Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")
Links to: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11
Viv was out early the next morning at the building supply store. The first item on Daddy’s list was paint colours. She stopped in front of the samples to study the selection. There were three brands; she hadn’t asked if he had a preference. She’d better pick up samples from all of them.
Daddy said he wanted a light colour for the living room and the basement rec room. Normally he went for white or off-white to keep it neutral. Let’s see, there was a “White Jasmine” that looked a little denser than a pure white. Not bad, but what was that below? “Home Song” was nice, and had a touch of green. Hmm. Green was calm and serene, a pleasant feeling for a living room. This brand of paint had colours divided by room and style. Under “Casual” they had “Celery Bunch.” That was nice. A little more impact than the other green, and fresh-looking. Nothing wrong with a little colour. Looking at another brand, she spotted “Posh Celery.” That made her laugh.
With a dozen likely colours, Viv decided she had enough selection and moved on to carpets. Daddy wanted a nice grey for the basement rec room and bedroom, something cozy. Let’s see, there were different textures of carpet: frieze (looked like shag), loop (for high-traffic areas), texture (also for high-traffic areas), and pattern (the fibres looked like a combination of loop and texture). Maybe she’d better draw a diagram of the different textures so that she and Daddy would be on the same page. She scribbled the information into her notebook.
Now, what about colour? “Comet Grey” was patterned. Ooh, she liked the “Midnight Grey” even better with its grey, white, and blue fibres. It all depended on how dark Daddy wanted to go.
“Excuse me,” she said to a passing employee. “Is it possible to get samples of these carpets?”
“Yes, if you leave your information and a small deposit.”
“Great. Could I arrange for samples of these two, please?”
With the samples in her bag, there was only one more item left on her list ‒ floor tile. Fortunately, the kitchen was already done, but tile was also required for the front entrance, the bathrooms, and the laundry/mudroom. Three very different areas of the house. Daddy would want something stylish for the entrance, something nice but easy to clean for the bathrooms (she hated those little tiles with the grouting between them that trapped lint), and something utilitarian for the mudroom. Hmm, the tile section of the store was more challenging. Porcelain, ceramic, peel and stick, premium mosaic, glass, stone, Belgian foil, and combinations. Obviously, some of these tiles weren’t meant for floors. They also came in a bewildering assortment of sizes and finishes. There didn’t appear to be any samples to take home, either. She’d better take some pictures with her cell, and make notes.
Forty-five minutes later and with the beginnings of a headache, she drove back to her father’s house, stopping at a grocery store on the way to pick up the ingredients she needed for dinner. Gabe was dressed in sweats and sitting in his reclining chair in the bedroom. She pulled the bench from the end of the bed and placed it beside him before unearthing the samples and notes from her bag. They went through her findings, Viv discovering that her father was very logical when it came to finishings.
“Nothing cheap, Viv ‒ I don’t want to get a reputation for doing shoddy work ‒ but nothing too expensive unless it’s going in a high impact area. I always spend less money on the basement carpet, for instance. If you buy a good underpad, it still feels luxurious.”
“Yes, I agree with you that this tile is prettier, but who’s going to be buying the house, a man or a woman? You’ve got to choose something less distinctive. The buyer will add his or her own decorative touches.”
“Green? We’ve never used green on the walls before, unless it was in a bathroom. Off-white is a safer bet.” But Viv stood her ground.
“White is boring, Daddy. I’m not asking you to paint the living room fire-engine red, but “Nature Mist” is a lot more modern than white. You can paint the dining room white. It’s got that dark wainscoting.”
“I don’t know.” Gabe frowned at the colour sample. “It’s kind of bright.”
“How about ‘Valley Mist’ then? It’s more neutral and very soothing. I’d like to come home to a living room painted that colour.”
“Well . . .” he said, pursing his lips. “You’re twisting the arm of a sick man, you know.”
Viv batted her eyelashes at him.
“All right. Let’s live a little. ‘Valley Mist’ it is.”
Viv hugged her father and shouted, “Yay! Tell me how much paint to order, and I’ll get it delivered this afternoon. Then I can paint the living room tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Peaches. You’ve been a big help.”
“You’re welcome. I’d be happy to help some more. It’s been fun. Just let me know what you need.” She knelt down on the floor and gathered the samples back into her bag. “I’ll just drop off these carpet samples and order the stuff you want before I head home to get cleaned up.”
