He sat in his rental car and waited. He had spent most of his life waiting, but he was so close to his goal that he grew anxious. He was only thirty but felt as if he'd lived a century. Too much had happened during his youth to feel he was still young. He glared at the couple crossing the street, fighting the urge to slam his foot on the accelerator. He had been watching them for about a month but couldn't make a move until he found the bitch. She had been eluding him for too long, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he found her. He watched her son and daughter-in-law as they stepped onto the curb, but the wife was of no concern. She just had the misfortune of marrying into the wrong family. His phone ringing drew his attention away from the couple. Chapter One
"The daughter is in El Paso."
He couldn't speak at first. He had never thought to check so close but then felt stupid. If her son lived in Dallas, it did make sense that the rest of the family may also be in Texas.
"Is she living with her parents?"
"Since her mother is listed as the nearest relative, I don't think so, but that phone number is unlisted. The daughter's name was flagged when her paperwork for the Screen Actor's Guild went through. It never occurred to us that she was an actress."
A smile began to spread across his tight features, as the man at the other end of the phone continued to speak. He wrote down the daughter's address and frowned at the next comment that came through the phone.
"Apparently the cop is good at covering his tracks, but I'm sure we'll find them."
He shook his head. "Never mind. Soon, they'll be very easy to find."
Without another word, he turned off the phone. The smile returned as he started the car. He set aside the El Paso address and reached for the Dallas newspaper clipping. As he stared at it, he was tempted to drive to the airport and get on a plane headed for El Paso. No, he found the boy first, so maybe it was fate that he would be the first to go. His wait was finally over.
Monique Hunter was lounging in her favorite chair reading a love story. She knew she should be reading the assigned chapters for her marketing class but had decided to take a break from homework. Her shapely right leg swung to and fro from its perch over the plush arm of the chair, and the hand holding the book was resting on her knee. Her left leg was bent with the foot resting on the edge of the seat, as she leaned back against the chair's other arm. She was turning a page, when she caught sight of the framed picture hanging on the wall across the room. It was a huge family portrait of her family. Monique's gaze went from her twin brother, Morgan, up to her parents, Kendall and Loucherro Hunter. The picture had been taken after she and Morgan graduated from high school just over two years earlier.
Monique looked at her mother. Kendall's shoulder length brown hair was up in a French twist, and her make-up was moderate. Monique had always thought her mother was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, with or without make-up. Whenever she smiled, her whole face lit up and her amber eyes sparkled. She was radiant as she smiled at the camera, and her left hand was on Monique's left shoulder. Monique knew her other arm was draped around her husband's waist. Loucherro was the only one dressed casually, since he refused to buy a suit. The only time he had ever dressed up was when he had married Kendall, and that tuxedo had been rented. Even though he wore jeans during the picture, the only thing visible was his buttoned down white shirt. Monique knew his jet-black hair fell half way down his back, but Kendall had persuaded him to tie it back that day. His right hand was on Morgan's right shoulder.
Morgan was dressed in a suit, and his hair was fashionably short. He had never let his hair grow any longer than it currently was. Monique often wondered how much more like their father he would look had he let it grow. Even though Monique and Morgan were only a quarter Apache, the Native American heritage had come through the strongest. Monique had dressed up as Pocohontas for Halloween several years in a row, and she had always been able to use her own hair for the braids. As she finally looked at her own face within the frame, she noticed she was the only person in the picture with visibly long hair. Her black hair was just inches above her waist, and she had curled and styled it for the picture. It fell in cascading waves about her face, shoulders and arms. Monique had since trimmed her hair, and now it fell only half way down her back like her father's. She hardly ever curled it anymore, and it was also as straight as Loucherro's. She often wished she had the natural body to her hair that Kendall had. Her mother never had to do anything with her hair, except wash it and run her fingers through it. The natural wavy curls did the rest.
Monique had always liked the portrait, and she had a smaller size in her wallet. Kendall had originally ordered the large framed portrait for her own living room, but Loucherro hadn't wanted such a huge picture of himself hanging on the wall. Monique had been happy to acquire it from them. Whenever her mother wanted to admire it, all she had to do was visit. Monique smiled as she lifted her book. She was just about to start reading, when a chill ran up her spine. Her gaze settled on the phone just before it rang.
Monique stared at it for a moment before shaking her head. Smiling, she swung her legs to the floor and leaned forward to pick up the receiver. "Hi, Mom."
Kendall chuckled at the other end. "You're getting better, dear."
"Nah, it only works sometimes." Monique lied, setting the open book on her lap. She could only wish that were true.
"You'll get better with practice." Kendall responded.
