“Miss Taylor, your pirouette is wobbly. Miss Taylor, your point is not high enough. Miss Taylor, you are not paying attention.”
“Excuse me,” the stewardess gently touched Diamond on the shoulder and lightly shook her. “We are about to land. Could you please fasten your seat belt?”
“Of course.” Diamond felt slightly disoriented as she pushed a handful of luxurious chestnut hair back from her face where it had fallen. She had slept a good portion of the whole flight from Los Angeles to Australia and needed to get her bearings.
The woman across the aisle of the plane looked curiously at Diamond, then asked. “You look very familiar and, with a name like Diamond, I cannot help but wonder. Are you THE Diamond Taylor?”
Diamond hated these moments. She didn’t need the hassle of dealing with fans at a time like this, not when things were going so badly. She had just taken a leave of absence from the ballet company that she had been working for and they had given her a hard time because of it. She was their prima ballerina and they felt they couldn’t afford to let her go at this time. Diamond felt she belonged with her Grandfather more, as her Grandmother was terminally ill and lay dying in the hospital. She had no idea what to expect when she got home and was half afraid she was already too late.
Diamond remembered her first trip to Australia. She had just turned thirteen when she was orphaned and left homeless. Their house had caught fire one night, caused by a servant falling asleep in bed while smoking. Both her parents and her brother had died in that fire, and Diamond had been sent to her maternal grandparents to live with them.
Diamond had not even noticed taking the long plane trip to Australia from her home in San Francisco at the time. In fact, she had not seemed to be aware of much for almost four months before she came out of shock. She then used her interest in ballet to keep herself glued together and had become quite compulsive about her career. After graduation, she travelled extensively, moving far from her grandparents as the years went by. It had been five years since she had returned home, five years since she had last seen them. She could barely believe just how much she had missed them, and how fresh her love for them still felt.
Diamond smiled at the lady, showing picture perfect teeth and admitted. “I am. I am also flattered that you have heard of me.”
“Of course I have dear.” The woman in question gushed. “I am Elena Everett.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Diamond returned.
“Are you going to Australia for performances?” Elena asked with a wistful note in her voice.
“No. I am going home for personal reasons.” Diamond replied.
“Did some young gentleman manage to catch your eye? These Australian men can be so good looking.” Elena smiled as she gave her a knowing wink.
Diamond recognized the type of person that would give her no peace unless she had dragged every piece of information from her, and as her trip and reason for being on it was no secret, she answered. “I am going to see my dying Grandmother.”
“Oh! I am so sorry to hear that.” The woman gasped then lapsed into silence. That was something Elena had not heard and it was not nearly as interesting to share as the details of an illicit affair.
Diamond sat back and gave a silent sigh of relief that this was one time when it seemed the truth was going to help.
It took Diamond a half an hour after her plane landed to go through customs and walk into the reception area, where she was met by her Grandfather’s chauffer.
“Hello, Rene. What is Grandmother’s status?” Diamond immediately voiced her uppermost concern in her mind.
“Not good, Miss Diamond. Your Grandfather feels she is only hanging on until you arrive so she can say goodbye. She is a grand old lady, if you don’t mind me saying so. I am going to miss her when she is gone. She must have been quite the woman.” Rene was not shy about talking to Diamond, as she had always been easy to share her thoughts with.
“Mother used to tell me how I resembled her when I was growing up. She was supposed to have been a beauty.” Diamond answered with a smile.
“Well, if you look like her, then she must have been.” Rene agreed.
Diamond smiled and a moment later she was ushered into the back of the limousine.
It was going to be a long drive. Diamond’s grandparents lived two hours away from Sydney and Diamond was looking forward to the solitude. She was tired of the pressures of daily performances, practices, reporters and social climbing busybodies looking for favors from her to further their climb into society. She needed time for herself so she could connect with the real world.
Diamond took off her shoes and stretched herself across the seat to try to get some more sleep while they were traveling before she got home. She had a feeling there wouldn’t be much of it when she got home. They were going to need to focus on her Grandmother and her Grandfather would need her support more than ever.
An extra hard bump woke Diamond some time later and she peeked over the side of the door and out of the darkened window glass of the car.
“Where are we?”
“About ten miles from home. They have been doing a lot of construction on the roads and the weather has not been very cooperative. So, for the next eight miles, brace yourself for a bumpy ride.” Rene warned.
“Fantastic. Who do I have to thank for this?” Diamond’s voice sounded caustic.
