I thought it was Hudson. Clifford Titus. A friend. I was with him tonight when Kyle and Jason disappeared. I got home and found a stupid note saying they were taking the bus to Seattle.
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Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Give me your honest opinion. His attention was fixed on an object two floors below his study window. She had an uneasy feeling that he was brooding on the three large ice swans that were presently melting on the lawn of his austere garden. By now her staff had probably finished clearing away most of the evidence of the abruptly cancelled wedding reception.
Fifteen pounds of cold tortellini salad, two hundred miniature asparagus tarts, three platters of herbed goat cheese, and a hundred and fifty spring rolls had no doubt been loaded back into the Right Touch Catering van.
The cake, an elaborate five-tiered affair decorated with palest mauve and creamy white roses, would have been safely stowed in its special carrying crate. But the ice swans were a problem. Not only were they extremely heavy, by now they would be getting quite slippery. The swans would definitely be a write-off. Desdemona had taken an assessing glance at them as she had hurried to follow Stark into the concrete, steel, and glass fortress he called home.
Desdemona knew there was no way she could save them to use at the charity event her small business was scheduled to cater on Tuesday. A dead loss, just like the Stark-Bedford wedding.
The easiest thing to do with the massive ice sculptures was to let them remain where they were until the late spring sun dissolved them. Seattle was enjoying a rare streak of sunny weather. It seemed a bit callous to stick the abandoned groom with three such vivid reminders of the humiliating experience he had endured this afternoon.
Especially since she was in the process of trying to stick him with the tab for the expensive debacle as well. Desdemona set her jaw determinedly. She must not allow her natural empathy to weaken her resolve. She could not afford to be swayed by sympathy. There was too much cash at stake. She had gone way out on a financial limb to handle the Stark-Bedford reception.
She leaned forward until she was sitting on the very edge of her chair. Then she carefully positioned the catering invoice so that Stark would be sure to see it when he came back to his chair. I see. Now, then, I believe my invoice is completely self-explanatory. What did she expect me to do? The man was reputed to be brilliant. She had overheard one of the wedding guests refer to him as a human computer. But apparently he was quite dense when it came to the important things in life.
They had been in the middle of choosing between the asparagus tarts and miniature mushroom quiches. What on earth am I going to do? She had straightened her shoulders and given Desdemona a brave look. Joan of Arc on her way to the stake. The family would be horrified. Pamela had heaved a small, tragic sigh. Or maybe an android would be a more accurate description.
What a waste. He specialized in applications of chaos theory. Some of his work was very hush-hush. Her definition of chaos was what happened at Right Touch when a member of her staff, many of whom were involved in the theater world, was unexpectedly called to an audition just before an important catering event. He wears running shoes, jeans, and an old corduroy jacket to work every day. You have no idea of how hard it was for me to get him to buy a tux for the wedding. He wanted to rent one, can you believe it?
He never goes to the opera or the theater. He even tries to avoid routine business entertaining. Do you think we should go with the asparagus tarts or mushroom quiches? A little more expensive, however. As I told you, Stark will be picking up the tab for the reception.
He insisted. Stark was not an android, and he definitely possessed emotions. She could feel them swirling about somewhere deep inside him in the same way one could feel an approaching storm long before one got drenched. In spite of her doubts, she had gone forward with the wedding plans. She was businesswoman enough to put intuition aside in favor of the practical benefits to be had from catering a major social event. As the caterer for the gala event Desdemona stood to reap a gold mine of publicity and contacts.
Business was business, after all. But, Desdemona reminded herself, it was folly to ignore the Wainwright intuition. It was never wrong. Stark took off his round, gold-framed glasses and polished them absently on the sleeve of his pleated shirt. I would appreciate your input. It was a world that had always given her everything she desired. She had been crushed to learn that the man she was to marry had no intention of giving her his unqualified love and trust.
As the date of the wedding had neared, Pamela had grown increasingly tense. Desdemona had seen the mounting anxiety in her client each time they had met to go over the reception arrangements, but she had optimistically chosen to ignore it. The future happiness of the bride and groom was not her problem. Desdemona had told herself that all she had to do was pull off a wildly successful reception, and that would be the end of her concern with the Stark-Bedford marriage.
Unfortunately, she had miscalculated. Pamela had panicked at the last minute, leaving not only Stark, but Right Touch, in the lurch. His riveting green eyes glittered with an unsettling intensity. The movement made Desdemona grip the arms of her chair very tightly. The fact that Stark appeared to have his emotions under an ironclad self-control only served to make them seem all the more dangerous. She was rapidly learning that Stark did not show his feelings the way the men in her family did.
Wainwright men were volatile, exuberant, and flamboyant. So were the women, for that matter. Wainwrights were theater people, after all. They relished emotion. But Stark was a different breed. His emotional depths were dark and murky. He was difficult to read. For some inexplicable reason, she found him fascinating. She sensed that he was her exact opposite in many ways, and yet there was something oddly compelling about him.
Part of her was drawn to him. She wondered rather wistfully what might have happened had they met in another place and another time. She had become aware of him as a person only an hour ago when it had finally dawned on everyone that he had been abandoned at the altar.
Until that point she had been too frenetically busy behind the scenes to pay any attention to the groom. She had not even caught sight of him until his best man, Dane McCallum, had made the dreadful announcement that had sent the guests home.
She could say one thing for certain about Stark, Desdemona decided. The man did look good in a tux. He had the body of a medieval knight. Not overly tall, a shade under six feet, perhaps, but very hard and very solid. He was sleekly muscled, with no sign of flab anywhere. He moved the way that a well-trained actor did, with grace and an instinctive sense of presence.
When Stark entered a room, you would know he was there. Desdemona sensed that it was all unconscious on his part, however, not a carefully honed tactic to gain attention. He seemed completely unaware of the intensity that he projected.
He simply was what he was, a self-contained force of nature. The tails of his black bow tie hung down the front of his crisply pleated shirt. He had undone the tie a few minutes ago when he had stalked into his study.
Now, as Desdemona watched apprehensively, he yanked open the collar of his shirt, exposing the strong column of his throat.
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I think you can make her happy. He regarded Stark with a considering look. I was responsible. Let it go, Stark. Otherwise it will eat you alive.
Trust No One
Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Give me your honest opinion. His attention was fixed on an object two floors below his study window. She had an uneasy feeling that he was brooding on the three large ice swans that were presently melting on the lawn of his austere garden. By now her staff had probably finished clearing away most of the evidence of the abruptly cancelled wedding reception. Fifteen pounds of cold tortellini salad, two hundred miniature asparagus tarts, three platters of herbed goat cheese, and a hundred and fifty spring rolls had no doubt been loaded back into the Right Touch Catering van. The cake, an elaborate five-tiered affair decorated with palest mauve and creamy white roses, would have been safely stowed in its special carrying crate.