- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
Before long, he maneuvered his Maserati off the freeway and onto the main road through Mystic. Olivia took in her surroundings as they made their way toward the downtown area, driving past the train station. She furrowed her brow.
“Penny for your thoughts?” he asked with a hint of apprehension upon noticing her expression.
“This place looks familiar,” she replied as they drove over the drawbridge, passing Alexander’s favorite ice cream shop.
“It’s a fairly popular place in Connecticut and New England, really. There’s a lot of maritime history here. In fact, at one time, the house I grew up in belonged to a sea captain. I was obsessed with boats and ships when I was younger. Maybe that’s why I wanted to go into the Navy so badly.”
“No. I don’t ever remember visiting here,” she said quietly, her eyes still glued to all the old buildings. “But it just seems familiar.” Olivia stared as they drove down Main Street, searching her brain for a memory that wouldn’t come.
Within a few minutes, Alexander pulled his car into the long driveway of his house overlooking the Mystic River, worried that being back inside his home would stir even stronger memories. He wanted to throttle his mother for her hair-brained notion that it was a good idea to bring Olivia back here.
“This is where you grew up?” Olivia asked, astonished at the breathtaking large white house with a wrap-around porch. “It’s beautiful, Alexander.” She got out of the car, gazing over the river at a tall ship docked on the opposite side of the bank. “What a view.”
Alexander stared at her, relieved that perhaps she truly had no memory of her childhood. She grew up just a few houses down from him and had the same view. She practically lived at Alexander’s house most of the time, and yet she acted as if it was the first time she had ever laid eyes on the river…and the house.
Starting to relax, he walked up to her and pulled her into his embrace. “If you’re good, I’ll take you down the street and buy you some ice cream later.” He swatted her ass, making her jump, before leading her up the driveway and into the house. She followed him down a long hallway, past several formal living rooms and an ornate dining room, and into the kitchen.
“Olivia, darling,” Colleen said, embracing her as she entered the open, modern room. “It’s wonderful to see you. I’m so glad that you dragged my son here.” She pulled back, winking. “Alex, please take your things upstairs while your fiancée and I have a little chat.”
“Hush. I don’t bite, dear.”
Alexander rolled his eyes and carried their bags up the stairs to his room.
“Now, dear, let me see the ring,” Colleen said, turning back to Olivia.
She held out her hand.
“Oh, my,” she exhaled, holding Olivia’s hand up to her eyes for a closer inspection. “That is beautiful. I wonder if he picked it out himself.”
“Based on his closet at home, I’d guess so. He does have fantastic taste in clothes.”
Colleen laughed. “He absolutely does. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up with mostly women as influences.”
“Stop talking about me, you two,” Alexander joked, making his way back downstairs after scanning the walls to ensure that his mother had done a thorough enough job of ridding the house of anything ‘Olivia-related’.
“Well, listen. Why don’t you both relax for a while? People won’t start to arrive until seven, so you’ve got plenty of time to go for a walk or whatever you want. It’s finally supposed to be such a nice evening so I had everything set up out back.”
“Ma, who all is coming?” Alexander glared at his mother. She loved to throw a party.
“Oh, you know. Family.”
Alexander walked toward the back door, gazing at their expansive backyard to see that it was set up for roughly a hundred guests.
“Mom, this is not a small little get together.”
“We have a large family. Now out with you two so I can finish getting everything ready.”
Alexander looked over at Olivia, a look of panic across her face. “Come with me, gorgeous.” He pulled her hand and led her out of the house. “Want to go for a walk?”
Olivia nodded, needing a minute to calm her nerves.
“I’m sorry about all of this,” Alexander said, clutching her hand as they walked along the river toward downtown Mystic on the warm early spring day.
“It’s okay,” she replied nervously, letting out the breath that she had been holding. “I know that I need to get used to it. I just grew up with no family. My uncle was the only family I really had.” She looked down at her hand enclosed in his as she savored the warmth of his skin on hers, feeling comfort in the innocent contact.
“Were you close to him?” He was desperate for more information about his father’s secret life.
“It’s hard to say.” Olivia hadn’t thought about her younger years in quite a long time. “He was my legal guardian, but I really only saw him during summers. He had a house on Folly Beach right outside of Charleston, and we would spend our summers there. But he always seemed somewhat distant. Mom died leaving me a fortune, as you know, and when I was younger, he hired a nanny to take care of me.”
“It’s okay,” Olivia said, shrugging. “I guess I was better off than a lot of girls I was in school with. Most of them were sent to the boarding school so that their parents could travel and not be saddled with dealing with their kids. At least I had no parents. I guess the hardest part was around the holidays.”
“Well, even though all the other girls’ parents dumped them at some school so they didn’t have to actually care for them, at least they got presents and cards. I was the only one who never got anything. My nanny would sometimes send me a small little something, but when you’re a little kid and you see everyone else around you opening gifts and you don’t have anything to open, it’s difficult. You start to think that nobody loves you enough to remember to send you a gift for Christmas or even your birthday.”