The room was amazing. It had a large four-poster bed, complete with a canopy of flimsy white. Curtains of white and rose were pulled back to the head of the bed and tied with golden cord. The comforter and pillows were in the same rose and white motif, as was the lounge at the foot of the bed.
The carpet was thick, light blue in color. Emily took off her shoes and scrunched her toes into the carpet. She wasn’t sure why she did it – it just seemed to be the natural thing to do.
A vanity set, complete with mirror and chair were to the left by the entrance to the bathroom done in light blues from what she could tell from where she stood. There was a dresser with another mirror over it and a small chest beside the bed with a clock radio/CD player combo, a lamp, and a box of tissues.
Emily cast a quick eye about for the cat. Benny, being canine, was a little more apt to let her know when he needed to go outside, but Friskers would pee or poo to show his annoyance with her or any situation he found to be quite intolerable. Benny was sniffing around the dresser and corner, close to a closet, or was it a connecting door. Friskers was not to be seen. Emily pushed away from the door and on into the room. Hopefully she would be permitted to put the litter box in the bathroom, which is where she headed.
Friskers loved bathrooms. He was fascinated by Emily soaking in the tub with bubbles and possibly the fact there was a creature on the planet who actually enjoyed being in water.
The bathroom was done in varying shades of blues. There was a shower curtain of waves on a circular rod above a large, modern rendition of a claw-footed tub. The commode had a small partition between the shower and it, which let the person using the toilet have some privacy if there was someone in the tub. The vanity was a large, double-sink one in blue and white marble. The faucet was shiny brass and the controls for hot and cold water were porcelain levers to match the marble.
There was a standalone towel rack, a matching toilet paper tower in the form of a very tall red and white police box, and a self-cleaning litter box, which is where she found Friskers. Emily left the bathroom and flung herself onto the bed. It was firm, which she liked, and smelled, not-too-surprisingly of expensive roses.
Benny’s head popped up a couple of times at the side of the bed; it was just a little too tall for the little guy to make it up onto the bed. Emily sat up and forward for assistance when Benny appeared at the foot of the bed on the settee lounge and then onto the bed. His tail was wagging frantically and his tongue was hanging out. He was quite proud of himself for figuring out how to get on the bed to Emily. The truth be told, Emily was quite proud of him, too. Friskers came running from the bathroom and leapt easily onto the bed, his eyes wide and his pupil’s mere slits. He was enjoying his adventure. Emily scooped Benny into her arms and ran her hand down the cat’s back. He arched with a happy purr to get more of her hand onto his cat-back. They were adjusting quite well.
A soft rap at the door made Emily’s heart skip a beat. “Ms. Post, your bags…?” It was Reginald, the driver slash bodyguard. Emily padded sock-footed over to the door with Benny tucked under her arm. Friskers was on his side on the bed like his royal majesty because his royal majesty could not be bothered with going with his human to the door. Emily still kept an eye on him because Friskers could decide the next second to go bounding out of the room. If the cat got loose in the castle who knows when he would be found again, or even if he would be found; and what if he managed to get outside? Emily shivered at the thought.
Reginald smiled down at Emily and then followed her gaze to the bed. “Yeah, I don’t trust cats either. They act like they own the world and are just letting us live in it.” Emily couldn’t help but giggle. It was a nervous reaction.
“Do you have cats?” Emily closed the door once Reginald was inside with her bags. There was a large trolley outside in the hall with all the bags stacked on top.
“Nah, not me, but my sister had a cat. She loved that creature with all her heart, and I think, in its own feline way it loved her back just the same. It didn’t like me,” he said, slipping the bags onto the settee at the foot of the bed. “Buttons died of old age when Molly was 24.”
“Did your sister get her another cat?”
“No, she died of cancer. I am just thankful Buttons made it with her as long as she did. Buttons got Mol through the worst of the chemo and passed away on the foot of Molly’s bed curled up in a ball. Molly passed away the same night in her sleep.”
“They died together?”
Reginald nodded as he reached his fingertips out to Friskers for a quick sniff. Friskers approved and head-butted Reginald’s hand. Reginald smiled and stroked Friskers’ head gently.
“I’m more of a dog person,” Reginald turned to hold his hand to Benny who sniffed and wagged his tail. “I look after the dogs here as well as drive the cars and do security.”
