I don’t want to be here, Kathryn thought and pulled her car up to the gate at the top of the long driveway. As she hesitantly pushed the button to open the gate, she struggled with the urge to turn around and drive back to her townhouse. I need to do this. I’ve put off going through Monte’s things far too long. As sorrow’s thick fog settled over her, her heart turned into a concrete block. The heaviness caused her chest to ache. At least, I don’t have to do this alone. Thank God for Anna. She said a quick prayer for strength and drove through the gate.
As she made her approach to the house, she admired the well-manicured lawn and the majesty and architecture of the southern-style mansion. This house was the stage on which her marriage to Monte had played. There had been scenes of family, love and warmth, but there had also been scenes of conflicts and sadness. In two of the scenes, their marriage had died – once through separation and near divorce, and then, the final act of Monte’s death. Now the curtain had closed on her life with Monte. The house was only an empty shell filled with furniture she did not need and memories that were both happy and sad.
Anna’s car was not here yet. Anna was not only Kathryn’s housekeeper, she was a good friend as well. Earlier in the week, Kathryn decided to put the house on the market as soon as she could get it ready. The first thing they needed to do was to go through Monte’s things and pack them up. Once that was accomplished, the rest of the house could be packed up and staged. Decisions had to be made on repairs, and what rooms needed to be updated with new carpet and paint.
The garage door slowly opened. She noticed how empty it looked without Monte’s BMW SUV. Since it was registered to the business and needed back in the fleet, Russ, Monte’s business partner, had someone come to get the car a few weeks ago. Monte’s new black Porsche 911 was the only vehicle parked in there now.
She glanced over at the Porsche. Monte would never sit in the driver’s seat again. Tears burned her eyes. The emptiness of the car amplified the emptiness in her soul. How Monte loved that car! He had bought it last year to replace the one that he had totaled when he was hit by a car full of drunk teenagers. That was the official story, anyway. But Kathryn knew when the accident happened, Monte himself was over the legal limit for alcohol. The night of the accident, she had come home from her volunteer work to find Monte drunk, they argued, and he angrily got in his old Porsche and drove away. A slight shiver went through her. I don’t want to remember that night.
To her surprise, Monte’s attorney informed her that Monte had left his car to her. She had always thought he would leave it to their son, Grayson. But Monte probably felt that Gray was too young to be driving a car like that, and rightly so. However, she would probably give it to Gray anyway, perhaps after he graduated college in three years.
Kathryn let out a sigh. One of these days, she would have to take it for a spin to keep the engine in good shape. It was a manual transmission, and it had been a while since she had driven one. She hoped it would be like riding a bike—something you never forget. It was on her ‘to-do-list’ to call and get the Porsche’s service records. She needed to find out when the next one was due. Monte took care of the maintenance of the cars. Now, that fell to her.
After taking a deep breath, she went into the house. I miss the fun I had in Vegas. Her recent mini Vegas vacation seemed like forever ago, and yet, just like it happened yesterday. Gray, her mother, Russ who had been Monte’s business partner and best friend, and she flew to Las Vegas to support Anna as she married Marsh Keene in a chapel at a hotel there. What a wonderful diversion it had been.
After such an enjoyable trip, it had been difficult to come home to Cleveland. She had wanted the fun to go on forever. Upon her return, deep sorrow and loneliness pelted her one after the other like large hailstones in a storm. They brought deep pain to her very soul – an almost physical pain – that could not be eased. All she could do was live through the pain until it subsided.
Her loneliness was magnified because nobody lived with her anymore. Gray was back on campus at Ohio State. Anna was with Marsh on their honeymoon, and of course, she now had a home of her own. Her mother, Claire, who had come to stay with her right after Monte died, was back home in Florida. It was too much of an emotional struggle for her to remain in this house alone. So, she packed up her clothes and moved back into her townhouse. She had bought the townhouse when she and Monte separated. She was glad that she had not sold it after they reunited. It was her home now.
She hoped to go back to work at The Refuge, the homeless shelter for women and children in Cleveland. She volunteered there by tutoring the residents who wanted to take the GED or college classes. She also tutored their school-aged children in most subjects. But when she had called to check in there, the administrative assistant offered her condolences and asked how she was doing.
Kathryn was not prepared for the avalanche of emotions that rained down on her. She found it difficult to hold it together long enough to answer the gentle questions asked. Once the phone call ended, she cried nonstop for a while. It was too soon to go back to her tutoring. Her emotions were too raw to be around people who with their concerned comments and caring questions would remind her of what she was at The Refuge to forget.
Instead of going back to her work at The Refuge, Kathryn researched the real estate market in the Pepper Pike area where the big house was located and noticed there was not much on the market. It was confirmation that it was time for her to sell the house. She called several realtors to audition them and to gather more information.
Once she had decided on a realtor, she had made room at her townhouse for the things she had wanted to retrieve from the house. Then, she went there to pack the remainder of her personal items. As she went through each room, memories both good and bad bombarded her. She was not able to continue. Being there alone intensified her grief. She left and had not been back to the house for over a month.
Two weeks ago, Anna had called her. She had said that they had returned from their honeymoon. Could she have some time to get settled at Marsh’s house before returning to work? Kathryn had agreed and had told her to take her time. During the conversation, Kathryn had informed her about her move to the townhouse. Anna had not seemed surprised that she had moved out of the house, but she had been surprised to hear that Kathryn had planned to sell it so soon after Monte’s death. Yesterday, Anna had called her and had said she was ready to come back to work. Kathryn had asked her if she could be at the house this morning, and Anna had said she would be there.
As Kathryn opened the door to the house, the alarm began to beep. She hurried to the control panel and punched in the security code. The house smelled stale. Dust had been the only inhabitant of the house these past weeks. And the fact that the furnace was set at sixty-five degrees, and the weather had been too warm for it to run and circulate the air did not help. Kathryn needed to open some windows to allow fresh, cool air to circulate throughout the house.
She walked through the kitchen and into the sunroom. The view out of the window was soothing. The trees were budding, and the garden was an emerald with flecks of purple, pink and white from the blooming azaleas. Beyond the garden, she could see Gray’s swing set and monkey bars. Before the house was sold, she would have to replace the swing set or tear it down. It was not safe. One of the swings had broken with Russ on it. She smiled as she remembered how much fun she and Russ had on that playground. She walked from the sunroom to the living room to open the windows there.
