This may be Caroline’s competitive side speaking but there’s no way she’s going to lose on her morning fucking commute.
Elena and Bonnie just don’t understand. This isn’t just some random member of the general public making a nuisance of himself. This is war.
Every day on her way to work, Caroline sees the same faces that she always has for the past two years, since she started working for The New York Times. People who get on or off at the same subway stops she does, or buy coffee at the same vendor on Eighth Avenue just before she enters the lobby. There’s Louboutin Lady, who has an array of the to-die-for-shoes, the beautiful Ballet Dancer who gets off three stops before Caroline does and the Coffee Traitor, who works at Starbucks but always has a Dunkin Donuts cup.
Then there’s him.
Up until today he’s just been another New York commuter in the great city’s rich landscape. She’s never been able to come up with a name for him because there’s no stable characteristic. Sometimes he’s on the phone or has a folder under one arm. Once she saw him with a load of Fifth Avenue bags telling his friend that he loved his sister but he’d cut up all her credit cards if it got her to leave town. So at least he’s a family man. He’s damn good looking too; toned muscles, tight blonde curls and blue eyes. He’s just a little taller than her, with long legs which are always encased in dark wash designer jeans. She’s often got tickets to New York’s Fashion Week, she knows these things.
Carrie Bradshaw eat your heart out.
But anyway. It’s the long legs that Caroline blames. It’s why he’s been in front of her every morning for the past two years and its always why Caroline’s determined to win. He joins the sea of people headed to Eighth Avenue a little ahead of her, but Caroline due to her shorter stature and trying to push past tourists walking at a glacial pace in high heels is always three steps behind him. Meaning she gets stopped by the lights and he doesn’t.
But this morning something must have disrupted him because as she’s walking along having already counted off Louboutin Lady, Ballet Dancer and Coffee Traitor, the blonde speed walker is nowhere in sight. She’d looked left and right and hadn’t been able to see him. It was only when she’d felt someone whiz past her that she’d noticed the familiar blonde curls and leather jacket beside her left elbow.
The bastard had actually ran to get in front of her. Once he was a few paces in front he’d turned and stopped. She can still remember him clear as day winking at her and saying “I’ve been winning for two years, can’t stop now Sweetheart. Have a good day, see you same time tomorrow” before jogging off again.
As she recounts this to the girls, who are lying around the living room in various states of exhaustion, she waits for their strategic advice. Elena, who is entirely horizontal on one of the sofas, her feet resting in her elder sister’s lap is the first to speak.
“Care, I think you might be overreacting”
Caroline glares at her in response. Honestly she doesn’t know what she was expecting. Elena was always the peacemaker ever since they were babies. She always feels bad but Kat’s nickname of ‘Saint Elena’ does make her giggle, even if she always does leap to Elena’s defence. And, in fairness, Elena has just finished her rotation for the day in the ER, so Caroline can’t expect her to be at full fighting fitness. Instead she turns to Kat, who miraculously has stopped texting for once. In the city that never sleeps, Elena’s big sister makes full use of every avenue. She sleeps with her phone, although from all the A list parties she gets invited to, and the parade of guys she’s brought home at 5am, none of them are actually sure Katherine ever does sleep.
“Is he good looking?”
Elena snorts at Katherine’s priorities and gets her toes pinched in reaction. Before the Petrova sisters can completely ruin the evening by descending into their trademark bickering, Bonnie intercedes thank God.
“I think what we’re all interested to know is, why are you reacting so strongly to what was obviously just some jackass being cocky on his way to work? If you see him tomorrow just ignore him”
Caroline looks around at the three girls who have known her for her entire life. Have gotten her through every grade at school, every break-up, her parents messy divorce, even that whole thing with Tyler last fall. She should have called Enzo, she thinks petulantly.
