Release Date: May 29, 2019
Jackie and Royce arrived in L.A. after learning of Jonas's shooting. Royce called in a specialist to perform surgery on Jonas. Troy told Lola and Topper that he wants to get into filmmaking and to have Jonas as his mentor. Lola refused, but Topper and Troy outnumbered her. Ladys cursed at the television when she saw Jonas's picture on the news. Later, Ladys and Lola met for lunch to plan an ocean conservation fundraiser. Jordan and Alicia attended, and Jordan became smitten with Alicia. Ann Merteuil became upset when her husband, Charles, planned another business trip. She later met Damon Lusby, who remembered her from a singing engagement at her Las Vegas nightclub. Madleen asked Damon if he was having an affair, and he assured her that he was not. Later, he asked his sound engineer, T.T., to find Ann. A reporter named Daphne Dussault confronted Richard Wells about a company called 21 Black, who she believed bribed Maltese politicians to approve an energy project to be built on Malta by Wells, Inc., Merteuil Industries, and Jennings Holdings. Richard was immediately attracted to the young woman. Joy overheard Jonas telling Lola that he has a heart problem, and then witnessed them in an intimate moment.
"The Emperor's New Clothes"
Richard Wells walked through the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel with every eye upon him. He was on top of the world, and it showed.
“Hello there,” said a voluptuous woman in a painted-on mini tennis dress.
He smiled his killer smile, his eyes sweeping over every curve on her body. “How’s it going?”
She would have been happy to tell him, but he didn’t stop his confident stride until he reached the Palace Arms restaurant and found Charles Merteuil perched at the bar.
“I ordered you a vodka gimlet,” Charles said and motioned to a drink on the bar. “I thought this called for a celebration.”
Richard picked the drink up and clinked it against the one in Charles’ hand. “I couldn’t agree more. I think the auction was a huge success.”
“I’ll say,” Charles agreed. “We won forty out of fifty leases on those oil fields. Ten years times forty fields—we’re looking at well over a million barrels a year."
“Celebrating your victory, I see,” a man said as he approached.
Charles turned and regarded him by raising his glass. “Hiya, Gerritt,” he began. “Yes, well, well figured we earned it after our win today. Incidentally, I know you wanted all fifty leases, but ten is nothing to sneeze at.”
“Those leases should have been mine and you know it, Merteuil,” he responded. His name was Gerritt Fallmont, a Colorado rancher and wildcatter with ties to the mountainous region dating back generations. “Those fields belonged to my granddaddy.”
“Past tense,” Richard corrected him. “And if your granddaddy still had drilling rights, the leases wouldn’t have gone up on auction. Look at this way, Gerritt, you can bid again when they come up for auction in ten years. Meanwhile, you’ve got ten wells. That’s pretty good for a family that was essentially bankrupt a few years ago.”
Gerritt glowered at him, issuing them both a look of warning. “Make no mistake, those leases will be mine. All of them. Then we’ll see who’s bankrupt."
As he left, Richard and Charles exchanged looks. “He’s pissed,” Richard said and swallowed a hearty gulp of his drink. “Should we be worried?”
“Of the Fallmonts?” Charles said while shaking his head. “No, there’s a lot of bad blood there but he doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.”
“By the way, I had a visit from a very nosy, but very pretty reporter the other day,” Richard said, thinking about Daphne Dussault and her intoxicatingly chilly demeanor. “She was asking all kinds of questions about the energy station project in Malta. Said that she was looking into a company called 21 Black, saying it’s a shell company someone’s using to pay off the Maltese government in exchange for winning the bid.”
“But we won the bid,” Charles said. “You, Royce and myself.”
“She was alluding to the fact that one of us owns 21 Black.”
“Interesting,” Charles said, then shrugged it off as he stood up and pulled his jacket from the back of the bar stool. “I’m sure she’s harmless.
“Didn’t the doctor tell you to stay in bed?” Nathan asked.
“I took it as a suggestion,” Jonas replied. “Besides, we’re about to go into post-production on Letter to God and Desert Heat. I didn’t build an empire by laying in bed doing nothing.”
“Any more on who was responsible for the explosion in Iraq?”
Jonas shook his head while puffing on a large Cuban cigar. “As far as the public knows, it was Tariq Ahmed. Vaughan learned that he was taken into custody by the Iraqi government yesterday.”
“But Ahmed is innocent,” Nathan said. “Doesn’t it bother you that he’s been accused of something he didn’t do?”
“Listen, Ahmed is a crook. He proved that time and time again while we were on location. If this is what it takes to bring him down, so be it. Besides, maybe this will lure the real culprit out.”
“Do you still think it was Deacon Edgewater?”
“I haven’t counted him out, that’s for sure,” Jonas said, then changed the subject. “Have you gotten confirmation on when they’re doing the reshoots for Letter to God?”
“Next week,” Nathan told him. “I’m concerned it’s going to bomb like Harvard did. I think it was risky doing another comedy when war movies have done so much better.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Nathan. You’re a natural comedic actor. Harvard had script problems from the start. Letter to God is a different story. Audiences will love it. Mark my words.”
“I wish I had your confidence.” He came away from the window and traced a finger along the hand-carved desk. “I ran into Jackie back in New York. It was awkward to say the least.”
“She’s here, you know.,” Jonas reminded him. “For a few days.”
“That’s why I came in through the tunnel from the pool house.”
Jonas shifted in his chair, wincing in pain from the incision in his chest. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think Jackie would be better off if she’d stayed married to you instead of Royce Jennings.”
