Disclaimers: See Part 1.
"All right, people, let's get this stuff set up before we get one of those summer showers this place is famous for. I did the Sport's Illustrated cover here last year and ruined my favorite Nikon lens. If that happens today, heads will roll," said Annie Crain, the photographer Nike had hired.
A crew of fourteen women ran around the outside court setting up lighting equipment hoping to get as much natural light as they could. In the gym Parker was lifting weights in her birthday suit on a towel draped bench so there would be no marks on her body of any kind for the camera to find.
The shouting and music from next door finally woke Gail who was still asleep in the dunes with what tasted like a mouth full of sand. The combination of alcohol and sun had made a bad situation worse and she felt as if a team of horses had trampled her during the night. On the way into the house she passed Emily who had her bathing suit on and was on her way out. Emily shrank away from her as if in fear and Gail reached to comfort her making the blonde take a couple of steps back to get away from her. The small woman's demeanor told Gail that there was nothing to say at this point so she just headed to the shower and some aspirin. Maybe after a nap she would feel good enough to have the talk they were avoiding. Had Gail made it into the house the night before, she would have found the door to their bedroom locked.
The music pumping through the outdoor system made Emily put her book down and concentrate on what was happening next door. Besides a whole lot of people with camera equipment, there was a huge selection of tennis shoes around the outside of the court. Once the photographer was set up she called to a man named Nick and told him to get Parker. The shower the woman had been complaining about was just offshore and looked like it was bringing with it a dazzling lightening display.
Emily watched as Parker walked out of the house onto a now clean deck wearing only a robe. The fencing from around the court had been taken down and Emily figured they were going to take photographs of Parker's play. The pilot found it odd that Parker grabbed a racket and hit a few practice rounds with the robe on. Out of sight in a small boat in the water Gary fed her some lobs over the net so that Annie could get her locations for different shots set up.
Once a good sweat had broken out on Parker, they were ready to begin and she dropped the robe. Emily thanked god that she was sitting on the beach and not out in the water. The sight before her would have made her drown she was sure.
Standing on the court with her hair loose wearing only tennis shoes was Parker. The makeup job Parker had undergone that morning made it look like there were no tan lines anywhere on the most perfect body Emily had ever seen. "Holy shit," was all she could think to say as the popping noise from the day before returned. Parker hit ball after ball as the woman shot more and more rolls of film. The backdrop of the incoming storm only accentuated Parker's form thought Emily as she watched how the muscles bulged when she went to hit the ball. Without her permission Emily found her feet moving closer to the court as the commercial shoot came to an end.
By the time Emily was next to the deck Parker was sitting at the table they had had dinner on the night before having another bottle of water wearing the robe she had come out in. The man that had been throwing the balls from the water was sitting with her as the other man helped the crew pack up their gear.
"Emily, good morning. I hope our little bit of capitalism didn't disturb you too much this morning. If it did see Nick, it was all his idea," said Parker. Abby's whining had alerted Parker to the pilot's presence before Parker had actually seen her.
"No, I came to apologize again for last night," started Emily before Parker put up her hand to stop her.
"Not necessary, Captain. I think if I were in Gail's shoes the evening might have played out about the same, minus the drinking and the broken dishes. I am really glad you came though, I enjoyed our time together before you have to go back to the real world." The bathing suit finally clicked as to who this woman was and that she was very much, like Willy had said, involved with someone else.
Gail wouldn't look as good as you in your shoes, thought Emily as the mental picture of a naked Parker played in her head again. "Thank you then, I enjoyed it too. I'm thinking of heading back today and I wanted to see you before I go. If you are ever in New York please give me a call and if I'm in town I'd be happy to return the dinner favor," said Emily. She crossed her arms over chest to hide her discomfort.
"Why don't you come up for some juice or something," offered Parker not ready to see her go just yet. Parker could see that like her, Emily looked lonely and the thought of not seeing her again was suddenly unacceptable.
"Parker, we need to finish this," insisted Gary. Parker glared at him to shut him up and the coach just ignored her. Before him on the table was the fifth death threat that had been sent to Parker in just the last month. In each note the group that claimed to be the Soldiers of Christ got more explicit as to how they were going to kill the tennis player. The tabloids headlines of her latest break up with Alicia had spurred a new flurry of right wing hate mail, but this group scared Gary. The others never sent such detailed descriptions on how they were going to do away with his friend.
