Authors: Laura Del
“Thanks again.” I nodded and was thankful that laughs had finally stopped. But I still felt like flirting with him. Weird.
He smiled, taking the phone from my hand. “Any time,” he said, placing it back in his pocket.
We stood there for a long silent moment, just looking at each other. “Would you like some breakfast?” I asked, gesturing toward the dining room. “There’s enough to feed an army.” I smiled slightly. My arms were folded across my chest. I was uncomfortable with him looking at me the way he was. It was like I was the only woman in the world and he just couldn’t understand why.
His intense stare faltered when I waved a hand in front of his face. Thankfully, he blinked. “Oh,” he finally spoke, “uh…no thank you, ma’am. I best be goin’ back to work.”
“Oh.” That made me miserable, and I was really upset by how cold my voice sounded. “Well, it was nice meeting you, Mr. Wolf.”
“Likewise.” He held out one hand while rubbing the back of his neck with the other. “And please call me, Mike.”
I shook his hand, and it felt as though I had known him all of my life. His touch, his eyes, and the way he spoke were all too familiar to me. “I’ll tell Samuel you stopped by.”
“No!” he said abruptly, and then was quick to regain himself. “There’s no need to go and do that. I’ll tell him myself. Okay,” he sighed, as if he didn’t want to leave, and then he reluctantly let go of my hand. “Bye.” He walked past me, and I stood there for a moment paralyzed. I didn’t want him to leave.
What are you doing, Pat?
I scolded myself.
Do something, you idiot!
“Wait!” I yelled after him, and he turned to face me again. “It may not be my place to ask, but I thought since you’re his lawyer, you would know.”
“Yes,” he said, turning his back toward me. Odd.
“How much is Mr. Satané worth?”
He looked over his shoulder with a crooked smile. “Over a hundred million dollars.”
“Did you just say…?” the rest of the words were caught in my throat. I was not expecting that.
“Yes,” he said, “I did.”
That’s when my breath caught in my chest, and everything went dark.
Now I’m not one for fainting, but the next thing I knew, I was on the antique sofa with someone holding smelling salts under my nose while somebody else slapped my face. My eyes shot open, my vision blurry. And when it cleared, I saw both Charles and Mike kneeling over me. Charles looked grave, but Mike seemed amused.
“What happened last night?” I asked quietly. My head feeling as if someone had taken a chainsaw and split it open.
“You fainted.” Mike laughed, and I felt like sticking my tongue out at him. I know it was very childish of me, but I still felt like doing it.
“I did not!” I said with quiet indignation, but I knew I had.
“You did, madam.” Charles looked as if he might hit Mike right upside the head, which would have been hilarious. “I think you need to sit up and eat something.” They nodded to each other, getting on either side of me.
My head spun and my ears rang as they stood me up.
“Easy there, Patty,” Mike said like I was a horse, putting my arm over his shoulders.
“It’s Pat,” I corrected, narrowing my eyes at his happy tone. I was having some mixed emotions about this Mike character. One minute I thought I liked him, and the next I wasn’t so sure about it.
“Sorry.” He glanced at me sideways, while Charles opened the double doors again. I didn’t remember closing them.
“Will you stay now?” I asked, clearing my throat. Gosh, it was
Mike laughed as he placed me down in the chair. “Absolutely.”
I glanced over at Charles. He appeared ill at ease with the situation. “But madam, Mr. Wolf has to go back to his office.”
“It’s okay, Charlie.” Mike patted him on the back, pulling out a chair for himself. “It’s my office, and I can be as late as I want to.”
I looked at my wrist and realized that I must have left my watch upstairs, even though I didn’t remember taking it off. “What time is it anyway?” There was a surprising lack of clocks in this house. My first order as the lady of the manor would be to get a huge grandfather clock for every room.
Charles walked over to me and poured some coffee in my cup. “Almost nine thirty, madam.”
I must have only slept three hours, but it seemed like days—probably due to the little fainting spell I had a few moments ago. But I wasn’t tired, just sort of fuzzy and out of sorts. “Thanks, Charles,” I said, looking up at him with a smile. This whole waiting on me thing was getting on my last nerve. But my three favorite things in the world are pancakes, bacon, and coffee, so the hunger outweighed all the craziness.
