#SaintOnSaturday – Chapter 5!

Welcome to Chapter Five of My Fallen Saint as I countdown to the September 15 release day!

If you’re coming in late, you can link through all the #SaintOnSaturday posts so far here!

Also, be sure to PRE-ORDER your copy since that is the ONLY way to get the exclusive before-the-story story that I’ll be distributing on September 22 only to those who have pre-ordered and submitted proof of preorder. If you have a Google account, you can submit through this form.  If you don’t have access to a Google account, submit HERE.

This content won’t ever be offered again! So don’t miss out!

Coming 9.15.20:
• Amazon – https://jklinks.co/mfs_amz_aff
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• Nook – https://jklinks.co/mfs_nook
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The lobby of the Devlin Saint Foundation is essentially nothing more than a well-designed box, austere but impressive. The glass wall on my right faces the ocean and provides a ton of natural light that helps to accent the various pieces of artwork that line the brushed concrete walls.

A hallway snakes off from the left, but turns so quickly that I can’t see where it goes. Presumably offices. There’s an unobtrusive elevator that exists in sharp irony to the massive floating staircase that leads up to the landings for the floors above us.

I pause inside the doorway and glance up at the fourth floor. That’s where Devlin Saint’s private office is, and I see the glass windows, currently opaque. I remember reading that the foundation’s interior windows didn’t have blinds for privacy, but instead utilized some kind of technology that allows the glass to shift between opaque and transparent.

I assume the tech is expensive, and I can’t help but wonder why an organization that is dedicated to providing financial help to needy institutions around the globe would choose to spend funds on magic glass instead of buying blinds at Walmart.

Even though I’d researched the foundation, part of me still expected it to be a shoestring operation, with battered government resale desks and cheap paper calendars tacked on the walls. Where every dime scraped together was sent out into the wild to do good deeds.

This ultra-modern, somewhat intimidating set up is more than a little off-putting.

I wonder if that’s the point and make another mental addition to my list of questions for Saint.

I march across the lobby to the large reception desk that sits under the arch of the cascading stairway. Nearby, two upholstered benches form an L, presumably offering respite for those like me who haven’t yet been offered passage into the heart of this operation. Two rectangular tables sit, one in front of each bench, both covered with a colorful array of hardback books and a few flimsier pamphlets.

“May I help you?” A man about my age smiles at me, showing the kind of perfect teeth that any actor would envy.

“Elsa Holmes,” I say, showing him my equally bright and shiny press credentials. “Actually, just Ellie. I have an appointment with Mr. Saint.”

“Of course.” He taps at a hidden keyboard while looking down, presumably at a computer screen embedded in the desk’s glass surface. His brow furrows. “I’m sorry, it looks as if Mr. Saint is unavailable.”

“Oh.” I check my phone, but that’s just out of habit. I know what time it is—four on the nose. And I know what time my appointment is scheduled for—four fifteen. “I’m sorry, I called to confirm the appointment this morning. Did something come up?”

Red starts to creep up his neck, and I have the feeling that things are expected to—and usually do—go much more smoothly at the DSF. “If you’d like to take a seat, someone will be right with you.”

I nod. I’m not sure if they double-booked an appointment or if Saint had a whim and skipped out on his staff, but something is definitely not going on an even keel here.

“I apologize again for the delay. Would you like anything while you wait? Coffee? Water?”

I want coffee, but in light of my white shirt, I opt for water. As I sip the bottled seltzer, I sit on one of the benches and flip through the books. Each is about the foundation and represents a year of work. They’re oversized coffee table books, filled mostly with images of the various projects with just a bit of text describing the goal of the grant and how the project is progressing.

I page slowly through the one for the last year, searching for a picture of Saint himself, but there aren’t many. The man clearly likes his privacy.

Still, I’ve seen enough to recognize the man if I bumped into him at the grocery store. And to know that he’s ridiculously good-looking with a mane of wavy dark hair that’s long enough to brush his jawline, emerald green eyes he hides behind dark-rimmed glasses that accentuate his angular face, and golden brown skin with a thin scar that bisects his eyebrow and mars his cheekbone, then cuts a line through his close-trimmed mustache.

Bottom line, he’s not only hot, he’s totally my type. And there’s something about him that reminds me of Alex, though I can’t put my finger on it. They have the same coloring, but Alex was blond and clean-shaven. His face was rounder, his nose a bit wider, and while he had beautiful eyes, they were a sandy, golden brown, not a vivid green.

