Once she dreamed 1, p.9
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       Once She Dreamed - 1, p.9

         Part #1 of Once She Dreamed series by Abbi Glines
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  “Yes ma’am. It was an easy flight.” I assured her instead of telling her how complicated finding the gates were at the airport.

  “And how’s this place you’re living? Safe?”

  “Safer than Moulton. You have to have a code to get in the doors downstairs. There’s also a security guard. If he doesn’t know you then you don’t make it to the elevators.”

  “Good, good, and the neighborhood?”

  “It’s nice. Big. But the people here are nice. Nothing scary when I go out. I had to go to the grocery and shop. It was close and I was more amazed by the walk, than anything else in the store.”

  Momma sighed and it was relief.

  “Met any of your neighbors?”

  I wasn’t sure if Ezra was a neighbor or not. But even if he was there was nothing to talk about. I didn’t care for the man.

  “No, but I’ve been working on the list of things left here for me to do. You wouldn’t believe the garden on the balcony outside. I have to water the plants daily.”

  I was going to tell her that Hale was coming tomorrow but something stopped me. I didn’t think she’d be okay with that. She would read more into it than there actually was.

  “Well, alright then. It’s good to hear your voice. Hazel wants to talk at you. Give me that number I can reach you at before I cut you loose.”

  I found the paper where I’d written it down and slowly repeated the digits.

  “Love you, girl,” momma said, before handing the phone to Hazel.

  “Love you too momma,” I replied.

  “Sammy Jo! What’s it like there? Have you seen movie stars?” Hazel asked almost immediately.

  Laughing I leaned back on the sofa. She fired one question after another and I tried to answer them all. Leaving her in bed had been hard. I’d wanted to wake her and tell her goodbye and that I loved her then and forever. Hearing her voice now was just what I needed to soothe me.

  “I talk to Sammy Jo,” Henry kept demanding in the background. I could see them sitting around in the kitchen while momma made dinner for the bunch. Everyone was talking and working. Milly wouldn’t be home yet. They’d eat dinner then clean up together while momma gave Henry his bath, before putting him to bed with a story. After they all had their baths they’d sit on their beds and talk about the day, Milly’s date, who she saw at the salon, and who was dating or not.

  As if Hazel could read my mind she said, “Jamie called today for your mailing address. They’re sending out wedding invitations. She said she knew you couldn’t make it back, but she wanted you to have an invitation.”

  “Thank you. I’ll call Jamie and chat with her tonight.”

  “Can’t believe she’s getting married so young. I’m not doing that. I’m gonna travel the world like you.”

  Of all my sisters I believed Hazel would. The others would stay in Moulton, their entire lives lived there. But Hazel, she’d escape. Because she wanted to leave so badly.

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Although I slept well enough through the night with the noise outside, my eyes opened early. I was nervous about Hale’s arrival. I didn’t want to mess anything up. He hadn’t called or texted and neither had Felicity to give me any new details. I showered and dressed then walked around looking for things to clean.

  Walking in from the balcony there was a click at the door. I could hear more than one man’s voice and I realized Hale wasn’t alone. Did I hide if he was with someone or do I offer them drinks? Dang it, Felicity hadn’t told me what to do in this situation.

  The door swung open and Hale entered followed by Ezra. Great. Just the man I wanted to see again. No. Not. Ever.

  “Come in and have some lunch. We can discuss your issues with the deal over a glass of wine. I need a break after that early morning flight. I don’t want to deal with this as soon as I arrive.” Hale spoke to Ezra as if they were old friends. His gaze then swung to me as he surveyed how I was dressed. His look of displeasure told me I had done something wrong.

  “Hello, Samantha. You’ve already met Ezra. He’ll be joining me for lunch.”

  Two things about that: he called me Samantha knowing my name was Sammy Jo. Then he spoke to me as if I knew what they were having for lunch. There was something on the list from Felicity about this. I needed to run to the kitchen and check that.

