There was no point in waiting. Arianna Chase was in conference. Her secretary informed me in various nasal intonations that I’d have to make an appointment.
She dropped her gaze back to her computer and left me twiddling my thumbs. I was about to interrupt her again when a tall muscular man in the reception area caught my eye. He had close-clipped, light brown hair against an attractive, angular face. He wore a tight t-shirt over a broad chest, with a massive T emblazoned on it. Ordinarily, I would have ignored him but, well, just look at him. What was such a hunk of man meat doing in Arianna’s waiting room? Our eyes touched briefly as I turned to leave. His expression had an unexpected warmth. Was I imagining it? In the next moment, it vanished. And a kind of sneer replaced it. I pulled away first.
I fussed with my hair, was about to exit when I noticed him remove a cigarette pack from the folded sleeve on his shoulder. A smoker. Didn’t he know there was no smoking in this building? He lowered his gaze, dislodged a cigarette and tapped it on his palm. What was that about anyway? His eyes slid up and caught me staring.
“Salut. Can I help you with something?” he asked. I swear there was a hint of amusement in the question.
“You can’t smoke in here,” I said.
“Wasn’t planning to.” The voice that came out of him was deep and rumbling, and slightly accented. Montreal maybe? Surely, he was not born here in Toronto. There was nothing CN Tower about him, except maybe his height.
“Was there something else?” he asked.
I was a sucker for a French accent. His was knee-buckling sexy. It made me forget that I was supposed to make an appointment to see Arianna.
I realized I was still staring at him and the suppressed amusement on his face was growing more obvious. I scrambled for something to say and came up with a pretty lame line. “If you’re waiting for Dr. Chase she’s in a meeting.”
He gave me a barely perceptible nod, then a look like: I know what you’re thinking, and that secretary is thinking likewise. I had the gall to glance over at her and saw that she was indeed mentally drooling over him, before she swiftly cast down her eyes.
Conceited bum. Honestly. I was not thinking anything of the sort. This time I definitely intended to leave. When I swung about to do so, the papers I had meant for Arianna to sign flew out of my hands and onto the floor. I dropped to my knees to retrieve them, banging my head on the secretary’s desk when I rose.
I clutched my skull, mortified, halfway to my feet. I wanted to curse from the pain.
“You okay?” he asked, squatting to help me up.
“I’m fine,” I muttered, gathering the papers from out of his extended hand. “Gotta go, I’m late.”
After that bit of amateur theater I deserved to tumble down the rabbit hole.
I escaped the director’s office. I rode the elevator back to the art department, annoyed with the stranger in the tight t-shirt, but even more annoyed with myself.
I sat down in my office, a cubicle partitioned off from the main studio. I was supposed to illustrate Roman artifacts but instead I doodled incredible biceps. His.
Geez. I grabbed my hair. What was wrong with me?
Disgusted with my thoughts, I rubbed the sore spot on the crown of my head. I forced a smile when one of my illustrators poked her face into my office. “I’m headed for lunch, Lucy.”
“Fine,” I said and slapped the sketchpad facedown with my hand, embarrassed that she might have seen. I ripped out the page and crumpled it into the garbage after she had gone.
Concentrate. Some head illustrator I was. Nothing was coming out.
On my drafting table was a row of flat, intricately designed pieces from a broken fresco painting. The images on these fragments were unique, but strange. Odd little cupids, riding—what—sea serpents? And along the outer rim were curly grape vines with leaves on. Lord help me, but I could not draw one more cutsie cherub—not even to save my life. I sighed and put the frescoes aside to try later.
I took the elevator downstairs to see if there was anything easier to sketch. Shaun, my sister’s husband, was curator of Classical collections. He was selecting objects for a special exhibition, and was supposed to be in the basement inspecting the latest shipment.
It was cool down here. This part of the museum was the original concrete and stone, and held onto the cold like a refrigerator. The upper floors and exhibition galleries were extensively renovated in glass, hardwood and marble. My eyes had to adjust because it was dimly lit and even a bit spooky. A confusing array of corridors with doors opening to storage spaces and labs formed a maze. Normally it was bustling. At the moment it was quiet.
