The Falconer

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Chapter 5

To: Chloë Jordan/ Client no. 1287

From: Matchusup.com

Dear Ms. Jordan,

We at Matchusup.com are dedicated to giving you as rewarding a dating experience as possible. We were therefore quite surprised and disappointed to hear that your date, Mr. Miles Stevens, failed to appear on the day and hour scheduled by us.

In dealing with people, we sometimes find that, no matter how scientific we are in assessing personality traits, unexpected things happen. We apologize for Mr. Stevens’ absence. In our defense, we must point out that this is the very first time this particular client has failed to materialize. He has dated no fewer than eleven members of our service, and each of them has given us nothing but glowing reports of his generosity, good company, gallantry, wit, and, of course, punctuality.

We are embarrassed by this incident and prepared to waive any and all fees that we normally charge our clients. Your $50 initial fee, therefore, will be credited to your VISA card, and from here on out our services are gratis.

In the interest of providing you with the kind of life partner you truly deserve, we also offer to dedicate more attention to your particular case. We would very much like to chat with you (via Skype connection) after each date in order to assess your level of satisfaction with our service and offer suggestions and advice. This will, of course, be completely personalized, confidential, and free of charge.

The professional assigned to your case is Mr. Evan Andrews. He will be in contact with you following your upcoming date, which is scheduled for….

And etc., etc.! Chloë was fuming as she walked the final block to Kit’s apartment, a large can of Raid in her hand. She was oblivious to people’s stares. The can would not fit into her purse, and bug spray was completely necessary on any visit to Kit’s.

Generosity, good company, and gallantry, Mr. Stevens? For every woman in the universe except me?”

She arrived at Kit’s building and ran up three flights of stairs without using the wrought-iron railing. She was burning as much anger as possible, and when she finally stood in front of the door and pressed the doorbell, she was flushed and heaving.

“Oh!” Derek, Kit’s boyfriend, stood shirtless in the doorway, his right arm stretched lazily to grasp the top of the door he had just opened. Chloë stared and, governed by some reflex, lifted the can of Raid. Derek had dyed the hair in his armpits blue.

“Whoa, whoa, don’t spray me there, Vannie!” exclaimed Derek, moving quickly back into the apartment, his thin, tattooed arms raised in a gesture of surrender.

“Sorry, Derek!” said Chloë gruffly, lowering the can. “I’ve had a bad day.”

She tried not to stare at Derek’s tattooed torso, or his paint-splotched jeans. She lifted her eyes to his face and managed a peremptory smile.

“Derek, just look at what you did to this!” came Kit’s voice from the utility space, and she came into view with a crumpled piece of pink cotton in her hands. “I can’t leave you alone for five minutes, you doofus! Don’t ever try to do the laundry again!” She shook out the garment, and Chloë realized that she was looking at a man’s tank top which had once been white.

Derek rolled his eyes dramatically, flicked his wrist, and seized the now-pink undershirt. “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…” he recited in a mincing falsetto as he put the shirt on. His blue armpits seemed to glow against the light pink of the shirt.

“Lady Macbeth!” identified Chloë, laughing.

“The lady gets the prize!” shouted Derek, and even Kit laughed in spite of herself.

Derek was addicted to Shakespeare. He knew all the Bard’s most famous lines, had memorized a vast number of sonnets, and had participated as an actor in many productions. He was wont to quote Shakespeare on any occasion, much to Kit’s delight.

“Do you have any idea how great it is to make love with a guy who recites a different sonnet each time?” Kit had once asked Chloë.

“But…all those tattoos, and the nails in his ears? Don’t they creep you out?” Chloë had inquired. Derek’s stretched earlobes were pierced in several places, and he would put anything he happened to find in the holes –from bent nails he found on the street to safety pins he encountered in Kit’s odds and ends box.

Nothing about Derek could possibly creep me out,” Kit had responded dreamily.

