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Posted On 05/07/2015 06:32:42

May 7




“Mom is sad. She cries a lot. I don’t like that.”

“Do you want me to see her?”

Dusty shrugged her shoulders, stared at the floor. Finally she said, “I have to go.”

Hand on the door knob, Dusty looked back at Seth, her eyes dropping, unfocused. Turned down, the corners of her mouth twitched.

Overwhelmed, she mumbled, “Seth,” and ran into his outstretched arms.


“You what!”

Returning from her bedroom, after her mother had asked her to turn off the television set, Dusty said, “I said I saw Seth today.”

Pamela dropped her purse onto the kitchen island. Surprised, excited, she fired back, “What do you mean you saw Seth today? Where? On the street?” Pamela embarrassed herself with her enthusiastic questions. She sounded like a police detective.

Returning to the couch and her cell phone, Dusty said casually, “In his office.”

It was a murder investigation with Pamela as the chief detective. She stood over Dusty, “What do you mean, you saw Seth in his office?”

Continuing to review her Facebook postings, Dusty said, “I took a cab and went to his office.”

The interrogation became intense. “You’re telling me, Dusty Brighton, that you disobeyed me and left the house without my permission? ”Pamela was conflicted on whether she should be angry Dusty had left the house or excited she had seen Seth.

Dusty continued to scan the postings. “Moses said you might get upset.”

“Oh, now Moses is in on this too?”

“He said if you wanted to get mad, you should get mad at him. It was his idea.”

“So everyone is ganging up on me.” A bubble of amusement began to float up inside Pamela. She focused her attention on Dusty to avoid smiling.

“Dusty Brighton, you are grounded until you are forty-five. Do you understand me?” Dusty acknowledged her mother’s life-altering decision with a quick glance. She knew her mother was excited.

Sitting next to Dusty, Pamela dropped her police detective persona, became a mother again.

“Honey, listen to me. I’m serious. Don’t ever leave the house again without calling me first. The city can be a very dangerous place for a twelve-year-old girl. Promise me?”

Dusty dropped her cell phone into her lap, hugged her mother. “I promise.”

“Good. Now that’s settled, I need a cup of tea. Join me, sweetheart.”

Pamela felt restless, opening cabinet doors in search of the tea. Seth was alive, reasonably well, and in the city. Was he excited to see Dusty? Did he say he would call or even better, stop by?. Did he still love her? Oh Pamela, you’re such a mess.

Exasperated, Pamela threw up her hands. “I can’t find the tea.”

Sitting at the counter, grinning, Dusty said, “Mother, it’s right where you put it this morning. It’s on the first shelf next to the refrigerator.”

“Oh.” Embarrassed, Pamela pulled out a box of Knightsbridge tea collection from Harrods Department Store in London, set it on the counter and leaned against the refrigerator. “Okay, I give up, how was he?

“Who, Seth?”

Pamela rolled her eyes in frustration. “Yes, Seth. How is he?

Dusty shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Fine, I guess.”

Pamela rested her hands on the counter. “Well, did he ask about me?

Ah. . .I don’t think so.”

“Come on, Dusty. Give your mother a break. Surely he must have said something.”

“He seemed kinda of sad. I think he still likes you.”

Pamela turned off the boiling water, having lost interest in the tea “Are you going to see him again? Is he going to call?”

“He didn’t say anything.”

Pamela’s words spilled out in frustration. “That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Hey Mom, I saw Seth today. That’s nice. What did he have to say? Did he ask about me? ‘Gosh, Mom, I don’t know.’ That about it, Dusty? That’s all you can tell me about seeing Seth today?”

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

Pamela started to cry in frustration.

The doorbell rang. 

Pamela snapped, “Now who could that be?”

Careful of her mother’s mood, Dusty said, “I told Cyndi to come over and watch TV.”

“Sweetheart, please tell her to come back another time. I’m not in the mood for visitors tonight.”

“Okay.” She heard her mother crying as she walked to the door.

Eyes wide in shock, Dusty whispered, “Seth.” when she opened door. She instinctively hugged him.

Seth whispered back, “Is Mom home?”

Dusty nodded.

“Who is it?” Pamela yelled from the kitchen.

“Tell her I am a delivery man, and she has to sign for a package.”

“Mom, some guy has a package. You have to sign something.”

They both smiled when Pamela said, “Give me a break.”

Resigned, Pamela dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “I’m coming” She saw him standing at the door with a bouquet of a dozen red roses. “Seth,” she shrieked and covered her mouth with her fingers.

“Hello, Pamela.”

Still holding her face, Pamela exclaimed, “Seth, why didn’t you call me first? Look at me. I’m a mess.” She tried to wipe the residual tears away without smudging her makeup. There was some failure in the effort.

“I’m sorry,” Seth said sheepishly. “I thought maybe you would say no, and I wanted to see you. May I come in?”

“Oh, Seth, don’t be silly. Of course you’re welcome. I apologize for my rudeness. Come in, come in. Excuse my appearance. It has been a long day. I had a lot of meetings.”

“Mom, I’ll be in my room,” Dusty said, closing the door.

“No, sweetheart. I would like you to stay. You are a part of this, whatever this is.” Pamela missed it but Seth caught it. A smile from Dusty.

“Dusty told me you’re moving,” Seth said. “You’ve bought a horse farm in North Carolina?”

“Yes. We’re excited. I’ve been meeting with a number of consultants to help me. It’s rather a large estate and will require a number of staff. I intend to become a serious horse breeder and trainer. Have you ridden horses?”

Seth chuckled. “I know how to drive a tank, but I don’t remember ever sitting on a horse.”

“I can teach him,” Dusty piped up

Standing next to Dusty, Pamela touch the top of her head. “Yes, you can, sweetheart. Dusty is a very good rider, Seth. I know she could teach you.”

“I would like that. I would like that very much.”

Trying to sound casual without embarrassing Seth, Pamela looked at the roses. “Are those for me?”

Embarrassed, while firmly gripping the bouquet with both hands, Seth extended them to Pamela.

Overwhelmed, Pamela touched her lips with her fingers. She wanted to cry for the joy of seeing Seth standing in front of her. Receiving them carefully, as would a jeweler receiving a treasured necklace, Pamela inhaled the strong, rich fragrance. “They are beautiful, truly beautiful. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.” Handing them to Dusty, she said, “Sweetheart, could you put these on the kitchen counter. I’ll put them in a vase in a minute.”

Nervous, unable to control his hands, Seth clutched them. “I hope you will accept them as a token of my apology for what happened at the ball. I—“

“Seth, it’s not necessary to—“

“Please, Pamela. I need to say this.”

Pamela nodded.

“I feel absolutely terrible about what I did. There was no excuse for it.”

“They set you up. You didn’t have a chance.”

“I know, but I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I want you to know, I am seeing a PTSD psychologist. She has helped me. I know it won’t happen again.” Biting his lip, he said, “I guess that’s about all I have to say.”

Pamela wanted to hug him but fought the urge and remained standing in place. “My dear, Seth. What happened that night was a blessing for both of us. You’re getting the help you need, and I learned the people I used to call my friends are empty, vindictive people. And even better, Dusty and I have found a new wonderful life on a horse farm. I’d say we both came out winners that night. The only loser is my mother. She’d rather love a name than be loved by a daughter and granddaughter.”

Realizing any discussion of her mother was depressing, Pamela said, “So, are they keeping you busy with hostage rescues?”

“Been a bit of a change. I’m no longer out in the field. I coordinate the teams doing the rescue work.”

“So you could work anywhere?”

“As long as I have the net and a laptop, I’m good to go.”

It became silent, awkward. Words were used up, apologies offered and accepted. Pamela looked intently at Seth who continued to play with his hands. Dusty sensed the moment, shuffled her feet.

“Well, Seth Collins, are you just going to stand there, or are you going to kiss me?”

Their kiss was long, passionate with a promise it was the beginning of much more.

Throwing her hands up, Dusty proclaimed, “I’m out of here.”

“Wait,” Seth said.

“What?” Dusty parked her hands on her hips.

“You and I, we’re friends, right?

Dusty shrugged her shoulders, arched her eyebrows.

Pamela whispered in Seth’s ear. “Let me translate for you, darling. She just said yes.”

