Rush of Innocence (Rush Series #1)

RUSH of INNOCENCE

By LR Potter

Copyright 2013 LR Potter

 

This book is a work of
fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the
writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or
organizations is entirely coincidental.

This
ebook
is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This
ebook
may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share
this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Copyedited and
Cover Art by:

Carolyn
Pinard

[email protected]

 

Photos used with permission by
iStock
Photography

 
 
 

Prologue

 

The man stood facing a bank of
windows, staring out from his office, which overlooked the city he’d loved
since childhood. But today, Savannah didn’t offer him any comfort… or any
answers. He stood in his expensive suit with his hands shoved down deep into
his pants pockets. With half an ear, he listened to those seated behind him as
they discussed ways to resolve his specific problem.

Hate
and white-hot rage boiled through his blood to settle down in his belly. One of
the men responsible for the horrific end of the person he’d loved was still
living and enjoying his life. More than his death, however, he wanted him
destroyed.

In an
eerie, quite tone, he asked, “What does he love?”

The
three men gathered, stopped mid-conversation.

Clearing
his throat, the youngest man seated asked, “Love?”

“Yes.
What’s the most important thing in his life?”

A
second man replied, “His daughter… he loves his daughter; is very protective of
her.”

Without
turning from the window, the man gave a knowing nod of his head and pursed his
lips as his mind clicked through the possibilities. “It would need to be
seamless. He can’t suspect anything. I want it to be a surprise, just as I was
surprised. How do we get to her?”

The
most confident of the three seated men asked, “What will you do with her once
you get her?”

Silence
followed the question for a long while. The man at the window finally turned
and faced the others.

With
an icy stare and clipped tones, he declared, “Experience has taught me – you
crush the heart of a man, and he dies a long, painful death.”

 
 
 

Chapter 1

 

Trinity Grace studied the tear in the
aged, painted canvas stretched out before her through a Carl Zeiss magnifying
lens. She’d already determined the painting was at least one hundred and fifty
years old by the paint pigment absorbed into the ancient fabric. The client
found the painting tucked away in their parents’ attic and thought it might be
worth saving. Of course, from her viewpoint as an art restorer, all art was
worth saving.

Her
concentration was broken when her boss, Gavin Lassiter, strode into the room.
Gavin was a throwback artist from a different generation. While he was very
polished, in his urbane suits and expensive shoes, he still wore his dark hair
tied back in a ponytail.

He
leaned over her shoulder to examine the damage. “What’s the verdict?” he asked.

“The
painting is repairable, but it’ll take work, as the tear is old and the edges
corroded.”

“How
much time will be involved in the restoration?” His concern being how much
money the repair would bring into the gallery.

She
pondered his question for a long moment.
“At least a month.”

Gavin
Lassiter smiled. “Good, good.” He glanced at the thin, gold watch on his wrist.
“I need to pull you away for an initial client meeting in about fifteen
minutes. I can’t emphasize enough how important this meeting is to us. He’s a
very wealthy man who could potentially be a long-term, valuable customer. Your
reputation has preceded you; he asked for you specifically.”

“How
nice,” she responded, smiling at the acknowledgment.

“So,
I’ll meet you in the conference room?”

She
nodded as she turned back to the painting of muted gold and green autumn
leaves.

 

Before
she realized it, her fifteen minutes were gone and she was forced to hurry from
her office to the conference room. She paused outside the door to calm her
frazzled senses and ran a hand down her royal-blue, silk shift dress, belted
with a thin gold belt. She patted a hand against her hair, ensuring her smooth,
waist-long, dark strands were all still neatly fastened at her nape. With a
soft knock, she opened the conference room’s door and entered.

She
gave a small smile of apology to Gavin, who sat facing her.

Gavin
smiled and rose to his feet. “
Ahh
, here she is now.”

The
man sitting with his back to the door stood and turned to face her. Due to his
height, she was forced to look up. His short-cropped, dark hair framed his
angular face, strong jaw, and aristocratic nose. He was younger than she’d
thought, somewhere around thirty. She saw something she couldn’t define flit
across his features before he smiled politely down at her. His Armani suit
spoke of money and his gold Rolex confirmed it.

