Chapter 7

Adrian allowed his valet to assist him as he changed for the night; he found himself unusually exhausted and was certain he would spend the night dead to the world. He fell into the rich cotton sheets, trying to ignore thoughts of his red-headed neighbor and was very soon deep in sleep. When he jerked awake some hours later, he cursed under his breath at the disturbance of what had been a very pleasant dream. His loins were still tight in its aftermath and with some difficulty, he tried to return to his blissful state. But he heard it clearly this time; what had awakened him now sounded distinctly like a key at a lock. Or something metal in any case. The only lock close enough to cause him worry was his safe in the adjoining room and he all but leapt from his bed, meaning to surprise the intruder. The sounds stopped abruptly and he could have kicked himself for the rash action which must have alerted the culprit. He remained silent, hoping he could deceive his guest into continuing.

After a minute or two of waiting, he decided he would be better served to face the culprit. He had heard nothing and was sure the man, or whoever it had been was still in the room, waiting, possibly, for sounds of Adrian's return to sleep. Walking softly, he opened a drawer in his armoire and unearthed a polished revolver from under a pile of cravats. He wouldn't cock it until he was almost upon the adjoining room. Making as little noise as possible, he stalked towards the door. Quickly removing the weapon's safety mechanism, he burst into the room. It was silent, empty and immaculate. Almost immaculate. A small candle lit the room and the bookcase before him. The safe wasn't in plain view; it was placed behind the bookcase and a hollowed book, hidden behind a perfectly normal one, opened to its lock. The book was returned, a brown unassuming volume of the Bible, but on the second shelf, drying rapidly, was a small but unmistakable drop of blood. He scanned the room before approaching the bookcase and examining the stain. With his index finger, he touched the drop and brought it up to his face. The coppery smell was definite and it was proof that he had not imagined the entire incident.

He wished he could find more proof, in the form of the little thief but there was no sign of the person. The hairs at the back of his nick prickled uncomfortably at the thought that whoever had been in here had vanished. Especially as there was only one entrance into the room and he had just come through it. He backed cautiously towards the door searching the room again as he did so. He reached the door and shut it resolutely, determined to sniff out the intruder. The door had only clicked shut when he heard another click and almost suddenly, the room was filled with a thick black smoke. The candle went out and he was thrown into darkness. He heard what sounded like the rustling of fabric and shot somewhat wildly. The bullet echoed but the next thing he heard was the opening of the door and even as he followed the sound in hot pursuit, it was too late. The door into his bedroom was open and when he reached the entrance, the passageway was empty.

He knew without following that his intruder was already long gone. Where the devil had he been hiding? He returned to the bedroom and lit several candles. Returning to the study, he saw that the smoke was clearing almost as rapidly as it had enveloped him. What was it? Certainly not smoke, it had not had any notable smell. It also didn't seem to be leaving any mark on the room as it dissipated. He would make a thorough search of the room and discover this remarkable hiding place. At least he could take comfort in the fact that the prowler did not have an alternative entrance into his private study. But the unsettling episode left him shaken nonetheless.


"We should extend an invitation to dinner, father. It is the neighborly thing to do and I doubt a bachelor such as Don Santiago would presume to invite us. It is our social responsibility, father, and I think you might take that notion seriously." Alexandra paced the library floor while she spoke. Her father had been occupied in a newspaper before her entrance and now observed her with a mixture of indulgence and skepticism. He had trained himself to expect the unusual from his eldest daughter and to look for some trick in her every action. It was not an easy task and at the moment was quite difficult, especially as her words made sense. He had met Santiago already, twice and both times while engaging in business. The notion of a dinner invitation had occurred to him but he had never felt too compelled to actually do it. Mostly due to his desire for privacy and partly because he sensed a reserve in the other man that almost seemed to warn against any form of familiarity.

"Well, Alexandra, it seems a sound idea and would perhaps be a good way to inculcate ourselves into the neighborhood." He was careful not to give a definite answer as he still wasn't certain he hadn't missed some ulterior motive in his daughter's plan.

Alex smiled widely, unconsciously furthering her father's suspicions, and sketched a curtsey, saying, "I'm glad you think so; perhaps Lincoln could make the invitation, so you need not trouble yourself." She left the room quickly before her father could make a more negative response.

Sanchez harrumphed and shook out his paper; he knew there must be something behind Alexandra's sudden desire to fulfill her 'social obligations.' He would speak to Lincoln first and see what his son thought of this new idea. An idea occurred to him but he shook it away as fanciful and certainly wishful thinking; his daughter had long since crushed all hopes he held of her seeking a more natural conclusion to her youth in marriage. She was more likely hoping she could bring him to buy her some new dresses for the possible social obligations that California held.


Don Santiago sat in his library, deep in thought when a knock brought him out of his reverie. He allowed the intrusion and a deeply tanned servant entered, announcing a visitor who wished to see him. An Englishman, apparently. He had been invited into the front parlor to await the don and as Adrian walked door the steps leading into the wide and airy room, he noted immediately the likeness to Alexandra. The same red hair and the same flashing eyes in a masculine form. The young man sat at his ease in the living room, examining or winding up a pocket watch.

"An exquisite piece, that is." Adrian remarked by way of introduction.

"Yes, a gift from my father," The man replied, standing abruptly. "I always forget to wind it up at night and am forever reading the time wrong wherever I go."

He quickly pocketed the watch and held out a hand in greeting. "Lincoln Saint er...Sanchez." He flushed at the quizzical expression that met this falter. "I'm rather used to being called Saint in England, it's become something of a habit to introduce myself that way."

Adrian smiled kindly hoping to alleviate some of the man's discomfort. He shook Lincoln's hand and was pleased to discover the firm grip the man had.

"Welcome Mr. Saint, to what do I owe this pleasure? Please sit." He indicated the chair his guest had just been lounging in and was rewarded with another flush. He sat, himself and called for some red wine to be brought.

"I have very fine cellars, and I seldom get a chance to indulge in them." He added when Lincoln looked ready to protest. He could see that the man was a little more than uncomfortable and he wondered if it was just the embarrassment of being so awkward before a stranger or if there was more to this than that.

"Your father is Sanchez; do I have it right?" He asked by way of small talk.

"Yes, I understand you've met him."

"Briefly, but his reputation precedes him; I've heard that he is a notable business man."

"Yes, father has a good eye for the right investments. You must share some interest with him, since you both met in the line of business."

Had he detected a note of resentment in that first statement? Perhaps he had imagined it. He nodded in answer as the wine was brought in and served for both of them. His guest seemed more at ease before him now and it wasn't long before they were discovering a mutual interest in cricket. Adrian had learned and become interested in the sport while in England and had played occasionally with his brother.

"I don't suppose you'll remember but we've met before, Santiago." Lincoln remarked. "It was actually in the midst of a cricket match."

"Well forgive my lamentable memory but it is rather fortunate that we should meet again."

"Yes, fortunate indeed. Perhaps you would like to renew that acquaintance over dinner. My father has commissioned me to extend the invitation, truth be told and I must say that after having met you again, I would be much put out if you were to decline."

"Ah, that does explain much," Adrian responded with a laugh to Lincoln's quizzing tone. "I would be glad to accept, of course. I get as much chance to share my wine as I get to socialize."

"Excellent! How does tomorrow night suit you?"

A/N: Please r & r or this story may never see the light of day again lol...