Thanks so much for all the nice reviews! As I already said, it could be possible that there would be another chapter - and here it is. I had the feeling the story wasn't complete yet and I couldn't stop thinking about it... This is the result ;-) And more: I figured out that this story will be kind of a prologue (or prequel if you want) to another idea of mine that I might start soon. I'll explain that one when it's time - the name will be "As Time Goes By" (most likely not in first person, but will continue after the events of this one).
with you in a winter's snow
Kissin' underneath the mistletoe
People smiling everywhere we go
It's Christmas Eve and they can see we're in love
(from the song Christmas Eve by Céline Dion)
When I woke up the next morning, it took me a while to recollect the events of the previous day.
Where was I?
After a first careful attempt to open my eyes, I figured that I was in my own bed. Good. A peek at my alarm clock told me it was already past 10 a.m. I lightly stretched under the comforter. My shoulder still hurt a little, but at least I could move my arm without a stabbing pain resulting from each movement. I felt relaxed and immortally strong. Until I tried to lift my head.
What had happened the night before?
Vague images appeared in my memory. Santa in the park, someone shining a light into my eyes, a sleigh with horses, fireworks, tomatoes, mistletoe…
The image got clearer. Me, Mac, the kiss when we left the hospital.
I smiled. In that moment, Mac appeared in the door. Of MY bedroom…
"What are you doing here?" I asked more than a little confused.
"Merry Christmas! And good morning to you, too, Stella," he smiled at my irritation.
Then he disappeared and after I heard some rummaging in my kitchen, he returned with a tray on which he had placed a complete breakfast including fresh bagels, butter, marmalade, cheese, coffee, tea, orange juice and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
My mouth dropped open.
"Where did you get all this?? It must have taken forever to prepare everything," I wondered while he cut the first bagel and handed it to me.
"I woke up early as usual, I didn't want to wake you and so I decided to go for a walk and then get us some breakfast on the way back," he returned as he prepared a bagel for himself and filled a mug of tea for me and one with coffee for himself.
Didn't want to wake you…
The first bite of the bagel almost got stuck in my throat without having been chewed. I managed to recover without choking and without Mac getting suspicious.
Should I ask him what happened? Did I expect that something happened? Wouldn't I remember if? Would he take advantage of a situation where I wasn't fully in control of my own actions? No, certainly not…
"You know, your couch is actually quite comfortable," he mumbled between two bites.
Couch?!? Phew… Okay, so much for that.
"Why did you sleep on my couch?" I managed to ask.
He gave me a closer look.
"How much exactly do you remember from last night?"
"Santa, snowball fight, the attack, firework, tomato, hospital…" I tried to give a short summary of what I recalled.
"Tomato??" Mac interrupted with a puzzled look.
When I briefly pointed to the back of my head, he nodded understandingly.
"Mistletoe, a beautiful sleigh ride in Central Park and…" I went on, trying to dig deeper in my memory, "…and that's about it, I guess."
Mac nodded with a smile.
"You were pretty drowsy from the medication they gave you at the hospital and you fell asleep before the sleigh ride ended," he explained. "I took you home and since the doctor had made me promise that I would take care of you and not let you out of my sight, I decided to sleep on the couch in case you needed me."
"Thanks, Mac. But it's not necess-"
"Don't even try it. If you weren't here under my supervision now, you would be at the hospital for at least a week. So either you will let me stay on your couch for the time being or you come with me and stay at my place. Unless of course you prefer the hospitality of the Mount Sinai…"
I sighed in resignation. The moment I would breathe in to start an objection, Mac would call the doctor to tell him he would take me back there. But – a week home with him as my personal caretaker…
It could definitely be worse.
I was right, it could be worse. The next days were just wonderful. Mac was just perfect. Every morning when I woke up, he had already prepared a wonderful breakfast with the most delicious things. I started feeling like a queen in my own home. I was on sick leave until after New Year's and Mac had somehow managed to get the time off himself.
We spent the days with window shopping, walks in the park, visiting museums and other nice things – not without Mac always eagerly watching that I didn't overexert myself. The evenings we spent at my place. Even though I didn't want to admit it, I was still getting tired easily.
We would just sit on the couch and watch TV or listen to some music or talk or just sit in silence. It became a habit that I curled up against him, my head resting against his chest or shoulder, his arm gently wrapped around my body. Sometimes I would fall asleep and he carefully placed a woolen blanket over me while my head resting in his lap and he wouldn't move until I woke up on my own. Even if he had to sit like that the whole night.
Sometimes we even kissed, but those were more innocent, sweet kisses. In the mornings when I woke up or in the evenings when I went to bed, a little kiss goodnight was always there. I wasn't sure if Mac was just being the perfect gentleman I expected him to be or if this was all that would happen. A little beyond friendship and partnership, but not more? I knew I was beginning to feel something different, but I didn't know about Mac. Would he eventually make a move or would I have to try and risk losing him? For now, I didn't want to worry about that.
