Chapter 8: Pretty Girl
His sweet kisses left little rays of sunshine on my skin, warmly waking me from a dream that placed our unforeseen night of intimacy on replay. The delicate way he caressed my skin. His gentle grip as he lowered my frame to the floor. The way he took his time with me. From the first moment my body welcomed him inside, we handled each other with a passionate poise that would have made the best of lovers jealous. I smiled at the thought, indulged in the comforting sensation of Andreas’s arms engulfing my body, and the sugar-coated shimmer the sunlight was leaving on our honeyed skin.
“Sunlight?” I exclaimed, sitting up. One look to my left, another to my right, and I realized … that we were still on the floral studio floor. “Oh my God! Andreas! Andreas, wake up!”
“What time is it?” I wondered, sifting through the flower petals that made their way to the ground to find my cell phone. A longer glimpse around the room showed that there were flowers everywhere, a few work stools had been knocked down, and the contents of a table I remembered having one of our sex rounds on were also decorating the floor. “Oh my God! It’s 7 o’clock. Everybody’s going to be here at 8! Andreas, we have to go. We have to go now before the team gets here. I have to call Chloe … or somebody and tell them …”
“Okay, Hazel …”
“I mean, we’ve been intimate. It feels a little strange calling you Mrs. Donato right now, especially since you’re naked, and you’ve already filed divorce papers.”
“And what, you think you’ll be the number one candidate for my ex-husband’s position?”
“I think I’d be happy to work hard day in and day out to show that I’m worthy of you and capable of giving you the love you want, the love you deserve.”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but could we possibly discuss this later? I’d rather not have my employees see me with my pants down.”
“You mean like I just did?” he teased as my face burned red with embarrassment. A light chuckle sounded from his throat. “Don’t worry. I won’t say a word. I’m not that kind of guy.”
“So, what kind of guy are you?”
“The patient and loyal kind, but we can get into that more later, right? It’s 7:15, and if I’m not mistaken, Chloe and Frank get here around 7:20 or 7:30.”
“Right! Right, we should go.”
And we tried our best, rushing to put on clothes while constantly stealing small moments to gaze at each other bodies and flirt with light touches. My smile battled with the sun’s rays as I became tickled with the fact that I hadn’t felt this giddy since high school. There wasn’t enough time to clean the studio of all the petals, but there was enough time to sneak out the back door just before Chloe called my phone.
“Haze, where are you? I see your car out front, but I don’t see you inside the shop, and the lights aren’t even on. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I’m just, uh … I caught a ride with a friend last night and had them drive me home. I asked Andreas to pick me up and he’s on his way right now, but we might be a little late.”
“So, what do you want us to do? Wait outside until you get here? And what about the breakfast you usually bring? You know everyone’s going to ask about it because you’ve made it routine.”
“Right. Okay. Uh, I think I accidentally left the back door unlocked.”
“What? Why on earth would you do that?”
“I don’t know! Look, just … go through the back, there’s some cheese and cracker plates in the studio. I think there may be some fruit and juice too. It’s not a full breakfast spread, but it’ll do as far as getting something into everyone’s stomachs before their rounds. Just feed them that until Andreas and I get there, okay?”
“Uh, yeah, okay. We’ll see you soon then.”
“See you soon,” I closed before running to unlock the door, dashing back to Andreas’s car, and holding on tight as he sped off into the sunrise.
To save time, I had Andreas come back to my house, but I had no idea what I was going to do for him. I didn’t have any men’s clothes lying about. Lorenzo took all his stuff when he left me for Silvana.
“Wait,” I said before sprinting to my laundry room. A smile appeared on my face as I came across a few articles of his clothing that were still unfolded in the dryer. I didn’t hesitate to toss them his way. “Here. I hope these fit.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine. Thank you.”
“No problem, but we’ve got to hurry. I’m sure they’re already mad as hell chomping on the same platters we serve with the bouquets.”
“Well, you know how we can best save time?” he asked as I shook my head. “We could take a shower together.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Besides, I would love to bathe you.”
“Oh my,” I giggled. “You … you are going to be trouble, aren’t you?”
He shrugged with that adorably seductive grin I was beginning to get used to, and smoothly reached for my hand. I granted him access to it, my bathroom, and the full scope of my body as he got to fulfill his desire of washing me from head … to toe.
Within ninety minutes, Andreas and I were standing in the middle of the shop’s front room, the main focus of seventeen sets of criticizing eyes. My staff was not happy. Eh, I would make it up to them later.
“I know we’re short on time for our usual meeting. I apologize to you all for my forgetfulness. It was … uh … a long night. Chloe, Frank, did you guys manage to give everyone their schedules?”
