I am stupidly excited and slightly nervous about tonight.
There’s no pretense about this night with Connor – it’s definitely a date, not a casual ‘run into each other and hang out’ kind of thing like our previous not-quite-dates.
Plus, I get to see his flat, which isn’t far from my own, but with a great view of the ocean, but then, he IS on a doctor’s salary, instead of having a flat paid for by a secret agency.
I tug nervously at my skirt, and then heave a deep breath as I ring the doorbell. I can hear Connor’s footsteps inside, and my heart picks up speed and a smile involuntarily spreads across my face.
“Hi,” he says happily, opening the door. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
“Hi,” I say, shrugging out of my coat with his help, which he hangs on a nearby hook. “I’m just glad you had the evening shift off. Must be nice to be moving up the food chain at the hospital and getting to control your time a bit more.”
“It has it perks,” he says, leaning down and kissing me softly on the mouth. “I hope you’re hungry,” he whispers, and I nod, my eyes meeting his.
No way am I about to admit to myself what I’m hungry FOR, though…
“Well, show me around your palace, then…” I tease, as we move away from the front door after a second, longer kiss. I give him a playful shove, and he takes my hand, leading me.
“Bedroom, bedroom, office, loo, other loo, kitchen, dining room, family room. Oh, and balcony, which on nice days I count as a room so I look even more impressive.”
I take in the beautifully coordinated furniture, the tasteful artwork, and the general tidiness of the place. Hrm.
“Um, don’t take this the wrong way, but…”
“Are you gay?” I ask with a teasing grin. “Because this is way too neat and tidy and coordinated to belong to a straight doctor, I’m sorry.”
Connor laughs out loud, even as he walks to the stove and flicks on the oven light to check on dinner, which smells divine. “I have a cleaning lady who comes once a week, and I hired a decorator when I moved here because I’m hopeless at picking out furniture or making things match without looking like I’m colour blind or seriously twisted. I told her I wanted comfortable and masculine, but she got a little carried away when she realized I was a doctor with a fairly steady income. I haven’t changed much because, well, I’m not here half the time. Besides, it works well enough, comfortable wise.”
I walk around the family room, noting the framed personal photographs – the only nod to personalization. Connor and a friend in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Connor as a little boy with an older brother or cousin in a wagon, Connor and a group of friends with hulking backpacks on their shoulders, clearly hiking in the Alps, as well as other tourist-y type photos from all around Europe. “I see you have some personal photos. Touché.”
“I just put those out to impress women with my adventuresome spirit and obvious physical prowess.”
I raise an eyebrow at his very serious tone. “Well, it’s working. I’m about to drop skirt right here.”
“I’ll get my video camera, then,” Connor says, and I laugh out loud. “Hold on a sec…”
“Do you bring a lot of women into this ‘love den’?” I can’t resist asking, and Connor shakes his head.
“I’m not lying,” he says earnestly. “I’ve been working so much in the last few years I haven’t had time for a social life, and the few, very few, women I’ve dated… let’s just say we’ve rarely gotten to a second date, much less to the ‘let’s go to my flat, baby’ portion of the evening,” Connor says with a mixture of embarrassment and honesty.
“Sweetie?” He tries, and I grin.
“Hrm?” He repeats, making it a question.
“I’m considering believing you, but I still this is some sort of love den designed to lure women.”
“Well, that’s the only way I can get them to my laboratory to perform all sorts of terrible procedures on them.”
“Gosh, sexy. What’s for dinner?” I tease, and he laughs, gesturing to a bottle of red wine on the table. I nod, and he pours two glasses.
“Lasagna, salad, and tiramisu for dessert. It’s a whole theme meal and everything. I decided to skip the garlic bread, because I’ve made an executive decision to kiss you a lot later, and didn’t think you’d appreciate it.”
“I love garlic bread,” I tease, and he smiles at me.
“It’s a sacrifice we’ll both have to make, but I’m willing to really go the extra mile.”
I nod, sitting down at the dining room table, smiling at the easy banter as he brings the steaming lasagna to the table. “I hope you’re hungry.”
“What if I’m not hungry for food?” I ask with a raised eyebrow, and Connor half stands.
