After a short chat with her boss, Taylor announces that Jason is to be used as bait to entice Orchid and draw her out. Their venue is a fashion show for charity to take place in a week’s time. This means that the team has to be trained to blend into Jason’s world and he has to learn how to better defend himself. School will soon be in session.
“Invitations?” Jason asked.
“Funny you should mention that,” Taylor said with a less caustic giggle. “I believe that you can expect it to be delivered tomorrow by messenger. Thanks to Judge Walker. I spoke to her too.”
“God bless the woman. How’s she doing?”
“She’s doing all right. Worried about you. She was glad for an update. She’s waiting for your call.” She handed him her phone.
She nodded, smiling. “Call her.”
He did as instructed. The phone rang twice and he heard Judge Honoria Walker’s anxious voice on the other end.
“Is this Jason?”
“Yes, ma’am. Agent Driscole told me to call you.” He wandered into the dining room, sitting at the long rectangular table.
“I think this is asinine,” the judge said without preamble. “But I can’t prevail upon the higher powers either. They’ve been working this angle since I suggested releasing you.”
“I’d expected it,” he said quietly. “Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t cast me out amongst the wolves.”
“I do have some pull. The widow of Bert Walker can still wield a powerful ax or two.”
“I wish I’d met your husband, ma’am. I’m guessing he was a hell of a man.”
“He was,” she said proudly. “And a powerful businessman. He owned this goddamn town. I got your invitations and I’m making arrangements for backgrounds and cover stories.”
“You’re quite the little spy, aren’t you?” Jason laughed lightheartedly at her.
“Bert used to tell me I’d missed my calling. He said I should have written novels and movie scripts. We’ll have a meeting the next day or so to get their stories straight.”
“You can’t remember a thing. The case against you has been dropped. Inconclusive evidence.”
“Honoria, I was found at the scene.”
“So were half a dozen others, all dead, sadly.” She paused a moment out of respect. “But by some odd chance, there’s no real evidence connecting you to the crime. It’s positively mind blowing!” She sounded to genuine, Jason paused.
“Circumstantial evidence? That ruddy D.A. only had circumstantial evidence—all this time?”
“He thought he had a smoking gun, Jason. Once he realized you couldn’t be connected with the murders, he’s only too glad to let the charges slide. Your record is clear.”
“God bless, you, Honoria! I do believe I love you!”
She giggled and he could picture her tossing her head coquettishly. “No, you love my devious mind.”
“I do indeed. Were I a few years older….”
“You’d still be far too young. I have bunions older than you, my dear. Now listen. Tomorrow, the invitations arrive. You’ll accept, through my friend, Kyle Tourney—who will also be delivering them, by the way. The day after, you and I will meet, along with your team, to give them their new identities. I have on good authority that they are very bright and capable.”
“Yes, ma’am. They’re a great bunch.”
“Good. I like the sound of that girl. Tell me.” Her voice dropped conspiratorially. “What’s the term you young people use? Have you done it?”
“Your Honor! A gentleman never tells. But to satisfy your curiosity, no. Not for lack of wanting to, mind. I’ve behaved as a proper gent.”
“Good for you. I expect my boys to use their best manners.”
“I do try. How I wish you’d been my mother,” he said honestly.
“You’d have made me proud. I’ll see you day after tomorrow, dear boy. Go enjoy yourself.”
“I’ll try. Night, ma’am.”
To Honoria, it sounded as if he’d said mum, and she hung up the phone before bursting into tears.
Jason ended the call with a wide grin. “I’m not a convicted felon,” he said quietly. “Glory be!”
He was still smiling when he took the phone back to Taylor.
“Something’s got homeboy happy,” Greg said with a grin.
Jason handed Taylor her phone. He allowed his fingers and eyes to linger on hers.
“Indeed. Very good news, that was.”
He proceeded to tell them, verbatim, his discussion with the judge. He edited remarks pertaining to Taylor. She continued to hold his hand, watching his emotions in his eyes and face.
“And so, my lads and lass, I am not, nor have I ever been—a convicted felon.”
He kissed Taylor’s hand, lips caressing her fingertips. Lost in the violet depths of Taylor’s eyes, Jason didn’t notice that the other men had quietly left the room.
Greg glanced over his shoulder once, longingly. Tim clapped him on the back, moving him away from the entrance. Saying nothing, Greg went up to his room, shutting the door with a slam. It reverberated in the huge house like a gong. Taylor and Jason didn’t even react.
Eventually, Taylor found her voice. “We really shouldn’t,” she cautioned.
Jason leaned over to kiss her, bringing her palm to his rapidly beating heart.
“They want to dangle me like shark bait, Taylor. So by damn, I’m going to enjoy every moment of the rest of my life. Because if Orchid succeeds in killing me, I don’t want to die without having been at least once with the woman I love.”
© Dellani Oakes
WARNING – It Takes a Thief parts 41 & 42 contain steamy love scenes. If explicit sexual content bothers you, then please skip these two episodes. The suspense continues in Part 43, coming out June 9. ~ Dellani
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm