tagErotic CouplingsFlowers for Jill Ch. 06

Flowers for Jill Ch. 06

byGinger_Martin©

Author's Note:

I'm sorry about the long delay. I was busy most of the time, and when I wasn't, I procrastinated, but I didn't do it because I was trying to be a naughty tease; I had good reason.

Like I mentioned, after this story expanded and lengthened, it got more personal. I found it a bit difficult to get back to it without invoking a set of feelings and memories and such, buuuuut here's Chapter Six. It's a very long one, which I hope makes up for the wait, and doesn't disappoint.

I'll start working on Chapter Seven as soon as I post this.

Keep the emails and comments coming, I love feedback more than I want to admit! ;)

- Ginger

*****

Jillian felt like she was in a classroom daydreaming and not paying attention to the lecturer. She snuck a peak at a woman seated at a round table with a large group of people celebrating a birthday and saw her stealing glances at her phone, and furtively typing a text with one finger. A smile stretched Jillian's lips when she assessed the other people's faces around that table, and she snorted lightly at the matching stern expressions on everyone's face.

"That has got to be the most serious birthday crowd I've ever seen!" she couldn't help but point out to her date, Max, who swiveled stealthily in his chair to look at them, "Are you allowed to hold a funeral at a restaurant?" he turned back to her with a half smile/half frown on his face, and she burst out laughing inordinately from a combination of the stray thoughts she's had all evening, and the birthday scene. Her outburst drew a few curious glances from nearby tables, and painted a toothy grin on Max's face, "You're giddy tonight, but you haven't even touched that wine." He indicated her glass of red wine, and she flushed confessing, "I'm scatter brained."

"Nevertheless, It's a nice change," he sat back in his chair, rearranging the napkin in his lap, "I was beginning to think you don't like spending time with me."

He was attractive, very attractive, with his tan skin, dark brown hair, and hazel green eyes; that whole tall, dark, and handsome cliché. But he was also good company with his ability to delve into conversations and introduce new subjects whenever the current talking matter grew stale. She suspected that his knack for entertaining colloquy was one of the reasons why he has recently been promoted to senior editor for the fitness magazine he worked for.

"Am I that terrible to be around? I'm sorry," she moved the food on her plate with her fork, "I must've lost my social skills somewhere between here and New York." She joked about her recent trip home.

"You actually seem happier after your visit." He commented and took a sip of his wine focusing his eyes on her, "Very distracted, but happy."

"Happy is a big word in the business world, but I might be."

She didn't feel that way; she felt...flighty and dazed after going back for a conference at Élsi Dussant and a visit with her parents. It's been five months since Marc granted her wish, five months since that pivotal morning in her old loft. The strangest, most whimsical months of her life during which she felt like she had torn down a number of walls inside, a big edifice that had marked her personality and behavior for far too long, and was rebuilding her life the way she wanted it to. She was more relaxed now, yet more contemplative, more open to get out there and live, yet still had a protective shell around herself.

After refusing to date for a long time, she finally convinced herself to say yes to Max's offer, and went out with him a couple of times before tonight, yet found her brain reminding her to relax and have fun throughout most of the time spent with him. He was the classic gentleman, taking her to the opera on their first date, which was challenging since she was an opera lover, but couldn't unbend her knotted nerves during the whole show. He took her to a comedy movie on the second date, the complete opposite from their first one, but she was so unfocused, she missed half of the film as her mind strayed towards New York and Élsi Dussant's offices there. Has he left his office yet? Is he putting in another long day? Was he...seeing someone now? Marc, Marc, Marc, everywhere she looked, everytime she tried to silence the noise in her head to think about a project or remember something. Marc.

She got to see him on her visit, but they never talked directly to each other that day. They were both so busy with someone around them at various times, and her constricting time schedule forced her to leave to see her parents as soon as the meeting's proceedings were adjourned.