I stuck my fork in the pile of pancakes, put some bacon on my plate, and wholeheartedly dug into my breakfast.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Mike was staring at me with a pleasant look on his face. I turned my head to see him smiling at me, and I nodded in order for him to start eating. He blinked and then did. I’d poured syrup over everything, and I watched as he did the same. After that, Charles left us alone so we could work on our breakfast together.
Mike watched in amusement as I stuffed my mouth with food, and I sighed. “What?” Granted I was a little testy. But who cared? If he was going to stare at me while I ate, he’d better have a good enough reason for it.
He blinked. My guess is he was returning to reality. “I never expected Sam to marry someone as pretty and smart as you.”
Well, that excuse was as good as any. “First,” I swallowed the piece of bacon in my mouth, “I’m not pretty. Second, you don’t know me well enough to call me smart. After all, we just met.” This was the second time in so many hours that I had said something like that. Besides, if he thought that he was going to get away with unfounded compliments, he was sadly mistaken.
“First,” Mike said, shoving a piece of bacon into his mouth. “You are much more than pretty. And second, everybody knows Pat Wyatt.”
I closed my eyes. “Please do not tell me you’re a fan too?” I had never had fans before, and something inside me was shrieking in awful suspicion that there was something else going on here.
“I’d have to be an idiot not to be,” he said proudly. “Of course I am.”
“Okay,” I huffed, opening my eyes and dropping my fork onto my plate. “What the heck is going on here? I’ve
been recognized before. And I suggest you start telling me what you’re playing at or I’m leaving. It’s your choice.” I promise you that empty threats are not my thing. I was as serious as death himself, and this lawyer needed to start talking or I was going to start packing.
He bit his lip, rubbing the back of his neck. It looked as though he was contemplating something. “Sam,” he began, and then he had to clear his throat taking a sip of his juice. “Is obsessed with your work. He’s always talkin’ about how he would love to meet you and how he would love to discuss your views on everythin’. He even has all your articles in a file and your picture on his desk.” Okay, I had a stalker, and he was my husband. “So you can understand how shocked I was when I saw you and you said you were his wife,” he paused, looking like he was trying to keep a straight face. “But I would expect nothin’ less from Sam.”
That last bit made me wonder what he was talking about. Something deep inside me was aching to have my husband near me. But something else was telling me that what this Mike person just told me was the biggest lie I would ever hear in my lifetime.
While thinking, I bit my thumbnail, trying to consider everything he’d said. The gist of it was that my husband was so in love with me—before we married—that he actually came and found me so he could make me his. Even to my subconscious ears it sounded crazy. And at that point, I felt like I was on a roller coaster of madness.
“Do you love him?” Mike’s voice broke through the babble in my head.
I looked at him in order to see the slight smile drop from his face. My mind reeled around that thought for a moment. “I think,” I paused, listening to the little voice in my head, “I do.” I couldn’t believe
came out of my mouth. Did I really love a man I’d just met? “I really do.”
, the little voice in the back of my mind added. Something in me wanted to be miserable.
Mike sighed, a deep and heavy sigh. “I would’ve expected nothin’ less.” He frowned, taking another bite out of his bacon. “Well, you seem okay now, so I should…um…get goin’.” He got up, and Charles appeared to show him out. “Good-bye, Pat.” He took my hand in his and pressed it to his lips. “I’ll be seein’ ya.” Then he let go of my fingers, tipping an imaginary hat to me.
I had to admit that was the most adorable thing I’d ever witnessed. “Good-bye, Mike,” I said, waving. “I sure hope so.” When I said that, he smiled at me, his green eyes sparkling brilliantly. Then he turned and followed Charles out.
I waited to hear the front door shut before I turned back to my breakfast. And when it did, I felt a pang of remorse. This Mike seemed like a decent enough fellow in desperate need of a good woman, and I felt for a moment that I should be that woman. But I pushed that thought away as quickly as it came. Then I thought that he seemed as though he had no sense of fashion or style…
That’s when it hit me that he would be perfect for Tina. He was just the right kind of project for her. A smart, sexy lawyer type who, if my guess was right, had more jeans than a denim factory and more Stones t-shirts than yours truly. She would be in makeover heaven.
