This time when he picked her up, Dimitry Vasilliovich Rostovich had a little change in plans. Up until now their outings were predictable in their afternoon ventures away from the Summer Palace. Mitia, either left Katia, to her own devices or he joined her for afternoon tea at the Emerald Inn. However, he was in HIS camp. Wiley’s mother and sister and sometimes even her brother dominated their time together. His only real concern was that his work was being delayed.
He wanted this day to be different. If by some chance they did marry she would have to know the intricacies of his world. He was certainly willing to have her see his office and his end of the business he shared with William Vanhandle. His business partner of five years. Their dealings were with foreigners living in Russia under the courtesy of the reigning Tsar. So far foreign relations had been good and it looked like the future held promise of similar profits.
Katia, was surprised to hear Mitia’s suggestion of a visit to his side of town but welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the man who showed her more compassion than she supposed she deserved. Using him as cover for the absence of the man whom she would drop everything for — even Mitia.
Katia, met William and was pleased to see a dashing young man much the same as Mitia but with a little more of an aggressive nature. Not as tall as Mitia, but every bit as handsome. His surcoat was of the finest quality, fitted, and stylish. Gold buttons lined the breast of the brown jacket the Western style pants and white hose showed off his muscular legs. He begged their forgiveness for a few moments for him to finish up and retire to his chambers above the store front. William could be seen filing papers, his fine figure evident reaching to the higher shelves his jacket having been hung over the arms of his office wing-backed chair.
Katia, gave her best effort not to stare and looked down adjusting her skirts and clutching her bag on her lap. Mitia, was distracted as well, looking after William, and she wondered if he was enjoying the view as much as she.
She shook her head and laughed at such a silly notion. Soon William joined them and they found the stair well to the upper levels.
A pert older woman approached them and had them sit while she put together a light lunch.
“So, this is the lovely Katia,” William said kissing her hand gently. Katia blushed, his lips were full and his hands warm. He oozed masculinity and if he was a few years younger she thought he’d be a fine match for Elizabeth or perhaps Sophia, since Yuri had made himself scarce and left the Summer Palace for points unknown. Leaving her with her youngest child who would soon be sent off to school following the path of her two older boys.
“Mitia, you don’t talk much about your partner. Is he married?” Katia asked.
William chiming in said, “Oh, no, I’m married to my work, but I didn’t have a beautiful young woman such as yourself demanding my betrothal otherwise I might be inclined.”
Katia shrieked and looked at Mitia. “Did you tell him that?” she said hand covering her open mouth.
Katia closed her mouth and placed her hand in her lap. Taking a deep breath she said, “You know, that is exactly what happened. Mitia, can you ever forgive me? I really did corral you didn’t I?”
“Katia,” Mitia said. “You were irresistible and no, I didn’t explain it to William quite as plainly as he put it.”
“Honestly, William, if I hadn’t taken Mitia out of circulation for these past four years would he be married was there someone trying to catch his eye?”
“Only me,” William said looking at Mitia and giving him the elbow. “You see Katia, we’re married to our business, for there is so much opportunity in the land grant survey culture. It’s interesting work and quite a bit of profit.”
“I figure, I’m using you to keep my mother at bay and I’m glad to be helping you work through your troubles. At the end of it all, it won’t be so bad if William has to work lonely afternoons if we should decide to marry,” Mitia said.
“Well, to hell with you too,” William said bellowing to the servant to bring whiskey. “I’m taking the afternoon off. What plans have you made Mitia?”
The two of them were like children as they raced across the country side in the open carriage William had supplied. The driver kept up the pace and Katia had to hold on to her hat until she decided to fasten it under her chin and let it fall to her back. They rattled off the names of the landowners parcels they passed in a sing song fashion, raising a glass to each one.
They passed the marsh lands, recently acquired, that lined the Baltic Sea and talked of a new Capital City and strategic Port that may someday be built.
“William, how do you know all this?” Katia said.
“The land is our business, we know in advance of holdings and transfers of land. Mostly in the Foreign Quarters, but sometimes we get wind of borders changing and land acquisitions through wars and treaties.”
“Yes, there’s a lot of this going on today, it’s exciting to be part of it.” Mitia said.
“Mitia, I have never seen you so alive. This is wonderful, I’m afraid I never sought to know the real you.” Katia said taking his arm and leaning on his shoulder.
The weather turned from a bright sunny day to a spotty mess of dark rain clouds coming in from the east. Cutting their lengthy ride a little short.
William jumped from the carriage when they returned back to his home and office complex. He helped Katia down and she felt the muscles flex in his arms. His dark eyes and hair seemed all too familiar.
Mitia, climbed down to find Katia nervously turning her head side to side in an effort to divert from his gaze, for William had reminded her of Wiley.
As the two men discussed some business that would follow the next day Katia, excused herself and walked ahead to the carriage that would take them back to the Summer Palace.
“I need a few moments,” Katia said as she waved her goodbye to William, for his touch sent shivers up her arm. “I’m fine really, please take your time and conclude your business.”
She climbed into the carriage and the driver patiently looked to Mitia who signaled his promise not to keep them waiting.
‘What just happened? William’s hold on me made me think of Wiley. I haven’t felt anything close to that with Mitia. Why not? Why can’t I love him? He surely deserves it. What is wrong with me?’ Katia thought so far removed from the joy of the day.
Mitia had climbed in beside her but she didn’t notice. He nudged her and she came away from her thoughts.
“Mitia, you were like someone else today. No wonder you spend so much time at the office the work is your life. We should do this more often,” she said resting her head on his shoulder.
“Katia, what happened back there?” he asked stroking her hair her hat crushed behind her.
“Mitia, I’m embarrassed to say, but there are no secrets between us, right?” she said. “It’s William, when he helped me down … I saw and felt Wiley. Those feelings of love and loss that I managed to bury deep inside, rushed to the surface like a flooded plain.”
“He has that effect on a lot of people, Katia,” he said firmly grasping her arm. “It’s love.”
Mitia’s, touch was soothing and it was the closest the two of them had ever been.
‘Love, is that why I wait for you Wiley? Here’s a wonderful man not six inches away from me, yet I long for you six years away and this William, the not so silent partner, whose touch sent me reeling. Help me Lord I am a confused woman,’ Katia thought.
Katia sought out Sergey when she arrived back at the Summer Palace. The four year old towhead squealed in delight when she cornered him and pinched his chubby legs. She needed the pure love the boy helped her find. However, he tired of her and struggled out of her arms, she patted his bottom and sent him off.
“Go on with you, Sergey, tell your mother I’m back.”
In her chamber she pulled the curtain back and let it go, it had become a gesture, for there was no one to be seen out in the fields for years. A soft knock at the door compelled her to change her focus.
“Katia, what’s wrong? Sergey said you attacked him with kisses.,” Sofia said stifling a laugh.
“Oh, nothing really, a lot of past emotions surfaced. I realized how selfish I’ve been. I’ve only thought about myself,” she said. “I also met Mitia’s business partner, a William Vanhandle and I thought of you. So lonely, and forsaken by Yuri. I wished there was a way to free you to find someone you deserve.”
“Katia, believe me, if there’s a way then mother will figure it out,” Sofia said giggling through her palm.
“As long as …” Katia started to say but the giggles got the best of her as well. “As long as she doesn’t pick another Yuri.”
Sophia took a deep breath as if the statement bothered her, then resumed the uncontrollable laughter.
“You must meet William,” Katia said.
“Well, enough silliness, and I’m sorry for you but if you pray you will know what you are to do, you’ll receive a sign and it will confirm your decision,” Sophia said as she left Katia’s chamber.