Three more rounds of tests were required before he could determine the most plausible trajectory of the bullet. Just finished shooting the first bullet for the last round, he was distracted by the disturbing red flash on the opposite wall. Normally, no one would call on him at this hour in the afternoon. Clients would never pay a visit without an appointment. Probably, it might be one of his neighbors who needed to borrow a tool to fix their mowers or start their tractors, but the screen of his CCTV begged to differ as to who was now standing at his door, the last person he expected to see since that day at her firm. His heart palpitated at the sight of her on the screen. Eyes hidden behind her sunglasses, he could not figure her expression, but the composed manners and tightly-pressed fuchsia lips reminded him of the similar condescension and nonchalance that she did not bother concealing throughout the deposition, unless it was her blatant intention to humiliate him. His heart hardened recollecting the cumulated anger inside him when she relentlessly bombed provoking questions on him to devalue his findings, to undercut his credibility and to mock his professionalism. Dismissing the part of himself that had been longing for her appearance for the past few days, he tried to neglect the growing desire for her expected apology and resume his tests by shooting another bullet. But that vicious red light started flashing unnervingly again.
On the settlement of the case, she didn’t think much before leaving the office immediately and driving toward the highroad. They hadn’t talked since that day he stormed out of her conference room followed by Cary who was also pissed and defeated. Not that both of them chose to be silent on the matter, it was just as many times as she tried, he didn’t answer his phone. He was mad at her, she knew. She thought that it was understood what it meant to be professional if they had to argue against each other on the case. It surprised her that he took it so personal as if he had no idea what to expect of her. It was all about work. He should have known that. She didn’t bother herself with any guilt or regret so long as she repeatedly convinced herself that she was just doing her job, but the disappointment and hurtfulness in his eyes before he left the conference table in evident rage kept haunting her, especially when she recalled the contrast look of shyness and tenderness on his face when he revealed his feelings for her just a day before the deposition. It bothered her more for not doing anything about his confession, for not reassuring him with her own feelings. As she waited in his barn with her mind semi-occupied by how to tell him that she felt the same way, the rumbling sound of the gate made her wince a little.
The crack was only wide enough to expose his presence. Taking off her glasses, she met his stare. She had already got used to his silence a few dates ago, the silence that she didn’t need to intentionally fill with conversation starters, the stoic look on his face that somehow she could better interpret than the actual words. Indifferent as he tried to look, the purposefulness of his attempt only did the opposite to reveal the reproach and indignation buried in his eyes. She could do nothing else but just return his stare with an expectant gaze until a slight hint of concession flit across his eyes. She shot him a charming smile as he pushed the gate just wide enough for her to step in sideways. He leaned away to make more room, but it was still so close that the scent of her hair and perfume instantly softened his strained nerves and almost made him forget why he was angry with her. How could he ever be mad at her when that irresistible confidence in her bright eyes and artless grace in her composure brought waves of warm feelings to take over his chest? Slightly licking his pressed lips, he tried to strengthen himself.
“Am I interrupting you?” Eyeing the gun, goggle and earmuff on the platform, she asked a little apologetically but received no answer. He walked past her to fetch another set and handed her the goggle in silence, which she put on skillfully.
“Oh, okay.” Before she could reach for the earmuff, she was caught off guard when he raised the earmuff and put it over her head. His face was stern still but his movement of tucking her hair behind her ears was so patient and gentle. The corners of her mouth lifted to form a restrained joyful smile. He deliberately dodged eye contact until he was done preparing for her. A transient softness flit across his face when he looked into her eyes but didn’t last as he swallowed unnoticeably and turned to get his own goggle and earmuff on.
Putting her coat and purse on the stool next to her, she stood feet away to drink him all in while he continued his tests. He straightened his back, slowly placed his arms at a certain angle and slightly tilted his head to aim. The flare of the gunshot was reflected on his goggle. The shooting recoil failed to cause any shudder of his broad shoulders. She had watched him shooting more than once. No handgun could make his arms shiver a bit, those same strong arms that could hold her so tightly that it would not matter if his fiery kiss buckled her knees and made her lose balance. Holding her own struggle toward guns, she was very repulsive when Kalinda taught her shooting for the first time, but once she fired the gun, the exhilaration and liberation of shooting the target were overwhelming as well as enticing. Inwardly, she hated the fact that she became fond of it, yet she never feel torn when watching him shooting. The blended swiftness and prudence in his movements when he assembled a pistol with skillful twists of his wrists and nimble folds of his long fingers made the process more like an artwork exhibition.