She
swallowed as heat flooded her face. Her stomach became a mass of tangled
nerves. The man before her was the most amazingly beautiful man she’d ever
seen. In college, she’d learned about aesthetics, which is the branch of
philosophy involving varying outlooks of art theory, and provides the ruling
criteria for making artistic judgment. One main issue
aesthetic
s
attempt to resolve is how to define
beauty. As she gazed into the stranger’s face, she now knew why people might
struggle. His was indescribable; a timeless classic. A blush tinted her cheeks
when she realized his hand extended to her and she’d been too stunned to
notice. She smiled and placed her hand within his. A tingle zipped up her arm at
the contact. Her eyes snapped to his to see if he’d felt it also. She stared,
mesmerized as his lips curled into a grin, which caused the skin next to his
hazel eyes to crinkle.

Gavin’s
voice interrupted her jumbled thoughts. “Rush Drayton, I’d like you to meet the
gallery’s restoration artist, Trinity Grace.”

“Good
morning, Mr. Drayton,” she murmured.

“Ms.
Grace. It’s a pleasure,” he responded. “You’re younger than I’d expected,” he
murmured, almost to himself.

She
blushed further.
“As are you.”

“Touché’,
Ms. Grace,” he smiled.

Trinity
moved around the table to take a seat next to Gavin. She slid a hand underneath
her dress as she sat and rolled her chair up to the table.

“Now
that we’re all gathered, tell us what we can do for you,” Gavin said to Rush Drayton.

With
a Mona Lisa smile curving his sensual lips, his gaze remained on Trinity.
Ignoring Gavin’s question, he asked her instead, “How long have you worked at
the gallery?”

She
clutched her hands together under the table to hide her display of nervousness.
“About eight months.”

“So,
that makes you what?
Twenty-two?
Twenty-three?”

She
blinked at his question.
“Twenty-two.”

He
stared at her another moment before shifting his eyes to Gavin. “I like to
collect beautiful things and have acquired several pieces recently which need
restoration in one form or another.”

“Well,
you’ve come to the right place. Did you bring the pieces with you?” Gavin
asked.

“I’ve
brought a single painting today. We’ll start with that. If our business is…
successful, then we can discuss the other pieces. The painting is with my
driver. If you’re ready to review it, I’ll have him bring it in. Just tell me
which entrance to have it brought through.”

“He
can bring it into the rear dock. I’ll have Trinity meet him there and then we’ll
meet them in her office.”

Rush
Drayton reached into his suit pocket and withdrew his cellphone. Trinity found
her eyes drawn to the nimble movements of his long fingers as he dialed his
driver. Her eyes moved up to his full lips as he spoke in soft, cultured tones
into the phone. She swallowed and her mouth became so dry she was forced to
lick her lips. She saw his lips twitch and she lifted startled eyes to his,
embarrassed at having been caught staring at the beautiful man once again. She
glanced down quickly as deep color rushed up her neck and into her face.

“Radcliff
is on his way to the back bay now,” Rush Drayton said.

“Excellent!
Trinity, go meet the driver and I’ll walk Mr. Drayton down to your office,
okay?” Gavin suggested.

With
a small nod, she rose with innate fluidity to her feet and hurried from the
room, glad to be away from the intensity which seemed to encompass the air
surrounding Rush Drayton. She reached the bay at the same time a dark SUV
pulled into it. A big, burly man emerged from the interior of the car –
Radcliff, she presumed. He walked around to the back of the SUV and removed a
medium-sized crate. She smiled and motioned for him to follow her. She paused
once more outside her office door and drew in a deep breath. She pasted a smile
on her lips and led Radcliff into her workspace.

When
she entered, Rush Drayton and Gavin were standing in front of the stretched
canvas she’d been working on prior to the meeting. Gavin was obviously
explaining to him the process of repairing antique pieces of art.

They
both turned as she entered. Gavin smiled, while Rush Drayton’s gaze was more
speculative.

Gavin
turned his attention to the driver and directed him to a different work table.
Once the crate was lying on its side, Radcliff flipped the top down and
carefully slid a painting encased in an intricately-carved gold, wooden frame.
Trinity moved to the painting and tilted her head as she took in the simple
beauty of the ballerina pirouetting in front of a free-standing, oval mirror.
The girl standing in front of the mirror appeared to be around ten years old;
however, her reflection in the mirror was of a much older girl, maybe eighteen.
The painting gave a touching depiction of every young girl’s desire to be older
beyond her years.

She
moved closer to the painting, and with a light, practiced touch ran her fingers
lovingly over the raised buckles in the paint.

In
quiet, almost reverent tones, she asked without looking up from the painting,
“Was it left in direct sunlight or intense heat for a long period of time?”

“It
was rescued from a barn, which was the only remaining structure on an old
plantation,” Rush answered.

Softly,
Trinity murmured, “It’s very beautiful.”

