Her Heart’s Content
By JK Candlen
This book is fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents, and events are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to any actual events, works, persons, dead or living, is coincidental, and is beyond the intent of the author.
No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, stored in, or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system in any form, whether it be electronic or mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written consent of the author.
Text copyright © 2016 by JK Candlen
To all the women who still believe in fairytales.
Lipstick, a cell phone, and a tube of Preparation H. Those three items, the must haves she always carried with her, defined Stella McGuinness.
The Channel lipstick in Unscrupulous Red was obvious. Her fearless scarlet lips, more than likely flat on the edge of a scowl gave nothing away. They were her trademark ever since she started her acquisition firm.
The phone never far from her reach connected her to everything and everyone that held any importance in the business world. She closed multi-million dollar deals on it. But the tube of topical cream was her little beauty secret.
Stella leaned over the sink and smacked her lips, dabbed the corners of her mouth with a tissue and frowned. When did she get old? She never gave it much thought before. Stella was always too busy chasing the next deal but somehow the years had marched over her face.
She rubbed her hand up her neck, over her jaw pulling the skin tight, and then watched everything sag back in place when she removed the pressure. The expletives that passed over her perfect white teeth didn’t reflect the woman in the little black dress accented with diamonds and pearls.
Noise drifted into the Ladies Room as the door opened. Conversation stopped, replaced by whispers when the two women recognized who was standing over the sink applying lipstick. Stella returned her attention back to the mirror dismissing the two as too insignificant for her attention. She gave her red hair a fluff then turned to leave.
“Stella,” one of the women purred, “I didn’t know you were here. I’d have thought you’d be home in bed at this hour. You’ve been looking so tired lately.”
Stella stood rigid as the young blonde gave her the customary hug and peck on the cheek. She pulled back, a sleek expression on her face. “And I didn’t know they allowed you out after dark.”
It felt good to Stella to extend her claws and take a swipe. Stella was an expert at psychological warfare and for some reason, from the moment she met Tiffany, an unspoken tension stood between them.
“If you’ll excuse me, I have important matters that need my attention,” Stella said to Tiffany and her constant companion. It was a curt dismissal, one she was famous for.
“He already left,” Tiffany said and turned to give her cohort a self-satisfied look.
Stella paused for a moment then glared at Tiffany. How dare someone try to get the last word on Stella McGuinness. “Excuse me? Did I hear someone say something?”
“Mr. Bateman. He left right after I confirmed my appointment with him tomorrow. We need to discuss negotiations on the Hiller Expansion,” Tiffany said smugly.
Neither surprised nor anger showed on Stella’s face. However, the triumphant laughter snapped at her ankles like an overeager pesky puppy.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
“Stella, Mon coeur,” a male voice crooned with a slight French lilt. The Frenchman extended his hand to the statuesque woman crossing the ballroom.
He grasped Stella’s small hand, bent and touched his warm lips to her skin. She glanced down at the mop of brown hair and wanted to pull back. Odd, she never felt uncomfortable with a male’s attention before but Gaspard was different. She had met him only an hour ago and something under the surface wasn’t ringing true.
“What sort of trouble shall we get into tonight?” The tall muscular man asked as he looked up with a sparkle in his blue eyes. “We could run away together and make passionate love.”
Did his accent get thicker?
His daring and charm started to work on Stella. Her glacial pose melted a bit as the idea of leaving all the chaos behind floated across her mind. The crazy schedule and constant struggle to lead the pack of wolves in the business world was wearing her down. Running away with someone and not having a care definitely had its appeal.
“Or I could grant you whatever your heart’s desire.”
His expression made her pause. Stella wanted to ask exactly what he meant by, ‘her heart’s desire’, but couldn’t get the words past her lips. Gaspard still held her hand and the sensation from his touch unnerved her.
He leaned closer and whispered, “I can give you what you want above all. Beauty. Power. Even make pests disappear.”
