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Installment 7

 

"All right, Lee, that seems to be it." Bill Adams said to his client. "I'm glad Andi gave me the specifics on the phone yesterday."
"Thanks for doing everything so quickly, Bill." Lee shook the older man's hand.
"Take care and I'll talk to you soon." the lawyer said before disappearing into the hallway.
"Thank you, Lee."
"Andi, you've done so much for me..." he gazed at her, his voice full of emotion.
"You don't owe me anything, Lee. Everything I've done has been because I care about you. I wouldn't do anything any differently if you were poor." she smoothed his hair off his forehead.
He cleared his throat and changed the subject. "How are you and Rick getting along?"
She looked away, uncomfortable with the subject of his brother. "We hardly see each other and even then, we barely speak."
"I was kind of hoping that some of your finer qualities would rub off on him. He needs to open up and live again." he frowned.
"I've tried but he's very stubborn." Biting her lower lip, she plunged in. "What happened to him? Who hurt him so badly?"
"I wish I knew. But whatever it was, it happened before our big fight over Emily." he murmured.
"Ah, yes. Emily of the 'oh please just buy me this' world." she grinned, remembering Lee's stories about the greedy young woman who wanted to marry him seven years before. "Rick was wise to make you see her for who she really was."
"So true. Only at the time, I thought he was trying to control my life. So," he said cheerfully. "Has Rick been to see the old house, yet?"
She shook her head, making her hair swirl around her shoulders and tumble over her forehead. "He hasn't even asked for the keys yet."
"Well, now that it's officially been willed to him, maybe he'll want to go."
"Maybe." her voice was uncertain as she got to her feet.
"Andi, are you all right?" concern laced his voice.
She paced to the dresser, then back to the chair. "Yes. I've just had a little trouble sleeping lately."
"Have you been writing?" he asked hopefully.
"Some." Her smile was apologetic. "But nothing very good."
"Don't force it. You know it has to come naturally." he reminded her.
"Yes, you're right." she nodded, making her curls bob briskly.
"Has... has Rick been asking you anymore questions?" he changed the subject again.
"No, why?"
"I'm just curious. Whenever you're here together, I see him studying you. Like you're a puzzle piece and he isn't sure where you fit." he paused. "You haven't told him..." his voice trailed off.
"No! No." she repeated. "I haven't told him anything."
"Good." Relaxing against the pillows, he took a her hand. "You deserve only respect and admiration from him."

 

Andi was sitting at the kitchen table, paying the bills, when she saw it. There were a few overseas phone calls on the phone bill, including the call she had made to Rick. All of the calls but one were to the same number, Rick's office. But the remaining number was unfamiliar and she was hesitant to ask Rick about it. It wasn't the cost that bothered her, it was mere curiosity. Could it be a friend, a girlfriend?
The next afternoon, she broached the subject with Lee.
"Lee, do you think Rick has... attachments at home?" she asked him casually.
"What do you mean?" his forehead puckered in thought.
"Well, I got the phone bill the other day and there are several overseas numbers." she began.
"They must be his work phone."
"No, there's a different number." she tapped her finger against her cheek.
Lee's eyes lit up. "Maybe he has a girlfriend! I bet that's it! I'll ask him about it tomorrow."
Her heart sank as she pictured a petite and sophisticated young woman with blond hair and a generous chest.
"Wouldn't that be great, Andi?" he asked happily.
"Terrific." her voice was flat.
"Yea, I'll talk to him tomorrow."

 

"Andrea!" The bellow came just before the slamming of the front door. "Andrea!" Rick took the steps two at a time.
Before she could get to her feet, he had thrown open the door to her studio. He stood in the doorway, his chest heaving and his eyes glittering.
She stumbled to her feet and back away from the doorway. "What happened?"
"I think you know what happened." he growled, advancing toward her.
"Lee...?"
"Lee did one hell of a job impersonating an investigator." his anger oozed out of every pore.
"What are you talking about?" She took another step back, holding her hand out as if to stop his movement.
His voice was low and dangerous. "If you wanted to know about my love-life, Andrea, why didn't you ask me?"
She blushed. "I was wondering about an unfamiliar phone number on the bill, Rick. I have no interest in your love-life."
"Are you sure about that?"
He was close enough for her to see the heat in his eyes. "Quite sure."
Stretching out one arm, he touched a finger to her cheek. "Why didn't you ask me about the number? I would have told you."
She pursed her lips but didn't answer.
"Perhaps you didn't want to hear the answer." he murmured, running his finger along her jaw then down her neck.
Narrowing her eyes, she brushed his hand away. "I really couldn't care less what your answer would have been. I merely mentioned the bill to Lee and he got all excited that you might actually have a life back home. I, however, sincerely doubted it."
"Why can't you admit that you're curious about me? I'll admit that I'm curious about your relationship with my brother." He didn't miss the slight tensing of her shoulders. "After all, you aren't his regular type." Circling around her, he touched her mop of red curls. "Wrong hair color, wrong intelligence level..." his voice trailed off as his gaze raked over her large frame and small bust.
She folded her arms over her chest and glared at him. "So? People change."
"So you say."
"They can!" she said vehemently.
"Prove it." he challenged her.
"Fine. What do you want me to do? Change you into a more trusting, open person?" she taunted.
"That would be a waste of your time and energy." he said flatly.
"I bet I could change you without you even realizing what was happening." she said confidently.
"Forget it."
"Afraid you'll lose?"
"Hardly." his voice was dry.
"Then what are you worried about?"
He thrust out his jaw. "Fine. But you'll be wasting your time."
"So you've said."
He turned to leave the room. "Oh, and Andrea?"
"Yes?"
"I was phoning my housekeeper."
She smiled sweetly at his back. "That's nice."
When he glanced at her over his shoulder, her face was carefully blank.

