Melanie laid across the leather clad table, her nerves anxiously twisting inside her stomach as she watched two women set up their equipment. Stephanie was on a table beside her, chatting away about the surprise honeymoon Cory’s parents were giving them.
The girls had sat through a pedicure, a manicure, and even had their hair styled. Now, they lay awaiting the waxing, their faces hidden beneath a thick layer of green goo.
Soft music echoed from the speakers in the walls, doing very little to help her relax. The idea of having hot wax placed on her most private places, was not just embarrassing, but frightening. She hated waxing her eyebrows, she couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have…that…waxed.
“Let’s grab some lunch when we’re finished,” Stephanie said as the women moved the cloth drapes up their bodies. “I’m starving.”
“I have to go to the jewelers first,” she said in a quiet voice, gripping the handles to the table.
“Really? What for?” Stephanie asked excitedly as she leaned up on her elbows.
“Your present,” Melanie told her absently as the woman began trimming her pubic hair.
“Oh,” her sister said, laying back down. “I was hoping it was for something else.”
“Like what?” Melanie asked, then gasped when the woman next to her washed her off with a witch hazel solution.
“I was hoping it would be an engagement ring. When are you guys going to get married?”
“Not for a while,” Melanie said, closing her eyes tightly.
“Has he asked you yet?”
Melanie gasped again, feeling the hot wax as it was smoothed across her recently trimmed hairs.
“Yes,” she answered, then screeched when the woman pulled the sticky wax off in a single, brisk movement.
“He did?” Stephanie screeched, sitting up again.
“Did what?” Melanie panted as the woman covered the next section with the hot wax.
“Jordan asked you to marry him.”
“What?” she asked with wide eyes, then yelped loudly when the wax was again ripped off. “Nobody is supposed to know yet.”
“Why not? I think it’s wonderful.”
“We are keeping it a secret until after the wedding.”
“Why? I can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad.”
“No!” Melanie said in a loud shriek as the last of the hairs were ripped out of her body.
Melanie relaxed against the table, panting violently as the woman beside her began wiping her down, before applying a thin layer of cream to prevent her from developing a rash.
“Steph, you have to promise to keep quiet,” Melanie told her sister, once the women left the room. “Jordan hasn’t asked Daddy, and we want it to remain a secret. Please, don’t tell anyone.”
“But this is exciting news. I don’t know why you haven’t shouted it from the rooftop.”
“Stephanie, I’m warning you. Keep your mouth shut, or I’ll clobber you.”
“Fine,” Stephanie said with a pout to her voice. “But you better not get married before we’re back from our honeymoon.”
“We haven’t made any definite plans, so shut up about it. We’ll make the announcement when we’re ready.”
“Alright. Geez. I don’t know what the problem is. Just tell him to talk to Daddy already. It’s not like he’ll say no. Everyone loves Jordan, and they’ll be thrilled when you tell them.”
“What are you going to do now?” Melanie asked her sister, once the green clay was washed off and they were back in their clothes.
“I need my eyelashes redone.”
“That will give me time to go to the jewelers. I’ll meet you back here in half an hour.”
“Will you let me open the present?” Stephanie asked excitedly.
“No, it’s for you and Cory. You should both open it.”
Melanie smiled at the sulky expression her sister gave her, then paid for her share of the pampering with Jordan’s card.
“I’ll be back,” she called to Stephanie, then left the salon and headed to her car.
The day was warm, and she was tempted to take the roof off the car, but she didn’t have far to go, and she doubted Jordan would want her to leave it opened. Even as safe as Vernal was, there was always that one person who would want to see how far they could push the limits of the law.
Melanie parked in front of the jewelers, then locked the car and hurried inside. She found her uncle behind the counter and smiled, offering him a hug when he came around to greet her.
“I’m here to pick up my order,” she told him, referring to the item she’d ordered months ago, when she was first told her sister was engaged.
“I finished it last night,” Paul told her. “I think you’ll really like it.”
Melanie watched as the bald-headed man went behind a drape and disappeared, allowing her time to look through the display cases in silence. The idea of having an engagement ring seemed exciting, and she wondered if Jordan would get her one. Donald didn’t think it was worth wasting his money on a diamond, when a simple band would tell people she was married.
