Finding Elvis Ch. 12byWine_Maker©
Chapter Twelve: Run over by the wagon
The main dining room looked as ritzy as the rest of the house, and of course, had crystal and silver all over the place. The polished table could have seated twenty people, but today only had four places set out. Ted and Lisa were seated close together on one side and the other settings were across from them.
Grabbing my chair in one hand, I moved my things so that I was sitting at the corner nearest them and Gretchen pulled hers next to mine. That put us at a comfortable distance from them when we sat down.
Lurch brought out the food, starting with a serving of baked fish. He rolled his eyes at our rearrangement of the seats, but said nothing. The fish was divine. With a wave, I pointed at my glass. "How about some wine?"
"What vintage would you prefer?" he replied in that snooty voice that implied I wouldn't know a fine wine from Mad Dog 20/20.
My smile widened and I gestured at Ted. "Work it out with the vintner, Lurch. I'll take whatever he thinks is good. And no substitutions or additions!" I warned him sternly. Gretchen laughed and added her vote to mine, as did Lisa.
Ted made a quick query and selected one wine from the short list Lurch gave him. With a glance at me, he smiled at Lurch wryly. "Bring two bottles, and we'll open them ourselves when we're ready."
After Ivan was gone, I looked at Gretchen. "See? Ted doesn't trust him, either. It's those beady eyes of his."
Gretchen shook her head. "You guys! And don't think I didn't notice you slipping the wine in, Hawk. You really shouldn't but I won't scream about it this time." Then she looked at Ted and Lisa. "The short story about us is that we're making progress. What have you two been up to today?"
"Ted spent the day with Hans, working out the final details of their agreement and getting the papers written up to the lawyer's satisfaction." Lisa grinned at her husband. "I'm glad I missed it."
Ted rolled his eyes with a smile. "I think we could review everything one last time for you, just so you don't feel left out."
"Bite your tongue," Lisa said, making a cross of her fingers and holding them up like she was warding off a vampiric attack. "I've got no desire to be buried in contract law." She looked back at us. "I spent the day in contemplation. I went to the park and wandered around, trying to decide what I want to do with the offer Hans made me. After a lot of soul searching, I decided I want to run for District Attorney in Harris County," Lisa said, glancing back at Ted, "so that I can be closer to home. I've decided to sell my house and move to the vineyard when we get back to Texas."
I nodded. That made good sense and Lisa would make a great DA. "You have my vote. Will you be moving your mom closer to you?"
Lisa's mother had been injured in a car accident a few years ago and was comatose, being cared for in a long-term facility. This trip out of Texas was the longest Lisa had been away from her beloved mother since the accident.
"I think it would be best to find a good place closer to Ted's home, our home - that is going to take some getting used to - so that I can visit her as often as I need to," Lisa responded. "Hans said he knows of some very good doctors that owe him some favors, so he will be getting some second opinions from them for me. It would be wonderful if she woke up," Lisa said wistfully. "I know it's not likely, but I can't give up hope."
I reached over the table and took her hand in mine. "Never give up, Lisa. In this life, anything is possible, and we have to believe that miracles can happen." It did for me, I thought to myself, and she's sitting right next to me. I gave her hand a final pat and let go. "If the deal is settled, though, then what's next for you two? Back to Texas?"
Lisa looked at Ted, obviously conflicted. "We want to stay here and support you and Gretchen, but at the same time I really need to see mother, and Ted has a vineyard to look after. I'm not just saying that I want to stay, either. I want to be here for you both, really. We both do."
Gretchen waved her hand. "I'm in good hands here. You two have your lives to get back to, so don't let us stand in the way of what you need to do. Hawk has a really good handle on things. Given your druthers, when would you head back?"
We were interrupted by Lurch bringing in wine and Ted pouring us glasses as Lurch left disdainfully.
"Tomorrow," Ted said softly. "I won't lie about it; we already have the plane tickets. We do want to stay, but we can't. I'm sorry, Hawk."
I smiled and shook my head. "I, of all people, understand that you have business to take care of at home. I'm getting closer to torpedoing this case against Gretchen every hour and I'm sure we'll beat it. I'll miss you guys, though."
Ted and Lisa looked at each other and then uncertainly at me and then Gretchen.
