Answering His Call: Part Three
“This is bullshit!” Louis shouted, finding the stuffing beneath his saddle unbearably thick. “How the hell am I supposed to feel the stupid horse?”
“Don’t go for the sympathy vote.” Dana shooed the gentler away, pulled the saddle pad smooth, tightened the girth, and, to everyone’s further surprise, flung herself into her saddle. “Good boy.” She stroked her horse’s neck and shouted to Louis, “When I beat you, it’ll be fair and square.” With a tap against her hunter, she rode aside Will, he was shaking his head. “What? I told you I rode a little.” She batted her eyes.
“I didn’t realize this was a competition,” May came along the opposite side of Will.
Dana leaned over and said snidely. “It’s always a competition.”
May’s horse balked then reared up. She hit him on the neck and he turned in a circle.
Dana hopped down and grabbed May’s reins, and brought the horse to heel, then turned her attention to May’s stirrups. “They’re too loose. You’ll kill yourself.” She yanked the leather and snatched May’s crop from her hand, pointing at her and warning. “Don’t ever hit a horse’s neck, it pisses them off! If you want their attention, tighten your reins, sting him sharply in the flank and spur him on.” Dana threw the crop at May and grumbled back to her horse. “Stupid wench.”
Will smiled proudly.
“Where did you learn to ride?” May leaned forward and addressed Dana with sugared venom. “Groton, perhaps? No, St. George’s.” May sneered prettily.
She’d meant to make Dana feel inferior and it worked. Her momentary equestrian triumph was lost to her ignorance. Dana didn’t have a clue what Groton or St. George’s referred to. There under everyone’s gaze, she submitted to their mockery. She couldn’t even pretend she was one of them. She was some whore Will found in a bookstore. She couldn’t bring herself to look in Will’s direction.
“Well, come on, Dana!” Louis wrestled with his reins, oblivious to Dana’s humiliation. “Where did you go to school?”
Will sat waiting.
“I...” Dana started shakily, then looked at Will. “I…was home schooled.”
“You mean your mother brought in a tutor?” May asked.
“No, she taught us at home…herself.”
“Herself?!?” May clenched her chest for effect, then laughed. “Home schooled?! That’s a bit avant-garde even for you, Will.” She turned her horse and headed across the open pasture.
Dana reeked of defeat but she held her head high…if for nothing be to avoid Will’s gaze.
“Home schooling isn’t such a bad idea.” Louis said cheerfully, riding up beside Dana. “I wish my parents would’ve kept us at home. We were gone from kindergarten to twelfth grade.”
Dana put on a brave face. “You must have been miserable.”
“Not really. You haven’t met my parents.” Louis smiled warmly and spurred his horse in the flank, sending it charging behind May.
Dana and Will followed at full gallop.
They rode over an hour before stopping to water the horses at one of the many artificial ponds the Madison’s wrongly believed added to the splendor of their sprawling estate. Rome: The bedrock of Western civilization, with its rambling countryside and ancient ruins, wasn’t shit until the Madison’s installed artificial ponds!
The ponds were a target of Dana’s misdirected anger, her gloom sprung with the tension between her and Will. All of the confusion could be resolved if he’d just give her a chance to speak. Dana was determined to stay and learn from this experience. If he couldn’t love her then she’d stay and pray he’d hurt him so badly she’d never be tempted by the likes of him again.
“You don’t like the ponds.” Louis declared taking a seat on a log beside Dana, overlooking the field where Will adjusted May’s saddle.
“You read my mind.”
He pointed to her face. “It was your disapproving scowl, actually.”
Dana smiled shyly. “I should work on that, huh?”
“Nah, I don’t like them either. My grandfather had them installed. Next year, when I take over, I’m ripping them out.”
Dana’s face went white. “All of this is yours?!”
Louis nodded. “Yep! It’s the last piece of property I have to collect.” He looked towards the great house. “You see, I inherited this property from my father but I can’t take procession until I marry. Our lives are little more than scavenger hunts, Dana—we collect pieces as we go. If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll win.”
“A free trip to the loony bin.” Louis joked. “It’s idle, wasteful, full of schemers and lairs. You don’t know who your real friends are, you hardly know your family, yet you wait around for them to die…not because you care about them, rather someone has to be there to hear the executor read their will.” He said evenly.
“That fucking sucks!” Dana said adamantly then thought better of doing so. “Sorry, I should learn to mind my tongue.”
“Yeah, you should…” Louis’s smile faded with his words. “…especially if you and Will are serious. Opinions, like farts, are best kept to yourself.”
“Ha!” Dana’s laugh caught Will’s attention, she lowered her voice. “Will and I aren’t serious; we’re friends.” Louis’s expression begged her to question. “What? We’re friends.”
