The glass shattered, champagne and shards splattering floor and shoes with a generous helping of too expensive champagne all around. Were this a normal business convention, or a legal seminar, or even an Literature workshop, it would have meant squealing voices and ruined leather - here the participants simply wiped it off their sandals and continued talking, unfazed. The same relaxed state of mind did not apply to the young woman whose glass had taken such an ignominious fall to the floor. Her large green eyes, framed by a face Botticelli would have wept over, glared at him with exasperation.
There was a wealth of emotion in that tone - aggravation, astonishment, anger, annoyance but, most importantly, also laughter and love. Every time he found her, every time he caught up with her anew, it was the voice first, before all else, which touched his very and let him be home.
“What are you doing here?”
There was a smile in the question and he knew in that moment he had judged it right, had waited just long enough, had allowed her enough time, before following her path to her side. The never-ending, never-ceasing pressure driving him relaxed, smoothed and settled. People called him an adrenalin junkie, a megalomaniac and workaholic, but what they did not realise was, he was only ever searching until he found her, found her and held her for however long she allowed him to do so. It was the smile in her voice, her eyes, on those lips he knew so well which stopped the world for him, again and again.
“What? You do not like this conference centre?”
His gaze wandered over the elegant white tables, the black chrome bar, the cityscape of Vienna visible through the high glass facade in studied nonchalance, as if he saw them for the first time. Then he let his eyes met hers again and grinned:
More endearment than insult and a long standing tradition in their exchanges, the small ritualised aspects separating the lover from the transient partner.
“You know exactly what I mean, Jasper” She continued.
“What does one of the richest business men in the world and the thirteenth most eligible bachelor do at a convention of Geologists?”
“I am being a business man - I bought the conference centre and the hotel.”
“Jasper.” His name now lay gently chiding on her lips.
“What? Would you like to see the overhead? I promise you it is a very profitable endeavour.”
He snagged two fresh glasses of champagne from a passing waiter and handed her one.
It was not a question, so it did not demand an answer. His eyes swallowed her whole, took in every little minute change since the last time she had let him close. Her hair was longer, the dark waves of her high ponytail now falling almost to her waist. The auburn highlights in the mahogany mass evidence of the time she had spent the last four months in the sun of Costa Rica collecting water samples. The light dusting of freckles and the honey colour of her skin another hint at the time she had spent away from labs and seminar rooms. He loved it when her normally pale body turn this warm shade, a visible invitation to touch, to savour. How far underneath her white blouse did the colour extend?
“Jasper!” The glare was back. “You know exactly what I meant!”
Still not a question but nevertheless this remark would now be ignored at his own peril. Women in their endless ability to express the smallest change of mood with only a gesture, a tone, fascinated him endlessly, but no woman had held his attention so completely, so utterly, than this one.
“I am aware you have accepted a position as lecturer at the University of Vienna, yes.”
He anticipated the explosion, yearned for the heat of her reaction. It was hard to keep the amusement from colouring his voice, though self preservation won. He loved her anger, partly because it reminded him of the open, the energetic young woman he had lost his heart to so long ago. It made him see that memory under the guise of the cold, the distant academic she had become. Each time anew it age him hope that one day he may be able to reach that woman buried so deep again.
“You have to stop this, Jasper.”
She turned fully to him, faced him head on, her height almost a match to his 6 foot 5. Those expressive eyes developing a slow burn of anger. In her eyes she had never lost the warm woman she had been. A grin now would make that temper explode, would make those green depths sparkle and burn.
It took superhuman restraint, but he managed not to grin, not in order to avoid her anger though but because, after such a long time, after having waited almost 10 months to see her again, he was not willing to share her anger, her passion, with others.
“Stop following me.”
“I did not follow you to Oxford.”
“You bought a chain of leisure centres in London, which is barely an hour away.”
Exasperation, an emotion in its own right, its warmth a crumb for his starving soul.
