Perhaps it was naive of him to think someone as refined as her would visit his table. Armin told himself he was dreaming when her gorgeous head, topped with a soft pink cloche hat, turned his way. His breath hitched when her eyes glanced at him through long blonde eyelashes, and he released a sigh when his eyes grazed over hers that were blue enough to cry an ocean and leave a mist in their wake.
She was an absolute doll, cloth flower on her hat, perfectly accenting the flaxen color of her hair and making his heart pound at his seat. He tried not to stare at her expensive attire as she walked away from her seat at the bar, seeing just by her movements and her clothes that she carried an air of sophistication. She wore a black coat that made her shoulders look broad and bulky (an almost comical sight), but as his eyes drew downward to the bottom hem that hung above her mid-calf, he saw just how slimming the outfit made her look. He nearly forced himself to turn away at the sight of her shoes. They were heels slightly raised from the ground, making her feet look famously elegant and small, and in a moment he saw them turn and move his way.
He straightened up, the clatter and clanking of the speakeasy around him setting him on edge. Armin quickly brushed through his almost shoulder-length blonde mop of hair and wiped his face before looking up, only to see her standing over him. Her hands sat inside her coat pockets and her eyes wandered from his head to his lips, then to his drink that sat untouched at the center of his table.
Armin watched the corner of her lips pick up slightly, but nothing else significant happened to her expression as she reached upwards and drew her thin fingers around the brim of her hat, pulling it up and off to reveal a head of light, feathery hair. The blonde mess was cropped short in the back but rolled off her forehead with an untamed wave that made her cheekbones look like canyons in her face.
"Don't suppose you've got an edge yet," she said, her voice like a rolling wave, slightly monotone but thick as honey and better than Armin could have ever imagined. She had somewhat of a New York accent, but it was more like the voices of the film stars and the billionaires' wives that floated around the city with handbags full of cash. She glanced to his drink again and began to shrug her coat off her shoulders, her hands reaching for the inside flaps. In a heartbeat he was standing behind her, reaching to help her tug the heavy jacket from her seemingly delicate frame. She stilled, golden eyebrows raised and cobalt circles watching him from the corner of her eyes.
He tugged it from her arms with an awkward smile that she doesn't seem to notice. She bought her arms to her chest, her hands sitting on her mid-section as he hung the coat across his arms. He moved across the table, setting the coat across the extra chair beside them, returning to the place behind her and gesturing for her to sit. She did, tugging her beaded and shimmering dress underneath her and crossing her legs under her chair after he'd pushed it in.
"You're quite the gentleman," she purred as he made his way back to his chair, sitting and subconsciously opening his eyes wider to talk her all in. Although her hair was short she didn't give off the initial flapper impression. She was business-like, her curved nose telling him she'd come from immigrants and her long dress telling him she hadn't gotten quite into the the fads of the modern day. He liked that.
He nodded, watching her place her elbow on the table and rest her sharp and gorgeous chin on her palm, sitting her other arm against the table and tucking her hand in the crook of her elbow.
"Of course," he laughed softly, hoping he didn't look too casual for a meeting like this.
He glanced down at himself subtly, seeing that he wore a cheap white collared shirt, and grey vest over it. He praised himself for his dress slacks, the only article of "fancy" clothing he owned.
She glanced around, eyes slightly uninterested, not noticing his sudden self-conscious action. Armin rushed to reestablish the attention he'd been craving since he saw her arrive into the speakeasy through the familiar secret door.
"Do you want anything to drink?" he asked, crossing his arms over the table and watching her turn her face back to him. She shook her head slightly and he watched the hair bounce beside her cheeks and ears.
"Are you going to finish that one?" she breathed, her straight and brightened teeth showing for a moment when her pink lips drew back too far. He swallowed hard, shaking his head with a polite grin. He watched her reach for his glass, bringing it to her lips and drinking with closed eyes, revealing a line of black makeup across her lid that made him swallow again. He watched her set the drink down and dab her lips with her tongue.
"So," she hummed again, her finger tracing the brim of the glass and her eyes trained on him, sizing him up for a moment before speaking again, "who exactly are you?" she asked, blinking once, then once again in wait of his response.
Armin smiled brightly, sitting up and pulling his seat forward for better leverage.
"Armin Arlert," he replied, "and you, ma'am?" She sat back with a faint chuckle, a beautiful sound that made his heart sink.
"Quite the gentleman," she repeated quietly to herself, crossing her arms against her perfectly postured body. It had been a long time since someone had called her that.
She was the kind of girl that boys like Armin fantasized about, he quickly realized, not that he did that sort of thing. She reached up with one hand, running her fingers through her short hair and allowing Armin a bit of a dramatic pause, taking in the clouded smoky air on the Tuesday night. It wasn't as crowded as usual, he thought to himself, having been coming here to buy and not drink for several weeks.
"Annie Leonhardt," she said finally, looking back to him with expectant eyes.
"German." he responded, feeling as if he shouldn't have said it out loud. Sometimes his racing mind got the better of him. She smiled, her finger raised from underneath her chin to touch her cheek, a sparked interest.
"Indeed." she replied, reaching out again to take another sip of the drink, keeping her eyes open this time as she finished it in two quiet gulps. She set the glass down and spun it under her fingers for a while, eyes on the table.
The silence was comfortable for her, it seemed, and Armin took the time between them to look over her with a type of awe. He shifted his weight in his seat, impressed with her.
"Would you like another?" he prodded, gesturing to the empty glass with a wide smile and a raise of his shoulders. She gently shook her head again, and she breathed in, the sound of the intake causing a chill to run down his back.
"Swiss," she replied, raising her brows in curiosity, "Arlert is a Swiss name." He burst into laughter and she continued to look slightly amused without hardly moving a muscle.
"No, ma'am, try again." he placed his chin on his hands, watching her squirm in her seat, cross her legs at her knees, and cross her arms in the same fashion in an attempt to think.
