A/N: I do not own the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. I make no money from this story or any of the others I write and post. This story was written in 2009 and posted here for a few years. I removed it long ago and have edited it a bit. This story is a stand-alone novel. I'm posting it again due to a special request by a reviewer. :)
Thirty-year old Gwen Airedale gazed at the gorgeous blue ocean. Waves tumbled onto the glistening sand. Gwen, dressed in a pink tank top and short shorts, took another healthy gulp of her apple martini.
"To the view," she said slurring her words. "Who says money can't buy happiness?" She smiled at her joke. All those years as a fashion designer had finally paid off. Here she was in Hawaii in a five-star hotel enjoying a pitcher of apple martinis on the balcony of the hotel's most expensive suite.
A frown darkened Gwen's face and she screwed up her bow lips. It hadn't been hard work that had gotten her such lush surroundings. It was catching the eye of one of the richest men in the fashion industry and marrying him.
"Whatever." She tossed her head and ran a hand through shoulder-length platinum-blonde hair.
Sadly, there was more unreal, than real about Gwen. Although naturally pretty, she'd had plenty of help emphasizing and enhancing her features. These thoughts preyed upon Gwen's troubled mind as she reached for the pitcher and poured a third martini.
"How fake am I? Let me count the ways," she mused with some regret. She crossed her arms and twirled the stem of the martini glass between her fingers as she ticked off the items in her mind – false eyelashes, spray tan, breast implants, bleached hair and extensions, fake nails, teeth whitenings.
Was that even a word?
Oh well, what else was fake? Oh yeah, the blue contact lens and a chin implant.
Gwen almost laughed at the incongruity of the situation, but came up short.
Fear passed over those blue tinted eyes. She'd spotted him. Yesterday, in the hotel lobby shortly after she and her husband, Lance, had arrived. There'd been a crowd of people checking in. The big fashion show scheduled for Friday at this hotel had brought lots of designers and big names here. She'd been scanning the crowd, looking for familiar faces and friends, and that's when she'd seen him.
But … had he seen her?
She took a chug of the martini to settle her nerves. "God, there's so much fake about me he probably didn't even recognize me."
She forced a laugh and reminded herself it had been seven years since they'd seen each other. She, herself, had not been convinced it was him when she first spotted him. Only when he'd turned and walked away did she know for certain.
No mistake. It was him. She knew that walk.
Her gaze returned to the ocean. Such a beautiful view, so tranquil and calm. Gwen sucked in a deep breath and salty air filled her lungs. Let the past stay in the past she prayed.
A heavy sigh escaped her pouty lips. Her eyelids were heavy. Too much alcohol. She tossed the half-empty martini glass on the balcony table. It shattered and its contents puddled on the table. Gwen didn't care. She needed water, cold water, to splash on her face and bring her out of this funk. This jaunt down memory lane had unsettled her.
She spun on unsteady legs and stepped into the hotel suite. Bare, tanned feet with bright pink polish, sank into the plush carpet. She wiggled her toes. Ah, the feeling of pure luxury.
The door to the suite opened and her head snapped up. She gasped. He stood in the doorway a smile slowly spreading across his face. He was all charm and no warmth.
Gwen froze. So, he had recognized her.
Could he see the terror on her face? Could he sense her fear?
His eyes gleamed like a cat who'd cornered its prey. He closed the door with a finality that frightened Gwen more than his smile. He stretched out his hands in a friendly gesture, palms upturned facing the ceiling.
"What? No 'hello?' No, 'How've you been?'" he asked scarcastically.
Run! Gwen thought. Run!
But she couldn't. Fear held her paralyzed. Then somehow – perhaps by sheer force of will – she gathered the strength to move and scrambled to the sofa. She clutched the back for support. Alcohol had made her unsteady before, now fear did.
The sound of her voice, barely a whisper, shocked her, "What do you want?"
"You, of course." He walked toward the sofa. She was standing behind it.
Beware! her mind screamed racing into panic mode.
Her heart pounded in her chest as she choked out the words that might save her, "I've never told anyone."
"I never said you had. But I hate living in fear, don't you?" He stopped in front of the sofa and smiled at her. Then he reached into a pocket of his Bermuda shorts.
Gwen saw the gun and the color drained from her face.
"No. No!" she begged before she turned to run.
Could she outrun a bullet? A foolish thought, but human instinct. The bullet caught her in the side and she fell on the plush carpet. Soft, so very soft, she thought as her eyes glazed over and eternal sleep claimed her.
