IT WAS a beautiful morning in Tampa, Florida. Richard Cosgrove rolled toward his wife, Jessica, and placed his hand on her shoulder. He pulled himself closer to her warm body, inhaling the rich aroma of the beauty cream she wore to bed every night. Richie gave her a gentle kiss on the neck and hugged her tightly.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” he said as he kissed Jessica’s neck and playfully nibbled on her earlobe. Jessica stirred as her husband’s attention woke her.
“Good morning, honey, happy anniversary,” Jessica said as she opened her eyes slightly and turned toward Richie. This was their twelfth wedding anniversary, and Richie had been planning today for over a month.
He grabbed the small silver bell from the nightstand and rang it to let his staff know it was time to begin the festivities. The live-in maid and butler walked into the room and went to work. Helena opened the blinds to let the sun shine into the room as Enrique placed the breakfast trays in front of Jessica and Richie. After serving breakfast, Enrique set a vase containing a dozen pink roses on Jessica’s nightstand.
“One for each year, babe, I know roses are your favorite. Thank you, Helena and Enrique. Great job as always,” Richie said as he and his wife began eating their breakfasts.
“Thank you, Rich. They’re beautiful!” Jessica exclaimed as she pulled a rose from the vase and inhaled the intoxicating scent. Jessica placed the rose back in the vase and put her right hand under the covers, caressing Richie’s inner thigh as a thank-you for the surprise. Richie felt desire swelling in his groin as his wife moved her hand higher and squeezed his manhood.
They finished breakfast and Richie called the servants back to remove the trays. When Richie and Jessica were alone again, they celebrated the morning of their twelfth wedding anniversary by making love.
“God, you’re an animal in the morning. Come help me,” Jessica exclaimed as she got out of the bed and motioned for her husband to follow her to the shower. For an hour, the happy couple celebrated over and over under the fast-flowing stream of water. They continued to make love until Richie had very little energy or stamina left.
Richie exited the shower and wrapped himself in a towel. He looked at his wife through the steamy mist that hung in the air and smiled. Jessica’s long, fiery-red hair accentuated her Irish beauty. Richie thanked God every chance he got for making him lucky enough to land this ex-Playboy Bunny as his wife. Jessica had looks and the brains to match. She had him wrapped around her little finger, and he knew it.
“My God, you look amazing!” Richie said as Jessica emerged from the shower. She stepped toward him, and he enveloped his bride in the soft Egyptian cotton towel.
“Thanks, hon. You’re not so bad yourself,” Jessica said with a wink and a quick kiss on her husband’s cheek.
“We’re a pair of tens, and you know it, babe,” said Richie, smiling.
“So… besides the clichéd breakfast in bed and flowers, what grandiose schemes do you have for me today?”
“Well, after we get dressed, I was going to take you to the spa and have them spoil you rotten until lunchtime. The rest is a surprise.”
“I do that all the time. I want to do something exciting today.”
“Okay. You surprise me this year, then.”
“I like that.”
“But keep in mind we have the party tonight so we can’t go too far.”
“I told you I didn’t want that stupid party. I want to take the jet and head out to the Keys for the day,” Jessica said as her face started to take on the same tint as her hair.
“Honey, you know my employees look forward to this party every year. I can’t just skip it.”
“So once again your work is more important than your wife? Even on our anniversary!” Jessica picked up a hairbrush and threw it at Richie before she stormed out of the bathroom.
“Jessica… that’s not what I said at all,” Richie said in a futile attempt to quell his wife’s Irish temper.
Richie knew that if he didn’t give in to Jessica she would be miserable for at least a week. He looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and sighed in resignation before he walked back into the bedroom and picked up his phone. He entered the number for his events manager, and after several rings a man answered. Richie cut him off midsentence.
“Hey, Kevin, how’s it going today?”
“Great, Rich. Happy anniversary to you and the missus.”
“Thank you. We appreciate that a lot coming from you. I’ve got some bad news for you, though.”
“Uh-oh, what’s wrong?”
