There was a moment of awkward silence after my declaration, and then she said softly, tenderly, "Dance with me, please." She stood and held out her hand for mine.
"I don't really dance. I never found time for that sort of thing." I said to her, suddenly struck by nerves. "I've never seen the need."
She took the glass from my hand, placed it on the table and then pulled me from the sofa to my feet. "Well, Dr. Hill, it's probably time you learned. I'll teach you everything you'll need to know."
She stood very close to me and placed my right hand on the small of her back.
"We can't move together if there's space between us, so don't be afraid to hold me tightly to you, you won't hurt me."
She bridged the distance by pulling my hips closer to hers.
"I don't know the first thing about formal dance. I'm going to disappoint." The heat of her skin beneath the dress warmed the palm of my hand, which in turn warmed me. The sensation was making it extremely difficult to concentrate on anything but where my hand lay and how I could feel the slight curve where her back met her buttocks.
"Don't worry. I'll show you a very simple step. Trust me, you won't disappoint."
She pulled me to her again and ran her left hand across the top of my right shoulder, to the back of my neck. Without hesitation, my empty hand took hers when she reached for it.
"Your right hand guides the dance by holding me against you so I can feel the direction you're body is moving. It's basically a matter of you leading and my following."
A creeping panic gripped me. "I can't lead. I don't know the steps."
"There aren't any steps to know." She said soothingly. "We're going to move together in a small circle. You'll take a step to the left, then rock a little back to your right, repeating those two steps until the song ends. I'll follow in unison."
She spread my feet apart with her foot and then repositioned herself. "Take a deep breath and relax. This isn't nearly as difficult as you think. You might even find you enjoy it once you've loosened up a bit."
I couldn't see how something like dancing could ever become something I enjoyed. "That's all there is to it then?" It couldn't be that simple.
"That's really all there is to it."
She squeezed my hand reassuringly.
"Now, close your eyes and when the music begins again, listen for the beat. When you're ready, move to your left and I'll follow." She instructed.
The music started and I found what I thought was the beat. When I shifted, she followed, leaning further into my body when she did.
"That's it, but don't think about it. Let the music move you as we move together."
She made it difficult to think about the dance, with her hips pressed so tightly against mine. But she was right, when I let the music have its way with me, it became quite easy to move with her and stay in time. "You're a very good teacher." I said, while trying to appear as though I weren't focusing on the movement of my feet.
"Thank you." She said softly. And there it was again, a flash of that captivating smile.
She rested her cheek on mine, offering another distraction. As if the placement of my hand and the movement of my feet weren't enough.
"The song is 'Unforgettable', in case you were wondering." She let go of the hand she held and wrapped her arm around my shoulder.
My empty hand gradually travelled down her side to her waist, where it joined the other hand at the small of her back. She felt lovely, filled in all of the right places.
"I remember my father dancing my mother around the sitting room to this song." She sighed wistfully.
"It sounds as though he was quite the romantic, your father." Her cheek felt silky against mine and her hair smelled of eucalyptus with a hint of sweet mint and flora I couldn't identify. How many late nights did I feign interest in a case, when what I really wanted was to bury my face in her hair and the seductive curve of her neck?
She nuzzled my ear and said, "He could be, when he wanted."
"Did you choose the disc because of its romantic overtones?" I could have kicked myself. Overtones? Really? You stupid, unromantic git. Don't spoil the moment by blathering.
She gave a quiet laugh. "Would it be bad if I chose the song for its romantic overtones?"
"No." I could scarcely get the word out. Speech failed me as her want united with my own.
I heard her breathe me in, before she began lightly kissing my neck. "I love the way you always smell clean." She inhaled again, unhurried and then whispered. "Lovely, like lemon soap."
Her voice was gentle and loving. Having her so near, our bodies touching this way, I couldn't help but become more and more aroused with every kiss of her lips and brush of her body. Did she know I hadn't been touched like this for more years than I cared to count? Or that I wanted nothing more in this world than to lie with her, to be the man in her life. If this was what it felt like to be truly loved by another, I don't know how I ever thought I could live without it. I fooled myself into thinking what I was doing all these years was living. Clearly I haven't lived at all, I've merely existed.
The caress of her mouth drifted across my jaw, my chin and down the other side of my neck to my chest. I felt my breath catch when she unbuttoned my shirt and slid her hand beneath it. Her touch was intoxicating, made more so by the knowledge that it was love driving her passion, not animal need, as it was for the few women I bed before I met her.
"Alex, you understand if we give in to this, there's no turning back." I needed to know she thought this through. That she realized how much we stood to lose as well as gain if we followed through with this.
"I don't plan on turning back. Turning back implies regret. I don't entertain regrets. Now, shhh, luv, I can't kiss you properly if you're talking."
I stood silent and fell into the bliss of her touch. She teased with several soft, chaste kisses to my lower lip. But the next—the next were deep and passionate and longing filled. Kissing her, each mouth exploring the other, somehow didn't seem sufficient. I couldn't get enough of her. If I could have crawled inside of her I still would not have felt I was near enough. The scope of my need frightened me. I pulled away and stepped back.
"What is it?" Reaching for my hands, she seemed to be scrambling for words. "I haven't gotten this wrong… have I? This…this is what you want…what we want, isn't it?"
"Alex, what if the work I've done with these people, the heads I've banged around in all these years, what if it's tainted my view of what's normal behaviour with a woman."
She framed my face with her hands and looked deep into me. "Tony, do you think I would be standing here, offering myself to you if I thought there was any chance that could be true. You're behaviors may be a little difficult to figure out at times, but you're no sexual deviant."
"How can you be so sure?" I wanted badly to believe her. Not just for my own sake, but for hers. "How do you know with such certainty, when I don't?"
