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Alexandria 'Allie' Mason, is possessed by an inner madness that forces her to create. She hides from the world, from fame and from her accomplishments. She is content in her privacy, content in her solidarity. Taken from what she has built around herself for protection, held hostage by a man she doesn't understand, can she deal with his strength? Can she fight him and his insistence on submission? Can she allow someone else take on her creative forces and help her control them? In her fragmented soul, she doesn't know if she's capable of accepting or giving love. If she can, will her demons destroy them both by dragging her into insanity?
Kapalua, Hawaii, Big Island, Hau‘oli Resort
Nicholas Dyonysus walked around the elegant suite of his latest acquisition. He was looking at every detail of the architecture, the interior design, and the furniture. It was perfect. He walked out onto the balcony overlooking the magnificent Honokaoa Bay, admiring the elaborate ultra modern stainless railings. It was a good design. It was Nicholas’ eye for beauty, his sense of style and his keen observations of both people and real estate that made him successful.
He watched the sunset, noting every detail - the calm surf, the gentle sway of the palm trees, the crimson, gold, and pink of the sky - and gave a restless sigh.
Nicholas Dyonysus was a man who prided himself on challenge, on high-stake business, on winning at all costs. Yet, he was about to go mad with boredom. He was working on the final details of selling this acquisition for a ridiculous amount of money. He was in total control of his world but if he had to listen to another idiot suit drone on about business, he might� what? He didn’t know. Business was his life, business was profit, it was what made him strive for excellence and achieve it. He never settled for anything less than perfection � be it in people or in business - but he was finding that perfection was boring. He needed something more. And that was the problem. He couldn’t figure out what was missing.
He returned to the suite, poured himself a cup of coffee, and then put it back down without tasting it. What did he want? He walked back out onto the balcony again.
Maybe he needed to get laid, maybe he needed a vacation. Again, he didn’t know�.
Any woman he desired was a mere phone call away, and while that would feed his sexual needs, it would do little else. Most women who moved within his business or social orbits were similar to him - distrustful, demanding, and distant - or worse yet, a gold digger out to snare a rich husband or boyfriend. He was sick of cold, calculating women.
He wanted... Nicholas shut his eyes and pushed his hands through his thick, long black hair. Damn! He didn’t know what he wanted anymore!�
He was turning to go back inside when he saw her in the day’s dying light. The streaks of remaining sunlight streamed across her copper hair, turning it to flame. He could see the details of her face, the elfin chin, and large eyes. She was thin - overly thin - but exquisite, in her simple sapphire blue chemise. Then, she turned, went inside, and was gone.
Nicholas almost missed her the next morning as he was strolling to the front of the hotel to await his limousine service. If he hadn’t caught a glimpse of that unforgettable copper, he would have thought the person walking out of the hotel was a young boy.
He watched as she got into one of the many waiting taxis. Instantly forgetting his limousine service, and jumped into the nearest cab and ordered the driver to follow the one that had just departed with the mysterious redhead.
He tailed her to the shopping district, where he quickly paid, and got out, keeping a discreet distance as he followed her for the next hour. He watched as she window-shopped, at several boutiques without going inside any of them. This exquisite creature, who could have walked fashion runways had she been taller, was dressed in loose urchin jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers. She had alabaster skin, lush, full lips, and when he finally he got close enough to see her eyes he noted they were an amazing shade of azure blue. He decided she had to be a model or an actress incognito, but was puzzled when she went into a store and bought bag after bag of snack food. Bulimia. That was probably why she was so rail thin. No woman could eat like that and still be that thin. He continued to watch as she hailed a taxi. As the vehicle disappeared into traffic, Nicholas turned away, deep in thought.
* * * * *
Allie Mason walked around her suite, barely aware of the luxurious furnishings, the plush carpeting, or the original art. She was far too agitated.
She checked her lists. She’d spoken to the concierge, given her orders. There would no vacuuming, no noise, no distractions, and no one must enter the living space of suite�ever. Meals were to be delivered to her door and left outside. She had a case of water. She had her snacks.
They were coming, they were talking to her, and she was prepared. She sat down at her computer and logged on.
