The Bed You Make

Chapter 15

~ Step up to the Plate ~

“Mr. Cassadine, welcome.” The serious, narrow-faced hotel manager nodded once, quickly. He turned next to Dara and did the same. “ Mrs. Cassadine, welcome. Your husband has been a most valued patron of our establishment. We hope that you will find it to your liking as well.”

Dara smiled politely. “I am learning to trust my husband in such matters,” she said, more for Stefan's benefit than the manager's. A quick tightening of Stefan's hand at her waist let Dara know that he'd caught her subtle concession. “I am sure that everything will be fine.”

The manager nodded again and backed out of the door. “I wonder if I will ever get used to that,” Dara mused aloud, “having strangers know who I am?” She put down her purse and slowly explored the suite. It was large and roomy and filled with every modern convenience possible. A wireless laptop sat open on the table, an enormous flat plasma television adorned almost an entire wall.

Dara stood admiring the enormous screen. She felt Stefan's questioning gaze upon her. “I was just imagining,” she explained, “what C-Span must look like on something this big.” She turned to him. “I am surprised Wyndemere doesn't have anything this size.”

Stefan cast a dismissive glance toward the plasma screen. “Television is the refuge of the lazy mind. I concede,” he anticipated Dara's objection, “that there is – upon occasion – worthwhile programming to be found there. Unfortunately, one must wade through an endless parade of daytime serials and professional wrestling matches to locate such shows.”

It was a legitimate point, one that Dara could not deny. “Maybe. But it would seem to me that as a good host you'd want to provide your guests with the best viewing experience money could buy. Personal prejudice shouldn't be a factor.”

“You are suggesting that I maintain an open mind about things with which I am unfamiliar?”

Dara felt the verbal noose tighten about her neck. Stefan had managed to turn her reply into a pointed reminder of her own tendency to resist the unfamiliar. “Whatever.” She waved off the discussion. “I am going to freshen up.” It would finally give her the chance, Dara thought, to take a look at the contents of the bags Mrs. Landsbury had packed on Dara's behalf.

“Very well,” Stefan nodded. “While you do so, I will review our arrangements for this evening's meeting.” He paused a beat. “And when you have finished inspecting the bags Mrs. Landsbury has packed, you might join me to discuss this evening's objectives.”

Stefan's dry comment made Dara grind her teeth at how well her frustrating new husband could already read her intentions. Well, he had thrown down the gauntlet before her; there was no way Dara could decline to pick it up. “Freshening up can wait a bit,” she gritted out. “I will join you now for that discussion.”