Did she hear that right? How did he know her thoughts about Tiffany? She prided herself in hiding her emotions, not revealing anything, but this man could look into her and see what lied beneath her surface. Stella realized she needed to stay on guard more now than ever. Gaspard seemed harmless but the pretty package could be a disguise.
She turned away from the enchanting man and studied the crowd. The networking reception was where the movers and shakers of the business world circulated and connected. It was where many years ago Stella made her first deal.
The corners of Stella’s lips turned up slightly as she watched her business partner weave through the throng of people.
“Hello Tip,” the stocky man said as he and his date joined them, “Another conquest?”
“Tip? I thought her name was Stella,” the woman whispered in Harold’s ear.
“That’s what I like to call her. It’s sort of a pet name – Tip of the Spear.”
“More like ‘Tip of an Iceberg,’” a man said as he walked by the group. He laughed and kept going. Harold’s date looked confused.
Gaspard placed a hand on the small of Stella’s back and said, “I can get rid of them all if you want.”
Stella shook her head and shrugged it off. “No, Harold and I have been a team for so long, it’d be too much trouble to break someone else in.”
“As you wish.” He smiled showing his pearly whites.
Stella didn’t like her nickname. Okay maybe she did but didn’t like hearing it. She looked over the crowd thinking about locating Bateman. She didn’t believe what the bitch in the Ladies Room said. There was no way Bateman would leave before talking to her.
“Excuse me, I need to circulate,” Stella said as she extradited herself from Gaspard and left the small group. She crossed the room to the bar to check it out.
After twenty minutes, it was apparent that Bateman had left. He was nowhere. The reception was still in full swing but Stella hadn’t seen him. Damn, she needed to get a jump on the Hiller Expansion.
“Not finding what you are looking for, Mon coeur?” Gaspard whispered in her ear. She jumped.
His blue eyes were light and playful, his smile sensuous. Stella took the fluted champagne glass he held out to her and sipped.
“You didn’t find him did you?”
“No I didn’t.” Then she stopped, “How do you know what I’m thinking? Who I was looking for?”
“I know a lot about you, Mon coeur. Maybe more than I should.” Gaspard lifted the glass to his lips and sipped.
“Okay, who are you?” Brow furrowed, she stood in front of the Frenchman wanting an answer.
The corners of Gaspard’s mouth lifted slightly. He gazed into Stella’s hazel eyes, and said, “I can be your every dream.” he paused then continued, “But I can also be your worst nightmare.”
Stella drew in a deep breath. For some reason she believed him. She didn’t know why but she did.
A crash split the moment; Stella looked toward the commotion to see a waiter bending down to clean up the scattered glasses from the dropped tray. When she turned back to Gaspard, he was gone and a folded piece of paper was in her hand.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
What the hell am I doing? The words kept playing in Stella’s mind like a broken record. She should never have come. Was it a trap? It could be, the Frenchman was definitely up to something. But that didn’t explain why she fell for Gaspard’s ruse. She hadn’t been this gullible since she’d been a teenager and even then she wasn’t naive.
She sighed, tightened her grip on the note and stepped out of the limo. Stella glanced left then right studying every doorway and crevice for any movement. Even with her burly chauffeur, she was cautious.
All was still.
The deserted street glistened from the recent rain. Every surface sparkled as if diamond dust covered the neighborhood and came to life under the light of the street lamps. Even the stars above held an extra glimmer adding to the brilliance.
Drawing her fur coat closer together, she stepped on the sidewalk. “I shouldn’t be long,” Stella told the chauffeur.
He nodded and shut the limo’s backdoor. A wave of uneasiness ran up the front of Stella, then down her back. She had never been in this part of the city, never had a reason to be here. Was it safe? The small street, if you could call it that, didn’t appear on any map on the GPS. But somehow the driver found it.
Stella walked to the front door of the building. The dilapidated structure with its sags and peeling paint probably looked best in the dark of night. She spotted the lopsided white stickers on the mailbox, 17. This was it.
