The day passed for Rick and Alex in much the same fashion as the day before. On returning home both of them failed to notice the black BMW from earlier that day parked just up the block. They grabbed Alex's gear out of the trunk and Rick held out an arm for Alex to take, gallantly leading her into the apartment block. On entering, the pair found the table set for three and a very content Lanie asleep on the couch. She had sat for a minute to "rest her eyes" she had told them when they roused her from her slumber. Dinner was cooking in the oven and Alex and Rick had just enough time for a quick shower each. Alex didn't need to be told twice and went running to the bathroom to rinse the work grime from her, summer was only weeks away and it had been a hot and humid day.
Twenty minutes later, and dressed in leg lengthening baby doll mini, she passed Rick in the hallway on her way back to the lounge "Tag...come on get a move on will you, I'm hungry!"
"Hey. It was your friend that distracted me, she was giving me a run down on how she's gonna entertain us later" he explained. Lanie was a professional dancer and had just that day landed a new gig in a stage production of Chicago. Alex didn't know as yet so she intended to surprise her with a little private performance
"What's this I hear about entertainment, Lains?" Alex asked as she nestled up behind her dearest friend at the kitchen bench to peer into the baking dish over her shoulder.
"You'll see!" came the quizzical reply.
"I guess I will won't I. I'm just gonna step outside for a minute." Alex made her way to the adjacent balcony and stood hands on the rail, looking out over the harbour. Night had fallen, high above stars twinkled while below the reflection of the city lights shimmered on the harbour. She really had to believe it to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Lanie, busy finishing dinner yelled out "Want to talk about it hon?"
Alex appeared at the balcony door and leant against the frame "How do you do that? Know me so well?"
"It works both ways you know"
"Yeah, I guess it does." After a pause "He was here this morning" Alex was sure to keep her voice low.
"Who?" Alex gave Lanie a pointed look.
"Oh....OOOHHHHH" she replied her eyes widening in surprise.
"Shit Al, how did he find you?"
"Well Lains, I didn't exactly stop to ask. In fact, I didn't even say hello, just ignored him completely"
"Ahh... umm can you explain to me exactly how you ignore that"
"Well I can assure you it wasn't easy, but Rick was with me, he doesn't know about Jon and I don't want him too."
"Did he recognise him?"
"You know, I don't think he did really. He said he looked familiar, but he was incognito so I don't think he could see enough to make him out"
"So that means Jon saw the two of you leave together then?" She asked with a tone that indicated her line of questioning was going somewhere.
"Yeah....and?" Alex moved inside and removed a bottle of wine from the rack and placed it on the counter. She wasn't sure she was going to like where this was heading.
"Well it was pretty early when you left wasn't it...?"
"Spit it out will you"
"I bet he thinks your sleeping with Rick!" Rick, returning from his shower and on hearing the line the conversation was taking stopped just short of eyesight in the hallway.
"Oh Lanie... I would never"
"Why the fuck not? Have you looked at the man? He's fucking HOT Al" Lanie opened the bottle of wine with ease and poured three glasses.
"He's a friend Lanie... that's it. I work with the man. "
"But you have to admit he's hot"
Alex lowered her tone and Rick could barely hear her response, "Ok, ok... the guy's scorching.... there, happy now? But I swear, if you ever tell him I will never speak to you again. Do you understand me?"
Lanie stood by with a devious grin plastered on her face. "Lanie... I mean it, swear"
Lanie crossed her fingers behind her back "K then... I swear"
So scorching huh? Rick yelled out from the hallway causing the girls to startle "Dinner ready yet?"
He was topless as he rounded the corner, his hair still damp from the shower, a few drops of water scattered across his smooth hair-free chest. He looked delicious and after their conversation both girls had trouble looking at him without feeling a measure of discomfort.
"Why don't you take these" Lanie said handing them a glass of wine each "out on to the balcony for a few minutes and get out of my way while I just finish up here. I'll call you in as soon as it's ready"
The pair obediently made their way outside. Rick, now armed with new information, decided to test the waters. He moved to stand close to Alex, so close he could feel the heat her body radiated. God she's beautiful he thought as he moved to tuck a stray curl behind her ear.
Alex blushed at the touch, once again recalling her confession to Lanie, and stepped to the side trying to put some distance between them but when she looked up into his eyes she saw a fiery passion there she hadn't known existed. Oh My God, the rumours at work were true. Rick stepped forward and Alex placed a hand on his chest to stop him progressing further.
