The Soprano Ch. 07bybarabajagal001©
Note: Okay, I lied - this isn't the last chapter. It's ending up longer than I planned, so I split it into two parts in order to post something sooner. Hope you like it!
Violins sobbed in the background as Claire licked almond-scented syrup off her fingertips, contemplating a third of the tiny, flaky pastries Sebastien had made the day before. He had brought a tray of them, along with glasses of champagne, into the parlor while they read – Sebastien the newspaper and Claire her music. Eyebrows raised, she had asked him what the occasion was and he reminded her that just a year ago she had been to his apartment for the first time and their relationship had changed forever.
It embarrassed her that she had virtually forgotten the date, and what a sweet and ultimately romantic man Sebastien was. Sighing softly to herself, she picked up another pastry and bit into it, savoring the orange-scented cream inside. Sebastien watched her out of the corner of his eye, probably enjoying her enjoyment.
"You really shouldn't spoil me so much," she said when she'd finished. "A girl could get used to this sort of thing."
"That would be a problem?"
"Well...I guess, because eventually..." She trailed off with a shrug. Sebastien said nothing, waiting for her to finish her sentence. "Eventually, um, I'll have to go home," she said, cheeks burning as she knew it wasn't what she was really thinking. Sebastien was still silent, looking as if he was waiting for her to say what was actually on her mind. She bit her lip, then blurted out "Eventually it'll have to end."
"Why will it?" Sebastien looked a bit wounded.
"I don't know," Claire replied uncomfortably.
"It does not have to end. It never has to end." Suddenly, her heart was in her throat.
"Sebastien, are you asking–"
"I am not asking anything," he said firmly. "I am merely saying that I see no reason to think about breaking things off. As I have told you, whatever I have is yours for as long as you wish it. Though as time goes on, I may not be so cavalier about letting you go..."
Claire wished she hadn't opened her mouth, since she was more confused now than ever. If he didn't want to let her go, why had he said he wasn't interested in marriage? Marriage wasn't the only answer, she supposed, but she was beginning to feel as if they should at least talk about it. It had been on the tip of her tongue for days.
Things were good between them. Not just good, really amazing. How could it stay that way forever? At some point, things had to go south. They always did...didn't they? On the other hand, it's not like "happily ever after" didn't happen. It's just that she felt so damn young. Could it even be possible for her to have found someone she could be with forever at this age?
But then...hadn't her mother been around the same age when she'd met Claire's father? And Sebastien's parents, they'd met when they were only a year or two older than she. It just seemed that it was a different generation. Of course, time hadn't yet tested the marriages of others her own age, so what did she know?
It just seemed so soon, to be thinking about him – them – forever. Yet there was a funny little ache in her heart, not unpleasant at all, that told her maybe it was exactly what she wanted.
Claire changed out of her concert dress and into casual clothes – dark denim leggings, a black blouse with a plunging neckline, and lime green pumps. She swung by Sebastien's office on her way out of the symphony hall – not that it was exactly on the way – and loved the way his eyes widened when he saw her. He yanked her into his office, shut the door, and pressed her up against the wall, kissing her deeply. His hand slipped into her shirt, caressing her breast before pulling away from her.
"Have fun, mon abeille. Do not be...to terribly indiscreet, will you?"
"Would I?" she asked, the very picture of innocence.
The bar Claire had chosen was upscale and trendy, without too much thumping bass in the lounge area. The girls were each on their third cocktail and had moved much closer together in the round booth so they could hear each other better. Julia leaned over, wiggling her eyebrows conspiratorially.
"So...how's the sex?" Claire blushed deeply and pressed one cool palm to her hot cheek.
"Um, oh! Well, it's...it's..." She trailed off, unsure if she should say anything. Looking back up at Julia's eager face, she threw caution to the wind, confiding in her new friend. "It's fucking amazing, to be honest."
"Ohhh my, it is, is it?" Julia giggled, and then sighed a bit wistfully. "Yes, he was always great in the sack." Claire expected to feel jealous, but aside from a little initial pang of awkwardness, she realized it didn't really bother her.
"Hmm. What was he like back then?"
