Vincent comes to and find his hands tied together with zip ties and unable to move.
He was so close.
He didn’t really expect her to fight back. He didn’t expect to fail.
But luckily when he’s taken to the police station, his case is handled by a female officer, who responds to his subtle charm.
He has nothing to hide. His Porsche is parked in front of the club where he left it. He wore gloves and a hat when he drove the van, which he doubts they even know about yet.
The officer asks for his story.
He tells her the truth. That Keatyn personally invited him. That they are friends. That there was a commotion, he was worried about her safety, and was trying to keep her away from possible danger. That she misread the situation, which isn’t surprising as she had been drinking. He’s also sure to apologize for the misunderstanding. He even touches the officer’s hand gently when he asks her to pass on the message to Keatyn’s family.
But then the bitch asks about his Abby tattoo. He remains calm. Tells her about his high school girlfriend. Tells her it was young love and expresses sorrow and a broken heart when he tells her the tale of how she left him but couldn’t take the tattoo with her.
The officer checks out his story and confirms that his name was on the guest list. The guy is good looking, rich, a business executive, and could get any woman he wanted—including her. No way he’d be trying to kidnap some girl. It didn’t make sense.
So she lets him go.
As soon as Vincent leaves the police station, he allows himself to anger. Keeping it simmering below the surface was a true test of his abilities. Fury takes hold of him. He knows it’s risky, but it’s time to let the whore, Abby, know the truth.
He drives to his grandmother’s house and sneaks back to the shed, getting what he needs.
He has no problem entering the gated community. The guards know he visits the old man and may even believe him to be his son. He tells them he hasn’t heard from him in a few days and wants to just quickly check on him, which he does. The man is fast asleep. Vincent borrows a dark windbreaker from the front hall along with a fishing hat. He shoves the envelope and gun he brought with him in his pocket. He walks the beach behind Abby’s beach home and observes the commotion going on inside. Sees the security guards at the door.
He fingers the gun, considering just walking in there and taking Lacy, shooting anyone who gets in his way. But that was not part of his plan. And he knows planning is key. Meticulous, perfect planning makes for the best movies. He must continue on his path, not allowing obstacles to push him off course.
Lacy is his destiny.
And he is nothing if not patient.
He retreats from the home, finds her surfer friend’s house empty, disables the alarm, and goes into his bedroom, where he finds the swimsuit Lacy was wearing on the beach when he took the video. He pulls it to his nose, taking in the scent of her, then stuffs it in his pocket and leaves the envelope.
On the way out of the home, he enables the alarm then opens the door, causing a screeching wail to pierce the air.
WHOOOOOHHH!!! WHOOOOOHHH!!! WHOOOOOHHH!!! WHOOOOOHHH!!!
Someone’s house alarm is loudly shrilling.
Brooklyn’s phone buzzes.
He looks down at it, like he’s forgotten what it is. He blinks, then answers. “No, I didn’t accidentally set off the alarm. Yes, send the police right away!”
James and the two detectives look at each other, agree on something with their eyes, draw their weapons, and go tearing out the back door.
“Well, this has certainly been an exciting night,” Deron jokes. He’s trying to use his great sense of humor to keep us all calm.
It just doesn’t seem to be working.
Fifteen nerve-racking minutes later, the alarm wailing the entire time, James calls Brooklyn.
Brooklyn gives him the alarm code, and the night is silent again.
Brooklyn sets down his phone. “The house is clear. From what they can tell, it wasn’t robbed, but they want me to go see if anything is missing.”
Garrett picks up his walkie-talkie and says, “I need a two-man team to the back door.” He leads Brooklyn out the door, where armed security men are waiting to escort Brooklyn safely to his house.
We wait in tense silence.
While we wait, Garrett gets a call.
He listens, ends the call, and reports, “They did find a van outside the exit door he was taking you to. The keys were in it. It was stolen from a rental agency and the plates don’t match the van. Because it’s a rental, there are a million fingerprints in it. There’s nothing that’s going to make this stick.” He turns to Mom, who is standing at the bar in the kitchen picking the crust off a mini sandwich. “I think maybe you better sit down, Abby.”
“Why?” Mom says quietly.
“They found some things in the van that are quite disturbing and although we can’t prove he was trying to kidnap Keatyn, we know for sure that he was.”
