Thanks very much for your patience on this chapter, which happens to be the final one. I hope it doesn't disappoint!
= 10 =
Time quickly passes, and they are soon sitting at a table in the Italian trattoria. It is an old-fashioned kind of a place, with checked tablecloths, fake vine-leaves hanging from the ceiling, faded photos of old Italia, and a menu straight from the eighties – a world away from Harry's usual haunts, but he senses it is a place that Ruth feels at home in. And he senses right.
"Harry, this place is incredible," Ruth exclaims as she looks around the space, "Like something out of time warp!"
He chuckles. "So you don't mind this not being a sophisticated dining experience?"
She shakes her head. "There is a place for fine wining and dining, but sometimes one simply wants comfort food. Besides, this trattoria takes me back to my teens. My friends and I would hang out in a place like this after school. I can still taste the anchovy and my first real coffee right now."
Harry smiles. "I wasn't so sophisticated, I'm afraid. I don't think I developed a taste for Italian food until I went to Italy one university summer holiday. Then again, spending time in Italy is enough to make anyone a romantic."
"So you're a romantic, are you?" she jokes. "Most people would find that hard to believe."
"Oh, I have my moments – particularly when it comes to you."
"Is that right?"
"Absolutely. I'd go to the ends of the earth for you."
Ruth has to laugh at this. "Now that's too much!"
"But it's true." he replies with surprising gravity, "And I'd do much more without a thought."
By the look in his eyes, she sees that he means every word; and not for the first time that day she is overwhelmed by feeling. She is however not given a chance to become teary this time, as there are menu choices to be made.
They by-pass the pizza and pasta, and instead aim for the more hearty dishes of veal scaloppine and chicken parmigiana, accompanied by a carafe of red. Conversation is light-hearted and a little flirtatious; the alcohol doing its best to loosen their tongues.
When they have had their fill, Harry asks, "Would you like pudding, or should we head back for a nightcap?"
"I think I'm done with alcohol for the night, but we have some brownies still left over at home."
He smiles when he hears her say 'home'.
"I for one have no idea how there could be any left. Mind you, they'll go well with the port I have in my cabinet."
"Brownies and port? Sounds like a plan to me."
They leave the trattoria, walking hand-in-hand beneath Harry's golf umbrella through the drizzle. They revel in their newfound closeness – a sense of peace and rightness that warms their hearts.
"I really don't want this day to end." whispers Ruth.
"Nor do I." Harry replies just as softly. "It was a night just like this when I gave you a lift home – when you suggested our cooking classes."
"To think that that was all less than a month ago…"
"And to think that it's only the beginning – that we'll have plenty of days like this ahead of us."
She sighs contentedly, recalling the two happy days they have spent together thus far.
"I think I can handle spending more time with you. I can do a lot worse."
"Oh? Do you think you can do better?"
"Perhaps." she replies coyly.
"Well, who on earth can do this…?" he asks, kissing her hard until both their hearts raced. "Or this…?" he whispers, nibbling gently on her soft earlobe.
"Mmm..." she purrs, "That is a hard act to follow – but I'm still not entirely convinced."
He sighs in exaggerated exasperation. Resting his forehead against hers, he then gathers her into his arms, growling, "Alright, Miss Fussy. What shall it take to convince you?"
In answer, she steals a quick kiss, before answering, "A repeat of your demonstration might just do the trick…"
How they managed to get back home neither knew, only that some time later they find themselves on Harry's sofa, quietly exploring each other with sweet kisses and gentle hands. In between each burst of activity, they hold each other close; the rhythm of each other's breathing as soothing as any lullaby. The feel of her smooth, pliant body against the strength of his can only fascinate and thrill.
"The brownies..." Ruth somehow recalls, "Don't you want – oh, that feels good." she digresses, arrested by the sensation of Harry's hands sliding under her top, deftly caressing first her breast, and then her nipple, while his lips slowly trace her neckline and beyond.
"Forget about the brownies." he tells her in a sexy rumble of a voice, "I think I found something – someone – even more delectable – that won't disappear in a single bite. But since there's only one slice left, I want to enjoy every bite."
His eyes are full of need as he asks, "May I?"
The next morning she awakens to the distant tinkle of a frying pan and the smell of smoky bacon. Is it what she thinks it is?
Ever curious, she crawls out of bed, slings on the nearest shirt (which happens to be Harry's), and creeps downstairs. At the kitchen door, she is met by the most astonishing sight: a bare-chested Harry Pearce whistling cheerfully to himself as he briskly turns the sizzling bacon.
Her heart positively melts. God, she loves this man: this big hearted, courageous, sweet man. And after the wonders of their night together, she is in no doubt of his feelings for her – she is simply thankful that he loves her as he does.
He lifts his head at the sound of her sultry voice. Turning around, he drinks in the sight of Ruth Evershed, all ruffled and sexy in his shirt, accompanied by a lazy smile.
"I thought you were still asleep; I was about to bring breakfast up to you."
"Were you?" she answers, stepping toward him.
"Yes; does that surprise you?"
"Nothing about you surprises me anymore."
"That's a shame." he grins, giving her a sound kiss. "Am I so predictable?"
"No," she grins, "Only that I know you better now. I know that you're so extraordinary that nothing is impossible for you."
"You were, once."
His lips descend once more, moving passionately over her full ones as she returns his kisses with interest.
"Harry?" Ruth manages to murmur after a time.
"Oh – right." says he, immediately turning off the burner and sliding the rashes on to a plate.
"Do you need help with the eggs?" she asks.
He can only smile wickedly; giving flight to familiar butterflies in her stomach and a buzzing in her limbs.
"Somehow I think I can manage." he murmurs seductively, "You see, I have the best cooking teacher…"
Well that's all for this one, folks. I hope you've enjoyed the ride. Please drop by and give a final review - it's much appreciated!