After speaking with Jester, Nathan planned a joint effort with men he already had in place outside a little- known warehouse belonging to Jessop thanks to the crew Jester sent on recon. The new information meant more digging.
They now had a connection between the warehouse (owned by Jessop) on land owned by a well-known senator, Anson Morgon (which frustrated and annoyed Nathan for obvious reasons) regularly patrolled by Jessop’s men in the deputy’s department. It was difficult to ascertain how many worked as underlings in Jessop’s secret operation and how many were law abiding men.
If they found arms of any sort on the property, it was a definite tie to Morgon and solidified their known contact and the possibility they were in business together.
Nathan took Jake and Jim aside to explain what was happening. Jim immediately wanted in. Jake wanted to go too but knew his limitations. These were highly skilled men, adept and able and he would only slow them down. The sigh that escaped him wasn’t lost on Nathan who immediately suggested he accompany them as a watchman. Jake was delighted to be included.
“Any idea how to keep the women out of the mix?” Jake asked curiously. “Sarah won’t care, she won’t be remotely interested in this, but I know Emma will and I doubt we could keep Jenna out of it when she knows Jim’s involved.”
“They were planning on an evening of puzzle making and wandering the grounds as Sarah hasn’t been on a tour as yet.” Nathan offered offhandedly. “Hopefully it will give us enough time to accomplish the mission.”
Jake laughed, “You don’t know Emma then.”
“It’s worked before.”
“Only because she let you get away with it.” Jake was still laughing.
“I can be convincing when I need to be,” Nathan’s smile held firm determination.
Jake shrugged and let it go.
“Let’s go over the the plans so we’re all on the same page,” Jim suggested, wondering about the prospect of keeping the women uninformed.
They spent an hour going over various situational scenarios and then joined the women for dinner. Sarah and Emma had given the staff the night off and produced a delicious home cooked meal including a large roast and all the fixing.
“Sarah, my mouth is watering. This smells heavenly and looks delicious. Are those Yorkshires?”
“Yes, indeed, my own secret recipe guaranteed to work at any sea level.” Winking she added, “And they do.”
Knowing her parent’s penchant for classical music, Emma obtained tickets to the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra with a guest pianist playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 as well as Schubert, Nielsen and Liadov at Benaroya Hall.
The event was well attended and Emma was very pleased when she saw how delighted her parents were.
“Emma, that was absolutely wonderful. Special in every way. I’m so happy we were able to attend the event.” A huge sigh of pure pleasure escaped Sarah’s lips as she turned and smiled at her husband. “You enjoyed that didn’t you Jake?”
When they arrived at Nathan’s, they indulged in a late dinner along with very good wine while chatting well into the night. Emma was overjoyed at sharing the evening with everyone. She wasn’t sure what Nathan thought although he seemed to have enjoyed himself. Jenna and Jim, although wrapped up in each other, smiled throughout.
Emma cuddled into Nathan. “Did you enjoy yourself, Nathan?”
“Yes, surprisingly. I’ve never listened to Motzart, my parent did and it brought back some very happy memories.”
Touching his arm she asked, “You ok?”
“Yes, Emma, for a moment I felt surrounded by their presence as if they were actually here. Unusual to say the least, but interesting all the same. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Nathan pulled Emma close and they talked for hours and finally fell asleep curled tightly into one another.
Sarah and Jake arrived amid great fanfare. They were loving the relaxed atmosphere of the limo and then the tour of Nathan’s house. “My god, Emma, Nathan’s paintings are exquisite and the grounds, well they are a gardener’s paradise. I could sit out there forever.”
“You haven’t seen all of them yet. There are more.”
“More? The front landscaping is exquisite beyond measure.”
“I know, right? I stood on the path when I first arrived, closed my eyes, and just breathed.”
“I know I couldn’t do the garden justice, and I realize he has a fleet of gardeners attending it, but it’s so magnificent it just takes you over.”
“What a beautiful home. It’s welcoming. I was a tad nervous when we first arrived, but well, I couldn’t feel more at home if I tried.”
“Jenna, my darling girl, how are you? Looking exceedingly happy I see.” Jenna filled her in on the events at the wine tasting club and how she’d felt and how supportive Jim was.
“I take it there’s something pretty special going on between the two of you.”
“Indeed there is mum. I couldn’t be happier.”
