Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo
This week’s installment gives us Rori’s point of view. Thank you to Kristy K James for the fabulous idea! Also, thanks for suggesting Ethan take both women to the party. I’m loving all of your suggestions, and even if I don’t use them the next week, I keep them percolating in my mind. Shapeshifter, anyone? Yeah, that was Gayle’s idea and I think it’s a good one. If you need to catch up on the past weeks, click on the page above under Our Summer Adventure. And be sure to leave a comment where you think the story should go next.
Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Seven: The Gamble
Rori sauntered into the expansive foyer of Governor Roarke’s Bel Air home on the arm of her brother. He looked devastatingly handsome in his tuxedo and midnight bow tie. Of all the arguments they had the previous night, his clothing choice had lasted the longest.
Rori glanced over to Hannah, who looked equally stunning on Ethan’s right. Ethan had argued for her to remain at the hotel with Lilliana, but Hannah refused to let him and Rori go to the governor’s party without her.
“Ready?” Hannah asked, looking past Ethan to her.
Rori gave a quick nod. She was to be the bait that evening. While she distracted Roarke, Hannah and Ethan would search his office for something Hannah called ‘the device’. It was the key to Roarke’s operation and they needed it to bring him down.
Ethan flexed his arm, tightening his grip on her. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do.” For more reasons than Ethan would ever understand.
“Be careful.” He stiffened suddenly and Rori glanced up to find a man and woman, both stunning in black, turning to regard them.
“Hannah?” The man said, ignoring Rori and Ethan. “I didn’t think you’d come.” He took Hannah’s hands into his and kissed her fingertips. “I’m glad to be proven wrong.”
“Governor Roarke, I’d like to introduce you to Ethan Donovan. He works for my father, and this is Rori, his companion.”
Roarke’s eyes skimmed past Ethan to Rori, “It’s my pleasure.” He took her hands and kissed them much as he did Hannah’s, but lingered long enough she felt his breath against her skin. He inhaled then rubbed her fingers against his cheek. “You smell divine.”
The smile Roarke gave her made her insides recoil, but she giggled, playing the part.
“I see you’ve found a new playmate.” Hannah said, indicating the woman behind Roarke.
He cut her a glance then snorted. “Not here, Hannah. Not tonight. Why don’t you and your friend go get a drink. I’d like to get to know Rori a bit better.”
Hannah shrugged and pulled Ethan away from them. They disappeared into the crowd, but Rori felt Ethan’s presence, could look up at any moment and find him. He would never truly be far from her, even if they were a continent apart, she could sense his feelings. Right then they were conflicted. Not just about her, but Hannah as well.
His original plan was to use Hannah to gain access to Maxim’s vaults, but something had happened. If she wasn’t mistaken, Ethan cared for the girl, which caused Rori no small amount of concern. He’d never let his feelings get in the way of his job. Ever.
“Rori?” Roarke was staring at her and she pulled her thoughts away from her brother.
He led her through the room, making introductions to people whose names she recognized. Some were in politics, others the film industry. The gorgeous woman in black followed them everywhere, but never spoke to Roarke. Only once did he acknowledge her, and only then to send her to fetch them drinks.
“Who is she?” Rori asked once the woman left.
“No one of consequence.” His gaze flicked around the room and then back to her. “Hannah seems to have disappeared.”
“Would you like me to find her?” Rori kept her tone neutral. Ethan and Hannah were, at that moment, in Roarke’s office.
“In a minute. Tell me, beautiful Rori, how did you become Donavan’s companion?”
It took Rori a second to realize he meant Ethan. “He won me in a game of cards.”
Roarke chuckled and the sound grated down her spine. In the hour she’d spent with him, she saw every possible contrivance of hospitality, but no genuine humanity. The tales Hannah had told them were taking on new meaning the longer she spent with Roarke. Silently she willed Ethan to find what they were looking for so they could leave. The less time she spent with Roarke, the better.
The woman in black returned without drinks and whispered in Roarke’s ear. He scratched at his chin before turning his dead grey eyes on her.
“Your companion is a gambler then? I think I’d like to wager a bet with him. Perhaps I can be as lucky. Come with me.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her along behind him until they reached a closed door. Deep inscriptions etched across the surface shifted at Roarke’s touch.
Rori gasped despite herself. The door was carved from a living tree, one from a sacred grove found only in Wales.
“Have no fear, my darling. The door won’t bite. Unless you try to harm me.” His voice cut through her marrow, chilling her.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Roarke ignored her lie. “Stay close. I wouldn’t want you to wander off without me.” They moved through several darkened rooms with Roarke leading the way. The woman in black stayed behind and with each new room, Rori’s apprehension grew.
“Where are we going?”
“Shhh, not a sound. We’re nearly there.”
His grip tightened to the point of pain, but she kept quiet. A light in the next room lit up Roarke’s silhouette and she saw the grim set of his jaw. As they got nearer, Rori heard Ethan’s deep voice. She willed Ethan to feel her presence, to leave before she and Roarke got there. Cold metal pressed against her lips. “Shhh.” He raised the gun for Rori to see and she nodded.
Roarke pushed opened the door with cat-like grace. Neither Hannah nor Ethan noticed until it was too late.
Roarke’s tsk pulled their attention away from the search. “Hannah. I expected more from you, my kitten. You of all people should know I don’t keep anything important here.”
Hannah glared at him. “Let her go. She has nothing to do with this.”
Ethan stepped in front of Hannah, shielding her from the gun in Roarke’s hand. Rori heard a thundering sound in her ears, like the rush of blood, but it wasn’t her own. It was Ethan’s adrenaline. Cool, calm Ethan was frightened. For her. For Hannah. She swayed against the intensity of his feelings.
Roarke pulled her roughly up to stand in front of him. “I seriously doubt that. I think I’ll keep her, she can be your gift to me.”
“No, please. Take me and let her go.” Hannah stepped around Ethan’s bulk. A wild fear hid in the depths of Hannah’s eyes. Rori understood the sacrifice she was bartering on her behalf.
“Roarke,” Ethan said quietly, “let the women go. I’m worth ten times what you could get for them.”
“I hear you’re a gambling man, Donovan. All or nothing. What do you say?”
“What do you have in mind?” Ethan asked.
Roarke emptied the gun of all but one bullet. “If you live, I’ll let the three of you leave unscathed. If you die, I take Hannah and Rori for my own pleasures.”
“You’re mad! Ethan, don’t. You can’t risk your life for us. Please, Roarke, let them go. I’ll stay with you as long as you want. I promise not to leave. Just don’t hurt them.”
Roarke glared at Hannah. “Begging? I thought I raised you better than that. What do you care for this human trash?” He stepped beside Ethan and held the gun to the side of his head. “You disappoint me, Hannah.”
The room grew heavy as his finger pulled back on the trigger. Ethan stared calmly into her eyes, an unspoken command passed between them.
Just before the gun fired she closed her eyes.
Did Roarke kill Ethan?