She was walking down the street of one of the greatest cities in the world. IN awe of the fact that she was there in the first place, it didn’t matter that she had been living in London for six-months, she was still gazing up at all the buildings excited to be there even in the gloom of the foggy day. She had thought she would never get there in the first place.
Checking her watch, she realized that she was going to be late to meet Steve if she didn’t pick up the pace. She tried concentrating on where she needed to go rather than on what was going on around her, as a result when she turned left onto Walton she ran smack dab into a very large muscular chest. At the same time, she was rudely muscled into the wall with her arms jacked up behind her. While one set of hands quickly grabbed her bag and camera, and another set quickly searched her person.
“Look, just take my bag;” she said weakly, “I really don’t have anything else.”
“Who are you?” asked a deep male voice.
“I didn’t know muggers needed to know their victims names,” she said as she was turned around to face three dark suited men. One blondish and vaguely familiar and two dark haired me who looked like cops although one was slightly darker skinned than the other but they both had extremely expressionless faces behind their dark glasses. Carlene thought they rather resembled Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from Alice in Wonderland.
“We aren’t going to mug you ma’am,” said the darker one, he was the one who had spoken earlier, “Now, who are you?”
“My Name is Carlene Bennet, who are you and why did you search me?” she asked indignantly.
The dark haired man began to say, “We ask the questions…” when he was cut off by the blonde man who spoke with a faint southern accent.
“Please let me apologize. My men thought you were going to harm me. I must admit you nearly knocked me down coming around the corner like that.”
She realized whom she had barreled into while he spoke, “Oh My God! I am talking to Andrew Carter.” She thought to herself.”
“No, I apologize; my friends have said my manner of walking with my head down would get me in trouble. You see I am late to a meeting and I was in a rush.” She said with a smile as she reached her hand out for her bag and camera.
“Sir, we need to make sure she is telling the truth. She has no I.D. on her,” Said the dark one, who Carlene had decided to call Tweedle Dee, leaving the name Tweedle Dum for the silent one.
“Look I never carry I.D. in my bag when I travel, apparently your frisk job didn’t turn up the interior pocket where I have my passport and I.D. Would you like to see them?” she asked as she began to reach into her jacket.
“Just hold it,” said Tweedle Dee crisply.
“Really John,” said Andrew “she isn’t a suspect and this is not a crime. Please Mrs. Bennett if you would show John and Todd your I.D.”
She reached into her jacket and produced her I.D handed it over to John the dark one,
“Happy? By the way, it is Miss Bennett.”
Todd took the ID and appeared to be talking to himself, Carlene assumed correctly that he was wired and he was giving someone on the other end her information to verify.
John continued question her, “What are you doing in London? Did you know Mr. Carter was here? How long will you be here?”
Carlene politely answered the questions all the time seething inside because she was now quite late to meet Steve and she really felt that it was none of their business. None of the passer’s by even seemed to be paying attention to what was going on; this was post 9/11 after all.
After about 2 minutes of questioning she finally spoke up, “Look I am really late to my meeting now, may I go? I have to meet a friend in front of Harrods and I am already 15 minutes late he is going to worry about me.”
Andrew laughed, “Good thing you ran into me then, if you continued in that direction with out looking you would have been even later, Harrods is the other way. Actually we are going in that direction ourselves would you like to join us in my car?” he asked warmly.
Carlene’s legs turned to jelly, a car ride with her favorite country singer. “Umm, sure I guess she replied.”
“Really sir,” John said, “you should do this, it isn’t safe.”
“Why John, because she might walk into me again?” ANDREW asked with a smile,
“We have already ascertained she is safe. I think having this lovely woman next to me in the car is just what I need after walking around town with you in tow.”
Carlene almost melted as ANDREW too her arm and led her to a dark Sedan that had just pulled up to the curb. Her mind was a whirl; she almost didn’t realize that ANDREW was talking to her.
“Since I don’t get the pleasure of checking your I.D. where are you from?” ANDREW asked.
“Seattle, I mean Charlotte, I grew up in Seattle,” she replied, “And you?” knowing the question was silly. “Sorry that was kind of dumb; anyone who knows who you are knows where you are from.”
“Really and where am I from?” ANDREW asked
“You grew up in Ireland, moved to the States for college and live on an island in the off the southern coast of England when you aren’t busy with your film career,” she replied.
“And how many of my movies do you own?”
“All but the first one. I lost my first copy in an earthquake and I haven’t been able to find it again,” she said blushing, “I also know the reason you have the body guards is because of a recent kidnap plot by some crazed fan; who has stalked you the last two years of your career. By trying to get into nearly every personal appearance, you had for the last three films. I also own a good many of your music CD’s”
“Yes, that is true. Although I have to admit you don’t seem like the Hollywood gossip type.”
Carlene blushed, “I’m not really but when the radio station you listen to talks about it while you are trying to wake up it sort of sticks in your mind.”
