Excerpt: Backrush

Excerpt: Backrush

Book 1: Tempest Island Series

Tidal Wave

“You’re not a wave. You’re part of the ocean.” – Mitch Albom

 

Chapter One

 

New York City, New York

Alayna Scott looked out from the rooftop patio at the city sprawling before her. It was close to midnight but lights from the buildings, streetlights, and the holiday decor filtered through all but the darkest alleys. She pulled her coat tighter around her body as a cold December wind touched her face. A few seconds later, tiny snowflakes began to fall. It was beautiful and yet still somewhat overwhelming. The people, the businesses, the constant rush to be more tomorrow than what you were today. Even after years of staying ahead of the curve, she was still intimidated when she thought about the vastness that was this city. And the small-town Florida girl in her felt that standing there, with the glorious view, was somewhat surreal.

“It’s getting chilly.” His voice sounded behind her and Alayna turned to smile at the attractive, well-polished man as he put his arm around her shoulder. He smelled of spice, and she knew the bit of cologne he’d applied that night probably cost more than her entire outfit. Warren Patterson III was considered by the New York social scene to be one of the most eligible bachelors in the city. He came from an old-money New England family. The kind with a summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, a villa in Italy, and political ties.

He was Harvard educated and at thirty-five years of age, ran one of the most successful hedge fund firms in the city. But the list of attributes didn’t end there. Warren was handsome and never missed his gym workout. And he was charming. Everyone who met him liked him, which meant his party invitation list was almost as long as the list of women looking to land him.

When he’d asked Alayna out, she’d been shocked.

She knew the women on the social registry who’d been gunning to add Patterson to their last name thought their relationship was a fling. One of those things that rich boys did—dating beneath them for sport or entertainment value. No one took it seriously. To be honest, neither did Alayna. Not at first.

But here they were, eight months later, and they’d been exclusive since that first date. Alayna saw the smirks every time they attended one of these events, and she saw the whispers and knew they were all about her. How she wasn’t suitable. After all, she wasn’t from a prominent New England family. She wasn’t even from a prominent Southern family. She had no social standing, no connections, and Alayna knew that everyone thought she was only after Warren for his money.

They were wrong.

Alayna enjoyed Warren’s company. He was funny and preferred active entertainment, like bike riding through Central Park, over sitting in a movie theater. And even though he often had to attend social engagements because his clients expected it, he never complained that her working hours didn’t allow her to accompany him often. Nor did he take another woman because she couldn’t attend. Alayna knew the women in Warren’s social circle didn’t like her. They put on a good show in front of Warren, of course, but he saw right through it and they often laughed later about the shallow attempts to appear to be friends.

The press, however, had the opposite view. They loved Warren and Alayna as a couple. It was the classic tale of the prince and the commoner. Plus, Alayna was a top-notch chef who’d just opened her own up-and-coming fine dining restaurant in Manhattan that year. She was young and pretty and was conquering a market that many never even got to try their hand at. They were a modern-day fairy tale.

“I’ve made the rounds,” Warren said. “Heard all the boring stories that I’m required to hear. Shaken the hands I’m supposed to shake. Agreed to far too many golf dates—”

“And skirted how many offers from eligible women?”

He grinned. “I didn’t count. Are you ready to get out of here?”

“Since my face feels like it’s turning blue, I’m going with yes.”

“A rooftop party in December…not the best idea, although the view is spectacular.”

She nodded and they worked their way toward the double doors that led back into the building. Warren paused along the way to shake hands and acknowledge promises made, and it was another twenty minutes before they finally got into the elevator. Alayna, who’d worked closing at her restaurant the night before and had finally fallen into bed at 3:00 a.m., had been fighting back a yawn all night. She finally gave in once the elevator door closed.

“You didn’t get to sleep late this morning?” Warren asked.

“No. I had to go in early to do the food order, then there was an issue with the walk-in and the company was hassling me over warranty work. I finally got that handled and was about to walk out the door when André sliced his hand during prep.”

“Ouch. Is he all right?”

“Ten stitches, and he has to take the rest of the week off.”

Warren nodded in understanding. “So you ended up filling in.”

“Just for the afternoon until Marnie could get there to cover. But by the time I got home, I was too wound up to sleep so I ended up working on the holiday specials I’m adding to the menu.”

“What time do you have to be in tomorrow?”

“Midafternoon. I’m working close again.”

“Then how about a quick nightcap at my place and we crash? I can have Lawrence drive you to your apartment tomorrow whenever you wake up.”

It was tempting. Warren’s penthouse was only a couple blocks away, whereas a trip to her apartment in Brooklyn, even at this time of night, was far longer. If she stayed the night with Warren, she could be asleep before she would be unlocking the front door of her apartment.

