Full Circle Ch. 09bytens©
July 5, 2014
Confirm arrival and check-in. Persephone took a deep breath and clicked the confirmation button for the hotel suite in Madrid. She was happy to cross this item off her to-do list but she was sure this booking was the most she would ever spend on any one thing. Nearly 68,000€. Not dollars; euros. She'd had to call the credit card company before running the card to make sure the authorization went through on the first try. Ever the conservative saver, she'd made sure to get a discount of 4,000€ for prepaying. The purchase hadn't put a dent in the money bequeathed from her parents but it still seemed insane to spend this much on just a hotel. She was certain that could buy a house somewhere.
Vanya would scold her and try to pay for it all but she was determined not to let him. Although he liked it when she bought him little presents, he preferred to take care of any big-ticket items himself. When she'd first begun planning his secret birthday voyage she'd chosen a nice boutique hotel, away from the hustle and bustle of tourist sites, and extremely embedded in the local scene. It was only after to going out to dinner with Vanya, Lina, and her husband Austin a couple of weeks ago at some fancy new restaurant that Persephone had realized that type of lodging was not Vanya's taste at all.
Vanya would want luxury, twenty-four hour room service, gourmet food...the works. He'd want a chance of spotting a member of a European royal family or a player for a great football club. Only the best. That's how he traveled. She was determined to make this trip unforgettable after the wonderful year she'd had with him. Vanya had made it truly special.
During the summer following Lina's wedding, Ariana, John Mark Benson's girlfriend, had gotten a job with a ballet company in the city. It was Vanya who had made a couple of calls and landed John Mark an interview with an oil company. With a Bachelor's in Engineering, a Master's in Computer Science and the youthful ambition of a twenty-three year old, John Mark was more than qualified to serve as a Computing Automation Engineer. The position was a fifty-minute drive from the city but John Mark had been able to find a well-priced apartment at the midpoint of the two locations.
Emma, who had no desire to be left alone in Texas with her parents, opted to share a place with Ariana. Emma was clean and sober and Ariana enjoyed having someone who wasn't immersed in the competitive ballet world to come home to. Deciding to put her degree to good use, Emma worked at a gallery in addition to waitressing and adjusted well to city life. Peter and Margie Benson had come up three times to visit and brought old Zenovia with them once. She didn't return, citing pollution, overcrowding, and an abundance of "crazy liberals," no offense to Persephone, of course.
Vanya had kept her friends closer to her when he didn't have to. For that, Persephone was forever grateful. This year, he hadn't put too much pressure on her to move in with him. He'd convinced her to live with him in his apartment while they both interned in the city that summer. It made sense; they both worked long hours and sharing a place had allowed them to have time together every day. Persephone had a sneaking suspicion this was a trial run for life after graduation. Vanya was moving full steam ahead and talked about marriage as if it was a foregone conclusion. The idea was more than growing on her. Living with Vanya for the summer had made her happy and brought peace to her hectic schedule. He'd kept his promise to fill her in before any sudden changes and was less overbearing in public. In a word, he'd been perfect. The perfect boyfriend. She would make this the best damn vacation ever if she could just get through the logistics.
Little details were piling up and there were only six days before they left the country and ten days until Vanya's actual birthday. She'd bought the plane tickets for herself, Vanya, and Max. Vanya was loath to travel overseas without Max since he'd been attacked in Russia several years ago. Not wanting Max to have to sit around in Madrid and just watch them, Persephone had invited Yulian along via e-mail. He'd replied immediately and booked a flight that left a few hours after hers. He was ecstatic at the prospect because of a physics conference in Barcelona he'd read about recently. Yulian's adamant interest had surprised her; it was easy to forget that he wasn't just a handsome, hard clubbing rich boy. When she commented on the fact that he didn't speak Spanish, he simply reminded her that Catalan, not Spanish, was spoken in Barcelona and that the only languages spoken at the conference would be math, science, and nerd.
Just the previous day Persephone had realized that if Yulian was taking some time away in Barcelona, then she should invite the girls along as well. She'd gotten to know Sophie and Eva a little over the past year and was friendly with them. They had agreed to come excitedly and Persephone had spent the morning helping them make last minute arrangements. She knew Vanya enjoyed the girls' company and a "family" trip would make the surprise all the more exciting. Lina and Austin weren't able to travel on such short notice and certainly not for the two-week timeframe she'd had in mind. Mikhail had opted not to go a long time ago.
