Red followed Rusty into a room full of exercise equipment with large windows on two walls letting in a lot of light. Near one set of windows were several pads. On one of those pads were two men decked out in padded suits and fencing. Red watched the two men practically dance while their swords sang at every meeting. It thrilled him. Maybe he could ask Mr. Hughes if he could learn to fence as well.
"Wonderful, Signor Hughes!" exclaimed the fencing instructor as the two finally stopped and sat down on a bench. They peeled off their masks. One mask revealed the blonde hair and blue eyes of Reginald Hughes, wealthy entrepreneur. The other mask revealed a dark-haired, dark-eyed Italian who was beaming with pride at his student. "You have made excellent progress!"
Reginald smiled. "With a great many thanks to you, Signor Russo! With a fencing instructor like you, even the most unbalanced man can learn how to fence with the grace of a swan!"
Signor Russo waved at the praise, despite his reddening face. "No, Signor, you are simply a natural! It's an honor to have you as my student!"
Rusty cleared his throat. The two men glanced up at him. Then Mr. Hughes saw Red. He jumped up with the excitement of a school boy at the bell ringing in the holidays and grasped Red's hands with fervor. "Red, you're here! How wonderful! So sorry to have kept you waiting, I was insistent on another round with my instructor. Here, let me introduce you. Signor Russo, this is Red Randall, my pilot. Red, this is Signor Ettore Russo, my fencing instructor."
The two shook hands. Red noticed Signor Russo shot Mr. Hughes an uncertain look. "Your pilot?"
Mr. Hughes nodded. "Only the best."
Red could feel the heat rising in his face. "Uh, Mr. Hughes, I don't have the experience that someone who's been flying for years have had, but I plan on doing my best."
Signor Russo raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Hughes always picks the very best, you can be sure of that." He shot Mr. Hughes a reproachful look. "Except when it comes to friends."
Mr. Hughes grinned sheepishly. "I was young, Signor!"
"You're still young," Signor Russo quickly returned.
"Well, you've said so yourself, I'm a fast learner."
"Yes, though I still wonder why you haven't stopped being friends with those low-lives."
Mr. Hughes shrugged. "A sense of gratitude, perhaps? It was through those friends that I met Delilah."
"Ah, yes, the one good thing they've done for you, and they're probably regretting it."
Red blinked in confusion. "Um, what do you mean by that?"
Rusty cleared his throat. "I was going to show Mr. Randall around the house, Mr. Hughes. He's already met the staff."
Mr. Hughes clapped his hands. "Wonderful! I would like to join you. Signor Russo, would you like to join us, or do you need to leave?"
Signor Russo nodded, giving a sly, suspicious glance at Red. Red met his gaze with a questioning look. "I would like to join you. My meeting is tomorrow, so I have the rest of today to myself."
"Fantastic! And may I convince you to include having dinner here?"
Signor Russo chuckled. "Yes, Reginald, I'll stay for dinner."
"Wonderful! Rusty, please lead the way." Rusty bowed, turned, and led the way out of the room.
"If you couldn't tell," Rusty told Red, "but that was the exercise room. Mr. Hughes does all of his training in there."
Red glanced at Mr. Hughes. "I could tell."
Mr. Hughes grinned. "Yes, it's quite convenient, to be sure. But it does make life easier, and cleaning for that matter."
Rusty smiled with pride. "That's quite right, sir, you are always trying to make our lives a little easier."
Mr. Hughes shrugged. "I think my employees should be allowed some free time too, to pursue whatever they desire."
"Oh, speaking of," began Red, but he was interrupted by Signor Russo.
"Are we getting a tour of the house, or a laundry list of Mr. Hughes' great qualities?" He didn't seem to mind though as he was grinning impishly.
Rusty chuckled. "I don't see why we can't have both."
"I'd say, righto Rusty, but I don't think the laundry list is quite that necessary. Come on, let's finish this up real quick. We do need to let Steph know that we'll have an extra place at the table tonight."
"Oh she won't mind serving Signor Russo, it's just the other guests," quipped Rusty. "But yes, let's continue. This hall is the art museum portion of the house." He turned and spread out his arms real quick. "Any piece of art that fascinates Mr. Hughes goes here. A perfect place as not only is this happening across from the exercise room, but also the ballroom." Rusty turned and indicated the doorway next to the exercise room. Red nodded, so he was right in that assumption.
He pointed at the closed door. "What's behind that door?"
"My office, and the security room," said Rusty, walking briskly past it. "No one but myself, Miss Moss, and Mr. Hughes are allowed in there."
Red nodded. "Duly noted." Rusty seemed to smile upon him with something akin to relief and pride. Was he slowly earning Rusty's trust?