I began to smirk at the new prospect for my friend, and I finished my breakfast with gusto. Then I realized that I had to figure out a way to get them to meet. But how?
Maybe Samuel could help me out. After all, Mike was his trusty lawyer. I would have time to worry about later. First things first. I had an article to write.
The frustration had been building in my neck and back ever since I’d gone upstairs looking—like a moron—for my clothes. It had been one thing after another. First I searched the floor, then the bed, and finally I was on my knees having a nervous breakdown.
Anger quickly replaced the frustration, and I pushed the bed skirt up so I could look underneath. Why they would have been under the bed was beyond me. But after what happened last night, it wouldn’t surprise me.
“Charles,” I screamed as I looked at the sketchpad. Then, as if by no will of my own, my hand reached for it, and my whole body tingled with a new sensation. This was not lust like I’d felt last night, but excitement.
“Yes, madam?” Charles’s voice made me jump, and I banged my head on the iron frame. This was not turning out to be a good day for my poor skull.
Abandoning my mission to get the sketchpad, I rocked back on my heels and clawed my way to standing. “Where on God’s green earth are my clothes?” I tried to keep the anger in, but my voice had other plans.
He waved off my concern. “Don’t worry about them. I took the liberty of washing them and placing them into your closet.”
Closet? “I have a closet?” This was just too much to take in at once. Some stranger had washed all of my delicates and placed them in a closet, the location of which I had no clue.
He smiled, still not looking me in the eyes. “Yes, you do, madam.”
“Charles.” My jaw clenched as I spoke. He bothered me to no end with this “madam” thing. And now it was time for him to have a lesson in the twenty-first century. “Cut the madam stuff, please. And whatever you do, call me Pat. Not Mrs. Pat. Just plain Pat. Plus, when you speak to me, please look me in the eye. Not at the floor, in the
“Yes, ma…” his voiced faded away as he checked himself. Then, slowly, he lifted his head, so he could meet my eyes. “Pat.” I laughed at him, which made him smile. “And you must call me Charlie.”
“Why, Charlie, I’m flattered,” I said in a southern belle accent.
He chuckled at me. “I’ll show you to your closet, and then I’ll take you to the study.” There was a study too? Did I happen to mention this was too much?
In one swift move, Charlie turned around and showed me out of the bedroom, to the left, and down an extremely long hallway (I guess you could call it a wing). It had the same whiteness about it that the bedroom had, and there were more paintings on the walls. In fact, I was sure it had more paintings than the Louvre. This place was charming and creepy at the same time. And it made me wonder who in the world would want to live here if they could afford not to.
Suddenly I caught sight of something out if the corner of my eye and stopped dead. It was as if the painting had called to me somehow. My breath caught in my chest. “Oh my gracious. She’s gorgeous.”
“She’s his mother.” Charlie’s voice was behind me, and I felt his breath on my neck. Something told me he wasn’t telling the truth, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“Did he paint this one too?” I asked, looking at the woman dressed in blue. I noticed her eyes were the shiniest silver and that her hair was a shade darker than her eyes. Maybe it was her stern expression, or maybe it was the fact that she looked ageless. Whatever it was, she gave me the heebie-jeebies.
“Yes.” His voice sounded strangely irritated. “About ten years ago.” Ten years ago? Samuel must have painted it very young, because he only looked about twenty-six.
That intrigued me. “How old is Samuel?” I blurted before my good sense could catch up with me. What can I say? I have vocal vomit.
“Older than you think.” The way he said it sounded off, and I didn’t like it.
I glanced over my shoulder seeing him smile at me. He had deflected the question, and the smile was to show that nothing was out of the ordinary. But my mind buzzed around the unspoken angst in the air around him. Then he swept his arm out, gesturing to the door next to the painting. “This way, Pat,” he said as he opened the closet.
I inhaled deeply, my eyes wide and mouth open. “Oh my…this place is huge.”
“Do you like it?” Charlie asked, folding his hands in excitement. Trust me when I say that what I said next was not what he wanted to hear.
“No.” My voice cracked as I stepped into the oversized room. It was three times the size of a whole floor in my apartment building, which made me anxious as all get-out. That’s when my mind went to one place.
