are you having a good time?" Fred asked as he leaned across the table and
took Leticia's hand.
"I'm having a wonderful
time," she smiled. "I was...afraid that Nelson might have put a
damper on the evening. He can be so obstinate."
"Well, I can definitely
understand his reluctance to let you go." He flashed a charming
grin. "Any man with an ounce of common sense would be a fool to let a
woman like you slip out of his life. But...well...I guess that's his own
fault for not appreciating you."
"You're much too kind,"
Leticia blushed and then lowered her head. "Truthfully, though,
Nelson has a good heart. True, he's opinionated and irascible and
difficult, but I know that it all comes out of a sense of love and devotion to
"Those sound like very
admirable qualities," Fred nodded, rather disappointed to hear her speak so
highly of her husband. "If he's so wonderful, than why are you
divorcing him? Why are you here with me instead of with him?"
She fidgeted in her seat and looked away. "As devoted as Nelson
is---as loyal as he is to his family---he's also the type of man who has to
control everything and everyone in his life. In his mind, he's the only
one who's right and everyone has has to automatically agree with him. And
I...well...don't always agree with him."
"I've seen those aspects of his
"It just finally got to the
point where I was feeling smothered," she continued with a sigh, "and
unappreciated. I stopped being a wife to Nelson a long time ago and became
just another possession---another thing in his life that he had to
control." Taking a deep breath, she thought back to an earlier,
happier time. "Of course, it wasn't always like that. In the
beginning, he was charming and romantic and..." She blushed.
"I really shouldn't be going on about him like this. Nelson is part
of my past. I'm here with you, now." Leticia looked up at Fred
and smiled. "Tell me about yourself. Tell be about the real
stammered uncomfortably as he kept a pleasant smile plastered to his face.
"There's not much to tell, really. Born to good parents, worked my
way through medical school, came to Albanyville to take a position at
"You must have some kind of
"Not really," he replied
softly. "The hospital keeps me rather busy. I haven't had much
time for socializing or romance in a long, long time." He paused and
grinned flirtatiously. "But I hope to change that."
"So, how's Francis doing?"
Leticia asked as she changed the direction of the conversation. Although
Fred's obvious attention and romantic interest thrilled her greatly, it also
made her more than a little uneasy. It had been so long since she'd
received that kind of attention from a man that she wasn't exactly sure how to
act. "I haven't had a chance to talk to her since before the
wedding. It's just dreadful what that family is having to go
"Yes, it is," he nodded,
less than thrilled to have to discuss the other woman in his life.
"But...well...I haven't really had a chance to see much of her,
"Oh?" She eyed him
curiously. "From the way you've talked before, you and Francis have
become very good friends. I would think that she'd need her friends around
her at a time like this."
been spending a great deal of time with her family," he muttered in
response and fought to keep his annoyance about that hidden. "They're
what she needs right now. I'm only a friend and it's a family
crisis. Family comes first." He winced slightly as the last sentence
came out of his mouth. He really didn't need to remind Leticia of the
importance of family when he was trying to separate her from her own.
"That's so true," Leticia
nodded, not noticing the faint lines of worry that crossed his face and the
sudden appearance of beads of nervous perspiration on his forehead.
"If you do have a chance to see her, tell her that I'm thinking about her
and that I'm behind her 100%. If she needs anything at all, all she has to
do is call."
"I'm sure that she'll be very
relieved to hear that," Fred nodded and then gave Leticia's hand a slight
squeeze. "But enough talk about Francis Callison. I'm here with
you, not her, and I want to talk about you." He smiled warmly as he
eyed her intently. "Leticia, darling, I find you immensely
fascinating. I want to know everything there is to know about you. I
want to discover the woman that you really are underneath that facade of
regalness and sophisticated beauty."
blushed, more than a little flattered by his comments and his attention.
"There's not a lot to tell. I was raised in Manhattan. Two
older brother---I was the only girl and the baby. My father owned Wentworth
"Ah, yes, I'm familiar with
that company," Fred nodded, both shocked and pleased with that revelation.
