Palmer Ch. 10byhal_tee©
Grateful thanks go to the best editor in the world – thesoundandfury. And check out his new novel – Models and Super Spies. Thanks Ken, not only for your editing, but also for the constant encouragement, suggestions, and for helping me to become a better writer.
Chapter 10: The Party
The series of elegant, ivy and bay leaf-lined black marquees had been erected on the park in Milan's Via Melegari a couple of days earlier. They created a perfect, mini Gucci world.
Erin had stressed that the Gucci event was the most sought after and prestigious party of them all. "We've got to be seen at this one, darling. Everybody who's anybody is seen at the Gucci party."
Those with passes were accommodated first. Celebrities in their own right. Or hanger's on. After that, a select group of invited guests were granted entry, dependent on the space available. It usually meant that, eventually, there were too many revellers. Then it was time to go. Find another alternative. They weren't too hard to come by.
The guests were still outside, queuing to gain entry. And were becoming increasingly agitated. It was always the same.
"Now that is trouble brewing," the Agency Head laughed as she guided Kelli and Brooke the short distance from the limousine. "But look at them. For such a party, they have no idea of clothing at all. Far too conservative, darrlings. If this is a snapshot of Milanese youth, it's no wonder there's a revolution on Milan's runways!"
Kelli smiled. She didn't care about Milanese youth. Her mind was entirely focused on the delights of the evening ahead. They went to the front of the line, ignoring the protests as they bipassed the line and entered.
Inside the partioned grounds, it was different. The lawns were already dominated by the supermodels, fashion designers and the hundreds of celebrity guests. "Anyone who's worth knowing is around here somewhere, darlings," Erin smiled over her shoulder, as she commandeered flutes of champagne for the three of them.
The three women stayed close as they circulated. Erin and Brooke made a point of introducing Kelli to one VIP after another as the evening progressed. The number who congratulated the blonde model was overwhelming. Designers, photographers, columnists all fell over one another to acknowledge her success. Kelli felt she could fly.
As Erin had warned, there were the few jealous jibes also. The Agency Head swatted them away like she would a fly. "You haven't been invited to meet The Don, darling?" she would tell the antagonist. "Really? Kelli was introduced to him today."
With a wicked laugh, she'd then move Kelli on to the next person anxious to meet her.
Brooke took advantage of a rare – and inevitably brief – lull to ask about the Fashion Lord. There was only one question on her mind. "Is he as big as everyone says he is?" she laughed, hailing them another drink from one of the tuxedoed servers.
"As big as Max," Kelli grinned. "Maybe thicker."
"Whoa… babe, that's impressive! Maybe you can get me an introduction. We could introduce him to a threesome." Her delightfully warm laugh filled the air.
"He's so fat," Kelli whispered, glancing around to ensure they weren't overheard. "Ugly, too. But Brooke, there's something about him."
"It's power," her companion grinned. This not-so-innocent would be finding that out before too soon. The Agency Head hadn't introduced her to that side of 'life' yet. "Men with power are an aphrodisiac. Don't worry. Erin will introduce you to plenty."
"Fancy wanting to meet me!"
"Of course he wanted to meet you," Brooke told her. "After that stunt with the bra, you're even bigger than me, babe."
After another laugh, the small, curvy model's face showed its serious side. That didn't appear too often. "It's true, Kelli. I know my limitations. They don't apply to you. At least, not in the same way. You're destined for the real big time, babe. Like Roxanne. No doubt about it. The sky's the limit."
"Yes way!" the brunette laughed, that playfulness returning. "Trust me, I should know. She's a good friend - I'll introduce you when we return to England."
"I dunno, Brooke. She's almost as well known as Gabrielle Dubois. I love what you're saying but I'm not in their league! They're both so hot!"
"And you're not?" Brooke laughed. "Babe, just look at that dress you're wearing…"
A smile lit up Kelli's face. She just loved the red dress! After her spectacular act on the catwalk, she wanted to appear more refined tonight. The slinky and not too short Rachel Roy creation gave her the image she wanted. Thanks to Erin. The American Agency owner had bought her the dress, specifically for the party.
But it wasn't the classy look that Brooke was referring to. "Shows those tits off to perfection," she laughed, a sparkle in her eye.
Kelli's gave an embarrassed smile. She simply adored the way the clever low cut design allowed her cleavage to announce its presence without looking like they were attempting to gain attention. Not that they weren't receiving plenty of interest. The way her erect nipples pointed proudly upwards through the material made sure of that.
