Release Date: May 15, 2019
Jonas and the crew for Desert Heat were confronted by an Iraqi Shiekh who wanted to prevent them from leaving the country if they didn't give them the film canisters from the shoot. After the standoff, the jet arrived to transport the film's crew back to the States, and it exploded on landing. Lola's agent told her her Broadway career was over, so she returned to L.A., only to find her oldest son, Troy, in bed with a strange girl. Jackie saw her therapist about her postpartum depression. Later, she ran into Nathan. Nathan recalled the bitter end to their marriage. Back in L.A., Jonas instructed Vaughan to blame the Iraqi's for the explosion, even though he knew it was someone who wanted him dead. Ladys returned from her cruise to a frantic call from Madleen, who wanted her to come to L.A. Upon her arrival, Madleen told her that she was in love with her record producer and that she was certain he was having an affair. Convined Deacon Edgewater was the one who blew up his jet, Jonas went to his house with a gun, but is shot by the security guard.
Royce came back from his business trip a day early when Jackie called him in the middle of the night to tell him about her father. She expected him to argue about her wanting to leave David with the nanny, but to her surprise, he didn’t. She met him at the terminal and they embraced as soon as she boarded their private jet. The flight to L.A. seemed to take forever, but still the arrived early in the morning—just seven hours after the shooting.
“We got here as soon as he could,” Jackie said just as Joy pulled her into a weepy embrace. “How is he? What happened? Vaughan, all you said on the phone was that he was at Deacon Edgewater’s house when it happened.”
“He’s been in surgery,” Joy told them with a shrug. Frustrated, she dropped her hands to her sides. “I don’t know much else. No one’s said anything for hours.”
“What?” Jackie exclaimed in disbelief.
Royce quickly sprang into action. “I’ll go find somebody,” he said and took off.
Having him there calmed Jackie’s nerves. He was the strongest, most reliable man in her life next to her father. Yes, they fought and they screamed at times, but he was her rock. Tall and handsome with a thick shock of light brown hair, a strong jawline, and a wildly successful real estate developer at only thirty-years old. The fact that he cared anything about her father when the two hated each other was truly selfless. It was days like this that she didn’t know what she’d do without him.
“Vaughn, what was he doing there?” Jackie demanded of her father’s right-hand man.
“All I know is that he got it in his head that Edgewater was responsible for the explosion in Iraq,” Vaughan explained. “He had a few drinks and went over there... with a gun.”
Jackie sighed with aggravation. While she loved her father despite many of his flaws, sometimes he made it very difficult. “Oh for christ’s sake. What was he thinking?”
“Apparently things got heated and he must have made a move and that’s when Edgewater’s security shot him.”
“They said the bullet was close to his heart,” Joy said amidst a deluge of tears.
Jackie placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. She actually got along well with her step-mother. She didn’t get a gold-digging vibe from Joy the way she did his last wife, and sadly she never really knew her mother because she died when Jackie was very young. She liked Joy because she stood up for herself. She was fearless in that way, even going up against a man as intimidating as her father.
“Did they at least arrest the security guard?” Jackie wanted to know.
Vaughan shook his head. “Jonas was on Edgewater’s property with a gun and making threats. They questioned him but released him.”
When Royce returned with the doctor leading Jonas’s case, they all looked anxiously toward him. Telltale signs of blood stains on his scrubs, a weary look in his tires eyes, and his surgical mask hanging loosely beneath his chin were enough to send adrenaline coursing.
“How is he, Dr. Jones?” Joy asked.
“We couldn’t get all of the bullet fragments out,” he explained. “Some of them are very close to his heart, making it a very dangerous operation. During the surgery, his heart rate became weakened so we had to get out. It’s back up now but I’m afraid we can’t wait much longer. He could have more internal bleeding.”
“What can we do?” Royce asked.
“There’s a specialist in Atlanta,” the doctor told them. “He’s the best in cases like this.”
“So let’s get him here,” Jackie said.
“I’ll send our jet,” Royce insisted. He motioned to a phone at the admitting desk and led Dr. Jones to it. Reaching over the desk, he grabbed the phone and pulled it toward him. “Call your specialist.”
While Dr. Jones made the call, Joy covered her eyes with her hands and wept. Royce pulled her into a side-embrace. “It’s going to be okay,” he said and gave Jackie a look of reassurance.
Jackie looked at her husband in admiration. Despite their recent feuds, she’d never been more in love with him.
“Do you mind telling me what possessed you to drop out of school after only one semester?” Lola demanded as she paced the thick shag carpet in the drawing room of her home in Bel Air. “Was Oxford not good enough for you? I’m waiting, Troy. I’d really like to know. Just like I’d like to know why you thought it was okay to have sex with a strange girl in your brother’s bed.”
Troy shrugged with belligerence. “Oxford was fine. I just wanted to be at home.”
“Do you know many people would kill to trade places with you?” Lola asked, stopping long enough to light a cigarette, then continued pacing. “An Oxford education is priceless.”
“I know,” Troy groaned. “Just like Eastland was a good prep school. But mom, I’ve been away from home for my whole life. I mean, you send me to schools the farthest away that you can. I’m starting to take it personally.”
