Marked by Destiny(4)

By: Lisa Cardiff

Avery’s face illuminated with sparkling green eyes that never failed to captivate and lighten the mood. “No offense, Grace, but isn’t that psychoanalysis too deep for you?”

Grace laughed. “You know me too well. I promise to keep all of my other conversations and thoughts shallow and superficial for the rest of the night.”

“Good, I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself,” Avery teased.

“So you agree to stay a while longer?” Grace asked, hopeful while she watched Avery’s eyes closely.

“Okay, we’ll stay another thirty minutes but not a minute more,” Avery conceded. “Meet me by the front entrance. I don’t want to waste time trying to find you in this madhouse and end up missing my flight.”

Grace mumbled something under her breath and rolled her eyes as Avery watched her disappear into the fray.

She hated feeling like an outsider amongst the crowd Grace so effortlessly navigated with her easy warmth and lovely aristocratic features. Grace’s sleek brown hair and chocolate brown eyes combined with her air of sophistication always drew the attention of many admirers. Avery never wanted to be part of this “in” crowd, but she didn’t want to feel inadequate or awkward in their company either. She feared, in spite of all of Grace’s coaching, she would never fit in. She would always feel more comfortable powering through her translations for work with her magnifying glass and laptop than socializing with the genetically and materially gifted.

With the hum of conversation echoing in her ears, she wandered through the crowded room, heading toward the perimeter of the gallery to get another look at the exhibits displayed in their glass cabinets. She breezed by Celtic metalwork and Irish Illuminated Gospels only to stop at a few Gaelic manuscripts. Avery pulled her hair back, leaning forward to take a closer look when she glimpsed the blurred image of another person reflected on the glass of the display case.

“Shouldn’t you be well on your way to Ireland by now? I’m sure you’ll find many more fascinating ancient Irish artifacts there than you will at this place.”

Avery recognized the voice before she turned around.

“Peter,” she said with a brilliant smile. “I’m so glad you’re here. I wasn’t sure you were coming. I stopped by your office before I left today, but you weren’t in.”

Peter Cluny was one of her supervisors and a member of the board at the New World Foundation for Celtic Studies. Avery also counted him as her friend and mentor. Peter was in his late-thirties, not an overly tall man, but he had an athletic build, his face all angles, framed with neatly trimmed brown hair beginning to gray at his temples. Like most of the other men there, he wore an expensively styled, dark suit.

When Avery started working for the Foundation straight out of college, she didn’t know what to expect. On her first day, she was in the break room cussing at the automated espresso machine when Peter walked in. Not only did he explain how the machine worked, he also took her under his wing, mentoring her. Without him, she would have never lasted a week much less five years at the Foundation. He always had been there to support her and nurture her fragile ego. There was a time when it seemed as if Peter wanted more from her than friendship, and she had even entertained the idea at one point, but despite his pleasant, patrician looks and his easy humor, they lacked chemistry and she couldn’t bring herself to return his interest.

For nearly two months, they had a standing weekly dinner date on Thursday night. It had started simply enough. She ran into Peter late one Thursday night, and he asked if she wanted to get something to eat at an Italian restaurant down the street. They seemed to have endless things to talk about, and as she climbed into her taxi he said, “So next Thursday at the same time?” and Avery nodded.

A couple months into their weekly date, he asked her to come to his place after dinner. She had been debating whether she should take the relationship to the next step for weeks, but she always felt something was missing and she realized she was desperately trying to make something special out of their comfortable companionship. When she rebuffed his attempt to take the relationship further, he didn’t show any anger, passion, or any other discernible emotion. He accepted her rejection without question. Their late night dinners never happened again, and she and Peter fell into a friendly work relationship.

Also By Lisa Cardiff

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