They continued the tour. The next room was a game room. There were a few animal heads hung up that Mr. Hughes said his grandfather hunted. But there was plenty of room for three board games and a game of charades to be going at once. The next room was what Mr. Hughes liked to call a lounge room, it had a miniature bar, plenty of sitting space, a few ash trays, and a little circular side room full of windows. One window showed a little picturesque train set that seemed to be operational. The lounge room also opened to a small hallway that had the laundry room at the end of it. Red was surprised to find three sets of washers and dryers, but Rusty and Mr. Hughes explained it was for the best, especially if they had guests spending several nights at the mansion. They went back out to the main hall, and Rusty gave a quick nod to the back door situated directly behind the grand staircase, saying they would go back to that when they were finished. Red was shown the luxurious bathroom, a good sized library with a giant fireplace, and finally the living room.
"This is just the main floor," said Mr. Hughes. "The second floor has all the bedrooms and the rest of the bathrooms. But you don't need to know all that just yet. Come on Rusty, let's show him what's outside."
Rusty's mouth twitched with what looked like an attempt to cover up a grin. "Yes sir." He led the three outside, and Red oohed and aahed over the gardens. He made a point of talking to Sterling about it the next time he saw him. But then he saw it, and his face lit up like a kid's at Christmas. There, on a homemade runway in front of a small hanger, stood an Embraer Legacy 600. Red wanted to run towards it and check it out immediately, but a safety concern made him pause.
"Um, Mr. Hughes, why isn't this fantastic airplane at an airport?"
Mr. Hughes grinned. "Because I've received special permission from the airport to do so, provided that you make sure all requirements were met upon your arrival. Come on, let's get you started."
Red grinned at him and walked almost with a bounce towards the plane. Mr. Hughes directed him to the hanger wherein the requirements laid. Red made sure the hanger was up to date and had all the necessary equipment before making his way to the plane to look it over and checked in with the airport.
"Well thanks Red," said the airport operator after Red had introduced himself and gave her all the info she needed, "sounds like everything's in the clear. And glad to have you on the air, and in the air."
Red chuckled. "No problem Mrs. Tracy. Thank you for being on the air and going through the procedures with me."
"Not a problem. Just remember to check in every time you prepare to take off and have landed."
"Yes ma'am, I will."
"Roger that, over and out."
"Over and out." Red left the cockpit and joined Mr. Hughes and Signor Russo who were being served drinks and snacks by Rusty. Mr. Hughes raised a glass as Red sat down in one of the passenger seats.
"Everything checks out?"
"Yes sir it does. Um, might we go for a test run?"
"Oh come now, you've only just arrived. You've taken care of making sure we were meeting regulations, I do think that's enough for one day."
Rusty glanced at his watch. "Besides, Mr. Hughes should be getting ready to meet his guests."
Signor Russo groaned. "You mean to tell me they're coming over tonight?"
Mr. Hughes shot an apologetic grin at Signor Russo. "Si Signor, scusi! But today is Monday, it's sort of a tradition. Besides, not all of them are coming."
Signor Russo sighed. "So, which of the usual suspects will be here tonight?"
Mr. Hughes chuckled nervously. "Well, Jack, Jacob, Victor, and Kasandra, definitely. Eleanor, Diane, and the Meadow-Brooks have other plans."
Signor Russo let out a huff. "Well, this should be mostly tame, I suppose, Jack and Kasandra can keep each other entertained." He shot Red a grave look. "But whatever you do, young man, never let Jacob Green know any of your secrets. He and Eleanor Peacock are notorious for using anything they can find on you against you. All of them really, but those two are like sharks when it comes to secrets."
Red blinked, but he nodded. He knew the name of Eleanor Peacock, she was the daughter of a Californian senator and was running herself in the next Californian election. Who were the other guests then? Jacob Green he knew he had never heard of, but he had a feeling he would learn more about him.
"Perhaps we should all head back to the house and prepare for dinner," suggested Rusty. "Your guests will no doubt be arriving soon."
"Quite right," said Mr. Hughes as he got up. "Oh, and Rusty? Have Sunny be ready with the car, I want him to take Signor Russo home when he's ready." He grinned at Signor Russo. "Wouldn't want him to miss such an important meeting tomorrow."
Signor Russo stood up and gave a bow. "My sincerest thanks, Signor Hughes, I really do appreciate it. But as for dinner . . ."
"Oh come now! Consider it a celebration of your good luck!" said Mr. Hughes as he led the group out of the plane and back to the house.
"I wouldn't quite celebrate my good luck, as you put it, just yet. I would still have to find my grandfather's sword hilt to find his will. And that would probably be after I return from Italy."