Troy Beauchamp, pronounced Beecham, was eighteen, vastly intelligent, and a bit reckless. He took after his father in that way. He’d been sent away to boarding school in the Northeast since the age of 10, returning on the occasional holiday and vacation. Lola maintained that it was because she was always working and traveling. In reality, she had her own selfish motives for sending him away, and she hoped he never found out. Or anyone, for that matter.
“Do you not want me to be here?” Troy asked.
“Don’t be silly,” Lola said dismissively. “You’re my son. I love you.”
“But not as much as Jordan,” Troy mused and folded his arms.
Lola was quick to correct him. “That’s not true and you know it. I love both of my sons equally. Jordan’s had it rougher than you. He doesn’t have your street smarts. His father dying didn’t help that. Now come on, what is this really about? Dropping out of school? Having sex with strange girls? Who was she anyway?”
“I met her on the plane.”
“Well does she have a name?” Lola demanded impatiently.
“Probably. I just don’t know what it is.”
Exasperated, she turned around and looked at the man sitting in a chair across the room. “You’re being awfully quiet,” she said. “Don’t tell me you’re okay with this kind of behavior.”
He laughed. “I’m just trying to figure out what the problem is.”
Lola groaned. “Like father, like son.”
Finally standing, the man went to pour himself a drink. His name was Thomas Beauchamp, or as most everyone called him, Topper. He and Lola were married for one year seventeen years ago, during which time she gave birth to Troy. She and Teddy Rydell, the film director, married soon after that. Topper was a forty-three year old wealthy financial guru. He made his fortune loaning money to movie studios to finance their projects.
“Look, if the boy doesn’t want to go to Oxford, don’t make him go to Oxford,” Topper said with a matter-of-fact shrug. He was used to playing good cop to Lola’s bad cop. He looked at his son and gestured. “Troy, where would you like to go to school?”
“Actually, I’d kind of like to learn about filmmaking,” he said and sat forward, eyes beaming. “I thought maybe I could get a job at Lamont 3 Studios. Man, I could be an errand boy, or an office boy. Anything. Whatever Jonas Lamont told me to do, really.”
“Out of the question,” Lola said, emphatically shaking her head. “It’s a low-down dirty business. You do not want to settle for a career in Hollywood, Troy.”
“Like you did?” he asked and gestured to the vanity wall across the room that boasted several glamorous painted portraits of his mother from the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Lola exhaled. “It was different for me. I was a young Jewish girl during World War II. I felt this urge to help out in some way so I toured with the USO and entertained the troops. From that it led to a contract with Lamont 3, and do you know what happened, Troy? It consumed my life. I had zero time to myself. Zero time for my family. I nearly had a breakdown.”
“Hey, what’s going on?” Jordan asked as he entered the room. He was Lola’s sixteen year-old son from her marriage to Teddy Rydell.
Topper laughed. “Well, we started out talking about Troy going to work for Jonas Lamont and somehow progressed into Lola Marlowe:The Miniseries.”
Lola threw her ex a jab from across the room.
“That’d be a cool job,” Jordan said. “If Jonas Lamont survives, I mean.”
“What do you mean if he survives?” Lola asked, craning her neck towards him.
Jordan shrugged. “He’s in the hospital. He got shot. You didn't know?"
“Oh no,” Troy said and stood up from the sofa. “Is he going to be all right?”
“Maybe you should go see him, Lola,” Topper suggested. “I mean, you did work for the man for a very long time.”
Lola was in shock. First some explosion on location in Iraq and now this? If Jonas had nine lives, he’d just used two of them up. “No,” she began to say. “Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t think about that right now. I mean, obviously this cancels any crazy idea of going to work for the man, Troy. If he does recover, he’s going to be laid up for weeks. It’s just not a good situation. Look, if you don’t want to go to Oxford, enroll somewhere here.”
“Lola,” Topper said, his voice full of warning. “Let the boy make up his own mind.”
She threw her hands up in resignation. She knew enough to know that when Topper came to his son’s defense, she was on the losing end of the battle. “Fine. I give up,” she said with exasperation and collapsed onto the sofa.
The restaurant at Chateau Marmont on Sunset was known for its world famous breakfast, so Charles Merteuil frequented it often. The hostess led him to a private booth, poured two steaming cups of hot coffee, and asked if he’d like to order. He told her he’d wait until his wife returned from the powder room.
At thirty-five, Charles was a distinguished, wealthy black man with close cropped black hair and a thick mustache. Tall and athletic and always well dressed, he was recognized everywhere he went by the most prominent people in the business world.
Heads turned when Ann Merteuil walked in, clad in a floral wrap dress with plenty of daring cleavage. Charles stood up respectfully as she approached. Conversations stopped as people observed this vibrant black woman with stunning good looks. Ann was thirty-three, classically beautiful with soft cocoa skin and illuminating brown eyes.
“Sorry, had to powder my nose,” she said and took her seat across from him.
“You look lovely. Do you know what you’d like to order?"
“Eggs Benedict,” she said when the waiter approached.
“Two,” Charles said and handed their menus to him.
At that moment, Richard Wells approached from across the room. “Well, isn’t this a surprise?” he said. “Good morning, Charles, Ann.”
“Richard, good morning.” Charles gestured to the bench. “Would you like to join us?”
