Emily sat comfortably in the corner of the sofa; her navy blue dress a stark contrast to the pale fabric of the cushions and the bottom of a lime green book - Mating Rituals of the North American WASP - balanced on her crossed legs. Always a little suspicious of the books Nora chose for the DAR book club, this one was turning out to be quite entertaining, though it couldn't completely take her mind off of the oppressive late summer heat. Even though the sun was on the way down, the temperature hadn't really dropped. Picking up a glass of ice water from the end table next to her, she took a sip and replaced the glass on the coaster, her eyes never leaving the page. Suddenly the lights dimmed and came back to full. She glanced at the lamp next to her, then satisfied that it was nothing, wfent back to her book.
In his study, Richard sat behind the desk going over a quarterly financial report on the computer. He tugged at the collar of his white shirt and thought briefly of removing his bowtie. It seemed warm even though he could hear the air-conditioning running at full blast. He made a mental note to ask Emily to call the repairman first thing Monday morning when the lights dimmed and came back up for the second time in as many minutes. Then everything cut out and the room was plunged into darkness.
Emily set her book down on the coffee table, stood up and carefully began to walk across the room hoping the flashlight was in the drawer where it was supposed to be and that the batteries still worked. She couldn't remember the last time she'd checked it.f
Richard made his way across the study, the flame from his favorite lighter casting a small glow of orange light. He opened the door and called out, "Emily!" then heard a loud thump.
"Damn," she swore as she rubbed her thigh having just caught it on the corner of the side table.
"Was that you? Are you all right?" he asked as he hurried toward the sound of his wife's voice.
"Of course it's me," she replied. "You startled me and I ran into the table. Why are you shouting anyway?"
"I …uh… wanted to be sure you were okay," he answered as he came to a stop next to her.
"I was fine until you shouted," she muttered opening the drawer in the table and trying to locate the flashlight by touch.
"What are you - " he began to ask just as she located the flashlight and turned it on, "ah, flashlight. Good idea."
Emily located a second flashlight in the drawer and handed it to him. "Here, make yourself useful. Go light some candles with that lighter of yours. Why don't you start with the ones on the dining room table? I'll go get some more from the pantry." already on her way out of the room she called back, "How long do you think the power will be off?"
"Depends on how wide the outage is," he explained as he lit the candles in the dining room.
"Well that's helpful," she replied on her way back into the room carrying two silver candelabras each holding three white tapers.
Richard began lighting the other candles. "I should still have that old battery powered radio in the study. I'll see if I can find some news." As soon he finished lighting the candles, he headed off with his flashlight for the study.
Emily picked up one of the candelabras and took it into the living room. Then went back into the dining room got the second and carried it with her to the study. Richard was looking through the shelves, the beam of his flashlight the only thing illuminating the darkness. As she placed the candelabra on his desk that side of the room was bathed in a warm yellow glow. "Why don't I go get some more candles?"
"That might be a good idea," he conceded.
The sound of the telephone broke the momentary silence in the room. "I'll bet that's Carolyn calling to cancel the dinner party," Emily announced then picked up the phone on the desk. "Hello… Hi Carolyn…"
Richard shook his head and smiled as he continued his search for the radio. How was she always so damn right?
"No, of course we understand… the entire eastern seaboard?… No we haven't heard the news yet…" she cast her husband a slightly accusatory glance… "I had no idea it was so widespread…well, I'm sure you have other guests you need to reach… of course we'll reschedule… goodbye Carolyn."
"The entire eastern seaboard?" Richard asked from a kneeling position as he looked through the bottom shelves of a cabinet.
"That's what she said," Emily answered. "I'm guessing we're not going to be getting the power back on anytime soon."
"Probably a safe guess," his voice was muffled since his head was now inside the cabinet. "Ah here it is," he announced happily leaning back and standing up. Switching it on as he crossed to the desk, the sound of static crackled through the air. He tuned in a news station that he often listened to in the car.