Just find your clothes,
I told myself calmly. But all I saw were armoires, lines of racks and a white antique chaise lounge in the middle of all this unnecessary stuff.
Finally I saw the smallest rack, holding all my clothes, and right next to it was a shoe holder containing all three pairs of my shoes. And after seeing them, I sighed with relief, especially when my eyes came to rest on my pair of black Birkenstocks. They were nestled safely in a little nook right next to my Converse.
“Are you all right?” Charlie sounded concerned, and with the way I was behaving, who could blame him? I couldn’t, that’s for sure.
I felt the blood drain from my face. “Yes,” I blinked, nodding slowly, “I’m fine.”
“You don’t like it?” he asked, disheartened, which was understandable considering my not-so-typical reaction.
“No,” my voice quivered, “I
don’t.” On the next exhale, I asked, “Where is my underwear?” He answered by pointing to the set of drawers next to my shoes, and I walked over, opening the top one so I could pull out a pair of pink panties and a bra that matched. Then I yanked a pair of jeans and one of my Rolling Stones t-shirts off their hangers and asked, “Where do I shower?” I had to take deep breaths so I wouldn’t go into hysterics.
“In there.” He motioned to a door all the way on the other side of the room. “Will there be anything else?” he asked quietly.
I shook my head. “No, Charlie, that’ll be all for now.” Even before he left the room, my Birkenstocks were on my feet (they were my security blanket), and I walked to the bathroom. As soon as I opened the door, I saw all my necessities, and I washed and dressed as quickly as humanly possible.
I couldn’t stand being in that room. It gave me the shakes. It reminded me of the time that my mother had left me in a funeral home when her mother had passed. I was only six, and my sister was supposed to watch me while my mother paid her respects. But my sister wasn’t paying attention, and I wandered into a large room set up in the exact same way as the closet. Except in the funeral home, there were three corpses in open caskets ready for their families to see them. After I saw that, I screamed my head off and cried for my mother to come get me. Only I couldn’t remember which direction I’d come in, and I wound up sitting in there until she came and found me fifteen minutes later. Ever since, I can’t be in large open rooms by myself. I always feel as though corpses are going to take me to the other side with them, and it freaks me out.
After I showered and discovered that I was covered (in very unusual places) with charcoal, I went back outside in the safety of the wing. I saw Charlie waiting for me, following him as he showed me down the stairs to the left. It was strange that I hadn’t noticed the large white doors before, but I figured I’d been preoccupied. I mean, they were
, and they were situated right next to the stairs. No one could’ve missed them. No one except me, that is.
“Here’s both your and Mr. Satané’s study,” Charlie said, a smile in his voice. And for the first time, I was excited that he was opening the doors. Something in me wanted to know what was behind them, and when he finally opened them, I wasn’t disappointed. At all.
The room was picturesque and covered from the floor to extremely tall ceiling with leather-bound books—fathom after fathom of books all looking as though they had never seen the light of day, and in pristine condition. The room reminded me of the scene in
Beauty and the Beast
where the Beast shows Belle the library, but this room was much bigger than that. There were books everywhere, even some piled next to a brown leather-reading chair and lamp in the middle of the room. My eyes moved very slowly, seeing the beautiful stained-glass window spray a ray of sunlight across the room, sending specks of dust around like glitter. And as I walked through them, I looked to my left, where I saw an antique wooden desk with my modern laptop and printer on it. They were both set up for me to write. I also saw that the desk had one of those old telephones on it. You know, the ones with the rotary dial, but someone had replaced that with modern buttons.
Charlie’s smile had returned, and I knew it was because of my stunned silence. “Will that be all?” he asked politely.
I nodded, more to myself than to him, adding a soft, “Yes.”
“Happy writing, Pat.” He bowed, but this time he kept eye contact with me.
“Happy serving, Charlie,” I said, and as he straightened up, I curtsied. That made him laugh all the way out of the room.
When the doors shut, I sighed happily. I was comfortably alone at last. I pulled out the swivel chair from behind the desk, sat, typed in my password, waited, and opened a new document as soon as my settings had uploaded.
