Story Title: Anyone Like You
Summary: A first date, unlike any either has ever had. Trory.
AN: I got the message that you all might have wanted a follow up to Masquerade. I hope it's as enjoyable.
Tristan Dugrey stood before the mirror in his bedroom, a wood-framed object only a square foot in size that hung over his dresser and reflected back the image of a confident man, despite his having difficulty getting his tie straight at that very moment. It was the fourth tie he'd pulled from his closet, the other three lying rejected on his bed along with two other shirts. That level of indecision was foreign to him, but then the way that the whole situation was unfolding was entirely out of the ordinary for him as well. He hoped it signaled a favorable outcome, as opposed to how far out of his hands things might continue to fall.
He wasn't old fashioned by any reach of the imagination, but he had been raised and heavily influenced by men who were. Things worth having, things worth his time to pursue—they were worth doing well. He'd gone the route, earlier in life, where he put that theory to the test; blowing off school, not caring about his future, and even flippantly playing games with a beautiful girl to obtain her affection based on his name value only. Needless to say, none of that had served him. What worked, he found over time, was putting in the work, proving his worth, and above all else, being the kind of man that beautiful girl deserved.
He hadn't actually thought that he would ever see that particular beautiful girl again, the one he hadn't deserved based on merit. She'd been immune to the idea that he was attractive based on how much money his family had amassed, or just what his legacy was at a fine New England Ivy League school. She didn't care that being seen with him would do more for her popularity at their school than dating half of his many friends. School, in her eyes, had been solely for the purposes of grooming her for her own acceptance, based completely on her own merits, to an equally fine Ivy League university. She had no time or interest in the games he was so good at playing. He was worse than a distraction to her; he was a potential roadblock to her education.
It wasn't her that he intended to make good to, not really. He wasn't one to believe in things like soul mates or that there was simply one person in the entire world that could make his blood pump faster in his veins at the sight of; the likes of which he'd lie awake at night in a fit of frustration at the idea of touching before ever having the pleasure. He knew that he'd find another woman—after muddling through enough that weren't quite right—one that would stand out the way she had. Older and wiser by more than a small amount, he planned on being ready to treat that future woman the way he should treated that one from his past.
The first wrench in his plan was that it had been her—that beautiful girl that had turned into a stunning woman. He hadn't known it, not for sure, at the time he first spotted her across the dance floor. He only knew that he had make his way over to dance with her, as unfortunate as she seemed to be at it with the man who preceded him. It had been the curve of her neck, long and delicate, that he'd noticed first. He followed the ivory skin of her shoulders down until they met an elegant black-and-white ball gown, which covered the rest of her curves. She turned toward him as he reached out to place his hand on her elbow, unable to stop himself. It only took one look at her to decide that he wanted to touch her. She'd taken a small step in toward him at the feel of his hand on her arm, as if his touch were familiar. Her eyes had stopped his breath, momentarily, behind a mask that hid any other distinguishing features. He'd suppressed the connection, knowing his odds were laughable, if not impossible. After all, Rory Gilmore couldn't be the only woman in the whole world with eyes that shade of blue.
Her need of instruction had been his in—a reason for her to remain in his arms instead of seeking out yet another new partner in the room full of nearly identical masked men. Once he had her in his arms, pulling her closer and taking only as many liberties as he dared while making a first impression, he'd felt he had an advantageous position with her. There was an underlying current that the sensation of instant attraction he was experiencing, which seemed borne of nostalgia, was shared. She seemed so open to his questions and playful in her responses. It wasn't the way you talked to a perfect stranger. If they'd truly never met before, then he took the whole instance as proof that there were more mysteries in the universe than he'd ever imagined.
It was only at point which the music stopped, just before dinner, when he realized that the fate of their future was out of his hands. Their identities were to remain secret until the dinner hour commenced, keeping a festive quality to the dancing portion of the night. He'd been at the ready to rip both of their masks off, and perhaps a younger and more reckless version of him would have. He'd kept up the charade as long as she had, even as talk began of seeing one another on another occasion. Whoever that woman was behind her mask, he'd wanted to see her again. And no matter who that woman was, she wanted to see him again. Of that, he was confident.
