Dreams Come TrueBy: KB Winters & Evie Monroe
“Did you and him?” She gave me a narrowed look as she reached out and ran her fingers through my hair.
“Did we?” I realized what she meant. “No. I’m totally straight. But that doesn’t stop my friend from having hair envy. He’s always trying to run his fingers through it.”
“You are good friends, aren’t you? Have you known him a long time?” I guessed that she and he hadn’t talked about me like I’d expected them to. Weed was famous for telling our college stories, and giving his testimony about coming out to his male friends.
“We have known each other since college. We were roommates with five other guys. You’d think we were frat mates, but no organization would have tolerated any of us. We were a rowdy bunch and in trouble every other day.”
“You went to school here in California?” she asked as I led her down the hall, passed all the doors.
“No. Texas; and it was something, let me tell you. Weed came out and moved on, and after my parents died and I moved over here, we reconnected through fashion. Once I decided what I wanted to do, I brought my best friend Nate in to help keep me on my toes, and then I made it big with my designs, and the rest is history.”
“Was there one piece that did it for you?”
“I started with sportswear. Once everyone was wearing my joggers; I moved on to jeans. Weed helped me meet a few people. The right people.”
“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I mean, I am kind of a homebody. My father keeps me from dreaming too big, though. With my mother gone, I’m all he has. As much as I dream of having my own line and my own shows, I don’t think I’d ever let it happen. This trip is once in a lifetime for me. I never let myself want anything more than a hometown shop.” She stopped at the door on the end of the hall before the first corner. “This one.” She rapped on the door.
I smiled. “That’s an excellent choice. Best view and bed in the house, as long as you don’t mind sharing.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks reddened. “I should’ve known I’d pick your room. I hope we don’t think so much alike that I’m no help to you.”
I walked down to the next door. “It’ll be fine. Might I suggest this one?” I turned the knob and pushed the door open. “It’s a queen suite. I chose the red theme for the whole room, and next to mine, the bed is the most comfortable.”
“It’s beautiful. It might help that I’ll be just next door. That way I won’t get lost here the way I did down at your office.” She let loose a deep breath and folded her arms nervously across her middle. “I should get cleaned up and change.”
“That door leads to the private bath. Dinner should be in another hour or so, but I’ll come back to check on you.”
“Thank you, Johnny. You have a lovely home. I appreciate you making me feel so welcome in it.” She was the first long-term guest I’d had in ages, and that reminded me, I had to talk to Jack about Victoria before she showed up and made herself at home.
I left Liss to the queen suite and went next door to my own, leaving the door open behind me. I wanted to call Jack before I forgot, so I rang the downstairs phone.
“Yes, Mr. Hatter?” Jack’s voice was as slow as molasses.
“Jack, I wanted to remind you that I didn’t want you to let Victoria into the house, especially with my guest here. I don’t need any problems.”
“Of course, sir. I’ll make sure to keep my lips sealed about your guest. I’m sure she won’t want to know she’s here.”
“No, she wouldn’t, and she’s so unpredictable, that I’m not sure she wouldn’t blow her top.” She would, and I knew it. She’d not only come through this house like a hurricane, but she’d do her best to tear Liss apart and leave nothing in her wake of destruction.
I lifted my head to see Liss standing in a robe in my doorway. She looked like a goddess with her long robe pooling at her feet and her hair swept up in a loose bun. “Is everything all right?” I hung up the phone but had the sneaking suspicion she’d heard everything.
“There weren’t any towels in that bathroom. I didn’t know if I should call downstairs or what.” The grim look on her face was more telling now, and she wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
“Here.” I walked across my room and into my bathroom where I took a couple of towels from the rack and several washcloths and brought them out to her. “Here are these. There’s more in there if you need them. There’s only me and Jack, so if you can’t find me, you dial nine for Jack. He’ll get you anything you need.”
She nodded and took the towels, gathering them up in her arms and holding them close as if they might protect her. She turned to leave, but then stopped and spun around on her heel letting out a deep breath.
“It’s probably none of my business, but I couldn’t help overhearing the call. Do you have a girlfriend? Is that who you don’t want to come around while I’m here?” She shook her head. “I don’t want to cause any problems.”
I didn’t want to explain the complication that was Victoria. “No, I’m not seeing anyone, and that call had little to do with you being here. There’s a person from my past who thinks she’s still welcome to pop in, and I just wanted to make sure that if she did, Jack wouldn’t fall for her excuses and let her into my house when I’m not home.”
“Got it. Good to know.” She turned and walked out, and I had to smile knowing that she was worried about me having a girlfriend. The look on her face had said that the very idea of it bothered her.
An hour later, she joined me downstairs in my formal dining room where she seemed impressed once more by the length of my table.
The ornate black marble table spanned the room and seated twenty-four comfortably. “I never thought these tables existed outside of fairy tales. How do you ask anyone to pass the salt?”
“I’d assume I’d ask the servant at my side to do that, but I’ve never had to. I am usually here alone, and when I have guests, we crowd at the one end.” I walked her to the end and nearest to the door that leads into the kitchen and pulled out a chair next to mine which I plopped down into.
“I feel like royalty. This is insane.” She lowered herself on the chair, and my phone rang as she placed her napkin in her lap.
“Excuse me.” I picked up my phone and cleared my throat before answering. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be enthused. “Wendall, old boy, how are you and to what do I owe the honor of your call?” I swept my hand dramatically as if Wendall could see it, my voice booming out in its own unusual and staged cadence.
Her eyes widened, and she sat back in her chair with her mouth open. I knew it came across as odd, but it was what was expected when someone called the eccentric designer and owner of Mad Mode, Johnny Hatter.
Wendall Hamilton, the pompous ass of a fashion gossip rag was always on the hunt for a story. “Are you ready for the next show?”
“Why yes, of course, we’re ready for the next run. This one was just fabulous. I can’t tell you how many compliments we got on the line and I’m sure this next show will deliver you a few more surprises.”
“That’s not what I’m hearing. I’ve heard your line was a load of regurgitated garbage and your numbers were down. I don’t know if we’re talking to two different crowds, but everyone I know is saying this is the start of your fall from glory.”
The insinuation had me boiling, but I couldn’t let him get under my skin. I kept the smile in my voice, but Liss’s face lit with horror as she caught the venom in my stare. “We must be, friend. We’re going strong, better than ever and as I said, I think you’ll really be pleased with this next show. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.”
“Well, I sure hope so, Johnny. I’m afraid to say the only tricks we’ve seen lately are coming from a one-trick pony.” He was hoping to get a rise from me, but it wasn’t going to work.
“You’ll see, Wendall. I should get back to my dinner now before it gets cold. I’m sure you’ll be in touch.” I hung up the phone and let out a long breath.
Liss put her hands together for a quiet clap. “That was a great performance. Why do you do that?”
“Persona. The only way I get to keep myself private is to have a persona as a shield.” I popped the gold cap off of my tooth and laid it next to my fork.
“That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”
I took the wine which was left open on the table by Jack along with a loaf of bread with my favorite honey-butter. “I’ve heard sadder. There are worse things than being a billionaire who has to pretend to be enthusiastic and eccentric. Half of it is me. The rest is me amplifying it. Besides, he knows I’m full of shit, but he’s come to expect my strange behavior, so I give it to him. As long as he can see I’m still putting out the effort, he’ll think things are okay. The day I get real with them, will be the day something major changes. Until then, I’m happy to live the dual life.”