Axiom Ch. 06bydrunkenphilosophy©
It was still dark when Gwyneth inexplicably stirred from sleep, even though the alarm hadn't gone off. Still groggy, she was about to roll over and slip back into slumber until she realized that she wasn't alone in bed. A strong, muscular arm was draped over her waist, pulling her close to the masculine warmth that was spooning her from behind. Slowly, she twisted around to face him, making sure not to wake him in the process. When he felt her weight shift his arms tightened around her in reflex and his breath hitched a little, but the movement didn't rouse him. Looking at his sleeping face made her smile.
Even when he was unconscious, he wore a slightly stern expression, looking all serious and grim like he always did. It occurred to her that she'd never seen him in his sleep before. He did look so delicious with his hair all tousled and messy, his toned chest rising and falling in deep, steady breaths. Memories from the night before began to percolate through her mind, reminding her of the gravity that yesterday's events implied, but she brushed it off and allowed herself to succumb to the dregs of sleep. Gwyneth sighed in contentment and pressed her nose into the shallow space between his chin and collarbone, weaving a long leg through his parted ones. Comfortably snuggled up against him, she drifted off back to join him in his dreams.
The alarm blared on time and Gwyneth's arm shot out in reflex to snooze it. Morning sunlight cut through a gap in the curtains in a faint beam and she could feel him stirring beside her, his long limbs stretching as he slowly woke up. He yawned widely and buried his nose in her hair, reluctant to get out of bed.
"Morning," his voice was gruff and deep, pretty much as sexy as she'd ever heard him.
Gwyneth smiled a little and pressed a kiss on his stubbly jaw. Her whole bed smelt of him - that clean, masculine scent lingered on her sheets and pillows, titillating her senses. God, this was utterly divine. A small part of her memory pricked up, reminding her that they should probably talk about yesterday and at least try to sort things out. But as she pulled away as saw Aidan gazing at her with heavy-lidded eyes, blinking so slowly she thought he might just slip back into unconsciousness at any second, she just let it go.
That could wait - for now, she just wanted to enjoy him and soak in the afterglow of a memorable night. They just lay there, looking at each other, reveling in each other's presence. She found it odd that he was so lugubrious this morning. The normal Aidan usually hopped out of bed with enough time to spare for a leisurely breakfast with the morning paper.
"I don't ever want to leave this bed," he murmured, voice still thick with sleep.
"You're more than welcome to stay here with me all day..."
"Now that's an offer I can't refuse."
His arm snaked around her neck to pull her in for a morning kiss and he moaned softly into her lips as he felt her kiss him back. It was almost surreal, she thought. Cuddling with him in her bed on a lazy morning the night after they'd admitted their feelings for each other. As if to convince herself that he was really there and this was not just a dream, her hands embarked on a stealthy expedition across his body, starting from the chiseled planes of his chest and slowly moving south...True enough, her sleepy lover cracked one eye open and shot her a sensuous smile. Her fingers fluttered over the ridges of his abdomen, tracing the grooves between each muscle, inching towards his most sensitive spot. He was already hard when her fingers closed over his length, drawing out a throaty groan from him. The fog of sleep started to clear from his eyes when her hand started to move up and down his engorged member, igniting the familiar sparks of desire in him.
Biting her lip to hide her smile, she rolled on top of him before he even had time to react, propping herself up on her elbows to hover above him. Her long brown hair fell in a smooth curtain around their faces. Their lips met again, the kiss as heavy with desire and want as it was with tender affection. His hands ran down the length of her smooth, slender back, luxuriating in the feel of skin on naked skin. She could feel his hardness pressing against her belly, the physical evidence of just how much he wanted her. With a playful gleam in her eye she let her kisses trail downwards, meandering in a leisurely path down his jawline and neck to pause at his nipples. She took one into her mouth, flicking at the sensitive tip with her tongue and watched him stiffen in response. When she nipped at the small bud with her teeth she heard his growl at the base of his throat, the strong muscles of his thigh going taut with tension. Keeping her eyes fixed on his, she continued towards his groin, watching his eyes darken as she moved closer and closer to where he wanted her most.
