Thursday, December 6, 2007

Excerpt from "When Love Calls"

Any one care for a peek? Here's an excerpt from Chapter 5, When Love Calls:

Lilly looked up to see Rees making his way across the long oval dining room floor and waved to him with small, elegant gestures. As she expected, he was in a tuxedo and was incredibly handsome. Everything was perfect. He had a smile that would shake a woman in her soul, and he smiled at her as he sat down. Immediately, the waiter was at the table and pouring him a glass of wine. Lilly allowed the waiter to refill her glass, which she had denied him continually until her date arrived.
“Have you been here long?” he asked.

“No, only a few minutes. Is that the tuxedo you bought the other day?”

“How did you know that?” He seemed defensive.

“Well, you told me on the phone the other day that you were out shopping for a new suit.”

“No, I do all my shopping on line.”

She frowned. “But I could hear the city noises on your phone.”

He was defensive now. “I don’t ever leave my home unless something big comes up. I have to stay in front of my computer all the time, or else I will miss the big deals.” He held up his hand and snapped his fingers, “Tick, tick, I have to be ready to jump when the market moves.”

She sighed. “It all sounds very difficult and important.”

“Well, it’s more than the average investor could handle.” He tried to appear uninterested in their conversation, but it was about him and he loved himself greatly. “I found a hot new stock today.”

“Oh?” she feigned interest. Her father had served as the CEO of three different fortune 500 companies and she had heard these speeches many times before.

“Yes, it’s a small company out of Texas that produces natural gas. It’s called Terax Energy and their stock is so affordable, it’s almost like stealing money; it’s like robbing a bank.”

“I’m glad that you found them.” She sipped her wine and watched him as he glanced over the menu.

“Why did we come here? It seems beneath us.”

Lilly exhaled noisily. “It’s an upscale restaurant, not some burger joint.”

“It might be upscale, but it isn’t the level of attention that I can afford.”

Lilly was more than irritated at his crass remark. “This is one of my favorite places to eat. Especially for breakfast. They have a poached egg plate that is served on top of a crab and potato cake that's to die for.”

“A potato and crab cake? For breakfast?”

“Well, it’s more of a hash than a cake, but it’s wonderful. I’m sure that you’ve seen them before, as much experience as you have in dining.” She grinned within herself as she set him up for a situation that forced him to answer in a manner that he required.

“Oh, of course. I just prefer a continental breakfast.” He stared at his menu as if unimpressed.

“They also serve a pancake with white chocolate and blueberries.”

“I seem to enjoy crepes better than pancakes, don’t you agree?”

Lilly smiled and thought, oh, this is going to be fun! For she immediately perceived that he was a fraud. Rees had probably gotten fired from a menial middle management position at some stock firm and decided to day-trade rather than go back to management. He probably had nothing of the fortune that he portrayed and was desperate for people to think that he came from old money. What made the situation even funnier was that he imagined that Lilly was the type of woman that would help him promote that image. She had mentioned a home in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco and he assumed she was a woman of great wealth. Actually, she had a grandfather in Chicago that willed his home to her father, and she had a grandmother that left her home in San Francisco with Lilly’s mother after she died. The family maintained the homes out of sentimental value and because it provided housing for Lilly when she was working away from Boston. She was not extremely wealthy, although her family did well for themselves; she was not rich by any regard.
She was a mischievous soul and she decided to torment poor Rees, who was living a lie that he was desperate to keep. Besides, she knew that she would never see him again. She had no interest in a man that would lie in order to impress her. “Speaking of fine dining, I’m certain that you must have stayed at the Fletschhorn Hotel in Switzerland.”

“Humph,” he was again disinterested. “I usually stay at the Waldorf when overseas.”

“Are you sure that you haven’t stayed there? It’s a well known secret among those with social standing. Why, they have a champagne breakfast, which is an incredible continental breakfast, which better suits your tastes. I’m certain that you would remember the evening meals there.”

“Hmm, did you say Switzerland?” He furrowed his brow in thought. “Let me think, it’s been so long since I’ve summered in Europe. The Fletschhorn, you say?” He frowned. “Yes, it seems that I spent a night there on my way to Budapest.”

She had to contain her grin, for he dropped the word Budapest in such a way that she would be compelled to ask about that and leave the present conversation alone. “Oh, you’re being modest. You and I both know that there is a minimum two-night stay there at the hotel. And their evening six-course meal is extravagant. I love the fresh air up there.”