"Maybe I should just go, Parker, you seem busy." And I'm standing here half naked, and you are naked under that robe.
"Nonsense, Emily, Gary is just our resident worry wart. People threaten me all the time because of who I am, the clothes I play in, for the way I wear my hair you name it they find fault with it. This isn't anything new and I'm sure it won't be the last time it will happen. Apple, cranberry or orange?"
"Apple thanks," She picked up the letter that was on the table and read it after Gary encouraged her to do so. Emily wasn't there to further upset Parker so she settled for humor when her hostess handed her the juice glass. "Ah, so you do know my name, I was beginning to wonder."
"Of course I know your name, Captain. Willy told me all about you. Your likes, your dislikes and what kind of person you are."
"I'd be afraid to know," said Emily. The chair swallowed her up and Emily wished that she had remembered to wear a shirt over the revealing suit she had on.
"Abby, fetch blue for me, boy," said Parker to the dog sending him inside before putting to rest Emily's doubts. "He and the rest of that crew think you are hard to work for, but they love you, Emily. They feel safe with you. Hell you can fly the plane serve hot chocolate and put up with full of themselves tennis players. Good boy," said Parker when Abby came back out with a red shirt in his mouth. Parker threw it at Emily as she petted Abby for his good deed. It was hard enough looking at Emily like that for the obvious reasons, but the sight of Gail's hand in the back of the bikini bottom was etched in her mind now.
"Thanks, Parker, but this is a red shirt." Emily held the shirt up before slipping it on.
"I know that and you know that, but he doesn't. Abby's color blind, but he's eager to please so cut him some slack."
"That he is. Must have learned it from you. Could I use your phone please?" Emily got up and headed toward the kitchen after Parker nodded her head. She left the coach and player to work out a solution to their problem while she went to work out her own.
"Thanks, Bobbie, I got a flight out tomorrow. I'm taking a couple of days off to start looking for a place as soon as I get there, so I appreciate you giving me a place to stay until I find one." After only a ten minutes Emily had found a flight back to New York and an old friend to stay with once she got there. The airline would put her on a different route for awhile to give her more time at home until she resolved her family problems, so she could use the rest of her vacation to look for a new apartment.
The pilot stepped back outside to find Parker dressed and ready for what she assumed to be more practice. The large hands that usually held a racket now held the hate letter that predicted her death, and from the movement of her eyes Emily could see she was reading it again. Gary was standing at the railing of the deck staring at the water not looking happy. Emily had never seen another person that looked so much like a free spirit just sitting still as Parker King. Who would want to kill a person for that?
"All set?" Parker looked up from the paper in her hand and smiled at Emily. She had gotten these types of things before, but these people seemed a little more organized than the rest. At the bottom of the page they had listed her schedule of play to point out different places they could get to her.
"Yeah thanks. I should let you get back to work. I have to pack and find a place to stay in town." Emily twisted the borrowed shirt she had on in her hands and waited for Parker to walk away.
"Why what?" Gary walked off the deck headed toward the court when he heard them begin their conversation. Emily figured he and Parker had had an argument while she was using the phone and there was no clear winner. Or maybe she was just imagining things and was projecting the fight she knew was waiting for her next door onto the two glum looking people here.
"Why are you going to stay in town, when I have three guest rooms inside that are empty? I promise to be on my best behavior, Captain, if you would grace me with your company for the evening. I'll even take you out to dinner so that you don't have to suffer through my cooking two nights in a row." Parker whispered something into the dog's ear and he went and stood in front of Emily. He lifted his paw and waved it at the small blonde trying to get her to look at him. "See, even Abby wants you to stay. I'll even drive you to the airport in the morning. I give excellent cab service."
"Well I won't complain if you want to cook for me again, you do great work in the kitchen. You really don't mind if I stay with you?" Emily scratched Abby's head as she looked at Parker.
"I wouldn't have offered if I didn't mean it. You want me to go over with you and help you pack?" Parker wasn't asking for any explanations of why Emily wasn't leaving with Gail, but something had happened last night and she wanted to make sure Emily was all right.
