Another excerpt from You Belong To Me
Noticing movement through the gallery window, he rapped on the door. Erin opened it with a smile and invited him in. “I’m just hanging a painting. There’s some coffee in the little kitchen back there to your right. Help yourself while I finish this up.”
Colin couldn’t help but notice her curves – in all the right places. To distract himself, he said, “I brought the donuts,” holding up the bakery box. “Do you need any help?”
“No, I do this all the time. I’ll be done in a minute. Go on, get some coffee.” She eyed the bakery box he carried. “Dinkel’s?” she asked. When he nodded, she added, “My favorite.”
“Mine, too,” he said, glad he’d taken the extra time to drive there on his way. Through the gallery to the back, he turned into the little kitchen, spotted the coffee center and poured two cups.
“There,” she said, walking into the kitchen, brushing off her sleeve, “I’ve just been putting up some things to replace what I sold last night.” She took the cup of coffee he offered her and set it on the counter, dropped two lumps of sugar into it and topped it off with some milk from the tiny refrigerator. “How about we raid the goody box first, then do the tour?” she asked.
They sat at the little table in the corner of the kitchen. Erin untied the string on the bakery box and opened the lid. “Cinnamon sugar,” she said and laughed.
The expression on her face – one of pure delight – stopped his heart and he knew he was here for more than the paintings, more than the investment opportunity. He’d convinced himself on the drive over that she wasn’t his type. But now he wanted to get to know her.
She brought out some paper plates and napkins and took one of the donuts. “Do you want one of these or some of this…” she asked, pointing into the box.
“Apple Cheese Stollen. It’s my weakness.”
“Let me cut you a piece.” Using a knife from the drawer in the counter she cut him a large wedge, set it on the paper plate and sat down across from him.
When she bit into her doughnut, she closed her eyes and seemed to savor it. Crumbles of cinnamon and sugar on her lips caught his attention and when she caught them with her tongue, he imagined licking them off himself. Breaking into his fantasy, she said, “You’re a Harvard grad, aren’t you?” Was there a hint of disdain in her tone?
“Does it show?” he said.
She smiled. “Not so most people would notice, but you can’t fool a Boston College girl. You guys were always easy pickups.”
Colin laughed. It had been a long time since someone made him laugh. Erin’s intelligence and wit surprised him.
“What do you do, Colin?” she said.
“I’m a lawyer,” he said.
She hesitated before she said, “You mean divorces, stuff like that?”
He laughed. “God, no! I’m in mergers and acquisitions. Pretty boring stuff, really.”
“So why do you do it?”
“Well, it’s not boring to me. Only to the poor sucker who has to listen to me talk about it when I get on a roll. So, I’m not going to talk about it, now. The last thing on my mind is business. So tell me what brought you to Chicago.”
It was as though a cloud passed in front of the sun the way her expression changed. She reached for her coffee cup – her hand trembling – gripping the cup with both hands. All the laughter disappeared from her eyes.
“I needed a change of scenery,” she said and took a sip of her coffee.
Waiting to see if she would say more, he didn’t respond. Her eyes darkened and sadness filled them, but she recovered her composure and said, “It’s not a big deal, it was just time to move on to new territory.”