“She wanted a baby,” Nathan said with a shrug. “And to tell you the truth, I think she belongs with Royce.”
“You don’t mean that,” Jonas said with a scowl. “That son-of-a-bitch is going to wind up hurting her.”
“They’re going to be together whether we like it or not,” Nathan said. “I think it’s time you accepted that.”
Jonas shook his head angrily. He damn sure didn’t have to accept anything, especially when it came to Royce Jennings.
Down the hall, the doorbells chimed, prompting Jeffrey, the faithful butler, to stop what he was doing and walk down the stairs to the rich, mahogany paneled foyer. He pulled the door open and found Daphne Dussault standing there.
“Hello. I have an appointment with Mr. Jennings. I’m Daphne Dussault from patient services at UCLA Medical Center.”
“Won’t you come in?” Jeffrey said and stood clear of the door. “Mr. Jennings is in the library. I’ll show you the way.”
Daphne followed him down a long hallway and into a dark room lined with leather-bound books and several movie one-sheets hanging prominently on the walls.
“Daphne Dussault for you, Mr. Jennings.,” Jeffrey said, then turned and closed the door behind.
Royce was seated on the sofa with a flurry of paperwork spread out on the table in front of him. He looked up, regarded the attractive young woman with a nod of his head, and stood up with a hand extended to her.
“I’m sorry, did we have an appointment?” he asked.
“No,” she said, politely shaking his hand. “I just wanted to ask you a few questions about—”
“Forgive me,” Royce cut her off somewhat irritably. “Who are you?”
Daphne smiled. “I’m a reporter with the Associated Press, and if I could just have a few minutes of your time—”
“I’m very busy, Miss Dussault,” Royce said and began placing papers into his briefcase. “I’m only in town for a few days and then I have meetings back east. My father-in-law came home from the hospital today and it’s just not a good time. Call my secretary and make an appointment for sometime next month.”
“I think once you hear what I have to say you’ll want to talk to me,” Daphne told him firmly. “It’s regarding Konrad Van Wyk.”
Royce frowned while busying himself with filling his briefcase. “What about him?”
“So you are familiar with him?”
“He’s the energy minister of Malta,” Royce said. “My company is constructing an energy station on the island.”
“That’s quite a windfall for your company,” Daphne said, taking a few steps toward him. “Even by sharing in the energy station’s profits with your partners, Jennings Holdings is poised to make millions.”
“Tens of millions,” he corrected her. “Is that what your story is about, Miss Dussault? How much money the station is going to make? It’s called capitalism. As an intelligent journalist, I’m sure you know that.”
Daphne chuckled. “I’m familiar withthe concept, Mr. Jennings. I mean, tens of millions of dollar is a lot of money at stake. I imagine you and your partners would have gone to great lengths to ensure you got permission to build on Malta.”
Royce picked up his briefcase and walked toward her. “I guess we gave one hell of a presentation. Now if you’ll excuse me—”
“Before you go, there is something I’d like to show you.” Daphne reached into her attache case and withdrew a document which she handed to Royce. “This is an account statement for a company Konrad owns called Orion Engineering Group. The company received three payments earlier this year from a company called 21 Black. Ever heard of it?”
Royce shrugged. “No. The better question is how did you get your hands on the bank statement?”
“Let’s just say there isn’t much I can’t do when I put my mind to something.”
“Good to know. I assume there’s a point to all of this.”
Daphne took the statement back from him. “Let’s see. Two hundred thousand dollars deposited on August 14, 1974. Another for five-hundred thousand on September 3. One more for—”
“I’m starting to get impatient, Miss Dussault,” Royce said firmly.
“I find it rather coincidental that the day after the final deposit into Konrad’s account by 21 Black, he announced that your company, along with Richard Wells and Charles Merteuil, were authorized to build the power station.”
“Coincidences happen all the time.”
“Especially one that will yield you tens of millions of dollars,” Daphne said. “I mean, I have to wonder what services 21 Black was paying Konrad for.”
Royce shook his head. “I couldn’t begin to care.”
“Well I intend to find out,” Daphne said, placing the document back into her attache case. “Along with who owns 21 Black. My instincts tell me you know the answer and you’re just not telling me. Bribing a government official of a foreign territory is bad enough, but money laundering is a sure way to get the FBI involved.”
“Money laundering is difficult to prove,” Royce told her. “I wish you luck.”
“I told you,” she began and started to the door. “There isn’t much I can’t do.”
After she left, Royce turned and walked back to the desk. He picked up the phone and dialed the operator. “I need the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado.” When the call was connected, he spoke to the front desk. "Richard Wells, please."
“Your home is beautiful, Lola,” Ladys Castro said as she followed the actress to the parlor room of her palatial house in Bel Air. “You have to tell me the name of your decorator.”
Lola led her to a seating area, a trail of smoke wafting behind her from the cigarette dangling between her fingers. “He did Elana Hendricks’ home in Westwood. It’s breathtaking. I’m sure I have his card somewhere. Anyway, I’ll give you a tour later.
“I would love that,” Ladys said, then realized her daughter was no longer at her side. “I wonder where Alicia ran off to.”
Lola waved a hand dismissively through the air. “You know teenagers. She probably went off exploring the grounds. It’s fine. It’ll give us a chance to talk. By the way, I love your boots. They’re Biba, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” Ladys replied.
Lola motioned to her own boots. A perfect match. She smiled. “Let it be our secret,” she said.
