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The drive to the restaurant was quiet and mercifully short. Gregory was tempted to keep driving but knew he couldn't miss the dinner. As he pulled into the parking lot he smiled at Olivia who seemed uneasy, "Are you ready?"
She smiled and nodded, watching him as he opened his door and passed the keys to the young man who hurried to meet them. Another valet opened her door and held out a hand to assist her as she stood. Gregory held out his arm and she took it, trembling slightly, as they walked towards the entrance. A doorman opened the door for them and she smiled, a deceivingly confidant smile, as the eyes of a hundred men and women turned to face them.
Bette nodded, "For tonight anyway..."
"What about you?"
Bette's eyes dropped and she sighed, "Am I that easy to read?"
"We've been friends too long." Elaine answered in a soothing tone. "Trouble?"
"I left Mario..." Nothing else needed to be said. Elaine wrapped her arms around her friend and Bette gave into the emotion she would have kept hidden from anyone else.
"Not sure... I'll have to talk to Pres tomorrow."
"So who's the new girl?"
"Olivia something, I think... Wasn't she with Del at the ball?"
"I wondered about that. Isn't he involved with that Mahaffey woman?"
"I believe so, but then I thought this one was with the Deschanel kid."
"Well looks like we'll get to ask Richards himself..." All talk stopped and smiles plastered the faces of the lawyers and businessmen as Gregory led Olivia over. Introductions were made and soon talk turned to other matters, business and cases they were working on, stock options they were considering for investment.
Olivia soon found herself separated from Gregory as she was whisked into a group of wives. Talk flowed from the horrors of being the wife of a lawyer, the latest vacation spot, charity functions, and who wore what to which event. Olivia tried to pay attention, memorizing the names of those who seemed to be in favor and making mental notes of those who were not. These were the women she would have to impress if she were to help Gregory in his claim up the ladder. And Olivia was more determined than ever to be a part of that success...
"Well?" She asked angrily. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
"What am I supposed to say? It seems your father has already made any decisions that need to be made."
"We aren't talking about my father!"
"Aren't we? He's already got the date set!" Del snapped back.
"So you are going through with it?"
"Madeline, I was going to ask you to marry me anyway, surely you knew that already... This just speeds things up some."
Madeline ran her hand through her hair, a completely uncharacteristic move for the normally immaculate woman. "I feel sick..."
"Do you want me to get you some crackers?" Del asked, trying to be helpful. For his efforts he received one of the pillows from the couch in his face.
"Not that kind of sick, you idiot! I despise kids! And I'm going to be HUGE..." She growled.
"Oh..." Del shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't so great with kids himself, but he did have to admit it made convincing Madeline to marry him that much easier. Actually, now that he thought of it, it might be the only way her father would have agreed to it without throwing an even bigger fit than he already was. And it meant a permanent, undeniable link to the old man's fortune. He smiled at the thought, "It will only be temporary. And we'll get a nanny." Madeline's glared told him now was not the best time to discuss it.
He was rescued from his thoughts by the call to dinner.
Now, as they were preparing to leave, Timothy was showing why he was one of the favorites at any society function. A complete failure as both a student and a lawyer, he carried a charm that could not be denied and a name that went back farther than any other present. His fortune might have been lost, but the reputation was held intact by his absolute refusal to admit defeat. He was, without question, a lovable sponger with an old-money air that lent elegance and a sense of legitimacy to any function. He was also pleasantly drunk and an outrageous flirt.
Gregory laughed good naturedly as Prescott bent to kiss Olivia's hand in good-bye, but the arm that went possessively around her waist betrayed an underlying jealousy. Olivia's eyes assured him, as well as anyone close enough to see the spark that went between them, that he had nothing at all to worry about.
With goodbyes said Gregory led Olivia back to the car. It had already been pulled around to meet them and he allowed the young man who presented him his keys to take Olivia from him, only for a moment, and lead her around the car to the passanger side. He waited until she was safely inside before getting in himself and starting the engine. "Did you have a good time?" He asked casually.
"I had a wonderful time." She assured him with a slight smile. "I was surprised at how many people were there I didn't know. I assumed most would be the same from the other events I've attended."