"Change of scenery," Erin told them, swinging around on her heels and heading towards the main marquee. With a broad smile, she added, "See what you think of this, darling."
Even as they reached the entrance of the largest of the erected tents, Kelli's mouth dropped open. Glancing into Erin's amused blue eyes and then back again, she couldn't quite believe what she was seeing.
She'd expected elegance. Instead she got decadence.
Under the central structure, a canopy of lights had been suspended over the black stage. Several girls dressed only in g-strings were dancing in oversized glasses suspended from the ceiling. Their stunning bodies gyrated sensually to the loud music.
"I've gotta try that one day," Brooke whispered, her eyes dancing with delight at the look of shock on Kelli's face.
The white male servers wore their black tuxedoes like a second skin. The black female servers looked as sexy as hell in their contrasting white tux's. All carried smiles as they attempted to filter through the crowd, but it was a thankless task as they fought against the press of the crowd.
"I have some business to attend to," Erin explained, using a hint of tongue as she kissed each woman on the lips. "Catch up later."
Brooke and the blonde exchanged glances as they watched the Agency Head return the way she'd come. "Don't ask," the sassy brunette told Kelli with a knowing smile. She took her arm. "Come on. Let's mingle. Jelly babies or marshmallows?"
Kelli frowned at the strange question, following her gaze to one of the attractive female servers. The dark haired beauty pushed towards them along the front of the marquee. "Got to be jelly babies," she laughed, picking up one of the baskets from the girl's tray.
Brooke collected two flutes of champagne from another passing waitress and they fell into a girly laugh as they clinked glasses.
"Come on, people to meet," Brooke insisted, throwing back half the glass in one go. "There are loads of creeps, but be nice to everyone, Kelli. You never know…"
It turned out to be a fruitless task. Not only was it pretty nigh impossible to catch sight of anyone other than in their immediate sight, the loud music inhibited any sort of easy conversation. Half an hour later, they gave up.
"This is hopeless," Brooke shouted in Kelli's ear. "Let's go back outside."
The blonde gave a relieved nod. The sweat was already producing a glossy sheen on her skin. Not a good image! The heat inside the tented pavilion was overbearing. "Great idea!"
Brooke grinned as her eyes flashed around the crowd. "But I need the loo." She leant conspiratorially into her friend. "Erin's outside talking business to a couple of Japanese contacts. We've used them before. Tony Mizato. He's cool, and very, very rich. Roxanne, Savannah and I entertained him and two of his people some time ago."
Kelli felt her heart stop. The emphasis Brooke put on the word made her wonder. Entertain? What exactly did that mean?
The angelic looking brunette babbled on, hardly pausing for breath. "They spend money like its going out of fashion. Could be big bucks. Go and listen in, find out what you can. I'll catch up." With that, the pocket dynamo turned on her heels.
Kelli watched her push through the guests, occasionally stopping to exchange a few words with someone before moving unhurriedly on her way. She was such a flirt!
The scandalously short black halter dress bounced and fluttered around Brooke's thighs as she shimmied this way and that. Designed in part to show her shapely tanned legs to their best advantage, it barely covered the tops of her lacy thigh-highs.
And as for that plunging neckline…
Whatever else Erin had in mind for Kelli after the party, she hoped she'd get a chance to taste Brooke's high breasts before the night was over.
Feeling her body's reaction at the thought, she swung around towards the entrance. God, she was horny! Stuffing another handful of jelly babies into her mouth, she went to find Erin. What had Brooke said? Japanese contacts? Entertain?
She had no difficultly in sneaking up on her employer. For a second, a shock ran through her. Is that what she was doing? Sneaking up? The Agency Head would be appalled at the show of disloyalty. But Kelli had to know. The word 'entertain' kept buzzing around in her mind.
Erin looked at ease standing beside the small businessman. With his wispy grey hair and strange little beard, he resembled the guy out of the teenage Kung Fu movies. Kelli couldn't remember his name. The two of them were staring across at the revellers as they sipped their champagne and talked. The image fitted the scene. Two revellers, enjoying each other's company.
By edging around to the side of the marquee, the blonde was able to creep to within a couple of feet and still remain out of view. As long as she didn't make any noise—
"The price is satisfactory," the Japanese man was confirming, the slight nod of his head typically Oriental.
