Authors: Brooks, Jaclyn
Copyright 2014 Jaclyn Brooks
Diamond Flower Romance
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
This work of fiction was created and reproduced in the United States of America.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
One more thing…
Fabian is relaxing on the bed with his arm around Claire, remote in hand, flipping channels to find something to watch that they both like. They had bought a bunch of magazines to ease the boredom that is bound to happen when you’re cooped up for long periods of time. He has just finished reading through the latest issue of Sports Illustrated and needs another distraction. Claire is still leafing through her Marie Claire. He hopes she can read with the TV on because he needs another distraction.
Fabian is kind of enjoying his first ever stay in a cheap motel room. Because his family is in the luxury hotel business, he’s always stayed in hotel suites that have everything a wealthy traveler could want. And, what the suite didn’t have one could simply contact the concierge for immediate assistance. Motels are a different experience altogether. You show up, check in and are pretty much left on your own to scrounge up whatever you need at any particular time. Being a fugitive on the run from the New York City police is the sole reason Fabian wanted to stay in a place like this. It’s way easier to be anonymous amidst other souls that have their own reasons for shacking up here a few nights.
Fabian settles for a mid-day talk show with guests that are angrily screaming obscenities at each other. He finds these shows amusing to watch every once in a while. There always seems to be someone taking a lie detector or DNA test. When someone fails either one, or both, sparks are sure to fly. Fabian gets comfortable as he watches another round of he said she said.
Claire looks up from her magazine, distracted by the shouting. “You’re really enjoying your time slumming around with me, huh babe?”
“Yeah, but I know our version of slumming is nothing like the real thing. We’re just temporarily crashing this lifestyle.”
“I can’t believe you like watching this show.”
“What? Don’t you care how many women this guy has been caught cheating with? Or, that he may not be the baby daddy of her child?”
“Not really. But whatever floats your boat.”
“Watching dysfunctional people on TV is a good way to fill up the time. Unless, you’ve got a better idea.”
“Nope.” Claire throws her magazine on the floor and snuggles up against Fabian.
He knows how lucky he is to have her here with him. Claire could have left him and gone back to New York after that fiasco at Ryan’s ranch. They agreed that they had both been utterly humiliated by being locked in chains for several days. Fabian’s ego took a big hit as well. He had always taken pride in being a guy that can handle himself in any situation. Well, he never anticipated being captured by a cunning, overly horny woman like Amanda Burdett. He still can’t believe how easy it was for her to capture him and place him in a compromising situation. If it wasn’t for Claire’s quick thinking, he might still be there chained to that damn stripper pole.
He and Claire decided to skip the nearest town and drive all the way to Boulder where they could more easily blend in without standing out as outsiders. Once they were settled, Fabian thought long and hard about calling Ryan and letting him know the truth about what Amanda has been doing while he’s away. He’s been going back and forth on the matter. If Amanda were his wife, he’d certainly want to know about her unusual sexual hobby. Then again, once he knew it would probably destroy the marriage. Throw in the fact that he had done sex acts with Amanda and the wisdom of revealing all gets downright murky.
For now, Fabian has chosen not to tell his friend. He left Ryan a short voice message explaining that he had to cut his visit short. He thanked Ryan for sticking his neck out for a buddy and hung up. Maybe down the road he’ll get up the courage to tell Ryan everything, or maybe he’ll take what happened between him and Amanda to his grave. Hopefully, Ryan will never see that video footage Amanda recorded of him in their bedroom.
Right now, Fabian is busy keeping him and Claire safely hidden away while he figures out his next move.
Fabian’s prepaid cell phone rings. “Hello? Oh, yeah hi Mike. Got something for me?”
Mike is the private investigator Fabian had the good sense to hire before he left New York. He hired the P.I. to track his stepmother’s activities on the day she disappeared. He especially wants to know what Sloane was doing while checked in at the Continental Crown. Any little clues could help him begin piecing together this mysterious puzzle about who is framing him and why.
“I hit the jackpot, man,” Mike says proudly.
“You did? Tell me.”
“One of the clerks at the hotel front desk overheard Sloane Cooper talking on the phone to someone about going to Cabo San Lucas.”
“So, I followed up on that by checking to see if Cooper Enterprises has any hotels in Mexico and it turns out they do.”
“Good find, Mike,” Fabian says as his excitement begins to rise.
“They own the Sun Paradise Resort in Cabo. I got some good connections in Mexico and I had one of them go to the resort on a fishing expedition. Based on the photo you gave me we got a positive I.D.”
Fabian excitedly slaps his palm down on the bed. “You’re freaking kidding me. Really? You found her?”
“My contact spotted a woman that looks just like her. Dude, your stepmother is very much alive. She’s working on a tan while staying in some pretty fancy digs south of the border. Now, there’s no Sloane Cooper registered at the resort so she’s obviously using a fake identity.”
Fabian explodes in a mixture of glee and righteous conviction. “I knew it! I knew something stunk about this whole disappearance thing. Man, you are worth your weight in gold. You have no idea how happy I am right now.”
“There’s something else you need to know,” Mike says in a more somber voice.
“I got a tip that the original security footage the Continental Crown recorded of Sloane on that day has been deliberately tampered with. A security employee told me that video of Sloane leaving her hotel room for the last time is missing. Time stamps show this footage was edited in certain places before being handed over to the cops.”
“Do they know who did the editing?”
“Naw. No one is copping to it, at least not yet. My gut tells me that someone working hotel security knows what happened to that missing footage, and why it was cut out. Anyway, I’ll keep following up on this for you.”
“Thanks, man. The info you’ve given me is definitely going to change the game in my favor.”
“That’s what you pay me for. Talk to you soon.”
“Stay on the hunt, man.”
Fabian notices Claire staring at him with intense curiosity. “Who was that and what did he say that put you in such a great mood?”
The words practically burst out of Fabian’s chest. “That, my beautiful darling, was Mike. He’s a P.I. I hired to dig up some information on Sloane. What he found out is that…”
“Sloane is alive and hanging out at a CE resort down in Mexico,” he says excitedly.
Claire bounces on the bed like a happy kid. “Fantastic!” Her giddiness quickly wears off. “But, that means that she wants people to think you kidnapped her. Or, killed her. Why?”
Fabian wrinkles his brow. “Hmm. That’s an excellent question, Claire. Knowing Sloane like I do, I bet it has something to do with getting her greedy paws on my dad’s fortune.”
“That doesn’t make sense to me,” Claire says. “Your dad gives her plenty of money. She doesn’t have to lift a finger to work. Plus, she lives like a queen. What more could she possibly want?”
Fabian believes he knows the answer. “Freedom from ever having to marry again for money, that’s what. Sloane’s greed knows no bounds, apparently. She’ll do anything to get me out of the picture so she can get more of the money. As of now, I’m still in dad’s will. I’ll inherit quite a chunk of change when he dies.”
It only took Fabian a millisecond to come to this conclusion. He knows that if Sloane should divorce Gray she is bound by an iron-clad prenuptial agreement. Gray was smartly advised by his lawyer to have one drawn up. What Fabian knows about their prenup is that Sloane is only going to get about $2 million or so in a divorce settlement. That’s way more than the average divorcee gets, but to Sloane it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s no secret that Gray Cooper is worth multiple millions. He’s damn near close to being a billionaire. The only way she can get more money out of her marriage is to somehow get Gray to change his will. No way will Gray want to leave a substantial part of his fortune to a kid he thinks has slept with his wife, and possibly killed her and disposed of her body.
The idea that his own father thinks he would do something like that still grates at his soul. With Mike’s information he now has a chance to prove his innocence and clear his name.
Claire looks at Fabian like she realizes something awful. “Oh my god. Do you think Gray’s in danger?”
“I don’t know, Claire. He might be. We need more information about what’s going on. I’m thinking we should head on down to Los Cabos ourselves to look for her.”
“Go to Mexico?”
“Yeah. Ever been there? It’s awesome.”
“No. I ah, never had the chance. I don’t really travel much.”
“Well, that’s gonna change now that you’re with me.”
Claire wraps her arms around Fabian and they share a few sweet kisses.
“How are we getting there? By private plane?
“Nope. Too risky to do another charter. We’re going to have to transform ourselves into bona fide tourists.”
“Huh? I’m not getting it.”
The details are already churning in Fabian’s mind. He still has access to plenty of money to make things happen quickly. “We need new identities. I’ve got a friend in New York that can hook us up with fake I.D.’s, including passports. Who should we be?”
“How about someone inconspicuous like Jean and Joe Miller?”
“Sounds good. Bland and easy to remember.”
“Is your friend a bad dude? Someone like an identity thief?”
“Nah. He’s a talented artist with some family connections that do stuff like sell fake identification. I’ll email him our photos and he can get the job done and express mail everything to us here at the motel.”
“Wow, Fabian. I can’t believe we’re really doing this. It’s like one of those undercover detective spy movies.”
“People that wanna disappear do this kind of stuff all the time, babe.”
Fabian has to admit to himself that he too is excited about going to Mexico in the guise of the average American tourist. He agrees with Claire in that it is kind of like playing at being spies. Perhaps this little adventure will even make a good plot for an indie movie. There’s certainly enough intrigue going on in his personal life to come up with a good script. He’ll definitely pick this idea up again once the dust settles and he’s free to live his life anyway he chooses.
Claire has just stepped into the most beautiful hotel lobby she has ever seen in her life. Well, it’s not really a hotel. It’s a fancy resort. They have just arrived at the Sun Paradise Resort in Cabo San Lucas, or Los Cabos as Fabian likes to call this beautiful Mexican city. No matter how you say it, this place is absolutely breathtaking.
After getting their new identities, it had taken them almost a week to drive to the border and into Mexico. That was the first test at seeing if their fake identification and passports would pass muster. Despite their worries, it was a pretty easy border crossing. Tourism is big business in Mexico and the border personnel didn’t seem too concerned about another attractive American couple coming into their country to have a good time.
To her surprise, Fabian was very comfortable driving in Mexico. He was relaxed and in a good mood the whole way. He told her he had driven this route before many years ago with a bunch of friends. This familiarity gave him a sense of ease during their scenic drive. Claire was just the opposite. She was filled with giddy excitement over this new experience. It’s her first time visiting any foreign country. She’s heard so much about Cabo and now she’s finally here in person at this amazing resort with her drop dead gorgeous guy. Okay, he’s a fugitive, but that’s just a temporary thing.
The lobby walls are awash in light pastel yellow. Large, cushy white couches line both sides of the posh interior. As soon as you enter the lobby, your eyes are immediately drawn to an absolutely stunning view of the beach, with its green palm trees lazily waving in the breeze, and the ocean waters just beyond. Visitors can actually walk right through the lobby and stand on the open terrace gazing out at the magnificent horizon. Claire would be happy curling up on one of these oversized couches and camping out right here. The only thing tearing her away from this picture perfect view is her desire to join Fabian at the check in desk.
