A Field of Candles
Chapter 20 Doubt Thou The Stars Are Fire
Nils Woodford’s death sent minor shockwaves out to the business world; the board of directors of Dionysus was certainly shaken; Grant Shillings, in particular.
However, the Dionysus CEO worked quickly to calm the waters, Louis Doukas being the most solemn and thoughtful he could be; quieting concerns, reassuring the alarmed, and acting every inch the decisive leader of an international corporation.
The first thing he did was install a new director; something the board could do on an interim basis until the next AGM. Not many people knew Daphne Powell, but when it was learned she currently owned three percent of Dionysus stock, it was clear she was a person of substance. The board took a little convincing, but Doukas was nothing if not convincing, and Powell was appointed.
The whole business had taken over a week but now things were quietly settling down and Sheffield thought she should now inform her boss about Amara Manos; and she wanted to do it in person.
Doukas had remained in London, with Daphne now joining him, both staying at the Ambra right by the Thames. It was arranged that Sheffield would fly in on Saturday, and as she conveyed, they had a number of things to discuss, including the disappearance of Rosalind Kane and the chatter about Doukas being targeted.
But for tonight, Doukas had a suggestion. At that moment, he and Daphne were enjoying ‘afternoon tea’, although both were actually having coffee, and a very nice selection of pastry at the hotel restaurant. “So, you are enjoying the prestige of being a director of Dionysus, my dear?” Doukas asked, a twinkle in his eye, which Powell did not miss.
“Of course, my love, the crowds part as I come down the
street. I know how the queen must feel.” They both laughed. “But it was a surprise, Louis, to discover I owned so much company stock. Am I able to fire you and run off with the cash?”
Doukas put down his cup and looked across the table with affection. “Actually, the stocks are held by you and a subsidiary of mine, so it would be challenging for you to sell. And no, one director cannot have me fired, although you could try for a coup.”
She smiled. “No, I think I’ll keep you. I’m kind of getting used to you. Kind of.” She smiled again.
He nodded. “So guess what; I am thinking of where to go for dinner tonight.”
“Well, of course you are, food being one of your pleasures, as we have discussed. I look forward to whatever you choose.”
“You know London; why not suggest something?”
“No, no. I like having you do this. It’s a surprise then and special.”
Doukas regarded Daphne a moment before adding, “Speaking of special, I was thinking of inviting the lovely Elena along, just so the two of you can meet, you understand.”
Daphne laughed out loud at this. “Oh Louis, Louis. Louis, you crack me up. But seriously, invite the girl. I do want to see my competition.”
“There is no competition, my dear, and I want you to know that.”
Daphne finished her coffee and grinned at her partner. “I know, I’m just teasing and I want you to invite her. I do.” She paused and now regarded him. “Are you thinking we might all three head back to our suites for…coffee after the meal?”
Doukas grinned in spite of himself; he had planned on a poker face. “Would that, upset you?” He smiled.
“Oh my gosh, I would be mortified.” She laughed.
“Absolutely not of course, and I’m serious. I would like to get to know Elena, as you like her and I sort of like you, so Bob’s Your Uncle, as we say.“ She smiled again, then added quietly “I have been with other women, you know.”
Doukas looked now with interest. He didn’t know that, exactly, although he wasn’t surprised. He did know that Daphne, from age seventeen to twenty-two or so, had been a high-end escort; which was how she had met her first husband (not Powell, D’Arcy Robb) or so he thought. He brought this forward.
“Ah, so you have investigated me, mmmm?” He just grinned. “Well, Mr. Smarty-pants, I didn’t marry old D’Arcy at all; I’ve only been married once, to you-know-who, and I was almost thirty-five then, so what was I doing all those years, hmmmm?”
This was a good question and Doukas was surprised the efficient Sheffield had not discovered this. Of course Doukas had been aware of Sheffield’s investigation, he expected nothing less. But her top person in London was also in touch with him on a weekly basis, and he had the info on Daphne before Sheffield did. But apparently, not all the info.