* * * * *
Nicholas clicked off his mobile phone and tossed it on top of the report lying on his coffee table. He had just finished eviscerating the private detective he’d hired for finding nothing of use about the copper-haired mystery woman staying at the same hotel. He stormed to the balcony and looked across. The Hau‘oli Resort wasn’t that large a hotel. It had been built for luxury, for the elite who would pay the price for the best. It was built in a C-shape that encompassed the elaborate fountains and pools within its inner curve. There were only five luxurious suites on the fifth floor - his suite on one end of the curve, and hers was on the other. He watched for her everyday but he hadn’t seen her since the day he’d followed her. Why couldn’t he get some useful information on her? He knew she was still there. He’d come to the hotel to inspect it and decide if the management was up to his standards. When he visited his acquisitions, he rarely gave away his identity as the owner. He wanted to be free to judge for himself, the services, the staff, and the general excellence of the resorts. This time, he’d broken that rule. He’d needed the management’s cooperation on his quest to find out about this particular guest. He knew what orders she’d given to the hotel management. She’d gone into her suite a week ago and hadn’t been seen since. When he demanded that someone check on her, the manager had informed him that Ms. Allie Daniels had stayed at the hotel before and that her right to privacy was legally protected. But the damn report from his investigators stated that no such person existed. So who was she?
He called in some favors and soon had another investigator with significant contacts on the case. By the end of the second week, Nicholas Dyonysus had his answers. True, Allie Daniels did not exist, but Alexandria Danielle Mason did exist and he had a complete, if somewhat limited, dossier on her to prove it. Alexandria was a thirty-one-year-old best-selling author, writing under two pseudonyms - Amber MacWilliams in the romance category, and Jake Shane in the mystery/murder/intrigue category. She was extremely prolific, having written well over a hundred novels in eleven years. She did not talk to the press with the exception of a very rare phone interview and was never photographed, not even for her book covers. She did no promotion tours, nor did she accept awards in person, despite having been recognized by several prominent literary societies.
She maintained one residence in Durango, Colorado. Personal details on her life from the past eleven years were practically non-existent. Childhood details were even scarcer. Born in Columbus, Ohio, parents killed in an automobile accident when she was six, multiple foster child placements, two years of college and then she vanished except for utility and tax records. She gave to organizations that helped children, and paid her taxes on time. No arrests, but had accumulated five speeding tickets, seven moving violations, eight minor accidents in the last five years. She owned one car, a Mini-Cooper convertible. She traveled some, mostly to Hawaii or Alaska and always stayed in very good hotels. Her publishers refused any and all requests for information or contact information except through them.
Jake tossed the dossier on the coffee table. Other than being a very bad driver, Alexandria Mason was a non-entity. Why would a woman, try to disappear? With her talent, her beauty, why had she chosen to become invisible?
* * * * *
Allie stretched her tired body, saved her files, and shut down her computer. She was exhausted. They’d come faster than usual this time, but she was used to the process. The characters started talking, becoming louder and louder, and then it became a race to get the words down. Allie knew she was different. She didn’t write like most writers. She didn’t outline, she didn’t plan, and she didn’t plot. They�her characters�always did that for her. She’d have to read through it again, of course. She had to make sure the little details were there, the hints and plot twists; it all had to be perfect before she sent it off to her publishers, but she had time. The story was done. They had come and gone. In a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, they would come again. She needed a long hot shower, a long sleep, and something to eat. She stood up and was surprised to find herself dizzy. That wasn’t usual. After they came, she was always tired, her eyes exhausted, her vision a bit blurry. She usually had a headache and a stiff neck from the hours she spent in front of the computer. That was the usual. She swayed and picked up a bottle of water, drank from it and forced herself to her feet.
She felt better after the shower and better still after eating a Twinkie and drinking some more water. What she needed now was sleep. She’d eat a proper meal once she woke up. She chose a pretty lavender silk chemise with a lace inset in the front and a pair of matching panties. Allie loved beautiful lingerie. It was her only vice, beyond her absolute devotion to her writing. She stepped out onto the balcony realizing that it was sunset. Vaguely she thought that she needed to check what day it was, and check her e-mail. As she stood in the brilliant colors, her vision blurred, and she slipped into unconsciousness.
