A/N: This started out as an ensemble fic but it quickly became a Joey/Aubrey fic! lol Which is fine by me! Basically, it's a twist on a bunch of movies and books we've all seen and read. It will be spooky and sexy, frantic and fun. So sit back and read. Warning: There are a lot of original characters in this. I know that's considered a "no-no" to some people in fan fiction but it tells this story so here we are! lol
Rain was falling in thick sheets as Aubrey Wentworth shifted uncomfortably at the stern of the speed boat huddling for warmth in her thin black wrap. Her free hand was clenched to the railing of the ship and her stomach was close to heaving as she silently prayed to anyone who would listen to her that she would make it to land in one piece. She very much doubted she would though with visibility so poor and the way Skipper here was piloting the boat. She had tried screaming at the large man to slow down but her words were either lost over the driving wind or simply ignored.
Finally, after what seemed like hours when in reality it had only been thirty minutes, Aubrey spotted blessed dry dock. Well, just dock, considering the rain was still falling and the barge was slick with water as she stepped out onto it. Skipper handed her her bags and started steering the boat away. She screamed as loud as she could after him, "Isn't there someone here to meet me?"
He held up his hands in a "how should I know?" gesture and then turned the boat in a circle and took off. Aubrey sighed and placed her hands on the two suitcases she had with her. She looked around as best as she could with the storm hammering down on her and wondered what to do next. The hotel was supposed to be around here somewhere but all she saw was a lighthouse in the distance, clear on the other side of the island. She wished suddenly she never would have come but well, she had needed the money and with her limited professional skills, she had to take what Cutter was offering her right now. He had sworn in his last email that he had found the mark to end all marks and that if she helped him this one last time, they would both strike it rich and live in the lap of luxury for the rest of their days.
She found some shelter under a tree and opened the little print-out she had made of his last email.
Hey Christine, babe,
How are you? Still slumming it in Podunk Llanview, PA huh? Well your luck is about to change because I found us the biggest mark ever! I know, I know. You said no more cons but I also know that working as a barmaid or whatever has to be getting old. How would you like to make billions this time, baby? Joey Buchanan was smalltime. This new guy is the mint! His company The Janus Group is worth more money than I even think God himself has. If you want to settle in the true lap of luxury, do me this one last favor, K? Location details are in the attachment. See ya soon, Babe!
The email had been dated three days before and she had gotten the first train ticket she could find out to this godforsaken state. Cutter had attached the name and address of a hotel on Bear Island and Aubrey had been expecting him to pick her up at the docks here when she arrived but there was no sign of him.
"Damn you, Cutter," she murmured as she threw the papers into the rockling waters, watched them sink, and then pressed her suitcases closer to her. She then started walking down the docks.
When the dock abruptly ended, she came to the edge of really long tree-lined road. Naturally the road was deserted. And it was getting dark. Not to mention, her dress was soaked through and she was shivering. She dropped her suitcases on the ledge of the road and positioned herself on top of them as best as she could while keeping her thumb hooked over her shoulder and the other hand holding her wrap closed.
Afternoon's dismal light had soon faded into nighttime's even more dismal dark. Aubrey had given up every hope of ever being found especially when she discovered that her cell phone had failed to pick up a signal. She imagined she would die of pneumonia out here on the side of the road or be pecked to death by one of the owls hooting in the high treetops.
She was cursing Cutter's name and the day they met when she heard the rumbling of an engine up ahead. She thought she was dreaming at first before she noticed two headlights sluicing through the murky darkness. Her first reaction was relief and elation. Then when she spotted a man she could only think of as the crypt keeper poke his head out the window and call to her, she felt more afraid than anything.
"Darling, what are you doing sitting in the rain?" He asked. He opened the door and stuck out two long, spindly legs. His feet landed with a splash in the mud. "Where can I take you?"
"Uh …" Aubrey's hand tensed on her suitcase, prepared to drop it and run even it was Louis Vuitton.
"I suppose you'll be wanting to go to Claybourne Manor, huh? It's the only place for miles anyway."
Aubrey vaguely remembered the name of the hotel was indeed Claybourne Manor. But would she make it there alive if she went with this creepy looking figure? Would she even make it alive sitting out here all night? It was a tossup.
Finally, she nodded. "You can take me there."
"Why sure," he said. "I was passing that way anyhow. I live about two miles down the lane from the manor. It was all lit up tonight when I passed by it. I guess a party must be in the making." He gestured to the suitcase she was still perched on. "Can I get those?"
