Secrets in the Annex

Ann Cory


Chapter One

There was a hint of mischief in the air as Rand stepped outside, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. A scent that made him restless, pensive. For a brief moment, old memories resurfaced of his parent’s death and the aloneness he’d felt ever since. He didn’t know what made him think about them, except that the same scent had lingered around him back then. Every day after had been about putting one foot in front of the other, looking forward, and hoping one day to heal. He was still questioning where his life was going after all this time, maybe today would be different. If the day held any surprises for him, he would gladly welcome them. Anything to get away from his mundane routine.

He pulled a T-shirt over his head and smoothed out a few strands of his dark hair, making sure the back part lay flat. Often he had a small patch of unruly hair with which to contend; it had resulted in name calling from peers in school. He opened the garage door, grabbed his gray one-piece coveralls from a hook on the wall, and zipped it up over his shirt and jeans. Rand stuffed his feet into a pair of work boots and laced them up. He spent the next ten minutes loading his old, reliable van with all the materials he needed for the next few days and made sure he had plenty of cash for a motel in case the job took longer than expected.

As he finished loading in the supplies, Rand realized his once-white van was in dire need of a thorough cleaning. In his line of work, a chimney sweep, he was used to being covered in soot and grime, but he didn’t think he needed to advertise it quite so bluntly on the road. After this job was finished, he would take off a little time and spruce up the van.

Rand hopped inside and looked out the rearview mirror before pulling out of the driveway. The van seemed extra stuffy today; he rolled down the window, his lungs immediately thanking him for the cool breeze. He glanced along the well-manicured homes around him, watching the children scramble across the lawns with toys and balls loaded up in their arms. Families stood together on the porches sipping drinks and laughing. A pang of loneliness nipped at his conscience, and he glanced at the empty seat next to him.

He couldn’t deny a part of him would rather look over and catch the smile of a special someone, or feel a soft hand enclosed within his own. If he could find somewhere to settle down, he’d have an easier time making attachments, but he was a free spirit and was still looking for a place, which made him feel at home. For now, all he knew was where home wasn't.

A shiver ran along his spine. There was someone out there for everyone. He believed that theory, but would it be too late before he had the chance to experience such closeness? His vision blurred briefly, and he wiped at a tear before it had a chance to make its descent. With a quick flick of the radio, he sat up straighter in the seat and focused away from his fear of loneliness, to the scenic drive to the country.

About twenty minutes out, Rand noticed the sky changing, becoming marred with gray clouds, no doubt proposing rain. Before his move to London over a year ago, he had dealt with six months of snow every year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and had figured the change to rain would be a blessing in disguise.

Now, having experienced the endless showers of London, he realized his next move would be better served in the tropics, somewhere with a beach, an ocean, and plenty of sunshine. Hawaii, Anguilla, Martinique, or Seychelles sounded perfect. Of course, he’d happily contend with a large forest of old growth trees, surrounding himself with nature. There was something about the slow, comforting pace of being in the great outdoors that intrigued him. His was a gentle existence, and the fast-paced life in the city was often challenging. Rand figured a job in construction would be a nice change; he’d always been knowledgeable about houses and structures. He turned on the radio and readied himself for the four-hour drive.

It was almost noon when Rand slowed down and turned onto the Ruthferd’s driveway. His destination, the large sixteenth-century bed and breakfast, looked breathtaking, as always. He did a quick check in the rearview mirror, making sure his hair was behaving, then rolled up the window and climbed out of the van. Lush poplar trees lined the cobblestone walkway, taking him toward the front entrance of the large inn.

As Rand jogged up the short flight of stone steps, young Thomas Ruthferd, dressed to the nines in his tweed jacket and matching pants, came out the door to greet him. If it weren’t for his size and chubby cheeks, Rand would easily mistake the ten-year-old boy for a stylish young man.

“Thomas, please let Rand in, don’t just stand there gawking at him,” called a woman’s voice from the partially open door.

“Just a minute, mother, I have to ask him a question,” the boy whined. He cleared his throat and managed a concerned look in his eyes. “Will you shake my hand today, Mr. Rand? I need all the luck you can give me, so I may come across some money.”

Rand let out a hearty laugh and thrust his hand toward the boy.

“What is it you wish to buy this time?”

“There is a brilliant new train set at Boxie Barker’s Toy Shop, and Father said he’d pitch in half. Only half, Mr. Rand! Can you believe such a thing? Somehow I must find the rest of that money today, or I simply may burst!”

