Dance With Me
Author:Hayden Braeburn

chapter ELEVEN



Kat hoped she had everything perfect and Mason wouldn't balk at her seduction attempt. She needed to reinforce her love, her need, her want for him. She was afraid he shied away from her not because he didn't want her, but because he felt she wouldn't want him. She pulled the filet off the grill, shook the vinaigrette and smoothed her dress. The red dress made her smile. A gift from Mason when he'd taken her to the ballet, she knew he had watched her in the backless dress more than he had the prima in the toe shoes on stage. She just hoped it worked again.

Mason came home to incredible smells emanating from his kitchen and a gorgeous brunette pouring wine in his dining room. Instead of making himself known although he knew she had to be aware of his arrival, he made his way to the bedroom. She had prepared a meal, had put on his favorite dress, and she deserved him at his best. The last time he'd worn a tuxedo, she had been wearing that same dress. He couldn't recall one detail of the ballet, but he remembered every detail of that dress. He smiled. He loved that dress, but he loved what went under it even more.

Kat finished plating dinner and lit the candles. She knew Mason was home and worried he had chosen to ignore her. She stood in the dining room, unsure what to do next. She didn't want to sit at the table alone, so leaned against it instead, wineglass in hand. Taking a sip of her wine, she wondered how long she should give him, but no answer came. Four sips later, she found she needn't have worried. Mason hadn't been ignoring her. No, he had been dressing for dinner. A smile on her lips, she placed her glass on the table and crossed to him, wrapping him in her arms. Her heels put her at the right height to claim his mouth, so she did just that, melting against him as she did.

He made love to her mouth, taking over the kiss as soon as she initiated it. He luxuriated in her, his hands in her hair, her body flush to his. It was all he could do to pull away. She had worked so hard on this dinner and he wasn't about to jump the gun. “As much as I love kissing you, let's eat.” He flashed a grin. “We can kiss later.”

“I've heard that before,” she tossed back with a saucy wink, but agreed. As much as she wanted him, she was happy he wanted to play along with her. She slid from his arms and made her way to the table. “Bacon wrapped filet mignon, crab-stuff flounder, and a green salad.” She'd prepared his favorites, even though it had made choosing a wine terribly difficult. “For dessert, we have chocolate mousse.”

He counted his blessings. How many men came home to this? “My favorites,” he said as he caught her in his arms, her back to him. “All my favorites.”

“I wanted to show you how much you are loved.”

He kissed her ear, her cheek, her jaw. “I never questioned you.”

She turned to face him. “No, you questioned you,” she corrected. She pressed another kiss to his lips. “I love you, Mason, and I always will.” She gestured to the table. “Shall we eat?”

He chuckled. “We shall.”

Mason marveled at his fiancee. While he had been searching for a way to reconnect with her, she had planned a seduction. He had a feeling this would be a quick dinner.

“Did you eat lunch today?”

“Your call to Kelly helped with that,” he answered with a smile. “She ordered in Italian for the entire office.”

Kat sputtered in laughter. “That's not quite what I asked her to do.”

“It turned into a welcome back party of sorts.” He grimaced. “I was only gone for three days.”

This wasn't what she wanted to talk about, but she wasn't about to redirect. “We were all worried. Anything could've happened.”

He finished his last bite of filet. Damn, but his woman could cook. “I love coming home to you,” he said instead of acknowledging his brush with death. Tonight wasn't about that. Tonight was about them. “I want you to stay.”

The last thing she wanted to do was leave him, but she didn't want him to offer out of gratitude. “You've already asked me to marry you.”

“Yes, and I thank the Lord you agreed.” He pushed away from his empty plate, taking the few steps to the other side of the table. “I don't want you to go. Stay here with me.” He took her hands in his. “We can sell this place and get a new one if you'd like, but I need you with me.”

“I love this house, but...” She stopped, pulled in a shaky breath. “I don't want to leave you.”

“Perfect.” A grin lit his face as he pulled her from her chair, guiding her to the built in sound system. “Dance with me, Kat.”

