Chapter Twelve

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He fumbled for the knob on the dashboard, turning the stereo up as loud as it would go. Cruising along the winding road, he slammed the gearshift forcibly into place. The headlights of the European roadster cut through the dark October night and his mind raced as fast as the engine. He took each curve with devilish delight, pushing the machine to its limit. Every mile gained equaled one minute closer to her. Closer to his Holly.

They hadn't seen each other for ten days. Ten long, painful days, as Holly and Zander began the task of dividing up their vast estate. Multiple investments, properties, and half a dozen homes they shared around the world, all the subject of great debate. In the end she gave up, opting for a life with Jack against any sort of monetary gain that would result from the pending divorce. She quietly signed her Mrs. Deming holdings away, save their cottage on Martha's Vineyard and a house in Aspen.

It bothered him that they fought more than ever since she'd left her husband. Suddenly, with Zander out of the way, their life seemed to be more difficult. The rumors. The press. Everywhere Holly went, someone was on her heels looking for a comment or photo. The quiet nights spent holed up together in a dark hotel room were no more. At times, Jack Steele wished they'd left things as they were. He longed for the nights of secret meetings and wrapping his arms around a woman that wasn't fully his.

"When I'm tired and thinking cold...I hide in my music, forget the day...and dream of a girl I used to know...I closed my eyes and she slipped away...."

The music reached its crescendo and he pressed the accelerator to the floor. The wind blew in his hair and he remembered the expression on Holly's face after sharing their first kiss in her hotel suite. It brought a smile to his face but one that was quickly wiped away, illuminated by the lights of the tractor trailer truck swerving dangerously into his lane.

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They sat at a corner booth toasting good health and good fortune with tankards of the old man's favorite, Norse Porter. He entertained them for a full hour with a collection of tales before donning his hat and bidding them goodnight. Will stood and shook his hand warmly, realizing for the first time that he was a lot like his father-in-law. Real. Genuine. Looking to protect those he cared about.

"I don't know, Chuck. This one seems too good to be true." Slats slipped his hands into his pockets. "Well groomed. Good manners." He looked Will up and down. "Nice shoes too."

"I didn't know I was here for inspection." Will gave her a wink.

"We're business associates, Slats. I work for Mr. Abbott." She adjusted the collar of his jacket. "But thanks for sharing your observations."

"You must be one smooth customer, Mister." The man whispered with a grin. "'Cause it's you who should be working for her."

He turned on his heel and shuffled out of the crowded bar, not bothering to look back. Will stood shaking his head for a moment before taking his seat once more. Charlotte sighed heavily then buried her head in her hands in embarrassment.

"I am so sorry about that." She bravely brought her eyes up to his.

"It's okay, really." He smiled reassuringly.

"I guess I should have warned you ahead of time." She nervously rolled up the corner of her cocktail napkin. "It's the old man's mission in life."

"What is?" Will asked, downing the last of his drink.

"To find me a man."

"I'm sure his heart is in the right place. I doubt you need any help in that department."

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