Their emails and phone conversations where a different thing all together though. It seemed that he relied heavily on her judgment in a lot of topics; hence he delegated a lot of things to her keeping her in contact with him on an almost daily basis. As casual and business-related as their communications were, she still got to learn more about him, and they still managed to keep that unspoken line of mysterious connection between them unsevered. His work ethic flabbergasted her, and his unusual approach to management has proved to be quite the success as their sales percentages had a shocking ascent since he presumed his position. She was comfortable in the current place she was in, mentally and physically, yet there was something, some darn thing that poked her intrusively whispering Marc's name in her ears and recalling his image, his voice, and his smell when she least expected to think of him.

Steering her thoughts away from Marc was a new talent that she has been working on developing, and she exercised it to focus on Max once more as he was talking about...something, "We make these people more famous by just talking about them, even when we hate them," he was saying, and she nodded thinking to herself that Max was a popular name for dogs according to an article she read online a while ago.

"It's the excessive focus on these people everywhere you turn," he went on, as she repeated in her head "Maximus, Maximus, Maximus," and had to stifle a laugh.

"I so agree with you!" she said to cover her borderline indelicate behavior, and he shrugged, "I wish the public would, too. We're having to use more actors and singers or even reality celebrities on our covers instead of athletes and bodybuilders, and it rubs me the wrong way that we're stealing good opportunities from people who do it for a living just to plaster a face that sells faster on the covers." He rarely talked about his work, and when he did, he wasn't annoying about it, something that she envied him for since she almost always gushed about work which was still the axis of her life. Work was her excuse to talk with Marc, the justification she pleaded for thinking about him. and when she called him on a late work night -the hour difference making it really late where he was- work was a very valid reason to claim, even when their conversation swayed in an informal direction, and they discussed something else for a few stolen moments.

"How's your food?" Max touched her hand gently stealing her from her reverie.

"Delicious!" she answered moving things around in the dish again. She'd ordered an ostrich egg salad that had a very colorful variety of vegetables -fresh and grilled- in it, "Too much though, I don't think I'll be able to finish it." she smiled and forced herself to meet his gaze. He was good looking, considerable, and intelligent, so why was she not feeling this? Why was her mind running away and her body shutting off?

"How's your salmon?"

"Just the way I like it," he beamed, "seared to perfection without losing any taste. Want a bite?"

She glanced at his dish then raised her eyes to his mouth. That sensual mouth with the lips curving up in a small smile, and a vision of a masculine pair of smirking lips filled her head. Lips that weren't blatantly full like Max's, but were slightly on the thin side with a beautifully curved cupid's bow...Lips that moved almost exaggeratedly when their owner talked or pulled a face or even when he was deep in thought.

"No, but thanks!" she missed watching Marc's lips lead the expressions on his face, "I'm not big on fish." She pleaded with an apologetic smile, "You can try mine, though."

"I believe I will! I've never had ostrich egg before!" he took her up on her offer, and she watched his mouth close on a forkful of egg, radicchio, and a strip of grilled yellow pepper that he cut after removing a slice of tomato and a piece of lettuce, "Mmmm..." his eyebrows lowered in astonishment and he closed his eyes for a second, "Um ummm." He nodded then met her gaze, "I didn't know what to expect, but it's actually good!" his tongue darted to lick off a drop of the spicy vinaigrette that was drizzled on the dish, and the sight of his tongue on those lips suddenly reminded her that -at some point or another- he was going to kiss her...that it would most likely be later that night since this was their third date, and they haven't even kissed yet.

An alien wave of sudden panic washed through her, and she felt herself flushing when he pressed his lips to his wine glass again for another sip. She couldn't give another guy what she's already given Marc, what he's already marked and signed as his. She blinked rapidly pushing the thoughts away, she couldn't continue to feel like Dussant's odalisque no matter how marvelous that whirlwind of an affair was.

"I need to go to the ladies room." She put on her best affable face, and scraped her chair back without waiting for him to say anything, "I'll be right back."

