Desire Love and Passion
Author:Lesia Reid

chapter 12



No one followed her after that. She heard the engines behind her as she walked home. She saw the lights fade back into the darkness when she closed her front door.

Willow stayed home that morning. She spent most of the time in bed crying. She had promised herself after David that no one would be able to hurt her again. No one would take away her strength and reduce her to less than nothing. She’d broken that promise. After getting home, she had scrubbed herself clean in the shower, but no matter how hard she scrubbed, no matter how raw her skin became, she could not scrub away the memories of being with him. She sobbed uncontrollably when she thought of the things she’d done with him. Yet, it was impossible for her to hate him. It had taken every ounce of strength to walk away from him after his apology.

She unplugged her telephone after his fifth phone call. She turned off the cellphone and wrapped herself under her heavy blanket.

When Saturday spun around, she was feeling much better. She got up surprisingly early. Her refrigerator was bare. Her cupboards had only coffee, but she was not in the mood for her usual brew this morning. A closer scan revealed hot chocolate. She made a cup and sipped the sweet dark brew down to the last drop. Her house did not have a full size gym like his and she needed to get out and get some fresh air and exercise.

There was a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle in her driveway. It was not the same design as the one she had before. It was painted sunflower and not the bright yellow of her previous vehicle. She frowned. Under the windshield wiper there was a small envelope. Willow removed the envelope. Inside, was a handwritten note on expensive stationery. She recognized James’ handwriting immediately.

My dearest Will, it began. She didn’t bother to read it. She balled it up and threw it as far as she could.

She started jogging away from the car. The fresh air felt good in her lungs as she ran towards Big Wood Park. She found a trail easily and for the moment, he was gone from her mind.

If it was not for the crumpled piece of paper under the windshield wiper, Willow would have thought her life was back to normal. As she came up her driveway and passed the vehicle, the paper flapped in the wind, mocking her. She stopped, looked around before pulling it out.

My dearest Will. It was the note she had thrown in the brush.

“Leave me alone!” she shouted to the wind and went inside, shoving the paper in her pocket.

The paper ignited new anger as she showered. The more she thought about it, the more she thought about him, and the angrier she began. When she got out of the shower, the anger was so white hot that she had no idea she was capable of such an emotion. She pulled on a tee shirt and shorts without any other apparel. She grabbed the cricket bat and went out to the bright yellow mobile as it sat as if laughing at her.

The first two or three swings of the bat felt good. The more she swung and the harder she swung, the better she felt. The sound of smashing glass and wood against aluminum brought its own sense of exhilaration. When she was done, the anger had not completely burned away. She went inside, stabbed out the number of a towing company and requested pickup. She grabbed her mobile telephone and went outside. She flung the cricket bat at the car. It got stuck in what remained of the windshield. She found the camera app on her mobile and snapped a picture of the vehicle. Willow attached the photo to his telephone number and before hitting send wrote, ‘want to know how well I can use a cricket bat?’

James had seen her rage on the car before receiving her photo. He’d asked Simon to keep an eye on her and Simon had sent him the video of her wielding the cricket bat. It was amusing at first. She had been right about one thing; she threw herself in all projects wholeheartedly. The surprise for him that day was the wrecked car showing up outside his office at St James Place. Of course she remembered he was working today.

Larry had saved the day by paying the tow driver cash to haul the wreck away and keep his mouth shut.

“It’s hard to believe she did all that disaster,” Larry said as they resumed their meeting. “What is she, fifty kilos or so?”

“Not even,” James said.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’ll talk to her when I get back,” James said.

“Hell hath no fury,” Larry said.

Larry had not entirely liked Willow but he was beginning to see her in a new light. She had annoyed him as a negotiator, but living with her was different. She was always polite and considerate. He also came to appreciate that she did not spend one penny of James’ money the whole time they were together. He had entirely misjudged her.

“I would send her roses but I would hate to think what she would do to the courier.”

“And you think her mood will be better when you get back from New York?”

“She cannot remain mad at me forever.”