"I genuinely have no idea," she admitted, tilting her head with interest, "do tell." He sat back with a smile, indulging in the fact that he knew something she didn't, and a moment later he felt guilty over that same satisfaction. He was conceited in the sense that he knew he was intelligent, but she didn't have to know that quite yet.
"My grandfather was Swedish, and when his parents came over on the boats they shifted the letters around somehow. I don't know all the details but my name isn't quite as interesting as it was when it originated back in it's homeland."
She blinked, and he could tell by her eyes that she was bemused somehow. She drew her hand to her face, touching her lips with her fingers, drumming a rhythm with a tilt of a smile.
"Alright then, Mr. Swede, tell me what you do." she said quietly, Armin looking over his shoulders to see the hideout had attracted a quieter crowd. He turned to her and settled into his chair, watching her quietly and hoping she wouldn't leave anytime soon.
"I'm in college." he replied with a laugh. "I'm in school to be a writer," he said, slightly quieter. Of course he was proud of his accomplishments, but it seemed like the wrong time to bring his endless achievements in education up in conversation that no one seemed to appreciate. They were in a bar after all, and he didn't want his lovely company to think he was a narcissist, and he definitely did not want to appear to be a failure based on societal norms.
"Gentlemanly, keen, and smart," she rolled her eyes jokingly, causing his heart to take flight, "boy did I hit the jack-pot."
Armin's cheeks and ears warmed at her compliment and he laughed softly, leaning over the table and staring gently at her. She caught his eyes and settled into the back of the chair.
"Now, Miss Annie, what do you do?" he asked softly, and she smiled, leaning in and pushing her hand behind her ear.
"Just call me Annie," she told him with a falling grin, "ain't no sense in calling me ma'am or miss. We're friends now." something devious passed over her face, only making the blush on Armins' face deepen.
"Oh, are we?" he retorted jokingly, leaning even closer towards her.
She blinked her glorious eyes closed once, and pulled back slowly, pushing her chair back and standing, brushing her pale dress that was so conservatively cut, and reaching for her hat.
Armin stood immediately, rushing to her side and helping her slip her arms through the coat. He watched her place her hat atop her head and turn to him, placing her hands on his chest and pressing a kiss on his cheek. She draws back and begins to walk from the bar towards the exit in the wall. He stood still for a moment, and she turned back to him with a questioning glance.
"Doesn't a gentlemen usually walk a dame like me home after a date?"
His eyes widened and he jumped forward, grabbing his own jacket from a hook by the door and slipping it on quickly, turning back to thank the bartender. He slipped out behind her and into the main restaurant with a broad smile that took too much strength to conceal.
Armin followed her through the tables and through to the actual, and definitely more legal, door, finding it pleasing that when she walked she looked like she was floating. As he walked behind her, he noticed her faint floral scent.
He smelled himself out of curiosity when she wasn't looking, and he found that he smelled like dry soap. He hoped that that wasn't inadequate for someone like her, but then again, he barely knew what kind of person she was. Maybe she didn't particularly care if he was a cologne-wearing kind of guy.
When they stepped out into the street he glanced to her with a smile and she breathed deeply into the air, her breath clouding the air for a split second before disappearing into the night air.
"Where to now, ma-Annie?" he corrected himself with a cough and he was glad when the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly.
"I think I'll be renting a taxi," she said in a-matter-of-fact tone, stepping through the snow to the corner, watching the traffic go by for a while with wide and adoring eyes that treasures everything they met until she stuck her hand out in a wave, and after several laughs and joking blushes there was a shiny car in front of them with an older rugged man inside wearing a toothy smile.
"Lady's first," Armin waved, opening the door and letting her slide into the round and bulky seat before following her inside and slamming the door closed behind them. Armin was still amazed by the technology of the automobile, and he'd spent almost half a year trying to recreate it from his mind and a single reference, and at the end he gave up with a hefty laugh.
She cleared her throat and smiled at the driver, "Upper East side, Cathedral Corner by the Ritz hotel." the driver nodded knowingly, and Armin sat back in the seat as they pulled out into the small road and puttered along for long and drawn out minutes until the car wavered and screeched to a stop. Armin wondered why she'd brought him along and was becoming increasingly nervous by the second.
He opened the door and stepped out into the falling snow, taking her hand, now gloved, and helping her step into the walkway. He reached into his coat pocket and drew out a handful of change, handing it to the driver and nodding in appreciation.
Armin turned to her with a smile and moved his head to get a better look of the street. A tall building loomed over them, lights gleaming from the lobby and from at least a dozen windows above them. Armin guessed that it was the hotel that must have been her home. He looked around to see that there was a church across the street with large stained glass windows. They shined into the street shadows and spilled color across the white layer of snow.
"Care to walk me to the hotel?" she asked, shifting her weight and fooling with the seam on her gloves. Armin stepped around and nodded, smiling and placing his hand on her back as they moved slowly towards the building.
"You never told me what you do," he laughed, looking to her as she rolled her eyes at him.
"It's a secret, Mr. Arlert." she replied slyly, stopping and turning to face him when they drew closer to the entrance. "I've had a lovely time." she murmured, crossing her hands and stepping dangerously close to him.
"I-I have too," he responded, his hand still resting lightly on her back, unintentionally pulling her closer, "I hope to see you again." he said with a laugh, hanging his head lower to meet her eyes.
She wet her lips with her tongue and smirked, her eyelashes fluttering like the butterflies in Armin's stomach. "Check or cash, cowboy?" she purred, and he raised his brows before laughing loudly into the night.
"I think it rude to kiss a girl before knowing her properly." he said back to her, his nose and cheeks burning in embarrassment. Her eyes moved down and watched the ground.
"So it would be rude of me to invite you to my room for you to, well, get to know me properly?" she said in a sultry voice, her finger lifting to run from his shoulder to his chest.
