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The last meeting ended at 3pm the next day and Anna found she had some space in her schedule to fill. One of the clients had offered to show her around Paris, but his motives had seemed less than honourable so she’d politely declined the invitation. There was a small risk she might have offended him, but frankly Anna was past caring at the moment. The way things were heading, it seemed likely that she would be looking for another job imminently. After the way she’d reacted last night, he was probably drawing up her P45 right now.
A small part of her brain irritatingly suggested that she’d perhaps overreacted last night, but she squashed it firmly. ‘No men’ was her motto and she had managed to stick to it fairly successfully so far. She certainly had no intention of allowing Sean to be her Waterloo just yet.
The busy Paris streets were teeming with late afternoon traffic and Anna stood enjoying the sun for a few moments, wondering what to do and where to go. There were lots of places to see and she was torn as she flicked through an old guide book she’d brought with her. Finally she decided on a trip to the Louvre; it had been many years since her last visit and it would be a relaxing way to kill a couple of hours.
A short time later Anna found herself wandering round the second floor galleries, losing all sense of time amongst the Old Masters. It was quiet and there were very few people about other than a few museum staff sat watching the rooms, slumped in boredom on their small gilt chairs. She walked slowly through the rooms, completely immersed in the paintings and feeling the tension of the last couple of weeks falling away.
When a voice spoke to her, it startled her. Somehow she wasn’t surprised to see Sean standing next to her looking slightly pale. He had the knack of popping up in her life whenever she least expected it so why would today be any different?
“Hey,” he said, pointedly not looking at her.
“Hey,” she replied, not looking at him either.
They both gazed in studied fascination at the Gericault on the wall before them. Anna could feel every nerve in her body tuning into him, alert to his slightest movement. The problem was, her body was crying out to be touched and it was only her mind that was fighting the urge.
Sean could smell her subtle perfume as she stood next to him. He was actually rather relieved that she hadn’t screamed for security and gotten him thrown out already. He still wasn’t sure what had even brought him to the Louvre. He was normally much too busy for site-seeing trips and he had never bothered with the Louvre before. But today he’d been at a loose end and rather than change his flight to an earlier one, he’d decided to stick it out in the hope of seeing Anna again.
He hadn’t expected to bump into her like this, but maybe fate was taking a hand in things. God knew he certainly needed a helping hand the way he’d been messing things up lately. Another couple walked into the gallery chattering away loudly and he suddenly wished he could be alone with Anna. There were so many things he needed to say to her and this was neither the time nor the place.
“Do you think you might like to come and have a coffee with me?” he asked warily, expecting a blistering knock back.
Anna contemplated his question for a minute while she admired the intricate brush strokes detailing the sailors adrift on a raft in the painting.
“Alright.” She said simply. Coffee would be good and she was feeling rather more magnanimous today. Ok so he’d been out of order last night, but she actually did fancy a coffee now he’d mentioned it and it was a woman’s prerogative to be fickle.
Sean thought he’d misheard her for a moment. Why the sudden thawing in her attitude? Last night he’d been spawn of Satan and now she was agreeing to go for a coffee with him? Women were a mystery to him at the best of times and this particular woman was certainly proving challenging!
“Shall we go to the café here? Or would you prefer to go somewhere else…” he asked hesitantly, still reeling in surprise that she hadn’t told him to go fuck himself again.
“Here will be fine. The café’s on the lower ground floor are open until 5.30pm” she offered helpfully.
They left the gallery and headed downstairs together. Sean couldn’t help but admire Anna’s shapely legs in her dark stockings and tailored skirt, but he reminded himself that she had only agreed to a coffee. He couldn’t afford to upset her again so it was strictly hands off for now. Damn she was sexy though…
Because it was fairly late in the afternoon, the café was pretty much deserted. Sean paid for two cappuccinos and they sat down at a table on the far side of the room. Anna played with the froth on the top of the coffee and wondered briefly why she was here. She surreptitiously watched him through her fringe and noted the dark circles under his eyes. He must have had a bad night, she thought with a slight twinge of guilt. Still, he had deserved it she added, remembering Anadolu Yakası Escort the way he had interfered last night.
