Hi everyone! I'm back! Oy vey, what a hellish month and half life has been! I have been bogged down with tons of work and trying to meet all sorts of different deadlines, that I haven't had any time to sit down and write a good chapter to any of my stories...till now. FINALLY I am updating "Date Phantom" and hope within the next week or so to update my other stories as well. Work is still crazy, don't get me wrong, I'm not out of the deep end yet, but I miss writing, and I truly hope you enjoy this chapter!
And I want to apologize for not writing back those of you who wrote me. When I get this bogged down, I forget to check my email, but I apologize still and hope that I have not caused you any major worry. Thank you for your support and encouragement and for hanging in there with me. You're the best readers a writer could ever hope for! And without further ado...
Summary: The day after their infamous evening brings both worries and questions to Erik and Christine, not to mention an unexpected fight with a new friend, a missed phone call, and an interesting arrangement for their upcoming date!
Erik, the "Date Phantom"
Good and Bad Surprises (of an Unexpected Nature)
On previous occasions when Christine had come into work after a date with Erik, she seemed to have floated into the office, or at least that would be how her coworkers described her entrance. Brian half expected that sort of entrance when he watched Christine come around the corner, heading towards her cubicle, but instead of heavenly floating, he saw a woman who looked…nervous? Well, perhaps nervous wasn't the best description. Anxious? Yes, she did look anxious, that could not be denied. She certainly seemed more "grounded" than she had in the past. Brian rolled his office chair across the small bit of hallway that separated their cubicles, and stopped just outside hers.
Christine let out a long, shaky breath, as she turned away from her computer…or was it the phone that sat next to her computer? She turned away from her desk to face Brian, and put on a pleasant smile, although anyone could tell that she seemed distracted. "So?"
Brian frowned slightly, but quickly covered it up with a teasing grin. "So how did…last night go?"
A deep blush colored Christine's cheeks, and she quickly lowered her eyes, trying to make it look like she were typing in her password. "F-f-fine," she stammered, before swallowing the nervous lump in her throat, and mentally kicking herself. "Last night was wonderful, actually," she answered, lifting her face and smiling warmly, trying very hard to keep her blushing at bay.
Brian had been assigned to mentor Christine when she first came to the magazine. Immediately he found the young woman charming, and felt a fatherly affection towards her. He believed it was his duty to not only mentor and guide her in the ways of journalism, but also in the ways of life, particularly life in New York City. He did tease Christine often, but it was all meant in good fun and taste, he would never do anything to hurt her, and like any good father, he wanted to see her happy and with a man who was worthy of her. And based on what he knew and had seen about the men in Christine's past, he wanted to make sure that the next man who stepped up to the plate, was not only worthy of her, but worthy to be called a human being.
And while Brian had not met this man, if he hurt Christine in any way, shape, or form…
Brian jumped when Christine jumped at the sound of her phone. She glanced down at it and bit her lip; she didn't recognize the number, but that didn't mean it wasn't Erik! The letter he had romantically left on her door, with the lovely red rose attached, told her that he would call her, in fact he had underlined his promise to call her! Was this him now? Perhaps calling from some unknown location? Did she know his cell phone number?
"Are you going to answer that?" Brian asked, eyeing the phone, and his friend, somewhat suspiciously.
Christine's face darkened at Brian's words. She gave him a look, before turning her back on him and picking up the phone. With a deep breath, and a quick, silent prayer, Christine answered. "Hello, Christine Davis speaking…"
Christine's heart fell as she heard Meg's happy, and ecstatic voice fill her ear, rather than Erik's rich, warm baritone.
"Hey, you sound chipper," Christine murmured, putting a smile on for her friend. "Where are you?"
"Shopping…with my mother of all people," Meg laughed.
Christine's eyes widened. Things did seem to be going well between mother and daughter when she left Meg's apartment, but she hadn't realized they were going that well.
Antoinette's heavy French accent could be heard in the background. "No! No, no, no! I don't want it in blue! I told you, pink! It clearly compliments my daughter's complexion!"
Christine frowned. "What's going on?"
"Mother is arguing with a store employee. She insisted that we go out shopping this morning, to find me a new dress for Stephen's Christmas party."
Christine couldn't help but gasp with surprise. "You're going to a party with Stephen?"
Meg giggled happily. "I called him last night, after you had left. I apologized for my behavior, but he doesn't resent me at all! He wants to go out again, and he's invited me to be his date at the accounting firm's Christmas party, this Friday!"
"Idiot!" Antoinette spat in the background, clearly shouting at whoever the poor employee was. "I said PINK! That is not pink! You think I am blind? You think I do not know my color pallet!? That is clearly fuchsia, and all I am asking for is PINK!"
"I better go," Meg hissed into the phone. "Before Mother kills that poor man."
More irritated shrieking could be heard in the background, as Antoinette began swearing in French.
"Call me later, ok?" Meg asked, before turning her head away from the phone to try and calm her mother down.
"Sure," Christine answered, hoping that Meg could hear her. "And congratulations…on you and Stephen patching things up."
"Thanks," Meg answered, although it sounded as if things were getting worse, and she had to hang up before saying anything more. Christine sighed and shook her head, before hanging up the receiver, feeling happy for her friend, but feeling a little envious that Meg had had the opportunity to mend everything with the man she loved…while she, Christine, had not yet spoken to Erik since before she left for Meg's apartment. Yes, she had Erik's letter, and it was a wonderful letter, but…she longed to hear his voice again…
"I take it, that wasn't the call you were hoping for?"
Christine jumped, forgetting that Brian was still there. She plastered a smile onto her face before turning and facing him. "That was Meg, and actually I was expecting her to call, or drop by, and let me know how things went last night…" she decided not to reveal anything further to Brian, and turned to face her computer screen, to make it look like she was going to attempt to get some work done.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that Meg sounds 'chipper'," Brian smiled, but his eyes were filled with concern as he looked upon his friend. "Listen, Chris, I know I tease you a lot, but I want you to know—"
"Good morning Miss Davis!"
Both Brian and Christine looked up to see a wide-eyed and smiling Laura, her eyes sparkling from behind her glasses, her red hair rebelling against the ponytail she had attempted to put it in. Christine had practically forgotten about their newest intern…who had been responsible for giving her that Thanksgiving cold.
"Good morning to you too, Laura," Brian smiled, rising from his chair to shake the young woman's hand. Laura grinned, her smile beaming brightly. "I must say, you look awfully…" he glanced at Christine out of the corner of his eye. "Chipper, this morning."
Christine gave Brian a look, but quickly put on a smile when Laura giggled. "Do I? Well…I can't help it! I love New York! I love working here, and…" a dreamy sigh escaped her lips as she gazed out a nearby window. Was it Christine's imagination? Or was there something…or should she say, someone, else that Laura seemed to love?
"Did you have a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday?" she asked, turning back from the window and smiling brightly at both of them.
Brian glanced at Christine. "As pleasant a holiday as one can have with a cold…"
Laura's smile faded instantly. "Oh gosh! No!" she looked back and forth between Christine and Brian, her eyes wide with horror. "I…I didn't…did I?"
Christine glared at Brian, who was biting his lip to keep from grinning. "Colds happen, Laura, don't worry about it, and to answer your question, yes, I did have a pleasant Thanksgiving, as did Brian," she stomped on his foot then, and Brian immediately winced, but nodded his head, now biting his lip to keep from crying out in pain. "I could use some coffee, what about you Laura?" Christine turned and led the way, smiling to herself as she heard Brian let out a whimpering moan.
Laura did follow, although now she looked absolutely horrified that she had passed her cold onto the very woman she admired. "I'm so sorry, Miss Davis, truly, I—"
"It's not your fault, don't be silly," Christine shushed the girl. They entered the staff lounge, and Christine immediately began pouring herself a cup of coffee. She glanced at Laura out of the corner of her eye and noticed that while the girl was still nibbling on her lip, looking somewhat ashamed…there was still that dreamy look in her eyes. "I trust you had a pleasant holiday?"
