Authors: Carey Regenold
By Carey Regenold
housekeeper's scream of panic jolted Ellen out of her pool. She thought maybe
the house was on fire. Heart pounding, her bare feet flew across the flagstone
tile, ignoring the sharp pebbles. Juanita's plump body flew out the back door
and smacked right into Ellen's wet swimsuit. She braced to keep from falling
as she steadied the woman whose eyes looked crazy with terror. "What's
pointed a trembling finger toward the house just as a tall, uniformed man came
Dios, he...he put me in jail. He take me away," she said in her broken
watched the lawman approach as she tried to comfort her housekeeper. He was
tall and sure of himself. This man had the bluest eyes she had ever seen and a
full head of silver, gray hair.
is going to take you or hurt you, Juanita. I won't let them."
lawman took out his ID badge showing it to Ellen. "Ma'am," he removed
his hat. "I'm Sheriff Gene Stone." I couldn't convince your maid I
wasn't from immigration. Sorry if I frightened her.
noted the documentation with a nod. "Sheriff Stone, I'm Mrs. Ellen
Anderson. How can I help you?"
there somewhere we can speak in private?"
come in the house. Would you like some ice tea? It's very warm today or I
would offer you coffee."
tea would be great."
could still see Juanita was trembling with fear. "Juanita, it's okay. Sheriff
Stone has business with me. Why don't you go fix us some of your delicious iced
tea." Ellen looked at the sheriff. "She's not used to seeing the
uniform." Ellen looked down realizing how undressed she was in a
dripping, skimpy bikini. At least the house wasn’t burning. “If you'll excuse
me for a few minutes, I'd like to change into some dry clothes."
make yourself at home." She gestured to a chair in the breakfast nook.
"I won't be but a minute." Ellen hurried up the stairs shivering from
either cold or fear, she wasn't sure which. The adrenalin rush was still
roaring through her system. Grabbing a towel from the bathroom, she quickly
slipped out of her wet, clinging bikini while her mind twirled a mile a minute.
in God's name did the county sheriff want with her? Her brain raced through
and discarded all kinds of possibilities. Did she run a red light today or park
in the wrong spot? True she had been in a hurry, excited that Mark was coming
home. A week of separation felt like a year and she would be so glad to see
him. Does the sheriff himself make a personal visit for traffic violations?
That didn't make much sense really. Maybe it was something more serious.
heart hammered with dread as she pulled on underwear and bra. This was worse
than having to go to the principal’s office in school. She went to the giant
walk in closet and stared at her clothes. Oh for Christ sake, she scolded
herself. “Just grab something, anything. You are not having an audience with
they sat at the breakfast nook sipping iced tea, Sheriff Stone appeared deep in
thought and seemed hesitant to state his business. The more he hesitated, the
more nervous Ellen felt. This must be really bad, she thought.
have a magnificent place here, Mrs. Anderson. I've lived in the Smoky Mountain
area all my life but I've yet to see views this breath-taking."
you. My husband bought this piece of land because of its location and dreamed
about a home here. Our chalet just got completed two years ago and we love it.
The wood and stone is local. We wanted our home to blend with nature."
definitely does that." Gene gazed up at the cathedral ceilings. An entire
wall was glass which gave a panorama view of The Great Smoky Mountains National
Park. "Speaking of your husband..."
it my husband you wanted to speak with? Mark will be home from a business trip
tonight. He's flying his plane in from New York so I'm not sure what
ma'am, it's you I need to speak with." Gene was looking down at his hands
as Ellen waited for him to continue. His electric blue eyes met hers with the
saddest look she had ever seen. Alarm bells were screaming inside her head.
