After three changes of clothes, hair pulled up then down again, and having been on the verge to give it up twice, Allison was standing right there where the taxi left her a couple of minutes before, in front of a small and quiet restaurant in North End, unable to move. For some reason she had expected Todd to reserve some overcrowded fancy restaurant, and was pleasantly surprised to see that he had probably sensed her need to be far from the confusion and safe from prying eyes. Still, she couldn’t get rid of the anxiety eating at her. Why in the world did she accept? She was scared, but she didn’t know if by the dinner itself or by the thought of where the dinner could lead. She breathed in and mustered all the strength she could gather to take the last few steps that separated her from the building.
Once inside she started to glance around nervously looking for Todd. She liked this place. The simple wooden decor was complete with yellow-earth drapery and tablecloths, which gave a touch of elegance that was simple, intimate and familiar. She finally caught sight of him standing up to take a few steps towards her, a tense smile on his face. Apparently she wasn’t the only one nervous tonight. Breathe, Allison. Breathe.
She walked towards him with a bit of uncertainty in her step. How were they supposed to greet each other? A shake of hands? Too formal. A hug? Too intimate. A kiss? Not even in discussion. Maybe a more innocent kiss of the cheek? Embarrassing and awkward, to say the least. Okay, maybe it was better to go for a simple hello.
“Hey,” Todd said, his gaze fixed on her.
The look in his eye confirmed that her third change of clothes was clearly the winning one. Although, for a brief moment she thought that maybe it was too much for the occasion. The black sheath dress, bordered on its bottom with two oblique and very thin lines of white sequins, was very elegant yet simple at the same time. And way different from the suits she always wore in courtroom.
“Hey,” Allison replied with some hesitation, leaving a few steps between them to avoid uncomfortable proximity. Probably catching her uneasiness, Todd smiled and gestured for them to take a seat.
“I…,” Todd started with some hesitation, “I thought a quiet place was better, under the circumstances.”
Allison smiled. “I like it,” she said giving her attention back to him, her hands toying nervously with the menu on the table. She found herself looking down. For some reason she still couldn’t hold his gaze for more than a few seconds.
“Why are you so nervous?” he teased her.
“I’m not,” she contradicted him. Well, if she had to be honest, she was. “Okay, maybe I am,” she corrected herself. “You make me nervous,” she admitted.
Todd smiled softy, his expression reassured her. “Why?”
“I don’t know. You… You just do,” she said in a faint voice. Truth was, he didn’t make her nervous. Unable to ward off his advances and light flirting, Allison grew nervous. It was a feeling that she couldn’t understand, let alone handle, no matter how much she tried and she loathed not being in control of her feelings.
“Okay,” he said, “and what can I do to… not make you feel nervous?” he asked with a smile, but his eyes showed he was clearly uncomfortable too.
Allison stared at him for a moment, pondering his question. Since it was not about him but about her, the only thing she could do was to try and find a way to relax a bit. “What about a good bottle of wine?” she proposed with a knowing smile.
Todd sat there for a moment, his eyes fixed on her. “Wine, mmmh?” With a light laugh, he took the wine carte. “Wine for this lovely lady, then!”
Allison just stared at him, more intently than she really wanted, a soft smile on her face quickly turning into a mild laugh.
Two glasses of wine later…
“Okay, now tell me something more about you,” Todd asked with a curious expression, his forearms resting on the table. The wine had clearly reduced both the anxiety and the physical distance between them.
Allison gave him a questioning look. “What do you want to know?” she asked with a smile.
Todd looked at her for a moment and hesitated. “Anything that didn’t already go through the media is welcome,” he joked.
Allison chastened him with a reproaching look that quickly turned into a smile. “Not funny!”
“What are your weaknesses?” he said, going for something a little more specific.
“Are you going to use them against me?” she asked throwing him a slantwise look, which made Todd burst out in laughter.
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” he said seriously, suppressing a laugh.