“Right. You’re cooking for the head hunter tonight.”
Viv stood up, brushing off her knees. “I wish you wouldn’t call Drew that. It makes him sound like a cannibal.”
Gabe snorted. “Let’s hope not. Still, I’m glad your friends are helping you to date again, although I don’t know about this scoring system thing they’re using. I always just followed my gut when it came to finding a woman.”
“Ahem,” Viv said pointedly, sitting down on the arm of his chair.
“Yeah, I know. You think your mother and I were a mistake. But we got you out of it, so how wrong could we have been?” Viv bent to kiss the top of his head. “And she’s not the only woman I ever dated, I’ll have you know.”
“That’s okay, Daddy. I don’t need to know about your love life. Unless,” she said, bending down so that her face was level with his, “you want to tell me if there’s anything going on between you and Magda?”
He pantomimed locking his lips and throwing away the key. “A gentleman never tells.”
“Fine, Casanova.” She shrugged. “I just want to know if the two of you are ever going to get married.”
“I’m still a married man.”
“Hah. Speaking of which, I’m going to see Mother for dinner on Tuesday.”
“Hey, that’s the best news I’ve heard all week!”
Viv stood up. “Well, don’t get too excited. I’m finally going to get a few things off my chest with her.”
“Just listen to what she has to say first.”
“Do you know why she wants to meet with me?”
Gabe squirmed in his chair. “I admit, Véronique ran it past me first. But I prefer she tells you what’s on her mind.”
Viv sighed. “Whatever. It doesn’t really matter.” She kissed her father’s cheek. “Take it easy, and I’ll see you soon. Bye, Daddy.”
As she walked out of the room, Gabe called, “Give my regards to the head hunter. Tell him that after three dates, he gets to meet the father!”
“Sure, sure,” she said, waving her hand.
Drew was bang on time when he rang Viv from the condo lobby.
“I’ll be right down,” she said, ending the call and retrieving the grocery bags from the kitchen counter and the homemade strawberry cheesecake from the fridge. When she reached the lobby, Drew was waiting for her next to the elevators.
“Here, let me carry those for you,” he said, taking the shopping bags.
“I’ll hold onto the dessert. I don’t want it to slide on the plate.”
“What is it?”
“Strawberry cheesecake. I made it myself.”
“You can make strawberry cheesecake?”
“Will you marry me?”
Viv giggled as they left the complex and walked around the corner to Drew’s beautiful car. He tucked her inside, and she balanced the cheesecake on her lap all the way to his downtown apartment.
“I like to be in the centre of the city,” he said as he drove down the ramp to the underground parking. “Everything I need is here at my fingertips. And the view of the city skyline is the best. I can even see the CN Tower.”
He unlocked the door to his twenty-second floor apartment and led Viv inside. The six hundred square foot space was divided into three rooms, with a galley kitchen just inside the door, an L-shaped living/dining room, and the bedroom. The living area was furnished with black leather and chrome, plus a state-of-the-art sound system. The apartment definitely needed a woman’s touch.
Drew set Viv’s supplies on the kitchen counter and took her hand. “Let me show you the view from the living room.” He guided her past a gas fireplace with a huge flat screen TV hanging over the mantle, and pulled back the blinds on a floor-to-ceiling window.
“Wow, that’s spectacular,” she said, looking out at the glass and steel skyscrapers.
“There’s another great view from my bedroom.”
Drew opened the door, and Viv peeked inside. She saw a king-sized bed with a black leather headboard (more black leather), a side table with a chunky glass lamp, and a tallboy dresser. There wasn’t room for anything else, except for another floor-to-ceiling window.
“I like to lie in bed at night with the lights out and look out over the city.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
“Well, that’s the apartment. Do you approve of it, milady?”
“It’s very handsome.”
“Thanks. Can I get you a drink? Some white wine or sparkling water?”
“I’d love a sparkling water. Do you have any lime?”
“I certainly do. Coming right up.”
Viv watched Drew pour a couple of club sodas over ice and chop a lime into quarters. Squeezing the juice from one section into each glass, he tossed the rind into the garbage. The other sections went into a storage container in the fridge.
He’s neat, Viv thought. We won’t get into arguments about leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor. They leaned against the counter sipping their drinks.