The day before New Years Eve, our dinner at Mac's place was interrupted by his cell phone. He only took a brief look at the display before he put it away again. Then he got up and excused himself.
"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I'll have to go to the lab for a short visit. Can I leave you alone?"
I shot him a sharp look.
"I don't need a babysitter, if that's what you mean?"
I didn't want to snap, but to be honest I didn't appreciate work ruining the evening.
"Would you like me to take you back to your place? I would be back there as soon as I can…" he tried to offer.
"Can we stay here?" I asked.
I needed to know how he was feeling about this and making an attempt to stay at his place over night might tell me. I was surprised about his reaction.
"Sure, that's a nice idea," he smiled. "I promise I'll be back soon."
When Mac returned a little more than two hours later, he was wearing a bright smile across his face. He approached the couch where I was sitting, took my hands and pulled me into his arms. Then he kissed me cheerfully. I was stunned.
"What?" I wondered after he let go off me and propped himself on the couch.
"You know, I almost forgot how nice it is to come home and have somebody waiting for you."
"Yeah? Well, it's not so nice to be the one home waiting…" I returned, but snuggled closer against him. It wasn't that bad either after all.
"Sorry," he smiled. "I got something to make up for that, but for now, you need to get some sleep. I have a surprise for you tomorrow."
The next morning came – and nothing happened.
We had breakfast together, went to watch the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center, had lunch at a little Greek restaurant and returned back to Mac's place in the afternoon. No mention of the surprise anymore – I was bursting with suspense. And Mac? Either he had forgotten about it or he had only told me he had a surprise to appease me or – or he was a really good actor. I couldn't read anything from his face and it was starting to drive me crazy.
"Are you ready?" he suddenly asked when I had almost forgotten to be excited about whatever he was planning.
"Ready for what?" I tried to figure out.
"I'll take you to your place so that you can freshen up and put on something nice. I'm not gonna tell you where we are going yet, but you might want to wear the most stunning outfit you have," he smiled mysteriously. "I'll pick you up at 8 p.m., is that enough time for you or would you need more?"
I shrugged. How was I supposed to know?
Five minutes after eight o'clock, my doorbell rang. I opened the door at the sight of the most gorgeous man I ever met in my life. At least in that moment, he seemed to be. Mac was wearing a black tuxedo with a dark red shirt and a dark grey tie with little red dots on it. He looked … amazing. He must have had similar thoughts about my outfit because it took him a moment to find his voice again.
"You look … beautiful!" he gasped, his eyes wandering across my body. I was wearing a dark green silk dress with a tight top, V-neck with a bit more than a little cleavage and a wide, swinging skirt. I had been wondering about my hair, but then decided to just leave it open, I knew Mac liked it that way. I think I might have blushed a little.
"Thanks," I mumbled. "You look great yourself."
"Ready to go?"
"Ready," I nodded.
Out on the street, my mouth dropped open again. In front of my apartment building, there was a black limousine waiting for us. The driver held the back door open and Mac gestured me to climb into the car. If he was trying to impress me, he had certainly achieved his goal.
And he wasn't quite done yet…
Only a few blocks from where we started, the driver stopped the car and got out to open the door for us. We were standing in front of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. I looked at Mac in disbelief.
"How did you…?" I wasn't even sure what I wanted to ask him.
He smiled at my reaction.
"I'm personal friends with the GM and he owed me for a favor I did him in the past. Remember the call I got yesterday? I wasn't completely honest with you, it wasn't the lab. I met with him to arrange … well, a little something for tonight. So how about we get in there and have a nice little dinner together?"
Nice little dinner? Sure, in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world… Why not? I'm not the kind of girl to decline such an offer.
"This was amazing…" I whispered after we had finished our dinner.
And amazing it was. Whatever favor Mac had given to his friend, it must have been something good. Never in life I had such delicious things to eat, not to speak of the great wine and champagne they had served. I could tell that Mac enjoyed seeing me having a good time, but I couldn't help the feeling that he was also a little tensed.
"You ready for another surprise?" he asked quietly.
"Another surprise? After all this?" I looked around. "You really know how to impress a girl, don't you?"
Mac shrugged with a little smile.
"I try my best. Come on, you wanna see the New Years Eve celebration at Times Square?" he asked expectantly.
"Love to," I said hesitantly.
"What is it, Stella?" Mac asked.
"It's rather cold outside and my outfit isn't exactly… you know, winter proof," I explained my concerns.
"Not a problem," he returned with a smile and got a key out of his pocket.
