Liam pulled into a secluded parking spot in front of the large glass and concrete museum and cut the engine of his black expedition. The sun was just starting to fade and spot lights were competing against the dying light to illuminate the front of the large three story museum.
In the center of the museum was a covered glass and steel walk way that jutted out about ten feet covering wide stairs and a gentle wheel chair ramp. Men in bright red jackets, obviously valet parking were hurrying from under the walkway to open car doors and help out finely dressed guests before driving off in their cars.
“I hope it’s okay that I parked here, I hate valet parking. I let a valet park my antique land cruiser one time and when I came back for it a few hours later it smelled like pizza and there was a dent in the front fender.” Liam gave Danny a quick smile and saw her shake her head.
“No that’s fine, I wore sensible shoes so I don’t mind the walk.” Danny replied reaching for the car door.
“Don’t move, let me get the door. I was taught to be a gentleman and with you all dressed up I don’t want you to ruin your dress or something.” Liam gave her a wink then slid from the driver seat closing the door softly behind him. He hurried about the front of the car to open Danny’s door then held his hand down for her as she undid her seat belt.
Danny slipped her gloved hand into his and let him help her out of the car, when she’d cleared the door he closed it behind her then hit his key fob locking it while he gave her an appreciative look.
Danny looked spectacular in a dark blue satin off the shoulder knee length gown with matching gloves and shoes. The gown brought out the color of her eyes and highlighted her hair and the form fitting bodice showed off her trim waist and curves to perfection. Her hair was in and artful up do and she was wearing a hint of makeup that accentuated her coloring without screaming I’m wearing makeup. Over all she was stunning from the top of her head to the tips of her dark blue sparkly shoes with rhinestone ankle straps that called attention to her trim ankles and made him want to rub his hands all over her shapely legs.
“I know I said it earlier but you look amazing, I mean like wow. I love the gloves and shoes by the way, nice touch.” Liam felt himself babbling and quickly shut up.
“Thank you, it’s all new. And the gloves, I have a confession there aren’t so much a fashion statement as they are covering up my scrapes and bruises from, I also hate shaking hands with strangers. It’s a quirk of mine, I figured I might have to shake a lot of hands tonight so.” Danny gave a rueful shrug.
“No, I get it, I prefer the Japanese habit of bowing myself, you look elegant and classy and just wow. You ready to go in?” Liam turned to offer Danny his army.
Danny gave Liam a smile as she slipped her hand about his football sized bicep then settled her hand into the crook of his arm. She gave him a quick glance and couldn’t believe she was with him. Liam was wearing an expensive black tailored suit that showed off his muscular frame to perfection and screamed money and style. He’d also gotten a haircut that had transformed him from ruggedly good looking out doors to run way model hot.
Danny tore her eyes away from Liam’s handsome profile to look ahead. She saw more elegantly dressed people arriving and was glad she’s splurged on a new dress and shoes. She had come into some unexpected money last week, ten thousand dollars in all when some water colors she’d done last year had abruptly sold at the small art gallery that was showing her work. The water colors had been fantasy pieces of a world she saw in her dreams on a regular basis, with three moons and sweeping pink mountains. Her aunt had arranged the showing at a small art gallery in Flagstaff, far enough away so that no one would associated D Troy the artist with Dr. Troy police profiler.
In addition to selling all five paintings the buyer had expressed interest in more of her work, apparently from the message her aunt had sent he was the chief editor of a science fiction and fantasy publishing company and wanted to use her work for book covers. Any way the money had been a boon, she’d been able to go out and buy a new dress, shoes and gloves from a little hole in the wall boutique a few blocks from the courthouse that catered to short and curvy women.
Danny took a moment to study the front of the museum as they made their way through the rapidly filling parking lot towards the front door. The museum was probably the height of modern design about fifty years ago with huge windows and concrete walls covered in designs of knights, plants and weapons. Behind and around the museum was a forest, which was odd as across the street was a college campus. The property value of the forest behind the museum had to be staggering. Danny could just make out a high chain link fence that abutted the side walls of the museum before disappearing off into the forest.
“What can you tell me about the museum?” Danny asked as they paused to let a car go past them.
