I'm going to get better at updating sooner. Thanks to everyone who reviews. To the person leaving the best, thorough, and actually quite helpful guest reviews - I don't know who you are but thank you.
Klaus wasn't a man prone to distraction. For most of his adult life, work had been the sole center of his focus. Yes there were woman and parties and all the like but anyone who really knew Klaus knew that when he was working, all of that fell to the wayside. It was a part of what made him so good at his job – the ability to turn everything off and focus on the numbers.
Or at least, he used to have that ability. Before Caroline. Even when she wasn't in his direct line of vision, Caroline toyed with his focus. As if his thoughts had conjured her, Caroline appeared in the doorway to his home office, a hand on one hip and the other holding her Ipad on top of a stack of papers.
"You realize the total contents of your fridge consists of half a bottle of orange juice and a carton of spoiled eggs, right?"
Klaus picked up on the reprimanding undertone of her voice and just smiled. "I had no idea." He said, leaning back in his chair and gesturing out with his right arm.
"And there are still dishes in the sink. Where's Rosemary?"
Caroline knew Klaus' housekeeper was normally meticulous in her work. The fridge was always stocked and the house was always clean.
"She quit a week ago." Klaus replied with a shrug.
"What?" She asked, walking into the room and coming to stand in front of his desk. She placed the items in her hands down on his desk and put both hands on her hips. "What did you do?" She arched an eyebrow, staring down at him.
"Me? I didn't do anything." Klaus leaned further back in his chair to smile up at her. "She said something about a sick uncle. Or maybe it was a runaway niece. Something."
Caroline just rolled her eyes. "I'll find you another housekeeper." She spoke, picking up her stack of files and Ipad.
Klaus frowned a little. He didn't like change. "Make sure they're trustworthy. I don't want anyone snooping through my things."
"I know." Caroline replied, already tapping away at her Ipad.
"And make sure they can keep the same hours Rosemary -"
"I know." Caroline cut him off, nodding idly.
"And be sure –"
"I know!" Caroline cut him off again, rolling her eyes but smiling. "I will take care of it. I'll find someone, inform them of all your preferences, walk them through the schedule, I've got it. You probably won't even notice anything has changed."
Klaus smirked, nodding and implicitly trusting her to handle it to perfection. It's just what she did.
"Now let's talk the rest of your week." Caroline said, filing away the housekeeper task and making a mental note to send a parting gift to Rosemary from Klaus. If she didn't take care of it, Lord knows he wouldn't. "You have that charity benefit tomorrow night."
Klaus just hummed noncommittally. Ever since Caroline had talked him into increasing the company's charity budget, he found himself invited to even more benefits and galas. Klaus didn't mind the donating – the money was inconsequential to him – but he did, however, find these benefits and galas to be extremely boring.
Sensing his slight discontent, Caroline rushed forward before he could change his mind and tell her to take it off the books. "And at 2:00 you have that art viewing Sasha scheduled at a gallery in midtown. She's already put a few pieces on reserve for you to take a look at."
Caroline tried to keep her mouth from slipping into a frown when she said Sasha's name. She wasn't a fan of Klaus' personal art buyer. She told herself it was because the woman was snobbish and rude but a small part of Caroline suspected it had something to do with the fact that she was 75% sure Klaus had slept with her. Caroline internally reprimanded herself for caring who Klaus did and didn't sleep with. It was none of her business. Besides, things were moving along nicely with Tyler. Maybe not particularly exciting, but nice all the same. Maybe the exciting part would come later. Klaus' voice snapped Caroline from her wayward thoughts.
"Perfect. Tell James to bring the car around. Let's go." Klaus stood from his chair in one smooth motion and strolled across to the room.
Caroline glanced down at her watch in confusion. "It's only noon. The gallery's not expecting you 'til 2:00."
"Well, tell them to expect me sooner." Klaus said with a smile, holding the office door open and gesturing for Caroline to walk through.
She rolled her eyes as they made their way toward the elevator. "You do realize the entire world doesn't cater to what you want to do, when you want to do it."
"Really?" Klaus said with a sarcastic smirk as they stepped into the elevator. "Because, I've found the world to be rather accommodating when it comes to getting what I want, when I want it."
Caroline just laughed, shaking her head. Of course that's how the world would work for a man like him. After all this time, it really shouldn't surprise her anymore when people bend over backward to please Klaus.
"It must be nice to always get what you want, when you want it." She teased.