"The deal didn't only include a table for a New Years Eve dinner, but also a room with a great view on Times Square so that we can watch the ceremony from there…" he hesitated to say more, anxiously checking my reaction.
"We get to stay the whole night here at the hotel?" I asked excitedly.
"We can do if we, I mean if that's what…"
I put my arms around his neck and placed a passionate kiss on his mouth. If he had been afraid I would feel pushed by him arranging for a hotel room for a night, now he knew there was no reason to worry. I could feel the tension being replaced by relief as we made our way to the elevators.
The room was incredible. I guess in a hotel like the Waldorf Astoria, even the 'simple' rooms are pure luxury to everyone who hasn't been born with a golden spoon in his mouth. To the left, there was an open fireplace with a nice, crackling fire. Above it, several scented candles spread a nice smell of cinnamon and coconut. A gift basket on the table in the middle of the room contained several fruits and other delicious things, next to it there was a bottle of champagne in a cooler and two glasses. A door on the right side led to the bedroom with a very comfortably looking king-sized bed.
Once we were in the room, the atmosphere became different. There wasn't any sign of awkwardness or hesitation between us anymore. Mac poured us two glasses of champagne. Then we sat on a nice big armchair, me on his lab, and watched out of the large window down on Times Square. It was almost midnight and it had started to snow again.
Mac smiled and looked at me tenderly, the half-dark room only lit by the fire and the lights of the city outside.
"Mac, what are you thinking?" I asked softly.
I was trying to imagine what this new year would hold for us. I felt his warm breath on my neck as he wrapped his arms tighter around me. Knowing he was thinking the same, I turned my head and gave him a light, reassuring kiss. He smiled at me. He did understand what I wanted to say.
"Look, I think the countdown is starting now," he broke the silence after a little while.
We got up and looked out of the window. Mac was standing behind me, his arms tenderly wrapped around my waist, his head resting on my right shoulder. I leaned my head against his left cheek and sighed silently as we watched the crowd downstairs counting down the seconds to midnight while the ball on the opposite building was slowly going down. When it hit the bottom, everyone started cheering and seconds later, a fascinating firework started exploding.
Mac turned me around to face him. For a moment we looked into each others eyes wordlessly.
"Happy New Year, Mac," I whispered.
"Happy New Year, Stella," he whispered back before he pulled me into a sweet and passionate kiss.
We kept watching the fireworks above the skyline of Midtown Manhattan until something caught my attention.
"Did you just see that?" I asked, but Mac's attention didn't seem to be on the fireworks anymore.
"See what?" he wondered.
"I thought I just saw some kind of flash in one of the windows in the building on the other side of the street…" I slowly explained.
I wasn't sure. It was late, I had had wine and champagne all evening and there was lights and fireworks outside. Under other circumstances I would have said it could have been the light from a gunshot being fired, but now…
"Must have been a reflection from the fireworks," Mac confirmed my guess.
"Yeah, I think you're right. You wanna keep watching?" I asked, pressing closer against his body.
"Not if you don't want to…"
Suggestions and unspoken questions were hanging in the air. We both knew that this new year would have a special start for us.
"What do you have in mind?" I asked quietly as we slowly walked over to the bedroom.
"How about if we just wait and see what the night holds for us?" he suggested, then suddenly he cursed silently.
"What now, Mac?" I asked, wondering.
"I … You know I … When I made the deal for the room and the dinner, I wasn't sure where the evening would lead us and now I don't…"
I realized after a little moment what he was going at. Then I had an idea.
"Wait a moment, maybe we can solve that problem," I said and went over to the other side of the bed. After all we were at a hotel and the reception should be able to help us. When I looked into the nightstand drawer, I had to grin.
"Would this solve the little problem?" I asked, holding up a package with three condoms.
Mac rolled his eyes with a chuckle and checked the nightstand on the other side where he found another three-pack.
"I can't believe it… This is… I should have known when I asked him if he could arrange for a romantic dinner and later a room with a nice view on Times Square, that he would make such assumptions. Stella, I'm really sorry. I swear I didn't know and I have nothing to do with this…"
I had to laugh about his struggle to convince me that the condoms weren't his idea.
"You know, actually it honors you that you didn't just assume things to go this way and bring some yourself," I smiled at him. "But I don't see any reason why we shouldn't accept the little gift from your friend, right?"
"I promise, I won't do anything unless you say I can," he assured me, regaining his self-assurance. "Which is not to say that I won't make suggestions."
"How do I know you'll keep your word?" I teased him.
He shrugged and looked at me tenderly.
"You can't know," he said quietly. "You just have to trust me."
And trust him, I did. With my life.
Happy New Year everyone out there - readers, reviewers, StellaMac fans and of course Melina and Gary who inspire me most :-)