Ladys laughed and admired Lola’s carefully chosen outfit. Dark brown gouchos, Sonia Rykiel sweater, Gucci leather belt, and Oliver Goldsmith brown-tinted glasses. She always looked effortlessly stylish. Ladys, on the other hand, chose outfits that accentuated her curves. Tonight’s was a form fitting pair of green slacks and a Gucci blouse bearing a colorful pattern and cut as low as her mammoth breasts would allow. Prune colored eyeshadow and two different shades of pale lipstick with an over-the-top liberal helping of lip gloss completed her look.
Lola called for Marta, who arrived within seconds. “Marta, please bring me a martini and bring Miss Castro a—”
“Kir Royale,” Ladys requested.
“Oh, that sounds great. I’ll have that too. Marta, two Kir Royales, please.”
Marta nodded and turned to leave.
“Oh Marta!” Lola called after her. “Please make sure cook prepares the bernaise sauce with fresh tarragon. I prefer it over the dried.” She looked at Ladys. “It takes better, don’t you think?”
“Yes Miss Marlowe,” Marta said and turned to leave.
“Oh, and Marta, would you be a dear and bring a tin of caviar with our drinks? The Petrossian Beluga, not the Osetrova.”
“Yes, Miss Marlowe,” the maid said, then waited a moment to see if her boss would call to her again.
Lola raised an eyebrow. “Please hurry, Marta. Our guest is waiting.”
Once Marta left, Ladys reached into her bag and removed a folder. “So, here’s the menu I was thinking of for the Ocean Conservation Fund gala.” She handed Lola a colorfully printed document. “I wanted to include some dishes that are customary back in my village in Mexico. "
“I love it,” Lola said after reading through the menu. “This all looks really great, Ladys. You’re a natural when it comes to this kind of thing.” She removed her glasses and placed one end in her mouth. “You know, I wonder if we need more starpower. I mean, this thing could really bring in some money if we play our cards right. I say we get as many big name celebrities to show up as possible.”
‘You could do that?” Ladys asked, elated.
“You better believe it,” she said. “I’ll also get Jonas Lamont involved in recruiting some A-list stars. He knows everybody, you know.”
Ladys suddenly tensed. “You know, that’s okay. I think you and I can do fine without anyone else's help.”
“Well of course we can, but if you want to raise some money—some serious money—why not pull out all the stops? I’ll call Jonas tomorrow. He’s recovering at home but I know he’ll want to help out. He owes me big time anyway.”
“I said no,” Ladys insisted curtly. She rose to her feet and clasped her hands together anxiously. “I mean—. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
Lola’s eyes narrowed suspiciously on the younger woman. “Ladys, what is going on?” she asked and followed her across the room. “Do you have some kind of issue with Jonas Lamont?”
“It’s nothing,” she said, her hands trembling with anger. “Please, just forget I said anything. It would really mean a lot to me if we can just forget it.”
But Lola was convinced there was more to it. Why had Ladys reacted with such hostility when she mentioned Jonas? Maybe now was not the time to pry, but some day she would ask her again.
So she didn’t have to listen to conversations about napkin colors, centerpieces, and what four-piece band to hire for the gala, Alicia wandered about the grounds outside Lola Marlowe’s house. She passed by a tennis court, horse stables, and now found herself by the swimming pool where someone was doing laps. Probably Jordan, she decided, slowly walking up to the tile surround and trying to get his attention.
“So this is where you hang out when your nose isn’t buried in a book of Shakespeare,” she called, not sure if he would hear her or not. He did one more lap and then popped up out of the water. It wasn’t until then that she realized it wasn’t Jordan. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else.”
Troy Beauchamp tilted his head in an attempt to release water trapped in his ear. “Who did you think I was?”
“Jordan,” she said.
“I’m his brother,” Troy told her. “Well, half-brother. Who are you?”
“I’m Alicia Langdon. My mom and I are having dinner with you tonight. Well, with your mom.”
Troy lifted himself out of the water and picked up his towel from a nearby lounge chair. Alicia found herself staring at his sculpted body. Sinewy arms and a chiseled chest, his muscles were in permanent flex mode after his workout. Quickly, she looked away, hoping it wasn’t too late. Did he know she was staring?
“It’s nice to meet you, Alicia Langdon.” He walked over and shook her hand. “I’m Troy Beauchamp.”
“Nice to see you,” she said, then laughed nervously. “I mean, nice to meet you.”
Troy’s handsome face wore a grin as he dried off. “So your mom’s the one organizing the fundraiser with Lola?”
“Ummm...yes.” She didn’t know why she was tongue-tied. She’d met good-looking boys before. She wondered how old Troy was. Her guess was not much older than Jordan.
“So how do you know my brother?”
“We met the other day at lunch. He was going to show me some of the things he’s written.”
“That’s good,” Troy said, draping the towel over his suntanned shoulders. “Jordan’s a good writer.”
“What about you?” Alicia wanted to know. “What do you do?”
“Right now, nothing,” he replied with a shrug. “I dropped out of Oxford University and moved back home. I’d like to get into filmmaking.”
Alicia frowned. “That wasn’t too smart.”
“Excuse me?” Troy asked incredulously.
She was quick to backtrack. “I just mean, you gave up an Oxford education to get into the movie business? God, I’d only be so lucky to get into Oxford, and you just give it up? No offense, but anybody can work in Hollywood. Not everyone gets to go to Oxford.”
Troy took another step toward her. “How old are you?”
Alicia straightened her posture to assert her confidence. “I’m going to be seventeen next month,” she said.