His eyes became saucers and his jaw dropped so far he felt it crack. He snapped it shut and swallowed, bringing his arm away from her with a snicker and taking her hands. "I'm afraid it would be, Miss." he leaned down, pecking her cheek quickly and pulling away, stepping backwards with a charmed smile. She raised her brows, turning away and waving her hand over her shoulder to dismiss him.
"Next time you make me wait, Mr. Arlert, you'll be signing that check in blood." she called back to him with a bemused tone of voice.
He grabbed his stomach from the onslaught of laughter, and winked in her direction although she couldn't see him. As the hotel door-holder pushed it open for her he replied.
"I'm sure we'll meet again Annie."
He stepped on the curb and watched her turn around, crossing the threshold of the hotel door calling back to hime, "I hope so."
And before he could comprehend what had just taken place between them, she was gone, and he was left alone, breathless, on the New York City streets. He stepped away from the glowing hotel, and glanced back at least a dozen times before tearing himself away and deciding to walk to his shabby apartment only a few blocks away.
The air was icy against his skin, so he shoved his hands in his pockets as he made his way down the roads, noting the several people who walked past him. Above him he heard several clock towers chime midnight, and he rushed on into the wind, turning twice before finding his building and shuffling behind the gate to open the door.
It was unbelievably hot inside and he shrugged his jacket off, opening a concealed pocket and drawing out a key. He asked himself why he'd refused her as he made the trek up the three flights of stairs, and even when he reached the door there was no answer. Somehow he knew, though, that he'd get another chance, and the thought of her face (and her cheeks and her fingers and legs and her eyes) made him stop to take a breath.
He pushed open the door and placed the key on a small table, closing the door with a shove and sighing, shedding clothes until all he was wearing was a white tank top and his pants.
Armin hastily made a fire in his small and nearly-empty fireplace. He warmed his hands as he sat on the floor, and when he was feeling better, he laid down and closed his eyes, and wiping his nose and mouth. Before he knew it his hands covered his entire face.
He fell asleep by the fire, trying his best not to think about her too hard.
Armin returned to the bar on a Friday a week later, rubbing his eyes to wipe away the text book vocabulary and hand drawn images of Shakespearean characters with reference to his major works.
All Armin could hardly think about as he stumbled in with a tired sigh and itching fingers was the warm brown color of the drink he wanted to order. He at first stepped into the restaurant, eying a waiter to make sure they knew where he was going, and he continued to the back hallway to the familiar door. He knocked in a specific rhythm, twenty times in all, and the door slid open, revealing the speakeasy filled with dozens of chatting and drinking individuals, most of whom he had never met and would never know. His eyes wavered on a single figure that stood out from the crowd at the bar, and he felt a smile emerge from his lips as he moved towards her.
She was wearing a similar dress to before, but this time it was black, matching the clips that pulled her hair from her face. Annie must have seen him coming because her eyes were visibly brightening as she stayed in profile, swirling a straw through thick pink liquid inside a shining glass.
He smiled, sitting at the stool beside her, noting her bent over position and crossed legs. He crossed his own legs at his ankles and waved to the bartender for a glass of the cheapest whiskey they had. In a flash, there was a glass before him, and he was grinning wildly at her.
She moved her head slowly, a smirk on her cheek as her hand abandoned the straw and folded in her lap.
"Long time no see, darling, how's the scholar life treating you?" she spoke in her signature, and increasingly familiar, alluring northern drawl.
Armin shrugged, keeping his eyes level to hers. "Not much happens, honestly. You read a few books and you write a few essays. Meet a stunning blonde at a bar. Complain about the weather. Repeat."
Her face was flushed after his compliment and she bobbed her knees up and down, eyes avoiding his gaze on her.
"Your hair's up today," she noted, sweeping a loose strand behind his ear and blinking slowly, taking in every segment of his face and body as it was now in front of her.
"Today was a bad day," he chuckled, reaching up to brush the back of the short ponytail at the back of his head. He silently wondered if she'd brought attention to it because she liked it.
"You wear ponytails on a bad day?" she asked, turning back to her drink, causing him to fear disinterest as she took a swig of her syrupy cocktail. He hummed a 'yes', turning to his own and feeling his stomach churn before she spoke again to save him from taking a sip. "Is that what brings you here, dear?" she asked, turning to face him again, one arm resting on the bar and the other hand preoccupied with the straw in the drink.
"I was hoping I'd run into a certain someone," he playfully admitted, though she seemed unfazed, "and my hopes were rewarded."
She blinked and her eyes moved up to his, "Hm... come to ask me all about my personal life so you can take me home?"
Armin's entire body went hot at her words. He shook his head.
"I was just hoping that you'd give me an answer to what it is exactly that you do for a living."
His commentary unsettled her and she adjusted herself in her seat, nervously touching her face and dodging his looks he gave her. The smoke in the air was heavy tonight and he saw her blinking rapidly, the noxious smell causing even him to feel queasy. She finally took another drink and began to speak loudly over the music that had just begun to play behind them.
"My masochistic, abusive, and oh-so-wealthy father died some years back, when I was just a teenager. His untimely and fortunate demise gave me an opportunity, and with the flick of my wrist and a signed document, I came into a large sum of money," she paused and swallowed, glancing around the room nonchalantly, casual, while Armin sat with a baffled expression, "I stepped into the business world at the age of sixteen and by the time I turned twenty I was a millionaire." Armin's jaw dropped and he blinked away the surprise as he looked her up and down. She spoke of it as if it were nothing.
"I see," was all he could utter towards her non-expressive face and body.
"I own many large companies and firms, and I deal with international affairs and diplomacy. I own many, many things in this city," she glanced around with a satisfied smirk, "even this fine establishment," she whispered, leaning in closely to him, "actually, almost all of the speakeasies on this side of town."
Armin swallowed down the shock, utterly floored by the information. All he could do was nod and respond with short replies.
She laughed to herself through straight lips and finished her drink, holding the glass in her hands and bringing it to eye level, examining it carefully.
