From: Protect Me
Book #1 of The Protected Love Series
By Jennifer Culbreth
Location: Chapter Twelve, Page 204
She leaned back in his chair as she flipped open the top to the pizza box. She wasn’t hungry, and food would just make her more tired at this point. She unlocked her phone screen and hit her contacts button scrolling down until she saw the newly updated picture of her and Ryan next to his contact name. She had taken it the afternoon they had gone to the chocolatier. She smiled at the thought of how much fun they had. She was too tired to fight at this point. She really just wanted to be home, with Ryan. She pressed the dial button as she put the phone to her ear.
It rang twice “Babe, are you ok?” His voice came through the receiver.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just really tired and I don’t think I am going to make it until closing. Is there any way you could come and get me?” She could hear the exhaustion in her own voice.
“Of course I can, I will be there in just a few minutes. What do you say you come back and stay at my house tonight? I can have anything you need brought over, or picked up and delivered.” He sounded hopeful that she would say yes.
“Um, sure. I would love that.” She smiled into the phone as it reflected through her voice.
“Ok, I will see you in a just a few minutes.”
“Ok, see you soon.”
She pressed end on the screen, and was startled when she saw the door open to Trent’s office. At first she thought that maybe he had left something and was returning to get it before he went to his meeting. When she looked up to the man in front of her, she realized it wasn’t Trent. To her surprise Mr. Wilcox came in through the office door dressed in a designer suit and shoes. She immediately shot up out of the chair. The invasion of privacy immediately making her feel uneasy.
“Excuse me, I didn’t mean to startle you, Ms. Hastings” He held his hand up as if to excuse himself for barging in. “I was looking for Mr. Williams but apparently he is not in this evening.” His familiar southern accent rang out through her ears.
“Uh, no. Trent isn’t here. He left for a business meeting.” Her eyes darted around the room in search of something to protect herself with. “Mr. Wilcox, what are you doing here in LA?”
“Well you see, Abbi, I happen to be a pretty well-known business man out here. I happen to do business with your boss as well; meaning I do a lot of traveling from Atlanta to Los Angeles, mostly for the weather though.” He regarded her coyly before stepping closer. She could feel her body immediately tense. Causing the aches through her body to sing out. “Mr. Williams has explained that the two of you are particularly close aside from your working relationship. You can imagine my surprise when he mentioned your name.” He smiled over at her before continuing, “Now, seeing as how I helped with your father’s estate maybe you could tell me who might he be meeting with tonight? I didn’t realize that Mr. Williams had any other associates aside from myself.”
“Oh, no Trent and I aren’t in a relationship.” She stepped back and shook her head. Where on earth would he have gotten that idea? Why is Trent telling people they were together? Why was Mr. Wilcox here in LA? All of the questions began piling into her head. He’d seemed harmless when she’d first met him but something in her gut was telling her that he wasn’t the most honorable man.
“No need to explain anything to me, I pass no judgment on how he runs the business. I can assure you I won’t report it back to HR.” He gave her a sideways grin as he stepped closer to the desk.
She felt the sudden urge to get out of there. She wasn’t sure what he was here for, but she could tell that it wasn’t anything that she wanted to be involved in.
“Listen, Mr. Wilcox, I really have no idea why you’re here. I also have no idea where Trent is or who he is meeting. So I should just be on my way.” She made a step towards the door.
“By all means, I understand you have a very important job to do. However I would like for you to pass along some information for me, I want my money. And I don’t like having to wait.” His tone suddenly turned very serious.
“Listen, I have about twenty dollars in my wallet. If that will cover it than I will go get it right now. If not, then I think you’re talking to the wrong person.” She edged her way a little closer to the exit at the side of the room.
“You’re very funny, Ms. Hastings. I would hate to have to break that funny bone of yours because of your boyfriend’s misjudgment in my patience.” He reached towards her and she flinched back. He recoiled his hand, “Please pass the message on to him, and let him know that I will be back, soon.” With that he turned and headed towards the door.
An eerie silence transcended throughout the office. It was so quite her ears were ringing. She needed to get out of here. She didn’t give a damn if she had to wait outside for Ryan she was not going to stay in this building any longer tonight. She found herself very jumpy as she made her way out of the office and down the hallway, checking over her shoulder every few steps. The feeling that someone was going to jump out from behind a door caused her to almost run. Relief flooded through her body as she made her way out of the door and down towards the bar counter. She nudged her way through the crowd as she found Judy standing just towards the end of the bar.
In this deleted scene you see that Mr. Wilcox, the attorney from Atlanta who helped her with her father’s estate in the beginning chapter of Protect Me, is actually used as the villain. I read over this scene many times before deciding to change. I felt as though Abbi had entrusted too many less than honorable people by this point in the book. I wanted some of the people she had relied on to actually have good intentions.
The other reason I decided to change Mr. Wilcox as being the villain to Mr. Hernandez is because I felt it would flow easier. I knew that certain characters wouldn’t be continuing on to the next book and I wanted to keep the threat of retaliation alive. So instead I re wrote this scene and introduced Mr. Hernandez. Other scenes earlier in the book, i.e. when Abbi is eaves dropping on Trent’s conversation with the “mystery man” were added to incorporate this scene into the book.