I’d died to the sound of two heartbeats… and I was preoccupied by, if not apprehensive about, the scent that could be waiting for me when I rose…
I rose to… roses… The fragrance of roses was almost overwhelming even in the isolation of my room.
It made me wonder if Chantalle had registered ‘us’ at a garden center Becky hadn’t seen.
But it seemed more likely that Rhiannon and Becky had taken an extra step towards covering their scents… The distinct lack of heartbeats just implied that Rhiannon had found an available dentist.
When I reached for the doorknob to leave my room, my phone began ringing… Not my new cell phone either, but the direct line to the lobby… The doorman was less than enthusiastic to announce that there were five men in the lobby asking to see Miss Blanchard.
All but one had the last name Stackhouse, including Corbett.
If it weren’t for the astounding nature of Becky’s gift, I might have wondered how Rhiannon had been found so easily.
The scent of roses only intensified as I walked down the stairs to let my visitors in… I actually took a moment to find the source… and discovered that the counters in my kitchen were covered with vases of roses…
One card, a random sampling, read, “Happy 5th birthday, sweetie. Your Daddy would have blocked traffic on our street to teach you how to ride your first two-wheeler, just like he did with your brothers. We can’t wait to meet you in person. Love, Julie.”
While Rhiannon’s father had clearly booked the first flight to New York, her stepmother had apparently spent her morning on the phone with florists.
Becky said that Michelle would be too drunk to answer her phone, but Rhiannon’s stepmother who never met her was making seemingly heartfelt gestures…
Suddenly, even I wanted to kill Michelle.
If it wouldn’t have been a blatant invasion of her privacy, I could have let curiosity pull me to read all of the cards… Especially considering there were more than just 21 arrangements for birthdays the Stackhouses had missed. If I had to guess, seven were meant for Becky… and perhaps a few more were for Mother’s Day.
When I opened the door to my apartment, I was face to face with five men in suits. Four blonds, including Jason and Brandon, and a large Were with black hair.
Aside from the Were, the family resemblance was remarkable. Blond hair, blue eyes, average height, athletic builds… and they were all Fae enough to be beautiful.
The oldest of them was standing front and center like a sentry.
Jason started, “Eric Northman, this is my father Corbett Stackhouse. This is my brother Christopher, my cousin, Alcide Herveaux… and you met Brandon. We’re here to see Rhiannon and Becky.”
“I assumed as much…” I stepped back. “They aren’t here, but you’re welcome to come in.”
As they filed past me, Jason argued, “What do you mean they aren’t here?”
“I rose to an empty apartment. Before I died for the day, Rhiannon mentioned finding a dentist.”
“She was conscious?”
“She was treated by a Vampire with medical training and a large supply of Vampire blood at his disposal. Other than her broken teeth, you wouldn’t know she was attacked last night.”
Christopher asked, “Whose blood?”
Knowing that Jason was three years older than Rhiannon, and Brandon was the same age as her, Christopher couldn’t have been much younger. Irish triplets?
“No one in particular. The Queen drains Vampires before they’re executed and keeps their blood for emergencies.”
He nodded approvingly, and Jason sighed, “You don’t seem surprised to see us.”
“Did your aunt locate us by seeing us leave the Peninsula?”
While the others traded loaded glances, Brandon chuckled, “That little brat… She told you I thought her thing was like our aunt’s, huh?”
I nodded. “We spent a fair amount of time discussing your family last night.”
“What do you know?”
“Anything I know I’m obliged to keep to myself. I’m not interested in being caught in the middle of bickering Faeries.”
“So they do know what they are? The kid told me they didn’t.”
Corbett finally spoke up. “But once Rhiannon was bleeding everywhere…”
I shook my head. “I fed directly from your sons and didn’t recognize the traces of Fae… I don’t have any experience with hybrids. How potent is your blood?”
He raised an eyebrow at me as though I’d made a direct threat.
I explained, “I’m concerned because they’re staying in my home. Are you masking your scent like Becky does?”
He shook his head. “I’m covering my scent with orange scented bath stuff…”
Christopher added, “I’ve got two Vampire profs. I eat oranges in class to knock my scent down too. Citric acid is bitter enough to make us smell like orange juice instead of a Vampire candy shop.”
