MOURNING MEADOW by Larion Wills
Really meeting Kari:
He did not find a servant’s kitchen, a butler’s pantry or Emily. The words choked off as his mouth dropped open. He recovered quicker than the woman even if he tripped over his own feet to back out. The momentum of his near-fall pulled the door shut with a slam.
“I am so sorry,” he called out. “I—”
“I can’t understand you through the door. Wait until I come out,” she called back.
Steven grimaced at the prospect of what awaited him. Puzzlement followed. Next came recognition, and he groaned. Whoever he had waved at in that window had not been Kari, and did she ever look different, stark naked, dripping wet, fresh from the shower with only a towel in her hand. He didn’t wait long. She hurried. Her wet hair hung halfway down her back, soaking the dark blue, knit turtleneck shirt. She just finished the button on her jeans as she rushed out. Her feet were bare, and there were no glasses to hide those amber colored eyes or give her the appearance of an owl.
“Huh?” he asked dumbly, staring at the change in her.
“What’s the emergency? What did you need?”
“Coffee,” he answered with a grimace. “I was looking for coffee.”
Her chin went up, and her voice was sharp. “In a bathroom?”
“I didn’t know it was a bathroom or that you were down here. I thought I just saw you in an upstairs window. I thought Emily—”
“You’re talking too fast,” she told him curtly. “There’s nothing wrong?”
“There wasn’t until I opened that door,” he told her glumly.
She stared at him a moment longer before shaking her head. “Coffee?” The corner of her mouth twitched as she turned away and pointed to the next door “Help yourself.”
“Can I fix you a cup?” he asked before she could disappear back in the bathroom.
She turned back to face him. “What?”
“Can I fix you a cup?”
“Sure. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
As she turned away again, he told her, “I’m really sorry about…” He paused, unsure of how to phrase his invasion of her privacy.
She answered with, “One sugar and no cream,” and shut the door.
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