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Rochelle Rathbone flirts with danger and becomes involved with Tobias Chandler, Miami drug czar; thus, setting the stage for horrors she never knew existed until after their marriage. Guarded around the clock in his Miami mansion, she becomes his prisoner. She devises a desperate plan and escapes, knowing Tobias will come after her. She meets and falls in love with Michael Matheson. She knows there are only two things that will stop his pursuit of her—her death or his…
Driving her shiny new car, the combination graduation and birthday present from her parents, Rochelle drove to the address Tobias gave her. She was now eighteen and felt all grown up from the attention Tobias showered upon her. They had met frequently at out-of-the-way places, had talked, laughed, and petted, but nothing more serious. Then immediately after her birthday, he called her private phone to invite her to his home for the first time. The invitation thrilled her. She drove through a neighborhood that flaunted million dollar homes with gated entrances. When she came to the house number she sought, she pulled into the driveway and stopped. A Secured by a six-foot fence with spikes around the top was a stately mansion that boasted a wrought-iron gate with a small gatehouse. She gazed in awe at the spacious lawns on each side of the long driveway leading up to a huge modern structure of mortar, stone, steel, and plate glass windows that reflected the blue sky.
At the entrance, a guard, with a magazine in his hand, stepped from the small gatehouse. He pushed a button and the gates opened with an electrical whirring sound. “Miss Rathbone, drive forward, please. Mr. Chandler is expecting you.”
A bright smile lit Rochelle’s girlish face, and she drove forward with a sense of expectancy. Awed by such grandeur, she stopped in front of the elegant structure with fascinated interest. She opened the car door, climbing out when she spied Tobias coming to greet her.
“Is this all yours?” she blurted out childishly. Looking upward, she saw the outer walls of the house rising to a height of at least three stories.
Tobias ignored the question, and kissed her. “Come inside and I’ll show you around.” His white teeth flashed behind a wide smile and he seemed genuinely happy to see her. They were no longer strangers. They had been together a number of times since their initial meeting. All their visits had been friendly get-togethers. Now, she had just had her eighteenth birthday and was at the legal age of consent.
The tour led directly up the spacious winding stairs to Tobias’s elegantly decorated bedroom with a king size bed and beautiful furnishings. Sliding glass doors opened onto a balcony overlooking green lawns. Tobias reached his arms around Rochelle and kissed her. His hands moved over her body, taking liberties beyond the timid familiarities exercised over the past few weeks. The age restriction no longer applied and now he would take what he had wanted since meeting her.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this day, baby. You know I want you.” His eyes drank in her lovely, creamy smooth complexion and her young woman’s figure.
Rochelle smiled, feeling self-important. Her ego became pumped up by Tobias’s declaration of desire for her. Everything about him thrilled her. Over the weeks when they had met clandestinely, he had touched and fondled her, causing her to yearn for more. Now a simple nod of her head indicated her consent.
With easy abandon, Tobias relieved Rochelle of her clothing and shed his own. His steel-gray eyes scanned her nakedness, the act shaming and thrilling her at once. His hands seemed to be everywhere. A spark of desire struck like lightning as he walked her backward toward the bed, pushing her down until she lay on her back. She had been looking forward to this moment. Having Tobias fondle and entice her over the weeks she had known him had developed into a strong need that begged for repletion. A thrill of anticipation raced through her even while tension tightened her muscles causing her to recline on the bed like a stiff board.
Tobias’s hands slid across her breasts and along the curves of Rochelle’s body to send sensuous chills along the column of her spine. He kissed her until her lips burned with his kisses. He trailed a chain of kisses down to one nipple then the other. The kisses didn’t stop there. They followed a path down to her stomach and beyond. Rochelle’s heart pounded thunderously to her ears.
This was something all new to her. She tensed.
“Relax, baby. Just relax and enjoy it. I’m going to make you feel so good.” He fondled her round breasts to prove it and watched her tiny rosebud nipples rise to delicate pink peaks.
Rochelle was too breathless to speak. She nodded her head, her eyes beseeching him, not knowing what else to expect, but her body was attuning itself to his intimacy.
“You want this, don’t you, baby?” he asked hoarsely, his mouth, hands, and fingers enticing her as never before over the entirety of her shapely body.