Rand couldn’t stop laughing. Thomas had a wonderful spirit, and he saw a bit of himself in the boy. Thomas' mother appeared at the door.

“That’s enough, Thomas," Dahlia Ruthferd said. "My apologies. Do come in. I’m afraid my son will never give up on the notion that a chimney sweep brings luck from a simple shake of their hand.” Dahlia ushered Rand inside.

“I don’t mind, Mrs. Ruthferd," Rand told her. "It’s a rather nice idea to imagine. Of course, you’d probably catch me shaking my own hands if I thought it really worked.”

Dahlia led Rand through the house. She laughed and picked off imaginary lint from the dining room chairs. She was a short, portly woman who loved to wear oversized floral dresses and frumpy bonnets, to help cover her ‘London gray hairs,’ as she always joked.

“I’m certain it’s going to rain later this afternoon, so we will stop at the park first for a stretch of the legs around the lake, and then go to the other side of town to dine with some dear friends of ours this evening. They are celebrating an anniversary, and we need to find a suitable gift. Twenty-five years of marriage is quite a feat these days, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, I most certainly would.” Rand glanced around the attractive home and wondered what people who had everything considered a suitable gift.

When he first came to clean the stylish bed and breakfast, he was greatly intimidated by its elaborate state. The décor was vintage with a subtle hint of classic Victorian thrown in, each room furnished like an extravagant museum. He feared knocking over valuable statues and shattering precious family heirlooms. Now he moved around more comfortably in the expansive sitting room, complete with glass tables, rugs, and fine porcelain vases.

“Wonderful to see you today,” Ben Ruthferd bellowed from atop the staircase.

As usual, his attire was a stuffy-looking suit, though Rand would never openly say so. Ben was a shrewd businessman and believed that one should always look his best, regardless of the planned activities of the day. He made a slow, deliberate descent down the stairs and checked for dust along the banister. Times like this, Rand felt underdressed and in need of a shower.

“Thank you for coming out on such short notice,” boomed Mr. Ruthferd, his mustache quivering above his lips.

“I was surprised to be called back here so soon. I take it my last cleaning job wasn’t thorough enough?”

The towering man rubbed his hands together and then gave Rand a hearty pat on the back. “Nonsense. We are always pleased with your work. No, we asked you to come because this is a special occasion for us. It just so happens we are almost ready to unveil our newly remodeled annex, which boasts its own fireplace.”

Rand admired Ben’s drive and determination to make everything he touched a success.

“Congratulations. I’m sure it will do well.”

“As are we. When my father left this estate in his will, he had asked us to leave the annex alone, claiming we were only to use the house and the surrounding grounds. After many of our regular guests commented on the beauty of its exterior architecture, we decided it was time to do something about the inside. The lawyers, though, couldn't find any reason why the annex was to be left untouched. In fact, I worried about how safe it was, though it appears indubitably sturdy. I had an inspector check it, and he declared it sound. Unfortunately, the inside was in ghastly shape and required a good chunk of money to set things right, but I believe the payoff will be grand. Thank goodness for bank loans.”

Rand laughed along with his employer, though he’d never taken a loan in his life. He lived a simple, modest life. Paycheck to paycheck was almost his mantra. Money didn’t bring him happiness, it never had. He hoped in time he’d find a woman who shared his same vision and would be content with the wealth of his love, and not his wallet.

“I hadn’t realized what a frightening state the inside was in,” Ben continued, pacing with his hands behind his back. “Stains covered the ceiling, and the wallpaper had long since peeled off. Furniture was a wreck, and the fireplace remains in bad shape. I am quite pleased with how it turned out in the end, and I’m sure my father would be pleased, if he were still alive. I can’t believe he’s been gone for ten years, and we’ve never bothered with the annex until now.” He looked toward an oval portrait on the wall. Rand noticed that Ben and his father appeared strikingly similar, down to the side part of his hair. “Already we have it booked solid for the fall season, which will help with the renovation costs. The landscaping still needs tending to, but as soon as you're done, the inside will be ready. I am embarrassed to say I’ve no idea when the last time the chimney was cleaned. It will probably be a ridiculous job requiring several trips and grueling hours. I don’t expect you to finish all in one day, let alone two. We, of course, will pay you extra for your time. Dahlia and I wouldn’t trust any other chimney sweep to do the job.”