Seth laughed. “Dusty. I need to ask your mother a question.”

Excited, Pamela interjected, “And I need to hear it.”

“Dusty, do I have your permission to ask your mother to marry me?”

Dusty rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

“Dusty said yes, sweetheart. And me too. Yes, a thousand times over. I love you, Seth,

“And I love you, Pamela. I was so nervous. I thought you’d send me away.”

“Silly man.”

Dusty coughed to express that it was time to end their long embarrassing embrace and kiss.

Pamela said, “Sorry, Dusty. Someday when you fall in love, you will understand.”

“Give me a break.”

Pamela pulled away. “I have something I want to say.”

“What?” Seth and Dusty asked.

“I’m only thirty-four. I want to have a baby. Our baby, Seth.”




A note from the author:

Thank you. Thank you for taking the time from your busy lives to read my stories. I appreciate each of you. This is my last story for the season. I must confess I have a busy fall and winter coming up with writing and publishing. I am uncertain if I will be able to resume my short stories this fall. I should have an answer in a couple of months. You are a wonderful group of readers and it has been my pleasure sharing my stories with you.

My best wishes to each of you.

JB Morris

Posted On 05/05/2015 06:47:50

May 5




“I can have a cab pick you up at, say two o’clock tomorrow. Tell the driver you want to go to the Bank of America building at 44 Wall Street. When you go inside, give your name to the concierge. He will personally escort you to my office. We’ll surprise Seth.

“What if he hates me?”

“Trust me, Dusty. He does not hate you or your mother.”

“Do you really think I should do this?”

“Yes.” Moses said.

Silence. Dusty walked to the window, looked at Central Park. She surprised herself. She wanted to see Seth again. And she wanted her mother to stop crying at night.


“I’ll do it.”


Dusty rushed her words, “No! Don’t open the door.” The concierge removed his hand from the door knob. Dusty looked at the sign on the door. What does GRYB mean?”

Wearing a starched uniform with military creases, the young man with a shaved head said, “Young lady, I don’t know. Must be some kind of code. I have to get back to my station. You going to be okay?”

Nervous, Dusty said, “I’m fine,”

“Very well.” The man disappeared around the corner, headed to the elevator.

Presented with a new problem, Dusty was uncertain if she should knock or open the door. She had always knocked before entering the office of the Brearley’s head of school. What if she opened the door and Seth was standing in front of her? What would she say to him? What could she say to him?


Dusty stepped away from the door and headed toward the elevator. This is so lame. She stopped before reaching the corner of the corridor, looked back at the door to Moses’ office. Dusty, do it for Mom. Having announced the previous evening the date they would move, Pamela had spent much of the evening crying in her bedroom.

Startled, Dusty stepped back surprised, when a large black man opened the door following her firm knocking.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“My name is Moses.” I have been waiting for you, Dusty.”

Dusty tried to peer past Moses, searching for Seth. “Where is he?”

“He is in his office. Come inside. Let me close the door. I’ll go get him for you.”

Dusty reached up, tugged Moses’ sport shirt. “Wait. Is he mad or something?”

Moses chuckled. “No, he isn’t mad today. Maybe a bit quiet but he’s fine.”

Stepping inside as Moses closed the door, Dusty said, “What do I say to him?”

Moses touched his big hand on Dusty’s bony shoulder. “Sweetheart, what do you want to say to him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well then, I guess you’re just gonna have to make it up as you go along.”

Moses turned his head to announce Dusty’s arrival.



Seth had never mastered it. He’d thought the marines would have taught him how to handle the rush to “hurry up” and the interminable wait that followed. They never did.

Earlier, he had completed his briefing with the three teams on rescue hostage missions. Pamela came up again for her daily and sometimes hourly reflection. One minute they were reconciled and next, the sinking feeling he would never see her again. The memory of their last night together was his final thought, leaving him listless and depressed. The idleness exacerbated his pain.

Spending an hour leaning against the window gazing mindlessly at the skyline and the intersection of William and Wall Streets had left him bored beyond distraction. A glance at his watch told him his two o’clock appointment was late.

Strange appointment.

Explaining he was following the wishes of his client, Moses had refused to give Seth a name or purpose of the meeting. Moses said the meeting was important and there must be no interruptions. Seth hoped it would get him out of the office and back into the field. Pamela disappeared when he was trying to stay alive rescuing a hostage.


“Seth, your two o’clock is here,” Moses yelled from the foyer.


“I’m scared,” Dusty said.


“This better be good,” Seth muttered and opened his office door.


It was as if fate had waived her magic wand, freezing all things in place. Seth sagged against the door frame while Dusty pressed her crossbody purse to her chest.

They shared the shock and joy of seeing each other. “How did you find me?” “What do I say to him?” “Why are you here?” “Is Pamela with you? All of the questions danced silently between their eyes.

Moses disappeared.

Dusty’s mind raced to find words but a weak, “Hi,” was all that escaped.

Seth wanted to rush up, hug her, tell her he missed her, loved her. Frozen in place, only his lips moved. “Dusty?”

Fate removed her wand and the nervousness between them pulled back though much of it remained. Feeling disconnected from his body, Seth wondered if they should sit, continue to stand, or go into his office.

Before he could offer a choice, Dusty said, “We’re moving.”

Seth sagged again. Pamela was escaping. They wouldn’t even share New York City together.

“I. . .don’t know what to say,” Seth stammered. “I’m. . .I’m surprised.” His lips felt unresponsive, his mouth filled with his swollen tongue.

Nervous, Dusty continued to grip her purse with both hands. Their bodies were stiff, their movements awkward. What to do with their hands?

“Mom said she wanted to move.”

“Oh, no. I hurt her that bad?” The words spilled out before Seth could restrain them.

Searching the room as if looking for a place to sit, the words were lost on Dusty.

Recovering some sense of emotional control, Seth said, “Excuse me, Dusty, let’s go sit in my office. It’s more comfortable there.”


Sitting on the leather couch opposite Seth’s desk, he asked, “So tell me, how are you?”

“I’m okay.” Dusty’s nervousness would not leave her nor allow the release of words into a sentence of any measurable length. Wearing skinny jeans, sitting on the edge of the couch, she pressed her knees together while she continued her two-handed grip of her purse.

Seth needed her to relax if he had any hope of soliciting information on Pamela’s current frame of mind. “Now that it’s summer, what do you do during the day when your mother is working?”

“I’m packing.”

Dusty was going to make Seth work at it to get any meaningful information out of her. His initial shock was gone but he felt anxious with the news they were moving.

“Where’s your new home?”

“North Carolina. Mom bought a horse ranch.”

“That sounds exciting. I know how much you love to ride horses. Where—“

“Are you going to see my mother?” Dusty had an agenda that did not include questions from Seth.

“Well, you’re very direct.” She reminded him of a colonel in Iraq. Any auxiliary comment during the colonel’s briefing was a foreign language and subject to an immediate reprimand.

“Dusty, I embarrassed and hurt your mother. I can’t imagine she would want to see me.”

“Mom told me what happened.”

“I was wrong for what I did.”

“Well, are you?”

“I. . .don’t know.”

“Mom is sad. She cries a lot. I don’t like that.”

“Do you want me to see her?”

Dusty shrugged her shoulders, stared at the floor. Finally she said, “I have to go.”

Hand on the doorknob, Dusty looked back at Seth, her eyes dropping, unfocused. Turned down, the corners of her mouth twitched.

Overwhelmed, she mumbled, “Seth,” and ran into his outstretched arms.


Posted On 04/30/2015 04:02:27

April 30





Knowing Dusty’s love of horses and her dream to be a veterinarian, Pamela knew the secret for securing Dusty’s approval to move. Horses—and more horses. “I received a phone call today from a realtor in Asheville. There is a horse farm estate for sale. The farm is on 95 acres and includes horse boarding and training, riding lessons and breeding. It will be ours if I say yes. You could ride every day and help train the horses. I told her I didn’t think my daughter wanted to move from living in New York City and riding subways.”

Eyes wide-opened, Dusty yelled, “Mother.” She was already riding a Hanoverian horse in a dressage competition at the Olympics.


More than the fiercest drill sergeant, the most terrifying experience was an angry former United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. Or one, such as Moses Remington, who pretended to be angry.