Laura snapped her head back in Christine's direction. "Oh! Oh yes, it was very nice to see my family…and I told them all about New York Chique, and meeting you, and…just how wonderful this city truly is…"
Something was clearly up with the girl. It seemed as though Laura were the one floating on cloud nine!
"I didn't see you in the office yesterday…although I was rather…preoccupied…" she groaned as she recalled Antoinette's sudden appearance the day before, and how she and Brian had spent the entire morning, playing witness to her and Meg's argument.
"I too was busy, actually," Laura murmured, blushing deeply. "I um…I wanted to get my work done, so I didn't leave my own desk until it was time to go home…and I did leave a little earlier than normal…I hope that's alright?"
Christine smiled and took a sip from her mug. "So long as you get your work done, that's all that really matters. And trust me, sometimes you have to get out of this place in order to get any work done!"
Laura giggled, but her expression soon grew very serious. She looked around, taking note that no one else was approaching the staff lounge, and then rushed towards Christine, her voice a low whisper. "I saw him again!"
Christine's brow furrowed with confusion. "Saw who?"
Laura blushed deeply, but continued smiling. "Him! The man I told you about? The one who I met at the Chinese restaurant, who invited me to join him for dinner, just before I went home for Thanksgiving?"
"Oh! Oh yes, him, I remember," Christine murmured, recalling Laura's tale about the handsome stranger who had kindly offered her his umbrella on that fateful, rainy night. "What about him?"
Laura only grinned more. "I saw him again last night!"
So that explained the dreamy looks. "Let me guess…at the Chinese restaurant?"
Laura blushed and couldn't help but giggle. "Guilty as charged!"
Christine joined in the younger woman's laughter, although something inside her, the knowledgeable Happy Single, told her that something wasn't right. Whoever this mysterious, handsome stranger was, he certainly seemed to have his frequent hideaways, much like a predator, who always returned to the same watering hole…
"Anyway, I just…I don't know, I just had this feeling that maybe I would run into him there, and so I left work early, rushed home, cleaned myself up, hurried to the restaurant…and there he was! And do you know what he said to me?"
Christine had several ideas, but she shook her head, allowing Laura to tell her story.
"He said…'I had a feeling I might find you here…and I was hoping I would be right'…" she let out another sigh, and leaned back against the counter, her hands folded and clasped against her chest, as if in prayer, her eyes fluttering shut as she smiled. "And then we had dinner together…and just talked and talked and talked until they had to close…"
Christine's brow furrowed with discomfort. Something wasn't right…
"So…he was just…waiting there for you? He wasn't eating, he was just sitting there, waiting on the off chance that you might stop by?"
Laura's eyes snapped open and turned to face Christine, her smile fading at the other woman's questions. "I…w-w-well, yes, I know that's what it looks like—"
"It looks creepy, Laura, that's what it looks like," Christine muttered, before taking another sip from her mug.
Laura's face fell even more at Christine's words. "I…I…I t-thought what he said was very romantic…"
"What he said was exactly what you wanted to hear, the guy sounds like a classic womanizer, a man who views seduction as an art form and who makes a profession at wooing unsuspecting girls, filling their ears with romantic phrases in order to hide the fact that they are stalking you! I mean, so far, the two of you have only met in the same location! When he invited you out to dinner, you had it there at the restaurant! All your meetings have been at the restaurant! Don't you find it strange that the guy hasn't done anything else, much less taken you anywhere else—"
"Miss Davis," Laura interrupted. Christine was surprised to see the change in the young woman. The admiration that once filled her eyes when she looked upon Christine was gone completely now, replaced by something else. "I appreciate your concern, after all, I believe your advice to single women is most helpful and empowering, yet if I may say so, I believe you are in the wrong."
Christine was taken aback by Laura's reproach. "I am?"
"Indeed," Laura looked at her straight in the eye, and Christine felt a distinct chill. "Both you and I have been hurt by men in the past, so I can understand where your resentment towards the male gender comes from, but I am starting to believe that you have bought into the feminist cliché that all men are bastards."
Christine felt as if someone had slapped her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words would come out.
"Or perhaps you have been writing a singles advice column for so long, that you have forgotten about the joy of being in a romantic relationship?" her eyes narrowed as she looked upon Christine. "Or maybe you want everyone to suffer and feel as miserable as you do, so you can better sell your single propaganda?"