* * * * *
Nicholas was frustrated and angry. He didn’t have time for this crap. He realized that Alexandria Danielle Mason was becoming a beautiful, elusive obsession. He was wasting time, energy, and money, with no exact goal in mind. That wasn’t like him, but at the same time, he felt an excitement in the possibilities of what he might discover. He stepped out onto the balcony and froze. There she was again, just as he’d seen her before, simply beautiful. He starred across at her. Then, as he watched, she slumped against the railing and fell to the flooring. In horror, he saw her thin body slip under the railing. One moment she’d been standing, the next she was dangling by just one foot from the balcony.
Nicholas ran from his suite, following the curve of the hotel hallway as he counted down suite numbers. He knew she was in the last one, and had almost reached it when he nearly plowed over a maid coming out of the elevator with her cart. She screamed. He kept running until he got to the door.
“Do you have a key to 505?” he shouted back at the maid.
The maid looked at him, shocked and scared.
“Call 911!” Nicholas ordered and rammed his shoulder against the door again and again until, on the fourth strike, the door casings gave way. He backed up and kicked the rest of the way through and raced for the balcony. Allie was hanging there, her ankle wedged in a metal planter, under the balcony casement. He grabbed her lower leg in a vice-like grip and tried to pull, but too much of her body weight was dangling in mid-air for him to move her upward.
Nicholas looked up see two security guards. “Get over here!” he snarled but the guards were already moving forward to help. He released one of his hands from her leg and grabbed one of the guards’ arms and placed it above his own. “Don’t let go!� God help me, I’ll kill you if you let go!”
As the guard tightened his grip, Nicholas climbed over the balcony railing. He was five stories above the ground. Hooking one hand into the railings, he leaned down with the other to support Allie with a death grip on her body. He turned back to the guard. “Pull!”
He kept his grip as first one guard lifted and then another as he steadied her body. By the time he was supporting her shoulders and head, a team of three was guiding her body back to the other side of the balcony railing. When Nicholas saw her head go under the edge of the stainless steel balcony railing, he climbed over to the other side and collapsed onto the floor. He pulled her into his lap as he held her tightly. He had her. He would never let her go again.
It took a few minutes before Nicholas Dyonysus, a man who was always in control of every situation, to realize that there were a dozen people in the suite trying to crowd out onto the balcony. There were security guards, managers, maids, and maintenance. People were everywhere, excited and chattering. He held onto Allie until a man who identified himself as a doctor arrived. The doctor kept everyone out of the room while he examined her and reported his findings to the manager. Nicholas, standing only two feet away heard every word of the report.
“Her vital signs are stable, but she’s going to need to be hospitalized for some tests,” the doctor was saying. “It will take lab work to confirm it, but I’d say dehydration, maybe malnutrition, exhaustion. Those are rough guesses only. Has an ambulance been called?”
“It should be on the way,” the manager confirmed.
“How good is the hospital here?” Nicholas demanded stepping up to join the conversation.
“Very good,” the doctor said annoyed at his interference. When the EMT’s showed up with a gurney, he turned to relay his findings to them. “She’s bruising already. Make sure the hospital x-rays the foot and ankle.”
“I’m coming with her,” Nicholas stated.
“You’ll have to follow, sir,” one of EMT technicians advised. “Usually only immediate family is allowed and that’s only when it involves a child.”
“I’m her fianc�,” Nicholas declared forcefully.
Nicholas ordered the manager to cordon off suite 505 and post a guard at the broken door. Then, he called his good friend, Macland Bassinger, a physician and a pilot, as he followed the EMT’s taking Alexandria to the ambulance.
Alexandria Mason slept the through the tests. She slept through the diagnosis of exhaustion and malnutrition and through the IV’s that were administered to combat dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance.
Nicholas hovered closely, posing as her fianc�. Although the hospital wasn’t allowed to give him direct information, he was able to assimilate enough information on her condition and treatments to understand the issues. With Alexandria sedated and quite safe in the hospital, he returned to the Hau‘oli Resort and went directly to her suite. He identified himself to the guard and was pleased when the guard took the time to validate with the manager that he could enter. He studied the suite critically. The laptop computer was off. He turned it on. Good, no password. He checked to find the last files closed. He looked for the files statistics, the origination date and time, ending date and time, and word count. In fourteen days, and most probably the nights too, Alexandria Mason had written 220,000 words. He closed the file without even glancing at the content. He opened her e-mail, seeking more information on what could have precipitated her collapse. It had been fourteen days, since any e-mail had been opened or sent. He logged off and surveyed the room. There was a case of water but only eight bottles were missing. The bags of snack food he’d seen her buy were lined up on a credenza, but the trashcans showed little evidence that she had eaten very much of it. The trashcan contained empty single Twinkie packages, one single cupcake wrapper, two small empty potato chip bags, one empty corn chip bag, and a dozen individual M&M candy wrappers.