In front of the other departing airline passengers, Moses roared, “I tried for three days to call you. Three bloody days I tried.”

Stunned, Seth stopped short exiting the jet bridge. A fat man with orange sneakers and thick glasses swore when he ran into Seth’s back.

“Give it a rest, Gunny” Seth yelled, stepping aside for the other passengers to enter the gate. Pointing the way, Seth led Moses to an adjacent empty gate. “What’s your problem?” he said.

Moses relished his performance. Rising to the Tony award level of acting, he hollered, “I tried to call you for three days after you radioed success the hostages were freed. Did you call me back, kiss my foot? No! You blew me off. You were probably lounging by a pool.” Moses knew he had missed his calling to be a Broadway actor.

Seth’s anger rose up to equal Moses’ shouting. For your information,” Seth yelled, “I had two wounded hostages and the bad guys wanted to play hide and seek. It got a little interesting before we escaped.”

“You’re fired!”

“I’m fired?” Seth said incredulously. “You can’t fire me. I’m your partner.”

“Are you having trouble hearing, son?” Moses’s performance was expanding exponentially with the volume of his voice. “I said you’re fired.”

“Fine,” Seth snapped. “I quit.”

“Good.” Moses exploded in a roar of laughter. “Now, do you want a new job?” Revelation of Moses’ charade danced in his eyes.

Shaking his head, eyes narrowed, Seth said suspiciously, “You’re playing with me.”

“Seth,” Moses said. The actor’s face had disappeared, replaced with a mask of concern. “I was worried sick when you went dark for three days. I don’t wanta ever go through that again. From now on, I want you safe in the office. You can coordinate the teams that are out in the field.”

“You know, I can do hostage rescue,” Seth said.

“I know you can, in spades. The problem is I don’t want you to. And don’t forget, I’m bigger than you.”

Seth dropped his carry-on bag, smiled, reached out with his arms. “Come here you ugly ol’ bear.” They hugged tight and hard, exchanging “I love you, bro.” in a tone of profound respect.


It was a special day for Dusty. She had traveled with her mother to Asheville to tour the horse farm estate. She had insisted her mother sign the purchase contract before lunch rather than the planned meeting later with the realtor.

Having given notice at work, Pamela spent most of her days meeting with consultants regarding her management of the estate and horses. She had selected the internationally acclaimed Rockcastle Equine Consultants from Louisville to head up her plans to become a major player in equine circles. Pamela was particularly interested in acquiring separate broodmare and stallion managers.

On summer vacation and finished with her list of chores, Dusty had spent the last hour online researching dressage competitions. Not wanting any interruptions during her meetings, Pamela had left her cell phone with Dusty. Spellbound, reading the clinics offered by Priory Dressage in West Sussex in the south of England, Dusty jumped when her mother’s phone rang.

A man with a deep baritone voice said, “Hello, I’m calling for Pamela Brighton. Is she available?”

“Who are you?” Dusty said, guarded.

“Excuse me. I should have introduced myself. I am a friend of your mother. My name is Moses Remington.” Moses chuckled. “You must be Dusty. Your mother has told me a lot of nice things about you.”

“I’ve heard your name. Seth said he worked for you.”

“Well, Dusty. I like to think that Seth and I are more like partners.”

“Have you seen him?”

“I saw him about an hour ago. Dusty, I know what happened between your mother and Seth. It upsets me. I think the world of your mother, and Seth is like a brother to me.”

“My mom is very sad.”

“So is Seth.”

“Why are grownups so stupid?”

“Oh, I wish I had an answer for you on that one, but I don’t. Since I have you on the line, could I ask you a personal question? You don’t have to answer it”

“Ah. . .I don’t know. . .I guess so.”

“How do you feel about Seth?”

“I don’t know. I guess he is okay.”

“How is your mom doing?”

“She cries a lot at night when she thinks I’m asleep. Dusty refreshed the computer screen. “I don’t like to see my mother so sad.”

“Would you like to see Seth? I can arrange it.”

“Really! Ah. . . I think so. . .where?”

“Here at my office.” Moses closed his door. He heard Seth’s voice in the outer office.

“I’d have to ask my mother.”

“Tell you what, maybe you and I could make this a secret between the two of us. If your mother says no, then you won’t get to see him.”

“Yeah.” Dusty’s cell phone beeped, Cyndi. She let the call go to voice mail.

“You could meet with Seth and then tell your mother what happened. If your mother needs to get mad at someone, she could get mad at me. Are you interested?”

“What do I have to do?

“Tomorrow is Friday. That means you mother will be working. And—”

“She goes to a lot of meetings about the horse ranch.”

“Horse ranch?”

“Yeah. Mom bought a horse ranch in North Carolina.”

“That sounds exciting. You must love horses?”

“I do.”

“When are you moving?”

“I don’t know. Soon”

“Well, that makes it all the more important for you to see Seth. I’m assuming your mother will be gone for the day and you’ll be home. Right?”


“I can have a cab pick you up at, say, two o’clock tomorrow. Tell the driver you want to go to the Bank of America building at 44 Wall Street. When you go inside, give your name to the concierge. He will personally escort you to my office. We’ll surprise Seth.”

“What if he hates me?”

“Trust me, Dusty. He does not hate you or your mother.”

“Do you really think I should do this?”

“Yes.” Moses said.

Silence. Dusty walked to the window, looked at Central Park. She surprised herself. She wanted to see Seth again. And she wanted her mother to stop crying at night.


“I’ll do it.”


Posted On 04/28/2015 06:17:26

April 28



“Slow down, young lady. Listen to what I said. I said I want to move. I did not say we are moving. We’ll talk about it before we make a final decision. And after what happened last night, I’ve had it with my quote, friends. I don’t want to have a thing to do with them. Now that Seth is gone. I need to get out of the city and get a fresh start.”

“But, Mom, this is home,” Dusty pleaded.

“I know this is home. I want a new home.”

“What could be better than here?”

“I made a few phone calls today. How about we buy us a horse farm near Asheville, North Carolina?”


“Wait a minute,” Moses said, “I can’t hear.”

The loudspeaker blared, “Will all passengers for Delta Air Lines, flight 9932 to Atlanta, Georgia, please report to terminal 4, gate B32 for departure?”

Standing next to the JFK loud speaker, Moses added, “Was that loud enough for you, Seth?”

“Then some.” Seth stepped aside for a man running down the corridor, his strapped, carry-on bag bouncing off his hip.

“Moses, you didn’t have to come all the way down here to see me off. I’m a big boy. I can do this.”

Moses put his scarred hand on Seth’s shoulder. “I know you can do it. The question is, should I let you do it? Abuja, Nigeria is 5,300 miles from here and here is Pamela.”

Frustrated with his life and all that had happened to him, Seth snapped, “The rebels have three hostages we want back. You pay me the big bucks. Now let me go get them.”

Moses threw up his hands in protest, “Slow down, bro. Don’t get upset with me. I’m not the guy you decked at the party.”

Seth sagged against a post. “Sorry.”

“How long has it been since the two of you broke up?”

Seth looked at the calendar on his wristwatch. “Fifteen days, and. . .I don’t know some hours.”

“Do you still love her?”

“To the bone, Moses. To the bloody bone.”

“Then what are you, a wuss? Call her. Tell her you’re sorry.”

“Oh,” Seth mocked. “That’s one outstanding plan. Just call her up, huh? Tell her I’m sorry I ruined her life. Then ask her if we could pick up where we left off.” Seth moved his carry-on bag closer to allow three flight attendants, with serious expressions, to continue scurrying down the corridor. “She must hate me with a passion.”

“Okay,” Moses said, resigned. “Enough of that plan. So, what are you doing about your problem?”

“Losing it at the party?” Seth said.


“I had my first session with a PTSD psychologist. I like her. We’re on the same wavelength. I know she can help me.”

“So you can blow off the next person who calls you ‘a baby killer?’”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Do you still have the edge?”

“Do you mean can I go over there and do my job?”

“You know, Seth Collins, I do not authorize you to go over there and get yourself killed.”

Seth laughed. The first one since that fateful night at the ball. “Don’t worry Moses, I’ll be fine.”

