The Briefcase

The airport was fogged in again. It was not a good start to her holiday.

Anna decided to peruse the shops for the third time while waiting for it to lift and was flicking through a magazine in W.H. Smith's when she saw him. He was what her favourite novels would call darkly handsome, but since Anna's romantic side was firmly tempered with common sense, she thought that she would describe him as grim.

Maybe if she hadn't been so bored waiting, she never would have approached him but there was something about him that caught her eye and, her curiosity aroused, she took the magazine over to pay for it.

His boarding pass lay on the counter as he fumbled in his briefcase. His was the same flight as hers, though he was seated in business class. Anna gave a mental shrug. He would probably be too busy using his laptop to make conversation even in the unlikely hope that they had been sitting together.

There was still that edgy curiosity dictating her actions, however. Should she strike up a conversation now? What would she say?

Suddenly it didn't matter. Dropping her bag down on the counter she managed to knock over a display of mints and as she bent to pick up the small white tablets, he hit her on the head with his briefcase.

The impact sent her sprawling to the floor where she sat for a moment, rubbing at the sore spot on her forehead. In moments he was down on his knees, using his monogrammed handkerchief to dab at the spots of blood that appeared.

"I'm so sorry!" he exclaimed. "I didn't mean....you need...Let me help you up." He finally uttered a complete sentence.

"No.." she gasped. "I'll be fine. I just need to sit here for a moment...."

The clerk had come around the counter. "Miss, I think you need to get some ice on that. It'll keep the swelling down. The cafe next door has some booths in the back."

She knew she needed to get some first aid for the bruise and let Mr. Grim help her up, detecting the scent of a delicious aftershave as he did so. Her shoe slipped on one of the stray mints and her arms flew around him in her attempt to right herself. She burned with embarrassment and could barely bring herself to meet his eye as he steadied her, a strong arm gripping her firmly about the waist.

"I'll bring her bags," the clerk offered, eager to have a legitimate excuse to escape his booth, even for only a few minutes.

Leaning on his arm, Anna allowed him to guide her into the cafe and they found a corner booth. The shop clerk set the bags down and asked for some ice from the waitress before taking a reluctant departure.

The ice pack helped to lessen the pain to a dull throb and the quiet interval helped her to regain some of her composure. It was just typical that when she wanted someone to think well of her such a stupid accident would happen.

"What flight are you on?" Mr. Grim enquired when she gave him a rather weak smile in response to his anxious look.

"445."

"To Gatwick?" He looked a little surprised. "Same as mine. Well, the least I can do is to get you some room so you can be more comfortable." He pulled his mobile from his inner pocket and dialed the airline. Sure enough, there were open seats in business class. "Now to see if the flight actually leaves," he smiled, obviously well satisfied with his endeavors on her behalf.

"You're very kind... It's only a bump..." It had been a long time since Anna had been so spoilt, but she felt a little guilty about letting him pick up the tab for the upgrade.

"Not at all," he replied firmly, "as I said, it's the least I can do." He reached across and gently lifted the pack, eyeing the bruise underneath with troubled eyes.

"You're still terribly pale," he murmured, half to himself.

"I'll be all right," Anna hoped her smile didn't look as sick as she felt and hurried on, "I'm Anna Lacey."

His smile totally changed his face, easing the stern lines and adding a warmth to his features. "Alastair Hughes."

Anna noticed a small drop of blood on his shirt. She must have scratched him when he kept her from falling a second time. Examining his face, she found the source. "I'm sorry about your chin," Anna said, biting her lip.

He fingered the cut and then shrugged, smiling, "It's nothing. I do worse to myself shaving." Actually, he had not felt it at the time, but now it stung a bit.

The speaker in the cafe crackled, making Anna wince. After much unintelligible noise, they managed to make out that the fog was lifting and flights would resume within an hour.

Anna thought the wheelchair ride to the gate was a little ridiculous, but it did get her on the plane before everyone else. And Alastair insisted on pushing, relegating the gate agent to carrying their bags. He made sure she was comfortable, then went to take the wheelchair back to the jetway, tossing his suit jacket on the seat next to Anna before he did so.

A soft thud caught Anna's attention and she noticed a calendar had fallen from his pocket, it's pages ruffling open in the breeze from the open door. There were certain dates circled in thick, black marker. She hurriedly put the book back in his pocket before he returned.

Alastair brought with him a blanket and pillow on his return. He installed Anna in the window seat shaking the blanket out to its full size and tucking it snugly around her against the chill left by the fog.