Sarah hugged Jenna close. “I couldn’t be happier for you! You deserve this, Jenna.”
They settled down in front of the puzzle and coffee in hand began working on it together. Their discussion varied and moved between the events they’d attended and what was going on personally for both of them.
Meanwhile, Nathan, Jim, and Jake settled into Nathan’s den so Nathan could brief Jake on what had happened, where they were going and what they were hoping for.
“You think he’ll try to make another move on any of you, of us?”
“I would imagine so, although if he has his ear to the ground, he should know that would bring a load of trouble down on his head.”
“Seems to me, that gives him all the more impetus to end this.”
“Possibly, but I have more resources at my disposal than I believe he does. He might have friends in low places, but I have friends to counter those friends and a lot more besides.”
Jake breathed a sigh of relief. “Good to hear. I can’t say it hasn’t been on my mind. I’ve been worried. Could have picked up the phone called and got the low down, but I wanted to see Seattle personally.”
“Quite the set up you have here. Jim this is your area of expertise?”
“I know my way around, yes. Nathan and I have worked together for years, we’re a team.”
Nathan made his excuses and wandered off to make dinner arrangements and give the two men time alone.
Jim quickly made his case. “Jake, I’m in love with Jenna. I want to marry her. Thought it only right to mention it up front.”
“I’m not surprised, I noticed how things were going when you met. I’m happy for Jenna, she deserved someone special, and I think you fit the bill rather nicely.”
“That means a lot, Jake.”
“I suppose it doesn’t mean much these days, what parents think.”
“It does to me, Jake. I’m not old fashioned in many regards and I can go with the flow, but this is something that is important to me. Rest assured, I’ll take care of her, give her all the love I have to give and I’ll protect her at all costs.”
Jim and Jenna woke wrapped in each other’s arms feeling warm, soft, loved. “Good morning beautiful.” Jim placed a tender kiss on Jenna’s brow.
“Good morning. From the look in your eyes, I’d say you slept exceptionally well.”
“Oh, I did.”
“While I’d rather stay cuddled here with you the rest of the day, I imagine Emma or Nathan or both have plans for us for the day.”
“I’m sure they do. We could simply blow them off.” He smirked roguishly.
Laughing, Jenna agreed, “We could. Indeed, we could. What excuse could we give them do you think?” she playfully stroked his thick black hair.
“We’re not feeling well? A case of the morning after something or other?” He kissed her again, with passion and desire.
“Somehow, much as I’d like that, it won’t wash.”
“You’re probably right. I’d have to come up with something really horrific, which they wouldn’t for a moment believe.”
“I’m feeling rather invigorated myself, and I wouldn’t mind an outing of some sort.”
“A walk in the park? It might be chilly but,”
“Do we have enough time before the parents arrive?”
“Oh right, I forgot about that. I suppose it wouldn’t be good form if we disappeared and weren’t here to greet them.”
Laughing Jenna said, “I don’t think they stand on form, to be honest.”
“So, what do you think prompted this sudden visit?”
“Knowing dad, I’d say he wants a personal update on what’s happening, what the current plan is and where we go from here.”
“I can’t say as I blame him,” Jim caressed Jenna’s chin length hair. “Your two precious people and a properly invested interest after all. I know I do.”
Jenna smiled happily into Jim’s eyes, “That’s always wonderful to hear and to know.”
“Alright, beautiful, up and at it, you take the first shower. I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t press my luck with you in the shower and then it might lead to something even more delicious and, and, and.”
“Promises, promises.” Jenna caressed Jim’s face and slid out of bed.
“I won’t be long.”
While she was showering, Jim ordered breakfast delivered to their room so they could eat in solitude. Although he’d willingly if reluctantly forgone their usual morning delight, he wasn’t ready to share her as yet.
As soon as she was out of the shower, Jim hopped in and Jenna could hear his delightful semi off-key rendition of “Something’s gotta give” smiling happily. “This is living,” she said aloud. ‘I am so beyond pleased you came into my life’, she whispered to herself.
The minute he reappeared, Jenna took him in her arms and held on tight and reiterated what she’d thought. “As I am, Jenna, with all my heart.”
By mid-afternoon, they’d congregated in the living room Emma and Nathan currently used. “You think pop wants an update, Emma?”