Since Monte’s death, she could honestly say Russ was the only person with whom she wanted to spend any time. They had so much fun together. Besides being Monte’s partner and best friend, he had been there for her through the twenty years of marriage to Monte, the separation, and later, Monte’s heart attack and death. She felt bonded to Russ. It was nice to be able to talk about anything with him and not to have to couch what she said or felt, nor did she have to add any back story. He had lived with her through just about everything. Now, it was just the two of them holding onto one another as they navigated Monte’s death and the explosive aftermath.
Their last evening in Las Vegas, she and Russ had decided to stay up as late as they could to soak up the last minutes of their mini-vacation. They had even placed a bet on who would fall asleep first – loser had to buy lunch. Much to her dismay, Kathryn was the first to fold and lost the bet. She owed Russ lunch, but later they decided to make it dinner instead.
A week later, Russ cashed in on the dinner owed him. During their dinner, she confided in Russ that she was thinking about selling the house. Russ expressed his concern by saying he felt that the stunning details they learned about Monte after his death caused her emotions to bounce all over the place. He thought she needed to work her way through everything before doing something so final as to sell the house. But in the end, Russ offered to support her no matter what she decided. He even said he would help her with anything that needed repaired.
Kathryn was grateful for Russ’s support. She reminded him that before Monte died, she and Monte had already decided to sell the house. They wanted to buy a smaller one where they could start their “second” marriage and new life as empty nesters. In her heart, she had already broken ties with the house. She also said it would take months to go through everything and repaint and repair for the sale. It will have been plenty of time for a catharsis on Monte’s death and for her to change her mind should she feel differently about the house after everything was completed.
“Anybody home?” Anna’s voice called out.
Kathryn snapped out of her reverie. “In here,” Kathryn called out as she opened a window.
“I’m glad you’re airing out the house. It smells musty in here,” Anna said as she entered the living room.
Kathryn turned around. Anna looked wonderful. Her gray hair was shorter and curlier. She had a glow about her. Kathryn knew it was from more than just the tan she got on her honeymoon. She smiled at Anna and walked over to give her a hug. “It’s so good to see you.”
“I’m glad to see you, too,” Anna said as they hugged.
“You look positively glowing. Marriage is agreeing with you.”
Anna blushed. “I’m so happy. I cannot imagine my life apart from Marsh, and we’ve only been married a few weeks.”
Although, Kathryn grinned at her, Anna’s words were a thorn that pricked her heart. She had felt that way about Monte. “I remember that feeling. I’m so happy for you.”
Anna took in Kathryn’s appearance. Her jeans and T-shirt were both baggy on her. Kathryn was a pale, porcelain doll with puffy eyes. “Thanks, so how are you doing? I don’t see that you’ve gained any weight back. You’re still looking gaunt and like you may not be sleeping well,” Anna said.
“I’m sure this phase of mourning will pass at some point. I’m eating healthy—when I feel like eating. Sleep – that’s another issue. My brain likes to run amok at night, and I can’t seem to stop it. I do sleep one or two nights a week without a problem, but the others….” Kathryn’s voice trailed off, and she shrugged.
“I sure hope what we do here today doesn’t add to your sleepless nights. Are you sure you’re up for it?” Anna asked with concern in her voice.
Kathryn nodded. “I’ll be fine. I really need to do this.”
Anna did not look convinced. “Where did you want to start?”
“I got an email from the church saying that The Pit Stop needed men’s clothing. I thought we’d start with Monte’s closet. I brought boxes,” Kathryn said. The Pit Stop was a homeless shelter for men.
“Yes, I got that email, too. I’ll have to make Marsh go through his closet and get rid of some of his things, as well,” Anna said. Then she looked at Kathryn. “Are you really…really sure about this? We can wait a week or so and maybe go through the kitchen or garage instead.”
“Let’s get the hard stuff over with first.” Kathryn said.
“If you’re okay, I’m okay. Where are the boxes?” Anna asked.
“In the trunk of my car. I’ll go get them.”
“No, give me your keys. I’ll do it. I think you should go up to the master bedroom. You’ll need a few minutes alone before we start this process,” Anna said softly.
Kathryn’s heart was an elevator going down fast, ready to crash. Anna was right. When she opened Monte’s closet, she knew she would dissolve into tears. “Okay,” Kathryn said and walked back to the kitchen to get the keys from her purse.
Kathryn handed her the keys. Anna gave her another hug. “You go on up. After I get the boxes and open a few more windows, I’ll join you.”
She nodded and walked out of the kitchen. As she stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up, tears stung her eyes. She blinked them back and held onto the railing as she slowly made her way up the stairs.
The master bedroom was dark and gray. She opened the curtains and raised the window. A light breeze drifted into the room. The sunlight breaking through the clouds made the room cheerier. This is much better.
She turned from the window and looked over at the bed. It was a king-size, and the headboard was mahogany with a floral pattern carved into it. It was a lovely piece of furniture, as were the matching dresser and chest of drawers. This was Monte’s bedroom furniture. He had it before they were married. Knowing his family history, she now wondered if it was a family heirloom. Or perhaps, as she had originally assumed, something he bought from the spoils of his success in Hollywood. Perhaps his aunt, Josie, would know.
Her mind flashed images of Monte and her making love and holding one another afterwards in this bed. She closed her eyes and for a second, she thought she felt Monte’s arms go around her. A tear slid down her cheek. She missed the closeness they shared. Oh, how she longed for Monte’s touch. It always sent her senses spinning and created a hunger that only he could fill. The loss and its loneliness were isolating sometimes – like she was alone on a deserted island without hope of rescue.
She looked at Monte’s closet door. I can do this. She opened the door. Even though, the closet had not been opened since she left the house, the faint scent of his cologne still clung to the suits he had worn and hung back up. She reached out and touched one of the suit jackets.
The floodgates opened, and the tears came rushing. The closet contents blurred. She sat down on the bed and sobbed. Though she tried hard to stop, it took her a few minutes to get a grip on herself. She went to the bathroom to get a tissue and blew her nose. Then she picked up the box of tissues and set it on the nightstand.
She stared at the open closet. His clothes were sorted by item and lined up neatly just like racks at a department store. She could picture him standing there trying to decide what to wear. Tears streamed down her face. After pulling out a dark gray suit, she brought it up to her face and breathed in the scent. Her hands gripped the folds of the soft material as she hugged it to her. She closed her eyes and remembered.
