Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Brothers Everhart Ch. 13 "Pepper and the Women"

Prince Everhart often sent Pepper shopping to put together a gift package for whoever was his latest rejected married lover. Pepper secretly thought of this as the "rich-bitch consolation prize". He never verbally announced an end to the relationship. He just suddenly quit calling and became unavailable to the woman. As his personal assistant for nearly two years Pepper certainly knew the routine by now and often went to the Westbrook Candle and Gift Shop where she was friends with the owner and proprietor, Sheena Buckley. Sheena wore her silver hair in a perky ponytail and at 64 years of age she packed more pure sizzle into her 5'4" frame than most 20 year old coeds. Her sister, Georgia Buckley, was the nanny for Andy and Holly Lomax's kids.

While there on this particular day Pepper ran into Margo Candeloro whose husband was an important customer of Prince's. Pepper really liked Margo and didn't mind passing the time of day with her. She lied and said she was there to get a gift for a friend, because she had to be vigilant when it came to her employer's privacy. Other stores that she frequently used for this chore were Aromatic Delights Perfumery, Chelsea's Flowers and Bluewater Jewelers.

The aforementioned gift packages were compiled per Prince's specific instructions. They usually consisted of a small but pricey piece of crystal, usually Waterford or Swarovski, and a large bottle of expensive perfume (his personal favorites were Chanel's Chance Eau Fraiche or Cristalle, or Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb. These were accompanied by two dozen long-stemmed pink roses and some candy. Ex-lovers who had lasted a long while before disastrously angling for a proposal and who had been especially discreet and amenable up until the end also rated some sort of glittering bauble for their wrist, finger or ears.
                 Waterford                 Swarovski          

It  easily cost Prince $700 to $1,000, depending on whether or not the gift bag included jewelry. It was just a ridiculous waste of money in Pepper's opinion. It was almost as bad as the swag bags they handed out to already rich movie stars at the Oscars; ostentatious, unnecessary and definitely unwarranted.

She was of the mind that, one, Prince's love life was costing him dearly and, two were she the woman in question she would have sent back the gifts and conked him over the head with the box of flowers. But, no. A return of the gifts had never happened, at least not since she'd been working for him.

In reality every time one of his latest loves was abruptly discarded Pepper's first thought was good riddance to bad rubbish. Somehow--although she was critical of him and hated to see all that money spent on these women--she didn't really think any less of Prince. In fact, she still held him in high esteem and was extremely protective of him. He couldn't help it if he had such excellent taste that he refused to send cheap stuff and that he was very generous with the money he seemed to make so easily. It was her opinion that the women got what they deserved in the long run and she thought they should be classier and reject these token tributes. However; even though they were all filthy rich, without exception they remained greedy and kept the gifts.

"Might as well be hush money," Pepper fumed.

Of course, it was all to soothe Prince's guilty conscience and to keep the women, supposedly, appeased and out of his carefully styled hair. Pepper reflected grimly that often it backfired on him when they mistakenly thought the gifts meant he still cared. So after these packages were delivered (and sometimes before) the exes bombarded his office with calls and notes and even personal appearances. Pepper had to deal with these for weeks after each "breakup". She always answered graciously and tried to let them know gently, but firmly, that the affair was a thing of the past and there would be no future calls from Prince. More and more lately the whole thing was getting on her nerves having to hear some affluent, over-indulged married woman blather on about Prince's sexual prowess and personal charm while asking Pepper whatever had she done wrong and how on earth could she get him back? Eventually the spurned paramour either burst into tears or cussed Pepper out, sometimes both. She had ceased feeling sorry for them long ago and the last time was barely able to stop herself from blurting out,

"Listen, lady, it is over--okay? You haven't a prayer of getting him back, believe me. When he's done; he's done. Why don't you go back home to your husband where you should have stayed in the first place and quit bothering me whining and blubbering about Mr. Everhart? And get some therapy. Seriously."

