Rating: R (language and sex)
Summary: Adelle and Dominic are in Paris to try and flush out an enemy of Adelle’s, among other things. Sequel to Let’s Pretend. Link to first one is below this summary. Link to the sequel is below the dedication.
Spoilers: Season 1 a tiny bit and 2 a little bit through episode 12. Set somewhere between 1.06 and 1.09.
Disclaimers: The toys are Joss Whedon’s. The idea is mine.
Dedication: To otahyoni, illyria12, morgan72uk and ladyvivian who asked for a sequel and Susan who fears that my muse has become far too enamored with romantic comedy.
The guitar of Joe Satriani blared in the headphones of Laurence Dominic’s IPod. Music helped him think, particularly non-linearly. Dominic was transferring data from files Boyd Langton had given him into an advanced intelligence evaluation program. I’ll keep feeding this thing intel until it identifies Adelle’s enemy or eliminates all four from the running. Reaching for his coffee cup, he wondered idly where Adelle DeWitt had gone and why whatever she was doing had consumed late morning and most of the afternoon. If I’d known she was planning on being gone this long, I wouldn’t have let her go alone. Her ‘We’ve only just arrived, my enemy has been methodical and slow to date and I need to do something to avoid sleeping until this evening’ argument loses force with every minute she’s gone.
He’d expected her to be looming over him when he’d awoken from his unintended nap. I think I may have even had a dream to that effect. Dominic didn’t remember clearly, but he must’ve reclined on the couch to rest his eyes for a couple of minutes and nearly two hours had passed.
Movement drew his eye. The door to their hotel suite had opened and Adelle strolled in, gesturing for someone to follow. A young man, nearly buried under garment bags and packages of numerous sizes and colors, followed meekly behind her. “Hang up the garment bags and place the others on the bed, please, Damien,” Adelle said, smiling encouragement.
“Yes, madam,” Damien said, shuffling forward slowly, as if afraid that dropping one package would lead to a domino effect and reduce his tip to zero.
“Did you have a productive day, Laurence?” Adelle asked, kicking off her shoes, settling down next to him on the couch.
“I’m almost through with what I wanted to get done,” he said, turning off his IPod, entering a few more items into his program. “Where did my notes on Millicent Montgomery go?” he muttered, as he sifted through the papers strewn on the coffee table in front of him. “Here they are. Ok. I think I’m done with her.”
“Will that be all, madam?” Damian asked.
“Do place my tiny room service order, Damian,” Adelle said.
“Already done, madam.”
“Excellent. Laurence, tip this highly competent person for me, would you?”
“Hmmmmm?” Dominic tore his eyes away from his screen even as his mind caught up with the conversation. Standing, he retrieved his discarded suit jacket and pulled out his wallet. “Here you are,” Dominic muttered, handing over a bill, mind still on his computer work.
“Thank you, sir!” Damian said, bowing smartly in their general direction.
“How much did you tip him?” Adelle asked, laughing up at Dominic.
“Any man in a 5 star hotel with you for purposes of romance and sex doesn’t look at the bill he pulls out of his wallet to tip the kid who carried the clothes you bought.”
“I applaud your eloquence, but I find myself unconvinced as to your veracity.” Adelle gestured toward the coffee table. You were looking at your computer, rather than at me.”
Dominic inclined his head and smirked. “I was thinking about you, though.”
Rolling her eyes, sighing, Adelle said, “You most certainly were not.”
Crossing his arms in front of him, he challenged, “Prove it.”
“What were you thinking exactly?” Adelle patted the couch next to her. Dominic took the hint.
“I was wondering why you brought seven suitcases if you were going to buy a bunch of clothes the moment we arrived,” he said, grateful for a natural flair for improvisation that hadn’t gotten much of a work out in his time as Laurence Dominic. A pleased, amused smile he hadn’t expected. “Were they empty?” he asked. “The suitcases you brought.”
“No, but yours didn’t make the transatlantic trip.”
“What?” Dominic’s computer pinged to let him know all the data he’d loaded had been assimilated within the program, drawing his eyes momentarily. “I gave my bags to that guy … Henry, I think. Maybe Harry. Something like that. The guy Judith pointed out.”
“Henry was instructed to unpack them for you, Laurence.”
“Unpack them? Why?”
“Judith had the idea that I shop for you after I’d told you to pack a bag. And packing did give you something to do other than fret so—.”
