The accidential Hacker

Harriet is a struggling painter.. One day she accidentially hacks into someone computer and it turns her whole life upside down

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8. Finally meeting 2

"So, tell me about the exhibition." Zac demanded as we waited for our main

courses. I'd finished my first glass of wine now and had noticeably relaxed, so I

was happy to chat normally.

"It's a superhero exhibit that he's putting on in February and he wants to include

six of my pieces!"

"Is that good?"

"I'd be lucky to have one included, so yes it's fantastic."

"So I take it he's kept your paintings for it?" he must have noticed that I'd left

without the case.

"Actually, Mike only liked two of the canvases I brought, the other four will have

to be new, so I said I'd have a selection ready for him to choose from in January

."I'm sorry." He sounded like Mike had insulted me.

"You should be." I teased. "Someone made some british bloke buy all my 

favourite works and then you convinced me to visit galleries again, 

so I'd been painting mostly non-geeky things."

He frowned, unsure how to react.

"Three of the ones he didn't like were older pieces," I explained. "I knew they

weren't my best but I'd only had time to replace Iron Man and Loki, and I had a

second Loki one that I painted fairly recently so he picked his favourite of the

two. He has a special van to transport and collect paintings, so he said he'd have

the ones he doesn't want delivered back to me."

"That's amazing," he smiled warmly at me.

"Well, I have you to thank for it really. He said Tom showed him all ten of the

paintings he ordered and his decision was mainly based on them."

"I told you he didn't buy them out of charity, didn't I?"

I smiled and blushed under his praise, finally believing him.

"So does this mean no more pet portraits?" he asked.

"Oh no, I am not giving that gig up yet. It might not be respected but it's

supported me for years. Besides, just because Mike likes my work, doesn't mean

his customers will buy them."

'You're rather pessimistic," he said, which made me grin.

"I am not!" I argued. "Did you not feel that hug I gave you out there?"

"Oh believe me, I recall every detail," he practically purred.

 The charming bastard.

"My point is that I'm thrilled but I'm also a realist, and I won't count my chickens

before they've hatched. I'll bet you've had auditions that you thought went

brilliantly, then you didn't get the part, right? I mean clearly whoever did the

casting was insane, but no one wins all the time."

"Very true," he nodded. "And thank you for the compliment."

"Oh come on, you know I love your work."

"I know you love Fandral, that's all you've said."

"I thought you liked me because I deflate your ego, not inflate it."

Zac smirked. "True."

"Besides Chuck, I am afraid to admit I don't think I've seen anything else you've been in."

"Really?"

"Oh, there was Less than perfect. Although Kipp is so different from both Chuck and Fandral,

 I kind of keeps forgetting it's you".

"Remember sunday?"

"I'm saving that. I haven't been depressed enough to subject myself to one and a half hours

of being sad yet."

 "It isn't that sad, more bittersweet like a Woody Allen film."

"Nope, sorry. I don't watch Woody Allen films."

He frowned in confusion and I knew that if he questioned me, he was about to see

the my militant side. I wondered if he could accept it.

"Never?" he asked

"Not for as long as I can remember."

"You dont like his films?"

I could lie but it's not somthing I enjoy doing. Besides, if we were going to be

friends, I wanted him to be friends with me, warts and all, not friends with who I

might want to pretend I am.

"I believe his daughter, Dylan," I answered, "and I believed Mia Farrow long

before she spoke out. All he's done is re-victimise that girl by calling her a liar and

publically calling her crazy, which makes what he did even worse, if that's

possible, so I won't give him any of my money. Same goes for Roman Polanski. I

don't care how good it is, I refuse to watch it."

He nodded thoughtfully.

"For what it's worth, that's my personal belief system and I don't hold other

people to it. Everyone has to answer to their own conscience. Although in

fairness, if you worked with him, I can't promise I'd be okay with that. In

fact, I know I wouldn't be okay with it. I'm sorry, but that's how I feel."

"You feel very strongly about this, don't you?"

I nodded. "I know people who have been abused, as children and adults. I'm even

related to someone and I've seen first hand how she still lives with that every day

of her life. So yes, I feel very strongly about it. And I'm not sorry."

"To be quite frank, I'd heard the rumours but I honestly hadn't given it much

thought before."

"Most people don't," I assured him. "Ignorance is bliss, after all, and I can't blame

them. I can't say there aren't times when I wish I didn't know what I know. But I

do know it and I can't change that. All I can do is live my life in a way that is true

to me and what I believe."