She bumped into a woman in the corridor, and gave her a tight smile and a mumbled apology while trying not to look like she was running away from the dining room. Her taupe Sue Wong dress that seemed so appropriate for a classy date, now felt too sexy, too constricting. She ran her hands on the intricate soutache braiding that looped all over the dress and tried to breathe, but the neckline presented her breasts too delectably everytime she drew some air into her lungs. Was that what he was seeing all evening? It all felt so wrong, so perfidious like she was cheating on Marc.

"Get. A. Grip." She hissed at her reflection feeling piteous in her inane little struggle to have a normal sex life. She had survived on casual sexual encounters since college, and it was time to end that and have something real, and Maxime Kasper was the perfect candidate for the boyfriend position she's had vacant for so long.

Wetting her hands, she shook them lightly then touched them to her face cooling her feverish skin, and giggled nervously whispering to herself, "You're acting like a virgin!"

A woman emerged from one of the stalls and cast repetitive curious glances in Jillian's directions while she washed her hands. Jillian nodded at her, and proceeded to dig in her evening clutch for a handkerchief to blot the few drops of water from her face without ruining her makeup, but she found her cell phone instead, the softly blinking light indicating that she had a new email.

Knowing that it was probably work-related, she schooled herself to ignore it and finish what she was doing before going back to her date, but the promise of a line from Marc was too tempting, and she succumbed shamefully;

"Crazy idea, but I think we should combine both stores into one catalogue. Maybe have the models model the clothes while seated on/using the home items from Élsi Home. WDYT? - Marc"

Her hands trembled as she read the email a second and a third time then checked the received time that revealed it was sent less than half an hour ago. He was putting in another late night working on their project. A ragged breath left her mouth, and the woman -who was now drying her hands- gave her another weird look. She didn't even heed the other woman as her heartbeat raced over how seriously he'd embraced her idea, and how he didn't hesitate to honor it.

A few weeks after her move, she had shot him an email suggesting they add a furniture and decorative items section to their stores. Ever the ambitious businessman, Marc leapt at the suggestion, but countered with his preference to keep their fashion boutiques to deal strictly with clothing and accessories without turning into a department store.

"Are you talking about a separate home store?" she exclaimed in the phone holding the pear she was eating halfway to her mouth.

"Why not?" His voice had answered on the other line declaring the birth of Élsi Home. He even went as far as deciding to open the first store in Chicago since it was her baby, and gave her a lot of freedom in choosing a team to implement the initial creation plans after he got the board to approve the expansion project. She recruited a group of people with his help, and the project was afoot in no time.

"It would make for a very thick catalogue, but I like the idea; reminds people to buy stuff for their house when they're browsing for clothes." Her fingers rapidly typed a reply. She hesitated for a moment then added, "You're working late, get some rest." Then hit the send tab.

She took a few deep breaths then washed her face again, a few seconds after she walked out the door, her email alert beeped again, and she crept back into the restroom pulling up her email app to read:

"I've decided to call it a day hours ago. I was just brainstorming over dinner. And are you telling me what to do now, Boss Lady? :P"

A goofy smile stretched her lips as she typed, "A lil bit. ;)" and hit send then clutched her phone to her chest and took another breath. At this rate, she was going to pass out from hyperventilating. Decisively, she set her phone alarm to ring in twelve minutes before walking back to the dining room feeling like a total bitch.

Max was looking out the window they were seated next to with a dreamy look in his eyes. They glittered when he moved them to her as she approached the table, and ran up from her knees to settle on her chest for a fleeing second, then met hers making her feel too naked in her dress.

"I drank too much coffee this afternoon." She lied in justification of her bathroom run, hoping that he never discovers her hatred for using public toilets in the future.

"I'm not a coffee guy, I'm afraid," he had waited for her to come back to resume eating, and she felt like an even bigger bitch watching him grab his knife and fork again with easy elegance, "I drink Earl Grey tea almost obsessively though."

"I drink my coffee black and sugarless." She commented absently, and he wrinkled his nose, "I can't even stand the smell of coffee," then he chuckled, "I drink my Earl Grey with honey."

