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Authors: Vicki Tyley

Fatal Liaison

BOOK: Fatal Liaison
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FATAL LIAISON
Vicki Tyley
Copyright 2011 Vicki Tyley
All rights reserved
Other titles by Vicki Tyley:
THIN BLOOD
SLEIGHT MALICE
BRITTLE SHADOWS
Visit
www.vickityley.com
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed
in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously.
Without limiting the rights under the copyright reserved above, no part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of
both the copyright owner.

CHAPTER 1

 

As he listened to
the second phone call from his mother, Greg Jenkins noted the increased tremor
in her voice.

“Samantha still hasn’t arrived. And she’s still not answering her
phone. I’m so worried. Should I call the hospitals? What—”

“Whoa. Slow down, Mum. Don’t stress out. Remember what the doctor
said. Don’t worry about Sam. We all know how bad she is with time. She’d be
late for her own funeral.” Greg laughed, hoping to ease his mother’s tension.

“Yes, but—”

“Please, Mum, I’m sure you’re worrying unnecessarily. Sam has—”

“Gregory, dear, I wish you wouldn’t call her that. Sam’s a boy’s
name.”

“Okay, Mum.” He started again, using the name Sam herself loathed.
“Samantha’s a big girl now. I’m sure she’s all right, but just to put your mind
at rest I’ll go and check on her. She’s probably so wrapped up in her new man
she’s forgotten she was supposed to visit you this weekend.” He laughed again.

“What new man?” The pitch of her voice rose.

Greg could almost see her gripping the phone in both hands as she
waited for her eldest child to answer. Silently berating himself for opening
his big mouth, he wrestled with what he could say without digging himself into
a bigger hole.

“Gregory?”

“Sorry, Mum, there’s someone at the door. I’ll have to go, but I
promise I’ll get Sam… Samantha to phone you as soon as I can. Now don’t get all
worked up. There’s nothing to worry about, you’ll see. Bye, Mum.”

He hung up, sucked in a deep breath and slowly released it. There
was no one at the door but at short notice, it was the only thing he could
think of to get out of what would’ve been the inevitable interrogation. His
sister needed her butt kicked for letting down their mother like that. Sam, of
all people, knew how over-protective their mother was, more so since Sam
divorced her no-hoper of a husband and moved to Melbourne.

Greg picked up the phone again, and pressed the two buttons that
would dial his sister’s home phone a suburb away. As he waited for the call to
connect, he wandered through the house into the kitchen. The phone started
ringing. Cradling it between his chin and shoulder, he filled the kettle. The
phone rang out, which was good. It probably meant Sam was en route to their
mother’s place. Maybe she’d been unlucky enough to end up with a flat tire or
broken down. It was bound to be something as simple as that.

The kettle boiled as he tried Sam’s mobile number. It too went
unanswered, but at least this time Greg was able to leave a message. He looked
at his watch. He’d give her half an hour and if she hadn’t called him back by
then, he would have to think of what else he could do to try to track her down.
Younger sisters, who’d have them?

Twenty minutes later, he’d emptied the coffee pot and finished off
the best part of a packet of shortbread biscuits without realizing it. His
mother’s anxiety had started to rub off on him. He didn’t wait the half hour
out. Instead, he reached for the phone and dialed Sam’s mobile first and then
her home again, ending up with exactly the same results as before. No answer at
either.

Had it been a Freudian slip when he’d inadvertently mentioned the
new man in Sam’s life to his mother? Greg knew nothing about the guy except he
was, in Sam’s words, “tall, dark, and drop-dead gorgeous.” He didn’t even know
the guy’s name. What he did know was that Sam had met him through one of those
agencies that specialized in dinner dating. Dinners for the desperate and
dateless. He found the whole concept repugnant, but his sister had assured him
that all was civilized and above board. He’d taken those assurances at face
value, happy she was making an effort to get on with her life.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

Megan Brighton
peered around the edge of her menu, flinching as her eyes met the ginger-mustached
man’s stare across the table. What a sad lot her dinner companions were. Even
the strained smiles pasted on the majority of faces at the table did little to
lighten the atmosphere.

“So what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” asked
the man seated on her right, before laughing.

She groaned inwardly. Why’d she allowed herself to be talked into
this? She didn’t belong there. She was single because she chose to be. A single,
professional career woman. Well, at least that’s what she told anyone who cared
to listen, including herself.

“I’m not sure,” she said, her gaze not shifting from her menu. “It’s
not quite what I’d imagined.” If it hadn’t been for Brenda, Megan knew she
would have scarpered as soon as she caught sight of the ten or so
white-tableclothed tables arranged around the room, each set for a dozen
diners. From the company’s blurb, she’d been expecting to be one of “twelve
carefully matched diners” eating at your standard everyday restaurant with
normal people. Where she’d ended up looked more like a function centre,
reminiscent of a wedding reception. The only difference was a lack of bride and
groom, and the guests weren’t related by blood or marriage. Or at least she
hoped not.

A beefy hand cut through her vision. “It’s Wayne, by the way. Wayne
McGurk.”

She blinked and forced a smile. “Nice to meet you, Wayne. Megan
Brighton.”

“So what do you do?”

“Recruitment consultant. And you?”