"That's harsh, Laura," Christine managed to get out, after finding her voice. "And if I offended you, I am sorry, but you should take some advice from someone who not so long ago, was in your shoes, arriving in a big city that held many possibilities…as well as many dangers. I know men like your Mr. Wonderful, men who prey upon women using tricks and words just as he used, and yes, I suppose it is unfair to assume he is like them, but it is good advice to take, especially from someone who you know is only thinking of your well being."
Laura stiffened her spine and began to back away from Christine. "I thank you for that advice, Miss Davis," she icily replied. "But I kindly ask that you refrain from dispensing any further advice my way. If I am in need of it, I know exactly what page to look up in any past issue of New York Chique."
Christine watched as Laura turned on her heel and stalked away, her red ponytail bobbing behind her.
What had just happened? One moment Laura was all smiles and giggles, and the next…
"Oh God…" Christine groaned, hanging her head and rubbing her temples. Laura's words were harsh; they had cut deeply, as they were meant to, but Christine couldn't bring herself to blame the girl. How would she feel if the situation were reversed? How would she feel if someone she knew and even admired, said such things about Erik? She would hate it! And was Laura right? Was Christine simply making a bad judgment call, based on past experiences, and unfairly assuming this guy was a jerk?All men are bastards…
They weren't, of course. Brian was a good guy, as were some of her other male coworkers. Stephen Dulane was proving to be wonderful, Meg even referred to him as her "Prince Charming"! And then there was Erik…her noble gentleman, the man who apologized for giving in to what she hoped were his own pent-up passions, passions that very much matched her own feelings…
Christine jumped at the sound of Brian's voice. She quickly wiped her face, surprised to realize that a few tears had fallen, before finally turning to face her friend. How long had he been standing there? She wasn't sure, but she couldn't help but notice the concerned look in his eyes.
"Are you ok?"
"I'm fine, just getting some coffee," Christine lied, before grabbing her mug and moving past her friend before he could question her further.
Brian, however, didn't give up on the subject. "I just saw Laura, she looked…upset, and I wasn't sure—"
"We had a slight disagreement, that's all, but everything's fine," Christine grumbled, not meeting Brian's eyes as she made her way back to her cubicle. He was one of the last people she wanted to talk to about her insecurities around members of the opposite sex. Brian had been a witness to many of Christine's botched boyfriends and bad first dates; that was probably when he began to take a more "paternal" role with her, trying to get to know these men, trying to judge whether or not they were "worthy" of her. Brian was always sure to never overstep his boundaries, and Christine knew it was because he cared for her that he insisted on meeting them, which explained his annoying insistence on meeting Erik.
However, while Brian knew about Christine's bad history with men, he was also worried about her going the other way, meaning that he was worried she would close herself off completely, and not allow anyone to get close to her.
Christine flumped down into her chair and tried to focus on her computer, hoping to just forget about everything that had transpired between herself and Laura, when she noticed out of the corner of her eye a message, lying atop her phone, in Brian's handwriting.
"What's this?" she asked, looking up at Brian, who was still hovering nearby, looking concerned. The message simply read "Friday, 7pm, Madison Square Garden".
"Oh! Oh um…that…w-well…" Brian's concern for Christine suddenly melted into concern for himself. He was smiling, but anyone could tell it looked forced, and somewhat sheepish…as if he were trying to look innocent. "While you were talking with Laura…your um…well, your phone rang…"
Christine's eyes immediately went wide, and she could feel the color drain from her face. No…oh God, no, don't tell me I missed him! "Who…was…it?" Christine asked, trying her hardest to keep her temper.
"I…well…" Brian took a deep breath and prayed that because they were in the office, Christine wouldn't blow her top. "It was Erik."
"WHAT!?" Christine practically screamed, bolting upright out of her chair. Erik had called…he had called and she hadn't been there to answer it! "WHY DIDN'T YOU PUT HIM ON HOLD?! WHY DIDN'T YOU COME AND GET ME!?"
