Good afternoon, AMST readers, I'm back :) I'm running with this writing frenzy for as long as it lasts. Since Saturday I've written something like 14,000 words. Thousand. Ba Boom!
The doorbell rang when he was halfway down the hall.
“Uh oh!” Dahlia called from behind him. “Think it’s the queen herself?”
He shrugged, but then felt bad. It was one thing if Jasmine fired him, it would mean entirely different things for Dahlia. The thought that he could take her home with him to Maryland skittered through his mind and surprised the hell out of him.
He had a flash of fear but then pushed it away. No sense being a pussy about emotions. They were bound to happen sometime.
“I’ll get it,” he said.
She’d come up close behind him, put a hand on his shoulder. He liked the warmth pressed to him that exuded her energy.
“Are you sure? I can deal with Jas.”
He chuckled. “So can I. Trust me.”
When he whipped the door open, ready to tell her they were getting a late start, the words died on his lips. He was met with the pinched, perpetually unhappy face of Geoffrey P. Winslow. Also known as Jasmine’s daddy. Caleb often wondered how a many that rich could always look that unhappy. It had occurred to him, though, that the unhappiness sprang from being in close contact with Caleb.
“Geoffrey,” he said, giving the man a nod.
“It’s Mr. Winslow,” Geoffrey said.
“Only if I respect you enough to call you that,” Caleb said. “Which I don’t.”
He felt more than saw Dahlia watching him from the kitchen.
Geoffrey turned his steel gray gaze to her and inclined his head. “Good morning, Dahlia.”
She nodded in return. “Mr. Winslow.”
Winslow looked back at Caleb. “See, that’s an appropriate staff response.”
Caleb ignored him. “What can I do for you?”
“You can begin by telling me why you’re here, Caleb. I thought we were well and truly done with you.” He walked past Caleb and leaned against the wall just inside the door. Clearly displaying his dominance, Caleb thought. I’ll walk in without being invited. My daughter so it’s basically my property.
So be it. Caleb couldn’t argue with that. But he didn’t have to kowtow to the man. He walked further into the house and sat on the sofa, crossing his left ankle over his right knee. He tried to look as relaxed an unconcerned as humanly possible. On the inside all he wanted to choke Geoffrey Winslow until his gray eyes bugged out.
Easy man. Keep your cool.
Dahlia still watched warily from the doorway. She’d crossed her arms across her breasts and when she caught his gaze he offered her a smile. “You’ll be late,” he said to her, giving her a window of escape. “You should go.”
“Please don’t let us hold you up from your duties,” Geoffrey said.
Translation: You’re excused.
She stared at Caleb, clearly gauging his mood, and then raised a single eyebrow as if to say: behave yourself.
He nodded in response.
“I’ll just let Alice out before I go. Can you let her back in?” she asked.
“Will do. Thanks.”
She went, clearly not wanting to, but taking his lead.
Another nail in her poor coffin confirming she’s the perfect woman for you, dumb ass.
When she was gone, Geoffrey turned his avian gaze Caleb’s way. He’d always reminded Caleb of a bird of prey. Jasmine would have guessed a hawk. She was a daddy’s girl. Caleb thought more in line with a buzzard.
“Well?” Geoffrey asked.
“Well, I’m sure she told you the whole story.”
“She did. Some internet nonsense it seems. I’d like to hear your end.”
“My end is, I was introduced to Dahlia online by Jasmine. I came out here to meet her in person and your daughter was kind enough to employ me in the process.”
“And Harrison is okay with this?”
Caleb shrugged again. “Ask Harrison.”
“And you know Harrison. He’s basically a very nice, albeit naïve, young man. He’s fine with it.”
“There you go,” Caleb said, giving daddy his best shit-eating grin.
“And you have no designs on Jasmine?”
“None. And that’s the truth,” he said. Happy to feel in his heart that it really was.
“Good. But I’m sure you can understand my issue lies with my daughter. I believe whether you have any interest or not, she has designs on you.”
Caleb sighed. “Geoffrey, I can’t control what Jasmine thinks or feels. Hell, neither can you despite the old college try you give it. She’s going to think and feel and want whatever the hell she likes. You can control certain things with purse strings, Geoff, but not that.”
Geoffrey winced at the “Geoff” and Caleb was glad to see it. Evil, sure, but the man was an ass. He thought a thick billfold and an iron will could take over the world. Sadly, he was right more often than not. Which was why Caleb refused to bow to the king.
“I want you to leave.”
“Then have Harrison fire me.”
“He won’t. I suggested it.”
Score one for Harrison.
“Bummer for you. But I’m not leaving. I have a good thing here with Dahlia and I intend to play it out to the end.”
Again he realized he’d uttered the absolute truth.
His heart did a weird, warm twisting thing in his chest when he mentioned Dahlia. It was an emotion he couldn’t quite get a handle on and it unnerved him. But there was no time to be unnerved now. Not in front of Geoffrey the great.
“I’d be willing to offer you an incentive to leave,” Geoffrey said, finally. He was at a loss, Caleb could tell. He couldn’t fire Caleb because Caleb wasn’t his employee and his ever-faithful lapdog Harrison wasn’t buying into it.
Geoffrey’s eyes narrowed. No was not a word he understood. Usually, he didn’t have to.
“I could make it worth your while.”
Caleb shook his head and stood. He brushed imaginary lint off his pants and said, “No thanks, Geoffrey. I’m good. I’m happy. I’m gainfully employed. I do swear to you, man to man, that I have no…designs, to use your words, on Jasmine. I promise. I’m a hundred and ten percent wrapped up in that lovely woman you scared off. She’s why I’m here. And she’s why I’m staying.”
He stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans when he said it because Caleb realized, as he gave his spiel about Dahlia, that his hands had begun to shake. Not from being in the presence of Geoffrey, but from how much he meant the words he spoke.
Are you falling for her?
He only had time to briefly recognize the thought because Geoffrey was talking and what he was saying wasn’t pleasant in the least.
“You can promise whatever you like, but I promise you, Caleb, that I’ll get my way eventually. I’ll find a way to get rid of you and you’d wish you’d taken the money and run.”
Caleb gritted his teeth. Every nerve ending in his body screamed to deliver a hearty right hook to daddy’s face. Instead he simply stood there, waiting but not backing down. Finally, when Geoffrey didn’t speak again he said, “Well, I guess I’ll be going to work then. They don’t pay me the big bucks to stand around here and chat. In fact, despite the money they have, they don’t pay me the big bucks at all. Gee, I wonder where that influence came from.”
He walked past Jasmine’s father and into the kitchen. Then he let Alice in and locked the door. When he turned to leave via the front door it was standing wide open and Geoffrey Winslow was gone.
Hopefully for good.
photo credit: Kuzeytac via photopin cc