As Bohemian as Derek’s appearance was, he possessed some business acumen. He parlayed his knowledge of Shakespeare into souvenir miniature oil paintings depicting scenes from various plays. He sold them to audiences attending theater festivals and Shakespeare in the Park, and his salesman’s patter was extraordinary (“Who steals my purse steals trash, but he who buys my trash gets a steal!” was a typical line of his.)

One day, he made the deal of a lifetime at an estate sale and bought an array of audio equipment, one second-hand pc, software to burn karaoke discs as well as equipment for performing karaoke, and one moulting mynah bird. The mynah bird had a terrible temper which was offset by the one phrase it repeated with frightening frequency in a sensual contralto: “Come in, big boy! Relaaaax!”

Derek rented out the audio equipment and tolerated the mynah bird.

Whenever Kit and Chloë came to rent equipment for their performance creations, Derek would waive their rental fee entirely. “You have no idea what a fan of yours I am!” he would gush, but he always looked at Kit as he said that.

Kit vacillated, reluctant to permit the conquest of her heart. She had had a string of bad relationships which had left her little patience with men, and her alliance with Chloë had made things worse. Kit had shown her injured pride to Chloë and had asserted that men were to blame, and Chloë had agreed with her reasoning. Chloë had then shown Kit her broken heart and had asserted that a man was to blame, and Kit had found herself unable to disagree. They spent a great deal of time that way, taking their complaints out of the closet, dusting them off, then folding them and putting them away again.

In spite of these dynamics, the women found themselves spending more and more time with Derek, his audio equipment, his unfailing good nature, and his noisy mynah bird. He was an explorer of both the visual arts and theatre, even as the women’s work also overlapped both worlds. The three spent many evenings in lively argument, and Chloë would serve peanuts and beer and quietly listen to the badinage between Kit and Derek.

The turning point came when Kit caught Derek crying at the end of a mediocre production of “Romeo and Juliet” they had all attended together. “A greater power than we can contradict/ Hath thwarted our intents” sent Derek completely over the edge, but he did his best to swallow his sobs and wipe his eyes discreetly. Kit watched him with an intensity of emotion in her eyes that Chloë thought she recognized.

As Chloë found herself more often alone, she worried about Kit. It was not that she considered Derek a bad person; she sincerely liked him. The problem was that, though Kit was a good friend, she had been barely tolerable as a roommate. She could be opinionated and domineering. There was more, but on a physical level: the division of work had always ended up favoring Kit somehow, and Chloë washed all the dishes, did most of the cooking and laundry, and all of the rest of the cleaning. Kit simply did not consider dirt a problem, and more often than not failed to see it.

Chloë worried about how long Derek would tolerate Kit’s idiosyncrasies, but she soon discovered that her worries were unfounded. Derek was a genuinely good, flexible person who cherished Kit’s hard-won love. He let Kit boss him about with remarkable good humor and soon learned how to deflect her without offending her. As for the cleanliness issue, Chloë found to her horror that Derek did not mind filth at all.

“What’s with the can of Raid, Van?” asked Kit in irritation now, her hand on her hip. “You know I hate the chemicals and the smell of that stuff!”

Have you thought about the way this place smells now? thought Chloë, but she repressed the thought and merely pointed towards the baseboard near the sink, where a cockroach meandered.

“Oh…those!” said Kit, heaving a sigh. “They won’t go away. You wouldn’t believe how dirty our neighbors are!”

Chloë was instantly interested in hearing the neighbors’ side of the story, but Kit interrupted her thoughts by taking the Raid from her and seizing one of her hands. She raised it to Derek’s nose. “Smell her hand, Derek!”

Derek took a whiff and rolled his eyes heavenward. “Bleach!”

“I knew it,” said Kit, turning towards Chloë again. “You’re a clean freak, Van, and that’s all there is to it!”

Chloë reddened, and her eyes swept the countertops of the loft’s open kitchen, looking for material for a rebuttal. She soon found it: her eyes narrowed and focused on a beer can beside the sink. She walked over, found it warm and nearly full, and addressed Derek. “You gonna drink this, Der?”