Frankly, Persephone was glad for Mikhail's absence. She'd needed his help to clear Vanya's schedule for two weeks and had been talking with him for the last few months. It was enough for a lifetime. Although his disdain for her had cooled and he appreciated what she was doing for his cousin, he was still dismissive of her. Kirill even made a better effort to be friendly. Mikhail just acted like she wouldn't be around for long. She'd thought he might spoil the surprise just to piss her off but Mikhail had kept quiet. The worst threat to the big shebang was herself.
It was becoming harder not to tell Vanya. Plotting the surprise had been achieved during her lunch breaks at work and hair appointments at the beauty shop. It would be rude to plan when hanging out with Finn. Other than that Persephone was almost always with Vanya. She wanted to see the happy look on his face right now. It was funny; she'd always been good at keeping secrets but when she was giving a present she had the patience of a child.
Persephone printed out the receipt of the hotel confirmation, leaving a copy for the trip and another for her records at home. After stuffing a copy in a folder she headed out the door. She planned to meet Sophie to pass off some euros she had ordered in exchange for dollars. Persephone had ordered extra and concluded there was no reason for both of them to pay exchange fees. Sophie and Eva would be a day late and would stay on a different floor since they had decided to join the trip later than the others. Persephone smiled as she stepped out of the building and made her way down the busy sidewalk; things were finally falling into place. In six days she'd leave for Europe.
Vanya sat in the upstairs office of the jewelry shop with Sophie and Yulian. They had been poring over paperwork all Saturday morning and he wanted to leave desperately. It was the first weekend he and Persephone weren't on duty at the firms where they were serving as summer associates. His plan to love on her all morning and then go out for Pad Thai had been ruined when he received a call from Yulian asking for help with inventory. Not wanting to be accused of shirking his responsibilities he'd unwillingly left the warm bed he shared with Persephone earlier that morning.
"Alright, you guys, I need to run an errand and get us some food," Sophie said, rising and stretching, "I'll be back in a few minutes." She gathered her things and then opened a drawer to take out an envelope that she shoved inside her purse. Vanya's interest was piqued. He'd come across the envelope earlier while rifling around for some paperwork. It was the reason he knew that it was full of cash. It had struck him as strange for Sophie to keep cash around the shop in such a manner.
"Hey, that sounds like a good idea, I'll go with you," Yulian chimed in.
A look of frustration flashed across Sophie's face. "No, I don't need you to come with me, it's okay."
"Nah, I want to go. I'm hungry. The less you have to carry the faster you'll get back," Yulian insisted.
"Okay," Sophie replied, giving in with a huff.
Vanya knew something was up. Sophie was always nagging them about sending her out for food. She'd called them bums more than once. Now she wanted to go out alone? Sophie was a great many things but the girl had no guile; she was clearly annoyed with Yulian for volunteering to accompany her. Vanya wanted to know what she was up to.
"Well, I want to go too then," he said, getting up as well.
"No!" Sophie said quickly.
"Excuse me?" he questioned.
"I mean...who's going to watch the shop?" she added awkwardly.
"Umm, Eva and everyone else downstairs. Plus, Max is here anyway. Nothing's going to fall apart if we go to lunch with you," Yulian answered. He looked at her sideways.
"Fine," Sophie sighed. She walked ahead of them out the door.
"What the hell is up with her today?" Yulian asked.
"I'm not exactly sure." Vanya scratched his chin and looked toward the direction that Sophie had gone. Something was definitely up with her.
Vanya and Yulian followed a somewhat tense Sophie down the street. She texted on her phone frantically and insisted on going to a little bistro a few blocks away from the shop. They took a seat near the middle of the restaurant while she ordered their takeout. Vanya observed her frequent glances at the bistro's entrance. No sooner than Sophie finished the order did Persephone walk through the door. Vanya sat up at the interesting turn of events. He ignored the fretful look Sophie gave in his direction and kept his eyes on his woman.
