Jewels of the Past (Part Two) by Kerri Carpenter

Molly couldn’t sleep. Not surprising since she was in a new house with all kinds of new noises. Quietly slipping out of her room, she walked down the stairs and out onto the porch. Looking up, she took in the full moon and a sky full of stars.

“Couldn’t sleep either?” Chance asked from one of the rocking chairs, startling her.

Placing a hand over her now rapidly-beating heart, she forced a small smile. “Something like that.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Being punished.”

He cocked his head to the side. Obviously he meant on the porch and not at the Carnegie estate in the country. But for some reason, Molly felt like opening up.

“I had some bad things happen in my personal life. I couldn’t really handle the stress and I broke down, had a couple of freak-outs. Next thing I knew, people were either pulling away or treating me differently. Like they would catch the bad news bug if they got too close.”

She looked down. “My boss must have really had it with me so he sent me here, away from everything. Not that I don’t love the idea of restoring this place to its former glory but it’s…”

“Lonely?” he guessed.

She nodded her head.

“Mind if I ask what happened in your personal life?”

“I had a couple of family deaths in the last six months. Two of my aunts passed away and then my grandmother died. That was the hardest one.”

“You lost three family members and people pulled away from you?” he asked in a disgusted voice.

“Pretty much.” She walked to the railing and looked out at the lawn, trying to envision what it once looked like. “I understand, you know.”

“What’s that?”

“I get why people pull away. They don’t know what to say or how to react. The ironic thing is that I really didn’t want to talk about it.”

“What did you want?”

“I just wanted to go get coffee or catch a movie. Anything to get my mind off of my problems.” Uncomfortable, she started playing with her hair, twisting it around her finger. “Some days are better than others.”

Molly felt raw and vulnerable, and yet, saying all of this out loud felt surprisingly easy. She glanced up at him, hoping her confession didn’t push him away as well. But she found him watching her intently.

As if he was having some kind of internal war, she saw him nod his head and walk to her.

Without saying a word, he took her into his arms and pressed his lips to hers.

She would have gasped except the moment they connected a jolt of electricity surged through her. So instead of pushing him away, she wound her arms around his neck and lost herself in the sweet kiss as the moon shone brightly above them and the stars twinkled their approval.

#

Chance tossed and turned all night. He could not believe he’d kissed Molly. His client. The person he was supposed to protect.

But the moment his lips had met hers, he’d felt a connection he couldn’t explain. Feeling guilty over it seemed futile when he knew he desperately wanted to do it again.

He went in search of her now but pulled up short when he walked into the living room and saw the entire room filled wall-to-wall with furniture and décor.

“I think a furniture store exploded in here. Or, you’re auditioning to be on an episode of Hoarders.”

“I’m creatively stifled,” she explained, gesturing around the room. “There’s so much great stuff in this house.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Chance truly didn’t get how this design business worked.

She sat atop a fancy-looking table and sighed. “I’m just feeling overwhelmed. I became a designer because of my grandmother.”

Ah, it started to make sense to him now.

“When I was little I used to stay at her house and I would put tissues everywhere; on the lamps, on the tables.”

He took his own seat on a really uncomfortable couch. “Why?”

“I was decorating. Granny told me years later that she would find tissues for days after I left. I also wrote on her gold satin throw pillows in black crayon.”

“My grandmother would have tanned my hide if I did something like that.”

She smiled and his stomach tingled. “I guess she should have. But Granny said she was proud of my creativity and declared me a designer. I never questioned it.” Running a frustrated hand through her hair she looked at him with pained eyes. “Now, my work is suffering. I’ve never had blocks like this. The ideas always flowed before.”

So her grandmother’s death had really done a number on her. Besides the usual grief people experience with loss, Molly’s job, her passion, was tied in with her grandmother.

He walked over, framing her beautiful face with his hands. “Maybe you just need some time. Have you taken any for yourself?” She shook her head and bit her lip. Not knowing what else to do, he kissed her tenderly. Just like the night before, he experienced a striking punch to the gut. Their chemistry was undeniable.

When he pulled away, she smiled shyly. In an effort to lighten the mood, he helped her catalog the different pieces. It was actually kind of interesting. What he would have called a stuffy couch, she referred to as a classic divan.

As they worked their way around the room, she became more at ease with him.

“So I’m told there’s some kind of lost ruby necklace associated with this house.”

Her eyes sparkled at the mention. “It belonged to one of the Carnegie daughters; a gift from her grandmother. I haven’t come across it yet but I wouldn’t think we’d find it down here. My money would be on the third floor.”

As soon as the words left her lips, a loud crash sounded outside, right under the north window.

“Probably just a raccoon. I’ll go check around the house.” Despite his relaxed words, Chance reached for his gun as he left to explore.

When he returned twenty minutes later, he gave the all clear. “Like I said, probably just an animal. The woods are pretty thick around here.”

Molly stood in the corner of the room studying a statue which was an imitation of the David. “Hey, it’s naked David,” he said making her chuckle.

But as her laughter faded, a worried expression crossed her face. “There’s so much to go through here.” She ran a hand through her dark hair. “It’s overwhelming.”

On the spot, he made a decision. He was going to help her relax while they were here. “How about if I continue helping you all day? But tonight, we leave this joint and catch a movie.”

He knew she liked the idea when her eyes lit up. “That would be great.”

With that, he had a date and she would have some much needed fun. As he picked up a notebook to continue writing down items he could have sworn he smelled a powdery perfume.

#

The next two weeks passed by in a happy blur. The designing aspect of her job was still a work in progress but Molly knew she was at least getting organized. And living with Chance was better than she could have imagined.

They took long walks around the property. Unlike most men she dated, he really seemed to listen to her. He shared how he got into the security business and she saw the pride on his face when he talked about opening his own firm in Pittsburgh.

Even though they hadn’t discussed it, she really hoped they would continue seeing each other when this month was over. Not only had he become a good friend but the kisses they shared every night threatened to break down the walls her tragic recent past had erected.

Molly stood in the kitchen and ran a hand through her hair. She couldn’t believe she’d fallen so hard for someone in such a short time. “Too quick to fall in love?” she asked out loud to no one in particular. But as soon as she said the words, she smelled the Wind Song scent that so often accompanied her in the house.

Without warning, the smell dissipated and she heard a door slam angrily. She whirled around but a movement in the guest house across the lawn stopped her. Someone was out there.

Chance had hinted at the idea of a picnic earlier. Assuming it was him, she straightened her top, fluffed her hair and headed outside.

But as soon as she reached the door, she felt a shove from behind. A scream left her lips as she slammed into the door. Vaguely she saw the outline of a man scurrying away.

She heard Chance running toward her.

“What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know. I thought you were out here and I came to join you. Next thing I know someone is pushing me.”

He cursed. “Where is he now?”

She didn’t know but she still went through every detail with Chance over and over. As she repeated the details she saw his face become a stern mask while his posture took on a more rigid stance than she was used to.

“This is my fault,” he said so quietly under his breath that she almost missed it.

She reached a hand out to him but he shuttered and backed away. With sadness, she saw the wall go up as he shut her out.

 Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of Jewels of the Past by Kerri Carpenter.