He had no idea how long they had been standing there, no clue as to what time it was. He was only aware of her warm body pressed against his, her whole being was buried in his embrace and he smelled the sweet scent of her perfume. He was simply holding her now, responding to their love in the most sincere way he could think of and gratefully he listened to her calm breathing.
His hand moved up her neck, slowly tickling the sensitive skin there to get her attention and he felt her smile before she pulled back slowly. Her cheeks were red, gorgeous red, and when he met her gaze he was struck by the emotion in her eyes. Oh she was happy, no question about that, but there was something else in the blue depth of her eyes that made him realize once more that this evening they had stepped over a line and that there was no way back. Thank God there was no way back.
"Well…" he sighed, stroking her soft cheek once again. "I have to get going."
"You've said that about eight times already," she smiled and took a deep breath when he slowly leaned in to claim her lips once again. She had no idea how many times they had kissed this evening, every time their conversation seemed to get going somewhere one of them had given into the urge for feeling the other again. For hours they had been sitting on the couch to talk, enjoy the pleasure of each other's company and basically to float on air. Now they were standing in her hallway, he was leaning with his back against the front door with her as a perfect fit in his arms. They were acting like teenagers but she didn't care, the feelings he brought out in her were addictive and she could only ask for more.
"You really have to get going," she murmured against his lips, giggling when she heard his frustrated groan. She meant it though, she needed to be alone for a while to grasp this entire evening.
He pressed one last kiss on her lips before he finally pulled back. "Since things are real now…" he paused and grinned when her cheeks deepened in colour. "Are you free for dinner tomorrow night?" he asked, closing his jacket. "I think you should come and meet my daughters officially. Jaclyn came home this evening but she wasn't in the mood for the block party. Tomorrow would be a fine opportunity to show you off."
This sudden jump back to reality surprised her and she blinked, smiling at him when he raised a brow at her. "You don't waste any time do you?" she asked, reaching out to cup his cheek with her palm.
"I thought you wanted to get things moving?" he inquired and pressed a kiss against the inside of her wrist. She smiled when he squinted his eyes to study her expression.
"I do…" She realized he was both teasing her and getting her to open up. It had always been difficult for her, to be completely honest to someone else or herself when it came to her emotions. The fact that the man in front of her had turned into her partner instead of her friend only made it harder.
"But not this fast huh?" he chuckled, pulling her a little closer against him again so her hands came to rest on his chest. He planted a kiss on her forehead. "Oh just come to dinner, it's high time that you come into my house don't you agree?" His breath stirred her hair and she pulled back, meeting his amused eyes.
"You're not used to someone saying no, are you?" she grinned and after a little pause she nodded. "Thank you, I would love to come."
His smile was brief but grateful and she smiled back, swallowing when he reached out to take both her hands in his. It would take her a while before she would be used to all this. He squeezed her hands gently, rubbing with his thumbs over her palms. "I eh… I'm glad we did this," he said in a low voice. A boyish twinkle appeared in his eyes when he continued: "And that's an understatement."
She blushed, she couldn't help it. "I'm just very grateful for a certain blizzard," she said softly, her voice sounded a bit hoarse, a sign that it was getting very late. He didn't release her hands just yet, his grip was firm and warm and she stepped in a little closer – close enough so she could smell his cologne once more. Oh, she loved that scent.
Her eyes were close, so close that he could see how large her pupils were; he could almost count the little freckles on her forehead. He swallowed but suddenly his mouth felt dry. "You're beautiful Catherine," he said softly. It was the only sentence he could think of, the only way to sum up what he was feeling, the only words that would form on his lips. He shook his head; his voice wasn't as clear and strong as he would have liked it to be. "You're so beautiful…"
She smiled at his compliment and sighed deeply. She couldn't find words to respond to this really. She had responded all evening and now the peaceful silence between them was enough. When he leaned in to bid her goodnight for the last time she felt the urge to lock the door behind him to keep him there forever. Yet she didn't protest when he opened it and stepped outside, blowing her a hand kiss before he walked off into the silence of the night. "Tomorrow!" was the last thing she heard.
