Captivated – Story 2 in the Unbreakable series
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the writers & producers of Hawaii Five-0. My own characters belong to me :-)
Author's Note: Thank you for continuing to follow - Stelia fans, this one's for you!
Steve rang the doorbell at Julia's house promptly that evening, although, once again, he was certain it was an unnecessary action given the tight security around the perimeter of her house. Sure enough, Allison answered the door almost immediately and welcomed Steve inside.
"Hi, Commander. Julia's upstairs getting ready. She'll be right down. I've got Andy eating dinner in the kitchen, so just make yourself at home," she said as she gestured toward the great room.
Steve began to turn toward the great room when he caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of his eye. Looking upward at the top of the stairs, his eyes narrowed imperceptibly and his breath caught as he followed Julia's slow, graceful decent toward him. Her hair was swept up softly, accenting her impossibly long neck and bare ivory shoulders. She was wearing a royal blue iridescent fitted gown that flared out elegantly at the bottom until it skimmed the top of each stair as she carefully stepped down. As she neared Steve, he thought he saw the briefest glimmer of a smile as she casually glanced over his tuxedo. He exhaled subtly and flashed his most handsome grin at her as he reached out his hand to guide her down the last few steps. He caught just a hint of the intoxicating scent of flowers as she neared… not her usual lavender scent, but something sensual yet subtle… he thought for a moment before he realized they were na'u… gardenias.
He swallowed hard before speaking. "You look beautiful, Julia." She looked up at him through her long, dark lashes before reaching up to carefully straighten his tie, brushing her hands barely across his shoulders as his hands intuitively encircled her waist. They stood in the foyer, eyes silently locked on each other, neither wanting to break away. The room filled quickly with an unmet, palpable desire as their breathing intensified.
His shoulders were broad and strong, Julia assessed as she let her fingers linger just a moment longer. She longed to run her fingers through his soft chocolate brown hair, but she hesitated uncharacteristically. The draw between them was just too powerful, almost overwhelming her. It was as though a tide had washed over her and was carrying her far out to sea. She found herself lost - lost in the potent emotions, lost in the possibilities that rushed through her mind as she stood there in his arms. Julia softly dropped her hands and shifted her gaze, murmuring "Thank you," before she stepped into the kitchen to kiss Andy goodnight.
Returning to the foyer, she stepped over to the antique Sheraton table to pick up her silk clutch and an organza wrap that matched her dress. Steve opened the door for them, kissing the back of her hand before tucking it in to the crook of his arm. The air was soft and warm, a light breeze rustling the trees. He walked around to the passenger side of the black SUV and helped Julia in. Taking another deep breath, he stepped in to the driver's seat and started the car. She seems quiet tonight, he thought, hoping that the morning's events weren't troubling her. He wasn't sure what to say to her, how to broach the subject without intruding.
She looked over at him and smiled, her eyes bright, "It's good to see you, Steve. Thank you for taking me to this dinner tonight. I have to say, I was rather dreading it, but seeing you… well, I'm finding myself grateful for the dean's sudden illness," she said, chuckling slightly. "I wasn't sure if you'd be in your dress uniform or a tux, but I do have to admit you look very dashing – rather 007 – in your dinner jacket."
He smiled a half grin in return. Even though he'd only known her a few days, he knew better than to just take Julia at her word. She could be upbeat and attuned, but her physical demeanor was a far better predictor of what she was really feeling, and Steve was an expert at noticing the smallest changes in body language, particularly hers. Steve kept an eye on the road, but stealthily stole a few glances at Julia. She seems tense, he thought. Perhaps it's just the speech she's going to give, or just the end of a very long week. His mouth set into a taut line as he remembered seeing her held at gunpoint by Thalia Neman just two days ago. He still blamed himself for putting her at risk that day. He never should have brought her to the suspect's house, armed or unarmed. I nearly lost her because I was so distracted that I didn't see the danger I was putting her in. She'd be safer if I just let her live her life ensconced in her high-security home with Andy and her work at the University. She'd be safer if she wasn't with me, he realized.
Julia sensed Steve's pensiveness, wondering if it had anything to do with her. Granted, she had a lot on her mind these days, aside from work. She felt such uncertainty about the unexpected feelings she was developing for Steve. Part of her was concerned and cautious, while a larger part of her felt drawn to him in a passionate, rather irrational sort of way. And as tempting as it was to give in to her growing feelings, she didn't do irrational. Ever. Irrational in her business was exceptionally dangerous. "Penny for your thoughts?" she asked.
Steve just turned and smiled at her uncommitedly. He wasn't used to sharing his concerns with anyone, particularly considering she was front and center in his worries. They continued to drive in silence, each working through their feelings in the dark quiet of the car.
They pulled up to the Chancellor's House where a waiting valet opened Julia's door. Before she could step out, Steve was already there offering his hand, which she gratefully accepted. Other couples were filing into the house, which was lit up with twinkling white lights around the portico and tucked into the swaying palm trees. Julia took a deep breath and clutched Steve's arm closely. What am I doing? she thought, her mind racing through the many reasons she should not be getting involved with anyone right now, particularly a former SEAL with an investigative bent and a talent for seeing right through her. Quietly she sighed. It was precisely the fact that he could see right through her that made him completely irresistible.