Kamari Grade held the slim bottle of sunscreen to her chest as though it were a priceless artifact. “You’re not serious,” her lush brown gaze was wide and unwavering while she gawked at the woman seated a few feet away.
“Why do you think that?” Eliza Breck’s thick blonde mane whipped wildly about her face thanks to a rejuvenating breeze.
Kamari laughed at her friend’s playfully stunned expression. “We’re in Hawaii, remember? Top destination of sun worshipers around the world.”
Eliza glanced across her shoulder and then leaned close to Kam as if she were about to impart with a guarded secret. “We sun worshipers only step out to pay homage when we need to- it isn’t the most symbiotic relationship.”
“Ah…” Still clutching the bottle, Kam reclined on the cushioned, waterproof lounge and tried to make sense of her friend’s outlook. Quickly, she skimmed Eliza’s already tanned skin. “So you’re saying that you’ve come here to Maui where sun is practically pouring in along our own private little stretch of beach and you don’t intend to pay even a little homage?”
Eliza shrugged, a prim yet teasing smile coming to her mouth. Leaning back into the lounge’s pearl gray cushioning then too, she closed her eyes. “Cousteau appreciates me being the same tone all over. I’d like to keep myself that way.”
“Cousteau appreciates, huh?” Kamari’s expression harbored a bit more animation then. “And I guess when it comes to knowing whether you’re the same tone all over, he’d know better than anyone, right?”
Eliza flushed, giving her tan a richer appearance. “Kam, that man has seen parts of me that I’ve never and will never see.”
“I got it!” Kam laughed, but still held the bottle out of Eliza’s grasp when she reached for it. “Not so fast…just what are you willing to do for this bottle?”
“Mmm Kam…” Eliza gave a decadent stretch and naughty smile. “I’ve done things during the last two weeks that have damn well earned me that bottle of sunscreen.”
Kamari’s laughter resurfaced. “Do tell!” She pushed up from the lounge.
“Don’t play,” Eliza ordered.
“Let’s see how far you’re willing to go!” Kam sprinted backwards away from the lounge area set along the shore. She turned toward the sea and looked back to see if her friend would give chase. She had.
Laughing wildly and taunting with devilish intent, Kam led Eliza on a merry chase along the beach until they were splashing in the foamy waves of the Pacific.
Huron Base arrived out on the massive stone lanai that faced the staggering beauty of sand, sky and ocean. For a moment, he allowed himself to dwell in a state of captivation. The sea never failed to do that and he appreciated that he could be so affected.
Huron headed over to a tall, sterling silver food cart that teemed with an array of treats. The three-tiered device held diverse offerings of fruit on the bottom tier with muffins, Danish and croissants in the middle. The level was fashioned with a mechanism to help the food maintain its fresh-baked warmth.
The top tier was dedicated to beverages. Huron bypassed the mixed offerings of teas and coffees and helped himself to a glass of apple juice. Glass in hand, he went to lean against one of the stone columns that supported the high ceiling roof which was constructed of the same rust-colored stone as the columns.
Huron grinned suddenly, noticing the man who relaxed on one of the four maplewood lounges across the patio. He cleared his throat.
“Wasn’t it you who said that sleeping ‘til four p.m. was on the menu everyday this week?” Huron called, walking toward the lounge area.
Cousteau Morgan’s grin held the same roughish undertones as his friend’s. “Any man would happily pass on sleep to enjoy this view.”
“Agreed,” Huron’s opinion then had more to do with the lush environment. “No place like Hawaii,” he sighed, settling to a lounge.
Cousteau arched a long, sleek brow in his old friend’s direction and served up a half shrug. “Hawaii’s got beauty- true. But right now, it’s running a very distant second to that.”
Huron tracked his brilliant stare in the direction Cousteau nodded and he released a slow whistle in response. Gaze fixed on the shore, he set his juice glass to the low polished maple table that stood between the lounges. He didn’t care if the glass made it to the table’s square surface or not.
Delighted as well, Cousteau followed Huron’s whistle with a chuckle. “That was exactly my reaction,” he shared.
Reclining on his lounge, Huron stared transfixed by the sight of the two beauties frolicking amidst the crashing early morning waves. He was riveted on Kamari and; at once, felt the tell-tale tightening below his waist. He muttered a curse. He’d just let her out of bed an hour ago after she’d nourished his 6am erection with a dose of her body.
The sight of her bouncing around and being doused by foamy currents of water, had his cock craving another healthy dose.
Cousteau, his turquoise stare then a passion-darkened cobalt, was focused on Eliza. “Count Elly and me out of any excursions today, will you? Takin’ her back to bed when she’s done with her playdate.”
“Not a problem,” Huron’s response came out in a rumble. “Kam’s day will turn out the same.”
