I was already thirteen weeks along in my pregnancy, and Davis was losing his mind that we hadn’t left Boston and headed back to Houston, because of the Grayson ordeal. He also wanted us to be as far as possible from his father, after their confrontation after my mother’s funeral. But as I informed him, I had obligations that needed to be taken care of at work, and that meant staying in the Boston area so I could finish my assigned tasks. So as you have most likely guessed, Tony was my new official best friend.
He and Davis would drop me off in the morning at work, then Tony came around at lunch and would take me wherever I wanted to go. Davis had been very busy lately. We were in the same mindset that we were going to be spending most of the year in Houston, so he wanted to make sure the Boston office was all set up before we left.
I think he thought I was going to be ready to leave much sooner than was actually the case. I had just been handed a very lucrative opportunity in New York with the Lillian Foundation, and honestly I was very excited to have such a project in front of me. Things were finally feeling like they were back on track. Life was finding an even pace once again, and even though I had a husband and the idea of a child coming on my mind, I’d found a feeling of normalcy.
However. One of the things Davis and I argued about was my heels. Yes, my heels, and how a pregnant woman shouldn’t be walking around Boston in them. He was actually losing his mind over me wearing my heels to work every day. I thought he was making no sense whatsoever. I’d been wearing my heels for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t some inept girl who didn’t know how to walk with a pair of stilettos on. One day I came home to find three pairs of Louboutin, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo flats, all ready for me to wear, instead of my heels. Well, if one must wear flats, the man most definitely knew what to buy for me to attempt such a change.
The new project had me flying out to New York in just a couple of days, and in the morning I had a very important meeting with my staff to make sure we had all of our heads in the same game. I’d rather not mention how Davis had a complete meltdown over that, and insisted that he and Tony were coming with me to the New York meeting.
I had really started to notice how absolutely uncomfortable my clothing was becoming. Things still fit me, but the middle was becoming a bit snug for my comfort. And when you’re in the middle of work, and all you can think about is unbuttoning your pants to loosen their hold around you, well, let’s just say I knew where I was heading after work that evening.
Poor Tony had to wait outside the store as I tried on some new clothing. Oh, who am I kidding; slacks, I had to buy some maternity slacks. And when I saw how the shirt I was wearing looked with such pants--inevitably some new shirts were purchased along with the pants, and undergarments as well. I stood in my room the morning of my meeting, slipping on the brown slacks. Taking a deep breath, I tried the new red shirt I’d bought to go with a pair of flats Davis had purchased for me. The shirt was comfortable as it hung loosely around my waist and slacks…but it just hung there, untidily. I sighed, realizing I wasn’t going to wear my hair down straight and silky, like I would’ve normally done for such a meeting, but up. It sounds crazy, but little things bothered me lately. Like hair falling in my face. I know what you’re thinking, I’m nuts, right? Well no, I’m not. When hair falls into my face, I swear I want to take scissors and cut it off that instant. It’s like I’m angry at it for not obeying me. Davis had stopped me from having all of my hair chopped off just the other day when pieces fell into my eyes.
So on this morning, with such an important strategic meeting, I had my hair in a very posh French twist, or that’s what I told myself. My makeup was done in nice caramels and browns, with red lipstick, and I wore a pair of ruby stud earrings. I slipped on my new cheetah-print Louboutin flats, and of course they were stunning. But I honestly don’t think I’d felt this frumpy in a very long time.
I stared at myself in the full-length mirror, feeling very out of sorts, and started to have a mental conversation with myself. “You can do this, Adire Mills. You’re a strong independent woman, and you can wear anything and still be the most competent person in the room.” But honestly I didn’t feel all that competent at the moment; what I felt was nauseated, and so damn emotional it was ridiculous. I was lucky to get my mind to focus at all on some mornings, especially when my face was inside the toilet bowl purging whatever food I had managed to get down. How could any woman handle such a feat as this for nine months? I was only thirteen weeks in and I was ready to throw in the damn towel!
