Time Changes

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Part Eight

Chapter Eight

They'd barely slept, and Peter couldn't remember the last time he'd had so many encounters in one night, he felt like a randy teenager. Alexis was asleep now, wrapped in his arms protectively. He felt real affection for her, but he knew he'd end up hurting her, he just had no intention of starting a relationship, especially with her, and whilst she said she understood, he felt more guilty than he ever thought possible.

"I need to go back and change!" he offered kissing the top of her head. "I really need to see the first lecture today; it's my old mate from Uni."

Wriggling on to her side she looked at him, letting the sheet fall away from her body, "ok. If you must."

Peter groaned as she deliberately rubbed her body the length of him, desire making him forget anything else, and he turned quickly and pinned her to the mattress, elbows either side of her face. His breath was warm on her cheek as he spoke, "considering last night this was all new to you, you've caught on rather well!"

She parted her thighs, so his pelvis fell between them, and hooked her ankles over his calves. "Just because I hadn't actually slept with another man, doesn't mean I don't know what turns them on!"

He smiled as their bodies touched intimately, "you're not wrong about that!"

It was a lot later when he kissed her briefly as he didn't trust himself with anything more, and finally headed for his room.

Stretching luxuriously, Alexis was grinning like a Cheshire cat still lying in bed, reaching for her phone she called the only person she could in this situation.

"Hello?"

"Henrietta! It's me! You'll never guess what happened last night?" Lex giggled, "and parts of this morning..."

Her sister sounded shocked, "Lex? You haven't? You didn't?"

Alexis laughed, "I did! We did! He keeps going on about being too aloof, too busy for a relationship...but hey! Live for today, I might never see him again."

"So?" she could hear her sister sigh as she presumably lowered her beach ball body into a chair. "How did that come about? And how was it?"

Alexis laughed, "it was pretty awesome!" Then she proceeded to tell her sister the circumstances that led up to her bedding the man of her childhood dreams!

Her sister listened patiently, nodding and agreeing at all the appropriate moments, when Lex's gushing had finished, she sighed, "Lex, I get casual sex, hell I had a load of it when I was younger. But you're not like me! You don't do casual anything! Are you sure you can cope with this?"

Lex felt her smile falter slightly, "I may never see him again, I'd regret if we didn't. And it was brilliant! I can have fun for a few days with him, then head off into the real world after. I know it's not perfect, but it's what I want."

"He hurt you so much last time Lex; I'll kill him if he hurts you. I really will."

Lex bit her tongue, not wanting her sister to know that whatever happened here just seeing him was inevitably enough to break her heart!

There was little of interest for her to watch that day, but obviously she had to attend the big award ceremony that night. So she spent the morning in the gym, and pool. Later she joined the group for lunch. Peter was noticeable by his absence at the luncheon, but as usual, Bob and his team of cronies were quick to take up her company. She ate amidst the usual humour that followed him around, and made the most of the excellent food that this hotel served. Who knew where she'd be the following week, after all she still had the option of joining her friends in Mexico, there were job offers...either way she wouldn't be enjoying five star luxury for a while.

She attended one lecture later in the afternoon, and noticed Peter sneaking in the back late after lunch. But he kept his eyes shielded and was gone when she left the conference room.

Alexis had a long black ball gown for the service, and she spent a few hours getting ready. At just after seven there was a knock at the door and her heart lifted. He'd finally come for her. She'd called his room several times, against her better judgement, but he hadn't answered, and she knew he was hiding. At last he'd got his head around things.

Smiling she threw the door open and was stunned to see Bob stood there, looking dapper in a tux.

"I couldn't see you come down on your own Ms Carmichael. So I thought I could entertain you!" He gave a mock bow to add to his chivalrous language, and it caused her to giggle.

She smiled appreciatively, "I shall be sure to tell my father what a gentleman you've been! Thank you Uncle Bob!"