  “Okay. Do you need anything at the moment? Or do you want me to go get lunch ready?”

  He motioned for Ezra to go out to the balcony. “Bring us both a glass of the Sassicaia. Then you can start on lunch,” he informed me.

  I recognized the name and knew he was speaking about the wine. The problem was I’d never opened a bottle before. I wasn’t sure how. These weren’t screw top bottles.

  “I need to check something Ezra. I’ll meet you outside,” he said, turning and heading for the kitchen.

  I quickly followed, glad that we were going to be out of earshot from Ezra. I didn’t need him to hear that I couldn’t open a wine bottle.

  Hale walked over to the wine rack and withdrew a bottle of the wine he had mentioned. “From the look on your face you have no idea how to open a bottle of wine. I’m going to show you and I want you to watch carefully. You’ll need to be able to do this.”

  I nodded. “Of course.”

  He opened a drawer and pulled out a large black and metal contraption. I watched as he aligned the pointy tip of the screw over the cork then turned the top to twist it in. Lastly, he pushed the two sides down that had risen like wings and the cork came out with an easy pop.

  I wanted to sigh in relief. I thought it was going to be much harder than that. “Okay, I can do that,” I assured him.

  He sat the contraption down then looked at me. “You should’ve shopped for clothing yesterday. Your clothes are not going to be acceptable.”

  I hadn’t known about clothing. Was that why he paid me early? To buy new clothes?

  “I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware I was supposed to use the money left for clothing.”

  Hale frowned. “Felicity didn’t explain that?”

  I liked Felicity. She was very good at her job so telling him “no, she hadn’t,” felt like ratting her out. “I’m, uh, sure she did and I missed it somewhere.”

  “Use the card. I’ll leave a list of stores for you to shop at to buy a new wardrobe. The clothing you brought doesn’t need to leave your suitcase. My world expects different. Understand?”

  I nodded because I was beginning to understand. He had changed my name and now he was changing my clothing. But then, I thought, I am his employee and I need to look a certain way. I should accept that and not get so annoyed.

  The words “yes sir” almost came out of my mouth.

  “Good,” then his face softened and he smiled. That sexy sweet smile that I remembered from the days he bought me cupcakes. He walked over to me and his hand cupped my cheek. It seemed intimate and I froze, startled by the touch.

  “I like having you here when I arrive. I missed you,” he said, with a tenderness he hadn’t used with me before.

  My stomach fluttered and I wasn’t sure how to respond.

  “Ezra will be here for a few hours. Less, if I’m lucky. We’ll go shopping together if you’d like.”

  The idea of shopping with Hale frightened me. I wasn’t going to know what kind of clothing he expected me to buy and the pressure of having him watch and study me didn’t sound fun at all.

  “You wear your thoughts so clearly in those eyes,” he chuckled. “It’s okay Sam. I’ll help you shop.”

  I simply nodded. His hand fell away and my face still held the warmth of his touch. “I’ll take the wine out. You can go ahead and start on lunch. If I were alone I’d have you join me, but Ezra is a business partner and I’ll need some privacy.”

  I frowned. What kind of business partner could he be? “He doesn’t look like you or your world,” I said without thinking.

  “He’s from Texas,” Hale replied, as if that expl
ained it all.

  “He’s also rude and seems rough.”

  Hale laughed as he lifted the two glasses of wine. There was a drip from the bottle and his pour had been off center, though he had found the drop and thumbed it. The kitchen was perfect again. “He is. That’s why he’s good at his job.”

  I didn’t say anything else, watching as Hale left the kitchen.

  I had to figure out what lunch was. I knew the list of groceries Felicity sent said something about meal preparation. I knew how to cook just fine, but I was concerned that the fancy food Hale would request might be difficult to make. Instead of walking around cleaning all morning I should’ve been going over food and putting a menu together. Lesson learned. Next time I’d know.

