Monday, November 12, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Chapter 15


(Not professionally edited)
 
Chapter 15

 
He loved this house, always had. Sure the memories as of late weren’t the most pleasant, but his childhood ones made up for them. He was sorry now, that he’d walked away from it, giving it to Gwen. He should have booted her sorry ass out and kept it for himself.

She’d redecorated since he’d left, and he hated it. Bland, yet superfluous. Too much of everything and not enough life. It felt cold.  So much like the lady herself. Not the warm home his mother had made for him and his father.

Ethan felt as welcome in his own home as he would if he entered the pits of hell. It just wasn’t right.

“Ethan,” Gwen grunted as she entered the living room. “You demanded to see me.”

Ethan looked up to see the woman he’d thought he’d once loved with all of his heart sweep into the room. She wore an elegant cream silk robe that parted to elegant tanned legs. Her long blonde hair curled just perfectly to flatter her brilliantly stunning face. Gwendolyn Van Berge knew how to turn a man’s head. Unfortunately, she had turned his.

He stood calmly. “I asked to see you, Gwen, not demand. There’s a difference.” It was past noon and it looked as if she’d just woken up.

She fluttered her hand at him then moved to the bar near the window and poured herself a drink, not bothering to offer one to him. “Get to the point then, Ethan. I’m a busy woman.”

“Yes, busy sucking the life out of me. I want to discuss the settlement.”

The ice clinked in her glass as she turned. “So you’ve come to your senses then?”

“I know this so called evidence you have on me is bogus, but I don’t want the company put through an investigation.”

Gwen looked down into her glass.  “Or rather, you don’t want your precious name ruined should it all come to light.”

“I’m not worried about myself.” He could rise above it. But could his company?

She smiled with the charm of a snake. “We both know the real reason, now don’t we, Ethan. You want out so you can run to your little tart. Samantha Dowling isn’t it?”

The anger boiled deep inside. How did she know about Samantha? “Leave her out of this.”

She turned to him, her hair sweeping behind her shoulders. “So, you admit you are seeing someone, behind my back?”

His jaw ached with the force he held it clenched. “Not in a romantic capacity, no.” Her quick squeal of laughter made him jerk.

“Oh please, Ethan, don’t humiliate yourself. Gossip spreads quickly and I have it on good authority that you and she were going at it pretty hard by the stock room at the bookstore.”

He walked to the bar, helping himself to a drink, needing one desperately. “She’s a budding artist I’m helping get started. Alfonzo is interested in her work. I happen to be the liaison between the two,” he lied with a completely sober face. “She merely gave me a kiss in thanks.”

“Yes, that’s right, the kind of, thank you’s, that require your tongue darting between her parted lips. Please.” She laughed again, waving her hand.” What kind of fool do you think I am? Go ahead and scronk your little art tart, I could care less. Unless…”  She paused, her eyebrow arching over her right eye. “She’s involved with you in more than a romantic way. Perhaps I should have her investigated as well.”

The crystal rang out when he slammed his glass down on the bar, enough to make her jump. “You leave her out of this, do you hear me, Gwen.”

She didn’t show any emotion whatsoever, but stared at him with cold blue eyes. “Hmm, you sure are defensive of her. Did you steal the money for your little tart, Ethan?”

Lashing out, Ethan grabbed hold of her wrist, and jerked her toward him. “Leave her alone.”

“Ethan, you’re hurting me, let me go.”

“Is everything all right, Miss?” The butler asked, standing in the doorway.

 “No, everything is not all right.” Ethan released her and she rubbed her wrist, glaring at him. “You are going to pay for that, Ethan.  I am going to enjoy watching you sink lower and lower until there is nothing left but a pathetic shell of a man inside a fancy designer suit.”

His eyes narrowed and when he spoke his voice was low and dark. “I’ll fight you, Gwen, tooth and nail, if you make this so called embezzlement known.” Spinning on his heels, Ethan stormed off before he did something he would live to regret.

***

Where the hell was her family when she needed them? Her father hadn’t been home, her mother the same. Andrew didn’t answer his phone and Colleen had gone off somewhere and wouldn’t be back for quite some time, or so she’d been told by someone named Eldrich at the bookstore. It was the middle of the afternoon and everyone she needed was out of her reach. Damn it, how was she supposed to gloat and tell her exciting news when no one was around?