“Jessica and I aren’t going to be able to make it to the party tonight.”
“Is everything okay? Is there something I can do?”
“No, there’s nothing anyone can do, really.”
“Well, I’ll call the guests and cancel the festivities. I’m pretty sure everyone is going to be crushed. They love this yearly shindig.”
“I didn’t say that you had to cancel the party. I just said me and the wife can’t make it tonight. You can still have the party. I just need you to give everyone my regrets.”
“Okay. I’ll see what I can do, sir. You’re going to have four hundred very sad people.”
“Four hundred and one, Kevin. You forgot to count me.”
“Well, I hope everything works out okay. Try to enjoy the rest of the day, sir.”
“Thanks.” Richie hung up the phone and threw it onto the bed. Then he sighed and walked over to his closet to select his clothing for the day.
Jessica was standing outside of the bedroom door, eavesdropping, during the phone call. She heard her husband cancel their appearance at the party, and she smiled in satisfaction at getting her way yet again.
She reshaped the smile into a pouty frown and lowered the front of her towel just enough to expose the top of her cleavage before she walked into the room with her eyes on the floor.
Richie saw her reflection in his closet mirror, “Okay, Jessica, just to prove to you that you are the most important thing in my life, I canceled our appearance at the party and my next call is to the pilot so he can get the jet ready.”
“No, I can’t do that to you, babe. I lost my temper for no good reason, and I’m sorry. This party means too much to you, and I don’t want to spoil it.”
“I don’t understand,” Richie said, furrowing his brow as he turned around to face his wife.
Jessica raised her gaze from the floor and looked her husband in the eyes. She walked over to him and embraced him, giving him a kiss on his cheek. She began to button Richie’s shirt as she spoke to him.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re always so busy with those stupid hotels that I feel neglected sometimes. I try my best to hide it from you, but sometimes it gets to be too much for me to handle.”
“Sweetie, you know you’re the most important thing to me,” Richie said as he removed her hands from his buttons and brought them to his face.
“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m the most important thing, that’s all.”
“I just told four hundred of my employees and their families that I would rather spend my anniversary alone with my wife than with them. I would also like to point out that I did it on a moment’s notice. If that doesn’t say I love you, then I have no idea what will.”
Jessica led Richie over to the bed, and they sat down on the edge together.
“I know keeping your father’s legacy alive is important to you and that’s why you spend so much time on the hotels, sweetheart. I learned to accept that twelve years ago,” she said.
“Twelve years ago my father left me three beachfront motels with four bungalows. I fixed them up and reinvested in the business and look at where we are now! We live in a five-million-dollar house with a staff of five, and let’s not forget everything else we have. It takes sacrifice to have things like a private jet on call and four-hundred-person anniversary parties.”
“Ever since you started to expand the business, you’re never home. You’re on the road going to different properties, and you’re like a stranger. I think you should hire someone to do that for you so we can have more time together,” Jessica said with a halfhearted smile.
“We’ve been through this, Jess; I’m not turning over control of the company that my father started to some stranger. This has been and always will be a family company. My father always told me to never take on a business partner because they always screw you in the end.”
“I think you’re being just a little bit paranoid. It’s those little things that remind me of why I love you as much as I do.”
Jessica hugged Richie with all of her might, and then they stood up.
“So, Jessica, what is it that you want to do today?”
“Sweetie, whatever makes you happy makes me happy. Let’s go to the spa like you planned, and then we can get ready for the party tonight,” Jessica said, knowing that Richie would rather be skinned alive then caught dead in a beauty spa.
“The spa is for you, babe. I’ll be here taking care of some business, waiting for you to come back all relaxed and extra beautiful, as if that were possible.”
“You’re so sweet to me. I couldn’t love you any more right now if I tried.”
Jessica squeezed her husband as hard as she could and went over to the closet to pick out and change into her spa clothes. Richie rang the little silver bell to call Enrique. When Enrique arrived, Richie asked him to have Carl bring the car around so Jessica didn’t have to wait when she came downstairs. He also informed Enrique that the rest of his plans for the day had been cancelled except for the party.