"Can I get you something to drink?" he asked. The flight attendant was nearing their row, taking orders.

When she nodded, the motion made Anna's head begin to throb more. She closed her eyes against the sudden pain, but was too slow to hide her reaction from him. He got up and, after searching in his briefcase overhead, handed her a small bottle of paracetemol.

She accepted gratefully.

"I'll get you some juice," he said and in moments, a small glass of orange juice was set before her. She swallowed the pills and leaned her head back against the cushions, hoping they would take effect quickly.

Anna was not a good traveler, but the combinations of the paracetemol, the warmth from the blanket and the comfort afforded by the larger seat eased her into a doze that she only woke from when she heard voices nearby.

"Does the lady want something to eat do you think?" Alastair's deeper voice was lost in the aircraft noise and since she found herself suddenly hungry she opened her eyes. The stewardess, noticing, smiled at her,

"How are you feeling?" Anna pushed the blanket down from under her chin where Alastair had obviously tucked it as she slept.

"Better, thank you." He had turned as the stewardess addressed her and smiled, relief tingeing his face.

"Would you like something to eat?"

"Yes, please." He leaned across her to pull down her tray, allowing her another whiff of his aftershave, his nearness causing a flutter in her stomach that she couldn't quite put down to hunger.

"Miss Lacey, I'm afraid I have a confession to make." Anna, caught up with marveling at the novelty of having proper cutlery and porcelain plates on an airplane, took a moment to register his words.

"I'm sorry?" He hesitated, his eyes fixed intently on her face,

"You... you work for Campbell's International, don't you." Anna felt the hairs on the back of her neck begin to prickle and her appetite abruptly deserted her.

"Yes," she answered flatly, putting down her fork and turning away from him slightly.

"Please..." He broke off and sighed, "all I wanted to say was that I had seen you before. That you had..." He changed his mind, "I suppose I can't blame you," he continued thoughtfully, "it does sound a little as if I've been er... stalking you." Anna fiddled with the neat arrangement of her roll, butter and condiment package.

"Miss Lacey?" He sounded so nervous that she found herself looking up. "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you. If I hadn't hit you with my case..." Anna stared as he actually seemed to blush.

"It's all right," she found herself assuring him and was surprised to realise that it was. There was something flattering about the idea that she had caught his eye as he had caught hers. She wondered if she should tell him.

"It was an accident," he pursued as if she had expressed disbelief.

"I know," she reassured him, oddly touched that such a self-assured man could sound so uncertain. "It was probably partly my fault, bending down where you wouldn't see me." She offered him a smile and he visibly relaxed.


The announcement to fasten their seatbelts came as a surprise to both and Anna looked at him, suddenly dismayed. He gave her a rueful smile,

"I never knew time could pass so quickly," he said quietly.

"No," she agreed, a little overwhelmed by the feeling of loss.

"Could I..."

"Do you think..." They spoke at the same time and then stopped, each looking self-conscious.

"Ladies' first," Alastair said. Anna took a breath,

"Do you think we could.... meet up?" He smiled broadly,

"I'd like that."

"I could give you my mobile number."

"Yes, please," he replied, giving Anna a look that made her stomach twist strangely. He wrote her number on the back of a business card, which he then placed carefully in his wallet.

"I'm staying at the Hilton. I'll call you," he promised.

The ping of the seatbelt sign coincided with the stewardess' voice welcoming them to London Gatwick. Alastair rose to pull down his jacket and briefcase while Anna fumbled with her seatbelt.

Oddly flustered by a feeling that something special was occurring and unable to explain to herself what it was, Anna almost fell as she rose to her feet. Warm hands caught her arms,

"Anna?" They had exchanged first names early on into the flight. Why hadn't she noticed the way he spoke it before: drawing out the vowels into a caress. "Are you still feeling unwell?"

"No." Her denial was breathless and rather slow in coming. He helped her out from between the seats but maintained his hold on her arms.

"I think you should take my arm. Let me help you." She didn't protest when Alastair slid his arm around her. She didn't care if his pretext was to support her, it just felt good. They left the aircraft and made their way up the jetway.

Anna had totally forgotten that Michael was to meet her plane. When she saw his face, he scooped her into his arms in a bear hug. When she pulled away to introduce them, Alastair was lost in the crowd, the trolley of her luggage that he had been pushing, abandoned behind her. She twisted this way and that searching for him, only slightly aware of the pain she caused her head as a more dreadful pain tore at her heart. Where was he?

