Chapter 5:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 293

Austin looked up to see Krystal's bright smile as she looked up at him.

"What a surprise this is," she said, going to embrace him, "What are you doing here?"

He hugged her closely.

"I'm here on business," he said, "What about you?"

She sighed.

"I'm here on a modeling assignment," she said, "Got a couple shows here, a photo shoot for Cosmo and then I got to fly to Seattle to film an ad campaign."

"You sound busy…"

"Oh it's been nonstop since I got a new agent," she said, "I have a Vogue cover hitting the stands."

He noticed the wedding ring.

"So you married that guy after all," he said, "The assemblyman?"

She nodded but her eyes looked distant.

"Six months now," she said, "Sorry I couldn't invite you to the wedding but it was private and a lot of security."

"That's okay…as long as you're happy."

She looked away.

"He's so busy with his work and I travel all the time but we're trying to make it work," she said, "How about you?"

"I'm here with Shayna."

Her eyes widened.

"Oh you mean you two ended up together?"

He shook his head.

"We're working on a case but we're not here under our names," he said, "We're Guy and Claudia Jackson."

"Oh you mean as in married?"

"Yeah newlyweds actually," he said, "So if you see us…"

She looked puzzled and then nodded, understanding.

"I call you by your aliases," she said, "You really live in a different world than most people."

He couldn't argue with that but he wouldn't give up the life he had chosen and he suspected that Krystal felt the same way.

Shayna 's eyes widened as she walked into the impressive looking suite. The living area connected two bedrooms which were both stylishly decorated in different color patterns. Some French doors exited into an impressive balcony with what looked like a hot tub. She walked out and gazed out over the breathtaking view of the bay and the city. She returned back inside and sat on a lounge, looking into the complimentary gift basket.

Clearly for honeymooners, she said putting it aside and stretched out on the lounge. She felt tired all of a sudden and closed her eyes. She and Austin had to head out to dinner at the hotel's restaurant and look for anyone who might be interested in the missing painting. But in the meantime, she could take a nap. Austin no doubt was still downstairs chatting it up with his high school sweetheart. How anyone not like the adorable creatures, there could be no accounting for some people's taste. She slowly began to drift off.

Austin had entered the suite and had seen Shayna asleep on the lounge. He took his baggage and put it aside one of the bedrooms, before going to the mini-bar and grabbing himself an orange juice. After all, it still was too early to hit the Scotch though he was sorely tempted. Seeing Krystal had reminded him of the interlude they had shared years ago, even before she had come back into his life to get herself cleared of murder charges. She had looked just as beautiful but he detected sadness in her eyes as well. He went to the complimentary basket and looked inside it. Just about everything a couple needed and a few things he hadn't thought of, but the fruit looked nice so he picked out an apple.

He walked outside to the balcony and enjoyed the view. Under different circumstances, he would have loved to come to the city to have some fun. San Francisco after all had many great places to visit including restaurants. The Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park and even places to take a boat out and do some deep sea fishing, relaxing out in the ocean with a cold beer in hand.

But he had work to do here and that's where his focus needed to be and he knew it was only a matter of time before the characters all came together in the same place.

He heard footsteps behind him and saw that Shayna had woken up and joined him.

"It's beautiful isn't it?"

He nodded and she stood beside him, her hands resting on the rail looking outward.

"I'd love to come here some weekend and walk the streets looking at all the different places, maybe take a ferry out and explore Alcatraz."

His eyes widened.

"The notorious prison that no one's escaped from," he asked.

"Austin, it's a museum now," she said, "and then I'd go to the Wharf, just all the hot spots and play tourist."

"Alone?"

She smiled.

"No, I'd find this really great guy that I would share it with," she said, "Walking down the street hand in hand during the autumn when the leaves turn golden on the trees. Riding the streetcar up and down the steep hills and have dinner at that nice fish restaurant on the edge of the pier while the sun sets in the horizon."

"How about going sailing in the harbor?"

"That too," she said, "and we'd have dinner on the deck, a bottle of champagne chilled on ice and some steaks and crisp potatoes."

That sounded great to Austin but who would this man be?

"Met this guy yet?"

She sighed.

"Oh I don't know," she said, "You know how busy work keeps me. It's kind of hard to find someone."

"Yeah I know," he said, "These cases have kept me very busy lately."

