Dance With Me
Author:Hayden Braeburn

chapter FIVE



“Do you think it's safe for you to go to work?” Kat asked Mason the following morning.

“Why wouldn't it be?”

“I don't know. It's just... I'm holed up here with two bodyguards and you're going into downtown Tyler to oversee the bank. It just makes me feel, I don't know, worried.”

“She doesn't want to hurt me, babe.” He stood then, depositing his mug and plate into the dishwasher. “If I promise to go straight to work and then straight home, will you be happier?”

She glanced around the kitchen. “Where are the guys anyway?”

He chuckled. “The guys, as you put them, are around. Alec is in the house somewhere and Sean is walking the perimeter. I'm not taking any chances with you.”

She sighed. “I know you're not. I just don't want to take any chances with you.”

He walked back to her, wrapping his arms around her from behind. “I'll be fine,” he whispered in her ear before gently nipping the lobe. “I'll go to work, and when I come home, I'll prove just how fine I am.”

She turned in his arms, running her hands down the hard planes of his chest. “You are more than fine.” She pulled his head down to catch his lips with a kiss. “I just want to keep you that way.”

“My only worry is you.” He kissed her then, slow and smooth. “Now, let go of me so I can get to work without stripping you first.”

She laughed as she released him. “I wouldn't mind being stripped.”

“Later, babe,” he promised with a naughty grin and a swat to her luscious ass. “Later.”

~*~

Dylan watched Everett leave the property in a slick silver Audi coupe. Nice wheels. He rubbed the back of his neck. Not the type of vehicle one would associate with a family man. Katerina, the former champion dancer and current studio owner, according to his cursory internet search, was well guarded by two men. One, like himself, was very obviously former military; the other Dylan couldn't pin. If he had to guess, he'd say a fighter of some sort, in touch with his movements. Martial arts, maybe. Either way, he had no intention of crossing swords with her keepers.

Sean knew someone was watching the house, but he couldn't tell from where, exactly. He scanned the woods again as he thought. Whoever was out there was skilled, so he knew it wasn't Priscilla. There was no comfort in that; money could buy help of any and all kinds. As he made his way around the property he radioed Alec to alert him to the surveillance. Watching wasn't shooting, at least not yet.

~*~

Priscilla waited in Mason's office at Tyler Central Banking. She had walked in earlier, telling his secretary her assistant had called last week to make an appointment. Of course, when the plump, redheaded secretary couldn't find her on his calendar, Priscilla had pitched a fit and made her feel very small, fall all over herself, and let her in his office to wait. She laughed quietly, fingering the hypodermic syringe in her pocket. She'd had to pay the dental tech a pretty penny to obtain the sedative, but she was promised it wouldn't knock Mason out completely—just make him more amenable to taking orders. Twilight sedation, he'd called it. She didn't care what it was called, just that it worked. There was no way she could carry Mason's tall, muscular body out of the bank herself, let alone without drawing notice. It had to appear like he was walking out willingly. Briefly, she thought of Dylan staking out the house. She wondered what he had found, and just how long she had until he discovered her small omission regarding her children. She shook her head. It didn't matter anyway. He was merely to distract whomever Mason had looking after the kitten while she got him out of town.

Mason stopped by Kelly's desk on his way in, but his super-efficient assistant wasn't there. He checked his watch and smiled. The woman ran like clockwork, and since it was seven forty-five, he knew she was across the street getting a double-shot vanilla latte. Chuckling at the thought, he sailed into his office, dumping his phone and keys on the desk and his jacket on the chair in the corner. It wasn't until he felt the jab in his ass that he realized he had greatly miscalculated.

Priscilla was breathing heavily. “Now, you come with me.”

“What if I don't?” he challenged. He didn't know what she'd dosed him with, but he was sure he had mere minutes to get out of the room and get help.

“Then, I kill you,” Priscilla answered as she shoved the barrel of a handgun into his ribs. “You will not yell, you will not alert anyone, and you will walk out with me.”

“Great options. What are you going to do with me once you get me wherever you're taking me?” he asked. He hated that his limbs were getting heavy, his mind muddled.

“You have always been mine, Mason,” she whispered before pressing a kiss to his cheek. “You have avoided me long enough, and I won't have it.” She emphasized her last statement with another stab of the gun.