She peered into the window on the left side of the door. The glass was coated with street dirt and only a faint glow from within was distinguishable. Stella started to take the sleeve of her coat to wipe the grime from the window but stopped. She didn’t want to ruin her new coat; instead she used the silk scarf from her pocket.
The harder she rubbed, the clearer the interior became. Stella watched the little old man sitting on a stool by a table with his back to her. Stella couldn’t see what he was doing but his arms moved. Was he eating? Having a cup of tea?
Taking a deep breath, she took a risk and knocked on the door.
Stella waited and didn’t hear any response from inside. No footsteps. No one called out that they were coming. She knocked again. Just before the third try, the door creaked open.
The room was dimmer than when she peered in the window. A fire burned low in the hearth, the smell of soup and burning wood mingled in the air. She hesitated for a moment then stepped over the threshold and went inside.
“Come in my dear,” the little old man said without turning around. He spoke in an accent Stella couldn’t quite place. Middle Eastern? Russian? She didn’t know.
“What do you seek from me?” the man said as he stood up to face her.
Stella looked down at the little man and little was the only word she would use. He stood barely four feet, his bald head circled with a thin curtain of straggly hair that rimmed from ear to ear and fell to his shoulders. He wore a plaid shirt buttoned to his neck, a bold orange bowtie and jeans rolled up just above his ankles. His thick and meaty hands reached up to shake hers.
“I want,” but she stopped. Stella didn’t know exactly what she wanted.
Gaspard’s cryptic note had said, “You’ll find your heart’s content here. 17 Glelm Street.” Stella still didn’t know what that meant. She pondered it ever since she opened the folded piece of paper left in her hand.
What did she want? Eternal youth? Yes, she could use that and in fact saw the need for it each time she looked in the mirror. Power? Yes of course she could always use more power. But can she ask for more than one thing? Could she ask for two or three?
“I want youth,” she finally said. Youth was power, right?
The little man eyed her seriously as the moment stretched. “Are you sure?” He finally asked.
He gestured for her to sit down and wait. Stella watched as he walked over to the work table on the far side of the room. The little man’s arms moved feverously picking up bottles. The clinking of glass on glass drifted on the air. When he returned to the table, he placed a glass jar in front of Stella.
She looked at it suspiciously wondering if this whole thing was true. It felt as surreal as a fairy tale. The little old man fit the part too, right down to the way he walked. Did she fall into a Tolkien story?
The jar was heavy as Stella lifted it from the table. The glass felt cool to her touch. “How much?”
“That is for you to determine. How much do you want it?”
That was an enigmatic response. But Stella shouldn’t have expected anything more.
“How do I know if this will work?”
“That is for you to find out. Are you a gambling person, my dear?”
She looked at the short man questionably then at the jar. Stella examined the gold lettering written on the lid, “Beauty Cream”.
She opened the jar and sniffed. No scent, hmmm. Not even a medicinal one. Stella dipped the long red nail of her right index finger into the white cream and stirred. The goo tingled where it touched her skin. A cool burning feeling swept up her hand, up her arm to her shoulder.
Dropping the jar, she started to get up but the little man said, “Try it. Rub some on your hand and see.”
After a few swipes of the cream on her hand, the smooth skin glowed with youth. Was it a trick of the light? Stella carefully examined the skin on the back of her hand. No this was for real.
“I’ll take it. What’s your price?”
“I’m a modest man and don’t require much, but everything has a cost.”
The man’s gaze roved over Stella settling on her wrist. The diamond and platinum watch sparkled catching his eye.
“This?” Stella said running a finger over the sparkle on her wrist.
The old man lifted his brow in acknowledgement. What did Stella care? The watch was inconsequential, but it was still expensive.
“Would you take cash?” Stella said as she reached inside her fur coat and pulled her wallet out of the breast pocket.
The little old man eyed her and shook his head. “I have no use for paper.”
“Are you sure?” Stella said as she opened her wallet and splayed hundred dollar bills on the table.
