An unexpected development...Mature

Chapter 3

'Nadia. Nadia! Are you okay?' Harry grasped her upper arms and helped her back to her feet.

'Mm okay! I just tripped, I think.'

Harry's face loomed closer as he tried to see the condition of her pupils.

'No, honest, hon! I'm really okay!' Nadia shrugged Harry gently away. 'I think I must have just missed the edge of the step, or stood too close to it and slipped. Just caught me by surprise a little. I'm fine now.'

Watkins coughed politely. 'Sir, Madam. Can I be of assistance?'

Nadia and Harry looked round, having forgotten about him. 'I'm sorry,' Nadia said, smiling reassuringly. 'Just stumbled. Shall we go on?' She checked the other two were ready, then began to climb the stairs again, taking care not to touch the handrail that topped the balustrade.

They all walked up the stairs together, with Nadia slightly ahead and, once they got onto the three-sided balcony section, making a point of looking into each room before the others reached each successive doorway. It was when she reached the third of the six doorways leading off into the main body of the building that she stopped suddenly, as though frozen in place.

The room before her was predominately lilac, with a long sectional grey sofa running along three of the four walls. There was a large mirror made up from a tessellation of smaller plate-sized hexagonal mirrors taking up most of the wall facing the long wall of sheet glass that opened out onto a balcony overlooking The Mere. There were two other doorways leading out of the room; one into a bedroom and another into a bathroom that Nadia knew she would know all too well.

'Nadia? What's up?' Harry bumped into her, not anticipating her sudden halt on the room's threshold. Nadia turned and looked up and back into his face, suddenly looking scared.

'Harry,' she said. 'I don't like this house. There's something seriously wrong with it.'

Watkins joined them in the doorway. 'Is there anything wrong, Sir, Madam?'

Harry took the initiative, countering Watkins' question mildly. 'No. Not at all. Just taking a moment to talk amongst ourselves. Could we have a few moments of privacy, just to discuss our impressions of the house, if you wouldn't mind?'

Of course Watkins had no objection, and disappeared down the stairs again to leave them together. Nadia waited a moment to confirm that they were truly alone then, when she was happy that they were not being overheard, she began.

'Harry,' she said hesitantly, closely watching his face. 'I've not been 100% honest about my motives for looking around this house, I'm afraid. There's a few things about me that I've not told you about. A few small issues that I have that have made it important for me to come here, and a few others that have a bearing on me and potentially you, if we continue to be friends.'

Harry's expression had changed a number of times in the past few minutes, varying from hurt to shocked, and then from shocked to surprised, and then from surprised to shocked again. Now he was looking sympathetic as he outlined what Nadia had told him, breaking it down so that he could more easily digest what he'd been told.

'So you think that you're a little bit psychic?'

Nadia shook her head. 'No, I know!'

'And you had a vision about this house and about how Grace Dawson died here?'

'Yes'. Nadia nodded.

And your cat, which you've hidden from me, is dead but not dead?'

'Yes'.

Harry shook his head in disbelief. 'Jeez Louise,' he said. 'What have I got myself into here? You seemed comparatively normal, except for the Goth bit...'

'What?'

Harry raised his hands defensively, now not knowing whether he was going to be struck down by hell-fire or raked by nothing more than Nadia's razor sharp tongue.

'I just meant that,' he said, the words stumbling out. 'You're not entirely conventional, are you? You don't bother about fitting in with the popular image of what a young woman should look like.'

'No. I don't'. Nadia looked him straight in the eyes, unflinchingly.

'And that's good, isn't it?' Harry said, smiling, hoping to be forgiven his blunder.

'Yes.' Nadia replied, almost in a low growl. 'I'm my own person. I'm an individual. As we all are or should be.'

'Yes', Harry agreed, knowing this wasn't the last he was going to hear about this. 'Shall we continue?' He swept his arm before her, inviting her to step through the doorway into the dead woman's private rooms.

Once she stepped into the room, Nadia began to feel ill at ease. The light from the windowed wall began to fade, getting fainter the further into the room she got. She felt suddenly drained and looked for somewhere to sit for just a moment. Fortunately, there were plenty of choices, and she half-sat, half-fell onto the grey couch just inside the door.

