A Deal To Be Made

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XXIX


September 28th, 1918 Birmingham Country Side, England


The wind of the country side blew rapidly causing Blythe to raise her arms and shield her eyes from the incoming dust storm. Ranch hands were scrambling around attempting to hold anything down that could be blown away. Blythe’s labored steps finally led her into the barn where she had to use her entire body to close the doors. She leaned against the scratchy wood and allowed a few controlled breaths to calm herself.

“It’s downright bloody awful out there!” Ramona screeched as she flung her body through the door. Her dark brown hair was wild and sticking up in every which direction. They both looked up towards the roof of the barn when they heard the raindrops begin to pelt the structure. Both women muttered a ‘shit!’ in unison.

“Well, no better time than the present to go over everything before the race tomorrow. Is everything taken care of out here?” Blythe questioned, taking off her coat and draping it over one of the stalls.

Ramona began to walk down the aisle of the barn pointing to each horse she was speaking about. “We currently have Maid Marion to use as our first draft. She’s been groomed, shoe’d, and kept well massaged to keep those ligaments loose. Quantum is entered as our second draft if for whatever reason Marion can’t make it. Travel is ready for tomorrow, we will load them up on the transportation to make sure we don’t undo a good chunk of the grooming we did today. How are things on your end?”

“Everything is ready. All of the documents and waivers have been signed and submitted. I’ve double checked that absolutely no one know’s that you are associated with these horses in anyway. I’ve paid the on-sight veterinarian and groomer along. I’ve also made sure our jokey knew where to be and at what time to be there.”

“Excellent. One last thing,” Ramona paused, nervously chewing on her lip for a moment before continuing. “I will be there, but I will be wearing a disguise. I can’t risk someone noticing me.”

“Ramona… I don’t mean to pry, but is everything okay? You know Mackenzie can protect you.”

“He is protecting me, Blythe, by keeping who I am a secret. Mackenzie is a generous man and he’s done much to keep me safe. This isn’t his battle but he willingly put himself in the middle. All I ask is that you trust him and trust me. Before you know it, we’ll be drowning in money from those rich idiots.”

Ramona clasped Blythe on the shoulder and followed it up with a reassuring squeeze. The look on her face would have suggested that she had everything under control but the panic in her eyes said otherwise. “Now go get ready for the party!”

***
Mackenzie sat in one of the armchairs in his bedroom silently admiring Blythe’s beauty. He watched as she delicately pinned her hair back in finger waves and applied a small amount of rouge to her cheeks and lips, and mascara to her lengthy lashes. She stood and let her robe fall from her body as she made her way to their closet. His eyes roamed over her backside, taking in every inch of her smooth ivory skin. The thoughts running through his mind were most definitely not about the party they were about to attend. Tomorrow was a big day for Blythe and Ramona, so in light of the situation Mackenzie decided to host an extravagant party in hopes of shaking loose some nerves. But if he were being honest, Blythe would never make it to that party if she kept flaunting her derrière at him like she was.
He sucked in a deep breath between his lips when she walked out of the closet. It was no secret that he believed that she was absolutely incredible without clothing. He worshiped every inch of her and never failed to remind her. However, the way she looked in the knee-length fringe dress was the most magnificent sight he had ever seen. Confidence exuded from her as she sauntered towards him. The black underlay of the dress made the silver from the fringes pop and managed to make her green eyes stand out even more. The smile on her face was spread cheek to cheek, though he could guess that was because of his reaction. Long slim legs were adorned in a light see through stocking that gave her a flawless silhouette. With her heels on, her head reached his chin instead of the usual shoulder. This only made it easier for him to prey on her.
Standing up, he reached out and snagged her by the waist. Strong hands trailed up her back while his face found the smooth skin of her neck. His lips peppered a gentle assault all the way up to her ear. The way his hand slid down her arm and interlocked their fingers gave her goosebumps and he reveled in the feeling that he could do that to her.
“You can’t go out looking like that.” His voice was but a low grumble followed by a nip on her ear.

“Why not?”

“Because I’d have to put a bullet between the eyes of every man that set his eyes on you.” The beautiful chime of her laugher sang in his ears. Hearing her laugh made the corners of his lips tug upwards. Moments like this between them had him convinced that no one would ever matter more to him than than she does.

“Okay, okay. Get off me. We have a party to attend to, Mr. Possessive.” She pushed at him gently when he attempted to continue nipping his way up and down her neck. This elicited a deliciously deep chuckle from him. Finally giving into her, he pulled back but only long enough to press a firm kiss to her lips.

“If you say so, Mrs. Mine.” The mischievous twinkle in his eye confirmed Blythe of her suspicions that there was more. “But if it were up to me we would stay behind and celebrate all night long.”

