Taming the Lone Wolff - By Janice Maynard
Larkin Wolff stopped at the computerized video panel, pressed a button and showed his ID. After a brief pause, a light blinked green and the gate swung open. He passed through onto a long winding driveway constructed of almost pure-white crushed stone. Many of his clients surrounded themselves in acres of insulating property, but seldom had Larkin seen anything as peaceful and idyllic as the emerald fields, stately oaks and copses of weeping willows that lined the banks of a meandering creek.
Despite the sense that time stood still here, his skin tingled with a hint of warning. He’d built a career in high-tech surveillance, electronic security systems and even sophisticated cyber protection. Along the way, he’d developed what his siblings and cousins laughingly called a keen Spidey sense.
Larkin went along with the joke. Growing up on Wolff Mountain had made a man of him, and despite being a middle child with a troubled past, confidence was woven into his DNA. But something about today’s meeting made him itchy. And he didn’t know why.
At long last, he pulled up in front of the house. The surrounding real estate, sprawling outside of Nashville proper, was home to country music legends, recording industry moguls and anyone else to whom money was no object. The two-story Georgian redbrick lady in front of him sat gracefully on the land, her many windows glistening in the afternoon sun.
Larkin grabbed a notebook and his laptop and got out, inhaling the scent of roses and freshly turned dirt. He had grown up in what many would call a modern-day castle, but this serene facade impressed even him.
Much of his work took him to city high-rises and aesthetically bland corporate headquarters. Today’s setting would be a pleasant change. The summons had been a bit odd and nonspecific. But perhaps he was imagining trouble where there was none. Families with lots of money often felt the need for protection. He should know.
Ringing the bell shaped in the head of a lion, he waited calmly. For a man in his occupation, patience was a prerequisite.
Suddenly, the large door swung inward and a woman stood before him. She was small, barely reaching his shoulder. Barefoot and wearing denim overalls cut off at the knee, the fabric neatly cuffed midthigh, she looked about eighteen. Her untamed hair was the color of corn silk, but it fuzzed out in a mass of unruly waves that almost overpowered her narrow face. Wary green-and-amber eyes surveyed him, even as her pointed chin lifted slightly. “Hello,” she said, her voice low and melodic.
Larkin gave her a brief smile, trying not to notice that the thin white T-shirt beneath the overall bib seemed to indicate she was braless. The curves of her generous breasts peeked out the sides. “My name is Larkin Wolff,” he said. “I’m here to see Ms. Winifred Bellamy. She’s expecting me.”
* * *
Winnie felt a sudden need for either smelling salts or a quick belt of whiskey. It had been a long, long time since a virile, handsome man had crossed this threshold. “I’m Winifred,” she said, looking him up and down. “But please call me Winnie.” She stepped back and waited for him to enter, leading him to the nearby salon.
It was one of her favorite rooms. She had furnished it simply but comfortably, and the small baby grand in the corner was one she played when there was no one around to hear. Audubon prints graced the walls, and a pale green silk Persian rug, enormous in length and width, cushioned her feet as she sank her toes into the pile. Its intricate pattern reminded her that someone, somewhere, had labored over its creation for days, months, years. Winnie admired such single-minded devotion.
She curled into an armchair and waved her guest to the sofa. “Thank you for coming so quickly, Mr. Wolff.”
He shrugged. “Your note indicated some urgency.”
“Yes.” Fear and anxiety clenched her stomach, but she fought them back. She was not a victim. She was in charge. “I suppose you read the article I enclosed?”
He nodded with a grimace. “I did.”
Winnie Bellamy hated being robbed. Money was one thing…she had plenty of it. But when Arista Magazine listed her as one of the twenty wealthiest women in America, Winnie lost something she valued more than anything else…her privacy…and her anonymity.
She placed her hands on the arms of the chair, deliberately displaying an air of confidence. “Where do we start?”
* * *
Larkin Wolff was not sure what she wanted from him. So he