I deliberately didn’t turn around when I heard the front door slam open. The sooner she accepted the situation, the better for all of us. I wasn’t going to hold her hand while she did it. “I’m going to need a visual feed for all outdoor cameras synced to my phone.”
But the man I was speaking with was no longer listening; his eyes were locked on something over my shoulder.
I checked my annoyance before turning around to face the very small, angry, red-faced woman. Try to be nice, X.
She stood there in a pale-pink sweatshirt and the same white shorts she had on earlier, her feet once again bare. An angry expression on such a delicate face seemed wrong, and I felt another pang of guilt. I forced my eyes to stop scanning her face, not wanting to get distracted.
“We need to talk,” she hissed, pointing a finger into my chest.
But before I could respond, the man pushed his way around me and stuck out his hand. “Eloisa Rae, it is such a pleasure to meet you. My wife and I, we’re…we’re huge fans.”
Suppressing the urge to roll my eyes, I glared at the man in question, but he didn’t notice.
E’s face broke into a bright smile, and she took his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. And welcome to my home! Sorry I’m not a bit more presentable.”
The man laughed heartily. “Think nothing of it! One should always be comfortable in one’s house, should one not?”
E laughed. “One should!”
I stifled an annoyed groan.
The man himself looked positively tickled. “Do you think we could take a picture together? It would mean so much to me.”
E cut me off just as I was about to refuse. “Absolutely. X will take it.”
I watched with impatience as they moved to stand next to each other. The man handed me his phone, and it was all I could do not to snatch it from his fingers. What a waste of time. I held up the phone and focused the screen, unable to help noticing the sincere gleam of happiness in E’s eyes. Probably basking in the attention, no doubt.
I snapped the photo and impatiently handed it back. Several of the other men started crowding around, their phones out, but I held them off with my hand. “All of you. Get back to work. We need everything up and running by sunrise.”
E walked back to my side, her arms crossed over her chest. “Are you always this fun to be around?”
“So I’m told.”
“I bet you are.”
“If you would just accept that I’m in charge, everything will run smoothly.”
“I don’t want you invading my privacy, X. That’s crossing the line.”
I leaned closer to her face, not to intimidate, but to show her how serious I was. “Right now, your safety is my utmost priority. Nothing in my life takes precedence over that. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’ll do. I regret to tell you this may not be the only time you feel your privacy is compromised.”
“But it’s not right!”
“You’re a celebrity. Aren’t you used to having limited privacy?”
“It’s not the same, and you know it.”
“You’re right. The situation I’m here to deal with is much more serious.” A flicker of fear passed over her face before glum resignation kicked in. Finally, a breakthrough. Since the conversation was now closed, I turned away and beckoned her to follow. “This way, E. I have a lot to show you.”
“Stop calling me that,” she snapped.
“Why? It’s more efficient.”
She sighed heavily, shaking her head, probably at my audacity.
Tired of the subject, I waved a hand toward the cameras cleverly hidden in the trees. “You need to familiarize yourself with the new security equipment.”
For the next hour, I took E around the perimeter of the house, getting her acclimated to all the changes. Surprisingly, she took everything in stride. The sensored alarms, the new locks on the windows and doors, the 250-plus cameras, and a new, state-of-the-art gate.
“So, now all that’s left is for you to give me a list of family and friends who may come to visit,” I tell her as we come to a stop on the porch. She doesn’t respond to my question right away, but I can see her face is turning red. What is that about? I watch curiously as she bends down and fingers one of the flowerpots in what I know to be an avoidance tactic.
After a few moments, she stands up, wiping her hands clean on her shorts. “That’s easy. I don’t have a list. Besides the people who work for me, I don’t get any visitors.”
My senses tell me she’s ashamed of this but is trying to hide it. I don’t push her. “Fair enough.”
I watch as she surveys her front lawn, letting out a deep sigh. A few stray hairs have come loose from her bun, but she doesn’t fix them. Every time I’ve seen her thus far, she’s been comfortable, relaxed. Definitely not what I was expecting. She meets my eyes for just a moment before heading back inside the house.