Chapter Twenty Two
Things to be Thankful for
Sarah arrived home, tears still staining her cheeks. It was just so frustrating! Garrett had championed her all though dinner, insisting on her being at his side. He had tucked the feather into her hair, and even reciting a line from Meander's Queen. The thought of him, being in the same room, with that scheming bitch Matiland was too much. The image of Matiland going to the Salon tugging her zipper like some cheap hooker was locked in Sarah's mind.
"Oh Garrett!" Sarah put her head on the steering wheel. "Toss her sorry ass out! Tell her you'd rather be… fed to the orcs then touch her!" The house was dark, and quiet. Sarah sat in her car looking at it for a moment. Her home, her place of sanctuary, and the last place she wanted to be right now.
November was turning out to be the most industrious time for Sarah's paper. She poured her frustrations into her work. Keeping her visits to Colin down to one or two a week, she was able to tolerate his comments. Garrett didn't host another dinner. Sarah cursed Matiland for taking that from her.
The day before Thanksgiving, Sarah arrived at the lecture hall as usual. Entering the room she reached for the switch. Another hand, with long elegant fingers closed in on hers and pulled her into the darkness. "Leave it for a moment." A voice implored lightly. "Hide with me in the shadows."
Sarah could see him faintly in the shadow, his glasses even darker in the lack of light. "And if someone walks in?"
Garrett shrugged, "I get caught with my hand in the cookie jar." He moved closer. "Hello, cookie." He stole a quick, sweet kiss.
"Garrett." Sarah couldn't hide her smile, and didn't bother trying. A long sigh escaped her as she leaned into his chest. "This is crazy."
He lowered his head to hers, "Oh come now, darling. Meander's Queen would have traversed much worse."
Sarah looked up at him. "I am not Meander's Queen."
"No," he tapped her nose with his index finger. "You are Mozart's Queen of the Night." Sighing he flicked on the light switch. "Ah well, a moment will have to do. So Sarah, did you find more information on your project?" He walked her to her desk and watched as she placed her notes down.
"Not as much as I'd hoped to," she shook her head. "I've been informed there are only eight copies of that Sikes book… and not one is within a hundred miles of here. Everything else is all so negative. I can't believe how much trouble I'm having."
"Keep at it," he encouraged her.
"I have no other choice," she sighed. "I am committed, or I will be by the time I finish this paper."
Garrett King laughed.
William entered, saw King laughing and wondered if he were in the right classroom. Students sparsely occupied the room.
Professor King saw William and nodded to him. "Seems a good many of our fellows decided to make it a long holiday." Students sparsely occupied the room. "Everyone move down closer, please. We'll make it a review day." He watched as they moved closer. "Our time together is very short now. We have only three real weeks' left of our course. Some of you will be finishing degree's… Remember those thesis are due in by December 18th. All the papers for this class are due by then also." He flashed a smile. "I hope some of you have actually enjoyed our little journey together."
Carol Towage raised a hand. "Sir, what are we suppose to come away from this course with?"
King sighed. "An appreciation for the roots of our civilization." He knew what he said would get back to Matiland. "Myths, legends, and folk lore are the heart and soul of the human character." He began to speak on the basic needs of civilization. The rest of the class time was spent in discussing what myths each of the students liked best. When the time ran out he stood up. "Have a wonderful and safe Holiday. See you all next week" He pointed to Sarah. "I've that list of resources you asked for, Williams."
"Thank you, Professor." Sarah walked down to the desk and took the page being handed to her. She noticed that Carol was taking her sweet time about leaving. "This is very helpful, thank you again Professor."
"Of course, Williams." He sat on the desk. "Have a nice holiday… Towage, is there something you need?"
Carol fussed with her books, "No, sir." She matched her moves to Sarah's and followed the dark haired girl out of the lecture hall. She followed her to the parking lot and watched her get in her little car and pull out. She pulled out her cell phone, quickly dialed a number and said quietly. "She's gone. No, he's still in the lecture hall."
