She made a little hum in her throat, to let him know that was all right, and sucked him deeper.
With a curse, she felt him buck, and his c**k hit the back of her throat. Then, she felt his hot seed spurt, pouring down the back of her throat, and he gave a pained, ecstatic groan. “Oh, God, Violet.”
She pulled off of him slowly, swallowing his spend, and then gave the head of his c**k a parting kiss. That, she decided, was entirely too fun. “You certainly didn’t last long for a man who can torture me for hours on end.”
He groaned and threw an arm over his forehead, still panting. “I can’t help it. You have an incredible mouth.”
“Flattery,” she teased, then slid off the bed.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to brush my teeth, and then we’re going to go check out room 433,” she called to him, feeling rather satisfied with herself.
He groaned again and didn’t move from the bed. “Give a guy a minute to recover?”
“A minute,” she teased again. “But only that long.”
Violet returned to her own hotel room to get dressed.
She’d snuck out of Jonathan’s room wearing not much more than a towel and dashed to her own room, which was just a few doors down. Thank goodness they had the whole floor to themselves. Then, after she’d dressed and fixed her hair, Violet stared at her reflection in the mirror, blushing. Her neck was covered with bright red hickies that her short hair didn’t quite sweep over. That was going to be rather obvious to the world, wasn’t it? But . . . she kinda didn’t mind it. Slipping on a pair of shoes, Violet headed back out of her room and Jonathan was waiting for her in the hallway.
Downstairs, the girl at the front desk had bad news for them. “I’m afraid room 433 is occupied.”
“It’s important that I have that room,” Jonathan explained, pulling out his money clip and dragging crisp hundred-dollar bills from the stack. “What will it take?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the girl at the desk said apologetically. “I can contact the people currently in the room and see if they’re willing to switch, but I can’t force them to.”
Violet put her hand over Jonathan’s money, lowering his hand before he could start flinging money at the girl. She smiled at the front desk attendant and then snagged Jonathan’s arm, dragging him away. When they were out of earshot, Violet suggested, “Why don’t we go up and ask if we can talk to them for a minute?” They didn’t need the whole room, just the painting.
Theoretically. They could still be wrong about it.
Jonathan looked over at Violet and then nodded, putting his money away. He pulled her under his arm, casually dragging her against his side. “Let’s see what we can do, then.”
A few minutes later, they’d headed up to the fourth floor and found the room they were looking for. A “Do Not Disturb” tag was hanging from the door.
“Oh, no,” Violet said. “Maybe we should come back later.”
Jonathan ignored it and knocked on the door.
She winced, anticipating an angry man showing up to berate them. A minute passed, and then she heard someone shuffling to the door. It opened a crack a moment later, the chain still on the door, and an old man peered out at them. He stared at Violet and Jonathan. “We have enough towels.”
“I’m not here with towels, sir,” Jonathan said, smiling.
“We were wondering if we could see the painting in your room,” Violet interjected. The man was looking at them rather suspiciously, and the last thing she wanted was for him to call the front desk and get them kicked out of the hotel. It didn’t matter how many rooms Jonathan was renting; if he harassed the other guests, he could still get booted.
The man shook his head, and started to close the door.
Jonathan stuck his foot in the crack. “I will pay you ten thousand dollars to give us that painting on the wall.”
The man’s eyes widened.
“It’s true,” Violet chimed in. “He’s loaded. I promise. Show him, Jonathan.”
On cue, Jonathan took out his money clip and waved it at the man.
He stared at it for a moment longer, and then held out his hand. Jonathan removed his foot from the door and handed the man the wad of money. The door shut and Violet felt a twinge of worry. What if he didn’t open it again?
But a moment later, he did, and Violet and Jonathan smiled nervously at the old man, who was dressed in nothing but an undershirt and a pair of old boxers. On the bed, his elderly wife sat, wearing a floral bathrobe, the remote in her hand.
He gestured that Violet and Jonathan could enter.
“We just want the painting,” Violet said quickly. This was so awkward.
“Take it,” the man said. “It’s an ugly thing.”
“Thank you,” Jonathan said, and strode for the bed. Violet bit her cheek to keep her face impassive as Jonathan pulled the painting off of the wall, nodded at the old couple, and then headed out the door. She trailed behind him, holding in her excitement. Jonathan was unreadable, his face stone, as they walked to the elevator.
When the elevator doors shut, he turned and grinned at her. “That went well.”
She snorted, twisting her hands together as she stared at the painting in his hands. “If you call handing over all your money ‘well,’ then yes, I guess it did.”
“That’s pocket change.”
For him, maybe. For the rest of the world, it was a life-changing amount. She shook her head and focused on the picture. “Is there anything on the back of the painting?”
