of them and the nights restless; even the nights Matthew spent with Linda and Jennifer could not take Justina off his mind.

Justina spent her nights in bed feeling worried and lonely. She would fall asleep in the late night wondering if things would ever change for her.

On Thursday morning, when Justina stepped into her office, her secretary informed her that Warden Bennett from the state prison had requested she return his call.

What has that monster done now? Justina thought of Reynolds immediately and frowned. As she picked up the phone, Christopher popped his head in and she waved at him as he entered. Once patched through to Warden Bennett, she put the telephone on speaker. “I need to inform you that inmate Reynolds Johnson was killed last evening,” Warden Bennett, informed Justina and Christopher. Justina felt no sorrow as the warden continued, “He was beaten, stabbed, and then set on fire while in his cell.”

“Are you sure that it was him?” Christopher asked as Roger and Joyce walked into the office.

“Yes, I assigned him to protective custody. I over-saw the move personally.”

“Warden Bennett, this is Roger Lawton; have you identified the body?”

“The body was severely burnt so an autopsy is being conducted for official identification,” Warden Bennett answered.

“Please contact us when you have the identification verified,” Christopher stated as he gave Justina a wry look and then spoke again, “I don’t understand how anyone could have gotten to him.”

“The officer assigned to that block last night has been suspended, pending an investigation,” Warden Bennett said.

“Thank you, Warden, goodbye.”

Justina looked up at her friends. “Do you think I’m going to be accused of being involved?”

“Why would you be questioned?” Roger asked.

“Nick.”

“Oh, because Reynolds was employed by the Cabaras and you’re dating Nick,” Roger deduced. He shook his head. “No, I don’t think they will suspect you of anything. You will be questioned, but it will be routine questions,” Roger sympathetically stepped over to Justina. He patted her hand gently. “Now don’t worry Jus, it will be alright; trust me.”

Joyce smiled as she watched her husband try to console her friend.

“Why don’t you come over to Caroline’s and Jim’s with us tonight? I don’t think you need to be alone,” Roger suggested.

Joyce nodded, “Yes, Jus, come with us.”

Justina assured her friends, “I’ll be fine, but thanks for your concern.”

Joyce and Roger said their goodbyes and left Christopher with Justina.

“Are you going to be all right, Justina? I know you’re still having a bad time without Elizabeth and I’m not much of a consoler, for that I’m sorry.”

“I’m just fine and you’re great at consoling me when I need it.”

“I love you kiddo; you’re like a little sister to me and I’m always here for you.”

Justina hugged Christopher and cried in his arms for a while. He took a tissue and wiped her eyes. “I’m going to take the rest of the day off and go spend it with my wife and kids. Why don’t you come along with me, they’d love to see you.”

Justina kissed him sweetly on the cheek, “I’m all right, but you go to your family.”

He picked up his jacket and as he walked out, he gave her a wink. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

Justina drove to the orphanage and spent a few hours there. She and the manager, Sally, worked until midnight on some paperwork that needed attending. Justina drove home and when she got into bed, she found sleep came easy that night.

Chapter Twenty-One

 

The following morning, Justina received a phone call from the police department, requesting she come in to answer some questions for them. She agreed and promised to be there within an hour. Detectives Zelker and Kelly greeted her and then escorted her to a small interrogation room. Justina took a seat at the end of the table while the two detectives sat across from her. The stares from the two detectives made Justina nervous.

“Miss Lindsey, let me begin by thanking you for coming down today,” Detective Zellers said.

“Do you have a problem with being recorded today?” Detective Kelly asked Justina as he pulled out a recording device and turned it on to record.

“No,” Justina answered nervously, wishing she had called Roger before coming here.

“Miss Lindsey, did you have a good relationship with your Aunt Elizabeth?” Kelly asked.

“Yes, she was the mother to me that my real mother never was.”

“I imagine you were upset when she died,” Zelker commented.

“She was robbed, raped, and murdered; you’re right, I was upset.”

“Did you want revenge for her death?” Zelker blurted out.

She closed her eyes and recalled hearing the horrible news. Elizabeth is dead Justina. She was raped, robbed, and murdered. Those words were as heavy on her heart today as they were almost a year ago and she felt the tears flowing.

“I want the person responsible, to pay for his crime, but I wouldn’t call it a desire for revenge.”

“Did you ever tell your lover, Nick Cabara, you wanted Elizabeth’s killer to pay?” Kelly questioned.

Justina looked suspiciously at the detectives as they were asking the questions.

“Lovers say all kinds of things to each other after sex; it’s called pillow talk. Did you and Nick engage in pillow talk about wishing Reynolds would die?” Zelker threw the question at Justina with an accusing look.

Justina realized she was being accused of having something to do with the death of Reynolds and her head ached at the thought.

“I did not talk to Nick about any such thing.”

“Did you ask Nick to hasten Johnson’s death and to burn his sister and her two small children to death while sleeping in their home?” Kelly asked.

Justina shook her head wildly and protested, “No, god no I did not do that.” Justina felt tears falling down her face as she was told Reynolds Johnson’s sister and her two children were killed in a house fire the previous night. “Oh my god, I did not even know his sister and her children. I’d only seen her in the courtroom during his trial,” Justina wrung her hands nervously. “I had no malice toward her.”

The two detectives paused briefly to allow Justina to pull herself together.

“Miss Lindsey, did you hire someone to kill Reynolds Johnson?” Kelly finally asked the question outright.

Justina shook her head, “No, I did not.”

“Did you hire someone to burn his sister’s home down with her and her children in it?” Zelker posed the question with accusation.

Justina shook her head again more strongly, “Absolutely not.” She realized she was in trouble and needed help. These questions were not routine. Her head spun with all the questions thrown at her and she felt as though she was going to pass out. “I need some air and I won’t answer any more questions without an attorney present.”

The detectives stood and gathered their papers together and as they were leaving, Detective Zelker asked, “Do you want to use a phone or do you have a cell phone?”

“I have a cell phone, thank you,” Justina said as she began walking out of the room.

Detective Kelly blocked the exit. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I told you I need fresh air.”

“You can’t go anywhere until we’re done,” Zelker spoke in a commanding voice.

“I’m not going to talk to you anymore until my attorney arrives.”

“I suggest you call him now, but you can’t leave this room.”

Justina was shocked she was not allowed to leave so she turned and sat down in her chair and thought about who she would call. Her attempts to call Roger and Joyce failed. Since the company contract lawyer was just that, a contract lawyer, she knew he would not be able to help her. Matthew Kingston suddenly came to her mind and she immediately dialed his number.

“Hello.”

“Matthew Kingston?” Justina asked nervously.

“Yes, this is Matthew Kingston, how may I help you?”

“This is Justina Lindsey, and I desperately need you. I’m at the police station. They are questioning me about Reynolds Johnson and his sister.”

Matthew pulled the phone away from his mouth and whispered to Jim and Roger, who sat next to their wives, “Its Justina, she’s been called in for questioning,” he spoke calmly into the phone. “Justina, you need to calm down, they’ll only ask you simple questions, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Justina began crying, “No, that’s not true Matthew. They are accusing me of all sorts of things.”

“How long have you been there? You sound terrified.”

“I’ve been here for about two hours and they won’t let me leave.”

“Don’t answer any more questions until I get there.” Matthew stood from the breakfast table. “I’m on my way.” He ended the call and quickly made his way to the garage, followed by Roger and Jim.

Jim handed Matthew’s briefcase to him as he got into the car. “You do realize this is the door we’ve all been waiting to open up for you.”

Matthew nodded as Roger agreed, “If you play this right, you can become a hero to her, and that’s a good start.”

“I’m going to be that hero,” Matthew said as he got into his car. He winked at his friends before driving away.

“Oh, man I hope he doesn’t hurt her in the process,” Roger frowned worriedly.

Jim smiled at his friend, “Roger, I don’t think you have to worry about it. I think Justina Lindsey will turn out to be his salvation.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think Matthew has fallen for Justina and there’s no way he would hurt her. I think these two are headed on a collision course right into each other’s arms.”

***

Justina was happy to see Matthew walk through the door. “Thank you for coming to my rescue, I didn’t realize they were going to be so aggressive with me. Roger had said it would be routine.”

“That was before Johnson’s sister and kids were found dead,” Matthew stopped talking when he saw tears welling up in Justina’s eyes.

“I hated Reynolds Johnson for taking Elizabeth away from me, but I never once thought of seeking revenge.

“I think we need to discuss this situation further. Are you free this afternoon?”

Justina agreed to meet as a tall, slender, distinguished looking man in an expensive black suit entered.

“I’m Lionel Golden, attorney for the Cabara family. Mr. Kingston, your services are no longer required, I’ve been instructed to take care of Miss Lindsey.”

Matthew looked at Justina for a reply.

“I don’t know who you think you are, but you can’t dismiss Mr. Kingston, he’s my attorney.”

Lionel gave Justina a stern look and gruffly replied, “Mr. Cabara wants you to come with me so he can talk to you.” He reached his hand out to touch Justina, but she backed away in protest.

“You tell Nick if he wants to see me, he knows where I live.”

“It is not Nick who requests to see you, it’s his father,” Lionel reached toward Justina again.

Justina became suddenly afraid and gave a pleading look to Matthew.

He stepped between them, “Miss Lindsey has already made it clear she is not interested in dismissing me as her attorney.”

Lionel stared Matthew in the eye, “Mr. Cabara won’t be happy about this.”

“Mr. Cabara will just have to get over it.”

“We need to know what you told the police,” Lionel glared at Justina.

Justina’s body shivered as she thought about Charlie and wondered if this was why Robert Cabara wanted to talk to her and her chest tightened.

She grasped her bag tighter against her body and hoped no one would want her to show them what lay within.

She had decided to keep it close to her in fear that if she left it at the penthouse, Trish might have stumbled upon it, but now she realized, maybe it was too close to her at this moment. “I didn’t say anything to the detectives, so you go back to Robert and tell him to relax.”

“I will relay the message to Mr. Cabara,” Lionel narrowed his eyes at her, and then walked out the door.

After he had gone, Matthew turned to Justina and could see she was even more disturbed than she had been. “Are you all right? You don’t look so well.”

Justina bit her lip nervously as she sipped on a glass of water. “I am just shocked Robert would send his attorney over to question me about my conversation with the police. I can’t believe Nick knows about this.”

Matthew shook his head and sat down next to her. “Justina, are you really fooled by Nick? Don’t be naïve. Nick knows Lionel was sent here.”

Justina knew Matthew was right. She had needed to wake up, but she was not naïve about Nick or his family, not anymore. She looked at Matthew and wondered if she should trust him with her discovery? Deciding it was not the right time, she waited.

“Matthew, what’s next for me? Are they going to question me again?”

“I don’t want you to talk unless I advise you to. Can you do that for me?”

“I will do what you tell me to do, I trust you.”

Justina swore she saw hints of desire flash across his face as he leaned toward her. Her heart raced at the thought of his lips on hers.

Just before their lips touched, Matthew stopped. He whispered to her as the door opened and the two detectives stepped in, “You can trust me, Justina, I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

Matthew stood and introduced himself to the detectives as Justina sat there pondering his last statement.

After reviewing the notes and listening to the recorded interview, Matthew set the papers down, looked sternly at the detectives, and spoke harshly to them. “My client has answered all the questions that need to be answered for today. If you have any further questions for her, you need to contact me first. Do you understand?”

Detective Zelker spoke coolly, “Mr. Kingston, your client hasn’t even given us an alibi for last evening.”

Matthew looked toward Justina, “You can answer.”

“I went downtown to do some volunteer work at the shelter and the orphanage.”

Matthew instructed Justina to jot down the address of the locations, anyone who saw her and the phone numbers. “Is there anything else you need from Ms. Lindsey?” he asked the detectives.

The two detectives shook their heads “no,” and left the room.

Matthew and Justina gathered up their things and left the building. Justina’s head swirled with so many thoughts and she was afraid.

“We need to talk about some legal issues.” He grinned at her and winked as he came up with an idea. “Follow me to my home and I’ll order Chinese on the way.”

Justina looked at Matthew with an eyebrow raised, “Your home? I, ah, don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Matthew threw a crooked smile her way and replied, “Ms. Lindsey, I assure you I can control impulses I might have concerning you, so don’t worry about me, but if you don’t think you can control yourself, we can go to my office.”

Justina shot Matthew a stunned glance, “Oh, you really do have a huge ego problem, don’t you?”

After following Matthew to his home, she followed him inside and found it to be quite lovely and airy. The living area boasted vaulted ceilings. The room was large and its white walls decorated with wooden frames held pictures that Matthew had painted. In the center of the room lay a coffee table setting surrounded by a cream-colored sectional and matching reclining chair. Separated by two swinging doors were the kitchen and dining room, the colors perfectly matched the colors of the living room.

The French doors off the living room boasted views of the skyline of Dallas. To the right lay a long hallway leading to four bedrooms. A staircase was to the left that led to four rooms on the second floor.

Justina became curious about where Matthew Kingston laid his head at night. Her mind instantly traveled to an intimate image of her with him in bed. She felt her face become hot; she blinked to rid the image from her mind. Justina realized he was standing near her with a grin. She nervously bit her lip.

“I sleep upstairs, in the master suite, at the end of the hall. It has a hot tub in there; it’s really very relaxing and cozy.”

Justina shot him a sharp look. “What makes you think that I care where you sleep?”

“Your face deceives you and your mean response verifies your wide-eyed curiosity.”

Justina lost herself in his eyes and she felt her face heating up again. She walked past him to the patio doors. “You have a magnificent view here.”

“Yes, I do.” he cleared his throat huskily.

Justina turned and watched him walk slowly toward her with a heated look.

Just at that moment, the doorbell rang indicating their lunch had arrived. He turned away from her to answer the door.

The Chinese food was tasty and the conversation was light and enjoyable.

After talking for a while, Matthew decided to change the subject to the day’s events.

“I don’t like the particular circumstances for which you called me, but I am glad you called me.”

“I appreciate you coming to me when I needed you.”

“I will help you any time you need me. Now let’s talk about some things that may make you uncomfortable.”

“All right, let’s talk.”

Matthew stood and pulled Justina’s chair out for her. He pointed to the living room. “I need to retrieve something from my home office. I’ll be just a moment, but please, make yourself comfortable in there.”

Justina nodded and walked to the living room and took a seat on the sofa.

Upon returning from his home office, Matthew held a recording device in his hand. He took a seat next to Justina on the sofa.

“Do you mind if I record your statement?”

“I don’t mind.”

Matthew turned the device on and asked his first question, “Had you ever met Reynolds’s sister?”

“No.”

“Did you ever talk to Reynolds after he was put in jail? Did you say anything to him that might be construed as threat?”

“No. You don’t think this is over, do you?”

“I just want to be prepared, that’s all. Do you remember when you first met Reynolds?”

“I met him at Marcus’ bar. I went to the bar with a client and his wife, Carey and Melanie Jefferson from Philadelphia. We were sitting at a table in the corner and Reynolds was our waiter. He took our orders and gave me a flirtatious look. I remember it because Carey teased me about it,” Justina took a sip of her drink. “I laughed and told Carey and Melanie the waiter wasn’t my type at all.”

Justina reclined on the couch as she continued, “Later Carey and Melanie stepped to the dance floor, leaving me alone. Reynolds approached me. He said he was on break and wanted to dance with me. I told him I was not interested in dancing, but I thanked him for asking. After standing there for a moment, he angrily walked away. I was approached by Reynolds twice more. I threatened to report him for harassment and that finally made it clear to him, I was not interested, and he backed off. Shortly after the last approach, we left the club.”

