Disclaimer: ATTWN ain't mine. Get used to it.
Anthony Marston smoothed out the front of his tux and took one last look in the mirror. He was a rather handsome devil, if he did say so himself. He looked forward to seeing Badger Berkeley, an old friend of his. He somehow had the impression Badger was up in Norse, but perhaps he had come down for the sake of introducing him to his friends, the Owens.
What were these Owens all about, he wondered. They were rather strange, to be certain—to go to the trouble of inviting all these people and then not show up. Queer, it was. Oh well; until then, he'd acquaint himself with the other guests. Aside from the maid and the butler, there were a few old coots—the judge, the old spinster, especially the general, most likely fully of old wartime stories—the man named Davis who seemed rather queer, the doctor who would be handy should anything out of the ordinary occurred, and the explorer who went by the name of Philip Lombard. An Italian, eh? Those Italians always were peculiar.
And then there was...the girl. Vera...Clayton? No, Claythorne.
Anthony smiled at the thought of her. The girl was rather attractive, but not glamorous; more along the lines of the classic girl-next-door, unlike all those other girls who dolled themselves up. He'd be getting to know her before the weekend was out, all right.
Vera Claythorne sat outside on the porch. She leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and listened to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, sending shivers down her spine. Those waves...those blasted waves...how they reminded her of Cyril...and of Hugo...
"Hugo," whispered Vera softly, trying to get his smile out of her head. That was in the past—over and done with! There wasn't much use in thinking about what could have been if it was never going to be. She hoped Mrs. Owen would turn up soon. Then she could get right to work as her secretary, leaving all this business behind her, hopefully. During her spare time, she supposed she could take the time to get to know the guests a little better. She found herself especially drawn to Philip Lombard and Anthony Marston. There was something about them that seemed both mysterious and attractive.
Enough with this nonsense, she scolded herself. You don't have time for romance!
Vera was alerted by the sound of footsteps approaching. She opened her eyes and leaned her head forward. She saw Anthony Marston approaching her. She felt her breath catch in her throat, recalling how handsome he had looked coming down to the docks in that car...how he had almost looked like some sort of God.
"Good evening, Miss Claythorne," said Anthony politely.
"And good evening to you, Mr. Marston," said Vera civilly. She was surprised to hear herself say, "Won't you please sit down?"
"But of course," said Anthony, taking the seat next to Vera. He said, "What a lovely evening we're having. I do say it's rather queer the Owens haven't arrived yet, though."
"Yes," nodded Vera. "I'm sure they'll come eventually. These things happen."
"Oh," said Anthony. "Have you worked as a secretary before?"
"No, not really," admitted Vera. "I've applied for a job several times, but each attempt was unsuccessful, jobs being scarce in these times. And even so, such a job would only be temporary. I'm a games mistress at a third-class school for girls."
"Really?" said Anthony. "Which school?"
"St. Elizabeth's," replied Vera. Then, "Just about everyone I've talked to has never met Mr. Owen, nor do they know anything about him. Do you know anything?"
"Happens to me all the time!" chuckled Anthony, recalling the instances where he was required to get into the social circle of some fancy millionaire he had never even heard of until that moment. "No, I'm afraid I don't know anything about these Owens. I have a good friend who does, though. Name's Badger Berkeley. Funny, though, because he never mentioned anything about them to me before, to say nothing of the fact that I'm almost certain he's up in Norse right now."
"Maybe he is and he just got tired of always having to introduce you and wanted you to do it on your own," Vera blurted out.
Anthony raised an eyebrow. Vera blushed and said quickly, "I didn't mean to sound rude."
"No, you're probably right," said Anthony. "Come to think of it, it always was Badger introducing me into the various crowds of society. Perhaps the old horse has decided to let me off on my own this time!" He laughed, causing Vera to turn even redder. "You look rather attractive when you blush," he remarked. "Especially in this moonlight."
Vera sat up straight. "Are you trying to flatter me?" she asked.
"But of course," said Anthony, smiling.
"Well, for your information, it is not going to work," said Vera firmly, looking straight ahead at the sea.
"Why?" asked Anthony. "Have another suitor in mind? That Lombard fellow who keeps staring at you, perhaps?"
Vera turned to Anthony, her eyes narrowing. "He does not stare," she said.
"Oh believe me, he does," chuckled Anthony. "You should've seen the lust in his eyes during the boat ride!"
"Well," stammered Vera, her cheeks turning another shade of red, "we—we had already gotten to know each other a great deal on the way here. More than I got to know you, as a matter of fact."
"That's because, unlike the rest of you who all decided going by car just wasn't enough, I came here in my own car," said Anthony boastfully.
"Not all of us live near Sticklehaven, so not all of us can come and go by car as we please," snapped Vera.
"Touchy, touchy," chuckled Anthony. "I like that in a woman. So uncommon nowadays. It's the norm now for women to act like slaves for their loved ones. Then again, I suppose you would know nothing about it. Have you ever been in love, Miss Claythorne?"
Vera's eyes grew wistful. "Once," she said softly. "But...it didn't work out."
"Oh," said Anthony. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Thank you," muttered Vera.
"Well, it's the bloke's loss for losing a terrific girl like you," remarked Anthony.
"And how do you know I'm terrific?" asked Vera. "This is only our first conversation together alone."
"You don't believe in love at first sight?" said Anthony, raising his eyebrows.
"When I was young and naive, I did," admitted Vera. "But now, I'm far more rational than that."
Anthony slipped his hand into Vera's, causing her heart to take up a slightly quicker pace. "Are you sure about that?" he said. He closed his eyes and gently leaned in...
Anthony pulled away, startled. "That'll be the gong," he said.
"I suppose we should go in for dinner," said Vera, standing up.
"Yes, I suppose," said Anthony, standing up at the same time. But he wasn't going to let her get away that easy. He leaned in and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. He pulled back and smiled. Vera gasped...and gave him a good, hard smack across the face. She said sharply, "You're not going to get your worth out of me."
She huffed and stormed off into the house. Anthony smiled. "But I already have," he said to himself, knowing he would have all weekend to get Vera to change her mind.
A/N: And sadly, we all know he never does get that chance. Oh, well, there's always Lombard! Any-hoo, the reason I wrote this (which strays from my usual Lombard/Vera nature) was because of a conversation I had with Cluedokid on the theartofmurder forums where we were discussing romantic pairings. He himself was sick of the usual Lombard/Vera pairing, but noted no one ever explored the Marston/Vera pairing, save perhaps the Russian version which includes a short scene where Vera and Marston dance together. This story owes its life to Cluedokid; much thanks to him. I felt the need to explore outside my usual pairings anyway; how else can I grow as an author otherwise? And they do make a cute couple, come to think of it. My heart lies with Lombard and Vera (despite my other story when they were, well, enemies, lol), but I don't mind exploring Marston and Vera one bit.