“Oh, I don’t want to intrude,” he said
“It’s fine, Richard,” Ann assured him. Her husband’s business partners were always present, so she’d learned to make room for them in their marriage
“Well, just for a minute,” he said and sat down next to her.
“Richard and I are flying to Denver tonight,” Charles announced. “We’re bidding on some oil leases there.”
“You’re both bidding on the same leases?” Ann asked.
“Merteuil Industries is sharing those leases with Wells, Inc.,” Charles explained. “That is, if we don’t get outbid by Fallmont.” His company, with interests in shipping, oil and real estate, was close to becoming a Fortune 500 company. He often partnered on deals with Wells, Inc., an investment firm that had made them both a lot of money.
“I promise I’ll have him back day after tomorrow, Ann,” Richard said with a grin and a wink. He was something of a ladies man, using his wealth and influence to land any woman he desired. He was thirty-three, good-looking, and incredibly charming. He was used to women throwing themselves at him as he’d developed a reputation of being a stallion in the bedroom.
Ann knew her husband worked hard for their future, but she wished it didn’t take him away from home so often, especially now that their thirteen-year old daughter, Renee, had gone away to boarding school in Switzerland. Ann found herself alone much of the time.
“Something else about Jonas Lamont, isn’t it?” Charles said after taking a gulp of strong hot coffee.
“What was he thinking going over there with a gun like that?” Richard asked with a laugh. He caught the eye of the blond hostess as she walked by their table for the tenth time since he’d sat down. “He’s lucky he wasn’t killed.”
“They said it’s still touch and go,” Ann mentioned. “Jackie and Royce flew in this morning.”
“We should set up a meeting with Royce while he’s in town,” Charles said to Richard. “I’ll call and see if he’s free when we get back from Denver. We need to look at expenses on this Malta deal.”
Richard rose to his feet. “Keep me updated,” he said. “Ann, lovely to see you as always.”
After he left, Ann attempted to stand up. “I think I left my lipstick in the ladies room,” she said.
“Hold on,” Charles said and placed his hand on hers. “Listen, baby, I know you’re upset. I’m sorry about the trip but it can’t be helped.”
“You just got back from a trip two days ago,” Ann said. “And one the week before that.”
“It will all be worth it,” he said. “What do you think I’m doing all this for? For us. For our family.”
Ann nodded. “I know, Charles. I just miss you, that’s all.” She pulled her hand away and made her way back through the restaurant to the ladies room. When she passed a bank of payphones, she was approached by a tall, thin black man.
“Excuse me. Don’t I know you from somewhere?” he asked.
She looked him up and down, then hesitated for a moment. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure?” the man asked. “Would have been a couple of summers ago. That little club in Las Vegas? I forgot the name of it, but I used to see you hanging out there all the time.”
Ann smiled, flattered that this man remembered her, though she couldn’t recall ever seeing him before. “The Sierra Room,” she told him. “I own it, actually.”
The man grinned, leaning his shoulder against the doorway of the phone bank. “Well I’ll be damned,” he said. “You still singing?”
Ann blushed. “No, I don’t sing anymore. That was just—” She smiled, flustered. “I can’t believe you remember that.”
He chuckled. “Hey, I never forget a voice like that. You were good. Why aren’t you singing?”
Struggling for an answer that made sense, she shrugged. “I don’t know. It was just something that I did a few times for fun. I didn’t take it seriously.”
“You should.” He fished a business card from his loud tweed blazer and handed it to her. “Kool Lusby. I’m a record producer. You heard of Titan Records?”
“Yeah,” Ann said, studying his card. “Your name is Kool?” She grinned. “Come on. Who are you fooling?”
“All right, all right, my real name’s Damon. People just know me as Kool because that’s what I am, baby.” He grinned, strutting in place while waiting for her to laugh. When she did, he leaned back against the doorway and folded his arms. “In all seriousness, though, you’ve got talent. You should really think about singing again.”
Ann hesitated for a moment and then shook her head, handing the card back to him. “No. I appreciate the ego boost, but it really was just for fun.”
“Keep it,” Damon said. “You know, in case you change your mind.”
Sighing, Ann slipped the card into her purse, made an exaggerated shrug, and turned to walk away.
“Hey, baby, I didn’t catch your name,” Damon called after her.
She turned and smiled. “I didn’t throw it. And my husband’s the only one allowed to call me baby.”
With that, she disappeared around the corner. Damon laughed to himself and made his way through the restaurant, stopping outside the men’s room when he heard muffled squeals coming from inside. Listening closer, he suddenly realized it was a woman, and it sounded like she was having a very good time.
The men’s room at Chateau Marmont wasn’t the strangest place Richard Wells had ever had sex with a woman, but it was one of the riskiest. He secured the flimsy lock on the door, though unsure that it would actually keep anyone out. It was better than nothing.
After checking the stalls to make sure no one was inside, he turned and began ravaging the blond hostess. Burying his face in her cleavage, he hurriedly pulled her skirt up around her waist, delighted to learn she wasn’t wearing underwear. Quickly, he fumbled with his zipper and released his erection from the confines of his trousers. Eight and a half solid inches of sheer power and stamina, and the hostess squealed with delight when he spun her around and entered her from behind.