“What was in the van, Garrett?” Tommy asks slowly. I get the feeling he doesn’t really want to know the answer.
“Duct tape, zip ties, syringes preloaded with a drug we’ve yet to identify.”
I start crying again, so Damian tightens his arms around me.
“It’ll be okay, Keats. You’re okay. You’re safe,” he mutters softly into my ear. When Damian talks, he practically sings. It’s very soothing.
I lean my head against his, but tears are still rolling down my face.
But I’m not crying because of what was in the van.
I’m crying because I know I have to tell them.
Tell them all how stupid I am.
Tell them that I was the one who invited him to the party.
Brooklyn, the detectives, and James walk through the back door about twenty minutes later.
Brooklyn looks freaked out.
James walks straight to Garrett and speaks to him in hushed tones.
Brooklyn swallows hard and looks at me. “Keatyn, your bikini. You didn’t grab it, did you? Remember, you left it on my floor?”
Mom says, “Why was your bikini on Brook’s floor?”
“Because it was wet,” I say. What I don’t say is that he stripped it off me, had sex with me, and then told me it was chilling.
Mom snaps at me. “How many times have I told you not to leave your wet bikinis on the floor?”
Tommy grabs Mom’s hand. “I don’t think that’s really the issue here.”
“I didn’t grab it.”
Brooklyn says, “I didn’t think so. I thought I remembered seeing it when I was getting ready for the party.”
James whispers something to Tommy.
“What’s going on? What’s with all the secrets?” I ask. “So he took my bikini. What else did he take?”
“He didn’t take anything else,” Garrett says a little too quickly.
“Fine. What did he leave?”
James sighs. “There was a manila envelope addressed to Abby.”
“Let me see it. Is it another letter?”
“We’ll talk about that later,” Garrett says quietly. “We, uh, need to fingerprint and analyze it first.” Then he turns to Mom and Tommy. “Let’s go in the other room.”
There’s something he doesn’t want to say in front of me.
That’s why Brooklyn looks so freaked out.
I wipe my eyes, sit up straight, and find a little bit of strength. “Whatever you want to tell them in private, you need to tell me about it too. You can’t protect me from him.”
“Keatyn . . . ” Garrett says.
But I stand up and interrupt him. “Don’t patronize me. All this expensive security didn’t do us any good. I could’ve been tied up in the back of a van tonight. And if that had happened, I suspect this little party would’ve been a whole lot different.”
Mom clutches her stomach like she’s going to throw up.
Tommy takes a gulp of the scotch sitting in front of him. “Just tell us all, Garrett. What’s in the envelope?”
The detective motions for us to join him. He puts on a pair of latex gloves while he walks over to the big kitchen island. He pulls a baggie out of his coat pocket, pulls the envelope out of the baggie, and begins to open it.
I get up off the couch. My knees are shaking, but Damian grabs my hand and pulls me into the kitchen.
Everyone’s eyes are on the envelope. You’d think it held the answer to who won the next Academy Award.
He turns the envelope upside down. Out drops a flash drive and a note.
My Dearest Abby-
I told you I’d moved on. Bet you never thought it would be with your beautiful daughter.
Tell her I’m sorry tonight didn’t work out for us, but not to worry.
We’re still going to make a movie together, and it will be perfection.
And in case you need further convincing, whore, check out the flash drive.
I shudder and feel faint.
Damian is holding me up.
Garrett sets up a laptop on the counter, and they slide the flash drive in.
A slide show pops up.
Photos of me pass by.
Me on the beach the first day I met Vincent. I’m in the skimpy French bikini, smiling and tossing sand at Brooklyn.
Me at the Undertow wearing the I-didn’t-try-I-just-look-this-amazing outfit.
A grainy nighttime shot of me, Brooklyn, and Damian in the hot tub on the deck.
Me and Cush at the Santa Monica pier. I’m carrying the big stuffed seal he won for me by shooting baskets.
Me and B walking hand in hand down the beach.
Me standing on a deck in the beautiful white gown I wore to Monte Carlo night. The night he told me we could walk down those steps and no one would even know we were gone.
Me lying on the chaise at the hotel pool when I got back from Europe.
Me doing a cartwheel in the ocean on my birthday. When he recorded me. I can still feel how tightly he gripped my wrist. How strong he was.
Me drinking a beer and eating shrimp today at Buddy’s.
