Ch. 3 – The Gallery

I am posting Chapter 3 of my paranormal romance, A Quiet Moment. I hope everyone is doing all right during this challenging time. Peace to everyone.

The Gallery:

Chapter 3

The scene was familiar. It was her favorite place to rendezvous, the cliff overlooking the tumultuous ocean. At times, it was difficult to soak in the fact that they had been meeting like this, oftentimes in this same location, for over fifteen years.

Iris’s soft gaze met hers. What troubles you so much Lily?

She sat down beside her sort of curling into a protective ball. You certainly have been scarce this past week.

Her voice was serene and modulated, talking to her very much the same way she had when she was a child. I thought you needed some time to let things settle.

She breathed in deeply the cool ocean air, being here and being near Iris did always seem to calm her. I wouldn’t exactly say that things were settling down, just the opposite in fact.

You can’t dodge your life, your path Lily. It simply doesn’t work that way.

What do you mean my path?

You remember when you were asked to come here, to leave all that was familiar to you and to come out here.

I remember. She brushed her hair out of her eyes. The breeze was strong now. It had seemed like fairly a lifetime ago that she was asked to do this. It had been hard and so alien to her here. But she’d done it, for nearly four and a half years knowing that when it reached five, she could go home. You said my presence was needed here. I could help in some way.

Iris smiled at her, her flawless beauty radiating and warming her. And you have Lily. You have touched so many lives and helped in so many ways.

Yes, but the time here is ending.

It is, but it has not ended yet. Her heart clutched a bit and she remembered her dilemma. There is no reason to worry Lily. You have tended to others for so long, but there is your own life to tend to.

Wait a minute. This doesn’t have anything to do with my own life. It’s this man. He’s very powerful. I’ve felt his energy force.

Calm down.

I am calm, but she could feel that fluttering panic picking up again.

You must tend to your own house. You have been alone too long Lily. Everything changes.

No wait. I don’t know how to deal with him.

There is little I can do to help you here except tell you to look inside yourself for answers. Don’t try to avoid your path. All it will do is postpone it.

Her head slumped a bit. I don’t know why I’m afraid.

I know, but you don’t need to be. I am with you Lily. I am with you.

And then her vision came back into focus and all she could see before her was the flickering flame of the white candle that she had lit. Returning from a meditation usually left her in a serene state, but she did not feel serene. She felt confused.

It was 1:30 P.M. and Joan would be picking her up in several hours. She had insisted on driving. She had a truck, and it wasn’t outside the possibility that it would snow. She lay back on her bed. She simply would steel herself, dress smashingly, and get through the evening. There was a good possibility that Jacob Wyss would have rethought his interest in her and not give her the time of day. Yes, she said to herself that was a possibility. But contemplating that scenario didn’t exactly please her. Contrary to all prior anxieties on her part, she found this particular possibility depressing.

He didn’t know if Bob had said something else to him. He didn’t know if the ceiling of art gallery was crashing in. All he knew was that he was moving across the room to Frances who had just released the hand of Aimee Marston. Frances turned to him with an animated smile, seemingly unfazed by his sudden manifestation by her side. “Oh, and here is our artist now. Jacob I was just telling Ms. Marston what an enthusiastic reception your collection is getting.”

“Well I wasn’t sure if they liked my paintings or the food.”

Frances laughed with just the fringes of a steely edge. She was a very nice lady, but this was definitely business for her. “Jacob has a wonderful sense of humor. Ms. Marston is from The Quest Jacob.” That was definitely a warning. But he couldn’t seem to care. This dreary and painful exercise into the world of selling himself had suddenly and delightfully been turned on its head.

He extended his hand to Aimee’s. “Ms. Marston and I have met,” and then his eyes locked on hers, “but I didn’t know you were a writer.”

There was no hesitation this time, not like the bookstore. She had already stashed her gloves in her coat pocket, the coat that was draped across her arm and a nice arm at that.

Aimee returned his grasp and the well-remembered current of electrical force flowed between them again. She met his gaze coolly, “but I did know you were an artist.” He released the hand a little reluctantly, but given the circumstances there wasn’t much alternative.

Frances’ eyes flickered over them with a little confusion, “So you’ve met?”

Jacob nodded, “Yes, the other day actually. Aimee doesn’t mind traveling out in snowstorms either.”