"A lot of the people at dinner tonight are visiting the area. Some have business interests in the area and only come in occasionally to ensure things are being run properly. The firm actually does a great deal of international business." He explained, amazed at how ordinary the conversation seemed.
"I see. That would explain them not being at the other events." She hoped she hadn't seemed ignorant. She should have realized a law firm as successful as the for which one Gregory worked would be involved in an international practice. He had even gone overseas to work for several months. She glanced out the window and sighed softly at the beauty of the clear night.
Gregory glanced over as he stopped for a light. "You like the stars?" He asked, wanting nothing more at that moment than to touch her. She seemed so at ease, so content...
Her eyes met his and he saw the slightest hint that she was as disquiet as himself, "To look at, not necesarily to study."
"Would you like to stop somewhere? Just to look at them..." She nodded and he turned the car off the main road, driving to a quieter, darker area where the stars seemed brighter and more numerous than under the city lights. A few minutes later he pulled over and cut of the engine.
They stood together in silence, the stars acting as a focal point to draw attention away from the growing feelings between them. She was inches from him, but Gregory didn't touch her. He was afraid to... Not because he doubted her reaction, but because he was all too aware of where even the simplest touch might lead them at this point. When she turned to face him, however, he was suddenly aware that the small distance between them was not nearly enough to affect the desire they shared. Her hand brushed his sleeve and he caught her fingers in his before he could think of the consequences. The peaceful smile that had graced her face disapeared as her eyes met his, awknoleding the spark between them. He whispered her name once before his lips were on hers, exploring and demanding at once.
Olivia felt as if the world was falling away from her. She slid her hands over his chest and clung to him in desperation as her own strength left her. She felt him tremble against her, or was it she that trembled? She no longer knew as his arms pulled her to him. She couldn't think, couldn't reason, or she would have pulled away. Her body seemed to react on its own, defying her mind to create excuses for why she should stop. One moment she was standing on her own feet, the next she was unsure of anything but the feel of the man who held her. Her hands moved without thought, seeking the feel of his chest beneath the tie and jacket, searching to overcome the practiced control of the lawyer and find the simple power of the man.
Gregory reached around her and opened the door of the car. Slowly, holding her to him, he leaned her back onto the seat, the cushioned leather unable to cool the rising temperature between them. He felt his shirt slide off his shoulders and wasn't sure if he'd done it or her. It didn't matter. The two of them were moving as one, with a single goal, a common desire. His hands slid over her legs, removing the clothing that seperated them, that kept them from truely becoming one being. There was no need for words as their bodies expressed anything that needed to be said. There were no words of love, no gentle exploration or attempt to know the other as they gave into the passion between them. This was something rawer, less gentle and untamed, and left them both breathless and exhausted afterwards.
For sometime they stayed together, unspeaking, allowing their heartbeats to slow and their breathing to normalize, neither speaking. Slowly Gregory pulled away from her, propping himself up against the back of the seat as he looked down at her. His eyes asked the questions that he was not yet able to express; her smile answered. He kissed her then, more gently than he had previously, taking a moment to admire the woman in his arms. She ran her hand through his hair, wanting to hold onto the moment for as long as possible, but they both knew it had to end. They were fortunate as it was that no one had come by. Although a quiet road it was hardly deserted and, even at that hour, another car would not have been unheard of, Bette and Elaine would be waiting up for her, and he had to work in the morning.
"We should go..." He whispered, letting his eyes take in the site of her once more before she reached for her clothes, nodding her agreement.
"Yes... I think maybe we'd better." Both knew that to prolong the moment was a risk of allowing the flame to ignite between them again. Already he felt the desire to touch her, to make love to her in a way they hadn't had time for the first time. She read the thoughts in his eyes and gently pushed him back, pulling her blouse closed before wrapping his tie around his neck and daring a light kiss on his lips. "We're both likely to face the Wrath of Bette if we don't go now."
He smiled and then laughed softly as he quickly dressed. "I'll call you tomorrow, as soon as I get a break." He assured her.
A few minutes later they were composed, if somewhat rumpled, as they pulled the car back onto the main road and resumed the drive to Elaine's house. There would be enough time to think about the consequences of the evening tomorrow, now they were both lost in the remanants of the overwhelming emotions they'd discovered in each others arms.