Enrique acknowledged his new orders.
As Richie and Jessica left the room, Helena came in and began to clean.
Once their employers were out of the room and out of earshot, they began to gossip.
“He has all that money but no brains, I swear to God,” Enrique said in a hushed tone.
“No kidding. She shows him her pouty face, and he’d jump off a bridge if she asked,” Helena replied.
“Who cares? As long as the checks clear every week, I don’t care,” Enrique said as he put a smile on his face and walked out of the bedroom.
Enrique and Helena had a long history with the Cosgrove family. They had worked for Richie’s father back when he had bought the first motel. They’d stayed with him as he expanded the business to three motels on the beach, and Richie’s father had rewarded them whenever he could afford to.
Truthfully, Richie’s father had rarely showed a profit from the business, but what he lacked in wealth he made up for in happiness. The three motels kept him busy for ninety hours a week, but he always made time for his son. When a man Richie’s father had hired to manage the three motels stole $50,000 from him, he decided that he would never again hire an outsider and kept the business a family affair from that day forward.
When Richie was old enough to help with the business, his father hired him as a front desk clerk. Richie learned very quickly, and his father recognized the boy’s business sense, promoting him to manager within a year. Richie worked hard to learn the ins and outs of running a motel, and after two years, his father had enough faith in him that his parents took their first vacation in fifteen years. Richie felt a deep sense of pride the day his father informed him that he trusted him enough to manage the business by himself for a month. He promised his father that he wouldn’t let him down.
Richie’s parents went to London for a month. While riding on a tour bus, a motor vehicle accident claimed their lives. When Richie learned of their deaths, he was devastated and vowed to keep the promise he made to his father. Richie was the only known relative, and he inherited the family business in its entirety.
Richie poured himself into the business to avoid dealing with the loss of his parents. He ran the hotels as he thought his father would if he were still alive. The motels began to thrive in a way Richie’s father had never envisioned.
Richie met Jessica while he was surveying a new property for acquisition. Jessica was staying at the hotel for a Playboy Bunny event that was taking place in St. Petersburg. He fell completely in love with the gorgeous, fiery redhead, and they were married six months later.
After Richie married Jessica, he worked even harder on the hotel empire so he could impress her with expensive gifts and a lavish lifestyle. After eight years of marriage, Jessica came to resent the fact that Richie spent more time with his hotels then he did with her and told him she wanted a divorce. After a three-month separation Jessica came back, saying that she loved him too much to leave him. Christopher Powell, Esq., a family friend, had been the communications link between Richie and Jessica. He had been a friend of Richie’s since high school, and he seemed to be determined to keep Richie and Jessica together. In the four years since the separation, there had been no further problems, and Richie and Jessica appeared to be a very happy couple.
JESSICA sauntered down the staircase wearing a sexy black dress. She was greeted at the bottom by her adoring husband.
“You have fun at the spa, honey. I’ll be counting the seconds while you’re gone,” Richie said teasingly.
“Oh, please.” Jessica gave him a kiss on the lips and walked out the door to the waiting car.
Carl was the Cosgroves’ driver and bodyguard. Richie had hired him after receiving threats against his life. Carl had performed above and beyond the call of duty on several different occasions, and Richie had decided to keep him around permanently. He opened the door for Jessica as she was sending a text message. She got into the car without acknowledging Carl’s existence. As the car began to move, Jessica rolled down the window and waved goodbye to her husband before she turned and faced Carl.
“Carl, I need to stop at the Powell law firm before we hit the day spa.”
Jessica closed the privacy window between her and the driver as she sent another text message. She knew she would be late to the day spa so she called and informed them of the delay. The spa’s receptionist told her that it wasn’t a problem and moved her appointment to a later time. Richie spent thousands of dollars a year on his wife at this particular day spa, so they were always happy to work around Jessica’s schedule.
After a twenty-minute ride through light traffic, Jessica arrived at the Powell law firm. Carl stopped in front of the building and exited the vehicle to open the door for his employer’s wife.
