That evening after her shift, she made her way to Cal’s office. She still felt shaken after this morning’s strange encounter, and she had made up her mind to ask Cal if he’d experienced anything… Strange… Since the antique piano arrived. Part of her felt deathly afraid of what he might think, but she felt like she had to tell someone. What if she really was cracking from stress or worry or… something? She took a breath and rapped on Cal’s office door. It opened before her third rap.

“Maren,” he said smiling.

Maren smiled back. Her stomach felt full of jitters, good and bad. “Cal.”

He wrapped his hands around her shoulders and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. “Come on in for a minute — I have to save my work and then we have the whole rest of the afternoon.”

Maren followed him into his chaotic office. While he rapidly typed in a few last figures and saved them, she took her time looking at the historical Theatre memorabilia collected in the small room. There were old, framed movie posters, pictures of former productions, newspaper clippings, a few plaques, a few awards… Even old photographs from different stages in the Theatre’s lifetime.

“Amazing some of it has survived this long,” he commented right in her ear.

“Very.” She straightened and faced him. “So what did you have in mind for the afternoon?”

He smiled a devilish smile that turned her knees to jelly. His hands snaked around her waist and she found herself snugly in his embrace. “I had… Ideas,” he whispered into her ear.

“Oh really?” she asked, as she found his mouth with her lips.

They explored each other for the next few minutes, just enjoying their closeness. When they came up for air, Cal spoke.

“Actually, I wanted to see if you were interested in playing music with me again?”

“Sure.”

“Great. Just what I hoped you’d say.” Cal seized her hand and towed her laughing down the hall.

She stopped at the edge of the stage though he continued across to the piano. She watched as he swept the cover from the stage instrument, then held his hand out to her with a flourish. Maren felt her cheeks redden as she stepped from the curtains to join him. She took his hand and his fingers were warm as he guided her onto the bench next to him. The touch of their hips sent a tingling of butterflies soaring in Maren’s stomach.

He began to play a slow, seductive melody, and he glanced at her with a wink. She grinned and nudged him fondly with her shoulder. He laughed. “Okay, okay, I’ll be serious.” He modified the melody into a different one. After a few moments, Maren identified it as the Barcarolle from the Tales of Hoffman. They spent the next couple hours trading songs; he’d play a melody for her to accompany and then they’d switch. It was fun and yet intellectually stimulating; she got so she could follow him no matter what key or time signature he chose. When Maren had the lead, Cal continually surprised her with how he seemed to know where she headed before she herself knew.

“You two sound great together!”

Maren flinched from the keys to spy Lettie from the box office sitting in the first row. When had she arrived?

“Thank you, Lettie!” Cal called.

“How long has she been there?” Maren hissed at Cal.

“Ive been listening for the last hour, Miss Thompson, and a lovely hour it has been,” Lettie said. “But, it is late and this old woman needs some rest.”

“Good night, Lettie,” Cal said.

“Night, boss, Miss Thompson.” The elderly lady levered herself up from the chair and slowly made her way up the aisle.

Maren gave Cal a shocked look. He chucked softly. “I told you there’d be nothing to worry about if you’d just relax…”

She let out a shaky breath and gave him a small smile. “Maybe I can do this…”

“Of course you can, sweetheart. And just to prove that you can, I would like to ask if you’d be interested in doing a duet with me? Just like this. You can still do your solo if you want.”

Maren felt speechless. The man surprised her at every turn! But furthermore, she’d just played for an hour in front of an audience and had no problem. Granted, she hadn’t known Lettie was listening, but still — Cal had kept her engaged enough in the music that having a listener hadn’t been an issue. Maybe she really could do this! Maybe doing a duet with Cal was a good entry point into combating the fear that had held her career hostage for so long…

“Yes,” she said at last.

Cal grinned and planted a swift kiss on her cheek. “That’s my girl,” he said.

* * *
This is part of an ongoing story — catch up via the Serials page!

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