Provocative Attraction. AlTonya Washington
a commodity in my world and I didn’t shy away from him because I wanted my career and I correctly guessed that he could give me one.”
“Hey.” Sophia gave Viva another tug. “You’re the only one responsible for your career.”
“Thanks, Soap, but Murray really is very good at what he does. He made a very successful move from security to talent representation. Over the years, I’ve come to consider him as a very good friend as well as my agent.”
“And that may make it harder for you to believe he could be involved in all the rest,” Sophia warned.
“Why’d he do it, Sophia?” Viva tugged her fingers through the light brown coils framing her face. “Why’d he risk doing something that could take away his freedom?”
“Some folks can’t resist the sparkle, no matter how much they have. A little more is always a good thing.”
“Yeah.” Viva thought of how that point had pertained to her when she’d started getting noticed—when the sparkle of real celebrity began to twinkle her way. It should’ve been enough, but Sophia was right. More always seemed better. She supposed it was the same for Murray. Too bad his quest for more sparkle had turned him into a criminal.
“I have to be part of this, Sophia.”
“All right.” Sophia nodded. “But if that’s the case, I’m going to need you to agree to any and all requests I make pertaining to your own well-being.”
Viva bit her lip before acquiescing with a hesitant nod.
“I mean it, V. Take it or leave it.”
“Okay...but only on the condition that you don’t let any of this newfound power over me go to your head.”
“I’ll try.” To Viva’s ears the words held little promise. “But give me any of that A-list actress diva attitude and I’ll put you on house arrest.”
“Such a hard-ass,” Viva accused.
“I’m worse.” Sophia waved off the insult. “I’m a bride. I’m about to start getting very anal about things being perfect. Keeping my maid of honor alive goes at the top of that list.”
Viva gave herself over to laughter. The gesture was soon being echoed by Sophia and the sisters tucked into another hug.
* * *
Rook gave a quick prayer of thanks when he pulled the Suburban into the parking spot outside his condo. The need for sleep had latched on harder and heavier the second his butt had hit the driver’s seat.
It was a blessing that he hadn’t hit anything or been pulled over for a suspected DUI considering how wiped he was. He’d been looking forward to an exceptional night of sleep, but he now feared that would be a fruitless endeavor. Finding Viva Hail on that terrace had hit him like a brick to his gut.
He’d known she was in town. He’d run into her while his team had supplied security for her sister. Not until that night had the true force of her being back really hit him. She’d always been able to read him so well and he wondered if she could see how out of it he was earlier.
Resting back on the seat, Rook reminisced on how her perception intrigued as well as annoyed him. He wasn’t a man who enjoyed having others get inside his head.
Viva Hail wasn’t just any other. No, she wasn’t just any other and how had he honored that so long ago? By giving her an ultimatum. No...it hadn’t been a blatant “take it or leave it” ultimatum, but he’d damn well known what he was doing when he gave her that bull about the decision being made for them and that her actions would put them on the path his had already set.
He’d let her think the rest was all her decision and whatever the final outcome, it was on her. The simple truth was he just didn’t want to see her reaction when he owned up to her dead-on perception that he really was set on them being done if she left. How was he supposed to tell her a thing like that?
Furthermore, how were they supposed to make a relationship work if she’d gone along? Every day she’d regret the choice—the sacrifice—she’d made for their relationship.
Groaning, Rook left the SUV and faintly celebrated the fact that his eyes were still weighted by sleep. He made it to the quiet, understated elegance of the lobby. His condominium complex was an impressive layout of four separate skyscrapers interconnected by a series of moving walkways all joining at the lobby. The walkways were basically for aesthetic purposes—the lobby also housed an elevator bay to accommodate those who opted out of taking the scenic route to their respective towers.
Rook selected an elevator, smiling as the warmth and familiarity of home settled into his bones. Work kept him from arriving during the evening rush; his day job wasn’t a normal nine to five after all. He didn’t mind as the schedule usually allowed him to arrive once things had settled down.
The place had a way of enveloping him in a solitude he’d felt in few other places that he’d lived. Perhaps that was because it was the place he and Viva had settled in when they’d moved in together all those years ago.
Plush, yet functional carpeting offset by the warm, golden lighting, glowed from mahogany-based sconces against mocha-painted walls. The allure of the place had been Viva’s doing. Her presence had lent it the truest sense of warmth and home. Only to himself could he admit he’d do anything to feel that again. His current residence, void of her, was a poor substitute, but better than nothing.
The elevator dinged and sent him on a nonstop ascent to his floor which held only one additional unit aside from his own. He and Viva had happily worked like dogs to maintain the utilities and other incidental expenses associated with such a place. As they’d both come from affluent families, snagging digs at one of the most enviable addresses in the city had raised few brows.
Rook’s parents, Kendall and Elise Lourdess, had handled payments on the property. They had fallen as in love with Viva as her parents, Gerald and Veronica Hail, had fallen for Rook.
There was little comment made about them living together unmarried. Assumptions ran high on both sides that nuptials would be forthcoming. Then Viva went to waitress for Jazzy B’s Gentlemen’s Club and had caught the eye of several men. One introduced her to the camera. Offers for commercials began to flood and their relationship, as Rook saw it, began a slow and terrible transformation that had signaled its end.
“Guess I work better on low fuel.”
Burt Larkin chuckled over his boss’s insight. “I’ll take that to mean the call went well.”
“Guess so.” Rook held the phone away as he yawned. “We spent the last twenty minutes of the call discussing my trip over there.”
“Have I told you how lucky you are?”
Rook laughed. “Only about a million times.”
“So will you grace us with your presence today? It’s not every day me and the guys see someone as lucky as you.”
“How long am I gonna have to put up with these jokes?” Rook said following another few moments of robust laughter.
“Please,” Burt sighed. “We haven’t even started yet.”
Rook countered with a playful groan. “Well, I’ll be in as soon as I leave the cop shop,” he told his second in command.
Burt reciprocated the groan. “Should we have bail money handy just in case?”
“Hmph, not this time. I’m only goin’ in for a quick talk with the new chief of Ds.”
“Ah...this about what went down last night?”
“Not sure. Sophia was kind of vague when she asked for the meeting, but that’s probably because Viva was standing right