Gretchen smiled at them and sipped her wine. "If you two want to have Hawk to yourselves tonight, I understand. I can find something to do for the evening." Her voice was light, but I heard some pain in there.
"Actually, we're not looking for a way to lure Hawk off to have sex, Gretchen," Lisa said uncomfortably. "Ted and I talked about this for hours last night, and we decided that we need to get used to being married, having it be just the two of us."
Both of them were focused on Gretchen, and they didn't see how stricken I must have looked before a cold ache settled over me and I wiped the sudden pain from my face. My ears were filled with a roaring sound that had to have been coming from inside of me, since no one else seemed to hear it.
I swallowed and forced a small smile onto my face. Three years ago I'd lost my best friend when she left me for a man, for a family. I hadn't listened to all the hints she'd no doubt dropped me, and I'd lost her as a friend as well as a lover.
It was all happening again, and this time I knew I'd better be able to handle the transition from lover to friend or I'd lose Lisa. And Ted. I'd screwed up again, somehow.
It dawned on me as I took a drink to clear my throat of the massive lump in it that the issue must be the baby. By getting pregnant, I'd made them feel threatened. Oh, God.
It took a couple of sips before I felt like I could speak in a normal voice. "I understand, Lisa, and it's okay."
Lisa smiled at me. "Thank you, Hawk. I do love you."
Yeah, as a friend. I got that. Life sucked. Taking another sip to give me room to maneuver, I put up a wall between the hurt and me. I needed to get away before I did something else wrong.
"I need to hit the ladies room," I said with the best smile I could muster. "I'll be back."
I avoided looking at Gretchen as I rose and stepped out of the room. Not that it mattered, I thought gloomily; she'd use that damned emotional spidey sense and be pounding on the bathroom door before I could pull myself together. I needed to be where she wouldn't find me.
Making up my mind quickly, I dodged into the Brown Room and closed the door behind me. The lights were off, and the room was completely dark except for the moonlight coming from the window between the partly closed drapes. The room had an almost surreal air about it.
I walked to the window and stood there, bathed in the moonlight. It wasn't really a window I found, but a pair of glass doors that opened onto a small garden. The grounds were that ghostly shade that the moon gives the earth, washed of all color. The mansion blocked a good deal of the city lights.
For a few minutes, I watched the small trees blow in the breeze and let my mind empty. In the city, I was never alone. Even when I was home, the sounds of neighbors and passing traffic always intruded. Turning back into the room, the sudden lack of light turned everything into a deep, impenetrable gloom.
Feeling my way, I found the bar and grabbed a bottle of something. I didn't even bother to try and read the label. I could have my own pity party and let the others get to know each other without me. That would probably make it easier. Once they got to talking, they wouldn't even notice I was gone.
I opened the terrace doors and stepped into the night, closing the drapes and then the doors behind me. Once more, I was part of the night. Once I was outside, I saw a small table with some comfortable looking lawn furniture on the other side of a couple of trees. I hadn't been able to see them from inside the room. That was even better. The temperature outside was cold, but not freezing. The temperatures had risen some during the day. It was now in the fifties.
Not that someone hadn't thought ahead, I discovered when I set the bottle on the table. There were a couple of blankets in a zippered plastic holder in one of the chairs. I guess even in this weather someone liked being outside. If I got too cold, I could use one.
Taking the bottle in hand, I tried to read what it was, but the light was too dim. I did see that it was 25th anniversary, so it was probably expensive as hell. I pulled the cork out with my teeth and spat it out before taking a swig. It was some kind of whiskey. Smooth. Gretchen was going to be pissed.
I sat down and took a deep drink. These last few days had been so confusing. It had to be because I was out of my element. In a strange place. I shouldn't be having all these feelings. That wasn't me, wasn't the hog-riding Hawk with an attitude. That thought reminded me painfully why I was here, though. I had been an idiot to even shelter the notion that Ted and Lisa would want a third wheel in their relationship, much less a fourth one. Normal people wanted a husband or wife and a family, not someone hanging on from the outside. I was a threat to Lisa, and she'd had to make a choice. Not that I could blame her.
Taking another deep swallow, I felt the warmth inside start to push the chill out of my body. It wasn't so cold out here after all. I leaned my head back and looked at what stars I could see through the light pollution of Boston. It was about as bad as Houston, I decided.
