“Good morning,” John Warner’s pleasant voice replied when Elayne answered the phone the next day.
“John, hello. How are you?” Elayne’s face was bright with a wide smile as she glanced at the clock in the dining room and saw that it was just after ten. She knew that her friend’s day had started long ago, much like her own had, and she wondered why he had called.
“Busy. That’s why I called, Elayne. I need you to do me a really big favor.” Even though John owned a small art gallery in town he and Elayne had only met recently through the organization that he had started that was dedicated to cleaning up the local rivers. Many years of pollution and dumping had left them in such a state that the water was now brown with toxins and other pollutants. It had been suggested in the last year that any fish taken from their waters was not recommended for consumption. John, along with others like Elayne, wanted to change things before it was too late.
“Of course, John. What do you need?” Elayne had been up for hours so that she could do the baking that was required for the birthday party that afternoon and was now sitting down to enjoy a cup of tea.
“I’m supposed to have a meeting with a really important contributor to the fund, but I just got a call from Jake’s school and I need to go pick him up.” Jake was John’s seven-year-old son who just happened to be incredibly accident prone. He had already sprained an ankle this school year in addition to all the cuts and bruises he had acquired on the playground and that wasn’t considering the broken arm and collarbone from the summer before. He wasn’t a bad kid, just gangly for his age and in desperate need of growing into his own body. By now Jake’s reputation for self destruction was well known around town and Elayne hoped that he hadn’t seriously hurt himself this time.
“What happened?” Elayne asked, concern and humor apparent in her voice. It was common knowledge for anyone who knew John or Jake to joke with them about the younger Warner’s lack of coordination.
“I don’t know yet. I just need to get down there. Can you go to my lunch date? I know its last minute, but I’m in a real bind.”
“Sure,” Elayne replied with a smile. “Just give me the time and place.”
John informed her that the meeting was for noon and even though she had planned on getting together with Connie and the others for the ritual, Elayne knew that she needed to help John out. The organization he had started was new and needed all the help it could get. If John had found a wealthy backer to donate capitol then they could proceed with their plans. The ritual would have to wait for now, but Elayne hoped they could fit it in before the concert that night.
Two hours later Elayne found herself walking through the front entrance of Dominic’s, a wonderful bistro downtown that she loved to go to when she was making her own dining out plans. The daytime manager recognized her immediately and picked up a menu as he rounded the corner of the register area.
“Eating alone today, Elayne?” Roger asked with a welcoming smile. “There’s a table up front by the window if you’d like.”
“Thanks, Roger, but I’m meeting someone,” she replied with her own smile. “John Warner made reservations and had something come up at the last minute so I’m taking his place.”
Roger nodded and turned to lead her deeper into the restaurant. “I see. Mr. Marsters is already here. Follow me.”
Mr. Marsters, Elayne thought to herself, immediately wondering if it was Scott that John had arranged the appointment with. Of course the thought was crazy and she chided herself for the absurdity of the thought. Even with his awareness concerning environmental issues, there was no way Scott would be interested in investing in an organization like John’s. With his clout he would be more likely for him to get involved with larger cases of pollution and destruction of natural resources, not a local river or an organization that was just starting out.
That was what she told herself as she followed Roger to the table and quickly replayed the notes for her meeting in her head. She had been involved with many meetings such as this one and she already had a loose itinerary of what she wanted to cover with the possible investor when Roger stopped. As she neared the table, however, all coherent thoughts flew from her head.
It was indeed Scott Marsters who met Elayne’s gaze with equal surprise when she arrived at the table. He had been looking at his menu and as their eyes met Elayne felt the familiar essence of him that she had gotten to know in the brief time they had spent together the night before. All notes of what she was going to say during the meeting ceased to exist.
“Hello again,” she said with a casual smile as she took the final few steps toward the table and offered Scott her hand.
“Hello yourself.” He was standing now and he took her hand firmly in his. Scott thought she looked incredibly attractive in the long, billowy skirt and men’s sport coat that she was wearing. She had makeup on, too. Not a lot, just enough to flatter her features and make her mouth look irresistibly kissable. “Funny seeing you here,” Scott commented with a quick grin. “I’m meeting someone for lunch, but I don’t think he would mind the company if you’d like to join us.”
“Actually, that’s why I’m here,” Elayne replied as she removed her purse from her shoulder and sat in the chair across from him. “I’ve been working with John and I got a call from him this morning. He had an emergency with his son and had to pick him up from school. He asked me to fill in for him. I hope that you don’t mind.”
Scott smiled warmly and took his seat again as well. “Sounds great to me. Not about John’s son,” he added quickly as an afterthought. “It will give us a chance to talk some more.”
