Unravel Me, page 1
About the Publisher
I’m a former TV news writer who took the plunge and finally wrote a novel. I know, right? Insanity. Prior to jumping into novel writing, I spent the majority of my career working in radio and television as a promotions director, writer and associate producer. I love any job that is challenging and creative. I grew up in a small town in Rhode Island before spreading my wings to discover this great, big world. Traveling, like writing, has become a necessary part of my life. My favorite place is and always will be London. It’s my home away from home. For now, I’m a displaced New Englander hanging my hat in Northern California. If you can see me through the fog, wave hello.
You can follow me on Twitter @LynnMontagano.
For the girls who are my real life Lia and Stephanie; Bethany, Crissy, Deana, Kelly, Jenny, Renee and Tamara.
Deana and Renee - thanks for always knowing what group we’re in and where my comb is. I hope you make it off the island soon.
Kelly, Jenny and Tamara - even though we’re scattered around the country, I couldn’t have asked for a better, more fabulous group of ladies to be lucky enough to call my longtime friends. Heart you guys! Can we all be in one state at the same time someday soon?!
Crissy - thanks for being my partner in crime and joining me on many, many adventures through Orlando, Scotland and England.
Bethany - My sister from another mister. Thanks for all the pep talks, laughter and crazy poses on roller coasters.
The newsroom was in a frenzy. A meth lab had exploded in one of the motels along US 192 westbound. Nobody was hurt but most of the rooms had to be evacuated. I was in the middle of typing the reporter’s package intro, ignoring the steady beeping of my cell phone. It was Stephanie. She’d been texting me all day, presumably to continue her barrage of insults.
“Did the keyboard do something to piss you off?”
I stopped pounding my fingers against the keys and looked up, meeting the bright, almond eyes of my co-worker and cubemate, Sydney Makeeda.
“Didn’t even realize I was doing it, Syd.”
She laughed. “I can tell. I thought your hand was going to smash through the desk. Everything okay?”
“For a Tuesday? Mostly.”
“How’s that delicious British boyfriend of yours?”
I couldn’t help but smile. Alastair Holden always had that effect on me. “He’s good. He flew back to Glasgow though. I guess they needed him at headquarters.”
She let out a low whistle. “Hot, English and the head of a media company. Can you and I trade lives for, like, ten minutes? Don’t tell Ray.”
“Sydney!” I laughed.
“Will he be back soon? I can tell you miss him like crazy.”
“I hope so.”
Mindful not to abuse the keys anymore, I finished typing the intro and sent a message to my executive producer, Jeanie, so she could take a look. An alert from the Associated Press dinged on everyone’s computer like a warped version of Carole of the Bells. Amid the chaos, my desk phone rang.
“Lia Meyers,” I answered a little more haughtily than normal.
“I want to offer you an exclusive interview.”
The low voice with a slight rasp made me sit up straight.
“I’m not interested, Nathan,” I grumbled, pissed off that my ex-boyfriend had the balls to call me at work. Or at all.
“You should be.” His smugness seeped through the phone. “I’ve considered every station in Orlando but want to give it to you.”
Stretching back in my seat, I took a deep breath. Securing an interview with him would rank highly with my news director. Bruce loves this exclusive shit, especially when it involves a U.S. senator’s son who also happens to be an influential businessman.
“What’s it about?”
“Still as inquisitive as ever,” he chuckled.
If I could have reached through the phone and torn out his vocal cords I would have done.
“It’s a perfectly normal question to ask. What is it?”
“Some damaging information has come to light about a prominent figure. That’s all I can say right now without giving too much away.”
I squirmed in the chair. His pompous attitude irked me.
“Alright,” I said. “How do you want to do this?”
“Have dinner with me tonight and we’ll discuss the details.”
I drummed my fingers on the desk. “There’s always an underlying scheme with you, isn’t there?”
He laughed. “Come on, Sparkle. It’s a business meeting. My treat, of course.”
“We don’t need to have dinner to finalize an interview. We can hash it out right now on the phone.”
“No, we can’t.” His tone was clipped. “I have a conference call that started five minutes ago. Felicia will email you with the restaurant information. I’ll see you at eight.”
He killed the call before I had a chance to react. Dinner with him? My skin crawled. I didn’t want to be in the same city as him, let alone share a table at a restaurant. A notification appeared in my inbox. Grimacing, I read the message from his assistant. He’d made reservations at Norman’s in the Ritz. Our restaurant. Rubbing my temples I stood up and walked to Bruce Singleton’s office.