  Luckily there was a lunch example Felicity sent to prepare me in case of an emergency. Fresh crab with an Asian salad, their cost combined like buying a calf, but of course this was New York City. I fixed a plate with both of these, adding a side plate of hummus with pita chips and a mixture of vegetables. This was one of Hale’s “go to meals.” I felt safe serving them this.

  She said to “take out the hummus first.” This was an appetizer.

  I wished I didn’t have to see Ezra. I’d have to get over my aversion to him, sooner better than later.

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Hale and Ezra paused their conversation every time I delivered something. Hale lifted his empty wine glass. His way of telling me they needed refills. Momma would’ve slapped his face. Things in this world were different. More formal, and way less friendly.

  Fortunately, Hale didn’t look at me oddly when I served their courses of food. I suppose I was doing it correctly. I had to look at the bright side of this. At least I wasn’t bored. Him being in town gave me something to do. And besides that was my job.

  I kept busy in the kitchen cleaning and deciding what dinner would be. I wish Felicity had sent me a cookbook. That would have made things easier. The stuff I knew how to cook wasn’t the food he wanted. Smiling, I thought about frying up some chicken with a pot of mashed potatoes and maybe some collard greens. That would be hilarious.

  The kitchen door opened behind me. I put the last dish away and spoke: “I was about to come check and see if you needed anything more.” Then I turned around.

  It wasn’t Hale. It was Ezra.

  “Do you need something?” I asked. I tried not to sound annoyed.

  He seemed amused by my tone, did a little head tilt, his blue eyes assessing intention. “No, but you may, eventually. Call me when that day comes.”

  What in the world? I started to ask him what he meant when he turned and left the kitchen. I heard him talking with Hale, followed by their laughter, then the door closing behind him. I considered telling Hale what he’d said, but then decided against it. I was not here for drama. Whatever Ezra meant by that was obviously not important. He hadn’t even left me his number.

  I turned off the kitchen lights and walked into the living room. Hale was standing at the window with an inch of wine staring out at the city. The view was spectacular and I hated to interrupt him. He had traveled all morning, went directly to a meeting and had to be nearly frazzled.

  “You did well,” he said, glancing back.

  “Thank you.”

  “We have to get you better clothes. I wish you’d done that already. I expected a few issues to surface.”

  A few issues? He was acting like I was a disobedient child. That was unfair, but I kept my mouth shut, being patient and understanding.

  “Ezra enjoyed lunch. That’s really all that matters.” His gaze traveled up and down me. “Is that the best outfit you brought?” He asked with the slightest of grimace.

  I reminded myself not to take offense. Which was hard because I had a temper and my mouth would lash like a whip. Curbing it wasn’t easy.

  “No, I have a blue sundress that momma made me last year.”

  He did a slight lift of his shoulders. “I have a meeting at three. We won’t have time to shop for your clothing. You’re a size four, am I right?”

  I nodded yes, surprised he guessed so easily, by simply looking at me.

  “I’ll have some clothes sent for you. I won’t be home for dinner tonight. Of course, feed yourself. But consider the rest of the day a break. Tomorrow we’ll do something. What is it you want to see most?”

  That was a hard choice. Fifth Avenue, Times Square and Central Park were all tied for first. I could visit the two that would take the longest when Hale was gone on business. I then replied “Times Square.”

  “Of course. We’ll go see it tomorrow. Then I’ll take you to one of my favorite lunch spots.”

  That sounded fun. I was ready to explore the city. Having someone with me would be nice.

  “Until your clothes arrive go change into the blue dress.” He said it with a wave of his hand as if I were being dismissed. He then turned his attention back to the city and the view outside the window.

  Hale confused me. He could be so nice and make me feel wanted then treat me as if I were a child needing instruction and guidance. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but I reminded myself he had given me this job and a chance to see the world. I was living in a penthouse in New York City. This was better than what I’d expected. Though I really didn’t know what that was. I could learn to understand Hale. He was just different, that’s all. What I knew were the people from Moulton, Alabama and it was me that needed to adjust. Not Hale. He was himself. I was the one that needed to change.

