“Hold on you two,” I heard a melodious female voice call from inside. “Get back away from the door, so I can let your Dad and Sarah in. Really! Scoot!” She held the door open for us to enter.
My first look at Tamara was intriguing; she didn’t look at all like what I had thought she would. She wasn’t glamorous, far from it in fact. She was tall, like Adam and thin, but so had I been when I was chasing around two little kids. She had dark brown hair which was long and pulled back into a smooth pony tail and lovely olive skin. She must have some Mediterranean blood I thought enviously.
As soon as we were in the door, Tamara grabbed my hand and said, “Sarah, welcome! It is wonderful to meet you. Please come in. Adam, your Dad is in the family room, watching a soccer game. Go on in.”
“Is Mark here?” Adam asked.
“No, he’s still in Vancouver. He won’t be back until Wednesday. Boys, go with your dad!” she said laughingly. “As if I had to tell them that! Vivian and I are in the kitchen finishing getting dinner together. Would you care to come with me or go with the boys?”
“If there is anything I can do to help I’d love to come with you,” I told her and she turned and headed down a hallway.
“Can you chop vegetables, like for salad?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said. We went into the kitchen, and huge room, bright and open. Vivian was at the sink, rinsing vegetables.
“Hello Sarah darling. Did you have a nice trip here?”
“Um yes, I’m afraid I am already falling in love with the drive along the coast,” I said as Tamara handed me a knife and cutting board. I grabbed some of the vegetables out of the colander where they were draining and some paper towels and moved over to an empty counter top to start drying them and chopping. Tamara handed me a huge bowl that already had torn lettuce in it. I started slicing a red bell pepper to toss in with the lettuce.
“So Sarah, what did you think of Adam’s house? Isn’t it lovely?” Tamara asked.
“Truthfully, I didn’t see much of it. Tamara, the roses are gorgeous, thank you for helping with that wonderful welcome!”
“It was all Adam’s idea of course. He said he did the same thing in Wichita when you came home from the hospital. He is definitely a romantic, to a fault in fact!”
“Yes, he certainly is. And full of surprises,” I said, thinking about his confession in the car. “I saw the bedroom and bath and we looked out on the balcony for a couple of minutes, but that’s all we had time for. I guess I’ll see the rest later.”
“Wait until you see his kitchen. It is fabulous. Has he told you that he enjoys cooking?” Tamara asked. She was checking something in the oven, something that smelled wonderful.
“Yes, I figured that out this morning actually. And Vivian, he made an omelet and when I asked what was in it, he told me it was your recipe and that he couldn’t tell me what was in it, but that you would?”
Vivian turned to look at me, a clearly puzzled look on her face. “Me? My dear, I don’t cook, at least not anything you would want to eat that is. Whatever could he have meant Tamara?”
Tamara leaned over and whispered something into Vivian’s ear and a look of surprise and then understanding washed across her face. “Ah,” she said.
“Sarah, I’m afraid Adam was being a bit facetious actually. Towards me darling, not you. It is well known that I can’t cook, really don’t even have an interest in it. However, once when we were in India, someone gave us some fresh eggs, which was a rare treat. The kids wanted omelet, which luckily was something I could manage. Now, my mother always added a bit of water to the eggs to make them fluffy. However, clean water where we were was also at a premium and so I used the only thing I had on hand in the eggs. Care to make a guess?” she asked me, watching my face.
I shook my head no because I didn’t have a clue.
“We had had some friends over the night before and we had some leftover white wine. So I added it. The eggs were really quite tasty I remember.”
I thought about that bottle of pro secco frizante that was in the fridge. We hadn’t drunk it all the other night. A smile spread slowly across my face and I shook my head in understanding. “Why yes, it makes sense now. We had some leftover wine in the fridge and frankly, it never occurred to me that was what was in those eggs!”
“Did I hear someone mention eggs?”
I looked up and there was Adam standing in the kitchen doorway, and wearing his dimple smile, aimed straight at me.
I pointed the knife I was holding, straight at him and said, “Have to kill me, huh?”
