By Layne Richards
Rebekah let out her breath in a long sigh as she watched Ben leave, her fingertips pressed to her lips. Was anything with Ben Wade ever simple? So many of the things he said had more than one meaning. Every look in his eyes conveyed so many things at once. Even his kiss…
She tried to gather her thoughts as she stood on the path in the middle of the gardens. What would she need? She had no idea where they were going, what they’d be doing, or how long they’d be gone. And since she didn’t know any of that-- Well, the basic necessities would have to do.
She hadn’t been here long enough to unpack, so all her clothes, her sketchbook, everything she’d brought was still in her backpack. She did need some soap and shampoo.
Her mind in a whirl, she started down the path. Not far from the hotel was a little shop called Scents, Swords, and More. She was assuming that it would be something akin to a Bath and Body Works out in the real world, although swords seemed an odd type of thing for such a store to carry.
Her mind raced as she walked. Would Ben ask her to go away with him if he didn’t feel something for her? Of course, desire was there. She’d felt that for him since the first time she’d seen his movie, as had many other women. She supposed, if she was honest with herself, that part of it was simply the allure that a bad man had for a woman--at least, a man that others considered bad.
But there was so much more to Ben Wade. So many things to find attractive. Not just in his looks, which were devastating enough, but in his voice, his intelligence, his artistic talent--and those eyes of his that spoke so much and yet, at times, seemed to tell you so little about the man himself.
But if desire were the only feeling there, why would he take her away? There would be no need to go further than her room in the hotel, or his own rooms in the tavern, to act on their desire. And the last time she’d been here, she’d shown him that she was more than willing.
She shook her head as she opened the door of Scents, Swords, and More to the tinkling of bells. Trying to find reasons for everything-overanalyzing-was one of the causes of her frequent headaches. Enough, she thought to herself. Ben asked me to leave with him. I said yes. That’s it.
She looked around the shop in surprise and wonder. Breathed in the scents with quiet enjoyment. The swords on display in one area were amazing. There were Roman swords of all types. Rebekah immediately thought of Maximus when she saw them. Swords such as she had seen in Lord of the Rings-so many different ones. She wished she knew more about them.
She turned to the displays and samples of bath and beauty products--seemingly thousands of them. Rebekah had never been much for shopping. No one in her childhood had really taken her shopping. As a foster child, you got the necessities--if you were lucky. Once she was out of state custody, she had been in college on scholarship and working part-time. Money was much too tight for luxuries. By the time she had sold her first picture book and actually had a little money to spare, being thrifty was already totally ingrained in her. She bought what she needed--and that was usually it.
“May I help you?” The woman seemed to appear from nowhere to stand at Rebekah’s elbow. It startled her. She almost knocked over a display of soaps as she turned.
“Whoa!” The woman laughed as caught Rebekah’s arm. “Didn’t mean to scare you! My name’s Kath. I’m one of the owners here.”
Rebekah tried to smile politely. She didn’t like being touched by strangers. It wasn’t that she disliked Kath. The woman seemed pleasant and friendly, but being touched had rarely led to anything pleasant in Rebekah’s memory.
“I’ve- I’ve come for some shampoo and a few other things.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place.” Kath’s voice was still friendly, but she had drawn her hand away, possibly seeing Rebekah’s discomfort. “Are there any particular scents that you like?”
“Oh, mainly simple things. I usually like fruits, florals, herbals--things that smell fresh, and not too heavy a scent.”
“Most of those types of scents are over here.” Kath showed her to a counter and began offering her samples.
Mindful that she didn’t have too much time, Rebekah chose quickly. A scent that had long been one of her favorites--honeysuckle. She picked out shampoo and lotion, and asked Kath for soap in the same scent. Then, indulging something purely feminine and aware that she wanted to please Ben, she also asked for body spray.
As they were talking, she heard the bells on the door tinkle. She caught a glimpse of Richie Roberts coming through it.
Kath excused herself to get the soap and body spray from the back. A display of teddy bears had caught Rebekah’s eye. When Kath left, she went over to them. She’d always loved teddy bears. She’d had one as a child that had been her favorite companion, until it was stolen by another child in one of her foster homes. Putting up her hand, she touched a medium brown bear, which bore a resemblance to the one in her childhood. Beautifully soft to the touch.
“Some of you women seem to love those things so much,” she heard Richie Roberts say close behind her. “What is it about bears?”
