THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM
how did a woman like you get to be a woman like you?" Charles
let out a small chuckle and eyed her closely. Her eyes, however,
closely watched the drink in his hand. She had to stifle the groan that
tried to form in her throat as she watched him take another drink.
"Well, my husband wasn't exactly the best choice for a mate that I could
have made," she replied honestly. "But, I was young and naive.
I actually believed in happily ever after." She nervously fingered
the bottle she secretly held in her hand.
"And you don't now?" He watched her as she shook her head in
response. "So...um...what happened?"
"Stephen was a dreamer who was always looking for an easy way to get
rich. He was never one to hold an honest job." Annabelle grew
sad as she thought about her wasted life with her late husband. "That
left me to work to support him and Stephanie.
Things were hard enough until he started getting involved in more and more
illegal activities...the mob. There was a period where I wasn't sure we'd
make it through that time alive."
Charles reached out to hold her hand in a show of support and understanding.
She flinched when he grabbed the hand that held the bottle. "I-I
never knew. So, what happened to Stephen? How did he die?"
"You know," she spoke up as she tried to change the subject.
"I really don't want to talk about me. What about you? Tell me
about when you were younger...before you had to become head of the Callison
"Not much to tell, actually." He took another drink and, to
Annabelle's relief, sat his glass down on the table behind them. "I
was the youngest of two boys. I wasn't the one who was supposed to take
over my father's role as head of the family. My brother Landon was
supposed to do that."
"Um, so why didn't he?" Annabelle kept his attention focused
while she swiftly poured the remainder of the bottle's contents into his drink
unnoticed. She smiled as she picked up the glass and returned it to his
"He died," Charles spoke matter-of-factly. "Horseback
riding accident. He was only 18. Without him to follow in my
father's footsteps, that job was left to me. I suddenly become an only
child and sole heir to the Callison name."
"Oh, Charles, I'm so sorry." She saw the emotional pain that
his memories were causing him and wrapped her arms around him to give him
support. "All the plans you'd made for you life must have changed
"They did." He swallowed hard as he remembered how hard he'd
worked to live up to Landon's memory. Much to Annabelle's glee, he took a
drink of his tainted cocktail.