Ted made Lisa happy, and I had a real bad track record with relationships. I'd be lucky if Gretchen stayed with me, really. She didn't know the real me. The pressure that my work put on everyone I knew. She wanted a child of her own. When would that come into play? Lisa and Ted wouldn't let that mistake happen again. I knew now that Lisa regretted it happening at all. That had probably been the deal breaker for us as a trio, and if I'd had my head out of the clouds and in the real world, I'd have known where this was heading. Where it had to head. Lisa and Ted were leaving me, and Gretchen would soon tire of me. As the desire for a child grew stronger, she would leave me, too. Leave me in search of a man that could give her what I could not.
Over the next half hour, I drank half the bottle and was filled with a warm glow. It wasn't real, I knew. But for now it would keep the pain at bay. Lord knows I should know that for a fact. I held up the bottle, feeling a little disconnected from my own body. This was therapeutic, medicinal.
A light came on somewhere behind me, probably in the Brown Room, but I knew I was safe in the shade of the trees. No one could see me out here. Not from in there, anyway. A small voice whispered how they were worried about me, but I dismissed it. It was probably just Lurch counting the bottles of booze. I grinned at the thought of how upset he would be when his count came up a bottle short. It would probably ruin his whole evening. After a moment, the light went out, and I was once more alone with the night. My grin faded with the light, and the dark again took over my thoughts, seeped into my soul.
The sound of a bird flapping its wings disrupted my ever gloomier thoughts. I looked around for it and finally spotted golden eyes looking at me from the tree across the glade. I had no idea what kind of bird it was, maybe an owl, but it was big. I raised the bottle to it and drank a salute.
"To us," I said, hearing the slur in my voice, "creatures of the night. Solitary huntresses!"
"Hawk?" A female voice called from somewhere around the house.
I clapped my hand over my mouth. Solitary hunters needed to remember that they had to keep their damned mouths shut, I thought quietly, hunched low in the seat. Maybe they would miss the table out here in the trees and go back inside. Go back to the laughter and warmth. Leave me alone to feel sorry for myself and the mess I'd landed my sorry ass into.
The sound of footsteps on the grass behind me told me that my luck had run out.
"Hawk! What are you doing out here?" Lisa asked, reaching down to touch my shoulder. Her fingers felt hot, like those of a lover. Like a ghost of what once was. "Oh my God, Hawk, you're freezing! Come back inside."
I shook my head and pulled the bottle from the table, taking a gulp that burned going down and exploded in my middle. The shaking my head part may not have been the best idea, because the world didn't really seem inclined to keep to strict up and down. "No, I'm fine. You go on back in and leave me be," I said carefully, so I wouldn't slur and make her worried.
"You're solid ice," she told me sternly and took the bottle from my numb fingers. "You've been drinking? You drank all this in the last half hour? Gretchen's going to be furious. What's gotten into you? Come inside. Now."
"No," I said mulishly. "I'm just in the way inside. Go back to Ted and forget about me. I'm sorry I screwed everything up, and I just want to be alone."
Lisa picked up the blankets and unzipped the bag, the noise incredibly loud in the quiet night. "If you're not going in, at least you can have a blanket to keep warm."
I didn't resist her covering me. I didn't feel cold. When I reached for the bottle, she picked it up and moved it out of my reach.
"You've had enough," she said firmly as she sat down, wrapping another blanket around herself. "Now, what are you all twisted into a knot about? Is it because we don't want to have sex with you tonight?"
"I drove you away just like I did Sharon," I said, leaning forward and snaring the bottle before she could get it back after putting on the blanket. I got one good slug before she again took it away from me. "It was getting pregnant," I assured her, so she would know I understood. "I know that frightened you, and now all you want is to be friends. I'll deal with that because I don't want to drive you completely away like I did Sharon." My eyes began misting and I suddenly couldn't see her clearly anymore. "You're my best friend. My only friend and I can't stand the idea of losing you."