It was his mother, in the end, that had called out his name before they made any personal revelations. His dance partner's expression changed, evident even behind her mask. She knew him—that much was clear—and more than his ability to instruct a ballroom dancing lesson on the fly. She had told him to go ahead up to dinner without her, to join his party, leaving her to do the same. She'd told him that she would call him, without obtaining his contact information. It had slipped out of his hand so quickly. With that simple exchange, the balance of power had shifted. The mystery had been revealed and he'd lost track her in the crowd. After dinner, or perhaps during, she'd taken her leave.
He'd had to wait to see if she was simply being polite, as the girl he'd once known might have done in a public forum to avoid a scene, of if she was willing to give him a chance to show her just what kind of man he had become. He was the kind of man that wanted to call her and secure a date. He was the kind of man that had wanted to pick out the perfect place to take her on their first date. But because he was the kind of man that wanted her in any way she was willing to offer herself, he waited.
She had called, two days later, and she wanted to know if he'd known. He'd hoped, he had answered, but it wasn't until the end that he'd known for certain who she really was. Did he still want to see her again, she'd asked once her curiosity was satisfied. He had not hesitated in the least. When was she free was all he wanted to know.
She laughed then, softly, at his eagerness he had supposed. She was calling him, so it was her that was in charge of that first date, she'd informed him. If he was still willing to make the trip to New York, she knew the perfect place, she'd said. He was willing to go to the moon if need be, but he'd told her he'd come anywhere she wanted him. Perhaps his voice had been a little huskier than intended when he'd said the actual words. She'd given a slight gasp, barely audible, in reaction, and he hadn't been able to help the smile that had spread his lips wide as he envisioned her cheeks flushing a slight pink. She'd recovered quickly, both her wits and her words. She'd hold him to that, she promised.
The remaining days before they agreed to meet had been a blur of busy days full of work and nights filled with visions of her, both the girl he remembered from years ago mixing the more refined version he'd met again in the ballroom. He'd taken off far more than her mask in those dreams. In his dreams he had no trouble showing her just what he wanted, and she never needed convincing. Of course, in his dreams, he never once had a crisis of faith during the simple act of getting dressed either.
He checked his watch as he finally got the knot right with the last effort and saw that whether or not his reflection met his standards, he needed to leave then or risk letting her think he was standing her up while he was sitting in traffic on the way into New York. He didn't want to have to leave her waiting, even with a call to warn her that he would be late. He wanted every last minute he could spend with her.
He cursed under his breath when he walked into the bar she'd suggested on the Upper West Side and saw her waiting for him even though he'd been on time with a minute to spare. Her choice of locale was housed in an old building, the type people now referred to as historic, and the smell of alcohol and well-aged wood mingled together as he made his way back to where he had spotted her at a small table in the back. The walls were covered with memorabilia, and the bar was stocked with every imaginable pick of poisons. The bar's age was proof of its timeless quality.
"Never would have picked you for a fan of the dive bar," he said easily as he bent and leaned forward to give her a kiss on the cheek. His hand paused against her side, just above her hip, as he brushed his lips across her cheek. It was the kind of gesture that one might offer an old friend or perhaps an old lover, given the passage of time. Having been neither, it was also the perfect greeting of a man who was eager to see the real version of the lovely creature that was waiting for him. Even better than what his dreams had conjured, she sat in a pair of dark jeans, tight in all the right places, and a shimmery black halter-neck top that once again showed off her shoulders and lean arms.
She offered him a coy smile in response as he sat down at the only other chair around the small pub table. It also showed the effects of time; marred wood where people had carved words or letters into the wood, worn spots in the finish from endless numbers of drinks that sat with condensation rolling off them as patrons talked and laughed and went about their lives.
"They say F. Scott Fitzgerald used to drink here," she defended her choice.
He glanced around the room before returning to focus on her. She was by far the most interesting part of the scenery. "Looks the part. So is that how you choose where to take all your dates, places where dead alcoholics used to get soused?" he asked.
Her smile remained. "Only dates that are worthy of my acquired knowledge."
