The trees lined the pathway through the park, their leaves high above the ground, gently swaying in tune with the light summer wind. Alice breathed the fresh air in deeply; her breathing was deep and hard. It’d been a day since she had come back and already she was enjoying the freedom. In the city she would have been sitting behind a desk, filling out paperwork or listening to a potential client. But here she was, standing in a beautiful park, in the sun and fresh air.
Tulips and daisies grew wildly, their colors blended together to form a beautiful scenery. Alice sighed in pleasure, this was worth soaking up. Her hair brushed against her shoulder, making her jump. She nibbled on her lip and reached around to make sure the ponytail was in place. It was. Alice looked towards the playground, children played and laughed; she smiled.
“Well, hell,” came a deep male voice, “look who it is.”
Alice whipped around so fast she nearly fell; she glared up into the man’s face. “What the fu-” she stopped.
Keith grinned down at her, his eyes blazing a bright gold. “Didn’t I already tell you to act like a lady, sugar?”
“Fuck you, Keith.” Alice spat out with venom, god she hated him.
“What’s wrong with you, eh sugar? All I was doing was sayin’ hello.”
“The hell you were.” She stared up at him pointedly, “what do you get out of scaring the living fuck out of me?”
Keith laughed a deep rumble in his chest. “Oh, I don’t get anythin’ from it, darlin’.” He leaned down, his breath smelt like mint and spice. “Guess you could say you’re easy to scare, and it’s fun.”
“Oh go fly a kite, damn you.” Alice sighed, “Christ, don’t you have anything better to do? Other than scaring the fuck out of me, of course.”
He seemed to think about it, making the appropriate faces and then shrugged. “Nah, not really.”
“What? You don’t work?”
He laughed, “Do you?”
“I did,” she lowered her gaze from him and sighed irritably. “But things got complicated, leave it at that.”
“Aw, did my poor sugar get scared off from the city? Had to come back here all high and mighty?”
“Oh for the love of Pete, go hang yourself.” Alice turned angrily from him, her shoulders were stiff and she was shaking from how worked up she was. She needed to go for another jog and cool the heck off.
“You know,” Keith caught up to her quickly, keeping pace with her quick strides easily, “you’re like a fire. You’re god damned beautiful,” he chuckled, “but oh so dangerous. You know that?”
“Good luck, cowboy. You ain’t coiling in this kitty, I have fangs and claws.”
“Ohh,” he laughed, “I’m scared. C’mon then precious, give me a swipe.”
Didn’t he take a hint? Christ, he was stubborn. Alice glanced over at him, he stared straight forward, his muscles flexing and tensing with every stride he took. Sweat coated his tanned skin and she could only make an assumption that his body was as hard as stone. She rolled her eyes and kept walking. “Why do you have to pester me? Don’t you have some floozy to bother? Like Christ, if I wanted you here I’d say so.”
“Nah, I like buggin’ you.”
Alice stopped and put her hands on her hips. She stood on her tippy toes and glared angrily at him; he didn’t flinch or blink. “There. Is. No. Point. In. Bugging. Me. Now. Fuck. Off.”
“Quite the contrary, my dearie,” Keith chuckled and rubbed his hands together. His eyes left hers briefly, his body tensed and he immediately moved and stood in front of Alice, his back to her. “John,” he glared at the man in front of him.
“Keith,” the other man returned. He tilted his head sideways and laughed. “Protective as always.”
Alice peeked around Keith and her jaw dropped. The man was gorgeous. Drop dead gorgeous. Alice eyed Keith curiously. When he didn’t move or even breathe, she got worried. Whatever was happening between the two men, it wasn’t pretty. “Keith?” She whispered.
The other man in front of Keith barked a laugh; his voice came out rough and deep. “Good seeing you too.” He walked around Keith and winked at Alice before he went off at a jog.
Keith suddenly turned, meeting Alice’s eyes. “Stay away from him.”
Alice rolled her eyes, “why? He going to bite me?”
His jaw muscles flexed, she heard his teeth grinding and his eyes blazed with fury and anger. Alice instantly regretted saying anything. “I mean it, stay away from him,” he repeated himself in chipped, hoarse words. “Just,” he sighed, instantly dropping his anger, “keep your distance from him.”
“Why?” Although she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer. When Keith didn’t respond, she repeated herself slowly and clearly. “Keith, why the hell should I stay away from him? There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with him.”
He lunged at her, his arms grasping her arms in a tight lock, his eyes instantly burrowing into her. “He’s dangerous, Alice. Just stay the fuck away from him.”
