By: Anne Marie Winston

She set up her workspace, unpacking her sewing machine and arranging her fabrics and decorative accessories. A surge of pleasure ran through her as she fondled a piece of satiny burgundy felt and she had a sudden image of a subtly elegant clutch purse. Pair it with a petite pillbox with that black feather wrapped around the brim... It was a welcome relief from the blank lack of creative energy she'd been experiencing since Garrett had hurled the news of Robin's death at her four days ago.

Four days! It felt as if it had been much longer than that. She felt the tears welling again. For most of her life, she'd thought her father was dead. Her mother had spoken of him rarely, and Ana hadn't had the courage to ask of him often. On the few occasions when she had, Janette's eyes invariably would fill with such a desolate sadness that Ana knew, without a doubt, that her mother still loved the man who had fathered her. Ana herself had known only that he had been an American, that they had met a little more than a year before her birth, that they had never married but that they had loved each other deeply. The beautifully tragic landscapes for which her mother had become famous were a reflection of her feelings.

Early in her career, Janette had been a portrait artist. Ana had four pieces of her mother's portraiture: one done in soft, lovely oils of herself as a child asleep in a pram, the other two quick sketches of subjects for whom she'd later painted formal family portraits. The fourth piece was the one she cherished most: a charcoal self-portrait her mother had done of herself with Ana peeking around the edges of Janette's long, flowing skirt as she sat at an easel.Ana had been less than two when the sketch had been done. They had moved back to England, where Ana's grandparents had lived, shortly afterward.Ana had other pictures, photographs, of her mother, but this one, done by Janette's own hand, was the dearest posession she owned.

She had nothing so personal by which to remember Robin.

She shook her head as the tears fell, blinded by her scalding grief.

And jumped a mile in the air when the door banged open a moment later.

Garrett loomed in the door of her new workroom, narrowing his eyes against the bright lights. "Where were you all day?" he demanded. Then he paused, clearly unsettled when he saw her struggling for composure.

"Out," she said shortly, annoyed that he'd caught her in tears. She turned her back on him.

His footsteps advanced into the room. "What is all this?" His voice didn't sound pleased.

"My work,'' she said, still keeping her back to him as she used the hem of her T-shirt to wipe her face.

"I thought you quit work."

She turned, beginning to get angry all over again at his accusatory tone. "I quit my jobs," she corrected. He's grieving. Remember that. "Millinery is my work."

"Hats." He sounded dubious. Picking up a piece black netting, he arched an eyebrow. "You add frills and feathers?"

"I make one-of-a-kind hats and matching handbags." She picked up a framed citation from the Smithsonian thanking her for her work in assisting with a Confederate headgear restoration. "I also contract to work on special projects and I've been asked to put together a book, an overview of hats through the ages."

"Wow. I'm impressed." He sounded sincere, but she'd been taken in before by his seeming civility before he'd shredded her with unkind words again, so all she did was eye him dubiously.

"I am," he said. "How did you get so knowledgeable about hats?"

"I told you before that I was fascinated by hats when I was young."

He nodded.

"My mother encouraged my interest and helped me acquire a sizable collection, which I donated to the Smithsonian last year. I also studied the history of fashion and millinery at college."

"Very impressive." Again he sounded as if he meant it. He fingered another stack of silk in various shades of blue. "Did Robin know you did this?"

She looked at him as if he were crazy, though the two simple words had made her pulse jump in a ridiculous way. "Of course. He was very encouraging."

"And you've never been here before? You didn't know he had this place in Maine?" His eyes were intent.

She shook her head, baffled by the apparent change of subject. "No. Why?"

"I think Robin remodeled this room for you," he said.

Garrett watched Ana's face. He hadn't really planned to blurt that out, but he'd just realized it and before he'd known it, the words were hanging in the air between them.

"What?" Her face was stricken, her voice incredulous.

"This room and the storage area next door were one big unfinished area until a year ago. When we were here last summer, Robin decided to put in a wall and divide the storage in two. He turned this one into a room he was calling his den. But he never used it. We always shared the downstairs office, and by the time this was finished, it was time to go back to Baltimore."

