MerMay, kinda #13

Fiction, Writing

Leaning back in the chair, Marius did not disappoint, smiling back at her, then motioned for the waitress and requested the check. Thus far it had actually been a rather nice evening, and his date was evolving into a creature that merited further study. He was a little surprised by her compassion – he wasn’t sure why it was surprising, maybe just in that musicians had a bit of a reputation for egotism. Or maybe it was because he didn’t open up in front of others, and so wasn’t used to the opportunity for compassion being present. It was likely that second one.

Smirking, he chastised himself a little as he watched her walk away. He really enjoyed the way she walked. She had a pronounced swish to her hips, not so much that it looked ridiculous but enough to appeal. There was something very unhurried in her normal, unthinking walk. As if she knew she would get there, and rushing wouldn’t make her destination any closer.

Rilla didn’t keep him waiting long, sauntering back and smiling. He rose and helped her into her coat, and she inquired if the check had been seen to, and then didn’t press further when he said it had. Strange as it would sound to other people, that made her even more interesting. He knew that the way he did things was not what she was used to, yet she seemed to be adjusting easily without awkwardness.

“So where is this place with the memorable cheesecake,” Marius asked her as they stepped outside, turning in her direction and offering his arm.

Blinking in surprise, Rilla paused for a moment and smiled in what seemed to border on girlish delight, then stepped in closer and took his arm. He noted that she did it “properly”, curving her hand around his bicep and grasping it rather than hooking their arms together or holding his forearm.

“It’s not far,” she said as she looked up at him, still smiling. “We need to get over to Broadway, then it’s just a few blocks up.”

“To Broadway it is, then.”

They walked quietly for a moment, and Marius reflected on how long it had been since he’d done this. Entirely too long, truth be told. It really didn’t matter how much older he got, there was something deeply satisfying about being out with an attractive woman on his arm. More so when the woman in question seemed just as satisfied to be there.

“Can you believe how quickly it got cold this year,” Rilla asked as they turned to head north on Broadway, her voice soft and relaxed in a manner it hadn’t been earlier in the evening. “It seems like it wasn’t so bad just a few weeks ago.”

Marius smiled. “I guess I hadn’t really noticed. Cold really doesn’t bother me.”

“It bothers me,” Rilla confided, then paused as if thinking it over. “Well, all right, that’s not entirely true, or we wouldn’t be making this walk right now. I would actually say that the rainy, gray skies bother me more than the cold does. Although, rain makes you wet and when wet, the cold is far more noticeable.”

Marius quirked up a questioning eyebrow. “If the rain and gray bother you so, why do you stay here?”

Smiling again, and sighing in an almost resigned manner, Rilla looked in the direction of the Sound. “Because I love it here. Rainy gray days and all. I still remember the first time I came to Seattle. I remember walking down Pike and feeling like I was home despite having just gotten off a plane the day before. I came here for school, but with the firm understanding that I wouldn’t be going back. And here I still am.”

He looked at her with appreciation. “You have a fair bit of resolve, don’t you?”

“I…I suppose so,” she answered, turning back to look up at him. “I hadn’t really thought of it like that before. I just decided that this was what I needed and I made it happen.”

“There are people who wouldn’t have been able to do so,” Marius persisted, reaching up to touch the hand that was wrapped around his arm. “The fact that you were says something.”

Rilla smiled again, clearly pleased by his observation, and they walked in silence a little bit further. She pointed out the restaurant up ahead – the place looked busy, but Marius imagined they had plenty of time. He wasn’t quite ready to give up the woman clinging to him. As they waited to be seated she didn’t bother to release him and he didn’t try to shake her off. He considered that he might be leaving the wrong impression, but then again he might not. He was still so uncertain of all this, of where his interests ended and Priska and Janus’s began. And yet…yet he didn’t want her to let go. Perhaps that said more than he was giving it credit for.

Soon enough they were seated at a little table by the window. Marius removed his coat but kept his gloves as always. Rilla removed her gloves and scarf but kept the coat on as the window was single paned and it was still a trifle cold.

“So why are we here again,” Marius asked with a wry smile. “For cheesecake, I know, but what makes it so earth moving?”

“I can’t describe it to you,” Rilla replied almost mournfully. “Words are inadequate. It can only be experienced, and even then only by one of a properly discerning palate.”

“And I assume you’ve tasted your share of cheesecake?”