Troy chuckled. “Look, I don’t think I need life coaching from a high-school girl.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Alicia demanded, her cheeks flushed. “Just because I’m still in high-school I can’t have an opinion on what direction in life someone chooses?”
“Not until you’ve actually experienced life.”
She folded her arms. “Oh, and you’re so worldly? What are you? Eighteen?”
Troy nodded furiously. “Yeah, and I’ve pretty much been on my own since I was ten. My mother dumped me at a private school in New York. What’s the longest you’ve been away from home? A weekend?”
Alicia didn’t answer because Troy actually guessed correctly. She was always with her mother, and when she wasn’t, she was with her father. But she still refused to accept that her opinion didn’t count just because she grew up with one or the other around all the time.
“You know what?” she began. “I’m sorry I even said anything. Obviously you can’t handle criticism. You might want to work on that if you’re going to start making movies.”
“Yeah, I’ll be sure to do that,” Troy said sarcastically. “Listen, I’ve got things to do. Enjoy dinner, and tell my mom I suddenly lost my appetite.”
“Happily,” she said and took off in a huff. As she made her way up the hill, she spotted Jordan coming toward her.
“There you are,” Jordan said and approached her. He could immediately tell she was upset. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh nothing,” Alicia said with a scowl, then quickly threw a look over her shoulder. “Your brother’s quite the creep, though. I can tell you that much.”
Jordan looked past her and saw Troy down at the pool. He glowered and took Alicia’s hand. “Come on,” he said and led her off through the grounds.
When Charles Merteuil made his first million, the first thing he did was buy his wife her dream home. She wanted a formal dining room, plenty of bedrooms, a sparkling swimming pool, and lots of room for entertaining. The house sat on a tree-lined street in Beverly Hills. Ann had painstakingly selected every piece of furniture herself, along with every picture that hung on the wall and every piece of art that adorned the shelves. It had been featured in magazines and talked about by designers.
Yes, Ann had got the house of her dreams, but sadly, it had never felt more empty.
“Still no answer?” she said, the phone tucked between her shoulder and ear. “Okay, thank you. No, no message this time.”
She hung up and placed the phone back on the coffee table. Charles had been in Denver on business for a couple of days and he hadn’t called to check in once, which was very unlike him. She hated it when they went a whole day without talking. In the fourteen years they’d been married, she could count on one hand the number of times that had happened. The number of days he was away from home on business, however, had only increased. And yes, he was doing it for their family, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Reaching for the phone again, she dialed the operator. “I’d like to make a person to person call,” she began. “To the Wycombe Abbey boarding school for girls. Yes, the name of the party is Renee Merteuil. Please let me know when you have her on the line.”
While she waited, she brought the phone to the bar cart across the room, the cord snaking across the carpet as she teetered on impossibly narrow heels. She poured herself a small crystal glass of sherry and then turned on the stereo to the easy listening station. Humming along to a song by Gershwin, she waited for the operator to come back on. When she did, she told her the party couldn’t be reached.
“Oh, I see. Thank you.”
Hanging up, Ann sighed heavily. Renee was probably at dinner in the dining hall, or studying in another girl’s room. They usually spoke every Sunday night, but tonight she just needed to hear her daughter’s voice.
She opened a drawer in the small writing desk across the room and found the business card Damon Lusby had given her. Ever since she ran into him, she’d been thinking back to the short time in her life when she sang at their club in Las Vegas. Did he really think she was that good?
Suddenly, inspiration struck. With the business card still clutched in her hand, she made her way upstairs to her and Charles’ bedroom. In the closet, on a shelf above the designer gowns and the furs, she withdrew a small box. Inside was a cassette tape with Sierra Room - June 1972 scribbled on the label. She hadn’t listened to it in years.
Racing back down to the living room, she sat down on the floor in front of the stereo and placed the tape in the cassette deck. When she pressed play, she was almost surprised by the sound of her own voice emanating from the speakers. The song was Carly Simon’s Anticipation. She performed it over a piano backing, the pianist having recorded the rehearsal so she could go back and listen for the parts she wanted to work on. To her surprise, there weren’t many of them.
When the song reached its crescendo, the sound became distorted, first speeding up and then slowing down. Awful noises came from the cassette deck so Ann quickly went to eject the tape. To her dismay, the tape had become unspooled and was spilling out of the cartridge. She picked the tape up and looked on in devastation at the destruction of the only thing she had left from those few performances.
Tears flooded her eyes. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed on the floor. It couldn’t just be the tape making her that upset, she thought to herself. Maybe she was just emotional because she was feeling so alone. Or maybe she really did long for the escape that singing had provided her.
Looking at Damon’s card again, she pulled the phone toward her and sat it on the floor in front of her. She punched the numbers out with her knuckle so as not to damage her manicure. When he answered, her tears were gone.
“Damon, this is Ann Merteuil,” she began. “We met the other day at Chateau Marmont. Are you free for lunch tomorrow?”
Back at Lola’s house, Jordan and Alicia had wound up in the horse stables. He’d become enchanted by the way she would gingerly stroke her hand through Wilhelmina’s dark brown hair, almost as if she were slightly afraid of the animal. Wilhelmina—their newest mare—sensed nothing of the sort, however. She nuzzled her nose against Alicia’s and winnied when she drew near. They’d become instant friends.
“So your dad died, huh?” Alicia asked as she turned her attention away from the horse.
“Yeah,” Jordan replied, his hands in the pockets of his tan flared corduroy pants. “Three years ago.”
“Wow. What was he like?”
Jordan shrugged. “He was the best.”