He checked the bags of snack food. There were plenty of chips and cupcakes and Twinkies, no more M&M’s. In a hotel with a world-renowned restaurant and room service, she ate junk food. He called the manager and asked a question, demanded to have an answer in five minutes, and moved off into the bedroom.
There was one empty medium-sized suitcase. Only one bureau drawer was used, holding several pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts, and the sweatshirt. He was right. This wasn’t just small women’s clothing, but boys clothing. There were also a pair boy’s sneakers. From his experience with women, he couldn’t imagine a woman traveling with only one pair of shoes. He opened another drawer and one eyebrow rose. His phone rang; he got his answer and hung up. He’d learned from the room service manager that very few of the meal carts that had been delivered to her suite had been touched; mostly they had remained ignored in the hallway.
He turned his attention back to the contents of the drawer and slowly drew out the lovely lingerie. Alexandria Mason may have dressed like an adolescent boy during the day, but at night, she wore silk chemises tastefully accented with lace. The garments were sexy without being deliberately provocative.
The bathroom contained simple but expensive toiletries. No make-up, no jewelry.
Alexandria Mason didn’t just write mysteries, she was a mystery. She was an exotic beauty that did nothing to enhance her looks, but instead masked them behind male trappings in public. In private, however, she indulged in the ultimate of femininity.
Nicholas’ phone rang and again his answer was short and precise. The private plane he had requested was in route and received the ETA on its arrival. Then, with one phone call to the hotel manager, he issued a directive that all the balcony doors were to be locked. Hotel clients were to be offered compensation if they chose to remain in residence or arrangements would be made for accommodations elsewhere at the hotel’s expense. There was a major safety deficiency in the design of the balcony encasements, and it was to be resolved immediately. He returned to his suite, packed his belongings, and checked out. On his orders, Alexandria Mason’s belongings were moved to another suite and the manager was to inform her on her return that suite 505 was being repaired.
* * * * *
Allie Mason woke up late that evening. She was groggy, tired, and aching everywhere. A doctor came in during the late evening hours, explained her condition, and suggested that she check herself into an eating disorders rehabilitation center. She dismissed that advice. She didn’t have an eating disorder and demanded to know when she could be released. She wanted to be released immediately, but after discussing the matter with the doctor in charge, agreed to allow them more time to assess her health issues. For two days, she was poked and prodded as more tests were taken, more IV’s inserted. On the third morning, at her insistence, she was released. A nurse provided her a set of used, but clean hospital scrubs to wear out, as she had no clothing. The volunteers at the hospital main desk called her a cab and she returned to the Hau‘oli Resort.
Allie was exhausted and on her arrival was informed that her belongings had been moved to another suite. The Manager greeted her graciously, explaining that after her accident a passerby had broken down her door to save her. Until the door was repaired, he said apologetically, she’d have to make do with another room.
Allie felt so weak that very little of what was being said to her was actually registering. All she wanted was a bed to crawl into so she could take a painkiller and get some sleep. She followed the manager to the new suite, nodding vaguely at his apologies and assurances that her personal items had been safeguarded during her hospital stay. His further assurances that she would not be charged for her stay at the Hau‘oli made her more impatient than grateful. She only wanted him to go away. After three days in the hospital, she needed peace and quiet. She needed to be alone. She finally closed the door, checked around vaguely to make sure her computer and clothing were there, took the pill, and climbed into bed.
Several hours later, a team of highly trained ex-paramilitary men came quietly into Allie’s suite. The team included a physician, who gave her a sedative that put her into an even deeper sleep. Her belongings were removed. She was wrapped in a blanket, put into a rolling cart, and whisked away quickly. The entire mission only took twelve minutes.
At the same time, a team of computer experts was effectively erasing any and all telltale evidence within the hotel computers of her stay at the resort. Employees would remember her vaguely, but it was a large and busy resort; guests came and guests went. Unless someone questioned her disappearance, her stay would fade from their memories, as did all the hotel clients.
Allie Mason was taken to the airport, put onto a private plane, and whisked away.