Distracted as she was and staring at the cloud formations out of her window, she said nothing because she heard nothing.
“Earth to Violet…”
A hand passing in front of her face, however, startled her. “Huh?” Violet said, tearing her eyes away from the clouds. “Did you say something?”
She noticed the indulgent smile on his face and knew she had zoned out again. She really ought to stop doing that before Laurence thought her rude or worse, daft.
“A thousand dollars for your thoughts,” he said, lifting his whiskey neat to his lips.
It took all her effort not to roll her eyes, something she discovered he did not like. Instead she gave him a stern look and said, “Even though you have more money than can reasonably be spent in ten life times, I imagine even billionaires know that the going rate for wayward thoughts is a mere penny.”
He chuckled. “I always adjust for inflation.”
That time she did roll her eyes. “Honestly…you sound just like Vic…uh…” A faint blush caressed her cheeks as her thoughts fumbled onto Victor…once again. Since his phone call a few days back, she had thought of little else. She hated to hear the hurt in his voice and worse, to know it was all due to her. She had put it there, after all.
“As I suspected,” he replied.
“What do you mean?”
He placed his glass down and stared at her. “Might I tell you a story?”
Her eyes widened. “Um…”
“It’s about the best advice I didn’t take,” he said.
She made a funny face and shrugged. “Okay?”
He smiled again and began. “Long ago in a land not so far away…”
“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?” she said.
He laughed. “A little bit, but I do have a story to tell you which I hope will come in handy for you.”
“Like all good stories it comes with a moral. Willing to listen?”
“Okay.” She sat back and folded her hands on her lap.
“Coming out of college, I was full of ambition, and I knew the world was full of possibilities for me. I worked tirelessly and eventually I made a small name for myself and...”
Violet snorted. “Small, he says,” she mumbled.
“At first, yes. That was before I met Emily,” he retorted. “I never wanted anything more in my entire life when I met her…ironically through her father whom I was working for at the time. He hated me, which didn’t help.”
“Why would he hire you if he hated you?” she asked.
“No, I mean…he did like me for my work… until he discovered I was in love with his daughter.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I know how that goes,” she said, her thoughts going to Richard and her own father forbidding her to ever see him again. Of course, it hadn’t worked. “You obviously made him like you again… eventually?”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” Laurence replied shaking his head. “Nope. He wanted my head on a silver platter for the arrogance of thinking I had any right to even look twice at his daughter. So imagine his reaction when I told him I would marry her regardless of his objections.”
Violet stared at him with a fearful expression on her face, but then it softened. “Well, it might have been bad at first. I assume he fired you and then…he might have hired goons to drop you head first from a bridge or something, but you obviously weren’t rubbed out and you got the girl in the end.”
He laughed. “True, but you know, he gave me a bit of advice—frankly, everyone did back then, those who knew I wanted Emily and would do anything to get her. They all said I should give up and…”
Violet raised a hand then to stop the flow of words. “Did Emily have any say in this?”
He raised his eyebrows at the impertinent remark. “Of course! As difficult as it may seem to you, she actually liked me… a vast deal…loved me in fact!”
Violet smiled. “Just checking!”
“Oh, I see. Now you’re pulling my leg,” he muttered, stemming his volatile temper. “As I was saying, Emily’s father gave me the best advice I never took.”
“Which was…leave my daughter alone and you get to live another day?”
He grinned and picked up his glass again. “Pretty much.”
Violet waited for more, and then frowned. “Is that it? That’s the story?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “Good thing you can make your millions buying and selling buildings and stuff, cuz you ain’t gonna make no money as an engaging storyteller.”
He burst out laughing. “I didn’t think I needed to say more, but I clearly do,” he said. “Violet, everyone was telling me what I already knew, what I was thinking too, that I was not good enough for Emily.”
“Why did you believe you weren’t good enough for her?” she asked.
“Because…She was so…perfect. She was fearless, eclectic, intelligent, witty and stunningly pretty especially when she wasn’t trying. I knew she could find someone far better than me, smarter, more professional, better looking, richer—which was easy then because I had a drop in the bucket compared to her inheritance alone!”
“Ah, that may have been what her dad was worried about,” Violet said nodding her head.
“That you were after her money.”
He nodded too. “Absolutely, but you see, I didn’t know who she was. I actually thought she was the gardener’s daughter until her father confronted me. I remember I couldn’t speak for a full fifteen minutes when he did. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Violet’s mouth hung open. “Really?”
He nodded. “She never corrected the assumption, not for months! Pity that Paul wasn’t her father. The gardener, I mean. He actually did like me. I always saw her in the same paint splattered dress out on the beach, painting away. She didn’t look anything like an heiress. She looked like…a regular person and that is what I liked best about her. She was real…rarity indeed.”
Violet frowned again. “You must have been dense. The gardener’s daughter? Wasn’t she at her house, the mansion in Miami? What other person could be out there painting if not the owners of the place?”
“Weren’t you listening? She actually introduced me to Paul, the live-in gardener whose wife was the upstair maid… as her father and he went along with it. Why would I disbelieve her?”
“Oh…” Violet said, her eyes wide as they would go. “She lied to you then?”
“She could get away with it…always did,” he said bitterly. “I should have known she lied that last time…”
Violet watched him as he drifted to a faraway place, not a very nice place either, by the look on his face.
She cleared her throat to get him back to the present. “You said there was a moral to the story?”
He took a deep breath and sipped at his drink. “Yes, the advice….they told me to forget I ever met her and I didn’t take that advice and lived happily ever after…until…”
“Even fairytales eventually end, but we just never get to read about them. My Prince Charming died in a house fire and your Princess Emily…I’m sorry, Laurence,” she whispered.
“Yes, but we have to move on, don’t we?” he said stiffly, his ice-blue eyes piercing her like icicles. “And we come to the heart of the matter…your relationship with Romanoff.”
“I…uh…don’t really have one…not anymore,” she said.
“On whose advice?” he asked.
“I…don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do. Someone or something is telling you to give him up. My bit of advice is to not listen to those voices, whether from within or without.” Laurence downed the last of his drink and added, “Now all you have to decide is to take the advice I give and live a happy life with your new prince or take the advice of others and… don’t.”
Violet was quiet for a long while. “Yes, but the trick is knowing which is the good advice and which is the bad,” she said.
He smiled. “I trust you are wise enough to know that. I trust you know you should always listen to your heart.”
“Is that what you’re doing?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yes. I’m going to meet my daughter. Rance is eager to meet his big sister and…”
“You’ll see your first love again,” she said.
Again, he nodded. “So, what do you think?”
She gulped and looked out at the clouds again. She’d have to think about it…all the way back to Catalpa Valley.
©2014 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved
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