After she quietly closed the door she leaned back against it, covering her eyes with both hands and she sighed. She could still smell him in the air, she could still feel his arms around her, boy she could even still taste him and it left her nothing less than unglued. He had swept her off her feet and he knew it, there had been a confident look in his eyes all evening; the uncertainty that she felt was nowhere to be found in him. Not so much uncertainty for what was unfolding between them but the insecurity about her own behaviour and her emotions that were fighting a battle inside. That damned self-confidence of his would always tip her off balance; as if he didn't feel the unsettling and discomforting effect of stepping in a new relationship. In one moment, one glorious romantic mind blowing moment, they had changed their friendship, their connection, their thoughts of the present and their hopes for the future. By admitting their love they had also decided to make a change and that was, to say the least, intense. Thrilling, but intense.
She stepped away from the comforting support of the door and moved through her hallway on her way to the living room. In the corner of her eye she caught her reflection in the big mirror on the wall and she turned her head, hesitating a little before she took a step closer. She studied her own appearance; her breath came out little faster as she absorbed the image. Her eyes were open wide, her lips were swollen and her cheeks and neck had some sort of deep red colour that she hadn't seen on herself in years. The feelings that had been rushing through her body before showed clearly in her face and she looked different, a realization that startled her. Touching her warm skin she breathed out slowly, tilting her head as she leaned in even closer and her warm breath condensed on the cold glass. She pressed her lips. Oh she couldn't just call it excitement, it was not as simple as such although it had been running through her body in unexpected waves earlier. No it was more, what she radiated wasn't just about love and excitement. She swallowed. She radiated life.
Reaching out to turn off the light in the hallway she froze in mid air, staring at her hand and well manicured nails. He had held it all evening, rubbing her palm, kissing her fingertips and at one point he had even massaged her fingers. And all the while she hadn't seen it although it was very much there. She hadn't felt the memory standing between them, hadn't noticed the sign of a former life visible on her hand, no she hadn't thought of Tom one time. Not until now.
Slowly she moved onto the stairs, letting herself sink down on the dark blue rug of her staircase and lifted her hand to touch her lips with her fingertips. She had kissed another man tonight for the first time in 31 years. She let another man touch her this evening. She had enjoyed the feeling of his hands on her back and on her neck, she had relished the feeling of being touched again. Absentmindedly she turned the golden band around her finger as she had done countless times, narrowing her eyes so she could study the tiny scratches on the surface. One scratch for each year Tom always said. Oh, it had been there since forever but she remembered the moment it was slid on her finger in that little chapel as if it was yesterday, surrounded by their family and closest friends. She and Tom felt like they were connected for eternity, thank God they didn't know then how and when it was going to end.
Closing her eyes she touched the gold, turning it around one more time. She breathed in deeply, realizing that she was about to do the inevitable and she swallowed as a lump appeared in her throat. It was time. Inch by inch she removed the ring from her finger, pressing a loving kiss on it before she hid it in the safety of her hand. Her other hand came up to wipe a single tear from her cheek. Goodbye Tom. Hello Robert.
"Where the hell have you been?" Jaclyn stood in the doorway with nothing more than sheer terror on her face, a cell phone loosely in her hand. "I've been worried sick about you!"
"Something about this rings a bell," he grinned, passing her to get into the warmth of his own house. "I can't remember how many times I told you and your sister the very same thing."
"Not funny dad, you could have called you know. Do you realize what time it is?" Jacklyn continued, frowning when her father didn't seem to listen and walked straight into the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge.
"No I don't, and I'm not interested in it either," he stated, attempting to climb up the stairs but stopping in his tracks when he felt the hand of his daughter on his shoulder. "What Jaclyn?"
"Were you with her?" Her voice was soft and lacked any accusation, yet he felt an annoyed sting in his stomach. He was in the mood to lie on his bed in the dark and go over this evening over and over again until he fell asleep. Not to defend his whereabouts to his daughter.
"Her name is Catherine. And not that it's any of your business but yes I was," he said, feeling sorry right away when he saw the glum look on his daughter's face. He sighed and shook his head. "You shouldn't have worried about me sweetheart, you know I always find my way home."
"I sure hope so," Jaclyn replied and the sarcastic tone in her voice didn't escape his notice. For a moment he hesitated but decided to drop the bomb on her right away, he never made a secret out of anything and he wasn't about to start.