“Mr. and Mrs. Miller, right?” The woman behind the reservation desk speaks English with a Mexican accent. The computer terminal in front of her displays the day’s cabana reservations.
“Yes. That’s us,” Fabian says with an innocent smile.
“You’re in cabana number twenty-two.” The clerk hands Fabian the keys to their luxury accommodations. “If you need anything simply contact the twenty-four hour concierge service.”
“Thank you, we will.”
“Enjoy your stay at Sun Paradise,” the desk clerk says pleasantly.
“Come on, honey,” Fabian says as he grabs Claire’s arm and steers her towards the elevator that will take them to their part of the resort. “Let’s get this vacation started.”
Claire almost calls him Fabian, but catches herself just in time. “Joe, I can’t wait to see what our cabana looks like.”
Claire wonders if it was Nathan that came up with the idea to call the resort suites cabanas. She finds it to be a stroke of genius. Most likely it was a hardworking underling like herself that had the initial idea. Cooper Enterprises top management probably approved it and then slapped themselves on the back for their brilliance. Despite the fact that she may not even have a job at CE anymore, due to her going AWOL from her normal life, she still feels like a proud employee that has some small connection to the creation of this magnificent resort.
As soon as Fabian opens the door to cabana twenty-two Claire forgets all about camping out at the lobby. She cannot believe how lucky she is right now. The best way she can describe the decor inside of their cabana is old world Spanish meets modern chic. Their luxury suite it is more like a spacious apartment. It’s much larger than she imagined. They have a tastefully furnished living room with a fully stocked private bar, a bedroom with a king sized bed, bathroom with walk-in spa shower, Jacuzzi, and a private balcony adjacent to the living room that has a cushy bench seat where they can relax and enjoy the ocean view.
“Oh wow,” Claire manages to say. “This is heaven on earth.”
Fabian seems impressed as well. “It sure is, sweetheart. I can’t believe I never bothered to come here after this place opened.”
“I’m glad we’re experiencing Sun Paradise together. It makes it that much more special,” Claire says while checking out the living room.
“You’re right. It does,” Fabian says as he stands on the balcony and takes a whiff of ocean breeze.
Claire joins him. “Let’s just relax for a few days and enjoy this place.”
Fabian rubs her back with his hand. “Baby, I’d love to do that. But, we’re here to get my life back in order, remember?”
“I know, but Cabo is just so beautiful,” Claire gushes. “It makes me want to just kick back and forget about all our problems. At least for a little bit.”
Fabian goes back into the living room and picks out an orange from the bowl of fresh fruit sitting on the wooden coffee table. The smell of orange essence hits Claire’s nose as he peels the skin away from the juicy fruit. “It’s actually better for us that I’ve never been here before. I’m completely unrecognizable to the staff. To them I’m Joe Miller from Podunk, USA.”
Claire is barely listening to him. She’s suddenly got an attack of beach fever. “What do you say we go out to the beach right now for a stroll. I’m dying to see the ocean up close,” Claire says as she playfully pokes Fabian in the stomach.
“Why not? The weather is perfect.”
“Cause, I’ve gotta stay inside to avoid anyone recognizing me. There’s lots of American’s here. Some of the tourists might have seen my mug on the news. It’s too risky, Claire.”
“Shoot, that’s not fair,” Claire says in a way that makes her come off like a disgruntled child. “We come all the way to this beautiful place and we’re not even going to be able to walk on the beach? That sucks.”
Fabian puts a consoling arm around Claire. “Look, honey. Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll wait until it’s dark out, and then you and me will have a romantic date on the beach tonight. How’s that?”
Claire brightens up. “Yes! That’s a compromise I can live with.”
“Cool.” Fabian grabs his money pouch from his messenger bag and hands Claire a small stack of hundred dollar bills. “Take this money, go to the resort shop and buy us some swimwear, towels and whatever else you think we need for tonight.”
Claire takes the wad of cash. “This seems like an awful lot of money.”
“Believe me, you’ll need it. Things are super expensive here. They don’t call it a tourist trap for nothing.”
Claire puts the money in her purse. She keeps forgetting that Fabian is used to spending money like it’s going out of style. He can always tap into his trust fund for more. She can tell that she better get used to spending a bunch of money when the situation calls for it. This is certainly one of those times. However, she’s never going to give up her bargain shopping at her favorite stores in New York. She enjoys it and is confident she can look and feel great without throwing money around.
“Claire, I hope you’re ready to be the eyes and ears of this operation.”
“What do you mean?”
Fabian sucks the juice from an orange slice. “Since I can’t go out. You’ll need to scope out the resort and find Sloane.”
“Wait a minute. I thought we’re a team?”
“We are. You have to be the active partner right now. All you have to do is walk around the resort and act like any other tourist on vacation.”
“Okay, I can do that.”
“Go out during the day and hang out at the beach, bar, pool and the restaurants. If you see Sloane, keep a low profile and watch her from afar. Make a mental note of where she goes. Once we know for sure that she’s staying here, we’ll come up with a plan about how to deal with her.”
Claire is warming up to the idea of playing the spy. “This is going to be fun. Hey, if those Bond girls can do it in the movies, so can I.”
“That’s right,” Fabian says supportively. “And, you’re also qualified to do this because you’re totally hot.” Fabian winks.
Claire is trying to decide which bikini is the most alluring. She wants to look smoking hot tonight and has narrowed her choices down to the bikini with the black bandeau top and colorful flowered bottom, and the sea blue and yellow halter top with solid blue bottom bikini. These are the kind of decisions a woman struggles with when she wants to drive her man crazy. Her number one goal is to make Fabian go absolutely gaga on their date tonight.
She has already picked out a sexy pair of swim briefs for Fabian. Since he’s not with her to help choose, she decided to play it safe and go with blue briefs with black around the top. She can already envision him wearing them, and that’s an image that makes her very happy, indeed.
Claire’s only major concern about buying a bikini is that she doesn’t want to come off looking like a stuffed sausage. Style is important, but so is choosing the right size. There were several bikinis that required a size two body, and those days have long since passed her by. She’s relieved to have found something she likes in her size—a suit made for a woman’s shapely body.
Claire tries on both suits, and after a thoroughly critical examination in front of the dressing room mirror, she has decided on the black bandeau with flowered bottom combo. It’s sensual and fun at the same time. The $125 price tag is a bit steep, but hey, a girl’s gotta do what’s in her best interest. Claire pays for the swimsuit and goes to look for a really large beach towel.
Fabian holds Claire’s hand tightly as they slowly make their way past the small rest huts dotting the beach near the resort. The miniature grass huts with the hammocks inside are cute, but not big enough to sprawl out on and do what he has in mind with his lady. Besides, he wants to go far enough away from the resort to avoid being bothered by other tourists. He’s sure if they keep walking for a half-mile or so, they’ll find just the right spot to park the beach towel that is currently wrapped around his muscular shoulders.
The sun is just beginning to set. Fabian decided they should head out early so they could find a special hideaway spot on the beach. He has to admit, his decision for absolute privacy was made after seeing Claire come out of the bedroom wearing her new bikini. His libido did a silent happy dance as he oogled at her lovely curves. Claire gives off this refreshingly girlish sensuality that is both endearing and totally hot. He loves how she looks in that bikini, but he can’t wait to rip it off of her in a little while.
Neither he nor Claire has said more than a few words since they started walking along the beach. Why ruin a perfectly wonderful stroll along one of the most beautiful views in the world with small chitchat? This silence allows them both to just enjoy being together in this special way. He feels amazingly content at the moment. The chaos swirling around in his life seems so unimportant at the moment. Claire is the only person in his world right now that matters. She is his be all and end all.
She’s the reason he gets up in the morning and has the courage to fight to get his life back. The old Fabian would have been drowning his troubles in copious amounts of alcohol. But, so far he’s been able to keep from drinking himself into a drunken stupor each day because of her. Claire renews his spirit and fills him with a warm and giddy feeling like no other woman has ever done before.
Fabian knows that he’s been caught. There’s no doubt about that. Claire has done something that no other woman before her has been able to do—turn him into a man that is ready to commit to a lasting relationship. He always thought that he’d put up much more resistance to the idea of settling down and getting married. But, much to his surprise he actually enjoys being Claire’s love struck guy. He has no desire to play games with Claire over his feelings for her. That’s how strongly his love for her has grown over these past couple of weeks.
If his close buddies could see him now they’d probably laugh. Most of his male friends have settled down and gotten married. A few, like Nathan, are so dedicated to work that they put love on the backburner. Him? Well, he’s always enjoyed playing the field. Not because he’s a lothario. It’s more like he was simply leaving himself available to meet the next cool lady that would inevitably show up in his life. He has had lots of great experiences with his temporary girlfriends and truly doesn’t regret that part of his life.
Yet, he knew he was getting older and needed to at least consider the possibility of some day tying the knot. His on-the-go lifestyle allowed him to keep putting off making a commitment to any particular woman. His excuse was that he was simply too busy doing this or that to get attached for too long. The truth of the matter is that he simply hadn’t met the one woman that could capture his heart and hold it long enough to get him to change. That is, until Claire came into his life. When he first met her he had a gut reaction that caught his attention.
Now he knows that his initial reaction was simply his heart falling head over heels in love.
He’s met the woman that he’s going to marry someday and it feels amazing.
“What about here, babe?”
Claire has stopped walking. They are in a secluded part of the beach. Directly in front of them stand several giant rock formations, stoic reminders of powerfully majestic natural wonders.
Fabian gazes at the rocks. “Yeah. This is the perfect spot.” He pulls the towel from around his shoulders and spreads it out on the sand.
They both sit on the towel. Claire leans her body into him and he wraps his arms around her as they gaze out at the sunset.
“This is awesome,” she says softly.
No words escape their lips for quite a while as the couple enjoys the sound of the waves crashing ashore. The evening sky is bursting with an amazing array of pastel colors in orange, yellow, violet and blue. Eventually, the sun sinks into the depths of the ocean and the sky turns dark blue. That color gives way to an even darker blue, which turns into deeper black as stars emerge from their daytime hiding place.
Fabian squeezes Claire tightly and gently brushes his lips against her ear. He whispers. “You make me feel so alive.”
Claire turns her head until she is eye-to-eye with Fabian. “How much do you love me, Fabian?”
“So much that I never want to leave you. I want us to grow old together.”
“Yes. I want you to come and live with me.”
“Move in together?”
“Yeah. How do you feel about that?”
“I like the idea. You should know that I’ve never lived with a boyfriend before.”
“I’ve never lived with a girlfriend before, so we’re even.”
“Wow. Okay. Where would we live?”
“Wherever you want.”
“What about Cabo? We can live here as ex-pats.”
“Um, that’s a nice idea, but I’d miss the States too much…and so would you.”
“I dunno. I could get used to living here, Fabian. It’s so serene and beautiful.”
Fabian showers tender kisses all over Claire’s neck. “You’re so very beautiful…and sexy.”
