Page 48 of Claiming Cinderella

I’d yet to invite her over to meet my mother, and though I knew it irked her, it wasn’t mine or Ella’s fault. She’d been bogged down by work and the day she’d come over, my mother hadn’t been home.

I decided to leave and question my mother about it later, but as I walked to my car, my mother came around the building on the way to her car with Nola Blue in tow.

Nola spoke before my mother had the chance. “Aiden? You must be looking for Ella.”

“Yes, but Sadie said she’s off with Halle?” At least I’d find out if she was gone or if the twins had her upstairs locked away in their closet.

“They had some appointments, but she should be back later. I’ll tell her you dropped by. If you’ll excuse me,” she turned to my mother, “I’ll call you later. Thanks again for stopping by on such short notice.”

As Nola walked away, my mother gave me a tight grin. “Aiden. I guess you’re wondering what I’m doing here.”

“Yeah, I’m hoping you’re not checking up on me or Ella.” I was livid but trying to keep my composure.

“Nola called me over. She’s got some property for sale, and I was just getting her listing. I thought maybe you had recommended her, but she said that wasn’t the case.”

“No, I didn’t, but I’d like to know what property she’s listed.” I had a feeling I already knew.

“It’s a place out on the beach, just down the way from yours, actually.” Ella’s house. Patricia didn’t have to say it, but I knew.

“Could you take me by there?” I wanted to go see the property up close and take some time with my mother to find out what Nola’s game was and how she ended up with the property to sell in the first place.

Mother handed me the paper she held in her hand. “Here’s the address. I’ll follow you there.”

The two of us headed out, and sure enough, my mother led me right to Ella’s property. I thought about it on the way and remembered Ella had told me that the house had been taken by the bank. If that were true, then why did Nola have it to sell.

It was the first thing I asked my mother. “Is this place in Nola’s name?”

“Well, she couldn’t sell it otherwise. She’s supposed to fax the paperwork over later, but I’m sure she knows better.”

I stood with her as she unlocked the door and then we walked into the home where Ella was raised. It was a beautiful place, nice and homey, cozy and clean. I could see her growing up there, coming down the stairs, all knees and elbows, her bright smile growing from a young girl’s face to a woman’s. “There’s no bank involved?”

“A bank? No, she claims it’s hers free and clear.”

I walked through the house and imagined Ella in each room. Baking cookies with her mother in the kitchen, watching cartoons in the living room as a kid. I remembered what she’d told me about the garage, how her mother had it made into a workshop. I walked out and found it lined with counters and cabinets, a sure sign that the place was used the way she’d said it was.

“They seemed to turn this place into a workshop of sorts, but it can be converted back to a garage.” My mother had no idea of the blasphemy she spoke.

This was Ella’s workshop.

“I want to buy this place.” The words came out with so much certainty that I didn’t blink, but my mother was taken aback.

“Excuse me? You want this place for you? Your home is so much nicer, and if you’re buying it for Zep—

“It doesn’t matter why I want it. I’m buying it. I’ll transfer the deposit as soon as she sends you the proof of ownership.”

My mother knew better than to argue with me over something I wanted to buy, but she tilted her head and gave me a narrow-eyed look. “You’re buying it for that girl, aren’t you?”

“Ella. Her name is Ella, not that girl. And yes, considering this is where she grew up, I’m buying it for her. I want you to make sure that Nola has ownership before you agree to anything.”

“What’s going on, Aiden? There’s more than you’re telling me.” She grabbed my arms and looked me square in the eye. “You can tell me what’s going on.”