Hey kids! Sorry this has taken so long to get up here. It’s been a crazy busy summer. I hope you enjoy…
Sleep had been an elusive friend and so finally around six, Scarlett had given up. Watching the sun come up, she had thought about all of the things Constantine had said over their ill-fated dinner. And though she’d tried to deny it, she knew that every word he’d spoken was right. She wasn’t sure how he’d known, but evidently he was very perceptive. Her life had been one disaster after another. The bad relationships, the drugs, the drinking—all of it had conspired to make her a shell of a person. This empty gash lay open in her chest and it seemed that everyone she knew, with the possible exception of David, had come by only to unload more poison into the wound.
Then there was Raze Constantine. She wasn’t sure what to make of him. He was absolutely, stunningly beautiful. His intelligence was internationally known and he was one of those guys that was so wealthy that no one was really sure how much he was worth. Obviously he had some kind of supernatural perception that made him able to pinpoint every little glitch in her psyche. But even knowing all that he did about her, he’d made no attempt to manipulate. He’d been honest and forthright… perhaps a little too honest and forthright. Raze had said all of those things that Scarlett needed to hear, no matter how much she didn’t want to. She sighed. It was probably for the best that she go back to Charlotte and let sleeping dogs lie. Sticking around and agreeing to his little arrangement would only prove disastrous. He would either tire of her instability and moodiness or turn angry and cold toward her. No, it was better this way.
Scarlett crossed to the bed where she’d laid open her suitcase. She began rambling through it trying to find something comfortable to wear on the plane home. She laughed to herself. It was so obvious that David had done most of her packing. All of the clothes he’d chosen were bright and dressy. Of course, he’d neglected to throw any underwear into the mess of garments. Yet another sign that she was making the right decision by going home. “I must remember to fire him when I get back,” she said to the empty room, tossing the clothes this way and that. A knock at the door stopped her frenzied search. “Who is it?” she called.
“Scarlett. It’s Raze Constantine. Would you open the door, please?”
She shivered and pulled her robe tighter around herself. What on Earth could he possibly want at 7 in the morning? “Give me a second!” she answered, looking around the room nervously. She caught sight of herself in the mirror and cringed. She’d just emerged from the shower and her black hair stuck to the sides of her face. Grabbing a towel from the rack by the sink, she quickly wrapped her hair up in it, turban style. Another check of the sash around her waist and she was on her way to the door. She wasn’t sure why she should care so much what she looked like, but for some reason she wanted to look presentable. She took a deep breath and then opened the door.
Raze stood there, looking at her miserably through hooded eyes. It was obvious that he hadn’t slept the night before either and she found herself stifling a smile that she had caused him to be so flustered. Raze Constantine was not a man to be flustered. “Hello, Scarlett. May I come in for a moment?” said he asked. His hair was tousled, nearly obscuring his right eye with fallen locks. There was no expensive suit this morning, but ratted blue jeans and a crisp white dress shirt, open at the neck. He looked almost human, save for those metallic eyes and pristine bone structure. Scarlett said nothing, but stepped aside so that he could enter the hotel room. He followed her to the small seating area and she gestured for him to sit down. “I think we got off on the wrong foot last night, Scarlett.”
“Indeed,” she said, picking up the television remote and switching it off.
There was an awkward silence between them that was almost solid as he stared around the room, observing everything. “I see you have your suitcase out. Are you planning to leave?”
“Yes. I called the airline this morning and had my ticket changed to the next flight. I’ll be out of your hair by the afternoon.”
“You needn’t leave so soon,” Raze said.
“Why not?” she asked, re-folding her clothes to put back into the suitcase. “Neither of us seems willing to compromise on your contract. There’s no reason for me to stay. I wouldn’t dream of imposing on your kindness.”
“You couldn’t be an imposition to me, Scarlett.” He took a step toward her and she shied away before he could take hold of her elbow. Instead she turned around sharply, her face looking glum.
“Why are you here this morning?” she snapped. “You made it pretty clear last night that your contract was a one-time offer. I didn’t accept. So I really don’t see the point…”
“You’re right. I don’t usually make repeat offers. But I couldn’t let you leave London without asking why you’re so afraid.” Reaching out, he took up the blouse she was still clutching in her shaking hands. “I think the cost of the plane ticket and these accommodations alone should afford me some sort of explanation.”
Scarlett shoved past him, dropping the suitcase and putting as much space as possible between them. She wanted to answer his question because he was right. He had gone to a lot of expense to bring her here, but there was no rational explanation. Nothing that she could say that wouldn’t sound absolutely insane. The truth was, if she were being honest with herself, that she knew him. He was like a voice from a dream she couldn’t place, but one thing was for certain: she knew him and he knew her. Very well. Too well for her comfort. In his eyes she could see that he knew every little dark secret. “I just can’t put my life on hold for an indeterminable amount of time, and honestly, I don’t think it’s very fair of you to ask.”
Raze nodded and began to pace, his fingertips poised beneath his lower lip. “You’re absolutely right,” he replied after several minutes of silence. “You have no reason to accept. No reason to trust me at all. Nor do I have any reason to trust you either. Perhaps you hadn’t thought of this before, but this endeavor is a leap of faith for me too. You see, these pieces aren’t just paintings for my collection. The way I see it, Scarlett… I’m asking you to put my soul on the canvas. I feel very strongly about this and if you won’t do it…” He stopped, heaving a sigh. “It sounds crazy, I know. But I promise that all of your questions will be answered in time. If you’ll just… give me a chance.”
Scarlett gave a heavy sigh and sank to the corner of the bed. She rubbed her forehead as if she could massage away the stabbing pain behind her left eye. She knew she was defeated. After all, it wasn’t as if she had much of a life to go back to. A shabby apartment, hallucinations of an angel that would swoop down and carry her away to all her wildest dreams? What Constantine was really offering was an escape route that she feared had come too late.
His voice was quiet when he spoke again. “What does one have to lose when she’s already thrown away everything?”
“Give me the contract before I change my mind.” Her hand was trembling as she gripped his expensive silver pen between her fingertips. With slow deliberation she signed her name above his in her scrawling script, feeling that she was signing her life away.