Dowager’s Deception Pt 2

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Part One – Galas and Gardens (continued)One week later, Nancy walked into the Country Club after her chauffeur dropped her off. She dressed for the occasion with a tasteful blouse and tailored cream-coloured designer pants. She wore white flat shoes and had a summer shawl over her shoulders. The staff at the Country Club greeted her by name and she heard the warmth in their voices. She paused by a few and inquired into their families and well-being, remembering the names of the children and even their age.A few years back, Nancy had hosted a children’s party for all the staff. When the Country Club had refused to host the event due to some legal crap, she had opened the doors to her house. She hadn’t spared any expenses and the staff still remembered it fondly. Nancy was their friend, and they loved her.Soon she was inside and heading to the outdoor patio area near the pool and tennis courts. She had a favourite seat and hoped it was available. From there she could watch the Gulf and ignore the surrounding snobbery. She sighed as she made her way through the club complex. George had always understood and never questioned her need. She missed him fiercely every day. Together they were a team; always in step with one another and always reaching out to touch one another.Nancy faltered and almost turned to leave when the club owner called out her name. Nancy forced a smile and turned to the voice. A rather large man, immaculately dressed to club standards, appeared from the office area. You can dress a pig in the same clothes, and it would look better, she fumed and stepped toward him.“Mr Carter. How are you?” she reached out with both hands and Mr Evan Carter grasped them, too strongly as usual.“Please, Nancy. Call me Evan. I wish you would.” His voice was always high-pitched, and it grated on her nerves. George had hated the man, and that was all she had needed to know to equally dislike him.She merely nodded.“Such a pleasure to see you once again to bless us. You’ve been missed. The members are always asking about you, especially after your donation at the gala. That was very generous. I’m sure George would be pleased.”Nancy had to clench her teeth. The audacity of this man! How would he know what George liked or didn’t like? She resisted the urge to put him in his place and nodded instead. “Thank you. Is Alice here?”Mr Carter nodded his head but did not seem inclined to let go of her hands. She watched him check her out. All men always did, and she had long grown used to it. Most men were more discrete, but not Evan Carter. She never got used to him sizing her up like some piece of meat at the market. He was repugnant to her. She snatched her hands back a little more sharply than she intended. My nerves are almost shot.Mr Carter was oblivious to it. “Yes, she’s out on the patio waiting for you. She’s ordered drinks and they should be waiting for you.”“Thank you,” and Nancy turned and walked away.Mr Carter called after her. “If you need anything, anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask for me directly…”Nancy shuddered at the implied offer and kept on walking.She greeted more people and exchanged air kisses. It took her the better part of ten minutes to clear everyone and finally emerge on the patio. She looked around in the bright sunlight and felt a presence sidle up to her.“Ma’am,” whispered Devin on her right. He was the head waiter for the patio. She smiled up at the large black man and saw him smiling back. “Such a pleasure to see you again, ma’am. You’ve been missed, dearly.”“Thank you, Devin. It’s so good to see you again. I’m sorry I’ve not been around.”She saw the sadness touch his eyes and her heart twisted a little. He nodded. “It’s completely understandable if you don’t mind me saying so. You’ve been in all our prayers. My wife asks about you all the time.”Nancy felt a spark of joy. His wife was a wonderful woman. She had been through such hard times before coming to Canada. Nancy had helped with her citizenship. Their family had three wonderful children, all bright and full of hope for their future. “Please send her my love. How are the children?”Devin smiled brightly. “Doing wonderful in that school. And little Audrey is doing so well. Her autism is being managed much better, thanks to you.”Nancy smiled at the larger-than-life man. “Devin, it was the least I could do. I’m glad to hear everything is good. You have my number. If you have any problems, give me a call.”