A seal upon your heart, p.22
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.22

           Pepper Pace
 

  He sat back in his chair and stared out into the empty space before him. Three hundred and sixty-five days…that wasn’t really so long. Only three hundred and sixty five days ago she’d been alive.

  “How did I forget…?” He whispered to no one in particular.

  ~***~

  Does he desire you? Martier asked herself. The answer was yes. She saw it in his eyes, felt it in his kisses…and it was obvious when his body was close to hers. She smiled knowing that if her skin wasn’t so dark her cheeks would be bright red.

  Then there is no wrong because she desired him every bit as much as he desired her. She contacted the hotel that they’d be staying and then she cancelled her room.

  She would give herself to Tim this weekend. The New York trip would be a celebration of them. She knew that it was just his sense of propriety that kept him from claiming her. This weekend she wouldn’t allow him to retreat. She would show him that it was okay to love her completely.

  Martier paused. What would the sisters say? She arched her brow and placed her hands on her hips. She didn’t care one iota what they would have to say. Martier had no reservations about giving Tim her virginity. As far as she was concerned, Tim was already hers, there wouldn’t be anyone that could make her feel the way he did.

  She smiled and returned to her work.

  ~***~

  Tim had stayed closed up in his office until it was quitting time. He hadn’t even sent her out for lunch. She knew that he was extra busy and she was too. Just because they were going away didn’t mean that the cases would. Tim finally came out of his office looking haggard.

  “Ready?” He asked.

  “Yes.” She gathered her things and walked alongside him wishing that they could walk hand in hand the way they did when they were outside of work. In the grocery store he held her hand in his big one and she always felt secure. Even when they dined in restaurants he would reach across the table and take her hand in his. She liked that about Tim; that he enjoyed contact with her. Maybe he was starved for it. She knew that she was. She couldn’t complain. She got her fill of Tim outside of work.

  They got into his car quietly and she noticed that he seemed distracted. “Are you caught up with everything you need to do?” She asked as she buckled herself in.

  “What? Oh…yeah. Everything is on schedule.”

  They drove in silence for a while. “What should we do for dinner? I have a chicken thawing out in the fridge-”

  “Oh…Martier, I have to make a stop this evening. You should have dinner without me.” He didn’t offer more and she assumed that he had to run some errands concerning the trip, maybe he ran out of black socks or something.

  “Sure, honey.”

  He gave her a brief look. “Martier…today…”

  She looked at him curiously and it suddenly dawned on her that something was wrong. He wasn’t just distracted or tired. Something had gone wrong. Martier held her breath.

  “Today is the anniversary of my wife-of Corrine’s death.” He stared at the road as he drove.

  “Oh Tim…I’m so sorry.” She reached out and placed her hand over his. “I am so sorry. Did you need to be alone?”

  He nodded. “I…want to go to the cemetery. I haven’t done that yet…”

  She watched him. “I didn’t know.”

  “No, I never talked about it.”

  “If you want to talk about it…”

  He shook his head but didn’t speak. She could see that he was fighting to control his emotions. It hurt her to see him like this.

  “I understand.” She said softly. She gave his hand one last rub before allowing hers to drop back to her lap. He hadn’t removed his hand from the steering wheel to hold hers as he normally would have. But she knew that he was just hurting.

  Tim dropped her off at her cottage, leaning in to kiss her gently before she got out the car. She placed her hand on his cheek.

  “I love you, Tim.” She had never told him that before. But she thought he should know it today of all days.

  He smiled. Tim closed his eyes and placed his forehead against hers. “Thank you for coming into my life.” He kissed her again.

  Afterwards she got out of the car and watched him drive away. It wasn’t, ‘I love you, too Martier.’ Still, it had been special to her.

  ~***~

  It had cost him a great deal of money to have her grave positioned beneath the large shade tree. He’d even had them place a bench there. And as Tim made his way to the area, he was both pleased at the beauty of it and guilt ridden that this was the first time that he’d been here to enjoy it. He sat down on the marble bench and he felt older than 47. He felt older than 57. Tim felt as if he’d squeezed an entire lifetime in his relatively short life.

  He allowed his eyes to take in her gravestone. It read: Forever My Love.

  Tim stood up quickly and stormed away. Nothing is forever. He got into his car. There was a bar that he’d driven past. The Mad Crab had lost its appeal. Maybe it’s because the people there now recognized him for what he was; a man that couldn’t get his shit together.

  Tim pulled up in front of a bar that looked like it could be host to some serious rednecks. Maybe someone would fuck with him and then he could…Tim lowered his head to the steering wheel.

  “Corrine,” he said softly. “She is such a wonderful woman. I’ve been hurting for so long, honey. God I miss you. I miss your smile and your pretty fingers…” He inhaled a deep breath. “Oh Corrine.” He sniffed and sighed again. “She wears the world on her sleeve. She’s so innocent and it’s like…there’s so much to protect her from. Sometimes I feel like…she’s a gift. A second chance.” He lifted his head from the steering wheel and stared out through his window. “I had no idea that I could feel this way all over again.”

