“Sports weren’t important at my school,” she said.
“Did you play any sports?”
“I preferred gardening. Oh! Look over there. I didn’t see those earlier. It’s hard to cultivate rhododendrons that well. What mastery of the green arts.”
She slid her arm away from mine and crossed the path, making her way behind the fountain. If she thought she was being veiled, she couldn’t have been further from the truth. That was a blatant deflect from talking about her past. I watched her bend to take in the smell of some random flower, and I watched her for a little while. I watched the way her long, graceful body moved and the way her eyes sparkled with the stars overhead. She turned her face up to the sky and closed her eyes, as if she was getting lost in her memories.
I wondered why she didn’t want to talk about her past.
Was it her job? Did she think I wouldn’t care about it? As far as I was concerned, she was a temporary employee. I enjoyed knowing things about my employees. I worked hard, sure. But I took care of those in my company. I worked hard for them because they worked hard for me. I tried to learn about them when I could, about the families my company took care of and the babies being expected by men in my businesses. There was no reason for me to not wonder about her life as well. For me to know about it and know her better so we could keep up our ruse.
I watched her eyes open, and I could’ve sworn she had tears in them. But just as quickly as I thought they had appeared, they disappeared.
I looked back at the house, wondering if Cristoff was ever going to join us. The longer we were out there, however, the more I felt as if he wasn’t going to join us. Which made me wonder why the hell he had suggested a garden walk in the first damn place. I felt something warm and soft slide against my arm, and I whipped my head around, taking in the glorious woman standing next to me.
A woman so full of knowledge yet working such a salacious job. Did she not have a family that cared? A man to take care of her? A father that guided her down the right path? If I ever had a daughter, I sure as hell wouldn’t want her working as a damn call girl.
Especially for men like me, who craved the body standing next to mine.
I wondered how many men had feasted on her. I couldn’t help it. Her profession made her open to it. Made that one of her requirements. I wondered how many men had pawed at her body, had done nothing but stick their dicks in her to get it over with. I wondered how many men had neglected her for the sake of seeing her as nothing but paid property.
The idea of another man treating her as less than she was made my blood boil.
“Phillip? Are you all right?”
My eyes focused on her face, and I forced my entire body to relax.
“I’m fine. Enjoying the flowers?” I asked.
“Very much so.”
“Are you ready to retire for the night? It seems as if Cristoff won’t be joining us.”
“Good. That means we can take a little longer with our walk,” she said.
And before I could protest, she started heading forward. So, to keep up our ruse, I stayed at her side. Like a good, faithful, loving fiancé would.
“Oh, I didn’t go into this part of the hedge maze earlier,” I said.
“Probably a good thing. You would have gotten lost,” Phillip said.
“I would have not. I’m good with keeping track of where I’m going. Puzzles have always fascinated me.”
“Why does that not shock me?”
“Because nothing shocks a man with no excitement in his life.”
“Hey, I have excitement.”
“Oh really? Then name one thing that made you excited in the last two weeks,” I said.
I slid away from Phillip’s body and turned to look at him. His eyes hardened on mine as that familiar blush crept up his neck. Oh, how I loved teasing him. He was such an easy target. The mouth of the maze was behind me, and I took a step into it, halfway shrouding myself with the shadows looming over the pathway.
“You’ll get lost,” he said.
“If we aren’t back by midnight, I’m sure Cristoff will surely send out the hounds and footmen to come find us.”
Phillip chuckled and shook his head, a sound and an action that filled me with a desire to know him more. I was glad I had jumped at the opportunity to be in the garden with him because I knew what Cristoff was attempting to set up. While Phillip had been under the impression that Cristoff was going to join us, I knew he had every intention of doing no such thing. Men like Cristoff fancied themselves matchmakers. He needed to establish himself as the head of everything around him, including our romantic “love” for one another. He wanted to be able to put his small mark on everything in our world, hence inviting us out to church. Hence inviting us out to his property. Hence putting us in romantic scenarios that made him feel as if he was helping us along in our romantic journey with each other.