Victor got as far as closing over the laptop before the phone rang…again.
“Victor, Mrs. Kendal for you. She sounds frantic for a change,” Ella said rolling her eyes.
He let out a muffled curse before he snapped up the receiver and put it to his ear. “Hello, Carla, how may I help you? Carla…Carla! Calm down…no, it won’t come to that…Carla, do yourself a favor and stop watching Court-TV. Those are extreme cases. No, you are not going to prison…yes, I can guarantee it.”
He glanced at his watch and nearly groaned aloud as he listened to the drama queen go on and on in near hysterics. He needed to leave. He had a nagging feeling Violet needed him.
That nagging feeling was Richard, of course. He had been whispering warnings in his ear for the past hour.
“Come on, cowboy,” Richard said frantically. “Violet is more important than that rich old biddy. Tell her to sell her fricken diamonds, pay her damned taxes and hang up. Violet needs you! You have to protect her from a rapist!”
Victor almost dropped the phone. “Carla, I have to go…if you feel that way call AJ. I’m sure he’ll do as good a job as I would…yes, probably better,” he said, just barely refraining from telling her he had no desire to hold her hand or time kiss her ample ass. “Yes, you do that. I wish you luck.” He hung up before she started with the predictable, “Why? Do I need luck?”
“Ella, I’m leaving and I don’t want to be bothered unless it’s the ghost of my mother with an important message from the grave. Got me?”
Ella actually laughed and waved him off just as the phone rang again. The last thing Victor heard was, “You’ve reached the law offices of Victor Romanoff. No, I’m sorry, he’s in a rather important meeting at the moment and cannot be contacted until tomorrow morning…”
Victor could’ve kissed her, but he had to rush to Violet.
“Rapist? And he’s free why?” he muttered to himself.
“Because date rape was never reported back in the day, not in this small town,” Richard told him. “He’s after Violet! Hurry up, will ya?”
Victor hit the gas and within minutes he pulled into the parking lot of Mio Caro and spotted her straight away and to his horror she was cradling baby Anise while Cody jumped into his father’s car.
“Perfect!” he muttered through gritted teeth as he parked and jumped out of the car.
“I did tell ya!” Richard yelled, following him.
“Is what I hear true, Violet? You won’t be working here anymore?” Harry said, holding the car door open for Cody.
“Yes, I have a new job at Weston Botanical garden. I start next week,” Violet replied, unable to keep her excitement out of her voice.
“I suppose this is a good thing?” he asked, buckling Cody in. “I mean, a good opportunity for you?”
“Yes, I’ll be the director of the children’s outdoor garden. It’s a dream job for me. It combines the two areas I’m good at, kids and plants. I’m quite excited about it actually. It will be a lot of fun…more fun than any job should be,” she said laughing.
Harry approached her but didn’t take Anise from her. Instead he stared, his expression intense. “I’m glad for you, but I’m sorry for the kids, for my kids especially. Anise has flourished under your care and Cody’s happier with the couple of hours he spends here after school each day. After what happened with Cindy, I never thought that would happen. We can thank you for it,” he said.
“Oh, no, I didn’t do anything really. All of us here…”
“Don’t give me that. It was you. They only talk about Miss Violet. They’re going to miss you. We’re going to miss you,” he said, a rueful smile on his face.
Violet took a step back . “Here, Anise, go to your daddy,” she said nervously, holding out the baby.
He took his child and made certain he brushed his hand against Violet’s.
“I’m sure I’ll see the kids here and there. It’s a small town and Jocelyn’s already planning a trip to the garden with the kids. I’ll have a constant flow of school kids of all ages coming to plant the vegetable gardens and the flower beds. I’m sure Cody’s class will be there soon enough,” she said waving at Cody who looked up at hearing his name.
“The kids aren’t the only ones who want to see you,” Harry said, stepping closer.
She wished he wouldn’t stare at her like that. It made her want to run in the other direction. She took another step back and to her horror he took two steps towards her. Her heart battered the walls of her chest like a frightened bird straining to escape its cage.
“Violet, let me take you to din…”
“Violet, my love,” Victor said suddenly appearing. He wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. “I’m sorry I’m late, Sweetheart.”
“Victor!” she said, staring up at him in surprise and supreme relief.
“Forgive me. Got caught up on the phone,” Victor said. He turned his attention to the man holding the baby and tried not to show his disgust and contempt for him. Instead he smiled. “Hello, Anise. Is this your daddy? I’m Victor Romanoff.”
“Harry Colt,” Harry mumbled, looking as if all his hopes had just been dashed.
“Hi, Captain Victor!” Cody shouted, waving from the car seat into which he was strapped.
“At ease, Private Cody,” Victor said, saluting the boy.
“You know my kids?” Harry said, stunned.
“I come by every so often and play army commando with the older boys,” Victor said. “Well, whenever Violet allows me to,” he said kissing her again. “But anyway, we won’t keep you, Harry. I’m sure you want to get your kids home. Bye-bye, Anise. See you soon, Private Cody!” With that he maneuvered Violet away from them and they both breathed easy.