He wondered just what else she planned to let him in on. He couldn't help but feel hopeful around her. He wasn't sure just what he was hoping for—save for the dreams he'd been having to finally come true. He didn't just want to touch her, or hear her cries of pleasure at his hand. He could have sex whenever wanted it; he'd learned that much about the cachet of his name. He knew what it was to be with that kind of woman. He supposed that was what he hoped for—a woman who inspired him to reach for so much more than what was easy to obtain. He wanted passion and greatness and whatever pain that came along with it. And here she'd brought him to an old haunt of a man that had died living in search for the same ideals.
"So, you're a writer, I assume," he said, inviting her to tell him all about how she got to be seated across from him, with her foot nestled against his. Old restaurants meant close quarters, at least in a city as old and confined as New York. Character made up for a host of sins, and the place was brimming with it. It was an atmosphere she was comfortable in, he noticed as she gave him the abridged version of her current status on the journalistic ladder, via an education at Yale.
"What about you?" she asked, taking a sip through a stir-stick straw. There was a large wedge of lime shoved in amidst the ice in her drink, which he guessed was a vodka-tonic. He flagged down a waitress as he began to answer her. He ordered a whiskey, pleased with their selection, and tapped his thumb against the worn wood under his hands.
"I work for a law firm in Hartford," he answered, not wishing to bore her with the details of his work. "I work as a civilian litigator for military court proceedings most of the time."
Her eyebrows raised slightly, her surprise visible enough to make him wonder how she'd imagined him making his living. He wondered just how much she'd been thinking of him, and if her proclivities ran the same way his dreams and thoughts of her had. "How did you get into that kind of work?"
He accepted his drink and took a sip. It was the perfect blend of a slow burn after the initial smoothness, coming from a very fine aging process of otherwise harsh alcohol. By the time it hit his throat, it warmed its way down his body. "My own dumb luck, really," he answered honestly. "I went to military school before I went to Princeton," he said, which was the last she'd ever seen of him. "Not a lot of guys at the academy went on to the Ivy League; they went into the military, hoping to cut up the ranks. Anyway, I kept in touch with a few of the guys I knew, on and off, and when I was fresh out of law school from Harvard, I got a call from an old buddy. He was serving stateside and got into some trouble. He asked if I could help him out. The military does everything their own way, which isn't really civilian friendly, I guess you could say. Not many lawyers who aren't in the service cross the lines. He wanted outside counsel, and I was familiar with the way the military operates. I won his case, and I got kind of inspired, I guess you could say. I do some pro-bono work for veterans in Hartford, too."
She was gazing at him as if he told her he was some knight in a storybook tale. He nearly turned around to see if someone else had caught her attention. He rarely felt self-conscious, but her attention forced him to regulate his reactions. It inspired a host of action on his part, not limited to grabbing her and kissing her breathless, wanting to please her, and otherwise transforming into a man worthy of her longing gazes.
"And all I do is write about bickering figureheads," she said in a deprecating manner as she idly stirred her drink. She either had amazing self-control or she wasn't much of a drinker—barely any liquid had drained from the glass.
"You do more than that," he said smoothly. "You keep people honest. You embody Constitutional amendments. You probably charm the pants off of stodgy old men who are hell bent on offering no comment to the media, as well," he said, with a wistful smile.
She glanced down as she laughed. "You know those stodgy old men?"
He nodded. "I have represented a number of their wayward sons," he replied honestly. "It's a wonder you and I haven't run into each other before now."
"A wonder," she murmured, repeating his words. It was the way she said it; the dreamy, up-ended quality that surged every primal desire he'd ever had all seemingly at once. It was overwhelming, the nature of his reaction to even the simplest words she spoke or the feel of her foot as she adjusted her legs and brushed against his calf. He forced himself to remember that he didn't want to rush the process with her—no matter what transpired between them. Military school had groomed his self-control into a well-honed weapon. It made him a better lawyer than he could have hoped to become otherwise. He could deny himself anything and feel no pain; but the idea of her dismissing whatever was transpiring between them as she had years ago caused a constriction in his chest. He wasn't sure of his self-control when it came to her.