“And as for Pamela,” Moses grinned, “You two kids belong together. And I’m going to help make it happen.”


Eleven hours.

Despite the amenities during the flight, sitting in the business elite section had become uncomfortable and boring beyond reasonable endurance. The first hours passed with little notice as Seth reviewed again his plans to rescue three Chevron oil workers kidnapped near Warri, Nigeria, by rebels from the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force. Satisfied with the details of the plan, only one subject remained to fill the long hours.


Seeing the introspection consuming Seth, the surrounding passengers had broken off their attempts to engage him in mindless chatter. The flight attendants also joined with the passengers in dropping their smiles and attempts to engage in pleasant inquires. Only the flight attendant, Monica refused to surrender to Seth’s mood. She was aware men appreciated that she was unmarried, attractive, and endowed. She achieved whatever goal she set for herself when she showed an interest in a man.

She admitted defeat when Seth looked at her with cold eyes. “Please.”

He was what he was. A man who had served six combat tours. Death was routine. Survival was the exception. Maybe he was an animal. A mindless animal that moved from one killing field to another. He admitted it. He was dead standing up. Death had consumed his soul. Nothing left. Nothing left for Pamela.

But was that true? Was he beyond salvageable? Or was there hope for him? Could he recover, become human again.

Maybe Alice Bellingscourt, the PTSD psychologist could save him. He felt a connection with her. And her words, “There’s hope for you, Seth, You know you have a problem, and you want to lick it. I am confident I can help you.”

Magic words.

So there was hope for him. And a new world would open up for him. He’d work with other veterans who had suffered the same hell that almost consumed him. Hug them, tell them, “I love you, bro. I want to help you to become whole again. I beat it. So can you.”

Could it fill his life? Replace Pamela?

Seth felt it. The wetness in his eyes.

Pamela. She was gone—forever.

Seth covered his eyes to shield his pain.


It was what Pamela had expected when she returned home from the office.


The only sound was Dusty sitting at the breakfast table tapping a pen on her schoolbook.

Pamela missed the sounds of life that had once surrounded her. In constant crisis mode, Victoria was often on the telephone heading off serious social gaffes and reviewing expectations on who would rise and fall in her social universe. Gone too were Dusty and Cyndi giggling at a decibel level of a lawnmower. A frequent visitor to the home, the girls’ conversations seldom strayed from preteen fashions, TV, especially Degrassi: The Next Generation, and with growing importance, boys. Cyndi had remained in her own apartment since the catastrophic events of two weeks earlier. Dusty needed her space.

But it was Seth she missed to the core of her soul. The smell and taste of him. His words that he loved her. Their banter on shopping at Walmart. Who would be the boss in their new family? She had recovered enough to maintain some semblance of emotional self-control at work. She disintegrated when alone in the blackness of night. She had found the love of a man. There would be no other.

In frustration, Dusty said, “Can you help me for a minute?”

“Of course, sweetheart. Let me finish making my tea, and I’ll be right with you.”

Teacup in hand, Pamela joined Dusty at the table. “What can I do to help you?”

Dusty rested her head in the palm of her hand. Her grandmother’s influences were rapidly leaving her. “I have to give a report in two days in my Greek philosophy class. Do you know anything about The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man?”

Pamela bit her lip to stifle a smile and a subtle suggestion of laughter. Her knowledge of Greece was limited to several visits including a month on the island of Santorini. “I don’t know anything about it. Tell you what. You and I will tackle supper, and then we’ll go online and see what we can find.

Dusty’s frustration had slipped into intellectual exhaustion “Okay,” she moaned. Pamela had retreated to the refrigerator when Dusty added, “Grandmother called me today. She wants to get together for lunch on Saturday. I told her yes, but I said I was still mad at her for what she had done to Seth.”

“Dusty,” Pamela admonished.

“Well, I am.” She joined Pamela at the refrigerator to review the dinner options.

“Has he called you?”


“I miss him,” Dusty said, surprised at her own admission.

Salmon steaks in hand, Pamela leaned against the refrigerator, closed her eyes. She bit her lip again, this time to keep from crying. “Me too.” She wondered how much longer it would be when the thought of him didn’t devastate her.

Recovered, preparing to broil the steaks, Pamela said, “Sweetheart. I know you don’t want to move and you know I need to move. You and I are going to spend a lot of time talking about it before we make a final decision. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Dusty said hesitantly.

Knowing Dusty’s love of horses and her dream to be a veterinarian, Pamela knew the secret for securing Dusty’s approval to move. Horses—and more horses. She said, “I received a phone call today from a realtor in Asheville. There is a horse farm estate for sale. The farm is on 95 acres and includes horse boarding and training, riding lessons, and breeding. It will be ours if I say yes. You could ride every day and help train the horses. I told her I didn’t think my daughter wanted to move from living in New York City and riding subways.”

Eyes wide-opened, Dusty yelled, “Mother!” She was already riding a Hanoverian horse in a dressage competition at the Olympics.


Posted On 04/21/2015 07:23:38

April 21



Oh my gracious. Victoria was shocked at Pamela’s flushed face, squinting eyes. Seeing the depth of anger on Pamela’s face, she panicked. Had she had made a terrible mistake?


Pamela shielded Victoria from Helen who stood nearby, staring at the confrontation between the two women.

“You damn well know what you did here tonight. Now I know it too. I’m not going to call you my mother. I don’t know if you ever were. I know I’ve had a lifetime of you. So did Daddy. You and me. We’re done. We’ll talk tomorrow when you’re packing.”



With the speed of light, the group of men became aware he was behind them. Words dropped in mid-sentence, sensory perceptions were exacerbated. They pulled away to allow him to reach the bar. Why, they didn’t know. They knew he wasn’t one of them, at best an intruder. What had possessed Pamela to invite him? He was a stain, a distraction on the resplendent ball. He must be shunned, asked to leave.

And they’d admit to their closest confidant, he frightened them.

To a man, they knew of him. Powerfully built, he was a government-sanctioned killer. A dreg on society. Would he kill again? Who would he kill? How did he decide who would live and die? They knew there would never be world peace until governments stopped recruiting legions of killers—like Seth.

One man remained at the bar when the others stepped away.


Seth rested his forearms on the bar, studied him. Thaddeus, the spear point of the attack. The enemy.

Seth sensed it. A foreboding of doom. All he had gained could be lost. Pamela would evaporate into a mist and his demons would return. He’d walked into a trap. There was no escape.

He could change the script. Accept Thaddeus’ taunts. Bite his lip. Hold back his ingrained response to tear the heart out of the enemy. Could he do it? He didn’t know. He knew the outcome if he failed.

“I would like two glasses of Pinot Noir,” Seth said.

Removing his elbow from the bar, Thaddeus stretched himself to overcome his ingrained habit of a perpetual slouch. More important he wanted to top Seth’s five-ten stature.

“Permit me to introduce myself.” Thaddeus prided himself on his University of Oxford training to enunciate each syllable in a word. “My name is Thaddeus Franklin Oliver of the TXP conglomerate. I am chairperson of the ball.”

“Sir,” Seth said, as if addressing a wet behind the ears second lieutenant from officer candidate school and a “newbie” to combat.

It was a gentleman’s smirk, mildly offensive, on Thaddeus’ face. “I have been informed that you are Pamela Brighton’s escort for the evening.”

Seth nodded, rested his hands on the two wine glass stems.

“Mr. Collins, I believe.”


“Yes, of course, Seth. You do have an invitation to be here tonight?”

“Do I need to show it to you?” Seth mocked. He realized he was slipping deeper into the trap.

Thaddeus laughed. “No, I suppose not. Otherwise, why would you be here?” Thaddeus and the men surrounding him snickered.

Holding the wine glasses, Seth said, “If you will excuse me.” The steel trap door on the cage was closing. He needed to escape.

Thaddeus held up his hands. “Please, Mr. Collins. . .excuse me. . .Seth. How could I have ever forgotten such an . . .unusual name. Seth, don’t leave. My apologies if I have offended you. You’re a guest tonight. I want to welcome you and to know you better.”

Several men in the group snickered again.

“Surely you will not deny me the opportunity to meet my responsibilities?”

Surrounded by the men, his back to the bar, Seth heard the steel cage door slam shut.