The buzz of the security bell on the door made Melanie jump. She turned to see the one person she’d hoped had left Utah standing behind her. She didn’t say a word as she turned back to the items in the glass cases. She knew it was too much to hope that he would disappear in thin air, but just because he was in the shop with her, didn’t mean she had to speak to him.
“I saw you from the window,” Donald said, stepping up behind her and placing a warm hand on her shoulder. “I need to speak with you, Melanie.”
“The last I knew, speaking didn’t consist of touching,” she snapped, moving away from him as his hand slid down to her waist.
“There was a time when you liked me touching you.”
“That was before I found out how many other women you liked touching.”
“Here you go,” Paul said, stepping out of the back room, a silver frame in his hands.
He glanced up and saw Donald, then frowned. He doubted there was a single person in the family who didn’t have a bad opinion about the man.
“Donald, I didn’t know you were in town,” Paul said, setting the frame on the counter for Melanie to look at.
“Next time I’ll take an add out in the paper,” Donald said in his usual snide voice.
“Uncle Paul, this is perfect,” Melanie told him, hoping to prevent an argument between the two men.
She picked up the silver frame, inspecting the engraving on the rhinestone covered front. A small plaque held her sister and Cory’s names, along with their wedding date.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked.
“You don’t owe me anything,” Paul told her, turning his attention off Donald, who paced his way around the room. “Consider it my contribution to the event.”
“Thank you. That’s very nice. I think she’ll love it.”
“I know she will. Stephanie has always been about the bling.”
“Tell me about it,” Melanie smiled. “You should see her nails. They’re covered in sparkles.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Paul laughed. “Do you want me to gift wrap this for you? I can put a card on it and bring it by the church this evening.”
“That would be great. I have to go pick up Stephanie from the salon, and I’m afraid she’ll try to open it before the wedding.”
Melanie exchanged a hug with her uncle, then walked to the door. She’d forgotten all about Donald until he stepped out to the sidewalk behind her. He stopped her from getting into the baby blue convertible with a firm hand on her elbow.
“Melanie, we need to talk,” he said again.
“Donald, there is nothing I want to hear, and you definitely don’t want to hear what I have to say to you.”
“Please? Come for coffee with me.”
“I have to pick up my sister. She’s getting married tomorrow, remember? I can’t waste any time on you.”
“One coffee, and then you can go. I promise. We’ll go to Rodolfo’s down the street and get an Italian ice. I know how much you like those.”
“If I agree, will you promise to get out of my life and leave me alone?”
“Fine, I’ll meet you there. I have to check on Stephanie first.”
“Five minutes,” he said, then leaned in to kiss her cheek.
“I’ll be there when I get there,” she told him.
Melanie dodged out of his way, causing him to frown. She walked around to the driver’s side of the car and unlocked it, then sat down behind the wheel and started the engine. She watched him walk to the BMW and get in, then speed away toward the restaurant. He honked at the couple in the crosswalk as he passed, forcing them to jump out of his way before being hit.
Shaking her head, she pulled the car out onto the road and drove back to the salon. She didn’t know why she agreed to meet with him, and she knew Jordan would be furious if he knew, but it was the only way she knew of to get him off her back.
Stephanie was still laying back in the chair, assuring Melanie it would be another half an hour before she was ready to go. With the promise to be right back, she left the salon again. She wanted to get this meeting with Donald over with, so she could get back to her own life.
“Just tell me what you want, so I can get out of here,” Melanie said once she’d ordered a raspberry Italian ice. “And don’t tell me you want me. I don’t believe you.”
“But I do want you, Darling,” he cooed, like a lovesick dove. “Nothing has been the same without you. I should never have left you Mellie, I know that now. I made some really terrible mistakes in my life and I know I hurt you, but I’m willing to make up for everything.”
“Why is it I don’t believe you?” she asked sarcastically.
“I suppose I deserve that. I know I was harsh on you when I left, but I’m a changed man. I want to try again.”
