This is it, my darling readers! The last of the old material! Well, all right, there are like four paragraphs in tomorrow’s update that are technically part of the old material, but other than that it’s all new moving forward! Fingers crossed for consistent updates!
The Arms of the Ocean, cont.
Once Marius had walked away from the table, Rilla set down her fork and put her hands to her cheeks. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, and hoped with all she had that her every emotion was not waltzing across her face the way it felt they were. Biting her lip again, she thought about the way he had looked at her. As if he wanted to consume her. It had been thrilling, somewhat intimidating, and had sparked a flame that she could feel in her blood. He had felt dangerous in that moment, which seemed absurd, but his eyes…there had been something in his eyes. She shook her head, took another breath, and let it out slowly.
“I can’t be making this up,” she murmured, and then laughed. Sitting alone at the table talking to herself was probably not the best approach. She turned her attention back to dessert, and picked at it slowly. She was off her appetite for want of something else.
Still, when Marius returned to the table a few minutes later,Rilla had managed to at least eat enough of the cheesecake that she didn’t feel guilty for ordering and leaving it. She regarded Marius as he sat down again. He smiled at her, back to his usual state of charming. Their conversation resumed, this time on the subject of common interests. While they quite obviously both adored music, Rilla did not share his appreciation of the Weimer period, and Marius was unsympathetic to her love of Celtic folk. Neither of them drank beer, and they both agreed that tequila was almost never appropriate. For his many old fashioned mannerisms, it seemed Marius had more modern tastes, and he rolled his eyes in playful exasperation when Rilla went on about what fun it would be to live in a castle. She hesitantly prodded in the direction of politics, a little nervous about what she might find, but was relieved to discover that they both sat left on most issues, and Marius was surprisingly well informed on matters of the environment, especially related to the oceans.
“Your life is rather tied to the water, isn’t it,” Rilla asked after a while.
Marius looked a little stunned at the question, and Rilla felt vaguely like she’d stumbled upon something unexpected. He looked at her for a moment, almost searchingly. She wasn’t sure what he found, but quickly enough he was smiling again.
“I suppose you might say that,” he responded, setting down his now empty glass. “I’m a former sailor turned historian, but even now my focus is out in the sea. I’m never far from it. I”ve lived on the coast or near it for as long as I can remember.”
“If you don’t consider the question too bold,” Rilla began, “where do you live now?”
“West Seattle. I have a place right on the waterfront. Complete with a boat the almost lives in drydock,” he admitted with a certain degree of sheepishness. “It’s not that I never go in the water, I just usually don’t bother with the boat.”
Rilla arched an eyebrow. “You have a boat?”
“And that sounded like a house, not an apartment.”
She squirmed a little in her seat. “I will admit to feeling a little inadequate right about now. I rent a room in Fremont and don’t even own a scooter.”
Marius reached across the table and clasped her hand. Rilla felt her heart jump a little as he did. He was looking at her earnestly, and she felt herself turn pink under the weight of his gaze.
“Please don’t say that,” Marius said softly, his gloved thumb gently stroking the back of her hand. “I’m good at business. That is nothing. You have a talent that is breathtaking and beautiful. All the success in the world will not lend me any quality as enchanting as your voice.”
Rilla bit her lip, and was certain her cheeks had progressed from pink to red. How she managed not to pass out with all the blood that had been rushing to her face this evening was a mystery. She murmured an almost inaudible thanks, but Marius continued to gaze at her intently. After a moment, he lifted her hand to his lips, and gently brushed them against the back of it. Rilla fought the urge to melt.
“It seems to be getting on to closing,” Marius said quietly as he released her hand. “Perhaps we should start to head back.”
Rilla nodded assent, not exactly trusting her voice. She did attempt to pick up the check since Marius had paid for dinner, but he talked her out of it. In truth, she didn’t try very hard. When they stood, he helped her back into her coat, and she tried not to read into it. Did he linger close to her? Did it matter if he did? Once outside, he did offer his arm again, and she attempted not to give away just how much that tickled her. The night was getting colder, and she clung to him a little more than when they first walked to the cafe. For all the cold and wind, the night was still clear, and the moon shone down with a stark brilliance.
They made small talk about the neighborhood until they reached Marius’s car. He opened the door and helped her in, as she imagined he always would. The drive back to her place was relatively short, but was largely spent trying to get warm again. The heated seats helped immensely with that detail. When they pulled up in front of her house, Marius was up to get the door again, though this time instead of staying by the car he walked with her.
“I hope you enjoyed yourself,” Marius said as they stepped up onto the porch.
“Oh yes,” Rilla not-quite gushed. She felt ridiculously juvenile. “I had a lovely time. I…I hope we can do it again.”
Marius smiled. “I’d like that.”
Doing her best not to fidget, Rilla glanced over her shoulder then back up at Marius. “I don’t suppose you’d like to come in for coffee?”
Marius looked apologetic. “I’d like to, but I shouldn’t. I have commitments in the morning.”
“Ah.” She twisted her hands and wondered what to do. It felt like something still needed to be said or done.
Her head popped up and she met his eyes. Her breath quickened as his gloved fingertips caressed her cheek, and his thumb tipped her chin up. The kiss began gently, his lips soft but insistent against her own. She parted her mouth slightly in invitation, and was a little surprised when he took it. As the kiss deepened his arms came around her and she clung to the lapels of his coat. She felt him bite her lower lip and it fairly caused her legs to buckle. She had no idea how long they were like that, but eventually he pulled back, looking somewhat surprised.
Rilla felt like she was on fire, The coat was too warm, everything was too warm. Marius cupped her cheek and she leaned into it. She had never wanted anyone so much in her life. She wanted to grab his hand and pull him inside, to hell with whatever awaited him tomorrow.
Marius kissed her once more, briefly. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. May I call you? Tomorrow?”
Leaning forward, he kissed her a final time. There was a hesitancy before he pulled away, like he was struggling with himself. Her hands twitched with the urge to grab him by the coat again and help him lose that battle. She also didn’t want to be that person, though – he’d already set his boundaries. Marius finally pulled away and stepped back.
“Good night, Rilla.”
“Good night, Marius.”