TWENTY-THREE – SMALL REFUGE
“So, this is Frost Hall,” said Grant, lying back on Ivy’s bed and gazing up at the ceiling. “While I’ll admit that your room is the most important one in the mansion, I wish I’d seen more of the place on the way up. Are you sure this is okay?”
“Grant, you idiot, get off the bed,” said Ivy. “What would people think if they found you like that?”
Grant shrugged and sat up. “I thought the whole idea of coming here was to get away from the spotlight for a while. Here you have me park the car behind the carriage house, you whisk me in via a side entrance, don’t bother introducing me to anyone, and don’t even allow me time to enjoy the sights.”
He looked into her eyes and smiled broadly at her. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to hide something.”
She pushed him gently on the forehead, so he fell backwards again. “Yes, idiot, I’m trying to hide you. Don’t blame me if the Frost Estate was the only media-proof spot we could come up with.”
Grant rolled onto his stomach and looked at her. “We could have gone to your cousin Tony’s beach house.”
“Tony’s busy, and he’s had enough trouble lately anyway. Besides, paparazzi have boats, you know.”
“So I’ve heard, though they’d have to be pretty brave to go out this time of year on Lake Superior.” He smiled. “This is kind of like playing hooky, isn’t it?”
Ivy sat beside him. “I wouldn’t know. I was a good girl. Mostly.”
He looked up at her, his green eyes flashing. “And are you a good girl now?”
She leaned toward him. “Try me and see.”
Their lips met. Their tongues danced together. He put his arm around her neck and pulled her down on the bed.
When they came up for air, he said, “You know, I always thought I might wind up in your bed one day, but thought the circumstances would be different.”
Ivy smiled. “You may be on my bed, but you’re not in my bed. Not yet anyway. Keep being a good boy, and maybe someday…”
“Are you teasing me?”
“No. I just believe in being careful. You can’t be too careful these days.”
“Are you sure about that?” Grant asked, kissing her again.
After a few minutes she broke away and sighed. “I’m sure.”
“Ivy Silver Frost!” The booming male voice made Ivy jump.
“Shit!” whispered Ivy. “What’s he doing here?! He’s supposed to be at work!”
“He, who?” Grant whispered back.
“My uncle, Daniel,” said Ivy, sitting up quickly.
As she did, the door to the room opened and Daniel Frost barged in. His beet-red face wore a look of furious anger.
“Do you take me for a complete idiot, young lady?” he demanded.
Ivy stood and pointed toward the door.
“Uncle, get out of my room! You didn’t even knock.”
“I refuse to stand on pleasantries when the family honor may be at stake.”
“Family honor?” said Ivy. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Do you think I’m blind, young lady? Did you think I wouldn’t see your picture with this man on the afternoon news? In his house, no less?! Did you think all the servants in this house are deaf and blind? Did you think I wouldn’t find out you’d smuggled him into your room?”
“The thought that I might enjoy some privacy had crossed my mind,” said Ivy. “I can see I was mistaken.”
Grant calmly stood and proffered his hand to the head of the Frost family. “Mister Frost, I’m Grant Winslow. We met briefly before, after Ivy’s accident. I know this isn’t the best of circumstances, but I hoped we might have a chance to talk, maybe work some things out.”
Daniel looked at Grant’s hand as if it were a snake. “I know who you are, young man, and we have nothing to work out. What I fail to understand, is why you’re in my niece’s room, on her bed.”
“Uncle, that’s none of your business.”
“We’re not teenagers, Mr. Frost,” said Grant.
Daniel scowled at him. “Then please stop behaving as if you are,” he said. “You and Ivy both know how our families feel about each other. You know that it’s inappropriate for you to be here. I’m asking you now to please leave my house.”
“Uncle, this is my house, too,” said Ivy, but Daniel merely glowered at her.
“I’m the last of my family,” said Grant, “and I bear no animosity toward any of the Frosts—yourself included. In fact, I’d hoped to call a truce to this feud.”
“A truce!” Daniel said indignantly. “While your bulldozers rape Frost Hills?! I think not!”
“Uncle, they haven’t been ‘Frost Hills’ for nearly half a century,” said Ivy.
“Nevertheless, while they are in Winslow hands, no Winslow will set foot in my house. Not while I have anything to say about it.”
“Well, you don’t. This room is mine. Great Aunt Anna made sure of that in her will. You have no say as to who my guests are.”
Daniel’s voice dropped to a low rumble. “That may be, but anyone coming or going from this room must cross my property.
“If your… ‘friend’ doesn’t leave now, when he does leave, I’ll have him arrested for trespassing.”
Ivy wrapped her arms around Grant. “So maybe I’ll just keep him.”
Daniel flushed again and glowered at her even more intensely, if that were possible.
“Ivy, don’t,” said Grant. “We were trying to reduce our stress level, not increase it. Remember?”
“Well, kindly do it somewhere off my property,” said Daniel.
“If he’s going,” said Ivy, “I’m going with him.”
“Perhaps you should,” said Daniel. He turned to go, but as he left, he called back, “But if he’s not out of here within the quarter-hour, I’m contacting the police.”
Grant pushed the door shut behind Dan. The Winslow heir turned and smiled at Ivy.
“I think that went well,” he said. “I really think your uncle liked me. I can tell this kind of stuff. They say I’m good at reading people.”
Ivy hugged him. “Oh, Grant, I’m sorry.”
Grant chuckled. “No need to be. Look, do you think I’ve really gotten you into some trouble here?”
Ivy shrugged. “Like what? What can he do to me?”
“He could throw you out of the house.”
“He can’t. It says so in Aunt Anna’s will. I’ve got a place here for life. The rest of the family may not be fond of me, but auntie and I always got along.”
“He could fire you.”
“Ha! And where do you think I’d go for a job if he did that?”
Grant thought a moment and then smiled.
“Exactly,” said Ivy. “Me working for you would just about send Uncle Dan into apoplexy.”
“Then were you serious about leaving?”
“Right now, I’m too mad not to. This mansion ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
“Where are you planning to stay? I’ve got plenty of extra rooms, if you like.”
“I’ll give Cassie a call. She’s come through for me in the past, when I needed to get away from this place.”
“Well, pack your bags and I’ll give you a lift over there. Unless you’d rather have Uncle Dan drive you.” Grant grinned as he suggested it.
“And be keel-hauled under the Rolls?” said Ivy. “No thanks. I think I’ll stick with you.”