"Oh bother..." Olivia sighed as Gregory pulled the car in front of Elaine's house. Of course Elaine had waited up on her. Olivia had expected that, but before Gregory could even pull the car alongside the curb Elaine and Bette stepped out the front door.
"Are we in trouble?" Gregory grinned.
Olivia had to laugh, "Elaine I was prepared for, but Bette... I feel a very looong lecture coming on."
"Would it be cowardly not to walk you to the door?" He wanted to spend more time with her but knew it wasn't possible, not tonight... Tomorrow would come far too early as it was and he had a long day on the agenda. Waiting around while Bette grilled him and lectured on keeping Olivia out late was likely to take a lot longer than he was prepared to stay awake for.
Olivia's smile was reassuring and understanding, "I think it would be rather wise not to push our luck."
"Let me get your door then. At least I can look a little like a gentleman." Olivia laughed in response and he walked around the car to open her door. "I'll call you tomorrow as soon as I get a break. It may be lunchtime..." He held her hand lightly in hers and gazed longingly into her eyes.
"I understand. From all the talk I heard this evening you'll be busy. Get some sleep..."
"I'm not sure I can..." Gregory knew it would be difficult to get his mind and body to relax from missing her. She was still with him and he already missed the closeness of her body against his.
The tender goodnight kiss they shared was hardly enough to satisfy either of them and Olivia watched from the curb until he'd pulled away. With a deep breath she turned to face the two women waiting none too patiently in the doorway. "You didn't have to wait up." She said cheerfully, feigning innocence, as she approached them.
"We were worried sick!" "You were supposed to be home hours ago!" Elaine and Bette begin chiding her at once causing Olivia to laugh despite herself.
"This isn't funny!" Bette snapped. "You know what time Elaine has to get up tomorrow and you knew she'd be waiting!"
"I'm sorry..." Olivia started. "I lost track of time..."
"It's alright really... Bette, we should all get some sleep. Olivia has to be up with Paula in the morning and I have the store..." Elaine tried to play peacemaker despite her initial reaction.
Olivia's retreat was cut off by Bette. "Not so fast..." She glared into her eyes, as if looking into her soul and Olivia shuddered. "You slept with him didn't you? My word, Olivia! After everything you've gone through, everything you've put us all through, you were willing to risk it for one night of hanky panky? So much for your rich husband schemes!"
Olivia started to speak but was cut off by an indignant and always protective Elaine, "Bette! For one that is none of our business and two this has nothing to do with rich husbands. You owe Olivia an apology..."
"Honestly, Elaine, if you haven't figured the game out by now you are a lot more naive than I thought..." Bette stated and turned her eyes back to Olivia who know stood with her head bowed, all pleasure from the evening destroyed by fears that Bette was right. "I thought you were smarter than that, Livie..." Her voice was softer now.
"I wasn't thinking..." Olivia admitted and sighed. "But it isn't like that... It was more than just one night, Bette..." Her voice and eyes betrayed how much she needed to believe it.
"Of course it was more than that." Elaine slid her arm around her friend's shoulders. "We're all just tired and we were so worried about you. Gregory loves you... Anyone can see that." She shot Bette a look that demanded she agree with her.
"Elaine's right... I still say it was a dumb move, but certainly not fatal. There's no denying that Gregory's got it bad for you and I doubt one night is going to satisfy him."
Olivia couldn't suppress a tiny smile as some of her characteristic confidence came back, "On the contrary, Bette... It only confirmed..."
"I think that's enough!" Elaine stopped the conversation before the two could embarrass her. Olivia and Bette bust into a fit of laughter, always amused at Elaine's Puritan side. "I believe you were leaving..." Elaine shoved Bette goodnaturedly towards the door. "And you... You know where your bed is." Both Bette and Olivia obeyed, heading off in the directions Elaine sent them, leaving all worries, doubts, and planning for tomorrow.
he was not prepared for his response. "Madeline is pregnant!" His voice erased any suspicions as to whether this was joyful news or not.
Bette almost choked on her coffee, trying to imagine the self important prima donna as a mother, "I sincerely hope that I have miscalculated the date and this is a sick April's Fool joke..."
"Believe me, I wish it were... And she isn't too thrilled with the idea either."
