“Blindsided,” Chapter 25

Will wonders never cease?!

I had no idea Dickhead lived in such close proximity to me.

Yep, still gonna call him that, love and all. Even though he has clue about that last juicy tidbit. At least, I don’t think he does.

He lives in Oaksville, a quiet little town halfway between the Bluegrass and Glasgow city limits. The Glasgow Road turnoff — the route I always take to go to Mostly Books, a used bookstore in Glasgow — is a couple of minutes past my shitty little trailer park on Lexington Road.

It’s off the beaten path, and by that, I mean it’s miles and miles and miles of nothing but farmland, houses and barns. Not a single business or subdivision in sight. And enough space between properties that you never have to worry about nosy neighbors getting all up in your business.

It’s perfect.

I can’t wait to get out of the damn car. I imagine Dickhead feels the same.

He ultimately pulls into a gravel driveway leading up to a sprawling brick ranch-style house, pressing the button on a garage-door opener attached to the driver’s side visor. A motion detector activates the interior garage lights so we’re not fumbling around in the dark. Nifty.

It’s a sizable garage that can easily fit three cars, but instead, it doubles as his laundry room with a mammoth top-of-the-line front-loading washer and dryer located on the driver’s side. Which means he could literally pull in, strip, throw his clothes in the washer and walk into the house in his birthday suit with no one the wiser.

Talk about convenience.

It’s nearly 11. He parks and we emerge from the Accord, grimacing from all the sitting we’ve been doing of late. He walks up three wooden steps in the two-car garage to a door, which he unlocks, flips a light switch and starts pushing in the code to his alarm system on the wall to his right.

Once he finishes resetting the alarm from “away mode” to “stay mode” — which he patiently explains to me that doing so goes from arming everything, including exterior and interior sensors when he isn’t home, to only the perimeter when he is here so he doesn’t set it off every single time he moves around inside — we collect our belongings from the car and go inside.

A welcome blast of cool air hits us instantaneously.

Oh, central air, how I love thee!

The door, which makes a whistling sound whenever it’s open because of the alarm system, takes us directly into a massive, open-concept living/dining/kitchen area with gorgeous oak flooring that takes my breath away.

Dickhead smiles approvingly at my obvious pleasure, advancing ahead of me to flip another switch.

There’s a huge flat-screen TV mounted on the wall to the left with an inviting curving suede seven-seater sectional sofa sporting recliners on both ends to the right. Oak tables sit beside each of the reclining seats with lamps on top of both. The front door is several feet behind the couch, although I expect it doesn’t get much use with the convenient garage entrance, and the walls are lined with built-in shelves heaving with books. Further back is a small square oak dining room table to the right of the kitchen that cozily seats four.

And then there’s the kitchen, itself.

OH EM GEE.

It’s fully loaded with all the newest in stainless steel appliances and features a plethora of oak cabinets for storage. In the middle of it is a granite-top island with pots, pans and utensils hanging from a metal ceiling rack. The countertops also are made of granite, with the backsplash a muted gray brick-like design to go with the rest of the color scheme.

If this is a dream, I’m never waking up.

“I’m in love,” I sigh.

I could happily spend all day, every day cooking in this little slice of heaven.

“I’m glad it’s to your liking,” Dickhead says.

“That’s an understatement.”

He turns on another light leading down a hallway to the left of the kitchen, beckoning me to follow while I suppress a strong urge to bow. There’s an office and full bathroom on one side and a makeshift gym further down on the other.

He walks ahead, turning on two more lights.

At the end of the hall is a master bedroom complete with a luxurious king-size bed with a simple oak frame, a bedside table, double-wide chest of drawers and walk-in closet. A hope chest sits at the end of his bed.

The man sure does have a thing for oak furniture.

He puts his things down on the floor, gesturing for me to do the same, so I comply as I continue taking in my surroundings.