“He had a heart attack. They said he worked too much.”
“That’s terrible,” Alicia said with a somber shake of her head. “He probably took good care of himself too. Did he take care of himself? My mom says if you eat right and exercise and all that junk, you can stay healthy forever, but what about everything you can’t control? Like stress, job stress and all that stuff. It can kill you faster than anything else. What did your father do? Wait, he was a director, right?”
“I knew it,” Alicia said. “Just like I told Troy, he should have stayed at Oxford. Hollywood is too much. It’s bound to kill you one way or another. No offense. Did you know that heart disease can be hereditary? Oh, wait, I guess you don’t have the same father.”
Jordan just shrugged and shook his head. “What else did you and Troy talk about?”
Alicia rolled her eyes. “Just about how he was right and I was wrong. According to him, anyway. Typical chauvinistic ageism. Like we don’t get it enough from the man, always trying to tell us what to say and how to think. And that’s all I was doing—trying to give him my opinion. But did he want to hear it? No, of course not. Because I’m 16—almost 17—and a girl. Thank god you’re nothing like him. You’re very easy to talk to.”
“So are you,” Jordan said with a smile. He loved the way her eyes glimmered and her cheeks flushed when she got worked up.
“Anyway, my dad’s great too. I just spent two weeks with him when my mom was on a cruise. He wasn’t around much for most of the time. Always at work or at a work dinner or with one of his girlfriends. We had fun together, though. A couple times we stayed up late watching movies and scarfing up popcorn. I was pretty sad when him and my mom got divorced. I think he still loves her but I don’t think she’d ever get back with him. I’m still not sure what exactly happened. Apparently I’m too young to hear about stuff like that, which is totally ridiculous. They’re both always telling me that I’m mature for my age. Teachers says it too. Probably five or six times. I don’t know if I’m necessarily mature, or that I just read a lot so I absorb a lot of information. Do you like being homeschooled?”
“It’s okay.” He couldn’t stop staring at her frosty pink lips.
“I get to be excused from the last couple weeks of school. I took all my finals early. Truthfully, I could have skipped junior year all together. Everything felt like a review. I mean, if they’re going to make us slaves to the educational institution—which is seriously lacking in the United States, by the way—then at least make it a challenge. I mean, if I have to sit through one more—”
Finally, Jordan couldn’t take it anymore. He took a few steps toward her and placed his lips on hers. First just for a few seconds, and when she didn’t protest, he went in for a longer, deeper kiss. Her lips tasted sweet and felt soft against his. When she opened her eyes, he slowly pulled back, anxiously awaiting her reaction.
“You kiss with your eyes open,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Why?” Alicia asked. “It was nice. You’re a good kisser. But you should close your eyes when you kiss a girl.”
“I don’t know,” Jordan said, feeling awkward.
“Here, close your eyes,” she said, running a hand over his eyes. “Now keep them closed no matter what. Okay?”
“Okay,” he said, butterflies tripping through his stomach. He stood there, blind to anything she might do to him. He’d never felt so excited about anything in his life. Waiting was torture. Finally, he felt her lips on his. As much as he wanted to open his eyes and look at her, he kept them closed. The kiss was so incredible that he didn’t actually know when it ended. He stood there, his eyes closed, his lips tingling.
“You can open your eyes now,” Alicia said.
He opened them and smiled. “Wow.”
“Nice, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Wow,” was all Jordan could say.
Troy’s second-floor bedroom was on the northeast side of the house and had a direct view of the horse stables. He’d seen Jordan and Alicia disappear inside when he left the pool, and by the time he got upstairs, they were still there. Standing at the window, bare chested and dressed in a pair of dry shorts, he watched them, though he wasn’t sure why. Alicia was a Miss Know-It-All and had instantly rubbed him the wrong way. The nerve of her judging his decision to leave school. Who did she think she was, anyway? She was nothing but a kid. A very pretty one, but a kid nonetheless. So why was he so bothered by her?
He saw them kiss, and at first expected Alicia to deck his little brother. Instead, she kissed him back, longer this time. Hadn’t they just met at lunch the other day? Who knew that Jordan had it in him to actually kiss a girl seemingly out of the blue? And what did he see in her, anyway? Yes, she was cute and she was feisty, which he had to admit made her all the more appealing.
Sighing, Troy walked to his bed and sprawled out on his back. For such a pain in the ass as Alicia was, he somehow wasn’t able to get her out of his mind.
Joy Lamont sat at the vanity in the master suite at the Lamont mansion wondering where her husband was. Since he got home from the hospital he’d had a constant rotation of visitors at the house to see him. Nathan, Elana Hendricks, Jack Childers, of course Vaughan Novak. The list went on and on. The one person she hadn’t seen visiting—at least not since the hospital—was Lola. Their conversation she’d overheard still weighed on her mind. She always knew they’d had a long history together, though she was fairly certain it had never been a romantic one. Still, Jonas had confided in Lola about his heart condition and had yet to say anything to her-his own wife.
With a sigh of frustration, Joy lathered a palmful of Rose Milk onto her legs, then worked the fragrant lotion into her hands before rising from the vanity and flitting across the room. She made her way out into the hall and down the grand staircase, her lacy nightgown billowing behind her.
After checking the study, the parlor, and the conservatory, she finally found Jonas in the library poring over a stack of papers. He had a glass of bourbon in front of him and the remnants of two cigars.
“Jonas, when are you coming to bed?” Joy asked as she entered.
He barely looked up. “As soon as I get through this mail. You’re out of commission for a few days and the work backs up.”