Sarah didn't bother going to see Colin, nor did she go to the bookstore. She went straight home, to help Karen with the pre-holiday baking. Karen was up to her elbows in making piecrusts. Unlike so many others, Karen still made homemade pies for the holidays. Sarah loved the way
the kitchen smelled when Karen was on one of her 'baking jags'. She took her books up to her room and returned to give her stepmother a helping hand. Karen gave her step by step instructions on the tasks she needed done. Sarah hated to admit it, but she was really enjoying helping.
By the time Robert arrived home the house smelled like a bakery. He took Karen aside, and by the way their heads were together, Sarah knew it had to do with Bowen. Karen had her 'Oh the poor man' face on. Sarah rolled her eyes, the man had somehow gotten her father to invite him to dinner, and she just knew it.
Thanksgiving morning, Toby lay on his bed watching the parades. Sarah was back in the kitchen helping prepare the dinner. She set the table for Karen with the good china and crystal. Karen was big on traditions, and for once Sarah was glad. She even insisted that they dress for dinner, instead of being casual. Sarah set the stereo up with the instrumental album Karen had thought would make nice background music for dinner. Making sure everything was picture perfect, she then ran up to her room to dress. She looked in on her brother, reminded him that dinner was almost ready. Going to her room she pulled out a long dressy skirt with a matching princess vest. The soft color contrast of the cream colored blouse made her look like she glowed.
Karen went up to dress when Sarah came down, asking her to keep an eye on things. She could hear her father demanding to know who'd moved his cuff links. Sarah laughed, some things just never changed. At two, the doorbell rang. Sarah opened the door to find Bowen smiling down at her. Sarah would have loved to be able to just slam the door in his round face. Instead she had to be nice to him for her parents sake.
"Mr. Bowen." She stepped back so he could enter.
"Sarah." He leered at her knowing her parents were not on the main floor, as they could be clearly heard upstairs. "You look lovely."
"Thank you." She said flatly. "My parents will be right down."
Toby came down the stairs and stared at the man. Bowen didn't have the patience for little children. Toby didn't have patience for him either. Sarah knew it was going to be a long dinner.
The moment Karen and Robert appeared Bowen was on his best behavior. Sarah marveled at how fast he could change his personality. One moment he was openly leering and making suggestions to her, the next he was being the perfect guest. He pulled the chair out at the dinning table for Karen and told Robert how lucky he was to have such a fine wife. Toby rolled his eyes and nearly gagged.
Sarah had been right, it was a long, long dinner. When dinner was finally over, Sarah offered to clear up. Mostly she did it so she didn't have to suffer though sitting in the Salon with Bowen. She then put coffee on so that would be ready for the deserts Karen had worked so hard on
Toby had gone up to his room, and Sarah wanted to check on him. She peered in the door that was slightly opened. Her brother was sitting on his bed slumped over as if his world had ended. His tv was not even on. He lay back on his bed and started speaking to himself. "I'd like to dump that creep in the bog! I mean it, I'd love to see him swim in it for about a week." Sarah smiled and exited before she got caught.
In the Salon her parents and Bowen were having a quiet conversation. When Sarah entered Bowen stood up and smiled at her the way one smiles at a child. "Your parents tell me that you're nearly done getting your Masters. Do you have plans for after that?"
Sarah wanted to kill her parents. "I'm applying for a grant to do some work over in England towards my PHD."
"You want a PHD in Mythological Studies?" Bowen snickered. "What will you do with that?"
"I plan on doing some writing." Sarah said with confidence.
"How nice." Bowen took a seat near the one she'd just sat down in. "But how do you plan of making a living? Or do you plan to live with your parents forever?"
"Oh no," Sarah said with a mild underlying tone of sarcasm. "I intend to marry the first knight who rescues me from a dragon."
Bowen laughed mildly. "And where does one apply?"
Karen laughed, "Now, Oliver! Don't tease Sarah. She takes her fairy tales very seriously."
'Oh you don't have to apply' thought Sarah, 'You make the perfect Ogre or troll!'