"No, get back to work before it's Gary that doesn't let me stay." Emily could see that Parker wanted to not let her go alone after Gail's performance from the previous night. Their relationship had died but Gail had never been violent, though a huge confrontation was not was she was looking for either. "How about I take Abby with me then we'll both meet you out on the court when I'm done? Since I've never scored court side tickets, this will be a treat for me."
"Just whistle if you need me to come over." Parker threw the hate mail on the table and bent down to pick up her rackets. Natasha would be there soon to begin their session and Parker wanted to finish early to spend the afternoon with Emily.
"I don't know if I can whistle that loud."
"I was talking to the dog." The creases on the blonde's forehead told Parker that she was trying to figure out if she was serious or not.
"No freaking way," said Emily finally over Parker's laughter.
Gail had gone for a walk along the beach after her shower and sleep wouldn't come to try and think of a way to apologize to Emily for her behavior. From the moment she had met Emily, Gail had fallen in love with the gregarious woman, and for the longest time she had thought Emily felt the same way about her. She had been relentless in making Emily hers, but the long trips and the constant finding of fault in her behavior were beginning to tell Gail she was losing her grip on the pilot. The problem was she wasn't ready to let go. In her other relationships it was Gail that had done the leaving, not the other way around. Aside from the night before she couldn't find a reason for Emily's pushing her away.
Nothing looked different when she got back from her walk and seeing that Emily was still gone Gail took the car into town. Maybe some flowers and a bottle of their favorite wine could be the start of a better ending to their vacation. By the time the rental car hit the end of the driveway, Emily was walking out to the tennis court over the water after dropping her bags off in one of the guest rooms of Parker's house.
It had taken less than an hour from the time she had stepped off the deck with Abby to the time she got back, but Parker and tall blonde she was playing with were covered in sweat. Like Emily had seen the day before, the two kept up a blistering pace with Gary calling out instructions every so often over the grunts that followed almost every shot.
Emily sat on a bench that was right behind the side of the net Parker was playing on and drank the bottle of water she had brought out with her. Abby jumped up next to her and put his head in her lap looking relaxed but Emily could see he was keeping his eyes on the ball waiting for the opportunity to pounce on a missed one.
"Move the shots out more, Park, aim for the lines. If your opponent thinks the balls are going to go out they might not chase them all down. When that happens, you win shots and conserve energy," said Gary. Parker let the next ball Natasha hit fly past her stopping to take a quick break.
"Why would anyone let a ball past them, Gary, I chase them all down even the ones that look like they're out by a foot." Gary threw her a couple of balls then pointed his finger at her.
"Damn right you'll chase them all down. You know that, but not everyone has me as their coach." Gary puffed up his chest a little remembering the defeated look on Jill Seabrook's face by the third game of the first set. Parker really was one of those people that came along every decade or so that combined the power of her play with the soft touch needed to win. "Now get back to work."
Parker bounced the ball her customary four times then went into her serving stance. To Emily she looked like a bow that had been drawn back and was ready to fire. She watched the ball leave Parker's hand and flinched went the racket smashed it over the net. You didn't hear that on television when you were watching tennis. The ball landed, what to Emily looked like, a millimeter from the line where an embarrassed Natasha took a swing at it and missed.
"Goddammit, Parker, I think the girl fancies you already, there is no need to show off." Natasha aimed her racket head over the net and glared at Parker. The Swedish player had retired from the professional circuit two years prior and stayed in shape by practicing with Parker whenever she could. They had met at Natasha's last match when the younger Parker had knocked her out of the tournament in the semi-finals. Ever since she had made every effort to stay at her condominium in Clearwater for the summer to be close to Parker. There had been harmless flirtations between them, but they had never crossed the line of the good friendship they had built.
"That's Captain Emily Parish to you, sore loser." Parker aimed her own racket back at Natasha waiting for the smile that was always delayed whenever Parker got a good shot passed her.
"You know my last name too, I'm impressed, Ms. King." When Parker stopped playing Abby had started whining in her lap. Parker turned around and put her hands on her hips to silence both the spectators.
"Your name tag had E. Parish on it, so of course I know your last name. Abby, cut it out, no fly balls for you today we have company. I don't have hours to kill blowing drying all that fur of yours, boy, so enjoy the sun." Parker turned back to Natasha already poised to serve up another ball.
"And here I thought you were just looking at my chest." Parker missed the ball she had tossed up for her service and for a second Emily thought the tall woman had pulled a muscle in her back from stopping her actions so abruptly after her comment.
