Authors: Kylie Walker
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Copyright © 2014 By: Kylie Walker
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Kylie Walker holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
hloe...?” Derek reached out to put his hand on her shoulder. Chloe pulled away from him again but this time through gritted teeth and she spat out, “Don’t touch me!”
Derek held up his hands, palms up and said, “Okay, I’m not touching...but you need to tell me what the hell is going on. What happened in there?”
She put a hand over her mouth because she still felt like she wanted to vomit and the other one was still firmly gripping the tree. Her eyes were wide open, but she wasn’t really seeing anything, it was like darkness had descended upon her and taken away most of her senses. She was left with fear and anxiety and sadness...practically paralyzed by it. Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes, but she’d held them back for so long, it was like they instinctively knew not to fall. They just gathered there and caused her eyes to burn and her contacts to swim in their depths. Her breathing was ragged and uneven and she was beginning to feel lightheaded from the lack of oxygen getting to her brain. She knew that Derek was talking to her, but she wasn’t really processing what he was saying. There was too much stimulation going on in her head.
“Chloe...do you want me to take you home?” Derek had lowered and softened his voice. He was talking to her as he might a mental patient that was standing on a ledge.
She lowered her hand a little. Her arms were beginning to feel numb now, as were her legs. All of her blood was racing to her head. She was in a shock-like state and everything around her was a little foggy...out of focus. It took everything in her but she finally managed to breathe out a “Yes.”
“Okay, let’s get our things...”
She shook her head from side to side. Her eyes were wide with fear and the pulse in her neck was throbbing.
Derek looked frightened as he said, “Okay, that’s fine, I’ll go get them. The car we were going to use for the weekend is here. Did you still want to stay in New York tonight?”
“No! No, I need to go home. Just take me to the train station. You can come back to the party. I’ll be fine...I’m fine...” she was concentrating hard on calming herself down.
She couldn’t lose her head. She had to stay focused and alert. Vince Donovan was here...and Derek knew him. He didn’t just know him, he was friendly with him. What if he knew Jesse too?
“I’d rather take the train,” she said. Her body was calming down, but there was still the trace of a little tremor in her voice.
“Chloe, you’re not fine, not even close. I’m not sending you home alone. Let me put you in the car and I’ll get your things. I’ll drive you back to Rhode Island tonight...but I’m not leaving you alone.”
She wanted to argue with him. She didn’t want to be alone in a car with him all the way to Rhode Island. She wanted even less to be here where the man who had spawned the monster who wanted her dead was. She finally nodded. Her breaths were coming too fast again and she couldn’t seem to get a handle on them. She was scared to death that she was going to pass out. She needed to sit down.
Derek put his arm out to her and against her better judgment, she took it. They were far out in the country and she didn’t know anyone here but him. She was more or less at his mercy. He led her over towards the valets and he left her standing near the podium they used while he went to talk to one of them.
When he came back he said, “I’m going to go get our things and I’ll be right back.” She nodded and with what looked like real concern in his pretty blue eyes he said, “Are you okay?”
She nodded again. It was a lie.
Chloe watched him go and a few minutes later one of the valets said, “Excuse me, Miss? This is Mr. Stark’s car.” She looked at it. It was a shiny black SUV. She thought maybe that’s what he was driving the day he showed up at the park...right after she first met him. She wasn’t sure though and her paranoid mind started telling her that it might be a trick.
“Can I help you in, Miss?”
“No. I’ll wait for Mr. Stark,” she said.
What if she got in and they locked the doors and took her prisoner to give her to Jesse? She knew her thoughts were out of control. She was being paranoid...but with good reason, she thought. She felt like everyone was looking at her suddenly, even the valets. If she didn’t get out of here soon, she was going to have a complete breakdown. She looked back at the valet who offered to help her into the car. He was having a conversation with another man and he had his back to her. She made a split second decision and walked quickly over to the driver’s side of the SUV. She was obscured from the valet’s vision over here. She quietly pulled open the door and was just about to slip in when she heard Derek’s voice behind her, “You were going to ditch me and steal my car?”
She jumped and turned to look at him. She thought about lying, but decided it would take too much effort and she really didn’t care what he thought at this point. She just lifted her chin and looked at him defiantly. He looked like he wasn’t sure if he should frown or smile. His brow was furrowed but there was a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Come on, I’ll help you in the other side,” he said.
“I can do it myself, thanks.”
She turned and walked around the back of the SUV. Derek left her alone and by the time she climbed up into the other side, he was behind the wheel. He sat her wrap and her purse between them and put the car in gear. As they drove away from the house, Chloe could have sworn that she saw Vince watching them from the door of the tent. Her stomach lurched again and she hoped that she could make it all the way back to Rhode Island without getting sick.
“Chloe, are you sure you’re up for a three hour drive? You look a little pale.”
“I’m fine,” she told him again.
Derek pulled the SUV onto the Interstate and once they merged into the steady traffic he said, “You can keep saying that, but I don’t believe you. Something happened back there at the party and I don’t understand why you won’t tell me. I thought we were okay...you were beginning to trust me...”