“Fret? I don’t fret. I sulk. I brood. I get angry. I do not fret.”
“Of course not, Laurence.”
He’d opened his mouth to reply when a knock sounded on the door. Dominic drew his sidearm and checked the magazine.
“That will be room service,” Adelle suggested.
“Maybe,” he muttered, waving Adelle into the bedroom. She frowned and crossed her legs. “Humor me, Adelle,” he said. With an exaggerated sigh and an eye drawing strut, she complied.
A second knock brought Dominic back to himself. Approaching the door at an oblique angle, he said, “Who is it?”
“Room service, sir.”
The guy looked like room service. Dominic would give him that. Opening the door without exposing himself to an easy shot, he said, “Put it on the desk.”
“As you wish, sir.” The small man carried the tray with a bottle of single barrel bourbon, two glasses, small bucket of ice and a tiny box to the desk. “Is there any other service we might provide at this time, sir?”
“No, thank you.” The man passed Dominic, expertly accepting the subtly offered tip on his way out.
“Is the coast clear?” Adelle called from the bedroom.
Adelle emerged, bemused expression brightening as she moved to the desk and poured two healthy slugs of alcohol. Smiling, she brought the box to the couch. “What is it, Laurence. You look … unwell.”
“My weapons were in my bags, Adelle. Except for this one,” he said, drawing his sidearm and holding it up.”
“How did you get that past security?” she asked, genuine curiosity blatant.
“Trade secret,” he said. “Adelle, tell me Henry packed my rifle and other … stuff somewhere else.” Her shaken head demanded consumption of a large gulp of bourbon. “Damn it, Adelle. I’m here to protect you and all I have is this.” Putting down his bourbon, mumbling under his breath, Dominic grabbed his suit jacket.
“Where are you going?” she asked, sipping her bourbon in a significantly more civilized manner. “Laurence?”
“Stop.” The voice of command seemed to echo throughout the room.
Dominic saw red. “Is there really someone out to get you, Adelle, or is this just some twisted mind fuck? Because if there is someone out to get you, I need to be able to protect you. For that, I need to throw some weight around in the Paris House and get what I need. If not, can we just go home? Because I’m not in the mood to get turned inside out and backwards.”
“Sit down, Laurence?” The slight interrogative convinced him to comply. “I believe the threat to be real, but I do not wish to be beholden to Renee Deveroux. That I simply cannot abide. For that reason, the Paris House is not an option.”
Draining his bourbon, Dominic sank back into the couch cushions. “Send the plane back then. Grayson will fly over here with what I need.”
“The enchanting Ms. Grayson is privy to those trade secrets of yours?”
“Some of them.” Dominic faced Adelle’s glare. “She has a few of her own as well.”
“Give the order yourself, Mr. Dominic.”
The hardness in her tone barely registered. Dominic was suddenly very tired again. A few moments and phone calls later, he returned his attention to his computer. Adelle left the room without taking any of the tension with her. Dominic couldn’t muster the energy to care that he’d royally pissed off his boss. IPod back on, Dominic input the data he’d gleaned concerning Juan Juarez. Fine. That’s done, for now. He closed down his laptop, put his files together and stacked them. After getting another glass of bourbon, Dominic looked around for something, anything else to do, rather than face Adelle. Already swept for audio and visual pickups. No weapons to check. Damn it! Squaring his shoulders, Dominic knocked on the bedroom door.
“Come in,” Adelle said.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, crossing the room to Adelle’s side, looking out the window, wondering what she was thinking.
“Not particularly,” she said, gesturing vaguely toward the closet. “But I would like to see you in that suit.”
Dominic turned and faced what was undoubtedly an extremely expensive suit. “Did you have someone mug a model who just stepped off the runway?” he asked.
“You don’t like it?” she asked, tone low, soft, somewhat disappointed.
“It’s not really my … style.”
“Will you at least try it on?” she asked, stepping into his personal space.
“Do I have a choice?” Dominic countered, tugging slightly at the collar of the shirt he wore. “It feels like I’ve been wearing this forever.”
“You always have a choice, Mr. Dominic,” she said. “Shall we change?”
