When I return home, Henderson, my faithful butler, is waiting at the door. Its late, and hes used to me being out at all hours, so I wonder why he is still up. Usually he tucks himself up at eleven with a copy of Playboy and a cup of Ovaltine. Its well past eleven now, and theres no sign of either Playboy or the Ovaltine. I have a suspicion I know my butler too well, but the man practically raised me. Hes certainly more a father to me than my real father.
"Sir," Henderson makes that little coughing sound all butlers make when they have some bad news to break to the young master and dont want to do it.
"Yes?" I sound tired even to myself. God knows what I must look like after tonight. "What is it?"
"A lady awaits you in the second French room, sir," Hendie tells me with an apologetic look.
"What lady?" My mother? No, he would have said Ms. Roberts, or Mrs Kiriakis, or simply your mother. None of this a lady business.
It crosses my mind that maybe Belle has come to my house after all, passed me and reached home first. I was driving slowly.
Almost throwing my wet overcoat at him, I race to the second French room. If its Belle, all my prayers are answered. It has to be Belle. Im a Kiriakis, that practically puts me on a level with an archangel, with a hotline to God, or so my father always believed.
"Darling?" I call as the door swings open.
"Well, its been a while since you called me that, Philip," and its not Belle. Damn. "How are you, darling?" She overemphasises the last word, and all of the hatred Ive kept inside of me for years, letting only Belle see what I truly feel, boils up. Double damn. Its Chloe Lane, arch temptress and practised heartbreaker. If you thought she did me wrong when she accused me of rape while we were still in high school, you should have known her the summer after Graduation, when all hell had broken loose.
"Chloe," I answer coldly. "I thought you were someone else."
She smiles. "Evidently."
I hate her, I hate her, I hate her.
I practically LIKE Shawn Douglas compared to my feeling for Chloe. Shes a bitch, and no mistake. There was magic between us once, not the loving, sparkling champagne that Belle and I are bound together by, but cold vodka that burned as you swallowed.
I hate her.
"Its been a long time," shes still smiling that damn smile shes used on me for more years than I care to count.
"Not long enough." I bark the words. I have no interest in her, she broke my heart once. I was a mess after she left, and Im damned if Ill let her come anywhere near me or anyone else I care about ever again. I might even go so far as to protect that bastard, Shawn, because not even he deserves her. "What the hell do you want?"
"Thats not a very nice thing to say to an old friend," shes smiling like a cat, knowing and full of self command. Shes a cold one, but Ive always known that. "Especially one you used to be so tender with. You remember, dont you Philip, all those long nights together, when you were only too desperate to be with me, to tell me what I meant to you. Oh Chloe," she gasps in fake ecstasy, mocking the love I thought we once shared, the passion that once was a forest fire between us. "I love you so much, Chloe. Youre so beautiful. Oh God," more ecstasy, "Youre so good to me, Chloe."
If it was possible to hate her anymore than I did five minutes ago, I would, but I dont think it is, so I merely fume at her. "What do you want?"
She straightens up in her seat, a Louis XIVth chair, and I notice her hair is longer than ever. I used to love that hair, running my fingers through it and feeling the silken strands caress my hands, and letting the scent of her shampoo mix with the musk odour of my after-shave when I held her close.
"What Ive always wanted. You." Lying bitch. She never wanted me, she wanted my money, or my status, or just my body, but never me. Not the way Belle has wanted me.
"Stop lying." This time the words are tiredly spoken, not barked. Im tired to death, of her, of Shawn, of all the problems in my life, and I just want to go to bed. Alone.
"Fine." That was easier than I expected. If she stops lying, perhaps I can find a few things out, like what shes doing at my house in the middle of the night years after she trampled all over my heart and ran off to New York with no explanation. Abruptly, she changes her tone. "Do you remember that long, hot summer after graduation?"
"How could I forget it?" What the hell is she getting at?
"Its happening again, Philip," she uncross her legs and walks towards me with that cool sway of her hips once burned on my memory as the sexiest movement a woman could ever make. Nothing stirs now, but still she comes closer, and now this beautiful woman, who was once the beautiful girl I loved more than anything, is mere inches away from me. "Its happening again, and you know what that means."
I want to say Do I? Do I really or is this just one of your mind games? but the words stick in my throat. I know exactly what she means. It never ended, the strange story that started not the night Jan was murdered out on the docks, not even the night that she was raped on the Island the summer before our senior year, that terrible year when everything seemed lost, but the day when Alice Horton was given a ruby by her beloved Tom, and this story still hasnt ended.
"Its time to go back," she whispers, her breath tickling my throat in a way that used to drive me crazy and now only drives me to the need to vomit, because now I know shes tainted. "Its time to remember old sins, and maybe unearth some new ones."
She strides past me, and I let out a breath I didnt know I was holding in.
"Oh, and Philip?" I turn to see her standing regally in the doorway, half turned towards me with her long flowing hair forming a crown high on her head, "Dont think Ive forgotten what you did either."
Then the world fell in, and nothing would be the same again.