“Go downstairs and sit there until you’re husband gets home,” Robert whispered, barely containing his fury.
Mrs Stuart nodded absently, her eyes glazed over. She turned around and started walking. Robert turned around and pulled Beth to him, holding her in his arms.
“Thank you,” Beth murmured.
“I should have stepped in sooner.” His fingers ran through her hair. “Have you got everything?”
“I think so,” Beth nodded.
She stepped out of Robert’s embrace and zipped the bag up. Robert picked it up easily and carried it down the stairs. Beth trailed after him, still in her high heels. She followed him to the car and got in again. She glanced back at the house she’d lived in all her life, saying goodbye.
The drive was silent but Robert was still annoyed. Beth found her hand falling over his on the steering wheel. He glanced at her and relaxed. Robert laced his fingers through hers and stroked the back of her hand with his thumb.
Beth wanted him to relax. He probably felt it was his fault that she’d had that argument with her mother. Beth didn’t care. She didn’t think it was his fault; she would have argued with her mother about him soon enough.
The drive was silent and seemingly short. Robert opened her door and got her bag from the boot of the car. He opened the front door of the house and turned the lights on. Isabella was hanging upside down from the banister like a bat, her legs bent over the wood. She grinned when they entered. She held onto the banister as she pulled her legs over and dropped to the floor, the heels of her boots clacking on the linoleum floor.
“Hello,” she said.
Beth couldn’t help staring at Isabella. She really was quite something to behold. Her flaming red hair was the same colour as her eyes. They crackled like fire against her pure white skin. Her long fingernails were black and it didn’t look like nail paint. And then there was her outfit: a deep red corset with black lacing. It dipped low between her breasts, making it very revealing. That was all she was wearing except for her black thigh high boots and trench coat.
Beth forced a smile and replied, “Hi, Isabella.”
“Hi, Beth. Robert, I have your present,” Isabella said.
Beth looked up at Robert, who rolled his eyes and pulled out a huge roll of notes from his pocket. He handed it to Isabella, who produced a large manila envelope from one of her pockets. Robert opened the envelope and seemed satisfied with its contents.
“Thanks.” He held onto the envelope and started upstairs. Isabella followed.
He dropped the envelope onto the table and walked into the bedroom. He must have put Beth’s bag down because he didn’t have it when he emerged.
“Happy birthday by the way, dearest,” Isabella said.
“It’s your birthday?” Beth asked.
Robert just shrugged.