Orlando knocked on the door that connected his room to the hotel room of his assistant Emma. He waited a moment before opening it, finding the room dark as he had expected. He'd been laying awake for over an hour before he finally gave in and went to her. She'd been his assistant for over 7 months now, even though it seemed like much longer, ever since he met her in a Miami bookstore.
"Emma?" He murmured into the room, just in case she was still awake. He did try to be a proper gentleman when he could. Emma always threatened to tell his grandmother if he wasn't.
No answer. Her shape under the covers didn’t so much as move; she was deeply asleep.
He quietly made his way over to the bed, to the left side and pulled back the covers. Over the last few months of knowing her, and of sharing a bed on occasion, he always had the left while she had the right. He slipped under the covers and slid over to her, where she slept slightly curled on her side, away from him. He didn't have to wait long before she turned in her sleep, almost instinctively and tucked herself into him, her face in the crook of his neck, one arm thrown over his chest and one leg tucked between his. He tried not to react to her cold toes pressing against his calf, something he never got used to. He never met a woman who had colder feet than Emma.
Once he got comfortable, he closed his eyes and let his hand play with Emma's long curls. His mind drifted back to the first time he’d crawled into bed with her, although then had been more out of concern for her than insomnia on his part.
“This is Emma. I’m not feeling very well and I won’t be in today for my shift at 8. Thank you.” He woke at the sound of her soft voice coming from the kitchen and was momentarily confused until he remembered where he was and what had happened. Emma had insisted he spend the night at her apartment rather than drive back to his hotel, worried he would fall asleep driving. He remembered her tears as they had left her company party where her coworkers had told her that he was only being nice to her and would never see her as anything but an average girl. She’d believed some of it, arguing later that the very odds of meeting him like she did were so astronomical, what they had been telling her wasn’t out of the odds.
He listened as she made her way back into the bedroom, the sounds of the bed as she made herself comfortable and the exhale of breath as she no doubt tried to fall asleep. He wondered if she had slept at all since she’d said good night to him. He sat up and ran his hand through his hair. As much as she couldn’t believe meeting him, he couldn’t believe where he was. He’d met her at a little bookstore, doing a promotional junket for Kingdom of Heaven with MTV and their apparent never ending Spring Break celebrations. He’d been lucky enough to run into her and have her help him pick out a few gifts here and there since his assistant had abandoned him for the moment.
That was something he was going to have to talk to Fiona about. This new assistant she’d hired for him just wasn’t working out. He didn’t seem to understand the job description required him to assist, not just tag along and then disappear when he was needed.
Pushing those thoughts out of his head, he sat up and listened, hearing a small sniffle come from the bedroom, or something that sounded like a sniffle. He got up, not thinking about how he’d barely known this girl for three days but thinking of the kindness she’d repeatedly shown him, helping him shop not only in her store but then after when he ran into her again in the mall. He’d been a little overwhelmed at the party by her coworkers, something she’d warned him about, but she’d gone the extra mile, along with a couple friends that she had there to get him a little more personal space.
Walking toward the bedroom, he wondered if she wanted personal space right now. He’d find out.
In the vague light given by the streetlamp outside, he could see her jump a little before wiping at her face anxiously and turning in bed to see him. He had been right, he had heard her crying. “Orlando?”
“Yeah, it’s me.” He sat down on the bed. “Are you alright? I heard you on the phone. You don’t feel well?”
“Well, I’m not sick, but I can’t go back there. Not after tonight.” She sighed and laid against her pillows, avoiding his eyes. “I don’t even know what I’ll do now. But I can’t go back there.”
Her voice choked on the last words and before he even realized what he was doing, he found himself more on the bed, pulling her into his arms, murmuring comforts to her. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want, love. Those bastards don’t deserve to have someone like you working so hard for them.”
She’d been a little surprised at his presumptuous movement, but quickly relaxed in his arms, obviously in need of some TLC. “I just worked so hard and none of it seemed to matter. I’m probably an even bigger joke there now than I was before. I’m sorry you had to see that tonight. I’m sure listening to me cry and complain isn’t how you wanted to spend your Friday night.”
“I still end up with a pretty girl in my arms. I think it’s not half bad.” He teased, giving her a squeeze before he moved so he was propped up against the back of the bed and she was tucked to his side. They laid there for a few minutes when he felt himself falling asleep and figured he should get up while he still could. “You should try to get some sleep, you’ve had a long night.”
He moved to get out of the bed when her hand tightened on his arm. “Stay? Please?”
He didn’t even respond except to move under the covers, put his arm back around her and comb his fingers through her hair.
Emma woke up with the hotel phone ringing and wasn’t surprised to find it difficult to move because her boss was currently snoring with his head on her stomach and his arm thrown over her hips. She stretched and managed to pick up the phone and thank the employee on the other side before putting it back and taking in the man who currently held her hostage. She didn’t remember him coming to bed, but most times she was already asleep when he came over. Most people would think it was strange or assume things if they heard that Orlando probably spent half his nights sleeping next to her, next to his assistant, but it wasn’t like that.
Not that she wouldn’t mind if it was.
But Orlando had a girlfriend, an Australian model who called herself Capar, and who Emma fondly referred to as Crapper. Crapper was the latest thing and had met Orlando nearly 6 months ago when her photo shoot found her on the island where he’d been filming Pirates. Much to her chagrin, something attracted him to the nearly 6 foot model. Maybe it was the fact that she barely ate or the fact that she probably put out the first time they went out. Emma didn’t know, she’d spent the night they first went out watching movies with Keira Knightly, both cursing the model for entangling sweet Orlando in her web. Keira was one of two people who knew about her feelings for Orlando and had been sworn to secrecy.
A snore brought her back to the present and she tried not to giggle. She wondered what Orlando’s fans would think if they knew he had a tendency to snore like an off board motor if he slept a certain way. Still, it was endearing.
Fondly, she ran her hand through his dark curls, wondering what it was that made him sleep better with her. She’d asked him once, in the beginning, why he came over to her room at night and he’d simply answered that he’d started to suffer from insomnia, but had yet to have a case of it when he fell asleep with her at his side. She wished that it would open his eyes to really see her, but unfortunately, she was just his good friend and of course, the best assistant on the face of the planet, as he liked to say.
No, that was left for the Crapper who he only saw every few weeks and who ran him ragged with her demands and wants. When they’d been on hiatus and he was relaxing, she’d called demanding why he hadn’t immediately flown to Australia to see her. So he’d gone, taking Emma with him, much to her dread. She’d spent weeks there with them, forced to stay at a hotel a few blocks from Crapper’s apartment while the pair pranced around Australia. She’d hated it, being in a strange country and having the only person she knew being the only person she couldn’t get near. Crapper hated her, she didn’t know why. She’d tried to be nothing but nice to the model out of respect for Orlando, but had been treated with nothing but distain and distrust.
Looking down at the man asleep on her, she smirked. What would Crapper think if she saw this?
He stirred against her. “Emma?”
He grinned, running his hand over his face before moving so he was lying with his head on her shoulder. “Remind me to give you a bonus everytime you say that. I love that.” He snuggled closer to her, sighing with a smile on his face.
“I know you do.” She laughed, giving him a hug. “Why don’t you go back to sleep? You don’t need to be up till later.”
“What are you going to do?”
“My job.” She teased, easing out of the bed and immediately missing the warmth he provided. “I have to check a few dozen things out and talk to Fiona about your interview schedule. See if I can get them more spaced out for you and maybe not so early in the morning.”
“I bloody love you. Marry me.”
“Why not?” He pouted playfully before burrowing under the covers and into a ball.
“Because I would break you like a pretzel on our wedding night and I kinda want to keep you around.”
He laughed. “You are a bloody tease. I love it.”
“I know you do. I’ll wake you up in a bit.”
“Thank you.” His voice muffled from the blanket cocoon answered her.
Capar is completely my creation and again...this is 2005 and italics means a flashback.
“This is a nice suit, what do you think?” Orlando asked Emma, showing her the magazine he’d been paging though while she worked on his website, updating it with new pictures. It had been a nice quiet day, spent relaxing in the hotel for the most part. Orlando was working on trying to buy a house in LA but hadn’t felt up to dealing with uptight overbearing realtors today.
She looked up and made a face.
“Let me guess, it’s completely hideous and it’s very obvious I would never be a good gay man if I would find something like that attractive?”
She gave him a grin and a nod before going back to her work.
He sighed and threw himself on the bed next to her. “Is there anything in your contract that results in you getting a spanked bottom for being a pain in my ass?”
She shook her head. “You’d enjoy it too much.”
He laughed. “That I would love.” He looked at his watch. “I’m going to go shave and then we can try out that restaurant you told me about?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“I’ll be right out.”
He went to the connecting bathroom, leaving her to work until about ten minutes went by and a knock at the door made her jump. Without looking up, she said “Come in”, thinking it was simply Fiona or even Adam, Orlando’s trainer.
She looked up and immediately thought one thing. Crap
Capar looked at her with a look that was indefinable. It was anger, jealousy, confusion, surprise, but mostly anger. She was dressed “down” in a designer shirt that read “Mrs Bloom” in rhinestones with blue capris and high heeled sandals that were also covered in rhinestones. “What the hell are you doing in here? This is Orlando’s room!”
“Yeah, I know that. I’m working on his website.” She glanced at the shirt and managed not to roll her eyes at the woman. Mrs Bloom. Right. Over her dead body.
“I don’t care what you do, I want to know why you are doing it in his hotel room on his bed!” The model stormed over, gesturing around the room like Emma hadn’t realized where she was.
“Because I had to ask him questions for one section and that’s easier to do when we’re in the same room?” Emma tried to keep the spite out of her voice, but didn’t.
“Whatever. I know what you are trying to do. Spending all your time with Orlando, kissing his ass, making moon eyes at him all the time and I’m here to tell you it won’t work!” She huffed, like it was an injustice for her to even have to explain this herself. She thought of herself as the Australian Paris Hilton, even dying her red hair blonde in an effort to make it a closer resemblance. “You are nothing to him but a little worker bee, a servant at best and that’s all you’ll ever be! He’ll never see you as anything more because you aren’t the same caliber, the same class. It’s like the jungle, sweetheart.” She spat the last word with more venom than affection. “Spots with spots, stripes with stripes. The sooner you understand that, the better off you’ll be.”
“I don’t have to listen to this.” Emma muttered, trying to control her own anger, but pain, thinking of nearly the same words that were told to her by her coworkers when she first met Orlando and he’d tagged along with her to a store party. It had been so strange how he’d just asked if he could go, she could still remember it.
“What do you mean, can you go?” Emma asked, confused. For one, Orlando Bloom, a world famous actor and all around pretty boy, was sitting on her patio drinking lemonade, absently petting her neighbor’s dog who she was dogsitting for that afternoon, and secondly, he wanted to go to a work related party at the bookstore? “Don’t you have parties with people who are…I don’t know…interesting?”
He shrugged and laughed. “You’d be surprised how boring Hollywood parties can be. If you don’t want me to go with you, that’s ok.”
She looked at him and shook her head. He’d arrived rather unexpectedly while she’d been gardening and literally made her fall on her ass in shock. The night before had been the sneak preview “premiere” held for winners of a contest for MTV’s Spring Break edition of TRL and he’d given her a pass as thanks for helping him all day at the bookstore and then the mall. It’d been very memorable and he was very sweet to all the winners, hugging and taking pictures with each before the movie. But it was Emma he’d grabbed last minute by the arm to have sit with him in a special “VIP” room while the winners watched in the regular theater.
“No, it’s not that.” She’d explained, feeling rather embarrassed. “It’s just that the people I work with…they aren’t very…tactful. I don’t think you’d be given a minute to rest, they’d be bugging you all the time.”
He shrugged. “I deal with that all the time.”
“Not from these people. Trust me. I wouldn’t want you to have a bad night because of my asshole coworkers.”
“How about this? We go, you make your appearance so they’ll leave you alone, we’ll mingle, I’ll get my ass grabbed a few times and then we’ll leave?” He took a drink of his lemonade. “You went to my “hell party” last night, least I can do is return the favor.”
“And replace the screaming teenage girls with lusty gay men?”
“Potato, Potato.” He let his head rest back against the chair, his eyes closed to the hot Florida sun. “As long as they don’t scream and tell me I’m like totally so hot oh my god, I’ll be fine.”
“No. You don’t.” Orlando’s voice made both women jump and they turned to see Orlando standing in just dress pants, a towel over one shoulder, his face freshly shaved with an exception for his goatee and mustache and a look of pure rage and somehow, confusion on his face. It was like he couldn’t believe that Capar was speaking in such a way. “Capar, I don’t appreciate you talking to Emma like that. You have no right to speak to her that way.”
“No right? NO RIGHT?” The model nearly screamed, throwing down the Coach bag that had been in her hand. “I am your girlfriend Orlando Bloom, or have you forgotten that?”
Orlando ran his hand over his face. This was going to be a doozy of a fight. “Emma, love, why don’t you go to your room while I talk to Capar alright?”
“While your at it, why don’t you go back to whatever shithole you came out of, gutter rat.” Capar spat as Emma stood from the bed, laptop clutched protectively to her chest.
“Capar! Enough!” Orlando bellowed, making Emma, but not Capar who didn’t seem too impressed, jump. Orlando wasn’t much for having a temper, being one of the most mellow people she’d ever met. It was a brief flare, when he spoke again, his voice was gentle again, if not a little strained. “Emma, please?”
She nodded, shaking her head at his look of apology, his big brown eyes pleading with her that none of what the model was saying was true. She wasn’t mad at Orlando, just his sense of taste in women. She turned on her heel and murmured good night, knowing she wouldn’t see him until the morning. Going though the connecting door into her own room, where Orlando had slept till only a few hours before, she set her laptop down and wondered what she wanted to do for the night now that she was on her own. She figured she could do what she always did when Capar showed up, get the hell out of Dodge before she had to hear anything that would scar her mentally.
She honestly didn’t want to go gallivanting around Los Angeles by herself, but at the same time, didn’t want to be anywhere near the room where Orlando and Capar would be doing the naked horizontal mambo as soon as this fight was concluded. She’d learned the hard way the first time that she’d overheard a fight. Just the thought of it made her shudder.
“Capar, love, I wish you wouldn’t act like that to Emma. She’s never been anything but polite to you.” It sounded like Orlando was trying to be the adult in the situation although from what Emma could hear of his voice, he was still pissed. That wouldn’t last for long. She loved Orlando, but he was completely pussywhipped by Capar. Probably because the bitch had knees that bent both ways and could probably deep throat a firehose.
“Act like what Orlando? Explain to me how I’m acting.”
Like a bitch? Emma thought, sitting on her bed and hearing what sounded like the beginning of an interesting discussion. She grabbed her messenger bag, covered in pins and wondered what she’d need for her night out while she listened to the pair next door. She’d leave when the shouting stopped. She wondered what crawled up the model’s ass to get her so pissy so quickly.
“Like a bitch to put it bluntly.”
Emma’s eyes widened and she silently cheered, throwing her hands in the air. Was Orlando growing a set of balls to replace the pair he handed over to Capar?
“I can’t believe you just said that to me! After I come all the way out here to see you, to surprise you, I find another woman in your hotel room, you walking around half naked and then you say I’m being a bitch?”
“Emma is my assistant. She’s with me all the time. She was fully clothed and doing work, like I pay her to do. You make it sound like we were shagging.”
“How do I know what you don’t do when I’m not here? She’s always around Orlando. ALWAYS. She follows you like a little dog and you expect me not to have a problem with that? I’m your girlfriend Orlando. I think what bothers me should matter to you especially if you love me like you claim! All I hear all the time is Emma this, Emma that! I’m fucking TIRED OF HER!”
“What do you want me to do Capar? Honestly. What would make you happy?”
“Sack her. Get rid of her. I don’t like her Orlando. I don’t want her around you.”
Emma held her breath. So it was coming to this?
There was a long pause, too long a pause before Orlando answered. A pause that said that he actually had to think of what he was going to say. “I can’t do that! She’s my assistant and my friend.” He sounded like he was pleading, the balls apparently weren’t growing in. He sounded more like a little boy who was being denied the puppy he claimed followed him home.
“Fine. I’ll make it easier. It’s her or me. Either you fire her or we’re no longer a couple.”
Emma let out her breath and sat on the bed in shock. She was going to make Orlando pick?
There was silence in the other room.
“International House of Porn, my name is Elijah, how may I spank you?”
“Hey Lij.” Emma responded without the usual playfulness she would have given a set up like that. She’d met Elijah early on working for Orlando and the young man had been easy to get along with and had thankfully been someone she could confide in and trust. Someone like that was hard to find in Hollywood she discovered.
She stopped out into the evening air of Los Angeles and looked both ways before choosing to go left. After hearing what had just happened in the next room, she’d nearly run out of the hotel, barely remembering to grab her bag with her cell phone.
“Hey Emster. What’s wrong? Is Orlando being an asshole again?” There had been a few times where she’d called Elijah just upset about something Orlando would say or do, much of it having to do with Capar and his apparent infatuation with her. Most times he didn’t even know that he was upsetting her, like when he’d asked her what kind of flowers he should send the model or which necklace would look better. He didn’t know her feelings, so he wouldn’t know to be sensitive to that.
She shook her head and then remembered he couldn’t see her. “No, he’s not being an asshole.” She stopped at a corner, and looked at the coffee shop across the street, weighed her options and then jogged across. “Can you do me a favor?”
“Name it and it shall be done. Especially if it’s sex, that’ll be a favor to me too.” He teased, no doubt trying to cheer her up. It didn’t work.
“Remember how you said if I ever was in LA and needed a place to stay, that I could stay with you?”
“Yes, but aren’t you in a hotel with Orli?”
“And isn’t he taking the final steps to buy that fucking huge house in the hills with the entire guest house for you to live in?”
“He’s making the final steps, but I don’t think I’ll be living in the house.”
“Did you guys have a fight? You said he wasn’t being an asshole Emma, what’s going on?”
She leaned against the wall of the coffee shop, her emotional roller coaster leaving her exhausted. What was she supposed to do now? What could she do? Start all over, all over again? Stay in Los Angeles, go back to Miami? “I can’t…”
“Where are you?”
“Mimi’s Coffee?” She looked up at the sign, having never gone to the shop before, having only been in LA a few times and rarely on her own. She would have to get used to being on her own again soon.
“I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Can you wait for me?”
“I’ll be here.”
“Hold on sweetheart.”
“That bitch. Then what?”
“I didn’t hear anything. I think if he had chosen me, I would have heard her shrieking or throwing something. But nothing. So I think I should get out of here, start figuring out what I can do since I’m unemployed and homeless. I’d really appreciate if I could stay with you. I’ll cook or whatever, I just need a couple days to figure things out.”
Emma sat across from Elijah in a corner booth in the back, her hands plunged into her hair as she stared at the pattern the wood grains created in the table below. They’d been sitting there long enough for 2 trips to the bathroom and 3 cups of coffee for Elijah. She was rather proud of herself, keeping from getting emotional and ending up a sobbing mess. But she was on the fence, the more and more she thought about everything.
She heard him exhale his breath before reaching over and grabbing her wrist, making her let go of her head and look up as he squeezed her hand with his. “You know you can stay with me Emma, my door is always open to you. But can you do something for me?”
“Give it a night. Maybe you are overreacting and it’s not as bad as you think. I really don’t think Orlando is so stupid as to pick that whore over his best friend and the best assistant anyone could ask for.”
“Elijah, I don’t want to be there. I don’t know where they are and I don’t want to hear anymore if they are still in the room. And there are other things I’d rather not hear.”
There was silence from the young actor for a moment. “Emma, are you ever going to tell him how you feel?” The question came quietly and with much seriousness. Elijah was the only person on the planet other than Keira who knew about her feelings for Orlando. She’d never said or acted on the feelings, mostly because she was 200% sure he didn’t feel the same. She was very lucky to have the job she did and be able to spend so much time with someone like him, she didn’t want to ruin that by making some pointless gesture of undying love.
“No Lij, there’s no point.” She sighed, pulling her hand back and wrapping her arms around herself, letting her head rest back against the booth.
“Em, the man practically can’t breathe without you telling him to inhale and exhale, you said he climbs into your bed most nights and I’ve seen how you two are together. Are you honestly trying to tell me that you are convinced he doesn’t feel anything for you?”
“I’m a friend and at most, like a sister to him. If he loves me, it’s like how he loves you and the rest of the Fellowship.”
Elijah sighed with frustration. He’d been trying to get her to talk to Orlando about her feelings for months now, ever since confronting her about it one night.
“So Emma, how long are you going to let it go before you tell Orlando that you have a thing for him?” He came up behind her as she stood out on the balcony of his home in Santa Monica where the remnants of a party were beginning to ebb inside. Orlando had “ebbed” about an hour before and with some help, Emma had gotten him into one of the guest rooms, undressed and tucked in safe.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. He’s my friend and my boss.”
“And you are full of shit little girl.” He leaned against the railing, his arms crossed over his chest and she couldn’t help but think of him as Frodo. Orlando had made her sit and watch all three Lord of the Rings films soon after he hired her and found out she hadn’t seen the trilogy. “I see how you look at him. The devotion. Why don’t you talk to him?”
She snorted. “Because I like my job?”
“How do you know he doesn’t feel the same?”
“Because I’ve heard him plowing that girlfriend of his through the hotel wall for hours at end? Because he’s my boss and I’m just an assistant?” She shook her head. “Because he just doesn’t.”
“I love Orlando like a brother, but sometimes he can be pretty blind and pretty stupid. But he’s not THAT blind and THAT stupid. He’s going to figure it out. What are you going to do then?”
“Look for a new job probably.”
“Hello?” Orlando answered his cell, forgetting to turn it off. After the debacle that was his breakup with Capar, he had come down with a raging headache and hadn’t been able to find Emma. He’d gone into her room to find it empty, not that he could blame her for wanting to get away from Capar, he just wished she’d taken him with her. Right now, he was just wishing he knew where she was so he could get rid of this blasted headache. She always kept the right painkiller that cured his headaches right away and always gave him a back massage to help him sleep it away. He hoped she wasn’t mad at him because of Capar’s surprise visit and then the fact that he had broken their plans for the night.
“Is this Orlando Bloom, the biggest dickhead in Los Angeles?”
He was confused for a moment before he recognized the voice. “Lij?”
“Yes. It’s me.”
“What’s going on?” His head was pounding and he could barely think. It was late now, where had Emma gone that would have kept her out like this and alone on top of that? He’d gotten to rely on Emma so much that it was a little difficult to think she would be gone this long without calling or leaving a note.
“I don’t know actually. She left and hasn’t come back yet.” Since when had Elijah become a mindreader?
His face scrunched up in confusion. “How do you know? Why are you asking me? I have a headache, please don’t make it worse.”
“I know, because Emma called me a few hours ago, nearly in tears asking me for a favor. Do you want to know what that favor is Orlando?”
Orlando grimaced, the unfamiliar serious tone in his friend’s voice making the reaction automatic. Elijah was an easy going kind of guy, much like him which made them such good friends. For a tone like this, it meant business. “What?”
“She wanted to know if she could stay with me while she looked for a place because she was pretty sure that she no longer had a job.”
“WHAT?” He sat up way too fast, the pain making it feel like the top of his head was going to fly off and he groaned, falling back onto the bed. “I don’t understand.”
“She thinks you are going to fire her. Capar threw an ultimatum at you, it was either her or Emma?” He paused. “Emma’s convinced that you chose Capar.”
“Oh fucking hell.” Orlando groaned, not even thinking that the reason Emma was gone and not answering her cell phone had something to do with her overhearing the fight. She must have left right after Capar made the threat and didn’t stay to hear the rest. He felt an ache form in his chest, momentarily distracting him from his migraine. Part of it was for what Emma had to be feeling but part of it was for himself. Didn’t she know him by now? Didn’t she trust him? Why would she think he would choose Capar over her?
“You didn’t…choose Capar, did you?”
Elijah’s voice brought him back to the present. “No. No I didn’t.” His own voice sounded gruff and strange to his ears. “Capar’s gone. For good. She stormed out.” He rested for a moment, his racing mind not helping his headache. “Where is Emma?”
“In the hotel bar, I think. You are lucky she called me man. I convinced her to give it a night and then if it was true, she could stay with me, but that she had to give you a chance.”
“You don’t deserve that chance, you realize that right? For what Capar said to her? For not telling Capar off immediately with Emma in the room?”
“I know. I’m going to go find her. Thank you Lij.”
Orlando had put on a knit cap and made his way downstairs, hoping that the late hour would lessen chances of his being recognized. The hotel was rather upscale, so he was sure that there wouldn’t be too many young fans sneaking about looking for him. He heard the sounds of a piano coming from the hotel bar and immediately knew where Emma was.
“So you can play the piano? Who taught you?”
“My dad.” She smiled at him, playing the theme for Lord of the Rings and making him laugh. “He was a jack of all trades, my dad. He was a bartender and a part time piano teacher, a former navy officer and a shoes salesman.”
“Sounds like he was a great man.” Orlando smiled, enjoying the sound of pride in Emma’s voice as she described her father.
“He was. See, for me to get a new CD or a new movie, I had to learn to play a song or a piece of music from it. I had to earn it through music.” Her fingers flew over the keys as she switched from playing Lord of the Rings to the Midnight Sonata. “I still do it, now, just because it’d feel like I was…stealing or something if I didn’t.”
“You play very well.” He watched her fingers with interest. “Do you think you could teach me a bit?”
He stood at the entrance to the bar, watching her at the piano. She was playing a soft sad theme, something she’d played before but he couldn’t think to name. He felt rooted to the spot, wondering if approaching her would make things worse or better. He couldn’t understand why she had automatically thought he would just fire her because Capar had demanded it. Did she think so little of him?
He shook his head, still feeling the headache stabbing pain behind his eyeballs. It was like every hangover he’d ever had combined and of course, left him feeling almost helpless. He couldn’t help but think of the hangover he’d had back in August, after the MTV Music Awards. He’d been an ass, refusing to leave the party when it was obvious that Emma wanted to go with her finally leaving without him. He didn’t remember the party or how he got back to the hotel. He had vague memories of cannonballing into the hotel pool with Chris Martin from Coldplay until the older man had gotten sick in the Jacuzzi. He didn’t remember getting back into the room, but he remembered ending up throwing up like he was trying out for the next Exorcist film in the toilet in his hotel bathroom. And he did remember Emma.
“Oh Orlando, why do you do this to yourself? Come on sweetheart, it’s almost over. That’s it. Shh. It’s ok.”
Her voice had broken through his misery as he rested his face on the side of the toilet. His throat burned, his stomach felt like it was tied in a million knots and his muscles burned from the heaving and he was shivering from the sopping wet suit he was still in. He didn’t remember drinking this much or even having anything to eat, but somehow, he couldn’t stop throwing up. He sighed at the feel of a cold washcloth against his forehead and groaned as she gently pulled him back to lean against her, not caring about getting wet from the growing puddle of pool water on the floor as she pressed a glass of water into his hands, helping him hold it.
“Wash your mouth out.”
He did so three times and then she refilled it so he could drink his fill, cautioning him against drinking too much too quickly. She mothered him, talking him through the nauseous feelings before helping him into his room and and into his bed. The next thing he knew, it was the next morning, he was naked and had the mother of all hangovers. He didn’t even want to think about how he managed to undress himself and hoped he hadn’t made a bigger ass of himself in front of Emma than he already had.
Emma looked up from the piano, breaking herself from the calm lull the music provided, the quiet zoning it allowed for her not to think, just to be. She didn’t have to think about how Orlando would never see her as anything more than a friend and employee when she played Mozart or Bach or Williams. She didn’t have to think that there would always be a Capar or someone like her that would always get the guy, no matter how much pain they would inflict when she played U2, The Who or Billy Joel.
She looked up and there he stood, a few feet away. She could tell he was in pain, and probably mostly physical. He had the look in his eyes like he had a migraine, something he tended to get when he was stressed out. He’d had quite a few thanks to Capar and other pains in his ass, like the way the critics had attacked Elizabethtown, a film he was still so proud of and with good reason she thought.
She remembered the look of utter despair that’d been on his face the morning after the debacle that was the afterparties of the MTV Awards in Miami and how he’d slept like the dead for hours before stumbling into her room and groaning for her to kill him.
“Please Emma, if you ever cared for me, just end it.” He made a whimpering sound as he gripped her ankle and pushed his face into the bed.
