tagRomanceBinding Ashes

Binding Ashes

bywetapap©

There is no explicit sex in this story. I wish to thank the people who helped contribute to and edit this story, per their wishes, they remain anonymous. No part of this story may be published at any other site without the express permission of the author. © October 2, 2006

**********

"Richard, we are there," Daryl informed his passenger as the limo pulled up in front of his favorite restaurant.

Not surprisingly, as Richard leaned forward to retrieve his cane he was once again captivated by its artistic design. The beautifully handcrafted wolf head created by interwoven gold and silver never ceased to fascinate him.

He had purchased the walking stick years ago to provide others with the perception he was mature for his age. Although the passing of time had cured Richard's problem of looking older, he had carried the cane at his side for so long, he would feel naked without it. He still derived great pleasure from the many compliments it received. Richard smiled as he paused to run his thumb over the handle.

With his overcoat draped securely over his arm his hand slipped down to firmly grasp the dark wood grained staff as he prepared to exit. When the limo door swung open, Richard stepped out, stretching his stiff muscles as he rose to his full height.

Gone were the days of bounding from the limo, charging up the steps and sauntering into the restaurant. His youthful exuberance had been systematically displaced by the cumulative effect of his forty-four years.

A smile, which Daryl easily recognized as appreciation, crossed Richard's face. It wouldn't be Richard without the beacons of his personality, his array of smiles.

Daryl had been with Richard through the better part of his life. While serving as his personal chauffeur and valet he had become Richard's close confidant and friend, standing at his side when needed.

As Richard took a step towards his favorite restaurant a young woman suddenly appeared in his path. Before Daryl could react she requested, "Sir, could I borrow a couple of dollars? I haven't eaten in days."

Daryl immediately moved to intercede, but Richard blocked him with his cane, never taking his eyes off the girl. It was a move to let Daryl know he didn't feel threatened. Daryl stepped back, remaining close enough to intervene if necessary.

Richard took a moment to observe and study the young woman. She appeared to be around twenty, not beautiful but not unattractive. It would be easier to judge if her smudged face and matted hair were bathed and cleaned. A few additional pounds on her too thin frame wouldn't hurt either; it was quite evident she didn't eat on a regular basis.

The one thing that surprised him was she actually appeared to be requesting, not begging, as was the norm for most street people. With an inquisitive smile, he asked, "May I inquire what everyone calls you?"

Hesitating, she looked at him with more than just a little suspicion before relenting, "If you mean what's my name, it's Amber."

"Hmmm, a very pretty name for a young lady Miss Amber," he replied with an unnerving smile that made her feel somewhat uncomfortable.

"Well it's my name. Now are you going to lend me some money or not?" She scowled trying to force the issue. The last thing she intended to do was stand there and let some well dressed, well educated, and well financed jerk make fun of her. She had experienced enough of that on the streets to last a lifetime.

With a smirking grin, Richard hinted with strong suggestion, "And Miss Amber, just what would you be willing to do for a few dollars?"

Her eyes almost glowed with rage as she spat, "FUCK YOU and all the other assholes in the world. I would rather starve than degrade myself for food... or money... or anything else."

She spun on her heel and took a step to leave just before Richard inquired, "I thought you were hungry Miss Amber."

"Not if I have to perform for it," she retorted over her shoulder.

"Miss Amber, if you were willing to do that, I would be the one walking away," he replied. "Now if you are hungry, there is food just inside that door, if you're not, I am. With or without you, I'm going in to eat."

Abruptly she came to a stop, spun around, and came back to stand in front of him. Looking up into his face, staring eye to eye, she inquired, "No strings attached?"

With an amused smile, he said, "None... other than you are required to have an appetite. From the looks of you, I don't think that will be a problem Miss Amber."

Even though his smile made her feel comfortable, she still looked for signs of deceit. The face staring back at her was full of sincerity and strong character molded by years of living. His warm smile helped make her decision.

Richard held out his hand towards the restaurant, she spun and headed for the entrance. He smiled in awe, 'She seems to have that spin down perfect.'