Then there’s a video. It’s the one Vincent took when he told me to do my own version of Mom’s famous poster. I pranced out, threw water at him, and blew him a kiss.
I feel sick again.
“Oh my God,” Mom says. “Keatyn, this video. How did he get this?”
I breakdown and start bawling. Tommy puts his hand on my shoulder. I turn around, throw myself into his chest, and sob. My body heaves, and I feel borderline hysterical.
I don’t even want to imagine what would’ve happened to me if he had gotten me out that door. I grab ahold of my locket and say a thank you prayer.
Tommy whispers to me soothingly as he holds me. “Shh, baby, it’ll be okay. We’re not gonna let this guy win.”
He runs his hand across my hair.
My sobs slow down a bit.
“I . . . know . . . the . . . stalker,” I say in between sobs.
“You what?! What do you mean?” Tommy says.
“I . . . mean . . . I . . . invited . . . him . . . to the party.”
Everyone looks at me with confused, shocked faces.
Garrett is the first to recover. He grabs my shoulder and guides me back over to the couch, gestures for me to sit, and then sits on the coffee table directly in front of me. “I think you need to explain. If you knew who your mother’s stalker was, why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“Because I didn’t figure it out until he tried to kidnap me.”
“Tell us the whole thing. Walk me through what happened at the club before James got involved.”
I take a deep breath.
“I was standing on the edge of the dance floor talking to Brooklyn when there was a commotion. A guy who was dressed like one of your security guys—dark suit, sunglasses —picked me up off the ground and told me he had to get me somewhere safe. I immediately panicked and assumed that meant it wasn’t safe and that something bad must’ve happened. I was afraid the stalker had got to Mom, so I told him no. That I needed to find her. That’s when he said, The whore is fine, and when I realized he was the stalker and not a security guy. I tried screaming, but the music was too loud and no one could hear me. And everyone was gathering near the commotion. Then I saw part of his tattoo and realized that not only was he the stalker, but that I knew him.”
“Ohmigawd, Keatyn,” Mom says.
I look at her. “I tried to plead with him, but he just laughed. He thought it was funny that Mom never suspected that he was moving on to her own daughter. I tried to get away. Tried to make my body limp and heavier. I struggled. He was just so strong.”
I stop and run my hand across my face then back through my hair. “Like, really strong, and I couldn’t get away. I knew I wasn’t going to get away. I knew what he wanted. I knew he was going to kidnap me, and there was nothing I could do about it. The door kept getting closer, and I was freaking out, full-on panicking. Then this voice started talking to me. It calmed me down.”
“A voice?” Mom asks.
My eyes fill with fresh tears. I nod and bite my lip. “A voice that sounded like Daddy. He told me I couldn’t let him get me out the door and reminded me of a stupid self defense move I learned in P.E. So I did it. I smashed my heel into his foot just as he was getting ready to open the door. And it worked. He loosened his grip on me, I broke free, and ran.” I let out at big breath of air. I’m exhausted. “You guys know the rest.”
“What are we going to do?” Tommy says flatly.
Garrett Smith stands up and takes control. He puts his hand out to the detective closest to him and says, “We appreciate everything you’ve done. We’ll take it from here.”
The detectives nod at him, mutter something about if they can do anything else to let them know, and are escorted out the door.
Tommy hands me his glass of scotch.
Garrett comes back and sits in front of me. “Tell me how you know him.”
I cover my face with my hand and shake my head no. “I can’t. You’ll be mad at me. But I didn’t know. I swear, I didn’t know.”
Tommy rubs my back. “None of us knew, baby. You’ve got to tell us. We aren’t going to be mad. We’re so glad you were smart enough to figure it out when you did.”
“But that’s just it. I’m not smart.” I look at my mom. “Mom, remember the hot older guy I had dinner with? Vincent Sharpe?”
“It was him.”
“What do you mean?”
“The stalker, Thaddeus whatever. He either goes by Vincent Sharpe or was pretending to be him.”
Mom’s legs buckle. James grabs her elbow. “Oh my God, Keatyn. You had dinner with him.”
Garrett flips back through his notes and mutters, “Sharpe. Where did I see that name?”
I answer. “He said his grandmother was Viviane Sharpe.”
“Yes, that’s it. He wasn’t lying about that. So you know him? Went to dinner with him? Spent time with him?”
Everyone in the room starts to murmur and ask questions.
