When Zander entered the dining room he was surprised to find a petite, dark-haired, woman at the table. An image hit him and he rubbed his forehead. She was the woman who had stood over him and said she was a friend. Zander hadn't been able to see her clearly, his vision had been fuzzy because of the drugs the nurse had given him, but he was sure this was the same woman. She was very beautiful and she smiled when she saw him.
Luis was at the head of the table and gestured for Zander to sit at his right. He then introduced the woman. "Zander, this is my companion. Brenda. Brenda, meet Zander."
"Hello, Zander," Brenda said softly. "It's nice to meet you."
"Yeah...nice to meet you too." Zander realized that it would be wise not to mention having seen her before.
Luis watched them then said, "Zander, part of your duties will be to keep Brenda company. She gets lonely."
Zander nodded. "Sounds easy enough." However it made him a little uneasy. It reminded Zander of Sonny asking him to befriend Carly, and things hadn't turned out well in that scenario. But he kept those thoughts to himself as a servant appeared and placed soup in front of them. Zander perked up. French onion soup. He hadn't had it in years but had always loved it.
"So...are you from Port Charles, Zander?" Brenda asked as they ate.
"No. I've been here a few years but I'm from Florida."
Brenda coughed as she swallowed wrong. She patted her mouth with her napkin then took a sip of water. "You were born in Florida?"
Zander nodded. "That's right. Are you okay?"
"Fine." Brenda smiled. "Do you have any brothers and sisters?"
"Not anymore." Zander felt pain knife through him and he pushed his soup away, only to find it replaced with a salad. Without thinking about it, Zander picked up the salad fork. He speared a tomato but didn't eat it.
Luis was intrigued. "Did you lose a sibling, Zander?"
Zander set his fork down carefully and reached for his water glass. He took a long swallow before replying. "Yeah. He died a few years ago." He didn't want to talk about it and sent out a silent message for them to change the subject.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Brenda replied. "So I take it your family still lives in Florida?"
"I don't know. I left when I was fifteen."
Luis gestured for the next course. "Ran away?"
Zander shrugged. "I guess. It's not like they cared."
"I don't believe that," Brenda stated.
"Believe it." Zander stared at his plate and wished they would stop asking questions. He didn't like to talk about himself and he would have said as much had Alcazar not been asking as well. Zander figured he owed it to the guy to answer since Alcazar had saved his life.
Luis gestured for more wine in his glass. "I take it you didn't get along with your parents."
Zander focused on his baked potato. He wasn't hungry but he stabbed at it with his fork. "Mostly my dad. My brother was the golden child. I was the mistake."
"How old are you now?" Brenda asked. "Twenty?"
"Twenty-one." Zander decided to try the steak. It melted in his mouth. Maybe if he kept his mouth full they would stop asking questions.
Luis seemed to get the hint. He changed the topic. "You have impeccable table manners, Zander."
Zander laughed. "I bet you figured I'd eat with my fingers."
"No," Luis smiled back. "But I didn't expect you to know the proper utensil to use for each course."
"My parents had money," Zander stated. This much of his past was harmless enough to talk about. "Not major wealth but we had a big house and a few servants, and my mom was big on table manners."
Brenda smiled at him. "She taught you well."
Zander shrugged then decided to turn the tables. Sort of. He wasn't sure what would be considered off limits so he asked Brenda what he thought would be a harmless question. "Are you a model?" She was beautiful enough to be one.
"I have done some modeling," Brenda replied. She looked at Alcazar for a moment then said, "Do you miss Florida?"
"Sometimes." Zander smiled. "I miss the heat."
Luis pushed his plate away. "Does anyone want dessert?" he asked. When everyone shook their heads, Luis gestured for the servants to clear the table. "Why don't we go to the drawing room?" he suggested. They gathered there and Luis poured them all a snifter of brandy. He smiled at Zander and teased, "Are you sure you're old enough to drink?"
Zander chuckled. "Does it matter? Being underage never stopped me from drinking in the past."
"I'll bet." Luis handed Zander the snifter then picked up an ornate wooden box. "Cigar?"
"No thanks," Zander passed. "I don't smoke."