"Well, I still would like to celebrate. My new pilot has also just arrived, so you'll have to pardon me for being in such a celebratory mood."
Signor Russo chuckled. "Quite true, I suppose." He shot Red a sad smile. "But I do worry about you thrusting him into your dangerous life like this, and without warning."
Red glanced between Mr. Hughes and Signor Russo. "Dangerous? What do you mean by dangerous?"
"You haven't told him about the numerous threats upon your life?"
"Oh, um, he did," began Red.
"But you played them down, didn't you, Reginald?" asked Signor Russo. Red was surprised by the sternness in his voice and the sudden use of Mr. Hughes's first name. It was almost like Signor Russo was speaking to Mr. Hughes like he was a teenager.
Mr. Hughes shrugged. "They really aren't that bad . . ."
"How long are you going to play them down until someone you care about gets hurt?" continued Signor Russo. "How long? Would Delilah have to get harmed in order for you to take them seriously?"
Mr. Hughes paused in their walk and turned to his fencing master with fire in his eyes. "I think whoever is threatening me would know better than to lay a hand on Delilah."
"Oh I'm sure they would know what laying a hand on Delilah would mean to you. Mr. Green made absolutely sure the whole world knows." Signor Russo sighed. "Reginald, I don't like arguing with you. You do know I'm just trying to look out for you?"
Mr. Hughes sighed as the fire in his eyes died down. "Yes, Ettore, I know, I know far too well. You are one of the few people who truly does care about my well-being. But you know how the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. I opened this can of worms, it's up to me to get every worm back in the can."
Signore Russo patted his shoulder. "Just know that we're here to help, alright? You shouldn't have to do this yourself."
"Even if it means running the risk of getting the people I care about hurt?"
"Hey, some of us can take care of ourselves better than others."
"Oh really?" began Mr. Hughes, but Rusty stepped forward with a groan and began pushing him towards the house.
"OK you two, you're going to be at this all night if I let you. Dinner's not going to eat itself, and that meeting's not going to happen if you don't get moving. Now move." He glanced between the two. "Please," he added.
Mr. Hughes chuckled. "Alright, alright, I'm going!" His good mood seemed to return and the four entered the house. Red told Sunny all about it while the four guys were changing into polo shirts and slacks.
Sunny laughed. "Oh yeah, that's just how Signor Russo is. He's felt like he has to act like Mr. Hughes's father ever since they first met. And yes, that little argument happens every single time he joins us for dinner."
"Like every single time," said Lloyd from the bathroom as he combed his hair. "Without fail. The guy wants Mr. Hughes to stop hanging out with these guys, but he also wants him to make his own decisions as well. It's obviously pretty hard. Though, with the way these folks act, you would think Mr. Hughes would have ended their friendship a long time ago."
"But he's grateful to them for introducing him to Delilah?" asked Red.
Lloyd stuck his head out of the bathroom and nodded at the same time that Sunny nodded. "Yup." At that moment a gong rang out. "That's our cue. Come on!" They dashed out of their room and down the stairs as Rusty was opening the door for the first of the guests. Red stopped and stared as the first two came in the door. He knew those people! One was Jack Mustard, a well-known sports announcer, and the other was Kasandra Scarlet, the rising actress and femme fatale!
(Author's Note: Welcome back to Red's story! Like I said, the introductions are going to take a little while, but I do want you to get to know everyone before we really get things rolling. That being said, I think I shall post the next chapter for this story next week as well as the following week so we can get the majority of the intro out of the way. Valley of Diamonds will begin posting tomorrow. Since I have been able to do quite a bit of writing lately, and plotting, planning, and daydreaming to work out the kinks, I have managed to get quite a bit done. I'm also planning some original stories to be published soon, unfortunately Find the Prince will not be one of those, the problems that it has I think might need one of the other stories I'm working on to be finished before I can continue as it deals with world-building. But, on that note, one of my ebooks will be free for a limited time, starting tomorrow. Spring/Easter Collection I figured was the best one to do since we're nearing Easter. If you're interested in getting any of my other books for free, let me know! I just might do them too. XD Also, regarding one of the stories I'm working on, it's called Matthew's Universe, and I'm thinking it's mainly going to be a Wattpad series, if you will. It's going to be mostly about world-building and the history of my universe, it's not going to be a big novel series like I would like my others to be. And please be sure to keep an eye on my channel, I'm going to be uploading some Sims 4 content and I'm thinking of talking a bit about my worlds as that kinda helps me get through kinks. So, yeah, again, if you're interested. Hope you enjoy this chapter, and I'll see you tomorrow for Valley of Diamonds!)