“Because Bonnie, the guy has never spoken to me in two years but he’s noticed me. He initiated a challenge. No strike that, the guy has been beating me at a challenge I didn’t even know I was part of. I didn’t win Travel Journalist of the Year for the last three years straight by being some push over”
Caroline sits down once more, feeling her point adequately made. Taking a hearty sip of her vodka and lemonade she mentally reviews her wardrobe, mapping out an outfit she can wear that will work with her trainers and a pair of actual work shoes she can change into in the ladies restrooms at work.
Enzo [8.40 am]: Slow and Steady Gorgeous J xx
Caroline knows Enzo’s being sarcastic but she can’t help but appreciate the text all the same. She’d called him last night to ask his opinion. Given that it was all harmless really and she wasn’t about to take up her best friend’s offer of getting her laid to relieve the evident tension she must be feeling (the asshole was lucky he was in Chicago with his band so she couldn’t physically punch him) he’d been more supportive than the girls.
Gorgeous [8.41am]: Already on the starting blocks coach xx
Gorgeous [8.42am]: Now stop distracting me. I can see Luscious in Leather now xx
Enzo [8.43am]: Luscious in Leather?! Are you sure you don’t want to shag this guy?! Xx
Gorgeous [8.44am]: ENZO I WILL NOT LOSE BECAUSE OF YOUR BRITISHISMS
Gorgeous [8.44am]: XX
Tucking her phone back into her bag, Caroline picks up the pace, jogging along the two blocks it normally takes her after the subway to spot Blonde and British. Sure enough, she sees him swanning along at his regular pace. He’s just about to hit the street lights so Caroline puts a spurt of speed on and dashes past him. For a minute she thinks it’s a wasted effort beyond her own satisfaction (which is important but it isn’t enough. She needs this guy to know he’s been beaten) and that he hasn’t seen her.
That is until Caroline hears a roar of laughter down the street and the sound of rapid footfalls coming closer.
“Wait! Wait love!” Caroline turns – the runner’s cardinal sin – and spots her intended victim dashing after her. There are several commuters staring at them in mild interest over the outburst from the typical quiet shuffling of a morning. As much as she’s enjoying proving him wrong, she does hope she hasn’t started something she’ll have to continue doing for the foreseeable future. Hell please say she doesn’t have to jog to work every morning from now on. Elena must never know or there’ll be no living with her after this.
The guy practically blurs past her she stops so abruptly. Ducking his head with an embarrassed smile, he wheels round and trots back over until they’re standing face to face.
If Caroline thought he was good looking from a distance he’s delectable up close. You could cut yourself on those cheekbones Kat notes in her head.
And here she is; the picture of determination all red cheeks and hair a mess with the humidity. Fuck, fuck, this is what I fucking get for being a competitive little shit
“I’m Klaus. And what may I ask is the name of my conqueror?”
“Caroline. Nice to make your acquaintance” she sticks out her hand, direct to a fault, pasting on her best Miss Mystic smile.
Klaus returns the smile, in a small and secretive manner, looking absurdly pleased by the morning’s events. Oh well. At least he has a sense of humour.
“The pleasure is all mine” and – no wonder Brits have such the reputation, the smooth fucker takes her hand and actually turns it over in order to bring her knuckles to his mouth.
Lord have mercy.
“You don’t like losing do you Caroline?”
“I like winning, if that’s what you mean” she retorts and shit when did she get so bad at flirting that she had to fling back every question in the guy’s face?!
Hadn’t she just asked for mercy?!
Klaus throws his head back and laughs and Caroline feels a press on her hand. A quick look down confirms that he’s still got a hold of her, both of his large, artistic hands (not going there, Caroline, so not going there this early in the morning) wrapped around hers.
“Oh. Caroline. What’ve I got to do to get your number?”
Caroline grins, a genuine one this time as the zinger comes to rest on her tongue.
“Make me” and with a quick squeeze of Klaus’ hand, Caroline swans off before she can think this through too deeply (any longer staring into those blue eyes and she’ll be late for work) tossing a wink over her shoulder as she lets the crowds of New York swallow her whole.