No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 15

 

Kathleen circled the country club parking lot for the second time. It was seven-fifteen, dinner was at seven-thirty, and she still had Harry's clothes in the back of her car. He was not going to be happy with her--his instructions had been so meticulous regarding the dinner meeting, and she couldn't even manage to get him a change of clothes on time.

She spied a tennis couple leaving the club house and shadowed them, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel while they loaded their gear in their trunk, flirted with each other across the hood, and finally vacated their space. Kathleen parked the car and jogged across the parking lot.

Harry wasn't in the lobby waiting for her as he had promised. She checked the deck, crowded with golfers, and then poked her head into the bar. There he was, holding court at one end of the bar, tanned and relaxed, regaling the club patrons with sports stories, no doubt, looking as if he didn't have a care in the world, much less a lawsuit hanging over his head. And then Kathleen went green as Harry moved slightly, revealing Maggie Obermann as one of the women who was finding him so amusing. Maggie looped a hand around Harry's neck and reeled him in to hear a secret. Kathleen watched grimly as Harry listened and then threw back his head and laughed. At that moment, he spied Kathleen, standing awkwardly at the bar's entrance with his shirt and slacks draped over one arm and a gym bag containing his shoes and socks in her other hand. Without acknowledging Kathleen's presence, Harry gallantly kissed Maggie's hand and bowed adieu to his audience. Then he sauntered over to Kathleen.

"What took you so long?"

"Traffic...Lettie...Belle."

"Belle?"

"She wanted to play and kept on tripping me while I was getting your stuff. Is this all right? I didn't know which shirt you would want, so I just picked my favorite."

"This is your favorite? Hmm? Interesting taste," he teased. "I'll go change and meet you and Matthew at the table. Hopefully, I'll get there before Skip does."

Kathleen laid a hand on his arm. "Harry...Colleen told me you stopped by last night.  When I went by the house to get your key, she said that the flowers in my room were from you…thank you."

"Don't mention it," he said carelessly.  "I just raided Colleen's greenhouse…"

"Oh." Kathleen suddenly felt awkward again. "It's just that...I mean...well, she said..."

She couldn't finish her sentence. Not with Harry looking at her as if he had just lost his best friend.

What Colleen had said that afternoon when Kathleen had dropped by to get Harry's key had sounded wise and wonderful, ancient and true. Here in the lobby of the Juniper Hills country club, where old money and modern business dealings converged on the eighteenth green and were played out in the sauna and dining room and bar, Colleen's frank summary of Kathleen and Harry's relationship sounded trivial and foolish.

"Said what, Kathleen? I need to go and change. What did Colleen tell you?"

Kathleen hesitated. Harry was clearly impatient with her for delaying him further. He was itching to suit up for battle. Ready to outmaneuver, outflank, and outfight whatever stood in his way, but there was an eagerness in his eyes, a vulnerability, a chink in his armor, that he couldn't quite hide. She recognized the look. She had glimpsed it just before he had kissed her yesterday; she had seen it fleetingly when he had jogged over to her at practice that morning. She took a breath. She knew she was going to sound stupid, but he had asked.

"She said that I have luck in my eyes."

Kathleen watched Harry's Adam's apple flex as he swallowed hard, and then she felt the room around them fall away and the din of the world become a roar of quietness as he took her hands and held them in his own, as if he were holding a baby bird. He reached out with one hand and touched her face. He smoothed his fingertips down her temple, as if blending the luck in her eyes into the soft luster of her cheeks. He traced down the delicate line of her jaw until it curved up into her chin.

His voice was low but steady, "I need luck tonight, Kath. Will you share some with me?"

Almost in a trance, she nodded and replied, "Colleen says that squandering luck is worse than squandering joy and love, because you can find joy and you can make love, but you can only share luck..."

Before Harry had a chance to answer, a jarring, jesting voice jostled Kathleen, "Break it up you two, we've got a meeting in three minutes!"  and she looked up to see Matthew Dixon standing next to her, her shoulder already encased in his large, bony hand. She gazed at him with such a dismayed face that he laughed at her, and Harry, foolish man that he was, laughed too, as if Kathleen was the only one who had been caught in the act of falling in love.

Then Kathleen could have kicked Harry because he grinned, winked at Matthew, leaned over Kathleen, and whispered loudly and conspiratorially, "We'll finish this discussion... later!"

Harry let go of her hands and stepped back, gave Kathleen a Groucho leer, entirely for Matthew's benefit, she knew, but still...he was aggravating. Then he topped it all by saying in a loud voice, "By the way, I'm glad you wore that dress. You look great, sort of like a cross between..."