The bartender stepped away when Seth returned the wine glasses to the bar. Others began to gather around the fringes of the crowd. Pamela remained with her mother on the far side of the immense ballroom.

Seth dropped his arms, returned to his combat mindset. The men who surrounded him would not attack him. They were older, soft men with giant intellects and thin skulls that would shatter from a single blow. Nor would Thaddeus attack him. Such brutish ways were beneath his pompous manner. No, their assault would be psychological. Taunt him into making a mistake—destroy him.

Sweeping his hands to acknowledge the men that surrounded him, Thaddeus said. “Tell me Seth, have you have met any of these gentlemen?”

Seth said nothing, focused instead on Thaddeus’ eyes signaling an attack.

Pointing to a gentlemen with silver hair who stood several inches north of six feet, Thaddeus, said, “Seth, this is Theodore Collingsworth of the Dentforth Group. Theodore, you must employ what, three-hundred-thousand employees around the world?”

“Closer to four,” Theodore said.

“How many men do you employ, Seth?”

Seth remained silent, but he was no longer alone. Surrounding him, he saw their faces. The marines who had fought and died alongside him. The nineteen year-old kid who died on his first day in combat. The new dad who begged Seth not to let him die. The young female medic who cried she’d never be called “Mom.” All of them returned to protect Seth, cover his flanks. That’s what marines did.

Seth saw the first suggestion of frustration in Thaddeus’ eyes. Thaddeus pointed to a short, fat man with pasty skin. “Paul, you must have ten billion dollars in your investments.”

Paul waved his fingers suggesting a higher amount.

“How much money do you have, Seth?”

Seth smiled, said nothing. He was winning the battle. Thaddeus’ face reflected frustration he was losing the fight to anger Seth.

“Perhaps, Seth, you made a mistake being here tonight. Maybe you misread the invitation. You belong in some bar in Hunts Point in the Bronx. Oh, and don’t worry about Pamela. We are such special friends. I’ll see that she gets home safely.”

Seth clutched his fists. He had taken Thaddeus’ toughest punch and remained standing. He wanted to speak but choked on his words. Thaddeus was a little, insignificant man, no taller than the heel of his shoe. The dead marines cries of “Ooh Rah” rang in Seth’s ear.

Clearly unsettled that he had failed to generate a response, Thaddeus looked at the group of men for support, reinforcement. He was, after all, chairperson for the International Alliance for World Peace. Men at war had thwarted his years of effort to help achieve a world at rest. He was one of them, Seth. A mercenary who wallowed in the death of innocents. The impoverished who could not escape from Seth’s barbaric weapons of war. It was Seth and his ilk that had driven terrorists to assassinate his brother in Cairo. There must be an accounting of Seth’s high crimes against humanity.

Seth reached for the wine glasses.

Pamela saw the gathering of the guests. Seth, no other explanation. She sprinted as fast as her gown would allow to rescue him.

Thaddeus’ grim face announced his coup de grâce.

“Tell me, Seth, How many innocent women and children did you and your men kill?”

Seth’s head exploded with images of dead marines cries of anguish for the label of war criminal. The young female medic who died shielding two Iraqi children demanded retribution.

“You black-hearted son of a—”Seth never finished. He body slammed Thaddeus hard to the floor.

“Seth,” Pamela screamed.


Posted On 04/16/2015 05:49:02

April 16




“The Elizabeth Montague Foundation’s annual charity ball is in two weeks. I would like you to be my date, meet my friends.”

“It’s black tie, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Can you be comfortable with that?”

“I had a Marine Corps dress uniform. I can handle black tie.”

“Oh, Seth, I am so happy. I promise, we’re going to have a wonderful time.”



Seth never saw it coming. The perfect ambush. He was the first casualty—He wasn’t the last one.


He had worn a Debenhams tuxedo that chaffed and choked his thick neck, pressed against his heavy arms and legs. Wrapped in a champagne-colored, Jovani sleeveless evening dress with a lace overlay, she wore a 10-caret diamond necklace.

Fashionably late to make a grand entrance to introduce him to the social icons of the city, Seth and Pamela stopped at the entrance to the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Ballroom.

“What’s wrong, Seth?”

“This ballroom.”

Pamela linked arms. “Beautiful, isn’t it.”

“Sweetheart, I’ve never seen anything like it. I swear I could put two big houses in this room. I don’t see any pillars. How do they do it?”

“I don’t know. Honey, look at those three oval crystal chandeliers. See how the light on the crystals sparkle across the ceiling?”

“Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. They’re so big. And those windows, they must be, what, eighteen feet high.”

“We’ll have to take a look. At night, it’s one of my favorite places in the city. You can see Central Park and the skyline of Midtown Manhattan. The lights on the building are breathtaking.”

Seth kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you for bringing me here tonight.”

“Thank you for loving me, Seth. Come, I am anxious for you to meet my friends.”


They were there. All of them

Two hundred faces of the beautiful people whose wealth was beyond measure, bestowed with impeccable social credentials. Lords of industry and commerce— titans of Wall Street and mega mergers. They joined with grand dames and bejeweled matriarchs to watch them. The couple at the ballroom entrance.

For many, conversations were altered or interrupted, as elbows were touched signaling they had arrived. They did not stare at the couple. Social etiquette would not allow such crass behavior. But it did not prohibit them from being infected with a sense of unease and anxiousness. A stolen glance. Could an unfortunate incident temper their achievement of attending the most preeminent event of the social season? Then their conversations began, muted, intense.

“Oh, my,” Joan said. “She did bring him. There has to be some explanation?”

Helen confessed, “I feel so sorry for Pamela. What am I going to do? I have to say hello to her.”

Margaret wondered, “He looks like. . .what does he look like. . .dangerous”.

Alice demanded, “Really, Harold, you must do something about this. The man has no business being here.”

“What happened to Thaddeus and Pamela?” Catherine interrupted, “They were such a beautiful couple. Where’s Victoria? Maybe she can explain.”


Looking at Seth and Pamela at the ballroom entrance, Victoria smiled, said nothing to the puzzled Duke of Manningford. There wasn’t any need. The Sheffield name would survive the evening.


The polite guests acknowledged their presence with a slight nod and thin smile as Pamela led Seth through the cocktail crowd. Some stared at the man who had admitted killing people. Others refused to acknowledge his presence and turned away.

Seth picked up the crowd’s hostility in an instant. They knew who he was and what he had done. Ambush. He had been betrayed. Pamela had told him earlier that there may some initial difficulties meeting her friends. She had assured him everything would smooth out once her friends had become acquainted with him.

What hurt Seth the most was Pamela was unaware she had been betrayed too.

“Come, Seth. I want you to meet a dear friend of mine.” They hurried to catch the woman who had turned away.

“Gloria,” Pamela called out. The woman turned, forced a smile.

“I missed seeing you at the Sister Angeline benefit.”

“I was ill.” Gloria responded in a hurried voice.

“Nothing serious I hope.”

“No, I’m fine,” Gloria said, her voice flat.

Pamela ignored her friend’s unusual haughty manner. “Gloria, I would like to introduce you to Seth Collins.”

Transfixed on Pamela, Gloria said, “Mr. Collins” with only a momentary glance in his direction.

“Seth, this is Gloria Reynolds. Her daughter Jennifer and I attended Julliard School together. Jennifer is a pianist too.”

“It’s my pleasure, ma’am.” To shield Pamela from embarrassment, Seth didn’t extend his hand.

Pamela pressed forward, ignoring Gloria’s rejection, “Tell me, Gloria, is Jennifer still on tour in Europe? I know the last time I talked to her I—“

“Excuse me,” Gloria interrupted. “It’s wonderful to see you again, Pamela. It has been too long. I apologize for not having called you. I would love to stay and visit, but I must return to my husband. Please call me, my dear. We’ll do lunch.” She looked at Seth, said nothing, and disappeared into the crowd.


Pamela sagged. “Oh, Seth. What have I done?”

Holding hands, he led her to the window as the crowd opened up a path for them.

“You haven’t done anything wrong,” Seth said, squeezing her hand.

Pamela looked out at the gaiety of the lights defining the skyline, felt the pain of her crushed heart. “Mother?”


“She did this. All of it. Darling, you didn’t have a chance tonight. My mother set you up so you’d fail.”