As the CEO of Wells, Inc., Richard was often in the position of being around beautiful women. Whether they were actresses or waitresses, prostitutes or corporate dynamos, he didn’t discriminate. He loved the thrill of the wild, animal magnetism when two lustful bodies gave up their inhibitions and succumbed to pleasure. And if there was some danger or riskiness to the scenario, it fueled his libido even more.
After a couple dozen vigorous thrusts, the hostess cried out in pleasure, waves of ecstasy washing over her. Richard climaxed a minute later, softly biting her neck as he emptied himself inside of her.
“Thank you,” the hostess said when they were through. She lowered her skirt and gave herself a once-over in the mirror. “I really appreciate it.”
“My pleasure,” Richard responded with a grin. He zipped his pants and went to unlock the door. On the other side was a man waiting impatiently to get in. Richard simply winked and followed the hostess out of the restroom.
Ladys Castro’s Malibu home was the perfect retreat when she was in Los Angeles. Situated under an elegant veil of privacy on the long strand of beach, her home was larger than the one in Miami, but not nearly the size of her estate in Acapulco. Of the three, she loved Acapulco the best, partly because she grew up there and it had a strong connection to her family, and also because the views of the beaches and the Pacific Ocean were the best she’d ever seen. Ladys loved the ocean.
Not that Malibu was anything to sneeze at, she thought as she stood on the terrace that jutted out over the beach, the ocean breeze in her golden hair. She watched people jogging along the sand and smiled. She decided they would stick around for a few more days. Madleen was still on edge about her relationship with Damon, and she needed her oldest friend to help her through it. They’d met when she and Peter were still courting nearly twenty years ago. Ladys was still a young, inexperienced Mexican girl with very little knowledge of how wealthy societies operated. Small talk and socializing with gossipy wives of powerful men wasn’t her strong suit. Once when Peter took her to an industry party, Madleen was playing piano with the small four-piece band—before she met Oliver Leon and became a household name. They met in the ladies room and hit it off immediately. Twenty years later, they were still friends and had been there through every heartache, every triumph, and every setback with one another. So when Maddy said she needed her, she was there. No questions.
She also planned to use her time in L.A. for another good use, namely helping organize a charity event for the Ocean Conservation Fund—an organization she belonged to and helped raise money for on many occasions.
After going back inside the house, she called out for her daughter. “Alicia, we have to leave for lunch in ten minutes!”
“You don’t have to shout,” Alicia said from behind, sinking her teeth into a crunchy red apple.
Ladys gasped and placed a hand on her chest. “My dear, you scared me to death! What are you doing?”
“I’m watching TV,” Alicia said matter-of-factly while gesturing to the television.
“Well, go change so we can go to lunch,” her mother told her, then grabbed the apple from her. “And don’t spoil your appetite.”
Alicia frowned and examined her flared jeans, midriff-bearing knit-top, and wedge sandals. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?
“My darling, you can’t wear that to the Beverly Hills Hotel!” Ladys exclaimed. “Now go change so we aren’t late. Please, baby girl.”
Alicia turned in a huff, stomping across the room while mumbling. “Fine, but the establishment really needs to stop directing people how to dress. I prefer to be a free spirit. I wear what my mood tells me to wear.”
“Fine, just as long as your mood tells you to wear something that covers up your stomach!” Ladys yelled after her.
Sighing, she turned and walked to the television where that day’s episode of The Young at Heart was airing. Immediately drawn to the drama surrounding Faye Richards latest man troubles, Ladys felt herself growing immersed into the story. Just as Faye was about to announce the father of her child, the broadcast was interrupted by a news bulletin.
“Ay!” Ladys cursed, then noticed the bulletin was coming from the medical center where Jonas Lamont had apparently been hospitalized. Quickly, her attention turned back to the television.
“Sources close to Lamont have revealed that the Hollywood producer is currently undergoing a second surgery as a result of the gunshot wound he sustained late last night, this surgery led by a specialist the family had flown in early this morning. No word on Lamont’s prognosis but a press conference is expected in the next half hour. Stay tuned for more updates as they occur.”
Ladys’ eyes widened in surprise. She’d been so busy all morning she hadn’t heard the news. Jonas Lamont shot? A scowl crept over her face as she balled her fists and shook them in the air.
“Bastardo!” she cursed, then launched into an extended tirade of Spanish profanity. When she was through, she made a tiny spitting noise when a photo of Jonas flashed onto the news bulletin. “If there’s any justice in this world, you will die like a pig!”
She walked to the television and pushed the off button, watching as Jonas’s picture slowly faded away. Using her hand to make the sign of the cross, she then clasped her hands together and spoke a silent prayer asking for forgiveness. With that, she turned and made her way to the door, calling upstairs for Alicia.
The Titan Records studios in Hollywood were a representation of everything Damon Lusby had dreamed of when he was a teenager in Detroit longing for a career in music. He’d hand-picked everything from the recording equipment, the instruments, even down to the green shag carpet and orange and brown swivel lounge chairs. He refused to settle for second best, and that meant being in charge of even the smallest details.
