Alice in Lonely Land Ch. 03

"You're the first to arrive, " they said. A host led me through a maze of tables, settling me in my seat and taking my drink order. I sat there for twenty minutes, nursing a glass of red wine before a voice said, "Here you are Sir, your party is already seated."

It was another five minutes before either of us spoke. "You must hate me." The voice was a little familiar but whoever it was, was trying to mask it.

"I can't hate you, I don't know you." It sounded more defeated than bitchy. I was too tired to be bitchy.

"You know me," he said. Now it was his turn to sound defeated.

"Why am I here, Stranger?" Shifting in my seat, I held my glass to my chest.

He didn't get the chance to answer. The waiter came by to take our order. He read us the menu and I picked the least messy and easiest thing to eat, my stranger picked the same.

Then when it seemed like we were alone, he said, "This is me apologizing. I'm sorry Alice. I'm sorry I upset you but I thought honesty would feel better than caring and you never knowing."

"Does it?"

He let out a heavy sigh. "I'm not sure. I want you to know I think about you constantly, I care about you."

"Just not enough." My huff echoed between us. "It's fine. Let's just forget this whole thing." I went to stand but a hand reached out, hitting my waist before latching onto my arm.

"Please," He said. "Don't go. It's just dinner, you can forget about me after."

How could I forget? That was the problem. I didn't know what was worse, Colin and his deadly kisses or this man and his letters.

"Please sit down Alice." His thumb brushed across the inside of my wrist and I found myself wanting to be touched by him. The waiter came by and he asked, "Is there any way we can sit next to each other?"

The waiter rearranged the table and I settled down next to him. The second I sat, his hand found mine and he brought it to his lips. "I'm sorry," he whispered against the delicate skin of my inner wrist.

Our food came and we ate in silence. Under the table his knee rested against mine. Every so often his hand would come to rest a little higher up my knee, but never too high and he never did more than brush his thumb over the dress covered skin.

When we were done I said, "I should go," and tried to stand but he stopped me.

"Stay, just a few minutes longer. I'm not ready to say goodbye."

My huff was followed by a shake of my head. "You're not ready to say hello."

"Then let me go first. Give me ten minutes, I'll get you another glass of wine and pay. In ten minutes you can leave and I'll never bother you again."

My hand, in his, travelled back up to his lips and when they brushed against my inner wrist I whispered, "Is that what you really want?"

I felt him shake his head between kisses. "No Alice, that's not what I want. What I want I can't have."

Before I could ask what he wanted he stood and flagged down a waiter. "She'll take another glass of wine and I'll pay the bill up front. " He felt around for my face and tilted it up towards his. "Goodbye Alice." Then he kissed me. A light, gentle brush of his lips against mine.

It made me want to cry but I held it in. After my glass was empty and long enough had passed, I had the waiter lead me out. As my eyes adjusted I opened my clutch and my heart dropped.

In my rush to get here I'd forgotten to move my wallet from my day purse to my date purse, and I'd used my last $20 in cash getting here. I took a deep breath and weighed my options.

After trying my girlfriend only to find she was in Colorado at her boyfriend's family cottage I called my only other option.

"Colin speaking."

"I know we're not exactly on 'good' terms, but I'm in a bind."

"You're the one that's not good with us Allie, I'm the one struggling to find some way to fix this." We went quiet for a few heartbeats. Eventually, he said, "Whats up?"

"I'm on a date, well it was sort of a date, and it's over, like never going to happen again over, and I get outside only to find my wallet's in my other bag." I don't think I stopped to breathe once.

"How did you get there?" He asked quietly.

"There was a twenty on the counter, I grabbed that." My sigh rang out loudly. "I can send you an e-transfer. I tried calling someone else but they are out of town."

"Who'd you call?"

"Sam, look if the Blind Side wasn't half way across the city, I'd walk."

"Who's he?"

"Who?" I was thoroughly confused.

There was a hint of impatience in his voice. "Sam, who is he?"

"She, Sam's a she, my best friend, hell, my only friend." Wrapping my coat around me I stomped my feet. It was cold, but I was lucky it wasn't raining.

Colin took a deep breath. "What am I?"

That question came from nowhere and I got frustrated. "My ex's brother, a disappointing love interest, take your pick." I gave him a huff, "Forget it. I'll walk." With that I hung up and started walking.

I was ten minutes into what promised to be one hell of a walk when a cab stopped a few feet away and Colin got out. He looked good, damn good, in a charcoal suit and a black tie. I wanted to do all sorts of sordid things to him.

He held the door open and called out, "Can I buy you a drink?"

"I'm not exactly sure I like being in your debt." I came to a stop in front of him and looked up.

He took a deep breath and motioned for me to get in. Once we were settled he said to the cabby, "Take us to the Purple Haze please." To me he said, "You could pay me back, I've been known to take the odd kiss as payment."

I froze and stared at his hand as it came up to rest just up from my knee. "Where were you tonight?" I asked.