What in the world has she done?
husband, Mark Anderson, was uh... lost today when his plane went down in the
mountains close to the Asheville Airport."
stared at him. "Lost? What do you mean? Mark is an excellent pilot. He
would never get lost." Gene shook his head. "I'm sorry, poor choice
of words. Mark Anderson's plane crashed and caught fire in a remote area,
twenty miles from the Asheville Airport. There was a severe electrical storm in
the area at the time. According to rescue personnel, Mr. Anderson didn't
survive the crash."
was still as a statue as she continued to stare at the sheriff. Surely she
didn't hear him right, but her body felt numb and tingly like it was no longer
a part of her.
sheriff put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I'm so very sorry for your
loss, Mrs. Anderson. I know this is a horrible shock. Is there anybody I can
call for you? Tell me how I can help."
shoved back from the table and stood. Sounds were coming from a distance like
she was in a tunnel. Juanita's soft weeping, the refrigerator motor, a mocking
bird by the window, everything sounded unearthly. "My... h..husband... is
on his way home. He called me this morning. Mark always comes home. He's a
good pilot, you see, one of the best. There is no way something like this
could happen. It has to be another plane, not Mark's."
could feel the sheriff close behind her. Maybe if she kept talking she could
convince him that Mark was coming home, that he wasn't really... How strange
this buzzing in her ears. And those little black spots dancing in front of her
eyes were getting bigger. Then all went black.
opened her eyes. Pulling the cool cloth from her head, she looked around
confused. How did she get here, flat on her back on the couch? Why was
Juanita leaning over her, praying and crying? And what was this strange uniformed
man doing here?
Anderson, you sort of went out on us."
stared into electric blue eyes as it all came rushing back like an unspeakable
came here to tell me my husband is dead."
she pulled herself to a sitting position. "I guess there's nothing more
to say, is there?"
still felt disembodied like she had stepped into somebody's nightmare. If
everybody could disappear and just leave her alone, maybe she could find her
way out this unreality.
not comfortable leaving you like this, Mrs. Anderson. You just lost
consciousness and you're still very pale. I wish you'd let me call an ambulance
and have you checked out in the emergency room."
nothing they can do for me, Sheriff. Juanita can take care of me here. I don't
really want to go anywhere or see anybody, not right now."
understand. Is there a relative or friend I can call for you?"
I guess I'll be on my way then." Gene hesitated. "I'm not sure if I
can be of help, but I'd like to offer it." Pulling a card from his pocket,
he handed it to Ellen. "This is where I can be reached if you need
anything or just want to talk. I want you to know I'm available. I am so very sorry
for your loss, Mrs. Anderson."
took the card and reached for his hand. "You've been very kind and right
now that helps a lot. Thanks."
walked away from the Anderson chalet feeling bereft and helpless. As he got in
his patrol car and reached for the ignition, he shook his head. That was
harder than he thought it would be. Normally his deputies made these types of
calls but he wanted to handle this notification personally. Gene was at the
site and witnessed the jet engulfed in flames. That made it personal. Ellen
Anderson’s pale, shocked face haunted him. Poor woman, he thought. What a
horrible thing to happen to her husband. Gene felt so sorry for her. She
didn't cry and he kept waiting for that. He expected hysteria. Instead he got
unconsciousness. At least he was standing close enough to catch her before she
hit the floor. Gene shook his head again feeling the beginnings of a throbbing
migraine. Boy did this put a monkey wrench in his day.
began driving toward the highway but didn't really feel like going back to the
department. Gene's mind was going in circles and some of those circles were
making him squirm. Ellen Anderson was widowed and his heart went out to her.
