Kayce kept herself busy making preparations for her and Steve’s Washington D.C. wedding until Rudy cleared her for active duty. She had finally met her future in-laws shortly after the couple’s second engagement. She was surprised that neither Helen nor Jim had asked them any questions regarding why it was broken off in the first place. It was apparent to the young woman that Steve’s parents, both loving and concerned, were not overly involved in their only son’s life, which was a relief to Kayce.
As she jumped into her car to meet with the hotel manager and wedding coordinator her thoughts unexpectedly flashed back to her first mother-in-law, Cecelia Ashbury, wife of the renowned Dr. David Ashbury II. A wicked smile fell upon Kayce’s face. That woman was one overpowering parent. Nothing was too good for her only child and she kept a hand in every aspect of her son’s life. Unfortunately she always felt Kayce was never good enough for her beloved offspring and reminded Kayce every chance she got. The fact that Kayce held a Ph.D. did nothing for her case. It almost gave the older woman a stroke when Dr. David Ashbury III proudly announced his engagement to the young psychologist.
That controlling woman tried everything in her power to convince Kayce to call off the wedding, even offering her $10,000 to move out of the state and never speak to David again. But Kayce was young and thought she was in love. She overlooked his premarital roaming eye telling herself she was being paranoid. Following his blatant marital infidelity she realized she never should have married him. Her former mother-in-law was nothing less than ecstatic when Kayce and David finally divorced four years later. Cecelia wasted no time telling all her Country Club socialites that Kayce was not wife material and caused the divorce. Kayce sighed as she remembered what she learned from the marital experience and knew her marriage to Steve would be much different.
The bride-to-be let her smile turn into a grin as she pulled into the parking lot at the thought of marrying her knight in shining armor. She just hoped they could pull off a wedding in four weeks.
After the two-hour meeting the plans were mostly complete. Kayce left with the confidence that the hotel staff and wedding coordinator could fulfill all her simple wishes even if she and Steve were sent out of the country before their nuptials. She just hoped the next month would lack the drama they had been experiencing lately. She had enough to last her for a year. Feeling almost giddy she hopped into her government issued Mercedes convertible and headed into town to do some shopping.
He watched her from his tan rental car, smiling when the sandy-haired woman came into view. He breathed deep realizing he could never get enough of that woman. She was like a drug to him. It had been years since he had laid eyes on Dr. Kayce Ashbury and she was still as beautiful as he remembered, although her hair was much shorter then when he had known her. He pulled into the light traffic a few cars behind her not wanting to show his hand just yet, knowing he had to be patient. He was never good at delaying gratification; his psychiatrist had said so on many occasions.
After following her on all her errands he stopped his car at the curb a few houses down the street and watched her car drive up the driveway to a quaint ranch style house. He pulled his high-powered binoculars from his duffle bag and watched her exit the vehicle. His anger rose when a male figure entered his magnified view and exchanged a few words with her. The voyeur gritted his teeth as the brown-haired man wrapped his arms around the pretty woman and kissed her hard.
The shadow remained unnoticed as the couple carried four bags of purchases into the house. He sighed as he placed his binoculars on the car seat. He knew what his first step needed to be, prevent the wedding from happening. She belonged with him and no one would get in his way.
It took a full four weeks to finalize his intricate plans so there was no chance of failure. The mentally ill young man was a very thorough planner that was just part of his personality disorder. Not only was his initial plan in place but he also had a contingency plan in case the first one was unsuccessful. He smiled a perfect-toothed smile as he packed all the needed items in his black bag imagining what his psychiatrist would think of his plans, wondering what other labels he would be given.
The four weeks of wedding planning flew by with both Kayce and Steve being sent separately on uneventful domestic assignments. Now the couple occupied their bed feeling relieved that in 12 hours they would be man and wife and be on their Paris honeymoon for two weeks. Kayce lay with her head in the crook of Steve’s arm, her hand on his chest and asked, “Steve, who Jaime Sommers?”
Steve was a little surprised by the question, “Where did you hear that name?” He asked curiously.
