Mitch took a deep breath. His hands shook, trembled so much he almost dropped what he held. He needed to calm down, think things through. Without a plan, he’d botch the whole thing. And he wanted the night to be special. One to remember.
A knock shattered the quiet of the room. Who could that be? He tucked the shiny object in his pocket, smoothed his hair, straightened his clothes. Another deep breath, and he walked to the door. When he opened it, Scarlett greeted him with a kiss.
“Scarlett. What a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you until tonight.”
“I couldn’t wait to see you. Can I come in?”
Mitch looked over his shoulder, then turned back to her, a broad smile on his face. “Of course.” He opened the door wide. She slipped past him, then he followed her into the foyer. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“Sounds good. Thanks.”
“Have a seat in the den. I’ll be right back.”
“I can come to the kitchen with—”
“No. That’s okay. I just made a pot, so I’ll only be a second.”
Mitch guided her to a seat by the fireplace, one that faced away from the kitchen, then he hurried off. He lied about the coffee, so he tossed a pod in the Keurig and brewed a cup for her. Made another for himself while he arranged Oreos on a plate. Not gourmet fare, but it explained why he was gone for so long. When his cup had brewed, he carried everything into the den on a large silver tray.
She smirked when she saw the cookies. “Very elegant.”
“I try.” He smiled, handed her a cup, and took a seat facing her. “So, not that I’m not happy to see you, but what brings you by?”
“I know you’re taking me out tonight, but I just had to stop in and share my news. We got the grant!” Her face beamed with pleasure.
“That’s great, hon.” He kneeled in front of her, opened his arms, then wrapped her in a hug. He scowled into her hair and asked, “What did Davis say?”
“I called him, but he didn’t answer. I’m sure he’s somewhere celebrating. We wanted this so bad. Just think, all those long hours at the lab… they’re finally going to pay off.”
Yeah. All those hours, alone with Davis. And planning more. Mitch sighed even though he knew nothing would ever happen between them. Then he pulled back and smiled at her. “That’s why I’m taking you out tonight. To celebrate.”
“But… I just found out an hour ago. You’ve had this date planned for a week.”
“Today’s the deadline, right? I knew we’d have something to celebrate.”
“You didn’t know we’d win. There were a lot of applicants. Qualified applicants.”
“I had a feeling. Besides, it could just as easily been a commiseration dinner if it had to be.”
Scarlett kissed him. “You’re sweet. A little twisted, but sweet.” She sighed and looked away. “I thought maybe there was another reason for the special dinner tonight.”
“Oh?” He didn’t miss her glancing at the bare ring finger of her left hand. “Like what?”
“It’s not important.” But her smile had dimmed. “I’m looking forward to dinner.”
“Me, too.” A thunk sounded from the kitchen, and he looked over her shoulder at the door.
She turned around. “What was that?”
“I don’t know.” He frowned. “The cookies probably fell off the shelf.” Mitch stood and pulled her to her feet. “Tonight’s all about you. We’ll paint the town Scarlett.”
“That’s a terrible joke.” But she smiled.
“Anything for you, hon.” He patted his pocket, felt the item he’d tucked inside, then reached into the other pocket for his wallet. Pulling out a few hundreds, he offered them to her. “Tonight should be perfect. Go to the spa. On me. Facial, nails… whatever you want.”
“Mitch, I can’t—”
“You can. And you will.” He guided her to the door. “Knock me out, Scarlett. You’re always gorgeous, but tonight, I want you to dazzle me. This night should be one to remember. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
She turned to look at him as he shoved her onto the porch. “You’re acting awfully strange.”
“Just excited. For you. For tonight.” He kissed her. “Love you.”
“Love you more.” She walked to her car, got in, then waved as she drove off.
Mitch closed and locked the door, then he headed to the kitchen. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the item he’d tucked away before the interruption—a shiny silver key to the brand new deadbolt on his basement door. He unlocked it then headed downstairs.
Davis Brighton, Scarlett’s partner, lay on the tarp-covered floor.
“Tipped over the chair trying to get out, huh?” Mitch righted the bloodied, bound man. “Yet another of your many mistakes.”
Davis spoke, desperation clear in his tone, but the words were muffled by the gag.
“You should have stayed away from her.” Mitch selected a saw off the pegboard above his tool bench. He held it so it glinted in the dim light of the basement. “This is going to be fun, Davis. A day like no other. One to remember.”
Davis’s eyes widened and he shook his head. He screamed into his gag when Mitch started sawing.
This story inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Hidden.