“Good to know…” I was already pulling my phone from my pocket to text Chantalle and add to her errands when I heard Dotty bark on the elevator…
I assumed Pam was coming to check on Rhiannon (be nosey), but when I excused myself to open the door, Rhiannon and Becky were stepping out of the elevator with the puppy.
Whatever Rhiannon looked like before, she was positively radiant now… knee high boots and a long low-cut sweater over leggings… all black… not even silver jewelry.
She looked so sophisticated I had to wonder how the fuck she’d come from a trailer park.
The brightness of her smile was just a bonus.
“We could hear poor Dotty crying from the elevator when we got back from the dentist, so we rescued her and took her for a walk in the park. I left a note so she wouldn’t worry.”
“How did you get in?”
“I picked the lock in under a second. Pam needs a better deadbolt.”
“We were just coming back from the dentist. Becky’s not talking to me because I made her get a cleaning… Your wedding registries have been canceled. Winifred said she’d definitely entertain a job offer from you. She’ll fax over her resume as soon as I give her a number.”
Winifred was hired with or without a resume just so her name could easily come up in conversation to make Pam twitch.
“Perfect… I have company…”
“Oh!” She backed up and caught the elevator door. “We’ll make ourselves scarce then.”
I should have said ‘we’ have company.
“Don’t do that. The company is here for you. It’s your family.”
Becky giggled and ran into my apartment with Dotty, leaving her mother with an anxious look on her face.
“You can leave if you don’t feel comfortable meeting them yet.”
She groaned, “No, I should get it over with. How did they find me at your place?”
“I assume you have a family member with an ability to help with that. Becky mentioned last night that she-”
Becky cackled from inside, “MOMMY! YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!”
Rhiannon took a deep breath as she walked in… and as soon as she did, Christopher opened his mouth and gagged…
The Wolf laughed, “He spotted her at the ballgame yesterday… and went into full mack-daddy mode.”
Rhiannon offered, “He wasn’t that bad… not as bad as the puppy-authority guy in the park just now.”
Becky and the Wolf nodded to confirm Christopher had indeed been ‘that bad’.
Christopher groaned between gags, “God, I wish I was a mind reader sometimes.”
Becky giggled, “Joe Dirt’s an empath like Jason.”
Rhiannon actually laughed. “His wingman is a Werewolf. I’m a telepath like Brandon… What about everyone else?”
Jason offered, “Dad’s a harbinger… and he’s why we were so quick on the draw last night. He called just as we were leaving to meet Leattner because something wasn’t right…”
Jason reached into his pocket and pulled out a mini-cassette recorder. “Once we were freed this morning, we regrouped, did a family meeting by conference call… Retarded as he was, what Brand said about your name got me wondering…”
“What did he say?”
Corbett took over. “When Michelle was pregnant with Jason, she liked Lyle, like Lyle Waggoner from Wonder Woman, and Rhiannon for the song… I told her over my dead body. I told her I wanted Steve, like Steve McQueen, or Diana like Wonder Woman’s alter-ego. She bought it and agreed to a compromise. The name’s how Jas put it together… It’s not like he could tell you’re the spitting image of your aunt while you were unconscious. Your frown’s even like hers.”
Rhiannon gulped and breathed, “When I asked Michelle why she picked my name, she said it was to piss off my father.”
Jason nodded and held out the recorder, “So… Here’s how the family meeting went down…”
He pressed play, and right away, Jason said, “Alright… Dylan, where’s your big sister?”
While there was a sudden rumbling from more mature voices, a boy (at the ‘height’ of adolescence if the cracking and pitching voice meant anything) answered, “In bed. IV bags full of blood and medicine… Pretty house. There’s a couple of kids lookin’ after her… Dude! We don’t have a sister!”
A nearly identical voice offered, “She’s at 990 5th Avenue, New York City. Penthouse.”
The Wolf whispered, “That was Drew, Dylan’s twin,” over a cacophony of disputes on the tape…
On the recording, Jason raised his voice, “I’ll explain in just a sec, but one more thing… Aunt Lin, you had the same damn earworm as long as I can remember…”
A woman answered, “Yeah. ‘Rhiannon’… I told you, it always pisses me off because it makes me think of your mo- Oh my God…” the sudden sound of running followed by retching filled in those blanks.