“Interesting, the story you just told me matches what Reynolds told us about that night. Did you testify at the trial?” Matthew asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“Was that the last time you saw Reynolds?”

“Yes, it was.”

“Did you notice if his sister was in court?”

“I think she was, but I can’t be sure. I didn’t talk to her.”

“Is that all you can recall concerning your encounter with Reynolds?”

“Yes, that’s all.”

Matthew turned the recording device off. “I think that will be all we will do for now.”

“What do you think will happen next?”

“I don’t think you will be contacted over this matter again unless they think you can provide them information about Nick.”

Justina took a deep breath, “I can’t tell them much about Nick; he’s a very private man.”

“You have known him for a while, I’m sure he’s opened up to you.”

“Nick has never opened up to me about anything, personal or business.”

“Justina, does it bother you that you’ve been dating someone and you don’t know much about him, either in his personal or professional life?”

“All I know about him is that he works with software, and no, it doesn’t really bother me.”

“Something is bothering you, though; I can see it in your lovely face. You look tired.”

“I’m tired of being bothered,” Justina bit her lip nervously.

Matthew raised an eyebrow at her with great interest. “What exactly is bothering you?”

“Are we still having an attorney/client conversation?”

Matthew smirked as he kept his eye on her. “No, I think we stopped being in that mode about five minutes ago.”

Justina unconsciously licked her lips slowly. “I’m so tired of being on the outside looking in and wishing I was a part of something special.”

“Did you think Nick was something special?”

“We are all special in our own way, but I believe a person has to find the exact perfect person for him or her to truly be in the special place meant just for him or her.”

Matthew watched and listened intently, and he had to admit that he had once been a part of that special thing of which Justina spoke.

“What if you’ve been a part of something special once; can you become a part of something special again, or do you only get one good try?”

Justina thought for a moment and realized Matthew was thinking about his deceased wife, Leslie. She smiled at him. “Oh, I think second chances are possible.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

“I’m not sure what I believe in, but what does my belief have to do with second chances? I believe we create our own chances, our own destinies. Do you believe in God or higher power?”

“Yes, I do.”

Justina looked curiously at him and questioned, “Why do you believe?”

“I’ve been taught to believe my whole life, and there are things that occur in this world that can’t be explained any other way than to say a higher power had something to do with it.”

“Hmm, you’re the religious type.”

Matthew scrunched his lips nervously. “I used to believe in God and even worshiped him, but I lost my faith when my wife died.”

“Do you blame God?”

“Yes, I guess I do, but my mother says I’m wrong.”

“I’m not sure why bad things happen to good people, but they just do; I lost Elizabeth and I loved her very much, but I didn’t blame God, or some other higher power out in the universe. I blame the person who chose to take her life.”

Matthew hoped she was right about having a chance one day to be a part of something special again. He had been going through women like cheap bottles of wine and had yet to find someone special. He leaned over and impulsively kissed her on her cheek.

“What was that for?” Justina asked, “I wasn’t ready for that.”

“I just wanted to say thank you for being the way you are.”

Justina and Matthew shared a smile, and then suddenly she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I want to thank you for being there when I needed you, Matthew.”

He pulled her back to him and kissed her once more, but on the lips this time and with passion.

Justina did not want to resist and so she gave in to him.

They kissed for a long and pleasurable time.

Matthew suddenly pulled away from her, their eyes burning with desire.

“I have to stop now, or I won’t be able to stop later.”

Justina was disappointed, as well as surprised when she stood and retrieved her purse.

Matthew took a deep breath and stood with her. “Oh baby, please don’t make this any harder for me. I want you, believe me, I want you, but it’s just not the time, not yet.”

She knew he wanted her. He had told her once that they would both know when the time was right for them, so she decided to trust his instinct because lately she doubted her own.

“I do believe you, Matthew, but I think I need to go.”

“I want to spend some time with you, Justina. I want to get to know you better.”

“I think it is a fine idea, Matthew.”

Matthew smiled,“So when can I see you again?”

“I’m not sure. Call me soon and we’ll talk.”

She left him standing alone with his thoughts and a tight grip on his passion, fighting for release.

***

On her way to her penthouse, Justina received a call from Nick. She caught her breath when she saw his name flash across the screen. Was it coincidence that Nick had called her just now or was Matthew correct in his suspicions of Nick? She thought she knew him, but after what she witnessed the night at Isabella’s, she was not sure of anything in regards to Nick. She grasped the phone in her hand and contemplated answering, but then she decided against it. She flung the phone into the passenger seat and ignored the rings. However, when she got to the penthouse garage and parked, she retrieved the message.

“Justina, Nick here. I am just calling to check on you since we’ve not spoken in awhile. I wanted to take you up on the invitation to the private dinner we talked about. I miss you, Justina. Please, when you get this message, give me a call. Bye.”

Justina cursed at the phone, “No, you’re just calling me to find out what I told the police about you.”

She knew it would be a bad idea to return Nick’s call, he would easily persuade her to dinner and just as easily seduce her. The memory of what had happened at Isabella’s Cafe flashed in her mind and she trembled. She did not need Nick back in her life. Shoving the phone into her purse, she made her decision. She would not call him back.

The following week, Matthew found time and courage to call Justina and they made a date for Friday evening. He had just ended the call when Jim walked in alongside Roger.

Matthew recognized grim looks on the men’s faces.

“We found another agent, but he is alive, barely,” Roger reported to him.

Matthew’s ears perked up when he heard the word, alive.

“His name is Chuck Holt, or Charlie, as he’s known in his undercover work,” Roger looked thoughtful as his words trailed off.

“He was underground within the Cabara clan, but we don’t know any details.”

“Where is he?” Jim asked Roger with curiosity.

“He’s in the west side safe area. He’s in a coma.”

“How many know about him? Does he have plenty of protection?” Matthew asked with concern.

Roger nodded his head as he pulled out a file and began talking, “This is the file on our agent. I took the liberty of making copies for each of you, don’t let these fall into the wrong hands or Chuck will pay for it with his life.”

Matthew and Jim took the files and scanned over it as Roger began filling in the details.

That evening as he stood in front of the private elevator leading to Justina’s penthouse, Matthew found himself to be a bit nervous and cursed himself for being so. He mustered the courage to push the buzzer and when he heard Justina’s voice through the intercom, he briefly lost his voice.

“Hi, Matthew.”

Matthew waved at the camera as he searched for something to say, but all that came out was “Hi.”

“I’ll buzz you in.”

He heard the buzzing and watched the elevator doors open up to him. He rode the elevator to the foyer of her penthouse. He had always felt nervous and excited each time he had been around her. She was unlike any of the other women he had been with since Leslie’s death. That is what scared him the most. He knew Justina was different. Leslie had even told him so in a dream, but he could not get that dream out of his mind.

She is different! That is what you are looking for and that is what you need; not a carbon copy of me. It is time to let go of the past and grab hold of the future, your future, and our daughter. I will always love you and will be watching over you and our Katie!

Matthew shook his head and closed his eyes in an attempt to push the thoughts away as he rode the elevator.

Justina stood in the foyer when the elevator opened and Matthew swore she glowed with elegance and beauty. The lovely ocean blue dress ended just above her knees revealing her long, lean legs. The low-cut top clung tightly to her bountiful chest and revealed just enough cleavage to arouse his manly curiosity, desiring a closer view. The sleeves split down the middle, revealing her lean muscled arms. It was obvious to Matthew that she worked out just enough to be sexy, but not masculine looking. Her hair was flowing in a natural wave around her shoulders, which was a definite turn-on for him. “Hi.”

“Hi, yourself.”

“You are very beautiful,” Matthew said with a raspy voice.

“Thank you,” Justina trembled and laughed nervously as she took the vase of flowers from him. “They’re beautiful. Please, won’t you come in for a moment?”

Justina turned and walked inside the penthouse living room with Matthew following her. She placed the vase of flowers down onto the coffee table that sat near the sofa. She turned and smiled softly as she pointed at his suit. “I see we have similar tastes in color.”

Matthew was wearing a black suit with an ocean blue shirt and matching tie.

Matthew grinned and nodded his head, “Blues and greens happen to be my favorite colors.”

“They are mine as well.”

“Hmm, it seems we have a few things in common, Ms. Lindsey.”

He saw her blush at his words. He winked at her as he held his arm out for her to take. “I think we need to be going.”

Upon arriving at the restaurant, Matthew ordered a bottle of the finest Merlot and they shared drinks as they talked nonstop until dinner arrived.

After dinner, Matthew told her about his camping trip with his family the past weekend.

“Ben and Dad again managed to reel the big ones in.”

Although Justina was laughing at his stories, Matthew realized he was doing all the talking and decided to give her a chance to talk.

“So tell me some things about you, Justina, your childhood I mean.”

Justina shrugged her shoulders. “There’s really not much to tell; I grew up in Memphis and was raised by Elizabeth. I went to public school there and we moved to Dallas where I attended college.”

Matthew watched her as she fidgeted nervously but continued probing into her past. “When did you come to live with Elizabeth?”

“I was thirteen when Elizabeth entered my life,” Justina shifted in her seat and looked out the window. “That was a long time ago.”

“When did your parents die?”

Justina took a sip of her wine, “They died when I was very young, I really don’t remember them at all.”

“Is that when Elizabeth took you in?”

“No, I lived with another aunt and uncle for a while until Elizabeth found me,” Justina said quickly and in a slightly irritated voice.

Matthew recalled her words to him the weekend they had met. He noticed her discomfort with that conversation as well. “My childhood was boring when I lived at the orphanage.” She noticeably had misspoken and tried to rephrase her words, “I, ah mean when I visited the orphanage.” Matthew suspected Justina had lived in an orphanage and wondered why she felt as though she had to keep it a secret.

He looked at the beautiful lady in front of him and saw a young woman carrying some hidden pain from her past she had not dealt with, and it was a thorn in her side. Matthew wanted to get to know her better and to see if there was something real between them. To alienate her on their first date was not a good start. He could see her stress dissipate as he casually changed the subject.

After the meal, Matthew drove Justina home. She invited him in for a few more drinks. He decided to be a gentleman and decline though the carnal man in him was screaming for him to accept her invitation. “I want to see you again, Justina. I hope you will accept another date with me.”

“I had a wonderful time, Matthew, and I look forward to seeing you again. I will be out of town next week.”

“Where are you off to?”

“Chicago, to visit some clients.”

“I see. I hope you have a successful and safe week.”

Matthew kissed her quickly, but tenderly on her cheek and whispered, “I’ll call you soon.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

Matthew walked into his sister’s clothing shop on Friday morning and saw all his family there supporting Caroline’s grand opening. The shop was full of people and it appeared the grand opening was going to be a successful one.

Justina and Joyce finally made it over to where the Lawton and Kingston families were and everyone greeted them.

“Hello, Justina.”

“Hello, Matthew. How are you?”

“I’m fine, just fine. And how are you doing?”

“I’m fine as well, thank you for asking.”

Matthew and Justina smiled, but both felt the pressure building as everyone gave them curious looks.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent with them eyeing one another in silence until Justina had to leave.

Justina whispered to Joyce and Maggie, “I have to go. If you two need me, day or night, don’t hesitate to call me.”

Maggie patted her shoulder and promised, “It will be fine. You go to Chicago and have a great time.”

“We will call you every day and check in with you,” Joyce whispered.

“I trust you two with my business, but you know how I am. I worry about everything,” Justina replied. She turned to Caroline and said, “I think you’ve had a successful day.”

“Yes, and I have you to thank for it.”

“It was all Joyce,” Justina graciously stated.

Justina said her final goodbyes to everyone and made her way to the exit. She felt a hand on her arm and turned to look into Matthew’s haunting eyes. She thought her heart was going to pop right out of her chest as it beat rapidly.

“You weren’t going to leave without saying goodbye to me, now were you?” Matthew asked.

Justina smiled nervously and whispered, “I didn’t know what to say.”

“We’re allowed to talk. I am your attorney.”

Justina smiled at Matthew “I see you are a pro at this sort of thing.”

Matthew winked at her and shot her a sexy smile. “And you’re proud of me for it.”

“I’m still aware of your playboy ways.”

“Yes, you are and that’s good unless it becomes a problem for you.”

“Mr. Kingston, you are your own person as I am my own.”

“I’m glad we have an understanding; that way no one can get hurt,” Matthew responded.

“I want you to call me when you return from Chicago so we can have dinner.”

“I thank you again for helping me this week.”

Matthew flashed a sexy grin at her. “It was all my pleasure, Miss. Lindsey.”

Justina returned the look as she opened the door to leave. “It was my pleasure too.”

***

Matthew and Jim went to the golf course late Wednesday night afterhours, but not to play. The two men decided to do some paper work. Matthew unlocked the door and punched in the code to silence the alarm. They arrived at Michael’s office, but none of the keys Matthew had would work.

Jim pushed his friend aside and whispered, “Let the master in to do this deed.” With little fuss, Jim unlocked the door and stood proudly aside to allow Matthew inside the door. Matthew shook his head and grinned in amazement at his partner as he walked past him. “You never cease to amaze me. Now, just where did you learn that little trick?”

Jim patted Matthew on the back as he followed him.

“Matthew, my buddy, one cannot give away too many trade secrets or one will stop amazing his friends.”

The two men laughed quietly as they so carefully rummaged through the desks, files, and other cabinets in the office. They did this for about an hour and Matthew was about to give up when he heard Jim’s voice.

“Ah! I think I’ve found the link we’ve been looking for.” Jim had managed to discover a safe hidden in the wall panel. “Go ahead; tell me I’m a genius,” he said with his familiar cocky voice.

Matthew did not respond. He simply shook his head as he looked over Jim’s shoulder, into the safe.

There were several stacks of $100.00 bills lying in the safe along with several small packs of white powdery substance. There were also jewels wrapped neatly in five plastic bags with each one labeled with a series of numbers and city names. The first bag had the numbers, 561-Memphis, the second, 788-Chicago, the fourth one, 623-Las Angeles, and the fifth one, 981-New York.

Jim called out the numbers and names to Matthew who wrote them down.

He sifted through the other items and found two passports with Michael’s picture on each, but with different names. He continued moving his hand around the safe as Matthew shined the light inside the box. Jim touched an item and as he ran his hand across it, whispered, “It’s a twenty-two.” He lifted it up and showed it to Matthew.

“You need to make sure you put the piece back exactly as you found it. We don’t want him to know anyone has been here,” Matthew whispered.

“Do you think he’d miss one pack of the white powder?”

“Take some of it from a bag to analyze, but no more than you have to.”

Jim pulled a small plastic bag from his coat, took out some of the substance, and put it into the bag. “Do you want to look at the passports?”

Matthew took the passports as Jim snapped some pictures of the items lying in the safe. Matthew focused on the passports to read the names on them. The first name was Sebastian Brashling and the second name was James Franks. Matthew had never heard of either name.

Why did his brother have two passports with two different names on them? He also noticed that Sebastian Brashling was a Dutch citizen with short black curly hair and a mustache. James Franks was an American with shoulder length blonde hair and a beard, but both pictures were of Michael; there was no doubt about that. Matthew shook his head in shock, “Why does Mike have false passports?”

Jim handed several old plane tickets to him that held the two aliases names on them. “He’s a drug mule,” Jim guessed, “Or a Cabara representative.”

“I’m feeling sick, real sick over all this,” Matthew said in a low voice.

“We’ll figure it out; now let’s get out of here.”