“I appreciate your praise and confidence in my work.” Rand smiled and rubbed his hands together. “I must say I’m intrigued to have a look at it.”

Ben smiled graciously and ushered him to the door leading outside. “Be our guest. The annex is around back. Would you like help carrying in your equipment? I’m sure little Thomas would be happy to assist. He’s taken quite a liking to you.”

“He’s a fine boy, but I’ll be fine, thank you," Rand replied. "Most of it is covered in soot, and I know you’re all off for the day. You’ll probably want to start on that walk in the park before the downpour.”

“Good old English weather, ever the rain and gloom. Very well then.” Ben gave him a nod and fished a large iron key from his pocket.

“Here’s the key to the annex. We’d be very pleased to have you stay there while you’re tending to the fireplace, rather than waste your good money on some motel. We won’t take no for an answer.”

Rand fingered the old fashioned key between his fingers, feeling excitement rise up in his chest. The Ruthferds always looked after him well, and he appreciated their hospitality. “Thank you, sir. Have a splendid time and I hope you find the right gift for your friends.”

Rand watched as the Ruthferds drove away and then went to look inside the annex. He was anxious too see how they fixed it up. A soft, gray-blue color coated the outside wood with the window edgings in white. The A-frame gave it a hint of vintage charm. Most of the yard surrounding the annex was in need of fixing up, as Ben had mentioned. Grass would need to be laid overtop the scraggly weeds and dirt. Above the door was a small overhang with a few spider webs in the corner. The Ruthferds had made a good choice in utilizing the extra space.

With the key still in his hand, Rand turned away from the annex and jogged over to the van. It took several trips back and forth to carry everything over, laying it out on the ground. Mentally he took inventory of each item: vacuum cleaner, various brushes and bristles, a flue cleaner, a broom, chimney rods, a ladder, and his worn metal lunchbox. At the last moment, he remembered to grab the large blue tarp.

When he opened the door to the annex, an enormous black bird flew out, startling him. Struggling to keep his balance amid his tools, Rand grabbed for the doorway and took a deep breath. It took a few minutes before his pulse resumed a calm cadence, and he stepped inside the annex.

It was spacious, but offered a cozy ambiance. Off to the right sat a small kitchenette, with enough counter space to do light cooking. Before him was a spacious family room, completely furnished, though large sheets were thrown on everything to keep it clean. Rand took a quick jog up the winding staircase, checking out the two bedrooms and a quaint little parlor. Small oval windows added a touch of mystique.

Back downstairs, he admired the interior design. Unlike the bed and breakfast, the annex was done in rich maple with black wrought iron décor. Mirrors, sconces, and gallery-type paintings hung on the smooth walls. It had a sense of classy elegance, and immediately he felt at home.

The fireplace mantle was painted in a rich black lacquer, with thick candlesticks sitting on either side. A glossy maple box was filled with logs, and the hearth was laid nicely in blue-gray stones. Expansive in size, the fireplace could easily serve as a tomb. This would no doubt be the most sought-after part of the cottage once the guests caught sight of it. He could see why Ben was so proud of his little backyard paradise.

Rand got right to work and laid out the tarp. He quickly assembled his tools where they would be easiest to reach. He was in need of some new equipment soon. Many people questioned his reasons for doing such an odd and sometimes dangerous job, where every day was about being covered in filth. The truth was, Rand felt a sense of pride about his work and enjoyed it. Rather than being stuck behind computers all day, or jammed inside a cubicle, he enjoyed venturing somewhere new all the time. He chalked it up to a wild imagination from when he was young, and was very much like Thomas Ruthferd in his belief of chimney sweeps spreading good luck wherever they went.

Rand knelt and shoveled out the ashes in the bottom of the fireplace. He noticed several suspicious splinters of what, at first glance, looked like bone. It seemed odd, but he dismissed the find as workers burning their trash and food when they were fixing up the annex. The clean up of the fireplace didn’t take much time at all, and Rand moved on to the dirty work of cleaning the chimney.

He set the ladder and made sure it was secure before climbing halfway up. Prior to his job as a chimney sweep, he was deathly afraid of heights. After five or six times cleaning chimneys, he found a compromise with his fear, but there were the days when the fear still won over. Small spaces got to him when he felt overwhelmed, and often his imagination ran away with him in the dark.