Unruffled and cool, Persephone feigned surprise at running into him and his friends. The only reason he knew her arrival wasn't happenstance was because of Sophie's anxiety. Persephone sauntered up to Vanya and Yulian, smiling all the while.
"Well, fancy meeting y'all here! I guess you're stopping by for lunch? How's inventory going?" Persephone was completely casual. She leaned down to give Vanya a quick kiss and ran her fingers through his hair. He took her hand in his and began his inquisition.
"Hey, babe. Were you planning on meeting Sophie here?" he asked outright. Vanya stared at her steadily, never taking his gaze from her practiced face while he rubbed his thumb against the back of her hand.
"Yeah, you know, just girl time stuff," Persephone replied easily, "It's kind of hot out there. I'm gonna go freshen up a bit in the restroom. I'll be back in a sec." She gave his hand a quick squeeze, slipped away from him, and made her way to the back of the small restaurant. Sophie followed behind her, declaring she had to use the bathroom as well. When she was out of sight Vanya turned on Yulian.
"What is up with those two? Sophie just started acting weird when we decided to go out with her and then Persephone just showed up out of nowhere. Now they're using the bathroom together like this is junior high or something."
"I don't know, man. Chicks are weird. They're probably deciding something. I don't know," Yulian averted eye contact while he sipped on his straw. Vanya zeroed in on his cousin's avoidance.
"Do you know something that I don't know?"
"No." Yulian's answer was too quick. Vanya glared at him, waiting for another denial.
"What?! I don't know anything!"
Before Vanya could press further the girls emerged from the bathroom. It was then that he glimpsed through the shutting door that the bathroom had no stalls. Persephone and Sophie weren't that close; they were busted. He wasted no more time when they made it back to the table.
"Alright, what's going on?" Vanya demanded, eyeing them closely.
"What're you talking about, Gigantor?" Persephone asked nonchalantly. She looked at him with what seemed to be real interest. Vanya was somewhat galled by her capacity for deceit. Persephone looked genuinely confused. He changed tactics and turned on Sophie.
"Is that envelope of money still in your bag?"
Sophie's round blue eyes widened and she was at a loss for words for a few moments. When she composed herself she answered with a question, trying not to look caught in the act.
"Why are you looking in my bag?"
"I didn't. I saw you put it in there back at the shop. Don't deny giving it to her, your bag is unzipped."
Persephone chose that moment to come to Sophie's aid. "So, she probably unzipped it when she paid for the food. Besides, she could have been giving me a tampon."
"You're not on your period. Why would you go to her for money? Why wouldn't you come to me?"
"Wow, thanks for outing my menstrual cycle to everyone. Did you think maybe Sophie needed one?"
"Yeah, right, you came all the way over here to give her a tampon. Give me a break." Vanya felt himself losing patience. This was no longer intriguing; it was infuriating.
"Dude, Vanya, really, it's okay. I think it's just some girl stuff," Yulian commented, trying to appease him. Vanya looked between the three of them and then settled on Persephone.
"Are you pregnant?"
"What! No!" she exclaimed, flabbergasted, "How could you possibly come to that conclusion? Where does that even come from?"
"You're acting really suspiciously, showing up at a sandwich place to exchange money with Sophie in the middle of the day. Sophie's sweating like she stole something and Yuli is hinting at 'girl stuff.' Tell me what is going on right now, or so help me I will beat it out of him." Vanya fumed and jerked his thumb in Yulian's direction.
"Tell him," Yulian chimed in immediately. He knew it was no idle threat.
"Alright, alright," Persephone held up her hands, "We surrender."
"Well?" Vanya looked down on her expectantly. He'd stood up to his full height while trying to intimidate them all into giving up their precious secret. He couldn't help it; if something was wrong they should have come to him. Persephone should have come to him.
"Surprise. We're taking you on a trip for your birthday." Persephone broke into a huge grin.
"Correction," Sophie cut in, smiling, "She's taking you on a trip for your birthday. We're just coming along for the party. Persephone has done an excellent job of planning everything."
Well, well, well, he thought. Persephone must have been planning this for a while. If she was planning a trip then all the other birthday plans he'd arranged were out the door. Vanya had never had a surprise party before. He was suddenly consumed with the need to know all about it. "Where are we going?"
