"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov


Friday, January 4, 2013

6. We Meet the Cantrells...

Standing in the shadowy alcove of a dry cleaners, Dominic Cantrell stared across the street at the Victorian house that Katy Montgomery had just entered.  He wasn’t sure what kind of place it was; hard to tell by the elegantly scripted sign over the door.  Enchantments.  With a slight curl in one corner of his mouth, Dom considered the possibilities.  At the moment he was having no trouble imagining sweet Katy bouncing up and down on his lap wearing something...enchanting.  Earlier, he’d been caught off guard; was actually still reeling from the unexpected encounter with her.

Dominic had been following up on something he’d overheard his father say on the phone a few days ago, that Lily Chareau owned a business in the University District of Seattle, and because he had his own agenda—in part to find out what his father was up to—he had flown out of San Francisco late last night.  Bright and early this morning, he’d driven a rental car from his downtown Seattle hotel to the main thoroughfare in the U-District, the Avenue, to get a feel for the place and plan his next move. 

By chance and sheer dumb luck, he’d walked into the right place at the right time.  Hungry, drawn by the delicious smells wafting along the sidewalk, he’d gone into a bakery for some coffee and pastry.  While waiting his turn to order, Dom had noticed a small stack of flyers next to the counter advertising a Halloween party next Friday night at Enchantments; a party being given by none other than Lily Chareau.  Grabbing one, he was scanning it when his stomach loudly grumbled. The girl ahead of him in line—a student judging by her pack full of books and the blue circles under her eyes—turned to smile, then seeing the flyer, began an animated discourse about the party.  Before Nick could get a word in, she moved forward to order, saying over her shoulder, “Here comes the woman who works there.”  Quickly stepping out of the line, Dominic strode to the farthest corner of the room, reached for one of the newspapers stacked there for customers, and pretended to read as he waited for his first glimpse of the woman behind his father's latest plot.

And watched in amazement as a whirlwind spun into the bakery; a miniature tornado with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes as vivid as sapphires.  She had a messenger bag that had to weigh as much as she did crossed over her chest, and a dark chestnut-colored braid, that he inexplicably wanted to touch, draped over her left shoulder and hanging nearly to her waist.  Mesmerized, his thoughts curled like smoke around images of that braid in his hand, caressing, pulling, wrapping around—

Startled at his reaction, Dom shook his head sharply.  He continued to watch as she took her place in line, talking a mile a minute to the same girl he had briefly spoken to, her gestures punctuating every other word, her energy palpable.  When the door opened and two more students came in, he took a few quick strides, positioning himself directly behind her.  And nearly groaned aloud at her scent: ginger blossoms in a tropical breeze; heat and sun and ocean waves.

In a slightly desperate move, attempting to halt the images suddenly swamping his brain, Dom heard the woman order apple fritters, and bending low, breathed into her ear, “Are those as good as they look?”  She stiffened at first, but he knew the power of his voice.  She slowly turned, then had to retreat a step, tipping her head back to look up at him.  The full force of her eyes in the heart-shaped face, that sweet, lush mouth, the glow of her, hit him full force and shot straight to his groin.  For the first time in his life, Dominic Cantrell felt something perilously close to panic shiver through his belly.

They had carried on some kind of conversation; he vaguely remembered ordering more fritters than he could possibly want, though it all seemed surreal, like a half-remembered dream.  Dom managed to ask her some innocuous questions, and was unaccountably pleased when he learned she wasn't, in fact, Lily Chareau.  After receiving their pastries, he had insisted on walking out with her, reluctant to let her go just yet.  He knew she was interested; her face was an open book, and she was far to guileless to hide her feelings.

In a moment of weakness, unable to stop himself, he had reached for her braid, run his hand down the length, from the nape of her neck to the tiny cord tied at the tip of the silken rope.  Enthralled by the velvety softness, the fragrance befuddling his mind, he dimly recalled muttering something about caressing cashmere.  At least he thought that’s what he said.  In his head he'd been imagining her hair loose, was trying to judge where it would fall once unbound, pictured it covering him in a blanket of thick chestnut warmth. 
Alarmed at his uncharacteristic behavior, Dominic abruptly backed off.  He didn’t ask for her phone number, wasn’t sure it would be smart to pursue her at all under the circumstances.  Though even as she drove away and his brain came back online, he couldn't resist rubbing his hand across his  mouth, her scent permeating his skin.

Tailing her the mile or so to Enchantments, he forced himself to concentrate, to sort through what he had learned so far.  First and foremost, he now knew she wasn’t Lily Chareau.  So, on one hand, Katy wasn't part of his father's agenda, which was good news; on the other hand, what the fuck was his father’s agenda?  He smiled as a new thought occurred to him.  Getting close to Katy would inevitably get him into the inner circle, closer to the target.  Dom fingered the flyer he had stuffed into his jacket at the bakery.  The Halloween party would be a perfect excuse to scope things out while he chipped away at his father’s latest subterfuge. And ignoring his earlier alarm, and his resolve to steer clear, he couldn't stop the thought from taking root: Why not enjoy the delectable Katy Montgomery?  
He sighed, a hint of regret in the sound.  It really was just too damn bad the woman could only be a means to an end.  His real objectives had to be the other one, and the reason behind his father's blackmail of that bastard Valentine.  A sneer twisted his mouth, thinning the sensuous full lips into cruel lines as rage filled him, a spark of red flame flickering in the black depths of his eyes.  What secrets was his father still keeping?  How many more damned revelations would he have to ferret out on his own?  But the bigger, deeper question remained: Why did his father want the Chareau woman’s book stolen from the Library of Souls?

Balling his fists, Dom clenched his jaw and fought the seething storm, his body shaking from the effort.  As he struggled, there was the slight sound of a door unlocking at his back.  When he jerked around, a small Asian man, opening his dry cleaning business for the day, took one look at him, and the welcoming smile disappeared with a jaw-dropping stare of pure fear as his face drained of color.  He stumbled trying to step back and clutched the door with white knuckles.

Shaking himself, hard, like a wet dog, Dom was relieved to feel a marginal unwinding of tension in his body.  Forcing a stiff smile, he growled, his voice harsh, “No worries old man.  I’m gone.”   Getting into his car, he wondered what the old guy had seen. Judging by the reaction, it wasn’t the face he usually saw in the mirror.  He would have to be more careful, he couldn’t risk his father finding out his secrets, couldn't have his plans thwarted, not after all the work, the effort.  The pain.

Sliding behind the wheel of his rental car, Dominick Cantrell smiled.  It wasn't a pleasant one.  “I think it's about time I checked in with dear old Dad,” he murmured, heading downtown to his hotel.

----to be continued----

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