“It was built about fifty years ago by Martin Reddington, he’d been an oil engineer and had made a pile of money in the oil industry.” Liam replied as he negotiated his way around a Benz being parked by one of the valets. “ When he was in his thirties he meet Maggie, young American Egyptologist working on a dig in Egypt. They fell in love and got married. Maggie gave up a promising career to become a wife and mother and follow Martin around the world. They had three sons and a daughter, the boys all went off to college laving Maggie and their daughter Sophie home alone while Martin was away in Norway.”
“Okay go on.” Danny said as they stepped on the sideway in front of the museum.
“Well one winter day Sophie got sick, very sick. She was in high school at the time and home with Maggie. Maggie needed to get her medicine and left her home to drive to the pharmacy in a snow storm. Maggie was returning home when a truck driver lost control and broadsided Maggie flipping her car.” Liam replied pausing to look at the line of people forming in front of the building before looking down at Danny.
“Oh my God that’s awful.” Danny murmured.
“Maggie lived, but she was badly hurt and in a coma for a long time. Martin blamed himself for not being home enough and quit his job. Maggie recovered for the most part but was confined to a wheel chair for years. Martin felt bad that Maggie had always put him and the kids first, so he wanted to do something for her to show how much she meant to him. He couldn’t send her to Egypt so he tried to bring it to her. He bought thirty five acres outside of town and fenced it in, then had the museum built. The east wing is all ancient cultures, the middle is contemporary and the west holds an art museum and American history. In the back is a conservatory that opens onto a patio that leads to a two mile long paved nature walk. Maggie apparently loved nature and hiking.” Liam said giving Danny a smile. “The west wing holds art Martin bought all over the world, he had a thing for buying paintings from street artists. He’d buy the paintings and send them home. He’d put them in his office for a bit then wrap them up and stick them in a storage locker, over the years he acquired a few hundred paintings.”
“Oh that is a wonderful story, I’d have loved to meet him, it’s a remarkable love story.” Danny replied.
“You might, he’s still alive. He’s ninety five, no ninety six, somewhere around there. Maggie is still alive too. Sometimes they come to an opening, two of their grandson’s run the museum now, apparently Martin and Maggie still like to travel and buy new things for the museum. And yeah it’s a great love story, I heard it from their one grandson about ten years ago at a conference on ancient cultures, a bit afterwards I began loaning items to the museum.” Liam guided Danny into the line and then up red carpeted steps into a large glass and steel entrance way.
Liam pulled a thick vanilla colored card out of his pocket as he and Danny hit the top of the steps and then stepped into the large two story foyer. He was holding it out to a blonde in a form fitting black dress when one of the men in the receiving line next to her turned to see him and smiled broadly.
“Mr. Cherevin I am so glad you made it.” The man held his hand out to Liam who recognized him as Frances Reddington one of the grandsons and the head manager of the museum.
“Mr. Reddington you know I never missed an opening.” Liam replied as the slightly shorter and younger man besides Frances turned to greet him. Liam recognized him at once as Jacob Reddington, Frances’ younger brother and head curator of the museum.
“Ah Mr. Cherevin a pleasure as always, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Samuels the head of our antiquities section he was thrilled at what you loaned us.” Jacob said as he tapped on the arm of an older gentleman with grey hair chatting with a couple.
“Dr. Samuels if you have a moment this is Mr. Cherevin the owner of the collection we are featuring tonight.” Jacob gave the older gentleman a quick smile as he turned to Liam and Danny.
“Mr. Cherevin it is such a pleasure to finally meet you, the pieces you lent us are amazing.” Dr. Samuels gushed as he turned to give Liam his full attention.
“Thank you, and I’d like you to introduce you to my girlfriend Dr. Danielle Troy.” Liam gently guided Danny forward. “Danny this is Frances Reddington and his brother Jacob Reddington they run the museum and Dr. Samuels.
Danny felt a moment’s thrill at being introduced as Liam’s girlfriend and a quick feeling of unease that she wouldn’t measure up somehow, then she locked eyes with Dr. Samuels and her unease fled. She recognized Dr. Samuels from a conference she’d attended several years ago, she and the historian had started up a conversation about his theory of ancient aliens, that had led to several follow up emails from him over the years.