“I surely will, Mrs Bates.”“Tut! It’s Nancy!”“You know I can’t say that here,” he said in a quiet voice, smiling and looking around the patio.She sighed. “I know. I’m sorry. Such a pretentious club. I heard Alice is here?”Devin smiled down at her. “At your usual table. When we heard you were coming today, the staff were so excited. Your table is waiting for you. Can I escort you?”Nancy slipped her hand into his offered elbow. “Why of course, good sir. Lead on!”Already the patio was abuzz with conversation with most heads turning her way. She identified the numerous patrons and knew them as the rich and powerful in business and politics. She smiled at them as Devin escorted her graciously to her table. She spotted Alice and saw her wave toward her.“Ma’am, Miss Berry has been here for a good hour already and has finished one pitcher of Margaritas already.”“Oh, has she? Interesting. You know what I like and how to make it. Please?”“Of course, Mrs Bates. You don’t need to ask. All the staff here bahis siteleri know how to best take care of you.”Nancy felt her eyes sting and blinked. George and she had always treated the staff here as people. They were generous when they could be, and the staff always respected them. She had not realised just how much she had missed this place, despite the aloof members.Devin brought her to the table and Nancy slipped her hand free. She patted his arm. “Devin, thank you so much. You are simply the best.”“My pleasure, Mrs Bates.”Alice was smiling at them both. “I told you she was coming, didn’t I?”“Yes, you did, Miss Berry. Do you require anything else?”Alice hoisted her empty pitcher and gave it a little shake and laughed. “One more?”“Certainly, ma’am. Coming right up.”Devin disappeared, and no sooner had Nancy sat than a vodka and soda appeared before her. Nancy looked up and saw Ben, another favourite of hers. She rose and hugged the startled black man. “Ben! I missed you! How have you been? How are your studies?”Ben backed away and looked nervously about. “Ma’am, very good thank you.” He leaned in and whispered. “We missed you. Please don’t hug us here? You know how Mr Carter gets?”Nancy frowned. She did indeed. “I’m sorry, it’s just been so long. So, school?”Ben beamed. “I’m starting my second year this Fall at the Vancouver Academy of Music. I’m learning so much!”Nancy grinned. “Fantastic! You play such beautiful music. You have quite the career ahead of you!”Ben nodded. “Thank you. Jazz is in my soul. I’ve formed a trio and play the clubs down in Gastown. I have a gig lined up at Guilt and Company. You should come check us out this weekend! I remember you and George dancing to my music. I would love to see that again.”No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a look of horror crossed his face.“I’m so sorry!”“It’s okay, Ben. I remember that fondly, too. I’ll try to be there, okay? Don’t worry about it. It has been over a year now.”Ben nodded but looked like he had betrayed someone. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. We all are. We all pray for you. We think about you all the time.”Nancy felt the sting in her eyes again and then hugged Ben once again and whispered in his ear. “Thank you, Ben. Knowing your music is taking you places is enough for me. Don’t you worry about Evan Carter. He forgets things sometimes. I’ll remind him.”She pulled back and saw Ben’s eyes were a little wet.“Thank you for the drink.”Ben left without another word and Nancy sat and looked at her friend who was grinning a drunken smile.“They ask about you all the time here. I’m tired of making excuses for you. Ben has an album out now that he produced. He won’t tell you because you know how they are with you. All afraid you’ll do something nice for them. Which you will. What did I hear about Carter?”Nancy rolled her eyes. “He ambushed me coming in. All smarmy and hands-on. Undressed me with his eyes. Typical crap.”“And what is he forgetting?”Nancy took a sip of her vodka and soda. She could barely taste the vodka and she sighed happily. George taught her to always watch alcohol intake in public. It was the road to disaster, he always said. “He forgets I own this joint…:”Alice tipped back her head and roared in laughter. After a moment, Nancy joined her.A new pitcher of margaritas appeared, and Alice’s glass was replaced and refilled. They toasted one another and clinked glasses. Alice was looking around and smiled. “All the staff keep appearing all over and sneaking looks at you, did you know that?”Nancy shook her head and smiled.Alice gave her an appraising look. “You’re looking better. Stronger.”