She briefly told him what she had experienced from the time she was hired until the time she returned home. Her voice trembled while she related how Drew had tried to break into her motel room. Mark put her at ease right away, but she was still embarrassed when he asked to listen to the recording.
“He’s crude,” she warned.
She placed her phone in front of him and touched the arrow to begin the recording. Mark listened intently and didn’t show any reaction until Drew threatened to make Peyton’s decision for her. He raised an eyebrow then but didn’t comment.
Peyton did react. Hearing Drew’s voice gave her chills.
After it was over, Mark leaned back in his chair and said, “Oh yes, we can go after him. Finn’s right. We can’t let him get away with this.”
“I made a lot of mistakes,” she said. “I tried to report him but when I didn’t get anywhere with that, I didn’t document what was happening. I left. It’s nearly impossible to win a sexual harassment suit if you’ve left the job, isn’t it?”
“If you’re in danger, you leave, and you were in danger.” After explaining what a lawsuit could entail, he asked, “What sort of settlement were you expecting?”
“Oh, I don’t want any money,” she answered. “I just want Drew Albertson gone from that company, and if he tries to get a job where he can prey on women again, I want the new employer to see his record. Randolph Swift, the owner of the company, hasn’t heard this recording, but I would love to play it for him and look in his eyes when he listens to it,” she said, imagining the fury that would ensue. “If he refuses to do anything about Drew, then I want you to go after them.”
Mark gave her several options on how they could proceed, and she promised to consider all of them before making up her mind.
“Finn would like to be kept apprised of what’s happening. Is that okay with you?” Mark asked. “If you wish to keep this confidential, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“No, that’s fine. I welcome his input.”
“All right then. I’m your attorney now. Think about your options and get back to me.”
“I’m not sure I can afford you just now. What is your hourly rate?”
“There isn’t going to be any charge. I’m repaying a favor for a friend. But I’ll tell you the truth. After listening to the recording, I wouldn’t charge you anyway. I really want to get this guy.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I realize you’re doing this for Finn, but I insist on paying. It might take a while.”
“Whatever you want to do.”
“How do you know Finn?” she asked, curious.
She expected him to tell her they had been frat brothers or that they had gone to the same Jesuit high school, but he didn’t.
“We were on the same swim team,” he answered. Remembering made him smile. “I’m three years older than Finn, and I was the youngest on the team. There were five of us that swam the same events. We already had our team all set in our heads when the coach held tryouts. I think he had to as part of a deal that allowed us to use the Olympic-size pool at the community center.
“The first time I saw Finn I figured he wasn’t going to come near our time record. He wasn’t going to be any competition.” He admitted, “We were pretty cocky back then.”
She was hanging on his every word.
“Imagine us, if you will. The five of us with our buzz cuts and sleek caps, our Speedos and goggles, the works, and in walks this guy with long hair wearing swim trunks that come down to his knees. I remember what they looked like—bright yellow with green palm trees.” He laughed. “Those trunks alone would add at least ten, maybe fifteen seconds to his time, and his long hair would drag him down. We didn’t laugh, but we did a lot of elbowing one another.
“The coach had four of us on the blocks waiting for Finn. He jumps in the pool to get wet, then gets out, rolls his shoulders once, and he’s ready. He gets on the block in the lane next to me.”
“What happened?” she asked, loving the picture he was painting.
“He flew. That’s what happened. His start off the blocks alone put him way ahead of all of us, and then I swear he turned into a fish. A dolphin maybe,” he added, grinning. “We were told to swim two lengths. I had just made what I thought was a perfect turn when I looked over and didn’t see Finn in his lane. By the time I got to the finish, Finn was walking toward the bench where his brothers waited for their turns. I thought maybe he’d quit in the middle of the tryout . . . until I looked at coach’s face.” He shook his head as though the memory still amazed him.
“All I can say is that Finn taught me a little bit about humility that day.” He added, “And we’ve been friends ever since.”
No one was going to get in Drew’s way on his path to happiness, and happiness for him was money. Randolph Swift’s money to be exact.