Even so, Saint’s picture conjures Alex’s memory, and I can’t decide if that will be a help or a hindrance during our interview.

The truth is, I know very little about Saint. But then again, who does? He’s hardly a shut-in, but when he holds interviews, he keeps the focus on the foundation and its mission, carefully steering any personal questions back to the work, so deftly that most of the time the reporter asking the question doesn’t even notice the shift. I’ve noticed, though. I spent much of the last week watching replays of foundation press conferences, and the man is an expert at manipulating the press.

I smile to myself, certain he’ll try the same tactics on me. Too bad for him that I’ll not only see him coming, but I desperately love a challenge.

At the same time, I’m no fool. It won’t be easy to tease out personal details for my article. My research has turned up next to nothing about Saint’s personal and professional life before he founded the DSF. Or any aspect of his life, actually, other than the most basic of facts. Birthplace. Parents’ names. Education. Military service.

His parents are dead, the few professors I was able to reach over the last few days remembered him as quiet but studious, and the Army’s press liaison confirmed that his military record is bright and shiny. No red flags at all. But there was no meat to the facts. No embellishments. I know that his personal net worth is over a billion dollars, but other than that, Devlin Saint came off impressive, but bland.

Odd description for a man who built a charitable foundation that now boasts an endowment in excess of thirty billion dollars.

I’d told Roger that he seemed like Oz’s wizard. And I can’t wait to get a peek at the real man behind the curtain.

Ellie!”

I look up at both the sound of my name and the hauntingly familiar voice. A dark-haired woman with a single streak of gray framing one side of her face is striding toward me, her smile so wide it’s almost blinding.

She looks to be in her early fifties, with high cheekbones, and the kind of facial structure that magazines classify as elegant. She’s impeccably dressed, about four inches taller than me, and walks with total confidence on the titanium heels of a pair of pink Stuart Weitzman Nudist sandals that I totally covet.

She looks like the kind of woman I’d want to know, but I’m completely clueless as to who she is.

I’m about to admit defeat, when everything suddenly snaps into place. “Mrs. Danvers?”

Her smile is like sunshine. “I was hoping you’d recognize me.” She holds out her arms, and I hurry to her, allowing myself to be folded into her embrace. “It’s been far too long.”

“It has,” I say truthfully, because she’s one of the people I missed when I left Laguna Cortez.

My father always said to never judge anyone on a first impression—but my first impression of Tamra Danvers had been of a scary stoic lady, thanks to my dad’s love of the movie Rebecca, which featured the crazy Mrs. Danvers. And it had taken me a while to warm to her, but once I had, I was in all the way.

“I remember when you were helping me write community bulletins. And now you’re writing for a magazine like The Spall. Is it too corny for me to say I’m proud of you?”

I shake my head. “Not at all. From you, that means a lot.” Tamra Danvers started working as the community liaison at the police station about the time I started my junior year. I was interning there during my off-period on Tuesdays and Thursdays, already thinking I wanted to be a cop like my father.

When she told me that her husband died in a military operation, I’d felt an unexpected jolt of connection. We’d both lost people we loved unexpectedly.

She quit about a month after Alex bolted. She didn’t leave without a trace, though. She’d moved to Phoenix to take care of an elderly parent. I’d missed her, but by then I had one foot out of town, too.

“It’s so great seeing you, but why are you here?” I wince, belatedly realizing the question is probably too blunt to be polite.

“To apologize to you for the scheduling snafu. I only noticed you on his schedule this morning—my intern booked the original interview. And when Mr. Saint’s schedule changed, I should have called you. But to be honest, I selfishly wanted to see you myself.”

“I’m glad you did,” I say. “But I meant why are you here.”

“Oh! I missed this town. I’ve been the publicity director for the foundation since Mr. Saint launched it.”

I nod. Roger had scheduled the interview for me. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have recognized her name.

“Let me check with Mr. Saint’s assistant about rescheduling your interview for next week,” she says now. “I assume you’re staying in town for a while?”

“I am. And I’d also like to book some time in the research room. Maybe I could do both tomorrow?” One of the major assets of the Devlin Saint Foundation is its library of research material about all aspects of the causes it supports and the horrors it fights. I’m eager to look at documentation regarding the Nevada human trafficking ring that will be at the heart of my article.