“Yes, well, someone spoke to my chef and complained about me not eating enough!”Alice raised her glass. “Guilty as charged!”They laughed and enjoyed the view for a moment. Nancy kept glancing at Alice and Alice smirked.Alice decided to steer the conversation away from what was eating Nancy. “How is Angela doing?”Nancy’s face lit up. “Oh, she’s doing wonderful! What a change having a roof over her head and good things to eat. The doctor said she was dehydrated and malnourished. Nothing else. Clean bill of health.”“Has she said anything about her past?”“Not much. I get the feeling she left Calgary to escape something or someone. Probably before it left scars on her. She’s terribly shy. Worse than me. She really thought she could change her life in Vancouver, but it didn’t work out and she slipped through the cracks. She’s smart though and found Gabrielle.”“And her fascination with you?”Nancy looked uncomfortable. “A childish thing. She seems to be over it now that she can see I’m not some Disney princess.”Alice snorted. “Disney princess? Whoever called you that?”“Devin’s autistic daughter did once.”Alice laughed. “What are you going to do with her?”Nancy sipped her drink. “I really don’t know. I don’t think she wants to leave just yet and I am thankful. I’ve asked her to look into her education. Find something like Robertson College. She’s already complained about the Wi-Fi in the house and is determined to fix my… rooter? I don’t understand.”“Router, I think they call it. She did say she was into technology.”“Yes, well, she’s busy on my computer in the office all the time.”“You let her on your computer? George’s computer?”“Oh yes. You should see her clicking and typing away. Her face lights up and she is so happy. It’s a delight having her around. The house doesn’t feel so empty anymore.”Alice was pleased to hear canlı bahis siteleri her friend speaking so positively, but she was worried. “Careful, Nancy. She’s a stranger.”“What could she do?”“Who knows? Just be careful.”“I will.” Nancy sipped and watched Alice for a time. Finally, after Alice just seemed content to smile at her she leaned toward over the table. “Well?”Alice took her time answering. “He’ll be here at two.”Nancy checked her watch. “An hour?”Alice sipped her drink. “Yup, time enough to get some panty remover into you.”“Alice!”Alice chuckled. “What? When was the last time you got laid?”Nancy blushed furiously. “You know when.”“Yes, I do. Now drink up!” An hour later, Nancy saw Alice looking over her shoulder at something. As soon as she turned to look, she saw Devin bringing over Steve Fagin. Her nerves jangled through her and she felt the sudden need to run, but she steeled herself and waited.She stood and turned, and Devin and Steve approached.“Mrs Bates, your guest has arrived, Mr Steve Fagin.”Nancy opened her mouth to speak but Steve spoke first. Without even looking at Devin he spoke to him. “Thank you, you’re dismissed.”Nancy blinked and saw the expression that crossed Devin’s face. It wasn’t pleasant. She opened her mouth to say something when Steve reached out and took her hand and repeated the gesture from the gala. His lips brushed her knuckles. She lost her voice, unsure how to react. She looked to Devin, but he was already gone.“Nancy, such a pleasure to see you again!” gushed Steve. He sat at their table without an invitation and spied the pitcher of margaritas, Alice’s third.Nancy and Alice sat awkwardly and shared a look.“I admit when Alice contacted me, I was surprised. Surprised you remembered me, to be honest.”“It was a memorable evening,” said Nancy, feeling unsure.Steve looked at her and smiled. It was dazzling and beautiful. “I hadn’t forgotten you. You are such a treasure. One in a Million.”“Thank you.”Ben came over and stood nearby waiting. Steve noticed him. “A glass, please,” he said and pointed at the pitcher.Ben looked at Alice who nodded minutely. He left.