She smiled, “When you were in the hospital after Dolenz… well… you know, I ran into her and she introduced herself. In fact she said that you told her a lot about me. I was just wondering who she was and why you would be talking to her about me.”
Steve gave her a crooked grin hearing the slight jealous tone in her voice. “We grew up together.”
“Were you two engaged at one time?”
Steve’s nod surprised Kayce. “AND?”
“Obviously we didn’t get married.” He chuckled. “Why is this so important? It’s ancient history.”
“You don’t believe me?” He asked as he removed his arm from under her shoulders.
“I believe you are over her but don’t be so sure she is over you.”
Steve’s brow shot up in response, “What that supposed to mean?”
“I saw the way she held your hand and touched your face when you were unconscious. She even kissed you.” She said with a teasing tone while turning to face him, propped up on one elbow, her head resting in her hand. “In my personal, and professional, opinion she still loves you.”
“Kayce, we do love and care about each other very much but we aren’t ‘in love’ anymore. Okay?” He was getting concerned that her line of questioning would develop into the discussion of how he asked the OSI to make Jaime bionic, not to mention his trip to her house when Kayce was about to be offered bionic reconstruction. After placing a quick kiss on her lips Steve gave her a quick wink, “Just go to sleep.” He then rolled over on his side to face the wall.
He heard her exaggerated exhale but missed the small smirk as she rolled the other direction. After clicking off the nightstand light she settled herself and the pair quickly fell asleep.
At 1:00 am the stalker watching the residence saw the house fall into darkness. He frowned knowing he only had eleven hours to put his plan into action and stop the wedding. He jumped into his car and headed to the edge of town. After driving around for an hour, in an attempt to focus his thoughts, he pulled to the curb quickly. He immediately exited the vehicle and stepped into a phone booth. The deranged man dialed up the phone number he had committed to memory. Listening to it ring he anxiously looked around his moonlit surroundings for anyone that may be watching him When a sleepy voice answered on the third ring the caller was furious upon hearing the deep masculine tone knowing the woman he loved was probably lying right next to him.
“Hello?” Steve mumbled.
There was a moment of silence and Steve was about to hang up when the emotionless voice caught his ear, “Let Dr. Ashbury go. She isn’t yours. Set her free and I’ll leave you alone.” He hung up feeling he would give the misinformed man a chance to step out of the way before causing him any harm. It was the least he could do.
By the time the line was disconnected Steve was fully awake and dumbfounded. It took a few minutes for him to realize the caller was referring to Kayce. Since Steve only knew her as Kayce Myers he needed a second for it to sink in that her married name had been Ashbury. He stared at the receiver a moment before slowly placing it back onto the cradle. Kayce stirred and rolled over, “Who was it?” She asked in a sleepy voice without opening her eyes.
“Wrong number.” Steve replied plainly, knowing it wasn’t a complete lie since there was no one by that name at his residence. He watched her peaceful face as it sank deeper into the fluffy pillow and she swiftly fell back into a deep sleep. He knew how much she was looking forward to her wedding day and he couldn’t ruin it for her by adding more stress to an already frantic day. He slid his long frame further under the covers and unsuccessfully tried to find some restful sleep.
Steve stood perfectly still while his Best Man straightened his black bow tie. “Dad its fine.” Steve insisted as the telephone rang at the same time a knock sounded at the hotel room door. The groom went to answer the phone as Jim opened the door and allowed his wife to enter. Eyeing her handsome, tuxedo clad son busy on the phone she just softly asked her husband, “How is he doing?”
“Fine, he’s just waiting for ‘high noon’.” Jim replied with a smile.
Helen explained, “Well I’ll just go and see to the final seating for the reception. Tell Steve I’ll see him outside soon.” She gave a silent wave to her son before leaving.
Steve had grabbed the phone and the deep masculine voice on the other end grabbed his attention. The words were clear and the meaning unmistakable.