“Oh, probably. Although I did mention showing him the sights, and he was completely intrigued with the lighting during Christmas and said he had to visit to see Seattle for himself.”
“Well, Seattle has become a special place for me too.”
“Seems you and Jim are getting on rather well.”
“Yes, we are. Emma, I’m in love with him. I’m shocked, stunned, surprised, because it happened so quickly, without really noticing it, but there it is.”
Emma hugged Jenna close. “You know, it’s a good thing. He’s a fine man. I can’t think of better other than Nathan, and he’s off the market, you can’t have him.”
Jenna laughed brightly. “He does seem to fit you. You are good together, right, somehow.”
“I’m happy for both of us, Emma.”
“Shall we go interupt them? ”
“Naw, let’s just enjoy for the moment. As soon as mom and dad get here it’s going to get hectic.”
Jenna stood up and picked up her phone and tuned in some streaming music which she immediately began humming to. She lay down beside Jim, and pulling him close, began singing to him while staring directly into his eyes. Each piece of clothing she removed was followed by a kiss and more humming. Jim felt his body vibrate with the music she so easily sang to.
She began singing the words and kissed his face, tugged on his lobes, and caressed his body. Her voice, her touch, the look in her eyes was his undoing. He tried humming along, and while he could carry a tune, he was no match for the sultry sounds emanating from Jenna which only fueled his desire.
“Do you have any idea what you do to me? The depths that your voice moves on?”
“I have an idea, ” she whispered attractively.
“Let me show you,” he whispered back.
Jim gently peeled the layers of clothing away, as he kissed every inch of exposed skin. Jenna stopped singing and closed her eyes, completely overwhelmed with a vortex of emotion too strong to deny. Jim smiled knowingly. How he loved these moments with Jenna. She was so natural so sweet so delectable, he simply couldn’t get enough of her. She was his little bit of heaven on earth.
Tonight, their love-making took them far beyond the known galaxy to a stratosphere he’d never experienced before and he made sure Jenna experienced every emotion, every high and rebirth of emotion it was within him to give her.
Seeing Jenna tonight opened Jim’s eyes to a world she’d previously inhabited, if not lately, one she loved, was passionate about, one she should be pursuing. He’d watched in amazement, her incredible talent, the way the crowd responded, the glow that consumed her. He was absolutely proud, exultant that he knew this woman intimately and that she was an exceptionally talented and giving woman.
It gave him pause when Harold had grabbed her and held on. He’d fought the inner turmoil of momentary jealousy and anger that he’d taken such liberties. Jenna set him straight immediately. He wasn’t concerned he had competition from that arena. The competition as he saw it if there were any was her ability and the likely-hood she’d resume a career she’d previously walked away from. Making a life work while she traveled the world, and he knew she would, wasn’t going to be easy, but she was worth it, they were worth it.
When they reached the sanctuary of their room after goodnights were exchanged, he took her in his arms. “Jenna, you were spectacular. It’s what you were meant to do.”
“It’s the first time in a long time I felt whole again, Jim. I can’t explain it. I turned my back on my talent because I couldn’t handle the pain, the reminders, but that was the past. Having a singing career isn’t the past. It’s a possibility. I was approached by my old record company and they asked me to return. I’ve put off giving them an answer. Until tonight, I didn’t believe I would or could.”
“I’m thrilled you had an opportunity to close the door that was holding you back. You need to do this, for you, Jenna. Your talent can’t be wasted. The world deserves to hear you.”
“If I think our relationship is going where I hope it’s going, this could get complicated.”
“I live for complications. It’s in my nature, Jenna, it’s who I am.”
Jenna pulled him tight. “I have to thank you, Jim. You opened my heart and soul and you’ve shown me unconditional acceptance and the freedom to be me again. I think I’m in love with you.”
“Good, because I wouldn’t want to feel this incredible thing without you.” Jim kissed her with a passion he’d held in reserve before this moment. Dancing around the room, he took his time showing her how he felt and Jenna responded in kind.
“This is good, so very good, Jim. We’re good. I want this. I want you.”
Jim danced her toward the bed and lifting her, placed her gently upon it before joining her and expressing with actions, all that he felt for her.
Emma swayed to the relaxing jazz playing in the background. Jenna hummed along with the instrumental music set to relax. First a Piano then guitar took the lead. The owner of the bar sauntering by heard her and stopped short. “Jenna?”