Claire’s hand finds its way to Fabian’s bulge. It’s easy to find in those body hugging swim briefs. “Are you as horny as I am right now?”
Fabian feels Claire squeezing his well-endowed pleasure stick and it sets him off. He allows both of his hands to slip down her shoulders and into her bikini top. He squeezes her breasts firmly as he continues kissing her around her neck and shoulders.
Claire makes things easier for him by unhooking her top and tossing it aside.
Fabian guides her down into a comfortable position on the towel and gets on top of her. He wants to make wild, passionate love to her right now, but decides to hold back. He wants to make sure she thoroughly enjoys her time with him underneath the stars of Los Cabos.
Fabian scoots his lower body closer to Claire’s face so she can get a close up view of his bulge. “I’ve got something special for you,” he teases.
“Honey, you’re so thoughtful,” Claire says with a twinkle in her eye. “You brought me this nice present, all gift wrapped and everything.” Claire grabs both ends of Fabian’s skimpy swim briefs and yanks them down until his happy stick pops out and presents itself to her waiting lips. Claire grabs this delicious treat and glides its smooth round tip back and forth against her lips.
Claire licks his erection as if it were a lollipop.
Fabian feels his erection growing harder. He knows he’s in for a real treat.
“Mmm. Mama wants more of this,” Claire says sultrily. She tantalizingly strokes him while showering wet kisses on his manhood.
Fabian feels himself swelling with excitement. “Claire, baby. That’s so hot. Keep doing it just like that. Yeah…”
Claire wraps her sweet lips around his throbbing thickness. This encourages Fabian to give as good as he gets. He wants to express his love for her by doing the one thing he’s wanted to do to her since they arrived in Cabo. He’s going to do his magic fingers move on her. This is his secret trick that drives a woman absolutely bonkers. He had discovered it by accident, but once he mastered the technique, women beg for him to do it to them. This move has become his secret weapon in bed. He had been afraid that his experience at the ranch had stolen his desire to do it. But Claire has just restored his will to use his magic fingers to bring her to a place of ecstasy that few women get to experience.
Waves of erotic pleasure are bringing Fabian to the point of no return, which would cause him to finish too early. He needs to last much longer in order for them to get the most enjoyment out of this sensual experience. Using all the willpower he can muster, he pulls himself away from Claire’s puckered mouth.
“Now, it’s my turn.”
Claire simply looks at him with curious anticipation.
Fabian deftly removes Claire’s bikini bottom. He spreads her legs wide and scoots down to where he can easily work his magic.
Claire lays all the way back on the towel and prepares for whatever he’s about to do to her.
Fabian gives her a sly smile before easing his commanding middle finger into her honey box. His finger softly thrusts in and out of the one place she craves his touch the most, just enough to get her going. Fabian grows excited feeling her getting hotter and hornier as he continues to slowly move his finger a little ways inside, and back to the outer edge again.
It’s time for his index finger to get in on the action. He plows it into her warm hole and observes her welcoming this new visitor with a sigh of pleasure. He now has two lively fingers wiggling around, as she grows more restless for his fingers to ravish her honey box, getting it increasingly hotter and wetter.
Fabian enjoys feeling her inner walls contract each time he moves his fingers around this tight little space.
“Mmmm…that’s good, baby. More.”
Fabian uses his two fingers to push upwards, making room for his other index finger to shove itself deep inside of her with great force.
“Uh, ah…uh, yes, baby. Mmmm.”
Fabian works his fingers harder now. The two at the top wiggle and hold her open as the one on the bottom does the hard thrusting. His three fingers work her steaming hot honey box with lustful authority, arousing guttural noises from the now panting Claire.
Fabian’s magic fingers are thrusting feverishly into her throbbing wetness, bringing Claire to new heights of pulsating arousal.
“Give it to me deep and hard, baby. Uh, that’s it, baby. Go at me…force them in deeper. Yes!”
Claire’s body is thrashing around like a mad woman. Fabian knows that it’s time to pull back some and let her cool off a touch. He pulls his fingers out completely, allowing her to ache for him to insert his fingers inside of her yearning valley of hidden delights once again.
“Please, Fabian. Give me more. I need more of your hot fingers.”
“Um, I don’t know, baby. I’m getting kind of tired,” he teases.
Claire tries grabbing his hands, but he keeps them away from her hungry grasp. “Come on, stop teasing me like this. You’re driving me nuts.”
“I know,” he says mischievously.
Fabian teasingly brushes his fingertips against the swollen outer lips of her thirsty honey box, which sends her into shivers of agonizing desire. “Should I do some more deep exploration with my fingers, darling?”
“Yes, oh please yes. Do it.”
Fabian pokes two fingers back inside of her and drives them deep like a gyrating rocket. Claire’s jerky tremors signal to him that she’s highly aroused to the point of delirium. This is exactly where he wants her to be.
Fabian pulls his fingers out and quickly inserts his rock hard pleasure seeker into her steaming hot box. Claire lurches up to greet his heat-seeking missile with extreme excitement. “Oh…ah…that’s it, baby. Pump me good. I need you in me so bad.”
Fabian’s strong, masculine physique pushes down on Claire with commanding force as he thrusts deeper, sending her into spasms of swooning electric heat. Their bodies are passionately linked together in sweaty pursuit of the highest reaches of their erogenous zones.
“Oh, yeah, baby. Let’s rock it!” Fabian shouts with unfettered elation.
Fabian rams his thickened hot rod deeper, holding it inside of her smoldering erogenous zone until they both reach the absolute peak of their erotically charged fireworks. Fabian feels Claire’s vibrating muscles suddenly clamping hard around his sensitive nerves, causing them both to explode in noisy gyrations that seem to last forever. Fabian has an orgasmic out of body experience as Claire explodes underneath him in her own heated frenzy of erotic release.
They happily collapse, lying on their backs, catching their second wind as they stare up at the glittering stars.
Fabian is sure they will fondly remember their first night in Cabo together for the rest of their lives.
Claire is in a fantastic mood as she leaves their cabana on this late sunny morning. She’s still on Cloud 9 after her amazingly awesome date on the beach with Fabian last night. Everything was perfect—the sandy beach, the ocean, the multi-hued sunset, and of course, the lovemaking. She’s already replayed their night of kissing, fondling and explosive sex over again in her mind. But, what really has her giddy is Fabian admitting to her that he wants them to live together.
She wasn’t expecting that. But, she’s glad he thinks that way about her. Whether or not it really happens remains to be seen. Fabian could have gotten caught up in the moment. Cabo has a way of making you feel like you’re living in a perfect paradise. She certainly has allowed herself to be swept away by wonderful daydreams. They’ve already run away together. Why not just stay here in Cabo and live their dream life together too?
Claire knows that this fantasy life she’s conjured up in her head is probably going to burst soon. Reality will creep in and they will eventually head back to New York. But, just for this little bit, she’s enjoying the idea of Cabo being their home.
Claire walks past the other cabanas on her way to the pool area. She admires how the exterior of each cabana mimics the whitewashed architectural design of early Spanish homes. She’s quickly discovered that she loves South American décor. If she can’t live in Mexico, maybe she can borrow some of the area’s decorative touches when she returns to the States. If she and Fabian do end up living together, she’ll be sure to add a little Mexican flavor to their digs.
Claire sees the sign that points her in the direction of the pool. She’s decided that her first spy mission will be at this popular hang out spot. She figures this is as good a place as any to keep an eye out for the illusive Sloane Cooper. Pretty much everyone staying at the resort is going to relax by the pool at some point. Of course, Claire is making an assumption, because she doesn’t really know if Sloane is still staying here. Sloane could have left the area by now. Still, it’s the best lead they have, thanks to the snooping skills of Fabian’s private investigator.
The pool area opens up in front of her and Claire is incredibly impressed by its design. Immediately to her left is a large hut that houses a tiki bar. A good-looking male bartender casually chats with two patrons sitting on stools. She sees that they serve a variety of tropical drink specials. Claire is not ready for a drink, she just had breakfast, but she is ready to relax and enjoy the warmth of the sun in one of those cozy poolside lounge chairs.
The pool is designed to resemble a blue lagoon on some faraway island. She can tell that the resort went through a lot of effort to make it look natural. The surrounding landscape is filled with greenery and assorted rocks. Part of the lagoon is split into two sections—one end is shallow and the other deep.
Claire finds a spot she likes right next to a couple of middle-aged ladies and sprawls out on the chair. “You ladies don’t mind if I sit here do you?”
The lady in the orange floppy hat turns away from her book to answer. “We don’t mind a little company, do we Sandra?”
“Not at all,” says the lady in the straw hat.
Claire, who is wearing a halter top and shorts, notices both ladies are wearing elegant bathing suit cover ups over their one-piece swimsuits. They’re older and a little heavier than she is, but she thinks they look fabulous.
“Are you ladies on vacation together?”
“Yes, we’re from Wisconsin,” says orange hat lady. “We thought Cabo would be a nice change of pace from our boring, middle-class lives back home.”
“It’s incredibly beautiful here. Good choice,” says Claire.
“Oh, we didn’t just come here for the scenery, although, it’s quite striking,” chimes in straw hat lady. “We came here hoping to meet some hunky single guys.”
Claire is a little surprise to here her say this. Singles coming to Cabo are usually half their age.
“We’re both single with professional careers and are doing very well, except in the man department,” says orange hat lady. “Did you come here alone?”
“Um, I’m here on business. But there’s so many people around I don’t ever really feel alone,” Claire says. She has to keep her cover and that means hiding the fact that she’s with Fabian.
“Well, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t have any trouble meeting a guy,” says orange hat lady. “It’s much harder for us older girls to attract male attention among so many attractive younger women.”
“I don’t know why that should be the case. You two ladies look great,” Claire says, being perfectly honest.
“Thank you. We both needed that this morning,” says orange hat lady.
“I have a suggestion,” Claire offers. “You should get real friendly with the cute bartenders that work here at the resort. Those guys know the local scene and can probably hook you up with dates, or show you where to find guys that enjoy the company of older women.”
“That’s a great idea,” straw hat lady says enthusiastically. “We should do that, Julia.”
Orange hat lady gives her friend a thumbs up. “Yeah, let’s do it.” She turns to Claire. “Thanks for the idea. We’ll get on that right away.”
“Cool.” Claire’s attention is distracted by the sudden appearance of a slender, bleached blonde woman sporting a perfect copper tan. The woman in the two-piece flowered string bikini has the same facial features as…
Claire cannot believe her dumb luck. Sloane Cooper has just come into the pool area and is headed her way.
Oh my god. I hope she doesn’t recognize me.
Claire is panicking because she’s supposed to be keeping a low profile so she can get the drop on Sloane’s whereabouts. Well, it looks like that plan is being shot to pieces. As Sloane saunters past she looks directly at Claire and smiles. After taking several more steps, she stops in her tracks and does an about face.
Uh oh. This can’t be good.
