"I have an electrician on the payroll; I assume he can handle it. Tell me about the foyer, what do you envision? The burgundy is somewhat dark; we could go with a brighter color for a different feel. Perhaps a soothing pastel green?"
They went room by room through the public areas of the home on the first floor. Mr. Irving walked by a closed door and—after walking through the spaces on either side—Dana realized it was a large space. She motioned towards it. “I think we missed a room?"
"No, we didn't. The door stays locked. This way please."
She didn't follow, and he stopped, eyeing her imperiously as she stood looking at it. “I feel compelled to point out a locked door in such a high traffic area will raise eyebrows if you begin entertaining again. The flow of traffic on this floor is...” She hesitated, quickly deciding for the blunt approach. “Mr. Irving, shutting this room off will seem rude at worst, and at best will paint you an eccentric. I realize you'd prefer I ignore it, but you're paying for my expertise. Let me help with whatever's in there, so we can open it."
"Your advice is noted, Ms. Bennett. Can we do away with the formalities? Please call me Zach."
"Yes, of course. Please call me Dana."
"Well then, Dana, please come with me to the second floor."
She internally kicked herself for asking him to let her help. If he was hiding a locked memorial to his dead wife she shouldn't even be here, much less offering help.
She was attracted to this man and his clear blue eyes, but it was empathy and nothing else.
Following him into the master suite, her stomach dropped into her feet. Most people would've seen a beautifully constructed mahogany canopy bed, but Dana identified it immediately as a bondage bed, custom made by a well-known kinky furniture craftsman.
Honesty up front was her motto, even if it wasn't always pleasant. Besides, things would be even more uncomfortable if she pretended ignorance and the subject came up later.
"Will you keep the bed, or will you want Frederick to craft another?"
Zach turned slowly, his face losing the professional mask and showing curiosity. “How, exactly, do you know Frederick? This is a one-of-a-kind creation; you must be very familiar with his style."
She looked him in the eye, determined to show a professional interest and no embarrassment. The interior design business sometimes put her into client's private lives and treating everything in a matter-of-fact, calm, and relaxed way was imperative—she was here to do a job, not comment on anyone's lifestyle. “I often work with people who can afford handmade pieces of furniture, and Frederick is one of the best at making quality pieces so the intended uses aren't obvious."
"Yet you immediately recognized it? You call that not being obvious?"
She realized he'd feel more comfortable if he thought she were part of his world. “Okay, not recognizable to those outside the world of kink. The choice remains—keep the bed or replace it? If you replace it, do you want another made by Frederick, or would you prefer a normal one?"
She wondered if his wife had topped him or if he'd dominated her. No way would she ask, though. This man had attracted her from the moment he'd opened the door, and the more she learned about him the more she liked him. She never dated clients, and her therapist would probably say she was only interested because it was safe, since nothing could come of it. She groaned inwardly; did she really need therapy anymore when she already knew what the counselor would say?
Zach pointed to doors on either side of the bed. “There are two bathrooms, mine and...” He stopped, started again. “I never go into hers and don't care if it's changed. My therapist says I need to make the house mine, so my companions don't feel as if her ghost is looking over their shoulder. If you think women would be uncomfortable knowing she picked everything in there, we'll redo it."
He walked into his bathroom as he continued. “Bethany chose ninety percent of the furniture, all of the colors, and most of the fixtures throughout the house. Much was done to please me, but some were items she liked and knew I wouldn't object to.” He sighed, turning to face her through the doorway. “I love this house; otherwise it might be easier to move."
Yes, easier to move. Like she'd done.
Dana investigated both bathrooms and met him back in the bedroom, wishing she didn't want to wrap her arms around him, comfort him through his grief. It would also help if the bondage bed weren't towering over her. “I don't see a need in ripping out tile or changing hardware, a superficial color change should be enough—paint, curtains, towels. Is the locked room downstairs your playroom?"