Oliver led her to a small table in the corner of the small café that Chloe had suggested. The place was cozy, and the ambience was just like home if you had been brought up in a countryside with a small roaring fire as the source of warmth. He supposed that this was where Chloe liked hanging out because it was quiet and private enough that she could likely get lost for hours in her notebook as she typed away Bruce's speeches and Wayne Enterprises' press releases in peace.
"It's lovely, isn't it?" she prodded, proud of her find. "Don't you dare start taking your dates here. I'm not willing to turn this into a crowded hotspot just because Oliver Queen is frequently spotted here."
"Aren't you endangering the state of your haven by even taking me here this once?" he inquired.
Chloe shook her head. "All the paparazzi are in Wayne," she said matter-of-factly. "In fact, I'd bet you you can streak and run around outside without any snapshot plastered in the newspapers tomorrow."
He grinned. "Wouldn't you like to see that?" At his words, amazingly enough, Chloe flushed. "Speaking of paparazzi," he continued as he looked through the menu, "I doubt coffee here compares to what the Piazza can offer."
"You know I agreed to that only because I wanted to tick off my boss," she reminded him.
"But the deal is that you can tell me exactly why I'm here. Your half thought of explanation wasn't good enough, and definitely not correct."
Chloe rolled her eyes. She then gazed at Oliver's grinning smug face and shook her head. He was as irritatingly secretive as Bruce and even more arrogant than Lex, if both were possible. Still, she couldn't help but smile back hesitantly at how infectious his grin was, given the clean boyish good looks that were the exact opposite of the brooding affair that characterized all three men she once held reluctant attraction for. Despite the secret that he used to tantalize her, Oliver was one of the most magnetic personalities she'd met, and she'd met a lot.
"It's Friday," he added. "We'll be there until Sunday night. You'd have plenty of time to scurry back to the office by Monday." And then, with a smirk, he said, "Bruce wouldn't even know."
She huffed. "Believe me, the moment we step into the airport he'd know. My boss keeps track even on weekends. I'm not exactly on a 9-5, 5 days a week."
He nodded, seeing the point much like any other business man. "Given that he'd tripled your last salary I'd supposed he'd demand triple the time."
"How did you—" her voice trailed off. "I suppose I shouldn't even ask." He smiled, and it was pretty. "He did tell me to keep my eye on you," she offered.
"What better way than take me out of the country where I'd have no business to conduct with anyone that Bruce deems is a competitor," he offered conspiringly.
She grinned brightly. "He couldn't fault me for that."
He arched his eyebrow. "Shall we?" Oliver went up behind her and extended his hand for her to take.
Chloe put down the menu and stood up. Then she exclaimed, "Oh no. She's going to be disappointed."
"The owner of the diner. We're lost business, and not a lot of people drop by here." She glanced at the elderly woman eagerly waiting for them to call her. "I'd hate to break her heart."
Oliver shook his head. "Not to worry." He took a couple of bills from his pocket and then helped her up. Before leaving, he handed the bills to the woman, who stared at the two hundred in wonder. "I apologize, ma'am, that we have to run so early. Consider this our prepaid credit for when we come back."
The woman broke into a bright smile. "It's good to know you're coming back. You two are such a lovely couple."
"Oh we're not—" Chloe protested.
"Chloe, sweetheart, is it so hard to just say thank you?"
She glanced up at his twinkling eyes, and smiled. "Thank you."
Oliver pulled at Chloe's hand, and they walked briskly towards the door. Out in the street, Chloe let out an uncharacteristic giggle as she slapped Oliver's arm. "I don't believe you!" she cried. "Why lie to the poor woman?"
"Hey," Oliver answered easily, "it's much easier to agree with people who just presume that a man and a woman who are out together late at night are a couple. Or would you rather still be inside while you expound on our non relationship to her?"
"Non relationship isn't the best term for it."
Oliver's lips curved. "So we have a relationship?" he inquired.
"I've been asked by my boss to keep you close, because of business that neither of you has been inclined to enlighten me about. You used to date my cousin, who is now married to the guy I used to date." She paused. "Damn. That sounded like we're a couple of rejects."