Rochelle’s green eyes stretched open wide, resembling a frightened doe. Her response to Tobias’s question was a yes that sounded more like a squeak.
“You have a beautiful body,” Tobias whispered, his voice husky. His hands explored her, touching, feeling, and possessively plundering every inch of her. He slid his fingers up the inside of her thighs. He bent his head again to her lips, while his hand and fingers took liberties with every valley and curve. Although tense, Rochelle became aware of the natural response of her body beneath his bold caresses.
Stimulated by the fiery intensity of his need, Tobias moved between her legs taking a position on top of her. She lay beneath him, still and unmoving. Then he entered her, gently and slowly this first time, finally sending a stabbing thrust to deflower her youth.
“So good, so good,” he groaned hoarsely in her ear just before his explosive release.
He groaned, jerked, and shuddered, letting his full weight rest upon her. Unable to breathe, Rochelle pushed her hands against his shoulders, and he rolled off her, totally spent. He spread out his arms and legs in loose repose with no thought for modesty. Rochelle pulled the sheet up to cover her, diverting her attention to the ceiling.
Rochelle felt needy. She had reached a high point that felt like pure ecstasy in the making, and then nothing when Tobias finished with her. Was that all there was to it? Wasn’t she supposed to experience some sort of pleasure such as he seemed to gain from their sexual encounter? An unfulfilled longing resided in her lower abdomen.
She glanced over at him, feeling slightly abandoned, wishing he would hold her. She scooted over next to him and spread her arm across his chest, snuggling her face up against his neck and cheek.
“Baby, you’re wonderful. You made daddy feel really good.”
Rochelle winced, wishing he wouldn’t use the word daddy in relation to their intimacy. Her daddy would kill her if he knew what she had just done. She snuggled up against him, and the throbbing need inside her was slow to dissolve.
FOLLOWING THAT DAY of lost innocence, Rochelle felt terribly grown up. What few girlfriends she still had seemed young and childish, their example of a night out being a trip to the pizza parlor with the gang. Such pastimes were too tame for Rochelle now after her induction into more grownup activities with Tobias. She had outgrown her old classmates.
Tobias took her to posh restaurants and lively nightclubs and discos. He provided her a wardrobe of expensive clothing, which she kept at his home. He gave her money to buy more anytime she wanted. She grew into their busy nightlife, and since she wasn’t twenty-one, she sipped on cokes while Tobias and his friends drank scotch, bourbon, gin, or vodka.
Following her graduation from high school, she enrolled and started classes at the local university. Her and Tobias’s secret affair—which Rochelle continually hid from her parents by telling them she was going out with friends—went on during her freshman year at the university. When she was ready to start her sophomore year, Tobias decided he wanted to marry her.
At about that same time, Joshua Rathbone, Rochelle’s father, learned that all Rochelle’s nights out hadn’t been trips to the library or outings with her girlfriends after all. Through friends who saw them out in public, he learned of his daughter’s relationship with Tobias Chandler.
Rochelle’s parents went crazy with shock, anger, and dismay.
“For God’s sake, you have to be out of your mind.” Angela Rathbone cried hysterically. “The man is old enough to be your father, and if that isn’t bad enough, he’s a known criminal. Do you have any idea what kind of situation you’re getting yourself into with this man? Do you know what you’re doing?”
“Mom…” Rochelle started, not with an answer, but with a rebuttal.
Before she could say more, her father interrupted. “Rochelle, you will not see that man again. I forbid it! Do you understand me? I forbid it!” he said in raised voice and controlled anger. The news of his daughter having an affair with Tobias Chandler was the worse news of his life.
“Dad, you can’t forbid it. I’m a woman now and have a right to make my own decisions,” she quarreled, exercising an uncommon bravado not familiar to her parents.
Joshua hit the ceiling. “A woman! Good God, you’re nothing but a child. A woman would have better sense than to let that criminal bastard compromise her.”
“He’s not a bastard, and it won’t do you any good to call him names,” Rochelle raised her voice. “I have a right to make decisions about my life. I’m doing what I want, and I won’t listen to this.”
