Their Seductress

By: Zara Chase

Chapter One

“Can we get that for you, ma’am?”

“I can manage, thanks.”

Paige kept moving, waving aside the two overenthusiastic baggage handlers. It had taken half an hour for the blasted bag to appear on the carrousel. No way was she letting it go again just so she could ride the shuttle to the main terminal without dragging it along behind her. She could feel the two guys eyeing her butt as she wheeled her bag away and almost smiled for the first time in what felt like forever. It was good to know that the world outside her private grief was still functioning so predictably.

A large pair of sunglasses covered half of Paige’s face as she strode through the arrivals hall. They weren’t there to offset the fierce glare of the Floridian sun. She hadn’t stepped foot outside yet, and it could be pouring with rain for all she knew. The shades were to conceal eyes red-rimmed from crying. She had sobbed her way through the nine-hour transatlantic flight from London, oblivious to the stares from her fellow passengers and concerned offers of help from the flight attendants. She just wanted to be left alone to wallow in her misery.

Each time she thought about the reason for her unexpected trip, her breath caught in her throat, the hollow feeling in her gut spread to the rest of her body, and the tears went into free fall. Her boss, mentor, and dearest friend was gone from her life forever, snatched away in her prime, just like Doug had been. It felt as though everyone she cared about was being taken from her in the cruellest way imaginable. It felt personal, and Paige wasn’t sure she was strong enough to withstand the pain—not when she was still mourning the loss of Doug.

Tears of grief and self-pity leaked from the corners of Paige’s eyes, blurring her vision. Ellie hadn’t been struck down by an incurable illness, a traffic accident, or a heart attack. Paige might have come to terms with her loss if that had been the case. But this? Ms. Ellie Carter, flamboyant publicist, media darling, dominatrix extraordinaire, and widow of multimillionaire Greg Carter, had been brutally murdered in broad daylight in her own office.

Paige reached the bottom of the escalator at Tampa International Airport, sniffed back a fresh onset of tears, and looked about to see if she recognized anyone waiting there. Ellie’s lawyer had broken the terrible news over the phone before the media got wind of it, sent her a business-class ticket to Tampa, and told her she’d be met. That was all she knew. She would have come anyway, simply to attend the funeral, but she was now curious to know why Lawson needed her here.

“Ms. Fairfax, over here.”

Paige recognized the large black man in a chauffeur’s uniform pushing through the gaggle of people congregated just inside the automatic doors. He was from a firm that had often driven Ellie. What the hell was his name?

“Ms. Fairfax, it’s Paul.”

Of course. “Hello, Paul. Thanks for meeting me.”

“No problem.”

He took her bag and led her to the elevators. “We’re just up a few floors in the parking garage. Damned cops won’t let you stop even for a moment outside.”

“Airport security, what can I say?”

“Yeah, you’re right. Paranoid don’t begin to cover it.”

The elevator arrived, and Paige stepped inside, grateful for the distraction of Paul’s mindless chatter.

“It’s a dreadful thing,” he said, stowing Paige’s case in the trunk of a black Lincoln Town Car and opening the rear door for her. “Ms. Carter being taken like that, I mean. We’re all, like, totally shocked. She was a real nice lady. Always had time for everyone.”

“Yes, she did.” Paige sank into the soft leather seat with a heavy sigh.

“Who’d wanna kill her?” Paul asked, steering the big car round the exit ramp and hitting the freeway. “It don’t make no sense.”

“No, it certainly doesn’t.” Paige closed her eyes. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“I was told to take you to Ms. Carter’s residence on St. Pete Beach.”

Paige had suspected as much. “I see. Is there anyone else there?”

“I wouldn’t know about that.”

Paige assumed that Nick would be around. He was the captain of Ellie’s yacht, amongst other things. Nick could turn his hand to just about anything and was trusted by Ellie to carry out all manner of negotiations for her that had little to do with the marine industry. Since the yacht was moored on Ellie’s private dock at the end of the garden and since Nick lived on that boat, where else would he be? Paige didn’t know if she was more reassured or agitated at the prospect of seeing him again. She blushed when she thought of the circumstances under which they’d last met, disgusted with herself when she felt dampness seeping through her panties. How could she even think about sex when her friend had just been brutally murdered?

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