Then on the other hand, Ellen Anderson was a damn beautiful woman. Considering
the tragedy, he felt a tad guilty for thinking about her in that way, but what
the hell. He was only human after all.
almost had a heart attack when he first came out the back door. That tiny
bikini she had on left very little to the imagination. Jesus H. Christ! When
she looked directly at him he could've drowned in those bottomless, clear, aqua
eyes. Alright Stone, get a grip. It was a pathetic attempt to rein in his
emotions. The woman just lost her husband. Have you no shame? Obviously
Gene's mind and body didn't agree as his body wiggled with discomfort in his
seat. Not much room in these pants. Haven't had a boner this rock hard in a
coon's age, he thought. Feels pretty good. There hasn't been too many classy
ladies in his life recently. So Gene gave himself permission to think about her
all he wanted. Thoughts can't hurt anything.
he remembered something. The first responders referred to Mark Anderson as a
tycoon to the tune of multi-billionaire. Private jet, expensive property,
these people were rolling in dough. Gene thought he had seen Mark Anderson's
photo in Forbes Magazine. Maybe he did need to go back to his office and do a
bit of research. The more he knew the more he could be in a position to make
himself available to the bereaved widow. That's what he told himself.
Gene’s cell phone blasted out with a rip roaring rock ballad, he nearly jumped
out of his skin. Damn, they know not to call him on this thing unless it’s
pretty dire. “Yeah.”
a chink in the plans, Boss.”
phone call just messed up a good sexual high and Gene’s mood was quickly
couldn’t get the info you wanted because the guy sorta died on us.”
I didn’t tell you to kill the son of bitch, just rough him up a little.”
well, I guess he had a bad heart or something. So what do you want us to do
stupid ass hole, do you really have to ask me that? You know what to do. Fix
it so he’ll never be found.”
broke the connection with his thumb and threw the phone on the seat so hard it
bounced onto the floor board. What kind of brain dead imbeciles does he have
working for him anyway?
knew he should have handled the job himself. Then he thought if he had, he
never would’ve been here to meet Ellen Anderson. Things do have a way of
working themselves out, and meeting her was special, very special. A woman like
Ellen doesn’t come along every day. Gene settled back in his seat with a smile.
He thought of her tan, supple body, high breasts and flat tummy. His smile
returned along with a throbbing sexual glow.
excruciating pain of reality was beginning to break through the numbness. Ellen
couldn’t let it or she wouldn’t survive. She would be dead like Mark. Then she
realized with shock that being dead was a comforting thought. If she had gone with
her husband on this trip like usual, they would be together now. The only
reason Ellen stayed behind was because Mark insisted she rest. She was trying
to get pregnant.
my God," Ellen put her face in her hands but the tragedy was too great
even for tears. There would be no baby, not now, not ever. Her period had come
two days after Mark left for his trip. Juanita was
mumbling Spanish, crying and fussing over her. The woman meant well but it was
beginning to get on Ellen's nerves. If she heard one more "Ave
Maria" she just might scream.
come here." She held out her arms as the housekeeper sat down, going into
Ellen's embrace. For several minutes she held Juanita close letting her sob.
know how bad you feel. Believe me, I know, okay?" She paused to wipe her
housekeeper's tears. "But I need to be by myself for a little while. I
promise I'll be fine. I'm not going to do anything stupid. I'm going to go
upstairs and lie down. Just tell me when dinner is ready."
Senora," she sniffed. "I just worry so for you."
know you do and I love you for that, but trust me. I need to deal with this in
my own way."
laboriously made her way up the steps. She couldn't feel her feet touching the floor.
Her arms were numb and her whole body was moving in slow motion as if in a
at the window, Ellen stared out at a foreign world which no longer seemed to be
turning. Was it only a few hours ago she was giddy with excitement?
estate was quiet and peaceful. The manicured lawn with its shade trees
stretched seemingly forever like an undulating green velvet carpet. Birds were
singing undisturbed amid the beauty of their private mountain retreat. A
massive black granite fountain in front of the house shot water in the air like
millions of diamonds. It was Ellen's favorite as a statue of two small
children huddled in glee beneath a granite umbrella. It was also a favorite of
the birds as they bathed and frolicked in the cooling waters. Nothing
had really changed except Mark would not be coming home ever again.
breathing was ragged and her stomach felt sour. She wondered if her spirit was
now winging its way to her love. She wondered how long it was going to take
before her body followed.
undressed and donned her silk robe. She peered at the giant walk in closet.
