The Dinner Date
“What are you doing?”
Lesly was surprised to find Alec standing in the living room because he was supposed to come back home an hour later. She blinked a couple of times in confusion and tried to answer him.
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
Alec dropped the pile of mail he was carrying on the coffee table and walked into the kitchen to check on her. She looked like a mess. Her apron had all sorts of stains on it. A streak of what looked like flour covered her cheek, and her elbows had smudges of melted chocolate on them. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, but a strand fell on her face. He tucked it behind her ear and turned her face to the side to check whether what covered it was indeed flour.
“Are you experimenting with a new recipe again?” He asked.
“No, it’s not new,” she explained in frustration. “It’s just that I’ve been awfully clumsy today. You should’ve seen the kitchen before I cleaned it. Flour everywhere.”
Alec got a bit concerned. He remembered what Michaela told him about how he should be careful if she started baking, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Maybe it was better to get a confirmation just in case.
“Are you done baking?”
“Good,” he said as he leaned down to give her a gentle peck on the lips before he walked out of the kitchen towards the coffee table.
“I’ll be in my study if you need anything,” he announced as he picked up the mail and resumed the task of sorting through it.
“More work?” Lesly asked from behind him.
“They haven’t found the other shooter yet?”
“They’re still looking,” he answered her almost absentmindedly as he fished an envelope out of the pile. He took a couple of steps back to retreat into the study and bumped into Lesly who had followed him into the living room. As usual, she almost fell, and he had to hold her arm to steady her.
“Can we have dinner together?” She asked with an expectant look in her eyes.
“Sure, no problem.”
“I was hoping you’d spare an hour or two afterwards,” Lesly spoke softly as she held the lapels of his coat.
She could see that he was thinking about her request, but when his expression softened and his hand covered hers, she knew he was going to say no.
“I’m sorry, Lesly. As much as I want to, I can’t. We’re understaffed,” he said apologetically.
“I know. Just an hour or two. That’s all I’m asking.”
Alec gazed into her expectant eyes for a moment and finally decided to give in. “Fine.”
Lesly stood on her tiptoes and brushed a kiss on his lips. “I’ll go get changed. I’ll call on you when everything is ready.”
Lesly went into her room with the intention to slip out of her stained clothes and into simple clean ones. Her eyes caught glimpse of the dress that Michaela hung for her the night before outside the closet, but she ignored it and went into the bathroom to get herself cleaned up. She washed the stains off her face and arms before she removed the hair tie to brush her hair. Then she applied some blusher, mascara and a simple shade of lipstick before spraying some perfume. When Lesly went out of the bathroom, she eyed the dress again. Something about it was tempting. It was no wonder that she bought it even though there was no occasion that demanded wearing it. How long had it been sitting in her closet? Possibly a year or two. She could not exactly recall when she bought it, but she knew it had been sitting in her closet for a while.
Would it even fit her if she wore it? Back then she was much thinner than she was now. Perhaps she should try it on and see if it still fit her before she slipped into the outfit she had picked earlier. There was no rush to get ready. Alec was probably working in the study on whatever matter that demanded his attention. He might even appreciate the few extra minuets this little endeavor of hers was going to give him.
Lesly put the dress on, got it zipped with great difficulty and examined herself in the mirror. One look at herself told her why she wanted to return it. It was too feminine for her taste. It wasn’t what a normal person would call scandalous, but it made her uncomfortable nonetheless. This prompted her to try to remove it instantly. She wanted to take it off and go for something simpler before she had dinner with Alec, but before she got the task done, she heard a gentle knock on the door.
Lesly felt flustered. She involuntary found herself mumbling the words ‘Don’t come in’ a couple of times to herself, but Alec walked in thinking that he heard her tell him to come in. He was holding an envelope in his hand that he obviously wanted to ask her about and did not notice her right away.
“Lesly, this envelop was addressed to you. You might want to…”
Alec stopped and arched an eyebrow in interest when he saw what she had on. Lesly kept a nonchalant attitude as she explained herself, “I was just trying something on.”
“You can leave the envelope over there. I’ll be with you once I change.”
“Don’t.” He examined her from head to toe. “I like it.” He placed the envelop on the small table she signaled, crossed his arms over his chest and leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. “I’ve never seen you in a dress before.”
“You might do so again…soon,” Lesly answered with a frown as she tried to unzip the dress.
“How is that?”
“We’re planning a fundraiser. Everyone is required to dress formally for it.”
Alec watched her for a bit as she continued to struggle with the zipper on the side of her dress and could not help but chuckle. “What are you doing?”
She looked at him then and found him holding his hand out for her. She heaved one final sigh of frustration before she gave up and decided to take his hand. The moment she did, she allowed him to guide her out of her room, but not before she heard him whisper, “I could help you take it off later.”
The mischievous tone was lost on her at first. It took Lesly a minute to comprehend what he was saying, but when she noticed the glint in his eyes, she realized immediately what he meant. This made her cheeks flush. She struggled to hide that by casually instructing him to take a seat at the counter so she could serve the dishes she prepared.