She was almost at his navel when his phone rang in a plaintive, digital bleat, vibrating loudly against the surface of the bedside table. As they both chose to ignore it, she deviated her kisses towards the insides of his thighs, fully intending to drive him crazy. It worked - he pushed himself up onto his elbows and sucked in a breath through clenched teeth, staring down at her with licentious eyes. Thankfully the phone stopped ringing, just in time for Gwyneth to tease him with soft kisses at the line where his hip met his legs. He didn't move a muscle and allowed her to torture him to her heart's content. She could see the hunger blazing in his irises, his lips slightly parted in expectation. This was her man, the man she loved, the man she needed, the man who made her happy - lying naked in her bed, patiently enduring her games.
Gwyneth would have renewed her assault on him if the phone hadn't started ringing again. Whoever was calling must've had a good reason to pester Aidan so early in the morning. She sighed and pulled away from him but he grabbed her shoulders to stop her.
"Ignore it. I'm here with you and it's you I want to spend time with. The rest of the world can wait."
"Aidan, it might be important - "
"Fuck that, I don't care. It's just a phone call." He pulled her up so that her face was level with his. "We're here together, just us both, and I'm willing to just let everything disappear away."
The constant ringing of the phone seemed to deliberately rebel against every word he said. She could see a flash of irritation cross his eyes, the intrusion obviously annoying him to no end. He swore softly, sitting up to reach for the phone and was about to switch it off until he got a good look at the caller ID. She could have sworn that his entire body tensed up, his facial expression tightening ever so imperceptibly when he identified the mystery morning caller. It was easy to tell that the last thing he wanted to do was answer that bloody call, but there was a obviously a compelling need for him to do so. Maybe she should have been mad - any other woman in her right mind would've expected him to ignore the call and focus on her, but she didn't mind it one bit. She expected this. Being a top-notch lawyer meant being married to the job.
"You should get that," she advised gently, brushing her lips against the skin of his shoulder.
His reluctance was written all over his face, but the look in her eyes convinced him to do what he dreaded. "Right after my big speech on being with you." He grimaced. "God, I'm terrible."
"You are." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
"I'm so sorry about this."
He sighed, took her hand in his and pressed a button on the phone.
"Yes?" His greeting was brusque, lacking any warmth whatsoever. He shot her a meaningful glance, quietly thanking her for being so gracious about all of this, and she just smiled back sweetly, knowing that his mood was rapidly deteriorating with every passing second.
"Where did you hear this?" Pause. "Yes." A long pause. "It's entirely my prerogative, and that's all I have to say about it." Another long pause. "Suit yourself."
Immediately after he said those words, he hung up. She could see him silently seething, anger radiating off his skin like an aura. The tension was back in his body, every muscle gone rigid with stress. He'd morphed back into the lawyer Aidan - cold, calculative, domineering. She could sense the animosity between him and the mystery caller, the frown on his face an indicator of a sour history. He tried to soften his stance by bottling up his fury and hiding it from her, but she saw right through it. As much as she didn't like seeing him angry, it made her a little happy to know that she was getting better at reading him. The way his eyes narrowed in annoyance, and the little wrinkle that appeared near his temples when he was thinking - who could it have been, to make him go from cuddly to choleric in a snap?
"That was my father," he answered her unspoken question, and for a minute Gwyneth wondered if he had read her mind. With brains like his, it was very well possible, but then again he was just probably being polite and trying to explain the situation to her. "Currently, there are some...complications with the Ceres case, and he's expressed his interest in it. He's flying in this afternoon."
Her throat tightened at the mention of the case. Even if the fight was over, the fact that she'd been booted off the team still stung. She wished she could pretend that she didn't care, but the fact is that she did. Rejection was never something she took well, even from a young age. She'd been so accustomed to being good at so many things, it was natural that she was wanted for almost everything. Cinching medals and trophies in high school, sponsored trips to Tokyo for Model UN conferences in college, modeling contracts when she moved to New York - all her life, opportunities threw themselves at her feet. Why not this one?
"Listen, I think it goes without saying that I owe you an explanation about the Ceres case."