Klaus just turned his head to stare at her in silence, her head bent as she searched for the gallery number in her phone. The truth was, he didn't always get what he wanted when he wanted it. Because right now he wanted to stop the elevator, push her up against the mirrored glass and satisfy his growing curiosity about just how Caroline would taste, those plump coral lips trapped beneath his. He wanted to run his hands through that silky waterfall of hair and cup those perfectly rounded breasts in his palms. He wanted to press her lithe body to his and wrap one long toned leg around his waist. The fact of the matter was working with Caroline had taught Klaus an awful lot about not getting what he wanted when he wanted it. Having her constantly within reach but always just out of his grasp was an exquisite kind of torture. The kind he supposed he was sentenced to as penance for his philandering ways. The fates couldn't have picked a more fitting punishment.
But would it be so horrible if he had just a little taste? One, tiny dose of Caroline. Without quite realizing what he was doing, Klaus leaned in closer to Caroline who was still gazing intently down at her phone. He caught a whiff of her enticing scent, light and sweet with a hint of vanilla. Klaus loved that she didn't douse herself in perfume like many of the women he knew. Caroline's scent was rich and fresh and all natural. He leaned in even closer, his hip grazing hers in the process. Klaus was a breath away from giving up the fight and yanking her to him when the elevator doors dinged open.
Caroline looked up from her phone and stepped out of the elevator, sauntering across the lobby with Klaus right behind her. Once they were seated in the car, Caroline called up the gallery to let them know they were on the way. As expected, the gallery owner was all too eager to comply with Klaus' spur of the moment whim. Less than half an hour later, Caroline watched on in silence while the gallery owner led Klaus from piece to piece. He kept his hands behind his back as he walked, staring pensively at each piece. Finally, he asked (although Caroline felt it was more like a command than a request) the gallery owner to give them a moment alone to look at the art.
"What do you think?" Klaus turned to Caroline, gesturing for her to come closer to the painting he was standing in front of.
She tilted her head a bit to the side as she stared at it. Caroline couldn't quite tell if it was a landscape or something abstract. It looked like it might have started out as a painting of the horizon but everything was so fuzzy and wavy that she couldn't really tell what it was supposed to be. "I think…it's nice?"
Klaus just chuckled, his head shaking lightly. "Come on, what do you really think?"
Caroline looked again, biting her lower lip in thought. "It's…confusing."
Klaus stepped closer to her as they both stared at the picture. "His bold strokes and attention to detail are simply sublime. What looks like random patterns are nothing less than the work of pure genius."
Caroline watched Klaus in fascination as he stared at the picture.
He must have felt her staring because a second later he turned to face her. "You really need to view it from the other side of the room."
Really interested now, she followed him and turned back to look at the piece of art from across the room. She had to admit, after hearing Klaus talk about it, there was something ethereal and heavenly about the painting. "I guess it does have a certain…" Caroline trailed off.
"It's mesmerizing." Klaus said, now watching Caroline gaze at the painting.
With a smile on her face, she turned to face him again. "You're really passionate about this stuff." Caroline wasn't sure why but she had assumed that he purchased all this expensive art so frequently because it was a good investment. She hadn't realized he genuinely loved the paintings.
Klaus returned her smile, leading her to the next painting. "I used to paint a bit myself. I still do, from time to time. Not in a long while though."
"Why'd you stop? Weren't any good?" Caroline teased, nudging him with her shoulder. There was just no way he could be great at everything.
"Actually I was quite good. Am quite good. I almost made a go of it professionally."
Caroline paused at that bit of insight, peeking to the side at him. "Well why didn't you?"
Klaus just shrugged. He could explain to her that it was because when he was growing up, Mikael had always viewed Klaus' artistic abilities as a weakness – just another thing to throw in his face. 'Play with your paints while your brother is being groomed to take over one of the most profitable companies in the world.' He could tell her that – but they'd done more than enough personal sharing for the day.
"What do you think of this one?" Klaus paused in front of another painting, this one a depiction of a naked couple embracing, drawn from the torso up.
Again she bit her lower lip as she studied it. "It's very intimate. I feel like I'm intruding on something."
"That's the point." Klaus whispered, leaning in closer to Caroline. For the second time that day he fought the overwhelming urge to crush her lips to his.
Caroline felt Klaus move so close to her that she could feel his breath ghosting across her neck. Her body tensed and she sucked in a breath. The combination of him being that close and the sensual painting they were standing in front of was more than Caroline could handle. She coughed a little, stepping away from him and the painting.
"What about this one?" She asked, darting over to another painting.
Klaus stared at the painting she was talking about. The artist was lauded as being the next Picasso or Dali, but Klaus personally didn't love his work. He looked at the abstract painting and felt nothing. Turning his head to the side, he watched Caroline who appeared hypnotized by it.
"I don't know. What do you think?" He spoke softly, not wanting to break her concentration.
There was no pause this time before Caroline spoke. "I think it's amazing. It's lonely but hopeful. I can't really explain." Caroline blushed as she spoke. She didn't exactly have his way with words when it came to describing art.