"So tell me," he began, swirling his drink with one hand, not as interested in drinking it as he was prolonging the evening. "Why does a woman like you waste your time at charity events for groups you aren't personally a member of?"
It was a point she'd made during their last evening together, something to dissuade his interest he assumed—to let him know that she wasn't what he was looking for. She had no idea how quickly she could become an object of affection, not just thanks to her beauty, but simply from the fact that she was hard to influence. It was in her eyes—the lack of faked interest at whatever topic made its way to the forefront of the conversation, her relaxed posture—with no desire to impress and at the ready to move on at a moments' notice. He knew better than to try to charm her, as it was an act she could smell from a mile away. If he truly wanted her attention, he had to be worth her while.
She dragged her lip through her teeth absently as she considered her answer, which mesmerized him as it triggered a flash of a daydream that threatened to take him out of the moment. He shifted in his seat and took another drink from his glass.
"My grandparents are afraid I'm lonely, I think," she said at last. "I used to think they wouldn't rest until I was properly married into a family they approved of, but I don't think that's it anymore. Things my grandmother says," she said thoughtfully before meeting his eyes and giving a small, nervous breath. "Grandma came up in a different time. She thinks that to be happy, you have to have someone to take you places and make plans for. Since I moved back east, she's been a constant source of invitations to a revolving door of cocktail parties and luncheons and dinners," she explained. "I think she just wants me to have a place to belong, since I'm on my own."
"You go to humor her?" he asked, understanding the constant intervention that a family could impose on one's life. Though his mother had long since stopped trying to set him up with women that she thought might suffice, for which he was thankful. The distance that military school had allowed him had done wonders for his sense of familial appreciation.
"Sometimes I go for the desserts," she admitted with a coquettish smile. "Or, after a particularly bad week, the open bar."
"See, already I feel I'm learning so much about how to get on your good side," he said with a wink over the top of his glass.
She leaned forward on her elbows, her chin perching on the heel of one hand. "You want to be on my good side now?"
He let out a nervous laugh. "I've always wanted to be on your good side."
She gave him an appraising, though confused, once over. "And why is that?"
He cocked his head as he took her in. It felt decadent, to have the opportunity to let his eyes roam over her features, strengthening his memories and creating new ones. Perhaps he was wrong before; there well might not be another person alive with eyes as vividly azure as hers. If he ever found water the same shade of blue, he would wade into it and perhaps never leave.
"I've never met anyone like you."
She took a sip. It was clear from her expression it wasn't the first time she'd heard such a thing, and she wasn't buying the sentiment. "Is that so?"
He nodded as he sat forward and leaned in toward her, lowering his voice despite the growing noise of their surroundings. It seemed a lot of people liked to drink where F. Scott Fitzgerald used to drown his sorrows. "I've met a lot of people, and not one of them has ever been able to hold my attention the way you do."
She took in a steadying breath. His delivery must have been convincing. "That's a line. Does it work for you a lot?" she asked, her tone teasing, but still good natured. She wasn't mad, but she was flippant.
"I realize that I was an idiot, you know," he admitted, not caring about his dignity or maintaining the upper hand in the situation. There was a time and a place for such concerns—in the courtroom, among colleagues, and unfortunately still in the presence of certain family members. But saving face in front of her did him no good if it only served to push her away. He thanked whatever higher power had brought him even the slightest bit of wisdom.
Her eyes twinkled with amusement. "Are you apologizing for a certain instance?"
He shook his head, still not backing away from her. "I was too dumb at sixteen to realize that just because I knew you were different, I couldn't just act the way I did to all the other girls in high school and still get your attention."
"Oh, you got my attention all right," she countered.
"A lot of good it did me. I got you to hate me," he said, sure of his assessment.
"I didn't hate you, I just didn't think you would have been interested once the chase was over," she answered honestly.
Their hands were only a couple of inches apart on the top of the table by then, and he reached out to cover her hand with his. Her fingers were cool from skimming them along the edge of her ice-filled glass. Her gaze flickered from their hands to his face. She made no move to withdraw away from him. "And what do you think now?"
