Continuation of Chapter 2...
Half an hour later, Jacinda was hugging Elisabet good-bye. “Bye, sugar. Call me tomorrow after you tell Isaac to stick it.”
Elisabet laughed and pecked her best friend on the cheek. “I will. I love you.”
“Of course you do. I’m fabulous.” Jacinda turned and shook her butt.
Elisabet laughed, shook her head, and closed her front door. She turned on her alarm and shut the foyer light off. Elisabet trudged up the stairs; the soft carpet cushioned her aching feet. Her son’s bedroom was the first door to greet her upon entering the hallway. She peeked in, Ethan was sound asleep.
Shutting his door, she walked down the hallway and into her bedroom. Without even turning the light on, she stripped from her clothes. Her nude silhouette stood in the walk-in closet mirror. Elisabet’s eye wandered over her curves, her alabaster skin, and her natural caramel waves that tumbled over shoulders, touching just the top of her full breasts. She caught a glimpse of the vivacious woman she once knew. Just the small encounter she had with that man today in the gallery had somehow ignited the sensual side of her that had sat dormant for years.
Like any woman, she craved affection and love but being a mother stepped ahead of the other. And Isaac’s constant berating didn’t instill feminine assurance. Elisabet reached up to the top layer of her closet and pulled down a plum silk blouse, then a white one, then a mustard one. She yanked the routine clothing from their plastic hangers, they fluttered to the ground around her feet.
The hangers rocked back and forth, a couple fell to the floor and banged against the metal bar on the descent down. She made her way around the entire U-shape closet. Only a few designer dresses remained and a couple of skirts. Elisabet deduced that a shopping excursion was in order.
The tension that had plagued her muscles earlier in the night had vanished and her chest had lightened. She felt the life slowly pump back into her veins with renewed purpose. Elisabet grinned and sauntered from the closet leaving her old complacent existence scattered all over the carpeted ground.
Her black sedan sat idled in front of Peace Lutheran School while Ethan gathered his backpack and lunch bag.
“See you at three on the dot, okay?” Elisabet said as she smiled.
Ethan narrowed his eyes. “Why are you so happy today?”
“I don’t know. I just feel…optimistic.” He continued to look at her doubtfully. “Go on, you’re going to be late. Have a wonderful day. I love you.” Elisabet leaned over and placed a kiss on the top of his thick tamed hair that smelled of watermelon shampoo.
“I love you too, mom.”
Ethan gave her a smile and exited the vehicle. Those were Elisabet’s favorite words. Sadly, he never spoke them to his father but neither did Isaac. In fact, her father had never said them to Ethan. The men in his life were complete disappointments. Except for Nicholas. He was across the Atlantic and always acknowledged special days no matter what he had going on. She knew Ethan was excited to see Nicholas. His soft brown eyes gleamed when Jacinda had told him.
On mental auto-pilot, Elisabet drove through the downtown weave of streets and allies. She entered the warehouse district of Raleigh. The morning sun sent angular shadows from the skyline as they moved over the gallery’s two-story red-brick building.
She parked her car and grabbed her cobalt leather satchel. Though the sun bathed her in light, the warmth was absent. The March chill was still present. Elisabet shoved her hands into the pockets of her black pea coat. She recited her speech nearly a thousand times. You can do this. With each slap of her mid-calf boots against the pavement, her pulse quickened and her hands clenched and unclenched inside of her pockets.
The heavy steel door was unlocked, which meant, Isaac was already there. The thousand-square foot space normally felt airy and open but right now, Elisabet felt suffocated. Like an invisible noose was tightening around her throat. She swallowed—hard. And, normally the involuntary action wouldn’t faze her but her salvia didn’t want to follow the guidance of her muscles. Elisabet cleared her throat. The sound echoed against the peppered canvas walls.
Lisa, their new receptionist, had not arrived yet. Turning down the office-lined hallway, it narrowed, or was that her vision? Shit. Elisabet was thrusting copious amounts of anxiety through her nerves. She knew where her angst stemmed from, her father. Isaac was the Freudian definition of her father, controlling, domineering, and selfish.
Elisabet knew why she stayed at the gallery with Isaac—obligation. His office door was closed but she could hear muted voices. She stopped to listen. One was Isaac’s and the other was her assistant of four years and dear friend, Ben Mills. She should storm in and demand why he was having a private conversation with her assistant but instead she moved past the door and toward her own. Elisabet had to pull all her contacts and artists before talking to Isaac because he would lockdown the building just so she couldn’t access anything. She knew him too well.
Once her coat and purse were draped on the arm chair opposite of where she sat, Elisabet noticed a hot pink post-it on the cradle of her phone.
