Madison never made the call to Micah. Mid- or early-twenties made no difference. Too old was too old. Momma agreeing to keep secrets helped none when Daddy discovered her shameless ways. She’d be the one serving pittance on her knees pretending to pray to a god she didn’t like, much less believe in.
She tossed a quick glance about Nirty’s Tropical Explosion. It was quiet this late September afternoon. A handful of customers besides herself and Jen, a girl she’d taken to tutoring to pass idle time.
Propping her chin in her hand, she stared out the window. She sipped on the straw to her raspberry-mango smoothie, while waiting on Jen to conjugate a verb from English into French. Daddy hadn’t complained about her tutoring business. He’d seemed pleased by her actions. What a change that was! Even told her he was proud of her for taking the initiative. She’d spent the better part of an hour awaiting the first signs of the apocalypse’s imminence after he spouted that B.S. The signs never came and she figured all was good in the world again.
She’d had to do something to get out of that house, and away from thoughts of Micah Dominus. After Jack’s funeral, she’d mooned over Micah for months, spending long hours lying in her bed staring at his business card. Pretending he whisked her away from her daddy, all sorts of vivid fantasies where he was her saving knight.
She should’ve been thinking about Jack Moore and his ill-timed death. Instead, she’d been tracing Micah’s name on the card and staring at her reflection in the vanity mirror practicing her introduction. “Hi, I’m Madison Dominus, it’s so nice to meet you.”
Whenever she thought about her foolishness, she cringed. Thank God no one could see her.
The man could be a serial murderer for all she knew. Unlikely, but she still needed to get her girlish sights off him. Until now, she’d thought she was above simple fantasies like this. Worse, she’d fancied she could smell his scent on the high-grade paper. Nonsense, of course, but also evidenced how far she’d fallen for the enigmatic Micah Dominus.
She’d asked some local folks around town about him. Discovered what Momma said was true. Criminal law was his specialty and he’d never lost a case. She’d tried to be discreet with her inquiries, but obviously not discreet enough when the local librarian, Mrs. Shannon, looked her square in the eye, and said, “Honey, don’t get your hopes up that Micah Dominus will set his cap for ya’. I like ya’, you’re a God fearin’ good girl, sweet and polite, but he likes his women a lot worldlier than you’ll ever be. Be thankful for that, young lady, because a man like him will only bring about trouble.”
Madison had sputtered how she had no wish for Micah to be interested in her. Judging by Mrs. Shannon’s comeback, the librarian didn’t believe her. “Uh huh,” the woman had said as she peered over the rim of her glasses. “He’s been seen with the likes of Nadia Dubois and Kristen Sanders. You know the name those two women have.” The librarian snorted and Madison feared the woman would spit her disgust. Instead, she said, “Even with a handful of years of maturity, you won’t ever be as worldly as those women. Thank God.”
A blush spreading up her neck and hitting her cheeks, Madison had extracted herself from the conversation pronto. Her daddy tagged Nadia and Kristen as loose women with no morals. He was bent on saving them, but so far no luck.
Obsessing over Micah Dominus went down as the worst waste of her time ever. Not just too old for her, he outclassed her too, rubbed elbows with the Mayor and hobnobbed with the State Senator. As a member of the Country Club, that alone garnered him exclusivity into homes the Wescott family didn’t have access to.
Mrs. Shannon had been right and she was thankful someone had the nerve to speak so boldly. Otherwise, Madison might have made a fool out of herself and made the worst mistake of her life and placed a phone call to Micah Dominus.
That’s when she’d realized she had to get out of the house to get him off her mind. And here she sat, patiently waiting for Jen to run through her conjugation. Not that there was any hope in the world of Jen figuring it out. All the girl needed was a C to pass her senior year and Madison would make sure she possessed enough knowledge to—
“OMG!” Jen exclaimed and smacked her pen dramatically on the table. Madison jerked in her seat as Jen said, “Fancy seeing him here.”
Jen whipped out a mirror and proceeded to primp as Madison glanced over her shoulder expecting to see a number of any popular guys from school. All of them boring in comparison to—
OMG was right! He was here. In the flesh. Looking sharp and successful in his crisp navy blue Armani business suit, and oh, goodness, he looked better than she remembered.
Madison wrenched around in her seat and took a deep breath. She released it slowly, but the action failed to settle her nerves. She gulped her smoothie and suffered a brain freeze. Eyes tearing up, she cast another quick peek in his direction. He was with a group of men who paled in comparison to him. They didn’t even have the same classy style of dress as he did.
Another deep breath in and out…in and out...if she played it cool, he wouldn’t notice her. Don’t draw attention to yourself, Madison. She turned to face Jen and pretended indifference. Act like he’s no big deal and…who was she kidding? He was a big deal. Even if he didn’t know it, he’d stolen two months from her, pining after him like a pathetic fool.
