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Ties That Bind
Author: Amy Blankenship
Copyright © 2012 Amy Blankenship
English Edition Published by TekTime
All rights reserved.
Chapter 1 “Sanctuary”
Angel Hart glanced out the thick glass of the window, wanting to cringe at the height of the helicopter as it flew toward the resort where she had grown up. She loved this place to death… but liked it so much better from the ground. Flying was her one phobia and she had been doing it for the last ten hours.
Blowing her bangs out of her eyes, she glanced toward her brother Tristian, wondering what had possessed him to meet them at the airport knowing he would have to fly in the helicopter on the way back home.
She knew for a fact that Tristian hated flying even more than she did and could see him texting someone on his cell phone to keep his mind busy. Maybe he’d faced his fear because they hadn’t seen each other in almost two years, even though they had talked on the phone and texted almost every day. She didn’t really care why he’d done it, because having him here with her had a calming effect on her and she was thankful for that.
To escape the noise of the helicopter, Angel let her mind drift back over the last two years. When their parents divorced, her dad had dragged her to California while Tristian had been forced to stay here at Sanctuary with their mother. Since it was so far to drive and neither one of them liked to fly… the distance had been the only reason they hadn’t visited in person.
She hadn’t realized just how much she had missed Tristian until she’d seen him standing there in the airport all by himself. He was leaning against the wall directly across from the door they’d come through. As soon as they saw each other, she took off running toward him as he held his arms out to catch her.
Her big brother… Tristian had always been the first one she talked to in the morning and the last one she’d seen before closing her eyes to sleep. Growing up, they’d even convince their parents that they had a problem with sleepwalking because they would get up in the middle of the night and fall asleep in each other’s beds.
Their mother had tried to put a stop to it when they’d gotten a little older by locking their bedroom doors at night. Angel’s lips thinned remembering what their mother had said the last time she’d caught them asleep in each other’s arms.
“It‘s sinful, the way you two behave… you act more like lovers than brother and sister.” Isabel Hart's voice had changed from motherly love to loathing that night.
Tristian had quickly found a way around those stupid locks. He’d cut a place out of the wall in the back of his closet so he could easily step into the small thin corridors that secretly ran through the walls of the hotel they lived in. He’d done the same to her closet and every night he would sneak into her room and sleep with her… setting the alarm clock so they wouldn’t get caught.
He’d told her that it was their mother that was the pervert… thinking their relationship was wrong and dirty. He had even pointed out that in a lot of smaller countries, the whole family would bathe and sleep together, and that in others, it was perfectly normal to even marry your sibling. Tristian had convinced her that it was mother who was the sinner by trying to keep them apart.
Angel had decided a long time ago to keep her and Tristian’s secrets and that it was no one else’s business… she trusted him.
Tristian hadn’t changed much since she had last seen him, retaining his young, innocent appearance. But, at the same time, she could see changes that she had missed happening. His blond hair had darkened some at the roots… highlights of platinum blond and lowlights of strawberry blond looked really well on him with his light tan and green eyes.
She smiled thinking he would fit in with the California surfer dudes with his alternative haircut. It was the same length almost all the way around and parted off to one side, leaving it to hang down over one of his eyes, way past his chin. She could also see the black leather of the cross necklace she had sent him for Christmas peeking out near his collar.
She felt like it was her that had changed the most though. When she’d left Sanctuary, she had only been sixteen. After being with Tristian, Hunter, and Ray almost every single day of her life… she had felt so lost and alone in LA. She’d never even been to a real school because their grandmother had always hired private tutors to home school them.
Going to high school in LA had been quite a culture shock. It was then that she’d realized, her family having so much money had only enabled them to keep her completely in the dark as to what was normal. Then she had met Ashton Fox. Every time she’d left her father’s penthouse, Ashton would be there or he'd show up wherever she was… like fate. He quickly made her smile and started showing her a whole new world.
Angel made the mistake of glancing back out the window just as they passed over a low valley, making her feel like they were sky high.
She squeezed Ashton’s hand even tighter, deciding to look at him instead of the dizzying sight. His ice blue eyes were laughing at her nervousness but she didn’t care… not really. She was almost glad he hadn’t listened to her when she’d tried to keep him from following her back to Sanctuary for the week.
Using the little com-link built into her ear guards she asked, “Ash, have you ever been in a helicopter? You seem to be handling this very well.”
“Nope, but I’m loving every minute of it,” Ashton grinned at her. “Your family is just a touch eccentric, don’t you think? Having a helicopter pick us up from the airport while a limousine brings our luggage. And here I thought my family was wealthy.” He wiggled his eyebrows trying to make her laugh.