The two men quickly and quietly made their way out of the building and back to their car.

Matthew was silent on the way back to the lodge, but it was obvious he was distraught.

Jim parked the car and walked along side his best friend as they made their way to the elevator. “Matthew, I want you to know, I will be right by your side to work this out.”

Matthew gave Jim a small grin, “I know you will, but Caroline will need you through this too.”

“I will be her strength and yours.”

“I thought Mike was okay. He’s had a few bumps along the way, but I thought he was doing fine now.”

“We will get Mikey through this somehow. I think we can redeem him, so don’t give up on him.”

Jim and Matthew said nothing else as they approached their friends, although Matthew knew they had the same thought.

This was going to be a bridge the whole family would have to cross. Matthew groaned at the thought of his parents hurt by the secrets Michael kept, but there was nothing he could do except be there for them. He only hoped he could prevent himself from punching Michael for the pain unnecessarily caused. Matthew had a feeling this was going to be a very painful event.

***

Justina had enjoyed her trip to Chicago but was glad to be coming back home. She had thought of Matthew while she was on her trip and wondered if he might call her soon. She had learned through her relationship with Nick that worry causes wrinkles, so she was determined not to do it again. If she and Matthew were meant to date, then all the pieces would somehow fall into place.

She had not heard from Nick in months and decided not to call him. It was better to leave things the way they were. She recalled the things she had witnessed that night again and trembled when she recalled the warnings of that side of Nick. She should consider herself lucky that Nick had not attempted to contact her. However, she still missed him.

Justina pulled her car into the parking garage at her apartment, stepped out of the car, and walked toward the elevator. Thinking she heard a noise, she turned to see a man following her. He appeared to be the same strange man she had seen the night she last saw Nick. Justina had a sudden urge to quicken her pace to the nearest lobby elevator and as she did, she could hear the man quicken his step as well. She was thankful when the elevator door opened and several people stepped out. Quickly stepping in, Justina was relieved when the doors shut and the elevator began moving. The ringing of her cell phone caused yet another fright in her, but she was relieved to hear Joyce’s voice.

“Hello, Justina. Are you glad to be home?”

“Yes, I am and I can’t wait to tell you all about Chicago.”

“Why don’t you come over tonight? My mom and dad are coming in tonight from Houston and I know they’d love to see you again. The entire family will be here.”

“That sounds like fun. I will bring some drinks and snacks,” Justina volunteered.

The two women hung up the phone and Justina made her way to her penthouse to freshen up. After freshening up, Justina stepped out of the elevator, cautiously walking to her car, and sped away toward Joyce’s home.

A silver sedan pulled out behind her. The driver followed her to Joyce’s home where he parked across the street and waited.

Chapter Twenty-Three

 

 

Roger and Jim convinced Matthew the party would be a welcome distraction. He was standing near the kitchen door when he saw the lovely and vivacious Justina enter the home. Wanting to rush over and say hello to her, however, Matthew held back due to the strange insecurity that filled him.

Jim walked up and put his hand on Matthew’s shoulder. Laughing mischievously, Jim teased Matthew, “She might be just what the doctor ordered for you.”

“What are you aggravating my brother about now, honey? Could it be Justina Lindsey?” Caroline asked as she approached them from behind Matthew.

Matthew watched his sister and her husband enjoy a laugh at his expense. He could not stand it any longer and quipped at them, “I’m her attorney and that’s all there is to our relationship.”

Caroline and Jim looked at each other, then at Matthew and both burst out with a laugh.

***

Justina greeted Sammie with hugs and kisses as she pulled the little girl into her arms. After setting Sammie down, Justina pulled a bag from behind her and asked, “Who do you think these gifts are for?”

“They are for me!” Sammie said with glee as she pulled the gifts from the bag. She was thrilled with the clothes, but more so, with the doll.”

“Thank you, Justina,” Sammie said as she hugged her. “I’m gonna show Kalien and Katie.”

“You didn’t have to buy that girl anything, but thank you,” Roger commented as his daughter ran off to show the doll to her cousins.

“It’s great to see that smile on her face,” Justina answered with a wide grin on her own face.

“That girl has you wrapped around her finger, you spoil her too much,” Joyce joked.

“Oh, like you and Roger don’t spoil her and aren’t wrapped pretty tight too.”

***

Sometime later, everyone was out by the pool. Matthew looked around the deck for Justina and saw her by a fountain. He stepped over and stood just in front of her.

“Hello, Justina.”

“Hello, Matthew. I was beginning to think you weren’t here.”

“I wanted to say hi.”

“Your family is so nice,” Justina, laughed as she recalled. “I remember how nervous I was on the weekend I first came to the resort.”

Matthew laughed with her as he thought of how he had teased her about meeting everyone. Silence fell between them as they stared at one another. “You are so beautiful.”

“I think you’re beautiful too,” Justina blurted out. Each one fell silent and then she attempted to correct herself from the words she had meant but had not meant to say aloud. “I, I didn’t mean beautiful.”

“Oh, so you don’t think I’m beautiful?” Matthew asked playfully winking at her.

“No, you are handsome, I meant to say.”

They both laughed nervously.

Matthew leaned into her, “You need to breathe.”

Justina could smell his cologne, “Oh that’s too close.”

“It’s not nearly as close as I want to be,” Matthew whispered softly into her neck.

Justina opened her eyes to see him looking intently at her. “Oh, you are such a bad boy.”

Matthew licked his lips and smirked as confidence oozed out of his expression.

“You like this bad boy and don’t deny it.”

“I do not see Nick anymore. I’m ready to explore,” Justina blurted out, and then blushed.

Matthew stared at Justina in surprise. He walked slowly over and took a seat next to her.

“You can trust me. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I do trust you, Matthew,” Justina whispered as she took a sip of her wine and gazed at him with unhidden desire.

“Let’s start by spending some time together tonight after we leave here.”

“We can go to my place.”

“Katie is spending the night with Sammie and Kalien so I will have all night.” Matthew gave Justina a devilish smile.

“I make a great cup of coffee.” Justina was shocked at the bold words, which had escaped her mind, and she blushed.

Matthew raised an eyebrow at her, “Hum that sounds like an invitation to spend the night.”

“Hey, there you two are,” Caroline called out as she and the others approached them.

Justina was thankful when Katie and Sammie whisked her off to a tea party so she would not have to endure any more of the strange stares from her curious friends.

They spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying good conversation and food. Justina and Matthew had not spoken again during the party. She looked at her watch after a few hours passed and decided to leave.

“I’ve had a fabulous day, but I’m tired, so I’m going to exit graciously now before I rudely fall asleep on your sofa.”

Everyone laughed as Joyce patted her shoulder. “You’ve had a long week, but I’m glad you came over. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Justina exited the party with anxiety and excitement about the second half of her day.

Matthew decided to exit about thirty minutes later, which caused quite a buzz among everyone. He ignored Jim and the others’ suspicious glances.

Matthew arrived at Justina’s penthouse with a bottle of wine.

They greeted each other with a smile and then Matthew followed her to the sofa.

He noticed a table sitting there with cheese, crackers, various fruits, and a bottle of wine. He set his bottle next to the other bottle and turned to Justina.

Matthew pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

They each felt their self-control slipping away with each new sensual touch.

“If I don’t stop right now then I won’t be…,” Matthew began to say.

“I don’t want you to stop, not now, not later,” Justina interrupted him through their fervent kisses.

Matthew scrunched his lips as he stared into her eyes. He wanted Justina, but he did not want this affair to be like all the others, so he pulled away from her.

“I like you a lot. I don’t want to make a decision with you that might cause hurt for us both in the future. I want to spend quality time with you.”

Justina looked at him with newfound respect. “I just can’t believe you’re real.”

Matthew smiled, “I can’t believe I’m for real either.”

They spent the evening trying to watch a movie and talking but were unable to keep their eyes off one other.

As Matthew felt Justina’s body close to his own, he felt control slipping away with every passing moment. He slowly put his arm around her, pulled her to him, and pushed his lips to hers.

The kiss was the spark needed to fan the flames of desire hidden just beneath the surface.

Quickly, they found themselves lying on the sofa together with whimpers of delight escaping their lips as they explored one another’s bodies.

As desire took hold, he slipped one hand up her blouse, found her breasts, and caressed them gently yet passionately. He affectionately traced his other hand down her side and rested it just above her feminine area. When he felt her catch her breath, it was all he needed to continue probing further.

Justina gasped with pleasure as Matthew explored her body with his eyes, mouth, and hands.

Justina in turn sensually unbuttoned his shirt with one hand and ran her fingers across his bare, solid chest causing groans of pleasure to escape his lips. With the other hand, she located the button to his pants and unfastened it with feverish haste until she succeeded in loosening them. Justina pushed her trembling hand down inside and found his masculinity. As she massaged him gently, his body quivered uncontrollably.

As Matthew pleasured Justina with his hands, he in turn enjoyed the pleasure he was receiving from her.

“I can’t,” she whispered suddenly, as she pulled away from him.

He could see she struggled with her passion for him. However, he sensed she battled with something else. He decided to make it easier for her and stood to put distance between them. “I have to go. I’m going home to take a cold shower,” he grabbed his jacket and walked toward the door.

Justina could not help but laugh slightly at his remark. She stood and followed him to the foyer with her clothes still in disarray.

“Justina, I promise that I’m not going to hurt you,” Matthew began buttoning the bottom buttons of his shirt.

“Don’t make promises, okay?” Justina stared at his sexy smooth chest.

He quit buttoning his shirt, pulled her back into his arms, and kissed her lips. “I had fun and I want to see you tomorrow.”

“I have no plans tomorrow.”

“I’ll call you.” He looked admiringly at her as he backed slowly into the elevator. Just as the elevator doors closed, he placed two fingers to his lips and whispered, “Sweet dreams, Justina.”

***

Justina stepped out of the shower just as the phone rang, “Hello, Justina.”

“Good morning, Justina.”

Justina blushed at the sound of Matthew’s voice, “Hi, good morning, Matthew.”

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, I did thank you, and you?”

“Yes, thank you. I called to see if you would share breakfast with me this morning?”

Justina hesitated, but then answered, “Yes, breakfast would be nice.”

“Great. What do you have in your kitchen?”

Justina thought that was a weird question. Certainly, he was not expecting her to cook for him. “Ah, well, let’s see, my housekeeper went shopping yesterday, so I should have a fully stocked kitchen.”

“That is awesome. I want to come over and cook breakfast for you. That is if it is okay with you.”

Justina laughed, “Sure, that’s just fine with me. I will brew some coffee while you are on your way.”

“Okay, that sounds wonderful. See you soon.”

“Bye.” Justina jumped from her bed with the excitement similar to a schoolgirl and dressed with anticipation at spending the day with Matthew.

Justina smiled as she watched Matthew cook breakfast in her kitchen, “Are you truly real?”

Matthew pinched his arm and then his cheek and laughed, “Yep, I’m pretty sure I’m real.”

Justina laughed, then turned, and sat down on the tall chair in front of her bar, facing him. She still could not believe she was letting him into her world. She did not want to let him in after being hurt by Nick, but she was unable to resist him. Matthew was there when she needed him, but Nick was not. She sighed at the thought of finding herself thrust into another relationship. She was scared to death, but she was more afraid of not letting him close. She knew if she did not at least get to know him, she would regret it and always wonder about him the rest of her life.

Matthew saw Justina’s face showing a thoughtful, reflecting stare, an almost gloomy one. He reached his hand over and touched hers, “You okay?”

Justina took a deep breath and smiled, “I can’t believe you don’t have a meeting to rush off to or a client to see and you’ve taken the time to cook breakfast for me.”

Matthew rubbed his hand gently through Justina’s hair, “Justina, the only person that could pull me away from you right now is a phone call from my daughter.” He leaned over and kissed her lips. He gently pulled away and looked at her sweetly. “Now, let’s get to this delicious breakfast I’ve prepared for us.”

Justina pushed her plate to the side and smiled, “The breakfast was delicious, Matthew. Thank you.”

Matthew grinned, “I’m glad you enjoyed it. I enjoy cooking.”

“It is evident you enjoy it, and you’re good at it.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he winked at her playfully. “I have an idea. Let’s go downtown and spend the remainder of the morning there.”

Justina nodded as she stood, “Okay; that sounds relaxing.” She began to clear the table.

Matthew stood and pulled his plate from the table and followed her to the dishwasher.

Justina laughed, “And you clean up after yourself, I am very impressed.”

Matthew chuckled, “I don’t mind at all.”

They stepped off the elevator and began walking toward the car when Justina began feeling uneasy, the same uneasy feeling she had when she thought someone was following her earlier.

She stopped and looked around the garage, but she saw no one there.

Matthew noticed the uneasy look that crossed her face. “Darlin’, are you alright?” Matthew touched her on her arm.

Justina tried to hide her uneasiness. “Yes, I’m fine. I’m just silly.”

Matthew slanted his head at her and gave her a confused look. “Explain, please.”

Justina scrunched her lips as she nervously pushed herself closer to him. She worried he would think she was silly. “It’s nothing, really; let’s go,” She tugged on his arm gently.

“Justina, we aren’t moving another step until you tell me the truth.”

“I just have an uneasy feeling, like,” She hesitated as she looked around the garage, and then continued, “Like someone is watching me, following me even.”

Matthew put his arm around her and escorted her to his car. He cautiously looked around the garage but saw no one. He looked over at her and smiled, “Well Doll, I didn’t see anyone, but promise me, if you feel this way again, you’ll tell me. I’ve learned that following your instincts will keep you alert and safe, so don’t ever feel silly about your uneasiness.”

Matthew looked into the rear view mirror and noticed a silver sedan behind them. He felt relief when the car turned the opposite direction at the intersection. He turned his attention to the beautiful woman sitting next to him and decided to try to lighten her mood.

Fifteen minutes later, Matthew pulled into a downtown parking garage. When they got out of the car, he noticed Justina looked nervously around as they walked. He gently took her by the hand and whispered, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I just don’t like dark garages, that’s all.”

“Justina, I’m right here with you. Nothing is going to happen to you. Now, Ms. Lindsey, are you ready to enjoy the morning with me?”

Justina nodded with a bright smile, “Yes, I am.” She pushed her hand through his arm.

They spent the first part of their morning at West End window-shopping. Justina was amazed at how knowledgeable Matthew was about antiques. After they had finished window-shopping, they shared a light lunch and took in a few street shows.

When they returned to her penthouse, Matthew hung back in the foyer but did not enter the penthouse. He reached over and kissed her softly on the lips. “I do need to take care of some business.”

Justina smiled at him, “Thank you for an enjoyable day.”

“I will call you soon, sweet Justina, I had a great time.”

Justina’s heart raced as he pulled her into another kiss.

They lingered in her foyer until Matthew finally pushed himself away from their intimate embrace, their lustful kiss.

Matthew kept his word and called Justina that evening. He made plans for dinner at her penthouse, and then to watch a movie.

When Matthew showed up that evening, he held a bouquet of roses and a bottle of champagne in his hands.

Justina took the roses and whispered softly, “Thank you. They are lovely.”

“You’re very welcome. I’ll take the champagne to the kitchen and start dinner.”

“You are going to spoil me, Mr. Kingston.”

Matthew winked at her, “That’s the idea.”

After placing the roses into a vase, Justina walked into the kitchen to see Matthew busy preparing dinner.

“What are you preparing?”

“I am going to cook a meatloaf.”

“Hmm, that sounds good. So, how about giving me some pointers while you cook it?”

Matthew looked up from cutting the onions and grinned, “It would be my pleasure, Ma’am.”

