Scarlet Stone(7)

By: Jewel E Ann

“Yes. Thank you, Sofia.”

“And for you, Miss Stone?”

“Room-temperature bottled water.”

Sofia blinks several times. Nolan raises a brow.

“Tap is fine,” I whisper.

“Ice?” Sofia smiles like all is well again.

“No, thank you.”

Mr. I’m Not The Governor—but bloody hell this house is a mansion—guides me down an expansive hallway of exquisite white and gray marble flooring ending at a set of glass doors that open to a red-brick patio overlooking acres of rolling pastures and several horses grazing in the distance. The smell of fresh-cut grass hangs in the thick summer air.

It doesn’t look like a single wrinkle imprinted on Nolan’s mint green polo or black jeans hugging his lean legs down to his black loafers. I, on the other hand, look like I’ve slept in this T-shirt for months. My wiry black hair is pulled back into a ponytail but half of it has escaped, dancing in every direction.

“Hey, Son.”

Nolan nods at his dad, the epitome of the anti-fashion icon with his salt and pepper hair parted down the middle and feathered back. His brown trousers cinch his indulgent waistline about two inches too high, the crotch tight and outlining his wee willy. Poor Mrs. Moore.

I shift my gaze to her after I’ve had an internal snicker over Wee Willy. I stand corrected. She’s worse and better at the same time. Her fiery fringe hangs in her eyes like a sheep dog, the rest of her wavy mane is pulled into a high ponytail—really high—like a sprout on the top of her head.

Her crooked lipstick is too orange.

Her pink shirt is too short, revealing the pale skin of her belly.

Her black trousers look capri-length, but I don’t actually think they are capris.

The socks? I call them the masterpiece of her outfit. Brill. Just brill. She has fabulously paired white socks with rolled-over red lace edging and Birkenstocks.

What universe is this? Nolan’s warning was a gigantic understatement.

However, beneath the layers of her hideous fashion, she’s beautiful—petite facial features and a slender frame with a few curves in the right places. A few freckles speckle her nose and along her high cheekbones. But the eyes … she has the softest, kindest blue eyes I have ever seen.

“Nolie, who’s your friend?”

Nolie. Of course she calls him Nolie. Anything less—anything more normal—would wake me up from this hilarious dream.

“This is Scarlet Stone. She’s my new renter. Scarlet, meet my parents, Harold and Nellie.”

I smile. “Nice to meet you both.”

“You’re Mexican like Sofia, yes?” Nellie asks.

“Filipino.” Harold attempts to correct her, but he’s wrong too.

I’ve never had my accent mistaken for Mexican or Filipino. Clearly, they’re only focused on the color of my skin and my dark hair that’s actually a lot lighter than it used to be since I’ve played with different highlights over the years.

“I’m from England. My dad was born there, and my mum was from the Caribbean.” And they wore normal clothes. I stop short of sharing my mum’s death and my father’s communal underwear.

“Miss Stone.” Sofia hands me a glass of water.

“Thank you.”

Then she hands Nolan his bourbon. He nods and smiles.

“Do you know Princess Diana?”

I narrow my eyes at Nellie. Nolan and Harold tip back their drinks.


“The Princess, Nel. I’m sure Scarlet doesn’t get invited to Buckingham Palace any more than you get invited to the White House.” Harold clears his throat and stares out at the pasture.

“I hope Charles stops messing around with that Camilla; Diana is such a beautiful girl, and those boys … I bet you dream of marrying William, don’t you?”

Diana’s dead and William’s married. This is pure madness. “Well, who wouldn’t want to be a princess?” I smile.

“They live such extravagant lives. I couldn’t do it. Harry and I only buy secondhand clothes, and we never purchase anything at the grocery store unless it’s on sale or we have a coupon. Right, Harry?”

“Mmm hmm.” Nolan’s dad defines impassiveness, like he automatically hums to the sound of her voice but never really registers a word she says.