"Trust me, Emily, when I start looking at you, you won't miss the meaning behind it." She turned to face Natasha again and caught the balls Gary tossed to her. They played for another hour and Parker called it a day. Gary didn't look happy with her but they had two months to prepare for the Open so one missed day wouldn't kill them.
The dunes that separated Parker's house from the one next door gave them sufficient cover so that Gail didn't see them walking back to the deck together. After a trip to the liquor store for wine and the florist for Emily's favorite roses, Gail walked out to the beach to look for the pilot. When she didn't find her on the blanket, Gail started walking down the beach away from Parker's house figuring that Emily had gone for a walk. It was the only alternative since she had taken the car into town. After an hour Gail turned around and headed back to the house. A few hundred yards from the cut up to the back of their rental she saw a piece of paper flying along the top of the sand so she scooped it up and stuffed it into her pocket to throw away when she got back to the house.
"Emily, are you here?" Gail slid the glass door shut behind her and took her sand filled shoes off on the mat. When she didn't get an answer she walked through the house to their bedroom. The note was sitting on the pillow on her side of the bed, and the writing on the envelope just said Gail. She smiled thinking that it was sweet of Emily to write her. In the first few months of their relationship Gail would find love letters in her briefcase every so often making the days on the trading floor that much more bearable for her. The smile fell the second she got to the ending and instead of reading it again she just crumpled it in her hand and let it drop to the floor. Just to confirm Gail opened the closet and found it empty.
"We'll just see if this is over, Emily. You have to talk to me cause this note isn't going to cut it." Gail pulled down the scotch bottle and poured a full glass. She drank down the entire contents of the glass with stopping, filling it again to fuel her anger. The bottle of wine and roses sat on the counter taunting her to Emily's betrayal. Gail picked up the bottle and threw it against the wall. The thorns digging into her finger didn't break through the scotch fog as she snapped the bouquet in half and dumped them into the trash.
"Ready?" Parker walked into the front room of her house. It was filled with trophies and pictures from her career on the court, and Emily had been in it ever since she had showered and gotten dressed. When Parker walked in, Emily was running a small delicate finger over the Wimbledon trophy that had just come home with her. In a few weeks the framed photograph of her holding it up before the crowd on center court would hang along side it just like all the other ones in the room.
Emily moved to another picture of Parker with two other women that looked so much like her, but like Parker had said they were both taller. Aside from the height, they both had brown hair, blue eyes and the same brilliant smile. "Are these your sisters?"
"Yes, that's us at the French Open last year. They had some down time so they came to see me play. I owe them so much, and it makes me happy to look into the stands and see them cheering me on. You probably think that's incredibly immature but they are the only family I have." Parker put her hands into the pockets of the linen slacks she had put on and looked at the floor over her admission. Gray and Kimmie were the only two people besides Gary and Nick that didn't want anything from her. The money, the fame nor the publicity of making the papers on her arm weren't important to them.
Emily stepped forward and put her hand on Parker's arm. Seeing this vulnerable side to Parker let her know that she had misjudged the person on the plane. This was the real Parker. "No, that doesn't make you immature, Parker, that makes you incredibly sweet." When the blue eyes focused on her, Emily could understand why so many women had fallen victim to them before.
"Thank you for thinking so," said Parker.
"Are your parents deceased?" Emily wondered since there were no pictures of an older couple in any of the frames in the room. The arm under her hand turned to stone at the question giving her the impression that they had died in some horrible accident making her regret asking it.
"No they're very much alive and living in Atlanta. They unfortunately have major difference with my two sisters and I, and we don't speak very often. I don't really like to talk about it." Parker took a deep breath and tried to let out the instant anger that had welled up at Emily's innocent question.
Her parents' attitudes combined with the letters she had been getting were starting to enter Parker's mind more often. It was disgusting to her that the people that were supposed to love her the most basically agreed with the content of the letters she had been receiving.
"I'm sorry." Emily squeezed Parker's arm trying to offer comfort and was glad when the muscles relaxed under her touch.
"Don't be, it's not your fault and it isn't mine. My parents have condemned us all to hell for the way we live our lives. One gay child would have been bad enough, but three was over the top as far as they were concerned. The cherry was that one or all three of us are constantly in the sports page or on television rubbing their noses in it." Parker made quotation marks with her fingers as she spoke. "They've never attended a match or been there for any of us since I was sixteen. The gulf between us is so big now that it won't ever be crossed, and at this point I don't think any one of us wants to."