"She's coming to dinner tomorrow evening so you can get to know her a little better," he said in a light tone but he was very aware of the effect of his words. For a split second he saw the dark glance in his daughter's eyes but she recovered from it quickly. As she should.
"Oh, well I better dress up for the occasion," she said, attempting to smile but her smile froze on her face when her father turned around and climbed up the stairs. His hair was a total mess from behind.
When he entered his bedroom he was out of his clothes in no time, throwing them impatiently on his chair before he fell down on his bed. He groaned when he saw the red lights on his alarm clock, reminding him that the next day was only a few hours away. Boy how time could fly when one was having fun. And he had fun this evening, no question about that. He hadn't expected to declare his love to her this evening but it turned out to be for the best. They needed each other; it was stating the obvious really. He had no problem changing what was going on between them, more than that it was a natural thing to do and that realization surprised him a little. In all fairness, he had expected it to be awkward to kiss someone else instead of the familiar lips of his wife but not once during the past evening had he experienced that emotion. In fact he had relished the feeling of a warm body against him, two loving arms around his neck and a smile inches away from his face. It had been enough to feel just that, to realize that he was still capable of loving someone, to realize that life still had enough to offer when the hurt and grief had settled down a bit. He was happy, for the first time in God knew how many months he felt happy without guilt pulling him back and that sense of freedom was addictive. She was addictive.
He could still recall the first time he had seen her in that room in the hospice and he had sensed right away that she was alone. Oh so very much alone. The hidden grief in her eyes when she looked at him and the self-protection in her attitude as she turned away from him would be etched in his mind forever. This evening he had felt that she had given him the privilege to take a peak inside her soul, the warmth that he knew was there had finally reached the surface. She finally opened up to him, she finally…trusted him.
He opened his eyes; all of a sudden he could picture her alone in that big house of hers. He could see her moving around in her kitchen all by herself, climbing the stairs alone, warming her cold feet and falling asleep all alone. He knew that she was used to being on her own but it hadn't felt right to leave her earlier, he wanted to keep her close until daytime broke the spell. Strange, all this time they had lived without each other and although he had often thought about her, he knew that they couldn't be together yet. And now they were together and he was acting so foolish that he never wanted to leave her again, in fact he had to fight the urge to get out of bed and to go over there. He couldn't and he wouldn't, he should try to get some sleep if he wanted to be able to visit the site the next day. She would be in his arms soon enough.
"Catherine, do you want something else to drink? I mean we have something other than tea!" Lori held the pot with steaming tea up and raised her brow at their dinner guest.
"No thank you, this is just fine," Catherine answered and held up her cup for another round of tea, gratefully smiling at Robert when he entered the living room as well. She wasn't at ease to sit here alone with his daughters and grandchildren while he was making a phone call in the other room, she was there for over about half an hour now and the conversation seemed to stop after the polite chit chat. She was very relieved to see him come back and she bounced a little on the blue soft pillows when he sat down again. For a second their eyes met and the corners of his mouth curved upwards when she cleared her throat. She was convinced that he knew she was a little uncomfortable, something she shouldn't be really. She looked around the living room again, taking in the atmosphere of the charming house. It was clean in there but it was obvious that Lori helped her father out a lot. Somehow the fresh flowers that surrounded them didn't express Robert's input.
Lori was a nice young woman, polite and charming as she had expected her to be. Her children were a joy; she could very well imagine that they were Robert's source of happiness around the house. Michael was a polite little boy, he even shook her hand when she entered their house and now he was sitting on the floor behind the coffee table, staring at her with his big brown eyes. His little sister crawled around on the floor before her, pulling herself upwards by grabbing Catherine's skirt with both hands. It was a welcome distraction, she couldn't deny that.
"Very good Mary!" she exclaimed, quickly placing down her cup and extending her index fingers so the child could grab them and stand a little steadier. "She's fast isn't she?" she asked Lori, laughing as the infant walked away from her, forcing her to get up and move along with her.
"Are you kidding? Now she knows she's capable of this she refuses to do anything else," Lori smiled and got up herself to release Catherine from walking around for hours with her daughter. "Come here you, there…sit with your auntie"
She planted the child on her sister's lap who raised her brow at the unexpected gesture but welcomed her niece right away. "Oh hi sweetie! Yes, you come sit here right with me. Here, have a cookie…oh don't look at me like that," she said, her last words clearly directed at her sister.
