Novel Name : Masters & Lovers Box Set Three

Chapter 1 The Shadow of Obsession

Prev Chapter Next Chapter

The Shadow of Obsession

Klempner - Twenty-Six Years Ago

Our final night. Tomorrow it’s back to the airport and the return home. We sit together in what passes
for a tea-room in Helsinki, looking out of the window over the square. Mitch flips through a tourist guide.

I kiss the hollow of her collarbone where, around her neck, are the emeralds I gave her. “Thank you for
wearing them.”

She turns those eyes on me, deep, deep green; lambent. “They're beautiful. Thank you for giving them
to me.”

“Not as beautiful as you.”

She sucks at her lip then nods out to the snow-covered square. "It’s a lovely statue. It says here…" She
holds up the tourist guide… "… that she’s called ‘The Mermaid’ but she looks like a woman to me."

“She has a lot of names. ‘Merenneito’, the Mermaid is what the artist called her. But she’s usually called
‘Havis Amanda’.”

She looks briefly at the guide again. “It says too, that students put a cap on her during some festival
called ‘Vappu’. It must be quite a climb for them.”

I huff a laugh. “That’s not all they do. Vappu is the first of May; Labour Day here and a celebration. The
local students take turns each year, college by college, to clean her down. They have trucks and
cherry-pickers and God-knows-what to get up there. And for some reason, her breasts always seem to
get more washing that the rest of her.”

And now she laughs too. “Some things never change.” Then her smile fades and her fingers touch
mine. "Larry it's been amazing I've loved every minute of it. I feel I could spend the rest of my life doing

… My heart pounds….

“… Just walking together, being together, sitting by the harbour… Thank you so much. I never dreamed
anyone would do something like this for me.”

My throat tightens. “It doesn't have to stop, Mitch.”

She holds my hand in hers, stroking the back with a thumb. After a moment, she looks down. “Where
did you get that? It looks nasty.” She traces over with a fingertip; a cold white scar against the tan on
my hand. Several inches long. Ragged.

Where did I get it?

“No idea. I’ve always had it that I can remember… Probably a souvenir from my father.”

Her fingers tighten around mine.


She looks away again, slipping her hand away. “Give me time, Larry. I'm not ready.”

“But you're not saying no.”

“No, I'm not, but don't bulldoze me. It’s… not an easy thing you’re asking.”

I reach, reclaiming her hand. “I don’t understand why it’s so hard for you. I… Mitch, I think you know
how I feel about you. I hope you feel something for me… don’t you?”

Her eyes flick to mine and away. She tries to pull away her hand but I tighten my fingers around hers.

“No strings,” she says. “You promised no strings.”

Disappointment gnaws at me. “Yes, I did. No strings.“

Don’t let it go…

“Mitch. I'm in love with you.”

Those eyes again, but…

What is it?


Fear of me?

What have I done to earn that?

Or fear of something else?

The waitress bustles up beside us, pushing a trolley of cakes. In good but accented English, “Can I get
you anything Madam? Sir?”

“I’ll have a glass of wine,” I say. “Mitch?”

“Yes, thanks. I’ll have a glass of dry red.”

The waitress frowns and nods then trundles off with her trolley.

I turn back to Mitch. “What is it? What is it you’re afraid of? You don’t think I would ever…?”

“No.” Her reply is hasty, but then, “No, Larry. It’s not you. It’s me.” Her voice shudders. “Look,
understand, when I was a little girl…”

The waitress reappears at her shoulder. “Madam. You ask for dry red wine. How is this possible? Wine
is wet.”

And we both burst out laughing.



“So, are you planning on giving that photo to Charlotte? The one of her mother, father and Klempner.”

Michael scratches at his hair. “I’m not sure. I can’t decide. For sure she’d want the photo of her parents,
but I don’t think she’d be happy about Klempner in it. I did consider trimming him out, but that felt
dishonest. Giving it to her seems a bit of a two-edged sword. What do you think?”

