Author's Notes: Note from suicidal author: I am not here. I will not be here again. The Witness Protection Program assures me that I can not be found and that I am safe from 'she- who- no- doubt- now- wishes- to- break- my- fingers'. What can I say? I play by nobody's rules... Oh, and I suppose I should also mention that I'm contrary and currently don't possess an 'off' switch for my imagination.
Comfortingly, some things just never change. As the world continues to grow and change -- not always for the better -- some things remain constant.
The shop I'm about to walk into is one of these things. Time doesn't penetrate it's musty, elegant realm and it has it's own, curious, ye olde worlde charm. Nestled between a mobile phone shop and a newsagents that specialises in porn, it's grace in a graceless street.
Although I feel as though I don't belong, I love to visit this wine shop. I say 'don't belong' because the seeming ageless and immortal man, always sitting behind the counter reading -- somehow silently the newspaper, barely acknowledges my presence. I've been coming here for years now and it is as if he refuses to accept my right to frequent his establishment. I think it's simply because I'm a woman, but I refuse to let it bother me.
I come here for the wine and the classical, comforting ambience.
Stepping through the door and inhaling the musty scent is like leaving the modern world behind. No fluorescent lights illuminate everything in a harshly bright light. The cash register is a gorgeous relic from another era. Classical music, so quiet as to be almost imagined, is played from a radio that was made before it was all but a prerequisite for such equipment to be black or silver. It's wood panelled facade blending in effortlessly with the counter and countless wine racks.
I sometimes feel as though I should genuflect as I walk through the door.
As usual, he dismisses my arrival with a cursory glance that, for a brief moment, makes me feel like I'm polluting his vision. I can't help it. I have to surreptitiously glance down at what I'm wearing in order to reassure myself that I don't look like something a very large cat dragged in. No. I look fine. In fact, I look more that fine. My DKNY, black pant suit is in elegant good taste and my Prada boots are spotlessly clean and match my handbag. In short, I look as though I have both money and taste in abundance.
I have a right to be here... yet he never fails to make me question this belief.
Sighing quietly, I push the thought of the little man out of my head and lose myself in the racks of wine. By no stretch of the imagination am I wine connoisseur. I know what I like, however, and I know where to get it. For tonight's supposedly romantic dinner, I want a particular bottle of Merlot. Part of me doesn't know why I'm bothering. If he even shows at all it will be a miracle and I can't even convince myself that I *want* him to show. I tire of my on-again-off-again paramour, but with no brighter light on the horizon, I begrudgingly put up with him as he has...ah... certain uses.
The sound of the door opening rouses me slightly out of reverie. I don't turn around to check out the newcomer though as, if anything, I'm vaguely annoyed that someone else knows of *my* shop. My annoyance factor rises another notch when the shopkeeper, in a surprisingly chipper sounding tone of voice, greets the newcomer like some long lost relative. "Good evening, Sam. I was beginning to get a little worried about you."
"Oh, don't worry about me, Frankie, I can look after myself."
Frankie? *Frankie*? The old snob is called Frankie? I somehow control the urge to snicker to myself.
"I know you can, son, but that doesn't mean I don't worry about my best customer when I haven't seen him for three months."
I swear, in the five years that I've been coming here, that this is the most I've ever heard him say. Normally he just takes my money and grunts at me.
The newcomer, obviously called Sam, continues to speak to Frankie but I put no effort into listening to their conversation. Well, that is I don't actually listen to their words... I'm too busy allowing the sound of Sam's beautifully cultured voice wash over me. I haven't even looked at him yet and already something about this man is making me tingle.
Shaking my head slightly, and telling myself that I'm being stupid, I move further along the racks of wine. Coming to a halt in front of the Merlot section, I skim over the bottles until I eventually find the label I'm looking for. I'm so lost in my search for my particular brand that I'm not aware that Sam is alongside me until, at the exact same time, we reach for the last remaining bottle.