The beam of satisfaction on Erin's face was hidden to the listening blonde, but Kelli could hear the purr of delight in the older woman's voice. "You won't be dissatisfied, Mr. Mizato," she told him. "A private modelling show for your best clients is a wonderful business incentive."
"And afterwards?" the small businessman asked. "Afterwards, the three women will be available to entertain?"
Kelli's heart skipped a beat. There was that word again.
"Not the same three," Erin hesitantly said. Dominic had told her to exclude Roxie from all future plans. God knows why. "But I guarantee satisfaction."
The secluded blonde saw the Japanese man jerk his head. "Not the same three? I was specific in my requirements. I thought you understood?" His voice suddenly had a hard edge to it.
Erin took his arm, her stroking fingers designed to soothe the unhappy man. "Mr. Mizato. Have I ever let you down? You remember the blonde who impressed you at the fashion show? Kelli? You asked for an introduction later. I have her earmarked for you. She, Brooke and Savannah will leave you with no room for complaint."
The hidden model's gasp almost gave away her position. Her chest heaved and her limbs began to tremble. She was being included in the deal?! A fashion show—but what came afterwards?
The businessman hesitated, as if in two minds. "Roxanne is special," he said. "She's very special. Why no Roxanne?"
"Mr. Mizato," Erin answered, her voice adopting its most persuasive tone. "Kelli is even more special. And… she's never been with a Japanese man before. She's always wanted to."
Never been with a Japanese man before? Kelli's brain was racing. Always wanted to? Was Erin serious? Could she really be hearing this? Being hired out? Like a prostitute? She must be mistaken!
"I guarantee, Mr. Mizato," Erin was almost purring. "You'll never experience a better fuck…"
Palmer had no idea how he had made his way back to Sandra Wilson's apartment. A taxi, probably. Although the two thugs had stripped him of all belongings, he'd found and recovered his wallet, phone and gun after shooting Toby Parkinson.
It took him a few seconds to shake off the feeling of disorientation consuming him. From the stench of vomit on his clothes, he realised he'd been violently sick again at some time.
"SHIT!" Sandra Wilson's voice was alive with shock. She swung the apartment door further open so that Palmer could drag himself inside. "What the hell happened to you?"
She took his arm to stop him from falling, helping his shaking body stumble across to the couch. "Geez, Jack, you stink."
Roxanne emerged from the bedroom at the sound of Wilson's voice. Her eyes told him she'd been crying. "Jack!" Even with her tear stained cheeks, she looked beautiful.
"What the hell happened, Jack?" Wilson repeated. Her eyes took in the combination of vomit and blood. "I've gotta call Webster. We've been looking for you ever since you failed to meet Tom Burley at Roxanne's apartment."
"No!" Even though his voice was shaky, it remained authoritative. "Don't call anyone, Sandra. Not just yet."
She nodded uncertainly. "I've just made coffee. Want some?" His parched lips attempted a smile. Wilson saw it. "Two minutes…"
"Jack! What on earth happened?" Roxanne asked as the black haired cop hurried through to the kitchen.
Even in his woozy state, the concern in her voice resonated with him. His weary eyes flicked towards her. The hand he put to his head didn't stop the haziness. "I ran into a couple of thugs at your apartment. Seems like they were waiting for me. They were going to waste me after they got the information they wanted."
"Information? What information?" It was Sandra Webster asking the question. Roxanne took the half filled mug from her, holding it to Palmer's lips. He took two small slurps.
"What information?" the cop asked again.
Roxanne's head jerked around in Wilson's direction. Her words came out in staccato fashion. "He should rest. And clean up. Look at all the blood! We need a doctor."
"They wanted you." He let his words hang. Fill the sudden silence. The two women stared at one another and then back at Palmer. "They wanted you, Roxanne," he repeated.
"The two men…" Wilson began.
"Dead," Palmer answered the unfinished question. His eyes closed as he wearily slumped back against the side of the couch.
"What are your injuries?" Webster asked.
"Broken," he said, painfully raising his swollen left hand a few inches. Bullet through my arm, too. Lost some blood."
Roxanne gasped and flopped down on the couch beside him. "Because of me?" She took his right hand but let go when he winced. "Burnt," was his simple explanation when she stared at the two scorch marks.