Before Klaus could respond, the gallery owner reappeared, a wide grin on her face. "So would you like to make any purchases today? Sasha mentioned you were looking for a new piece for your living room. Might I suggest the Hans Vergen piece. It's positively stunning by a set of bay windows. When the light hits it - just captivating."
"I'll take the Hans Vergen, the Johansson piece, and this one." Klaus gestured to the painting Caroline had been so enthralled by.
Her head snapped away from the painting to look at Klaus. "You like this one?"
No but she did, and if Caroline liked it that much than no one else should have it. He'd hang it in the home office where she could see it every day. His phone rang and he reached in to his pocket to pull it out.
"I have to take this. You can square things away with my PA." Klaus said to the gallery owner as he walked away.
While Klaus talked on the phone, Caroline settled the payment with the gallery owner. She had to keep her jaw from dropping to the floor when the woman told her the total the three pieces would come to. Klaus was spending what she considered to be a small fortune without so much as a second thought. And the last one, the one she'd been admiring, was by far the most expensive. She couldn't fathom why he would spend so much on a painting he didn't seem all that impressed by.
They were just wrapping things up as Klaus returned. The woman thanked him profusely, no doubt thrilled to have sold not one but three pieces, and after she assured Klaus they would be delivered later today, they headed towards the door.
"I'm hungry." Caroline said offhandedly as they exited the gallery.
"I'll tell James to bring the car around. Where do you want to go, La Bernardin? Blue Water Grill?"
Caroline shook her head, not in the mood to go to some upscale restaurant. "I have an incredible urge for a street-cart hotdog with a ton of onions and mustard."
Klaus shot her an incredulous look. "A street-cart hotdog?" He asked, a bit disdainfully.
"Don't say it like that." Caroline laughed, putting a hand on one hip. "They're delicious."
"I wouldn't know. I've never had one."
Caroline's jaw dropped almost comically and Klaus couldn't help but laugh.
"You've lived in New York for years and you've never had a street-cart hotdog?" She asked as if she genuinely couldn't believe this.
"Never." Klaus replied with a grin.
"It's settled then. Central park is right there. Come on, we can get hotdogs and eat them on a park bench."
Klaus just laughed beneath his breath as he followed an overly excited Caroline down the block. They reached Central Park in a matter of minutes and Caroline led him over to the first hot dog cart she saw.
"Two hotdogs. Heavy mustard and onions on both." Klaus said to the hotdog seller, handing him a bill and taking the hotdogs loaded down with the dripping yellow stuff and the diced onions.
He handed a wrapped hotdog to Caroline and they began walking again. When they came to an empty park bench, they both sat down. Caroline watched him carefully, a playful glint in her eye as she waited for him to take his first bite.
"This feels almost dangerous." Klaus pointed out, eyeing the suspicious meat.
"That's part of the beauty of it!" She said laughingly.
"Not knowing if you're going to wake up with Mad Cow Disease? And here I thought you weren't a risk taker."
Caroline rolled her eyes. "Just taste it!"
Klaus followed her orders, taking a bite out of the hotdog.
"So?" She asked, practically vibrating in her seat while she waited to hear his reaction.
He chewed slowly, wanting to keep her waiting. "Surprisingly good." He said once he'd swallowed.
"Ha!" Caroline replied, turning to her own hotdog with a smile.
After eating his hotdog, Klaus threw the napkin into the trashcan. He then became thoroughly absorbed by how Caroline ate hers. Like a bird, she picked all the pieces of stray onion off the top and then started nibbling at the roll.
"You're staring," she said as she pulled a piece of bread from the hotdog and flicked her gaze to him.
"I like staring at you. Aren't you used to it by now?" Klaus teased but there was a lot of truth to his words.
Caroline couldn't stop the flush that crept up her cheeks and she quickly finished off her hotdog before tossing the napkin into the trash.
"You can now officially say you're a New Yorker." She said with a flourish, grinning at him.
"Oh so consuming meat cooked on a cart in the middle of the street was the last barrier I had to break down?" Klaus asked sarcastically.
"Yes! Meat cooked on a cart is like one of the greatest things about this city! There's certainly nothing like it in Mystic Falls."
Klaus watched on in fascination as she talked. Caroline always lit up when she talked about this city. "You really love this place, don't you?" He asked.
"How could you not?" Caroline responded. "Everything is so vibrant and beautiful and exciting."
Klaus just arched an eyebrow.
"What you don't think so?" She asked.
"London's better." Klaus replied proudly.
"So why'd you come here?" Caroline asked, genuinely curious.
Klaus looked away from her and out at the trees. "Let's just say my father and I are a lot better off with an ocean between us."
There was a long pause before Caroline asked softly, "Why?"