Months after Jack’s death and he hadn’t tried to contact her. Not once! If he was interested, surely he’d have tried. He doesn’t even know my name, but he knows Momma and Daddy’s names.
Momma would’ve said something if Micah asked after her. Daddy would’ve probably said something too as he preached about her immoral nature showing its head again. All that could be chalked up as proof Micah hadn’t shown any interest in her.
“Let me see how far you’ve gotten on your French so far.” Madison took the opportunity to change the subject.
“Screw French, Madison.” Jen slapped her hand down on the sheet of paper. “Micah Dominus is much more interesting.” She sighed and her eyes misted with fairytale imaginings. “Don’t you think Micah’s a golden haired, blue-eyed god, Madison? Dreamy looks, awesome voice, and rich.”
Madison shrugged. “He’s alright.”
“I think he likes me,” Jen confessed in a loud whisper. It was obvious she didn’t care about Madison’s opinion. She went on, “He came over the other night to talk business with my parents.”
Really? How odd. Why’d they need criminal legal help? Jen’s dad was a factory worker at the local carpet plant and her mom was a stay-at-home, plain-Jane. Madison liked Jen’s mom, too bad she couldn’t say the same for Jen.
“He ate dinner with us and winked at me several times throughout the meal.” Jen sighed dreamily. “He wanted to know if I had a boyfriend. I think he said I was pretty.” She paused and cocked her head. “Um yeah, I think he said I was pretty. No, ya’ know, I know he said I was pretty…or I think he did. Some of it’s a bit hazy because I had a hard time focusing while staring into his eyes, but...” Her voice grew high-pitched as she exclaimed, “What do you think? He’s gotta like me! Right? Of course he does!”
Madison thought if Jen put as much focus into her French as she did Micah, she’d ace the rest of the year. She also thought Micah sounded like a player. A real ladies man. She hadn’t seen that coming even though she’d been forewarned.
Proof she was a silly girl with even sillier fantasies, putting stock into a man she knew little to nothing about. And to think she still slept with his business card beneath her pillow. Crumpled after almost half a year of holding and sleeping with the card, she’d ranked it as high as her other prized possessions…her hidden romance books. The truth of his licentious ways rankled. Flirts and playboys had no business taking any space in her thoughts, much less her daydreams. And as soon as she got him, she’d rip up and trash his stupid business card.
“Look, Jen, your parents are paying me to help you with French, not discuss local socialites posing as upstanding legal defense lawyers. I’ve got my own homework to study.” A little white lie never hurt anyone. Having a photographic memory nullified the need to study. “So what’s it going to be? Study French or you’re on your own for this test?”
“You really need to get a life, Madison. That man doesn’t care if I know French or just plain English. All he cares about is how well I French kiss.” Jen grinned and giggled at her own joke. “When I’m his wife, all I’ll need to know how to do is count the many ways I can spend his money.”
Madison rolled her eyes. Jen was another small town girl looking for a rich husband. How sad to have no other goals in life.
Worse, Micah Dominus didn’t care about Jen, but Madison didn’t have the heart to be that nasty. And she swore the thought wasn’t conceived out of jealousy over him flirting with the other girl. He could flirt with whomever he chose, just so long as he stayed away from her.
“Right. I’ll see you next week.” Madison snatched up her book bag and purse and headed for the cash register.
“You’re bill has already been paid,” the cashier said. “By the gentleman over there.” She pointed and Madison followed her arm to Micah.
Mr. Dominus smiled at her and winked.
“Tell him I said no thanks and give him his money back.” She tossed a ten dollar bill down and made a beeline for the door.
Micah caught her at the door and she hadn’t even seen him coming after her. A hand on her arm halted her. “You weren’t going to speak before you left, kitten?”His voice was low enough no one else could hear their conversation. “You never called me.”
“No, I hadn’t planned on speaking, Mr. Dominus.” She scanned his friends. They chatted, except for one who watched them with keen eyes. Disturbed by his friend’s stare, she flicked her gaze to Micah. “I never said I’d call you.”
Arctic blue eyes peered at her. She attempted to shrug her arm free of his grasp, but instead of letting go, his palm slid down her arm and cradled her wrist. He swished his thumb across her pulse and his penetrating stare never left hers. The corners of his eyes narrowed just a smidgeon, so slight if she hadn’t been paying attention, she’d have missed it.
“Your heartbeat is erratic.” His thumb flicked across her wrist. “What’s wrong?”
“Look, we’re not friends or acquaintances.” She licked her suddenly dry lips. “We just happen to live in the same town. It’s best we leave it that way.”
Madison snatched her wrist free, turned and walked away, leaving Micah Dominus standing in the doorway of Nirty’s Tropical Explosion.
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