Allison took a moment to decide what to answer. What seemed an innocent question could instead be very tricky. She looked down at the glass in front of her and got her answer. “Wine,” she said with a soft laugh. She realized she was at her second glass and she’d better stop before starting to feel the side effects, because then it would probably be too late. She never really held her booze well. What else, then? “Shoes,” she said with an apologetic smile and light shrug.
“Shoes?” Todd asked between laughter. “That’s so lame!”
“Hey!” She reproached him jokingly. “I’m a woman, shoes are in our DNA like motors for men!”
“What? Not all men love motors!” Todd objected, with a look of faux offense.
“Said the guy with the expensive coupe…” She promptly remarked, then took a small sip of wine.
Todd nodded in acknowledgement and laughed, his arms open in surrender. “Okay, I asked for it.”
“You know, there’s an interesting theory for which cars are for men a sort of extension of their attributes…” She stated with pretended candidness, yet keeping a mischievous eye on him.
“Good for me I don’t have a compact car or I could feel offended.”
Allison nearly choked on her wine and blushed lightly. “I didn’t… I…” She burst into laughter, totally embarrassed, then looked away. How did she end up here? When she looked back at Todd, he seemed thoughtful, though smiling slyly. “What are you thinking about?”
“Just trying to imagine what kind of extension shoes represent for a woman,” he said, his gaze fixed on her.
She looked at him a bit provocatively. “They only make us look hot and tall in every occasion,” Allison observed with a slight female pride. And she knew something about it. Patrick’s career had brought her in front of the cameras way more times than she had really wanted to. Campaigns, interviews and press conferences first. Then… One not so fine day, two years before, in the backstage of one of his conferences, she had caught him busy in a not quite politically correct ‘debate’ with Sharon Harper, the District’s Attorney of Albany’s county. What followed had been on everybody’s mouths for months, causing a political pandemonium that would be remembered for the years to come.
Most journalists seemed to be thankfully more concerned about the political implications deriving by the involvement of two leading figures. Tabloids, though, gave their best – or worst – with the sexual component, not sparing the juiciest details of those hot encounters.
It took her weeks only to find the strength to step out again of the comfortable walls of her home.
Sometimes she had to stop and remind herself that it was over. The scandal, the press, the humiliation. A part of her would probably never get rid of that anxiety, that lingering undertone of fear to see her face in the tabloids again.
She had always looked at herself as an ambitious woman, till the scandal made her reconsider her priorities, her needs, her wishes. Living outside the media’s radar was definitely better for her mental health.
Staring back at the man in front of her she realized that things weren’t really completely over. She was far from the media’s assault but still not free from Patrick’s influence. She shook her head and tried to get rid of that thought. She wasn’t here to think about the negative aspects but to enjoy a nice evening and a good dinner with Todd. With a soft smile, she gave her attention back to him.
“By the way,” she started, looking for a way to shift the discussion back on him. “What did you do to deserve being kicked out by your ex-wife?” she asked him with a teasing, knowing smile.
Todd looked at her for a moment without saying anything, until he burst into a bitter laugh. “Ahhh… You women always assume you’re on the right side, don’t you?”
Allison hesitated a moment. “Because we usually are?” she replied, playfully.
Todd gave her an amused smile. “Well, I’m still wondering about it five years later,” he said quietly. “She left after a couple of years, just in time to get the most out of the divorce,” he explained with a knowing look.
“How unoriginal of her,” she joked, her eyes wide in faux disbelief.
“I guess it was just wrong from the beginning,” he said.
Allison stared at him and nodded in understanding. She realized that he knew way more about her than she knew about him and decided to play his own game. “Okay, now it’s your turn,” she teased him.
Todd gave her a confused look. “My turn for what?”
Allison leaned forward with a confident smile. “Your weaknesses,” she said, taking a sip of wine.
“Damn, I thought I escaped from those questions,” he laughed.
Allison’s gaze was fixed on him, amused and expectant.