The little old man studied the paper on the worn wooden surface then Stella. “Close the door on your way out.” He picked up the jar from the table and walked over to his workbench.
Stella never let a deal slip through her fingers no matter what. Okay, so she didn’t get the best price but the cream was worth it. She rubbed a hand over the youthful skin and took the watch off, placed it on the table. What did she care about the bauble?
Stella grabbed the jar and left. On the way to her apartment, she slathered the cream over her face. She couldn’t wait. Her skin started to tingle but panic rose up in her when the coolness turned into a burning sensation.
Flipping on the interior light, she looked at her face in her compact mirror. The lighting was dim and she couldn’t make out much through her blurry vision. Was the cream burning her face? Stella was afraid she’d be scarred for life. The little man had tricked her out of her watch. This was all Gaspard’s fault. Damn him and his French accent.
She wanted to tell the driver to turn around and head back so she could give the little man a piece of her mind, but Stella realized they were in front of her apartment building. It would be best to wash this off first then demand her watch back.
The chauffeur extended his hand and Stella stepped out of the limo. He gasped. His eyes widened as they roamed over her face. Stella’s knees grew weak. Oh my God, she was disfigured.
“I’m going to kill him,” she muttered furiously as she hurried into the lobby of her apartment building, her high heels clickety-clacking against the marble floor.
The elevator attendant was speechless, which at any other time Stella would have welcomed. His expression worried her and she started to feel faint.
Stella kept her head down and waited for the elevator to ding to announce the top floor. She quickly went into her apartment, dropped everything in her hand, her purse, keys and fur coat on the floor as she entered the bathroom.
A scream tumbled out of the tiled room as she stared into the vanity mirror.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
“Miss Stella, Miss Stella. What is wrong?” The older woman said as she stopped short in front of her panicked employer.
“I put some new cream on my face and neck,” Stella said trailing off without completing her thought.
For the first time in her adult life, she didn’t have any words. She ran her fingers lightly over the smooth luminous cheeks. Gone were the crow’s feet that accented her eyes. Gone was the drooping skin that bracketed her mouth. Gone were the sags and snood at her neck.
“You look beautiful, Miss Stella,” Louisa said tightening the belt of her fuzzy bathrobe. The live-in maid stepped forward and looked closely, “Where did you get the cream. I wouldn’t mind a jar of it myself.”
Stella smiled. Louisa was the only person she let down her guard with. Her genuine tilt of the lips spoke of the relationship between maid and employer.
Stella stepped up to the full length mirror. The feeling that enveloped her was indescribable. Staring back at her was someone she hadn’t seen in over twenty years. Her elation grew with each new discovery.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
“Mr. Bateman is on line one,” the female voice said over the intercom.
Stella sat in her leather chair and stared out the window of her corner office. The memories of the attention she received when she walked into the office replayed in her mind. The looks, the stares made her heart pound. She was beautiful like in her youth.
“Thank you, Cathy,” Stella said pressing the button.
After taking the call, Stella wondered why Bateman himself called her. He never called anyone. His personal secretary did all the leg work and today he phoned her, Stella McGuinness. Maybe it had a connection with the “Beauty Cream”?
This morning when Stella applied it all over her body, she was thinking about Bateman and how she wished she could talk to him. Now he called her personally and they were having cocktails tonight. Stella didn’t care how it came about, everything was falling into place.
She walked out of her office to get a cup of coffee. The need for caffeine was great since Stella stayed up all night staring at herself in the mirror. So the beauty cream did work. Just like the little old man said it would. The results were more than she ever hoped for. She would have given the man all her jewelry for half of the effect. And the speed of which it worked, miraculous.
Stella was leaving the kitchen when Cathy walked in to get her lunch. The secretary stopped and gaped. She smiled at Cathy’s expression. Her secretary was just taking longer to get familiar with the new Stella.
Crossing the secretary’s pool, the wave of keyboard noise ceased. The women craned their heads around. Each had the same horrifying expression.
“Her face,” one whispered.
“Oh my God,” another said as she crossed herself.
