Velvet Roses Ch. 03byvirgofemme©
*It's my hope that this chapter will give you more insight on who Jeneda and Dane are as individuals, so just to let you know, they won't be sharing any scenes until the next installment.
As always, I'd like to thank everyone for your continued interest, and I hope you'll enjoy this chapter.*
It was just past six a.m., and Jeneda was standing on the fire escape with a steaming mug of coffee in hand. She was wearing little more than plaid pajama shorts and a thin white tank top, but the early morning chill didn't bother her a bit. In fact, it was invigorating. And that was just the thing she needed to get a start on her day.
She was itching to get her sculpture over to the production facility so they could cast it in bronze, but before she did, she had to meet up with the client for whom the work had been commissioned. There were last minute details she needed to go over with them, and it was something that needed to be done in person.
As her commissioned art piece came to mind, she couldn't help but be reminded of Dane. He was the one who'd inspired her to name it "off-kilter," and although it hadn't been his intention, he would forever be associated with the sculpture. She wasn't quite sure if that was good or bad, but she had to hand it to him. He certainly had a way of seeping into her thoughts.
Recalling the kiss they'd shared, she remembered how skilled he'd been with his tongue. This resulted in a familiar heat spreading between her thighs, and as she thought of his hot, wet mouth sealed against her own, a dull ache formed in her nether regions.
She already knew he was a damn good kisser, but now she was eager to find out if that tongue of his would be just as talented at pleasing her nether regions. Sooner or later she would find out-no doubt about that. But in the meantime, her fantasies would have to do.
She drank the rest of her coffee, then showered, and after pulling a cropped sweater over a gray tank top, she slipped into a pair of fitted black pants.
She then slipped on a pair of well worn Doc Martens, and after grabbing her keys and purse, she was out the door. Her cell phone rang as she was exiting the lobby door, and after pressing the call answer button, she placed the receiver against her ear.
"Hi. Is this Ms. Larkson I'm speaking with?"
"This is Rachel Montgomery. I'm the head nursing supervisor here at St. Anne's convalescent home."
"Oh hi, Rachel. If this is about last month's bill, the check's already in the mail, and it should be arriving by tomorrow."
"Actually, I'm calling to let you know there's been an incident. And it seems that your brother was the victim."
"Wait a minute, what are you saying? What kind of an incident? And is he okay?" Her words came out rushed, jumbled.
"He's fine. But I thought you should know that it appears as if he's been assaulted."
"Assaulted?" Her voice rose an octave, echoing loudly in the lobby, and after quickly exiting the entrance hall, she hastily made her way to her car. "I need to know what happened. Tell me everything."
"I think It'd be best if I told you in person. Are you available later this afternoon?"
"I'm available now," she firmly said, and as she reached her car, she unlocked the door, then got behind the wheel. "I'm on way, and when I get there, you'd better give me some answers.
Without giving the nurse a chance to respond, Jeneda ended the call, and after starting up her car she hit the gas, accelerating quickly down the street.
* * * *
"Who's responsible for this? Tell me!"
Standing in front of her debilitated brother, Jeneda eyed the dark, half dollar sized bruise on his left temple. Her body trembled with anger, and she turned her attention on the head nursing supervisor, fixing her with a long, hard glare. Visibly discomforted by the intense stare that Jeneda was giving her, the RN shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
"According to a nurse who was nearby, it was one of our other young residents. His name is Harvey, and he suffers from schizophrenia. Apparently he was having a hallucination, and was convinced that your brother could hear his thoughts and was laughing at him."
Jeneda released a heavy sigh, then shook her head in dismay. "And how exactly did this happen? Did he just wander in, or what?"
"Harvey is your brother's roommate. Or at least he was, up until this morning."
"Wait a minute, I was just here four days ago, and Riley was sharing the room with someone else. An elderly gentleman named George. What happened to him?"
"George passed on three days ago. He'd been sick for some time and...," She gave brief pause, then cleared her throat, as if struggling to continue. "I'm sure you don't want to hear all that, so I'll just get right to the point. When George died, I knew that I had to find your brother a new roommate. And since Harvey's only a few years older that Riley, I figured it would be a good match."