Davis came up behind me in his tailored suit, looking as beautiful as always. His fresh smell never made me sick, but had my body turned on in an instant. And that made me just want to cry. Oh lord help me, I was a mess.
He kissed my neck, smiling at me in the mirror. “Sugar, you are so beautiful,” he chuckled in his Texas drawl.
I frowned at him. “I look like a haphazardly put-together woman, Davis. Not a top executive of one of the biggest consulting companies in the country,” I griped.
His arms swung around me and he lifted my shirt, feeling the bump under the pants that I had on, and a proud smile broke out over his face. I couldn’t help but smile back. It was a very contagious grin.
“You are the sexiest top executive I’ve ever seen!” he whispered, and kissed the side of my neck once more for good measure. “Looks like my baby’s getting bigger in that sweet belly of yours. I can’t wait till I can start feelin’ it kick inside that beautiful body.”
My hands went over his. “Damn it, Davis, I have to go to work. And you know I can’t control myself with you right now,” I told him, already wanting to forgo work and take this luscious man into bed.
He chuckled. “I like havin’ this power over you,” his voice smoldered in my ear. “Maybe I could tease you tonight?” he whispered along my neck with little kisses.
“You tease me, cowboy, and there will be a punishment. And that sounds quite delectable for me right about now, with my wayward emotions,” I told him softly, enjoying his touch.
He pulled away quickly. “All right, sugar, let’s go, because I’m not going to be able to be good with you that much longer. And if you miss your meeting because I’m takin’ you, I’m going to be in big trouble,” he laughed, taking me by the waist and heading out of our room.
I kissed my husband goodbye as he dropped me off at my office. I then had a very productive meeting with the staff, and was feeling most confident about the trip to New York when Mr. Thompson called me into his office. I stepped in, but he wasn’t his usual smiling self with me. “Hello, Adire. Please come in and take a seat.” I sat down and waited to see what this was all about.
Something in my stomach turned, and I knew it wasn’t the pregnancy that was causing it. I broke my normal protocol and started off the conversation. “Mr. Thompson, is there something the matter?” I questioned.
He sat back in his chair, staring at me like he was dumbfounded by whatever was going on. “Yes, my dear, I’m afraid there is,” he said with a deep frown on his old gentlemanly face. “I’m afraid we received some very…compromising photos of you today,” he began.
At that moment I thought whatever I had kept down this morning was going to make an immediate appearance right there on his magnificent rug. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Thompson, but, what?” I asked, incredulous. Maybe the pregnancy was now affecting my hearing as well as my mind.
He sat forward. “Adire, you have been with this company for many, many years now. I can honestly say that without you, there are some accounts that we wouldn’t have received in the first place.” He paused, thinking over what to say next. “But these photos that we received, along with some of your…friends with whom you had a relationship outside work, well my dear, we do have a policy on such things.”
I sat there for a moment, stunned into silence. “You said you received pictures of me?” I asked, my hand going to my chest.
“Yes, they were of you,” he said quite clearly. He shook his head but it didn’t seem like it was directed at me, rather at something else. “Look, Adire, times have changed and I wouldn’t have even really cared about getting some damn naked photos of you. But Knight Industries called and said that if we have people like that working on our team, what does that say for the whole company?” His arms flew off the chair in frustration. “They even had a couple of other companies that they’re affiliated with call, and tell us that they won’t have a woman like that working for them. Hell, the Lillian Foundation has asked for someone else or they’ll pull the damn plug on us!” he explained.
Hearing all he had to say, I just sat back and nodded as everything ran through my mind. “So the Lillian Foundation no longer wants me involved in their project…”
“I’m sorry, Adire, but I have to let you go.”
