The Masquerade Ch. 02byEskimo_Kiss©
Alex let herself slowly wake, stretching her arms overhead and her back lifting from the mattress. She then curled herself into her smooth sheets under the warmth of the bedspread. Her dark hair trailed long and it tickled her back for a moment as she shifted. She let her mind wander to last night and her unknown companion.
Remembering his eyes gazing into hers, the slide of his tongue on hers and the feel of his body crushed to hers, she couldn't help the shiver identical to last nights run down her spine. And it wasn't just the kiss, she tried to tell herself to keep the lusty thoughts away. His conversation was intelligent, witty, with just enough self-deprecating humor to keep him from being arrogant.
But she couldn't help thinking about his lips on hers, hard for a moment then relaxing to a gentle passion. His hands in her hair, playing with the fine strands at the nape of her neck. Alex thrashed over onto her other side, trying to keep her thoughts from straying to an area that would just make her hornier. The feel of his hands whispering against her skin as he clasped her cloak. His low laugh when she said something witty and his dark voice wrapping around, especially as he said her name.
Alex threw back the covers and jumped out of bed. She dressed quickly in gi pants and threw a t-shirt over the sports bra she had worn to bed. She ran down to the hall to the closet near the door. Lacing into her tennis shoes she stretched the back of her legs, bending from the waist. Her hair she wrapped into a pony tail with the scrunchy she left on her wrist from last night and she was out the door.
As she pounded her frustration into the pavement beneath, she let her legs take her where they willed. She had run every angle from her small house and couldn't get lost. She wanted to let the pounding of her feet relax her mind and take her past the thought of Mark.
A mile into her run, she had caught her rhythm and she entered the almost trance she was used to when she ran. Breathe in, step, step, step, breathe out, step, step, step. Breathe in, step, step, step, breathe out, step, step, step. Her mind finally settled and she was able to get into the fun of challenging herself. Can I run this section faster than last time, how long can I keep the sprint before I have to slow to a jog. Breathe in, step, step, step, breathe out, step, step, step. Breathe in, step, step step, breathe out, step, step....stumble.
Alex looked around herself, and cursed her legs for being as traitorous as her mind. She had run towards the university. She was still a mile away and if she turned right at the next street, she could circle back, completing her run at four miles, a respectable amount and a good enough work out for a Sunday.
Alex continued running straight. Breathe in, step, step, step, breathe out, step, step, step. Continuing forward she could run around the university, and then cut south back home and finish a good six mile run. That should be enough to run out the frustration for the rest of the day. Breathe in, step, step, step, breathe out, step, step, step. And it wasn't because he worked at the university. It wasn't. It was Sunday, he wouldn't be there anyway.
Finally her mind settled again as she made her way around campus. She got to the end of the circle around the university and decided to sprint the next mile. She let her legs stretch forward and back with each stride, reaching to cover more ground with each foot than the last. Breathe in, step, step, breathe out, step, step. Jump pot hole. Reach with arms, stretch calves. Breathe in, step, step, breathe out, step, step.
She finally reached the corner where she needed to turn and slowed to a jog for her last mile, allowing the cooling down jog to settle her breathe. When she reached her front step, she shook off the disappointment of not seeing Mark and opened the door, slipping inside as she heard a truck rev the engine as it sped past her house.
Walking to the living room, she flicked on her iPod and she gracefully collapsed to the floor and started her routine of stretching. Letting the music get inside her mind, she stretched one leg and then the other, standing to stretch her calves and quadriceps. Then she slowly made her way to her shower, stripping as she went, leaving her clothes behind her like bread crumbs.
She let the shower warm as she brushed out her hair, a tangled mess from last nights curly up-do and hastily made pony-tail. She examined her features as she pulled the brush through the dark strands. Round face, dark eyebrows (naturally thick but tweezed to a natural line). Eyes a brown so dark it was occasionally mistaken for black. Eyes with just enough tilt she was often mistaken for some sort of Asian. She always liked that; after-all her Eskimo (sorry, inuit for those who were politically correct) lineage somewhere down the line came over from Asia. But her Irish half gave her slightly lighter complexion then the true brown of a full Eskimo, as well as the freckles that dusted her nose and cheeks.