Pepper was shocked at herself for even thinking of saying such a thing. She never talked that way (okay, sometimes she did talk that way in her head). But it would have been thoroughly unprofessional had she actually said it and she couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. Really this had always been a part of her job description and she'd taken it on as enthusiastically as she had every other thing Prince asked of her. It was her job as personal assistant to stand between her boss and the rest of the world and she'd never cared if the women had transferred their anger with Prince to her. It wasn't just the overeager society matrons; customers she had to stall while Prince was on the other line, or who had to wait in her office while he ran overtime with another client tended to do the same thing; they would get testy with her instead of Prince. It was usually no biggy to Pepper; so why was she now suddenly out of patience with this group of spoiled, wealthy women who acted like teenagers?  Why, indeed.

Unaware of his assistant's growing impatience with the fallout from his romances, Prince headed over to Red's Hideout one night and ran into his youngest brother, Parker, who was engaged in a poker game which Prince promptly joined. After watching Parker wreak havoc for a while as he won over and over again, Prince said with a grin,

"Time for you to head somewhere else, kid. You made some money tonight so hold on to it by walking away."

"Oh, you should talk," Parker complained, "You gamble all the time. You even go to Vegas and the islands to gamble."

"Yeah, but I've got the dough to throw around--you're still working to make your first million, remember?"

You just don't want me to take any more of your dough," Parker scoffed in the way that headstrong young men tend to do. Still, he pocketed his money and stood up while the other player looked daggers at him.

"That's right," Prince placated him while nudging toward the door, "Go find a hottie and spend the big buck on her--time's a'wasting. I'm sure you can find more respectable places to hang out than here, anyway."  

"Okay, maybe I'll go over to Midnight Flows, a lot of the University chicks hang out over there for the karaoke," Parker agreed, smiling, "Later, bro."

A few minutes later Count Floyd skulked in to the place. Prince went to greet him but before he could say one word, Floyd threw up his hands and ordered Prince to look into his eyes. Prince peered into them and said,

"Well, my man, I'd have to say they are majorly bloodshot. You must be suffering one hell of a hangover."

In the next moment Prince felt his will and his strength melting away. It was the scariest feeling in the world for a man who prized himself on his control and power. 

He couldn't move; as though he were paralyzed and yet he was still on his feet. That was bad news for Prince because the hair on the back of his neck was telling him he needed to get away from the count, or deck him, one or the other. Neither seemed to be possible yet he knew the count could not have doped him up with anything, and he'd only had one drink so far. At this rate what was going to happen next? Prince was sure that it couldn't be good. 

Suddenly the count grabbed him and leaned into his neck. Prince thought for a moment that maybe he'd misinterpreted the count's sexual preferences. Then he felt a sharp pain and realized fangs had sunk into his neck. Big fangs, and definitely not fake. And now, oh, damn, Count Floyd was sucking his blood. Prince wasn't sure if he would die from this or the count would just want a mouthful or two. He wasn't clear on the rules and etiquette in the vampire world having never been a fan of the Dracula movies; he'd preferred The Wolfman or The Mummy. And Twilight gave him a major pain. He never watched TV anymore except for sports so he'd barely heard of Vampire Diaries or True Blood.

He still could not move or by now he'd have kneed the count's nuts up into his brain. Old Floyd would have been singing soprano. Outwardly Prince appeared to be in a daze, but inwardly he was getting more and more furious. Like the "where's my gun; a bullet ought to slow you down" kind of furious. Oh, wait, bullets didn't work on vampires, did they? Yeah, now that he thought of it, in the movies, books and he assumed, TV, monsters, unlike humans, hardly ever could be killed by a gun.  Except the silver bullets could kill a werewolf. That was of no help to Prince.

When would all this end? And then, impossibly, Prince felt fangs growing from his gums. His senses were suddenly magnified and he felt strength and almost an omnipotence he'd never known before. At last he could move freely and he glared at the count, full of outrage as he roared,

"What the hell, Floyd!"