Angelina’s heart was beating hard as she looked at her computer screen. After everything going on lately; meeting Adrian, getting her own gallery, and her romance with Adrian, she kind of felt like she needed to do something a little different with her life. So, she had reluctantly gone back to her art work, her first love. And over the last three weeks, she had been working on her abstract painting. Chronic Misogyny was what she called it.
A few days earlier, she had taken a photo and posted it on The Parisian’s website. She had not expected much when she first posted it. All she wanted was to see if she could generate enough buzz where her art work was concerned. It was not that she was not sure about herself and her art, it was that she didn’t know how the public would receive her art. She had known a number of artists who had been disappointed at the way the world had reacted to their work, so much that they had actually given up on their lifelong dream. But judging by the way the auction of her piece was going, she decided that the world’s reception and perception of her art couldn’t have been better.
The current bid was now at 1800 dollars which according to her was quite a lot since she hadn’t even expected to get more than five hundred when she first posted it. Her eyes grew wide when the bid went up by two hundred.
“This is unreal,” she thought as she saw someone put forward the highest bid yet. Two thousand four hundred. She didn’t want to push her luck anymore. This was it. “And we have a winner,” she thought as she closed the bid. She leaned back in her seat and grinned widely. She could hardly believe that she had sold the painting for that much.
“Maybe I do underestimate myself a little too much,” she thought as she looked at the screen. She had not been to an indigenous art show in a while but now she could actually see herself being one of the people who put up their work for sale. “And here I thought that my day was cursed,” she thought with a smile.
When she woke up that morning, Angelina was set to have a breakfast meeting with two Dutch American artists. When she first saw their work, she was impressed. She was amazed at how the two twenty something year olds were able to put so much life into black and white photography as well as their paintings. Normally, if an artist was a good painter or an impressive charcoal drawer, they didn’t have a very good eye for photography and vice versa. But these two had proven the universe wrong. She had first seen a beautiful interpretation of the Mona Lisa, their own version of what the modern day Mona Lisa would have been. As soon as she saw it, she knew she wanted to meet the artist behind the beautiful work of art but soon enough, she realized that it was actually the brain child of two people which made them even more appealing than ever. When she did her homework, Angelina found out that the two artists were actually Dutch American artists, related Dutch American artists. The two were actually first cousins.
Angelina had asked her assistant to dig up as much information as he could about the two and what he found out was what made Angelina want to distribute their work. The two were not just painters but also photographers. And the photographs they took as they traveled around the world were some of the best she had ever seen…and today was when she had been set to meet them to try and negotiate a deal. But when she got to the restaurant, she waited for a long hour before she finally realized that they were not going to show up. Their agent actually told her that the cousins had already been poached by the Romaine Gallery. She was not angry that she had not bagged the deal, after all, she was kind of ahead as far as Carlton’s gallery was concerned, she was upset she had waited to have breakfast with would be clients, a breakfast meeting that never happened.
She was not only tired, she was also starving. The only good part of the day was the sale of her painting. She decided she would have picked the feeling she had at that moment over anything.
She was still looking at her computer screen when she heard a knock on her door. She looked up to see her assistant Matt poking his head through the doorway.
“Hey, are you very busy?” he asked.
“No, just a little hungry,” she said as she looked at him.
“Well, you are going to be happy I stopped by,” Matt said as he walked towards her desk carrying a Styrofoam cup and a Java Hut box in the other hand.
“Please tell me there are cronuts in there,” she said as she leaned back. Matt smiled as he set the coffee in front of her.
“Two cronuts and two bagels. Everything is perfectly fresh and the bagels are still warm just how you like it,” he said.
Angelina smiled up at him.
“I thought you weren’t doing a breakfast run today.”
“I know that you didn’t have a meeting with the Dutch Americans,” he said. “I just thought that you could use some energy.”
“We should really start calling them by their names. Antoine Bjorn and Vaughn Hoffman,” Angelina said as she took a long sip from her Styrofoam cup. “Dirty chai latte with a splash of soy.” She looked at Matt. “You spoil me, mister.” She took another long sip of her chai latte.
“A good boss deserves a good breakfast…but…I’m sorry about the random pick. I wasn’t sure what you needed,” he said.
“I’m surprised you didn’t get a breakfast burrito in the mix,” she said as she smiled.