"But your ex is here," she said, "I haven't run into any of mine yet."

"She's on some modeling gigs, but she didn't seem really happy about it."

"Does she miss you do you think," she asked.

"I doubt it," he said, "I think she misses her husband. They hardly see each other."

"So she got married then," Shayna said, "That must have been something, to actually take that step."

He looked at her suddenly.

"Anything I need to know about?"

She chuckled, patting him on the arm.

"Austin…you know that's not happening," she said, "although it's been kind of fun playing at it. The real thing must be so much harder."

"But wasn't that your plan when we sat in that Jacuzzi months ago," he said, "To find someone, get married and have children."

It wasn't easy for him to even get the words out and he didn't know why but she didn't notice, as she kept looking out at the scenery below them including the water.

"What about you Austin?"

That question caught him off-stride and he had to think about it.

"I don't know…I don't think I'm at the stage of my life with everything the way it's been to think about it," he said, "but I do plan someday…"

"To get married and have kids, though being a man you get the easier part."

He nodded thoughtfully.

"I'd make it as easy as I could," he said, "I'd go out on those midnight runs and rub my wife's feet."

She thought that sounded kind of nice.

"You'd really do all that?"

"Why yeah, it's kind of not fair that the woman goes through most of it," he said, "For the guy, it's a lot of fun and a lot of waiting…"

"A lot of watching the woman blow up bigger and get moody," she said, "A lot of guys complain about that."

"Well, the way I see it, they're not thinking straight and need to have their heads examined."

Shayna agreed but then again, all the changes that took place during pregnancy, they could be overwhelming.

"I just want someone who can handle all that and me in case I do act like I'm possessed."

He suppressed a smile.

"You're going to be just fine," he said, "You're going to look beautiful just like you do know."

She furrowed her brow.

"Austin, maybe you need your head examined."

"Why, any guy would say the same thing."

Well, she didn't care about any guy but she did care about him and his words pleased her but why was that so?

"We'd better think about getting ready for dinner," she said, "We don't know what's going to happen."

"I'm wondering if Simon or anyone else is going to show their faces," he said, "I'm ready to meet this cast of characters."

She went inside to find her dress clothes and Austin followed. She pulled out her blue dress, with spaghetti straps and ruffles on the bottom. His eyes lit up.

"Oh you brought my favorite…well next to the red one."

She rolled her eyes.

"It's for the occasion," she said, "and if we have to chase anyone, it'll accommodate that much better than most of the rest of my formal wear."

"I guess I'd better go dig up my black tie," he said, "as much as I…"

"Hate wearing it and would rather wear jeans," she said, "It's only a few hours Austin, after dinner's over, you can change into your play clothes."

His brow arched.

"Why we doing some playing?"

"I might go check out the roof top pool," she said, "It's got a waterfall and some nice surroundings."

She went to go change and he thought that going to the pool later on might not be such a bad idea. A nice way to unwind after a stuffy party.

Shayna walked into the restaurant in her stunning blue dress. She like its simple elegance and comfortable feel. Austin liked the way it molded to her curvy figure and accentuated her lightly muscled shoulders. Austin of course wore one of his dress suits and the waiter just nodded at them as he went to seat them in a table inside the posh restaurant. He saw Krystal sitting with an older gentleman at a nearby table and standing by the bar…Simon.

"Look who's here," she said, "Wonder if he's meeting anyone."

Austin wondered which side the guy would be playing since he seemed so interested in them but Austin suspected he was in the market for some fancy artwork.

They ordered their food and sat back and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Many couples and pairs of businessmen conducting deals surrounded them.

"This is really stylish," she said, "I read about it in Sunset Magazine but it didn't do it justice."

Simon stood by the bar and didn't appear to be looking in their direction.

"You think he's meeting someone else?"

Austin nodded.

"More than likely," he said, "Maybe a buyer."

"You really think he knows where the painting's located?"

"I guess we'll find out soon enough."

They started in on their food and sound it very delicious. The wine also hit the spot and Austin poured them each another glass.

"So you enjoying yourself Mr. Jackson?"

He looked at her playfully.

"Oh I don't know Mrs. Jackson," he said, "I think we're spending way too much time out of our suite."

"Well, we do have to circulate," she said, "in case we run into any of our artistic friends."

He sipped from his glass thoughtfully.

