She didn't remember a thing about the course of her day, but suddenly it was six o' clock, the museum had been vacated, the exhibit boxes had arrived and were locked in the room, and any minute now, Patricia Crane would waltz in a man who would delight or devastate her world. Panic churned in her gut. She considered hiding in the vaults.
Just as she was debating which direction to run, she heard a key in the lock and the front doors flew open. The sound of male and female laughter boomed in the vast entrance hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Rosalyn thought she might lose what small lunch she had managed to eat.
Oh dear Lord he was even more handsome than his photograph. Rosalyn was desperately glad she had the rail of the grand staircase to hold onto lest she tumble down the many steps, splaying herself across the marble floor for a greeting.
Mr. Simms was in mid-sentence when he looked up to see her on the staircase. Whatever word was on his lips seemed to die in his throat. Rosalyn heard all sounds but the frantic clamor of her heart fall away. It seemed an interminable time before he crossed the long foyer and she descended the staircase.
He was dressed in a fine, cream-colored suit and vest that suited his sturdy, lean physique and sun-kissed face, the angles and smooth lines perfectly proportioned and framed by an unruly mop of black, wavy hair. The blue cravat at his throat was muted by the shocking blue of his eyes. His sepia portrait could not have prepared her for the blinding blue of his eyes.
The sound of Mrs. Crane's voice sounded very far away. "Mr. Anthony Simms, Miss Rosalyn Abbett. Finally the two of you, famous to the other by now, meet in person."
"Indeed," Mr. Simms replied softly. His voice cut through the fog and time regained its normal course. He lifted her gloved hand to his lips without taking his eyes from hers. She thought she might faint. Amazingly, her wits held ground and she discovered herself speaking.
"Good evening, Mr. Simms, what a pleasure it is to finally make your acquaintance. I, of course, have heard much about you from my father, may he rest in peace."
"Yes, may he. I have much to share of your father, but first let me offer you this, he begged me give it to you the moment we met," he stated, his voice deep and melodic and full of sincerity. He drew his handsome face close to hers. She felt the brush of his black locks against her temple. He placed a soft, chaste kiss on her cheek and withdrew. The heat between them remained. Mrs. Crane thankfully did not call attention to the blush that was rising fiercely to Rosalyn's cheek.
"How dear the man was, even in his dying moments," Mrs. Crane exclaimed. "Oh, Mr. Simms, I am most glad to have you here, but how I wish Mr. Abbett was here with you."
"I couldn't wish for a thing more myself, Mrs. Crane," Mr. Simms replied solemnly.
"Indeed. Well, it's been a pleasure, Mr. Simms. I must away to my ailing husband. Do drop by at some point tomorrow if you have a moment, my dear John is just as anxious to meet you as I was."
"That sounds splendid, Mrs. Crane, thank you for the offer," Mr. Simms said agreeably, offering to escort her to the door.
"No, no, I'll be just fine. Rosalyn will show you around the new parts of the museum. It looks much different than it did a decade ago, doesn't it?"
"My, yes, I look forward to a tour," Mr. Simms said, his eyes glittering at Rosalyn. Rosalyn told herself to smile pleasantly and hoped her expression didn't look daft.
"Goodnight, Ros, try and get as many of the pieces placed tonight as you can," Mrs. Crane instructed.
"Of course," Rosalyn replied stiffly, willing her blush to remain at bay. "Goodnight, Mrs. Crane, do give my best to John, will you?"
With a wave and a smile that held far too many insinuations to be acknowledged, Mrs. Crane vanished down the front steps, leaving the two young people with an enormous art museum to themselves, save for one night watchman and a janitor who seemed to be curiously out of their way.