Catherine smiled at the family matters at hand and took a careful sip of her steaming tea, it was nice to see that the two sisters got along. She didn't know that much about Jaclyn really, just that she worked in a gallery and that she was planning on moving in with her boyfriend.
"So, will you do the cooking this evening?" she asked and sat back on the couch, raising a brow at the tall man next to her.
Robert grinned. "When I have a wonderful cook to do it for me? Slim chance!"
Lori smirked. "He knows how to cook Catherine, don't let him trick you into it!"
"I trick her into cooking?" he laughed out loud now. "Yeah sure, that'll happen. You still owe me those scones by the way!" With those last words he nudged her side and she blushed at the sudden contact, somehow it felt awkward to feel his hand on her with his entire family witnessing it.
"You're embarrassing her dad," Jaclyn's voice sounded soft but she was clearly heard nonetheless, he pulled his hand back immediately and cleared his throat. Catherine scratched behind her head, smiling politely at Lori who caught her glance. Boy, this was awkward. Silence flooded the living room like a cold stream of water and she felt insecure because of it, she had no idea how to change this unknown and uneasy tension into the warm and cozy atmosphere that Robert wanted and deserved. What on earth was she doing here?
"So…" she started but before she could finish Jaclyn spoke up again. "I'm going to check on dinner, I'll be right back." She got up and handed the protesting little girl back to her mother, extending her hand to her nephew who smiled gratefully at her. "Come honey, you can help me!"
When she had left the room Catherine shifted in her seat and finished her tea, glancing aside at Robert as she placed her cup on the table before her. He winked at her as to reassure her and she smiled briefly when he placed his arm behind her again, feeling how his hand warmed the small of her back. This time she welcomed it and she leaned back into it a little, looking up when Lori cleared her throat.
"I eh… I'm going to put Mary to bed," she said and got up as well, leaving her father and his guest behind on the couch. She grinned. Boy, three was definitely a crowd.
On her way to the nursery Lori passed the kitchen and glanced inside, finding her sister stirring the stew with a little too much force and she shook her head as she walked in. She had expected this.
"Jaclyn, what are you doing?" she asked softly, "It's a stew, not mashed potatoes you know."
With a bang her sister placed down the spoon she was using. "I know."
"All right, what's the problem?" Lori asked, placing Mary in the baby chair.
Jaclyn sighed and folded her arms as she leaned back against she sink. "Nothing, I'm acting like a child so ignore me please. It's just that…"
"Dad is seeing another woman," Lori finished for her and struck the same pose. "I know, it's a bit difficult to see him with someone other than mom. But she's nice, you can't deny that. And he seems to be happy with her."
Her sister shook her head. "I know but still, I have a little trouble with seeing her sitting on mom's couch and drinking out of mom's cups. I'm sorry, I said I was acting like a child! I'm a horrible person and I shouldn't say this but I hate to see dad hooking up with someone else. As nice and sweet as she may be." For a moment it was silent and they watched Mary playing with a napkin in her chair. When Jaclyn spoke again her voice sounded soft and she glanced aside, meeting her sister's gaze. "Do you think it's serious?"
"Well…" Lori started and took Jaclyn's hand, taking her with her to the half open kitchen door and she pointed at the two people on the couch. "Look at them, do you think it's serious?" she whispered.
"Are we spying on them now?" Jaclyn hissed but stuck her head through the door anyway, swallowing with difficulty as she studied the objects of their conversation. They were talking, thank God they were just talking, and their heads were close together. Her father was stroking Catherine's back and her face expressed interest in what he was saying, nodding along with his comments. Now she was shaking her head and she pulled her hands through her hair, explaining something to him with lots of gestures. He seemed to understand her after just a few words and he smiled at her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and saying something they couldn't understand. She leaned her head against his shoulder in a response.
"See? He's smitten," Lori whispered. "They both are."
"Yeah okay, I get your point," Jaclyn said, frowning when the duo on the couch stopped talking and looked at each other for a moment. "Oh god, if he kisses her I'll throw up," she moaned.
"Mom, why are you and auntie Jaclyn looking at grandpa?" Michael suddenly said out loud and the two sisters jumped back into the kitchen, slamming the door shut in a hasty movement. For a moment they were dead silent and stared at each other but then they burst out into uncontrolled laughter.