“This is your last warning, cancel your wedding to Dr. Ashbury or you’ll never make it to the altar alive. I guarantee it.” The distinct click of the broken connection was heard. Steve slowly replaced the receiver on the cradle realizing the voice was the same one that called him at 2:00 am this morning. The earlier message was a little more cryptic but carried the same message.
The groom took a deep breath and his father’s voice broke the silence, “Steve, are you alright?” He noticed his son was looking a little pale. “Yeah Dad I’m fine.” Steve answered absently as he glanced at his watch, 11:15. Walking to the mini bar he poured himself a stiff drink before stepping onto the patio. Jim watched him closely with concern when another knock on the door required his attention.
Steve took a large swig of his drink but was so deep in thought that he never noticed the intense burning sensation it caused in his throat. He watched the activity below him as the hotel staff and wedding coordinator scurried about putting the final touches on the white chairs and flowers that filled the sun-drenched courtyard. The faceless voice from the phone meandered through his mind. ‘Should I take the warning seriously? Kayce would be heart broken if the ceremony was cancelled. Should I tell Oscar?’ He glanced down at his watch again, 11:20 and took another swig of the amber liquid, rationalizing his choice of action. He decided to keep an eye out for anything unusual. The courtyard was secluded and with only 40 guests expected, all the faces would be familiar. He knew there was not enough time for Oscar to call in security agents without delaying the highly anticipated event. Besides, he told himself, the ceremony will be over in the next 45 minutes. He just couldn’t bring himself to disappoint his lovely bride on her special day.
Oscar and Rudy greeted Jim with handshakes as they stepped into the room. The two guests immediately saw Steve standing alone on the balcony, drink in hand, staring off into the distance. “Is your son a little nervous?” Oscar inquired with a nod.
Jim turned and glanced at his stepson, “He wasn’t until a few minutes ago. Maybe it’s finally hitting him.” Oscar and Rudy laughed as Steve stepped back into the room. “Hi Oscar, Rudy.”
The doctor was the only one to notice the emotion Steve was trying to keep hidden. ‘More like fear than nervousness’ Rudy thought to himself. “Are you okay Steve?” He asked with a furled brow seeing how distracted his friend was. “Ah…yeah Rudy…I’m fine.” He looked at his friends and forced a smile. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“No reason.” Oscar answered quickly giving Jim a wink.
“Well,” Jim said, “Are you ready? It’s almost 11:30.” He rested a paternal hand on his son’s shoulder. Steve held in a breath trying to subdue his growing anxiety while he placed his empty glass on the table. He winked at his Dad, “Ready and willing. Do you have the rings?” Jim patted his breast pocket, “Right here.”
The foursome headed to the elevator, Oscar and Rudy followed behind the familial pair listening to Jim recount how a seven-year-old Steve was the one who asked him to marry Helen. Father and son shared a laugh that caused Oscar and Rudy to smile. On the elevator ride down Oscar asked his friend curiously, “So Steve is it true you invited the Secretary to this wedding?”
Steve gave his friends a wicked grin and slid his hands into his pants pockets before answering matter-of-factly, “Of course. I figured since the Secretary was so concerned about my relationship with Kayce from the start it was the least I could do. In fact I hand delivered the invitation personally.” Rudy and Oscar just shook their heads at his brashness and chuckled.
The elevator doors opened and the group headed out towards the daylight. As they walked along the narrow sidewalk beside the hotel that would take them to the courtyard the three older men were making teasing comments about Steve’s nuptials. They didn’t notice the distracted groom had fallen a few steps behind. Steve’s gut instincts sounded a loud warning and he slowed his steps to quickly scan the surrounding windows and rooftops with his telephoto lens but found nothing. The three in front immediately noticed they had lost their charge and turned in unison. Steve began walking towards them wondering if he had lost his mind. They were all smiling thinking Steve was anxiously trying to avoid the ceremony.
As Steve got close to the trio the loud squeal of tires caught everyone’s attention. Steve turned and saw the vehicle’s lone occupant pointing a semi-automatic weapon out the car window. The side street was free of parked cars and traffic giving the shooter a clear view of his target over the neatly manicured shrubbery.