“Well, I just might…” he murmured, but stopped as she held a warning finger up and began to pour the contents of the can slowly into the sink, over the mound of dirty dishes. The bodies of three drowned cockroaches poured out of the can along with the warm beer. There was an uncomfortable silence.

“Well! Maybe I won’t drink it after all,” said Derek.

Kit chuckled. “Okay, you’ve made your point, Van. Does that mean you don’t want a beer?”

“No, thanks,” said Chloë dryly. “What I really need to do is make a new karaoke CD, if you don’t mind. I have some new ideas for my Ladyzilla solo act.”

“What, the one where you’re in the ‘Aliens’ costume?” asked Kit. “What –?”

“It’s a surprise,” interrupted Chloë. “You’ll see, if you come to hang out at Washington Square Park and watch me. Also,” she added, looking at her feet, “I have something to tell you. You know how you asked me to see if Melissa would donate to your theatre project?”

“Yeah?” asked Derek, and Chloë felt a pang as she noticed him stiffen with sudden hope.

“She-says-no,” said Chloë in a three-syllable rush.

A shocked silence ensued.

No?” asked Derek. There was an upward lilt of incredulity in the word’s inflection.

“I tried, Derek. I told her about the prize your show won at the festival last year, and that you’ve got a theatre project in the works…”

A theatre project, Van? The Ipswich Theater Project is not just any theatre project! Did you tell her about the warehouse I have in mind? If I could just get someone to cover the rent…”

“I never got that far! I’m sorry. She was in no mood to talk about it.”

“Well, isn’t that just great?” muttered Derek, disappointment in his every tone.

“I’m as sorry as anyone!” snapped Chloë. “This would be a golden opportunity for all of us, as much for me as for anybody! A place to perform for a real, voluntary audience – not just to ambush people in the street. Do you have any idea how often I’ve been shouted at to get a job? I really had hopes that my aunt would come through and help out, at least with this!”

Derek nodded. “Yeah. We all have the same dream, don’t we?”


Even preparing her karaoke CD failed to bring Chloë out of her foul mood. Miles Stevens’ failure to show up for her date, her aunt’s lack of generosity, and her fear that at any second she might find a cockroach crawling on her kept her from relaxing. Finally, she popped the finished CD out of the drive.

“You’re really upset, aren’t you, Van?” said Kit, softly. “But it’s not just about your aunt, is it? What else is bothering you?”

Chloë turned to see Kit standing behind her, and she shrugged. “It’s nothing. Just some jerk who stood me up last night.”

Kit looked surprised. “You’re dating someone? When did this happen?”

“It hasn’t happened. I took your advice, you know? You know how you said I need someone? Well, I went and signed on with Matchusup.com…”

“Wait a minute…you signed up with an online dating service?” came Derek’s voice.

Chloë gritted her teeth. She had forgotten he was there, lying on the sofa.

“Shut up, Derek,” said Kit. “Chloë was doing exactly as she was supposed to, following my advice…”

“And she got stood up?” said Derek, sitting up and grinning his incredulity.

Chloë flushed and nodded silently.

“I said to shut up, Derek!” shouted Kit, throwing up her hands.

“Well, no…I´m not going to shut up. You think I never noticed all you’ve been going through this past year?”

“Well…” began Chloë, flushing more deeply.

“Hell, yeah, I noticed! That Jacob guy you’ve been mooning over all this time? You’re well rid of him! He was all about money, Vannie. You still don’t know what an absolute jerk he was all this time because he was your first and only boyfriend ever, from way back in high school. You had no basis for comparison. Am I right?”

Chloë was silent.

“So, I am right. There’s nothing wrong with you. Why do you need a dating service? Of course, I’ve seen guys come on to you, and you just blow them off.”

“I don’t blow them off! What guys?”