"…reports show the cascading power failure now reaches as far north as Toronto and as far south as Atlanta although the exact cause of the blackout has not yet been pinpointed. We have a listener on the line from Trenton, NJ. Gloria, tell us what happened where you are."
Richard switched off the radio. "What's there to tell? It's dark in New Jersey too?"
"They must have nothing else to fill with," Emily reasoned.
"We'll turn it back on in a little while and see it there's any new information," he suggested.
Emily nodded. "Well, no power, no dinner party, no news…" she waved her hand at the now silent radio.
"Whatever will we do?" Richard asked playfully wrapping his arms around her.
"Richard," she laughed as he pulled her closer, her hands coming to rest on his broad chest. Her expression suddenly turned serious. "Do you think Lorelai and Rory are okay?"
"Emily, it's a power outage not the end of the world. They're fine," he assured her.
"I'm sure you're right," she agreed.
He leaned down and kissed her temple then just behind her ear. "Do you remember the blackout the first year we were married?"
"Of course I do," she answered with a smile. "Are you suggesting we camp out on the floor in front of the fireplace again?"
"Well some concessions may have to be made due to the heat, but other things are definitely worth revisiting," he replied with twinkle in his eye.
Emily's gaze dropped away from his briefly. When she looked back up his eyes were closed and less than an inch away. She closed her eyes automatically and welcomed his kiss. A gentle press of lips against lips that slowly deepened and just as it was about to become more the phone rang again.
Richard ended the kiss with a sigh and reached out with one hand for the phone, his other arm tightening around his wife when she went to move away. "Hello."
The phone was so close Emily could hear her granddaughter's voice on the other end of the line. "Hi, Grandpa, are you and Grandma okay with the blackout and everything?"
"We're fine, Rory. Your grandmother was worried about you though."
"Tell Grandma I'm good," Rory replied quickly.
"She's right here, why don't you tell her yourself," he said handing the phone to Emily.
"Hello, Rory. So you're okay?" Emily asked as Richard shifted to lean against the front of the desk and maneuvered her in front of him.
"Yep," she answered cheerily, "just fine. Paris' latest craft project is candle making so the place is lit up like daylight in here."
Emily laughed at the image. "Well be careful with all those open flames."
"We will," knowing her Grandmother wasn't likely to ask she added, "oh and I talked to Mom. She's fine. She's over at the Dragonfly making sure the guests are okay."
"Thank you for calling Rory."
"Hey, I know Grandpa said you were okay, but what are you guys gonna do for dinner?"
"Oh we'll figure out something," Emily answered touched at her granddaughter's concern. "What about you? What will you eat?"
"Oh easy, there's always cold pizza in the fridge"
"Rory! Really? That's not dinner?" Emily asked in disgust.
"What can I say?" Rory laughed. "I'm my mother's daughter." There was a knock at the door then a room full of voices behind her. "I gotta go. Paris invited the whole building in for a blackout potluck?"
"Should I ask what a blackout potluck is?" Emily wondered aloud.
"Probably not," Rory giggled at what she imagined the look to be on her grandmother's face. "See you guys on Friday."
"Yes, Rory, see you Friday," Emily replied before hanging up the phone. "It was sweet of her to call."
"Yes it was," he agreed slowly tracing his hands up and down her back.
Emily ran her hands across his chest smoothing out some of the wrinkles it had gathered after a day's wear. "She did bring up an interesting point though."
"Which is?" he asked looking down at her expectantly.
She smiled, her eyebrows rising slightly as her eyes widened. "What are we going to eat for dinner? I was planning on Carolyn's dinner party tonight and I thought we'd go out tomorrow."
"Well, we'll just have to have our own blackout potluck," he teased giving her a squeeze.
She rolled her eyes at his joke, stepped back and picked up the candelabra from the desk before heading for the door. "Come on then, let's see what there is to potluck."