He shrugged his shoulders sheepishly and laughed. “It’s just the story is so much better when mother tells it!” He was laughing outright now. “And that omelet was amazingly good this morning, you said so yourself. I think it was the fizzy part of the wine that did it actually!”
“Don’t be so smug there buddy,” I laughed.
He came over to me and bent down and bestowed a kiss on my forehead and then snatched a piece of red pepper off the cutting board. While he was munching it, I looked over at Tamara, who was watching all this intently. And the amazing thing was, she was totally happy. The look on her face plainly showed that she was pleased watching Adam and I. When she caught my eye, she smiled at me, and I knew from that moment on I had nothing to fear from Tamara.
“Something smells wonderful in here and I had to come and investigate! I’m starving.”
“Of course,” Tamara and I both said at the same time. We looked at each other and she shook her head. “I’m sure you have already realized he is a bottomless pit?” she questioned.
“Yes and he tells me all the Richland men are like that. Is that true?”
“Goodness gracious yes,” Vivian answered. And right then the other Richland men appeared, all following their noses.
“Mama, when is dinner going to be done?” they boys chorused together.
“Soon! Now, go and get washed up, ALL of you,” she said, pointing out the door.
I was just finishing chopping the vegetables and tossed the last of them into the salad bowl. Tamara brought a pair of salad tongs over and started tossing it all together. Vivian had been cutting up a pair of very large chickens and putting the pieces on a platter which she carried into the dining room. She came back and grabbed some potholders and pulled a large casserole out of the oven.
I went over to look more closely at it and the smells is gave off were heavenly. I raised my face up to look at Tamara and asked, “What is it?”
“Baked ziti with garlic and Parmesan cream sauce. It’s one of the boy’s favorites. Sarah, in the fridge you’ll find a couple of bottles of white wine. Could you open them please? The bottle opener is in that drawer,” she said, pointing to a drawer by the sink.
I nodded yes and grabbed the opener, and then both bottles of wine. They were both bottles of chardonnay, a Napa Valley variety. I opened both bottles and Tamara came back in and grabbed them to take them into the dining room. She motioned for me to follow her and we went into a large dining room. The table was beautiful, set with china and crystal and a large low bowl of roses. I raised my eyebrow in surprise; so there must be a few left in California I admitted.
The table was large; we could have had a few more people at it with no problem. Gerald and Vivian both sat at the ends, with Tamara and the boys on one side and Adam and I on the other.
It wasn’t a fancy meal really and it seemed as if there was enough food to serve twice as many people, but as I watched them eat I quickly realized that wasn’t true at all. I also noticed that even as young as they were the boys had impeccable table manners and they ate with their forks in their left hands, as did their father and grandparents.
The chicken and the ziti were wonderful. The sauce on the pasta was rich and creamy, tantalizingly garlicky, but by no means overpowering and the chicken was moist and succulent. It was such an enjoyable meal, the family all talking and catching up with one another’s lives and it was very heartening to see. They boys had lots to tell their dad about school and soccer now that Tristan was old enough to play. Geoff was clearly offended that he wasn’t allowed to play yet, and Adam explained patiently that next year he would have the chance.
“Daddy, I have a game Tuesday after school, will you and Sarah come, please?” Tristan asked. His small but expressive face was full of hope and I was charmed that he included me in the invitation.
“Absolutely, we wouldn’t miss it!” Adam reassured him, casting a look at me. I nodded my head, to show I wanted to as well.
“Tristan, I would love to see you play. It will be fun!” I added. “And Geoff, I bet you know a lot about soccer, huh?” He nodded at me and I continued, “Maybe you could explain it all to me, okay?”
His little face lit up as well and he started excitedly telling me all about soccer. Adam cast me a happy look and when I glanced at Tamara, she mouthed, “Thank you,” to me.
Even after letting Geoff talk about soccer for a few minutes he showed no signs of winding down. Adam finally interrupted him politely and told him that it would be better to tell me when we were at the game so I would see what he was talking about and he sighed resignedly and was quiet.
“Tamara, how is the movie going in Vancouver? Is filming wrapping on Wednesday?” Adam asked.