Melanie stared at his neatly pressed, tailor-made suit, his freshly starched white shirt, and silk tie. The aroma of an expensive after shave lotion lingered in the air, and she found herself forcing the nausea back. He claimed he’d changed, yet there was nothing about him that seemed to echo his sentiment.
“What do you really want, Donald,” she asked, moving her hand as the waitress returned with their drinks and the mozzarella sticks Donald ordered. “Is it money? Because I don’t have any. Selling everything we had was enough to pay off the bills. The house was sold as a short sale, and the car was repossessed. It’s taken me three years to pull myself out of the financial pit you left me in. I survive on the simple salary of a school teacher. There’s barely enough leftover to pay my car insurance.”
She reached for her glass when Donald’s hand took hers, holding it in a tight grip.
“I’m so sorry I did that to you,” he told her, kissing her finger tips softly. “I love you Mellie. Come away with me. I have money. Loads of it. We’ll run off to Rio, or the Virgin Islands. We’ll have the honeymoon we never really had. We can start over, just the two of us. I want to be with you and I know you feel the same way.”
Melanie jerked her hand free from his, wiping her hand on her jeans. His touch made her stomach jerk and she was certain she’d be sick if she didn’t get something to eat. She took a cheese stick from the plate and dipped it into the red sauce, then bit the end off it. She needed to control her anxieties before she was tempted to slap him across the face.
“What about the blonde you left me for? What happened to her?”
“I wasn’t happy with her. She wasn’t you.”
“And how many other women have there been between her and now? Two, five, a dozen? Why would I ever want to believe that you’ve changed?”
“What do I have to do to prove myself to you? Please, Darling, I love you. Isn’t that enough?” he asked, his voice soft and pleading, though his eyes were dark and menacing.
“Do you remember the night you left?” she asked him, watching the frown cross his brow.
It was obvious he wasn’t used to thinking backwards, and she knew he hated his past, but she had to know just how much of his plea was real.
“Of course, I remember,” he said with a heavy sigh. “It was the night my heart died.”
“What day was it, Donald?”
He stopped in mid-movement, as he reached for her hand again. He stared at her as if expecting to find the answer in her eyes. He couldn’t remember the day, only the feeling that he was free and moving forward with his life. A life, that was much happier than anything he’d ever experienced in this poor little town.
“Darling, why bring that up now?” he asked, watching her take a drink from her glass before reaching for another cheese stick.
“Because I don’t believe that you’ve changed, or that you want to start over. If you can’t remember what day it was, then it proves you have no regrets of the past.”
“Melanie, I know what day it was. I’ve regretted it every year since I left.”
“Then humor me and tell me what the day was.”
“It was our anniversary,” he said, praying he was right.
The truth was, he had no idea what time of year it was, much less what day. He had spent weeks in the arms of his lover and was happy when she told him she wanted him to go to New York with her. In all honesty, he didn’t regret the day he left Melanie, only the day his father-in-law caught on to his habits.
Donald watched her take two more cheese sticks, then drank nearly half the glass of her drink in one swallow. He was certain he’d trapped her in her own game and was smiling when she glanced up to him.
“I have to go now,” Melanie said, taking the last cheese stick and standing up.
“Tell me you’ll go away with me,” he pleaded, trying to take her hand, but missed it when she pulled away from him. “Mellie, please, tell me you want me as badly as I want you. I need you.”
“I wouldn’t want you, if you were the last male on earth,” she told him firmly, ignoring the faces that turned to stare at them. “You left me for that skanky blonde, and never looked back. For a long time, I thought I would die. I blamed myself for your leaving, but then I moved on with my life. I realize now, more than ever, that you are a slimy worm who is incapable of love. And for the record, you left me on Christmas eve, after I told you I was pregnant. You drove away and never looked back, which is exactly what I am going to do to you.”
Melanie turned and walked steadily out the door, leaving the man to stare at her departing backside. The anger inside him began to grow and he slammed his fist on the table. He looked around at the eyes that watched him, then tossed a fifty-dollar bill to the table and stood up.