Rand brought up his stiff bristle brush and scraped away at the stubborn creosote. The blackish residue took a lot of energy to get off, and Rand only spent a few minutes before he’d worked up a hearty sweat. His one-piece suit didn’t allow for much breathing room, but it served its purpose in covering his clothes. He wiped away a layer of sweat from his forehead and put all his muscle into working with the brush. As he scraped, he came across two loose stones, but they held fast enough that he couldn’t move them. Rand didn’t think they’d cause a problem and decided they gave the chimney a little character. He busied himself with the creosote, ignoring the aches and pains in the backs of his arms.

* * * *

Kaelyn had noticed the moment a sense of change had enveloped the house. Was it possible he had returned, and she would be rescued? The smidgeon of hope she’d been holding onto suddenly grew stronger. When she closed her eyes, she saw his hands, and the blinding, white-hot light. The glare had been overbearing, burning deep within her amber orbs. Why had he not come back to save her? Had he not heard her cries and pleas for help? She would take it all back if she could, and lay with him, letting his fingers play across her naked body. She’d allow his lips to wander between her thighs, his hair tickle across her taut belly.

She carried a heavy load of guilt and shame. There were moments he had made her feel special and cared about, treating her in ways she’d never experienced. His tender words about how much she’d meant to him still rang in her ears. They could not have been lies; wouldn’t she have seen the dishonesty in his eyes? In many ways, she’d let their relationship go too far, and yet they hadn’t gone far enough.

Kaelyn didn’t know whether to draw attention to herself or wait and let him make the first move. It didn’t matter one way or the other. What mattered was that her dreams were about to come true; love would be given a second chance.

Her mind filled with fantasies of what he would say. No doubt he’d be full of apologies for making her wait so long, and maybe she’d torture him a little. Then she’d make him see she was true to her words. She had waited and still wanted him. Time had little meaning where love was concerned. When she’d expressed her feelings for him, or what she’d believed were her feelings, the wrong person had discovered them. What had become of her self-respect and dignity? In retrospect, it had all become a vicious game; one that ended with permanent scars.

From her black perch, she watched. His physique and the way he carried himself were different. If anything, he was more stunning than she’d let herself admit before, younger even. She couldn’t keep her eyes off him as he roamed about the house, his moves stirring up a gamut of emotions. She knew better than to watch him when the missus was around, but she stole looks when she could, just as he had of her.

Now he’d returned and was close enough that she could smell a subtle peppermint scent, a refreshing aroma compared to the stale smell of burnt wood. Impatience set in, and she fidgeted. Why wouldn’t he look up? He knew she was there. Did he think it a game? Had she done something wrong, and he wished to punish her more? It didn’t seem right. She’d suffered more than anyone should have to, but now wasn’t the time to pity herself or her situation. When he promised to come back for her, she’d taken his word as pure gold. He had to return, he just had to. Surely he would have decided by now, and he must have chosen her. Kaelyn's heart was not something to be given out to just anyone.

She would allot him a little more time. Being a lady meant biting her tongue about things. She longed for him to be like the heroes she read about in books, slipping strong, muscular arms around her petite form to carry her to safety. A thick cock to plunge between her legs while her cries echoed into the night. Waiting was something she’d grown accustomed to, and wait she would. Kaelyn turned to her companion perched beside her. Quietly, she whispered to it, telling it to be her eyes and not let him leave without finding her.

Kaelyn watched the man work, admiring his strength and determination. She couldn’t wait to give herself to him, straddle his body and ride him in a selfish fit of pleasure. Moisture between her thighs thickened at the thought. Yes, she would have him, and everything would go back to the way it was supposed to be.

She reached down her body and slipped her fingers up into the moisture. A gasp escaped her throat. It was his fault she would have to get herself off. The cravings of a fierce climax were heightened, and her thighs trembled. Kaelyn stretched her legs and propped them on either side of the chimney wall, the heels of her feet resting on the wrought iron ladder rungs. With thoughts on his cock thrusting where her fingers stroked, she manipulated her clit.

Her breath increased, and she struggled against the need to cough. The soot was thick in her lungs, but she refused to let it distract her. A swirl of heat drove from her abdomen, and she quickened her motions. Kaelyn bit her cheeks as a fierce climax spread through her body. The heady scent of her sex mingled with the smell of ashes and made her giddy. Through glazed eyes, she watched the man below, her body continuing its spasms. Soon she would experience his thick length.



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