Corbett clenched his jaw and growled, “We’ll deal with what she saw later.”
As incredible as that ability was, I didn’t envy it… There was no shortage of scenes inspired by what I’d been told of Rhiannon’s childhood that were disgusting enough to imagine.
The tape sounded like it was stopped and started again before Jason’s voice began, “So Brand and I shot up some poor bastard a couple of hours ago… We got to the hotel for the meeting, and Brand saw some Vampire ripping apart some girl, right… got two people and a Vampire inside the room… Pain and fear are just pourin’ into the hallway, right? We go in, see a girl laid out on the couch, a Vampire movin’ too fast to ID… We yell at him to stop, and when he didn’t, we put six rounds in his back to slow him down, and he didn’t stop until he tackled another girl in the tub while she was takin’ a shower. Poor fucker’s just trying to cover a kid. The mom was the one that got attacked. He was stayin’ at the hotel, first on the scene, and he already called the Queen to handle that shit…”
Corbett’s voice grumbled, “And since nobody’s calling me to come ID your body, you did somethin’ to make that shit right.”
“It helped that the kid could tell we thought we were helpin’ her out, but feedin’ him after he spit out our ammo was a point in our favor… So… the girl on the couch is unconscious, and telepathically talkin’ to Brand… Y’all… the vic’s name is Rhiannon Blanchard.”
Corbett barked, “How fucking old is she!?”
“She was born right after Brand, Dad. Raised in Louisiana. She ran away. Her mom’s a drunk. Brand didn’t get much else from her or the kid. They shut him out on account of us shooting the guy helpin’ them out. The Queen was nasty, but she had more goin’ on than just covering tracks. I got old-wound vibes from her…”
“Rhiannon… she was full telepathic with Brand?”
“And so was the kid…”
“I got a baby girl and a grandbaby?”
“Seems like it… Aunt Lin can probably set us straight though.”
The woman sighed, “Yeah- Cort, where are you going!?”
The squeaking boys complained that they wanted to go with him, but another male voice began chuckling, “That’s four. Telepaths win.”
The Wolf offered, “That was Josh. He’s a mind reader too.”
On the tape, another woman’s voice asked, “How old is the little one?”
Jason answered, “Seven, if she’s a day… and full of piss and vinegar.”
“Seven? But that means…”
Jason sighed, “Yeah Mom, we did the math…”
The mom interrupted, “Linda, where are you going?”
Another man chuckled, “No, you’re not…” I tried to place his accent as his laugh became louder. “You aren’t stronger than me, woman… You’re not going alone. I’ll have someone meet you.”
The Wolf mouthed, “Mata.”
The King of Louisiana and Nevada had been part of the Stackhouse family meeting?
There was a kissing sound before Linda offered, “Family meeting over. This shit’s getting handled. Don’t let Rhiannon skip New York before her Daddy meets her. I’ll take care of my former sister-in-law.”
Jason stopped the playback and the Wolf offered, “So… I’m sorry to hear about your mom.”
Rhiannon tilted her head to the side. “Did she already drink herself to death?”
Brandon giggled, giggled, “She got jumped and never got a look at her assailant… at least, that’s what the police think she wrote, but since her writing arm was broken, they aren’t sure.”
Rhiannon asked, “Writing arm?”
Christopher nodded. “Aunt Lin doesn’t fuck around. Michelle’s mouth was so cocked up-”
Corbett reached out and slapped the back of Christopher’s head and warned, “Little ears.”
“Right. Sorry… Anyway- Shattered jaw, broken arm and ribs, concussion…”
The Wolf added, “I’m glad Lin married my dad after I was through testing parental boundaries.”
Corbett snorted, “You ain’t got it in you to earn that stompin’. After what Lin saw, I’ll be payin’ Michelle a visit too.”
Becky snorted, “Leave some for me,” and turned to lead Dotty to the kitchen. “I have plans for that bitch… and fondue forks. Lots of ‘em.”
And she looked so cute with the puppy with hot pink claws.
When Corbett’s eyes bulged, I chuckled, “You should have seen her stake a Vampire. It was spectacular.”