Frances didn’t care to explore this. He could tell. Her eyes were darting around them now, scooping out other potential targets for schmoozing or whatever they called it these days. There was no doubt that she was itchy to continue working the crowd. “Then Jacob, I’ll let you give her the tour while I attend to some other things.” She patted his arm, and then gave a cursory smile to Aimee before she moved on.

He smiled glancing at her coat. “Would you like to get rid of that? We actually have a coat rack in here.”

She looked very calm, professional — too bad, just when he was in the mood to play. “I have a photographer with me, but I guess she’s off somewhere getting her shots.”

They moved across the room where Jacob unceremoniously took the coat from her arm, brushing the cool fabric of her purple dress. “Did I mention how lovely you look tonight?” He draped her coat on a hook of the wooden coat stand. It was an odd piece, very primordial looking, sort of like a gnarled tree. No wonder few people had availed themselves of its use, probably worried that if they broke it, they’d have to pay for it.

“Do you shower all the press with compliments?” she murmured.

He glanced to her. Yes, she was definitely on the job, he sensed, like Frances. It was a veneer, a veneer he was feeling too impatient to deal with.

“Only the beautiful ones.” The green eyes met his with a tad of unease. Hmm veneer cracking now, was this good or bad?  “I’m a little surprised to see you here. When I mentioned it to you at the bookstore, you didn’t seem too interested.”

“That’s not really true.” His directness was catching her off guard. That was good. He decided in that moment that he liked Aimee Marston off guard. She looked softer, more vulnerable. “Actually, I’m sort of filling in for a colleague. His son broke his arm.”

Ouch that hurt, “So you’re being here was unplanned?”

She didn’t answer. She had stopped sort of abruptly, her eyes focused before her. They were standing in front of his Crystallique Dominion. It was one of his more fantastical creations, a departure from his usual stuff. The chapel he had seen years ago as a child, but he had placed it in a new setting, in the mountains near his home. The colors were all muted, dream-like. In fact, sometimes he thought that was where this had come to him in a dream. She was just staring at it silently. Her focus was entirely before her now. “This is beautiful Jacob,” her voice was almost a whisper. There was something odd in her voice, unexpected. He could feel it on his skin. What was it with this woman? Why did she elicit such unpredictable and oddly textured reactions from him?

There was a swirling sound in her ears, in her mind, everywhere perhaps. There was no question that this structure in the picture was familiar, a memory or maybe instead a shadow of the future. She couldn’t be sure. The colors radiated from it like the spectrum of a rainbow, but he hadn’t painted it this way. She could see the powerful waves of energy pulsating from the canvas, occupying all the space close to it. How could he imbue his creations with such energy? She didn’t know such a thing was possible. The power leapt out to her, reeling her in.

His hand touched her arm. It was almost like a shock, yanking her back to where she was. He whispered in her hair, “Are you all right?”

She turned to him, his eyes. “This is really something,” she managed to get out.

There was a slight smile from him, covering other things she thought. “Is that good?”

She felt dizzy, must get a grip, must keep hold. Suddenly at her side and perhaps thankfully, Joan arrived. “Wow, this one is really cool.”

Joan was still in her short black leather jacket and, as she had aptly described, very short black dress. Aimee swallowed on a dry throat. “This is my photographer,” she indicated. “Joan Lundi, this is Jacob Wyss.”

Joan smiled broadly and held out her hand, “Pleasure to meet you. I’ve got to tell you these things usually bore me to tears, but your stuff is really interesting — sort of traditional and edgy at the same time.”

His eyes seemed to be sparkling a bit as he returned the handshake, “Thanks for your assessment. Actually, these things bore me to tears too.”

“Not the coat and tie sort?”

“No, not exactly.”

And then there was an awkward moment that Aimee didn’t exactly expect. So, Joan, as was her custom, filled in abominably. “Well our Aimee here is a virgin.”

Aimee’s eyes got huge with the shock of what she’d just heard. “I mean this is her first art showing,” she laughed. “I guess that didn’t sound too good. She’s a fabulous writer though. You should read her stuff.” And then her eyes spotted a circulating waiter. “I think I’ll go get something to eat,” and she was gone.

Aimee glanced at Jacob who looked as though he had enjoyed that a bit. “Well, that was Joan.”

“Quite a tornado Joan.”

“Yes, that’s one way of putting it.”

