She still found it a difficult decision to make, even after her talk with Michaela. However, the moment Alec called her to let her know how Sam’s problem was going to be handled, she found herself leaning further and further into giving him a second chance. Their awkward conversations grew into lengthy phone calls. From there, they began seeing each other in the office or meeting for coffee in one of the cafes nearby.
Eventually, Lesly decided to invite him over for a home cooked meal. He accepted immediately, and the two soon found themselves meeting quite often. No one brought the matter of getting back together up for discussion. It was as if the two of them were still unsure of how to broach the subject or whether the other person was open to talk about it at all. Sure, they did meet quite regularly, particularly during the weekend, but it was implied that she would only meet him in her place, never his. It made her feel more in control of the situation, and judging by how he never tried to pull her out of her comfort zone, he was aware of how important it was to keep things the way they are and not to rush her into anything at all.
Their meetups would always follow the same pattern. One would call the other to see if they were up for having dinner together. Sometimes, one of them would cook the meal or order takeout, and then they would watch a movie together. Alec would usually help her clean up, and then he would drive back home. He never imposed, never stayed for more than a few hours, and never talked about anything that he thought would agitate the situation. He never pushed for physical intimacy either. There was the occasional caress or the chaste kiss, but things never progressed beyond that.
Lesly did not know what to make of his behavior. He did promise her that he would not pressure her into picking up where they left off, but the reserved way he had been acting around her was a bit puzzling. Back when they lived together, they were rarely able to see a movie to the very end. They would be making out the entire time or they would retire to his bedroom before the movie had ended. Now, however, it seemed that they could not see a movie to the end for an entirely different reason. He would excuse himself before the movie had ended and would tell her that he had to go. Sometimes it was because of an early meeting. At other times, he would simply say that he had an urgent matter he had to attend to right away. Not once was he swayed into staying, not even when she blatantly asked him to. He simply told her that he was busy with a case, and that she should not worry one bit. Still, the anxious look on his face every time he left told her that something was amiss. She just could not figure out what it was.
After a meeting with him in her office earlier this morning, he told her that he wanted to drop by her place with takeout from a restaurant he mentioned to her before. As always, she told him that she did not mind having company for dinner and that he was more than welcome to come. Of course, deep down she was wondering if this time he was going to be more comfortable talking to her about whatever matter that was clearly bothering him. However, seeing how he was always careful to keep the conversation focused on the kind of cases they were working on, it did not seem likely. She had to push him to talk. After all, he was the one who gave her his word that he would not keep anything from her again. If he were to continue to shut down on her, then she was going to be sure to remind him of that.
He arrived at around 8:30, just like he told her he would. His hands were loaded with bags filled with takeout containers. The amount certainly seemed more than what the two of them could consume.
“Goodness! How much food did you order?” She exclaimed after she ushered him in and shut the door.
He chuckled and took the bags to the counter, “I didn’t know what you might like, so I picked a variety of dishes.”
“You shouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have minded anything.”
“You wouldn’t have minded, yes, but you wouldn’t have eaten anything either.”
“I’m not that difficult!” she exclaimed.
He sighed, “Denial, denial, denial.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and arched an eyebrow, “This coming from the guy who would wince every time I bring a donut back home.”
“After not having consumed anything but coffee the entire day,” he reminded her. “Tell me something, when was the last time you stepped on a scale?”
She rolled her eyes, “Good God not this again.”
“Answer my question.”
“It goes up and down. It’s always been like this.”
He kept a straight face at her response as if he were not surprised by her refusal to admit that she had a problem, but deep down he was amused.
“Do you even own a scale?” he asked as he watched her fish the takeout containers out of the bags.
“I do. It’s in the bathroom,” she answered dismissively.
He took a couple of slow steps towards her and asked with a mischievous grin on his face, “Should we take a look then?”
She shook her head and took a couple of steps back, but before she managed to run away, he grabbed her by the waist and threw her over his shoulder. She could not stop laughing the entire time he carried her away from her living room in search of her scale. When he found it, he dropped her down on her feet, but she tried to run away again, laughing all the while. He deterred her, picked her up by the waist and placed her on the scale. He barely managed to keep her still until he got a reading. Eventually they both stopped laughing and looked at the scale with curiosity.
She seemed dumbfounded.
He was frowning.