"It clearly means a lot to you so I'll definitely give it some thought," he said. "I'll

do some research. On Polanski too, I didn't think his crime was that bad, was it?"

"He plea bargained down to a lesser change because the victim's family didn't

want her to go through a trial, but I can find you the link to the grand jury

testimony, then you can decide for yourself if he's a victim or a monster

"Please do. Can you email it to me?"

"Of course. Now let's get onto happier topics," I did not want our first meeting to

be all about 'the evil than men do'. "So, what else have you been in?"

"Tangled.. but well only my voice."

 "That I have seen and Eugene is by far my favorite Disney prince, and

 I honestly think it is mostly your fault, you just make him so likeable". 

 He smiles at my answer.

"Heroes reborn ?"

"That is that series were people has special powers right ?"

"That's it."

"I think Kerry said I should try it but I've kind of gone off supernatural stuff recently

sorry".

"So you haven't looked through IMDb or Netflix for me then?" He sounded

sceptical that I had seen so little.

"I wouldn't let myself," I explained. "I liked you before I knew who you were, and

you didn't want me to know your name because you didn't want me to change

 how I behaved around you." I was almost afraid to continue so my voice was

almost a whisper. "I didn't want what was between us to change either".

He gave me a warm smile and reached over to take my hand, squeezing it gently

I smiled back, wishing there wasn't a table between us.

Our food came then and we made small talk for the rest of the meal. Zac told me

about a play he'd seen recently and I told him a bit more about my family,

describing my scientist brother, the world's biggest nerd (he actually had few

social skills so the moniker was appropriate) and he was the one responsible for

my love of all things geek, my business executive brother, my university lecturer

sister and my history professor mother.

"You must be the black sheep to be an artist then".

"I'm the baby," I grinned. "I was allowed more leeway than the others".

I hoped he couldn't see through my bravado, I did feel like the black sheep, like

the failure. The rest of my family were scholarly, even my brother, who also has

dyslexia, went into science. Me? Well I doodle for a living. My sister thinks that

being an artist is the same as being a painter/decorator. The rest of my family are

nice about it but I can't help feeling that they think I'm a failure. My businessman

brother always sends me a check instead of birthday and Christmas presents.

I haven't had to cash any for over seven vears now but I don't think he's even

noticed.

"Darling, you don't need to hide with me. Please, we've always been honest."

 "Not true, you didn't tell me who you were."

“I never lied, I only withheld my name".

"A lie of omission."

"Maybe, but I don't want any pretence between us. Please?"

I was granted a few moments respite as the waitress came to take our plates; we

turned down desert but accepted coffees.

The silence stretched out once she had gone and I knew he was going to keep

silent until I spoke. It's a trick psychologists and interrogators use; it makes

people uncomfortable and more likely to open up,

"You just..." I sighed. "You're so confident."

"How can you tell?"

"I've seen some of your interviews and panels, and you always come across as 

exceptionally self-possessed. I'm just a needy mass of insecurities. Why would 

you want to be friends with someone like me?"

"Darling, you aren't needy, you're one of the bravest people I know."

My jaw slackened in shock, probably in a comical way and certainly in an

unattractive way.

 "People like me have it easy," he continued. "I don't claim to be a scholar but I've

certainly never been made to feel the way you do. Despite that, despite

everything, you found something you're brilliant at and you found a way to make

it pay. You could easily have given up and got an office job but you didn't, and I

think your pet portraits are fantastic because they show your determination to do

something you love."

"They're just-"

"No, I've seen the high definition pictures on your site, you put as much work into

them as you do into your other paintings."

"Jasper's different, he's-”

"Don't do that, they are other people's words, the people who undermined your

confidence, the people who didn't believe in you. I believe in you, darling. And I

honestly don't care if you enjoy Shakespeare or not, I have enough friends to

share that with,"

I didn't know how to reply so I stayed silent.

"I'll tell you why I want to be your friend, shall I? First, you love your family and

are fiercely protective of them. That's a quality I deeply admire."

I smiled, remembering the insults I'd hurled at him when I thought he was dating

my mother.

"Second, I know you're intelligent and seem well read, despite your learning

difficulty."

"You can't know that-"

"I can and I do. You told me about how you learned to love reading and I can tell

from your vocabulary that you're well read. I know from our conversations that

you're intelligent and insightful; in just one watch of Much Ado and you grasped

things that I didn't see on one reading."

I was pretty sure that I was beet red by now, my cheeks were burning

"Finally, I know you have a good heart."

