A Scarlet Kiss(2)

By: Heidi Lowe

"What?" he asked, finally noticing my eyes on him.

"What's going on?"

"Nothing. We're going home."

I rolled my eyes. "Okay, but what's with the driver? Your family has their own private driver?"

"Yes." He shrugged, peered out of the window as though this type of thing was a normal, everyday occurrence. But this thing that he did, looking out of the nearest window, that was his way of trying to get out of an argument. After six months of dating him, I'd come to learn all of his little tricks.

I tapped him on the arm until he turned to look at me again. "Fifteen years? Most people don't have personal drivers. Is there something you haven't told me?"

"Like what?" With those innocent puppy dog eyes – big and brown – eyes you could sink into, he almost had me fooled. Almost.

"Just how rich is your family?"

"I don't know."

Now he was starting to bug me with this coyness. His age was also starting to show. Most of the time, when we were just hanging out, being a normal couple, I was able to forget the eight-year age gap between us. At just twenty-two, he was more mature than any of the guys I'd dated before him. Well, most of the time.

His conscious effort to avoid looking me in the eye spoke volumes.

"What do you mean you don't know?" I demanded.

"Gosh, Jenna, it's not as though I go around counting how much money my parents have. Why does it matter anyway?"

Why did it matter? The money wasn't the issue, rather the fact that he'd kept it from me. I wasn't stupid. Normal folk didn't have private chauffeurs who'd been with the family for fifteen years.

Deciding it was best not to start a fight over nothing, I said after a little while, "You're right. I'm sorry. It doesn't." I kissed him, felt the relief in his lips, then laughed. "As long as we don't pull up to a castle and you tell me it's home."

From the nervous little laugh he gave I should have known where this was going. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed the drive from London to Buckinghamshire, peering out at the English landscape, in awe of their crazy insistence on driving on the left side of the road. That would take some getting used to.

"How was your flight?" he asked, taking my hand in his, momentarily pulling my gaze from the rolling landscape of the English motorway.

"Fine. Had an empty seat between me and the guy in the isle seat, so that was good."

He laughed. "I almost forgot about your phobia of sitting beside strangers on public transport."

"It's not a phobia, I just don't like strangers, period."

"Well, you'll have to get over that, because you'll be meeting Mr and Mrs Rutherford-Manning soon." He rolled his eyes at the mention of his parents, as he often did when the topic came up.

"They really can't be that bad," I insisted. That was more for my own benefit, to allay my fears of meeting the parents. It had taken a lot of cajoling, a lot of pleading to get me to spend the summer with him and his family. Not just because it still seemed too soon for our relatively new relationship, but because, for as long as we'd known each other, he'd never had good things to say about his parents. When you'd spent half a year listening to how hopeless they were at raising him, how non-parental they'd been, naturally you would be apprehensive.

"Calling them my parents is a huge exaggeration," he'd said several times. "They brought me into the world, yes, but that was where their job terminated."

I was certain he was being hyperbolic, that, judging from his charming, debonair and chivalrous character, only great parenting could be responsible for that.

"How did you come out so good?" I'd questioned, half-joking.

"Oh, that wasn't their doing. Scarlett was like my surrogate mother. I don't know where I would be if she hadn't stepped in." His eyes would grow watery, and he'd smile when he mentioned her. Any woman would have been jealous of her boyfriend heaping so much praise on another woman. The other woman, in this case, being his older sister. The famous Scarlett Rutherford-Manning, a woman who sat on the highest pedestal and could do no wrong. He'd made her into a saint, never spoken a bad word against her, at least not to me. Conversely, I couldn't believe anyone could be as faultless as he'd made her out to be.