Damon was a thirty-one-year-old man with two personas. One was Damon, the hard working, determined black man from a bad neighborhood in Detroit who started with nothing and built one of the hottest record labels of the seventies. The other persona was Kool, the showy record producer who was always seen in the hippest clothes and using the hip lingo of the moment. It was necessary in order to stay relevant with younger listeners. He often would go to clubs and watch what people were wearing and what they were listening to. He immersed himself in music in every aspect.
In the control room of the recording studio, Damon was conferring with his sound engineer about a new mix of one of Madleen’s songs.
“Take the hi-hat up. I want to make it a little more pronounced. And take the percussion down.” He listened as the song blared over the speakers. Closing his eyes, he absorbed the music. “Yeah, that’s good, that’s good.”
When the control room door opened and Madleen entered, Damon smiled and began grooving to the music. Madleen managed a smile, awkwardly standing in the doorway.
“Do you like it?” Damon shouted over the music. “I made a few changes and I think it really sets it off.”
“It’s great,” Madleen replied.
“What?” Damon asked, unable to hear her.
“I said it’s great!” she yelled just as the music stopped. Flustered, she ran her fingers through her mane of red hair. She repeated herself softly. “It’s great. Listen, can we talk in private?”
Damon nodded. “Sure, baby.” He turned toward the engineer. “Let’s take lunch, T.T.”
Once the man left, Damon walked to Madleen and attempted to pull her into an embrace.
“No,” she said and backed away.
“What’s wrong, baby?”
Madleen sighed. “Don’t call me that. You know I don’t like it.”
Damon could sense she was upset. “I’m sorry. Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”
“Listen, before you fell asleep last night I was going to ask you something,” Madleen began. She paused, a tortured look on her face as she struggled for words. “I don’t know how to say this so I’m just going to come out and ask you. Are you having an affair?”
“An affair?” he repeated. “Are you crazy?”
“I don’t know. I’m getting all kinds of signals here, Damon.”
“You told me three times last week that you were coming over when you left the studio, and you never showed up. You left me waiting for hours.”
Damon sighed. “I thought I explained this, Maddy. T.T. and I wound up working late on some tracks and I slept on the sofa in my office. I would have called you but it was already so late and I didn’t want to wake you.”
She studied his eyes carefully. “I called the studio. T.T. said you had left.”
Damon was quick to deflect. “He was wrong. He probably didn’t know that I was asleep in my office.” In an attempt to calm her, he reached out and took her hand in his. “Look, Ba— Maddy, I’d have to be crazy to step out on you. You know how I feel about you. I love you.”
Madleen allowed him to place his arm around her. “What about the other night at your apartment when that woman called?”
“What about it?”
“Come on, Damon, you got real nervous sounding and when I asked about her you gave me some crazy story.”
He pulled her closer. “Baby—” he started, then quickly corrected himself. “Maddy, she was a chic who came up to me at a gig wanting me to listen to her tape. I took it to be nice and she’s been hounding me ever since.”
Madleen sighed and shook her head. “You meet so many girls in your job.”
“Hey, what about all the guys you meet?” he asked. “You think I’m not jealous when some bozo comes up to you and touches you?”
Finally beginning to back down, Madleen put her arms around him and kissed him softly on the lips. “I’m sorry, I guess I’m just overreacting. I keep questioning whether our relationship is going to get in the way of our working together.”
“It won’t if we don’t let it,” he said. “Now look, I want you to stop thinking about stuff like this. You know I’d never hurt you.”
“I know,” she said with a sigh and a nod.
He placed a finger under her chin and lifted her head. “How about I take you out tonight?” he asked. “Anywhere you want. And then afterwards we’ll go back to your place and—” He leaned in and whispered in her ear, grinning when she shivered with delight. “Sound good?”
“Yeah,” she said and smiled.
Damon walked her out of the control room. “Now I’ve gotta get back to work if we want your new album out by Christmas.”
“I’ll see you later,” she said and kissed him again.
Damon watched her disappear from the studio. When T.T. returned, he gave him a task to complete. “Hey, find out who owns The Sierra Room is Las Vegas.”
“Because I think I found my next big star,” Damon replied, beaming.
A sea of reporters gathered outside the main entrance of the UCLA Medical Center as Vaughan gave them updates on Jonas’s condition.
“Is Jonas Lamont out of surgery yet?” one reporter asked.
“Yes,” Vaughan replied. “The surgery was a success and the team of doctors treating him are confident he’ll make a full recovery.”
“Has there been any word from Deacon Edgewater?” another reporter asked while holding up a tape recorder. “Has he attempted to contact anyone for updates on Jonas Lamont’s condition?”
“No,” Vaughan said. “Next question.”
“Do you have a response to the Iraqi government demanding Jonas Lamont return to Iraq for questioning for naming one of their own as the entity that blew up his private jet?” someone from the L.A. Times inquired.
“We’re working with the Iraqi government to clear up any wrongdoing by Tariq Ahmed,” Vaughan said, knowing full well it was a lie. After telling the media that it was the Sheikh who blew up the jet, outrage had poured out of Iraq and they were now demanding action. With Jonas incapacitated, Vaughan had refrained from responding to them. He assumed Jonas would do the same, even while knowing that he was playing a dangerous game.
“Vultures,” Victor said. He was a young film star in his mid-twenties, and a close confidant of both Nathan and Vaughan’s. “How is he really?”
