Chapter 2: Passed Muster

1054 Words
“I've been here a month," Grace said even though she wasn't sure of the date as of yet. She stole a glance at her watch which sported the date and time in five countries. Grace only needed to know about this moment, standing in Glen Hills, New Jersey. Her one month estimate had been right. She blew out a breath slowly so Dolores wouldn't notice her relief. “When can I move in?" “I'd like to get some references first, but." Dolores eyed her then swept her gaze up and down the short length of Grace. “You look like a trustworthy sort. I need two months' rent for security. You can move in when you get me that check." Could this get any simpler? “I can write it now." This would be easy with the intended victim being her landlady. Her pulse relaxed as if it had sunk onto a comfortable couch. Her muscles became flaccid, just holding her upright. “Yeah? No hitting up the parents for money?" Dolores cackled, but the sound didn't annoy Grace. Instead she laughed with her. “No, I've been on my own for quite some time, now." Her potential landlord stopped laughing. “Yeah? You older than I think?" “Yes, I look younger than I really am. Still get carded," Grace said, trying to make light of the situation. She didn't want the woman to delve too deeply. “No parties," said Dolores. “I don't party. I do work odd hours so I will be in and out at strange times." Dolores looked at a bird lazily circling in the sky. “I was married to a cop. Might as well still be married to him, so your car in and out of the driveway will not disturb me." She rubbed her hands down her worn jean shorts then held one out for Grace. “Sorry about the mess, I've been gardening." Her green T-shirt sported many dirt spots and flower pots littered the sidewalk. Grace looked over at the colorful plants. The warmth of the sun sneaked into her bones. She could do this. One more time. Confidence straightened her spine. Her shoulders shifted back. “Yes, I see that. Your flowers look lovely." “Thank you. So you're Grace Harmony. That's quite a moniker to go through life with." Grace chuckled. “My parents had a sense of humor," she said over her shoulder. “Let me get you that check." *** Zach Holton pulled into the driveway of his ex-wife's as a red mustang pulled away. He glanced at the license plate out of habit, having it memorized before the car drove out of sight. Not that he could track down the owner as easily as he once did. The bitterness of his forced career change swirled bile into his mouth. He swallowed it, knowing he couldn't change anything. Dolores, clothed in messy shorts and a T-shirt, knelt over a box of flowers. She didn't look up when he disembarked. Good, he didn't want her thinking this was a social call. She'd thought of excuses daily for him to be here. This time she sounded serious so he used his lunch break to pay her a visit. Lunch break. He stifled a chuckle. Now that he ran his own private investigating business he could lunch whenever he wanted. He possessed no radio. His phone had an answering machine so he could leave his office anytime. Tension thrummed through him. He couldn't fathom what she wanted to tell him. He took a deep breath prior to walking across the lawn that needed a mow. Frustration ached his bones. Would he ever get rid of his albatross ex-wife? “Hey," he said. She smiled up at him, but didn't touch him, to his surprise. “Hey yourself. Beautiful day." “You seem to be taking full advantage of it." “Like the flowers?" she asked pointing to some red and blue things. He didn't know anything about flowers except that women loved them. He could only pick out roses. The rest were a mystery to him. “Nice." The noncommittal answer kept him from shaking her, demanding that she stop calling him. Stop giving into every whim she had. Dolores continued digging. And humming. She hummed when she was happy so that buoyed Zach. Maybe she'd found someone and she'd no longer expect him to be at her beck and call. Not that he jumped every time she asked. The divorce had been final two years ago and the marriage many years before that. He needed to move. Even if she couldn't. He knelt down, careful not to get his work pants dirty. “Lors, I'd offer to help, but . . ." He indicated his outfit. “No problem. I never liked how you planted flowers." He smiled. “That was honest." For a change. She eyed him. “Yes, it's my new policy. Especially where you're concerned. I'm going to tell you what I think." “That's good. Then I don't have to guess." She laughed, putting her gloved hand on his. “You can read suspects, but not me." His gaze took in her hand. She'd left a smudge of dirt that he wiped off of him. She wasn't wrong. He could never read her. Or maybe he couldn't figure out all women. They were his Waterloo for sure. “Guess it's tough when the printing is too close to your face." “You want some lunch?" she asked. “If you have some. If not I can pick some up on the way back to the office," he said, hoping ambivalence would keep his anger in check. She pulled off her flowered gloves then stood. “I'm hungry, too. Starved in fact." “You have a tape worm?" He followed her into her house. His house since he still made the mortgage payments. His residence until he'd walked out three years ago. She'd spent that time trying to move him back into her life. Her hips swayed as she walked in front of him. Once her movements made him hot. Now her attempts at seduction annoyed him. There'd been that one night, but he'd made the situation clear to Dolores. He wasn't coming back to her.
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