At the question Samuel looked up and saw the waitress looking expectantly at him.
"May I get you something to drink, Monsieur"
With the way he felt, it was going to take something stronger than wine to numb him. He nodded, "Oui, bring me a double shot of bourbon and keep them coming until I tell you to stop."
The waitress left and Samuel was once again alone with his thoughts. The scene kept playing over and over in his head. The fear in her eyes and the laughter echoing in his ears. He had done that. He had put fear in those eyes and he had liked it. Samuel couldn't wrap his mind around that thought. He had liked it! Samuel felt sick, he had always respected women. He just couldn't believe he had been able to actually hurt some woman intentionally. The waitress put the drink down and before she could leave, Samuel downed it. "Bring me another." and he let her walk away. His eyes watered from the strength of the drink and from the turmoil he felt inside.
He had known something was off. Remembering back to the dark time, when he had felt like this but hadn't known why . Well now he knew why. There was something ugly inside of him, something horrendous that he had been keeping buried all this time. I don't want to remember any more. At least without the memories he had been able to live a relatively simple life..Samuel had been happy with his girls but now that was over. I can't even face them. How can I face anyone real. Surely everyone can see the real me now. His hand went to his cheek and covered the scars. These are the reminders of my violence. I can't remove them anymore then I can remove the action that put them there. His second drink arrived then Samuel waved the waitress away. He picked up the drink looking at the darkness of the liquor. That's my soul, dark and stained.
Alex arrived at the restaurant and quickly paid the cab driver. She stepped inside and started looking around. It was early, but there were a few patrons. I wonder if I'm going to get lucky. Could he be here? As she made her way through the restaurant she noticed several men all sitting alone. Could any of them be Mr Toddman? She took her time studying each man, but none of them appeared familiar. Then she spotted a man sitting by himself in the dark corner of the place. That's odd, there is something about him that seems familiar I don't know if its the long hair or what? Oh what the heck, I'll give it a shot. If he's not anyone I know I'll simply tell him I'm looking for a friend. At that Alex began making her way to the back table. Just as she was nearing him, her boot suddenly caught in a crack and she found herself falling to the ground at his feet.
Samuel was startled and immediately got up to help the woman in front of him. He reached down and offered his hand "Are you okay? May I help you?”
Alex had never felt more foolish. Then she heard his voice. She must be hearing things. She looked up and there before her stood a man she hadn't seen in eight years. Reaching down toward her was none other than Todd Manning. She gave him her hand and let him help her up. Flustered she felt she should say something "Oh I'm alright, new boots and I wasn't watching where I was going." she smiled and realized that he didn't know her. My God, he's Mr Toddman and he has no clue we know each other. No wonder Carlo said I would recognize him.
Samuel helped her to a chair at his table. "You need a drink after that tumble. Will you let me buy you one?" All of Samuel's previous dark thoughts had fled when she had landed at his feet. His natural instinct to help any woman in distress took over. "Oh excuse me, I'm presuming. Are you meeting someone?"
Alex was flabbergasted. This wasn't the Todd Manning she knew. This was a gentleman who obviously knew how to treat a lady. "No, that's quite alright. I'm here in Paris alone. and heard there was a place that served American food. So here I am and I would love to have a drink. You're right I am a little shaken."
Samuel hailed the waitress and looked inquiringly at the woman in front of him. "Glass of Merlot would be perfect " she replied. He instructed the waitress and sat back down in his seat. He looked at her and thought of how he would paint her. His artist's eye appreciated her smile and the beautiful eyes staring at him. As he looked he saw her eyes wander to his cheek, feeling naked, his hand went swiftly to his pocket and he removed the mask and started to cover his scars. Suddenly he felt a touch on his hand and noticed she had put out her hand on his.
"Please, You don't have to do that on my account." He looked across at her. She was smiling. "They're not that bad and they give you somewhat of a devil may care look."
Samuel smiled. "Forgive me, I haven't introduced myself my name is Samuel."
Alex smiled back in return "No need to apologize. My name is Alex." She looked at him carefully, looking for any signs of recognition on his part. But all he did was extend his hand and gently taking hers, brought it up to his lips and gave a gentle kiss.
"In all my years, this is the first time such a lovely lady has fallen in my path. I have been blessed to have three beautiful ladies in my life up till now. But I must confess, you are the first real beauty I have encountered in a long time."
"What a strange and nice thing to say." Alex took a sip of her drink. "I don't quite understand. You say you have three beautiful women in your life and then you say I'm the first beauty you've encountered. What about the three women?" Alex was perplexed. She was playing everything off the cuff, never in her wild imagination had she thought she was going to be sitting across from Todd Manning. It was bizarre that he didn't know her and why was he calling himself Samuel. Also how did Carlo expect her to entice him if he had three other women around who might object.
"Ahh. Let me explain. You see, I'm an artist and my three beautiful women are my Muses but they aren't real, except in my paintings. They have kept me company ever since I moved to Paris." Samuel looked at Alex, as he finished his second drink, "but I don't want to boor you about my simple existence. Let's talk about you. You say you are here by yourself in Paris, surely there is someone waiting for you somewhere." Samuel felt the need to turn the conversation away from him. He had started to get that feeling again of being watched and he didn't really want to cut this conversation short. Yet he found himself a little wary of Alex all of a sudden. Maybe he shouldn't let his guard down too fast, in the past his feelings had always been spot on. He was grateful to her for interrupting his journey into despair but perhaps he needed to know more about her before giving her any more information about himself.