“No, but they are taking a break for a few days, which will allow Mark to get home. He’s been gone for a month now, so I am very ready to see him and so are the boys I think.” At their vigorous nods, she continued, “They are working on some screen re-writes and things are a bit tense up there I think.”
She and Adam chatted about the film for a few minutes and I realized that Mark was obviously in the movie business as well. I wondered if he was an actor too.
My attention was pulled back to the table when Tristan asked, “Mama, can we have dessert now, please?
She laughed and said, “Are you sure you have room?”
I looked at the remnants of the dinner of which there were few. I was amazed; amazed that so much of the food was gone and that anybody had room for dessert!
Adam perked up at the word ‘dessert’ and asked, “What’s for dessert?” expectantly.
“Fudge Brownie Torte!” Tamara responded with a laugh.
“Oh God,” Adam moaned. He turned to me and said, “She knows my weaknesses!”
Amazingly, that did not bother me as it would have an hour or so ago. Now it felt cozy, in fact the whole dinner was strangely comforting. It felt almost familiar in fact, like I belonged here. It was all okay and suddenly, I was eager for this trip here to continue.
Conversation during the exquisitely rich dessert centered on Africa and Adam’s sister.
“Adam, Angelica and Dumonde are getting married next March; the 14th actually. I hope this is far enough in advance that you and Sarah can manage to be there?” his mother questioned.
“I’ll talk to William and find out. I don’t know for sure what my schedule is for next year, but I hope to be taking some time off actually,” he replied, looking at me as he said it.
For a moment, everything came to a stop as I pondered reasons for that. My imagination was running wild and I truthfully didn’t know what I wanted that to mean! I felt myself blush and so I looked quickly down at my plate, concentrating on the luscious dessert.
Soon dinner was over and Tamara said, “Adam, will you get the boys into the bath please? They need to get to bed soon if they are going to spend the day with you.”
“Sure. What time do you want to bring them by?” he said.
“Daddy, we want your pancakes for breakfast, pleeeeeaaase?” they both asked. I didn’t know for sure, but this seemed like it could have been planned and I smiled at the thought.
“So, you make pancakes too?” I asked. And he had the good grace to actually blush!
“Alright, pancakes it is then. How about 9:00? And plan on staying the night and I’ll take you to school on Monday morning, if that’s okay with your mom?” he asked, casting a look at Tamara, who nodded.
“Yeah, yeah,” they both said, dancing around the dining room.
“Okay, c’mon, its time for that bath. Off you go,” he told them trying to herd them out of the dining room.
Gerald, Vivian, if you’d like to get back to the city to rest, that’s fine. I’m certain you must be tired and I’m sure Sarah won’t mind helping me clean up,” she stated, looking at me.
“Heavens no, I’d be happy to. Please feel free to go,” I encouraged. I decided I would enjoy the chance to chat with Tamara now that I wasn’t scared of her any more.
So Vivian and Gerald said their goodbyes, with reassurances that we would see them again in a few days. The boys and Adam were in the bathroom and it was just Tamara and I left to clean up the kitchen.
“I hope you didn’t mind my volunteering you here, it’s just I know they must be exhausted. Vivian definitely because she hates to fly and never rests on the plane and it’s an eighteen hour trip for them.”
“No, not at all. Actually I’m glad we will have the chance to chat and get to know one another a bit,” I told her, carrying in dishes from the dining table.
“Me too. You won’t believe how nervous I was to meet you!” she said with a chuckle.
“Really, you too? I was scared to death to meet you!”
“Amazing isn’t it, that we both felt that way I mean. Adam tried to tell me that, but I just ignored it. You see, Adam hasn’t ever brought another woman around us.”
“Never?” I asked incredulously.
“Nope, not a one. Not that there have really been any to speak of, but still. I knew when he started speaking about you in Italy that he had fallen hard. And truthfully, I was afraid you would hurt him. He’s really much more fragile than he seems Sarah.”
She was rinsing dishes and putting them into the dishwasher as I was wiping down counters and the stove.