Elayne smiled again at his enthusiasm as she settled in her chair and spread the napkin in her lap. The palm of her hand still tingled from where it had touched Scott’s. The contact had been brief, but it was enough to tell her that the danger he was is in was still there. “John didn’t mention who his meeting was with. I didn’t know to expect you.”
“You are a very pleasant surprise,” Scott confessed as the waitress came over to take their drink order. She seemed to eye Scott for a moment as if she wanted to say something and Elayne was relieved when she finally walked away, telling them she would return in a few minutes.
“Do you ever get used to people staring at you?” Elayne asked after she had removed her jacket and hung it on the back of the chair.
“Sometimes it gets old,” Scott confirmed with a sigh. “But for the most part it’s par for the course. If it weren’t for the fans we’d have nothing.” Elayne could tell that Scott was sincere when he talked about the fans. It was obvious that they meant a great deal to him and that he understood that it was part of his ‘job’ to be available to them. Elayne was amazed by his forthrightness.
“Do you have any privacy at all?” she asked, knowing that she might be getting too personal, but she had to know. She couldn’t help but remember the news coverage of his recent divorce and knew that she wouldn’t want to have her life out there for all to see and comment on. She also felt again the heaviness in the air that marked something looming in the future concerning Scott and she assumed that whatever it was, more than likely had something to do with his stardom. She couldn’t imagine how Scott had kept it together as well as he had over the course of his career, but it made her respect him all the more.
His reaction came off like it was a question that he answered every day and probably did. “Surprisingly yes,” he said with a quick grin. “Most of the time it’s in a hotel room or within the walls of my house, but it’s not like I enjoy sunbathing in the buff or anything.”
They laughed together at the joke, but Elayne couldn’t stop herself from thinking about him, lying in the warm sun, next to a pool, without clothes. There were many pictures of Scott shirtless in the media so she knew his physic was impeccable, but those were images that didn’t belong in the back of her mind right now.
Scott sobered again then added, “I’m quiet by nature and it’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started in the business.”
Lunch became an extension of the dinner the entire group had shared the night before, filled with easy conversation and light banter. Elayne outlined for Scott what John hoped to accomplish in cleaning up one of the local the rivers he had picked to begin his movement with and Scott asked many intelligent questions about the process. She could tell that he knew what he was talking about and that he had done his homework, just as she had. What surprised her the most was that he didn’t intend to merely give money to the project. Instead, he wanted to attend the initial event itself, as a way of bringing more attention to what was happening.
“I’m sure that John would be more than willing to have you there,” she assured him, thrilled because it also meant another opportunity to see him herself. “I think he was planning for it to take place sometime during the summer, though. Isn’t that when you’re touring?”
“Yes, but I’m hoping that it will be on a day when I can get away because this is really important to me,” Scott explained. “I’m hoping to bring more attention to organizations like yours that are on a more local level in an effort to promote more involvement. What John is planning sounds like a really great way for families to go together and not only be involved, but spend some quality time together as well. I’m hoping that with my being there it will seem a little more ‘cool’ for teenagers to come out.”
“I have to admit that I really like the idea,” Elayne told him. “I think that John will be just as excited about it as I am. I’m sure that there will be details that you will have to get with him about, like security and scheduling the event itself, but I think that I have enough information to take back to him for now.”
“Good. I’m really glad we got to spend this time together.” Scott sounded so sincere that Elayne almost wished they were in another time and place. The temptation to fantasize about what he would be like as a boyfriend was strong, but she pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind. She had to look away from him to collect her thoughts before she made a fool of herself.
“I wanted to thank you by the way,” she told him after their waitress had checked to see how their meals were.
“Oh, for what?” Scott raised one dark brow in question and Elayne found herself wondering how soft those fine hairs were to the touch.
“For creating Nature’s Promise,” she said simply, referring to the organization that he had started a few years ago. It was similar to John’s organization, but on a national level. “I’ve kept up on the things that you’ve done with it and the awareness you’ve managed to get out there is amazing.”
Scott smiled, obviously proud of the work he had been able to accomplish in such a short time. “Well, I’m really glad, thank you,” he replied sincerely. “I understand how hard it is to get something started and I had a staff of experts to help me when I started Nature’s Promise. I’m really impressed by you and John taking a stand about the local rivers, as well.”
As they ate, Scott and Elayne talked like old friends and Scott realized that the few hours that he spent with Elayne over the last two days were the first time he had felt relaxed since long before his divorce. He also realized that he hadn’t thought of Kristen at all since he had met Elayne and he wasn’t about to let thoughts of her ruin the moment now, either. With a firm resolve that he hadn’t felt about the situation in a long time, he locked his ex-wife away in the back of his mind and concentrated on his lunch partner, completely enjoying himself for the first time in months.
