AN: Oh, God, it's been years since my last update! I'm very very sorry, but life (aka College) got really complicated this past month and I didn't even have time to breath, let alone write. But now Nick and Shari are back and ready for their first date. Chapter 9: Falling.

The following evening found Shari in front of the mirror, half dressed, and less than half sure of himself. She nervously shifted her silver hairbrush from hand to hand, occasionally resting in moments of pure doubt. Her burgundy silk top lay across the back of a chair, beckoning her, yet at the same time, taunting her.

With a deep sigh, she put it on and went back to observing her image; mechanically, she adjusted her earrings in the mirror for the hundredth time, touching her earlobes in turn to make sure that the tip of each teardrop-shaped diamond pointed symmetrically downward. It was silly, she knew -- he was not likely to notice such a trivial detail.

Shari was perfectly aware of the fact that she was acting ridiculous, like a teenage girl with a crush. She was a grown woman, for heaven's sake! Why was she so horribly nervous, then?

' That's because you're going out with him,' the little part left of her rational side replied.

At that point, and being 7PM sharp, the doorbell rang. The woman took a deep breath and counted to ten before opening the door.

If she had thought Nicholas was handsome at the hospital, where he wore those neat suits or even the horrible scrubs that somehow looked good on him, then she had no words to describe him right then. He was wearing a lightweight black sweater with a v neckline, black pinstripe slacks and loafers. She had never seen him look so casual, but she decided she liked it. A lot, actually.

" Good evening, Shari," he greeted her in that rich voice that always managed to turn her knees into jelly. " You look exquisite."

" Hello Nicholas, and thank you," she replied, feeling a growing warmth creeping up her cheeks. Still, she instantly recomposed her face before Nick could see the slightest reddening there.

But he was simply staring at her, absolutely captivated by her good looks. ' It was like I had been looking at her forever, but I had never seen her before,' he thought.

She was dressed as impeccably as usual, but Nick was felt she had taken particular care to look her best that night. He noticed the form-fitting outfit she was wearing, clinging to her feminine shapes, making the most of her hourglass figure. The burgundy boatneck top revealed part of her perfectly sculpted shoulders and ended in two wide, flowing sleeves. The black gaza skirt that reached a couple of inches above her knees exposed a considerable extent of her long lean legs, partly covered by black leather boots; they hugged her calves in such an intimate way that Nicholas almost envied them.

Her silky mahogany hair was loose and flawlessly done, softly caressing her back and framing her face, which's glowing fair skin matched perfectly the raspberry color of her lips.

Noticing she was looking at him as if expecting an action from him, he forced himself to speak. " Are you ready?"

" Yes."

" Then come with me," he said, and offered her an arm in the very manner of an Englishman.

Shari paused for an instant, a smile rising briefly to light her hazel eyes, before grabbing her purse and leaving the apartment with her escort for the night.

***

" Where are we going?" She asked once they were inside the impressive midnight blue Mercedes.

" That I will not tell you, but I believe it is a place you'll enjoy," Nicholas replied enigmatically, causing her eyebrows to shoot up.

" We're being mysterious, aren't we?" She mocked, but he could tell she was very much intrigued.

" There is a great deal of allure in the unknown," he stated.

Shari let out a short laugh. " Can't argue with that."

" Then trust me and you won't be disappointed."

After that, they fell into a comfortable silence as Nicholas drove through the city. At San Francisco Bay area, he stopped in front of a lovely small restaurant and helped her out of the car. As they entered, Shari simply fell in love with the place. The large dining room was dimly lit with the light of hundreds of tiny candles placed all over it. All tables were covered with thick, rich tablecloths in blue brocade with golden trimmings and had delicate flower vases in the center. The sweet scent of freesias filled the room.

The maitre, whom as Shari noticed appeared to be friends with Nicholas, led them to a small table that seemed to have been placed a bit apart from the others. It was right by the immense glass window and, as they both sat, she was mesmerized by the beauty of the scenery that lay in front of her eyes. The vast expanse of the ocean had a silverish hue provided by the half-moon rays that caressed its surface. At the distance, she could make out the island of Alcatraz and, a bit more to the West, was the Golden Gate, lit to all its glory.

The woman smiled; had it not been for the company she had, she could have spent the entire evening gazing through the window.

Nicholas felt a rush of warmth somewhere inside his chest at her peaceful expression as she looked at the scenery. " Do you like the place I chose?" He asked, absolutely certain of her answer.

" I like everything," she replied openly. " I don't go out much at night, I'm usually too tired to. But when I do, San Francisco's beauty awes me."

" Some say it's the loveliest city in America. But for me, this country offers such a variety of cities that it's impossible to place one above the others. "

" I don't think I could choose either. From New York to LA, they are all unique."

As she said that, her eyes wandered and rested on a nearby family of two adults and a six year old girl playing with her doll. The doll was getting all the treatment of a paying customer. It had its own high chair, plate, even a glass. The waiters that waited on the table made sure that the doll received the correct napkins and silverware as well.

