The Arrangement (An Alternative Love Romance)

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A Slice of Heaven

The week seemed to drag by until the night of the show to Nick. He found that no matter where he was or what he was doing, Selene popped up in his mind. How was she doing? Was her day going good? And that burning questions he didn’t dare ask: How do you feel about me? Do you find me attractive? Would you date a guy my age? Am I wrong thinking there’s something bigger here? Nick knew this was something different for him than what it had started off to be.

Winning Selene over in a more romantic way would be much harder. He could already see how long it took her to trust someone on a friendship level; there was no doubt a more intimate relationship would require much more time and effort. She might not resist him too much with what he’d done thus far, but he suspected her limit wouldn’t have been much beyond that.

But he had no regrets in holding back. She hadn’t mentioned it, but he had noticed something subtly different since. He wasn’t sure what it was, exactly, but it was there. Or maybe it was just the way he saw her.

“What did you do to See,” Paul questioned him one night while Selene was in the back doing the paperwork.

Nick looked at Paul in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“She’s been more confident lately,” Paul pointed out. “She’s even been doing herself up a bit more.”

Nick’s left brow rose. “Really? That must be what was different,” he mused.

“So, what did you do?”

Nick shook his head in response. “Damned if I know. Not that there weren’t things I wanted to do..”

“Ok, ok,” Paul protested with his hands raised. “I don’t need to know that.”

Nick chuckled at that. “I wasn’t going to tell you anything further. I can say, though, I am not really sure where this is going, Paul. She’s on my mind all the time,” he confided. “Holding her that night… I just want her in my arms every night. Even if it’s just to sleep.”

“Oh,” Paul said quietly, his eyes widening a bit in surprise. “Well, I knew you were getting the feels, but… damn, Nick.”

“What is it,” Nick demanded. “Tell me.”

Paul huffed, then filled in his friend gently. “Nick, that’s what falling in love is like. I have to say I’m not too surprised. I mean, she’s the perfect fake girlfriend, but the qualities that make her that might also be just the qualities that could make her perfect for you.”

Nick frowned as he thought about what Paul was saying. Was it possible? Nick wasn’t so sure he believed love was in his cards, but he knew that this seemed beyond just friendship.

Nick shook his head. “I don’t think it’s reciprocated, Paul. She just sees me as a ‘nice man’ who’s befriended her.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Nicholas,” Paul chided. “Selene isn’t looking forward to seeing you for no reason. You clearly have made some sort of impression on her.”

“She does? You’re sure?”

“Ok, all done,” Selene called out as she exited the door to the back, ending their conversation.

Paul gave Nick a grin before nodding once, turning his focus to Selene. “You’re getting faster at this.”

Selene grinned at him as she neared the bar. “It gets easier the more you get used to it.”

Paul hummed an agreement. “Yes, it does. I wanted to ask you if you’d be interested in being my night manager? It’s what I’ve been training you for and I think you’re ready.”

Selene’s eyes about bugged out of her head. “Manager?”

Paul chuckled and nodded, while Nick watched on.

“You can still wait tables if you want, but your primary focus will make sure things run smoothly and deal with customer complaints,” Paul explained. “Additionally, you will be getting a significant raise, starting at $20 an hour.”

Selene at first just looked shocked, then things seemed to finally click. “Wow! Thank you, Paul! That’s… wow. That’s… yeah, I’d love to,” she finally managed as she began to recover from the surprise.

Paul laughed and Nick grinned at her excitement. “You deserve it and you have proven yourself more than capable of handling it. I couldn’t ask for better and Angie will be happy for me to have some nights off. You’ll start taking on your new role on Monday.”

“Congratulations,” Nick told her with his tone expressing his emotions. Now, he had a reason to go a bit more upscale for their night out. He could call it a treat to celebrated her promotion and raise. Maybe he could even get her a gift. Something small. Angie should e able to provide him with some good ideas.

Selene was all but bouncing with joy, but somehow managed to contain the majority of her excitement until they got out on the road where she shared her excitement with squeals and laughter. Back at her place, she all but bounced to her door after giving Nick a quick kiss on the cheek and a little wave.

At home, Nick again felt the loneliness creeping in, but he had a mission. He wanted to give Selene the best night of her life. The problem was finding a balance between making her feel good without going overboard. He was used to women expecting grand gestures, but this was Selene and she wasn’t like the women he normally associated with.