“Let me have another look at it.”

He takes the photo from his wallet and, looking at it before passing it to me. “Her mother was certainly
a beauty.”

“Just like her daughter. Can’t say I can see anything of her father in her though…” The photo is a copy
of the much older original, the colours faded with age, falsely tinted, but still, the content is perfectly
clear. Frank Conners rests his arm around Michelle’s shoulders. “Klempner looks pissed.”

“Doesn’t he. So, what do you think? Do I give it to her?”

“I’d say yes. We don’t help Charlotte by hiding the truth from her. She’ll not like it, but she’s tough
enough to handle it. However, why don’t you let me scan it and clean it up a bit? The colours are well
out of true. If you’re going to give her a picture of her mother and father together, it might as well be a
good one.”

“Good idea.”


Outside, the wind wails a lament around the walls and sleet slices against the windows. It’s a good
night for the comfort of friends and family around a warm fire. And with the three of us together, I have

In my armchair by the hearth, my bad leg raised on a foot-stool, the heat of the flames eases the
abominable ache in my leg that damp weather always brings.

I swirl half an inch of brandy around the glass, enjoying the heady scent and nuances of amber and
gold against the flickering light. A light classical piece plays in the background.

Michael and Charlotte are both reading. He’s not a heavy reader and his book looks like his usual sort;
something with a scantily clad woman pointing a gun.

He looks up from his novel.

Suppressing a smile…

… and I realise that all unconsciously, I have been ‘conducting the orchestra’ with a finger.

The bottle of Rioja sitting on the hearth is half-empty. Michael and I agreed that it would be better to
have at least one glass of wine inside her before he produced the photograph.

From his seat by her on the couch, he raises eyes and I nod.

“What are you reading, Charlotte?” he asks.

She looks up, raising her book, displaying the cover.

A Song of Ice and Fire…

… Volume Two…

That should keep you reading awhile…

“Good story?”

“Great,” she says, “so long as you don’t get too attached to any of the characters.”

Michael frowns, shaking his head slightly. “Charlotte,” he says, reaching into his pocket, “I have
something for you.”

“Oh?” She smiles brightly, expectantly; laying her book on her lap. “What’s that then?”

Michael meets eyes with me again. “When I was searching the police archives, and I found that
address, I found something else too...” Her eyes widen, growing wary… “… I held onto it for a while
because I didn’t want to risk upsetting you at Christmas, but…” He passes her the photograph.

She trembles as she takes the image between thumb and forefinger, touching the image with a
fingertip. “She’s so beautiful,” she murmurs.

“Yes, she is,” says Michael. “Now you know what James and I see when we look at you.”

Her head lifts and they hold eyes, Michael’s mouth lifting at the corners, then her head twists and she
looks to me. I simply smile.

Then she looks back. “That’s Klempner, but who…?”

“The other man is your father, Frank Conners.”

“Oh!” The syllable catches in her throat, turning to a sob. Her hand lifts to her mouth…

Michael takes her hand. “Charlotte?”

“I’m alright. I’m alright...” But her voice is choked. He sits, poised…

Ready to hug?

“James enhanced the image for you. The original was a bit washed out, but he worked on it to get it
looking its best, so you could see your mother as she should be.”

She turns, “Thank you, Master.” There’s a gloss to her eyes. Then, “Michael, how did you find this?
Why did the police have it?”


He speaks quietly. “It was in the missing persons file for your father.”

And that tips her over the edge. Her shoulders shaking, a sob gurgles up from her throat. Michael
moves close, pulls her into his arms, pressing her face into his chest as, her fingers biting into his
shoulders, she surrenders to a storm of weeping.

Silently, he holds her, stroking her hair.

Best to let her get it out…

After five minutes, the violent sobs subside. I fill her wine glass, press it to her hand.

She gulps it down in half a dozen swallows. “So,” she says, “when do we go to look at that address?”


Prev Chapter Next Chapter

Masters & Lovers Box Set Three Lastest Chapters