“Sure,” he muttered, taking the clothes she’d selected for him into the bathroom while she did what she needed to in the bedroom. The so dark green as to almost be black slacks were perfectly cut and moved with him without constriction. The jacket was loose and the softest silk he’d ever felt. Instead of the button down shirt/tie, he wore a gray-silver silk T-shirt. Comfortable didn’t even begin to describe it. He looked in the mirror and didn’t know what to think. He looked … ok. Ok was not his goal. Still, he reentered the bedroom, looking for Adelle.
He spun on his heel. “Translation?” he asked, realizing she’d likely seen the frontal view of his ensemble reflected in the large mirror before he’d turned around, glad he’d spoken before he’d gotten a good look at the clingy emerald, mid thigh length dress she wore. Not to mention the better and better view he was treated to as she sauntered toward him.
“I believe the phrase was ‘Flat out Yum,’” Adelle said. Dominic’s laugh died as Adelle slipped her arms around his neck. “If we didn’t have fine Belgian chocolate to sample with our bourbon, I would be tempted to rush things between us.”
She has to stop using that phone sex voice. “I’ve always admired Belgians,” he said, endeavoring to lighten the moment. “Now I know it’s not just for the beer.” Understanding dawned. “So that’s what’s in the box. Chocolate.”
“Um hmm,” Adelle murmured, reluctantly releasing his neck only to capture his arm and urge him back into the living area of the suite. Mentally calculating the best possible turn around time for the jet, Dominic allowed himself to be steered to the couch. Toying with his glass of bourbon, he watched Adelle reverently open the box of chocolates and study each piece before making a selection. She took a tiny bite, closed her eyes and made a sound that struck Laurence as more appropriate to sex than eating chocolate. “Heavenly,” she whispered. “Try one, Laurence.”
“Aren’t we heading out for dinner?” he asked, not wanting to avert his eyes at the wrong moment and fail to witness her second bite.
“In a bit, yes,” she admitted. “But chocolate like this is not to be missed or delayed by something as silly as consuming all of your vegetables.” The smile she aimed at him when she took her second bite sped up his breathing. She held the box out to him. “Are you quite certain I can’t tempt you?”
He held up his glass. “I’m good.”
“You have no idea what bliss you’re foregoing,” she said, finishing the piece of chocolate with a sigh of repletion.
That is a line of inquiry I have no intention of pursuing. “Where would you like to go for dinner?” he asked.
“We have reservations, Laurence.”
“Of course we do. What was I thinking?”
“You obviously weren’t,” she asserted, smiling at him over the rim of her glass. “I think you’ll approve. It’s small, decidedly intimate and the food is to die for. If there’s a seafood special, you should have it. The chef flawlessly prepares everything, but he elevates seafood to something beyond a mere meal. It’s a complete … sensual experience.”
“I look forward to it.” His eyes darted around the room, landing on the pile of files next to his computer.
“Do not open that laptop again,” Adelle ordered. “You’ve spent quite enough time playing with it today, I’m sure.”
Laurence yawned, lifting his arms to stretch out his back. “I’m too tired for that,” he admitted.
“Tired?” she said. “That won’t do, Mr. Dominic.”
“Sorry,” he said, leaning his head against the back of the couch, closing his eyes.
“A brisk walk to the restaurant is evidently necessary,” Adelle said, placing her bourbon on the serving tray. “Sleeping through a Chef Pierre meal is very very wrong. I think it’s punishable by death by lethal injection for American perpetrators.”
“They don’t dust off the guillotine for something that heinous?” he muttered.
“They might for you. Stand up, Laurence. We’re going.”
“Won’t we be early,” he whispered, drifting pleasantly in a sleepy relaxed place.
“The restaurant has a bar.”
“We have bourbon here.”
“I have a man on the cusp of sleep here,” Adelle said. Dominic pictured her with her hands on her hips, lips pursed, staring down at him. “I’d rather have an alert attentive partner in culinary ecstasy.”
“Culinary ecstasy will wait until tomorrow,” he said.
“Culinary ecstasy will not wait. Must I describe for you what Judith had to endure to secure this reservation for us? It will break her perfect assistant’s heart if we don’t partake.”
Dominic opened one eye. “I’m not getting out of this, am I?”
“No,” Adelle said. Grumbling under his breath, Dominic rose to his feet. Adelle leaned in to place a light chaste kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Laurence.”
