The Candy Shop

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CHAPTER 23

“I want to call my husband,” Kira blurted, scanning the room for a phone.

“There’s no landline here,” Rocco explained, as he built a fire in the stone fireplace and then sat down on the brown leather couch.

Kira was trying hard not to panic but her mind was racing with panic-inducing thoughts. She knew the name Rocco Sterling from Frank, and she knew that Frank despised him. Frank, who was a man who typically did not curse, had used many obscene terms to describe Rocco Sterling. “Can I use your cell phone?” Kira asked.

“No. I threw it in the trash when we switched vehicles,” he told her. “I couldn’t risk anyone creating a satellite link and following us here. Come sit down,” Rocco said. “We need to talk.” Kira moved hesitantly toward him.

Her trepidation must have been obvious because Rocco held up both palms and said, “I won’t touch you. I promise.”

Kira sank onto the opposite end of the couch, never taking her eyes from his. More than anything she wanted to call Frank and have him come and get her.

“I’ll answer your questions and then I’m going to need you to answer mine,” he began.

Kira didn’t hold back. “You testified for the prosecution and destroyed my husband’s defense on that big mob case… that was you, right?”

Rocco nodded. “It was the State versus Tony Coronado.”

Kira’s eyes widened. “Coronado,” she mumbled. That’s why the name was familiar.

“Yes,” Rocco said. “He was called Iceman and he killed six people…”

“Coronado,” Kira interrupted.

“Am I missing something?” Rocco tilted his head.

Memories flashed in her mind. When Frank lost the Coronado case, they received death threats and the firm hired body guards for the families of Parker, Sullivan & Bates. “It was your fault Frank lost the case,” Kira mumbled.

“That’s a matter of perspective,” Rocco argued. “I believe locking up a killer like Tony Coronado was a win for everyone…”

Kira shook her head. The pieces were coming together. “Lucas said no one knows about The Candy Shop except the people he allows to know.”

“I’m not following. Who’s Lucas?”

Swallowing hard, Kira took a deep breath. “Lucas Coronado runs The Candy Shop.” Rocco’s face contorted with shock and then lit with understanding. “I knew the name Coronado sounded familiar but I didn’t make the connection to Frank’s old mob case. It never entered my mind,” she groaned. “I’m so stupid. That’s why Landon was there.” Kira felt anger rising in her gut. Why hadn’t she made the connection sooner?

“Wait a second,” Rocco interjected. “Landon Parker was at The Candy Shop?”

Kira nodded. “The first night in the Lair, he was there and he…” her voice cracked.

“You saw him and you talked with him?”

Kira nodded again. “He threatened my kids and Frank’s job.” She wrung her fingers together. “He told me I better keep Lucas happy.”

Rocco studied her face. “How were you supposed to keep Lucas happy?”

“By keeping you happy,” she said quietly. Rocco closed his eyes momentarily as if he were processing the information.

“Let’s start at the beginning,” he said, opening his eyes. “How did you end up going to The Candy Shop in the first place?”

Taking a deep breath, Kira told him about meeting Audrey for coffee and how Audrey began making a list of things she liked to do, which led them to a conversation about how Kira used to dance in college. “Audrey scheduled job interviews for us at The Candy Shop that evening,” Kira explained.

“And that was the night I saw you in the foyer?” Rocco asked and Kira nodded.

“Why did you go to The Candy Shop?” Kira asked and then rolled her eyes. “I mean, I know why men go to those places… I mean, I know it’s about sex…I’m just, well, why…”

Rocco cut her rambling short. “How did I find out about the place?” He raised his eyebrows and his lips curled into a slight grin. He was obviously amused by her nervous rambling. “There was a flyer left on my condo door several weeks in a row.” He shrugged. “I threw the first couple of flyers away but when the third one came, I couldn’t put it down. On the front was a picture of a woman that looked just like…” he paused. “Suffice to say, I felt drawn to go and see if this woman really existed.”

“So you went and requested a bunch of different women? Did you have sex with all of them?” Curiosity got the best of her and the question popped out of her mouth before she could stop it.

“No. That’s not what happened.” He sighed deeply. “The first couple of nights I watched the dancers upstairs and I didn’t do anything but have a drink and go home. The third night, when I saw Christine, the woman from the front of the flyer, I was mesmerized.” He got off the couch and moved quickly to the kitchen, retrieving a bottle of red wine and two glasses from the pantry. Kira watched intently as he opened the bottle, poured wine in each glass and then carried them to the coffee table, handing her a glass before sitting down. He took a sip of wine and then continued with his story. “Christine was the spitting image of someone I had loved and lost.”