Just as her hand reached out to open the door, Richard leaned around and pulled it open for her. She looked up into his face as he said, "Miss Amber, a lady never opens a door in front of a gentleman, if she does, she's not a lady. If he doesn't open it for her, she needs to be with someone else because she's not with a gentleman."

She only grunted her acquiescence as she slipped through the door thinking, 'Who cares what nonsense he spouts as long as I get to eat, I'm starving.'

Although never forward or arrogant, Richard had always had a distinctive but intangible quality in that his very presence demanded the maitre d's attention. Amber beat him to the punch this time.

The maitre d' spotted her immediately as she came through the door and moved to intercept before she could enter the dining room. It was quite apparent she was in the wrong place.

Richard could see Amber brace for what was coming. This scene had become part of her everyday life in recent years; having been thrown out of several places of business, not just restaurants.

As the maitre d' was about to confront Amber by blocking her path, Richard spoke, "Joseph, this is Miss Amber. She is my guest and will be dining with me tonight. Amber, this is Joseph, the finest maitre d you will ever have the pleasure to meet." Richard smiled confidently, knowing Joseph would grant his request.

Joseph stopped, looked from Amber to Richard, then back to Amber before saying, "Of course, my pleasure to meet you Miss Amber."

Wide eyed, Amber was impressed with the unspoken display of power she just witnessed.

Joseph continued, "Your normal table Sir?"

Richard's nostrils picked up a slight whiff of Amber before he thoughtfully replied, "Not tonight, I think we need the privacy of one of your more secluded tables."

Joseph cocked an eyebrow as he detected the same odor, "I understand, this way please." He led them to an isolated corner table.

After pulling out her chair and seating Amber, Joseph hustled off with a slight shake of his head. Richard took a seat beside Amber but sat with his back to the wall... he didn't sit across from her. With all that had just happened, she didn't feel rejected. Amber liked that.

She looked around and discovered everyone was staring at her. Amber knew she looked a mess, it was so embarrassing.

Richard was watching and knew instantly what she was feeling. He stood up, moved to the other side, pulled out the chair and said, "Maybe you would be more comfortable sitting on this side Miss Amber." She slid to the other chair in a fluid and graceful move.

Richard switched to her previous chair to maintain his proximity to her, again making her feel at ease. With light hearted merriment Richard smiled, "Now Miss Amber, you no longer have to stare at those ugly people."

His witty comment caused her to smile. While leaning slightly forward, she modestly dipped her head and softly whispered, "Thank you."

Although he had switched chairs, Richard still kept his back to the wall. He evidently was cautious and liked to observe what went on around him. After living on the streets, Amber considered that a very good trait, even though he still seemed kind, courteous, and... generous.

She felt compelled to ask, "When we were outside, why did you ask what I'd be willing to do for money? It's easy to tell you don't have any real desire or need for me."

"Simple," he said. "If you were just hustling for money, I had nothing to offer. If you were truly hungry, then it's my pleasure to try and help, Miss Amber. By the way, never mistake gentlemanly behavior for a lack of desire."

Amber immediately knew she liked this man. Thanks to him, she was going to eat all she could. After all, she never knew when the next meal might be.

Richard adamantly said, "After the waiter takes our orders Miss Amber, I do insist you make a trip to the ladies room to wash your face and scrub those hands before we eat."

"No problem," she stated while cocking her head and raising an eyebrow. "Now tell me what everyone calls you, more simply, what is your name?"

"Richard... that is my name... and what everyone calls me," he replied with a warm smile.

"But why does everyone call you Richard? They should be calling you Mr. whatever your last name is."

With a knowing smile, he enlightened her, "I have always insisted that my friends call me Richard. It creates a more relaxed atmosphere... better for the digestive system. Something we are both going to need tonight Miss Amber."

His lighthearted attempt at humor caused her to laugh. Richard smiled at her amusement, but enjoyed the sound of her laughter more.

After placing their orders, Amber excused herself and went to clean her face and hands. As she exited the powder room, Amber nervously hesitated. She was surprised to find herself a bit anxious that Richard might be disappointed after seeing her face without the camouflage of dirt and grime.