It wouldn’t be long before the reins were handed to him, and the only person who could ruin his future was Peyton Lockhart. If she didn’t keep her mouth shut and go away peacefully, he would make sure she went away permanently. He’d worked too hard for this life to let her snatch it from him. A long time ago he had figured out what he wanted. In his mind it was a simple equation. Money equaled power, and power garnered respect. He wanted it all—the wealth, the prestige, the women—and Eileen was helping him. She would go to any lengths to get him what he needed, any lengths at all.
Drew knew he had it in him to be a killer. During his junior year in high school he almost killed his father, and to this day he regretted that he hadn’t. He remembered what had happened with such clarity, even though it had been years. He had come home from school and discovered that dear old Dad had found the hiding place where Drew kept his money. He had been saving for over a year, taking every degrading job he could find to earn a dollar here and there. He was saving to run away, but his father took every bit of the cash to play the numbers and get drunk. Furious, Drew’s temper exploded, and he beat his father until his own knuckles were bleeding and his father was unconscious. Drew got scared that his old man would die in the apartment and he’d be tried for murder, and so he dumped him in front of the hospital. When his father regained his senses and was questioned by the police, he couldn’t tell them anything because he’d been too drunk to remember.
Those rough days were behind Drew now. If Peyton tried to make trouble, Drew wouldn’t have to worry about the method or the place or the mess of silencing her because he had people who would take care of it for him. His knuckles would stay clean.
It had been over a month since Peyton made the recording, and not a peep out of her. Mimi hadn’t said a word, either, but then he’d made it worth her while. The substantial raise he’d given her assured her silence. There was no other company she could go to that would give her the money or the job security she now had at the magazine. With each passing day, Drew became more relaxed, believing that Peyton had forgotten about him and moved on.
Eileen was more cautious. She wasn’t ready to assume the matter had been dropped.
One way to find out, she suggested, was to monitor Mimi’s communications. Since Mimi was Peyton’s friend, the two may have remained in contact.
The e-mail was easy to check. All it took was an adjustment to the company’s computer network so that every time Mimi received a message or sent one Drew saw it. The cell phone presented a problem. Eileen couldn’t figure out how to monitor Mimi’s conversations or her texts, but Drew came up with an easy solution. He knew that Mimi’s cell phone was in the outer pocket of her purse, and her purse was in the bottom drawer of her desk. All he needed to do was get Mimi away from her desk, so he concocted dozens of errands for her to run, especially during the times when no one else was around. He managed to get a peek two or three times a day. He discovered records of a few calls between her and Peyton, but they appeared to be short, and for the most part, Mimi’s texts were boring.
Drew finally convinced Eileen that the danger had passed. He was becoming more and more complacent as the days moved on. He was even ready to train another assistant and had ordered Bridget to place the advertisement.
His smug complacency ended on a Tuesday afternoon, however, when he read Mimi’s latest text to Peyton: When is your attorney going to file suit?
Peyton read Mimi’s text but didn’t have time to call her until that evening.
“Why did you send me that text? If Drew saw it, he would go ballistic.”
“I know,” Mimi said apologetically. “I sent the text from home just before I got in the shower, and I was in a rush. The minute I saw it I got rid of it. Drew was in and out of the office all morning, so I don’t think he could have seen it.”
Peyton told her all about her meeting with Mark Campbell and again insisted that she didn’t want to sue the magazine unless it was absolutely necessary. The attorney had made several alternative suggestions for her to consider, but she wasn’t going to do anything about Swift Publications until she got settled in Bishop’s Cove.
There was so much to finish up before she left Brentwood, yet despite all the chaos of the move, she still had time to think about Finn. She hadn’t heard from him since he left her bed, and that, she told herself, was the way it should be. For one amazing night she had connected with the man she cared about, but now she was moving on. If she happened to see him again, that would be fine, and if she didn’t run into him, that would be fine, too.
Yes, fine. She almost talked herself into believing that nonsense. It might have been casual sex for him, but it had been much more than that for her. She missed him, simple as that. She wished she could be more sophisticated about it all, and maybe in time she could. Right now she felt foolish and naive about her vulnerability.
