Later that afternoon, the sisters are cleaning the den when there is a loud knocking at the front door.
Lara’s hand freezes above the old painting she was in the middle of dusting and looks over her shoulder, “You expecting someone?”
Giving her back a much-needed pop, Tara tries to peek through the window pane she was currently scrubbing, “Nope, you?”
The oldest sister shakes her head. The knocking is heard again, the sudden loud rapping causing Lara to jump and nearly knock the painting off its spot on the wall. This was not the first piece of art to suffer from her jumpiness today. She hasn’t felt like herself since her encounter at the butcher shop this morning.
“G-guess we better get that,” Lara stammers as she puts down her duster and heads toward the front doors.
Tara trails close behind her, still armed with her window cleaner. As they walk up to the massive front doors one of the knockers bangs hard against the old wood, causing both girls to jump back with a startled squeak.
With a bit of coaxing from her sister, Lara gets up the nerve to peek through one of the stained glass windows that framed the large set of doors. She had fallen in love with these windows when they first came to the house, marveling at their vivid colors and the charming Celtic design of forest creatures and twisting vines. Lara tries in vain to look through a fox’s tail that happened to be at her eye level. All she could make out was a large, orange-tinted shadow standing at the door. Failing that, she tries her luck at the peephole, but with the device positioned for someone over six feet, her barely over five-foot frame didn’t stand a chance.
Tara tiptoes behind her and peeks over her sister’s shoulder to try her own luck with the peephole, “Can you see who it is?”
Lara stretches as far as she can, trying to see through the small ocular device embedded in the door, “No, I’m too short to reach the peephole.”
A man’s voice bellows from the other side of the door, “Hello? Anybody home?”
Startled, Lara trips and stumbles back into her sister. Tara helps her right herself and the two open the front door. Filling the door frame is a robust man towering at nearly seven feet, with unruly brown hair and a full, closely cropped beard. A police badge is pinned to the front of his plaid flannel jacket.
Lara clears her throat, “Good afternoon, Officer. Is something wrong?”
Tara whispers nervously behind her, “It’s a cop?”
The police officer looks at the two quizzically, “Wrong? Oh! No, not at all. Sorry, just got off duty and I forgot to take my shield off.” He unpins his badge and puts it in a large black billfold and places it back in the back pocket of his jeans. When he’s finished, he looks down at the two girls and gives them a warm smile.
“Is Derek in?”
Lara blinks up at him and stutters, “Y-Yes.”
Still smiling, his blue eyes look between the two sisters, “May I come in?”
“Oh! Sorry! Yes, please come in,” Lara apologizes as she moves to open the door.
Tara grabs hold of the edge of the door to keep her sister from opening it all of the way, “Hold it! Who are you?”
“Tara!” her sister cries out, taken back by her ill-mannered behavior.
“Don’t Tara me! He could be a burglar or a psycho or something just pretending to be a cop!”
“If he was, don’t you think he would have broken in by now?”
Tara stares the man down, not easy to do considering he is a good foot or more taller than her, “Could be a trap.”
Lara’s green eyes stare at her sister in shock, “Tara, you can’t be serious!”
“Well, it could be!”
Their visitor has been trying to hold back his laughter this whole time. Not able to do so any longer, he guffaws at the two girls.
Having heard all of the commotion from his cozy nest in the library, Derek runs downstairs to see what is going on, “Hey girls, what’s all the-David?”
The officer smiles and waves at him through the cracked door, “Hey. Surprised to see me?”
Derek smiles at him from the entryway and says, “You could say that. It’s been a while. What brings you here?”
“Wish I could say it was a personal call. Is the old man in? I need to speak to him.”
“He went into town this morning, but he should be back by now. What’s up?”
“Can I come in first? Starting to get kind of chilly out here.” the big man wraps himself up tighter in his jacket and shivers.
Both girls burst out apologies and swing the door open, ushering the man inside. He chuckles at the two as he thanks them, hanging his jacket on a coat hook by the door.
Derek walks over and gives their guest a slight hug, “So, to what do we owe the pleasure?”
“First things first, what’s up with the two new gate guards?” David cocks his thumb at Lara and Tara.