A ways down the hall one of the doors stood ajar. Beyond the opening it was dark. Doors in the basement were always locked. I ducked in, puzzled, and switched on the light. This was a large storage unit stacked from floor to ceiling with valuable historic objects on sliding shelves, and no one around. I spent ten minutes searching the place before I returned to the entrance. Should I lock it? Maybe Shaun had left it open. I went to the wall to switch off the light. As I returned to the exit someone went past. I jumped, caught a whiff of tobacco.
No visitors were allowed down here. Not without a pass. I thrust my head out to view down the hall. This man was clearly a stranger. He was huge for one thing and his casual attire… The whiff of tobacco had reset my memory. Oh no. It wasn’t…? Could it…? I swear I turned fifty shades redder.
The figure shrank as it reached the end of the corridor where the elevators met. He turned and saw me watching. He was too far away for me to make out facial features, but his powerful build, yeah, that I recognized. What was he doing down here? I hesitated, raised a hand for him to wait.
Did I trust myself near him again? I worried that he would see it all over my face. I shut the door of the storage room, heard the lock click, and went to meet him.
The clumsiness I had shown earlier made me shy. “Hey. Can I help you? This area is for employees only.”
“Salut. I know.” His brows narrowed in recognition. “Hé. I know you.”
The French was threatening to make me lose control. I hung my head theatrically. “I’m the klutz from Arianna Chase’s office. Thanks for helping me off the floor by the way. And I apologize for my rudeness. I should have thanked you then. And of course, you knew you weren’t supposed to smoke indoors. I’m sorry I said anything.”
If he were a dog he would have cocked his head. “I do not recall you being rude.”
That was because most of it happened after the fact.
A small glint of humor appeared in his eyes.
Something about him made me—what—stupid? If I remained here any longer my legs would refuse to walk.
I smiled and turned, keenly aware of his observing eyes and his fine physique, and forced myself to speed away.
Why hadn’t I asked him what he was doing in the basement? I was halfway down the corridor by now. It was too late. If I turned and ran back, I’d make my feelings too obvious. Maybe it was too late for that as well. I’d already made my thoughts pretty obvious. I risked a backwards glance but he was gone.
I continued to the lab.
Only rows of dusty countertops in here, buried under cardboard cartons and wooden crates—and a stuffy, perpetual smell of old things. It was the perfect perfume to send all thoughts of him out the window. Get a grip, girl. I was behaving like an idiot. My only excuse was that I was experiencing a dry spell. No dates, for God knows how long. I couldn’t even remember. The man wasn’t interested.
I glanced at my smartphone. Already 2:05 PM. Where were all the technicians? Late lunch? I hadn’t eaten yet. Shaun must be around here somewhere. He never left the museum for lunch. His office door showed a gap, but no sign of movement. No one at the back shelves either.
Time was pressing; an angry grumble came from my stomach. I was supposed to meet my sister for lunch.
Something caught my eye.
On one of the counters a cardboard box was open. Beside it were some pieces of Roman silver laid out on foam board: a knife and spoon, both with a delicate motif barely visible beneath a green-black tarnish. The motif was a cluster of grapes. Must be part of a dinner setting. I looked up and saw a spill on the other side of the counter.
A carton had broken through from the bottom and expelled its packing material all over the counter and onto the floor. Scattered Styrofoam and bunches of crumpled newsprint and stripped packing tape rolled into balls. This must have happened after the artifacts were removed, and the delicate pieces of silver relocated to a safe spot.
The new shipment of artifacts was half unpacked. Most of the crates were still sealed. Whoever had been opening them was careless. Or else in a frantic hurry. Clear bubble wrap and white Styrofoam peanuts were everywhere.
I bent to pick up a few of the strays, only to attract electrostatic fragments to myself. I had no time for this. I plucked at the Styrofoam impatiently, and then looked to the wall where some jumpsuits and lab coats hung. I shrugged on a pair of coveralls to protect my clothes.