She stepped off the scale immediately, “This doesn’t mean anything.”
He arched an eyebrow with an amused expression on his face, “It means I was right. You really are underweight.”
“It’s not that big of a deal,” she said dismissively as she exited the bathroom. “It’s always been like this.”
“You just said it goes up and down. I’m curious to know when exactly did it go up?” He walked right behind her.
She stopped and turned around to look at him. “Seriously! Are we gonna keep talking about this?”
“If it’s gonna get you to admit that your eating habits are horrendous, then yeah.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. He smiled back.
Exasperated by the fact that he was right and that she had no rebuttal to his argument, she walked back to the living room, muttering all the while, “You’re lucky you’re good looking.”
He grinned. “Why is that?”
“Because no woman would ever find her weight a good topic for discussion.”
He laughed, “You’ve always been a good sport about it.”
“How long do you think that’s gonna last?” She asked dryly.
He shrugged innocently, “Well I am good looking, so a while?”
“Don’t push it!” She warned jokingly.
They continued to send jabs each other’s way all the time they took the containers out of the bag and placed them on the counter. She knew he was masking his concern over her wellbeing behind a veneer of humor, so she played along because she did not want him to worry too much. Eventually, however, they found themselves discussing work again while they ate. Talking about work had always been a safe avenue for her to venture into whenever she felt uncomfortable. The matter they began discussing, though, was not as light as she hoped.
“Andrews might not be the kind of guy you would want to be presiding over any case,” Alec maintained, “but, I know the guy and I know that he would never condone such a thing no matter what.”
“That’s not where the problem is,” Lesly responded. “Brenan can be persuasive, if you know what I mean.”
“I know, which is why I met with Andrews and discussed how Brenan usually avoids getting caught. He was just as surprised as I was when he learned what the previous judge had done after the case you built.”
“Oh he can be surprised now,” she maintained anxiously, “but he’s going to be surprised much more once he sees the fat check Brenan is gonna write for him.”
Alec shrugged, “I’m not worried about that. Andrews is smart enough not to make this kind of mistake.”
Lesly narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him, “It wasn’t just a simple ‘small talk’ that you had with him, wasn’t it?”
He shrugged nonchalantly, “I can be persuasive, too.”
“Let’s just say he’s terrified of what’s gonna happen if Brenan gets away.”
Lesly was curious, “Seriously, Alec, what did you do?”
He casually continued to sip on his drink as he gave her an evasive answer, “There are certain things he does not want exposed and let’s just leave it at that.”
Awkward silence hung between the two of them. What he just said roused her deep-seated anxiety about how he usually has a certain way of doing things. Her mind began wandering into exploring all the possible implications behind the cryptic answer he just gave her, but she eventually cleared her throat and tried to bring their discussion back to what mattered most.
“Cox came to see me in my office today.”
“He was sober, which is reassuring to a certain extent. He said he was willing to do whatever it took to get his daughters back.”
“What do you think?” He asked with an expressionless face as he held the wine glass in his hand.
“I think he’s sincere. The social worker thinks so, too.”
He arched an eyebrow, “So they’re gonna hand the girls back to him just like that after everything that happened?”
“Between you and me, the social worker is eager to get the matter over and done with, especially considering the large number of cases they have to handle. She said she had seen her fair share of abhorrent parents that would make Cox seem like a saint in comparison, but we both agree that we should wait until he gets things in order. He still needs help getting over his alcohol addiction, finding a job, and locating a suitable place for his girls to live in.”
“What happened to his old place?’
“He was already behind on the rent,” she answered. “The moment Brenan learned that we went ahead with the case and that Cox wasn’t able to stop me, he had the guy evicted. This explains why Cox was so desperate when he attacked me that day.”
“I see,” Alec muttered almost absentmindedly before he fished his phone out of his pocket and began typing a text to someone. Without being prompted, he explained what he was going to do. “I can probably get him into one of the units we’ve dedicated for our low-income workers until he gets his life back on track. If he’s interested, I might even be able to get him a job at one of our warehouses.”
Lesly was curious. “By ‘our’ you mean?”
Alec fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat. “The family,” he simply explained. Then he rushed to explain, “Well…more precisely my old man. He had engaged in these kinds of projects recently. I should let you know the moment I hear back from him.”