Sloane walks directly up to Claire, lifts up her sunglasses and peers down at her intensely.
“Hey, aren’t you Claire? Nathan’s assistant?”
Two thoughts flash through Claire’s mind. The first thought is that Sloane has an awesome tan. Her second thought is maybe she can try lying about who she is. Claire turns red with embarrassment. Lying is something she’s not good at. She’s about to be a complete failure as a clandestine spy.
“Uh, yeah. It’s me,” she says sheepishly.
Maybe she shouldn’t be giving up so easily. Everyone has a double somewhere. Why couldn’t Jean Miller be Claire Decker’s mirror image? Mistaken identity happens all the time. She could kick herself for not thinking faster on her feet.
“I thought I recognized you,” Sloane says while shoving her sunglasses back over her eyes. “What’re you doing here? Is Nathan with you?”
“No. I’m uh…by myself. I decided I needed a break from the city and came here to get some R and R.”
Sloane settles into the empty lounger next to Claire. “Really? You can afford a swanky retreat like this on your salary?” Sloane’s words drip with skepticism.
Claire is a terrible liar and knows Sloane isn’t buying her reason for being here. But, she’s gotta stick with this story because she can’t think of anything else. “Well, I ah…saved up a lot of money. I have a habit of squirreling away money for a rainy day. And, things are pretty rainy right now.”
Sloane slathers sunscreen all over her shapely legs. “Uh huh. Okay.” Sloane sticks earbuds into her ears, turns on a mini mp3 player and leans back in the lounger. She doesn’t speak another word to Claire.
Sloane’s behavior is making Claire feel unsure about how to play her cards. Should she try to relax and act nonchalant to see what Sloane does next? Or, should she hurry back to the cabana and tell Fabian that Sloane is here?
Before Claire can make a definitive decision the two ladies on the other side of her gather their things to leave.
“Thanks again, honey,” says orange hat lady. “We’re going to take your advice and hit up the bartenders for some juicy info. Have a great day.”
Claire watches as the ladies walk over to the poolside tiki bar and seat themselves close to the bartender. Claire is now alone with Sloane.
Sloane pulls her earbuds out. “Okay, Claire. Tell me the truth. Why the hell are you really here?”
Claire wishes Fabian were with her right now. He’d know exactly how to handle this situation. She’s afraid she’s going to blow it for them by saying something that will make Sloane suspicious. But, it’s not like she can clam up and ignore this cunning woman sitting next to her. Silence would make her even more suspicious.
“Okay, Sloane. I’ll fess up,” Claire is thinking fast. “The real reason I’m here is because…Nathan wanted me to check out this resort. I’m kind of like a mystery customer. I’m doing a report on how well the resort runs.”
Sloane laughs. “You’re a terrible liar, Claire. That’s okay, because it means you’re a good person.”
“Yeah. Cooper Enterprises always sends management on those kinds of undercover evaluation trips. Office staff is never sent on those assignments. I do know a little something about how my husband’s business operates. Just admit that Nathan sent you here to check up on me. He’s worried, right?”
Claire plays along with Sloane’s assumption. “Uh, yeah. You figured it out. Nathan is worried about you.”
“What a guy. That man truly loves me,” Sloane says contentedly.
“Yeah. Why do you think you’re here? When you caught us making out you didn’t think that was the first time, did you?”
“I didn’t know what to think.”
“Let me tell you something, sweetie. When you got a guy like Nathan you’ve got it made. I really lucked out with him.”
“Yeah, I guess you did.”
“Nathan’s a real man. He’s nothing like that jerk, Fabian. Trust me. I did you a real favor with that guy.”
“What do you mean?”
Sloane makes a dismissive sweeping gesture with her hand. “I can’t talk about it here. Why don’t we meet for dinner tonight at the Beach Cove restaurant on the other side of the resort? We’ll discuss how the plan is going.”
“Nathan told you about it, right?”
“Oh yeah. The plan. He told me some things, but not everything.”
“That’s okay,” Sloane assures her. “He trusted you enough to send you here to check up on me. I’m sure he won’t mind us girls chatting a bit.” Sloane stuffs her mp3 player inside her beach bag and gets up. “I’ve got a spa appointment to go to. See you later at dinner. Eight o’clock sharp. Don’t be late.”
“I’ll be there. Looking forward to it.”
Sloane strolls through the lagoon, passing the tiki bar, seemingly without a care in the world.
Fabian is sitting on the balcony reading a magazine when Claire rushes in.
“Fabian! You won’t believe what happened,” she says excitedly.
Fabian puts the magazine down and readies himself for whatever news she’s bringing him.
“She’s here! Sloane is here at the resort.”
Fabian gets excited too. “Did you see her?”
Claire sits next to him on the bench. “Yeah. I was sitting by the pool and she just showed up. I couldn’t believe it at first, but it was her.”
“She recognized me right away.”
“Shoot. So much for the cover we planned.”
“Sorry. I didn’t have time to hide anywhere. She sat down next to me and started telling me about Nathan and some plan.”
“Nathan? What’s he got to do this? What plan?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m meeting her for dinner tonight.”
Fabian finds this incredulous. “Dinner? You’re meeting Sloane for dinner?”
“Yes. Eight o’clock at the Beach Cove Restaurant here at the resort. Oh my god. I don’t know what I’m going to say.”
“Settle down, babe. We’ll figure everything out. Why did she invite you to dinner?”
“She thinks I’m in on this plan with her and Nathan. I just went along and pretended I knew what she was talking about. I did the right thing, didn’t I?”
“Yes, sweetheart. You did good.”
Fabian does not like what he’s hearing. Nathan is somehow involved in scheming with Sloane? How? Why?
“Fabian, what do you think is going on?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t like that Nathan’s involved. What did she say exactly about Nathan?”
“She asked me if Nathan sent me here. At first I tried to convince her I was here on vacation, but she didn’t buy it. Then she let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she and Nathan are a hot item.”
“Oh right. You don’t know about them. I should have told you sooner.”
“What are you talking about, Claire?”
“I caught Nathan and Sloane making out in Nathan’s office. They were going at it pretty hot and heavy. He made me promise not to tell you or anyone else. I was afraid I’d lose my job if I told. Sorry.”
A painful reality is coming into focus clearer now. Fabian doesn’t want to believe it. Nathan and he have been tight like brothers for years, ever since they were kids. No, he doesn’t want to believe his best friend in the whole world would turn on him.
“Nathan and Sloane are sleeping together?”
“They’ve been having an affair for a while from the looks of things.”
Fabian wishes he could scrub his mind clean of the image of those two having sex.
“Well, the good news in all of this is that I can really do something about clearing my name. Finding Sloane here is going to make that warrant worthless.”
“Do you think Nathan is somehow involved in trying to make you look guilty?”
The mere thought of that being true is a kick in the gut. “It hurts like hell to say it, but from what Sloane told you it appears that he might be involved in some way. Before I toss away a great friendship, I need to know more about this so called plan.”
“I agree. They obviously underestimated you. They thought you’d be arrested. As long as Sloane stays missing, the police will assume you either kidnapped or killed her. To them it probably looks like a crime of passion.”
“Yeah, except they don’t have all the clues either. I bet they’re still trying to figure out how she disappeared and if there’s a body. Until they have more facts, they can’t prosecute me.”
“Meanwhile, your name is being dragged through the mud.”
“Totally. I just hope Nathan is some kind of patsy in all this. I know him too well, Claire. This kind of thing doesn’t fit his personality at all.”
“He’s sleeping with your dad’s wife. Is that out of character?”
“Yeah, it is, actually.” Fabian feels anger rising inside of him. He’s angry at Sloane for doing whatever she did to manipulate Nathan into an illicit affair. “I’m telling you, Claire. Nathan wouldn’t scheme to hurt me or Gray on purpose. It’s all her.”
Claire rubs Fabian’s arm. “I hope so, honey. But, the truth may be uglier than you wanna hear.”
“I know. Claire, I need you to snap a photo of Sloane tonight so we have proof that she’s alive.”
“I’ll bring along the cheap cell phone I picked up at Target. I don’t think it will be easy to get a picture, but I’ll try.”
“I just thought of another thing you need.”
“A digital recorder. We need to record the whole conversation.”
“Good thinking. I’m sure the Target here has one. We’re gonna get some hardcore evidence to prove your innocence.”
Fabian is still worried that this may be too much pressure on Claire. He knows he’s asking a lot of her, but there’s really no other choice. Sloane would bolt as soon as she laid eyes on him. Using Claire’s nice girl image is their best hope of getting valuable information from Sloane.
“Are you sure you’re okay with having dinner alone with Sloane tonight?”
“Yeah. Well, maybe I’m a tad worried about keeping up the charade that Nathan sent me to check up on her. But, there’s too much at stake for me to back out. So, I’m going to sit my butt there and get Sloane to tell me everything.”
‘Good. The one thing I do know for sure is that Nathan has broken the trust Gray has placed in him. You think it’s bad that Gray thinks I slept with Sloane? Gray is going to be beyond upset when he finds out it’s really Nathan screwing around with his precious wife.”
Claire shakes her head. “This whole thing is so dirty.”
“It’s very ugly, Claire. I can’t wrap my brain around Nathan blatantly hurting Gray like this. I wanna believe that he’s a gullible dupe, you know? A sucker being seduced by an aggressive, manipulating woman.”
Nathan is the last person in the world that he or Gray would suspect of stabbing them in the back. As a friend, Nathan has always been very supportive of him. They have shared many of life’s ups and downs together. Fabian remembers when Nathan and his mother came to live with them many years ago.
His mother, Iris, was a single mom in need of a steady job and Gray gave her one as a live-in maid. Iris couldn’t afford childcare, so Gray allowed Nathan, an impressionable eleven year old, to live at Cooper Manor. He, his mom, sister and father had all taken an instant liking to Nathan. The kid was smart and had a winning personality. As time went on, Gray took Nathan under his wing and started spending more time with him. More than he did with his own son. But, Fabian never held that against Nathan. It wasn’t his fault that Gray withheld his affections from Fabian.
Nathan proved to be too good of a friend to allow jealousy to come between them. Plus, Fabian actually liked that Nathan took the pressure off of his shoulders on having to be Gray’s successor in the family business. Nathan seemed more than willing to be groomed by the elder Cooper. Father and son were very happy with this arrangement.
Iris eventually got a secretarial job at Cooper Enterprises. She retired to Florida with a full pension. Gray invested heavily in Nathan’s education, ensuring he got a good scholarship, paying his expenses through college. Upon graduation, Nathan got a job at Cooper Enterprises working as a junior executive. He was a star at the company from the very beginning.
The two of them had maintained their strong friendship all these years. Nathan is as much a part of the Cooper family as any blood relative. If Nathan is deeply involved in this attempt to frame him for a crime, Fabian will never be able to think of him as a brother again, or any kind of real friend.
