On the morning of New Year’s Eve, he learns from one of the surfers that Brooklyn Wright is back in town—and is throwing a party.
One that he will be attending.
It’s a rowdy affair. Beer keg condensation puddling on the expensive Brazilian cherry floor. Pizza dripping with sauce consumed on the all-white living room furniture.
Vincent hasn’t been inside this house since the night of Keatyn’s birthday party, and on that night, he didn’t really have time to look around. He was on a mission.
Tonight, he’s on a different kind of mission. He’s sure that Lacy will show up to be with her Matt. What young couple doesn’t want to kiss the one they love at midnight?
It’s nearly midnight in New York, Vincent knows, based on the big screen television that is turned up almost as loud as the music thumping through the whole house speakers.
“It’s almost time for the ball to drop!” one of the surfers yells out, cranking it up higher as Brooklyn turns down the volume on the speakers.
“That means Twisted Dreams should be up!” Brooklyn says. “I may have gotten a little preview from Damian. You guys are gonna love this video! Our favorite little surfer girl is in it!”
Vincent’s ears perk up, and he moves to the wall adjacent to where Brooklyn is standing, so he has both a good view of both him and the television.
Before he knows it, Keatyn is on the television smiling directly at him. She’s wearing a white mini dress with bold black and chunky rhinestone trim.
An announcer interviews the band, asking them about this song, about the creation of the video, and how they will be airing the world premiere in just a few moments.
Damian, the band’s front man and Keatyn’s best friend says, “The guys and I love to surf, so this song is about that. Chilling on the beach. Hanging with your friends.”
“And that special girl,” another member says. This guy he recognizes as the DJ at the club the night they took his Lacy away in a casket.
The reporter grins and puts his microphone in front of Keatyn, who has her hand firmly wrapped around Damian’s bicep. “In the video we’re about to see, you are that special girl, correct?”
She laughs. “I guess you’ll have to see for yourself!”
“Well, on that note, let’s roll it! Just for our viewers! The world premiere of Twisted Dreams’ new single, ‘Meet Me at the Beach.’”
There’s a cheap prop ocean and cut-out sun in the background, and no one on the screen but Lacy as the music starts with Sun shining on your face.
The partygoers cheer for her. She’s with Damian, pretending to be on a date with him. She’s wearing a flirty little dress, much like the one she wore when they had dinner together. Ice cream at our favorite place. Blonde hair blowing in the breeze. Baby, spend your summer days with me.
The scene changes back to the beach, only this time she’s wearing a bikini, shorts, and heeled sandals that make her tan legs look even longer.
The partygoers whistle wildly and make lewd comments about her, punching Brooklyn in the shoulder and slapping him on the back. Vincent is trying to watch both, but he’s mesmerized by her on the screen, as most of the viewers are. Laying in the sand. Drinking, getting tan. Kissing in these heat waves. Got my Ray-Bans. Laughing, holding hands. Crashin’ on the beach for days.
There are flashes of her during the chorus. She’s dancing around the band, shimmying against Damian, sitting on the drummer’s lap, learning to play the keyboard. I’m thinking ’bout . . .Venice and Malibu. It’s only me and only you. She bursts out laughing then covers her eyes, like she’s embarrassed. It might be the most adorable thing he’s seen her do, right up there with her blowing him a kiss. He wishes he was recording it.
I love it; you’re all I really need. It’s just her face now, her eyes brighten as she looks at him. It’s like she just realized he was across the room from her. A smile breaks across her face. She’s happy to see him. Then she kisses her fingers and blows him a kiss, causing his body to heat up quickly, and the guys to say more sexual things about her. Baby, meet me at the beach.
This song, did she write it for the band? It’s literally their song. He must acquire the right to use it in the movie soundtrack. Lacy and Vincent meet at the beach. And they will end up there.
Cotton candy, Ferris wheel. Crazy love is what I feel. Blasting out our favorite tunes. Late nights sneaking in your room.
As the video continues, the noise dies down. The crowd is mesmerized by her. There’s no mistaking it. Bobby was spot on. The girl lights up the screen in a way her whore mother never could.
Moonlight on the shore. Always wanting more. You light me up like a bonfire. You make me hit the floor. That’s what lips are for. Summer nights, we’re getting higher. I’m thinking ’bout . . . Venice and Malibu. It’s only me and only you. I love it; you’re all I really need. Baby, meet me at the beach.
He puts his hands in his pockets, trying to hide his very obvious erection.
When it’s just us.
I feel the rush of every ocean wave. And after a kiss, I never imagined it as good as this.
He can practically feel her lips on him.
But as she continues to flirt and flit across the screen going from the surfer girl next door to sexy screen siren, he can’t help but allow himself release. No one in this room is paying attention to him.
They are all glued to the screen.
I’m thinking ’bout . . .Venice and Malibu. It’s only me and only you. I love it; you’re all I really need. Baby, meet me at the beach.
There’s a collective sigh from the crowd as the video ends. They all want to see it again, but instead, they go to commercial. Vincent watches Brooklyn closely, notices him checking his watch. Is she coming here after the show? She wouldn’t make it for that midnight kiss, but . . . the look on Brooklyn’s face surprises him. Most guys would be thrilled with the comments his buddies are making about his hot girlfriend, but he’s not. It’s upsetting him.
The commercial break is over, and Keatyn is on stage with the announcer and Damian Moran. The New Year’s countdown begins, the ball drops, and Damian looks into her eyes.
“3! 2! 1! Happy New Year!” they yell as confetti and glitter drop from the ceiling.
Vincent watches Brooklyn carefully and notices his eyes go wide with shock when Damian grabs her around the waist, dips her back dramatically, and kisses her.
He grabs a bottle of alcohol and makes his way outside, clearly upset.
But what Vincent sees next doesn’t surprise him. Keatyn comes up laughing. If the kiss were an epic, movie-type kiss, like the kind that will happen in their movie, she wouldn’t have come up laughing. She would have gazed into his eyes as they shared a special moment.
Vincent knows she’s acting.
As he watches Brooklyn sit in the sand and take a swig, it’s clear that he doesn’t.
Matt is still in love with Lacy.
He could take Matt tonight, easily, but unfortunately the location for the shoot is still not quite ready. He needs a few more days.
He notices that there’s a cell phone lying on the counter next to the spot vacated by Brooklyn. Well, well.
This could be fun, he thinks as he texts her.
B: Had I known you were partying with Damian tonight, I would have joined the fun. Loved the video.
Me: Happy New Year, B!! I’m glad you liked the video. We had a lot of fun making it.
B: You know, the camera loves you. But, then, I always said you have a very expressive face.
I drop my phone in a panic, instantly knowing that I’m talking to Vincent and not B.
Aiden sees the look on my face. “What’s wrong?”
Damian picks up my phone. “That doesn’t sound like something Brook would say.”
I bury my hands in my palms, trying to drown out their voices so I can think straight.
“You’re right, he wouldn’t say that. I think Vincent has his phone.” I turn toward Cooper. “Will you please call Garrett and find out who is on B’s security detail tonight and where the hell he is?”
Cooper starts dialing.
Aiden touches my arm sweetly, but I pull away, my hands shaking. “I. Need. My. Phone.”
“You’re not thinking of replying, are you?” Damian asks.
I try to grab my phone from him, but he puts it behind his back.
“Damian, don’t mess with me!”
“Keatyn, you need to think this through. Couldn’t he track you?”
“I have a number with a Georgia area code and billing address. I’m in a moving car. He already knows I’m in New York. Give me my phone. Now!”
“Give her the phone,” Aiden says to Damian in a commanding tone, causing Damian to immediately comply.
Me: What’s up, Vincent?
B: What are you talking about? This is Brooklyn Wright’s phone. By the way, I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year. This is our year.
I look at Aiden, who I know is reading along with me. “Sick,” he says. Then he reads the text out loud.
“What are you going to say back?” Riley asks.
I notice a grim look on Cooper’s face as he says, “I’ll put her on speaker.”
“Garrett!? Where is he?” I yell.
“He’s in Malibu,” Garrett replies through the speaker. “He had a New Year’s Eve party at his house. Refused security.”
“But, Garrett! I told you . . .”
“Let me finish. After the rose incident, you expressly told me not to listen to either Brooklyn or his dad regarding their security, so I had a team outside the home.”
“Front or back?”
“Front. That’s where everyone entered the party.”
“Fuck,” I mutter. “Call them, Garrett. Tell them to enter the house—by force, if necessary—and find Brooklyn! What about Vincent? Aren’t there supposed to be two teams on him?”
“He went to a New Year’s Eve party at a mansion in Bel-Air. They couldn’t follow him through the gates, so they are waiting for his car to come back out.”
“So, in other words, you have no idea where either of them are?!” I look up at Cooper. “Tell the driver to stop the car. I have to get out.”
I feel trapped.
When the car stops, I quickly get out.
Please let Brooklyn be okay.
Maybe he dropped his phone earlier today.
Maybe he left it on the beach when he surfed. He always does that.
I start walking up the sidewalk randomly, but then see a cute brownstone.
One with steps that I plop down on.
I have to calm down and focus. Focus on getting information from Vincent.
It’s a few hours later before she replies.
But worth the wait.
He needs to let her know that no one she loves will be safe unless she comes back home.
Unless she does their movie. But there is more to the text than that. Depending on how things go, it could also be used as evidence.
Me: Why do you have Brooklyn’s phone?
B: I keep telling you. This is your beloved B, who has a lovely home that is perfect for a party. It was the perfect place to watch your video. I wasn’t thrilled with all the comments my friends were making about you, but I guess that comes with the territory of dating someone famous.