He knew she was nervous by the way she was cutting the circulation off in his hand. Her vulnerability only endeared her to him that much more. She was nothing like the L.A. tramps he had always dated. His thoughts were derailed when her brother’s voice came over the com-link.
“It’s always like this,” Tristian glanced at his sister knowing she would agree with him.
They had seen the adults of the Hart family play this stupid game all their lives. “The Hart family just has to try to outdo each other. The fact that our grandmother owns this helicopter and all of Sanctuary is her little victory over her three children… and the world,” he mumbled the last part with a little more sarcasm.
“That’s enough, Tristian.” Malcolm Hart gave his son a disappointed glare then turned back to his latest girlfriend, Felicia. He decided to dominate the com-link for the rest of the ride so his son wouldn’t have a chance to say anything else damaging about the family in front of their guest.
He smiled at the pretty redhead he’d started dating just a couple weeks ago. He’d seduced her with money just so he could bring her and show her off in front of his ex-wife, Lily. She had been the one who insisted on the divorce so he was about to viciously rub her nose in it.
Going into tour guide mode, Malcolm pointed out the window seeing they were almost there. “That’s the resort just over the rise, Sanctuary… known best for its famous wedding chapel and bridal suites.” Malcolm gave Felicia a sly grin. He knew if he kept her hopes up then she would play her part quite well in front of Lily.
“Since the top of the mountain is pretty much flat, this place has everything you could possibly think of including a spa, a huge pond, and indoor-outdoor swimming pools… among other things. We own everything for about 30 miles in all directions and have labeled the land as a game preserve so no one can ever build on it and spoil its beauty. There’s only one road leading up the mountain and the gate at the bottom keeps out trespassers.”
“Wow… it’s all so fabulous,” Felicia cooed in that needy-sounding voice.
“And at the bottom of the mountain, there’s an Apache Indian reservation,” he continued. “Most of the employees at the resort are Apache.” Malcolm’s eyes glazed over with memories of the beautiful girls his parents had hired from the reservation. His teenage years had been ones he wouldn’t change for the world.
“Real Indians?” Felicia batted her eyelashes and gave him a frightened look, leaning toward her new sugar daddy for protection. She’d really lucked out when such a rich older man had taken a fancy to her. If she played her cards right, she would never want for anything.
“What are you? Five?” Tristian reached up and turned his com-link off feeling nauseated and it wasn’t from the helicopter ride.
He rubbed his temple in annoyance at the headache he felt coming on… lately he had lost all tolerance for stupid people. Reaching into his pocket, he took out the small alcohol flask, only this one didn’t have alcohol in it. It was an Indian remedy for headaches that his friend Hunter had made him and it usually worked within minutes. He just hoped it was powerful enough to get rid of one caused by this stupid chopper and his dad.
He knew what his dad was up to. Felicia was probably in her mid-twenties and looked more like his dad’s trophy slut than a girlfriend. It was moments like this that made him glad he didn’t live with his father.
The whole situation still royally pissed him off. It wasn’t Angel’s fault that their parents couldn’t get along, so why did she have to leave her home? The divorce had angered him when he’d found out that the local judge had decided one child per parent. Since Angel had been sixteen and he’d been seventeen, they’d been separated against their will.
If he had known then what he knew now… he would have never let that happen. Because he hadn’t been smart enough to stop it… he hadn’t seen Angel in almost two years and that was why he’d made the mistake of meeting her at the airport today. He had missed her way too much.
The corners of his lips hinted at a wicked smile remembering that the very stupid local judge that had split him and his sister up had been killed in a freak accident a couple days after Angel had been forced to move away. Tristian shrugged it off as he glanced back at his sister. Up until then, they had lived at Sanctuary all their life.
He and Angel were Grandma Hart’s chosen favorites out of the seven grandchildren and things at Sanctuary had gotten even better when their grandfather had fallen down the stairs and broken his neck three years ago.
Tristian’s eyes hardened at the thought. They hadn’t shed a tear when it happened because neither he nor Angel could stand the old man. John Hart had been scary-mean… always glaring at them and saying hateful things when he thought no one was listening. Growing up, he and his sister had made it a game of avoiding their grandfather at all costs.
John Hart had always been the meanest to him… treating him different from his other grandchildren. Tristian stubbornly locked the memories away deciding the old man wasn’t worth the brainpower he was giving him.