“Orlando stop.” She had been napping when he had nonchalantly made his way in; the door between their rooms was never locked, mostly because of his newly formed habit of sneaking into her bed late at night when he couldn’t sleep. This time, she’d been checking up on him throughout the night, worrying as she always did. “It can’t be that bad.” The brief glimpse she’d gotten of his appearance before he’d flopped down onto her bed said that it was, his hair a mess and his eyes carrying their own luggage, heavy bags under his eyes.
She briefly closed her eyes, trying not to think of the glimpse she’d gotten the night before. After helping him to the bed, he practically collapsed onto it, dead asleep. The problem was, he had still in a soaking wet suit. Leaving him for a moment, she dashed to the bathroom and grabbed all the towels, lining the bed and the pillow with them before setting to work. It wasn’t the first time she’d undressed him. There had been a few times while he’d filmed Pirates that she’d helped him with wardrobe and then the times when he came back from a long day too exhausted to even move.
This time however would be different.
She had managed to get his jacket off and his shirt, tossing both to the bathroom where they landed with heavy wet thumps. Then she took off his shoes, wondering if they would be salvageable after the apparent night festivities. Then came his socks, a pair of bright yellow ones with little blue ducks, something she’d found in their travels that she knew screamed Orlando.
At the VMAs, on the red carpet, she’d been standing to the side while Orlando was interviewed with Kristen, the pair going to the show to promote Elizabethtown. She was glad for Kirsten being there, Capar refusing to do anything like an awards show on cable. That was beneath her apparently. They’d been asked the usual questions and she had laughed when he’d told a surprised Kirsten that he wasn’t wearing underwear at all.
Turns out, he’d been telling the truth.
She’d gone to tug the pants down and had done so enough before she realized, there was nothing between her and a view of a rather naked Orlando. She gasped, not really expecting such a sight and tried not to stare, but he was…more talented…. than the one lover she had had and that had been too long ago.
“For the love of pete.” She murmured, pulling the blanket over him and feeling her face flush as she made quick work of getting his pants off trying to avoid looking at the area that the blanket covered, just the idea making her blush more. She held still for a long minute when he groaned, thinking he was about to wake up, but he didn’t. He remained asleep and simply rolled over, the blanket going with him.
“It is!” He insisted, his moan muffled by the bed, reminding her that a disheveled and dressed Orlando was whining on her bed at the moment.
“Then there’s only one thing we can do.”
“Shoot me like a horse with a broken leg?” He asked hopefully, taking his face from the bed to look up at her for pity.
“No. We go to the beach.”
He sat down next to her at the piano, careful not to crowd her personal space like he had a tendency to do. Ever since he first met her, there’d been a closeness, a familiarity that just made him practically sitting on top of her it seemed. It just felt natural to have his arm over her shoulder as they walked, or to rest his head in her lap on plane trips and especially to climb into bed with her, curl his body around hers and fall asleep. He couldn’t explain it, it was just there. Like a law or a rule. You didn’t ask why, it just was.
But now it wasn’t there. There was awkwardness, a pain, a guilt.
“Elijah called me. Told me you were here.”
“I figured he would.” She continued to play, not stopping.
“She had no right to say those things to you.” He finally said, realizing she wasn’t going to be very conversational.
“Yes she did.”
She stopped playing and stood up, moving away from him. “Because she’s your girlfriend Orlando!”
“And you aren’t?”
“Yes!” She threw her hands up in the air like he’d finally gotten the point. “Forget it. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
“I do.” He grabbed her wrist, keeping her from leaving. For her to give up this easily meant that it was truly bothering her, Emma being one to stand and argue her point until she won or was convinced otherwise. It was part of her charm, he thought, the fact that she didn’t give up or give in to him like most people tended to do. What had she said that one time? Just because you’re pretty, doesn’t mean I’m going to kiss your ass? But now, without any argument, she was giving up.
He wasn’t going to.
“It’s fine Orlando, just leave it alone.” She struggled to break his grip.
He only tightened it and pulled her away from the piano and into a booth. The bar was near deserted except for a few patrons who were a few dozen sheets to the wind sitting at the bar. “Dammit it’s not fine! Emma, it can’t be fine if you would think I’d ever choose a girlfriend over you. I can barely function without you by my side and you are probably one of my closest friends. But somehow, you don’t see that and that makes everything not fine!”
Emma refused to look at him, practically sinking into the booth, looking very small and very alone. Inside, he begged her not to cry, her tears being his undoing. He hadn’t meant to snap at her like that, but sometimes she was so stubborn, especially with her lack of self esteem, that it drove him crazy. “Where is she anyway?” She murmured after a few minutes.
“Gone. For good.” He answered, watching her very closely for her reaction. It came with a jerk and finally, a look in his direction of both confusion and what looked to him like hope. “Yes love, she’s gone. I told you, I could never choose her over you.” He reached over and took her hand with his. “After the last year, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need you at the old folks home when I’m senile and gray.”
She smiled a little, now looking at her hand in his, the contrast of his relatively tanned skin to her own pale. “You won’t get old. You’ll be bungee jumping and surfing when you’re a hundred.”
He grinned and took a risk and pulled her into his arms, sighing with relief when she didn’t stiffen or pull away, but went willingly, wrapping her arms around his waist. “And I’ll have you there on the beach yelling that I’m a damned fool and too old for such garbage.” He sighed again, and held her closer, breathing in the smell of her shampoo. “I’m sorry Emma. I really am. I should have never let Capar treat you like that or sent you out of the room like I did. Forgive me please.”
“It’s not your fault Orli.” She said softly, resting against him. “I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions and wigged out. I just…I don’t know, panicked? I mean, she was your girlfriend and here I am just your assistant…”
“You are not just my assistant Emma, you never were. You’re one of my closest friends, practically family.” He hugged her tight. “I love you, you daft little mouse, don’t you know that?”
She nodded against his chest after a moment. “Yeah. I guess I do.”
“Orlando, if you had to describe me in one word, what would it be?” Emma looked up from the Cosmopolitan she’d been paging through as they waited for the car that MTV was providing to bring Orlando and Kristen to the MTV VMAs. The magazine had claimed that much could be discovered by the answer given.
“One word?” He stopped picking at his nails and looked at her. “Mousy.”
Mousy? She was mousy? Like librarian who has 14 cats at home mousy? Someone that wouldn’t be noticed unless they got hit by a bus that was on fire mousy? She didn’t have to look at the magazine to understand what that one word would mean. “Oh.”
He shook his head immediately. “It’s not a bad thing love. Would you rather I said slutty or whorish?”
“Is that like being Scottish?” She joked, raising an eyebrow at him, daring him to find a way out of the hole he had dug with mousy.
“Listen, mousy is good. It means you are quiet and sweet, umm…that you aren’t obnoxious or annoying.” He sighed, then grinned as an idea came from him. “It’s very good, because then I get to play the cat on the hunt!” He made a cat noise and a clawing motion at her before grabbing her sides and tickling her till she begged him to stop.
“Bad Kitty! Bad!” She panted, trying to get her breath back as she smacked his hands away, threatening more tickling.
“It’s official. You are my Mouse.” He grinned and hugged her to him.
After a few minutes, he spoke up, bringing her back to the present. “Em, can I ask a favor?”
“Let me guess, Excedrin and a massage for that headache you’ve been ignoring since you came down here?”
He laughed and they headed back to the rooms upstairs, hand in hand.
When they had gotten upstairs, she’d gone to go to her own room but instead Orlando pulled her into his, grabbed a tshirt and boxers, giving them to her before nonchalantly stripping out of his clothes to get ready for bed. She didn’t say anything but wasn’t about to change her clothes right there so she went into the bathroom and changed into the clothes that had been thrust at her. It wouldn’t be the first time that Orlando had silently requested that she stay in his room. It was flattering in a way and she knew tonight was just his way of trying to cement what he’d told her downstairs.
If only he meant that he loved her like she wished he did.
She came back out into the bedroom to find Orlando sitting on the edge of the bed, on his side in just his boxers waiting for her. He looked up and she could see he was still suffering from his headache. She handed him the glass of water in her one hand and the Excedrin in the other and watched as he took the pills with a slight grimace. She took the glass from him and set it on the nightstand before climbing up onto the bed and behind him and started rubbing his shoulders before getting into the massage itself.
He let out a pleased sound. He’d told her ever since the first time she’d given him a massage that she was one of the very few people he’d ever met, especially since he’d broken his back, that knew how to give a massage that hurt good rather than just hurt. She wasn’t afraid to dig into the muscle and to work out the knots but she could be very gentle and sooth him to sleep with her touch.
Or so he said.
She worked quietly, trying not to think as she rubbed his tired muscles, listening to his quiet sounds and adjusting to them. Soon enough, her hands were tired, his skin was warm and rosy from the massage and Orlando was almost asleep sitting up. She eased him back and he smiled as he swung his legs onto the bed and she sat back, pulling the comforter up over them.
“Thank you so much love. I feel better already.” He sighed, moving so he rested against her, his head on her shoulder and his arm thrown over her waist. She played with his hair, looking up at the ceiling for a while before he spoke again. “Are we ok?”
She nodded before she really answered. “Yeah. We’re alright Orlando. Get some sleep.”
“Mmm. Ok.” He snuggled closer and within a few minutes was asleep.
Emma, however, wasn’t asleep. Her mind refused to quiet to give her the chance to sleep, it had been on overdrive ever since Capar’s ultimatum heard through the wall. Did Orlando really dump his girlfriend instead of just finding another assistant, one that was either an old matron or a man so there would be no jealousy? It wasn’t the fact that he had chosen her over Capar personally, although it was difficult not to find the model’s number and taunt her in victory. It was the fact that he claimed, to the effect, that he wouldn’t allow a girlfriend to get between them. Did she really mean so much to him that he valued her friendship over possible true love?
Her mind whirled with the possibilities, part of her cheering that it meant he really did love her like she wanted him to, it was just that he’d been with Capar and unable to express it, another part chastising her like he had for ever thinking that he would choose Capar of all people over her. Not after what they’d been through in more than half a year as movie star and assistant.
“What’s the next thing on your agenda?” Emma gave as her answer to his offer of being his personal assistant. “Boss.” She added, in case it wasn’t crystal clear she was taking the job. It had been a couple weeks since she’d seen him, since the party that had forced her to quit her job rather than deal with her coworkers ever again. She’d gotten another job at a grocery store and had quickly risen to become head of the dairy department. It was cold work in the cooler every day, but it was distracting and at least her new manager recognized her hard work, unlike Greg at the bookstore. The only good thing that had come from the bookstore was her discount and then meeting Orlando.
He grinned and hugged her, being a very touchy person as she was discovering, being engulfed in a hug when she’d answered her door. She’d been surprised to say the least at his visit, she’d only talked to him a couple times on the phone since he’d left Miami to continue his promotional tour for his new movie, Kingdom of Heaven. The job offer had left her completely speechless.
“New York. We leave in two days.” He told her, pulling back from the hug. A moment went by. “Emma? Emma are you alright?”
New York had been the exact opposite of what she had wanted to hear. It could have been anywhere else. China, Yemen, some tiny island that didn’t even have a name, but not New York. She couldn’t go back there. Not after…
“I can’t go to New York. I can fly out to wherever you have to go to after that to start, but I can’t go to New York.”
“Why not? I thought you were from New York, don’t you want to see home again?”
Wasn’t that the million-dollar question? Home, a place she’d run from in the last month of 2001, a place she’d been desperate to leave, to escape. A place that stopped being her home with the events of September 11 th . “I can’t Orlando. Please, I’ll just meet you after.”
“Emma, what is going on? Please tell me, I want to help.”
She shook her head and stood up, walking a few feet away to stand near the bookshelf that held a picture of the reason she couldn’t go back. Her Uncle Liam and his sons, her twin cousins. “You can’t.”
She could feel him standing behind her a moment later and watched as his hand picked up the picture like he had been reading her mind. “Is this why you can’t go back? Because of your family? Don’t you want to see them? I’m sure they miss you.”
“They don’t.” She whispered, her throat feeling tight. “They…died.”
“What? Emma, please, I don’t understand.”
Silently, she walked over to a closet and pulled out a medium sized box, taking off the lid and handing him a copy of the NY Daily News that was in a protective plastic covering with a cardboard backing. The cover showed an aerial shot of a funeral, with three firetrucks, each with individual coffins, the streets lined with those paying their respect for the fallen. The headline read “Rest In Peace”.
“Oh no.” Orlando’s eyes grew wide as he gained understanding. Now she had to explain something she had never told anyone at the bookstore or even at the grocery store. As far as anyone knew, she left NY because of the weather, a reason most people moved to Miami, although usually when they were fifty years older than she was now.
“My uncle Liam and his sons, my cousins Sam and Brad were in the North Tower when it collapsed. They were firefighters out of Manhattan. Liam would have retired last year and he’d always planned for the boys to take over the firehouse when he did.” She paused, sitting down on the couch again, Orlando still holding the newspaper in shock. “He was 54 years old when he died, the boys had been 27.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Orlando put the paper down carefully on the recliner nearby, putting the picture frame back on the bookshelf before taking a seat next to her again. “I understand now, why you don’t want to go back.”
“I left NY a week after their funeral. They weren’t found till November 27th.” She paused, trying to control the flood of memory of the phone call that had told her they had been found. “They’d been together, at the end. Just like they’d always been. The Irish Three Musketeers.” Her voice broke a little with the last word and she stopped speaking. It’d been nearly 4 years, but it still hurt like it had been yesterday.
Orlando’s hand took hers and he gave it a squeeze. “Emma, you can’t let the past control your life. I don’t think your family would want you to feel like you could never go home because of what happened to them. They would want you to be happy and to move on. Let me help you, please.”
“How can you help?” She whispered, her eyes focused on the picture of Liam and the boys, taken mere weeks before their deaths.
“Go to New York with me. Face your past and move on. I’ll be there with you, you won’t be alone.”
“Yes you can.” He squeezed her hand for emphasis. “You are stronger than you realize Emma O’Malley. I can see it. You could have gone back to the bookstore after what they said to you, after all they put you through, but you didn’t and that took strength. This just takes a little more.”
“You’ll be with me?”
“Every step of the way.”
She looked down at the man asleep in her arms, thinking of how he’d placed himself in her heart that day, having already been almost there with how sweet he’d been to her after the disaster that had been the annual party at the bookstore. She’d been at the store for years, sometimes going home in tears thanks to the subtle cruelty of her coworkers and how often they took advantage of her. She hadn’t been planning on going to the party, but Orlando had sounded interested, so they went. She’d been told by her manager and a few others the same things that Capar had been saying, that Orlando would never see her as anything more than a girl who worked in a bookstore. The biggest hit had been when they said that when he left, she’d never hear from him again because he’d forget about her about 5 minutes after leaving her presence, she was that unimportant. After she came out of the back in tears, Orlando had made his way over, having been surrounded by people since they arrived with only Emma’s friend Katherine to help protect him. He still barely knew her but had been so concerned, leaving with her and then spending the night talking to her and then staying at her home and in her bed to provide comfort. Then when he found out the truth of her past, there was no hesitance. He was prepared to stand by her side just because something in him made him care for her.
But would he really always be there for every step of the journey?
Orlando woke slowly, feeling comfortable and warm before he cursed in his head, realizing that part of his body had already been awake and from the feel of it, had been awake for a while. He opened his eyes to find he was spooning Emma in his hotel room and she was still asleep and unaware of his raging erection that was currently nestled against her nice soft bum.
“Bloody hell, can’t you let me sleep for once?” He softly cursed his fifth limb, not wanting to get up, but not wanting Emma to wake up and think he was trying something funny when she was asleep. He was sure that being a grown woman, she knew what morning wood was all about, but still, it was not a line he was sure he shouldn’t cross with his assistant. He honestly just wanted to lay there and relax, but it just wasn’t going to happen. “Alright, alright.” He muttered, slowly and carefully moving from Emma, who stayed asleep but made an unhappy noise as he pulled away.
He got out of the bed and watched with a fond smile as Emma turned in her sleep, pulled his pillow close and wrapped her arms around it. She made a pleased sound and then went back to quiet slumber. He headed toward the bathroom, realizing he shouldn’t be standing near the bed with his boxers tented like they were, just in case she woke up. It’d make getting out of bed in the first place pointless. Getting in the bathroom, he took off the boxers, very carefully, and took care of some much-needed business with his bladder before getting into the shower.
Standing there under the warm spray, he thought about the night before and how things could have gone badly so quickly. He resolved to himself that he would make it up to Emma and decided that he’d best be able to do that once he finished the business of buying that one house in the Hollywood Hills that they both had been in love over. She’d been a great help on the house hunt, keeping him from buying something that was in a bad location or just didn’t fit his personality.
Finishing his shower, he quickly towel dried his hair before wrapping a large towel around his waist and heading back into the bedroom where Emma was awake and on the phone. “Yes, can I please have a large coffee sent to Mr. Bloom’s room? Do you have a French Vanilla? Yes, can I have that with about 4 Hazelnut creamers and two croissants? Yes, that sounds fine. Thank you.”
“Aren’t you going to get something for yourself, Mouse?” He questioned, walking over to his suitcase and digging through it for his favorite yellow tshirt. He smiled at how well she knew him, right down to exactly how he liked his coffee or what he liked to eat the morning after a stressful night.
“I’ll get something later.” She stretched and started getting out of the bed. “The shirt you’re looking for is in my room. It got packed into my stuff by accident, remember?”
“How do you know what shirt I’m looking for?”
“Because whenever you wake up before me and have that look on your face, means you have a lot on your mind that you want to take care of, so you wear your favorite shirt to start the day off right.”
He grinned, pulling on a pair of jeans under his towel, zipping the fly and buttoning it before discarding the towel and following her to her room. “And what look am I wearing?”
“It’s your determined look. The look you get when you want to make sure you accomplish something during the day to make up for the day before of just sitting around. Most likely, you want to try and finish stuff with the house today because we didn’t do much yesterday and you don’t have to be on set till tonight?”
“Woman, get out of my head!” He yelled, not too loudly, to the ceiling.
“I’m your assistant. You pay me to be psychic.”
He rolled his eyes and was rewarded with his lucky yellow shirt being tossed into his face, smelling of cherries, the perfume that Emma tended to wear. Yeah, it got accidentally packed in her bag. And he was the Prince of Wales. She had a habit of stealing his clothes and this was no different. Little brat. “Thank you for the update. I just thought I paid you so I’d always have a cute girl to cuddle with.”
This time she rolled her eyes at him. “That’s what you think buddy. Now come on, your breakfast is going to be here any minute and I really need to shower.” She ushered him toward the door that connected their two rooms.
“Care for some company? I could wash your back for you.” He gave her a playful leer, stopping in the door way and leaning against it.
“You already showered, maybe next time.” With a final shove, he found himself in his room facing a closed door.
“I have a very dirty mind! I could use another shower!” He yelled through the door, laughing as he heard Emma muttering something about horny British actors before she closed the door of her own bathroom and he heard her shower go on.
Emma set the shower to cold and tried not to scream as the water stabbed into her skin. After all this time and she still was affected by feeling Orlando “happy” against her and then seeing him fresh out of the shower. Granted, she had seen him naked, not that he knew and had been the one to help him get undressed on occasion, but it still affected her everytime. But apparently she was a good actress, because he seemed to believe that she had been asleep the whole time.
“Alright. We’re at the beach. Can we go back to the nice dark room now?” Orlando whined.
Emma shook her head at him. “We’re going to go swimming in the nice warm water. Come on, it’ll make you feel better, I promise. Now come on, off with the shirt.” She gestured to his t-shirt, one that she had gotten for him that read Can’t sleep, clowns will eat me! over and over.
“You just want to see me naked.” He grumbled pulling off the shirt to expose a very well toned tanned body.
Even though she’d been working with him for nearly six months and had pretty much seen him in his birthday suit a few hours ago, she couldn’t help but have her breath taken away each time he did something like that. It took all she had not to spontaneously combust the first time he’d walked out of the bathroom in just a towel. Orlando was many things, but self conscious about nakedness was not one of them. She bit the inside of her mouth hard to keep from whimpering at how low the swim trunks were and trying not to focus on his sun tattoo. “Not when you are such a whiny girl.”
“Whatever.” He sighed, squinting thanks to the bright Miami sun and unable to see her obvious drooling. “Can we swim now so I can go back to the room and fall into a nice long coma?”
“Yes, now we can go swimming.” She led the way toward the water only to be stopped by Orlando’s hand on her arm before she even got 10 feet. “Now what?”
“Aren’t you a little overdressed love?” He asked, gesturing to her t-shirt and shorts.
“No.” She said, not turning around to look at him, her focus being on the women of the beach who wouldn’t been mistaken for a beached manatee.
“Come on, you aren’t going to cause a scandal if you let people see you in a bikini.”
“Yeah but I’d rather not make people get sick to their stomachs, so I’ll stick with this, thanks.”
She tried taking a few steps forward but Orlando wouldn’t let her, pulling on her arm so she would turn around. “Emma. Emma, listen to me.” She was forced to look up at him when he said her name like that. “Your body wouldn’t make anyone sick, you have a beautiful body, you just can’t see it.” He lowered his voice and stepped closer so no one near by would be able to hear. “I’ve spent a few nights curled around that body, I know.”
She could feel her cheeks burn, though not from the sun and couldn’t help but smile a little at how sweet he was being. She actually concentrated her vision right on his tattoo, knowing if she looked into his big chocolate brown eyes she would lose the ability to speak in complete sentences or even English. It was sad that he could reduce her to a stereotypical teenie with just a few words and lack of a shirt.
“Come on Em.” He pulled on the edge of her shirt, playing with it. “Strip for daddy.”
That made her laugh out loud, almost snorting as she pushed him on the chest. “Pervert.”
He grinned, his hangover forgotten for the time being. “Do you need music? I left my wallet in the room, but I’m sure I could get some money for you to dance for.” He paused dramatically, his eyebrow rising playfully. “Did you wear a thong?”
She couldn’t help but laugh harder as she walked back over to the blankets and umbrella that the hotel had provided. “You are the biggest dork I know Orlando, I swear.”
“Anytime a woman says I’m the biggest, I’ll take it as a compliment.” He said with fake pride, making a show of watching her pull off her shorts and pull off her tshirt to reveal a bikini top and bikini briefs. “And if being a dork gets me this view, I’ll gladly wear the crown.” He grinned and whistled at her, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Why did I take this job again?” She wondered outloud, heading for the water again, feeling completely overexposed and rather self conscious. It’d been a very long time since anyone had seen her in a bathing suit, and now here was her boss who just happened to be Orlando freakin’ Bloom talking about wearing a crown because of the view she provided? What kind of Twilight Zone episode was this? She half thought to look around for Rod Serling, standing in the surf calmly smoking a cigarette.
“Because I’d be lost without you?” Orlando jogged up, a grin still on his face.
“Because I’m devishly handsome?”
“I guess if you like that kind of thing.”
“That kind of thing?”
“Yeah, the androgynous pretty boy metrosexual thing.”
“How fast can you run?”
She took off like a shot, laughing as she heard Orlando declaring that he wasn’t pretty, but ruggedly handsome, almost requiring her to chant pretty boy over and over as she hit the water with a laugh. He finally caught her in the water, tickling her until she cried uncle.
His hangover forgotten completely, they played in the water for a while, joined by Orlando’s trainer, Adam, who decided to turn the fun into a chance for some training, making Orlando swim with Emma on his back, her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. It wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last time Adam used her in Orlando’s training. There were times he made Orlando do sit ups, but with her laying on his back.
She held her breath for a minute before switching the water to hot and letting out her breath. Sometimes she thought it would be better for her sanity if she and Orlando weren’t so close. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much sometimes if she didn’t know what it was like to wake up at his side, feeling warm and safe in his arms. Maybe she could get the idea of having a chance with him out of her head if he didn’t…if he wasn’t…him.
She washed quickly and got out of the shower, wrapping herself in a towel and her hair in another. She knew there was no way she’d ever change the way things were between her and Orlando for all the tea in China, as the saying went. It would probably be the closest she would ever get to him and in the end, what more could she ask for? She had a job she was good at working for one of the closest friends she’d ever had, traveling all over the world. So what if he didn’t love her like she loved him.
“So he just dumped her. Just like that?” Keira asked, practically sitting on top of the coffee house table between them, her interest causing her to lean over the table dramatically. It was appropriate with all the drama that had been going on in the last few days. The young actress had insisted on a girl’s night out to celebrate the departure of Capar and they were hanging out at a quiet coffeeshop post decadent dinner before heading off to see what trouble they could find in Los Angeles. “All he told me was that things didn’t work out! Wanker didn’t tell me he dumped the bitch for you!”
Emma shook her head at her friend. Keira had been overjoyed when she heard of the demise of Orlando’s relationship with the model, a relationship called Caplando in the press. “He didn’t dump her for me. It’s not like we’re together or anything. She made him chose between a relationship that was more pain than reward and a strong friendship.”
“Oh fuck that! Emma, he chose YOU.” Keira sat back in her seat and regarded Emma, her eyes shaded by the pageboy cap she wore. They were seated in the back of the shop, but there was always the chance of being spotted. Even then, she’d probably be mistaken as Natalie Portman, the two looking so much alike that one of Keira’s first acting roles had been as the Queen’s double in the Phantom Menace. “Shouldn’t you have a permanent smile on your face?”
“I am happy.”
“You don’t seem it. Now you can try your hand at getting Orlando for yourself! Get out the safari gear and the butterfly net, girl! The hunt is on!” She grinned, her smile taking up her whole face as her fist shook in the air.
Emma laughed, the image of hunting Orlando down with a butterfly net quite amusing as was her friend’s enthusiasm. “While I do look pretty good in tan, I’m not going to chase after him. I’m not his type.”
“Oh that’s a load of elephant shite right there! And who is his type?”
Keira’s eyes opened wide and her jaw dropped, surprised at the answer. Even the sound of someone dropping a plate nearby didn’t phase her, she was so shocked. “What?”
“You asked. You two are close friends, you have the same cultural background, are both gorgeous people and now, are both single. It makes sense.”
A look of utter amazement and confusion was given to her. “You’ve gone off the bloody knob!”
Emma laughed and shook her head, her eyes watching a waitress as she cleaned up the mess a waiter had made and looking none too happy. “I’m just calling it as I see it. You would have way more chance with Orlando than I would.”
“And you wouldn’t have a problem with that?”
“As long as you made him happy, no.” She looked off to the side, her eyes falling on a young couple sitting close together on a couch, laughing over something in a magazine. As much as she cared for Orlando, in the end, it was his happiness that mattered to her. She had very little chance of ever being with him and since being his friend was all that she’d ever be, she just wanted him to be happy. If it was with someone that she was friends with, all the better. She had to accept it, otherwise she’d be as miserable as she had been with Capar around.
“You really fucking love him.” Keira’s voice went soft and had a sound of awe.
“Wow, I don’t think Jane Austen could have said it better.” Emma rolled her eyes, used to her friend’s rather colorful use of language. Keira had been the only person she’d actually said the word love around.
“So you enjoyed your birthday then?” Keira asked, sitting back from her examination of Emma’s brand new laptop that was currently attached to her brand new Ipod that currently had a picture of Emma and her friend Katherine from Miami along with Orlando on it as it downloaded songs from the Internet.
Emma gave her friend a look that was the equivalent of “Are you fucking kidding?”
The younger actress smiled and shook her head. “You should have seen your face when you saw Katherine. It was priceless.” She thought about it, and waved her hand to dismiss what she’d just said. “No, you should have seen the smile on Orlando’s face when you let out that scream of surprise. I haven’t seen him that happy in forever.”
Emma sighed, her face aching from the near constant smile on her face since the day before. “I’m still in shock.”
Katherine grinned from her seat on the couch where she was playing with Emma’s new laptop. “Girl, you have it good. I’d be declaring my undying love for Greg if he went around flying people in to see me and buying me state of the art computers and ipods and shit. I’d be like, damn, I love you.”
Emma rolled her eyes at the thought of her friend having anything but loathing for the boss they used to share. Orlando and Greg were as opposite as black and white. “He doesn’t have to buy me things to make me love him.” She admitted absently, playing with the menu of her new Ipod. Then her head shot up as she realized what she’d just said and saw two pairs of brown eyes looking back at her with amusement. “Oh god.”
“I’m serious. You would sacrifice any chance of ever being with him just to have him be happy with someone else?”
