The Iron Tiara:A Nine Minutes Spin-Off Novel(3)

By: Beth Flynn

"Sorry, boss. Miss Christy here was just telling me something I found amusing," the man said with a worried smile and a Southern accent. Lester was an older man, a Vietnam veteran and alcoholic transient who'd found his way to Florida from Georgia. Anthony had given him a chance, and he’d proven to be a reliable employee. He showed up every morning, the stench of whatever he drank the night before almost dripping from his pores, but Lester showed up, on time, which is all Anthony was concerned about.

The blonde turned around to see who Lester was talking to and her smile faded. With her hands on her hips, her posture stiffened as she stared at Anthony, her lips thin and her expression unreadable. She slowly perused Anthony from head to toe and raised her chin up just enough for him to notice.

"You must be new." The disdain in her voice was as thick as molasses.

There it was. The attitude. The one he knew to expect. Yet her bright blue eyes caught Anthony off guard. He'd never once remembered seeing someone whose eyes rivaled the sky. Not even Alexander's. X's eyes reminded Anthony of ice. Hers, combined with her chin-length straight blonde hair and obvious haughty arrogance, brought back sour memories. Memories of the over privileged and spoiled wives and daughters that used to flaunt their bodies and their fortunes to a young and impressionable Anthony as he worked his first job in Miami on a landscaping crew.

"You live here?" he asked, without responding to her comment. He wouldn't let his eyes travel down her body. He was more than a foot taller than her and could tell without directly looking that she had full breasts that hadn't moved or jiggled when she turned around. Definitely implants. Her nipples were protruding from beneath the flimsy tank top she wore despite the heat. Her white shorts contrasted against her tan skin. Of course she has a nice tan, he mused. It's probably the only thing she does all day. Lie in the sun, lunch at the club and go to back-to-back appointments with masseuses, manicurists and cosmetic surgeons.

"Not anymore," she replied with a dismissive tone.

His hands balled into fists.

Turning her back to Anthony she returned to her convertible and grabbed what looked like a beach bag out of the passenger seat.

"It was nice to see you, Lester," she said as she walked past the man who'd returned to his kneeling position and was back to pulling weeds from a flowerbed that bordered the driveway. "And thanks for the heads-up!"

Pulling a key from the pocket of her shorts, she opened the front door and went inside, closing it behind her. Anthony heard the click of the deadbolt sliding into place. He returned his gaze to Lester who stood up again and nervously started wiping his hands on his jeans. He knew his boss would want an explanation. Before Anthony could ask, he answered him.

"She's the Chapmans’ daughter. Miss Christy doesn't live here anymore, but she likes to come to the house when she knows they won't be around."

Anthony looked hard at Lester, his eyes full of suspicion. "How did she know they weren't here?"

Lester, realizing that what he'd been doing for Christy may not sit well with his boss, started to fidget anxiously. Then looked away. Anthony was six foot six inches tall, muscular and extremely intimidating. Lester knew from some of the other crew members that even though Anthony ran what appeared to be a legit landscaping business, it was rumored that it was only a front for his illegal activities. Lester had heard Anthony was the leader of what could only be described as a vicious, take no prisoners motorcycle club. They had a reputation for terrorizing the west coast of Florida and for some reason that Lester couldn't fathom, getting away with it. Most of the time.

He gulped and avoided looking into Anthony's penetrating dark eyes. "Whenever we come out here, I page Christy and tell her if her parents aren’t home."

Anthony gazed out over the property, taking his time before he asked without looking at Lester, "How do you page her? There isn't a pay phone for miles."

"Miss Christy told me where a key is hidden. I go in the house and use the phone to page her. I use a code so she knows it's me and it means the coast is clear." Before Anthony could reply he quickly added, "I don't touch nothing when I go inside, boss. I swear I don't. And none of the other guys see me do it. I make sure they're not around." He then waved his hand in the direction of the three other men who were off on the property mowing, edging and pulling weeds. "I let myself in when you were mowing out back," he said while staring at the ground.

He cautiously glanced back up at Anthony and was surprised to see him smiling. He'd been working for Anthony for almost eight months and saw him every morning when he clocked in at the landscape office and nursery. He also saw him when he would show up unannounced at different job sites to check up on his crews. And not once had Lester seen Anthony smile. Not once in eight months.

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