“Thanks, Carl,” Jessica said dismissively as she got out of the car and walked to the entrance.
“Should I tell your husband we’re going to be late coming back, ma’am?” Carl asked politely.
“No, Carl, you should not. We’ve talked about this before, so stop trying to be cute. If you like your job, you’re going to sit here and wait, like a good little boy. If anyone asks, say that traffic was really bad,” Jessica said coldly. “Oh, and, Carl, don’t forget that little nondisclosure agreement you signed when my husband hired you,” she finished as she walked toward the entrance.
“I fucking hate that bitch,” Carl muttered to no one in particular.
Jessica knew she didn’t have to worry about Carl opening his mouth to her husband. Richie had made it very clear to him that any violation of the nondisclosure agreement would void his contract. The fact that Carl was paid triple the rate he had received as a dignitary protection specialist, combined with the fact that there was less risk in this job than any other he had performed, made him very content to stay put.
“Good morning, Beth. Where is he?” Jessica asked the law firm’s receptionist.
“He’s in his office waiting for you, Mrs. Cosgrove,” Beth said with a fake smile.
Jessica walked past the receptionist’s desk and down the hallway to Christopher Powell’s office, where she opened the door without bothering to knock.
“Mrs. Cosgrove, good morning. It’s great to see you as always,” the attorney said in his most professional tone.
Jessica closed the door and locked it.
Attorney Chris Powell had already called the front desk and informed his receptionist that he was not to be disturbed once Mrs. Cosgrove arrived.
As Chris stood up, Jessica dropped her handbag to the floor. Chris quickly closed the gap between them, and they embraced. They kissed passionately as Jessica’s hand wandered below Chris’s waistline to his cock. She could tell that Chris was very excited to see her. She gave his cock a slight nudge with her hand, and then Chris broke free of the embrace.
“I can’t stand it anymore, Chris. I want you inside me.” Jessica paused for dramatic effect.
“You know my rule about the office. We have to be careful right now. If anyone was able to produce evidence of our little affair, it could ruin the whole deal and land us in prison.”
“I understand that, Chris. I watch TV too!”
“Would you like a drink?” Chris offered as he walked over to his small office bar.
“I could sure use one.”
“Well, I keep the Grand Marnier just for you, my dear.”
“So what’s on your mind, Jessica?” Chris asked as he opened the large brown bottle of orange-flavored liqueur.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe the payoff after four years of waiting? When are we going to do this?”
“If it wasn’t for his dad having a half brother, we could’ve sealed the deal already. If Richie dies, the inheritance could be contested by a relative that Richie’s never even met. That would leave us with almost nothing, sweetie. Besides, like you said, you watch TV. They always look at the spouse first in a murder investigation,” Chris said as he handed her the drink.
“Aren’t you worried about your office being bugged?” Jessica asked as she took a sip.
“You watch too much TV! Attorney-client privilege, my dear. Besides, no one suspects anything, so why would they bug my office?”
“Your receptionist acts weird when I come in. Are you sure she isn’t suspicious?”
“She’ll mind her own business if she knows what’s good for her.” Chris raised his glass and tapped it against the rim of Jessica’s. They made a silent toast as they finished their drinks.
“I need you to take Richie for a walk on the beach in front of the hotel tonight. Be there at eight o’clock sharp.”
“Why? What are you going to do?” Jessica inquired leaning forward.
“I am not going to do a thing. I’ll be at the party celebrating your anniversary. Just have him on the beach at eight o’clock.”
“Am I going to get hurt?”
“If you come away unscathed the cops will definitely think something’s up. You’re going to get a few scratches and bumps that will make it more believable. Don’t worry. I’ve used these guys before, and they’re professionals.”
“No scars or I swear I’ll kill you myself!”
“Oh, come on, now, do you think I would scar the hottest woman I’ve ever known?”
“For eight hundred and fifty million dollars? God knows.”
