Pitter Patter

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Chapter One

“A guy as sweet as me could positively melt out there,” the dark-haired man in the billowy trench coat announced as he stepped into Chausseures Shoe Boutique.

At the commotion, Sam glanced up momentarily from the basic white pump she held.  She watched the man stomp his soaked Italian loafers on the floor mat, and heard the blustery, rain-swept wind blow the door to a clamorous close behind him.

His noisy entrance was startling.  His British accent staggering.  Its alluring effect was practically visible to the naked eye. Like sprinkles of golden fairy dust, it drifted from one female patron to the next, instantly charming them, one by one.  Some women tittered back at him.  One older woman batted her eyes demurely like a starlet from an old-time movie.  Some smiled sweetly…others languorously.

Shaking loose the raindrops from his collar, he was seemingly unaware that he had just cast a spell on every female shopper in the shoe boutique.  And all within two seconds flat.

Well, on every female except for Sam, who couldn’t help but muse to herself about the fate of the brassy Englishman.

Wonder how Uncle Dominic will handle this one? She stood back and looked on with amused curiosity.

After all, the Brit’s rumbling entrance had totally disrupted Chausseures’ typically quiet ambience.  Surely Uncle Dominic would politely admonish the man, take him aside and quietly speak to him.

She watched as her uncle, Dominic Barnaclo, looking every bit the debonair proprietor with his peppered moustache and perfectly knotted tie, approached the Brit.  But instead of squelching the Englishman, he thrust his arms wide open and welcomed him enthusiastically.

“B.D.!” Uncle Dom cried out, also raising his voice well past the normal “boutique decibel” range.  “It’s you!”

“D.B.!”  The man answered in kind.  “Indeed it is.”

Sam dropped her jaw and nearly the linen pump as well, watching as the two men hugged warmly, looking as familiar as father and son.  Delighting in their reunion, they performed a convoluted secret handshake of sorts, and laughed jovially when Uncle Dominic couldn’t get his part right.

“It’s been a long time,” she heard her uncle say.

“Truly, sir,” B.D. answered him, grinning openly.  “My father sends his very best, of course.  And my mother sends a kiss – though I’ll refrain from delivering that particular sentiment.”

Uncle Dom chuckled at that, clasped the young man on the shoulder and led him around the store, pointing out certain inventory while exchanging tidbits of news.

Funny…Sam thought…Uncle Dom never seems even a smidgen that pleased to see Prescott.

 

Prescott Sterling.  Her fiancé.  The man she’d hoped her Aunt Maria and Uncle Dom would embrace, being that they were childless and had no other nieces or nephews.  And if not for her aunt and uncle, Sam had hoped it for herself.  Ever since her mother and father had separated and relocated to opposites sides of the country, Aunt Maria and Uncle Dom had become like surrogate parents to her.

But her aunt – and especially her Uncle Dom – never seemed to warm to Prescott for some reason.  Sam tried to explain to them that it wasn’t Prescott’s fault he was a fourth generation Sterling and heir to a multi-million dollar fortune.  Anyone growing up with five-course meals, a butler, and a nanny might seem a little stiff, a little too formal, and unbending at times, right?

No.  Prescott certainly wasn’t like this B.D. fellow whom her uncle seemed so delighted to see.

Whereas Prescott was more quiet and reserved, the Englishman appeared full of life.  Totally animated, his hands moving, his eyes expressive as he talked with Uncle Dom.  And though his dark suit topped off by a khaki trench coat gave him the air of a gentleman with a crisp and cool demeanor, the way he sifted his fingers through his crop of thick, wavy hair had a casual, boyish sort of appeal to it.

At the thought, Prescott’s diamond-clustered engagement ring, a Sterling family heirloom, weighed heavy on her finger.  She felt guilty for making such comparisons between the two men.

But maybe that’s what jittery brides-to-be do, Sam thought, seeking to ease her conscience.  Anyway, it didn’t mean anything, did it?  It was normal.  A mere observation, she reassured herself as she turned her gaze from the boisterous Brit and attempted to concentrate on the white heel once again.  That is, until she caught the tail end of her uncle’s sentence.

“– must meet my niece.”

Her eyes shot open wide.  Her heart leaped in her chest as Uncle Dom guided “B.D.” over to where she standing at the display of traditional linen pumps.

Even from across the store, something about the Englishman put her survival instincts on high alert.  Probably the way he’d successfully disarmed every female in the store simply with a flash of his smile and an off-handed, witty comment.  But now he was coming within striking distance.  And even nearer still as her uncle urged the Englishman toward her with a gentle hand at his back.