Grayson's Vow

Page 13


Grayson pulled the truck over before we'd driven around the fountain, and I pulled behind him, just noticing a small house on the right, partially hidden behind a very large oak and overgrown foliage. He had called it the gardener's cottage, but most likely, any gardeners who had worked here recently hadn't lived on the property and had used this "house" strictly for equipment storage. Still, there was something quaint about it, half hidden as it was, and draped in overgrown wisteria. I got out of my car and Grayson did the same, walking toward me. There was a glint of devilish challenge in his expression. Did he expect me to balk at the accommodations? Probably. Surely he saw me just as everyone else did, a spoiled princess, a daddy's girl who lived a frivolous, useless existence. And now he was going to have some fun with me. But what did I care what he thought? In a few months’ time, I'd never see him again. Our lawyers could handle the extremely straightforward divorce proceedings and I wouldn't think of him again. And vice versa I was sure.
I followed Grayson to the door of the cottage, where he moved the large showy blooms of purple wisteria aside and opened it without a key. Inhaling a big breath of the vining flowers, I stepped inside. Well. Old, obviously unused gardening equipment filled the front room. It was dusty, dirty, and smelled of mustiness and motor oil. I fought my way through the cobwebs and walked into the second room, what had once been a bedroom, but now only held a small metal bed with rusted springs.
"I'll have Charlotte bring you some blankets and a pillow, of course," Grayson said from behind me. I whirled around and eyed him. Was that amusement in his eyes? Why yes, it was. His lip trembled as if he was trying to control a smile that wanted to burst forth. Thought this was funny, did he? Well, what he didn't know was that the accommodations I'd been keeping for the past year were far worse than this. To the people I'd been living with, this would be a castle.
"I'll bathe in the fountain, I suppose?" I asked, smiling sweetly at him.
"The fountain doesn't work. There's running water here. Only cold, though, no hot. That won't be a problem, will it?"
"Noooo," I drawled out. "A nice cold shower invigorates a person, I've found. I prefer cold showers actually."
The scaly dragon appeared to consider that. "I'll bet you do," he finally said, leaning one narrow hip on the doorframe as he watched me. How nice for him that he was having so much fun. I'd never back down now. I'd sleep on the floor in this dusty shack if it meant getting the best of Grayson Hawthorn.
"Is there a kitchen? A place I might eat the crusts of bread you'll throw me?" I asked. "After I give you your portion of my inheritance, of course."
"No, you'll have to eat up at the main house. I'll tell Charlotte to expect you for dinner," he said, ignoring the second part of my question. I remembered Charlotte from that morning—a plump, sweet-looking, gray-haired woman.
"Will you be there?"
"No. I'll be going out." Silence. Okaaaaay.
"Who will you tell Charlotte I am exactly?"
"I'll tell Charlotte and her husband, Walter, the truth. They've known me my whole life. They're the epitome of discreet." Anxiety assaulted me, and my heartbeat sped up at the thought of his housekeeping staff knowing our marriage was fake, but I decided to trust his epitome of discreet description. Plus, there would be no way to pretend we'd fallen in love when, yesterday, I hadn't existed in Grayson's life at all and they'd very well know it.
I wished this was something I could do on my own, but it wasn't. I needed him.
"I see. Okay." I looked around the cottage again, distracting myself with an assessment of the space. "Well, there are some definite cons, but there are pros, too."
He furrowed his brow, but nodded once and then turned to leave. "Dinner's at seven thirty." That was in less than an hour. I guess I'd get started cleaning this place up as much as possible.
Grayson came back inside a few minutes later, set my suitcase down, and then turned to leave. Suddenly he stopped, and I thought he was going to tell me he'd just been kidding about this place. Instead, he said coldly, "By the way, I absolutely prohibit the use of drugs on my property. If I find that you've brought them here, our deal's off."
I sputtered, trying to think of a retort, but before I could come up with anything, he turned and walked out, closing the door behind him. A second later, I heard his truck roar to life and drive away. Clearly he'd looked me up and read about the "situation" I'd been in a year ago.
Too late, I picked up an empty soda can off the floor and hurled it at the closed door. Vile serpent! I should call this whole sham off immediately. How dare he treat me like this after I'd made him the most generous offer of his scaly life? His arrogance knew no bounds. And he'd judged me to be a spoiled brat. A spoiled druggie brat. But beneath my anger, there was an undeniable feeling of shame and sadness. Was this worth it? God, I had to believe it would be. Someday.
She'd remained as if she was really going to live in that small, dirty hovel. I smirked to myself, wondering how long it would take her to come running to the main house telling me there was no way in hell she'd stay there. Fifteen minutes? At dinner, tops. I had to give her a small measure of respect, though. She'd played along with the joke. I'd expected outrage, foot stomping, breath holding perhaps. The little witch had a tad more grit to her than I'd originally thought. And I hadn't had so much fun in . . . in a really long time. I'd even wanted to laugh for a minute there. I hadn't realized how foreign that feeling had become until the amusement rose in my throat.