In the living room Catherine and Robert turned around on the couch, raising a brow at the sudden outburst in the kitchen. "They were looking at us," Catherine stated more than she asked, glancing at Robert who was frowning now.
"So I heard," he said and the serious tone in his voice didn't escape her.
"Love, you just tried to convince me all of this is because they have to get used to us and now you're surprised that they're looking at us? I'm not!" she smiled, trying to get him to look at her by tilting his chin towards her. When he finally did his eyes were a shade darker and she wondered if he was angry.
"I can't wait to be alone with you," he suddenly said in a low voice and reached out to take her hand in his. "Are you on call tonight? Any chance that they'll take you away from my attention?"
She blushed a little and couldn't suppress a smile. "No, I'm all yours," she grinned, feeling how her cheeks burned up even more. Why did everything have to sound so suggestive? She patted his knee when his smile appeared to be a little too enthusiastic. "First we have to sit through dinner, remember?"
The streets were deserted, the moon was barely visible through the cloudy sky and the wind playfully relieved the trees of their last leaves in the cold night air. Inside the car soft jazz music played and Robert hummed along, tapping with his finger on the steering wheel.
"It's really ridiculous that you're driving me home," Catherine said once again, glancing aside at the designated driver of the evening. "We could have walked you know, we don't live that far apart."
"You're forgetting that I have to walk back all by myself and it's not safe out there. Didn't you learn anything from the safety talk on the block party?" he asked and shrugged. "Besides, it's getting colder."
"That I can't deny," she said, smiling at his fast response. "Dinner was all right, wasn't it?" She meant it, strangely enough when Lori and Jacklyn came out of the kitchen they were acting more relaxed and that had an effect on her as well. The other half of the evening had turned out to be quite nice, give or take a few awkward silent moments. "Your grandchildren are a joy Robert."
"Thank you," he smiled, turning another corner. "They seemed to like you too, usually they're not so comfortable with people they don't know but you know your way with kids of course. You would have been a great mother yourself."
She blinked, his sudden compliments always caught her off guard and she couldn't deal with them that well all the time. Especially not when they referred to her deeper wants and needs in life. Sometimes she forgot how much she had shared with him already. "Thank you," she simply said and grew silent, staring outside at the quiet neighbourhood. She was almost home she noticed.
"Jaclyn looks a lot like you," she said when he turned off the engine and the music stopped playing, creating a noticeable abrupt silence. He unbuckled his seatbelt, immediately shifting in his seat so he could do hers as well. She giggled when he didn't succeed right away and placed her hand on his to do it herself.
"Yeah I know. I don't want to talk about them anymore," he said in a low voice and she turned her head, meeting his gaze not far away from her.
"What do you want to talk about Mr. Woodward? Football? Politics? The risk of giving birth at home as opposed to the hospital?" she asked in a teasing voice but she was very aware of his intentions. She had felt it all evening during dinner, his leg had brushed hers several times and at one point he even had the nerve to squeeze her thigh under the table. When Lori commented on her red cheeks she had blamed it on the spicy food, she wasn't sure that they believed her though.