“You're...a...crazy...bitch,” Mason slurred, earning himself a hard smack in the back of head.

“You will marry me, or you will marry no one,” she vowed. She tugged at his arm. “Now, walk out there with me, and don't do anything stupid.”

His mind was swirling, his vision blurry. He didn't have much choice than to go with her and hope someone would figure things out. He just hoped Kat was safe.

~*~

Dylan knew he was minutes from discovery and rolled to his feet. He didn't want to explain himself, especially since he had been watching the house for hours, finding no evidence of children, endangered or otherwise. He chose his steps carefully, contemplating his assignment as he did. For a few moments, he allowed himself to feel embarrassed about being played as he made his way through the heavily wooded area, always cognizant of the other man on his heels. If there were no children in danger, then there was only one reason Priscilla would have sent him out here, and he didn't like it. He was the distraction. Now, he just had to make it right, and the best way to do that was to stay right where he was.

Sean turned the corner, not sure what he would find. He sure as hell wasn't prepared for what he did see—a man almost as tall as himself lounging against a tall oak tree, dressed head to toe in black. “Expecting me?”

Dylan laughed, his teeth flashing white through his short-cropped beard. “I knew you were comin', and you knew I was here.”

“True enough,” Sean answered with an incline of his head. Taking note of the binoculars around the other man's neck, he asked, “Surveillance only?”

“Not originally, but that's what I chose to do.” He pushed off the tree. “Turns out I'm here just to distract you.”

He'd been tracking him all morning, so it had worked. “From what?” Alec had Kat secured in the house, but Sean wasn't feeling threatened by this man. If anything he felt a certain familiarity with this man who had had been one step ahead of him for hours, and he was interested in what he had to say.

“She wants Everett.”

“No shit,” Sean remarked. Giving the man a once over, he said, “You don't seem like someone who'd work for a crazy woman.”

He wished he weren't. “She contracted me to insure the safety of her children.”

Sean brows shot up. “She told you there were children involved?”

“She wanted to kill the woman. When I refused, she gave me a sob story about her children, and like an idiot I believed her.”

“We all have a soft spot for children,” Sean conceded.

Especially him, but that wasn't important now. Shaking off his idiocy, he addressed the bigger problem at hand. “Look, Everett is in danger.”

This was new. “What's she planning?”

Dylan thought on that for a second, his golden eyes narrowed. “Where is Everett now?”

Rethinking the entire assignment, Sean asked, “No one's trying to kill Kat at all, are they?”

Honestly, he didn't know. “She might have duped someone else, hired someone else...” He hit the tree. “Leave your other man with her, and let me help you. I swear, I'm on the up-and-up.”

“I'm supposed to believe you?”

He wouldn't trust him, either. “'Course not, but I can help.”

Sean assessed the man offering to go turncoat just like that. If he was telling the truth and he'd been manipulated into this job, he'd likely want to make things right. It was obvious he had skills, considering the way he'd been lounging against the tree. Hell, if this man had wanted to kill him, he could easily have shot him before Sean laid eyes on him. He needed to know more, but he was inclined to believe him. “If we're going to work together, I need a name.”

“Dylan Black,” he introduced, extending his right hand.

“Sean O'Dell,” Sean reciprocated, finding the handshake strong. He hoped this man would turn out to be a useful ally and not a fearsome adversary.

~*~

Kat didn't like Alec's expression one little bit as he spoke on his cell and keyed commands into his laptop. His handsome face was equal parts worried and perplexed, his mouth set into a hard line. She wondered who this Dylan Black was he was running checks on, and hated the implications of checking anyone out—Sean had been walking the perimeter this morning, so if he had Alec running a name, he'd found someone out there.

She waited until he'd placed his phone on the desk to ask, “What happened?”

“Sean and this Dylan Black are headed to check on Mason,” Alec began. Seeing the worry on her face, he assured, “It's a precaution.”

Kat was not a loud woman, but she was close to yelling now. “A precaution? This week I was arrested because Priscilla wanted me out of the way. You and Sean are here to keep her from having me killed. Now you're telling me Sean and some man who presumably was here to kill me or watch us are off to go check on Mason? C'mon, Alec. We've known each other a couple days now. You know I'm not stupid.”

