I stroll out of the poker game and head straight to the lobby bar, not waiting to see if Johnathan is following me.
But the sound of his hurried footsteps behind me alerts me of his proximity.
"Keep it together Samantha. Don't break his neck before you find out why he's here." These sentiments roll around in my head like a roller coaster ride. I know his presence here has something to do with his father. But what I don't understand is why his father has me on his radar after all these years.
"Ms. Huntley! Johnathan yells, stalking behind me.
The entitlement and anger in his voice crawls underneath my skin tempting me to turn around mid-stride to enlighten him of the fact that all of us are not under his command. But I fight the urge to reposition his privilege, and continue walking until I squeeze into a dark booth in the back of the bar.
I eye the bartender from across the room and he rushes over to the booth with my regular drink in hand. Mr. House finally enters the bar and takes a seat across from me in the booth. His eyes harbor a hint of smug irritation, danger and passion as he examines me. His smoldering eyes makes me squirm under the toxicity of whatever his intentions are. My reaction seems to please him.
"I'll have whatever she's having." He demands.
The barkeep looks at me for confirmation of Johnathan's request.
"It's okay." I nod at the barkeep giving him permission to leave and retrieve Johnathan's drink.
Johnathan's eyes widen in astonishment. I smile with this small victory, guessing he's not use to someone else holding all the cards and running the show. This is my damn hotel and everyone's allegiance is to me.
Johnathan smirks in acknowledgement of the power shift, leaning back in his seat with crossed arms.
"So...guest at this hotel can't get a drink around here without your consent?"
"Sure they can. But you are no ordinary guest. You are a House. You family is not welcome here."
My mother's face immediately appears in my thoughts, and my heart sinks in remembrance of Ernest House taking away our family's estate. I promised myself that if I was ever given the opportunity to make Ernest House pay for what he did to her, I would take it; no matter what the cost.
Johnathan's eyebrows furry together at my statement. His jaw tightens and a low growl rumbles deep in his throat. "And why is that?"
Before I can answer his question, the bartender comes back to the table with his drink.
"Thank you..." He barks sarcastically, snatching the drink from the table, bringing it to his lips with such urgency, that It surprises me. His demeanor is one of ignorance... suggesting that he doesn't know the history his father shares with my family. I decide to keep that information to myself right now and focus on the smirk on his face instead.
"What's so funny?" I ask.
"Nothing. It's just that Vodka is such a strong drink for a petite, beautiful woman like yourself. I could introduce you to something smooth; something that glides down your throat like a calm river stream...Refreshing every part of you inch by inch..." he moans. "Vodka burns your throat and only gives you a quick thrill. As soon as you swallow it, you are left craving more. Shall I order a bottle of Chateau Lafite 1787? Or is that too expensive for your hotel to carry?" He challenges, watching me above the brim of his glass.
A giggle dances around in my throat because he doesn't even know the half of it. I recognize a raise when I see one. He's trying to get a rise out of me...testing me to see how cultured I am. Little does he know the wealthy don't intimidate me. They challenge me...fuel me even.
I angle my upper body against the table, pressing my breast on its edge, before whispering my retort. "Of course this vintage would attract wealthy, pretentious aristocrats who give more credence to a name on the bottle rather than taste. And of course a vintage wine believed to be from Thomas Jefferson's cellar, would impress the average entitled groupie. But my hotel aims to please all of our guest. Not just the filthy rich. $200,000 bottles of wine are nice yes, but it only serves to hoist up men with little dicks who need constant validation from everyone around them. A good vodka is better. It separates the men from the boys. Only cheep vodka burns the throat Mr. House. A good Vodka is soft not hard; creamy not watery and it's smooth not rough. I drink it because I'm creamy and smooth...but will burn anyone who can't tell the difference between cheep and quality..."
Anger gleams from his eyes, as he claps his hands at my insult and my come back. "I knew it. The moment I met you, I knew you were more than some front desk attendant. Why didn't you tell me who you really were? And why isn't my family welcome here?" He demands again.
My hand waves away his prerogative, not quite ready to reveal my hand yet. Instead, I steer the conversation back to where I want it to go. "That's not important Mr. House. We agreed that if I won, you would tell me why you are really here in Italy. You're obviously not a regular at these poker games. Your friends travel the world every year to play poker with me, but yet I've never seen you. Why now? Why this year?"
Johnathan sighs his frustration at my diversion. He stares at me, silently cursing under his breath as if fighting with himself about something. His back digs deep into the booth cushion, before grumbling his surrender. "I have business in Italy with Sam Huntley...with you. I've been trying to get a hold of you for a week. But after you successfully dodged me for seven days, my father put me on a plane to meet with you in person."