"I don't want to talk at all," he murmured, cupping her warm cheek with his hand and pulling her a little closer. His thumb caressed her half open mouth, stroking her bottom lip with such delicacy that she closed her eyes. Deep down in her body something was brought to life that she didn't recognize at first but when he pressed his lips on hers she realized that it was pure desire. Their first kisses only a day ago were all about love and deep emotion but the intensity of these caresses was so much more than that. Just the feeling of his lips moving against hers was enough to make her shiver and she reacted to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She kissed him just as much as he was kissing her, neither of them received or gave more, it was an endless and eager game that their lips played. He was the one to deepen the kiss this time, pleading her to open up for him and she responded, meeting him halfway. She tasted a faint image of coffee and dark chocolate and it melted her heart, knowing that he would taste the same in her. The kiss seemed endless; every time she thought that he would pull back he simply turned his head and took control over her body and mind once more. She could only give into the feelings that were dancing in the pit of her stomach and around her heart, relishing the sensation of his hands roaming over her back. Oh, how much she had missed physical contact with a man and she never even realized it. But he awaked it all in her, her heart was pounding and her breath came out uncontrolled as he broke the kiss to drift off to her neck. Inch by inch he found his way downwards and she turned her head to let him, keeping her eyes shut to not break the spell. She breathed in through her half open mouth and she couldn't suppress a soft moan that seemed to sound ten times louder in the silence of the car. Oh God, he was turning her on here and not just a little. Restlessly she reached out to him, gripping his collar in a useless attempt to get some control over their embrace and their lips met again, even more hungry now. He caressed her neck and back with both hands and suddenly she felt a rush of impatience shooting through her. The hell with it, she wanted to feel him on other places of her body too and she reached out when he didn't leave the safety of her neck on his own, taking his hand in her warm and slightly trembling grip. Still kissing him she moved his hand from her neck downwards, sliding down her body slowly and careful, feeling him smiling against her lips as he realized her intentions. When they reached her knee she released his hand, leaving him caressing the skin there and slid her own hand under his jacket. He didn't need much more encouragement and let his hand climb higher, pulling her leg a little upwards. He tickled the back of her knee under her tight skirt and she groaned frustrated when he tried to pull her on his lap and she hit her knee against the steering wheel and bounced back in her seat. Unwillingly she broke their kiss, opening her eyes to meet his dark gaze right in front of her. The windows were fogged from inside, creating an ambiance that was so intimate and so protective that she forgot all about her earlier doubts and fears.
"Do you want to come inside?" she asked him softly, not realizing what those words caused inside him. She had no idea how much commotion was going on beneath that tough exterior, no idea how much she had knocked him sideways. It had been a while for both of them and it only increased their passion towards each other, that almost unbearable urge to touch and to be touched. He wanted her, that much he had known for quite some time now, but his desire had reached a new high now. He could only nod in response.
She didn't care about the drapes that she still had to shut downstairs, didn't care about the heat that she had to turn up and didn't care about double locking the front door. It was enough to hear the world close behind them and she moved in front of him with his hand firmly in hers, guiding him towards the stairs and up to her bedroom. He followed suit, stopping her halfway to press her against the wall and kiss her until she was breathless. Their hands were moving non-stop, trying to feel as much skin as possible as they made their way upstairs. When they finally reached the closed door of her bedroom she turned around and he saw it again, that warm glance in her eyes that was only meant for him. She avoided his lips when he tried to kiss her again and her face grew serious when she reached out to the handle, opening the door of her bedroom and her life for him.
He blinked as he followed her inside, smelling her clean scent stronger than anywhere else in the house. It was dark, too dark to see anything but she moved around in the bedroom, closing the drapes in front of the window and finally she turned on the lamp on her nightstand, creating a subtle glow of warm light. He looked around and swallowed as he took in his surroundings, suddenly frozen in his movements when he realized where he was.
She turned around and he pressed his lips together when their eyes locked and she sat back on her bed, extending her hand to invite him closer. Oh how much he longed to touch that perfect skin, to kiss those perfect lips until they were swollen and to taste every inch of her body. In any other circumstances he wouldn't have thought twice but now he did and he wasn't able to move a muscle. It wasn't right.
"Robert?" she raised a brow when he didn't move but stayed where he was, in an unsettling way he seemed to be glued to the ground. "Robert, what's wrong?" she urged again and she got up from the bed, walking towards the tall man in front of her.
He didn't smile at her, neither did he frown. He just looked at her, reaching out to touch her warm cheek. God she was so beautiful. "Catherine, I can't," he suddenly said, feeling her jaw drop under his hand. She took a step back and he shook his head when she sank down on the bed slowly, her eyes widened from shock. "No honey, hear me out please. It's not you, it's me. I can't do it… here."
She blinked. "You what?" She couldn't believe that he was pulling back now she was finally ready to move forward.
"Please, just…" he started, pointing at the wall behind her and at her nightstand. "I can't make love to you when there's such…an audience."
She turned her head and glanced at the direction he was pointing at, blinking before she met his gaze again. "You mean…"
He moved towards her and gestured at the bed. "Can I?" he asked.
She nodded and he sat down next to her, taking her hand in his again. "Sweetheart, he's everywhere. Can you understand?" He looked around again, seeing Tom's face staring at him from several picture frames. The closest and biggest one was on her nightstand, smiling broadly at them dressed in a tuxedo. Right in front of it was a pair of male glasses flanked by a single rose. How could he sleep with the man's wife for God's sake?