“Well, Kitty, how do I look?” Monte asked as he turned from the mirror to face her.
Kathryn looked at her handsome husband and wanted to pinch herself. This was the Montgomery Lawrence—famous actor! How she, an ordinary Jane, had managed to attract his attention and marry him, she would never know. She never tired of looking at his perfect facial features and smooth, tanned skin. His lips were sensual and parted to display perfect white teeth. Well, except for one crooked eyetooth in the upper right of his mouth. No detail could escape Kathryn’s gaze. His thick, dark hair was neatly combed, and his blue eyes sparkled as they met her brown ones. He was the epitome of eye candy. Her heart did a somersault.
“I think I’m the one who’s supposed to be asking that question,” Kathryn said.
“You look lovely as always. I love that dress. The dark green color brings out the reddish highlights in your hair. Did you buy it from Allie?” Allie was a friend and owned a designer dress shop in an out-parcel at the Beechwood Mall
“I did,” she said. The dress was a capped-sleeved A-line dress made of silk with a skirt that touched her calves. A long slit on the side ended at her thigh.
Kathryn noticed that Monte’s gaze was fixed on the slit and the view of her leg it provided. She worried that Monte might not like it because if she let too much leg, cleavage, or back show in public, he had a fit. But it was the style nowadays. She could not buy a dress without a slit in the skirt that did not look like her grandma had worn it.
“I’m not so sure I like that slit, but if you aren’t sitting at the end of a table with most of your leg generously displayed for all to see, I can forgive it. You do have very sexy legs,” Monte said seductively and moved closer to her, so he could run his hand up her leg. It caused her pulses to race and desire shot through her like a dart hitting a bullseye. He gave her a quick kiss and stepped back from her.
She was relieved he was in such a good mood and did not make her change. Lately, he had been so particular about what she wore and how she looked. He had moved his business to Cleveland for her benefit. He was new in town, and though, he had retired from acting, he was still a famous personality. Everything had to look perfect when they were out in public.
“Well?” He asked, snapping her from her thoughts. He turned around for her.
“Handsome as always,” she said and smiled.
Monte rolled his eyes. “I’m talking about the suit. Does it fit okay? I had this custom made.”
She walked around and studied him closely. The gray suit fitted perfectly and contrasted nicely with his starched white shirt and red tie. “Of course, it does. You know you look good in anything you put on.” She touched the silky material of the jacket. “It’s a nice suit. I like how it feels.”
Monte pulled her to him, pressed her body along his, and kissed her soundly. “And I like how you feel,” his voice was a sensual whisper.
Kathryn smiled up at him. “Ditto.”
He groaned and dropped a kiss on her nose. “What you do to me, Kitty. No time for what I’d rather be doing.” After pulling away from her, he grabbed a stack of index cards. As he read them, he began to pace the room.
Kathryn loved the way he said “Kitty”. It was his special nickname for her. “Are you nervous?” she asked.
“This is my first speaking engagement here in town, and I’m talking to the Cleveland Browns football team including the people in the front office. This isn’t a movie or Hollywood – this is real life. I’m representing my own business as a non-actor for the first time in my existence,” Monte said. “I guess my nerves have me a little rattled.
“You have one of the best speaking voices I’ve ever heard, and the fact that you were a famous actor doesn’t hurt. You’ll have their full attention.” She laid a hand on his arm. “You’ll be wonderful.”
Monte smiled at her. “I’m so grateful for my acting career. It certainly has opened doors for me here. I just know had I been any other Joe, they might never have opened. Now, I can speak to others about my passion – investing for a life after sports or any other highly paid, short-lived career. I’m my own best advertisement—highly-paid actor to businessman. I think I’m going to like it here in Cleveland.”
“I certainly hope so,” she said.
Monte smiled. “I’m going down to the den and practice my speech. We have half an hour before we need to leave.”
Kathryn’s heart quickened. She hoped he did not have a glass of Scotch, but she knew he probably would. Hopefully, he would stop at one. It was silly for her to worry. He memorized scripts and made movies for years and never seemed to have an issue doing what needed done. And yet, she could not help herself, she did worry. Monte was a wonderful husband and a good man. His one flaw was the Scotch. All she could do was turn it over to the LORD. She prayed he could control it, and not let it control him. After all, she was painfully aware there was nothing she could do to make him stop drinking.
“Everything okay?” Anna asked as she entered the room loaded down with several kitchen garbage bags, shipping tape, a permanent marker, and several boxes. She set them by the closet.
Kathryn nodded. “You were right. I needed some time.” She laid the suit on the bed.
“Do you think Gray would want any of Monte’s clothes?”
“I doubt any of them would fit him. Monte was taller and more muscular than Gray. I think the suits and slacks would need altered too much,” Kathryn said.
“You’re right. Is there anything you want to set aside for Gray?”
“We can keep Monte’s favorite ties and his cufflinks. The rest I’ll decide as we go.” Kathryn started to make up a box. “Let’s start with the shoes. Gray’s feet are bigger than Monte’s, so the shoes will have to go.”
“Alright,” Anna said, and she knelt on the floor and started pulling shoes out of the closet.
As Kathryn watched Monte’s shoes set out on the floor, she stifled a gasp. They were abandoned orphans lined up on the carpet. Monte won’t ever put his feet in them again. Tears stung her eyes and a lump formed in her throat. The urge to put his things back and save them was a strong current that nearly swept her away. He would want her to give them away, so they could help someone else.
When she managed to get control of her emotions, she said, “I think we should shake out his shoes before we put them in the box in case something dropped down into them. As a matter-of-fact, we should go through all the pockets in his clothing as well.”
“That’s a good idea,” Anna said. She had pulled out twelve pairs of shoes and began shaking them.
In the shoes, was a dirty sock, a quarter, and a gold hoop earring Kathryn thought she had lost at a dinner last year. Since the shoes were gently worn, except for the tennis shoes, Anna and Kathryn decided to throw the tennis shoes away and box up all the others.
Next, they went through the ties. There had to be at least forty ties neatly lined up on a tie rack. They went through each stack and saved the ties Gray might want and folded them neatly and placed them in a new box Anna started for items to give Gray. When Kathryn got to the end of the tie rack, she found the tie Monte had worn to their wedding. Fresh tears flooded her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
Anna looked over from her task of taking down the hats, belts and other accessories from the shelves and putting them on the bed for Kathryn’s review. She noticed Kathryn crying and walked over to hug her as she cried. “Get it all out, Honey,” Anna practically cooed.
