Patsy Crystal Lilly always felt a little self-conscious walking into the lobby. The Mitchell Parks Hotel was a fairly stylish establishment. Her prey would not have chosen a less than classy place to stay in, yet the Mitchell Parks was small enough and remote enough to suit his needs. Her riding outfit of black leather pants, jacket, hat, and knee-high boots clashed with the dressier attire of the ladies and gentlemen who inhabited the lobby, and her entrance each day usually created an invisible stir among the gentile group. She paused in the doorway and let her hat slip off her head to protect the spot between her shoulder blades where their stares normally landed. Although taking off her hat released her long chestnut hair, she absolutely refused to ease the other guests’ discomfort by sneaking in through the side door.
She pulled herself up to her full five-foot two-inch height and looked straight ahead, taking a small, secret pleasure in provoking the glances directed at her as she strode up to the front desk. The heels of her riding boots clicked on the hardwood floor and left a trail of mud clumps in her wake. As usual, there were two queues forming at the desk and only one clerk on duty. She was pleased to see it was her favorite clerk, Timothy, manning the helm. Crystal got in line behind Mrs. Hounshell and her daughter, Constance. Both were dressed in something frilly and lacy. The daughter kept looking around behind her as if she’d never seen a woman dressed in leather pants before. Crystal thought, in Constance’s limited experience, maybe she never had. Her mother kept poking her in her ribs trying to keep her attention forward.
Two men stood in the other line beside of her, attempting to check in. One was an older man, tall, thin and gray, as invisible as a ghost, but it was the man next to him who captured Crystal’s attention. He was a huge man, over six feet tall, and his shoulders appeared as broad as a single bed. The bellboy stood off to the side, buried in a sea of cases, and would wonders never cease, Crystal thought, a real trunk. Mrs. Hounshell collected her key from Timothy, and Constance threw a disgusted look Crystal’s way as she moved toward the elevators. Not very ladylike, Crystal considered.
She and the two men arrived at the counter at the same time. Timothy started to wait on Crystal first, but she stopped him with a wave of her hand. “That’s all right, Timothy. Please wait on these gentlemen first. They’ve come such a long distance, and it would appear they have a lot of unpacking to do.”
The tall, heavyset man turned to face her. Crystal was shocked when she recognized him from the newspaper articles she had followed with enthusiasm. Newspaper stories that had documented his career.
“Madam is too kind,” he said. He turned back to Timothy. “My name is Russell Hill, and I will require two suites for myself and my friend, Mr. Bosworth Field.”
Crystal couldn’t resist. “But that is not your name, sir.”
He turned back and stared at her with the darkest eyes she had ever seen. “No, madam. It is not my name. I have borrowed it. I assumed I could check in without anyone realizing I had only borrowed it.”
She stared right back at him, refusing to allow him to intimidate her. “I hope the owner is as understanding about it,” she answered. “Well, I shan’t give away your secret, but I cannot bring myself to call you Mr. Russell Hill, so I shall call you Mr. V. An abbreviation of your real name, I believe, sir?”
“Indeed. That would seem an appropriate solution to the problem at hand. And what shall I call you?”
She had his full attention now and she wasn’t sure she liked it. She was unsettled by those dark eyes blazing at her from a sea of black hair, but she refused to back down. “Mrs. Lilly will do just fine, thank you.”
“Mrs. Lilly it is, then.” His hand dipped into his suit jacket pocket. “And, Mrs. Lilly, will you do me the honor of joining me at my table for tea?”
The tall, slender man at his side piped in. “I’m sorry. Do the two of you know each other?”
“I have known this soul for a thousand years,” V stated and turned away from her to sign the register, not waiting on her answer.
She knew she had been dismissed but couldn’t resist getting in the last line. “Which would make you older than I.” She took the key Timothy offered her and tried to ignore the sly smile playing across the clerk’s lips. Crystal started to move off but stopped and turned back. “And I will have tea with you.”
“I adore your outfit,” he said without turning around.
So he had managed to get in the last word, taking away her one small victory over him.
To continue reading, close this window, click the ADD TO CART button, and checkout.