Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
After Dallas, all Scott wanted was a quiet day or two to relax. Janie insisted on grocery shopping the next morning. Her plans to cook a big meal also necessitated a quick trip to the mall for a pasta strainer and other utensils he didn't have.
Working in the kitchen together felt right. Janie had him chopping vegetables. The sounds of life filled the building and it was strange to open the refrigerator and find it full.
They ate at the kitchen island with a stack of Aston Martin promotional materials and a prospective build sheet piled to one side. He was not the owner of a new car. Janie had kept her game going at the dealership until the salesman started talking numbers. Scott was no stranger to impulse buys, but at three hundred thousand dollars - he needed to sleep on it. Janie had quickly let him off the hook. Still, the vision of her in a short dress stepping from the luxury touring car was something he couldn't shake from his head.
Janie took a sip of water and cleared her throat. "How fast do you think the news will go around Fort Stockton?"
Scott paused between bites. "Hard to say. The Ladies Auxiliary is a tight-knit group."
"Bunch of gossips is what they are."
"You don't want people to know?"
Janie's eyes danced, "What I don't want is people thinking we're sneaking around, or for Mom to hear women in town being catty."
"So call her."
"Do it," Scott said. "I'll clean up."
Their week together flew by. They went to the movies, something that had never been a habit for Scott. They met Taylor for lunch and had a great time listening to her funny observations about the students in her diploma program. They lost hours shopping online for things Janie thought he needed, like extra sheets and blankets, and things he was sure he didn't.
Wednesday night they met the girls at a local club to go dancing, an evening Scott would never have done on his own. He realized he had a terrible weakness – he couldn't say 'no' to the Latina temptress.
They spent Thursday afternoon in bed, their final full day together. Scott was lying on his stomach while Janie explored his various scars. She traced each one with a fingertip, her touch featherlike. The faded scar under his arm, where the kitchen knife had nearly killed him, fascinated her the most.
Janie began to massage his back muscles, but stopped. "There's a mark here between your shoulder blades," she said.
"What's it from?"
"No idea," he lied. The thing he could never explain threw a shadow over his happiness. How could anyone understand being shot through the heart and living, or the revenge he'd taken on the men who tried kill him? "Let me know if you find any more."
"I think I've checked everywhere."
He rolled up on an elbow. "Maybe I should return the favor?"
She showed him a scar on her finger, "Kitchen accident." She pointed, "And I have one on my foot from stepping on nail at Meritt's."
"When did that happen?"
Scott reached for her foot, "You're not ticklish are you?"
Janie tried to jerk away, but he was too fast. She screamed as he tortured the sole of her foot. Janie thrashed around like a worm on a hook.
She was trying to smother him with a pillow when the Main Street door buzzer sounded.
He flipped her over and punched the remote control to bring up the exterior camera view on the television.
"Another delivery man," he said. A pillow hit him in the back of the head as he reached for the intercom switch. "Be right down."
Scott pulled up his pants and hurried to the stairs. Packages from Dallas had been arriving for the last couple of days. He'd never known they made boxes just for shipping suits and shirts, complete with a built in hanger rack.
He carried the box back up the stairs to the bedroom. "I think this is the last of it," he announced.
Janie was standing in front the bedroom mirror, naked, examining his old arrowhead necklace hanging from around her neck.
"Where'd you find that?" he asked.
"One of your drawers."
"Anything else you need to search through?" he teased.
"I always wanted this," she said.
He closed the distance between them. "It's yours. Maybe we can have it put on a nice chain?"
"I like it the way it is. I'll put it somewhere that I can always see it."
He took the arrowhead in hand. The flint was warm from the contact of her skin. "What are you going to give me in trade?"
"What did you have mind?"
"I'm sure we could come up with something."
She pushed him away. "What kind of girl do you think I am?"
"I think you're my girl."
Janie pulled a silver ring off her finger and held it out to him.
"For me?" he took the circle of silver. "Does this mean we're going steady?"
"It comes with conditions," she said.
He brought the ring to his eye and began to examine it.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Looking for Elvish writing."
"I thought you hadn't seen that movie?"
"It was a book long before it was a movie," he replied. "What rules?"
Janie raised a finger and pointed it at him. "We'll never 'shack up.' You're not getting this cow for free." She poked his bare chest with her finger. "I won't lie to my parents." The next jab was a little more forceful. "If they ask how you can afford the things you do, I'll tell them. I won't let you pretend to be something you're not."
She pushed him back onto the bed and looked down at him.
"I want you to stop hiding, to be yourself with them and with me."
She crawled atop him. "Those are my rules."
He looked into her eyes.
Janie didn't blink or look away.
They stayed that way and she rested her head against his chest. "You're not going to answer?" she asked, her voice husky.
His voice cracked, "Are there more rules?"
"I don't want any more surprises."
His chest rose and fell, with her weight pressed against him, one breath and another. "I can't promise not to surprise you," he said, "but I won't hide. Not from you."
Liar, his brain said.
"I understand that it's hard for you to trust," Janie whispered.
"I'll work on it."
"I'm not expecting miracles," she said.
"You understand that there are some things I don't want spread around as general knowledge?"
"Things about your family?"
"That, and there's no reason for people to know how much money I have or what I spend it on. If people find out that I have money, so be it ... but there's no reason to go waiving a balance sheet at them."
"I'm not saying that," Janie said. "I don't want any more surprises."
"That you have a nice home, that you own a restaurant, those kinds of things. Big things that other people know, things that you keep separate from the rest of us."
"Do you want a list of my assets?"
Janie pretended to think about it, "No, only the surprises." She snuggled against him.
He brushed hair back from her eyes and turned her chin to face him. "You have to understand. Money changes people. It changes the people you know, your friends, family, the way strangers treat you. It changed the way I think about myself."
Janie's eyes pinned his. "You think it matters to me?"
"Not to you," he said. "I know the kind of person you are. You knew me before any of this." He kissed her. "I trust you to be the person I fell in love with."
"You can tell me that a hundred more times if you like."
"Are you going to keep count?"
"Yes," she replied.
Scott ordered his thoughts. "My private banker manages things for me. I don't go looking for investment opportunities. I'm not going to back your Uncle Festor's crazy invention or cousin Itt's hair salon."
"I wouldn't ask you to."
"Janie, they'll ask if they see you as a way to my money. There are subtle ways it changes people and there are the pernicious ways it changes the people you know. Throw in family dynamics and it can get ugly."
"You make money sound like a bad thing."
"It can do good. I have a charity named for my parents. It does good things even if I can't."
"Fund a foster-care home, some scholarships, and support veterans' causes. We bought a van for the church here last fall. Things like that."
"Those are good things," Janie said.
"They are," Scott agreed. "But I don't want my name attached, does that make sense?"
"I think so."
"I also use a property management company to mask some of my activities."
"Used it to buy the old Lewis Ranch."
Janie sat up. "Bill Mason told Daddy his crews had been hired to do a bunch of demolition work there. He couldn't believe it. They were also working at Broken Creek, they ripped out the concrete foundations and leveled the retaining pond."