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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31





Chapter Thirty - One

            Reluctantly Catherine Lione agreed to speak to her. Madison followed the dark-haired woman into a comfortable private office in the back of the restaurant, where there were video monitors on the wall and speakers playing music.

            Catherine switched everything off, stared at Madison for a moment, then gave a deep sigh. 'I knew who you were when in saw you this afternoon,' she said in her soft, slightly accented voice. 'It was smart of you to find me. Although I suppose I'm not that difficult to find if one starts looking.'

            'My detective found you,' Madison said restlessly.

            'I see,' Catherine said, sitting down on a long Art Deco couch.

            Unsteady on her feet, Madison sat down next to her.

            Catherine gave another long, drawn-out sigh. 'You see, Madison,' she began, 'after my sister's murder I had to get away from Michael and his evil, so I fled to Miami and married a man who was good to me. My husband put up the money to start this place, then later he was killed in an accident. Lione's began small, then after the big earthquake in L.A. everyone began flocking here. Photographers, models, designers- they all discovered South Beach with a vengeance. At first I was worried, I thought the publicity might put me on the front pages. But the people who cared about me knew I did not desire personal publicity, so Lione's became a force on its own, and I stayed in the background.'

            'I'm not interested in the history of your restaurant,' Madison interrupted fiercely. 'I'm interested in you and what you can tell me.'

            'I see,' Catherine said quietly.

            Madison got up and began pacing. 'Recently I discovered that the woman I believed was my mother all these years was not,' she said, watching Catherine for a reaction. 'You might have read that she and her boyfriend were murdered.'

            Catherine regarded her carefully. 'What do you know about your father, Madison? Did he tell you everything?'

            'No,' she said quickly. 'As soon as I discovered Stella wasn't my mother, I hired a private detective. She's here with me tonight. Kimm did some investigating, came up with the press clippings, informed me that Michael.Oh, God, I still can't believe it.'

            'What did she tell you?' Catherine asked gently.

            'She -she said that Michael was once a hit man for someone in the Mob.' Her eyes met Catherine's, and she stared at her hopefully. 'That's completely crazy, isn't it?'

            'It must seem crazy to you,' Catherine murmured. 'To me, it's something I always knew. From the very beginning I warned Beth she was playing a dangerous game, but she loved Michael and there was nothing I could say to change her mind.'

            'Did you try?' Madison asked, sitting down again.

            'Many times.'

            'And she wouldn't listen?'

            'Beth and I came here as teenagers from Cuba. We lived with an aunt who died shortly after we arrived. Beth met Michael when we were still in high school- they became inseparable.' Another long sigh. 'For a while, Michael took care of both of us. He paid the rent on our apartment, and even after Beth moved in with him, he still supported me.' She paused for a moment before continuing. 'There was a time when I loved him like a brother. I loved him because he loved Beth so much. But when he murdered her. 'She trailed off, tears filling her eyes.

            'so.you do think he killed her?' Madison said, hardly able to get the words out.

            Catherine laughed bitterly. 'I don't think anything,' she said. 'I know he's guilty. He got off because he had a powerful attorney - paid for by his Mafia boss.'

            'Oh, God!' Madison said, her heart pounding. 'So it is true?'

            'I tried to take you away from him - he wouldn't let me. Michael had the power, the money, the lawyers. Me, I had nothing.'

            'Why?' Madison demanded. 'Why did he do it/'

            'He thought she had taken a lover. It wasn't so.'

            'I don't believe it,' Madison said sadly, reluctant to face the truth. 'It's the same story as Stella.'

            Catherine shrugged. 'Michael is aware I know the truth about him. he could find me if he wanted to when he was acquitted, I knew I was probably safe, there was no necessity for him to come after me. But just in case, I keep a loaded gun beside my bed.' 'I don't understand,' Madison said, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to engulf her. 'Why didn't you want to see me?'

            Catherine shook her head. 'It's too painful,' she said abruptly. Her voice softened. 'My sister was everything to me. You- I'm sorry, but you're somebody I don't know. You're Michael's daughter.'

            'No. I'm Beth's daughter,' Madison said, her voice rising. 'And I've only just found out all of this. Doesn't that mean anything to you?'

