Hey, it's me again. It's not me the writer, it's Jannine. She gave me the permission to post it here and here it is.
Dan pulled up outside Zoe's place. The afternoon sun was hitting the front window and made him squint. He sat and collected his thoughts. Would Zoe be happy to see him; would she be upset, angry -- or even worse still, would she be nonplussed altogether. Maybe her emotions would be irrelevant, maybe the situation didn't evoke any particular response at all.
"You're not in love with Zoe?" Candy's words had been hard for Dan to hear. He had spent 2 glorious weeks getting to know Candy and he had enjoyed that time immensely. Once the shock wore off that his 'Candace' was 'the Candy', Zoe's Candy, Dan relaxed into the idea. It wasn't as though he'd been looking for a relationship but at the ski resort, when he met Candy, it just kind of propelled and before he knew it they had bonded. He was as surprised as anyone, including Zoe. Dan's feelings for Zoe had been strong for months but they had been met with total resistance from Zoe; apart from the odd flirtatious giggle or stolen glance, he was sure Zoe wasn't interested. And then of course he had to factor Marcos into the equation.
No matter how much Zoe protested and swore they were just friends, Dan knew differently. He had hoped that Zoe would recognise his feelings and be jolted into reality that she too had the same feelings but that didn't happen. So when Candy presented herself and showed a keen interest, Dan didn't think twice about going there. It wasn't until the revelation of Candy and Zoe's friendship that he had reason to question his next move.
Meeting Candy was a Godsend as far as Dan was concerned. He needed the distraction and neither of them was looking for a huge commitment. After all of Zoe's stories and anecdotes about her past life, Dan felt as though he already knew Candy; she felt the same about him. She told him on one of their dates that Zoe had talked about 'Dan at work' endlessly over the past few months and she was pleased to have finally met him. She was more than happy that 'Dan' was also extremely sexy and charismatic, as well as charming, witty and intelligent which were the words that Zoe used to describe him, on more than one occasion.
When Dan made love to Candy she received an additional bonus; not only was Dan articulate, funny, handsome and sexy -- he was also an amazing lover. Candy couldn't believe that this guy had fallen into her lap, so to speak.
In all reality both Dan and Candy knew their relationship was a 'fling' at best; she had to return to Vegas and he had to return to his everyday life as well; a life that meant he worked side by side with Zoe every day. He had seen the look on Zoe's face when it became apparent that his relationship had taken a physical turn with Candy. He knew from past experience that Zoe considered him a 'player'. She had taken sly digs at him on many occasions. She would roll her eyes each time he mentioned a dinner date or a quiet drink. The truth was, Dan hadn't been intimately involved with any woman since Zoe had stumbled into his life. Her hold over him had been immediate but because of circumstance, he had backed off. Zoe was finding her feet. She had lost her sister; taken on the kids, started her job and was learning a whole new career. She didn't need a romantic entanglement, not yet.
So Dan backed off, but in the meantime Marcos entered her life, through the back door -- in the guise of teacher and coach. She didn't let Marcos into her life; he more or less came with her new life.
So when Candy got a job in town and it was possible that their 'fling' could become much more. Dan and Candy spent 2 glorious weeks together and enjoyed each other immensely. They talked, they laughed, they bonded and they made love. They comforted one another and they explored one another, both on a physical level and an emotional level. Dan sensed that for all her bravado, Candy really needed taking care of; she wanted strong arms to hold her, to care for her. He needed intimacy and passion and friendship; Candy was providing all of that and more. But it wasn't enough.
During one of their passionate encounters, when Dan had inadvertently called her Zoe, it became painfully obvious to Candy that Dan's attention was being held elsewhere; even if he didn't realise it or recognise it. She had seen glances pass between Dan and her best friend but she hoped they had meant nothing. She knew differently now.
