He takes me to a bedroom.
As soon as the door swings open and I see the enormous four-poster bed, I spin on him in a fury.
“What exactly are you trying to pull?” I say. “If you think you can march me to a bedroom and I'll just—”
He cuts me off with a finger against my lips.
“My sister keeps her extra clothes in the closet here,” he says. “I'd guess you two are about the same size.”
Oh. His sister. I completely forgot he has a sibling. She shows up in the tabloids sometimes, too, but usually for a different reason—she seems to share her late father’s dedication to philanthropy.
“Louisa, right?” I say against his fingers. “Is she here too?”
Calder shakes his head and removes his hand from my lips. The warmth of his touch lingers a moment longer.
“She’s off saving the world, as usual,” he says. “She left for Southeast Asia not long after the funeral.”
I don’t miss the hint of bitterness in his voice, but I don’t dare push the matter any further.
“You're welcome to wear whatever you find in there,” he continues. “I'm going back to my room, since you were kind enough to point out that I could use a change as well. I'll meet you back here in ten minutes, if that's all right?”
“I'm sure I can handle myself.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Whatever shadow darkened his mood a moment ago is gone. He gives me another one of those amused smiles, the kind that I'm sure charms most women right out of their panties.
Good thing I'm not most women.
I give him a smile of my own—a controlled, unconcerned smile, I hope—and step into the room, closing the door behind me.
I have to admit, now that I'm getting a better look, this is one of the most beautiful bedrooms I've ever seen. The walls are sage green, the floors dark hardwood. There's an enormous white stone fireplace against one wall, and its mantle is carved to look like a canopy of leaves. On the far side of the room, a pair of long-paned windows stretch from the floor to the ceiling.
But the bed. Oh, the bed.
The bed is made of dark wood, and its headboard has been carved to match the mantle, depicting an elaborate scene with birds, butterflies, and flowers hidden among the leaves. A vine pattern has been etched up each of the four posts, and the canopy is draped in gauzy white fabric. The mountains of pillows and thick comforter look so inviting that, I swear, if I weren't covered in mud I'd dive right into the middle of it all.
But I'm never going to use that bed, so there's no point in drooling over it. I'm here to change, that's all. I find the bathroom first, and I almost fall over at the sight of my reflection in the mirror. I'm a mess. I quickly wash the mud off my hands and feet and neck, but there's not much I can do for my wet, tangled hair. I tie it into a knot at the base of my neck and venture back into the bedroom, where I head over to the closet.
Once again, I'm stunned.
If the bedroom was impressive, the closet is absolutely magnificent—not to mention roughly the same size as my current studio apartment. There are racks upon racks upon racks of clothes, an entire wall of shoes, and three full rotating cabinets in the middle of the room that appear to house jewelry and other accessories.
And Calder said these were his sister's extra things?
I walk over to a shelf and choose a hanger at random. The dress I pull out is a floor-length emerald silk number with tiny crystals sewn along the delicate straps. It has a plunging neckline and a high slit in the skirt, the kind of thing you see in movies but never expect people to wear in real life.
The price tag is still attached, and I can't help but take a peek. I nearly pass out when I see the number. Too rich for my blood. I slip the hanger back on the rack and move on.
Halfway down the room I find a small, flat screen attached to the wall with a single button beneath it. Curious, I give the button a push. The screen instantly flashes to life.
“Good evening, Ms. Cunningham,” says a computerized female voice.
Whoa. They have computerized closets in this place?
A series of symbols flash across the screen.
“What would you like to wear?” the voice prompts.
I reach out and tentatively tap the icon shaped like a dress.
“What occasion?” says the voice.
The screen gives me a number of options, everything from “Garden Party” to “Riding.” I guess rich people need computers to help them figure out the proper attire for all their weird events. I tap “Supper” and hope for the best.
Now the screen shows me a series of pictures, one of each dress that's supposedly appropriate for current needs. I scroll through the images, and I can't help but wonder as I peruse the selections how much each one costs. There's probably enough money in this one room alone to keep all of the Center's programs afloat for a year, maybe more.
But I won't think about that. I can't—not if I don't want to fly into a murderous rage.
My finger pauses over an image on the screen: a casual, cerulean-blue dress with cap sleeves. It's cute, and it doesn't look overly expensive—not that you can always guess. I'm not sure what to do from here, so I tap my finger on the picture of the dress.
“Items located in F12-AFD,” says the computerized voice.
F12-what? I glance around, and I notice that the lights above one of the racks are brighter than they were a moment ago. I walk over, and after a moment of searching, I locate the blue dress.
I peel off my wet clothes—including my bra and panties, since they're also soaked—and fold them over the edge of what I hope is the dirty clothes hamper. I pull the dress on carefully.
Once the garment is zipped, I go over to the floor-length mirror on the far side of the room. The dress fits me well enough, but even a billionaire heiress's dress can't do much for my hair. I redo the bun, twisting it into a knot that looks only slightly better. Oh well. I won't be the classiest thing to ever sit at the Cunninghams’ table, but I'm passable. Certainly decent enough to fight for the Center's future.
I squeeze my feet into a pair of cute black flats and head back out to the hallway.
Calder is already waiting for me. He's leaning against the wall, but he straightens when I step out of the bedroom. His eyes run up and down my body.
“That suits you, Ms. Frazer,” he says.
I ignore the compliment, but I can't keep the flush from rising to my cheeks. I also can't help but notice that his clean clothes suit him, too. He's wearing pressed black pants and a pale gray button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He still hasn't shaved, and his thumb slides along the stubble at his jaw.
“Like what you see?” he says.
I make a disgusted noise to hide the fact that he's caught me staring.
“I couldn’t care less about what you look like,” I say. “I'm here to talk about the Center, that's all.”
“Of course, Ms. Frazer.” He gives a little smile, and I know he doesn't believe me for a minute. “Shall we go down to the dining room, then?”
He holds out his arm, and after a moment of hesitation I take it. He's carried me through this house over his shoulder. There's no reason I should be afraid to place my hand on his arm. But a prickle dances up to my elbow when I lay my fingers on his skin. I pretend not to notice. His other hand comes to rest on top of mine, enveloping my fingers in warmth, and I ignore that too. He can play the gentleman all he wants. I know he's still an asshole at heart.