18 - Dust

Mia avoided Ted after her night with the cookie monster. She had done something stupid. After she tucked Edward in, she went into Ted's room. Curiosity got the best of her. At first she just looked at the decor of earthy tones and the large bed similar to the scrumptious beds at Bea's house. She didn't let her mind wander to being in his bed, because that thought was too dangerous — for her heart.

She found her way to the large walk-in closet. The man had a lot of clothes, but she easily found what she was looking for — three of them. Maybe it wasn't the same since it had been six years. For all she knew Edward Calhoun bought a new tuxedo every year. It was interesting how women refused to wear the same dress twice, but men could wear the same suit over and over. She ran her fingers along the rich fabric of each and remembered her hands on his back as they danced and later kissed.

She smelled them one by one, but they had been dry cleaned. She went to his ensuite bathroom and smiled when she saw a pair of disposable contacts left on the counter. Lined up were five different aftershaves. She picked up each one. One she recognized from the night he helped with Declan. The last bottle looked expensive and French. When she put it to her nose the memory came flooding back. She could hear the fountain and feel his body against hers. She remembered every detail, as tears streaked down her face.

She may have been infatuated with Edward Calhoun for over six years, but  what she felt for Ted was not infatuation and there was nothing she could do about it. As she left his room, she gasped.  On his dresser, there was a decorated box. Hanging out of the box was a gold ribbon. She walked to the box and opened it carefully. Inside were numerous pairs of cufflinks. The ribbon must have come out when he grabbed his links for the evening. The bigger question was why did he still have the ribbon?

When he came home she ran. She couldn't look at him — not with him dressed like Edward. Although he was in a suit and not a tux, he reminded her of the night she met him in the unlit garden.

She stood in her own bedroom and looked at the mask on the wall. Unlike her dress for the evening which she had borrowed from Sage, the mask Sage had given to her as a gift. She explained she could wear it to another masquerade, if she were to attend one. The mask glittered in the light, but it was missing one ribbon. Mia knew where it was.

Why had he saved the ribbon? Could it be the memory of their dance and kiss meant something to him?

On Monday afternoon, she was angry when she banged on Ted's door. He had a way of making her angrier than any person she knew. It surprised her he was home so early, but she was glad to have it out with him.

She heard him call out. "Come in."

She fumed and didn't even look at him. "Someone's been in my apartment and has stolen my dust!"

Ted smirked, and it made her angrier. "You wouldn't let me pay you for babysitting and you know I hate when you vacuum on Saturday morning, so I thought it was a win-win."

"But my home is private."

"And my housekeeper is a professional."

"I'm sure, but you didn't give me the opportunity to pick up."

"Pick up that's her job."

Mia sighed. "My mother always picks up before her house cleaner comes. She wouldn't want her to see things like... I don't know... the bathroom trash or the mail on the counter."

"And you think the wealthy are strange. Why would you clean for someone who you are paying to clean? You could thank me and leave me to rest." His voice lacked its strength.

Ted wasn't the type of person who rested. He looked pale and was wearing pajama bottoms.

"Are you sick?"

"I never get sick, but I think I am."

"Do you have a temperature?"

"I don't know."

"Do you have a thermometer?"

"Of course, I do, Mia. I'm a parent." Edward cooled again.

She scoffed at his prissy remark and went in search of the thermometer. He didn't complain when she walked up his stairs. She found it in the bathroom where the cookie monster brushed his teeth. She returned to Ted "Open up." The electronic thermometer beeped with a temperature of 101.2. "You have a fever. What else is bothering you?"

He groaned. "I felt sick and came home just after noon and vomited. Mrs. Driscoll was cleaning your apartment but must have heard me because she came over to check on me. She was more upset I was throwing up when she had just cleaned. She cleaned again before she left."

"Have you had anything to drink?" Mia remembered when Brenna ended up dehydrated in the emergency room. Ted would probably fall in love with a woman doctor.

"I can't. I hate being sick. It was those kids and I was upset about sticky fingers. They gave me their germs."

"What are you talking about?" His fever couldn't be making his delirious.

"I went to read a book at school last week. The children crowded around me."

Mia laughed, for such a wonderful father, he wasn't a fan of other children or at least not in his personal space except her nephew. She knew his assumption was probably accurate. She went to his kitchen to look for something for him to drink, but found nothing suitable.

"I'll be back."

She returned from the store with ginger ale, Gatorade, and a package of Saltines. Just as he had gone to the store to buy what Declan needed, she had returned the favor.

When she walked in his apartment he was on the phone. "Victoria, I sent you a text because I wanted information. If you're going to tease me, I'll hang up. You know I hate being sick. No, I don't need you to come take care of me. I know you do. Hey Tori, me too. Bye."

Mia didn't know who he was talking to, but she felt something she didn't like in her belly. She refused to name it. She had eavesdropped on a very intimate conversation. Whoever it was offered to take care of him and here she was offering the same. Would he be receptive? The thought of Edward Calhoun being out of control bending over a toilet was humbling. Mia had somehow created him as a perfect being in her mind, but it reminded her he was human.

He was also very cute lying on his sofa looking miserable. She would take her role of nurse as far as he let her.

"Here's some drinks for you. Your choice Gatorade or ginger ale?"

He looked at her funny. "Would I surprise you if I told you I like the fruity taste of Gatorade?"

"Fruity with electrolytes, don't forget."

She hovered over him and told him only to take tiny sips.

"You should have been a nurse."

"No, I hate blood. Numbers are my thing."

She forced him to take a sip every few minutes. Eventually, she felt confident it would stay down and he was on the mend. After she took his temperature which had dropped a few tenths, he drifted to sleep. He looked peaceful, as she adjusted the throw over him. She wanted to kiss his forehead but stopped herself and tiptoed out the door.

The following morning, Ted was leaving at the same time as Mia. He was dressed as Edward.

"Where are you going?"

"I have some meetings."

"You're sick. You had a fever less than twelve hours ago. You need to stay home." She gave him a shove back towards his door. Obviously her efforts didn't physically move him, but he looked down at her hand on his chest and she quickly removed it as if he had caught her with her hand in the cookie jar.

"My fever is gone."

"Have you eaten?"

"I woke in the middle of the night and ate some of the crackers you left. I drank more too." He made a face.

"You told me you liked it."

"I lied. I was delirious." His face looked serious.

"You were not!"

"Tell me Mia if you were my nurse, why didn't you tuck me into bed?"

She studied him looking for a hint of amusement but found none. She could have responded in any number of ways including the fact he was too large to coax up the stairs.

"If the situation was reversed, I would have carried you up the stairs."

Her jaw went slack, and she shook her head. "I'm going to be late. Good day, Mr. Calhoun."

As she climbed in her car, she saw him smiling. The man would be the death of her. He needed to decide who he was Edward or Ted, because she couldn't keep up.