I wanted to go to Wentworth’s funeral, but it was a closed, private ceremony—family only. There were no photos in the tabloids, though of course there were plenty of ridiculous speculations about what did him in: drug overdose! Suicide! Murder (by the Mob, naturally)!
Dad mentioned a couple of summers ago—some five-odd years after Wentworth began making significant financial contributions to our cause—that the man’s health was fading. I suspected heart disease, but it wasn’t honestly my place to know or ask. I can only imagine what the family’s been through these last few years. A slow death means plenty of time to say goodbye, but it can also cast a shadow over a family for a long time before and after the end actually comes.
I feel like I should say something, but before I can decide whether or not to offer my condolences to Calder, he catches me watching him. Instantly the shadows in his face are replaced once more by wicked flirtatiousness. I quickly look away again, in no mood to suffer his charms.
“It's too bad you're tired,” he says. “I would have liked to give you a tour, since you seemed so interested in the art before.” He gives a little chuckle. “I believe I remember you mentioning the dungeons, too.”
I roll my eyes. “I don't believe for a minute that you actually have dungeons.”
“You'd be surprised.”
“Is that where you keep your suit of armor?” I say. Every creepy old mansion has one of those, right? “If you pull on its sword, does it reveal the door to some secret passageway?”
He chuckles. “No suits of armor, I'm afraid. There are, however, plenty of secret passageways in this place.”
I snort. “Yeah, right.”
“It's true. When my great-great-grandfather had this place built, it was still considered widely unfashionable for anyone to ever see the servants. There's an entire network of passages and staircases behind the walls.”
“You’re just fucking with me.”
“You don't see it very often,” he admits. “But I think it gives the place character. When I was younger, my sister and I used to have epic games of hide and seek.”
“That sounds like something out of a book,” I say. “Did you ever find Narnia?”
He lets out a laugh at that—a belly laugh, not one of the smug chuckles he's been sending my way all evening.
“No Narnia,” he says. “But if there were any magical passages in this place, they wouldn't be inside. They'd be out in the maze.”
I nearly trip over my own feet. “You have a maze?”
“The fourth-largest hedge maze in North America, last I heard.”
Whoa. That’s serious. Secret passageways and a hedge maze? Under any other circumstances, I would be delighted. This place is absolutely fascinating—no wonder the family has always been so weird about letting the press have a peek. If you share the secrets of a house like this with the world, they lose some of their luster. I'm not too proud to admit that I'm in a privileged position here, getting to look around. Calder is even offering me a full-out tour.
But thoughts of the Center creep in again, and now all I can see is the elaborate excess. If you can afford to maintain a hedge maze, is it really such a huge thing to fulfill your pledge to a small nonprofit organization?
Calder seems to sense the sudden change in my enthusiasm.
“If you change your mind,” he says, “you can contact me through the electronic tablet mounted on the wall next to your bed. I should be up for a while yet.”
I nod, but now that I’ve remembered my reason for coming here in the first place, I'm no longer particularly interested in his dungeons and his mazes. By the time we reach the bedroom I used earlier, I'm no longer sure what to say to him.
Fortunately, he takes the lead.
“I'm very sorry things have been so… contentious between us. I think, under different circumstances, you and I might get along very well.”
You mean circumstances where you don't screw over the Center? I think, Or just circumstances where I actually succumb to your advances? I don't voice the question aloud.
He's studying my face.
“I'm not a terrible person,” he says finally. “We all must make difficult choices sometimes.”
Of course, I tell myself. Whether to honor your family’s pledge or pay for your next European jaunt is an extremely difficult decision. I shift my weight from one foot to the other.
His dark eyes are boring into me. It makes my skin go hot, then cold. I really wish I knew what was going on in his head. I suspect he's stalling, testing the waters, looking for some hint of attraction or consent in my expression. Will he proposition me outright again? Or is he the type to grab me and kiss me without warning, and just bank on the fact that most women melt under his warm, soft lips? The image sends a strange tickling sensation across my skin, and I break his gaze. My heart is thumping madly in my chest, but I tell myself it's nerves from the awkwardness of the situation.
“Goodnight,” I say, before this scene spins out of control.
“Goodnight, Ms. Frazer,” he says. “As I mentioned before, I'll be up for a while, should you change the mind about the tour.”
“I don't think I will. I'm really very tired.”
He nods, and I reach for the doorknob. He makes no move for me as I retreat into the bedroom, and it's only after I shut and lock the door behind me that I let out a sigh of relief.
That was close.
I'll admit, a part of me is surprised he didn't try anything else. He was so blunt and open over dinner. Maybe he’s finally accepted that I’m not going to jump into bed with him. Or maybe he changed his mind about jumping into bed with me.
There's a pang in my stomach at that thought, and I tell myself it’s only bruised pride. Why do I care if he hits on me or not? I don't want him, and I certainly won't be climbing into bed with him anytime soon. Sure, he’s not completely unappealing from a physical point of view, but there's more to a person than his looks. He's an ass, and he's personally responsible for the financial struggles of the Center. That’s reason enough to stay away.
There’s no reason to trouble myself about it any longer.
I'm not really that tired, but now that I’m here, I'll admit I'm more than a little excited to try out that awesome four-poster bed. It takes me about two minutes to find a set of pajamas in the enormous closet, and once I'm changed I waste no time before diving headfirst into that glorious pile of comforter and throw pillows.
It's as heavenly as it looks.