True to his word, he accompanied her down to the large room that hosted the presentation, got her champagne and ensured she was never short of conversation. He was better than an uncle, and he made her laugh so much. A variety of younger men appeared and seemed to occupy her time, though she was unsure whether they wanted to talk to her or Bob, he was a legend in his field. Despite the attention and the endless supply of champagne and canapés, she was distracted. It seemed that Peter was doing his best to avoid her, and that made her angry, not sad. Maybe it was her naiveté, maybe this was far more one sided than she imagined, but either way, Peter needed to grow a pair and at least face her. She kept watching the door, but there was no sign of him, anywhere.

Then there was the speech in her bag, she figured it would take ten minutes to read out, it was anything but brief, but then there was a lot her father wanted her to say. She'd tried it in front of the mirror earlier, and it was easy there, she was used to debating, talking in public, but it was always about subjects she'd rehearsed, was comfortable with. Economics and representing a world leader? Way outside her comfort zone! Just another thing to add to the tension and pressure on her. If only Peter would walk in now. Even if he hated her, hated himself...she just wanted to see him, get that over with.

The award itself was the last one was in a whole string of education and industry recognition, the prestigious contribution to ongoing education, her father had won it before, but this time it was for policies he'd devised that had been implemented across the global economics world. He'd been well known before this, but it had made him a household name, well in this field anyway. He was quite embarrassed when he was singled out for things like this, but he also knew it was important for everyone else that he was gracious and accepted the award. That was why she was annoyed that he'd bailed.

They made their way to their tables, all finding their seats as the presenter of the ceremony prepared to start proceedings. Polite claps greeted each of the winners, and there were smiles, photographs. At some point she became aware of the fact that Peter was sat across the room, his back to her, and his eyes fixed on the stage. She had no way of attracting his attention, and now she had to head for the stage knowing things would be awkward if she met his eyes as she tried to deliver the speech. Damn him for not being man enough!

As they built up to announcing her father's award her anxiety grew, and it was then that there was a commotion at the back of the room. Like everyone else, Alexis turned and felt her jaw drop, there stood Oliver Carmichael her father, in the flesh. In the building. Marching to the stage to collect the award with a dazzling smile.

She was furious, the only reason she'd come to this conference was to represent him. Now just as the whole five days accumulated in the award ceremony, he turns up to usurp her! Ollie as he was known in these circles was treated like a celebrity, all clapping him on the back, as he swaggered through the crowd to the stage. She scowled at him, and as he scanned the room and made eye contact with her, her father chuckled.

He had the audacity to laugh! She hated him in that moment, more than she even hated Peter!

Alexis tried to steady her breathing; no one was watching her as all eyes were on her father, the born entertainer. Standing, she backed out of the room, not wanting to watch him perform for his fervent audience. At the bar in the reception, she ordered a brandy and grimaced as it warmed a path to her stomach. She was in a dilemma, she didn't want to stay...she couldn't be responsible for her actions towards her father, but she also wanted to know why he'd done this.

Sensing movement to her right, she looked at the door that led back into the ballroom, and felt her jaw drop for the second time as Peter marched out of the room in a forceful manner. For a moment her heart lurched, and she thought he'd come to support her in her hour of need, but he paused when he spotted her his eyes wide, panic in his face, a rabbit in the headlights of a speeding car.

After that split second pause he carried on across the room towards the hotel reception.

"Peter?" She called out, and whilst he froze in his path, he didn't turn to look at her. "Do you hate me that much?"

He shrugged, then mumbled, "not as much as I hate myself." Then strode out of the bar with purpose.

Peter heard her gasp in response to his comment, but he continued on his way, he couldn't stop. He'd hoped not to see her, hoped to avoid her, not wanting to snub her. Now just her voice had filled him with heady memories of the night they'd shared, her inviting body, her seductive kisses, and the quick wit and humour that hadn't left her even at the height of passion.

Why did he answer the phone? Why did Oliver have to choose the moment he left Alexis' bed to call and ask him to arrange a room, transport from the airport? Surely he should have called Alexis? Why did he want to keep his arrival a surprise form her? But then why did Ollie have to turn up at all? He still hadn't worked out what Ollie's motives were, he didn't do things by chance, he was a very thorough man. Peter had found the whole day impossibly torturous, he was sure Ollie knew, but if he asked him what would he say? How could he admit that he'd slept with his daughter, a man who trusted him, who'd forbidden him to touch her?