"Seriously?" Her voice was filled with disbelief.
"Well yes, I thought it might be good for-"
Not giving a damn about whatever the nurse had to say, Jeneda cut her off mid-speech. "Why would you allow someone in Riley's condition to share a room with a schizophrenic? He can barely even speak, let alone defend himself!"
"Harvey's symptoms are successfully managed by medication. Yet unfortunately, it appears that he stopped taking his pills two days ago, and that's what led to his outburst."
"So what are you going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again?"
"We moved Harvey to a different room, so he will no longer have any contact with your brother."
"And you're completely certain that Harvey was the attacker?" Jeneda pinned the nurse with a heated look.
"Yes, of course."
"How can you be sure? Did you see it happen?"
"No, I didn't. But the nurse who was on duty at the time saw it with her own eyes."
Jeneda averted her attention to look at her brother, who was lying in bed, and saw that he was watching her with a little smile on his face. He looked so helpless that it broke her heart, and although she couldn't understand the unintelligible noise he made, she knew that her presence brought him comfort and lifted his spirits. She reached a hand out to caress cheek, and as her palm made contact with his skin, his smile grew wider.
Glancing back at the nursing supervisor, Jeneda noticed that she'd clasped her hands nervously in front of her, and it was clear to see from her body language that she was feeling uneasy.
Jeneda was no mind reader, but she had a pretty good idea that the RN was nervous about the convalescent home getting sued. And while that wasn't necessarily Jeneda's intent, she sure did enjoy putting the fear into her.
"Please accept my deepest apologies," the nurse said. "If there's anything at all I can do to make this better, just tell me, and I'm sure we can work it out."
"You can start by installing surveillance cameras."
She hesitated before answering. "That is a good idea, but unfortunately we don't have the funds for it. Not only that, but installing a camera would be an invasion of privacy."
"*Whose* privacy? Because I think we both know that Riley could care less about such a thing."
"The privacy of the residents, as well as the staff."
"The staff doesn't need privacy. Their job is to take care of the patients and keep them safe, so why should it matter if they're under surveillance?"
"Being under continual observation would be stressful for our nurses. Not to mention make it difficult to recruit new employees."
"What about the residents and their families? Don't we matter too?"
"Of course you do. And I really do understand how strongly you feel about this, but it just isn't something that can be done. At least not right away."
Thoroughly frustrated, Jeneda blew out a heavy breath. She stared at the nurse for a few more moments, then said, "So basically what you're telling me is that you don't give a damn what happens to my brother."
The nurse's lips set into a thin, hard line, then after a few moments passed, she offered some words. "I understand your displeasure, but this isn't my fault, so please don't take it out on me."
"It may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility to see that he's protected. Now are you willing to do that, or not?"
"Of course I am. But the point still stands that we cannot bear the expense to have cameras installed."
"What if I pay for one and have it installed in his room. Would you allow that?"
"Well yes, I suppose that would be okay. But I'd still have to run it past management."
"You do that. And when you find out, let me know what the outcome is."
"Certainly, Ms. Larkson. Once again, I really am sorry that your brother was hurt, and I give you my word that it will not happen again." She gave brief pause, then said, "I'll give you some privacy now."
Once she'd left the room, Jeneda pulled up a seat next to Riley's bed, then sat down on it.
"It's good to see you, sweetie." Taking his hand in hers, she offered it a gentle rub, then looked deeply into his eyes. "I want you to answer a question for me, okay?"
He gave a slow nod in response.
"Do you remember who hit you?"
He stared at her, blinked a few times, then shook his head.
Since Riley had impaired memory, it came as no surprise to Jeneda that he wasn't able to recall who his attacker was. Yet she still couldn't help feeling deep disappointment.
"Are you in any pain?"
He shook his head again, then let out a, "No."
"Okay, that's good."
She patted his hand, then reached into a shopping bag that she'd brought along with her. After retrieving a toy model of a Porsche, she held it up for him to see. At first it didn't seem as if he had much of a reaction to the sight of it, but after a few moments of blankly gazing at it, he emitted a little noise.