Amber stood at her chair not understanding her desire to turn and run. Richard looked up; there was no way his bigger than ever smile could be mistaken for anything other than approval. Amber was pleased. She suddenly felt glad to be there. With a grin of her own, she slid into her chair. Her only wish was to take a full bath and brush her hair.

**********

During the meal and through the course of the evening, Richard was able to get her to open up about her life and the circumstances that forced her to live on the streets. It was not only amazing but fortunate she had been able to avoid the many pitfalls that trap most young people in her situation.

Richard learned her parents died when she was fifteen. With no relatives and being a minor, she was placed in a foster home. The first one wasn't bad, the couple was very nice and she liked them.

A year later she was moved to another home where she felt uncomfortable. The husband kept looking at her with more than just concern for her care. He kept finding excuses to barge into her room, especially at times when she was dressing for school or an important event.

Without pretext, he cornered her one day, running his hands over Amber's body against her will. He was too big for her to fight off. His wife walked in just in time to save her from being raped. Amber never knew what happened; she fled out the door leaving the wife screaming at her husband.

After hitting the streets, Amber made a point of avoiding anyone associated with authority, especially the police. Her biggest fear was ending up in the same situation, only next time, she might not get the opportunity to escape.

The street had become home to her, so much so, she now felt on familiar terms with it. Amber had adapted so well to its hostile environment and become so adept at survival, it was now second nature to her.

Yet through it all, she never used her body or suffered the loss of her dignity and self respect to survive from day to day. There had been many close calls. Between street smarts and luck, she was able to duck and dodge every attempt to drag her into those dark recesses where most street kids end up.

Richard found himself fascinated by Amber and her story. It made him conscious of how guarded his life had been. Without risk or threat, he had been provided every opportunity life had to offer. He pondered, 'What a difference the fate of birth can make in two individuals.'

The meal was delicious. She could easily understand why this was one of his favorite restaurants.

Amber insisted, "Please give me a name and address so I can repay you. I don't intend to live on the streets forever. When I get a job and on my feet, I will send you the money."

Richard, with his perplexing smile said, "Make you a deal Miss Amber. When you get a job and on your feet so to speak, instead of sending me money, repay me by lending a helping hand to someone who truly needs it. If you promise to do that, then consider us even."

Now she wasn't sure she couldn't love this man, if she even knew what the word love meant. It had been so long since she cared for anything other than where her next meal would come from. "It's a deal, you have my word on it," she promised.

Richard sat reflecting on things before asking, "Miss Amber, how would you like to take a full bath and get some new clothes before hitting the streets again?"

Her eyes flashed immediate suspicion as they intently searched his face. She expected his next few words to wipe out her newly acquired image of his sainthood, leaving nothing but the cold harsh reality of her everyday life. To her complete surprise, not this time. Richard expected and was prepared for her misgivings about his proposal.

He countered her anticipation with that damned smile, "Still no strings attached Miss Amber. If you are willing to take a chance by placing a little trust and faith in me, I'll take you to a place that is a wonderland compared to where you've been."

Still unsure of his intent, she sarcastically queried, "What and where is this 'wonderland' you want to take me. Once there, what would I have to do?"

"The wonderland is called 'Wetap,' 'what' is my home, 'where' is nearby. You don't have to do a thing but enjoy my hospitality while staying as my guest Miss Amber," he responded.

"Mister, no one goes to that much trouble for a stranger, what's the catch?" She was sure there had to be a net gain for him somewhere in his offer.

His smile continued to disarm her, "Please call me Richard, I think we have gone beyond being strangers, it's easier to be friends Miss Amber."

She let her guard down and inquired, "Wetap, what kind of name is that?"

He chuckled, "It's a long... but good story. Someday, if I get a chance I'd be more than happy to tell it to you, Miss Amber." With that said he stood, pulled out her chair for her and gestured towards the door.

She nodded goodbye to Joseph as he held the door open for them. He smiled and nodded back, "It was a pleasure meeting you Miss Amber. I sincerely hope you have a nice evening." It felt as if she was in a wonderland already, people and places like this didn't exist in her world.