“I’m not sacrificing a chance to be with him. I don’t have a chance. I love you kiddo, but you just can’t see that he doesn’t feel the same way for me. I can see that.” She took a long sip of her now long cold coffee, trying not to react to the sludge that had been a warm comforting beverage not too long ago. “I’d rather have his friendship like it is now than to not have him at all.”
Keira shook her head again, moving to sit so that her long legs stretched out along the bench of the booth. “Just tell me, why you love him so much. What is it about him, honestly?”
“I don’t know.” Emma mumbled, feeling embarrassed. It was one thing to feel love for Orlando, another to say it outloud. “It’s a lot of things.”
“Tell me. I think you need to hear yourself say it.” The young actress insisted. “It’s because he’s handsome, eh?”
Emma shook her head. “No, it’s not about that. I mean, he is more than gorgeous but that’s not what I think of first. It’s not what made me think differently of him than just a friend or anything.”
“I don’t know. He’s just so genuine. I mean, all I did was help him with finding some books and treat him like a normal person, and it was like treating someone else like a king, you know? Like the fact that he appreciated that I respected his privacy. It sounds stupid.”
“No it doesn’t. It makes sense to me. It means a lot when people recognize you as normal. The ones that kiss your ass do it because they want something from you, not out of some weird sense of admiration.”
“And he cares about what I think. Like when we were watching Kingdom of Heaven, at the sneak preview? I hadn’t even known him a full day and he was so interested in what I had to say about the movie. That’s another thing, he’s so smart, like it’s a sensual intelligence.”
“You are not bloody quoting George of the Jungle to describe Orlando!” Keira laughed, shaking her head. “I understand what you mean, but now I can’t help but see him swinging into trees.”
Emma giggled. “I would have thought of the loincloth first.”
Keira’s eyebrow went up and she nodded a moment later. “So his looks do matter.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, it sounds superficial, but you have to be able to look the person in the face without recoiling in horror, you know?” She shrugged. “It’s like icing. Like, he speaks sometimes with his eyes. Just a look and you know what he’s trying to say when he’s stumbling over his words.”
“But then he’ll turn around and say he doesn’t get much dialogue in his movies because he’d fuck it up.”
“Exactly! That drives me crazy. Acting doesn’t always have to be about dialogue, I’ve seen enough movies to understand that.”
A few minutes went by before Keira spoke again. “He’s got a cute bum.”
A snort came from across the table. “Yes, he does. And he’s not lacking elsewhere either.”
“WHEN?” Keira demanded simply, instantly understanding what Emma had inferred.
“In Miami, after the VMAs. He was passed out drunk and I was just undressing him. I forgot that he said he’d gone commando.”
Now she received a snort, but with a distinct British giggle after it. “And?”
“I bloody knew it.” Keira shook her head and picked at the table. “You know, it’s too bad I don’t smoke. That would have been a great moment to ground out a cig before starting up a new one.”
“Yes it would have. But I’m still glad you don’t smoke.”
“So what else? You two are pretty affectionate with each other, that has to be pretty important.”
“I think it’s important in the sense that it shows how comfortable we are with each other. I mean, I don’t even know how to describe it, but nothing feels awkward. It’s all very relaxed. Natural.”
“Alright then, how can you be so convinced that he’s not interested in you when you have personally told me that he climbs into your bed on a regular basis? Come on, that’s not something just friends do all the time. I don’t care what bloody fantasy world you think you live in. If a man says he sleeps better in your bed, it’s because he sleeps better with YOU.”
“I don’t know. The fact that he went out with Capar has to show something.”
“Maybe it shows that he’s flawed, like any human and sometimes people are desperate to get laid. Therefore, Capar.”
“So I’m not…layable?”
“I didn’t say that ducks. I mean that Capar was someone he could have meaningless sex with, mindless. You are the one he has the loving relationship with. You are the one he cares about.”
“So that means I don’t get sex?” Emma pouted.
“Not if you don’t show him that you want it! Do I have to get out bloody charts and lists to prove this to you?”
Emma grinned. “It wouldn’t hurt.”
“Oh toss off!” Keira laughed, pretending to be put off as she tossed the top to her coffee cup at Emma.
Not all the italics are flashbacks here. Some are inner thoughts! just an FYI
“So how are things with you and Emma?” Elijah asked, handing Orlando a beer. It’d been about a week since the breakup and in a matter of days they’d be returning to the Caribbean. Both he and Keira were off for the night and the younger actress had invited Emma out for a girl’s night, so Orlando found himself at Elijah’s for a boy’s night.
“Good. We’re good.” He rubbed at the back of his neck absently, wondering how it happened to sound so natural to think of himself and Emma as a “we”. It wasn’t really that difficult, he decided, following his friend. He was practically attached to the small brunette at the hip and so much so, that the fans would probably assume that she had been behind the reason of his breakup with Capar. He would say the reason had been Capar herself, Emma had been the match to the gunpowder
Every few weeks, ever since Miami at least, there would be a picture of himself and Emma in People magazine or worse yet, US Weekly making assumptions about their true relationship. Again, he guessed it wasn’t that hard to assume things, especially considering how close they were in some of the pictures. There had practically been a photospread after Miami, of him chasing her into the water and then swimming with her on his back and finally, one of him wrapping his arms and a towel around her with a wide smile on his face. It was a good picture, not for his own presence in it, but for the happiness in Emma’s eyes. He would never deny that one thing that made him feel good was making her smile.
They walked back into the “Fun Room” as Elijah liked to call it, the plan to get good and sloshed while watching movies. Orlando seated himself in one of the plush recliners, grabbing a bowl of chips and placing it in his lap as Elijah did the same to his own bowl. “So I got one question for you before we start.”
“Yeah?” Orlando asked around a mouthful of Doritos.
“When are you gonna wake up and realize how bad you’ve got it for Emma?”
Coughing and choking, Orlando managed not to injure or embarrass himself too badly and took a long swig of beer before he even attempted to reply to the surprise question. “What?”
Elijah seemed nonplussed by his friend’s reaction. “I said, when are you going to wake up and realize how bad you have it for Emma? It’s obvious to everyone except you and maybe her.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” He could almost hear the voices in his head yell Bullshit! He had caught himself noticing her more as a woman and not just a friend. He’d always thought she was cute and her personality only added to it. Unfortunately, he kept comparing her to Capar, her polar opposite. One abrasive and cold, the other comforting and warm. When Capar had been a total bitch, leaving him at his wits end, Emma had been there with a joke and a hug. When Capar would get up and shower after sex, Emma would curl into him when he went to her. It wasn’t fair to either woman to compare them, but he put the blame on the fact that he was a man and left it at that. It was almost like he was in two incomplete relationships, the real one being with Emma and one that was nothing more than lust with Capar.
Elijah rolled his eyes and took his own swig of beer. “Yes you do, even if you won’t admit it. You can’t tell me that you don’t feel anything for Emma.”
“Of course I feel something for her. She’s one of my best friends. I love her like I love you man. You know that.” So what if I share a bed with her during the week more than I sleep alone? So what if I like to cuddle with my assistant and miss her when she’s gone for a few hours? Does it have to mean something if I kiss another woman for a role and feel guilty? And really, doesn’t everyone feel like their cheating when they kiss their girlfriend and not their assistant? It’s perfectly normal.
“Ever been to Egypt?”
“What?” Orlando was confused. Had Elijah had a few drinks before he arrived? What did Egypt have to do with anything?
“Because there’s a river there you’d be familiar with, De Nile.”
“Lij, you are making no sense. Why do you think I have feelings for Emma?” Yes please, let me know what signs I’ve been giving so I can stop. I can’t have feelings for her. Help me. He had the worst track record with relationships and didn’t want to have Emma join his “Rogue’s Gallery” as it were. And since it had barely been a week since the last disaster, he was even more hesitant.
“First, I see how you two are around each other and in the time I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you so comfortable with a woman or anyone for that matter. She’s the one person I’ve ever seen who can actually read that fucked up mind of yours and it’s totally natural.” He held up a hand and counted off the points. “Then there’s the fact that you apparently have a sleep dependency when it comes to the girl. Don’t try to deny it man, remember my party back in June?”
He groaned. Most of the party he couldn’t remember, but he knew what Elijah was talking about.
He woke up confused, not sure where he was or what was going on until he recognized his own clothing on the chair and a shirt he recognized as Elijah’s hanging in the half opened closet. Elijah’s house, his guest room.
He sighed, thinking of how he had very little memory of how he got into the room in the first place. That had been thanks to all the lovely couples who appeared to be everywhere he turned and not only that, but apparently were under the pay of some devious mastermind who paid them to be loving and affectionate to each other right in front of him. He’d been single for nearly half a year now and hated every minute of it. He was over Kate, but wasn’t enjoying being single and alone.
But he hadn’t gone to the party alone.
“Oh Christ.” He sat up slowly, the room tilting a bit. What the hell had he been drinking? Oh yeah, anything he could get his hands on. He wouldn’t blame Emma if she quit and went back to Miami after seeing him acting like such a lush. At least the party was at the home of a friend and not somewhere public.
Could she have gone back to the hotel? He didn’t remember her leaving before he woke up, so there was the chance that she left after he was helped into the guest room. Better find Elijah and find out. Make apologies if need be and he was sure they would be.
He checked himself to find that whoever had undressed him had left him in his boxers. He figured it safe to walk around in and headed out of the room on his search.
Which room was Lij’s? He poked his head into the first room that had a slightly opened door and didn’t find the master of the house, but did find the woman he’d been so concerned about. Emma lay curled up on her side facing him, asleep. His eyebrow rose when he noticed her sleepwear, a shirt of Elijah’s that read “Hobbits do it better”.
A strange feeling flittered through his mind. One he hadn’t felt since the night before when he’d been barraged by the sight of happy couples. Jealousy. She was HIS assistant. His friend. She was supposed to be wearing HIS clothes to bed, not Elijah’s!
He shook his head and shuffled into the room, climbing into the bed next to her and spooning himself behind her. Hopefully when she woke up she wouldn’t have any reason to be mad at him and would be generous enough to tell him what he did or didn’t do. She was probably the best assistant he’d ever had and more than that, she was proving to be a good friend. He didn’t want to lose that. Then he really would be alone.
“Hey Emster, I think Sleeping Ugly…” Elijah’s voice made him look up from his musings. The younger actor looked like he’d been awake for a while, already dressed with a mug of coffee in one hand as he poked his head into the room. “Oh hey. Umm, ok. Nevermind. I guess.” His confusion turned into amusement and one eyebrow rose.
“Man, how many people do you know sleep with their assistant on a daily basis, but without any sex involved? And you’re trying to tell me it doesn’t mean anything? Just that you admit that you sleep better with her than alone should tell you everything, but you’re kinda dense, so I’ll continue. Third, you dumped your girlfriend, granted a complete bitch but still your girlfriend, over her. Fourth, the aforementioned dumped bitch never met your family, but Emma has practically been adopted by them. Need I go on?”
Orlando shook his head, his mind reeling with his friend’s rant. “I think you are seeing things where they don’t exist my friend. I love Emma, yes, but not like you think.” He paused. “Why, has she said something to you?” Does she like me? Should I pass her a note in class asking her to circle yes if she does and no if she doesn’t?
Elijah rolled his eyes. “Orli, the woman hasn’t dated anyone since she started working for you. Have you seen her go on a single date, have dinner with a man other than you, anything like that? Why do you think she got so upset when Capar was going to make you choose?”
Orlando thought about it and couldn’t think of any time where there had been another man. Not once. Then again, there were times where he didn’t really pay much attention to much more than himself, not a good thing, but realistic. As for her being upset, he would have been too if he had been her. He liked to think they were pretty close, closer than most people with their assistants. With that kind of closeness, there was a bond and the idea of that bond being broken, especially because of someone like Capar would have upset anyone.
And considering that Emma didn’t really have anyone family wise, the idea of being alone again because of events outside of her control probably factored in too. He had to remember that one of the reasons Emma was the best assistant was that she didn’t have a life outside of her work with him. She didn’t have a family to go home to. For all intents and purposes, he was her family.
He groaned, not in the mood for his friend’s playful nature or the questions that got his head all turned around and made his heart hurt for his assistant. “Forget I said anything. Can we please watch the movie now?”
Elijah gave up, for the time being, leaving Orlando to see the movie with his eyes, but not able to concentrate. This was crazy; he couldn’t be developing feelings for Emma. She was his friend and his assistant, just like he told Elijah. Plenty of men and women could share beds and be close friends without it having to mean more. He was just going through rebound after a nasty breakup, the feelings would fade back to just his usual affection for the girl.
Then why did he have the feeling that he wouldn’t mind if they didn’t?
“So do you know what’s wrong with Orlando?” Emma asked Keira as the younger woman got up to put the DVD they’d just watched away.
“Why are you asking me? You live with him. He doesn’t talk to you?”
“He does, but in the last week or so, since we’ve gotten back from LA and since the whole thing with Crapper, he’s been different. Almost brooding.” She moved so she was lying lengthwise along the couch and folded her hands on her stomach. “Then there’s how he’s been keeping me so busy with stuff, I can’t even check my email, I go to turn on the TV and he asks me not to, that he wants quiet. I just don’t know what’s going on. Every time I ask, he says it’s nothing and finds something else for me to do.”
“You are his assistant.”
“You know what I mean!” She rolled off the couch and stood up. “There’s something he’s keeping from me. Do you think he’s talking to Capar again? Maybe he’s trying to work things out with her and doesn’t want to tell me.”
“Are you insane? Why would he talk to that slut again? I hear she’s already seeing someone new, I think it was Hayden Christensen.”
“Really? I’ve been so out of the loop this week.” Emma shrugged. "I’m just worried, lately, he's been practically mute. I haven't seen him really smile for days and he keeps saying it's nothing. He's more of a technophobe lately too, which is weird. He keeps finding excuses for the TV to stay off and every time I go to use my computer, he asks me to do something for him. I just don't know what's going on."
"Have you talked to his mum?"
"Yeah, she thinks it has something to do with the breakup with Capar, but according to him, he's not really upset about that which is why I thought maybe he was working things out with her. But like you said, it’s not that likely." She paused. “And I’ve been smelling cigarette smoke on his clothes, but he says it’s from being around Johnny and the crew. Is he smoking again?”
"I haven’t seen him smoking, so I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be upset about breaking up with Capar if I was him." Keira said rolling her eyes. "That woman was a complete bitch. He's good to be rid of that rubbish." She sighed and looked at her wristwatch. "I've got to shower before we head to set, are you alright here while I get ready? We can ride together to the set."
"Sure KK, sounds good."
Keira laughed at the sound of the nickname Emma had given her and headed to the back of her Caribbean home to prepare for the night shoot that she had to do with Johnny.
Getting up, Emma spied Keira's own laptop and clapped quietly in victory. There was no way Orlando was going to keep her from checking her email now! Why he'd been so weird lately was beyond her. She'd used Keira's computer before and soon was online and typing in the password to get to her inbox. She wasn't surprised at the number of emails, more than one from Elijah with the most recent being "Hello? Bueller? Bueller?"
What she was surprised by was the content of many of the messages, which lead her to check out many of the messageboards, which were abuzz with the news and rumors. Capar hadn't been wasting her time since the breakup, issuing statements, both official and unofficial that she was the victim of the breakup, saying that she'd gone to surprise Orlando in Los Angeles only to find him in the arms of his assistant. He'd been cold hearted and had cruelly told her of their indiscretions, telling her he was getting tired of hiding it. There were articles posted, complete with pictures that "proved" what Capar was saying. On top of that, there were numerous pictures of Orlando on set, cigarette in hand and the sad look Jack had mentioned on his face. The sad look had many theorizing that he was feeling the guilt of getting caught.
"Oh, I guess you checked your mail then?" Keira's voice broke her from her reading of fan reactions. A good portion of them were calling Capar’s claims utter garbage and backing up Orlando, emphasizing that he was incapable of something like cheating.
Emma shook her head. "Yeah, I guess this is why Orlando's been so broody lately. It's not like it's a big surprise that she would do something like this. She's always hated me and always accused me of crap like this." It didn't hurt any less to have it all over the national news, but at the same time, the fans, for the most part knew it was crap. The fact that he was smoking showed how stressed he was.
Keira shook her head silently and walked over to the computer and typed in a web address. The site for the NY Daily News came up and with a few more clicks, Keira brought them to the article that would answer all of Emma's questions. Silently, she stepped back so Emma could see.
"LOVE BLOOMS FOR 9/11 FAMILY MEMBER" The article title filled half the page.
"Oh no." Emma's hand flew to her mouth. They found her. They found them.
"I'm sorry Emma. This is what Orlando didn't want you to see. He asked me not to say anything to you, that he was going to tell you."
Emma didn't reply, simply started reading the article. Back when 9/11 had first happened, the Daily News and the NY Post had been the banes of her existence, the fact that an entire family of firefighters was lost was considered news that was just too good not to be exploited. As much as she had asked them just to leave her alone, they couldn't. She'd thought when she escaped to Miami, she'd escaped the scrutiny. Even though she’d been miserable there, it was nice to be able to answer the phone or walk down the street without someone reminding her about the worst day of her life.
The article detailed the loss of her family, including a picture of the four when she was little and a recent picture of her with Orlando. It mentioned how she had all but vanished after the funeral of her family, leaving no forwarding address only to be found again thanks to the "tip" of a "source".
"How did she know?" Emma asked quietly, her eyes drawn to the faces of her uncle and cousins. They didn't deserve to be exploited like this. The source could be no one else but Capar. But how?
"Could Orlando have told her?"
Emma thought about it. "He could have. He was pretty blind to how she really was."
Keira nodded and put her hand on Emma's shoulder. "Are you going to be alright?"
She nodded after a minute. "Yeah. I think so. It's just a little bit of a shock I guess. I knew it'd happen eventually." She took a deep breath and closed the window on the screen. "I think I need to talk to the boss man."
"Oh. Hello love." Orlando's voice made her look up from the cleaning she'd been doing in his trailer. She hadn’t been able to just sit and wait for him, she’d think too much that way. But cleaning was mindless, she had been able to just concentrate on that and not on how the conversation she wanted to have with him would go. She knew that to talk to him about this, but wasn't quite sure how to spring it on him. She didn’t want to get Keira in trouble but she also didn’t want to sound like she was angry or upset with him. "Did you come over with Keira?"
"Yeah." She watched him carefully and noticed how tired and listless he seemed. He hadn't come to her room in nearly a week, one of the ways she knew something was wrong. He wasn’t sleeping right and the smoking made it all the more obvious. He always fidgeted when he was nervous or upset and if the fidgeting turned into oral fixation, like when he tugged on his goatee or bit at his nails, then it was something really bothering him. Smoking had to be the equivalent of Def Com 1 or something. Red Alert, all hands to battle stations kind of thing.
"I'm done for the night." He said quietly, pulling off his shirt and heading to the back of the trailer to change. "Thank you." He called back, no doubt finding the small room much cleaner than he'd left it.
"Sure." She chewed her bottom lip. This was going to take longer than she thought. He already seemed so down, did she really want to kick the proverbial sand in his face? What would his reaction be? "Do you mind if we walk back to the house tonight? It's really nice out."
A pause. "Alright."
He came back a few minutes later, changed into shorts and a sweatshirt and sat down at the table for their daily routine. She went behind him and combed through his hair before brushing it back into a neat ponytail. She hated doing it, but he always asked and soon enough, it became a daily ritual. She tucked the little curls of hair that couldn't be truly captured behind his ears and tapped his shoulder. "Ready to go?"
"Very much so."
"So, how long did you think you'd be able to keep it from me?" She asked finally, unable to deal with Orlando's continued silence. They'd walked quietly for over ten minutes as she thought about how to approach the subject. She'd noticed that included in a few of the articles there had been references to Elizabethtown's less that spectacular box office and the critical reviews of Orlando's performance. That probably had him depressed too if he had read them. She always tried to censor what reviews he read if any. He didn't need to hear garbage from people who didn't know him or even what they were talking about.
His shoulders slumped and he stuffed his hands in his pockets. Some hair came loose from his ponytail, but he didn’t seem to even notice it blowing in his face. The setting sun cast shadows on the furrowed brow that had arrived with his slumped shoulders. "Keira told you?"
She shook her head, watching him as they continued to walk. Part of her loved him more that very moment for being so sensitive to her feelings, trying to protect her from hearing anything that might upset her. She couldn’t help but love him for trying to protect her. Another part of her wanted to smack him upside the head for blaming himself for any of it. "No, I found it all on my own. She went to take a shower after the movie and I hopped on her computer." After a moment, she asked again when it was obvious she was going to have to drag words from him. "So how long did you think you'd keep it from me?"
"I wasn't trying....I just wanted to protect you that's all. I was going to tell you." He stopped and looked at her with pained eyes as he worried his bottom lip with his teeth. He looked away to the water gently lapping at the shore a few feet away. "I wanted you to hear it from me, not from a tabloid or a website."
"But you didn't tell me."
"I didn't know how. How do you tell someone that they accused of being an adulteress and that the most painful time of their life has been exposed because of a bitch bent on revenge?"
Emma shrugged even though he wasn’t looking at her. He made it sound so dramatic. That was giving Capar credit she didn’t deserve. "I don't know, but I'm pretty sure words are involved." She stepped forward and touched his arm, urging him to walk again. "How did she know about Liam and the boys?"
He sighed, brow furrowing once more. "When I first started seeing her, she asked me what your parents thought about you being my assistant and I told her your parents were gone, she said there had to be family out there and I guess I told her. She never mentioned it again, I completely forgot about it." He was quiet for a long moment. "I'm so sorry Mouse. I didn't realize who she was then. I wasn't thinking when I told her."
Emma silently took his hand, tugging it out of the pocket he'd shoved it into and smiling a little as he gripped a little tighter than usual. It was a comfort, the simple contact and she wondered if his distant behavior over the last week had been some kind of self punishment. Didn’t he realize he was punishing her as well? "It's alright. You couldn't have known."
"Doesn't change anything. Everything is so messed up now." He let go of her hand and shoved it back into his pocket, frustrated. He didn’t seem to think he deserved to be forgiven for something that was obviously out of his control.
She didn't say anything except to lead him toward a large boulder that he preferred to rest on when he wanted to relax and watch the sea. It was a good spot, quiet and out of the way without being a pain to get to like most good spots seemed to be. She’d never been one for watching the sea before, but now she found it calming and hoped it would be so for Orlando right now. They climbed on and she sat behind him, pulling him so he was resting against her legs. "Is this why you've been all Broody Brit on me this week?"
He didn't say anything.
"How did you think I would react when I found out?" It was like getting blood out of stone. It’d be easier to explain algebra to a turtle.
"I don't know."
And advanced physics to a duck. A one legged blind duck. "You can't think that I'd be mad at you for any of it."
"But Emma, the things she said..."
"Are complete crap. You know it, I know it and so does everyone else that matters. Hell, if you weren't so against computers, you would have seen that your fans hate her even more now. They know you and they know you wouldn't do something like that."
"And your family business?"
She shrugged. "It was a matter of time. I had to deal with the media practically following my every move from September 11th till I snuck out of NY that November. I knew when I said yes to being your assistant that they would connect Emma O’Malley to the O’Malley boys. I'm not happy about it, but there's no way in hell I would ever blame you sweetheart!" She hugged him around the shoulders. "Why didn't you just talk to me?"
"I don't know. I just...I was afraid I guess.” He confessed after a long pause. Men had a fear of admitting fear, a bit of a redundancy. “After what you went through, thinking there was the chance I would choose her and then this..." He trailed off and leaned back against her as she parted her legs and let him rest his back against her chest with his head on her shoulder, her arms still wrapped around his shoulders in a comfortable and no doubt needed embrace.
"And then Elizabethtown too, hmm?" She asked, curious. They hadn't much talked about the film since he'd finished promoting it and it had been released. "Why do you let the reviews get to you?"
"Because they seem to say the same thing every time. I'm bland, dry, talentless."
She smacked him lightly on the chest. "And they are jealous dried up old farts who wish they looked even half as good as you or had even a quarter of the opportunities you've had in just 10 years." She hugged him tight. "You aren't bland or dry. You are...tasty and moist. Like a cake."
That earned her a snort and an infamous Orli Giggle as his hands moved to rest over hers. "I'm a cake now?"
"Yep. Ever heard the term beefcake?"
"Oh bloody hell. From South Park?"
She giggled and did her best Cartman impression. "Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!"
Another snort came from Orlando. "I need to get Sean A. to send some of his home videos from New Zealand for you to see. You haven't seen anything until you see South Park Hobbits."
"Oh man. That sounds fun." She smiled and they sat quietly for a few minutes, much more relaxed than before. It was almost physical, especially since they were touching more now than they had in a week. She hoped quietly that he would come to her room tonight. That way, she’d be able to sleep better too. "So you ok now?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry I've been such a tosser this week. I guess it was just time for me to brood." He helped her off the rock and took her hand, leading her toward the house that was only a short walk away now. He gave her a small smile and squeezed her hand, almost as if to silently tell her that he was alright.
“So that means no more cigarettes right?”
“Fuck.” He groaned to the sky before looking down at his feet. “How?”
“Pictures. The fans will have my head if I don’t make you stop.” She nudged him with her elbow. “Plus there’s the fact that I’m not going to let you sneak in my room if you stink like an ashtray.”
“Believe me, I’ve had my last one for a while. I don’t even know why I had them. I just needed something to concentrate on and I begged a pack off one of the key grips.”
"And you just went through an ugly breakup, it's understandable." She paused and asked the question she wanted to ask but was afraid to hear the answer to. "Do you miss her?"
"No. Not really. Is that horrible?"
"Not at all. She caused you more grief than anything else."
“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?”
She laughed. “I guess so.”
Orlando squinted against the hot Caribbean sun, wondering where Emma was. She was the only person who knew where the contacts were that acted as sunglasses. Making his way onto the set, he noticed a few people staring at him. Extras. They were always so easy to spot for the most part, the wide eyes and the way they just stared at everyone and everything. Then there was the energy that came from being excited to be in a movie. For people who did it normally, that excitement was gone.
He made his way through, stopping to say hello here and there before he found Keira. If anyone would know where Emma was, it would be her. She was talking to what looked like an extra dressed as a maid or a servant from what he could see from the back and then he recognized something. The long brown curly hair tied with a simple piece of ribbon and the small hands gesturing as Keira laughed.
"Keira?" He questioned, getting the pair to turn around. He was a bit taken aback to say the least. He was now used to Keira's appearance in period garb, complete with corset and various costuming tricks to help give her modest cleavage a boost, but he wasn't used to Emma. She was indeed dressed as a servant, but not a wench and he was glad for that. Her cleavage was far from modest and the boost a wench’s corset would have given might have been fatal to his sensibilities. She wore a normal corset and a simple white and tan dress with sleeves that ran to her forearms. She wore no jewelry or makeup and indeed looked the part. He’d almost believe that she was from the 18th century.
"Aye, she's here. And who might you be, kind sir?" Emma greeted, speaking with a flawless Irish accent. Her eyes were filled with a playfulness that almost made him want to check his back for a kick me sign, but at the same time, he was glad to see it. He’d been afraid that with all the garbage that came up thanks to Capar that she would be upset or affected. He should have realized she was stronger than that.
"I'm surprised. Nice to meet you."
The girls laughed and he laughed with them. "Emma love, where are the contacts?"
"Right here." She pulled a small white container out of a pocket of the apron on her dress, handing it to him. "Your necklaces are here too. Safe as can be."
"So you're going to be an extra?"
She laughed. "Yeah, I'm surprised too. I got kidnapped by one of the costume girls. I guess they didn't hire enough and Gore thought it would be fun if more of the crew was in front of the camera." She shrugged and then held out her arms and turned around. "How do I look?"
"You look fantastic. I might have to have your contract amended so you have to wear a corset all the time." He playfully wiggled his eyebrows and leered suggestively. He wasn’t exactly lying. The corset was very flattering, showing off what Emma didn’t show off with her regular clothes. It wasn’t that she didn’t dress to flatter, but she didn’t dress to show off. He would be lying if he said he didn’t look forward to days hot enough for her to wear a tank top.
"Pervert." The girls said in unison, rolling their eyes. They laughed and linked pinkies, the traditional move to prevent a jinx.
“Yes, and damn proud of it.”
“Oh look at little Miss Emma, all dressed up! I almost forgot you were a girl, but boy, you can’t hide those things, can you?”