Our fingers brush, feather light, as he releases his hold on the wine and allows me to have it. Clutching the wine, I look up, startled, at his sudden proximity. The bottle almost slips from my hands as I find myself staring into the most incredible set of... silver?... green?... I can't tell for sure... eyes. As if the colour of his eyes wasn't unsettling enough, they're framed by the most perfectly lush and black -- all of womankind would sigh in jealousy upon looking at them -- eyelashes.
Well, what I really want to do would undoubtedly get me banned from this shop for life but, although I have no doubt it would be worth it, I have to content myself with concentrating on not gaping like a moron.
Once I've succeeded in getting my mouth to obey my command of 'shut!' I allow myself the brief thrill of flicking my eyes over the rest of package. Perfection. An obviously well cut and expensive, dark grey suit hangs elegantly over a slim, yet at the same time muscular, body. A splash of vibrant colour, in the form of a brilliantly red silk shirt compliments the attractive picture. To my utter delight, I can't see a fault in him. Needless to say, his handsome face and glossy sable coloured hair does more than justice to his exquisite eyes. A smudge of dust on his lightly tanned cheek (he must have handled another bottle before reaching for this one) begs me to caressingly wipe it off. Extreme willpower, that I didn't even know I possessed, only just stops me from doing this.
Time -- most likely all of three seconds -- stands still as we make no attempt to hide the fact that we're checking each other out.
Sam's the first to break through the lethargy and, with a smile that lights up his entire face, he indicates to the bottle of Merlot and murmurs, "You've got great taste."
"Thank you," I reply, somehow resisting the urge to add, 'I have *great* taste in *lots* of things'...
It's on the tip of my tongue to offer him the bottle of wine -- my so-called date can whistle for it, he wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this and a house wine -- when, shrugging, he grabs a different bottle.
"Oh well, looks like this will do me," he says, turning to leave. "I hope you enjoy yours."
"I'll be thinking of you as I drink it..." The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them and I'm exceptionally grateful for the dim lighting as I can feel myself blushing.
Sam pauses and looks at me, a flicker of warmth lighting up his eyes. "You do that," he grins, walking off and leaving me with my bottle of Merlot and a hot and bothered feeling.
I watch him as he walks towards the counter, mentally cursing the fact that his suit jacket covers his butt. I like the way he moves though; fluidly and with easy grace. Then, with one final glance over his shoulder, he disappears out the door.
Part of me feels as though I've just lost, in the form of a stranger, something special.
A melancholy feeling washes over me as I slowly meander up to *Frankie* and make my purchase. The earlier delight he showed in seeing Sam is gone and he merely grunts at me as usual. Same old, same old.
Reluctantly stepping out of the wine shop, the hustle and bustle of existence slaps me in the face as I morosely scan the street for my car. I *know* I parked it just over there... but... it's not there now.
Lovely. Just what I don't need. Some low life's stolen my car. Brilliant. Perhaps I'll ask Frankie if he can lend me a bottle opener and then I'll just sit in the gutter and drink the Merlot straight from the bottle. I can't even call for assistance on my mobile as -- silly me -- I left it in the car. I don't even know if dear Frankie has a phone in his shop that I can borrow. Not to mention it would pain me to ask him.
Sighing loudly, I step away from the doorway and scan the street again. Nope. Nothing. No sign of my BMW. My gaze, however, falls on Sam and the sight of him, leaning casually against a midnight black Nissan 200SX and talking on an almost microscopic mobile, make me forget momentarily about my beloved car.
He notices me and, after slipping his phone into his jacket pocket, he makes his way over to me. Concern is evident in his face. "Are you okay?" he asks upon reaching me. "You look lost."
"My... My car... Someone's stolen my car," I mutter dully, "It was there, and now it isn't."
"Oh, that's a pain, isn't it. Just answer a few questions for me and I'll see what I can do for you." Sam effectively takes over the situation that I more than willingly give to him.
"Are you in the police," I have to ask after I've given him the details of my car and phone numbers.