He looked at Ana closely. Her eyes were shiny and her nose was pink; she'd been crying when he came in. Crying over Robin? The thought annoyed him immensely, erasing the relaxed atmosphere.

He wasn't sure why the thought of her grieving for Robin got to him; it wasn't as if he had had a monopoly on his stepfather's attentions. But...the context in which he believed the woman had known Robin was still so offensive it made him want to throw up. How could she have let an old man's age-spotted hands ran over that smooth alabaster flesh? How could Robin have let himself be blinded by her fresh, glowing face and stunning figure? God, he'd asked himself that question at least a million times in the past couple of days. Shouldn't the very thought that she was interested in a man so much older have been a red flag to his stepfather?

"Anyhow," he said, "I was planning to move my office up here."

Ana stood up, placing her hands on well-shaped hips. The action pulled her shirt taut against her breasts, flattening them slightly, and he could clearly see the outline of her nipples. It was hard to drag his gaze back to her face.

'This is a marvelous space for my work. I'm not switching. Especially if Robin created this with me in mind."

"We're sharing this place," he reminded her. He didn't really want the room so much as he wanted to let her know she was only there on sufferance. It was clear she was quite talented at the unusual career she'd chosen, although it didn't sound as if it brought in much income.

"That's exactly right," Ana said. "You have a bedroom, I have a bedroom. You have a workroom, I have a workroom. You chose yours first, I just took what was still vacant. I plan to work in here and if you want it, we can fight for it." She paused for breath and looked around the room, and when she spoke again, her voice was less strident. "Robin would be thrilled that I'm using it."

"Oh, and you're the expert on what Robin would have wanted."

"No." She seemed to deflate before his eyes. "You had him for nearly two decades. I'm sure you know many, many things about him that I don't." She turned away and began to fiddle with small boxes of gems and sequins, aimlessly arranging and rearranging them.

"So you're pretty good at this," he said, letting it drop. He eyed the Smithsonian citation. She must be better than good; she must be excellent.

She didn't answer him.

"Are you?"

Ana stopped. "Robin thought I was," she said in a small voice. "I'm sure that's why he made this provision for me. He wanted me to have the time to work without having to worry about making ends meet."

"Well, you've certainly managed that," he said, anger rising again. "And when I buy out your share of this place, I have no doubt that I'll be paying three times the market share."

"I told you before that I'm not selling." Her eyes had narrowed and the hesitancy he'd sensed had fled.

"We'll see." He sneered. "I've met women like you before." As he turned and strode out the door, all he could see was a woman who had wanted a man for his money. And unlike his dear, departed fiancee Kammy, Ana had managed to get what she wanted.

She started her campaign to take him down a few pegs the next day at lunchtime. So what if he was grieving? He'd been a perfect ogre last night and he deserved everything he got, she thought, still smarting from his last comments.

She'd had breakfast at seven-thirty, despite the fact that waiting so long after rising at six and swimming made her feel faintly nauseous, because Garrett the Grinch had the kitchen from six-thirty until seven-thirty.

Then she had to turn around and have her lunch hour beginning at eleven-thirty because he got the kitchen at twelve-thirty. She was quietly steaming and ready for action when she stopped for the morning.

The first thing she did was boil the chicken while she assembled the ingredients and mixed together the rest of her casserole ingredients. Next she mixed up a generous amount of crab dip with the meat she'd bought when she ran to town a few hours ago. Living along the coast had its advantages, she decided as she popped a bite of the succulent Dungeness crab into her mouth.

Ordinarily she would have let the chicken cool before picking and chopping it into small chunks, but because of the time constraint, she had to do it as soon as it was done cooking.

The fact that she burned her fingertips was another black mark against Garrett's name.

It was 12:25 when she finally got the chicken mixed into the casserole with the broccoli, cream sauce, mushrooms and herbs. She liberally topped it with cheese and crumbled breadcrumbs then popped it into the preheated oven just as Garrett walked in the door.

Also By Anne Marie Winston

Last Updated

Hot Read


Top Books