Orlando looked up from the sandwich he’d been just about to bite into and looked over where Emma was talking with a couple members of the crew who were fellow New Yorkers. He’d never really talked to the men, but if Emma liked them, they couldn’t be that bad. She was still dressed as an extra, the complicated scene no doubt taking longer than she’d expected when she’d agreed to be in the scene.
He watched as she laughed off the comment and flipped off another crew member with ease for a comment he couldn’t hear. But as he watched, he noticed that she looked uncomfortable and she seemed to be looking around, like she was looking for an out, a way to get away without conceding that their teasing was bothering her.
“So you don’t dress up for your boss like this? It might get you a raise!”
“Yeah, but I don’t think it’d be a money raise!”
The group of men broke up laughing and Orlando put down his sandwich, letting his inner caveman take over. No woman deserved to be talked to like that and especially not his Emma. At the same time, he pushed down his temper, not wanting to embarrass her in front of the crew. He’d have to ask her why she’d look for friendship with such rude people.
“Emma, there you are.” He quickened his step a bit, acting like he’d just found her. “What’s wrong? You look like your freezing.” He gave her a glance he hoped she could read and follow.
“Actually, I am. I just had this huge smoothie that Regina with the caterers made for me. I guess I have brain freeze.”
He smiled, proud that she’d caught onto his idea. “Well come on then.” He took off the 18th century style jacket he wore and draped it over her shoulders, and hugged her to him, making a show of rubbing her arms. “Maybe if you ate, you’d warm up?”
She nodded. “Good idea.” She turned to the crew members who’d gone silent at Orlando’s arrival, but didn’t break his embrace. “I’ll see you guys later.”
With a chorus of “Bye Emmas” they made their escape.
When they were far enough away, Orlando removed the jacket and Emma sighed with relief. There was no way that anyone could be cold enough to shiver on a tropical island, but thankfully the crew members didn’t think about that.
He smiled, putting his arm around her. “Looked like they were giving you the business.”
She shrugged. “They were just kidding.”
“Still, it bothered you.”
“This outfit bothers me.” She shifted in it so as to better cover her chest, wrestling with the corset. She made an attempt or two to sit on the picnic table they had escaped to, but with no avail. “Help?”
He grinned and put his hands on her waist and lifted her. “Personally, I like it.”
She rolled her eyes. “That’s because it makes me look like I should be on a cover of one of those Harlequin romances, you know, with the heaving bosom and burning loins.”
“You do have a point there. I’m kind of dressed for the part as well. Maybe we should try and get a cover together, eh?”
She laughed and rolled her eyes again. “Yeah, we could have them take it right here.” She leaned back on the table, and thrust out her chest with as much melodrama as she could muster. “Oh, noble blacksmith, you have saved me from being deflowered by a dastardly group of rogues, but I cannot resist your noble heart and your lusty eyes! Take me!”
He couldn’t help but snort with laughter and after a minute, another snort answered his as Emma giggled from her spot reclined on the picnic table.
“Ok everyone! We’re ready! Places! Where’s Orlando? We need everyone to their places!”
“Back to work love.” He helped her sit up and lifted her down from the table, the pair still laughing. “We’ll have to work on the cover later.”
“That’s easy, the hard part is the smut that happens about midway into the book.”
“Do you mean hard physically, literally or metaphorically?”
"I think we're both due for a nice long rest. Maybe some ice cream. How does that sound?" Orlando asked as he led the way into the house, reaching out and pulling Emma to his side. She hissed in pain, her sides aching from the long hours wearing the corset. She had had no idea that when she agreed to be an extra, it would be an all day job. She'd achieved a new level of respect for Keira but cursed the younger actress for being slender enough to not need to have the corset as tight as she did. Why the costume ladies had to be so exacting when she probably was barely in the shot was beyond her. "Love, what's wrong? Are you alright?"
Emma let out a breath with Orlando immediately let go and stopped in concern. "It's nothing. The corset was ..a little tight. I'm just glad I don't have to put it back on." She shook her head, waving off his concern with one hand. "I'm fine. It was worth the per diem I got." She had been surprised when one of the financial assistants gave her an envelope with over one hundred dollars as her spending money on set. Turned out, that as an extra, she technically counted as talent. She had no doubts it was a joke by either Keira or Johnny, the older man pretending not to recognize her while she’d been in costume.
One thing for sure, they weren’t getting the money back.
"Let us see." Orlando urged gently, reaching out and pulling up the edge of her tshirt to just below her breasts and kneeling down so he could see. "Oh love."
She was confused at his sound of slight shock and looked down to see that her sides were just beginning to show bruises. "Oh, I didn't even notice them before."
Orlando held her shirt with one hand and with the fingers of the other, traced her sides gently, barely touching her. "Love, why didn't you tell them it was too tight? You could have hurt yourself."
It took her a moment to respond, his gentle tone added to his gentle touch was causing a reaction she was sure he didn't plan. She couldn't feel the pain right that moment but then again she was having a difficult time breathing. The nonchalant way he'd just lifted her shirt, the way he was so concerned it was all too much. Just having him kneeling before her with such a look of care was too much. "I thought it was supposed to be like that. They had to fit me into the dress."
"And the dress could have been altered." He answered immediately, looking up at her. "Keep an eye on this. Does it hurt to breathe?"
"No." She murmured as his fingers ran over her ribs, gently pushing. "What are you doing?"
"I'm just worried you cracked a rib."
"Orlando, I didn't crack a rib." She pushed his hands away and pulled her shirt down, trying not to show any change in her composure. "I've had bruises before, it's fine. I'll just be extra colorful for a little while." Then she got an idea. "We just have to make sure the paparazzi don't see it. They'll think you're abusing me."
"Oh hell." He stood up and put his arm around her shoulders. “This definitely deserves ice cream.”
Ok....this chapter is a little different. Italics is a dream sequence. Also this is a VERY smutty chapter but not incredibly graphic or vulgar like a lot of smut nowadays. Fair warning!
He walked into the servants quarter, looking around to see if anyone else was around. From what he'd heard, all the servants were with Elizabeth and her father at some function at the fort no doubt giving Norrington another promotion for some reason or another. All the man did was walk around like he had the Black Pearl’s mainstay up his arse and look down his nose at everyone and he got promotions. He'd begged off, knowing Norrington's dislike for him was obvious and using it as an excuse. He had to see her.
He found her in the kitchen area, alone, cleaning up the meal the servants had shared before going off to the fort. She was never brought to the events, he had noticed that right after he'd noticed her for the first time. In fact, he’d barely seen her out of the house other than to go to the market. She was a beautiful girl, small but bright and a smile that seemed to come easily. He'd seen her blue eyes following him and wondered if she had seen his brown following her.
She turned and nearly dropped the plates in her hand apon seeing him. "Master Turner. I didn't hear you."
"You were very busy."
She seemed flustered, placing the plates down on a counter and wiping her hands on her apron. She looked down, her hands picking at her apron. Her long hair, free of the bonnet she usually wore, hung down in waves on either side of her face. "I thought you would be at the ceremony...along with everyone else."
He smiled a little. She'd almost let her hand show until she added everyone else into the sentence. So she kept track of where he would be. Interesting. "Well, I knew you would be here. Without anyone else." He countered, stepping into the room.
She looked up briefly. "I don't...I don't understand."
He stepped closer. "Yes you do. I've seen you watching me. I've seen how you react when I speak to you." He moved even closer, standing directly in front of her. "Tell me Emma, have you a man?"
Her face turned bright red and she deftly moved away, not looking at him. "Please, Master Turner, I don't think it's proper...I only have a few years left."
"On your indenture to the Swan's. Yes, I know. But that didn't answer my question. I know you lost your husband before you sold yourself into indenture. Have you a man now? Someone who cares for you?"
"No." She nearly whispered, daring to look up at him. "We shouldn't...if Miss Swan should hear of us speaking, I could be punished."
He moved toward her again, causing her to back up until there was nowhere else to go and she was caught against a wall. "Tell me how a lass like yourself has no one to care for you."
"Please, Master Turner."
Her pleads were nearly his undoing. He raised a hand and brushed her cheek with the back of a finger, feeling her tremble at his touch. "Shh. Will. My name is Will. I am not your master." He let his fingertip trace her bottom lip as he leaned closer. "Let me care for you as a man should care for a woman. Have you not seen me watching you? Tell me."
He smiled, gently nudging her chin up and forcing her to look at him. "I'm not going to hurt you love. I won't let anything happen to you."
"Shh." He leaned close and pressed his lips to hers gently before deepening the kiss, letting one hand sink into her long hair and grip, pulling her closer and allowing him to claim her with his mouth. She resisted for a moment but then gave in with a soft moan, opening her mouth to him. He moved them back and pressed her against the wall, causing her to moan again. Unlike the noblewomen, she had no hoops, no bustle, only thin skirts in the way allowing her to feel what she did to him.
"Will." She gasped his name as he moved his mouth from hers and along her jaw, biting and nipping at her tender neck, causing her to grip at his back. He pulled her close and turned them, pressing her against the table she had just cleared. He growled at the sound of his name coming from those lips and claimed them again as his fingers went to her corset, pulling at the ties.
"I want you so badly Emma." He murmured into her ear as he finally loosened the ties enough to allow the blasted corset to open enough for him to get his hands where he knew she wanted them. He cupped both her breasts, pressing his thumbs against her nipples, making her jerk against him. "I want you here."
They managed to get rid of the clothing that kept them from each other quickly and soon enough he was lifting her body onto the kitchen table. Everything in him was at battle, the proper side of him screaming that it was wrong, that he was being untrue to Elizabeth, that he was treating Emma like a bar wench, but the pirate side of him didn't care. She had no objections as her hands reached for him, her lips swollen from their kisses. She wanted him, she didn't care when or where.
He climbed onto the table, holding himself over her. He looked deep into those eyes before slowly plunging himself into her heat, expecting his skin to burst into flame from it. He moved slowly, wanting it to last, showing her his heart, his care. Her hands reached up and pulled the tie that had only haphazardly been holding his hair back away and pulled him down to her mouth where she kissed him with a passion he'd never found before.
Soon she was chanting his name with soft cries, her hips moving with his, her eyes closed shut. He knew he was close and pressed his lips to her forehead as he felt himself unravel.
Orlando sat straight up in bed, barely able to keep from screaming her name. His skin felt damp with sweat, like he'd been running in a marathon and a look down at his waist showed why. He groaned under his breath at how hard he was, despite the dream. He'd never had such a complex wet dream before, especially one where he was actually a character from one of his movies.
Oh god. He'd been....in the dream...Emma had been the girl.
And he was still hard.
With pain, he managed to make it into his bathroom, all the time being thankful he hadn't had the dream while sharing a bed with her. He turned on the shower and stripped, hissing at the feel of cloth around his sensitive self. Stepping in, he knew there was only one way to deal. Slowly, he put his hand where he needed it the most. He tried to fill his mind with erotic images that would not make him think about the dream as he began to move his hand faster and faster, his breathing increasing as well.
He let himself lean against the shower wall, feeling his release just around the corner. He bit his lip hard, trying to keep himself from making any noise. He only hoped that the sound of the shower at such a strange hour wouldn’t wake Emma.
Emma. The thought of her brought the dream back in vivid force, the dream seeming so real. He could almost taste her lips, feel her breasts pressed against his chest as he ground his hips against her again and again.
With a low moan, he came, unable to keep her name from escaping his lips. He slumped to the floor of the shower and let the water beat down on his head as he regained his ability to breathe as his mind whirled. Why was he having dreams about Emma that were so erotic? Had he really just gotten off at the very thought of his best friend?
Orlando stumbled his way downstairs, bleary with little sleep. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the damn dream. It’d been so realistic. And then there was Emma. He wasn’t going to lie and say he wasn’t attracted to her, he was. But to have such a complicated sex dream about her? It just made him feel…..guilty. She deserved more than to be fucked around with, literally, in his dreams.
As he walked into the kitchen, he wondered if today would be his day to be fucked with in a karma kind of a way. He was met with the sight of Emma, already awake as she usually was when they didn’t share a bed, making breakfast. Normally, this would mean little more than a good meal to start the day with, but when one added in the fact that all she wore was one of his old tshirts, the hem reaching about mid hip, then it meant a whole lot more.
He felt his groin tighten and he bit his lip hard to distract himself as she opened up the refrigerator and proceeded to bend over and from the sounds of it dig in the very depths of the device for the exact thing she needed, all while moving her hips to the music playing on the small radio on the counter.
Karma was a bitch.
His eyes strayed to the table, bare except for a newspaper. In his mind, the paper was already strewn on the floor and the sound of a squeaking table and a moaning Emma filled the room.
Shit. There was going to be a definite need for an ice cold shower before heading to the set. He hated cold showers.
“Good Morning!” Emma greeted, thankfully distracting him from his traitorous and naughty thoughts. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head. “Nothing, just waking up still, that’s all. Is breakfast ready?”
Orlando was really lucky to have an assistant like Emma. After a thankfully short shooting day, they’d gone back to the house together. He’d hinted that he had a headache and surprisingly she’d volunteered to head over to Keira’s home so he could have the house to himself, nice and quiet. He hadn’t had a headache of course, but the day had just continued to torture him, thoughts of his dream running through his mind all day and especially when he looked at her.
He could understand now, painfully, how easy it was for the media to misconstrue how they were around each other. It had been a normal day and Emma had been in her normal pleasant mood, which meant she was her normal affectionate self. But today had not been normal and all the normal things had taken on some kind of weird connotation in his mind. The hug she’d given him before leaving to go to Keira’s for example had only served to give him a flashback of his dream, the smell of her perfume surrounding him while her arms embraced him and her breasts pressed against his chest. He had all but sprinted to the shower the second the door closed.
But, he’d managed to get some sleep after that was lacking in dreams and felt much better about everything. He still felt like a bit of a pervert, and an actual one, not just someone who has a healthy interest in sex, but now he didn’t quite feel as guilty about it. Any man would have ended up having a dream like he had done after seeing Emma in that costume. Add on the fact that it had been a while since his last weekend with Capar, meaning his last weekend where he got to have actual sex with a woman and not just with himself, and that would all but justify the dream.
He made his way up the path that lead to Keira’s house, wondering if the girls would be interested in going out to dinner, maybe giving Jack Davenport a ring since he was going to be doing the night shoot with them tonight. He knocked on the door to receive no answer and then he heard distant voices. He walked around the house, to the small backyard that opened up out onto the beach and found the girls playing a one on one game of footie.
“It’s soccer!” Emma cried, her eyes glued on the ball which was being fought over by not only her feet but Keira’s.
“No, it’s football!” Keira cried back with a laugh, managing to get the ball past Emma.
As she began to move around her American friend, Emma’s arm shot out and grabbed Keira by her waist, swinging the thin actress around before she fell backwards on to the sand. “THIS is football!”
“Oh you bitch!” Keira squealed defiantly as the two proceeded to wrestle in the sand, laughing and rolling about.
“Take that you sloppy whore!” Emma declared, tickling Keira while sitting on her back, making the actress nearly scream in laughter.
That was it. That was it. Whoever was in charge of the universe was officially trying to drive him insane Orlando decided. Why else would something like this be happening to him? On any other day, this wouldn’t faze him so much, but not today. Seeing two very attractive women wrestling half dressed on a beach was just not something he needed to see today.
The girls laughed themselves out, Keira finally getting Emma off her back and they sat side by side talking and relaxing before Keira looked up and saw Orlando standing there and waved him over.
Needless to say, he was cautious as he made his way over. If this day had taught him anything, it would be that anything was possible. “Well well Elizabeth, what do we have here?” He teased Keira, calling her by her character name.
“Oh, Master Turner! I can explain, sir!” Emma spoke up, letting her Irish accent show as she had the day before.
“Please, Master Turner.”
Orlando shook his head, the dream once again finding it’s way from the back of his mind to the forefront with just one phrase that normally would have made him grin. It seemed the cosmic Kick Me sign was still on his back.
“Orli, are you alright?”
Wasn’t that the question of the day? Orlando felt better than he had that morning, but was still off. He knew he must be acting strangely, but it was the only way he would keep his sanity and his pants on. If he could just make it to the end of the day where he could go to bed and forget everything, he’d be fine. He still couldn’t get the images from the dream he’d had out of his mind or the fact that he’d gotten off at the thought of Emma pinned beneath him.
“I’m alright Mouse. I just didn’t sleep well last night and the nap I had didn’t really do much.”
“Then why didn’t you come over to my room last night?” She asked, innocently.
“I didn’t want to bother you.” He blurted, thinking of the real answer being that he’d been so hard when he woke that he would have had a pretty difficult time making it over to her room, let alone being in the same bed as her. For the hundredth time that day, he was thankful he had had the dream in his own bed alone.
“It’s no bother.” She told him with a smile, making her way over from the little trailer kitchenette where she’d been getting a drink for herself to hug his shoulders from behind and place a loud affectionate kiss to the side of his head. “I’m pretty used to waking up with you snoring next to me now.”
He bit the inside of his cheek, wanting to scream that enough was enough. This was too much torture for one little dream! Was it because she had been a servant in his dream? Granted, she’d been dressed as one the day before and that was what had triggered his dream, but could there be a deeper meaning. Is that how he saw her in his unconscious mind? A servant to be taken advantage of? Again, he tried to defend himself to the cosmos. In the dream, he’d been loving with her, wanting to show her care and affection. It wasn’t like he’d ravaged her.
Then again, the whole kitchen table thing didn’t exactly make the argument for love over lust.
“I don’t snore.” He insisted as she moved back to the couch and her work, her drink temporarily forgotten in the kitchenette. He felt restless and got up, finding himself bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet with nervous energy, wondering if he had enough time before the next scene to go for a run. A run would help.
A few minutes passed before she closed her laptop with a disgusted sigh. “Orlando? Darling? If you stop bouncing, I’ll gladly ravage you on the kitchen table.” When he stopped, in shock, she grinned. “Sucker.” She opened her laptop and started typing again, a victorious smile on her face. “An offer of sex always works. God, you’re predictable.”
What she didn’t notice was the blood that had drained from his entire body end up in his feet, making it impossible for him to bounce. “Yeah…I’m uhh…I’m gonna go bounce outside?”
“Have fun.” She gave him a wave and went back to work, allowing him to escape.
Back to italics meaning a flashback! :-)
“This house is going to be so great.” Orlando sighed, lying back on the floor after finishing off his fourth piece of pizza.
“Yeah, especially when you get furniture.” Emma joked, looking around empty future living room where Orlando had insisted they have their dinner to celebrate his purchase. It was almost romantic, considering the candles they had lit. “And electricity.”
“Aww, you don’t like my mood lighting?” He pouted, moving to rest on his elbow.
“Depends on the kind of mood you are trying to set.”
He grinned. “That depends on if you feel like christening the living room tonight.” He wiggled his eyebrows playfully, the candles casting strange and ever changing shadows across his face.
“Orlando!” She threw a bit of pizza crust at him, smacking him in the forehead and making him laugh.
“So that’s a no?” He grinned, munching on that which had just beaned him in the head.
“I don’t do floors.”
“What about windows?”
“Orlando.” She said with fake warning, shaking her head. She hadn’t seen him this giddy in a long time, it was good to see. With the breakup all over the entertainment channels as of late, he hadn’t been his usual self. He was an intensely private person and was very upset at how his life and in effect her life, was being strewn over magazine covers and television shows for the entertainment of others. It was all thanks to Capar who’d credited the end of their relationship to Emma, claiming that Orlando had been cheating on her with his assistant, attempting to play the role of the wronged woman. Fiona had been quick to get things in motion and had issued a statement that denied the allegations. Luckily, Capar had been very unpopular with Orlando’s fans and they didn’t fall for it at all. Even though fans didn’t get to see the action behind the scenes, they could make educated guesses just from Orlando’s facial expressions and body language and that alone told them that Capar was no good.
Of course that didn’t stop the assumptions and nothing stopped the paparazzi, nothing did. So now, they had dinner on the floor of Orlando’s new house rather than deal with going to a restaurant and end up having their pictures on another cover of US Weekly. Secretly, Emma was flattered that people actually thought that she of all people would have a chance with Orlando. As part of her work, she made a regular habit of checking out message boards and websites dedicated to Orlando and since Miami, had discovered that there were people who were actually hoping for Orlando to end up with her. The slogan for supporters apparently was “You can’t have love without O and E”. It was strange, it was invasive, but incredibly flattering.
“Do you remember the US Weekly article? Back in September?” Orlando asked after a few minutes, lying on his back again, simply turning his head rather than move to see her.
“How could I forget?” She groaned, thinking of it. “Not everyday I go to a newsstand and find a picture of myself in a bikini on the cover.”
About a week after the VMAs and their swimming adventure the next day, US Weekly came out with an issue that had a three photo spread on the cover of them on the beach with a title had read “Orlando’s Miami Love”. The small article that accompanied the photos claimed to quote “sources close to Orlando” who said that after many months of working together, the two had given in to their attraction and it was only a matter of time before Capar, who was barely around, was given the boot.
Too bad it hadn’t been completely true. At least it ended up being correct nearly a month later when it would be confirmed to the press through a statement that Orlando was no longer with Capar due to differences and distance. It was difficult to include the fact that the model was a 24 carat bitch, so that was left out unfortunately.
“Which is sad because you looked fantastic in those pictures.”
He grinned. “No, I won’t. You looked beautiful.”
She blushed and concentrated on a nearby candle instead. The article had been barely two pages, the focus being on pictures showing them together and looking very much like a couple. She dismissed it, and concentrated on the man before her, watching her intently over the mostly empty box of pizza between them. “Thank you.”
“I was thinking we should frame a copy of the magazine, send it to Capar as a reverse housewarming.”
She snorted, clapping her hands at the idea. “She’d have kittens. My ears are still ringing from the fight you guys had after she saw it the first time.”
He nodded with a faint smile. “I think that was the beginning of the end, she was starting to show her true colors. I wonder what it was that made her hate you so much.”
Emma shrugged. “I don’t know.” Maybe because she knew that I’m in love with you? “It might have been that follow up article from when you took me riding before the Elizabethtown premiere?”
He grinned. “Oh yeah. I almost forgot about that. I still can’t believe you’d never been horseriding.”
“Come on Mouse. It’ll be fun, I promise.” He grinned at her as they pulled into the ranch that they’d driven by the day before. “You’re the one who asked about riding.”
“That doesn’t mean I expected to go and do it. I also wonder what it’s like to fly into space but I don’t expect you to enroll me at Space Camp! This is crazy Orlando!”
He only laughed at her. “Sounds to me like someone is a little bit afraid of a big bad horsie ride.”
She rolled her eyes. “Horsie? How old are we?”
“Older than you, so respect your elders.” He parked the car and got out, dashing to her side and opening the car door as was his habit. “You’ll love it. I promise.”
Twenty minutes later found her on a horse, holding onto the reins like her life depended on it as Orlando easily mounted and sat behind her. “It’s ok Emma.”
“I’m gonna fall off this thing, I just know it.”
“No you aren’t.” He told her, wrapping his arm around her waist. “I’ve got you.” His other hand went over hers holding the reins. He made a clicking noise and the horse began to walk slowly. He chuckled a little as Emma squeaked in surprise and he tightened his hold around her waist.
“Shut up.” She managed. It wasn’t so much that she was scared of falling off the horse and making an ass of herself. It was the fact that Orlando was so close to her, his body practically wrapped around hers, his breath right in her ear. It was taking every effort she was capable of not to be trembling. Laying in bed curled together was one thing, most of that was done while they were sleeping and was unconscious. This was very conscious.
He chuckled again and rested his chin on her shoulder as he began her “lesson” in horseriding. He wasn’t an expert by any means, but knew infinitely more than she did thanks to all the horseriding he’d had to do in his various films. He managed to make her calm down more and actually enjoy it.
“Now are you ready for the real fun?”
“What are you…”
Before she could even finish her question, he kicked the horse’s side and the horse took off at a gallop. Emma shrieked in surprise as Orlando held onto her tightly with both arms, letting her hold the reins alone. After nearly a full minute of panic, she found herself enjoying it, the thrill feeling very natural. So this was what it was like to ride a horse.
A few minutes of the gallop was enough and Orlando took over control of the horse, easing the animal down to a brisk trot, directing it back to the barn where their “lesson” had begun. “I think you did rather well for your first time riding, love. I’m proud of you.”
She wanted to roll her eyes. “Thank you.”
Back where they had begun, Orlando swung off the horse and Emma attempted the same but hadn’t been prepared for the saddle to move a bit. She started to lose her balance and briefly wondered if the nice day spent together would end with a trip to the hospital when Orlando’s hands found their way to her sides and he helped her down.
She breathed a soft sigh of relief, his strong hands at her sides making her feel safe as always. “Thanks.”
He smiled at her and put one arm around her as a ranch hand took the horse away to be brushed down and fed. “You can’t say I don’t show a girl a good time when it comes to….riding.”
Now she rolled her eyes at his very obvious innuendo. “Oh yes, if only more girls got lessons in….riding from the one and only Orlando Bloom.”
He laughed and playfully pulled her into his arms, still walking, and raspberried her neck, making her laugh. “For now, I think I’ll just keep my one student.”
Little did either of them know that paparazzi had been snapping pictures the whole time. Turned out that someone at the ranch had tipped them off in the few hours from when Orlando had called the day before to make plans for the riding lesson to when they had arrived. Roughly a week or so later, US Weekly had them on the cover again. Inside there had been a big picture was of Orlando with his face in her neck, his arms around her and the smile on her face. Inside, “inside sources” had related how “loving” he had been, teaching her how to ride and went from there.
Needless to say, Capar had been enraged and it had taken hours of pleading and arguing for Orlando to calm her down over the phone. And oddly enough, the night had ended with him getting a migraine and ending up sleeping with her after a massage.
Emma smiled to herself and wondered if sending a thank you card to the people at US Weekly would be improper.
Orlando leaned against the open doorway that separated the kitchen of the guesthouse with the living room, watching Emma as she chewed on the end of a pen before writing another item on her list of things to do for the house. It was a nice house, bigger than the one her uncle had owned back in NY she had told him. It had three bedrooms, which was more than what she needed, but one room could be an office and another could be a guest bedroom. It was a guest house after all, it should at least have a guest room she theorized.
He turned his head and looked out the window to the main house. It was huge. A beautiful house, he really couldn’t be happier. There was lots of room, plenty of room.
Too much room.
As far as Hollywood homes went, it was small. The realtor had repeatedly tried to get him interested in other homes, ones that were bigger and more spectacular. He’d almost just given in, but Emma had been adamant than he choose a home that he liked. It was going to be his home after all. So he’d picked this one, a Spanish styled home, complete with Spanish tile on the roof. It had five bedrooms and three baths, an office, a living room and an entertainment room, a large kitchen and dining room, not to mention a patio and two balconies.
And he would be in the house by himself while Emma would be over here. By herself.
He turned back to Emma, who was looking around the living room, tilting her head one way and then another. He smiled a little to himself, just watching her. They’d already gone though the main house, making a list of things that had to be bought today if they were going to spend the night here and not at a hotel. He’d just wanted to call someone and order beds, figure the rest out later, but again, she’d been adamant. So there were plans to go to a store and try out mattresses and pick out beds.
But right now, he had another plan. He could only hope she’d go along.
“You know, I was thinking of one of those mounted votive candle thingys would look good on this wall, maybe with some mirrors on either side?” She tilted her head and shook it. “Or I could just say fuck it and put movie posters up.” She paused. “But framed ones. Gotta be classy.”
He shook his head in turn. “I was thinking, why don’t you just live in the main house with me?”
He might as well have asked her to shave her head from the surprised look on her face and shock in her tone. “What?”
“Yeah, come on.” He moved from his spot leaning against the wall, wincing a little and rubbing his shoulder. “There’s no need for me to live in that huge house all by myself and for you to live in this house alone, just a backyard apart, don’t you agree?”
She stumbled over her words and he had to keep himself from smiling. Emma was one of those people who usually didn’t stumble, they always knew what they were going to say, planned it and then followed that plan. But when you messed up that plan by saying or asking something they totally didn’t expect? That was the best. “I…I guess so. But, are you sure? I mean, sharing your house with your assistant?” She chewed her bottom lip. “It’d be like….living together.”
He couldn’t help but laugh now. “Love, it’s not like I’m expecting you to marry me. And it wouldn’t be my assistant living with me, it’d be my best friend.” He gave her a smile and stepped forward. “And yes, it’d be living together, but we’ve been living together since what, March? This is just….in a place where all our stuff is. Plus, I’d feel safer if you were across the corridor than the yard. I’d worry about you being over here alone.”