“Claire, I’m hoping there is some way I can clear my name without publicly exposing Nathan’s affair with Sloane. I wanna keep the scandalous details of our family’s implosion as private as possible.”
“That really depends on what we find out from Sloane.”
Fabian finds his cell phone. He stands in the middle of the room, staring at the glossy screen. “I’m going to call Nathan and ask him to explain this plan that Sloane is talking about. I wanna find out what he knows.”
“No!” Claire snatches the phone away from Fabian.
“What are you doing? Don’t you think I deserve to hear my best friend tell me why he’s sleeping with the woman that’s framing me?”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why the hell not, Claire?”
“Because, as soon as Nathan hangs up, he’ll know we’re on to Sloane. That will blow our opportunity to get to the bottom of this. Besides, all you’ll get from Nathan is stonewalling. He’s not going to come clean about his involvement until he’s forced to.”
Fabian is exasperated. He’s dying to have Nathan tell him that it’s all a big mistake. He wants to hear Nathan admit to fooling around with Sloane, but that he knows nothing about why Sloane wrote about having sex with her stepson in her diary, or how Gray got a hold of it. Or, why the cops think they have enough evidence to book him on suspicion of kidnapping, hoping to keep him under heavy surveillance until they figure out if there’s been a murder.
Fabian expels a heavy sigh from his lungs. “You’re right. I can’t call Nathan. I guess I’m just scared about what Sloane is going to say.”
Claire consoles Fabian by rubbing his back. “Whatever she says, honey, it’s going to help us get our lives back to normal. That’s the most important thing, right?”
Claire suppresses her jittery nerves as she heads for the table where she sees Sloane sitting near the back. One whole wall of tables inside the Beach Cove sits against large bay windows. Customers can enjoy a great view of the ocean while dining. Claire isn’t surprised that Sloane secured one of these spots for their little dinner chat. Claire has arrived ten minutes before eight, just to be sure she could locate their table and be on time.
“Hello again, Sloane.”
“Hey, there Claire. You’re on time. I like that.”
“I hate being late. I may be at the beach, but I’m still following New York etiquette.”
Claire notices that Sloane has changed into casual pants and appears relaxed. Whatever she’s going to say, it’s not troubling her one bit.
Sloane sighs softly. “Am I crazy for missing New York? I mean here I am living in paradise on earth, yet, I find myself missing all the action in the city.”
“I don’t think that’s crazy. This is a big change from city life.”
“Yeah. It was great being here for the first week. As people I met here started leaving for home, I realized that my life here is pretty damn lonely. These days I mostly keep to myself.”
“I don’t know. Guess I’m still getting used to being Laura Fagen, rich divorcee. There’s not much to do here, except tourist type things. It’s hard getting attached to people when you know it’s just for a very short time.”
“I can understand how that would be difficult. I was wondering what it would be like to live here as a local. Now I see that it may not be as ideal as I thought.”
A waitress arrives with two menus. “Welcome to the Beach Cove. Would you ladies like to start out with a drink?”
“Dinner is on me, Claire. Order whatever you like.”
“That’s kind of you. I’ll start with a glass of white wine and a shrimp cocktail appetizer.”
“I’ll have a tequila sunrise, heavy on the tequila. I’ll also have a shrimp cocktail. Thanks.”
“Why don’t we go ahead and order dinner now, so we don’t have to be interrupted later,” Claire suggests.
“Sure,” Sloane agrees as she picks up her menu. “Give us a minute,” she says to the waitress.
“Okay, I’ll be back with your drinks and appetizers.”
Claire uses this opportunity to slip her hand inside of her small purse and press the ON button on the digital recorder. She silently prays it will pick up the conversation clearly.
“I’m leaning towards the swordfish with baked potato and grilled vegetables,” Sloane says.
“Hmm. There’s so many good choices,” Claire says while browsing the selection. “I think I’m going to order the island chicken with seasoned rice.”
The waitress brings their drinks and appetizers. The ladies place their dinner order.
“At least the food here is as good as it is back home,” Sloane says. “Still, I miss going out to eat with my girlfriends. Claire, I’m desperate to go back to New York City, but it’s impossible right now, as you know.”
“Hang in there. I’m sure your exile will be worth it.”
“Yes, it will.” Sloane lifts her drink. “I’ll drink to that.”
The ladies sip their drinks.
“You have to admit, Sloane, that if you’re going to hide out somewhere, Cabo is the place to be.”
“Yeah, I’ll say. Cabo definitely is one of my top three vacation spot choices. I was planning to head to Hawaii, but it’s too crowded. It’s easier to be Laura Fagen here without creating any suspicion.”
“How’d you come up with that name?”
“I didn’t. Nathan paid someone to create the identity. I don’t know who and I don’t care. I’ve always liked the name Laura, so it worked out.”
Claire is eager to talk about the plan, but knows she needs to be patient. Idle chitchat is loosening Sloane up. She needs to continue buttering her up and playing it cool to show she can be trusted. Claire and Sloane chat casually about minor topics while they warm up to each other over drinks.
“I have to say that you have an amazing tan. I wish I could tan like that.”
Sloane responds to this ego-stroking compliment. “Thanks. I got this at the tanning salon here. You can’t even tell it’s not natural.”
“It makes you look so fit and healthy. I bet you attract a lot of guys.”
“I get some nice looks from the men around here. I simply smile and go about my business. I’m not here to fool around. Besides, most of them couldn’t afford me, anyway.”
“But, Nathan can, right?”
Dinner arrives before Sloane can answer. Claire observes that the food looks and smells delicious. Both plates have ample portions. The wine has calmed her nerves and she’s ready to chow down. She might even order dessert.
“Can you bring me another tequila sunrise, honey?”
Claire makes a mental note that Sloane likes to drink. She wonders how much alcohol Sloane can hold before getting totally sloshed.
“You were hinting something about Nathan being able to afford me?”
“Well, I was just wondering how he makes the cut. He’s successful, but not rich.”
“It’s all about potential, Claire. You need to learn how to judge a man on how well he will do in the future.”
“And, Nathan is someone you think is going to be rich?”
“Not think. I know he’s going to be very rich.”
“As a matter of fact, Nathan is the one who came up with this whole idea. It sprung out of a discussion we were having about our relationship. I mentioned that I would only marry a man who could provide me with the lifestyle I’m accustomed to.”
“So, Nathan masterminded this whole disappearing to Cabo thing?”
“Yep. I wish I could take credit for dreaming up our little scheme, but most of it is his idea. When an idea is this good, how can I not go along?”
Claire is secretly shocked and saddened to hear this. She too was hoping that Nathan was being duped by Sloane. Up until this moment she really liked her boss a lot. Working for him gives her a lot of clout and prestige in the office. How can she in good conscious continue being his right hand assistant after hearing what Sloane just said? If she didn’t think she was already fired, she’d quit.
“How much do you know, Claire?”
Claire shrugs nonchalantly. She’s ready for this question. “Just that Nathan said that you had some sort of nervous breakdown because of Fabian and needed to get away for a while. He said he missed you and is concerned about your mental state. He wants to protect you for as long as possible.”
Claire is impressed with how well this lie came out of her mouth.
“He’s not thinking of abandoning the plan, is he?”
“No. At least I don’t think so.”
Sloane seems relieved to hear this. “Good. Because I’ve invested way too much time and energy into this to see it go to waste. I mean I care about Gray, but some things are more important.”
“You mean money?”
Sloane smiles slyly. “Not just a few million. I’m talking huge piles of cash. Nathan and I will be stinking rich after all is said and done.”
Claire is puzzled. “That’s what I don’t get about this plan, Sloane. Why go through all this trouble when you and Nathan are taken care of in Gray’s will?”
“Nathan told you about the will? Yeah, Gray gives us both some nice parting goodies.”
“You’re both young enough to outlive him. Why not just wait until the inevitable happens naturally?”
Sloane pretends to be shocked. “Are you implying that Nathan and I are planning to knock off Gray? Oh no, darling. That’s not what’s going on at all.”
“Oh. Well, that’s good to know. That’s something that was making me nervous.”
“You do know that Gray has a heart condition, right?”
“Um, no I didn’t know that.”
“He had a triple bypass a few years ago. He’s supposed to be eating healthy and getting some exercise, but he drinks and smokes, and is a lazy son of a bitch,” Sloane finishes off her first drink. “He’ll probably die of natural causes one of these days. Preferably sooner than later, but taking care of Gray is Nathan’s department.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. Just that Gray needs to take better care of himself if he wants to make it into his eighties.”
Sloane’s answer does nothing to ease Claire’s mind. “I don’t believe you, Sloane. I hope you’re not involving me in something terrible.”
“Don’t worry, sweet Claire. Your hands will remain perfectly clean in all this. And, so will mine, as long as you keep my whereabouts secret. You will, won’t you?”
“Of course. I love my job too much to betray you and Nathan. I want to move up the ranks into CE management. By doing this for Nathan I’m guaranteed a spot.”
“I can’t help but feel bad for Fabian. I know he’s not the greatest guy in the world, but, why are you doing this to him?”
Sloane slices another piece of swordfish. “He’s a necessary sacrifice. Come on, Claire. The guy doesn’t really do anything useful. He hops from place to place, doing god knows what, sleeping with different women. No one will miss him if he goes to jail for several years.”
“Maybe. He did tell me that he’s in the process of changing his life for the better.”
“Yeah, and I’m sure you fell for that bull crap hook, line and sinker.”
“Why shouldn’t I believe Fabian? I don’t have any reason to think he was lying.”
“Okay, Claire, let me clue you in on the real Fabian. He’s a big disappointment to his father. Fabian hasn’t amounted to anything in spite of Gray’s efforts to send him to a prestigious college, set him up in his own business and allow him to live at Cooper Manor whenever he wishes.”
“He told me about Gray being disappointed. People grow and change you know.”
“People like Fabian don’t,” Sloane says as if that were the end of the matter. “Don’t kid yourself into believing he’s changed one bit. Fabian is probably shacking up with some woman right now.”
Claire turns beet red. Sloane certainly guessed right about that.
“Do you think the police will find him?”
“Probably. It’s only a matter of time. I saw on TV that the FBI is looking for him. They get in on the action when you cross state lines. He should have just turned himself in and gotten it over with.”
“Yeah, but obviously he’s innocent.”
“You and I know that, but everybody else thinks he’s a dangerous fugitive. The cops think he may go after some other poor, defenseless woman that falls for his charms.”
Claire is really pissed at how casually Sloane is tossing Fabian’s life in the trash. How dare she sit here and talk about how useless Fabian is when she’s the one whose only ambition in life is to live off of men with a whole lot of money. To Claire’s way of seeing things Sloane is the epitome of a useless human being.
“Fabian told me you threw yourself at him.”
“Really? Ha. Well, he lied. Why would I want him when I’m married to Gray, a man who is way more successful and wealthy than Fabian will ever be?”
“Why are you having an affair with Nathan? He’s best friends with Fabian. The two of them are alike in some ways.”