Me: We aren’t dating anymore. If you were really B, you’d know that. We’ve been over for a long time.
B: You’re just playing hard to get. But know this. I want you back. And no one you love will be safe until we’re together. By the way, how’s Grandma?
Cooper sits down next to me. “Garrett just called back. Keep in mind, it’s just past midnight in California, but they couldn’t find Brooklyn anywhere in the house and no one seemed to know where he is. His father apparently isn’t in town.”
“Do you know about what happened to my grandma?”
I hand him my phone. “Read the texts. Screen shot them. Text them to Garrett. See if there’s anything he can do, legally.”
“There isn’t, Keatyn. He keeps saying he’s B. You aren’t going to be able to prove otherwise.”
“B would never threaten me.”
“If he was the jealous boyfriend, he might.”
“That makes no sense, but whatever. I need to talk to Damian.”
I peek my head in the limo door. “Damian, start calling and texting all our friends. All the surfers. Girls they hang out with. Anyone and everyone whose numbers you have that could possibly have been invited to his New Year’s Eve party.”
“Do a mass text to everyone you know,” Riley instructs Damian. “Include our numbers on it and we’ll start calling each one.”
“And pray someone knows,” Aiden adds. His voice is like a shock to my heart.
I look at him, at Damian, at Peyton, at Riley, and at Ariela.
I become instantly worried.
About location services.
My plan is supposed to revolve around Vincent knowing where I was, not where I am now.
I quickly get out of the car and grab my phone out of Cooper’s hand.
“Do you have a pocketknife?”
Cooper reaches in his pocket and pulls out something that is much more than a pocketknife.
When my eyes get big at its size, he shrugs. “It’s ceramic, passed through the metal detectors at the party tonight.”
“I think we need to take out my SIM card. I don’t want him to be able to track me. Even if it’s only a remote possibility.”
Cooper gets up, opens the passenger door in the front of the limo, and asks the driver if he has a paperclip. He leans out of the door shaking his head then asks everyone in the back.
“Keatyn, do you still have the envelope that the tickets were in?” Aiden asks.
“Uh, I think so?”
He picks up my baguette, flips open the clasp, grabs the envelope, digs inside, and pulls out a shiny paperclip.
“You’re brilliant,” I tell him, quickly using it to pop the SIM card out of my phone.
I hand it to Cooper, who throws it in a trash bin. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Once we’re all back in the car and moving, Cooper whispers to me, “I don’t want this driver to take us to your loft. New plan for getting home, don’t you agree?”
“Yes. We could be being followed right now.”
“We’ll never get a hotel room on New Year’s Eve.”
“Let’s go to Damian’s. Get dropped off. Go in the building. In the elevators. It’s controlled access, so no one could follow us. If they break in later, no one will be there because they’re all still in France.” I notice that Damian has stopped making phone calls and is looking at me. “Any word?”
“No. I just heard you say my name.”
I lean over and whisper to him. “If we got dropped off at your dad’s building, could you run up and get the keys so that we could use his car?”
“I wouldn’t even have to go upstairs,” he whispers back. “It’s got an access code on the door handle. The keys are always in it.”
Even after shaking any tail we may have had and getting back to my loft, we still haven’t heard from anyone who knows where Brooklyn is.
“Go ahead and get some sleep,” I tell everyone. “It’s long past midnight there now, so everyone has probably headed home.”
I go in my room with Aiden, walk into my closet, and am stripping off my party dress when one of Aiden’s Eastbrooke sweatshirts catches my attention.
A scenario flashes through my brain. Vincent finding out where I live. Searching the loft for clues. I grab Aiden’s sweatshirt and toss it on the floor. Now I’m crying, as I frantically whip through his clothes, searching for more.
“What are you doing?” Aiden asks as he comes into the closet.
“You can’t have this stuff here! You have to get it out!” I yell.
“My clothes? But you said . . .”
“Anything Eastbrooke. Help me. I have to make sure . . . Because if anyone . . . And I don’t want . . .”
I collapse, falling to the floor in a puddle of emotions.
Aiden drops to the floor next me, pulls me into his arms, and lets me cry.
After a few minutes, he kisses the top of my head and says, “Shhhh. Calm down, baby. Listen to your heart. What does it say?”
I look up at him. “What do you mean?”
“Your gut. Your interaction with Vincent. Do you think he has Brooklyn?”
I squint at him, taking a deep breath and clearing my mind as he wraps a cashmere robe around me.
“You’re shaking your head,” he says, pulling me out of my reverie.
“I don’t think he has him.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because Vincent was still threatening me. Still trying to scare me. If he had Brooklyn, he wouldn’t have to try. He wouldn’t have brought up my grandma. He would have hinted that he was with Brooklyn or something. I think he just wanted me to know that he was close. Too close.”
“Are you sure?”
“Not at all. My brain is panicked and on overload. But my heart isn’t . . . as panicked.”
Keatyn gets numerous call-backs the next day.
But no one has the information we need.
No one knows where Brooklyn is.
They all assume he’s at his house.
They remember watching the music video with him. Watching the ball drop in New York.
I’m still pacing.
It’s what I’ve been doing since we got home.
I’m really worried.
And the longer I don’t hear from him the more worried I get.
I’m currently seriously contemplating stealing Damian’s phone, running off with Cooper, and getting to a location where I can call B’s cell.
My phone rings with a call from Mark at 1:26.
At this point, I’m not holding out much hope that he’ll tell me anything different.
In fact, knowing him, he’s probably going to give me shit for calling so many times while he’s trying to sleep off New Year’s Eve.
“Hey, Mark,” I answer.
“Keats?” B’s groggy voice asks.
“Brooklyn?! Where the hell are you?! Are you okay?!”
“I’m at Mark’s. I’m pretty hung over and you’re being really loud.”
That sets me off. “What the hell were you thinking? You had a party at your house? Did you know that Vincent was there?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Where’s your phone, B? Why aren’t you calling from it?”
“I couldn’t find it last night. I’m sure I just set it down somewhere.”
“Vincent texted me from it last night. He was there. In your house. Said he watched the music video there. Said your friends were saying things about me.”
“They were. I didn’t like it.”
“You didn’t like the video?”
“No, Keats. They were all slapping me on the back, making sexual comments. It upset me.”
“Why? Because they shouldn’t be talking about my girl like that.”
“You know what I mean. They all think we’re still together. Most of them were watching the live footage when I won.”
“I want you out of Malibu. Now.”
“I can’t. I’m meeting my mom on Tuesday, remember?”
“You need to cancel it. Or at least meet her somewhere else.”
“I’m not canceling. I already told her to meet me at Buddy’s at six. There will be lots of people there. Plenty safe. Are you still coming?”
“You seriously won’t change it?”
“I can’t. I promised.”
I let out a sigh to calm myself down. “Fine. I’ll be there. Let’s meet a few minutes early. We need to talk.”
“We need more than a few minutes, Keats. Why don’t you come in the night before. We can surf in the morning. Hang out. Chill. We need some time together.”
“Are you still drunk? Don’t you understand that Vincent got close enough to you last night that he was able to steal your phone? He. Was. In. Your. House. That should be freaking you the fuck out.”
“I don’t know, maybe. You’re right. I didn’t really think it through. I just know I have to see her.”
I close my eyes shut tight. “Tell you what. I’ll come in a little early and we’ll work out a plan that will keep us both safe.”
“Go back to bed, B. I’ll talk to you later.”
I hang up the phone, cover my mouth with my hand, and scream into it.
“A little frustrated?” Cooper asks.
“Is that how you feel when you think I’m doing something stupid?”
Cooper just smiles and laughs at me.
I’m about to collapse in bed when Tommy calls my house phone.
“You weren’t answering your cell,” he says.
“It’s broken. Sorry. Hope I didn’t worry you.”
“I immediately called this phone, so I wasn’t worried yet. Hey, I have a big favor. Could you and Damian run over to Matt’s house and take Bad Kiki for a quick walk? The dog sitter just called and said she’s sick. Probably hung over.”
“Are you back in town?”
“Yeah, Moffet called and requested a meeting with Matt Moran and me.”
“But it’s New Year’s Day.”
“I know, but he’s flying back to L.A. tonight and didn’t want to miss us. And, when the head of the studio requests your presence . . .”
“You get on a plane.”
“Yep. We left Nice at seven am. It’s going to be a long day.”
“We’ll be happy to walk the dog, Tommy.”
Damian and I pick up Kiki and take her to Central Park, with Cooper in tow.
Aiden offered to go with Damian, but I’m even more nervous about having him anywhere near either of us in public.
“I haven’t had a chance to check online with all the B stuff that went on, but have you heard anything about the video? Do people like it? Like the song?”
“Yeah, they do. We’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of hits already. It’s going to be huge.” He smirks at me. “I think a lot of the views are guys watching you over and over. Probably touching themselves.”
I smack him on the back. “Gross, Damian. They are not.”
“More like all the little teeny boppers are watching it a million times and wishing they were me. Listening to your dreamy voice. Pretending to be the girl you take on the perfect date.”
“I don’t care who watches it or what they’re dreaming about. I think this song is going to be a big deal for us.”
“It’s going to be huge for Riley too. I can’t believe how he can take all those pieces and put them together to tell a story.”
“It’s very fresh and fun. The band is pumped. Did you have fun last night—at the party?”
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Aiden made me promise to kiss him at midnight next year, though.”
“Peyton said the same thing. It was probably a good lesson for us. Never to get so wrapped up in our public personalities that we forget the moments that matter with the people we care about.”
“If it weren’t for Vincent, I would have said yes but made sure our dates were close by so we could have kissed them.”
