Super Dark (Super Dark Trilogy) (10 page)

BOOK: Super Dark (Super Dark Trilogy)
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Just as I was about to dial the number, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I spun around and saw Lee standing behind me. Hastily, I stuffed the phone back in my pocket.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said with a bright smile. “I had trouble finding a parking space and then I had to get change for the meter.”

“You drove up here?” I said in surprise.

“Yes, I rarely ever take public transport,” he replied. “Well, shall we get going? The Saatchi’s just up the road.”

“Hold on, don’t you want to wait for everyone else?”

Lee looked at me strangely. “What are you talking about?”

“Aren’t Becky and the others coming? You said there was a group going.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t remember saying that. It was always going to be just you and me.” Then he smiled again and said mischievously, “Besides, I don’t think Becky would appreciate this exhibition the way you and I will.”

“But I could have sworn you said—” I broke off mid-sentence as I realized that Lee had planned it from the start.

My mind raced at the implications. If he’d wanted to be alone with me, it could only mean one thing—and I could hardly think the words. Was this going to be a
date
?

“Okay, perhaps I misheard you,” I said, collecting myself as best I could. “Lead the way. I’ve never been to the Saatchi before.”

“You’re going to love it,” he said eagerly, offering his arm.

We left Sloane Square and started up the street at a leisurely pace. It felt strange with just the two of us walking together and I wondered if anyone would think we were a couple.

Cautiously, I studied Lee from the corner of my eye. He was wearing a dark blue suit jacket with khaki jeans and a black woolen sweater with a matching baseball cap. It was a smarter look than I’d seen before—and it added further weight to my
date
theory. Had he actually dressed up to impress me?

Within a few minutes we’d reached the Saatchi Gallery, a huge building on King’s Road. The rooms were large and white with high ceilings devised to present the canvasses in the best light. The exhibition was entitled
Masquerade
by a photograph
er
I’d never heard of, Theo Esposito. The themes were suitably outlandish, the majority of them black-and-white portraits of women wearing fur and elaborate animal masks.

Lee led me from room to room, offering a running commentary on the exhibition and proving that he definitely wasn’t just a pretty face. He had an extensive knowledge of the arts. From his honed appearance, I never would have guessed there was an art critic hiding inside—but Lee was full of surprises.

“What do you think Esposito was trying to say here?” he asked, pointing to a gigantic photo of a woman wearing a bizarre tiger mask.

I pondered for a moment, then said, “I think it’s about deception—about the masks we wear as faces, and the faces we wear as masks.”

“Nice,” Lee agreed. “I couldn’t have put it better myself. So you think the woman in the photo is hiding something?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “The tiger mask is used to disguise a side of her character she doesn’t want anyone else to see. Her secret dark side.”

I wasn’t entirely convinced of what I was saying, but it sounded good.

Then Lee surprised me again. He leaned toward me and whispered in my ear, “Is that why you always cover your face with that hood? To hide your own dark secrets?”

I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Is that why you always cover your face with that cap?”

He nodded, smiled, and said, “Touché.”

I turned away and walked to the other side of the room, pretending to study another canvas, but I could feel my hands shaking. What had he meant by that comment? Was it a thinly veiled hint about my past?

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. How could I have been so stupid? Of course it wasn’t a date. Obviously, Becky had told him about my past, just as she’d told Frasier. Either that, or he’d recognized me from the newspapers. He’d set this up so he could interrogate me—and I’d fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker.

Lee walked over to me. “I’m sorry. Have I done something to offend you?”

“Don’t insult my intelligence,” I snapped, shooting him a scowl.

“I don’t understand,” he said, looking genuinely confused. “Please tell me what I’ve done.”

“Becky told you, didn’t she?”

“Told me what?” Lee asked, still looking puzzled.

I sighed, then turned to face him, my arms folded across my chest. “About the abduction.”

“What abduction?”

I sighed again. If he wanted to play games, I’d play along.

“Ten years ago, a friend and I were abducted by a couple of maniacs. Everyone in Britain knows about it. Surely it couldn’t have escaped your attention.”

“Ten years ago, I was living in Hong Kong with my parents,” Lee said with a shrug. “We only moved back to the UK two years ago—so, no. I don’t know anything about an abduction. Until Becky introduced us that day in the library, I’d never seen you before in my life.”

My eyes narrowed with suspicion as I studied his face. “Are you telling the truth?”

“Yes!”

“Swear on your mother’s life.”

“I swear on
both
my parents’ lives.”

I ran my fingers through my hair, suddenly embarrassed. I hadn’t realized just how loudly I’d been talking, and we had apparently attracted an audience.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I can get a bit emotional about it sometimes.”

“No need to apologize,” Lee said. “I’m the bloody idiot. I can see now why you were upset. It must have seemed insensitive, but I swear I didn’t know. I’m the one who should be sorry.”

“No, it’s fine—really,” I said, shaking my head. “You didn’t know, but I’ve had so many people try to exploit the situation, you know, and it’s made me a bit wary.” Looking down at the floor, I added, “Anyway, it’s not your problem, it’s mine. I guess I’ve got to learn to be less paranoid.”

Lee took a step forward, put his hands on my shoulders, and looked me squarely in the eyes. “Look, Sam, if I can help, I’d like to try. You say you were abducted? Do you want to talk about it?”

I shook my head again. “No, I don’t want to go there. It’s taken all this time just to be able to go out in public. You can Google my name tonight and read all about it. Type in Samantha Harper and Elliot Marsh and you’ll have plenty of bedtime reading.”