“So, you…” Kira pried.

“I had sex with her, yes, but I was really just making-love to a memory, if that doesn’t sound too corny,” he quipped.

Kira sipped her wine and leaning forward, she set the Taser down atop the coffee table. “Who was the woman you loved and lost?” She asked, drawing her knees up and snuggling into the corner of the couch. She was still in her wet dress and chilled.

Noticing her shivering, Rocco retrieved a black t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts from the bedroom. “It’s not much, but it’s dry,” he said as he handed them to Kira. She immediately went to the bathroom, taking the Taser with her, and got out of the wet dress. Returning to the couch, Kira felt much better.

“So, you were going to tell me who Christine resembled,” Kira prodded and Rocco seemed to stare right through her, as if he were connecting thoughts as they popped into his mind. Suddenly he set his glass on the table and groaned, tugging his hair with both hands. “Omigod.” He uttered. “Omigod, that’s it. That’s it.”

“What’s it?” Kira asked.

“I didn’t put it together before because I didn’t know that The Candy Shop was owned by Coronado nor that Landon Parker had any involvement. He stood up and began pacing in front of the couch. “That’s the connection.”

“I’m lost,” Kira said.

He turned to face her. “Adrienne. Adrianne Parker was the love of my life and Landon wants revenge.”

“You were the one that broke up their marriage?” Kira gasped.

“No. Landon broke up their marriage by beating the shit out of her,” Rocco chided. “I loved her. I took care of her. I was there for her.” He grabbed his wine glass from the table and slammed it down in one gulp, immediately pouring himself another. “Landon Parker killed her,” Rocco spewed. “I know it. I know it.” He clenched his right hand into a fist. “I just could never prove it.”

Kira was floored. She had only met Adrianne a couple of times at Parker, Sullivan & Bates social functions, but she remembered hearing rumors about Adrianne filing for divorce and being involved with another man. She also recalled overhearing a late night conversation Frank had on the phone with Landon, where Frank kept saying, “I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of it.” He left right after the call and when she asked him about it the next morning, Frank told her that Landon had gotten drunk and driven his car into an embankment in East St. Louis. He didn’t want to deal with the insurance company so he had Frank corroborate his story that his car had been stolen earlier in the day. Ironically, Adrianne was found dead shortly thereafter. They were told it had been a hit and run and the killer had dumped her body down by the river. Chills shot up the back of Kira’s neck. Was it possible that Landon ran down Adrianne and then had Frank cover it up? Frank would never do that! Would he? She didn’t feel sure of anything at the moment.

Rocco slid back onto the couch. “I’ve screwed everything up,” he exhaled. “It’s because of me that Adrianne’s dead, and Christine, and Misty, and Ilesia and Miranda, and…” his voice trailed off.

“I’m still here and that’s because of you, too,” Kira uttered quietly. “You rescued me tonight.”

“I think you and that Taser did a pretty good job of holding your own,” he quipped. “The fact is you’re in danger because of me. They’ll be looking for you. Landon Parker alone has infinite resources, but put him together with Lucas Coronado and we don’t stand a chance.”

Kira took another sip and then set her glass atop the coffee table. “I have a chance now, which is more than I felt I had the past two days while locked in a room at the Adams Mark.” Their eyes met and she smiled. “I trust you,” she mouthed and the strange thing was, she really did. She didn’t know if it was because he had already seen her naked and vulnerable and hadn’t taken advantage of her or if it was the fact that his story rang true; whatever the reason, she trusted him.

Rocco smiled and for a brief moment the sparkle returned to his green eyes. Exhaustion beckoned both of them to sleep and Kira crawled into the king sized bed and laid down. She was ready to close her eyes when she saw him take a pillow and blanket and head for the door. Shooting up into a sitting position, she blurted, “Please don’t.”

Spinning on his heels, Rocco gazed at her, confusion over her outburst evident on his face.

“I don’t want to be alone,” Kira admitted, while nervously twisting the edge of the sheet around her fingers.

Rocco nodded and stretched out the blanket on the floor next to the bed, which made her laugh. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”

“That might save time,” Rocco teased.

“I want you to… I’m not hitting on you or anything like that…but…,” she stammered. “Would you sleep up here? I mean, will you just sleep next to me?”

Rocco gnawed on his bottom lip. She could tell he felt conflicted, but after everything they had been through, why should this be awkward? In the shower at The Candy Shop they had touched in ways that were far more inappropriate, and yet, as he crawled into bed next to her and she snuggled her head against his chest, she had to admit that this felt more intimate. Maybe it was because this time it wasn’t her body that was exposed, it was her heart.

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