Mark Blakefield sat behind the desk in his office. He listened to his senior writer describe his
New England vacation. “Found the Green Mountain
Inn on our last day of exploring places for a feature in Good Travelin’.
“Impressive was it?” Mark asked.
“Owned by a single mom. Been in her family for generations. Lots of history. An inn for all seasons. Fabulous food. Scenic vistas. Spring, leaf peeping, lake with boats, fishing, hike and riding trails. Snapped a bunch of photos.” He slid a stack across the desk. “Have a look. Owner’s easy on the eyes.”
Mark stared at the stack. Why did Jonas insist on using a camera with film when phones and digital cameras were available? Mark tapped the desk. “What did your wife say?”
The older man winked. “She liked the idea of you heading there.”
Mark rolled his eyes. “The pair of you on another match-making junket?”
Jonas shrugged. “She thought you would like the lady.”
“I’ll check the photos and see if the place deserves a feature.”
“And I’ll wait to hear.” Jonas strolled to the door.
Mark turned the photos over one by one. The leaves on the hillside had just begun to turn. Another showed a lake shimmering in the sunlight. He studied several shots of a large inn. Another showed a garden, a two story house and several cottages. Buried near the end of the stack he found a picture of a boy around nine or ten mugging for the camera. He stared at the next picture. A woman stood beside the boy. Mark’s jaw clenched.
“Damn her.” What was Christa Parsons doing at this inn? Mark opened his laptop and started a search for directions. Was the woman really Christa? Could he be mistaken? Had he forgotten what she looked like? Not possible. Her face and her body were engraved in all his cells. He printed the directions. With the photo of the boy 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 call, a text or an email away.”
He didn’t wait for the elevator but took the stairs to the basement parking garage. He sped from his spot into a traffic nightmare. Honking horns, screeching brakes and raised fists and middle fingers sent him on his way until he reached the saner major highway. When he reached his condo he felt as if he’d fought a war. He dashed inside, packed and settled at the kitchen table. After zapping a frozen burger he headed to the living room and removed a picture form the photo album on the coffee table.
Back in the kitchen he stared at the two pictures. Had to be. Why hadn’t she told him? He intended to learn the answer to that and to a dozen other questions. He tucked the photographs in his jacket pocket, grabbed a six pack and a tin of cookies. With the burger in a hand 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 P.M. was a bit late to start the trip a touch of anger and impatience to know why spurred him on. His need for action prodded. He couldn’t sit at home and brood while he asked his friend, Jules, to investigate.
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 drifted to the days of falling in love. As per the Blakefield curse one look and he had fallen hard and fast. They’d spent a long weekend of mind-blowing sex. There had been more than physical attraction. Their likes and dislikes had meshed. The ending had been abrupt and brutal.
She’d run to her dorm to change clothes. As he’d left to pick her up for dinner his friend Tony had returned from the beach. His brother, Matt had called with news. “I’m busy.” Mark remembered saying. “Got to go. I’m in love.” He’d handed Tony the phone and dashed to Christa's nearly deserted dorm. She hadn’t been there. The two people he’d encountered had never heard of Christa Parsons.
Mark revved the engine and backed into the street. Jonas had discovered the where of the missing Christa but the why remained unexplained. When had Christa Parsons become Christa Sommers? Had she married? Jonas had called her a single mother. Was there an ex lingering around. Mark couldn’t imagine anyone letting Christa go.
At midnight he found a motel, slept until six, ate breakfast and was on the road by seven. After grabbing a burger and fries at a fast food place for lunch he continued. He pulled into the parking lot of the rustic inn. The two story sprawling building had a large screened porch. Two wings spread from the central section. The number of cars in the parking lot brought a moment of concern. Were there 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 scenery. 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 with Christa had been filled with fabulous sexy laughter and a sharing of dreams. Before he left
Vermont he would know
what went wrong and why she had hidden their son from him.
He dropped the keys in the pocket of his black leather jacket and strode toward the entrance. Two young women stepped onto the porch. They wore tight jeans, skinny tops and boots. Both carried jackets. As they approached he noticed a slight resemblance to Christa. Their dark brown hair lacked the strands of gold he remembered in Christa’s hair. Their features were cruder. Sisters? 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 as much of an owner 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 perfect in Christa’s world.
The taller young woman scowled. “I’m not waiting ‘til ski season for some action.”
The second groaned. “At least this place rocks 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 shorter one said. “You look kind of familiar. Are you staying?”
“Depends.” He brushed past them. He knew the type and he didn’t want what they offered. He strode to the door.
Just inside he stopped short. Though her back was to him he had found Christa. A battle raged in his thoughts with desire and anger stirring for top spot. His heart raced. His hands clenched. Memories of love-making rose and were countered by his knowledge of the son she’d hidden from him. His gaze roamed from her head to her spine.
She turned. Her breasts were fuller than he remembered. He recalled how they had responded to his touch. The urge to lunge across the counter and kiss her until she cried for release raged through him.
Mark stepped to the counter. “Hello Christa Parsons.”
“It’s Sommers.” She grasped the counter’s edge. “What do you want?” Her voice trembled.
He saw a flicker 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 the reason for his presence. “A boy. Around nine years old. Blond hair. Green eyes.” He slapped the pair of photos 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 find us?”
Though her face had blanched she didn’t back down. “A colleague and his wife stayed here. He liked the inn, the food and the views. 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 to get acquainted. I’m not sure what else.” He opened his wallet and slid a credit card toward her. “I’ll 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, your curiosity could find you in trouble.”