This is the only room in the house with anything hanging on the walls. Above the headboard is an extraordinary painting of a horse grazing lazily under a pussy willow tree on a farm. There’s another painting of kelpies, depicted in Scottish folklore as shape-shifting water spirits usually seen in the form of horses, rising out of the ocean and still a third of a field of calla lilies — my favorite flower — with the sun rising behind them in a field. I notice each piece is signed “P.E.,” and smile secretly. The artist is a relative of mine who does several art shows throughout Alabama every year. I’ll have to ask him when and where he acquired them, but I’ll save that conversation for another time.

The adjoining master bath contains a mixture of different tiling in varying shades of gray like the kitchen. But the true centerpieces of the bathroom are the ginormous clawfoot tub and the clear glass jetted body shower in which the water comes out in seven places — four on the sides and three from the ceiling.

“You have a beautiful home.”

Still, there’s no way in hell he can afford this place, even on his salary. You don’t get into the newspaper business to get rich, unless you’re a damn media magnate.

“Our benefactor has always made certain Mum and I have wanted for nothing,” Dickhead explains upon seeing the unspoken question broadcast on my inquisitive face. “I have always lived within my means, even going so far as to direct our benefactor’s liaison to put half of the money into savings and to invest the remainder as soon as I reached adulthood. But when I saw this house, I had to have it. It is the only place I have ever felt completely at home, so I used some of that money to purchase it outright.”

I’m sure he’ll find my dump of an apartment appalling in comparison when we go pick up my clothes and other necessities, hopefully tomorrow.

“I’ll have to make arrangements for someone to watch my cat,” I inform him. “I don’t like the idea of Mandy Jo going to my place alone to check on Stinky while there could be as many as two killers running around doing who knows what. I don’t want to put anyone in danger.”

Had I been thinking more clearly yesterday morning, I would have insisted she take someone with her and keep Stinky at her place until we got back into town and I could figure out what to do with her from there. I don’t know how Dickhead feels about cats, or animals in general.

“I’ve already made arrangements,” he said. “While you were asleep on the drive to Tideville, I rang Alex and requested he accompany Mandy Jo to your apartment after deadline. Your cat, Stinky, is with her until we pick it up tomorrow after we go to your place to retrieve your things.”

It?! IT?!

“I’ll have you know Stinky is a SHE, not an IT!” I half-shriek in a huff.

Nobody refers to my precious little kitty as an “it” and gets away with it, not even HIM!

“Settle down!” he snaps back, scowling down at me. “Your precious Stinky will be staying here with us, so kindly stop with the crazy cat lady bit!”

Oh, no, he didn’t!

“You … you … ” I sputter, the fight abruptly draining out of me as I recall his prophetic words earlier.

“I warned you it’s not going to be easy,” he calmly reminds me, his own irritation vanishing as rapidly as mine.

I sigh. He’s right.

He tenses, waiting.

“I guess we’ll just have to kiss and make up then,” I say, reaching up to pull his startled face down to mine for a quick kiss. “All better now?”

He doesn’t budge.

Neither do I.

“What if I say no?” he challenges.

So I kiss him again, letting my lips linger this time.

“How about now?” I mumble against his mouth.

I can feel his smile.

I like this game.

“Mmm, maybe one more, just to be sure,” he murmurs seductively.

This time, though, we kiss in unison.

“Better,” he says. “Much better.”

No argument here.

“I guess we should try to get some sleep,” I say, unwilling to let him go.

“Yes, we should,” he says, just as reluctant to break the spell.

“I can take the couch,” I offer.

“The bed is big enough for both of us,” he counters.

Oh boy.

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” I giggle skittishly.

“No. Only you.”

Yep, I’m a goner.

“But you said … ” I falter.

“I know what I said, Piccolo. We’re both very tired, and the bed is comfortable. I just want to keep you close so I can watch over you. That’s all. No ulterior motives, I give you my word.”

And his word is his bond.

“OK.”

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