"Well. Just, like, just like a regular guy, I guess. I mean, he was pretty shy at first, and even after I got to know him he rarely ever told me what he was feeling. And in bed, you know, he was just like...passionate, but in a quiet way. I got the feeling there might be other stuff in there, but I never found out what it was before we broke up." She sipped her drink thoughtfully. "What's the most amazing thing you've done with him?"
"Oh, I don't know," Claire demurred softly.
"Come on! I'll tell you mine," Julia said, bubbly again. "We had a threesome with my college roommate!" She nudged Claire with a giggle and stood unsteadily in her pin-thin pink heels. "I'm gonna go get another drink. You want one?"
"Sure," Claire said vaguely, knowing she had probably had enough. Okay, this has officially gotten weird, she thought uncomfortably. Julia and Sebastien and another girl. In bed. Together. She slid out of the booth after Julia, mumbling something about making a phone call. She headed back toward the bathrooms where there was a quiet alcove away from the music of the club. She dialed Sebastien on her cell phone, and he picked up on the second ring.
"Mon abeille, how is your evening going?"
"Good, great. I'm still out with Julia."
"How much have you told her?" he asked warily.
"I'm hurt that you don't trust me," she pouted at him. "Besides, I'd worry more about what she told me, if I were you," Claire teased.
"Such as what? Surely she doesn't know anything about me that you don't already know." Pleased warmth curled in her belly when she heard that.
"Mmm, well, she knows the name of the girl you two had sex with..." There was silence on the other end of the phone as Sebastien processed this.
"She mentioned that, did she?"
"Mmhmm. She offered up the information in the hopes that I would reciprocate with some kink sex details of my own."
"And did you?"
"Of course not," Claire snorted. "Wouldn't want to scare her, would I? But, um, so...having another girl in bed, there's something we've never done."
"Would you like to?"
"Would you?" she countered.
"On that topic, I will only say that we did not have sex with another girl. Julia, on the other hand..."
"What does that mean, you didn't..."
"Are you going to be long?" he asked.
"No, I think one more drink is all we can handle. Why, do you miss me?"
"Perhaps. I will come pick you up," he said, a little hesitantly.
"Okay, that would be good," she replied warmly.
"Very well, I shall be there soon. I will wait out front."
"Thank you." Claire hung up and turned around to walk back to the booth where Julia was sitting, nursing another cocktail. There was something she needed to know. She sat down in the booth, picked up her drink, and drained it in two long swallows. She gave a little shudder, feeling her head swimming as the alcohol hit her.
"So, tell me the truth. Did you visit hoping to get Sebastien into bed?" she asked abruptly.
"Ooohh, you caught me. Yes," Julia answered with a little blush.
"Even though you knew he was dating someone?"
"I guess I was hoping it wasn't serious. Are you mad?"
"No...I don't know. Should I be?" Claire shrugged one shoulder. "No, I guess I'm not. Besides, I don't tell Sebastien who he can or can't sleep with."
"No. Sebastien is monogamous because he wants to be," she answered, reminding herself silently that monogamy wasn't exactly how she would describe their relationship. Close enough.
"What about you?" Julia asked cheekily, evidently picking up on something odd in the way Claire had answered. "Sebastien tells you who you can and can't sleep with?"
"Well...yes. He does."
"You have no idea," Claire muttered. Her phone buzzed and she looked down at it. "Well, speak of the devil. Sebastien's here to pick me up."
"I'll come out and say goodnight."
The night was warm when Sebastien pulled up outside the club. He texted Claire and then double-parked, flipping on his blinkers and getting out to lean against the car casually. It didn't take long before he saw her. He took a moment to appreciate her as she walked slowly toward him. Then he noticed that she wasn't alone. Julia had come out as well, attractive as ever in a short, hot pink dress. She gave him a grin when she saw him, and he nodded back at her.
"How long are you staying in the city?" Claire was asking her.
"Well, since the business I came here for has, um, sort of fallen through," Julia answered with a drunken giggle, "I'll probably just head back in the next day or two."
"Kay. I'm gonna go home now," Claire said in a funny, sing-songy voice. Sebastien's eyebrows lifted fractionally. Exactly how drunk were they?
