Sweet Liar (Montgomery/Taggert 18) - Page 6

Aware that Mike was looking at her face, she sensed that he seemed to be pleased with what he saw, because the pressure on her arm lessened. Reluctantly, but with less anger, she followed him from room to room, seeing a dining room with a large table from India and a magnificent cinnabar screen against one wall, then a powder room papered with Edwardian caricatures.

Relaxing more every minute, she was shown a library paneled in oak with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books. She was impressed by the sheer number of books until she saw that, as far as she could tell, all the books dealt with American gangsters: their origins, biographies, even books on the economics of being a gangster. Looking away from the books with a grimace of disgust, she saw in the corner of the room, near a big desk heaped with papers, large white cartons labeled with the names Compaq and Hewlett Packard. Surprise showing on her face, she turned to look at him.

“Your rent,” he said in answer to her silent question. “A whole year’s rent is in those boxes, and I have no idea what to do with the damn things.”

“I could—” Samantha stopped herself, knowing she was feeling a computer aficionado’s heartfelt lurch at seeing powerful computer equipment sitting unused in boxes. It must be how a doll collector would feel at seeing boxes in an attic labeled, “Great-Granny’s dolls” and not being allowed to open the boxes.

“You wouldn’t by chance know which end of a computer to use, would you?” he asked innocently, knowing full well that she was a whiz with computers. He’d bought what Dave Elliot, in one of his letters, had told him Samantha said he should buy.

“I know a little about them,” she said vaguely, slowly turning away from the boxes.

Leading her upstairs, he showed her two bedrooms, both of them decorated with plants and art from around the world, one of them furnished with wicker chairs with pillows printed with ivy vines.

“You like it?” he asked, not attempting to control the eagerness in his voice.

Samantha smiled before she caught herself. “I do like it.”

When he grinned in response to her assertion, Samantha almost felt her breath leave her. He was even better looking when he smiled like that, such a smile of pleasure, untainted by any other emotion. Feeling that it had suddenly become very, very hot in the room, she started toward the door.

“Want to see your apartment now?”

Looking away from him, looking at anything but him, she nodded.

She followed him up the stairs to the third floor. When Michael opened the door to the first room, Samantha forgot all about New York and this man who unsettled her, for she could feel her father in this room. Her father had always said that if he had to start from scratch, he would decorate his house in green and burgundy—and this living room had been made for her father. A dark green couch had been placed at an angle to a green marble fireplace, with two big, comfortable-looking green-striped chairs across from the couch, all of them set on an Oriental rug handwoven in colors of green and cream. Around the room were pieces of dark mahogany furniture, not one piece having spindly legs that would make it easy for a man to knock over.

Walking to the mantel, Samantha saw several framed photos of her family: her mother, her parents together, her paternal grandfather, and herself from infancy to one year ago. Tentatively, she picked up a silver-framed photograph of her mother and, holding it, she looked about, closing her eyes for a moment. The presence of her father was so strong in the room she almost expected to turn and see him.

Instead, when she turned, she saw a stranger standing in the doorway—and he was frowning at her.

“You don’t like it,” Mike said. “This room’s not right for you.”

“It’s perfect for me,” Samantha said softly. “I can feel my father here.”

Mike frowned harder. “You can, can’t you?” As he spoke, he looked at the apartment with new eyes, seeing that it wasn’t a room for a pretty blonde female. This was a man’s room. Specifically, it was David Elliot’s room.

“The bedroom’s through here.” As Mike walked behind Samantha, he saw every corner through different eyes. His sister had decorated these rooms as well as the ones downstairs. At the time, Mike had bragged to Dave that all you had to do was tell his sister what you wanted the finished product to look like and she could do it. Dave had said he wanted his apa

rtment to look like an English gentleman’s club, and that’s what it looked like. Now Samantha looked as out of place amid the dark colors as she would have in an all-male club.

In the bedroom the walls were painted dark green and the windows leading onto a balcony were hung with curtains of green-and-maroon-striped heavy cotton velvet. The bed was a four-poster with no canopy, and the linens were printed with plaids and sporting dogs. Watching, he saw Samantha lovingly run her hand over the comforter. “Did my father ever stay here?”

“No,” Mike said. “He did everything by mail and telephone. He was planning to come here, but—”

“I know,” she said, looking at the dog prints on the wall. Being in this room was almost as though her father weren’t dead, almost as though he were still alive.

Mike showed her a wine safe next to the bedroom, then two bathrooms done in dark green marble, a sitting room with red and green plaid chairs and bookshelves filled with the biographies her father loved. On the fourth floor was a guest bedroom, and a study with a heavy oak desk and French doors opening onto a balcony. Opening the doors, she stepped out and saw the garden below.

She had not expected a garden in New York—certainly not a garden such as this one. In fact, looking at the lush green lawn, the two tall trees, the shrubs about to burst into bloom, and the beds of newly set annuals, she could almost forget she was in a city.

Turning back to look at Mike, her happiness showing on her face, she didn’t notice his frown. “Who takes care of the garden?”

“I do.”

“May I help? I mean, if I were to stay here, I’d like to help in the garden.”

His frown gave way to a slight smile. “I would be honored,” he said and should have been pleased by her words, but for the life of him he couldn’t figure out what was bothering him. He wanted her to stay, but now he was almost wishing she wouldn’t, and his ambivalence had something to do with the way she moved about the rooms—Dave’s rooms. Something about the way she was still gripping that photo of her mother to her breast made him want to tell her to leave.

“Would you like to see the kitchen?”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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