“Sure you are,” Louis couldn’t believe how naïve Dana was however, he wouldn’t challenge her assertion. He knew Will better than he knew his own brothers; and Dana was no friend—she was being groomed to be Mrs. Wilhelm Rothschild IV. And in his estimation, Dana was exactly what Will needed. Unlike May, Dana had an undeniable depth of character that, even when uncomfortable in her surroundings, gave her an air of grace—she had by nature what women of society couldn’t buy with money: real class. “Are you and Will having a disagreement?”
“You mean fighting?” Dana asked. “I think we are…I mean…I don’t know.” She thought better of bringing May into the conversation. “We were having lunch in the park and he made a stupid elitist comment and it hurt my feeling—he made me feel small and I don’t want to be near him. So I left.”
Louis dipped his head, waiting for Dana to continue.
“Then I overheard a silly conversation about him and….I overreacted.” She looked up at Louis. “I left him sitting in El Toula without giving him a chance to explain. I went back to our room, packed my bags, and went to the airport…”
“But you didn’t leave. Why?”
“I couldn’t.” Dana shook her head. “Now, he’s angry and won’t talk to me—and I don’t know what to do.”
“Will isn’t angry,” Louis stood as Will and May walked towards them. “You’ve opened old wounds and kicked his pride in the balls. The fact that you’re still here amazes me—Will isn’t forgiving, you’re pretty significant, that’s for sure. Give him time, he’ll come around.” He helped Dana to her feet. “Don’t sweat May. Generally speaking, she’s a miserable person and vain beyond reason.” He met Dana’s scornfully face. “What, you thought we’re in love? No, my money and sir name are marrying her good looks and breeding.” He smirked.
“No love? None at all?” Dana asked, surprised by Louis’s candid admission.
“Not even the slightest bit. She’s contemptible. Our marriage is strictly a business agreement. Will is a lucky man. He gets to choose his wife…mine was assigned to me.” He cut the conversation short with the Will and May in their company. “We’ll ride for a couple of hours, then take another break.
Their break didn’t come until after two o’clock so they headed back to the stables. Will and Dana hadn’t spoken more than six words to one another; thankfully Louis didn’t enough talking for everyone. He meant well and adored Dana to no end. And from Will’s vantage point, Louis was a pleasant distraction for Dana. He couldn’t put him finger on it, but there was a connection between the two of them which could be put to good use.
Before taking their leave, Will accepted an invitation to attend Louis’s dinner party later that night. Will reckoned that once Dana saw from which he came, the superficial fakeness of it all, she’d better understand why he left it behind—she’d see the stark contrast between those people and him—she’d see, with her own eyes, her importance and why her leaving cut him to the quick. Dana, however, saw it as yet another opportunity to be publicly humiliated.
“Will?” Dana sounded pitiful. “I’m a little sore from our ride. Do you mind if I stay in tonight?” She gave Will a little timid look she predicted would harden his cock.
Of course she was right, even when angry Will couldn’t resist her eyes. He wanted to pound her tight little pussy inside out and toss her around like a goddamn sex puppet! “Spread your legs, and show where it hurts.”
Dana inched her knees apart slightly. In truth, she was saddle sore—just not to the extent she put forth.
She opened further at the knees. Okay, the pain kicked in, shooting from her ass to her thighs. “It hurts right here.” Her voice was small, her hand was on her upper thigh.
He leaned over, his smooth voice hit its mark. “If I run my finger up and down your pussy lips, then pull your panties to one side and finger you a bit, would you feel better?” His gaze hung on hers. “Are you wet now?”
Dana was too preoccupied with his imagery to answer. She nodded yes.
“Good,” Will sat up. “If you’re well enough to fuck, you’re well enough to attend dinner. Case closed.”
The function was typical: A grandiose ballroom straight out of The Great Gatsby filled to the brim with old money rubbing elbows, regrettably, with the nouveau riche. The men wore black cutaways and white waistcoats—the women were in equally somber attire. To Dana’s great relief, the formal sit down affair had given way to elegant sideboards, saving her from the evitable dry conversation with someone’s morbid uncle or a chance meeting with May and her gaggle of flint-faced cohorts. While Will entertained two of his father’s friends, Louis introduced Dana to a few partygoers, none seemed overly interested in her and she certainly wasn’t hanging on their every word. She managed to wiggle free of Louis’s benevolent grip when his duties as host called him away.
Two hours into the Madison’s swanky affair, Dana, decked out in a smart little black number, found herself standing beside the boeuf bourguignon station, sucking down martinis and discussing the inefficiency of Babelfish with some hairy guy named Al.
“I like your…” Al pointed to Dana’s ringlets draggling near her temples. “…spirally things. You’re not like the other Americans I’ve met.” Focusing through the alcohol. “You’re not…you know.”
“What?” Dana gave a tipsy frown. “Brash? Loud? We’re not always loud, but we’re always brash.”
“I’ll remember that.” Al grinned. “Can we sit? There’s a small receiving room over there.” He pointed through a set of double doors.
“I don’t think I can move. My feet are killing me.”
“I’ll rub your feet. Deal?”