She gave him a shy smile and it made his stomach jump. “I’m your best friend?”
“Of course you are love.”
Her smile grew. “I guess, since you put it that way….ok I guess.”
He stepped forward and hugged her. “Come on, lets go back to the house, finalize our shopping list and then go. I don’t want to sleep in another hotel room tonight.”
“I hear that.” She laughed, letting him lead her out of the guest house by hand, leading her to their house. Their home.
He didn’t even try to fight the smile this time.
To say she was confused, was putting it lightly. Following Orlando back to the house, Emma just felt like she walked into the Twilight Zone again. People always asked her what it was like being the assistant of Orlando, and she’d have to say it was like living in the Twilight Zone. Everything seemed normal, and then there’d be this twist ending that you never expected.
Two weeks ago, Orlando had finally decided on the house that was only a few feet away. It was a great little bungalow, one you would almost miss if you didn’t look. It was barely the kind of house you’d expect in the Hollywood Hills, but it was there. Right between the house Keanu Reeves shared with his sister and Ice-T’s home. She still couldn’t get over that she was going to have Keanu freakin’ Reeves as a neighbor. But then again, her “roommate” was Orlando Bloom. Having “Neo” from the Matrix as a neighbor should have been expected.
Two weeks ago, she thought she would be living in the guest house. She’d hadn’t been terribly enthused about it. It was great that he hadn’t just expected her to get an apartment nearby or something, that he was going to let her have the guest house. That had been one of his criteria during the entire house hunt. But she was just so used to having him right there, in just the other room. It would almost be like Australia with the Crapper, all over again.
Hell, she was used to waking up with him at her side. How would he sneak into her bed if she was in a whole other building?
But now, she was going to live with him in the main house.
She was his best friend.
Part of her wanted to laugh, it had been a very sweet thing for him to say. But part of her wanted massive amounts of chocolate. The last thing you wanted to hear from your crush was that you were his best friend. It was like saying that you were never going to be anything more than that.
Not that she didn’t already know that, but it was still nice to pretend that there was half a glimmer of a chance.
“I was thinking that over here, we could put a sculpture or something. Maybe I could make something, I told you I used to sculpt right? I could put a little studio in over that empty space above the garage, what do you think?”
She smiled as his enthusiasm as they walked around the house, planning on decorations and various other things that would need to be purchased or done. As he led her around by hand, she let herself imagine that this was really their home together, that she wasn’t going to be in the guest room as his assistant or even as his best friend, but in the master bedroom with him, as…well, his. It was so easy to imagine with the way he’d been the last few weeks since the last of the Crapper flushed away. The tabloids had continued to question if she was the reason for the break up until the next victim came into their range. Then the pictures were few, just crediting her as a friend or his assistant.
But those thoughts were pointless and would only lead to more heartache, so she dismissed them as he led her down the hall, naming a few shades that he was thinking would work in the hall. “So Mouse, you don’t mind living here rather than the guest house, do you? I mean, I would understand if you wanted to have some privacy and your own place.”
She shook her head. “I don’t need that much privacy and I’ve practically been living with you since you hired me, like you said, so it’s no big deal. Honestly, I’d been thinking how it’d be lonely in that big house by myself.”
“Well you won’t be lonely in this bigger house with me here.” He grinned at her, letting go of her hand to wrap his arm around her shoulder. “I’m glad you’re going to be here too.” He ushered her into the living room and gestured around the corner to the left. “It would have been such a bloody pain to get that into the guest house anyway.”
She stared with awe at what he had gestured to. A beautiful mahogany baby grand piano sat in the corner with what looked like picture frames on top of it along with some books. She looked to him, unable to speak and he gently pushed her in the direction of the piano. She walked over, her legs already shaky with shock, her hand equally shaky as she reached out to brush her fingers along the elegant curve of the piano before she got to the keys. She sat down and looked up, to finally see what pictures were resting on top. One was of her with Orlando, sitting at a piano in Venice with Kristen during the promotion he’d done for Elizabethtown. They had been playing a three part version of Heart and Soul, but without much success. Kristen was a sweet girl and a lot of fun, but her talents didn’t go toward the piano. It’d been fun anyway and she had tried.
The other two pictures were one of her with her father at a piano and yet another, of her with her uncle and cousins at the firehouse, the boys only being 15 at the time and she’d been nearly 8. She bit her lip, realizing he must have called Katherine, her friend in Miami who was living in her small apartment while she traveled with Orlando and had her send the pictures along with her music from various movies as well as classical pieces. Then she realized that was the reason he’d been so eager to look over the guest house, that’s when the movers must have delivered the piano. “Orlando, it’s..…”
He smiled, walking over and leaning against the side of the piano. “Try it out. Let’s see how it sounds.”
Her shaking hands moved to the keys and she was almost afraid to play, but took a deep breath and began to play The Entertainer, one of her favorite pieces. The piano played like a dream, almost like it was alive and didn’t even need her to touch the keys. She finished the piece and looked up at Orlando who still had a big grin on his face.
“Do you like it?”
“Like it? I love it, but…I don’t understand.”
He shook his head and held out his hand, pulling her up and into a hug. “There’s nothing to understand silly Mouse. I figured that if I needed to convince you that this should really be your home as well as mine, the best way to do that was to add something important to you, to it. I hope you don’t mind, I had Katherine send the pictures and your music. She said she would pack up anything else you needed, you just needed to call.”
“It’s perfect. Thank you.”
Emma couldn't help it. Then again, she hadn't really tried all that hard. She leaned against the doorway, watching Orlando finish helping the movers who'd arrived with her boxes from Miami. It was a rather warm December morning for Los Angeles and it was obvious from the small dark stripe that colored his blue tshirt that Orlando was feeling it.
It felt strange, not watching Orlando, but watching him do what could be considered menial labor. He'd insisted on just having the movers unload the boxes and such outside the house and that together they would put it inside. Something told her it had a little to do with paranoia. Would the movers be paid by a tabloid to tell all about the house if they were allowed inside? Or had they been already? To tell if there were two separate bedrooms or just one set up, how they acted with each other and every word that was said? He was right, it was safer this way.
As Orlando signed an invoice and one of the movers shook his hand with a smile, Emma felt that feeling of strange hit her again. The last week or so of shopping and the like had been full of that feeling. Ever since Orlando had asked her to live in the house with him and especially since he presented her with the piano as a touch to make the house hers as well, the feeling had been constant.
"Are you going to stand there looking off into space all day love?" Orlando's voice broke into her thoughts and she found him standing only a few feet away with a box labeled Loose Photos in his hands.
"I was thinking about it. It's not a bad gig, just watching you do all the heavy lifting and showing off your muscles. It's a pretty sweet one actually." She gave him a playful wink, trying to sound like she was joking around and not actually noticing his muscles, which thanks to the tshirt were very obvious. Although, it wouldn't matter if the tshirt was there or not, thanks to the many nights they'd shared a bed, she was rather familiar with his muscles since he seemed to prefer sleeping shirtless, not to mention the massages he thought he was so clever in weaseling out of her. If only he knew.
"Oh, so you plan on watching me get all sweaty moving all your shite?"
She laughed. "First, yes. Two, it's not shite, so stick it."
He laughed in turn. "Conniving bitch."
"Well if you don't want to sweat so much, take off your shirt and in the bargain, I'll help carry in boxes."
He shook his head. "You just want me to take my shirt off, you'd help with the boxes anyway."
He shifted the box in his arms and a smirk took his lips. A dangerous smirk. "Alright, but I'm adding something to the bargain."
"That would be?"
"I'll take off my shirt if you take off yours."
"Ok." She said, trying not to grin. Didn't Orlando know about layering? And better yet, didn't he know that she knew him by now? Silly man.
She nodded. "Of course. I'll take off mine, you take off yours and we'll get the boxes in."
He nodded and looked very confused as he put down the box in his hands. It was all Emma could do not to laugh and give herself away. She felt a little self-conscious as she reached for the hem of her tshirt, but pushed it aside as she pulled it off to reveal the tank top that she'd been wearing underneath.
"That is bloody cheating!!!" He all but shrieked, throwing his hands in the air.
"You agreed to me taking off my top. You didn't specify that I would end up uncovered." She grinned. "Pervert."
"Oh I'm the pervert? You're the one who started it!"
"And you finished. Now off with it." She waved at him and crossed her arms over her chest. "You aren't a welcher, are you Mr. Bloom?"
Now she did laugh as Orlando grumbled under his breath, using English slang that she still had difficulty understanding as he put down the box of Loose Photos and pulled off his shirt, throwing it at her. "Happy?"
She made a show of checking him out, thrilling in being able to do so and get away with it. "Oh very."
He rolled his eyes and tried to act put out as he picked up the box again. "Come on then, we have a lot of boxes. Where the hell did you get so much bloody stuff? I don't remember your apartment in Miami being cluttered."
She shrugged, picking up a nearby box. "Most of it was in storage. And you never opened my closets. If you had, you would have been buried in an avalanche."
"Oh wow." Emma looked up from the box of books she'd been looking through to look at Orlando, who had a sweet smile on his face as he looked at one of her many photo albums. It was the smile she liked the most, the one that made him look untroubled and happy. What did he find to make him smile like that?
"I've just never seen you as a baby. Look at you." He moved the book so she could see and she recognized the picture as being one that she was told was taken when she was only a couple weeks old. She was calmly looking at the camera, no doubt wondering what it was, a stuffed firetruck that had been her favorite toy when she was little was nearby, looking as brand new as she had been. She turned her head to see the truck sitting on a box nearby, looking worn and beat up, a tire ripped and the ladder long gone. It had been a rough 25 years for the stuffed toy.
"How do you know that's me?"
"I know those eyes. That's you." He turned the page, not noticing the slight blush that took her cheeks with the statement. "And this must be your mum."
She looked and indeed, there was a picture of her being held by her mother. "Yeah, that's her."
"She was beautiful." He tilted his head looking at the picture. "Do you remember her?"
Emma shook her head. "No, she died when I was just a toddler. I only know her from what Da and Liam and the boys told me."
Orlando looked up, his eyes a little sad, no doubt understanding a bit, since Harry Bloom, the man he had thought was his natural father died when he was a child, before he got to know him. "Can I ask what happened?"
"Oddly enough, same thing as Da, just 18 years earlier. Car accident."
"Sorry love." He reached out and put his hand on her arm, his eyes full of compassion.
"It's ok. It doesn't bother me, I mean, I didn't know her." She paused. "That sounds awful, doesn't it?"
He shook his head. "No, I understand." He looked back at the picture. "You know, I think this would be something nice to put on the mantle, in one of those frames that can hold two photographs?"
"And what would the other picture be?"
"I'm sure I could ask Mum to post a picture of her holding my sexy baby self. What do you think?"
"I think that's a great idea." He paused. “But have her send a few. I want to pick out a good embarrassing one. Do English parents take pictures of their kids when they are potty training them?”
She received a perplexed look. “Who takes pictures of someone on the loo?” A pause. “Besides anyone who was in Rings.”
Emma laughed and grabbed an album from the box next to him and paged until she found the photo she hadn’t seen in years. It had been the source of much fun for both herself and her uncle when the boys started dating. They would find new and exciting ways to have it displayed in the house that would guarantee it being seen. In it, the twins were seated on their own individual child potty’s. In Brad’s hand was a toy guitar and in Sam’s, a large yellow crayon was being clutched as he looked at the camera with confusion. “My family.”
Orlando let out a giggle. “That’s just wrong.” He looked again. “You used this picture to torture those poor cousins of yours didn’t you?”
Emma laughed, Orlando indeed knowing her rather well. “Every chance I got. When they made it as firemen, we had a party at the firehouse, to welcome them. And what was the first thing they saw? A poster size version of this on the wall.”
“Remind me to never get on your bad side.”
She grinned and went back to the box she’d been digging through. “Too late. Your mom has already promised me any and all embarrassing stories or pictures I might need to wreak my unholy vengeance on you, should the situation arise.”
She couldn't help but watch him again as she sat down on the new lounge chair as he made his way around the pool that was finally ready to be used. A long day of moving boxes had practically demanded an afternoon poolside. He fiddled with the equipment, not that he knew anything about it. A lock of hair coming loose as he padded his way around the pool, using the net to clean it, even though there was nothing to clean, not a single bug or a stray leaf marred the water.
Finally, he put the net down and made to get into the pool. "Hold it!"
He stopped and looked at her, confused, his eyes squinted against the sun, one hand raised to remove the rubber band in his hair. "What?"
"Do you have sun screen on?"
He paused, thinking. "No. Does it matter? I'm only going for a dip."
"Yeah, I've heard that before. Come on." She waved him to her chair, indicating the lotion in her hand. "I don't need you getting a sun burn."
"You just want to put your hands all over my sexy body." He leered as he all but did a runway strut over to her.
She rolled her eyes at him as he sat down on the chair, his back to her. "I'm sure that's it."
She put some of the lotion in her hands and then handed the bottle to him before smoothing the blue shaded cream over his shoulder blades. He wasn't entirely wrong, she did want to put her hands on him, she always did. His skin was warm, no doubt thanks to the sun. She massaged the cream into his skin as evenly as she could, the muscles moving as he worked on his chest. She was tempted to insist on doing his chest as well, but managed to control herself.
"Alright, I'm oiled up. May I go swimming now Mother?"
"When was the last time you ate?" She asked with a grin as he stood up and she moved her feet to take over the spot he left.
Now he rolled his eyes, tossing the lotion bottle to her. "Remind me to fire you later."
"Ooh I love it when you talk in metaphors lover!" She teased, getting him to roll his eyes again before turning and jumping into the water with a splash. "You can fire me anytime, any place." She murmured under her breath, putting on a pair of sunglasses as she sat back in the chair to relax and watch. He emerged head first a moment later, shook his head, and began to swim laps, back and forth. That was one thing that she'd learned about Orlando from early on, the man was absolutely in love with the water. From his extremely long showers, to the occasional bath and of course, testing out nearly any pool or beach within distance, he seemed to just thrive in water.
He was systematic with his swimming, going back and forth with different styles, her personal favorite being the backstroke. He definitely had developed a swimmer's body over the years from the pictures she had seen of him when he was a teenager to now. Most of that probably did have to do with his swimming as well as his regular work out regimes with Adam, his personal trainer. Adam was tough, that much she had witnessed, but he also cared about Orlando and was mindful of how much the actor could do before his back would begin to hurt or how much stunt work he'd done in recent days that might make him more tired than usual.
"Love, you can stop watching my every move from behind those sunglasses. I can practically feel your eyes burning a hole through my skin!" Orlando called out, a grin on his face as he rested his arms on the side of the pool, his hair flat against his head and curled near his shoulders.
Emma jumped, her mind having gone off while her eyes had followed his every move from the protective cover of the sunglasses. How could he even know she’d been watching. Then again, the man made his livelihood from people watching him, he no doubt had a sixth sense about it. But how to cover? "I was just trying to figure out how someone who can be so skilled at fight sequences can end up swimming like a one legged blind duck." She teased, hoping she sounded believable.
"Mmhmm. I'm sure that's it." He used her earlier words and gave her a wink, turning around and going back to his laps, swimming away from her.
"That was a little too close for comfort." She muttered, fixing the chair so she could lay flat. She turned over and took off the sunglasses, undoing the clasp to her top before pillowing her head on her arms. She knew, deep down, he'd just been teasing, there was no way he could have know that she'd been watching him, but just the same, the spell had been lost.
Instead, as the sun warmed her back, she let her mind wonder into the lovely land of fantasy that she'd created over the last few months. A place where she could experience the relationship she wished they had, the one that just added to the one they already had.
She would be laying in bed, nude except for the sheet that covered her legs and rear, her back exposed. She'd always been tempted to go to bed naked, especially if she knew he would be coming to her bed that night. She always wondered what he would do, stay or go. This time, he would stay, his hand slowly resting against her back before sliding up, his warm hand sending shivers through her body. The hand would meet it's counterpart at her shoulders as he would begin a massage, slowly and carefully. No matter how many action movies he did, he was still a gentle soul and that would show in his touch.
He would work his hands up and down her back, not speaking, not needing to. It would be like his hands were speaking for him. She would gasp, feeling the sheet that covered her lower half lifted so that her legs were exposed, but confused momentarily when he simply rested the sheet across her rear, keeping her covered. Then she would remember, Fantasy Orlando did have much in common with Real Orlando, he was a gentleman.
He would work his hands up and down her legs, much as he had done to her back, still not speaking. Then, his hands would be gone. She'd wait a moment and then open her mouth to speak but not be able to. His touch would be returned, not with hands but with a soft open mouthed kiss to the small of her back. It would be followed by another and another as he moved his way up her spine, pausing momentarily to give attention to her slightly freckled shoulder blades. Then he would move her hair aside and give attention to her neck, making her move her head to give him better access.
His hands would slide along her arms, reaching her hands and gripping them as she gripped at the pillow, his bare chest resting against her nude back, his breathing in her ear.
"Emma, I can't.....I want you so badly. Please."
"Oh please, you lecture me about sunblock and here you are working on a sunburn on your back." His voice made her jump and brought her back from her fantasy as well as from the slight doze she'd put herself in. How long had she been asleep?
"I didn't mean to fall asleep." She managed, still trying to shake the feelings brought on by her little fantasy. It didn't help to have him in such close contact. She almost sat up and then remembered that her top wasn’t fastened.
"And I don't mean to have to take you to the doctor for sunstroke." She jumped again when cold lotion came in contact with her now more than warm back. "It's a good thing you have me around Mouse."
"Uhh, yeah. On occasion." She managed, trying not to groan in both pleasure and sexual frustration as his real hands began to massage the lotion into her skin, nearly copying the motion that his fantasy self had done. Then there was the occasional drop of water that would touch her skin. Without turning around to see him, she could already view him in her mind, soaking wet and practically naked. This was not helping her relax. Would he be able to tell?
"I'm good for lifting heavy things, I'm a fantastic human pillow as well as a heater, according to your own testimony. I’m also rather good at investigating strange noises in the middle of the night. Do you need more evidence?"
"I think you need to quit watching CSI." She quipped weakly, trying not to moan from the way his hands just matter of factly moved over her back. There was no awkwardness, almost like he’d done it before, which he hadn’t. Searching her memory, she thought about all the times he’d rest his hand on her back when they were walking somewhere, how his hand would find it’s way under her shirt when they shared a bed. Somehow, this was different.
He laughed. "It's your fault for getting me addicted to the bloody show."
She nearly jumped again, this time nearly crying out with surprise as he proceeded to apply lotion to the backs of her legs, his hands coming within dangerous few inches from where her entire being cried out for his touch. "Yeah, that's true." She managed, biting down hard on her bottom lip. Now she could understand people who got off on torture. She wasn’t one for handcuffs and whips, but this was just as torturous.
The torment continued for a few minutes before finally Orlando decided that drinks were needed and went into the house to get them, a towel wrapped around his waist. No sooner than the door slid closed than she was clasping her top closed and nearly throwing herself into the cold water of the pool head first.
As she broke the surface with a gasp, she let herself have a full body shudder, closing her eyes to try and memorize how it had felt to have Orlando really touch her in the way he had in her fantasy.
“And did you hear that Orlando Bloom just invested in a home in the Hollywood Hills? It’s true! The star of the box office flop Elizabethtown just bought a new house that he’ll be sharing with none other than his assistant. The two have been rumored to be having a secret romance for the last few months, leading to the end of Orlando’s high profile relationship with Australian model, Capar. In other news….”
Orlando reached over and switched off the radio, rolling his eyes. Why were people so obsessed with who he did or did not date? Did it really matter to them who he lived with? He doubted it would make news if he was sharing the house with his mother or something.
Switching lanes so he could take the exit he needed, he smiled, thinking of Emma. Closing on the house had ended up coinciding with some of the filming of the Pirates sequels in Los Angeles, making it rather easy to work on making the house a home. He’d sent her home at lunch since it looked like he wouldn’t be doing very much for the next few hours but still needed to be on set. She’d been exhausted, staying up late the night before reading through his fan mail, updating his website and other such things. He’d told her to go home and get some rest and when he was done, he’d be home for dinner.
It sounded downright domestic, and he couldn’t be happier. Emma had been a godsend, helping him with all the aspects of moving into a home that only a woman seemed to be able to do. He’d suggested that he just hire a stylist to take care of everything so they could just relax but she’d been extremely opposed. “A stylist does not make a house a home. A stylist isn’t going to know what is comfortable to you, they don’t know you or care what you like.”
He had to keep reminding her that the house was hers as well and that she should also think of herself when she picked items out or showed him something to ask for his opinion. It was taking sometime, but he was pretty sure she was starting to finally warm to the idea. It was strange to think that she was living with him since he was nearly 30 and had yet to live with a woman who wasn’t family. But then again, it wasn’t strange. It felt natural.
Waving to the guard who opened the gate for him to enter the community, he thought about the premiere of Kingdom of Heaven back in May in London. It’d been Emma’s first time outside of the United States and also her first premiere. She’d been terrified, not that she would have ever admitted it, but the terror soon turned to excitement. He remember how she had boasted about getting to meet Liam Neeson, the older actor towering over her as he spoke to her, interested in their shared Irish ancestry. Then she’d been gushing over meeting Alexander Siddig, who had been impressed when she had addressed him by his real name, Siddig El Fadil. Most of all, Orlando had personally been impressed by how easily she had gotten along with his family, fitting like a lost puzzle piece as she gossiped and joked with his grandmother, making her giggle. Giggle! He’d never heard his grandmother giggle, but Emma had managed it. By the end of their brief time in London, she’d been adopted by the women of his family, Samantha declaring the two would have to go shopping together and soon.
Getting out of his car, he stretched, feeling the strain of the day in his back. Maybe if he was lucky, Emma would give him a massage while they were watching a movie or something.
“Mouse! I’m home!”
“About time!” Her voice declared, telling him she was in the kitchen. She came out as he approached, an apron around her waist, her hair up in a ponytail. “Dinner’s almost ready.”
“Love, you don’t always have to cook dinner you know. I told you to relax!” He followed her into the kitchen where the smells of vegetable lasagna, his favorite, filled the room. He gave her a smart smack on the ass. “Didn’t I tell you to relax?”
She rolled her eyes at him, opening the oven and pulling out the casserole dish inside. “I did. I took a nap when I got back.”
“You know what I mean.” He hopped up onto the kitchen counter and watched as she got dinner ready. “Just because you’re my assistant, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have time to yourself.”
“It’s not like I’m not eating too.” She handed him a plate filled with lasagna and directed him to the kitchen table with her own smack to his ass. “Anyways, I like being able to cook for someone.”
“Did you cook for your uncle and cousins?” He asked, sitting down, his stomach rumbling with the smell of the lasagna before him. “And your dad?”
“I had to, otherwise they would have eaten nothing but McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts.” She said with a smile, returning to the table with her own plate. “Plus I do it as a favor to your mom. She worries you don’t eat enough.”
Orlando groaned before taking a bite of the lasagna and groaning again, this time with appreciation. They ate quietly for a few minutes before he spoke again. “If you weren’t my assistant, and could do anything you wanted, what would you do?”
She looked up, took a sip of her water before she answered. “I don’t know. I guess if I could do anything, I’d go back to college, finish my degree.”
“I’m guessing you were a history student?” He asked, thinking of all the history books he usually found her reading and taking notes on when she wasn’t doing something for him. Then there were the loads of books that Katherine had sent from Miami and Emma had lovingly placed in a set of bookcases in her bedroom.
“Yes, that and music.” She took another bite before continuing. “I got a little over a year done before Da passed. I dropped out after that just because I couldn’t deal with a lot of things.” She shrugged, not looking him in the eye. “I had a hard time adjusting. Liam insisted that summer that I go back, that my Da would have wanted it that way.”
“And you left after September 11th?” Orlando asked quietly, more concentrated on Emma than the food in front of him. It wasn’t very often that she opened up about her past, no doubt an unconscious trait she developed in Miami to protect herself from the ridiculing asses she had worked with.
“Yeah. I haven’t been back since. I think that’s what I would do. I loved school so I think I would do that. Maybe even go so far as to get my PhD?”
Orlando smiled. “Paging Dr. O’Malley!”
“Yeah, something like that.” She tilted her head and looked at him. “What would you do?”
“Go to college and chase some sexy Irish girls?” He teased, getting a kick to the shin by her bare foot. “I don’t really know. I think I’d work on photography maybe or maybe learning more about art. Haven’t really thought about it.”
“You could still do those things now. You have half of the fellowship of the garden done.” She gestured outside where four ceramic hobbits sat unpainted in a shed just beyond the view of the window. Since they were filming in Los Angeles, he’d had a good amount of time to work in his new studio above the garage. “They look fantastic.”
“They still need to be painted.”
“Easily done. Who are you doing next?”
“I don’t know. Everyone else is going to be so difficult. I’ve never done any kind of self portrait so do you think I could get the makeup girls on set to do one of those lifemask things of me to make the Garden Leggy easier?”
She laughed. “I think you could manage with a mirror and some pictures.”
“I should get Viggo to do his own Garden Aragorn.”
“You could try.”
"Bloody fucking hell, we've been nicknamed!"
Emma almost jumped at Orlando's exclamation, not quite prepared for it. It'd been a mostly quiet day of hanging out in his trailer because nothing on set seemed to be going right. From the lighting to the cameras so it was a big game of waiting, which was actually the norm on a movie set. You hurried up to wait. She'd just brought over some magazines she'd gotten at the studio commissary and had been getting a drink when Orlando cursed. "What?"
He handed her the magazine and leaned against the counter. "Turn to page 3."
She raised an eyebrow, but did it anyway. There it showed a picture of them at Home Depot the week before, laughing together from either side of a table filled with plants and the caption read "Emlando at Home Depot."
She couldn't even manage a curse or even words, such was the level of her utter embarrassment. Now they were apart of such other abbreviated couples like TomKat and Bennifer and they weren't even a couple! She shuddered that the thought that eventually Orlando would wonder why all the media assumed there was something between them and the question would be broached. He'd ask if she had feelings for him and being that he knew her so well, she wouldn't be able to lie and she didn't want to think of what could happen after that. She knew he didn't feel that way for her, she didn't need to hear him say it and the media weren't helping her in any shape or form. She flopped onto the couch and tossed the magazine to the side. "Why won't they leave us alone? It's been over a month since the whole Capar thing!"
"And why do you get the first part of the name? I'm the celebrity! Shouldn't it be Orlanma or Orlama?"
That made her open her eyes and look at her employer. Had he lost his mind? "Orlando, I'm serious!"
"So am I!" He announced, throwing his hands up in the air. "The man always goes first in abbreviated names. TOMKat! BRAngelina!"
"Maybe they had to break the rule because Orlandma and Orlamma sound stupid!" He could be such a pig sometimes. The man came first, whatever.
"Do not!" He defended lamely.
She was just about to counter with a "Are too" when she realized that she was actually arguing over what abbreviated name was better for their nonexistant romance. "What am I saying?! Dammit Orlando!"
He laughed, showing that his whole argument had been a play and pulled her up and into his arms for a hug. "It's actually kind of funny if you think about it Emma. Come on, I bet Billy and Elijah are having t-shirts made about it at this very moment."
That did bring a smile to her face. "Yeah. Billy's probably got one that says 'Fuck Orlando, it's EMilly!"
Orlando grinned. "Ooh. I like that shirt if you take off the second part."
She thought about it and realized that the shirt would only say 'Fuck Orlando'. She shook her head. "Pervert."
“Mouse, what plans do you have for Christmas?” Orlando asked, walking into the kitchen where Emma was working on the salad for dinner.
Emma looked up from the half cut tomato on the cutting board in front of her. Christmas? Then she thought about it. The holiday was only 2 weeks away and she’d totally forgotten about it. “Umm, I don’t know. I forgot about it actually.”
Orlando’s eyebrows raised in disbelief. “You forgot about Christmas?”
She shrugged and went back to cutting the tomato, concentrating on the sound of the knife against the board. “I haven’t really had any reason to celebrate it in a long time.”
“Shit.” She felt Orlando’s hand rest on her shoulder a minute later. “Sorry love. I don’t always think before I speak.”