His skin burned at her touch, he wanted to drag her into him but something held him back...it was the look in her eyes. Unlike his, her eyes held no passion, only confusion and sorrow. He waited for her to speak.
"Rick... I don't think this is a good idea."
"For so many reasons, we work together..." she started.
"We can swap partners" he suggested.
"If it were only that it would be fine, but its not. I can't say I don't find you attractive Rick. I'd think I'd have to be blind" especially at the moment, her thought continued. Alex was having trouble staying focused. The tension that had built in her the long years waiting for Jon was aching for release but she knew this was not the time or the man for it. His proximity and heady masculine scent however, were doing her no favours in the control department. "Look Rick to be honest there's someone else"
"You've never mentioned a boyfriend before" he said altering his stance and closing the distance between them a little
"Because he's not...my boyfriend that is. Just a guy that I've been infatuated with for far too long to think about."
"And what's his take on the situation?" Another tiny movement, another bit closer.
"He claims to feel the same..."
"Claims to?" he questioned as a placed a strong, gentle masculine hand on her shoulder.
"He's married" Alex was feeling conflicted. Here before her she had this kind, gorgeous, available man who quite obviously wanted her and yet her heart still belonged to Jon...kind – maybe, jury was still out on that, gorgeous – definitely, available – never, not to her anyway.
Rick slid his hand up over Alex's shoulder and set it to rest on her neck, his thumb tracing a lazy line along her jaw, he made the last small move to close the gap between them and leant in to kiss her. He looked deep into her eyes, looking for the rejection he was sure would come but it didn't. Alex was lost in him, it was so long since she had even kissed a man and she longed for that touch, that connection. Her eyes fluttered closed and she imagined Jon before her, she could feel Jon's hands on her, she could taste his toothpaste fresh minty breath. So close were Rick's lips when Lanie called.
Alex jumped away from Rick the realisation of what almost happened hitting her. "Ahh...I think we better head in" she said as she headed for the door.
Rick grabbed her hand and held her back a question in his eyes. "Don't go"
"I'm sorry Rick...I can't. I was lost in the moment, that's all. I just can't do this at the moment; there is just way too much going on. And we're both still hurting after Abbie, maybe what's going on here is a result of that, of the bond we shared."
"That might be it for you Alex, but I've been interested in you since you first walked into the office. If you're not ready for this just yet, that's fine, I won't push...but don't think that I'll give up either."
"Thanks for the understanding Rick" she reached up and kissed him gently on the cheek. "But honestly, I don't know what it will take for me to get over this, you'd be better off moving on. Guys like you have women falling over themselves for attention" she turned and made her way inside.
Yeah, but there is only one that I want to fall. Rick thought as he watched her retreat into the apartment.
Dinner was a humorous affair. Lanie had always been the life of the party and lightened the tense mood immensely with jokes and funny anecdotes. When dinner was cleared away and the dishes done Alex collapsed on the couch while Lanie prepared for her performance. She closed the blinds, not wanting to perform for all of Sydney, she wasn't quite confident enough for that yet. She found the soundtrack for Chicago, put on one of the slow numbers and made good use of Rick, pulling him up to dance as a warm up. Her body moulded into his as they danced to a slow number, making him more than a little uncomfortable, well making his pants more than a little uncomfortable. Lanie placed him on a chair near the shaded window before her as she started her routine.
Lanie danced a little and flirted a lot. She had observed the scene on the balcony between Rick and Alex earlier and had decided that to distract him would be a good idea. She knew that her friend wasn't yet ready to move on from Jon and her emotional state at the moment was far too fragile for the type of prompting that Rick was attempting. She knew that of anything happened between them Alex would only regret it the next morning. It was with this in mind that she began a very distracting, almost innocent private dance.
The show didn't last long. Alex excused her self and went to bed tired and still a little confused. Lanie's winks to her throughout her "performance" let her know what she was up to and really didn't bother her any way; she really was only caught in the moment with Rick. Regretfully she didn't share his feelings, but how much easier would things be for her if she did.
Lanie and Rick followed soon after. Rick knew that Lanie's performance was innocent. She was an outrageous flirt but was very much in love with her high school sweetheart who was presently serving in the army and stationed in New Guinea. In fact he was the main focus of her conversation over dinner. She took his hand and helped him up off the chair, dropping it just as she leant over to the switch to turn out the lights. They made their way to their beds and promptly fell asleep.