One would think that under the circumstances, and with this hormonal imbalance, I would’ve broken down and cried, wiped some tears away, maybe even threatened to sue. But for some reason, unknown even to myself, I remained very calm. I stood from my chair and offered Mr. Thompson my hand. “I’m sorry that this happened. I’ll go get my things,” was all I could manage to say. There was absolutely no way I was going to throw a fit or make a scene. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Walking into my office, I looked around and saw nothing that was personally mine. That’s how I ran my life for many years. Only within the last six months had that changed, and only because of one beautiful pushy man. I took the recent photo that I had placed on my desk, of Davis and myself at his ranch, and walked out of the office and right into the elevator. I was going to walk from that place with my head held high and my shoulders back, even if I had to fake it.
Normally when I left the office lately, Tony was waiting for me. But since this was a time of day I was normally very busy, he must have gone out to do some errand for himself. My big debate was whether I should call Davis now, or just tell him when he got home tonight. Honestly, neither sounded good. I knew Davis was going to have an absolute meltdown. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, since I felt much too calm for any rational person to be, in my place. I pulled out my phone and dialed Tony’s number.
“Hey, Adire. You okay there?” he asked.
I was in front of the building, sitting on a planter box. “I’m fine, Tony. I just need you to come give me a lift home if you’re close by. If not, I’ll take a cab,” I told him.
“It’s awful early for you to be getting out of there, sweetheart.” I heard the concern in his voice. And over the last couple of weeks he’d been a really good friend, so… “Yes, it is very early, but I was just let go from my job. So now I’m sitting in front of the building with a framed photo in my hand, and not quite sure what I should do,” I stated numbly. The first tears welled in my eyes, and I knew the inevitable dam was about to break. He swore under his breath. “I’m about fifteen minutes out. Go back inside the building until I get there.”
“No, don’t worry about it, I’ll just get a ca…”
“Adire, I want you to go back into the building, then call Davis,” he said again, this time more vehemently.
I pushed myself up and stood over with the crowd of people who were going to make their way across the street. “I’ll call Davis. But I’m going to be over at the coffee shop. Okay?” I told him, crossing the street with the masses.
“No, sweetheart, that’s not okay,” he told me, and I could hear him getting angry at me.
“Look, scold me when you get here. I just expelled what very little I had in my body, and now I’m starving, Tony,” I whined. Oh, good lord. I was whining.
Again swearing could be heard from the other end of the phone. “I want you to call Davis. I’ll pick you up at the coffee shop, but you call him. Okay?” he demanded, like he was addressing a child.
“Fine, I’ll call him right now, Tony.”
“Good girl,” he said, and hung up.
What the hell? “Good girl”--have I gone sub and wasn’t informed? I took a breath before I dialed my husband’s number. I could feel the anxiety building in my body as I made my call to him. Clenching my left fist so it would cease its shaking, I shuddered as I waited for him to pick up.
Normally my call was picked up instantly, but it had already rung five times now. I was just about ready to hang up and call him back after I purchased my food, when he answered.“Hello, Abie?” he asked, clearly irritated. How Tony could talk to him that quickly was a mystery to me. Hearing his voice, the tears that I’d held back finally started to cascade down my face, falling in warm large droplets. This was one of my many reasons for not calling Davis instantly after the news I’d received. When I hear that man’s voice I can’t help telling him everything, and my emotions are always very real. “Hello, Davis,” I sobbed softly.
“Sugar, what the hell happened?”
I stopped the tears, gathering my breath before I spoke. “Tyler sent the photos of me to Mr. Thompson. He also managed to have other companies follow him in the complete eradication of my career.”
He was walking, I heard that much, and swearing under his breath. “I’m so sorry, sugar. I’ll deal with that little shit!” he vowed.
I chuckled at that, wiping a couple more tears as they fell. “Davis, there really is no point in doing anything. My career is decimated; it’ll take me a very long time to recover from such allegations by those important conglomerations. He won, that’s all there is to it,” I told him, walking into my shop to get something to eat.
“Abie…honey,” he began.
“No, I’m fine. I’m getting something to eat, then I’ll be home. Just finish up your work, and take your time. I’m no longer going to New York for my meeting, so you don’t need to rush, darling.”