Kathryn finally pulled away from Anna, grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. Then she took an audible deep breath and blew it out sharply. “I’m sorry,” Kathryn said as she held the tie to her breast. “This was the tie he wore to our wedding. I was not expecting to find this.”
“If you want to stop for now and go do something else, we can,” Anna said. “We can come back to this later.”
Kathryn shook her head. “No, I want to continue. I have a feeling I’ll be this emotional going through his things no matter how long I wait to do it. I’d rather pull the bandage off quickly, so the wound can start to heal, especially since I have you here.”
Anna nodded in understanding. She held out her hand, “Do you want me to put the tie in the giveaway box?”
“No, I’ll keep this. Perhaps Gray will want to wear it at his own wedding and start a tradition,” Kathryn said. “Let’s keep going.”
“You can go through the belts and hats I pulled down. There are winter things like gloves and scarves. He also had some golf gloves and golf shoes. I don’t know that those would be useful to anyone at The Pit Stop.”
Kathryn pulled out the golf hats Gray would probably like to have and picked up the golf shoes and gloves. “I’ll put these in the box for Gray, the rest can go to The Pit Stop.”
While Anna worked, Kathryn sat on the edge of the bed. “I suppose the next thing to deal with are Monte’s clothes,” Kathryn said. “The closet looks pretty empty now except for those.”
“Yes, he definitely did not use the closet as storage for anything much. The neatest closet I have ever seen. Marsh has boxes of pictures, old clothing from what looks like his high school days which he’ll never fit into again and all sorts of this and that. One of these days he’ll open the closet, and it’ll all come crashing down on him.”
Kathryn chuckled. “Sounds like my closet. When I was packing it up, I had an avalanche of stuff fall on my head. Moving was helpful to thin things out.”
“Yes, it is. I hope we can do that at some point. Marsh and I are thinking about selling his house. He lived in it for a long time with his first wife, and we feel like we need a place that is ours. He’d like to get a condo, so we don’t have to do any yard work,” Anna said.
“I can see that if I stayed here and remarried that my husband may feel weird living in Monte’s house and perhaps even refuse to.”
“Following Monte will be a hard task for any man who may capture your heart again.”
“You know, I feel that way sometimes. Then other times, I think it would be refreshing to get to know a man and not be blinded by looks, fame, money, or sexual attraction. Sometimes, I feel like I fell in love with a dream and not the man because when he deviated from the dream, it was so disillusioning. I believe in ‘for better or for worse’. He showed me both. Fortunately, the best was so awesome it got me through the rough parts. I worry that part of me will always be looking for that awesomeness and never find it again. And in looking for that, I’ll miss a chance to find something just as good.”
Anna smiled. “You’ve come a long way in your grief.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You’re thinking about a possible ‘someone else’. Before, you refused to believe it could happen.”
Kathryn was thoughtful for a moment. “I suppose that’s true. Much of my change of heart has to do with all the things we’ve found out about Monte after he died. I’ll admit, it’s tarnished my view of him. I guess between the anger and the regret, it’s worn me down. I do miss having a man around—not a lot, but there are times. He’s only been gone a few months. Am I a bad person?”
“No, only human. We’re relational beings, especially we women. It’s natural to miss the relationship you had with Monte. Your mind has accepted he’s gone, and your heart wants to fill the hole his death has left.”
“Funny, but at this moment I feel it’s too soon, and my heart rebels. Tonight, when I can’t sleep, I may feel differently. It’s crazy.”
“Grief leads us down twisting pathways and forked roads,” Anna said.
“Don’t I know it. I suppose we need to get back to work. I want to get this done today.”
“Okay, I’ll pull the clothing out on the bed. Then, we’ll go through the pockets.” Anna pulled Monte’s clothing out and laid them on the bed. Soon the bed was a color palette of various shades of gray, navy, black and brown with a little white, cream and light blues thrown in. Tears stung Kathryn’s eyes as she looked down at them and could not bring herself to go through the pockets or even touch them.
Once Anna had most of the clothing from the closet on the bed, she stopped and looked over at Kathryn. She noticed Kathryn had her arms wrapped around her body, and tears glimmered in her eyes. “Do you want to take a break and have a cup of tea?” Anna gently asked.
Kathryn shook her head. “I’m not thirsty.”
“Are you sure?”
“I just want to get his stuff out of here. Once his personal items are gone, I think I’ll feel better.”
Anna put her hand on Kathryn’s shoulder. “If you need to take a minute, there’s no harm in it.”
Kathryn reached up and touched Anna’s hand. “I can cry and work.”
Anna nodded. “We should start going through the pockets and once the item has been checked, we can fold it and put it in a box.”
“Okay, that works,” Kathryn said.
“Monte sure was a clothes horse for a man,” Anna said.
Kathryn managed a giggle. “He was a lot worse than I was. He always made sure he was in fashion and looked good. He felt he was always judged on his outward appearance.”
“I suppose that once you’ve been a movie star, you’re programmed to look good at all times,” Anna said.
“Yes, and the fact he was such a public figure here fed into that.”
Anna nodded. “I have an idea. I’ll go through the clothing on the bed and in the closet, and you go through Monte’s clothes in the chest of drawers. We’ll get through faster that way.”
“Good idea,” Kathryn said relieved. She turned to go through Monte’s drawers. The briefs and T-shirts could be thrown away. She did not think anyone would want them. Her mind flashed to Monte standing in the bathroom wearing only his bikini briefs. He looked so incredibly sexy in them. She shook her head to rid it of that memory.
Soon Kathryn had everything out from his drawers and had packed a few pictures and knick-knacks to take back to her place. Anna finished putting the clothing in boxes. A pile of papers and business cards remained on the bed off to the side.
“Looks like Monte didn’t clean his pockets as well as I thought he would’ve,” Kathryn said.
“Yes, I’ve found a few things. I didn’t look at anything. I just pulled them from his pockets. You should be the one to look through everything.” Anna picked the stack up and handed it to Kathryn.
Apprehension tugged on her. After all the details about Monte that had come out after his death, she was afraid to look through them. Would she find more surprises? She held the items in her hands as though they were timed bombs that could blow any second.
Anna touched Kathryn’s arm in comfort. “It’ll be okay, Honey. I can’t believe there’d be anything shocking in there. A pocket is not the place for hiding something you really want to conceal.”
“I hope you’re right,” Kathryn said.