"Now, Mr. Arlert, has your interest in me peaked?"
He swung around in the stool, facing the bar again and taking the glass in his hand. "Actually, my interest would have been equal if you were homeless."
Her body jolted and he caught the side of her wide-eyed expression in a glimpse from the side, watching her lean back in her stool and grip the bar for support. Had it been a surprise to her that he'd wanted to know her regardless of her finances? He wasn't too well off himself in the first place, so he had no right to judge.
She pulled a shoulder bag off her opposite shoulder and reached inside, grabbing two coins and placing them on the bar, stepping off her stool and grabbing Armin's hand.
"We both know you won't be finishing that beverage," she breathed, leaning in so close her breath was heavy on his ears, "so I think it's time we move this party somewhere we can both enjoy the drinks."
Armin's adam's apple bobbed and he quickly stepped back to grab his coat, slipping it on and taking her hand, letting her lead him out of the bar, through the restaurant, and outside the building and into the cold.
He snickered when her smile turned wicked and her fingers intertwined with his as she pulled him along.
"No cab this time?" he called to her, laughing with a hot blush on his cheeks as they strode through the crunchy white snow. She didn't answer him, the tail of her hair bobbing behind her as she went, her coat whipping around her as the wind picked up against them. Armin kept laughing, unable to control himself and the embarrassment emitting from his body. Everything felt hot and shaky as they went along, and he could have sworn he heard the sound of her breath shift as if she were smiling.
"No, I want to walk," she said, turning back around, her cheeks and nose burning red in the cold. As she turned, Armin could see a dark spot at the nape of her neck, but he brushed the thought away, his mind too concerned at how warm her hand was in his. Her hand moved against his and she slowed down and smiled at him, softly. He wanted to freeze the moment, to stop and stare at her until she wouldn't let him anymore, to observe and take note of her movements and her skin. He smiled back to her at the slowed pace and tugged her closer to him, walking side by side.
"It isn't very far," she assured him, her mysterious smile gone in a flash. There was no need for streetlights, but they were there anyways, lighting their path as they walked. Lights in windows and buildings already made it seem as if it were daytime, even though Armin knew it was very late at night. He glanced to Annie who's face stayed straight forward and serious as they kept along. He hummed in response, probably too late for her to know the significance, and walked with her, sliding his hand up and down against her palm, getting a feel for her soft skin and thin fingers.
She didn't seem to mind, and once he stopped, she moved for him, running her thumb over his forefinger, making him blush. He didn't dare talk, afraid that he'd screw up everything they were now sharing. He thought he'd start rambling on and on about the stories in his head, the things he wanted to write and share and see. They could see the hotel several minutes later and a thought occurred to him. Maybe he'd write about her...
"I hope I'm not being overbearing," she began to say as the lights of the hotel shone over them, Armin swallowed without a word, "I come on strong a lot of the time, well," she paused and stopped, turning to him, "all the time."
She held their hands out in front of her, looking at them as Armin's eyes were on her. His stomach flipped over and over and over and his heart might as well have been outside his chest it was beating so loud in his chest.
"I must admit that I didn't... I don't usually..." He said, trailing off when she looked up into his eyes. "Yes, just a little bit." he admitted, feeling himself slip from her grasp. She caught his hand again and held on tightly, her eyes blinking open wider and then shifting downward.
"I just..." her soft voice quieted and she forced herself to look up at him, her own stomach fluttering with nervousness, "I don't think I've ever liked someone like I like you."
Armin made a squeaking noise, surprised, and stepped back slightly, swallowing and shivering. He laughed quietly, smiling and pushing his hair back with his free hand, glancing around as if what she'd just said was too good to be true. He let go of his hair, letting it fall in his face as he trailed his eyes over her from head to toe.
"God, you're beautiful." he breathed. Her face only got redder, but that was the extent of her embarrassment. Her face barely moved in reaction, but her eyes glistened to show that she knew what he'd just said, what he'd just done.
"I don't usually do this either," she said quietly, "I don't expect anything from you at all, I just-" she paused, "I honestly just want to have a drink." The color on her cheeks had dissolved into a soft pink, making Armin's hands and insides that much warmer. He sighed, thinking for a moment. What would come out of this? What if he went upstairs and had a drink? What harm would that bring anyone?
He swallowed. He couldn't remember the last time someone, well, someone like her, had done something for him. He couldn't remember the last time someone like her had even wanted to be around him, let alone with him.
"A drink? And then what?" he asked, trying to conceal the smile on his face, trying his best to be serious. He looked around them, seeing that they were still alone. He turned back to her watching her eyes glisten in the lights around him.
Her shoulders bobbed once but her gaze didn't move from him. She smirked. "Just like you said, I want to get to know you better."
"Why?" he asked, much too quickly. Her eyes were startled but she just smirked.
"I'm intrigued, Armin Arlert." she said, moving so close her chest brushed his. He forced himself not to swallow again and he leaned down, watching her soft breath hit the air and turn to a ghost of vapor in the air.
"I'm going up to your hotel room, and we haven't even kissed yet." he said jokingly, but her face remained serious as she shrugged and stepped back.
"So you are coming up with me?"
Hell yes, he wanted to say, but that wasn't really his style. Unlike the woman in front of him he didn't always speak his mind, but perhaps she was the same. He kept telling himself he hadn't really known her as long as it felt he had. He nodded and she gave him a genuine smile, teeth showing and eyes crinkling at the ends.
She turned and he wanted to stop her, to lift her onto her toes in the street and press his mouth to hers, but he didn't, and he let her carry him away and into the hotel lobby.