Jacob glanced across the room at a huddle a finely dressed people. He caught Bob’s eye somewhere in the midst of it motioning him to come over. “I think I’m being summoned.”

“Don’t worry about me. I sort of need to feel my way around anyway, for the story.”

He stared back at her tentatively for a moment making her feel a bit like some exotic wild bird that he wasn’t sure of. “Just don’t disappear on me, without us talking again.”

“All right,” she smiled. The intense way he was looking at her was making breathing a bit difficult.

“That’s a promise.”

“You don’t trust me.”

“I find you elusive.”

“Well, I’m going to need some comments, for the story.”

He nodded, “Right, I’ll think up something witty to say,” and then he was gone. She looked again at the Crystallique Dominion but did not allow herself to be drawn into its web this time.

“Have you looked at all of his stuff? I mean some of it’s really gorgeous, detailed.”

“Yes, he has an eye for detail.” She was studying a collection of portraits. There were only a handful of these. He was more comfortable with panoramic vistas, rather than the intimate paintings, the personal ones. There were two young children, twins she thought, playing beneath a tree. The tree was lush, in the full glory of autumn, and the young girls were both blond. She could see them in her mind, laughing, giggling, not wanting to sit still. They were neighbors, just down the road from him. He had captured them, their vitality, and unencumbered spirits. She felt his hand on the canvas, sketching first, then mixing the colors and then more subtly, but there just the same, waves of pain, envy, longing.

“Hey Aimee, are you with me?”

She blinked and pulled back from her impressions. How in the world could she put any of this together in one coherent article that anyone would want to read? There was so much powerful emotion everywhere. His work was dripping with it. “What did you say?” she murmured trying to mask her irritation.

“I said, do you want something to eat?”

She glanced over at Joan. It was clear that she had found the munchies — little sandwiches, vegetables dipped in something unidentifiable on a plate all being washed down with a glistening glass of wine. “Hey, don’t drink too much. You’re driving me home.”

“Don’t worry, this is my first. Do you want a glass? You look like you need to relax.”

She smiled, “I don’t think I should be mixing cold medicine with anything that might put me in a coma.”

Joan sort of leaned against her making Aimee wonder if indeed this was her first, but then again, she was a touchy feely sort of person. When she did land a man, he better be ready for plenty of affection. “Look, if you took it this morning, you are free and clear. It’s after five thirty.”

She glanced down at her watch. She was right. She hadn’t noticed the time slipping away so quickly. All evening she had been moving from painting to painting, absorbing impressions trying to figure out a good angle for writing and admittedly, at the same time, trying to figure out their creator. In many ways he was a significant enigma to her. There were many deep, chaotic chasms that she was detecting beneath his serene surface.

She shook her head, “I don’t want anything right now, maybe later. Did you get a shot of this one?”

Joan shook her head, “No, I hadn’t noticed it, less in your face than some of the others, but it is nice.”

Aimee stepped back so that Joan could get a clear shot. “Some of the other paintings are more technically impressive, but I like this one. It captures a mood, a feeling. It’s very layered.”

Joan shrugged, “If you say so. You’re the writer.”

As Frances or Bob took their shifts navigating him through the social quagmire of this event Jacob’s attention couldn’t help but wander. His eyes couldn’t help scanning every crevice of the gallery that was within his range until he could find her again. Once she was completely out of his line of vision for nearly half an hour and he wondered if she hadn’t made good on her promise to stick around. But finally, he saw a blur of purple again, and he relaxed.

Without being near him much of the time she was entertaining him tonight. He was enjoying studying her from afar. He’d noticed she wasn’t socializing in the least with other people, only speaking occasionally to her photographer. Not to his credit her name had slipped from his mind nearly moments after he’d heard it. He watched as she slowly moved from painting to painting, some spending merely minutes with but others much longer. This last one she’d been with just over ten. It puzzled him and intrigued him as to what made one worthier of her attention than another. He checked his watch, nearly five after six. He’d put in enough time on the clock, now it was his time to enjoy himself. “If you’ll excuse me,” he murmured to a group of businessmen that Bob was entertaining with golf stories, one passion that they did not share.

On his way toward her, he snagged a glass of white wine. He’d noticed she hadn’t eaten or had a drink of anything all night. He approached slowly. He thought about her profile, with her mesmerizing eyes so intensely focused before her. She was oblivious to him. So, he just stood there, merely feet away soaking in every detail of her. The look she had in that moment made him feel as though she was truly in another world, not even in the room with him. He wanted to see just for an instant through her eyes, wanted to breathe in whatever truths she was experiencing, needed on some cellular level just to know, to know that indiscernible something.

