Not My Type Ch. 06byfirstkiss©
[Happy Holidays All! This chapter has been a tough one to write, and I hope it's worth the wait. Thanks again for the continuing emails and encouragement. I hope it doesn't take as long to get the next chapter out to you. All the best for the holidays and the new year. Cheers! ~firstkiss]
"Life's like that though, isn't it?" Adele stated as she, Rhiannon, and I convened for an emergency lunch date. "Just when you think things are going along just swimmingly, BOOM! The bottom falls out of it."
"I still say he's way too cute," Rhi offered with a casual wave of her long fingers. "Who cares if he's on parole? That's in the past."
I sat in numbed silence, staring unseeingly into my iced tea.
"He's good in bed, isn't he?" Rhi asked.
I nodded automatically in response.
"So then what's the problem? You like him, he's a good fuck, and he's hot. Give the man a chance, Lil."
"You did take him home to meet your family, didn't you? And you said that all worked out fine, everyone liked him, even your Dad. And don't go telling me that was just a freak chance thing, bringing him home. We both know there are no co-incidences in life. It was meant to happen. I think it's very unlikely that he's a bad person. People make mistakes, Lilly," Adele said. She reached across the table and patted my hand. "Have you called him yet?"
My head shot up and I couldn't hide the disgust on my face. "How's that supposed to go, Adele? 'Hey Adam, thanks for the great weekend and the amazing sex. I think we really connected and you're the nicest guy I've ever met. Oh, and by the way... how was prison?' Yeah, I can see it now!"
Adele looked hurt, Rhiannon amused. Neither expression sweetened my mood. Uncomfortable silence descended heavily on us. I squirmed in my seat, unsure of what to say, of what I needed to hear from my best friends. I'd called them in a panic and like always they'd responded. I just wasn't sure how they could help.
"You know," Adele said with a soft sigh. "It's so funny how one tiny thing can change your relationship. It's such a delicate balance, what you have with another person, the tenuous threads that bind you together. All you have to do is have a little ripple in the balance and everything can come crashing down. Nothing can ever be the same after something like that happens. The strong move on, tighten their grip; and the weak..." her eyes met mine and her smile was so sad that my own tears mirrored hers. "The weak get thrashed against the rocks."
She snapped her fingers, the sound echoed loudly in the dead silence which lay between us all. "Relationship shipwreck. Most of us never see it coming."
I let my exhaustion pool into weary tears which I couldn't stem. Rhiannon sat in awkward silence, Adele in comforting sympathy.
"Don't mourn what never was," Rhiannon offered after a time. "Don't play the 'what-if' game with yourself. If you can't handle this - move on." There was a sharp edge to her voice which years of experience taught me she didn't intend. Emotional conversations just weren't Rhi's thing. Dear God, how I loved her for it, because at that moment I felt emotional enough for the three of us.
"Call him," Adele prompted gently. "He's a nice guy; he deserves a chance to explain."
"Explain what? Assault with a deadly weapon, Adele! What is there to explain?" My hands trembled against the cold, hard surface of the table. "He beat a guy up badly enough to go to jail for it! What the hell sort of person do you have to be to do that?"
"You like him, don't you?" Rhi interrupted before Adele could speak. "He made you happy, didn't he? If you think he's worth the fight, the grief, then call him. If you don't care enough to let him explain it to you, then now's the time to cut your losses and move on."
Everything seemed so blunt in Rhiannon's terms. My own brain didn't allow for such black and white explanations of things, but I had to admit her idea had merit. It wouldn't hurt me much more to hear his side of the story. He'd put up with a lot from me and my family over the past weekend, I could grudgingly admit that perhaps I owed him the opportunity to be honest.
The doorman at La Langoustine Fâchée was all smiles, although it was difficult for me to tell whether that was because he worked at the most exclusive restaurant on the Island or because of what I was wearing.
Rhiannon had dressed me, and everything from my lace bustier and matching garters to my ridiculously low-cut gown and killer stilettos were jet black. Manicured, pedicured, waxed, and stylishly coiffed, I'd never had so many aestheticians fuss over me in my life, never mind at one time. It took more than three hours of preparation before Rhi declared me suitably outfitted for my fateful date.
