Alexis was glad of the wrap as she snuck out into the foyer, already the cold wind was catching her through the door, as she was wondering whether she needed a trip to her room for a thicker coat, she was suddenly warmed by an arm slinking around her shoulders.
“Are you going to be warm enough?" She didn’t’ need to look up to know who’s touch or voice was sending prickles of tension throughout her body.
She shrugged, full of bravado as she met his eyes, "it may be snowing, but I do have Carmichael blood in me!"
“Then let’s go see Stockholm!” With a laugh he led her out to a taxi.
The driver was a man proud of the City he lived in, and as they snaked through the streets they had a free tour of anything and everything that was worth seeing. Eventually the car stopped at a domed doorway and after paying the driver, Peter took her by the hand and dragged her inside.
“What is this place?” She asked eyes wide with wonder. The whole place was made of ice, the chairs, the bar, even the glasses. A woman handed them a thick insulated cape and rather inelegant gloves and boots. Moving deeper into the ice building, Peter leading her by a gloved hand, he explained he’d been to an ice bar like this a few years back, but as they were in proper snowy climes then it felt appropriate. They only sold vodka, in glasses carved into hunks of ice, and there were SO many colours, and flavours. There was only one thing they could do, perched at a table, on stools of ice; they threw repeated shots of vodka down their throats.
“I don’t think I’d have ventured here on my own!” She ventured as he ordered them a drink.
“Peach next?” Peter asked waggling his eyebrows, “or that wicked looking green one?”
“Are you trying to get me drunk Mr Marlow?”
He laughed, “not at all...but if a few vodkas stop you being angry with me, then it’s a bonus!”
Alexis studied him for a moment, “I have every right to be angry with you! You promised to dance with me at my birthday! But you didn’t, you didn’t turn up! That still makes me angry!”
Peter couldn’t believe she’d confronted this head on, they’d both avoided his behaviour building up to her sixteenth birthday, and the affect it had on her. “I had to go to Brussels, you knew that.”
Alexis shrugged, amazed that it didn’t hurt so much to talk about this, “you had to go THAT night, that exact moment?” When he shrugged she sighed, “I know I must have been annoying, some pesky kid hanging on your coattails, but I really needed you that night.”
Peter had not really considered the implications of him abandoning her that night, she’d been so desperate to show everyone that someone like him, older, mature would talk to her, dance with her...it was never meant to be more than that, though he was fighting his attraction to the young woman every day. Not being there was the safest option available to him, but he didn’t tell her himself, cowards way he knew.
Noting his silence, Alexis shook her head, “I’ve no idea why I agreed to this," her laugh was ironic as she finished her fourth shot, pineapple, sickly sweet with a kick that caused her to shudder. She never drank spirits, well not more than the odd shot of whisky.
Peter smiled at the slightly safer subject, "something about me being an absolute idiot last night? Wanting to make things up to you?"
Alexis laughed, "oh yes, I remember!"
He laughed too, "I promise not to do that again."
She couldn’t resist, so she reached up to cup his face, any tenderness in the gesture lost by the huge padded gloves, "the flirting, the insulting or the running away?"
He pulled back from her with a groan, "don’t spoil this, were having a nice time aren’t we?"
Nodding she sighed too, “though the pretence of tonight was supposed to be to talk? So we should talk more.”
Shrugging he signalled for another shot, trying to ignore her comment. Slamming the glasses in front of them, he necked another shot with vigour.
“I like you Alexis; I have always liked you...” He shook his head, “but it’s complicated.”
Typical cop out from a man she fumed. “It’s clearly not that difficult. We’re two people, unattached who want to spend time together. What’s so wrong with that?” She had SO quickly forgotten Steve Mackenzie.
“Nothing is ever straight forward Alexis, and I don’t want to complicate things further. You know I like you, and now you’re over hating me, I think you like me. We can be friends!”
Being friends was not an option, Alexis knew that, she was so attracted to him, she felt as though she sizzled every time he looked at her; the torture of being close to him was a constant overwhelming force.
“I don’t think we can ever be just friends Peter.”
Instead of acknowledging her comment he gestured to the barman, and it infuriated her that he was yet again flitting around with her emotions, she turned to him, "Peter! You can’t ignore things. You keep saying you want to spend time with me, tonight you even dragged me away from the group...then you block me out, push me away, close the doors. YOU are supposed to be the adult here; I mean how many times have you called me a child? Yet you are the one being pathetic! So now you’re pretending that this is a drink between friends? Is that what this is?"
“I brought you here, because more than anything I wanted to apologise..." he knew the words sounded lame before he said them.
"’Sorry for being a prick’, no need to orchestrate a night out, a wide berth would have done the trick!"
Her retort was a snarl, but Alexis was fed up with this emotional rollercoaster. She hated that she lusted after Peter, that his slightest look could turn her to jelly, but then she remembered the past, him abandoning her when she needed him, the years that followed. She hadn’t taken a long time to get over him, the last thing she wanted was him chewing her up and spitting him out again! She wanted to pursue things with him, her hatred of him had only ever been a cover, but she had no intention of being used, or abused by him.
She had to get away from him, this was a mistake.
“I’ve got enough friends; I really don’t need another one, especially one as flaky as you! It was almost fun!” She offered, before standing to move away.