Jenna turned and stared into the eyes of a close friend, one she’d been intimate with eons ago. “Harold?”
Lifting her off the seat, he twirled her around and setting her on the ground with a radiant voice loudly whispered, “Jenna, Jenna, Jenna! Oh my god, it’s been…forever! What a wonderful surprise seeing you here!”
Jenna was stunned into momentary silence. “Harold, meet my sister, Emma, Nathan, and Jim.”
“Sorry, sorry, apologies all round. I was so stunned at seeing Jenna, I forgot my manners.”
“Harold, Harold Spence, owner of this delightful establishment.”
Nathan stood and shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you. It is a lovely place, the ambiance is wonderful, the wine choices excellent and the chocolate, next to none.”
Jim stood next, stiffly offering a hand. “Jim.”
Emma offered her hand and asked, “How long have you owned the establishment? Seems you do a great business for all the reasons Nathan outlined. I can’t agree more. It’s an absolute find.”
“I’ve owned the place oh coming up ten years next month. And yeah, it was a lifelong dream. I’m sure Jenna will remember me talking about it years back.” He smiled warmly at Jenna, placing an arm around her neck.
Jenna moved away shaking his arm loose before moving to Jim and wrapping her arms around his waist. If Harold noticed her not so subtle move, he didn’t let on.
“Jenna, how about a song? You interested? I’ll have the band take the lead. They usually wait for an hour until everyone is comfortable and then they play six sets. What you say?”
Jenna looked at Jim uncertain how to answer. He pulled her close and whispered, “Only if you really want to Jenna. If you do, then go for it. We’re right here.”
Jenna hugged him tight, “Alright, thank you.” She kissed him fervently, boldly, sexily.
Leading her toward the back where the band had set up, Harold introduced her to everyone and when they were ready, stepped up onto the stage and announced, “Hello everyone. So glad you could make it out tonight. We have a special honour in store for you. An old and dear friend has just arrived in Seattle and she’s agreed to sing a few songs for us. You are sure to be as excited as I am to have her here. Please, a warm welcome for Jenna Banks.” He clapped loudly before stepping down and motioning to his band.
The evening sped by and Jenna not only sang a set with the band but followed up with two more. They didn’t want her to stop, and frankly, she didn’t either. It was the first time she’d set foot on a stage in a long time, too long. It felt wonderful, it felt right, it felt good. When she finished her last song, to massive applause, she bowed and hopped down from the stage and rejoined the others, her eyes sparkling with a glow Emma hadn’t witnessed in forever. She hugged Jenna close. “You were fabulous.”
Jim grabbed her and hauling her close said, “You’re amazing. Phenomenal, outstanding! I wouldn’t have missed that for worlds.”
Jenna returned the hug and held him tight. “I can’t believe I did it. It’s been forever. Maybe because it was unexpected it was easier to do, but it was fun. I missed the rush of it, the heart-pounding delight of it. Thank you, Jim.”
“What are you thanking me for?”
“For saying yes, for being supportive, oh I don’t know, for being here! All of it! I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Sure you could, your spectacular. The time was right, Jenna.”
“I guess it was.”
They headed home after Jenna introduced them to the band and thanked Harold for the opportunity.
The following day progressed with snippets of information from Jester filtering through which Nathan pondered, placing the pieces together. They’d found several connections to Jessop so far that ensured his protection, for his loss, was their loss. Still, these weren’t the ring-leaders responsible for calling the shots, simply part of a larger circle. If they were going to tackle Jessop, their plan had to take them all down in one go. More digging was necessary in order to make that happen seamlessly.
Jenna’s being here was a godsend for her, Emma and particularly Jim, who it seemed was systematically falling in love with Jenna as she was him. Nathan couldn’t be happier.
Tonight they planned on attending a Wine and Chocolate Pairing at Sweet Decadence Wine and Chocolate Bar in Renton which Jenna was particularly looking forward to. Nathan intended she enjoy as much entertainment as possible while here.
The event was well planned, well attended and a delightful hit. They mingled with others then sat in a sectioned off area and chatted. Jenna sat up straight as her phone buzzed in her pocket. “Oh my god, dad and mom want to come join us.”
Emma responded with surprise, “Really? When?”