Brenda wrinkled her nose. "Nasty habit." She looked at Luis as she spoke.
Luis sat down at a small table where a carved, ivory, chess set resided. "Zander...do you play?"
"Badly." Zander strolled over to the table. "Beautiful set."
"Sit down. We'll play a game."
Zander shook his head. "You could beat me with your eyes closed."
Luis chuckled. "We'll make it a teaching exercise. Sit."
"I warned you." Zander sat down then made his first move. He was surprised that he remembered the game. Peter had taught him how to play, years ago.
"Good move," Luis commented. He made his own play.
For the next forty minutes they played and in the end, Zander won. He was surprised, to say the least.
Luis was impressed. "Good game. You're not afraid to take risks and you're competitive. I like that."
"I was lucky." Zander finished his brandy then stood up to stretch.
"It's late," Brenda interjected. "I'm going to bed. Good night, Zander. Luis." She left the room with her bodyguard in tow.
Zander looked at Alcazar. "About my duties..."
Luis smiled. "What about them?"
"Well...what are they?"
"Keeping Brenda company."
Zander frowned. "I can do that, but there has to be more that I can do. I played companion to Carly and that wasn't a good thing in the end. I wanted to prove myself to Sonny, but he wouldn't let me. Iím hoping you will."
Luis stroked his chin. "I might...but you may have to get your hands a little dirty."
"A little dirt never hurt anyone," Zander countered. "But I won't kill anyone."
"I don't expect you to. I have people who specialize in that." Luis poured himself a refill and sipped at the fragrant Brandy. "Let me think about it, Zander. We'll talk in the morning, over breakfast. It's late. Go to bed."
Zander nodded. "Goodnight. And thank you." He turned and left the room.
Once alone, Luis reached for the phone. He made a call and requested information on Zander Smith. Everything that could be found. After hanging up Luis sat down in a chair by the fire, a smile on his face.
* * * * *
Zander slept surprisingly well in his new bed. He got up and showered, then spent ten minutes trying to figure out what he was supposed to wear. After a while he found a pair of black jeans and an emerald green, long sleeved, tee shirt. He got dressed, finger combed his hair, then headed down stairs.
Not surprisingly, Brenda was there with her bodyguard standing watch. That bothered Zander a bit but he figured it would be best not to ask about it. Not yet anyway. Breakfast was set up on a sideboard and Brenda explained that Zander could serve himself anything he liked. He chose coffee and a huge chocolate chip muffin. By the time he sat down at the table, Alcazar appeared.
"I have to leave on business," Luis announced. "I'll be back tonight." He looked at Zander. "Why don't you spend the morning with Brenda. There's an indoor pool, you can enjoy yourselves since it's a little too cool for the outdoor pool."
"Sounds good to me," Brenda stated. She was done eating so she rose from her seat. "I'll go change. I'll meet you at the pool, Zander."
He nodded then turned to Alcazar. "Did you think about what I can do for you?"
Luis chuckled. "You're very eager to prove yourself, aren't you?"
"I owe you alot. Keeping Brenda company isn't a way to pay you back. It's more like another perk for me. I can do more. I can help you." Zander wasn't sure why this was so important to him. But it was.
"I do have something you can do for me, Zander." Luis poured a glass of orange juice then took a sip. "I have a package I need you to deliver to Carly Corinthos's club. You can leave after lunch; no one will be there. I want you to hide it behind the bar. I want it to be...found...by the right people at the right time."
Zander nodded but he was uncertain. He still had feelings for Carly. "What's in the package?"
Luis locked eyes with Zander. "You don't need to know that. Go have your swim with Brenda. Have some fun. After lunch George will give you the package. Do you think you can handle that?"
"Yeah...I'll take care of it for you."
"Good. I'm counting on you." Luis moved to stand next to Zander's chair and he reached out to pat Zander on the cheek. "Don't disappoint me."
Zander pulled away from Alcazar's touch on the pretense of rising from his chair. "I won't," he promised. He hadn't touched his muffin, but he was no longer hungry.
Luis nodded. "Go change. Brenda is waiting."
"See you tonight," Zander said. Then he turned and walked away. But he couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen.
© Shelly 2004