It was nearly ten when Bowen departed for his own apartment. Robert went up to check on Toby, who had refused dessert. Karen and Sarah did a last minuet pick up.
"Sarah, we're going to take Toby to Boscov's for the arrival of Santa tomorrow. Are you interested in coming along?" Karen asked.
Sarah thought it over; the thought of a thousand kids waiting on Santa didn't appeal to her. "No," it was an honest answer. "I have some things I need to do here. And I really don't relish the idea of standing in line with a thousand little kids. Besides I'm thinking of going out tomorrow afternoon to meet some friends."
"It's not my idea of fun, either." Karen said sadly. "But Toby looks forward to it so much."
Her family left the house at nine the next morning. Sarah took advantage of the quiet for a long soak in the tub. She didn't really have plans for the afternoon but decided to act as if she did. She pulled out the clingy little red dress she'd just bought on a whim. The crepe dress just felt very
feminine and procreative. It was unlike anything she'd ever owned. Even the neckline was a bit daring.
Sarah did her makeup a bit more dramatic then she wore for work or school. She even dabbed on some of the fancy expensive perfume that her mother sent her whenever she could. Standing back, she appraised herself. That was no half-grown kid, nor young student looking back in the reflection. That was a woman peering back at her. She liked what she saw, and was careful in choosing the jewelry she'd wear. She kept it simple, a watch, and a pair of pearl earrings.
It was going on one, and Sarah knew her parents would not be back until at least two. It was a family tradition to take Toby to lunch after having seen Santa. She took out the entertainment section and was checking on shows in the area, when the front doorbell rang. She looked though the sidelight, to see Bowen on the porch, looking very impatient.
Taking a deep breath she opened the door. "Mr. Bowen."
Bowen didn't speak for a moment, he just let his eyes move slowly over her in the clingy little dress that showed every curve of her body. "Sarah? This is a new look for you, isn't it? I approve."
"So glad that you do, not that it matters." She replied with mockery. "Why are you here?"
Bowen moved past her. "I left some notes in your father's study. Have they returned yet?"
"No," she said, closing the door. "They should be back soon." She deliberately lied, not liking the idea of being alone with him.
"Really?" He moved closer, and laughed when she stepped away.
"Why don't you get your papers and go…I'm expecting company." She hoped her second lie sounded more convincing.
"Hence the new outfit?" Bowen was looking at her now as if he could see though the dress.
"My gentleman likes me to be fetching." 'God Sarah, where did you come up with that?' Her mind raced.
Bowen leaned toward her, "Really Sarah? Your father told me just yesterday that as far as he knows you're not seeing anyone." Bowen moved like a snake and coiled about her. "Dressed like that, you are bound to get attention."
"Get your mitts off me!" She pulled away and placed a chair between them. "Just go get your damned paper out of the office and get out of my house."
Bowen smiled at her. "When we have this perfect opportunity to get to know each other better?" He moved toward her. "Be nice, Sarah. I can make life for your father much easier or much harder."
Sarah was about to call him every name in the book, when the doorbell rang again.
Bowen looked at her, "Get rid of who ever that is, I don't want to be interrupted." He warned. "Remember little girl."
Sarah said a prayer that she'd open the door and a knight in shiny armor would draw his sword and slay this ugly Ogre that was going to try to rob her of her virtue. Under her breath she whispered. "I wish someone would come and rescue me." As she opened the door she looked up, and a brilliant light shone from behind the man standing there. She stepped back, and the man entered.
Seeing her and catching a glimpse of the man in the salon, Garrett assessed the situation. "Sarah, I know I'm late." He bent forward to kiss her cheek. "I'm sorry darling! But I think I have something here that will help you to forgive me." He handed her a wrapped package he pulled from his vest. "Well, do open it."
For the moment, Sarah forgot Bowen, who was watching the pair in the foyer with interest. Could the girl have spoken the truth, was she waiting for her gentleman?
Sarah opened the wrapper and let it fall. In her hands was something more precious then jewels, especially to her. In her hands was one of the eight rare copies of the Wirt Sikes books on Folk lore.