“These hips are a testament to my devotion to cheesecake,” Rilla sallied back with smirk. “I mean, they took effort, they didn’t just show up overnight.”

Laughing, Marius leaned forward and said quietly, “I don’t think anything so inviting would appear out of thin air.”

Rilla’s lips parted in surprise, and she flushed, then brought her hands to her glowing cheeks. “You have a gift for that, you bad man.”

Arching an eyebrow, Marius leaned back. “How am I a bad man?”

“You know perfectly well how.”

The line of questioning was brought to a halt by the arrival of their waiter, who took his time chatting them up while he jotted down Rilla’s cheesecake and tea as well as Marius’s chocolate espresso martini. After the waiter left, they briefly bantered over the finer points of dark chocolate versus milk chocolate, though Marius admitted that he didn’t have too much a preference either way while Rilla maintained that milk chocolate had the superior flavor because the “lack of intensity lets you take your time to savor the chocolate”. He loved that she felt strongly about it, though, and even had an argument ready. Rilla was beginning to make the point that white chocolate was grievously mislabeled given its lack of cocoa when dessert arrived.

There was something in that moment that finally helped Marius make up his mind regarding Rilla. As she brought the first bite up to her lips, closing them around the fork as she slowly drew it out, her eyes fluttering closed in a moment of unrestrained bliss. As she savored, Marius stared. There was something so pure and so strangely passionate about this simple act, this woman enjoying herself with no thought or concern as to how he or anyone else might view her. With amazement he acknowledged that he was responding to her in ways he hadn’t thought he was still capable. Not physically – acts that were once instinctual could now only be called up with will – but he found himself wanting her as he hadn’t wanted anything in some time. Hot on the heels of that want, however, came the desire to feed. Setting his jaw, Marius fought with his need but was unable to look away.

Had Marius the presence of mind to do so, he would have cursed his luck as Rilla’s eyes opened and she met his gaze. He could feel that she was caught, and saw her inhale sharply. Her pulse quickened as his want stretched out between them like a palpable thing. She wet her lips, and he could see and smell that she was nervous but unafraid. The moment continued to draw out, twisting into tension between and around them. Then the waiter came to ask if they needed anything. The tension snapped, and Rilla sat back in her chair as if she had been physically released. Marius looked up at the waiter, something a little too bright and unreal in his gaze, but smiled politely and said they were fine.

The young man left hurriedly, and Marius imagined he didn’t understand what caused him to quicken his step. Ignoring the startled boy, Marius turned his attention back to Rilla. She was flushed, her gaze averted. He watched as she bit her lip, played with her hair, drew her fingertips down her neck and lingered on her collarbone. He took a steadying breath, and picked up his drink, but his focus didn’t stray. Her eyes finally flicked towards him, still without fear. Whatever had passed between them, it did not frighten her, and it was perhaps that which excited him more than anything else.

“How is the cheesecake,” Marius managed to ask. He had experience in denial and forcing calm.

“Exceptional,” Rilla answered without hesitation, though perhaps a bit breathily. She took another bite, but the rapt expression of earlier did not return. She had effectively been distracted.

There was a short silence as Marius racked his brain for ways to diffuse the current situation. metaphorically and physically. He was aware that the things had escalated rapidly in the last several minutes. It would be almost impossible to salvage a platonic friendship from this. Of course, that wasn’t what he wanted anymore, but he hadn’t meant to close that door so quickly. Rilla lifted the china tea cup with excessive care, and her eyes met his as she sipped. Her desire bled off of her and flavored the air, even over the espresso and food and perfume. Most of the time Marius was very good about ignoring smells, but it was hard to shut that sense off when he was already aware. Rilla looked away first, still flushed, a smile quirking at the corner of her mouth.

“I don’t think I need my coat anymore,” she murmured somewhat sheepishly, sliding it off her shoulders. Her tone was self-effacing but playful, and it helped ease the tension a little.

“It’s a lovely dress,” Marius said after a moment, feeling more in control of the situation. He grinned. “I like the tights. Nice touch.”

Rilla looked pleased. “I told Karin that your reaction to the tights would determine how well we’d get on.”

“They are brilliant and daring.”

“Now you’re just flattering me,” she admonished, but did not stop smiling. She was relaxed again, but Marius knew that didn’t change or take away what had happened. There was a hesitant expectation in her expression that hadn’t been there before. Marius excused himself to the restroom, and Rilla promised the cheesecake would keep her company in his absence.

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