Jason blurted, “You didn’t say she did it! I thought you did it!”
“I threw him aside. She improvised the stake and finished him before I had the opportunity.”
Corbett chuckled, “What the hell is her dad, a Titan?”
Rhiannon offered, “Faerie.”
After Rhiannon’s family stared at her for a moment, Jason offered, “So you heard Aunt Linda, Daddy’s sister. She has some sixth sense thing going on like Becky, so she can focus and see stuff that happened… Mom is an angel of a woman, Human, and she was so good to me I forget she didn’t have me herself… Dylan and Andrew are thirteen and we call them ‘geocentric’ because they can find anything. Dylan can spy from anywhere and see what anyone is saying or doing, and Andrew can find what he’s seeing down to the address, but he only sees what Dylan does for a second… Josh is a seventeen-year-old mind reader. He’s giving mom nightmares, coming home with hickies all the time… Josh is probably in Dylan’s head watching us right now…”
Becky called from the kitchen, “Josh and Dylan are both here. Dylan’s up Mommy’s nose, but I came in here so Drew can switch focus between me and Mommy to stay with us… Y’all better have a ‘no bathrooms’ rule or some shit.”
The Stackhouse camp’s eyes bulged… and it practically confirmed that Becky’s ability wasn’t quite like her aunt’s.
Jason finally shook off his shock and offered, “Bathrooms have been off limits since they were little, but in a house full of guys, there isn’t anything going on in there they’d want to see… So… Y’all heard Mata’utia too. Our cousin is his. Bonded. She spotted him at Mardi Gras and, she had him at hello, but in his defense, she wasn’t wearing much… The silent members of the family were our cousins, Hadley and Audrey. Hadley’s like me, and Audrey’s a pusher. That’s like glamouring… Uncle Jack, Alcide’s old man. He did plenty of talking while Aunt Lin was getting sick. He’s her second husband because Hadley and Audrey’s donor skipped out when they were little… Our grandmother spent the call crying like Mom did. We call her Gran…”
The Wolf added, “My sister Janice was the only one missing from the meeting and that’s because she didn’t play hooky like some slackers we know. She’s at Ole Miss.”
Christopher responded with, “I resemble that remark. LSU. Baseball ride. I’m going to Yankees games while I’m here. It’s research.”
Brandon and the Wolf coughed, “Fucking off.”
Becky giggled from the kitchen and asked, “Why the hell isn’t anyone listed? I tried finding y’all last night. I got jack shit from information. Are y’all ronin or something?”
Corbett explained, “Mata didn’t want anyone to be able to find Hadley’s family so easy. We’re all unlisted. There’s a couple of dummy numbers that are set up to forward to him just in case…” He whispered, “She always talk like a sailor or is she showing off?”
Rhiannon raised an eyebrow and stared back at him for a moment before turning her attention to address everyone else. “So, breakfast at Norma’s? It’s in the Meridian on West 56th… I’ll make reservations. Nine o’clock?”
She hadn’t as much as invited them to sit in the living room… Standing room only in the foyer. It wasn’t as though we were cramped, but they might have been more relaxed if they weren’t all standing at attention.
Becky shouted, “Caviar frittata, YES!” and promised Dotty she’d bring a ‘nibble’ back for her.
Eggs in a puppy’s stomach?
I joined Becky in the kitchen and gave her my credit card. “Buy one just for her. On me.” It was the least Uncoo Ewic could do for his favorite fur-niece.
Becky giggled, “It’s so huge me and Mommy share one… Dotty’ll stink Pam out onto the terrace, but the caviar frittata will cost you a grand.”
“Worth it. Buy two… We’ll draw out the fun.”
She shrugged and tucked my card into the back pocket of her jeans before calling, “Mommy, are you going to change before we go?”
She couldn’t be planning to work again so soon.
Rhiannon told her family, “It was nice to meet you all. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Corbett asked, “What do you have going on tonight?”
The question seemed innocent enough, but the long silence that followed made me wonder about Rhiannon’s reaction to his question…
While Becky baby-talked to Dotty, telling her ‘mummy’ was on her way, Rhiannon explained to her family, “I have Jason’s number if the time isn’t good for Norma’s.”