It was Alex's turn to be uncomfortable. "Well, you see, there's no one now. There was until recently, but it all went bad. I needed to get away from him, so I got the first flight I could get and it was to Paris. Like I told you when I so unceremoniously landed at your feet ,I was looking for some good American food."
At that, Samuel chuckled, " I'm afraid my dear you came to the wrong place for that. Still it hasn't been totally unpleasant that you landed at my feet. At least I've had an enjoyable drink in your lovely company. But, as enjoyable as it has been, I'm afraid I have some business that I must attend to. Still, I can't leave you stranded here by yourself. If you'll allow me, I'll see you to your hotel." With that Samuel stood up, pulled his money clip out and left a sizable amount on the table to cover the bill and the tip.
Alex had never had an encounter like this before in her life. Just when she thought she was going to get somewhere with Samuel, he did a sudden about face. Carlo was right, he was definitely skittish. It was like something had spooked him . She knew better than to try and extend the conversation, she remembered when Todd used to change like quicksilver. Obviously Samuel was as mercurial as Todd. This was going to be a challenge after all. She smiled at Samuel. "Oh, I'm sorry . I hope I didn't delay you too much. You don't really have to see me to my hotel. I can take a cab."
"Nonsense, I feel responsible to make sure you arrive safely back at your hotel. I wouldn't want you taking any more tumbles." With that, Samuel offered his arm and guided her out of the restaurant. He flagged down a cab and joined her inside and looking askance at her "Where to my dear Alex?"
Left with no choice, Alex replied. "I'm staying at the Ritz."
Samuel smiled, "Take us to the Ritz."
For Alex the ride took forever, Samuel was quiet and didn't seem inclined to carry on a conversation. She wondered how she was going to get him to see her again. She decided to be forward about it. "Samuel, thank you so much for seeing me back to my hotel. I've never been to Paris and you say you've been living here for some time. Perhaps if you have any free time you might give me a call and help me see some of Paris in your gracious company. I'm staying in Suite 240."
Samuel looked at her "Dear Alex, I would really love to be able to show you around. I, unfortunately, will be extremely busy for a while. But if you are still in town when my business is completed perhaps we will see each other again."
The cab pulled up to the front of the Ritz and the Doorman came and helped Alex alight. She smiled ruefully. He had effectively foiled that attempt. "Good night Samuel, it was a pleasure to meet you." She turned and entered the hotel. I need to talk to Carlo. If he wants my help he's going to have to give me more information.
Samuel watched her enter the hotel and felt like he had just escaped a bullet. The hairs on the back of his neck were raised and he sensed something definitely important had just occurred tonight. I think my watchers are making some kind of move. This is going to get interesting.
"19 Rue Morgue." Samuel instructed the driver. As he headed home, Samuel replayed everything that had occurred in the last few hours. The memory of what he had done to that young woman still haunted him but now for some reason it felt like an old wound. He felt like he had lived through something awful connected to that memory but had come out the other side a better man. If he could live with that memory, he could probably survive the next bad memory too. After all, they were memories, something that had happened in his past. Horrific they might be, but he knew he would face them one at a time. He felt like a weight had lifted. Then he began thinking of Alex. He had felt comfortable with her almost as if he had known her from someplace, but at the same time it was like a voice in his head had suddenly yelled "Don't Trust Her". He felt bad that he had cut her off so quickly. It was times like those when he missed interaction with others. But that odd feeling he got, that sense of danger had always kept him safe.
Arriving back at his apartment he hurried back inside. Once there, he put his coat down and crossed to Dee and his serene one. "I'm so sorry! Forgive me for leaving without telling you why. I felt so dirty after I got back the memory of how I got my first scar. I couldn't face you. I know you've always help me through these moments, but I was ashamed. I never knew I was capable of attacking someone like that. I know now that I've got to look at everything my past might throw at me if I'm to find myself. You've both told me so many times, that when the time was right I would be ready for it. I think I am. Something has broken free. It's happening." Samuel looked at all his beautiful girls surrounding him. They filled him with a feeling of love and warmth, banishing all traces of the cold that had taken him over just hours before. He walked back into the loft and looking at the picture, he addressed the woman portrayed there. "I'm sorry for everything I did to you. I know I haven't remembered it all but when I do, I pray I'll be able to face you in person to show you just how sorry I am.”
Samuel turned and left the loft. Wandering into the kitchen, his thoughts went back to his encounter with Alex. Although he didn't know why, he was sure that Alex was mixed up with his watchers. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage. They wanted Alex to get to know him, it was like they wanted to control him. Maybe he would let them think they succeeded. Yes, while they thought he was putty in Alex's hands, he could get a foothold into figuring out who was pulling the strings. He was tired of hiding and trying to stay off the radar. It was his turn. He was the one. He was in charge now!
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