The walk was pleasant, ambient temperature holding a hint of a chill to aid in dispelling jet lag-induced lethargy. Sooner than Dominic expected, Adelle turned into a narrow street and stopped in front of an establishment that looked smaller than his first apartment. The façade was unimpressive. When he opened the door for Adelle, the scents emerging from the establishment were mouthwatering. “Wow,” Dominic muttered. The interior was … Adelle. Everything about it suited her perfectly. Class and excellent taste from the broadest brushstroke to the finest detail.
“Ms. DeWitt, how delightful to see you again,” the Maitre D said, bowing over her hand.
“Hello, Charles. Have you been well?”
“I have. Give me just a moment and I’ll show you to your table.”
Adelle glanced at Laurence. “I know we’re early, Charles. Don’t make a fuss. We’ll wait at the bar.”
Charles looked as though Adelle had put a knife in his gut. “Nonsense!” he said. “Chef Pierre would take a meat cleaver or something even larger to my person were I to sit his Adelle at the bar.”
Dominic didn’t bother to suppress a chuckle. Adelle stepped lightly yet firmly on his right foot with her left heel. “It could be our little secret, Charles,” she said.
“One cannot keep secrets of such a kind, Ms. DeWitt.” Charles looked over both shoulders. “The walls have eyes as well as ears and Chef Pierre has many informants.” He bowed. “Just one moment and you’ll be seated at a proper table.”
“Sounds like I ought to be on the lookout for flying cutlery,” Dominic observed. “If Chef Pierre is the jealous type.” Adelle’s smile made Dominic pause. “Is he?”
“Not particularly,” Adelle noted, still smiling in a nerve wracking manner. “He’s a force of nature.”
Dominic’s intention to inquire further was derailed by the return of Charles who escorted them to a table tucked in the corner next to the window. Habitually, Dominic sat with his back to the wall, facing the door. He didn’t care for the exposure of sitting by the window but knew Adelle favored it for purposes of selling the two of them as a couple. “Chase will be your waiter this evening. Do enjoy your meal, Ms. DeWitt.”
“Thank you, Charles,” Adelle said.
“Good evening, madam, sir,” said a tall, lean dark haired Frenchman, undoubtedly Chase, as he handed Adelle a menu and Dominic a menu and the wine list. “Would either of you care for a beverage?”
“Champagne,” Adelle said, smirking at Laurence, smiling at Chase. “We’re celebrating.”
“What is the occasion, madam?” Chase asked.
Expression softening, yet turning more serious, Adelle fixed her gaze on Dominic. “Being alone together.”
“Splendid,” Chase said. “Is there a particular champagne you would like, madam?”
“Whatever vintage champagne Marten recommends,” she replied.
Dominic watched Adelle watch Chase strut away. “Are you trying to make me jealous?”
“Would I succeed?”
“I don’t know.” He looked down at the beautifully folded napkin beneath an array of silverware. “It’s been a long time since anyone’s tried.”
“Giselle didn’t try to make you jealous?” Adelle asked, expression dubious.
He shook his head. Faced with her ongoing disbelief, he said, “Well, I didn’t notice if she did.”
A small man with a large nose appeared with a bottle of champagne. Chase stood to his right with two flutes. “For you, Ms. DeWitt,” Marten said, offering the bottle for her inspection. “A fine effort from a small producer unavailable in the States. I guarantee complete satisfaction.” At Adelle’s nod, Marten removed the foil and cork and poured a small amount with a flourish. He waited while Adelle tasted and stated her approval, poured for both of them and left.
“To finally being alone,” she whispered. The touched the rims of their glasses and drank. Taking his hand, entwining her fingers with his, eyes narrowing a tad, she asked, “What are you thinking, Laurence?”
“I’m not much for champagne, but this is really good.” Leaning back into his surprisingly comfortable chair, he said, “Champagne, candlelight, fancy restaurant, nice clothes. We look the part anyway.”
“You like the dress?” she asked.
“It’s fine,” he muttered, staring at the bubbles rising in his beverage.
The sharpness in her tone drew his attention to the hint of disappointment in her expression, quickly masked. “If I were better with words,” Dominic said. “I’d be able to describe exactly what pleasant memory the color illuminated by candlelight evokes. Or how the dress flows with your movements and highlights your eyes, although not so much at this low light level. The way it covers yet reveals your body. If I’m not careful, I’m going to end up staring at your chest all evening.”
“If you were better with words, I’d have a fist in that lovely suit coat in order to drag you into the alley out back and demand you take me against the brick wall.”