I needed a broom, found one leaning against the wall, and returned to the scene of the crime. Most of the pesky things were cooperating and gathering into a pile where I could shovel them up and into the empty boxes.
I was concentrating so hard I slipped backwards. I had missed hearing Shaun return and landed in his arms. But when I found myself in the masculine embrace I realized it wasn’t him. I had crashed butt first into some stranger’s groin. I turned to apologize.
No, it wasn’t the French hunk.
Although it might as well have been.
“Sorry. I didn’t see you there,” I mumbled awkwardly. “Um… did I hurt you?”
Dumb question. I could not possibly have hurt him. He was six feet four inches tall and built like a quarterback. This I learned after he tipped me upright and straightened to his full height. I struggled to control my fluster. What was with the museum today? It was crawling with gorgeous guys.
I scrambled to regain my cool. You would think I had never seen a man before. “Are you looking for the curator?”
He waved a yellow post-it note at me. “Yes, Shaun Templeton. I think. This scribble isn’t clear. Is that what it says? I was told I could find him here.”
I checked out the spelling when the note stopped moving. “He stepped out for a bit,” I informed him.
“Obviously.” He glanced at my janitor’s uniform. I decided to ignore the presumption. “You can’t have been doing your job long. You’re kind of clumsy. Until I saw what you were wearing, I thought for sure you were him—or her? These days you can’t be too sure. Men’s and women’s names seem to be interchangeable.”
“Mine’s not,” I said.
“Neither is mine. I’m—”
“I know who you are—Mr. Trevanian.” Yes, I had recognized him. He and his wife Arianna Chase, who just happened to be the director of my museum, were getting a divorce. Their photos were plastered all over the news media. “I was looking for him myself.”
His brows rose in a slightly crooked arch.
“I work here,” I explained.
“I can see that.” He was giving my custodian outfit the once over. He kicked at some Styrofoam on the floor. “Ever think you might be in the wrong profession? You missed some bits here—”
“I am not the janitor!” My fingers were curling into fists. Now, I was definitely ticked off!
Even if I was, he had no right to look down his nose at me. I found myself stripping out of the coveralls right there—in front of him—to reveal myself in loose blouse and skinny jeans. I was really beginning to dislike him. Who the hell did he think he was?
A look of approval came into his eyes. A look I recognized. Oh no mister. No way was I going to fall for his charms. Handsome or not.
I stalked over to the wall and hung up the uniform. Then I returned to retrieve the broom.
“So, if you’re not the janitor, what do you do here?”
As if it was any of his business. I leaned the broom against the wall. “I’m the museum’s head artist.”
He repeated the title with the emphasis on the first word. “Head artist…. I see.”
“What do you see, Mr. Trevanian?”
His face sharpened. He looked surprised at my tone. I suppose no one had ever spoken to him like that in his life.
“I only meant I’m pleased that you’re an artist.”
And why would that be? I was about to voice my question aloud when a large shadow appeared in the doorway. It was the man from the corridor. His eyebrows arced in recognition; I nearly fell backwards. They were together? He was also the hunk I saw in Arianna Chase’s waiting room. Who could forget that secret smirk in his eyes? Despite my best efforts my face reddened. A kind of unspoken interaction between employee and boss passed between them. So that was who he was, one of Trevanian’s minions.
My fantasies turned to dishwater. These two men were out of my league. They jetsetted around the world on Lear jets and mega yachts, and had connections with politicians, celebrities and royalty. Trevanian hired bodyguards to protect himself from thugs in the antiquities trade. It was dangerous in politically unstable countries like the Middle East. People shot first and asked questions later. And from what the media leaked, Trevanian dabbled in this twilight world. Was the gossip true? That his acquisition of artifacts and the people he hired were iffy?
The newcomer stepped towards us. I avoided his eyes. I observed once more the shirt with the big T embossed on it. Why were these two allowed to wander around unescorted in the museum’s prohibited zones? Then I noticed that both had visitor tags clipped to their collars.
