Authors: Lass Small
friend and sage
with my love
peaking long-distance from Winter Haven, Florida, Mrs. Abbott assured her daughter in Atlanta, Georgia, “Well, Amy, you’re perfectly welcome to come home right now, but why not stay where you are for another day or two? With the rain, you’d either be trapped here in the house, or you’d have to go somewhere else. Unless, of course, being twenty-four years old and wearisomely mature, you’ve become tolerant of Mitzie and Peck?”
“How do you stand them?” Amy Abbott Allen inquired with genuine curiosity.
“As you know, I’m very grateful Peck saved Bill’s life all those years ago in Vietnam. I must add— however— the ‘saving’ is being told with increasing drama each year. I honestly believe Peck tripped at the crucial moment, but then you know how unbearably logical I can be?”
“I have seen hints of it.” Humor laced Amy’s droll words.
“Don’t try to ingratiate yourself to me with flattery. I cannot hint the Peckerels away. You know that. And they are such a refreshing change for your father. He needs Peck like some people need an occasional dose of Laurel and Hardy.”
“Peck is chatty, but he’s tall and thin, so he must be Laurel?”
“Yes, and Mitzie is Hardy har-har-har.”
Amy laughed with those sounds. “And what purpose does Mitzie serve?”
“I especially appreciate Mitzie’s visits. Bill looks at me in awe for simply days after we’ve been with the Peckerels.”
“I can’t begrudge you that, Mom. Instead of staying here, I think I’ll go to Saint Petersburg Beach.” She sighed dramatically into the phone mouthpiece. “I’ll sulk there until you finally get rid of the Peckerels.”
“Be careful of the prowling beasts.” Her mother’s voice became gentle. “The wolves are always after little girls like you.”
“Little? Mother, you fantasize. You know I take after Daddy.” While Mrs. Allen was five feet two inches, Amy was five feet seven, and her father was six feet four. Amy declared, “I’m a woman.”
“I...” But Cynthia Allen had hesitated too long, so she said airily, “Never mind, I’ll tell you when I see you.”
“Let me guess. You’ve found the perfect husband for me.”
Cynthia chided, “Now, Amy, why would you say something like that?”
“I’ve known you all my life.”
“It’s been a delightful acquaintance, my love. I’m sure the Peckerels can’t stay more than another few days. We haven’t been too lively.”
“You’re very sweet to Daddy.”
“I like him.”
* * *
So on that early March day, Amy Abbott Allen drove her packed car from Atlanta down to Saint Pete Beach on the west coast of Florida. She drove under the portico at the Trade Winds, exited her car and went into the glassed lobby as the rainy evening came down.
On the lobby tree, the flamboyant parrots were tolerant of the attention they were getting from some of those in the laughing, milling group of well-dressed young adults to be registered.
As Amy waited her turn, she noticed most of the people in the lobby knew one another. They were having a teasing, greeting time, exchanging gibes and laughter.
That’s when she saw him.
He was somewhat ahead of her in the casual line for the desk. He was one of that special, friendly group. Her first thought was: There’s a man Dad would like.
Then she looked at him for herself, and a strange flicker went through her body before it concentrated in the bottom of her stomach.
He was big. Almost as big as her father. He was probably thirty. His suit perfectly fit his marvelous body. His hair was very dark, so his eyebrows were, too, and that explained his black eyelashes. His lower lip was full and his jaw looked stubborn. His lazy smile was being wasted on an obnoxiously beautiful redhead who flirted with him.
Any woman would flirt with him. Amy realized that right away. A woman could become quite silly in attracting him. She could be quite like a bitch wolf trying to impress the dominant male wolf. It always embarrassed Amy to see women be so obvious.
He didn’t seem to mind the redhead’s attentions as he stood so easily relaxed. He was probably that same way in the boardroom, relaxed and in control, but God help the careless employee.
He’d slay with one rapier glance, and he’d say, “Find it!” in a soft voice. And if that person made a second mistake, he’d...uh-h-h...he’d help the incompetent one to relocate. Amy scoffed that she could know all that about a man she’d only glimpsed across the crowded lobby of a beach hotel.