She smiled at his question. For what seemed a small eternity, it was the only answer she gave. "I think," she began finally, "that you were an idiot. But maybe I didn't give that idiot much of a chance to prove himself otherwise."
Her answer surprised him. "So the past is in the past," he surmised, holding his drink up for a toast. She let go of his hand and raised hers as well. Their glasses met with a clink, and they each took a sip of their drinks.
He took a cursory look around the bar they were in, ignoring most of the people and taking in the fixtures—the solid, original bar, the slant of the floor, the ornately molded plaster ceiling. Everything was original, save for what had broken past the point of fixing or been stolen. "You know, I know of another place that Fitzgerald was rumored to drink at. In fact, it's probably the bar where he pushed his liver past the point of no return, if you're ever interested."
Her curiosity was piqued. "Sounds like my kind of place. It isn't something depressing, like it's now a Walgreens or something, is it?" she asked, horrified at the thought.
He shook his head, with laughter shaking his chest. "No. But it is kind of a ways away."
She rolled her eyes. "What, do we have to change trains or something?" she teased.
He took a long draw on his whiskey. "Or something. It's in Montparnasse," he said, easily catching the correct accent.
Her eyes widened. "In Paris?"
He couldn't help but smile at her reaction. Catching her off-guard never failed to please him. Time could only change so much. "Do you like Paris?"
"I've only been a couple of times," she admitted. "And it's not the kind of trip I usually take after just one date," she said, in an attempt to gage just how serious he was about the suggestion.
He shrugged. "You're right. I guess it is more of a third-date destination," he said in return, in a teasing manner despite his willingness to navigate them to the nearest plane right then and there if that was her wish.
Her eyes dropped to her drink, which was nearly gone by then, despite her languid pace. If the evening was going to end, then he might be able to accept that with a modicum of grace, but it was far from his first choice of scenarios. Just because he was determined to let things take a natural course didn't mean he was willing to cut any of their time together short unnecessarily. "You're trying to impress me?"
He couldn't help it, though he knew he'd never be able to explain that to her satisfaction. His intentions were far from trying to overwhelm her with a lifestyle that he was accustomed to, both by birth and later by his own means. He wanted to tell her how he knew that he could give her everything under the sun and moon, but that he was well aware of the fact that none of it would be enough if he didn't give himself over to her first. It seemed like too much information, too much way too fast. But if he didn't give her some kind of answer, none of that would matter.
"When I asked you to dance," he began, taking a different tactic. He knew only the emotion he wanted to transfer onto her. Anything else would suggest that he was just telling her what he thought she'd need to hear. "Without being able to see who you were, I felt this overwhelming desire to hold you in my arms. I haven't been able to shake that feeling since. I don't care if you want to go to Paris or Jersey or a restaurant up the block. If you want to go, I want to take you."
"I am kind of hungry," she said, giving him an in, just as she had with the dance lesson, and he could tell by the light in her eyes that she could understand his underlying motivation. "There's a good tapas place up the street. Unless you had your heart set on Paris."
His heart was set on her, but he agreed to tapas. Once they'd gotten past the inevitable conversations in the bar and began to relax around the other, he found himself unable to hold himself back from touching her. His hand wrapped around hers as they navigated the bustling city sidewalk, strolling along at their own pace to the restaurant. She leaned against the wall of the crowded waiting area, and he curved around her with one forearm resting next to her head and the other lightly at her waist as he stood close enough to hear her voice over all the others as she told him tales of her life as a journalist. She'd ordered sangria to go with their tapas, and he hoped it wasn't the effects of the sweet liquor that caused her to relax into his shoulder as they emerged from the dimly lit restaurant and onto the neon-lit city street. God help him, but he didn't care what the reason was behind the way she looked up at him, right there in the middle of the sidewalk, her eyes full of desire and curiosity.
He slid one hand into her cascading brown curls and brought the other press her closer to him as he splayed his fingers out across the small of her back. Her shirt had ridden up just enough that his pinky finger grazed her bare skin. His eyes were intent on hers until just before their lips met, as she lowered her lids in heady anticipation.