He shook his head. "That you would never be." Oliver pulled her along with him and they walked in the street. He raised an arm and a cab stopped in front of them. Oliver held the door open as she got in, then he got in after her. "The airport," he told the driver.
Chloe gasped. "Excuse me! I thought we could pick up a few things from our respective places. Or would you be willing to spend a weekend in a foreign country without even a toothbrush?" She looked pointedly at their clothes. "And wearing only my gown and your tux?"
"Don't worry about it," he assured her. "We'll buy everything we need when we get off the plane."
Spoken like a millionaire, Chloe thought. She settled back in her chair and wondered exactly how long they would have to wait to meet a schedule of a plane bound for Rome. She chuckled silently to herself. He was a breath of fresh air, coming straight from a city she had never been to and with the personality that was so impulsive he was the direct opposite of the men she'd known before.
The cab rolled closer to the airport, but instead of pointing the driver to the departure area, Oliver gave directions to what Chloe recognized as the private tarmac.
"I could hear your thoughts screaming loudly in my ear. No, you wouldn't need to scramble through long lines to find tickets." He paid the driver and got off the cab, then extended his hand to help her out.
Chloe, unused to such chivalry, reached and placed her hand in his. As she was climbing out, she stumbled and fell against Oliver's chest. "Sorry," she mumbled. Her hair had fallen across her forehead and covered her eyes. She blew on it, but it only flopped back down as a short veil blocking her vision.
"Perfectly alright," he whispered, still clutching her against him with his arm across her back. He reached up and pushed the hair from her eyes and tucked it behind her ear.
She blinked up at him. His eyes were full of mirth as he looked down at her. Her eyes fell to his lips, slightly parted, glistening with soft moisture despite the cold. She saw the moment that the mirth slowly seeped out of his eyes, and he regarded her somberly, holding her gaze. His hand left her ear and he laid his palm on her cheek, cupping her face.
"I think I'm stable now," she said softly.
He leaned down and kissed her softly, it felt that there were butterfly wings fluttering against her lips. For a few brief seconds the kiss was so light and pleasant that it sent shivers through her nape. She moaned a little at the feelings it evoked. His lips momentarily left hers. Chloe opened her eyes blearily. She saw vaguely his face as he looked at her in wonder, as if she were a discovery he had not expected but was awed by. Then he lowered his head again and Chloe closed her eyes. Now his mouth was fully on her, hungry, taking her breath away. She kissed him back, returning the fervor that he now used, and it was no longer butterflies playing against her lips, but a full on ravaging that afterwards made her lips almost raw, certainly fuller and wetter than they had been before.
"Okay," she breathed. "Hold on to me because I'm completely unstable again."
"I can hold on forever," he confessed, tightening his arms around her.
She smiled against his shirt. When she started shivering, he rubbed his hands on her arms. "As much as I'd love to stay in this position," he began, "I don't want to do it as ice sculptures." He looked behind him. "Let's get into the jet and I'll warm you up there."
Chloe nodded and let him lead her to the private plane that was waiting for them.
Oliver deserved many things for the thievery he'd done--be it to serve those who were at a disadvantage or be it to deceive the rich who hadn't given back to the world. He was certain enough about his place in the world that he knew for sure that try as he might, he wouldn't deserve the woman who was riding in front of him, the creamy expanse of her back shining under the stark Italian sunlight, cocky as she swiped her platinum card at every stop that required payment.
"You are aware that I can pay for both our ways, aren't you?" he drawled when she wriggled her fingers inside her pocket fishing for the card.
"Wouldn't want to become indebted to you, Mr Queen. We are in a foreign country after all. I might not be able to meet your expectations," she reasoned teasingly.
Oliver's burning eyes looked her from her head to her toes, then back up to flaming cheeks. "I wouldn't worry about that, Chloe. Besides, it doesn't exactly sit well with me that Bruce Wayne is paying for my date."
"Is this a date?" she asked teasingly.