Smiling, he raised his flute to her, “Advantage inarticulate.”
“You’re many things, Laurence. Inarticulate isn’t one of them.” Eyes losing focus, she smiled, murmuring, “You do suffer the occasional bout of awkwardness, but by and large I would have to deem you articulate.”
Laurence was spared the effort of responding by the arrival of Chase and the discussion and selection of appetizers. After topping off both champagne flutes, Chase disappeared. Their eyes caught and held. Adelle slipped her hand from his, slid it further up his arm and caressed his forearm.
“How many times a week do you lift weights?” she asked, fingertips tracing along well developed muscles.
“Four if I can fit it in.”
“I’m hard pressed to schedule three sessions,” Adelle said. “My muscle tone has suffered for it.”
Automatically evaluating her bare arms, Dominic wondered if he would have trouble holding both of them down with one hand while he did interesting things to her body with the other. He shook his head to dispel the thought. “It doesn’t show,” he murmured.
“That is kind of you to say, Laurence, but—.”
He smiled. “You think that was flattery?”
“You’ve done it before,” she said.
“I called you an unparalleled liar,” he said. “You called it flattery. Most women would find it offensive.”
“I’m not most women.”
“Truer words have never been spoken,” he muttered.
“What separates me from the pack, Laurence?” she asked in a tone that surprised him.
“Why do you say that like it’s a bad thing,” he asked.
“Isn’t it?” She sighed and drained her champagne. “Sometimes I feel it is. I feel it is right now.” Spearing him with an astute glance, she said, “If I was Giselle, we’d have had sex on the plane and in our hotel room by this point. I wouldn’t be feeling so … on edge. I’d be laughing with expensive sheets twisted around my body.”
Where the hell are the appetizers?
“I’d be looking up into your lovely eyes and you would be telling me how beautiful I am, even though my hair would be a mess and my makeup in an absurd state, and how sorry you are for the slight bruise on my hip you gave me when you lost control and telling me what you plan to do to me a little later when we both get our breath back.”
C’mon Chase, tell Chef Pierre to move his ass.
“Am I so different from Giselle, Laurence?”
“Yes,” he said, emphatic, intense. “You’re different women. Totally different women.”
“She’s younger, more beautiful, better in bed,” Adelle whispered.
“For Christ’s sake!” he exploded. “What do you want from me, Adelle? I slept with Giselle. I wanted to from the moment I met her. So I did. The sex was spectacular, but that’s all there was between us. I didn’t want her respect. I didn’t care if she listened to a word I said. I wanted her body. Her mind didn’t interest me. I know how callous this sounds, believe me, but I’m a guy. Sometimes, it’s just about the sex.”
“Certainly is,” Chase announced as he put the two luscious appetizers in front of them, handing them small plates and wishing them bon appetite.
Dominic looked everywhere but at Adelle. Out the window. At the appetizers. His plate. His champagne flute. Around the restaurant.
“Is it ever really simply about the sex, Laurence? Other than with a prostitute, perhaps.” When he said nothing and studiously examined the piece of sautéed calamari on his plate, she said, “I saw how you looked at her in both of those pictures. It wasn’t merely lust between you.”
“No it wasn’t,” he muttered, “but it’s not what you think either.”
She cupped his chin in her hand and raised his head. “I’m intrigued. Will you explain the attraction?”
“It’s not the attraction, I’m talking about, Adelle. It’s the … the recognition.” Resisting the urge to free his chin, he sighed. “In more ways than one, Giselle reminded me of me. A younger, less cynical version of me. And, no, I don’t think I’m in a narcissistic place here.” Pushing his food around on his plate, he said, “It’s more that she hasn’t had the disillusioning experiences yet. The things that’ll force her to realize what she does is a job a lot of people don’t have the stomach for are in her future. Her moral fiber hasn’t been tested. Despite the sexy walk, seductive voice and skills at sex, she’s innocent. I wanted to spare her what she’ll come to realize about the life she’s chosen as much as I wanted her.”
“You surprise me, Mr. Dominic,” Adelle said. “When did the two of you meet?”
“The last time we were in Zurich,” he said, sipping his champagne. “You were in a meeting. I was waiting for you at the bar, because I had a good sight line to the door of the conference room you were in. Giselle sat down next to me. We talked.”
“Just talked?” Adelle asked.
“Yeah,” Dominic said, instinctively allowing a small smile.
