January 10, 2011

Inherit My Heart Chapter Forty

Charleston reached behind him, his hand emerging holding a gun. Katrina sucked her breath back in again.

“I’d advise you not to move, Mr. Fancy-pants Lawyer, unless I tell you to.”

“No worry there, Charleston,” Gavin replied evenly. “I’m not armed, and I’m no threat to you.” He spread his hands out, displaying his lack of weapon.

Charleston stood a long time thinking, then, eyes still on Gavin, repeated his question to Katrina. “Where’s the phone?”

"In…in the living room." Nervously Katrina licked her too-dry lips.

"Show me. I'm not lettin' you outta my sight, you stinkin' slut! You, too, lawyer-man." He gestured them forward with the gun.

With painful movements, Katrina turned, leading the way into the living room. She walked through the dark room to the couch, turning on the lamp which stood on the end table. She had to let go of her arm long enough to turn the lights on, wincing in anguish with the support to her arm momentarily gone.

Gavin had followed close behind her, almost as if shielding her body with his own. He turned on the matching lamp on the other end table, leaving Katrina’s desk lamp the only unlit light in the room. The pair of lamps gave a soft, cozy glow, but it had always frustrated Katrina there was no overhead light in the room. She needed extra light now, to watch Charleston…to gauge his mood—his anger.

Charleston pointed at the couch. "Sit down there where I can watch you, slut. I'm not takin' chances. Not after all the work I’ve gone to, tracking you down. We been too long findin' you. I want one of you at each end of the couch, and no talking to each other."

Wearily, Katrina moved to the couch and sank into its depths, while Gavin sat easily at the other end. Why was he being so cooperative? Why wasn’t he doing something to get them out of this mess? Since when had her Prince Valiant become Casper Milquetoast?

Charleston stepped halfway into the phone nook and brought the phone out into the living room, stretching it to the end of its long cord. He set it on the table, lifted the receiver and tucked it between his ear and shoulder, keeping one eye and his gun on them while he dialed a number with his free hand.

Katrina stared at her toes, trying to figure out what to do. It was clear Charleston wasn’t going to leave without the money he seemed to think she had. She didn't think the modest amount in her savings account would placate him…doubted the couple of thousand dollars warranted the snide title of 'incredibly rich' wife Charleston had accused her of being.

When he’d called Saturday morning—it seemed so long ago, so much had happened since then—hadn’t he said something about Uncle Andrew leaving money to her? Gavin had said—several times—that Uncle Andrew had been rich. But if Andrew had left her the money, why hadn’t Gavin given it to her? Wasn’t he Uncle Andrew’s lawyer? She wished she knew what was happening…and why.

Charleston cursed in a sudden lout outburst, and threw the phone’s handset back into the cradle.

Katrina jumped at the sound of the curse and the smack of the plastic receiver being slammed home in frustrated anger. The quick movement sent a jolt of pain through her arm. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. She must focus on not making any sound. She had to concentrate.

Charleston paced back and forth across the room, calling Katrina every unmentionable name in the book, and a few she was certain he’d made up on the spot. Finally he stopped in front of her. Grasping her chin in his rough hands, he jerked her head upwards, causing her to bite her tongue in the process. Tears came unbidden to her eyes. He cursed at her, removing his hand from her face, adding the words with venom. "What an ugly hag you are! I don't know why I ever married you in the first place!" He continued pacing.

"Did you, Charleston?" Katrina's condition was beginning to tell on her, or she'd never have posed the question. Wondering if it would bring more disapproval and pain upon her, or if, perhaps, it would serve to get his mind on other matters for a time, she looked at him warily.

Stopped in his tracks by her question, he turned to face her.

"What do you mean? You were at the wedding, Stupid! Of course we got married. Have you been gone so long that you forgot?" He raked his eyes down her body. “You’re still too thin and bony to satisfy a real man, but I could take you now, if I wanted to. You’re still my wife. Remember that.” His tone was sneeringly smirking, his eyes harsh.

"I mean, was it a real ceremony? Was the preacher a real preacher?" Katrina's eyes didn't leave his face…she had to know this. It was so very important to her.

"Of course he was real! What's got into you?" His eyes narrowed, raking over her with hateful derision.

"I wasn't sure. One time you told me it was just a friend of yours, acting, and we weren't really married." She sighed, glad to know the truth at last. She hadn’t been living in sin, therefore, she blushed at the thought, it was really a very good thing she and Gavin had been interrupted. Her wedding vows were still intact, though she knew Charleston had broken his, on numerous occasions. Now that he’d found her, she could get a divorce. Surely his infidelity was grounds, and with her broken arm, she once again had proof of his abuse.

Charleston's laughter crackled over her.

"You are the most gullible idiot I ever met! You are so stupid, it's funny! Of course it was a legal ceremony…Jason had proof you were the heir to the McSwayne Diamond Mines. The plan was very simple. I marry you, then Jason helps you collect your money, which Jason and I were going to split. We were all set for you to collect billions of dollars, far too much for you to spend in a single lifetime. But little brainless you wouldn’t cooperate. You kept denying the story. The dudes we talked to at the diamond mine office also denied you were the heir, and we weren’t able to collect after all. So I get stuck with you, and no money."

He kicked at her feet as he paced past her, and saw her involuntary wince of pain. She sensed, more than felt, Gavin’s small movement beside her. She shook her head, and Gavin stilled; remaining silent. Charleston hadn’t seemed to notice this silent exchange.

Again his cruel laughter rang out, but there was an underlying sound to it that made the hair on the back of her neck quiver with foreboding.

Katrina reflected it had been a good thing she’d been honest enough to deny their story. She wouldn’t have lived long, once the prize had been claimed by the brothers, she realized now. She’d never been more than a bank account to Charleston. No wonder he’d been so angry and cruel to her after their honeymoon…he blamed her because he didn’t get any money.

Charleston stomped over to the phone again, shaking his head at her stupidity. After dialing a number, he waited, listening. He stood watching both of them, casually waving the gun to remind them of its presence. It seemed a long time to Katrina before he again slammed the receiver into place.

"Damn! Why doesn't he answer?" He shoved the phone a few inches further onto the table and came to stand over Katrina. She felt the evil oozing from him, filling her living room with his hatred.

"Well?" His curt word put her off-balance, jarring her already mangled nerves.

"Well, what, Charleston?" She knew he was capable of anything…anything at all. She had forgotten how very frightening he was.

"Well what have you got to say for yourself? Where's the money? What have you done with it?" He looked around him briefly, a sneer marking his lips. “It's obvious you haven't spent any on this dump; but that's good, because then we get all the more!"

"Charleston, I really don't know what money you're talking about."

Crack! Katrina's head jerked sideways from the force of the slap on her face. She hadn't seen it coming. The room darkened and swirled, but slowly came back into focus. A calmness born of the desperation of her situation unfolded around Katrina, cushioning her from her fear.

"Charleston, I'm really not feeling well at the moment. If you want answers to your questions, please don't hit me anymore. I'll faint, and then you'll have nothing but silence. If you will please explain what money you mean, I'll tell you all I know." She felt Gavin stir again.

"Tell me where the money is, Mrs. Beardsley, and maybe I won't slap you…for a while." Sarcasm dripped from his voice, his lip curled in an ugly sneer.

Katrina sighed. "What money are you talking about, Charleston? I don't make a whole lot of it at work."

"I'm talking about the forty-three million dollars Uncle Andrew left you in his will!"