"I don't know if I want to get better. It was freaky enough you doing it while I was growing up." She said as she looked at her mother in the portrait. Her sparkling eyes were looking straight at her, and Monique got the impression her mother could actually see her.
Kendall smiled as she pictured her daughter's face. She looked across her living room and visibly flinched as she remembered the picture was no longer on her wall. Someday soon she would have to convince Lou to let her rehang the portrait. She had a bad feeling about letting it remain in Monique's apartment. Kendall wondered about the subtle feeling of dread that flowed through her but mentally shook herself. She forced herself to concentrate on her phone conversation. "Freaky?" Kendall finally remarked on Monique's comment. Her eldest child wasn't the only member of her family that had to get used to her special psychic gifts. Loucherro and her son, Morgan, also had to live with it. Obviously, twins ran in the family, since Kendall herself had a twin brother. Kendall still got melancholy when she thought of her beloved brother, Kyle, who unfortunately had been killed over two decades earlier. Luckily, Loucherro, who had been Kyle's best friend, had been there to help her get through that hard time.
Thinking of Lou made Kendall smile. She loved him more now than she had on their wedding day twenty-one years earlier, and Monique and Morgan were the lights of her life. She wished she saw them more. It had been six months since Morgan had married and moved away from his birthplace, El Paso, Texas. Monique still lived in El Paso, but she had moved into her own apartment after her brother left.
Monique resembled her mother in many ways, including her psychic ability, though she wasn't as gifted as Kendall. Loucherro had put his foot down on teaching his daughter the no name, which was his ancestral martial art. It had been passed down throughout generations, but only to the men. It was called the no name, since his people were taught the art and had no idea if it even had a name. Loucherro had taught the art to Kyle, his blood brother, but Kyle had broken tradition by teaching Kendall. Morgan had only been slightly interested, though he humored his father and learned it.
Kendall wondered if Morgan might have taught Monique on the side. She hoped so, although she didn't want to know. She knew that Loucherro would consider it a betrayal. Kendall had not used it since they had married, although she remained in shape with gymnastics. It had always bothered Loucherro that Kyle had taught her the no name. Her daughter's voice brought Kendall back to the conversation.
"Is Dad at work?"
"Yeah, and I sure wish he'd retire, but Lou's always been stubborn." Loucherro was still on the police force and insisted on working in homicide. True, he was still in as good a shape as he'd been when she met him, but she worried about him. There were a lot of crazy people out there, and he wasn't getting any younger. Though she looked forward to it, Kendall knew that his retirement was many years away.
"Oh, Mom, you know that Dad can take care of himself."
Monique cringed at the subject change. "We broke up."
"I'm sorry, Monique. I really liked him."
"No, you didn't." She sighed. "It doesn't matter, anyway."
"Of course, it does. What happened?"
"I guess he just got bored with me. Isn't that always the way it happens?" She didn't want to admit to her mother that Tim had broken it off because she wouldn't sleep with him. She had been raised around parents who never tired of touching each other. It had never moved her to touch Tim, so she had never allowed him to get too close. She wondered if she was wasting her time waiting for a man who made her feel the way Kendall felt about Loucherro.
“Well, you’re too beautiful to be alone. The right man is out there somewhere.”
Monique rolled her eyes. Both her parents were always telling her how beautiful she was. It embarrassed her when they did it in front of her friends. She was definitely her father's daughter. She not only had his hair but also his dark brown eyes. The Apache and Mexican mix gave her the dark skin that her friends envied. She never had to lie out in the sun, which she considered a great way to get skin cancer. She was her mother's height of 5'8" and had her slim build. Her features were chiseled like her father's but with her mother's beauty. She just felt she had too much of a confused mixture in her. Her mother continued, as if reading her mind.
"Monique, you're a quarter Apache, a quarter Mexican, and half Italian. You have all of that in your blood. Hell, honey, you're what's called exotic."
"Exotic?" She couldn't hold back the chuckle. In some circles she'd be considered a mutt.
"You just keep telling yourself that you deserve better than Tim. You know, he could have left because you knew he wasn't the one for you and was subconsciously pushing him away."
Monique nodded absently. She'd dated Tim for about four months. That was about how long all of her relationships lasted, and she'd had a total of three. None of them had been whom she'd consider "Mr. Right." She didn't even know what she really wanted. She guessed she wanted a knight in shining armor to come sweep her off her feet and take her away. She loved her hometown, but she'd never been anywhere else. She dreamt of living in Beverly Hills. Most of the movies she'd seen were shot in California, and she fell in love with its mountains and cool breezes. It got incredibly hot in Texas during the summer. Groaning, she decided she read way too many love stories and saw way too many movies. Real life didn't turn out that way.