Tow months ago, she would find the idea ridiculous that she could be so attracted to a hardcore Republican, who was not only a firearm aficionado but also a Palin supporter. Yet, right now, she had to bite her lips to retain the desire to be held in his powerful arms, to be caressed by his large hands and to be kissed by those shapely lips. There was no doubt that she had feelings for him, very strong feelings, she had to admit. But to confess that meant they needed to discuss where they were in this relationship, if they could call it a relationship after five dates, which was quite a frequent arrangement given that they only knew each other for like seven weeks. Would it jeopardize what they were having now, which she had been enjoying very much, getting to know his interests, habits, temperament, arguing fiercely over politics and figuring out how to get out his good side? Inwardly, she also doubted sometimes whether this rapidly growing affection for him was purely a result of being mesmerized by novelty. Would that feeling fade away when they got to know each other better, on both sides? What she really worried about was whether he would still be interested if he found her values and how she functioned professionally were, eventually, too much to take, like this time.
He removed the magazine from the gun, put away the two parts on the other side of the platform and began to record the results on his computer. Knowing that the tests were finished, she took off the earmuff and goggle and placed them on the shelf near her. She knew she had to be the one who talk first, like always.
“So, is that for your case in Florida?” Tentatively, she asked.
Raising his eyes from the screen, he stared at her with that same stern expression.
“Why? You need information on that case, too?” He says sarcastically, making her heart tighten.
“Kurt, please. I was just doing my job.”
“I know, and I’m impressed.” His careless tone only made her feel worse.
“What did you expect me to do? Pretend not knowing what you told me during the test and cut you loose?”
“It’s not that.”
“What is it, then? My strategies of questioning a witness didn’t please you?”
“So, you tend to humiliate every opposite witness with that disparagement?”
“Dispara…what are you talking about?”
“You were so drawn to the victory that you did not even realize it, did you?” He smirked with bitterness in his tone.
“I’m sorry if you did feel that way, but I won’t apologize for how I do my job.”
“Then, why are you here, Diane?” His question caused her to gasp. Why did she have to drive all the way here?
“I…the State Attorney’s Office agreed to settle.”
“I knew that. Cary Argos called me.”
“You didn’t answer my calls, and about what you said the other day, I just…”
“Don’t worry about it.” He looked away and waved his hand in the air.
“I think we should talk.”
“No need to, I lied anyway.”
“You…” His unexpected reply almost choked her. The previous guilt was suddenly taken place by a strong feeling of being offended. Did he say that on purpose to hurt her? “You mean, you lied about having feelings for me?” Eyes glistening, she tried hard to hide the shock and hurt in her voice. “Sorry, I don’t follow, why would you lie about that if you don’t…”
“Because I’m in love with you for god’s sake.” Raising his voice, he blurted it out. His chest heaving slightly, his brows furrowed but his gaze at her softened. Curling his bottom lip between his teeth, somehow he looked relieved.
Astounded by what she just heard, she felt her heart almost racing to her throat. The trajectory of this conversation was indeed an emotionally bumping experience, from confusion and disappointment to astonishment.
The sudden silence seemed like an eternity and the air between them seemed frozen. Mouth slightly ajar, her widened eyes locked with his insecure and saddened ones.
“You can leave if you like.” Head down, he said in a low voice, leaning back against the platform.
This was not the way how he imagined he would say it. It must scare her. It had scared him too when he became aware of how he felt about her during the quite short acquaintance of theirs. Despite their disagreement on political stands, he found it unbelievably easy with her company, like they had known each other for so long, yet actually they only had several dinners and spent a few beautiful and incredible nights together. This was not his plan. He presumed that they sure would have an argument but he had no idea how the argument ended up as another confession when she hadn’t even responded to his disguised one yet. He must look crazy to her. It was over, he knew.