“”I’m sorry, Pamela, this happened to you. I—”

“It happened to us,” Pamela said sharply. “Seth, you and I are us.” She anchored her clutch purse under her arm, swept her eyes across the window. Can you see them?”


“The people behind us. Their reflections in the window. They’re watching us, Seth. All of them. Can you see them?”

Seth saw many were watching them while others had turned away. “Yes,” he said. Pamela continued to look at the crowds’ image in the window.

“I can only imagine what terrible things they are saying about us.”

“We should leave,” Seth urged.

“And let them defeat us?” Pamela snapped. “No way. Seth, you never quit on your men. We’re staying. I’ll be damned if I am going to let them beat us.”

Pamela rested her head on Seth’s shoulder when he wrapped his arm around her. “You know what hurts the most?” she said, her words trailing off.

Seth also heard a sadness in her voice as it modulated to a higher pitch. “No.”

“All those people behind us. I called them my friends. I’ve known them for years. Then I fell in love with a wonderful man.” Pamela kissed Seth on the cheek. “I wanted them to meet you. . .share my joy in finding you.” She brushed away a tear.” And they said no. They rejected me.”

Pamela peered out the window. “What was I thinking? All these years I spent with them going to parties, theatre, benefits. And they’re nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. Why couldn’t I see that? All they care about is who has the most money and the biggest home. Their first thought on anything is what’s in it for me. Their religion is their social status. Which invitation they should accept” Will they be seen by the right people? And to think I was in the middle of all of that.”

She hugged herself to regain control of the moment, sniffled to fight back the tears. “And you know what hurts the most? My mother is the worst one of the bunch. She sacrificed me to preserve her image.”

“So what do you want to do”?” Seth asked.

“So what do I want to do?” Pamela echoed. Pamela’s manner was purposeful, her voice firm. “Would you please get us a drink, sweetheart? I’m going find my mother.”


Watching Pamela approach her, Victoria restrained herself from smiling. While suffering humiliation, Pamela would quickly recover, and recognize Seth was a serious mistake in judgment. And soon to follow, she’d orchestrate Thaddeus’ resurrection in Pamela’s heart.

She stepped away from the Duke of Manningford. She wanted privacy to receive Pamela’s minor words of anguish.

“Pamela, my dear.”

Oh my gracious. Victoria was shocked at Pamela’s flushed face, squinting eyes. Seeing the depth of anger on Pamela’s face, she panicked. Had she had made a terrible mistake?


Pamela shielded Victoria from Helen who stood nearby, staring at the confrontation between the two women.

“You damn well know what you did here tonight. Now I know it too. I’m not going to call you my mother. I don’t know if you ever were. I know I’ve had a lifetime of you. So did Daddy. You and me. We’re done. We’ll talk tomorrow when you’re packing.”


Posted On 04/14/2015 05:12:58

April 14





“Oh, God, no,” Thaddeus groaned. “Please tell me Pamela will not invite him to the ball. It would be a disaster.”

“I’m sorry. Only Pamela can answer that question.”

Victoria knew the answer. Pamela had become blind to her social position and responsibilities. Her daughter would invite him. Thaddeus was right. It would be a social disaster, a painful lesson for Pamela.

And it would be an acceptable social disaster.

Pamela is a Sheffield.—she needs to act like one.


They had exchanged pleasantries, of sorts. Seth said a warm hello to Dusty when he arrived to pick up Pamela for dinner with Moses and his wife Ashlyn. Dusty shrugged, answered with a perfunctory “”Hi.” Victoria had left earlier with friends for an evening at the theatre. Pamela remained in her room drinking a glass of wine while listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. She had dressed for the evening but wanted Seth and Dusty to spend some time together.

It was uncomfortable for them. They didn’t speak. Silent Seth on the couch, Grim Dusty sitting across from him. They stared at each other until it became embarrassing. Seth decided on small talk. There was no response.


Their eyes wandered from one object to another until it became boring.

Giving up, Dusty jumped out of the chair, threw her arms up in frustration. “This is lame. I’m going to my room.”

“Wait,” Seth said.

Dusty stopped, planted her hands on her hips, frowned. “What?”

“I’m surprised at you. You’re losing your spunk.”

“What are you talking about?” she snapped. “Mother told me what that means.”

“Here we are all alone, and you haven’t told me how much you hate me.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to play that stupid game.”

“Then I can’t take you out for pizza. We won’t have anything to talk about.”

Dusty let out a long loud sigh to transmit her opinion on the subject. “Whatever,” and stepped away to return to her bedroom.”

Seth left the couch, threw out his hands in his own display of frustration. “Come on, Dusty. Cut me some slack. At least play fair. Give me a chance.”

Dusty stopped, looked at Seth.

Seth saw more than Dusty considering his request to stay. There was also a look of puzzlement, as if she was asking herself the question on who was this man. “Fine.” She returned to the chair, said nothing, Seth retreated to the couch.

She removed a doily from the side table, wrapped it around her fingers, looked at Seth. Her sarcastic edge was gone. “You’re different than I expected.”

Seth locked his fingers, planted his hands in his lap. Other than earlier at the restaurant, he could not remember the last time he had talked to a young girl. He was surprised how comfortable he felt. “What did you expect?”

“I don’t know. Not you.”

“Don’t want to yell at me? Say how much you hate me?

She returned the doily to the end table, shook her head. “No.”

“Well, Dusty, if I had to guess, right now you are wondering how this all shakes out between your mother and me and where you fit into the picture.”

Dusty bit her lower lip, hunched her shoulders. Her eyes were puffy. Seth believed she willed herself not to cry. He saw the pensiveness in her eyes.

“Do you love my mother?”

The question was unexpected but welcomed. Seth had rehearsed the words to tell Pamela how much he loved her. He needed the practice.

“Yes, Dusty, I love your mother. I love her very much.”

“Mother says she may love you.”

“That would make me very happy.”

“Are you going to marry my mother?

“I haven’t asked her.”

Dusty considered his answer. She swiped the tears pooling in her eyes but couldn’t wipe away the anxious. “I don’t want a father.”

“I know that.”

“Do you have any kids?”

“No. No children of my own.” Seth scratched the back of his neck, considered his answer. But I had a lot of kids. I guess. . .hundreds of them. And I loved every one of them.” His words stirred up a parade of faces passing in review.

“You’re upset,”

“Sorry.” Overwhelmed, Seth felt the wetness in his eyes—the blur of his vision.

Puzzled, she said, “I don’t understand? How can you have hundreds of kids?”

“Dusty, I didn’t plan on going through this tonight. I’m sorry I even brought it up. Can we just skip it and move on to something else?”

“No, I want to know.”

Seth sniffled, rubbed his nose. “They were young marines, most of them on their first combat deployment. They were so scared. They didn’t want to die. I promised I would do everything I could to keep them alive, send them home to their families. Sometimes I failed. And it hurt to the core of my gut.” Seth pulled out a handkerchief, blew his nose. “Sorry. Apologize. Hard to talk about it.”

Dusty nodded, offered a weak, “Yeah.” It unsettled her to see a grown man cry.

“I hope you understand.”

“I don’t understand war. What you told me.”

“I hope you never do.”

“It must have been awful for you,” Dusty said.

The emotions of the moment silenced them.

Recovered, Seth moved to the edge of the couch, leaned down, rested his elbows on his knees. “Dusty, can I take you out for a pizza sometime?”

“Promise I don’t have to yell at you.”

“Works for me.”


Standing at the opened door, ready for a festive evening, Pamela had said, “Now, Dusty, I want you to promise me you will be in bed by ten and lights out at eleven.

“Oh, Mother, I’m not a child.”

“Ten o’clock, young lady.”

Seth and Dusty’s eyes locked. There was a suggestion of a smile between them. Pamela saw it, and her heart soared with cautious hope.


Settling back into the cab, Pamela said, “I’m looking forward to dinner with Moses and his wife this evening. I really like him. I am anxious to meet her.”

“You will love Ashlyn. He may have been a former gunnery sergeant but she’s the boss in her family. ”

“If we were a family, Seth.” Pamela teased, “would I be the boss?”

Seth kissed Pamela. “Was there ever a question you wouldn’t be the boss?”

