I was exhausted. It had been a long day at my new office; the day spent trying to play catch-up as the new kid at the firm and also to New York City. Everyday, it seemed, there was some essential facet of New York culture or humor I couldn’t get. Added to that my stress from the job itself, and I was wiped out.
At the front door to my apartment, I juggled my briefcase, a bottle of merlot, and my mail while trying to put the key in the lock.
I shoved the wrong key into the lock, the one from my old boyfriend’s apartment in Atlanta instead of mine. The bottle of wine in its paper bag shifted, began slipping through my hands.
“Let me help you with that,” a low male voice said a moment before strong hands rescued the bottle from my floundering grasp.
“Thank you.” I barely glanced up at my Sir Galahad as I tried to keep the mail from hitting the floor.
I relinquished the bottle only to have the mail go flying.
“Oh great…” I groaned with exasperation as the coupons and bills flew like confetti at my feet.
I looked up from picking up my mail and caught my breath. It was the gorgeous new guy in the building. I’d noticed him as he moved into the apartment down the hall a few weeks ago. At the time, I thought he had a lot of things for a single man, nearly a dozen chairs, large mirrors, a few paintings, and a cute little bistro table I caught myself admiring almost as much as I had admired him.
Up close, he was even more gorgeous than I thought. Big, melting brown eyes, a neatly clipped beard that framed a full and sensual mouth, a slim but muscular body apparent under the white dress shirt and slacks he wore. He had his jacket draped over his arm, my bottle of wine clenched in his fist.
“I’m Dana,” I said, smiling. Mail safely secured under my arm, I stood straight, shoving out the full curve of my breasts so it was more apparent against my pale yellow blouse. I was glad I’d worn my stilettos from the train instead of exchanging them for my ballet flats as I would normally do on the ride from work.
As I reached out to shake his hand, I noticed his wedding band, a platinum flash against his dark skin. I flinched on the inside, my stomach dropping in disappointment. Consciously I scaled back my welcoming smile, made it more friendly, less sexy.
“Nick. Pleased to meet you.” His handshake was firm and warm.
His dark eyes seemed tired, just like I imagined mine looked.
“You should be careful there.” He lifted the recued bottle of wine. “Precious cargo.”
“Exactly. I need that tonight.” I unlocked the apartment and stood in the mouth of the open door.
“I understand,” he said, handing me the bottle of wine. “This city can be tough on a working stiff.”
I looked at him again, noticing the exhaustion in his face, a hint of loneliness in his posture. Although I’d noticed his couple-seeming furniture and now with his wedding ring clearly marking him as off-limits, I realized I hadn’t seen a woman coming and going in that apartment. Maybe he was a widow. Maybe that was why he looked so lonely.
“You want to come in and share a glass?” I asked the question quickly before I could think better of it.
A look of surprise crossed his face, then he smiled. “It would be a pleasure. Thank you.”
I opened the door wider and he followed my inside. My apartment was just like I’d left it earlier that morning. A mess. I blushed as I walked into the small space, picking up the sweats draped across the couch, tucked the Wii remote on the shelf under the flat screen TV.
“Sorry about the mess. I just moved to New York by myself. I never expect any company.” I looked around; glad I hadn’t left out any dirty underwear or food. “Have a seat on the couch. I’ll get some glasses for the wine.”
I pulled open the shades to let in the last of the late afternoon sun, bathing the apartment in a warm golden glow.
“Do you need any help?” he asked. “I’m very handy around wine glasses and things like that. My wife practically trained me.”
I bit my lip at the mention of his wife. “Where is your wife,” I asked.
“Still in Miami dealing with a few last minute things for her job. She’ll be here soon.”
“You must get lonely here without her.”
“You have no idea.” His response was heartfelt. For a moment, he looked embarrassed at being so honest in front of a stranger. Then he shrugged.
He followed me into the kitchen, standing at a decent distance from me but I still felt the warmth radiating from his body as he leaned against the counter across from me in the small kitchen.
I swallowed. Cheese. We needed cheese.
I opened the fridge and took out baby swiss and sharp cheddar. “Since you’re so handy in the kitchen, you slice these up.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled, some of the fatigue draining from his eyes. He looked much more animated than he had in the hallway.
While he sliced the cheese, I stretched to the top cupboard for the wine glasses. To my surprise, I felt his warm eyes on my back, on the tight pull of the skirt across my butt, my long legs in the high heels.
So the attraction was mutual, I thought. Even more dangerous. I felt my heart speed up.
“Let’s have our wine and cheese in the living room,” I said.
I desperately needed the space to get away from my attraction for him. In the confines of the small kitchen, I could smell his cologne, the hints of sweat from his long work day. My palms itched to touch him.
Back off. He’s married! I tried to reason with the little devil doing a dance inside my panties every time he drew near. But the little devil wasn’t listening. She wanted to lie in his lap and drink from him like a straw.
In the living room, I poured red wine for both of us and sat on the armchair, deliberately avoiding the couch where two bodies could comfortably sit together, slide closer to each other. Nick deposited the platter of cheese and crackers on the coffee table between us and sat back in the couch.
“You have a nice place here,” he said. “Simple. Uncluttered. I like it.”
“Thanks. Although I’m sure your place is much more interesting. Much warmer.”
“It would be if Rose was here. But since she isn’t, it just feels lonely.” He sipped his merlot, staring into the distance for a moment before refocusing on me. “But I didn’t come over here to talk about my sad life, tell me about you.”