"Well, am I forgiven for being late?" Garrett asked.
Sarah impulsively threw her arms about his neck, kissing him with excitement. "Garrett, you wonderful, amazing, brilliant man!"
Garrett returned the kisses he was receiving, and pretended to just notice the man staring at the loving pair. "Darling, who is this?"
Sarah clutched the book to her heart. "Oh, sorry. This is Oliver Bowen, a partner in my father's law firm. Mr. Bowen, this is Professor Garrett King, my Significant Other."
Garrett put an arm possessively round Sarah's shoulder while offering his right hand in greeting to the man still staring at them. "Mr. Bowen."
Bowen regained his sense. "Professor King." He turned to Sarah, "How is it that your father is not aware of your… relationship?"
"Do you tell your parents everything you do?" Garrett scoffed.
"I told you I was expecting my gentleman. You didn't believe me." Sarah gripped Garrett with her arm. "Now you said something about needing some papers from the study?" As the man went to the study she turned to Garrett. "How did you get this book?"
Garrett gathered her in his arms, "You'd said something about this book weeks ago. I knew of an unfettered copy, and called in a favor. Are you pleased?"
"That's putting it mildly."
Bowen cleared his throat. "Sarah let your father know I left him a note on which files I've taken."
Sarah glanced at him with cold eyes. "I will." Garrett put her on her feet, and she walked over and opened the front door. "Good bye, Mr. Bowen."
Garrett called back. "Nice to have met you, Mr. Bowen."
Sarah closed the door firmly, and with a sense of relief. Then she went back to Garrett, who pulled her onto his lap as he sat down on the couch.
"Hello, Cookie," he growled playfully, nuzzling her neck. Sarah giggled. Garrett glanced at the front window. "He's still watching. The man has a problem, doesn't he? Now you… you look good enough to eat." He began to kiss her throat, and trailed kisses down over the exposed expanse of her chest above the daring neckline of the dress. A Throaty moan escaped Sarah. Garrett's lips retraced their path upward, until they claimed hers. Neither one of them dared about Bowen and his problems by that point.
Garrett pulled back from the kiss, gazed deeply in her eyes. "Cookie, this is save number three. You know what that means?" She shook her head. "It means you owe me a life debt. I own your life, I own you. You are mine." Long elegant fingers caressed her with possessiveness.
Sarah touched his face. "Before you go celebrating your rights of ownership, I should warn you there is one person who says he's got a prior claim."
Garrett let his eyes linger over her. "Oh does he, now? And just who is this man, trying to horn in on my Cookie?"
"This may take time, I hope you're not in a hurry to rush off." She placed an arm over his shoulder.
Garrett shook his head, "I'd planed on coming here, and that was as far as I'd planned. How long before we are disturbed?"
Sarah glanced over to Karen's pride and joy, her antique clock. "We've at least an hour before my folks return. To tell you the truth, I'm so glad you showed up… I think that man, Bowen…I think he planed on doing something… to me."
"Sarah, that dress could drive a saint to want to have his way with you!" He glowered. "Now, tell me about this man, the one who thinks he's got a prior claim."
"His name is Jareth." She said quietly.
"Jareth?" At her nod, Garrett looked thoughtful. "Wasn't that the man who you danced with at the Gala?"
"Yes, that would be him." Sarah said trying to keep her mind on the story, and not the lap she was seated on. "I've known him since I was fifteen."
"When you say known…"
"No. Not in the biblical sense!" Sarah blushed madly.
"Of course not, darling." Garrett cuddled closer. "Go on."
"Jareth is hard to explain. And our relationship, if that's what one can call it, is even harder to define." Sarah sighed. "He challenges me, and pits me against myself. He knows things about me no one else knows, things that no one else cared to know. He knows some of my deepest inner most desires. Which he often times uses against me. But there have been times when he's been there to help me." She frowned. "There are times when I really like him, and other times I could just throttle him."