His answer came with no sign of hesitation. “Jack Daniel’s.”
Allison raised a brow and nodded in approval. The guy had interesting tastes.
Todd smiled and took a moment before going on. “Good food just like it was prepared at home,” he said, pointing at the empty plate in front of him, “and finger food,” he added with a bit of tease.
“Finger food?” Allison’s question came along with a smile and a raised brow. “Now, this is interesting and needs for explanation.”
Todd leaned dangerously forward, the reduced distance causing Allison to blush a little.
More wine. Allison suddenly felt the pressing need for more wine but didn’t dare move a finger under such proximity.
“I think…” Todd started, peeping around them, “I think there is something extremely sexy in feeding someone…” He explained, giving his attention back to her, “or being fed,” he quickly added with a smile.
Okay, more wine. Now.
Allison took a long sip from her glass, looking down in slight embarrassment. The way he was staring at her really left no room for doubt. He was making his move with her, and not so subtly. This dinner was taking all but an innocent turn. Allison had to remind herself that she wasn’t the blushing kind, she’s never been a woman that let men take control of her nerves. Gathering some courage and boldness, she faked a confidence that she had lost along the way and sat up straight, doing her best to hide that bit of discomfort caused by his obvious attempt. “Something tells me that it’s not that kind of finger food served in cocktail parties,” she said with a knowing look and a hinted smile.
“Well, it depends from which cocktail parties you are used to,” he said, his gaze fixed on her, his expression showing defiance.
Allison nodded, and in a flash of lucidity she decided they were overshooting. With a soft smile, she looked down searching for the right words to stop what was obviously not meant or supposed to go on.
“I don’t think we should do… this,” she said, her voice insecure and faint. Did her words really match her thoughts? It didn’t matter, her thoughts needed to be hushed.
“Do what?” Todd asked, “Talk about food during a dinner?” he added, faking confusion, obviously pretending he didn’t understand the real meaning of her words.
It took a moment for Allison to react. She threw him a look of disbelief before bursting out in loud laughter. Well, putting it that way it lost most of its mischief, but the good laugh wasn’t enough for her to forget the forced – and agreed upon – limits. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to respect those limits she herself imposed as she leaned forward and met his lips slowly, hesitatingly at first. Their kiss deepened and became passionate, urging. The red wine that he consumed tasted better on his lips. Cool and robust, it created a breathtaking contrast with the warmth of his mouth. She could easily get drunk under such an inebriating kiss. Leaning back in need for air, they stared at each other for a moment. It could have been one second, or one hour, Allison couldn’t say for sure. All she knew was that she was scared of her own feelings. She was used to having everything under control and the sensation of losing the reins of her heart was overwhelming, unwelcome but somehow exciting at the same time. Her eyes silently pleaded for him not to say anything. She could deal with one thing at a time and right now her mind was still reeling from the aftermath of their kiss.
“I like you, Allison.” Todd’s words came out hurried, faint, thrown out there barely audible, as to reserve the chance to retreat from them if needed.
But Allison heard them well, loud and clear. For a moment she was speechless. If she had to be honest, this shouldn’t be a surprise. But there was something in hearing those words said out loud that made everything real, concrete, taking away any chance to ignore what was clearly happening between them.
At the same time, it was scary. It was easier to handle a fantasy, a figment of her imagination, or a dream. The reality was far more compelling and demanding and, most important, it bound them to a different sort of consequences and responsibilities she was not yet sure she was ready to cope with.
“I think we should stick to what we agreed,” she said in a low voice, in a desperate – and probably useless – effort to bring things back to what they were supposed to be from the very beginning.
“You think it or you want it?” Todd asked leaning forward. His gaze was fixed on her, but lost most of its previous confidence.
His question caught Allison completely off-guard. With some hesitation, she dared asking, “What… What do you mean?”
