Pale Lover

Book Cover: Pale Lover

Trixie’s feelings for her boss blossom and wilt as indecision crashes head-on into forces outside her control. The whole world has learned of her affair with John, and now they want to know everything even if that means reading lies in the worst gossip magazines. The pair have to use their wits and the Deus Ex Machina powers of Cecil to get themselves out of this mess so they can live happily ever after, or at least in peace.

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John Benson peeked his head into the living room where I sat reading a book one dark and calm night.
“I have a surprise for you,” John Benson announced to me.
It had been a few weeks since our adventures with Monroe, Constance, and my crazed admirer Tanner. Without Monroe’s concentrated efforts to oust John from his family’s company, the board’s plan to set a babysitter for John had gone up in smoke like a bad Cuban cigar. John and Cecil, John’s uncle, had convinced them he was competent enough to handle his own affairs, and a precarious agreement had been made to revert back to the old arrangement. John was relieved to slip back into his old routine, but I felt uneasy. Another ambitious person on the board and we’d be back to the same trouble.
There was also the matter of our relationship and my uneasy feelings between us. I put down my book and my gut twisted at the thought of telling him what I needed to tell him.

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I have a surprise for you, too, but you go first,” I replied.
He stepped into the room and over to where I sat on the couch. “First you have to close yours eyes and submit to a blindfold,” he insisted.
I glanced up at him and frowned. “This isn’t going to get kinky, is it?”
He mischievously grinned and brought out a handkerchief from his pants pocket. “Only if you want it to.”
“Maybe after my surprise,” I suggested.
“Then hold still while I put this blindfold on you.” I stood and he tightly wrapped the handkerchief over my eyes. He stepped behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. “Now don’t be afraid.” I wasn’t so much afraid as very worried, especially when he pushed me forward and my shin connected with the coffee table. I wanted to do the one-legged hop around the room a few times, but he firmly held onto me. “Sorry about that.”
“Not as sorry as I am,” I grimaced.
“I’ll be more careful.” I had to admire his attempt because I couldn’t admire his success. I knocked into the wide living room doorway, tripped over a rug in the hall, and stumbled into the dining room table. If we’d been playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey he would have spun me out a window. I was relieved when he lifted his hands from my shoulders, especially since I felt a distinct sensation of heat coming off the table. “All right, take off the blindfold.”
I pulled it down and was surprised to see a large cake with a slew of lit candles on the top that performed a good imitation of the sun. It had dark chocolate frosting, and I suspected the inside was the same. I counted the candles and found there were thirty of them. “You’ve got my age wrong, and the date,” I told him.
He laughed and stepped up beside me. “This isn’t a birthday cake. It’s to celebrate our first month together.”
“Our anniversary?” I guessed, and he nodded.
“Exactly,” John agreed. He had such a large smile on his face that I managed one of my own. This was complicating my own surprise for him. John noticed my strained grin that would have scared children and small dogs. “Is something wrong?” he asked me.
“Well, yes and no. The cake’s great, and I’m really glad you did it, but the timing is a little, well, off.”
“I can’t change the date of when we met,” he pointed out.
“Oh, right. Well, I guess my timing’s a little off. I’ve been meaning to tell you I was going to go back to my apartment.” I cringed when a shadow swept across his face.
“You’re leaving me?” he wondered.
“Not leaving you forever, just my bedroom here. With Tanner in jail I probably won’t have any more problems at my old apartment,” I explained to him. He still wasn’t very happy. “I’ll still be working for you, but it’ll be a lot easier to go to my classes without that long drive.”
“But you’ll have that drive to me,” he countered. I felt like I was dealing with a five year old who was told he had to share his toys with the other kids, and didn’t want to.
“This is a part-time job, and as for everything else-well, we’ve only been together a month.” The torched cake was proof of that. “I want things to slow down before I end up popping a baby out in record time,” I joked.
John didn’t laugh. “If that’s how you feel it has to be.”
“At least for now,” I added.
“When were you planning on leaving?”
“Tomorrow.” It was a Saturday, so no classes to get in the way of the packing and moving.
“I see.” There was an awkward silence between us until I noticed something about the cake.
“Um, John?” I spoke up.
“Yes?”
I pointed at the dessert. “The top of the cake is on fire.” The candle wax had melted all over the frosting and the wicks had fallen over to continue burning along the top of the river of wax. John’s eyes widened and he raced for the kitchen, returning quickly with a pitcher of water. He doused the flames, but drowned the cake. A horrible river of chocolate blood ran across the table and poured over the edge. It felt like being in a film noir, but without the dramatic music and there was too much color around us.
John raced again to the kitchen and brought back a roll of paper towels. I helped him wipe up the mess, and in a few minutes the table was cleaned and cleared of chocolaty debris. All that remained was a flat, soggy mess of cake on its cardboard platter. It looked as depressed as we both felt.
“Well, that was an ill omen,” I murmured.
“Just an accident,” he replied in a flat tone. I glanced up into his long face and sighed.
“This isn’t the end of the world. We can get a new cake and I’ll still be around,” I consoled him.
“We’ll see,” he answered, and strode off upstairs. I winced when I heard the door to his bedroom slam.
Then I realized I wasn’t being my rowdy, assertive self because I’d just let a brooding man win the conversation by getting the final word. I puffed out my chest and scowled at the flat cake, which just sat there looking like a soggy cake. There was no way I was going to let John’s pouting nature overwhelm both of us, so I spun around and slipped on a slime of cake that we’d missed. I picked myself back up, straightened my clothes and marched up the stairs to John’s door.
I pounded my fist against the entrance. “John Benson, open up right now!” I ordered him.
“It’s not locked,” he answered through the door. I swung open the door and found him a puddle of human ooze on his bed. He stared up at the ceiling with his arms folded and tucked beneath his head. He didn’t even look toward me when I entered, but he glanced at me when I slammed the door behind me. “Do you have something against my door?” he half-heartedly teased.
“No, but the owner is making me angry, and you don’t want to see me when I’m angry,” I warned him.
He raised his head and an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you and your brooding.” I stomped over to his bed and stretched myself up to my full height of five-foot-nothing. “You act like my moving back to my apartment is the end of the world.”
John turned his face away from me. “It’s the end of my world,” he muttered.
I stomped over to the other side so he had to look at me again. “If I’m all that’s in your world then maybe you need to get out some more.” He rolled his head to get away from me, and I scurried across to the other side of the bed. “All this staying inside all the time is what got you into that mess with Monroe babysitting you,” I pointed out.
“It won’t happen again. He’s gone,” John countered as he again turned his face away from me.
I grabbed his chin and swung his face back. “I don’t need that much exercise, so please stop moving your head,” I firmly ordered him. “Also, stop brooding. I’ll be back first thing Monday afternoon to pretend I know how to help you with your business.” I still hadn’t mastered most of my duties.
“And I’ll be alone Sunday,” he countered. I opened my mouth, but for once a thought struck before I could speak. My lips curled up in a grin and John recoiled from the evil sight. “What are you thinking?” he asked me.
“I’m thinking that you’re going with me tomorrow to the city and I’m going to make sure you’re not lonely.”

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