“Wanna see some kinky pictures?”

Sam sighed heavily as Ed appeared beside her. “No.” Why had she come down to the bookstore when she could have just as easily called her sister later?

She knew perfectly well why. Ethan. She wanted to see him again. She really was a glutton for punishment.

Undaunted, Ed carried on. “There’s this book called the art of Sexual Pleasure. It’s got some incredibly kinky pictures in it. I had no idea sex had progressed. I died much too young.” Ed shook his head.

There was something seriously wrong with a dead man mourning over his sex life. “You’re sick, Ed.” Sam turned away from him and saw Ethan enter the bookstore. It looked as if he had trouble on his mind. She didn’t think she’d ever seen someone look so low before. She turned back to Ed. “Go find some nice ghostly woman to try your new found sexual experiments on.”

“You know I can’t do it with non-corporeal beings, Sam. It would be like fucking air. Maybe I could use you to try them out.”

She shot him a nasty look. “Not in this lifetime, or any other for that fact. Now get lost. And if you try possessing some innocent person, I’ll know about it and I will hunt you down and send you right into that peaceful light you’re avoiding like the plague.”

“You weren’t kidding when you said you like to talk to yourself.”

Startled, Sam spun around, her eyes wide. “Ethan. What did you hear?”

Baffled, he shrugged. “Nothing really, just some babbling.”

She blew out a long breath.  She should have paid more attention to how quickly he was heading in her direction. “What can I say, it’s a flaw. What's wrong, you look upset?”

“Women,” he growled the word.

“Present company excluded I hope?”

His blue eyes lifted and a faint smile filled them. “I’m not upset with you, Samantha, never you. I’m not good company right now.”

“So I can see. You look like you could use a shoulder to lean on and an ear to bend. I’ve got both.”

He shook his head. “You look incredible.”

She smiled, running a hand over her dress. “Thanks. Now tell me what's wrong.”

“We can use my office, it’s more private.”

“Now we’re talking. That sounds kinky.”

“Get lost, Ed,” Sam said through her teeth, glaring at Ed who seemed to have been standing behind her, waiting.

“Pardon me?” Ethan stopped, turned to her.

“I said I always get lost.” Sam shot Ed a nasty look that had him vanishing in record time.

Ethan tilted his head, a confused look on his face. “Well you’re safe with me. I happen to have an excellent sense of direction.” He paused, holding the door for her. “I’m just blind when it comes to woman. Present company excluded.”

Sam didn’t know what to say to that, so she didn’t. “I take it your sour mood has to do with your soon to be ex-wife?”

He sat behind his desk like a man deflated. “I just came from speaking with her. Oh, Sam, this has become such a mess and I’m not sure what to do about it.”

 Sam took a chair in front of the desk, her short skirt riding up and making her feel uncomfortable. “What’s going on?”

“I didn’t want to involve you. I never should have gone out to dinner with you, but damn, the first time I laid eyes on you I was gone.” He let out a rush of air before continuing. “Remember I told you she claims to have evidence implicating me in embezzlement?” Sam nodded, he continued. “She knows I’m seeing you and she thinks you’re helping me steal from my company.”

“Get out! I assume you set her straight?”

His eyes flared. “I am not taking money from my company.”

“No, I know! Jeez, I said that all wrong. I know you’re not guilty of taking money from your company, Ethan.”

“How do you know? You don’t know me, Samantha. How can you be sure I’m not a crook?”

He was right, she didn’t know him. But her instincts told her he was innocent. “I looked you up, well, you and your family. Google is a wonderful tool.” She smiled and continued. “Your family is—was—impressive. And you’ve been a stellar human being all of your life. Why would someone who excelled in school and college, who has stayed out of trouble his entire life, who has grown up with more money than any given human being has a right too, suddenly want to take money from a company that’s been in his family for generations? A company he worked his way up to run. If you’re a crook, Ethan, then I’m the queen of England.”

The smile filled his face and had those dimples that drove her nuts sinking in even deeper. Then he let out a long breath when his telephone rang. “Excuse me.” He lifted the telephone. “Ethan Montgomery.” His face scrunched up. “Thanks, Marsha, I’ll deal with it.”

“What is it, Ethan?” she asked when he hung up the phone.

“Apparently, the police are here to see me.”

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