Felicity gently set down the wine glass she was holding and turned. Oliver’s hand was at her elbow. She slid off the barstool and stepped down onto her high heels.
“Let’s do this,” she said, grinning up at him. “Wait, do people still say that?”
“Well,” Oliver said, raising an indulgent eyebrow, “you just said it, and you are people, so …”
“Not like you’re the best person to ask,” she said with a giggle.
Oliver huffed and lifted the elbow she was holding, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and giving her a playful tug toward the heavy door of the bar, and they stepped out into the warm night.
“This way,” Oliver said, and they turned left, arm in arm, to head down the city street.
“Oliver, come on,” Felicity said, bouncing a little as they walked. “I can’t believe you still haven’t told me where we’re going.”
“I told you, it’s a secret,” he said, smiling in the streetlight glow.
“And the secret has something to do with Tommy? Some kind of hidden talent? We’ve all been … together for nine months now. You know how I feel about mysteries. What can there be that you guys haven’t told me?”
“Oh, Felicity. There are still a few things that you don’t know about me and Tommy.”
They turned another corner, and Felicity saw, tall and bright across the street, the marquee of the Starling Grand Theater.
“Cello quartet? A concert?” she asked, looking up and narrowing her eyes, searching Oliver’s face. “Does Tommy …”
“You’ll see, you’ll see.” He leaned down then, breath warm on her ear. “Patience.” He pulled back just enough to catch her eye, and his gaze was full of so much affection and anticipation that Felicity couldn’t help popping up on her tiptoes to press her smiling lips to his.
“Come on,” he said, tucking her in close to his side. “We’ve got to find our seats.”
When the lights went down, Felicity lifted her cheek from Oliver’s shoulder and straightened up in her velvet-covered seat.
The curtain rose to reveal a stage that was entirely bare, except for four chairs arranged in a semicircle on a plush oriental rug.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” an announcer’s voice rang out through the theater. “Please welcome the Verdant Cello Quartet!”
As the audience applauded, two men and two women filed onto the stage carrying cellos and bows, and sure enough, there was Tommy. He was dressed in a tight black v-neck sweater and charcoal gray military jacket, and as he lifted his bow, Felicity spotted metal-studded, fingerless black gloves peeking out from his sleeves.
Her eyes widened, and she turned to Oliver, who was already looking at her, awaiting her reaction, eyes glittering with amusement.
“Jaw off the floor, Felicity,” he said in a low, smirking voice.
Instead of answering, she turned her eyes back to the stage and at that very moment, Tommy looked up and caught her eye.
She shook her head and gave a disbelieving grin, hoping her eyes could speak her thoughts: I love you, you gorgeous, secret-keeping dork.
He grinned back and gave her a wink. Then the woman on the end raised her bow, all four of them held their cellos up straight, and the music began.
Felicity reached for Oliver, and he took her hand and pulled it into his lap. They sat together, scarcely moving a muscle, as the music flowed over them.
She held her breath, felt the notes vibrating through her. She longed to close her eyes, to let the sound carry her away, but she didn’t dare; she didn’t want to miss a single moment of watching Tommy play.
He smiled as he moved his head with the melody, the fingers of his left hand flying up and down the neck of the cello while his right arm worked the bow with precision.
All four of the players seemed to move separately but as one, dancers making a musical picture with their bodies as well as their instruments. Felicity tried not to blink as she watched Tommy bounce and sway in time, radiating more joy than she thought she’d ever seen on his face.
When the first song ended with a triumphant flourish, she sat amazed, heart pounding. Then she felt Oliver squeeze her hand.
They each sucked in a deep breath as their eyes locked, hers wide and his with a knowing gleam.
Oliver raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t it …”
“Yep,” Felicity interrupted with an emphatic nod. “The sexiest thing I have ever seen.”
“So all this time, you haven’t been going to spin class? I was starting to worry about your quads,” Felicity called from the kitchen.
“I do go to spin class,” Tommy protested, twisting around on the couch to see her. “Just not four nights a week.”
Felicity padded in from the kitchen in her slippers, dress and heels long since discarded. She carried three wine glasses and a bottle of red and set them down on the coffee table, then perched on the arm of the chair, facing the couch, where Oliver and Tommy sat side by side.
“So why all the sneaking?” she asked.