Steve was the fastest to react, pushing his friends and father out of harm’s way just as the bullets struck his chest, the impact sending him backwards through the hotel atrium’s glass wall. The three uninjured bystanders were stunned as Steve came to rest on his back, unmoving, with glass shards scattered around him.
The three ran to the unconscious man, stepping carefully onto the tile floor, crunching the clear glass under their dress shoes with each step. Rudy knelt by the fallen man and felt his pulse pounding furiously in his neck. Quickly opening the black tuxedo jacket he was bewildered at the sight of three bullet holes in the starched white shirt that produced no blood. Jim held his breath as the doctor called Steve’s name while ripping open the shirt. “My God he’s wearing a vest.” Rudy exclaimed with surprise sitting back on his heels. Steve stirred and moaned.
The instant he regained consciousness Steve was on his feet in one unbelievably smooth movement, adrenalin pumping wildly through his veins. Rudy swiftly but gently nudged him back against the closest wall trying to get him to focus. “Steve! Steve it’s okay!” The groom was panting as his heart still raced, his wide-eyed gaze sweeping his surroundings trying to comprehend the situation.
He gasped and choked out the word ‘damn’ as he clutched his chest in pain, slowly sliding down the wall until he was sitting on the floor, still breathing rapidly.
The hotel manager was at Goldman’s side demanding to know what was going on and wanting to call the police. Oscar, still unsure of the situation himself, glanced at the recovering groom and requested the police not be notified. Steve didn’t need news reporters swarming about. He smoothly explained to the flustered manager what transpired was merely a fraternity prank that got out of hand. He asked that the cost for damages incurred be added to the Austin’s wedding bill. The short and stocky manager eyed the tall, distinguished man unsure if he should believe him. Oscar saw his hesitation and commented, “You don’t want to delay Colonel Austin’s wedding anymore than it needs to be do you? I’m sure he is paying you a handsome fee for this event.” The manager took the hint and turned on his heels but not before glancing at the groom still seated on the floor between his father and his friend.
Oscar went to the three, “Rudy?”
The kneeling doctor looked over at the crouched pair on the other side of Steve to reply, “He took three hits but the bullet proof vest prevented any serious injury. He’ll be sore for awhile.” Steve didn’t say much and was grateful for his father’s assistance to stand. Finally getting his bearings he stated, “Let’s go back to the room, I don’t want Kayce to know about this.” Steve looked down at his dress shirt missing all but one button with three bullet holes across the chest and Jim read his concern, “I’ll see about getting you a new shirt.” Steve nodded, “Thanks Dad.”
Oscar and Rudy went with Steve back to the room, his steps a little slower than normal. While waiting for the elevator Rudy grabbed some aspirin from the concierge. The ride up to the room was silent. Steve was fighting the throbbing in his head, feeling a lump forming on the back of his head from hitting the ceramic tile floor. The groom was also waiting for his overly quiet boss to explode. In the room Steve asked Oscar to phone Kayce’s room to tell her the ceremony was being delayed half an hour as he gingerly slid his jacket and vest off. His friend did as he requested simply telling Kayce Steve’s tuxedo was damaged but a new one was on its way.
Kayce hung up the phone and asked Helen to notify the appropriate people. After her mother-in-law left Kayce took a seat on the bed, careful not to wrinkle her simple, form-fitting ivory gown. Sarah, her best friend and Maid of Honor, offered her a glass of wine, which Kayce declined.
“Well, at least let me finish putting these flower buds in your hair.” She stated as she stepped behind the bride. Sarah had known Kayce since college and through her first marriage. She was happy that Kayce had fallen in love again.
“So tell me Sarah, how many people did you tell about my wedding?” Kayce knew her friend loved to share news with their friends back home.
“I’ll have you know I only told Mary Carpenter. She was shocked but seemed genuinely happy for you.” Kayce became quiet as she remembered the crush Mary had on her first husband. Sarah finished with the hair adornments quickly, “Perfect,” She declared and Kayce stood to look into the mirror.
