Chanel No. 5 – Chapter 2
For the third time, Alex was back at the beginning of the report she was trying to read. And for the third time she got as far as half way down the first page before her mind wandered away from the written words to the ones spoken by her partner.
'Ideally feminine.' That's how he described an image of womanhood Alex had thought long gone, surviving only in old black-and-white TV shows and movies. And if that woman in pearls and high heels was 'ideally feminine,' what did that make Alex?
Not that she looked masculine or anything, far from it. It's just that her tastes – what she looked best wearing – were more tailored fashions. Pant suits with the jacket nipped at the waist to accentuate her petite figure. Simple accessories, if any. Definitely no pump-style high heels or seamed stockings, and angora made her sneeze.
Attempt number four on the report. Alex sighed. It had been a long day. She'd gotten the call just before 5:00 a.m. that morning and made it to Central Park, coffee in hand, in less than an hour. It was now a little after 7:00 p.m. She should go home and start fresh tomorrow. But Goren wasn't going anywhere until he had the promised lab report on tests of a substance found in the victim's mouth. She'd decided to wait with him in the nearly-empty squad room.
Alex gave up on the report, leaned back in her chair and chewed on the end of her pen while studying her partner. Goren abhorred having to do paperwork – the task was much too tedious for a mind that whirled as fast and furious as his. But here he was, head bent and pen working, oblivious to the fact that she was watching him.
The man hunched over the desk opposite hers looked much the same as he had when they'd first met almost five years ago. His dark waves held a little more gray, and the frown lines on his forehead were a little more pronounced. But Bobby was still a very attractive man – a man whose taste in women apparently didn't include Alex's type.
"Can I ask you something?" She decided to just confront the issue – take the bull by the horns, so to speak.
Bobby looked up at her, nodded his head and relaxed a little into his chair. She suspected he was relieved to have an excuse to break away from the paperwork.
"Do men really find that attractive?"
"Uh … what?" he looked totally confused.
"That over-feminized, chauvinistic image of a woman," Alex clarified, wondering herself why she'd expected him to just know what she was talking about.
Bobby leaned back in his chair and gave some thought to her statement before figuring out exactly what she meant. "Depends on the man," he answered while his eyes questioned her interest.
"Is that what you find attractive?"
"I …uh," Bobby stumbled a bit and Alex took some pleasure in being the one to trip him. "I-it's attractive on the right woman," he offered.
Well that was vague. And more than a little annoying. Alex looked back down at the report on her desk and tried to pretend she was reading.
This was bugging her, and it shouldn't be. She knew she was pretty … she knew a lot of men found her attractive. It's just, well … she was never going to be that buxom, statuesque, leggy version of a woman that she imagined would fit Goren's ideal. 'Little Lexie' from the school yards was an insecurity she thought long dead – until she saw that dreamy look in her partner's eyes as he described 'ideally feminine.' Alex wondered who he had been picturing in his mind's eye.
"So, how was your dinner with Sullivan the other night?" Goren's question came out of the clear blue, startling Alex.
"Don't try to change the subject."
"Uh … what subject?"
"Chanel No. 5 … your archaic idea of femininity," she reminded him.
"Eames, that was five minutes ago," Goren chuckled. "Sounds more like you're trying to avoid a subject."
"Dinner was fine," she shrugged. Even Alex thought that sounded lame. "It was great!" This time she added a big smile.
Nodding, Goren turned back to his paperwork. "Veritas is a nice restaurant for a date," he said while checking off boxes and signing the current form.
"You've been?" she couldn't resist.
"Couple of times," he nodded, keeping his focus on his paperwork.
Alex narrowed her eyes and tried to figure out if he was just playing games with her. Although he looked innocent enough.
"So that's really your type?"
"I don't have a type," he muttered to his paperwork. "Well … wait … I take that back." Bobby put his pen down and looked back up at Alex, apparently realizing she wasn't letting him get away with evasive answers. "I like a woman who's confident in herself and knows what works for her. A woman who … plays to her own strengths, and can use the simplest things in ways to … make herself more attractive."
"Uh huh," Alex wasn't convinced.
"Really. Take for instance … perfume," he gestured toward her with his outstretched hand. "Fragrance should be a … sensual experience, intended for intimate situations. Most women don't understand that. They spray the current 'in vogue' perfume on their wrists and neck and consider it done," Goren waved his hand vaguely in the air. "When a woman takes the time to choose her fragrance and bothers to apply it properly," he paused and gave her that one smile he had that was just perfection, "there's nothing more attractive."
"Apply it properly?" In the back of her mind a little voice was trying to warn Alex against egging him on. Something about the topic of applying perfume sounded a little too … personal.