He hadn't meant to imply that she was stupid, but he didn't know what was happening yet, and he had no desire to deal with a hysterical woman. “I'll admit something might be going on, but I don't know what, and the last thing I want to do is scare you unnecessarily.”

She had a feeling it was anything but unnecessary. She began a silent but fervent prayer.

~*~

Cassidy Everett stood in her parent's kitchen, a manilla folder in hand. “Daddy, you can't let him marry her,” she plead.

Charles Everett looked up from his omelet. “Why on earth would I want to stop him?” he asked. “He loves her.”

“She was arrested for drug trafficking!”

“Your brother is adamant she is innocent.”

“Of course he is. He loves her, and admittedly, she's drop-dead gorgeous.” She spun on her heel, her chestnut hair swinging behind her. “Her mother was convicted of embezzling and fraud.”

Charles took his time spreading apple butter on a biscuit as he contemplated his oldest daughter. “So, since her mother was guilty, so is Katerina?”

Cassidy turned to again face her father. “Mila Nemecek used her beauty and her body to obtain passwords and personal information from top-level management, and was able to funnel money into her own accounts. She's on year eight of a ten year sentence at Fluvanna.” She slapped the folder against her thigh. “I'm worried about Mason.”

“Your brother is a grown man, Cassidy. He can make his own decisions.” He stood then, walked over to his daughter. “I know you're worried about your brother, and I know you've seen some bad things in your career, but I couldn't keep Mason from marrying her even if I wanted to. You know better than anyone that your brother will do whatever he sees fit.”

“Priscilla warned me you would react like this,” she said as she turned away. “She said you would be blinded by a pretty face just like Mason was.”

Charles's confusion was telegraphed by his knitted eyebrows as he faced Cassidy. “I know Priscilla is your friend, honey, but she has an unhealthy preoccupation with your brother. Has ever since high school.” He placed a hand on his daughter's rigid shoulder. “I know you've always pulled for Priscilla when it came to Mason, but that ship sailed a long time ago. He has chosen Katerina whether or not you like it. You'll have to accept that.” He chuckled. “I hope one day to have the same conversation with your brother about you. You're so invested in your work you haven't left any time to find a man of your own.”

Of course her father would redirect the conversation to her unmarried state. “I don't want a man of my own, Daddy. I just want to protect my brother from gold digging drug dealers.”

“When you find one, I'll help you protect him, too.”

Cassidy gave up trying to convince her father of Katerina's duplicity. She would just have to work on Mason herself. With that in mind, she left her father at the marble-topped island in the well appointed kitchen. She would ambush Mason in his office where he was a captive audience. She was coming armed with Mila Nemecek's file, and she wasn't leaving until he listened to her.

~*~

Mason's mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton, and he desperately wanted water. Gingerly, he moved his aching head to sweep his gaze around the room. If ever there were a template for generic motel room, this was it. Garishly printed carpeting, drapes, and bedspreads; brass lamps, a television, and a desk. The only other thing in the room besides himself was the chair to which he found himself duct taped. He tugged at his bindings, learning Priscilla had nearly mummified his arms and legs as well as the wheels of the desk chair. He was going nowhere. Briefly, he wondered what time it was, and whether anyone missed him yet. He had a meeting at one with his loan officers, and hoped someone would alert the right people when he didn't show. He didn't know if the police were the right people, but he had to hope someone was coming to his rescue since he was incapable of saving himself right about now.

Priscilla watched in the bathroom mirror as Mason struggled against his bindings. She hadn't wanted to hurt him, but he just wouldn't cooperate. She'd resisted the urge to secure him to the bed, realizing almost too late there was no way to insure he couldn't work his way free. As it was, she wasn't sure taping the wheels of the chair to the floor would hold for too long, but she didn't need it to last forever. Just long enough.

He gave up fighting against the tape, and instead chose to think of what he would say when Priscilla came to him. He knew she wasn't far away, and now he knew just how off her rocker she had become. Did he do that to her? He hadn't meant to be insensitive, but he had been seventeen. He had dated her because she was available, had slept with her because she was willing, but he had never loved her. Given his current circumstances, he doubted she loved him either, but he was sure she would dispute that claim. She said he would marry her or marry no one, and while he'd thought that meant she wanted to kill Kat, what if she planned to kill him? His hands and feet had gone numb, his head felt like he'd been drinking for two days straight, and he might be murdered today. So much for straight to work and straight home.