Chloe snorted, “Yes, a huge mistake on my part!” She said.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? What did I do?”
“Nothing. Never mind.”
“Never mind? You’re acting like you saw a ghost and somehow I’m getting blamed for it. You at least owe me an explanation, don’t you think?”
“I don’t owe you anything,” she said.
She was feeling angry and mean and Derek was the only one around. She knew he didn’t deserve her wrath...or at least she still wanted to believe that he didn’t, but she didn’t have anyone else to direct it at.
“Fine, you don’t “owe” me anything. But can you at least understand why I would be concerned about you and wondering what I may have done to prompt this sudden hostility?”
“How do you know Vince Donovan?”
“What? Vince? That’s what this is about?”
“How do you know him?”
“He’s a friend of my fathers,” he said.
“New friend? Old friend?”
“He’s an old friend. He and my father have been friends for as long as I can remember. Why? Do you know him?”
Chloe’s mind was on sensory overload. Every thought in her head was tangled with another like the limbs of trees in the forest. After all the years of preparation for this moment...she still wasn’t ready for the reality. Jesse was going to walk out of prison and immediately know where to find her. By getting involved with Derek, she had allowed every safety precaution she put into place to unravel.
“Do you know Vince Donovan?”
“No. You said he’s good friends with your father. How well do you know him and his...family?”
With a heavy sigh Derek said, “Like I said, he’s been around for as long as I can remember. He has a kid...Jesse.” The sound of his name on Derek’s lips caused Chloe to feel as if someone had just kicked her full-on in the gut.
“He and I hung out some when we were growing up...not a lot. Only when our father’s brought us together for dinners or vacations...”
Every warning bell was going off in her head. Derek knew Jesse! He “hung-out” with him. He had to know about her. If he knew the family that well, how could he not?
Cautiously, she said, “When did you last see his son?”
Derek looked like he was thinking about it. He was silent for a long time and then finally he said, “I guess it was my sophomore year in college. I went home for a weekend and Jesse and his father were over for dinner one of those nights. He was still in high school. He was kind of an arrogant little punk by then. Mostly I remember him getting on my nerves. I guess I thought I was “too mature” then to be hanging out with a high school kid, so it may have been as much me as it was him. Anyways, his father was at my graduation, but Jesse didn’t come with him and I may have seen him once or twice since then at fundraisers or parties or whatever...but that was the last time I recall having conversation with him.”
“Where is he now?” she asked. If Derek knew them so well, how would he not know Jesse was in prison?
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in years. Chloe what is this about? Why are you so interested in Vince and Jesse?”
She didn’t answer him. She wasn’t even looking at him now. She thought he was lying...no, she knew that he had to be. Jesse’s arrest and conviction was huge because of who his father was...how could Derek not know about it?
“Damn it, Chloe! I answered your questions. I think it’s only fair that you answer one or two of mine. What is your interest in the Donovan’s?”
“I have no interest in them,” she said, flatly. She was doing her best to control her breathing. She was alone with a man who knew Jesse. She was so angry that she had put herself in this situation. She trusted Derek. She had let herself have feelings for this man and she had started to believe that she might even be able to have some kind of future with him. She almost believed that a “normal” life was within her grasp...and now this. Her thoughts were running rampant through her head and she didn’t realize that Derek had gotten off the highway until she felt him stop suddenly.
She looked around and realized they were along the side of a country road. “What the hell are you doing?” she said, suddenly very afraid.
“You need to tell me what’s going on,” he said.
“Or what?” she said, taking his words as a threat. She had her hand on the door handle and she was reaching for her seatbelt buckle. Derek reached for her hand and she batted his away. “Don’t!”
He looked like he was afraid she’d had a mental breakdown or something. “Chloe please stop this. I’m not going to hurt you...is that what you think? You think after all the time that we’ve spent together that I would ever hurt you? Have I ever been anything less than gentle with you?”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” she said. “People don’t always show their true colors right away. Sometimes they wait until they have you good and fooled before they throw the first punch.”
She let her finger fall on the catch for her seatbelt and opened the car door simultaneously. She jumped out, almost falling on her dress. She kicked off her heels and gathered her dress up in her hands and started to run. She heard Derek curse and then the sound of his car door as he got out. She wasn’t stupid. She was sure there was no way in her bare feet and snug dress that she would be able to outrun him...but she wasn’t going to make it easy for him.
“Jesus Chloe! Stop! What the hell is wrong with you?”
Chloe ran along the fence line towards the lights she saw coming from the house. They were in front of a horse ranch. She could see the dark outlines of the horses in the pasture. She suddenly wished it was the old west and she could just run and jump on one of them and ride away. She was probably less than a hundred yards from the house when she felt Derek’s hand on her arm. She stopped running and turned towards him...ready to fight.
erek stopped and looked at her in her fighting stance. His mind was blown. What the hell had happened between that dance they’d shared and the kiss...and now? This was insane. Was she mentally unstable? He wanted to believe that she wasn’t, but looking at her now in the middle of nowhere in her pretty dress and her bare feet with her fists up like they were going to box...begged to differ. If he wasn’t so worried about her, it might even be comical.