Jack borrowed a tuxedo for his evening at the Winters’ estate, La Hacienda del Sueño. He felt like an actor himself, or an assassin, come to this great house to betray his host. As he was parking his car out in the drive, Sueño loomed above him against the starry night. Its lighted windows glowed like beacons, with old Josiah's turret for a watchtower. His enchanted princess waited inside as she'd waited for so many years.
Even when Jack walked into the warm parlor, when Tip rose to greet him with a smile, as he shook hands with the other guests, Jack's grim mood stayed with him. Her husband Maury, her friends Carrie and Hugh, Hugh's sister Genny and her friend, Sarah -- he saw them all as enemies. Jack saved his greeting to Violet for the last. He crossed to her chair, took her hand gently and smiled, a contrived polite recognition.
“Evening, Vi,” Jack said. “You look lovely tonight.”
“Well, thank you, Jack. It's so nice to see you.”
Violet did look lovely in a flowing dress of green silk with an emerald necklace at her delicate throat. At dinner, Jack found himself seated across from her. For this formal dinner the electric floor lamp had been whisked away. Silver candelabra stood on the long table and the sideboards. In the uneven, flickering light, she glowed like a dream-creature caught in the shadows of sleep. As the candle flames danced, her jewelry, the line of emeralds at her throat, her emerald earrings, caught the light and glittered.
During the entire evening, Jack fought with himself. In this dangerous territory he forced himself to ignore her when he ached to sit near her and watch her every gesture, hear her every word. Jack stayed close to Tip, mimicked what Tip did, tried to find things to say to Sarah, talked with Hugh about film and with Maury about gardening. When he glanced Vioet's way, more often than not he caught her glancing at him.
When, after the meal, Maury led the men to his study for a drink, Jack could think only of Violet. The others drank steadily. Jack nursed one glass of brandy and guarded every word he spoke. Now and then he would look at Maury and understand how a man could murder someone he hated. After a painfully long hour, they finally went down to the parlor to rejoin the ladies. Read More