“I’ve noticed that actually. Well, I mean that he gets nervous and fidgets with things and he did that almost from the start and I realized quickly that he liked me. Honestly, at first I thought it would just be a holiday romance, but Adam wouldn’t let me get away with that. I was plenty scared, let me tell you. We had a huge fight in Firenza, all about that. But I realized that I did care about him too and I wanted to try. Still, he moves pretty fast!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, for like the first time in his life. That man is like molasses, slower than slow. It was you that made the difference,” she told me.
I digested those words while I made a final trip into the dining room to make sure we had gotten everything. That seemed like a foreign thought to me, Adam being cautiously slow I mean. He had just plunged ahead with things, very quickly I thought. What if he did feel he had to move quicker because of my reticence? Has he really had enough time to know for sure what he wants?
I voiced that thought to Tamara when I returned to the kitchen. She was just finishing loading the dishwasher and was adding the detergent. She closed the door and turned the cycle on then said, “Hey, looks like there is just enough wine left for us each a glass while the boys are busy. You game?”
I nodded yes and she poured the final two glasses out of the bottle and we sat at the breakfast bar to drink them and chat.
“Sarah, he may have moved fast on this, but I promise you he knows exactly what he wants and what he is doing. Adam will never be maneuvered into doing something he doesn’t want to do. And I promise you, he loves you very much,” she said, reaching over and squeezing my hand.
A tear trickled slowly down my cheek unnoticed as I looked at Tamara. “I came here expecting to find a, well maybe a rival and instead I’ve found a friend. Thank you for that Tamara.”
“No, thank you. I feel the same way. I was worried you would come here demanding all his time and he wouldn’t give the boys the time they deserve and need. Instead, you went out of your way to include them in your plans and that means so much to me, I just can’t tell you!”
I let out a huge breath and then cleared my throat. “So, tell me about Mark? Adam, being a typical male hasn’t really said anything about him. Is he an actor too?”
“No!” she exclaimed. “Actually, he is a director. I met him when he directed Adam in ‘River of Doubt’ and we all became friends. Adam and I were just reaching the conclusion that staying together was hurting us all and that we should separate. Mark gave us a little time to get things in order. We didn’t start actually dating until a year ago. And then he moved in here 4 months ago.”
It suddenly dawned on me just who Mark was then. And I also had a sneaking suspicion now who Tamara was as well. “Uh, he’s Mark Bonner isn’t he?” I asked her.
“Why yes, he is. You’ve heard of him?” she asked. I could tell she didn’t ask coyly, just out of curiosity.
“Well yes, as a matter of fact I have. He won the Academy Award that year for that movie too, didn’t he? And if I remember correctly, there was quite a lot of publicity about the beautiful sets on the picture, and the fact that the set designer didn’t win. That was you, wasn’t it?”
“I’m afraid I’m guilty. Do you follow all the awards stuff?”
“No, my best friend Cassie does though and can give you all the gossip!” I was laughing, remembering when I had asked Adam if Tamara had helped to decorate his house and his reply. I told her about that and she joined in the laughter.
“He knew exactly what he wanted for that house, let me tell you. All I did was some of the leg work, hunting things down. It’s all his, I promise you. And he hasn’t ever had another woman there Sarah.”
“He made a point of telling me that as well. It surprised me, I mean; I don’t think he’s been a monk or anything. He certainly has had enough chances I’m sure.”
“Well almost,” Tamara informed me. “But he’s kind of a home-body really. That’s because he is away a lot and so when he isn’t working, he just wants to be home with the boys. It’s a wonder he even keeps the house in England any more, he never goes there.”
“Never goes where?” Adam asked, coming into the room, followed by two very clean and yawning little boys.
“England. So, are you two spick and span clean?” When they nodded yes, she said, “Well come here then and give me a kiss goodnight and head off to bed, otherwise you’ll sleep right through the pancakes in the morning!”
I couldn’t help but smile at their worried faces as they ran to her for goodnight kisses. When they had given them to her, I felt a little hand pat my arm. It was Geoff and he motioned for me to lean down to him. When I did he whispered in my ear, “Goodnight Sarah. I can’t wait to show you the ocean tomorrow!” and then he placed a quick kiss on my cheek, before running after his brother.
I looked up at Adam with an astonished look on my face. He was standing there looking at me with an unreadable expression on his face before turning to follow the boys to their room.