"I imagine not... So, what's the plan?" She knew Del would be looking for some way out of this situation. She was surprised...
"We're getting married... In a small ceremony, just family. I guess you'll be invited..."
"Don't sound so happy for me!"
"Don't sound so happy for yourself! Why in the name of all that is sane in this world are you marrying her? We both know neither of you are crazy about the idea of parenthood."
"No... But her father..."
No further explanation was needed as Bette cut him off with a nod and passed him a drink, "Here, you need something stronger than coffee this morning."
"Don't you worry, brother dear, I am not out of the picture
"What do you mean you aren't out of it yet? Come on, Felicity, Gregory has made it clear that whatever the two of you might have had, it's over... He's with Olivia now and he's seems to really be into her."
"She's nothing, Timothy. Do you hear me? Gregory's career is what is important to him and as soon as he gets over his lust for that trashy European thing he'll realize that I am the one that can help him move up the proverbial ladder."
"Well from what I've seen, Olivia Blake learns fast. She handles herself very well at the stuffy functions. You keep chasing him and you're only going to end up embarrassing yourself." Timothy Prescott's phone rang, interrupting his chat with his sister. "Prescott.... Yes, Mr. Singleton, I would be delighted to join you. Noon at the cavern, you bet... I'll bring those proposals. I appreciate this more than you know."
"What was that about?" Felicity asked as he hung up.
"Well... It appears I'm having lunch with Mr. Singleton and some business associates, as well as his lawyer. I think you may know hi,, we were just discussing him actually..."
Gregory looked at the phone and sighed. He'd been trying all morning to find a moment to call Olivia but every time he even looked at the phone someone demanded his attention. He'd hope to get away for lunch but had just been informed he had plans. Now it seemed he wouldn't even have the opportunity to call before leaving for lunch. He hoped she'd understand... "Not at all, Mr. Singleton. I assure you, this account is the most important thing to me right now."
"Good. You have a bright future ahead of you, Son, as long as you remember your priorities." He walked out with his hand on the younger man's shoulder to join the others.
Olivia felt as if she'd been run over by a train. Between the late night and Paula's apparent attempt to make up for all the time she'd been forced to stay in bed, she could hardly move. The fact Gregory hadn't called yet wasn't helping her mental state. He'd said at lunch and it was already noon... "Hi..." She managed for her friend, hoping to avoid the lecture she was certain Bette still had waiting for her.
"I take it you didn't get to sleep in." Bette noted Paula who, although watching cartoons on the television, still was a bundle of pent up energy. "Well, what do you say we get the kid next door to watch Paula while we grab some lunch? We're celebrating!"
"Olivia narrowed her eyes, "Celebrating...? Exactly what are we celebrating?"
"Del's success, or downfall, depending on how you look at it. He's getting married... And he's going to be a father."
Olivia's mouth dropped, "Del? And... Oh please tell me it isn't Madeline..." Bette's nod assured her it was. "And we are celebrating? Wouldn't preparing for Armageddon be more appropriate? My word I don't know whether to feel sorry for the poor child that gets stuck with those two for parents or afraid for the future of a world that contains their offspring. You don't suppose it will be born with real horns do you?"
"Olivia! That child is going to be my niece or nephew..."
"And I promise never to hold it against you..."
"Gregory, darling, it is wonderful to see you again." Felicity managed to situate herself next to Gregory without looking too obvious. "Timmy just insisted I join him but I never dreamed I would be fortunate to see you here. I was simply delighted at the thought of seeing dear Mr. Singleton again. And now I am to enjoy my lunch twice as much as I'd hoped."
Gregory held his anger carefully within him. He was sick of her games and this only added to his annoyance at having failed to call Olivia as promised. Something about the look on Timothy's face as he glanced behind Gregory towards the door caused him to twist in his seat. There, just entering the restaurant, was Bette and Olivia. As his eyes met hers he became aware of Felicity's hand sliding over his shoulders as she whispered something in his ear. Olivia turned away, not even acknowledging she' seen him. Bette was less able to hide her reaction and the look she gave him sent chills down his spine.
"No... Honestly, Bette, there's no reason to. We are here to have a nice lunch and after the morning I've had chasing Paula I need it."
