Authors: Lynne Constantine
Copyright 2013 by Lynne Constantine
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic means, including storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Image: Copyright Shutterstock: Leoks, Maximino 2013
A Short Story
A Circle Dance Character Prequel: Stewart Elliott and Theodora Parsenis
Stewart fidgeted in his seat, looked at his watch and yawned. When was this clown going to shut up? He didn’t think he could stand it another minute. One more speaker and the seminar would be over. Maybe he’d cut out early. He looked up just as the last speaker was introduced. The man strode across the stage with obvious confidence, smiling warmly as he clasped the emcee’s shoulder and shook his hand. He took the microphone and looked out into the crowd.
“I bet you’re ready to call it a day.” There was the smile again. “I don’t blame you but I promise you’ll be glad you didn’t when we’re through.”
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Stewart frowned but stayed in his seat.
“If you came here to learn how to make more money, then I’d advise you to take this opportunity to leave now. If, however, you’re interested in learning how to ignite the passion in you – stick around.”
He sat enthralled for the next hour. This guy was something else – he was actually inspiring – and it took a lot to inspire Stewart. Nick Parsenis was the real deal; smart, smooth, and with the golden touch. Now he realized why Parsenis looked so familiar. His picture was in the business news every other week. Big developer with lots of friends in high places. Stewart grinned. He had found his mentor. He pulled out his phone and pressed the google app. He typed Nick’s name and the screen was populated with article after article on Nick and his projects. Perfect. He highlighted one of the articles and clicked on it. After filling in the requisite information, he pressed send. He finished just in time for Nick’s closing remarks.
He made sure he was first in line to greet him. “Mr. Parsenis. Pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand. “Stewart Elliot.”
Nick shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“I enjoyed your talk. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. I’m volunteering on your Homes for the Homeless project. I admire your work.”
Nick looked at him with interest.
“Thank you for introducing yourself. We’re very grateful to our volunteers. We couldn’t do what we do without you. I imagine a young man like yourself has many other things he could be doing with his time.”
“Actually I just moved back from California. I was at Stanford for my graduate work.”
“Impressive. What brought you back to Baltimore?”
“My family.” Was that laying it on too thick? “I always knew I’d settle close to home. I’m just starting to look for work. I’m a business major.”
Nick pulled out a business card.
“Give me a call next week, we’ll see what we can do.”
“Thank you, sir.”
He waited a couple of weeks before he called – he didn’t want to appear too eager. The job offer came soon enough, and if it wasn’t the level he would have liked, it was a foot in the door. He was brought on as an assistant project manager in the New Construction Department. He would make sure he shined – it wouldn’t be hard to outdo what he referred to as the “average ninety-nine percent”. In the meantime, he learned everything he could about Nick. There was a son, a psychologist or something. The main thing was that he had no interest in the family business. Nick also had two daughters, both lookers. Pictures of them littered Nick’s office. They were away at school, one in college and one in grad school. He would meet them at the Christmas party where he would decide which one would be his ticket to the executive suite.
He dressed carefully for the occasion, selecting a steel blue dress shirt that enhanced the blue of his eyes. He splashed on just a dash of Clive Christian and secured the Patek watch on his left wrist. By the time he arrived, cars were lined up on both sides of the street and he had to park a good distance from the house. He should have had Edward drop him off, but that might have been too showy. He pulled the grey cashmere coat closer, shivering against the biting wind, and quickened his pace. Tall trees sparkling with Christmas lights lined the long driveway and soon the large, white colonial came into view. He smiled at Lydia from accounting and held the door for her. He handed his coat to a young man in wait uniform and inhaled the pleasing scent of holiday pine. He looked around at the house. It was nice, but not nearly as opulent as he would have expected. Nick could certainly afford to live in more grandeur, but he was a sentimentalist. He’d told Stewart that it made him happy for his girls to come home from college to the bedrooms they grew up in.
“Stewart! Welcome. So glad you could make it. Come get a drink.” Nick put his arm around him.
A pretty woman was busy directing two young girls as they brought platters into the dining room. Nick walked Stewart over to her.
“Eleni.” She looked up, still distracted by preparations.
“Eleni. This is the young man I’ve been telling you about. Stewart Elliott.”
He gave her his most dazzling smile.
“I feel like I already know you.” She embraced him and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Please have something to eat. I’ve been cooking all week.” She swept her hand in the air toward the dining room overflowing with food. “Get the spanakopita while you can. It goes fast.” She smiled and went back to overseeing everything.
He needed a drink. He found the bar and ordered a vodka tonic, sipping it while he scanned the room. Where were the daughters? Then he saw her. The pictures didn’t do her justice. Their eyes met and she looked away quickly, making him think of a doe shying away from its prey. No time like the present. He walked over to her.
“You must be Theodora.”
She looked confused. “Have we met?”
He smiled. “I’m Stewart Elliott. I work for your father. He talks about you all the time.”
That seemed to please her.
“Nice to meet you, Stewart.” Her mouth looked delicious.
“Enjoying your break or ready to get back to school?”
“I love being home. I only get back on holidays so I relish the time when I’m here. ”
She was a homebody. He could work with that.
“I know what you mean. I just came back from California. Stanford.” He waited for that to sink in. “As much as I loved it there, I couldn’t imagine staying that far from my family.”