Upon parting with Adam the day before we'd agreed to meet at the restaurant. Rhiannon and Adele had argued so loud and long about which of them was going to drop me off that eventually I'd stepped in and suggested they both do it, which is how I found myself standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant with the maitre d' grinning at me and my two best friends loudly giving me suggestions from Adele's car.
"Give him a chance to explain," Adele said first in her most encouraging tone. "I'm sure it's not as bad as it sounds."
I wasn't sure how assault with a deadly weapon could be anything less than "bad", but I was determined to hide my hurt and try to be as open-minded as possible.
"Be fabulous," Rhi chimed in. "When he sees you in that dress he'll gladly crawl across burning coals for you. Make him sweat, Honey! Make him beg for forgiveness."
I laughed. Trust Rhi's advice to not really be advice. I didn't know how being perfectly made up and sexily dressed was going to accomplish anything, but I knew Rhiannon well enough to trust her. After all, she had more experience with men than all of my other girl friends put together.
I took a deep breath, waved goodbye at Adele and Rhiannon, and climbed the steps to the restaurant, smiling broadly at the maitre d' the entire time, hoping I looked more calm and confident than I felt.
"Ms. Tanner," he drawled smoothly as he held the door open for me. I swept inside before turning back to him, intrigued.
"How did you know my name?" I asked. Did I know the handsome young man? He was too young to be an acquaintance of mine or an old high school friend. He was closer to Violet's age than my own. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"
His smile was eager and flirtatious as he helped me off with my coat. His eyes almost popped from his head as the rest of the dress was revealed. It didn't hide much and I'd been nervous to wear it, but oddly the appreciative glance of the young maitre d' made me feel more self-assured, sexy.
He whistled lowly, dropping the professional demeanour altogether. "No Ms. Tanner, you don't, although I wish you did. But Mr. Brooks said you'd be the prettiest little redhead I've ever seen, so I took a guess. He wasn't lying." His smile widened as I thanked him.
"You and Mr. Brooks are dining the conservatory tonight," he said with a shake of his head as if to clear it. I grinned. "Right this way."
"The conservatory?" I echoed. I'd never been to La Langoustine before and every sight was new. The floors were dark and gleaming hardwood, the chandelier in the entranceway positively dripped with crystals.
"Our private dining room," he explained as he led the way.
It was obvious that at one point the building had been a residence, more than likely of some disgustingly wealthy turn-of-the-century shipping magnate. Little had changed when it was converted to a restaurant. I couldn't help but feel as if I were walking into someone's home, except that instead of a traditionally furnished livingroom, dining room, and parlour at the front of the building, each room was filled with intimate, exquisitely set tables. Portraits of long dead Islanders covered the walls, and a quick glimpse into each room as we passed revealed them to be decorated in sumptuous colour schemes: rich reds, deep greens, blue so dark it was almost black. Everywhere china and crystal gleamed on the tables, seated around which were the most well-dressed and attractive people I'd ever seen in my life. It all seemed too much to take in, and I couldn't help but feel like I was a little out-of-place.
"Right through here, Ms. Tanner," the maitre d' said softly. We'd reached a richly burnished mahogany door. "Mr. Brooks will be along shortly, he's just supervising the finishing details on your dinner."
"Thank you," I murmured as he held the door open for me and I stepped past him, but I didn't hear his response - I'd walked into a world of glass and twinkling lights, and the wonder of it all deafened me.
The conservatory was aptly named; octagonal, with floor-to-ceiling glass which rose to a point a good ten feet above my head, and a view of the softly lit and walled garden beyond. Candles flickered on the small, round table set for two, and the rest of the room was lit only by dangling strands of tiny, white lights which were suspended from the ceiling like stars.
The circumference of the glass room was ringed with beds of lush plants, bringing the garden inside; the circle of exotic greenery broken only by a small door to the terrace beyond. I crossed the room quickly to throw open the door. The darkness outside was cool and calm and it invited me to explore further. There must have been spring flowers blooming somewhere past the circle of light, I could smell them, but not see them as I stepped onto the terrace, leaving the soft light and warmth of the conservatory behind me. The darkness of the garden seemed to better suit my mood.