“Nathan is different. He gets me. He fulfills all of my womanly needs. You wouldn’t understand, Claire, unless you married an older guy.”
Claire wants to tell Sloane that she’s dead wrong about Fabian and her own knowledge of men and womanly needs, but she has to stay focused on why she’s here.
“So, what happens next in this plan?”
“I continue hiding out here a while longer until it’s time to put on my act.”
“Yeah. The second part of the plan is for me to show up suddenly in the States looking like I’ve been through hell. I stagger over to someone’s home and ask for help. That’s when the real fun begins.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun to me.”
“Don’t worry. It’s all going to work out okay. When the police arrive I tell them that Fabian raped me, beat me and tied me up. He left me to rot in some dumpy hole in the wall building. By the grace of god I managed to get free and go for help.”
Claire realizes she’s hit pay dirt. Hopefully, the recorder is picking up Sloane’s every word clearly.
“Sorry, Sloane, but this whole thing sounds crazy to me. I still don’t get the purpose of this ruse.”
“Don’t you see? This is a brilliant way to get Fabian out of the picture entirely. Upon my triumphant return to civilization, Nathan and I will cause Fabian to be disinherited and banished from his father’s life for good.”
“And then what?”
“Nathan makes sure that Gray changes his will as soon as possible. The plan is for me to get Cooper Manor, all the valuable artwork and other private properties. As of now, Fabian is getting that. Nathan will get the lion’s share of Fabian’s financial inheritance. Gray will do this because he has absolute trust in Nathan’s judgment. That old man trusts him with his life, you know.”
“He thinks of Nathan like a son.”
“Too bad Nathan isn’t his real son. If he was, we wouldn’t have to go through all of this elaborate effort to accomplish our ultimate goal.”
Sloane laughs, finding this question funny for some reason. “We’ll make sure your hands stay clean, Claire, as long as you keep your mouth shut and don’t breathe a word of anything I’ve just said to anybody. Got it?”
“Yes. I understand everything now. You guys can trust me to remain quiet. Fabian isn’t more important to me than my career ambitions.”
Sloane throws her dinner napkin in her almost empty plate. “It’s time for me to go back to cabana number four and hop in the Jacuzzi. I love how it relaxes me before bedtime. Anyway, Claire, this has been fun. I actually enjoyed your company.”
“Yeah, I’m glad we were able to touch base.”
Sloane gets up from the table and prepares to leave. “Oh, one more thing, Claire.”
“When you get back to New York I want you to reassure Nathan that I’m doing just fine. And, tell him I can handle things on my end without a babysitter.”
“I’ll let him know.”
“When the police arrive I tell them that Fabian raped me, beat me and tied me up. He left me to rot in some dumpy hole in the wall building. By the grace of god I managed to get free and go for help.”
Fabian shuts off the recorder. This is the third time he’s listened to Sloane utter those awful words. Even if he listened again and again he would still be filled with this sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Fabian downs another shot of whisky from a miniature bottle he got from the mini bar in his cabana. It’s 4 a.m. and he’s sitting here in the living room by himself as Claire sleeps soundly in the bedroom. He didn’t want to wake her just so she could watch him feel bad for himself. Yeah, he’s in the middle of a woe is me pity party. What he heard on that recording has gotten him so riled up inside that he’s tempted to get stinking drunk just so his mind can forget about how deeply hurt he is over being betrayed—no, stabbed in the back, front and sides by Nathan.
The wound is pretty deep, that’s for sure. He’s had some falling out with friends before, but never anything like this. What Nathan has done is the granddaddy of all screw jobs. He wishes he could just make it all go away. The worse part about it is that Nathan had been smiling in his face, telling him how supportive he was, making him feel like they were still the best of friends, close like brothers…and the whole time his best buddy was planning to destroy his reputation and his life with this little scheme he cooked up with Sloane.
Fabian opens another miniature liquor bottle, vodka this time. He starts to pour it into his shot glass, but hesitates. “Ugh. I can’t. I want to but I can’t let myself be defeated by this.” He puts the bottle and glass down on the coffee table. To relieve the pent up tension inside of him he punches his fist into a decorative couch pillow.
Punching the pillow feels good. He does it again, and again. In his mind he’s punching Nathan. A guy he thought he knew. A guy he can no longer call his friend.
“Nathan, you son of a bitch. You threw away everything for that conniving bitch. I’ll never be able to forgive you,” he says through clenched teeth.
Fabian grabs the pillow and presses its softness up hard against his chest. He rocks back and forth, allowing his thoughts to flow and his anger to dissipate. He can’t fall to pieces now. Claire is expecting him to come up with a plan to stop Sloane before she can activate the second part of their scheme. He must stay clear-headed and absolutely committed to clearing his name. His life is on the line, and Gray’s may be too.
“It doesn’t matter if Gray thinks I’m guilty of hurting Sloane.”
He doesn’t care about all the years he tried so hard to earn his father’s love and respect, but always coming up short. He has to try and let all the old resentments go.
“The only thing that matters right now is that I do the right thing for me, Gray and the Cooper family reputation.”
Fabian grabs the vodka, goes into the bathroom and pours it down the sink. “No more using alcohol as a crutch to get through my problems.”
Fabian can tell something is changing inside of him for the better. He now understands what people mean when they say that challenges in life make you stronger. He’s making a conscious decision about how to handle this matter. Today is the first day of the rest of his life.
Fabian climbs into bed and snuggles up next to Claire. He plans to get a few hours of rest before getting up and figuring out their next move.
“We’ve gotta do what?”
“Claire, you heard what I said. We’ve got to kidnap Sloane and bring her back to New York.”
“Are you insane, Fabian?”
Fabian stands in the doorway of the bathroom watching Claire comb her wet hair. “Listen. I know this is extreme…”
“But, we don’t have any other choice, babe. The only way to stop Sloane from going to the cops acting like she’s my crime victim is to grab her and make sure it never happens.”
“So, we should kidnap Sloane to stop her from claiming that you kidnapped her.”
Claire pushes Fabian aside to get into the bedroom. She opens the closet and finds the sundress she wants to put on. Claire removes her robe, puts on her bra and panties and slips into the dress as Fabian watches.
“No. It’s way too risky. Come up with another plan.”
“I’ve racked my brain trying to think of another way, but I keep coming back to this one. We’ve tracked her all the way here. This is our only shot at keeping me out of jail.”
“There’s gotta be another way.”
“What? Tell me, Claire. I’m all ears.”
Claire slips into her sandals.
“Ugh. I don’t know! I don’t normally dream up illegal crime scenarios.”
“Then, you’re in?”
“This is crazy. How are we supposed to kidnap Sloane from a high-end resort without anyone seeing us?”
“I’ve already thought of a way to do it. I just need to know if you’re willing to help me pull it off. I don’t want you doing something you’re not comfortable with.”
“Fabian, kidnapping is a serious thing. There’s no way I’m going to be comfortable doing something like that. Can you honestly say you’re comfortable with it?”
Fabian goes to the closet and grabs his dark leather sandals. “No, okay. I’m not. But, I’m going to do what I have to do to save my ass. You’re either in or out,” he says as he slips his sandals on.
Claire sees the desperation in his eyes. She understands that they have a golden opportunity to stop Sloane before she has a chance to leave the resort. If they lose her now, who knows if they’ll get another chance?
Doing what Fabian is asking means that she is really pushing the envelope of her moral compass. Under normal circumstances she wouldn’t even entertain the thought of kidnapping Sloane. But, her life has already jumped the shark and the time to act is now.
Claire wraps her arms around Fabian’s bare waist. “You know I’d give anything for us to be able to hang out together without constantly looking over our shoulders. If this is what we have to do to get our lives back to normal, then I’m all in.”
Fabian strokes Claire’s face with his hand. “Thank you. I promise you we won’t get caught as long as we work together as a team.”
“It’s our team against their team,” Claire says with a sly glint in her eyes. “Let’s kick their asses.”
Fabian strolls the luxury car lot looking for a suitable vehicle to drive back to the States. The English-speaking car salesman walks alongside hoping he’ll find something too. Fabian has already entered into a tentative agreement with the salesman to trade in the SUV for something roomier. Technically, the SUV isn’t his to sell, but that’s not going to be a problem down here. Legalities can be brushed aside if you have enough money. The sales guy is going to get a decent commission on an all-cash deal as long as Fabian finds something he likes.
“We have a nice van over here,” the salesman offers.
Fabian glances over the red minivan. “No, that’s not what I want.”
Fabian looks ahead and spots an RV parked in isolation from other cars. “The RV. Is that for sale?”
“Yes, sir. Wanna see it?”
“Okay, I’ll go get the keys. Be right back.”
Fabian walks over to the late model used RV and knows in his gut that this is what he’s going to buy. It’s a mid-sized model that probably sleeps four to six people. Fabian checks out the tires. They seem to be in good condition. He can’t wait to have a look inside.
After several minutes, the salesman rushes up to the RV. “Okay, I’ll open her up and you can take a look inside.”
Fabian watches the man unlock the door. The salesman steps aside to allow Fabian to freely take a look around. Fabian immediately falls in love with the cream-colored leather bucket driver and passenger seats.
“Is this automatic?”
“Yeah, fully automatic drive. Has GPS, satellite radio, CD and DVD player.”
“Cool. I’m going to check out the rest.”
Fabian goes further inside and admires other features such as the tiled flooring, plush couch, 4-seat mini dinette, kitchenette with microwave, bathroom and plenty of storage space. He notices there’s a queen-sized bed above the front seating area. That’s where he and Claire will sleep.
The salesman peeks his head inside, smelling a potential sale. “I can give you a really good deal.”
Fabian knows whatever price the guy has in mind he’s going to wrangle him down until it really is a good deal. This is Mexico. Price haggling is expected. The key to winning this game is to be willing to walk away if the deal isn’t to his liking.
Of course, Fabian will be acting, because this is the only RV in the entire lot. He wants it bad, but knows he needs a negotiating angle in his favor.
“This is practically new, man. How’d you guys get it?”
The salesman’s eyes light up. “Honestly? A couple of guys that I suspect were drug dealers pretty much dumped it on us. They had no more use for it so they traded it for a sports car. We don’t normally sell RV’s but it was one of those deals we couldn’t refuse, you know?”
“Yeah, I gotcha. Okay, so what were you thinking of letting it go for?”
“Twenty thousand American dollars.”
Fabian whistles loudly. “No way.”
“That’s a great deal. Like you said, it’s practically new.”
“Yeah, but like you said, it’s been used by drug dealers. For all I know it could be stolen, or have been used to smuggle drugs over the border.”
Fabian just let the guy know that he’s not dealing with a naïve American sucker that doesn’t know how to play the game.
“Okay. How about seventeen thousand? I’ll take three thousand off for the SUV. So, you only pay fourteen thousand.”
“How about I walk out of here and take my American money and SUV with me? That offer is a joke.”