She nodded. “I know, right? I have lots of friends who think nothing of just packing up and moving across the country. I could never do that. Some have even left the country.” She laughed. “My father would probably hide my passport.”
He laughed with her. She was so young. He remembered a photo of her in tennis whites.
“My best friend has just left for fairer lands which leaves me, sadly, without a tennis partner.”
Her face lit up. “I love tennis.”
He feigned surprise. “Really? Any chance you could be my partner for doubles on Saturday. I thought I’d have to withdraw.”
She beamed. “I’d be delighted.”
She began to say something else then stopped. “Well, Stewart, I’d better go back to my hostess duties. Nice meeting you.”
Was she actually blushing? She was adorable.
“Don’t let me keep you from your duties.” He grinned then touched her arm. “Don’t forget your promise.”
“Saturday. I’ll pick you up at ten?”
He took a long swallow from his drink and admired the view as she walked away.
Theodora could feel his eyes on her and she walked deliberately, not wanting to appear nervous or shaken. She was trembling inside. She couldn’t remember ever reacting to a man the way she had to Stewart. Those eyes. That smile. But it wasn’t only that – there was something more elusive – a familiarity about him making her feel as though she already knew him. But she was being silly. She wondered if Nicole had met him yet.
“Theo dear. Can you give me a hand with the dessert?” Her mom was waving her into the kitchen.
Theo carried platter after platter of Greek delicacies, and laid them on the dining room table. She was too busy helping her mother to see if Stewart was still there or had left. She decided to go and see what she could find out about him from her father.
A group of men surrounded Nick as Theo approached.
“Ah, here’s my little girl.” He put an arm around her. “Pardon me gentlemen.”
They moved to a quiet corner of the room.
“It’s so good to have you home. The house is lonely with both you and your sister away at school. I wish you hadn’t gone so far away.”
Theo smiled at the familiar refrain. “Only two more years and I’ll be back.”
“I can’t wait. I hope you haven’t made too many plans for your break. Mom and I would like to have you to ourselves at least a couple days.”
“Don’t worry Dad. Oh. I’m playing tennis with Stewart Elliott on Saturday.”
Nick’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh?”
“Yes. We were talking and he mentioned that his tennis partner had moved away and he was going to have to forfeit his match this weekend. When I told him I played, he asked if I’d fill in.”
Nick digested this information. “Theo, he’s a little old for you.”
“It’s just a tennis match, Dad. And besides I’m 21, not a baby anymore.” She hoped she sounded nonchalant. She sighed and gave him a kiss. “You worry too much.”
Saturday arrived and she was a nervous wreck.
“How does this skirt look?”
“The same as the last one, great,” Nicole said. “What is wrong with you?”
“Have you met him?”
“Yes I met him. He’s okay.”
“Okay? He’s gorgeous!”
Nicole looked up from her magazine and frowned. “I’m not talking about his looks. Since when are you hung up on looks? He’s a little too perfect for me.”
Theo rolled her eyes. “You’re too critical. He’s just well mannered. What’s wrong with that?”
Nicole shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing. Look, forget it. I only talked to him for a few minutes. You like him, and that’s fine. He’s just not my cup of tea.”
Theo laughed. “Good thing. I’d hate to compete with you.”
Nicole narrowed her eyes. “What are you talking about? You’re beautiful. And besides, we’d never let a guy come between us.”
Theo nodded. Nicole would never do anything to hurt her. Stewart showed up exactly at 10:00 looking like he walked off the pages of a magazine. Crisp and clean. She didn’t know which was whiter – his teeth or his shirt.
“Let me grab my racket and we’ll be on our way.” She smiled over her shoulder.
“Don’t forget your gym bag. You can shower at the club and then we’ll go to lunch at the Hopkins Club.”
“Yup. Got everything I need.”
He opened the door for her and waited until she engaged her seat belt before shutting it and walking around to his side of the car.
He looked at her hands.
“Where are you gloves? It’s cold out.”
She chuckled. “You’re starting to sound like my father.”
“Men have a habit of protecting things that are precious to them.” He put his hand on her arm, and she felt a thrill rush through her.
When he smiled at her, she knew at once that she always wanted to be the reason for that smile.
She spent the next two weeks seeing or talking to him every day. She was surprised by how much they had in common. They liked the same movies, enjoyed the same books. His manners were refreshing. So different from the guys at school, who treated her like she was one of them. She liked the way Stewart always held the door for her and pulled out her chair at restaurants. As far as pushing for a physical relationship, Stewart had been the perfect gentleman. He was chivalrous, just like her father. Call her old fashioned, but she enjoyed being treated like a lady. What was wrong with wanting someone to take care of you? Sometimes she felt like she had been born sixty years too late. Oh she didn’t want a return to the days when women had no rights. But she couldn’t deny that she found the idea of getting married and building a life around her husband and her family vastly appealing. She was tired of the boys who didn’t have a clue what they wanted from life or from her. Stewart was a man. He had purpose and direction. She felt safe with him.
By the time she was ready to return to school, she was in love. It was Friday and she was leaving on Sunday to go back to college. The family was having breakfast together.
“How about we go out for a nice family dinner Saturday night?” Nick looked around the table at his two daughters.