Garrett stands up and holds up his hands to get everyone to stop. “Look, I know you all have a million questions, but I’m going to ask them. We’ve got to piece this all together and figure out why he went from long-time fan to kidnapper. So, Abby, we know he’s been a fan of yours for years, but it was never a problem. When did things first escalate? Was it when you found the note in the backpack? When I was brought in?”
Mom thinks. “No, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time, but before that, he broke into my trailer on set.”
“And he stole a family photo,” James says. “One of Keatyn and Abby on the beach in Hawaii.”
Garrett surmises, “So he sees a photo and instead of seeing Keatyn, he sees the Abby he first fell in love with in the photo. Young Abby.”
“That was the same day I met him. I remember, because you were in the living room with all those men in suits when I came back from shopping with Sander. It was the day we broke up.”
“Where did you meet him? When you were shopping?”
“No. On our beach.”
Mom audibly gasps. “He came to our house?”
Brooklyn says, “He was on the beach, down more toward my house. He told us he was buying a house up the beach and asked me to teach him to surf. He seemed cool, except for the way he was staring at Keatyn. I didn’t like it, but he quickly apologized for staring. He told us she looked just like Abby in A Day at the Lake, and how he had a big crush on her when he was fourteen. He said Keatyn brought back some memories.”
Garrett says, “Okay, do you remember when you saw him next?”
I nod. “Yeah, it was that same night. He was at Damian’s last gig. He kinda flirted with me. Told me he wanted to make a movie. I laughed and asked him if that line usually worked for him in the bar. I kinda blew him off, but he told me he was doing a remake of A Day at the Lake. I joked that I didn’t want to stand around in a bikini and scream. He told me it wouldn’t be like that. That I’d be a kick ass heroine and it’d be a blockbuster. He gave me his business card. Told me to call him. I didn’t. The script wasn’t even written. I’m not dumb.” I close my eyes tightly. “Well, I thought I wasn’t dumb.”
I take another slow sip of Tommy’s scotch and slowly open my eyes. The burn of the scotch on my throat is a harsh reminder that this isn’t just a bad dream.
Garrett says, “So he fantasized about remaking Abby’s movie. Now he’s found an Abby look-a-like to play the role. Still, there has to be something in his life that happened. Something that made him snap.”
“His grandmother died,” I say. “He idolized her. She was an old film star, and he said she was a lady. He went on and on about how Grandmother—that’s what he called her, never Grandma, always Grandmother—respected Abby because she never took off her clothes in her movies; that hers were clean, like they were in the old days. He had a bad childhood, and it sounds like his mom was pretty slutty. She was married like six times. The last guy she married had money, but didn’t want kids, so she dumped him at his grandmother’s house. It was good for him though. It sounded like he kind of had low self-esteem, like maybe kids used to make fun of him. But his grandmother told him he could fake confidence. He said eventually he didn’t have to fake it anymore.”
“So the woman he idolizes dies. Okay,” Garrett says. “What else?”
“I helped him spread her ashes on our beach. He was very sad. I don’t think he was faking it. He sobbed on my shoulder. I hugged him and cried too. He was buying the beach house for her birthday. Apparently, she met the love of her life on this beach and was happiest there. She wanted Vincent to find true love. He told me she would have loved that he met me on their beach. The next day, he texted me and asked me to dinner. He wanted to thank me for being nice to him.”
“That’s the night Barbara called and said you were having dinner with a hot, older guy, right?” Mom says.
“Yeah. We drank wine on the patio first.”
Garrett says, “What happened that night?”
I think about it. “We talked all about the movie, but then not.”
“What do you mean?”
“Even though we talked about the movie, it was like . . .” I trail off, and finally whisper, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything.”
Garrett touches my arm, and I immediately flinch. “Did something happen?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. I always thought I was good at reading people. I was so wrong about him.”
“Don’t question your instincts. Tell me what you really thought.”
“Even though the things he said were about the movie, it kinda felt like he was trying to seduce me. His hand would accidentally brush against my knee when he filled the wine. He asked me when I’d be legal. He told me I have an expressive face and all about these things I do with my mouth, like how I bite my lip. He ran his thumb across my lip. After dinner, he kissed me on the cheek, but it was longer than a kiss on the cheek should be. Then he looked at me and told me he could tell my other cheek was jealous, so he kissed it too. He was really quite charming.”