Relief shot through his body as her mouth opened to his. In all the fantasies he'd had about the two of them finally getting to the point of intimate contact, that singular kiss was by far and away more tantalizing than anything he'd imagined. The whole world fell away, the noise of even New York City was quelled as he felt her hand ease its way to the side of his body under his jacket and grip his shirt against his ribs.
"I should probably get you a cab," he said before kissing her again, but he dared not linger the second time. If the first kiss hadn't been outright indecent, he knew a second go-around would be.
"I make strong coffee," she said as she tipped up on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck to bring her face up even with his. It wasn't much of a stretch for her in the heels she was wearing, but it brought her in close enough for her breasts to brush his chest. "If you need something to keep you awake on the drive home."
His first thought was that she'd done plenty to arouse him already. He let out an amused breath. "Now that was a line."
Her eyebrow arched. Her surprise was as transparent as her offer. "It's an invitation. Do you not want to come to my place?"
He steeled his restraint. "I do," he said, full of want. "I just don't want you to get the impression that I was expecting anything like this on our first date."
She wet her lips. "It didn't feel much like a first date. It feels," she trailed off, running one hand down the midline of his chest. "It feels like I'd like you to come over for a little while. You don't have to stay long, if you don't want to. My place isn't much, probably not what you're used to," she reasoned before she fixed him with her big blue eyes. "But it's not far."
"It sounds perfect," he said, dipping his head down to hers yet again. Out went all the ways he'd planned to approach a relationship with this woman. He was going to have to do his best on the fly when it came to her and her whims. As long as he could remain in her good graces, and had the good sense to grovel when he fell out of them, he'd count himself lucky.
She'd been true to her word, with her tiny little apartment that was so very close to that patch of sidewalk where she'd invited him over. She flooded the small interior with lights just as soon as she unlocked the door. A kitchenette was on the left, the kind with special appliances that were smaller than normal ones, made to fit the tiny space. No pizza box in existence would fit the confines of the teeny fridge, nor would the dishwasher fit more than a table setting of four at any given time. The only thing of value in the cramped confines was a state-of-the-art espresso maker that took up most of her counter space. The sink contained only coffee cups and spoons, which she caught him taking note of.
"Do you want coffee?" she asked, in a polite manner that accompanied welcoming someone into her home for the first time.
Now alone and with no reason to hold himself back, he stepped to her and wrapped an arm around her waist. His other hand steadied him at her shoulder. "No. I just want you," he informed her, his voice low and his lips on hers in the next breath. She dropped her keys on the floor as she reached for him. The pace they set was far too fast for him to remember everything as it happened, though there were certain pieces he knew he would never forget. The way her hands pulled his shirt out of his pants before he could kick his shoes off. The sound of her saying his name like a breath as he kissed her neck. The feel of the knot around her neck coming undone in his hands just before the fabric holding her shirt up fell down her torso. She took his hands in hers as she led him back to her bed, a queen size in a space that barely had room for a single bed.
"I do, you know," she said, her breath barely enough to sustain her frenzied pace, let alone a conversation to boot. Soon her mind would be too blank for such things. He pulled too hard on his belt, and it came whipping around his hips in a single motion.
"Do what?" he asked, before placing a series of open-mouthed kisses across the exposed skin of her chest. She arched into him, and before she gave a coherent answer his actions elicited a moan from her throat. It was the kind of noise that could drive him all night long.
"Make good coffee. Strong coffee. I'm a second generation addict," she informed him. She made use of her hands to help him shimmy her jeans off her hips as she lay back on the bed underneath him. He was on his knees, over her, taking in the sight of her. If there was a sight more intoxicating, he'd never come across it. He'd much rather seek out inspiration in her bedroom than any bar, famous for its clientele or not.
"You know what I could get addicted to?" he asked, relishing in the sensation of lowering his body down onto hers for the first time. She shivered, ever so slightly, and wrapped her arms around him to pull him as close as possible.
Face-to-face in the darkness of her bedroom, only the lights from the front room casting odd shadows in from the door, she kept her eyes trained on his. "What?"