“Actually I did. I got two but I wasn’t sure if you wanted something sweet or salty.” Angelina picked up a muffin.
“I’ll trade you. One muffin for one burrito,” she said.
“Sold.” Matt reached for the muffin and then began walking out. She bit into a bagel and then looked up as Matt walked back in.
“So, what’s on my calendar today?” she asked as she bit into the bagel again.
“Apart from the breakfast with the Dutch Ameri…with Bjorn and Hoffman,” he said, quickly correcting himself when he saw the look she gave him. “You have the day free.”
“Oh thank God…” she started saying before Matt put a finger up.
“Hold up. You have to meet Judge Michaelson,” he said, looking up from the tablet in his hands.
“Wait…what?” She picked up her phone and looked at it. “Wasn’t that supposed to be the day after tomorrow?” She looked at her calendar and raised an eyebrow over the other. “Why does my calendar say that I have to be in a meeting with Judge Michaelson in two hours?”
“I synchronized your calendar. So I make changes here,” he said as he waved the tablet. “And it shows up there.”
“Why so soon? I mean, what changed?”
“He got a cancellation or something and considering you said that it is kind of important that you see him ASAP, I accepted it. Plus, you didn’t have anything booked, so I thought…”
“Thanks Matt. It’s just that…” she looked up. “Thanks Matt,” she said again when she realized she didn’t have anything to say.
“You’re welcome,” he said as he began walking to the door. “By the way, I meant to ask, how that auction went.” he added making Angelina look up at him surprised.
“You knew about that?”
“Guilty, why, shouldn’t I have known about it?” he asked, looking a little embarrassed.
“No, I was just trying to do it a little under the radar…you know, for the artist’s sake,” she said. “But it went really well. Two thousand four hundred,” she added proudly.
“That is amazing! Congratulations,” he said.
“Why…why are you congratulating me?” she wasn’t sure she looked as confused as she sounded.
“I know it was your own piece, boss lady. I’m just congratulating you for a great comeback,” he said.
A guilty smile played on her lips.
“You knew that too, huh?”
“Well, I am the number two when it comes to The Parisian. I make it my business to know everything that is going on about the gallery. Both in here and on our cyber space,” Matt said a little too proudly.
“Then if you knew about Chronic Misogyny, why did you have to ask me how the auction went?” she asked.
“I was being nice, boss lady,” Matt said with a smile before he walked out.
“Cocky bastard,” she thought as she took a long sip. She looked at her computer screen and sighed, wondering if she was going to tell Adrian about it.
When she pulled up in front of the court house, she took a long minute looking at her reflection in the mirror before she stepped out. She could feel the men looking at her as she made her way up the steps. And who could blame them? The knee length pencil skirt and light green chiffon sleeveless blouse was outlining her hips perfectly. She had on a pair of black high heeled shoes that made her ass pop out a little too perfectly.
She flipped her hair over her shoulder as she walked down the hallway. She had a smile when she walked into the reception area of Judge Michaelson’s office.
“Hi, Angelina Carter to see Everett Michaelson,” she said.
“Please have a seat. I’ll just let him know,” she said gesturing to the waiting area. Angelina gave her an insincere smile before she made her way to the waiting area. She had half a mind to pick up some of the magazines but she knew that she had to have a clear mind when she walked into the judge’s office. She was still having a hard time believing just how far things had spiraled with Adrian and Carlton. Adrian had taken things to a whole different level. After the whole Carlton incident at the gallery, Adrian had not only taken a restraining order against him but also sued him for assault.
Angelina was grateful, very grateful for what Adrian had done but she wished that he would have told her what he was planning before he actually did. She didn’t understand why he would want to do something like that behind her back. It was too big to be ignored. She planned to drop the assault charge. It was not that she was sorry about anything, she was just thinking of Carlton’s family. He might have been an ass but he was also a husband and a father and his family hadn’t done anything to deserve this kind of crappy lifestyle.
“Miss Carter?” Angelina looked up at the secretary. “Judge Michaelson will see you now.”