Once inside, he felt a rush of heat against him and he smiled at the slow moving workers. The inside room was golden, the ruby colored furniture all embroidered with beautiful gold and white lace. He was speechless as they made their way through, and he realized just how wealthy someone had to be to live here, and when they entered the elevator, he stared at her opened mouthed. She nudged him into the corner, opposite to the operator, and slipped her hand in his coat pocket alongside his. She noticed him staring and raised her brows in response, as if to ask why he was so stunned. He just shook his head and smiled, and she turned around. They felt the elevator move without prompting, and they moved up, and up, and up, until Armin felt a jolt.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Why didn't you tell him what floor-"
"Here we are Miss Leonhardt," the man inside the door said, dressed in a hotel uniform with a small grey hat atop his messy black hair, "top floor." The man opened the door, sticking his arm out the exit and smiling at the both of them, and Annie led Armin out of the elevator.
"Thank you, sir," Armin called back to him as they stepped onto the floor, and the worker smirked at him, winked, then closed the elevator doors with a grunt.
Armin looked around them, seeing a single door way to his left, and a sitting room with tables and newspapers to his right, then another doorway on the wall that must lead to the roof.
Annie had slipped her hand out of his pocket and into her own, finding a key and pushing it into the lock to open the door to the room. She turned to him with a sigh, tilting her head almost apologetically and entered the room as she began to slip her coat off.
Armin followed behind her slowly, closing the door behind him and locking the door. He assumed that would be what she wanted him to do since she'd kept it locked in the first place.
He turned around, his jaw dropping once again at the size of the living space. Immediately in front of him was a short hallway that led to a large living room area. There was a two person sofa, white and modern, and one other white love seat that sat behind the table and directly across from the opposite sofa. It was mostly carpeted until it reached the kitchen to the right of the hallway. The kitchen itself had beautiful pale grey and brown stone countertops and appliances that looked fresh off the assembly line. The place was comfortable inside, but very spacious and extravagant.
He turned to look at her, seeing that she was now behind the counter, heels parked behind the bar that was attached to the counter on the living room side. Without looking at him, she hung her coat on the back of one of three iron high-chairs. He slid his jacket off his back hesitantly, feeling his face burning from the change in temperature.
"You don't have a fire place," he said with a half grin, his mind reeling as to how her place was so warm without a fire burning. If he were to try to sleep without a fire burning in his own home, he'd be shivering in a heartbeat. Armin spun in a circle, looking for the source of the warmth before his eyes settled on her.
"New innovation, they call it the thermostat. It won't roll into production until maybe 1927. They don't think all the bugs are out of it yet, but the inventor and producer work for me, so I had one installed anyway."
He stood behind the counter, elbows rested on the top as he watched her lean over the sink in her short-sleeved dress to wash her hands. He raised a brow, still trying to comprehend how much power and money she possessed to have all these luxuries. Her hair was tussled slightly, the long stands at the sides tucked behind her ears and her dress pressed tighter to her body that he thought it had been back at the bar.
Armin looked to his right, seeing two doors, both shut, and inferred that they were the bathroom and bedroom. He turned back to her, seeing her raise up on her tip toes to reach something up in the cabinet.
"How long have you lived here?" he asked cooly, trying to pry his eyes away from her body while she wasn't watching.
She grabbed whatever she was looking for and set two glasses on the table alongside a bottle of light brown liquid. She placed her hands against the table and shifted her weight, her hip popping out to one side, a look that only made Armin more exasperated.
"About a year or two," she replied, prying open the bottle. She bit her bottom lip with frustration when the top didn't come loose. "I don't stay in the same place for very long." The top popped off and she "hmf'ed" proudly to herself.
Armin breathed, laughing to himself, "I never took you for an Egg," he said to himself, looking around again until his eyes landed on her. She wore a frown and furrowed brows, hurt by his comment.
He panicked and scrambled for an answer, "I didn't mean it in a bad way, mi-Annie, I'm just... surprised?"
She quirked her brow, holding the open bottle in her hand.
"That I'm rich or that I live this way?" She asked in a soft manor, but to Armin is still sounded more like an accusation. He sighed and smiled weakly as she poured each of them a quarter glass. She must not have been that angry...
"Neither... I mean, I knew you were rich from your clothes and what you told me," she looked up at him with surprise, "and I knew you lived here but I didn't take you for someone who indulged in this lifestyle."
She set the glass in front of him and he wrapped his fingers around it with a "thank you" under his breath. She brought her glass to her lips, still standing behind the bar with one leg crossed behind the other and a thoughtful look on her face. He wondered how her eyes could move so much when he could barely take his own off of her. She took a sip and dabbed her lips together afterwords. Armin looked down at his glass, forcing a brave face, and rose it up.
"You don't have to drink," she called out to stop him. He jerked his head up.
She smirked and set the glass down onto her counter, leaning down and crossing her arms against the countertop. He tried not to look when the collar of her dress dipped lower than it should have.
"You don't drink, and that's fine with me," she said in her royal voice, "just as long as you don't stop me from drinking."
He smiled back at her, "Are we planning on having future occasions where we drink together but I don't actually taste any of the booze?"
She smirked slyly, "Many, I hope." And before he could respond she was moving around the counter and towards him. "I don't indulge in this lifestyle," she started to explain, standing several feet off with her drink in her hand, "I just figure that if I have copious amounts of money I should at least spend some on a nice place... It's mostly for show, for clients and guests. But I see where you're coming from." She looked around, spinning, and when she turned back to face Armin, he told himself that what he was feeling was falling in love. "It doesn't really suit me." she shrugged and took another sip.
"Tell me more, Annie." He breathed and her face brightened. She liked having someone interested in her, it seemed. She looked down into her drink and traced her finger across the rim of the glass.
"I'm twenty-four," she said, her eyes unfocused against the ground. Armin watched her thinking, her eyelids moving every so often, "I was born in the spring of 1897... it always amused me that I was born in one century and lived in another," the corners of her mouth lifted slightly as she shifted her weight again, still looking away from Armin but this time to the small window at the wall. "My mother died when I was young, but apparently I'm her spitting image." she laughed to herself. "I went to boarding school for most of my life, then I went to college for three years in business studies. I don't have a lot of friends but it never bothers me," she turned to him with a mischievous look in her eye, "except you, but I don't know if we'd call ourselves friends yet."