"I'll bet you were reading a book when I called."
Monique stared down at the book in her lap.
"You need to get out of the apartment. Go see a movie, or something. Why don't you come over for dinner? Your father would love to see you, and so would I."
Monique grinned. Go see a movie? She'd just decided she saw too many of them. Actually, there were a few she wanted to see.
"Yeah, I guess it has been a while since I visited. I'll try to make it over for dinner."
"Well, don't strain yourself, dear."
Monique could sense her mother smiling. "I won't. I'll see you later, Mom."
"OK, Hon, bye for now."
Monique put the receiver back in its cradle. Taking the book from her lap, she stared at the front cover. The hero was leaning close to the heroine and had his hand on her hip. Her lips were parted slightly as if waiting for his kiss.
Shaking her head, she placed the book down on top of her marketing book on the end table and stood. She crossed the room and emerged in the dining room. The newspaper was on the table, and she sorted through it until she found the movie section. Her eyes were immediately drawn to a picture of a dark-haired young man, and Monique couldn't help but smile. Jack Bloom's newest movie would be released nationwide the following Friday, which was exactly a week away. Since Monique had seen all of his movies, she was looking forward to his newest one. Jack was 27 and had been acting in movies since he was 18. Monique had been following his career for the last three years. He was currently one of America's brightest and hottest stars. He wasn't the favorite at the time, since he had chosen a few bad movies to star in, but Monique didn't care. He didn't have the typical superstar look. He could be her next door neighbor, but she was most impressed by his luminous smoky-blue eyes. There was something about them that just took her in and wouldn't let her go. He had a very expressive face, which gave away every emotion he was feeling. When he was mad, he looked like a devil, but when he smiled, he had the innocence of a little boy. Of course, with his deep voice and height of 6'4", he was no child.
Unfortunately, she had no idea what kind of man he really was. He seemed to come across nice in his interviews, but he was a great actor. Monique doubted she would ever see the real Jack.
She picked one of the movies she wanted to see and noted the times. The next one started in half an hour. Folding the paper, she walked into her room to retrieve her purse. After locking the door to her apartment, she headed out to her Kia. She and Morgan had gotten the used car on their sixteenth birthday. Morgan had bought a new car a year earlier, so now the Kia was solely Monique's. She decided she'd get a new car once she graduated from college in a year. She worked part time as a waitress, and her parents paid half of her rent. She really loved the independence of living on her own, but she was glad her parents lived close by.
Monique drove to the mall and parked in the back. The theaters were inside the mall next to the food court. She ordinarily would get something to eat while she was there but would wait and have dinner with her folks.
After paying for her ticket and finding the appropriate theater, she took a seat in the middle left section. The movie didn't start on time and Monique turned in her seat to look at the booth. The light was on and it looked like someone was up there. She shrugged and began to turn back around. There weren't many people in the theater, but someone in the back row caught her gaze. Monique wondered why anyone would want to sit all the way back there. It was too dark for her to make out his features but she could sense him returning her stare. She spun around with a small smile and sunk into her seat. Since it was stadium seating, the high back blocked her from sight. She took a deep breath and sighed. As she stared up at the blank screen, Monique shook her head. Why had she reacted like that? She didn't know for certain that the man had even noticed her. As the previews started, Monique settled in to enjoy.
It was a comedy/drama and very funny. Her eyes also got damp near the end. She left the theater with a smile on her face, as she dried the moistness from her eyes with the back of her hand. She could hardly wait to talk about the movie with her mother. She knew Kendall would also enjoy it.
On her way out to the food court, a poster on the wall caught Monique's attention. It was a color poster of the one she had seen in the paper of Jack Bloom's newest movie. Monique's eyes moved from the title up to his photogenic face. His serious expression was always her favorite, since that was when his eyes were the most intense. She smiled and nodded, finding it hard to tear her own eyes away from his. She absently wondered where she could buy the poster. The movie was a period piece, and Jack had long hair, as did his co-stars behind him. The previews looked great. This could be the movie that finally made his career.
"Definitely have to see this movie." She had just begun to turn away from the poster, when she felt another presence. As she wondered about the chill that ran down her back, she heard a man's deep voice.
"So, you like him?"
Monique barely spared him a glance as she moved away from the wall. Nodding, she responded. "Yeah, he's a great actor."
She could sense he was walking just behind her and was tempted to turn to look at him. Instead she slowed her walk to see if he would pass her. She got another chill and quickened her pace.
"Thanks," he answered softly.
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