His gaze traveled from his sister to her boyfriend Ashton Fox. It was the first time he had ever known her to have a boyfriend. Tristian kept his expression hooded as he looked the college prep over. From all the information he had gathered… Ashton seemed all right, and he hated that fact because he wanted Angel to move back to Sanctuary. That wouldn’t happen if she was enjoying her life out in California.
Ashton Fox was twenty years old but would turn twenty-one sometime this week… like he cared. Maybe he would throw him a birthday bash and let him get so drunk that he puked all over Angel… maybe that would help break their ties enough to get her to come home. If not, then he was sure between him, Hunter, and Ray… they could come up with something.
Tristian kept trying to think of more reasons not to like Ashton. He had even asked his uncle Robert, who was a lawyer, to give the guy a thorough background check. Robert Hart had confirmed that Ashton came from money… just not as much money as they did. Still, Tristian had to admit that it was enough to keep him from dating his sister just for her wealth.
He did however find out that Ashton Fox had a criminal record of some kind… but it was sealed tight. Robert had said it was probably something minor like drunk driving as a teen or something. Ashton was also going to school to be a doctor, even though he looked more like a walking ad for Calvin Klein Jeans with his platinum blonde hair tied back, tanned skin, and ice blue eyes.
Tristian frowned thinking if Ashton and Angel’s ages were closer, they could almost be twins… except for the fact that Angel’s hair was longer. Even now, they were both doing that smiling thing at each other and it was really starting to grate on his nerves. Tristian slumped in his seat and decided to look out the window.
He growled silently wondering which view was worse.
Isabel Hart set her teacup down as she heard her private helicopter in the distance. She wanted to rush to the window and watch them come home but she stilled herself knowing she had a part to play this week… the frail grandmother that needed her family home with her.
She’d recently had a minor heart attack and it had been enough to persuade Malcolm and Angel to come home… even if it was only for the Fourth of July vacation. It almost made the frightening experience worth it. She’d even closed the resort down to outsiders and agreed with Tristian to allow the staff to take the week off so it would seem more like home for her family.
If she had her way, she would get her missing child and grandchild to move back to Sanctuary for good… even if she had to pretend she was dying just to get them to do it.
Her children had always lived here with their families. It was a tradition that Malcolm's divorce had broken. Her oldest son Robert had become a lawyer, marrying his high school sweetheart Dianne. They’d had twin boys Devin and Damien, who were now twenty years old and worked for her as trainers in the gym that covered a huge area of the ground floor of the resort.
She had to keep her eyes on Robert because he was a lot like his father… greedy and calculating. She was aware that he was already setting it up to dispute her Last Will and Testament when she died, even though she knew he wasn’t completely sure what the Will stated.
Little did Robert know that it wouldn’t do him any good… that Will was concrete in every way. She’d also stopped him from handling the paperwork for the resort when she’d caught him cooking the books and siphoning off some of the profits into one of his own accounts. He had become quite a disappointment to her over the last couple years.
Her second oldest child, her only daughter Carley, and her three children also lived here. But Carley was nothing like Robert.
Her little family was full of spoiled brats who thought they were better than everyone else because they lived off the trust funds she had set up for them. Tiffany was seventeen, Paris twenty-two, and Jason twenty. But she couldn’t really blame the children for their lazy ways when their mother was nothing but an alcoholic. Between the four of them, they’d run Carley’s poor husband off years ago.
It had been three years since her husband John had passed away, and then she lost Malcolm and Angel only a year later. John had been an overbearing man with a heavy hand and the truth was… she didn’t miss him at all. But with everyone else in the family so busy with their own lives, it had left Isabel lonely in her old age.
The only ones who really paid her any attention were Tristian and the two Indian boys that he and his sister were so fond of… Hunter and Ray Rawlins.
She didn’t really care what the rest of the family did… it was Angel and Tristian that were important to her. It didn’t bother her that one of the siblings wasn’t true blood… it was the heart that counted. When Tristian had been adopted, she had warned the other family members that if they ever told him about the adoption, they would be cut off and kicked out of Sanctuary without a second thought. So far the threat had held.
Tristian and Angel had no way of knowing it, but Sanctuary would one day belong only to them.
Glancing up, Isabel smiled inwardly seeing Lily Hart standing stiffly out in the flower garden. She had allowed Lily to continue living here when her son Malcolm had moved across the country. The only reason she had consented to the woman staying was to keep Angel returning as much as possible, and to keep Tristian living here.
As far as Isabel was concerned… it served Lily right to be unhappy. Malcolm had loved her but she acted cold and unbearable… pushing Malcolm away but not telling him why. She figured Lily had only stayed here because she was stupid enough to think that one day she would own part of Sanctuary.