As he instructed her on how to prepare the meal, they bumped into one another, shared laughs, and thoroughly enjoyed being together.

It was a relaxing time for each of them.

“Hmm, this meatloaf is good, Matthew. Thank you for writing down the directions for me as we prepared it.”

“You are welcome. You did quite well. I think with a bit of practice, you could become quite the accomplished chef,” Matthew replied as he pushed his plate back.

“I have a good teacher,” Justina whispered as she took a sip of her champagne.

Matthew smiled as he stood, “Hmm, you’re good for my ego, Justina.”

When he walked to her chair, she swore her heart cease to beat for a brief moment. When he assisted her from the chair, his eyes burned her to her core.

“You are so beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Justina blushed.

Matthew smiled softly as he took her by the hand and whispered, “You can breathe.”

Justina nodded, but could not find her voice. She unconsciously licked her lips as she saw him move his face closer to hers. When their lips touched, she had the feeling that her body floated, and then it ended.

“Hmm, I guess we need to get to the movie,” Matthew whispered. He took her hand and led her to the living room.

As they watched the movie, passionate stares floated in the air between them. Matthew at one point placed his hand on hers. As they held hands, he gently stroked her hand with his finger, causing the passion to grow. Their eyes met briefly, but it was all that was needed to push their passion over the edge. Matthew pushed his body close to hers, and into a sensual embrace. When their lips connected, the heat consumed them.

Matthew gently pushed her down onto the sofa as he pushed his body on top of hers. Their bodies moved together in sync they allowed their hands to explore the others body.

When they ceased their passionate kiss, Justina swore her body floated. She had not experienced such a sensual kiss. Even through their clothes, she could feel his hardness. Her body began to moisten underneath his with every caress and movement they shared.

It scared her to have these feelings. She whimpered softly into his ear, “Please, Matthew. I…”

“Shhh, it’s all right, sweetheart,” Matthew replied in a raspy, guttural tone.

“I think I hear another cold shower calling me.” Justina would have laughed at his attempt to lighten the situation, but this time, she did not find it amusing. She wanted him, and there was no doubt he wanted her, but she was too afraid to give in to her passion, yet angry at herself for holding back.

When Matthew stood, he gently lifted her to her feet and then turned and walked to the door.

He turned and smiled softly, ”Thank you for a lovely evening.”

“Thank you for a lovely day,” Justina whispered.

Matthew leaned in and kissed her gently on the cheek, “I am going to pick Katie up from her grandparent’s tomorrow afternoon, but may I see you tomorrow morning?”

“Yes, I look forward to it.”

Matthew nodded, “Okay, I’ll come by around 10:00 am.”

“Yes.”

Matthew winked at her once more and then turned toward the elevator. “Good night.”

“Good night,” Justina replied.

When she settled into bed that night, her thoughts were active. The weekend had turned out to be the most amazing weekend she had experienced in quite a while. She had never been treated in such a manner. Matthew was different; he was kind, gentle, and compassionate. However, the exact opposite was true of Nick. As Matthew consumed her thoughts, her eyelids grew heavy and she fell into a deep and restful sleep.

The next morning, Justina surprised Matthew. When he entered, he followed her to the kitchen. He was pleasantly surprised to sniff the aroma of food cooking. He smiled, “Something smells delicious. What is it?”

Justina blushed through her own smiles, “I prepared breakfast for you this morning. I pulled out a cookbook and made biscuits, gravy, and sausage. On the side, I have oatmeal as well. I hope you enjoy it.”

Matthew looked at the food warming on the stove and grinned as his stomach rumbled. “I am sure I will. It looks delicious.”

After they had eaten the breakfast, Matthew pushed his plate away and shot Justina a pleased look. “Justina, everything was delicious. Thank you. The oatmeal was exactly as I like it, and the biscuits and gravy were perfect. Thank you for a lovely breakfast.”

Justina blushed as she whispered, “I am glad you enjoyed it.” She stood and began to clear the table. When he stood and picked his plate off the table, she took it from him and shook her head, “Please, let me do this. You go and relax. I’ll be out in just a moment.”

Matthew leaned in and kissed her lips gently, “All right. I’ll be on your balcony.”

“I will be there soon.”

When Justina stepped out onto her balcony, she found him staring out at the city.

He turned and waved his hand slightly at her, “You have a lovely view of the city here.”

“I do love this view, especially at night. I just get lost in all the city lights twinkling. They almost resemble stars.” When she caught him looking at her amorously, she blushed, “That’s silly, isn’t it?”

“Not at all. I think it is a romantic sentiment and I think you are lovely.”

He leaned in and kissed her softly at first, and then the soft kiss turned into a passionate embrace. When they pulled away, they shared an intimate stare. Justina broke the stare and walked to a reclining lounge chair. Matthew took a seat next to her.

After spending some time chatting about everything, but nothing special, Matthew stood and prepared to leave.

“I haven’t had such a relaxing time in quite a while.” Matthew pulled her into his arms and kissed her cheek.

“I had a nice time with you too, Matthew.”

“Do you still think we should keep quiet about our dating?” Justina quizzed.

“I think that would be the right thing for now. I am enjoying getting to know you, but…”

“You aren’t ready for an exclusive relationship. I don’t think I am ready either. I understand.”

Matthew searched her face for an indication of how his answer made her feel. He saw only understanding reflecting back at him. “If it starts to bother you, please let me know.”

“As I’ve said before, we’re both adults and I am fine with the way things are. I am enjoying getting acquainted with you as well.”

Matthew kissed her sweetly on her lips. “I really like you, Justina. I want you to know you are special, different from all of the others I have dated and I know there is substance here. You aren’t going to get rid of me.”

He winked playfully at her, and then turned and left her with wonderment.

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

Matthew, Jim, and Roger met Monday morning in Jim’s office to discuss their investigation. As they drank some coffee, Jim and Roger began comically questioning Matthew.

“While we were hard at work Saturday on this thing, what exactly were you doing?”

“It was a personal project,” Matthew grinned at his friends.

“Hum-um and what was her name?” Roger asked.

“Oh, I can guess,” Jim chided.

Matthew looked up at his friends and said nothing, but smiled.

Roger winked at Jim, then glanced at Matthew and asked him, “How was Justina when you saw her last night?”

Matthew gave Roger a shocked look as Jim chuckled; he shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, man.”

Roger and Jim laughed at their friend’s noticeable embarrassment. Matthew shot them a cursed look.

“All right, buddy, we’ll pretend we don’t know,” Jim joked.

“I would love to know everything she knows about Nick. We might find it interesting,” Roger spoke up with a serious tone.

“She told me the only thing she knew was that Nicky boy worked with software. She said she has been to the family mansion once and that it was a big cold, eerie place. She said the women were unfriendly and the men were acting as masters over the women.”

“That’s pretty much the same things she’s told Joyce,” Roger finished off his coffee. “I really don’t think she knows anything that can help us.”

Matthew agreed, “I believe you’re right.” He picked his coffee cup up and took a sip. “I’ll keep in contact with her, as her attorney; if anything changes, I’ll know about it.”

Roger and Jim shot each other a knowing glance and laughed. “Yeah, I’d say you’ll stay ‘close’ to the situation,” Jim mocked.

Matthew shook his head at his friends as he changed the subject. “Did you two see Mikey this weekend?”

“He and Sara were at the cafe Saturday night but didn’t say much to any of us. They stayed about an hour and appeared to be arguing,” Jim answered.

“I’m going to talk with my contact today. I want to see what kind of activity my brother has been involved in downtown lately. Where are you off to?”

Jim stood and put on his suit coat and chuckled, “Shopping with the wife.”

“Will you be coming back today?” Matthew asked.

“No. Ben and Donna are taking Kalien home with them for the afternoon, so it’s a good indication that we have lots of shopping to do for her new shop.”

Matthew and Roger stood and laughed as someone knocked on the door.

Jim called out, “Come in.”

Donna and Ben walked into the office and she hugged Matthew as she walked past him. “Kate can come with us too.”

Matthew shook his head, “No, thank you Mom; she and I need some time together, we’ve been going our separate ways lately, and I’m missing her.”

Everyone smiled at the kids and Caroline walked into the office. They had chatted a few moments before everyone went their separate ways.

Matthew rubbed his daughter’s shoulder as they locked up the office. “Well, kiddo, what do you say to some Sloppy Joe Burgers and ice cream?”

Kate smiled broadly, “That sounds great, Daddy.”

***

Tuesday night found Matthew alone when Kate spent the night with Sammie. He drove to a local club where he ran into Linda Jones.

After several drinks, Matthew followed her to her place where they slept together.

On the way home, Justina’s face flashed across his mind and he felt strangely guilty about being with Linda. He shook the thought out of his mind. I have nothing to be guilty about. We have an understanding.

Matthew kept fighting the thought as he showered and lay in his bed. When he finally fell asleep, Justina filled his dreams throughout the night.

***

The next afternoon Justina heard a knock on her office door and she shouted, “Come in.” She was delighted to see Joyce and Maggie come bouncing in and waved at them. Justina joined her friends on the sofa with a handful of pamphlets. Joyce and Maggie shot each other agonizing looks as she laid them down.

“What is all of this?” Maggie asked as she picked up a pamphlet.

“Carpet samples, oh no, this is beginning to sound like chaos in the works,” Joyce frowned, but she and Maggie laughed.

“Oh now, it’s not going to be that bad, I actually think it will be fun,” Justina scolded them.

“Where are we going to work?” Joyce asked with an eyebrow raised.

“I’ve rented an office downstairs, but I can send your work home with you.”

“That sounds like it just might work,” Maggie replied with a gleam in her eyes.

Justina laughed and shook her head, “You’re my right arm. I will need you with me. Joyce is the only one who I’m allowing to work from home.”

Maggie shrugged her shoulders as Justina and Joyce laughed, “I just thought I’d try.”

Justina gave her a hug, “Thanks, I will give you and the others a nice bonus.”

Maggie gave Justina a teasing grin as she asked, “Did you get Christopher’s approval on this project?”

“Yes, I sure did. We discussed budgets for it yesterday at lunch.”

Joyce picked up a booklet that contained color samples. “Can I please pick my office colors and carpet?”

Justina grinned, “Yes, you both can pick your office colors, but keep that little fact quiet.”

Joyce and Maggie promised with great enthusiasm that they would keep it their secret.

“Can you imagine what colors Bernard Spacey would choose?” Joyce joked.

The three women looked at each other and made ugly faces as Maggie commented,

“I’ve been in his and Martha’s home, and believe me; they go for the wildest and most bizarre themes they can find.”

They all laughed wildly at the thought and then they heard a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Justina called.

The door opened and in came a deliveryman holding a vase of fresh flowers and a card. He looked at the envelope. “Justina Lindsey?”

Justina lifted her hand, “That’s me.” The man brought the vase over to her. “Thank you, sir,” Justina looked at the card and she felt her face warm up as she read it.

I had fun this weekend, talk to you soon. MK

Joyce and Maggie looked curiously at the flowers, and then read the card over Justina’s shoulders. Each of the women giggled, as Justina jerked the card out of their line of sight.

“Well, who are they from?” Maggie questioned.

“A friend,” Justina smiled at her friends. She could see that was not enough information. “I had dinner with a very nice man this weekend.”

Maggie began laughing as she looked at Joyce. “Ooh, she’s not going to tell.”

Maggie got a buzz on her cell and stood. “That’s Jay Majors, our travel agent. I will take it in my office. I’ll be back soon.” She left the office and Justina alone with her lovable, but a nosey friend.

“Oh, that’s not going to cut it with me and you know it,” Joyce shook her head and laughed.

Justina frowned at Joyce. She knew she had to say something to satisfy her friend, so she decided to tell her half the story. “I promised I would keep our date a secret.”

“Why?”

“We just want to spend time getting to know each other without outside influence.”

Justina saw Joyce smile suspiciously and knew she had said the wrong thing. She rolled her eyes at Joyce and grumbled, “You just don’t give up, do you?”

Joyce walked over to Justina and patted her on her hand. “I will respect your wishes and keep out of it. I won’t tell anyone you are dating Matthew.”

Justina looked up with a shocked expression. “I never said that it was him.”

“You didn’t have to sweetie, I know it’s him. Maggie and I both saw his initials on the card. You know I’m here if you need to talk things out.”

“We had dinner one weekend. We went to the Renaissance and we had a lovely time. He was a gentleman throughout the entire evening.”

“Have you gone out with him again?”

“Yes, the weekend of your cookout. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long while.”

“You slept with him, didn’t you?” Joyce gasped and put her hands to her face.

“No, I did not.”

“So what happened next?” Joyce asked as Maggie came in and sat by Joyce.

“We spent the remainder of the weekend together.”

Justina’s eyes met Maggie’s and she blushed.

“It’s all right; I saw the initials on it.”

Justina rolled her eyes, “There are other men with the initials, MK,” she paused before she continued. “Somewhere in the world, I suppose.”

“But, in this little part of the world, we girls can only think of one man with those initials.” Maggie pointed her finger between herself and Joyce.

“Matthew Kingston,” Joyce cackled.

Justina bit her lips through another blush as her friends giggled with delight.

Maggie patted Justina on her hand, “Oh, you guys make a beautiful couple.”

Justina frowned, “We’re not a couple and this is to remain among us only, and you’re only saying that because he’s your cousin.”

“I do love Matthew. He and I have always been close.”

“We agreed we’re not going to date one another exclusively. I just got out of a relationship with Nick. Matthew and I are taking it slow; we are getting to know each other without demands, or expectations, so he is free to date others as I am free to do the same. We have an understanding.”

“I think that’s a good idea, you’ve been tied down to a bad boy way too long and you need to enjoy the game for a while,” Maggie suggested.

“I agree with Maggie, you should play the field for a while, but don’t let Matthew get too far away.” Joyce poured a cup of coffee. “It’ll do Nick some good to see you out having fun with another man.”

Justina shot Joyce a cautioned look.

“I do not see Nick anymore.” She waited for cheers of relief to escape her friends when they heard this bit of news.

“Really? Wow! Are you okay?” Maggie asked with concern.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“How long has it been since you two split? Why didn’t you tell us?” Joyce questioned.

“The right time didn’t present itself. We have all been so busy with work and personal lives. I’m sorry for not telling you sooner.”

Joyce shrugged and then smiled, I’m just glad it’s over with you and Nick, but you should have told us about your breakup.”

Justina bit her lip nervously, “We have unfinished business, but I haven’t spoken to him in awhile. He called me once, but it was right after Reynolds was murdered. He only called to try and get information from me. I just can’t believe he’s not contacted me to try and talk about us.”

“Have you called him?” Maggie asked.

“No,” Justina said thoughtfully.

“Why? The phone does work both ways, you know,” Joyce reminded Justina.

Justina shrugged, “I don’t know, maybe I too want to leave it like this, but…” Justina hesitated, looked down at the floor, and then frowned. “We did share a year together.”

Joyce frowned as well, “I wouldn’t exactly call it together. There were too many secrets, too many questions and you spent more time alone than as an actual couple.”

“You’re right, but I did care for him.”

“But, were you in love with him?” Maggie asked softly.

“No, I am not in love with Nick,” Justina answered quietly, with little strength behind the statement.

“Then it’s better to end it and maybe this is the best way,” Joyce whispered. “I’m sorry you’re hurting over Nick.”

“Thank you both for listening to me,” Justina slowly stood, and took deep breaths as she hugged them.

“That’s what friends are for; now let’s get to picking colors,” Joyce playfully ordered.