“It’s ok.” She gave him a smile over her shoulder and moved to one side so he could steal the piece of tomato that she knew he wanted. “I don’t know. Probably hang out here, maybe set up your movie room?” She was looking forward to the room in the house that would be dedicated to Orlando’s movies with posters and memorabilia.
He shook his head, swallowing the bit of tomato he had eaten. “No, that’s not going to work.”
“Because you’re going to Kent with me to celebrate the holidays with my family.”
She immediately shook her head. “No, Orlando, the holidays should be about family and stuff, I wouldn’t want to intrude on that. I’m sure your family would want you to themselves without me in the way.”
Orlando rolled his eyes and smiled. “Emma, I just talked to Mum and she specifically said that she wanted you there. You know how much she adores you. It’ll be fun. Come on.”
“I don’t know.” She hesitated, not really feeling all that comfortable with the idea. Did his mom really want her there or did she feel sorry for her and was just acting out of kindness? She’d always treated her with kindness whenever they talked on the phone or the few times they had met in person, but Christmas was something else.
“Mouse, I’m not going to let you be alone at the holidays.” He put both of his hands on her shoulders. “Remember what I told you? I’d be there every step of the way? This of this as another step.”
“Mouse? What is it?” Orlando asked, noticing Emma not getting in the cab right away but standing a few feet away, looking up with something akin to childlike awe. She'd had a similar look on her face the first time he brought her to London, her very first time travelling outside of the United States. Now she was an old pro at it, able to be ready for such a trip quickly given the short amount of time between when he asked her to come to spend the holidays with his family to their arrival now.
He looked up, but couldn’t see anything except snow coming down and his own breath. It was cold, even for December in London and she was just standing there. He was surprised she hadn’t commented on the cold so far, considering that she had a tendency to feel it more acutely than anyone he’d ever known. “Emma?”
“Snow.” She answered, finally looking at him. “I haven’t seen snow since I left New York.” She smiled and pulled off a mitten and held her hand out, watching the snowflakes land and disappear on contact with her warm skin. “It’s just a little strange, seeing it again.”
He nodded, not realizing how long it’d been. “Mum said that the weathermen said we’re supposed to be having a lot of snow in the next few weeks. We can make a snowman if you like.”
She grinned, pulling her mitten back on. “Yeah, that sounds like fun. I haven’t made a snowman in a really long time. We could make him a pirate.”
He rolled his eyes and laughed, gesturing to the open cab door and ignoring the impatient look on the cabbie’s face. “Yes we can. Now come on. In you go.”
“Mum? We’re home!” Orlando called out into the house, putting down his bags as Emma did the same, brushing snow off her shoulders. It had started snowing much harder on their way to the house, causing the trip to take just a little longer than usual. He had to struggle with his impatience to get home, she knew he was determined to show her how to enjoy the holidays again and knew his family would be more than willing to help. Playing in the snow would just be a small part.
A cry of joy came from deeper in the house and a few moments later, his mom appeared complete with apron to greet them. “My baby is here!”
Orlando smiled and even blushed. “Hi Mum.”
“Not you!” Sonia dashed over to Emma and hugged her warmly, making her laugh in surprise as she hugged the older woman back. “How are you Emma? I’m so glad you came! You look wonderful darling!”
Sonia actually giggled turning to her son. “What? You aren’t the baby anymore since I’ve adopted Emma. She’s younger. You are the middle child now.”
Emma covered her mouth with a mittened hand as Orlando whined and almost stamped his foot. “Muuuuummmm!”
“Oh hush.” Sonia gave her son a warm hug, Orlando’s face never looking quite as content as when he was hugging his mother. “How is my beautiful boy?”
“I’m good.” He gave her a sweet kiss on the cheek and hugged her again. “I missed you.”
The older woman smiled and turned to his assistant and friend. “Emma, have you been taking good care of him?”
“Not that he makes it easy.” The older woman finished and the pair laughed, much to Orlando’s frustration.
“There’s a sound I’m familiar with. The groans of a frustrated baby brother.” The soft voice of Samantha came into the room as she stood in the doorway with a grin on her face. “Come on now, don’t you have a hug for me?”
Emma watched with a smile as Orlando rushed his sister, hugging her tight and twirling her around, making the slightly older woman laugh before he put her down and gave her a affectionate kiss on the cheek, the pair talking in a way only siblings had. Her heart tightened, thinking of how Sam and Brad had been the same way, even more so since they had been twins. She thought about how Liam would take advantage of her lack of height with his generous overabundance when she was little, lifting her with one hand to sit on his shoulder.
“Emma?” Sonia’s voice distracted her, bringing her back to the present. “Are you alright?”
She nodded, swallowing. “Yeah. I’m ok. Just thinking about old times.”
The older woman put her arm around her and began leading her toward the two siblings who were still talking excitedly. “Why don’t we think about new times?”
A knock on the door made Emma look up from her suitcase. The night had been spent with Orlando’s mom and sister as well has his birth father, preparing for the rest of the family to arrive the next day on Christmas Eve. “Come in.”
Sonia poked her head in with a smile, dressed in what looked like a pair of comfortable pajamas. “I just wanted to check on you before I went to bed. Is everything alright?”
“It’s great Mom, it really is.” Emma fumbled over the word Mom, not speaking it since she was little, a very long time ago. Sonia had been sweet and insisted after the first time they met, at the premiere for Kingdom of Heaven that she call her mom. Even Orlando had been amazed at how well the two had gotten along. “Thanks for putting an extra blanket on the bed.”
“My son told me that you get cold at night. Something about how you have very cold feet?” She smiled mischievously. “How would he know about that I wonder?”
Emma felt her cheeks turn red hot as she sat down on the bed, hoping the shadows in the room would cover for her embarrassment. “Umm, yeah. Funny about that huh?”
Sonia made her way over and sat down next to the young girl. “He also told me about his breakup with that model girl. How she tried to make him choose between her or you?”
Emma nodded, still hearing Capar’s hateful words echoing in her head. She forgotten that she hadn’t really seen Sonia since before the breakup, the older woman had been unable to attend the Elizabethtown premieres. And beyond asking if Orlando was eating enough and sleeping well, they usually didn’t talk about him when they chatted on the phone. “Yeah.”
“I’m glad I raised him well enough to have made the right decision.” She gave Emma a smile before continuing. “That Capar girl didn’t love him, he knew that. But does he know how much you love him dear?”
“You don’t have to pretend with me, I won’t tell Orlando anything you tell me.” Sonia told her quickly, no doubt seeing the panic in her eyes. “But I can see it in your eyes, when you look at him. He doesn’t know?”
Emma sighed and shook her head. Why was it everyone noticed? Just when she thought she was covering her feelings rather well, someone would tell her the exact opposite. She wondered why everyone else noticed but Orlando didn’t. “No one knows. Except you, Elijah and Keira. And I swore them to secrecy. Blood oath, very messy.”
“Why don’t you tell him?”
“Because he doesn’t love me back. Not like that anyway.” She picked at a small ball of lint on her pajamas. How were you supposed to talk about your feelings about a man with his mother? Awkward didn’t even begin to barely even scratch the surface of that one.
“How do you know if you don’t talk to him about it? I like to think I know my son pretty well and I think you’d be surprised if you talked to him. He adores you sweetheart. He’s very devoted to you. Even his sister has noticed.”
Emma smiled a little, already knowing that Orlando was “devoted”, but not in the way that Sonia seemed to think. She was one of his best friends and his assistant. The fact that he’d dumped his girlfriend over her didn’t mean romantic attachment, much to her chagrin. “I don’t need to talk about it to know. I’m not his type. He likes tall skinny blondes with Iqs that match their shoe size.” She stopped for a moment, remembering who she was talking to and trying to take the bitter sting out of her words. “I’m his assistant, that’s not exactly in his dating pool, you know?”
“Maybe it should be.” Sonia spoke up, her brown eyes immediately making Emma think of Orlando. “I love my son, but he doesn’t have the best record when it comes to love. He doesn’t think with his brain or his heart, if you know what I mean. You on the other hand, I think you lead with your heart.” She nudged the younger girl gently. “Sounds to me like he needs someone like you in his life.”
“I am in his life though.”
“But is it the way that you should be?”
Orlando knocked on the door of the guest room and was surprised to hear two voices tell him to come in instead of one. Who would Emma be talking with at this hour? He opened the door to find Emma sitting on the bed with his mother. “Mum?”
“Hello Orli. I was just talking with Emma, making sure everything’s alright. Coming in to say good night?”
He bit the inside of his cheek. He hadn’t planned on running into his mother. He figured she would already be in bed and that would make it easy for him to sneak over to Emma’s room. So much for that. Now he felt like he just got caught stealing biscuits out of the pantry. “Yeah, exactly.”
His mother stood, giving Emma a wink for some reason, making the girl blush and making him curious about what they’d been talking about. Then again, it was probably some womanly thing that would make him regret asking, so he just dismissed it. If anything, his mother was probably giving her the third degree to find out if he was eating and taking care of himself well. She gave her a kiss on the cheek before coming over to him and doing the same, wishing them both goodnight before exiting the room.
“What was that all about?” He asked.
“I can’t believe you told your mother I have cold feet! Did you think of how you would explain how you knew that?” Emma blurted, moving her suitcase to a nearby chair.
He laughed, realizing his goof. “Oops.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, a nervous habit. “Did she ask how I knew?”
Emma shook her head. “She’s smart, I doubt she needs to.”
“Well good then.” He walked over and got into the bed. “I hate the sneaking around shit.”
She turned and looked at him as he made himself comfortable. “And just what do you think you’re doing?”
“Making sure you don’t try to sneak downstairs and get a peek at your presents before everyone else gets up?”
“But tomorrow is Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.”
“Shit.” She was too quick! He shrugged sheepishly. “It was too quiet in my room.”
She laughed and got under the covers, moving over and into his open arms, resting her head on his shoulder and smiling as his fingers stroked her shoulder. “Thank you for inviting me.”
His arm tightened around her briefly and pressed his lips to the top of her head before he reached over and turned off the bedside light. “I’m glad you came. You needed the holiday.”
She laughed and stuck her feet against his leg, making him gasp and scramble to move his legs away. “Yeah, that boss of mine really works me.”
“Insert dirty Elijah comment here.” Orlando muttered, relaxing against the pillows.
“Oh yeah, he really rides me hard.”
“And there’s the exact comment.” He laughed. “Behave little girl, or Father Christmas won’t leave you any presents.”
“It’s Santa and I’m in good with him. I used to leave him over a dozen cookies every Christmas Eve when I was little.”
“Uncle Orli!” Two small boys shouted less than a minute after they were taken out of the car, both racing to get to Orlando who they tackled into the snow with shouts of joy.
”Uncle?” Emma asked Sam, watching Orlando wrestle with the small boys.
“Actually, they are cousins, but with the age difference, it’s easier to call him Uncle.”
The pair watched the trio play for a bit before Orlando got the upper hand and literally picked up both boys, one climbing on his back and the other clinging to Orlando’s leg in an attempt to keep him from being able to walk. “Emma, I want you to meet the terrors of Kent.”
“I’ve already met you and your sister.” Emma grinned.
Orlando rolled his eyes, his breath coming out in small clouds thanks to the cold snap that had descended on England during the night. “The monster on my back is William and the barnacle on my leg is James.”
“Hello Miss Emma.” They said in unison, sounding like perfect little gentlemen despite their continuing efforts to take down their “Uncle”.
“Oh kids, come on, I want to get a picture of you together.” Sonia grabbed Orlando and Emma away from where they had been guarding the presents from the younger members of the family after watching cartoon movies had lost it's allure and followed her to the decorated doorway where she indicated. It'd been deemed much too cold out to do very much outside. “Oh wait. Look! Mistletoe!!”
Emma looked up with Orlando to find that the infernal decoration was indeed above their heads and around them, expectant family and friends waiting for the traditional “kiss under the mistletoe”.
And no kiss on the cheek was going to do it for them. Could she get away with saying Americans didn’t do mistletoe anymore?
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to kiss Orlando, but two things made this situation more of a nightmare than a dream. For one, the audience. She didn’t want to kiss him in front of a group of people, let alone his family and his mother. Plus, she didn’t like being forced to do it for their amusement. She adored his family, but she didn’t perform for anyone. He was the actor, not her. Then there was the fact of Orlando. She doubted very much that he would want to kiss her and if he did, she didn’t want the memory of kissing him to involve him not kissing back or worse yet, for him to realize her feelings.
They were still standing there. Waiting.
When he didn’t say anything or run screaming into the night, she looked up at him. He looked down and shrugged. “I’m not one to break traditions.”
Before she could say anything, he grabbed her and dipped her back, so far that she was practically recreating a scene from the Matrix, her one foot going up in the air, Orlando’s arms around her. Then suddenly, it wasn’t the fact that she was practically dipped to the floor but that he was playfully raspberrying her neck and making “Mmm” sounds so that it seemed like a big passionate kiss. She didn’t know what to do but couldn’t help giggling when he nipped at her neck with his teeth and growled like a puppy.
Too soon, she was back on her feet, her hand immediately going to her neck where he had nipped. It felt like all the heat in her body had gone to that one spot and she hoped no one noticed her shiver. As soon as she could, she’d have to steal away to the fire, try and warm up. Or find a shower and cool down. She needed an extreme to level herself out. “A hickey does not count as a Christmas bonus.”
Orlando laughed, as did the few people close enough to hear.
Orlando walked into the kitchen to find Emma finishing up the dishes for his mother, having ushered the older woman out a few minutes before. He rolled his eyes along with his sister at his mother’s comment about how Emma was her “good child”. He set his drink down and hopped up onto the counter, just watching quietly as she rinsed the dishes, scrubbing a few rather dirty ones before putting them in the dishwasher. Only Emma would feel the need to put herself to work in someone else’s house.
Then he noticed it.
When she turned her head, he saw a small dark purple mark on her neck. Right where he had playfully bit her under the mistletoe, making her laugh. Whoops. “I guess I really do leave my mark huh?” He asked her quietly, biting his lip and wondering what her reaction to the mark would be.
At her confusion he smiled and repeated himself, this time, gesturing to his own neck while nodding toward her. It took her a moment, but she understood. Her eyes grew wide and she nearly dropped a dish as she ran to the hallway where an ornamental mirror was mounted. He waited for it.
“ORLANDO!” Her shriek could probably be heard all the way in France.
He snorted, covering the grin on his face with one hand as she came back in, her hand over her neck, her face bright red. “It’s just a little one Mouse. It’s cute.” He touched her wrist to make her move her hand and all she did was take a step back away from him.
“I can’t believe you really gave me a hickey! I had that all through dinner?”
“It probably took a little bit to show up. I just noticed it.” He couldn’t help but smile a little, her reaction priceless and her embarrassment sweet. “If you want, I can do it on the other side so you’re even.”
“Don’t even think of touching me Bloom.”
“Aww Mouse!” He pouted, still trying not to laugh but not doing very well. “I didn’t mean to give you a hickey! You’re the one with overly sensitive blood vessels! Come on, it’s not that bad. You can give me one if you want!”
“Keep dreaming.” She flashed him a look before using the bottom of a stainless steel pot to look at her neck again. Reaching out with one hand, she yanked the scarf that he’d been wearing more for decoration than use and draped it around her own neck, playing with it a few moments, moving this way and that to make sure the hickey was covered.
He couldn’t remember seeing her so embarrassed except for when she’d seen that cover of US Weekly that showed her in her bikini. Whenever they went somewhere the magazine was displayed, she’d go out of her way to cover up all the copies or at the very least turn them around. He would then do his best to find a way to distract her so he could then uncover all the magazines.
“See? It’ll probably be healed by tomorrow.” He went to nudge her shoulder and she jumped away.
He laughed. “Ok Madame Kuzco.” She’d introduced his cousins to one of her favorite Disney movies, namely The Emperor’s New Groove and the boys had enjoyed it so much they’d watched it twice more in a row and were quoting lines throughout dinner because of it. Shouts of “I never liked your spinach puffs, never!” and “Wrong handle!” lasted till Emma had promised to find a copy of the direct to DVD sequel the next day if the boys were quiet for the rest of the meal. “It’s really not that bad.”
A glare with no real anger behind it was her response.
Emma held out two presents to Orlando, a grin on her face. “Santa,” she emphasized, teasing him about the argument they had had on the way over on whether the proper term was Santa Claus or Father Christmas, “Santa brought these for you Orlando!”
He shook his head and took the presents, giving her a healthy pinch before pulling her to sit down on the arm of the recliner with him while he opened them. He took off the ribbon and ripped at the paper of the larger box, putting it aside before lifting off the box cover to reveal what looked to be a book. Picking it up, he discovered it to be a journal when he opened up the cover and read the inscription on the first page in Emma’s neat hand. This is the inner most thoughts and no doubt naughty musings of the one and only Orlando J.B. Bloom, proceed with caution. Attached to the side of the journal was a pen with a stylized silver mouse on the top. “Very cute. I shall have to thank Father Christmas.” He grinned.
Emma rolled her eyes at him, swatting him with one hand before she deftly tied the ribbon into his hair. “Come on. Open the other one.” Her voice didn’t hold any sound of teasing now, more like shy curiosity as she gestured at the other present.
He nodded, curious himself as to what the other gift could be as he removed the ribbon and the paper and opened the box to reveal a necklace with three buttons as charms. He looked at her with confusion before he picked it up and examined the buttons more closely and felt his breath leave him. Each button read “NYFD” and had a tiny emblem of a firetruck and the number 17. “Are these?” He managed, realizing what the buttons were.
“Yes. One button from Liam’s, Sam’s and Brad’s jackets. The ones they,” she cleared her throat. “They were found in. I think they would want you to have them. Think of it as protection, like a talisman kind of.” She took the necklace from him and moved to put it on him. It took him a moment before he quickly moved his hair out of the way. “I thought it’d be nice if I could contribute to your necklaces.” She attached the necklace and the buttons felt cool against his skin, sitting just above the first necklace, a piece of green stone. “Do you like it?”
Orlando found himself speechless, very honored and touched by the gesture that she would share something so close to her with him. He pulled her off the chair arm and onto his lap, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her tight as he pressed his face into her hair. “I love it.” He managed a moment later. “Thank you.”
Emma grinned, watching as Samantha nearly tackled her brother in joy at her present, Orlando laughing as he tried to stay upright. She took a sip of her hot chocolate as everyone opened their presents, the lights of the tree playing over their skin. So this was what Christmas is like. She thought. It’d been so long since she had celebrated that she’d nearly forgotten. At the same time, it felt strange, one because of all the English accents and two because she kept expecting to hear Liam singing Christmas carols with his deep baritone. She liked to think that Liam would have approved of Orlando, no doubt thankful that she worked with someone who cared about her like Orlando did. Sam and Brad probably would have been trying to get Orlando to hook them up with some hot Hollywood girls, privilege of being her cousins.
Watching him, she caught Orlando touching his new necklace from time to time and she hoped she hadn’t overstepped boundaries by giving him a gift with such obvious sentimentality to it. When she gave gifts, she thought it was better if more thought was put into it than money. Giving him the buttons was kind of a way of her keeping her past with her present. Part of her wanted to say future, but she ignored the thought, not wanting to ruin her mood with thoughts of the pointlessness of her feelings for the young actor.
“Emma, I think I found another one for you love.” Sonia spoke up, breaking her from her thoughts and making her look up to see a small rectangular box that had her name on it and the “from” on the tag read “Your favourite Bad Kitty”.
She laughed and looked to Orlando, who was still sitting with his sister. “Open it, Mouse.”
“Orlando, you already got me a present.” She said gesturing to the massive box of yarn along with a kit of needles, instructional books and a DVD on crochetting and knitting. He'd joked that since she was always cold she could make her own ultimate blanket to burrow under.
“I forgot and got you two. Now open it!” He commanded, moving to sit next to her as she ripped at the paper. “I hope you like it. You know how bad it can be when I’m allowed to shop by myself.”
She laughed as she lifted the lid off the box to find a small heart shaped pendant with an amethyst gem to one side on a silver chain. “Oh.” She managed, touching the small pendant with her fingertip. “Orlando, I…”
“Merry Christmas Emma.” He leaned over and gently kissed her temple, lingering for just a moment. “Can I put it on you?”
She nodded, not really trusting herself to speak. Her skin tingled from where he’d kissed her and the necklace was just beautiful. It wasn’t huge or gaudy, but it was something that she would have picked out herself. It made her realize that he really knew her now. She already had her hair up, so he took the necklace and fastened it around her neck, his fingertips tracing her skin for a moment, making the tingling sensation wash through her. Did he have any idea what he did to her?
“Emma, are you decent?” Orlando’s voice came through the door making Emma look up from her laptop screen where she’d been checking emails. Even on the holidays, work never stopped. After an exhausting Christmas dinner, the pair had headed to his flat in London, promising nearly a dozen times to come back to Kent before the New Year. Part of her didn’t want to leave the warm embrace of Orlando’s family, but at the same time, she welcomed the chance to have him to herself again, if only for a little while. Plus, she had an idea that he was exhausted too after the experience that was the holidays with his family.
“Never.” She replied.
“Fantastic.” He said with a grin as he walked in, dressed in white tshirt and plaid pajama pants, although it was obvious he’d just showered from the way his hair was curled at the nape of his neck. Also obvious, was that he was holding something behind his back.
“What are you hiding?” She asked, closing her laptop and putting it to the side.
He said nothing except to smile and take a seat at the foot of the bed, sitting Indian style facing her before he put down a wrapped box between them. “Father Christmas just stopped by, said one of the elves forgot one of your presents.”
She shook her head. “That’s a shame, they are your people, you should talk to them about that.”
He rolled his eyes. “Must have been a new guy.”
She giggled and looked at the box between them. “What is with all the presents today Orlando? You really didn’t have to get me anything at all.”
“I wanted to, so hush.” He pushed the box closer to her. “Now open.”
“Okay, okay.” She muttered, ripping at the paper and wondering why he was giving her this present in private and away from his family. What could it be? She lifted off the box top and pushed the paper away to find silk pajamas, a long sleeved blue top with glossy white buttons, a matching tank top and then a pair of matching pants. “Oh wow.”
“I figured this was the best way to keep you from stealing all my clothes.” He teased, watching her reaction.
“It’s a rule, boys have clothes so girls can steal them. It’s not my fault your stuff is comfortable and smells good. I’m innocent.” She replied, almost without thinking as she pulled out the tank top and looked at it, her fingers running over the silk. “This is..wow.”
He grinned. “Go put it on. Model for daddy.”
“Pervert.” She rolled her eyes, before picking up the box and marching over to the bathroom that connected her room with his. The apartment was modest and nowhere near as extravagant as Orlando could probably afford, but considering he was barely able to spend time there, there was no need to waste the money.
She returned a few minutes later, dressed in the pants and tank top, the clothes fitting perfectly. “Well?”
“I’m good.” He grinned, getting up from the bed to give her the once over. “I’m very very good.”
She blushed and just thanked him again, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek before diving for the bed and getting under the covers just so she wouldn’t have to think about him looking her over so intently. It was nice, but it was a bit nerve wracking too. When he said good night and started heading for the door, she spoke up. “Wait…you aren’t staying here?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Not tonight. I’ll see you in the morning though. Happy Christmas love.”
“No, that’s a Hobbit. It’s Happy.”
“And that’s a Dwarf!”
“Good lord woman, go to sleep!” He sighed, grinning at her just the same as he headed out into the hall, closing the door behind him.
“Miss O’Malley, time to wake up.” A voice that sounded like Orlando’s woke her up but made her wonder if she was still asleep. Miss O’Malley? He’d never called her that ever. She could probably count on one hand the number of times she’d ever even heard him say her last name since she met him. It’d always been Emma, love or Mouse with the occasional pet or bloody infuriating woman thrown in to spice it up.
“Huh?” She opened her eyes to find more confusion. Orlando was up and dressed and looked like he’d been awake for a while. She turned her head and saw that the clock read 10am. She’d set the clock for an hour ago. What was going on? “Orlando?”
“Yes, Miss O’Malley. I have your breakfast here if you are ready. I also brought you the paper.”
She sat up and he set a tray over her lap, which indeed did have a plate with eggs and pancakes, orange juice and just to top it off, a carnation in a simple little vase. Next to that was the morning edition of the London Times, folded neatly. “Ok, I think I woke up in the Twilight Zone. What’s going on?”
He smiled. “It’s Boxing Day love. An old English tradition I thought you’d enjoy.”
She looked at him confused before she remembered and laughed. A few weeks ago, they’d been watching an old episode of MASH and it had been the episode where everyone in the camp had switched their roles, Colonel Potter becoming company clerk while Klinger was made the commanding officer in order to celebrate the British holiday of Boxing Day. As it turned out, Orlando told her, Boxing Day was more about cleaning up after Christmas, watching sports and eating. Emma had joked that it would have been fun to do something like that so she could have him be her assistant for the day.
“I thought you said it was made up?”
“Turns out, I changed my mind.” He gestured to the breakfast. “Come on, the food is going to get cold and we have a full day of you telling me what to do to get to.”
She felt an evil grin take her face. “Oh this is going to be fun!”
Emma looked up from her magazine, giggling at the sight of Orlando Bloom, world famous actor and her boss concentrating with all his energy on painting her pinky toe a rather flattering shade of mauve. He’d insisted that she was the boss and she’d decided to test it. So far, he’d done everything she requested, from taking her on a sight seeing ride around London, to making her lunch when they got back to the apartment and now, painting her toenails. She didn’t want to push it, but at the same time, it didn’t really feel like she was a boss or anything. Something told her he probably would have done all the things she asked even if they hadn’t “traded spaces”.
“Stop giggling woman, I’ll mess up.”
She only giggled more, his hot breath on her very ticklish bare foot making it hard not to. “Sorry. But you are just so cute when you concentrate. It’s toes, not the Sistine Chapel sweetheart.”
“I’m not going to disagree that I’m cute, although I will argue that I’m cute all the time.” He grinned, closing the bottle of nail polish and setting it to the side. “And I think I did a good job. What do you think?”
She picked up her foot and wiggled her toes. “Amazing. You do a better job than I do! Keep this up and I’m going to make you give me pedicures on a weekly basis.”
“Keep dreaming love.” He gave her a wry grin before getting up and stretching. “So what is on your agenda now Mistress?”
She giggled, realizing now why he enjoyed when she teased and called him Master. “I don’t know. Got any ideas?” She put down the magazine and stretched, wincing a little when her back popped.
“How about I give you a world famous Bloom special back massage?”
“World famous? I’ve never heard of it.” She raised an eyebrow at him. He was offering a massage? She’d been working with him for nearly a year and never had he ever giving her more than a gentle neck rub. Now he was offering a full back massage?
“It’s a world famous secret. I’d never get to be an actor if everyone knew about these magic hands.” He held up both hands and wiggled the digits.
“I’m not saying a word, but my mind is totally in the gutter now, thanks.”
“Sure thing.” He grinned, taking her magazine and tossing it to the floor. “Now come on, off with the shirt, on your stomach.”
“Off with what?” Her eyebrows rose.
“Your shirt. It’s hard to do a massage with it, that’s what you always tell me.”
“You don’t have….what I have. It’s different.” She protested.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Emma, it’s me.”
She looked at him for a long minute before she gestured for him to turn around.
“Ok.” Emma’s soft voice told him it was safe to turn around and he almost gasped at the sight of her laying naked from the waist up on his bed, her head resting on the pillow with her arms underneath it. It wasn’t like he’d never seen her back before, he had seen her in a bathing suit. This just seemed like more.
“Let me know if I hurt you.” He got on the bed and debated sitting on her legs like she did for him when she gave him a massage and then just threw caution to the wind and do so. “Am I too heavy?”
“No, you’re fine.”
He started the massage slowly, first as a rubdown and then he got into the massage, finding knots and slowly working them out. He tried to concentrate on the massage itself and not the sweet noises his assistant, his friend was making beneath him. What had he been thinking when he had volunteered this and more than that, told her to take her shirt off? Thank god they were at his flat, not at his mother’s house. He could just imagine how grounded he would be if she walked in on this.
He massaged till his hands were sore and her back was rosy and warm. He slowly massaged to a stop before he realized how quiet Emma had been for the last few minutes. “Emma?” He questioned, moving off of her legs and looking to see that she was deeply asleep. He smiled and got off the bed, pulling the blanket up and over her.