Richard picked up the flashlight and the portable radio and followed her to the kitchen. Placing the candelabra on the island, she turned toward the refrigerator and paused, her fingers just barely touching the handle. Richard watched her as she stood there, for more than a minute with her eyes closed. "Do you expect the food to call to you from inside?"
"No, I do not expect the food to call to me from inside," she replied in a mocking tone. "I'm trying to remember what's in there and where it is. The fewer times we open the refrigerator the better chance we have of keeping what's in there from spoiling before the power comes back on."
"That does seem logical," he muttered unhappily.
"Okay, there's some spaghetti sauce and meatballs left over from last night. It should be in a round container on the middle shelf. There're also some vegetables we can use for a salad in the crisper."
"So, I suggest a coordinated strike on the targets. I'll open the door and get the spaghetti sauce. You get what you want for the salad and I'll meet you back at the island."
Emily shook her head and tried not to laugh. He was definitely in a playful mood tonight. "Not all together a bad idea."
"Okay on three." He counted, "One…two…three…" and pulled the door open grabbed what he hoped was the right container and moved out of her way. While she rummaged around for the vegetables he set the sauce container on the island and lifted the lid….success. He swung the beam of his flashlight back toward the refrigerator while she got out the last of the vegetables. She moved away, her arms full. Just as he swung the door closed, she realized what she'd forgotten "Richard, salad dressing!" With the door inches from closing, he stuck his arm in and deftly snatched the bottle from its place in door.
Emily got out two pots and transferred the sauce to one and filled the other with boiling water. She set them both on the stove then turned a soft look on her husband, looking up at him through her lashes. "Would you light the burners?"
"Of course, my dear, all you have to do is ask," he replied taking two long strides to the stove as Emily backed away. He moved both pots to the back burners then went about lighting the front. Turning the gas up to high, he sparked the flame on the lighter and the burner immediately caught with a whoosh.
She cringed at the sound and the idea of flame coming to life. It was bad enough to have to light the burners from a safe distance with the auto-ignite, but to hold your hand so close to that open flame frightened her more than she wanted to admit.
Richard made quick work of the second burner then turned both down to a lower flame and moved the pots forward over the heat. "And what can I do for my next feat?" he asked playfully.
"Find the spaghetti," Emily replied. "There should be a box in the pantry cupboard."
As he scanned the shelves for the pasta, he remembered the previous night's dinner. "You know, much as I love spaghetti and meatballs, I don't think we should have it with the girls here again."
"And why is that?" Emily replied while slicing a carrot.
He located the box and walked back into the kitchen. "The two of them were going at it something awful last night."
"'It's my sweater,' 'no it's mine,'" she imitated their childish argument, "'You stretched it out,' 'No you did,' I don't know how I kept from screaming." She tossed the carrots into the salad bowl and moved on to slicing a cucumber.
"The last time we had spaghetti and meatballs they were fighting over some television program," he explained.
"If I never hear the words America Idol in the same sentence again, I will be a very happy woman."
"I don't know what it is, but there's definitely something about the spaghetti and meatballs."
"I hadn't put the two together, but you may be on to something."
Richard untied his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt casting his gaze toward the French doors leading onto the patio. "Do you think it may be starting to cool off outside?"
"One way to find out," Emily responded with a shrug as she stirred the spaghetti sauce that was starting to bubble slowly.
He opened the door and stepped out onto the patio. "It's not much, but there is a bit of a breeze. Why don't we eat out here?"
"Okay," Emily agreed as she added the spaghetti noodles to the pot of boiling water. Richard walked to the china cabinet taking out dinner plates and salad plates. "What are you doing?"
"I thought I'd set the table," he explained with a shrug moving to the silverware drawer. He put the plates down on the counter and began extracting flatware. "Is there some reason I can't help my lovely wife with dinner?"
Emily laughed and shook her head, "No. No reason."
Richard set two water glasses and two wine glasses next to the plates and utensils and regarded the gathering then finally exclaimed. "Napkins." He then moved to the linen drawer and extracted two light blue cloth napkins.
