The study lied on the third floor of the house, right by the master bedroom. Windows occupied most of one wall, facing Hampstead Heath, and further away, all of London. A cluttered work table, bookcases filled to the brim, colourful framed pictures from far away trips on the wall, an old tan leather sofa facing the windows, a modern arc floor lamp softly illuminating the room. This is James, thought Alesha as she followed him to the sofa. It is where he really lives, thinks, reads.
She sat as he went to a small cabinet, fetched two glasses and drew them both a small measure of scotch. James came back to her, sat beside her, and offered her the amber coloured drink. Alesha smiled her thanks and looked around the room, taking in all sorts of details that added to her perceptions of James. She noticed the same music from downstairs playing in the background. He saw her noticing.
"I've installed a central sound system throughout the house a few years ago."
"Did you make many other changes since the divorce?"
"Hmm… A few. Nothing drastic, mind you. Just little things here and there that used to get on my nerve. It's funny because the most dramatic change, the whole feel of the house, came by itself as time went by, without me doing anything much."
"I imagine that after a while, it became your house. You know?"
"That's it", James said. "After a while, it was a different house. More comfortable, somehow, especially this floor. It's just that it is so large, now that I live alone most of the time."
"I always liked your house. To me, it is the representation of what I would imagine as a perfect home when I was a kid. The large rooms. The living room with the cream sofas and the fireplace. The modernized ground floor kitchen… But this room, it's even better. It is very comfy, very you." Alesha smiled as she looked at James, angled toward him, her feet tucked beneath her on the couch. She ran her hand on the leather, soft with age and usage.
James took a sip of his drink as he looked at her. Noting once again how expressive her face was, how natural it felt to be with her.
"That is what I am to you, then? A comfortable old friend?"
He smiled as he said it. Except from small touches in passing, they'd had no real physical contact since the kiss at the beginning of the evening. James longed to touch Alesha, to take her into his arms, to keep her close as they talked, to take her to his bed, in the room just across the hall…
"Not exactly." Alesha felt her cheeks redden as she answered. "A friend, yes. With whom I am comfortable most of the time."
"Except when I am not".
Alesha laughed nervously. James was looking at her calmly, a slight smile on his face and a light in his eyes. He is waiting for me to take it further, Alesha thought. He took me to this place, this intimate part of his life where he did not put things in order before I arrived, he showed me who he is when at home, and now he is waiting for me to decide if we stop this before it irrevocably alter our friendship. Alesha took a deep, silent breath, looking directly at James.
"Except when I try too hard to know what you think. When I really want to kiss you but am afraid to make the first move. When I think that I like you as so much more than a friend."
James felt the tension between them alter. It lessened as he now knew that she was interested as well, but it grew all the same, as if to underline that this moment was the beginning of something. James growned internally. That is what Alesha reduced him to: a lovesick boy in a 50 year old man's body.
They now both had finished their drinks and had set their glasses on the floor by the sofa.
"Lesh…" James moved closer to Alesha, lifting his hand to touch her face, her hair, drawing her to him for their second kiss of the night. More assured this time. Not a first kiss but a kiss between two people who are definitely into on another, who want to explore further.
When Alesha slowly drew back, James took her into his arms. He settled against the back of the sofa, drawing lazy circles on her back.
"I've looked at you as more than a friend for a while now. You cannot imagine the number of times I wanted to invite you up here when we worked on cases downstairs. Most of our colleagues at court are persuaded that you've already been up here a number of times. But I was not so sure you were interested."
Alesha looked up at him. "In sleeping with you?"
James shook his head slightly. "In getting to know me outside work. In being part of each other's life even when there is no one from work around."
"Is that why you invited me skating with you and Ethan? But you never did it again."
"I was your boss. I did not want you to see me as an older man preying on his younger, beautiful assistant. I felt like a cliché."
"You know that skating rink date made me lose many nights of sleep, don't you? I would play it again and again in my head, trying to see it from your point of view. Just a friendly outing or a trial run date that I had failed miserably?"
Alesha felt James chest rumble against her cheek as he laughed. "Alesha. It is after that day that I started to think about quitting, so that I could explore this with you. The blame in the final case was just the last incentive to do so. I was looking forward to getting away from the court, yes, but I also really wanted to be able to see you without the whole boss-employee dynamic between us. So believe me when I say that I am always happy for you to make a move on me."
Alesha turned over in James' arms, straddling him. She kissed him, burying one hand in his hair and pressing herself closer to him. James tightened his hold on her. His hands on her back migrated to her lower back, and then to her ass. Alesha deepened the kiss, rocking slighty against James, feeling his erection through her jeans. She got up. James stayed seated on the couch, looking up at her, desire evident in his eyes.
"You could show me your bedroom now, if you want to."
James got up, took her hand is his and led her from the room. "I'd love to."