"You don't have to-"
"No, hear me out. I need you to know that my decision to drop you from the case wasn't unwarranted. In fact," he sighed and shook his head, "in fact, I hate to admit this, but I made that choice due to personal reasons. There are a lot of things you should know that I haven't told you, and if you'd give me the chance, I'd like to tell you about it. Every little detail." He paused for a while, staring at their intertwined hands. "I don't know where we really stand now, and I don't want to rush into things; but if we're going to do this, I want to do it right. I don't want to keep this from you, you have every right to know."
"I appreciate that." Feeling touched, she squeezed his hand in reassurance. "It means a lot to me that you're doing this, because I know it's not easy for you. Whatever your reasons may be, know that I trust your judgement. I really do. It's just...I was really looking forward to working on that case, and I-" she sighed, unable to find a way to express her frustration, "just - honestly, Aidan, is it because of my performance at work? Because I promise, what we have now isn't going to change how I am at the office-"
"Absolutely not - not even close." His voice firmly cut her off and dispelled her worries. "Like I said, it's due to personal reasons. It'll take some time to explain - maybe we could do it over dinner, if you're free tonight?" He gave a small, hopeful smile.
"I'd love dinner," she beamed at him, her good nature illuminating the room. "In fact, maybe I could take you out for a change, if that's okay?"
His eyed widened in surprise. "I was hoping I could spoil you tonight, maybe indulge you a little..." he tried a counter-offer, running his hands through the soft silk of her long hair. "Heaven knows you deserve it."
"Mmm, that does sound delicious. But I think I'll save it for some other night - please? Just for tonight, I'd like to take charge of things. Please, baby, please?"
A smile quirked at his lips, his heart lightening with joy. How could he resist her when she looked at him like that? And she'd called him baby in that sweet, playful voice. Of course he relented. His resolve didn't stand a chance against her doe eyes. He knew that she could see his defeat because her grin widened, so genuine that even her brown eyes were smiling. She threw her arms around his neck, her hungry lips seeking his, and then they were rolling on the bed in a tangle of soft laughter and caresses, completely lost to the world around them.
"You're late," Lucy raised her eyebrows at him as he approached her desk, which sat right in front of his office. "He's waiting inside, arrived ten minutes ago."
"He hates it when I'm not on time," he said dryly, making Lucy's lip twitch. Being in charge of his schedule for the past four years meant that she was no stranger to the strained relationship between Aidan and his father. "Is Julian in there with him?"
She nodded in affirmation. Aidan paused in front of the door, closed his eyes and blew out a breath to calm himself. He wrenched the door open and strode into the room confidently to find the both of them settled comfortably into the plush chairs, sipping from crystal glasses filled with whisky.
"Father," he greeted his dad with nothing more than a curt nod of acknowledgement, whereas Julian didn't even get so much as a hi.
"You should have been here half an hour ago." Nicholas Scodelario's voice was as rough as sandpaper, the result of decades of chain-smoking. His father glared at him, the deep wrinkles around his eyes accentuating the pale blue of his aged irises.
"I was told you arrived just ten minutes ago."
"You should have been here half an hour ago," he repeated, as if he were talking to a child. "Punctuality," his voice took on a condescending sneer, "always was too difficult a concept for you to grasp."
"Sorry, was out there trading the firm for some magic beans - but of course, your sources probably already have you informed."
"Make that punctuality and wit. Makes me wonder how the fuck you ever became a Scodelario."
Aidan would've thought of a proper comeback if it weren't for Julian's eyes warning him not to. Julian was right - there was no point in further displeasing his father, who had the temperament of a rodeo bull. Fighting fire with fire would lead them nowhere. He acquiesced in silence and busied himself at the minibar, pouring himself a drink. If he himself had a reputation as being demanding, it sure as hell paled in comparison to that of this father's. This was a man whom, at the age of thirty, took a law firm of five staff and turned it into a multinational firm that spanned a thousand employees in twelve countries. People feared Aidan, but they were genuinely terrified of Nicholas at an entirely different level.
"Tell me about the Ceres case," he instructed with a glare so cold, it could've frozen the sun.
"We're settling, with the payoff fixed at 56 million, an increase by 16 million from the original 40. The plaintiffs have agreed to not pursue further action as well as to be bound by a non-disclosure agreement, ensuring silence on their part." Aidan explained nonchalantly, knowing that his words were redundant.