Chapter Twenty-Five

 

Matthew ended his call, turned to his friends, and frowned. “I’ve had no luck in locating any information on the licenses I found in Michael’s office. I’ve run them through the criminal data base and have scored zero on both.”

He cursed, “I’ve had no luck in matching those passports with anyone real, either. I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall.”

“Don’t be hard on yourself. Max was with Mikey the night the two agents were slaughtered, I’d bet the ranch on it; that means Mikey didn’t pull the trigger and that’s a good thing,” Roger reminded Matthew.

Matthew raised an eyebrow, “If he was there, then he knows exactly what happened and it means he’s involved. Mike will certainly get jail time and we simply guess that Max was there, but we’re not positively sure of that unless Michael admits it to us.”

Roger sighed, “Well Matthew, perhaps we can get the Feds to cut a good deal with Mike.”

The three men fell silent for a moment as they thought over the gloomy circumstances.

Jim and Roger wished they could make their friend’s burden a little lighter.

“I’m going to be all right. I’m a strong man, its mom and dad I’m concerned about.”

“They’re strong people, too, Matthew. Our family will make it through this as long we stay united.” The three men shared a burst of strength at Jim’s words.

Roger cheerfully chimed in, “Well, I know something that will lift our spirits for at least one night; a party.”

Jim and Matthew looked at Roger for an explanation and he smiled broadly, “A birthday party.”

“Who’s birthday? I thought I had all of them saved on my calendar,” Jim groaned, as he wrinkled his nose and thumbed through his electronic device.

Matthew grinned, “I did too, so tell us whose birthday we will be celebrating?”

“Justina Lindsey. Joyce and Maggie have been working with Caroline for weeks on the plans.”

“When is her birthday?” Jim questioned.

“It’s the thirteenth. It’s at the lodge’s banquet hall at 7:00 pm and it’s a surprise; she does not have any idea.”

Matthew quickly wrote something down on a notepad and cursed to himself.

He shot his friends a quizzical look. “What are you too laughing at?”

“What are you writing down? Did you think of something we need to look into?” Roger chided.

Jim quipped, “Nope, it has nothing to do with our investigation, but I bet ya it has something to do with a certain lovely woman’s birthday. I wonder what she likes.”

Matthew shot his friends a cursed look as Roger replied, “Roses, all women like roses.”

Matthew sat back and let them enjoy themselves at his expense.

His cell phone buzzed suddenly, breaking their laughter to softer chuckles.

He grabbed his cell phone from his desk and answered it to find it was Justina. “Hello, Doll.” He pulled the phone from his mouth and whispered to Jim and Roger, “I’m going to my office.”

Jim and Roger shot him humorous, knowing looks.

Matthew could hear Jim and Roger still laughing as he walked out of Jim’s office.

“Hi. I just called to say thank you for the roses. They’re so lovely,” Justina spoke cheerfully.

Matthew was pleased his gift had brightened Justina’s day. “You were on my mind. I wanted you to know.”

Justina felt her pulse rise and she replied, “I’ve been thinking about you, too.”

“Will you have dinner with me?”

Justina felt her heart leap with excitement. “I’d love to have dinner with you.”

“Does tomorrow night sound good?” Matthew asked.

Joyce and Maggie walked into Justina’s office while she was on the phone. “Yes.”

“I’ll pick you up at your penthouse around 6:00 pm. There is a new Italian place that I’d like to take you to. I heard it’s delicious.”

“That sounds like a good plan, Mr. Jackson. I will talk to you tomorrow.”

Matthew caught the hint and laughed, “Yes, soon. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Justina ended the call and focused her attention to Joyce and Maggie.

***

That evening, Matthew, and Jim received a call from Roger and the three met their FBI contact, Fred, at Jim’s office.

“We have gone as far as we can go for now. We can always pick the case up again at a later time should some new information come forth, but for now my superiors are urging me to shut the operation down,” Fred informed the three disappointed men.

“Give us some more time,” Roger urged Fred.

“Charlie was just another casualty in a long list of casualties left behind in this investigation and with no useful information, we just aren’t getting anywhere and the costs are too high. You have six weeks and then it’s over unless something amazing happens to revive this mess. I’m sorry, but that’s all I’m authorized to give to you.”

Fred picked up his coat and briefcase and walked to the door. “Call me if you get anything useful.”

He turned and left the three men licking their wounds. They knew that it was time to pull Michael in and have a conversation with him.

***

The following night, Matthew arrived right on time for his and Justina’s date.

“You are so lovely, Justina,” Matthew whispered as he kissed her cheek.

“Thank you,” Justina returned a smile. As they walked toward the elevator, she asked, “So, where are we off to tonight?”

“We have a reservation at the Regent.”

Justina enjoyed eating at the Regent. It was a posh restaurant and the food was delicious. One could only eat there with reservations and it usually took weeks to get one. “How did you get a reservation?”

Matthew grinned as they stepped into the elevator. “I’m the attorney for Ned, the owner. It only took one phone call.”

“I’m impressed.”

“That’s the idea, Ms. Lindsey,” Matthew flashed his smile at her.

Justina liked his smile. It was an electric smile that definitely brightened her day when she saw it. She blushed under his stare, “You are definitely a charmer.”

Matthew winked playfully, “Hmm, so my charm is working on you. Good.”

At dinner, Matthew and Justina talked about their college experiences. Each one shared comical stories about the roommates they had.

When they were finished with the meal, Matthew drove to the boardwalk where they strolled along the river.

“The moon is lovely tonight,” Justina noted.

“Yes, it is. I see the stars made it out tonight. The weatherman was wrong. No rain after all.”

“I don’t mind the rain as long as it’s not accompanied by a vicious storm.”

“I like the sounds of storms, I don’t like the results they sometimes leave behind them, but I love the sound of thunder and enjoy watching lightening flash in the sky.”

“You make it sound magical,” Justina laughed.

Matthew laughed with her, “Do I? Perhaps when the next storm comes, I’ll show you how magical they can be.”

“Sure, it sounds like a nice time.”

Justina paused at a small bridge and stared down at the water. When Matthew approached her, he drew his body to hers until there was no space between them. “Anytime spent with you is nice, Justina,” Justina felt her body quiver with excitement as he felt his body touching hers. She tried to find the words to answer him, but was only able to murmur, “yes.”

Matthew placed both hands on the railing, on either side of Justina. He moved his mouth to her neck and placed a tender kiss on there, just below her ear lobe.

Justina shivered as she gave into her desire to push her body against his. When she did, she felt his body hardening. She gasped slightly at her reaction. She immediately felt a warm sensation fill her completely, right down to her core, which now began to moisten lightly.

Matthew groaned slightly and moved his lips up her neck until he reached hers, connecting them into a passionate kiss.

As the kiss lingered, Matthew placed one hand underneath her breasts while the other moved to her center.

Justina grasped the railing and held it tight as they kissed and as Matthew gently caressed her. She was now wet with desire and she could feel his own desire for her growing. She wanted to feel him closer. She pushed against him, “Oh, Matthew.”

“Hmm, baby, can you feel how you effect me? I want you so bad that I am tempted to take you right here.”

“Oh, Matthew, yes, I can feel you.”

Justina felt his hand gently move upward to her breast. She gasped as he caressed his hand slightly across it. Simultaneously, he caressed her center with his hand, and she squirmed underneath his hands and pushed against them.

He began to explore her more thoroughly when they heard voices approaching behind them. He quickly withdrew his hands from her and pulled away.

Justina continued staring at the river as he continued staring at her.

After the people had passed by, Justina turned to look at him.

They each laughed nervously as Matthew pulled her close to him.

“I am sorry. I got carried away. I’m glad they didn’t catch us.”

“Yes, that was close. I think we should go now.”

Matthew let out a breath of air and nodded, “Yes, it’s getting late and I have an early day in court tomorrow.”

On the trip to Justina’s penthouse, Matthew grasped Justina’s hand and held it. When they arrived, he rode the elevator to her penthouse and walked her to the door, “I’m not going in.”

Justina nodded but said nothing as she unlocked the door.

Matthew touched her shoulder gently, “If I go inside with you, I will not want to leave.”

“And I will not want you to leave.” Justina turned and smiled softly at him, “I had fun tonight. It was a most relaxing time.”

Matthew touched her face gently, “As did I. Thank you once again for a lovely evening.” He leaned close and kissed her lips tenderly, and then he walked to the elevators.

“Good night, Justina.”

“Good night.”

As he rode the elevator to the garage, he thought about where this relationship was going with Justina. She was unlike any woman he had met since Leslie. She was a special woman. Somewhere in the midst of their dating, it had ceased to be less about trying to find out what Justina knew about the Cabara’s and more about Matthew wanting to get to know Justina on a serious level. What the hell is happening to me? He thought as he stepped off the elevator and into his car.

Matthew found it hard to sleep. As he lay in bed, he thought back to his and Justina’s sensual moments together. When he finally fell asleep, she invaded his dreams.

***

Justina looked at her watch. It was 7:30 pm on Saturday night and she was waiting for Joyce and Roger, but they had not shown up for their dinner date, which was unusual.

She tried calling each of them on the phone, but neither one answered and she was beginning to worry as she walked over to the cafe, but they were not there, either.

She decided to call Ben and Donna to see if they had heard from them. Just as she was about to call, Rhonda, the server from the cafe stepped over to her.

“Miss Lindsey, Joyce just called and asked that I inform you that she’s waiting for you at the lodge.”

Justina thanked her and made her way to the lodge. When she arrived, Lauren greeted her just inside the lobby.

“Joyce and Roger asked me to bring you to them.”

When Justina followed Lauren into one of the banquet halls, she was greeted with many loud calls of, “Happy Birthday!”

Her face flushed as she saw all her friends and co-workers there. She was shocked that she had completely forgotten it was that time again! She surmised it was because she had important things occupying her mind.

The children greeted her with flowers and hugs followed by Joyce, Maggie, and Caroline.

Roger and Jim set up the sound system and were in charge of the music, and they looked as though they were enjoying it. There were tables set up displaying delicious looking foods beginning with the main courses and ending with dessert tables.

Justina scanned the room for Matthew, but could not see him anywhere. She felt her disappointment setting in to her.

Surely, he knew about it, she thought to herself although he had given her no hint of it when she seen him on Wednesday night.

Justina decided to push her disappointment away, her friends had worked so hard for this surprise party, and she was going to enjoy the night with them.

She was talking to Joyce, Maggie, and Caroline when she saw huge smiles coming across their faces. She turned to see what had caused the excitement from her friends.

Justina caught her breath when she saw Matthew.

Matthew strolled into the banquet hall with a huge bouquet of flowers and a wrapped gift box in his hand. He put the gifts on the gift table and then made his way to her.

Without any hesitation or warning, he pulled Justina into his arms and kissed her passionately.

Justina heard gasps escaping from those who stood near them.

Matthew whispered softly in her ear, “Happy Birthday, Doll.” He gave her the same sweet smile he flashed to her the first night they had met.

Justina could not stop smiling at him and was unable to take her eyes off him even though she knew everyone was silent and watching them. “I’m so glad you made it Mr. Kingston.”

“So am I, Doll, and breathe,” He gently rubbed her face.

She felt her face glowing and she leaned it into his shoulder. “Well, I guess we aren’t keeping our relationship a secret any longer; what do we do now?”

Matthew lifted her face and looked into her eyes. “We should dance.” He took her by the hand and led her to the middle of the floor.

Justina felt like a princess swept away by her handsome and adoring prince. She and Matthew danced together with little space between their two bodies. Justina kept looking up at him and each time she did, she felt like a giddy little schoolgirl with her first crush.

“You look so lovely in that gown.” Matthew could not take his eyes off the black, silk figure-forming dress she wore. The front of the dress was low-cut, revealing her well-endowed cleavage. The sleeves draped lowly on her arm, just at the bicep, and the bodice draped around her with a revealing back. She looked beautiful with her hair pulled up with a decorative pin with a flowery white ribbon, and wisps of hair teasing her delicate neck.

“Thank you. I was just thinking how handsome you are in your tux.” Justina gazed at the handsome man before her. He looked equally good in a tuxedo or jeans.

He gazed at her with a serious look on his face. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of keeping us secret any longer; do you forgive me?”

“Yes, of course.”

He leaned down and kissed her passionately again. He led her off the dance floor when she pulled back and stared at him anxiously.

Matthew looked at her with understanding eyes. “It’ll be all right. If it gets too overwhelming for you, simply look at me and I’ll whisk you away somewhere quiet to regroup.”

She pushed herself into his arms and whispered, “I need to regroup.”

Matthew laughed as he pulled her head up and kissed her lips gently. “Come on Doll, I want to show you off; please let me.” Matthew took hold of her hand as he led her to where their friends were standing.

“How’s everybody doing tonight?” Matthew asked in a cheery voice.

As Justina stood next to the handsome man, she grew suddenly shy.

“So tell me now,” Jim said in a teasing voice, “How long have you two been in this secret alliance?”

Justina sighed contentedly she felt Matthew squeeze her hand gently. “Oh, now, we can’t give away all our secrets.”

Justina and Matthew laughed together and he winked at her.

She nervously turned her focus on Joyce and the women standing near her.

“Now, we can talk openly and not in riddles,” Joyce exclaimed excitedly.

“Aw, you’ve already been talking about me, huh?” Matthew teased and planted a soft kiss on her cheek, to which everyone laughed.

A few moments later, Roger’s voice boomed through the speakers. “It’s time for the birthday girl to open presents and have a song in her honor.” Roger led the group in the “Happy Birthday” chorus as Joyce led Justina to the gift table.

Justina began opening presents and she was given many fine gifts. She smiled when she saw the last gift was from Matthew and quickly read the card, Your other gift will have to wait. M.K. After ripping off the wrapping paper, she burst out laughing as she saw the contents; three model Corvette cars that required assembling.

Everyone displayed confused looks at the gift, but Justina whispered, “Thank you.”

Justina tucked the card into the box and laid it to the side while she imagined what the other gift could be.

With the presents all opened the guests began to wander into the large banquet room, everyone chatting amongst themselves. Justina stayed at the table, alone for the moment, and focused on the gifts she was given. She was busy looking through them when she heard a man’s gruff voice fill her ears, just behind her.

“You forgot one honey.”

***

Justina turned to face Nick. Her knees grew weak and she thought she was going to faint. This was the last person she had expected to see.

Why of all times, did it have to be tonight?

“Hello, Nick,” Justina said politely as she forced a smile on her face.

“You are absolutely stunning in that dress.”

“Thank you, Nick. It’s good to see you. As always, you look very handsome in the tux.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’re glad to see me, now are you? You’re such a terrible liar.”

“I’ve wanted to call you so we could talk.”

“What did you want to talk about, Jus? Did you want to talk about your new boyfriend?” Nick stepped closer to her. “Did you want to talk about how much you’ve wronged me?” Nick placed his hand on Justina’s wrist, “Come on, Justina; tell me what you wanted to talk about?”

“Please just leave, Nick, I promise I will call you tomorrow and we’ll talk.”

“Tell me about your new boyfriend. Does he know how to touch you and where your sensitive spots are to get you feeling hot?”

“There’s no need to make nasty remarks. Please, go, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Don’t scorn me, Justina. I won’t stand for your disrespect any longer,” Nick snorted as he removed his hand from her wrist.

“I’m not going to talk to you about this now.”

It was then she heard footsteps approaching from behind her. Anxiety filled her as she turned to see Matthew’s mouth twitch with aggravation.