Once, she thought she espied Alastair's head far in front of them, but calling his name would be fruitless in the crush of people.

"Anna! Hey, wait!" Michael caught at Anna's arm, preventing her from diving into the crowd.

"He's gone," she whispered disconsolately.

"What was all that about?" Anna turned reluctantly as her cousin tugged insistently at her arm.

"It doesn't matter." Michael frowned as he caught sight of the bruise on her forehead.

"What happened to your head?"

"A briefcase hit me."

"A bri.... Annie, I think you had better tell me what is going on." She sighed heavily and nodded. Her head was aching again.

Retrieving the trolley, Michael pushed it towards the car park, his head bent to catch the tumble of words as they flowed from Anna's lips.

"This guy..."

"His name," Anna interrupted frostily, "is Alastair." Michael paused and eyed her thoughtfully,

"It's important to you, Annie, isn't it?" Her throat closed up and she nodded. "Can't you just call him?"

"I don't have his number. He took mine, but... Michael!" She clutched at his arm, stopping the trolley so abruptly that it swung dangerously round, nearly knocking over a lady walking behind them. Ignoring her glare, Anna continued excitedly,

"Michael, he's staying at the Hilton. We could go and find him there."

"Great idea. Do you know how many Hilton's there are in London? Not to mention the one here in Gatwick."

"Oh." Anna subsided, discouraged. Michael sighed softly and, righting the trolley, started them moving again,

"Come on. I have a directory at the flat. We can ring the hotels and ask if Mr... You do have his surname, don't you."

"It's Hughes," Anna beamed up at him. "Thank you, Michael!"


"He's staying at the London Hilton on Mayfair. Rich man," Michael whistled softly as he put the phone down. Anna jumped up from her chair,

"I'll get a taxi!"

"If you wait I can...." The slam of the front door cut off Michael's offer to drive and he was left grinning and shaking his head.

Anna felt instantly scruffy as she entered the hotel. In the course of their conversation on the plane, Alastair had mentioned that he had been bribed with an enormous expense account to drop everything and come to London, but it wasn't until seeing the opulence of the hotel that she began to appreciate the meaning of his words.

While Michael had phoned the hotels she had only left him to brush her hair, wash her hands and stare in shock at the extent of the bruise on her head. It was no wonder that Alastair had fussed over as he had.

The thought was not encouraging. Doubts as to the extent of their friendship immediately began to raise their head. He was a virtual stranger who had only been kind to her out of guilt. She was messy, bruised and out of place.

Anna began to back out of the door she had just entered.

"Can I help you, Miss?" She jumped as a voice addressed her and a smiling porter approached. "Can I help?"

"Um... I'm looking for a Mr Alastair Hughes," she blurted. The porter nodded and gestured to his right,

"If you were to ask at Reception, they would be able to help you."

"Thank you." Knowing she would look a fool if she just turned and left now, Anna made her way over to the desk. The woman behind smiled a welcome and moved to check on her computer when she had heard Anna's request.

"He's in Room 312. Would you like me to tell him you're here?"

"No, no, it's all right."

"The lifts are just over to your left." Anna took a deep breath. She had come this far; she couldn't back out now.

"Anna!" Surprise washed over Alastair's face as he opened the door, but just as quickly, the grim mask, that she hadn't seen since that morning in the airport, returned. Anna's felt her mouth work soundlessly as she looked anywhere but at that discouraging expression.

"Anna?"

"Michael is my cousin," she burst out, finally and then felt hot colour surge up her cheeks.

"Ah," he said wryly, "I see."

"I... I just wanted you to know..."

"You came all the way here just to tell me that." She finally found the courage to look up and discovered that his eyes were twinkling down at her. Behind the amusement was a warmth of regard that had her holding her breath.

"Alastair?"

"Things have moved rather fast today, haven't they, Anna?" A brush off. Anna felt her heart sink and made a move as if to turn away. His voice stopped her,

"When I saw you and that other man, I realised how little I knew about you, and you of me. I told you that you had... no, I didn't, did I.... Anna, I noticed you the very first time I walked into your office, but it wasn't until I hit you with my briefcase that I found the courage to speak to you." He paused, as if to judge her reaction to his words, "I don't want to force unwelcome attentions on you," he finished a little awkwardly.

"You haven't."

"And if you already have someone in your life..."

"No," she interrupted and then blushed at the alacrity of her reply.

"I'm glad," he murmured and she watched, mesmerized, as he bent his head and brushed a light kiss on the bruise. "I've been wanting to do that for hours."