As he regretted his slip of the tongue with grief, her heels appeared in his sight of the floor. As her approaching steps kept closer, he raised his eyes to capture her stocking-clad knees, her dress and then her pearls. When he caught her lips, she was already standing right in front of him and gently placing her hands on his cheeks. Wearing a light smile with watery orbs, she looked into his eyes coyly before leaning in to press her lips softly on his. He almost flinched on the movement, but his arms automatically circled around her waist and ran his hands over the fabric of her expensive dress. He let her kiss him in her tender way, until he sensed the sudden tensing of her lips when she deepened the kiss to a sensual level, he slightly parted his mouth and embraced her tongue with his. Tilting his head, he tried to offer her a better access to his now burning lips. Fastening his arms around her, he kept her tightly against him. Why was he mad at her again? What was worrying him just now making him think this was definitely over? The sensation of their erotic kiss made him light-headed. Was this a goodbye kiss or was it an approval? He didn’t know, neither did he care to think about it now. Reveling in the fact that she was not going anywhere right now, all he could focus on was to keep her in his embrace and kiss her in the most loving way he could.
HE LOVES HER. If there were doubts about that, which had lingered in his mind a few days ago, now he could not be more certain about it. He could deal with his brewing anger without her presence, but holding her weight against his chest, measuring her frame with his hands, and tasting her sweetness on his lips, he totally gave in and all he was thinking about was that if only he could keep her by his side as long as he wanted and the idea that this kiss would end and that she would eventually leave seemed unbearable.
They finally broke the kiss for air. His eyes searched for her shadowed blue orbs. Her hands kept caressing his cheeks. He reached up to hold one of her hands and brushed the back of her hand with his fingers dearly.
“I won’t see you again, will I?”
“Why?” She shot him a teasing smile by arching an eyebrow.
“Because I am crazy.”
She gasped a soundless laugh.
“Old news. Message received when you prominently framed your photo with Palin.” She pressed a feather kiss on his lips to seal her words before leaning back to look at him intensively.
“When are you leaving for Florida again?”
“This Sunday. Care for a trip to the tropical?”
“You know I can’t do that.” A big grin crept on her face while she eyed his forehead and ran her fingers through the hair at his temple. “But I may send you to the airport and see you off.”
“See me off?” His eyes were widened with surprise.
“Yeah, like, you know, being your chauffeur, how about that?” Her radiant smile had him head over heels.
“If it’s not too much trouble.” His eyes lingered on her lips again.
“No, I think my schedule is clear that day, you know, if nothing else comes up.”
“Let’s hope so.”
He suddenly grasped her hips and flipped her over against the platform before pressing his weight on her. She laughed at the abruptness of their movement but tightly clutched her arms around his neck before pulling him closer. He followed and kissed her fully before feeling her hands skating down their way from his collars across his shirt and reaching for his belt buckle.
“Kurt? Have you heard me?”
“Yeah, yeah.” He is dragged from his thought.
“I said I couldn’t make it tonight. I know I told you I might get there for Friday night. But, um, last minute call. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning like we planned?”
“Well…” His heart sinks at her hesitation. He almost sees what is coming.
“Diane, it’s alright. Maybe, we can schedule some other time.” He tries to sound positive while he aimlessly rubs his fingers on the edge of the table.
“No, no, I’ll be there. It’s just, I need to depose Clarkson again tomorrow morning, Julius just told me that he had refreshed his memory, whatever that means.” She takes a pause. “And for that, I may need to bother you for running a few more tests, too.”
“Oh, okay. You’ll drive here yourself then?”
“Yes, I’ll come directly after I finish the depo. Sorry, Kurt. I know it’s not what you have planned. But at least, we still have a whole day.” She says apologetically.
“No need to apologize, Diane. I understand how your job keeps your hands full, you know, lawyering.”
“So, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Her tone sounds relieved now.
“Okay.” He doesn’t hung up until hearing the other side of the line goes dead.
Putting down his phone, he starts collecting the fine china that he previously arranged from the table and taking the candleholder in the other hand before heading back to the kitchen and turning off the oven timer.
He’s disappointed for sure but not totally. This is not new to him. Actually, he has long been used to being stood up. But there’s a silver lining that she needs him for work, which guarantees her coming over tomorrow, because, for her, work trumps everything, always. If they do keep it as he has planned, he may have to be anxious the whole night until she doesn’t show up eventually for some emergency like that day he flew to Florida.