"Still…I would have liked to try out some of the nifty stuff in that basket…"

She just rolled her eyes at him and then saw Simon and a redheaded woman head in their direction.

"Whitney…"

Shayna had to admit that she had been shocked by the sight of Austin's ex-fiancée especially with another man.

"She's going to blow our cover," Shayna said, "because there's no way she's going to buy the Guy and Claudia story."

Austin sighed, knowing he had to stop the train wreck that was about to take place. Simon smiled when he arrived.

"Ah, I know I'd run into the two of you," he said, "I want you to meet someone, Whitney…"

Whitney nodded, looking puzzled and her eyes, filled with emotions that were palpable but she said nothing.

"This is Guy and Claudia Jackson," he said, "They're newlyweds coming to this charming city."

"Nice to…meet you," Austin said.

Whitney smiled.

"Nice to meet you," she said, "My husband is around here somewhere…but I ran into Simon here."

Austin hesitated.

"Your husband," he asked.

She nodded.

"Hans, I met him during a trip to Amsterdam," she said, "He owns some galleries there and we're doing some shopping in the U.S."

So Whitney had gotten married, Shayna thought and was genuinely happy for her but how did Austin feel about it and how would it impact his ability to carry out this assignment? She guessed she would find out but she knew what she saw in his eyes, a myriad of feelings so easily recognized.

"It's good to see you again," Austin said, "It's been a while."

Whitney nodded.

"I see you've been quite busy yourself," she said, "I've been reading about your exploits for years. You're quite talented."

"I dabble in painting myself and my works are quite modest," Austin said, "I'm more of a collector."

"I can see that," Whitney said, "Well it's been nice to meet you."

Whitney and Simon walked away and Shayna just shook her head.

"What is it with you and your exes popping up?"

He looked at his glass.

"She looks quite happy," he said, "Like she's moved on."

"Austin…she's got the right to do that and find happiness in her life," she said, "Just like you do."

"I know…and I've moved on from our aborted engagement…"

Her eyes challenged him.

"Have you…really?"

He pondered her question and found his answer.

"Yeah I have…I know now our marriage never would have worked out," he said, "We're just two very different people who found each other for a brief time but it could have never lasted."

She looked over at him.

"Austin…you'll find someone…really you will and she'll make you very happy and you, her."

He nodded.

"And what about you?"

She sipped her wine.

"Maybe…"

"No maybes Shayna," he said firmly, "You're going to make some man very lucky some day."

She sighed.

"Someday…so much for my plan."

"Oh I wouldn't be so sure about that," he said, "You've still got time if you extend the timeline just a little bit."

She looked at him sharply.

"You know something I don't," she said, "Don't tell me, you've got an idea for another blind date. They don't work for me."

He shook his head.

"No something else…"

Simon returned to their table and clearly Whitney had found her husband again.

"I've wanted to talk to the two of you," he said, sitting down at their table, "I have an offer to make."

Simon looked at the two of them, his face expressionless. Shayna gazed back at him wondering what had passed through his mind but then they had already survived running into Whitney who had fortunately not blown their cover. But it had clearly set the tone for the evening and she looked over and saw the expression on his face change towards becoming more critical of the two of them. Austin looked uncomfortable and Shayna had no idea what ran through his mind.

Were there feelings for his ex-fiancée there or was he focused on their assignment? Simon just waited silently for one of them to speak in response to his query, his hands clasped in front of him.

Austin sipped his drink.

"So what's this deal that you've been talking about," he said, "You didn't tell us about it on the train."

"No I didn't," Simon said, "but I was too busy being impressed by the beauty of your…wife."

Austin and Shayna looked at each other and she simply shrugged as if that's what she expected him to say.

"I think we can agree on that," Austin said, "but what are you offering?"

Simon looked at his watch.

"I have a couple minutes before I have to leave on my next client," he said, "but it's about the painting that we're all interested in."

"Oh?"

Shayna looked at Austin's nonchalant demeanor. Clearly he didn't want to give too much away too soon but then neither did she.

"It's part of the auction that's coming up," he said, "the one here that's invitation only."

Shayna and Austin both nodded, not really knowing what he was talking about but they had heard bits and pieces about some secret sale taking place in the past few weeks. After all, that's why Alex had hired them to do this undercover gig but still so much remained unknown to them but clearly not to Simon. Austin looked at Shayna and she read in his face, to play along.