“You forget, my dear, you are the one with medical power of attorney. Without you nothing gets done, so just act terrified and make sure he doesn’t bring his gun to the party.”
“Oh, please. I told him I hated those things, and after my little tantrum he stopped carrying one altogether.”
“You’re such a manipulative little thing, aren’t you?”
“Little ole me?” Jessica said in a heavy Southern accent. She stood and then headed toward the door.
Chris grabbed her from behind and turned her around for one more kiss. Jessica gave him a ten-second embrace and then checked herself in the mirror.
“Shit!” Jessica exclaimed.
“What?” Chris asked.
“I forgot my makeup kit in the car, and you smeared everything.”
“Just wipe it all off and put your glasses back on. No one will notice anything,” Chris said as he handed Jessica a handkerchief.
As Jessica emerged from Chris’s office, Beth informed her boss that Richie Cosgrove had called about a half hour before and that it was urgent. Chris thanked Beth and went into his office to call Richie.
Carl sat in the car watching the entrance for forty-five minutes before Jessica emerged from the office. Carl moved the car to the entrance and then got out and dutifully opened her door. Jessica had her sunglasses on and didn’t bother to make eye contact with him as she got into the vehicle.
Carl noticed that Jessica’s makeup was gone but would never say anything due to fear of retribution or termination. He closed the door and got back into the driver’s seat of the car. He lowered the privacy screen as Jessica started to reapply her makeup. “To the spa, ma’am?” Carl asked as he looked at the woman in the rearview mirror.
“Yes. Go.” Jessica raised the privacy screen again and locked it in place as she finished reapplying her makeup.
Carl shifted the car into drive and began the trip to the spa. It had been three years since Carl had discovered that something was going on between Jessica and Chris Powell. Carl had once tried to inform Richie of his wife’s comings and goings, but Richie had stopped him and reminded him of the nondisclosure agreement. Carl had never again attempted to treat Richie as anything more than an employer.
RICHIE closed the door after waving goodbye to his wife and then headed for his office. He had a lot of work to do and very little time to get it done before he had to spend the afternoon appeasing his wife. The spa would take two to three hours, and then Jessica would be back at the house monopolizing his time.
In the office, Richie logged onto his company’s private network and reviewed the overnight receipts. After fifteen minutes of reading the night clerk memos, he picked up the secure line and dialed Chris Powell’s office. Richie had to take care of a pending litigious matter against one of his Miami properties and needed to talk to his lawyer.
“Good morning, Powell Law Firm. How can I help you?” said a woman with a pleasantly professional voice.
“Good morning, Beth. It’s Richard Cosgrove.”
Beth was silent for a second before she answered. “Um, good morning, Mr. Cosgrove. What can I do for you?”
“I need to speak with Chris. I dialed his direct line, but the call was rerouted to you.”
“Mr. Powell is in a meeting right now, Mr. Cosgrove. Can I take a message?”
“I’m not paying a fifteen-thousand-dollar-a-month retainer to have my calls rejected by my lawyer. I would like to speak with him right now,” Richie said sternly.
“Mr. Powell has the ‘do not disturb’ on right now. Calls do not go through, and I’m not allowed to go into his office until he takes it off.”
“Look, I don’t care if he’s banging somebody across his desk. Go in there and tell him I want to talk with him right now or I’m coming down there to speak with him in person.”
“There’s no need for that, Mr. Cosgrove. Please don’t shoot me. I’m just a messenger,” the receptionist replied.
“I’m sorry. It’s been a pretty crappy day so far, Beth. It’s my anniversary, and I only have a little time to take care of business before the wife gets back, so it’s kind of urgent that I speak with him now.”
“I’ll relay the message for you, Mr. Cosgrove. That’s the best I can do right now. She won’t be much longer.” Beth realized her slipup and quickly tried to recover. “The client won’t be much longer.”
Richie noted that the woman’s voice had sounded apprehensive when she used feminine pronoun.
“I knew it was some floozy! I’ve known Chris since high school, and the only time he blows me off is for a woman.”