Sean sipped the hot liquid and tried not to stare at Anna too blatantly. She looked a whole lot better than he felt today. His hangover had lingered on most of the morning despite the bracing walk round miles of footpaths in an attempt to clear his head. He had attempted to buy some painkillers in a pharmacy, but his French was non existent and the Pharmacist had stubbornly refused to comprehend what he was asking for, so after a frustrating fifteen minutes he’d given up and left.
“How did the meetings go today?” he asked eventually, figuring he was on safe ground if he stuck to work for the time being.”
“Very well I think. They liked the idea’s I suggested and with a few small changes to the contract, I think we have them on board” Anna replied, before adding “I wasn’t too keen on Monsieur Chiraque though – he was a little too friendly.” Her eyes narrowed as she recalled the small mans lecherous stares and not so subtle innuendo thrown into conversation during the coffee breaks they’d had.
Sean inwardly bristled in outrage. How dare the man behave in such an unprofessional manner with his employee! He chose to forget of course that he had behaved in a less than professional manner himself.
“Don’t worry about him.” Sean growled angrily, “I’ll have a word with the Director; he won’t be trying that again!”
Anna hid a smile; would the man never learn to stop interfering in her life?
“I am more than capable of dealing with creeps like that!” she stated firmly, fixing him with a hard look.
Sean looked down into his coffee, realising that he had made the same mistake again. He just couldn’t seem to help himself; she aroused his manly protective instincts every single time. She also aroused a lot of other instincts but it was better not to think about those right now.
“Sorry,” he apologised meekly. “I keep on jumping in, don’t I?”
Anna accepted his apology gracefully. She wasn’t in the mood to argue with him. All of a sudden she felt much mellower towards him. Maybe it was the subtle Parisian atmosphere working its romantic charm on her defences. She wasn’t sure why exactly but somewhere between last night and now, she had warmed up considerably.
They resumed their conversation about work and the outcome of the meetings – no mention of Monsieur Chiraque this time; Sean wasn’t about to stick his foot in his mouth all over again. Gradually the staff began clearing up around them in a subtle reminder that the museum was soon closing.
“I think they are hinting that we need to go,” commented Anna as she looked around and realised that the café was now deserted except for the staff and them.
“Yes it’s getting late. Come on, we’ll take a taxi back to the hotel.” Sean agreed, draining the last of his coffee.
* * *
The sky was darkening as they walked into the elegant foyer, Anna’s heels clacking loudly on the Italian marble mosaic floor. Sean walked with her into the lift and turned to look at her hesitantly when she pressed the button for her floor.
“I realise you probably have plans, but I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me this evening?” Silently he crossed his fingers behind his back and pasted a neutral expression on his face although he was willing her to agree with every fibre of his being.
The lift moved silently up through the floors, briefly stopping to allow two elderly ladies to step in. Anna hesitated with her response. She was torn. Part of her knew she should say no; he was her boss and they had already overstepped the mark twice before. The reckless part of her screamed YES!
The lift door opened on her floor and she stepped out, turning to look at him. “Ok.” She said as the door slid shut behind her. She just caught a faint smile as he disappeared from sight and she wondered what on earth she was playing at. It’s only a dinner, she reminded herself. What could possibly happen at dinner?
* * *
Sean stood in the lobby feeling like a teenager on a first date, nervous as hell with his palms all sweaty. He glanced at his watch and tried to appear nonchalant. It wasn’t working. Every time the lifts opened he jumped to see if it was Anna. She had agreed to meet him a 7pm and he had booked a table in a nearby restaurant for 8pm but it was now 7.10pm and she was late. He just hoped she hadn’t changed her mind and decided not to show.
Anna dabbed some lipstick on and studied her reflection in the full-length mirror. She was well aware she was running late, but she figured it wouldn’t kill him to have to wait fifteen minutes or so. She had agonised over what to wear and eventually had chosen a simple black dress. Not that she’d had a lot of choice given that she was in a hotel with only a small bag of essential items. Luckily she’d packed this dress just in case. And this was a classic just in case moment. Her reflection Anadolu Yakası Escort Bayan told her she looked good and she smiled at herself. Chances were that this date (for want of a better word) was a terrible idea, but she was going to give Sean one last chance to redeem himself. If he behaved then they had a chance of working together. If he didn’t, then she had decided to resign from her job upon her return to the UK. She knew she would have no trouble finding another job and if all else failed; she could always go back to Molly for some temporary work. It wouldn’t be ideal but it would pay the bills.