Stella stopped in mid step. What could be wrong? They all saw her when she came into work this morning. Yes, they all stared, but this was different. It wasn’t the pleasant surprise she received earlier, they were truly horrified.
Beads of sweat gathered on Stella’s forehead. She started to feel faint again. Changing direction, she headed to the Ladies Room. A cry of agony penetrated the closed door.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Whistling filled the room. The lively tune jitterbugged on the smoke from the hearth and dipped low with the aroma of soup. The little old man sat on the stool, his cheeks slowly deflated as he fiddled with the inner workings of a clock.
Stella’s hands were firmly planted on the worn wooden table. She leaned closer to the old man until they were inches apart and said in a deadly whisper, “Look what you did to me.”
The jitterbug ended and a waltz followed. Stella grunted and started to work herself into a frenzy. Desperation gripped her.
The whistling stopped and the old man looked up at Stella. “I don’t know what you mean. I gave you what you wanted. The beauty cream did what you asked for.”
“No it didn’t.”
“I beg to differ, my dear. It restored your youth, didn’t it?”
“Well yes, but look at me now!” Stella’s rage escalated. Her breathing was quick and rapid, her face mottled with anger. She wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead and tried to steady her pounding heart.
“No need to yell, my dear. It did exactly what you asked, it gave you a youthful appearance.”
“But it didn’t last. Look at me. I look even older than before. My God, I look like my grandmother.”
And indeed she did. Her sallow skin sagged in bags symmetrically on her pulpy face. Even her red hair, lustrous locks yesterday had grey running through it and frizzed in all directions.
“Well then, you should have been more specific. If you wanted the youthful appearance to last longer, you should have said so.”
Stella grunted. Nothing was easy for her. She learned that lesson well and if she wasn’t a survivor she wouldn’t have been the CEO of Complex Synergies.
“Okay, so I didn’t exactly say I wanted the effect to last longer but it was what I meant. You should’ve understood the unspoken detail.”
“You need to be very specific. But not all is lost. I have something that can help you.”
His words brought her to a screeching halt and out of the rant. There was a way to fixed this, excellent.
“Yes, give it to me.”
“Now my dear, don’t be too hasty. There are always…,” the little old man said but didn’t finish his sentence. Stella had cut him off.
“Ok, anything, just give it to me. I’ll pay anything.”
The man rose from his stool and walked over to the workbench across the room. Stella watched him as he moved bottles and jars around. The clinking of glass on glass accompanied the clock ticking on the mantle.
When he was done, the old man placed the small jar on the worn wooden table. He pushed it in front of Stella.
“This is what you want. But of course it comes with a cost.”
“Anything,” Stella said as she snatched the jar and opened it.”
Unlike the first cream, this one had an immediate odor. She looked at the green iridescent goo and sniffed. Her nose scrunched up when the pungent stench reached her nostrils.
The little old man eyed the large diamond ring on Stella’s finger. She followed his gaze to the five carrot yellow diamond. The ring was priceless, own by a Russian Tsarina at one time and she paid dearly for it on the black market.
She slid the ring off her gnarled finger and handed it over to the man. She resented losing the ring. It was one of her most valued possessions but with each minute, she was aging. Each hour seemed to ply a decade to her body.
Stella applied the cream to her hand and before the wetness had the time to dry, the wrinkles, age spots and blue veins receded leaving a smooth youthful appearance.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
“Do you smell that?” the woman said.
“Yes. I think I’m going to get sick,” her friend said as she covered her nose and mouth with her hand.
Stella turned and glared at the two women sitting at the end of the bar. She didn’t smell that bad, did she? No, of course not.
“Stella,” Mr. Bateman said as he entered the lounge.
“Mr. Bateman,” Stella returned the greeting. She strategically guided Bateman to the other end of the bar, away from the outspoken wine-bibbers.
Martinis were ordered and a second round was quickly sitting next to the empty glasses. Stella was hoping a tipsy Bateman wouldn’t notice the beauty cream’s side effect. Shaking hands rather than his customary hug and pat on the back was a telling sign that she needed to be on guard.