Angelina smiled in gratitude and then walked into the judge’s office. When she stepped in, she couldn’t help but think that she had seen a similar office. It was one of the biggest, most beautiful government offices she had ever seen and there was some glamour about it too. There was a perfectly big window that overlooked the city below and a collection of signed baseballs on display behind a glass on the wall. And the office wasn’t the only eye candy in that office. The judge was quite the looker too. Sure he was a little older, maybe in his fifties, but there was something about him. He had a perfect tan, the kind that came with hours on some Caribbean coast and his teeth were perfect proving the great dental plan he had. He had a perfect jawline and high broad shoulders looked a little too appealing in his expensive suit. He kind of reminded her of Antonio Banderas or a legal George Clooney…yes, he looked that good.
“Miss Carter,” the judge said when he saw her.
“Judge Michaelson,” she said shaking his hand.
“Please,” he said gesturing at one of the chairs in front of his desk. She sat down and looked at him. “So, I understand this is about the restraining order against Carlton Romaine?” he asked.
“Not exactly. It’s actually about the law suit,” she said.
“I don’t understand.”
“When Mr. Corday did it…I had no idea and I never wanted to sue Mr. Romaine,” she began explaining.
“So he didn’t assault you?”
“He did,” she said.
“Then what’s the big argument here?” the judge asked as he looked at her.
Angelina took a long deep breath. She had expected this to be a little hard but this was proving to be so much more of a challenge than she initially expected.
“Just tell me what happened…start from the top. I have a nice long three hours before the next case is called.” The judge had a dazzling smile on his face.
“A few weeks ago, Mr. Carlton Romaine came to the gallery…wait…I should start from the beginning,” she said.
“Yeah, I believe that would be the best way forward,” the judge said with a smile. There was a slight sarcastic tone in his voice but she didn’t hear it, or maybe she chose to overlook it since she was so taken by his looks.
“I used to work for the Romaine Gallery and my boss…”
“Mr. Carlton Romaine I presume,” he asked as he looked at her and she nodded.
“Yes, him. But he was kind of weirdly touchy. I told him that I didn’t…I didn’t appreciate it…you know, tried to be polite about everything.” She sighed. “It was hard for me to tell him off with him being my boss and all but eventually I just had to quit.” She pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. “Things escalated after I set up my gallery, The Parisian.”
“So, what was he doing exactly?” he asked.
“He just started being a bit abusive. He would corner me in shows and maybe the angry phone call which I now realize I should have probably reported…but it was never serious until that day he came to the office.”
The judge raised an eyebrow over the other.
“Well, he came in and accused me of costing him business…normal competitive stuff but everything escalated a little too quickly and he was pinning me against the wall threatening me and everything. It was scary and honestly I just don’t know what would have happened if Adrian didn’t walk in at that moment,” she said.
“Judging by your story, I don’t see why you would want to drop your suit,” the judge said matter of factly.
“Well, it is just that suing for assault…that’s the kind of thing that follows you and your family around,” she said.
“And?” the judge pressed.
“And I did’nt want his family to have to pay for his terrible life choices,” she said.
He looked at her and nodded.
“Miss Carter, I totally understand what is going on but you do realize that the person who filed the suit has to be the one to pull it, right?” he asked.
“The suit is actually an assault case against me,” she said, a little confused.
“Yes but you are not the one who filed it, that’s simply what I’m saying.”
Angelina rubbed her temple.
“I’m sorry, Judge Michaelson, but I have to ask, how exactly was a third party, who I must add was not even present when the assault happened, a credible person to file the case?” she asked.
The judge took a long deep breath.
“Well, I know Adrian from way back in the day and when he said that you were too upset to come forward and there was the witness.”
“Who? Matt?” she asked.
“Yes, your assistant?” he said. “Sometimes we kind of have to make the hard choice.”
She shook her head. She was getting angrier with Adrian with every word that came out of the judge’s mouth. Adrian Corday was literally controlling her life.
“I suppose there is nothing I can do now, is there?” she asked.
“You could talk to Mr. Corday,” the judge said.
“I could but…” she let her voice trail off. She had no idea what she was supposed to say. “It’s complicated.”
“So Adrian has been hiding a girlfriend,” he said with a smile.
“I’m not his girlfriend,” Angelina snapped.
“Really?” There was something in his voice that proved to Angelina that he didn’t really buy her story.
“It’s complicated,” she said quickly.
“I understand that a lot of things are complicated when it comes to you and Mr. Corday,” the judge said.