“Yes. Rounds are starting a little later today than usual. We kind of had a feeling the company meeting would go a little long today, just because of having to explain the rearrangements that were made to account for Chenoa and Alan’s absences. That being said, until the two of them return, Frank and I will be taking their place and covering their clients.”
Shock told a story on my team’s faces. Mine … was smoldered with a fury of irritability that made me feel like I was going to explode. I tried to fight the urge to roar wildly. “Chloe. Office. Now.” The stroll to my office was tense, but quiet. My slamming the door shut on the other hand, not too subtle. She jumped at the harshness of the sound. “Talk.”
“I thought about what you said yesterday.”
“What I said?”
“About how you were not going to put your girls in harm’s way just to catch the bad guy, and I respect that. So, Frank and I, we talked to our supervisor last night. Made a few suggestions, and they signed off on them this morning.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“We suggested that he and I jump in, get our hands dirty. Like you said, we’re trained to do so.”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait! When I said that, I meant one of your co-workers, not you, and certainly not Frankie!”
“We’re both trained in this area, Haze. Nothing’s gonna happen to us. We’ll be fine.”
“But you’re going to be having sex with strangers. You’re fine with that?”
“They’re not strangers; they’re suspects, and it comes with the territory of being an undercover. Besides, we need this bust. Now, we told Andreas to make sure he made our bouquets yesterday …”
“Wait. Andreas knew about this before me?”
“I didn’t want you to freak out. You’ve already had a lot on your plate with the divorce and readjusting to your new life and saying yes to helping us out in general. I don’t want you to get too overwhelmed.”
“Pssh!” If she only knew. “I don’t know how I feel about this.”
“Haze, don’t worry about us. We’re fine. I promise. Now, let’s get back out there so you can load up everybody’s cars and send them off with a wave and a smile. We need this to stay as normal and as routine as possible so no one gets suspicious. Remember?”
“Yes. I remember.”
“Oh, just so you know, you have a new customer on the schedule today. I gave her to Frank. And, since he and I won’t be here to listen in on the sessions, we asked Andreas to jump in, so Talia is going to be all by herself putting those bouquets together.”
“Who’s going to make the schedules if you two are gone?”
“What’s wrong with you making them?”
“I have to leave early.”
“I mean, I have to step out for an hour … or two. I’m not sure.”
“You’re not sure? Why aren’t you sure?”
“I have an appointment.”
“That’s going to take an undisclosed amount of time that you’re unsure about?” she savagely pried. “I know when you’re hiding something, Haze. What are you not telling me?”
“Mrs. Donato,” I heard Andreas call as he knocked on the door. “People need to leave for their rounds soon.”
Saved! “We’re coming out now!”
“Haze?” Chloe called reaching for me. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing. Just like you said, we have to keep everything normal.”
“You know that’s not what I meant,” she stated as I ran out the door. “Haze!”
But I was already gone. In the front room, wrapping up the morning meeting. And just as he had been doing since Lorenzo’s last day, Andreas helped me carry all the floral arrangements to the crew’s cars. And just as I had always done, I stood in the parking lot and waved everyone off. But when it came to watching Chloe and Frank leave, I felt a tear fight to occupy my cheek. They had been behind the desk for so long, they felt as innocent to me as I believed Andreas to be, and I didn’t want them tainted by how insane playing in the field could get. But she swore they could handle it. She said they had it, and the only option I had … was to trust her.
A tender touch that I was quickly becoming accustomed to, and deeply fond of, rubbed my shoulders. I turned to him with worry and disappointment in my eyes. He read it well.
“You knew about their plan and you didn’t tell me?”
“Trust me, I wanted to.”
“I mean, when I came back, I heard you going back and forth with Lorenzo and honestly, everything else slipped my mind. All I could think about was he better not raise his voice. He better not get out of line. He better not touch her. And then, I mean, after that, we … you know.”
I smiled bashfully. “I know.”
“It completely slipped my mind. I’m sorry. You know I would have warned you, but I got … kind of distracted.”
“Yeah. I just hope they’ll be okay.”
“They’ll be fine. They’re trained agents, remember?”
It amazed me how all my worries could fade away behind the flash of his adorable grin. I shook my head and giggled before he kissed my cheek, and we walked back inside.
Don’t forget about our meeting today at 3PM.
I rolled my eyes at Cordelia’s text reminder. If only Chloe and Frank could help free me of the damn Diamond Secret Society. Then my life would be … a little closer to the vague concept of simple I once envisioned living.
I told Andreas and Talia that I would be stepping out for a short while, and let them know that they could reach me on my cell if they needed to. I didn’t expect there to be any emergencies. I also didn’t expect to be gone for too long.
Unfortunately, I was wrong on both counts.