He stepped out the front door in time to see the blue sportscar drive out of the parking lot. He needed Melanie more than she knew, and he would have control of her again. All he had to do was wait for the right time and hope the F.B.I. wasn’t around when he got his hands on her.
Stephanie was still talking about how excited she was to be getting married the next day, as they pulled into the dirt drive that led to their parents’ farm. She had been talking nonstop since they left the restaurant. Melanie took her to JC Penny and helped her find a very pretty, very sexy negligee for her wedding night, then stopped at the café for lunch.
There was a strange, almost liberating feeling embracing her as they drove back home. She had finally had the upper hand with Donald Prescott, and she had a restaurant filled with people to witness her victory.
She pulled the car to a halt and saw Jordan and his friend Craig sitting at the picnic table with Curtis and Tommy. She was anxious to tell him about her meeting, but felt it was more of a personal discussion, and not one to celebrate with her family.
Stephanie pulled her bag out of the back seat and waved to the four men at the table as she hurried inside. Melanie took a small bag out of the car and put the top up, then locked the doors and walked to where Jordan stood up to greet her. He gave her a warm hug and kiss, then looked into the bag.
“What’s this?” he asked, but before he had the chance to pull the dark blue material out, she moved the bag away from him.
“It’s just some lingerie I needed,” she told him with a bright smile.
“I’d make a comment, but I’m afraid of what your brother and father would do to me if I did,” he told her, smiling as the others laughed. “How was your visit to the salon?” he asked, watching Michaels move to the end of the bench so she could sit between him and Jordan.
“Painful,” she commented with a deepening to her pink cheeks. “How did things go around here?”
“Dad made Mark tell the rest of the family about his wife and baby, then made him skype with her,” Tommy said with a wide grin. “Everyone had the chance to meet her and welcome her into the family. Mark said it was a much happier greeting then the one he received from her family.”
“I’m sorry I missed that.”
“We promised to call her back - or whatever you do on the computer - once you and Stephanie was home,” her father told her. “She seems like a very nice young lady, and quite pretty. I can see why Mark loves her so much.”
“How was your lunch?” Jordan asked, watching Melanie shrug her shoulders.
“It was good, but I have a headache, and my ears are buzzing. I swear, that girl never shuts up.”
The four men at the table laughed as Jordan slipped his hand around her waist, kissing her cheek.
“Uncle Paul is coming by later with Stephanie’s present. I was afraid to bring it back with me. Knowing Steph, she’d open it before I realized what she’d done.”
“What all did you do today?” Jordan asked, turning his attention to the cup of coffee in his hands.
“We went to the salon, see?” she told him, holding up her hands so he could see the fresh polish. “I had an unexpected visitor at Paul’s, though.”
“Donald Prescott,” she said in a flat, unemotional voice.
“What did he want?” Jordan asked with a frown.
He’d already had a report on her activities from Michaels, though he had tried to pretend not to be worried about it. The truth was, it bothered the hell out of him, and he was having a hard time controlling his anger over her encounter.
“The same as the other day,” she told him. “He insisted on taking me for a drink, so we could talk.”
“What did he say?”
“The same thing he already said. He loves me, and he wants me back. He regrets leaving me and it was the worse mistake he’d ever made. All that bullshit.”
“What did you say to that?” Tommy asked with a deep frown.
“I called him a liar and walked out of the restaurant, but not before eating all the cheese sticks,” she smiled.
“That bastard has a lot of nerve,” Jordan grumbled, then glanced up to Curtis. “I apologize for the language.”
“Don’t apologize, son. I feel the same way as the rest of the family. He’s a worthless piece of shit and he needs to leave Utah and never return.”
“Daddy,” Melanie gasped. “You’ve never sworn before.”
“I swear a lot more than your mother likes,” he told her with a stern expression. “But you shouldn’t have met him alone. You should have taken your sister with you at least.”
“Or better still, not have agreed to go with him in the first place,” Tommy scolded her.
“Listen, both of you. I appreciate your concern, but we were in a public place, and he promised to leave me alone if I went. Once the wedding is over, he’ll be gone, and nobody will have to think about old what’s his name again.”
“Can you put him behind you, once and for all?” Jordan asked her, looking at her with a concerned expression.