"Placemats?" Emily suggested.
"Ah, yes, thank you," he replied taking out two matching placemats.
While Richard set the table adding the pillar candles Emily suggested complete with hurricane shades, she finished up their dinner. With a last glance around the kitchen to be sure she's gotten everything, Emily blew out the candles on the island and lit her way out to the patio table with her flashlight. Richard held her chair for her while she sat down then took his own place next to her at the round table.
Glancing at her plate Emily shook her head and chuckled lightly. "Well this is a first."
"We've eaten out here before," he replied with a puzzled look just before taking a bite of his salad.
She finished her own bite of salad before answering, "Yes, but in more than 40 years of marriage, I have never once served you leftovers for dinner."
"No, you have not, but this was hardly within your power to control," he gestured to the darkness that surrounded them with his fork then lifted his wine glass. "Here's to leftover meatballs."
With a smile Emily picked up her glass and with the ring of crystal on crystal joined in his toast, "to leftover meatballs."
Richard dabbed his napkin to his mouth and placed it on the table next to his plate. "You know, I think those meatballs tasted better than they did last night."
"They were good, weren't they?" Emily agreed. "Though I don't think we should make a habit of having the same meal two nights in a row."
"As long as it's this good, I might make an exception." Picking up the bottle of wine next to him he emptied it into his wife's glass.
With a laugh she asked, "Are you trying to get me drunk?"
He raised a mischievous eyebrow, "Now, would I do that?"
"You have… and you would," she countered taking a sip of the beverage in question.f
"Tipsy maybe," he conceded. "Not drunk. Never drunk."
Setting the glass down, she regarded her husband in the dim candle light. "Just what is going on in that head of yours?"
"I'm thinking about how refreshing a moonlight swim would be," he responded, the picture of innocence… almost.
Her chin down, she looked at the wineglass in her hand as she twisted the long stem between her thumb and forefinger. Looking up at him through her long lashes, she asked flirtingly, "And just how does my relative level of intoxication figure into these plans?"
"I thought you might join me," he explained leaning closer to where she sat next to him at the round table.
"Oh really?" she asked, one eyebrow raised in feigned disapproval.
Covering her hand with his, he began stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. "Think about it... the heat of the day melting away in the cool refreshing water."
"Mmm," she hummed low in her throat, her voice taking on the husky quality that he had always found incredibly sexy. "You do paint quite a tempting picture."
"Well allow me to tempt you further." His tone was so low it was nearly a whisper and she could feel his hot breath against her ear. As he spoke he trailed his fingertips up her arm, over her shoulder and across her collarbone down to the top button of her dress.
She took a deep breath and reached up to catch hold of his wrist. "Richard."
"Yes," he murmured before kissing her earlobe then her jaw, his fingers easily resuming their earlier task.
"We can't just leave the dishes on the table?" she argued feebly.
"Why not?" he countered, his kisses moving closer to her mouth.
"Because –" but whatever reason she was about to give was cut off when his lips covered hers in a deep kiss that she quickly returned.
Both breathless by the end of the kiss, he brought his forehead to rest against hers. "Let's make this a night to remember."
She chuckled at the line and brought her hand up to his cheek. "How do I let you talk me into these things?"
"Because I'm charming and irresistible," he quipped playfully.
"Yes, you are," she agreed with a broad smile.
He gave her another brief kiss then rose to his feet, but she caught him by the arm quickly. "Not so fast. First, you help me take these dishes into the kitchen. Then while I'm loading them in the dishwasher, you can go to the pool house and gather some towels and our suits and robes."
"Agreed," he accepted with excitement and quickly stacked their plates together and headed for the kitchen with every intention of following his wife's instructions. Well all but one.
Notes: This story is an extremely late birthday present for UnaVitaSegreta. Thank you for all your wonderful stories.
Thanks: Thank you to WhreofBabylon and Gabriella for helping with feedback, suggestions and beta skills.