Page 18 of Acheron's Woman

And until now, she wasn’t quite sure if she had done the right thing. All she knew was that the decision had changed her life for good, and she could no longer stop yearning thinking of him.

In the suds, she thought again, knowing that she was just torturing herself needlessly with all these fact-digging sessions over the web. She had read the comprehensive entry Wikipedia had on him more times than she could count, and every line of People’s article about last year’s Sexiest Man Alive was already committed to her memory. Whatever publicly available information about him there was she already knew, and this included details of his horrific childhood (which she needed to know more of) and dating timeline (which she needed to know less of).

In any case, the bottom line was simple: Acheron Simonides was too complicated by half, had seen and suffered too much to ever give her the kind of life she had always thought was best for her.

Long story short, Pippilotta Jones, he’s not for you, wasn’t ever for you, and never will be.

And she knew this, accepted this, so why, blast it?

Why did she still see his face the moment she closed her eyes? Why had the taste of his lips never left her, and why in the bloody hell couldn’t her body stop aching for him?

Why? Why? Why?

The answer eluded and taunted Pippi as it always did, words that were so close to the edge of her mind, rolling to the tip of her tongue but never quite managing to tumble out.

Restlessness had her shifting in her armchair, causing just enough noise that heads turned toward her direction in askance. Oops. “It’s nothing, sorry.” Conscious of having more than a few concerned gazes still darting towards her now and then, Pippi made a show of becoming engrossed with the latest paperback she had bought.

While Mariposa House was fairly large, its equally large upkeep had everyone keen to save money where they could. To maximize the number of rooms available to guests, Astrid and her aunts shared the lone bedroom in the first floor while Pippi and her siblings resided in the attic. And during nights where all guests were out painting the town red, the family would convene in Mariposa House’s kitchen-cum-living room; power consumption was likely to be less when they were all together in one place.

For families less close-knit than the Jones’, the current setup might have eventually placed a strain in their relationships. But for Pippi and the others, spending time with each other had always been something to look forward to. The challenge was making the house’s cozy but somewhat cramped common area work for all eight of them.

Eventually, the whole family had learned to carve each of their own little nook. Pippi’s corner was the armchair next to the ancient bookshelf while Vik was usually curled with her latest cross-stitching project in the rocking chair. Rue and Mynt, who both loved to people watch, shared the cushioned seat by the bay window while Astrid and her three great-aunts alternated between the couch and dining table.

The scene might struck other people as being both physically and emotionally claustrophobic, but Pippi wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Her family was everything to her, and not even a short-lived affair with Acheron Simonides would be worth giving her loved ones any trouble.

Her thoughts drifted to the female employee who had been caught in a rather compromising position with the CEO, and Pippi couldn’t help flinching at the thought of suffering the same things Ms. Longbourn had.

People these days had turned bullying into an art form, and while a sharply worded memo from Acheron himself protected the lady executive from any outright attack, there were just so many other ways to hurt a person.

Leers that made you feel like you were always just a second away from being raped, whispers that made you feel less than human…and the worst thing about it was how these subtly vicious attacks had eventually affected Ms. Longbourn’s family as well. Neighbors had started talking about them behind their backs and invitations from the local parish had dwindled to nothing –

And it was all because their daughter had made the mistake of getting involved with Acheron Simonides.

The last Pippi heard, Ms. Longbourn’s parents had moved to another state, far enough to start a new life where no one knew or cared who their daughter had an affair with.

I will never let that happen to us, Pippi swore doggedly to herself. I just can’t—

Mingled gasps from Rue and Mynt interrupted her thoughts and had everyone sitting up in confusion.

“What is it?” Great-Aunt Bernadette asked.

“A police officer just parked his bike outside our house,” Mynt reported, her face still glued to the window.

They all looked at each other uneasily, not one of them able to think of any reason someone from law enforcement would need to speak with them.


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