“I am intrigued my dear, you’ve been holding out on me, after I’ve shared all my secrets with you. So come on, out with it.” He teased.
“Ok, I’m not going to give you the novel, just the summary, right?”
“And you really want this?” He nodded his head emphatically. “Well, I was the companion for D’Arcy Robb for several years, accompanying him to events and whatever. I was not married to him, although for a six month stretch he had me listed as his spouse for some tax dodge or something, but it was a scam.
One time we were out at a posh do, on one of those massive estates that are half-museum now-a-days to cover the upkeep; all the toffs were there. There was an orchestra and what we used to call ‘nosh’, acres of it.”
“Food.” Doukas smiled.
“Precisely, my dear. So usually I would end up chatting with one of my girl-pals, you know, another escort, ‘cuz there were always several of us at these events, and, it was funny, always a number of punters we’d recognize and be discreet about. But we used to laugh. Anyway, at that particular do I was alone and just wandering around and I noticed a woman, gazing intently at me from across the green.
Well, it turned out to be Lady Agatha Grantham, there with hubby Charles Andrew, and we ended up talking for a long stretch, most of the evening in fact, enjoying each other’s company. Charles then left with some fellows and Agatha took me home, as in to their estate, just up the road.
Agatha turned out to be one of those horse women, always riding to hounds and such and then running charities and the like on the side. Castles and carriages, the escorts used to call them. Bored yet?”
“Absolutely not. I know the Granthams, or knew, they’re both gone now, yes?”
“Yes.” Daphne paused in memory for a moment. “That first night we spent in her bed and we ended up there for three days, more or less. It was girl on girl like you wouldn’t believe. We did everything. I mean it; she was insatiable. On the Sunday night when I should have been heading back to the city, she said it wouldn’t do and I was to stay with her forever and Charles could go hang, or words to that effect.
And so there you are, we were lovers for five years, until she died in a horrid motor smash up. On a country road, for heaven’s sakes.” She accepted more coffee as the server drifted by.
“I was gutted. Charles was with her and injured and so I stayed on and helped him. I was never his mistress, though, more like an assistant. Helped him with his
memoirs actually, at one point.
We talked of marriage, more out of duty or pity, almost. But it never came to be. We were never man and woman; he was unable, to, you know. Plus he was much older than me. We always had separate rooms, but I would accompany him to events and the theatre and the opera. He was very good to me, very kind, even hired me tutors for things I was interested in.”
“Like languages,” Doukas noted.
“Yes, precisely. We went on like that for years, until I met Anthony at another do, and he took me out a few times and them proposed. Bang. I knew he was wealthy and pleasant enough, and….”
“And?” Doukas smiled.
“And, Bob’s Your Uncle?”
“Brilliant,” she smiled.
“AAAAHHhhh, ohhhhh, FUCK!” Elena, gripping the headboard with both hands, could no longer contain her pleasurable wave, and as she cried out her slim body lifted off the bed a bit. Daphne, the source of Elena’s arousal, lifted her head up from between the young woman’s thighs after a moment, when things had calmed.
“I’m guessing you liked that?” Daphne grinned up at her young companion, her face showing the evidence of Elena’s pleasure.
Elena lay with her eyes shut and her mouth in a stupor-like grin. “Am I still alive?” she murmured, and Daphne moved up and kissed her face and mouth gently and lovingly.
“Yes, my sweet, beautiful little one, you are alive. And you need to recover soon, eh?”
Elena opened her eyes and looked at the attractive face floating above her. “Why?”
“Well, you need to get to work, hmmmm. I want one of those too.” Daphne chuckled softly, and Doukas, observing all from a safe distance, chuckled as well, raising his vodka glass in salute. He was enjoying this, from the not-so-cheap-seats.
Nicole’s phone buzzed. She was hoping it was Amara, but the number that came up was not familiar.
“Hello,” she said cautiously.
“Nicole, it’s Sophie.”