Aside from saying yes or no, Riley was unable to verbally communicate. Yet despite the fact that he lacked the ability to carry on a conversation, Jeneda was still able to determine his emotional state. While his words may have been unintelligible, the tone that he used perfectly conveyed his mood.
"I saw this in the store today, and figured you would like it. You used to love Porsches." Her lips tugged upward as she recalled memories of times past, yet before she could get too deep into daydreaming, she brought herself back to the present moment. "I guess you still do love them. Once a Porsche guy, always a Porsche guy, right?"
Riley gave no indication that he knew what she was talking about, only continued to look at her with a little smile on his lips.
"This isn't just any ordinary car, though. It's gonna watch over you when I'm not here." She positioned the car on the bedside table with the bumper facing Riley's bed, then affectionately smoothed a palm over his head. "If anyone hurts you again, I'll have proof, and I'll make sure that they pay for it."
Although she knew it wasn't her fault that Riley had been assaulted, it still made her feel terribly guilty that she hadn't been able to defend him. It made her sick to her stomach that he'd had been subjected to physical harm, and she would be damned if it was going to happen again.
En route to the nursing home, she'd stopped off at an electronics store and purchased a mini spy cam, then made a quick stop off at a toy shop to buy the model car. It had been her hope that the nursing home would cooperate and install surveillance equipment, yet anticipating their hesitancy toward it, she'd decided to take matters into her own hands.
With the spy camera hidden in the model Porsche, it would secretly record everything that went on in Riley's room. Jeneda was well aware that she would be crossing some legal boundaries installing surveillance equipment on the sly, but she really couldn't give a damn. Her brother's well being was the most important thing to her, and when it came to protecting him, she would do everything in her power to ensure that he was safe.
What would truly bring her peace of mind would be to have him move in with her, but her parent's strong resistance to the idea was the reason that Riley was fated to remain in a convalescent home. So here he was. Only twenty-six years old, brain damaged, and surrounded by dying people who were decades older than him.
Sure, he was minimally conscious, but that didn't mean he was stupid. A part of him knew what was going on, and the fact that he was fated to live the rest of his years in an assisted living facility was incredibly depressing. She could think of few circumstances less dismal than his, and it put a lump in her throat to know he would never again be fully functional.
Taking a glance at the clock on the wall, she was surprised to see that nearly an hour had passed since she'd first arrived. With only five minutes remaining before she was due to meet up with a client, it was obvious that she was going to be late. But she could care less, because Riley was most important.
She rose up from the chair she was sitting in, then leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek. As she pulled away, she saw him gazing up into her eyes with a look of such innocence that it nearly brought her to tears. Yet knowing that she had to remain strong, she fought to keep from becoming emotional.
"I love you, little brother. Never forget that, okay?"
She gently caressed his face, and after giving him a soft kiss on the cheek, she quickly made her way to the door. As she walked away from Riley, he emitted sorrowful sounds, and even after she'd crossed the threshold of his room, she could still hear him calling out to her. No words existed to describe how haunting the sound was, and the heaviness in her heart was nearly overwhelming.
Upon reaching the doors which led outside, Jeneda broke into a sprint across the parking lot, and no longer able to hold back, she burst into tears.
* * * *
Holding the katana in his hands, Dane unsheathed it slowly, gradually revealing more of the steel until it's curved, slender, single-edged blade was fully visible. Gazing admiringly at it, he noticed how the sword glimmered under the light. He also took note of the handle, which was made of wood and bound in silk cord.
Exquisitely crafted with a traditional design, the Japanese sword was a thing of beauty. The mere sight of the weapon caused excitement to bubble in his stomach, and as he ran a finger lightly over the edge of the blade, he found that it was razor sharp.
Enamored with the craftsmanship, Dane studied it intently, barely taking notice of the voice that called out to him.
"I have a couple other blades if you'd like to see them."
"No thanks, Kenichi. This is the one I want," Dane said, looking up to make eye contact with him.
Seated in a throne-like armchair that was upholstered in red velvet, Kenichi offered him a little smile. Although in his mid-thirties, he could easily pass for a twenty-something. His medium length, razor cut hair had an edgy, jagged look, and enhanced his already prominent cheekbones.