Apparently, Rhiannon’s idea getting their introduction over with consisted of getting rid of them expeditiously.
When the elevator doors opened, Pam scoffed, “How delightful to see you boys so soon. Have you come to shoot my Maker again?”
Jason offered, “We felt bad about that before he started healing. We deserved those rabbit punches you gave us too. Sorry about the misunderstanding. Jason Stackhouse.”
Pam was actually surprised by the apology.
“I know. You want to punch me again for old time’s sake?”
“Perhaps a rain check… I seem to have misplaced my cuffs.”
Becky giggled at their flirting when Jason mentioned he’d be in New York until Monday…
Once the elevator door closed to return the Stackhouses to the lobby, Pam complimented how much better Rhiannon looked as they walked towards the kitchen… but Rhiannon stopped when she saw the array of flowers everywhere.
“What the hell?”
I explained, “I read one of the cards. It seems your stepmother sent them.”
She puffed out her cheeks and turned around again. “Come on, Beck. We need to change. Dotty left a pound of little white hair on us.”
Becky groaned, “Can I just hang out with Eric tonight? Allen’s a tool.”
“It’s just dinner, and we can bail out after dessert.”
“Can Eric come with us?”
As Rhiannon climbed the stairs, she answered, “He’s more than welcome to join us, but why would he want to watch people eat?”
“He wouldn’t, but Allen’s ridiculous, so it’ll be fun…” She giggled, “He’s like a taxidermied bear.”
The potential for doggie bags for Dotty was there…
“Why not? What should I wear to dinner with Yogi?”
“Keens Steakhouse, so dressy casual…” She bolted from the barstool and ran after her mother calling, “He’s coming with us! At least I’ll have someone to laugh at Allen with.”
Pam began taking the cards from the arrangements, and paused to read one before handing it to me.
“Rhiannon, there’s nothing more terrifying and amazing than being a mother. Nothing matters as much as the potential looking back at you from that little bundle, but don’t feel pressured. You’re a Stackhouse. You can do anything you set your mind to. Love, Julie.”
While Pam continued to be nosey, I scoffed, “If I were Rhiannon, I’d be immeasurably bitter to know a close family was just a few miles away.”
“She is… While they were in the elevator, one of the boys told the father not to take it personally because she’s in pain… I’m not sure, but I might actually feel sorry for her…”
The only reason ‘might’ fit in that statement was because she was unfamiliar with sympathy… and she wasn’t the only one… on both counts.
Pam continued, “It seems like we have twenty-one dozen roses for Rhiannon’s birthdays… seven for Becky’s… seven for Mother’s Day… and pink roses were for when Becky was born.”
“It’s endearing that they consider themselves in arrears, but…”
“It’s overkill. Even though they have an idea of what she went through, they went prime time… A gesture meant to welcome her to the family ended up rubbing her nose in the fact that her misery could have been avoided… I hope she sees it as both. At the very least, they are trying.”
Becky returned, brushing her hair and already changed into a black dress, tights and Mary-Janes… and a liquid silver necklace.
She sighed, “Mommy’s trying too… the roses are just… it burns that they would have done it for her all along, and it burns that they don’t know she hates roses or why… and then there’s the fact that she’d probably like roses if they had raised her… Yeah- Mommy’s head is a mess right now. Oh, by the way, she loves being blindsided.”
That was understandable, but she did a remarkable job of hiding her emotions.
Pam asked, “But she isn’t holding this against them, is she?”
“No, but you can’t just plant a garden over toxic waste…”
That analogy was too fitting.
Becky swept her hair up and pushed silver sticks into her twist as she continued, “So since Mommy locked Brandon out of her mind, I explained as much as I could to him… I know Corbett was disappointed. He was hoping for a more sentimental introduction. He would have hugged Mommy if Alcide hadn’t thought that she might be skittish after what happened last night. He wanted to take her out to dinner, just the two of them if that’s what she wanted, but he didn’t even have the chance to ask. Honestly, he seems awesome. The whole bunch of them do… well, aside from shooting Eric, but knowing they got an ominous warning from a harbinger, their Darwinian chivalry is a little easier to take.”
Pam sighed, “Will she be angry with you for meddling?”
