Cara was still sitting in the kitchen, the reluctant recipient of Meredith's unsolicited relationship advice, when the doorbell rang. Both women froze, eyes locked on each other's for a long beat. Then, with a clamor that sounded more like a pub brawl than morning tea, they both sprang towards the narrow hallway leading to the front of the house.
"I'll get the door!"
"No way, I got this-"
They jockeyed for position down the length of the hall. Cara had the advantage of height, being a couple of inches taller than Meredith, but the older woman had already been standing in the doorway and had a headstart. As they burst out of the hallway at nearly the same time, it became apparent through the window who was waiting on the other side of the door.
Cara skidded to a stop. "Oh my god, it's Gregory!"
The look Meredith shot her was all but dripping with I told you so. She shooed Cara back into the hall. "Go, fix your hair or something. You're a mess. I'll get the door."
Cara stumbled back into the hall, ducking into the powder room there to make herself presentable. Checking the mirror, she didn't think she looked that bad, although she wished she could stop blushing so much. A quick splash of cool water did nothing to alleviate the redness, and Cara resigned herself to the curse of her normally pale skin. It would fade when she calmed down some, although that was not likely to happen anytime soon.
Taking a few steps back, she checked the rest of her reflection. She had on a simple, pale blue cotton shirt, nothing too tight or revealing, and a well-worn, comfortably faded pair of jeans. Her strawberry blonde hair was loose, but far neater than the tangled, wind-swept mess it had been the day before. She frowned - she didn't look like a mess.
Meredith. What was taking so long, anyway?
As Cara turned back into the hall, Meredith pulled open the door just enough to slip through, shutting it firmly behind her.
Standing at the foot of the stone steps was the tall, dark-haired dockworker from the day before. He was holding an amazing bouquet of flowers in his hands. Ten points for Braveheart, she thought. Meredith smiled and waved politely at him as she walked over to where he was standing.
"Morning, Casanova. You're here for Cara, huh? I'll get her in sec."
Her sneakers crunched on the gravel drive as she stopped in front of Gregory, crossing her arms and trying to look intimidating. It was not especially effective considering the difference in their respective heights, but Meredith was originally from New York City, so at the very least she knew how to sound intimidating.
"First," she began, glaring up at him, "You and me are gonna have a little talk." Inside, she was dying, trying desperately to keep from laughing. Gregory was tall but was also pretty young. He really didn't look like he needed a lecture on how to treat a young lady, but Meredith wasn't about to stop now.
"She's sixteen, Romeo. And I'm responsible for her. So if you had any wild thoughts running through that head of yours, I suggest you tame them, like, now. She's here to learn, and work. What you guys do in her free time is none of my business," she gave him a glare "to a point. But if you start turning into a huge distraction, we're gonna have a problem, you and me."
Meredith stepped in close to Gregory then, lowering her voice. "And finally? I'm really good with a shovel, and I know all kinds of hidden places out there." She gestured with her head, out to the northeast, and the vast emptiness of the Highlands. "You hurt her, or break her heart... They'll never find you."
From the house came the sound of the door opening. Meredith turned, stepping away from Gregory and grinning at Cara. "Took you long enough. We were just having a chat, right?" Meredith looked over at Gregory, punctuating their one-sided conversation with a final, stealthy glare.
As she walked back to the house, she winked at Cara. "You two should go around back to the garden. It's pretty nice, you'll have some privacy."