The bride looked at her friend in the mirror, “Thanks Sarah and thanks for being my Maid of Honor.”
“My pleasure. Besides I couldn’t wait to meet this man you kept writing to me about. Frankly I thought you were exaggerating a bit.”
“Exaggerating!” Kayce exclaimed defensively.
“Calm down. Now that I’ve met him I know everything you told me was true.”
“To be honest I don’t even remember what I wrote.” Kayce commented as she touched up her makeup one last time.
“You don’t huh? Well let’s see, you said he was handsome, intelligent, chivalrous, polite, fun, romantic and sweet. To be honest I didn’t think a man like that existed.”
“I said all that?” Kayce asked. Sarah just nodded and asked, “Does the man have any faults?” Kayce thought for a few minutes. With the quietness filling the room the two friends heard loud voices talking excitedly in the hallway. Kayce opened the door of her ground floor room to find four housekeeping staff at the entrance to an adjacent room. She inquired what was going on. The taller of the bunch glanced at her co-workers suddenly realizing they were speaking of this woman’s groom.
“Ah…there was a shooting down by the atrium a few minutes ago.”
“A shooting?” The two formally dressed women asked in unison.
The young girl nodded innocently, “Don’t worry I understand your groom was well enough to walk back to his room.”
Kayce’s stomach lurched and her anger grew quickly. She looked at Sarah, “I can think of one fault he has. Stay here and don’t say a word about this to anyone, especially Helen, okay? I’ll be right back.”
Her purposeful steps took her down the hall and up the stairs to Steve’s room. She realized on the way that Oscar never explained how Steve’s tuxedo got damaged. Kayce couldn’t believe Steve would withhold that kind of information from her…on their wedding day!
After glancing at the painful purple welts on his chest in the mirror Steve sat heavily at the foot of the bed. “Here.” Rudy offered the aspirin with a glass of water knowing his friend was fighting a headache. “Thanks.” He softly replied and swallowed them quickly while Oscar paced about the carpeted room, his hands planted firmly in his pockets.
Steve dropped his upper body back onto the king-sized bed, his feet still on the floor, and placed one hand on his pounding head. Goldman’s authoritative voice suddenly filled the room, “Why in the world would you feel it necessary to wear a bullet proof vest at your wedding?!” He towered over Steve awaiting an answer.
“Haven’t you ever heard of a shotgun wedding Oscar?” Steve asked jokingly without removing his hand from his face attempting to cut the tension hanging in the air.
“Yes, if you were marrying a pregnant 18-year-old in the backwoods of Georgia!” A chuckle escaped Steve’s lips at the outrageous thought causing him to grimace at the pain. He sat up with a groan when Oscar inquired again, “Well?… WELL?”
“Alright! Alright.” Steve stood stiffly and walked about the room. “I received a phone call, two actually, in the last twelve hours threatening me if I married Kayce.” He stood looking at the matching expression on his friend’s faces, a mixture of confusion and shock.
“Why?” Rudy asked and Steve shrugged, “How the hell should I know? I figured with only 30 minutes to go and such a secluded area the odds were in my favor. I guess I was wrong. I just didn’t want to disappoint Kayce.” He rubbed his face with one hand feeling the stress. Oscar was angry that he was not informed of the threats and was about to voice his frustration when there came a rapid forceful knock at the door. “It’s about time my Dad got back.” Steve mumbled as he walked to the door.
Opening it he was surprised by his bride’s swift entrance causing him to back up into the room quickly. “What the hell is going on?” She asked with her anger barely in check.
Steve replied innocently and truthfully, “We are waiting for my Dad to get back with a new shirt.” He hoped with his shirt open she couldn’t see the bullet holes.
“Really?” She asked and Steve nodded. “Do you really want to start our marriage by lying to me?” She eyed him with her cobalt eyes; he swore they turned an even darker shade of blue when she was angry.
“It’s the truth.” He insisted.
“That may be but would you like to give me the rest of the story?” She continued to hold him with her eyes.
