Chapter 9

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I'm drying my hair with a towel when I hear my house phone ring. I walk over, expecting it to be my brother informing me he's gotten home safely.

It's not.

"Genevieve, it's Tristan- Maddox."

"You think I've forgotten you already?" I utter, immediately regretting it. I can't help but flirt with this man.

"I was kind of hoping you wouldn't. You never know though. I have a forgettable face."

I scoff, setting down my towel onto the chair. "Ha-ha."

"Look, I want to apologize for the airport... I had no idea she would be there."

"... Yeah, she looks like- like she cares for you a lot, Tristan."

"Not to that extent. That was publicity today and she definitely got it."

"I guess I'm not familiar with the ways of public relations."

"Neither am I. I hate it."

"-Do people usually follow you around like that?"

"Uh, not really... It's not that bad. It's gotten worse since I started dating her."

I grab my brush, combing out the strands, careful of the gash on my hairline.

"Well, I'm sorry for it... She shouldn't have done that right off the plane."

He sighs. "Yeah, well, I was only really upset because it gave you the wrong impression."

I set the brush down, breathing deeply. "... Did it?"

"Yes... I'd really like to know you, Gen."

I bite my lip, desperately trying to contain my glee at those words. "I'd like to know you too, Tristan."

...

I settle myself into bed, taking a look around my room, not liking the silence. I live in a two-bedroom loft in the heart of the city. It's rustic- I rent from two Swedish people who bought this and renovated it purely to take advantage of the cheap market at the time. Considering I live in the loop, it's a steal at $1750 a month.

It was already furnished when I started renting and I've just kept the furniture ever since. The loft is wood- the floors, walls, kitchen cabinets. All different kinds of wood, which I love while almost all the furniture is a soft cream. The windows are wide to show off the glorious city and it gives lightness to the apartment, making it more spacious.

I lay my hand, palm down onto my comforter, sighing. There are multiple jagged cuts, all different sizes on my skin. My feet are especially bad but at least I can walk. I'm lucky.

I know I'm lucky. The objects I hit into, stuck in that rush of debris and rubble, should have paralyzed if not killed me. For Tristan and I to have both lived- and found each other, multiple times- is a miracle.

My phone goes off on my nightstand, making me jump in my place. It's Jessica Monroe- The Director of the museum and the infuriating woman I spoke to just moments before I met Tristan.

"Hello?"

"Genevieve, I was so pleased to hear your voice on my answering machine, you have no idea. How are you? Are you back?"

"Yes, I'm- I'm back and I'm fine. Broken ribs, couple scrapes but I'm fine."

"Thank god for that." The relief in her low tone is something I'm unused to hearing.

"I didn't make it to meet with Mr. Aromdee."

"Yes, he called to inform me what happened. He was very worried for you."

"Well, I'll call him tomorrow, thank him... Listen, I don't think I can- I don't know if I would be able to go back there, Jessica."

"We've decided to drop the deal. He's too attached to the painting. It will cost too much so don't worry about it."

I raise my brows, surprised. "Really? You were pretty insistent on this being the showcase of the whole oil exhibit."

"Yeah, well, we'll begin looking for another after your week off."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Miss Harding. A week, no exceptions."

"... Three days?"

"A week. Jesus Christ, don't fight me on paid vacation time. You've never taken a day off, even worked with the flu. You've just been through a natural disaster."

"The exhibit is no where near close to being ready."

"I know you'll get it done."

I groan audibly and I hear her laugh. "You're a hard worker and talented, Genevieve. We took you without a Master's, that's saying something. I'll see you in a week."

She hangs up and I stare at the phone, flabbergasted. That's the nicest conversation I've ever had with her... She's never complimented me, apart from my massive stiletto collections, ever. I smile and set the phone back down onto the nightstand.

Settling the ice cold pack on my abdomen, I lean back, huffing.

What am I going to do for an entire week?

...

I deposit the batter onto the pan, spreading it out to form a perfect circle. I'm OCD about my pancakes. I like them to look like something out of a catalog and since I have plenty of time on my hands, I've decided to go crazy and add strawberries and whip cream to the toppings today.

The soft morning light shines through the kitchen window and I observe that there isn't a cloud in the sky... Maybe I'll go to the park today- Gosh, what does someone do on a day off?

Tempted to call in and argue some more with my boss, I'm interrupted by a loud ring from the house phone... Reminds me- I need to get another cell phone. And a license... And a new computer. I pick up the phone, grimacing as the costs add up in my brain.

"Hello?"

"Hello."

My face brightens just hearing his strong, melodical voice. "Hello, Tristan."

"How did you sleep?"

"It took a while," I utter truthfully, wondering if he had a hard time pushing away the dark thoughts like I did. "How about you?"

"Uh, same." There's something in his voice that has my eyebrows curling towards each other in suspicion.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes. I'm fine."

I know it's not true. I barely know this guy and I can already tell. I set down my spatula and press my lips together. "What are you doing right now?"

"I'm reading."

I smile. "Well, would pancakes maybe interest you at this moment?"

"Pancakes?"

"Yes. With strawberries and whipped cream."

"... You make a tempting offer, Miss Harding."

Shrugging, I bite my lip. "I try."

"And I'm sold. What's your address?"

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