“I didn’t think I left much of an impression with you,” said Steve when the ladies said nothing else.Nancy glanced at Alice unsure of what to say. Steve was acting strangely. She felt doubts rise quick and fast.Steve looked at both of them. “I’m messing things up, aren’t I?” he said and slumped back in his seat. “I’m sorry. Perhaps I should go. I’ve never been to such a fancy place and I’m not sure how to act. I’m embarrassing you.” Steve rose and Nancy reached out and grabbed his arm.“No, don’t. Stay. I wasn’t much better when I first arrived here,” she said and caught Alice’s disagreeing face in the corner of her eye. “Stay. Relax. There is no ‘way to act’. Order your own drink. They’ll bring you anything you want. Food, too, if you’re hungry.”Steve hesitated and then quietly sat down. “I’m so bloody nervous. I’m acting like an American, aren’t I?”Nancy laughed. “Perhaps. I bit boisterous.”Alice stirred. “You know Nancy knows all the staff here personally. Interviewed some of them. She can tell you all their children.”Nancy shot daggers at Alice who ignored her.Steve looked surprised. “Really? Why would you be interviewing staff here?”Alice tittered. “She owns the place…”Steve looked stunned. “You own… this place? The Country Club?”Nancy was truly embarrassed. “Yes, not many people know that. Please keep your voice down. George bought this place for me one day out of the blue. He said If I was so interested in how the staff are and their lives, I should be their boss. So now I am. It’s more token than anything else. Mr Carter runs the place on my behalf.”Steve said nothing and looked around the establishment. Ben arrived and placed a glass down on the table in front of Steve. Steve looked up at him. “I’m so sorry. I’ve been very rude, I’m afraid. I don’t know the rules and I am truly out of place here. This is a far cry from my town in New Jersey. Can I order something?”Ben nodded his head. “Yes, sir. What would you like?”“Scotch, neat. Single malt. Laphroaig, if you have it? The eighteen?”Nancy felt a jolt hearing the name of the scotch. It was her husband’s scotch. And the exact age he preferred. George always said he had to drink a scotch old enough to sleep with.Steve looked at her and winked. “It has to be old enough to sleep with!”Nancy lurched to her feet.Steve stood. “Did I say something wrong?”“No, no. I just need the ladies’ room. I’ll be right back.”Nancy hurried away and made it to the ladies’ room. It was thankfully empty, and she burst into a stall and emptied the contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl. Her mind was reeling. He was so much like George. Too much. It distressed her and excited her.Finally, the nausea passed. She had been feeling sick far too often these days. Alice is right though. I need to get out. Enjoy life. George would have wanted that.She washed up and rinsed her mouth. She exited the bathroom and went back outside. She saw Alice and Steve laughing up a storm at their table and she smiled. This might work after all, she thought and joined them.“What are you two laughing about?” she asked, and Steve rose and remained standing until she sat down. He settled in and sipped his scotch. Alice looked at her worried. “I’m fine, Alice. Not used to the summer heat.”Steve nodded. “I hope you are feeling better. Alice was telling me about canlı bahis how you first met.”“No, she didn’t!” laughed Nancy. “Tell me you didn’t!”Alice laughed and sipped her drink. “Yup.”“Did she really catch you kissing a girl in a bar?”Nancy peeled in laughter and embarrassment. “Yes! It was horrible!”Alice made an unladylike snort. “You were loving it.”Steve smiled at Nancy. “Tell it from your side. I know Alice’s…”Nancy sighed. “I suppose I might as well. It was my first year in UBC, the University of British Columbia,” she explained, and Steve nodded. “I went bar-hopping with some girlfriends down in Gastown. There is this terrific Irish pub – a huge place — with live music, and we went in. I started drinking this red beer…”Alice spoke “Rickards Red.”“That’s the one! Anyway, I liked it. Too much. This is before I met George! Remember that! Anyway, there was this little red-haired girl there. My age. Beautiful. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She noticed and approached me. Soon we were drinking and laughing. It was magical.