Thirty minutes before Emmi Rothner was set to arrive, Leo Leike lit the jasmine candles he’d purchased a while back for Marlena but never ended up using.
Fifteen minutes before, he popped the cork on a bottle of wine and grabbed some glasses and took them to his room.
With five minutes left, he closed his laptop and went to the door, leaving it ajar, and went back to his bedroom where he’d directed her to enter. Once inside he poured the wine into the glasses and set them down on his desk.
Fifteen minutes after Emmi was supposed to be there, he roused his computer from its slumber and checked his email to see if she was running late. There were no new messages.
Thirty minutes in, Leo began to worry. Had something happened to her or had Bernard put his foot down and told her he knew about their emails? He started to pace back and forth.
After sixty minutes he blew out the candles and put the wine back in the fridge.
Two hours later and after mindlessly surfing the internet, he couldn’t stand it any longer. He’d been such a fool. Why had he let his fantasies progress? Falling for someone who was spoken for, allowing himself to believe that one night would’ve been enough. What good what it have done either of them in the long run? She was married, with a family, and he still would’ve been alone after tonight.
He might not have met Emmi face to face, but he had completely and utterly fallen for her and her emails. So much so he’d agreed to take that job in Boston so she would no longer be there to tempt him. As hard as it was to admit it, this was probably for the best. She was where she belonged and he could reevaluate if he even wanted to leave London.
He needed to get out. The walls felt like they were closing in on him, mocking him with the fantasies of Emmi in his arms that would never come to pass within their confines.
Grabbing his keys, he headed out the door to get some coffee.
Leo had just stepped from the stoop to the sidewalk when a woman came barreling out of nowhere. All he saw was a flash of golden hair and then the wind was being knocked out of him. Only an extraordinary act of balance from him saved them from tumbling to the ground.
“Whoa,” he exclaimed as he steadied them both and took a step back.
He looked around, the woman had been running like the hounds of hell were on her heels but he couldn’t see anything. The street was totally empty, save for the two of them. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry,” she mumbled, as she stepped back from him. “The streets are usually empty this time of night. I like to run. I didn’t mean to almost knock you on your bum.”
“No harm done,” he assured her. He stepped into the light of the lamp post and she gasped.
Her face grew pale and she looked at him as if seeing a ghost. “Now that’s not fair. Especially not tonight,” she stated. With a shake of her head, she turned away and headed back down the street in the direction she had come from.
“Hey, wait.” He couldn’t explain why he felt the need to go after her, but the look on the woman’s face reminded him of the way he felt. Like she too was a bit broken inside. Maybe they could commiserate together.
The woman turned back to him, warily. “What?”
“I’m Leo,” he began, and offered her his hand.
She accepted his handshake, but dropped it quickly.
“Would you like to join me for coffee?” He jerked his head in the opposite direction. “There’s a 24 hour cafe down the way.”
The woman studied him. “Are you trying to pull me?”
“Not at all.”
He let out a sigh. This woman was quite pretty and seemed somehow familiar though he couldn’t explain why. He guessed she was around 25, so quite a few years younger than him. He wouldn’t normally think anything of that part, but he’d thought he’d be spending the night with Emmi. He wasn’t looking for a one night stand or interested in sex with a stranger. Because if he did that, he’d be pretending this woman was his fantasy Emmi which he didn’t want to do, and this woman didn’t deserve to be used.
“You look like you’ve had a hell of a night.” Leo explained. “I have too.”
She studied him for a while, looking him up and down and paying particular attention to his eyes. Finally, she spoke.
“Alright. My name’s Rose.”
“Coffee it is then, Rose.”