Armin smirked and leaned back against the bar, watching her finish her drink and roll her toes on the carpet.
"Talk to me about you, now, Armin." she said, walking past him and placing her glass in the sink.
He shrugged, passing her his glass. She took it and placed her mouth on the side, taking a sip and swallowing slowly to savor the taste.
"I don't know what to tell you," he said, "I'm quite boring... what's happening now is probably the most abnormal thing that's happened so far in my life." she was amused by this and rolled her neck like she was tired.
"I'm sure that's not true," she hummed, "I can't be the first girl to sweep you off your feet and take you home." she spoke as if she were going to wink but she didn't, and instead poured the rest of the alcohol down into the sink and looked at him expectantly.
Armin's face flashed red, "You'd be surprised."
She stood still, thinking. "Why don't I just ask you what I want to know?" Armin bit his bottom lip and nodded, happy that she suggested it and feeling his fingers tap in rhythm against the table.
"I'm all yours."
She glanced his way and she smiled like she'd hoped he'd speak those words.
"Alright then, let's cut to the chase then," she said in a louder voice than she'd had before, "how many girls have you been with?" she asked with a quirked brow. Armin's blush only became hotter on his face.
"Are we counting the crush I had when I was eight years old?" He asked jokingly and she nodded, leaning against the counter again, and he noticed with a grin how short she was without her heels. "Alright then, five."
"How many girls have you been with?" she asked in a bold and straightforward voice. Armin concluded that she was most definitely a business woman.
"Two." her lips drew back when he gave her his calm answer.
"Why don't you drink?" she said, glancing to the still open bottle in front of her.
"My grandfather hated alcohol in the house, and my parents died in an accident. The other guy was drunk out of his mind despite the laws."
Annie's eyes softened. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright." he shrugged. "I didn't really know them..."
Annie paused, and inhaled then asking, "How old are you?"
"Twenty three... I was born in the winter of 1897 and I like being a two century guy as well."
Annie smirked, "It doesn't bother you that I'm older?"
"No, not at all," he said laughing, "it's only a couple months..." and in reality it never really mattered to him. His first real crush had been his best friend and she was almost a year older, and most of the other girl's he'd ever liked were the same or more. He almost blushed again, thinking that perhaps it was a trend in his interests.
"Favorite color." she whispered.
"Blue. Like your eyes." he whispered back, leaning over the counter and resting his chin on his arms.
"Are you flirting with me?" she asked with a quirked brow.
"I don't think so."
"Because you know, there's no point," she whispered back to him, "you're already in my hotel room."
He snickered and hid his face in his arms. He tried to let the butterflies inside him settle but then he felt something on his face. Her fingers curled around his skin, pushing the hair back and tickling the skin behind his ear. She twirled it in her fingers before he looked up at her.
"This is so strange." he breathed, she lifted a shoulder and smiled.
"Don't try to change the subject I still have questions." she pulled her arm away and stretched them upwards, moving from around the counter to face him. She reached forward and tugged at his arms moving him to the center of the room and he obliged. The butterflies in his stomach kept fluttering as they fell into step.
"Do you like dancing?"
"Do you?" he retorted with a laugh.
"I already told you that you don't have to flirt with me." she breathed, letting go of his hands and running hers up his middle and around his neck. His hands landed on her hips awkwardly and all he could do was smile down at her.
"I love it but I'm no good."
"Do you dance with girls?" she asked quickly. He laughed again, airily.
"No, I don't have time, usually."
"What takes up your time, hmm?" she asked, the look in her eyes dulled but still focused on his. He felt hot and nervous under her gaze, but although the look had it's scary effects, it made him excited too.
"I take classes.. I'm a semester away from a doctorate's degree in English language and literature. Mostly I take creative writing and journalism courses." her eyebrows raised, making it obvious that she was impressed with him.
"But you're obviously not taking too many to be here with me." she hummed. He laughed.
"I don't have any more classes until the fall, actually. I finished my spring semester early with special exams that got me into better courses... It's like taking the final before you take the class."
"Smart boy," she huffed, "you must be proud... but then what else takes up your time, since that last bit about classes was a lie?" she asked, moving farther and farther away from him but keeping her hands on his shoulders.
"I have a job," he said with a soft grin, "I work at a law firm as a secretary... I just sort papers, rewrite, and type up essays and documents."
"Do you like the typewriter?" she asked with a chuckle, pulling away from him altogether. He held on to her waist with his hands, pulling her back in with a soft expression.
"It's nice, but I'd rather just print."
She pushed her palms against his wrists, forcing him to let go of her, leaving him stranded in the middle of the floor.
"What about your friends?" she asked, "Are they bimbos or thugs?" she asked casually. Armin almost let out a laugh, knowing he couldn't really say.
"No they're smart like me, I guess... most of them work in restaurants and clothing shops."
"So they are thugs," Annie responded quickly, popping a cork that she'd gotten from a drawer beside her into the top of the drink. She opened the top cabinet and shoved the bottle to the back into its place, closing the door again with a soft grunt.
Armin sighed, closing his eyes, "Not all of them... I mean, if you live here you're bound to end up involved somehow." he opened his eyes and her frown and serious eyes told him she wasn't at all happy with what he'd said.
"You're involved with the mobs?" she asked.
"No, no, no," Armin said, waving his hands in front of him, "I swear to God no, I'm the one that tries to get them straight," he said, defending himself. She looked relieved.
"You promise you aren't?" she asked him quietly, her fingers interlacing unlacing each other every few seconds.
"Yes, I do." he said, trying to smile. She returned it and turned away.
"How do you feel about traveling?" she asked, changing the subject. He turned around, pretending to look around the place again, narrowing his eyes.
"I'd love to, but I don't have the money."
"How are you paying for your school bills?" she asked him, her voice muffled as she searched for something in the kitchen again.
"I have a loan." She hummed with disappointment.