“I think she might surprise you in that regard,” Larry couldn’t help himself.

“You’re right,” James said. “I’m going over there.”

“Did you take a good look at that car?” Larry asked.

“I can’t concentrate on this stuff anyway, so I might as well.”

The Harper family house stood majestic among trees in the elite suburb of Oxshott in Surrey. The rolling expanse of lush green lawn was only interrupted by a winding cobblestone driveway. Willow drove the Jaguar slowly up the driveway. She remembered the place. When she gave her name, Willow Barnes through the intercom, it had sounded wrong. She quickly added the matter concerned Claudia Harper.

She parked the old car in front of a garage door and walked to the front door. She climbed short stairs to the portico. The massive white columns were every bit as she remembered them. She smiled remembering chasing her cousin Ambrose around those very columns. There was a doorbell. When she was younger there was no doorbell, only the big brass knocker that still hung on the door.

She could hear the heavy sound of the knocker as it echoed through the house. She only had to wait a few seconds before the door opened.

“Claudia?”

The face was exactly as she remembered it, not a day older, not a new wrinkle in place. The only thing that was different was the hair. The blonde had given way to a bluish white color that hugged the face.

“Nana,” her voice caught in her throat as strong old arms pulled her into a big hug.

Willow clung to the older woman, tears running down her face. There was some noise in background, but Willow did not see anyone. Her eyes were closed as she hugged her grandmother.

Another pair of arms came around her. There was a strong masculine scent, a soft kiss on her forehead and she looked up into kind blue eyes.

“Uncle Ken,” she said.

“Claudia.”

Hugs and tears. Willow did not remember much but that.

“Where did she go?” James asked as Simon reported she’d left the property.

“I followed her to a house in Oxshott.”

“Whose house is it?”

“It belongs to Edna Harper,” Simon said.

She had truly gone home James realized. His pushing her away had pushed her into the arms of her family. Her move told him she was no longer angry, despite the fact that she still did not answer his calls.

For Willow the rage was indeed gone. For the first time in years she was somewhere where she truly belonged and the world seemed right again. No one pressed her about where she had been. No one asked when she told them her name had changed. All of that seemed irrelevant. Her grandmother insisted she stay and she was happy to oblige. Late in the night when everyone was tucked into bed, she pulled out her mobile phone and listened to his messages.

I love you. Please call me, the last message said.

Her anger had burned away when the towing company showed up for the car. Later as she showered again, she found herself laughing at the hilarity of the event. She could see herself banging away at the vehicle. Then she was disappointed at the waste. She could have donated it to charity. Such clarities only came when anger was truly gone.

It was close to midnight. She hit the call back button on her mobile phone. He picked up after the first ring.

“I was hoping you would call,” he said.

“I wanted to wish you a safe trip.”

“I didn’t mean the things I said.”

“I know.”

“Do you forgive me?”

“No.”

“I suppose I earned that. Is there going to be a point when you forgive me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I guess that’s something to look forward to.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” she said. “There are some parts that will never be mended.”

“Do you still love me?” he asked.

She paused. She didn’t have to think about. Of course she still loved him. As cruel as he had been that didn’t wipe away how she felt and probably how she would feel about him in the future.

“You can tell Larry the property is for sale, whatever he assumes fair market value is,” she hung up.

Willow did not tell them the story of her parents’ deaths on the first day. There would be time to talk about it later. They did not seem quite anxious to talk about it either. Instead, they wanted to get to know her.

She spent most of the next few days meeting the family and getting to know them again. She did not call James again, though she watched his speech to the United Nations on television.

“He’s handsome,” her grandmother said. They were sitting in the media room watching the evening news.

“Yes, he is.”

“I thought it was a hoax when the same day you showed up I got a call from someone pretending to be James Monroe. You have that look on your face every time he is on the news. Your father had that same look after he met your mother. I thought it would go away eventually. I mean, a person can only have so much passion, right? At least that was what I thought.”

“We’re not together anymore,” Willow said.

“But you love him.”

“Love is not everything,” she said.