So she nodded at Simon.

"Oh yes…I did read something about it in an email I received from an anonymous part," she said, "I just assumed that's how this kind of business is conducted."

"We're as new to it as we are to marriage."

Simon tilted his head.

"I didn't send any such email if that's what you're thinking," he said, "That's not quite how I conduct business."

Shayna and Austin looked at each other.

"Especially with strangers…"

Austin looked at him.

"Well we're not exactly strangers anymore now are we," he said, "You said you found my wife very charming…"

"And beautiful," Shayna added.

"But you appeared familiar with Whitney for having just met her," Simon continued, "and that is all I know about you."

Austin didn't know whether that was good or bad, especially considering the fact that the two of them hadn't gotten married after nearly making it to the altar.

"She seems to have met and married a guy that she can handle," Simon said, "She's always been a rather volatile woman."

Shayna nodded.

"Well Guy can be awfully unpredictable," she said, "He might have met her and forgot all about it. They moved in the same circles in the art world."

Austin glanced at her, thinking that once again, she was thinking quickly on her feet and how much he liked that in a woman.

"That's certainly true," he said, "though you think I'd remember a face like that."

Simon nodded.

"True…there was a time when…well I chose not to take that road because after all she is…volatile."

Austin and Shayna just looked at each other.

"And she did have that playboy that she dabbled around with for a couple of months," Simon said, "I don't remember the name but he couldn't have been that memorable."

Austin's mouth opened and Shayna shook her head slightly at him then put her hand on his.

"Well, that makes sense," she said, "but then that could be said about some men and not others."

Simon smiled at her.

"How true…yet you ended up with this guy when there were probably better candidates out there?"

She shrugged.

"He's too good at…certain things to pass up."

When she said that, she winked at Austin and he just stared at her. Simon just chuckled.

"Oh you are a lively one," he said, "You sure you want to hang around with him?"

She appeared to think about it and then nodded.

"He does grow on you after a while and we're intellectually compatible."

"She has the most amazing pair of…"

Shayna shot a look at him and he cleared his throat.

"Eyes...what did you think I was going to say sweetheart?"

Shayna sipped her drink.

"So about this painting," she said, "if we show up at this auction, will the bidding be open?"

"Why of course…or so I've heard."

Austin's brow rose.

"So it's not your event?"

"Not exactly," Simon said, "I had hoped to have more control over it but even I work for someone."

Austin appeared to digest that.

"Well don't we all," he said, "though myself and honeybunch here are branching out freelance."

Simon nodded.

"Very well," he said, "So are you freelancers interested?"

"Well, that depends on whether or not we've got a realistic chance of getting what we want out of your…auction," she said.

"If you have the bankroll, you'll have as fair a chance as anyone else."

Austin pushed the elevator button while Shayna folded her arms and looked at him.

"You poured it on a bit thick…"

He smiled.

" Shayna you know that everything on this case depends on our ability to convince the marks that we're a happily married pair of determined but naïve art collectors."

"I know but I think he's beginning to think we're the strangest newlyweds he's ever encountered," she said, "I mean I would think that by now."

The elevator door opened and they got inside.

"Well I guess we're lucky that he's not you," he said, "He's dealing with us isn't he?"

She pushed the button for their floor.

"So what are we going to do?"

He sighed.

"Well we could go up to the suite and check out the complimentary basket," he said, "They've even included body paints in six different flavors."

She looked at him sharply.

"Austin…get serious here."

"I am serious," he said, "The raspberry is really something."

"And how would you…never mind…"

He just looked at her, with her indignation written on her face. But for a second he wondered…after all they were playing newlyweds…but then dismissed that thought. She was right, they had to be absolutely serious here. And where were these thoughts coming from anyway because he hadn't had them before…except for a fleeting moment here and there…after all they had known each other for many years.

"No really, I don't need to know…you're entitled to privacy about your foray into body art."

"Well I wouldn't exactly call it that," he said, "but come on, have you ever thought what it might be like if…"

"If what," she said, "If we…Austin, I'm not having this conversation with you."

He moved closer to then and she felt his fingers stroke her hair out on her face and her breath quickened.

"What…"

And in a second, she had the answer to that question when his mouth brushed softly against hers, at least at first. His hands moved up her arms to her shoulders as he drew her closer against him. Her own body relaxed as it melded to his and she put her arms around him. His muscles in his back flexed beneath his clothes and her fingers.