"Well those two ladies did a wonderful job with you then," said Emily pointing to the picture she had admired before. With that the smile returned to Parker's face and Emily noticed that her hand was still on the tall woman's arm. "You mentioned something about eating?"
Parker looked down at Emily and laughed. The night before Emily had eaten twice what she had and had been eyeing the piece of fish Parker had left on her plate. Only after the second piece of cheesecake Parker had brought out for dessert did she looked satisfied. "I did indeed, but you are going to have to wait until I make one stop." There was a pout on Emily's face for that and Parker almost laughed again. The woman before her was a little older than she was, but looking at her in the sundress she had put on, they looked the same age.
"Can't it wait?"
"No my book dealer found a first edition "Confederacy of Dunces" and I want to go and pick it up. If you're patient with me, I promise to make it worth your while." Parker held her hand out in invitation and gave Emily a pout of her own.
"You are an enigma, Parker King. I would have thought that jocks only read sports magazines and watched ESPN on television." Emily took the hand that was being offered to her hoping her palms weren't sweating. She was a little nervous being here with Parker having Gail so close to them. Emily was sure Gail would have found the note by now and started her search for her. Her one wish was that her soon to be ex-lover would get help and get interested in someone else before they ran across each other again. For Emily it was over, she wasn't willing to be Gail's support system and excuse maker anymore.
"I only read sports magazines when I'm on the cover, and ESPN when they are showing highlights of me." Parker said it as serious as she could pull off wanting to make Emily smile.
"Ah, the Parker King I know and love." The last part came out before she could sensor it and the smile on Parker's face matched the blush on Emily's.
Parker squeezed her hand letting the comment slide without further embarrassing her. "The truth is I read more books than sports magazines and I only watch television on occasion. That doesn't fit the tabloid image of me, but then again I never have been one to conform to what other people want to define me as."
Emily followed Parker to the back of the house as the tennis player gently pulled her toward the door of the garage. "And what about what all those tabloids say about your nights of wine, women and song?"
"Well there's no enigma there, Emily. I like women, I like to have a good time and I don't apologize for that. The day will soon come when people will say 'Parker King who', when my name is mentioned and that doesn't bother me as much as it has others who have come before me. I will be replaced by some other bad boy or girl who will make better press, and when that day comes the girls who are calling me now for a night on the town will move on." Parker reached for her keys and opened the door to the garage. Emily noticed there was a black Mercedes parked next to the SUV she had seen Parker in before. With a quick press of a button the lights on the car flashed once and the doors unlocked.
"And when they do, what will you do?"
"When they do, I will live my life pretty much the way I do now. I play tennis, I read books and I teach my old dog some new tricks. I know that the way we met hasn't made the best impression with you, but I'm not all that bad. At least I don't think so. Would it surprise you to know that no woman that you have ever read about in connection to me has ever stepped foot in my house? Hell they don't even know where my house is. You do realize I'm only twenty-two, hardly enough time to have earned the reputation that I've been saddled with." Parker opened the car door for Emily and helped her into the passenger seat. Emily smiled as she watched Parker cross in front of the car thinking about what she had just said.
"Why am I here then?" She looked at the chiseled profile next to her and put her hand on Parker's arm. Parker was quiet for so long that Emily didn't think she would answer, or was trying to find her answer written on the wall of gardening equipment hanging in front of the car.
"You looked like you could use a safe haven, and this is what this house is to me. It's not completely secluded but it's close enough. Tomorrow you will move on and I may never get to see you again if that's what you want, so I guess I wanted to spend just the one night with you. It sounds cliché, my dear Emily, but there is something about you that I find, well I don't know what I find about it but it makes me want to know more about you. So tonight I will buy a book, take you to dinner then drop you off at your bedroom door and wish you good night. Tomorrow I will drive you to the airport and hope that I have made your bad time a little easier for you." When she finished, Parker pressed the garage door opener and started the car. Before she pulled out after putting the car in gear she looked toward Emily and added, "I did forget one thing."