It didn’t matter that she reeked. The cream worked and Stella McGuiness was beautiful.
Stella took in a deep breath. Who was she kidding. The side effect was even getting to her and Stella wasn’t sure how much longer she could hide the odious odor. The smell of decomposing flesh wasn’t pleasant.
Mr. Bateman scrunched up his nose as the odor started to build. Stella stepped back and the smell drifted in another direction.
At first, the meeting was going her way. She was so close to clinching the deal, but now, it was spiraling downward. The air conditioner rumbled to life and the stench shifted its direction toward Bateman. The negotiations for the Hiller Expansion screeched to a halt. Bateman wouldn’t commit. He was too busy trying to evade the stench.
“Stella, why don’t we talk about this another time? I have to go,” Bateman said. He glanced at his phone, took one last sip of his cocktail and stood up.
“We can finish this right here. It’ll only take a few more minutes.”
Bateman hesitated but then swayed on his feet as another wave of odor reached him. “I got to go,” he quickly said.
Damn. She stood up and watched the deal of the century walk out the door.
Stella had to think. She knew she would come up with some sort of plan but time was running out. Bateman would go with the bitch Tiffany.
“Mon coeur, what’s wrong?”
That French accent. She knew who it belonged to. She scanned the lounge and there was Gaspard, sitting at the other end of the bar. He lifted his champagne glass in salute.
“You.” The word roared over her lips. “You did this to me.” Her tirade continued as she stomped toward the Frenchman.
“Moi?” he asked innocently.
Her face contorted and the anger boiled up and spouted out. “You told me you would give me my heart’s content. Take a whiff. I stink!”
Gaspard smiled. “And what, Mon coeur, is in your heart?”
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
“Okay you little worm, tell me what you’ve did this time,” Stella screeched. Her hands were fisted at her sides, her breath coming out in pants as she paced back and forth. She was in a panic.
“You think this is some sort of joke?”
The little man shrugged and continued to sweep the floor.
“Now my dear. I tried to tell you there were consequences,” he said as he swept his pile of dirt into the dust pan.
“No you didn’t. You did no such thing.”
“I did. You cut me off,” the man said emphasizing each word that came out of his mouth.
Stella stopped her pacing and stared at the little man. He was enjoying this too much. His usual stern face was now lit up with delight.
“But I smell,” Stella said.
The little man stood up, tossed the dirt in the fire and propped the broom and dust pan against the hearth. He leaned close to Stella, took a sniff and shrugged. “Nothing unusual.”
“You can’t be serious. I’m becoming a laughingstock.”
Her ever-changing appearance was the talk of the office. She never cared about what people said about her but for some reason she did now. Where did it all go wrong? Everything was falling apart and she had to figure some way to fix this. Stella always knew how to turn a bad situation into something good but this was different. The situation she faced now wasn’t anything she dealt with before.
“How much is it worth to you?” The little man said with an auspicious gleam in his eyes.
“Ah ha, so you do admit I smell.”
“It’s all relative, isn’t it my dear.”
“I’m not leaving until you make this right. I paid you good money for this,” Stella said.
“But you are beautiful.”
“Ok, let’s start again. You wanted eternal youth, you got it. Everything has a price and a consequence. You either take the terms or you don’t.”
Maybe if she knew more about him, she could use it some way to get him to fix this. Who was this man with the odd accent? Stella didn’t even know his name.
Sitting down, she had to come up with a way to get the man to do what she wanted. But how? This whole thing was turning into a fiasco and if it didn’t straighten out, she’d be doomed.
“What am I to do? Please God, I need help,” Stella prayed. Tears welled up in her eyes and she buried her face in her hands.
The man looked at her for a moment then walked over to the workbench. He shuffled bottles along the table surface, sounds of clinking glass surrounding him. When he finally finished, he turned around with a small bottle in his hand.