But that was exactly how he would be. She’d bet on it. It would be interesting to meet him...just to see if she was right. That was all. She wasn’t going to
anything about him. She was only— curious. There were a lot of men who wore facades of authority, but they were actually hollow men.
When it came to pressure, they lacked the judgment, the background of information or the skill of business. She’d seen a lot of men, having traveled with her father in his business.
It was her father who had carefully guided her to know people and how to judge them.
Amy glanced over at— What would his name be? What name would such a man possess? He hadn’t yet looked at her. That was unusual.
Men generally saw her in their first assessing sweep of a room, and she would meet interested eyes every time she glanced up. She had never deliberately invited such interest.
There in the lobby other men looked at her and talked for her benefit, ready to include her in their conversation. But
didn’t even notice her.
He didn’t need to look around. Women migrated to him like iron filings to an irresistible magnet. They had crowded him so that he was no longer in the line ahead of her but off to one side.
Amy thought such interest, from her, in a disinterested man was astonishing and, to distract herself from him, she began to listen to the group. How open they were! How careless with names and plans.
Privileged people don’t care who hears their idle chatter. They rarely consider the other people who are around or listening.
Apparently the group was there for the redhead’s wedding. The bride was talking solely to the formidable man. Amy wondered how her groom felt about his bride flirting with such a man.
Or was he the bridegroom?
The bride’s name was readily available, since everyone was teasing her. She was Sally. And quickly, as Amy listened,
name was Chas, the diminutive of Charles.
Amy agreed with that choice of nickname. He wasn’t a Charlie, although the redhead did call him Charlie in such a sassy way she must be privileged. How privileged? Amy’s eyes narrowed on the redhead.
Then Amy thought, what business was it of hers? Well, at least Sally wasn’t marrying Chas. The groom’s name was Tad. Why the feeling of relief in her because the groom was not Chas?
“Any of Trilby’s bunch coming?” One of the group inquired of Sally.
“Who knows? I couldn’t find many and even they are all out of touch with one another. Trilby had ten children, all girls, and they married and scattered. With all the name changes, they’ve been hard to find. What we’ve found of the next generation, they were all girls, too!”
Some man’s voice offered, “Our bunch came down fairly intact. Male, of course.”
That male comment caused protests among the females and some teasing male laughter over the indignant female exclamations.
Since Amy was an only daughter, she was curious how Chas reacted to the thought of having only female offspring. She swiveled her head to see his reaction, but she even had to shift in order to look farther.
He was almost directly behind her! When had he moved? But she couldn’t see his face since he was turned away, talking to someone else. Not the redhead.
He had a great voice. It was low and rumbled. Even so, it sounded as if he lightened it so that it wasn’t too strong. It was still a commanding sound.
Amy’s imagination could see him on a battlefield shouting for his men to rally. And they would.
Now where did an idea like that come from? How ridiculous! Perhaps she was intrigued because he didn’t notice her.
When next he spoke, it was almost in her ear, and goose bumps flooded her body’s surface. The sensation was so peculiar that she was distracted from the lobby banter among the wedding guests.
She was so distracted that she moved to the desk and just stood there. The efficient couple behind the desk smiled at her and inquired, “Do you have a reservation?”
“Yes. Amy Aaabbott.” A couple of extra
‘s in there, since she’d almost said Allen. She was handed the reservation card and signed it.
Being her notable father’s daughter, she had begun to register as Amy Abbott, using her middle name. Her family agreed such action would be wise. Especially since she now traveled alone in this day and age. Who knew how strained and strange minds worked in revenge?
As she signed the card, she was aware Chas’s breath stirred her hair. He was facing her way. Probably impatient with her dawdling? She was being as quick as she could. Efficiently she inquired, “Was the fridge stocked?”
“Yes, it was, Miss Abbott.”
“Thanks.” She smiled back as she accepted the card, which took the place of a key. She declined an escort and was directed to the complex map, which she studied. There was a huddle of buildings named and explained. One was an indoor, heated pool. She located her third-floor suite.