"I forgot to tell you how beautiful you look tonight." Emily self-consciously smoothed down the sundress she had put on. The bright yellow cotton garment had thin straps holding it up and looked good with her hair and the sun she had gotten. Emily hadn't been fishing for compliments, but had been a little disappointed when Parker hadn't said anything. This is not a date, Em, why would she say anything? Emily smiled even though she was mentally chastising herself. The only thing she hadn't planned on was wearing a light sweater over the dress, but when she had gotten out of the shower the bruise that was a perfect imprint of Gail's fingers was visible on her arm. A reminder of just how out of control Gail had gotten.
"Thanks." When Parker put the car in drive and pulled out onto the highway Emily took back possession of Parker's hand. If it was only going to be one night she was going to make the most of it. She didn't feel guilty about wanting to be happy, no matter if it was only for a few hours.
"Emily, I want you to meet Barnaby Philpot Perry." Parker stood behind Emily with her hand on the small of her back as she made the introduction. Bending down a little she whispered, "And yes, that's his real name."
The older gentleman with a full white beard and almost black eyes came from behind the counter and took Emily's hand into his and kissed it. "Parker, you've been holding out on me, this creature is simply divine."
"Thank you, Barnaby, we just met, knows all about me and still agreed to go out with me. I just ran by to pick up my book and take the divine creature out to dinner." Emily looked around the store admiring the stacks of well cared for antique and collectible books while Parker talked to the seemingly eccentric old guy.
"You have a lovely place here, Mr. Perry," Emily added trying to get the conversation off of her.
"Thank you, my dear, but as lovely as you think this is you can't compare it to the library my friend here as in her home. It makes me happy to know that every time she takes one of my babies away from me, they are going to live in that wonderful room. I predict that for years to come they will talk more of the King collection than they will of that silly game she plays." Barnaby handed Parker her book and gave Emily a small parcel as well. Emily was about to protest when Parker shook her head from behind the storeowner.
"Are you holding out on me, Parker, the King collection?" asked Emily getting Barnaby to turn around and shoot a mock glare at Parker.
"For shame, Parker, that is the best room of the house and you didn't show it to her?" The creases around his eyes told her that he was kidding with her. Barnaby looked forward to Parker's return from her travels knowing that it wouldn't be long before she either dropped in or called him for something new.
The widower had met the tennis player two years prior when she wandered into his shop one day looking for new reading material. It amazed him that a young person still read the classics and enjoyed sitting with him and talking about them. When she bought the house, Parker had transformed one of the rooms into a library with comfortable chairs and a multitude of oak shelving. They had spent a great deal of afternoons after her practices just sitting across from each other reading a book. For Barnaby it was a treat in that since his wife had died he was left with no family, and Parker never made him feel like she was just humoring an old man.
"A mistake I'll correct when we get home, Barnaby. Now be good and call me this week for lunch. Oh and before I forget, I brought you something." Parker stepped out to the car to get a book she had gotten for him in England.
"She is a lovely girl, Parker is," said Barnaby. He was talking to Emily but looking at Parker get something from the back seat.
"Yes she is. I've only just met her but I can see that there is more to her than most people would guess. She seems to be a good friend to people she cares about." Emily was also looking at the bright young woman now walking back toward the storefront.
"You would consider yourself lucky to have her call you her friend, Emily." The bells over the door chimed and the old man put his hands out for his gift. "What did you bring me?"
"It's not in the greatest shape, but you will forgive that when you see the print date. Enjoy it and don't stay up all night trying to get through it." Parker handed over the leather bound edition of Shakespeare sonnets she had gone looking for during her off time at the tournament. Shakespeare was one of Barnaby's all time favorites and had one of the biggest collections of his writings she had ever seen. He looked at the book and just wrapped Parker in a hug.
The two women said their goodbyes and got back in the car for the drive into Tampa for dinner. Parker had put both of the books they had left with in the backseat after she had gotten Emily back in the car then waved to Barnaby who was standing in the window with his book under his arm.
"That was so sweet of you to do that for him." Emily took Parker's free hand back into hers as soon as they were back on the highway. She was glad that Parker wasn't one of those people that disliked their personal space invaded.
"I haven't gone to college yet, so I consider Barnaby my professor of life. He likes to find stuff for me to read and then talks to me about it. His wife died about four years ago and the big bookstores took a chunk of his business, but he perseveres through it all." Parker looked at her for a moment before turning her attention back to the road. Emily was starting to regret that she was leaving in the morning. There was so much more that she wanted to know about Parker King.
