I was bound to be dreaming. Did she just say my new job was full-time with Malcolm? All my life I’d waited for this opportunity, and here it was. My Ken was finally mine.
That didn’t make sense, did it? Let me explain.
I was five when I received my first Barbie. I played with her all the time. Took her out on rides in her pink car. Held parties with her and my other rag dolls in her beautiful house. Barbie was kind, because she allowed everyone into her place. A far cry from the people of West Haven. You flocked to your own herd here, and one never strayed.
Well, Barbie was my princess, but after a while, I thought something was lacking. When I told my mother, she laughed, and bought the Ken doll a few days later. Finally, Barbie was fine. She had someone who looked after her, opened her car door. Someone who loved and cherished her.
I would look at Mom and Dad and think they were like Barbie and Ken too. Until the day Dad crossed the threshold and never came back… Mom came to my bedroom and she sat on the floor with me while I played with my dolls. I remember she sighed, and then she said, while looking at Barbie and Ken, “At least this couple won’t break up. Ken will always love Barbie.”
I know it sounds silly now, but for a six-year-old, these words meant a lot. To this day, I cannot help but think that Ken really wouldn’t ever leave Barbie. Theirs was an enduring love, and I wanted my Ken too.
Malcolm was this Ken for me…
“I’m not the devil, you know,” a deep, husky voice said in my ear.
Startled out of my thoughts, I jumped away from the table in front of me and bumped smack into a solid warm wall.
Strong hands came up and clasped my shoulders. “Whoa, careful, girl. No need to be so on edge.”
Oh. My. God.
It was him. I froze, but his firm grip was on me and he made me turn around to face him.
My breath caught when I looked up into his face. Never had I seen him so close. He smelled of expensive after-shave, but the scent was light and elusive, not overpowering as if he’d taken a shower in the fragrance. Like Des.
I gave myself a mental shake. Why was I thinking of Des now?
Oh, the way he said my name. It was like a sinful treat rolling off his tongue. My eyes wanted to close in sheer bliss, but I caught a grip on myself.
“Yes,” I answered softly. Too softly, like a moan.
He watched me, before cocking an eyebrow. “Do I make you afraid?” he asked oh so gently.
“No,” I quickly replied. You’re simply the devil in disguise.
“Prue, I need you for the Vaulmann project,” Des called out from the doorway of the office in an extremely whiny voice.
What was wrong with him?
Both Malcolm and I turned to him, and what I saw for a fleeting second on his face made my blood freeze in my veins.
It was hatred. Pure, unadulterated hate.
“I’m sorry to barge in, but Prudence will be busy today. She can help you another time,” Malcolm said. He still hadn’t released my shoulders, and I’m sure we painted a pretty cozy picture.
“I need her—”
“No more than I do,” Malcolm coldly cut in.
“Marie said Prue has to work with me on the Vaulmann deal.”
I felt Malcolm stiffen.
“Chambers,” he said, “as your direct superior, my needs take precedence. I repeat, Prudence will work with me for the rest of the day.”
Both men eyed each other with distrust in their eyes and aggressive poise tense in their bodies. Des finally turned on his heels and departed, but not before sending a withering glare onto Malcolm.
He let out a breath when Des left. Malcolm still towered above me, and I felt the rush of warm air tickle my face when he exhaled. By God, even his breath smelled nice. Like fresh mint.
He released his hands on my shoulders only to clasp my elbow. As he steered me out of the office towards my desk, he said, “We’re leaving.”
Hold on one second. We were leaving? Didn’t we have work to do? Unless… “You already have the sites located?” I assumed he was taking me on a site tour.
He stopped near my desk. “Actually, we’re going to my place.”
“I work from home usually, and all the papers we need are there.”
“Oh,” I said in a small voice.
Alone, with him, in his house. What was I asking for? Trouble with a big T? I took another look at his near-perfect face and the quiet confidence on it staggered me. I also couldn’t but think of the arrogance in his tone when he had spoken with Des.
Suddenly I had doubts. What was this man really like?
The question plagued me all the way to his home. As expected, he lived in one of the posh neighborhoods. Late Victorian manors stood side by side with enormous Colonial-inspired dwellings.
Malcolm pulled the Mercedes-Benz Coupe into the driveway of one such Victorian abode.
Before I could pull the latch open, I saw he was already outside and pulling the door open for me. A warm flutter picked up in my stomach, but it was quelled on the spot when the chilly wind of January hit me hard on the face when I stepped out.
“Let’s go in,” he said, and I followed him through the massive wood front door and into the quiet of the house.
I was awed by the surroundings. Quiet elegance. I had no other way to describe the setting. A huge crystal chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling of the entrance hallway. Against the far wall, a wide staircase with an intricate wrought-iron banister curled up smoothly towards the upper floors. Delicate plaster moldings finished off the walls and the floor was of Italian marble with Persian rugs scattered here and there.
Malcolm closed the door behind him when he entered. I turned to face him, about to ask him if he lived alone in such a big house.
But I barely had time to open my mouth before a smooth, cultured voice asked,
“Who’s the trollop with you?”
To be continued in a fortnight…