Beyond the garden wall I could hear and smell the sea, and guessed that in daylight the view must be breathtaking. In the dimness though all I could see were the topmost lights of the buildings across the harbour and their twinkling added to the magic of the place. It was like another world and it was all I could do to take it all in; I shivered. The maitre d' had taken my coat and the evening air was chilly. I glanced over my shoulder into the warmth and light of the conservatory but couldn't bring myself to go back inside.
My stomach churned with apprehension as I thought about facing Adam. What had he done? Why didn't he tell me about it? Of course he didn't tell me, I chided myself, I'd only known him one damn weekend. Why the hell would he feel like he should tell me? It's just that it had been an amazing weekend, and I thought we'd connected.
Connected. I laughed sarcastically into the empty garden. What the hell did that mean anyway? 48 hours with a man and I thought I knew him? I felt like a fool and that wounded me as much as Adam's secret did. Joe had been right for once and admitting that made me blush and swear softly into the night.
After returning to the office from my lunch with Rhiannon and Adele I'd tried to find out more about him using every considerable and wide-ranged research tool available to me, but I didn't learn anything. What the hell good was a being a journalist if I couldn't find any information? Every where there had been road-blocks typical of government bureaucracy. No one knew anything, or could tell me anything, my contacts had been strangely tight-lipped. I'd scoured old online newspaper archives from Toronto, but without a specific date in mind it had been impossible to find anything. If it hadn't been for his name on that document and the fact he'd been with me all weekend, so much so that I could close my eyes and still taste his kisses, I could almost believe that Adam Reginald Brooks didn't exist.
I tried to replay what little I knew of Adam over and over in my head. If he could be believed about his time in Paris he wouldn't have been any older than 23 or 24 when he returned to Canada and he told me that he was now 32. That was a big window of time in between, and if he was currently on parole how much time had he served? Had he been working in restaurants before the arrest? Since his parole? What was he doing on the Island? How the hell did a parolee get a position at one of Canada's most prestigious restaurants?
The journalist in me told me he could be my story; the woman in me was afraid of what I might find. I didn't want to be hurt any more, was terrified of seeing him, of his reaction.
It just seemed easier to run away from the problem than to face it, and for a moment I considered fleeing, finding my coat and walking home through the darkness. I wouldn't have to see him, to talk to him, to see the hurt in his emerald eyes.
Still there was a little nagging voice in my head that wouldn't allow my feet to move. Maybe he had changed. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe he was starting fresh and deserved a chance. And maybe I was just rationalizing, trying to find a way that I could still kiss him, touch him again, feel free and alive in his presence. He made me feel more like myself than any one ever had, and that was only in three days of knowing him. Losing that possibility was as frightening as knowing the truth.
I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I didn't hear him approach, so the warmth of his hand on my bare arm made me jump with surprise, but before I could turn around to face him, Adam snaked an arm around my waist and held me still. I couldn't help but melt back against the solid heat of his body.
My hair was pulled up, leaving my neck and shoulders bare, and he dropped a path of kisses to my ear. "You're beautiful," Adam whispered as I shivered against him. "I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life than you standing there, waiting."
I sighed his name, so wrapped up in the moment and the instant magnetism of his presence that for a moment I forgot everything I'd planned on saying, everything that he didn't know I knew.
"It's chilly out here though, and you're not wearing much." Adam reached his free hand around to dip into the low neckline of my borrowed gown. My nipples were hard beneath the silk and he found them easily and brushed against them with the lightest touch. I couldn't help but arch against him with a moan.
His chuckle was low in my ear; he nipped gently at the lobe, flicking it between his teeth and tongue. "Come see what I've cooked for you." My stomach rumbled mutinously against the churning of my brain and the racing of my heart.
Adam turned me gently to face him. The soft light from the glass conservatory behind him outlined his handsome features. He looked so happy, so pleased to be there standing with me, that when he reached for my hand I gave it. My chest ached at the sight of him and when he smiled his secret seemed not to exist.