“I already have,” she smiled, then kissed his cheek. “What are the plans for the rest of the day?”
“Your mother planned a supper at the church for the wedding party, and families, at seven o’clock. After that, it’s back here to bed until tomorrow morning.”
“Then I have time to go back to the motel,” she told him with a grin. “I forgot my hairbrush and I’ve been driving with the top down. Can you take me, or can I get the key?”
“I’ll drive you,” Jordan told her with a frown.
“Great. We’ll be back in time for supper,” she told her father and brother before standing up. “Jordan hates to be late, so I’m sure we’ll be here with plenty of time to spare.”
Melanie held her hand out for Jordan, then took her bag and walked back to the car with him. Once they had pulled away from the house, Curtis turned to Michaels with a stern look on his face.
“What really happened at that restaurant?” he asked with a fatherly concern.
“Exactly like she said,” the dark man smiled. “Except that she told him off pretty good and left him to endure the stares from the rest of the people having lunch.”
“I doubt he’ll keep his promise about not bothering her again,” Tommy said, taking a drink from his cup.
“So do I, but Jordan isn’t going to let her out of his sight, so she’ll be protected. Besides, we should have the evidence we need by tonight. The agent we sent down to Arizona met with his lover, and the reports are back on his girlfriends in Connecticut and New York. By the time the wedding is over, we’ll have all the evidence we need to arrest him.”
“I hope Melanie is telling the truth when she says she doesn’t have any feelings for him,” Tommy said with a set expression. “I really don’t want him using her to try and escape.”
“Why did you want to go back to the motel?” Jordan asked once they pulled far enough away from the farm that nobody would hear them. “Your hairbrush is in your purse. I saw you pack it this morning.”
“I know that.”
“Don’t you want to go to the motel with me?”
“Of course, I do, you know that. I just don’t understand…”
“After I met with Donald - which I know you didn’t want me to - I felt like I’d won the world series. I finally had the last word with him and called him out on his lies. I felt like I’d won a very long battle.”
“So, you’re really over him?”
“One hundred percent.”
“Then let’s get to that motel. I have a strong desire to annoy the neighbors.”
Jordan sat on the edge of the bed, waiting impatiently for Melanie to come out of the bathroom. He sent a text to Michaels, informing him that he was finished messing around with Prescott. It was time to pick him up and hold him on the charges of embezzlement. Once they got the final report from the coroner, along with the statements from his lovers, they would proceed with the charges of forgery, extortion, and murder.
The door to the bathroom opened and Melanie stepped out, catching Jordan completely off guard. She wore a sapphire blue negligee of silk. The bodice was a layer of lace that barely hid her breasts from his sight. The gown was long, settling just above her ankles, revealing the silhouette of her beautiful body beneath it. She stepped to the end of the bed where he was sitting, staring at her as if she had emerged from a fashion magazine.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I used your card,” she told him with a wide grin. “I figured, if I had to get waxed for your pleasure, I was owed a little satisfaction of my own.”
“Oh, baby, you can use my card any time you want, just so long as you wear that gown.”
“So, you approve?” she asked with a wicked grin.
“Very, very much,” he told her as he stood up and wrapped her in his strong embrace. “Now, let’s take it off.”
Melanie laughed when he picked her up and turned around, laying her across the mattress. His lips covered hers in a matter of moments, as he held her securely beside him. All thoughts of Donald, the wedding, even their unannounced engagement all faded quickly from his mind as the heat of their encounter burned its way through his veins.
“I love you,” he whispered softly, kissing his way down her chest. “But I need to get you out of this gown. If I can’t have you now, I’m going to explode.”
“Then take me,” she whispered, smiling as he pulled the top off her breasts, amazed that it stretched.
Jordan pushed the gown farther down her body as he kissed his way across her torso. She began to pant, the feeling of his mouth against her flesh made her feel wanton and naughty. She needed him more than he claimed to need her, and she knew it was a matter of time before one of them proved the other wrong.
“Oh, God,” he moaned, looking at her smooth body. “You’re absolutely gorgeous. I want to make you cum, I just don’t know if I have the patience to wait that long.”
