She cast a quick, backward glance at her little sedan and proceeded up the steps that led to her new job. She pushed the door inward and found herself inside a long hallway illuminated by two or three chandeliers that dangled from the ceiling. Her soft, black leather shoes made no sound as she moved down the 1960s-style tile toward someone or something that could indicate where she should go.
An indeterminable amount of time later, she did reach the door at the end of the corridor. A large, blue square button was attached to the wall so that it could open the door. She briefly consoled herself that her new employer was at least ADAA-compliant. A solid shove pushed the door inward and into what appeared to be a main corridor of the house.
Maria stepped over the threshold and directly into an inhumanly beautiful creature. Two strong hands rested on her shoulders to prevent her forward momentum. When she glanced up, she required every ounce of self-discipline she had ever possessed to keep her jaw closed. The creature was like an angel, at least six-feet tall with blonde hair long enough to fall past his shoulders. His face was rounded with high cheekbones, a praetorian nose, and full mouth in contrast to his light blue eyes that seemed far older than the angle-man.
He wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a long-sleeved, beige shirt that revealed a very muscular, well-maintained body. The creature’s blue eyes sparkled playfully and Maria felt a deep crimson flush rise in her cheeks from the embarrassment.
“Oh, geez, I’m sorry,” she exclaimed, taking a couple of steps backward. He matched her movements.
“Whoa!” He said, a broad grin on his face. “Are you alright, miss?” Maria nearly melted when she recognized the British accent in his voice.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said with a shrug.
“You’re here to see Lucas, I’d wager,” he continued.
“Yep, that’s right,” she said, sticking out her hand. “Maria DiBella.”
“Harold Lorien,” he replied, his strong hand carefully gripping her much smaller one, almost as if he was concerned she might break. “Though Harold is such an old man’s name so everyone calls me ‘Hal’.”
“Nice to meet you, Hal,” she said, giving him a small smile. He turned her hand over and gently pressed a kiss against the back.
“A pleasure, Maria,” he replied. “Come. I shall bring you to Lucas. He mentioned that he was expecting you this afternoon.”
Maria forced herself to focus on the twists and turns through the corridors as Hal led her deeper inside the mansion. She was shocked to see such a large man move so fluidly. He was almost ethereal with his grace.
“How was your drive from Boston?” He asked her a few moments later.
“Fine, really,” she said absently, observing the ornately framed paintings of bucolic scenes from myths and legends. “It’s much easier to travel in the opposite direction of the commuters.”
“I agree,” he said, chuckling. “Alas, I rarely have the opportunity for such a stress-free drive since I’m usually one of the commuters myself.”
“Do you work for Mr. Greenly?” She asked him.
“Yes, I’m head of security for Greenly Enterprises,” he replied. “But Lucas and I go way, way back.”
“Really?” She asked. “Just how far is that?”
“Here we are!” Hal exclaimed brightly, stopping in front of a pair of walnut doors. He lifted his hand to knock.
“Come!” Came a voice from the inside. Hal opened the door and stood aside so that she could enter first. What she saw absolutely astounded her. The ceiling of the room was vaulted and the skylight made of stained glass depicting what appeared to be fairytale creatures frolicking in a woodland setting. When she managed to bring her sight back down she noted the room itself was round and consisted of two levels that ringed a wide open center of the floor. Bookshelves had been built into the walls and stretched from floor to the bottom of the small walkway that provided access to the second level which consisted of bookshelves from floor to ceiling.
The ring was more of a horseshoe that stopped just fifteen degrees to the left of the entrance of the library. Large beige tiles stretched across the entire floor while oriental rugs covered swaths of the floor. Directly opposite from the door was a long, dark wooden table, three chairs pushed in on either side and a row of three green-shaded lamps had been placed in the center. The light was cast from small electric ‘torches’ recessed into sections of the book cases and what seemed to be a ring of lights placed directly over the shelves, shining brightly enough to be able to read the bindings on the books.
Maria was absolutely speechless.
“Quite impressive, is it not?” Hal said with a sense of awe in his voice.
“Very,” she responded absently. That was when he chose to step out from the shadows cast by the large stone fireplace. She practically jumped before her eyes had a chance to see what her brain later labeled as masculine beauty.
When Maria had researched the famous Lucas Greenly she had been unable to find a single photo nor any quote or activity that had not previously been extracted from his company’s public relations machine. In fact, other than a list of charities supported by Greenly Enterprises and Lucas Greenly privately, she had been unable to unearth any personal information about him.
Schooling her features to maintain a carefully neutral expression, Maria felt her heart pound. Lucas Greenly was breathtaking. He was six-feet tall, thin and muscular with a round face, chiseled nose, strong jaw and high cheekbones. The golden hair that was pulled back completed the effect. His hair had been pulled away from his face and she knew it was longer than it appeared.
A pair of sapphire eyes locked on her as he glided across the floor of the library. Lucas Greenly looked to be somewhere around Maria’s age but a look in his eyes revealed a deep wisdom and knowledge possessed only by those far older. She stuck out her hand and forced her mouth to work.
“Mr. Greenly,” she said. A small, lazy smile curled up the edges of his mouth as he accepted her hand.
“Ms. DiBella, you survived the trip from Boston,” he remarked with only the slightest trace of a British accent in his voice.
“Yes sir,” she replied. Behind her, Hal chuckled and Greenly’s smile grew a little wider, patronizing.
“Please don’t call me sir, it makes me feel … old,” he replied. “Lucas is just fine.”
Maria felt slightly uncomfortable with the idea but nodded her head. She saw little point in arguing over his preferences in the matter.
“Alright then, to be fair, please call me Maria,” she replied.
“Fair enough,” the man said softly. She noticed he had not released her hand. “We will review all of your duties and responsibilities tomorrow morning. I am an early riser and I begin my day seven. You will be given a key card which has been coded to open nearly every room in the manor and the front gate.
“Your weekends are, of course, yours to do with as you see fit. I am flexible as to vacations and holidays but I ask for advance notice so that I may make arrangements if necessary. Hal will give you a tour of the manor but do feel free to explore. One of my stewards will bring your belongings to your rooms. The staff typically takes their meals in the manor kitchen.”
Maria did not like his brusque, arrogant way of addressing her but decided to simply ignore it. He would not be the first jerk for whom she had worked. She continued to nod as he spoke, tucking the details away into her memory. Her bigger concern was navigating the impossibly huge manor.
“Do you have any questions?” He asked, finally. She firmly shook her head.
“No, I think I understand the policies and procedures,” she replied. Greenly nodded curtly.
“Very well, then I shall leave you to Hal and see you in the morning, in my study, at seven,” he said, his stare on a point somewhere over her head.
“Have a good night,” she said. He nodded absently, his mind clearly focused on something else entirely. Quickly, she turned away and glanced at Hal, who then offered her a soft smile and his arm. With a nervous smile of her own, she looped her arm through his and allowed him to lead her from the library and the strange man who was now her employer.