Next to Always: Shattered Innocence Trilogy Book Two (6 page)

BOOK: Next to Always: Shattered Innocence Trilogy Book Two
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Dylan, I meant to ask if you’ve given any thoughts about going to the gala on Friday.”

“I have, actually. I think it would be fun. I’ve invited my friend Lilly Davis to go with me. I hope that’s okay?” Dylan looked at both men, waiting for their approval.

“That would be great. I’m sure both of you will have a wonderful time,” Keeve replied as they exited the conference room.

When Dylan got back to her office, she breathed in a sigh of relief. She wasn’t sure what type of reaction Keeve and Mason would have on her opinion of Spectrum, but she was glad that she presented them with the facts and they were satisfied with the information.

By the time five o’clock hit, Dylan was ready to call it a day. Gathering her things, she headed for the elevator, knowing there was a bottle of wine and a long hot bubble bath waiting to be relished. As she slowly descended to the ground floor, she thought about what she needed to do to prepare for the gala on Friday. She would need to see if Lilly would be available tomorrow for a shopping spree. She knew Lilly would be up to the task since she was a Shopaholic.

It was quiet when Dylan got home. Setting her coat and her purse down, she walked over to the fridge to pull out the bottle of wine that was patiently waiting for her. As she poured herself a glass, she heard the front door open. Looking over her shoulder, she could see that Lilly was entering.

“Hey, girlfriend, pour me one too,” Lilly petitioned as she kicked off her four-inch stilettos.

“How was your day? You look exhausted,” Dylan said as she placed a glass of wine in front of Lilly.

“You have no idea. I love my parents, but working for them at the gallery is murder. I must have rearranged the artwork at least a dozen times. This upcoming showing is going to kill me,” Lilly confessed as she took a sip of her wine.

Lilly’s parents owned one of the largest art galleries in New York City. Her parents told her that one day it would belong to her. When Lilly was a little girl she enjoyed drawing and painting. While most girls played with Barbie dolls, Lilly played with her paints and crayons. Her passion for art earned her a degree in Visual Arts at Columbia.

“I have just the thing to make you feel better. How about we go shopping tomorrow for the gala on Friday? I know how much you love to shop.” Dylan gently patted Lilly’s hand as she attempted to brighten her day.

“You don’t have to ask me twice. When and where is all I need to know?” Lilly answered with excitement.

“How about tomorrow at noon? We could grab lunch at
Border Line
and then go shopping. I’m sure I could get the afternoon off.” Dylan knew she needed more than an hour to shop with Lilly. If she knew her at all, she knew Lilly would want to hit every shop on Fifth Avenue.

“Sounds good to me. Be ready to walk your socks off, girlfriend,” Lilly said as she held her glass of wine up for a toast.

Once their plans for tomorrow were sorted out, Dylan headed to the bathroom for her much needed bubble bath. Soaking in the tub after a long day of work was one of Dylan’s most favorite things to do. Even though Lilly’s bathtub wasn’t as big as the one she had in her old apartment, it still was large enough that she could stretch out and relax with no problem.

Getting to her makeshift bedroom, Dylan grabbed her pajamas and underwear, only to be greeted again with the letter from Rade. It had been almost a week since she received the letter. She still couldn’t bring herself to read it. She wasn’t sure why she was so reluctant to open it. But she decided that today was the day she was going to put on her big girl panties and read it. Taking it with her, she headed to the bathroom. As the tub filled with water and bubbles, Dylan opened the letter.


My Dearest Dylan,

If you are reading this letter, I hope it is because thoughts of me are still in your heart. I know no word can describe the pain and hurt that I have caused you. I know I have betrayed your trust. I should have protected you. A part of me died that night because I didn’t. My life these past weeks has been nothing without you. I’m tormented every minute, of every day, knowing that I caused you so much pain.

Please know this, Dylan, you have captured my heart. My feelings for you are more than anything I have ever known. My life will never be complete without you in it. You have brought so much light to my darkness; light I thought I would never see again.