I was up next at the counter, so I placed my hand over the phone to order, then got back on the line with him. “Adire, where the hell are you at?” he asked, getting angry with me like Tony.
I waited for my food along with the rest of the crowd. “I’m at the coffee shop, getting something to eat, Davis. Your wife and child are starving.”
“Where’s Tony?” he asked, his concern evident.
“He’s on his way. Please, you need to relax,” I huffed. This was getting ridiculous. Between him and Tony I swear I couldn’t breathe.I picked up my food and headed outside to eat in the sun, since we finally managed to receive some today. “This is very tiresome. Nothing is going to happen to me, Davis,” I argued.
“You don’t know that, Abie! They haven’t found that man yet,” he yelled. I heard a ding and him starting to walk again.
“Are you going somewhere?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah, I’m coming to get you,” he grumbled.
“That’s silly. Tony should be here any moment.”
“Where are you?” he growled at me.
I shook my head and was about to take a bite of my bagel. “I’m out front waiting for Tony…and now I suppose you, as well,” I said sarcastically.
“Abie, I’m getting into a cab. Go back inside…” But I couldn’t pay attention to what he was saying, because Grayson was standing right in front of me.
“Grayson,” I whispered into the phone.
The next thing I knew an arm pushed him away from me, and a hand went around my mouth with a cloth as it pulled me backwards. My food fell from my hand along with my cell, as I struggled futilely with my assailant. Before I could even see who it could possibly be, my world went dark.
All Davis heard was a muffled voice before the phone hit the ground. “Abie, Abie!” he shouted into the cell, but no one answered. “I need you to step on it. There’s an extra hundred in it for you if you do!” he told the cab driver. He’d heard her say Grayson. But was he close? Shit! Did the psycho do something to her? His stomach turned at the thought of her being hurt, and he could barely contain himself in his seat as the anxiety overtook him.
There was a crowd in front of the coffee shop, and his heart raced, thinking she was there hurt on the ground. He ran from the cab, pushing his way through the people to get to where he saw the black police hats gathered around the front door. When he saw the top of Tony’s head, just for an instant he thought everything was okay, and she must be sitting down after such a scare. But the closer he got, he saw that was the furthest thing from the truth.
They had a gray-haired man there in handcuffs, and several people pulled aside that the police were talking to. Davis pushed through more people, only to be stopped by the cops. “Where’s my wife?” he hollered to them. Tony turned at the sound of his voice and rushed over. “He’s good. He’s her husband,” he told the men.
Davis looked all around but Adire wasn’t there. “Where the hell is she?” he asked, panicked.
Tony didn’t say anything. “Answer the fuckin’ question, where the hell is she!” he yelled, making the people around him stop their turmoil to look in his direction for a moment. His hands went to his hair as he searched every face within his sight, not finding the one he sought.
Tony clasped his hand on his shoulder to draw his attention. “Davis, I need you to calm down so we can find her, okay?” he said calmly to him.
That made his head swing quickly to his friend and bodyguard. “What do you mean by ‘find her,’ Tony?”
Tony brought him over to a planter box to sit. “Someone took her. We’re trying to gather information to see just who that was,” he told him. “But first you’re going to need to answer some questions so they have a better idea of where to start.” He sat next to Davis and brought out a small pad of paper. “First, tell me why Adire was fired?” he asked quietly.
“She said that Knight was the one who sent some photos of her to the company, then had her blackballed.”
Tony wrote that down. “Anyone else you could think of? I need to know so I can get this shit done.”
Davis thought. “That bastard Grayson, Knight, and maybe…my dad.” Shit, his father wouldn’t do such a thing, would he?
“It’s not Grayson. He’s the one they have in cuffs right now, and he’s the reason for the crowd. He was screaming like a crazed madman that ‘he took her’ when she was snatched. I guess people were all around, but no one was paying attention up until he started screaming about it. But it was too late…he’d already gotten her into the van,” Tony informed him.