He groaned, he'd never have the chance to speak to Alexis and explain how he felt. She'd hate him, and he knew that was better than more false hope. So he ignored her, and ignored the bolt of pain that shot through his own chest at the same time and made him way back to his room to pack.

Alexis was packing. Not calmly and methodically as usual, but manically, angrily as she fought the tears that threatened to fall. She hated her father, hated Peter, hated bloody Stockholm and the Economic Educators committee. In fact at this exact moment she hated life!

She still had her father's credit card, so she called the airport, but there was no flight until the next day. She was booked on one at three pm, and there was only one earlier flight. So she called the airline and managed to switch her ticket, then phoned an airport hotel and reserved a room there.

She also called Henrietta, and whilst she didn't explain everything, she said enough for her sister to insist she'd meet her at the airport the next day.

By the time the award ceremony was coming to an end, she was already leaving the hotel and heading t the airport.

"So are you going to tell me what happened?" Henrietta was pouring coffee for her sister, even though she was having herbal tea herself. Alexis has barely spoken since she'd arrived at her sister's home.

Alexis took the mug and sipped the hot strong drink; she'd waited until her brother-in-law had left the house for work to come out of her shell. And in truth it had been easier to ignore all that had happened in the last thirty six hours, than think and talk about it. But her sister wouldn't wait forever! "Well, we got on really well, initially it was a bit awkward, I mean I hated him, or so I honestly thought! From the off he said he didn't want to start a relationship, that it was the wrong time for him, the usual stuff," Henrietta nodded her encouragement whilst secretly wanting to castrate the bastard for messing his sister up.

"We spent time together, he flirted, then backed off, it was all confusing, but I knew I wanted him Hen, I REALLY did! Finally we ended up back in my room, first he'd resisted, had second thoughts, but he stayed all night, told me he couldn't resist me." Alexis slumped in resignation, "he left the next day, I was realistic, I knew this was never going to be marriage and life forever after, but I didn't expect him to avoid me...all day. I tried to talk to him, but then I had to do that acceptance speech for Dad, and to top everything off, Dad turned up as the presentation was happening! So now I'm wondering why the hell I had to go there in the first place."

Henrietta was contemplative for a moment, "I think you were right that Dad was trying to split you and Steve, and considering he hasn't phoned or returned any of your calls then I'd say that you're better off without him. As for Peter...I think you need to talk to him. See what he says. You care...anyone can see that, and knowing is better than not. Men are fools; maybe he needs a little time away from it all? Find out what he wants?"

"He ignored me! Why the hell should I chase after him?" Alexis' eyes were wide.

"Because you've fancied him since you were a child, hell you probably saved yourself for this moment! You might not realise it at this moment, but every man you date in the future will be measured up against him...and with your history they're going to never match up! You need to see if that spark is there away from Dad's influence. I mean look at me I had to chase Daniel." She gave a chuckle, "He didn't want more than some fun. But I made him realize what he was giving up by letting me go in any way I could...you know the rest Lex!"

"I don't know, I think he's immature and I can't be bothered! This is supposed to be a great time for me, starting my career, becoming independent! I haven't got time to think about him!"

Henrietta laid a hand over her sister's, "I know that's all bravado. You're heart is breaking darling; getting your wicked way with the man only makes him harder to give up than an unsubstantiated infatuation. You can't kid me!"

Alexis blinked away the tears that had constantly threatened to fall the last twenty four hours, her sister knew her so well. "I don't know, I don't think seeing him again would make things any easier."

"He lives in Geneva you say?"

Alexis shrugged, "apparently."

"So why not go there. Go see him. Talk to him. At least you'll know. It'll hurt to be snubbed by him, but at least you'll know exactly where you stand, there'll be no regrets in ten years time, no 'if only's'. Don't you think?"

"I'll look desperate Henrietta, I couldn't cope with that! At least now I have my pride."

Henrietta smiled, her heart breaking for her little sis, she'd always been so indifferent when it came to men, and that lack of playing the field was making this even harder for her to bear. "Haven't you ever heard that saying, 'it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'?"

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