Joy made her way toward him. “Why don’t you have someone do that for you so you can rest? The doctor told you—”
“He told me to take it easy, which I have been,” Jonas said and finished his drink.
“You call that taking it easy?” Joy asked and gestured to the scotch and the cigar. “I just wish you’d let me or Jackie or Vaughan or somebody take over for a few days while you recover. You’ve had a major surgery, and your heart—”
Jonas looked up quickly, his eyes narrowing on her. “What about my heart?”
Cursing herself for letting it slip that she knew about his heart condition, Joy dropped her hands to her sides in resignation. “I just mean—”
Standing, Jonas could see the desolate look in her eyes. “You overheard me with Lola the other day, didn’t you?” When she didn’t respond, he walked toward her and placed his arms around her. “Look, Cookie, I know how that must have made you feel. Me telling Lola before you.”
“Why did you?” she asked.
“Look, I'm just trying to keep this thing from snowballing into something bigger than it is,” Jonas said, walking to the fireplace where there was a giant painting of him hanging over the mantle. “The minute I told you, you’d start worrying, then Jackie would find out and she’d get worried. Then you’d do just what you’re doing now.”
“You’re my husband. Of course I’m going to worry about you.”
Jonas grinned. “And I love you for it, Cookie.”
Cookie. Joy always thought it was his pet name for her and only her, but the other night in the hospital, she’d overheard him saying it to Lola.
“About Lola,” she began.
“She’s an old friend,” Jonas assured her. “We’ve known each other for thirty years. That’s all you have to know.”
Somewhat reassured, Joy smiled. “Okay. Are you coming to bed soon?”
“In a few minutes.”
She kissed him on the lips. “Don’t stay up too late,” she said with a wink. “Our bed’s been so cold the last few nights. I thought we’d warm it up.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Jonas replied, smiling as he watched her turn and leave the library.
Royce was walking down the stairs when Joy appeared at the bottom landing. They exchanged brief hello’s and then Joy stopped him.
“I just wanted you to know that it means alot to Jonas that you’re both here,” she said.
Laughing, Royce couldn’t tell if she was being serious or not. “I doubt that. Your husband and I haven’t had two nice things to say to each other since we met twelve years ago. I’m only here because I have business in L.A., and it was important to Jackie.”
She shrugged. “Still, I know he appreciates it more than you think.”
“Sure,” he said, laughing again as he made his way down the hall to the library. When he entered, he found Jonas standing by the bar pouring a glass of bourbon. Bad timing, he thought to himself. He considered backing up and leaving, but Jonas had already spotted him.
“Join me for a nightcap?” Jonas asked.
Frowning, Royce eyed his father-in-law with suspicion. “Uhhh...okaaaay. I really just came in to find my briefcase.” Before he even finished the thought, Jonas was thrusting a glass toward him. He swirled the amber liquid around in the glass and took in the aroma. “You finally opened the private reserve. What’s the occasion?"
“That fact that I’m going to die,” he replied.
Royce nearly choked on his first sip, but quickly regained composure. “Really? That’s terrible,” he said in a perfect emotionless monotone.
Jonas chuckled and walked across the room to his portrait again. “I mean, not any time soon, but inevitably. The old ticker isn't what it used to be. And if that doesn’t get me first, the maniac that blew up my jet will.”
“And this is a celebration, or—” Royce was confused. Had the man finally gone senile?
“In a way, yes,” he told him. “You could say I’m celebrating the start of me getting everything I want.”
Royce laughed at the remark. “What more is there? You have a twenty-five room mansion, the top revenue producing film studio in the world, more money than you know what to do with, a wife who adores you. What do you need? Your own island?”
“Those are all material things. I’m talking about real success. Real power.”
Cringing, Royce took another gulp of bourbon. “Please don’t tell me you’re going to run for office. Like Ford hasn’t cocked things up enough?”
“No, nothing like that. I’m talking about good old fashioned revenge. Revenge on my enemies, revenge on anyone who comes after my family or my business, starting with whoever tried to kill me in Iraq.”
“Hearing you speak...it’s just so...inspirational,” Royce mused sarcastically. “I really hope David gets a chance to see what his grandfather really stands for.”
“If he does, you won’t be around to see it.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes,” Jonas replied, walking toward his son-in-law. “You see, I plan on making you my first victory. I’m going to find a way to get you out of my daughter’s life for good, and then I’m going to see to it that you never see David again.”
Royce rolled his eyes, placing the glass down on the bar. “And how is this going to be different than any other time you’ve tried to get me out of the picture? Remember when you convinced Nathan to marry Jackie instead of me? How long did that last? A couple of years? And she came back to me.”
“Well, this time I’m going after your business,” Jonas threatened. “I know there has to be a crooked deal in Jennings Holdings somewhere. Something so bad that you’ll wind up behind bars for the next twenty or so years. Plenty of time for Jackie to get over you and meet someone else. Someone who deserves her.”
Something about the threat shook Royce to his core. Had he always been on the level in every deal he made? No, of course not. But he was no crook. What could Jonas really do to him?
“Scared?’ Royce asked and finished his bourbon.
“No,” he lied, then turned and walked to the door.
“Oh, Royce,” Jonas called after him. “Don’t forget your briefcase.”
Royce looked at the briefcase in Jonas’s hand, then walked over and took it from him. Their eyes met in a flash before he left, unnerved by the calculated words from his father-in-law.