When Candy headed back to Vegas with a saddened smile and a declaration to Dan that he did indeed love Zoe; she put a challenge to him to face his feelings and do something about it before it was too late. Dan was upset, angry and confused. Was he really in love with Zoe? He had been pushing his feelings down, away, for so long, he wasn't sure anymore.
When Dan stepped onto the elevator 2 nights ago he wasn't really sure what his feelings were. When Zoe looked up at him and their eyes connected, he felt a volt of electricity surge through him and it was at that moment that he was sure of two things. He was sure that Zoe had entered his heart and he was sure he needed to tell her, before it was too late.
The kiss that ensued in the elevator was far from passionate; it was borne out of necessity, of wanting, of urgency. It was 'now or never' time for Dan and he seized the moment. When he felt Zoe's lips against his, his whole body ached for more; his knees grew weak and his mind clouded over in a sense of overwhelming familiarity. He was right where he was meant to be, with Zoe in his arms and her mouth joined as one with his. That was two days ago. No words were exchanged after the kiss and none had been spoken since. Zoe had called in sick the next morning and had spoken to The Intimidator. All she told Dan was that Zoe had called in ill and might be absent for a day or two.
Dan's stomach had hit the floor. Was he the cause for this sudden absence? Was he keeping Zoe from the job she loved more than anything? Feelings of guilt ate him up. That night, he tried calling Zoe; if nothing else to make sure she was okay and not actually sick. Taylor had answered the phone and informed Dan that Zoe was resting and that she would let Zoe know that he had called. That was over 24 hours ago and still no contact from Zoe.
Dan had called again today. Zoe's phone was switched off and the home phone went through to the machine. Dan left a brief message, not really knowing what to say. "Zoe, its Dan. I'm worried about you. I know you're on sick leave from the office but I'm phoning as a friend…. Please let me know you're okay. I'll wait to hear from you I guess. Goodbye Zoe."
Dan got out of his car and made his way up the drive. He hesitated before sounding the doorbell. It took two rings before he heard movement from inside. Zoe opened the door and met Dan's eyes. No emotion registered on her face at all; not a good sign Dan supposed. He smiled weakly and said "Hi. I hope I didn't come at a bad time?" Zoe just looked at him. Quite a few long awkward moments passed before she uttered any words. "What are you doing here Dan?"
"I'm worried about you; I've been worried for two days. Zoe, I think we need to talk."
"Dan, I'm not feeling well. This will have to wait."
"Zoe, please don't shut me out. I want to help you -- please let me. I make an awesome chicken soup, guaranteed to cure all ills." Zoe saw the warmth in Dan's eyes and her stance mellowed. She recognised the soft hazel orbs as the eyes she had looked in a thousand times to gain assurance and confidence. She eventually stood aside and allowed Dan access. He went in and headed for the kitchen, Zoe followed. "You'll be lucky to find a chicken stock cube in my pantry let alone ingredients to make soup!" Dan smiled warmly, "Well how about a cup of hot tea?"
"How about you tell me why you're here?" An awkward smile came across Dan's face. It was time for serious chatter now. "Zoe, I think we both know why I'm here. The last time I saw you, I took you in my arms and I kissed you. The next day you phoned in sick and I haven't seen you since. I'm worried that your absence from work has something to do with our elevator embrace."
"Well I can put your mind at ease if that's what is worrying you. My being absent from work has nothing to do with you."
Dan didn't believe that for a second. He knew Zoe's work meant so much to her that she wouldn't jeopardise her job for a couple of 'sickies'. He tried to press her for more information. "Zoe, I'm looking at you and apart from puffy eyes indicating a lot of tears, you don't look sick to me. In fact, you look as gorgeous as you usually do." Straight away Dan knew he shouldn't have said that; he shouldn't have been so familiar. The flash of anger in Zoe's pale blue/grey eyes confirmed that for him.