"Will you show me Barnaby's favorite room?" Emily turned her body without letting go of the big hand so that she was resting her back on the door giving her a better angle of Parker's profile. Without looking at her Parker smiled, nodded her head and squeezed her fingers, they didn't feel the need to talk about anything else for the rest of the drive.
The restaurant Parker picked was an Italian place with romantic lighting, a great view and even better food. The young woman that showed them to their table was the daughter of the owner and had met Parker on a few previous occasions. When Emily arched her brow at the friendly greeting the tall woman got, Parker just laughed. This must be the big workup to getting me softened up for later on tonight, was the one thought in her head when she realized Parker had eaten there before. Because, baby, you don't eat in places like this by yourself.
"How are Gary and Nick?" asked the hostess.
"They are fine, I'll tell them you said hello."
"They're not joining you tonight?"
"No it will just be Ms. Parish and myself this evening, Francesca. How about a bottle of Chianti while we decide on what to eat?" The young woman turned and headed for the wine racks along the back wall looking for the wine Parker liked.
"I thought " Emily started not knowing how to finish her sentence. Parker looked at the dinner specials listed in the menu not looking up when Emily broke the silence left when Francesca walked away.
"I know what you thought. Candles, romantic music, wine and an ocean view add up to having to sleep with me later. I come here sometimes when I'm home with Nick and Gary, and trust me I'm not interested in sleeping with either of them. Francesca's father makes a great sauce and even better veal dishes that I thought you might like, but if you prefer we could go someplace, I don't know, better lit?" Before Emily could say anything Francesca came back to the table with the bottle Parker had ordered and two glasses. She poured a little into Parker's glass waiting for her to approve of it before pouring some into Emily's glass.
"I'm sorry, Parker."
"You don't have anything to be sorry for, Captain. In a way you are right, I'm that person all your girlfriends warn you to stay away from. But I promised you I'd behave and I intend to." Parker held up her glass and waited for Emily to do the same. She leaned forward to tap her glass with the blonde's and recited a verse from her favorite poem. "I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
"Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken," whispered Emily. She took a sip of the wine and enjoyed the warm feeling it gave her when it slid down her throat. "You could turn a girl's head with such romance, Parker. Somewhere ages and ages hence there will be a woman that will have loved her life because she got to share it with you." She lifted her glass in salute again and swore that nothing else that evening would bother her about Parker's much written about exploits. Spending time with the tennis player would help her to learn more about the person she was than from reading about her in The Enquirer.
The dinner lasted three hours by the time they had made it through the various courses, dessert and after dinner drinks. They kept the conversation light and the other patrons looked their way often as they laughed at a variety of things. It was just the type of evening Emily had looked forward to on her vacation, only she never imagined it would be shared with Parker King. Her idea of the perfect ending would have been a walk on the beach but a walk through Parker's vast collection of rare books was good enough.
Slipping out of her shoes Emily made one request. "Read me your favorite thing in here."
Parker walked to the other side of the room climbed the rolling latter to the top shelf and pulled down a book. She put it on the coffee table as she sat back to take her own shoes off loving the sound of Emily's laughter when she saw the title. " War and Peace? You do realize I'm leaving tomorrow don't you?"
"I just wanted to see if you were still awake after those two and a half desserts you ate." She ducked the small pillow Emily tossed at her in mock anger then got up to pull down another book.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Parker read all of the verses of the Robert Frost poem she had quoted at dinner. When she was finished, Parker looked up to see Emily relaxed back into the chair with her eyes closed.
"Thank you for today. It was the most fun I've had in forever, and I'm just sorry that it has to end so soon." Emily said her peace without opening her eyes just enjoying the space Barnaby had talked so fondly of. When she opened them Emily accepted both Parker's hand to help her up and her invitation to walk her to the door of the room she was staying in.
Parker handed Emily her sandals and smiled, "Good night, Emily, I hope you have good dreams." Parker kissed her softly on the lips then turned and headed toward the master suite. Emily closed her door and leaned against it bringing her fingertips up to her lips. It wasn't the type of kiss you get from your lover or even a date, but it had left her tingling just the same.
"Good night, Parker, and I think that's going to be impossible now."
Continued in Chapter 4
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