“As soon as his meeting is over, I’ll dial your number and hand him the phone, I promise. Oh, and happy anniversary.”
“Thanks, Beth, goodbye.”
Beth hung up and placed her head in her hands. Everyone suspected that Chris Powell was having an affair with Jessica Cosgrove, but no one knew for sure. The office staff only knew that Chris Powell and Jessica Cosgrove were awfully friendly for their relationship to be of a strictly professional nature.
Richie hung up the secure phone and looked down at the list of things he had to accomplish today. It was the beginning of the quarter, and he needed sales figures for budgeting so he dialed his business headquarters to speak with his accountant.
The phone was answered by a flamboyant-sounding male. “Cosgrove Hotels, how I may direct your call?”
“Hey, Troy, it’s Richie.”
“Good morning, Mr. Cosgrove, sir. Happy anniversary. My partner and I are looking forward to the party tonight.”
“Glad to hear it. Could you patch me through to Louie, please? And tell your boy Jason I said hello.”
“I will, Mr. Cosgrove. I’m putting you through to Lou now.”
Several clicks later, Richie was connected to his chief accountant.
“Hey, Richie, how are you this morning?” Louie asked.
“Good, I’m just calling to check on last quarter’s figures. I’ve been waiting for a week. Give me some good news, Lou.”
“Sorry, I’m fresh out of good news. Unfortunately, it’s all of the bad variety. I’ve been preaching to you for ten years now about restructuring how you run this monster of a company. You’re getting slaughtered in taxes. Revenues of one hundred and twenty million a year put you in the top tax bracket.”
Going public with his company would put some of the authority in other people’s hands, and his father had instilled a serious fear of that in him when he was a child.
“Don’t start with the corporate restructuring bullshit again. My father—”
Lou cut Richie off midsentence.
“Your father ran three tiny motels on a small beach outside of Tampa. You’re running a total of fifteen five-star establishments all over the country as well as those same three motels. Thankfully those are great write-offs every quarter, but that’s a small light shining in a deep dark tunnel. With the amount of spending you’ve done in the last year, we’ll be lucky to still be in business five years from now.”
“So talk bottom line to me here, Lou. What were my losses this quarter?”
“Three million, and those aren’t really business expenses, either. They fall under your personal expenditures.”
“Well, I’m not exactly hurting here. I can afford to have a good quarter and a bad quarter. It all evens out, right?”
“Not really. You really need to hire a business manager to help you handle this stuff. I’m afraid that you’re going to lose it all if you’re not careful.”
“Hey, you’re my accountant. Just count the money and let me know what I have left in the bank, thank you very much.”
“Could we at least look at dropping the timeshare on that stupid jet? That alone costs two hundred and fifty thousand a year.”
“I’ll consider it. Any other good news to cheer me up with?”
“Nope, I’ve given you all I have. Did you call that investors group back yet?”
“How did you hear about that?”
“You’re asking a guy who lives and breathes finance how he heard that the largest hotel investors group in the US was interested in the Cosgrove brand? Seriously?”
“My buddy works for them, and he gave me a call to see how receptive you’d be to an offer. I told him that it never hurts to talk.”
“Don’t you ever do that again! I wondered why they would call out of the blue after all this time.”
“Do what?” Lou asked, knowing he was in some serious hot water for discussing things behind his boss’s back.
“These properties are not and never will be for sale. If you ever get another call like that again, your answer better be an immediate and absolute no! You signed a nondisclosure agreement with me when I hired you.”
“It’s not like that. My friend Phil called me at home two weeks ago, and we were just talking about our families when the hotels came up in conversation. Phil had heard that you might be looking to get out of the business.”
“Well, wherever he got that little tidbit of information, it’s absolutely false. I’m not getting out of this business nor selling any of the properties.”
“I’m sorry I mentioned it, and it won’t happen again, Mr. Cosgrove. I promise you that.”
“Just e-mail me those figures soon because I have to take a look at them and do some budgeting.” Richie hung the phone up with a little more force than usual.