Nick glanced over Justina’s shoulder and snarled loudly to make sure everyone in the room could hear him. “Matthew Kingston!” he laughed. “Talk about polar opposites.”

Matthew said nothing, but he glowered at Nick.

“Your boyfriend doesn’t say much. He’s no man at all.”

Gasps escaped from people nearby who heard the venom escaping Nick’s lips.

Nick raised an eyebrow and pointed his finger at Matthew. “Why don’t you come over here? I want you to show me what kind of man you are.”

“I’m ready Cabara, anytime you are.”

Nick growled back, “Well, let’s get it on, Kingston. Come on.”

Justina was shocked to see how angry Matthew looked as he walked toward Nick and her. His jaw was square and pulsating with fierceness. His lips pursed tightly together.

When he stopped behind her, Justina immediately placed her hands on his chest, she pleaded with him. “Please, Matthew, don’t do this.” She sucked air into her lungs and trembled at the thought of Matthew fighting with Nick. She had a feeling Nick probably had a gun or a knife on him. The thought made her queasy.

Matthew stared down at her for a long moment before he nodded his head. Though his angered expression did not change, he spoke calmly to Nick. “You need to leave the property.”

Christopher walked up and stood by Matthew. He looked straight at Nick with harsh eyes, daring him to say anything else to Justina.

Nick laughed in a mocking tone as he picked his gift box off the floor. He focused his attention on Justina. “You haven’t played nice tonight, so you don’t get your gift.”

Nick walked past Justina but stopped directly in front of Matthew. Justina held her breath as the two men squared off once more.

When Roger and Jim joined Christopher behind Matthew, Nick shook his head.

“Yeah, I’d like to have a go at you, Kingston, but you aren’t worth it.”

He laughed once more and walked further down the hall until he stopped in front of Michael and whispered something to him before exiting.

Matthew stared down at Justina, “Are you all right? I wanted to slam that scum into the floor.”

“Thank you, but you know it wouldn’t have been worth it.”

Christopher cursed, “I always want to punch that guy every time I see him.”

“I can’t believe that jerk had the nerve to come here. How did he even know about this party?” Joyce asked.

Matthew, Jim, and Roger all turned their heads toward Michael but said nothing to the women. They gave each other a distraught look before refocusing on what the women were saying.

Joyce touched Justina on the hand. “I hope this isn’t going to ruin the rest of your night.”

“No, I’m not going to let Nick ruin my special night,” Justina smiled at Joyce and Maggie. “How on earth did you two get away with planning a surprise party for me?”

“It was easy. We planned it the week you were gone to Chicago. Caroline worked the details out with Lauren and Tabitha on the menu,” Maggie explained to Justina.

“She also made the arrangements for the party to be held here with Jonathan and Karen. Maggie and I came up last night and the three of us decorated.”

Joyce laughed, “And you never had a clue to what was going on?”

Justina laughed with her, “You girls are good.”

After the others excused themselves,

Matthew led Justina to a cozy area of the patio where they stretched out on some lounge chairs.

They could hear the music playing and the laughter from inside the banquet hall.

Justina quietly lay there, as he massaged her shoulders. She thought she could get used to this kind of attention.

Matthew pulled Justina into his arms and held her there for a while as they stared at the stars.

“You are so beautiful,” He kissed her and whispered softly in her ear, “Happy Birthday.”

Justina said nothing to him, but she felt her face warm as she heard him say those words. They lay there a little while longer until Justina looked up at him and touched him gently.

He shook his head, no. “Don’t say it. I’m not ready to go back.”

“They’re going to begin wondering about us.”

“Let them, I don’t care.”

Justina stood up and put her hand out to him.

They shared a passionate kiss before going back to the party.

Matthew led her to the crowded dance floor where they danced several slow dances.

Afterwards, they joined their friends at a small table and spent some time with all of them. Everyone was enjoying talking and laughing about various things.

Around one in the morning, Joyce, Roger, Jim, Caroline, and Matthew helped Justina take her gifts and put them in her car where they said their goodnights.

Matthew escorted Justina to the suite where she would be staying at the lodge that night.

When they got to the door, Justina nervously attempted to unlock the door, dropping the keycard onto the floor. Matthew, being a perfect gentleman, bent down and retrieved it. When he raised his head back up and looked at her in the eye, her beauty took his breath. He bit his lip and smiled as he slowly pushed them to hers.

Justina groaned with pleasure at receiving his kiss. Her lips parted, allowing his tongue to enter and upon doing so, he wasted no time in making a sensual connection with hers.

She gasped at the pleasure soaring through her entire body as he kissed her deeply. She fell back against the door, and he immediately pushed his body hard against hers. Justina wrapped her arms around his neck and dug her nails into his shoulders.

The intimate embrace caused her whole body to quake uncontrollably and she could feel his desire straining against his dress trousers. Without doubt, she knew he was as turned on as she was.

“Oh Matthew…,” she breathed his name out through the hot kiss, only with more heated ones to follow.

“Hmm, Justina you are burning me up. I want to be consumed by your fire.” Matthew held her between the door and his body. He could feel his hardness screaming out and he wanted to unleash his carnal pleasures upon her gorgeous body. Her body revealed to his roaming hands that she burned for him with just as much fire.

It was difficult, but Matthew somehow mustered the courage to pull back from her desperate kisses. “My God, I want you so bad I can’t believe I’m pulling away from you.”

“I want to be in your arms tonight and I know you want me there.”

Matthew pushed himself against her again, cupped her face in his hands, and stared at her in the eyes. “Oh, baby, I do. I do, but this isn’t our moment. It will come.”

Justina shook her head with surprise and tried to pull away, with dejection etched in her expression.

Matthew held her firmly, wedged between him and the door. “It will and when it does, it’s going to be sensational.”

Justina smiled weakly at him, “Okay, then, you need to go.”

Matthew searched her face and whispered, “Please, don’t be angry with me. I want you, I really do.”

Justina smiled softly, “I know you do and I’m so flattered that you want to take it slow with me.”

“You’re definitely worth taking the time. I really feel like something different is occurring between us and I don’t want to spoil it with one night of hot sex even though a night of hot sex with you is so what I want to do!” Matthew grunted as he laid his forehead against hers.

“Oh, you’re not helping. Go!” she softly laughed.

Matthew reluctantly pulled back, stared at her for a long moment, and pointed toward the elevator. “I’m going, but not before you promise to have breakfast with me in the morning.”

“That sounds nice.”

Matthew grinned, “All right, I’ll drive over tomorrow morning.” He nodded and turned to walk away, but stopped and before either one knew what was happening, he pushed her against the door and passionately kissed her again.

He then unlocked the door and gently nudged her inside. “Good night, sweet Justina.” He turned and walked away without another word in fear that if he stayed any longer, he would not leave at all.

***

Meanwhile downtown in a dimly lit apartment, a man rummaged through various pictures of Justina Lindsey. There were pictures of Justina strung all over the wall, lying on the floor and stacked on a desk in a corner of the apartment. There were pictures of her as a baby, in her teen years, young adult years with Elizabeth, and ones of her in recent times.

There were photos of her at Elizabeth’s memorial, pictures of her exiting and entering her office and home garages. There were various ones of her at shopping malls and grocery stores. There were even photos of her with Nick Cabara in some intimate moments. In addition to these, there were photos of Justina with Matthew at Lawton Park, embracing and kissing as well as their romantic moments spent together on the balcony the night of her company dinner.

Other photos of Justina with Matthew showed the two of them engaged in dinner at a restaurant, their leaving the police station together, entering his home, and holding hands as they walked through downtown.

“I found you, Candy, and this time you won’t escape me,” the man said as he slashed a photo.

***

Caroline followed Jim into the cabin she had convinced him to stay at for the weekend. They usually stayed at one of their parents’ homes when visiting the ranch, but tonight was special for Caroline and Jim, although he was not aware of it just yet. Caroline chose a cabin near one of the lakes on Ben’s property. One, which was the most secluded.

She had thought of everything. She had requested that her brother, Brian come out an hour earlier to start the fire in the fireplace as well as leave a bottle of champagne chilling for them.

Jim threw his suit coat onto a chair as he walked through the door and took a seat on the love seat, which lay near the entrance of the cabin by the window. “Wow, somebody did a nice job of setting the place up for us.”

Caroline walked past him to the fireplace and stared into the fire. “Yes, I just wanted our night alone to be special.”

“Any night alone with you, sweetheart, is special.”

Caroline blushed as she continued to stare at the fire. She now lost the words she had rehearsed earlier. Clearing her throat nervously, she whispered, “It was a lovely party wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was fun and full of drama!” Jim let out a boisterous laugh.

Caroline frowned, “Oh, Jim, I was afraid for Matthew as he stood there facing off with Nick Cabara.”

Jim stood and walked to his wife. He cupped her face in his hands and said softly, “Matthew is a big boy. I thought he handled himself well with that thug.”

“I’m just glad your parents and Mom and Dad had left before the horrible incident took place.”

“Hmm, well I’m sure they’ll hear about it soon enough, so get ready for some small dramas,” Jim stressed the last word out and laughed.

He then shrugged his shoulders and began playfully dancing around Caroline and humming. “But damn, wasn’t the music awesome? Roger and I had fun spinning the tunes. Man, I should’ve been a D.J.”

Caroline laughed at her husband’s joke, but then quickly pulled her thoughts back onto the path where she wanted to lead Jim. “I just love birthday parties, don’t you?”

“Yes, especially when they’re mine.” Jim continued to sway as if he were dancing. “I just love getting all the goodies.”

Caroline laughed once more, and then stressed her words. “Kalian enjoys them, too. I love them so much that I think we should have a new one to celebrate.” She raised her eyebrows to see if he had caught her last phrase.

Jim stopped his make-believe dance and stared at Caroline with shock. He stopped breathing, feeling suddenly anxious. “Caroline, are you trying to tell me we’re having a baby?” As he stared into her glowing face, he knew the answer.

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her passionately. “Oh, baby, I love you!” He laughed, as he gently rubbed his strong hand across her stomach and whispered, “And I love you, too, little baby!”

Caroline smiled at Jim. “I’m glad you’re happy about the baby.”

“Of course I’m happy; we’ve been trying for three years; aren’t you?”

“Yes, but I’d given up on getting pregnant again. I thought you had, too. I was scared of losing you; you are my best friend, my first and only lover. I…”

Jim pushed his finger to her lips and stopped her words. “Shh, that’s nonsense; you could never lose me. I had given up too, but darlin’, I’m beyond thrilled to have this news from you and can’t wait to tell everybody!” Jim pulled Caroline into his arms and kissed her passionately.

Caroline stared at her husband amorously as she listened to him talk. “Make love to me, Jimmy.”

Jim felt his pulse vibrating wildly under his skin as he saw the desire flare in Caroline’s eyes. He licked his lips seductively and pulled her to him. He laid her gently on the soft, plush rug that lay in front of the fire. Simultaneously he grabbed the remote and cut the lights off so that the only light that reflected in the room was flames from the fire.

He stared down at Caroline and smiled, “Your wish is my command.”

Chapter Twenty-Six

 

Matthew drove to the lodge in the morning to share breakfast with Justina. On the way, he called to have it delivered to her suite.

Upon arriving at her suite, he saw the waiter with the cart coming from the other direction. Matthew tipped the waiter, took the food cart from him, and knocked on the door, displaying a wide grin.

Justina laughed when she saw him standing there. “Now, this is what I call special delivery. I promise I’m a very good tipper.”

Matthew walked in, pushing the cart past her.

As they sat down to share the meal, Justina said cheerfully, “Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.”

Matthew smiled as he sipped his coffee. “I’m thrilled to have my housekeeper; she makes sure Kate and I get breakfast every morning.”

Justina poured herself a third cup of coffee. “I always eat a hearty breakfast, Elizabeth made sure of that. I eat big breakfast even now. That’s the only nutritious meal I get each day.”

Matthew paused and watched as Justina drank the coffee down. He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow at her.” Just exactly how many cups of coffee do you drink a day?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

Matthew scrunched his lips and chuckled, “That’s your third within just an hour. No wonder you’re so wired up.”

“I am a coffee fool, so I’d have to confess I drink too many, that’s for sure.”

Matthew recalled the coffee beans in her kitchen. “You also prefer fresh ground, too.”

“You are correct. I order it from various roasters from around the world.”

Matthew laughed, “Give me some of your favorite flavors and where they are produced.”

“I like Ethiopian, Caribbean, South African, Jamaican, Columbian, and Mexican just to name a few.”

“You really are a coffee lover.”

They both laughed as Matthew placed the plates onto the cart.

He turned and gave her an awkward look, but said nothing.

“Matthew, I know you have something to say about Nick, so say it.”

“Are you going to call Nick today?” his expression clearly shown concern.

Justina looked down at her cup and shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what to do; he was acting so crazy last night and I was afraid of him.”

“I can’t tell you what to do, Justina, but I can give you my opinion if you want it.”

“Yes.”

“Don’t agree to meet him in a private place; only agree to meet him in public. I would rather you not meet him anywhere at all.”

“I’m not going to reconcile with him.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about, sweetheart. I’m worried because the guy is crazy and he’s capable of so much more than you are aware.”

Justina frowned, “I’m very much aware of what he’s capable of Matthew, believe me.”

“What do you mean? Did he do something to you before last night?”

Justina realized she had said too much and she tried to brush it off. “I just meant last night was a real eye opener.”

“Oh, no, you’re hiding something and I wish you would tell me.”

“Please, don’t worry about me; I’ll be fine. I don’t think he’ll bother me again.”

Matthew gave Justina a concerned look. “Will you call me if he does come around again? I just don’t think it’s over.”

“Yes,” Justina said as he approached her.

He led her to the sofa and sat down next to her. “I’m going to have to be going soon, but thanks for breakfast.”

Justina gave him a soft smile, “You brought it to me, thank you.”

Matthew leaned over and kissed her softly. “I enjoyed the company.” He pulled her into a deep, intimate kiss. He then stood and helped her to her feet, took hold of her hand and led her to the door. “I’ll call you soon.” He kissed her tenderly once before he left her room.

***

The next morning Matthew was actually the first one in the office. He smiled at Katie and whispered, “Can you turn the classroom lights on for me?”

Katie was overjoyed that it was the last day of home school, at least for three months. She hurried to the classroom to turn the lights on and feed the gold fish.

Matthew stepped into his office, laid the box of doughnuts on the table, and began brewing coffee. He soon heard the office front door open and heard Kalien calling out for Kate, who called back just as loud. He heard the two girls running to meet in the hall and Caroline yelling at them to quiet down.

Roger and Jim walked in and each took a doughnut and a cup of coffee.

Matthew gave Roger a concerned look. “How’s Charlie doing?”

“He’s still in a coma, but he’ll live.”

Matthew let out a breath of relief. “Good, good.”

“I don’t think you should go to L.A. or New York,” Roger said, changing the subject.

“Roger is right, Matthew. We don’t want to take you away from your girlfriend.”

Matthew shook his head as Roger and Jim burst into laughter.

“She’s not my girlfriend. We enjoy each other’s company and we are getting to know each other. We’re taking things slow; in fact, I have a date with Kim Coleman this week.”

Roger and Jim could not hide their surprise.

“You two looked real cozy Saturday evening,” Jim commented.

“We are not anywhere near exclusive,” Matthew grumbled at them.

“You two resembled a couple,” Roger observed.

“We’ve had dinner, but I’ve been out with other women, too. We have an agreement.” Matthew gave his friends a stern look, “You two just take care of your own women and I’ll handle my affairs all on my own.”

