Chapter 6 - Sweetheart

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Towelling off, Chris wiped his hand across the mirror and grimaced at the bloodshot, scruffy face that looked back. He inclined his neck and took in a blossoming purple love bite across his shoulder, and rubbed it. It smarted, and would leave a fantastic bruise.

Once he had shaved and blinked in some eye drops, he let out a satisfied sigh, and draped the towel around his hips. Much better. He rubbed the bruise again, and smiled this time. He'd shoved the remorse away the moment he'd gotten into his car. No need for that. He was single, good-looking; why not? Turn off all the crap that he'd been dealing with, and just have fun.


Sun streamed in, and he stood at the open balcony door, tumbler of scotch in hand, letting the summer breeze refresh him. The nap had done wonders. He took in the green and rainbow colours of the garden, the sun-loving plants in full late July bloom. The gardens had gotten bigger since he had lived here, it seemed.

He noticed Amelia, a dirty, beat up ball cap shoved down over her honey-coloured hair, tromping through, pulling a cart full of tools, weeds in her other hand dangling like sad, dead things.

He frowned. He thought they'd had a gardener, but what did he know? He'd have to ask, should've already asked, really. He needed her to help him, not weed and plant. As if compelling her, she turned around and looked up to the window. He tilted his head and waggled his fingers at her, and he could see the distinct displeased look as if he was standing right beside her.

It was too easy.

Someone had pissed her off this morning. Likely it was him putting his feet up on the couch before taking his boots off. Next time he'd stand on the cushions and jump, see what kind of a response that got. For some odd reason, he loved provoking her. Any reaction from her was better than nothing.

The tiny sobering thought that her dislike was well earned poked him as he watched her digging around amongst the flowers. He'd wrecked their friendship when he'd kissed her after Alice died, and then never contacted her again. But that was ages ago, and he had put it past him. Or at least he thought he did. Those memories had crept up on him a few times since he got back, spurring him to avoid her if he could.

He snorted at his own ridiculousness, and leaned on the frame of the window, savouring the quiet.

He wandered into his closet after a few moments more, and rummaged around in the top drawer of the bureau. He found his father's family crest ring box, touched it, and stilled, his fingers pressing on the lid. When his Dad died, he'd barely been home long enough to do his bit at the funeral, be admonished by his mother, let alone talk to old classmates and distant family. He'd stayed one night, argued with Gillian about it, then gotten back in his car and went home, her silently fuming at having to spend one moment in that house, let alone for the funeral of her father-in-law.

He wasn't completely sorry his Dad was dead, which he knew was cold to think. It meant he could be free from the hounding and the constant nitpicking of his abilities. As soon as he was married, his Dad had given him a VP job, shoved him into a corner office, and loaded him down with work. Between the travel and the constant meetings, he and his father communicated with hasty emails and terse hallway conversations.

Such a change in his Dad had put a distance between them, work taking over their personal relationship completely. Chris missed him though. He needed his guidance, especially now with the company going through such rapid change in their industry.

He shoved the ring box back, the feeling of failure all too familiar, and unwelcome.

He closed his fingers over his Yale ring already on his hand, and turned to look out to the window again, in time to see Amelia bend over to retrieve a shovel. It hit him how perfect her body was, curves in the right places, not overly skinny like most of the executive wives he'd socialized with over the past few years.

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