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"I actually had to step in for a closer view. The room seemed completely out of place in this house. Apparently a character from a fairytale had lived there."

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02 – Vantage Point

I was impressed with Louisville.   Not one bottle of moonshine, or couch on the front porch or car up on cinder blocks to be seen anywhere.  We exited the highway into a very modern looking industrial area that looked to be a mix of light manufacturing and office plazas.  It must have been heavily populated because there was a bustling core of eating establishments with depth of variety the likes of which I had only ever seen in places like L.A. or Dallas.  It seemed there must be a lot of hungry workers who couldn’t eat at the same place twice in their lifetime here at the Bluegrass Industrial Park.  Well, that was a plus since I never cooked.

Ray parked us in front of an older looking office building and I studied our reflection in the dark glass facing that covered the entire structure.  It was two stories, and empty from the look of things.  There was only one other car in the lot.  It was my favorite car in the world.  I had driven it a few times but that would never be enough for me.  I was hoping to somehow inherit it from Ray someday (you know, father figure and all).  It grated on me mercilessly that Lidia got to drive it all the time, especially since she looked down her nose at American cars.  Apparently she was here now.

When we walked inside I questioned my initial assessment of the age of the building.  The lobby was extremely elegant and well appointed, not dated at all.  Over a floor of cool, neutral colored Italian marble tiles, an impressive crystal chandelier hung in the center of the room, stationed above a massive reception desk that appeared to be carved out of stone.  Fresh flowers in costly looking urns graced every corner and soft lighting glowed all around.

Sitting behind the counter in a smart looking lime green suit with matching jewelry was the receptionist, I guessed.  She had curly jet black hair, pulled back into a twist at the nape of her neck—but her curls were resisting the twist and many had begun escaping around her face.  She wore ultra-sheik looking glasses, like the kind that people who have perfect eyesight wear because it makes them look smart, or rich.  She was tall and very pretty—Italian.  She looked to be in her late 20’s or early 30’s and she regarded us with an expression that was a cross between amused interest and slight distain.

“I’m sorry gentleman.  This is a private facility,” she warned as we approached.

Ray smiled warmly and replied “We’re expected.”

He leaned in a relaxed way against the counter and looked around the room, taking it in.  He added, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”  Then he reached out and pulled a rose from the nearest arrangement of fresh flowers.

Holding it to his nose he breathed in the scent.  Then he sauntered around to the opening of the bank of stone and moved right into her space.  Wrapping his arms around her from behind, he kissed her on the neck, right at the frontline of the battle between the twist and the curls.  Then he held the rose up where it brushed lightly under her chin.  He asked, “May I have this dance?”

Her eyes went from very wide to closed tight. “Sorry honey.  The Musak won’t be installed until Friday.”

Then she looked over at me, the interest all gone, but the distain still in evidence, “So how’s my favorite step child?”

We exited the lobby into a short corridor that opened to a larger, sun filled room, which housed a row of cubicles on the left and a large conference table with plush chairs in the center.  The outside wall was all tinted glass.   In the corner was a large office with a half wall and glass windows separating it from the room.   The Torrences walked hand in hand ahead of me toward what I now understood to be Ray’s corner office.

On the way over, Ray had explained that he hadn’t been here since they signed the lease, and was looking forward to seeing Lidia’s interior design and subcontracting skills brought to life.  I had to admit, I was impressed.  My own weekly cut was proof enough, but man!  There had to be some serious money flowing through this operation.  I felt…out of place.

“So, do I get a cube?”  I asked jokingly as we settled into richly appointed high backed chairs that faced the massive and ornate cherry wood desk that Ray now sat behind.  Lidia made an unladylike snorting sound.

“You didn’t tell him?” she asked Ray in disbelief.

Ray smiled, a little impishly, and leaned back in his leather executive’s chair.  Then, as if he was suddenly remembering a lost thought, he turned around and examined the labels on the manila folders placed in the standing file holder on his credenza.

“Here it is,” he said to himself, and handed the file to me.

