He gave me no time to reply or discuss the matter further. His arm clasped my elbow and he steered me out towards the car, almost pushing me into the passenger seat.
My plea fell onto deaf ears. He slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine, backing out of the driveway in a screech of tires.
I heard the click of the central locking activated and a small tremor of fear rushed through me. I wouldn’t have considered jumping out of a car that went at nearly ninety in suburbia – I wasn’t insane – but to know he blocked the way out made me uneasy.
We reached the police station all too soon and there he was again, opening my door and clasping my elbow. In we went into the big, stone-walled building.
From previous experience, I knew this statement business would take ages. How did I know? Because I was the one who had bailed my sister out of jail not so long ago. Sage had assaulted her husband and there was no way I would allow our parents to know she was a bully in her house. Sage Martin – she went by her husband’s name; easier to carry than Sage Tempest, especially when one knew how easily she blew a fuse or two – was the kind of person who could brew a typhoon in a teacup.
But, it seemed things went differently in West Haven where the rich and the rags were concerned. In the blink of an eye, the officers had taken Malcolm’s statement and mine as well, settled as we were in a comfy, well-heated room with warm mugs of coffee. A far cry from the full afternoon and night I had spent when Sage had been here.
It was dark however when we emerged. Malcolm took one look at the lit parking lot and he said, “I’ll take you home.”
It would be pointless to try to wheedle out and say I’d call a cab. So I acquiesced and we found ourselves in the Mercedes again, on the way to my apartment.
I gave Malcolm the address and he stopped the car in front of my brownstone building. I noticed his gaze scanning the area through the windshield.
For once, I was grateful I lived in the posh south-western section of town. Mind you, I didn’t own the place. I shared it with the owner, a wealthy heiress by the name of Stacey Walton. Like many young girls in her situation, she had come to the agency to look for an apartment in town as the gift for her eighteenth birthday. Nothing suited her, and throughout the weeks we worked together to find her a place, friendship developed between us. We weren’t bosom buddies, but we got along well. Now here comes this huge apartment on the market. It was actually two individual residences merged together. The owner wanted to get rid of it before his assets were valued for his divorced proceedings.
Stacey is the kind of girl who loses all reason the minute she hears the word ‘deal’. ‘Sales’ or ‘discount’ worked just as well too, getting her pen poised on her chequebook before she even realized what she was buying. So Stacey ends up with this huge place, and as if it were the most natural thing in the world, asks me if I’d like to be her roommate.
She also cited a paltry sum as rent, and I didn’t think twice before jumping on the offer. The money I saved every month could afford me one such place in five years.
“I’ll walk you to your door,” Malcolm said, bringing me back to the here and now.
“Oh, no need to. You must be exhausted. I wouldn’t want to keep you.”
“I insist,” he added and he exited the car to come open my door.
I wasn’t about to fight. Time spent with him was still what it was – time spent with him. I wasn’t going to spit on that.
We walked to the elevator and stepped into the carriage. The air was heavy and thick around us. I risked a glance at his profile and noted the tense set of his jaw. Fatigue was etched on his features, and my heart went out to him.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” I found myself asking on the threshold of my door.
He rubbed his hand over the nape of his neck. “Wouldn’t say no.”
“Come in,” I said as I pushed the door open and he followed me inside. “The living room is this way,” I said with a sweep of my hand while I headed to the kitchen.
I blanked all thoughts from my mind as I made coffee. No way would I think about the hunk who was probably draped over my sofa right now.
With the two steaming cups in my hand, I walked into the living room and nearly stopped in my tracks.
Malcolm wasn’t sprawled on the sofa but he stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling window at the far end of the room. He had shed his jacket and tie, and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled to his elbows.
I had never seen a more breathtaking, masculine sight.
He turned and walked to me, taking one cup from my hand.
“Thanks,” he said in a husky whisper. “Come sit down,” he added. His green eyes held me captive and like a hypnotized creature, I went where his gaze indicated.
We sat there side by side, sipping our coffee in silence.
“We didn’t get any work done,” I ventured to say when the thought crossed my mind.
“Tomorrow,” he replied.
“Won’t we lag?”
“No.” He took a sip of his coffee before he looked at me. “What do you know about Waltner?”
“Not much,” I replied.
This got us talking about the project. Before we realized, a good deal of time had passed. Malcolm threw a glance at his watch at one point and suddenly said, “Aren’t you hungry?”
Come to think of it, my stomach was hurting.
“Let’s have dinner,” he suggested.
Dinner? With him? Alone? How had I gotten so lucky?
“How does pizza sound?” he asked.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Not many men would’ve suggested this so nonchalantly, and he impressed me with his quiet confidence. This wasn’t a man who felt he needed to dazzle and belittle people around him.
“Pizza sounds great,” I replied.
He took out his cell phone. “What would you like?”
He even asked me what I wanted? Who was this? The perfect man? “Pepperoni, with lots of cheese?”
He smiled, and it wreaked havoc in my heart. “A woman after my own heart,” he said, further sending me down the road to la-la-land.
I walked on air and breathed bliss in as we sat there talking about work. When the delivery came, we sat down on the floor with the boxes between us.
But bliss doesn’t last, does it? The doorbell rang, shattering the cocoon-like world we were ensconced in.
Who could it be? I stood and walked to the door. Throwing a quick glance at the peephole, I gasped.
What was he doing here?
“Prue, open the door,” Des said from the other side.
I swung the panel open. There he stood, looking at me with concern on his face.
He threw his arms around me. “Oh Prue, I was so worried.”
Worried? What on earth was going on?
“Are you okay?” he said as he released me.
“She’s fine, Chambers,” Malcolm’s cold voice said behind me.
Des froze, his gaze going from me to Malcolm and back again. He probably took in Malcolm’s casual attire, the kind a man wore in a house where he was completely at ease.
Anger flared on Des’s face.
“What’s he doing at your place at nine in the evening?” he spat out.
To be continued in a fortnight…