Joshua was well aware of defiance among young people. It had become a sort of juvenile revolution with youngsters of all ages declaring their independence before they were mature enough to take responsibility for their actions. Once normal households had become war zones where parents screamed and fought for control by attempting to exercise parental influence, often in a losing battle with their children. With a kind of feel-good mentality among youths, they sought life in the moment, in the fast lane. Drug use was rampant, as was sexual promiscuity. Youth were in turmoil, but Joshua never expected this kind of behavior from his daughter who had a proper upbringing.
Joshua and Angela raised Rochelle in a morally prudent environment revolving around church, community, and civic affairs. They submersed her in a life complemented by good up-right friends, and set proper standards of behavior exemplified by their own conduct. They never counted on outer influences compromising everything taught her at home.
Now, tormented by Rochelle’s association with Tobias Chandler, Joshua looked back and wondered where he and Angela went wrong. Perhaps they had protected Rochelle too much, instead of acquainting her with the ills of a sick society filled with drugs, perverse sex, murder, rape, and a hoard of crimes against humanity. Knowing Rochelle was innocent prey to a man like Tobias Chandler, Joshua felt the urge to kill him for destroying his child’s innocence.
“As God is my witness, Rochelle,” Joshua exploded, a rarity for his commonly dignified manner, “I’ll damn well lock you in your room if I have to rather than see you ruin your life with some low-life criminal. Everybody in the justice system knows he runs the drug trade in Miami. He’s involved with every low-life who has connections to the drug cartel out of Columbia.”
“That’s a lie! You’re saying that because you don’t want me to see him,” she argued.
“Do you think I’ve defended criminals in the courtroom all these years with blinders on? The State Attorney’s office has been seeking evidence on Tobias Chandler for several months now.”
“Then why haven’t they arrested him?” Rochelle countered.
“Oh they will, mark my word, just as soon as they get enough evidence to make the charges stick. He’s going down sooner or later, and you can count on that.”
“I don’t believe any of this. You would say anything to break us up. You’re just saying these things about Tobias because you don’t want me to see him.”
“What in the hell will it take to get through that thick skull of yours? Rochelle, Tobias Chandler is a known criminal. He’s an evil and dangerous man.”
Rochelle’s voice rose again. “I don’t believe it! I’ve never seen him involved in anything connected with drugs.”
Joshua guffawed with disgust. “Did you believe he would advertise his illegal dealings? Of course, you don’t see anything suspicious or illegal. Neither does anyone else or the state attorney would have squashed his organization already.”
Rochelle pursed her lips, tilting her head at a disgusted angle, and stared defiantly from the corner of her eyes at nothing in particular.
“Let me tell you a horror story about Chandler. A while back, I represented a man called Hobart Pascal, who was one of the cartel’s front men. The police charged him with murdering an innocent man who accidentally overheard a conversation about a shipment of drugs. Hobart killed the man to silence him. When the trial turned sour, Chandler feared Hobart might make a deal with the prosecutor’s office to turn state’s evidence against him. Hobart was found hung in his cell.”
“Then it was someone else. Tobias would never do anything like you’re suggesting,” she stated in bitter defiance.
“No, he wouldn’t do something like that directly, but he delegates. It’s his job to keep the drug market running smoothly and keep the players out of jail. He has at least a fifth of the police department on his payroll. Drug marketing is big business, Rochelle, and Tobias Chandler is Colombia’s kingpin, the liaison between them and drug distribution. Chandler will go down eventually and he’ll destroy you with him. Can’t you see that I’m trying to protect you?”
Raising her chin defiantly, Rochelle stated adamantly. “Dad, I know you and mom mean well, and I don’t want to hurt either of you, but I love him. I can’t give him up, and I won’t give him up.”
“Rochelle, I swear I’ll lock you in your room before I’ll see you ruin your life on a man like Tobias Chandler,” Joshua declared, his face bright red with anger as he hovered threateningly above his daughter, restraining himself from actually hitting her for the first time in his life.
“It would be a tragic mistake for you to try such a thing, Dad. If you make me choose, I’ll leave here and go live with Tobias.”
Angela came to her feet, her face splotched red. She reached out and slashed her hand across Rochelle’s cheek. “How can you be such an idiot? Your father is an attorney and has defended enough criminals that he knows what he’s talking about. You need to listen to him. Even I know what Tobias Chandler is. He’ll use you until he tires of you and then you’ll be found in some lake or dump somewhere. Is that what you want?”
