Chapter 28 - California Dreamin'

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"Mom? Dad? We're home," Marisol dropped her keys in the crystal bowl on the hall table in the foyer. Other than the dogs making chuffing sounds as they clicked across the wood floor to sniff the three of them, the house was eerily quiet.

Behind her, Paul let out a low whistle. He ventured into the parlor to cast a glance around the elegantly furnished room, the walls lined with original artwork, the floor covered in plush carpeting, a grand piano gleaming beneath a sparkling chandelier. His eyes were fixed on a gilt framed portrait over the marble fireplace of Marisol and her parents and siblings. "Your parents aren't short of a bob or two, innit?  You never said they were fooking loaded."

Marisol made a shushing sound, as her mother was at that moment making her grand entrance, sweeping down the stairway in a flowing caftan, her golden hair styled in a French twist, her makeup perfect as usual.

Paul whispered next to her ear. "I said I never knew you were so bloody rich."

Marisol dug her fingernails into his arm to silence him. "Hi, Mom. We're back. From the airport." She fought the urge to smooth her hair and straighten her clothes and vaguely wondered why she seemed to be the only one feeling anxious.

"Hello darling. Hello Neil." Mrs. Hemingway air-kissed Neil on each cheek and asked after his grandmother before turning a cool, appraising stare on Paul and offering her hand. "And you must be Paul."

"Mrs. Hemingway. Pleasure to meet you."

"Indeed. I've heard a lot about you." 

"It's mostly lies," Paul said with a smile.

Marisol's mother withdrew her hand but continued her scrutiny. "Your hair certainly is long, isn't it?"

"Yes, Ma'am, and it's still growing." Paul's smile would have disarmed a grizzly bear, but Marisol's mother remained stone-faced.

Marisol clapped her hands together, drawing everyone's startled attention. "Okay. So. Dad still around?"

"No, he's off again." Mrs. Hemingway heaved a dramatic sigh. "Gone into town after some shells or something."

"Shells?" Neil repeated.

Mrs. Hemingway waved the question away. "For his shotgun."

Beside her, to Marisol's surprise, Paul giggled. He actually giggled.

"Well. You must be thirsty from your journey. Do come through. Bianca left some refreshments in the kitchen."

In the kitchen Marisol grabbed three sodas and a plate of cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, her mother's favorite snack for company.

"It's such a nice day, I think we'll sit by the pool. Thanks, Mum!" Marisol dashed out the back door onto the patio with Neil and Paul in her wake. Two of the dogs, Cookie and Beau, pranced alongside them.

"One down, one to go," Marisol said, kissing Paul's cheek. "Hmmm. Did you shave?" she asked, rubbing her thumb across his jaw.

"Yes, Mari, in England. A long, long time ago." He bent his head and captured her lips with his. "Stop acting as though you think your parents aren't going to like me."

"Sorry..." Marisol gave him another kiss. "I don't bring a lot of guys home. It's just, my Dad..." She sighed. "You'll see."

Neil wandered around the patio, looking as if he wished Paul and Marisol weren't kissing in front of him. He stood at the edge of the patio, surveying the pool and the vineyards beyond. "Nice place you have here."

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