Brian was shrinking at every scream, and he kept glancing around, noticing how everyone had stopped what they were doing and looking at the two of them. "Chris, calm down, please—"
"OH! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!" she groaned, burying her face in her hands and muttering several more words, all of which were hard to understand, however the tone revealed what couldn't be heard. She finally lifted her head and glared at Brian. "What did you say…?" she growled, looking ready to launch herself at him if she didn't like what he told her.
Brian swallowed the nervous lump in his throat. "I…I told him y-you would be right back, but…but he said he had an appointment…a-a-and apologize for having to go…"
Christine's annoyed anger instantly dissolved at Brian's words. It was Erik who hung up? Erik who couldn't wait? I'm sure he has a perfectly good reason, Christine told herself. He'll probably call again; don't go into a panic attack! But still, a part of her felt as if someone had splashed ice-cold water in her face. She couldn't deny that she was indeed shocked by Brian's revelation.
"He sounds like a decent guy," Brian murmured.
Christine gave Brian a look before collapsing once more into her chair. "So what does this mean?" she asked, pointing to the message that Brian had written down.
Brian smiled, but it was that sheepish smile he had been wearing earlier, and Christine noticed how he was slowly backing away. "Well…I…I um…" he cleared his throat and came right out with it. "After learning who he was, I immediately introduced myself and invited the two of you to join Susan and me this Friday at the Knicks game."
Brian didn't even have the chance to duck into his cubicle before Christine was on her feet and roaring.
After telling him over and over that the answer was "no", Brian went behind her back and invited Erik! She knew it was because Brian was eager to meet Erik, but she could not believe the invasion of privacy that he had conducted to do it! "HOW COULD YOU!? I TOLD YOU NO—"
"Erik liked the idea!" Brian quickly defended, lifting his hands as if to shield himself, should flames mysteriously escape Christine's mouth.
Christine, who had risen from her chair once more, and was advancing upon Brian, froze at the older man's words.
Erik liked the idea of going to a public, televised basketball game? But…she remembered how uncomfortable he seemed when they were out in public, particularly in unfamiliar places where there were lots of people. "Brian, I swear, if you're lying…"
"I'm not lying!" Brian defended again. "I swear, I'm telling the truth! I know, I know, you told me not to insist on it, but…I…I just thought…well, what better way for two guys to get to know each other than at a sports event?"
"This isn't YOUR date, Brian, it's MINE! And you had no right to do what you did!"
Brian sighed and looked down at the ground. "Ok, I know, I shouldn't have, but…after I mentioned it, he truly sounded keen on the idea! And wanted me to give you the details, that the four of us would meet outside Madison Square Garden, on Friday, at 7! Yes, I made the suggestion, but truly, it was his idea! Honest!"
Christine was more confused than ever. Had she misjudged Erik? Maybe he went to Madison Square Garden all the time, maybe he loved basketball so much that he didn't care about being seen in public? Then a new idea struck her. "Brian, these tickets that Susan and you won, are they by any chance…in a box?"
"I wish," Brian joked. "But no, although thank heaven they're not in the nosebleed section. They're not courtside either, just…well, smack in the middle, I think."
Christine frowned. If they had a private box at the arena, then she could understand Erik's decision. But they weren't in a box, they were right in the middle of all those strangers!
Maybe I have misread him, maybe I'm all wrong about him? Maybe I'm all wrong about men, period?
"Chris?" Brian asked, noticing how Christine was hanging her head and rubbing her temples. "Chris, are you feeling ok?"
"Yes, yes, I'm fine, just…I have a headache, that's all," she muttered, before turning her back on her friend and collapsing in her own cubicle. Work was going to be impossible now; she could barely concentrate on anything but her silent phone, which quietly sat next to her computer. She stared at it for a long time, willing for it to ring, wanting to hear him so badly, especially after the mishaps of the previous night.
But other phones around her rang, and other voices spoke into them. Even Susan, Brian's wife, called, and she listened as Brian relayed the news that Erik and Christine would join the two of them on Friday. How she longed to have Meg there to talk to; how she longed to have Erik!
But despite her longing and her wishing, the phone remained silent, even as the minutes ticked into hours.