The men at last traded glances and shortly after the warm soft roar of male laughter lifted between them. Cousteau curbed his laughter on a playful groan and eased a leg off the lounge. The sole of a leather sandal hit the lanai’s rose blush marble flooring with a resounding slap and he buried the heels of his hands into his eyes.
“She’s gonna kill me, B. She’s gonna kill me and I can’t wait to let her.”
“Hell man, is there a better way to go?” Huron’s words were caught up in laughter.
“Hmph no,” Cousteau seemed to sober a little. “No there isn’t.”
Following the intense Las Vegas meeting with former business associates Dutch and Sandra Breslin, Huron and Kamari set off to their Hawaii destination. The villa Huron kept in Kaanapali, Maui was a breathtaking work of art. Kam had wanted to explore every inch of the 10,000 square foot dwelling the moment they’d arrived.
The only room Huron was interested in was the bedroom suite of which there were eight. The couple spent four days alone before Kam noted that the place was too remarkable to enjoy on their own. Huron disagreed, but loved Kam’s idea of inviting Cousteau and Eliza to share it with them. The couples had delighted in ten exquisite days at the retreat before ever venturing out to enjoy the rest of what the area had to offer.
“We don’t deserve this, B,” Cousteau’s stare rivaled the ocean for vividness as it fixed once more upon the shore. Eliza stood near her lounge talking with Kam while they toweled off from their romp.
“Agreed, “ Huron reached for his juice glass. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t feel guilty enough to talk myself out of enjoying every bit of it.”
“Hell, I don’t either,” Cousteau could only manage half a smile though.
Huron pulled his eyes away from the beauty along the shore and back to his old friend. “What’s up with the long face, Cous?”
“Men like us shouldn’t count on enjoying this kind of …goodness for long.” Agitation registered when Cousteau heard the laugh Huron gave.
“I think that’s my line,” Huron teased, giving a bewildered shake of his head. “What the hell, Cous? You second guessing everything you told Eliza?”
“Just what do you think that was?” Cousteau leaned forward on his lounge and eyed his friend curiously. “About my part in uncovering that story on her mom? That was nothing.”
Instant realization stirred in Huron’s eyes then and he shook his head more determinedly. “That’s all there is.”
“You know that’s not true-”
“Then it’s all that matters.”
“It’s not even half of what matters.”
“Cous, what good does all the rest serve?” Huron’s tone was a low growl then, impatience with his friend heightened. “It was all in another life- one that plays no part in who you are now.”
Cousteau’s laughter bellowed then. “Are you kidding? It has everything to do with it. Have you forgotten how I managed to uncover the dirt I had on Jessica Breck?”
Huron waved off the query involving Eliza’s mother. “It’s got nothing to do with you.”
“You know what I mean.”
Cousteau rested his elbows to his knees and used one hand to drag back the wealth of maple brown waves that tumbled into his eyes. “All I know is that the past- recent or long past- has a way of working itself into the present. You don’t believe that, ask Jessica Breck.”
Huron studied the juice in his glass. “Jessica was a grown woman who made her own decisions.”
“Decisions that involved my family.” Cousteau worked his fingers over the bridge of his aquiline nose. “I spent so much time talking to El about her people, I never got around to my own.”
“And what do you think telling her any of that will solve?” Huron sat up a bit on his lounge. “All it’ll do is make her worry more about her mother.”
That much was true Cousteau realized. Jessica Breck was then a guest of the county. The socialite had admitted to the murder of her nephew in an attempt to hide damning proof of her…work in the porn industry.
“I believe what I have to say could do just the opposite since the rest of it involves the very thing her mother won’t share. It’s the very thing that could serve as Jessica Breck’s very own, gold-embossed get out of jail free card.”
Las Vegas, Nevada~
Jeffrey Kears stood and began to shuffle a sheaf of papers back into the silver briefcase he’d brought with him into the rather ostentatious penthouse office.
“I think it’s best if I wasn’t part of the rest of this conversation,” Kears rapidly secured the locks on his case.
“Aw, sit on down Jeff,” Dutch Breslin’s hearty chuckle resounded in reaction to his attorney’s unease. “We ain’t doin’ nothin’ but shootin’ the breeze um…hypothesizin’- that’s the word.”
Jeff Kears smiled, but continued to gather his belongings from the silver encased glass table that sat between red overstuffed leather sofas. “Understood Dutch, but I really need to be going.”
“Jeff?” Sandra Breslin’s voice coasted out like a fine brandy. “Are you sure there’s nothing we can do to get Huron to change his mind?”
Weeks prior, Huron Base had paid a special visit to the Breslins where he informed them that he was giving up his interest in Fine Lines Studios. Huron made the couple a more than generous offer to divest himself of any ties to the adult film company.