“They wouldn’t let us see him,” Nathan said.
“In recovery,” Vaughan told them. “The operation went well. I’m sure once he’s out of intensive care they’ll let you see him.”
“Jonas has the strength of a hundred hands behind him,” Victor went on to say.
“That he does,” Vaughan agreed.
“What about the explosion in Iraq?” Nathan asked. “Two attempts on his life in as many days. Is any of this related?”
Vaughan was quick to shake his head. “The explosion in Iraq was masterminded by someone who wants him dead, or so Jonas suspects. The shooting was just dumb luck, or more than likely his own doing.”
“But who would want Jonas dead?” Nathan asked.
“That’s a very good question,” Vaughan replied and shot them each an ominous look.
Upstairs in his room in a private wing of the hospital, Jonas’s eyes fluttered open and he looked around warily. He detected the blurry forms of people he couldn’t yet make out. His ears picked up the static sounds of heart monitors beeping. He smelled fragrant flowers in the air. His arm ached, and when he went to touch it, he felt the tube from the IV.
“What happened?” he murmured in a graveling voice.
“You’re in the hospital,” Joy told him, placing a hand delicately on his.
Immediately the last few hazy memories before he lost consciousness came back to him. “Edgewater,” he grumbled. “Son of a god damn bitch.”
“Try to stay still,” Jackie said as she approached. “The doctor said you need to take it easy.”
Hearing his daughter’s voice put a smile on Jonas’s face. “Jackie,” he said and squeezed her hand. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Well, you had us pretty scared,” she said to him as she glanced at Joy.
“Is my grandson with you?”
Jackie shook her head. “No, David’s back in New York.”
“Oh,” he said, disappointed. “You’ll stay for a few days though?”
She hesitated. “Maybe for a few.”
“Good,” Jonas said. “I suppose that no-good pinstripe trouser snake is with you too.”
Jackie sighed with exasperation. “You can call him Royce, Daddy. And I hate to break this to you, but he’s a big part of the reason you’re alive right now.”
Jonas looked at Joy. “What the devil is she talking about?”
“Shhh,” Joy said. “Don’t get worked up.”
Smiling, Jackie leaned down and kissed her father on the cheek. “I’ll leave the two of you alone.”
Before she left, Jonas called after her. “I love you, munchkin.”
“I love you too,” she said, blew him a kiss, and exited the room.
After she’d gone, Joy went about rearranging the many flower bouquets scattered across the room. She then busied herself with adjusting the pillows behind his head and pouring him a glass of water from a plastic pitcher.
“Joy,” Jonas said as his eyes followed her around the room. “Joy, please come here and talk to me.”
She approached the bed and went to position his pillows again. “Yes?”
“The pillows are fine. Now stop fussing and listen to me. I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you before...well, before Deacon Edgewater’s man plugged me.”
She smiled and kissed him tenderly on the cheek. “I”m used to your barks by now. Just please don’t try to exclude me all the time. When you do, look what happens.”
He matched her smile and pulled her down toward him.
The Polo Lounge, done up in peachy pink with deep carpets and dark green booths, was Lola’s favorite spot for lunch. She’d been a patron for practically her entire life, dining with both of her husbands, friends, directors, her agent, and today with Ladys Castro and her daughter. She decided to bring Jordan along because Troy was already getting on his brothers nerves.
“Lola, I’m so glad you’re going to help me with this party for the Ocean Conservation Fund,” Ladys was saying, gesturing with excitement
“I’m happy to do it,” Lola replied and stubbed out her cigarette in a crystal ashtray. “If we don’t do something now, what are the oceans going to be like in 40, 50 years?"
“Exactly,” Ladys said emphatically.
Lola looked at Jordan who sat next to her. “You’re awfully quiet. Don’t you have anything to say to Ladys or Alicia?”
Jordan shrugged. “Not really.”
Lola shook her head. “Teenagers today.”
“I know,” Ladys agreed and gestured to Alicia. “This one drives me crazy sometimes.”
Alicia rolled her eyes while she picked at her salad. “Yeah, because I’m such a terrible kid.”
“No, but you are strong willed like your mother was,” Ladys told her.
“Strong willed meaning I don’t fall into a preconceived notion about what being a teenager in the 1970’s is supposed to be,” Alicia mused while picking at a plate of french fries. “Sorry I don’t hang out at the mall and the arcade goofing on boys.”
“Alicia is very….how do you say….interested in the causes?” Ladys said proudly.
“Careful, I might be taking after you,” her daughter joked meekly.
Lola was quick to join in on the praise over their children. “Jordan has become something of a great writer,” she said.
“Mom, don’t,” he said, pushing a lock of blond hair from his eyes.
“It’s true,” Lola continued. She wished she had more positive things to say about her other son, but Troy, though he was very intelligent and got straight A’s all the way through prep school, hadn’t been very ambitious. She expected his sudden interest in filmmaking to go the way of his interests in fencing, polo playing, and every other one of his half-brained ideas. “He’s got a real knack for details. He sees people for who they are.”
Alicia looked across the table at Jordan. “I’d like to read something sometime.”
He shrugged indifferently. “It’s not very good. It’s just kind of a hobby anyway.”
