He closed her door, walking to her desk. He bent over her, face perilously close to hers.
“First, a kiss. Then, a story of love and romance. . . .”
He kissed her deeply for several seconds. When he was sure she was trembling from head to foot, he stopped. Sitting down, he folded his hands in his lap, right foot on the opposite knee. He told her everything from finding the ring to his lineage. She listened with rapt attention, hanging on every word.
“Mabel’s great-grandson, heir to the Cortland fortune. Aren’t I the lucky girl?” She grinned, eyes twinkling.
“I don’t need the money. It would help my sister, though. If Ralph’s stolen from Mabel, he might have pilfered that money too.”
“I doubt it. That was set up in a trust fund. He probably can’t touch it. But I agree, if he’s stolen from Mabel, that money could put it right.”
“Ralph is into something. I don’t know what, but he’s got trouble up to his ears.”
“Maybe you should talk to your father. It wouldn’t hurt to have backup when you talk to him. You have the perfect out. He’s family. You have every right to be there.”
“I’m also authorized to make medical decisions for him since his mother is incapacitated.” He unfolded the document Mabel had signed.
“I think you need to go check up on your great-uncle.”
“I think you’re right. What time is it? I’m starving.”
“Not quite two. You’ve had a busy day. I imagine you missed lunch.”
“Yeah. I’ll grab something on the way to the hospital. Oh, dammit. I don’t have a car.”
“As it happens, I do and I’m not busy. Mr. Penwarren might need to consult a psychologist after that traumatic fall.”
“He might indeed. If not, just seeing you would do any man a world of good.”
“If you don’t stop saying things like that, you’ll make me cry.”
“I’ll loan you my hanky. I can’t stop, Marka. I’m telling the truth.”
“I guess I’ll have to kiss you to shut you up.”
He stood, advancing on her like a giant jungle cat. His lean, muscular body towered over her, She stood to meet him. His arms encircled her, drawing her close. Lips met with a spark. To stop the sting, Frank kissed her harder, his tongue diving into her mouth over and over.
“God, I want you,” he whispered. “It’s this unbearable vice around my. . . .”
“I was gonna say chest,” he finished with a laugh. “I swear, I wasn’t gonna say nuts.”
Frank’s laugh filled the small room, bouncing off the walls. Marka joined him and they laughed at the misunderstanding together.
A tap at the door got their attention. Frank, who was only a foot from the door, opened it. Jeff leaned around the door frame.
“You two okay?”
“We’re good. We’re going to go see Ralph Penwarren.”
“Don’t get in the middle of something, Frank.”
“Jeff, I’m already in the middle of something. The only way out is through.”
“Well, be careful. We haven’t any idea why Penwarren might have wanted the ring. Well, other than the obvious. But how would you fence a ring like that? It’s distinctive.”
“I don’t know. Maybe Ralph does.”
“Oh, I spoke to the techs today. The computer system is secure. They re-did all the passwords. They said you like to set your own, so let them know when you want to do so.”
They walked out to her car together. Frank was silent, thinking over his day.
“Jeff’s certainly nice,” Marka said.
“Yeah, it’s weird.”
“Jeff doesn’t really care. He’s one of the least interested people I know. He does his job, he’s nice enough, but he’s not considerate. He never has been.”
“That’s rather unkind. He’s been very supportive.”
“Yeah, I know. Makes me wonder what he’s up to.”
“Anyone ever tell you that you’re cynical?”
“Me? Nah. Now paranoid? I’m that in spades.”
He held her door open, but she urged him to drive instead.
“I have no clue where I’m going and don’t feel like playing a game of hide and seek.”
“Let’s go see Ralph first, then visit my dad.”
“Why? I thought you might want the backup.”
“It could take a lot of time to talk to my dad. I want to get this bit with Ralph behind me.”
“Why the urgency?”
“Because I want it over with.”
Instead of turning left towards downtown, he made a right at the gate and headed to the highway about two blocks away. He drove to the hospital, stopping on the way for a burger and Coke from McDonald’s. He ate in the car, stuffing the food in rapidly.
© Dellani Oakes