“Okay,” I began. “Want to tell me what the hell that was about?”
I eyed him beadily but he sat there clam-like. I wanted to reach over and throttle him.
“I was involved in a car accident years ago and that’s all you need to know.”
A light flickered in my head. “So when you see car wrecks, you freak out?”
Pain was etched all over his face as blatant as a Greek mask. “They can trigger episodes, yes.”
He shook his dark head, his wide eyes looking everywhere but me. “Natalie, please.”
Whatever it was, it was bad. That only added fuel to the curiosity burning inside me. Though, the guilt in his voice didn’t make it too hard to guess what probably happened.
You must despise me.
He killed someone.
The head-rush almost made me black out and my palms suddenly felt greasy over the steering wheel. I stared straight ahead, afraid to look at him with judgment in my eyes.
That was probably what happened. He killed someone—or maimed them so badly that life would never be the same.
Stop speculating. You don’t know anything.
“Think you figured it out, haven’t you?” he said in a harsh voice.
I gave my head a little shake. “Nope.”
He snorted but said nothing more.
We kept the conversation light. I had no desire to send him into another panic attack while I was driving.
It was finally time to get off the highway, a moment I dreaded. I edged up behind the cars leading to the roundabout.
“Take the third exit.”
“Third exit? What does that mean?”
Will’s face contorted strangely as he fought to keep a straight face. “It means you leave the roundabout at the third exit. You can count, right?”
I gritted my teeth. How could someone be so damn annoying? I watched the cars sliding into the roundabout. There appeared to be two lanes.
“Crap. I am so stressed out.”
“Don’t be stressed out, Natalie. You’ll get used to it. I promise.”
Now it was my turn. I had to wait until there was a gap between the cars zooming from the right. We whirled around in a circle and I almost didn’t notice the first exit.
“Shit! Which one is it?”
“The third one.”
But I lost track of which ones were passing by me, and then I looped around the entire circle. “Which one IS IT?”
By now, Will had dissolved into laughter. He reached over and patted my shoulder soothingly.
“Get off here.”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled left down a country road. The GPS lead us deep into the country, until the roads narrowed so severely that I didn’t understand how two cars could fit alongside each other.
It was like something out of a Tolkien novel. There were endless, deep green fields, sheep, unpaved roads, and footpaths that led from village to village. We drove through Ebrington, following tiny, crude signposts. The small, brick cottages, each with a lush garden, looked like something out of a fairytale book. Finally, I pulled onto the street where we would be staying.
The bed and breakfast was a flat-faced, beige cottage with a kissing gate bordered by rose bushes. A wonderful pasture bordered the cottage, where I could make out white dots of sheep and hear the occasional baa. There were footpaths leading towards the pasture that begged to be explored.
I grinned as I turned back to the car to see William extracting an irate Tom from the car. He let the cat out at once, who immediately dashed into the bushes.
“He’ll be fine,” he said, noticing my concern.
As we passed through the kissing gate, I became aware of how desperate my body was for a nap. It was a struggle just to go up the small steps. I knocked on the blue door with William right behind me.
It opened to reveal a slight blonde woman wearing an apron.
“You must be Mr. and Mrs. Pardini.”
My cheeks bloomed.
“Yes, yes we are,” he boomed from behind me.
“I’m Mary. Please come in!”
Mary could hardly contain her excitement over being considered as a potential affiliate of the prestigious Pardini hotel chain.
The cottage was immaculate. There were a living room whose floors looked like they had been polished, a giant solarium with a breakfast table and plush, comfortable looking couches, and a tiny, cramped kitchen. The upstairs led to the rooms. It was the cutest place I had ever seen. Tom the cat darted inside from between my legs.
“I brought my cat with me, I hope that’s all right with you?” he asked in an innocent tone.
From the look on Mary’s face, it was pretty certain that it wasn’t all right, but she was too terrified to say otherwise. I turned around to glare at my husband.
He shouldn’t use his status to bully people like this.
Mary’s face fell but she quickly recovered. “No, no sir. It’s no trouble at all.” She bit her lip as the cat jumped on one of the couches in the solarium.
“Wonderful. My wife and I want to take a nap, then we’ll probably want dinner. Do you have any recommendations?”
“Y—yes! The Ebrington Arms is right down the street. I shall make an arrangement for you for seven.”
“Lovely. Come, darling.”
My face burned, partly in anger, and partly flattered that Mary thought that I was his wife. He carried both suitcases up the extremely narrow stairs, refusing all offers from Mary for help.
“Your room is just to the right. It has a lovely view of the garden. The Wi-Fi password is within the book inside your room.”
“W—wait we’re sharing a room?” My face burned even brighter, completely forgetting that Mary was behind us.
He gave a good-natured chuckle. “Of course, silly!”
William’s laying it on pretty thick.
It reminded me of his antics at the restaurant when he crashed my date with that boring guy; I already forgot his name. Suddenly, I wondered if his pills were wearing off.
“We’re newlyweds,” he explained to Mary. “She comes from a very conservative background, so she was always a bit shy.”
I clenched my fists. Newlyweds who don’t wear wedding rings?
Mary looked perplexed by all of this information. “I had no idea. Well, I’ll go back downstairs to call the restaurant.”
Will’s face crinkled into a smile. “Thank you.” He pushed the door open and wheeled the suitcases inside.
It was a small, neat room. A small, old TV stood on top of a desk in the corner. The bed was small—probably a double, and the tiled bathroom was spotless and the towels were fresh. On the nightstand were a few snacks and a small pot for making tea. Will sat on the bed, his head a few feet underneath the triangular roof. I could see his mind whirring, analyzing every detail. The billionaire looked unimpressed.