“You keep on saying… you think what we are not supposed to do, you don’t say that you don’t want it. What is it that you want then?” Todd’s question sounded so simple. What did she want? She had no idea, and if she even did, she was still fighting to ignore its mere existence.
She remembered the conversation of the previous night with Mark, all that stuff about taking responsibility really lost its meaning when the heart decided to take control over the mind. The truth was that she spent too much time thinking instead of feeling. Thinking about what was best for her, for Hope, for Patrick, even for her firm. But she didn’t really take the time to stop and feel.
She took a moment to look at the man sitting in front of her in expectation. She couldn’t deny he was attractive. But what exactly was so attractive about him? His strong personality? Well, that was unquestionable. He was just good looking? No, she had learnt to distinguish love from sex long ago. Was it something more that she still couldn’t define? What exactly?
“I don’t know… but I want to find out.” Those were the words she told to her brother and her honest answer to Todd’s question.
Later that night, the feeble streetlights illuminated a room outlining two blurred silhouettes standing, as the door closed behind them with a soft bang.
Allison was still wondering what had come of all her good intentions, as she turned to look at Todd, standing next to her. In the dead silence, she could hear distinctly their irregular breathing and her own heart beating wildly, frantically.
Neither of them dared to move or to turn the lights on, afraid it might break some sort of spell. Or maybe they were just afraid to catch any sign of second thoughts in each other’s looks.
In the semi-dark, only their eyes shone, smoldering, gleaming with excitement, desire, fear and anxiety. Still, they left no room for doubt that right now they wanted, they needed the same thing. It was written all over their faces, in the way they slowly, hesitatingly moved closer to each other, reducing the distance between them to a bare breath unable to decide as to who was going to take the first step.
Allison remembered the words she told him only minutes before about wanting them to happen and decided it was time for her to act. After all the times she turned him down, making his every attempt fail miserably, she felt the need to give him some proof that she really wanted it. She closed the little distance left with a soft shy kiss.
It lasted a brief moment. The fleeting hesitation faded, leaving room for hushed longing to prevail as their kisses became deeper, passionate, hungry, and unrestrained.
She felt Todd’s hands running up her thighs and over her dress, searching for the zipper. She started her own fight with the buttons of his shirt.
She couldn’t help but think that men knew nothing of practicalness, or they wouldn’t wear so many clothes with the even remote chance of having to take them off. Allison’s dress was already gone and she barely managed to take his shirt off.
But much to their benefit, she noted that they compensated the scarce practicalness with an exceptional speed in taking their clothes off, as Todd quickly stepped out of his trousers. Was that the result of years of practice? She didn’t really want to know.
All she knew was that a moment later they were lying on the soft and scented sheets of the bed, taking off what was still left of their clothes.
Allison had a moment of hesitation as she felt Todd’s hands on her now naked body. Were they really aware of what they were doing? Were they really ready to face all the repercussions ensuing from a moment of passion?
She ran her hands through his slightly curly dark hair and gently guided his face to meet her eyes, searching for either some sign of doubt from his side too, or the reassurance that they would be fine. But there wasn’t any hint of doubt in the way Todd looked at her, longingly. Instead, she felt him caressing her thighs with firm, strong hands, running up to her hips to cover her ass.
His hold was firm but at the same time betrayed a slight insecurity. There was a touch of possessiveness in the way he held her tight, devouring her mouth, her neck, and her breasts with hungry kisses. It was both at the same time, a source of anxiety and reassurance.
The thought of belonging again to someone terrified her, but at the same time she couldn’t help orbiting this man like a small planet that fights vainly against gravity.
All she could do was to let herself go; she clung on to his waist and sighed deeply as he entered her with vigorous, long thrusts. Holding him in a tight embrace, she breathed deeply into his strong smell of some masculine perfume she couldn’t recognize. It wasn’t just cologne for sure. Its smell, fresh and lightly musked, mixed with a hint of sweat, was inebriating.
The tension that had built up over the months was explosive, overwhelming, uncontrollable; it took control of their bodies, silencing their minds.
