Copyright © 2014 by C. M. Lanning
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
“You ready to go?”
“You tell me, do I look ready to go?”
Barry sighed and looked her over. She looked great. She was wearing a tight green dress that from every angle sang a song called “perfection.”
He smiled, and then frowned, closed his eyes, and quickly looked away.
She heard his neck pop as he quickly looked away, and she smiled. It was a subtle smile, but it established that she was in charge. And not just because of the families that they came from, but because without her, he had nothing. That thought always made her smile, but she never held it over his head.
“Your silence means?”
“That you look ready to go,” Barry said.
“And how do I look?”
Barry said nothing, but scratched his head.
“You're stuck with me regardless of your answer Barry. You might as well spit it out,” Claire said.
Coughing softly, Barry looked out the window and said quietly, “You look lovely.”
“I'm sorry, a little louder please?”
“You're ears aren't the problem, Claire, you heard me just fine,” Barry said.
Claire's grin grew a little wider as she said, “I suppose I've had enough fun with you for now. Don't think that ends the excitement for today though.”
“Going to hear your father's will read is excitement?” Barry asked.
“Well, that's not the only stop we're making today,” Claire said.
“Obviously not. As soon as the will is read, we'll be heading to the bank. Then, I may want to go shopping for all you know,” Claire said.
“Whatever you say,” he said, the mere thought of the events to come exhausting him.
Claire walked over to him and put her hands on his shirt. She felt around the shirt in different areas.
He made no move, but tried to keep his heartbeat at a pace that didn't compete with that of a humming bird. It was difficult to have Claire that close in a dress that looked that good. His right hand twitched as her scent caught his attention. Claire was not one for powerful perfume. She preferred to use subtle things that you had to be close to smell.
In this case, it was her strawberry shampoo. It was almost enough to drive Barry mad, having her this close.
Barry knew exactly what she was doing. She had all of his shirts memorized. He had forty-two of them, and she knew every detail of every one.
He also had twelve pairs of pants to go with those forty-two shirts. She knew every detail of those as well. She never did check his shoes, because that would require her to be lower than him as she bent down to check them. That was something she'd never do. She never allowed herself to be below him at any time, and the two of them were always together.
They even slept in the same room at night. He was with her every second of the day, with the exception of when she was in the bathroom. That was the nature of their relationship though; it called for him to be everywhere she was.
“You're wearing the red shirt today. . . the one with the black stripes. She felt up to his hair.
Now things got even more tricky. Her face was right in front of his, and he couldn’t move a muscle. He couldn’t tense because then she’d know he was nervous, and if she got wind of that, she’d start to tease him even more. He had to keep his breathing normal and his entire body frozen but somewhat relaxed.
Claire Seles was the rich girl that Barry served, and she was the ultimate forbidden fruit. Barry was both extremely protective of her and envious of any other guy she flirted with because that guy didn’t have the same restrictions Barry did. Despite jealousy, he would never act on his feelings. He had a job to do, after all. And that job always had to come first.
“Pull your hair back. This shirt looks better when your hair is up,” she said.
Though blind, she’d heard other people talk about how good Barry looked with his long straight chestnut hair. She’d gotten good at creating mental images of how certain people looked from hearing other people talk about their appearance.
“And how would you know that-”
She cut him off as she felt his pants. Her hands rested on his left thigh as she found a tiny loose thread that characterized that particular pair of pants.
Barry let out an inaudible whimper when she placed her hand firmly on his thigh. He did everything he could to keep his body from reacting in a sexual manner, a manner that would be all too obvious, even to a blind girl.
“No, keep your hair down. I didn't realize you were wearing these pants,” she said.
It was always important to her that he look his best when they went out together, and she did like to venture out a lot. That meant he was dressed nice most of the time. Barry grew up hating “nice” clothes, but he eventually grew accustomed to them. He still enjoyed wearing jeans a t-shirt on rainy days where Claire and he would lounge around the house and read books.
“Want me to get the car?”
“I'll come too,” she said.
She extended her hand, and Barry looked down at it, just the way it always was, and the way he always thought it'd be.
Barry started to think of his father again. Time seemed to stand still as he thought of his dad.
He had passed away more than five years ago. Barry was a teenager at the time, his father had spent the last half of of his life working for Claire's family.
Barry and Claire had a couple things in common. First, both of their mothers had died giving birth to them. Second, both of their fathers were now dead. Barry's father had died before Claire's.
He couldn't remember who took their father's death harder. As Barry thought of his father for a moment, one memory in particular appeared to him, and strangely, it wasn’t of his father. It was when he was young . . . probably four or five. Barry just had a fight with Claire and stormed away from her.
It was something stupid about where he was going to sit at her tea party. She placed him next to the bear, but he wanted to sit next to her stuffed elephant. It was older and a faded-gray color with some of the stuffing coming out of it, and one of the tusks were missing. The elephant was also missing one of its black marble eyes. The animal belonged to Claire's mother when she was a little girl, and it was quite the antique.
Claire had a particular order she wanted everyone to sit in. She placed Barry next to the bear on purpose. . . she knew he liked playing with her elephant, but she also knew that Barry's dad had told him to do whatever Claire told him.
When Barry stormed away from her, she started to cry and grasp the air for him. She hollered for him to come back, but he was too angry. So, she sat outside and cried her faded little eyes out.
“Dumb bossy Claire, why is she in charge?”
He sat in the library of the mansion Claire's father owned. His father always read to him at night. Claire went to bed at 8:00, and Barry got to stay up until 8:30. Claire couldn't fall asleep unless Barry was in the same room with her, but after she fell asleep, he quietly slipped out of the room and went to the library. There, his dad would read to him. Poems mostly, but occasionally, his dad would read him works of fiction as well.
His dad wasn't in the library, but Barry was determined to the make the most of the time he was away from Claire. It was the first time he'd been away from her in a long time.
Claire's father quietly came in a few minutes after he did. Having heard his daughter’s cries through
Barry sat staring at a page of a book. He knew what was on the page. . . it was the first page of The Masque of the Red Death by Alexander Poe. He couldn't read it, but he could count each minute he was away from Claire and stare at the pages.
“Do you know where Claire is?”
Barry didn't answer at first. . . he was scared. Claire's dad had never mistreated him, but at the same time, Barry understood that Claire's father was his father's boss.
“She's out back. . . ,” Barry said, quietly.
“Why aren't you with her?”
“We had a fight. . ..”
“You know what your job is, don't you?”
“My job. . . it’s to stay with her forever. . .. that's what my dad said.”
“He described your job pretty well then. You know, Barry. . . Claire isn't like you. You stormed off because you were angry. You were able to get up, leave her side, and walk away.”
“But she was mean. . . and she made me angry,” Barry said, crossing his arms. The very thought of her made him want to scream.
“Don't you think there were times when she got angry?”
“So. . . she couldn't get up and storm off, even if she wanted to.”
He hadn't thought of it like that before. Barry felt guilty now for what he'd done. . . even if she was being mean.
“I happen to know for a fact that you like stories, so, if I tell you one, will you go back to Claire?”
Claire's father had