He had been offered three billion dollars for the hotels and brand name and had turned them down flat without a blink of the eye. The thought of selling any of the hotels felt like a betrayal of his father’s trust.
Richie was looking at the next thing on his to-do list when the phone rang. He let it ring five times before he decided to answer it. He felt as if he needed to take a breath before setting about his next task, but he leaned forward and picked up the receiver.
“Hey, Rich, it’s Chris Powell. Beth told me that you called and that it was urgent. What’s up?”
“How in the world does a guy as butt ugly as you get so many women?” Richie asked his old high school buddy.
“I have a twelve-inch dick and lots of money.”
“Bullshit, I used to play baseball with you. I saw it in the shower and you’re lucky if that cock of yours is two inches when it’s hard, pee wee.”
“So you called me to break my balls about cock size?”
“No, I called you about the lawsuit against the Miami property.”
“Like I said three times last month, it’s a meritless case. The woman hired some schmuck local lawyer hoping for a payday because you have two dimes to rub together. We have this beat, so stop worrying about it.”
“Her son fell off an eighth-story balcony because the railing wasn’t secured properly. How in the hell is that meritless?”
“If you admit to fault in this incident, you’re going to open the floodgates for lawsuits and bankrupt the whole operation. You’ll be lucky to be working as a night clerk at an Econo Lodge in Clearwater after it’s all said and done.”
“The kid’s a quadriplegic for the rest of his life, for Christ’s sake. You’re telling me there’s nothing we can do for her or the kid?”
“Sure, if she wants to settle, but her lawyer is advising against it and won’t even return my phone calls regarding the matter.”
“I just can’t sleep thinking about that poor kid and how fucked up his life is now. He’s sixteen, and his life is screwed up beyond belief because of two screws on a railing.”
“Look, if they want to take this to court, they can go right ahead. The window was sealed so no one would be able to go outside onto that balcony. There were signs on the windows warning against trying to get to the balcony, and he ignored them. The kid broke the window to get to the balcony and decided to lean on the decorative railing, which—surprise, surprise—broke. We have video of him damaging the property to gain access to the balcony. They have no case. Let me handle this, Rich. It’s what I do. I’m here to protect you, buddy.”
“I appreciate it. I just feel bad about the whole thing.”
“It’s all under control. I won’t need you for the hearing next week, so you can take that off your schedule. I’ll be at the party tonight, but I’ll have to cut out early. And I’ll be out of the office for the next couple of days.”
“Well, at least I’ll get to see you at the party for a bit. Where are you going?”
“A funeral in Maryland.”
“Oh my God, your sister didn’t die, did she?” Richie asked with genuine concern.
“No. Her adopted son Ray got killed in Rock Creek Park.”
“Yeah, it turns out Ray was a gay hooker, and he got killed while meeting someone in the park. Apparently, whoever it was tied him to a table and beat him to death. I don’t know too much more about it, but my sister’s really torn up, and I told her I would come to the funeral if it would make her feel better.”
“Did they catch the guy?”
“I didn’t ask her a lot of details. I can’t believe he was prostituting right under her nose after she let him stay there after he turned eighteen. She said she failed him, and that’s why he turned to drugs.
“How old was Ray?”
“I’m not sure. I think he was in his early twenties or late teens. Way too young to die, that’s all I know.”
“My condolences, and have a safe trip. Keep in touch.”
Richie hung up and crossed Chris Powell off his to-do list. He began to send out e-mails to his hotel managers regarding new operating policies and lost track of time. About an hour later, he heard the car pull up outside and knew Jessica was back from the spa.
Well, time to clock out, I guess, Richie thought as he rose to go and see his fresh-from-the-beauty-spa wife.
Richie came down the stairs just as Enrique opened the door for Jessica. Jessica’s face was glowing, and she seemed much happier than when she left to go to the spa.
“The spa was a fabulous idea, baby. I feel like a million bucks.”
“Well, you look like a billion to me.” Richie leaned in to kiss Jessica.