The folder contained a number of documents, some paper clipped together, some loose.  The page on top looked like a real estate sales flyer, showcasing the features of a ‘Ready to Move in Gem’.  It did look nice.  There were big trees in the yard.

I looked up at him with a raised eyebrow.

“You don’t get an office, Ash.  You get a house.” Lidia explained, slightly peeved.  I was feeling very good all of the sudden.

“Well, it’s our prime vantage point.  It backs up to the mark’s home.  But it’s yours, if you want it.” Ray explained.   Whether I wanted it or not, I could see that one of my pseudo names was all over the paperwork, so it was definitely mine.

“Thanks?” I offered, a little unsure.  I’d need to think this through.  Was I supposed to be on the job twenty-four seven since I lived next door, or did I have to share my house with the next shift?

“So let’s talk about the job.” Ray began again.  “Right now it’s just the three of us, but I have plans to bring on three more.”

He reached around to the credenza and pulled another file, sliding it over to me.

“We’re providing transparent security for a young woman named Ellery Mayne.  The fees are paid through a third party.  The client didn’t indicate that she was in any danger.  From what I understand, they aren’t even acquainted.  But he has an unspecified interest her security, and now so do we.”

“What do we know about her?” I asked, opening up the file he’d handed to me.  It contained a single sheet with her name and address and a copy of her state ID photo, from when she was twelve, it appeared.

“Well, there’s not much to know.  She lives with her mother and step-father over in Eastwood, close to Valhalla.”  Eastwood, Ray had explained in the car, was a wooded suburb…to the east of Louisville—they believe in descriptive names around here, I guessed.

“Valhalla?”  I questioned.

“Yeah, it’s a golf club. I was there for the Ryder Cup recently.  It’s nice.  Oh, sorry.  You’re house isn’t on the course, but it’s close.”  That must explain why it was now mine and not Lidia’s.

“She’s in high school…she’ll start her senior year this fall,” he continued.

Wait.  Was that a joke?  Was I really getting paid five grand a week to baby-sit a teenager?

“It’s no joke.  I don’t begin to understand this, although something tells me I need to make the effort to find out.  Anyway, there will be plenty of time for that.”

There was a pause while he looked over some information in the house file that I had handed back to him. “So you want the house?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Okay.  The realtor was told that you are a computer software engineer who travels ninety percent of the time, and that you have friends from out of town staying at your place from time to time.  That should help you keep a low profile and explain the other agents coming and going.”

Some of the uncertainty I was feeling about that situation must have been leaking into my expression.  Ray tried to smooth it over.

“You’re gonna love the place.  You can have the whole upstairs—off limits to everybody else.”

Like that was going to keep people who were nosy by trade out of my stuff.  Lucky for me I didn’t have any stuff.

“Let’s run over and see it, what do you say?  And who knows, maybe we’ll get a look at the girl, while we’re there,” he suggested, working even harder now to pull me out of my deepening skepticism.

“Say Lidia, do you mind if we take the ZR1?”

Did I look like I was going to bail, or what? He was pulling out all the stops to win me over on this.  I had better start looking happy or something.

I glanced at Lidia and saw the war raging in her thoughts.  How could she say no?  It was his car, after all.  But she didn’t want to risk the chance that he might let me drive it, which seemed to be the plan.  I could feel the happiness spreading across my face.

She tossed the key at my head from fairly close range.  I was expecting something like that so I was ready and grabbed it in a nearly invisible move that irked her even more.

Lidia was much closer to my age than Ray’s.  So from his perspective our antics were likely akin to sibling rivalry, I imagined.  He seemed to enjoy being the dominant corner of our little love triangle.  Oh, let me be clear…I didn’t love Lidia, and she surely didn’t love me, but we both loved Ray, each in our own way, and so we were stuck together in this psychologically geometric social oddity.