He remained silent, not offering any further information, so she spoke again in a calm voice, “Funny thing happened a few minutes ago, I overheard the housekeeping staff gossiping about a shooting at the atrium. They seemed to think my groom was involved.”
Steve sighed heavily knowing he was already starting his marriage off in the doghouse, “Kayce I’ll explain everything after the ceremony. I promise.” She eyed Rudy then Oscar, both remaining silent, before returning her gaze to her groom.
“Someone is trying to kill you and you want to go ahead with the wedding?” She said incredulously.
“Kayce whoever did it thinks I’m dead so I doubt he will return to the scene.”
The bride sighed, “Unbelievable.” Her tone softened considerably, “You must really want me bad.” She gave him a flirting smile and wink. He smiled and draped an arm over her shoulder while steering her to the door. Before leaving she gazed at the bruises on his chest, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes I’m fine but I’ll be even better after the ceremony. Now go” He kissed her goodbye before shutting the door. Not long after Jim arrived with a new shirt which Steve quickly donned as the four men headed to the ceremony.
The simple outdoor ceremony went off without any further distractions although there were eight last minute guests mingling with the crowd, all employed by the U.S. government. It only took one call from Oscar and the groom was well protected even after the reception moved inside.
Near the end of the reception Steve sat with Kayce and discussed their honeymoon. He tried his best but Kayce insisted that they postpone it until whoever shot Steve was caught. Oscar and Rudy joined them at the moment the new Mrs. Austin was stating her case. The doctor and director immediately supported her, which made Steve feel outnumbered. He finally gave in to his bride’s request, making it well known that she would have to make it up to him and she agreed with a very sultry kiss.
Rudy and Oscar sat with the newlyweds as the guests dwindled to just a few family members. Steve saw Jaime Sommers moving towards them. He politely excused himself from the conversation while he stood. Oscar began questioning Kayce on former patients who may have been the mysterious caller while her eyes remained on her handsome groom.
Jaime smiled and firmly wrapped her arms around Steve’s shoulders and hugged him tight to congratulate him on his nuptials. He returned the hug as he whispered a thank you in her ear and expressed his happiness that she was able to attend. When they stepped back she placed a gentle hand on his chest and looked deep into his blue eyes. “It’s been awhile. How are you doing?” She asked with all sincerity.
He gave her a crooked grin, “I’m fine.”
“What’s going on with all these government agents?” She swept the room with a glance.
“Oscar invited them. They’re supposed to be invisible.” He replied plainly.
“I see and why would Oscar need eight dates for your wedding?” She asked with a teasing smile, which cause Steve to chuckle.
“Because someone tried to take me out with a semi-automatic before the wedding started.” He saw fear instantly cross her face. “Don’t worry I’m sure we’ll find out who’s behind it before anything else happens.” He slid an arm around her waist and led her to his bride. “Come on I’ll officially introduce you to my wife.” The pair noticed the awkward way the word ‘wife’ left his mouth and they both grinned.
Kayce stood as her husband approached with his lifelong friend. “I understand you two have already met but I thought I would make it official. Jaime Sommers this is Kayce, Kayce this is Jaime.
The two sandy-haired women nodded at each other and remained on either side of the groom. The taller one graciously offered her best wishes to the happy newlyweds before they were interrupted by Jaime’s date, Lieutenant Colonel Tom Halloway, deputy Commander of Ventura AFB. She met him when she started teaching at the base school. Kayce was surprised how much his physical characteristics were similar to Steve, six feet tall, brown hair, blue eyes and a lean muscular build. The only thing missing was that irresistible lopsided grin. In Kayce’s mind it strengthened her suspicions of Jaime’s feelings.
Ignoring the ‘I told you so’ look on Kayce’s face Steve could tell by the look in Jaime’s eyes as she introduced him that this was a very serious relationship and he was happy for her. Steve unconsciously took a small step back as Tom slid an arm around Jaime’s waist, knowing the close relationship she once had with the famous astronaut. The couple chatted with the newlyweds a few moments before saying their goodbyes and promising to stay in touch.