Jessica gave Richie a quick kiss on the lips and then continued up the stairs to change into more comfortable clothing. She knew that she would be back in formalwear soon enough.
As she walked up the steps, she heard her husband following her. She stopped and turned around to look at her smiling husband.
“Richie, honey, I’m going to go lie down before the party. Enrique, could you wake me in two hours, please, and see that I’m not disturbed until then.”
The smile faded from Richie’s face, “Okay, sweetheart, I’ll see you later. Guess I’ll go finish up my e-mails.” At the top of the stairs, he turned toward his office as Jessica went in the opposite direction to the bedroom. The bedroom door closed and was locked from the inside.
Jessica waited just inside the bedroom door until she heard the office door close. Once the door closed and she was alone, a smile spread across her face. The thought of the money that would be hers in less than a month was inebriating.
She had waited four years for this day to come, and now she only had to get through tonight, and in another month she would be a rich woman.
Two hours later, Enrique knocked on the bedroom door, per Jessica’s instructions. She was already awake and had started to get ready for the anniversary party. Richie was in his office and heard Enrique performing the wake-up call. He got up from behind his desk and walked to the bedroom. Enrique passed by as Richie exited his office.
“Wow, you’re getting ready really early. The party isn’t until seven thirty, honey,” Richie said as he walked behind his wife and gave her a hug.
“I want to look my best for you, baby. You’re always so excited to have these large employee parties, so I figured I would start getting ready so we wouldn’t be late.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m going to do a few laps in the pool, and then I’ll be up to shower and get ready.”
Richie placed a small box wrapped in pink silk on the stand next to Jessica. Her face lit up as she grabbed the box.
“Oh my God, you didn’t!”
“Open it up and find out.”
Jessica unwrapped and opened the box. Inside was a white platinum necklace with a three-karat heart-shaped emerald. Surrounding the emerald were twelve diamonds.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you remembered,” Jessica squealed.
“How could I forget your reaction to that necklace when we were in Italy? You were so excited I thought they were going to call the cops.”
“Thank you so much! I’ll give you your gift after the party. I’m not wearing any panties, and I think it’s about time we made that beach fantasy come true.” Jessica leaned in and kissed her husband.
Richie embraced Jessica but noted that she was not squeezing back as hard as she usually did. He ignored the odd feeling in his gut and let her go. Then he grabbed a towel and changed into his swimming apparel.
As Richie exited the room, Jessica put the necklace on and stared at herself in the mirror. Richie smiled at his wife’s happiness over the gift and left her to go swimming.
At seven o’clock, Carl pulled the car around the back of the hotel where the party was being held. The obviously happy couple arrived at the hotel ballroom a little early. The guests would be arriving soon, and Richie liked to greet them personally.
Chris Powell was the first guest to arrive. He had a blonde-haired woman on his arm who looked as if she might be higher maintenance than a Ferrari.
“Chris, good to see you.” Richie extended his hand.
Chris introduced Richie and Jessica to his date for the night. “This is Claire Desmond.”
“Miss Desmond. Mr. Powell, a pleasure as always,” Jessica said politely.
“Mrs. Cosgrove, ravishing as always,” Chris replied.
“I’m going to get a drink. I’ll see you two lovebirds later,” Chris said as he and his date walked away from the couple to allow them to greet the rest of the guests.
The rest of the party guests had arrived by seven fifty, and Richie got on stage and gave his customary welcome toast. Everyone clapped when he finished, and the waiters began to serve the appetizers.
Richie and Jessica took their seats at the head table as the guests of honor. Jessica looked at the clock on the wall, and saw she had four minutes to get Richie onto the beach.
Jessica leaned over and whispered in her husband’s ear. “I just wanted to remind you that I don’t have any panties on and that there’s no one on the beach right now.”
Richie became instantly hard as his wife stroked his leg. The thought of getting caught having sex was just as arousing as the act itself.
“You go first, and I’ll follow in two minutes.”
Jessica got up from her seat and walked to the beach. Two minutes later, Richie did the same. They met at the rear of the hotel and started their search for a spot in the sand.