His Call

Krista was not in the holiday spirit, and doubted she would ever be. As she approached Rockefeller Center, her stomach muscles clenched and unclenched. She’d agreed to be interviewed by some strange reporter who frankly she didn’t trust. What if he twisted her words into something unrecognizable? What if he took her picture against her wishes, and her face was smeared across the front page of every tabloid? What if?

Josh Stein had promised Lonnie to be respectful and not invade Krista’s privacy, but in this day of cell phone cameras and high tech devices, anything could happen.
Approaching the lit tree where she and Josh were to meet, Krista was jostled by several pointy elbows. She clung to the railing and looked down on an ice rink filled with enthusiastic skaters. Flags fluttered in the frigid evening breeze. On the ice, stumbling beginners competed with the more experienced skaters, and piped in background music added to the picturesque scene.

Too late, Krista realized she had no idea what Joshua Stein looked like. He’d said he would be wearing a navy coat and gray hat, but he hadn’t once asked what she looked like. She’d been the one to volunteer that she would be dressed in black knee-high boots and a Kelly green scarf.

“Krista?” The voice from behind her was both familiar and dreaded. She knew that voice. What a peculiar coincidence that she’d been thinking of him earlier and now here he was. Was he stalking her?

Krista turned and stopped dead in her tracks. Her mouth rounded into a frozen o and steam poured from her nose and mouth.

“Dan? What are you doing here?”More important how had he made the association between Krista and Gina? Stupid question he was a reporter. He knew how to dig.

“Josh Stein,” Dan said holding out his hand. When he realized she had no intention of taking it, he quickly stuffed his hand in the pocket of his navy wool coat. Josh was wearing the same gray Fedora that Dan had worn on the video cam.

“You lied to me,” Krista said, jabbing a finger in his chest, wondering what the hell was going on. Dan rather Josh had lured her here under false pretenses. What a louse.
Before she could continue berating him, Josh took a proprietary hold of her elbow and began moving her along. Krista wished he would keep his hands to himself. Being this close to him made even her lips tingle, and it had nothing to do with the cold.

Damnit! She was attracted to the man, never mind that he had played her. She and Josh clicked on some visceral level. She’d been conned, but how to explain the electricity sizzling between them leaving her one hot mess?

Smoke continued to pour from Krista’s mouth as she went on the attack. “So is Joshua Stein a made up name or what?”

When he looked at her, Krista throbbed in all the wrong places. A woman could lose her common sense around him. No alcohol tonight, she vowed, nothing but coffee.
“Nope. Your boss isn’t an idiot, she had me checked out. You probably did to.”

Krista had looked Josh Stein up and found a series of articles he’d written. They were intelligent, perceptive stories that made her realize the reporter had both depth and integrity. For personal reasons he’d left a prestigious position as an editor and moved from Cleveland to New York. There’d not been much else written about his life, and no photos accompanied his work. If she’d seen his picture and made the association, she would have turned Lonnie down flat. She wasn’t looking for trouble.
But right now she was steaming, furious actually, yet cognizant enough to know that the sparks coming off both of them could ignite a Yule log. Not good.

“So why did you pretend to be a client? Why was it so important we meet? And what about the story about your son? Was that made up too?” Krista grilled.

“I do have a son who’s struggling with issues. But that’s not why I’m here. I need information to tell my story in the most authentic way. I owe it to a friend.”

“And you’re willing to use me to get that information?” Krista tossed back, wishing her quivering stomach would settle down and she didn’t feel like hurling herself into his arms.

“I’m not using you, at least not in the way you think. Let’s find a place to have dinner and talk.”

When Josh’s grip on her elbow eased, she actually felt disoriented, as if she’d been set adrift amongst a sea of strangers. Josh placed his arm around her waist, steadying her, and she felt anchored again.

In silence they crunched their way to Sixth.