“I’ll go down and make us a nice cup of tea. Time for a break, and I’m thirsty. You can sit up here and go through this stuff and come down when you’ve finished,” Anna said.
After Anna left the room, Kathryn eased onto the bed. Her hand shook as she fanned the pile of items across the bed.
Two twenty-dollar bills slipped out. Kathryn smiled. He always carried a few folded twenties and would surprise a waiter or a valet who provided exceptional service with a regular tip and then the twenty. He loved to see the look of surprise and excitement on their faces. For a brief time, he was a waiter and said it was a tough way to make a living. She set them aside and decided she would keep up that practice in his memory.
Next, she unfolded a larger piece of paper to find that it was a receipt for a hotel room in town. Kathryn’s heart stopped beating, and her breath caught in her throat. She looked at the dates. Relief washed over her. It was for New Year’s Eve. She felt remorse at the thought Monte might have been cheating on her.
It was one of the best New Year’s Eves that she ever spent with Monte. Pres-Law rented a large ballroom in a hotel downtown and threw a New Year’s Eve party for their employees and their wives/significant others. There was a DJ, free food and a discounted cash bar. If an employee booked a room at the hotel for the party, he/she received a discounted rate.
It had been Monte’s first New Year’s Eve to be sober. She and Monte attended the party as did Russ and a date. She remembered feeling a little on edge as the alcohol flowed, but Monte appeared to be fine. He drank tonic water all night, at least, the part of the night they were at the party. Kathryn had to admit that she sneaked several sips out of his glasses to make sure they were alcohol free.
They did not stay at the party long. Monte took her on the dance floor for a slow dance. He held her close, and they shared several passionate kisses. After a dance or two, they ended up in their hotel room for the rest of the night. Poor Russ, he was left to be host for the rest of the evening. Later, Russ said he had not minded it. He was happy they had worked things out and were back together. The time before and during the separation had been hard to witness for everyone who was close to them.
At that time, she had her husband back – only better. The six months before Monte’s death had been like being on a honeymoon. There was no Scotch, no Mr. Hyde personality, and they were rebuilding their marriage. But now, that was only an illusion because of Monte’s dishonesty.
Monte’s death was not the only thing to shatter her life. Unbeknownst to Kathryn and Russ, and just about everyone, except Monte’s attorney, they found out that Monte owned another company and had family still living—even though, he had told her all his family was dead. For a second time, Kathryn’s faith and trust in Monte had been broken.
This time she wondered if it could ever be repaired. A break more than once in the same place leaves scars in the healing process. Knowing Monte’s family history helped defuse the brunt of her anger and pain, but the scar was still there.
She put the receipt on the bed beside the twenties. There were several business cards—his and those of other people. A receipt for gasoline was folded in half with an amount large enough to belong to the BMW SUV. She would give it to Russ. There was also a bill for dry cleaning and a receipt from McDonalds for a Big Mac and a chocolate milkshake. Kathryn chortled.
He had been on a health kick and had been eating lots of vegetables, chicken, and fish with the occasional steak thrown in, and he swore he was having salads for lunch. At least, he was cheating with food and not with Scotch. He was in such good shape that she felt his decadent lunch would not have been something he indulged in often. After all, who has not cheated on their diet by eating a Big Mac or something equally fattening?
For a few minutes, she sat on the bed relieved that she did not find anything to upset her. There was enough going on as she dealt with the new company and navigating her way through a relationship with Monte’s aunt and uncle. She did not need another surprise coming to light. She set the papers on the dresser and went downstairs to join Anna.
As she entered the kitchen, Anna poured her a cup of tea. “Come and sit. I trust there was nothing disconcerting in his pockets.”
Kathryn sat down across from Anna. “No, you were right. The only thing I found that was remotely distressing was a receipt for a Big Mac and a chocolate shake.”
Anna laughed. “I never pegged him as a McDonald’s guy.”
“Me either, but Monte loved steaks and burgers,” Kathryn said.
“You know, there’s nothing like a hamburger and milkshake sometimes.”
The doorbell sounded, and both women jumped. “Who can that be?” Kathryn asked.
Anna shrugged her shoulders. “I might have left the gate open. I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay. I’ll get it,” Kathryn said.
When Kathryn opened the front door, she was stunned to find Russ standing there. “Russ, aren’t you supposed to be at work?” She waved him into the house.
“That’s a swell greeting for a guy who takes a few hours off work to come and help you,” Russ said teasingly.
“I’m sorry, it’s so sweet of you to come,” Kathryn said as they walked toward the kitchen.
“When you told me, you were coming here today, I didn’t want you to be here without some male help. I thought you may have something heavy that needs moved or find something that needs repaired. I’m handy. My dad taught me well. If I can’t do it, I have connections.”
Kathryn smiled. “I bet Phil did teach you well. We’re on a break right now. Come and join Anna and I in a cup of tea. Or we can fire up the Keurig if you want coffee.”
Russ saw the haunted look in Kathryn’s eyes when she came to the door. He worried about the emotional toll that packing up Monte’s things would have on her. Whether he was invited or not, he wanted to provide her with some emotional support. He had a feeling Anna would be here, and he was glad her wedding leveled out the animosity he felt towards her. Anna had guessed that he was in love with Kathryn and told him so. He had gotten angry with her. They were not yet back to their easy friendship, but at least, the ruffled feathers were smoothed. Both acted as if nothing had happened between them.
When Russ entered the kitchen, Anna looked at him and smiled. He detected a grateful look in her eyes and smiled back at her.
“What a pleasant surprise,” Anna said. “Can I get you a cup of tea or coffee?”
“I can get it, thanks.” Russ walked over to the Keurig. “Welcome back, Anna.”
“Thanks, it’s good to be home,” Anna said.
Russ made his coffee and sat at the table with the women. They made small talk for a few minutes, and then, Kathryn asked Anna about her honeymoon. Anna told them a little about it and showed them pictures on her phone. Then, the discussion turned to what repairs and updates may be needed in the house before it went on the market.
“Have you moved all your things to the townhouse yet?” Russ asked Kathryn.
“Most of them. I still have a few things in the kitchen to get and a piece of furniture here and there, but by and large, most of the furnishings here can be either sold or given away after the house is sold. I was thinking I might give some things to Caring Hearts Ministries. They help people get back on their feet after a financial blow like a job loss or divorce or loss of their welfare benefits. The ministry teaches them how to budget and live within their means. They’re an offshoot of The Refuge.”
