Elizabeth entered her apartment, then leaned against the door and sighed contentedly. Her blissful thoughts were interrupted by the vibration of her cell phone. "Hello."
"I enjoyed today.”
David’s voice gave her a thrill, even though she’d just left his company minutes ago. "Me, too.” She twirled a lock of hair around her finger as she ambled to her bedroom. After he promised to call tomorrow, they said goodbye. Elizabeth flopped down on her bed and smiled. David’s call was the perfect way to end the day.
12 hours earlier
The phone call woke Elizabeth from an insufficient sleep. "What?" she moaned. She'd been on a stakeout the night before, and though she’d successfully captured comprising pictures of her client’s husband, it had taken most of the night.
"Elizabeth Holt?" a male voice asked.
"Who wants to know?” Elizabeth rolled onto her tummy and squinted at her alarm clock. "And why are you calling so early?"
"My bad. Didn't think 10 a.m. was too early, " the voice said un-apologetically. "I’m David, your upstairs neighbor."
Elizabeth sat up. “I know who you are.” Every woman in her apartment complex was aware of the handsome bachelor. She'd seen ladies hide behind the Ficus tree in the lobby hoping for a chance to ride the elevator with him. Elizabeth knew his type and was confidently immune to his charms.
"You're a PI, right?"
Elizabeth adjusted her attitude when she realized she might have a paying client on the phone. "Yes," she said politely, trying to atone for her earlier gruffness.
"My neighbor, Mildred Beasley, is missing.”
Elizabeth pictured the grouchy old lady and her poodle offspring. “I can be there in 10 minutes.”
In her sleepiness, Elizabeth banged into the door on her way to the bathroom. “Not a great beginning to your day, Elizabeth,” she mumbled to herself as she rubbed her sore shoulder. She hurriedly brushed her teeth and swabbed some mascara onto her eyelashes before sprinting out the door.
She found David pacing in front of Mildred’s room, her yapping dog, Bingo, under his arm. Even unshaven in wrinkled shorts and a t-shirt, he looked like he belonged in a magazine ad. Elizabeth was grateful she wasn’t shallow enough to be fooled by his handsome looks.
David seemed relieved to see her. “Bingo’s been barking for hours. Mildred’s door was unlocked, but she’s not there. She wouldn’t leave Bingo.”
He followed Elizabeth into the orderly but outdated apartment. Elizabeth pointed to the purse and car keys sitting on the counter. “She hasn’t gone far. I wonder if the dog knows where she is.”
David sat Bingo down. He scurried to the end of hall and stopped at the trash chute.
Elizabeth and David exchanged a puzzled look. “She couldn’t have fallen down the trash chute.” Elizabeth pulled the handle.
David stuck his head into the chute. “Hello,” he hollered.
“Help!” came the faint reply.
“She’s in the basement!” The three dashed down the stairs.
They found Mildred lying beside the garbage bin, moaning in pain. At the sight of David and her dog, her wrinkled face broke into an awkward grin. “David! Bingo! I accidently dropped my watch into the chute,” she explained. “I came down here to get it, but fell trying to climb into the bin.” She reached for Bingo and then planted a wet kiss on David’s blushing cheek.
An ambulance arrived shortly and transported her and David to the hospital. Elizabeth followed in her car. In the ER, Elizabeth pretended to read a magazine as she waited for David. Her stomach jumped when he entered and sat down beside her. “She’s resting.”
“You and Mildred seem close.”
David shrugged his shoulders. “She may be rough around the edges, but she’s just lonely.”
Elizabeth pulled a watch out of her purse and handed it to David. “You can give this to Mildred when she wakes up.”
David’s eyes widened in surprise as he took the watch. “Thanks.” He smiled at Elizabeth. “I guess that explains this,” he said as he pulled a piece of lettuce from her hair. “You surprised me today.” His words echoed Elizabeth’s exact thoughts.
“Before today, you never even smiled at me.”
Elizabeth looked down. “In my line of work, I meet a lot of untrustworthy men. Perhaps it’s made me a little closed.”
“A little?” he teased.
Elizabeth offered David a genuine smile.
“Want to go get something to eat?” he asked.
Elizabeth accepted, unaware that lunch was just the beginning.
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