Armin straightened his posture and looked to her, sliding his hands into his pockets and watching her body move inside her clothes with observant eyes. She was rearranging the cabinets in a nervous panic for some reason.
"Are you afraid to kiss me, Annie?" he asked and she flinched. She whipped around with a hand on her hip and a frown.
"Why would you say that?" she snapped at him. He laughed.
"Because you came over here and got close and then you backed away, and now you're cleaning and you won't come over here, something that I think you've been wanting and planning since you saw me in that bar-"
"I'm asking you questions," she said quietly in her own defense, "I'm not scared of you in the slightest." Armin smiled because he knew that wasn't true at all.
"How do you get away with having liquor?"
She smiled and winked. "Connections," she replied, "but I'm the one asking questions, love."
There was a moment of silence and Armin licked his lips in wait of her next question.
"What happened to your grandfather?" she asked. Armin swallowed and felt a pain in his chest, and this time he stopped himself and looked down to the floor.
"He died in the Great War."
Annie's head snapped up and she frowned, although he couldn't see. She sighed from her spot and stretched her legs again, running her fingers through her hair and fluffing it as she came out from the kitchen.
"I'm sorry." she replied and he shrugged.
"I wish I had been me instead." he admitted, blinking away the sadness he was feeling, trying to understand why he was telling her all this in the first place.
"How'd you avoid the war?" she asked slowly making her way towards him. He looked up, thinking.
"I had just started college, and I'm not much of a fighter." he chuckled, softly, turning up his chin to see her serious face in front of him. She placed her hand on his cheek, smirking and reaching up to slide her fingers against the nape of his neck, bringing him closer so that his breath mingled with hers and he shivered in anticipation, knowing exactly what was coming next. Perhaps she hadn't been as afraid of him as he'd thought.
"Well if you want me, you're going to have to become one."
He heard himself inhale quickly as he closed his eyes to kiss her, and their lips touched briefly, long enough to send a tingling sensation down his spine and through his fingertips.
She tasted like freshly poured champagne on New Year's and when he grabbed her hips and tugged her as close as he could, he figured he never wanted time to pass again.
When he woke up the next morning, he was slightly disoriented. He sat up on his elbows and yawned, unaware that he wasn't where he normally woke up. He stretched open his eyes, blinking away the sleep and grabbing the thick sheets and thinking to himself that there were more than he remembered putting on the night before. Then he very suddenly came to his senses and sat up completely, feeling around him to find that the unfamiliar bed was empty, and he sat alone.
He breathed in, ruffling his hair as he let out a heavy breath. He flopped back down onto the bed, blinking more as he turned his head to the left, seeing a french door slightly open and letting a cold breeze in. He could hear the traffic outside, people shouting and businesses coming to life. It must be around nine in the morning, and he usually never slept this long...
His eyes caught a figure standing outside the door in a loose white shirt, possibly his own. Her hair was tussled and blonde, familiar, and he smiled when he saw her toned back and legs, feeling the warm touch of her skin against him from his spot so far away.
Armin flipped over and laid on his stomach, tucking a plush pillow from above him under his chest and laying his head against his arms, watching her stretch and shiver against the cold air.
He sighed, biting his tongue and thinking about everything he knew about her, reciting everything she'd said to him back in his head, memorizing the tones in her voice, memorizing the way she pronounced certain words, the noises she made, the way she laughed, the reasons she was laughing to begin with...
He squinted his eyes to see the mark on her neck, barely able to see it from his place because her hair still covered it. She turned around and looked tiredly surprised, pushing off the railing and slipping inside. She closed the door behind her and smirked as she crept into the bedroom. Her face was red from the chill and she pressed her back against the door, tilting her head with electric eyes that were pointed right at him.
"Hi." she whispered, her voice stuck in her throat.
Armin buried his face into the pillow and scooted over on the bed, inviting her to lay with him. She accepted the invitation and trotted over, feet still pale from the New York morning winds, and slid in beside him, sitting at first and then slipping her toes and feet under the covers. Soon her whole body was immersed under the covers and she laid on her side beside him, raising her head with one arm and leaving the other in between them. He moved his hand and laced his fingers with hers. Her face flushed.
"Hi." he finally responded, stomach churning as his limbs tingled. She made him so, so nervous. He asked himself why as she pushed her hair behind her ear and watched his lips.
"Did you sleep well?" she asked quietly, pulling her hand back placing it on top of his, drawing circles around each of his knuckles. It tickled but he didn't tell her, instead remaining silent and shifting onto his side.
"Better than I have in a long time. And you?" he asked. For a second she looked down in doubt but nodded anyways. He wondered why she'd lied to him.
He scooted closer to her and she stopped moving, letting him wrap both his arms around her and drag her relaxed body on top of him, holding her by her middle and looking up at her. She crossed her arms over his chest and rested her chin on her wrists. He undid his grip and started to run his fingers from the top of her shoulder blades to the small of her back, listening closely to her shallow breathing.
"Do you have a tattoo?" he asked her quietly and she tensed, her hand instantly reaching to the back of her neck with panicked eyes. He raised his brows, "I mean, I don't mind, I just didn't know that that was really... in style... I mean, I didn't..."
She moved her hand and re-propped up her chin, blinking as she looked down at him. "I do. Does that bother you?"
He shook his head against the pillow and rested his hands on her back.
"I won't be getting one, though," he joked, watching her eyes flutter closed and her hands curl up under her. She didn't say a word, and looked as if she were about to fall asleep. Armin panicked and bit his lip, desperately hoping she'd stay awake.
"What is it?" he asked quickly, and her head shifted.
After a long intake of breath, she let out, "It's a number," with a sigh, moving her hands, pushing up off of him and rolling off the bed. He frowned, slightly disappointed, but sat up and kicked his legs over the side. She stood so her back faced him and she bent over backwards, slightly, reaching up and lifting the back tail of her hair to reveal a roman numeral.