It felt, well, words can’t really describe how good it was to be driving Ray’s ZR1.  This hundred-grand muscle car was so worth the price.  If I wanted to, I could be cruising up past sixty miles an hour in three point three seconds from a dead stop.  If I wanted to, I could be blowing by every single vehicle out there at two hundred and twenty miles an hour.  If I wanted to, I could ask Ray to bequest this car to me in the unfortunate event of his untimely demise…

He knew how I felt about the car.  After all, I was the one who suggested he test-drive it in the first place.  He was big into German engineering and I was pleased he saw the light this one time.  His view of things changed when the car won top honors at the Frankfurt Auto Show, of all things.  Besides, it meant buying American.  This car was made in the U.S.A, here in Kentucky, as a matter of fact.  I was going to have to make time to visit the manufacturing plant in Bowling Green at some point while I was still here.

Just the looks you got from the occasional car buff who knew what they were looking at was worth the price of admission.  Of course, you had to pretend not to notice.  Maybe if I actually owed a car like this I could.

We made our way back to the highway and headed east, toward…Eastwood.  I really hit the gas on the entrance ramp and basked in the push of the G’s.  Going this fast was cutting my time with the car short, an unfortunate but unavoidable dichotomy.  We exited on U.S. Route 60, the very one that takes you from Virginia Beach to L.A., according to Ray, and the lesser known little sister of the famous Route 66, I mused.

We took the first road on the left past Valhalla and drove through a heavily wooded area until it opened up to a clearing that had been overtaken by fancy homes.  The pristinely landscaped entrance to the subdivision, complete with double waterfalls, announced that we were entering “Polo Forest”.

These were easily half-million dollar homes, and probably much more.  And one of them was now mine.   I started thinking that I was going have to lease a car worthy of the garage here.  Well, at least the Z would look like it belonged in the driveway today.   Ray directed me through the neighborhood, winding our way to the back.  My house was on a cul-de-sac that backed up to another lane we had passed on the way.

He reached up and pushed a button on the visor above me.  The garage door began to open in response.  I was surprised to see that there was stuff on the shelves along the back wall.  Ice melt, weed killer, bird seed—these seemed like strange supplies for Lidia to have provided.  Maybe some kind of odd collection of house-warming gifts?  Not likely.  As we pulled in it began to dawn on me that this was not an empty garage.  It looked stocked, occupied.

Ray could see my examinations taking place and explained.

“Yeah, this was more than just a home purchase.  We were able to buy the whole estate.”

“Estate?”  I was intrigued.

“The guy that lived here until a couple of months ago was single, no family.  He was an older gentleman, a professor, I believe.  The executor, his banker, was planning a separate estate sale.  When we found out about that, we made an offer for the house and estate.  So now you’ve got dishes and patio furniture, too,” he explained, sounding pleased.

“Nobody came to clean it out?”

“Well, Lidia said it looks like his personal effects are gone: pictures, trinkets, clothes, paperwork, that sort of thing.  But you’ve got a vacuum cleaner, and bath towels and a hell of a nice Grillmaster on the deck.”

As a married man with an appealing home life, I could see how these items would be of interest to Ray.

A tour of the house revealed that every room was richly furnished in decidedly masculine overtones with deep colors and heavy woods.  The great room was two stories and featured a creek stone fireplace that rose to and through the ceiling.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the stones, their colors and shapes, were very unusual, and irregular.  No ordinary creek, I thought.   The back wall of the house was almost completely glass, though I saw that it was specially tinted, perhaps to keep the sun from ruining the furnishings.

There were four bedrooms on the second story.  The very large master suite had a high ceiling and its bathroom and closet space were nearly as large as the bedroom itself, all in pleasingly masculine in décor.  Two other bedrooms seemed to be guest quarters, each with queen beds and nice furniture, which I noticed as I walked past.

The fourth bedroom, the one at the end of the hall over the garage, made me pause.  I actually had to step in for a closer view.  The room seemed completely out of place in this house.  Apparently a character from a fairytale had lived there.  A female character—a princess, perhaps?  It had a very royal atmosphere.  The colors were soft: yellow, cream and green.  The main wall held a poster bed topped with cream-colored gauze draped on all sides and tied back with strips of yellow silk.   The front wall was completely covered with a very ornate network of shelves and cubby-holes, painted off white, still holding their very feminine knick knacks, books and paintings.  Cut out of the center of this testament to woodworking was a large, recessed dormered window that contained a very inviting upholstered area in which to climb in and read, or look out at one’s kingdom, perhaps.