            'I know it should,' Catherine said, her voice a flat monotone. 'However, I cannot bring back the memories that haunt me.'

            'How can you say that?'

            'I wish you luck, Madison, but Michael is your family.'

            'So you're saying you don't want anything to do with me?'

            'No,' Catherine said. 'I'm saying that I can't allow Michael back into my life, and if I accept you, then Michael will follow. I know him, he is filled with enormous jealously. If he thought you and I were close, his ego couldn't take it. I don't know what it is with him - when he possesses somebody, they have to be his all the way.'

            'He doesn't possess me,' Madison said vehemently. 'I'm his daughter, but he's always left me free to do my own thing.'

            'He's allowed you to think that.'

            'I really am a journalist - I work for Manhattan Style.'

            'I know,' Catherine said. 'I've followed your career.'

            ''You have?' Madison said, surprised. 'How did you know who I was?'

            'I have friends,' Catherine said. 'They've kept me informed. I know you were raised thinking Stella was your mother, and when she was murdered - well, I expected you to come searching for the truth. I'm surprised Michael told you. It must be his punishment to Stella.'

            'Listen,' Madison said., 'I'm only here for one night, but I'd love to come back and spend some time with you.'

            'No,' Catherine said sharply. 'This is impossible for me. You must understand.'

            'I need to know more.'

            'Then you'll have to find it out elsewhere,' Catherine said, standing up. 'I must go, my guests are waiting. Please, Madison, do not tell Michael we have spoken or where I am, because if you do, he will try to ruin everything I've worked for.'

            'I'd never do that.'

            'I wish you luck, Madison.'

            'That's it?' she said disbelievingly.

            Catherine nodded, her eyes full of sorrow. 'I'm afraid that's all I can offer you.'

            Angrily Madison got up, left the room and returned to her table. The first thing she noticed was that Kimm was taking risks on the dance-floor locked in a close embrace with the black woman who'd been coming on to her earlier.

            'They look good together, huh?' Juan said, sidling up next to her. 'Jealous?'

            'No way,' Madison answered recklessly. 'Get me another margarita, Juan, then I want to dance. With you.'

            'With me?' he said, grinning confidently.

            'Yeah,' she said, fixing him with a look. 'You're it tonight.'

            He fetched her another drink and she tossed it back fast. Her head was spinning, spinning, spinning. This was all too much. She'd found her mother's sister who did not want to be her friend, did not want anything at all to do with her.

            So be it.

            She could take it.

            She could take anything that was dished out.

            And yet.she was enveloped in a cloak of sadness. What had happened to her perfect life?

            She grabbed Juan and hit the floor, soon finding out that he was an accomplished and sensual dancer too, for suddenly she was swaying and twirling to the beat of the music, all else forgotten.

            She remembered her last visit to Miami - the sexy male model, their passionate one-night stand.

            That's what she wanted more than anything - another one-nighter. Another incredible night of hot, unforgettable sex.

            Dangerous sex.

            Dangerous anything.

            She had an unquenchable desire to get out of her body and into somebody else's.

            'What time to do you finish here?' she murmured clinging to Juan as he spun her around, making her even dizzier than she was before.

            'Any time I want. Miz Lione told me to make sure you are happy. She is pleased you are here.'

            'No, she's not,' Madison said, holding back sudden tears. 'But it doesn't matter. Nothing matters any more.'

            'She enjoyed your company,' Juan insisted. 'Said you are an excellent journalist. And as long as you don't write her name, she is pleased to help you.'

            'Help me?' Madison said, laughing derisively. 'She didn't help me. You're the one who's helping me.' And then they were kissing, their lips pressed hard against each other, his tongue exploring her mouth with a great deal of fiery passion.

            'Let's get out of here,' she gasped, when they finally parted.

            'What about your friend?'

            She glanced over at Kimm on the dance-floor, still entwined with the black woman. 'My friend will be perfectly fine,' she said. 'Let's go before I change my mind.'

            He put his arm around her, guiding her toward the door. 'You are sure?'

            The hot salsa music and the effect of all the margaritas she'd consumed swept over her. Juan was a conduit to forgetting everything. And he was right there beside her. 'Oh, yes,' she murmured. 'I'm very sure.'

            And everything was till spinning, spinning, spinning.

            And she knew things would never be the same.

   


Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62