  Tim sat back against his seat, not feeling the tears in his eyes, not even when one or two spilled over and streamed down his cheek. “Her name is Martier Nufaika Besigye. She was born in Rwanda and she survived the genocide there. But she lost so much…”

  Tim spent the next hour in his car, telling Corrine all about Martier. He explained that she didn’t wear any makeup and she was still beautiful and then he grinned and amended that to state how lucky he was to have had such polar opposite beauties in his life. “But so similar.” His smile slipped away and he quickly restarted the car. She was waiting for him and suddenly, all he wanted was to be home with her.

  He drove for a while and then whispered, “You know, Corrine. I don’t know why I can’t shake the feeling that you already know all about Martier. Is it crazy for me to think that you might have even sent her in my direction?” After all, she had come from the convent that Corinne had selected and was a part of a cause that was near and dear to her heart. And if not for her influence Tim would not have had the slightest idea of how to react to Martier.

  He smiled ruefully. He was being just plain crazy right now. But he still couldn’t shake that feeling.

  ~***~

  Martier had just turned off the lights and had slipped into her bed even though it was still early. The sun had just barely set. Tim hadn’t returned and she couldn’t seem to get it out of her mind that Tim might be having second thoughts. What if he regretted—

  There was a soft knock at the door. Martier leaped out of bed and hurried down the stairs. She slept in a gown that reached just below her knees and was made like an oversized shirt. She didn’t worry about it, Tim had seen her swimsuit and that was a whole lot more revealing.

  She checked the peephole only to see Tim standing anxiously on her doorstep, still wearing his suit, but at least he had removed his tie and jacket. Martier quickly threw open the door. She practically bounced on her tiptoes with the urge to wrap her arms around him and to hug him tight. But she didn’t. She waited for him to make the first move.

  “Hi, honey.” He glanced down at her attire. “Did I wake you?”

  She shook her head. “I was just relaxing.” She quickly remembe
red that they were just standing in the doorway and she stepped aside to allow him entrance. Tim reached out and captured her hands. He pulled her to him, though he didn’t hug her. He just held her hands and watched her intently.

  “I love you, Martier.”

  Her mouth opened and her breath came out in a muffled gush.

  “You never said that before.” She whispered.

  “I know. I’m sorry.” He finally pulled her into his arms. “I don’t want you to ever doubt it, okay?” She nodded and he kissed her gently. “I love you.”

  CHAPTER 28

  Wednesday after work, Tim dropped Martier off at her cottage to prepare for dinner at Jakob and Elaina’s. She stared at the clothes in her closet not daring to wear any of Corrine’s, but finding that the ones she had so recently purchased didn’t give the right ‘vibe’. She had changed outfits twice when Tim knocked on the door and she had to be satisfied with a skirt and blouse that was reminiscent of her days at the convent; only this one had been purchased from money that she went to work daily to make—and it was a lot nicer. With a distraught sigh she bounded down the stairs and rushed to the door.

  Tim caught his breath. He loved when she wore her long hair down to flow in thick curls over her shoulders. “Ready?” He slipped his hands to her waist and leaned in to kiss her but could feel her hang back a bit. A frown suddenly appeared on her face.

  “I…no. I should change-” Martier gestured back into the house and made to turn. Tim chuckled and held her in place.

  “Martier, sweetheart, you look perfect. Okay? You have nothing to worry about.” She was dressed modestly yet the curves of her body offered a hint of sexiness that was hard for Tim to ignore. Martier had filled out over the last few months, and while still obviously tall and thin, she no longer looked like an ad for the starving kids in Africa.

  She bit her lips lightly, the creases still present on her forehead. “Are you sure?” Elaina had been friends with Corrine. How did she expect to be this woman’s peer? She would be able to spot in a second that her clothes were bought off the rack and not expensive designer wear and…

  “It’s just dinner.” He said with a smile, hoping that it would ease some of her fears. “And you’ve already met half of the team. Jakob likes you, and Elaina is a sweetheart.”

  Martier smiled and relaxed. “Okay. I’m ready. Let me just grab my purse.”

  ~***~

  Martier was in awe at how big and pretty Jakob and Elaina’s house was. There was even a fountain in the front yard like it was a museum or the public library! The driveway wrapped around into a brick circle and the pretty fountain sat right in the middle of it. The house reminded her of a London brownstone, or what she had seen in books. Ivy grew up the brick sides and the grounds were so expertly maintained that she felt like going back to Tim’s house to re-landscape the entire property! Tim just kept the lawn edged and mowed and Martier had liked the wild way that the flowers had taken over the flower beds…but now she knew that it could look so much better.

  Tim held her hand and rang the bell. Elaina and Jakob both answered together. Martier thought it was strange seeing him dressed casually in navy slacks and a polo shirt left un-tucked. Elaina wore a big welcoming smile that slipped momentarily when she sat eyes on Martier before she caught herself and reached out to usher the guests into the house.

