Love Led Them

an excerpt

Chapter One

He had to get out of there; he could feel the pressure mounting in his head with every beat of his heart-- thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump.

Marcus opened his drawer and searched desperately for some headache tablets. If he took some, he would hopefully be able to prevent the pain from getting worse. The tension in the office was becoming overwhelming; the air practically crackled as frayed tempers snapped.

Marcus hated deadlines. He'd just completed his part of the work and there was nothing more he could do. It was now up to the rest of the team. He found a packet of Panadol, popped two from the foil pack, and swallowed them down with water from the bottle on his desk.

He needed to get out of the office and go somewhere quiet where he could decompress and get away from the tension for a while before he'd be needed again in the afternoon to meet the deadline. Marcus knew exactly where he needed to go. He headed for the elevator after telling the receptionist he was going to lunch and soon joined the hustle and bustle of the crowded Sydney streets.

Office workers rushing to buy their lunch pushed past him. Shoppers, many with strollers and small children ambling along slowly, oblivious to anyone else, also helped to clog the crowded footpaths.

Taxis, blasting their horns at jaywalkers, sped through the streets, precariously changing lanes as if they owned the road. Buses, delivery trucks, and cars all jostled for position on the busy streets. The noise was beginning to make Marcus's head ache even more than when he was in the office.

Marcus headed up to Macquarie Street, stopping first at a street vendor to buy some fruit. He wasn't really hungry, but he knew he'd need to eat something to see him through the busy afternoon. The Royal Botanic Gardens was the one peaceful place he could think of in the city that was close enough to walk to in his hour-long lunch break.

The crowds lessened as he walked up Bent Street, and the headache tablets he'd taken began to take effect. At least now he didn't feel like his head was going to explode.

He entered the gardens through the ornate sandstone and wrought-iron Palace Garden gates and followed a pathway for only a couple of minutes when he reached some stairs that led down to a sunken garden. As he looked down at the tiny circular garden, the first thing he noticed was a small statue of a winged boy holding a bow and arrow in his right hand. The statue's left hand was raised, pointing to the top of the stairs as if beckoning him to come closer.

In the centre of the garden was a small round pond with a couple of ibises wading through the water, stopping occasionally to dip their long curved beaks into the water as they searched for some food on the bottom of the pond. The small statue stood on top of a marble plinth set in the centre of the pond. A wide pathway surrounded the pond and a pair of gardens hugged the pathway, like parentheses, filled with red Salvia at the front and tall Cannas in variegated reds and oranges at the back. A final pathway behind the garden beds and inside the sandstone walls finished off the garden. It was a tiny but intimate garden that displayed the little statue perfectly. It could have been easily overlooked had it been set in some of the larger gardens.

Marcus got halfway down the stairs and sat down. It was so quiet in the garden it was easy to forget that the bustling city was only a few hundred metres away. He was frustrated that he had no one special he could talk to when he was stressed like this. He went home to an empty house each night. There was nobody there he could talk to about how his day had been, and who would tell him about their day. He longed for someone to share a laugh with, to cook dinner with, and share a glass of wine. There was no one to cuddle him and take all his stress away. The simple fact was--Marcus was tired of being alone.

He looked at the statue that was obviously meant to be Cupid and sighed. He's never shot me with a damned arrow.

Marcus got up and finished walking down the stairs. He slowly walked around the pond as he studied the statue. On the plinth was a bronze surround near the top that had three small heads spaced around it, spouting water into the pond below. Between two of the spouts was the name of the statue.

"Love Led Them," he read out loud. Marcus's eyebrows drew together in a small frown as he looked up at the statue of the small boy. "Can you?" he asked the statue. "Lead people to love, I mean." He ran his fingers through his dark hair as he continued speaking. "Heaven knows I'm not doing a very good job on my own." He started walking up and down in front of the statue, still running his fingers through his hair, thinking hard. Finally he turned back to the statue and said, "It's not like I haven't been trying, but I really could use some help here, buddy." Marcus started flinging his arms around as he spoke. "I'm not asking for the impossible here. All I want is a nice, ordinary guy I can love and who can love me in return. That's not asking too much, is it?" he asked, spreading his arms with his palms turned up. "He doesn't need to be a cover model or anyone like that; those guys are too full of themselves. I'd prefer if he didn't look like a troll or anything nasty, of course. Oh, and he needs to be single, that's a given."

Marcus was so busy talking to the statue that he didn't notice the amused looks a few of the people who passed through the garden gave him. Nor did he notice the elderly lady who, when she realised he was actually having a conversation--albeit a decidedly one-sided conversation--with a statue, hurried past as fast as her weary legs could carry her, just in case crazy was catching.

"Let's see if you can lead me to love by Valentine's Day. I'll do the searching, and you can send some guys my way. The way I see it is this: if we both work together, there's no way we can fail." Marcus grinned at the statue, well satisfied with his plan. With a final nod and a wink to Cupid, he continued on through the garden and down the few steps to the next level and sat on the lawn in the Rose Garden under the shade of a large tree to eat his fruit.