“You’re right of course, but love and true passion is everything. Your parents had that. I swear it was like they were meeting for the first time every day.”

“I was there when they died,” Willow said.

“Oh,” her grandmother said and covered her mouth. “You poor soul.”

“For years I didn’t understand the last thing my father said to me.”

She recounted the sad tale for her grandmother. The two women hugged at the end of it.

Willow spoke to him that night when he called. He wanted to see her when he got back. She told him no.

Willow had never taken a vacation in the years since opening her business. Nancy was all too happy to let her stay home. They had multiple photographers, after all.

On Wednesday morning she woke up to knocking at her door. She glanced at the bedside clock, it was almost noon.

She opened her door expecting to see her grandmother or her uncle, instead it was him.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded in a harsh whisper.

“Your grandmother invited me over.”

“I told you I did not want to see you,” she said through gritted teeth.

She heard voices downstairs, and her grandmother offering tea. She recognized Simon’s voice.

“Are we going to stand out here and argue or are you going to let me in so we can talk?”

She closed the door behind her, forcing him out in the hallway. She did not trust being alone with him.

“Do you think that is going to stop me from doing this?” He dipped his head as his lips touched hers.

Willow pushed against his chest though she could feel the old familiar heat spread through her body. She wanted him. She gathered all the hate she could muster and pushed him away.

“Go away,” she said.

“This afternoon I am offering my official resignation as envoy,” he said. “Do you want me to mention your name at the press conference?”

“You wouldn’t,” she said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean I am stepping down because my fiancée has just discovered that she was the missing daughter of Doctors Akyini and Jeffrey Harper, has a good and true ring to it. We need time to reconcile with her new family and to sort out the details of the past eighteen years. Then some curious reporter will ask your name and I will say please, please, Willow Barnes and I need our privacy.”

Her eyes narrowed to slits as she gazed at him. She couldn’t tell if he was serious.

“I live in the spotlight,” he said. “I have shielded you from that thus far. Do you want to see what happens when that shield is gone?”

“How could I have missed this cruel person,” she said.

“Let’s sit down and talk,” he suggested.

She opened the door and let him in.

“You can’t fix this, you know.”

“I know,” he said. “We have to fix it together.”

“I don’t want to fix it,” she said.

“Where do you want me to send your personal effects?”

“Charity,” she said.

“Even your expensive dresses?” he asked.

“I don’t want any reminder you ever existed,” she said.

“That’s kind of hard when you’re carrying my baby.”

Willow took a step back. She had not been feeling herself lately and she had gone to her doctor just days before the fight. She had not even gotten the results back as yet.

“You don’t know that,” she said.

“I knew that when you stopped drinking coffee and at the party you had only sparkling water. But you’re right. We don’t have to fix this. But it would be better if we did if we’re going to have a child together.”

“There are ways to fix that,” she said but regretted it the moment it left her lips.

She was mad at him, but she did not intend to be so cruel. A family was the one thing he wanted more than anything else. He told her that in Ireland when they had snuck away from his bodyguards. They had spent the night just talking and he confessed that more than anything he wanted children. He wanted to stop being Mr. Fix it for everyone else’s problem; he just wanted to focus on having a family of his own. Willow suspected that was the reason he was resigning his diplomatic position. His sudden talk of resigning came just days before she’d gone to the doctor to confirm what her body already knew.

“I’m sorry,” she said almost immediately. “I didn’t mean that.”

“I’ll have my lawyers draw up some sort of agreement,” he said.

“I did not mean that, James. I would not hurt our baby because I’m mad at you.”

“I thought when you said you loved me everything would be okay. When I found out you might be pregnant I was so happy. I wanted to ask you to marry me. Hell, I went out and got a ring. I was so close to having it all,” he said. “So fucking close!”

He took a small black box from his pocket and threw it on the bed.

“My lawyers will call you,” he said before walking out the door.

Willow stood there for a long time unable to move. She heard the front door close and he was gone. She picked up the box from the bed. It was an engagement ring. It was stunning. She clutched it to her breasts and cried.