Anarchy of the Heart Pt. 04byMaxSebastian©
Marco and Sofia were all smiles as they saw that the American couple was finished now, and still firmly in the game. Marco looked to Caitlyn, and she sidled up to him, taking a proffered hand.
Sofia gazed at Leo, those soulful blue eyes of hers searching for signs within his that he was ready, that he had prepared himself, that he wasn't hiding anything that might suggest he was only doing this because his partner was doing this. He smiled at the golden-haired beauty, and she gave him an appreciative nod, simultaneously praising him for his courage and seeking to put him at ease.
"So," Marco said, "Assuming all goes well, we will meet each other again tomorrow before dinner, yes?"
"Sounds like a good idea," Leo said, thinking it sounded like a very long time to be apart from Caitlyn.
"Sofia and I have chosen a very nice little place where we can go for a few drinks, and then we'll see how everything went - and we can go from there."
Leo felt a little queasy as he saw Caitlyn place her hand in Marco's, look up at the Spaniard with a glimmer of pure delight in her eyes, and then look round to give Sofia and himself a final parting smile.
Then his fiancée and her brand new friend-with-benefits were walking casually away down the street. Leo thought she already appeared very relaxed with the other man, their conversation seeming easy as they departed.
He loved to see Caitlyn happy like that, but how strange it was to see her disappearing with a man with the express intent of bedding him that very night.
"It is strange to see them go, no?" Leo heard Sofia's voice before he saw her step beside him. There was a kind of dreamy quality to her dulcet French soprano, which somehow seemed to both calm Leo and also lull him into a strange state of euphoria.
"Very strange," he said softly.
Before Marco and Caitlyn disappeared around the street corner, their audience saw the Spaniard do something that made the brunette jump, let out a short sharp yelp and then fall against him, laughing, draping her hands and arms over him as they walked. Perhaps he had pinched her butt or something to that effect, or said something to tease her.
They looked very natural together, Leo thought. Much more natural than he felt standing with Sofia.
"They seem good together."
"Yes, don't they?" Sofia said.
Then Marco and Caitlyn turned, and were gone.
Leo felt Sofia take his hand, her fingers so light and soft around his, cool in the evening air. She said: "Are you okay, Leo?"
He turned to look at her, taking a deep breath that was accented by her perfume and the earthy smells of the street.
"I'm fine," he said, affecting a smile he feared she might not think entirely convincing.
But she simply smiled in return, and the sight was truly dazzling, even in the shaded street. "I know how you're feeling, Leo," she said softly. "I've felt that way myself. Even now."
She shrugged, "Even now, yes, a little. Nervous, excited, hopeful, afraid."
"Do you think we're going to be as good together as they are?" he asked.
Sofia looked him over for a brief moment, making him wonder what she thought of him. She grinned, "I think we are definitely going to be just as good together."
Leo said: "In your experience, what's the best way to handle all this?"
She paused, considering. Said: "In my experience, the best thing you can do is to relax, be yourself, and never keep anything hidden. Always be completely open and honest. If you can't do this, it's no problem."
He nodded, breathing deeply. He said: "In that case, would you be offended if I said I find you a little intimidating, Sofia?"
"Intimidating? Me?" she inhaled. "But I'm so small compared to you!"
"Because you're stunning," he said. "You're very beautiful."
He could see Sofia melt a little, tilting her head as she looked at him, perhaps seeing him in a new light now that he was on his own, away from Caitlyn, outside the public sphere of their group of four.
Then she stepped forward, reached her arms up behind his neck, and kissed him.
Oh my God.
She tasted of sugar and rosé wine, she smelled of apricots and soft blazing sunshine. She was pretty as a picture in a magazine, and her plans for the evening were pure seduction.
How on Earth had he gotten himself into this?
"You shouldn't feel intimidated by anyone," she whispered into his ear.
After that kiss, Leo felt a little better, some of the tension between them dissipating, though none of the extraordinary sense of anticipation for what they were doing.
Sofia took his hand in hers and they walked in the opposite direction from Caitlyn and Marco, over towards the port of Old Nice.
"You and Caitlyn are only the third couple we've ever been with," she was saying, after he'd asked how it was that even she was still nervous in this situation.
"Only the third?"