“They listen while we talk, and they don’t expect anything from us,” Rebekah said with a slight smile, as she turned to face him. She felt okay about Richie. Earlier, in the tavern, she could tell Ben got along with him. That reason alone made her feel less nervous around him.
Now he grinned at her. "Maybe I should get one. Give up on the ladies."
"Somehow, Mr. Roberts, after seeing your movie, I just can't picture that." She grinned back.
Suddenly, Kath was back with Rebekah's purchases. As she handed the bag to Rebekah, she smiled. "I hope you'll be back again."
"I hope so, too." Rebekah smiled at her.
Kath turned to Richie. "Is there anything I can do to help you, Richie. Need a gift for someone?" She seemed to be half-joking.
"Nah. Just saw Rebekah comin' in here and wanted to talk to her. But I'm sure I'll be back. Maybe for one of those teddy bears." Richie gave Rebekah a wink as he held the door open for her.
In front of the shop, he asked, "Where you off to now, Rebekah?"
"Up to the hotel," she answered.
"Mind if I walk with you?" Richie asked her.
She was a little unsure about that. Why was Richie Roberts so interested in talking to her?
He saw her hesitation. "Hey, it's okay." Richie raised his hands in mock innocence. "No ulterior motives here. I got better sense than to cross Ben Wade."
"So you grew up in the system?" he asked as they walked.
Rebekah looked at him in surprise.
"Ben mentioned it. Don't get pissed at him." He held up a hand, seeing the frown on her face. "He just wanted me to explain it to him a little bit. Wasn't much foster care in his time, ya know. Totally different ways of dealing with things."
Rebekah relaxed a little and nodded. She hadn't thought about that much. That Ben might not understand about what it had been like for her because, in his world, things had been different. And he didn't have the benefit of seeing a movie about her to help him get any of it.
"Must've been pretty bad for you," Richie went on.
"It was." She was pressing her hands together in nervousness again.
Richie saw her reluctance to elaborate. He'd seen foster kids who'd fallen through the cracks in the system, been neglected and abused. The signs were there in Rebekah. He'd have seen them even if he hadn't known about her already.
At the hotel desk he told her. "Listen. Don't think everyone here's against you and Ben. A lot of it's just that he ain't adjusted the way most everybody here wishes he would. He's a loner and loners tend to make people nervous. 'Specially in a place like this where we're all supposed to be one big, happy family. You hang in there with that outlaw. You two just might be good for each other."
"First time I met Ben was in that place over there." Richie nodded toward a small bar and grill, once of the several restaurants in the hotel. I'd just got here. They showed me my movie, an' I was tryin' to make myself even believe half this crap, let alone get used to any of it. Thought I'd gotten ahold of some of Frank Lucas' one hundred percent pure stuff an' was havin' a bad trip!"
He chuckled a little at the memory. "I wandered in there and Ben was sittin' at a corner table. Told me I looked like hell. Like I had just woke some snakes. I didn't get the meanin' of that until later, when I saw his movie. But he bought me a coupla glasses of the best brandy I ever had, an' we started talkin' about crime--in his time and mine. Kinda felt like I was talkin' to some of my old neighborhood pals again. Like Joey Sadano."
"Anyway, Ben said they had the best brandy he'd ever tasted. He and I go in there every now and then and have a few. If one of us is havin' some trouble, or has a lot on his mind. Last time we were in there was last week. He was talkin' to be about you." Richie smiled at her.
"An' that's all I'm gonna tell you. Told you too much already." He smiled at her. "You take care, Rebekah." Richie nodded at her, as he slipped on his sunglasses and ducked out the hotel door.
Rebekah watched him leave, a small seed of hope taking root within her. At least one person in Crowe's Point didn't think it was a mistake for her to be with Ben. And he had given her an idea.
She went into the bar and grill, and asked for a bottle of their best brandy--a gift for Ben. Briefly, she'd thought of getting him something in Scents, Swords, and More, but at first glance nothing they had seemed right for Ben Wade, and she didn't have time for much shopping around.
A bottle of brandy, though, seemed like just the right thing. Silently, she thanked Richie Roberts again. While she was in the place, Rebekah picked up a couple of sandwiches to go. Neither she or Ben had had any lunch, so it seemed like a good idea.
Back in her room, she washed her face, brushed her hair, and sprayed on a little of the honeysuckle body spray. Amazingly, when she looked at the clock, she still had twenty minutes. Both nervous and excited, she sat down to wait and watch the time.
To Be Continued...