After pulling Kayce’s chair out for her Steve returned to his seat and the couple smoothly jumped back into the conversation.
“Oscar what ever happened to Hansen?” He inquired as he took a sip of the expensive champagne.
Oscar just shook his head, “I’m afraid he’s still on the run and very elusive. Do you think maybe he hired the shooter?”
Steve nodded as he finished off his drink. “It’s a possibility but why would he mention Kayce, especially by her former last name. No, I would think Hansen would be a long shot.”
“I was just asking Kayce if there are any former patients we should consider or maybe her ex-husband.” Kayce sat stone still, her thoughts running through her past life before she nodded, “Sorry, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. Why do you think it was a client of mine?”
Steve answered, “He referred to you both times as Dr. Ashbury, not by your first name. What about your first husband?”
“Steve I haven’t had any contact with him since…since right after we returned from Mexico.” Partially turning from Oscar and Rudy she gave him a wicked grin for his eyes only, “You do remember our trip to Mexico don’t you?” She teased quietly with a wink. Turning back towards Oscar and Rudy she stated firmly, “Besides I don’t think he even knows I was getting married. Wait a minute.” She stood and excused herself before gracefully gliding across the room. After exchanging a few words with her Maid of Honor she returned to the group. “I stand corrected. There’s a small chance he may have known.” Seeing three pairs of questioning eyes looking at her she explained further after returning to her seat. “When I asked Sarah to be my Maid of Honor she told a mutual friend of ours whose mother frequents the same snobbish country club as my former mother-in-law.” She thought a moment longer, the only physical attribute Steve saw was the assailant’s hair color. “He does have blonde hair but I really don’t think David would do something so…so violent. I’ll make some calls tomorrow.”
Lost in thought Kayce unconsciously let out a heavy sigh that caused Steve to place a soothing hand on her back.
“What’s the matter?” He asked in a quiet tone.
She glanced at him then at the elegant tablecloth in front of her, “I guess I’m just feeling guilty that this psycho to trying to hurt you because of me.” She smiled at him, “Wouldn’t you feel the same way?”
He gave her a crooked grin and a slight nod of his head and replied, “But I’m glad he’s after me and not you.”
He placed a loving hand on her cheek and assured her, “Don’t worry we’ll be okay.” He placed a soft kiss on her lips before standing. “Well gentleman I think it’s getting late and I need to get my young bride home. She needs all the beauty sleep she can get.” He winked with a grin as Kayce swatted his arm. “Very funny.”
His friends shook his hand and gave Kayce a hug. They watched as the couple said their goodbyes to Helen and Jim. Rudy was the first to speak, “Do you think he’s right? Do you think they will be okay?”
Oscar answered in a long exhale, “I sure hope so Rudy. I sure hope so.”
The Austin’s returned home with a protective escort who remained parked outside the home in his gray sedan. The young couple was unaware there was already company waiting for them inside. As the pair moved through the house sharing their marital bliss their attention was on each other and not on their surroundings.
Hiding in the darkness of the family room the uninvited guest was expecting to hear the distraught bride entering the house, mourning the unforeseen loss of her groom on her wedding day. He had come there to comfort her and make her see she belonged with him and no one else. It was a shock beyond words to find the object of his affection being carried into the master bedroom while engaged in a passionate kiss with her unharmed groom. His anger was growing inside him and he still believed failure was not an option. He fought the urge to follow them and violently kill the brown-haired man who was now making love to the pretty blue-eyed woman.
He leaned against the fireplace in an attempt to stop his body from trembling while fighting hard to control his rage. Glancing out the front window he saw the vigilant guard in his parked car. The intruder silently slipped out the back door with neither resident hearing the click of the door lock nor seeing the man scurry through the adjacent backyards to his concealed car. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, not because he was fearful of being caught but because he needed to expel some of the pent up energy swirling inside of him. Feeling betrayed and jealous he jumped behind the wheel and waited until his body stopped shaking.