 

An hour later, Andi wandered downstairs to get something to drink. Rick was at the kitchen table with a mess of papers spread out around him.
"Do you want something to drink?" she asked politely as she poured herself some juice.
"No, thank you."
She wandered over to stare at the papers he was studying. "Is this a case?"
"Yea."
She leaned over his shoulder and pointed to a sentence. "What does this mean?"
He closed his eyes, trying to ignore the soft hair brushing against his cheek. If he turned his head, his nose would be buried in the sweet-smelling curls. He felt her place her hand on his shoulder to brace herself and when she leaned forward, he could feel her small breast pressed against his shoulder blade.
"Rick?"
Her breath caressed his cheek and when he opened his eyes, her face was mere inches away. "What?" he rasped.
"What does it mean?"
"What does what mean?" he asked dumbly.
She tapped a finger against the paper. "This."
He turned blindly and read the sentence. "It means the guy has been jailed twice and paroled once."
"Oh." She straightened and stepped back. "Well, I just spoke to Lee. He says he's awfully tired and not up to visitors at all. Perhaps tonight is a good night to go see the Tamarack house." she suggested.
"I have plans for tonight." he said quickly.
"Oh." she tried to hide her disappointment. "Another time, then." Turning, she headed for the foyer.
"Andrea, wait!" he glanced ruefully at his papers, then back at her. "Actually, I'd rather see the house than stare at these papers."
"Are you sure?" her voice was full of uncertainty.
"Positive." he nodded and got to his feet.
"Let me just grab the keys." she called, going into Lee's study. Returning, she held the keys out. "Voila, we're off."

 

"Lee told me you don't like this house." Rick said as he parked the car at the top of the circular driveway.
"Oh, no!" she exclaimed softly. "It's a beautiful house full of wonderful memories and precious treasures! But they aren't my memories and they aren't my treasures."
"But the treasures could have been yours." he corrected her.
"They might have been mine physically but they wouldn't mean anything to me. The things that I speak of would be so much more precious to you because of the memories attached to them." Without another word, she opened the car door and got out.
He followed her, waiting as she unlocked and opened the door. "Lee said you were uncomfortable here. He said you felt out of place."
She shivered and turned on the lights in the marbled foyer. "It's much too massive for just two people. This house needs to be filled with the love and laughter that comes with a happy family."
Again he followed her as she wandered into the study on the left. "Aren't you and Lee a happy family?"
She stiffened and returned to the foyer. "Lee and I needed to be closer to the hospital. We didn't need all this." she waved her hand toward the massive circular stairway.
"Andrea..."
"Why all the questions, Rick? This is the chance to revisit your youth. Seek your memories and relive your past."
"The past should remain where it is... behind us." he said darkly.
"Well, this house and all its contents are legally willed to you."
"I just don't understand you, Andrea."
She shrugged. "Few people do."
"Does Lee?"
"Does he what?" she hedged, turning her back on him.
"Never mind." Rick said softly before starting up the stairs.
She waited until he disappeared into a bedroom before walking quietly toward the back of the house. The kitchen was just as she remembered it, big, beautiful and clean. Off to one side of the kitchen was the servant's quarters.
"Andrea?"
"Hmm?" she walked to the big bay window overlooking the backyard and the swimming pool.
"Where's the dust?"
"Pardon?"
"The dust." he repeated. "There isn't any dust anywhere."
"Oh?" she said innocently.
"Are you and Lee paying someone to clean the house?"
"Not exactly."
He threw open the french doors leading out to the patio. "The lawn and the garden are exquisite."
"Thank you." the words slipped out before she could stop them. "Ooops."
He turned back to her with a curious look on his face. "So, my guess was right. Do you do this all by yourself?"
She smiled sheepishly. "What can I say? I just love the riding mower."
"How long have you been doing this?" he swept his hand out around him.
"Since we let the staff go."
"And what about after you guys moved out?"
"I have a lot of spare time." she said vaguely.
"How can you bear to give all this up after you've worked so hard! I can't remember when the garden has looked lovelier." he asked.
"This is your home, Rick."
"It was your home for a while, too. And since then, you've continued to care for it..."
"I couldn't bear to see it fall to pieces. It really is a grand old place." she said fondly. "I keep telling myself that someday it will be filled with a family."
"Yours and Lee's?"
She blinked slowly and when her lids lifted, her eyes were shuttered. "The only thing that hasn't been done this season is the pool. It needs to be repainted but since I had no plans to fill it, I didn't bother to have it done." she said flatly.
"Andrea..."