Underneath was a scribbled phone number. She assumed Lisa took the message. Who is Mr. Morgan? Elisabet needed to instruct Lisa on writing more detailed messages then this.
“Girl, what are you wearing?”
Elisabet looked up from the sticky note to bulging dark eyes and a wide-opened mouth. She laughed at the sight of a stunned Ben. Her fitted black peplum dress and black boots was out of the ordinary for work-attire but she was over it. Elisabet’s thick waves were glammed up in a topknot to show off her teardrop diamond earrings.
She beamed at Ben and his impeccable style. Right now, he was obsessed with Mad Men. Today’s ensemble consisted of a tailored brown-plaid jacket, red button shirt, slim taupe pants with brown oxfords. Ben stepped further into her office and closed the door behind him.
“You like?” She asked, while doing a flawless turn.
“Isaac will die when he sees you.”
“Good.” She bit out a little quick. “What were you two chatting about?”
Ben rolled his eyes and leaned against her desk.
“Oh, you know Mr. Control-Freak. He wanted to make sure that your schedule was clear all day. And I mean, all day.”
Elisabet tipped her head back and could feel the muscles in her neck tense.
“Why?” She whined.
Ben shrugged. “I don’t know. He wouldn’t share that little tidbit with me. I did remind him that you were picking Ethan up at three. You know, he was actually annoyed by that.”
“Of course, he was. He’s a dick.”
Ben roared in laughter at her comment. Elisabet didn’t want his agenda interfering with her own. She needed to start pulling the names she needed. But first, find out who this, Mr. Morgan was. Elisabet held up the hot pink square with black scribble.
“Do you know who Mr. Morgan is?”
“Oh! You…” Ben was completely flustered by the question. “He is the most gorgeous man I have ever laid these beautiful brown eyes upon. And, Lisa said you ran smack into yesterday.”
The brooding wall of allure with eyes that rendered speech was the Mr. Morgan, who requested a returned phone call. Probably to tell her what a bitch she was, because she had been. She hadn’t apologized, just ran out of the gallery like a crazy woman.
“I did.” Elisabet blushed. “But, I didn’t get his name. What does he want?”
Ben tucked a strand of his wet-clay toned hair behind his ear. “I guess darling, he was quite smitten with our Elisabet. He wanted your digits but I said hell-to-the-no. Lisa jotted his number down for you and he was, persistent. Very persistent.”
Elisabet was more than intrigued and her sex-deprived hormones agreed.
“But, I should warn you, he initially was here to meet with Isaac.” Ben said, still fidgeting with his hair.
She knew it was too good to be true.
“Did they seem friendly?”
“No, business all the way, baby. Call him. Call him now. And can I listen?”
Ben laughed again. Elisabet smacked his arm playfully and pointed at her door. He lifted his hands in defeat and left her to it. She didn’t know if it was appropriate to call some random guy during work hours but Elisabet justified it with the fact that he had a meeting Isaac. Technically, she could call it a business call.
What the hell am I going to say? What does he want?
“Just call him, Elisabet.” She whispered.
Her eyes shifted back and forth between the phone and his number. Screw it. Elisabet picked up the phone and dialed the number. Each little square button she pushed, Elisabet wanted to slam the phone down like a giddy stupid thirteen-year old girl.
After three rings, it went to a standard computerized voicemail message. She scrambled for a coherent thing to say while the female voice rambled on.
“Hello. This is Elisabet Halverson, from Pritchard Gallery. I received a message to call you and I was…calling you back. Please call me back at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”
Elisabet slammed the phone down in complete embarrassment. She had sounded like an idiot. Stumbling on her words, not leaving her number, she wanted to hide under her desk from the sheer awkwardness of that message.
She left the voicemail and now it was time for her to continue her mission. There was a knock at her door. Elisabet huffed and closed her eyes for a second.
“Yes?” She asked in the most pleasant voice she could muster.
The door knob turned and Isaac stuck his head in. “Are you busy?”
“Yes. What do you want?” Elisabet snapped out, giving him a glassy stare.
“I have something to show you.” Isaac spoke in a low tone. He could see her reluctance. “Holy grail, Liz. Holy grail.”
A heavy feeling filled her stomach. Isaac only called her Liz when he was serious. He had only called her Liz twice ever. A thrust of ice permeated her veins. But, she also knew what Holy Grail meant to her. The historical artifact she had been searching for, for nearly a decade. Elisabet admitted her obsession with this vanishing relic when she had landed in London years ago.Her body hummed with anticipation and without further need to speak, she followed Isaac down the hallway and ascended the mental staircase to the second floor.