For a second she was speechless, suddenly she looked at her room with eyes of an outsider and she hid her face between her hands in a helpless gesture, she had never felt more embarrassed in her life. "I'm sorry Robert, I should have thought about this before. It's just that I'm used to…" she couldn't finish her sentence because he removed her hands from her face.
"Don't do this please," he said, shaking his head. "Don't think that I don't understand, believe me, if there's anyone who knows what it's like it's me."
"I know," she smiled, sighing deeply and she glanced around her again. The number of pictures was indeed a bit too much but they had given her a lot of comfort in her lonely hours here. But she couldn't deny that it could be a bit intimidating for a new lover.
"And that wallpaper is very… blue!" he suddenly said out loud and she looked up, seeing the twinkle in his eyes that she loved so much. His casual tone calmed her down and the ease of their relationship was immediately back between them.
"What's wrong with blue?" she asked, placing a hand in her side. "I happen to like blue."
"I like blue too but there's also something as too much blue. And this wallpaper is too damned blue," he stated, grinning when she slapped his shoulder. "Ouch!"
"You just love to offend me, don't you?" she shook her head but her eyes twinkled, stroking his shoulder lovingly now.
He grew silent, realizing once more that they were more together than both realized. Even though this wasn't the moment to be together in the physical sense of the word but this meant more to him than anything else. As thrilling and exciting as those moments in the car might have been, this was what it all came down to really.
"No, I simply love you," he said, reaching out to brush a lock of hair behind her ear. She breathed in deeply. His words shot through her body like a bolt of lightning, swirling down her stomach and nestling warmly around her heart.
"I love you too," she whispered and before she realized what happened he wrapped both arms around her, holding her close to his heart. Their embrace seemed to last for hours and it was warm and comforting, familiar and new at the same time. It was so intimate to just sit there with him on her bed and she nestled against him even more, inhaling his masculine scent. Suddenly she felt exhausted but she couldn't say goodbye just yet. Even though they wouldn't make love this evening she couldn't let him go, she felt too fragile and too shaky to be alone right now.
"Robert?" she murmured, pulling back a little so she could face him. "Will you stay with me? Just… be with me?"
The shy look on her face warmed his heart and he smiled, kicking off his shoes in a silent answer. She smiled back and pressed her lips together as he climbed further on the bed, the familiar feeling of someone denting the mattress next to her was overwhelming. Neither of them cared about their clothes that would be wrinkled the next day, neither of them cared about anything anymore. Slowly he lied down on his back, extending his arm so she could crawl against him after she had turned off the light, placing her head on the soft area between his shoulder and chest. He pressed a single kiss on her forehead when she placed her arm on his stomach and their fingers entwined. She swallowed when she realized that his ring was gone but she didn't comment on it, she just breathed in deeply and cherished this feeling of safety and comfort. It was enough for now.
"Catherine?" His voice sounded lazy and she turned her head to look at him but he prevented that by placing his hand on her head and playing with her hair with his fingers.
"Hmm?" she whispered, pressing a kiss on the crisp fabric of his shirt.
"Why do I smell peanut butter?"
She wrinkled her nose as she judged the dish of the day and decided to let it be just that, she wasn't in the mood for spicy Indian food and reached out to a club sandwich in stead. Combined with a cup of coffee and an orange for dessert it would be enough to keep her satisfied for the rest of the day.
Her eyes scanned the room as she entered the cafeteria and she smiled when she saw the familiar face of William in the crowd. He was peeling an apple and waved at her as she made her way over to him, smiling broadly doing so.
"Is that all you're going to eat?" he asked, studying her tray as she sat down.
"I don't like Chicken Takka Masala, sue me," she grinned, unwrapping her knife and fork from her folded napkin.
"It's been a while since we had lunch together," he stated and took a bite of his apple, raising a brow at her. "How are you?"
She smiled broadly, avoiding his inquiring look as she took her first bite. "I'm fine, thank you! How are you? And Marina?"
He smiled briefly. "Well we're concerned about you, we haven't seen much of you lately. Actually we wanted to invite you for dinner, if you're interested of course!"