He was wearing a dark suit, his tie was perfectly knotted, the shirt immaculately pressed, and he filled out the well-tailored jacket to perfection. My mouth went dry and my heart thudded rapidly in my chest. If it weren't for the glint of his pierced eyebrow, the faint edge of his tattooed neck above his collar, and the wicked, lusty glint in his eyes as he saw the plunging neckline of my dress, I could almost say he looked respectable.
"I've been working at this all day," Adam continued, drawing me back into the warmth and light of the conservatory. "I want to show you what I do." He'd no sooner said the words when the door from the restaurant opened and a stream of people came through, bearing wine and carts of covered dishes of food. Each smiled politely at us as they passed.
Adam pulled my chair out and sat me at the table, dismissing the servers with his crooked smile and warm thanks.
In the light it was a little easier to remember why I'd come. I really wasn't interested in dancing around what I knew. Instinctively I knew that I wanted the truth. I felt as if I deserved it. I just needed to rally my thoughts and formulate my approach. A good journalist always comes prepared.
He sat himself across the small, round table from me. Crowded around us, each within arms reach, were the carts of food and from one Adam pulled a bottle of champagne. Before I could think out a strategy he popped the cork and poured us each a glass, and as he passed me mine his fingers brushed warmly against my own.
"Adam...," I started, but he raised his glass to me and automatically I did the same.
His smile was slow and sexy. "To taking chances."
Adam clinked his glass against my own, and the ring of the crystal was musical. He took a sip and I did the same, and despite my nervousness I had to admit it was the best champagne I'd ever had. Vaguely I wondered how expensive it was. My hand shook so much I had to put the glass down before I spilled it.
"I know," he interrupted with a grin, and for a split second my heart stopped as my mind tried to catch up. "It's a little much," he shot me a boyish smile. "All of this, I mean. But I wanted to share it with you. It's a little like taking you out on the bike," he continued before I could open my mouth again. "It might be hard to believe, but this place is part of me too. I love what I do for a living, I'm proud of it. I wanted to share it with you, and the best way to do that was to bring you here."
"It's just that..." I began in a rush, but Adam pulled the silver dome off the plate nearest us and I gasped, distracted.
"Grilled Figs wrapped in Proscuitto with a Balsamic Drizzle," he announced, settling the beautifully presented plate down between us. The little proscuitto wrapped fruits were sitting on top of a bed of bright frisee greens. It was so pretty I didn't know what to say.
"I love the fig's sweetness against the saltiness of the proscuitto and the spiciness of the greens," Adam explained as he cut into the fig and speared a small piece on his fork. He offered me the bite and I took it. "And then you get the sweetness of the balsamic and that's parmesan, just a little," he explained as I slowly chewed. "It's its own flavour of course, sharp and distinct, but it pairs nicely with the sweet fig."
I closed my eyes briefly as Adam spoke, half in an attempt to find all the flavours, and half to block out the remarkable emerald of his eyes. "There's something else there," I murmured, completely distracted by the experience of the food. "It's fresh, you get it afterwards."
"Good girl," Adam laughed. "Its basil, layered between the figs and the proscuitto. Do you like it?"
I nodded and he offered me another bite before taking one himself. My mind somersaulted between the two possibilities open to me; simply put, I could tell him I knew or I could keep my mouth shut and see how long he left me in the dark. Either way one of us was going to get hurt.
"Do you like oysters?" Adam asked, moving the figs aside and pulling the cover off another dish. Beneath the gleaming silver was a bed of crushed ice, with a half-dozen oysters nestled into it. The smell of lemon wafted up to me.
Panicked, I looked about the room. I couldn't let this go on, like everything was normal when I knew it wasn't. My mind was spinning, trying to take in more than I could handle, trying to find a way to process everything about Adam: what he was trying to do for me, what he was putting before me, what he was saying, and more importantly what he wasn't.
"What's wrong, Lil?" he asked as I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes, trying to block him out just for a second, so I could think. "Look, if you don't like oysters that's fine, there's plenty more for you to try."
"It's not the oysters," I whispered, feeling dizzy. "Adam... I...," I stopped, frozen and opened my eyes to look at him.
For a split second he just looked confused, and then understanding dawned across his handsome face, followed by the faint shadow of something darker. Time seemed to slow as we just stared at each other. I tried to speak, but no words would come.