Lola shook her head emphatically. “It’s a lot better than some of the scripts my agent sends me, I’ll tell you that much. I mean, where’s the talent nowadays?”
“Alicia, maybe you can help Lola and I with the fundraiser,” Ladys suggested.
“Why don’t the two of you come over for dinner this weekend?” Lola said. “We can hammer out the final details of the fundraiser, and Jordan can show Alicia some of his work.”
“I’d like that,” Alicia was quick to respond.
“Great, it’s settled,” Ladys said, flagging the waitress for their check.
Jordan and Alicia waited outside while their mothers powdered their noises. Awkwardly, Jordan stood counting the stripes on the awning that covered the entrance to the Beverly Hills Hotel. It wasn’t often that he was around girls his own age, being that he was home-schooled. He could sense Alicia glancing over at him every so often as if expecting him to say something. And he would, but all he could think about was her frosty pink lip gloss and her mesmerizing brown eyes.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” Alicia asked suddenly.
Finally, he turned toward her. “Not really.”
“That’s cool. Most writers don’t. I think it’s because they’re better at articulating themselves on paper. Who’s your favorite writer?”
Jordan winced uneasily while answering, fearful that she would make fun of him for his answer. “Shakespeare?” he answered tentatively.
“Wow,” Alicia said, pushing two thin braids away from either side of her face.
“What?” he asked, defensively.
She shrugged. “Nothing. I just don’t know many sixteen year olds who read Shakespeare. Where do you go to school?”
“I’m home schooled.”
“You’re lucky,” Alicia remarked. “I’d give anything not to have to go to high school. I mean, I love learning, but most people in high school are…” She paused. “Well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to wake up one day and find that my high school class is running the country. I mean, how terrifying, right? And all they do in high school is try to make you decide what you want to be when you grow up. Sorry, but my goal is not to wake up at 40 with the bitter realization that I’ve wasted my life on a job I hate because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah,” Jordan said, though he wasn’t totally listening. All he could focus on was her pink lips and how much he wanted to kiss them.
“Sorry for ranting. I just get worked up over things. My mom says I put a negative light on everything. I'm like ‘do you mean the harsh light of reality’? Look, I get what they’re trying to do with this whole save the ocean thing. But come on, it’s going to take a lot more than some celebrities mingling at a gala to stop corporations from dumping hazardous waste, or from oil spills when conglomerates like Merteuil Industries don’t take necessary precautions when transporting oil across waterways. And let’s not get started on—”
“Ready to go?” Ladys asked when she and Lola emerged from the hotel.
“Yeah, we were just talking,” Alicia told her.
“See you on Saturday,” Lola said and kissed Ladys once on each cheek.
As they walked, Jordan turned and waved to Alicia. “Bye.”
“See ya,” she said.
Jordan climbed into the back of the car with his mother, strangely intrigued by this beautiful young woman with such strong convictions. He’d never met anyone like her before, and Saturday seemed like a very long time away.
“There’s a reporter here to see you, Mr. Wells,” Richard’s secretary announced through the speaker box on his desk. “She says she spoke to you last week.”
Richard scanned his memory bank, vaguely remembering a reporter calling about doing a feature story on him for Image magazine. “Send her in, Sara,” he said, rising from his desk and making his way around to the door of his spacious office.
When the door opened and a petite woman entered, fresh faced and smelling of lavender and coconut, Richard’s interest peaked. This was not the traditional journalist he was used to being interviewed by. This was a captivating creature who he was instantly attracted to.
“Mr. Wells, thank you for meeting with me,” the woman said, offering a firm handshake. “I’m Daphne Dussault with the Associated Press.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Dussault,” Richard said.
“Ms.,” she corrected him.
“Of course,” he said slyly. “Forgive me, but I thought you were with Image magazine.”
Daphne laughed. She was a twenty-eight-year-old woman of five-foot-three-inches tall. She had short dark hair and blue eyes the color of a stone that Richard had seen once but couldn’t remember the name of. They were illuminating.
“Image?” she said as if it was a dirty word. “No, I’m not with Image magazine. I’m doing a story on your partnership with Charles Merteuil and Royce Jennings.”
Richard gestured to a chair and invited her to sit. “I’m sorry, I guess I got my wires crossed,” he said. Under normal circumstances, if a reporter showed up unannounced, he would had them escorted by security, but he rather enjoyed Daphne Dussault’s company. “Which partnership is this?”
“The one where the Maltese government granted you the rights to build a gas power station on their island,” Daphne explained.
Richard perched on the edge of his desk and folded his arms. “Ah, yes, it’s a gas fueled energy generating plant. It’s due to be complete sometime later this year. If that’s what your story is about, you may want to interview Charles Merteuil. He’s really the brainchild behind the science. I’m really just involved financially, and Jennings Holdings is doing the construction.”
“Oh, I’ll get to them in time.” Daphne crossed her legs, allowing one beige pump to dangle delicately off of her footz “Let me ask you this, Mr. Wells—”
“Richard,” he corrected her with a boyish grin. “Please.”
“Richard,” Daphne went on. “Have you ever heard of a company called 21 Black?”
“No, should I have? Who are they? And can I get you anything to drink, Ms. Dussault? Scotch? Water?”