~*~

“What do you mean my brother isn't here?” Cassidy's dark eyes were hard as she questioned Mason's long-time assistant, Kelly.

The normally cheerful woman shook her head, her red curls bobbing around her heart-shaped face. “I don't know, Miss Everett. He was scheduled in all day today, and his car and things are here, but I haven't seen him.” She tapped a nail against her computer screen. “He has a meeting at one. I don't know where he's run off to, but I'm sure he wouldn't miss it.”

Fuming, Cassidy stormed down the hallway, nearly slamming into Dylan's hard chest. “Do you mind?” she snapped. She had things to do, and getting knocked over by large men was not one of them.

Dylan looked down at the woman who would have been pretty had her mouth not been pinched and her eyes narrowed to slits. “I do mind, lady. You ran into me.”

She stabbed at him with a long finger. “Look, buster, I have places to go and a brother to murder. Step aside.”

Sean chose then to intercede. Cassidy Everett could prove helpful if not provoked further by Black. “Miss Everett, we're here to see your brother.”

“Good luck, then. He's not in his office, Kelly doesn't know where he is—even though she keeps him running like clockwork—and his car is here. Of all the irresponsible things...”

She was left standing in the hallway of Tyler Central Banking's office wing, talking to herself when the two men bolted toward Kelly's desk. “First Mason is nowhere to be found, then you try and knock me over, and now you leave me talking to myself.” She tossed her hands in a helpless gesture. “Great day.”

Dylan heard the woman muttering as they made their way down the hall and into Mason Everett's corner office. Nice digs. Everett's bitchy sister hadn't been lying, at least. There was a navy blue suit jacket in a plush leather chair, and a set of keys and the newest smartphone on the market were on the polished rosewood desk. There was no doubt in his mind Priscilla had abducted the banker. He studied the room, tried to piece together how a woman so small could abduct a man without being seen, while O'Dell put a call in to his partner.

~*~

“Please tell me he's fine and he's just been in meetings all morning so he hasn't answered his phone,” Kat implored Alec when he returned to the home office. He didn't need to answer; his eyes told her all she needed to know. Restless, she paced the room, unable to sit. Mason was missing, and no one knew where Priscilla would have taken him.

“Kat, we don't know what's happened. Sean is talking to local law enforcement, Jamieson has a team on-call, and our offices in New York already have people on this. We'll find him.”

“God, I hope so.” Mason loved her, and look what it got him. He'd spent more money in the last week than a lot of people did in a decade, and now he was kidnapped by a obsessed woman. When they did find him, he'd probably tell her to to have a nice life. She shook her head. No, he wouldn't do that, even if he should. He loved her, and that was final. He would threaten to spank her for thinking anything to the contrary. Tears streaming down her face, she turned to Alec. “Do anything you need to, just find him.”

“You know it,” Alec promised, turning to face the computer screen once more. He had to hand it to Kat, she wasn't in the throes of sobbing hysterics he had half expected. If there were more women in the world like her, he might stick with one for more than a month at a time. He mentally shrugged. Now was not the time to think on that. He had a banker to find. Or, a crazed heiress to find, rather.

~*~

Mason woke from a drug-induced sleep, his vision hazy. He was somewhere else. What the hell was Priscilla doing, and where the hell were they now? He rolled his neck. This time he was bound by wrist and ankle to a bed frame. He struggled a bit at his bonds. He couldn't see them, but he'd venture a guess they were duct tape again. Taking in his surroundings, he found himself in what appeared to be a cabin of some sort, stripped down to his undershirt and boxer briefs, trussed up like a sacrifice. This could not be good.

Priscilla nearly rubbed her hands together in anticipation. Mason was here. She chose to ignore that she'd had to drug him twice, and focused on having him alone and at her mercy. He'd be angry at first, she knew, but he would relent. She just had to remind him where he belonged, and who really loved him. The dancer didn't love him. No, the little whore needed his money, his name, his protection, but she didn't love him, not really. She ran her gaze down her barely clothed, perfect captive, a shiver running down her spine. No one could ever love him the way she loved him.