Touching her hand to her stinging cheek, Rochelle jumped up from her chair and raced from the room.
A stormy Saturday morning blew in with heavy pouring rain. Thunder and lightning boomed and sliced through the atmosphere. Rochelle took advantage of the storm to sleep late. With her energy divided between college classes, studying, and time spent with Tobias, she was exhausted most the time. Last night, she made every excuse to avoid another late night out with him and his associates and their wives, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he demanded she give up her classes. “You won’t need college classes after you marry me,” he stated offhandedly.
His subtlety didn’t escape her. “Is that supposed to be a proposal?” she inquired with a saucy tilt to her head.
“If it were, would you say yes and give up your classes?”
“I like the idea of getting an education. Why should I give it up?”
“Because when you become my wife, you belong to me and I don’t want you involved in other activities that take you away from me.”
Tobias’s possessiveness thrilled her, making her feel extremely special and important in his life. It made her feel wanted and cared for by him. She thought of all the hard work spent in keeping up with her studies, and privately agreed that she didn’t need to continue her education. If she married Tobias an education wouldn’t benefit her anyway since he wouldn’t want her to work.
A clap of thunder cut through her restful sleep, causing her to turn over and glance at the clock. Ten o’clock. God, she was certain she could sleep the whole day through if she didn’t have class assignments.
She recalled Tobias’s proposal, what he said about giving up her college courses. With a groan, of indecision, she rolled over and went back to sleep for another couple of hours.
“Chelle, darling, its nearly noon. Aren’t you going to get up? You’re not sick are you?” Angela asked, all too aware of the busy pace her daughter had been keeping with classes, assignments, and Tobias Chandler.
“Ohhhh,” she groaned, rubbing her eyes, “I’d like to sleep all day.”
“Then why don’t you, darling? You look tired. I’ll bring some juice and toast up to you in a little while.”
“No, I think I’d better get up.” She pushed herself to a sitting position, and slung her legs off the side of the bed. Like a zombie, she slid her feet heavily across the floor to the bathroom. Half asleep, she went through all the motions routinely followed for the past several years, showering, brushing her teeth, putting on makeup, combing her hair, and then dressing for the day. Finally satisfied with her image in the mirror, she went downstairs where her father finished his lunch and lingered over a cup of coffee.
“Sweetheart, you look tired,” Joshua said, glancing up as she came into the breakfast room. He and Angela both had made concessions in their feelings about Rochelle seeing Chandler. They feared she might follow through on her threat to move in with him unless they took a tolerant position. They loved her and wanted to protect her, but their frustration at not being able to do so caused a low undercurrent of anger at her defiance.
Rochelle yawned, covering her mouth while she pulled out a chair across from her father. “Just trying to wake up,” she said. The truth was, she was weighted down and tormented by the prospect of telling her parents that Tobias proposed to her.
Perhaps she would wait until dinnertime.
ROCHELLE RUSHED THROUGH her assignments so she could linger over dinner with her parents. She waited half way through the meal before gaining the nerve to break the news about Tobias’s proposal. She tensed in readiness for another unpleasant scene.
“Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you,” she said, lowering her head in a thoughtful pose.
Joshua and Angela glanced at each other, looking suddenly anxious. They gazed quietly at Rochelle, waiting for the shattering news neither expected.
Perhaps her nerves were acting up, Rochelle thought, but she could swear the air crackled with electrical currents.
Best to get right to the point, she thought. She blurted out her news in one long breath. “Tobias asked me to marry him.”
Angela dropped her fork. It clattered against the plate. Joshua’s fork stopped midway to his mouth. He sat frozen in that position for several seconds in pure shock while he stared non-blinking at Rochelle’s young face.
Angela’s mouth flew open and she gasped, “Oh my God!”
Joshua’s hand fell, and the fork hit the edge of the plate, bounced on the table, and fell to the floor. “No, Rochelle. You can’t do this.” His unusually quiet voice was a plea as the words quivered in his throat. He swallowed spasmodically, his Adam’s apple bobbing from the effort.
“Dad, I love you,” she said persuasively, “and I would never do anything intentionally to hurt you or mama, but this is my life. This is what I want to do with it. I want to be Tobias’s wife. You have to try to understand.”