“Lia. I was just going to call you.” My news director hunched over his computer, squinting at the screen. All the frizzy mad scientist hair on his head bobbed as he nodded at an invisible request. “Sit, sit.”
“I’ve heard from Nathan Greyson.” I didn’t wait for Bruce to initiate whatever it was he wanted. “He says he’ll give us an exclusive interview about something. Did you reach out to his public relations team recently?”
“No. Did he tell you what it was about?” Bruce eyed me curiously.
My mind raced. What does he want?
“Something about information coming to light involving a prominent figure. I’m going to meet, um, call him back later. As soon as I know anything more, I’ll fill you in.”
We chatted for a few minutes about the evening show before I went back to my desk. I had some down time before the broadcast went live and decided to call Stephanie.
“Hey,” she answered after the first ring.
The awkward pause between us made me cringe
“What are you doing tonight?” She broke the silence first. I slumped in my chair.
“I’m supposed to have dinner with Nathan, believe it or not.”
“Are you shitting me? Why?”
“He wants to give us some exclusive interview about something,” I sighed.
“So where does the dinner come in all this?”
“You know him. There’s always an ulterior motive.”
“Are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? You’re not going. Simple as that.”
“Lia, he’s an asshole. If he wants to give you guys an interview you can talk to him on the phone about it. He knows that. You know that. Come on.”
I’d just about had it with Stephanie’s attitude in recent days so her proclamations, although correct, pissed me off. I’m not a helpless animal.
“Look, I appreciate your concern or whatever but I’m going. End of story.”
“Do you need me to book a table at the same restaurant in case he tries something?”
“No. Your covert operations aren’t necessary but thanks.”
Silence. Again. My eye twitched.
“Did Alastair go back to Glasgow?”
“Yeah. He left this morning.”
“That was quick,” she muttered. “How long was he here? Two weeks?”
“Well, be careful,” she said, sounding grim. “I still don’t trust him.”
“Let’s not start this again, okay?”
“I can’t help it, Lia. It’s like you’re ignoring everything that happened at the estate.”
“We’re working through all that,” I said, my jaw tight.
“Right. I forgot. He collared you with a diamond necklace and all of a sudden he’s Prince Charming.”
“He didn’t collar me.”
“Whatever. He’s manipulating you. He’s using your feelings for him to control you.”
I played with the diamond-encrusted ‘A’ hanging from my neck. “And you know this how? You barely acknowledged him when he was here.”
“I hear things. His reputation isn’t the greatest when it comes to women.”
“You hear things. From who? Darren?”
“No.” She paused. “Cassie.”
I rolled my eyes. Cassie Zanor was the graphic design manager at the company that recently hired my best friend, Stephanie. They happened to be located in Glasgow and did most of the marketing campaigns for Alastair’s company. For some reason, Stephanie had been taking everything this girl said as gospel.
“She doesn’t know him,” I replied smoothly. “Neither do you.”
“How well do you know him, Lia?” she shot back. “From what I’ve heard, he’s a master at concealing his motives. He takes what he wants and disposes of it when he’s had enough. Look how easily he pushed you aside in England. You think he won’t do that again?”
My heart rate increased making the blood pound in my ears. Stephanie always knew how to play on my deepest fears with precision. Taking a few cleansing breaths, I stamped down my burgeoning anger.
“I appreciate your concern but you have to stop. I’m not doing this while I’m at work.”
The message line on the rundown beeped. One body found at the scene. Not explosion related. Cradling the phone against my shoulder, I typed a quick reply to Tyler’s message asking him to send more information when he talked to the police.
“You sound busy. Give me a call later.”
“Yeah. There’s a breaking story. Bye.” Annoyed, I slammed the phone down and tried to focus on the rest of the show.
* * *
I sat at the impeccably set table in the restaurant, dreading Nathan’s arrival. I hadn’t seen him since he thought letting himself into my apartment was a smart way to win back my affections. I shivered. Not even the soothing shades of ivory and yellows calmed me. Of course he’d arranged it so we were sitting at our table by the picture window. Glancing around the cozy, circular dining room I watched other patrons enjoy their meals, drinking with ease and engaging in relaxed conversation. I sipped my Prosecco, hoping it would take the edge off.
A low hum of chatter vibrated through the room. Looking up, I saw Nathan striding toward the table. All eyes were on him. His tall, powerful body was complimented by a stunning double-breasted gray suit which had been paired with a sapphire tie to match his eyes. He looked every bit the privileged son of a U.S. Senator. Too bad he’s such a possessive, controlling asshole.