Alec decided to fetch two glasses of wine and to place them on the counter as he waited for her to join him. It did not take Lesly long to assemble the dishes together and to sit across from him. She placed a plate with an appetizing steak on it in front of him and asked him if he wanted any other condiments in addition to the side dishes she put on the counter. He told her everything was fine and the two proceeded to eat their dinner while chatting casually.
They were almost done with their meal when Lesly’s phone started ringing. Alec looked at her curiously to see if she would leave to answer it like she normally did, but strangely enough she ignored it. She did not seem concerned or the least bit interested in checking who was calling. When the ringing stopped, Alec could not help but voice the observation.
“I thought you’d run to check on that.”
“I know who’s calling,” she remarked before she took a sip of wine.
“A colleague of mine. He’s been badgering me to write a speech. I keep telling him that I’m not interested, but he won’t take no for an answer.”
“A speech for what?”
“The fundraiser. I told you about it.”
“Oh yeah. When is it gonna be?”
“This soon?” Alec asked with a hint of concern.
“Yes. Is there a problem with that?” Lesly asked, puzzled.
Lesly watched Alec eat what remained of his steak in silence and realized that something was bothering him. He seemed deep in thought. She did not want to push it at first so as not to ruin their evening, but when she noticed that he suddenly went quite after what they had just talked about, she became worried.
“Alec, is something wrong?”
“No, nothing,” he said, smiling.
He looked at her then and she realized that he was contemplating voicing his thoughts. She gave him an encouraging look and waited for him to talk.
“Is it possible for you to…not attend?” He finally asked.
“No. I have to go.”
Alec began rubbing his brows as he tried to figure out the best possible way to tell her what was on his mind. “I don’t want to scare you, but it’s a scheduled event, which means that so many things could go wrong. The culprit knows where it’s going to be held. This will allow him time to scout the area and figure out the best possible way to get to you. He could blend with the crowd and slip in unnoticed.”
Lesly was not bothered at all. She simply shrugged and began telling him what she believed was going to happen. “He could get to me, yes, but we’ve already established that he needs me alive. A crowded area will work against him in this case because he won’t be able to interrogate me without escaping detection. He won’t take such a huge risk. He’s smart enough to know that.”
“Precisely. The reason we weren’t able to find him is because he’s smart. He’ll find a way. This is his only chance.”
Lesly calmly stared at Alec as she held her wine glass in her hand. A moment of silence passed before she spoke her real thoughts, “Let him come then. I’m tired of hiding.”
Alec looked at her in shock and hoped that she was not being serious. “Lesly, please tell me you’re not thinking of using yourself as bait to lure him out?”
“We’ve been looking for clues for so long and we still have nothing. This might be the only way,” she explained calmly.
“Have you lost your mind?”
“What do you suggest we do? We’ve hit a dead end.”
“Anything but that.”
“Alec…,” she tried to reason.
“No, I won’t allow it,” he retorted quite emphatically.
Lesly bit her lower lip as she stared at him. She expected this reaction, but she did not think that she had to deal with the matter today when she was trying to help him deal with whatever that was bothering him. Her intention was to distract him from the problems that caused him stress, not add to them.
“Can we talk about this later?” She said to him. Her expression softened when she realized how agitated he had become.
“No, we’re putting an end to this discussion now.”
“You’re being unreasonable…”
“I’m being unreasonable?! For the love of God, Lesly, have you even taken a moment to consider what might happen if something went wrong with that suicidal plan of yours?”
“I’m aware of the risks…”
“It doesn’t seem like it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have even suggested it to me.”
Lesly opened her mouth to try to reason with him one more time, but when she noticed the angry look on his face, she decided against it. She reached for his hand instead and gently caressed it.
“Please? Can we talk about this later?” She squeezed his hand when he said nothing and pleaded him with her eyes. “I don’t want you to be upset. I finally have you for an hour and I don’t want to ruin it.”
Alec stared at her long and hard before he directed his gaze to the hand that was grasping his. It was unfair how much of a hold she had over him. He wanted to talk some sense into her, to make sure that she got that insane idea out of her head once and for all, but he could feel his resolve weakening with every stroke of her hand against his. He stared back into her eyes again and found them filled with concern.
“Are we good?” She asked in a soft voice when he did not say anything.
He did not answer her right away. He simply held her hand, lifted to his lips and kissed it.
“We’re good,” he said to her in a deep voice as his hand kept hers in its hold.
She smiled, reached over the counter and brushed her lips against his. She then told him to stay put before she took the empty dishes to the sink. He told her to leave them since he was going to wash them later, but she ignored him and brought two small plates over to where he was sitting.
“What are those for?” He asked, curious.
“Dessert,” she answered simply before she walked towards the fridge and took an appealing small cake out of it. She placed it in front of him and explained. “A certain someone told me you loved black forest cakes as a kid.”
“I did,” he said as he eyed the heavenly looking dish in front of him.
“Glad to hear it,” she said to him as she proceeded to cut him a slice. The cake was small, but what it lacked in width, it compensated for in height. It was a challenge to get the slice to hold itself on the serving spoon, but she eventually managed to place it on his plate without it toppling over.
