Illusions begin, p.20
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       Illusions Begin, p.20
 

           N.L. Greene
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  Chapter Twelve

  Although Helen left her with encouraging words and a smile on her face, it still took Becky over an hour before she worked up the courage and calmed her nerves enough to pick up the phone and dial Ethan’s number.

  As the phone rang in her ear, she bit her nails and stared at the beautiful flowers he sent. She could tell they weren’t cheap and felt equal parts guilt and excitement. She felt guilty that she ended their call so abruptly earlier when she assumed he wouldn’t want to take her out after her admission that she was inexperienced with dating. She should have given him the chance to say what he wanted but she just didn’t think she could stand to be rejected. If she had just heard him out, he wouldn’t have felt the need to send her such a nice and expensive gift.

  The fact that he did though made her excited all over. Lance was the only one that had ever given her gifts, besides her parents of course. Plus, knowing what she does now, she’s pretty sure Lance wasn’t sending her things out of the kindness of his heart. No, he had ulterior motives for those gifts. It seemed Ethan just wanted to take her out on a date. She bit down on her nail even more as her stomach quivered with nervousness. Thankfully she was saved from chewing off her entire nail and her mixed up thoughts by the sound of Ethan’s voice. She slumped in relief when she realized it was his voicemail. It would be so much easier to leave a message.

  When the beep sounded she left one. “Hi Ethan. Thank you very much for the flowers. They are beautiful. I’d like to apologize for earlier and would love to accept your invitation to dinner.” She left her cell number for him to return her call and ended it with a quiet “Thank you again.” As soon as she hung up the phone a new wave of anxiety hit her. Now she would sit here all day, waiting for her phone to ring. Letting out a sigh at her own crazy emotions, she turned to her work and tried hard to stay focused.

  She failed miserably. Every time the phone rang, she jumped so high she almost fell out of her chair a few times. She would have to calm her racing heart and still her trembling fingers before she could even answer it. This reaction did not lessen any as the day progressed. In fact, with each call that she answered and Ethan’s voice was not on the other end, she grew more and more nervous. She started to wonder if he was even going to call her back. She chastised herself for second guessing his intentions. The man spent a good amount of money trying to get her to go out with him. He wouldn’t change his mind now.

  Her nerves were so frazzled and she was so intent on trying to relax that for the first time since she started working, she worked past five o’clock. She totally forgot to set her alarm so it would remind her to go home. It wasn’t until Helen was knocking on her door once again that she realized what time it actually was.

  “Oh my goodness! I can’t believe I didn’t realize it was time to go,” Becky got up and started shutting down her laptop and shoving her things into her bag as she spoke.

  “Soooo,” Helen drew the word out, catching Becky’s attention. “Did you call your Detective back?”

  “Yes, I did.”

  “And?” Helen prompted.

  “He didn’t answer so I left a message. I’m still waiting for him to call me back.”

  She didn’t make eye contact but Helen must have heard the insecurity in Becky’s voice, “Don’t worry honey. A man doesn’t put so much work into asking a woman out if he doesn’t plan on following through. He’s probably been busy all day with work. I’m sure he’ll call you later this evening.”

  She let out a sigh, relieved to have someone back up what she had been telling herself. “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks Helen,” she said as she walked over and hugged her.

  Helen hugged her back and then pulled away. “You going to talk to your mother?”

  Becky backed away and finished getting her things together before walking out toward the front office with Helen. “I’m going to try. I’m not sure how far I’ll get but…” she shrugged.

  “That’s all you can do honey, is try. I’m sure it’ll go much better than you think. Your parents love you so much and only want the best for you. Once you explain to them what it is that you really want to do, they’ll support you. You’ll see,” Helen told her confidently. Becky really wanted to believe her, but she wasn’t so sure.

  As she agonized over Ethan’s call, or lack thereof, she had also thought about the advice Helen gave her. She knew she should talk to her parents about what she wanted to do with her life, but the truth was, she didn’t know. She did love magic and knew that she had a skill for solving mysteries and performing tricks herself, but did she want to actually be a magician? It sounded so ridiculous. There were so many other things she could do though. She could organize events, she could do research for other magicians, and she could invent new illusions and sell them. The possibilities were endless. She had a lot of contacts already, thanks to her time on forums and the people she met during her personal research.

  She knew she had a lot of thinking to do before she talked to her parents. She needed a solid plan if she was going to convince them to support her in a different career path. Right now she had nothing. Thanking Helen again for her advice and encouragement, she said goodbye and stepped onto the elevator. As it descended, her cell phone rang. She pulled it out of her purse and didn’t even think about checking to see who it was when she answered, having been so preoccupied with her and Helen’s personal conversation.