“Put one drop in a cup of tea and drink it. The smell will go away,” the little man said as he put the small bottle in front of Stella.
“Instantly? What about my youth? I paid for eternal youth.”
“But is that your heart’s content?” the little man said. His soulful eyes reached into Stella and touched something she never thought was there before.
His demeanor gave her pause. What did Stella really want? She sat on the stool searching deep inside her heart. Was she really the tip of an iceberg as so many thought? She didn’t think so, not deep down.
Stella was so certain youth equaled power and craved the supremacy she held in the business world. But did she really? Did she want this fast paced life measuring each day against the one before? The last twenty four hours were the worst she had ever experienced. The day compressed a lifetime of reaching and grabbing at something that may not matter anymore.
That line of reasoning stopped her. It didn’t matter anymore? She had put everything aside for the thrill of the chase. To be the best at what she did. However, it didn’t make her content.
A thought popped into her head. What if she walked away and left it all behind? What if she disappeared? Found a deserted beach or a cabin hidden in the mountains. She would be saner and happier, something she hadn’t been in years.
There were so many things she wanted to do but never found the time. Have a relationship. Write. Paint. Stella had lost her focus in life and it was time to get it back.
“No, I didn’t ask for my heart’s content,” Stella said sadly. The realization hit her so hard; she practically fell off her stool.
The old man picked up the bottle, poured a drop of the liquid into a cup then filled it with tea.
“Here, take this and think of what is there, deep inside you that really matters. When you find it, drink.”
Stella sat at the table with the cup in front of her. She stared at it, and then closed her eyes. Picking up the cup, she sipped. Her face scrunched up at the foul-tasting liquid.
“You must drink all of it,” the little man said.
Lifting the cup higher, Stella drained the tea. Nothing happened. At least not at first. Then a moment later, her body started to tingle. The scent of gardenias replaced the repugnant odor. Contentment filled her heart.
Stella opened her eyes and smiled. Her face lit up and the beauty shone as bright as any diamond or jewel. The little old man gave her a hand mirror and she looked at herself. There staring back was Stella McGuinness, the middle-aged woman who one day ago wanted eternal youth.
“Thank you,” Stella said as she got up to leave.
“You are welcome.”
“Oh, I almost forgot to pay you. How much do I owe?”
“Nothing. The heart’s content has no price.”
Stella bent down and gave the little man a kiss on his cheek and left. Peace and contentment swelled inside her. All was well.
The lively jingle split the night and reached in every direction. “Hello?” Stella said into her cell phone.
“Stella, I’ve been thinking about the Hiller Expansion. If you want it, it’s yours,” Mr. Bateman said on the other end of the call.
“No, I’m sorry Mr. Bateman. I’m not right for it. Call Tiffany, she will be the perfect fit for the project,” Stella said without hesitation.
Disconnecting the call, she smiled. The Blackberry lit up again with another incoming call. Stella took one last look at her phone then hurled it in the air. She giggled as the phone skidded across the street pavement and slipped into the sewer grate.
Stella’s head snapped around hearing the familiar masculine voice with the French lilt.
“Come, Mon Coeur. I’ll show you your heart’s content.” The seductive words shaded with a French accent slipped on the night air.
Gaspard was standing on the curb dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform next to the idling black car. With a sweeping bow, he opened the back door and waited.
Stella giggled. But instead of getting in the open door, she walked around to the driver’s side. “Get in, ChouChou. I’m driving.”
I hope you enjoyed my short story. To find out more what’s happening or to get updates on new releases, go to my website, .
Acquisitions and mergers shark, Stella McGuiness, is looking for the next big deal. Staying ahead of the pack of wolves in the business world is hard work and the years have taken its toll. However, after a chance encounter with a mysterious and debonair Frenchman, Stella wants something only he is offering, her heart’s content. But recognizing what is exactly in her heart is another matter. Dealing with the Frenchman who knows her every thought and a little old man with potions sends her into a tailspin. What does Stella want? Does she want her life as it is today or her heart’s content?