Sofia smiled, "We only play with others when we're on vacation. Last year, the way the economy was, we did not take a vacation. Before that, for a few years, we saw the same couple each time."
Leo noticed other men looking at him as they wandered the streets, and at first he thought he must have spilled something on his shirt, or perhaps that his hair was doing something ridiculous in the breeze. His clothes were clean, however, while the breeze was barely strong enough to even tickle.
Only after a little way did he realize the men were looking at him because he was walking hand-in-hand with Sofia.
Well, she certainly was a sight to behold. It warmed him up a little, to see those envious glances, and perhaps even made him begin to see that this could be fun. He could simply enjoy the physical side of this, leave the emotions behind.
"Is this always how it is when you're with someone new?" he asked her now.
"How it is?"
"You know, you meet for lunch, you pair off, you take things slowly so it can be stopped in case someone's unhappy. The process."
She shrugged, "I don't think we have a process. The few times we've met new people, it's been different each time. The first time, we weren't even thinking about it at all."
"We met these guys who had the room next to ours in the hotel, and just spent the vacation with them, not even imagining what might happen."
"And what did happen?"
"We were having a lot to drink back then," she chuckled, "then one night things just went further and further - we drank more and more, we ended up back in our hotel room, dancing, drinking. The boys traded dance partners - quite a few times, actually. Then you know, the clothes started disappearing..."
"And you were all right with it?"
Now they were stepping out into the sunshine, the old port revealed before them, and Sofia looked absolutely gorgeous, like some kind of mythical nymph.
She gave him a mischievous grin, continuing her story. "I was very, very drunk, Leo. So very, very drunk. We all were."
The French girl steered them around the little old harbor, which was little more than a small marina for the wealthy, enclosed by the Old Town.
"I don't remember too much now from that first time," she said, "but I think the boys would dance with us a little, and then they would switch partners, and then they would be back again, and then Paulo pulled off the shirt of his girlfriend Maria, and it was like he was daring Marco to do the same and then trade dance partners again."
"Well, the two of them were very competitive. Each time, Paulo would take something off Maria, and Marco would do the same, or maybe Marco would take off something of his own, and then Paul would have to do the same. And then I would be dancing with Paulo, and slowly, while we kept drinking more and more of the Rioja, we were becoming naked..."
"And then you slept together? You and Paulo?"
Sofia paused while a few tourists had gone by, then she said: "The boys just continued their silly little game. Maria and I were just laughing non-stop, taking more wine... Paulo was dancing close with me, so Marco would have to dance closer with Maria. And then Paulo was squeezing my... you know, my breasts... so Marco was kissing Maria's breasts..."
Leo felt himself thinking how lucky this Paulo character must have been, before it dawned on him that he was essentially becoming this year's Paulo for Sofia.
"...and then Paulo was kissing me between my legs, and so Marco was... well, you get the idea."
Sofia smiled, drawing her description to a close as yet another collection of tourists wandered by.
"Here," she said, "it's just around the corner now."
It was a sweet little restaurant, which appeared to have reached that the point in the evening between the early evening tourists going home and the later evening locals arriving for their dinner.
They took a table outside, where Leo ordered merely a Coke, while Sofia chose a glass of chilled Sancerre.
"What happened when you guys... you know, sobered up?" Leo asked as they considered the menu, the wonderful smell of garlic-laden food filling his nostrils along with the salty aroma of the sea.
"I woke up between Paulo and Marco, and I was pretty horrified," she laughed. "I'd been with Marco maybe... six months by then? He was always flirting with the girls, but I thought he was different from the other Spanish guys. He was always very decent, very attentive to my needs."
"You were upset with what had happened?"
Sofia withdrew a packet of cigarettes from her purse, which rather surprised Leo, being so used to smoking being banned in restaurants.
"You don't mind?" she signaled the cigarette, holding up a lighter ready to fire.
"Sure, of course," he said. It was outside, there was a light breeze here by the harbor, but mostly, he just didn't want to make a bad impression, particularly now. He declined her offer of one for himself, and as she lit up, he said: "It's a little weird seeing people smoke in restaurants."
Sofia nodded, drawing in a lungful of smoke. "I don't very much these days - but it helps calm me down. They banned it in France, too, you know, a few years ago."