"No. I'm in law enforcement though, CI5 to be exact."
Oh. That means nothing to me and I hope my expression doesn't look as blank as I feel. Fortunately, if it does, Sam doesn't see it as he's too busy phoning in the theft.
Ending the call with a sigh, he scowls momentarily at the phone before returning it to his pocket. "Typical bloody Met," he tells me. "They're too busy, no doubt on school crossing duty, to come out here and have a look around. They've taken down the details and, magnanimously of them, they promise to look into it and get back to you. I trust the car was insured though as I wouldn't hold my breath in regards to seeing it again."
"The car's insured," I reassure him before idle curiosity dictates that I add, "You sound as though you don't like the Met."
"Whatever gave you that idea?" Another brilliant smile crosses Sam's face and he laughs. "My dislike for them is nothing compared to the contempt my partner holds for them though."
Partner? What partner? Sitting in the gutter guzzling wine is looking more and more viable. "Partner?" I query.
"Mmm... Chris. My *CI5* partner."
Am I imagining things or did he emphasise the fact that by partner he means *work* partner. Surely I didn't.
"Oh," I reply blandly, not knowing what else to say. Actually, I'm at a loss as to what to do in general. Sam appears to sense this as, looking concerned again, he offers to drive me home.
It's an offer I couldn't refuse... even if I wanted to... (yeah, *right*) and I accept it gratefully. I tell myself that it's simply wishful thinking on my behalf that sees a flicker of relief shine in Sam's eyes at my acceptance.
The intensely masculine scent of the Nissan's interior ignites another flame in my suddenly sensation driven existence. I can't remember when I last felt quite so... charged. Something's got to give, and soon, as I can feel my control slipping.
I enjoy Sam's driving, the car and the road coming under his control effortlessly as though they were both a natural extension of his body. Occasionally he glances over at me, seemingly to check out how I'm faring, and as I show no signs of discomfort or fear at the speed he's pushing the car, he goes faster.
I'm exhilarated. I love speed. It turns me on.
All too soon we reach my house. *Manners* dictate that I ask him in. Just as they dictate that he accept my offer. Walking slowly in the front door, my prayers are answered in the form of the flashing red light on my answering machine that indicates I have a message.
Gesturing Sam in to the living room, I hold my breath as I listen to the message -- 'Sorry love, I can't make it tonight after all. The rugby club need me' -- and grin broadly.
Bypassing the living room, I sneak into the kitchen and grab two crystal glasses and a bottle opener.
I'm almost sorry about how easy this is going to be. Still, I tell myself, there'll be time for games later.
Entering the room, I find Sam admiring the artwork on my walls. Sensing my presence, he turns towards me and smiles. Holding the wine up, I gravitate towards him. "Please... Share this with me as a token of my gratitude."
He takes the wine and the opener from me, our fingers brushing and causing bolts of pure electricity to course through my body. He then uncorks the bottle and places it immediately on the nearby coffee table. He doesn't take the glasses from me.
Sam's eyes twinkle with ill disguised... lust. Placing the glasses next to the wine, I feel the pull of his body to mine and can't deny it. We meet half way and, without hesitation, wrap our arms around each other. His sculpted body, hard against mine, feels wonderful. I have to stand on tip-toe to reach his tempting lips but it's the kind of hardship I can bear happily.
The first kiss is like coming home... to a place that although I'd never been there before, is immediately *right*. His lips softly pliant and moist against mine.
The second, while still tender, is more demanding and I find my fingers gliding, as though they have a life of their own, through his clean hair. His hands roam easily over my body, igniting sparks of pleasure in me as they go. My legs begin to feel weak
Even through the numerous barriers of clothing I can feel the hardening proof of his desire. Moaning in anticipation, I reluctantly pull away from Sam and somehow manage to gesture towards the stairs that lead to the bedroom.
He doesn't need telling twice.
... And the best part about all of this? The wine will still be there, breathing in the air and improving in texture and flavour, until we're ready for it.
*Whenever* that may be...