Please, Sweetness, if only for a moment, let me see you again. I need to know that you are okay. If you choose not to see me, know that I will never forget you or what we had. I will never stop waiting for you to come back to me. To forgive me.

Know this, I will stop at nothing to find the man responsible for taking you from me. No one will ever harm you again.

Deeply yours,


Dylan’s hands were numb as the letter slowly fell to the floor. Rade’s words brought sadness to her. Her eyes were once again filled with tears. Despite knowing how horrible that night was for her, she would always love Rade. She knew in her heart she needed to let him go, that there would be no life for them together no matter how much pain it caused her.

Dylan’s desire to relax in her bubble bath was no longer appealing. The only thing she wanted to do was what she had been doing for weeks, curl up in her bed and cry. As she drained the water, she thought about how her connection to Rade was slowly disappearing, just like the water swirled down the drain. Thoughts of never seeing him, touching him, feeling him, began to once again take hold of her.

When the water was fully drained from the tub, Dylan left the bathroom feeling lost and alone. Crawling into bed, she pulled the covers over her and once again began crying. It wasn’t until hours later that her exhaustion took over and allowed her to fall asleep. It wasn’t the dreams of that night that haunted her. It was the emptiness inside, knowing she could never be with Rade, that tormented her nights.




Waking the next morning, Dylan felt tired and alone. Even though she was staying with her best friend, she still felt empty. It was then that she decided to hold her head high and pull herself together. Grabbing what she needed, she headed to the bathroom to take a quick shower. Having a restless night caused her to oversleep. The last thing she wanted was to be late for work.

Lilly was already gone by the time she had finished showering and getting dressed. She was thankful that there was still coffee left. Pouring herself a cup in her go-cup, Dylan headed out of the apartment. Luckily she didn’t have to wait long for a cab.

When she arrived at work everyone was busy working. Dylan’s first order of business was to ask for the afternoon off. She was thankful that she arrived a few minutes before eight o’clock, so at least she wouldn’t have to explain her tardiness. Settling into her cubicle, Dylan sent a quick email to Keeve and Mason asking for the afternoon off. She knew they would allow her the time off, since she explained to them the need to find an appropriate dress for the gala, which was tomorrow night. It was a matter of minutes before she got a reply from them stating that she deserved an afternoon off with the hard work she did on the Spectrum file.

It was close to noon when Dylan decided it was time to meet with Lilly. Shutting down her computer and locking her desk, she gathered her things and headed to the elevator. It was a matter of minutes before the elevator stopped on the lobby floor.
Border Line
was about ten minutes from where Dylan now worked. She thought about walking there, but decided against it. She would need all the energy she had to go shopping with Lilly. Hailing a cab, she waited on the curb as the yellow and black car pulled beside her. Once inside, she let the driver know where she needed to go.

Lilly was already seated at a table situated at the front of the restaurant. Dylan waved to her friend from the sidewalk as she saw her through the window.

“Hey, girlfriend,” Lilly greeted Dylan as she came to their table. “Are you ready for an afternoon of complete bliss?”

“I’m not sure what is so blissful about shopping, Lilly. I only know that my feet are going to hate me for what’s in store for them,” Dylan said as Lilly began to giggle.

“Oh, come on, Dylan, it won’t be that bad.”

Dylan gave Lilly a justly deserved smirk. “I’m trusting you. The last time we went shopping, I had sore feet for a week, and that was after you talked me into buying tennis shoes so you could continue shopping. I think the phrase “
Shop till you Drop”
was made specifically with you in mind.”

Dylan knew the only reason Lilly hurried through her lunch was so she could start their shopping expedition. The check arrived at their table before Dylan had a chance to finish her salad. She knew she should have ordered something with more carbs. She was going to need all the energy she could get. Quickly paying the check, Lilly grabbed her friend by the hand as Dylan took her last bite.
And so the adventure begins.

Dylan wasn’t sure how many shops they went to. Lilly had four bags in hand while she only had one. The only thing Dylan was able to purchase was a black clutch purse she knew would go with the dress she unfortunately hadn’t found yet. The next stop on the list was Gucci, then Versace. Nothing they came across appealed to Dylan. She was just about to give up when she spotted the most gorgeous dress she had ever seen. That is, until she saw the price tag.