“Victor…I don’t know what to say,” Violet mumbled, her heart still dancing the conga.
“You don’t have to say anything. I was just returning the favor,” he replied.
“The favor?” she repeated.
“You helped me last night with Silvia, so I thought I’d help you get rid of Harry,” he said, watching her carefully. “At least I thought you might want to be rescued. He looked like he wanted to ask you out.”
“Oh, yes! He was just about to. You saved me.”
“So, I was right. You don’t want to date him?”
“Good. I don’t think it a good idea for you to be around that guy,” he said, his expression serious. “He may be a friend of yours…”
“No! He was never my friend. I don’t like him at all,” she adamantly said.
“Glad to hear it.”
She blinked up at him. “Why?” she said curiously.
“I’ve heard bad things about that man.”
“What do you know?” she said, her eyes wide.
“Let’s just say, if I had any way of getting proof against him, he’d be in jail quicker than you can change a diaper,” Victor said.
“So you know…but who told you? I didn’t think anybody knew except …did Freddy tell you? I didn’t think Rich…”
“No, it wasn’t Freddy,” Victor said evasively. How in the world did he know? Was it intuition? He didn’t know how but he knew it must be true because Violet knew it too. A frightening thought entered his head. He placed both hands on her shoulders and stared at her his expression anguished.
“Violet, you don’t have to answer me if you’d rather not, but I have to ask. Did that man ever hurt you? Did he ever do anything to you, perhaps when you were young, maybe in high school.”
“Me? No!” she said, shaking her head emphatically.
He could tell she wasn’t lying so he smiled. “I’m so glad to hear that. If he had, I couldn’t say what I’d do to him.”
“Sometimes you sound so much like Richard it’s…it’s almost scary. He was the one that told me to stay clear of him, you know,” she said in a whisper.
“So, Richard knew. How?” the lawyer in him asked.
“Well, Richard told me that while he was at a party at Roni Panara’s house--she was the head cheerleader and he was dating her at the time and…”
“Wait a minute. He bothered dating someone other than you?” he said incredulously.
She giggled. “He told me later on he was trying to get me jealous. Silly boy! Like I go around coveting other people’s boyfriends! But anyway, Richard knew Harry. They were on the football team together and he always heard him talking about how he was going to get me to go out with him.”
“Richard told you this?” he said, disbelievingly.
She nodded. “But that was going on for years. That day at the party he saw Harry half dragging a girl up the stairs. He thought she was drunk enough that if she was left by herself she could die from alcohol poisoning. A couple of kids had almost died that way, so he followed them. When he found them he saw Harry undressing her and she was barely conscious.”
“Then what happened?”
“Richard beat the crap out of him and told him if he ever did that again, he’d call the police,” she said.
“Did he ever do it again?” Victor said.
“Not likely. The girl he was with was Cindy,” Violet said, shrugging.
“Is she someone I should know?”he asked, frowning.
“No, I mean….they dated for years after that and eventually got married. Cindy was Cody and Anise’s mother.”
“So, are you saying he didn’t make a habit of drugging girls for his own pleasure? She was his girlfriend?”
She shrugged. “I really don’t know if he did or not, but Richard must have thought so or he wouldn’t have been so adamant that I stay away from him, don’t you think?”
“What I think is…” he said, his indulgent smile back in place. “Richard didn’t want to lose you to him, so he embellished on the story to scare you away from him. I couldn’t blame him, though.”
She gaped at him. “That couldn’t be it…do you to think?” she said, looking skeptical.
“Sounds like it may have been. Richard may have wanted to make you jealous with the cheerleader and wound up jealous of Harry who…”
“But I never liked him…ever!” she said then shook her head. “Regardless. You saved me from him and that’s all I care about. So thank you!”
He laughed and hugged her. Looking over the top of her head he saw an unnerving sight. It seemed everyone from the day care center stood watching them as if they were a soap opera gone live. “You may not want to thank me for long,” he said grimly, releasing her. “As a matter of fact, you might want to punch me.”
Violet’s eyes widened. “Why do you say that?”
“Well, there’s a large group of people who are now under the impression we’re dating and not just those we met at Weston last night. Now Harry thinks it and…your friends may too. They’ve been watching us…maybe the whole time. I don’t know for sure. I only just noticed them.”
Violet paled and slowly turned to the front door where Jocelyn stood front and center beaming and surrounded by the others who merrily waved at them. She waved back forcing a smile before turning back to Victor.
“Want to kill me now?” he asked, in an apologetic tone.
To his surprise she smiled and shook her head. “What did you once tell me, Victor? We can’t control what others think. What matters is what we know is true or something like that,” she said. “I think it’s time I did that and just get over what others may say about me.”
He laughed and opened passenger door on his car. “You know something, Violet? I think we just reached a milestone which requires celebration. May I take you out to a nice dinner?”
She shook her head again. “How about we go home and I cook us something special instead?”
“You gotta know I ain’t saying no to that!” he said.