“Ah, man. You gonna play it that way? That’s a fair offer.”
“Not in my book. I’ll give you seven thousand with the trade-in.”
“Can’t do that, man. How about fourteen?”
“Hmm. We’re still too far apart. Tell you what. I’ll do eleven thousand five hundred tops. I’ll accept four thousand on the SUV, which leaves me paying seven thousand five to make up the difference. Deal?”
The salesman keeps his cool while calculating the numbers on his smartphone. Fabian is sure that the guy knows that the longer the RV sits in the lot the more it depreciates in value. There aren’t many people that are going to want it, a fact they both know. The salesman finally looks up and gives Fabian a broad smile. “Deal.”
“Great. I’ll need to have it ready for pick up later today.”
Claire places the black wig with bone straight hair onto her head and adjusts it to fit snuggly. She stares at herself in the mirror. She’s wearing a pastel blue maid’s uniform that is standard issue for the Sun Paradise cleaning crew. With the aid of some false eyelashes and a dark eyebrow pencil she is transformed into a woman that she hopes passes for a member of the resort’s cabana cleaning staff.
“Wow. I look so different. I think this is gonna work.”
Claire goes into the living room where Fabian and the real maid are waiting. “What do you think, babe?”
Fabian looks impressed. “Wow. That’s a good disguise. I’d never recognize you.”
Claire goes into Fabian’s money pouch and pulls out a single bill. She hands a crisp, new $100 bill to the maid that just finished cleaning their cabana. The maid is wearing the t-shirt and sweat pants Claire gave her to wear as a temporary outfit. “You can hang out here until we get back, okay? Do whatever you want. Eat, drink, watch TV and relax.”
“Thank you, miss. You two are very generous. Feel free to borrow my uniform and cart anytime.”
“We just need it for this one time,” Fabian says. “Remember, there’s another hundred in it for you when we come back. To earn it you’ve got to swear that you won’t tell a soul about this.”
“Oh no, senior. I’ll keep quiet. Besides, I could get in big trouble if management knew I let non-staff use company property.” The maid sits down on the couch and turns the TV channel to a local Mexican soap opera.
Fabian climbs into the cart. Claire hands him a duffel bag. Claire covers him up with a bunch of towels. Claire slowly pushes the cart out the door and down the pathway towards the other end of the resort. It’s taking all her effort to push her 150-pound boyfriend towards their destination.
She is hoping that none of the resort staff can tell she’s a gringo. She noticed that the few gringos working here are bartending, running health and fitness classes or doing management jobs. If a cleaning staff person should talk to her she’d stand out like a sore thumb, because she doesn’t speak a word of Spanish.
Claire can feel the anxiety rising in her gut as she wheels the cart up to the front door of cabana number four. She takes a deep breath and knocks.
Sloane Cooper answers the door wearing black leggings under a hot pink top. She looks at Claire waiting for her to say something. Claire is so busy being afraid of being recognized that she almost blows it.
“Are you here to clean or to stand there staring at me?”
“Sorry, ma’am,” Claire says in a fake Mexican accent. “I’m here to clean up. Forgive me for staring. I’m new. This is my first day.”
Sloane opens the door wide and allows Claire to wheel her cart inside.
“That’s okay. There’s not much to clean. You can just tidy up a bit while I read my magazine.” Sloane reclines on the couch and picks up the Elle magazine she’s in the middle of reading.
Claire proceeds to clean up the room the way she thinks a maid is supposed to do. She takes a spray bottle and uses the dust cloth to wipe down the coffee table, entertainment center and a chair. She takes the mini broom and dustpan from the cart and sweeps the floor in a few spots. Claire goes back to the cart and wheels it into the spacious bathroom. It hasn’t escaped Claire’s attention that Sloane’s cabana is bigger than theirs. She wonders if Sloane gets to live here free of charge. Nathan could easily make those arrangements.
Claire shuts the door behind her. She removes the towels from Fabian’s head and gives him a thumbs up sign.
Fabian quietly climbs out of the cart and removes the duffel bag. He hides behind the bathroom door and nods.
Claire purposely knocks Sloane’s lighted vanity mirror and a bunch of cosmetics to the floor, causing a loud crash.
Sloane rushes into the bathroom. “What was that?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, miss. I accidentally knocked over your beautiful mirror.”
Sloane is not happy about this. “Shoot! How could you be so clumsy?”
“I don’t know. I’m really sorry. You can take this out of my tips.”
Sloane shoves the cart into the living room. “You damn right I will.”
Fabian reaches over and grabs Sloane from behind, which startles her. He muffles her screams by placing his hand firmly over her mouth. Claire quickly goes into the duffle bag and pulls out a roll of duct tape. She breaks off a long piece and holds it taught in front of Sloane’s face. Fabian removes his hand and Claire quickly slaps the tape onto Sloane’s mouth.
“Hold her steady,” Claire says as she takes the tape dispenser and runs it across her mouth and underneath her neckline. “There. Now you won’t be able to yell at me about your broken mirror.”
Sloane continues to attempt to struggle free from Fabian’s grip. “Wrap it around her legs!”
Claire quickly runs the roll of tape haphazardly around Sloane’s legs, which greatly limits her mobility. Claire knows her handiwork isn’t neat, but it’s getting the job done. “Hold her arms together so I can get the tape all the way around.”
Fabian uses his body strength to prevent the frightened Sloane from moving her arms too much. They end up on the floor after Sloane pushes against him.
Claire scrambles to get the tape around Sloane’s mid-section. She’s successful after expending considerable effort.
“Think we should wrap her up like a mummy?” Fabian jokes.
“Nah, that’s only for royalty. She’s not worth it.”
Fabian lifts Sloane up and holds her over the cart. “Okay, in you go.” He sits her in the cart. Sloane continues to struggle in vain to get free. Fabian grabs some towels and is about to cover up the captured woman.
“Wait,” Claire says. “One more thing we need to do.” Claire grabs a black ponytail holder from the bathroom counter and pulls Sloane’s hair back. She slips the holder around her blonde locks. “Okay, now you can throw the towels over her.”
Claire instinctively realizes it will be easier managing the duct tape around Sloane’s mouth with all that hair out of the way.
Claire and Fabian rush around Sloane’s cabana gathering up his stepmother’s clothes, a few pairs of shoes, toiletries, wallet, ID and passport. They throw it into her largest suitcase, the one with wheels, and zip it shut.
Fabian takes the suitcase and opens the door. He looks both ways to make sure the coast is clear before casually walking down the pathway.
Claire waits a few minutes. She pulls a blanket from the bed and arranges it in the cart over the towels—another layer to muffle any noises coming from the cart. Claire adjusts her wig and smoothes out her uniform. She’s got to appear as if nothing unusual is going on. She’s just a maid going about her daily routine.
Claire opens the door and looks both ways. She sees a couple walking towards her. She smiles as they pass by without even so much as a glance her way. Claire hurriedly pushes the cart out the door. She wheels it in the direction of cabana number twenty-two. Thankfully, this load of dirty towels is much lighter.
Fabian is waiting for her as she reaches their cabana. He helps her get the cart inside and shuts the door.
They both breathe a sigh of relief.
Fabian pushes the cart into the bedroom as Claire follows.
Claire hastily changes out of the maid uniform and into jeans and a t-shirt. She hurries into the living room where the maid is engrossed in watching The Price Is Right. “Sorry to interrupt you, but you’ve got to get changed and leave here quickly.”
“Si. I’ll go change.” The maid takes her uniform and heads for the bathroom.
Claire paces back and forth.
Fabian pushes the cart back into the living room. There’s nothing inside it but dirty towels. He too seems anxious for the maid to leave.
The maid comes back and hands Claire her clothing. Claire hands the maid another $100 bill.
“Thank you again for the big tip. I also enjoy a nice break from work.”
Claire too is grateful. “Thank you for letting us borrow your stuff.”
“Let me know if you need anything else,” the maid says cheerily as she pushes her cart out onto the pathway. “Buenos tardes.”
“See ya,” Claire says as she watches the maid walk away. Claire steps back inside. “Phew! We did it.”
“Yeah, we did. That was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done in my life,” Fabian says while pouring himself a glass of ice water.
“What did you do with her?”
“Sloane? She’s hanging out in the bedroom near the closet. I made her a nice makeshift bed on the floor.
“I’m sure she’s loving that.”
“Nothing but the best accommodations for my wonderful stepmother.”
“When are we leaving?”
“As soon as the RV is ready to roll.”
“I’m going to miss Cabo, but I’m happy we’re headed back to New York with everything we need to squash that warrant.”
“Hopefully, Sloane will realize the gig is up and confess everything to Gray. If not, we still have the recording.” Fabian says.
Although, the kidnapping went well, Claire is uneasy about driving all the way back to New York with a hostile Sloane in tow. There’s no telling what she’ll do to protect her own hide, and the wealthy lifestyle she currently enjoys as a trophy wife. Another concern is that Nathan is a complete wildcard in all of this. They have no idea how he’ll react when he finds out they know he’s involved.
There’s a lot at stake for all the players in this game. Claire doubts that Sloane will voluntarily confess all to Gray. Maybe she can reason with Sloane and get her to a place where she’ll at least consider making a deal to help clear Fabian’s name. Maybe she’ll change her tune if they promise to keep quiet about her and Nathan’s affair.
Such a deal, of course, would depend on Fabian going along, and she’s not sure he’d go for it. But, she’ll give it a shot.
Fabian looks cool in his aviator shades as he drives the air conditioned RV down this first stretch of Mexico Highway 1, headed for San Diego. He volunteered to do all the driving over the next three days, which means they’ll have to take periodic rest stops along the way. At least they won’t have to worry about renting a hotel room. They took sheets and a blanket from their cabana and fixed the upper deck bed, making it nice and comfortable for whenever he’s ready to crash and get some shuteye.
Claire sits in the passenger seat next to Fabian, staring out the window watching the arid Mexican landscape whiz by. She feels a little guilty for enjoying the luxurious leather comfort of her seat while Sloane rides in the back, bound and gagged. Claire placed pillows underneath Sloane’s head and knees in an attempt to make her ride more comfortable. They decided not to remove any of the tape, not even her mouth gag, until they were far enough away from Cabo. They couldn’t risk Sloane alerting someone.
Fabian has already stated that he could give a rat’s butt if Sloane stays bound like an animal for the duration of their trip. Claire understands his feelings of anger towards Sloane, but she’s hoping he’ll relax his stance a bit and allow her to move around more freely. She knows it’s going to take some female persuasion to get him to show his stepmother a modicum of humane compassion.
“Fabian, we’re more than forty miles away from Cabo. Don’t you think we can at least partially unbind Sloane?”
“She can rot back there for all I care.” Fabian says while never taking his eyes off the road.
Claire can tell he means it, but she’s not going to let this situation turn her into a coldhearted person. People do some awful things, but that doesn’t mean she has to stoop to their level. She starts to tell Fabian this, but decides he’ll just get pissed that she’s trying to lecture him on morality. Claire will have to handle this in her own way. Fabian will come around eventually and be reasonable, she figures.