The evening breeze caught her face, making her skin tingle as she stepped outside. It felt good. For some reason, the waiting limo didn't surprise her; neither did Daryl as he came around to open the door. She could never recall having so many doors held open for her.

While sliding across the luxurious leather cushioned seats, she felt slightly disoriented. In what seemed a surreal atmosphere, she thought, 'Damn girl, you could very easily get used to this. We haven't even left yet... how much more awesome could his wonderland be?'

On their way Richard explained Wetap was his home, designed and built to his personal specifications. She could tell by the tone of his voice that he felt great affection for it. His words left no doubt as to how wonderful he thought it was.

It was dark when they arrived at Wetap. Amber could see enough to know Wetap was a mansion sitting on perfectly landscaped grounds that were immaculately manicured. The outside was lit up enough for her to marvel at its beauty. She now felt it was a wonderland.

When the limo stopped, Amber reached for the door handle. Richard quickly grabbed her hand, her heart skipped a beat in fear. She spun around but was relieved to find his calming smile saying, 'Relax, everything is fine.'

Amber was temporarily startled before she understood Richard only stopped her to let Daryl do his job. As the door swung open with an extended hand, Daryl helped her out of the limo.

Several people greeted them as they entered the mansion. Amber soon learned they were part of the household staff. While Richard was introducing her to each of them, Amber couldn't help notice more and more people were joining the line to meet her. Evidently, as word spread, more than a few had gotten out of bed for the occasion and were still dressed in their night clothes and wearing robes.

Although she could easily see their respect and affection for Richard, Amber could tell they were equally startled and surprised by her and her appearance. They seemed to readily adjust to her presence as Richard informed them, "Amber will be staying as my guest until further notice."

The final person he introduced was Maria, evidently head of the household staff. Amber could tell she had authority and Richard respected her. She made Amber nervous with her gaze which left no doubt as to her concern, wondering what this ragamuffin of a girl was doing in Richard's home.

In turn, Richard left no doubt about his expectations. He instructed Maria to personally arrange for Amber's needs, starting with a bath, maybe two. Amber glared at him to show her annoyance but his smile told her he was jerking her chain. He jokingly responded, "Ok, just one, but since they are free, take two if you want."

**********

Amber thoroughly scrubbed until she felt clean, then she drained and refilled the huge tub with clean hot water, hot as she could stand. She soaked for what seemed hours. It was a luxury she hadn't been able to indulge in years. She had forgotten how good it felt.

After the outer grime was removed, Maria took note that Amber had a quality of what could be called 'natural beauty.' As usual, Richard seemed to have an eye for seeing inside and beyond a person.

Amber was shown the way to a beautifully decorated bedroom where Maria informed her, "This will be your room." Needless to say, Amber was more than a little nervous. A young lady appeared with a set of brushes and proceeded to thoroughly brush out Amber's hair before leaving.

After laying out a beautiful silk night gown and robe, Maria prepared to leave. In an almost panicked voice Amber rasped, "Wait, don't leave."

Maria turned and smiled, "Do you need something else Amber?"

Looking lost and reflecting anxiety, Amber blurted out in confusion, "Yes... no... yes... Ohhh, I have so many questions. Where is Richard? What do I do now? What's going to happen next?"

Maria just smiled, "He has retired for the evening. I suggest you do the same. If I know Richard, you already have a full day planned for tomorrow. You will need all the rest you can get Amber."

"What do you mean a full day? Planned what? I thought I would be leaving in the morning. Where is Richard's wife? How is she going to feel about me being here? Please help me, I don't understand," Amber implored.

Maria came over and sat down beside her. Taking Amber's hand in hers, she pulled Amber to a standing position in front of her. She began to undo her towel and then proceeded to help her dress in the silk night gown.

"First off, there is no Mrs. Richard, never has been. Richard never married. Believe me, you have nothing to be afraid of or concerned about. You could not be in a more secure or caring place than here at Wetap. Most of the employees and their families, including mine, live here also. Sometimes it almost seems like a dream.

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