'You can't possibly know that. For all you know, I spend my free time kicking

stray puppies and stealing from charity tins."

"People who kick puppies don't avoid certain directors because thev disagree with

their crimes, and they don't start to cry when I tell them they are my friend."

"I disagree, call any fan up and tell them you want to be their friend, I'll bet there

are more than a few tears."

"Maybe," he smirked at me. "But I know I'm right".

"Really?'"

"You said it yourself, darling, I'm confident, which means I'm supremely

confident in my assessment of your character, and nothing you do or say will

convince me otherwise.'"

He was goading me and I couldn't help but smile. Maybe he did understand more

than I gave him credit for.

"You want to wipe this smile off my face now, don't you?" He grinned.

"You smug git.

"Guilty as charged." He laughed.

I narrowed my eyes but the smile on my lips rather spoiled my attempt at glare,

the waitress retuned with our coffees and the bill and once she'd left, Zac

continued.

"I'm also supremely confident that when I ask, you'll go out on a date with me."

I sat back and crossed my arms over my chest. "And what if I say no?"

"I know where you live now, so I'Il camp outside you door until you agree".

"I won't buzz you in."

"One of your neighbours will, or I'll wait for them to go inside. I'm sure they'll

hold the door open for me, it's only polite, after all."

"But you don't know what apartment I live in."

"I know it's the top floor, I'm sure one of your neighbours will tell me which one

is yours."

"Oh, and why would they tell a total stranger that?"

"Because I'm me, darling, and at least one of them must know me and hopefully, like me. 

Even if not, I'm hardly likely to be a stalker, now am I?”

"I'll call the tabloids."

He shrugged. "If I don't give them a story, they'll just make one up. Last year they

made up girlfriend and me being gay, at least the story of my stalking of a talented, up and

coming artist will be true.”

I'd run out of excuses and he knew it.

"Well, I wouldn't want you making a fool of yourself, so I guess I'd better say yes."

"You know, I haven't actually asked you yet."

I shook my head incredulously. "You charming bastard!"

He grinned. "Now about that date, how do you feel about costume parties?"

"Pretending to be someone else... it's certainly original for a first date, I'll give you

that."

"So you'll go with me?"

"I suppose."

"Such enthusiasm!" He clutched his heart, as if genuinely touched

I rolled my eyes at his antics and reached for the bill, but my hand landed on his.

"Uh uh, this one's on me," I told him

"Darling, A gentleman always pays for dinner."

"This isn't dinner and I'm not a charity case. I owe you for this introduction and I

want to thank you by buying you lunch."

"Fine, the next one is on me."

"Great. And the one after that will be on me."

"Very well, if you insist," He huffed, then suddenly brightened.

"What?" I asked, leaving cash in the bill fold.

"That's at least two more dates you've agreed to." He sounded like a kid at

Christmas and I had to admit, I felt rather the same way about him.

We stood up and he put his jacket around my shoulders again. I was about to

protest but obviously he could see it coming

"The car isn't far," he assured me.

 He offered his arm, which I took and we left the bistro.

"So, when is this party?" I asked

"It's this Saturday, it's Christmas themed so anything from an elf to the snow

queen."

"You're not exactly giving me much time to find a costume here."

"Don't worry, I've got contacts who can find you a killer costume. What dress size

are you?'"

I gasped. "First you ask my age, now my dress size? I thought you were supposed

to be a gentleman!"

He laughed. "If you don't tell me,I'll just have to guess." He stepped away and his

gaze roamed slowly over my figure, a small smile playing on his lips.

"Hmm." He muttered approvingly

"You should take a picture, it'll last longer," I teased. Honestly, I kind of enjoyed

his appreciation, it made me feel like the prettiest woman in the world.

Zac however, took my words to heart.

"Fantastic idea!" and the next thing I knew, he had whipped his phone out and

was snapping a picture. I grabbed at it playfully but he was taller than me and his

arms were much longer.

I soon gave up and pouted, at which point he angled the phone towards us both.

"Let's take one together!"

He made it sound like the most exciting thing ever and I couldn't help but smile

at him. Although I hadn't agreed, he put his head near mine and snapped it, then

slipped his phone into his trouser pocket.

"Don't I get to see it?"

"Nope." He gave me that smug smile again.

"What if I look ugly in it?"

"Then I shall keep it to remind me how hard you work to attain your usual

beauty".

I laughed as I elbowed him in the ribs. Yep, he was definitely a charming bastard.

 

 

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