Danny was saved from having to shake hands with the Reddington brothers when Dr. Samuels recognized her and practically grabbed her hand to give it a hearty shake.
“Dr. Troy what a pleasure to see you again. I read your last paper and wanted to email you my thoughts but, well with getting the new exhibit up.” Dr. Samuels gushed. “I hope we can speak latter I have s new theory I’d love to discuss with you.”
“Of course, I look forward to.” Danny replied as Liam tightened his hand about her waist and then began gently easing her away as more quests filled in behind them.
“Perhaps latter doctor.” Liam said easing Danny away from the overly friendly doctor, who frowned for a moment then nodded.
“Yes, of course.” Doctor Samuels replied before turning to greet another group of guests.
Liam guided Danny into the echoingly large entry foyer and away from the arriving guests. Danny took a moment to look about noting a large oak wrap around desk behind their greeters and then the glass front of a gift shop beyond that. Past the gift shop was the entrance to an art gallery according to the bronze sign above the opening. Danny looked right to see another gallery with images of Mesopotamian Ziggurats flanking the wide door, before her was a wide cork screw ramp that lead to the floors above, and in the middle of the large entry foyer was a life size sculpture of a wild pig and three piglets. Past it in the niche created by the stairs was a glossy black bar and several tables laden with appetizers.
“I hope you didn’t mind me whisking you away, I had the feeling you were need of rescue.” Liam said guiding Danny towards the bar where people were milling about waiting for their drinks.
“No, that’s fine Dr. Samuels is pleasant to talk to but he has the habit of taking over a conversation.” Danny replied. She looked about the large entry foyer and felt something tickle at her shields and she took a deep breath and increased them to block out what was probably the residual energy of the artifacts about her.
“If I might ask how did you meet him?” Liam asked stepping into the line for the bar.
“I met him several years ago at a conference on ancient cultures, he’d given a fascinating lecture on how he thought many of the world’s oldest structures such as the pyramids were probably much older and that our ancient ancestors must of had help creating them based on the sheer size and weight of some of the stones used to build them.” Danny replied as she and Liam inched closer to the bar. “He made some excellent points, based on the artifacts we have found there is no way for people using wood rollers and copper tools to make the colossal ruins of Baalbek. He did the math for everything and he was right, we would have a hard time using modern cranes to build some of these sites. Any way the majority of the audience tore into him as being crazy but I defended his logic, I mean you can’t argue with math. Math is math and mathematically there is no way that ancients could of built some of these sites, they had to have had help from more advanced technology.”
“Ah I can see why he likes you.” Liam replied as they reached the front of the line. “What would you like to drink?”
“A white wine, I don’t usually drink but.”
“It’s a party.” Liam finished for her before turning to the bartender. “The lady will have a white wine, and I’d like a martini please.” Liam pulled a twenty from his pocket and placed it on the bar. The bar tender took it with a nod before turning to get their drinks.
“Any way he was labeled as an ancient aliens fanatic and roasted pretty well, personally I happen to think he made some excellent points.” Danny said giving the handsome bartender a smile as he set her wine on the bar before her.
Liam scooped up his martini and guided Danny towards a table covered in hors d oeuvres and tiny cakes. “Would you like anything, I’m still a little hungry?”
“No, I’m still stuffed from dinner thank you.” Danny replied in amusement as Liam grabbed a small clear plastic plate. “Let me hold your drink while you get something, I don’t know where you put it all though.”
Liam shrugged as he handed Danny his drink then began filling the plate with crab puffs and tiny apple tarts. “I have a fast metabolism I guess.”
Liam gave Danny a smile then reached for his drink. “Shall we the gallery is this way.”
“Of course, lead the way I can’t wait to see your collection.” Danny replied following Liam as he cut a path through the milling people like an ice breaker through ice.
Danny reluctantly stepped away from the last glass case following Liam out of the exhibit hall and into a large hallway with an elevator and a flight of stairs going up. The collection Liam had loaned was amazing containing not only a large number of stone and brass figurines but daggers and jewelry. The craftsmanship on the jewelry as well as their state of preservation had been mind blowing.