She focused on his painting. And, in a fashion, he focused on her to explain to him what he’d created. The moment stretched on and on until he began to hear another place in his mind. There was the sound of water crashing against the shore, against her legs because he could see her wading through it holding material from her long flowing skirt up in her hands. Her face turned abruptly to him. And her green eyes widened in total surprise.

He looked down. A little of the wine had spilled on his hand. What was that? Hadn’t they, just for that instant been somewhere else. But he hadn’t been, he was here, just here— and she was staring at him with that same look of surprise and maybe a tinge of bewilderment. “I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have interrupted you.” He stammered out, having no idea what else to say.

The look on her face began to soften a bit, as though some illumination had dawned on her. “No, I guess I was lost in thought. Your work is inspiring.”

He frowned, probably best to shelve this whatever this was for a few moments. “I brought you some wine. You looked thirsty.”

She looked down at his hand, the slightest glimmer of a smile trying to escape her lips. “You could tell that from across the room.”

He handed her the glass, “You’d be surprised how many things you can tell across the room when you are bored out of your mind.”

She took a sip, “You better not say that too loud. These people love your work.”

He grimaced, “Not all of them. But what do you think as a rookie, art critic?”

“I like your paintings. I especially like the ones that reveal your soul.”

He laughed, “I had no idea I was so exposed.”

“Every artist exposes what’s inside them,” she glanced down seeming to be a little embarrassed by her own comments, “to one degree or another.”

“I suppose.” He glanced at her finger. She was wearing that ring again, the Celtic looking one, and a long silver chain with a crystal around her neck — mystical, new age perhaps. “You know, I was thinking that I actually know very little about you.”

She nodded and held up the pamphlet that Frances had distributed to the guests at the door. “Yes, and I know everything about you. It’s all in the Get to Know the Artist section.”

“That wasn’t my idea.”

“Yes, so you claim.”

Now she was teasing him and laughing with him. This was better. It felt like familiar ground. “Well, it didn’t go into everything.”

“I should hope not. That would make it a Tell All.”

“Okay now, let’s just steer this boat back to you. Other than that, you work for The Quest.”

“Never read it, do you?” she quipped.

“Oh, I’m sure I must have. I’m sure I will now. Anyway, my point is that I know nothing else about you except that you don’t like to answer your phone.”

Her brilliant smile dimmed a bit, “That’s not exactly the case.”

“Yes, well back to my point.” He didn’t want to put her on the spot too much. He was enjoying this.

“I’m sorry Jacob, your point was?”

“That I know very little about you. I do know that you aren’t from around here originally at least.”

She still seemed amused. “Why do you think that?”

“Your enunciation is different and your complexion, hair, eyes, are I could almost say elegantly exotic.”

She paused, not comfortable with compliments evidently, “Well, that’s a mouthful.”

“So quit dodging, where is home Aimee?”

She sighed a bit, just a soft sigh, “Originally New Orleans I suppose. I’ve been here nearly five years.”

He nodded mulling over the new information adding a small piece to the puzzle. “That explains that aura about you.”

She laughed, continuing to sip her wine. “Which aura is that exactly Mr. Wyss?”

“Why your aura of mystery Ms. Marston.”

She’d let him go to get her another glass of wine. She’d downed the first rather quickly, nervousness she thought, but she wasn’t exactly feeling nervous. It was sort of like walking a tightrope. She was enjoying herself, but not really relaxing. The very air around her felt as though it were crackling with excitement and possibility. Maybe it was the artistic atmosphere, although she really sensed that there was much more to it. She glanced at the painting before her and she remembered.

It was a waterfront scene, a house on a quiet, almost desolate beachfront. It was one of his paintings that seemed to emanate an energy, a power of its own. When she’d first seen it, she was drawn, literally drawn into it. She’d smelled the ocean air, heard the seagulls flying above her, felt the chilly water around her feet and her legs, and the cold sand beneath the water. There was an expansive solitude here but also peacefulness. Not a desperation, but instead a quiet moment of the soul. And then out of nowhere she felt a hand on her arm. And she’d felt his arms go around her waist, pulling her against him. The shock of the embrace yanked her back into her body. And he was there staring at her, looking at her as if she’d struck him.