"Bollocks. Where's Hamilton?"
"Marty's in a conference call with Shanghai. He won't be joining us this afternoon."
"Well that just leaves Larry and Curly to deal with," Nicholas rasped bitterly. He turned to face Julian and stared him in the eye. "What about you, Lynch? Any gold nuggets you can afford to offer?"
"Like Aidan said, we're settling with 56 million. Folks over at my side are getting very nervous, and we're very keen on having this swept under the rug as soon as we can. The media circus is a lot bigger than what we expected, and the PR jackals are struggling to keep a rein on things. The sooner we settle this, the better."
"So you mean to tell me that you haven't actually formed a little Justice League of your own in some fatuous quest to ensure equality and freedom for all of mankind?"
Julian shot an alarmed glance at Aidan, who caught it with nary an expression on his face. Could he be calling a bluff? Julian's eyes asked. Aidan tilted his head ever so slightly, a secret gesture honed over years of friendship that only Julian would have perceived. True to his dictator-style ruling, Nicholas was one who favored complete and absolute knowledge about everything, imposing his control on every square inch of anything he could get his fingers on. It hardly came as a surprise that he knew about the activities they were doing in secret.
Straight-faced, Aidan swirled the amber drink in his glass and looked his father in the eye. "I see Marty's still reporting to you."
"Marty had nothing to do with it. Fools - did you really think no one was going to know about it? Well congratulations, you have the entire legal world buzzing like it's Watergate-"
Aidan scoffed in derision, fully intending to be as insulting as possible. "Spare me the calisthenics. Throw all the fake-outs you want, but I know that you're just fishing around because you've got squat. What we're doing is completely independent from the firm. We're almost done compiling necessary documents, and it won't be long before the Feds swoop in to finish the job. Until that happens, this is a personal project with three people in charge, and it's completely airtight. Disagree all you want. It's not going to change anything."
"Airtight?" Nicholas shook his head and his contemptuous laugh filled the room. "Jesus, you're a shortsighted little prick, aren't you?" He raised his eyebrows. "Who is she, Aidan?" The gleam in his eyes indicated that he needed no answer to his question. He already knew. This wasn't a question, it was a taunt.
Aidan's lips hardened into a tight line, his spine stiffening as he sat up straight. Coils of anger began to undulate within him, permeating his entire self like venom through his veins. It was so infuriating to see his father's expression, that sordid mask that was both merry and malicious, gleefully delighting in being an omnipotent, all-knowing behemoth.
"Is that a threat?"
Julian watched in avid interest as Aidan's voice dropped into a menacing whisper. His own eyes were bouncing back and forth between father and son as if he were spectating a tennis match. Well now he understood why that junior associate was dropped off the case. Who would've guessed? Not that she wasn't pretty - hell, she was gorgeous, looking like something right off the pages of French Vogue.
Of course he'd suspected it, but in the end the thought of Aidan sleeping with someone from work was too outlandish for him to take seriously. Apparently, he couldn't be more wrong. As much as he wanted to smile and roll his eyes, he didn't. This was serious - Nicholas was implying that this girl would be the weak spot of the entire agenda.
Nicholas silently gloated at his son's response. "How high and mighty you must feel. They say you're a legend in the making - unprecedented instincts, imaginative ideas, all the markings of a truly innovative leader. You're brilliant, Aidan, and you've always been dumb like a fox."
He tipped back the final mouthful of whisky, rolling it on his tongue to savor the flavor before swallowing it. "So I trust you'll understand when I say that my opinions and actions have little bearing on the momentum of things in the greater picture. There's no need for me to threaten you. You took her off the case because you know it yourself."
Nicholas set the empty glass on the table in front of him and rose to his feet, towering over the two younger men who were still in their seats. "Tread very, very carefully. I'm telling you right now, right here - you've bitten off more than your fucking jaw knows how to deal with. I may be wrong - after all, you're the firm's wonder boy, Mr. Magic himself - but make no mistake, you two shitheads can take your righteous little socialist coup and go fuck yourselves in the ass with it."