“Isn’t that the small place up in the mountains? I might remember a little more now.”

Snap! The trap sprang and he was committed to being a world traveler. “Well, I know a little more about you now.” She gazed at him with adoring eyes; “You have a great vision for incredible things if you deem the Fletschhorn small. I must travel with you across Europe sometime; I can imagine that you really know how to live.”

“Well, I do the best I can.” He glanced around. “Where is that waiter? These posh restaurants seldom offer good service.”

Lilly now realized how ridiculous, even pathetic Rees was. A moment ago he was upset that the restaurant wasn’t up to his standards, now it was “posh.” “Oh, I don’t know, I have always been treated very special here.” Then she dove in for more, “You mentioned being treated special, at the Fletschhorn, well, you’ve seen their wine cellar.”

“Of course. It was adequate.”

“I should say so! Their cellar is stocked with over 20,000 bottles of the finest in Europe.” She paused while he squirmed. “How big is your wine cellar?”

His face turned red and he pulled at his collar. “I don’t keep much stock here at Chicago. Now my home in Budapest, that is where I keep the best.” Again, he was baiting her to chase rabbits.

She could not contain her smile, but she masked it with a flirtatious question. “When are you going to invite me to spend some time at your home here in Chicago? I’ve heard that it is more than adequate and quite luxurious.”

“Do you mind if we talk about something else? I’m very hungry and the waiter seems to be on a smoking break.”

“Oh darling, you’re being impatient. You’ve only been here a few minutes and you know that these nicer places like to give you plenty of time to relax and enjoy your meal.”

“Well, it’s been a long day. It makes me miss my villa in Budapest.”

Lilly was merciless. “We could stop by your estate in Chicago after we go to the theater, if you like. I would love to spend an evening serenading you on the grand piano.”

“What makes you think I have a grand piano?”

“Oh, I’m no fool. I see a man who loves music hidden inside of your tuxedo. Besides, I’ve heard someone mention your home and piano before.”

“Who would have mentioned me?”

“Well, the last person I heard that mentioned your name was the mayor.”

That got his attention. “The mayor? Of Chicago?”

“Of course! I knew then that you were a man with connections. Besides, I heard about the sizable donation that you made to the Cook County Hospital. Very impressive.”

He shrugged. “Well, I do what I can.” He glanced at his hands nobly, “I can’t be a surgeon, but I can give the surgeons what they need to do their job.”

“Oh, how impressive. I love a compassionate man. The mayor was a bit reluctant to reveal just how much you donated, but he said that it was very generous. Do you mind telling me?”

“Well…” He was scrambling and looking for anything to rescue him. But, the temptation to be important enough for the mayor to mention was too much, and he hung himself. “I don’t like to brag.”

“Oh, you can tell me. I like a man with money. Was it more than a million?”

“As I said, I don’t like to brag.”

She pushed him a step further. “It was more than a million! Well, of course, to you, that’s nothing, I'm sure,” she said as a matter of fact. When he continued to squirm she said, “Please, tell me, how much did you donate?”

“It wouldn’t be proper to tell you.”

“So, you really did make a donation?”

“Well, I…” Suddenly his hand shot into his pocket and he pulled out his cell phone and quickly said, “Hello?” Lilly suppressed a victorious smile when he quietly whispered, “I have to take this. It’s business, you know.” Then he pretended to speak quietly into the phone about P and E ratios with a client.

Lilly reached into her purse and pressed redial on her cell phone without removing it from the purse. Suddenly, Rees’ phone chirped and fluttered, and he found himself holding his cell phone and looking like the fool he was. He glanced at the caller ID and saw that it was Lilly. He frowned and sat back down and said, “How did you know?”

“You were too perfect.” Then she decided to play with him some more, “So, what are you? A conman?”

“No, I'm a day trader.”

“Oh? Do you live alone?”

“And I live with my mom, okay?”

Lilly laughed at him and said, “I would have gone out with a day-trader that lives with his mom, under certain circumstances.” Then she became serious. “But you lied to me, and that is unconscionable and unacceptable. You may settle the bill and find another date to the theater.” With that, she rose from her chair and elegantly walked, no, glided across the room and disappeared through the exit without even looking back.

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