I was all comfortable and relaxed at a table inside the hotel’s restaurant reading the morning paper and sipping coffee when the billowing of a black coat and the agitated tones of a male voice interrupted my concentration.
“There you are!” Romulus was rushing to my table. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”
I put down the paper the moment he stood next to my seat, waiting for something.
After not obtaining a reaction from me, he lowered himself and kissed my cheek before unwrapping his scarf, taking off his coat, and joining me in the seat across.
“It’s six in the morning. I expected to find you still in bed.”
“You took my other key.”
“You weren’t planning on staying the night so I thought I’d get an early start.”
“Ready to order now?” A waitress stood by our table.
I was quick to recite my order. Romulus hesitated when she turned to him.
“Go on. It’s on the agency.” I encouraged him and he ordered something for himself.
An uncomfortable silence fell upon us after the waitress left.
“I thought you’d be… tired.” He said, taking the discarded newspaper to glance at it.
Tired? Not so much. My wrists sure didn’t like being handcuffed for as long as they were subjected to and my buttocks still stung a bit –he sure liked whipping that leather belt– but I couldn’t say the whole act warranted the tiredness required for me to sleep all through the night, though. It warranted me other things. Things I didn’t feel like discussing at the moment.
“Insomnia.” I blurted. “Hits me every now and then. Had I popped one of my pills I would’ve been out the whole day and missed the trip to Spring Gardens.”
“Pills? You mean sleeping pills? Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”
“The sooner the better for the pharmaceutical companies.”
“Maybe I could be of help?” There was that smug smile again. “Maybe I wasn’t rough enough for your liking?”
“There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room before they call security.”
“I have a flat.”
“It isn’t mine,” he hissed. “A friend is renting his old flat and I thought maybe you’d be interested.”
“I’ve already got a list of apartments I’ll be checking out. I’m planning on buying one this time. Never been fond of landlords.”
Our food arrived and I hastened to start on mine.
“Are you nervous?” he asked.
I kept my head low so I could roll my eyes without him noticing. “Not at all.” I put my fork down. “Look. Last night was nice.”
“Yes, nice. But it doesn’t change anything.”
“That was never my intention.”
“Then what was your intention?”
“I wanted you.” He paused to stare into my eyes. “I couldn’t care less about you signing with the project or not, it’s inconsequential to me. They’ll be the ones missing out, not you.” He stirred, doing that lean-closer-to-me move of his. “I liked last night. Didn’t you? I think we got along pretty well.”
It wasn’t out-of-this-world-great but it wasn’t bad either. He had what I called the Two S’s. Sexy and strong. “We did.”
“I’ve followed your career for a very long time, Scarlett. I know about your ex-husband and your association with Madame Beatrix. I’ve been to her clubs and they are topnotch.”
“Do your colleagues take part in these practices too?”
“No. They don’t.”
I picked up my fork again. “Okay, let’s make this clear. Judging by how things developed last night I can tell you’re not trained in BDSM.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“That you’ve visited Beatrix’s clubs once or twice doesn’t make you an expert.”
“Maybe you can teach me, then.”
I looked at him from under my eyebrows and even the chewing wasn’t enough to make him stop smiling.
I was about to change that. I was getting myself into something I wasn’t completely sure about and needed to keep the upper hand somehow. If only with him.
“I don’t mind starting an affair with you but would prefer we keep it private, even more if I were to sign that contract and become an employee under your supervision.” The smile was fading by now. Good. “We negotiate a contract that will specify boundaries. Meet at undisclosed locations. You don’t come to my place, I don’t come to yours. We’re never seen in public together other than during activities concerning our work relationship.”
“Wait.” He shook his head.
“Where’s the sentiment in this?”
Uh-oh. I’m not dealing with a sentimental little kid, am I?
“Does it surprise you that much that someone just wants to be with you? Plain and simple?”
“I’m sorry. Was there supposed to be any sentiment in this? I gave you what you wanted.”
“And what was that?”
“To fuck the new recruit. Now you can walk into your office with your chest all puffed on the knowledge that you had me before anyone else there.”
“God, Scarlett, no!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you going on about?” Then took a deep breath. “I-”
Oh don’t fuck with me!
“I researched you, Moretti. You’re divorced with three children from two different women. You have been to Beatrix’s clubs more than once and actually got your ass kicked out from her Frankfurt one.”
“That was a misunderstanding.”
“Everything in life is a misunderstanding.”
“What do I have to do to prove to you that this is not what you’re thinking?”
I cleared my plate, pushed it to the side, and was about to say something when he crossed me.
“Has it been that bad? That awful? To feel unappreciated for so long?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and set it aside. “You’re young, skilled, clever, yet I can bet my life no one has ever told you these things to your face. There’s a loneliness that is only felt when you’re in the company of others. You keep yourself busy with work and have only pursued relationships that you knew wouldn’t give you what you really wanted, that would leave you as empty as you were the moment you walked into them.”
Now he was getting on my nerves.
My mobile vibrated in my pocket but I kept my sight locked on Romulus’ because I knew who it was. The only person that would be calling me so early, probably locked inside a bathroom so his pregnant wife wouldn’t hear him.
“I’m not saying I’m what you’re looking for. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that it’s not all angst and hardship. That there’s fun to be had.”
He smiled. Wide.
I couldn’t help the slight tremor that took me over.
“When I met you in Miami I told you if you signed with us I’d make it worth your time. Sign or not, I’m keeping that promise.”
He twisted away from me, reached out to the unoccupied table behind him, plucked a flower from the arrangement it held, and presented it to me.
“To the very last second.”
I took the flower and held it to my eyes.
The mobile ceased vibrating.
And so it began.