“Sophie, well how are you?”
“Not really a social call, Nicole. I’m just hoping you could tell me what’s going on with my mom.”
“Like how do you mean?”
“Like, is she still living with you?”
“Um, well, no; didn’t she contact you.” Nicole put that in there, hoping to stall the young woman, who seemed annoyed.
“Yes, well she left a message. Mom and Dad are divorced, you know; they’ve sold the house, she said something about not being at your place. I’ve left messages but now I’m becoming pissed and concerned.”
Nicole considered her next comment for a moment. “I can understand that, Sophie; I could help you a little, but you need to come down here.”
Sophie snorted. “Oh, c’mon Nicole, what’s with that? You’re going to force me to come down there?”
“I’m not forcing you, Sophie. I’m just saying that if you want my help you need to be here, asking for it.”
There was a pause. “And what will you expect from me?” (like I dunno, Sophie thought.)
It was Nicole’s turn to pause. “You enjoyed things last time, Sophie, whether you’ll admit it or not. You know what I want. But you’ve got to give a little to get a little.”
“I’ll never be yours, Nicole, not like, you know, Mom was. That’s not going to change.” Sophie insisted in a quiet voice.
“Well, you know the deal, come down and we’ll go from there.”
The pause let Nicole know Sophie was considering. “Ok, fuck you. I’ll be down tomorrow. But I want some fucking answers.”
“That attitude will mean some punishment, Sophie.” Nicole chuckled to herself as she heard the quiet intake of breath.
“Yeah, but I do want some answers.”
“See you tomorrow, Soph. And I’m guessing your hand is down your pants right now, yes?”
“Mmmmmm. Fuck you, Nicole.”
Tatjana was waiting again by the open door of Marie Prescott’s little home office. As the conversation within concluded, she moved silently back to her room. In a moment Prescott was at her door, noting the girl sitting on the floor, playing a game. It was what she did. Along with watching television; she seemed to enjoy American cartoon programs.
“Ok Tat, so I’m just out for a little while. Mrs. Holmes is in, if there is any problem, you go to her. Who can help, tell me?”
Tatjana looked up with her large eyes bright, “Missus Olmes,” she replied, seriously, then broke into a wide grin.
“That’s my girl,” Prescott said, coming over to tousle the mop-like hair. “Bye-bye.”
“Bye-bye.” Tatjana repeated.
The girl sat playing for a few minutes; this was not new, Prescott having taken to leaving her for up to half an hour. Tatjana pressed one of the buttons on her device and the time showed. She pressed another and the device became a cell phone. She printed in the word, “Now” and pressed send, then went back to playing a game; she actually liked playing games, so this part had always been easy.
After a few minutes her device vibrated and she read the message, then went out into the main hallway and looked down in the direction of Mrs. Holmes apartment, before scooting quickly to the stairwell and skipping down the three flights and then running to the back entrance. She opened the door and saw the object waiting as directed. She picked it up and dashed back down the hall, up the stairwell, back down her hallway and to her apartment, entering rapidly and quietly.
Breathing hard she paused, then proceeded to her room and placed the object under her bed as far back as it would go. Ms. Prescott never looked under her bed, so it was safe.
The object was a briefcase; one that looked exactly like that of Olivia Sheffield.
The same Sheffield was at that moment sitting in Louis Doukas’s hotel room, waiting as he finished a call; the distinctive hard shell briefcase sitting by her feet. She was feeling apprehensive and running over her ‘presentation’ in her mind.
As Doukas came and settled in an armchair with his coffee, she began. First, she filled him in on what she knew of Rosalind Kane’s disappearance. He was only mildly interested.
“She has made good on her escape, the first time clearly upset her,” Doukas chuckled, sipping some coffee. “It really is of no concern for now, Ms. Sheffield, I do not foresee any art activities, shall we say, for a long while. Let Ms. Kane enjoy some isolation; she will surface, it is only a matter of time. And end the watch on her old friend; we can obviously find him any time we wish.”