“They said if it’s ok with you two, they’d arrive tomorrow afternoon, they have already booked their flight. They’d be happy to stay at Emma’s but they are looking forward to seeing Seattle sights.”
Nathan immediately replied, “They are more than welcome to stay at Emma’s but we have plenty of room here, a whole wing in fact. That way we can visit and plan events to attend. I think it’s a wonderful idea.”
Emma hugged Nathan in wholehearted agreement.
“It’s a shame they didn’t mention the idea before booking their flight, I’d have sent my jet and they would have been here moments after boarding.”
“Guess they never thought of that,” Jenna replied. “This is exciting! It’s an extended New Years. I can’t wait!”
Jim too was pleased. He had some things he’d like to discuss with Jenna’s father. Their possible future together being one.
The vast majority of the evening involved going over possibilities and scenarios to protect everyone.
Nathan crawled into bed beside Emma. reaching across, caressing her hair, Nathan looked deeply into her eyes, “You are a brave soul, Emma.”
“I don’t see it that way, I’m doing what I need to do. The bravest one amongst us, if you think about it, is Jenna. She’s new to all this. It’s the furthest thing from her world as you can imagine. I’ve rubbed shoulders with cops, criminals, criminal elements on different levels and now you.” She winked. “Jenna’s world consisted until recently of music, a tragedy, and family.”
“I see your point about Jenna. Having said that, I’ve chosen this lifestyle, as has Jim. Although you’ve been on the fringes, rubbed shoulders as you put it, with criminal elements, it’s quite another aspect to place yourself solidly in the middle of all this without a second thought on behalf of a young unfortunate woman you knew nothing about.”
Emma didn’t want to speak to the current situation, so instead, she drew him closer into a tight clinch and kissed him passionately which immediately put other ideas in his head and he let his speech trail off.
“I have more important things to consider for the moment,” Emma suggested.
“I agree with your current assessment.” Nathan wrapped his arm around her, securing her body close to his own before wrapping a leg around her to show her how aroused he’d become. Emma sighed in return, and a pleasureable evening ensued.
When Nathan signaled his men to enter the fourth warehouse, they hit pay dirt. He was horrified at discovering every manner of weapon skillfully hidden inside other objects inside crates. They’d brought sophisticated equipment and upon scanning, found the mother-load.
They moved away toward a parking area two blocks from the site and Nathan called Jester and showed him the scans. Jester was equally horrified. “Damn it, Nathan, we have to stop this.”
“Have you found any useful information?”
“Not enough to securely lock him in. At this point, mud would fly his way, but enough wouldn’t stick, all it would accomplish is muddying the waters.”
“Then we need an inside man, someone he wouldn’t be afraid to deal with. Do you have anyone that fits the bill?” Nathan asked hopefully.
“Yes, I just might. I have dealings with an outsider, someone known to play both ends but it could be risky. He could turn on us and sell us out as easily, but he’s our best hope. Whether his word will stand in court, is another matter.”
“It’s something we’ll have to risk.” Nathan was firm on this. “Set it up, Jester, we’ll see how far it goes.”
“It’s in the works as we speak then, Nathan.”
Nathan clicked off without another word. It was iffy at best, but the only possibility at this point unless they found his buyer. If they could find a pressure point to use against him, or his cohorts, they might find another in, but so far that had proven useless.
Returning home, he found Jenna, Emma and Jim enjoying a glass of wine while sitting at the puzzle.
“You seem to have made good use of your time.” He walked toward Emma and hugging her close, felt the tension.
“What happened?” He looked directly at Jim. They shared a glance and Jim filled him in on the evenings events.
“Well, perhaps we are getting somewhere after all.” He informed them about the warehouse findings.
“No wonder they killed that poor woman. She must have witnessed a meet or transaction and they were afraid it would come out.” Jenna’s eyes were like saucers. “It explains why they want to shut Emma down too. Word of this gets out, the guy’s toast.”
“Indeed, Jenna, that’s the point in a nutshell.”
“So what’s the plan, Nathan?”
“Jester has some sources, we’re setting up a buy.”
“That’s pretty risky isn’t it, if this guy isn’t solid? Couldn’t his word be used against you instead, if he suggests it was a legit meet and you were the buyer?”
“Only if Jessop gets wind of the set-up. Otherwise, it will work.”