She liked the stockiness from the Eskimo side of her family, she liked muscle and strength and being able to keep up with her brothers when she went hunting at home. Not that she was thick, but she wasn't a stick either. She always figured if she were as lithe as her mother, she wouldn't be nearly so strong. Though maybe that was her independent nature. She didn't want to have to depend on anyone for anything. So she was strong and skilled enough to take care of her home repairs, fix simple problems with her car, and live on her own in the city.
~I don't want to be alone forever though~, Alex thought as she slipped into the warm water. Alex suppressed a shiver as the trailing of the water reminded her of Mark's hand on the small of her back.
Wishing now that, like the water, his slightly callused hands were slipping down her naked back. She could feel his hands on her hips, trailing slowly up her back to play with her hair. Her head hung back, remembering his hands at her chest and wishing them lower now. She felt her nipples pearl and in between her legs dampen.
Alex cursed, grabbing the shampoo and shoving her hands into her hair as she washed it. Taking her loofa and soap, she quickly cleaned the sweat from her run off of her body, trying to not take time at her sensitive breasts. She turned the water cold and let it run over her, cooling her passion as well as her body. When she was sufficiently cold, she turned off the water and wrapped her self in a towel. Wrapping her hair in another, she quickly toweled off and made her way to her bedroom.
Slipping into a matching blue bra and panty set, she set out jeans and her favorite almost good enough to go out in sweatshirt. Towel drying her hair, she spun it into a bun, holding it in place with another scrunchy. Then she threw on her clothes and made her way to the kitchen. Pulling out the makings for an omelette, she got to work on feeding her now starving stomach.
She listened to her favorite new age music, dancing to the celtic "mummer's dance" as she cooked, cleaning as she went. Then she sat down to eat, a book in her hand.
She tried to wile the day away, but she had taken care of most of her chores for the week yesterday, so she could enjoy The Masquerade knowing she didn't have anything to do today. Her younger brother, Nate, had come over last weekend for his almost monthly visit and in return for food and use of her car, he had helped her finish the small repairs around the house that needed doing. So she didn't have anything around the house to do either.
Normally she would get caught up in her newest book, but she couldn't get her mind to focus enough. She thought about calling Brian, her best friend, to hang out with, but didn't want to talk about The Masquerade with anyone quite yet. Another reason not to call Jeanette, as all she would want to do is gossip and she would ferret out all the information about Mark.
Alex tried to watch a movie, but couldn't really even focus on that. Finally, in the early afternoon, she got out her lap top and tried to surf the web. Of course, not even ten minutes into that, she had found the university's website. Alex sighed and gave it all up for lost. She went through a few pages before finding the history staff. Alex glanced down the list. She found one listing with the name Mark. Mark Underwood, Professor of History. There was a phone number listed as well.
Alex took a deep breath. Well, she could leave a message. It was Sunday, so he wouldn't be there. What should she say? Should she just leave her name and number, or a longer message, giving him details so he could figure out who she was? Alex mulled it over, deciding one way and then the other a few times. Finally, she decided on leaving just her name and number. If he recognized her voice or name, and called, it was all to the good. And if he didn't, well she would fret over the next few days.
Alex grabbed her cell and dialed the number. Then spent time looking at the damn call button, steeling her nerve to actually make the call. She was just going to leave a message. What was so hard about that. Taking a deep breath, she pushed call and listen to it ring twice.
"Hello?" The dark smooth voice she had yearned to hear answered the phone.
"H-hello?" Alex stuttered in a surprised, and high, voice not ready for him to actually answer the phone.
"Yes? May I help you?" Mark continued, not recognizing Alex's voice.
"Mark? I'm sorry, I thought I would get your voicemail." Alex started. "I didn't think you would be in your office."
"Alexandria." Mark lingered over her name again and she was sure she heard pleasure in his voice. "I'm so glad you called. Would you think ill of me, if I said that I came into the office to do some paperwork where you might actually call me?" Mark laughed his low laugh and even over the phone it sounded sexy.
Alex laughed as well, ridding herself of some of her anxiety. "No. You surprised me. I was sure I was going to get your voicemail. It is Sunday after all."