“I’m sorry,” Lee sighed, removing his hands from my shoulders. “I seem to have upset you again. Shall we go grab something to eat? I think it’s time to get out of here.”

“Good idea,” I agreed.

As we descended the gallery steps, it started to rain—light, gentle drops that quickly morphed into a heavy shower. Typical British weather.

“Where did you have in mind?” I asked, pulling my hood up.

“The Decadent Tea Room at the Winchester Hotel,” Lee replied. “My parents took me there a few months ago and the food’s fantastic. It’s only ten minutes from here.”

“Okay. You lead the way,” I said, though I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.

The Winchester was one of the most famous luxury hotels in London, and definitely not somewhere I could afford to eat. The last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself when the bill came.

As we walked into the grand entrance to the Winchester, I found myself in awe. I’d never seen a five-star hotel before and the place certainly lived up to its prestigious reputation. The foyer was beautifully decorated in red, black, and gold, reminding me of the interior of an old country house. On one side was a roaring fireplace, and on the other a man sat playing soft jazz on a grand piano.

As we approached the sculpted archway leading to the tea room, a smartly dressed waiter rushed up and offered to take our coats. Lee gave him his wet jacket but declined to remove his hat. I gave the man my coat, but refused to put the hood down on my sweater. The two of us were clearly set in our ways.

The waiter then showed us to a table in a secluded part of the room and handed us two oversized menus. When he’d gone, I scanned the price list tentatively to see what, if anything, I could afford. Everything looked delicious, but horribly overpriced. In the end, I resigned myself to a solitary cup of tea.

“Have you decided what you want?” Lee asked softly.

“Yes, I think I’ll just have a tea,” I said simply.

“Tea?” He said, looking surprised. “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer wine, and don’t you want something to eat?”

“No food, no wine. Just tea, please.”

“Are you sure?”

At that moment, as if on cue, my stomach growled audibly. Lee rested his elbows on the table, leaned forward, and said, “Sam, this is my treat. Please feel free to order anything you want.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t—”

Before I could finish, the waiter arrived and Lee ordered lunch for both of us while I sat numbly—but secretly flattered. I had never had a man buy lunch for me before. This was starting to look even more suspiciously like a date.

After the waiter walked away, Lee smiled at me and asked, “How’s school?”

“Nothing new to report,” I replied. “And you? How’s your art course going?”

“Great! I’m really enjoying it.”

“You study at Summerwell Art College, right?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Then he quickly changed the subject. “Did you and Frasier get home okay Friday night?”

“Yes, and thanks for the cab money. That was very kind of you.”

“No problem.”

For a second, my mind flashed back to Frasier’s accident and the expression on Frasier’s face when Lee helped him—but I quickly dismissed the thought.

“Why do you always cover your tattoo with that ring?” I blurted.

“What?” Lee said, looking startled.

“Your finger tattoo,” I said. “It’s so beautiful. I don’t understand why you’d want to hide it.”

He smiled enigmatically as he twisted the gold band between his fingers. “You’re very observant, aren’t you?”

“Not particularly. I just like tattoos, that’s all.”

“Really? Do you have any?”

“Two.”

“Where?” he asked, leaning forward again.

“One on my ankle and one on my shoulder,” I replied.

“Can I see?”

It was my turn to smile mischievously. “Only if you take off your cap.”

“Why?”

“Because I’d like to see your face properly. What are you hiding under there? A bad haircut?”

Slowly, he took off the cap—revealing the full radiance of his beauty. His hair was dark brown, cropped short with a glossy fringe that hung loosely across his forehead. Seeing his full face for the first time nearly took my breath away. I thought I’d have heart failure.

For a moment, we stared at each other as if we were meeting for the first time. Then I reached under the table and rolled down one of my socks.

“Now I suppose you want to see my tattoos,” I said, tilting my ankle so that he got a good view of the butterfly.

Then I rolled up my sleeve and showed him the heart on my shoulder.

“Very nice,” he said, smiling warmly.

I realized at that moment that I wanted Lee to like me—
really
like me—and the thought took me by surprise. I wasn’t used to seeking praise or fishing for compliments from men, but at that moment, I was desperately happy that my tattoos had met with Lee’s approval.

The waiter returned with a silver tray of tea, pastries, and condiments, and set them on the table with the finesse of a magician. Afterward, he uncorked a bottle of wine and filled Lee’s glass halfway for him to taste. When Lee nodded his approval, the waiter filled the rest of the glass.

Then he reached over to fill my glass, but I cupped my hand over it and said, “No, thank you. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” Lee asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I grinned. “I’m still recovering from Friday.”

The waiter smiled politely, placed the wine bottle in the center of the table, wished us
bon appétit
, and left.

For the next few minutes we ate in silence, concentrating on our plates. The pastries were delicious and I fought the urge to calculate how long it would take to burn off the calories. After all, it was a special treat that I wouldn’t be repeating any time soon.

Finally, Lee broke the silence. “So what are you planning to do after you finish school?”

“I guess it depends how well I do in my exams,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Do you live with your parents?”

“Just my mum.”

“And your dad?”

“My parents are divorced. Dad moved back to Ireland.”

“Oh,” he said simply. “How do you feel about that? Do you miss your dad?”

“What is this, twenty questions?” I quipped.

“No,” he chuckled. “It’s just that I want to know more about you. Is there anything wrong with that?”

BOOK: Super Dark (Super Dark Trilogy)
12.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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