“A little hint, Van: If a guy asks you, ‘Is this seat taken?’ and tries to sit down next to you, you don’t tell him ’Oh, no problem, and you can have my seat, too, I was just leaving!’” Derek’s voice rose to a mocking falsetto at this last part.

“Oh, my God!” Chloë said, sudden realization dawning on her. “I’m a social klutz!”

“No, no, sweetheart,” said Derek soothingly. “It’s not that. You were just with Jacob for too long, and you’ve forgotten how to speak the language, or read the signs, you know what I mean? You’re not on the dating frequency! You’re still waiting for the earth to turn in reverse and for Jacob to unmarry his wife and come galloping home to you on his charger, backwards. Ain’t gonna happen!”

Kit was nodding her agreement. “The man’s right, Chloë. You have to wipe your slate clean.”

“And a dating service is not what you need. You need Jerome!”

“I need who?” asked Chloë, at the same time as Kit groaned, “Oh, God, no!”

“Jerome. My man Jerome. He’s a great guy and, lucky for you, unencumbered…”

“And he likes you and asked Derek to set you up with him as a favour,” interrupted Kit tartly. “He has dreadlocks he never washes and smells like mothballs!”

Derek groaned and was about to say something, but Chloë interrupted. “I really, really appreciate your help, Derek, but I already have another date set up through this service. I think I’ll just give him a chance before you set me up with someone else, okay?”

“Okeyfine,” said Derek, sighing. “But remember, Vannie –I’m completely serious about this: Get out of mourning over this Jacob character. You’re not a widow.”


Leaving her sunglasses on a metal shelf that seemed to sprout from the grayness of the wall, Beth threw a set of keys into a small leather bag. “I won’t need sunglasses, anyway. It’s probably going to rain.” Ian watched as she forced her cellphone inside, wondering why women kept buying such inconvenient accessories.

“I should be coming with you,” he muttered through gritted teeth. She still looked lost, and he doubted her living in his house had anything to do with it.

“Don’t be silly. You have to stay here! Spencer managed to move the meeting to New Breda for you, after all — be a good boy and dazzle them, Ian!”

Ian snorted his irritation at both the suggestion and the phrasing. Spencer was a dedicated assistant, but he was showing a lot of initiative lately. He would have to take him aside for a thorough discussion about that.

“I can’t believe I won’t be there for our little taste of revenge.”

“You need this meeting, Ian, and you need these people. This is important. No money, no Broadway show. Don’t frown! I promise I’ll sit at the table nearest Miss Jordan. I won’t miss a word.” Her eyes sparkled. “The guy we picked for her date is a real treat!”

“I’ll call you! I’ll need a live relay and a detailed description.” Ian was adamant.

“You might have to set your priorities straight. Call me if you want me to return home late —”

“Why on earth would I want you to be late?”

“I’ve seen the way Miss ‘Call-Me-Ashley’ Powell looks at you, Ian. You don’t fool me. You’ve seen it, too. I know the mess my presence has created in your life… so, if you’d like me to go to the movies after I’m done with my spying…”

“Leave, Beth, before you say something even more ridiculous!” Ian ushered her gently out the door. “If my meeting finishes early, I’ll meet you in the city,” he said, more to console himself than her.

When he entered his office, Spencer was serving a second glass of malt whiskey to both Claus Newman and Ashley Powell. This was going to take longer than he had feared.


An hour later, Ian found himself sitting behind his desk, doodling on a piece of paper. He crumpled the paper and threw it into the trash basket by his chair. He tried to focus on the conversation, on the arguments about the schedule for press releases, the list of selected TV hosts, and the upcoming charity event which was to be highlighted by the presence of his show’s cast. The fact that the cast had not been auditioned or selected yet was a crude reality which seemed to upset no one.

He ran his hand through his hair and restrained the urge to fidget with his pen. Instead, he grabbed his cellphone and fingered the touch screen. Beth’s phone number called to him –but it was too soon.

He forced himself to concentrate on Claus Neumann’s opinions, inwardly concluding that he didn’t like or even trust the man.