"I know, I know," Kathleen interrupted, desperate that Harry not share his favorite description of her attire with Matthew. "Go change and stop trying to embarrass me."

"Hey Kath, clear my bar tab, will you," he ordered over his shoulder as he headed for the men's locker room.

"Harry thinks he's such a riot," Kathleen said to Matthew, rolling her eyes in a feeble attempt to cover her confusion with nonchalance.

Matthew Dixon's steely grays told Kathleen that he wasn't a man who was easily fooled. Kathleen flushed under his steady gaze, acutely aware that he had not removed his hand from her shoulder.

"I thought," he began, "that you and Phil Van Demeer were a hot item. I didn't know that you were the kind of girl to play on the side with old family friends."

"Harry is a great kidder, you know that, Matthew," Kathleen said hurriedly, shrugging his hand off her shoulder as she tended to the business of transferring Harry's bar tab to the restaurant.

"What I do know," Matthew continued in the slow, controlling voice of a seasoned attorney, "is that I've known Harry Kinsley for a long time, princess, and he isn't one to lead a woman on, though God knows most would let him if he tried. Now whether you're leading him on, is another, and perhaps a more interesting question."

Before she could squelch it, a tiny look of alarm darted across Kathleen's face. Matthew's eagle eyes caught it and they glittered with excitement. His nostrils flared as if he was on to a scent.

The only thing that Matthew had going against him was Kathleen's decision that morning to let her body make all her decisions. It was not for nothing that Kathleen had stopped going over to the Dixon 's to swim back in high school. Marsha Dixon had been a good friend, but once Kathleen had reached puberty, Matthew's sidelong glances and remarks about her porcelain beauty had grown increasingly creepy. Better to lose a friend than be pursued by her father. And now the feeling of being pursued was back, stronger than ever. Her brain cells and stomach lining and nerve endings and neck muscles were all shouting in unison that Matthew Dixon was a dangerous man.

"Shall we?" Matthew asked, putting his hand back on Kathleen's shoulder and sliding it down until it rested just above her hip while he steered her toward the dining room.

Rather than shrugging off his hand as she had done earlier, Kathleen decided that the best way to deal with Matthew was to not swallow the bait.  He clearly like to provoke her and was willing to up the ante every time she played a card. 

Okay, then, I just won't play the game.  I'm a spectator, not a player.  If he sees I'm not playing, he'll leave me alone.   I just wish that Harry would get here and take over.

Thinking of Harry was a big mistake.  Driving down the mountain from his house, Kathleen had had a heart-to-heart with herself.  Troubling as it was, she had to face facts and admit that she was in love with Harry and, merciful heavens, he must be in love with her because he had gone completely stupid on her.   Kissing her and then feeling guilty about it was one thing, but giving her flowers and then expecting her to somehow know that they were from him…couldn't the man write a simple note?  And then to get in a snit over it.  Kathleen had read enough women's magazines to know that such stupidity was an ironclad sign of love in the male half of the species.

Following closely on the heels of this realization was the admission that she was in an awful mess. To wit, she was about to spend the next several hours in the company of the man her body insisted that she loved, pretending to be someone else's girlfriend because that man's real girlfriend had been seduced into being a ninny by the unscrupulous attorney of the man she loved.   And she was expected to take notes during dinner.  Without remembering to ignore Matthew she spoke the thought, "Oh drat, I forgot my notepad in the car."

He smiled.  "You don't need a notepad."

"But Harry said you wanted me to take notes during dinner."

"That's what I told him, but actually you're just here to distract Skip."

"Excuse me?"

"You're a very attractive girl, and Skip likes girls. Oh look, there he is now with Harry. Smile, princess, and show a little leg."

#

Matthew was right.  Kathleen didn't need her notebook because not a word about the lawsuit or the trouble between K-B-K and Heidelberg was mentioned throughout dinner. The men talked about their golf game, the Rockies' slump, the stock market, their golf swing, the Broncos' training camp, their golf clubs, radial arm saws, the Nuggets' chances of ever getting into post-season play, the pro shop at the club, and on and on until Kathleen felt that if they started talking about their golf socks she might actually start screaming. In fact, she had quite a good little fantasy going on in her mind about running through the lobby shrieking about golf abuse when Harry suggested that he and Skip go over to the pro shop and look at titanium clubs while Matthew and Kathleen decided which desserts to order.