Upstairs, Jackie emerged from the bathroom in her and Royce’s room. She removed her silk robe and laid it across the bottom of the bed before climbing under the sheets. A moment later, Royce entered, a scowl drawn across his tanned face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“What else? Your father.” He quickly began undressing, peeling off his blue oxford shirt to reveal a defined chest and slight love handles around his midsection. “I knew we should have stayed at our house.”
“We’re here to help during his recovery,” Jackie reminded him. “How could we do that from Brentwood? You just need to try not to let him get to you. You know he does it to push your buttons.”
Royce groaned in aggravation as he sat down on the bed and removed his shoes. “It’s more than that and you know it. Of course you’re the one always coming to his defense. I don’t know why it should surprise me that you think it’s all in innocence.”
Jackie sighed. “Can we not fight tonight? Please? In a couple of days we can go back to New York and then you won’t have to see him again.”
He tried to smile, clasping his hand around hers and kissing it. “I’m sorry,” he said and stood up to remove his pants. “Did you call Mrs. Gurney to check on David?”
“Yes,” she lied. She hadn’t called. And by not calling, she began feeling like a terrible mother again, so she called her therapist, and Dr. Dunne talked her down. She still didn’t feel any better about herself, or about lying to Royce about it, but she knew she wasn’t a terrible mother. She couldn’t be.
“How was he?” Royce asked, climbing into bed next to her, then kissing her softly.
She looked at him and smiled. “Fine.”
Royce slid closer to her, nuzzling the sensitive part of her neck that always got her in the mood. He got even closer still, pressing himself against her so that she could feel his erection on her thigh.
Sex with Royce had always been incredible, but lately, Jackie had no sex drive. Dr. Dunne said it was part of her postpartum depression. She associated sex with having a baby, and it was difficult to compartmentalize the two in her brain. So, for months she’d put him off. Before that, months after David was born, she suffered through a few painful experiences that left him satisfied but her feeling more on edge than ever.
“I’m really tired,” Jackie said, recoiling from his touch.
“Again?” he asked and pulled back irritably. “What is it? You can’t be tired from taking care of the baby. He isn’t even here. What is it?”
She shrugged. She hated to see him upset, but how could she say to her husband I’m sorry, I have no desire to have sex with you?
Frustrated, Royce rolled over and turned out the bedside lamp. Jackie knew she should say something, but she didn’t know what. What could possibly make things better?
Daphne Dussault lived in a studio apartment on the ninth floor of the Gaylord on Wilshire. Richard found out by calling the Associated Press and pretending he was a source that had information she needed for the story about 21 Black. Once he arrived, he charmed the woman at the concierge desk into letting him up the elevator with the promise that he would call her the next day and set up a lunch date. By the time he got up to the ninth floor, he’d already tossed her number.
Armed with two dozen red roses and a killer smile no woman could resist, Richard knocked on Daphne’s door and waited for her to answer. He could hear the sound of light, jazzy music coming from inside. He knocked again.
When Daphne opened the door, she folded her arms and leaned in the doorway with a smirk on her narrow face. “I should have known it was you who called my editor. Nice investigative skills. Once Wells, Inc. tanks, you should try journalism.”
“I learned from the best,” Richard replied. “It was you who said you were with Image magazine in order to get into my office, wasn’t it? And UCLA Medical Center to get into see Royce Jennings? Beautiful and resourceful. Just my type. These are for you.”
She took the roses and admired them briefly before setting her gaze back on him. “What are you doing here, Mr. Wells?”
“It’s Richard, remember?” he said. “And I thought for starters, I could take you out to dinner.”
“It’s past ten o’clock. I ate three hours ago. Now unless you’re here to give me information on who owns 21 Black and how it’s connected to Maltese politicians, then I’m afraid I don’t have time.”
Richard grinned. “A lady can’t survive on work alone. She needs some fun, and luckily for you, I’m available.” He snaked closer to her, standing so close he could smell the flowery shampoo she used in her hair. “Now come on, what do you say you invite me in and we start having some of that fun.”
Daphne smiled. “I have a better idea,” she said, then pushed him away from the door and dumped the vase of flowers—water and all—over his head. She handed him the empty vase and slammed the door shut.
Standing in a pool of water and roses, Richard chuckled in spite of how ridiculous he must look. Daphne Dussault was turning into more of a firecracker than he’d ever thought, and he was enticed by it.
He picked up one of the roses, snapped off the stem, and place it in the pocket of his blazer. Digging his hands in his pockets, he sauntered down the hall to the elevator, whistling the tune that had been playing in Daphne’s apartment.
Inside, Daphne leaned against her apartment door and shook her head with a laugh.
The next morning, Royce was already up and dressed before Jackie woke up. She made her way downstairs and found her father in the breakfast room by himself.
“Morning, Daddy,” she said and kissed his cheek. “Where is everyone?”
“Good morning, sweetheart,” he replied and swallowed a mouthful of eggs and bacon with a gulp of hot black coffee. “Joy went out for a swim, and I’m sure your husband is around somewhere.”
“Coffee, Mrs. Jennings?” the butler, Jeffrey asked.
“Yes, Jeffrey, thank you.” She waited for him to pour the coffee and leave the room before she laid into Jonas. “Okay, what did you say to Royce last night?”
“What are you talking about?” was his gruff reply. “What did I say to him when?”
“Last night before he came up to bed,” Jackie said. “He was fit to be tied. Now I want to know what you said to make him so angry.”
“He didn’t tell you?”
Jonas raised an eyebrow and swallowed a mouthful of toast. “Well, you know how Royce and my relationship is. We don’t see eye to eye on much.”