“Since this is the first time Milton Industries is backing such a show, it’s only natural —“

“What do you mean by such a show?” Ian’s voice seemed to startle the blond man, who sat back in his armchair. “Don´t you mean such a demanding show, such a risky show? It seems there is an adjective missing in that sentence.” Ian was tired of avoiding the problem everyone in the room knew existed but no one dared to address. The elephant in my living room.

“I’ll be frank with you, Mr. Andreou.” It was the first time Neumann had looked him in the eyes. “Miltonfeels…that everyone knows you want total control over your shows. If you want Milton Industries’ funding, you’ll have to share. You’ll find it a relief, too, when you won’t have to deal with promotion and catalogues —”

“Let me decide what I find to be a relief, Mr. Neumann. What is it you are looking for?” Ian felt a small muscle working at the side of his jaw.

“I’m only a publicist, Mr. Andreou, not a lawyer. What I’d really like to know is that everything will really go as scheduled, and that Bluebeard won’t suffer the same fate as Cassandra.”

Ian clenched his fists. Suddenly, he felt confined. He stood up and walked towards the glass wall, as far away as he could get from the people seated in his office.

“No investor is thrilled when a successful musical like Cassandra suddenly stops, Boss. That’s understandable,” Spencer tried to explain. Ian’s glance over his shoulder was enough to silence him.

“That was damage control.” Ian spat the words out one by one.

“Damage control is what we’re doing now. The scandal – your… personal drama that was going on at that time –was profitable, and it fed the queues. Everyone wanted to see whether there were similarities between your art and… and what happened in real life.” Neumann’s voice trailed off, providing some seconds of silence. He probably considered it to be an expression of respect proffered Cassandra’s leading lady – sadness over her untimely demise.

Ian’s eyes narrowed as he regarded the man’s smooth, young face. Neumann’s respectful silence lasted for thirty seconds before he continued. “That show was sold out when you decided to stop it out of the blue. You can’t let your personal life interfere with business.”

The irresistible need to break something, preferably Neumann’s nose, was becoming overwhelming. Ian pressed his hands together behind his back. Maybe he should just ask them to go. This meeting was clearly a waste of time.

His cellphone ringtone filled the room, adding to the tension.

“I have to take this call.”

Ian left the room with long, angry strides.

“Is she there?” he asked Beth gravely.

“I assume your meeting isn’t going well…?”

“Let’s just say I’d prefer counting the hearts on a ‘Le Coeur’ menu, at this point.”

“Oh, dear!”

Ian could swear he heard a hidden laugh in Beth’s voice. “Is she there?” He repeated the question.

“They’re both here. I can tell you what they’ve ordered —“

“I don’t care what they’ve ordered, Beth!” What is she wearing? Ian restrained the silly question. “How is it going?”

“Well, neither one seems very excited…”

“Are you close to them?”

“For God sake’s, Ian! Why do you think I’m whispering? I could practically grab the bread from their table…wait…what is she doing?”

“I don’t know, Beth! That’s why you are there!”

“Shh, don’t shout in my ear…her face has contorted…maybe it’s something in the food…” Hearing that Chloë Jordan was choking, live, wasn’t what Ian had expected. He unfastened a button of his shirt and opened a window. “Beth—” His voice held a warning tone.

“Oh, my God! It’s a grimace! She just rolled her upper lip up like a horse, revealed all her teeth, tilted her head, and threw it back. That’s her laugh, Ian!” Beth whispered. “Or a weird smile, or whatever—it’s terrible! If her date weren’t such a louse, I’d pity him.” Beth’s laughter irritated Ian. “You should see the man’s face!”

“Beth, call me when something more exciting happens.” He ended the call and repressed his desire to throw the cellphone out the window.

As Ian entered the office again, Spencer was keying something into his iPhone.

Ashley Powell produced a non-horrific smile, nothing like Chloë Jordan’s attempt to terrify her victim. There was something that bothered him about that picture, but Ashley’s eyes on him forced him to push it aside.