“Yeah, I thought about that too.”
“So, we’re not really stupid. I’m hoping between the video being kinda sexy, being seen out with Knox last week, and then being seen kissing you on New Year’s Eve that Vincent is starting to hate me.”
“He didn’t seem mad when he texted you. You said he’s smart. I think he knows you’re playing him.”
“I just need for him to be distracted trying to find me and not messing with people like B.”
“Do you really think B was in danger? Sounds like maybe Vincent just wanted to talk to you.”
“He tried to have my grandma run off the road.”
“I know. I just wondered if he meant to scare her or if he really wanted to hurt her.”
“For now, I think he’s trying to scare me.”
“Is it working?”
“Yeah, it is. Damian, once I take over his company, I’m going back home to face him.”
Cooper, who’s been quiet for most of our walk, chimes in. “No, you’re not.”
“I’d have to agree with Cooper,” Damian says.
“On that note, let’s head back.”
We take Kiki back to the Moran apartment and then carefully work our way back to the loft.
I’m just getting ready to take a nap when Tommy calls again.
“So, the meeting with Moffet went well. He saw the article about you and Knox, the music video, and the number of hits it’s gotten. He wants to strike while the iron is hot and officially announce your role in the movie. He’s having a press release drafted for tomorrow. Are you ready for that?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“What do Garrett and Cooper think?”
“They’re on board,” I say, although I highly doubt they are. I don’t want to lie to Tommy, so I add, “And there isn’t much we can do about it if they’re not.”
“Unless you want to rethink the role. It’s not too late to back out, Keatyn. You haven’t even signed the contract yet.”
“No, but we verbally agreed to the terms. I’m not going to renege on that. I’d never get another job.”
“I’m more worried about your safety.”
“I’d rather try to stay safe being in the public eye than in hiding. I’m not doing it anymore. I told you that. We’ll just have to leave it to the experts. Plus, if he’s focused on me instead of trying to get me to come out of hiding, I’m hoping it will mean everyone around me will be safer. Does that make sense?”
“It’s sort of the opposite of what Garrett originally told us.”
“It is. But that’s not his fault. He did what he thought was right at the time. And I agree that it was. It just isn’t now.”
“So, forgetting about all the Vincent stuff, this is still a big deal. You’re creating the perfect publicity storm. The studio is thrilled. Moffet himself wants to talk to you and Knox about continuing the franchise.”
“Really? That’s awesome! Knox said he thought that might happen, but I sort of thought it was just wishful thinking.”
“No way, baby. You’re going to be a star, just like your mom.”
“Tommy, I can only hope to be half as successful as Mom.”
“I thought you were going to say you don’t want to be like her.”
“I probably would have a few months ago. I didn’t want to be compared to her. I didn’t think I could handle the comparison. But, now, I hope I can. I’m gonna let you go. I need some sleep.”
Vincent isn’t in a very good mood when he goes back to his office. He just had lunch with one of the investors who could tip the voting out of his favor. It didn’t go well. He considers taking a hit out on the man. If he were dead, his son would inherit the shares. His son, who Vincent happens to know loves the movie industry, but who is neither smart enough or talented enough to be part of it. He decides to hold off on the hit and instead offers the son a job.
Because it might be enough to sway his old man.
Besides, he has other things to take care of right now.
He finally has his location.
I wake up to the loft’s phone ringing again.
“Hello?” I answer groggily.
“Guess what, Hotshot?” Grandpa says.
“We did it. The last investor called. Apparently, he had lunch with Vincent today and wasn’t happy with the way things went. He didn’t elaborate. Just asked if our offer still stood. I should have lowballed him at that point, but I didn’t. The company is yours. Shall we schedule a meeting for tomorrow morning, so that Mr. Sharpe can get fired by the new owner?”
“Yes, we should. How about nine o’clock his time?”
“I’ll make it happen. I’ll also be sending you an email with some talking points along with the instructions for logging into the video conference.”
“Thank you, Grandpa.”
“You’re welcome. Just promise me you’ll stay out of California for a while. I suspect Vincent isn’t going to be very happy.”
As Grandpa ends the call, I lean back, throw my arms up in victory, and scream with delight. “Aaaahhhh!!!”
Aiden and Cooper barrel through my bedroom door at the same time. “What’s wrong?”
I laugh, almost hysterically. I’m so damn happy. “Nothing. Everything is going perfectly.”
Later, I text Knox.
Me: The takeover of Vincent’s company went through. I have an online meeting tomorrow to personally tell him the good news. Then I’d like to be seen. You wanna have lunch with the new chairman of the board?
Knox: I’d be honored. I assume you want this lunch to be photographed?
Me: Yes, I do.
Knox: You’re a girl after my heart, Keatyn. I’ll let my assistant know where we’ll be.
Me: Thank you. Cooper and I will pick you up at noon. I’m going shopping at Bergdorf’s after. Maybe we could go somewhere close?
Knox: Do we get to shop together? That would be romantic.
Me: Romantic looking, you mean?
Knox: Of course, sugar. Whatever you say.
Me: There’s hope for you yet. See you tomorrow.
Vincent goes into work as normal this morning. He’s exhausted, though, having worked most of the night at the old man’s house, prepping the set. He also talked the man who lives there into giving him the only key to the safe room, so he cleaned out the shed at his grandmother’s house and brought everything there, and took great care in arranging things.
And the additional effects that will be a part of the grand finale will be delivered today.
It’s almost time to start production.
Meanwhile, Keatyn gets ready for their video conference.
I want to look like my mom did in the movie, so I blow my hair out and finish it with a straightener.
Then I stand in the middle of my closet and look at my clothes. If it was just Vincent and me, I would wear a bikini. But I’ll be speaking to the entire board of directors.
I need to look as professional as possible, so I chose the suit I begged Kym for when I saw it at her studio last week. It’s a violet Oscar de la Renta asymmetrical sheath dress with a matching belted peplum moto jacket. It’s the perfect combination of fashion forward and understated elegance.
I study myself in the mirror, deciding the bold collar and my hair are competing, so I pull it back into a chic bun and add the glossy black enamel flower earrings that Kym paired with it.
Glancing at the clock and knowing it’s almost time, I grab a pair of black suede Alaïa stiletto booties with white dots. I don’t know if they really match, but they make me feel fierce, and I’m going to need that.
“So, what do you think?” I ask Aiden when I walk out to the kitchen.
“You look older. Professional.” He glances down. “Not sure about the little boot things with it, though.”
“I like them.”
“That’s all that matters, then,” he says, giving me a steamy kiss. “Are you ready for this? To face him? To fire him? To speak to a freaking board of directors?”
“Yeah, I’m ready. I’m going to get set up in the dining room. The rest of you cannot make a peep.”
“Can we watch? Listen?” Cooper asks.
“Yeah, you can. Grandpa will be conferenced in, too. I’ll give you the link, but you have to go upstairs.”
“Are you sure?” Aiden asks. “I don’t really need to watch. I can stay down here with you.”
“I appreciate that. But I need to focus. Concentrate like I would on a movie set. I’ve memorized the key points Grandpa sent me and I know what I’m going to say.”
“Well, good luck, then,” he says, first kissing his clover tattoo and then kissing mine. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Aiden. Now, get upstairs.”
I get the computer set up so that I can stand in front of it, rather than sitting down. Grandpa said it will make me look stronger. More dominant.
Part of me wants to laugh. I mean, I’m freaking seventeen and I’m taking over a company? I might be as nuts as Vincent.
I watch the scene in the boardroom start to play out on my computer.
The board members are gathered in the room, greeting each other and chatting.
When Vincent walks in, they all take their seats. I can tell by the way he narrows his eyes that he’s noticed a new face in the room, but he doesn’t comment, just takes his spot at the head of the table.
Once everyone is seated, the vice-chairman of the board, who happens to be the investor who sold us his stock yesterday, stands up.
“Mr. Chairman,” he says, addressing Vincent. “We need to discuss the new ownership of this company.”
Vincent looks confused. “What the hell are you talking about, Mac?”
“Why don’t I direct your attention to the screen at the back of the room. I’ll let the new owner speak for herself.”
This is my cue. I press record on the remote in my hand and stand up straight and proud.
Time to roll the dice.
“Hello, everyone. My name is Keatyn Douglas and I’m the new majority owner of A Breath Behind You Films.”
I glance at the computer screen, which is showing me Vincent’s reaction. Right now, he doesn’t look pissed. He’s looking at me curiously. His head tilted slightly. His eyes focused. He really just looks intrigued.
So I continue. “The board of directors met in executive session last night and determined that it’s time for a change in leadership. They named me the chairman of the board. Effective immediately.”
“What the fuck?” Vincent says, looking around. “Is this a joke? You bring in Abby Johnston’s daughter as some little prank?”
The vice-chairman shakes his head. “I’m afraid not, Vincent. We’ve had a good run, but . . .”
I keep going, “My first order of business is to introduce the new CEO and president of the firm, Chance O’Daniels. Many of you know him as the former CEO of Douglas Oil and Gas.”
Vincent stands up. “You can’t fire me. This is my company. My company, do you understand me?”
“It was until you decided to leverage everything to make the movie you have become obsessed with, Vincent,” one of the board members who didn’t sell to us says. “You left us wide open for a takeover. And now we have a teenager running the company?”
“I may be young, but I’m saving this company from its downward spiral, one which would have taken your investments with it. I didn’t just buy it on whim. I’m very serious about building this company for the future. For my future. And although Mr. O’Daniels doesn’t know the business yet, he does know what makes a company successful. Please welcome him.”