"Well considering you're not a doctor Dan, I'll leave my diagnosis for someone more qualified, if you don't mind." Dan sighed, "Okay, maybe this was a bad idea; you obviously don't want to talk to me… I just thought maybe you needed a friend, someone to talk to." Zoe almost snapped but kept her voice reasonably calm, "Well I have a best friend; you remember Candy! If I need to talk to a friend, I'll give her a call -- all the way in Vegas!" Dan thought long and hard before he spoke. 'So this is what this is about? She's not sick; she's pissed at me for hooking up with Candy and then breaking up with her and she blames me for Candy leaving'.
"So, is this something you want to talk about or should I just leave now?" Zoe took 2 cups from the cupboard and said coolly "What's the rush; I thought we were having a cup of tea." Dan tried to read her mood but Zoe wasn't giving much away. He pressed on, "Zoe… You obviously have something on your mind regarding Candy… and me… my relationship with her, so please just talk to me."
Zoe poured the boiling water into the cups and began stirring; she stirred so long the tea was getting cold. She eventually threw the teaspoon into the sink and said harshly "I don't understand why you would sleep with my best friend. I need you to explain that to me." Dan swallowed hard; he knew this conversation was coming but now he didn't feel as prepared as he thought he might be. "I need to clarify something first Zoe; I didn't know who Candy was when I slept with her, I didn't know she was your Candy."
That didn't help the situation at all. Zoe was angrier than ever now. "And what's up with that? You're up there to do a job and you meet her in the bar and you sleep together the first night! Were you really that bored Dan? You know what; don't even answer that -- it's none of my business." Now Dan was getting angry too, "You said it, I didn't!" They were staring at one another across the kitchen counter now; Dan with his hands in his jacket pocket and biting his bottom lip and Zoe with her hands on the bench, looking as though she might break something if she tried to move.
"Well I kind of thought it was my business; she's my best friend and you…" Zoe didn't finish her sentence. Dan was intrigued. "And I what Zoe? You've gone this far you might as well finish." Zoe almost hissed at him, her eyes flashing with fire "And you have a reputation as a player and it's just like you to grab the first woman you come across in a ski resort bar and take her to bed!"
Dan started to speak several times but swallowed his angry words down; he didn't want to say something that he would regret and because it wouldn't help the situation; he waited for his heart rhythm to return to normal before offering "Don't hold back Zoe, tell me what you really think! You know what, the truth of the matter is, you don't know a damn thing about me! Nothing, nil, zilch! If you knew anything about me, you would know what crap that is! And while we're on the subject of playing the game -- what about you and Super Coach! Don't tell me you're not doing the horizontal mattress dance with Mr Suave!"
So much for not taking the conversation down an angry path. Zoe was holding back tears now. "He has nothing to do with this and that's none of your business; just leave him out of it!"
"What, so it's okay for you to pry into my relationship with Candy but you can't take the same scrutiny! Typical."
"Typical of what?"
"Typical that you want me to open up about myself, tell you all my deep dark secrets, all about my life prior to meeting you -- but as soon as I get even remotely close to discovering something about you -- you shut me down with both barrels right between the eyes!"
"I do not do that! I'm an open book; you know all there is to know about me!"
"Give me a break Zoe! I know what you've allowed me to know and nothing more. You tell us all at the office about your happy Vegas stories and what you got up to in your misspent youth but you don't tell us anything remotely significant or private. You hide the real you veiled in silly stories and you don't ever open up, not about anything important."
"This coming from a man who has trouble telling another person the brand of beer he drinks! Talk about secretive."
Dan crossed his arms across his chest in a defensive stance and said sarcastically "Fine. Tell me what you want to know Zoe. I'm here. Let's do this. Ask my anything! I will tell you anything you want to know. Go!" Zoe just looked at him but said nothing. She saw the little gold flecks in his deep green eyes doing a little dance; a dance of frustration she assumed. She looked away nervously and picked up her cup of tea. She leant against the kitchen sink, moving a safe distance from Dan; she could no longer smell his aftershave or feel the warmth emanating from his body. She was safe now.