“Your neighbor, Miss Diamond. And your Grandfather is in complete agreement with him. He says it is past time this road was upgraded. He has two little girls and they almost live at your grandparents.” Rene spoke fondly of the neighbor and his family.
“Who? The children? Or the whole family?” Diamond asked sarcastically.
“The girls. Your grandparents dote on them. They have been told they can use your old exercise room anytime they want to.”
“How old are these girls?” Diamond wondered. She loved children, but wasn’t fond of people infringing on her grandparent’s generous natures.
“I am not sure. About eight and eleven I would guess. They seem nice, never overstay their welcome and are always polite.” Rene described the two little girls.
“All this and only eight and eleven? Somebody must have perfected the android. I used to be a holy terror at that age. Mother always used to despair at my developing any manners.” Diamond remembered with a grin. She had learned to deal with the death of her immediate family and move on, but it hadn’t been easy.
“You seem to have turned out very well.” Rene noted.
“All uphill work, I assure you.” Diamond chuckled.
The car turned into the driveway and, a few moments later, Diamond was out of the door and around the back of the house at a dead run. She had presumed her Grandfather would be there. He wasn’t. He was in her old practice room giving a very tiny girl some encouragement as she showed him how to pirouette.
“You are doing so much better, Alicia. If Diamond were here, she could tell you whether you are doing it right or not. I can only tell that you are very much improved.”
“Is she really a ballerina?” The young girl lisped in awe.
“Yes she is.” Diamond answered pleasantly as she entered the room, smiling her pleasure at finding her Grandfather at last. “And she is here.”
“Diamond, you are a sight for sore eyes.” Her Grandfather got up and met her as she crossed the floor to give him a hug and kiss in greeting.
“How is Grandmother?” Diamond asked in concern.
“It will not be long now and, in many ways, it will be a blessing. She is in such pain, Diamond. It hurts to watch her suffer like that. Now, to other matters, I have some special people for you to meet. Alicia, come meet my granddaughter. Diamond. This is Alicia, prima ballerina of her dance class.”
“Really? That is quite an accomplishment.” Diamond took the girl’s offered hand in hers and the girl dipped a slight curtsy.
“I am not quite a star yet,” she confessed. “I haven’t gotten my pirouette under control yet.”
“Show me what you do. Perhaps I can help.” Diamond offered.
“Really?” The girl was impressed by the offer and immediately rose to do a pirouette. Diamond stopped her from making what she considered a serious mistake as she wondered how the girl’s teacher could get away with teaching any student without using the proper positions.
“Not like that, you are in the wrong position. Like this.” Diamond placed the girl’s feet in the proper position then said. “Now, head up and control where you place your hands and Pirouette.”
The girl spun and Diamond smiled. Alicia needed a little practice then she would be just fine. Diamond nodded and, a split second after, another girl came rushing through the door.
“We’re late. Come on, Alicia, you’ll get us both in trouble.” A second later, both girls were rushing out of a back door while the front doorbell rang. Diamond went to answer it, motioning for her Grandfather to relax while she took care of things. He looked as if he could use some loving.
Diamond opened the door and was pushed aside by a man who, she judged, could have easily made two of her. She frowned then called after him as he continued to walk down the hall.
“In most countries, it is considered rude to barge into other peoples homes without an invitation.”
The man whirled about to face her and stared. Diamond was no less affected as she met his gaze. She didn’t know who he was but he was quite impressive, in a roguish way. His hair was dark like hers, his eyes were lighter than hers by about four shades of blue and he was very tanned. Diamond’s gaze didn’t travel over his body the way his skimmed over her tailored outfit, but then they didn’t need to, it was obvious that the body beneath the work clothes he wore belonged to someone who took good care of his body.
“Where are my girls?” He growled.
“I have no idea whom you are speaking about.” Diamond covered for the girls. He might be handsome, but that didn’t mean he was exempt from using some form of manners. She felt sorry for those poor little girls. The man was an out and out tyrant.
“Really?” The man insolently growled as he strode back to Diamond to tower over her. “What if I don’t believe you?”
“That is your problem. Your girls are not here and, judging by your manners, I think you are probably looking for someone to blame for scaring them off. You really are the most rude, ill-bred man I have ever come across. You may leave now.” Diamond could barely believe she was stooping to his level.
“And you, lady, are one of the worst snobs I have ever encountered. Where is Mr. Travis?” He snarled right back at Diamond. She stood there dressed in her designer suit and looked down her elegant nose at him and he resisted the urge to ruffle her perfectly groomed feathers.