“This is bullshit. Preposterous. I won’t stand for it,” Vincent says loudly. “I’ll fight this.” He turns to the Vice Chairman. “When did you sell? Right after our lunch yesterday? Where you promised to stay on my team?” He gets in the man’s face. “You backstabbing son of a bitch.”
“You better back off, Vincent,” the man replies. “Or we’ll have security escort you out.”
“Escort me out of my own building?”
“It’s not your building anymore, Vincent,” I say, causing him to walk up to the screen and stare directly at me.
“You think you’re so smart,” he says to her. “This will all blow up in your face. Trust me.” He may have just completely spoiled the ending of the new script, but he doesn’t care. If he loses the company, he loses the rights to the film.
She gives him a smile that is an exact replica of her whore mother’s. “Oh, there’s no need for threats, Vincey. I’m going to honor what you started and make the movie you’re so passionate about. The company has too much invested not to.” She blows him a kiss, but it doesn’t have the effect it usually does on him. He’s too mad at her. She’s standing in his way. She’s going to pay. “What do you think of me starring in it myself? I mean, that’s what you wanted, right? That’s why you were doing the nationwide search for me. Well, I’m here now.”
“You’re playing a very dangerous game, Miss Douglas,” he says, choosing his words carefully. “Our worlds were always going to collide, but now there’s no avoiding it. We’re on a collision course. One you can’t change,” he says, his voice stone cold.
It sends chills up my spine.
“You’re just mad because I’ve written a better script than you. And in my script, Vince will die at the end. Just like in the original.”
“You little fucking bitch!” he screams at me. “No one you love is safe, do you understand me? No one!”
Chance O’Daniels comes back on screen with two policemen. “Please escort Mr. Sharpe from the building. We will pack up his personal effects and forward them to his home address.”
Vincent gives me a fiery, wild-eyed look. One that leaves me knowing I’ve succeeded in pushing him over the edge.
But then his face becomes a mask of calmness.
And calm Vincent scares me way more than out-of-control Vincent.
Vincent turns away from the screen. That’s not his Lacy up there. She would never do this to him. This is some kind of game. Some role.
Although he didn’t expect it to go down this way, it is irrelevant at this point.
And doesn’t change his plans in the least.
Other than he needs to get back into his office to get the key to the safe room that’s lying on his desk.
“No escort is necessary,” he tells the men calmly. “I will leave of my own accord. But if you would be so kind, I’d like you to accompany me to my office first so I can retrieve some personal belongings.”
He gets a nod from the policemen and leads them out of the boardroom.
“Well, that went better than I expected,” the vice-chairman says. “Let’s get on with our meeting.”
I listen to the new CEO lay out his plan for restructuring the company and then adjourn the meeting.
The second it’s over, my new cell phone rings.
“Well, Hotshot, what’d ya think?” Grandpa asks. “By the way, Garrett Smith and your Cooper are conferenced in on this call.”
“I thought it went well,” I lie. “What’s your take on it, Garrett?”
“He reacted as we suspected he would. Was royally pissed off. Cooper, do you feel that your location is still safe, given all that’s been going on this week?”
“Yes,” Cooper replies. “We’ve been very careful. And I’ve made Keatyn start wearing her tracking necklace at all times, just in case.”
“I’m more worried about my family, Garrett. You have to make sure they stay safe.”
“We’re doing everything we can.”
“And you’re still following him?”
“Do the people who follow him have to send you reports?”
“May I get copies of those reports? I need to know what he’s up to. Where he is at all times.”
“I’ll have my assistant email you the reports,” Garrett agrees.
“Sounds good,” I say cheerfully. “Anything else we need to discuss?”
“I don’t think so,” Garrett says. “We’ll take it from here. What he does in the next forty-eight hours should give us a good indication of what’s to come.”
When he ends the call, I turn around to find Aiden, who pulls me into a hug.
“I shouldn’t have done it, Aiden,” I confess. “I shouldn’t have done it.”
“Why do you say that? You said you wanted to push him. To make him mad. It looked to me like you accomplished that.”
“I wanted him out of control,” I reply as Cooper, Damian, and Peyton join us in the dining room.
“He yelled at you. I thought he was going to punch that guy,” Damian says. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I lie. “It went well. I’m just worn out. Not thinking straight.”
“Why don’t we let Cooper and Keatyn talk?” Peyton suggests, herding Damian and Aiden back upstairs.
Cooper sits down and motions for me to do the same. “He wasn’t out of control, was he?”
“The way he was able to go from pissed beyond belief to completely in control was interesting to watch.”
“Did Garrett not notice it?”
“I’m sure he did. He’s good at what he does.”
“So, why didn’t he say anything?”
Cooper’s cell rings. He looks at it and says, “I think he’s about to.”
After his conversation with Garrett, he says to me. “He definitely noticed. And he’s worried. He’s got the house in France on lockdown, which takes care of your mom, sisters, and grandparents. They talked Tommy’s mom into staying for a while too.”
“Tommy will have another man with him full-time, starting tomorrow.”
“That leaves you.”
“What does he suggest I do?”
“He wants you to stay here. He would prefer you not leave the loft at all.”
“You know that’s not part of my plan, Cooper. And I promised B that I’d go to Malibu tomorrow. I know the timing sucks, but we’re going to have to do it. Quick. In and out. Just like those nights we visited the club. We’ll come back here so I can say goodbye to Aiden before he goes back to school, and then we’re going to live on the move. Tomorrow won’t be our only trip back home.”
“Vincent is right. You’re playing a dangerous game.”
Vincent gets the key and some other personal items, puts them in a box, and leaves the company he built from the ground up. Most men would consider this a low point in their lives. Some men would feel like a failure, but he’s feeling just the opposite.
Without being encumbered by his job, he’s now free to focus on what’s important to him. To focus on the movie. It doesn’t matter if she owns the rights to it. They will film together. He will force her to sign the rights over to him. A gesture of good will.
Maybe if she does, he won’t have to kill everyone she loves.
I go upstairs and tell Aiden, Peyton, and Damian goodbye.
“Where are you going?” Aiden asks, following me down the stairs. “I thought we were going bowling?”
“You are going. I can’t. I just took over his company. I have to be seen out and about. I’m meeting Knox for lunch, going shopping, and then having dinner with Tommy.”
“But . . .”
Aiden doesn’t look happy with me. I probably shouldn’t have just sprung this on him. But, honestly, it’s starting to get hard to remember who I’ve told what to. And as much as I will miss him, I’m glad he has to go back to school. I need to be able to move around quickly. That’s hard to do with a group of people. Now, I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with Damian.
“Damian is coming to Connecticut to say goodbye to Peyton. I sort of thought you’d come too.”
“He is? How long is he staying?”
“Uh, I’m not sure. He said something about needing to go to Miami. I think he leaves Saturday afternoon, maybe.”
“I don’t think I will be able to come, Aiden. I wish I could, but I have to keep going. And I’ll be honest, I’d rather have you back at Eastbrooke.”
“I want to be with you.”
“I know you do, but it has to be this way. I’m sorry.”
“What if I refuse to go back to school without you?”
“You promised to do what I asked regarding your safety, remember?”
He pushes me against the wall and kisses me hard. It’s the kind of kiss that would normally make me do whatever he asked.
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it,” he says, keeping me pinned with his chest.
“Aiden, please don’t make this harder on me than it already is,” I beg. “I really can’t take much more today.”
He pulls me into a hug.
“I knew it was bothering you more than you were letting on.”
“Of course it is. But I can’t show it. I have to go out and pretend to be on top of the world.”
He nods and gives me a kiss. “Be safe, Boots.”
Cooper and I pick up Knox. He gets in the car, gives me a kiss on the cheek, then fist bumps Cooper. “I fired my bodyguard. Where can I get another one of you?”
“We can put you in touch with the security company that Keatyn uses,” Cooper replies.
“Cool. So, how did today go?”
“It went well.”
“Did you really fire Vincent Sharpe from his own company?”
“Amazing. You look amazing, too. I’m digging the suit. And the boots.”
“Thanks. It’s what I wore for the meeting.”
He gives the driver the address of where we’re going and, as we hoped, there are a few photographers waiting for us outside.
“Knox! Keatyn! Can you stop and give us a picture?”
Knox pretends to whisper in my ear and I pretend to agree, nodding my head and stopping to pose for a happy couple photo.
After lunch, we walk to Bergdorf’s, where I help him pick out an Alexander McQueen tonal jacquard suit with a skull pattern for an event he’s going to this weekend.
“Maybe we should get you a dress so you can join me. Do you have plans this weekend?”
“No. Aiden will be back in school, so I’ll probably be back and forth between here and L.A. for however long it takes.”
“However long what takes?”
“For something to happen with Vincent. Preferably something that would put him in jail.”
“Attempted kidnapping. Kidnapping. Stalking, maybe. Whatever.”
“You get kidnapped in our movie.”
“I know. Probably why I’m so good at the role. I barely have to act. Tommy is like my father. I’ve almost been kidnapped . . .”
“That must be weird.”
“It kind of is. But I’m excited, regardless. Oh, and I think you were right.”
“Us maybe taking over the franchise. Tommy and Matt had a meeting with Edward Moffet yesterday. He’s going to announce my role sometime today.”
“He probably saw the video. And the pics of us.”
“He did. Wants to strike while the iron is hot.”
“You looked hot in the video.” He winks at me then gives me a steamy kiss right in the middle of the men’s department.
“What the hell was that for?”
“Just playing my part,” he says, quietly, still holding me in his arms.
“You don’t need to kiss me like that.”
He grins at me. “Maybe I just felt like it.”
“And maybe you’re just playing me.”