Wilson interrupted. "Palmer. I'm ringing Webster first. Then a doctor. I don't care what you say."
He nodded, taking a longer drink from the coffee Roxanne held to his lips. "That sounds like a good idea."
As Wilson made the call, Palmer's eyes flicked back to the redhead. She shifted beside him on the couch. "I know who it is," he whispered. The dizziness was overtaking him again.
"What?" Her mouth dropped open.
"I know who's behind this. It's the man on the recording. The man with you that night. It's him."
Her eyes widened in alarm. "No… that can't be…"
He nodded wearily. "It is. I don't know the reason. Only you know that." His voice tailed off.
The redhead's mind instantly jumped back to that evening. Goodbye, he'd said. She'd thought of that at the time. It had seemed strange, even then. He never told her goodbye. He always said Au Revoir. Could this was his way of removing her from the equation. Her heart began to race. It was unbelievable. Horrific! No, it couldn't be…
"You're protecting this bastard," Palmer blurted, making one last effort to escape the unconsciousness waiting for him. "Don't you realise that?"
"Palmer," she began, pain etched on her face.
His voice softened. "You told me he had nothing to do with this, Roxanne. You're either lying or mistaken. Badly mistaken."
His hand went to his head. The pain behind his eyes was almost too much. His vision went blurry. His hands throbbed. His arm was painfully numb. But he wouldn't let go. Couldn't. His brown eyes glared at her even as the room began to swim around him.
"I need to know, Roxanne," he snapped, using up his remaining strength. His anger at her hesitation was clear. "For God's sake, it's the only way I can protect you!"
She began to cry. Silently. The tears left her eyes and ran down her cheeks. It had to be true. And that meant Blair could be in on this, too! She needed time to think things through, but she had to be up front with the young cop who was beginning to mean so much to her.
"DeVere," she whispered. "Dominic DeVere."
"I need to talk to you," Kelli told Brooke. Edging her way back round to the front of the marquee, she'd bumped into the hot brunette almost immediately.
"Talk away," the pocket dynamo smiled, taking another long drink. Her eyes were glazed; she'd had one too many.
"Not here," Kelli snapped, her voice urgent. She was feeling very dreamy herself. He head was whirring. Looking around, the semi-secluded area to their left was perfect. "Follow me."
Flopping down on the bench, the wave of dizziness she'd just felt threatened to engulf her.
"You okay?" Brooke asked, leaning forward.
The blonde's eyes stole a glance down Brooke's dress at those perfectly formed tits. Her head shook. Focus, she told herself. Focus! "I feel a little strange. Too much champagne."
"Champagne?" Brooke laughed, leaning further forward. Kelli could almost see a nipple. "Champagne my ass! How many jelly babies have you had?"
Kelli's dull eyes flicked to the few that remained. "My candy? Why?"
Brooke's brow furrowed for a moment. Her teasing eyes stared into the blonde's. Was she joking? No, she wasn't! Her hair bounced on her shoulders as she threw back her head in amusement. "You don't know, do you?" Brooke asked. "Seriously! You don't?"
"Don't know?" Kelli asked, beginning to feel irritated.
The sassy brunette's laugh was louder. "Kelli, those things are laced with acid!"
The young model stared at her. Acid? No wonder she was feeling so horny! So strange…
But Erin's conversation with the Japanese businessman had turned her on, too. Horrified her, yes. But aroused her, as well. She had to admit it. Her wet thong was perfect evidence for the prosecution.
"Brooke—" she hesitantly began, trying to escape the confused feeling of fuzziness. "Erin. And that man. You've—you've entertained him before?"
Brooke nodded, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "Sure! I told you. Me, Roxie and Savannah."
"What do you mean, entertain?"
The penny began to drop with the brunette. A giant smile hit the corners of her mouth. "What do you think, Miss Innocence? We fucked them. Tony and his two contacts."
Even though Kelli knew the answer, she couldn't stifle her gasp. "You fucked them? Erin asked you to?"
Brooke shook her head in despair. "Haven't you worked it out yet, honey? That goes with the territory! Erin's made us supermodels. Gave us a wonderful lifestyle. We all live our own lives, but when Erin calls, we answer."
Kelli's mouth dropped further with each piece of the explanation. Was she really hearing this? God, her body was so wet! If she touched herself, she'd explode! "Brooke," she began, the tone of her voice rising. "Erin's made a business deal with him. I'm included this time!"