"Nobody takes much notice of it."
"La Liberté, uh? It is part of our national heritage." She turned her head to exhale a plume of smoke, then returned to her recollection, saying: "I was upset, of course. With myself, mainly, for going along with it, for letting Paulo do what he did with me. At Marco, a little."
"How did the others take it?"
Sofia smiled almost wistfully, tapping her cigarette gently on the little ashtray provided on the table between them. "Marco and Paulo were dead to the world. They were so hung-over that whole day. Maria took me for breakfast at a little place round the corner, and she was very good at calming me down."
"You liked her?"
"She was very... smart. Beautiful, too. Very Spanish - the dark hair, the brown eyes," Sofia sucked on the cigarette, and Leo felt a touch envious that she had it to help relax her. "She was the one, really, who persuaded me it might be good for us... you know, to open up, to have some fun. To treat this holiday - this vacation - as a break from our normal lives. I think you would say... let off some steam?"
"Sounds right," Leo said. "I think that's what Caitlyn was suggesting to me."
Sofia nodded. "Caitlyn seems very smart, also. She is very beautiful."
Leo smiled, "She is. I always did have trouble saying 'no' to her."
How was Caitlyn doing with Marco right now? Were they having dinner in a place like this? Were they intending to play things slow, as agreed? Perhaps they were grabbing fast food before heading straight back to Marco's hotel room. Leo felt a shiver course through his chest.
"I learned a lot from Maria," Sofia said.
"Did she and Paulo... keep it to their vacations?"
"They did, mostly. Maria said there were times when she thought he might have been off with someone else back home, but for the most part, just the vacations. Of course, they took a lot more vacations than Marco and I," she rolled her eyes and laughed at that.
The waiter returned to take their order - a salad with goat cheese for Sofia, a fillet of salmon for Leo - and with food, he even permitted himself one small glass of rosé wine, which seemed to take the edge of his nerves, and allow him to relax into a wonderful dinner with Sofia.
They seemed to bond over a shared anxiety of the whole situation. It became clear that for Sofia and Marco, he had always been the confident type when it came to women, while for all her beauty, she had always been on the shy side, so when it came to their vacation sojourns, Sofia was the one who had to face up to her nerves, while Marco simply bounded into whichever situation they found themselves.
As they ate, the tension seemed to lessen further, making the meal appear less like a business lunch than simply a couple of friends enjoying some food together by the scenic old harbor in Nice.
It was a leisurely meal, and for a while as Sofia asked him about his life in the States, and he found out more about her translation work and life in Madrid, Leo was even able to temporarily forget about the heavy stuff, even stop thinking so much about what might be happening between his fiancée and Marco.
But as the evening pushed on into a wonderful golden twilight, and the light began to fade altogether while they paid the check, Leo found the apprehension building again inside him, as he wondered what was next.
"So..." Leo said, trying to act calm as he escorted the beautiful blonde to the exit while his heart started racing once again.
"So why don't you show me this wonderful villa of yours?" Sofia asked him
Leo took a deep breath. He said: "I'm not sure we're going to get back in time to beat the sunset. You won't see much of the view."
She took his hand and smiled, saying: "It will be light again in the morning."
Leo nodded, and felt a sudden rush of anxiety as the full force of her suggestion hit him - that they would be spending the night and most of the next day together, and Caitlyn would be spending all that time with Marco.
Sofia could sense his trepidation, and gave him a reassuring glance as they proceeded around the little harbor, skirting past other couples and tourists.
"It will be okay, Leo," she said in that serene voice of hers. "We'll have a good time, just the two of us, and we don't have do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable."
"Yes, I know," he said. "It just all seems a lot to take in."
"Of course it does. But we'll take things slowly, and as long as we are still having fun, then we can continue, no? And if we feel like sleeping, then we'll do that instead."
"Sounds like a plan."
She giggled, which did more to dispel Leo's fears than almost anything, and point out: "Once you get us home, you'll be able to have some wine!"
It was strange to drive back to the villa with Sofia sitting beside him instead of Caitlyn. He enjoyed being with the French girl, her unfamiliar but sweet scent filling the rental car, not to mention the sight of her smooth, tanned legs there constantly in his peripheral vision.