“Tell me about your first meeting with Giselle,” she said.
“Ms. … ah … Adelle this isn’t an appropriate topic for … ah … a … um … date.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” she said, glancing down at the menu. “Do you mind if I order for you, Laurence?”
“No,” he said, pushing his menu and the wine list toward her.
“Talk,” she said.
* * *
“Is it always this boring?”
Dominic turned his head toward the tall, striking brunette who had taken the seat to his right. “Pretty much,” he replied with a shrug, trying to determine the young woman’s age. “But after you’ve been to a number of them, you don’t really even notice how boring they are. They pass in a same old, same old blur.”
She laughed, leaning closer, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Is that your way of telling me things will get better?”
He smiled. “In a way, yes.” The vision in a very scant deep purple dress looked him over. “Do I pass inspection?” he asked.
“I expected you to be … different,” she said.
Tilting his head, regarding her much more closely, Laurence said, “You had expectations with respect to me, Miss …?”
“Giselle,” she said, planting a gentle kiss on his cheek. “I imagined the infamous Laurence Dominic as more of a linebacker than a swimmer.”
Sipping his drink, Dominic returned his attention to the conference room. “Sorry to disappoint, Giselle.”
“I never said I was disappointed.”
Chuckling, he said, “No, you didn’t. I stand corrected.”
“You’re seated,” she said, smiling in a way that took Dominic’s breath away, placing her other hand on his chest.
“What are you after, Giselle?” he asked.
“The attention of an attractive man,” she replied, idly toying with his tie.
“What are they taking bets on?” he asked, jutting his chin toward a group of young security people at the other end of the bar.
She grinned at him and kissed him lightly on the mouth. “Whether or not you’ll come upstairs with me. I stand to make a killing.”
“I’m not going upstairs with you, Giselle.”
“I know.” Kissing him a little harder, smiling against his mouth when he responded, she whispered, “I’m counting on your trademark restraint.” Turning gorgeous imploring brown eyes on him, she said, “Don’t fail me.”
“I’ll do my best,” he said, fighting a smile and losing.
Giselle slipped a piece of paper into his breast pocket. “Do you have vacation days available?” she asked. He nodded. Her hand meandered to his abdomen. “Come to Barcelona. I promise you won’t regret it.” Hand drifting lower, she said, “You’ll enjoy yourself, Laurence.”
“I don’t doubt that,” he said, a hint of breathlessness in his tone.
“Good,” Giselle said, standing between their barstools, kissing him one last time.
* * *
“Her mind didn’t interest you after that?” Adelle asked, clearly skeptical. “She won her bet and sunk her hook into you at the same time.”
“And recognized that if she’d stayed with me for much longer, she’d have lost her bet,” Dominic muttered, hoping the decision to trust his instincts wasn’t a bad one.
“Perhaps I require a more thorough description of the dress.”
Laurence stared at the decimated appetizers for a moment, thinking he’d liked the calamari slightly better than the assortment of tiny savory puff pastries. “A lot of thigh and breast exposure. Shoulders nearly bare. Her back pretty much was. Tight fitting everywhere else. She looked incredible.” He shrugged and looked out the window. “Her mind was the furthest thing from mine.”
“Are you ready to order dinner, madam?” Chase asked, as two bus boys bustled around him to clear their table.
“I think we’ll finish our champagne before deciding,” Adelle said.
“Very good, madam.”
“What prompted you to go to Barcelona when you did, Laurence?” Adelle asked, shifting in her chair, straining the material of her dress in an eye arresting manner. “And the south of France?”
“Topher.” He laughed as Adelle’s eyebrows shot toward the ceiling. “He was being insufferable and I just needed a break. When I got to Spain, I found out Giselle was going to the south of France with some friends to hang out and visit her mother. So I tagged along.”
“Did this tagging along of yours involve nude beaches?” she asked, twirling her champagne flute.
“Where’s a camera when you need one?” Adelle said. Shared laughter felt good. More champagne didn’t hurt either. “I wonder how I might compete with this exquisite young woman you wanted to protect and please.”
“There’s no competition,” he said.
She sighed. “I’ve lost before I’ve begun to fight. How humbling.”
Her tone jabbed something buried very deep within him. “I told you, Adelle. The two of you are so different it’s almost impossible to classify you both as women.” He frowned. “Or maybe it isn’t that you’re different. It might be that the difference is all in how I view the two of you.”