“Blast, I really need to find that video camera…”
I laugh, and we eagerly begin to eat, talking easily about the last few days, and then covering everything from current news topics to Manchester United to finding the best pub in the county. Connor makes me laugh so much I forget to eat half the time, but eventually, the meals winds to an end, and we clean up the kitchen, easily bumping hips and tangling elbows as we wash dishes and put away plates.
God, I’m so comfortable here.
I almost feel like…
I feel like myself. Like the real Emme. No games, no pretending.
I could get used to this.
We had just settled on his sumptuous leather sofa when my Blackberry jangles from my coat pocket, and I groan in frustration.
“I’m so sorry, I have to get that… it might be a client.”
Connor nods, and I walk quickly to the hallway to retrieve my phone. “Hello?”
Of course it’s Shane, and of course it’s in the middle of my date, I think sullenly.
“Germany is going live earlier than we thought. I need you in London in two hours. We fly out tonight. The intel suggests that Fuelling is going to carry out another high level hit tomorrow morning in Zurich unless we can stop him and his team from even leaving Germany tonight.”
“I…” I say helplessly. “I’m kind of… busy at the moment. It’s going to take me a little while to…”
“I don’t want excuses, Em. I just want you here. You promised me no interference…”
“I know, I know. I’ll be there as soon as I can. I swear.”
“That’s more like it.”
“It’s a good thing I promised to be at your beck and call,” I say with an edge of exasperation, and Shane laughs.
“What every man longs to hear. I’ll upload the mission profile to your Blackberry within the hour.”
“I can’t wait,” I say, already tugging on my coat. “Do you need me to bring anything?” I ask, mentally cataloging my weapons at gadgets at home.
“No, we’ll have everything ready for the mission when you get here. The advance team is already in Frankfort.”
I nod, glad I don’t have to try and bring a weapon through any kind of security. Not that I haven’t done it before…
“Em, I need the best team on this. You know how cagey Fuelling has been in the past, so I think our only hope is to use a woman to get close to him. I know you hate that role, but we have no other mission options.”
“It’s okay. You know I’ll do anything you ask. You know how much I care about us,” I say, thinking of how much time, effort and resources Leukos has spent pursuing Fuelling.
“I’m glad to hear it. You may have to tart this one up, I’m afraid.”
I laugh. “It’s a good thing I promised to love, honor and obey, or else you’d have a fat lip for suggesting I’m a tart.”
Shane laughs on the other end of the line. “I need to prepare the briefing. I’ll see you in two hours.”
“I’ll see you then. Bye.”
We ring off, and I squeeze my eyes shut, wishing I didn’t have to do what I’m about to do.
I walk back into the family room, my coat on and my purse slung across my shoulder. Connor is standing by his balcony door, looking out at the dark night. I ache to wrap my arms around his broad shoulders. “Connor, I’m so, so sorry to eat and run, but I have a…” I almost said mission, but bit my tongue in time. “…a client with an urgent need to meet with me. He’s a little high strung, and needs a lot of hand holding. I’m going to have to go to London tonight so we can meet in the morning. I’m so sorry…”
Connor turns around slowly, his face a little stony despite the forced smile on it. “Sure. Yeah. Work comes first. I understand.”
I sigh, relieved at how easily he takes my desertion. “I really had a good time, and when I get back, I’d love to…”
Connor interrupts me, not unkindly, but not kindly. “I’m on shift for most of the week… tonight was my last night free for a while. Maybe we can reschedule for another time.”
“Reschedule,” I echo, deflated. “Sure. Yes. I’d really like that. Like I said, I had a really good time, I just…”
Connor walks past me, opening the front door for me and ushering me out. “Have a safe trip. Hope your client is pleased with you.”
I look at him quizzically, but let it go. “I’ll call you?”
“Sure,” he says noncommittally. “Take care.”
I look at him for a long moment, and then stand on my tip toes to press my lips to his. He accepts the kiss, but makes no move to deepen it, as I expected.
“Bye, Connor,” I whisper, disappointed. “Talk to you soon,” I promise even as I turn to go.
He says nothing as he closes the door behind me.
Dammit, dammit, dammit.
I hate my life sometimes. I really do.
Sighing deeply, I head back for my flat, back to where my real life lies.