“You can talk him into taking Cox?”
“I should be able to as soon as he responds to my text. However, Cox has to show some real effort at staying sober. There are a lot of people who would kill for a job like that.”
She smiled at him. “I’ll make sure to tell him that. Thank you.”
“It’s no big deal,” he said as he continued typing a text message. When he was done, he placed the phone back on the counter, and tried to steer the conversation away from work, “So how do you like the place so far?”
“I love it. There’s nothing to complain about, except…,” she hesitated for a few seconds.
She smiled and shook her head, “It’s nothing.”
Alec stared at her intently. Then he asked her the one question he had been reluctant to ask for a while now, “Are you still feeling anxious?”
“It’s no big deal,” she stood up and took their empty dishes to the sink. “I’ll be fine.”
Alec turned over and looked at her. Her back was turned to him since she was busy placing the dirty dishes in the sink, but he could tell that she was indeed anxious.
“You can call me, you know. I can come over or we can talk on the phone until you feel better.”
“It’s really not that serious,” she smiled at him. She walked back to the counter and tried to refill his drink, “Would you like more wine?”
“No, I have to drive back later.”
“I see. Care for some dessert then? I have ice cream in the freezer,” she offered.
“Actually,” he stood up and went searching through the bags he brought with him. “There should be a cheesecake in here.”
Lesly was surprised, “Never thought you were a cheesecake guy.”
He chuckled and dug a small cardboard box out of one of the bags, “I got it for you.”
He placed it on the counter and urged her to take a look before he took a seat. She complied and opened the box to find that he had brought her a fluffy cheesecake. When she looked at him for an explanation, he added, “You told me you only got them whenever you were in your hometown for a visit, but never here because they didn’t taste as good.”
He grabbed a fork and handed it to her, “Try it. You might like this one.”
She eyed the cake curiously, “And what makes you think that?”
“A certain someone with the nastiest case of sweet tooth I’ve ever seen would not stop raving about it, so I figured if one junkie likes it, the other one should.”
Lesly grabbed a fork and handed it to him. “Well, if I’m gonna eat some, you’re gonna eat some with me.”
He winced as he stared at the cake on the counter which made her giggle, “Come on! It’s just eggs, cream cheese and sugar.”
“An insane amount of sugar,” he corrected.
“You’ll be fine. It’s not too sweet. I assure you. Here,” she pushed the small cheesecake closer to him. He complied, took a bite, and stared at her to see if she liked it as well. She was the first one to ask him, “Your verdict?”
He shrugged, “I still don’t care for it. You?”
She grinned as she dug her fork in the fluffy cake for another bite, “Tell Emma she’s welcome to tag along the next I pay my hometown a visit.”
He chuckled, “That bad huh?”
“Nah, it’s good, but it still does not measure up.”
“At least I tried.”
She smiled warmly at him and whispered a thank-you before she stood up, leaned over the counter and brushed her lips over his to really show him how much she appreciated the gesture. She was still leaning over the counter with her face inches away from his. A brief moment passed with them staring into each other’s eyes. His gaze soon became fixed on her lips, and she thought that he was going to kiss her. However, he soon cleared his throat and stood up, “I have to go.”
“One of the guys texted me just before I dropped by and told me that I have to see him regarding an urgent matter. I told him I’d meet him in an hour.”
Realizing that he was back to acting all strange, she could not keep herself from asking, “Alec, is something wrong?”
“Of course not, why would you think that?”
She crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a direct answer, “Every time you’re here, you always rush out.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied apologetically. “It’s a really important case. Every now and again, the guys would call me with an update that I can’t overlook.”
“I’ll tell you all about it later. Okay?” He spoke as he put his jacket on.
She was not convinced, and it was so obvious that he could see it too. However, before she managed to get him to talk, he walked towards the door. She followed closely behind him to see him out, but the moment he opened the door, he paused and looked back at her.
“Are you free tomorrow?” He asked with a hint of hesitancy in his voice.
Thinking that it was another one of their usual dinner meetups, she nodded, “It’s gonna be a Saturday, so yeah.”
“Great! There’s this French restaurant that Greg has been raving about. I’ll pick you up at eight.”
And with that, he pressed a chaste kiss to her lips and left the flat before she even had time to comprehend his request.
Did he just ask her out on a date?