“Jordan, for God’s sake, I’m on fire,” she growled, listening to his chuckle as he opened her with his long fingers. “Just eat me.”
“Don’t cum until I join you,” he ordered, knowing she would resist as long as she could.
His fingers began caressing her smooth body as his tongue explored the folds of her womanhood, licking and nipping until she growled. He knew he could take her to the brink of release, but he wanted to be joined with her when he did.
Moving his long fingers inside her, he began thrusting until she moaned. He could feel her tight canal grip him and knew she was edging closer. When he began to suckle her swollen clitoris, he knew he’d pushed her far enough. She moaned again, a deep purr echoing up from her chest.
Moving up above her, Jordan pressed the tip of his erection against her as his fingers opened her wider, allowing him a smooth, fluid thrust.
Melanie gasped as his fingers continued to toy with her, moving her to the very edge of climax. When he began to rub her clitoris, he knew she was spent. She wrapped her fingers around his hair and held him against her mouth, growling into him as her muscles tightened, gripping him with each thrust until he joined her. They panted in unison, each giving as much as they received, until at last the heat began to cool and they collapsed into each other.
Jordan lay across her, his mouth gently kissing her cheek and neck until their heartbeat began to calm. He rolled onto his back, pulling her into his embrace. It didn’t matter how many times they made love, it was always intense and urgent. Each time was new, innocent and filled with passion.
This woman was his, and he reclaimed his stake on her with every kiss he gave her.
“Hey, it’s me,” the man said on the other end of the phone. “I just heard from the bureau. They got a rundown on the prints the SLPD gave us. Prescott has been in jail three times over the past thirteen years. Once in Salt Lake for selling stolen radios when he was sixteen, the time in Wyoming we already know about, and the last time was right after he moved to New York. The first two times were under a different name, with different IDs.”
“Why was he arrested in New York?” Jordan asked, listening to the water running into the bathtub.
Melanie had gone in to soak for a little while, leaving him to deal with business.
“Assault with a deadly weapon. He claimed to have been protecting himself after being mugged. His father-in-law bailed him out and he only had to do community service for six months. We also found two registrations for guns, both under aliases, but with his prints. The last one was obtained in Connecticut under his current alias.”
“What kind of gun?” Jordan asked with a frown.
“He seems to have a particular liking for .44 Magnums.”
“And what size bullet was taken out of his partner’s head?”
“An 11mm. The same size as the Magnum.”
“That’s enough circumstantial evidence to pick him up for questioning.”
“There’s more,” Michaels said. “The bureau picked up Scarlett Williams for questioning. She admitted to helping Prescott get his current ID. She told them he paid her twenty thousand dollars for it. She claims Hunter and Vanzetti came to see Prescott, and they had an argument. She said Prescott left, but he came back a couple days later. He told her he needed a place to hide some valuables, and she gave him the keys to her storage unit. He took the keys with him when he left, and she was never able to get back inside it. When they searched her apartment, they found Bill Hunter’s body.”
“After all these months, the place must have stunk pretty bad,” Jordan said. “How could she not know about it?”
“The body was placed in a sealed drum of Lime, to prevent it from decaying. I’m sure he figured it would dissolve the corpse, but all it did was mummify it. The autopsy revealed he had his throat cut. In order to put him in the drum, he had his legs cut off.”
“Good God,” Jordan said, listening to the water shut off. “At least we know what happened to the partners.”
“Do you want him picked up tonight?” Michaels asked, listening to the deep sigh on the opposite end of the phone.
“Let’s wait until after the wedding,” Jordan said at last. “We can keep him under surveillance until the reception, then arrest him. I’d like to make Stephanie’s wedding a happy memory, instead of a bad one.”
“Whatever you say. I’ll make sure the church is covered. Are you sure you don’t want the Kents’ farm guarded?”
“No. You and I can take care of that. I want you there tomorrow, and throughout the reception.”
“You’ve got it. What about tonight? The families are supposed to be getting together for supper.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jordan said. “Replace the waiters with our men, and make sure the exits are covered. I’ll be with Melanie. I think it’s time to start wearing a gun.”