The lovely views of colorful, tree-covered hills had Violet so enthralled that she hadn’t notice when Victor turned onto a long and winding dirt road.
“It’s gorgeous up here!” she gushed upon seeing the large lake whose water glistened in the brilliant sunshine and reflected the vibrant neon yellows, oranges and reds of the trees surrounding it.
“Especially during autumn, it is. The colors seem brighter than usual this year,” Victor said.
“That must be because I’m here!” she said with a gleeful laugh.
“Must be,” he agreed, just as he arrived at end of the road and the best little B&B in upstate New York. “We’re here.”
“Oh, Vladimir, they’re coming!” Lucy said, springing from her rocker.
“I can see that,” he said somewhat irritably as he straightened his enormous, creaky-boned form from his own chair and watched the dust cloud emerge from the trees—a sure sign they were getting company.
“I did tell you he was bringing a lady friend,” she said.
“Only a dozen times,” he replied. “Bout time he brought up a girl to meet us. Boy’s been alone too long. Ain’t good for a man, uh?”
“Precisely why I want you to be nice! I won’t have you frightening her away,” Lucy chastised.
“Would I do that?” he retorted, just as the truck came into view, the dusty cloud slowly settling just behind it.
“My point is I get the feeling she’s not just any girl, so we have to be on our best behavior,” she replied already waving and stepping off the porch to greet them.
“Course she’s not or he would have brought up a dozen girls just like her by now. What I wanna know is what was he waiting for, uh?”
Vladimir from the bottom step watched his nephew help the little lady out of the truck—lifting her right out and placing her gently on the ground. “Hmm, he might have been waiting for her to grow up some, uh?”
“Oh, hush!” Lucy said, before she lifted her arms to Victor and called, “You’re here at last!”
“Aunt Lucy, as beautiful as ever,” Victor said embracing her fiercely. “I’ve missed you. I’m sorry I’ve stayed away so long.”
“But you’re here now!” Lucy said smiling at him, then shifting her eyes to Violet who stayed by the truck looking shyly out of place. “I get the feeling you’ve had good reason to stay away.”
“No, not to stay away. Just someone special to take up every bit of free time I’ve had,” he said quietly.
She laughed and gave him a kiss on both cheeks before releasing him. "You look so happy. That's all that counts."
“You just gonna ignore your old uncle?” Vladimir grumbled.
“No, Sir,” Victor said going to him and getting the usual big bear hug from him. “Good to see you, Uncle Vlad. How have you been?”
“Don’t worry ‘bout me,” he said waving him off. “Let’s meet your little lady.”
“Yes, bring her over and introduce us, quick, before I faint from the anticipation!” Lucy said.
“She’s a tiny sprite, ain’t she? She is of age, right?” Vladimir joked.
“Vladimir! Honestly, do I have to smack you?” Lucy hissed as Victor laughed and motioned for Violet to come to them.
Nervous as anything, Violet stepped forward to meet Victor’s family noticing as she did so, that Victor was dwarfed by his uncle and that his aunt was nearly as tall as him. Vladimir was quite literally the biggest man she’d ever seen and Lucy was every bit as tall and imposing as Jocelyn.
Needless to say, Violet felt like a shrimp, and not even a jumbo sized one!
“Hello,” she squeaked.
“Well, aren’t you darling?” Lucy said enfolding her in her inviting arms. “I’m betting we’ll be best chums in no time.”
“I’d like that,” Violet said.
“Where’s the rest of her?” Vladimir said in his booming voice which seemed to echo into the surrounding hills.
“Vladimir!” Lucy said.
“I was wondering the same thing,” Violet replied. “Maybe if I stay here long enough, I’ll grow some. I wouldn’t mind. I’m sure I shrunk on the way here.”
Vladimir threw back his head and howled with laughter. “Oh, I like her! But I better not give her a hug, uh? Might break her!”
“Just a tiny one perhaps?” Violet said. “Victor hasn’t broken me yet.”
How could he resist? Violet yelped as she was lifted right off her feet and gently squeezed. Once she was back on solid ground she glanced up at Victor and audibly whispered, “I kinda like them.”
“Good,” he laughed.
“Come in and have some tea, then I’ll show you to your room. It’s not the best one we have, but I’m hoping you’ll be comfortable,” Lucy said while leading the way into her home.
“Nonsense, Aunt Lucy. Every room is the best room and you know it,” Victor said, his arm possessively around Violet.
To Violet’s astonishment, tea meant high tea in the English style with tiny sandwiches cut in triangles, wonderfully fragrant tea and every conceivable type of pastry imaginable. It was certainly a good thing she was famished, because she wanted to try all of it.
“Ooh, Victor! You have to try this one. It is so yummy!” Violet said, holding a cinnamon scone to his lips so he had no choice but to take a bite. “Is that not to die for?”
“Hmm, one of my old time favorites,” Victor said.