I wanted to accuse them of wrongdoing, except…. Exactly what were they doing wrong? An overabundance of testosterone seemed to thicken the air. My own hormones were doing somersaults. My heart was beating too fast. Where was Shaun?
He came just as I was about to give in to the adrenalin shooting through my veins.
“Oh, Dr. Trevanian. You found your way down. I went upstairs to look for you.” Shaun extended a hand and apologized for his absence.
Trevanian firmly returned his grip. “Arianna gave me a visitor’s pass.”
“I’m Shaun Templeton, Curator of Classical collections. Hope you weren’t waiting too long?”
“Not at all. Call me Luke. And this is my associate, Norman Depardieu.”
Depardieu looked up from where he’d been studying the Roman spoon cradled in foam-board. He extended his hand. When he spoke the accent was almost gone. He sounded more like an American. “Actually, I’m his head of security.”
Was that a nice way of saying ‘bodyguard’? Well, that could explain the sharp attention to detail. Especially as it pertained to Shaun’s recently unpacked Roman relics. Why was he so interested in those artifacts anyway? They certainly weren’t the most striking objects in this room. I frowned at him and his mouth twitched at me. So this was the famed watchdog, the billionaire’s bodyguard. Rumor was that Luke Trevanian never went anywhere without him. But why the big T emblazoned on his shirt? Was Trevanian bragging to the world that he owned this man?
Then I realized what it meant to be a billionaire—especially a billionaire archaeologist. Luke Trevanian handled valuable objects all the time. Not only did he need personal protection, he also needed guards to escort his precious finds.
He was a real-life Indiana Jones who financed his own digs. He only needed to obtain permission from the relevant authorities, and he could buy their cooperation. After all, since so much of the world’s treasures still waited to be unearthed, the powers-that-be always capitulated if a project put their city on the map. A headline attracted tourists and investors—and that meant bucks. Big bucks. And who, in his right mind, turned down anybody willing to finance a project out of his own pocket?
“My sister-in-law and museum illustrator, Lucy Racine,” Shaun said.
“Ms. Racine.” Trevanian nodded, breaking into my private thoughts.
“Just call me Lucy.”
Shaun frowned at me as though I’d misspoken.
“Lucy,” Trevanian acquiesced. I swear he was tasting the name. He did not return the courtesy and insist I call him ‘Luke.’
Well, I had better epithets for him. Like snob.
“I’ll get straight to the point. Arianna was civil enough to direct me your way. She said you might be able to help me.”
“Of course,” Shaun said.
This bit of info sent my mind speculating. Arianna Chase, our museum director and Luke Trevanian’s soon-to-be ex-wife, sent him to Shaun? Here was a juicy bit of gossip my sister would gobble up. So maybe their split-up was rumor? Colleen’s nosiness was beginning to rub off on me.
So, tell us, Mr. Trevanian, what are you doing here in Shaun’s lab. And what the hell was your gorilla of a bodyguard doing snooping about? And yes, what do you—the notorious, world-travelling adventurer—want that we have?
Fortunately, none of that came out of my mouth.
“Please excuse the mess in here.” Shaun darted a quick glance to the spill on the floor. He seemed unusually nervous. He had an abnormally taut expression like he was trying to control the muscles in his face from twitching. “We’re in the middle of unpacking a shipment from Naples. I’m curating a special display of the latest finds from Pompeii.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Trevanian said. “Italy just happens to be one of my interests. My expedition is to Positano.”
Despite myself I felt filled to bursting. Positano was a seaside villa that—like Pompeii—was buried when Mount Vesuvius blew in A.D. 79. After the ancient villa was interred the town was rebuilt on top of the ruins. The site had been, and still was, a popular resort for the rich and famous.
“I want to hire some specialists from your team. I plan to hire most of the labor from the local village where we’ll be working, but I need a few people who actually understand archaeology.”
Shaun nodded. “Arianna gave me a heads-up. I drew up a list of names for you. If you like I can set up interviews.”