He grins at me. “I’m pretty sure it goes both ways, sugar.”
“I’m going to warn you. I’m celebrating the takeover by purchasing an insane amount of shoes as well as some new handbags. I hope you don’t bore easily.”
“Why stop there?” he says, egging me on. “Let’s find you a dress to wear this weekend.”
“What kind of dress would I need?”
“Something long and classy. I liked the dress you wore on New Year’s Eve. It was sophisticated but edgy.”
“Thanks. I liked it too.”
After very little looking, Knox holds up a J. Mendel black strapless gown with a leather bodice and columned skirt. “How about this?”
“I think I need to try that on. It would look perfect with your skull suit.”
After shopping, we drop Knox off at his place and then go meet Tommy for dinner. We’ve just ordered when Tommy gets a text from his publicity team, letting him know that the press release has been sent out. Tommy hands me his phone so I can read it.
The official joint statement from Moran Films and High Adrenaline Productions:
Keatyn Douglas, daughter of Abby Johnston and the late Mark Douglas, has been officially cast to play the role of Tommy Stevens’ daughter, Harper, for the third movie in the Trinity Trilogy, Retribution. Director Matthew Moran said, “We’re thrilled to have signed Keatyn. She was always my first choice, but we needed to prove her acting abilities. Because of her great screen test with co-star, Knox Daniels, the writers are currently expanding both actors’ roles. We expect to see great things from these two in the future.”
“That sounds good,” I say. “When do you start filming again?”
“Tomorrow. And we should have your new schedule in the next couple weeks.”
“Sounds good,” I say again, stifling yet another yawn.
“You had a busy day. I should let you get back home,” he says, asking the waiter for our check.
His phone, my phone, and Cooper’s phone all buzz at the same time.
“Looks like another version of the press release,” Tommy states, glancing at it and then setting his phone down.
But I get a frantic text from Damian.
Damian: WE HAVE A PROBLEM! DID YOU READ THE ARTICLE I JUST SENT YOU? AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, DID YOU SEE THE PHOTOS??!!
Me: Uh, no, I didn’t. Hang on.
I open the article up and read a different version.
Keatyn Douglas: Hollywood’s Next It Girl?
The official joint statement from Moran Films and High Adrenaline Productions:
Keatyn Douglas, daughter of Abby Johnston and the late Mark Douglas, has been officially cast to play the role of Tommy Stevens’ daughter, Harper, for the third movie in the Trinity Trilogy, Retribution. Director Matthew Moran said, “We’re thrilled to have signed Keatyn. She was always my first choice, but we needed to prove her acting abilities. Because of her great screen test with co-star, Knox Daniels, the writers are currently expanding both actors’ roles. We expect to see great things from these two in the future.”
The real story:
Talk about a good gene pool. If ever there was a girl made for the spotlight, it’s Keatyn Douglas. Our sources on the Retribution set say that Knox and Keatyn are already a couple. That they were burning up the place with their chemistry and have become very close. We know they were goo-goo over each other at a hip NYC night club last week, but then got in a wicked fight that saw poor Keatyn leaving the club in tears, only to be stopped by Knox and whisked off to his penthouse. The couple shared a special night together, capped it off with a brisk morning jog through Central Park, and carpooled to the movie set.
But, let’s be real. We all saw Keatyn’s music video debut, and no one can deny the chemistry between her and Twisted Dreams’ lead rocker, Damian Moran, the son of director Matthew Moran. Although just days before, Damian was seen with a leggy blonde, we all know who he kissed on New Year’s Eve. In further evidence are these photos of the couple’s arm-in-arm stroll through Central Park with their doggie pal and the entrance to their secret love nest. Add to the equation professional surfer, Brooklyn Wright, who pledged his love to Keatyn after winning the Surf City Hawaiian Open just a few months ago and high school sweetheart, actor Luke Sander, and it looks like our new it girl knows how to play the field.
And what a delicious field it is.
P.S. Vincent Sharpe, if you’re reading this, stop the silly nationwide search and cast Keatyn in the remake of A Day at the Lake.
P.P.S. Because, seriously.
Below is a photo of Damian and me at the entrance to my loft. The address numbers clearly visible.
“Fuuuuck,” I say loudly, causing the restaurant patrons to give me disapproving glares.
“What’s wrong?” Cooper asks.
“The loft has been burned. Somehow, someone must have followed us home from the park when we took Kiki for a walk. We have to get Damian, Peyton, and Aiden out of there. I can’t go back. Shit.”
Tommy looks panicked. “What are you going to do?”
“Let me think for a minute,” I say.
“How did they follow us to your loft? We’ve been so careful,” Cooper says.
“Apparently, not careful enough,” I snap. I’m pissed.
Because, not my loft.
It’s the only home I have.
I text Damian back.
Me: Look out the windows. Do you see anyone out front?
Damian: Hang on.
Me: They would think only you and I are there, right?
Damian: So I should be the only one to go out the front?
Me: Yes. Press-wise, people have forgotten about Peyton already. They think I’m seeing both you and Knox.
Damian: I’d prefer it that way.
Me: Me too. So send P & A out the back. Tell them to follow the alley, take the first right, and then get a cab to the Plaza hotel. Tell them to go to the Food Hall and get some yogurt. Cooper will find them. Tell them if they see Cooper to pretend like they don’t know him and to shop around a little. He’s going to want to make sure they don’t have a tail, just in case.
Damian: Got it.
Me: At the same time, you go out the front and catch a cab. Go straight to your dad’s apartment. I’ll message you when I get all the pieces in place. Text me when you’re at your dad’s.
Damian: Will do. Are you freaking out?
Me: A little. I’m good now.
“Tommy, Cooper and I are going to head out. I have to find somewhere to stay tonight.”
“Just come to Matt’s apartment,” Tommy says.
“Damian is headed there, but I can’t send Aiden and Peyton there. The press has already forgotten about Peyton. Damian kind of wants to keep it that way.”
“You’re very protective of Aiden,” Tommy observes.
I nod, then stand up and give Tommy a hug goodbye. “Come on, Cooper.”
Cooper gives Tommy a nod, but as we leave he’s looking at the floor.
I grab his arm. “It’s okay, Cooper. It’s not your fault.”
“It’s absolutely my fault,” he replies, marching ahead of me.
“No, it’s mine. I’m pushing you. Putting myself in situations that aren’t easy to control. I know the risks. It just makes me sad. Not being able to go back there.”
“All our stuff is there.”
“I have a lot of new shoes in the car,” I tease. “You can borrow some.”
“Not funny,” he says with a little chuckle as we get in the car. “Why don’t you let me plan what’s next.”
“Okay, what are you thinking?”
“I’m going to check us all into a hotel. You can sneak in and I’ll go get Aiden and Peyton. Where do you want to stay?”
“Let me call my travel concierge and have her find us a suite.”
A few minutes later, I say, “We’re all set up at the Four Seasons. They have a three-bedroom suite that will be perfect for all of us. I’m going to have you drop me off a block from the hotel. I tweaked your plan a little and made myself an appointment at the spa. While I’m there, you go get Peyton and Aiden. Since it’s close, you can just walk over, double check they’re not being followed, and get them settled. Then you can text me and take me straight up to the room. Does that sound okay?”
“Yes, that sounds fine. I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier.”
“It’s okay, Cooper. It’s been a pretty crazy day. Maybe I’ll send you down for a massage once we’re all settled.”
“Now that sounds like the best idea you’ve had in a while.”
Vincent doesn’t see the article with the photo until later. He doesn’t even bother sending someone to watch the place. He considered going there, but he’s too busy.
Besides, he doesn’t need to go get her.
Soon, she’ll be coming to him.
Aiden says flatly, “You went a little crazy shopping today.”
I look at my purchases littered across the bedroom floor. “Yeah, I did. I was supposed to be celebrating, having a great day.”
“Did you have a great day? I mean, before we had to move.”
“Shopping was fun—well, parts of it—but I was sort of going through the motions.”
“That’s because you’re trying to live a pretend life. There’s no joy in it.”
He takes the garment bag out of my arms and unzips it to take a look. “Another rainy day dress?”
“Um, no. I’m going to a gala Saturday night.”
“With Knox? “
Aiden pushes his hand roughly through his hair. “I don’t understand this. Remind me again why it’s okay for you to be seen with Knox but not me? I’m okay with the danger too.”
“I know you are,” I say quietly.
“Tell me why,” Aiden says adamantly. I can tell he’s pissed.
“Because with Vincent I’m not that good of an actress.”
“What do you mean?”
“He followed me for months, Aiden. In that time, I hung out and partied with a ton of guys, the main ones being Sander, Cush, Damian, Troy, and Brooklyn. Vincent took photos of me and Cush together. He saw us at soccer, at the club, at the boardwalk, and at a party. I think I even told him I was in love with Cush.”
“But I thought you loved Brooklyn?”
“I did. And Vincent knew it even though I didn’t. He’s always focused on B.”
“What’s that got to do with me?”
“There’s no way I could hide my feelings for you. Damian says when I’m with you love is written all over my face. If Vincent were to see us together, you’d become target number one.”
“I don’t care. We’d be together. I could help keep you safe.”
“Aiden,” I choke out, my eyes filling with tears at the thought of Vincent discovering him. “Please, no.”
“So, if you stop seeing Knox publicly, I should worry you’ve fallen in love with him?” he says, trying to joke about it but failing. I can see the jealously raging behind his eyes. I hate that I’m putting him through this.
“I hate this as much as you do, Aiden. I know you don’t understand. I don’t even really understand. But it’s in my gut. It’s something I’m being driven to do. I don’t have a choice.”
“You always have a choice about how to live your life.”
“I agree wholeheartedly. My situation is just different right now. Vincent and I have been on this path for a while. I can’t avoid the collision. It’s just a question of when and where it will happen.”
He walks across the room and reaches into the small bag he brought with him from the loft and pulls out something I cherish.
“Here,” he says, handing me my book of Keats poetry. “I knew you’d want this.”
I hold it in my hand, staring at it. Thinking about what it means to me. All the feelings I have wrapped up in the pages of an old book. I gently open it, read B’s inscription and then turn to the center of the book to see that, thankfully, Aiden’s lucky four-leaf clover is still pressed inside.
I cover my mouth, trying to stop myself from crying, but I can’t. I just mutter out, “Thank you.”
Vincent wakes up with a start. He fell asleep early this morning on the mattress he brought into the safe room. The bombs are ready. The safe room is ready. The booms will be delivered today along with some other production equipment that is technically still his. He may not be in charge, but he still owns a large portion of the company.
And it’s not like anyone knows what happened yet.
And even if they did, he’s not the one answering the door. The old man who owns the place is enjoying all the excitement going on in his normally boring home.
His phone beeps with an email notification—Google telling him about an article. He clicks the link and reads.
Keatyn Douglas Takes Over the World.
Okay, not quite. But rumor has it that none other than our new favorite It Girl, Keatyn Douglas, has become the chairman of the board of A Breath Behind You Films in a hostile takeover from none other than movie futures golden boy, Vincent Sharpe, grandson of the late Viviane Sharpe. Below is a still shot from her video conference with the board. Looks like Keatyn took our advice about starring in the remake of her mom’s movie seriously and just bought the whole damn company.
P.S. Just how much do you inherit from an underwear model?
P.P.S. Because, seriously.
P.P.P.S. Love your suit, Keatyn. Oscar?
What do you do after you take over a multi-million-dollar production company?
An intimate celebratory lunch with your hot co-star, Knox Daniels?
Shopping at Bergdorf’s with your hottieguard—I mean, bodyguard—in tow?
Dinner with your Mom’s longtime beau, Tommy Stevens?
We love you Keatyn!
P.S. And your taste in shoes and handbags. Celine, Alaïa, Chanel, Louboutin. Yes, please.
P.P.S. Take us shopping with you!
P.P.P.S. Call me!
Vincent smiles. He shouldn’t be smiling about the fact that he’s lost his company. People who know him might say he’s losing it.
But that’s not how he feels.
Throughout this whole ordeal, he’s felt out of control. But now, finally, he feels in complete control.
Because it’s time to put his plan into motion.
It’s the perfect plan. One that starts slow and builds, adding tension to the script.
He closes his eyes for a moment and considers the ramifications of what he’s about to do. The lives he’s about to change.
A feeling of peace overcomes him, signaling to him that he’s chosen the correct path.
He looks up at the photos on the wall. Abby. Keatyn. Lacy.
His holy trinity.
He gets out his cell, sets up a charter, then calls his man in New York and gives him a set of very specific instructions.
Keatyn prepares for her trip to Malibu.
“Remember, I have to go to California late this afternoon.”
The smile slides off his face. “Where you and Brooklyn are going to see how you feel?”
“Where we’re going to see his mom and then I’m going to convince him to get the hell out of Malibu. As for the how we feel part, I don’t know what will happen.”
“I don’t want you to go, Boots.”
“Aiden, I’m sorry. I know this has been rough for you. My spending time with Knox. Fake kissing Damian at midnight. I’m trying so hard to get my life back.”
“But at what price?”
“I wish I knew. Just promise me that whatever happens, you won’t hate me.”
“I could never hate you.”
“Depending on how it all ends, Aiden, you might,” I say, already envisioning my plan for tonight. If I’m going to have to be in Malibu anyway, I might as well use the trip to piss Vincent off some more.
Aiden shakes his head then kisses me. Kisses my lips. Kisses my neck. Kisses slowly down my body.
My body responds like it always does, but my head—well, my head just isn’t into it. My brain is on overdrive. Trying to figure out how to get Damian here safely. Deciding where Cooper and I are going to live. Wondering if I should go with my original plan of renting a yacht and a helicopter.
Aiden pushes his hand between my legs, spreading them apart to allow his mouth access.
Wait. What was I thinking about?
As his tongue—that godly tongue—works it’s magic on me, my brain ceases to function.
Okay, it’s functioning but it’s got just one train of thought.
Make me forget everything.
Run away with me.
Have babies with me.
We can live in a shack on the beach.
I don’t care if I ever see my family or friends again.
Just please don’t stop.
As I’m about to climax, my brain awakens harshly and a memory stops me from thoroughly enjoying myself.
I’m lying in bed with B. We’re in France. It’s the morning after our first time.
“I’ve been thinking about not going home. About living here. Or traveling the world.”
“You kinda need to finish school first, don’t you think?” he says.
“I’ll do it like you did. Like, online or something. I don’t want to go back home.”
“You can’t run away from your problems, Keats, because eventually they’ll come and find you.”
And I know without a doubt that he was right. My problems are coming to find me.
“We’re so good together,” he says, gazing into my eyes. “I’m not sure how I’m going to survive without you. Remember what I told you on the beach? How you have my heart?”
“I remember, Aiden. And I don’t know where I’ll be exactly, but I’ll text you, I promise. Whenever I can.”
“You better. It’s all that will keep me going. Are you sure you can’t come back to school?”
“I accidentally led someone to my loft. I’d die if I led Vincent to Eastbrooke. I don’t think he’d care who he hurt in the process of getting to me.”
“Do you have any idea how you’ve changed my life? What you mean to me?” He looks teary. “I’m going to miss you.”
“Aiden, I can’t do this.”
“Do what, baby?”
“This whole goodbye thing.”
“I’m sorry. I just want to make sure you know how I feel before you go.”
I jump out of bed. I can’t take this any more. It’s killing me.
Cooper and I are getting ready to head to the airport when I get a call from Tommy.
“Keatyn!” he says frantically. “Where are you?”
“At the hotel, getting ready to leave for the airport.”
“You can’t go. Kiki was kidnapped. The dog sitter was hit on the head and knocked out. They took her to the hospital. There was a note in her backpack.”
“What did it say?”
“It said, My dearest, K. Lying. Flying. Plane goes down. Boom, splat, on the ground. Woof. Ruff. Dogs do say. Rounds two and three go my way.”
“What? I don’t get it, do you?”
“I think he had something to do with my dad’s death, Tommy.”
“Are you serious?”
“Does Mom know? Did she ever suspect that? Was there ever any question?”
“Not that I’m aware of. I just remember hearing there had been some kind of mechanical failure. Holy shit. Do you think his obsession goes that far back?”
“Maybe it does. Maybe Vincent thought he was like Matt and didn’t support Mom’s dreams.”
“Your mom has never mentioned anything about your dad not being supportive.”
“His career was going well and he wanted mom to slow down. He thought she should quit for a while so I could have a normal childhood. I remember them fighting about it.”
“Wait, are you talking about Matt Moran?”
“No, Matt. Mom’s boyfriend in A Day at the Lake. He didn’t support Lacy’s dreams. That’s why Vince wanted to kill him.”
“This is from the movie?”
“Yes, Vincent is obsessed with it. Reread the last part again.”
“Woof. Ruff. Dogs do say. Rounds two and three go my way,” he recites. “What do you think rounds two and three are? And why do they go his way?”
“I’m assuming round one was the takeover. I won that round. Round two. He took Kiki.”
“So, what’s round three?”
“I don’t know. Did you look everywhere for Kiki? All over the park?”
“Yeah, both Matt and I went and looked for her everywhere. We called for her. And she walks that path every day, she’d know her way home. I’m actually sitting outside right now hoping she’ll show up. I’ve called Animal Control three times. She has a chip, so they’ll contact me if they find her. As much as that dog drives me nuts, I love her. The girls will be so upset.”
“Don’t tell them yet, Tommy. I’ll find her.”
I hang up the phone and yell, “Cooper!”
He comes rushing out of his bedroom in just a pair of sweat shorts. “What?!” he says, as Aiden comes running out of our room, both of them on edge.
“I’m going out. I’ll be back in a few minutes. I have something I need to do.”
“You can’t just leave. I’m coming with you,” Cooper says.
“Fine,” I say, throwing on Aiden’s ball cap in an attempt at a partial disguise.
Cooper runs back to his room, returning fully dressed, and says, “Where to?”
“A department store.”
We walk at a brisk pace to the nearest large department store, where I go to their customer service area and use their house phone to call B’s old cell number collect.
Vincent answers with, “Good to see I have your attention.”
“Give me back the dog.”
“You took away something I love, I’ll take away everything you love.”
I slam my head against the wall in frustration.
I’ll take away everything you love echoes in my head.
I have to figure out what round three is.
Everything I love.
Everything I love.
My family. Safe.
Tommy. Mostly safe.
I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and call him.
“B, you absolutely can’t go tonight. Move it to tomorrow. Move it to a different location.”
“This is going to be a defining moment in my life, Keats. I can’t change it. We’ll meet my mom at Buddy’s and then, later, we’ll tell my dad that you’re sponsoring me. Then it will be just you and me. We can figure us out. See how we feel. Are you on your way to the airport?”
“Listen to me. I need you to reschedule and leave Malibu, now. Go to Australia with your dad.”
“I just told you, we’re meeting my dad tonight. He’s in town for some business meeting. We’re going to Australia together later in the week. What happened? Why do you sound so panicked?”
“Bad Kiki was kidnapped by Vincent.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, B, I’m sure. He left a note in the dog walker’s backpack. It’s exactly like the note he left in Avery’s backpack. It even—um . . .”
“Mentioned a plane crash.”
“You think he’s going to crash my plane to Australia? He’s a stalker, Keats, not a terrorist.”
“No, I don’t think that. I think he had something to do with my dad’s death.”
“Oh . . .”
“Yeah. And I just talked to him. He told me he’d take away everything I love.”
“So, if he’s in New York, wouldn’t it be better for you to be here?”
“He’s not here. He didn’t kidnap the dog himself. I’m sure he hired someone to do it. He’s still in L.A. I have people keeping an eye on him. He seems to hire people to do most of his dirty work.”
“So, same thing. If someone is watching him, they’d know if he came after me, right? I’m fine. I’m going to see her, Keats. I have to. I promised. You promised.”
“Please, please, reschedule. I went ahead and did the hostile takeover without your help. Yesterday, I fired Vincent from his own company.”
“You did all that on your own?”
“My grandpa took care of it, but the end result is the same: I now own the majority of the production company. I’m the chairman of the freaking board.”
“I’m proud of you for fighting back, Keats.”
“I want our lives back.”
“I want my mom back. That’s why I’m doing this with or without you.”
“I hate to even suggest this, but what if Vincent found her and got her to contact you? To lure you in? You could be walking into a trap.”
“That’s a pretty shitty thing for you to suggest.”
“Your dad kept you apart all these years for a reason.”
“I had this discussion with my dad. I’m not having it with you! I’m going to see her and no one is going to stop me. Not my dad, not you, and certainly not fucking Vincent!”
He hangs up on me.
When I call back, he doesn’t answer.
Cooper, who’s been standing next to me the whole time, wraps a strong arm around me.
“You need to fill me in on the details of what just happened.”
“Vincent is in L.A., right? Wouldn’t they have called you if he left town?”
“Yes, they would have.”
“Tommy called me. Kiki was stolen. The dog sitter got knocked out and a note was left in her backpack.” I tell him what it said. “I called B’s old cell number collect and Vincent answered. He reiterated the note. Said he’s going to take everything I love and hung up on me. Then you heard me call B. He hung up on me too.”
“You really decided not to go?”
“I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”
Cooper smiles. “Good to hear. Keep your head down and let’s get back to the hotel.”
We spend the rest of the day in the hotel suite. Through a bunch of complicated maneuvers, Cooper got Damian here without being followed. Knowing Damian wants to stay in Connecticut with Peyton for a few days before going to Miami, we had a discussion about where he would stay. Cooper didn’t think it made sense for him to check into a hotel like he had planned, in case the hotel staff recognized his name, so he offered a solution. To let Damian stay in his faculty quarters on campus. Since his stuff is all still there, no one will be using it. And it will work out well, provided Peyton can sneak him in. He promised once he got there not to step foot outside, citing that it would give him some quiet time to write. Peyton says she can make sure he’s fed and watered, so to speak.
Although I’m a little iffy about their plan, Cooper seems to think it will work and I’ve come to the realization that I can’t control everything.
Kind of like my scripts that no one would follow.
Aiden isn’t thrilled about going back to school without me, but he’s very relieved that I’m not going home today.
But I feel like I’m letting Brooklyn down. Breaking a promise.
My gut tells me I had to.
But that doesn’t make it any easier. Aiden’s been trying to take my mind off Kiki and my fight with B by keeping me entertained. We’ve played cards, listened to music, watched movies, and ordered room service.
As midnight approaches, I’m getting fidgety. I’ve tried to call Brooklyn every hour since nine, which would have been six, seven, and eight o’clock his time.
“He met with his mom at six. It’s been three hours,” I say aloud, interrupting the movie we’re watching.
Aiden presses pause. “If he hasn’t seen his mom in years, they probably have a lot to talk about.”
“Plus, he’s mad at you,” Damian adds. “You know how he gets. He’s probably ignoring your calls.”
“You’re right! You call him!”
“Fine, but if he doesn’t answer, I don’t want you to freak out. He’s probably still with his mom.”
Damian gets out his phone, hits a few buttons, and puts it up to his ear. “Straight to voicemail,” he says, hanging up.
“Why don’t we order some dessert?” Aiden suggests.
Peyton goes, “That sounds yummy. You know you love chocolate!”
“Chocolate makes everything better,” Cooper says, quoting what I usually say.
I’m lucky they’re here. I’m a basket case as it is. I can’t imagine how I’d be without their wonderful distraction.
“I agree. Let’s order dessert.”
The dog is on its way here, ready to play its role in the movie. There are many ways, literarily, to make a character likable—like allowing the audience to see a bad guy helping an old lady across the street or being kind to an animal. Which is where the dog fits in.
Vince will have a dog in the movie. One he adores.
Instead of being seen as the bad guy right away, this will add a plot twist the audience doesn’t see coming. Even though they aren’t sure if they should, they won’t be able to help but react cordially to Vince.
Which means that it’s now time for round three.
And based on what he’s observed recently, Matt will be easier to obtain than the dog was.
We are finishing up our dessert when my phone rings.
“It’s Brooklyn!” I say, supremely relieved to finally hear from him.
“Hey, B! How did it go?”
“Are you not with him?” his dad says. “I thought the two of you were meeting me at the house at 8:30 to talk. Where are you?”
“I’m in New York. Is he not back yet? Wait, you called me from his phone.”
“Yes, that’s why I called you. I thought you were with him and I couldn’t get ahold of him because he left his phone here. Why didn’t you go to dinner with him? Does that mean he went alone?”
“I assume so. I tried to talk him out of going. Told him it was too dangerous for us to be together in Malibu.”
“He’s should be home by now. Do you know where they were meeting?”
“They were going to Buddy’s. Hang on, let me use my friend’s phone and I’ll call there.”
I grab Cooper’s phone, look up the number for Buddy’s, and call it.
“Hey, is Darlene working tonight? Could I speak to her?”
A few minutes later, our usual waitress answers.
“Hey, this is Keatyn. I don’t know if you remember me but I always used to come in and get spicy shrimp with Brooklyn.”
“I remember you. He was here tonight. Told us all about how he’s been off surfing.”
“Is he still there?”
“Uh, no. He left quite a while ago. He met with an older woman. It seemed sort of awkward, like he didn’t know her well. She didn’t stay long. He ordered dinner and had a couple of beers after she left. Seemed upset. Picked at his food. Left around seven.”
“That was two hours ago. Did he happen to say where he was going?”
“No, he didn’t. Oh, wait. Maybe. He said something about clearing his head with a walk on the beach before he had to go deal with his other parent. Was that lady his mom? Now that I think about it, they did share a resemblance.”
As she continues talking about their blonde hair and blue eyes, I whisper, “He left two hours ago.”
“How would he have gotten there?” Cooper asks.
“Darlene, did you notice if Brooklyn had his motorcycle helmet with him?”
“Yeah, he did. He even mentioned how good it was to ride it again.”
“Okay, thanks for all your help.”
“You’re welcome. Don’t be a stranger.”
I hang up and go back to my call with B’s dad. “You probably heard part of that. He left a couple hours ago. Is his bike home?”
“His Jeep is in the garage but his bike is gone. Sounds like things didn’t go well with his mother. Not that it’s a big surprise. I tried to warn him. He’s probably riding around, blowing off some steam.”
My mind immediately flashes to Vincent’s words. I’ll take away everything you love.
“Remember the hostile takeover Brooklyn wanted to help me with?”
“It was announced yesterday. I fired Vincent from his own company. He threatened everyone I love and even had our dog kidnapped. I’m really worried about Brooklyn. Please call me the second he gets home.”
“If you ruined everything we’ve worked so hard for, he’ll never forgive you,” his dad says coldly.
“Mr. Wright, his surfing career should be the least of your worries right now. You should be more concerned about his life.”
“Are we being a little dramatic?” he asks.
My phone buzzes with a notification. I’m trying to control my temper, so I peek at it and see B’s name.
“B just messaged me. He’s okay.”
“What did he say?”
I toggle over to my Skype notification.
Brooklyn: Skype me now.
“Um, he wants to video chat with me. Are you sure he’s not up in his room?”
“Uh, I don’t think so, but maybe I didn’t hear him come home. I’ll go check.”
I run to the bedroom, sit at the desk, and power up my laptop, thankful that Aiden thought to bring it from the loft.
I bring up the program, see B’s smiling face next to the word Online, and click to call him.
I’m just so thankful he’s okay. He probably snuck in because he didn’t want to deal with his dad. He’s probably going to tell me he’s sorry for hanging up on me and how awkward it was with his mom.
As the screen shows him answering, I smile.
But then my heart stops beating when Vincent’s face shows on the screen instead.
He gives me a chilling smile. One that makes my whole body shiver.
“We have the dog. We have Matt,” he says. “As soon as we have you, we’ll commence filming.”
Matt? Lacy’s boyfriend in the movie?
Did he cast Brooklyn as Matt?
No. He’s probably just trying to freak me out. Probably stole his computer since I destroyed my phone and he needed another way to get in touch with me.
But how did he get Brooklyn’s computer?
I imagine the scene at Buddy’s.
B’s distracted and talking to his mom.
Someone grabs his backpack.
Although, I don’t know why he’d take it to dinner.
No, wait. I do. He’d want to show his mom videos of him surfing.
I look Vincent straight in the eye. “Who did you cast as Matt?”
A smirk plays on his face. The first show of emotion I’ve seen. “Your boyfriend, Brooklyn, of course.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Vincent narrows his eyes at me. The emotional mask returning.
From the corner of my eye, I see Aiden and Cooper come into the bedroom.
