Chapter forty three
“Mathew tell Anna to serve this along with the dessert she has prepared,” Dominic’s mother Nicole instructed the butler handing him the Apple pie that I had prepared.
“I will. Anything else Ma’am.”
“No that’s all,” She actually smiled. A none toothy wide smile. The first actual open expression I saw on her face since I met her acquaintance. I didn’t even get that smile when I handed over the apple pie to her. A curt thank you with a stiff lip was all I received.
I tore my gaze away from her as Dominic picks up and hands me the glass of watermelon Bellini from the center table which the butler served just now. I whispered a thank you taking a generous sip of the drink and cradled the glass in my palms looking everywhere except at Nicole.
“Arabella were you born and raised here from New York?” Nicole inquired as she too took a sip of her drink. Attentive grey eyes fixed on me as I meet her gaze a little startled because this was the first actual direct conversation she has made since the past twenty minutes that we’ve met.
“No ma’am I was born and raised in Ohio,” I answered trying to manage a small smile.
“I see.” Her lips shut in a tight line again.
“She is an alumnus of Yale like yourself Nicole,” William cuts in the conversation informing his wife. Her eyes widen in surprise but I’m unphased by the news because I knew already from Dominic.
“That’s great.” She gives a small smile.
“Will at least you two have something in common,” chimed Grammy giving me a comforting smile.
“Hmm,” Was Nicole’s reply as she shifted her steel gaze at me.
“Domi have you talked to Seb lately,” Grammy inquired.
“Yes, I have. Why?”
“Nothing really its just that I haven’t seen him in quite a long time.”
“Tell me about it mother,” Nicole cuts in turning to face Grammy with a frown and back at us.
“The last I saw him was last month. He came to stay overnight and confided in me that he has met a girl that he is in love with and plans on introducing her to Carol and I..” The moment Nicole said those words I choked on the juice that I was sipping embarrassing myself by coughing vigorously and Dominic rubbing on my back.
“Are you alright dear,” William asked concern latched on his voice while Grammy and Nicole watched equally with concern masked over their faces.
Nodding I took the handkerchief that Dominic handed to me and tap it on my lips, I cleared my throat momentarily and handed the handkerchief back to him.
“Fine,” He smiles.
“Yes,” I whispered back as I faced the trio before me.
Giving me a small smile Nicole continues with the conversation,“As I was saying after his heartfelt confession. His mother and I were waiting eagerly to meet this girl he so enthusiastically talked about only for us to discover after a week to pictures of him in the French Riveria on a yacht with hoards of girls splashed across various tabloid magazines. Being scandalous I must say.” Nicole paused kneading her brows in annoyance,” he has a lot of explaining to do that young man.” Nicole seethed ending her rant.
Does this story ever get old? I guess not. This is something that has attached to the three of us for the rest of our lives. I don’t mine for Dominic and me but for Seb, I just want this pandora box of ours shut and never resurface for it to hurt him.
Thank God! At least Nicole doesn’t and will never know that certain,” Girl” was me.
“Oh come on Nicole. That’s hardly scandalous.” Grammy laughed grabbing all of our attention.
With a glint on her eyes she starts to speak,“Dance your way to pay your bills for a month on a burlesque bar just because you ran away from home penniless to escape an arranged marriage to an arrogant git,” She smirks and continues.
“Or dance semi-naked on a tabletop drunk to oblivion in a five-star restaurant owned by your father just to spite him and get your pictures taken and get dubbed as the untameable wild heiress by the papers only for your father to fake hospitalization for you to come home.” She chuckled as we all looked at her gapping with wide-eyed. William looked as if he would rather be anywhere than here, Nicole gently rubs his hand with hers causing him to shut his parted mouth.
Lifting her glass of the watermelon Bellini in mock salute Grammy winked,” Now that justifies the word scandalous.” She laughed.
“I want to reveal more but your young hearts might not be able to take it,” She smugly smiles taking a sip of her drink.
“Grammy that’s some story you got there. I wonder how Granddad took it,” Dominic teased.
“Ah! Your granddad.” A wide warm smile spreads Grammy’s lips, her eyes looked dreamy with love staring into the distant.
“He was a straight-up gentleman. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him, in fact, it was me who asked him first to marry me.” Grammy laughed. This made all of us join in the laughter.
“Really? I thought it was father who went and asked your hand in marriage to granddad,” William inquired looking at Grammy.
Shaking her head,” I asked him first, he was reluctant at first judging by my reputation not that I can blame him. Those days people were very conservative with sticks stuck up their asses the lot of them.” She frowned and continued speaking.