For a while I just stared at the blank blue and white screen, trying to remember everything that happened yesterday. Most of what I thought of consisted of after I got married, which was rather strange. Everything before that was obscure, as if it was years ago instead of just a few hours. But I just chalked that up to adrenaline.
I blinked, feeling the muse hit me, took a couple of deep cleansing breaths, and began to write. I started at ten-thirty and ended around one.
Pleased with myself, I sent the thing to my editor by email, and hoped that he liked it. If not, I would have to redo it, and I was
in the mood.
My body was stiff as a board, so I stretched, leaning myself back in the chair. “Wow!” My mouth dropped when I saw the ceiling. I had never seen anything like it before. It was covered in a reflective copper, which stopped in the center of the room, circling around a copper chandelier with cherubs that were painted to look as though they were flying into it.
It truly amazed me what money could buy.
I was still gawking at the ceiling when there was a light knock on the door. “Come in.” I yawned, and my neck cracked.
Charlie cleared his throat. “Are you finished, Pat?”
“Yes,” I said, waiting for him to open the door. He didn’t. “I’m finished. You can come in if you’d like.” The door creaked open, and his head barely made its way through. “All the way is fine, Charlie.”
He still didn’t come in, but I dismissed it. It seemed he was very nervous around people. “I just wanted to tell you that lunch is served,” he said with a smile.
“Oh, great.” I was on my feet, bounding out of the chair to the door in less than a second. “I’m starved.”
When we walked into the living room, I stopped. “Charlie?” my mouth ran away with me.
He turned, looking confused. “Yes?”
I smiled at him. “Can I eat out here?”
“If you wish,” he said with a shrug.
I sat on the sofa, crossing my legs in order to make some sort of defiant point. “Well, I want to eat here.”
Charlie scurried off, bringing back a tray filled with sandwiches. Then he set it down on the coffee table in front of me, and made a little bow.
“Thank you, Charlie,” I said, and he started to back away. “Wait.” My voice was louder than I’d anticipated. “Will you stay and have lunch with me?” I asked at a much better volume.
“Oh, no, I…” his voice trailed away as he pointed to some imaginary work he had to do.
I gave him my big hazel-eyes stare and said sweetly, “Please.” You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. “I insist.”
He blushed. “Well, if you—”
I held up my hand interrupting him. “I insist.” I was getting to know Charlie fairly well. After all, I was pretty sure that I’d know him better than I knew my own husband. At any rate, I was sure that Charlie knew more about him than I did anyway. That’s when it hit me.
I bit into my sandwich, considering the questions I could ask him without some sort of deflection. Then I decided on one that he would have to answer no matter what. It was so simple. “Charlie?”
“Mmm?” he said through a mouth full of turkey and cheese.
“What do you know about Samuel?” I asked, the smile on my face tight and fake. I mean, at that point, I would have done a cartwheel if it meant he would tell me something about my husband.
His eyes widened and he quickly looked down at his lap, chewing and swallowing carefully. “A lot,” he spoke in a whisper, “I’m afraid.”
“What does he enjoy?” I asked; his odd reaction was not stopping me.
“Women,” he blurted, which made me laugh. Then I realized that he was serious.
“Oh.” My voice was steadily somber. “Really?” he nodded. “He told me he’d had about thirty?” Give or take.
He glanced up at me with a distraught half-smile on his face. “More,” he managed to say without breaking eye contact.
“How many more would you say? Three?” I shrugged, lifting my hands, “Four?” I begged silently that he would say that little.
“To be exact…” He paused, and I could see the wheels turning in his head. In my experience, that’s never a good thing. “Two hundred and seventeen.”
“Really? That’s not…”
I almost choked on the piece of bread in my mouth, and he handed me a glass of water. The only thing I could do was gulp the whole thing down. “Two hundred and seventeen,” I said, my throat still dry, even though I’d just guzzled a glass of water. “How is that possible?”
“Sometime there were two or three at a time.” Charlie’s voice wasn’t above a whisper. But to my ears, it sounded as though he was screaming.
I think I’m going to be sick.
I dropped the sandwich on the tray, and it went down with a thud. Two hundred and seventeen was
more than thirty. What did the man think “give or take” meant?
“Are you…?” Charlie began, as I placed my hand over my mouth to calm my stomach.