Garrett listened, his face a calm mask. "You sound confused, Sarah." She nodded, and he took her chin in his right hand. "Sarah, what about us? What do you feel about us?"
Sarah stared at the smoky glass that covered his eyes. "Us? There are times when I'm not sure there is an us. And other times when I can't bear the thought of no us. In just over three months you've turned my world… upside down." She thought of another world turned upside down. "There's no one else in the world I'd rather cross word swords with! You demand not just one's best but beyond that. You don't play favorites, and you don't back down from a challenge. Yet you've let me see a small part of the private you. The man who likes to pull off his tie and cuddle in a dark room."
He sighed deeply. "Sarah, I have no intentions on relinquishing my claim on you. In fact I plan on wooing you until you are fully won. If it comes to fisticuffs, so be it."
"You'd fight for me?" She swallowed.
"Darling girl, I'd battle even you, to keep you."
Words failed her, as they often did at such moments of intense emotion. Instead, she followed her instincts and claimed his lips in a passionate thank you. Garrett lowered his hand. Placing it lightly at her waist, he let it inch its way up until it rested gently on the soft mound of her breast.
Cautiously he flexed the long elegant fingers; her response was instantaneous. The moan opened her mouth to him and he deepened the kiss. A moment later she was shaking within his embrace. Garrett pulled back. "Easy darling, before I forget we are in your parents house, and that I am still your professor."
Sarah took a long breath, "What do you suggest?"
Garrett patted her thigh, "That stereo? Does it work?" She nodded. "Then put something sweet and slow on, and we'll dance."
"You're not going to leave?" She asked.
"Not with the possibility of that man lurking in the shadows. The only person who is going to nibble on you is me, Cookie."
Reluctantly Sarah vacated his lap. The stereo was her father's pride and joy, and most of the albums reflected his taste in music. Sarah found one that held lots of slow tunes perfect for those special moments. She'd seen Karen put it on and hold her hands out invitingly to her father on occasions. Sarah placed the record on the turntable, turned and imitated Karen. Garrett smiled, left he couch and enclosed her in his arms.
Sarah placed her head over his heart. "How do you feel about left over turkey?"
"I'm rather fond of it," he said holding her close. "Why?"
"I'm asking you to dinner," she said in a light tone.
"You mean you're asking me to meet the parents," he corrected.
Garrett looked down at her with a grin. "I suppose it is time. Thank you, I'd love to stay for dinner, Sarah."
They were still swaying to the music half an hour later, when the front door opened. Karen was the first to enter, and stopped in the foyer at the sight of Sarah and the tall man in smoky glasses dancing slowly in the Salon. Robert looked at Karen, and then at the pair. He turned questioning eyes to his wife, who shrugged in bewilderment. Toby came in and his mouth dropped, as his eyes popped open. Robert cleared his throat, and the pair dancing turned at the sound.
"Sarah." Her father's tone was a mixture of curiosity and reserve.
Sarah moved toward her parents, "Mom, Dad, I'd like to introduce you to Professor Garrett King. Garrett these are my parents Robert and Karen Williams. The young man is my brother, Toby."
Garrett extended his hand to Robert. "A pleasure to meet you, at last." He bowed to Karen, then looked down at the little boy with the gaping jaw. "Hello, young man."
Robert accepted the offered hand and shook it firmly. "Professor King, you say? You're the one who has the discussion groups?"
Garrett placed his left hand to Sarah's waist, "Yes, I am. Your daughter is a worthy addition to our group "
Karen's eyes lit up with excitement as she watched the man standing beside her stepdaughter. "That's so good of you to say."
Sarah addressed her parents. "I've taken the liberty of inventing Garrett to join us for dinner." To Karen directly she said. "I hope you don't mind."
Karen beamed her happiest smile at them. "Of course he's welcome to join us." She looked at him, "I'm afraid it's just leftover's though." She turned to Sarah, "Would you give me a hand dear?"
Robert invited Garrett to join him in conversation. Toby took a seat near the man. His eyes never left the stranger's familiar face, not for a moment.