“But I can be very persuasive too, at last, he couldn’t ignore me for long. The moment he started to reciprocate back my feelings he agreed to marry me, and like the gentleman he was he went and asked my father for my hand in marriage much to my father’s relief, he was so worried no one would want to marry his only daughter.” Grammy smiled, eyes shining with the love she deeply still feels for her late husband.
“60 years of being married and five years without him my love for him never wavers. Let’s just say the untameable wild heiress got tamed by the gentleman.” She humorously chuckled sitting the glass down on the center table.
“That’s so romantic Grammy,” I smiled meeting her gaze as she returned my smile.
“Nicole how long before dinner,” Grammy suddenly asked as she put on the shoes she took off earlier.
“Not for another hour. Why? Are you hungry? Should I tell Anna to make a snack for you.” Nicole returned.
“Don’t dear. I asked because I wanted to give Arabella a tour around the house,” Grammy smiled standing up from her seat.
“Sure do that.” Nicole smiles. As the minutes pass by she seemed more relaxed and less stiff which was a thank God for me. But still a new person walking in the room would be intimated by her, this is just her version of loosening up slightly something I have caught on for observing her keenly and for being in her company for the past one hour.
“Shall we dear,” Grammy offers looking on and smiling at me.
“Sure Grammy I would love that,” I returned enthusiastically standing up. A walk would do me good before I sit back in the company of Nicole.
Grammy hooked her hand on my mine and ushered us towards the door leaving Dominic and his parents behind.
Twenty minutes of walking around we were still in the east wing and I have a feeling we might not be able to cover the whole estate today.
She pushed open a massive double door leading us into a room with a high ceiling which was adorned with two humungous vintage crystal chandeliers. Walls adorned with beautiful portraits placed in vintage gilded golden wooden frames. One would almost mistake it for an art gallery if not for the tall clear French windows draped with parted heavy royal blue curtains on the right. The room also had a large vintage Victorian style Grand piano at the far front of the room by the fireplace surrounded by vintage sofas and chaise lounge chairs.
I felt like I have walked into the past nothing is modern about this room.
“This was used as an entertainment room by the first residents.” Grammy filled me in as we walked inside the room.
Stopping at the first portrait I glanced at the couple in the painting before me.
“That’s Hugh Dominic’s great grandfather’s younger brother and his wife Dhakiya. She was a Tanzanian, they met and fell in love when Hugh went there. It caused such an uproar with his parents I was told, because of the nonsense racial issues. But he was a determined stubborn man, he went against everyone and married her. Alas! Their togetherness was shortlived, they both died in a carriage accident, not one year after they were married.” Grammy sighed ending her words in a sad melancholic tone.
Dhakiya was a beautiful woman, the ivory lace ruffled high neck and long ruffled sleeves wedding dress she wore looked so delicate and beautiful against her glowing dark caramel skin. Her husband stood beside her with a hand draped on the arm of the chair she was sitting on.
Wearing a black three-piece tailcoat suit he was the spitting image of Dominic. Bearded and dark hair and the unmistaken hint of the brooding dark look, the resemblance was uncanny.
The painter who painted the portrait of them surely felt the love that serenaded between them because even though their lips held no smile, he definitely portrayed the warm aura of love between them in the depth their eyes held. No one can pass off the love and happiness that was shining through their eyes.
After all, eyes are the mirrors that reflects the unspoken languages of human emotions.
The portrait definitely warms my heart and brings a smile to my face.
Once finally done with the rows of portraits, I decided to inspect the Victorian grand piano.
“Arabella I hope you will not let Nicole’s cold appearance intimidate you and change your attitude towards my grandson.” Grammy’s tone sounded leery as she took a sit on one of the chaise lounge chairs.
Seating down on the wooden round stool of the piano I faced her,“No I won’t Grammy,“I assured her with utmost sincerity but I also caught myself thinking that I wasn’t exaggerating in my observation of Nicole’s attitude towards me.
“That’s just her personality you know. She doesn’t warm up to people too fast and what with you dating her son she is just being extra cautious trying to get to know you in her own way.” Nothing but positive assurance laced in her tone as she warmly smiled at me making me return her smile and feel slightly lighter on my shoulder.
I was touched by Grammy’s need to assure me of Nicole’s attitude towards me. Sure Nicole does intimidate me a lot but I can understand her behavior, not everyone can be extroverted. There was no malice look thrown at me nor her tone as such when she spoke to me, so I have nothing negative against her.