Elayne was taking delight in her time with Scott as well. She was impressed by the many layers to his personality and she also found herself wanting to know more about him. She stayed away from the questions that were always asked of him and instead they talked about books and the fact that Elayne was planning a trip to New York City that fall.
“Are you traveling by yourself?” Scott asked.
“Yes. Fall is still kind of busy for us with late season weddings and such, so we can’t afford to let more than one of us go. My uncle lived in the city for years, though, and I’m going to hook up with some of his friends.”
“Are you going to play the tourist?” Scott, of course, had been there so many times that it wasn’t a big deal to him anymore, but Elayne had already told him that this would be her first time to visit the city. He found himself wishing that he could be her tour guide and take her to the places he had discovered that were off the beaten trail.
“I want to see a Broadway show and go to the Met if that’s what you’re asking,” Elayne replied with a smile that lit up her blue eyes. “I’m a simple girl, not a globetrotter like you.”
Finally, after they had been at the restaurant for nearly two hours, Scott looked down at his watch. “I hate to say this, but I really need to go,” he said with regret. “We still have the final sound check before they open the doors and if I’m late I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Of course,” Elayne agreed as they stood and donned their coats. “Be careful on the drive. Will you be by yourself?” She hadn’t seen anyone that looked like they were with him and she couldn’t help but worry about Scott’s safety. She could still detect something that fringed around him and it made her uneasy.
Scott shook his head and glanced over Elayne’s shoulder quickly. “No. My bodyguard will be with me.” From out of nowhere, a large black man materialized at Scott’s side and Elayne felt her eyes widen in surprise. “Elayne, this is Dan.”
“Nice to meet you, ma’am,” the man said as he nodded at her curtly, his eyes never really staying on her for long because he was busy scanning the inside of the restaurant and the sidewalk that he could see through the large front windows.
“Nice to meet you, too,” she replied astonished. She found if amazing that someone of his size could move so quietly. She didn’t remember seeing him anywhere while she and Scott had eaten their lunch and she wondered where he had been.
“I’ll see you tonight, right?” Scott asked as they walked toward the front of the restaurant where Elayne took care of the bill.
“Yes, of course. Evan called as planned and gave Connie all the information. I have to admit that I’m a little excited to be going.”
“It will be fun,” Scott agreed as he slipped on a pair of sunglasses and a ball cap. “I’ll see you tonight, then.” He leaned forward and pulled Elayne to his chest like he had the night before and kissed her cheek. In that small contact of Scott’s lips on her cheek, Elayne’s senses were overloaded with the knowledge that the feelings of uneasiness she felt since the previous night were definitely not of good intent toward him. She was certain of that now. The more physical the contact she had with the person involved with her premonitions, the more she understood what they meant. The kiss had been the first skin on skin contact with Scott besides their brief handshake so the intentions toward him were becoming easier for her to interpret.
“Are you alright?” Scott asked when he pulled away from her and saw the look of shock in her eyes. Had he been wrong to give her the friendly kiss on the cheek? He hadn’t thought so at the time, but given her response maybe he had been mistaken.
“Y-yes,” she half stammered, half laughed as she attempted to appear normal and laid a hand on his arm. She quickly looked around to see if she could detect any immediate danger to him, but there weren’t many lunch diners left and there was no one visible outside. “Be careful on the way to the Center, okay? The interstate is full of some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen.”
Scott laughed and his nose wrinkled as he looked down at her. So he hadn’t offended her after all. She was just worried about him getting to the Breslin in one piece in heavy afternoon traffic. He wondered again how soft her lips were and longed for the privacy to find out, but now just wasn’t the time, not that he would have let himself find out had they been alone anyhow. “Dan is a very capable driver, Elayne. Don’t worry about anything. I’ll see you tonight.”
The smile remained on his face as he turned and followed his bodyguard out the door and into the sunny spring afternoon, but Elayne’s features continued to be wary as she trailed him out to her own car. She detected nothing for the moment, but something bad was looming for Scott. Hopefully she had enough time to do something to protect him as she ran down a list of things that she would need for the spell she intended to do before she and Connie left for the concert.
As he closed the door behind him and settled into his seat, Scott was suddenly aware of the concern that seemed to be coming from Elayne, rolling over him in great waves of emotion. Dan started the car and pulled away, passing Elayne, who was just unlocking her car door, and Scott was almost positive that he could hear her whispered voice as it made a list of herbs and candles that she needed to gather once she was home. Of course, he knew that it was his imagination just running away from him and he cleared his mind to focus on the plans for the river clean up that he and Elayne had discussed.
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