Alexis had a restless night, after falling asleep crying into her pillow, she'd woken SO many times. Finally at half five, she gave up on sleep. After a cup of coffee, she headed for the pool downstairs. As she cut through the water with her strong strokes, she immediately felt better. Swimming was the most calming thing she knew. As a child she'd swam competitively. Her height and long limbs made her a natural, but despite that she'd not had the drive or desire for sport, she'd rather read than train, but it didn't mean she didn't enjoy it as a leisurely past time. When she hadn't swum for a while it took her a few lengths to perfect her stroke, get the right breathing pattern, and time her tumble turns, but after half an hour she was on fire. Her lungs were straining, but her body felt great, so she kept on at her smooth rate.
When a splash indicated another swimmer, she paid no heed, just racking up the number of lengths that she'd swum. It was a small pool and she'd found familiarity in her technique after twenty lengths, she'd done a further thirty since. Once she hit sixty lengths, she felt cleansed, calm, relaxed, and more importantly, ready to face the day. SO she slowed to a stop and stretched her warm muscles as she relaxed against the side of the pool.
Lex had read the schedule and there were several lectures and presentations that day. She'd been brought up on Economics, so tragically she had an interest in a few of the topics. For that reason she planned to head out into Stockholm first thing, she wanted to get a gift for her imminent niece or nephew, then the 'Collapse of the banking Economy' was before lunch, something that she was interested in, who couldn't be?
After a few more stretches she hauled her heavy body out of the water, then squeezed the water out of her long hair before retying it. As she turned to find her robe and slippers, she finally noted the other person in the water.
"Are you following me?" she knew she sounded aggressive but seeing Peter again, so soon, in such an uncompromising way.
She had to wait as he lazily stroked his way to the pool side, "I swim every morning Ms Carmichael. So this meeting is another pure coincidence."
She harrumphed an unladylike sound, suddenly aware of her attire, a one piece racing swimsuit she slipped into her robe. The glint in his eye told her he'd done more than notice her, he almost winked an approval!
Shaking her head in what she realized was quite a childish manner, she stormed out cursing the fact that he was bringing the worst out in her at every opportunity.
Peter smiled, she was so feisty, so independent, and he liked that, he was glad she'd learned to stand up for herself, because she was still so young too. In fact Alexis was a whole big muddle of contradictions, and for some reason he wanted to know more of her. For some reason? He laughed to himself, he knew exactly what the issue was, he'd always viewed her affectionately, found her great company, he'd missed her company over the years, it was only now he was seeing her again that he realised just how much, and now she was all grown up, and he was struggling to both cope with that, and get her out of his mind. For the briefest second he thought of that relationship being as close as it had been, or maybe closer? It was a more than exciting thought, he wasn't thinking marriage, but maybe something brief, short, enough to get her out of his system, she was creeping further into his mind as each day passed.
Then he shook his head, she was the daughter of a good friend and mentor, and hell she'd been a friend, he respected her, not that he was a one-night-stand kind of man. He couldn't do it, he'd never do it. If ever he was tempted, there was the fact that he'd promised her father years ago, he couldn't go back on his word.
Alexis was fuming, she knew she'd made herself look stupid. It infuriated her, she wanted to look sophisticated, mature, desirable, instead she'd managed to look like an immature, silly girl. Before she exploded with frustration she called her sister, the only outlet for her frustration's these days.
"Hey Henrietta!" She was so relieved to hear her sister answer. "How are you both?"
"Fine, we're both fine!" Alexis could imagine her reclined in a chair, a hand rubbing her humongous stomach affectionately. "How's Stockholm and filling daddy's shoes? I mean I'd rather be carrying octuplets than do what you're doing!"
Lex laughed, "Well, taking into account I've not a heard a word from my boyfriend, who is currently on my dream holiday, I'm at an event full of pompous old men, I have to deliver a presentation where I'm well out of my depth, and to cap it all off I've behaved like a childish idiot in front of none other than Peter Marlow, I'm doing JUST GREAT!!"
"Shit! Alexis, how do you feel about seeing HIM? You really liked him!" Whilst Lex had never been completely honest with anyone over all that happened with her and Peter, her sister knew she'd been heartbroken when he left.
"I did, once. But he's just like the rest now, full of his own self importance!" That was unfair, but she closed her eyes, she needed to hate him, it was so much easier than thinking or feeling anything else.
"You think? He was never like that, was he?"
She laughed, "He was a student back then, and EVERYONE changes! God I hope I can get out of here sooner, can't you plead my case to Dad? Get him to replace me? I mean how long is be going to be in France."