“Not boring her with our ancestor’s history I hope Grammy,” Came Dominic’s playful tone as he closed the door behind him and walked towards us.
“I wouldn’t. Ask her how entertaining I was,” Grammy smiled sheepishly like a child, her snowy hair adding to the innocence.
Dominic chuckled as he took a seat beside Grammy.
“I was thinking of borrowing her for a while Grammy. I want to take her towards the lake and show her the tree house.” Dominic declared with eyes fixed on me.
“Just say you don’t like being away from her too long,” Grammy teased laughing.
“Get used to it Arabella, the King’s men are overbearing, possessive the list goes on. They become your shadow.” Grammy chuckled as I laughed and nodded agreeing with her.
Once outside the room, Grammy left for the parlor room and we headed towards the tree house. Since the distance was long we rode on a white golf cart driven by Dominic.
Dominic parked the golf cart on the side at the end of the small narrow cobbled path. Stepping out of the cart I was welcomed with a scenic view, lush green grass covered the whole clearing with delicate bright wildflowers growing on them.
And there it was as Dominic told me. The large oak tree standing firmly near the bank of the lake housing the wooden tree house. Dominic held my hand as we walked towards it.
The spiraling narrow wooden stairs took us to the tree house.
“This is so homely. I don’t think you guys left this place much,” I smiled as I stepped inside the place scanning the room with stairs in the corner which I assume leads to the top.
“Let’s just say this is where we rode out our teenage years.” Dominic chuckled hugging me from the back, hands circled around my waist.
The room was quite spacious with all the necessary amenities. Large flat screen television with gaming gadgets, six bean bags and a two seater brown leather sofa. To my left tugged in the corner was a small kitchen with wall attached closed cupboard cabinets and a Refrigerator on the side and a microwave on top of the counter.
“I can see that,” I murmured smiling.
“Come let’s go upstairs. You will love the view from there.” He takes my hand and ushers me through the narrow wooden stairs.
We walked in on an equally large room but this time it was a bedroom with two beds separated by a night stand with a table lamp on top.
Attached wardrobe and a shelf full of books and photo frames with pictures of them with friends and families. There was a door next to the bookshelf which I assume was the attached bathroom.
“Sebastian likes stargazing too so we installed glass roof for the purpose,” Dominic informed as he went towards the bedside table and opened the door attached to it and took out a small remote device and pointed upwards which instantly let the shudder of the roof open displaying a glass roof.
“That’s brilliant. It must be quite a view at night.” I smiled looking up at the evening sky, it no longer held the bright blue.
“Yes, it is. Come here,” He smiles patting on the bed beside him as he sat down.
I walked towards him and sat down beside him leaving a small space between us.
He pulled me closer to him with his hands around my waist,” I missed this lips of yours,” he whispered huskily tongue tracing my lower lip and sucking on it before he kissed me passionately. The beat of my heart soaring high with his consuming kiss.
“I love you,” He mutters softly as he places a kiss on my forehead.
“I love you,” I smiled.
“You want to lay down,” He asks rubbing his palm on my bare arm.
“You better behave, Dominic,” I warned trying to fight a smile.
“I don’t know what you were thinking but I meant it in a non-sexual way. It’s been a long day so I thought you might want to rest,” He teased making me go hot in the ears as I blushed deeply feeling embarrassed.
“I..I,” I stuttered.
“It’s okay sweetheart you don’t need to be shy about it. If you want I’m up for it,” He winked giving me a playful smirk.
I rolled my eyes at him,” As if.” I replied and stood up from the bed and walked towards the balcony.
My eyes were exposed to the beautiful sunset before me, the sky painted in warm orange with a few dark clouds. The lake had ducks swimming on top and some climbing on top of a small island filled with wildflowers, shrubs, and pines trees. The lone cast iron lamp post standing tall on the open pathway of the island reflects its light faintly on the water and its surroundings which would brighten more when the darkness envelops the entire sky.
“That’s where my great-grandparents and grandpa are buried. Their graves are not visible from here, we have to get there to see it.” Dominic said as he hugged me from behind.
“Beautiful!” I exclaimed,“The water reminds me so much of the island you took me to Santorini, I miss that place,” I said as I lean back on his chest.
“We can go there again whenever you want,” he replies.
“Hopefully by the end of this year if work doesn’t get too suffocating. I miss Helena, I hope she is doing well.” I remember how sweet she was and not to forget how playfully she told me that she would see me around quite often as if she knew what Dominic and I had was something permanent. Although for me at that time I wasn’t sure.
