Welcome to Fiction Fridays! We plan to give you a short bite of fiction every week – something to enjoy during your lunch hour – but with a twist: We want you to give us the idea for the next installment! Come join in the fun! To get caught up, read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.
You had Gabe’s ex standing in the doorway. Let’s see what happens next, and please stop by next week for our true Valentine’s Day happily everafter. (Yes, Fiction Fridays is going to be on Thursday next week in honor of the Day of Love)
Drawn Together – Part 4
by Karen Fleming
Gabe let out a growl of frustration.
His ex stood in the doorway, sizing him and Elizabeth up with a heavy-lidded stare. Her tawny eyes settled on him. “So, Granddaddy has finally found you a new play toy after you kicked me to the curb,” she hissed.
Gabe retrieved the towel that had fallen from his hands and offered it to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, meet Tabby. She worked for my grandfather until he discovered the only dictation she was interested in taking was mine.”
Tabby’s response was a slow blink and a daggered glare. “Take my advice, honey. Don’t be fooled by the moves he puts on you as part of the recruiting package. Granddad Les might convince you there are some long-term benefits to playing along, but once you’re on board, Gabe’s attention falls more in the short-term category.”
Before Gabe could say anything, Elizabeth dropped the towel back into his hand. “Thanks, Gabe, for the loan.”
She headed for the door but paused with her hand on the metal handle. She glanced over her shoulder to where Tabby had struck a Heidi Klum wannabe pose in her black business suit and matching shoes. “I’m an independent contractor. I provide my own benefits package.” Elizabeth shot a cool glare his way before she stepped into the hall.
Gabe’s chin hit the floor. Well, it would have, thanks to Elizabeth’s words and an image of a sheer blouse plastered against an amazing body, but Tabby hissed at him and jolted him out of his daydream. He’d almost forgotten she was still there. And it looked like steam was about to spew out of her ears. He pointed at the door. “Gotta run. Looks like I have some ‘recruiting’ to do.”
# # #
Elizabeth squirmed in her chair in Mr. Redfield’s office. Where was Gabe? And who was that alley cat with claws that had eyed her like she was a fresh can of tuna? This was insane. Gabe was arrogant. And gorgeous. Self-absorbed. And gorgeous. The answer to her prayers—financially, that is. And gorgeous. Okay, enough with the gorgeous. But really, a six-pack, a Porsche, and a kind-hearted grandfather, who’d just wrung a promise from her to ignore her reservations with a story about a little boy who had lost his parents at an early age? That’s what they had to have in common. She didn’t want to like him. To feel connected to him.
But this wasn’t about her. It was about Frankie and his last semester’s tuition. She could hold out against her attraction that long. And if the alley cat was to be believed, Gabe was easily distracted, so his interest in her would pass. Why did that make her want to punch something—like him?
The door opened and Gabe walked in, wearing a ribbed tank that showed off more muscle than it covered; the lines and definition she itched to draw weren’t made of cold stone. They were warm, rippling flesh. Gabe’s flesh.
“Gabe, my boy. I was just telling Elizabeth about when I met your grandmother. It was love at first sight.”
She smiled at the grimace on Gabe’s face.
“Please, you’re going to scare her away before she even gets to see the house.” Gabe turned to her and offered an indulgent smile. “One thing you’ll have to look out for is Granddad and his schemes. He met my grandmother at a Valentine’s Day dance his parents held at the very house you’ll be working on. He claims the sight of her when she walked into the room made everything else go gray. He only had eyes for her. He proposed that night.”
At his grandfather’s reminiscent sigh, Gabe’s smile deepened to reveal a dimple on the left side of his mouth. Was there anything not perfect about the man? Oh yeah, the she-cat he had probably been prowling around with. Focus on the job and the real employer. Mr. Redfield.
She physically turned herself toward Les. “You proposed the same night you met her?”
“We Redfield men have a tradition. To proclaim our passage into manhood, at sixteen we have to present our eldest male relative with a life plan prospectus.”
He was kidding, right? This was too, just too surreal. “A life plan prospectus, sir?”
Les came around his desk and leaned on the edge near her. “We outline what we intend to do to make the world a better place and what type of life-partner we think we need to help us achieve our goals.”
Elizabeth’s eyes shot to Gabe. He avoided her direct gaze.
“And Gabe submitted his to you?” Elizabeth tried not to giggle at the groan coming from her right, where Gabe was slouched in a chair.
He checked his watch and rose to his feet. “Okay, torturing Gabe is over. If we want to avoid the rush hour traffic, we need to go, now. Elizabeth, we’d like you to stay at the house so you can roam around at your leisure, getting a feel for the different moods and impressions the rooms emit at different times of the day.”
“That’s fine. My flight was late and I didn’t have time to check into my hotel before coming here for the interview. Audrey was kind enough to hold my suitcase.” No need to explain she’d held off on making a reservation until she knew she had the job.
As they walked to the elevators with Gabe wheeling her suitcase, she fell back a few steps from his grandfather. “The rooms emit moods?” She watched him for any expression.
He punched the button on the elevator. “Granddad’s words, not mine. But yes, the morning room where my grandmother loved to sip tea while she drew is warm and cheery when the sun streams through the long windows.”
Elizabeth spun on her heel. “Your grandmother was an artist?”
“Yes, so was my mother. Apparently the Redfield men require a woman who can capture her vision on canvas.”
The warm tenderness of his stare held her captive until the bell chimed and the elevator doors swung open. Together, Les, Gabe and Elizabeth rode to the garage level. Gabe secured her suitcase in the trunk of the chauffeured car his grandfather would take home.
Once it pulled away, he led her to his Boxster and opened the passenger door. “Look, I know all that up there about love at first sight and life-partners and the good of humanity all sounds crazy and far-fetched. But this is my grandfather, and he’s a hopeless romantic. He has breakfast in the morning room every morning and reads his paper aloud as if my grandmother was still there. I may not buy into all of it, but he’s all I have and I will not tolerate any disrespect of his beliefs.”
Elizabeth didn’t know what to say, so she simply nodded before settling into her seat.
After they pulled up in front of a sprawling brownstone, behind the car that had transported his grandfather, Elizabeth followed Gabe inside and was met by a…
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