In the kitchen, Karen closed the door and pulled Sarah toward her. "Who is that man?"
Sarah blushed softly, "He's one of my professors."
Karen raised one eyebrow. "Oh really? Come on, who is he?"
"He's the man I may be falling in love with." She confessed.
Karen hugged her swiftly. "He's gorgeous!"
Sarah nodded, "He is that! And oh so much more, Mom. He's smart, and witty, and fantastic at arguments."
Robert lit his pipe and let his eyes study the man. "So what subject do you teach?"
"Mythology and Folklore." Garrett leaned back, totally relaxed. "Sarah tells me you're a lawyer."
"Yes." Robert braced for a jab at his profession.
Garrett nodded. "Must be from you she gets her way of presenting an argument."
Robert took the complement. "She argues well?"
Garrett smiled. "Better than well, she's amazingly effective."
Pride in his eldest child swelled, "That's good of you to say."
"She comes prepared, and she's a hard worker," Garrett spoke with equal pride.
Robert drew on the pipe, thinking. "I suppose that's why you invited her to join your discussion group."
"No," Garrett said with a grin. "I asked her to join us because I rather enjoy looking at her. In fact Mr. Williams I'd like to request your permission to court your daughter."
Robert began coughing as the smoke caught in his throat. "You'd like what?"
"Permission to court your daughter," Garrett repeated himself, rather enjoying the discomfort on the other man's face. "I'm a bit of an old fashioned man. It is the way I was raised."
Robert leaned forward, "You do know it's 1992 don't you? I mean women get funny about their place in the world…. Asking me for permission…is…"
"Just a formality, I assure you." Garrett soothed the man. "Sarah is already aware of my intentions."
Robert sat back, looking at the man. "I see. Well then, yes… of course you may court my daughter."
Garrett looked down at Toby, whose mouth was still agape. "Would you like me to ask you as well?" his tone was friendly and warm.
Toby moved closer, "Would you like to see my fort?"
Robert looked at his son. "Toby, don't pester our guest."
"It's alright," Garrett said keeping his eyes on the boy. "I'm rather fond of children." He leaned toward Toby. "I'd love to see your fort."
Toby jumped to his feet and grabbed Garrett by the hand. "Come on!"
Garrett flashed a smile at the boy. "Lead the way."
The pair came though the kitchen, followed by Robert who stood at the back door and watched as his little boy led the man to the back of the yard. Robert turned to Sarah and Karen. "He's never said more than two words to Oliver, but he's taken this man straight out to the fort."
"Oliver is not someone Toby is comfortable with, Dad," Sarah said tactfully.
Robert watched though the window a moment longer. "He won't let me near the fort." he uttered under his breath.
In the very back of the yard, there was a swell in the land, which had once been a hillside. There was a thicket of trees and brush here, and it was here that Toby had built his fortress. He pointed the features out with pride.
Garrett marveled over the way it was put together. "Nicely done."
Toby smiled at Garrett. "It's a bute alright. I've only seen one better. But that was a long time ago… I'm not sure it's even still there."
Garrett decided to test the waters a bit. "Toby, you remind me of someone I knew a long time ago."
Without missing a beat Toby nodded, "I remind you of the babe."
Garrett whispered. "What babe?"
"The babe with the power." Toby said firmly.
Again the man smiled. "What power?"
"The power of voodoo!"
Garrett laughed. "Do what?"
Toby turned a sunny face up to the man. "Remind you of the babe!"
Garrett got down on one knee to look eye to eye with the child. "What do you see?
"Magic," whispered the boy. "I see magic."
Garrett leaned closer. "That's my boy." His voice was low and proud.
Toby leaned his head toward the man. "Are we going home now?"
"Not yet." Garrett whispered. He winked. "Toby, I need you to play a game with me."
"What kind of game?" Asked the child.
"A pretend game." Garrett looked back toward the house. "You see, Sarah does not know."
"Is she blind?" Toby asked.
"No, not blind… I'm using what's called glamour. You don't see it because you still have the eyes of a child." Garrett spoke as if he were talking to a contemporary.