“I’m too cute to hold a grudge against…” She punctuated that with a kewpie doll grin, complete with dimples. “But seriously, I can take a hit. I think it’ll be good for her. She’s really jaded from being shit on, but she’s not ruined yet. All the Stackhouses want to do is love her. She doesn’t trust it because I’m the only one who ever has.”
I couldn’t help but wonder how Becky wasn’t more cynical considering how much she knew about what her mother had gone through.
It seemed like our conversation was over when Becky gave me a devilish grin just before there was a knock on the door… She tossed her brush to me and ran to the foyer…
I knew before she shouted who it was…
“Daddy! Chardonnay’s here, and you need to hurry up and get dressed ‘cuz Mommy’s hungry…”
I could hear Rhiannon snickering upstairs as Becky led Chantalle into the kitchen.
Chantalle stopped in her tracks… with a single shopping bag and a sickened look on her face…
Becky giggled, “It’s like a florist, huh Chanterelle?”
She didn’t even have it in her to complain about the liberties Becky had taken with her name.
On top of how difficult it was to keep a straight face while Becky was being evil, I was beginning to notice a difference between behaviors… Becky put on an act of being her actual age for strangers.
Initially I’d thought she was well-spoken, but she was otherwise as reserved as a Human child would be, as though she was treading lightly because she was with a stranger in unfamiliar surroundings…
When Chantalle didn’t respond, Becky patted the bag from Tiffany’s and offered, “Marchereine hit the jackpot at her friend’s bead store. You can take the lavish stuff back tomorrow.”
Rhiannon called from upstairs, “Speak for yourself, shorty. I like Tiffany’s…”
Just the sound of Rhiannon’s voice made Chantalle cringe… As though it had been easier for her to believe that I’d rented an orphan.
Becky rolled her eyes and mocked her mother as she strolled to the refrigerator.
As soon as Becky opened the lid on a takeout container, Rhiannon warned, “Don’t you dare ruin your appetite. Put those shrimp back.”
Becky sighed, “Eyes in the back of her damn head, I swear,” and shoved a shrimp into her mouth before returning the box to the refrigerator. “So… Chartreuse… did you get the worst cabbie ever? How did Marchereine run an assload of errands in the Village and get all the way back here by lunch… and you’re only just now getting here? Did you stop to take a nap?”
Chantalle finally reacted to something being said to her by raising an eyebrow at Becky. “There was traffic.”
That might have been an acceptable excuse if Marchereine hadn’t been coming through the same area Chantalle had.
“Or you had a panic attack when the lady at Tiffany’s offered condolences for your cancelled registry. You’re a little sluggish… Valium?”
Pam tried to claim her snickering was ‘allergy-induced pre-sneezing’ and blamed the roses.
I’m almost sure Chantalle planned to deny the accusation when she opened her mouth, but she stopped when she heard pumps on the staircase…
Rhiannon joined us in the kitchen in a short strapless black dress that even caught Pam’s attention… perfectly subtle makeup, and heels tall enough to need a warning label from an orthopedist.
She breezed past Chantalle, leaving her jacket and bag on a barstool, to stop in front of me and turn around to ask me to close her zipper… and then stretched up to kiss my cheek. “Thanks… I can’t believe I’m not the last one ready.”
As far as I could tell, she hadn’t even looked at ‘the help’.
“I’m on my way upstairs now. Do you have an opinion on what I should wear?”
Without missing a beat, she breathed, “You know I love you in red. Your eyes…”
Suddenly, I was very grateful that I’d only been conned out of a few hundred dollars. They were both phenomenal actresses.
Pam added, “And if the whole family wears all black, it’s very matchy-matchy.”
Oh good. Pam had a chance to play too.
When I leaned over to put my mouth to Rhiannon’s ear, she rested her hand on my arm… A subtle implication of intimacy that just so happened to display the large diamond on her ring finger.
The ring was a beautiful touch.
“Do you plan to fire her for me?”
Of course, Chantalle didn’t know what was said, but I was sure her imagination was running riot.
Rhiannon answered, “I can if you want me to, but Becky likes to mindfuck her victims… and her replacement would need to give notice at her old job.”
In perfect time, Becky groaned, “If y’all are gonna do that, they’re gonna give our table to tourists… Can I snack on my shrimp so I don’t starve?”