Davis leaned forward, his head going into his hands and shaking back and forth in disbelief. “This can’t be fucking happening. Can’t be happening,” he murmured, staring at the ground. “It’s someone who’s working with Grayson, or that little shit Knight. Those are the only two people who could’ve done these things…”
“What about your dad?” Tony asked.
He shook his head. “It can’t be. Damn it, it just can’t be, Tony.”
Tony wrote it all down, then turned to him. “Don’t worry, I’ll figure this out. I’m heading over to her office just to see where the hell those pictures came from. If it is that little shit Knight, then I should be able to track the photos back to him. That should lead us to where he might be now.” He got up and headed across the street.
Davis just sat there, not knowing what to do, where to go, how the hell to deal with this. Then a detective came up to him. “Mr. Mills. Detective Conner.”
He looked up numbly, not saying a word. “We’ve been informed by the police in Amsterdam that the man getting into the police car might have had some kind of vendetta on your wife. Can you tell me if that’s true, and if so, why.”
He didn’t say anything, he was just trying to hold himself together. “Please, Mr. Mills. I know this is tough, but the more you can help us out, the quicker we can find your wife,” the detective told him.
Davis nodded. “He didn’t have a vendetta from what I was told. It was more like an obsession with her.”
“Have any ideas why?”
He sat up as his fingers clasped into the hair behind his head and his elbows came together in front of his face. “They were once together from what my wife told me.” Then his arms dropped as he turned his head to stare at him. “That’s all I know on that.”
The man looked him over, deciding whether he should pursue the matter further, but seemed to decide against it. “Okay, sir. Why don’t you head home? We’re sending over a couple guys just in case you receive a ransom call,” he said.
When he finally made it home to the brownstone, little Choo’s whines could be heard through the house. He quickly made his way to the puppy and opened up the crate door. The puppy bounded up at him, and he picked the furry little critter up in his arms. Choo lickedwarm kisses over his neck, and whimpered from the length of their absence. “I know, little man, I know. I’m sorry,” Davis whispered.
He held Choo to him, clinging to the young thing that he and Abie had adopted to get ready for the family they were going to have together. His body hummed with all the nerves and anxiety, and the first tear rolled down his face. He took gasping breaths to stop them, but it didn’t quite help. Not knowing where Adire was, if she was all right…he was going mad! The cops were in the front room setting up, in case there was a ransom call. He would never let her go anywhere unguarded again…never!
He went to the kitchen, put Choo over by his bowl, and grabbed the leash to take him outside for his nightly bathroom walk. He was trying to think of almost anything, other than what was happening at this moment. But thoughts of Adire being hurt, of someone hurting her, their baby--he couldn’t hold it in any more. He fell back into a chair, and with his hands dug deep into his eyes, he started to cry.
A couple of hours later he sat in the front room with Yancy, who had come over as soon as he heard what had happened. He was taking all the calls from his family, her family, and anyone else who wanted to talk with him at the moment. Davis just couldn’t talk to anyone. The police had been waiting around, thinking a call would soon come with a demand of a cash payment for her release. But that just hadn’t happened yet. There was a knock on the door, and Yancy went to answer it. There was a bit of a ruckus, so Davis jumped up to see what in the hell was going on. There in the doorway, arguing with Yancy and an officer, was Abie’s father. He quickly made his way over. “No, he’s fine, he can come in,” he told them.
Yancy looked over at Davis, moving out of Jason’s way, and he came quickly to Davis. “Have you heard anything? It’s all over the news, I came ovah the first I heard of it,” he said anxiously. It was apparent to anyone around that he’d been crying.
“Not yet. But I have my good friend working on it right now. Tony can find anyone. He’s better than a bloodhound,” Davis offered.
Jason nodded as they sat down. “That’s good,” he mumbled. Yancy came in, glanced at Davis and then at the unknown man who’d shown up distraught.
“Yancy, this is Jason, Abie’s father. Jason, my best friend Yancy,” he introduced them.
