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As she stood in the doorway of the atrium, Addie spotted Michael sitting on a bench waiting for her. He was wearing the blue V-neck sweater that emphasized his eyes, a blue-and-white checkered shirt, and a pair of tan khakis. He smiled a broad grin when he looked up and saw her. Then he stood to greet her with both hands extended as she walked toward him.
“I feel like I’ve just been paroled from a white collar penitentiary,” he said, as he took her hands in his. “How about you?”
“It is a heady feeling, being sprung.”
“So what’s the verdict? Are you coming to stay at my house?” Michael waited expectantly for her answer.
“If you’re sure it won’t be too much of an imposition. . .”
Before she could complete the sentence, he enfolded her in a bear hug. “That’s the best news I’ve heard in a while,” he muttered into her hair. Then he stepped back, looked her in the eye and said, “I promise to be a gentleman and respect your wishes. But I’m so glad not to be going back to that rambling house alone!”
A smile spread across her face as she answered, “Okay, then; I’ll do it.”
Michael instructed her to gather her things and meet him at the entrance to Langdon as soon as she was ready, and then with a quick kiss, they left the atrium to go back to their respective rooms. Addie picked up her overnight bag and walked down the hall to the facility entrance.
Within minutes, Michael appeared with his suitcase and they walked arm-in-arm through the automated doors. Realizing she had no idea where they were going or how they were getting there, Addie turned to Michael with a questioning look.
“I’ve got it covered,” he responded to her silent inquiry. A burly looking young man with a shiny, shaved head wearing a black turtleneck and black jeans came forward and took their bags from them. To Adelaide’s surprise, he proceeded to drop them into the trunk of a white Lincoln Town Car. “Ben, this is Mrs. Cunningham. She is going to be my houseguest. Addie, this is Ben, my driver.”
Addie’s jaw dropped open when Ben nodded and opened the door to the vehicle, exposing the plush interior. The car wasn’t a recent model, but it had obviously been carefully restored to its original elegance. She stepped inside and slid across the seat to make room for Michael. He slid in beside her and chuckled at the expression on her face.
“I guess I didn’t mention that I had a driver. Ben has been with me for three years, now. He takes care of the grounds outside the house and transports me whenever I have to go somewhere. My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, and for safety reasons, I gave up driving myself when he came looking for a job. His father was a business associate of mine in Italy and he wanted Benito to live in this country. I provide him with his own apartment above my garage in exchange for his services.”
This turned out to be one of many surprises in store for Adelaide that day. The Town Car traveled across the city and into the outlying areas where trees were more abundant and cement and bricks were less frequent. Finally, after several turns, they arrived at an elegantly fashioned wrought iron gate. Ben reached up to press a button on a remote control device on the visor above the windshield, and the gate swung open, allowing them entry to a winding paved driveway lined with stately elm trees. As the gate closed and locked behind them, Addie noticed autumn touch on the trees, having turned the most of the green leaves to various shades of yellow and a gold.
Ahead of them was an imposing structure with white siding, black shutters and a double door entryway in the midst of a rosy brick façade. There were lovely green hedges edged with huge chrysanthemums in shades of red and gold. If Ben is responsible for the grounds, then he has a green thumb and an eye for beauty, thought Addie. The house looked like something out of Better Homes and Gardens, or maybe Architectural Digest!
(to be continued)