“Okay…there–no there.” Elizabeth bit her lip and tugged on her ear a little. “That’s perfect.”
“How many more?” Dillon Quartermaine, whom Emily had volunteered to help her move her paintings into the gallery, asked, wiping his forehead free of sweat.
“That was the last one, thanks Dillon.” Elizabeth checked her watch. “I told Jason five right?”
“It’s four fifty five,” Dillon stated. “And besides, I doubt Jason’s gonna run off with your daughter.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Yeah, good point. Maybe when she’s sleeping through the night.”
The bell over the gallery door tinkled and she turned to see Jason entering the gallery. She grinned at the sight of him in his leather jacket, t-shirt and jeans with a baby in one arm and a diaper bag slung over the other.
“Thank you so much for watching her today,” Elizabeth cooed as she lifted Stephanie into her arms. Stephanie waved her arms and grabbed a chunk of her mother’s hair in her chubby fist. “I hope it wasn’t inconvenient.”
“Nah, she liked hanging out at the pier with the rest of the warehouse guys.”
Elizabeth stared at him for a moment. “Did you just make a joke?”
“I think that’s what it was supposed to be,” Dillon supplied helpfully. Stephanie became enamored with Dillon’s spiky hair and reached out to grab some of it.
“She’s obsessed with hair,” Elizabeth sighed. “So…if she ever just yanks…tickle her stomach.”
“Good thing to note.” Dillon jerked his thumb towards the door. “If I’m done here, I’m gonna go meet Georgie.”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
Jason handed her the diaper bag. “We really just sat around the penthouse all day,” he told her. “She rolled over though–first time I’d seen her do that.”
“Yeah, she did it for the first time last night,” Elizabeth reported. She crouched down and fished Stephanie’s pacifier from the bag. “She was sitting on my bed while I sketching and she just…did it. I love seeing her do these things. The first time she held her head up…” She sighed happily. “It’s been such a great six months, you know?”
He nodded and glanced around the gallery. “You got a lot done today. Is it going to be ready in time for tomorrow?”
“I hope so. Emily’s on Steph duty tomorrow morning so I can finish.” She sighed and rubbed her hand over her daughter’s light brown hair. “I’ll be glad when I’m done this and I can just concentrate on her. Mrs. Barrington says with this second show, I should generate enough money to live off of for at least five years.” Her eyes sparked and Stephanie clapped her hands, delighted to see her mother happy. “I can’t believe I’m finally a real artist.”
“You were always an artist–now you’re just getting paid for it,” Jason corrected gently.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “You’re so literal sometimes,” she said good-naturedly.
“Well, I’d better go,” Jason said. “I’ve got some work to do at the warehouse.” He kissed Stephanie’s cheek. “See you two tomorrow.”
When he turned and was a few steps away, Stephanie started to fuss and wiggle in her mother’s arms. When Jason got nearer to the door, she started to wail.
“Oh, what’s wrong, big girl?” Elizabeth asked. Stephanie reached her arms in Jason’s direction. “Aw…you miss him already, huh?”
“Is she okay?” Jason called, the front door partly open, his arm braced on the handle.
“Yeah, she’s just a little upset her favorite person is leaving,” Elizabeth teased. “I think she’s under the impression your whole life revolves around her.”
It only took a few moments for Jason to step back inside and cross back to them. He lifted Stephanie back into his arms and she immediately quieted down. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked, his tone gentle and smooth. Stephanie raised her hands to his face and found his ear, tugging on it.
“I don’t think she wants you to leave,” Elizabeth mused. “In fact, I bet Stephanie would like you to come to dinner tonight,” she said, hesitantly.
Jason glanced at her, her expression suddenly guarded. “Stephanie would…or you would?” he asked.
“We both would,” Elizabeth admitted. “She’s been trying to eat solids,” she added. “I bet she’d like to show-off for you.”
Jason shifted Stephanie in his arms. “You don’t need to sell me on coming over,” he told her. “I’d like to come for dinner. In fact…” he took a deep breath and now he looked a bit nervous. “Maybe we could try…dinner next week…without her?”
“Just–just the two of us?” Elizabeth asked. She wiped her palms against her jeans, suddenly finding them sweaty. A slow shy smile spread across her face. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Jason repeated. He crouched down and put the diaper bag over his shoulder. “So…where are you ordering from tonight?” he teased.
“Hey, I’ll have you know I can now cook Hamburger Helper,” Elizabeth said defensively as she pushed the gallery door open for him. “Without burning it,” she added proudly.
“As long as soup’s not on the menu…” Jason trailed off with a good-natured smile. He took Elizabeth’s hand in his free hand and they moved towards her car in the lot.