Toby nodded, "That's why you look kind of fuzzy?"
"Fuzzy?" Garrett laughed. "Just what do you see, boy?"
Toby placed on hand on top the other. "It's like this. This is you, and this it the other you." He looked at Garrett and crossed his eyes. "It hurts my eyes."
Garrett snickered. "I can imagine. Would you like to see me as me? I can do that you know. But you'll be the only one." Garrett warned. "You still have to act like you see the Professor."
"Yes please." Toby said firmly. A moment later his vision cleared and he saw the person who had never become a faded memory. "You look just like I remember."
"You've grown." Jareth tapped Toby on the nose. "But I've been watching you as you grow."
Karen looked out the back window. "I wonder what they are talking about." Sarah looked from over her shoulder. Karen turned to her stepdaughter. "A man like that, who likes children, still single? Sarah, grab him up, fast!"
Toby looked as if something had just dawned on him. "You sent me the owls!"
"Guilty." Jareth beamed.
Toby put his arms around Jareth's neck and buried his face in the man's shoulder. "Thank you."
Jareth closed his eyes and hugged the boy. "You're welcome."
Karen watched the interaction between Garrett and Toby in the yard. "Oh that's so sweet…"
Sarah set the table. "Mom, stop staring."
Toby turned in Jareth's arms and looked at the fort. "Do you really like it?"
"I do." Jareth spoke in the child's ear. "It's a wonderful fort, my boy."
" I wanted to put a moat in, but they wouldn't let me." The child leaned back, completely comfortable with where he was.
"You'll get your moat." Teased Jareth. "Just not here."
"Of course." Jareth hugged the child. "I always keep my promises."
The pair stayed put, talking about the fort until Sarah called from the back door.
Jareth gave the boy a long hug, and stood up. "Remember, not a word to Sarah."
"I think your game is silly." Toby said factually.
"It's my game," the man said pointedly. "And it's for grownups. You get to watch us make fools of ourselves."
Toby laughed. "Okay."
Toby led Garrett to the downstairs powder room to wash and freshen up. When they both arrived at the dinner table the boy begged to be allowed to sit beside his new 'bestest friend'. Karen complimented Garrett on his way with children. He smiled and winked at Toby who giggled.
Dinner was far more pleasant than Thanksgiving had been. Toby was animated and talkative. Garrett made pleasant conversation, and kept things interesting with his perspective on the differences between life Stateside, as opposed to Britain. He complemented Karen on her culinary skills, winning her forever. Robert even seemed to forget his little pang of hurt feelings about the invite to see the fort. After the fourth cup of coffee, and a second slice of Karen's pie, Garrett looked at his watch.
"I've had a wonderful evening, thank you. However, it's getting late and I do have to leave." He rose from his chair, extended a hand to Robert. "Thank you."
"It's been a pleasure for us as well, Garrett." Robert pumped the hand.
Garrett turned to Karen, lifted her hand and kissed the back. "Wonderful meal, thank you."
Karen blushed. "Sarah, why don't you see Garrett out."
Garrett looked down at Toby. "Off to bed, my boy. You've had a long day."
Toby nodded, to the surprise of his parents. "Good night." He paused, eyes opening wide. "What do I call you?"
"Professor King." Robert said.
Garrett winked. "For now."
Toby giggled. "Ok, professor."
Sarah watched her brother scurry up the stairs. "Ok, that's amazing! He never goes up without an argument."
Garrett snickered. "I told you I have a way with children."
Sarah walked at his side to the front door. "Yes you really do."
The couple went though the door and out to where Garrett's car stood. At the car, Garrett pulled her into his arms. "How'd I do, Cookie?"
"Karen thinks you're a dream. Daddy is overjoyed that you're so normal… and Toby loves you." Sarah looked up into his smoky glasses with a peaceful look.
"And does my Sarah love me?" He whispered softly.
"Yes." She said without thinking.
"Goodnight, Cookie." He kissed her briefly, then drove off.