Henrietta laughed, "I can try Lex, but don't hold your breath, you know him!"
She sighed in resignation, "you're right, he just LOVES making my life difficult!"
"Call me later; let me know how it's going, ok?"
The silence after the call was deafening. Rummaging in the wardrobe, Lex finally found the long plum coloured sweater dress she was searching for as well as black leggings and her knee high leather boots. She had a moment when she thought about the possibility of ice and snow, but she hoped she'd be fine. Pulling on a double breasted thick grey coat, black knitted beret, matching scarf and black leather gloves, she felt ready for whatever was thrown at her. Weather wise!
In true inevitable form, the weather was grim. There was a lot of snow, though the paths and roadsides were cleared. The boutiques near the hotel were very exclusive, but she had a credit card in her father's name, so she threw caution to the wind. In one shop she found the most beautiful cream snowsuit, perfect for a winter baby. And an hour later, she had bought a stunning red dress for herself, strapless, falling to mid thigh, with a bordering on indecent split to one side. She'd also found red shoes and bag, she spent a small fortune, but she figured she was worth it! And there was a grand dinner and award ceremony to prepare for!
She got back later than she realized, so she dived up to her room quickly, dumped the bags, then headed to the conference room for the talk she wanted to hear. Slinking in at the back, with a strong cup of coffee, she was able to listen to the presentation, as well as observe the other people on this excursion. There must have been fifty people there, a hand full of suited women scattered through the abundance of suited men. The speaker was fairly dynamic considering the topic, and the hour flew by. It was interesting, well presented and Lex was inspired as she walked out into the hallway after, exchanging comments and interests with the man who'd been sat beside her.
There was coffee provided, and Klaus, a government worker from Berlin offered to get her a cup. Smiling in gratitude she secured a seat near the window and watched the snow fall heavily on to the already snow covered ground. Immediately an army of hotel workers appeared with snow shovels and started to clear the walkways before the snow landed. It was industrious work and Lex smiled at their diligence.
Peter had almost fallen asleep in that session. He wanted nothing than an hour's nap, just to function for the rest of the day. They were serving coffee before lunch, and if he didn't get a cup he'd miss the rest of the day's talks. So he followed the other's leaving the lecture in the direction of coffee.
The smell of roasting coffee beans was like a drug and he groaned as he finally savoured the taste of it zinging him back to life. Turning to observe the room he suddenly froze, there in the window seat, receiving a cup of coffee from a chinless wonder that looked as dodgy as was possible, and he was seeing red.
He started to walk across the room to her when she looked up and glared at him. He wanted to see some pleasure at seeing him, but there was only hatred in her eyes. Draining his coffee cup, he laid it on a nearby table and stormed out.
The desire for food was warring an even battle with sleep, and he didn't spend long outside absorbing the cooling effect of the falling snow. Instead he re entered the hotel and made for the dining room. Something to eat, then a power nap. That was just what he needed.
And was his plan until he caught the distant figure of Alexis heading for the dining room ahead of him.
Lunch was a self service buffet, and he managed to sidle up to her as she was selecting some salad to add to the interesting looking slab of steak already on her plate.
"That looks almost as delectable as you!" He said in a low voice that only she could hear. "I must say it makes a change to come on one of these weeks and actually spend time with a normal person!"
Lex had been angry when she'd caught him staring at her earlier, but now she wanted food, not a fight. So turning to him she gave a killer smile, "now who says you'll be spending anytime with me?" She turned on her heel, leaving him standing open mouthed.
Chuckling she found a seat in the corner of the restaurant and pulled her book out of her bag. She'd barely read one page, or spooned one mouthful of the perfect steak into her mouth, when the seat opposite her moved, and Peter sat down.
"Told you I'd spend time with someone normal!" He offered, then grinned when she looked up at him.
She rolled her eyes, still not wanting to bite, "you obviously need more in your life Mr Marlow!"
"What's with the formality Alexis? You've never been like that in the past!"
She sighed, "You know very little about me Peter. You spent some time with my family when I was a child, a long time ago! What gives you the right to make any assumptions about me?"
He put down his knife and fork. "What is it with you? I'm trying to make conversation! We were friends, good friends, yet now you act as though you hate me! What have I done wrong?"
How did she answer that when she hardly knew herself? She was being childish again. But then he'd broken her heart, that was what he'd done, and she since seeing him the previous evening, she suddenly knew that he had the power to do that all over again. That was what she was scared of, what she was resisting, him breaking down barriers, getting close to her.
