The following was originally the opening scene for my second book, Somewhere To Belong. It was deleted in favor of moving quicker into what’s call the inciting event. I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Daniel and seeing another side of him.
Somewhere To Belong
Daniel had the distinct feeling he wasn’t where he belonged and knew it was time to leave. It wasn’t because he couldn’t afford the designer-clothes adorning many of the invited guests. He believed he looked perfectly acceptable in his classic dark blue jeans, white button-down shirt, and black blazer. He figured his rugged good looks more than compensated for any perceived fashion flaw. And it wasn’t because he didn’t enjoy the small talk that seemed to dominate most conversations. He was well versed on current events and could usually hold his own in any social discussion if it didn’t get too political. He gave himself credit for being intelligent, articulate and even charming, if he was so inclined. No, his fish-out-of-water feeling was hitched to being a good-ole, suburban cowboy surrounded by an urban fantasy. He felt out of place in the elegant uptown art gallery sitting high on a hill overlooking the lights of San Francisco.
The Nob Hill Art Gallery, with its stellar view of the city and the distant bay, was thoroughly modern, sleek and glossy. Shiny glass and silver surfaces throughout the remodeled building artfully reflected the spotlights directed at the large paintings of cityscapes hung along the silk-covered beige walls. Bountiful floral arrangements placed strategically throughout the gallery competed with the assortment of subtle and some not-so-subtle perfumes adorning the guests.
Daniel was there at the personal request of the artist, an old friend he knew from their days at SFSU, and while they no longer traveled in the same social circles their long standing friendship, coupled with Daniel’s good looks, qualified him as a suitable guest for Jonah’s opening night gala. The way Jonah saw it, being surrounded by beautiful people was a reflection of his good taste, and he knew it was good for business.
Making his way back toward the front doors, Daniel figured he had fully satisfied his social obligation to Jonah. He had walked throughout the art gallery viewing all of Jonah’s work, had the one drink minimum required to appear social, and had talked to one new woman with whom he had nothing more in common than that they both knew Jonah and worked in San Francisco. On the other hand, he had discovered their differences were quite lengthy. She lived in an art-deco condo in North Beach while he lived on a ranch in the East Bay. She was a hip fashion merchandiser and he was a suburban cowboy turned police officer. She drove a new, energy-efficient, royal-blue hybrid while he drove a classic, gas-loving, candy-apple red Ford Mustang. She was quite attractive if you liked the thin long-legged blond look, which most men did, but unfortunately he hadn’t found enough common ground to hold his interest.
After politely excusing himself from a conversation that was already losing its direction he made his way over to the artist to let him know he was leaving.
“Great show, Jonah, looks like another big success.” He clinked his beer bottle against Jonah’s wine glass.
“Thanks for coming. I noticed you talking to Meredith, how did it go?” Jonah cocked his finely-trimmed brow and nodded in her direction.
Daniel gave a shrug of his broad shoulders. “As far as it’s going to. She’s nice but…”
“Let me guess, not your type,” Jonah interrupted his friend, having heard it all before.
“Yeah, nothing new there. But you can’t say I didn’t try.” It was the same old song and dance, only the faces changed.
“That’s just it. You don’t even have to try. You easily have the best looking woman in the room talking to you and then you just go – nah, it’s not working for me and walk away. She would have gladly handed over her phone number, and probably offered you a peek into her panties, but you don’t even ask. See, to me, that’s not trying.” Jonah gave a shake of his head and continued. “I know there are only two reasons why women like Meredith come to my gallery openings, okay maybe three, but the first two aren’t to see me and my art. They’re here to see and be seen, and they’re here in hopes of meeting someone like you.”
Daniel shrugged off his friend’s commentary. “I’m sure she knows as well as I do it just wasn’t there. No use in pursuing a dead end.”
While they talked, Daniel noticed Jonah’s eyes scanning the room full of well-dressed attendees, watching the reactions of the opening night guests. It was just like Jonah to be always looking for the next well-funded patron of the arts, his arts in particular.
From across the spacious room Meredith raised her glass in a silent salute in their direction. Jonah raised his wine glass in return. Daniel just nodded and took a long draw of his beer. Meredith’s attention was clearly focused in their direction, and Daniel wasn’t gullible enough to believe it was Jonah or his large cityscape painting hanging on the wall behind them that was drawing her interest.
“From where I stand it looks like she wouldn’t be opposed to a little pursuing,” Jonah said, keeping his eyes on the crowd before him.
“Funny, to me it looks like she’s doing the pursuing.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Who’s pursuing whom. Call me old fashioned but I like to take the lead,” Daniel said, turning to face his friend. Anything to avoid Meredith’s eyes trying to bore a hole through his jeans.
“This is the twenty-first century. Women like to be on top.” Jonah smirked.
“Then have at it buddy, she’s all yours.” Daniel gave a good-nature smack to Jonah’s shoulder.
“Yeah, right. If only I fit the tall, dark and mysteriously handsome type, instead of short, pale and artfully intellectual.” Jonah stretched upright to his full height just shy of six feet, but was still several inches shorter than the man standing next to him. Daniel’s tall, dark and handsome build included a six foot three inch athletic body topped by deep brown hair mixed with touches of auburn, and a year round tan resulting from a lifestyle that kept him outdoors more often than not. His hazel brown eyes were infused with dark green specks, causing them at times to appear to change color.
“Don’t try to sell yourself short to me. I know darn well you’re not sitting home alone waiting for the phone to ring,” Daniel shot back at his friend. He knew Jonah’s words contradicted his belief that his sunny California good looks of blond hair and blue eyes entitled him to a lifelong membership in the beautiful peoples club.
“Yes, well, thanks to the recent success of my latest round of showings, I’ve been enjoying the attentions of a number of attractive patrons of the arts, bedroom arts included.” Jonah’s smile was blatantly devious.
Daniel rolled his eyes with a shake of his head. He’d known Jonah too long to take him seriously.
“It’s not a bad run of popularity and currently I happen to be particularly enjoying the attentions of one very interesting young woman from the San Francisco Art Academy. It might be a bit too soon to tell, but the optimist in me believes the relationship looks quite promising. She specializes in illustrated photo art – among other things.” Jonah looked up at his friend as if expecting him to be impressed. For Daniel it was a lost cause. He’d seen Jonah work his way in and out of too many relationships over the years to get excited over yet another.
“That reminds me,” Jonah continued. “I think I saw Ciel arrive earlier. Perhaps I should seek out her reaction to the show while the impression is still fresh.” Jonah stood on his tip-toes to gain a few inches of height and continued to scan the room seeking out the woman of his interest. He reminded Daniel of a well-dressed bobble-head doll.
“By all means, I’m heading out anyway. Enjoy your evening, man, you deserve it,” Daniel offered his unnecessary encouragement.
“As always, and you enjoy yours.” Jonah gave a friendly farewell pat to Daniel’s shoulder then redirecting his gaze to the wine bar where a petite Japanese woman stood wearing an eclectic outfit. It appeared to be a combination of prep school uniform meets vintage yard sale, but on her it looked good. Ciel cast a sly come-hither glance at Jonah.
“Right, as always.” Daniel lifted his beer in a farewell salute. The sendoff went unnoticed by Jonah. He was already on his way to greet his Ciel.