Alec held Lesly’s arm and drew her so that she sat next to him rather than across from him. He pushed his plate towards her and handed her a fork so they would share the slice she just cut. She smiled and accepted the fork he offered.
“I take it that certain someone is Greg?” He asked as he sunk his fork into the dense layers of the cake.
“Any success in getting him to tell you some embarrassing stories to use against me?” He inquired with a smug expression on his face.
“I’m still working on it.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” he responded with a chuckle.
“Oh I’ll get there,” she said challengingly.
“You seem awfully confident.”
“He already told me about the time you two were caught smoking pot in boarding school. It’s not something substantial, but it’s a start.”
“That’s nothing,” he said as he waved his hand dismissively.
“It’s actually something considering it was the first time Greg got you to try it.”
“He said that?” He asked, surprised.
“Yes,” Lesly replied with a mischievous glint in her eyes. If only he knew what else she managed to gather in a short phone call.
“I must say I found it rather surprising that you were something of a model student. This gives the story a whole new hilarious twist. Tell me something, do you have a picture of yourself from your boarding school years?”
“And why are you asking to see one?”
“Just wondering if you looked nerdy enough back then.”
Alec laughed. “You’re never getting your hands on one.”
“I’ll have Greg show it to me.”
“Wanna bet?” She retorted with a challenging look in her eyes.
Alec found the look hilarious and could not keep himself from laughing. He ruffled her hair playfully and asked, “When did Greg tell you all this?”
“This morning. I called to ask him something,” she answered almost absentmindedly as she ran her fingers through her hair to tidy it up.
“What did you want to ask him that you couldn’t ask me?”
Lesly hesitated for a moment before she gave him a straight answer. “I wanted to know if there was something I could do to get you to talk to me.”
“About what?” Alec inquired as he tucked one stray strand behind her ear.
She could not look him in the eye. She kept her gaze focused on the small plate in front of her as she peeled one layer of cake with her fork. Then she got up and announced hastily. “I think we need more cherries.”
Alec held her arm before she got too far and pulled her towards him. He was still sitting in his chair, but that did not keep him from drawing her closer to him. He searched her eyes and waited for her to answer him.
“I was worried about you. I still am,” she finally spoke to him.
“You’re not,” she shook her head. “I can see that. I know you’re insomniac. I know that you haven’t been sleeping well lately. I know that you’ve been locking yourself up in that study because you don’t want me to see how much this incident has affected you.”
“It’s not as bad as you think,” he whispered back.
Lesly stared deep into his blue eyes and wondered how to get him to open up. Her voice came out low as she began caressing his cheek. “You know what I realized today? You know everything about me, but I don’t know much about you. You rarely talk to me about yourself.”
Alec placed both hands on her tiny waist and kept his eyes locked with hers, “What do you want to know?”
“Anything…just talk to me. Don’t shut me out.”
An endless moment passed in silence. Her hand was still caressing his cheek as she begged him with her eyes to open up. It was risky. Having her in his hold, this close was more than he could handle. The sweet scent of her perfume, the gentle touch of her hand, the soft sound of her voice…it was all too much. He felt lost in her eyes and could not help but give in to her appeal.
“Yes, I haven’t been myself lately.”
He knew the moment he said it that he was going to regret it. She will surely make the connection. She will know that it was not the simple fact that he was stabbed that bothered him, but rather the link the incident carried to the old scars on his chest. She will know because she had been there before. She knew the signs when she saw them. He was struggling with his own demons, too.
“This isn’t the first time it happened, isn’t it? You’ve been stabbed before,” she inquired with a sympathetic look.
“When did it happen?”
“A long time ago.”
“How serious was it?” Lesly whispered.
Alec gazed into her eyes for a moment. Then he decided to tell her the truth. “It almost cost me my life.”
He could see the look of concern on her face. Her hand slid from his cheek to his chest. Her eyes were focused on the spot where she knew the massive scar laid.
“Is the shooting incident related in any way to what happened to you before?”
“They’re not related. I swear.”
“How did you get hurt?” She said after she summoned the courage to ask.
“I told you. I was trying to disarm one of the assailants. I didn’t see the knife coming.”
Lesly shook her head slowly. “I mean before that,” she asked softly as her hand traced the old scar on his left shoulder over his shirt to let him know that she was inquiring about his old injuries.
Alec did not know how to answer her question without alerting her to the truth. An honest answer, no matter how short or brief it was, was going to point directly to his real identity. A cryptic answer would only get her to ask more questions until she got to a satisfactory response. He had to lie. It was the only way.
“It was nothing personal. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He could see that his answer did not satisfy her curiosity. She was still staring at him with so many questions in her grey eyes. He hated lying to her and wished that he did not have to do this to her, but there was no other way around it, at least for now. If she continued enquiring, she would figure out who he actually was. That was a risk he was unwilling to take for her sake.
Lesly opened her mouth to ask him one more question. However, his mouth silenced hers before she got it out.