“Dear God, Rochelle, what is wrong with you?” Angela cried. “Joshua, please talk some sense into her?”
Before Joshua could say anything, Angela continued in a desperate plea. “Why are you doing this, Chelle? Why, for God’s sake, do you want to ruin your life? There will be other men, young men your own age.” Sobbing, she added, “You can’t do this. You can’t!”
“Mama, why can’t I make you and Dad understand how I feel? Can’t you understand this is my life, not yours? I don’t want anyone else except Tobias. I beg you to understand. Your blessings are important to me.”
“Our blessings! Good God, do you seriously think we could ever offer our blessings for you to marry a criminal?” Joshua’s emotional control, learned from years of being at the center of public observation in the courtroom, was steadfast for the moment.
“When?” he asked solemnly, realizing the futility in attempting to argue the point. His daughter’s determination defied everything he might say to her against her decision.
“We haven’t decided yet. I’d like to finish my sophomore year first.”
“And your junior and senior years—what about those?” Angela cried heartbrokenly.
“Tobias said he wants me to give up my classes after we’re married.” She hung her head, feeling shame now when considering how much her education meant to both her parents. They had never doubted she would complete college. She had even thought at one time of becoming a lawyer like her father, but that would be out now if she gave up college.
“Chelle, I beg you not to do this? You’re going to destroy your life if you marry that man.” Her mother swallowed salty tears, her shoulders slumping like an old woman’s instead of the elegant forty-five year old lady she actually was.
“I’m sorry, mom. I never meant to hurt either of you,” she whispered with a guilty woebegone look.
The lovely dinner was ruined. Joshua pushed his plate back, unable to eat another bite.
Angela’s whole body seemed to cave in, as if swallowed by the chair in which she sat. Wringing her hands nervously, she shook her head back and forth, her eyes suddenly tired and dazed.
Rochelle stared at her food, her appetite gone like her father’s was.
I’ve broken their hearts, she thought, suddenly feeling undeserving of all they had done for her. Learning of her affair with Tobias was shock enough for them, but hearing of her plan to marry him must surely feel like downright betrayal. Quietly, she got up and left the table.
Joshua and Angela took every opportunity in the coming days to talk Rochelle out of making the worst mistake of her life. They begged, pleaded, implored, demanded and threatened. Through it all, Rochelle stood her ground, declaring, “I’m not going to listen to any more of your arguments, so you might as well stop them.”
Tortured by the very idea of his daughter married to a man like Tobias Chandler, Joshua went into Rochelle’s room when she wasn’t home, and rifled through her nightstand drawer until he found Tobias Chandler’s phone number. Joshua called him.
JOSHUA AND TOBIAS MET EARLY one morning at a small diner, that was on the way to Joshua’s office. Both drove into the parking lot only a minute apart. They exited their cars simultaneously. Stepping forward, both men moved toward the front of their vehicles.
Silently, they sized each other up. Tobias spoke first. “Rathbone, I sure as hell hope you have a good reason for dragging me out here. What can I do for you?”
“I’ll cut to the chase, Chandler. I’m here to ask you to stop seeing my daughter.” Joshua didn’t know what reaction to expect. He knew enough about Tobias Chandler to know he was not especially versed in PR skills. His power lay in command and control, and the expertise to get things done quickly and stealthily so no trails would lead back to him.
Tobias chuckled arrogantly. “What’s wrong, Rathbone? Did you fail to convince Rochelle to break off with me, and now hope to convince me to do the deed myself?”
“Chandler you and I both know that a marriage between my daughter and a man your age will never work.”
Tobias leaned against the hood of the car. A sickening grin spread across his face. “I know that it will work as long as I want it to,” he answered with implied insinuations.
Joshua sucked in a deep breath of air. “I just hoped you would be honorable enough to do the right thing.”
Tobias laughed, the sound boiling out of his throat jeeringly. He reached in his front shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Pulling one from the pack, he stuck it between his lips, put the pack back in his pocket, and then searched his pants pockets for his lighter. Staring Joshua in the eyes, he flicked the lighter and put the flame to the end of the cigarette, taking all the time in the world before voicing his answer.