“I’m going back there to check on her.”
“Don’t remove any of that tape, Claire.”
“Stop being so paranoid. She’s gotta eat and drink at some point. Or, do you plan on starving our prisoner?”
“Of course not,” he says with a brief glance her way.
“I’ll be back.” Claire unbuckles her seatbelt and makes her way to the living area. Sloane opens her eyes and frantically uses her head as a pointer while making noises.
Claire tries to interpret the woman’s body language. “What do you need?”
Sloane wriggles her lower body and bounces up and down as best she can on the couch. Her efforts to use body language are hindered by her immobile arms. However, she does manage to point a finger towards her crotch.
“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
Sloane’s head bobs back and forth like a bobble doll.
Claire realizes they never thought about their captive having to use the toilet. It’s easy to forget those minor details when you’re in the thick of scheming a kidnapping. If she had thought about it before they left Cabo, she would have told Fabian to stop by the store so she could pick up some adult diapers. Oh well, too late now. She’ll have to handle this like any prison guard would.
“Alright, Sloane. Let’s make a deal with each other, okay?”
Sloane stops nodding and stares at her, waiting to hear what comes next.
“I’ll help you get up and go to the bathroom as long as you promise me you won’t cause any trouble. Agree?”
Sloane nods in agreement.
“Okay.” Claire helps Sloane up off the couch and escorts her a few feet to the bathroom. This takes longer than normal because Sloane can only move her feet by taking tiny steps. Claire opens the bathroom door and Sloane scuffles in and maneuvers herself into position in front of the toilet.
Claire pulls down Sloane’s leggings and undies, allowing her to sit down and do her business. Claire closes the bathroom door, leaving it open a smidge just in case. She hears what sounds like a sigh of relief as a stream of water jets into the toilet bowl.
Suddenly it hits Claire.
OMG! Do I have to wipe her cootie?
Sloane certainly can’t wipe it herself with her arms bound. Or can she? Claire decides to find out. “Are you done?”
Sloane indicates she is with a nod.
Claire grabs a handful of toilet tissue and sticks it in Sloane’s hand. “Here, I hope you can wipe yourself okay, because I sure don’t wanna do it.”
Sloane shoots Claire a pissy look. She manages to wipe herself, but drops the tissue on the floor.
Claire knows she’ll have to pick up the dirty tissue, but she can do that without touching it. She pulls Sloane’s clothes back up. “Okay, back out to the couch.”
Sloane shuffles back to the couch and plops down.
Claire takes a pair of scissors out of a cabinet. She sits next to Sloane. “Would you like me to remove the tape from your mouth?”
“We’ll have to make another deal then. Promise me that you won’t scream or cause a commotion. Fabian is in no mood to take any crap from you. I’m only doing this because we’ve gotta make sure you get some type of nourishment. Okay, ready?”
Sloane mumbles her approval.
Claire carefully cuts away the duct tape from both ends of Sloane’s head. She slowly peels the pieces away from her skin.
“You’re in big trouble, Claire. Big trouble.”
“Not even a thank you, huh?”
“Thanks. You’re still in a world of trouble.”
“I’m in no more trouble than you are. In fact, I bet you’re in much bigger trouble than me, Sloane.”
Sloane rolls her eyes. “I’m thirsty. Got any water?”
“Sure.” Claire fixes Sloane a glass of ice water from the mini fridge. She sticks a long straw in the glass and holds it close to Sloane’s mouth so she can drink.
“Thanks.” Sloane thirstily sips half a glass of water before taking a break.
The water seems to revitalize Sloane along with her self-serving ego. “You two think you’re really going to make it all the way back to New York in this thing without getting caught?”
“Yep. That’s exactly what we think. Why? Do you think you’re the only one that can come up with a good plan?”
“You got me there,” Sloane says wryly. “I thought I had it all figured out. But, you fooled me, Claire. Here I thought you were this sweet girl that wouldn’t hurt a fly. I guess you’ll do anything when a guy like Fabian pays you the slightest bit of attention.”
Claire knows Sloane is trying to get under her skin. “You underestimate me, Sloane.”
“I guess I did.”
“So, tell me, Sloane. Why did Nathan suddenly turn on his lifelong best friend? Fabian and I can’t figure that out.”
“Does he have some hidden agenda to outshine Gray?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea.”
“I bet you do.”
“I see. So, you’re going to leave us floundering around trying to figure out why you two are being so evil.”
Sloane shifts her eyes to her unfinished water. “Tell you what, Claire. I’ll cooperate with you two while you’re holding me in this rolling half-ass camper. I don’t have a choice. But, I’m telling you right now that all bets are off when we get back to the city.”
“We’re not making any bets with you or Nathan. Fabian and I are controlling all the cards now.”
Sloane sits up straight with an air of unflagging confidence. “You hold nothing. I’ll have Gray hire the best attorney to represent me, and my side of things. Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to explain things to Gray in a way that doesn’t incriminate myself.”
“So, basically you’ll keep spinning your lies hoping you’ll come out clean in all this, right?”
“You two made a big mistake kidnapping me for real. You just gave my fake story a whole lot of credibility. Who do you think everyone will believe?”
“I’m not worried about it,” Claire says smugly. “Fabian and I have an ace up our sleeve.”
“Really? And what would that be?”
“Do you really think I’m that gullible?”
“Hey Claire! I’m pulling over at this roadside taco place to get us some tacos to go,” Fabian barks from the front.
Claire feels the RV swerve and then come to a halt. Fabian grabs his wallet, keys and gets out.
Both women look out the window to see where they are.
“Claire, since we’re chums again, can you please take this god awful tape from around my arms too?”
“I can’t. Fabian might flip out.”
“I wanna be able to feed myself like a normal person.”
“You’re asking us to trust you. Guess what? We don’t.”
“I get that. Look around. Where am I going to go? I’m not asking for the world. Can you let me have a little bit of dignity?”
“We’ll see. Keep behaving like a normal human being and we’ll treat you like one.”
Sloane scans the counter. “Got any alcohol? I need a drink.”
“We only had time to stock up on water and soda. Play nice with us and maybe I’ll talk Fabian into getting you a bottle of liquor.”
“Brandy would be fabulous.”
More minutes tick away as the two women sit in awkward silence. Claire has no desire to keep trying to pry information out of Sloane. She’s not about to reveal anything on their end either. Neither woman is going to budge on that front. They’re at an impasse.
Fabian unlocks the back door and walks in with two plastic bags filled with authentic Mexican food. He drops the bags onto the small coffee table, glaring at Sloane for a few seconds. “I got us some fresh beef and chicken tacos with all the fixings.”
“I’m famished,” Claire says as she pulls tacos out of the bags and lays them on the table.
Fabian heads out the back door. “I’ll be right back with our drinks. Everyone’s getting cola.”
Sloane hungrily eyes the food as Claire grabs paper plates.
“Oh, alright. I’ll let you loose, Sloane. Only because I don’t wanna feed you like you’re some overgrown baby.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate this, Claire.”
Claire snips away the tape stuck to Sloane’s arms.
Sloane wastes no time diving into the tacos. “Oh my god, I’m so hungry. I barely ate anything this morning. Had no idea I was going to be snatched before eating lunch.”
“Help yourself,” Claire says with a tinge of sarcasm.
The women proceed to load their tacos up with salsa, guacamole and sour cream.
Fabian returns with the drinks and fixes himself a large plate. He sits on the other end of the couch next to Claire, keeping his head down as he eats. Claire thinks he’s purposely avoiding having to look at Sloane.
The three continue eating in silence for the next several minutes. Claire hopes that they can avoid an ugly scene and just get through this meal. She knows that Fabian is on the verge of wanting to strangle Sloane. All he needs is a reason to act out on his desire.
Sloane wipes her hands on a yellow paper napkin. “Claire, I have to say that I’m not a taco person, but those were the best I’ve ever had.”
“We agree on that at least,” Claire says before taking another bite of her second chicken stuffed taco.
“Fabian,” Sloane starts. “Nathan and I are going to take everything you have. You think capturing me is going to stop that? It’s not.”
Fabian stares out the RV window and continues eating.
“Gray loves me. Nathan loves me. They’re both in my corner, not yours. You think you and your little sweetheart here can out maneuver me, and a smart cookie like Nathan? Ha. You’re both out of your league. I’m going to make sure Gray has nothing more to do with you. You’re going to jail for this. Count on it.”
Claire can’t take anymore. “Shut up, Sloane, or I swear I’ll slap that tape back on you right now. This little sweetheart is perfectly willing to let you starve all the way back to New York. You can pee in your pants too.”
Sloane puts her hands up in surrender. “Okay. I’ll be quiet. I said what I wanted to say.”
Fabian crushes his empty plate and tosses it in the trash. “I’m ready to hit the road again. We’ll stop in Laz Paz for the night.” He goes back up front and buckles himself into his seat.
Claire feels like slapping Sloane around herself. She knows Fabian isn’t happy that she took the tape off. She better think of a way to keep Sloane subdued for the remainder of the trip, or this poor excuse for a trophy wife may not make it back in one piece.
Fabian steers the RV into the long line of traffic that leads to the U.S. border. Depending on the amount of traffic, and what kind of issues border personnel encounter as they check documents and vehicles, the wait time can be up to three hours. Now that they are officially in line, there’s nothing they can do but try to relax until it’s their turn to come under scrutiny.
He’s way too jittery about the passports. Every person in this RV is using fake identification and fake passports. He was pretty confident while going into Mexico. Coming back to the States is another story. Any hint that you’re not who you say you are can earn you a trip to a federal detention center, facing harsh questioning. If one of them comes under suspicion, all three of them could be detained for an indefinite period of time.
They’d find out pretty quick that there’s a warrant on me. Hope these documents hold up or I’m toast.
The RV moves forward at a crawl. Traffic comes to a dead stop. It’s hot and crowded. Fabian can see there are lots of cars ahead of them. The border is way in the distance. He’s jumpy and needs to do something to calm his nerves—something that increases their odds of getting through without any problems.
Fabain unbuckles his seatbelt and eases his frame out of his seat. It feels good to stand up and stretch his body after sitting for so long. But, he didn’t get up just to stretch. There’s something he needs to do before they reach the border. Fabian strides purposely to the back of the RV as Claire follows his movements with her eyes. He is leaving her in the dark about what he’s going to do next.
Fabian opens up his suitcase and pulls out the souvenir he was bringing back—a bottle of primo Mexican tequila. He had stopped off at a small shop and bought the bottle of golden colored alcohol on his way back to the resort with the RV. The store owner claimed this brand was one of the best. He has to take the man’s word for it, there’s no way of knowing the quality until he drinks it. Anyway, he had stashed the bottle away in his things, planning to share a special drink with Claire in the near future. That was the original plan, anyway.