"I never come in on Sundays. But I couldn't help but hope you would call." Mark continued in his smooth bass, "Last night was not enough."
Alex marveled at his forthright manner. She would never say that to someone, but couldn't help but feel pleasure that his feelings seemed to match hers.
"No, it was not." Alex replied, her voice husky for a moment. She cleared her throat. "But The Masquerade is over, Mr. Underwood. Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"Absolutely." Mark replied firmly. "Is there something you are in the mood for?"
~You~ Alex thought with a smile, before replying with, "There is a good Thai place near the university."
"Perfect. Would you like to meet there? Or I could pick you up?" Mark asked nonchalantly.
Alex considered for a moment. Normally she wouldn't give someone her address that she had met so recently. But she could not find it in her to be afraid that Mark would do anything untoward. "I live on Oak street. If you are coming from the south end of the university, turn right and I'm the 3rd house on the left after 33rd street."
"Wonderful. I know that general area. I should be there in about twenty-five minutes." Mark replied. "Alexandria, I'm so glad you called."
"Me too, I'll see you soon." Alex smiled.
"To soon, then," Mark replied, hanging up.
Alex ran down the hall to her room. She wasn't going to wear an almost good enough to go out in sweatshirt when Mark picked her up. She ruffled through her closet, found a nice button shirt and the camisole she usually wore underneath it. Stripping out of her sweatshirt, she slipped into her camisole and went into the bathroom. Pulling her hair out of the bun she brushed it, annoyed it was still slightly damp. Pinning it back on either side she let it otherwise fall free. A touch of eye shadow and eye-liner and she was done. She never wore much make up, never seeing the need. She slipped back into her room and into her shirt, buttoning it half-way up to let her blue camisole show through.
She then went to the closet and looked through her small pile of shoes. She was not a shoe woman. She had a pair of running shoes, a pair of cross trainers, one pair of black high heels and a pair of sandals. When she was looking for comfort she had a pair of soled moccasins that she liked to wear. She slipped those on and then went to wait in the living room, so it wasn't like she was waiting impatiently at the door.
Just twenty minutes after getting off the phone, there was a knock. Alex smiled as she walked to the door, thinking he must be as ready as she was to see each other again. Alex opened the door, her smile becoming more pronounced.
There was the man she remembered from last night, complete with the jeweled mask with the single feather. Alex laughed out loud and Mark's smile grew into a grin. Alex stepped back, beckoning him into her hallway.
"So it wasn't really a mask at all at the Masquerade? This is how you look all the time." Alex laughingly said.
"I wanted to make sure you recognized me." Mark replied before slipping off the mask.
Alex took in his features. She remembered the dark brown hair, brown eyes and strong jaw. Now she saw the strong nose, prominent eye-brows just a touch away from too thick. His cheekbones were pronounced, giving him an almost Slavic look. Add that to his tall and broad physique and you got handsome down to the toes.
Alex saw him taking in her features, flicking over her face, and she saw his slow sexy smile as he brought his hand to her cheek and brushed it over her freckles. "So not just gorgeous, but cute as well." Mark said letting his finger slide over the bridge of her nose, following the freckles to her other cheek.
Alex blushed, definitely not used to being called gorgeous. The touch of his finger reminded her of last night, but she was also not used to having people call her out on her freckles. "Freckles are not all that cute, but thank you anyway." Alex said.
Mark's eyes darkened and Alex swallowed slowly. Mark's finger traced down her neck the edge of her camisole. "Some freckles may not be cute," Mark started, his voice dropping an octave, "But yours can only be called that."
Alex swallowed, unable to form a reply as his finger wandered back to her arm and slid down until he clasped her hand. His eyes flicked to the pulse at her throat and back to her gaze. He pulled slightly on her hand, asking her to step closer to him. Alex stepped closer, wondering how this passion between them ignited so quickly.
Mark leaned down, mouth a breath away and he stopped. Alex growled in frustration and leaned up to him, pressing her mouth to his. Mark growled in return, deepening the kiss, his arms sliding around her, one to her back, the other to bury itself in her hair. Alex leaned into the kiss, letting her lips part, sliding her tongue into his mouth before he got the chance. His hands tightened and he took a small step back, pulling her with him until he leaned against the wall, with her plastered against him.