Daphne shook her head. “I’m fine, thank you. 21 Black is a company out of Dubai. They were recently red-flagged by a money laundering watchdog. I believe whoever owns the company used it to launder funds to the Maltese government in exchange for permission to build the power station.”
Richard’s eyes narrowed on her. “And who would have motive to do that?”
“Well, the way I see it is one of the three companies building the power station. That would be Merteuil Industries, Jennings Holdings, and Wells Inc.”
Moving away from the desk, Richard sat down in a chair across from the pretty young reporter. “Ms. Dussault, I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at, but I personally can assure you I’ve never heard of 21 Black before, and I think I’d know if either of my partners owned it.”
“Maybe,” she said with a shrug. “But there’s a lot of money to be made from the power station. Far more than any payment to the Maltese energy minister. How can you be sure? How do I even know if you’re telling me the truth?”
“You don’t,” Richard replied and leaned forward. “But I’ll tell you what, go out to dinner with me and I’ll let you grill me all you want. I thrive under intense pressure.”
Daphne smiled at his persistence. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll just go to the next name on my list.”
“Are you trying to make me jealous?”
She rose to her feet, tucking her purse under her arm. “Are you married, Mr. Wells?”
He stood up after her. “No.”
“I didn’t think so. Your clumsy come-ons and half-baked innuendos probably wouldn’t work on women other than the bimbos you sleep with. No offense, but I’m just guessing, and I’m probably not too off the mark. That is your type, isn’t it?”
“I don’t believe in types, Ms. Dussault. I believe in chemistry. I mean, you can’t deny what’s going on here. It’s electric.”
“Oh, is that what it is?” Daphne asked with a grin. “I thought it was you striking out.” With that, she turned and walked to the door.
Richard followed her. “Ms. Dussault, what sort of proof do you have that 21 Black paid the Maltese government to put the power station through?”
She turned before opening the door. “Nothing concrete yet. That is until I have a chance to go through the bank records.”
Before she could leave, Richard called to her. “Why this story? I mean, you’re obviously committed to finding out whoever owns this 21 Black. Why is it important to you?”
“Because I’m tired of seeing big companies like yours breaking laws and never having to answer for it,” she told him. “And I’m tired of powerful, attractive men like you using your wealth and sex-appeal to get what you want.”
He raised an eyebrow. “So you do think I’m sexy?”
She rolled her eyes and left the office. Richard grinned, returning to his desk but unable to think about anything but Daphne Dussault for the rest of the day.
Lola entered Jonas’s private room at the UCLA Medical Center and saw him lying helplessly on the bed, hooked up to oxygen machines and heart monitors. He looked frail, which was a far cry from the last time she saw him, strong and virile even at his age. When the closing door alerted him to her presence, he craned his neck toward her.
“And I thought you didn’t care,” he said, raising the head of the bed so he could look at her at her level.
“Of course I care,” Lola said while walking toward him. “I’m not a monster, you know.”
Jonas coughed and took a sip of water. “Could have fooled me. My jet blows up, you don’t call; that son-of-a-bitch Deacon Edgewater shoots me, you don’t call.”
“Well I’m here now, aren’t I?” Lola said with exasperation. “I took time out of my busy day, out of my busy schedule to drive down here and offer my wishes for a speedy recovery, which is a lot more than you deserve.”
“Busy? What are you busy with? Your show in New York is over. You haven’t worked in weeks.”
“That’s just like you to keep tabs on me,” Lola told him. “It’s just like when we worked together. You always had to know what I was doing and where I was going. I couldn’t get any privacy. It was always about the studio.” She shook her head dismissively. “Oh, I don’t even know why I’m telling you any of this. You never listened before. Why do I think you will now?”
“All right, then what the hell are you even doing here?” Jonas bellowed.
She could see he was in discomfort. Walking closer, she refilled his glass from the pitcher of water. “Because I do care,” she said and handed it to him. “How are you, Jonas?”
“Alive,” he replied. “Takes a lot more than a bullet to stop Jonas Lamont.”
“I know that.”
He grew silent, looking off across the room in a daze. “Now they said there’s a problem with my heart.”
“What kind of problem?” Lola wanted to know.
“Arrhythmia or some nonsense,” he said. “Nothing too serious now, but they said because of my age—” He paused and looked at her. “Well, I’ve probably got a few good years left in me.”
“I’d say more than a few,” Lola said and placed a hand over his.
“You know, no one gets me as fired up as you do, Cookie,” Jonas said. “You always have. I can’t think of one woman who I’ve fought with more, and that includes all three of my wives.”
“I don’t think of us as fighting,” Lola said.
“You don’t?” he asked incredulously. “Well what the hell would you call it?”
“I call it two passionate people with their own opinions.”
Jonas shrugged. “Maybe,” he said. “To me it’s fighting. But you know what? I’ll always think of you as the one who got away. Why didn’t we ever get married?”
“Because you’re a power hungry maniac,” Lola said.
Jonas smiled. “I love ya, Cookie.”
“Love you too,” Lola said, keeping her hand close to his.
Across the room, Joy stood in the doorway watching and listening, heartbroken over the tender words the two spoke to one another.
Royce defelects Daphne's interrogation. Joy doubts Jonas's devotion. Troy tests his mother's patience.
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