ANDREW laughed, “Is that anything like subliminal messages? Maybe I should start using that to my advantage; you know something like Buy my CD’s.”
They both laughed.
“I did see you on Jeopardy too, not bad for a country boy.”
“Oh yea that was a while ago. Although I bet you could beat me.”
“Maybe in the first round; but the second round was all about sports and country music and I would have been lost after the first five questions.”
They continued talking about what she had seen in London where he intended to go after this trip. When they pulled into the Harrods drop off, she could see Steve standing on the steps looking anxiously for her.
“Well this would be my stop,” she said as the driver got out opening the door, “Thank you for the ride.”
“Thank you for not taking it personally all this.” He said motioning to the other two men.
He got out of the car to help her out.
Steve ran over when he saw her.
“Carlene, are you okay? We were getting worried that you got lost again,” Steve said anxiously trying to figure out whom she was with.
Hugging Steve she said, “No just waylaid. May I introduce you to Andrew Carter?”
“She would have been lost if she hadn’t walked into me,” ANDREW said to Steve as they shook hands.
“That doesn’t surprise me. You would think she hasn’t lived here for a year,” Steve said,
“Thank you for getting her here safely, Mr. Carter.”
“Please call me Andrew. It really was no problem to bring her here.”
Carlene turned to ANDREW, not wanting to say good-bye to this man. She held out her hand “Andrew, it was a pleasure meeting you. Thanks for the help.”
“Carlene, the pleasure was all mine,” he said as he shook her hand, “I hope to see you again.”
“Yes, probably at your next concert in Charlotte if I am home by then,” she said with a shy smile, “Plus I am sure your men know where I can be found when I am here in London.”
He laughed, “Yes they do have all that info. But you know it is only for my safety.”
“Thank you again for your assistance and company,” she said, “and I am sorry that I nearly knocked you over.”
“I’m not,” he replied, “You were delightful company.”
Steve jumped in quickly seeing that Carlene was flustered, “She may want that in writing, though.”
Everyone laughed as ANDREW climbed back into the Sedan. Carlene and Steve waved as the car drove off. Once the car was out of sight Steve turned to Carlene and looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Andrew Carter? How in the world did you meet up with him?” He asked her.
“I was running around the corner not looking at where I was going and I barreled right into him, it was completely innocent, honest,” she replied.
“I know it was innocent, none of us knew he was in town,” he said as they walked up the steps into Harrods. Laughing at her description of the bodyguards and her experience.
A week later Carlene was in her apartment looking at the two dozen pink roses that had arrived the day before with a note saying,
You were delightful company.
See I can put it in writing.
She had been sitting on the window seat responding to emails rather than complete the project she was supposed to be working on for Steve. She found the roses to be extremely distracting; she probably should have worked at the office today. There was a knock at the door. She slowly uncurled herself from the seat and padded to the door. Peeking through hole all she saw was the back of a grey suit.
“Who’s there?” she asked warily.
“Please open the door so we can come in,” said the deep New York Twang of a man she honestly thought, and hoped, she would never hear from again.
“How do I know it is safe?” she asked through the door, more to annoy the bodyguard then Andrew who she figured was also out there.
There was a shuffle at the door and a bit of whispering then Andrew spoke, “Carlene, It’s me, may we come in? Your neighbors might start commenting on this conversation.”
She unlocked the door and with a very wicked smile said, “Sorry but you know a girl can’t be too careful with letting just anyone in. Besides all my neighbors are all at work.”
She moved aside to let them in.
“How do you know some of them didn’t stay home today?” He asked as he entered the room. The other men stayed out in the hall.
“Because everyone that lives in this house all work together with me, I am the only one home today. Your shadows aren’t coming in?”
He laughed, “No, when I come to ask a beautiful woman out I make sure they guard the door so won’t escape.” Neither man looked particularly amused by the comment. Andrew closed the door, walked over to an easy chair, and perched on the arm. Carlene sat down on an ottoman across from the chair.
“So, how about it? Would you have time to spend an afternoon in my company?” He asked.
“I might, especially since I haven’t done a lick of work. It seems that some man sent me roses yesterday and I have found them exceedingly distracting,” she replied, “What did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking maybe a walk in Hyde Park, lunch, window shopping or a museum and perhaps even dinner if you can stand me for that long,” he said thoughtfully.
“And them too?” she asked pointing at the door.
“Yes, them too, is it a problem?” he asked.
“I’m not sure really. I think just the idea that you can’t live a normal life like the rest of us do bother me some. It isn’t your fault, I just don’t like the idea of security standing around watching me,” she replied.
“I see so does that mean you go out with me?” he asked
“No, I just kind of felt the need to get that off my chest. Sorry it was insensitive; I mean they are here to protect your person.” She replied her hands fumbling nervously with her shirt, “Consider from my point of view. Here I am a regular girl from a regular town spending time with a not so regular musician type person who has his name plastered all over marquees. I don’t usually hang out with folks like you.”