"Ah, ah, ah!" Persephone snapped her fingers and cut Yulian off, "The cat's not completely out of the bag. That's for us to know and you to find out."
Persephone raised her eyebrows with a mocking, impish smile. She looked so damn cute standing before him in a sleeveless, scoop neck flare dress. How did she manage to be cute, sexy, and professional all at once? Though the cotton fabric was a plain khaki color; it had a little bit of stretch that accentuated her round, bouncy breasts. Starting at the waist, five pencil-thin back lace ribbons lined the dress and tied in with the sheer black flats that adorned her feet. A delicate gold necklace with a small emerald pennant drew his eyes to her cleavage. One of her hands clutched a tote, the other sat firmly on her hip, telling him there was no way he was going to get this secret out of her. Vanya opted for the next best thing; he wiped the smug look off her face with a deep kiss.
Four days before his birthday Vanya returned home from the last day of his internship to find that Persephone had stashed significant amounts of their clothing somewhere. She refused to answer any questions about his missing luggage or give any information about vacation locales that started with the letter "M."
"Morocco?" Vanya had asked.
"No. Anyway, technically speaking that's in Morocco."
"Nah, but even if you get it I'm not going to tell you anything."
Persephone had ignored his aggravated sigh and plied him with peanut butter and raspberry jam ice cream sandwiches. The next day, after they finished dressing, she presented him with a brand new small suitcase. The dark brown, two compartment, textured leather bag was already stocked with his laptop, sunglasses, passport, and phones. Inside, on its nubuck-lined interior, he found his full name, Иван Кир́иллович Правдин, stitched in hunter green Cyrillic letters. Vanya's heart began to beat and he cleared his throat. He didn't want Persephone to hear his voice break.
"Babe, thank you so much."
"Do you like it? I can get it done in another color if you want. The hardware doesn't have to be silver-tone. They can do gold, bronze, whatever." Persephone rubbed his arm softly, trying to placate his perceived dislike.
"Sweetpea," Vanya spoke after a moment of silence, "It's perfect. It's just that no one has done anything for me like this since..."
"Since my mom died."
"Vanya," she whispered and immediately wrapped her arms around his torso. Vanya responded in kind, embracing her tightly. He knew he was crushing her a bit but she'd pull away when she needed relief. Right now, he wanted to hold and savor his woman - this wonderful woman to whom he could show his mending heart.
They stood before the front door, wrapped in one another for several minutes until Vanya's hands roved over her back and slipped under her navy cardigan. The top of the sleeveless yellow shirtdress Persephone wore was embroidered with little organza florets and he loved the feel of them beneath his fingertips. With no warning, Vanya picked her up and held her legs around his waist, pressing her back against the door. She yelped in surprise; in all the time they'd been together she'd never gotten used to being randomly taken up in his arms. Vanya took advantage and thrust his tongue into her mouth. He rested his lips against hers after she pulled away from their feverish kiss for air.
"I want to make love to you," he rasped. He looked at the blush in her cheeks and knew Persephone was debating the feasibility of such action. Her hands fisted in his hair and his crisp, pale blue cotton shirt as he raked his teeth and lips against her neck and jawline. Vanya was encouraged by her mewls and the heat emanating from her pussy. Another minute and he'd have her.
"Wait!" Persephone panted, turning her head, "We can't. We have to go. The car is waiting."
"Are you sure we have to go on a trip? The only birthday present I need is you. This!" Vanya groaned and buried his face in her neck and pressed himself against her for emphasis.
"Meh, you already have me," she giggled and patted his back.
Not completely, Vanya thought. He bit back his response and sighed. A marriage debate was not the way he wanted to start a destination birthday party. Instead he let her down. She smoothed her dress and gathered her large white leather and wicker satchel. Before she could open the door he pulled her back into his arms for one more hug and whispered, "Love you" against her ear.
"I love you, too."
A black town car awaited them in front of his building. A buxom red headed female driver opened the door for both of them and began their drive once they were seated. She made small talk for a few minutes and during a lull Persephone closed the cover separating the back compartment from the front. Without ceremony, she began rubbing her palms over his crotch and thighs, massaging as she went along. Vanya felt his hard on returning in full force under her ministrations. When he was at ease, she unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, pulled out his cock, and took his head in her mouth.