“Gentlemen, let’s focus on the situation at hand,” Ashley offered, crossing her long legs. “Anyone would be excited to promote Ian Andreou’s new musical. I know I am! Let’s do our job and let Mr. Andreou deal with his backers’ demands. My client, Lester and Fish, has no problem with the deal as it stands, and trusts that Mr. Andreou will help us with our work. Let’s not forget, his image and the show work in combination—”

“Help you?” Ian leaned against the wall, interested.

“Nothing you haven’t done before…press conferences, some interviews. Let us plan your comeback, step by step. It‘s what we do best.” Ashley had an aura of confidence that complemented her dark-eyed beauty.

“You know how the media works. Some singers will sing a song or two, they’ll make appearances on talk shows,” Neumann stepped in, mastering a more friendly tone this time. “Some videos about your life, your work, where you were born, your English and Greek heritage—”

“I could cook moussaka on the morning show.” Ian’s voice was like velvet, but something unpleasant lurked beneath.

“That’s an excellent idea! A casual appearance—”

“Mr. Andreou is only kidding, Claus,” cautioned Ashley with a condescending smile, touching Neumann’s arm to stop him.

Ian raised an approving brow at the brunette. Beautiful and smart -- an intriguing combination. “Please, call me Ian.”

His cellphone ringtone muffled her answer.

“What’s up?” Ian asked Beth in his business voice.

“I see…you’re still having fun in that meeting, and there are people within earshot. Fine. Let me do the talking.”

“Exactly.”

“Our tightwad’s started his show! He’s been lecturing Miss Jordan about people spending more than they can afford, and not saving for rainy days. He says money is a means of manipulation if you lose control. Let me hear more—”

“Smooth.” Ian stared at Neumann. Mr. Scrooge, as Ian had inwardly named the miser selected as Miss Jordan’s first living date, might have a point: money was control. Milton Industries felt awkward about not having control over him. He wondered when firms had started to have feelings.

“He can’t stand women who don’t work, or spend all their money on cosmetics. He says he’s worn the same suit for ten years and…damn! I missed that…

Oh, God! This is such fun! I know I should let you be, but listen to this! He doesn’t approve of her dress. He thinks it’s too expensive.”

“Is it?” Ian hoped Beth would provide some details.

“It’s the same summer dress she wore last time. I wonder if it’s for good luck or something…”

Ian smiled. He’d seen that dress. Mr. Scrooge was an idiot. That was one hell of a nice dress.

Your client’s reaction?” Ian inquired.

“I think she’s on the verge of pulling her hair out. What’s that disease called?”

“Trichotillomania,” Ian offered with a satisfied smile on his face.

“I want to hear how you’ll explain that word to your publicists.”

“I don’t have to.”

Beth laughed, and Ian smiled to himself. She hadn’t laughed a lot lately. In a way, he felt he owed Chloë Jordan some thanks for Beth’s mirth.

“I should’ve known. You never have to explain anything. Oh, Ian, I wish you were here! It’s so rich! I know I’m wicked to enjoy this, but it’s too funny! Wait… wait…Cheapo just called the waiter again! I love this guy! He said the photo on the menu shows five meatballs in the sauce, while on his plate there are only four. Keenan is so upset, and she’s all red. Everyone is looking at them!”

“Who’s Keenan?”

“The waiter, of course. Don’t you remember him?”

Ian wondered why he should remember the waiter.

“Call me if there’s any news.” He left the phone on the desk and turned his attention to his guests.

“Ian, Ashley was asking about the songs…” Spencer handed him a piece of paper with a list.

“What’s the matter with the songs?” asked Ian, tiredly.

“Which one will be released first? We have to start some promotional buzz. They all have interesting titles: ‘Who Has Bled to Feed Your Garden?’, ‘Through and Through my Castle Trembles,’ ‘Give Me The Keys to All Your Doors’…”

“They’re inspired by the Balazs libretto used by Bela Bartók in 1911. As soon as Malcolm McConnell arrives from the UK, we’ll record ‘Through And Through my Castle Trembles.’ That’s Bluebeard’s solo. The other songs on that list are sung either by Judith as a solo or are duets.”