  “This is Katherine,” she said as she watched the numbers on the panel light up.

  “Hi,” the rich, warm voice on the other end breathed into her ear.

  Her heart rate immediately doubled and she almost dropped her phone. “Oh…hi,” she said back to Ethan, a bit breathlessly.

  “Are you busy?” he asked as the elevator came to a stop and she stepped off. She waved goodbye to Ralph as she answered him.

  “No, actually I’m just leaving work.”

  “Okay good. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to call you back sooner. It’s been a pretty hectic day.”

  “That’s okay. I understand.”

  They were both silent for a second, each of them waiting for the other to continue. There was no way Becky was going to lead the conversation. Ethan finally picked up on this and chuckled softly. “So when are you free for dinner?”

  “Anytime!” she answered a little too eagerly and shook her head at herself.

  He chuckled again. “How about tonight? I know its short notice but I would really like to take you to dinner tonight,” his voice became softer and smoother as he finished.

  She felt like butter, getting ready to melt all over the floor. “Um…okay. Do I have time to go home and change first?”

  “Yes, you do. What if I pick you up in an hour? Would that be enough time?”

  “Yes, it would.” She quickly rambled her address off to him and then hung up with a huge grin on her face. She picked up the pace to get to her subway stop, practically floating the whole way there. She arrived downstairs at the same time the train was coming to a stop and had to smile again. Apparently luck was on her side today. She stepped on the full car and wrapped her hand around the metal pole. When the doors swooshed shut she glanced around quickly, more out of habit than anything. As she scanned the full car, her eyes narrowed on what she thought was a familiar figure. There was a man standing at the other end of the car with jeans and a black hoodie, New York Yankees ball cap pulled low over his eyes, and he was looking right at her. She shook her head and turned away. There was no way that was the same man. She reminded herself of just how many people fit that description daily here in the city. But there was just something about the way he looked at her that seemed so familiar. She looked again but her line of sight was now blocked by the shifting people around her.

  She continued to glance in the direction of the mysterious man but couldn’t catch a glimpse of him again. Soon they were pulling into her stop and she shuffled her way
to the door. When she stepped off, she turned back to see if the man got off too. He didn’t but when the car was pulling away, she saw him through the window. His face was mostly in shadow because of his hat, but there was no mistaking that his attention was on her.

  She turned back around and quickly made her way up the stairs and down the block to her building. Tony, one of the two doormen for her building, was standing there waiting with the door open for her. “Good evening Miss Wellington.”

  “Good evening Tony and thank you,” she moved through the door but then stopped and turned to him. “Umm…there will be a man…Detective Ethan Hopkins here in about an hour for me. Will you let him in please?” she asked nervously.

  Tony smiled brightly at her. “Of course ma’am.”

  “Thank you Tony,” she said before turning back toward the lobby and making her way to the elevator doors. She was beyond nervous if she couldn’t even tell the doorman she had a date! How was she ever going to get through this night without making a complete fool of herself?

  Trying to calm her nerves for the millionth time today, she rode the elevator up while thinking about what she was going to wear. By the time she reached her apartment door, she had narrowed it down to two choices. It was a first date, and short notice, so she decided she would go with casual. She opened her door, threw her stuff down and ran to her room. She pulled out her two favorite pair of jeans, one blue and one black, and then her two favorite tops. One was a cream cowl neck sweater that would go with the black jeans and her black knee high boots and the other was a light brown top with sequin accent that would look hot with her dark blue jeans and her brown, fur accented boots. It wasn’t cold, but since it was night and the evening air could get pretty chilly, she would be comfortable in either outfit without a coat.

  She tried on both quickly, looking at every angle possible in the mirror before deciding on the cream top and black jeans. She liked how she felt a little sexier in that outfit without being over the top. She brushed out her long red hair and left it loose so the unruly waves could fall around her shoulders and down her back. She reapplied her make-up, going just a little heavier with the eyeliner and mascara to bring out her green eyes and she was done. And just in time, because the doorbell rang five minutes later.

  She walked to the door, running her sweaty palms down her pants legs before turning the knob and opening the door. Ethan was standing there with a bouquet of red roses in his hand and looking even more gorgeous than he had when she saw him at the police station. He was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans with heavy white stitching, making them appear much nicer than regular jeans. And they fit him perfectly; not to tight but snug enough to hint at how muscular and trim his lower body was. The long sleeved gray shirt he had on did the same for his upper body. The light, thin material was just tight enough to accent his muscular chest and arms. When she finally made her eyes leave his perfect body and make their way up to his face, she could see that he was checking her out just as much as she had been him.