And now here he was, back at her side with the glass. “Change your mind?”

“No, I’ll take it.” She reached out for the glass and brushed his fingertips in the process. Little sparks again, she felt so silly like she was having a first crush or something. She breathed deeply, “Is this winding down?”

“Yeah should be. We close up at seven. Do you want something to eat?”

“No, I’ll get something later. I don’t like to eat, well, when I’m jittery.”

He looked a little amused. “Are you jittery?”

“All the commotion, all the people, and trying to put together this piece in my head, all in all I am a bit jittery.”

She’d decided some time earlier in the evening that Jacob Wyss looked very good in navy. His suit was navy, but it gave him a different look a more complicated look, less accessible. She’d decided that this was his true nature, not easygoing as most probably perceived him to be. He was levels of puzzles, levels of Tanta grams. This was definitely what she was getting, at least at the moment.

Joan had spotted them and was sauntering across the room. Her high heels and slightly tight skirt gave her no option except to saunter. “Well I think I got most of the paintings. You can let me know which ones you want featured.”

Aimee nodded, feeling slightly dizzy. She definitely didn’t drink well. “Sounds good.”

Joan focused in on the glass. “I thought you didn’t want any wine.”

“Changed my mind.” She smiled briefly at Jacob.

“Great show Mr. Wyss, I enjoyed myself.” Joan interjected with enthusiasm.

He nodded, “Thanks, I hope that’s the general consensus.”

Joan glanced at Aimee then back at Jacob. Aimee looked down into her glass. Joan was drawing conclusions now. Aimee could feel it. “I guess we better get going. Are you ready?”

Aimee opened her mouth to respond but then Jacob interceded. “Oh, did you two come together?”

Joan nodded, “Yes, and I’m hoping not to be driving in some sort of impromptu blizzard tonight.” She laughed a little self-consciously, and then she waited as though she were expecting something. Aimee wondered what in the world was she expecting.

And then Jacob spoke, and that she hadn’t seen this coming was bizarre. She always saw everything coming. “Well, if you’re not ready yet, I can give you a ride home Aimee.”

Something flashed in Joan’s eyes that she was sure she didn’t like. “Well, I don’t want Joan to have to drive home alone,” she got out with absolutely no degree of finesse.

And then it was Joan’s turn, “Actually, if you want to know the truth, you are a little out of my way.” She stated rather flatly.

Aimee’s eyes widened a bit, now that sounded a little rude. She opened her mouth, then closed it. What could she say? “Um, are you sure?”

Joan nodded, “Yeah, if you don’t mind Mr. Wyss.”

And quickly, perhaps too quickly he responded, “It would be my pleasure.”

Joan smiled at Aimee broadly and then whispered in her ear as she was going, “Have a nice evening.” There was a coarse veneer to her comment that made Aimee want to kick her in the back of her short little skirt, but she didn’t. She just watched her saunter off.

Next to her she noted that Jacob was also quietly watching Joan leave. But he didn’t look in the least disgruntled. In fact, to her, he seemed quite pleased.

Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert

Jacob Wyss is caught in a rut, in fact on the verge of being engulfed by it. After an excruciating and disillusioning divorce, his life as an artist in a sleepy-college town at the foot of the Appalachian mountains has become quiet, routine, and maddening in its predictability. One wintry day, his deep restlessness drives him out in precarious conditions to a largely empty bookstore nearly devoid of another living soul, nearly.

Aimee Marston isn’t like everyone else. On the surface, she lives a sedate life working as a feature writer for a small local newspaper in addition to several other editorial jobs to help make ends meet. But just beneath, her existence is largely not her own. She is a sensitive, an empathetic psychic, guided by her calling to use her gifts to help others. Unfortunately, as a result, her secretiveness has made her defensive, protective of herself, and prevented her from having much of a life of her own.

A psychic call for help sends Aimee out on a freezing January morning where her destiny and Jacob’s collide sending both their lives spiraling onto an unexpected and often disturbing track. Two lonely souls connect, not by accident, but by design. Theirs is the intersection of two spiritual paths, two lovers who must struggle to overcome the phantoms of a past life, as well as the challenges of their own inner demons to carve out an extraordinary future together.

Catch up on the rest of A Quiet Moment’s Chapters. Click on the book.

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