All Mark's clothes were there. It was as if the world had forgotten he was no
longer in it. Ellen could feel the queasiness snaking its way to her throat.
Nausea was bubbling inside her like a toxic tide. Moving quickly to the
bathroom, she knelt on the floor clutching the cool porcelain bowl like a long
lost friend and retched until nothing was left.
she whispered. "I can't do this." She thought the tears would come
then, but they didn't. There was just too much loss to cry.
brushed her teeth and went to sit on the cushioned window bench. She stared
out at the distant hills thinking about her husband and how it all began.
Beacham was an only child, the product of alcoholic, abusive parents. They
lived in a clapboard shack on the outskirts of Jackson, Mississippi
dad in a drunken rage would beat on her mother until she lost consciousness.
Then he would turn on his helpless young daughter.
a child, Ellen dreamed of a place where she and her mother could go to escape
the violence. They could run away and be safe. But back in the nineties, if
there had been such a place, Ellen had never heard of it.
saving grace was her brilliance and determination to have a better life. As
much as she loved her parents, Ellen was powerless to stem the tide of their
self destruction. Both were deceased before she graduated from Jackson Business
was twenty-three when she got an offer to work as private secretary to the
president of a large bank. It meant relocating to Asheville, North Carolina. There
was nothing left in Mississippi but sad memories so Ellen was looking forward
to a new life.
Ford was a jewel to work for. Ellen loved the Smoky Mountains and her life was
finally soaring to new heights. Then Marilyn got pregnant and resigned her
position at the bank. Her new boss, Robert Danville seemed nice enough but
there was something about him that made Ellen uncomfortable. She thought
perhaps she just needed to get used to him.
knew he was married from the pictures of his wife and children she had seen on
his desk. She couldn't figure out what it was that bothered her about him. He
was friendly and easy to work with so Ellen tried harder to like this man.
morning her intercom came to life. "Ellen, could you come in here
up her steno pad, she slipped in the door and quietly closed it behind her. Ellen
waited but he just stared at her. That was a bit unnerving. She wondered what
Danville came out from behind his desk and stood in front of her. "I've
been thinking about giving you a promotion which of course will come with a
nice juicy paycheck. I've been watching you, Ellen and I'm quite impressed
with the quality of your work."
stepped closer until she could feel the heat of his body.
you like that, Ellen?" His fingers grazed her chin and began playing with
a lock of her hair. Startled Ellen stepped back out of his reach. His touching
was inappropriate in her book but she wasn't sure how to handle the situation.
If he tried to touch her again, the man might lose a finger.
been bored lately and need to take more leisure time for myself. I'd like to
spend that time with you, Ellen. Do you get my drift?"
mouth turned up in a secretive smile. Oh yeah, she got his drift just fine.
have the power to make your future with this bank very profitable. There will
be traveling and quite a few fringe benefits I might add. What do you
sense of self worth was so huge that Ellen knew he never considered the idea
that she might turn him down cold.
face burned and her body literally shook with indignation. She didn't give a
damn whether he was president or not. Moving toward the door, Ellen looked him
square in the eye. "Mr. Danville. I'm not interested in that type of
promotion or the fringe benefits. I believe I prefer my work load just the way
this time her back was to the door as his face turned sinister and angry.
"Is that so? Well I don't think you need to worry anymore about a
workload because yours has just been lifted. I suggest you clean out your desk
today. Your severance check will be in the mail. Good day to you, Miss
stared at him in shock. "Let me get this straight. You're firing me
because I turned down your sexual harassment offer?"
his face turned even more crimson, she opened the door and left before he had a
chance to answer. Ellen sat down at her desk not believing what had just
happened. She wasn't even sure she could make her rent payment for next month.
The hot tears could no longer be held at bay and trickled down her cheeks. With
no job she could be out on the street.
was so engrossed in her misery, she didn't see the man approach until he was standing
in front of her desk.
me, Miss. My name is Mark Anderson and I have an appointment with a Mr.