“Sociopaths are charming, Keatyn. People are naturally drawn to them, but they’re cold inside.”
I look at a photo of the girls on the coffee table. They’re all in rainbow tutus, except for Gracie. She’s in full-on princess garb. I remember the note in Avery’s backpack, and I instantly know what made him snap. “Mom became a whore,” I mutter.
Mom goes, “What?”
“The note that was in Avery’s backpack. He was pissed at you. You did those sex scenes and instead of being like the grandmother he idolized, you became a whore . . . like his mother. He hated his mother.”
“That’s very insightful, Keatyn. Now we’re getting somewhere,” Garrett says. “His grandmother, the woman he idolizes, dies. And the other woman he idolizes becomes a whore. That’s what did it. What sent him over the edge. Tell me the rest. Every time you had contact with him.”
I tell him everything.
Garrett looks very somber when he says, “Keatyn, Abby, this isn’t going to stop.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re going to have to send Keatyn away for a while. She can’t stay here. It’s too dangerous.”
“We’re getting ready to go to Vancouver to shoot a movie,” Mom says. “She’ll come with us.”
“Abby, this has gone beyond your typical obsessed fan. The pictures, his following her, and breaking into the house a few doors down in a private, gated community all suggest that this has become a game to him. He managed to work his way into her life. Vancouver isn’t the answer. This is very serious, and I think it would be best for the whole family if you split up for the time being.”
Mom gets a fierce look on her face, like a lion protecting her young. “We’re not sending her anywhere. She’ll stay with us.”
“I was thinking of something like witness protection. We can change her name and she can go away until he finds someone else to obsess over, or until we can catch him.”
“Change my name? Move away? What happened to I’m not going to allow myself to be victimized. Isn’t that what you always say, Mom?”
“This is different, Keatyn, because you almost were a victim,” Garrett says bluntly.
That knocks out what little wind I had left in my sails.
Garrett continues. “Look, he’s obsessed about your mom for years. He got mad at her over the nude scenes and switched his focus to you. I think if he can’t find you or see you, he’ll find someone new to focus on. Worst case scenario, you go away for six months, maybe a year.”
“A year! Are you nuts!?” But then my eyes dance across the photo of the girls, and I know they won’t be safe if I’m with them.
Mom sucks in a loud breath. I can tell she’s getting ready to protest.
“No. He’s right. You’ve got to think about the girls, Mom. I want them to be safe.”
“What if she went to live with her grandfather in Texas?” Mom asks.
“Too easy to trace,” James says.
“What about France? She could live in our house there? Go to school? He didn’t try anything this summer when she was gone.”
“He knows about France,” I say, just as James says, “I don’t think that’s a good idea either.”
Damian speaks up. “What about boarding school?” He turns to his dad. “The school where Trent’s older brother went. Aren’t you friends with the dean?”
“Son, you’re brilliant,” Mr. Moran says. “It’s perfect. Highly secure. The Secretary of State’s kids went there a few years ago, so the Secret Service installed fencing around the perimeter. There’s a guard booth, single access entry, and perimeter cameras.”
“It sounds like a prison,” I mutter.
“It was designed to keep terrorists out. Inside, you can’t tell. It’s a beautiful campus. The dean was in a bind a few years ago that I helped him out of. It’s very difficult to get accepted, but I’m sure he’d make an exception. He owes me.”
Garrett turns to Mr. Moran. “I’d like to hear more about this school. That might be our best solution. It could allow her some semblance of normalcy while still keeping her safe.”
Brooklyn, who has been sitting quietly, finally speaks up. “Boarding school won’t be so bad, Keats. I haven’t told you yet.” He sighs. “I didn’t want to tell you until after your birthday, but I leave next week.”
I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Is that why he wouldn’t commit all summer long? He planned this? He used me?
I can’t breathe again.
I barely get out the words. “When were you going to tell me? After you’d left?”
I run into my room, slam my door, sit on my bed, and cry.
Cry over Brooklyn, the boy I thought I was so in love with. The boy I spent all summer with thinking we were in love. I cry again for being so stupid about Vincent. I open my eyes and see another photo of my little sisters. In this one they are all dressed as princesses.
I cry some more.
Go to boarding school, the voice from the club tells me. You’ll be safe. They’ll all be safe.
I can’t put them in danger. I’d die before I’d let anything happen to those innocent smiles.