“No time for interviews. I’ll have to trust you on this one.”
Trevanian snatched a quick glance at the printout and skimmed names and qualifications. From where I stood I recognized some of them. A chosen few of Shaun’s research techs were to be in on this project. How exciting!
A twinge of jealousy surged through me. Those selected were about to embark on the most thrilling archaeological expedition of their lives! As I understood it, Luke Trevanian had a massive luxury yacht outfitted with a state-of-the-art archaeology laboratory. With money to burn, no expense was spared. Whatever his team needed he supplied. Dammit, if I hadn’t disliked him so much I would have been burning from envy right now.
And then he said my name. “What about Lucy?”
“Excuse me. What did you say?” Shaun asked.
Mortified by my unexpected feelings, I was grateful the lighting in the lab was dim. I was frozen with astonishment, and also a sickening sensation of—what—pleasure?
“I said I also need an archaeological illustrator.”
Trevanian turned his eyes my way. His expression could be interpreted anywhere from indifference to disdain. “What about Lucy? Is she any good?”
“She’s the head of our art department. I’m not sure she can be spared.”
They were talking about me as though I wasn’t even there.
“I happen to be the best,” I cut in defensively.
Then I flushed. Because, honestly, Luke Trevanian had a way of getting under my skin. Ordinarily I would never make such an arrogant pronouncement. I’m sure there were artists more talented, skilled and qualified than me.
“Add her to the list. I need seven technical specialists and the artist. You choose the best ones, and then send me their names. I’ll contact each individual with the particulars. But I want Lucy Racine for my illustrator.”
I planted my hands on my hips. “Just who do you think you are?”
“Lucy!” Shaun said.
I was tired of everyone pandering to this egotist. Just because he was rich, and yes, powerful (and kind of gorgeous), didn’t mean he could treat people like garbage.
“I’m not going,” I spat.
Luke Trevanian finally turned to me. He smiled. “If you’re the best then you will want to work with the best.” He poked a finger into the firm muscle over his ribcage. “That’s me.”
His eyes rolled away from me, surveyed the entire lab as though he were assessing it for some purpose. Then he shook hands with Shaun and signaled to his bodyguard that they were leaving. No offer was made to shake my hand. The bodyguard gave me a jeering look that unnerved me, and nodded. Crap, was it possible that he knew I had noticed his body? I made a mental note to myself to burn the crumpled sketch of his biceps before I left work.
I growled my frustration under my breath.
“Did you say something, Lucy?” Shaun asked.
“No.” I scowled at him as the two visitors left the lab.
“He’s promised the museum a large endowment.”
“I don’t care.”
“He’s one of our most important donors.”
“Not my problem.”
“Lucy!” he commanded. “Listen to me.”
I turned from the doorway where I had intended to exit and head back to my office. My reason for being here completely fled my mind. “Did you hear the way that egomaniac spoke to me?”
“We need his patronage.”
“The museum needs his patronage.”
“It might mean a matter of keeping our jobs.”
“Yes,” he said.
“It’s that bad?”
He nodded. “They’re talking about downsizing. Some programs are going to be cut.” His eyes took on an intensity that was unusual for him. My sister—his wife—was a spendthrift. Money was always an obstacle and an issue. And now that she was pregnant he was triply concerned. He dreaded her shopping sprees. And how was he ever going to stop her from turning their kid into a designer baby?
“Are you threatening my job, Shaun?”
“I’m trying to save it. And mine too. We don’t know what the administration’s plans are, but the last time they downsized we lost the art department. They thought it was cheaper to contract out.”
I’d had this job for seven years. Started work here as a junior illustrator when I was twenty-three. Now, I was thirty and Shaun was forty-one. He had worked for the museum for sixteen years.
“You weren’t working here yet when they cut the art department. It was only reestablished a year before you were hired.”
I shook my head, wanted to tear my hair out. Luke Trevanian had an impossible ego. It would be hell working for him. But how could I deny that under my stubborn resistance some part of me was aching to learn what made a man like him tick?