Sean turned again just as Anna walked out of the lift, her dress swishing silkily around her legs. She looked beautiful and he wasn’t the only man to gaze at her admiringly. For a moment his heart missed a beat but he forced himself to remember that this dinner was simply a dinner and no more.
“Hello, sorry I’m late.” She smiled sweetly as she stood in front of him finally.
“That’s ok, I haven’t been waiting long. I’ve booked a table for 8pm – hope that’s ok with you?” It was a struggle saying anything intelligible; she looked so damned hot he was almost struck dumb. Tonight was going to be a battle of wills – good behaviour versus lust.
Anna nodded her assent politely and they headed outside into the cool night air to find a taxi.
* * *
The restaurant he’d chosen (upon the advice of the concierge), was charming. Tables were small and intimate; the waiters solicitous without being annoying. Luckily for him the menu was in English as well as French although he learned to his surprise that Anna could speak French fluently.
“Where did you learn?” he asked admiringly – he hadn’t recalled that fact from her HR file.
“My mother was French and we spent several holidays on a farm near Lyon, staying with her brother and his family.” She smiled at him over the menu.
The handsome waiter appeared to check if they were ready, smiling slightly longer at Anna than was strictly necessary, much to Sean’s annoyance. He took their order and promptly disappeared again. Sean had asked for a bottle of red wine to accompany the food, but he definitely needed a stronger drink right now. He could barely think straight with Anna sat across from him – she was far too distracting.
The food arrived and they chatted about general things. Gradually Sean relaxed enough to be able to eat his food without choking on it. It was surprisingly good and he began to enjoy the evening. The wine was exceptional and before long they started a second bottle.
Anna sipped the ruby red liquid and enjoyed the taste of its complex flavours as they slid down her throat. She took another bite of her chicken dish and decided that she was actually having a good time, rather against all her initial expectations. Sean was behaving himself and so far he’d been a complete gentleman. Maybe she had misjudged him? Then she recalled his behaviour last night and figured, maybe not. However, tonight his manners were exemplary.
“So, tell me some more about your family, where are you from? You have a slightly northern accent.” Sean asked curiously, glancing down as his fork delved into another piece of fish. As a result he missed the pain flicker across Anna’s face like a dark cloud across the sun.
“My parents are dead.” She replied quietly, pushing her food around the plate. “My sister and I spent our teenage years in Yorkshire on our Grandparents farm, up in the dales.”
Sean looked up in surprise, “Oh I had no idea, I’m so sorry.” He felt his heart contract in pain for her. She looked so vulnerable sat there; he wished he could take her in his arms and make it better again. “Where is your sister now?”
For a minute Anna didn’t reply. The whole subject of Kerry was a difficult one and she never talked about it with anyone as a rule. The trouble was she could feel her defences slipping in the wake of several glasses of wine and the surprisingly sympathetic company. She knew Sean hadn’t meant to pry and a large part of her wanted to tell him the whole story, but… it was hard.
“Look, I’m sorry – I don’t mean to pry. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he said, reaching out and covering her small hand with his own large one.
She looked up at him, her pale turquoise eyes staring deeply into his blue ones. He felt like he was under a microscope for a moment, like she was searching for something infinitesimal.
“It’s ok,” she relied suddenly. “I know you didn’t mean to pry – it’s just a difficult subject for me and I don’t usually talk about it…” her voice trailed off and he squeezed the hand that remained under his. She responded with a small smile of gratitude and he felt his heart tighten once again.
“Our Grandparents were quite old when our parents were killed. They took us on, but it was difficult for them. I was fourteen and Kerry was twelve. She took it harder than me and by the time she was Escort Anadolu Yakası fifteen, she was totally out of control. She fell in with the wrong crowd and got involved with all sorts of bad stuff.