Derek looks over at the two girls and chuckles, “Shit, sorry I forgot to tell you. They are our new live-in maids, Lara and Tara DuBois. Girls, this is David Drake, my brother.”
Lara looks back and forth between the two. Derek is around five-eight, with a runner’s build, olive complexion, and dark brown, almost black curls cut just above his collar. His brother towers over him and is built like a heavyweight pro-wrestler, with a ruddy complexion, and an unruly mop of wavy brown hair, cut longer on top than on the sides. The only thing these two had in common was their eyes, a deep blue that had a mischievous twinkle to them when they smiled.
Tara nudges her sister in the ribs with her elbow, and the two give their guest a shy hello.
The younger sister looks over at him sheepishly, “Sorry about before.”
David gives her a smile, “Nothing to be sorry about. Being a little cautious is a good thing.”
She nudges Lara in the ribs again, “See?”
“Okay, okay,” she tells her as she tries to swat Tara’s arm away.
David scratches his beard and looks over at his brother, ” Live-in maids? How did you swing that with Fáelán?”
“It took a little coaxing, I’ll admit.”
Tara turns her attention to Derek and asks, “Speaking of which, we ever going to get to see the boss man, or do you keep him locked up in a cellar or something?”
He gives the younger sister a nervous chuckle, “You’ll meet him, I promise. He’s just being a bit stubborn about the whole thing.”
David gives his brother a friendly nudge with his shoulder and asks, “Being his usual charming self, I take it?”
“You know how he can get. The old man doesn’t take change very well. He needs to be shaken up now and then. It’s good for him.”
The officer rolls his eyes at his brother and says, “Then he is going to love what I have to tell him.”
“Better wait until after dinner then. He’s more cooperative on a full stomach.”
Lara walks over to the two men and gives them both her best hostess smile, “Shall we set another plate for the table then?”
The author smiles at her and nods, “That would be great Lara, thanks.”
Uncomfortable about putting them on the spot, the giant of a man stammers at the two about not wanting to be any trouble, and that he is more than happy to fend for himself. Lara assures him it’s no trouble at all. Her sister is quick to agree, giving him the age-old the more the merrier line. Before he has a chance to decline their offer the two are off to the kitchen, all smiles, and giggles.
Once the girls are out of sight, David turns to his brother and asks, “Dimitri didn’t make them down in the basement, did he?”
Derek lets out a cackle, only mildly surprised by the question, “Perfectly normal human females, I assure you.”
The officer stares contemplatively down the hall the sisters disappeared down, “How much do they know?”
Derek gives him a crooked grin and tells him, “Not a damn thing.”
“Sure that’s such a good idea?”
“Nope, but it beats having winking mold in the fridge.”
Troubled, David scratches his beard, “Derek, think for a minute. When they find out, and sooner or later they will, they are going to lose it or worse. I say cut them loose before shit hits the fan and have Dimitri build you guys a self-cleaning Hoover or something.”
“If I did that Dimitri would probably blow up the house. Besides, we know and we’re still hanging around.”
“That is different and you damn well know it. We already had a good idea about what’s out there before we landed ourselves in this shit. Those two look like their biggest fear is finding a spider in the shower, not a monster in the attic,” David tells him with a scowl, crossing his arms over his broad chest.
“We don’t keep them in the attic, Jedidiah complains about the noise. We do have their safety in mind you know. I swear, the minute I think things are going to go south I’ll tell them to split,” Derek tells him in hopes of calming the over-protective giant in their entryway.
David shakes his head, shoulders slumped, “Oh sure, like I haven’t heard that before. Last time you gave me that line Dimitri lost his eyebrows.”
“I told him the red wire. Not my fault he’s color-blind.”
The vein above his eye begins to twitch as David watches his brother shrug off the memory of their friend nearly blowing himself to bits. Not that it wasn’t a regular occurrence, but a little remorse would be nice.
With his usual cat-like grin plastered on his face, Derek gives his brother’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze and leads him to the den, “no sense standing around while we wait for dinner. Come sit for a bit. Tell me about your trip.”
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