“I understand. When I began acting, I never dreamed that hitting the big time would be like this. Especially when I hit the international scene,” he replied, “So will you go out with me?”
She smiled and said, “Alright it might be fun, but only if it can be kept low key. Don’t expect me to enjoy being followed around by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I find them both about as human as two trees.”
Andrew laughed, “I am sure they will enjoy hearing that, anything you need to do before we take off?”
“I need to call my boss and tell him I taking a day off, otherwise I will never hear the end of it when he finds out this project isn’t quite done.”
“If you want I can talk to your boss, help him understand. Maybe offer him some tickets to my next concert.”
“Oh that won’t be necessary, he already knows about you,” she replied, “you met him last week.”
“That was your boss? I thought you said he was your friend.”
“He is my friend; circumstances also made him my boss when he began a consulting business and I joined him as his personal assistant, it was only supposed to be temporary and part time while I worked out some other things. However, it became full time, and permanent. I enjoy it we usually travel all over the U.S., but this last project sent him here. All of us that live here work for him; his father-in-law owns this house and is renting it out to us while the flats are being renovated.”
“Really” He said surprised.
“Sorry that was probably more information that you wanted to know,” she replied.
“No it is fine, I am just surprised that y’all can live and work together.”
“It can be a challenge, but some of us have known each other since university, the rest, Steve for instance, we picked up on the way,” she replied with a grin, “I have my own apartment for that reason.”
“How many live here?”
“There are seven of us, Steve and his wife Jillian, Rudy, John, Sherman and his wife, Sylvia, and myself. The house has six flats. We relocate as needed for renovations.”
“I didn’t realize this house was that big, considering that the ground floor looks like common rooms” he replied.
“There is a daylight basement with two flats; they open up on the garden. I would have loved to have one, but they aren’t very secure. This is why I am on the second floor.” She replied distractedly, “Not that I find talking about my living arrangements fascinating, but where are you taking me for lunch?”
He grinned, “I was thinking maybe Buckingham Palace, I have met the queen you know.” Standing up he took a deep courtly bow.
She laughed, “Yea the Palace, and I am related to Prince William.”
Standing up he looked at her and said, “Seriously I was thinking of some place casual and quiet. Do you like fresh seafood?”
“That sounds great, just let me get my coat and bag,” she said going into the other room to call
Steve and tell him where she would be for the afternoon. She didn’t want him worrying about her not being at home since she rarely left the apartment alone.
Through the closed door she said, “You know I have to admit I didn’t think I would see you again, you showing up at my door was a bit surprising.”
“Why is that?” he asked as he wandered around her front room looking at the pictures on the walls.
“Well it goes back to what I said when you first got here. You aren’t usually the kind of person I hang out with and I also thought you saying you wanted to see me again were just empty words to be polite,” she said as she came back into the room.
“Not at all, as you can see I meant what I said,” he said, “I was actually impressed with how you handled the entire situation the other day. I found it refreshing not to be fawned over by a rabid fan.”
She laughed as she put her coat on, “Only because I was in shock, I have been to see most of your movies and shoes. My friends would be telling you I can be anything but refreshing.”
“How do I look?” she asked.
He turned from the photo he was looking at and looked her over.
“You look lovely. Not to be nosy but did you take these photos?”
She walked over to see which one he had been looking at.
“Yes, that one was taken a long time ago in the North Cascades during a camping trip that Sherman and I took one summer while we were in college,” she said pointing to a picture of a mountain trail draped in a cloud, “The rest are from when we first got to London.”
“Very nice work, I especially like the how you captured the angles and the use of light and shadow,” he replied smiling down at her.
“Thank you, photography is my passion.”
“Don’t forget your camera then,” he said as he picked it up and handed it to her their fingers touching a jolt of electricity shot through her. Carlene’s stomach turned to jelly.
“Thanks,” she said pulling the strap over her head, “Don’t worry I won’t take picture with out permission. Wouldn’t want the boys taking my camera privileges away,” she continued weakly. She could feel his body heat, but she couldn’t look him in the eye. Maybe a date with him wasn’t such a good idea she thought. He was making her all weak and goofy.
“Ready,” he asked walking to the door.
“Yes, let me get my sunglasses,” she said. Trying not to think of him as Andrew was going to be hard; she picked up her sunglasses and walked to the door moving just a bit too quickly, somehow she managed to trip over his shoes and fall into his arms before she could catch herself. Her stomach went all jumpy as he held her in his strong arms.
“You okay,” he asked lightly lifting up her chin so he could look into her eyes.
His eyes, so blue and beautiful and the true concern showing in them.
“Yea, just a little nervous. This is my first date with a Movie Star you know,” she quipped hoping it didn’t sound as stupid to him as it did to her.
“No, this is our first date together,” he responded quietly, searching her face, “and I am just as nervous. I’m worried that you won’t to keep seeing me or that I might do something stupid, or worse that a mob of screaming women will attack us and scare you away.”