“Thank you for inviting me, it is an amazing collection, most of the pieces look like they were only made yesterday.” Danny looked back into the gallery which was now full of well-dressed people studying the artifacts. “How did you obtain them all?”
Liam gave her a beaming smile. “I’m glad you enjoyed my collection coming from a historian and archaeologist that means a lot, as for how I acquired the pieces they have all been in my family for years. My father gave them to me to safe guard and to do with as I wished.”
The truth was not only did the pieces belong to his father but the jewelry had been his mothers. The pieces had been kept in a locked room on Titus for the past few millennium. His father who was still living had never fully recovered from the loss of Liam’s mother and his fated mate and had kept everything they had ever shared. It had only been in the past fifty years that Liam had convinced his father to let the pieces see the light of day again. When his father had agreed Liam had carefully packed up the pieces and brought them back through the portal with him to Earth.
“Your father gave them to you, I’d love to know how he acquired them. I have been on several digs and we were happy to unearth shattered pottery. I know this is going to sound horrible but is your family rich or something?” Danny asked.
“Sort of, we have a long heritage in Europe.” Liam replied and saw Danny frown briefly.
“Ah I get it you are old French aristocracy, your name is very French, then with your coloring and size probably Norman descendant. So do you have a castle some place then?” Danny asked half in jest.
Liam nodded, Danny was close to the truth. His family did have a castle only it wasn’t in France it was on another planet and his last name was indeed ancient French. He’d adopted it in the middle ages while he and Keith were living as crusaders. They’d been the personal guard to a rich lord and had protected him and his family for years before going on crusade and pretending to die while in the Holy Land. Liam and Keith had stayed away for five years then returned to France as their own sons, the ruse had worked for several hundred years. They would pretend to die and then come back as their own sons or cousins and reclaim the property they had left behind, whether it was land or gold.
“It is in ruins now, but yes my ancestors had a castle, would you like to sit and talk for a while of go upstairs and view the medieval exhibit. I also donated a few items to that one.” Liam hated lying but he could hardly tell Danny the truth, at least not yet. If she was his mated he could tell her everything once they were mated.
“Hmm, I can picture you as a knight in full armor riding a war horse out of a castle, crazy I know sometimes my imagination gets the better of me. And a chance to sit and talk would be nice, I’m wearing new shoes and they are starting to pinch a little, so lead on.” Danny replied as Liam held his hand out to her then reached for the button for the elevator.
“There is a sitting area upstairs, we can relax for a bit then see the medieval exhibit if you’d like. In the invitation it said there would be dancing at nine in the art wing, so we still have time to see it before the dancing starts.” Liam said as he looked up at the elevator to see it was on its way down to them.
“That sounds great, I’ rather of found of art as well.” Danny replied wondering if she should tell Liam she was a closet artist. The elevator dinged and the door opened just as her phone gave a soft buzz and Danny stifled a curse of annoyance as she followed Liam onto the elevator.
“If you need to take a call I understand, you work for the police.” Liam said hitting the up button inside the elevator.
“”I’m sorry, It’s probably Matt checking up on me.” Danny replied clutching her little clutch purse against her and feeling it vibrate to indicate she had a message.
“Matt, should I be worried?” Liam asked as the elevator dinged again and came to a smooth stop.
“What, oh no. Matt is lieutenant Dickerson, he and work together. I’m helping him and his partner Joe Barrett with the recent rash of homicides.” Danny replied as the elevator doors opened on a large open space with a shiny black floor. Danny followed Liam out of the elevator onto what appeared to be a large balcony, far to her left was a tall metal railing and beyond was a bank of windows looking out of the front of the museum. Following the railing to the right was the entrance to a gallery and the top of the ramp she’d seen from below. Hooking to her far left was the entrance to another gallery. A couple was nursing drinks while they leaned on the railing and talked and other couples were making their way up the ramp and into the other galleries.
“It’s this way, so I shouldn’t be worried?” Liam asked half in jest.