Malcolm had always been a playboy before they had married, sleeping with half the Indian staff that worked at the hotel before moving on to bigger game.
He stopped his roguish ways when he’d married, so she knew that wasn’t the reason for the divorce. He’d always loved the girls but Isabel knew he did love Lily the most because of her beauty… she still was very beautiful. Cold and beautiful… so emotionless that she never bothered to be a real mother to her children… even when they were little.
By the pained look on Lily’s face, Isabel could tell Malcolm was finally here. She had told the pilot of her helicopter in no uncertain terms, that he would be fired if he dared to return for anyone before the end of the weekend. She had also paid Ray to disable every vehicle on the property in one way or another so no one could leave.
For once… the family would all be stranded here together… whether they liked it or not.
Ray Rawlins heard the sound of the helicopter in the distance as he closed the hood of the last car in the parking garage. He looked around at all the expensive vehicles that were now useless with a sense of satisfaction. Isabel Hunter could be just as ruthless as her dead husband when she wanted to be.
Stepping outside the brick building, he swung his long dark hair out of his eyes while watching the chopper slowly descend to the helicopter pad. His thoughts turned to Hunter, wondering if his brother would be able to keep it together now that they’d found out Angel was bringing her California boyfriend to Sanctuary for the week.
Ashton Fox didn’t have a clue about the web of spiders he was about to walk into.
In his opinion, most of the people that were born on top of this mountain deserved to fall off of it. Angel and Tristian were the exceptions. When they were growing up, he and Hunter had taken them under their wings and protected them as much as possible from the wickedness they had been born into… even their sweet grandmother could be treacherous when she wanted her own way.
He leaned back against the brick of the wall remembering their childhood. He and Hunter were only a couple years older than the siblings, but the four of them had always been inseparable. Together, they'd gone out into the woods of the mountain almost every day, with him and Hunter teaching them Indian survival techniques… although Tristian and Angel thought it was all fun and games.
His vision of the past melted away when Angel sprinted away from the helicopter with her boyfriend in tow. He shook his head as the wind from the chopper sent her platinum hair flying as if she were standing in the middle of some unseen storm.
He glanced up at the massive estate known as Sanctuary. He knew the people inside that claimed to be her family were about to play a new game… one far too dangerous for the little girl to play alone.
Ray pulled out the little flask Hunter had gifted him with and took a drink trying to clear his mind. He would need all his concentration if he was to keep Angel out of harm’s way.
Tristian waited until everyone was out of the helicopter before leaning toward the pilot, getting his attention. “Remember what Isabel Hart said,” his face lost its smile as his green eyes narrowed in warning. “You go have yourself a holiday and don’t worry about us. We won’t need you this week, understand?”
Angel smiled happily as Tristian joined her and they all ran away from the wind of the propellers. She felt so much better once she turned to watch the evil machine flying away and taking its loud whop… whop… sound with it.
“Good riddance to the tornado.” Angel gave it a mock salute. If she knew no one would laugh at her, she would have placed her hands on the ground and thanked it for her safe return.
Ashton ran his fingers through her silky blonde hair, loving the feel of it. “Oh, you’re just mad because it messed your pretty hair up,” he smirked, wondering how his fingers were running through it without hitting a single tangle. She was the closest thing to perfection he had ever found and when she said she was going home for a visit, he had been smart enough not to want her out of his sight.
Noticing her father and Felicia had already gone inside, Ashton slid his arm across her shoulders as they started up the hill toward the estate.
“So, little red riding hood, are we off to see your grandmother first?” he remarked, trying not to seem overwhelmed by the size of the mansion. He had listened to her father bragging about it but now that he was here, he realized it had really been understated.
Tristian winked at Angel before interrupting. “I think it’s time to show Ashton to his room and let him get settled in, don’t you? There’s no need to tempt the big bad wolf too much. Grandmothers’ already had one heart attack… I think introducing her to your boyfriend the minute you arrive might just send her over the edge.”
Angel’s smile wavered at the mention of her grandmother’s heart attack. She’d almost flown home the second Tristian had called and told her about it, but her father had agreed they would come spend the Fourth of July week visiting, so she had waited. Tristian had told her on the phone that it was Hunter who’d found their grandmother just in the nick of time and probably even saved her life.
Her own heart pounded for a second as she pictured Hunter in her mind… Hunter Rawlins. She’d always thought of him as her best friend, but when she’d moved to L.A., Angel had slowly realized they’d been more than just friends… a lot more. She’d missed Hunter just as much as her own brother.