Wayne puffed out his chest. “Property entrepreneur. Units, villas,
townhouses, duplexes, houses, vacant land, commercial, residential. You name
it. Not good to have all your eggs in one basket. The key is to buy well under
market price to minimize risk. Instant equity…”

Megan’s gaze swept the table. Next to Mr Ginger Moustache, whose
place tag actually named him as Robert, sat Nick, a square-jawed man with
dark-rimmed spectacles. Thanks to Brenda switching place tags, Nick had to be
content sitting between two males. He was looking off into the distance, his
thoughts obviously further afield than the immediate table. Adam, a
hollow-cheeked pasty-faced man sporting a dark goatee beard was deep in
conversation with Kate who was seated at the end. The boy-girl pattern
continued as it was meant to around the table.

“…investment. You have to have the gift.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Megan caught Brenda smirking. Under
the cover of the tablecloth, she kicked her foot sideways and connected with
her friend’s ankle. Brenda chuckled before wincing in overplayed mock pain and
indignation.

A giggle bubbled in Megan’s throat. She swallowed hard. The guy with
the spectacles was looking her way, a smile playing on his lips. Heat flooded
her face. What the hell was she doing there?

Shielded by her menu, Megan leaned to her left and elbowed Brenda in
the ribs. Her so-called best friend had cajoled her into signing up with Dinner
for Twelve with the ruse that she needed her support. Had Megan believed her?
Of course not. Brenda was the last person who needed any help finding a date.
Men literally fell over each other in their efforts to impress her. Discounting
the permanent mischievous glint in her eyes, Brenda had the face of an angel
and the type of body those tiny midriff tops and low-rise jeans were
specifically designed for.

More importantly, she exuded a warmth that men and women alike were
drawn to. They’d been friends since high school and Megan, like others, found
her hard to resist. So, here she was in a room full of strangers trying to put
together an escape strategy that wouldn’t offend her well-intentioned friend.

Oblivious to the elbow jabbed in her ribs, Brenda turned to Megan
and grinned. Brenda actually looked like she was enjoying herself. No
accounting for some tastes. “Hunk alert at nine o’clock.”

“What?”

Brenda cupped her hand around the left side of her face. “Over
there,” she said, holding a finger close to her cheek, but still managing to
indicate the general direction of the door.

Twisting in her seat, Megan watched the man ambling across the room
towards the table. At first glance, he reminded her of a younger and
darker-haired version of David Bowie. But as he neared the table, she saw he
didn’t possess the relaxed raffish air of the singer. Quite the opposite. He
looked nervous and unsure of himself, like a five-year-old boy on his first day
at school.

He reached the table and, smiling half-heartedly, moved to step
around it to one of the two vacant chairs at the back. Megan glanced at the
place tag. Lawson. The name appealed to her, but she would’ve expected it to be
attached to a man who carried himself with more confidence, arrogance even.

In her peripheral vision, she glimpsed Brenda stretching an arm
across the table in the act of swapping her place tag with the one at the still
vacant chair, the one next to Lawson. Just as Megan grabbed Brenda's arm,
Pauline Meyer, Dinner for Twelve’s owner-manager, arrived on the scene. With
her hands resting on the vacant chair’s back, she surveyed the table and
frowned. The rearranged place tags had not gone unnoticed.

With an almost imperceptible shake of the head, Pauline pulled the
chair out and settled herself at the top of the table. Now it was Megan’s turn
to frown. Surely this wasn’t standard practice. Did Pauline attend all the
dinners?

No one had uttered a word since Lawson and Pauline had arrived. It
was as if a spell had been cast and they had all been struck dumb. That suited
Megan. As far as she was concerned, the less blather the better. And she wished
that the man with the moustache would stop gawking at her. He sent chills up
her spine. She was definitely in the wrong place. This was the first time she’d
contemplated, let alone carried through, anything remotely like dinner dating,
and it would be the last, Brenda or no Brenda.

A waitress, her notepad and pen poised, appeared at the table corner.
The bored, deadpan expression on her face turned to irritation when she realized
no one was ready to order. With an audible sigh, she turned and left. Megan empathized
with her, but at least the waitress was being paid for her efforts.

She turned her attention to the menu in her hands. On cue, her
stomach growled. She’d skipped lunch, expecting that dinner would more than
make up for the missed sandwich.

By the time the waitress returned, taking orders as she worked her
way around the table, Megan decided to bypass the entrée course, sample the
uninspiring sounding Cajun chicken dish, and treat herself to something
chocolate and decadent for dessert. At least that way she had something to look
forward to.

Without the menu to act as a shield, she suddenly felt vulnerable.
She shuffled uncomfortably in her seat, plucking at the fabric at her
waistline. The clingy dress accentuated bumps she would’ve much rather hidden.
It was just another of Brenda’s bright ideas. According to her, black was
supposed to be slimming. Megan would’ve felt far more at ease in the tailored
suits she was accustomed to. One day she would learn how to say no.

Dropping her hands into her lap, she lifted her head and
straightened her back. Then, with more enthusiasm than she actually felt, she
scanned the faces of her dinner companions, smiling and nodding as her gaze met
each of his or hers in turn. She raised her glass of wine and was about to
propose a toast – anything to break the ice – when all heads swiveled in unison
in the direction of the large double doors that led into the room. Biting her
bottom lip, Megan managed to suppress the chuckle welling in her throat. Her
dinner companions, especially the males, reminded her of the old laughing
clowns sideshow attraction with round gaping mouths. Her eyes automatically
followed their stares, but she made sure she kept her mouth firmly closed.

BOOK: Fatal Liaison
2.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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