I pretend to adjust my laptop screen, but instead I hold my hand out past it, gesturing at them not to come any closer.
My eyes are glued to the screen, Vincent and I locked in an online staring match.
Finally, he blinks and says, “You want to see who I cast? Is that it?”
“Yes, Vincent. I need to know who my co-star is before I’ll sign on to the project.”
There are blurs across the screen as Vincent moves the laptop away from his face.
I can’t make out anything until the movement stops.
Then there is a single image.
Brooklyn. Lying on a mattress motionless.
I quickly take a screenshot.
“Believe me now?” I hear Vincent ask.
“I want to talk to him.”
“As you can see, he can’t talk right now. He’s asleep.”
“Asleep or dead?” It’s hard to tell. I can’t see him breathing.
There are more blurs then Vincent’s face. “Come home,” he says then ends the call.
Tears stream down my face as I stare at the blank computer screen.
I shake my head.
I expected Vincent to kidnap me at some point.
I was prepared for it.
I didn’t expect this.
What am I going to do?
Cooper clears his throat.
I look up at everyone waiting expectantly in the doorway.
“He’s got Brooklyn,” I say, crying hysterically. “He’s got Brooklyn.”
Brooklyn comes to, the drug working its way out of his system.
“Tell me where she is,” Vincent orders him. “I need to go get her.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re on set. Filming will commence as soon as we have our costar. She knows I have you. I know she’s been manipulating the press, so that I will think she doesn’t love you. But I know better. I suspect she will be coming home soon.” He pauses to add some drama. “Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing for you.”
“Why not?” Brooklyn asks, groggily, things not really making sense. He has no idea where he is or how he got here, but he does recognize Vincent. He can see he’s in some sort of concrete room with no windows.
And he knows it’s not good.
“I know you know where she is.”
“I won’t tell you,” Brooklyn says.
“Then your time here will be filled with pain,” he says, backhanding his captive.
What follows is a night of complete chaos.
Fits of anger.
Calls with Garrett.
Pacing with worry.
Calls with my family.
A call to B’s dad.
As if I wasn’t already feeling guilty enough, his dad flat-out blamed me.
Yelled at me.
I tried to explain, but it didn’t matter.
And it doesn’t.
It’s all my fault.
By midnight in California, Brooklyn has taken a fair amount of beating.
And still hasn’t talked.
Vincent lets him know that he will die soon anyway, gives him another shot, then leaves the safe room.
By three in the morning East Coast time, Damian and Peyton have fallen asleep on the couch, Aiden is pacing across the living room floor, and I’m sitting in a chair across from Cooper trying to convince him that I should do exactly what Vincent wants me to do: go home.
My phone rings with a call from Garrett.
I quickly grab it off the coffee table and answer with, “Did you find him?”
“No, we haven’t. I’m sorry,” he says.
By this time, I’m done crying. I’m just straight pissed.
“How am I supposed to believe that you’ll be able to keep anyone I care about safe?”
“I can only do so much, Keatyn. Brooklyn refused security the whole time he was in Malibu. And, believe me, we tried to talk some sense in him. We even did as you asked and watched the house and followed him wherever he went.”
“Were they watching him today?”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Brooklyn called the cops on them a few hours before he left for dinner. My men were at the police station getting things sorted out.”
“Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. Did the two of you fight?”
“Yes. He was really upset when I told him I wasn’t coming there.”
“You were planning to?”
“Yeah. He wanted me to go with him to meet his mom. When we found out about Kiki, I called him. Begged him to reschedule. Told him it wasn’t safe. He wouldn’t listen to me. Then I suggested that it could be a set up. That’s when he hung up on me.”
“We located his mother and interviewed her.”
“So it wasn’t a set up?”
“What did she say?”
“That they talked. That she was so excited to see him but that it was more awkward than she imagined. I think she had grand images of the little boy she left rushing into her arms.”
“Do you know the real story?”
“Brooklyn’s father said she’s bipolar. That, back then, the disease wasn’t as widely understood. They diagnosed her with depression but she wouldn’t take her medicine. When she didn’t, she was all over the place. Crying for days, then, the next, getting dressed up and maniacally shopping. She’d have fits of anger, too. In one of those fits, she pushed B down the stairs. He was fine, just a broken wrist, but that’s when his dad knew he had to do something. He had her charged with child abuse, filed for divorce, and got the court to issue a restraining order.”
“That’s sad. But I can see why his dad just let him think she left. It was easier than trying to explain everything else. We have to find him, Garrett. As soon as I get off the phone, I’m heading to the airport. I’ll see you soon.”
“No, you won’t.”
“I won’t see you?”
“Keatyn, would you like me to use every resource I have available to search for Brooklyn?”
“Then I need you to go back to Eastbrooke.”
“I can’t go back there.”
“Yes, you can.”
“But everyone knows who I am. I’m still the one Vincent wants. I can’t put Eastbrooke in that kind of danger. I can’t go back!”
“We successfully kept everything off social media. Vincent would’ve already gone there if he believed you were there. It’s safe. That’s why we sent you there in the first place. And I can’t do my job if I’m worried about you. I need all our manpower focused on finding him.”
“But you have the police. I sent you the screenshot.”
“Keatyn, the screenshot doesn’t really prove anything. You didn’t get any photos of Vincent. Had you recorded the call it would be a different situation. We would have some proof. All we have is a photo of a young man lying on a mattress. It doesn’t prove he was kidnapped. It doesn’t tell us who kidnapped him. It helps that his dad believes you and reported him kidnapped, but since there is no proof of that either—”
“What kind of proof do they need?”
“They interviewed the staff at the restaurant. No one saw a struggle. No one saw anything or anyone remotely suspicious. The police see a young man who is upset with his father and didn’t come home. Now, the fact that his motorcycle is still at the club helps us a little, but the police work at their own pace.”
“I thought you had guys following Vincent. Where the hell is he?”
“We don’t know.”
“What the fuck, Garrett? How can you not know?”
“Our men report that Vincent has been in his home since you fired him.”
“We know Brooklyn is with Vincent. So, if Vincent’s home, someone got Brooklyn and took him to Vincent. They’re probably in his house! Go get him!”
“We tried that. I called in a favor with the police. Got them to agree to question Vincent. They went to his home, but Vincent didn’t answer.”
“So they just left?”
“The police can’t search a property without a warrant unless they have just cause. When they looked in the windows, they reported seeing a room trashed in a way that indicated a struggle. They suspected Vincent might be hurt, so they broke the door down and went in.”
“What did they find?”
“Did they search for clues?”
“They didn’t. But after they left, one of my guys may have had a look around. He came up empty. There wasn’t one shred of evidence that would suggest he was obsessed with you or your mom. No photos. No magazines. Nothing. Which is a bit unusual in cases like these. Do you remember anything from your video chat? Did you see anything or notice any details that could give us a clue as to where he was. What about sounds? Could you hear a city? The ocean?”
“When he swung the laptop around I saw a blur of colors and images. Pictures, I think, on the walls.”
“That would make sense. Wherever he’s holding Brooklyn is his base. The place where he keeps his obsession hidden from the outside world.”
“Like a secret apartment or something?”
“Yes, and we’ve got to find it. If we find it, we’ll find Brooklyn. We’re meeting with a judge in the morning to request a warrant to search all of his properties.”
“Technically, I own some of those properties now, right? The business ones?”
“Yes, we’ve already scoured the county records and have compiled an extensive list of both personal and business real estate holdings.”
“You have my okay to search anything owned by the company. He is obsessed with making the movie, so it would make sense that he might do it somewhere there’s already a set.”
“We’ll start searching the company’s properties now. On one condition.”
“You go to Eastbrooke while we do.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I quit and you can let the police handle it.”
“You’re not serious.”
“Oh, yes. I am. And just so you know, if you decide to accept my resignation, even with your family connections, it would be at least 24-48 hours before you could get another firm on board. Do you want to lose that time?”
“Then here are my terms. You and Cooper are going back to Eastbrooke. You will give me seven days to find Brooklyn before you threaten to come to Malibu. And you promise that during those seven days you will not set foot off campus. No getting your nails done. No pizza dates. Nothing. I will be sending additional guards to the school’s entrance. They will be under orders not to let you leave. Am I clear?”
“Seven days is a long time, Garrett! Why don’t I just come home? I’ll let Vincent find me. Take me to where Brooklyn is. You can rescue us both.”
“Keatyn, I can assure you it would not be that easy. A simple case of kidnapping would quickly escalate into a hostage situation.”
“Then get some special forces to come in the middle of the night. Kidnap Vincent. Save us.”
“I’m wasting precious time right now, Keatyn. You know my terms. Seven days or I quit.”
“What if you don’t find him in seven days?” I ask, hating that the words even came out of my mouth.
“Then we’ll do it your way.” He sighs. “Look, Vincent has been planning this for months, maybe even years. I know seven days seems like a long time, but it really isn’t in the scheme of things. You said Vincent told you that he has Matt, right?”
“So, in a warped way, Brooklyn has agreed to play the role and signed a contract. Vincent won’t hurt him until he has you. That’s the main reason I want seven days. If Vincent gets his hands on both of you, his plans will accelerate. And when they do, I can’t guarantee that either one of you will survive. If you want to keep Brooklyn alive, you will give me seven days.”
I nod, knowing that he’s right. Vincent will keep Brooklyn alive until he’s able to redo the movie his way.
And he can’t do that until he has me.
I let out an audible sigh. “Fine. I agree.”
“Thank you. I’ll keep you posted every step of the way.”
As I hang up, Cooper says, “What did you just agree to?”
“We’re going back to Eastbrooke,” I say.