Blythe rolled her eyes and pecked his lips through her laughing. Mackenzie came across rough and garish but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

***

By the time the two of them had made their way downstairs and into the dining hall the party was already ten steps ahead of them. Patron’s were waist deep in drinks and the conversations flowed easily. Music pumped through the record player that the staff had situated in the corner of the room and many were swaying to the beat. Other women who had attended the party had similar dress fashions to Blythe accompanied with matching feathered headbands. In Mackenzie’s eyes, however, she was the only one that stood out.
In a matter of moments from them walking in they were surrounded by welcoming faces. Byron and Remi were, of course, the first ones to find them; Byron making inappropriate suggestions on why the couple had arrived so late.
“Never arrive on time.” Blythe chided him in a mocking manner. Several other’s had come up and relayed their excitement to Blythe about her being able to run her horses in the races in just a few short hours. She was convinced she hadn’t said thank you so many times in her life as she did that night.
Dinner was brought to the hall on platters of easily devour-able bite sized pieces. Guests snacked and drank to their hearts content. The longer the night went on, the more people arrived. Soon the house was nearly filled top to bottom with all sorts of people. Blythe had to keep up on her alcohol intake to withstand the amount of people Mackenzie had been talking to. She could tell he didn’t necessarily want to introduce her to some of them which gave her the impression that she didn’t want to know people like that. It proved to her just how much trust she had in him.
The night had gone so smoothly that it gave Blythe hope for the races. Maybe her luck was finally beginning to pick up. Mackenzie had done so much for her over the last handful of months that it gave her the impression he had been her good luck charm. No matter where she went, she was safe in his protection.
Blythe had been wrapped up in a conversation with some woman who was currently rattling on about how she just had to have the latest fashions to fit in with her peers. Though the conversation didn’t exactly keep her interest, Blythe decided to stand there and drain the cup of amber liquid in her hand and pretend to have an equal amount of excitement on quarter-sleeves and scarves. Out of the corner of her eye she seen Remi briskly walking over to Mackenzie and whisper something in his ear. The look on Mackenzie’s face gave away that whatever the news, it wasn’t good.
Being the polite business man he was, Mackenzie gave a curt smile and a nod to his guest before excusing himself. Both him and Remi slithered through the crop of guests and silently exited by the way of the kitchen door. What could have been so important that Mackenzie had to leave right at that moment? The way his brows immediately pulled together was never a good sign. As gently as she could, she gave the woman a half-assed excuse and passed her empty glass onto her. Blythe was so stuck in her head she didn’t even hear the woman grunt and curse profanities at her. Something about ‘uncourteous hosts’. But she didn’t care. She was going to find out where Mackenzie and Remi had ran off to so quickly.
Trying to act as nonchalant as possible, Blythe tried her hardest not to run. Eventually she took on a brisk walk but she had to keep her pace up to keep the faint glimpses of Remi that disappeared around every corner. She followed them through the kitchen and down 2 or 3 corridors before she noticed they were headed towards the cellar. Mackenzie had always kept a well stocked estate and she knew he had a cellar but that was an area she had never personally ventured to. It was never a place that struck her fancy seeing as though he had a plethora of booze upstairs. It piqued her interest that whatever was down there had his utmost attention. Her slim legs led her down the winding staircase leading to the lower level. The men she had been following took a turn and entered a small room that contained two tables with some stools and a very small bar equipped with 3 or 4 taps on the wall. What she wasn’t expecting, however, was the bloodied body that had been nailed to one of the barstools. The face of the man looked strangely familiar but she couldn’t exactly place where she knew him from. His head was tipped back in a gruesome display, showing the scream he had let out in his final moments of life. The clothing he wore had been sliced and tattered by what she could only describe as being attacked by a grizzly bear. But Blythe was no moron. A grizzly bear had not been the cause of this, but instead a brutal attack on Mackenzie himself. The corpse was drenched in blood, his own she assumed, and essentially ripped to shreds. In his hands placed neatly upon the table, he held a single note between still warm fingers.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see Mackenzie running a hand down his face in distress. Every muscle in his body was tense. The horrific scene before him had no effect on him, but more so the meaning behind it.
Before she knew what she had done, Blythe whispered, “Oh my god…” Mackenzie whipped around so fast she thought she would face the consequences of what lay in front of him. The softening of his steel grey eyes eased her worries, but only slightly. In a moment he was in front of her, gripping her by her upper arms.

“Blythe. You need to go upstairs.”
“What happened here?” There was no way she was going to listen to him after what she had seen.
“You don’t need to be apart of this.”
“Mackenzie. Tell me what is going on.”
He sighed, getting the hint that she was going nowhere without an explanation. Strong arms wrapped around her waist when he pulled her into him, attempting to shield her from the sight further. “It looks like some retaliation from Thornton. That bastard was warned that if he ever showed his face in this country again, it would be the last. Apparently he didn’t take it seriously.”
“Holy Hell…” She whispered. Blythe knew he was in deep with certain connections that she tried not to think about too much, but she never figured he was involved with this type of lifestyle.
“Go upstairs. I’ll be up there shortly. We have to call the police and inform them of what happened. I don’t want you apart of this. Do you understand?” He cupped her face between his hands and stared intrusively into her eyes. Helpless to do anything else, she simply nodded.
Before she left she saw him turn to the other three men standing in the room. She hadn’t even noticed that Byron, Remi, and Connor (a pompous bloke who worked under Mackenzie, she couldn’t stand him).
“Call the police.” He pointed to Remi. “Find him.” He pointed to Connor. “Clean this up.” He pointed to Byron.



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