“Deal” She took Al’s glass and place it along side hers on a nearby table. “I think we’ve had enough.” She followed Al to a small, secluded alcove just off the ballroom. Before her butt hit the velvet cushions, she kicked off her shoes and Al gathered her legs onto his lap. They both sighed, happy to be away from the crowd.
“I hate these parties. I don’t why I come.” Al pressed his fingers into the ball of Dana’s foot.
“Why bother? Decline the invitation.” Dana pulled her bobby pins from her hair and shook it out. She squinted at Al’s quizzical stare. “What?”
He hesitated then asked, “Is that your real hair? It’s yours if you bought it but…did it grow…you know…out of your head?”
Maybe it was the alcohol or Al’s deceptive attractiveness, but Dana found his ignorance adorable. Dana flipped her hair over. “Touch it.”
Al’s outstretched moved towards Dana’s head with all the dramatics of a 1900’s horror film. He swatted a lock of curls like a kitten with string, and then squished it in his hand. Finally, after working up his nerve, Al ran his tentacle like fingers across Dana’s scalp….and then it hit him. “What exactly am I supposed feel?”
“Tracks, long lines of hair sewn onto braids; they feel like tiny speed bumps. Do you feel any?” Dana asked, completely unaware May had alerted Louis and Will to her absence and she was being watched from afar.
“No.” Kneading her head like dough. “So…your hair is really?”
“Yep,” Dana flipped her hair back into place and Al continued rubbing her feet. “You haven’t been around many Black people, have you?”
“Not really. Nothing against Black people, though. Race doesn’t matter.” He turned his attention to her other feet. “You’re here with Mr. Rothschild?”
Al was young, no more than twenty-seven, even still, calling Will ‘Mister’ seemed excessively formal to Dana’s Western ears. “Yes, Will and I are friends.” Dana rolled her head back in an alcohol haze. “Why do you call him ‘Mister’?”
“How should I address him?”
Dana blew a breath and shrugged. “Try ‘Will’”
Al laughed loudly. “Right! Good one.”
Seeing Dana becoming too comfortable with her masseuse, Will signaled for Louis to intervene. “Sir, sorry to interrupt.” He directed at Al. “Ms. Sander’s escort is departing. Please excuse her.”
Al placed Dana’s feet on the floor and offered her his hand. Dana slipped into her shoes, and stood straightening her dress. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Dana. Give Mr…” he caught himself. “Give Will my best. Goodnight.” He left with a nod.
Louis breathed a sigh of relief and said lowly when Al was out of earshot. “Please be careful, Dana.”
“Why? Al is a nice guy. Ouch,” she streaked softly; Louis took her by the arm and led her towards Will.
“You really are clueless. That ‘nice guy’ rubbing your feet was Albert Von Thurn Und Taxis.”
“Who!?” Dana was utterly bemused.
“Never mind…just be careful how you talk to people. And don’t act so...”
“What?” Dana yanked her arm away. “Don’t act so common?”
Louis looked at Dana warily. “I was going to say, don’t act so familiar with people you don’t know.”
“I can’t be anyone but who I am.”
Louis took Dana’s arm again, drew her close people like a hostage, and weaved through the throngs of people. “That’s why you must treat everyone with cold civility until you’ve been properly introduced.”
It was just Al! Dana thought to herself, even the voice in her head was slurring its words.
Will and other guests waited in the foyer for their coats and cars to be brought around. May, obviously seeking more of Will’s attention, stood near the door wishing visitors farewell, ensuring they paid homage to the rock on her hand. Will despised her type; always plotting and planning—and scheming and gossiping. And Dana’s name had been rolling off of her tongue all evening; Dana the unfit, ill educated, connectionless, social climber. Even perched at the door, she and her harem continued their merciless attacks. Will listened unmoved; he saw no benefit in causing an unnecessary scene with people beneath him—that was until he realized Dana was three feet away, hearing every derogatory statement being spoken about her, and witnessing Will allowing it to continue, not speaking a word in her defense or putting it to an end. Will turned to Dana, standing chillingly still. The pangs of guilt gripped him. May and her friends chuckled, amused with themselves and Dana’s undoing.
“Dana.” He said quietly.
Dana didn’t answer. It was her sad, defeated, tearstained face that spoke to him far more than her words could ever have done. She didn’t look like the infuriated women who stormed out of the restaurant. She looked like a humiliated young girl who’d been betrayed, used, and bullied into tears by the man meant to care for her—and he realized he was her bully; he’d made her cry. He’d subjected her to unnecessary ridicule and mockery to prove a point. He’d hurt her. He knew he had done wrong…he knew Dana wanted to die.
Will took Dana’s coat from the attendant and wrapped it around her shoulders. He brought her limp hand to his lips, which sent more tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.” Will said under his breath. “I’ve been unkind.”
Dana blinked, her soft brown eyes swimming in unshed tears, her chest hollowed of all feeling save disappointment. “I want to leave.” She mouthed, unable to say the words aloud for fear she’d break.
They returned to the hotel and went to their separate rooms with scarcely a word spoken between them.