Mark Blakefield sat behind the desk in his office. He listened to the head writer’s description of his
England trip. “Found the
Green Mountain Inn on our last day.
Place is perfect for a feature in Good Travelin’. Owned by a single mom with one child. Inn’s been
in her family for generations. An inn
for all seasons. Fabulous food. Scenic vistas. Skiing, leaf peeping, lake with boats,
fishing, walking and riding trails. Look
at the photos and let me know. Be glad
to return.” He grinned. “Owner’s easy on the eyes.”
Mark accepted the stack of photos. Why Jonas insisted on using a camera when digital ones were so available Mark would never know. “What did your wife say?”
The older man winked. “She laughed and liked the idea.”
Mark rolled his eyes. “The pair of you matchmaking again?”
Jonas shrugged. “She thought you’d like the lady.”
“I’ll let you know if the inn will work.”
“See you.” Jonas turned and strode away.
Mark looked at each snapshot. The leaves on a hillside had just begun to change color. Another showed a lake shimmering in the sunlight. He put down several of the large inn. Others showed a garden near a two-story house and several cottages. A boy about nine or ten mugged for the camera. He stared at the next one where a woman stood with the blond boy. His jaw clenched.
“Damn her.” What was Christa Parsons doing at this inn? Mark opened his laptop and started a search for directions to this inn. Was the woman Christa? Could he be mistaken? Had he forgotten what she looked like? Not possible. He printed the directions. With the photo of the boy and the printout in one hand and his laptop in the other he strode to the door. He stopped at his secretary’s desk. “I’ll be out of town for several days, maybe a week.”
“Where should I say you are?”
“Just a phone or an email away.”
He didn’t wait for the elevator but took the stairs to the basement parking garage. Traffic was a nightmare with honking horns, squealing brakes and raised fists. When he reached his condo he felt as though he’d won a war. He dashed inside and packed. He zapped a frozen burger and stopped in the living room to remove a picture from the photo album on the coffee table.
He stared at the two pictures. Had to be. Why hadn’t she told him? He intended to learn the answer to that and a dozen other questions. He tucked the picture in his shirt pocket, grabbed his jacket, a six pack and a tin of cookies. Outside he loaded everything in the trunk of his silver sports car. He slid behind the wheel. Christa Parsons had some explaining to do.
Though eight PM was a bit late to start the trip, a touch of anger and impatience to know why spurred him on. The need for action was too strong to allow him to sit and brood.
Why hadn’t she called him? Why had she vanished without a word? For ten years her disappearance had puzzled him. Had the fault been his?
His thoughts turned to those days of falling in love. Hadn’t taken long and that was a Blakefield tradition. Love came fast and hard. The long weekend of mind-blowing sex remained vivid. There had been more than the physical attraction. They had so many likes and dislikes in common. The ending had been done with a clever, abrupt and brutal.
She’d run to her dorm for an hour. As he was leaving to pick her up for dinner, Tony had returned from the beach and Matt had called with news. Mark had shouted he was in love. He’d handed Tony the phone and dashed to her almost-deserted dorm. She hadn’t been there and the two people he’d encountered had never heard of Christa Parsons.
He revved the engine and backed into the street. Jonas had discovered the where but the why remained unexplained. He frowned. When had Christa Parsons become Christa Sommers? Had she married? Jonas had called her a single mother. Was there an ex lingering about? Mark couldn’t imagine any man letting Christa go.
At midnight he found a motel, slept until six, ate breakfast and was on the road by eight. After grabbing a burger and fries at a fast food place, he pulled into the parking lot of the rustic Green Mountain Inn. The two-story building had a large screened porch. Two wings spread from the central portion. The number of cars in the parking lot brought a moment of concern. Were there any rooms available?
He shrugged. Didn’t matter. If not here, he would find somewhere and haunt the inn until he knew all. As he left the car he paused and surveyed the scene. The hills blazed with colors. Scarlet, orange and yellow were framed against a background of dark green.
Though he wasn’t amused Mark grinned. Christa Parsons, here I come with questions. I hope you have good reasons for your actions.
Along with his anger he felt a pulsing need. Those four days had been filled with fabulous sex, laughter and a sharing of dreams. Before he left the inn he would know what went wrong and why she had hidden his son from him.
He dropped the keys in the pocket of his black leather jacket and strode toward the entrance. A door opened. Two young women stepped onto the porch. Tight jeans and skinny tops and boots. Both carried jackets. As they approached he noticed a resemblance to Christa. Their hair was a darker brown and lacked the strands of gold he remembered. Their features weren’t as refined. Sisters or cousins? He paused at the foot of the steps and waited for them to pass. Their voices reached him.
“I don’t understand why Christa said no.”
“If we keep on her she’ll change her mind.” The taller of the two halted. “Always works.”
“It has to. I’ll go buggy if I have to hang here much longer.” The second young woman’s shrill voice made Mark wince. “How can she say we have no share in the inn? Daddy was the owner. Mom said so. That makes us owners as much as she is.”
“She has to give us the money. I’m tired of being an underpaid servant.”
Mark stepped aside to let them past. So, all wasn’t well in Christa’s world.
The taller young woman nodded. “I’m not waiting ‘til ski season for some action.”
The second groaned. “At least the place jumps then.”
“Not if she sells.”
“We won’t let her.” She reached the bottom step, saw Mark and smiled. “Well, hello.”
“Do we know you?” the taller one asked. “You look sort of familiar. Are you staying?”
“Depends.” He brushed past them. He knew the type and he didn’t want what they offered.
Just inside the door he stopped short. Though her back was to him he had found Christa. A battle raged in his thoughts between anger and desire. His heart raced. His hands clenched. Memories of love-making arose and were countered by his knowledge of the sun she’d hidden from him. His gaze roamed from her neck down her back.
She turned. Her breasts seemed fuller than he remembered. He recalled how they’d responded to his touch. He fought an urge to lunge across the counter and kiss her until she cried for him to come in her.
Mark stepped to the counter. “Hello Christa Parsons.”
“It’s Sommers.” She grasped the edge. “What do you want?” Her voice trembled.
He caught a hint of fear in her blue eyes. “You have something of mine.”
“What are you talking about?”
He smiled. She knows. The tension in her voice and the whiteness of her knuckles showed her awareness of his reason for his presence. “A boy. A bit older than nine. Blond hair, green eyes.” He pulled the photos from his pocket and slapped them on the counter. “Our son. Yours truly at that age. They could be twins.”
“Mark, go away.”
He shook his head. “I can’t.”
“How did you learn?”
Though her face had blanched she didn’t back away. “A colleague and his wife stayed here. He liked the inn, the food and the view. He took pictures. One happened to be of you and the other of my son.”
“What do you plan?”
The tears forming in her eyes almost made him walk away. He couldn’t. He had a son. “For starters, get acquainted. I’m not sure what else.” He opened his wallet and slid a credit card from a slot. “I want a room. Not sure how long I’ll stay. Start with a week. I’ll get my bags.” He turned to leave and nearly collided with the young women he’d seen outside. He arched a brow. “Ladies, curiosity could get you in trouble.”