She almost rolled her eyes at him.
“I’ll have a talk with Ad…Mr. Corday and see what I can do about everything.” She stood up and forced a smile. “Thank you for making the time to meet me, Mr. Michaelson.”
“Please, call me Everett. Any friend of Adrian’s is a friend of mine,” he said.
She almost felt herself blush before she walked out of the office. She pulled her phone out of her purse as she walked to the elevator. She scrolled Olivia’s name and then began to text.
I’m free for the day. Want to meet up for lunch?
She had just climbed into the driver’s seat of her car before she heard her phone buzz loudly in her purse. She took her phone out of her purse and looked at the screen.
Sure. Luciano’s? I’m in the mood for some good Italian food.
Angelina took a long sip of her wine as she looked at Olivia, sitting across from her.
“What are you trying to do? Ruin yourself?” she asked as she took a bite of her chicken lasagna. “You keep this up and you could end up dead or worse.”
Angelina couldn’t help but smile.
“What’s worse than death?” she asked.
“He could disfigure you and you would be ugly for life,” Olivia said.
“Really, that’s worse than death?” Angelina asked. “Heard of reconstructive surgery?”
“Whatever…I just don’t understand why you are trying to let the man go free,” she pointed out. Angelina took a long deep breath. No one understood her reason for wanting to do what she was doing. It was important to her that people understood it was all about saving his family from the imminent embarrassment.
“I want Carlton to pay for what he did. I just don’t want him to drag those two innocent perfect girls down with him,” she said. “In this day and age, there is the obvious threat that is the internet.”
Olivia looked at her and shrugged.
“What did the judge say?” she asked.
“That I have to talk to the person who filed it, in this case, Adrian,” she said.
“And you don’t think that he will go for it,” Olivia pointed out and Angelina nodded.
“If he could, he would have Carlton’s head on a silver platter. Plus, Judge Everett Michaelson is kind of buddy-buddy with Adrian.”
“Really? Is he like a hot young guy? Because I don’t picture Adrian friends with some judge.” Olivia was frowning as she looked at her.
“He is actually in his late forties maybe early fifties,” Angelina started. “But I have to say that he is quite the looker. He kind of has a George Clooney effect,” she added with a smile.
“Do you have a crush on him?” Olivia asked pointing at her with her fork.
“No, I don’t but trust me…he is something. You should Google him,” she started but Olivia was already on her phone.
“So that’s Everett Michaelson? M-I-C-H-A-E-L-S-O-N?” Angelina was smiling as she nodded.
“Right on,” she said.
“Holy shit…he doesn’t have the George Clooney effect,” Olivia said in a rather loud whisper. “He is George Clooney,” she added excitedly. She looked at her best friend and smiled. “If I wasn’t with Alex…” Angelina picked up her glass before she could say whatever was on her mind.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Too bad he is in the picture right?” She took a long sip.
“So, what are you going to do about the whole Adrian situation?” Olivia asked, still looking at her phone.
“I can’t think about that right now,” she said, because she knew that she was going to have a headache if she began thinking about that.
If there was a word that Adrian Corday didn’t recognize in his vocabulary, it was the word nervous. He had never understood the essence of anxiety. It only meant that you didn’t believe in yourself enough about what you were doing. But on that Thursday morning, he was actually a little nervous. He was about to get information that he had been waiting on for almost an entire week.
Earlier that month, on one of his many travels to Europe, he had seen a beautiful painting that reminded him a little of the artists in the Renaissance era. It was not as big and glamorous as the Mona Lisa but it was in its own perfect way loud and attractive. He could not help but see some potential in it. He was not sure why but the painting kind of spoke to him in its own special way. It might have been a bit of a rushed purchase but he could not help it. Even the vendor on the gallery he had bought the painting in was surprised when Adrian showed his interest on the small painting.
“But sir, this one is no good,” the vendor had tried convincing him. “It is just one of those pieces you come by and…it is more of a private thing really.”
But Adrian was adamant. He wanted that piece. He needed that piece.
“Name your price,” he said as he looked at him.
“Seriously?” the vendor might have been as surprised as Adrian was unwavering.
“Yes. Name your price,” Adrian said again. The man looked at the piece and then at Adrian.