“Now, why don’t you take a seat at the dining room table and tell me more about yourself while I start dinner,” Viv said.
“Okay.” Drew sat down at the glass-topped table with his drink. “There’s not a lot to tell. My father is an architect and my mother is a retired nurse. I’ve got a younger sister who’s working on a master’s degree in civil engineering. I’m the only one in the family who went into business.”
“What brought you to York University?” Viv asked, rummaging through the cupboards for a pot to boil the potatoes in.
“My grandmother lived in Toronto, and we used to visit her from time to time. Plus, the MBA program at York has an excellent reputation. I did my undergraduate degree at home in Chicago, but I wanted to go someplace else for grad school. Toronto didn’t seem like a foreign place, plus I had Gran here in case I got lonely.”
“That’s pretty perceptive for a young man. But I thought you said you didn’t have any family here in Toronto?”
“She passed away during my second year.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That must have been rough, losing your grandmother while you were still in school.”
Drew nodded. “It was. I still miss her.”
“Sorry, but do you have a vegetable peeler?”
“No. I don’t eat many meals at home, so my utensils are pretty basic. I’ve got an electric can opener, a toaster, and a coffee maker.” He pointed to the appliances on the counter.
Viv smiled. “Doesn’t matter. I can use a knife. So, what happened after graduate school?”
“One of my profs helped me land a marketing job with an information technology company, so I was able to get a work visa to stay in Canada. I moved from marketing to sales, and left the company after five years to work for Royal Recruitment. I’ve been with them for six years, recruiting managers in the information technology and energy sectors. I love it. It’s an exciting field to be in.”
“It sounds exciting. You must be a real people-person.”
“That’s right. Being around people gives me a charge.”
Viv nodded while she chopped the potatoes.
“How about you, Viv? What was your childhood like?”
“Well, I’ve lived in Toronto all my life. Daddy was in investment banking, and he met my mother while he was at a conference in New York. She was a fashion designer. They fell in love at first sight, and she moved to Toronto to marry him. Mother went back to work five weeks after I was born, so I didn’t see very much of her when I was young. But Daddy made up for it by being home for dinner and tucking me into bed every night. When I was ten, Mother had an opportunity to start her own shoe design house back in New York, so she left. She’s very successful, but I’ve only seen her twice since then.”
“Wow, that sounds rough.”
Viv shrugged. “I haven’t missed her at all. Daddy retired from banking last year to flip houses. He loves it, but he just had a health scare yesterday.” Drew’s eyes widened. “Everything turned out fine. The doctor caught it before it became a problem, but Daddy needs to slow down a little.”
“That must have been scary.”
“It was. And to make my life more stressful, my mother is flying into Toronto on business next week. We’re having dinner together on Tuesday night.”
“How’s that going to go?”
“I’m going to let her have it. It’s about time.” Viv poured water over the potatoes and set them on the stove to cook.
“Good for you, Viv. I bet you’ll feel good after you’ve confronted her.”
Viv nodded. “That’s how I feel, although Daddy thinks I ought to mend fences. He says there’s something she wants to talk to me about.”
“He wouldn’t tell me, so I’ll just have to wait and see. Not that I’m dying of curiosity or anything.” She was cutting the ends off the asparagus, and stopped to look at Drew. “I guess I sound pretty callous.”
“Not at all. It seems like you have every right to be angry with your mother. I can’t imagine any business being more important than a ten-year-old daughter, and I’m a businessman. If my mother needed me, I’d be there in a flash.”
“Exactly,” Viv said, pointing her knife at Drew. “I teach Grade 1, so I know how crucial those early years are to a child’s formation and sense of well-being.”
“It’s amazing how well-developed you are, given the circumstances.”
“I owe it all to Daddy. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d be a mess.”
“Which you certainly are not.” Drew smiled approvingly.
“Thanks.” Viv smiled back. It was nice to have someone on her side, someone who thought she was well-developed.
Dinner went very well. The pork schnitzel was crispy and tender, the potato salad and asparagus were tasty, and Drew ate two servings of strawberry cheesecake. He insisted that she put her feet up and listen to music while he cleaned up the kitchen and put the leftover food away. Afterward, he joined her on the couch with a bottle of port and two cut-crystal glasses.
“They’re lovely,” she said, holding up a glass to admire it in the sunlight.