If the former owner had been a single, older gentleman, then what in the world was this room about?

Ray was standing beside me now, taking it in as well.  “I don’t know, man.  If you ever have Snow White over for the weekend I guess she’ll be all set.”

He chuckled and moved back into the hallway.

I lingered.  There was a strange energy coming from the feeling of this room.  Strange wasn’t the right word.  Words like pleasant, appealing, happy…those words fit better.  I couldn’t see myself spending time in this room.  But there was something appealing about the idea of spending time with someone who would enjoy being in this room, of being in here with her.  As a kid I’d dreamed about finding my princess someday.  Well, if I ever did, her room was ready.

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Chapter Index | 13 Comments

13 Comments (Leave a comment »)

  1. Ash was drawn to the room that was Ellery’s when her grandfather was alive and that he felt a good presence from it. Also he said that when he found his princess her room would be ready. Seems interesting that it is already his princess’ room.

    Comment by rebeckah — February 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm

  2. I find it interesting that he was drawn to the room in Ellery’s grandfather’s house and that he could feel that would be a place that was a refuge for someone. As well as the fact that he said that if he ever did find his princess her room would be ready. Funny how his princess is the one the room was made for.

    Comment by rebeckah — February 23, 2013 at 11:23 pm

  3. I just love Ash I really hope that Ellery stays with him. Can’t wait for the next book.

    Comment by Margaret — June 30, 2012 at 6:07 am

  4. I have just finished reading “In the spotlight” for free and it was fabulous. thanks so much for sharing it.
    I really want to read Ash’s book next – I can live without reading Gray’s book – so finish Ash’s first!
    Oh, by the way Ray and Lidia’s surname keeps changing, you call them the Torrances and then the Lawrences in several chapters in both the Ash excerpts above and in the original book.
    I have recommended your book to my friends – please hurry to finish the next one.

    Comment by Annie B — April 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm

  5. I find myself falling deeper in love with Ash. I love reading his point of view. I can completely imagine the princess bedroom. Ellery, Prince Charming is Ash not Gray!

    Comment by JKS — February 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm

  6. Before reading the other comments, I knew that the house was Ellery’s grandfather. His house and that was her room. I’m so hooked on these stories.

    Comment by Ginny Alward — September 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm

  7. I <3 these books! I read the first and it was amazing! One question though. When is the book ll coming out on the Nook? Also, how much $$$?!?!?!?!

    Comment by GraceWinfree — June 27, 2011 at 4:27 pm

  8. Hi Kathy~I’m very glad (and maybe just a tad bit nervous) to hear that you are paying such close attention! :)

    I tried to email you but the address didn’t work. If you leave another comment sometime, double-check that so I can thank you properly for your comment love!

    Comment by annmauren — June 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm

  9. Ok, I’m hooked. Can’t wait to read. Sorry, I was also questioning why they didn’t know it was Ellery’s grandfathers house. Shows you we pay attention.

    Comment by Kathy — June 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

  10. Okay, okay! You guys are forcing me to reveal details from ‘Shadow’ here…

    The reason the security team wasn’t aware that Dr. Mayne, (Ellery’s grandfather) owned the house they were using for surveillance is because his name was not on any of the documents. The property was officially owned by one of his companies. Ash will figure out the true identity of the home’s previous owner in a startling way in Shadow. I’m quite certain that you will approve. :) Stay tuned.

    Comment by annmauren — June 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm

  11. I am enjoying this, but they should of known it was her grandpa’s house, but I still love it.

    Comment by Ronda Maynard — June 7, 2011 at 12:01 am

  12. I agree. It is very interesting that people getting paid that much money to look after Ellery didn’t realize the connection. And yet, even through the oddities, it’s plausible.

    Comment by Ally — April 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm

  13. It’s interesting that they didn’t know the house was Ellery’s grandfather’s home.

    Comment by Enjoli — February 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm

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