“Of Matt, oh no, I’ve known him for years and years, I know I’m sure I’ve mentioned his name before.” Danny replied as Liam held his hand out to hers. Danny slipped her right hand into Liam’s huge one as she fumbled with her clutch and pulled out her phone.
Danny swiped it on with her thumb and saw the message was indeed from Matt and that he was just checking up on her. She eased her phone back into her clutch as Liam guided her around a corner and into a small lounge area with black leather sofas and black rugs.
Danielle followed Liam to a secluded corner of the lounge, then to an overstuffed leather sofa with a coffee table before it. He took her hand and helped her to sit before easing to the sofa beside her.
“So tell me about how you met Lt. Dickerson. You said you’ve known him for several years?” Liam asked easing back into the offer stuffed sofa. He knew from his report that Matthew Dickerson had saved Danny’s life, if Danny was ever going to tell her about how she’d met him this was her chance.
Danny looked away for a minute as she pondered what to do, she was following in love with Liam there was no denying that so at some point she’d have to tell him the truth, she’d just hoped it would be latter. But then again there was no time like the present, Liam didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would dump her because of something that happened to her as a child.
Danny looked down at her lap as she fought her unease and uncertainty. “Yes, I met him when I was ten.”
Liam placed his huge hand over both of Danny’s seeing she was tense and ill at ease. “I’m interested in you, hell more than that you’ve become very important to me of late.”
“I like you too.” Danny looked up seeing concern in Liam’s amber eyes.
“I am more than fond of you, I can’t start the day without hearing from you and your smile is last thing I think of when I go to bed. I want to know if this man is potential competition for your attention.” Liam gave Danny’s hands a gentle squeeze.
Danny shook her head grateful for Liam’s touch and words. “Matt is simply a friend, a very good friend. I was his first case.”
“His first case? I’m not sure I understand.” Liam asked.
“It’s a long story and we still haven’t seen all the exhibits.” Danny protested fighting her nerves.
“There is no where I’d rather be than here with you, your company is far more interesting than a gallery full of artifacts, now tell me what you are afraid to say.” Liam replied giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
Danny’s was touched by Liam’s words and the open honesty in his face. “Very well, but I did warn you. The story of how I met Matt starts with my mother. She was a ball room dance instructor and a competitor, my father had been her partner, but he blew out his knee and retired.” Danny didn’t want to tell Liam the truth that another competitor had paid several men to attack her father, and that the attack had left him badly injured and barely able to walk much less dance again. “I guess my parents were in love because they married and had my brothers, my sister and I. My father had been studying engineering, he got his degree and took a job designing roads and bridges to support us all. They seemed happy but I know my mother missed dancing, missed the attention and the excitement. When I was about six she went back to teaching dancing part time.” Danny paused a minute to compose herself and felt Liam squeeze her hand again. “When I was ten she began teaching dancing full time. She loved it, she lived for it, she would come home exhausted but glowing and talking about her students. She liked them all except one named George Sawyer, she would tell my sister and I he made her feel odd, that she hated having to touch him. He took all her classes and then wanted private lessons. She said yes at first but he tried to get fresh and she refused to give him any more classes, even try to have the college where she taught bar him from her all her classes. At first the college refused but he started stalking her, following her to her car and they agreed to ban him. He would show up and wait outside the dance studio and try and catch her alone, one night he demanded that she leave father and us and come away with him. When she refused he attacked her, luckily some students heard her screams and came running before she was seriously hurt. After that he was banned from the college and a guard followed her to her car one night.”
Liam gave Danny’s hand a squeeze, he saw tears coming up in her eyes and knew he couldn’t let her continue when he knew what she was about to say.
“Before you go on there is something you should know, a bit after we started seeing each other I had you investigated. I have known what has happened to you for some time, but I was too much of a coward to confess I had you investigated as I thought you’d be furious with me. There is no need for you continue unless you wish to, but the fact you want to be honest with me means the world to me, and I will understand if you wish to yell at me or slap me. I was less than honest with you and yet I wanted you honesty in return.” Liam released Danny’s hand and waited for her to react, to yell at him or slap him or both.