"Gregory is here with the woman he's been seeing for months." Bette knew when to quit and shook her head slowly as she followed a tremendously composed Olivia into the restaurant.
"I don't think..."
"Of course we will." Olivia cut Bette off and smiled at the other members of the group, most of whom she'd not met. "If the other gentleman don't mind." She purposefully excluded Felicity and Gregory as her eyes swept the table.
"We'd be delighted." An older gentleman assured her, motioning for a waiter to bring two more chairs.
Gregory tried to catch Olivia's eye but she seemed focused entirely on Prescott. He felt a growing annoyance at both of them, along with the piranha that sat next to him, cooing inane words over everything said. Bette was being shamelessly flirted with by Mr. Singleton and seemed to be enjoying it, having forgotten about being mad at him, at least for now. He had to find a way to get away and explain to Olivia. His blood boiled as he saw her rest her hand gently on Prescott's arm and laugh at some lame attempt he'd made at a joke. Maybe he didn't need to apologize after all. She certainly didn't seem to expect one...
"Richards, you look like you are about to explode. Are you feeling alright?" All eyes turned to Gregory at Singleton's words.
"I'm fine..." Gregory answered quickly, laughing it off. "I'm afraid I didn't get much sleep last night and it's catching up with me." Bette gave an slightly indignant sniff and turned away but Gregory's eyes were on Olivia. For just a moment she seemed to lose the carefully constructed mask and her eyes dropped to the table. Maybe she was just upset, hurt thinking he hadn't meant to call her... Gregory grasped at the thought, "And with today's pace I've hardly had time to realize just how tired I was. This is literally the first quiet moment I've had all day...' Gregory addressed the words to his employer but the message was for Olivia.
Olivia raised her eyes to meet his, fighting to keep her relief well hidden, knowing it wouldn't help Gregory in anyway to have some weepy woman fawning over him. "I suppose a man in your position has to expect such days regularly." She said softly.
"I work hard too..." Prescott said with a good-natured pout, sending everyone at the table into light laughter with the noticeable exception of one. Felicity could have killed him with the glare she gave him.
"No problem, Mr. Singleton. I told you this project was my priority and I meant it. You've got me for as long as you need..."
"Good... I knew I could count on you..."
"Easy now, Felicity, that language isn't very becoming..."
"Okay.. Look, I thought you'd appreciate me showing her some attention. Honestly, wouldn't you like Richards to have some competition?"
"Real competition maybe, someone who would distract the little social climber..."
"Now that is certainly the pot calling the kettle..."
"Not someone who is only going to make Gregory jealous and run after her more."
"Maybe you should put your energies elsewhere and he'd ruin after you." Timothy added helpfully.
"Oh please, neither of us are that naive! But I am not giving up... I just need to remind Gregory of exactly what I have to offer..."
"Life? Life...? Yes, I think I do remember having one of those once." Olivia laughed. "I must admit, as much as I love you and Paula, it will be nice to be back in my own apartment with my own things."
"I really appreciate your help, Olivia. You are the best friend I could ever ask for." Elaine's words and hug brought the tinge of guilt that Olivia was getting used to and she hurried off to pack her things.
He drove home, mind focused on a hot shower and the pleasure of his soft, warm bed. As soon as he opened the door he knew something was different. A hint of something in the air reminded him of burning candles. His eyes fell on a ladies purse and he froze. He'd never gotten the key back from Felicity... His teeth clenched as he made his way to the bedroom. Late or not, he was throwing her out, and getting that key back!
He stopped in the bedroom doorway, eyes fixed on the woman sleeping in his bed. The site was not what he expected, nor was his reaction. The sheet laid delicately over her body, hinting at the form beneath, a bare leg lay provocatively exposed, and the long hair spilled seductively over the pillow. A smile slowly crossed his lips as his eyes admired the smooth curves and soft skin. There was no need to wake her... He'd get the key tomorrow but tonight - tonight he would enjoy having her in his bed. Quietly he passed into the bathroom and showered. Slowly, not wanting to wake her, he slid beneath the covers next to her and wrapped his arm around her waist as he pulled her naked body against his. Yes, he'd deal with the key and all the problems tomorrow... Tonight he would take comfort in the warmth of her body against his....