I think about how Vincent picked me up.
How he touched this dress.
How he touched my skin.
I run in my bathroom, turn on my shower, and stand under the hot water.
Then I realize I’m still wearing my party dress.
I rip it off, throw it to the ground, and drench my body in soap.
And then I scrub my skin until it feels like it might fall off.
When the hot water runs out, I grab a towel and dry myself off.
I walk back into my room, take a deep breath, and pull myself together.
I see the boots Cush gave me lying on my desk, so I pull them on my feet.
These boots are the new me.
The me that can handle anything.
The me that is in charge of my life and isn’t going to let people tell me what to do anymore.
I grab a pair of jean shorts and the soccer shirt I was going to give back to Cush and pull them on. I’m cleaning up the mess that is my face when Brooklyn walks in.
“You don’t have to explain,” I say icily. “I get it. You need to do what’s right for you, and so do I.”
“That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna say?”
“Yeah. It’s all I can say. I encouraged you. Although,” I add snidely, “for someone who wants me to avoid the spotlight, I find it funny that you’re heading straight toward it.”
“I’m not doing it for the money, the fame, or the spotlight. I’m doing it for me.”
“And I’m going to boarding school, but I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it for them.” I point to the picture of the girls.
Brooklyn nods his head, gets tears in his eyes, and pulls me into a hug.
I hold my shoulders stiffly. I don’t want to let him in.
“Keats, this is not the way I wanted this to go down. I had an amazing summer with you. The best summer of my life.”
“Is that why you didn’t ask me to be your girlfriend? Because you didn’t want to have to break up with me? Because you’ve been planning this all along?”
“You’ve been my girlfriend all summer, Keats. I thought when I told you I loved you that you knew that. And I didn’t plan it all summer. I mentioned it to my dad, and he got the sponsors all set up. He told me when we were in London that he thought it might all pan out, but I didn’t know for sure until we got home. I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want to ruin your birthday.”
“I didn’t know how you felt.”
“How could you not know how I felt? I’ve told you a million fucking times this summer that I love you.”
“Well, maybe you need to learn to communicate better.”
“Maybe you need to grow up. Stop worrying so much about what people think and start worrying about what you think.”
I immediately get tears in my eyes.
I swear, I’m normally not such a crybaby.
“Don’t yell at me. I can’t take it.”
He grabs me. Hugs me tight.
I lay my head on his chest. The place that used to feel so wonderful now feels foreign. “So we were already going out?”
“I told you, I love you. We were together because we wanted to be. That’s all that mattered.”
“No, knowing where you stand is what’s important. And after tonight, I knew exactly where I stood with you. That’s why I broke up with you even though we weren’t actually going out. And I kissed Cush.”
He purses his lips. “Why?”
“Why did you kiss him?”
“Because you didn’t like me enough to want to date me. We had sex the other day, and you said I’m glad we can chill together. That’s why. So are you telling me that we were in a relationship? Like you were my boyfriend?”
“Labels matter way too much to you. All the way down to the ones in your thousand dollar boots.”
I look down at the boots Cush gave me for my birthday.
Be bold, Keatyn.
I raise my chin up, stand up tall, and put my bitch on. “Lots of guys tell you they love you just for sex; even my mom, who is in a we’re-together-but-don’t-label-it relationship, asked me about my birthday. Wanted to know if you asked me out. If you gave me a ring or anything.”
“Not like engaged. Just something to show the rest of the world you wanted to be with me.”
He flips his hand over and shoves his fresh tattoo in my face. “Tattoos last forever, Keats. I thought we would too.”
I start crying again.
“You should’ve known,” he pokes my chest, “in here. You don’t know if I’m the one, do you?”
“I wanted you to be the one. I’ve loved you since the day I met you.”
“You had a crush on me. That’s different than true love.”
“And you’re telling me you feel that way about me? You can’t. You just decided to leave me for a year. You didn’t ask me to be your girlfriend, and you only like me when I’m your laid-back surfer girl. When I’m me, you don’t really like me that much. You want me in your world, but you don’t want to venture into mine.”
He runs his hand through his hair and shakes his head. “I know everything you’re saying is true. But I did love you. I mean, I do love you. I wasn’t lying. I just figured if fate wanted us together it would figure out a way, because I couldn’t figure it out myself. I couldn’t figure out how I could have my dream and you too.”