"Twenty?" he asked, standing and tracing the double "X" on the back of her neck. She pulled away as soon as his finger touched her skin. Annie shivered and forced a smile, dropping the hair down and returning to her natural melancholy face.
"Yes." she replied curtly, poking at his bare chest and the lining of his shorts. "I'm not making you breakfast or anything," she stated plainly, "but I ordered room service so you might as well eat."
She nudged him away and walked out of the room and into the kitchen, dancing on her toes from being too cold.
"I'm not much of a breakfast person," he admitted, "But I'll eat toast or bacon, or whatever they bring." he smiled, closed lipped and she turned to face him from behind the counter. "Put some clothes on or something," Armin said laughing, watching her begin to shiver.
She shook her head stubbornly, "I'm wearing clothes, you idiot." He felt a wave of laughter and he turned away from her, curling his toes and picking up his pants from the side of the bed. He slipped them on and then shuffled around before finding his undershirt, then put that on too.
"Bathroom?" he asked, stepping outside the bedroom and knocking on the door to his right with his middle finger knuckle. She was in the kitchen now and she nodded.
"Go ahead, there's not much in there." she blinked and he smiled, opening the door and closing it behind him. Annie stood in the middle of the kitchen, unsure of what to do with herself for the moment. She heard him flush and then turn the sink on, and she smirked. "You can shower if you want!" she called out to him, "There's towels in the cabinet below the sink.
She heard the sink shut off and the door to the small cabinet open up. It closed again and he replied, "Thank you!"
And in a moment she heard rushing water hitting the bottom of the plastic floor and leak down the drain. She tensed when she heard clothes fall to the ground and then a fit of humming.
The tune coming from inside the door made her grasp the front of her shirt and tug it tightly against her, a warm feeling at the pit of her stomach making her woozy. She huffed in dissatisfaction and tip-toed into the bedroom, straightening the covers and pillows to her liking. She then moved to her closet, unbuttoning and then dropping the shirt she was wearing onto the floor and peeling off her undergarments. She slipped into a step-in and picked his shirt up again, putting it on without buttoning and rolling up the sleeves to her elbows.
She stopped to listen again, hearing him singing some recognizable song from a few years back, but she couldn't hear the lyrics that he sang, just the tune. She smiled to herself and ran her hands over her face, wiping her eyes and trying not to glance at the bed.
Annie pushed her hair back with one hand and used the other to warm up her other arm. She sauntered into the next room, slipping onto the couch and tucking her legs underneath her, resting her elbow on the chair's arm and laying the other across her lap.
She waited several minutes and the singing stopped, bringing her out of her daze. She turned when the door opened and he stood their with soaking wet hair and was wearing his clothes from the night before. There was a small towel around his neck and he ruffled his hair with it with a broad, excited smile.
"I've never actually used one of those before," he said to her, looking back in the bathroom.
"A shower?" she raised a brow and leaned back against the back of the couch. He nodded and dried his hair again with a goofy grin, and when he took the towel away there was a mess of blonde hair sticking in all directions. She forced herself not to laugh and he smirked, trying his best to make her giggle.
"I've only got a tub at my apartment and the water's so expensive... I probably take a bath once every two or three days." he admitted. She didn't move or cringe or react in the slightest and he huffed in embarrassment. They stood in silence until he spoke up quietly. "I wish you wouldn't stare at me like that," he said sheepishly, causing her to stir and stand, making her way over to him. She stood in front of him on her toes, messing with his damp hair until she got it to flatten out again.
"I only stare at you because you're nice to look at."
He smirked and leaned in to kiss her, but they were interrupted by a knock on the door.
Annie pulled back and away from him, ambling to the door and looking through the peep hole. Armin was about to ask her about her state of dress but he let it go as she opened the door slightly and took the tray from the man outside.
She hurried inside, placing the silver platter on the counter, and rushing back to the door, leaning against the wall and closing the door so it was only a crack, hiding whoever was there from Armin's view.
He heard Annie and the person at the door whisper briefly, and then watched her close and lock the door. She looked down as she walked into the kitchen and found a plate from one of the cabinets.
"Did you know them?" he asked, wrapping the towel around his neck and walking to the bar, his hand briefly trailing a path down her back before he sat.
She served two pieces of bacon and several sliced of toast onto the plate and slid it to the place where he sat. He frowned, feeling guilty for not having done that himself but letting it go, only thinking to himself that she probably wouldn't have allowed him to in the first place.
"Well, I own this hotel too." she said casually, and Armin almost choked on the bite he'd just taken.
Annie raised a brow, unamused, and stared at him with one hand on her hip. "How about from now on if we go somewhere together we assume I own the place or the manager works for me?"
Armin nodded obediently, astonished yet again.
Annie looked satisfied with herself, though, taking a bite off of a piece of bacon and sitting on the counter beside Armin's plate.
He felt his face get hot and he tried not to look her way. She crossed her legs as she ate the whole slice as she stared into space.
"Well, you'll be very disappointed if we go to my place." he said nonchalantly, resting both elbows on the counter and staring straight ahead of him as he munched. She didn't respond but she smiled to herself, hopping from her place and sitting in the chair beside him, watching him eat. When he'd finished, she cleared the plate despite the silent protest he put on with his eyes.
"Armin, I won't be disappointed." she said calmly. He frowned.
"Don't be too certain." he replied, trotting into the bathroom and rinsing out his teeth before going back into the living area, and she was on him in a second, hands in his hair and hot mouth against his, kissing him harder than he remembered she did.
She pulled away and he was in an immediate state of flustered.
"Let's go out or something tonight." she breathed against his lips, pressing another long and sweet kiss to his mouth. He stuttered an answer.
"Y-Yeah sure, anything you want, doll." he replied, and she froze."I told you, Armin," she was pulling him against her as she backed into the bedroom, much like she'd done the night before, "it's just Annie." she whispered through his hair, kicking the door closed behind them with a hum of satisfaction.