"You have?" She could barely get the words out, such was the effect of his gesture.

"Does it still hurt?" Anna opened her mouth to say that it didn't and then had a better idea,

"I think it needs another."

"Kiss it better, you mean?" She nodded, unable to speak as she saw the expression in his eyes. "Like this?" He bent again.

"Or like this?" His head dipped further and touched his lips to hers in a caress so tender Anna felt tears come to her eyes.

"I think... the second." He smiled,

"I think you're right," he agreed.

 

Alastair's Story

Alastair saw her the moment he walked into the reception area of Campbell International.

She was standing by the desk, enjoying a joke that the receptionist was telling her and as he watched, she laughed. His heart twisted in his chest and, as she turned and gave him an absent smile, her eyes still bright with her delight in the story, he felt a tingle run down his arms and his briefcase almost dropped from a suddenly weakened grip.

"Sir? May I help you?" The woman behind the desk broke through his mental paralysis and he turned towards her reluctantly, wondering if there was a way that he could find out the girl's name.


He had blown it.

He had been at the offices for three days and had seen her, Anna, every day. He knew her name, her extension and her partiality to Wispa chocolate bars, but had never managed to pluck up the courage to actually go across and speak to her. And now he was on his way to London.

Drop everything, his boss had said, get to London. This is a big deal, no expense spared.

Alastair groaned softly. If only he had found the nerve to speak to her. Someone else would cover Campbell International's system problems and he would never see her again. It was rare that such a large company brought in consultants.

Disconsolately, he lifted his briefcase and started across to the bookshop. The fog seemed to be set in and if he was in for a long wait he might as well have something to read.

He needed a comedy. Something whacky and out of this world to distract him. Terry Pratchett. Perfect. He already owned all his books, but, as his boss had said, no expense spared. At least if he was going to wallow in self-pity, he would wallow in comfort.

Oblivious to the people around him, he laid the book and his boarding pass on the counter and then searched in his pockets for his wallet. Not there. The counter wasn't large enough to take all the sweets, papers, till and his briefcase, so he fumbled it open with one hand.

His papers, hastily stuffed inside, immediately started to slip and he grabbed at them frantically with his free even as his grip on the handle began to slip. A tremor reverberated up his arm and he realised, to his horror, that he had hit someone.

"I'm so sorry!" He swung round, dropping the recalcitrant case on the ground. It was her. Anna. For a frozen moment all he could take in was the blood trickling from a cut on her forehead and then his manners took over and he sank to one knee beside her sprawled figure,

"I didn't mean...you need..." He took a breath and managed to get out a coherent sentence, "let me help you up."

"No. I'll be fine. I just need to sit here for a moment..." Her voice trailed away and her face went alarmingly pale. Alastair reached out to grip her arms as she rocked backwards.

"Easy," he murmured, horrified at what he had done. Please, he prayed, please don't let her have a concussion. He was vaguely aware of the clerk offering aid and recommending ice and carefully eased his arm under her shoulders to help her up.

What should have been a delightful first sensation of her body close to his was marred by the knowledge that he was the cause of her current distress. Her foot slipped and he drew her closer, letting his arm slip to her waist, miserably aware of the warmth of her body pressed against his.

The clerk lifted their bags and somehow, as Alastair made sure that the man picked up all the right things, Anna moved out of the circle of his arm. She wavered a little as she stood and he offered his arm.

Next door, the waitress dashed to fetch ice while Alastair seated his companion and turned to the clerk.

"Thanks."

"Do you think she needs a doctor? She looks pretty bad." Alastair winced, but the brief walk had helped him to regain some balance and he spoke calmly,

"I'll wait and see if the ice helps first. If not, I'm sure the waitress will contact someone for me." The clerk looked crestfallen and Alastair realised, with a wry inward smile, that this was probably as exciting as his job got.

"Thanks for all your help. It was quick thinking, that ice," he acknowledged. The man brightened, nodded and handed Alastair his briefcase.

"I put your boarding card back, but your um... book..."

"Don't worry about it," Alastair replied firmly, "it wasn't that important." He could always buy one later.

He slid into the seat opposite Anna. She seemed to have recovered a little of her colour and gave him a wan smile. His heart twisted inside him again and he opened his mouth to enquire after her health.

"What flight are you on?" He could quite happily have hit his head against the wall of the booth. She must think him a total imbecile. First he clonked her on the head with his case and now he was asking her flight number?

"445." She looked a little surprised, but to his relief answered readily enough.