“She’s doing well. She is like a parent to Sebastian and I, we used to drive her insane when we’re young. She called us the little devils,” I laughed turning to face him.
“Poor Helena. You know what she told me when I was preparing breakfast in the morning with her. Her exact words were,” my instinct tells me I’ll be seeing more of you in the future” which I obviously didn’t take it seriously because,” I stopped mid-sentence as I saw a hint of annoyance on his face.
“Her instincts were accurate. And you didn’t take it seriously sweetheart because you were concocting plans to run away from me,” He returned possessively.
“But you found me,” I poked his cheek with my index finger and gave a peck on his lips. I relaxed as he smiled.
“There is no running from me sweetheart I’ll always find you.” With that he captures my lips giving me a searing kiss.
“I got something for you,” he says as we parted our lips.
“What is it,” I asked in anticipation.
He smiles and pulls out a small black velvet flat square box out of his blazer pocket and hands it to me.
I eyed the box suspiciously.
“Go on open it. Don’t worry I didn’t go overboard with it.” He chuckled.
I bit my lower lip as I took the box from him and opened it.
I gasped at the heart-shaped pendant encrusted in numerous tiny diamonds hooked in a delicate white gold chain.
“It’s beautiful. I love it,” I smiled looking up at him,” thank you so much.” I muttered against his lips as I gave a peck on his lips.
“It will be exactly two months the next week since we’ve been together so I thought I would give you something to symbolize that,” He grinned sheepishly.
“Two months? I feel like its more.” I smiled. I am so comfortable and at home around him that I feel like we’ve been in each other’s life for a long period of time.
“It feels like it doesn’t it.” He smiles and took out the necklace and gestured me to turn which I obliged by turning my back and lifted my hair so he could put on the necklace.
Cradling the heart in my hand I faced him,” this will be its place always,” I smiled earning a wide grin from him.
“I wanted to get you something much more elaborate but I knew you won’t like it so.”
“You are right.” I agreed.
He sighed,” Arabella you should really get used to it by now. I don’t like limiting myself when I want to get the best of all the things for you.” Annoyance laced in his tone.
I knew where this conversation would lead,” argument” both of us never finding a common ground.
So instead I just smiled and hooked my arms around his neck and kissed him passionately.
“I’ll miss you,” I whispered softly as I lay my head on his chest.
“Nice deflect sweetheart,” he chuckles and wraps his hands around me hugging me tightly.
“I’ll miss you too. It would’ve been nice if you could have come with me tomorrow to LA.”
“I know.” I sighed in defeat. He will be gone for a week to LA and I’m already starting to miss him. This will be the longest we will be apart since we’ve been together.
The ringing of his cell phone interrupted us, it was his mother calling us to come for dinner.
Dinner was a sumptuous five-course meal which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Nicole complimented me on the apple pie which I noticed she ate only that skipping the chocolate mousse.
After an hour of fine dining and conversations, it was finally time for us to leave and we were all standing near the front door exchanging our goodbyes.
“Arabella maybe one of these days I’ll come up to the city and we can have an only girl’s outing without these men breathing in our necks,” Grammy chuckled as she hugged me and kissed both my cheeks.
“Sure Grammy I would love that.” I returned her smile.
“It was such a pleasure to meet you, Arabella. You’re welcome here anytime,” William smiles shaking my hand.
“Thank you, William,” I smiled shaking his hand.
When it was time to face Nicole, I really didn’t know how I should go about. But she surprised me by giving me a brief hug,” It was nice meeting you Arabella,” She gave me a small smile which quickly disappeared.
“Same here Ma’am,” I smiled. Still formally addressing her because she didn’t tell me to address her otherwise.
“I’m organizing a fundraising charity luncheon next month in aid for the Times Up movement. The date hasn’t been finalized but I would love for you to come,” I wasn’t subtle on my show of surprise at her invitation which earned an amused look from her.
Fake clearing my throat,” I would love to Ma’am thank you for the invitation,” I smiled.
“You’re welcome. I’ll send the invitation through my son when everything gets finalized.” She gives a brief nod ending the conversation.
After a long drive we finally reached his penthouse both of us exhausted we retired for bed. My head rested on his chest as he wraps his hands around me.
Just before I drifted into a deep slumber my mind darted towards tomorrow’s appointment schedules that Alex had sent me earlier this evening.
The one particular name kept invading my mind, a familiar name, something I feel I have heard it before. Alia Ramirez.