“Well,” Tamara said, “You have made a huge conquest this evening. Despite the fact that he is the younger, he is the leader of those two.”
I sort of nervously laughed, I now felt a huge responsibility, but at the same time my heart was soaring. Geoff was a sweet little soul and I didn’t ever want to risk hurting him.
Adam came back into the room then and picked up my wine glass and took the last drink, before nudging me off the stool and sitting down, only to pull me onto his lap. It felt weirdly precarious, sitting up this high with my feet dangling on top of Adam’s.
“Tamara, excellent dinner.” Looking at me he said, “Did you know I taught her everything she knows?”
Tamara giggled and said, “I hate to admit it, but he is right. I couldn’t boil water until Adam came into my life. I thought I hated cooking, but that was only because I didn’t know how. Adam changed that,” she finished with a grin.
“Of course I did. After all, you have two Richland men in this household with Richland appetites. It was a parental protection thing, looking out for my offspring!”
We were all laughing then when the phone rang. Tamara looked at the caller ID and said, "It’s Mark," before she picked it up. As soon as she said hello, Adam whispered in my ear and asked if I were ready to go home. At my nod of assent, he tapped Tamara on the arm and softly told her we were leaving. She nodded and Adam told her he would lock up behind us and so we left.
That was the end to that very surprising dinner. And I felt 100 times better about it all.
It was almost 10:30 by the time we got home. I realized I hadn’t called mom and dad and the kids and let them know we got her safely, but I figured they would know. It was 12:30 back home and too late to call, so that could wait until morning I decided.
Adam pulled into the garage and asked me to wait until the door closed all the way before getting out of the car.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because if someone tries to come in, we are still safely locked inside the car and the door will go back up and I assure you I will not hesitate to back quickly out of the garage and over anything or anyone who happens to be in the way. Sarah, we have to be cautious, okay?”
“I know,” I told him. It seemed ridiculous, but he was right. The door closed all the way and Adam hit the ‘lock’ button and we got out of the car. I waited patiently while he turned the alarm off and opened the door.
“Tomorrow, I will get you keys and show you how to work the alarm system, okay?” he asked, resetting the alarm as soon as we were inside.
“Alright,” I told him as we made our way through the house. He led me down to the kitchen level, which was exciting since I had heard about it this evening.
When the lights came on I blinked they were so bright. But partly that was because they shone off of almost every available surface. Everything was highly polished and gleaming, including the appliances that were stainless steel and the tiles, which were creamy yellow colored with vines and fruit on some of them, in an Italian style. It was truly gorgeous I thought with a sigh. And also very functional I quickly realized.
There was an island in the middle of the room with a sink and open shelves around it which appeared to hold cookbooks from all over the world. Various fanciful knick-knacks decorated the shelves as well and I soon realized they were trinkets from his travels too. The shelves also held lots of different styles and sizes of wine and drink glasses, some plain and some painted with designs, some etched and some with gold rims. He pulled a couple of the gold-rimmed champagne flutes out and then went to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of sparkling wine, a California variety. The chardonnay at dinner had been wonderful, so I looked forward to tasting this.
“C’mon, let’s go take a swim,” he said, heading up the stairs. “Will you hit the light switch please?”
I flipped the switch as I followed him. My stomach butterflies had taken flight, and it was pure anticipation.
“Did you bring any of those delicious smelling bath things with you? I’m afraid I don’t have any, but we will remedy that as quickly as possible,” he told me, after heading straight into the bathroom.
“Yes, I did. You did mention that you had a tub you know? What do you feel like?” I giggled, thinking about how anxious he seemed to be about smelling girly again.
“Um, I want that spicy vanilla stuff you used in Italy!” he told me as he popped the cork on the wine over the sink. It bubbled up delightfully and he caught it in one of the glasses, and then poured some into the other glass. I watched him doing this as I could see him in the mirror. And I saw that he was aroused, hugely erect in fact and that made me even more excited. I looked up and caught his eyes in the mirror and saw that he was watching me. And then I realized that my nipples were rock hard and he could see them in the mirror.
Okay, so we’re even!
And suddenly, I couldn’t wait!