The limo pulled up to the City Center, stopping by the red carpet. Valets came forward to open the door and help the ladies out. Jason took a deep breath and stepped out. TV and flash cameras greeted them. This was the biggest event of the year and everyone had to be commemorated. Only a few of the reporters even knew who he was and some made a big fuss. One woman rushed forward, microphone at the ready.
Greg stepped between Jason and the reporter as Jason put a protective arm around Taylor.
“Mr. Banes! Mr. Banes! Do you have any comment on the outcome of your trial?”
“Outcome? Why don’t you tell me, love.”
“Are you pleased with the verdict?”
“I’m pleased that the judge thought well enough of me to drop the charges,” he said calmly. “I don’t remember details, only wish I could. But I know I didn’t kill anyone. Now if you’ll excuse me, my fiancée and I are expected inside.”
That set off a whole slew of photographs. Even more reporters tried to get comments, but they walked by without another word. Greg pushed a few nosy cameras aside as they passed, smiling blandly.
“Vultures,” Taylor said through gritted teeth, her smile somewhat forced.
“Oh, aye, love. They are that.”
Greg presented their invitation to the security officers at the door. The men nodded at them in a friendly manner, not giving any indication that they knew them. As they walked through to the lobby, they spotted Alex. Tim was inside, closer to the stage. The women giggled and chattered with Taylor, pointing at celebrities like a bunch of silly little girls.
Greg leaned over to Jason, his face bland. “They do that shit way too well,” he mumbled.
Jason’s smile was sarcastic. “I was just thinking that.” He took Taylor’s arm. “Oi, love, music. Let’s go check out the band before the show starts.” He snapped his fingers at Greg. “See they’re cared for.”
“Yes, Mr. Banes.” Greg bowed slightly as he escorted the ladies to their seats. “If this was real, I’d kick your ass for that,” he muttered knowing Jason could hear him.
“You’d try,” Jason replied quietly. “Then Taylor would kick your sorry ass instead.”
Greg chuckled. “Pussy.”
A lively 70s tune was playing in the ballroom. Jason started a lighthearted routine with Taylor as the notes of Dance With Me played around them. Laughing as they danced, they drew every eye in the room. Even security watched them briefly before going back to work. Jason spotted dozens of people he knew, all of them highly placed in society.
Not far away, he spotted Honoria, surprised to find her there. Then he remembered that her husband’s company was a major sponsor of the event. Of course she’d have to be there for that reason. He wasn’t sure if he should go talk to her, so he decided to wait to see if she acknowledged him or not.
After the dance, Jason and Taylor joined the women at their table. It was quite close to the runway. Jason suspected he’d been placed in a prominent position on purpose. He would be seen the moment a model stepped onto the stage. He sat languidly, feeling anything but calm, his arm draped casually around Taylor’s shoulder, grateful for the fact he’d had his suit and shirt fitted over a bullet proof vest. He wished he had been encased in full body armor, but that wasn’t possible. Instead, he could only pray that Orchid or whoever she’d hired, didn’t go for a head shot. He shifted uneasily in his chair. Taylor leaned over as if nuzzling his neck.
“I feel like there’s something we haven’t anticipated. She’s up to something, I can feel it.”
“Just paranoid,” Tim’s voice said over the ear piece he wore.
“Promise I’m not. I really think she’s got a heist planned. This many rich people in one spot?”
“She’d expose herself. She couldn’t take us all hostage and kill us,” Taylor said. “Could she?”
Jason gave her a patient look, lips thinning. “I need to speak to Bitsy.”
“Already here, JB,” Bitsy said. “Speak to me, baby.”
“Check the ventilation system immediately. She could gas us all and incapacitate or kill us with very little effort.”
“What makes you think she would?”
“Because I’ve bloody done it,” he said, trying hard to stay calm. “Do I need to look myself?”
“I’m on it.”
“Hurry. Chances are she’ll wait until after the fashion show, but she might not. Did you check the kitchen?” Jason said abruptly.
“The caterers have been there all afternoon….”
“Bitsy, need I remind you that one perfect way to get into a place is on the catering staff? I possess some impeccable credentials in that department. I even know how to light a chafing dish.”
“You’re freaking on me, kid. Keep calm.”
“I’ll keep fucking calm when I know she can’t kill us. She’d likely gas the entire bunch of us just to get me.”
“Oh shit,” Tim said quietly.
“Talk to me,” Bitsy said.
© Dellani Oakes
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm