He had a beautiful apartment. Clean, airy and full of light streaming in from wide bay windows. With filtered air and the noise from the busy Chicago street below muted by perfect window sealing, the apartment quietly screamed wealth in the way that only pricey apartments in Lincoln Park could. Creamy white walls and brown hard wood floors were complemented by black leather furniture accented with brightly colored cushions. A bookshelf lined one wall, stuffed to overflowing with books on what seemed like every topic known to man. The walls were bare, except for a series of abstract paintings and a large framed black velvet surface on which were glued coins, stones and shells from every place he had ever visited in the world – and they were many. He was, after all, marketing director for Vantage Travel Management and Consulting, one of the top business travel firms in the US.
She sighed happily as she walked around, taking it all in. She’d barely had the chance to look last night. Between the three glasses of wine she had consumed, the excitement of finally being able to visit his place and their mutual arousal, checking out his apartment had been the last thing on her mind. But this morning, after leaving him in bed, putting on her clothes and starting a pot of coffee, she had given in to her curiosity about him and how he lived, hungry to know more about this guy who basically was her dreams and prayers wrapped up in 6 feet 2 inches of delicious male body.
They’d met at L’Appetito, one of the restaurants which served tenants of the John Hancock Center, the building which housed both their offices. It had been a rainy and miserably cold Chicago evening and she’d been unwilling to return, after work, to her quiet empty apartment for a solitary dinner. She’d gone to the restaurant instead, ordered a bowl of soup served with some delicious garlic bread and settled into a corner to people watch and enjoy her meal. Her eyes had soon fallen on the man sitting at the bar, nursing what looked like brandy, watching her. He’d raised his glass in salute and she’d smiled politely in return. They had spent the rest of the evening ignoring each other. After that day, they seemed to run into each other everywhere. In the parking garage, in elevators, a couple more times at L’Appetito, in hallways, she’d even spotted him a couple of times on the Red Line. They always simply smiled at each other and made no further contact but when they’d found themselves standing in line for coffee at Lavazza, their smiles had turned to amused laughter.
“I’m going to act like I’ve not noticed you stalking me…” he said playfully.
“I’m going to do exactly the same…” she had replied with a chuckle.
She accepted his offer to buy her coffee and they’d made the short walk back to their building together, chit chatting along the way. Their chance encounters had continued and instead of just smiling, they had started talking to each other. About work, about trips, about projects. She’d been careful not to show how interested she was in him and he’d been completely respectful of her space. They’d carried on for over a month and she’d begun to wonder about his intentions but he eventually asked her out to dinner. That had evolved into more dates, more time spent together and the beginnings of a relationship, now approaching its sixth month.
He was amazing. Highly intelligent, well accomplished, a great conversationalist and had a great sense of humor. He had traveled widely, loved his job and was ambitious. He was attentive and kind with the kind of joy that just seemed to flow from within. He had the annoying habit of cracking his fingers loudly and just about anywhere and he didn’t wear any cologne, which was a little off putting, but otherwise, he was perfect.
She stood in the middle of his granite and chrome kitchen, eyes closed, breathing in the familiar and stimulating smell of coffee and allowed herself to fantasize about living here with him. Waking up to Saturday mornings like this, followed by a quick run, maybe a trip to the Lakefront for brunch, then grocery shopping and errands as a couple. She felt like one of the characters in the Harlequin novels she’d snuck into school and stayed up reading by torchlight, after lights-out hoping and praying that the dormitory captains would not not to catch her, and that her batteries would last till the end of the book. So lost was she in her fantasy, the key turning in the lock didn’t at first register. When she heard the apartments main door open and close then footsteps followed by what sounded like the wheels of a suitcase, she turned towards the sound, a little alarmed.
Curious brown eyes met curious brown eyes. Both sets of curious brown eyes turned to shocked brown eyes as both women realized what exactly was going on. No words needed to be said. Curious brown eyes clouded with fury.
“Steven!!!!” the woman roared, as she headed for the bedroom where he undoubtedly still lay sleeping. The bed room door banged open as she stormed in. A beat later she heard his voice, hoarse with sleep and panic…
“Irina…? You’re back early…”
That was all she needed to hear. She picked up her purse, which thankfully was on the coffee table and quietly let herself out of the apartment.