Given the turn of events involving Jessica Breck’s murder of Simon Breck, the Breslins were rather curious about the timing. There was also the matter of the woman Huron was seeing- a woman who was in the business of uncovering secrets.
“I’d advise against trying to change his mind,” Jeff’s tight smile turned into a bonafide grimace. “Huron Base isn’t a man who takes kindly to his decisions being questioned.” He gave his clients the benefit of a stern gaze then. “Base’s offer for cutting his monetary ties is far more than he initially put in. You’re coming out on top in this.”
Dutch snorted something akin to a harsh laugh. “Only thing better than havin’ Base money is Base involvement- even silent involvement is gold.”
Jeff smiled as though he’d expected the outlook from his client and friend. “Listen Dutch, you don’t want to go down this road.”
“I didn’t get where I am by not playin’ every card in my hand.”
Jeff nodded, familiar with the man’s undying pride. “As a gambler, you should know some cards are better if held or left in the deck altogether.”
A throat cleared from someone unseen. “Are you two going to trade card anthologies all day? If so, we can continue with more pressing matters later,” the hidden voice chimed in.
Jeff made a faster attempt at shoving his two phones into his suitcoat pockets then. “I’ll be saying ‘goodbye’ to you folks. Dutch?” he fixed the man with a cautionary look. “Think about what I said.”
The door closed behind Jeff with a soft thud.
“Is that the sound of the upstanding attorney taking his leave?”
“He’s gone,” Dutch spoke to the triangular speaker box on the leather encased glass desk he sat behind.
“Good to hear. Now…when would you like it done?”
“Dutch?” Sandra Breslin’s usually cool demeanor betrayed signs of disturbance. “Sweetheart, are you sure this is the only way?” She inched closer to the sofa cushions she clutched.
Dutch Breslin’s sigh echoed the one from the speaker then. The emerging voice held a gruff edge when it resounded from the box that time.
“I don’t have time for this, Breslin. Why don’t you call me when your conscience shuts the fuck up?”
“Dammit Sandy!” Dutch growled to his wife when the phone line abruptly silenced.
“I’m sorry!” Sandra Breslin bolted from the sofa, clutching her arms about her middle as though she was experiencing pain. “There has to be another way! This will destroy us! I know it!”
“Do you like the way we live, Sugar?” Dutch asked, a calm suddenly radiating in his eyes. “Without Huron’s backing, certain businesses we dabble in might start bein’ a little trickier to handle without that silent yet formidable wall of protection he so effortlessly provides.”
“I know,” Sandra shuddered, raking her hands through her glossy whiskey brown tresses. “I just don’t know what good this is for if we’re the ones who wind up dead.”
Dutch chortled. “Aw San-”
“No Dutch!” Sandra rounded on her husband. “You know we’d be the first ones he’d hunt down if anything happened to his latest acquisition.”
“You’re overreacting,” Dutch drawled.
Sandra sauntered toward the desk, took a seat on one of the cushioned leather bound corners. “Think about it, D, we were the first he came to cut ties with. It’s been over a month and he hasn’t made any other major moves to back off any other holdings.”
Dutch blinked, seeming to contemplate the validity in his wife’s words. Leaning back in a gargantuan desk chair, he fiddled with the buttons along the front of his vest. “You think he’s waiting to see if there’ll be any backlash?” He brought his elbows to the desk. “See if we’d get others to rally against what he’s trying to do?”
“I don’t think he believes we’d have the nerve to go against him at all.” Sandra eased off the desk and strolled the room. “I really think his plan was to show Ms. Grade that he’d do anything to make himself worthy of her.” She tapped an index nail to the crescent shaped diamond nestled between her breasts. “We were first on his list because of Jessica- her daughter is good friends with Ms. Grade.” Sandra paced the room with greater intent, worrying the silver chain securing her diamond. She came to a stop before the floor to ceiling windows that looked down on the street below.
The Las Vegas Strip was void of many bodies at that time of morning. Most likely, said bodies were recovering from nights they’d never forget in rooms they could scarcely afford.
“What ‘cha thinkin’ San?” Dutch inquired. While playing every card in his hand had gone a long way to ensure the success of his life, it didn’t hold a candle to the support and counsel of a smart woman. His wife was that woman.
“Huron has interests far more lucrative and powerful than ours…” Sandra wedged her thumbnail between her teeth while she pondered. “We were special to Ms. Grade so that put distancing himself from us at the top of his list.”
Dutch gave a mystified shrug. “Maybe that’s it then, if it was about that.”
Sandra was already shaking her head, her blue eyes narrowed by speculation. “He actually loves this one. A man like that…” she faced the windows as her words trailed away. She made a point of keeping her appreciative smile hidden from her husband as the image of Huron Base filled her mind. She collected herself before fantasizing got the better of her.