  Tim kissed her cheek and clapped Jakob on the shoulder. “Elaina, this is Martier Besigye. Martier, meet Elaina.” Elaina took the young girl’s hand and shook it graciously but she couldn’t believe what she was seeing, though she hid it well. What was Tim thinking? This was just a girl.

  “Welcome Martier. Such a pleasure to finally meet you.” They exchanged small pleasantries and Jakob led them to a room where they could sit, talk and drink. Martier resisted the urge to gawk at everything but she was in awe of the perfectly decorated home. Still, she preferred Tim’s and not just because it was so familiar to her now, but because it had been decorated in a more comfortable and less opulent style.

  Jakob asked what everyone wanted to drink. Elaina wanted white wine, Tim wanted beer and having liked the wine she had at Dhakiya’s house, Martier stated she would have wine as well. While Jakob tended to that, Elaina fixed her eyes on the young woman.

  “Martier, what a pretty name. Does it have a meaning?”

  Martier smiled shyly and shook her head. If she had ever known that there was a meaning behind her name, she wouldn’t have remembered. “But thank you.” She replied.

  Tim’s smile froze for he did think he knew the root of her name. Her father’s name was Martin and it seemed to be derived from that. Did Martier even know that her father’s first name was Martin? Maybe holding this information back wasn’t good after all. He had just thought to reveal all of his findings at once but now it only seemed cruel to know things about her family that she didn’t.

  “How did you and Tim meet?” Elaina asked.

  “At Rangbo, Singleton, Bradbury and Marx. I got the job as Tim’s secretary and assistant.”

  Jakob returned then so no one noticed the look that fell across Elaina’s face. Her husband passed everyone their drinks and Martier turned to her again.

  “You have a beautiful home.”

  Elaina’s lips pursed. “Thank you.” She said simply without looking at the young girl. She stood. “I better check dinner.” And then she was gone.

  “Would you like the grand tour?” Jakob asked, surprised that his wife didn’t offer. She loved showing off the house.

  Martier was enthusiastic about seeing it. She didn’t realize that being asked to tour someone’s home was the norm, though it might be a rich people thing. The house was big and took nearly half an hour walk through. But within that time Martier began to relax even more. Jakob was so friendly and he and Tim joked and laughed in a way that made her happy. Tim needed a friend like that. He was entirely too serious at times.

  Jakob told her about all of the fun that she would have in New York and some places that would be nice to visit while she was there.

  “I always have to make two trips to New York; One for the conference and then after, to take Elaina. She loves the shopping.”

  Martier gave him and Tim a curious look.

  “The conference is for secretaries. It’s a way for us to show our appreciation.” Tim explained. Martier nodded but still didn’t see why the wives couldn’t come along, too.

  “Well I suppose dinner is ready, we better head back before Elaina accuses me of ruining it.” Dinner was indeed set out on the large dining room table. Martier had to blink at how perfectly set everything was. One day she and Tim would have Elaina and Jakob to dinner and she wanted to remember how to do it just as perfectly as Elaina had.

  “I hope we didn’t keep dinner waiting.” Jakob said while placing his lips on his wife’s cheek. She was placing a dish of potatoes on the table.

  “No, I’m just finishing up.” She replied without meeting anyone’s eyes. “Please, sit down and we can eat.”

  Martier cleared her throat after taking her seat. “I love the way you decorated your house. It truly is beautiful.”

  Elaina regarded her for a moment. “Corrine and I used the same designer. I can always give you her name. She’s top in the field. Kind of pricey but…” Elaina’s eyes moved to Tim who finally caught the cold wave. “I’m sure that won’t be an issue.”

  No one said anything after that. The meal was eaten mostly in silence. Tim and Jakob exchanged glances and Jakob shrugged almost imperceptibly.

  “Um, this chicken is delicious.” Tim said, attempting to thaw the chill in the air.

  Elaina smiled at him. “I’ll be sure to give the recipe to Martier. Maybe she can cook it for you sometime.” She looked at Martier. “You do cook, don’t you dear?”

  Tim frowned.

  Martier nodded quickly. “Not very well. Tim cooks much better than I do.” Her eyes moved quickly from Elaina to Tim. She guessed that Elaina didn’t much care for her
. Maybe they could just be friends with Tim because she had no intentions of ever returning.

  “Tim,” Elaina said suddenly. “May I see you in the kitchen?” She didn’t wait for a response but just jumped out of her chair angrily and stormed out of the room. Tim’s mouth stood agape. He glanced at Martier.

  “Give me a minute. I’m sorry.” He left the table and followed Elaina out of the room. Jakob was at a loss. He gave Martier a weak smile and then hurried after his wife and best friend.

  Elaina was leaning against the breakfast bar tapping her nails along the marble counter top. Her normally warm eyes glared at him with so much anger that Tim hesitated, causing Jakob to bump into his back.

 

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