“I’m afraid not. We have a gala tomorrow, so we’re closed to the public to prepare.” She tilts her head, studying me. “Officially, we’re out of tickets. But…” She trails off, then opens her leather folio. “Contraband,” she says, handing me one. “We hold a few back for VIPs.”

“Ooh. I’ll take it. So long as you won’t get in trouble.”

“Not a chance,” she says. “But even if I did, it would be worth it.” Then she winks. And try as I might, I don’t understand the joke.

* * *

If I hadn’t seen Tamra, I’d be in a crappy mood for having the interview canceled. But I not only scored a ticket to the gala—which is an event I can easily work into the article—but I also connected with a friend. Someone who, like Brandy, is one of the few good things I associate with my years in Laguna Cortez.

Besides, this way I have all day tomorrow to focus on Peter instead of being camped out in front of my laptop working on the Saint story. And I have the rest of this afternoon to enjoy the crisp fall air. Summers in California are delicious, but fall here has always been my favorite time of year. The town is a little sleepier, the sunsets are incredible, and there are fewer tourists walking the beaches.

In fact…

I pause in the process of heading back to the parking lot and Shelby, then turn to follow a stone path toward the rear of the building. Though I’ve never been to the foundation before, I’ve done my research, and I’m following a map in my mind, filling in the small details so that in the end, I’ll know this place as intimately as anyone who works here.

The back of the foundation faces the Pacific, and that wall is made entirely from folding panels of glass that open onto a huge, covered flagstone patio, the focal point of which is a stunning fire pit. Beyond the patio is a landscaped garden filled with walking paths that meander down toward the beach.

I cross the patio, clearing the south side of the building. To my left, I now have a straight-on view of the SeaSide Inn, the small hotel on the other side of PCH that has been a fixture of Laguna Cortez for as long as I can remember.

At one point, my uncle actually owned it, along with a few others around town. I even helped decorate the office, in so much as going to Home Depot and looking at paint chips counts as helping. Or decorating.

I turn the other direction so that I’m facing the ocean. The tidal pools are only a short walk away, and I take a step that direction, then stop. The tidal pools had been our place, mine and Alex’s, and I’d cherished that time among the clusters of porous gray rocks that rose out of the long, empty stretches of sand. It was the place he’d first kissed me. A place I always felt safe.

More, it’s a place I haven’t been back to since he left.

I’m not sure if it’s in defiance of or protection for those memories, but I can’t bring myself to go back now. Instead, I turn once again toward the highway and start walking forward, the south wall of the foundation on my left.

From this perspective, I can see the fourth floor balcony, and I know from the article I read about the building’s architecture that I’m looking at Saint’s private office. Not that I can see much. From where I’m standing, my view is of the underside, a hint of the balcony’s glass barrier, and only the tiniest glimpse of the glass door leading inside. Even so, I pause for a moment, imagining that Saint’s standing at his window, and that he’s watching me, too.

I frown, wondering what came up that forced him to postpone our interview. Did he leave town? Or is he right now in his office? Hell, maybe he really is at his window looking down at me.

There’s no reason he would be, of course, and so I continue walking the length of the building so I can circle around and get back to Shelby.

But with each step, that tingling sensation becomes stronger, the uncanny sense of being watched. It’s not something I can ignore. Hell, I was raised by a cop and was on the job for two years myself before going back to school.

Mid-stride and without warning, I turn and look behind me. At the ocean. The path to the tidal pool. And the balcony off of Devlin Saint’s office.

That’s where he’s standing.

A man lost in the shadows cast by the building that shelters him.

It has to be Saint.

And he’s watching me.

Coming 9.15.20:

Preorder here … don’t worry! You’re not charged until the book comes out!

• Amazon – https://jklinks.co/mfs_amz_aff
• AppleBooks – https://jklinks.co/mfs_apb_aff
• Nook – https://jklinks.co/mfs_nook
• Kobo – https://jklinks.co/mfs_kobo
• GPlay – https://jklinks.co/mfs_gplay

And remember: for EVERYONE who pre-orders and submits  proof of preorder through this form, I’ll be sending  you a BONUS prequel short story that is EXCLUSIVELY for readers who preorder the book!  It won’t ever be offered again! So don’t miss out!

 

Be sure to come back next Saturday for Chapter 6!

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