# # # #
"I think it's time for a drink," Bess Marvin announced. A nine hour flight hadn't slowed her down one bit. "Just let me check my hair and make-up." She slipped into the hotel bathroom and brushed her short blonde curls.
Nancy Drew pushed herself out of the cushy chair beside her bed and opened the drapes. "Where do you get the energy?" she called to her friend.
Nancy and Bess had been best friends since high school. The jet-lagged detective stared somewhat absently at the beautiful ocean view glistening beyond the small balcony.
Bess exited the bathroom and gushed, "Oh, my gosh! Nancy, it's gorgeous!" Bess opened the sliding glass doors and stepped onto the balcony. "Nancy, we're in Hawaii." She spun around. "How can you be tired?!"
Nancy grabbed her hairbrush and joined Bess on the balcony. "I don't know, maybe the nine-hour flight has something to do with it." She chuckled and brushed her strawberry blonde hair.
"Yeah, but we just had a two hour nap," Bess reminded her. Bess closed her eyes, leaned back, and let the sun caress her skin. "Awww, that feels good."
She enjoyed the warmth for another moment before straightening up and sighing, "Too bad we don't have time to lay out, relax, and catch some rays, but I have a million things to check on before the big fashion show on Friday." She dashed back into the hotel room and began searching for her purse.
After graduating college, Bess had taken a job at Airedale Fashions in Chicago. She had steadily risen up the ranks thanks to her initiative and drive. Her boss, Lance Airedale, had been particularly impressed with her ability to spot future trends and had recently promoted her to Junior Consultant.
"That would include me wouldn't it?" Nancy asked following her friend into the room. She smiled as she watched Bess search under the tangled bed sheets and pillows for her purse. "I mean, since your boss hired the Hardys and me to guard the collections and jewels, I'd say the Hardys and me have a lot of things to check on, too."
Bess, along with her cousin George, had helped Nancy in many of her early detective cases. The three girls had also shared a few cases with the Hardy brothers, Frank and Joe.
"It would," Bess agreed then triumphantly grabbed her purse from behind her open suitcase. "Aha!" she said holding it up to show Nancy her discovery. "But you're right Nancy, we all have a lot to do and we probably should check on things before we have those drinks. This is my first fashion show since Mr. Airedale promoted me to Junior Consultant and I want everything to be perfect. I've got his Personal Assistant, Melinda, watching over me, you know."
"Good thing we have four days to prepare." Nancy laughed as she picked up her handbag and dropped her hairbrush inside. "Today's only Sunday," Nancy said as she and Bess exited their room.
"I know, I know. But Mr. Airedale is counting on me and I don't want to let him down."
The women, dressed in shorts and tank tops, headed to the elevators.
"You won't let him down," Nancy assured her friend and pushed the down button. "Think we should check on Frank and Joe first?"
"Ummmm." Bess tilted her head and tapped her chin. "Joe should be up seeing as he slept the entire flight."
She and Nancy giggled as they entered the elevator.
"I've never seen anybody pass out like that," Nancy said.
"I know." Bess shook her head in feigned disbelief.
The women exited the elevator and walked along the hallway. Rooms lined one side of the hall while the other side had a railing and was open to the lobby below. The ping of elevators and the sounds of rolling luggage accompanied by voices and laughter wafted up from the lobby.
"Kinda noisy on this floor," Bess said.
"Yeah," Nancy agreed. "Here's their room." She knocked on the door and leaned closer to listen.
Bess did the same. "Doesn't sound like anybody's alive in there."
Just as Nancy was ready to knock again the door opened revealing a disheveled Frank Hardy.
The dark-haired older brother of the Hardy duo held onto the door with one hand and rubbed his eyes with the other.
He squinted at the women and mumbled, "What time is it?"
Bess answered, "Time to check out the rooms and hall where the fashion show will take place. And don't forget we're meeting my boss for dinner at seven."
"Huh?" Frank ran a hand through his mussed hair. "But you didn't answer my question. What time is it?"
Nancy checked her watch. "Five o'clock. If you and Joe need more time —"
Frank cut her off with a wave of his hand, "We'll be ready in fifteen minutes."
Joe's voice rang out in the background, "Make that ten."
Suddenly, a bloodcurdling scream caught everyone by surprise.
Bess and Nancy ran to the railing overlooking the lobby. They spotted a maid waving her hands wildly and running from the elevators.
"She's dead! She's dead!" the maid cried, "Security! Security to the tenth floor!"
Bess paled and put a hand to her chest. "Oh, my gosh. Mr. Airedale's room is on the tenth floor." She turned to Nancy. "You .. you don't think .."
"We'll be ready in five minutes," Frank called before shutting the door to his room.