Fiance by Friday(5)

By: Catherine Bybee


Gwen had played center stage to many of his fantasies.

Fantasies that would never become reality.

Neil shrugged out of his black leather jacket and tossed it on the side of his sofa. He unhooked his holster that carried the Beretta M9 he never left home without and set it on top of his jacket.

The two-bedroom guesthouse that sat on Blake and Samantha’s Malibu estate had been his refuge for five years. After five years, he finally felt some degree of comfort…of belonging. Other than the housekeeper and cook, Neil had no one on site he needed to watch over during the night.

He double-checked the system in Tarzana, and confirmed that someone there had set the internal alarms that shouldn’t go off unless breached. Gwen and Karen set the alarms when they left or when they turned in for the night.

Neil flicked on the local news, more for background noise than for company. He poured himself a drink and stretched out on the couch.

This was the life he wanted…low stress, even lower profile. He could guard a duke and his family in his sleep. No, make that in his sleep with a hangover…the kind you woke up from with the room still spinning. The people he’d known in the past would say he was wasting his time.

But it was his time to waste.

He brushed away memories of those past people, tilted his head back, and closed his eyes. His consciousness slid into sleep, his body relaxing with it.

The high-pitched scream of a security breach shot him to his feet and he was fully awake in half a breath.

Neil ran to his security room, hit a master switch, and a dozen monitors sprang to life. He scanned them quickly and found the breach in question in Tarzana. The monitor flashed red and displayed video feeds from inside and outside the house. Neil hit speed dial with one hand and placed the Tarzana feed onto his big screen.

The hall was clear, the motion detector hadn’t tripped the outside lights…the front door was closed. But the back door wasn’t secure.

“Gwen?” Neil overheard Karen calling from inside the Tarzana house, the audio feed now relaying every word clearly. The alarm sounded inside the house, probably loud enough to wake the neighbors. He heard the phone ringing both in his ear and in the house.

He flipped the feed, searching for her…his heart skipped several beats before Gwen appeared on screen.

She ran to the control panel, opened it, and started hitting numbers. Seeing her unharmed, Neil kept scanning the feeds. “Answer the fucking phone,” he said through clenched teeth.

“I forgot…” Gwen’s voice rose above the alarm.

“Turn the noise off,” Karen said.

Both Gwen and Karen were standing at the control panel. Once the numbers were pressed in, the alarm went silent.

Gwen moved from the panel to the phone. “Hello?”

“What happened?” Neil’s hand hovered over the mouse on the master controls, the one that would alert the local police to respond.

“Hello, Neil.”

This wasn’t a fucking social call. “Gwen?” His tone was strained.

“I opened the back door. Forgot to cancel the alarm first.”

Karen was walking back up the stairs seemingly unaffected by the drama.

Gwen moved through one room to another. The nightgown she wore hardly covered her ass.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“The back door, why is it open?” The backyard feed was dark, no sign of problems.

“It’s a nice night. I thought I’d let some fresh air in. Everything is fine, Neil. I’m sorry I woke you.”

She was leaning against the door she’d opened and talking on the phone to him.

“I wasn’t asleep.”

“Of course you weren’t. You never sleep, do you?”

“I sleep.” Just not in a bed. And not for extended periods of time.

“And what does Neil dream of when he sleeps?” For some reason only known to Gwen, she taunted him by talking about him in third person.

Neil turned off his alarms and sat in the tall back leather chair in the center of the room.

“Well?”

What was the question? Oh, right…what does he dream of? Platinum blondes with British accents wearing garters and stockings…and nothing else.

“I don’t dream.”

“Everyone dreams.”

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