He focused on the lines and curves of her. The obvious ones, yeah, but also the little details. He looked at her so carefully as if he could categorize every movement she made and store them in the library of his brain. She’d have to have her own wing; all things Gillian Foster . There was so much of her that he had yet to understand, even though he was trying. He was always trying.
Only he didn’t know what combination of lines and curves to look for, didn’t know how to see love on the face. What ratio of ‘I care about you’ and ‘I need you’ and ‘I want you’ made for love? What did he have to do to make her love him?
He sometimes thought that maybe she did love him as much as he loved her. He had the proof. Maybe. Or maybe it was just all wishful thinking. Maybe she just loved him in that platonic way friends loved each other, or family. Maybe she just loved him with all the pity she held for how miserable he was. Maybe she just offered him this hope of love because she knew how badly he needed it, how much he tried to convince himself he didn’t deserve it. But he had been looking. He had been more than looking really; he had been evaluating. He had been flashing numbers in his head as he watched her face move - 3E, 4C, 1A. What did it mean? It was all so confusing.
But Gillian had just, she’d just smiled at him in that blinding way that made him smile too, made him grin like a bloody fool. She had lost something, lost her friend. They were sat so close, the length of her thigh touched gently to his and her hand rested over the tense muscle. He had her so close that all he could smell was her hair all floral and sweet. And he’d been cracking jokes just to get her to smile. He just didn’t imagine it’d be that one - that maybe-I-love-you smile. That you’re-my-idiot smile. That don’t-change-and-please-don’t-leave smile. He’d just been joking about Claire’s more or less, but he’d be lying if he said there were no layers, no parallels. He had to believe that when she said it was the best you could hope for, she meant it. Oh because it squeezed his chest up tight to think that maybe she meant it like that. But it was the wrong time to ask. It might always be the wrong time.
Gillian was a strong woman. She’d remember Claire, but she’d recover from the pain. And maybe then … No. Cal shook his head to himself. It didn’t work that way. As he watched her from just outside her office, he knew that maybes were generally nos, soft lies meant to spare feelings. He knocked a quick few taps on the glass and pushed the door open.
“Hey,” he said as he came in.
From this angle, he could see her black dress was the same she’d worn that day so long ago, when Matheson had held a gun to his head while she begged. He lingered on the steep V of the wire boning that gave the neckline its shape, hoping it would draw incorrect assumptions. It was better than saying what he’d thought, bringing pain back for her too.
“You’re staring,” she said.
She’d lowered her brows into a mock menacing glare. There was concern in it. So she had seen.
“Did you need something?” Gillian asked, her amusement flashing something a lot closer to understanding.
He waggled his brows teasingly. “What are you offering?”
Gillian rolled her eyes and her mouth stretched into a gorgeous smile. Cal was forced to remember the reason they’d formed this line in the first place.
They’d always curved around each other, spun in each other’s orbits. But with the way he circled her, he always felt like the predator to her prey. He’d always felt like the closer he got, the more likely his path go awry and destroy her instead.
“Really darling, I just came to check in. And ask about the Carlson case.”
Gillian nodded to the tabletop before meeting his eyes.
“Well, everything’s good. Ria’s on Carlson now and she’s really proving herself on this one.”
He watched the stillness she’d forced over her face. And suddenly he was sure. What she was concealing had to be disappointment. The turned glance, down and away. The pressed line of her lips.
“Good, good,” he said. “And what about you?”
“I’ve had a good day,” she said.
Cal stood up, smirking. “Yeah?”
“Mm hmm,” Gillian said.
“You know, I had a rather good day too.”
“Oh?” Gillian raised her eyebrows.
The curve of her little dimple got tangled up in the lines that frame her smiling mouth, lines and curves existing on the same plane. He stepped closer, mirroring her expression, and reached a hand out to brush against the juncture. Her throat was long and elegant and he watched her swallow.
“And I’m sure it’s about to get better.”
She pressed into his hand rather than away, leaned her head back to meet his pursuit. He stepped right into the line instead of curling around it, instead of circling her like prey. He leaned closer, eyes on the tendons in her neck, the curve of her collarbone, her jaw. When he looked at her parted mouth, he knew they were meant to exist on the same plane. He touched his lips to hers, smiling brightly as they shattered every shape.