"You," he said honestly, and this time there was no talk of his sincerity. He didn't give her the chance to question him, either, as he sealed his lips over hers. His kiss propelled her hips to come to life, seeking out a rhythm that he matched. Soon all that was left between them was movement. She showed no signs of hesitation or anything other than a deep desire to coax out every last bit of pleasure from him. Nothing beyond them seemed to register; all his focus was where their bodies met. He built her up slowly, redirecting his attention, letting her take the edge off just long enough to build up to greater heights. She repaid him in kind, the payoff for the likes of which shook him to his very core. A night of rest would not suffice after what she did to him. He knew for certain what he had always surmised about her; she would ruin him for anyone else. Nothing else would ever come close to what he was capable of with her.
There was stillness for some time after they had finished, as his thoughts reworked back from fragments to cohesive forms. He was on his back, staring up at her ceiling but not seeing much of anything but darkness as his eyes lost focus time and again. He didn't want to be aware of his surroundings, not really, unless it was her that was surrounding him. She rolled up onto her side next to him, her hand lifting to rest on his stomach. Her fingers raked gentled over the skin south of his stomach. Her palm covered a scar he'd had since he was twelve. He was sure she'd noticed it, as it was not the kind of thing her eye for detail would miss, even in the pale and deceiving light.
"Do you have an early meeting?"
He did. The smart thing would have been to end the evening after their agreed upon drink at the bar, kiss her chastely on the cheek and promise to take her to dinner the following weekend. That would have put him in bed an hour ago, back in Connecticut, alone with both the pride of knowing that he was treating her as a lady should be treated and kicking himself for not kissing her like he'd wanted to. Had he any self-restraint at all in regards to her, he wouldn't need the massive amounts of coffee he was going to have to imbibe just to make it to his meeting the next morning, after having stayed up all night with a self-proclaimed coffee addict. With each and every sip, he'd think of her, for too many reasons to explain, when he was supposed to be going over briefs and planning strategies with clients. But none of that was what she had on her mind. Her question, as innocuous as it sounded, was wholly different.
Her fingers stilled, and he felt her breath change. "Okay."
He turned his head to face her. "Will you make me coffee in the morning?"
"You want to stay?" she asked, though he couldn't imagine why she'd be unsure about his resolve at that point. He'd not gotten what he wanted from her. He wasn't sure if he'd ever get enough of her.
He patted her bed. "I like your bed."
"More than your bed?" she asked skeptically.
He nodded. "Currently."
"Is there something wrong with your bed?" she asked, her disbelief making him wonder if she wanted him to gather his things and go. If he'd been the type to bend easily, that might have worked. He, however, didn't so much as shift.
"You're not in it."
She pressed her forehead into his ribs, and he watched as she did the equivalent to banging her head against a solid surface, but using his body. "Come on, that had to have been a line."
He laughed at her groan and ran a hand through her hair. His fingers wove through the silky strands and never quite made it out. "Can I see you next weekend?"
"I don't know. I might be in Paris," she said, teasing him.
"I have a thing for work. It'll be boring. We can cut out early and order Chinese food in and book a trip online."
Her eyes widened. "You're serious."
He kissed her again. He pulled back slowly, and she didn't open her eyes. He wondered if she thought she was dreaming—that she'd wake up and he'd be gone. "I am."
"I don't know what to say," she said when she finally opened her eyes. Her hand had moved up to his chest, and her hair was falling down around her cheeks as she stared down at him.
"Do you want to?"
She nodded, hesitantly at first as if she wasn't sure what her own answer was. "Yeah."
"Then take the train up on Friday. I'll pick you up. Wear something completely distracting."
She smiled. "I think I have something like that."
She leaned down and kissed him that time. It was as good an answer as he'd ever gotten. She rested her head in the curve of his shoulder when the kiss ended, and her whole arm wrapped around his chest. He wound an arm around her waist and closed his eyes, ready for sleep.
"Tristan?" Her voice was small, almost far away. He knew he was nearly unconscious.
"Yeah?" he murmured, wondering if he'd remember her exact words in the morning.
"I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like you either."
He smiled faintly as he drifted off to sleep in her bed, with the girl of his dreams in his arms.