“Giselle is fun.” He gestured to their table to preface his analogy. “She’s a snack. You … you’re everything else. The multi-course gourmet meal. And that is not some sort of slam on your weight. It speaks to your depth. There’s so much more to you than there is to Giselle. Layers and facets and … plots within plots. She’s instant gratification. You’re something to savor over a long time.” He lowered his head into his hands. “I can’t believe I just said that.”
“Why ever not?” she asked.
“I’m not supposed to think of you that way.”
“I thought we agreed to pretend to pretend,” Adelle whispered, abandoning his forearm to stroke the inside of his wrist with her nails.
“I won’t, damn it,” he muttered. “I can’t.” Looking around with a desperation he’d never before felt, he added, “This is nuts. This whole charade. Non-charade. Whatever the fuck we’re doing.”
“Laurence,” Adelle called, soft, gentle, persuasive tone drawing his eyes to hers. “May I tell you what your words inspired in me?”
That pleased smile has to go. “I don’t care,” he snarled. Why the fuck is she still smiling? You say ‘I don’t care’ to a woman she’s supposed to get angry or upset, preferably both. Not look at you indulgently while she orders two of the seafood specials and a bottle of Pinot Noir for dinner. Damn it, Adelle! What is wrong with you?
“Perhaps I should show you,” she said, framing his face with her hands, staring into his eyes, leaning across the table, kissing him firmly, with slowly increasing passion. Adelle murmured, “I want you,” against his lips before retaking her seat. Leaning back in her chair, crossing her legs, she was a picture of relaxed sexy confidence. “I intend to have you as soon as can reasonably be arranged.”
“Whether I like it or not?” he muttered.
“Oh, you’ll like it, Laurence.” Her smile drove a spike of desire through his body. “You’re already thinking about it, aren’t you?” She laughed at his stubborn refusal to respond. “Have you noticed the size of the bed in our suite?” she asked. Without pause for a response she no doubt expected wasn’t forthcoming, Adelle added, “We’re going to make use of every inch of it.”
“Adelle, stop.” Dominic drained his champagne just as Marten arrived with the wine and Chase with the appropriate glassware.
“I look forward to changing your mind,” she said, watching the ritual removal of the cork with the politeness of an experienced restaurant patron. Her eyes never left Laurence as she dutifully smelled the cork and tasted the wine. “This will suit,” she said, prompting Marten to pour and leave.
“I’m not going to change my mind, Adelle. I don’t know what I was thinking to play along with this so far.” Dominic frowned. “Stop looking at me like I’m an idiot.”
“You aren’t an idiot,” she murmured, putting her hand on top of his. “You’re far too tense and thinking much too much.”
“One of us has to think about this,” he muttered, recklessly taking a huge swallow of red wine, the light yet rich explosion of flavor surprising him. “Excellent,” he muttered.
“You’re over analyzing the scenario, Laurence. Relax.”
“I can’t relax around you.”
She nodded, but Laurence doubted it was in agreement. “We do need to work on that,” she said. A silence fraught with tension fell. Laurence tried to focus on his wine, the art displayed on the opposite wall, the facts he recalled from the files he’d reviewed on Adelle’s potential enemies, his seafood special. His eyes were not with the program. They strayed to Adelle’s face, her eyes, her lips, her throat, bare arms, perfectly displayed chest. Her knowing, utterly provocative smile every time she caught him looking.
“I want you, Laurence.” Those words spoken in that damn phone sex voice flowed through him, demanding and receiving a response from his body. “I need to experience your surrender. To feel you lose control. I’ll go mad if I don’t.”
“Adelle, stop.” Dominic winced, hearing the plea in his voice.
“I can’t,” she whispered. “Believe me, I wish I could. I dislike being at your mercy.”
“At … at my mercy?”
“Of course,” she said, tone eminently agreeable. “Do you imagine I speak this frankly and openly of my needs to all of my lovers?”
“I think you say and do whatever it takes to break them to the bit.”
Laughter spontaneous and happy, Adelle said, “I do enjoy how your mind works. The leaps of logic you make when under the influence of … emotional stress are quite fascinating. Someone should conduct an analysis of them.” Adelle leaned forward, lowered her voice to establish utmost intimacy. “I have no present intention to break you, Laurence. That will come later, if we please each other as I suspect we might.”