I was also curious as to why he was such a big supporter of his estranged wife’s museum. I thought they hated each other.
“I’ll think about it,” I said, and stalked out the door.
The Crystal Lounge restaurant is located inside the newly renovated section of the museum, which just happens to be a unique feat of architecture designed in the shape of a massive crystal. The extension was made possible because of a generous donation by a local millionaire, hence the name of the recent addition: the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Some people think it’s a fabulous work of art; others describe it as a fiasco of glass and steel. The original stone structure of the museum was erected in the early 20th century, in classical style, and then, in the new millennium, the massive crystal addition was built.
“They say Trevanian is worth thirty-eight billion dollars,” Colleen said cheerfully. “Thirty-eight billion. Can you imagine? If I could have one hundredth of that I’d retire.”
My sister loved to shop and to eat at upmarket places. That was the reason we were having a late lunch—well, afternoon tea really—at the Crystal Lounge in the Royal Ontario Museum’s chic eatery.
“And his greedy wife wants half of it!”
“Well, doesn’t she deserve it?” I asked. “After all she had to put up with his pompous arrogance for years.”
Colleen went silent for a moment. Her brows gathered in puzzlement. “What makes you think he’s pompous…? Or arrogant?”
“Those two have been constantly in the media. They are splashed all over the magazines, news programs and the Internet. It’s hard not see how he thinks so much of himself,” I blustered.
She smiled. “Oh yeah, I forgot. Arianna Chase AKA Mrs. Luke Trevanian is your boss.”
“Not my boss. She’s the director of the museum. I’ve actually rarely spoken to her.”
“But naturally you would side with her.”
“Well, wouldn’t you?”
She shrugged. “I like to hear all sides of the story. That’s why I’m following this one so closely.”
“Oh, give me a break, Colleen. You know you couldn’t care less who wins this divorce settlement. You just love the gossip. Admit it!” I reached over and poked a teasing fingernail into her well-moisturized, suntanned arm.
Her pretty yellow sundress rustled; she jerked away playfully, laughing. “All right, all right. You know me too well. But it’s so exciting. The story is happening right before your eyes. You should get to know her. Maybe you’ll get a promotion if she likes you.”
“Promote me to what? I’m already head of the art department. There’s nowhere else to go.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. You’re very good. I’m sure there are lots of opportunities. You only have to know where to look for them.”
A couple appeared at the door of the restaurant. Colleen’s stylishly coifed head, with its geometric cut and glinting highlights, turned.
“Lucy! Isn’t that—?”
My heart skipped three beats. It was indeed. Entering the restaurant right this second was the director of the museum, Arianna Chase—and her soon to be ex-husband, billionaire archaeologist Luke Trevanian.
Dr. Chase was exceedingly well dressed in a navy Chanel suit with a white crepe blouse. She had that sun-kissed, dark blonde hair that made you think of seaside resorts and luxury yachts. Her figure was slim and tall. She was stunningly attractive and made Colleen who was pretty by any definition (albeit pregnant) fade into the wall. And she had an air about her that caused anyone standing in her path to give her a wide berth. What was it about people like this? Without all their money for clothes and hair, makeup and spa treatments, and personal trainers, would they look so good?
And Trevanian. I shrank down, hoping he wouldn’t see me. He was tall, with an athletic build, gorgeously muscular, but I had already hinted at that during our earlier encounter. He wore expensive, casual chic shirt and slacks.
He didn’t notice me as they strolled in so I took the opportunity to really observe his appearance. What was so great about him other than his billions? His hair was a little on the unruly side, thick, and beach boyish. If I must describe him in two words, I had to admit he was brutally handsome. Against my will my gaze was drawn to the places where his deeply suntanned skin was exposed—like his lean biceps below the Valentino short sleeves, and his throat, especially the V at his crisp shirt collar where a few chest hairs showed between his collarbones… Ugh. What was the matter with me? Was I as smitten as everyone else? I knew better. He was a jerk.