"Didn't he sell the entire company to Hallowell Brands?"
"Yes," she nodded.
"And father had unbelievably good timing. He sold everything lock,
stock, and barrel right before the crash. Our family was almost completely
unaffected. I loved that man dearly. It was devastating for me when
"A man that successful must
have left you quite a bit of money." Fred was struggling to chose his
words carefully as he fished for information. He couldn't appear too
overly concerned about the true nature of her finances.
"Well, mother died many years
ago while the girls were still little so everything was divided between me and
my brothers." She paused and smiled warmly. "Let's just
say that I won't be standing in line at a soup kitchen anytime soon."
"I understand," he nodded
as he fought to suppress his glee. A hefty divorce settlement from Nelson
and her own fortune? Leticia Stokes was looking more and more attractive
by the minute!
me, Dr. Rutherford," restaurant maitre 'd Jasper St. John spoke up as he
approached the table, "I hate to interrupt, but..."
"What is it, Jasper?" Fred
asked with annoyance. He was making such wonderful progress with Leticia
that he didn't want anything to ruin the momentum. "Can't you see
that I'm trying to enjoy a quiet evening with this lovely lady?"
rolled his eyes. "If you can halt your climb up the social ladder for
just a moment, you've got a phone call." His eyes then narrowed as he
stared at him intently. "You can use the house phone at the
"Thank you, Jasper." Fred
muttered as he shot him and angry look because of his comment. He didn't
need anyone placing ideas inside Leticia's head that might make her doubt his
sincerity. Jasper's offhanded comment was definitely something she didn't
need to hear. "Darling, if you'll excuse me," he muttered apologetically
as he rose from his seat. "I'm sure this will only take a
"Oh, of course, dear,"
Leticia replied. "Hurry back and maybe we can take a spin around the dance floor."
"I'd like that very much,"
As Fred walked across the restaurant
and towards the bar, his head became filled with thoughts about who could possibly
be calling him. He hadn't really told anyone where he was going to be
"Hello?" he said as he
picked up the receiver. "Hello?" Odd. There was no
"All right, Rutherford,"
came the voice of Sammy Benedict from behind him. "The boss wants to
see ya. Just hang up da phone an come wit me."
"W-what?" Fred muttered in
confusion as he turned around the face the hired thug. "You can't be
serious! I'm...I'm in the middle of dinner. I can't just walk out on
her. You can tell your boss that we'll meet later."
"He wants to meet now,"
Sammy said sternly and then discreetly pulled open his jacket to reveal the gun
hidden underneath, "or else."
"I...see," Fred muttered
as he began to feel drops of sweat starting to appear on his forehead.
"Just let me...tell my companion that I've...been called away."
say that you've had an emergency at da hospital," Sammy suggested with a
sly smile. "Because if you don't come with me, that's where you'll
end up---right before the morgue."
nodded and then took a deep breath. "I'll...I'll meet you by the
Sammy nodded his agreement and then
quietly turned and walked away as Fred made a quick trip back to his table.
"Leticia, darling, I've got
some bad news," he sighed as he approached her. "That was the hospital
on the phone. I've...got an emergency. I have to go."
"Oh, no!" she gasped with
disappointment. "And we were having such a lovely time. Well,
at least I was." She smiled.
"Now, we can still have a
wonderful evening," he explained as he subtly glanced towards the door
where Sammy stood waiting. "This shouldn't take very long and I can
be right back. That is if you'll wait for me."
"I think I can manage
that," she grinned. "I understand that a doctor's work is never
done. You go take care of your patient and I'll be here until you get
"You are just too wonderful for
words," he smiled and then leaned in to kiss her tenderly on the
cheek. "I promise you that this won't take long."
After another smile, he turned to
leave and his face took on a more anxious appearance. Why in the world
would the main man want to see him personally? What could possibly be so
important that he had to be pulled away so suddenly in the middle of
dinner? Fred wasn't sure of the answers to those questions, but the myriad
of possibilities that flooded his head greatly worried him. As he reached
the door, he said a silent prayer that he actually would be able to return for