" Oh, those times," commented Nicholas, who had also been observing the scene.

" Yes... fun was simpler back then," she replied, not sadly, but with a sweet smile. " And everything was OK as long as mom and dad were with you."

The man saw a glimmer of longing in her expressive eyes. " Do you miss your family?" He gently asked.

" God, yes. We are so close that, at first, I didn't think I'd be able to manage without them," she confessed, then shrugged. " But now I kinda enjoy the independence."

" Then you have no plans to return with them."

" No, I have a life here now." Somehow, that short statement made him feel at ease. He didn't like the idea of her moving back to Boston anytime soon. " What about your family?" She asked with frank curiosity.

" Well, father passed away a few years ago, but my mother and two sisters live in Athens. They call me every night, saying they miss their Nico back there," he said, with a reminiscent smile.

Shari could sense he really loved his relatives. That made her ask, " What caused you to move here?"

" I felt that the opportunity San Francisco University offered me was simply too good to miss," he replied, feeling a pang of guilty at lying to her.

At that, they had to pause to order their dinner, but then they continued to discuss their families, their upbringings and their tastes in everything, from food to literature. Conversation flowed easily between them; and when she laughed, it was a laughter unlike anything he had heard before, filled with excitement and magnetism. Nicholas could feel himself more and more drawn towards Shari as the evening progressed.

As for her, the woman simply couldn't believe she had once thought Nicholas Kokoris to be an insufferable stuck-up git. That man sitting in front of her was both charming and appealing, and she was sure she liked him. Quite a lot, to tell the truth.

Once they were done with dinner and the restaurant was starting to be vacated, they decided to call it a night. Despite her protests, Nicholas took care of the bill and then walked her to the car, pausing for a few minutes to gaze at the moon together.

They didn't talk much during the car ride and, once they were back at Shari's, Nicholas got out of the car and walked her to the building's entrance. None of them wanted the night to end, but they both had to work the following day and theirs was a job that required being alert.

When Shari attempted to open the door, Nicholas swiftly took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him, their lips only an inch apart. She made a small moan in the back of her throat, taking a step closer and lifting her hands up to grip his steely biceps, delighting in the feel of the hard muscles underneath the layers of cloth that separated her from his warm flesh. Slightly breathless from anticipation, she waited, wanting to feel that light touch upon her lips, feeling as if her entire being was focused on that one purpose.

The air was charged with electricity between them as he brought his head down and claimed his prize, taking her lips in his, devouring them completely. He wasted no time as his tongue slipped between her eagerly parted lips, drinking in the sweetness of her mouth. He let go of her hands and moved them under her shoulder blades, then rested them in the perfect hollow of her waist.

After a long, drugging kiss, he lifted his head and looked into her eyes. His voice was ragged as he spoke. " Am I still nothing but a co-worker or did this turn me into a man?"

" A man, I'd say. The kind of man I no longer care if he is my co-worker."

He smiled, pleased by her answer. " Then I hope we can do this again."

" I hope so too," was her soft reply.

With that, she turned to enter the building, but Nick grasped her by the shoulders again. This time, he caught her even more off guard and pulled her in his arms, kissing her long and hard. This time, it was him who broke the kiss.

" Good night, Shari, sweet dreams."

All she could do was stare at his back as he left, not once looking back.

***

Eight days after that kiss, Shari was refreshing her memory on liver and tumoral cells fusion for a special essay she had to run. Unfortunately, her mind kept returning to Nick, making the process of assimilating the twelve steps for producing an 'immortal' line of immune cells a long, tortuous one.

He had called her the morning following their first date, and every other one after that. Due to their busy schedules, they hadn't been able to go on a second date, but the electricity was there whenever they passed each other in the halls. He even stopped by her lab a couple of times and stole a couple of kisses from her. That day would be no exception.

He didn't make a sound, nor did he give any other warning of his presence. All the same, the small hairs prickled on the back of her neck, and Shari knew. She could feel his presence as clearly as if he'd touched her. He was behind her.

Slowly, Shari turned stood up and turned around until she came face to face with him, gripping the heavy volume of Cellular Biology with both hands and hugging it close to her chest. She smiled as, without a word, he pressed his lips to hers and she sagged against his body. As he wrapped his arms around her, she felt her heart ache inside of her. God, she didn't want to leave his arms. She had never experienced anything like what she was feeling right then. He kissed her deeply, slowly, and passionately nearly stealing her breath before releasing his hold in her.

Shari felt as if her knees were going to give but found the strength to stand. She looked in his eyes and couldn't describe what she saw, but she had never expected that.

" Good morning," he whispered, running his hands through her lustrous hair, undoing her neat ponytail.

" Nicholas," Shari found herself complaining, despite how good it felt. " You're crazy! We can't act like this in the hospital."

The man thoroughly ignored her protest. " Join me for lunch," he commanded. And Shari obeyed.

Who could ever resist Nicholas Kokoris' charms?

***

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