Pamela wrapped her hands around Seth’s arm, leaned into him. “Maybe I should play fair. We could trade. I’ll take one day and you take the next one. What do you think?”

“Sounds good, sweetheart.”

It was Pamela’s turn, she kissed him. “I love you, Seth Collins. I will love you forever.”

“And I love you, Pamela Brighton.”

“I think you and Dusty are making progress. I know my daughter. She won’t admit it, but she likes you.”

“Right now, she’s trying to sort you and me out, and how she fits into the picture. I like her. I really do. I’ll take whatever time is necessary to make her feel comfortable with me.”

“Thank you, Seth, for having patience with her.”

“Trust me, Pamela, I’m enjoying it. Your daughter and I have a date.”

“A date no less. Sounds interesting. What kind of date do you have with Dusty?”


Pamela chuckled, squeezed Seth’s arm. “Why am I not surprised. Excuse me, Seth. Driver, could you take a longer route to the address. I need a few extra minutes.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“What’s up?” Seth said.

“Darling, we need to talk.”

“I’m listening.”

“Sweetheart, you know where you and I are headed.”

“Something about growing old together.”

“Something about growing old together,” Pamela echoed. “I know you struggle with my wealth. I can’t change my life, make the money go away. It’s who I am.”

“I understand who you are, and I’ll never ask you to change. It’s something I’m going to have to learn how to live with it. Sweetheart, I have had tougher challenges. I’ll be okay. I would like to help you spend some of it.”

Pamela was caught off-guard, surprised. “What do you want to do?”

“I would like to set up a trust fund to help the Wounded Warrior Project. There is such a need. Other than that, don’t get upset if you catch me in Walmart.”

“Oh Seth,” Pamela laughed. “You tickle me. We’ll do the trust fund together, and I’ll go with you to Walmart.”

“Great. I’ll get you the biggest, floppy, purple hat I can find when we go shopping.”

“And I’ll get you a neon yellow sweatshirt that says ‘I Love Batman.’”

“I think we’re good to go,” Seth said.

Pamela’s gaiety evaporated. “Seth, there is another issue we need to discuss.”

“What is it?”

“I have many friends. It is important to me that they meet you. I want them to know that you are the last man I will ever love.”

“Of course I want to meet them.”

“The Elizabeth Montague Foundation’s annual charity ball is in two weeks. I would like you to be my date, meet my friends.”

“It’s black tie, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Can you be comfortable with that?”

“I had a Marine Corps dress uniform. I can handle black tie.”

“Oh, Seth, I am so happy. I promise, we’re going to have a wonderful time.”


Posted On 04/09/2015 07:58:16

April 9





Pamela’s smile was broad. She and Seth had a chance after all. “Honey, I think we have done enough talking today. What do you think?”


“There’s still time for a movie and popcorn.”

“Can I pick out the movie?”

“Only if you give me a hug first.”

They hugged for the longest minute.



It was not an ordinary committee meeting. They never were. Opulence and high purpose were the cornerstones of any committee meeting attended by Victoria Sheffield, particularly the Elizabeth Montague Foundation’s annual charity ball. Charged with providing scholarships to Ivy League schools, the century-old foundation focused on assisting able and gifted children living in and around the city. Unlike any other charity, attendance at the annual ball was by invitation only with a minimum ticket price of fifty thousand for each of the two hundred guests. The rich and famous often engaged in a bidding war for tickets to ensure their names would remain on the guest list of the most prestigious social event of the season.

The exclusivity of the guests was not limited to the ball. Overseeing the arrangements for the annual ball was the president’s steering committee consisting of fourteen members. Each member had contributed one or more millions of dollars to ensure a seat at the committee table. Victoria’s contribution of three million entitled her to sit in the vice president’s chair while Thaddeus Franklin Oliver’s five million dollar contribution placed him in the president’s chair.

The committee meeting, held in Thaddeus’ apartment in the SoHo district in Lower Manhattan, had been productive. A chamber group from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra agreed to perform and world famous chef Giovanni Lombardi promised to oversee the dinner of Royal Osetra caviar and pan roasted lobster. The gala event of dinner and an evening of dancing was set for the prestigious Mandarin Ballroom.

Victoria sat with Franklin at the head of the 19th century Italian Trestle dining table while the waitstaff stood silently against the wall, next to a Rembrandt self-portrait worth millions. Anchored on the opposite wall, again worth millions, was a Renoir self-portrait. A slight nod from Thaddeus ushered the waitstaff back into the kitchen in preparation of serving a late lunch of quail with braised pork jowl.

Nodding and gesturing were an acceptable and quick means of communication for Thaddeus. He had succeeded his father in overseeing the international oil and mining conglomerate TXP, which had substantial holdings on six continents. Intelligent, handsome, and only forty-four, he had remained single since the death of his wife five years earlier. He and Pamela had occasionally attended charity and social events together during the past two years as well as several of his polo matches.

Raising her crystal glass of French Bourgogne Pinot Noir wine, Victoria said to the committee,” Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe a toast is in order for the outstanding leadership Thaddeus has given us. The ball this year will be the finest the foundation has sponsored. Congratulations, Thaddeus, for a job well done.” A hearty round of applause followed the toast.

“Thank you very much,” he said.

The conversation broke down into small groups around the table while they waited for the luncheon to begin. The waitstaff remaining in the dining room ensured the wine glasses were never empty.

“Well, tell us, Victoria,” Helen asked from the end of the table. “Do I have to ask who will be your escort to the ball?”

Victoria smiled—politely. Helen’s question was fortuitous. Flirting with eighty, Helen was hard of hearing, requiring Victoria to raise her voice in order to answer the question.


The start of her plan to maintain the honor of the Sheffield name.

Speaking loud enough for Helen to hear, and more importantly, for the others, Victoria said, “No, Helen, there is no need for you to ask. The Duke of Manningford from Kingston upon Thames will again come over from England and graciously escort me.”

Helen clasped her hands. “Oh, that is such wonderful news. He is such a charming man. . .and so worldly. I swear, he has been everywhere for the United Nations.”

“And your charming daughter Pamela,” Helen continued. “Such a sweet girl. Tell us Thaddeus, will you be escorting Pamela again this year?”

He was stunned. The unexpected question was painful to answer. The room became quiet as the committee members watched him struggle for an answer.

Victoria relished his discomfort. She allowed a few additional seconds of silence to pass. For her plan to work, he needed to suffer more of the pain he had received from Pamela’s rejection.

Satisfied she had achieved her desired result, she said, “If I may, Thaddeus, allow me to answer the question.”

He nodded, unable to mask his discomfort at Helen’s question.

Again, Victoria spoke loud enough to ensure there would be no missed words, rubbed her hands to suggest the subject was difficult. Her serious countenance conveyed the gravity of her answer.

“Helen, I am unable to answer your question about Pamela attending the ball this year. As many of you know, she has been a guest for many years. She has not informed me of her plans.”

Victoria was pleased with her incomplete answer. Again, perfect. She allowed the group to digest her comments while they formed their questions on what had happened to Pamela. Victoria sipped her wine, suggesting she had closed the discussion. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Thaddeus struggle to regain a pleasant manner. The group began discussing Victoria’s announcement.

Victoria leaned into Thaddeus. “I’m sorry Pamela declined your invitation to escort her to the ball this year. I must confess I was distressed when I heard the news.”

“I’m sure you must know, Victoria, that I have a special affection for Pamela.”

“I am aware of your feelings for her. You know, I am your strongest supporter. You two would be the perfect couple.”

“Thank you.”

“Is Pamela ill?” Margaret asked. “I saw her two weeks ago at Ambassador Charleston’s reception.”

“No, Margaret. She is well. Thank you for thoughtful inquiry.”

“Please tell us,” Alice said, “what has happened?”

Oh, thank you, Alice, for that question. This is so much easier than I expected.

“Alice, Pamela is seeing a new gentleman.”

Thaddeus was visibly shocked at the revelation.

Helen continued while Thaddeus squirmed in his chair. “Returning her wine glass to the table, she said, “Well, are you going to leave us hanging? This is wonderful news. Tell us all about him. Do we know his family? Where does he work? When are we going to meet him?”