She barely registered him reaching out and grabbing her wrist, but as he pulled her back towards him, she collided with his knees, and used a hand on his chest to steady herself. Then their eyes met.
Everything seemed to stop, suddenly it was just them, no one else existed. His eyes searched hers, and at the same time he reached for her, muttering, “Oh God!" as his gloved hands slid under her cloak to find her buttocks, pulling her into him.
Alexis couldn’t believe the sensations that just the pressure of his hands through those huge clumsy gloves were causing. As he tugged her she gasped, and it allowed him to pull her between his parted thighs. He was still seated, so standing in front of him Alexis found they were the same height.
Peter’s eyes widened for a few moments before his head dropped and his lips found hers. And then there was no hesitation, it was the gentlest of kisses, but something sparked in them both, and all too soon he was sucking and biting her lips, tangling his tongue with hers. His hands slid up her body, still hidden by the cloak clumsily caressing her body, ruing the fact that he couldn’t feel the delicate curves through his arctic quality mittens. Lex’s head flew back as she wrestled for breath, she couldn’t hear over the pounding in her ears. His lips travelled down her neck, caressing the smooth velvet of her skin, before nestling at the collar bone. And then her moan of "Peter" in a breathy rasp brought him back to the here and now.
“Alexis," he separated them, pushed her to arm’s length. "Shit! You know we can’t do this, don’t you?"
“Don’t do this! Twice now you’ve kissed me, taken it further. And now you’re pushing me away, AGAIN, with some rubbish excuse?"
He at least had the decency to look a bit embarrassed, "I’m a family friend darling, I can’t do this to your family, enter into some worthless affair that will fizzle out, change the atmosphere."
Finally they were getting down to the bones of this, "I haven’t seen you in more than SIX YEARS, it’s hardly like you spend every other weekend with my family! And anyway, isn’t this a mutual decision to make?"
He shook his head, "no! You are still so young, I’m not. There’s no excuse for such self indulgence."
Her lips pulled back in anger to reveal her teeth, “there you go again! Such a worthless apology all of what? Twenty seconds ago? I’m hardly a child! I am twenty three! If I walk away now Peter, that is it. Do you understand? I’ve had to tolerate you deserting me before, and I’m NOT having it again. You hear?"
“Alexis, this is wrong, I like you, I always liked you! You know that! But I also like your father, and you mother.”
With a “your loss!” she turned and left the ice bar.
Back in her room, Alexis paced dramatically feeling the anger and frustration threaten to bubble over. What with it with this man, kissing her, pushing her away like some yo-yo. She’d kissed many men, but not one single kiss had ever made her feel the way Peter’s did. He’s the one that got away! A voice whispered in her head. Was that all this was? The long lost love returned and clouding her judgement. After all she was the most sensible person she knew. She always did everything right, was the calmest, least rash of her group of friends, and she never broke rules. Suddenly her desire for Peter was making her act so out of character. That couldn’t be right. Maybe Peter was correct; nothing good could come out of them being together.
With a sigh of frustration she hit the mini bar, before she’d even taken her shoes off, finding more vodka, she sank it immediately straight from the small measured bottle.
Sinking back in her chair she couldn’t help but crash back to the past, to times she’d fought to remember. She’d been such a geeky school kid, unlike the majority of the world, she enjoyed learning. She took extra lessons, exams early, was involved in debates, clubs. She filled her days with learning and loved every moment of it. It did however, mean that she was bullied, not kicked down flights of stairs or hair pulled kind of bullying, but snide comments, chuckles, people laughing at her out loud. Mainly the girls in her glass, the ones more content with makeup, boys and sneaking into pubs at fourteen, though some of the boys joined in purely to impress those girls. It didn’t bother Alexis, it really didn’t. She had a happy family home, and an older sister who could teach the wannabe glamour-pusses a lot about fashion, sophistication and class. And Henrietta loved her to bits, invariably; the bespectacled geek would get into the best parties, the hottest events because her eternally popular sister got her there.
Alexis was quiet, but confident, never one to shy away from challenges, but she wasn’t a rule breaker, wasn’t ever in trouble. It allowed her to live below her parents’ radar, but with Henrietta taking up all their attention and concern, she knew it’d take a lot to actually upset them. The one thing she never had was favourable attention, from peers, family and definitely not males.
When she burst into her father’s study at just turned fifteen to complain about her school homework, she’d almost frozen rooted to the spot. Peter Marlow, her father’s intern as she later found out, was stood beside her seated father, stooping down to look over Oliver’s shoulder at some sheaf of papers that her father was shuffling.
Both men looked up when she burst in, her father’s eyes showing the usual level of impatience and lack of tolerance at being disturbed, but those other eyes, those clear blue humour tinted eyes turned her insides to jelly. She’d never before in her life experienced attraction, but as the tanned face broke into a smile, she was smitten hook line and sinker.
Standing, she headed back to the mini-bar, intent on finding a second vodka, not that she hadn’t had enough, when she was disturbed, by a knock at the door.
With a sigh she crossed the carpet silently and pulled open the door to see a very pale faced Peter stood there, leaning against the frame.
"Everything keeps tell me not to do this, but one part of me, just can’t resist. Can you forgive me?"