Kathleen was still recovering from Harry's appalling manners--she could scarcely believe he would be so rude as to leave the table before the dinner adjourned--when Matthew started up again.

"So, Kathleen, it's nice having you back in Juniper Hills. We miss you girls when you go off to college."

Kathleen suppressed the shiver that his oily voice sent down her spine. "Actually, I'm leaving for grad school in three weeks."

"Really? Marsha didn't mention that you were going on with your schooling. Good for you. Going for an MBA?"

"A master's in Colonial Spanish art and architecture, down in Albuquerque ."

"Oh, that's right. Your daddy let you go down the liberal arts path. I guess a girl like you will never need to earn her own bread. Fellows like Phil Van Demeer are always willing to pick up what daddy doesn't provide. Am I right, or am I right?"

Kathleen smiled thinly. Explaining her life to Matthew Dixon was not high on her list of fun ways to spend an evening. She wished Harry would get back to the table--better to endure sports chatter than to have all of Matthew's attention focused on her. The feeling she had earlier of being pursued came back in spades.

Kathleen slowly took a sip of water and searched for a safe topic. She wasn't quick enough. As she set down her water glass, Matthew reached over and covered her hand with his, essentially trapping it as he curved his fingers under her palm.

"Eveline and I are really looking forward to your fund-raiser next week. You are such a sweetheart to put on this event for those poor kids. You just pick out whatever you want us to bid on, and I'll make sure I drive the price sky high."

"I'd rather you and Eveline decide," Kathleen replied testily, pulling her hand out from under his. She knew the conversation had nothing to do with what Matthew was going to buy, just how he was going to buy it. "Maybe you can get some artwork for the office. Phil's told me you're redecorating."

Matthew smiled softly, "That's the ticket, princess. You know art. I need art. You tell me what to buy, and I'll write the check."  Then he leaned back in his chair and looked into her eyes.  He let the silence sink in before he smoothed the hair back from his temples, and said, "Say, I just had a brainstorm." He leaned forward, resting his chin in his hand, waiting for her to follow.

She did. Unconsciously, she leaned forward, towards him, waiting on his words. And then she caught herself--her consciousness asserted itself as she realized that he was choreographing her movements. Kathleen forced herself to lean back and casually took another sip of water.

He chuckled softly and murmured, "You break my heart, princess."

Kathleen gripped the bottom of her chair with her hands to keep them from slapping the slimy smile off his face.  She loathed the soft mockery in his voice. She loathed the connection he had fashioned between them.  It was an intimacy based on her discomfort. He knew that she would rather do anything than show how uncomfortable she was with him. She knew he had her where he wanted her. He went in for the kill.

"I've been looking at buying part interest in a gallery in Santa Fe . Trouble is, I don't know a thing about art, but I know how to make money. With you in Albuquerque , maybe you can keep an eye on things for me if I go ahead and take the plunge."

"Keep an eye on things?"

"Manage the gallery."

"But I'd be in school over an hour away."

"Maybe managing the gallery is more attractive than going to school."

"Are you making me an offer?"

He smiled slowly and took her hand again. "If that's the way you want to look at it, then yes, I am."

So this was how he seduced Joanna into being a ninny.

"I've always wanted to live in Santa Fe ," she murmured, her big blue eyes brimming with innocence.

"Who hasn't. Blue skies. Rugged mountains. Bohemian artist types."

"I've dreamed of having my own gallery."

"I can tell that you've got a knack for the gallery business. We'll do well together." He lifted a tendril of her hair. "This pretty blond hair set against black and turquoise."  He squeezed her hand and said softly, "So do we have a deal?"

"I'll have to ask Harry first."

This time it was Kathleen who caught a look of alarm as it darted across Matthew's face. To her vast disappointment, he recovered immediately and said evenly, "Harry? I thought you were a grown woman, Kathleen, capable of making your own decisions."

"Oh, but Matthew, Harry and I have a deal. I tell him everything I want to do, and he tells me how wrong it is. It works wonderfully." She paused to tuck the strands of hair he had been fondling behind her ear, "And Matthew, I don't think Harry would like this particular arrangement. You see, he's very territorial when it comes to controlling me."

If Kathleen imagined that Matthew was going to pout or rage or fume, she was sadly mistaken. He looked at her steadily, then grinned--not a smarmy, lust-in-the eye leer--but an honest, job-well-done grin.

"You're smarter than you look, princess. Ever thought of becoming a lawyer?"

"No, but I've thought long and hard about not becoming one."

 He lifted his wine glass and touched her water glass, "Phil is toast, isn't he?"

 

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