  I went to my room and undressed. The blue Easter sundress that momma had made hanging in the closet to my front. I slipped it on and straightened it out. It was the nicest thing I owned, yet here it seemed inadequate. Country. That’s what I was. Country. I didn’t want to be. My place of birth wasn’t my choice. I longed to be a part of this city, to fit in and not stand out.

  Sitting down on the edge of the bed I looked out the windows of my room. Imagined what I might be like if I’d grown up in New York City. Would I speak differently? Walk with more confidence? Would my vocabulary be more extensive? Would I know the difference between fresh mozzarella and Brie, which confused me at the grocery store, just like the damn airport gates.

  But had I been raised here I wouldn’t have momma, my sisters or Henry or the memories of my daddy, and Jamie and Ben would be strangers. And I wanted all of them in my life. Being raised in Moulton wasn’t what I hated. It was the idea of being stuck there for life. I’d gotten out and now I could truly appreciate my raising and my normal childhood.

  A knock at my door startled me awake. Then it opened and Hale walked in. He took in my dress without smiling. “Your new clothing will arrive this evening. I know females like to shop for themselves and you will get a chance to do that. I’ll go with you when you do. But for now you need appropriate clothing. I should’ve seen to that myself.”

  Again, with my clothes. Lord Jesus! They weren’t as bad as he was carrying on. I bit my tongue to keep from saying just that and my thoughts must have shown on my face because he gave me an apologetic smile. “Soon you’ll be ready to go out with me. You can attend dinners, like the one tonight, alongside me when properly dressed. We have to polish you up. Your beauty is enough to distract a man, but the women in this world can be brutal. They will pick you apart and eat you.”

  Go with him? Why? Although the idea of a fancy party in New York was exciting I wasn’t sure why I would go along too.

  “You want to take me to dinners with you?” I was tired of keeping my mouth shut. Sometimes I needed answers.

  He grinned and walked over to stand in front of me. His expensive cologne made my room smell nice and I wanted to take a deep breath.

  “I didn’t bring you here to keep you locked away. I enjoy your company Sam. You make me feel more like enjoying my life. I often overlook certain things that you remind me of in your excitement. Taking you with me is the main reason I brought you here to the city. First, I have to prepare you. You’re not r
eady for this world yet.”

  He sounded like he had me here for more than a housekeeper. Men didn’t take their housekeepers to parties and teach them to be more refined. Did they? I was pretty sure that even though I didn’t know much about this life I did know that.

  “But Hale, I’m your housekeeper,” I told him.

  He knelt down in front of me and gathered my left hand in both of his. “You’re here to take care of things when I’m away. Yes, that’s the truth. But surely you know that I brought you here for more than tending the penthouse.”

  He did? No, I didn’t know that at all.

  “Sam, you’re a stunning woman. The first time I saw you I knew I would have to have you. I don’t want for much but when I see something I want then I go after it. You’re too talented and beautiful to be someone’s housekeeper. You’re meant for lights and parties. You’re meant to shine. I intend to let that happen.”

  So he liked me. The funny feeling he gave me in my stomach when he flirted was mutual? “I’m trying to understand,” I replied.

  He stood and pulled me with him. Tugging me up against his body, his right hand slipped to my back, and I was firmly held flush with his chest. “Let me be more specific.” He then lowered his head until his mouth brushed my neck, ear, cheek and lips. The small gasp of surprise that came from inside me was the opening he needed to have me. The warmth and taste of the wine filled my senses as he deepened the kiss and held me.

  My knees began to go weak. I was torn between pleasure and shock. I wanted a kiss the night of the dance, but this wasn’t the kiss I imagined. I’d seen kisses like this on the movies. It made you blush to watch it and here it was happening in actual life.

  His hand then slid to my butt. He squeezed and I inhaled sharply, Hale continuing to taste me like his glass of rich wine, my head light and body tingling, anticipating what would happen next. This was enough
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