When she first saw the man who owned the estate, she thought he hadn't matched her expectations.
Gunthor stepped out of the car in front of the house where both Dallas and REESE had been standing and talking with Carlos about the landscaping. She'd just finished the last of the roses and awaited her next assignment.
A bottle of water quenched her dry throat first as the day had proven to be another in the slew of those that blanketed the coast like a warm washcloth. She'd taken a glance at him and saw in one moment why so many people respected him and some others feared him.
He stood just over six feet tall but was built like he'd worked outdoors most of his life. Yet just by the way he moved and took in everything, she knew he'd received specialized training. His hair jet black, his eyes dark and missing nothing she knew that many women would be drawn to his looks.
Handsome didn't cut it, he was magnetic but then maybe that's what helped earn him his fortune. He stepped forward when he saw her and reached his hand out. She found that he gripped her hand strongly and studied her carefully.
It made her feel self-conscious and a bit on edge. He did the same with Dallas though in a different way than with her. But then maybe he'd had a reputation as a ladies' man, she couldn't remember it. No wait he was married, not that it necessarily met anything.
"It's good to finally meet you," he said, "I've heard great things about your work."
His voice naturally matched the rest of him. She tried to smile back but found it difficult. Something about him…the way the power emanated from him. Definitely someone to keep you on your toes, forget that at your own peril.
He smiled at that.
"Why don't you give me a tour then of what's completed?"
She nodded and she and Dallas walked with him explaining the renovations in the new rose gardens as well as the lagoon. Gunthor asked questions and they answered them but he seemed satisfied with their work.
They walked to the edge of the bluff that overlooked the beach where the tides came into shore. The ocean stretched like glass today as far as the horizon. She could make out the sailboats and some fishing boats floating where it was cooler than it was onshore.
"I'm planning to have a party…when the estate is finished."
"We heard about that," she said, "It should only take about a week."
"I will be inviting many people…a house warming and you two will be on the list."
Reese hadn't expected that.
"You will be coming won't you? I insist…as a reward for all the work you've both done."
Something nagged at her.
"You're already paying us very generously for the labor…"
His mouth twitched.
"Not nearly enough…I am most impressed with how this place has been transformed since I purchased it. Come on, the party will be catered by a restaurant from San Francisco and there will been entertainment."
Reese glanced at Dallas and noticed he was focused on Gunthor. She wondered what he was thinking.
"You can come alone or bring dates," he said, "unless the two of you…"
She shook her head.
Dallas glanced at her, his eyebrows arched slightly at her words. She just looked away from him, thinking whatever had been between them…it was long over right?
"Okay…I look forward to seeing you there," he said, "and for what will come in the day's ahead with the renovations. I know I've left this estate in good hands."
Dallas clenched his jaw.
"You've built quite a reputation for yourself in your field."
Gunthor tilted his face.
"As have you Dallas…Oh I've read a lot about you and your rise in the business world was nothing short of remarkable."
"Why thank you…"
"I do know what it's like to not want to be in your father's shadow," Gunthor said, "A son's got to make his own way in the world and prove himself."
"My daddy taught me to work hard at whatever I chose to do."
"Likewise…though he died when I was younger than you," Gunthor said, "I'd like to believe he is satisfied."
Reese couldn't imagine why his father wouldn't have been but then she didn't understand much of what it meant to have a father. Hers had died when she'd been a little girl, a long time from knowing how she'd turned out. Just being absent had helped shape her life…though she never stopped missing him.
"You built an empire," she said, "that's also helped many people."
"Yes it has…but my father said more than once that service to others is the rent we pay for occupying this world. I try to live by that."
Reese understood that adage. She and Dallas did that themselves through the charitable foundation that was set up before Bill died. They both used their skills to do pro bono work for clients who couldn't pay their fees.
"I have some calls to make," Gunthor said, "Nice to meet you and I look forward to working together."
He shook their hands again and then walked towards the house. Both of them watched him go and Reese wondered what Dallas had thought of their boss.
"Seems like a nice enough fellow," Dallas finally said, "in an industry like his, it's hard to remain that way."
Reese couldn't argue with that.
"Dallas…he seems like he's grounded well enough," she said, "Very guarded about his family outside his father but I can understand that."
The wealthy and powerful had to be that due to the fact that their assets made them targets for criminals who might resort to kidnapping or worse to grab them. Dallas had learned that the hard way growing up being abducted as a small boy.
"I know…it takes a special woman to be able to handle that kind of life and the scrutiny it attracts."
"Yeah…that too," he said, "I heard he throws elaborate parties…lots of good food and the best in entertainment."
They started heading back towards the lagoon.
"You going Dallas?"
"I'm thinking about it…come on Reese it'll be fun…something we both need and a reward for our hard work."
Her eyes narrowed.
"What makes you an expert in what I need?"
She'd felt the old defensiveness she wore now pop up not that she welcomed it. It wore her out because it never took a break or allowed her to do that.
"Reese I'm not an expert on you or trying to be…I just think you should go that's all."
She sighed, trying to relax a bit.
"I'll think about it…but I don't think a party's what I need. I had enough of them."
He didn't respond to that. There wasn't much to say really that wouldn't get those walls of hers raised again.
"He seems to want you to come…"
She tried to force casualness in her voice.
"Oh really I didn't pick that up…what makes you say that?"
"Just a feeling…"
She rolled her eyes at him.
"Dallas I'm not interested in him…I'm not looking for anything…"
"I know that…"
She looked directly at him.
"From anybody…I think I'm done…"
She watched him digest what she said, his eyes widening slightly. But for once he didn't argue with her.
"Because someone hurt you?"
She glanced away for a moment.
"He did more than that," she said, "Ever feel like something's broken inside of you and can't be fixed?"
He looked at her carefully in a way she hated. She wasn't one of his enigmas to decipher. She wasn't a case to be solved.
"Reese …I do know what that's like," he said, "I spent years feeling like that…and I remember who helped me come out of that dark hole I felt trapped in."
She softened at the hint of his past in his voice.
"Then you know well enough there are times to just leave it alone Dallas…"
She walked away from him back to her rose garden.