“Yes,
it is,” Rush agreed. “Can it be repaired?”

With
a jerk of her head, she responded in a quick fashion, just in case Rush Drayton
was thinking of destroying the magnificent piece of work. “Of course it can be
repaired. It’ll take a little time, but I can save her,” she declared.

Rush
Drayton smiled at her exuberance. “Excellent! Then I’ll leave my little lady in
your capable hands.” Turning to Gavin, he said, “You have my contact
information. Call me when it’s done.” He glanced at his watch, “I need to go, I
have another appointment.”

Gavin
clasped his hands together.
“Of course.
Follow me and
I’ll show you out.”

Rush
Drayton turned to Trinity. “It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Grace.”

“Mr.
Drayton,” she said with a nod of her head.

She
blew out a deep breath when he left the confines of her small workspace. The
faint smell of his musky aftershave lingered long after he departed.

 

***

 

The
distinguished gentleman with graying hair studied the bowed head of the young
woman seated across from him. Her long, dark hair was clipped back neatly at
the nape of her neck. Her sleeveless white dress was form-fitting and
immaculate. The darkness of her hair, contrasting with the paleness of her
skin, along with the natural red-tint of her lips, always made him think of the
fabled Snow White. Her normally serene expression was now marred with lines of
irritation. Even with her current fit of pique, she was lovely. She’d inherited
the best of both he and her mother. He lifted his fork and slowly chewed the
delicate fish before washing it down with the dry white wine in his glass.
Drawing a napkin across his lips, he sighed in exasperation.

In
his cultured, proper voice, he scolded, “Trinity, sulking is very unattractive.
Now eat your fish. Trout
Almondine
is your favorite.
You don’t want to hurt Ms. Gibbon’s feelings, do you?”

“I’m
not sulking,” the dark-haired girl muttered in indignation. It irritated her
that he’d once again reduced her feelings to that of a child.

From
under her lashes, she regarded her father with quiet intensity. In her
periphery, she took in the massive dining table that could easily accommodate
up to a dozen people in comfort, but was usually only occupied by the two of
them. The formalness of the room, complete with white table linens and lit
candles, made the room seem cold and sterile. Even the massive fireplace, with
its flickering flames couldn’t add warmth to the frigid environment.

“Trinity,
you have to understand, your safety is of utmost importance to me,” he said.

“I
understand that, Father. But I’m nearly twenty-three years old. I don’t
understand why I can’t go to
Vail
with my friends.
It’s just a group of girls. We’ll be staying at a very nice condo that
Sundra’s
parents rented. I’ll be perfectly safe. Besides,
I’ve already purchased my plane ticket and arranged for the time off with
Gavin.”

Judge
Arthur Grace regarded his daughter for a long moment. “No, I’m sorry, but I
just don’t feel comfortable with that. If you want to go to Vail, just wait
until after my current case is completed and I’ll go with you. We’ll have your
ticket changed to a later date,” he argued.

“It’s
not the same.” She cringed at how childlike that actually sounded coming out of
her mouth.

“I’m
sorry, sweetheart, but that’s the only compromise I can offer,” he said.

“That’s
not a compromise, that’s
you
getting
your way,” she said through clenched teeth.

“Well,
look at it how you will. But the answer is still no.”

She
brought the napkin up to her lips and set it down beside her plate. “May I be
excused?” she asked with stilted politeness, not able to overcome years of
ingrained civility.

With
a heavy sigh, he assented, “Yes, you may.”

Trinity
rose abruptly, and in doing so, jarred the table, causing her water goblet to
topple over.

“Trinity
Allura
Grace!”
Arthur jerked to his feet in the same
abrupt fashion.

The
tension between them was immediately overshadowed by the sudden explosion of
the stained-glass window. Trinity watched in horrified fascination as
multicolored glass shards flew through the air like rain that’s been captured
by a strong gust of wind. Struggling to understand the series of events
transpiring around her, she stood paralyzed as her father seemed to be thrown
by a great force away from the window before slumping to the floor in a dead
heap.

Trinity
opened her mouth to scream when suddenly the room was pitched into darkness and
a strong body knocked her to the ground with enough force to rattle her teeth.
The oxygen was driven from her lungs in a huge gust from the force of the
impact and the weight of the person above her. Blood filled her mouth from
biting down on her tongue. Face-down and unable to see her attacker, she began
to struggle and tried to wiggle out from under the massive weight. She opened
her mouth once more to scream when a hand was clamped over it. Panic
overwhelmed her as she struggled to breathe.

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