“Well, you pushed fate along. You didn’t dance with me. You didn’t try to be nice or meet any of my other friends. You made fun of my amazing shoes and called my gorgeous dress slutty.”
Brooklyn nods his head. He knows what I’m saying is true. “So what are we gonna do?”
“You’re going on tour, and I’m going to boarding school. I’m going back out there.”
Mom looks surprised to see me back out in the family room. “It’s late, Keatyn; why don’t you get some sleep? You’ve been through a lot. We can figure this out in the morning.”
“Mom, I’m not going to be able to sleep. Probably ever again. Besides, it is morning. I feel better since I took a shower and talked to B. I finally know where we stand.”
I sit down next to Mr. Moran and hand him Tommy’s laptop. “Would you mind showing me the school’s website?” I ask politely.
He types in an address and turns the screen to face me.
I click through the site.
“That looks very nice,” Mom says, hovering behind me. “Look at the gorgeous trees.”
Mr. Moran continues his sales job. “It’s a beautiful campus—a lot like a college. And it’s very exclusive. Most of the kids go on to Ivy League schools.”
I click on the soccer page.
Mom says, “Look, honey, you could still play soccer.”
“Yeah, it looks nice. Mr. Smith, if you think it’s safe, I’d like to go there.”
Vincent goes home feeling a sense of victory. The whore now knows how she will be made to pay. He plans his next move. He knows that school will be starting soon. He knows based on the amount of security at Abby’s home that she’s taking his threats seriously. The bitch even tried to get a restraining order against him. More than likely, she will have him watched. Have him followed everywhere. He must go back to work on Monday and act like everything is normal.
Even though it isn’t.
He made a miscalculation. He should have simply taken her hand as himself and offered to get her to safety. She would have gone willingly. Then once she was out the door, he could have loaded her into the van.
She doesn’t post anything on her social media, so he watches her friends’ profiles. He knows he’s being followed, so he’s careful, but he can go to any public place he wants. And it just so happens that tonight he’s hungry for pizza.
He sits at a table near a group of rowdy soccer players, who are having a going away party for the boy Keatyn danced with at her party. The boy she was with when she was dressed in the white goddess gown. The boy who is now moving away. Interesting timing, he thinks. Could they be considering sending Lacy away too?
Do they really think they can keep them apart?
The next night, he joins her friends, Vanessa and RiAnne at the club. The club where her party was held. He throws money around like the big spender he is in order to get VIP access and special treatment. He takes up a spot that allows him a full view of the dance floor, ignoring the sexy way the girls in the cages hanging from the ceiling are dancing.
He needs to stay focused. If she’s meeting them here, he’ll find her.
He remembers how she used to go dancing here every Thursday, sometimes by herself. Why didn’t he think of coming here sooner?
He vows to never miss a Thursday again.
Vanessa walks by his table and immediately recognizes him.
“Hey, you,” she says, sauntering straight into his section without being invited. He likes this girl’s boldness.
“You were at the hotel pool with Keatyn, right?” he replies.
“I was. Although, I will admit that I don’t drink beer.”
“What do you drink?”
“Champagne,” she replies, jutting out her hip in a sassy gesture. He could have this girl in his bed, easily.
He raises his hand in the air, summons his waitress, and orders a bottle of their best champagne. He needs someone on the inside.
When the champagne is served, her friend, RiAnne, comes looking for her. They each have a glass and then RiAnne goes back out to the dance floor.
“She loves to dance,” Vanessa says as I refill her glass.
When she finishes off the bottle, she grabs my hand and pulls me to the dance floor where she grinds against me, her hands all over me. Once I have her wanting me, I ask, “Why isn’t Keatyn here with you?”
“Who cares? She’s dead to me,” the girl shouts.
“Why? Why! I’ll tell you why. Because she cancelled her after party for no reason. She hasn’t replied to any of my texts. And everyone is asking me what her deal is. Like I’m her freaking keeper. I don’t know where she is. And I absolutely don’t care.” She storms off.
He follows, finding her in his VIP section, pouring more champagne. Tears glisten in her eyes.
“You’re awfully worked up about it for someone who doesn’t care,” I say gently.
“She’s my best friend, and she’s completely shut me out. I knew she was crazy about the surfer. I tried to tell her dating him would be social suicide, but I never expected this.”