I felt her arms wrap around me as the tears came. "Oh, Hawk, that's not what's happening. I'm not rejecting you. Ted and I just need space to get used to the idea of actually being a couple before we move forward. The whole way this developed - Vegas, Elvis, you and Gretchen, this thing with Hans and the murders - we didn't exactly have a chance to think about being married, to accept it in our hearts and in our souls. We know that you and Gretchen are a part of our lives, but Ted and I have to build a foundation for our relationship, our marriage, and define ourselves as the primary couple in our lives. To get an identity that is all us. We need to be the couple, you and Gretchen need to be the friends with benefits, and Ted and I have to know which is which. Then we can be with you and Gretchen. I wasn't saying no, Hawk. I was saying not right now."
Pushing her back, I wiped my eyes and stared at her. "You're still my friend? You still love me?"
She smiled through her own tears and nodded. "You're an idiot," she said tenderly. "A big, loveable, drunken idiot. If I didn't know about Sharon, I'd feel really pissed and uncomfortable, but I do understand. You need to do the same with Gretchen before you have sex with someone else, too, you know. Bond with her. Let your relationship become the center of who you are. Then you can open your arms to us and not be afraid."
I snorted and tried to get the bottle, but Lisa set it on the ground away from me. "She has sex with people for money." I said petulantly. "How does that fit into this mess?"
"Does it bother you?" Lisa asked, sitting back down, but keeping my hand in hers.
"Yes. No. Some," I admitted.
"Then ask her not to," Lisa said. "Ask her not to until you feel comfortable with it."
"She'll fight me on that," I laughed. "She said I knew who she was when we met and I can't tell her not to do it."
"She will if she loves you," Lisa said. "We talked about why we were saying no after you left and she agreed with us, so she does understand. Did you ask her to stop for a while or did you tell her to stop?"
I stared at her. "What's the difference?"
Covering her eyes with her hand, she laughed. "Hawk, I am at a loss. You're just you, and that's a fact. The difference is in how you approach the issue. If you tell her what she has to do, she's going to resist you. The harder you push, the more she'll resist. She's just as stubborn as you are, and it's a fair bet that she has some issues at the root of her behavior. Those are issues the two of you need to talk about honestly."
"Asking her not to sleep with others is different, though. You are asking her for the time and space you need. Time and space to accept each other, establish your own foundations in each other, to become one with each other. She loves you, Hawk, with a depth of feeling I don't think you can even understand or believe in yet, and because she loves you, she will give it up without a second thought or moment's regret. But only if you ask her."
She stood up and tossed her blanket onto the table. "But you don't need to talk about it tonight, you certainly don't want to talk about it tonight, or you're going to get into a screaming argument. I'll talk with her before we go to bed. Before she goes to bed with you."
"I'm not going to bed," I protested, resisting a little as she pulled me to my feet.
"Oh, yes you are," Lisa said firmly. "You're staggering drunk, and when Gretchen finds out, she'll go from worried to death to pissed off in about three seconds."
"Well, then she can just suck my dick," I said blurrily. "I'm a big girl now, with big girl panties."
Lisa laughed and slid an arm around my waist. As we started walking, it quickly became evident that I wouldn't pass a field sobriety test. "You don't have one. I know. So don't fight about it tonight, Hawk. Promise me."
I mumbled something, but she shook me a little. "Speak up, Detective. I didn't quite hear that."
"Fine," I grumbled as she held me up with one hand and opened the door to the Brown Room with the other. "I promise. Unless she jumps my shit, and then all bets are off and I take her sexy body down hard. She'd like that," I assured Lisa. "She likes it rough. And I do have one. I bought us some toys at the store today. Back when I'd hoped..."
"Does she now?" Lisa asked as she closed the door behind us. "I'm glad you picked up some toys. Toys are fun. I'll hope you haven't broken them all when we get together in a few months."
"It's too hot in here," I complained as she helped me stagger toward the interior door, turning us in a half circle as I tried to escape back to the lawn. "Let's go back outside."
"No!" Lisa said and wheeled me around and back into the room. The darkness overwhelmed me and I almost fell over before she got me back upright. "You're half-frozen and completely drunk. That is not a good way to be outside when it's going to be freezing soon. Remember, you're pregnant and you don't want to risk hurting the baby."
I pulled her to a stop and half fell against one of the seats before sliding into it. Lisa made sure I didn't fall out of the chair and put me down firmly into the seat, leaning me slightly so I could rest against the arm of the chair.