“Things get a bit blurry, but soon I was outside with this girl. Skipping on the cobblestones! She steered me into this other club. A dark strange place and before I knew it, I realised I was in a gay bar. Sorry, alternative lifestyle place. I started to look around and noticed a lot of same-sex couples. They were playing Jenga! Jenga! Incredible. Anyway, I was looking around at all these women kissing and stuff. And men kissing men. It all looked so civilised. Oh, our waiter Ben is going to be playing there. He is so good at jazz. I digress. One thing led to another and suddenly I was kissing this redhead. I still don’t know her name. I never did learn it, actually. Why’d I never notice that before?“So, there I am, first-year university student, doing everything a first-year should. You know, experimenting?” Nancy laughed. “I’m oblivious to everything when I feel this tap on my shoulder. It’s Alice. She says, and I quote ‘Mind if I cut in?’.” Nancy laughed harder. “It was so… so funny. I started to laugh. Really laugh. The whole place was looking at me. The redhead—God I hate to call her just that—this girl I was with flipped me off and exited the place. So, there is Alice and I standing there staring at each other laughing. She gave me this chaste kiss on the lips and said ‘let’s blow this popsicle stand’ or something and she brought me back to the dorms. She went to UBC and recognised me. My knight in shining armour! She held my hair as I puked for hours. I was SO drunk. She rescued me. Or so she thinks.” Nancy kept laughing and missed the strange look Alice gave her at the end.“I met George two days later. The end. How’d that compare? With Alice’s version?”Steve was laughing and Nancy liked the way it looked on him. The corners of his eyes crinkled, and she suddenly wanted to kiss them. “Mostly the same. She never said anything about puking though. And she said you were openly groping the poor girl in the bar and were being equally groped. The whole bar was watching you!”Nancy laughed. “True, I left that part out.”Steve looked appreciatively at Nancy. “I adore your laugh. It’s beautiful.”Nancy stopped laughing and blinked at Steve. “Wow.”Even Alice seemed impressed.They smiled at each other. Nancy felt very much at ease. She spied the staff looking over at them and smiling. Everything feels perfect for once, she thought and raised her glass to Alice and Steve.“To us!” she chimed.“To us!” repeated Alice and Steve.Late in the afternoon, they sat by the pool in the shade in loungers watching the kids and some adults swimming. Alice had fled to the bathroom about fifteen minutes earlier and Nancy was informed some staff were helping her and keeping her away from prying eyes.There was a little table between their loungers and Nancy put out her hand for her ice water when Steve captured her hand. He held it and rubbed her palm.“Thank you for inviting me. I’ve had a wonderful afternoon,” he said.Nancy looked at him and saw the sincerity. His thumb pressing her palm relaxed her. George used to do that to her. She had missed it.“I would like to ask you out for a date if that’s allowed?”“Allowed?”“If you would like, I mean.”“Hmm. Where would we go?”“How does jazz sound? We could go watch Ben play. You said he was good, and I love jazz. Especially Oscar Peterson. Night Train. My favourite album. He’s Canadian, right?”Nancy felt like she was floating out of body. George had adored Oscar Peterson. She found herself nodding. “Okay. Ben said he plays there this weekend.”He smiled. “It’s a date then. I want to say something to you, and I don’t want you to judge me right away.”Nancy nodded.“I know you are still grieving. I’m not trying to replace your husband or make you forget him. I just like your company and I would like to bask in it a little longer.”Nancy felt her eyes sting again, and she nodded. “Okay.”* * *Steve picked Nancy up right on time driving a new Tesla Model X. The gull-wing doors opened, and Nancy clapped to watch it. Steve got out and held out his elbow to escort her to the passenger side. He helped her get in and then surprised her by reaching across her to buckle in her seat belt. He paused as he was exiting and looked into her eyes for a moment.“Need to keep you safe,” he whispered, and she felt a thrill go through her.He got in and pushed a button and the doors closed. In a moment they were off, and she marvelled at the lack of sound. It was like riding in a cloud.“What a beautiful car!” she gushed.“Thank you. This is the best one. Did you know how they are named?”She shook her head. She knew nothing about cars, but at least knew the Tesla brand and what they were.

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