“That’s a great idea,” Russ said.
“The only thing I won’t donate is the master bedroom suite. I have a feeling it might be a family heirloom. Even, if it’s not, then it certainly was something that meant a lot to Monte because it was the only furniture he brought here from California. I’ll probably squeeze it into one of the guest rooms at my place.” Kathryn took a sip of her tea. “I can give it to Gray once he gets his own home.”
“Are you ready for the trip to North Carolina? It’s less than two weeks away,” Russ said, referring to the stockholders’ meeting for Monarch.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Gray won’t be able to come but wants conferenced in. He has an exam and a paper due that week. What about you, Anna? Will you go to the meeting?” Kathryn asked.
Anna shook her head. “I doubt it. I think you and Russ should go without me. I’ll be conferenced in. After all, you both are major shareholders in Monarch. Claire and I have very little sway. And there’s the family factor, it’s a good time for you to bond with Jay and Josie without me there.”
Kathryn sighed. “I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous about staying at Jay and Josie’s house. I wish Josie had not been so insistent. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to her.” Jay and Josie Crandall were Monte’s aunt and uncle. Josie was Monte’s mother’s sister.
“I’m a little nervous staying there myself. Josie seems very fond of you already and wants to get to know you better. This will be a good thing for you both,” Russ said.
“I know, and I’ve grown to care for her, too. I look forward to getting to know her better as well. I guess I’m more concerned about Jay. When I think about how he and Monte butted heads all those years, and the fact he wanted to abort Monte before he was born, it’s hard for me to swallow.”
“It’s all in the past now. I plan to wait and see how it goes before passing judgment. So far, from what I’ve ascertained from the financial reports, Jay and Monte have run a solid company. I’ve read the past two years of minutes of Monarch’s shareholders’ meetings and don’t see anything to indicate that Monte and he had anything but mutual respect,” Russ said.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Kathryn said. “Any thoughts about how to move forward with Kramer Electronics?” Kramer Electronics was a business in Cleveland that Monarch had purchased that was now floundering.
“I know you don’t want to hear this, but Monarch needs to move the auto parts division to the Mexican plant, and then, sell it off to the company who has tendered the offer. Selling it will give Monarch some cash flow to get Kramer Electronics in the black and expand their medical equipment business.”
“You’re right, I was hoping for better news,” Kathryn said.
“After reading all the financials, I noticed that once Monarch bought Kramer Electronics, Monte got it in a better financial position than it was in. The medical equipment business market has expanded, and profits are up twenty-five percent this year, which is excellent if those profits aren’t used to keep the automotive parts division afloat. If it goes to that division, then Kramer is still in the red by five percent, and that percentage will grow even more by year’s end.”
“That’s too bad. I wish there was another way, so we could keep jobs here,” Anna said.
“So, do I, but right now, we have no choice,” Russ said.
“Still more jobs getting sucked out of our country,” Kathryn said with a sigh.
“Unfortunately, it is what it is. Monarch is making a profit so far this year, and to remain profitable, it can’t have a company that’ll drag it down. The bright side is that at least not all jobs are lost. If we can grow the medical business, we’ll create jobs to replace those that were lost,” Russ said.
“That’s true, but it’ll take time. I guess more jobs later is better than losing them all forever. It reminds me that there’s a desperate need for retraining workers,” Kathryn said.
“Yes, it’s something that needs addressed all over the country,” Russ said.
“I’m glad we were able to discuss this before the meeting and away from Jay. I’ll vote however you do at the Monarch stockholders’ meeting. I think with my heart more than my head sometimes, and I know that’s not always good for business,” Kathryn said.
“I’ll vote for it as well,” Anna said.
“Great. Well, time’s a wasting, and you have more help now. What do you need me to do?” Russ asked. Kathryn told him her goal for the day was to empty all the closets and to box up as much as they could of the kitchen and garage stuff. Russ volunteered to work in the garage. “What things out there do you want to keep?” he asked.
“Hmmm, I’d like all the tools boxed up for Gray. I’ll store them in my garage. Also, any bug spray and anything that belongs to the Porsche, I’ll take. Since I live in the townhouse, I don’t need any of the lawn stuff. I guess you can just leave things you aren’t sure about, and I’ll look at them later and decide,” Kathryn said.
“Okay, do I need to go and get more boxes?” Russ asked.
“I stacked empty boxes out there by the garage door,” Anna said.
“Off to work I go.” Russ left the table.
“Would you like me to finish the closets upstairs?” Anna asked.
“No, I’ll do that. You can box up all the kitchen stuff. I’ll take all the towels, potholders and such. The rest of the stuff can go in boxes marked for Caring Hearts.”
“Alright, I’ll get started.” Anna put her cup in the sink.
“I’ll be in Gray’s room if you need me,” Kathryn said.
Kathryn grabbed an empty box from the master bedroom and took it to Gray’s room. He had started at Ohio State last fall. Although, he had taken some things to campus with him or to his room at her place, there were still some things left behind.
As she opened the door to his room, the faint smell of old socks mixed with the cologne he liked to wear was still in the air. She smiled. Monte and she had given him the business about wearing cologne. It signaled his interest in girls.
What kind of talks did Monte and Gray have about women, sex, and marriage? She knew Monte had slept around and did as he pleased until he was well into his thirties. Did he tell Gray to save himself for the right woman, or to be careful and have safe sex and enjoy life for a while? She sighed. I’ll probably never know. Gray’s course has been set. I can only pray for him now.
His room had been decorated in scarlet and gray for Ohio State. The comforter was minus the gray Ohio State throw pillows which Gray had taken to campus with him. All the posters and most of his knick-knacks were gone. The walls were marked where the posters had been. They would have to be repaired and repainted. Another wave of grief hit her. This time it was for the loss of her baby who was all grown up.
She opened the closet and noticed the suit Gray had worn to Monte’s funeral. Kathryn felt a sharp pain in her gut. Her brain was flooded with memories from the funeral. She sat down on the bed and tried to collect herself. Tears were a river running down her cheeks. She could not get the image of Monte in the casket out of her head or the image of the plaque where his ashes were now interred.
Without warning, the visit to the mausoleum came barreling into her mind.