'Grace, Grace, you're truly amazing, Grace!' a familiar voice crooned to her.

'Oh Baron, that is such a tired old line,' she said, speaking in a voice that wasn't her own. 'However, coming from you...'

Nadia looked to her left and saw the man she knew as Baron Samedi, looking at her with a devilish grin on his face.

'Grace,' he said. 'Every moment and everything I share with you is as fresh as though it were the first time, and as precious as though it were our last.' He slid across the seat and took her hand, kissing it daintily.

'Oh Baron, you're such a charmer,' Nadia/Grace purred in reply. 'I really don't know what to say.'

Samedi stood up, still keeping hold of her hand. The tight black jeans he wore did nothing to hide the contours of his legs and the finer details of his lower body. His black silk shirt gaped open, revealing a completely hairless chest. 'Just say yes,' he said, pulling gently at her hand.

Nadia/Grace laughed throatily. 'How ever could I say anything else', she said, standing up.

She closed her eyes...

'Nadia! Nadia? Nadia!' Harry was suddenly standing in front of her, his hands on her shoulders. 'What's happening to you? Who are you talking to? What are you doing?'

Nadia blinked and took in the room around her. Most things were the same as a moment ago, but Samedi and Harry had exchanged places. 'I think I had another vision. I did, I know I did, ' she stammered. 'I was Grace and you were the Baron Samedi, and he was leading me or Grace into the bedroom. Oh my God, I know what happened to her. He seduced her and made her love him and then just left her like a used tissue. He broke her heart and then she committed suicide!'

There was a voice outside and then the sound of swift footsteps. 'Sir, Madam, is everything alright in there?'

Watkins hurried through the doorway, looking quickly around at the room and it's contents, as though checking for damage. Harry held his hands up, motioning for him to relax. 'Nothing to see here,' he said. 'My cousin is feeling a little faint, though. I think that we may have to cut this viewing short, so she can get some fresh air and a little rest. I think that we've seen enough for us to make our minds up though, so we probably won't need to arrange a further visit. Can you drive us back to your office please, Mr...'

'Watkins,' the estate agent offered, helpfully.

'Yes. Mr Watkins.' Harry took Nadia's hand and nodded at them both, agreeably. 'Shall we go now?'

The return journey was even quieter than the outward one since both Harry and Nadia were lost in their thoughts, feeling unable to voice them in the company of the Watkins, and also because Watkins, respectfully, had neglected to turn the car's CD player on. The road back to town seemed particularly long, and it seemed like it took twice as long as before until Watkins began to manoeuvre the car back into his customary space on the street outside the estate agency.

'Sir, Madam,' he prompted. 'If you would just join me in the office for a moment, I would be indebted to have your company.'

Nadia and Harry both nodded their assent, mumbling platitudes in reply.

Once they were all back inside the office, Watkins invited them to sit in a quiet corner where three well-stuffed chairs had been arranged in an arc around a small table. 'So,' he said, handing them a folder, 'would Sir be prepared to make an offer for the property?'

This was the moment Harry had been dreading but, fortunately for him, Nadia took the initiative. 'Harry,' she said, standing up and looking pained, 'I think I'm beginning to feel a bit odd again. Can we please make this quick because I think I'm going to lose my breakfast!'

Both Harry and Watkins looked at her, shocked. 'Here, take this,' Watkins said, thrusting a hurriedly found business card at Harry. 'Give me a call later today, so we can talk.'

'I'm so sorry! It must just be some bug that's going around,' Harry apologised, standing up and then putting his arm around Nadia's shoulders. 'We'll be in touch, he said, guiding her through the door already being held open for them by Watkins.

By the time they'd reached the first side street running off from Merchant Street, Nadia had miraculously improved so much that she began to laugh. 'Got us out of that one nicely, didn't I,' she said, grinning.

Harry smiled back. 'I did have a plan myself. I was just going to ask for a few days to think about it. I'm sure that even the most well-heeled moneybags doesn't sign up on a five million pound property without a pause. However,' he continued, 'it probably wouldn't have got us through the door quite as quickly as your approach did!'

'Okay, what now,' asked Nadia, twirling so that her skirt filled out. 'Do we take the bus or shall we walk back to mine?'

The End

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