Standing on the elaborate multi-story deck, she stared out at all the land. Land! Land! Everywhere. Exactly twenty-three point seven-eight acres of it. In the middle of godforsaken nowhere.
What was she supposed to do with it? Buy a tractor and grow corn? Get some livestock? Cows, and chickens, and porcupines? She wasn’t a farm girl, she wasn’t a rural girl, she’d never craved wide, open spaces so she could support her own sustenance, and have horses to ride on, or whatever the hell people did with them.
Ever since they’d moved in, almost three months ago, Darien regretted and resented this purchase. They’d looked at stunning condos in Detroit, secluded manors in Ann Arbor, and palatial abodes in Birmingham. This! This, he’d insisted, was the perfect home.
“A place for just the two of us. An escape, Dar, somewhere we can relax, be together, and ignore our responsibilities. Don’t you crave that?”
She’d been sold by her young husband. He did make an appealing case. Lately, she’d had a vague sense of...her own superficiality? She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but she knew she wanted this marriage, marriage number three, to work. If a home in the middle of nowhere pleased him, she could certainly afford it.
She heard the glass door slide behind her. Picking up her nearly empty glass, she turned and watched her, admittedly hot, husband step out on the deck, a newly opened bottle of wine in his hand. His back was to her as he slid the door closed. He was wearing a “wife-beater” tee, and snug fitting pair of jeans. His intent was not lost on her as she watched his delectable triceps ripple and flex, and the perfection of his gluts.
She snorted with disdain. He looked so damn at home, so red-neck, so suited to the country life. She knew no one would see him but her, out here on their deck, with no one around for miles. She considered her own attire. A tank top, and a pair of tight short-shorts, pretty country herself, really. No one would see her but him, out here on their deck, with no one around for miles. Still… no one called a tank top a “husband beater” when worn by a braless woman.
“I thought you might be ready for more wine, sweetest,” Paul said.
“Always,” Darien replied, holding out her glass.
“Shall we?” he asked, waving in the direction of the comfy deck chairs.
“By all means.”
He refilled her glass, and poured his own as she took a seat. She sipped her wine, and scrutinized him. Never one to whither in her intimidating presence, Paul returned her unwavering gaze.
“Nice that you’re home so early,” Darien said, biting back the “for once” part.
“Let’s have a nice evening on our deck, Dar,” he said, raising his glass in a toast, choosing to ignore the implied, if unspoken words. “Look at us. The landed gentry, masters of all we survey, and no prying eyes.”
She didn’t understand his need for isolation. When he’d waltzed into her life, he’d known who she was, and what her fortune and family name entailed. She was a part of Detroit society, frequently in the public eye. Though he’d always been camera shy, she’d lately begun to wonder if he had something to hide.
Damn! This gig had been perfect! A woman who had more money than God. A little mature, perhaps, compared to his usual romantic inclinations, but he had no complaint in the bedroom department. Darien was wild. Hungry, insatiable, and adventurous, she actually wore him out sometimes. She was smart, and witty, and fucking beautiful. And all that money…
He didn’t feel particularly bad about all the lies he’d told her. She was selfish, self-centered, and satisfied to have an attractive, young husband on her arm. She hadn’t asked too many questions, so he let her draw her own conclusions. As long as he flattered her, and was attentive, she was good.
What he did feel bad about, at least a little bit, was that he was leaving her. Especially after he’d convinced her to buy their expansive country estate. He didn’t know why she hated it so much. Yes, he did. Darien thrived on her shallow, socialite existence. It meant she never had to be introspective. She didn’t want to find deep meaning in her life. Looking too hard in a mirror might shatter her vanity.
Unfortunately, he suspected he was being watched. He’d managed to hide for a couple of years now, but in his heart, he’d always known it couldn’t last. It was time to disappear again. At least this time, he’d been able to prepare. He had plenty of cash squirreled away, and a few contacts he could count on.
He’d pledged his life, once upon a time, heart and soul, to the Boss, and the Boss was going to collect, one way, or another. The Boss was one of only two people in his dismal life who had seen his potential. Growing up a river rat, pulling low-grade capers with his only childhood friend, they’d both despaired of ever finding a better life. When she’d attracted the eye of the most corrupt and evil crime lord in the city, she had no intention of leaving her best friend behind.
“This is what we always wanted,” she reminded him on her wedding night. He willingly followed her into an intricate criminal enterprise he’d always suspected existed. It turned out he was well suited to a life of sophisticated crime and he quickly rose, to become the Boss’s right hand man.
Loyalty. Trust. Loyalty. If he looked after the Boss, the Boss looked after him. Things started to go sour when he was tasked with keeping an eye on the Boss’s wife. Once his best friend, they had a bitter falling out. In the end, he’d cruelly betrayed her.
Then, the guilt had set in. He well understood his wife’s aversion to introspection. He’d spent plenty of time avoiding it himself. After double-crossing the only person he’d ever truly cared about, the soul-searching could no longer be delayed. He realized he had to get out. Alas, that kind of life is not one you just say, “Okay. Bye, now,” and attend a party with some cake, and they hand you a watch.
So, he’d run.
Darien had been salvation. When he’d read somewhere the lonely heiress had just finalized a second divorce, he laid his trap. It wasn’t easy gaining access to such an elite and closed society, but Paul had skills. He was charming, and cynical, and he had no qualms about using his good looks to his advantage. He soon became a popular and accepted member of the aristocratic club. After a whirlwind courtship, he had what he wanted.
He hadn’t been certain that hiding in plain sight was going to work, but it turned out his old criminal life rarely crossed paths with his new criminal life. Despite the trappings of respectability, he soon learned that these rich people were no less corrupt and inclined toward law-breaking than the gang he used to run with. It turned out Paul fit in just fine with the other half.
Recently, he’d been nervous. Too many unexpected photos snapped at events he was forced to attend as the husband of one a society darling. He’d done as much as he could to alter his appearance, but somewhere, somehow, someone was going to recognize him.
Darien didn’t know their home was intended to be his hideout. There wasn’t much point in telling her now. He was leaving. He would miss it, though. Despite not being able to spend much time at home, it was the kind of place he dreamed of having when he was a child, growing up in a decaying city with a crack addicted mother. Beautiful and peaceful, he wished he really could retire here.
“Darien, my love,” he said, pouring more wine. “Let’s take a trip.”
“Oh, Paul! That is such a good idea! What about Italy? Or Greece. We haven’t been overseas for such a long time.”
She was excited. He was about to burst her bubble. They had to go somewhere no one would think of looking for him.
“I was thinking Alaska.”
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Hi Rowena, I really liked the characters in your story, and the switch in POV really works well to confirm the reality is worse than she feared. It's a great story with an intriguing premise, you definitely get the feeling their story has only just begun!!
Thank you, Andrew :-) You are correct, this is a vignette from the larger story these two characters share.
Oh no! The poor couple - oblivious to the hidden marriage troubles the other faces. Lovely writing! Your novel looks really dark and sexy - definitely checking that out later! ~Ria
Thank you for your kind words, Adrienne :-)
Great story. I'm fully invested in both characters.
Thank you :-)
I adore this story. I'd love it to continue!
Thank you! And, oh, it does!