“That’s an awfully lot of responsibility,” Emily said, becoming very aware of how close they were standing.
“Willie is worth protecting. She helps a lot of people.” Reginald opened the door with these words and walked out, closing it behind him with a soft click. Emily leaned against the door for a moment. Oh, how she loved men, especially good looking muscular ones!
“OK Benny, time to get unpacked I guess. Right or wrong, this is where we are right now.” Emily put Benny on the floor and unzipped the largest suitcase first. Tossing a couple of shirts over her shoulder Emily headed toward the door to across from the bathroom. Opening it she discovered it was not a closet, but an entirely different room!
That’s right – she had a suite. The floor in here was covered with burgundy carpet and red trimmings and accents were all around the room. A small writing desk was in front of a set of French doors with lacy curtains looking out onto a small balcony. A large cabinet with full-length doors was nestled catty-cornered; Emily opened this to discover an armoire for her clothes and a drawer at the bottom for shoes. She knew it was for shoes because there were shoe forms in the bottom and a small polishing kit. A shelf of worn leather bound books was against another wall, all were all first editions of Victorian era popular fiction Emily discovered after she had opened a couple of them. Emily felt a squee of pure delight building up inside and threatening to explode. Everything felt like a dream! It was a good dream! Hell, it was an awesome dream!
A couple of over-stuffed chairs were near the book shelf with a small table between them. A reading lamp with two swiveling lamps was also on the table. High up on the wall, above the chairs, was another painting. This one was quite large, of a Victorian era London seen from across a river – the Thames? The viewer was surrounded by lush grass and trees with flowers in varying shades of blues and lavenders nestled around what looked like a balcony. It was simple and the brush strokes were visible, but there was something inherently special about the view of the painter. It was innocence looking out onto the city, onto the ugliness of the city. In the lower right hand corner, in gold was the initials PC 1867.
The painting was in a place where direct sunlight would not touch it. Wilhelmina Chastain was taking very good care of her paintings.
Two doors were also in this room – one directly to her right and one facing in from the hall. Emily opened the door looking out onto the hall and seemingly opened a panel of wall. Smiling, on an adventure, Emily moved to the other door and started to open in and paused. Vinnie’s room was on this side and connected wasn’t it, according to Willie? Emily knocked and the door swung inward.
Vinnie was in a white t-shirt now that was V-necked and clung to every part of his torso, especially his biceps. Emily was amazed the fabric didn’t rip they were so tight. He was still wearing the pants from earlier, but he was barefoot, too. Emily couldn’t hold back the smile she had and was wonderfully surprised that it was returned.
“I didn’t want to disturb you, but check it out!” He stepped aside to let Emily completely into his room. The bed was just as large, but without a canopy and curtains. There was a small balcony with a writing table settled to the left of the French doors and blue curtains. The floor was in thick, soft, green. There was a large walk-in closet plus a dresser with mirror and a nightstand, too, with the same things Emily had on it. Everything was in dark wood and polished to within an inch of its life! It had a very masculine feel. It suited Vincenzo Shields. He was just a couple of doors away, literally, and no one would know if they visited each other’s rooms or not because there was direct access. Emily felt bold, but not that bold. Yet. It also made her feel safer. She wasn’t quite sure how or why it made her feel that way – he just did.
Emily’s cell phone began playing the theme from The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly. Still smiling, Emily ran back to her room leaving the connecting doors open. Where was her purse! It was in the floor by the bedroom door. Emily grabbed it and dug around inside for several seconds. It was Detective Spells.
“Hello?” Emily was afraid the phone had actually sent him to voice mail when she heard breathing and a pause.
“Hello, Emily?” Emily smiled at nothing in particular.
“Yes, it’s me. I was in another room. You would not believe how big this place is. Huge is not a word I would use to describe it! Massive doesn’t even qualify!”
“Well, you sound happier than you did. Maybe all you needed was a change of scenery,” he said. Emily felt Detective Spells become tense. “Do you feel safe there?”
