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He had not been waiting long beneath the canopy of pines when the limousine arrived at the estate. He used the respite to admire the home's architecture, noticing the fluted columns, the white marble entry, the neatly-trimmed topiaries. The resemblance it bore to the grand residences of his compatriots was remarkable. 

It made perfect sense the Maxwells would want to mimic the style that most appealed to their dear friends, the ones who spent a great deal of time exploiting the family's sprawling manor. Despite being counted among the circle, he had never been formally invited, although he was not forbidden from taking advantage of the estate and all it had to offer; the stable, the ocean, the wait staff at his beck and call. He supposed they were afraid of the requests he might make of them and the influence he might wield, especially over their beloved daughter. On the surface, the Maxwells were a family of wealth and power, but he knew better.

His thoughts quickly turned to the young woman as her chauffeur opened the door, and he watched her shapely legs emerge as she exited the limousine. The sun danced off her hair, reflecting the color of burnished mahogany polished by a loving hand. He had hoped to catch a glimpse of her eyes, which he'd heard were bluer than the sea, but her attention was focused elsewhere.

Planting her feet on the pebbled drive, she slung her bag over her shoulder and strode toward the entrance with lithesome grace. The command she held over her body gave him pause, reminding him of a spirited female he held in high regard, and he entertained the possibility she might pose a challenge to him.

How he loved challenges.

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