  “Hi,” she breathed out when he finished his perusal and their eyes finally met.

  “Wow, you look beautiful,” he told her softly with a sexy grin as he handed her the flowers in his hand.

  “Thank you, you do too. I mean…not beautiful…I mean you look good too,” she finished finally, feeling heat flood her cheeks.

  He reached out and ran one finger softly down her cheek. “Don’t be nervous. It’s just dinner.”

  She huffed at him. “Easy for you to say. You probably do this all the time.”

  His hand dropped to his side and he leaned casually into the door frame. “Eat dinner? I do, every night. Don’t you?”

  She rolled her eyes but smiled because he was trying to help her relax and it was working. “Yes, I do. Let me put these in water and then I’ll be ready.”

  “Okay. Take your time.” He waited in the open door way as she quickly put some water in a vase and set the flowers in.

  “I’ll fix them when I get home tonight. Let’s go,” she grabbed her purse off the bar and then walked back toward him. He stepped aside to let her go through the door before him and then he turned to pull it shut for her. As she locked it, he didn’t move away, making her extremely aware of how close he was to her. She could feel the heat coming off his much larger body and smell the woodsy scent of his cologne. She couldn’t help but to inhale deeply at the heavenly scent. When she was finished, he placed his hand on the small her back and guided her toward the elevator doors. She could feel the heat of his hand through her shirt and it made her stomach do a little flip. She never felt this way when Lance touched her. She knew it was only based on the physical attraction she had to him, but she liked the feeling and hoped it would grow once she got to know him.

  They didn’t speak during the elevator ride or as they made their way through the lobby of her building. Tony shot her a covert wink as he held the door for them that had her blushing furiously. Ethan glanced down and saw. He ran his finger over her cheek again but still didn’t say anything. Neither of them spoke until they were tucked inside of the black car that had been waiting by the curb.

  “How does Italian sound?” Ethan’s deep voice asked through the quiet.

  “Perfect, “Becky said and offered a shy smile.

  Ethan reached over and took her hand in his. “I’m so glad you changed your mind and decided to give me a shot.”

  “I’m really sorry I was such a basket case when we talked on the phone. I just…” she trailed off when he squeezed her hand.

  “It’s okay. I understand. You don’t have to apologize anymore.”

  “Okay,” she sighed and leaned back into the seat while still looking up at him. He didn’t let go of her hand as he began to question her.

  “So you’re an attorney? Tell me about that. Do you enjoy what you do?”

  Becky hesitated for just a second, thinking that she might actually tell him the truth. But it didn’t feel quite right, so instead she told him the same story she told everyone. How it was her family’s business and how fortunate she was and honored that she would one day take it over. He listened intently, prompting her for more details when she would trail off or commenting when appropriate. The conversation flowed nicely until they reached the restaurant, only halting so they could be seated and to look over the menu, then continuing smoothly once they placed their orders.

  They talked about Ethan’s job and how hard it could be sometimes but also how rewarding it could be. They also talked about their families. Ethan was an only child just as she was; both of his parents lived in upstate New York. They hated that he was a cop in the city but were very proud of him and visited as often as they could. Becky felt a small amount of envy toward him. She wished she loved what she did and that her parents supported her choices, even if they didn’t agree with them.

  By the time their meal was over and dessert was long gone, Becky felt like she really knew Ethan. She liked him a lot, felt really comfortable with him and liked that he made her laugh. The same car service picked them up and drove them back to her apartment. Ethan got out and walked her to the door where Tony was waiting. Ethan and Tony had some sort of non-verbal exchange before Tony left his post and stepped inside of the building. Becky turned to Ethan with a raised eyebrow.

  He just chuckled again. “I had a really nice time. Can we do it again?”

  “I did too Ethan, really! I would love to.”

  “Good,” his voice suddenly became lower, deeper as his eyes locked onto hers. He took a small step forward so that there were only a few inches separating their bodies. She could feel the heat from him and it made her shiver slightly. As he looked into her eyes, he leaned down and brushed his lips over hers softly, once then twice, before stepping back again. “I’ll call you tomorrow?”

  “Okay.”

  He nodded and then walked back to the awaiting car. Becky stood there watching as th
ey drove away. Once the car turned the corner, she turned to go into her building but stopped in her tracks when she spotted a lone figure across the street, leaning against the brick wall, his face in shadow but clearly watching her. She stared back for a moment, trying to figure out who this mysterious person was when her common sense caught up with her. She shouldn’t be standing here like this, all alone with someone clearing watching her. Wrapping her arms around her body, she hurried into the building.

 
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