Amy then went out to the parking lot and moved her car to the guest lot. She took out her weekender and made her way through the hotel complex. There she walked to the deck elevator for the six-floored north wing.
In the elevator, she was again with some of the wedding party. As Amy looked out of the back, glass wall of the elevator, she heard one of the women ask a man of their group, “Is Matt coming?”
“Oh, yes. He’s still trying to convince Connie to live with him.”
“They’re cousins,” a woman commented.
The male’s voice was lazy in his reply, “Only third, no problem. But Matt doesn’t want to
her, he just wants to get her out of his system.”
“Connie’s smart to hold out.”
The male chuckled low in his throat. “I’m not sure she does, she just won’t live with him.”
Amy wondered how did the chatterers know she wasn’t from a gossip magazine. They weren’t even aware of her. At least the women weren’t. To them, Amy could have been a knob on the panel. The doors opened on the third level, and only Amy exited.
From the elevator, she turned left. The access walk on the floor above served as a roof, so her walkway wasn’t completely wet. She looked down on the second floor sun deck which, in turn, overlooked the courts for basketball, handball and tennis.
Through the well-placed palms, she could see the putting course and shuffleboard. Beyond was the bricked chessboard in the quadrangle formed by the buildings of the complex.
She went to Room 334 and put her sandpiper-marked card into the top of the lock. The lock’s light turned green. Amy removed the card and opened the door. But instead of entering, she hesitated.
Why should she feel this odd excitement? Apprehension? It was as if she was about to cross not only that threshold but an additional one. Prickles went up her spine. Amy shivered as if with fear, or thrills, took that step and entered her suite.
She dropped her weekender on one bed and walked down the connecting bath-hall and through her living room with its kitchen bar. The wall was glass, and so were the double doors. She opened the sliding door, which gave access to her balcony.
She stood in the doorway, breathing deeply of the rain-wet, salt-scented air. To her left was the Gulf, the beach and the prerequisite palms. Then she looked down at the man-made waterways plotted around contrived islands and used for the foot-peddled paddleboats.
In the evening’s darkness, Amy stood on her balcony in the dark, looking out on the calm scene. She was a little lonely. In just the last few weeks she’d begun to understand single men hunting companionship. Traveling alone was boring.
After being inside all day in meetings, there was the urge to do something physical in the evenings, to run, swim, anything that was different.
However, being a woman alone in such circumstances, in public accommodations, left her open to be approached. In all that time she’d met about every variety of male God could devise, and they were no big deal.
But traveling with her father had kept the wolves at bay.
Amy had served as a “side man” to her father during the summers, then full time in the two years since college. In that time, she had been listening silently and learning. She had been traveling for his political campaign advisory company for almost four months now on her own. It had been a revealing experience.
Her dad used her as a trusted representative. It was interesting work, but it would have been better if she was a man.
Men reacted to her not as Bill Allen’s representative, but as a young female. Their reactions ranged from indulgence, to tolerance for Bill Allen’s daughter, to genuine attraction, to lechery. But mostly they had trouble taking her seriously.
Where a man could have started at a basic level of acceptance, Amy had to work to reach up to that zero and
had to work hard for the men to even listen to her.
Her father told her, “It’s good experience,” and
ruffled her hair. He then grinned at her and said, “In another fifty years, they’ll listen to you and take you very seriously with genuine respect. By then you won’t be the sable-haired blue-eyed killer you are now.”
She’d fingercombed her hair back into place and given the disgruntled reply, “I’ll have it before then.” Her father didn’t realize his hair-ruffling was very like other male reaction to her. She was aware, but she could tolerate it from him since he was her father.
However, the next time she’d gone to have her hair cut, she’d told Peter to give her a hairstyle that would allow her father to ruffle it without destroying anything calculated.
Peter had groused a sympathetic, “Men!” He then spent almost forty minutes studying her head before he cut her hair in the matter of about twenty minutes in a neat, shake-right swirl.