I felt his presence beside me. I did not need to turn my head to know he was there, walking alongside me. So close, our arms brushed against each other, the smooth fabric of his expensive suit silken on my bare skin. In my heels I came up to his shoulder, I felt self-assured, confident. He had made his choice, there was no need for me to assuage myself in his eyes.
Nerves writhed in my belly, a pit full of snakes, squirming, threatening to escape. To rise up through my body, out of my mouth to leave me hollow; a husk of a woman who, up until now, had fought with every last breath in my body to get to this moment. I could not set them free. To let them out would be to deny myself the exquisiteness of my triumph..
We walked for a while, our steps keeping time. His casual, nonchalant even. Mine, purposeful, determined. The tips of my stiletto heels striking the pavement, a hypnotic motion. He looked thoughtful but resolute. There was a determination in his eyes, when he chanced fleeting glimpses in my direction I felt the weight of that resolve settle on me. It was powerful; his desire for me palpable. I felt the air crackle between us, my skin tingling, electric. Our fingers brushed, so fleetingly but the frisson that single touch sent through my body carried an eternity of promises.
He held open the ornate glass door to his building, nodding a polite greeting to the doorman on duty who tipped his hat to me as I smiled shyly, my voice lost for the moment.
As the elevator doors swished to a close, he gently took my hand, pulled me closer. I could smell his cologne, a hint of patchouli and sandalwood, warm and seductive. I closed my eyes, breathing in the intoxicating scent, as if it were the very essence of him. Like a coiling mist, it wrapped itself around my soul, the very core of my being, seducing and enticing me.
We ascended, together, two souls who had been in constant orbit around each other now on a collision course, unstoppable, inevitable.
He led me to his apartment, just one of two on the top floor. My shoes sunk into the deep burgundy pile carpeting the halls, soft lighting guided the way, potted plants dotted the plush carpet and fine watercolours adorned the walls. The atmosphere was quiet, tranquil. We stopped at the door, he paused, looked at me, the tension between us growing. I could feel every beat of my heart, my blood pulsing through my veins, oxygen filling my lungs as my breath quickened.
The briefest of kisses, a gentle grazing of his lips against mine, his fingers entwined with mine.
Over too soon, he pulled away, a faint murmur of disappointment escaped me. He smiled, amusement sparkling in his eyes and led me inside.
Wood flooring, a sunken lounge, low lights, soft leather couch, wide screen TV, floor to ceiling windows through which I could see the dramatic city skyline, stark against the bright blue skies; his apartment was a world away from the shabby old apartment I called home.
I leaned against a rough brick pillar, watching him as he moved about the room in the same nonchalant manner he had used on our journey here. Blinds whispered across the windows, diffusing the sunlight, the gentle beat of bossa nova music piped into the room accompanied by the clink of crystal.
“Drink?” he said quietly, his voice soothing, inviting.
“Bourbon,” said I.
Moments later, a glass of honey coloured bourbon was in my hand. The crystal refracted its amber hue in sparkling shards across my skin. I took a sip, it was warm and spicy; the memory of our stolen kiss, the proximity of him contained within the smooth liquid as it trickled down my throat.
A comfortable silence passed between us as we sipped our bourbon. His pale blue eyes never left mine. I could see longing in the depths of those azure pools but there were questions also. He was curious.About how we had come to this finally? About what was being left behind? I did not know; he would tell me when the time came.
I finished my drink, basking in the warmth of the liquor now flowing through my veins, my body languid. My fears melted away to be replaced with heightened anticipation as he took my glass from me, placed it on a stylish flint coaster atop an equally sophisticated drinks table. I could only watch as he removed his jacket, loosened his tie and came towards me; his stride focussed.
My breath caught in my throat as he stepped up behind me, one arm encircling my waist, the other reaching up to my hair, his hand brushed the back of my neck sending my skin into a frenzy of goose bumps, I closed my eyes, leaning into him. He kissed the back of my neck, along the curve of my shoulder, his hand, masculine and firm on my waist, holding me close against him, the other hand caressing my hair.
He twisted me round, I was against the pillar; we were looking at each other, the tension between us palpable.
“No going back,” he said.
I nodded. “No going back,” I repeated.
He cupped my face in his hands. “You’re luminous,” he breathed. “How did I not see you?”
“I don’t know,” I smiled. “But, I’m glad you did.”