Dan was far from finished. "So, what's it going to be Zoe? You wanna know about Lisa, my ex-fiancé? You wanna know about my life as a criminal? You wanna know how many women I've screwed? You wanna know what I did to Candy in bed? All just begging for answers… come on Zoe, don't clam up on me now!" Tears spilled from Zoe's eyes, "Shut up… just shut the Hell up."
Dan moved to the end of the kitchen bench. "Why? You think you know it all! I'm such a player; you know me so well! The truth is you don't want to know me Zoe; knowing what you do already places a huge frigging black X next to my name and you're done with getting to know me! A criminal -- God how could you even bring yourself to look at someone like me! A failed engagement -- good lord, how can you ever trust a guy like me! Christ, I might have slept with like a dozen women -- what a player! How can you even bring yourself to work with me Zoe; let alone stoop low enough to engage in a conversation with me?"
Dan felt angry tears stinging his eyes. He walked towards the doorway and said calmly "The truth is you learned what you learned about me very early on and you made up your mind right there and then that you wanted nothing to do with me. You're pissed because Candy accepted me for who I am and looked past all the crap that you weren't able to! Have a nice perfect life with the Coach Zoe; I hope you'll be very happy together!" Dan walked out.
Zoe burst into tears. Dan hadn't quite reached the front door yet when he heard Zoe's painful cry "He proposed to me and I had to say no damn it!" Zoe's hands were trembling. She managed to spill tea over the bench and got annoyed. She threw the half empty cup into the sink, breaking the handle off the cup. She hit the counter hard with her hand in frustration and then became aware that Dan was back, standing in the doorway, looking so much smaller than she knew him to be. He took a few tentative steps toward her and said calmly, "Why did you say no?"
Zoe looked in the opposite direction; she couldn't look into those eyes, not now. There were words stuck in her throat and she was too scared to scratch them out; she didn't know what sentence they would form and she was too frightened to find out. She opened her mouth but no sound came. Dan was right behind her now. She could feel his warm breath on her shoulder and neck; the aftershave that made her giddy was once again filling her nostrils.
"Why did you turn him down Zoe?" She wrapped her arms around her own body; suddenly feeling very cold. She felt a shiver go through her body. His hands were on her arms. He turned her to face him. He looked down into her eyes and just held them for a few long moments. She hadn't ever noticed how long his lashes were, how perfectly they framed his eyes. His face moved closer to hers. "Tell me."
She opened her mouth to speak and much to her surprise words actually sounded out this time, "I had to… I don't love him…" Dan's eyes smiled and she saw the corners of his mouth bend into a grin. "I'm sorry you had to say no." She couldn't help but smile, "No you're not!" He smiled widely now too, "No, I'm not! Zoe -- that's the best piece of news I think I've ever heard, ever!" Zoe leaned against the kitchen bench and Dan stood with his hands on either side of her resting on the bench. Zoe said in a fluster, "Why is that such great news?"
"Because I'm not done getting to know you; and I would like to think there is so much more about me to learn than what you have already." Zoe looked deep into Dan's eyes and said, "I don't need to know anything more…" Dan's lips brushed against hers ever so lightly and he whispered, "Why is that?" Zoe felt her knees weaken. She slipped her hands beneath his jacket and rested them on his hips, "Because I know all I need to know… enough to know why my heart is leaping out of my chest right now."
Their mouths came together again; a far cry from their last kiss, this one held much passion and much hope. Dan's body held Zoe's against the bench and his hand found the back of her neck. Her lips parted and Dan's tongue slipped inside effortlessly and simultaneous moans escaped from each of them. Dan pulled back slightly and said with a cheeky grin "It's going to be fun getting to know the real Zoe." Zoe was done with talking for now; she pulled Dan by the lapels of his jacket and their mouths crushed together once more.
There would be plenty of time for talking later and for getting to know one another.