Danville. Would he happen to be in at this
soft voice startled her. She looked up mesmerized by the most exquisite, hazel
eyes she had ever seen. They seemed to reflect several colors at once. Ellen
stared at him speechless, unaware that tears still glistened on her face. He
had a handsome boyish face and a ready smile that almost made her forget her
situation. Ellen looked away embarrassed from staring. "I'm
sorry, you seem upset. It distresses me to see a beautiful lady cry."
handed Ellen a snowy white handkerchief which she accepted with shaky fingers.
Before she could thank him, Mr. Danville's door swung open. Her now ex-boss,
the creep began to talk before he noticed another person was in the room.
one more thing, Miss Beacham." He pointed his finger at her. "Don't
expect any references from me. I want you gone by the end of the
as he turned to go back in his office, Mark spoke up. "Excuse me, are you
man turned to the man with a surprised look. "I am."
stared the man up and down with eyes like ice chips.
Mark Anderson, your eleven o'clock appointment."
looked on in amazement as Robert Danville turned into a simpering, eager to
please lap dog. "Mr. Anderson, we've been expecting you. The bank is so
very pleased to be acquiring the Anderson Enterprises account."
sure it is, however I have changed my mind. I am no longer interested in doing
business with you or your bank."
was sputtering like he was choking on his tongue. "What do you mean? I
don't understand. Please come into my office and we'll talk."
I to understand you just terminated this lovely young lady?" He gestured
don't see where that has anything to do with our business arrangement."
He stared at Ellen as if he had eaten something unpleasant. "If it will
make you feel better, I can certainly rectify the situation."
she steal from the bank?"
of course not."
what was her sin exactly that caused her to be terminated? You see, Mr.
Danville, I have a thing for employee fairness."
face was turning an interesting color of dull red. He attempted a smile at
Ellen as if it might crack his face. "Miss Beacham, I'm truly sorry for
our little misunderstanding. I did not mean what I said. Of course I want you
couldn't believe her ears. Mark Anderson must be a very important client
indeed. Wouldn't he be interested to know the true reason.
too late, Danville. I happen to be in need of a good office manager and Miss
Beacham looks as if she would be perfect for the job." He shot a killer
smile at Ellen. "How would you like to work for Anderson Enterprises? I
can guarantee you a wage triple what you're making here plus a full package of
got up from her desk, feeling like her fairy godmother just flew into the room.
She gave Danville a go to hell stare then smiled at Mark. "Thank you for
your generous offer, Mr. Anderson. I would very much like to work for
my dear. Shall we discuss it over lunch?" He held out his arm as she
slipped her small hand through it.
eyes were ready to pop out of his head.
she had a camera, the moment would've been priceless.
shared her childhood trauma with Mark, a story she had told no one. His kind
eyes warmed her and his touch on her fingers kindled her. Mark promised her he
would look into the idea of building a shelter for abused women and children. She
never believed in love at first sight until this moment. Ellen was so in love
with this wonderful man. They spent the remainder of the afternoon walking in
the park, laughing and sharing stories.
Anderson was a self made man. He started small investing in real-estate. It
seemed everything he touched turned to gold and his business grew by leaps and
evening Mark picked Ellen up for dinner in his limousine. The following morning
a dozen red roses arrived with a card signed, "Your Knight in Slightly
Tarnished Armor." and by that evening, Cinderella had found her prince.
months from the day they met, Ellen became the wife of Mark Sterling Anderson.
If he had been penniless, she couldn't have loved him more. He was her
soul-mate, her reward for a miserable childhood.
continued to sit by the window, her mind in the past, until the present came
crashing in like a killer tidal wave. She needed to know, more than a
notification from the local sheriff. Ellen needed to go to where it happened
and see Mark's plane for herself. It would be torture to do this, but there was
no other way. For closure, she had to go now.