“Fifteen hundred dollars,” he said without thinking. Something about the way he quickly gave his quote spoke volumes to Adrian, like probably he was quoting a price he didn’t think he would get.
“Sold,” Adrian said with a smile. The man looked at him as if he had just been told he had hit the jackpot. And he might as well have. “What would you prefer? Cash or check?” Adrian asked the still stunned vendor.
“I guess…I guess cash will be alright,” the vendor said, still sounding unsure.
Adrian reached into his pocket and counted twenty hundred dollar notes before he handed the money to the vendor.
“I only asked for fifteen hundred,” he said, looking confused.
“I know.” Adrian was looking at the painting as if it had been the most prized possession in the world. “I just thought I would make it an even two thousand.”
After he came back from Europe, the only thing he wanted to know was whether he had made the right call or just thrown two grand on what was essentially a piece of crap. He looked for the top curator in Europe and flew him out to the States from Italy and tasked him with determining whether or not the painting was actually authentic or a piece of crap.
The curator had spent almost an entire week before getting back to him. He was having a mixture of emotions as he looked at him.
“So, what is going on? Is this thing genuine or is it one of those strangely annoying pricey mistakes that I make every once in a while?” he asked when the curator Elijah Rossi walked into his office.
“Well, Mr. Corday, it seems that this time the stars were aligned,” he said with a smile. Adrian raised an eyebrow at him. He was not sure Elijah could see it, but he was feeling a little excited and anxious at the same time. “The paint used in the piece has no traces of any nuclear agents or anything of the sort,” he said.
“What does this mean?” Adrian asked, confused and excited at the same time.
“It means that at the very least, this painting dates back to before the First World War,” Elijah said. “We may not be able to determine exactly when the painting was done but I can tell that it is at least a hundred years old.”
Adrian leaned back in his chair and gently stroked his chin.
“How can you be sure about that?” he asked.
“The canvas it is on is dark…very dark which is an indicator of all those years it has lived through. Apart from this, there is the wood it is nailed to…everything about the painting is a dead giveaway. That is an old painting, Mr. Corday.”
“Just a hundred years? That wouldn’t get much in any market,” Adrian said.
“Perhaps.” Elijah reached into his bag and pulled out his iPad. “This is a photo I took of the painting. I took quite a number but this one is the money shot,” he said as he zoomed in on the photograph. He handed the iPad to Adrian.
“I don’t understand. What am I looking at?” he asked.
“The signature of the artist who did this,” Elijah said. “Or maybe the owner of the piece,” he added.
“That looks like Jacques Rousseau. Wait, the philosopher?”
“It could very well be one of the pieces once owned by Jacques Rousseau or it could have been done by a Jacques Rousseau, an artist who once worked on pieces that he later hung on the walls of the Livadia Palace,” Elijah said with a smile.
“Wait…isn’t that the summer palace that the Romanovs used to own before they were all murdered?” Adrian asked raising an eyebrow.
“Yes. In Crimea.”
“So what you are trying to say is that the artist in question could have been all buddy-buddy with the Russian royal family?” Adrian asked, still not sure whether he should have believed what he was saying.
“That is exactly what I am saying.” Elijah seemed a little proud of himself.
“But that could be an urban legend.”
“Yes it could be, but so could the fact that the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov actually survived the brutal execution of her family. No one can ever really know what happened to the Romanov girl the same way that no one can ever really know whether this is a Jacques Rousseau the philosopher’s painting or a piece of art that once adorned the wall of a palace.” He looked at Adrian who was still looking at the iPad. “Either way Mr. Corday, that painting is probably worth not less than two hundred grand at the very least.”
“Maybe it is a good thing that I have it stored away in my safe,” Adrian thought.
Adrian handed the iPad back to the man and sighed loudly. He looked at him and then reached for the top drawer of his desk from where he pulled out an envelope.
“It’s all there, Elijah,” he said, handing the envelope to the curator.
“It was good doing business with you once again, Mr. Corday,” Elijah said as he put the envelope and the iPad back in his pack before he stood up.
“The pleasure was all mine.” Adrian was not sure if Elijah could see the happiness in his eyes. This was probably what he had been working towards all these years. All he had to do, was to create a buzz about the piece and then hold a gala. It would not only be the biggest sale of his life but also the best kind of publicity The Parisian would ever get.
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