In the end, with Angie’s help, he was sure that he had everything right. It was time to make Selene feel special and show her he truly valued her. He couldn’t remember having so much fun with a woman in any recent years. Parties were all well and good, but he enjoyed the laughter, the easy conversations, and the sense of freedom he felt with her. She had no expectations of what he should be or should do. To her, he was just Nick and it meant a lot to him to have that with someone new. Even if he still sometimes felt strange about their age difference.

Not that it seemed to bother Selene in the slightest. In fact, at times he could forget how young she was because she didn’t act like others in her age range. She seemed to have grown up very fast, and it seemed to be an advantage that could take her far at a younger age than most.

The night before the show, Nick had her spend the night so he didn’t draw attention to her in the area she lived. They shared breakfast late in the morning, then Nick decided to take her around town on the bike, just to look at some of the cool old buildings. They ended up at a street market where they parked the bike and took a look around. He convinced Selene to pick out a few things she’d like. While she selected items of lesser expense, behind her back, he purchased several items he’d seen her admire, paying them enough to send it to him on Monday. The idea was to stash the items away and give them to her a little at a time. After all, there were birthdays and holidays ahead. Perhaps other raises or other things to celebrate would come up.

Of course, Selene was oblivious, always fascinated when she saw something new or different. Her excitement and enthusiasm, especially for the handmade products, wore off on him and he was smiling so much his cheeks began to hurt. But he couldn’t help it. She was just so happy it radiated from her and it seemed to affect everyone else, too. Nick didn’t think she even realized how people were reacting to her, instead, simply thinking everyone was just so friendly.

At a stand where they sold frangrant oils that were pure, made in the woman’s house. There were also scented soaps, candles, and perfumes that he had to admit smelled better than some of the expensive brands some of the women of the upper class wore. He told Selene to get herself whatever she liked after watching her nodding to herself.

The elderly woman looked between them with a secretive smile. “Have you asked her yet,” she asked him quietly.

Nick looked at her in confusion. “What?”

“Have you popped the question,” she clafied. “Asked her to marry you?”

Nick stood there, looking at the woman in shock. He didn’t know what to say at first, but she spoke up before he had a chance.

“It’s all over your face, young man. I’d say she feels much the same, too,” she added, nodding toward Selene.

Nick looked over at Selene as she did math in her head. He could tell because she always pursed her lips unconsciously when she was doing it. “I think I’m only starting to realize what she means to me,” he admitted before he could stop himself.

The older woman chuckled. “Ah, of course. And she has no idea, either, does she?”

“No, ma’am,” he answered, keeping an eye on Selene.

“Don’t you wait too long, young man. Life is short and it gets shorter every day.”

Nick nodded at her and gave a slight smile. “I’m only starting to realize that.”

She gave a soft laugh. “Just wait. In 20 years you’ll wonder what happened to the day.”

Selene soon joined them and had picked a few items that she put in her purse after Nick paid for them. She looped her arm through his and was all but bouncing on the balls of her feet. “So what’s next? This place is cool!”

“Maybe we should make it a regular thing to come out here or to the others around town,” Nick offered. “Every couple of weeks or something, maybe?”

Selene grinned up at him and nodded. “That sounds fun. I am always amazed at the things people make, and a lot of times it’s better than the storebought stuff.”

Nick filed that away for future reference while draping his arm across her shoulders. “Do you see anything else you’d like to look at?”

Normally, Nick hated shopping, but it was fun with Selene. There were no gripes or complaints, no upturned nose at perceived inferiority, and no shunning of things because they didn’t carry a specific type of label or name. Each thing was judged on it’s own merit, much like she did with people. The world was a brighter, more interesting place with so much more potential than it had seemed to even weeks before. Selene was like magic, waking up in him a wonder of the world he’d lost long ago.

They later went to the city gardens: a place set up for the community to enjoy that had numerous paths through dazzling displays of flowers and plants that filled the air with their natural perfumes. The decorative fountains and stone benches provided for a leisurely environment and Selene absolutely loved it. She had to smell every type of flower and was very gentle when she touched the plants to experience their texture. Nick joined her in revelling at the natural wonders, finding her again rubbing off on him. She enjoyed the simple pleasures that Nick was now growing a larger appreciation for.

He resolved to get some plants and flowers to put around his apartment. Selene would enjoy it and he felt as though it might provide him a small sense of peace. Perhaps even keep this day locked in his mind forever. Nick couldn’t remember the last day he’d enjoyed even half as much as he had this day. And it wasn’t over yet.