Oh, he was definitely up to something coming onto her like this out of the view of the people they were trying to fool. But at the moment, she found herself not caring about anything but savoring this moment, crazy or not.

Then the elevator doors opened, not that they heard them.

"Oh."

They heard that and they broke from their kiss and Shayna straightened her dress. Austin blinked his eyes, his heart still racing.

"Whitney?"

His former fiancée looked at him, an expression of shock on her face.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…"

"No, Whitney it's fine," he said, "It's a public elevator."

She still looked a bit flustered, fidgeting with her hair.

"I was just looking for Hans," she said, "He said he would be coming up soon and he's not arrived."

"Do you think anything happened to him," Austin asked.

She sighed, her eyes flashing with a hint of sadness.

"No…of course not…he pulls these disappearing acts some times."

"Whitney if you need any help finding him," Austin offered, "I could…"

She shook her head.

"No I'm sure I'll find him in the piano bar."

Shayna looked at Austin.

"I'm heading up to the suite," she said, "If you want to help her track down her husband."

Austin looked at her.

" Shayna …"

She smiled at him.

"I'll be hitting the sack pretty early tonight," she said, "I'm beat from today."

Whitney looked at Austin earnestly.

"If you have a few minutes…"

Austin sighed.

"Okay…I'll come down with you."

Shayna nodded and Austin left the elevator to take one to the bottom floor with Whitney. The doors closed and Shayna rode up to the suite alone.

Austin rode down with Whitney on a different elevator, his mind on what he had just shared with Shayna. They'd been locking lips a lot lately, well much more so than usual. And each time they did that, he would start thinking of the next time.

"Austin…thanks so much for helping me."

He remembered Whitney was with him.

"It's nothing," he said, "I'm sure we'll find him quickly enough."

Whitney grew quiet.

"I don't know if he wants to come up at all."

Austin shot her a look and the sadness he had glimpsed at before seemed to return full force."

"Whitney…you married the guy," he said, "You must love him."

She nodded.

"I thought so Austin but now…he's more married to his work than me."

"How do you know that?"

She sighed and sank against the elevator wall.

"Oh in all those little ways that a wife knows that her husband's checking out on her."

"Do you think he's cheating," Austin asked.

"Not with a woman…his work's his mistress and that's even harder."

He supposed that might be true but he also knew that she wouldn't have married a man she didn't love. After all, they had loved each other and had almost gotten married. So if she married this guy, she must mean it.

"What about you and Shayna," Whitney said, "You looked pretty involved in the elevator and there was no one watching."

He didn't respond because he didn't know what was going on between him and his lifelong friend. But the way her lips had felt against his own, the suppleness of her body beneath his hands. And he imagined it would only get better the further they took it. Only she didn't appear to be as eager to do that as he did. But what to do next would have to wait…

"I'm here to help you," he reminded her as the elevator doors opened, "Let's go see if we can find Hans."

And quickly because a woman awaited him on the top floor, who he really needed to get back to, in order to figure things out.

Shayna had ridden up the elevator, thinking about the man who had just left her to go with the woman he had nearly married to help her find her missing husband. She had felt the conflict within Whitney and guessed it had to do with her relationship with Hans as well as perhaps unresolved feelings for Austin. But Shayna really couldn't fault her because she felt as conflicted. Her body still hummed from the sensations which had flooded it when they kissed but her mind urged her to slow down long enough to rationalize her way out of pushing the envelope in her important but very platonic friendship with Austin.

But damn what she had missed by following those ironclad but unwritten rules that governed their relationship. Why had they decided not to break them again? Seriously, right now she couldn't remember and she didn't want to do so. She just wanted to feel his hands on her, and his body against her own, preferably with nothing between them.

She shook her head then reining in that less rational side of her before it could get loose. Definitely necessary before he returned to the suite because they couldn't go down that path because their friendship couldn't survive it, could it?

She paced in the elevator weighing the pros and cons back and forth in her head just like the trained lawyer she had become but she felt loss. Maybe flipping a coin would help…

The elevator doors opened on the floor of their suite and she walked out, searching for her key in her purse.

And that's when someone grabbed her.

 


Submitted: April 05, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Marzy Dotes. All rights reserved.

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