"To Gatwick? Same as mine." He hurried on in the hopes of covering his gaffe, his composure faltering again as he realised that it was the same as him. She wouldn't be sitting next to him, he couldn't ask that, but... "Well, the least I can do is to get you some room so you can be more comfortable." He reached into his pocket out pulled out his mobile. The airline was the last number he had dialled, so it was easy to recall the number from the memory.

The attendant was very helpful; yes, there were still seats available in business class. Yes, the one next to his. An upgrade? No problem sir.

He would have an interesting few minutes trying to justify that to his boss later on, but for the moment he could just revel in the pleasure of having her next to him for a few hours longer.

"All sorted. Now to see if the flight actually leaves."

"You're very kind.... It's only a bump..." She looked uncomfortable, spots of colour burning in her pale cheeks and he instantly reassured her, trying to ease her embarrassment.

"Not all. As I said, it's the least I can do." Almost without thought he reached across the narrow table and gently lifted the icepack. The bruise was already colouring a dark purple, though thankfully the blood had dried.

"You're still terribly pale." He spoke without realising and felt his own face heat as she tried to reassure him this time,

"I'll be all right." Her smile wobbled but she continued bravely, "I'm Anna Lacey." A genuine smile, his first for days, curved his lips at this unlooked for introduction. Could it mean that she wasn't going to run from him at the first opportunity?

"Alastair Hughes."

She said something else, but he barely heard her, or his automatic reply as his heart sang at her friendliness. Surely, here was reason to hope and he had the flight to strengthen this new acquaintance and maybe, by the end of it, be given her address.

A crackling over the tannoy announcing the lifting of the fog and the departure of most of the flights broke through his imaginings and he was struck with a sudden idea. Accepting the icepack from Anna, he took it over to the waitress and added another request.

"No problem, sir. It'll be waiting for you at the entrance to the gate." He nodded, satisfied and went back to the table where Anna was trying to hide her need to lean against the edge of the booth.

The wheelchair was waiting as the waitress had promised. Anna hesitated and looked up at him, her expression one of disbelief.

"It's a long walk," he pointed out softly, not wanting to embarrass her, but unwilling to let her overtax herself either.

"I don't think it's necessary," she said, but her denial lacked force and he took advantage of her weakness to steer her towards it and seat her.

"I'll push, if you wouldn't mind taking our bags." The gate agent shrugged acquiescence and Alastair hastened to claim his position and get the chair moving before Anna could get out.

With the stewardess' help, he soon had Anna comfortable; a pillow placed behind her head and a blanket folded around her to keep off the chill that came from the door.

"Can I get you something to drink?" She nodded and then flinched, her eyes shutting but not quick enough to hide the sudden flare of pain in her eyes. He recalled the painkillers he habitually carried in his briefcase and rose to find them.

She swallowed the pills and then leaned her head back, her eyes drifting shut. Alastair put the little bottle back in his case and then sat watching her. It was the first time that he was able to examine her up close without her knowledge and he let his eyes drift slowly over her features.

She wasn't his usual choice in women. He had always gone for the self-possessed businesswoman before, probably because they were all that he ever met; not a hair of their chic bobs out of place, their navy suits immaculate, every accessory matching. Anna had always worn slightly more casual, feminine attire when at work and was now clad in soft grey trousers and a bluey green top thing. A necklace, the only jewelry she wore, shimmered silver highlights whenever she moved.

She wasn't beautiful in the way that he would describe the word, but very attractive; especially when she smiled or laughed.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, so quietly she could never have heard him, even sitting as close as they were. He leaned over and tenderly tucked the blanket over her shoulders and under her chin. Her head had drifted slightly to one side and as the plane banked for the turn over the airport towards London, the sun streamed through the window illuminating her face and highlighting her hair with gold.

He couldn't resist the urge that made him reach across and touch the side of his finger to the softness of her cheek. She stirred and he snatched his hand back guiltily.

He gave a sigh of relief when she didn't wake and then shook his head at his actions. He settled back in his seat, his eyes fixed absently on his hands resting in his lap.

The power of his feelings for her was almost frightening, especially when he considered that he hardly knew her. From the first moment that he had seen her, he had known she was the woman for him. It wasn't love, he wasn't so foolish as to believe in love at first sight, but it was more than just an attraction to her face or her body. What that something was eluded him though and after chasing it around in his mind for a little, he gave up with a sigh.

"Sir?" The stewardess hovered by his side. "I just thought to enquire after the young lady. She's sleeping?" Involuntarily, Alastair turned his head to check. Yes, the blanket was moving with her breathing. He shook off the ridiculous fear and turned back to the stewardess.