"I know you. You think I can't possibly know you because you hide from me, but I do know you. The real you. The damaged, unloved and needy Tony Hill, who tries to give to others what he was never given."
"How do you know that's me, the real me?"
"Because the man I've seen beneath is truly a kind, loving, and decent man even when he's at his worst. If you weren't truly these things, the man hiding from me would have shown me otherwise. I wouldn't fall in love with someone who was any less than that."
She stepped into me and laid her head on my chest. "Tony, I'm not frightened and you shouldn't be either. Whatever comes, we can work our way through it. That's what love is."
She began kissing me again, her hands wandered over my body, feeling for a place to land.
"Please, let me love you. Let yourself love me."
Could I let myself love her as she asked? It felt so natural to want her, to need her, to love her. I felt so human and acceptable when I was with her. How could I not let myself love her and she me? I couldn't.
I slipped the sleeves of her dress off the tips of her shoulders. The sensation of her bare skin beneath my fingers and her mouth on mine was driving me crazy. When she slowed, I caressed the supple skin of her chest with my lips. She sighed as my mouth wandered toward the lowered neckline of the dress. There I caught the scent of her perfume. That exquisite perfume. Warm, sensuous and familiar it fanned the flames of what I'd been stifling these past months.
"Alex, I want you… I need to be with you." It felt as though I needed her intimacy to live. Without it I believed I would almost certainly die of longing. I began to move our bodies toward the sofa, when she stopped me.
"No, Tony. Your bed, please. When I dream of us together, we're in your bed."
When I envisioned our first time, it was always in her bed. Subconsciously I must have thought she would prefer it that way. I now realized the reason she dreamt of my bed was because of Ben. "Yes, of course." I took hold of her hand and led her down the hall. She followed behind me, an arm around my waist, her body warm against my back. We entered my bedroom a mass of limbs and anticipation. She let go of my waist when I began picking up the clothing I stripped off before showering. "Sorry, I hadn't thought about the possibility…well, I didn't know the evening would lead to sex." I leaned over the bed to rearrange the pillows and straighten the duvet, when Alex playfully shoved me onto my side and then to my back.
"You mean making love? There is a difference you know."
She leaned over me, making quick work of the shirt she began unbuttoning while we danced earlier.
"You do know the difference, don't you?"
"Yes, I know the difference." In my mind I knew the difference. I had a feeling by the end of the night my heart would know as well.
Her hands left a warm trail as they lazily made their journey from my chest to my stomach. I shivered with pleasure the closer they came to my waist. This very simple act of touching unexpectedly brought me to full arousal. "It's been a very long time, Alex." I explained, certain she could feel my need pressing against her stomach. "I'm afraid the train may leave the station before we're ready to board if you keep this up." She started in on releasing my belt when I gently took hold of her hands. "What I'm trying to say is, I want this to be special for both of us." I rolled over on top of her and brushed away the hair that had fallen across her face. I kissed her eyes, and then her neck, making my way back down her chest. "If I let you have control of things, I'll be ready before you, and that won't do. Let me drive for a bit, yes?" Her dress was the only thing between me and the soft olive skin of the rest of her body. I raised her up to unzip the dress and heard an unfamiliar sound coming from somewhere on the bed. "What's that noise?"
"What noise? I don't hear anything." She was struggling to help me with the zipper she was partially lying on.
"It's coming from somewhere on the bed." I scanned the duvet and discovered Alex's coat at the foot of the bed. "It's your mobile." I looked at her expecting to receive some hint as to what she wanted me to do, hoping she wouldn't want to answer it.
She listened for a second and flopped back onto the bed. "Damn it, it's Paula. I told her not to call me unless the McKinnon case broke open. Something must have happened."
"How do you know it's Paula?" I hoped it was a wrong number.
"It's her ring."
She pulled me closer and ran her hand down my back, yanking the shirttails from out of my trousers.
"I'm not going to answer it. They can bloody well get along without me for a few more hours."
Her other hand began working the shirt off my shoulders.
"Now, I believe we were in the middle of taking the other's clothes off before we were so rudely interrupted."
Before I could think of a sexy comeback, her phone made another noise, one distinctly different from the first."She just sent you a text, didn't she?"
"It sounds as though she did." Alex grudgingly worked her way out from under me and rummaged around in the pockets of her coat until she found the offending object. She said nothing while she read the text, slumping onto the edge of the bed when she finished.
"It's bad isn't it?" I turned onto my side and propped my head on my hand. "Somethings happened to one of the team."
"No, the team is fine. She says there's been a toddler boy abducted on our patch. They've issued an Amber Alert and they're calling my team in to help Gavin's night team handle the search. She wants to know if she should call you."
"Of course she should call me. Another mind to help think things through could help find the boy before time runs out." I crawled to the foot of the bed and began slowly kissing one of the shoulders exposed by the opened zipper.
She ran her hand through my hair and leaned her head against mine."This is never going to happen, is it Tony?"
I zipped up the back of her dress and brushed my cheek over the nape of her neck, breathing in one last inhalation of her perfume before the outside world stole the rest of the night from us. "Yes, it will. Sadly though, it won't be tonight."
She stood when I did and buttoned my shirt while I tucked its tails back into my trousers. In silence she took her coat from the bed and I led her back to the sitting room to get her shoes. She slipped them on as I helped her into her coat. She opened the front door and then tenderly kissed my cheek.
"This is our life isn't it, Tony? It's what we were put here to do, isn't it?"
"Yes, yes it is." I put on the jacket hanging from the back of the desk chair and took my keys from the table beside the door.
"I'm sorry for that." She said regretfully.
"I am too."