“You mean you’ve had this before?”
“Many times. It’s Aunt Lucy’s specialty.”
“Oh, I have to have that recipe,” Violet said, taking another bite.
Lucy sprung from her seat and rushed to the kitchen.
“I didn’t mean right this minute, Aunt Lucy!” Violet called after her.
“Oh, don’t mind her. She never sits still for very long anyway. I think she’s afraid she might never get back up again,” Vladimir said, smiling at Violet. “Victor, my boy, I think you have a good one here, uh?”
“I think so too,” Victor replied.
“Will we be hearing wedding bells any time soon…preferably before I die?” Vladimir asked.
“Vladimir!” Lucy said, coming back in with a notepad, pen and her recipe book. “I can’t leave you alone for a second, can I?”
“I thought you knew that by now,” Vladimir retorted, winking at Violet who giggled, albeit nervously.
“Horrid man! That is not the kind of thing you bring up in polite conversation,” Lucy continued to chastise.
“I’m getting old and I won’t be around for long, so I thought I’d light a fire under their butts. What’s wrong with that, uh?”
“You mustn’t say that,” Violet said, suddenly looking so sad. “You can’t leave this world now. I only just met you.”
Vladimir smiled. “Well, little lady, I’ll try my best to stick around some, uh?”
After Lucy wrote out several recipes for Violet, and they ate and drank to their fill, Victor went out to the truck and retrieved their overnight bags. Then Lucy led them upstairs to their room. As she chatted about the other guests with Victor, Violet noticed this wasn’t at all like the last hotel room they shared. It was sweetly decorated, spacious, inviting and comfy looking. Indeed it was perfect except…
Her eyes strayed to the one bed she was expected to share with Victor. Her heart jumped into her throat. She recalled too vividly that she had only just told Victor she loved him. Knowing men, he probably assumed that implied…well, she simply wasn’t ready for that!
“But, dear,” Heidi whispered to her. “Do you not recall you already shared a bed with Victor and nothing happened then, did it?”
“That’s debatable,” Violet mumbled.
“I’ll leave you to freshen up a bit,” Lucy said. “If you need anything, please let me know. I will not have unhappy guests!” She then closed the door and left them alone.
Victor turned to her and his smile instantly vanished. “What is it?” he asked.
“I…I didn’t say anything,” Violet said, wringing her hands together as she walked to the window. “It’s so beautiful here.”
“Violet, talk to me. What’s got you so upset…oh.”
He went to her, placed his hands on her shoulders and stared out of the window. “It’s the room, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s…it’s lovely,” she said.
“How many times do I have to tell you? You’re a horrible liar, so you ought never do it, especially with me,” he said as he turned her around to face him. “It's the fact that it is only one room and you don’t want to share it with me, do you?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to…it’s just…it’s not right,” she said in a tiny voice.
“But, Violet, we already have before. What would it matter if we did again?”
“Not on purpose. It was an accident then, but this,” she said, biting down on her bottom lip. “This is… deliberate and… just not...”
Victor sighed heavily then wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on the top of her head. “Did you lie to me?”
“When you said you love me.”
She hesitated briefly, then shook her head.
“Then you don’t really love me?”
“No! I mean yes, I do, but that’s…an emotional thing, not…not…”
She shut her eyes feeling her cheeks turn a blistering red and she nodded.
He smiled to himself remembering perfectly that night they spent together. He knew, however, he better not mention it for their sake right now. “Sweetie, recall if you will, last time we shared a bed nothing happened,” he said.
She opened her mouth to protest, but shut it again. Did he truly consider it nothing when they awoke in each others’ arms completely devoid of clothing?
“Wouldn’t it be best to pretend that never happened? Victor obviously doesn’t know about it, or he would have mentioned it. Don’t you think?” Heidi suggested.
“True,” Violet muttered. She stared up at him and nodded ever so slightly.
“If you still don’t trust me I could…”
“Don’t say it! You are not sleeping on the floor,” she said.
“I was going to say the bathtub, but…”
“Now you’re teasing me,” she said pushing away from him.
“I’m not. If you don’t want me to stay here with you, I won’t. Although, you should know by now I won’t make you do anything you expressly don’t want to do.”
“That’s true enough, dear,” Heidi whispered. “He’s always been a perfect gentleman and there is nothing saying he won’t continue to be so. His mother would kill him, you know!”
Violet suddenly giggled.
“What’s so funny?” Victor said.
Violet shook her head and threw her arms around him. “I’m just being silly, is all.”
“So,” he said, slightly confused. “I can stay?”
Her answer was a kiss. Then she smiled and said, “Just remember, your mother will kill you if you’re not a perfect gentleman. She’s watching, remember?”
He laughed. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll remember that.”
“That’s my good boy,” Heidi said.
Victor looked around, a bit spooked. He could have sworn he just heard his mother’s voice.