Convicted, стр. 86

She didn’t move. In the dimly lit, master bedroom suite, her skin glistened with perspiration and her eyes remained shut. He reached toward her. While only inches away, Claire’s head tossed violently from side to side as she whispered, “No...Tony...”

Just as quickly as she called out, her body stilled. He waited. Was she telling him not to come nearer? Tony asked in desperation, “Claire, no—what?”

When she didn’t respond, he sat on the edge of their bed and tenderly reached for her shoulder. Shaking her gently, he said, “Claire, I’m right here. Are you dreaming?”

She didn’t respond. He shook again—nothing. “Madeline!” he yelled toward the door.

The sky was now dark, with intense flashes of light. The thunder and lightning occurred almost simultaneously. Phil, who’d been joined by Francis, paced silently in the hallway, while Madeline and Tony attended to Claire. Despite his gentle encouragement, Claire wouldn’t wake; however, her pleas and the calling of his name ceased.

The temperature of their suite had decreased very nicely. That, combined with the gentle breeze of the ceiling fan, made their room quite comfortable; nevertheless, Tony noticed Claire’s blouse stuck to her clammy skin. As he brushed her sun lightened hair away from her face, he felt the warmth radiating from her body. “She’s burning up!”

“Monsieur, may I?”

Tony hesitantly stepped away as Madeline approached the edge of the bed where Tony had been perched. She turned her palm upward and moved her hand over Claire’s forehead.

“I’m afraid she has an infection. Before she fell asleep, I gave her something to help fight it and help her sleep. She said she didn’t want to go to the doctor.”

His back straightened. “What did you give her?”

“It’s an island remedy. When she wakes, she’ll feel better.”

“The baby?”

“The bebe will be good, much better than having infection in her mere.”

His shoulder’s relaxed as he stepped toward his wife. Before he could speak, Madeline pulled the sheet back and revealed Claire’s body.

Tony gasped. “What? What happened? Why is she so wet?”

“Her water, it broke. The baby is coming.”

Tony fell to his knees and reached for his wife’s hand. With his lips near Claire’s sleeping face he begged, “Please, please be all right.” Holding back tears, he straightened his neck and lowered his voice—the tone he created was one of authority, beyond debate. “You told me you’d be fine. You promised.” Lightning and thunder crashed. Softness, once again, took residence in his words, “Claire, please open your eyes. I need to see your beautiful emerald eyes.”

His chest tightened with deja vu. He’d said those words before—almost verbatim. Seeing her on the bed, with her clothes glued to her skin by moisture, Tony cursed under his breath. This—like the accident—like Chester—was his fault. Why did she continually need to suffer because of him?

Convicted - _100.jpg

I always trust my gut reaction; it's always right .

—Kiana Tom

Harry took one last look at his acquired evidence from the Sherman Nichols’ case—all boxed and catalogued. The digital data was secured in the FBI system. Soon, it would be gone from his condominium—gone from his life. He hated to admit the case was done. Well, the case wasn’t done, but he was done with the case. After all the time, effort, and attachment, Harry had been ordered to move on. Last night, the call came from the deputy director—Agent Baldwin was needed elsewhere. The new assignment required traveling, and he was finally fit to travel. Despite the disappointment of losing the Nichols case, Harry was looking forward to getting away. Even though Christmas was around the corner, he needed a break from Palo Alto, his sister, and even Liz.

Amber’s decision to hire John Vandersol at SiJo added to Harry’s discomfort in Palo Alto. They had to create a story to explain his abrupt exit from SiJo. One day he was SiJo’s President of Security Operations—the next he was gone. Privately, on a personal level, Harry berated Amber for hiring John; however, on a professional level, Vandersol was talented—even gifted; nevertheless, Harry didn’t appreciate the added angst. It was increasingly difficult to deal with Rawlings and Claire while simultaneously faced with her only family. Harry wondered how Amber and Liz were able to handle the farce on a daily basis.

Since John’s law license was reinstated, it seemed as though he itched to make the move from corporate financial investments back to legal. The thing was—John Vandersol had a problem called loyalty. He obviously felt indebted to Amber and to SiJo for hiring him at such a difficult time in his career. Many corporations wouldn’t have taken a chance on him—despite the fact the charges resulting in his incarceration were later dropped, and his record was expunged. Harry assumed John would remain diligent to SiJo’s needs as long as his presence was requested. Amber said she had no intentions of asking him to follow his heart—his assistance with investments and procurements had already helped SiJo immensely. Amber may have initially hired him to solidify her faux friendship with Claire, but as a business decision, it was one of Amber’s best.

Sometimes Harry questioned Simon’s business sense in naming Amber as vice president of operations of SiJo. Simon’s confidence and recommendation undoubtedly secured her future with the board of directors upon Simon’s death. As much as Harry liked Simon, the man definitely thought more with his heart, or perhaps other parts of his body, than he did his head when it came to women. The fact he’d spent eight years waiting for Claire was another example of Simon’s emotional handicap. It sure-as-hell wasn’t a mistake that Harry planned on repeating.

As CEO, Amber McCoy often surprised and delighted her brother. She’d definitely learned from Simon’s intuition. Now, with John, the company was, once again, making waves throughout the gaming world. Granted, they were little ripples, but movement—nonetheless.

The knock on his condominium door brought Harry to present. He was expecting someone from the San Francisco field office. They were coming to pick up the boxes of research. When he opened the door, it wasn’t a fellow FBI agent, but Liz.

Harry scanned her work clothes. He liked the skirts that got all tight at the waist and stayed tight until her blouse, emphasizing her round breasts. Noticing her black high heels, Harry tried not to think about other times she’d worn those—and not much else. Unable to hide his sly smile, Harry said, “Hi, come on in.”

She took a few steps, scanned the stacked boxes and raised her eyebrows. “You’re really moving on to other cases.”

Harry gently clenched Liz’s shoulders, pulled her close, and kissed her cheek. “Between you and Amber, I don’t know who has more difficulty remembering—I can’t talk about it.”

Liz grinned. “I know—or you’d have to kill me; but hey, this case almost cost us—us. So, to say I’m glad you’re moving on—is an understatement.”

Going into Harry’s kitchen, Liz opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water. Harry was close behind when he asked, “Even if it means that I’m traveling?”

Liz shrugged. “I like it better when you’re here. How much of your schedule can I know?”

Leaning against the counter with his faded jeans, tight black t-shirt, bare feet, and messy, blonde hair, Harry grinned. “I can tell you when I’m home.”

“But, not when you’re coming home.”

He stepped toward her, put his arms around her waist, and pinned her against the counter. Inhaling deeply, he took in the sweet smell of her perfume. As he exhaled, his warm breath bathed her neck. Before he spoke, his lips caressed her shoulder and his fingers traced the edge of her scoop cut blouse. Liz tilted her head back, giving him full access and involuntarily moaned. His words were spaced and breathy. “No” “not when I’m coming home” “I promise” “when I’m home” “I’m all yours.”