Erik hated it, in fact, he was hating it even more now as he was tapping his fingers upon his desk, and listening to the never-ending soft rock music that was playing on the other end of the phone. He glanced at his clock and felt his teeth clench as he took into account how long he had been on hold. If he had known this, he would never have dreamed of hanging up and not waiting to talk to Christine, something that he was dearly regretting now.
He had been thinking of her all night, in fact he hadn't been able to sleep since he had visited her apartment and left the note and the rose for her to find. A part of him was kicking himself over and over for not staying and waiting for her to return, but another part of him was telling himself that he had done the right thing, that if he had stayed, things would have felt awkward, especially after his bold behavior.
God, she had felt good in his arms. Despite the fact that he couldn't sleep, he laid upon his bed and stared up at the ceiling, replaying over and over everything that had happened, the feel of her body pressed against his, her arms around his neck, her fingers in his hair, and he remembered every curve of her body, the sweet fragrance of her skin, and the even sweeter taste of her lips. He had been longing to kiss her since he had met her, and last night, it had finally happened!
However…he had not been planning on…well…other stuff, happening. Not that it did, of course. Meg's desperate phone call stopped anything further from happening, something which Erik both cursed and thanked the heavens above for. He wanted Christine, anyone could see that, God he wanted her so badly! But he hadn't touched a woman in ten years! It had been so long ago, Erik even found himself wondering if he remembered how to…well…
The image of Christine's sweet, naked body beneath his own, the feel of her breasts pressed against his chest, of her legs wrapping around his, of her fingers running down his spine, her head thrown back and her voice desperately crying for him to make love to her…
Shame it was only a fantasy, a dream that had been replaying many times over and over in his mind, both when he was sleeping and awake.
If they did make love…and he prayed that they would (and soon), he wanted to make sure it was at the perfect time. He didn't know a great deal about Christine's past, but he gathered based on little things she had told him, that it was not good, at least not when it came to men. He wanted to make her happy, he wanted to sweep her off her feet, and God above, he wanted to make her forget about all those other bastards.
He wanted her to fall in love with him…just as much as he had fallen in love with her.
And it was going to be difficult! After all, he highly doubted that any of Christine's past boyfriends looked like…well, to put it bluntly, "pulverized meat." But he had to remind himself over and over how…how passionately, she had kissed him back. That was not a fantasy, she had responded to his kiss, she had responded to his touch, and it truly seemed that she cared for him deeply!
But he wanted to do more for her, and when he briefly spoke to her coworker on the phone, he truly thought he had found a way to do just that. So he hung up after briefly talking with Brian, the idea still fresh in his mind, even though a part of him was screaming that this whole idea was crazy! He was extremely self-conscious when amongst crowds of people, and he would be even more so, in an arena surrounded by rowdy sports fans and television cameras.
Not to mention there was the possibility that she would hate him for what he was attempting to do…
But it was something she had always dreamed about, something she wanted to conquer, something that he believed the world needed to hear…and if, in the end, it put a smile on her face, even for the briefest moment…then it would be worth all the embarrassment and discomfort he would feel in such a crowded place.
"Hello, Mr. Henry? Thank you for holding," came the lazy voice of a woman who sounded anything but thankful.
"It's Henri," Erik corrected, trying to control his temper. He had been holding for nearly an hour! "And I hope that you were able to find some answers for me—"
"Yeah, I spoke with my boss," the woman mumbled, not seeming to care that she was being rude. "I don't think this is going to work, Mr. Henry. We have a schedule to maintain, one that is made months in advance, and we can't allow every man to put his girlfriend—"
"How much?" Erik was gripping the edge of his desk, trying desperately to hold his temper in check. He had waited for an hour, he had hung up before speaking with Christine; they were not getting rid of him that easily.
The woman groaned, obviously annoyed that this conversation was continuing. "It's not a matter of money, Mr. Henry…"
That was a load of bullshit. "Whom do you have on schedule, then?" he growled.
The woman did not seem to realize that she was treading on dangerous ground. "I can't disclose that information, sir, I'm sorry—"
"Like hell you are," Erik muttered. "Is there someone else I can talk to? Your superior perhaps?"