“Then you have to stop running.”
He expected an eye roll, a snort, possibly even a laugh - he did not expect the sudden rise of tears. The sight clamped an iron fist around his heart, an almost physical ache burning in his gut. He could not bear seeing her hurt. Instinctively he stepped closer, offering solace with only the nearness of his body. He would have pulled her into his arms, held her, shielded her from the world, but he had long since learnt she would not allow it. So he gave her the little comfort he could.
There were other signs of her demons, other indications her nightmares were haunting her again: she was too thin, shadows courted her eyes and her hands found constant frantic purchase on tablecloth and seams. It was expected, in the end, this was why he had come to her again. The reports his men had given him had indicated as much - and possibly even more. Something was stalking her again. The only question now was if it was in her mind or in life. No matter, if he could, if she would allow him, he would slay her demons; if not then he would give her the respite she needed before running again. It was a well practiced dance they were dancing, though he grew tired of it, of the pain, the fear - but never of her. It was easy to catch her hand in its frenzied movements, to catch and hold it as he brought it to his lips to taste her skin.
His blue eyes captured her, saw in her very soul as his mouth pressed a soft kiss to her wrist. It was one of the things she missed the most, one of the reasons she could not let herself let go of him, of life, entirely - the way he touched her: tenderness and warmth, knowledge and strength. No woman could have resisted him, definitely not one who loved him. It tugged at her heart, no matter how tightly she tried to shut away that organ.
And why was she surprised by his presence here? They had been playing this holding pattern for too long now, for over eight years, ever since that night which shattered her life. There are things you survive but never get over. They had played this game of catch and release so many times she could not, would not, count anymore.
“I am not good for you.” She hated herself for the note of desperation in her voice.
“You are not good for yourself.” Hard to argue looking at the mess she regularly made of her life, the scars her body and mind carried with them.
He had come so close, the well-known scent of his skin wrapping a security blanket around her frayed nerves. It took incredible strength not to simply lean into him, to let her brow rest against his chest and let his warmth engulf her in the comfort and love he offered. But she could not, would not - he deserved better, even though he did not know it. She was proud of herself for not giving into the temptation, for keeping her distance, that is, until his hand came up to cradle her cheek, to stroke away the moisture which had unbidden started to leak from her eyes.
“What do you say - time to blow this joint?”
She had no idea what movie his words referenced, though that it was a cinematic reference she was sure of, but she was grateful for the smile, as unbidden as the tears, it brought to her face - and really, it was no hardship to spend an evening with this man.
She knew what to expect before she stepped into the penthouse, knew there would be rich middle eastern fabrics in hues of blue over the cold, clear lines of modern furnishings. Expected there to be a fire and a wide terrace to watch the night, knew there would be red wine in the kitchen and her own brands of toiletries in the bathroom. She knew this because he recreated it again and again, every time he followed her, every time he invaded her life. It was not static, it adapted over time to her preferences but it always remained the same - remained in the spirit of the home she had had before she lost everything. It always remained a home he created for her. She threw him a bitter-sweet smile over her shoulder as he stepped up to her.
“You sleep badly in hotel rooms.”
And that reason was enough for him to create this, to create the haven here. In its love, its devotion, that gesture was more terrifying than an angry word would have been. She tried to tell him, tried to express the rising panic in her throat and run, but he stopped the torrent of words with the simple expediency of a kiss, a light, almost insubstantial, touch of his lips on hers.
His voice was not raised in command, showed no sign of agitation and still stopped her in her tracks.
“Tomorrow we can talk - tonight, let’s just be.”
Oh God, if she could just make her life be like that - a consecutive string of nights in which she had to be nothing else but be with him. She had tried - but it did not work. Never would. But for tonight, for one more night, she could make it happen. Love was not enough, could not fix everything - but one night could be enough for love.