“Daddy, that’s vague even for you,” Jackie told him.
When the doorbell rang, he slid his chair out from the table and rose to his feet, wincing from residual pain in his chest from his wound. “That’ll be Vaughan. Listen, don’t worry about Royce and I. We’ve put up with each other this long and nobody’s dead yet.”
“That’s comforting,” she said and rolled her eyes. She sipped her coffee quietly, thinking about the night before and how frustrated Royce had been with everything. First with her father and then with her for pushing him away again. How much longer could they go on this way?
Moments later, Royce burst into the room, glaring angrily at her. “You lied to me,” he said.
“What?” Jackie asked, caught off guard by his outburst.
“You told me you called to check in on how David was doing,” Royce said, his voice loaded with accusation. “Mrs. Gurney called this morning because our son has had a fever since yesterday. She said she hasn’t heard from you at all since we left New York.”
“Royce, I—” Jackie started, rising from the table. She felt awful. First for neglecting their infant son, and then for lying to him about calling him. “How is he?”
“Oh, so suddenly you care about him now?” Royce shouted. “You couldn’t care enough to find out how he was doing in the three days we’ve been here, but now you want to know how he’s doing?”
“I do care!”
“No you don’t! A mother wouldn’t do this! A mother wouldn’t behave the way you’re behaving! Just what the hell am I paying that shrink for, anyway? It doesn’t seem like he’s helping you at all!”
"I haven’t been seeing him that long,” Jackie said, tears clouding her eyes. “Look, Royce—”
“We’re going back to New York today,” he said, grabbing the phone and slamming it down in front of her so loud that the bells inside rang out. “Now you’re going to call that shrink and make an appointment. I’ll have them get the jet ready.”
“But my father—”
“I don’t care about your father!” Royce yelled. “Call your shrink now!”
Her hands trembling, Jackie lifted the phone cradle and started to dial. She’d made a mess of everything. It didn’t seem like Royce would ever forgive her.
In Jonas’s study, he poured Vaughan a drink and handed it to him with a grin spread across his face.
“You seem awfully happy for a man whose doctor just told him his heart could fail at any time,” Vaughan said skeptically. “What gives?”
Puffing on a fat Cuban cigar, Jonas leaned back in his oxblood leather chair and laughed his big, hearty laugh. “When you’re faced with the possibility of your own mortality, the rest of your life starts to come into focus. You prioritize. You decide what’s really important to you.”
“And what have you decided?” Vaughan asked, anxious to see what his boss was up to this time.
“That’s it’s time to start making things happen,” Jonas said, getting up from the chair and pacing the room. “It’s time to find out who tried to kill me in Iraq, and to deal with my no-good son-in-law, and to make Lola mine once and for all.”
Vaughan regarded him carefully. “What in God’s name are you talking about? You just married Joy nine months ago. Now suddenly you’re interested in Lola Marlowe? Why?”
“When she came to see me at the hospital, something stirred inside of me. I remembered all the location shoots we were on together, the late nights in the editing room, the long dinners poring over scripts. We were inseparable for years.”
“Because she worked for you,” Vaughan reminded him. “She was one of Lamont 3’s biggest stars.”
“We were close, Vaughan,” Jonas told him. “Friends, confidantes, whatever you call it.”
“But not lovers.”
“Not then. But now? Who knows. Anyway, it’s meant to be. Deep down Lola knows I’ve always been in love with her, and I know she was in love with me, even while she was married to Teddy Rydell.”
“You’re forgetting about one thing,” Vaughan said. “Lana. Lola’s got to have some feelings about what happened to her sister, and your role in that.”
“That was years ago,” Jonas said. “It’s ancient history.”
After taking a swim in the pool, Joy realized she’d forgotten her towel. Shivering from the cool spring morning breeze, she looked around to see if there was one to be found. She darted into the pool house and found a stack placed neatly on a wicker etagere in the corner. While she dried herself off, she noticed another door in the pool house that was slightly ajar. Her curiosity peaked, she stepped closer, pushing the door open and peering inside the dark passageway.
She walked down the long corridor in her bare feet; a tunnel of some kind with elegant sconces lining the walls. Probably a servants passage, she decided. How did she not know about them before?
There were various intersections where she could go in a myriad of different directions. She chose to follow the sound of voices. After walking for a few minutes, the passageway ended. She heard the voices coming from the other side of a door. Carefully, she pushed it open and was astounded to find herself just outside of Jonas’s study. She peered through the opening and saw Jonas and Vaughan together in deep conversation. Quietly, she listened.
“We were close, Vaughan,” Jonas was saying. “Friends, confidantes, whatever you call it.”
“But not lovers.”
“Not then. But now? Who knows. Anyway, it’s meant to be. Deep down Lola knows I’ve always been in love with her, and I know she was in love with me, even while she was married to Teddy Rydell.”
“You’re forgetting about one thing,” Vaughan said. “Lana. Lola’s got to have some feelings about what happened to her sister, and your role in that.”
“That was years ago,” Jonas said. “It’s ancient history.”
“But if it’s really Lola that you want, how are you going to get past that hurdle?”
“What happened to Lana was an accident,” Jonas insisted. “And I won’t let it stand in the way of getting the woman that I want.”
A tear ran down Joy’s cheek as she listened to her husband profess his love for another woman. Her fears were worse than she’d ever imagined.
Jonas seeks an old friend for help in finding his assailant. Richard can't forget about Daphne. Troy pushes Alicia's buttons.
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