For a moment she hesitated and placed down her sandwich, suddenly feeling very awkward sitting here across the table and facing one of her good friends in life. And he had no idea what she was up to because she had been too chicken to tell him. "Of course, I would love to come," she said enthusiastically and after a little hesitation she inhaled deeply. "Can I bring a guest?" she asked and he almost dropped what was left of his apple, staring at her in surprise.
"Are you seeing someone?" he asked a little too loud and she glanced around her before she nodded, for a second she was afraid to see disapproval in his eyes but then he smiled and lowered his voice, leaning towards her over the table. "Well I'll be damned! I'm happy for you Catherine, I really am. Who's the lucky man?"
She couldn't believe that it was this easy but it was, he never frowned or judged her, he expressed nothing but interest in her and it lightened her heart. It felt like it was the last thing to do, to come out and say that she was indeed seeing someone. Expressing it out loud made it more real to her but it felt right, it was like the truth had hit her finally. Even though her cheeks burned when she told William his name she was happy and proud. She was deeply in love with Robert Woodward and there was nothing wrong with that.
"Can you finally tell me where we're going please?" she asked again, frowning when he didn't answer her but whistled along with an annoying tune on the radio.
"Yes I can but I don't want to," he said, glancing aside to wink at her and grinned at her annoyed face. "Patience doctor, we're almost there!"
She glanced outside, taking in the forest that spread out around them and she knew that he wouldn't tell her, he loved to tease her and he wouldn't give in for sure. "We're invited for dinner with William and Marina," she said, turning in her seat to look at him. "And I accepted it."
"Oh, is that your colleague? The guy with the beard right?" he asked, turning the steering wheel once again. "So now it's my turn to be judged? Will I be able to understand your medical talk all evening?"
"He's a nice guy and loves to play pool, maybe you can learn that," she teased, poking him in the side and he chuckled, avoiding her touch.
She sighed deeply and she felt light, free and relaxed. As she should be really, it was as if the whole world made sense again. She was sitting here with the man she loved, they were on their way to a surprise and the sun was shining outside, peeking through the naked trees as if to wink at her. She smiled.
"We're almost there," he suddenly said and she gasped when she recognized the surroundings, staring at him with big eyes as he turned off the engine. She had never expected to return to this place.
"Why are we here?" she asked and raised a brow when he got out of the car, moving around it to open her car door and assisting her to exit it as well.
"You'll see," he stated, smiling broadly as she blinked and stared at the place where it all had begun. It looked different without being covered with a thick layer of snow but she remembered every inch of the cabin. She frowned when she saw smoke coming out of the chimney but her eyes twinkled.
"I thought you said that Charlie and Robin don't live here anymore," she said, giving him a sideward glance as he held up his arm for her and guided her towards the front door.
"They don't," he said, reaching out into his pocket to take out a key and dangled it in front of her widening eyes. "But they left me the key, isn't that nice of them? This time I don't have to repair a window."
For a moment she was frozen to the ground, her heart started to pound when realization hit her. She gasped but a smile curved her lips right away when he turned the key in the lock and opened the door for her. "You told me that you only went back once," she said and entered the cabin, taking in her surroundings with a broad smile. It was warm inside, she smelled the familiar scent of the crackling wood in the fireplace, she saw the familiar couch and she felt at home right away.
He took his coat off and placed it on the nearest chair. "I did go back once," he stated with a smile, "And the place was for sale." His eyes sparkled as he continued: "It could come in handy for many purposes you know, I figured that we needed a place for us. Here it's just about you and me isn't it?" He turned her around and removed her coat as well, throwing it on top of his.
She nodded and titled her head towards him as he wrapped his arms around her waist to pull her closer. "Yes this is about you and me."
"As it should be," he said in a low voice and then he smiled briefly, "Do you believe in second chances?"
Her smile faded out but her eyes stayed warm and loving as she looked at the man that occupied her heart, hopefully for many years to come. "I never did, but now I do," she whispered, closing her eyes when he leaned in to press a kiss on her cheek.
"Are you on call tonight? Any chance that they'll take you away from my attention?" he mumbled against her skin and she blushed a little, wrapping her arms around his neck and shaking her head in response. He moved his lips to her neck.
"I'm all yours Mr. Woodward," she moaned and she felt his breath on her ear when he mumbled something, a sentence that warmed her heart and rushed butterflies through her entire body.
"You want me to pick you up and carry you?"