“That sounds great,” she said. “You sure I won’t be in the way in the morning?”

“Of course not. I have a ten o’clock meeting but even if I didn’t, your sleeping is hardly hindering me from going to work. Just give me a call when you’re ready and I’ll send the car.”

Alayna smiled, still slightly in awe of the lifestyle that Warren considered normal. A car with a full-time driver at his beck and call. A penthouse with a prime location near Times Square. A private jet that, on a rare three days off, he’d used to take her to the Bahamas for a quick stay at the vacation home his parents had just purchased. Vacation home, they called it. Alayna would have called the ten-thousand-square-foot home with servants’ quarters and full-time staff an estate.

Warren’s car, a new Rolls-Royce, was waiting for them up front. The driver, an older Italian man named Gino, stood beside it waiting to open the door. He greeted them both with a nod and then proceeded to drive the short distance to Warren’s building. He let them out in the drive where the building valet opened the car door and the door to the building, then pressed the button on the elevator. The level of service that Warren received always made Alayna slightly uncomfortable, but Warren, who’d grown up with it, never seemed to notice.

The elevator opened into Warren’s penthouse condo and, as she did every time she entered, Alayna took in the incredible view of the city that the wall of glass windows offered. It was even more stunning than the rooftop view she’d had minutes earlier, and much warmer.

Warren headed into the kitchen. “Would you like a glass of wine?” he asked. “A shot of bourbon to warm up, maybe?”

“Actually, I think I’ll just take water and get changed out of this dress. I haven’t taken a deep breath in hours.”

He poured S.Pellegrino into a beautiful red crystal glass and brought it to her where she stood in front of the window.

“The shallow breathing was worth it,” he said. “You’re stunning. Every man at the party was green with envy when I walked in with you on my arm.”

“And every woman was plotting how to trip me near the balcony.”

He smiled and leaned in to kiss her. “Probably. Can you blame them? You have it all, Alayna. You’re beautiful and talented. And you have a mind for something other than the latest fashion or what a Kardashian did this afternoon.”

“One of them had salad and champagne at an outdoor café in Beverly Hills. But I don’t know which one.”

“Which outdoor café?”

“No. Which Kardashian. I always remember the restaurant.”

He laughed. “Of course you do. I’ve been thinking. Once the holidays are over and things settle down, maybe we could take a trip to Italy.”

“Seriously?”

“You’ve been wanting to add some Italian dishes to your menu. No better way to make the perfect selection than going straight to the source for an extensive taste test.”

“That would be incredible. I mean, assuming we could both get time away.”

“We’ll make it work. I’m going to take a shower before I turn in.”

She nodded and as he started to turn, she heard the ding of the elevator. That was strange. Who would be accessing Warren’s condo at this hour? Warren went completely still, and as Alayna turned, the elevator door opened and four men wearing suits and brandishing firearms rushed in.

“Hands up where I can see them,” the first man ordered.

Alayna dropped the wineglass and it shattered on the white marble floor, scattering shards of red glass across the pristine surface. She felt the sting on her legs as some of the glass connected with her bare skin, and she threw her arms in the air, completely panicked. Were they being robbed? By men wearing suits? How had they gotten past security? She looked over at Warren and saw him standing there, his arms up and his expression completely blank. What the hell was going on?

“FBI Special Agent Kurt Davies,” the man with the gun said. He pulled ID out of his pocket with his free hand and showed her before looking at Warren. “Warren Patterson, you’re under arrest for money laundering and fraud. You have the right…”

Alayna swayed as the FBI agent’s words all ran together. She stumbled a bit as a wave of dizziness washed over her, and one of the other men grabbed her by the shoulders and assisted her onto the couch.

FBI? Money laundering? Fraud?

Those words kept playing through her mind like a broken record, but they made no more sense after the hundredth repetition than they had when the agent first uttered them. It must be a mistake. They’d made a mistake is all. Warren wasn’t a criminal. He was a successful, educated businessman from a well-respected family.

“Ms. Scott?” Agent Davies’s voice sounded above her. “I’m afraid you’re under arrest as well.”

She bolted upright and stared at him, not understanding what he’d said.

“What? I’ve done nothing wrong. This is all a mistake. It has to be a mistake.”

“No mistake,” Agent Davies said. “Alayna Scott, you’re under arrest for accessory—and…”

She swayed again and this time, everything went black.

This website uses third-party media content (SoundCloud clips), if accessed, will place cookies on your computer. You cn out more about how cookies are used on this site and how you can manage cookies in your browser by reading the site Cookie Policy.