"Yes. She took some painkillers. I'm hoping they might help." She nodded,

"If there's anything I can do, just ask. We'll be serving meals shortly, is there anything I can get you in the meantime? A drink? Newspaper?"

"No." He hated reading newspapers on the plane. They were too large to handle comfortably, even in the wider area given to business class seats. "Thank you." He was left to his thoughts, now following more uneasy paths. Was he reading too much into a vague feeling? Was it possible that anyone could mean so much in such a short time, and would it change when he got to know her? Or worse, would she even want to get to know him.

Alastair shivered and resolutely pulled out the airline magazine. He would concentrate on the Wines of South Africa and the Marble of Italy for a little to distract him.


His firm had booked him into the London Hilton. Alastair barely noticed the luxury of his surroundings as he mechanically went through the motions of signing in and handing over his credit card for any extras.

A porter had relieved him of his case and discreetly disappeared behind a door. A bellboy escorted him to the lifts and another from the lift to his door and showed him how to use the keycard.

The hotel overlooked Hyde Park and Alastair was drawn to the green he could see as a shimmering haze through the window. He leaned on the windowsill and looked down into the park. He imagined he saw Anna there, laughing and happy with the man from the airport.

She had thrown herself into his arms and let him swing her around. Why hadn't he considered the possibility of a boyfriend?

"Fool. Fool. Fool." He switched his shower from cold to hot to cold again and emerged shivering but feeling a little calmer. He turned on the TV as he dressed, hoping the noise would divert his thoughts, but finally switched it off again, irritated by the cheerfulness of the presenters and instead sank into one of the chairs cradling a bottle of beer.

She had woken just as the meal was being delivered and they hadn't stopped talking after that. He had made her laugh by pontificating on the Wines of South Africa and they had discovered a mutual liking for the Merlot grape, strawberries, classical music, praline chocolates and basil in salads. She had revealed her love for period drama and he had reluctantly admitted to having seen Pride and Prejudice. His abashed disclosure had made her chuckle to herself and so he had gained a minor revenge by finding out that her favourite football team was currently losing and in danger of relegation. His teasing had brought an enchanting colour to her cheeks and revealed a staunch loyalty to her team that only endeared her to him even more.

There were many differences in their tastes to discuss and defend and the announcement of their imminent arrival at Gatwick had taken both by surprise. She had given him her mobile number...

Alastair leapt up and groped in the pockets of his suit jacket for his wallet. He sighed with relief and then sank back down onto the bed with a soft groan of anguish. He would never be able to call her. Some men might not scruple to break up a relationship, but he could never be so cruel. Besides, there was no sign that she viewed him as anything other than a friend. The offer had only been to meet up, after all. For a lunch, maybe. With her boyfriend.

It would have been so easy to fall in with love her. He was already half way there.



Alastair slanted a sideways look at Anna. He still couldn't believe that they had kissed. Or that she had liked it. Liked it enough to meet him in Hyde Park that lunchtime.

"What are you thinking about?" He started and caught unawares, admitted,

"You." She coloured delightfully. He wondered if he could think of more things to say to make her blush and watch the sweep of her lashes as she closed her eyes briefly in her embarrassment.

"I can't believe I got through this morning without being fired. I couldn't get you out of my mind."

"Alastair," she reproached him. The pink deepened to rose and he sighed contentedly.

"And you? What are you thinking of?" She looked up, mischief lighting her eyes, a promise of her glorious smile quivering on her lips.

"Your kiss." It was his turn to redden, but then she lifted a hand to stroke his jawline, "I haven't stopped thinking about you either," she whispered. He lifted a hand to touch the bruise, which was, if possible, even more spectacular than the day before. She flinched slightly away as he brushed away the lock of hair she had used to try to cover it.

"Don't look so guilty." He appreciated her effort to reassure him.

"Does it still hurt?"

"No..." She stopped and smiled, obviously recalling the same event as he. "Well, maybe a little. I believe you have a remedy."

"Do you think it still works?" His voice sounded a little hoarse, which wasn't surprising considering the erratic nature of his breathing and heartbeat.

"There's only one way to find out." Alastair hesitated for a long moment, looking down into her eyes. She slid her arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe to do so. It was an irresistible invitation.

"It still works," she murmured against his lips.

"Are you sure?" He pressed her closer and she relaxed even further into his embrace.

"Well...."

Alastair moved to convince her.

 

2001 Copyright held by the author.

 

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