"There's an art to using fragrance. There are books on the subject."
Figures. Sarcastic little voice.
"Courtesan schools in France teach classes in it."
"How would you …?" Alex caught herself before finishing that question. "Never mind." Bobby had done a stint in Germany while in the Army. That was still right next door to France, wasn't it? Best not to think too long and hard about Bobby and educated French courtesans.
He grinned at her and she had the sinking feeling that he knew exactly where her thoughts had wandered.
Preparing for a good lecture, Bobby stood up, snagged the empty chair from under the desk near Alex and swung it around next to her. She swiveled her own chair to face him.
"A woman who is skilled in the art of perfume knows that it's intended to invite, not overpower," Bobby leaned forward in his chair, apparently warming to his subject. "It shouldn't announce itself to everyone who comes near. It's meant to be very personal."
See? That little voice was louder now.
"This woman wouldn't buy a spray bottle," he inched his chair a little closer so that his knees were almost touching hers. "She'd want her perfume in a flask, knowing it should be applied by touch while her skin is still warm and damp from the bath."
He was now so close Alex could smell the lingering remnants of his aftershave combined with coffee, the mint he'd chewed earlier and Bobby's own scent, clean and masculine.
"She would take a drop, two at most, on these two fingers," Bobby held up the index and middle fingers of his left hand, drawing Alex's attention from his eyes. He then curled them to meet his thumb and slowly swirled his fingertips.
Strange how she was mesmerized by that small, slow movement. Bobby had beautiful hands – expressive, long-fingered … large. Alex swallowed, but it didn't help her suddenly dry mouth.
"First one," he extended his hand toward Alex's right ear, not touching but close enough that he brushed the collar of her shirt. "Then the other," his fingers ghosted along her jaw to her left ear. "She would touch the soft skin just behind each ear." Never making contact, Alex still felt a tingling on her skin beneath the path of his hand.
"With those same two fingers, she would press the pulse on her wrist," he looked to where her right hand rested on the arm of the chair. Alex quickly knotted her fingers on her knee, but not before he'd seen them trembling. "She would hold that wrist against the other," Bobby's voice was husky, "to warm the fragrance into her skin." He slowly raised his eyes to hers and Alex's breath caught at the dark heat she saw there – the same heat that seemed to be pooling in her stomach.
Resting his elbows on the arms of his chair, he steepled his index fingers and slowly rubbed the fullness of his bottom lip. She had the sudden urge to suck that lip between her own – to run her tongue over and past it …
"She might take another drop for the sensitive area behind each knee," and she realized his were now touching hers. "Depending on what she likes – she may even touch some perfume to the hollows behind her ankles." Bobby's lips curled in a knowing smile, and Alex's breath left her in a soft sigh. How did he know?
"Finally … just one more drop," again swirling his thumb against his fingertips. "She would place her fingers here … at the base of her throat," Bobby reached out and his own fingers hovered above the spot she knew betrayed her racing pulse. "And draw a line down her body as far as she would like to extend the invitation …" Never quite touching, his fingers followed the trail of buttons down the front of her blouse, hesitating at a place somewhere between her breastbone and her navel. Alex couldn't look away from his heated gaze to determine exactly where.
His eyes dropped to focus on her mouth and Alex nervously licked her bottom lip – she saw heat flare to hot desire.
A phone rang somewhere off to her right, vague and muffled. There was a flash of irritation in Bobby's eyes. The second ring broke the thread of his spell – by the third ring his smoldering look had cooled to be replaced by soft regret. Alex released the breath she'd been holding. Fighting to slow her heart rate, she swallowed an overpowering feeling of disappointment.
He stood and reached across both their desks to snag the receiver off his phone. "Goren." As he listened to the caller, her partner looked down at her – and he was, once again, just her partner. Gone was the seductive man with the hypnotic voice and hot, dark eyes whose words alone had excited her more than any touch from David Sullivan.
"Lab report's in," Goren stretched back across the desks to drop the receiver in its cradle. "I'm headed down to get it."
Alex felt the need to get out of there, to roll down the windows on the SUV and let the cold air clear her head. "You go do that," her voice shook and she had to pause a moment to steady herself. "I'm going home to practice my perfume technique," she joked sarcastically, hoping it would bring some normalcy back to her careening emotions.
"Why?" Goren looked puzzled. "You already smell great."
Alex blinked. The sure-footing she'd hoped for wobbled beneath her. "Thanks, but … I'm not wearing any perfume."
A moment of flame in the depths of his eyes. "I know," again husky. All so brief she wondered if she just imagined it.
Turning to walk toward the elevators, Goren called over his shoulder, "Play to your strengths, Eames."