She thought of that morning in her kitchen when Marc poured milk to fill almost a third of his cup and drank coffee with her before walking out without a backward glance. He was so furious; seething, and when he called her back that evening to list his terms to transfer her, he was still boiling with anger. He yelled at her, and she let him, feeling strangely deserving of his reprimand. She didn't object to his request to keep her until they found a replacement since it was her intent all along, but she didn't agree with him as he went on and on about what a big mistake she was making, and how rash her decision was. He hovered over her during her last week, making her go to the office she'd began to dislike, and scowling at her from across the room as she did a number of presentations to introduce him to Élsi, and answered the questions he barked at her.

He was ruggedly sweet though, something about the gruff way he handled the transition was kind, and generous; the ultimate hard candy with a soft center. Feeling uncomfortable, she voiced little objections that he silenced when he told her that her salary won't be compromised despite the fact that -considering how desperate she felt at the time- she didn't mind taking a small pay cut.

She wanted to break the ice after her move, so she sent him a set of monogrammed fountain pens, but didn't have the guts to call him. She promised herself she'd do it for about five or six days, until he picked up the phone and started talking about the district managers' quarterly training course like they haven't fought or argued, or even had that steamy affair at all.

"This snow never ceases to fascinate me," Max's voice drifted to her ears and she focused her gaze on his profile as he was looking out the window into the snowy night, "I guess I'll always be a Californian at heart."

Grasping at some of the details he's told her about himself, she asked, "Will you go back home to celebrate Christmas with your son next week?"

He smiled, "No, he likes to celebrate it here, and my ex lets him."

"That's sweet of her." She picked up her fork, her appetite completely lost by now.

"Not really, she gets him on his birthday, and I can't always free some time to fly over and see him, so I end up mailing his gift."

Since she didn't feel like eating the rest of her salad, she picked up her wine glass and sampled it before asking, "How long have you lived here?"

Looking up, he took a deep breath, "Let's see, I moved here when I was twenty-seven, so nine years." He met her eyes again, and again she felt that ludicrous sense of guilt wash over her and wanted to cover up, "Isabel hated it. We got married here, though, but she filed for divorce and moved back three years after and took Caleb with her. I didn't really miss her much, which I guess makes me a bad husband, but...we've fallen out of love somewhere down the line. She was being constantly negative while I was trying to find a solid footing with my career. The only thing that kills me is the fact that my son lives so far away from me, and I don't get to spend as much time with him as I'd like to."

She felt sorry for him, he was such a nice guy, "But you do your best, and that counts, believe me." she felt very base, very mean for dragging him into her emotional mess. Sure, he was the one who asked her out repeatedly, but she could've continued saying no, instead of using him as a Guinea Pig to re-launch her dating life.

"It bothers me because my dad was always around when I was growing up, and I wanted to the same for my kid. He had just been born, and I wanted to be with him while he grew up."

"Do you plan on having any more children?" she quickly added, "In the future I mean."

He shrugged, "I don't know, depends. Do you? Plan on having any of your own, that is?"

An image of a blue eyed Dussant baby flashed in her mind, and she shook her head fast, "I don't know," she swallowed nervously, "I've never really given it much thought." It was the truth.

He took her hand in his again, and murmured, "I think that you should consider it; you're a very beautiful woman and you'd make beautiful babies."

A high pitched nervous laugh escaped her mouth, and she had to cover it, "Jeez, Maxime, thank you...I guess."

"Maxime," he smiled, "I like how you say my name." he was running his thumb over the back of her hand when her phone alarm went off, and she jumped in her chair, withdrawing her hand and splashing some of her wine on the table cloth, "Gosh, I'm sorry," she mumbled, "that's my phone. I forgot to put it on silent mode."

"You're fine, I never silence mine." He offered.

With a series of economical maneuvers, she managed to turn off her alarm and set the phone on silent just in case someone does call her, then she put it to her ear faking a conversation with a lot of "No's" and "Oh God, I'm sorry."

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