‘Think, just think.’ He thought to himself while taking several deep breaths. After angrily banging his hands on the steering wheel he knew it was time to move onto his contingency plan. He would have to wait, an action that was still very foreign to him. His thoughts were becoming jumbled but all revolved around the woman he couldn’t live without. He would have to take the time to watch their every move, learn their comings and goings in order to finish what he started today. He didn’t feel any guilt or remorse knowing he had given his target two warnings that were blatantly disregarded and he was a man who would not be ignored, not by anyone. Soon he would have what he came for and she would be his.
Over the next two weeks both Steve and Kayce remained vigilant of their surroundings but their stress level had decreased considerably after experiencing nothing unusual and the threatening phone calls had stopped. Steve convinced Oscar to call off their bodyguard feeling it was no longer necessary.
Kayce slowly came up with a list of seven possible suspects. All of which were former clients of hers that had a tendency toward violence. Four also had an obsessive component to their mental illness. She didn’t put much emphasis on the hair color since it could be changed so easily. After the review of her former client list he thoughts turned to David, her ex-husband.
Not wanting to speak with David she nervously made a phone call to her former father-in-law who had remained impartial throughout her divorce. The elder physician had always liked Kayce, even though it grated on his wife. He never held his daughter-in-law responsible for his son’s foolish actions. Kayce was vague about why she was trying to locate her ex-husband. Dr. Ashbury explained that his son was on vacation in the Bahamas for the last two weeks and wasn’t expected back for another week as he had flown directly to a medical conference in Michigan. Kayce thanked him for his help and ended the call.
She passed all the information onto Oscar to verify, hoping it would at least narrow down the suspects. Within 24 hours Oscar was able to easily rule out three of the former clients on her list, one had committed suicide two years ago and two were in mental hospitals for at least a year without any expected release dates. By the end of the next day Oscar informed her and Steve that David Ashbury III, Kayce’s first husband, had in fact been in the Bahamas as his father had stated and was presently attending the medical conference in Michigan. The list of eight possible suspects just decreased to four.
With his two-week’s surveillance finished the anxious hunter casually walked through the Austin’s home looking at framed photographs scattered about the rooms. He knew she loved having pictures of loved ones around. He glanced at his watch, it was 6:00 pm, the time Kayce usually arrived home. Suddenly hearing a car pull up he glanced around the master bedroom unsure where to hide. He knew she would be surprised when he made his presence known. He stepped excitedly into the master bathroom and waited with the door half closed.
Steve came through the back door whistling a familiar tune. He dropped his keys noisily on the kitchen countertop, grabbed a soda from the refrigerator and headed to the bedroom to wash up before grabbing some dinner. His shirt was covered in sweat and dirt from helping a friend repair his roof.
He ambled through the hallway and into the bedroom. After setting his drink on the nightstand he took off his shirt with his mind on his wife. He hoped all went well on her mission and she would be home safely this evening. He turned, tossing his shirt into the hamper and walked into the bathroom. Standing at the sink he washed his upper body. When he finished he leaned over the sink to wash his face.
The blonde man was hiding in the shower stall with the door slightly ajar so he could see his visitor. His anger rose when his gaze fell upon the male resident of the house and not the beautiful woman he had come to see. He waited and waited, his adrenalin pumping, until the opportunity to finally rid himself of his competition presented itself. He saw the brown haired man lean sideways to reach for a towel from the rack to dry his face and while Steve’s line of sight was away from the reflective mirror the assailant moved with the speed of a tiger.
Unaware he wasn’t alone Steve blindly retrieved the clean towel when the intruder suddenly grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head forward onto the porcelain sink with a loud ‘crack’. As he let his grip slacken Steve slumped limply to the floor.
The blonde man stood over his fallen prey and watched as the blood seeped steadily from of the head wound and down towards the floor. A smile crossed his thin lips, “That will teach you to leave her alone.” He punctuated his statement with his cowboy boot impacting Steve’s right ribcage. The unconscious man never felt it as he continued to fall deeper into the black abyss.