“Forever.”

~*~

She smiled when she heard the opening piano. He'd chosen a waltz with lyrics she adored. She had worried about the disparity in their income, in their families, in their lives, yet he loved her. Now she wanted to prove she loved and wanted him, no matter the circumstance, no matter Priscilla and her evil plans. He lead her beautifully, singing along with the chorus, “Some people want it all, but I don't want nothing at all... If it ain't you baby, if I ain't got you baby.”

She pulled her hands from his practiced ballroom hold to cup his jaw and bring his mouth to hers. She reveled in the taste of him, the combination of wine and man. When he swept his tongue in her mouth, she was lost. “Make love to me, Mason.”

Any doubts he'd had evaporated when he'd walked in his house to find her waiting for him. Nothing else mattered, nothing else existed except this woman, this moment of perfection. He wanted her in his bed, and he wanted her now. He claimed her lips in another searing kiss as he released first the tie, then the zipper of her dress. He was loathe to relinquish her mouth to slide the straps down her shoulders, but the effect was incredible. His woman stood before him in nothing but a tiny pair of red panties, her jewelry, and sexy black sandals.

She pushed her breasts out, her nipples diamond hard. “I am yours, Mason.”

Oh how he loved those words. He stood still for long moments, drinking in the sight of her. Carefully, he turned to shed his jacket and shirt, then his shoes and pants. He chuckled at himself—he'd worn his tux for a little more than a hour, and he was taking it off again. When he was down to just boxers, he crossed to take Kat in his arms.

She hated the bruises and cuts on his body, but focused on the fire in his espresso gaze. She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Do with me what you will.”

He caught her behind the knees, swinging her into his arms. “I think I'm ready to try a bed again.” He took her lips in a long kiss. “More than ready.”

He laid her in the center of the bed, skimming her panties and shoes off as soon as he put her down. He shed his boxers before bracing himself above her. Nothing between them, he reveled in her lush curves, the feel of her perfect against him.

She loved the weight of him pressing her into the mattress. She tugged his mouth to hers, the kiss consuming as he shifted against her, his cock long and hard against her. Oh, how she wanted it, how she wanted him. “Come into me,” she beckoned.

He deepened the kiss, swallowing her moan as he surged into her in one long stroke. She closed around him like a velvet fist, hot and wet and his. This was where he belonged. He drove into her, loving her whimpers as he withdrew, her groans when he slammed in as far as he could go, her nails biting into his shoulders. When she shattered with a cry, her muscles clamping down like a vise, he followed, emptying himself deep within her.

~*~

Dylan glared at the attorney questioning him. “Yes, I covered Mason Everett's body with my own to shield him from fire. It was instinct and training.”

“This was one day after you entered into a contractual agreement with my client to do what, exactly, Mr. Black?”

He gripped the arm of the chair so tightly he was afraid it would crumble in his hands. It took effort to unclench his jaw, but he managed to answer, “Ms. McClaren led me to believe her children were endangered by Ms. Nemecek.” He lifted his golden eyes to stare at Priscilla. “I agreed to extract and protect her children if necessary.”

“But there were no children, were there?” Gregory Peters asked, his lips turned up in a smug half-smile.

Dylan shook his head. “No, there were not.” He flicked his eyes to the judge before continuing. “When it became obvious there were no children present, and no evidence of children ever living on the property, I concluded Ms. McClaren had hired me in order to distract the operatives hired by Mr. Everett to protect Ms. Nemecek.”

“A distraction?” Peters prompted, his muddy eyes dimming.

“Yes. When it was apparent to me Mr. Everett was in danger, I teamed up with Mr. O'Dell.”

“Sergeant O'Dell just accepted you at face value?” Peters asked, his tone incredulous.

Dylan's lips twisted in a wry smile. “If you insist on using Sergeant O'Dell's rank, I ask you extend me the same courtesy.”

“I apologize, Master Sergeant Black,” Peters replied smoothly.

