"Beautiful day, isn't it, Byron?" Ms. Charlotte sent her dazzling million dollar smile towards Byron as he strutted past her. For a young man, he cleaned up pretty well in a light silver suit and matching waistcoat that complimented his starched white shirt well. His freshly shaven face had no doubt caught the eye of many of the older women at the races today which included Ms. Charlotte.
"That it is, Ma'am." He tipped his bowlers cap to her, reciprocating the smile and making her blush furiously.
"Won't you sit and have a drink?"
"As much as I would love to entertain a woman such as beautiful as yourself, I'm afraid I've got some prior engagements that I must be hurrying along to. But please, I wouldn't want to leave you with nothing but disappointment so enjoy the next drink on me." Byron sent two fingers up two catch the attention to the nearest waiter and nodded towards Ms. Charlotte. The waiter nodded back and Byron placed a platonic kiss on her cheek. The action from him elicited a shrill giggle from the older woman whom he left swooning in his aftermath.
If things were going to go smoothly, he had to act normal. Normal for Byron included leaving giddy hearts in his wake. He stuck his hands in his trouser pockets in an effortless attempt to seen casual while he made his way behind the scenes to the inspection room. Rules deem that there was to be no one but the inspector in the room during the time of examination. However, rules didn't apply to Mackenzie, and they certainly didn't apply to Byron. Especially when the examiner was paid heavily from their pockets. Byron lifted his wrist and checked his watch. Half past one. If he had timed everything right, Thornton's horse would be just stepping into the room. While Thornton had such a large name in these parts his animals had always attained a spot near the beginning whereas Ramona had been placed last.
He approached the doors that led into the examination room from the track that had two guards standing out front. Each of them sent him just the slightest of nods before he slipped through the doors. Both guards and the examiner had to be paid a hefty sum considering they were in the pockets of Thornton before. A smile played on Byron's lips as he thought about all of the money that had surely been placed on Thornton's horse since he had won (illegally) nearly every race this year. There will certainly be some very angry gamblers this afternoon. Once in the room he noticed that the jockey was still in the room with the examiner. The jockey sent Byron a disdainful eye, clearly wondering what the hell he was doing in there. As cool as he could play it, Byron walked over to the examiner as if he had been a messenger and whispered something in his ear. The examiners eyes widened as he looked back up at the jockey.
"Uhm, Sir. You will need to quickly make your way back to your trailer. It seems there's been a bit of an... incident. I will have one of the medical assistants escort your horse to the gates to wait for you." The examiner told the jockey with concern lacing his words. The jockeys entire body tensed before he went bolting for the door. There wasn't actually anything wrong in his trailer. Byron had just told the examiner to say that so that he could work without the watchful eye of one of Thornton's lackeys. Clearly the jockey was terrified about something though the way he had ran out of here almost like he was expecting it. Poor sap.
Byron nodded to the examiner who nodded back and turned around to the small desk on the wall and began to shuffle papers around. As soon as Byron had been given the privacy he needed, the examiner knew he was being paid off for a reason but he didn't need to know exactly what that reason was for, he slipped out the syringe. The horse no more than flexed her muscles in her neck when Byron stuck the needle in. He very slowly pushed down the plunger, sending a heavy sedative into the horses system. When the syringe was empty he smoothed his hand down the filly's neck. "Sorry, girl."
Stuffing the evidence back in his pocket, he turned around and headed for the door. "Thank you for your cooperation." Was all he said to the examiner before he slipped back out the doors he had entered from.
It had been Remi's job to keep an eye on things around the stadium to enforce their plan. That was when he heard the struggle in the waiting room for the inspections. Figuring it was just a scuffle between two heated jockeys, he took his time rounding the corner. When he did, his heart nearly stopped at the sight before him.
Ramona was nearly limp in the arms of a man who had her pinned against the wall. "No, no, no, no!" He heard her whimper right before he watched the man snap the last finger on her left hand, all the others in an awful mangled mess. The moment the man tightened his grip on her throat was when it hit Remi like a gelding falling from a 3 story building. Within seconds he had sprinted across the room and landed his fist right against the side of the mans face. The amount of force Remi had thrown into the punch had sent the man flying into the dirt. Thinking quick on his feet, Remi snatched Ramona before she could crumple to the ground. Tears were pouring down her face but her eyes had been glazed over. There were bruises already forming in the shape of the mans hand around her throat. A white hot anger took over his entire body. If there were one thing on God's green earth that Remington wouldn't stand for, it was putting unnecessary hands on a woman. Clutching Ramona close to his chest and tucking her head neatly into his shoulder, he pulled the small pistol he had in the shoulder holster underneath his suit jacket and aimed it at the man. Wide eyes forming realization stared back at him as the man tried to scramble up against the wall he had fallen against.
Pop! The bullet hole between the mans eyes immediately began to gush a thick current down the bridge of his nose. The reverberations from the gunshot in the room stirred Ramona back to life and she shrieked, pulling back from Remi in a terrified daze. Panic immediately set in and she began to paw and push Remi away, not quite realizing that it hadn't been her foster father until he grabbed her by the shoulders and held onto her just long enough that she could recognize his face.