“Later?” Dominic managed, shifting in his chair in an effort to get more comfortable.
“Would you care to look at a dessert menu?” Chase asked.
Adelle beamed up at the waiter. “No thank you, Chase.” She aimed a very different smile at Laurence. “We have quite excellent chocolate back in our hotel room.”
“Of course, madam. May I take your plates?”
Dominic tried to think as Chase and friends cleared their table. “I hope you don’t mind if we go back to the hotel, Laurence.” Ignore the humor in Adelle’s voice, Dominic shrugged as though he had no opinion on the matter. “I really need to get out of this dress,” she added, laughing at his heavy sigh. “Shall I strip for you?”
“Don’t tell me to stop again, Laurence,” she said. “I’m enjoying myself immensely.”
“I can tell.”
“Aren’t you?” she challenged.
“You know exactly what you’re doing to me,” he said, gesturing vaguely with his wine glass.
“I know what I wanted to do to you,” she said, taking his hand, resisting his minimal effort to pull back. “I’d like to know what I’ve accomplished. Will you tell me?”
“What do you expect me to say to that?” he demanded, but with little force.
“I’d like you to say, ‘I’m so aroused; I’m tempted to take you on this table, but I fear Chef Pierre and his meat cleaver might misinterpret the goings on with tragic results.’”
Dominic choked on his wine. Adelle smirked.
“Is everything all right, sir,” Chase asked.
“Yes,” Dominic muttered, glaring at Adelle who stared back with an expression of perfect innocence. “You’re even more twisted than I thought,” he said.
“You have no inkling of how twisted I might be, Laurence,” she asserted. “But I’m willing to offer full disclosure on that point.”
He smiled. “So that’s what you’re offering,” he said. “I misunderstood.”
They stared at each other when Chase placed the check to Dominic’s left. Without looking away from Adelle, he took out his wallet and placed his corporate credit card on the table. Chase whisked the items away.
“Nothing is off limits, Laurence.” Responding to his immediate, full on smirk, she added, “Nothing involving the two of us and only the two of us having sex.”
“I see,” he said, taking the check back from Chase to sign the credit card receipt. “A far cry from an unqualified ‘nothing,’ but reasonably all inclusive nonetheless.”
“What leapt to your mind when I said, ‘Nothing was off limits?’”
Laughing, he shook his head. “I’m not going to answer that question.”
“Yes, you are,” she demanded, looking incredibly gorgeous and sternly British.
“Let’s just say it involved a French poodle and leave it at that.”
“You called me twisted, Laurence?” Adelle looked at him as if he’d grown a second head. “A French poodle?”
“The whole British-French rivalry thing made it seem … um … appropriate in a twisted sort of way.”
“You are a very strange man.”
“Thanks,” he said, standing, moving behind her chair to help her out of it. “I’d like to think I’m not dull, bland or ordinary.”
“No, those words don’t come to mind when I think of you,” she murmured, taking the hand he offered. Nodding to Chase, Marten and hugging Charles briefly, Adelle allowed Laurence to steer her out of the restaurant. The moment they emerged onto the narrow street, she said, “Let’s hail a cab.”
“Adelle, it took us less than ten minutes to walk here,” he said.
Just before they merged with the wider avenue, she stopped him with a hand on his chest. Smiling up at him, she unbuttoned his suit jacket and slid her hand lower to caress his silk clad abdomen. “I don’t want to wait,” she whispered before pulling his head down for a kiss that deepened, lengthened and left them both breathless.
“Taxi,” he muttered, arm around her waist directing her out into the open. A cab immediately appeared in front of them. Laurence helped Adelle in, went around to the other side and entered. She gave the name of her hotel. He pulled her onto his lap. Adelle caressed his face. Dominic rubbed his hands along her back. She untucked his silk T-shirt. He slid a hand along her thigh. Adelle unbuckled his belt. Laurence toyed with the fabric of her underwear. She yawned. He frowned. Adelle’s body went limp and she collapsed into a half reclined position. “Adelle?” he said. “What the hell is going on?”
Dominic’s head felt heavy. He met the taxi driver’s triumphant eyes in the rear view mirror. In super slow motion, he drew his side arm. Dominic couldn’t seem to lift it. Not even with both hands. Whispering, “I’m sorry,” he fell onto Adelle, trying as consciousness faded to shield her body with his own.