“Could you get off me?” Keith let go of her and backed off. He ran his big hand through his hair and breathed fast and shallow. “Look Keith, I appreciate your concern,” she met his angry gaze and didn’t flinch, “but I’m old enough to make my own decisions. Plus,” she smiled coyly, “We aren’t an item, and haven’t been in what, ten years? So, please don’t tell me what to do. Tuh-toh.”
Alice jogged away from Keith; a cold sweat was beating through her thin cotton shirt. Christ, he scared her to the bone.
Alice walked up to the mansion, her skin felt clammy and sweaty; she needed a shower. The sun was setting in the east, the clouds loomed high above, dark grey and threatening with rain. She didn’t mind. Greg sat on the porch, his tuxedo looked wrinkled and dishevelled; Alice cocked her head at the butler, in all his years, she had never seen the old man look so out of order.
“Hello, Greg.” She smiled at the man, when he didn’t return the smile, she dropped hers. Alice walked over to him and sat down beside him on the bench. The poor man looked like he was lost in misery. His grey eyebrows were drawn down low, his hair a complete disarray, he slumped over as if someone had beat the living hell out of him and he was too tired to sit up straight. She gently laid a hand on his back and he jumped. “Greg?” She spoke softly and calmly. “Hey, are you alright?”
He squinted and looked at her. His eyes were bloodshot red and puffy, as if he had been… crying. Oh, Christ, she thought. “Hello, Madam,” he croaked out.
“Greg? Is everything alright?”
Greg licked his lips and sighed sadly. He shook his head and tears leaked out of his eyes. “Your Grandmamma and Grandpapa…” he suddenly leaned forward and dropped his head into his hands, sobbing like someone had died.
“What?” Hysteria took hold in her gut, driving her to the brink of madness. “Greg, oh God, tell me what is wrong? What happened?”
Between sobs, he tried his best to explain. “C-car accident, c-city, oh sweet Lord.” His words were lost in his sobs.
Alice stared blankly, she was sure she had heard wrong; her grandparents in a car accident in the city? No, that couldn’t be right. She had seen them just this morning when she went out for a jog. Tears welled in her eyes, it couldn’t be right. She shook her head violently from side to side, as quickly as she could; she stood and stumbled into the house. “Alaine, Jane, anyone, oh God anyone,” she cried out loudly. The house lay in silence, not a peep was made.
Alice came to the stairway and collapsed into tears. This wasn’t right, “oh, God, oh, God,” she cried hard, feeling the tears sting in her eyes and slicing a pathway down her face, “no, please God, no!”
She wasn’t sure how long she had lain on that cold marble floor, when she awoke; she was in her bed, nestled against her pillow. She opened her eyes and groaned. “Glad to see you’re with us again.”
Alice shot her eyes up; Keith sat in the desk chair, his shirt unbuttoned. Her throat felt sore and dry. “What, what time is it?” She rubbed her eyes, they hurt like hell.
He shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “I don’t know, sometime after dusk, I suppose. I found your butler on the porch and found you on the marble foyer floor crying and passed out. Quite a scene you made.”
She looked at him and felt dizzy. Alice fell back on her pillow and moaned, her head was pounding and – oh God, her grandparents. She shot out of bed and ran over to the desk. She grabbed the ancient phone, her hands shook terribly and she sobbed heavily. Alaine, she would call Alaine. She fumbled helplessly with the buttons, her heart racing and her sight blurring. “Fuck!” She cried heavily and dropped the phone.
“Hey, hey,” Keith soothed, “what’s wrong?”
“M-my grandparents, c-car a-accident, oh my god.” She fell down and cradled herself in a ball. She felt lost and alone.
“What about your grandparents? Alice? Come one, tell me sugar.”
“I don’t know!” She screamed, her throat ached and felt as if it were bleeding. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she blabbed, her words lost in her struggle to retain sanity and control except she didn’t know if she could. “C-call Alaine, oh God, call Alaine.”
He shook his head and grasped the small phone. He remembered her cell number easily and dialled it in. As it rang, he watched Alice closely; she sat on the floor in a ball, rocking herself gently. Alaine picked up on the third ring, and Keith held the phone out to Alice.
“A-Alaine is it y-you?” She squeezed her eyes shut as her sister replied, she sounded just as torn up as herself. “Is it t-true? Grandmamma and G-Grand-p-papa?” Her sister fell into silence, her breathing became slow and shallow through the phone. Alice screamed and dropped to her knees. “No! They aren’t! NO! I don’t want to hear it! SHUT UP!”
Keith grabbed the phone from Alice and hung it up. He lowered himself to her level and stared her straight in the eyes. “Look at me,” he spoke calm but strong, he tilted her head up and brushed the tears out of her eyes. “Get some rest; you can talk to your sister when you calm down. Get in that bed before I carry you to it. Now.”