"Ramona. Ramona! You're safe! Everything is going to be okay!" Instantly the fear dropped from her face and was replaced by relief and indescribable sadness. Sadness for everything she had to endure all those years. Sadness that he had finally found her. But relief that he could no longer control her life. She clutched onto Remi for dear life while she sobbed uncontrollably. He placed his hand very gently on the back of her neck while his other arm wrapped tightly around her waist. She winced but he figured she needed some solidity more than anything at that very moment. While he wasn't a particularly emotional man, he had known Ramona for years and seen the fear she lived with everyday, never knowing if it were going to be her last. His heart ached for the woman. "Shh. I won't let anything happen to you. I'll never let anyone hurt you again." He whispered into her hair while cries racked her body. That wasn't exactly a promise he knew how to keep, but nonetheless he was determine to keep it.
It had been a few hours since they had arrived and now several of the race-goers had been sufficiently boozed, letting loose and becoming wild. Men and women danced in between tables and shamelessly flirted while others boisterously bellowed their opinions to other drunken members. Mackenzie had taken Blythe around the room and introduced her to several of his associates who more than intimidated her regardless of their sobriety status. These were all very big names and for someone who had only heard them countless times on the radio, it was a lot to comprehend.
Currently, Blythe stood there with her 3rd flute of champagne and curious eyes scanning the room while Mackenzie spoke with a gentleman that he introduced as 'Alejandro Oterro, CEO of Baulk Co.' (apparently a very large technologies company). His easy going smile and hand lightly resting on her hip eased her social anxieties enough for her to focus on their conversation.
"It's good to hear that you're getting along well, Mackenzie. But you know I must ask, how is your mother doing?"
"Still in the hospital. I try to make weekly visits and as usual she tries to shoo me off, being motherly and telling me that 'there's nothing you can do. Live your life, and drink a scotch for me'. I'm sure you can remember how standoffish she can be. Bless her heart."
"Ah, that woman! Even on her deathbed she still won't take anything seriously. I do miss her and her wild antics. Glad to hear she hasn't lost any of her spark."
"No spark lost, that's for sure. Not even when they told us there was only 3 months left."
Both men went quiet for a moment while they stared off to a place their memories had taken them. Blythe's eyes moved back and forth between the men in careful observation. She hadn't known that Mackenzie's mother was in the hospital. He never once mentioned this to her or anything even close to it. In fact, the most he had ever talked about his family was when they had taken the weekend to spend in Ireland several months back. She made a mental note to ask him about it later, after the races.
She placed her hand on Mackenzie's arm, drawing him out of his thoughts. Not wanting to break the unspoken moment between the men, she teetered her empty glass between her fingers and nodded her head towards the waiter on the opposite side of the room. Mackenzie nodded in acknowledgement and gave her his best forced smile he could after thinking about his mother. He leaned in and placed a warm kiss to her temple before letting her go. It was almost difficult to watch such a tough man struggle so much internally so quickly. Obviously he had been close with his mother, so had Alejandro.
Carefully, she strolled across the room, giving the two men space to reminisce on the past. Her eye was on the waiter holding the tray filled with full flutes. The longer she spent in this glass box, the more her anxiety rose before the races began. She was within a few feet from the waiter when she felt a hand on her elbow. It wasn't a rough touch, but one firm enough to get her attention. When she turned around, she noticed it had been another employee dressed in the same fine black tuxes that the rest of the staff was wearing.
"Ma'am. A letter for you."
"Who is it from?"
"It was anonymously sent. Please, enjoy the rest of your evening."
The waiter gave her a courteous smile before abruptly and walking away from her. Blythe's brows furrowed in confusion. She certainly wasn't a big name around here. There would be no reason for anyone to be sending her letters. Her mind immediately went to worst case scenario. With everything she had, she hoped it hadn't been a letter from the officials excluding her and Ramona's horses from the races because of some stupid technicality.
Her fingers delicately unraveled the letter from the classy ivory envelope. The black scrawl was so intricate Blythe had to seriously study it before she could form words from the letter. When she did, it felt like the whole world had opened up beneath her and threatened to swallow her whole. Time stopped and the only thing she could hear was the blood rushing through her veins and her heart pounding like the sounds of the harsh African drums. Her fingers had clutched the letter so tight that the skin around her knuckles turned white. It took several minutes for her eyes to tear themselves away from the parchment. When she did, the first thing her eyes landed on was Mackenzie storming towards her with all the concern in the world etched onto his face.
"Blythe! What happened?" He grabbed her shoulders and waited only a few seconds for an answer before snatching the letter from her hands. Not much rattled Blythe to the core but whatever was written on this paper had not only rattled her, but shaken her down and stomped on her. His blood ran cold.
"I will never be more than three steps away. Watching. Waiting. When the time is right, I'll have you right where I want you."
There's a lot happening in this chapter! Thanks so much for reading, please leave a comment and let me know what you think! As always, stay safe and don't forget to vote/review!