“For him to get her involved in whatever she’s gotten into.”
“I don’t know. Someone is controlling her. I was pissed after her party. I texted her and was mean. She didn’t reply. She always replies. Now when I text her, the texts aren’t even being read, so they’ve taken her phone and cut her off. I even tried just showing up at her house. There are guards there.”
“Do you think maybe there’s something going on with Abby? A stalker or something? Guards seem extreme.”
She’s tipsy, but her eyes get bigger, and I can tell she’s considering this. “You might be right about that, Vincent. Keatyn said you are in the entertainment industry. Do you think you could find out?”
He smiles. “Let’s make a pact. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know. If you hear from her, you let me know. Deal?”
She grabs my phone and texts herself. “Deal,” she says. “Now, take me back out there and dance with me.”
Vincent’s life continues. He goes to work and does his job. He knows he has to be careful. He knows he’s being watched. Vanessa still has no news. Then he realizes if they can hire people to follow him, he can hire people, too.
He calls a man who has often invested in his movie futures. The man has ties to organized crime and, after hearing a plausible story about a crazy ex keeping his daughter from him, offers him a few mid-level thugs.
The thugs follow her friends, allowing Vincent to stay away, but have nothing of note to report back. They try to walk the beach near her house, but get shooed away and threatened with trespassing charges. Finally, he gives them descriptions of their vehicles and has one pair wait beyond the gates for them to leave. The other pair follows the surfer. That’s who she was always with on the beach. Who she spent the summer with. Who she was with at the party when he approached her. It’s probable she thinks she’s in love with him. It’s not Lacy’s fault Matt is manipulating her.
“It’s just you and me now,” Vince says lovingly.
Lacy takes a step back, picks a life jacket up off a counter, and tosses it at him.
Vince moves sideways, avoiding the jacket and taking another step toward her. “When you first told me you might not go, I asked you if you wanted this as badly as I do. You told me yes.”
Lacy screams, “Well, I changed my mind!”
She takes another step backwards.
“No! Don’t give me that bullshit. Matt changed your mind! You came crying to me about it! I told you to figure it out. But you didn’t fucking listen to me. You listened to him.”
Realizing she’s trapped, she pleads, “Don’t do this, Vincey. Tell me what you want and I’ll do it.”
He doesn’t stop moving toward her.
And he doesn’t reply.
He grabs her by the neck and starts dragging her out of the shed. “I want you, and I’m going to have you. All to myself.”
And he will. If it’s the last thing he does.
He learns that her friend Damian and his band have gone back to Europe and that she did not go with them. Her friend, Cush, tried to come see her, but the guards wouldn’t let him through. There have been no sightings of the nanny, the younger girls, Abby, or Tommy.
Matt has been seen going back and forth to her house, so he knows Lacy is still there.
Eventually, they will have to leave the house. And he expects it will be soon, as Tommy has a scheduled appearance on a late night talk show coming up.
On the morning of the appearance, the thugs are all in place. Vincent needs to know if she will be going with or if she will be home alone, where she will be easy-pickings. He desperately hopes it’s the later. One of the thugs manages to sneak into the neighborhood on foot and watch the house.
“They just left,” he says, calling in.
“Are you sure she went with them?”
“Yes, boss. I watched her get in the car.”
“Who went with her?”
“Abby Johnston, Tommy Stevens, his assistant, and a five-man security crew.” The thugs believe, based on the story they were told, that Vincent is Keatyn’s biological father and that Abby lied to her former husband about the girl’s parentage after she and Vincent had a torrid affair.
“Where are they going?”
“Well, that’s where things get a little tricky.”
“What do you mean?”
“There were two different flights that left the airport at the same time. One bound for Utah, the other going to New York City.”
“Don’t lose her,” he orders.
But lose her they do.
Tommy and the whore showed up for the interview without Keatyn. Matt has left the country without her—good riddance. Her friends don’t seem to know where she is either.
Until he sees a post suggesting that she’s in a famous rehab in Malibu.
Vanessa texts him about it, showing her loyalty.
He thinks about it. Rehab would be an easy place to stash her. They are typically quite secure, mostly to keep the paparazzi at bay. More than likely, they believe his obsession with her will blow over. They will hide her away for a short time, keep her safe, then bring her back after a few weeks, looking tan and relaxed.
He doesn’t have time to wait, so he makes a call.