He gave neither of them the chance to back out, his mouth found hers and claimed what he had coaxed before. She loved his kisses, his taste, the absolutely overwhelming power that took all, invaded all and left no space for thought. His taste, reminiscent of so many other encounters, of a past long gone, was a presence in her mind, a spark to ignite passion she had lost with anyone but him. The touch of his hands gliding along her flanks, pulling the band from her hair and burying into the mass was an aphrodisiac in itself. And suddenly the only thing which mattered was the feeling of his skin, the impediment his clothes presented to her questing hands. She was impatient with his shirt, almost certainly losing one of the cufflinks as she tried to drag it down his arms. He let her take control until he had lost his suit jacket, tie and shirt to her attack, until she had tasted the skin of his chest but when she reached for his belt he gathered her wrists in his hand and held them at her back.
“I want you now - hard and fast.” No way around it - it was a whine.
“If you think I will take my wife against the wall of the hallway after not having seen her for ten months, you are thoroughly mistaken.”
“I need you.”
She was not even embarrassed about the whine in her voice. He took her mouth in another hard kiss before whispering against her lips:
“You're going to behave and slow down, or do I have to tie you up?”
The heat pooling in her womb at this suggestion was immediate and, damn him, he knew her too well. His rough laughter stroked over her skin.
“Oh, we will definitely revisit that idea - but, Sweetheart, we are both too impatient today.”
He turned her to be able to open the zipper on her dress as well as limiting the access her impatient hands had on his body. She wanted to hate him for this but all emotion was overtaken by his hands cupping her breasts. Sex was a skill and a skill that needed to be mastered. Long familiarity with a partner allowed a level of expertise no new encounter could match - and he had long since learnt to play her like a virtuoso. She lost all coherence as his fingers circled her nipples, rolled them between the pads. His mouth nibbled and bit, licked and teased along the sensitive curve of her nape, her shoulder - and she could not reach him. Through the fabric of his trousers she could feel the long hard length of him against the curve of her buttock, teasing and tantalising. Her skin became so sensitive the rasp of the cloth separating them rose to almost painful levels. Held as she was against his front she had no recourse, no way of reaching him. In desperation she rubbed her ass over him and was rewarded with a groan - and a stinging bite at her neck. She was the one laughing now.
“Changed your mind yet?”
She felt the growl through her back, felt the frantic moves with which he opened his trousers and shoved them down. He parted her legs with his, forceful and lost to all reason. But still she felt the controlled care with which he entered her, the almost painful restraint he leashed his desire with as he allowed her body to adjust to his invasion.
She turned her head to meet his mouth in a sweet kiss.
“We can do slow later.”
Permission silently asked and granted he let go - and it was fast, and hard, and utterly glorious.
“I thought this time you had finally given up on me.”
They had made it to the bed eventually and in the darkness of the room, the safety of his arms around her, his strong body shielding her back against the world, she could finally voice her deepest fear.
His voice was an unyielding, unquestionable sword in the dark, cutting through her layers of guilt and regret.
“Jasper, this is not a way of life.”
“Aren’t you the scientist here? Evidence would prove you wrong here.”
She felt his smile against her skin as he kissed her shoulder.
“It is not a healthy way of life for you.” She needed to make her point, needed to convince him.
”It is what I chose. The chance of a life with you is more than worth the risk. And every time you run, you run less far, less fast. I have hope.”
This man in his unshakable confidence in her humbled her; he humbled her in his ability to simply be, accept and fight at the same time. She was quiet for a long time, caught in her own overwhelming emotion. She was sure he had fallen asleep when she spoke next.
“What if I can never stop?”
“Then I will never stop following you.”
According to the medical examiner’s report, as communicated to them by the two detectives from the Vienna homicide division, this was most likely the moment when, eight floors below them, an assailant entered her room and brutally murdered the colleague with whom she was had agreed to share during the conference. There had been so much blood none of the rooms contents were untouched. And there had been a message.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/wife-lovers/too-far-to-run.aspx">Too far to run</a>