“Resting and you shall not disturb him.” Diamond replied firmly.
“Who appointed you his watchdog?” He asked.
“I did, and I am not a dog.” Diamond took that as an insult.
“No, I must admit you are not.” He said as he re-inspected her before adding. “Who are you?”
“Mr. Travis is my Grandfather.” Diamond replied shortly.
“Heaven help the man. How could such a decent couple be the grandparents of such a bitch? It must come from…” the man’s words were cut short by the sting of Diamond’s hand connecting with his face. She had listened to enough from this creature and would not tolerate anyone who thought they could walk into her home and call her a bitch.
“Leave. Get. Out. Don’t come back.”
The telephone rang, breaking the tension building up between the two. Diamond walked over to it and answered calmly. “Good afternoon, Travis residence. Diamond Taylor here.”
“I heard you were due to arrive this afternoon. Di, what are the chances of dinner tonight?” The voice at the other end was audible from halfway across the room.
“Randy. It is so nice to hear from you. I have plans, I am going to go with Grandfather to see Grandmother.”
“How about after that?” Randy fished.
Diamond’s eyes flicked at the glowering man still standing at the door then gave him an answer: “Well, off course, I will be free after. I had planned to spend a quiet evening alone with Grandfather but it seems he has a prior commitment. I would love to go with you.”
“Fantastic, wear the flashiest gown you have. I am going to blow a few of my friends’ minds.” Randy suggested with a hint of amusement in his voice.
“Don’t worry, Randy, I will make you proud.” Diamond hung up the telephone and sauntered over to the door to hold it open for the man. “The door is over here. I thought you might have been able to find it by now, but perhaps that was expecting a bit much from you.”
The man gave her the fiercest scowl she had ever seen and stormed out. A few moments later, her Grandfather walked into the area.
“I thought I heard Trent Alexander’s voice out here a few seconds ago.”
“Trent Alexander?” Diamond asked innocently. She had never heard the name before, but she had a suspicion she knew who her Grandfather was talking about.
“That’s right.” Diamond’s Grandfather took her hand and pulled it through the crook of his arm and answered. “You wouldn’t know him, although he is quite famous around these parts. You need to come home more often to keep up with what is happening here. He would be looking for the girls. They tend to lose track of time sometimes and he pretends to be the fierce parent coming to take them home.”
“Oh, him.” Diamond replied. “He was here. He mentioned something about a nightly chess game you two have in common then left. Randy called and invited me out tonight, and as you had made prior arrangements, I accepted. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not, have a good time. You will want to change before going to see your Grandmother. She will be so happy to see you again.”
“I can’t wait to see her again. I have been so worried.” Diamond gave her Grandfather a hug and a kiss then made her own way to her room. Ten minutes later, she skipped lightly down the stairs to rejoin her Grandfather, and he watched her with approval. She had changed into a cream jumpsuit and looked cool and casually elegant. Her hair still remained in the clasp she had secured it with and, every once and a while, a lock of hair attempted to escape to fall across her face.
“Your Grandmother will approve, although she had hoped you would have settled down with a husband and had a child or two by now.”
“We had that discussion over a year ago. Grandfather. I am happy as I am and nothing has changed. When I no longer feel satisfied with the life I live, I will look for someone to settle down with, not before.” Diamond answered.
“Do you ever get to meet any interesting men, Diamond? Or does your world revolve around the stage?” Diamond’s Grandfather pursued as they got into the back of the limo.
“There is no shortage of men in my chosen profession, Grandfather. I am not really interested in those who are, nor do I seem to stay interested in anyone for any length of time. I guess I am just not ready and I wouldn’t worry about it Grandfather, I will get there.”
“Your Grandmother is the one who is worried Diamond. I would rather see you happy and single than married and miserable.”
“I don’t understand. Grandmother seemed quite satisfied with my lifestyle last year, didn’t she?”
“Only in front of you. But you will find out about that for yourself shortly. We are here.”
The car pulled up in front of a private nursing home and they got out of the car to make their way to her Grandmother’s room.
“Diamond. You have come. I prayed you would.”
Diamond gave her Grandmother a light hug and kiss and answered. “I never thought it much of a question. You are ill and I was coming.”
“I want to talk to you about something important.” Diamond’s Grandmother got straight to business.
“All right.” Diamond sat on the edge of the bed and gave her Grandmother her undivided attention.
“I haven’t been very honest with you child.” She admitted.
