The highway noise from Washington, DC, precluded rolling down the windows in my car, but now that I'd hit the clearer roads and cleaner air of Virginia State, the windows came down. It'd been a while since my work allowed me to drive to my destination rather than fly to it.
I'd definitely have to pull my hair up as soon as I got there, but I didn't care at the moment. It was a perfect summer day, and the warm summer breeze was too delicious to pass up, so I let it whip my long, wavy blonde locks around my head and the headrest.
The GPS announced the next turn, and I took it. The road looked smaller than a normal county or state road, and it dawned on me that the name of the road, Anderson Lane, coincided with the name of the person I was going to meet – August Anderson.
A private road? Huh, must be, I thought. The grass and trees looked manicured, and as I rounded a curve, a mansion came into view. I automatically slowed down, more in shock than the need to drive more carefully.
Smith and Company, an international think tank based out of Washington, DC, hired me for my linguistics skills, and in the three years I've been with them, I've traveled to a dozen countries. But the house in front of me, hidden deep in the Virginia rolling hillside, could give the castles and estates of Europe a run for their money.
My current project, scheduled to last for several months, was to work with August Anderson. What exactly his work was, I knew little, but that's usually how it was with these types of jobs. Secrecy was pretty much the code word. Secrecy, security levels, need-to-know. I learned quickly not to ask too many questions. Getting paid to travel all around the world on somebody else's dime was enough incentive to shut my eyes and my mouth when needed.
The drive wound around an elevated garden that reminded me of the front of Buckingham Palace. Too soon, my gawking had to stop as I pulled up to the front door. After putting the car in park and shutting off the engine, I ran my hands through my hair, tying the locks with a colorful scarf at my neck.
Briefcase in hand, I rang the doorbell. The wide, bright red double doors made me glad I'd opted for my Chanel suit and Louboutins. First impressions and all, right?
Soon enough, the door opened, and I put on my best smile. It was not returned, though, by the tall, hulk of a man who answered the door. From the dark suit he wore to the close-cropped haircut, nothing about him said "warm," but I refused to be intimidated.
"Hello," I said. "August Anderson?"
Tall guy shook his head, then grunted, "Down the road. You are expected."
Then the door shut in my face, and the noise made me jump in my stilettos. I stood staring at the heavy wooden door for a few seconds before the man's words registered in my brain. Down the road? I didn't pass any other house or building on the way in. My hand raised to press the doorbell again for more information, but given Tall Guy's non-verbose nature, maybe I should just go and try to find this Mr. Anderson on my own. If I was expected, then I shouldn't waste much more time dawdling.
Starting my car back up, I drove down the private road again. I saw now that another road broke off down the side of the house. My initial awe of the estate must have made me miss this.
More manicured lawn and private gardens greeted me as I drove. And drove. How far back did this estate wind? Far enough to have its own pond, complete with fountain in the middle. A low whistle escaped my lips.
A full mile down the road, a small house emerged around the corner. I chuckled at my thoughts. Small only in comparison to the main house, to tell the truth. It still outclassed any other house I'd ever seen. It was a sprawling one story, with a porch that wrapped around the side. Once again, my mouth was dropped open by the time I got to the end of the drive.
My choice of outfit, it seemed, was more than appropriate. I picked up my briefcase and headed for the front door. It wasn't ten-foot tall and doubled, but one glance showed it was expensive.
I hit the doorbell and steeled myself to be greeted by whoever this August Anderson was. By previous experience with the geniuses the Smith and Company think tank employed, I pictured an eccentric man past his prime whose intellect was so immense that his personality and people skills suffered. Whether they were wealthy or just middle class, it didn't make much difference, I'd noticed over the years.
A few seconds after I rang the bell, the door clicked open and swung wide. The interior was shadowed, and to my surprise, no one stood on the other side.
"Hello?" I asked, taking a step forward. I peered into the darkness, pushing my sunglasses up onto my forehead. Nobody answered, and I felt my nerves began to prickle. From the swath of sunlight, I saw hardwood floors and maybe a table.
"Hello?" I said again, a bit louder. As my foot hit the threshold, I stifled a gasp as the place suddenly lit up. Swallowing my fright, I took a few steps into the now brighter room, but still jumped a bit as the door swung shut behind me.
Images of bad horror movies flashed in my head, and I wondered if I should've brought my small pistol with me. It wasn't much, and strictly for self-defense, but –
The loud voice broke me out of my thoughts, and I swallowed my fear and followed the sound. The opulence didn't end with the front of the house, I saw. Shining hardwood floors, bare of any kind of rug, reflected the recessed lighting. Simple furniture, but calling leather and rich fabrics "simple" could be the understatement of the year.
I allowed myself a quick look around before I walked through the main living area down a hallway where the male voice had come from. "Mr. Anderson?" I called, my clicking heels sounding louder than normal in the silence.
Another room opened up at the end of the hall, and I walked in. "Mr. Anderson?"
I turned toward the voice and saw a man sitting at a table covered with computers and equipment. Surely this couldn't be the man I was looking for, but there was no one else in the house, as far as I could tell.
He still hadn't turned around, so I walked over and stuck out my hand. "Anne Walker, you were expecting me? I'm from Smith, and –"
"I know who you are."
He still hadn't turned, and my hand dropped to my side. "Okay, and you're August Anderson."
Something of a scoff came from him, then he said, "I know what my name is."
I was slowly getting a bit annoyed, so I walked directly beside him. "Do you have a problem with my being here?"
"I work alone," August Anderson said. "I always have, and I'm not sure why you're here."
"Because my boss assigned me here to work with you over the next few months," I said. "The details I was given weren't very clear, so –"
He sighed, long and heavy. The recessed lighting didn't reach this far into the room, and his face was shadowed. Slowly, he turned around, and for the third time that day, my mouth dropped open in shock.
August Anderson was no middle-aged eccentric man. His brown tousled hair hung over his forehead and ears, and his face was chiseled, and though pale, was still handsome. My shock doubled when his eyes emerged from the shadows. Warm brown and completely unfocused.
"Oh, umm, I'm sorry, I didn't know, and – well, they didn't tell me, and –"
A shadow that had nothing to do with the lighting crossed his face, and he turned back to his equipment. I felt five times a heel, and was about to apologize, again, but he spoke again.
"Smith sent some information this morning, if you want to read it," he said, flicking his hand across the room. His shoulders hunched, and I had a feeling that the next few months were not going to be as promising as I first believed.
A/N Some info on this story, because as you can see, it's somewhat out of the ordinary. I'd written this months ago in a brainstorming session, but laid it aside. The initial idea I liked, though, so I worked with it some more over the past couple of days. It will be 1st person, past tense, alternating POVs each chapter. Hopefully, I'll be able to stick with that premise. It's new for me to write this way, but a challenge, as well. As such, updates will be later than normal as I get used to new writing style.
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BTW, I don't like spoilers for upcoming season, as I prefer to watch the show and not read about it in reviews and hype and guessing. Thanks.