It was right after Kathryn returned from her mini Vegas vacation. Gray had driven home to go to a Cavaliers game with his best friend, John, who was also her friend Allie’s son. Gray and Russ accompanied Kathryn to pay their respects to Monte and make sure everything in his resting place was to Kathryn’s liking and Monte’s wishes. Gray wore the suit out of respect for his father. Kathryn had also put on a black dress. Russ came to pick them up from the office. Since they did not know where it was, Russ had called Mr. Hanson to get directions to the mausoleum.
As they pulled into the cemetery, her stomach twisted into a knot. The road that led to the mausoleum curved through a green lawn dotted with headstones with an occasional colorful flower arrangement and patriotic flags. A chill went down Kathryn’s spine as it always did when she was in a graveyard. Should I have kept his ashes in an urn at the townhouse? This is not a place to rest. It reminds me of an overcrowded underground city. Monte liked his privacy. He’s smothered here.
Russ pulled up to the mausoleum and parked the car. They all sat and looked in silent awe at the small building before them. It was a personal mausoleum that covered roughly four gravesites. The building was constructed of bronze colored granite built to look like a small Southern mansion with four pillars in the front. A cursive capital letter L was chiseled out inside a large circle at the peak of the roof. On the front, a smoky bronze glass door with a gold letter L with the symbol of a cross below it.
“What the heck!” Gray said. “Did you know Dad did this?”
“No, I didn’t. He never said a word. What about you, Russ?” Kathryn asked. “When Mr. Hanson said Monte was laid to rest in a mausoleum, I thought he meant a public one.”
“Monte never said anything to me, either. All he said was he took care of his funeral arrangements. He never elaborated, and I never pressed for details,” Russ said.
They got out of the car and approached the building. There were two steps leading to the door. Inside there were about ten niches for urns and room for more if needed. A skylight provided lighting for the indoors. Kathryn’s eyes went to the one lone urn that was there. Protective glass covered the opening of the niche. The urn was made of white marble with gold trim around the lid. It was simple yet elegant. Below was a gold plaque engraved with James Montgomery Langdon and his date of birth and death.
Kathryn stood there shocked. Russ stood beside her on one side and Gray on the other.
“Dad used his birth name.” Gray spoke Kathryn’s thoughts out loud. “Wonder why he did that?”
Kathryn turned to look at Russ. “Do you know?”
Russ appeared uncomfortable. He had that look on his face when he had something difficult he needed to say. Russ had taken charge of the funeral details, so she would not have to deal with them. He was also with her when Kathryn received the message about Monte’s ashes being ready for burial. Kathryn did not want to talk to the funeral home and asked Russ to do that for her. He had called and had spoken to Mr. Hanson, the owner of the funeral home. He knows something. Knowing Russ as she did, she knew he was protecting her somehow.
“Mr. Hanson said Monte told him that he came into the world James Montgomery Langdon and would go out that way. Though he changed his name in Hollywood, he said he was still a Langdon, no matter what he did, and whether he wanted to be or not. Of course, we know that he did legally change his name back to his birth name before he passed away. He also said that Monte wanted his wedding band in the urn with his remains which is why it was never sent back to you,” Russ said gently. “Mr. Hanson said that Monte told him your marriage was the best part of his earthly life, and he could not part with his ring even in death.”
The shock of everything was wearing off and a deep sense of mourning took its place. Tears obstructed her view, and she tried to blink them back. She did not know what to think. Lately, she had been able to dodge most of her feelings by keeping busy, but now she was standing still and could not run. She was mowed down by how much she missed Monte.
“Dad had such a romantic streak.” Gray looked over at his mother.
“He did,” she nearly whispered, and tears trickled down her cheeks. Gray hugged her.
Kathryn’s eyes were glued to the urn. Her brain rebelled at the sight. My handsome husband is reduced to a small vessel of ashes. It just can’t be! Suddenly the room began to swirl, and a wave of nausea rolled over her. Her legs shook as though they no longer wanted to support her.
“Do you need to sit down? There’s a chair over in the corner.” Russ took her arm.
Kathryn shook her head. “I’m fine.” She closed her eyes and willed herself not to pass out.
“It’s a bit overwhelming,” Russ said.
Kathryn nodded. “I feel like I’ve entered a dream, and that this isn’t real. I guess until I came here, I’d convinced myself he was gone, but not really dead.” Her words were said slowly and cracked with emotion. Tears were now flowing freely down her cheeks.
“I go in and out of thinking that myself,” Gray said. He walked over and touched the plaque. “I’m going to get some fresh air. It’s a little stuffy in here. I think I’ve seen enough. You guys can stay a little longer. I’m going to walk around. I won’t go far.”
“Okay,” Russ said.
The minute Gray walked out of the mausoleum, Russ pulled Kathryn into his arms and held her close wishing he could absorb the grief from her body. “I know this is hard. I wish I could take the pain away for you.” He reluctantly let her go.
She looked up at Russ. “I wish you could, too. How are you feeling about all this?”
“Probably just as shocked as you are about the name. Even though, Mr. Hanson told me about it, it didn’t faze me until I saw it. But I think the fact he used his birth name means Monte came to grips with whatever he’d been struggling with, which I have always believed exacerbated his drinking. Somehow, he reconciled his past with his present and was good with it. Maybe this is his way of telling us without words.”
“It could be.” She paused for a moment then said, “So, does that make me Kathryn Langdon or Kathryn Lawrence?”
“Perhaps it makes you both.”
She smiled up at him. “I think Kathryn Lawrence Langdon has kind of a regal sound to it, don’t you? Perhaps I need to change my name as well?”
Russ was relieved to see her smile and hear the teasing note in her voice. He could not help but think how nice Kathryn Prescott sounded. Coming here was a setback for her, and he knew that it would stir up all her feelings of love for Monte.
The fact that Monte wanted his wedding ring to be buried with him really was romantic and very fitting. Monte’s love for Kathryn was never in question, even though, his actions sometimes said otherwise. Russ was sure Monte never believed Kathryn would ever leave him because of her loyalty and love. Monte certainly pushed the limits with her. When she did walk out, it was a much-needed reality check for him.
Russ often wondered if Monte would have stopped drinking if she had not walked out on him. He could have died with nothing resolved and deep in the bottle. Russ was taken from his thoughts by Kathryn’s cool hand smoothing his brow.
“You’re zoning and not having very pleasant thoughts from the looks of it.”
“Sorry, this place is making me sad.” Russ took her hand into his, resisting the urge to kiss it.
“I know,” Kathryn said.
“I assume I can tell Mr. Hanson that everything is good with this place?” Russ asked.