Roger and Jim laughed at Matthew as he stood and walked to his desk to fetch some paperwork. Matthew returned and handed some files to them.

They began looking them over.

“I’m not going to fly out. Let’s just see what pans out here.”

“We should just give the D.A. the information we have on the Elizabeth Carr case and let him prosecute,” Roger suggested.

“I think Roger is right. We will take Robert down now. The way I look at it is at least we’ll have one of them out of the way,” Jim agreed.

Matthew did not like the plan. He felt it was too soon to expose their ace card, but he reluctantly agreed.

“I just hope they’ll want to reopen the case and take it to trial,” Roger voiced concern.

“They will have to do just that after they are confronted with voices from the grave,” Jim said.

The men let out small chuckles.

“Are we going to leave Mikey alone for now?” Roger asked. “I really see no benefit in turning that part of the info in to the feds.”

“I agree, let’s hold off on the Mikey thing for now,” Jim stated. “We may yet turn some more stones over in that deal, too.”

The men stood and ended their meeting as Roger picked his briefcase up. “I’m going to take this evidence to the D.A. right now. I’ll call you as soon as I’m through meeting with him.”

“I’m going to check on our witness tonight, make sure he’s not too bored,” Jim chimed in.

Matthew shook his head, frowning. “Justina is going to be shocked by the surprise witness.”

“Oh, I think that she’ll be fine,” Jim patted his friend on the back. “I’m sure you’ll be there ready and willing to lend a tender shoulder for her to lean on.”

Roger and Jim burst out laughing as Matthew shook his head.

As they walked to the door, Matthew commented with a big smile, “Ah, let the fireworks began.”

***

Matthew was on his way home with Katie when she looked up at him and asked, “Can Justina come to eat with us tonight?”

Matthew gave his daughter a smile, “Do you like Justina?”

“Yes, and you do too, Daddy,” Katie giggled as she flashed a smile that melted him.

“All right, I’ll give her a call and see if she can come over,” Matthew picked up his cell phone.

Justina heard her cell phone ringing as she put her groceries in her car. She shuffled through her purse until she found it. “Hello, Justina Lindsey here.”

“Hi, Justina, it’s Matthew. Katie wanted to know if you’d have dinner with us, tonight.”

“You tell Katie I would enjoy having dinner with her. What is Katie cooking?”

Justina and Matthew both laughed together.

After pulling out onto the road, a Mustang pulled out behind her car and began following her without notice.

Justina parked her car as the Mustang drove by her and drove around the corner.

The man parked the car and sat there watching Justina pull her bags from her car. He opened a suitcase he had with him and took out some gloves and a beige hat. He quietly stepped out and walked to the side of her car. He reached out his hand to grab her by the arm when the elevator door opened and several people exited.

While the people were walking past, Justina made her way to her private elevator and stepped inside.

The man walked back to his car and angrily shoved the gloves back into the case and drove away. “Next time, I’ll get you.”

***

When Justina arrived at Matthew’s home, the three of them enjoyed a delicious spaghetti meal Matthew had thrown together.

Katie talked throughout the entire meal. Matthew had to point to her plate as a reminder she was supposed to be eating.

She told Justina about her schoolwork, their trip to the zoo, and about many of her exploits at the ranch and lodge.

Justina found the stories to be amusing and sweet.

Matthew watched Justina as she listened to his daughter ramble on and he gained new respect for her; it was obvious they liked each other and that pleased him.

Justina helped Matthew with the dishes and afterwards, the two settled onto the sofa together.

Katie came running into the living room with excitement. “Come see my room, Justina.”

Justina immediately stood. Matthew protested, “Hey, whose date are you, anyway?”

“Right now, I’m Kate’s date,” Justina answered with a slight laugh and followed the little girl to her room.

Kate showed Justina all her dolls. “They came from my grandmothers,” Justina inspected each doll carefully. “My, they’re very nice dolls.”

Each doll had dates on them and each had a name Kate had chosen for them. “Grandmother Donna buys me one in the winter. In the summer, Grandmother Frances buys me one.”

Justina smiled, “That’s so thoughtful of them and a nice way to show you how much they love you.”

Kate smiled and hugged one doll close to her. “My daddy calls me Katie and he’s the only one calls me that. He told me he says it’s a pet name.” Kate rolled her eyes playfully. “Isn’t that silly? I’m not a pet.”

Justina laughed as Kate pulled out a drawer and took out a box and opened it. She took out one of the many letters inside and handed it to Justina. “It’s a letter from my mommy. She wrote me a letter for each of my birthdays all the way up to my eighteenth birthday.”

Justina gazed at the letter and smiled. “That is so sweet. She loved you very much.”

“Do you want to read one?”

“Oh, no, that’s a very personal love letter to you from your mother and she wouldn’t want me reading it.”

Kate gave Justina an admiring stare. “She would have liked you, I think. I know she loved me.”

Justina watched Kate put the box away and she realized how wonderful Leslie must have been.

Kate asked Justina to play checkers and afterwards, she showed Justina her C.D. collection. After Kate had finished showing Justina everything in her room and they had played two games of checkers, she took Justina by the hand and led her back into the living room where Matthew was sitting and watching a T.V. program.

The three sat on the sofa talking and played a few more games of Checkers, losing track of time until Kate began yawning. She laid her head on her daddy’s lap while he hummed to her softly and stroked her hair until she fell asleep.

Justina saw the love between father and daughter ran deep and it touched her heart.

After taking his daughter to her bedroom, Matthew came back out and sat down next to Justina.

Justina frowned, “I’m afraid I disrupted yours and Kate’s routine tonight.”

Matthew patted her hand. “Oh, it was a nice interruption for us, Jus,” he yawned.

Justina laughed softly, “I should go.” She stood and began putting on her jacket.

Matthew stood and began protesting, “Please, don’t go.” He yawned again and became embarrassed.

Justina gave him a smile, “I had a wonderful time tonight. Your Kate is so full of charm and wonderment.”

Matthew gleamed with pride, “She is an amazing little girl, that’s for sure.”

“I enjoyed the tour of her bedroom and the games we played. I will beat you next time at checkers,” Justina joked.

“You are amazing, Justina Lindsey.”

Justina playfully bowed, “Thank you, kind sir.” She picked her purse up and walked to the door.

“I wish you didn’t have to leave. You could stay,” he winked at her.

“I don’t think so. How would you explain that to Kate? You don’t want to confuse her; you don’t want to confuse us, either.”

Matthew raised an eyebrow as he returned her smile, “Ah, are we feeling confused, darling?”

Justina shook her head in a defensive manner. “Oh no, I know we agreed to see others socially and that is why I don’t think we’re ready for the next level, which could cause some confusion.”

Matthew escorted her to her car in silence contemplating her last statement. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, sweetheart. I don’t want to enjoy one night of pleasure with you and perhaps destroy something stronger between us.”

He kissed her as she got into her car. “Goodnight, sweet Justina; I’ll call you soon.”

“Goodnight,” she said, and then drove away.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

The morning found Justina standing in her office with Bradley Burks, the construction supervisor, watching the construction workers throw a plastic wrap over everything; even the walls covered was a bit eerie to her.

She finished her conversation with Bradley and walked into Joyce’s office where Maggie and Joyce were crying with one another.

Justina hugged each of the women. “Stop that. We’ll be back soon, a few months at the longest.”

“Well, let’s get to that staff meeting that our boss called,” Joyce wiped her eyes.

Later in the evening, when Justina walked into a restaurant with Maggie and Joyce, she saw Matthew standing at their table talking to Jim, Roger, and Bob.

She and her friends walked over and she smiled at Matthew as they approached the table. He mumbled a quiet hello to her and looked away. She wondered why he was giving her the cool treatment. Justina got her answer when she watched an attractive woman approach the table and grasp Matthew’s hand.

“There you are, darling. I would have thought you’d be at our table by now.”

Matthew scrunched his lips and smiled slightly at the woman as he touched her hand. “I was just waiting for you, Linda, so you wouldn’t have difficulty locating me.”

Justina rolled her eyes as she took her chair at the table.

Linda spoke admiringly, “Oh, you are such a gentleman. We can sit with your friends if you’d like.”

Matthew’s face drained and he frowned, “Ah, no, hmm, no.” He pulled Linda away with a tug on her arm as he waved a quick goodbye. He noticeably ignored Justina altogether, which caused Justina to let out a huff of annoyance.

The others at the table said nothing as Justina dealt with an awkward situation.

“Are you all right?” Joyce finally asked.

Justina waved her hands nonchalantly and responded too quickly, “Of course I’m all right. We have an agreement to see other people, you know.”

No one said anything as Justina fidgeted uneasily in her chair. “How much more interesting could this evening get?”

“Oh, I think it could get real interesting,” Roger pointed toward the door.

Justina turned and saw Nick Cabara standing in the isle with his ex-wife Cindy, along with his family. She laughed annoyingly, “This is turning out to be just an unbelievable evening.”

Everyone gave her a sympathetic look as their server began taking their orders.

Justina took a deep breath and decided to enjoy her evening despite her pitiful circumstances.

“Hello, Justina.”

Justina turned to the sound of Isabella’s voice as the Cabaras walked past her.

Justina managed a polite smile, “Hello, Isabella.”

Nick walked past her as did the others without any acknowledgement and Isabella followed them to their table.

Justina remained calm and strong as the evening progressed and she did manage to enjoy her evening with her friends.

Every so often, she would receive a nudge or wink of encouragement from Caroline, Maggie, or Joyce, which she very much appreciated. She was relieved, however, when everyone finished their meal and was ready to leave the restaurant. Justina followed her friends out of the restaurant and to her car where they parted ways.

The strange man stepped from a dark corner of the parking area and watched Justina’s car drove away.

***

Justina spent the next few days and late nights with paperwork and volunteering at the orphanage and shelter. Matthew called her several times, but she ignored the calls. She was more upset over seeing him with another woman than she had expected. Justina decided the best thing for her was to put an end to the relationship before she lost total control of her feelings and mind.

She finally agreed to meet Joyce and Maggie for lunch at Maggie’s home after ignoring them for a week and decided enough time passed licking her wounds.

She arrived a few minutes late and was greeted with hugs and kisses from her beloved friends. Justina’s heart warmed as she thought of how lucky she was to have such good friends.

“Hi, sweetheart, I have missed seeing you so badly,” Joyce gushed as they sat down at the kitchen table.

“I’ve missed seeing you, too, but I’ve been very busy with the deco office projects and other obligations. How are you and the baby doing?”

“The baby’s doing well. Dr. Mel says it is a boy, but that is not confirmed yet. Caroline says she and her baby are doing fine, too.”

“That’s great news,” Maggie stated happily.

Maggie began talking about her family and the antics that her kids had gotten into.

Justina was pleased to see she had made it through lunch without a mention of Matthew Kingston’s name and was sure she was safe until Joyce bravely brought it up.

“I want to know the truth. How are you?”

Justina took a deep breath. “I’m fine. I’ve just been really busy.” She looked out the window. “I’ve just picked up a new client, the third one in two weeks. That’s a new record for me.”

“Justina has been burning the midnight oil at the office as well as her home,” Maggie said as she sipped her tea. “I finally convinced her to pull herself away from the work long enough for today’s lunch.”

Joyce gave Justina a wink and a smile, “We all know what Jussie’s been doing.”

Justina frowned slightly and Maggie smiled broadly, as Joyce continued, “She’s been hiding.”

Justina patted her friend softly on the hand. “I wouldn’t call it hiding. I’d call it contemplating my singleness and what I need to do with it.”

Joyce and Maggie burst out with laughter as Maggie teased, “Call it what you want, but I have to agree with Joyce, you’ve been hiding. You’ve been hiding from your fears, your feelings, and your confusion over Matthew.”

Justina scrunched her lips and frowned. “I really don’t want to talk about Matthew Kingston. I’m not in love with him.”

Maggie and Joyce gave each other a knowing look as Joyce spoke softly, “No one has accused you of being in love with Matthew.”

Joyce stood and walked to the kitchen counter. She took some candy from the candy bowl. Maggie stood and joined Joyce at the counter as Justina sat at the table.

Justina realized she sounded a bit hostile with her words. “I’m sorry. I should not have snapped. It’s just I have decided I’m just not ready to get involved with anyone so soon after busting up with Nick. I just need to embrace my singleness and enjoy it.”

Maggie and Joyce looked at each other and burst out laughing as Joyce commented, “Oh, what kind of bull is that?”

Justina gave her friends a hurt look as they laughed.

Maggie teasingly put her hands on her chest and playfully cried, “Oh, I just want to embrace my singleness and find my one true place.”

Justina looked at Maggie’s pitiful acting and had to laugh. She must have sounded just as silly as Maggie did.

Justina wadded up a piece of notebook paper and threw it at them before joining them at the kitchen bar where they all laughed hysterically for quite a while.

Justina somehow felt lighter in her heart and mind, but she did not dare share it with her two pals, thinking they would laugh at her again.

Maggie hugged Justina, “You know I really love my cousin Matthew. It would be all right if you did too.”

Joyce chimed in quickly, “I know Kate approves of you as do the rest of the family.

Justina playfully patted their cheeks as she grabbed her purse. “I love you two and I thank you both for caring about me, but it’s over between us. Whatever Matthew and I had, it’s over now. I have made the right decision and I’m going to stick with it. Please respect my wishes on this.”

“We promise not to push you again on this subject,” Joyce promised and Maggie agreed.

“Has he said anything about me?” She held her hand up and said, “No, don’t answer that.” Justina sighed as she waved to her friends and walked out through the door.

“That girl is so in love with Matthew, why can’t she just admit it?” Joyce groaned.

“She doesn’t know,” Maggie offered.

“I hope it is not too late when she realizes it.”

“And that’s exactly what I said to dear cousin Matthew.”

Joyce turned to Maggie and patted her on her shoulder. “Now, take me upstairs and show me the blanket you are working on for my baby.”

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

Later in the evening, Isabella’s restaurant was buzzing with customers.

In the back room of the restaurant, the entire Cabara family celebrated Robert’s sixty-fourth birthday. The guests consisted of all of Robert’s favorite relatives, friends, and business associates, which included Max, and several members of “family” associates who had traveled from Chicago, Memphis, Miami, Las Vegas, and New York.

Everyone at the celebration was dancing and enjoying themselves as the band played. There was a huge table set up in the corner displaying a large birthday cake and many gifts.

Everyone began singing “Happy Birthday” to Robert as he opened his many gifts. Robert waved as he gave a long appreciation speech.

Nick was standing at the bar chugging down drinks as fast as he could when Cindy approached. “Nick, darling, what is wrong with you? You don’t look very happy this evening.”

“Don’t worry about it, Cindy, it has nothing to do with you, bitch.”

Cindy gave him a pathetic look, “Oh, you’re still licking your wounds from your latest fling; what was her name?”

Nick watched his wife laugh at him. He grabbed her face with his hand. “Shut up, Cindy, I’m warning you.”

Cindy pulled away from him and as she did, she slapped at him.

Marcus shook his head and smirked, “The love haters are at it again.”

People around them joined him in the laughter.

Nick pushed Cindy into a separate room and against a wall. “Shut up, Cindy or you’ll regret it!” He turned to leave the room.

She cursed him, “You stupid jerk. I’m getting tired of your cheating. You’ll be the one to regret treating me like this.” She threw a glass she was holding at him and it hit him in the back, fell to the floor, and shattered.

Nick turned and walked over to her and slapped her in the face.