"Uh, yeah," she said and gingerly moved off of them. She watched him take them to his car and tuck them in the backseat. Then he opened the passenger door and beckoned to her with a wave of his arm.
"Well come on, dear," he said. "You don't want to catch your death sitting in this bad weather do you?"
"No," she said and slowly climbed in while he walked around the other side. She kept close to the door in case she had to throw herself from it and watched him warily. He seemed not to notice as he blathered on about the eerie weather.
Finally, he started up the engine and pulled the car forward down the road. He glanced at her as the windshield wipers kept up a steady swish-swish on the windows. "What's your name?"
"Uh, Aubrey," she said. "And yours?"
"Tuck," the man answered. "What brings you to Bear Island?"
"Business," she said and hoped he would drop it there. He did, fortunately. Instead he kept going on about the weather as she kept her hand on the door handle.
After what seemed too long a drive, old Tuck turned down another tree-lined road and announced, "We're here".
Aubrey's eyes snapped forward to take in a large white building that stood a few feet away. A large sign hanging from the porch announced it as "Claybourne Manor, Established in 1889".
She sighed with relief. She had made it alive. But there would still be a murder tonight. She was going to ring Cutter's scrawny neck the first chance she got.
Tuck stopped his Buick and offered to bring in her bags but she demurred. "It's okay, thanks. You've done plenty." She hurriedly grabbed them out of the back seat, gave him a taut smile, and raced for the staircase and towards the inviting light streaming from the interior of the hotel.
Aubrey heard soft voices filtering in from another room as she walked inside the hotel and set down her bags. She approached the front desk and rang the bell impatiently. It took a good moment but finally, a kindly faced elderly woman with a tuft of white hair on her head appeared and greeted her.
"Aubrey Wentworth?" The woman said.
"Yes. How did –"
"I'm a good guesser," the woman said through a mouthful of dentures. "My name is Thelma. My husband Mr. Hurst will see you to your room. Just sign in here."
Aubrey signed the ledger and looked around the room until she spotted a portly man in a suit and suspenders approaching her. "Let me take your bags," he said and picked them up. Without another word, he started for the long spiral staircase and Aubrey followed.
He said nothing during the long walk up the stairs but didn't appear as breathless as she actually was by the time they hit the third floor. He produced a key from his pocket and slid it into the lock of door 317 and pushed it open. Aubrey followed him inside and dropped in exhaustion on the bed. She looked up at Mr. Hurst as he set her bags in the corner. "Do you know where I can find a man named Cutter Wentworth?" Aubrey asked. Cutter had not insisted on them using aliases at this point in their juncture so she hoped it was safe to mention his given name.
"Your husband …"
"Something like that," Aubrey said. "Just tell me has he checked in yet? We were supposed to meet up tonight but he never showed."
"I believe he's in the dining room with the rest of the guests. Its dinnertime you know."
Aubrey's stomach rumbled in response. "I just realized that," she said. She hadn't eaten in hours, not since before she got off the train early this morning. "I'll just go join him." She realized her dress was still clinging to her damp skin and amended, "After I change."
"Sounds fine," Mr. Hurst said. "Just go back the way we came and then swing a left at the bottom of the stairs. It's at the end of the front hallway. We're having my wife's turkey surprise tonight. My favorite. You don't want to miss it."
"No room service huh?" Aubrey rolled her eyes. "I should have known." She opened her purse and tipped the chubby man a whole two dollars and then he left.
She shut the door after him and changed into a black skirt and simple white blouse. Then she considered reapplying her makeup but figured Cutter didn't need to see her that way. They had broken up months ago and she wasn't ever going to be his bedmate again. His business partner? Yes. One last time. But never his bedmate. She still, sadly, had feelings for one man only.
Aubrey slid on flats and then headed downstairs again. She found the dining room and heard voices filtering out of it. She took a deep breath, telling herself not to kill Cutter right away, at least not in public, and then walked inside.
The dining room was small and faintly lit. There was a group of about six other people assembled. Aubrey sighed when she didn't spot Cutter among them. She started to back out of the room when suddenly she spotted someone else she did know. Someone she knew intimately. Someone who's blue eyes were trained on her and laced with surprise. He was just as shocked to see her there as she was to see him and her heart started hammering right away in her chest.
"Joey?" She whispered in awe.