“Very good, sir.” She then detailed the information she
had sifted through regarding threats to Doukas himself.
“It seems one needs to get in line if one wants to kill me,” Doukas remarked casually. In response to Sheffield’s concerns and protest at this, he continued, “I do appreciate the seriousness, Ms. Sheffield, but I feel you are on top of it. There have been threats against me for many years, so perhaps I grow careless. It is good that you watch, but I am satisfied with how we are responding; I do not intend to change my life in any significant way.”
Sheffield nodded and they sat for a moment. “Anything more, Ms. Sheffield. I feel all of this could have been discussed over the phone, yet you have flown all this way…?”
Sheffield sighed and took a breath. “I have, sir, because I wanted to talk with you in detail about Nicole Martin and Amara Manos, mostly Manos.” She then laid out the whole surveillance information and the interrogation of Martin, the phone tracking and the connection to Mossad, and finally, the assassination of Manos, or as she termed it, the termination.
Silence settled over them; in the distance the sonorous tones of Big Ben could be heard. Doukas had been sitting facing the window, his face in profile to Sheffield, turning now and then to look at her. Now they sat silently, he staring forward, mute. Sheffield felt a growing sense of dread. What had she done? Only what she felt was needed to keep the man safe.
Finally Doukas spoke. “Thank you for all that, Ms. Sheffield; I understand why you wished to address me in person. You have made a serious decision and taken a significant action. And you have done all this without consulting me.”
As Doukas paused, Sheffield’s heart was racing; she was beginning to feel light-headed. She had feared his reaction; that was why she hadn’t told him anything. She wanted to blurt out her feelings, her justification, but she knew Doukas had the floor, so she waited, dying inside.
“But, that is what I pay you for. Thank you for your efforts. Leave me with this now, and head back. I need you in New York. Continue to monitor the chatter and inform me as needed.” He spoke carefully and with controlled emotion, but he never once looked at his assistant. Feeling like she had been dismissed, emotions coursing through her, Sheffield stood and picked up her briefcase.
“You’re welcome, sir. I am always there to assist. I know you know that. I will be in touch once I am back in the states.” She hesitated and then proceeded to the door. She paused again there, her hand on the doorknob. She felt uncertain still; she wished to say more. “Good-bye, Mr. Doukas.” She murmured quietly.
Still without looking at her, Doukas spoke quietly, “Good-bye, Ms. Sheffield.”
After the door had closed, Doukas ran a hand over his forehead and sighed. It was early in the day, but he poured himself a vodka.
Out of his memories came the image of a poem on the wall of his tiny room in Mr. Darren’s house; a poem he had stared at for months until he gradually learned to read English. He spoke quietly,
“A million glowing candles, a thousand million; but when touched by the restless wind are silently gone…to the earth…to the sea…to darkness.”
Doukas raised his glass of vodka and murmured, “Amara, you were special to me. I wish I had told you that. I am so sorry for what I did to you, those many, many years ago. I still regret that. We are all just candles. Peace, my child.”
He drank the vodka quickly, then sat still, the muscles in his jaw constricting and releasing; then he turned and swiftly threw the glass against a wall, where it shattered.
Doukas remained sitting, staring out the window.
Nicole was watching out her window as the taxi pulled up. She watched as the tall, dark, young woman climbed out, carrying the one back pack, paid the driver and looked up at the house, then began the trek to the door.
Let her ring, Nicole thought. She would not be waiting; she would make Sophie wait.
Hailey and Brooke were lying on Brooke’s bed; Nicole suggested this might be a good day to be out, and an arrangement had been made with Brooke’s mom so that Hailey would sleep over.
The two girls were lying side by side, both naked; but the relationship had not really evolved as Hailey had hoped. Brooke was an assertive person, but not a dominant one. But the two girls enjoyed each other’s company, as it turned out, and there was some sex, but it was not any role-playing or spanking or tying up; just regular sex. And Brooke was clear she still wanted to date guys, so the relationship was also a little casual that way too.