He stood there for a moment, watching her sleep and thought briefly about sharing the nap with her and climbing under the covers too. Of course, without her top on, it would be different than when he normally climbed into bed with her. He chewed his bottom lip for a minute and then shook his head. Better not. Leaning over, he picked up her shirt and cotton bra and got another idea. He could show off a bit by doing laundry without her asking. He could be an assistant, this was cake. Smiling to himself, he headed off for her room and the rest of her clothes.
Emma stirred, consciousness starting to take hold. She opened her eyes and was confused for a moment before she remembered she was in Orlando’s apartment in London. She stirred a little and realized she was laying in his bed without a top on, the blanket over her. Then she remembered the massage. She must have fallen asleep. Smiling, she yawned and rolled over, just in time to see Orlando walk by the room with a laundry basket, humming to himself, with a green doorag on his head.
It wasn’t the fact that he was doing laundry or that he was humming that nearly made her fall out of the bed, but it was the fact that the brief glimpse she’d gotten of the clothes, specifically the bra that was threatening to fall out of the basket alerted her to the fact that he had been doing HER laundry.
She sat up in shock, almost not remembering to hold the blanket to her chest. Frantically she looked for a shirt and finally grabbed one of Orlando’s that he’d left on the floor, put it on and quickly buttoned the most essential buttons. She sprung out of the bed and dashed down the hall to find Orlando sitting on his sofa, the basket of clothes in front of him, BBC news on the radio. She watched in horror as he picked up a pair of blue panties, folded them in half and placed them on the couch next to him before picking up a tshirt and folding it as well.
“What….what are you doing?”
He looked up and smiled. “Hello sleepyhead. I thought I’d get something done while you were sleeping. Did you have a nice nap?”
“Yes…but….that’s my underwear!”
He grinned. “I know. So demure. Not a single bit of naughty panties or lingerie in the bunch.” He shook his head. “Something tells me I should have taken you to Victoria’s Secret for Christmas instead of getting you a guitar. Every woman should have something naughty.”
“Oh my god, we are not having this conversation!” She groaned, making her way over and grabbing at all the underwear she could find, fighting Orlando for a pair of panties, much to her horror. “There is no point to naughty undies if no one is going to see them.” She dashed back to the guest room and shoved the underwear into her suitcase before she went back to the living room where Orlando was still calmly folding her laundry. It was strange, to see him hold up one of her tshirts to his chest, fold it and move on to the next.
“I don’t know why you are getting all upset Mouse. It’s not like you haven’t seen my underwear or done my cleaning. What’s the difference?”
He laughed. “Oh well, you put me in my place.” He rolled his eyes and continued to fold. “Anyways, I’m still going to have to get you something from Victoria’s. And if it must have a point, then you can show it to me.” He grinned.
“Do I harass you this much as your assistant? I don’t think so!”
Orlando laughed. “You do too and you know it!”
“It’s not harassment if you enjoy it!” She argued, flopping down in an overstuffed chair.
“Exactly my point.”
“You think I’m enjoying this?”
He grinned. “You are loving every moment love. Come on, you can’t say that you haven’t enjoyed today.”
“I have.” She conceded. “But that doesn’t have anything to do with my underwear!”
Emma grinned as Samantha kept her brother distracted with the help of their cousins as she snuck around behind him, one mittened hand full of snow. She’d learned a lot from having a Marine for an uncle and two older cousins, one of them being flanking maneuvers during snowball fights. As quick as she could, she dashed up behind Orlando and just as he bent down to get more snow, she leapt onto his back. While he was still surprised and trying to keep balance, she pulled at his jacket and the tshirt underneath and shoved all the snow she had in her hand down his shirt.
“AHHH! EMMA!” Orlando shrieked in a not very masculine manner, not thinking to grab at her legs as he ripped at his jacket and batted at his shirt, trying to get at the snow.
Emma let herself fall off his back and into the snow, shrieking herself, but in laughter, copying his sister who was practically on her knees in laughter as her brother danced around in a desperate attempt to shake all the snow out of his shirt.
“Oh cold cold COLD!” He yelled, batting at his shirt and dancing around.
Emma was so caught up in the movie that she didn’t immediately react when she felt Orlando push at her legs. She turned her head to see his pale face looking at her as his hand continued to push at her legs. “Oh sorry.” She moved them and he immediately lay down with his head in her lap, his legs curled up on the couch. “Are you alright?”
“Just tired. And cold.” He murmured, resting one hand on her knee.
She reached behind her and pulled the afghan off the couch, something his grandmother had made for him and wrapped it around him, tucking it around his shoulders. “Better?”
He made a noise of comfort and wiggled a little to get more comfortable. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Orli, wake up. The movie is over.” Emma’s voice brought him back to consciousness, something that was just more work than it felt like it was worth. He was just so tired and he was sure it wasn’t just from playing with his cousins in the snow. The near constant snow of the last couple days had provided for more than one snowball fight, the small boys and their friends more than willing to declare war on each other and battle in the park. He’d been more than willing to general the boys, and along with Emma had strategized more than one successful “battle”.
“Mmm. I’m awake.” He murmured, rolling over and pushing his face into Emma’s stomach, her lap having served as a great pillow for the part of the movie he’d managed to stay awake for. He nuzzled his face against her stomach, sighing at the comforting smell of detergent and her perfume. He was sure she wouldn’t mind if he just went back to sleep like this, right?
“Yeah sure you are.” He felt her run her hand through his hair and then stop, pushing on his shoulder and touching his face with the back of her hand. “You’re all clammy. Are you feeling ok?”
“I’m just really tired. I feel heavy. Lazy.” He sighed, opening his eyes and closing them again. Although the room was barely lit, it was still too bright.
“Uh oh. Come on.”
“No.” He whined, rolling so his face was back against the comforting warmth that was her belly, hooking one arm around her waist. “I want to stay here.”
“Orli, come on. Let’s get you to bed. You can sleep there.” Her hand went through his hair again.
Orlando felt the bed dip a little and the feel of what he was sure was lips on his forehead and then, a cheek? “Hmm?” He murmured, opening his eyes. His head felt like it was filled with wet burlap and his bones ached. He groaned, he was sick. So much for his hopes of just needing some sleep.
“Shh.” He heard Emma’s voice before he saw her. “Sweetheart, you’re sick.”
“Oh so that’s this dying feeling I have? Thanks love.”
“You aren’t dying. I told you to take some aspirin when we got inside from playing in the snow.” She smoothed the hair from his forehead making him feel like he did when he was a boy and his mother would take care of him. “I had to test your temperature the old fashioned way, it figures you wouldn’t have a thermometer in your apartment.”
“It’s a flat.” He corrected, closing his eyes again. “A bachelor’s flat. Thermometers are for girls.”
“Whatever. Will you be ok while I go down to the pharmacy down the block and get you some medicine and a nice girly thermometer?”
He pouted. “I like the old fashioned way.”
Her smile could almost be heard in her exaggerated sigh. “Ok, no thermometer, but if I get sick, you have to take care of me. Deal?”
Another kiss to the forehead and he felt the bed lift and the blanket being pulled onto him more fully before he heard the sounds of Emma gathering her things and then the sound of the door opening, closing and being locked from the outside.
At least he’d be getting some affection before he died. That thought gave him a smile before he drifted back into a dreamless sleep.
Emma looked up from the couch, a sound from the bed distracting her from the work on her laptop. Why Orlando had a couch in his bedroom, she didn’t really know, but it was convenient for taking care of him while he was sick. Slowly but surely, his symptoms were telling her that he was getting the flu, or at the very least, a very nasty cold. Thankfully, she’d been the family nurse for her Dad, Liam and the boys so she knew what to do and how to deal with a whiny man who didn’t feel good.
Putting her laptop aside, she walked over to the bed where a sleeping Orlando was stirring, his body shivering and his face contorted in discomfort. She went to the foot of the bed where she’d put an extra blanket for just something like this and pulled it up over him, tucking it tight around him. She ran her hand over his forehead, murmuring comforts and smiled as he began to calm, his face no longer showing any signs of discomfort.
She sat on the side of the bed and continued the gesture, knowing he liked when she did that when he felt perfectly healthy too. She felt her heart tug a little for the man she comforted, feeling a warmth that only came from taking care of those you love. She couldn’t help but feel a bit proud that her touch was the touch that calmed him. She wondered if other assistants he may have had would take care of him like this. Of course, she doubted they had the same feelings she did.
Slowly she got up to go back to the couch when she felt Orlando’s clammy hand grasp weakly at her arm. “Mouse, stay?”
“Alright sweetheart.” She murmured and climbed up on the bed, over him and up to the head of the bed, gently pulling him over. He rolled over with some effort and pillowed his head on her lap, holding the covers close and curling a bit. He was still cold although she could already feel the heat of his fever through her jeans. She had one sick English Patient.
“Thank you.” He murmured, one hand letting go of the blanket and gripping at her knee.
“Orli come on, you have to eat something.”
“No I don’t.” He whined, his voice sounding very strange since he was all stuffed up. He coughed into his hand for long seconds. “I’ll eat later.”
“No, you’ll eat now or I’ll call your mother.” Emma threatened. He’d refused the day before and she had acquiesced simply because she knew what it was like to be sick and not have any appetite, she hadn’t wanted to push him. Now it was the second day and she knew he had to, hunger or not. “Please Orli.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Just a little. Ok?” She helped him sit up more and put the tray over his lap. “It’s tomato. A secret Irish recipe.”
“I like tomato.” He conceded, eyeing the soup.
“I know you do.” She dipped the spoon into the soup and lifted it, blowing on it to cool it and brought it to his lips. “Open.”
He took the spoonful and she waited. “Good.” He managed.
She grinned and fed him another spoonful and soon half the bowl was empty. “Do you want more?”
He shook his head and let out a small burp followed by some coughs. “No. Thank you.”
When she came back from cleaning up everything in the kitchen, she sat on the bed and felt his forehead to gauge his temperature. “How are you feeling?”
“The same.” He coughed again. “How do you know how to do all this? I’d think you were a nurse.”
She smiled. “No, but I was the only girl in a house of four very stubborn Irish men. I guess I just developed a strong maternal streak.”
“Liam wasn’t married?”
“He was. His wife, my aunt Moira, died in childbirth with the twins. My mother was the only real mom they ever knew.”
He thought about that. “Do you miss her?”
“I don't remember her, so I guess not. Is that awful to say?”
He shrugged. “Not really.” He fought back a yawn, an annoyed look on his face at no doubt feeling tired again. Par for the course when it came to being sick. “Sorry.”
“It's fine. Your body needs rest to fight the germs and get better. Close your eyes and rest. Hopefully having something in your stomach will help. Like reinforcements.”
He yawned again and sighed, no doubt knowing it was a losing battle. “Okay Mouse.” He moved, with her help to get comfortable and closed his eyes. “Thank you for the soup love.”
“Of course sweetheart. Get some sleep.”
Orlando opened his eyes slowly, his head feeling like it was filled with sharp heavy pointed rocks. This was not the way to spend New Years Eve morning, not at all. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten this sick but was thankful that Emma had volunteered to take care of him. He’d only been sick four days, but it felt like a week. The room was dimly lit, mostly because his eyes were so sensitive to the light and Emma sat at the side of the bed, pulling the blanket down to his ankles. “Wha..?”
Was he really having that dream now?
“I’m giving you a cool sponge bath. It’ll help your fever.” She told him, holding up the washcloth so he could see and understand. “Don’t worry, I won’t molest you.”
“Thanks. I don’t think I’d have the energy to enjoy it.” He murmured, closing his eyes again. He sighed at the feel of the cool cloth on his face as she gently went about her work. “Why are you so good to me?” He murmured as the cloth moved down his neck to his chest and he had to resist the urge to groan, already feeling a few hundred degrees cooler.
“I could ask you the same question sweetheart.” She murmured, wetting the cloth again and running it up and down one arm and then the other. “Is this helping?”
“Yes.” He nodded a little, swallowing against the dryness of his throat. A moment later, her hand was behind his head, helping him sit up a little and take a drink of water from a glass with a straw in it. “Thanks.”
The bath continued as she ran the cloth over his legs, teasing him gently about having such skinny legs. Soon enough he felt the soft feel of a towel as she dried him and then put the blanket back over, tucking him in like a mother would a child. “That wasn’t too bad was it?”
“Would you do that when I’m better?”
She giggled a little and he opened his eyes to see her shake her head. “Now I know you must be feeling a little better.” She leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Get some sleep. I’ll check on you in a little bit. I’ll make you some more soup ok?”
He nodded. “Okay.”
“5…4….3….2….1….Happy New Year and welcome to 2006!” The announcer on the television announced, as scenes of celebration in Piccadilly were shown as well as throughout London, before showing couples embracing and kissing to bring in the New Year.
Orlando pouted. “I hate being sick.” He managed, his voice scratchy from the coughing he’d been doing. “This is no way to bring in a new year.”
Emma laughed. “You are just mad because you are contagious and can’t go kissing all those supermodels you’d had your eye on.”
“Yeah, whatever. I’ve had my fill of models.” He regarded her, looking absolutely healthy with no symptoms of illness at all even though she’d been with him the whole time he’d been sick. “I’m surprised you aren’t sick.” He coughed briefly into his hand before resting back against his pillows. “I really appreciate you taking care of me, missing out on celebrating yourself.”
She shrugged, handing him the smoothie she’d made for his throat as a double for a celebratory drink. “It’s been quite a while since I’ve kissed someone on New Years.”
“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. All American men are daft.”
She smiled, leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you. Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year.” He echoed before taking a long drink of the smoothie.
At the request of FredGinnyBillWeasley, here's the next chapter and it's a pretty long one (oh my!)
Emma smiled to herself, getting Orlando’s breakfast together. Everything was going to go flawless today and she was going to give Orlando the birthday that he’d never forget. Thankfully Samantha had been able to help out while she kept Orlando distracted to get the plan into motion and then distract him so she could take care of some shopping as well as make a few stops at Heathrow. She was glad he was feeling better, she hated seeing him so miserable. Secretly though, she’d thrilled a bit at being the one to take care of him even going so far as to bathe him. Would he ever notice how devoted she was to him? Would any other PA do something like that when their employer wasn’t technically working?
She made her way down the hall and nudged open his door to find him still asleep, as predicted. Orlando was very active and very outgoing but thankfully she’d gotten him into the habit of appreciating his time off and catching up on his sleep. Plus, she had a feeling he was still recovering a bit from the flu, so he needed this rest.
Also as predicted, he was asleep on his stomach, arms wrapped around his pillow. He was very big about being able to move in his sleep and while he’d been sick, he’d been forced to sleep practically sitting up just to make breathing easier. She walked in and didn’t try to be quiet at all, knowing that with how deep Orlando could sleep, she didn’t need to be. In fact, the louder she was the easier it would be to wake him up.
So, of course, he didn’t even twitch. She shook her head, taking the time to admire him, her heart clenching a little at the scar on his back. The rest was smooth with just the lightest smattering of freckles spread about, the sheet covering his ass and legs. He’d talked about getting a tattoo on his back, even thinking about covering the scar with it, but she’d talked him out of it. She loved his back, one of the reasons she’d always insisted on him taking off his shirt when she gave him a full massage. There’d been a time or two that she’d woken up and found herself resting with her head on his back, her arm thrown over his butt. How either of them managed to end up in the positions they did while sleeping without waking up the other was beyond her.
“Hey Birthday Boy! Time to wake up!” She sing songed at him, sitting down on the bed. “Rise and shine!”
“Oh Orli! There are about 15 naked girls in the living room and they all have your name tattooed in different spots on their bodies, you should try and find them all.”
“The house is on fire! Wake up!”
She got up and proceeded to jump up and down on the bed in the hopes that the movement would wake him. This had to work.
Nothing except to roll over and face the other direction.
She growled under her breath and hopped over him and onto the floor. Moving so she was only a few inches from him, she cupped her hands and shouted “HEY! OLD FART! WAKE UP!”
Old Fart? Old Fart?
Orlando had been awake since she’d sung at him, reminding him to rise and shine because it was his birthday. The big 29. Almost 30. It took all he had not to groan. He didn’t want to be 30. Couldn’t he just be a 20 something forever? His musings were interrupted when she started bouncing on the bed and he rolled over, hoping she wouldn’t be able to notice him trying not to laugh with the motion of the bed.
The Old Fart comment though required punishment.
“Old Fart!” He opened his eyes and quickly reached out and yanked her over him and onto the bed itself, rolling so he had her pinned to the mattress as he proceeded to tickle her with everything he was worth, knowing all her spots, especially right behind the ribs. “Take it back you saucy little wench!”
“Never!” She declared in a shriek of laughter, trying to get away from him at the same time as trying to squirm and keep his hands from her ticklish spots.
“This means war!” He declared melodramatically before he lifted up her shirt to expose her belly, bent and blew raspberries on it. Her near screams of laughter were making it hard to concentrate on his torture, her laughter being very contagious. He moved to pin her hands that had been beating at his shoulders and back and grinned. “Do you concede?”
“Yes! Just don’t…I can’t….” She panted, still giggling. “Happy birthday.”
He grinned and flopped down on the bed next to her. “So are there really girls with my name tattooed on them?”
“Probably.” She shrugged, pulling her shirt down and getting out of the bed, bringing over the tray with breakfast. “We’ve got a big day ahead gramps, you should get a good breakfast in while you still have all your natural teeth.”
He rolled his eyes, moving so he could sit with the tray over his lap. “Am I going to have to deal with old man jokes all day?”
“Happy Birthday Orli.” Emma pulled a large flat box wrapped in bright yellow paper with blue ribbon.
“Aww, Mouse.” He grinned, taking the package and leaning over the table to give her a kiss on the cheek. “You are too good to me, I swear.”
“Believe me, I know.” She gave him a good-natured wink and gestured to the present. “Open it.”
He carefully ripped at the wrapping and pulled off the box cover to reveal a photo album. Opening it, he saw on the inside of the cover was Emma’s neat handwriting Orli, You are that much closer to 30 so I thought it’d be a good idea to have something to remember what it was like to be young like me. Don’t forget we have a date to go surfing on your 100th. Happy birthday, you old cat. Love, Emma aka “Mouse”. He gave her a grin before he began paging through the album, finding a near chronicle of the last year including promotional material from Kingdom of Heaven and Elizabethtown, to pressed petals of flowers and letters given to him by fans and tons of pictures. “This is bloody amazing! When did you do all this?”
She shrugged. “I told you, I’m a chronicler. I’ve been holding onto stuff since I first started working for you.” She got up and flipped back to the first page, which simply held a plane ticket from Miami to NY next to his receipt from the bookstore where they had first met and the words Thank You.
“I think I should be the one thanking you.” He murmured, looking up at her and thinking of how much she had changed since he first met her and how hesitant she had been to return to her former home.
“I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” She muttered almost like a mantra as they got out of the car that had brought them to Ground Zero. Emma had mentioned that she had never actually gone to the site of the disaster and thought that perhaps actually going after all this time would be a way to achieve some closure. Now it seemed like closure was the last thing she wanted and the first was a desperate need to get away from the place. “Please, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can.” He insisted, holding her hand tightly in his. She needed encouragement and maybe even a little push to move on. “Emma, you need to. I’m right here.”
He was afraid he would have to drag her, not that he would have, but she managed to walk, her hand squeezing his tightly probably out of a nervous reflex as they approached the fence that looked out onto the cleared out area that had once been the site of the two tallest buildings in NY until their destruction in 2001. The fence was covered with ribbons and flowers, no doubt from those who had lost friends and family and had stayed in the city. There were pictures too along with other people who’d made the trip to the site. Even nearly 4 years later, it was still a slowly healing wound for so many people.
She didn’t say anything except to look with wide eyes at the clearing, no doubt reliving the experience of those horrible days in her mind. “I was at school when it happened. I went to NYU and I was there when the first plane hit.” She spoke very quietly and slowly. “I left class as soon as I heard. I knew Liam and the boys would probably be one of the first houses to respond. I went to the firehouse and I guess I’d just missed them. I didn’t think that it would be as bad as it was. I just made coffee and waited.”
Orlando bit his lip, not speaking, knowing she needed to tell him this, to tell her story to someone finally after all this time. “I watched most of it on the TV in the break room. I remember watching the first tower, the South go and just not believing it.” Her free hand moved to grip the fence in front of her, her fingers gripping at the wire. “It didn’t take long for the smoke and dust to reach the firehouse. Especially when the North fell.”
She was quiet for long agonizing minutes. “I think watching it, I knew they were gone. I knew Liam would have been in that tower till the end trying to get people out and the boys right beside him.” She sniffled, her eyes closing briefly. “I remember waiting at the firehouse all that day and all night, just waiting, hoping to see them come in covered with dust but ok. But every time the door opened, it wasn’t them. It was never them.”
Orlando looked at Emma, who’d been watching him, back at her seat. “Thank you. Really.” He put the book down and got up, walked to her side of the table and pulled her up into a hug, not caring what other people saw or thought. He held her close and marveled at how natural it was to hug her, how familiar her body felt against his, her scent, everything. And the gift had been so essentially Emma that it just meant more than he could even express.
“Emma, I don’t really need a big party or anything. It’s just a birthday, no big deal. It’s been great today as it is.”
She grinned and pulled him toward the door. “This isn’t just me, I had some help getting this together.” She opened the door and ushered him in to the darkened ballroom. “These guys you know helped too.” She said in the still dark room before flipping the switch to reveal the fellowship and even Liv along with many of Orlando’s friends from Guildhall and childhood friends, and family.
“Oh my god!” Orlando’s jaw dropped as everyone yelled Happy Birthday and he was rushed by Elijah, Dom, Billy and Sean.
Emma stood to the side with Samantha who gave her a big thumbs up as they watched Orlando be reunited with his friends, watching as Viggo hugged him, kissed him on the cheek and then made a point of checking for gray and then Ian hugging him and looking for liverspots on his hands. Orlando’s grin grew bigger as Liv made her way over with her son who immediately held his arms out for Orlando. He took the little boy from his mother’s arms, grinning from ear to ear as the toddler kissed his cheeks and hugged him around the neck right before his mother did the same.
While Orlando was still deluged with friends and family, Elijah made his way over to Emma with a big smile. “You know, there’s a good chance of getting some from him tonight if you play your cards right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy.”
Emma laughed and smiled, shoving the younger actor playfully. “Shut up. I did it to see that smile on his face, that’s all I need.”
“Yeah right, whatever girly. I’m just tellin’ you, he might just jump you.”
“Ah, I dinna think so wee man.” Billy came from behind the pair, giving Emma a kiss on the cheek and Elijah a smack upside the head. “She’s my baby momma, aren’t ya darlin?”
Emma laughed and nodded her head. “He did claim me first.”
“But you work for me. So I get dibs.” Orlando’s voice came from nowhere and made all three jump. “Emma O’Malley, you are in big trouble.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Trouble?”
He pulled her up out of her chair and twirled her around, making both of them laugh. “You were working on getting this together all those times I told you to go to bed and get some rest, weren’t you?”
She laughed as he hugged her tight. “Yes, I’ll admit it.”
“I’ll give you a good spanking later.”
“The fun hasn’t even begun to start, old man. I’ve got much more planned for you than this.”
“More? I’m almost afraid to ask.”
She grinned and kissed his cheek with a loud smack. “Don’t ask cuz I ain’t tellin’. Now come on, introduce me to your Guildhall friends, Sam handled inviting them. I didn’t think they would take me seriously.”
“Here you need this.” Liv placed a large cowboy hat in Orlando’s hands and dragged him to a chair that’d been left vacant for him right near the stage. “Sit.” He did so and nearly fell over as she nonchalantly lifted his feet so they were resting on the stage. “Just stay like that, you’ll see why.” She turned toward the stage and let loose with one of her infamous whistles that he was sure was heard all the way in Scotland.
Out on the stage came Viggo, dressed like a cowboy himself. What the hell was going on? In one hand he had a large white poster that was blank and a black holder. “Ladies and gentlemen! Now for your amusement, all the way from Germany…” He placed the holder down and turned the poster around and placed it on to it. “It’s Lily VonShtupp, the Teutonic Titwillow!”
Viggo grinned and threw Orlando a wink as he made his way off the stage and familiar music began to play and the curtains opened to reveal a familiar scene. A vanity table and bench stood to the left of the stage, a settee in the center and a regular chair in front of that.
This couldn’t be what he thought it was going to be. Where was Emma?
Then he got his answer.
Emma came out, dressed to look like the character in Blazing Saddles, black lingerie, high heels and a blonde wig. She didn’t look right at him and he was glad because his jaw was right on the ground. She looked fantastic and now he was going to be adamant that she go shopping at Victoria’s Secret. She was already ample in the bosom department, but the corset she was wearing made it seem like she was about to have a wardrobe malfunction while her pale skin really off set the black lingerie. This was his little assistant?
She took a step forward and to his surprise, didn’t lip sync the song like he’d expected, just the set up alone being fantastic. She sang with her own voice, managing to sound somewhat similar to Madeline Kahn’s with the fake German accent.
Here I stand the goddess of desire
I set men on fire, I have this power
She sang the words as a matter of fact, making her way over to the other side of the stage to stand against the curtains that made the backdrop.
Morning, noon and night it’s drinks and dancing
Some quick womancing and then a shower
With a flourish she covered herself with the curtain and then just as quick brushed it off, copying the movements from the movie. He couldn’t help but grin. She’d been the one who introduced her to so many movies, including those of Mel Brooks, that he hadn’t seen before. Her cousins had been something close to film fanatics and had imparted their love of film onto their little cousin. He’d been amazed when he’d seen her apartment in Miami and the vast amount of DVDs and videos there.
Stagedoor Johnnies constantly surround me
They always hound me with one request
She moved to the front of the stage, as if demanding the audience pay attention to what she asked next.
Who can satisfy their lustful habit?
I’m not a wabbit!
I need some rest!
She turned the chair around and sat on it, legs on either side in a rather provocative way, meant to model Marlana Dietrich but ending up just being sexy. Orlando was completely transfixed. What had Emma done with his sweet little assistant? Who knew this sex kitten was hiding inside!
Sick and tired of love
I’ve had my fill of love
From below and above
Tired of being admired
Tired of love uninspired
Let’s face it I’m tired
Everyone around him broke up in laughter as her accent sounded a little more New York than German, just like in the film.
I’ve been with thousands of men
Again and again
They promise the moon
They're always coming and going and going and coming
And always too soon
Tired of playing the game
Ain’t it a crying shame
I’m so tired
Goddammit I’m exhausted
Everyone laughed again and Orlando actually gulped as he saw her head in his direction. Now he knew why it was important that he have the hat in his lap and his feet on the stage. He assumed he was playing the part of two characters and hoped he wouldn’t choke on the lines, if she indeed intended to include him in the act.
“Hello there, cowboy. What’s your name?” She asked, giving him a wink.
He grinned and tried to do his best impression of the character. “Tex, ma’am.”
She grinned right back at him. “Tex Maam! Well tell me, Tex Maam, are you in show business?”
She was combining characters. He was still smiling when he answered. “Nope.”
“Well then why don’t you get your friggin’ feet off!” She pushed his feet off with her own foot, giving him another wink and smiling as everyone cheered and laughed before she launched into the rest of the show.
Tired of playing the game
Ain’t it a crying shame
I’m so tired
She took a seat at the vanity table, one elbow resting on it so she could prop her head in her hand and pretend to sleep. Then four very familiar men came out, decked out in old WW1 German uniforms, complete with hats that had the iron spikes on top, shining knee high boots, fake guns used as props and of course, outrageous black mustaches that seemed to cover half their faces. It was none other than the Hobbits. He laughed and cheered, this had to be the best birthday he’d had in a long time. This performance must have taken forever to put together.
Elijah acted as the lead soldier, while the other sang back up and did most of the dance moves, which were mostly moving around in a semi military fashion while Elijah yelled at the audience to leave “Lily” alone, that she was tired of love and she wasn’t a snake and she should be given a break.
“Don’t you know she’s pooped!?” He declared, waving his fist at the audience.
That rose Emma from her “sleep” at the vanity table and she launched into the finale of the song.
I’ve been with thousands of men
Again and again
They sing the same tune
They start with fires and sherry and jump on your belly and bust your balloon! Ohh!
Tired of playing the game
Ain’t it a friggin’ shame
She stopped and held her hands out like she was tired of singing the song as well.
I’m so…let’s face it…everything below the waist is caput!
The Hobbit-soldiers dropped their guns and held up their hands, singing a wordless “awww” before lifting Emma up to carry her offstage, with her pretending to have fallen asleep again. Orlando clapped as they came back out on to the stage, just like in the film to take their bows and he stood up, holding out his hands to Emma. “Come on love.”