“Yes, you may.”
Russ let go of her hand and put his arm around her waist. “Are you ready to go? Or would you like a few minutes alone?”
“I’m ready to go,” Kathryn said.
“Then, let’s go,” Russ said and walked out with Kathryn, arm in arm.
Kathryn shook herself from the memory. She had not been back to the mausoleum since that day. At some point, she would visit again, perhaps on his birthday, their anniversary and maybe the anniversary of his death. But going there more often than that would not be healing. She desperately wanted to make progress through her grief and hoped that preparing this house for sell was part of that process.
She moved the suit to the side and looked through the other clothes in the closet. They were too small for Gray now, and she began to put them in a box. There were boxes of old toys and games and some photo albums. She would take the toys and photo albums home and would donate the games to The Refuge or The Pit Stop.
There was nothing else left in his room. She was finished in here. The other bedrooms were void of personal items and only had furniture that would stay for staging the house. She decided to check on Russ and get some fresh air.
She found Russ sweeping the garage floor with a broom. He smiled when he saw her.
“The garage looks bigger. You got a lot of work done,” Kathryn said.
“I got most of it packed. Your car was open, so I put the tools for Gray and the other things in your trunk. The things I wasn’t sure of are in the corner on the workbench. What about you? Making any progress?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Good, then we can take a break,” Russ said.
“What did you have in mind?”
“Excuse me?” Kathryn asked puzzled.
“Let’s take the Porsche for a spin. While I was working, I heard it tell me a few times that it wanted to go out and play. Do you know where the key is?”
“Yes, hanging up in the kitchen,” she said.
“Go get it, and we’ll get out of here for a little while.”
Kathryn was giddy with excitement. She went to the kitchen and told Anna they were going for a drive and grabbed the key.
As she handed it to Russ she asked, “I assume you know how to drive a stick?”
“Sure do. Come on, let’s go.”
Russ started the car, and it roared to life. It had been a while since he had driven a sports car, and he could not resist revving the engine. Kathryn laughed joyfully as he did it. Russ glanced over at Kathryn. This is my Kathryn, not Monte’s widow. Her delighted laugh brought back memories of their late evening playground excursions, and warmth spread throughout his body at the thought.
He carefully backed the car out of the garage and had a bit of a jerky start moving into first gear. But once he got used to it, he was able to smooth out shifting gears. He drove the backroads and took the curves fast. A few times, he glanced over at Kathryn who had a big grin on her face despite her white knuckles clutching her seat. She reminded him of a little girl on a fast amusement park ride. After driving a while on the back roads, he made his way back to civilization and pulled into an empty parking lot of a large Catholic church.
“What are we doing here?” she asked.
Russ grinned at her. “Giving you a driving lesson. I think you should enjoy this car. You said it had been a while since you drove a stick, so I’ll help you refresh your memory.”
Kathryn’s excitement was extinguished by her nerves. “What?”
“Come on, it’ll be fun. Once you get the hang of it, we’ll go out on the street.”
Kathryn’s mind took her back to her teens when she first learned how to drive a stick. It was a horrible process. She endlessly stalled the car. Both her brother, Tom, and her father had given up on her. Finally, she mastered it. Her stomach churned at the thought of trying to drive Monte’s pride and joy. “I don’t know. Maybe we’d better ask to go inside that church and pray first.”
Russ laughed. “I’m nonjudgmental and won’t yell at you if you stall. Hey, if you need to practice a couple of more times out here, I’ll bring you. We’ll have you driving this baby in no time.” Russ’s tone was light and cheerful. “Let’s trade places.”
Kathryn took a deep breath and walked slowly around the car to the driver’s side. She eased into the driver’s seat as though it were made of eggshells.
Russ smiled. “You’re acting like you’re going to your death.”
“We may well be. We could both die with me driving this thing.”
“Let’s get a more positive attitude. Now, take a deep breath and relax. Say to yourself, ‘I can do this’.”
Kathryn did as he told her. It helped slightly. She put her right hand on the stick shift and got her feet into position.
She felt Russ put his hand over hers. She looked over at him. “You’re going to be fine,” he said encouragingly.
Slowly, she eased out the clutch and gave the car some gas. She jerked it, but soon was smoothly shifting gears. Everything came flooding back to her. As she gained confidence, she began to smile and relax. This car was a dream to drive.
After tooling around the parking lot for a while, she stopped the car.
“See, it wasn’t so bad. You did great,” Russ said.
“It was much easier than I thought.”
“Now, you can drive us home.”
Kathryn froze. It was one thing to drive around in the parking lot, but quite another to take it on the road. “I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”
“You are. You never stalled once and only jerked twice. You were fabulous. Trust me.”
Those last two words resonated with her. Kathryn did trust him and knew he would not let her do anything to harm herself. “If you’re sure. Remember if something happens, you asked for it.”
“A risk I’m willing to take. Let’s get back to the house.”
Kathryn navigated through traffic nervously at first and nearly had a heart attack when she had to stop for a red light. She almost chewed her lip enough to draw blood waiting for it to change.
Russ put his hand over hers in comfort, and it helped to calm her. “Hey, it’s okay. You won’t stall it. Remember, it’s easy.”
He was right. After the first time starting out at the stoplight without stalling, she gained enough confidence that she was not nervous at the stoplights any more. Now, she was at ease driving on the public roadways and decided to drive this car more often.
They pulled into the garage. Kathryn could not stop smiling. It was quite an accomplishment to be able to drive a stick, especially one like this. The joy overrode any sadness she had felt that day. Russ, as always, was a fun playmate.
“You did great – except for going 80 in a 45, but at least you didn’t get caught.”
Kathryn chuckled. “I had no idea I was going that fast until you told me. You just don’t notice speed in this car.”
“Yeah, I know. Something to keep in mind for the future.”
“Thanks for taking me out.” Without warning, Kathryn threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. Russ’s heart was a jackrabbit thumping like crazy. Her body pressed against his and sent his internal thermometer sky high, and his hormones screamed out of control. He wondered what she would do if he suddenly lost it and kissed her with the passion he was feeling right now.
The thought was enough to sober him up. He did not want to lose the spontaneity he had with her. When she did things like this, it fed his hopes and dreams. He needed that right now. It was a long road to the ‘forever after’ he wanted with her.
“Let’s go in and get a cold drink and see what Anna’s up to,” Kathryn said as she pulled away from him.
“Lead the way,” Russ said.