“I left for University when I was eighteen and she ran away a few months later. There was talk of some older bloke she’d been seen about with but none of her friends knew where she’d disappeared to – or at least they weren’t saying. The police couldn’t help; she was sixteen by then. Two years later we finally found her – she was addicted to heroin and was living on the streets in Bradford. It was pure chance that someone we knew saw her and told us where she was.
“I persuaded her to come home but our Grandparents couldn’t cope with her and she left again. She took everything they had and sold it to pay for her drugs. She tried to kick the habit but some habits are hard to break. Eventually she had a complete mental breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric hospital.
“The extra money I earn pays for treatment at a private clinic. I wasn’t happy with the care she was receiving at the hospital and as she’s my sister, what else was I going to do? I couldn’t abandon her; I’m all she has now. Our Grandparents died within months of each other last year. We take one day at a time and she’s slowly recovering. She’s always going to need extra help, but at least she’s not dead.”
Anna drained her glass of wine and poured another one. “I think that just about covers my family, how about yours?” she asked brightly.
Sean reached out and took hold of her hand, squeezing it hard. “You are not alone Anna,” he said quietly. “If you need anything, and I do mean ANYTHING – you only have to ask. I say that not as your boss, but as your friend.”
Tears pricked her eyes and the wall she’d built up over the years began to crumble slightly. “Thanks, that means a lot to me,” she replied with a small smile. And it did; more than she thought possible. It was the first time she’d told all this to anyone new. It felt surprisingly cathartic to talk about it all and for the first time in ages, the enormous weight she’d been carrying about for so long seemed a little lighter. For that she was grateful.
“So tell me about your wife…” Anna asked lightly.
“Wife?” Sean replied blankly. Then he recalled the disastrous way their meeting in his office had ended and the penny dropped. “My dear wife Diane and I have been divorced three years now,” he said with a grim expression.
Anna was surprised to feel a sense of elation at this piece of information. “I’m sorry,” she said, not meaning it in the slightest.
“Oh don’t be…” Sean smiled. “She still gives me grief and I still give her cash.” He rolled his eyes ruefully. “Our daughter lives with her – but I see her as often as I can.”
“And I bet you spoil her rotten!” Anna grinned. The notion of him being a father was a surprising one. It was also a nice one and she could sense her feelings towards him shifting imperceptibly. Was this a good thing? She wasn’t sure – time would tell.
They talked all the way through dessert and another bottle of wine. It felt like they’d known each other forever by the time they left the restaurant and Anna hadn’t had so much fun in ages. By the time they returned to the hotel it was late and she was yawning slightly. When Sean followed her out of the lift and said it was only polite to walk her to her door; she couldn’t be bothered to argue with him.
The corridor seemed endless as they walked slowly down towards her room. A little too much alcohol had blurred the edges of her vision and she felt fluffy and light headed. Sean held her arm firmly in his grasp and for that she was grateful since it was a certainly she would fall over if he didn’t.
“Room 474,” he announced eventually. “I do believe this is your door?”
Anna stopped and examined the number with the intense scrutiny of the slightly pissed.
“Yep,” she agreed. “It’s mine…”
Sean hid a smile. “Well I’d better say good night then…”
Anna didn’t reply – she was too busy trying to locate her key card in her bag. Where was the darned thing? Eventually she found it and the door opened. Turning back to Sean, she said, “Thanks for a lovely evening.” On impulse she leant forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. He tasted of wine and she lingered there, enjoying the flavour of his mouth. Big mistake she soon realised, when he pulled her close and crushed her body against his chest, deepening the kiss until her head spun and her senses whirled in a maelstrom of desire.
The alcohol flooding through her veins only served to remove her inhibitions. Had she been sober she would have said “good night” and shut the door on him. That was the trouble with drinking too much wine – she wasn’t used to it.
Sean knew he was taking advantage of her slightly inebriated condition, but he couldn’t stop himself from kissing her. Her body melted into his, her arms snaking around his neck and pulling him even closer than he already was. He could hear the small animal noises she was making in response and his good intentions were put under intense pressure. The right thing to do would be to walk away but his libido had other ideas. His cock was rock hard and causing him serious problems. The way Anna was grinding into him wasn’t exactly helping matters.
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