Finally, after taking a big puff of his cigarette and blowing the smoke in Joshua’s face, Tobias replied, chuckling. “I thought I was doing the right thing. I’m making an honest woman out of her.”
Blood rushed to Joshua’s face. He seethed inside, but he held his temper. “What will it take, Chandler, to get you to leave my daughter alone?”
“You don’t have what it takes to get me to do anything, Rathbone. I never liked you in or out of the courtroom, and frankly, I like you even less now for wasting my time.”
“She’s my daughter, Chandler. You must have plenty of women friends. Why do you need Rochelle?”
Tobias laughed throatily. “I like her in bed. Does that answer your question, Mr. Rathbone?” He grinned offensively.
Joshua cringed internally at Chandler’s crude remark. Blood pumped up to his face in scalding hot disgust. He sucked in his breath, and then let it out slowly, doing his damnedest not to let Chandler provoke him. It took all his will power to keep control. “I’d appreciate a show of respect,” he said curtly through partly clenched lips.
“Let’s get something straight, future father-in-law. I want your daughter and I am going to marry her—simple as that. If you know what’s best for you, you’ll just back off and leave the two of us alone.” He looked Joshua in the eyes with a mercury stare that was very serious now.
Such words coming from a man like Tobias Chandler was a threat. A strange sensation of caution and dread slid over Joshua when he realized what a depraved and perverted individual Chandler truly was.
“I’ll pay you. I’ll pay whatever you ask to break off with my daughter.”
Tobias threw back his head and laughed. “Do you think I need your money? Rathbone, when I am through with her, I will serve her up to you on a platter. In the meantime, you’re wasting my time.”
Joshua could feel the heat in his face. Nothing would stop this man outside a bullet. “She’s just a kid, Chandler. You have to be nearly the same age as me. You are old enough to be her father. In another ten years, you will be an old man, and she will still be a young woman. Surely, you see the irony in marrying someone young enough to be your daughter.”
“You miss the point, Rathbone. That’s what makes her so interesting,” he grinned through a disgusting twist of his lips.
Joshua reacted. All his carefully tended control was gone. He swung a hard fist at Tobias, hitting his jaw, and then following with a punch to his lip.
Thrown off balance, Chandler spun awkwardly, reaching out to grab hold of the car in an effort to keep from sprawling like a sack of potatoes on the pavement.
Joshua clinched his fist to keep from hitting him again. “You sick bastard, I’ll not rest until you’re behind bars for your illegal activities. I’ll expose you if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
Tobias rubbed his jaw and touched a swollen lip that oozed with blood. He flung aside the cigarette, its red tip searing his fingers. His eyes were dark with rage, but his words were deadly quiet as he regained his balance and locked gazes with Joshua.
“It will likely be the last thing you ever do, you stupid son of a bitch. You will pay for this, Rathbone. If you attempt to come up against me, I’ll see you in hell!”
“There’s ways to stop people like you,” Joshua threatened. In the back of his mind, a slight nudge warned him that his threats posed danger for him.
Tobias leaned heavily toward him, his face blood red with rage. “You stupid bastard, you have no idea who you’re dealing with. You’ve just signed your death warrant, old man!”
Joshua’s strength crumbled where he stood, and he backed toward his car. Pulling the door open, he slid behind the wheel. Never would he take Chandler’s threat lightly. The man’s history spoke for itself. He made people disappear, and nothing was beyond his sick capability. Pure terror washed over Joshua.
Turning the key in the ignition, he backed up, and then steered the car out to the street, wishing all the while he and his family never had to lay eyes on Tobias Chandler again. Outside of simply killing him, Joshua was determined to do what he could to put Chandler out of commission. He knew he was putting his life on the line, but he could never live with himself to sit idly by and do nothing when his daughter’s future was at peril.
Having represented enough criminals through the court system to know better than take a threat lightly, Joshua knew the risks of what he planned. To pursue attempts against Tobias to bring him to justice would present a direct challenge. He had no doubt that Chandler would not hesitate to follow through with the threat he made if he was provoked.
Joshua knew the risks of what he was up against, but his child meant too much to him to stand by and do nothing while she made the biggest mistake of her life. If it were in his power, he would put Tobias Chandler behind bars where he belonged.