“Dinner and a fundraiser? Are you dating him?” Macall heaped forkfuls of lasagna into her mouth.
Monet watched, wide eyed. “We have an hour for lunch. You don’t have to hurry back.”
“You don’t have to hurry back.”
“Do you have a meeting?”
“Then what’s your hurry?”
Macall wiped her mouth on her napkin and slammed it onto the table. The small table shook. “Some of us have to work for a living.”
“I have to work.”
“No. You are dating Bristol Kelly.”
Monet looked around, aware that her friend’s voice had risen and people were looking at them. She leaned across the table. “I am not dating Bristol,” she hissed. “He happens to be a client. He was doing me a favor and I was doing him a favor. And his business will help our entire company.”
“Humph.” Macall sat back in her chair and crossed her arms across her chest.
“Oh, come on, Macall. This is how the business works. We’ve been friends long enough not to let something like this turn everything upside down.”
Macall’s glare did not lessen.
“Look, I’m sorry he liked my work better than yours. But that’s how it goes. Sometimes you get the big dogs, sometimes I do.”
“But I’ve never landed one as big as Bristol Kelly.”
Monet groaned. “It was three years ago, Macall. Let it go.”
“I won’t let it go. This company was my idea.”
Macall leaned forward, her voice rising. “I’m the one who graduated first.”
“Only because I double majored. You only beat me by six months.”
“I’m better than you!”
Silence fell on the restaurant and Monet fought the urge to slide under the table.
“Macall, please. I’m sure that if he saw you’re work he would love it. Why don’t you let me fax him something?”
Macall folded her arms.
“Please don’t let this come between us. We have such a long history together.”
Macall sighed, blowing the bangs out of her eyes. “I know. I’m just jealous. I queried him three years ago and he turned me down.”
“His business was just starting out then, too.” Monet gripped her fork, hoping Macall wouldn’t start shrieking again.
“I know. Will you give me his fax number when we get back? I’ll see what he has to say.”
“I’m sorry. I’m a little on edge. My mom called me last night and told me Enid will be home by the end of the month. It has me a little distracted.”
Monet shivered and her grip tightened on her fork.
“Are you okay? You look ill.” She glanced pointedly at the fork in Monet’s hand.
“Do you realize what that means, Macall? He doesn’t know where I am, does he?”
“No.” Macall shook her head with venom. “I would never tell him and neither would Mom. You’re safe.” She took the fork from Monet and set it on the table.
Monet nodded, but she felt a sliver of fear prick her heart.
~ * ~
Over the next several weeks, Monet stayed busy with sketches and the projects. Bristol had given her a list of what he needed which kept her busy. She’d also been working on new sketches for a few other clients. Despite all her work, she and Macall managed to see a movie last week, but Monet feared she would not have free time again for several months.
She talked with Bristol daily, mostly business related but sometimes the conversation steered to personal matters as well. Though a part of her wanted their relationship to turn into more than just client or friend, she knew what would happen when things went wrong. And she wasn’t sure she was ready to open up her heart again to that kind of pain.
The phone rang.
“This is Monet.”
“Monet. Bristol here.”
Monet’s heart jumped into her throat and she tried to swallow it before it sprang loose. “Did you get the sketches I sent last night?”
“I did. I showed them to Zoe and she loved them. She’d like you to do something up for her gala next month. She mentioned cream and charcoal with a low back and train. I’ll fax you the particulars.”
Monet scribbled on the corner of a scrap paper. “I’m working on something for Sylvia Grey but it shouldn’t take more than another day or two to finish up.
“Great. And Henry just phoned. His mother-in-law is chomping at the bit.”
“Soon to be mother-in-law.”
He chuckled. “Once you’re engaged, believe me, they are one in the same.”
Monet tried not to groan in agreement.
“Tell him it will ship before we close tonight.”
“I will. Thank you. How are things with Macall? Is she still moping around?”
“Not as long as you have her sketches.”
His silence perked her curiosity.
“You don’t like them?”
He sighed. “It’s not that I don’t like them. I see some real potential. I just don’t have any clients who would want anything like this.”
This time Monet did groan.
“Perhaps I’ll send them to a friend of mine. He might have someone who would love them.”
Monet sighed with relief.
“To be honest, there’s not enough abstractness in her work for my clients. That doesn’t mean her work is bad, just not suited to my needs.”
“I thought as much. But it was the only way to get her off my case. Thank you for looking at them.”
“Now, I have a question for you. How is that you know Zack’s wife?”
He laughed. “You met Zack a month ago and are only now wondering?”
“No. I just finally got up the nerve to ask. Is she your ex-wife? Or something more exotic?”
Several minutes passed before he answered as his laughter echoed over the phone. “It’s nothing half as exciting, I assure you. Sara is my sister.”
“Oh.” Monet flushed. She had wondered all kinds of possibilities for Sara’s place in Bristol’s life. It disturbed her that a weight seemed to lift off her heart. She could not become involved with Bristol. “I was just wondering.”
“Hey, I’ve got to run. I’ll call you again tomorrow.”
“Will you let me see you outside of work next time I come to town?”
Monet swallowed. “Like a date?”
“If you want.”
Monet paused. Could she say yes? Would it ruin her? And what if Bristol found out about Enid? But she longed to see him again.
“That would be great. When will you be in town next?”
“Next week. I have a couple meetings up that way.”
Monet could hear the smile in his voice. “It’s a date.”
She hung up and breathed a sigh of relief. At least she had a week to think of a way out of the mess she’d created. Or, hype herself up enough to go.