She licked the blood from her lips and suddenly she gave him a punch in his mouth and he began bleeding. He pushed her against the wall and cursed, “I know what you want.” He pulled her skirt up and shoved his hand inside.

She moaned with pleasure, “Is that all you’ve got, Nicky?”

Nick pushed her head back, put his hand on her throat, and kissed her deeply. She bit his lips as he kissed her.

He pulled back with pain, grinned and slapped her face as she tugged at his pants. Nick pushed her arms against the wall and pulled her legs onto his waist and the two had sex right there. “I will make you scream for more.”

Nick watched Cindy as she enjoyed the things he did to her and he realized that he wanted her too. Nick had cheated on Cindy several times through the ten years they had been married, but she had stayed with him. He decided it was because she enjoyed the credit cards too much to give them up. He stayed because his parents would be angry at any other decision.

When they shared moments like this, it was easy for him to make love to her, because he could let go of his inhibitions with her, and in fact, she liked it.

He thought of Justina, as he held his wife in his arms and knew he had to be gentle with her. He shook his head to push her out of his mind.

He sat down in a chair, pulled Cindy onto his lap, onto his erection. “Give me some more right now.”

Later, Nick and Cindy stepped out of the room, walked to the dance floor, began dancing, and appeared to be a loving couple.

Suddenly the front door opened and in came a multitude of armed police officers.

Everyone began running around anxiously looking for exits, including Robert with his sons, but there was no exit to be found.

They decided not to resist. Max was the only one who managed an escape.

After everyone had begun settling down, Agent Chad Mosley approached Robert. “Mr. Robert Cabara, you are under arrest for the murder of Elizabeth Carr.”

Robert showed surprise on his face as the others gasped. “Reynolds Johnson was arrested and convicted of that murder.”

“We have new evidence that clears Johnson.” Chad read the Miranda Rights to Robert as two officers handcuffed him.

Marcus shoved an officer walking past him and was immediately wrestled to the floor, and then handcuffed.

Nick began walking over to aide his brother.

“No son,” Robert instructed.

“Don’t say anything to them until I get there,” Lionel Golden, Robert’s attorney, whispered to Robert.

Nick wrapped his arms around his mother and whispered to her, “Don’t worry, Ma, we’ll get them out; you know the routine.” He instructed Cindy to take his mother and Molly, Marcus’s wife, home.

As Nick walked past the family’s associates, he promised, “We’ll get this worked out soon.”

Chapter 29

 

Later in the evening, Isabella’s restaurant was buzzing with customers.

In the back room of the restaurant, the entire Cabara family celebrated Robert’s sixty-fourth birthday. The guests consisted of all of Robert’s favorite relatives, friends, and business associates, which included Max, and several members of “family” associates who had traveled from Chicago, Memphis, Miami, Las Vegas, and New York.

Everyone at the celebration was dancing and enjoying themselves as the band played. There was a huge table set up in the corner displaying a large birthday cake and many gifts.

Everyone began singing “Happy Birthday” to Robert as he opened his many gifts. Robert waved as he gave a long appreciation speech.

Nick was standing at the bar chugging down drinks as fast as he could when Cindy approached. “Nick, darling, what is wrong with you? You don’t look very happy this evening.”

“Don’t worry about it, Cindy, it has nothing to do with you, bitch.”

Cindy gave him a pathetic look, “Oh, you’re still licking your wounds from your latest fling; what was her name?”

Nick watched his wife laugh at him. He grabbed her face with his hand. “Shut up, Cindy, I’m warning you.”

Cindy pulled away from him and as she did, she slapped at him.

Marcus shook his head and smirked, “The love haters are at it again.”

People around them joined him in the laughter.

Nick pushed Cindy into a separate room and against a wall. “Shut up, Cindy or you’ll regret it!” He turned to leave the room.

She cursed him, “You stupid jerk. I’m getting tired of your cheating. You’ll be the one to regret treating me like this.” She threw a glass she was holding at him and it hit him in the back, fell to the floor, and shattered.

Nick turned and walked over to her and slapped her in the face.

She licked the blood from her lips and suddenly she gave him a punch in his mouth and he began bleeding. He pushed her against the wall and cursed, “I know what you want.” He pulled her skirt up and shoved his hand inside.

She moaned with pleasure, “Is that all you’ve got, Nicky?”

Nick pushed her head back, put his hand on her throat, and kissed her deeply. She bit his lips as he kissed her.

He pulled back with pain, grinned and slapped her face as she tugged at his pants. Nick pushed her arms against the wall and pulled her legs onto his waist and the two had sex right there. “I will make you scream for more.”

Nick watched Cindy as she enjoyed the things he did to her and he realized that he wanted her too. Nick had cheated on Cindy several times through the ten years they had been married, but she had stayed with him. He decided it was because she enjoyed the credit cards too much to give them up. He stayed because his parents would be angry at any other decision.

When they shared moments like this, it was easy for him to make love to her, because he could let go of his inhibitions with her, and in fact, she liked it.

He thought of Justina, as he held his wife in his arms and knew he had to be gentle with her. He shook his head to push her out of his mind.

He sat down in a chair, pulled Cindy onto his lap, onto his erection. “Give me some more right now.”

Later, Nick and Cindy stepped out of the room, walked to the dance floor, began dancing, and appeared to be a loving couple.

Suddenly the front door opened and in came a multitude of armed police officers.

Everyone began running around anxiously looking for exits, including Robert with his sons, but there was no exit to be found.

They decided not to resist. Max was the only one who managed an escape.

After everyone had begun settling down, Agent Chad Mosley approached Robert. “Mr. Robert Cabara, you are under arrest for the murder of Elizabeth Carr.”

Robert showed surprise on his face as the others gasped. “Reynolds Johnson was arrested and convicted of that murder.”

“We have new evidence that clears Johnson.” Chad read the Miranda Rights to Robert as two officers handcuffed him.

Marcus shoved an officer walking past him and immediately he was wrestled to the floor and handcuffed.

Nick began walking over to aide his brother.

“No son,” Robert instructed.

“Don’t say anything to them until I get there,” Lionel Golden, Robert’s attorney, whispered to Robert.

Nick wrapped his arms around his mother and whispered to her, “Don’t worry, Ma, we’ll get them out; you know the routine.” He instructed Cindy to take his mother and Molly, Marcus’s wife, home.

As Nick walked past the family’s associates, he promised, “We’ll get this worked out soon.”

Chapter 30

 

Justina cried to Joyce, “He wouldn’t even give me a chance to explain what happened. He accused me of being in love with Nick.”

“Are you?”

Justina gave her friend a shocked look, “In love with Nick; I don’t know. I did accept Nick’s kisses and I did kiss him back. Had we been somewhere more private, I might have given into his advances, and made love with him. Oh, god, I don’t know.”

“I think you do love Nick, more than you’re willing to admit. It’s obvious you are still incredibly attracted to him. He had you in a vulnerable moment and took advantage of the situation.”

Justina put her face into her hands. “I’m so confused, and Matthew really hurt me tonight with his cold stare.”

“I’m sorry that you got hurt by Matthew. He truly is a good man and I don’t know what got into him today unless it was plain old fashion jealousy.” Joyce took her friend by the hand and led her to her sofa where the two took a seat. “Do you want my honest opinion?”

Justina took a deep breath, “That’s why I’m here.”

“I think you and Matthew have fallen in love with each other but haven’t admitted it to yourselves yet. Neither one of you has given yourselves the time to assess the situation, when you do, you will see I’m right.”

“Oh, Joyce, you are so wrong. I can’t be in love with two men!”

“Am I wrong?” Joyce asked with a smile. “You two have been enchanted with each other from the beginning.”

“Yes, that’s true, but I’m not in love with him.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t look too sure. I don’t think you’re sure at all.”

Justina gave her friend a weary smile. “I’m not going to solve this problem tonight and that’s really not why I came over.”

Joyce gave her friend a quizzical look, “Why did you come over here?”

“I came to talk to you about something far more serious and complicated.” She groaned and then continued, “I hope one day you will understand why I kept these things from you.” Justina could not hold back her tears and she cried like a baby on Joyce’s shoulder.

“You have been through enough to day. I know you had a hard time in Memphis growing up. Whatever you’re afraid to tell me, don’t be, because the past is just that.”

“I am an orphan and I was raised in an orphanage from birth until I met Elizabeth,” Justina blurted out as she continued crying. “I can’t, I’m just not ready, but I promise I will soon.”

***

The weekend was long and miserable for both Justina and Matthew.

Matthew had ridden his bike to the cavern, spent the evening there looking at the stars, and talking to his beloved Leslie and somehow he knew she was listening.

The sweet memories of his time with Leslie filled his dreams that night and he slept soundly. The following two days were filled with deep thoughts and remorse of how he had treated Justina while mending a fence for his father. He knew he had to mend some fences between him and Justina, but he was not sure how to do it.

Justina spent her weekend volunteering at the orphanage and the homeless shelter to keep her mind occupied. It worked for a while. She was hoping she had done the right thing in giving the camera to Fred. She found herself looking over her shoulder all weekend and expected to see someone following her.

There was someone there; she just did not know it.

On Monday morning, Justina walked nervously into the Justice Center. She walked down the hallway until she found Christopher and Elaine standing there with Monty Cavanaugh, from the D.A.’s office.

“What will be the process today?” Christopher asked Monty.

Monty gave Justina a smile and nodded as he answered Christopher. “A Grand Jury will be selected. As D.A., I will have to convince the jury Robert should go to trial.”

“How will you do that?” Justina asked, “Reynolds Johnson was convicted of Elizabeth’s murder, served two years, and now is dead. This is all so confusing to me. I thought this nightmare was behind me, but it’s not.”

Christopher hugged her and softly spoke, “Don’t you want the truth about her death?”

“Of course I do, Christopher.”

“It will all be revealed soon, I promise,” Monty whispered and gently patted Justina on the arm. “It might help to know that as this trial progresses so will the information. I can’t share all of the details right now, but I want you two to know that justice will finally come to Elizabeth and this time it will be true and righteous justice.”

Justina and Christopher held hands and listened to Monty. She knew Christopher loved Elizabeth as much as she did.

His mother and Elizabeth were best friends. Irene worked as accountant and bookkeeper for Elizabeth from the beginnings of her company. His home was where Elizabeth always celebrated holidays and special occasions. They were like family.

His family was so generous in accepting Justina in their midst when Elizabeth had introduced her to them for the first time. He had become like a brother to her throughout the years and had always been there for her. Christopher eventually went to college and after graduating, came back to Dallas, worked for Elizabeth’s company, and took over his mother’s position after she retired.

Monty poured Justina a cup of water and spoke softly, “You don’t have to be here, Justina. It’s going to take hours to select a jury.”

“Monty is right. I promise I will call you as soon as the hearing is over.”

Justina felt a tug on her shoulder and she turned to see Joyce standing by her along with the others.

“Thank you for being here, Joyce, it means a lot to me,” Justina hugged her.

“I wouldn’t have missed this. I will be right by your side through all of this,” Joyce promised.

“Monty and Christopher say I don’t really have to be here today.”

“Oh, yeah, this is going to be a long and dull process. Do you remember the last time we sat through it?” Joyce recalled.

Justina nodded, “Yes, I do and so I think that I’m going to go to the office.”

Joyce laughed, “Ah, it’s either court or work.

“You know me too well,” Justina returned the smile. Her smile faded when she saw Matthew approach the group.

***

Matthew’s heart pumped hard as he approached Justina and their friends who were standing in the hallway just outside the courtroom. After greeting the others, he turned to her and whispered softly, “Hello, Justina.”

“Hello, Matthew. Thank you for coming.”

The others moved away so they could talk privately with each other.

“Are you doing all right? I know this must be opening old wounds for you.”

“Oh, I’m tougher than I look.”

“I’m sure you are,” Matthew looked away and then back to her. “Can I escort you out so we can talk?”

Justina frowned at the idea but nodded. She waved at Joyce and Elaine and said, “I’ll call you both later.”

After stepping off the elevator with Matthew at her side, Justina unlocked her car, threw her purse in, and turned to face him.

He gave her a slight smile and Justina felt her heart began to beat a little faster. Matthew watched Justina shift her feet nervously and he felt the coolness in the air between them.

“I apologize for jumping to the wrong conclusion at the police station.”

“We have both made wrong decisions lately.” Justina looked down at the ground and crossed her arms. “I think we should just leave things as they are, Matthew. I am so busy with so many things in my life right now. I just don’t have time to concentrate on another problem.”

“Is that what I am to you, a problem?” Matthew asked as he frowned.

Justina took a deep breath, “Please, don’t make this any more difficult than it already is. You had been there when I needed you and for that, I thank you. We had some fun together, but it’s just not working out for me.”

Matthew leaned his head to one side and grinned slightly. “Ah, this is a brush off.”

Justina shook her head, “No, it’s not a brush off, it’s good bye.”

Matthew heard the cracking in her voice as she spoke and he realized he had really hurt her deeply.

“You were so mean to me at the police station, but maybe you were right. Maybe I do still have feelings for Nick. I’m not ready for another relationship.”

“I thought we were past that. We’ve discussed this before.” He leaned in to her and whispered, “Can’t we try to move on?”

“No, we can’t. I just want to be alone and be selfish for a while, I have that right.”

“Yes, you do. If this is what you want, then I will not approach you again. I’m sorry I hurt you.”

“I’m just tired and I want to be alone.”

“I think you’re making a mistake by ending our relationship, Justina. I really felt like something special was happening between us.”

“It was, but we both blew it,” Justina opened her car door when she felt him touch her arm.

He pushed the car door shut. “I can’t let you do this. I can’t let you do something out of anger, only to regret it later.”

Justina looked into Matthew’s eyes and saw something different in them. She felt her pulse rising and her face heating up. She tried to pull her eyes away, but they would not cooperate with her when she felt his eyes burn her with his heated stare.

They said nothing for a moment and then she felt his hand move up her arm and to her neck. She closed her eyes and felt her body trembling with each touch from him. When he kissed her lips, she mumbled out pleasurable murmurs. However, when he parted his lips from hers, she managed to whisper, “My reaction to you being with another woman wasn’t the reaction I expected or enjoyed. It has shown me I’m just not ready to jump into another doomed affair.”

Matthew simply nodded his head but said nothing as she quickly pulled out of his embrace and jumped into the car. He finally conceded to defeat. Matthew watched Justina drive away, feeling worse than he anticipated feeling over the demise of their very new and short-lived relationship. He wanted to go after her.

Justina could not control the tears as they fell down her face. She looked in the rearview mirror and saw Matthew still standing there, looking after her.

She desperately wanted to turn the car around and go back to him, but she could not. She was too confused about her and Nick. She realized she did love Nick, but she loved Matthew too. Loving two men, was that even possible? She let out a deep breath, “It is better this way. I am right where I belong, alone.”

~~~

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Continued in Where She Belongs 2

 

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I hope you enjoyed Book 1 of Where She Belongs series. If you enjoyed this offering, please check out my other works.

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Justina's Awakening: Where She Belongs, The Saga-Book 1

Justina Lindsey must find her way alone after the woman who took her in is murdered. She soon finds herself involved with a bad boy who has ties to the mafia, but when a handsome attorney enters her life, she is challenged on matters of her heart. The secrets she has weighs heavily upon her. This is Book One in a two-part series. Book Two is now available.

  • ISBN: 9781310300158
  • Author: Lisa Vandiver
  • Published: 2015-11-12 20:50:19
  • Words: 62848
Justina's Awakening: Where She Belongs, The Saga-Book 1 Justina's Awakening: Where She Belongs, The Saga-Book 1