Rhiannon gave me a playful nudge and giggled, “Go on and get ready before she tries to fit your errand girl in the oven…” She turned to address Chantalle and asked, “Cheryl right?”
Becky wasn’t the only one who enjoyed being evil.
As I walked up the stairs, annoyed that I’d miss the show, Rhiannon said flatly, “Right. So let’s see what you found at Tiffany’s so we can get on with things.”
Chantalle asked, “Evening out with the family?”
“I have a business meeting.”
“You take your daughter to business meetings?”
“You learn more from life than you do from a teacher. Yes, I take Becky to business meetings.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m an analyst…”
That was one way to put it.
After a few minutes, Rhiannon groaned, “What is this shit? It’s like you tried to find the most unrelated pieces. Pam, you’re the authority. Can you find an ensemble in this assortment?”
I could feel how disappointed and annoyed Pam was as she perused the jewelry…
Pam finally snorted, “This had to be intentional. If the fucking lights were out, you’d have accidentally picked a pair from the same line. Ridiculous.”
Rhiannon sighed, “So it’s not just me.”
“No… This is one for the record books. Usually, those little robin’s egg boxes make me wet.”
I would have said ‘rabid’, but that was still an understatement.
“Silver isn’t your favorite though.”
“Even if they were platinum they’d go back.”
Becky teased, “Good thing her folks paid for Vassar, huh?”
I started for the stairs in a red dress shirt, tie in hand, trying to straighten the grin on my face.
Rhiannon was tossing jewelry boxes into the bag when I joined them and grumbling, “Find somewhere to donate a pint of blood so your day won’t be a complete wash…”
Chantalle was actually crying.
Rhiannon took my tie from me and tied it as she continued, “Don’t waste the tears on me. You’re paid too well to do a half-assed job. You walked into Tiffany’s and asked for a random selection of silver jewelry even though you were specifically told necklaces and earrings. Meanwhile, Marchereine followed orders and purchased exactly what she was told and then some… and she photographed the rest of the selection of silver for us… and she returned to us in time to go back to the store for additional purchases if we wanted. You ran one errand and went home to nap… If that’s how you want to roll, fine. Find yourself a husband and squeeze out a few kids so you can bask in the superiority of Tommy Hilfiger-clad suburbia because being a housewife is the only way to pay your bills between mood enhancers. Are we clear, princess?”
Rhiannon was a little pit bull.
As Pam mumbled, “Amen,” Chantalle sniveled, “Yes ma’am.”
“This may very well be the first time you’ve ever been so far off the mark- God knows Eric hasn’t complained about you before- but the contents of that bag is evidence that you weren’t just pacifying your mother’s matchmaking by starting a wedding registry. You need to get a grip on reality.”
Chantalle cleared her throat and repeated, “Yes ma’am.”
While Pam admired my perfect Eldredge knot, I offered, “Is there any question as to my reasons for not defending your performance?”
Chantalle sniveled, “No sir.”
“Do you want someone to scatter a path of rose petals for you? Leave.”
She whimpered, “Yes sir,” as she turned to leave.
Rhiannon snorted, “If you think I’m a bitch now, keep playing games. I’ll fuck you up so bad the only marriage prospects you’ll have will be the surgeons trying to put your boney ass back together. Don’t let me find out you made other wedding plans.”
Becky snorted, “Oh, for God’s sake… Come back. Leave your keys and cards with Pam. I’m hungry, and I don’t want to wait for you to take a nap in the lobby…” When Chantalle sulked to the kitchen again, Becky swung her arm up and slapped her breast. “And that’s for sleeping in beds that don’t belong to you, you desperate harpy…”
Chantalle gasped and moved to loom over Becky, “You vicious little bitch!”
Within a second, Chantalle was flat on her back… Rhiannon had snatched a handful of her hair and pulled her over, resulting in a miserably hard landing…
Rhiannon looked down at my former assistant and smiled. “The end.”
Chantalle’s tears spilled into her hair as she rasped, “What?” The sudden fall had taken the wind from her.
“The end. When a story comes to a close, you can obsess over it or you can pick up another one… If I were you, I’d move on to another book, because I promise you, I’ll live through the sequel. Goodnight.”