The butterflies flapping around his stomach were something to behold, however, so Leo was very much looking forward to getting back to the villa and cracking open a bottle of wine.
On the way up, they stopped at a supermarket to stock up on supplies. Sofia went to look at the wine while Leo picked out some fruit and a few pastries for breakfast.
Returning to find her checking out the bottles of rosé, Leo almost couldn't believe this girl was with him, she was so stunning. How must Caitlyn be feeling that he was with her? Marco was, of course, very charming and friendly, but he wasn't very intimidating to Leo as Leo suspected Sofia might be to his fiancée.
"What are you thinking?" Sofia asked him.
"Oh, you know," he said. "Whether Caitlyn is rushing into things with Marco, whether she'll stop at any point to think, and maybe change her mind about me being with you."
Sofia nodded. "I meant about the wine," she grinned, and he noticed she was holding up two similar-looking rosé bottles, which Leo was never going to make a decision on.
"Oh," he said, flushing a little. "Sorry."
"It's all right. And we can talk about that, but I was just asking whether you like your wine dry or fruity."
He smiled. "I like both."
They bought three bottles of each wine and were momentarily back on the road, the daylight now fading quickly as they drove through the rest of Nice and up into the hills.
As they got going again, Sofia said: "Tell me Leo, honestly, how do you feel about Caitlyn being with Marco right now?"
Leo thought for a moment before he answered. He said: "Honestly, it's probably not the right thing to be thinking, but a big part of me just finds it kind of exciting."
"Exciting?" Sofia laughed. "That was not the answer I was expecting from you!"
Leo shrugged, but smiled. "Honestly?" he said to her, "I feel kind of impressed and kind of thrilled that she wants to challenge herself - challenge us as a couple."
"It's kind of hot to think of her... with Marco." Leo took a deep breath. "I mean, obviously it makes me feel a little weird, because I've got all this baggage from... I guess from the rest of society..."
"That you should be only with her?"
"Exactly. But the thing is, Caitlyn is hot. She's so sexy, and she's even more sexy when she's really fired up. And I just know doing this is really firing her up. That makes me feel so... turned on, I guess. Even though she's with someone else."
"That makes sense, I suppose," Sofia said.
Leo said: "I like Marco - you've got a great guy there, it's obvious. So I don't feel threatened by it. Not really, when I think about it."
"That's good. So where is the problem?"
Leo sighed. He said: "I don't know for certain how she feels. I mean - obviously we talked all this out, but it's still only yesterday she kind of sprang all this on me. And I guess I'm just worried... well, that she will change her mind. Maybe, even after being with Marco for the first time has worn off, she'll be suddenly jealous that I've been with you, Sofia."
The French girl nodded in contemplation of what he was saying. After a pause, she said: "I think you're a strange one, Leo."
"Aren't I, though?" he laughed - and made her laugh as well.
"You're so supportive of your fiancée wanting to do this. And yet you are worried that she will think you are in the wrong because you follow her wishes, and spend time with me?"
"I guess it must sound pretty dumb."
"No," Sofia said, offering him that beautiful smile of hers, warming him up inside despite the poor light from the streetlamps. "It just makes you seem like a really nice guy."
Sofia was suitably impressed by the villa, and particularly the pool - even though the darkness had taken away the view.
Leo gave her a whistlestop tour, feeling strange to be showing her the bedroom, though rushing through so that he could get back to the kitchen and open up the wine that had been chilling in the refrigerator.
"What do you think they're doing right now?" he asked her as he poured two glasses.
She looked at the little gold watch clasped around her delicate wrist. "Ten o'clock already? Is that the time?" she said. Then, "I don't know... they could still be touring the bars around town, or..."
"They could be back at your hotel already?" Leo suggested, mulling the thought.
Sofia took the offered glass, and then clinked it to his in a silent toast, and after approving the selection of cheap local wine bought by Caitlyn's uncle, said: "So Leo, part of you is turned on by the thought of Marco and Caitlyn being together, but what does the other part feel?"
Leo drained his glass, and poured another. He smiled as Sofia laughed at his thirst, and said: "Well, I'm afraid, I guess. I mean, I've thought it all through, and I know I have nothing to worry about. I'm not losing her. Well, I suppose there's a small chance she'll somehow think I'm no longer good enough for her."