I picked up my jacket and my purse and said, “I loved your idea, but it would be rude of us to cancel so late.”
With a chuckle he said, “By all means then, let’s go. We wouldn’t want to be rude to someone who is always so sensitive to our feelings.” I let that one fall in the air as we headed down to the limousine.
Once again as we pulled up to the front of the estate I was both enthralled and sickened by it. I was also anxious. No matter how hard I tried, the idea of being in the same room with James made me a nervous wreck. We were shown into the big, formal dining room by the housekeeper. The table was huge with seating for at least twenty. Seth pulled out a chair for me at one end and took the seat on the other side of the table. That meant the spot between us at the head of the table was left open for his majesty the thief. I wasn’t looking forward to being in such close quarters with him. I took a deep breath and smiled at Seth. I guess at least I knew I had company in my misery. When James walked into the room I saw Seth’s posture stiffen and then he took a deep breath of his own before standing.
“Seth.” They shook hands. It was an oddly formal greeting I thought for a father and son who saw each other so often.
“You remember Erin?” Seth asked.
James looked at me. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to stand in his highness’s presence or not, so I stayed seated. “Mr. Hunter. Thank you for having me.”
He fixed his stare on me for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time before saying, “Miss Summers.” Then Seth waited for his father to take his seat before sitting down. I found myself hoping that we weren’t just going to have a repeat performance of the other night.
James tapped his spoon on the side of his glass and a young woman appeared in the same uniform the housekeeper had worn. She brought a bottle of wine and showed it to James before he gave her the go-ahead to pour. Then he said, “We’re ready to begin.” The young woman curtsied and left the room. I had been around wealthy people my entire life, but I’d never seen anything like this. This guy was a piece of work. “So Seth, tell me again how you found Miss… Summers, is it?” He knew it was, he’d just said it three minutes earlier.
I saw Seth’s Adam’s apple flex as he swallowed hard before saying, “She applied for the CMBO position. Harlan and I interviewed her….”
“No,” James stopped him. “I suppose I should ask her this, I wanted to know how she knew about the position being open.”
“I heard through a headhunter that I was familiar with,” I told him.
He raised an eyebrow and said, “Really? You hadn’t been watching the website, waiting for an opening to come up?”
“Father, what are you getting at?” Seth asked.
“Nothing at all, son. I’m getting to know your… lady friend. Isn’t that what you wanted?” James’s words were innocent enough but something about his facial expression told me that his intentions were not.
Seth didn’t say anything, but as he took a sip of his wine he looked at me over the top of his glass. I could see in his eyes that he thought the same. Luckily, the staff brought in our soup and we ate quietly for a bit with nothing but the sounds of the spoons echoing off of the high ceilings and painted stone walls. When James finished his, he tapped his glass again and the young woman came running. I was appalled by the rude way he treated his staff. He never looked directly at them when he issued orders and never once said thank you. After she left with our soup bowls he said, “Tell me… Erin… where did you grow up.”
“Mostly upstate, sir. I spent my teenage years in the Bronx.” It was the truth and not a truth I really wanted to discuss with James… but it was what I told Seth. I hadn’t wanted to tell too many lies.
He raised a gray eyebrow and said, “The Bronx? That’s a rough neighborhood. I suppose that’s the roughness I sense around your edges.”
“What?” James said, giving Seth a similar look to the one he used on his staff. “I’m making conversation.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “I am a little rough around the edges. Some of the things life threw at me were tough. I had to be tougher to overcome them.”
“So where are your parents?”
“They’re dead sir.”
“Too bad. Where did you go to school?”
The staff came in then with the entrée. When they were gone I said, “I went to MIT.”