He could hear her rolling her eyes. "I'm afraid that won't be possible, Mr. Henry—"
"IT'S HENRI!" Erik shouted into the phone, his temper completely gone now. "AND IF YOU DON'T ANSWER THE QUESTIONS THAT I HAVE ASKED, OR GIVEN ME WHAT I BELIEVE ARE SUFFICIENT ANSWERS, THEN I WILL TAKE A TAXI TO YOUR OFFICE, AND BANG ON YOUR DOOR UNTIL EITHER YOU ANSWER, OR SECURITY DRAGS ME AWAY!" his voice lowered then to a dangerous level. "And I really wouldn't recommend that you do that…"
The answer that Erik received was the sound of the phone being hung up. He groaned and ran his hands through his hair, before gripping the elastic bands of his mask and flinging the cursed item from his face. Fine…so that was how it was going to be? Very well...
"Amy! Amy, get in here!"
Amy, the receptionist who had hung up on a crazy man with a confusing last name, entered her boss' office, looking annoyed that she was being dragged away from the game of solitaire that she was playing on her computer. "Yeah?"
A man with a brown moustache and beard looked up at the young receptionist, his face frowning deeply. "I just got off the phone with Ms. Rossum's agent; she's pulled out of Friday night's appearance!"
Amy didn't see what the big deal was. "Ok, so we'll go down the list and get that kid who came in second place on American Idol—"
"Ms. Rossum's agent told me that the reason she canceled was because she was deeply upset with how we wouldn't consider the request of an…" he looked at the piece of paper he had written the message on. "Of an Erik Henri…does that name sound familiar to you?"
Amy's face paled momentarily, before she rolled her eyes skyward and let out a long groan. "The guy's a nut job—"
"That may be, but whatever he is, he's someone who obviously has high connections and great influence! And the last thing I need is our name sullied because you couldn't be bothered to listen to the man's requests properly!"
"He wanted to get his girlfriend—"
"Yes, yes, I know," her boss groaned with a wave of his hand. "I know all about that…but did you, Amy, know that he was willing to double the price that we were going to pay Ms. Rossum? DOUBLE!"
Amy folded her arms in front of her. "He never said anything about the amount of money—"
"Just get out of my office," her boss snapped, waiving his hand to shoo her away and rolling his eyes, wishing that the girl was not related to the owner of the New York Knicks; this was not the first time she had caused problems for his office. He immediately dialed the number that was left for him, hoping that the man was at home, and summoning his patience as he waited for someone to answer.
"Hello! Mr. Henri? Yes, this Michael, I'm the—"
"I know who you are and why you're calling," Erik finished, his tone cold, but open to reason. "I trust you received my message?"
"Yes, yes sir, I spoke with Ms. Rossum's agent just a few minutes ago, who explained everything, and may I say, this was all just one, big, misunderstanding, and I apologize deeply for the incompetence of my staff—"
"Yes, yes, thank you very much, but all I want to know is if it's possible to have Miss Davis take Ms. Rossum's place this Friday?"
Erik Henri was a man that didn't waste time! "Yes! Oh, yes sir, that won't be a problem at all!" the man immediately picked up a pencil and began writing Christine's name down on a piece of paper. "I'm penciling her name in as we speak, Mr. Henri."
"Good," Erik muttered. "I'll mail you the check later this week."
"Oh, thank you sir," the man murmured, trying to sound honored, as if he were receiving a generous donation, to cover up the greed in his voice. "And if there is anything that I or my staff can do for you—"
"I wouldn't trust your staff to pick up my dry cleaning, sir," Erik growled.
The man swallowed the lump in his throat, imagining this powerful man that had celebrity connections and arm loads of money to throw here and there all in the name of his girlfriend. "I…I um…I hope that you will also extend my good wishes to Ms. Rossum, when next you speak with her?"
There was no answer, only the dial tone that greeted the man's ear.
In his apartment, Erik gazed at the hung-up phone and couldn't help but grin. He then picked up his cell phone and dialed Jonathon's number.
"Did it work?" Jonathon asked, knowing it was Erik the second the phone rang.
