An April Mood. (Charles Burchfield, watercolor and charcoal on paper, 1946-1955)

Lovino put his pen down, removed his glasses, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Things had started out pretty poorly this morning, and hadn't improved. He glared out the windows of his executive suite at the rainy afternoon. The city looked as bleak as he currently felt.

Dark-haired, slender, and almost perpetually irritated, Lovino Vargas was one of the city's youngest entrepreneurs. When his stepfather had died two years ago, leaving him a fairly sizeable fortune, he'd decided to diversify into some smaller businesses that appealed to him, rather than following in his stepfather's footsteps as the head of a large business conglomerate. He'd sold out, putting most of his assets into investments, but continued to maintain personal control over a few more interesting ventures.

At the age of twenty he'd inherited a small Italian firm that hand-built race cars; this company had been started by his maternal grandfather, and he considered it his true inheritance. The firm built only four cars a year, to exacting standards, and they sold for a very great deal of money. He used that money to fund his own obsession with cars, keeping at least two in each city where he regularly did business. Here in the District, he kept a restored Triumph Spitfire for his daily runabout and a Jaguar XK-E for those more important occasions. Very important to own only two-seaters: this meant he couldn't be roped into driving large groups of people around. Not many of his associates even knew about the E-type. He tried to keep it that way. Then again, he hadn't been socializing much at all, lately. Work was out of control.

Lovino was now twenty-six and in addition to the race car firm, he owned a small independent American publishing house in New York, a French winery, a small hotel (also in Italy), and an art gallery here in Washington. It was this gallery that was causing his current frustration.

His education had been business-based, and he'd been very successful in school and afterwards, in the business world. But Lovino was also a bit of a dilettante; he liked all kinds of art, but he liked it for its own sake. Attempts at studying art as elective were colossal failures. He couldn't dissect an image and see what made it praiseworthy; he only knew that he liked it, or that he didn't. When the small gallery had come up for sale last year, he'd bought it impulsively, hoping to be able to learn more about the workings behind an artist's creativity. This attempt had failed. Lovino hadn't even set foot in the gallery for the last six months.

And today he'd learned that his gallery manager, Ms. Taylor, was resigning. He put his head down on the desk. "Dammit." At least she'd given him two months' notice.

Well, he had two choices: sell it, or keep it going. Selling it was an easy option, except for the possibility of losing money on the deal. Lovino hated to lose money. It was like an admission of failure. But he was reasonably certain he could unload it fairly quickly. Tomorrow he'd go down and take a look at it. Not to make any hasty sales decisions, and not to talk Ms. Taylor into staying, either. He just wanted to cast an eye over the place, since he hadn't been there in so long. See if he should make the effort to sell. It would make the rest of his workload easier, if he didn't have to factor the gallery's business operations into his daily schedule.

Or should he keep it? He had only two employees there: Ms. Taylor and an older man who came in from time to time to help hang paintings, shift displays, and the like. No chance of promoting him. Lovino would need to find a new gallery manager. This too would probably not be difficult. There were several placement firms in the area that could likely help him; Ms. Taylor could do the actual interviews. The gallery did make money, and he also felt comfortable actually having one of his own businesses in the city where he'd chosen to live. It would be a bit silly, living in Washington with all his businesses being out of the area. But again, that was minor.

As he raised his head off the desk to make some more notes, he caught a glimpse of his dragon tattoo showing through his sleeve. Dammit, he couldn't even get good shirts anymore! Lovino made a mental note to throw this one away and pay more attention to his wardrobe. He wouldn't be taken seriously with the big black tattoo visible on his bicep through the thin fabric of a cheap dress shirt.

Argh. Nothing, nothing was going right today. He put his glasses back on, picked up the pen, and got back to his work.

Chapters in this story will all be named after artworks I like.