Taken by Two

By: Sam J. D. Hunt

Chapter One

He sat at the onyx granite bar slowly circling the rim of his crystal tumbler with his long finger. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Nathaniel Slater—the man of my dreams. There was a time when we moved in the same circles, had friends in common, knew each other in passing. Well, at least that’s what he would probably say. To me, he was the guy I sat up nights scheming over—how could I get him to notice me? That was before—before he disappeared over a year ago.

I sipped my chardonnay, blatantly staring at the fascinating Nathaniel Slater. He was new money; a rich dot-com billionaire type who’d made a name for himself with video conferencing software. My family, in contrast, was very old money. My father, David Sedgewick, was from a long line of Northeast blue bloods. Grandmother could trace our family line back to the Mayflower and beyond.

I continued to stare. His finger paused its circling long enough for him to wrap his palm around the glass and take a slow sip of the amber liquid. I slid off my stool, wine glass in hand, and made my way toward him. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were back from the dead,” I whispered at his silver-suited shoulder. He savored one last unhurried sip before taking a deep breath and turning his gaze toward me. “No idea what you’re talking about. Great pickup line, though.” His steel-blue eyes locked on to mine; a cold shiver tap-danced down my spine. He was beautiful, and right there with me. “Penny Sedgewick,” he said, his tongue wrapping around the vowels as if savoring them as he’d done the bourbon.

“The one and only,” I replied. The man I’d always wanted sat right there in my favorite bar, the exclusive Taster’s Club, at my casino—well, my father’s casino, really. He’d named one of his mega resort casinos on the Las Vegas Strip after me—The Penelope. My manicured nails pushed back my long blonde hair as my red lips parted in a smile. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr…?”

His pink lips curled at the edges in a wry smile. “Nice to meet you, Penny. Care to join me?” Nathaniel gestured toward the empty stool at his side. My red silk dress was tight around my ample curves, but I managed to gracefully slide up next to him as he took my hand. With two fingers he gestured to the bartender for another round.

“So, you didn’t disappear into the murky Amazon River then?”

“I’m afraid you have me mistaken for someone else, Miss Sedgewick. My name is Jason King and I’m in Vegas for a life insurance convention.” His copper eyelashes fluttered over his mesmerizing blue-gray eyes as his pink tongue swiped across his full lips. The suit he wore was a tailored Armani, probably made for him. The shoes were Italian leather and finer than the pricey red designer stiletto pumps hanging from my own pedicured feet. As I leaned in to take another long sip of my too-warm chardonnay, I could smell his cologne. It was masculine, imported, and very expensive. Clearly Nathaniel Slater didn’t care to discuss his disappearance from social life, but he did seem attracted to me. His leg drifted to the left until his thigh was touching my own.

With a warm smile, he slid my new glass toward me. “That one has lost its chill,” he said. “Allow me to replace your wine.” I pushed the old glass aside and reached for the new one, the top covered with his hand as if he didn’t want to let it go. “Cheers,” he said, placing his left hand on my thigh before throwing back the glass of bourbon. I took a hard gulp of the cold wine, eager to feel the subtle buzz that would give me the courage to take him up to my penthouse suite. As I took another sip, I began to feel tipsy. By the third slurp, I was drunk.

“Odd,” I said too loudly as he stared at me, his hands raking through his dark auburn brown hair.

“What is, Penny?”

“I-I don’t normally, I mean alcohol doesn’t…”

That was the last thing I remember about that night.

What seemed like days later, I could hear them talking before I could manage to open my eyes. My heavy eyelids fluttered, struggled to rise, then gave up and left me lying in the darkness. I wasn’t uncomfortable or in any pain, but the heavy stupor of confusion sent me back to the black fog of sleep. Under the curtain of my induced slumber, I lived vivid dreams. In one, a burly man, tattooed, muscled, and strong, was speaking to me in a deep voice, reassuring me that everything was going to be fine as long as I obeyed.

Eventually my eyes finally managed to part enough that I could see where I was. The room was dimly lit and vibrating in an off-putting way—as if the bed where I lay was on top of an enormous engine. An airplane, I thought, I’m on a private jet. I was no stranger to luxurious travel—I’d been on planes like this one many times. Rolling out of bed, I crawled over to the door. My legs felt rubbery, as if they lacked the strength to support me. The thin door wasn’t locked. Nathaniel Slater had to have kidnapped me—I vaguely remembered him nearly carrying my limp body from the club—explaining to the bartender, who worked for my father, that he was taking me back to my room to sleep it off. I couldn’t remember anything else, but Hank, the bartender, wouldn’t have questioned Nathaniel’s claim. I wasn’t known to drink to excess, but I was known to take handsome men back up to my suite.

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