Clad in a black dress shirt with the first few buttons undone, and a pair of shiny silver, slim cut pants, his overall look was reminiscent of a Japanese popstar. And judging from the throne-like armchair he was seated in, it seemed that in his own mind, he was indeed a celebrity.
"Excellent choice," Kenichi said.
"How much do you want for it?"
"I'm willing to let it go for 3500."
Turning his attention back on the sword, Dane gave it a long, hard stare, provoking Kenichi to once again speak.
"If you're thinking about trying to talk me down, you can forget it. A sword of that quality is well worth the price."
Lifting his gaze to once again meet Kenichi's, Dane said, "Believe me, I know. Offering anything less than your asking price would be an insult to the craftsman."
Dane resheathed the sword, and after retrieving some money from his wallet, he placed the bills on the coffee table, sliding it across the surface so that Kenichi could take it.
After making sure it was the right amount, Kenichi put the bills into a small black container which looked like a jewelry box. Then glancing back at Dane, he began to speak.
"So how many swords do you have now?"
"Including this one, fifteen." He then glanced at the wall directly behind Kenichi, allowing his eyes to rove languidly over each blade that was displayed on the wall. "Looks like you've added to your own collection since the last time I was here."
"I took a trip to Japan last month and attended a sword show. The Dai Token Ichi. I'm sure you've heard of it."
"Of course, It's legendary."
"It was. I strongly suggest you go someday."
"It's definitely on my to-do list."
Glancing back down at the katana, Dane admired its artistry. He could hardly wait to get back home so he could mount it on his apartment wall, but before he did, he would sit in silence with it.
In his mind, Dane could already imagine himself perched on the edge of the couch in his living room, sliding a finger over the shiny blade as he gazed down at it.
A sword like this deserved to be cherished, and he fully intended on doing just that. Having once again lost himself in the beauty of the sword, Dane's fixed stare was broken by the sound of Kenichi's voice.
"You see Cassie around lately?"
Cocking his eyebrow, Dane gave Kenichi a long, hard stare. "No. Why?"
He pulled his shoulders into a small shrug. "Just wondering."
"Have you seen her around?"
"Nope. That's why I was asking you."
"No, I haven't."
The two men maintained eye contact for a few more moments, and as the silence stretched on, tension rose between them.
"Why are you asking about her?" Dane asked.
"Does it matter?"
"Yes, it does. Has something happened?"
"I don't know, Dane. Has it?"
Dane had known Kenichi for nearly eight years, so he was used to his idiosyncrasies, but the way he was acting was more strange than usual. This put Dane on alert, and suddenly he felt an urgent need to discover just why Kenichi had brought up the subject of his ex-girlfriend.
Dane gave him an odd look, then said, "Last I heard, she was still working for you."
"And who did you hear that from?"
"I see. So I guess you do still keep in touch with the old gang, huh?"
"Not really. I just happened to run into him, and somehow Cassie came up in conversation."
"Whatever happened with you and her, anyways?"
"I wanted to start a new life and go straight. She didn't. So obviously we grew apart."
"I guess what you really mean is, you're too good for her."
"Did I say that?"
"No. Not in so many words." He cocked his head slightly, as if studying Dane. "But I can tell by the way that you said it.
"So I guess you're a mind reader now, huh?"
"Well as you know, I am a man of many talents."
"Yeah. I guess you are." Although he felt like saying more, Dane left it at that.
"So, how's the graphic novel business?"
"Wonderful. My fan base is steadily increasing."
"Good to hear."
"I would ask you the same question, but from the looks of this penthouse apartment, I'm guessing you're doing pretty alright."
Taking a moment to survey his surroundings, he allowed his eyes to rove across the expensive looking furniture before allowing them to rest on a high tech entertainment center.
"When you're in a business like mine, the money comes fast and easy. But of course you already know that."
Dane met Kenichi's intent gaze with one of his own. "Yes, I suppose I do."
"Do you miss it?"
"Not at all."
"Really?" The expression on Kenichi's face conveyed that he was thoroughly perplexed by Dane's response. "But the money is so good."
"Maybe so, but It's not worth the life I was living."