"Gimme a kiss goodbye!" Julia held out her arms and Claire tottered into them, touching her lips to Julia's. Sebastien rolled his eyes – apparently they were already best friends – but was then treated to a sight that he could never have anticipated. His current girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend were kissing right in front of him. It brought back a memory in such sharp relief that he was momentarily astonished that he had ever forgotten.
He was a much younger man in those days, a graduate student at one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. A recent transplant to the country, he didn't consider himself quite fluent in English and it was part of the reason he had been so reserved with others.
Julia hadn't been at all put off by his attitude. She had flirted with him and finally asked him out. He had certainly been attracted to her, with the long, shiny black hair that always smelled of green apples and the light dusting of freckles across her nose. What could he do but go out with her?
Six months after their first date he found himself reclining on Julia's pink plaid bedspread, watching her make out with her roommate. How had it happened? That part...was a little bit fuzzy, but the part that flashed into his mind just now was of Julia on her stomach, her pert ass moving side to side contentedly while her face was buried between the legs of her roommate Kate. She was pretty, a natural blonde with pleasantly rounded curves and much larger breasts than Julia, but the plain fact was that Sebastien hadn't been particularly attracted to her.
He remembered that he had been intrigued by what was going on in front of him, but not moved to join in at all. What he had most wanted at that moment was for Kate to go away so that he could be alone with Julia. Since then he'd heart it was the ultimate fantasy of many men, but what could he say? It just wasn't his thing. So many other things were, he never really bothered himself about it.
As he thought it, he looked back at Claire and Julia, and sighed softly. Others were beginning to notice them, and that was something none of them needed.
"That is quite enough of that," he said mildly, startling the girls into separating. "Into the car with you." He opened the back door, and Julia slid in. He shut the door again with a snap, pulling Claire toward him and looking down at her intently. "Where am I driving to?"
"I thought we would go back to my place."
"All of us?"
"All of us." She lifted her eyes up to him, waiting patiently for her answer. She was actually asking his permission, and that was more arousing than anything he could think of.
"Is that what you really want?"
"That's...I..." Claire forced herself not to answer him automatically, but to stop and think about it. She had been caught off guard by Julia's sudden kiss. Julia was attractive, of course, but somewhere deep down in her alcohol-fogged brain she was feeling uneasy.
"It's what I think you want," she finally said. Sebastien frowned down at her.
"When you want to know what I want, would it not be better to simply ask?"
"It's just that Julia said that you and she–"
"I know. May I be honest with you, mon abeille?"
"I can think of a dozen other things I would rather do with you alone. Julia and I were together a long time ago, and some things are better left in the past. Do you not agree?"
"Yes. Yes, okay, you're right." Sebastien turned to walk around to the driver's seat, but Claire interrupted him with a hand on his elbow. "Um, so...a dozen things?"
His lips curled into a little smile as he turned back. Eyes darkening, he grasped her tightly and pulled her toward him. He let the moment draw out between them before dropping his head to press a searing kiss to her lips. His soft tongue flicked gently against her lower lip, reminding her instantly of his not inconsiderable ability at licking things still lower. When at last he pulled back, her knees were weak and her eyes were glazed.
"Let us take her to her hotel, yes?" Claire nodded vaguely and Sebastien helped her into the car before getting in himself. They both turned to check the backseat and found that Julia had already dozed off.
"She's staying at the Hyatt," said Claire. "By the way...do you know why she's in town?"
"No." He started the engine and pulled away from the curb.
"She was planning on seducing you?"
"Is that so?" he asked, not sounding particularly interested.
"Yeah. Um...so, you're not surprised?"
"Not really. Why else, after all, would she be here, looking for me? Befriending you, as soon as she realized who you were?"
"That's a pretty cynical way of looking at it, don't you think?"
"Perhaps, but Julia always was very tenacious. Her persistence probably gets her more in life than even her musical talent."
"So you think she'll keep trying?"
"She is persistent, but not stupid. Most likely she will try to catch me alone, and when I explain – once more – that I am not interested in renewing our relationship, she will see how serious it is between us, and she will move on."
"Hm. Well. She's probably going to need help up to her hotel room. Maybe I should just stay in the car, and you can take her up and talk to her."