He smiled before answering the question. “No, Sergeant O'Dell did not accept me at face value. He had his partner run me, and I have no doubt he was prepared to take me out should it appear I was a threat to his charge.” He winced. The hard wooden chair was not comfortable in the slightest and Peters was questioning him like he'd done something wrong by protecting Mason.

“How would you characterize Ms. McClaren's mental state when she obtained your services?” Peters asked.

Dylan tilted his head, catching Cassidy's narrowed eyes from her seat behind the prosecution. “If you're asking if I thought she was insane, I am not a medical professional. All I can say is she was hysterical.”

“Hysterical over the endangerment of her non-existent children?” Peters asked, a laugh in his voice.

He knew he was being goaded, but answered anyway. “She was afraid she would never have them.”

Cassidy glanced at her watch. She hadn't expected Dylan to be questioned at all during Priscilla's competency hearing, much less for such a long time, but Peters had other plans. She poked J.D. Easton, giving him an eye roll. “Are you going to do anything?”

Her equivalent in the Commonwealth's Attorney's office turned slightly. “Your boyfriend is fine, Cassidy.”

“He's not,” she automatically started, stopping because arguing would only perpetuate the rumor. Instead, she whispered, “He was shot three days ago, and Peters is questioning him like a suspect.”

“He's trying to get him to say Priscilla is crazy,” J.D. surmised. “Just wait. I'll object if he gets really aggressive, but your boy is holding his own.”

Dylan Black was anything but a boy. She crossed her arms. She hated that she had to be a spectator here, even if it was just a hearing. She ground her teeth in frustration as she turned her attention back to the witness stand.

“You assumed Ms. McClaren meant her children were missing?” Peters asked.

Dylan shifted in his chair. What the fuck did this man want him to say? He wasn't the one on trial here. His side hurt, his arm was in a sling, and this pissant was making him mad. “Look, if you want to stand there and point out to the judge that I was played by a woman, fine. It's true. I believed her enough to go out there the next day. I'm thankful I did, since there is a chance Mason Everett wouldn't have made it through that day if I hadn't.” He shot a pained look at Judge King. “I am tired and sore and I was shot twice in defense of an innocent man.” He directed his gaze back at the attorney. “I will not sit here and tell you what you want to hear. As far as I'm concerned, I was coerced into a situation by a cunningly manipulative woman.”

Peters blanched. “No more questions, Your Honor.”

Dylan gingerly made his way off the stand. “I wasn't expectin' that,” he murmured to Cassidy as he took a seat beside her. He hadn't been kidding when he'd told the judge he was tired and sore, but he wanted to stick around to see who Gregory Peters called to torture next.

“You were awesome,” she said, admiration in her dark eyes, “Master Sergeant Black.”

They sat through the testimony of Dr. Kimberlynn Talbott next. The doctor's diagnosis of delusional disorder with erotomanic delusions centering on Mason making perfect sense. Dr. Talbott explained that Priscilla was high functioning outside of her delusions, yet within the them, she felt she was protecting her children and insuring their lives. Priscilla believed that Mason was her mate, and was threatened when he chose someone else. It was Dr. Talbott's opinion that Priscilla be remanded to psychiatric care and placed on psychotropic drugs, and was incompetent to stand trial at this time.

Dylan leaned over to ask, “Why didn't the doctor go first?”

“Peters wanted to show how far she'd taken the delusion,” she answered. “He also wanted to show how entrenched within it she was, convincing you to believe her.”

“She was convincin',” he admitted. He was quiet for a moment before turning back to Cassidy. “Psychiatric care until she's competent for trial?”

She nodded. “Typically, there are drugs or therapies, resulting in the perp showing deep regret for whatever they've done, then a trial where they're often found not guilty by reason of insanity but committed just the same.”

“Either way, she's nowhere near your brother.” He studied her face. “You don't think she's crazy.”

She shook her head. “She knew what she was doing was wrong.” She focused on the psychiatrist for a moment before directing her attention back to Dylan. “I believe the doctor is right—Priscilla is no doubt obsessed with Mason to the point of delusions—but she planned everything. I just can't see anything but premeditation there.”