Klaus was spared from having to answer by the shrill ring of his phone going off again. He glanced down to see it was Stefan calling again.
"I have to run. You can take the rest of the day off. Come on, I'll hail a cab for you." He said, standing.
Caroline stood as well, brushing stray crumbs off her pencil skirt. She knew better than to fight him over the cab issue. After multiple arguments, Caroline just accepted that Klaus wouldn't let her ride the subway home from work anymore. He always put her in a cab and paid for it himself. As they walked back over to the curb, Caroline found herself oddly disappointed that he hadn't gotten the chance to explain about his relationship with his father. It was none of her business but she wanted to know. Maybe it would help her understand him better.
Klaus flagged down a cab and held the back door open for her. Before she could dip into the cab, Klaus' hand on her arm stopped her.
"Caroline, about the benefit tomorrow –"
"You are not getting out of it." She said sternly, pointing a finger at him.
Klaus just laughed. "Of course not. But since you're forcing me to go, I was hoping you'd be willing to accompany me. It's always better with pleasant company around."
The word 'yes' was on the tip of her tongue before Caroline remembered something. She sighed before answering. "I can't. I have a date with Tyler tomorrow night. He's taking me to the opera."
Klaus felt his jaw clench and his grip on the top of the cab door tightened. Of course, Tyler. He'd almost managed to forget about him for a few hours. The little shit was monopolizing all of Caroline's time. Or maybe it just felt that way to Klaus because he was so used to having Caroline all to himself. And the boy clearly didn't know her all that well. Caroline would be bored silly during a four hour opera.
"Well, I'll see you at the office tomorrow morning." Klaus said, letting the cab door go and watching as Caroline slid into the car.
"Yeah I'll see you tomorrow." She replied softly as he shut the cab door behind her. Caroline could tell he was disappointed and that in turn made her disappointed.
She tried not to think too much about it as the cab took her home but despite all her efforts, it was still on her mind as she shut the door to the apartment she shared with Elena.
"I ordered pizza." Elena shouted from the living room as Caroline made her way over there.
She dropped onto the couch beside her friend who was curled up with her sketch pad.
"Why the long face?" Elena asked, shutting her notebook and staring at her friend.
Caroline paused for a moment before speaking. "Klaus wanted me to go to this benefit with him tomorrow night but I already told Tyler I'd go to the opera with him. Klaus is my boss but Tyler's my…whatever he is. Besides it's not like the benefit is technically work so –"
Elena cut her friend off, shifting to her knees on the couch. "Wait you mean the Manhattan Rose Society benefit?" She asked, excitedly.
"Uh, yeah." Caroline replied slowly, not sure what that had to do with anything.
"Are you kidding me, Caroline? You have to go. The cream of the NYC crop will all be there." Elena's face got even more excited as an idea came to her. "You could wear one of my designs! Photographers will be lined up inside and outside to take pictures of the event. What if one of my dresses ended up in the NY society pages?! Allison would have to take me seriously then! Not to mention you'd be showing off my gown to some of the most elite women in the city. What if they love it?! This could launch my career!"
Caroline's eyes widened as she watched her friend practically vibrate with enthusiasm. "But I just told you. Tyler's taking me to the opera."
Elena shot her friend an exasperated look. "The opera versus one of the hottest ticket events of the NYC charity galas season." She held both her hands up, one clearly higher than the other. "Caroline, it's a no brainer!"
Caroline just sighed, shaking her head. "Except for the part where it means cancelling on Tyler. I thought you were pro me and Tyler."
"He will understand!" Elena said, shaking her friend's shoulder. "Please Caroline, do this for me. Opportunities like this don't exactly fall into my lap all the time and you know how things have been at work with Allison. If I don't start making some progress soon…"
Caroline groaned, throwing her head back against the couch. After a minute of silence she muttered. "Fine."
Elena squealed, hugging her friend. Once the excitement passed, the panic set in. "Oh my God. Oh my God. I have to make a dress by tomorrow night. I need your measurements. I need to go buy fabric. I don't even know which design I'm going to use yet. I'll have to stay up all night." Elena was talking more to herself than to Caroline as she stood up from the couch and raced off to her room.
Caroline watched her friend go and couldn't help but laugh a little. If she was being perfectly honest, she was glad Elena had given her a reason to go to the benefit. Now all that was left to do was let Tyler and Klaus know. She pulled her phone from her pocket and stared at it for a moment, wondering if she was making the right choice. She went back and forth a few times before she forced herself to make a decision. Before she could change her mind again, Caroline tapped out two quick text messages, sending one to Tyler and one to Klaus.
Once she was done, Caroline tossed her phone aside and threw her head back, staring up at the ceiling. Only thing left to do now was wait.