“I cannot believe that, Grandmother. You have always been forthright and direct with me.” Diamond denied the allegation.
“No I haven’t child and don’t interrupt me, it is rude. Last year, I told you I was satisfied with your choices and that was a lie. I thought by letting you go you would turn to another. Oh sure, I know you are a very busy celebrity but I would have loved to see you marry and have children, Diamond. Is there anyone, anyone special in your life?” Her Grandmother sounded so pitifully desperate for her that Diamond could barely face her.
Diamond gave her Grandfather a pleading look for help and he covered. “Diamond hinted something of the kind when she arrived but said she would hold her secret until it arrived on the plane.”
Diamond’s eyes widened at the blatant lie her Grandfather had told and sighed as she felt his will silently overtake hers as he urged her to support him. “I am not at liberty to divulge his name yet, Grandmother and he was too busy to join me this time. He does wish to meet with you though.”
A peaceful, happy look fell over her Grandmother’s face and she fell asleep. Diamond looked at her Grandfather in surprise and he quietly answered. “She does this often. We might as well leave as she won’t wake up for a while.”
They were half way home before Diamond asked. “So who is supposed to act as my fictitious fiancé Grandfather, or haven’t you figured that out yet?”
“You have absolutely no one that would do you that kind of favor?” Diamond’s Grandfather asked. He knew the answer, but he didn’t want her to think this was a setup.
“None who I would ask to play my lover. They might want to take the role too seriously.” Diamond admitted. There were several men in her life who would jump at the chance to crawl into her bed, but she wasn’t interested in having an affair.
“Well, she won’t believe it is Randy. He is too much of a lone wolf.” Diamond’s Grandfather replied with a chuckle.
Diamond smiled and agreed. “He is somewhat of a wolf, isn’t he? I find that really amusing.”
“You still going out with him tonight?” Diamond’s Grandfather wanted to know. His mind was already busy running through possible scenarios.
“Sure. Why not? You never know, I might find myself a fiancé while kicking around with him, though I seriously doubt it.” Diamond joked. She was not ready to consider the idea seriously.
“That isn’t funny, Diamond.” Her Grandfather admonished her.
“I know, Grandfather, but seriously, I can’t think of even one way to procure a fiancé to order that would make Grandmother happy before she dies. If I could, I would.” Diamond admitted, and she meant every word of what she said.
“You would?” Her Grandfather asked.
“Even if I had to rent one.” Diamond confirmed.
“Well,” Diamond confessed. “He would have to be acceptable to Grandmother so that wouldn’t mean just anyone.”
“Of course not, Diamond, but I think we both know what we are looking for.” Her Grandfather began to reel her into the plan.
“How about buying a ring and pretending the man exists?” Diamond looked at the frown on her Grandfather’s face then sighed. “I know. She would insist on meeting him before she would be happy. “
Randy arrived at Diamond’s just as they got home and met them at the door, which brought the conversation to an end.
“You are late, Diamond and you are not even dressed. We will never make it on time.” Randy whined.
Diamond lightly kissed her friend on the cheek and replied, “Of course we will, be back in ten minutes. Sit down and make yourself comfortable.”
True to her word, Diamond was ready in ten minutes. She called down to Randy as she started down the stairs. “Is this what you had in mind, Randy?”
She was wearing a long, black sequin gown, slit up the side to her upper thigh and the dress fit like a glove, clinging to her body to accentuate every luscious curve. She had brushed her hair to fall like a satin sheath to her elbows and it glistened with golden and auburn highlights mixed amongst the chestnut darkness of her natural color.
“Yes.” Randy cheered loudly with admiration and, as Diamond descended the stairs, the door opened to allow Trent Alexander into the house.
Trent stopped at the entrance with the door open and slowly ran an appraising eye over Diamond and her gown and, a few moments later, Diamond snapped at him.
“Do you always walk into other peoples homes unannounced, Mr. Alexander or just this one?”
Trent closed the door behind him and replied in somewhat the same tone. “If it is any of your business your Grandfather has requested I do so. Now, might I suggest you go stand at your street corner and do whatever it is that you do?”
A few seconds later, Diamond gave him a stinging slap across his face and he warned her as he captured her wrist and glared into her eyes.
“You are going to do that once too often woman.”
“Don’t ask for it and you won’t get it. Come on, Randy, let’s go. I would like to enjoy myself a bit today.” Diamond snapped as she jerked her arm out of Trent’s grasp and sailed out of the house, to get into Randy’s sports car and leave.
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