At the apartment, they got ready for their night out. Nick was anxious for Selene’s reaction to the limo and champagne he’d ordered, but when they stepped outside, he realized that he needent have worried so much. In fact, like everything else of the day, she seemed excited to experience something else that was new.

While riding in a limo was nothing new for him, Selene had to check out absolutely everything with child-like curiosity. He laughed when she wrinkled her nose after sipping the champagne, saying the bubbles tickled her. Still, she seemed to enjoy it, especially with the strawberries that had been in the tiny refrigerator to the side of the seats they sat in. Clearly, Selene was having the time of her life and Nick couldn’t stop smiling at how happy she seemed. This was all going so much better than he’d expected that it seemed to Nick as though he’d made all the right choices in his plans.

On their way into the club, Nick spotted a few camera flashes that drew his attention briefly. Since he saw nothing out of the ordinary, he put it out of his mind. Places like this always had peole taking pictures of themselves or their friends, so he assumed that had bbeen what it was. After all, they were hardly the only ones that came in a limo and he was dressed down enough he expected no one to really recognize him.

The rest of the night was flawless. The comedians had them both laughing hard enough to bring tears to their eyes, especially the dwarf who played up his differences in the best way possible. They enjoyed several drinks, including a couple of the club’s specialty drinks, which only relaxed them both and made the night more fun. By the time they were heading back to his place, they were both feeling very good and smiling like fools. Nick thought he saw a familiar face in his peripheral vision, but Selene tugging on his arm distracted him.

“That guy was great! I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so hard. I’m so glad you brought me, Nick,” she told him with a happy smile and slightly glassy eyes. “Thank you so much for today. I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

“I’m glad you had fun because I have thoroughly enjoyed myself as well,” he admitted. “You are most welcome. I have to say that I’d like to do this again sometime soon,” he added, looking down at her to see he expression.

“I’m game,” she decided immediately. “As long as I can get the night off,” she ammended. “I don’t want to inconvenience Paul.”

“I’m sure Paul would e happy to switch with you some nights here and there,” Nick told her with a hint of amusement.

“Nick,” a man yelled from behind them.

Both Nick and Selene turned to see a tall, lean man walking quickly toward them. He smiled as he neared, stopping not far away, his longish blond hair falling on each side of his face, framing pale blue-gray eyes and an aquiline nose.

“Glad you made it! How’d you like the show,” the man asked. He then noticed Selene and flashed her a charming smile before he stuck out his hand. “”Pete Avery. Please tell me you aren’t dating Nick.”

Selene laughed and shook his hand. “Selene and no. We’re just friends.”

“A pleasure to meet you. I might need your number, though,” Pete contnued smoothly. “Especially if you liked tonight’s show.”

Nick draped an arm over Selene’s shoulder, frowning slightly at Pete. He realized he didn’t like that ‘just friends’ answer from her. He wanted to correct her and tell Pete to buzz off, but he couldn’t exactly do that without causing a scene. And, it wouldn’t be true.

“Selene’s a busy girl, Pete. I had to pry her from work to come out with me tonight,” he interjected. “Also, the show was great. We both had a good time.”

Selene nodded emphatically. “That guy was great!”

“Glad you liked it,” Pete said to them both, but his eyes often drifted back to Selene. “We’re having open mic night on Mondays and Thursdays, if you’re interested. There are some really talented people who come in.”

Selene nodded and looked ack up at Nick. “You think we could one night?”

Nick smiled at her, feeling his mood lifting right back up again. She was looking to him for an answer. He nodded and gave her a slight squeeze. “Sure. Anytime you want.”

Pete chuckled. “If he won’t bring you, I can hook you up,” he told Selene. “You can come in as my guest. You’ll get the best seats and you can even meet some of them backstage.

Nick watched the tiny tell-tale switch between her friendly and ‘professional’ smile. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she told Pete. “I will certainly let you know.”

Nick was relieved to see their limo pull up at that moment, giving him an excuse to pull Selene away from Pete. It wasn’t just jealousy, though that had a part to play in it. Pete could be a hard core partier and there were often a lot of shady things going on around him.

“I’ll talk to you later, Pete,” Nick said as he began guiding Selene toward the limo. “Thanks for the tip about tonight’s show. You were right, it was great.”

“Anytime, man. Catch you later,” Pete said. He then winked at Selene. “I hope to see you again soon, gorgeous.”

Once back inside the limo with the doors closed, Selene blew out a reath. “That guy’s a bit creepy,” she commented. “He’s a friend of yours?”