“What do you suppose they’re doing here?” Colleen asked.
“Same thing as we are.” I feigned disinterest, and delicately licked the butter cream icing from my thumb. I noticed that his bodyguard remained at the doorway. I made a supreme effort to guide my eyes away from his impossible physique.
She snorted. That was one thing my dear sister liked to chide me for—eating with my fingers. I wiped my sticky hands with the napkin on my lap, and popped the last of the green tea sponge cake into my mouth. I chewed sensuously, wondering if he was watching.
“You think they’re having afternoon tea?” Colleen half twisted in her seat.
“More like a late lunch. Or maybe just coffee.”
“Not everyone has a bitter divorce. Some peoples’ are quite amicable.”
“You have not been following the news, have you, Lucy? They hate each other.”
I shrugged. “It’s none of our business.”
Colleen dropped a half-eaten scone, liberally dolloped with clotted cream and homemade strawberry preserves, onto her china plate. Her gaze stalked the notorious couple to their table by the window. Despite myself my eyes followed, and I regretted it instantly. Trevanian turned his head just a smidgeon. His eyes touched mine and I swear he winked.
I looked away instantly to see if Colleen had noticed. She hadn’t.
Under a soaring peaked ceiling, in the far pinnacle of the restaurant, windows looked out onto a rooftop garden and revealed the cityscape. A staggered grid of trees bordered the lake-blue skyline, capturing the movement of the wind, and in the foreground bloomed a field of purple chive. It was beside this spectacular view that Arianna Chase and Luke Trevanian sat down.
“Stop staring, Colleen,” I ordered.
“I can’t help it. I can’t believe they’re having lunch together.”
Holy smokes. It was close to 4:00 PM and the white and chrome restaurant was almost empty. We were just finishing up our meal. It was delicious, of course, and an indulgence for me, someone who was used to ham on rye or a slice of pepperoni pizza for lunch. The server came to return my sister’s credit card. It was always her treat because it was she who insisted upon dining in places like this, and it was just too rich for my pocket.
I took one last sip of the exotic African Nectar tea from my china cup. Then I mopped my lips with the white linen napkin and placed it beside the empty Wedgewood that previously held pink peppercorn Madelines—before my sister and I had made short work of them.
I tapped the Styrofoam container holding the remains of my chanterelle and cave-aged Gruyere quiche (I never let anything go to waste) and said, “I have to get back to work.”
It was a good thing the museum’s director was ignorant of my identity. Else she’d be wondering why she was paying me to have a luxurious tea with my big sister in the middle of a workday.
Nor did I want to draw her attention my way. I needed her to sign off on some expensive equipment for the art department. We were exploring digital graphics and hoping to purchase a 3-D printer to replicate artifacts. I’d had no luck with her office. Because of cutbacks, most discretionary spending had to go through the director’s office. I was told that she would have to sign off on this purchase herself.
Colleen knew about my hopes to make the art department a state-of-the art facility. She was also well aware of my frustration with the museum bureaucracy.
“Why don’t you go up and ask her?” Colleen urged.
This was not only an outrageous idea for more reasons than I could count, but Luke Trevanian was sitting right there. What would he think of me, groveling in front of his soon-to-be ex?
“Go on,” she coaxed. “She’s not going anywhere.”
“She’s having lunch.”
“Not yet. They haven’t ordered yet.”
“But they’re going to.”
“If you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll never get it. Didn’t you just tell me that you’ve been hovering around her office all day waiting for a free minute of her time? Go! Be assertive.” She kicked me under the table. “Then tell me what Luke Trevanian is really like.” She giggled.
I could have told her right then. But I carefully avoided any mention of my recent encounter with him. My sister was five years older than me and had bossed me around from the time I could walk. I was so used to her telling me what to do that I had learned a neat trick. I ignored her advice without hurting her feelings, often without her even being aware. But this time her digs had the desired effect. I was miserably self-conscious of my ineffectiveness. And why should I have to acknowledge Luke Trevanian’s existence?