"A date." When I stiffened and tried to brush his immovable hand away, he said, "A never going to happen again date."

"Hum." Trying not to get distracted I tried to focus on the road ahead. "Sounds like we both struck out tonight."

"Night's still young." His hand squeezed my leg then moved to his lap.

"You're not getting lucky." It was barely a whisper on the air between us but it made him turn to look at me.

"That's not what I want from you."

The driver pulled up outside a sexy little martini bar that glowed light purple from the inside lighting to the outside sign. Colin paid and slid out first taking my hand and helping me out.

He tucked my hand into his arm and led the way inside. The place was packed and we were forced to find seats at the bar, but we found two way off in the corner against the wall so I didn't mind,

After we placed our order Colin turned me to face him, both my knees between his. We watched each other for a long time, first our gazes were locked then our eyes to each other's lips, then they scoured the other's body.

His hair was flawlessly styled, swept back in gentle waves that looked like they grew that way and weren't held in place with product. That crisp white shirt was a stark contrast to his dark suit; it just drew your eyes into him. He made me want to go dancing, he made me want to make out for hours on his couch, he made me want more.

"So he took you to a restaurant where you couldn't see a thing." His eyes moved back up to my lips. "Did he meet you outside?" I shook my head. "So he didn't see you in this dress?" Again I shook my head. "Is this a new dress?" This time I nodded. "So, I'm the only man who's seen you in this dress."

"Technically the cabby and a dozen other strangers saw me in it first."

His hands moved to my hips then slid down my thighs as he sat back. "I'm the only one who matters."

I didn't respond to that. Instead I smiled at the bartender when he dropped off our drinks. He gave me a bit of silence until I closed my eyes and smiled, savouring the sour taste of my favourite martini.

Not one to let an opportunity go to waste, Colin leaned in and sealed his mouth to mine. It was definitely unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. In fact, I may or may not have grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him in to deepen it. Colin groaned and pulled me forward on my seat to bring us closer. Then, very suddenly, he pulled back and put his forehead to mine.

"God, I don't want to get carried away," he said. He leaned back and looked at me. "I don't want you to get the wrong idea. You did last time."

Reality hit me hard and I reached for my drink, downing it and motioning for another. "Last time you said you wanted it to go further."

"Eventually, yes." He did the same with his drink and the bartender nodded. "You can't tell me you don't. There's so much chemistry between us, it's explosive."

"You said it can't go further. So it's hooking up or nothing with you. Pretty cut and dry." I didn't look over, I couldn't. Not even when he ran his fingers up under the hem of my dress across my left knee.

Colin took a deep breath. "It's complicated. I want..."

"What." my dark eyes flashed to the stormy grey ones that haunted more than one of my reoccurring dreams. "What do you want."

A deep frown etched its way across his face and he huffed. "I want to be the only guy who sees you in this dress. This is my dress."

"Let me guess you're going to follow it with you want to see this dress on your floor." Those words, that tone, left a bitter taste in my mouth.

"I want you to wear it next Friday when I take you to dinner with my clients."

That sucked the wind out of me, I wasn't convinced this wasn't self serving. "Let me guess they're expecting you to bring a date? You need to pretend to be a family man."

Carefully Colin shook his head. "I don't need to pretend anything and they think I'm coming alone. I want to take you with me because..."

I waited for him to hit me with it, and when it did hit me it was like a baseball bat.

"I want to share that part of my life with you." His eyes searched my suspicious face and after a minute Colin leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to my lips. "Come with me Friday let me show you off."

It was almost what I wanted to hear. Almost what I wanted from him, but it just fell short. I shook my head and he pulled back to look at me. "Thanks for the offer, but I'm not interested in being 'shown off' to 'part of your worId.' That's not what I want" It was said complete with air quotations and I chased it with my entire martini in two gulps. "Thanks for the drinks big guy." I slapped him on the shoulder and left him with the tab.

Ten minutes later I had a case of deja vu when Colin got out of a cab a few feet in front of me and held open the door. "What do you want Allie?"

With matching frowns we stared at each other and after a few seconds I said, "I want two things." He motioned for me to continue. "I'm an all or nothing kind of girl Colin, I either want it all or none of it at all."

He took a deep breath. "What's the second thing?"

"A ride home."

That he gave me, with a wave of his hand towards the door, Colin waited for me to get in then told the cabbie where to go. We sat in silence the whole way. He led the way inside in silence and it wasn't until we hit his floor that he turned to face me.

Holding the door open Colin said, "I don't want you to wear that dress with anyone else."

"Well, it's too bad you don't get a say, and lucky for you my love life consists of two guys who can't or won't have anything to do with me and an anonymous stranger who sent me a flower." When I finished he just stared at me for a minute then reached out, grabbed my jacket and pulled me in for a kiss.

"I'd give you just about anything," he said it in a soft voice.

I huffed. "Just not a relationship. I'm not some mistress you hide away." With that I pushed him out and held down the close-door button

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