“Only in the loosest sense of the word,” Nick told her. “We shared a dorm room our first couple years of college. He’s not changed much since then.”

Selene nodded, looking out the window before turning her gazr back to Nick. “He seems… off somehow.”

“I would never trust him to be alone with you,” Nick admitted flatly. “I couldn’t be sure you’d be safe with him. I would advise against accepting drinks from him.”

Selene smirked, leaning over against him. “I wouldn’t accept anything from him,” she told him. “I’m not very trusting, if you haven’t noticed.”

Nick’s laughter filled the entire back of the limo. “I have noticed. I must confess right now that I’m glad you aren’t easily trusting. It makes me feel a little better to know a guy like that wouldn’t fool you easily.”

Selene chortled, but her voice held no humor. “I’ve known too many men like that and worse. I don’t trust anyone.”

Nick rested his chin on her head. “Not even me?”

Selene tilted her head back to look up at him and gave him a slight smile. “To a degree. More than most, for certain.”

“Well, I suppose that’s something,” Nick mused. “I find I trust you a fair bit. I also like you a lot,” he added with a grin.

“I like you, too, Nick. You’ve been nicer to me than almost anyone I’ve ever met,” she told him before a long yawn took over.

“Tired?”

“Yeah, a bit,” she admitted, snuggling into him. “Wake me up when we get there, ok?”

“Sure thing,” Nick answered, shifting to get more comfortable.

Again he was struck by how perfect she seemed to fit and how much he enjoyed just holding her. Gently, he pulled her into his lap and placed her head against his chest. Nick closed his eyes and just breathed in the scent that was hers. He brushed his fingers down one of her arms a short way, feeling the softness of her skin. While sleeping, her features softened and he could see her youthfulness. He supposed the age in her eyes hid some of the fact that she was really barely an adult. Her lashes were thick and long naturally, brushing against the skin under her eyes. Her lips weren’t full or thick, but there was a slight plumpness.

He wanted to taste those lips so badly right now, too. Nick’s eyes wandered downward to the swell of her breasts, a part of him longing to feel and taste so much more than her lips. He could almost imagine her dark nipples underneath the layers of material she wore. Nick tried to shift his attention to keep himself from getting too worked up.

Still, he couldn’t help that his desire flared with having her here, close and vulnerable. He could see her wrists bound as he tasted eyery last inch of her fully exposed flesh. He wanted to taste her, tease her, make her moan and cry out his name in release. He wanted to feel her, inside and out until they were both too exhausted to move. He groaned quietly as he could feel his erection straining in his pants. Nick’s eyes darted down to the split between her jean-clad legs. Unconsciously, he bit into his lip as he imagined what she felt like there. His fingers itched to explore her there and to probe her with his fingers and watch her face as he tormented her pussy until she exploded on his hand.

Without realizing it, one hand had slid down to the side of her outer thigh. His hand paused there and remained as he fought against his urges. The women he had been with were always accepting of his advances, but this was Selene. She wasn’t one of them.

She wasn’t his.

For some reason, that bothered him far more than it should have. Maybe it was just lust. He hadn’t had sex in a while, and he’d been spending so much of his time either with or thinking about Selene. He needed to do something to work out his sexual frustration or he’d end up trying to seduce Selene. But not while she was drunk. If he was ever going to do anything, they both needed to be completely sober.

Once they’d arrived, Nick carried her inside to the elevator, holding her as it took them to the top floor. He carried her into the apartment, then continued on to the guest bedroom. He lay her on the bed and carefully took off her shoes and socks before he tucked her into bed again. Just as he was about to pull away, Selene reached out and grabbed his fingers.

“Cuddle with me,” she asked sleepily.

“Ok,” Nick answered in a whisper. He quickly took off his own shirt, shoes, socks, and belt before he climbed into the other side of the bed.

Scooting over to about the middle, he was met with Selene rolling over until her head was resting on his chest with a hand curled under her chin. Her breathing evened back out quickly, leaving Nick to smile to himself. He was getting one of his wishes. Tonight, he’d sleep with Selene in his arms, curled up and resting on his chest. He didn’t care that they were both dressed or that it wasn’t his bed; the only thing that mattered was he had her in his arms.

Tomorrow, he would ask her the question. He would offer her the guest bedroom while she posed as his girlfriend, plus all the frills. If she said yes and he was lucky, maybe this wouldn’t be the only time he could hold her this way.

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