He poured some of the ruby-coloured drink into their glasses and held his up for a toast.
“Here’s to the beautiful blue eyes of milady. I am lost within them.”
“That’s lovely, Drew,” Viv said. He was such a romantic.
They sipped the wine with their feet propped on the coffee table and blues music playing in the background. Drew flicked on the gas fire with a click of the remote, and laid his arm around her shoulders. Viv snuggled against him with her head resting cozily in the crook of his arm. Finishing the last of his port, Drew took Viv’s glass and set it on the table. Viv smiled up at him, and he stroked the side of her face.
“I could get used to this,” he murmured, leaning in to kiss her eyes, her forehead, and her mouth.
“You don’t think we’re moving too fast, do you?” Viv whispered between kisses as her pulse quickened.
“No. Do you?” His finger traced a lazy line from her ear to her collar bone, and then to the top button of her blouse.
“I don’t know. I’ve got such mixed feelings. I’m still hurt by the way my boyfriend treated me, but it feels nice to be appreciated by another man.”
Drew nodded as he undid the first button. “I’ve been there myself, Viv. Having someone disappoint you can be hard on the ego. You start to worry if it was something you did, but I know you weren’t to blame. It was your boyfriend who didn’t see what a good thing he had.” His fingers caressed the skin between her breasts as they slid down to undo the second button.
”Still we’re neither of us kids, Viv. We know what we want.” She felt his fingers undo the third button as his tongue teased her lips open for short, silky kisses.
Viv pulled her head back. “That’s true, but Sabrina was just saying that I ought to be careful of having a rebound romance.” She glanced down as Drew pulled her blouse open to expose her lacy pink bra. His velvety lips trailed down her throat to the upper swell of her breast, and she sank back against the couch.
“Love is dangerous, there’s no denying it. But you have to gamble big to win big.” He slipped her top off one shoulder, nipping her white skin with his teeth.
Viv groaned, and the phone rang. Drew reached over top of her to pick it up from the side table.
“Sorry, I just have to take this call.” He sat up. “Hello?”
Viv’s eyes opened.
“What did you say? No that’s not right. His plane’s not arriving until tomorrow.” Drew listened for a moment. “No, I could have sworn. Hang on a minute.” He fished his cell from his pocket and flicked past screens.
“That’s right, I booked the eleven twenty flight for tomorrow morning. What do you mean, he changed the flight?”
Viv pulled her bra strap back up on her shoulder.
“The meeting’s tomorrow?” Drew stood up and started pacing the floor. “Who authorized the change? No one told me. Did someone change the hotel reservation? What the hell! No, no, I can fix it, but this is going to cost money. Look, his plane is landing in” ‒ he checked his watch ‒ “fifty-five minutes. If I drive like a maniac, I can make it. Get on the phone to the Hyatt and change the reservation. Right. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He slammed the phone back onto its base and stared at Viv, seeming to see her for the first time in minutes.
“Baby, I’m really sorry. Someone screwed up the dates on this business meeting, and I’ve got to run to the airport to pick up the client.”
“That’s all right. I don’t mind,” Viv said. She sprang to her feet and began searching for her shoes.
“I’m really, really sorry. I don’t even have time to drive you home.” He snatched up her purse from the kitchen counter as she slipped into her sandals.
“No problem. I can catch the streetcar home.” He clicked off the fireplace and walked her to the apartment door.
“I’ll be leaving right behind you. But listen, thanks so much for tonight. You let me know how the dinner with your mother works out, will you?”
“Sure. I’ll call you.”
He opened the door and kissed her quickly. “You’re an angel. I’ll see you later, baby.”
The door shut behind her, and Viv paused to pull the purse strap onto her shoulder and smooth her hair. Wow, that had been a close one. If the phone hadn’t interrupted them, she might have made love with Drew. She didn’t know if she was ready to trust him that much, but her body had certainly reacted as if it did.
The elevator bell dinged, and an elderly woman with coiffed silver hair stepped out, supporting herself with a cane. She smiled at Viv as she thumped down the hallway, and as they passed, gave Viv a large wink. Startled, Viv hurried into the elevator and caught her reflection in the mirror. The front of her blouse was still hanging open, revealing her pink push-up bra. Flushing as bright as her underwear, Viv fumbled to close the buttons, and rode the streetcar home in a flood of embarrassment.
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