“Lia.” His smile spread easily. Unbuttoning his jacket, he sat across from me. “Thank you for agreeing to see me.”
“Like I had a choice,” I muttered.
“You always have a choice,” he said softly. I shot him a skeptical glance. I knew this act far too well.
“What do you want? I’d rather not spend my entire night here.”
“Relax. Have some more wine. This won’t take long but I’d prefer not to jump right into business.” Something in his tone made my hair stand on end.
He waved the server over and ordered a bottle of champagne, along with oysters and shrimp ceviche. My guard sprang up, rigid and unyielding. He’d ordered my favorite appetizers. What’s going on?
“How’s married life treating your sister?” He ran a hand through his short, sandy blond hair.
“Dayna’s fine,” I snapped. “What do you want?”
Smoothing down his tie, he leaned forward. The unflinching gaze he locked on me froze my blood. I sipped my sparkling wine, waiting for his response.
“I want to apologize. For everything. The fight when you thought you were pregnant. The Black and White Ball. Waiting in your apartment. I realize that I wasn’t the best version of myself when we were together. You deserved better from me.”
Dumbfounded, I stared at him. This wasn’t the first time he’d apologized. I had a mental rolodex of remorseful statements he’d professed over the past two years. Something about this one unnerved me. Sincerity reflected deeply in his eyes. Clutching the cloth napkin on my lap, I wet my lips. My instincts remained on high alert.
“I’m going to take that at face value and say thank you,” I said slowly. “Why are you saying this now?”
Settling back into his chair, he shrugged. His eyes coasted over the diamond necklace resting on my neck.
“Holden give you that?”
I stiffened. “Yes.”
He smirked. “A bit understated for a media mogul, no?”
“Some people don’t have a need to flaunt their wealth. You should try it.”
“Don’t underestimate him, Lia. He’s worth billions and controls Britain’s top media enterprise. Now that they’re buying up stations here, he’s going to be more conscious of who he allows into his inner circle. He may not be flashing his cash with cars and jewelry but he is in other ways. If you don’t believe it, you’re not paying close enough attention.”
The palms of my hands ached from my nails digging into the skin.
“I’m not telling you this to hurt you or start a fight,” he continued. “I know his type. The Holden family name rests upon his decisions now. It’s a huge burden. One false step and the empire goes down the drain.”
Nausea rolled through my stomach as the server arrived and placed our appetizers on the table. Nathan leisurely reached for an oyster, enjoying it without a care in the world. I refused to let myself become consumed with his words.
“You don’t know anything about him.”
“Did you tell him where I worked and where I’d be on the day he showed up unannounced?”
A harsh breath pushed out of my mouth.
“Exactly,” he stated. “That Brit has just as many, if not more, resources than I do.”
The annoying, self-gratifying grin on his face drove me mad. Bastard.
“Stalking is your territory, not his. Don’t lump him into the same low-life category as you just because he sucker punched you.”
I’d defend Alastair until I took my last breath. An overwhelming emptiness filled me. I missed him. I wanted him here, not thousands of miles away.
“He’s lucky I’m not a petty man. I could have reported him for aggravated assault.”
Nathan’s voice clung to me like barbed wire. His dark blue irises slid over my face. Reaching across the table, he lifted my hand. His touch made me cringe but I couldn’t make a move. Too many eyes casually watched us and if I m
“You know how this works, Sparkle. I vetted you long before asking you on our first date. I didn’t do it because I got off on having that kind of power. I did it to protect my family name.”
“So, the stalking and the jealousy and the possessiveness were an added bonus?”
Narrowing his eyes slightly, Nathan squeezed my hand. “Do you have any idea how rare and special you are? A woman like you doesn’t come around more than once in a man’s life. I did what I had to do to keep you in mine.”
“And look how that ended,” I snickered.
Pain and regret ravaged his face. I was so used to Alastair’s stony façade I’d forgotten how expressive Nathan could be. A twinge of guilt spread through me conflicting wildly with the general feeling of disgust I’d had since he called me. This whole dinner meeting felt strange, more like an act of contrition than business. But why? What did Nathan have to gain by being so forthcoming with me? An image of him punching the wall inches away from my head hijacked my mind. A sliver of terror streaked through me. I pulled my hand away from him. Contrite or not, he could be dangerous when he wanted. Reaching for the ceviche, I pushed aside my anxiety.
“So what’s this exclusive story you have?”
He grinned. “Business already? We haven’t ordered our main dishes yet. Patience. I’ll tell you.”
“You’ll tell me now or this dinner ends. I’ve spent more than enough time listening to your bullshit.”