“I started playing the cello when I was five,” Tommy began. “Rich kids, you know. It was mom’s favorite instrument, and she spared no expense to make sure I had every chance to learn. And I loved it, I took to it right away. And after …” he trailed off for a moment, turning to catch Oliver’s eye. Oliver lifted his hand from the back of the couch and up to Tommy’s neck, comforting. Felicity glanced between them, the pain of history almost visible in the silence.
“Well, after she was gone,” Tommy went on, “the instructor kept coming to the house. Malcolm wasn’t there to give him the boot, and the staff could see that it was good for me. Eventually, the cello turned out to be my lifeline, my connection to her. It gave me something to hold onto, a place to pour all my anger and sadness and rage. Helped me forget. And remember.”
Felicity nodded, and he continued.
“I played all growing up, but never in public. When Malcolm came back, he was dead-set on me playing sports, and that didn’t leave much time for orchestra or ensembles or … well, anything, really. I had friends I jammed with, but Malcolm threatened to cut me off if I quit football for music. ‘NO SON OF MINE’ and all that,” he said, and his booming imitation of his father made Felicity smile and wince all at once.
“So …” he finished, looking down at his hands. “Looking back now, I think he just didn’t want to hear the sound. It really was like a part of her was in the house. It helped me, but he couldn’t take it.”
Tommy raised his eyes to hers.
“When Oliver and I met you, I hadn’t played in a couple of years. Life got in the way, stuff with my dad, running the club, you know,” he said with a sigh. “But things are going so well now, with work and with US, and what can I say? Smoak, you inspired me. So I wanted to surprise you.”
All three of them sat quiet for a moment as Oliver’s hand resumed stroking Tommy’s neck.
“Well, for what it’s worth,” Oliver spoke up, lifting one eyebrow with a small, conspiratorial smile, “I always loved watching you play.” His hand moved down the length of Tommy’s arm and back up.
Tommy grinned then. “Yeah, I know you did.”
Felicity could see more history between them then, happy this time, and she needed to be closer.
She popped up off the arm of the chair and over to the door, where Tommy had left his cello propped against the wall. She unzipped the soft case, lifted the instrument and bow and carried them over to Tommy.
He looked up as she handed him the bow. She set her hands down on his shoulders, brought her forehead down to touch his, and said, “Will you play?”
Tommy lifted his lips up to meet hers, and she kissed him back softly and sweetly, grateful for the contact she’d been longing for since the moment she saw him step out on that stage. Then she pulled away, turned to cup Oliver’s cheek, and gave him a kiss as well.
“I love you,” she spoke against Oliver’s lips, then pulled her hand away and kissed his cheek. Then she stepped up onto the cushions of the couch, placed a hand on Tommy’s back to push him forward a little, and perched herself behind him on the back of the couch. She wrapped her arms around his neck from behind, her legs hugging his torso.
“And I love you,” she whispered in Tommy’s ear, then dropped a kiss to the skin below. “Now, play.”
She felt Tommy nod.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice.
He lifted the bow and then lowered it to the strings and began a low, slow, sweet melody. Wrapped around Tommy’s body, she could feel each note, each tiny movement, and she pressed in closer.
She turned her head so she could see Oliver’s face. He smiled, then bit his lip as she reached for his hand. He kissed her palm, then rose to his knees, wrapping himself around Felicity, pressing his lips to her bare shoulder.
Felicity buried her nose in Tommy’s neck, breathing him in as they all clung together, listening and breathing and feeling, through the last notes of the song.
In the quiet, Tommy straightened up and craned his head around.
Before he could speak, Felicity covered his lips with hers, passionately, hungrily this time.
Then she pulled back and blinked, legs squeezing tightly around Tommy’s back again.
Tommy cleared his throat. “Any, um, requests?” he asked with a flourish of the bow.
“Requests?” Felicity repeated. “Mmhmm. Yep, I have a few.” She reached down, took the bow from Tommy and handed it to Oliver. Oliver held her gaze and quirked an eyebrow as he stood, taking the cello and turning to walk it back to its case.
“I request that you stand up,” Felicity said, and she tightened her grip so that when he complied, she was riding piggyback.
“Good,” she said, rewarding him with a kiss on the cheek. “Now I request that you follow Oliver to the bedroom and lose the jacket. And the sweater. And the pants. Everything really. Lose it all. Except the gloves! Keep the gloves.”
She felt his body shake with laughter as he turned to carry her down the hall.