“Yes, yes I do.” Emily was a little surprised at how quickly she answered the question, and truthfully. She felt safe. She was in a stranger’s home and she felt safe. Maybe it was part of a ‘little girl lost’ complex and she just needed an adult to look after her. Then again, all she might need would be to have a handsome man or two pay attention to her. It was amazing how the opposite sex could make you feel completely flustered and nervously confident. Was it Clay Spells making her feel this way or Vinnie Shields? Could it possibly be both of them? Emily had never been a big one for dating, even in high school, though boys asked her out often. She could tell what they were feeling, and most of the time thinking, and their nervousness just compounded her own.
“Good, I am glad to hear this, then. Do you have any idea how long you will be staying?”
“No, not right now I don’t. This place really is a fortress.”
“Don’t get too comfortable, your old place will begin to miss you. Did you get to bring your dog and cat? I can’t remember what you told me before.” Emily wandered to the bed and hitched her hip up onto it.
“Yeah, I couldn’t leave them behind.”
“Of course not!” Clay Spells chuckled softly. “You are something else, Emily Post.”
“What does that mean?” she asked softly.
“It means I find you complicated and…and amazing. Would you like to go out for coffee with me sometime?”
Emily felt her heart begin pounding just a little faster.
“Yes, I would like that very much.”
“Good, I’ll be in touch. Have a good evening.”
“You, too,” she said and the other end went dead with a click.
Emily went to the adjoining door and peeped toward Vinnie’s room as she was pretending to decide which shirt she liked best. He was in his room fiddling with his own clothes and pretending he wasn’t trying to figure out what she was doing and whom she was talking to. Was he interested in her or was he merely keeping her safe like he had promised?
Why can’t you be happy that men are just paying attention to you? The silly conscience voice inside Emily’s head was very annoying at times. Emily sighed in answer and actually went about the task of unpacking and putting things to rights. Who knew exactly how long she was going to be at the castle? A real live castle and a real live person who had lived to be hundreds of years old; and real psychic abilities and…What else was there to discover? For the first time in a very long time Emily wanted to know what else there was or could be, and she wanted to paint.
It didn’t seem right to paint in the little ante room she shared with Vinnie. When she really got going paint had a tendency to fly, and it wasn’t unheard of for her to get it in her hair and on her nose and eyelids from spatter and just rubbing her face with paint-streaked hands and fingers. She would have to make sure and ask Willie at dinner.
The thought of food made Emily’s stomach grumble. How long had it been since she had really eaten food, good food?
Emily unzipped the bag that had all of Benny and Friskers’ things. Benny’s blanket was on top and Friskers’ catnip bottle was not in the outside pocket she had put it in. Someone had indeed gone through her bags just like Vinnie and Azz had been discussing earlier.
At seven o’clock the sun was low in the west and Jones came to announce dinner was to be served in thirty minutes. Emily closed the door as Jones moved on down the line to Vinnie’s, then Azz’s room; Emily still had on the jeans and shirt she had worn from earlier. Did Wilhelmina expect them to change for dinner? Would Wilhelmina have sent Jones to tell them to “dress” for dinner, or would she have just expected them to be changed into something more appropriate?
Emily went to her armoire and selected a long, broomstick skirt of chocolate brown and a peasant top with long sleeves. Hurrying back to her room, Emily closed the adjoining door and changed, then ran a comb through her hair and splashed water on her face as way of freshening up. She also gave her teeth a quick brush. There, she was as presentable as she could be for dinner with a woman who had come to her rescue and lived in a castle – wow! A castle!
There was a soft tap on Emily’s door. She expected it to be Jones to hurry her on downstairs, but it was Vincenzo Shields and Richard Azz. Vinnie was in a pair of dark dress slacks that accentuated his buttocks and a fall sweater of dark gray. It had three buttons at the neck; all three buttons were undone giving a peek at his smooth upper chest.
Richard Azz was dressed in black slacks and a black button-downed shirt. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone, and the tail of his shirt wasn’t tucked into his pants. His hair was freshly combed, and he smelled like the fresh outdoors captured in cologne form.
“Quite pretty, Ms. Post,” Azz said. He was genuinely giving a compliment. Emily nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and smiled. Vincenzo Shields didn’t say anything about her appearance, but the look on his face was one of approval.
“Shall we?” Vinnie said, offering Emily her arm. Emily slipped her hand onto the crook of Vinnie’s arm. Richard Azz stepped forward quickly and took her other hand and placed it in the crook of his.
“Now we shall,” Azz said.
The three of them headed for the stairs.