Sweet Liar (Montgomery/Taggert 18) - Page 51

She smiled. “Come on,” she said and led the way into the breakfast area, where they could sit and watch the rain through the glass doors. She left him there while she went back to the foyer to get her bags, and when she returned he was sitting at the table.

“Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” she said.

After a moment’s hesitation, Mike did what she asked as she unwrapped the little samurai and put it in his hands. When he opened his eyes, she watched his face to see if he was pleased.

Mike didn’t say anything for a moment as he held the little statue. He liked the sculpture, liked it very much. In fact, it was something he might have bought for himself, but more important than his liking the statue was the fact that she’d given it to him. Never before had an unrelated female given him a gift when it wasn’t his birthday or Christmas. All of the other presents he’d received from females had been impersonal, a sweater or a tie or a wallet. And the gifts were usually followed by the female saying, “Let’s go out to dinner and show it off,” which meant that he’d spend more than the present had cost.

“Do you like it? I thought he looked rather like you. You know, kind of fierce, but rather sweet, too…smiling.”

He was looking at her as though seeing her for the first time. From what he saw on her face, he might as well have been seeing her for the first time, for she looked different: She looked happy. “Yes, I like it,” he said softly, puzzled by the pleasure his words seemed to give her. Could giving a gift to another person please someone that much?

Leaving his chair, he walked to the glass doors and examined the man in the light, looking at his facial features, studying the intricate carving of his clothes. When he looked up, Sam was standing beside him.

“He’s the nicest present I’ve ever received in my life,” Mike said truthfully. Normally, when he received a gift from a woman, he kissed her, then, after an expensive dinner, took her to bed, but now he just smiled at Sam as his hand curled about the little statue—and that smile, at that moment, seemed more intimate than what he’d shared with other women in bed.

They went back to the table and when she began to talk, he watched her as much as he listened to her. She was telling him of the great and wondrous experience she’d had when she’d bargained for the purchase of the man. To hear her tell it, she had fought her way through enemy territory to explore new frontiers.

“What else did you buy?” he asked, looking at her shopping bags.

As she began to pull out other purchases to show him, Mike knew without being told that this showing of what she’d bought was a new experience for her. How odd, he thought, because his sisters and his mother, and sometimes it seemed that every female in the neighborhood, used to gather in their dining room to look at each other’s purchases.

Extravagantly admiring everything she showed him, he made comments about all of it. He listened with interest and pleasure as she told him about Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue and what the other women had been wearing and what she had seen and how she’d eaten a hot dog from a street vendor—all of it so ordinary, but seen through Sam’s delighted eyes, all of it so wondrous.

When she’d shown everything except the white nightgown, she seemed to run out of words and she sat down, all her purchases on the table about her and sipped her drink.

Smiling, she looked out at the rain.

“Oh Mike,” she said, “I haven’t been this…” She seemed to search for the words. “This happy, in years.”

“The shopping made you happy?”

She laughed. “Yes and no. The selfishness of this city, of having my hair done and my nails polished, of living here in this house and not having to cook and having you look at me as though—” She broke off, then after a quick glance at him, said no more.

After a while, he spoke. “What did you do in Santa Fe?” he asked, genuinely curious, for as far as he could tell, nothing she’d done since coming to New York was unusual. His sisters, his mother, and all the females he’d ever known seemed to spend their lives fooling with their hair and nails.

“I worked,” Samantha said, knowing she should keep her mouth shut, but the drink was making her relax. “I worked at ComputerLand five days a week, and two evenings and Sunday evenings I taught an aerobics class at a local spa. The time I wasn’t at work I did housework and bill paying and groceries, that sort of thing.”

“And what did your husband do?” He hadn’t meant it to, but the word husband came out with a sneer.

A humorless little laugh escaped Samantha as she held her drink aloft in a mock toast. “He was writing the Great American Novel.”

Her words gave Mike some insight as to why she’d once made a snide remark about writers. “And what did you do when you lived with your father before you got married?”

Downing the last of her drink, she looked back at the rain, and when she spoke, he could barely hear her. “I saw a TV show once where someone asked a man why he remained married to his terror of a wife. He was such a nice man, you see. The man said that sometimes he thought he was like a clock and that his wife kept him wound up and that he was afraid if he didn’t have her, he’d sit down somewhere and never get up again, that he’d be like a clock that no one remembered to wind. I think my father and I were like that man. My mother was an outgoing, social person and I think she wound my father and me up. After she died, we…we sort of unwound.”

Mike wasn’t sure he understood what she was saying. All of his life he’d had to fight for privacy and time alone so he really couldn’t imagine just two people living in one house. When he was a kid and one of the younger kids had invaded his room and messed with his stuff, he’d thought that being an only child must be divine.

Now, looking at her, snuggled in the chair, overwhelmed by the size of his robe—he’d always hated the thing, but right now it was his second favorite possession—he didn’t think being an only child was so good.

He smiled at her. “Tell me more about today. Tell me about Santa Fe.”

She laughed at that. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Santa Fe is the strangest place on earth. Shall I tell you about the Soul Quest seminars or our brand-new escalator?”

“All of it,” he said.

As she began talking, Mike listened and laughed as the rain coming down outside isolated them. It was an ordinary evening, just two people sitting at a table, sipping drinks, and talking, but to Mike it was one of the most pleasant evenings of his life. For once he was with a female, and there was no pressure on him to entertain her or make her think he was great. There was no need to try to impress her. Holding up the little samurai, he looked at it, then closed his fingers tightly around it.

“What?” he asked. Samantha was looking at him expectantly.

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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