“Not that I see. We’ll pull it apart once we get back to my room. Our room,” he corrected. “I want you moving into it tonight.”
That was high-handed of him. “You haven’t asked me,” she said in a light voice.
“That’s because you’re mine, and I plan on licking you for hours to ensure that you know it,” he said, that intense look on his face again.
All right, that convinced her. “Well, then.” Violet fanned her flushed cheeks with her hand.
The elevator dinged and they returned to their floor. She wanted to run for the room, her anticipation sky-high, but she forced herself to walk slowly and steadily next to Jonathan, who didn’t seem to be in the same anxious hurry that she was.
But then, a few moments later, they were in his room. Jonathan set the painting down on the bed and it was almost identical to the painting in their room. This one was a different angle of the pastoral scene, and the water-wheel dominated most of the picture.
“This has to be it,” Violet said excitedly.
Jonathan turned it over and ran a hand along the cheap cardboard backing. “Let’s see if we can’t pull this off.”
Violet watched anxiously as he pried up the tabs on the back and slowly removed the backing. There, on the underside, taped to the mat, were two envelopes with a single word written on the cover of each. The handwriting was familiar. Violet. Jonathan. One for each of them.
“That’s it,” Violet breathed. She reached for the envelope with her name, tracing her fingers over her father’s handwriting. On the back, she could feel her father’s wax seal. He’d gone to so much trouble for all of this. She didn’t understand. In her experience, her father was a man who was interested in little beyond his own personal wants. To arrange all of this for her to discover—with Jonathan at her side—after his death? It made her wonder if there would only be the stele and journals at the end of this scavenger hunt, or if there would be something more meaningful.
Jonathan picked up the envelope with his name. “Do you want to open yours first?”
She ran a finger along the edges of the thick envelope, curiously hesitant. “Ten bucks says it’s another poem,” she told him, trying to keep the teasing note in her voice and failing. For some reason, she was oddly emotional. What if this was the last envelope? It would be the last tie to her father. A man she’d never been close to, yet who, after his death, had wanted to involve her in this enough that he’d dragged Jonathan into it.
She didn’t know how she felt about any of this. Steeling herself, she broke the wax seal on the envelope and pulled out the paper inside and began to read.
“I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.”
Violet blinked as she finished reading it. “Wow. That’s . . . grim.” She looked at Jonathan. “What do you think?”
His mouth tightened. “Seems to me that it’s about the loss of love.”
Of course it was. Was this another slap from her father beyond the grave? Violet examined the writing but didn’t see anything bolded or out of the ordinary. She shook her head and folded the note, returning it to its envelope. “I’m not sure what I make of that.”
“Perhaps it makes more sense with mine,” Jonathan suggested, and ripped open one end of his envelope, removing his own slip of paper. He scanned it quickly, then made a sound in his throat.
“What?” Violet asked, scarcely breathing. “What does it say?”
Wordless, he held the paper out to her.
She plucked it from his hand and read it. There is a latch under my gravestone that opens a secret compartment. You’ll find the answers you seek there.
Violet felt cold. Goose bumps rose on her arms. He was sending them back to his grave? His grave was in Detroit. At home. He’d sent them to England and New Mexico, and now Greece . . . all so she could go back home? “I don’t understand.”
“Violet,” Jonathan said softly. He reached out and stroked her arm. “Are you all right?”
“I don’t know,” she answered. It was an honest response, too. She didn’t know how she felt. Part of her was furiously angry, and part of her was disappointed. “He sent us all over the place just to have us turn around and go right back to Detroit? What was the point? Why not just send us there in the first place?”
“Maybe there was a message, a meaning of some kind, in each of the locations and the poems.”
Her lip curled with anger. “Each poem basically sounded like it was berating me for being a bad daughter who ignored her dear old dad. If that’s his message and I’m supposed to be shamed by it, he failed.”
“It’s all right,” he soothed her, pulling her against him in a one-armed hug. “We’ll figure it out once we go to his grave. The note says that all our answers are there.”
She pulled away from Jonathan, shaking her head. “I don’t want to go.”
“This is nothing but manipulation. All of this.” She gestured at the letters “It’s just another one of his stupid games. What are we going to find at the end of this? A copy of his favorite lecture? His favorite book?”
“I’m hoping to find my stele,” Jonathan said quietly. “His notes would be a bonus, of course, but I want to take the stele back to the excavation in Cadiz.”
She shook her head. After all this emotional turmoil between herself and Jonathan, after being dragged from country to country, only to find out that her father just wanted her to visit his grave? She felt manipulated by him once again. “I don’t want to go.”
Jonathan’s voice was low, calm. “I’ll be with you, Violet. It’s fine. He can’t hurt you any longer. We’re together again. It’s like the last ten years didn’t happen.”