But they had all of today and tonight, so they were in no rush and happy to be together. They talked about maybe going swimming, or whatever; it was going to be a relaxed day.
It wouldn’t be long before exam finals and end of year stuff began, and that would be crazy, so why not have some quiet time now, they told themselves.
“UUUUuuuunnnngggghhhh!!” Sophie cried out, eyes closed, mouth remaining open after the cry. It was almost midnight and Nicole had spent the last four hours doing everything she could think of to the young woman, who was now tied spread-eagle on Nicole’s bed. A moment earlier, Nicole had pulled off the ten wooden clothes pins that had been attached to the fattened pussy lips of Sophie’s freshly shaven pubic area.
Two vibrating eggs, the larger in her vagina, had
stimulated Sophie throughout the evening. Heavy clamps had been attached to her nipples off and on, their release and Nicole’s mouth, bringing delicious stimulation to the girl over and over again.
Nicole had paddled the lovely round ass a number of times as well and it still had a nice, red glow to it. Sophie had experienced three orgasms, including this most recent one, and now lay, eyes closed, coated in sweat; more satisfied than ever before in her sexual life. She didn’t want to move; she was on a cloud, the released hormones giving her a high.
Nicole undid the four straps, and ran her tongue over those luscious, plump lips. “Tell me you didn’t enjoy that, Sophie?” She purred quietly into Sophie’s ear.
Sophie moaned a little as Nicole kissed her face. “You know, you’re not losing anything to just admit that you like, well, some of this. When’s the last time you had three orgasms?”
Sophie opened her eyes; she had a small smile on her face, but she wasn’t smirking. “Maybe if you didn’t push so hard, Nicole.”
“What? Say more, come on.”
“Well, yeah, I am aroused; you arouse me, but it’s not something I’m proud of. It’s like I’m a fucking freak. I get off on pain; how sick is that? And then you’re right there, shoving my face in it, demanding my affection ‘cause you…do this. It’s just, oh, I don’t know; it’s fucking confusing and I just want to run.”
Nicole listened to this intently, as it was really the first time Sophie had shared feelings with her. Up to now it had only been attitude, and it had seemed to Nicole that she just needed to work harder to break the girl down; but maybe that was entirely wrong.
“What…um, I’m sorry, Sophie. I am, uh…”
“An aggressive bitch?” Sophie softened the judgement with a smile.
Nicole grimaced, “Well, that’s not exactly how I would
phrase it.” She stroked some hair away from Sophie’s face. “Tell me, do you want any of this? It’s not, bad, to have needs. You’re not a freak. Do you understand? Sex is complicated; how we learn about it is messed up. What we’re told is bullshit. Stop blaming yourself for your desire. Let me help you. Please.”
“Why do you want to, you know, help me, Nick?”
Nicole pondered that for a moment. “Oh, it’s a little selfish, because I really like you and you don’t like me, it seems, and that makes me kind of crazy.”
Sophie protested, “But, you can’t make someone love you, or like you, or care for you.”
“I know Sophie, believe me I know. But I also see what you experience. What you are feeling right now. So tell me, how can we work this out. Give me something and I will get out of your face.”
“Really? Can you do that?” They regarded each other. “What do you want, from me I mean?”
Nicole sat up on the bed; she ran her hand gently down Sophie’s wonderful body. “I guess, I want you to like me, at least not fight me.”
Sophie smiled and sat up. She leaned over and kissed Nicole, holding it for a minute. “Well, we’ll see. But, now you were going to give me some information.”
“Tonight? It’s past midnight.”
“Yes, Nicole, tonight. It’s Sunday tomorrow; we can sleep in.”
“Ok fine, but it’s a long story and there may be stuff in it that will make you uncomfortable.”
Sophie got up and pulled on her thong. “That’s ok; I would rather know, than just wonder.”
Nicole nodded her head slowly.
(End of Chapter 20)