“I’m traveling to London tomorrow to meet Malcolm,” offered Ashley.

“Then I shouldn’t keep you. If there’s anything any of you need, feel free to call Spencer.” Ian hoped they would get the message and leave before they started to discuss audition dates and cast recordings. Sometimes, keeping this work in his drawer seemed very tempting.

Spencer redeemed himself fully and resumed his role as Ian’s right-hand man. In less than five minutes, Ian was alone in his office, contemplating the idea of a quick swim before Beth returned.

The doorbell tolled. Its tone had been deliberately chosen to be bass and neutral, but it irritated him. Ian looked: only Ashley’s back was visible on the video screen, but as soon as she turned slightly, he knew who she was. Her dark hair was cut in a straight line just below her jaw.

“I must have left my cellphone in your office,” she explained as he ushered her into his house once more. Her smile was more revealing than her excuses. Ian doubted that this woman had forgotten anything in her life. Freshly applied lipstick and a lingering perfume provided even clearer signs of Ashley’s intentions.

At any other time they would have been more than enough for him.

“Help yourself,” he invited with a vague indication in the direction of his office.

“Could I have a glass of water, please?”

Walking to the kitchen, Ian wanted to slap himself to reality. What was wrong with him?

He left the glass on the coffee table in the living room and waited for the sound of her high heels. She had a nice walk. It was confident and self-assured, like herself.

She took a few sips, leaving her red lip-print on the glass.

“It’s so hot out there…the humidity is the worst.”

Ian nodded. He looked at her light blue business suit. Its cut was so classic and manlike that it made her look even more feminine. Her almond-shaped eyes were measuring his reactions.

“I’d love a dive in the pool,” she murmured.

There it was. Plain and simple.

Ian thought of women like Ashley as the crème de la crème of the 5% of her gender, of the ones who liked bearded men. His 5%. For women like her, everything was direct, simple and full of pleasure. They knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to get it. He ran his hand through his hair. By this time, he should have been unbuttoning her white shirt; which he noticed was tight in all the right places.

His cellphone rang again. Ian almost ran out of the room to get it.

“They’re leaving.” Beth’s voice sounded disappointed.

“What happened?”

“The highlight of the evening was when he stood up and checked other people’s plates. He called Keenan and accused him of serving smaller portions to him and Miss Jordan. Everyone in the restaurant heard her name loud and clear. I doubt she’ll want to come back here again. He asked for the chef, too.”

“What did she do?”

“At first she offered him some food from her plate, but he said it was a matter of principle. Then she went to the ladies’ room, and stayed there till the chef calmed him down. He even served them free tiramisu. If only you could have seen her, Ian! When the bill came, he started checking whether the calculations were correct while searching for his wallet. She was so afraid he’d cause another scene that she didn’t let him pay.”

“Give me details, Beth!”

“I told you everything! She paid cash with a smile on her face. When he offered a protest—a very weak one, if you ask me—she said, ‘Next time, Ebenezer!’”

“She called him Ebenezer?”

“Yes; I don’t know why, since his name is Greg. He corrected her but wasn’t annoyed by the mistake. He even kissed her hand, and they went their separate ways. That’s all. Now, tell me…how are things with you and Ashley? I could stay at a hotel downtown—”

“You have an hour to get here with a fully-detailed report, Beth. I’m making pasta.”

“Are you sure? How did you know I haven’t eaten? Do you have a camera?”

“Surveillance does that to people –even though a camera wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

Ian ended the phone call and tried to think of a polite way to send Ashley away.

________________________________

The Falconer was written by Chapucera and Alex Rivers. You can find it on Amazon along with Chapucera’s Tightrope for the POTO fans! Thank you for supporting the writers :-)

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