"If she wakes enough to see reason, I will. Then we shall be done with the whole thing."
Claire tried not to watch as Sebastien wound his arm around Julia's shoulders and walked her inside. She wasn't jealous, couldn't think of any particular reason that she should be bothered at all. It just seemed strange to see Sebastien touching his ex-girlfriend in such an intimate manner. She looked away down the street.
It was after one in the morning, but the taxis in front of the hotels were still doing brisk business, whisking their wealthy clientele to the airport or some late-night meeting. Down the street, a man in a blue three-piece suit was walking a poodle, apparently oblivious to the late hour. Claire let her thoughts wander. Her buzz was starting to wear off, but her head was still swimming. She thought about rehearsal, about her mother nagging her to come visit, and finally settled on thinking about their last trip to France – just a long weekend, but it had been wonderful.
At last she came back to the present, noticing the car was beginning to get a bit cold. It seemed as if it had been a rather long time since Sebastien had disappeared with Julia into the hotel. She craned her neck upward to look at the building. About five floors up, a light had come on – had it been on when they arrived? – and a couple was pressed against the window making out. Her stomach twinged, but she ignored it. She couldn't look away this time.
The sudden sound of a door opening startled her and she turned to see Sebastien sliding into the car. He gave her an odd look.
"Whatever were you looking at, mon abeille?"
"Nothing. How did it go?
"As expected. When we reached her room, she had woken up enough to try enticing me into bed, claiming you had no objections to me sleeping with other women." He paused to shake his head briefly. "I told her that I hardly thought you would appreciate it if I went to bed with her and left you in the car, and besides that I was not interested. What we have together – you and I – is quite serious, and I hope that she will respect that. She agreed, and that is all."
"Julia is not the type to make a scene, fortunately. At least, she was not when I knew her, and she seems to have remained the same in that regard. But even if she were, I believe she would have been too tired. She may have fallen asleep before I left the room."
"Do you think she'll remember the conversation in the morning?" Sebastien frowned at her, sighing impatiently.
"Does it matter? She is not a danger to us; she is just a person who can safely be left in the past. Can we leave it there for tonight?"
"Of course. You're right. I'm sorry." Claire was silent for a moment as Sebastien negotiated traffic until he had pulled onto a quieter street. "Now, um, about the other eleven things you said you wanted to do with me..."
"Perhaps I am more interested in knowing what it is you would like to do."
"What's the matter, can't make up your mind? Or maybe you've just run out of ideas. Too hard to shock me now, I suppose." Claire glanced at Sebastien from the corner of her eye, saw his lips firm in irritation.
"I don't know...Sure seems that way to me."
"Are you trying to make me angry, mon abeille?"
"Would I do that?" she asked him, turning to him with the same innocent expression she had earlier that night.
"Without a doubt."
"You're just being too sensitive," she said, noting with satisfaction the narrowing of his eyes. "I wonder whether René is still awake at this hour..."
Sebastien pulled up to a stop at a red light and looked over at her, an inscrutable emotion passing over his face. For a moment, Claire wondered if she had overstepped bringing up the other man, but Sebastien looked at her thoughtfully.
"It certainly would be easier to give you the punishment you deserve...why don't you give him a call on the way home?"
"Oh, yes. Call him and ask him to come over and help punish you."
"Do it," he said firmly. "And be polite."
A little tingle ran through her as she pulled out her phone and called René. The phone rang a few times, and she was sure he wouldn't answer – it was quite late after all – but before his voicemail picked up, he did. His voice was soft and groggy, and she couldn't help imagine him with mussed hair and heated skin from sleep. She shifted in her seat.
"Oui?" he asked.
"René, it's Claire."
"Ah, oui? Is something the matter?" he asked, sounding concerned.
"No, um, nothing like that. It's just that I, um...I wanted to call and ask if you would...if you wanted to...I mean..."
"Cherie, I do not mean to be impolite, but if you could possibly, as you say, spit it out."
"Sorry, I'm sorry, it's just that it's, you know, Sebastien is making me call because he..." She flushed as she saw Sebastien eyeing her. He raised an eyebrow and she fumbled on, "Okay, okay. Would you, um, please...please come over to Sebastien's tonight?"