Thaddeus waited for Victoria’s response. He had plans for Pamela’s future. Losing Pamela to some interloper was not an option.

Elbow on the table, finger tips touching her face, wearing a sad expression, Victoria said, “I must confess that the question is difficult for me to answer. I know so little about the man.”

Victoria, ignoring the guests, straightened the salad fork on the linen napkin. Pause, Victoria, pause. Capture all of their attention.

Anxious, Joan pressed, “Well, surely you must know something about him?”

“I only know that Seth is uneducated and has never held a job”

“Oh,” the entire group gasped.

“I can’t believe it,” Margaret said, pressing her hands to her chest.

“This is terrible news,” Helen moaned.

Catherine arched her back, returned her hands to her lap, “Why is Pamela seeing this. . .man?”

“He never went to college and has never worked?” Thaddeus said in disbelief. “There must be an explanation. Pamela would never make such a mistake.”

“I’ll bet he forced his attentions on her,” Willard said. “Yes, that’s it, he’s after her money, blackmail or something.”

“Poor Pamela.” Alice said. “How shocking.”

“There’s more,” Victoria said. She struggled to hide her joy in destroying Seth’s relationship with Pamela.

Silence swept the room with all of the group’s attention focused on Victoria.

Victoria rested her hand on Thaddeus’ arm. With the most concerned look she could muster, she said, “I know you are chairperson for the International Alliance for World Peace and that you abhor war. I know terrorists assassinated your brother in Cairo. I’m sorry. Seth was a soldier and fought in the war. He told me he killed people.”

“Oh, God, no,” Thaddeus groaned. “Please tell me Pamela will not invite him to the ball. It would be a disaster.”

“I’m sorry. Only Pamela can answer that question.”

Victoria knew the answer. Pamela had become blind to her social position and responsibilities. Her daughter would invite him. Thaddeus was right. It would be a social disaster, a painful lesson for Pamela.

And, it would be an acceptable social disaster.

Pamela is a Sheffield.—she needs to act like one.


Posted On 04/07/2015 04:15:28

April 7




“No, I will not permit it.” Victoria startled herself with her loud announcement, fearful she had wakened Pamela and Dusty. A minute later, she was satisfied. The only sound was the longcase clock declaring that the six a.m. hour had arrived.

Despite her weariness, she surprised herself with a smile. The honor of the Sheffield name was at stake and she had the beginnings of a plan to save it.


Pamela’s soft knocking on the bedroom door and calling her name hadn’t solicited any response. The flush of the toilet signaled she wasn’t asleep. That was good. The silence didn’t signal she was unwelcome. Pamela decided that Dusty was in one of her rare ambivalent moods with no opinion on any subject, including receiving visitors in her bedroom.

Having ignored watching the intensity of the storm pounding the city, Dusty had chosen to remain secluded in her room for much of the day. Like her granddaughter, Victoria had also spent most of the day resting, reading in her bedroom.

Pamela had hoped her daughter would grow weary of the solitude and join her for their usual Sunday afternoon of watching a movie, eating popcorn. Instead, her only glimpse of Dusty was when she had made a quick forage into the kitchen to retrieve a Coke and a bag of chips.

Patience finally surrendered to worry that something serious had happened during dinner the previous evening. There wasn’t any sense that Seth had violated her trust in him. It was obvious that he had said something that left Dusty unsettled, confused.

It was time for a mother-daughter talk.

She found Dusty sitting on the bed, legs drawn up, chin on her knees, watching a rerun of Gossip Girls. Discarded at the foot of the bed were an empty bag of chips and a Coke can.

“Can I get you something to eat, sweetheart?”

Shrugging her shoulders, Dusty continued to watch the program. “No, I’m good.”

“Honey, I know something has upset you. Can we talk?”

“I said I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“I know. But that’s hard for a mother to accept when they see their daughter so upset. We’ve never had secrets between us. Please.”

Turning the TV off with another shrug, Dusty muttered “Whatever,” and scooted up, resting her back against the headboard. Pamela sat on the edge of the bed.

“Sweetheart, what did Seth say to you that has you so upset?”

Dusty ignored her mother as she examined the opposite wall that held no interest for her. “Are you in love with him?”


Returning her focus to her mother, Dusty frowned, pursed her lips together. “Yes, Mother. Are you in love with Seth?”

Pamela had some idea of what might be troubling Dusty but that question had never come up on her radar. “Am I in love with Seth? Honey, I don’t know. . .Maybe. I care for him very much. I know that much.”

“So you are in love with him? Are you going to get married?” Tears pooled in the corner of her eyes. She brushed her hair away from her face.

“Oh, sweetheart.” Pamela moved to hug her.

Dusty raised her hands in protest as the first tear fell onto her cheek. “No, Mother, I don’t need a hug. I need to know if you are going to marry Seth someday.”

Pamela slid away from Dusty as she fought to control her own tears. “Honey, I don’t know. I know we care very much for each other. . .maybe someday it could happen.”

“What happens to me if you get married? Are going to ship me off to some school in Europe like they do in the movies?”

“Oh, Dusty,” Pamela said, cupping her face. “ That’s a terrible thing to say to your mother.”

“Well, are you?” Dusty wiped away the last of her tears. Her eyes, intense, locked onto her mother.

Pamela sagged, hurt by the questions. Pausing to regain some sense of composure, she said, “Sweetheart, I would never to do that to you. Never! I love you. It’s going to break my heart when you leave me one day and go to college. What on earth did Seth say that has you so upset?”

“He said I hurt you.”

“Hurt me?”

“Yes. He said I hurt you because I want him to go away.”

Pamela brushed away an errant tear that had run down her own cheek.

“Is that true, Mother?”

The truth. Dusty had to hear the truth.

“Yes, it upsets me. You are the most important person in my life. It hurts when I’ve met a man you don’t like. It makes it very hard for me. I want you to be happy. I also want to be in love again. Is that so terrible?”

Dusty rubbed her eyes, cleared her vision, and looked at her mother’s sad face. “Seth said we should pretend to like each other when you’re around.”


“He said I could yell at him all I want when we’re alone. He even said he’d take me out for pizza so I could yell at him some more.”

Pamela chuckled. “Oh, my gracious. I can’t believe he said that.”

Dusty resisted her own chuckle, but a thin smile escaped. “He said he liked me. That I’ve got spunk. Mother, what’s spunk?”

Pamela chuckled again. “Spunk means you’re a strong person. You have your own ideas and you’ll fight for them. You won’t let people push you around. Are you telling me, Dusty Brighton, that you like him?”

“He’s different.”

“You like him.”

“No, I hate him,” Dusty said without any conviction in her voice.

“I don’t believe you”

“I know I don’t want him to be my father. I don’t ever want to have another father.”

“I can understand why you feel that way. What about a friend? Would you feel the same way?”

“I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”

“How would you feel if I got married someday and my husband just wanted to be your friend? He wouldn’t try to be your father.”

“You’re talking about Seth.”

“No, I’m not,” Pamela said with little conviction.

“Yes, you are. I see the way you look at him.”

“Honey, I’ve told we just met.”

“My girlfriend Amanda told me her parents got married a month after they met.”

“Okay, sweetheart, let’s talk about Seth. Let’s pretend that Seth and I do get married someday, and he tells you all he wants is to be your friend.”

“Are you saying that if you two got married he wouldn’t try to be my father?”

“Yes. Let’s pretend that happened.”

“That’s crazy. What if Seth beats on our bathroom door like he did?”

“Do you really believe Seth would do that?”

The questioned surprised Dusty. Pamela knew the answer could help define the future for both of them. Dusty returned to her examination of the uninteresting wall. She sniffled and rubbed her nose.

“Do you think he would do that, sweetheart?”

Dusty quit her examination of the wall.

“I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you get to know Seth better, then ask yourself that question. Fair?”

Dusty stared at her mother. Pamela could see the struggle on her face. Did she want to spend time with Seth? Would he beat on the bathroom door? At last, Dusty relaxed, smiled.


Pamela’s smile was broad. She and Seth had a chance after all. “Honey, I think we have done enough talking today. What do you think?”


“There’s still time for a movie and popcorn.”

“Can I pick out the movie?”

“Only if you give me a hug first.”

They hugged for the longest minute.


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