Yancy came up and shook his hand. “Sorry to meet you in such bad circumstances,” he said. Jason just gave him a nod in answer.
“So do they have any clue to who this might be?” he asked Davis.
“No. They have in custody the man I assumed was the one that was coming after her. But now… I just don’t know.”
Tony came storming into the room, stopping over by one of the head detectives who was talking with a group of cops out of Davis’s earshot. He was saying something quietly, looking really pissed over something. As soon as he made his way to Davis, the policemen went off in other directions.
Tony pulled the ottoman in front of the three of them so he could tell Davis what he’d found out. “First: Tyler isn’t the one who sent the photos to her job,” he said.
That got him sitting up straight. “What the hell do you mean by that? I thought for sure that little shit was the one behind Abie getting fired!” he yelled.
Tony stuck his hand out to calm him down. “No, the photos were sent everywhere, Davis. Knight, Lillian, Lovelock, everyone she’d worked for in the last seven years. Even to your company. You just haven’t gotten to them because she called you, and then Yancy found out what was happening. But believe me…they’re in your emails.”
“Holy shit.” Davis put his hands through his hair in shock.
Tony sat forward. “But someone sent along a kind of letter, encouraged them to blackball your wife, so to speak.”
Jason looked over at both men. “What photos are they talking about?”
Davis just turned his head to stare at him, not knowing what to say, and Yancy turned his head away from him for the exact same reason. Tony was the one who addressed him. “It seems someone was trying to blackmail Adire with some very bad photos they had of her.”
Jason looked at him stunned, then shook his head. “And they did this today…sent out these pictures of her?”
“Yeah,” was all Tony said. “This is the part I’m having a hard time understanding, though. The photos came from Jenna’s cell phone, Davis. How in the hell did she get her hands on those pictures with her cell? I thought you said you destroyed everything that was given to you,” he exclaimed.
Davis sat back, thinking about how Jenna would’ve gotten such a thing. Tony was right, he’d destroyed all those damn photos. She was in their room the night of the barbecue; could she have sent other photos?But they had no photos of each other playing around…
“Shit! The damn photos could’ve been on Abie’s phone still.” He looked at Tony but his mind was reeling.“The night Jenna came into our room and made a pass at me…that night I remember specifically, Abie saying that her phone had been moved. I just assumed it was Momma.”
Tony sat there and was about to say something, when his cell rang. “Yeah. Okay…yeah. When? No…no, I’m on my way. In ten…yeah,” he said before hanging up. He looked over at Davis with a frown.
“Jenna’s in Boston, Davis. We think she might’ve had someone kidnap Adire. They’re not thinking ransom anymore,” Tony explained.
Davis didn’t utter a word, too in shock to say a damn thing. Tony received a text and looked down at it, then back up at Davis. “Look, they have her at the station right now. I’m going to head over and see if we can find Adire, okay?” he told him as he stood and got ready to leave.
Davis stood as well. “I’m comin’, Tony, there’s no way in hell I’m sittin’ around waitin’ for a fuckin’ call!” he fumed.
It looked as if he was going to argue, but he stopped. “Okay, Davis, but please just listen when I say something to you. It could be a life or death situation, and it might not be just your life on the line,” he cautioned him.
Davis put on his jacket and was heading out when he heard his name. Jason came over to him. “Good luck, son. And please bring my kitten back home safely,” he told him, holding back tears.
“I will. I promise,” he declared fervently to his father-in-law, placing his hand on his shoulder.
When he and Tony left the house they were startled to see camera crews surrounding the brownstone. They pushed their way through reporters shouting questions at them, shoving microphones in his face. All he wanted to do was get to Tony’s damn truck. Once he was buckled in, Tony started the truck and pulled out onto the road. Reporters were getting into their vans and starting after them. “Are you ready for this, Davis?” Tony asked hesitantly.
“No. But I won’t wait around, neither. I’ve got to find her, Tony… I’ve just got to,” he told him desperately.