Allison thought that her heart couldn’t beat any faster than that without exploding. She wanted, she needed some release after months of holding back feelings she kept on pretending that didn’t exist. And she needed it quickly. The increasing pace of Todd’s thrusts was the clear sign that he needed the same. She didn’t care about foreplay, or teasing. And apparently he didn’t care either as they devoured each other’s mouths, drunk with passion. After all, they had the rest of the night to take their time and savor each and every moment, again and again. Right now, she only cared about the orgasm taking over her body as she gave in to the increasing pleasure, her hands clung tightly to the firm muscles of his back; it was only a moment before she felt Todd’s own release into her, collapsing on to her in a tight embrace.
The early morning brought the dream of soft hands caressing her, delicately, lightly brushing the soft skin of her arms. They were somewhat familiar but couldn’t recognize whom they belonged to. It felt so real, vivid. In the half-sleep, she realized she wasn’t dreaming. Still drowsy, she stiffened, peeved by a mischievous sunbeam piercing through the curtains. She opened one eye, refusing to wake up, as she tried to remember where she was. With its maroon curtains and the light creamy walls with spatula effect, the place wasn’t familiar at all. She clearly wasn’t in her bed. A soft kiss on her shoulder brought her back down on earth. The dinner. Todd. Oh my God. Their first passionate round of wild lovemaking. She blushed at the memory. The second time, sweet, taking their time, greedily exploring each other’s bodies, fully enjoying every kiss and caress, slowly. Oh my God.
She slowly rolled on her other side to meet his eyes and his soft smile.
“Good morning,” he said in a whisper.
“Good morning,” she replied, her voice barely audible, as she leaned closer, slightly unsure, and let him place a soft kiss on her lips. His touch on her skin was the same firm one of the previous night, just softer, light, probably appeased in the senses; it sent her slight shivers down her back.
The awakening threw in their faces all those complications they deftly, defiantly – or irresponsibly – chose to ignore the night before. The trial. Patrick. Her daughter. The firm. The trial. Disclosure. Were they going to regret it? With her gaze fixed on Todd’s eyes, she was searching for some shadow of regret, or worry. If he regretted it, he was very good in hiding it. Still, she could read some worry in his hesitant smile. Or he must have sensed her discomfort and anxiety. Her brain’s gears were spinning so fast that he could probably hear them colliding into each other.
“Is everything alright?” he asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
Was everything alright? Looking away, Allison didn’t answer straightaway. Not everything was alright. There were a lot of things to discuss. What was happening between them in the first place? What did they expect from each other? How were they going to handle their situation in public? Were they even going to make it public? Everything was so new to her that it was almost terrifying. Yes, there had been Chris before, but if she had to be honest, she always knew what she wanted from their relationship, she always knew that it was not meant to last.
Her thoughts went to the dinner to their night together. She was so comfortable with him. She loved how he could so easily make her smile, laugh, and blush. He had the ability to touch all her weak spots and make her forget all her worries in the space of a few seconds. He was a walking temptation. And she had decided the night before to just stop and not resist temptations anymore. It proved to be worth all her inner turmoil and conflicts. She couldn’t recall ever wanting something so badly, still being so scared about it. And what scared her even more was that she was pretty sure that it wasn’t just sexual chemistry, but as to what she felt, she still didn’t know it for sure. She only knew that she didn’t want to lose it. It was the chance of something new, the chance to start all over again, but with the advantage of all her experiences, bad or positive.
She looked back at Todd, whose gaze was fixed on her, expectantly. She smiled softly, trying to reassure him that she wasn’t regretting anything. All her worries weren’t about him, about them. It was about her allowing herself, for once, to feel. “Yes,” she simply said, as she nuzzled up against his chest. She enjoyed the morning sweet cuddling for a while, his soft caresses and kisses, before taking the initiative and moving on top of him, returning his endearing gestures with steamier, more tantalizing ones.