The carriage that she insisted on riding stopped at the foot the steps at the Piazza. He hopped off and extended his arms up to help her down. She shook her head at him and jumped down on her own.
"You insist on treating this as something platonic?"
She shook her head. "Don't worry about the credit card. I'm paying for all this. I just want to piss Bruce off which he is sure to be when he can't find me and pulls up my bills to try to find me."
Oliver regarded her with a steady gaze. "So…"
"What?" she prodded.
"What exactly is it that your boss has done that makes you want to test him all the time?" he inquired.
She shrugged. "It's something we do to keep things interesting," she told him. "We lead a very boring life at Wayne. Public Relations is struggling to clean up Bruce's rep."
Oliver smirked. "So he's tired of his reputation as a shallow playboy living off his parents' money? You actually traded in a busy job spinning for Lex Luthor when he's accused of torture and murder for a job keeping Wayne's affairs secret?"
Chloe rolled her eyes. "When you say it that way it's bad," she told him. "I have the feeling that there's more to Bruce than meets the eye."
Oliver took her hand in his and pulled her close. Chloe leaned her head against his arm, more comfortable around him than she would verbalize. Sometimes it took more than just words. "Has he said anything to you?"
She smiled. "He has a secret. I don't need to know what it is to know that it's the most important thing in his life."
"I know his secret," Oliver claimed. When she looked up to him in inquiry, he smirked. "He's an alcoholic."
She shook her head. "He's never drunk," she pointed out. Before she could defend Bruce even more avidly, Chloe gasped at the sight that finally emerged when they turned the corner. "Oh my God." Her hand around Oliver's tightened.
The Piazza di Spagna loomed from afar, with the sprawling Spanish steps right beside it. Chloe was awed by the sight. Involuntarily, her free hand reached up to hold onto to Oliver's upper arm, feeling very small and regular at the presence of its majesty.
"Didn't I promise that espresso with me would be heaven?" he murmured into her ear.
She shook her head, speechless. Chloe had seen many things, but her travel experience was limited to hotels and factory visits in suburbs and cities around the world. They were all she needed to go to as Lex's employee. Now as Bruce's, Chloe was slowly opening up to the culture that he offered. As his companion to affairs that he attended, Chloe was exposed to museums, fashion shows and art galleries.
But she had never been to such beauty that seemed to have shot directly out of a painting.
"I can take you to a lot more of these, Chloe," Oliver offered.
She shook her head at the idiocy of tearing up at the sight. "It would be such a waste of money," she pointed out. "If there is something that I remember about you, it's that you'd rather give away to the poor than to throw your money away."
Warmth flowered in his chest at the words. She knew him, even while he thought that he was merely a passerby in Smallville. She knew him, even when he had not shared his life with her. She knew him, just because of the kiss.
It was ridiculous, and Oliver worried about his thoughts turning too sentimental.
He stopped and turned to face her. "It would be the best way to spend my money," he told her.
As she looked into his eyes, Chloe felt a shiver run from her fingertips, exploding to her heart. "I'll make you a deal," she said. "I'm not exactly impoverished, although it might seem like that compared to you or my employers. I can more than afford to spend for vacations."
His eyes narrowed. "If you offer to pay for me again, I'm going to put you over my knees."
"I'll pay for our first vacation, and you'll do it for our next. And so on…"
"So we're talking about a standing engagement," he clarified.
Suddenly she was shy. "If you want to."
Even if she was trying to ignore that whatever was between them was now undeniable, Oliver was not. He released her hands and then took her by her upper arms. "So much, Chloe." His head lowered and Oliver took Chloe's lips for a long, tender kiss.
"Ollie," she breathed against his mouth. "Ollie, wait." She placed her hands on his chest and gave him a gentle push.
He looked down at her closed eyes. When her eyes fluttered open, and he saw them dazed, he grinned.
"You owe me coffee. We've got to go."
He nodded and placed his arm around her shoulders. Together, they walked over towards the steps. "Coffee, then we're climbing those steps," Oliver warned her. "We'll go to the church at the Trinità dei Monti."