He grimaced. This sitting business was getting old. “How much longer 'til we can blow this pop-stand?”

~*~

“Daddy, get me out of here!” Priscilla demanded.

Donald McClaren eyed his daughter, his face a grim mask. This was his little girl? This was the woman with whom he'd entrusted a thirty-million dollar company? “I can't,” he answered around the lump in his throat. “The courts have found you incompetent to stand trial. You have to stay.”

She stomped her foot, the rubber sole making no noise. “I don't want to stay, I have work to do!”

He looked down at the worn vinyl floor for a moment. “You broke a number of laws, Priscilla. Almost killed a man.”

“I was just taking what was mine, but they ruined everything! Mason is mine. Mine!” she screamed.

Donald pressed his fingers to his temples. While he had been traveling the world, his only child had been losing her mind. He watched the delusions contort his daughter's beautiful face into a caricature of her former self. “Mason is a grown man, not a bauble.”

“I will have him,” she vowed.

“You will have drugs and therapy.” He turned then and walked quietly from the psychiatric ward of Aylesford Memorial Hospital. If only money could solve this problem. His daughter endangering and nearly killing others was not good for business.

~*~

“It's over,” Kat repeated Carter's words, loving the sound of them. Priscilla may not be behind bars, but she was secured just the same. She chose not to think about what could happen after Priscilla was deemed fit for trial, instead focusing on the pure joy that came from knowing Mason was safe.

Mason breathed freely for the first time in what seemed like years. Priscilla's incompetence meant he wouldn't have to testify for a long while, wouldn't have to go over his kidnapping again and again. He ran a hand through his hair before taking the few steps necessary to wrap Kat in his arms from behind. “Thankfully over.” He dropped a kiss on her head. “At least for now.”

She sighed. “Now life can get back to normal.”

“Better than normal.” He tightened his arms around her. “You're moving in, we're getting married, and my family loves you.”

She turned in his arms to cup his jaw and bring his mouth down to hers. She kissed him deeply, losing herself in the feel of his mouth, his lips, his tongue against hers. When she finally broke the kiss, it was to say, “Much better than normal.”

~*~

Kat buckled her heel and made her way to the dance floor, the music pumping loudly through the empty studio. Monday she would reopen, the horror of just two weeks ago over. The last time she danced alone on this floor she had been desperate, thinking Mason was hiding her from his family. Today, she was headed to Charles and Carolyn Everett's home for their weekly family dinner. She marveled in the changes, especially in the increase in enrollments. It seemed being framed for drug trafficking had the benefit of making her famous, and everyone wanted to learn to dance from a celebrity.

She threw herself into a jump, her landing precise. Last week she had moved her things into Mason's house, and today she hired a wedding planner. After his... ordeal... they were wasting no time getting to the altar. She grinned as she pushed herself into a spin. She couldn't wait to shed her mother's name and replace it with Mason's. Mila Nemecek had not been a bad mother, exactly, but she valued money and power above all else, including her daughter. If Kat hadn't shown a talent in dance from an early age—a talent that her mother could exploit, and perhaps profit from—she was sure she would have been pushed to the wayside far earlier than she had been. When the music ended, so ended her musings and it was then she realized she was no longer alone.

“You awe me sometimes, babe,” Mason said, his smile wide.

She chugged half her bottle of water. “Training. It's all about training.”

He shook his head. “Nah. Talent. Raw, natural talent.” At her raised eyebrow, he chuckled and agreed, “Training, too. Of course.”

“I can't believe I'm this happy.” Her smile dimmed, turning into a frown. “Last time I was this happy it was right before...” she trailed off. He was well aware of what came next.

“This time we won't have that problem.” He captured her hand, pressing a kiss to her palm. “This time will be better.”

“Better?”

He kissed her shoulder, her cheek, the corner of her mouth. “Would I lie?” He moved the fraction of an inch necessary to claim her mouth fully, losing himself in the kiss.

“Never.”





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