"Sorry, it's just that I shouldn't be here, don't want to be here, and the last thing I need is someone on my back twenty four-seven!" It was a flustered weak response, but she needed to deflect his attention from her. "I should be off having fun!"
He sat back in his chair, "you dad really made you cancel a holiday? He hasn't changed then? Never known anyone able to cajole people so easily and consistently since I worked with him. I haven't seen him in so long!"
She nodded, "he's still a control freak, still ruling my life! It's my own fault for taking a year out. If I was working now, he'd have no claim......" she looked up at him, "I suppose I just wanted to relax for a bit! Hang loose for once in my life! The first time he blocks it...indirectly!" Lex snapped her lips shut, devastated that she had given away so much of her inner fear.
"You've got a long time to settle onto a career, enjoy your time while you can." Peter sighed; it was lame as comments went, but it a start. "You're the youngest, he's probably hating see the family nest empty!"
She rolled her eyes, "whatever! As for enjoyment? That's the first thing on my agenda, I fully intend to max out!"
He smiled, "What did you study?" He hated that he knew nothing about her, and there was no obvious direction that he could imagine her moving in. She was so broadly intelligent.
She smiled, "I thought you knew everything about me!" The barb caused him to flinch, and she registered the victory, "I've just graduated as a medical doctor....I'm Dr Carmichael now!" She beamed, "a real doctor as I keep telling my father!"
He could barely hide his surprise, "Wow!! That's amazing! Congratulations!"
"I've finally silenced you hey?"
Peter nodded, "You seem to have done that several times in the last twenty four hours! You were always going to be a success! I just had no idea what field you'd end up in. Medicine! Just to piss off your dad?"
She laughed, "he does feel his PhD is rather devalued by me. And he was happy being the only doctor in the family...think maybe this is all jealousy?"
It was Peter's turn to laugh, "who knows? Never had Ollie for petty, just protective."
They finished their meals in comfortable silence, the occasional exchange over the quality of the food - good, and the weather - bad! It had just starts snowing again. But for whatever reason, they'd formulated some sort of truce. No animosity, though it was far from friendly.
"So are you attending all the talks this afternoon?" Peter was yet again trying to strike up conversation.
She shrugged, "I might go to the politics one, for a bit of variety...I'm going to be comatose by day five! I don't know how you all do it!"
Peter nodded, "I find it hard, and yet it's my thing, my bag, poor you! Though there is an awesome dinner tonight! Or rather it's been good on the conferences I've attended. I'm no regular!"
She nodded, "so Bob told me, he said, and I quote him, 'there's a modern band afterwards playing all that newfangled music!'"
Laughing he nodded in agreement, "Night two is always dancing, night three cocktails, then full on awards on the fourth night!"
"So nothing really gets done on day five then?"
Laughing, he nodded, "you are so right! I dread being asked to do anything here, but worst would definitely be the last morning! That is where I'd have a full on fail!"
She stood, "But at least no one would remember it! Now," she checked her watch, "time for politics!"
It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now dressed in her new red ensemble she felt anxious, was it all a little over the top. What if no one else was dressed to the nines like her? She'd feel like a fool. A knock at the door disturbed her deliberations. She finished securing her hair in a top knot, then responded to the knock.
A bell boy stood there holding a bottle of champagne, and a large bouquet of flowers. She accepted them with a smile, then closed the door. Ripping open the envelope she froze.
"Do you think it'd be presumptuous if I joined you for a glass of bubbly before we head down?"
"Yes!" she screamed to no one, "it would mess with my head, and be totally the wrong thing to do!" With that she picked up the phone and called the room number he'd noted down.
Peter tapped gently on her door, not wanting to draw attention to himself; he'd waited for a few moments after despatching the champagne with a bellhop. But he was impatient, and he was figuring on surprise overwhelming her. So he stood outside and waited nervously!
When the door swung open, he thought his jaw had hit the floor, like in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Alexis was a vision the like he'd never seen before. Her dress clung to her curvy figure, and it was almost more obscene than the swimsuit had been in the pool. Her hair, being up, revealed far too much of her long slender neck, and those heels......her legs were infinitely long. Her hand held a phone to her head, and it took her a few seconds to realise he was stood in front of him.
Shit, he thought, this was a bad idea. He'd had thoughts of teasing her a bit, flirting, but all of a sudden things were spiralling out of control. He was embarrassed at the level of his arousal, both physically and mentally. But she was...amazing.