"Like a charm," Erik grinned. "You really must remind me to thank Wendy for her connections to the Broadway crowd."
"I don't know if that's so much her, or the theater company she works for. But in her line of work, she does meet a lot of stars…and their agents."
"True," Erik agreed. "We're just lucky that Ms. Rossum is a romantic, and was willing to believe my story."
Jonathon couldn't help but laugh. "We're also lucky that you have a former client in the custodial office at Madison Square Garden who can hack into their computer system and get the list of names on their schedule!"
"Indeed," Erik nodded his head, making a mental note to send Jerry a thank you gift later.
"So, it's all coming together then," Jonathon grinned, trying to imagine his friend who loathed crowds, in a place like Madison Square Garden. "She must mean a lot to you…"
Erik felt his face burn, but he couldn't help but smile. "She does," he murmured, more to himself perhaps, than to Jonathon.
I love her.
However, he wasn't prepared to tell Jonathon that intimate a detail about his feelings for Christine.
"So, do the two of you have any dinner plans for that evening?"
"No, according to her coworker, we're all just meeting at the Garden right before the game starts."
"Great!" Jonathon grinned. "That means the two of you can come to our house for dinner! What sort of food does she like? Even if Wendy doesn't know it, she'll figure out some way to cook it!"
Erik's smile vanished at his friend's invitation. It was one thing to spend his date with Christine's friends…but to spend it with his as well? It just seemed a little too much…
"Jonathon, I appreciate the offer, but—"
"Oh come on, buddy! Wendy and I are your closest friends, your first successful couple! Don't you think that we deserve to meet the lucky lady, the woman who has stolen the Date Phantom's heart, the woman who possess such a power that Erik Henri is willing to go to crowded, public places, and make crazy phone calls, requesting the unthinkable—"
"ALRIGHT!" Erik shouted, groaning and running his fingers over his disfigured flesh. "Fine, I give up, you win. Christine and I will be there, at 5:30, Friday evening."
Jonathon just grinned. "I'll tell Wendy the good news. No doubt she'll start planning tonight," he laughed. "Alrighty! See you Friday!" and with that, Erik was left with the sound of the dial tone in his ear.
Two double dates in the same night. One with his friends, and one with Christine's. Erik bit his lip, wondering if perhaps he should call Jonathon back and cancel; maybe it was too much to take on? But then again, he had agreed to her own friend's suggestion about going to the basketball game, without even discussing the possibility with her! What if she didn't like basketball? What if she wanted to have a more private evening? Oh God, what if she hated him for what he was trying to arrange!?
But it was too late now. He only prayed that Christine didn't hate him; that she would understand that he was doing this to help her achieve those dreams she had mentioned to him on the night of their first, official date.
I should call her back, he thought to himself. He hated having to hang up before talking to her, and he longed to hear her voice, especially now as he nervously remembered the previous night. He grabbed a hold of his phone and quickly dialed the numbers, drumming his fingers impatiently against his desk as he waited for someone to pick up.
"New York Chique Magazine, my name is Karen, how can I help you?"
"Hello again, Karen," Erik greeted the office receptionist warmly. Karen didn't know it, but he had given romance advice to her husband many months ago, which, according to several emails he had received, had strengthened…as well as spiced up, their marriage.
"Oh! Mr. Henri," Karen greeted back, giggling and blushing ever so slightly. "How nice to hear your voice again."
Erik smiled. "May I speak with Miss Davis?" His hopeful smile faded however, at the receptionist's words.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Henri, but Christine's gone home for the day."
"Gone home?" Erik asked, startled by Karen's revelation. He glanced at his watch, noting that it wasn't that late, and immediately his brow creased with worry. "Is she alright?"
"Well, she looked a little depressed, I must confess…" Karen sighed. "But she said everything was alright, that she only had a bad headache, and would work from home today. Do you want me to connect you with her voicemail?"
Erik was already rising to his feet and placing his mask back over his face. "Thank you, Karen, but no. I'll try to reach Miss Davis at home."
He didn't even wait to hear Karen's farewell; he was already pulling on his coat and heading out the door.