I escorted Nadine to the kitchen and got her settled into a chair at the table. Surprisingly, she barely uttered a word the whole time I made hot chocolate. Only after I put it down in front of her, did she finally look up.
"Thanks," she smiled and inhaled the aroma deeply. Immediately, her shoulders relaxed along with the rest of her. After a few moments of silent bliss, she caught me grinning. "What?"
"Never underestimate the power of chocolate, Sweetie," I told her and took a sip from my own cup. Damn I make good hot chocolate, even if I do say so myself.
That made her smile.
"So," I began, "You said you were doing research. Come to any conclusions yet?"
A serious expression crossed my companions face as she gave it some serious thought. Then she took a deep breath, declared that men are misogynistic ass-hats and that she was never letting Isabella out of the manor ever again. Then she went back to drinking her hot chocolate.
I just stared at her for a few seconds before saying, "Number one: congratulations on coming to that conclusion. Number two: as far as never letting your sister out of his manor again, do yourself a favor and don't even try. Because knowing that little girl the way I do, I can tell you right now it ain't happening. And controlling, over-protective behavior can be the very thing that makes girls rebel and put themselves in danger."
I expected Nadine to sigh, but instead she groaned and began gently head-desking the table.
"You must have had one hell of an evening tonight."
"Not just tonight," she corrected. "Ever since I dealt with the Cannibal Killer, I've been going out like this at least once or twice a week."
My curiosity was piqued. "Why?"
"Because of some of the reactions I got when I went after that psycho," she replied, tucking some of her long blonde locks behind one ear.
Leaning forward I gestured for her to continue.
"I never told you or the girls at the time, but I spent a whole day in that town looking like this. The idea at the time was to observe what kind of reactions I got from other people, hoping our killer might give himself away. Of course, he was already hiding in the park and never laid eyes on me till I pulled him off the girl he attacked. But that's not to say I didn't get a few reactions during my walk."
"With looks like yours, I'm not surprised," I remarked.
"Thanks," she smiled, but I could see it only partly reached her eyes.
"How did it feel," I asked after a moment."Kind of flattering at first, but also kind of uncomfortable on a sort of subconscious level," she answered, shifting in her seat as she spoke. "I was so focused on my mission I never really gave the feelings any thought at the time. But when I got to the bar where I was to meet Michael, I started thinking about it."
I didn't say it aloud, but I already had a pretty good idea of what was coming. Sure enough, her next words proved me right.
"I barely sat down at the end of the bar when some guy suddenly appeared at my elbow leaning in and asking me what I was drinking," she said with more than a touch of annoyance in her voice. "And before you say anything, no it was NOT the bartender. But the thing that bothered me the most was the fact that he was supposedly talking to me, but I could actually feel the vibration from his voice hitting me down here," she added, pointing at her chest.
As tempted as I was to say "no surprise", I kept quiet and listened as she continued.
"And let me tell you, he was like practically six feet tall," Nadine continued. "And here I am like 5' 4" and he's talking to my cleavage. I mean my God, if he was bent over any further, he could have passed for The Hunchback of Notre Dame's better looking cousin."
I leaned back in my chair nodding. I could tell already that this was just the beginning...
TO BE CONTINUED...