“I’ve seen that man with scores of women over the years,” she slanted Dutch a bland look. “He didn’t look at one of them with an ounce of the emotion that all but pours out of him when he looks at the little troubleshooter.”
“What’s your point, darlin?”
Sandra returned to the desk and reclaimed her perch along the corner. “He’ll break every shady tie he’s got. He’s not a thug anymore, climbing the ranks and breaking bones to make a name for himself. Legitimately, he’s worth more than he could spend in twenty lifetimes. He’ll cut anything else that’s not above board.”
She smoothed her hands over a pencil slim black satin skirt and propped them to her hips. “The problem with that is the more powerful-upstanding ones among us will see it as business and keep on trucking. Those of us who still very much depend on his backing for our own less than legitimate dealings will have a tougher time of it.”
Sandra moved around to where her husband sat and leaned against the desk again. “Just wait before you make any outrageous moves. You’ll need cover if you pull something like this. Once Huron cuts ties with the rest of his black sheep friends, you’ll have all the cover you need.”
Dutch reached for Sandra’s hand, pressed a kiss to her wrist. “Forgive me for bein’ impatient, Sugar.”
“Well…we don’t have to sit by twiddling our thumbs,” she toyed with a lock of his salt and pepper hair, “not when there’s so much to do.”
Dutch Breslin grinned. “What you gettin’ at, gal?”
Sandra settled down onto her husband’s lap. “Ms. Grade finds such enjoyment uncovering other people’s secrets, let’s see what she’s got to uncover.”
“This is so beautiful,” Eliza marveled while wringing a few last droplets of water from her hair. “So remote…the guy really adores his privacy.”
“Yeah,” Kam had finished with her towel and was folding it. “Yes, he does,” she tossed down the towel.
“So…” Eliza folded her arms beneath ample breasts barely covered by a halter-style bikini top. “Does that tone mean that you’re content not knowing what he does for a living?”
Kam studied the white sand she squished between her toes. “That trip to Vegas confirmed that he’s got…involvements that could be a conflict of interest if he keeps them and I keep my job.” She tucked a reddish lock behind her ear and smiled when a breeze dislodged it. “I don’t think I want to know any more, El and that makes me feel guilty as hell. Like I- like I’m betraying my job for my man.”
“And what a man…” Eliza raved, giggling when Kam rolled her eyes and smiled. “Ah girl, cheer up,” she gave a little agitated dance. “At least the gesture’s being reciprocated. You’re betraying your job and in a way, he’s betraying his.”
“Fine Lines is a big money maker, El. I’m sure he walked away from a heavy cash flow when he broke his partnership with them.”
“At least there’s reciprocity there, Kam.” Eliza slapped her hands to her thighs in a helpless fashion. “Not like me. I’m here, having a fantastic time in a fantastic place and trying not to feel guilty as hell over it because my mother’s in jail. But she…she let me think I’d betrayed our family with Cousteau after his exposé on us. All the while, she was the one trying to hide her dirt. Hmph, I’ll bet she never lost a night of sleep worrying over what that did to me.”
“We’re gonna get her out,” Kam promised, knowing that, despite her attempts at being cold, Eliza was truly worried about her mom. “You’ve got me working on this and we’re going to find something to get her out of there.”
“I know Kam,” Eliza’s tone held a resolved quality.
“So? No more guilt, alright? Your mom wouldn’t want you wasting time on that useless emotion.”
Eliza nodded, deciding to accept Kam’s words as fact when Cousteau came up behind her, scooped her against his wide chest and crushed her mouth beneath his for a quick, heated second.
“Playtime’s over,” he growled into her neck.
“Oh,” Eliza groaned. “I thought it was just about to start.”
“Mmm…I like the way you think, Ms. Breck,” Cousteau looked up and slanted Kam a sly wink before carrying away his giggling burden.
Kam returned the wave Eliza tossed up. She took a step back, only to find the move impeded by a wall of solid muscle. Before she could turn, hands cupped her hips.
“Can’t imagine you’d try to tan this body,” Huron murmured against her nape and spanned one hand across her taut, honey brown skin until he hooked her inner thigh.
Weakened, Kam let her head rest against the unyielding plane of his chest. His thumb brushed the front of her bikini bottom and launched a slow assault on her body which forced a small cry from her throat.
“Do you know anything better I…can do with it?” She gasped. The sound that met her question would’ve sent her to her knees had his hold on her hip and thigh been any lighter.
“Oh, I can think of a lot better things to do with this body,” he spoke with certainty and commenced to proving it right there in the middle of paradise.
LAYERS OF THE PAST- COMING JULY 2014…