“Miss Donah?” The receptionist’s hesitant voice stopped her in the middle of the lobby. “Miss Donah.”
Toni Donah turned to the caller. “Yes?”
“What is it?” Saint asked on her behalf. A camera kitbag hung from his left shoulder, balancing his stance. Only inches taller Toni, he was thicker than he was solid, needing it to lug the heavy paraphernalia that most times accompanied his cameras. He commonly struck the attitude of a man at ease with the world, but now he looked defensive.
The young man addressed Toni. “You have a message.”
“Not another phone call?” The first call she’d taken early in the morning still had her edgy. No one was supposed to know she was in the Seychelles let alone what hotel. Any call coming right into Silhouette Resort specifically intended for her must be from someone she knew. Problem was the phone had been silent. While she barked “hellos” and “who’s speaking” into the mouthpiece, her caller maintained a deathly silence until she angrily put the phone down.
The receptionist shook his head reassuringly. “No, it’s not a call. A message. Right this way.”
Toni followed him across the remaining half of the lobby and waited behind the reception table. The receptionist entered his cubicle and pulled a white envelope out of one of the letter boxes mounted on the wall.
“It arrived by messenger,” he said, handing her the envelope.
The envelope showed no address for sender or receiver. She turned it over cautiously and pulled the flap open. A white postcard lay inside, but there was no cityscape or festival pictured on it. The card was blank.
She looked doubtfully at the receptionist. “Are you sure this is the right message?”
“I am quite sure.”
“How can you be sure”—she glanced at the name tag on the receptionist’s chest—“Fran … ?”
“Francois,” he supplied.
“Francois, it doesn’t have any name on it and definitely not mine.”
“Like I said it came that way. I don’t know who sent it. But when I came on duty this evening, the guy I took over from told me someone left a letter for you and to hand it to you when you came in.”
“You don’t know who brought it then?”
“No. But it’s the only letter we got today.” The phone on his desk began to ring. He swiftly lifted the receiver and said in a singsong voice, “Good evening. You have reached Silhouette Resort. How may we help you?”
“What’s going on?” Saint reached the reception and stood beside her.
She stuffed the card back into the envelope. “Nothing.”
“Excuse me.” The receptionist was already extending the phone to her. “It’s for you.”
“Who is it?” Saint asked.
The receptionist shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said to Toni. “But it was a man and he just said to give the phone to you.
Toni stifled her hesitation and calmly took the phone. “Hello?” There was neither dead signal nor reply. “Hello?”A dull humming filled the earpiece and she distinctly heard breath. Whoever had called her was listening in total silence, again.
“Dead tone?” said Saint.
“No. Couldn’t hear anything.” She returned the receiver to the receptionist and began walking away.
“That wasn’t Chris? Or Marlene?” Saint followed her.
Chris was the designer behind the Christon line she’d come to the Seychelles to model. Marlene was her modelling agent, the reason Chris had picked her to sell his Christon line to a world of fashion-frenzied buyers.
“No, but I don’t want to bother about it.”
“Of course, you don’t want to. You are so not bothered you forgot to pick up the key to your room.” Saint had the key in his open palm and let her take it.
“Very simply put,” he commented, as they went out the lobby. It was dark and cool outside. The stately chalets that comprised Silhouette Resort squatted innocently in the grey moonlight. Harsh flood lamps secured among the manicured lawns threw their shadows across lawns of green carpet grass and walkways. Cool breeze blew in from the Indian Ocean.
“I try to be polite.”
“When it is not necessary,” he returned. “It so happens that in the business you’re in, politeness doesn’t always get your far. Not when you need to make friends.”
“But still, I’m grateful. You don’t want me coming down to dinner in what I have on now.”
Saint briefly assessed her clothes. At the end of the day’s shoot, she’d changed the classy outfit that Christon demanded her to model before camera lenses for her own clothes, a tank-top to beat the sun’s rays and knee-length cotton skirt. His roving eyes made her uncomfortably aware of the tight fit of her top and the fishtailed hemline of her skirt.
“I see nothing wrong with what you are wearing. Chris himself couldn’t have done better with the assembly.”
“It’s hardly appropriate wear for evening wear. Marlene wouldn’t have stomached it.”
“Marlene again,” he groaned. “She’s just your manager, not your mother. You don’t have to model yourself after her. She’s done her bit and then some when she was a model.”
“She wouldn’t wear something like this.”
“She’s a lady.”
“Thank you. I didn’t know I was comparing myself against her.”
“No, don’t get me wrong,” he rushed on, “I don’t mean that in any bad way, but you’re not Marlene. You’re different in a snazzy, sensational yet calm way. Just be yourself.”
She almost laughed. “And that means I have to go to dinner in tank-top and fishtails. The less, the better?”
“So long as the picture you strike is kinky in a sexy way, who cares? That’s why Chris chose you to be ambassador for Christon. The clothes don’t define you. You define the clothes. Girl, he’s paying you lots of zeroes to make rags look sexy.”
“What would I do without you boosting my self-confidence all the way?”
“You have your mojo all by yourself.”
She stopped some steps from her cottage and announced, “Here we are. Thanks for walking me. The shoot today was lovely, thanks to you.”
Saint stopped as well. “You are not going to invite me in?”
“I am rushing out almost immediately for the dinner, remember? But I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay up too long. So I’m telling you beforehand.”
“Marlene’s orders, no doubt. She says the same things to all her girls. I won’t let Charlie keep you up too long to lose your beauty sleep.”
Instead of moving away, Saint faced her with a hanging question. “You know what? One of these days, you are going to have that door wide open and invite me in. That’s a promise.”
“More like a threat,” she joked as he began walking away. “I’ll see you soon.”
She watched him walk back the way they’d come and disappear into the lobby. She was thinking how different Saint and Charlie were.
Charlie was the male model contracted to complete photo scenes that required a hot couple. He’d been in the business since he was a teenager, making men’s underwear look steamy on supermarket shelves and creating images women secretly compared their husbands against.
For all his experience and the stories that swirled about him, Toni expected to find a guy who assumed he was heaven’s gift to women and the envy of any living male. The Charlie who’d spent the entire day sharing shots with her was different. He was unlike the ego-bloated men she met, even more unlike the dangerous ones she ran into in the uncertain life she lived before meeting Marlene.
That meeting changed her life, slapping a modelling contract into her hand and laying the world at her feet. Her elation struggled with a twinge of regret. The contract didn’t come fast enough to save her from one meeting that still filled her with panic strong enough to melt her bones.
The panic was still rising inside her when she turned to her door. She’d almost pushed her key into the keyhole when she saw the white sheet stuck beneath the door. Even before she picked it up, she expected the card stuffed inside. By the light of flood lamps mounted on the manicured lawns, she saw neither name nor address. She anticipated the night’s prank to continue with another blank sheet.
She was dead wrong, for the card wasn’t blank. Scrawled in what she assumed was red ink, if not blood, were the words BITCH, YOU ARE DEAD.