Danny felt both relief and anger at Liam’s confession, relief that she wouldn’t have to tell Liam what had happened to her, to tell him she’d died and come back, that she had her sister’s heart. “I should be furious with you, but somehow I’m glad and I understand you are a very rich man and seeing how Rita has her claws into Keith I guess you have to be sure I’m not some kind of gold digger. So how much did you learn?”
“My man is very thorough, I know what happened to your family, about your time in the hospital and everything that happened afterwards and I don’t care. I only wish I’d met you sooner that I could have protected you somehow but what happened to you was monstrous and not your fault and knowing what you have overcome makes me only admire you and care for you more, you are an amazing woman. Please say you will forgive me.” Liam gently touched Danny’s cheek so she was forced to look him in the eyes.
“You know everything? What I can do?” Danny whispered as Liam moved closer.
“Yes and I think it’s amazing that you are amazing, I think you are the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.” Liam replied his face only inches from Danny’s as their eyes locked.
“Oh, I think you are amazing too.” Danny murmured as she felt her heart swell with love and happiness.
Liam couldn’t wait any longer he lowered his head to claim Danny’s lips with his own. Her lips were softer than he imagined, he applied a hint of pressure as he gently touched his tongue to her lips and felt them open under his. He gently cupped her face with his right hand while he eased his tongue into her mouth and felt her’s touch his. Heat and passion flared in Liam as he eased his left hand about Danny’s back and pulled her closer as he deepened the kiss. His lion roared mind in his mind and demanded Liam claim Danny as theirs’s. Liam deepened the kiss and felt Danny’s small hands tighten about his jacket.
Liam was considering pushing Danny back against the cushion and easing up her pretty dress when he heard laughter and approaching footfalls and tore his mouth from Danny’s as sanity returned. He eased back releasing Danny as another couple walked past to sit a few feet away his heart was racing like he’d ben in battle and his senses were all heightened as his blood roared in his ears. He’d never felt this way before when he’d kissed a woman, he swallowed and saw Danny was flushed obviously also deeply affected by the kiss.
“I won’t apologize, I’ve wanted to kiss you for ages.” Liam said and saw Danny give him a shy smile.
“I’m glad you did, I was hoping you’d kiss me and wondering why you hadn’t. I was afraid you didn’t like me that way.” Danny had never experienced anything like Liam’s kiss, her heart was racing, and butterflies seemed to be dancing in her stomach and she’d never been so turned on in her life.
Liam gave Danny a quick lopsided grin. “ Oh no I like you that way trust me, I think you are one of the sexiest women I’ve ever met. Brains, curves and the most amazing hair you are the total package, I was afraid to move too fast after all you have been through.”
“You think I’m sexy?” Danny asked in confusion.
“Of yeah, smart women turn me on. They have confidence and they aren’t afraid to try new things and they can hold their own in just about any situation. Keith may like the tall dumb blond but not me.” Liam replied.
“Oh, that’s good really good because I think you are incredibly sexy too, so what do we do now?” Danny asked.
“How about we go see the medieval exhibit then we go dancing so I have an excuse to hold you, and if you are willing I know every dark corner in this museum, perhaps we could see if we can make some more fireworks.” Liam gave Danny another lopsided grin and when she nodded he rose and held his hand down to her to help her to her feet.
“I’d like that too and Liam I like it when you hold my hand, you make me feel safe and content. And I haven’t felt either in such a long, long time.” Danny wrapped her hand about two of Liam’s huge fingers and felt his huge hand enfold her smaller one.
“I’m glad, for you make me feel happy and more alive than I have in years, and you make me proud knowing everyone is looking at this amazing woman I’m with and you make me want to protect you and so much more.” Liam replied and Danny gave me a soft smile and squeezed his fingers.
“Show me the medieval exhibit now, I’m hoping you loaned them some swords. I have this strange fascination with swords and ancient weapons, and maybe afterwards we can sneak a kiss in the elevator.” Danny couldn’t believe what she’d said but she knew she meant every word, with Liam beside her she felt like she could do anything.
“A woman after my own heart. Come on it’s this way.” Liam replied as his heart filled with happiness knowing deep within his soul Danny was meant to be his.