It was a sunny Thursday afternoon when Peyton drove over Elizabeth Bridge to Dove Island. There was little humidity; the wind was calm, and the temperature was in the low eighties. A perfect day to play at the beach, providing one had plenty of sunscreen.
About two-thirds of the beachfront property on the island had been developed by Scott Cassady, and now sleek high-rise condominiums covered the area, all facing the beach. The other one-third of the island belonged to Bishop’s Cove. There was only one way in or out of the ultra-secluded estate, through an iron gate. A security team manned the gatehouse and monitored every car coming or going.
Peyton recognized the guard on duty, who welcomed her back with a big smile. He pushed the button to open the tall, ornate gates, and she drove into the tropical paradise. On either side were manicured shrubs, which served as backdrops to the lush flowers in full bloom. Giant palm trees lined the long drive that led up to the entrance of a stately four-story hotel. Several streets branched off the main drive. They curved into green foliage and disappeared. One of them led to the two-story condominium building where Peyton would be staying. Another street wound toward the twelve bungalows, each set far enough apart to provide absolute privacy. Though there was room for at least twenty more, Uncle Len hadn’t been in a hurry to build additional units. He liked the Cove the way it was, a peaceful oasis.
As was her ritual after passing through the gates of Bishop’s Cove, she drove straight to the beach. She parked the car and sat there listening to the seagulls complain and the surf lap against the sand. Rolling down the windows, she let the gentle wind brush across her face. She inhaled the wonderful scents of the island, and the tension melted away. Forgotten was the long, tedious drive. She took a deep, cleansing breath and smiled. It was amazing what a change of scenery, temperature, and pace could do. No longer weary, she was in a wonderful mood.
Then Finn called and ruined it. His greeting wasn’t filled with affection. “You are not going back to Dalton, Minnesota. Got that?”
Ignoring the anger in his voice, she wanted to respond that it was about damned time he called her and that it wasn’t his job to dictate what she could and couldn’t do. Instead, she said, “How lovely to hear from you.”
“Peyton, I’m serious. I talked to Mark, and he told me you were considering going to Dalton.”
“I was simply saying that I would love to see Drew and his wife get the boot. I guess that’s vindictive, isn’t it? I’m not actually going to go.”
“Damn right.” It was taking Finn time to get past his worry, and his voice was still harsh.
Although she had no intention of ever returning to Dalton, she didn’t like Finn telling her she couldn’t. She tried not to be annoyed. He was concerned about her, and that was sweet. Unnecessary, but still sweet. “Is that the only reason you called? To yell at me?”
“I wasn’t yelling,” he said, his voice calmer now. “After I spoke to Mark, I started to think that maybe you had lost your mind, and if that were the case, I was going to suggest that you look at the bullet holes in your car to bring you back to reality.”
So much for the gentle breeze and the soothing sounds of the lapping surf. Both irritated her now. “I was in a peaceful mood until you called.”
“Promise me you won’t go near Dalton.”
“I promise. Happy now?”
“Yes, I’m happy now. Okay, then,” he said, his tone brisk. “I’ve got to go. I’m late for a meeting.”
“Where are you?”
“Yeah?” He sounded impatient.
“Thanks for worrying about me.”
She disconnected the call before he could argue with her. Her good mood restored, she drove back to the hotel and parked near the entrance to the business office. She gathered her purse and her phone, and was about to head into the hotel when she looked up and saw her cousin, Debi, walking out the door.
What was she doing in Bishop’s Cove? Peyton didn’t open her car door or call out to her cousin. She could barely be civil to the woman, and she was determined to hold on to her peaceful, everything-is-wonderful mood. She watched her get in a blue sedan. Peyton thought Debi was alone, but as her cousin backed out of the parking space, she saw the top of a man’s head. His seat was tilted way back. It had to be Debi’s husband, Sean. Was he sleeping? Peyton wouldn’t be surprised if he was, for Sean was one of the laziest people she’d ever met.
Debi had been smiling. That wasn’t good. The only time her cousin was happy was when she had gotten away with something vile. Maybe this was different, Peyton thought, trying to stay optimistic. She took a breath and talked herself into her calm, peaceful mood again. Everything was fine.