He kissed me again, this time, long and lingering. I could sense the urgency in his kiss, in the way his hands held me, their strong grip gentle on my waist. We were floating in an endless ocean amongst millions of stars, burning bright.
He pulled back, looking at me with that intense gaze. His hand grazed along my collar bone, I shivered under his touch.
And then, it was happening. He scooped me up, one arm beneath my knees, the other across my back and I was in his arms. I was vaguely aware of my right shoe slipping off, dangling on the end of my toes to then fall to the floor. As he carried me towards the bedroom, his eyes never left mine. When he kicked the door shut behind us, he held me in his gaze. When he laid me gently on the bed, I was locked in his eyes and there I would stay. Eternal..
Delphine left without a second glance. I watched her petite form as she made her way through the office to the elevator bank at the end of the hall.
I tore my eyes away, back to Patricia. She was still, silent. Her long dark hair tumbled over her shoulders in waves, she gazed at me with a questioning look; green eyes, intent. Her looks used to beguile me, so intoxicating was her allure, she had me ensnared from the moment we had first laid eyes on each other.
“When were you going to tell me?” I demanded, quietly.
Patricia smiled, leaned back in her office chair. Her shirt, buttoned low gaped open slightly. I met her eyes. Not this time.
“Never,” she said.
“And you think your duplicity would have stayed hidden?” I said.
Patricia shrugged. “Doesn’t matter now, does it?”
“You used me.” I said. “Why?”
Patricia was fierce; her emerald eyes flashed with hidden fire.
“Because,” she said in a low voice. “You don’t get anywhere in this world by being nice.”
I shook my head. How had I fallen for this? Patricia had spun a web of fantasy into which I had willingly fallen. The stolen glances, chaste touches, giving in to the eventual passion and all the while she had worked behind my back, stealing company information, money, framing people in the process including Delphine whom she had skilfully manoeuvred into a relocation, hundreds of miles away. Coming between us at a time when Delphine’s affection for me was becoming noticeable until one, tiny mistake unravelled the web she had so artfully created.
Delphine had uncovered everything, the deceit, the treachery, the stolen money. It was Delphine who had brought Patricia to her knees. Delphine who had stood in that office moments earlier, in her quiet, dignified way informing Patricia of what she had discovered. Delphine who had not given either of us a second glance as she had left.
“You’re not worth my time,” I said.
I turned away, leaving Patricia sitting at her desk, a mask of fury on her face. Security rushed past me as I followed in Delphine’s footsteps to the elevator banks. Finding her. Being with her. It was all that mattered now.
I emerged onto the busy streets. A hot, summer sun beat down, baking the world in a shimmering haze. I spotted her diminutive form strolling along the street, she was two blocks away.
Keeping Delphine in my sight; I did not rush. The minutes ticked by as I walked, my step light as I felt the weight of all that had happened lift from my shoulders.
Drawing closer to her, I could see Delphine’s blonde hair shimmering in the sun, tanned arms swinging slowly by her side, hips sashaying in a cream pencil skirt accentuating her feminine curves. Even in heels she was petite, barely coming up to my shoulder.
I drew up alongside Delphine at a crossroads. Brushing against her arm slightly, her silent acknowledgment was all I needed. She knew I was there, that I always would be. She made her choice as I had made mine.
We walked slowly, steps keeping time, catching occasional glimpses, our skin often coming into contact sending bolts of electricity through my body. Her perfume, sweet and floral, evoked memories of our first meeting. When she had crashed into me in the office one morning, scattering papers, spilling my coffee and how she had apologised in her sweet, gentle manner whilst a flush of rosy pink spread across her freckled cheeks.
My desire for her was all consuming. Watching her as she sipped the bourbon in my apartment, the way she tasted when I kissed her, Delphine was everything I wanted and more. As I carried her into the bedroom, laid her on the bed, as we languished there for hours lost in each other. I marvelled at her fragile beauty, soft skin tasting of vanilla, gold flecked brown eyes with a fierce passion burning beneath.
“Reeve?” she whispered.
We were tangled in each other, morning sunbeams striping across the bed. The sounds of the city drifting up from the streets below. My hand on her hip, hers on my waist, our bodies warm, relaxed.
“Hm?” I said.
“How did you know?” she said.
I kissed her. “I always knew. I just needed reminding.”
“No going back?” she said.
I smiled. “No going back,” I pulled her close. “It’s you, it’s always been you.”
© Grace McGowan 2016