Just as she was starting to get dizzy from the kiss, or lack of oxygen, he pulled his mouth from hers and kissing the side of her mouth he whispered, "I've been thinking of doing that since last night."
"I've been trying to not think of that since last night." Alex laughed a low laugh when he pulled his face from hers and looked at her in askance. "I didn't say I succeeded."
Mark laughed his low sexy laugh and let his hands fall to hers. Alex stepped back, though she couldn't think of why she would want to.
"Shall we head to the restaurant?" Mark asked, his eyes were still dark, and Alex was sure she heard some frustration behind his words. Or maybe she was projecting.
"Yes. Lunch." Alex shook her head minutely and then replied, "Yes, that sounds like a good idea." Alex stepped back from him and he let her hands fall from his. "Let me grab my wallet."
Alex saw his smile again as she turned and walked into the kitchen. She grabbed her wallet, sliding it into her pocket. She returned to the hall, opening the hall closet she took out her keys and shooed him out the door. She locked the door and then turned. He took her hand in his and led her to his car on the other side of the street. He opened her door for her and closed it when she was settled.
They drove to the other side of the university. The drive was almost silent, but there was nothing awkward about it. It was full of sidelong glances, a brush of a hand against a leg and the occasional laugh.
Once they were settled into a booth with their menus Alex asked, "So, why a history professor?"
"I've always been good at teaching. Kids in school were always asking me to explain what the teacher meant about things. I was a Big Brother in high school and helped my Little Brother with his homework. That is when I really knew that I wanted to teach." Mark paused as they ordered their meal before continuing with his story.
"I became fascinated with history in college. I had a professor that taught it like it was story. I've always loved stories and from there I was hooked. Even with the history profs that taught the dry, boring, remember the dates kind of history, I could usually find a story that made it palatable." Mark paused. "Your turn, what do you do for a living?"
Alex smiled. "Well, I'm a teacher of sorts as well. I own a karate studio and teach Go Ju Ryu Karate."
"So, you're a dangerous beauty?" Mark smiled the slow sexy smile to which Alex was becoming quite attached.
Alex left the comment alone and continued. "Karate is my passion and if I could live on that alone, I would only do that. However, it doesn't pay quite all the bills. Not if I want to go out and about occasionally!" Alex tilted her head and smiled at Mark. "Or get the fabric for that dress I wore last night." Mark's eyes darkened for a moment and Alex's smile turned slightly knowing. "So I work part time at a coffee shop that my friends own. It gets me up early in the morning, I'm done with work by nine and am able to get a good workout in for me before I have to work everyone else at class. It also helps my friends. They have two children and she works full time. So he can get the kids ready and off to school in the morning before having to be at work."
"How long have you been practicing karate?" Mark asked.
"Since I was fifteen. My original Sensai came to our high school and gave a free class for anyone who wanted to try. I tried it and fell in love with Go Ju Ryu. I stayed with his dojo until I graduated high school. I moved up here for college and he had a colleague who taught here and I transferred to his dojo."
"Where did you move from?" Mark inquired.
"I moved from Shelton, my family owns a small organic farm there. Originally I'm from Alaska, but we moved down here when I was eight. Then I spent the next ten years of my life in Shelton and the last eight here." Alex took a breath. "Well, I think it's your turn again. Where are you from originally? Here?"
"Oh, I'm from the east coast. A small town in Maine. I went to college in Massachusetts for my bachelors. I spent time in New York while I was getting my PhD in history. Then as soon I was done I moved out west. Been here ever since."
Alex looked at Mark inquisitively. "And how long ago was that?" She wasn't sure how old he was. She wasn't good at figuring out ages, but guessed somewhere around thirty.
"Almost four years ago." Alex did some calculations quickly, but wasn't sure how long it took to get a PhD.
"So that makes you thirty..."Alex trailed off.
"Two. I'm thirty-two. And you're twenty-six?"
"Yes." Alex paused as the waitress brought their food. Alex loved the smell of Thai food and couldn't wait to dig in.
They continued to talk as they ate, sharing stories from when they were young and Mark talking about his newfoundland, Ciara. They drifted into politics enough to find out they both tended towards the liberal outlook.