“Forty-five hundred dollars. Oh my God,” Dylan screeched as she looked at the tag.

“Dylan, look up. Everything on this rack is fifty percent off. This dress is a steal with that discount. It’s perfect for you. You have to try it on,” Lilly said as she pulled the dress off the rack.

Dylan had to admit it was a steal for that price. She could pull the money from her savings to pay for the extra charge to her credit card for the dress. Taking the dress from Lilly, she decided to try it on. It was beautiful and just her size. Once inside the dressing room, Dylan removed her clothing and her bra. With the Bateau neckline and lower back, she knew she wouldn’t be able to wear a bra underneath. Even a strapless would show. With the dress positioned to cover her breasts, Dylan pulled the zipper up at her lower back until it stopped mere inches above her butt. With the zipper up, the dress molded to Dylan’s body. Everything about the dress was right. The bead and lace work ran across the neckline down to the back, leaving just enough of the skintone meshed material to show. The front of the dress also had the same bead and lace work, which was intricately placed to provide elegant coverage to the bust area. The dress itself was black with a sweep/brush train, which was lined with the same beads and lace.

Looking in the full length mirror, Dylan couldn’t believe what she saw. Just as she was ready to show Lilly, the door opened and a large gasp filled the air.

“Oh my God, Dylan, you’re gorgeous. It’s like the dress was made for you,” Lilly choked as she placed her hand over her heart to catch her breath.

“Thank you, Lilly. It fits perfectly. I think it’s well worth the expense.”

“I’m glad you think so. Because if you weren’t going to buy it, I was going to buy it for you.”

It was late afternoon by the time they arrived back at Lilly’s apartment. Dylan was tired and once again had feet that ached. She could barely make it to the couch. Lilly was right behind her as they fell clumsily on the couch together.

“I am never going shopping with you again,” Dylan voiced as she began rubbing her sore feet.

“You have to admit, it was well worth it with the dress you found. Not even shopping was as great as that dress, and you know how much I love shopping,” Lilly replied. “How about I order some pizza and you just relax.”

Dylan looked at her friend as she stretched her legs out onto the coffee table. “You got a deal. I can’t move.”














Rade was finishing his final examination of the financial records for Spectrum. Even though the meeting with BlackStone Industries wasn’t happening until next week, he wanted to make sure he got a handle on what to expect. After reviewing the numbers, he knew the company was slowly getting deeper and deeper into debt. He liked a good challenge, and once he obtained Spectrum, he knew his days would be filled with getting the company on track to be profitable. In order to do that, he would have to invest a good chunk of his own money, which he was more than willing to do, considering the profit he could make.

Feeling like he could no longer be productive, Rade decided to call it a day. With the information he had, he was nowhere closer to a game plan then he had been before the review. He needed to take a break and focus on something else.

It was going to be a big night for him. Tonight was the night that he would be honoring his little brother. Even though it had been thirteen years since the death of Isaac, thoughts of him still remained in Rade’s heart.

Every year as the foundation gala approached, the night of Isaac’s death came to life and consumed Rade’s nights. He could still see that night as if it happened yesterday. It was the night his father not only took his brother from him, but also his mother. If it hadn’t been for his father’s drunken stupidity, they might still be alive today. A heart became available for his brother that night. All they needed was the consent of his parents to proceed with the surgery. Rade’s father had been drinking heavily that night. Rade’s mother offered to drive them to the hospital, but Rade’s father was too stubborn to allow it. It was the night everything ended for Rade. It was the night his light turned to dark.

BOOK: Next to Always: Shattered Innocence Trilogy Book Two
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Ironhand's Daughter by David Gemmell
Ultimate Warriors by Jaide Fox, Joy Nash, Michelle Pillow
Exile of Lucifer by Shafer, D. Brian
Double Coverage by Mercy Celeste
Soldier Boy by Megan Slayer
Midsummer Night's Mayhem by Lauren Quick
A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
Rough and Tumble by Crystal Green
Sargasso Skies by Allan Jones