The music ended and she grinned, no doubt in part to the joy on his face and the standing ovation she and the hobbits were getting from the rest of the party goers. “Aww, don’t you want to come to my dwessing woom?” She teased, leaning forward so he could put his hands on her waist and lift her down from the short stage.
He laughed and pulled her into a tight hug, a little awkward thanks to the blonde wig she was still wearing. “That was amazing! I didn’t know you had that in you Mouse!”
She shrugged. “I’ve seen the movie enough times. I’m just glad we were able to practice and pull it off.”
“So that’s where you were sneaking off to all week?”
“Yeah.” She smiled. “So how do you like me as a blonde?”
“I think you are beautiful no matter what color your hair is.”
For that he was rewarded with a blush and a kiss on the cheek.
“So we definitely need to go to the grocery right?” Orlando asked, taking Emma’s carry on bag despite her vain effort to try and hold onto it and putting it on his own shoulder.
“Yeah, and I don’t think either of us have any clean clothes anymore, so laundry too.”
“Couldn’t we just buy more clothes? That could be fun.”
Emma laughed and rolled her eyes. “And it would take forever. Laundry won’t be too bad. We can get it started and then go to the store if you want.”
“Emma?” A voice came from her left making her stop short and causing Orlando to walk a few more feet before he realized she stopped.
He turned to see her facing a man who looked like he’d just seen a long lost relative. No, wait, more than a relative from the way he seemed familiar with standing right in her personal space like that. A lover? He looked utterly surprised, but happy nonetheless. Who was he? “Michael…what…I don’t…” She stuttered. So she did know him.
“You look amazing.” Michael, who ever he was, complimented before hugging her.
Orlando immediately noticed that Emma didn’t hug this guy back. He took a step forward, just in case. Apparently she knew this man, but wasn’t too happy to see him. For Emma to show how uncomfortable she was and how unenthused she was meant that this man was not to be trusted. “Thank you.” She said simply.
“How have you been? I heard about Liam and the boys… I’m so sorry.”
“That’s surprising considering I didn’t hear anything from you after it happened. It’s been four years Michael.” Now she sounded hurt and a bit angry. Orlando was more curious than ever. Emma wasn’t one to stay angry at anyone for long, something he was supremely glad about considering that he did have a tendency of putting his foot in his mouth and he did take advantage of her as his assistant. What she did for him on a daily basis was way more than what a normal PA did, he knew that. For her to still be mad at this man meant he must have done something completely unforgivable.
“Em, you know I couldn’t. Not with Danny and Gabriella. Things were so…fragile.” The man looked uncomfortable, like he knew he was wrong and didn’t now how to get himself out of trouble.
“Fragile? What do you think I was? I lost my whole family in a matter of minutes and you couldn’t pick up a pay phone to call me? Send a card? It would have been nice if you’d shown any concern to find out if I was even alive!”
“I’m sorry, I just thought…I don’t know. I thought things would be better if it was just a clean break.”
“I’m sorry. But, it’s not like I’m the only person you’ve known since then, right? I mean…” Michael paused and Orlando watched him search Emma’s face. Then his eyes widened.
Emma said nothing.
Orlando decided now was the best time to step in. “Emma, there you are. I thought I lost you.”
She looked up at him with pain in her eyes, an old one. “Orlando.” She looked relieved to see him. “Orlando, I want you to meet an old….acquaintance…of mine. Michael Mitchell. Michael, this is Orlando Bloom.”
Michael seemed a bit stung by the title of acquaintance, but didn’t say thing about it. “I know who he is Em.” He shook Orlando’s hand, looking shocked. “My son is a big fan of yours. He’s determined to be a pirate so he can be like Will and get the girl.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s five.” Emma answered, her eyes back on Michael. “August, right?”
Michael nodded silently, avoiding her eyes.
“We need to get going.” Emma spoke up after an awkward moment.
“Em, please. Just give me a second ok?” He looked to Orlando for a moment. “Can we have a second?”
Orlando nodded, but only after getting a small nod from Emma. He didn’t know what was going on, but he was starting to get an idea. This guy Michael was an exboyfriend, not just an acquaintance and there was something about his son that was a sore spot between them. From what he heard, this guy had broken up with her before September 11th, but that would mean the child had already been born. That didn’t make sense. He knew the child wasn’t Emma’s, there would be no way she would give up her child if she had one. He’d seen her maternal instinct on a near daily basis, so the child had to be Michael’s with whoever Gabriella was. Had he been cheating on Emma and gotten the other woman pregnant?
Whatever this man had done and whoever Danny and Gabriella were, Orlando was sure of one thing. He didn’t like Michael at all. Not one bit.
“Michael, I need to go. I don’t want to do this right now.”
“How do you know Orlando Bloom Em?”
“I’m his personal assistant.”
A long pause. “Are you sleeping with him?”
She didn’t answer right away and Orlando’s eyes went to her hand which was flexing nervously against her leg. That question was definitely something that deserved a slap but he could tell she was resisting the urge. “You have no right to ask me that. Not anymore.” She turned on her heel. “Goodbye Michael.” She walked over to Orlando and gestured in the direction they’d been headed. “Let’s go.”
“Emma, I know this isn’t any of my business….”
“But you want to know what the hell that was?” She answered, buckling her seat belt. “Michael is my ex. We were together for a year until he found out that the woman he’d been dating before me had been pregnant when they broke up and he had a son. He then left me to be a father to his child.”
“How did you meet?” Orlando felt like he’d stepped into a soap opera or a bad talkshow. An secret romance, a unknown child, a celebrity boss, it seemed too crazy to be true.
“In an internet chat room. We talked there for over a year.” She turned on the car and backed out of the parking spot, out of the lot and onto the freeway. “Then when my dad died, he came out to be with me.”
Orlando nodded, taking all of this in. He didn’t know if he should feel bad or not about it being strange to him to think of Emma having a boyfriend. Of course she had had boyfriends before. Just because she didn’t date now didn’t mean she didn’t date before. He watched the road for a while before he asked. “Were you in love with him?”
She sighed, a sad look on her face. “Yes. He was there for me when I really needed someone.” She slowed the car to a stop at a red light. “But then Gabriella sent him a letter and a picture with a baby that looked just like him.” She tapped her hand on the wheel waiting for the light to turn green. “I wanted to be angry but I couldn’t. I knew what it was like to grow up without a parent. I didn’t think it would be fair to force the boy to grow up without his father.”
“You still didn’t deserve to have him just leave you like that. He never called?”
She shook her head. “Gabriella threatened to take the boy and leave if he ever talked to me again. I’m guessing she would have claimed he’d been cheating on her with me so the court wouldn’t give him visitation.”
He hesitated, then asked the question that’d been gnawing at him. “What did he mean when he asked if he was the only one Mouse?”
She chewed at her bottom lip. “Heard that huh?”
“I also heard him ask if you were sleeping with me. Where does he get off asking you something like that?”
She shrugged, passing a car as they exited the freeway. “I guess he still feels like part of me belongs to him.”
He thought, and thought hard. That didn’t make any sense. “That doesn’t make any sense. What did he mean with the only one comment?”
“It’s really none of your business Orlando. Please drop it.” Emma’s voice was strained and her grip on the steering wheel increased.
“I don’t understand why it’s a big deal Emma. Just tell me what he meant by it.”
“It doesn’t matter!”
Orlando clenched his jaw, getting more and more frustrated with this game Emma was playing. She’d never hidden anything from him before, why was this such a big deal? He thought about what Michael had said, his question of if he was still the only one. The only one what? Then it came to him. “He wanted to know if you’d had other lovers? Was he your first?”
“Yes. That’s what he wanted to know, that’s what he was. Now please drop it!”
She turned into the driveway and sped up the short driveway, parking the car and getting out. She didn’t get far before Orlando grabbed her arm. “Emma stop! Why are you making such an issue out of this!?”
“I’m not! I’m just asking you to drop it. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Then he realized. “He’s the only one you’ve been with? Ever?”
She looked at the ground, the car, anywhere but at him. “Yes. Happy? You figured it out. Huzzah and congratulations.”
“Is there a reason why?”
“I don’t believe in fucking.”
“Four years.” He shook his head. “It’s been 3 months for me and it’s seemed like an eternity.”
“Yeah, somehow I doubt that.” She muttered.
“And what the hell does that mean?” He asked immediately. Just when his frustration with her begun to ebb and he thought the small situation was nothing more than that.
“It means that I find it very doubtful that there hasn’t been someone since you broke up with Capar.”
“Oh. So that’s what you think of me? That I’m some kind of sex addict or pervert? That when I’m not with you I’m out screwing everything and anything that will sit in my lap? Is that really what you think of me Emma? After all this time and everything we’ve been through?” He couldn’t decide if he was more angered or more hurt by her comment.
“I don’t think either of us think you were with Capar for the witty conversation.” She snipped back, turning away from him.
He threw up his hands in frustration. “Forget it. I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.”
She stood there for long moments, listening to him go into the house, slamming the door behind him. Sighing and trying to control her emotions, she went into the car and got out her bags, lugging them up the steps and into the house, Orlando nowhere to be found. It was probably better that way. Sniffling, she took a moment before she made the three trips it took to get her bags into her room. She paused, looking at the closed door that was Orlando’s room before she went into hers, closing the door behind her.
It wasn’t long before she heard his door open and then the front door. She looked out her window and watched him jog to the car with the keys she’d thrown on the table in the entryway. He took the time to grab his bags out of the car before he got in the car and took off down the driveway.
She sat there for a long time, looking out onto the empty driveway thinking about the words exchanged there. Why had she said those things? Why had he been so insistent on knowing everything that had to do with Michael? Why did it still hurt so much after four years? She closed her eyes before getting up and going through her suitcases, preparing to do laundry. She didn’t know when Orlando would come home so she might as well do something constructive.
Lugging the clothes downstairs, she saw Orlando’s suitcases sitting practically in front of the door. He’d been in such a hurry to leave he couldn’t even bring them into the house. Silently, she put down her laundry basket and lugged them up the stairs herself and into his room.
For the next couple hours, she occupied herself with laundry, both hers and his as well as putting the clothes away. She sat on his bed for nearly an hour, paging through the scrapbook she’d given him for his birthday along with the packets of photos that came from Christmas and his birthday celebration. She smiled as she looked at the picture of him with the huge brown cowboy hat, her in black lingerie and a curly blonde wig on his lap and the hobbits standing behind them in German uniforms.
Now it was less than a week later and she didn’t know if he’d even talk to her whenever it was that he came back. It’d already been over 4 hours. Where could he have gone?
She left the items and returned to her room, grabbed her first present from Orlando, a teddy bear dressed up as a knight that she’d named Balian Bear and made her way downstairs. Curling up on the couch, she let the tears come. For the pain that was caused by Michael, for his leaving and absence when she needed him most, for the pain of what she’d said to Orlando and the fact that he still wasn’t back. Would he leave her just like Michael, so easily?
Sorry about the long delay on this...I went about two weeks without internet thanks to a HORRIBLE company that I will never do business with again. But I'm back and fighting that ever present writer's block. Inventory is over at work so hopefully with that stress being gone, I'll be able to write a bit more. Got 8 stories to try and keep going, ack!
Thanks for reading and please comment!
Orlando put the groceries down on the table and wondered where Emma could be. He’d been driving for hours thinking and arguing in his mind before he finally went and did the grocery shopping that he knew was needed before coming home. He'd probably purchased all the wrong things but he'd still tried.
The house was dark when he pulled into the drive but he knew that she was indeed home. Emma was nothing if not pragmatic and had she left, even upset, she would have left a light on. This wasn’t how he’d wanted to come home at all. He had left in a rage and now there was an ache in his heart and in his mind about the words they had thrown at each other. Deep down, he knew that Emma didn’t mean what she’d said but he was still smarting from meeting the man that had meant so much to her just a few years ago and not even knowing anything about him. There was nearly nothing that he didn’t share with Emma, why did she feel she had to hide who she was from him? That was what really bothered him. The comment about Capar had really been nothing but the truth, but he’d just used it as an excuse to get away before either of them said anything that they wouldn’t be able to take back.
He shook his head, getting out of the car and grabbing as many bags as he could for the first trip into the house, making the attempt to be quiet if she was sleeping. It took 3 trips but soon enough he was unpacking the groceries and putting the items in the refrigerator that needed it. He'd probably overdone it a tad. Or completely. Oh well.
He couldn’t get over that Emma had only had one lover in her entire life and that had been nearly 5 years ago. Apparently she was sensitive about it and he hadn’t exactly been very sensitive in turn. He'd been quite the ass and hadn't taken into consideration her feelings on the matter. He hadn't taken the time to think how the quick breakup and then the loss of her family so soon after would affect her. Now he understood a bit more why Emma had had that sad, haunted look in her eyes from the moment he met her. All her heartache wasn't just family related.
After getting everything put away, he went in search of his wayward assistant, trying to ready himself in case she was still angry. He'd seen her annoyed but never truly enraged and he was a bit nervous about that. It was always the quiet ones that surprised you. It didn't matter though, if she needed to scream at him, he'd take it. And then he would apologize until he was blue, perhaps a robust periwinkle.
He didn’t have to go far, seeing a pair of shoes in the living room. Walking inside, he found her curled up on the couch, her face sad despite being asleep and it was obvious she’d been crying. She'd cried herself into exhaustion. Clutched in her arms was her prized Balian Bear, a teddy bear dressed as a knight she’d found in London when they had been there for the premiere. It really wasn’t part of the movie’s promotions, but she’d loved it and he’d gotten it for her as a present to celebrate her first movie premiere and her first trip across the Atlantic. It’d been the first gift he’d ever given her and the first time he felt his heart tighten when she smiled at him and then hugged him in thanks.
He squatted down in front of her, moving hair from her face. He had to find a way to make this right. But how? “I’m sorry darling.” He murmured.
Emma woke up slowly and to the smell of what her sleepy mind figured out was burgers filling the house and was struck with confusion. She sat up, rubbing at her eyes, which were dry and sore from the fact she’d fallen asleep crying. She clutched Balian Bear to her chest, the small stuffed animal still endowed with the ability to give her comfort. She’d almost thought she’d rung it all out of him in those few weeks in Australia when she’d been exiled to a hotel while Orlando spent all his time with Capar.
Thinking of Orlando, she hugged the bear tighter. She hadn’t meant what she said to sound like it did. She didn’t think he was the kind of guy who just slept around with any girl he could get his hands on. She did know him better than that. He was a romantic and more than that, he was a one woman man. But the fact that she wasn’t his woman and probably would never be had made her just speak out in pain and anger, especially with that comment about Capar. Running into Michael after so long, seeing the wedding ring on his finger and knowing he was still with Gabrielle, the fact that he’d never called or written to check on her after September 11th and knowing that he knew of the death of her family had just put more pain on her heart that she’d been prepared for that day.
She stood up, curious to find out the source of the burgers she was sure she was smelling. If Orlando was home, that was a good thing, wasn't it? She didn't know what she'd do if he stayed out all night. The question was, did he even want to see her after the words they exchanged? She hadn’t meant to be so touchy about the subject of her sex life, or the lack thereof, but she couldn’t help it. The fact that her first and only lover had left her without hesitation for another woman and the fact that there hadn’t been anyone else was just a sore spot for her. It was just something she’d never wanted to discuss with Orlando. It was bad enough that he shared a bed with her on a regular basis and they flirted harmlessly, but for him to know the extent of her experience or lack of? She just didn’t want the pity.
Walking to the kitchen, she found Orlando taking burger buns out of a bag and onto two plates before he turned and placed two burgers with cheese on one and plain on the other. He was making dinner for them? Unless there was someone else in the house, the cheeseburgers were for her. Curious. She watched him for a few moments, noting he wasn't moving like someone who was still angry, slamming things down or being abrupt. In fact, it seemed like he was doing his best to be careful and above all quiet. Had he found her asleep in the living room?
Soon enough, he turned and saw her and stopped his dinner preparations. His body stiffened just a little. Hesitation. No doubt wondering where the situation stood. “Hi.”
“Hi.” She replied, her own voice sounding faint. She was just as curious as he was as to where things were between them. The time on the microwave and the fact that it was dark out told her he'd been gone for a couple hours past even when she'd fallen asleep. Had he gotten over his anger?
“I went to the market. I thought….do you want some dinner?” He seemed almost shy as he gestured to the plate with the cheeseburgers. “I know it’s late.”
“Are there fries?”
He nodded, opening the oven and pulling out a cookie sheet to reveal fries. “I didn’t know how to use the fryer, I hope frozen are ok? I followed the instructions on the bag.”
She nodded. Orlando didn't do very much cooking, the fact that he was now told her he was trying to make some kind of amends.
They stood there for a moment before he remembered he had the tray in his hands and he put it down, stepping closer to her, running his hand through his loose messy curls. “Mouse, I’m so sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I wasn’t thinking. Please, please forgive me.”
She looked down at her feet. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have been so uptight and evasive.”
“I understand it though. You deserve to have some privacy. Of all people I should understand that.”
“You deserve it too. And I really didn’t mean to imply that you just slept around. I know you aren’t like that. I just meant that being you that you aren’t really single for long. That you are popular.”
“And you aren’t?” He reached forward and touched her arm. “Mouse, it doesn’t matter to me if you haven’t been with anyone since Michael. It wouldn’t matter to me if you were still a virgin. I’m sorry I was such an ass, demanding you to tell me.” He paused and looked to the side. “I think I was just angry and I just didn’t know enough to shut up.”
“I don’t understand. Angry at me, right?”
“No, at him.” He moved closer, his usual unconscious disregard for personal space showing. She didn't mind. “It just made me angry that he’d caused you so much pain. To have you love him and then for him to just leave you without even contacting you after everything with your family.” He sighed. “I guess I just hoped there had been someone else, after him that gave you comfort. Does that make sense?”
She nodded. “There is a guy who gave me comfort. He’s standing right in front of me.” She gave him a soft smile as she finally looked up at him. His dark brown eyes were watching her in concern. He might call her a worrywart at times but he could be just as bad. “I appreciate you being protective Orli. I do. But Michael made his decision. You on the other hand, you went out of your way to help me deal with my pain when you barely knew me. Says a lot.”
Orlando said nothing but to pull Emma into his arms. “I’m still sorry.”
“Me too.” She sighed in relief, wrapping her arms around his slender waist in return, breathing in the scent of his cologne and whatever it was that she instinctively identified as Orlando. Knowing he wasn't angry with her and that he understood why she'd acted like the ass that she had was a relief but having him hug her tightly to him was the real removal of the anvil that had been sitting on her chest since he'd all but peeled out of the driveway hours earlier.
“Are you hungry?” He asked after a long minute, both finding solace in the hug as they often did.
They finished up filling the plates together and as they sat down at the table to dig into the dinner, Orlando had to ask the question. “Love, you didn’t throw out my suitcases in a fit of rage by any chance, did you?”
She laughed, nearly dropping a french fry. “No, I took them upstairs and then I did the laundry.” She ate the fry and asked a question of her own. “Has that happened to you before?”
He sighed. “Sadly, yes.”
“Aww. When was that?”
“Before I met you, before Lord of the Rings. A girl I knew at University. Threw out everything I owned into the street.”
“Nearly. I’m sure if the window had been big enough she would have tossed out furniture.” He munched on some fries and took a long drink. He'd gotten more than his fair share of teasing from his friends for that one. In hindsight he should have seen it coming but he hadn't exactly been thinking with his brain when it came to that bird.
“Do I want to know the reason she was so angry with you?”
“I found out she was cheating on me and asked her to take her things out of my flat.” He played with his burger a minute before he looked up at her. Funny how he knew without a doubt that Emma would be the last woman to ever do what that woman and a couple others sadly had done. “We’d only been going out a few weeks and I found out from a mate that she was still seeing the bloke she’d been seeing before me.”
“Ohh. An overlapper.” She made a face of disapproval.
“Yeah. So I talked to the guy, who was clueless about her seeing me and then I confronted her. I guess the guy broke up with her too and she decided it was all my fault so out my stuff went.”
“Where were you when all this happened?”
“In class. I thought it would be better if I wasn’t there when she got her things. She was always leaving stuff in my flat.” He shrugged and took a bite of a burger, chewing thoughtfully. “She was a nice girl, but a mistake on my part. I rushed into things with her and well, I paid for it.” Thankfully he'd been a struggling student at the time and hadn't had anything of real value beyond his stereo which was the real loss. Smashed to bits all over the pavement.
Emma nodded thoughtfully, eating some of her own burger. She was like him, after an overly emotional experience, they were both ravenous. “It was something like that when Michael left. I think it only took about two days for him to learn about the boy, pack his stuff and leave.” She put the burger down and poked at it. “It was ironic how quick it happened. Like the blink of an eye and absolutely no hesitation on his part. Just gone.”
“Is that why you didn’t date after?” He paused and shook his head and his hand in a dismissing way. “Wait, no. Nevermind. You don’t have to answer that. I’m being nosy again.” Part of him wished he'd taken the chance to pop the bastard in the face. To have him just leave like that must have done a number on her head if she was that easy to leave for him. Had he really loved her? Orlando doubted it if he'd been gone that quickly. Asshole.
She shook her head in turn. “It’s ok. I’ll answer.” She sat back in her chair chewed her bottom lip. “For a little while, it was. I guess. After the Towers, not much of anything like that seemed to matter. I mean, it was a lot of drama but I’ve just never really been all that popular to begin with. Don’t exactly have guys breaking down my door to sleep with me, you know?”
Orlando grinned, doing his best to push down his own feelings of anger for the man he'd only met for a few moments for the actions of years previous. Abandoning her like he did and doing nothing at all when she lost her family was beyond cowardly, it was cruel. He needed to focus on Emma and he didn't want her going down that dark road that no doubt was always there. “That’s because you don’t lock the door. Otherwise I would have to.” He tilted his head and regarded her. “Do you regret being with him?”
“No. I don’t really. We had some good times, good memories. We had our moment in the sun I guess. Now he’s got his family, and I got me a spoiled English actor to babysit.”
“I am not spoiled.” She was teasing him, that was good at least.
“Yes you are. I did all your laundry for you.”
He sighed, sitting back in his chair. “I don't deserve you.” It was a statement that was truer everyday he knew her.
“Probably not but you're cute when you're helpless, so I stick around.”
“There's a compliment in there, I'll take it.”
Sorry about the very very very long delay with this chapter...like the rest of my stuff, writer's block/disinterest has me in it's taloned grip. But here's a chapter anyway! Please keep in mind that this takes place YEARS ago...around the time of Kingdom of Heaven when they were still filming the second and third Pirate films.
Thanks for reading!
Orlando looked up from his table and the vase that he’d been working on to see Emma coming in and taking a seat on the floor, against the wall opposite. She said she liked to watch him work, since she had no ability at all when it came to working with her hands. He always argued she had talent, it just didn’t involve clay. She’d been quiet since they’d returned from London and run into her exboyfriend. He knew it didn’t have to do with their little fight after. He would know if she was still mad at him, and she wasn’t.
“Hey Mouse.” He greeted, focusing his concentration on the vase, trying to carefully etch a band of leaves around the mouth of it by spraying it with a little bit of water, but not enough to weaken the clay. He was trying to go for an antiqued look and wondered absently if Emma had any books about Roman and Greek art.
“Hey. The vase is really starting to look great.”
“Thanks. I was thinking if I can get this one to work, I can do another and we can put them in the front foyer on either side of the door?”
“That sounds fine.”
“How’s the garden coming?”
“Fine. I just worked on getting out the weeds that worked their way through and picked out a few dead plants. I was trying to figure out from that book you got me what I want to do over by the guest house, you know, colors and stuff.”
“Take your time and don’t force it. You’ll figure it out.”
He wiped off the small etching tool he was using and looked at the small potted plant Emma had put on the table nearby a few days earlier to help him figure out what kind of leaves he wanted to etch onto the vase. Looking back at what he’d done, he used the flat edge of the tool to “erase” the last leaf he had done and worked on trying to make the curve look more natural.
“Hey Orlando, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” He slowly turned his wrist as he pressed into the clay and tried to imagine the finished piece in his mind.
“Do you think I’ve changed since you first met me?”
He nearly put his hand through the vase, not quite expecting that question. Putting down the etching tool, he regarded the young woman who was looking to him for an answer. She was dressed in an old tshirt of his and a pair of cut off shorts that might have been made from an old pair of his pants, her knees still dusty from kneeling in the dirt as she worked on the garden. Her long hair was tied back with a kerchief, a small streak of dirt on her forehead showing that she hadn’t been thinking when she’d wiped at some sweat as she worked. “Yes. I think you’ve changed.”
“How?” She looked at him in earnest, sitting Indian style with her hands resting where her legs crossed.
“Well, when I first met you, you were very shy, compared to now. You were hesitant. I think you are much more confident than you were. Then again, considering where you were working when we met, I guess there wasn’t much encouragement to be confident.”
“No, not really.” She shook her head. “Is that all?”
He thought about it, thinking of the Emma he met and the Emma that sat before him now. “No.” Would he be able to describe what he wanted to say without falling all over himself or embarrassing himself? Wiping his hands on his “work” pants, he spoke carefully, thinking of the Emma he met in Miami. “When we first met, you had a haunted look in your eyes. You’d smile and you’d laugh, but it didn’t quite reach your eyes. It was just something I noticed that day when we were sitting on your patio, remember?”
He got up and stretched, walking over to the small sink they had installed and rinsed off his hands. “Before you told me about your family, I thought it was because of the bastards you worked with, that 4 years with that garbage was just wearing your soul down. Then after you told me about them, well, I knew the reason.”
“It was really that noticeable?” She asked quietly, picking at a loose thread on the shorts, not looking at him.
“To me it was.”
“Now, well, it’s not there all the time.” He dried his hands and tossed the towel aside and walked over, sitting down on the floor beside her. “But I can tell when you are thinking about them, or when you are really bothered by something.”
She smiled a little. “So you can see my soul now?”
“Not my fault, you had to put it into your work.” He nudged her with his elbow.
She sat quietly for a moment before she spoke again. “I think I’m different too. I mean, before everything with my family, with Michael. I don’t think I was myself then. Does that make sense?”
“I guess it does. What do you mean you weren’t yourself?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I just felt like I acted different when I was with him, to make him love me.”
She turned her head and raised her eyebrow at him. “Bollocks?” She imitated, her English accent rather good.
“Yeah. Bullshit.” He turned to face her side. “You can’t make someone love you. They either love you, or they don’t.”
“Then how do you explain seduction?”
“Seduction isn’t about emotions, love. It’s lust, sex appeal and all that.”
“Hmm.” She nodded, thinking it over. “But don’t you think someone could act a certain way, or behave a certain way to make another person happy?”
“Are you trying to tell me that you don’t like my cooking?” He teased, leaning forward to make her look at him. He had been experimenting with cooking as of late, feeling bad that Emma did most of it most of the time. His mother had actually encouraged it, giving him a series of cookbooks with certain recipes marked for easiness.
“Ha, funny.” She rolled her eyes and let her head rest against the wall. “No, your cooking is actually pretty good.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“I don’t know. I was just thinking about it.” She paused. “You’re an actor. You’ve never acted your way through a situation or a date or anything?
Now he was quiet. He could think of dozens of situations that he had acted his way through. Most of his interviews were acted, except maybe for Letterman. That he enjoyed doing. But he understood what she was asking. Now he was going to give her more of an answer than she probably expected. “Capar. That was acting.”
Emma gave him a confused look. “I don’t understand.”
“I never loved her Mouse. I guess I was fond of her, at times when she wasn’t being a complete bitch.” He ran his hand through his hair, feeling like an ass. “But it wasn’t love.”
“You told her you loved her. I heard you.”
He nodded. “And she said the same to me. Doesn’t mean she meant it either.”
“It didn’t bother you, a loveless relationship?”
“Wasn't exactly thinking very clearly when I was with her, you know that. Probably one of the bigger mistakes I've made in my life. Which again, I'm sorry you had to suffer through.”
“Gotta make mistakes to learn from them.” She said honestly.
“True. Come on, let's both get a bit cleaned up and we'll go out for an early dinner, alright? Give the poor kitchen a rest?”
She nodded, getting up first and then “helping” him get up. “Sounds good to me. I'm starving!”
“The nominees in the Best Actor category are…”
Emma watched and held her breath, hoping with her fingers and toes crossed that she hadn’t gotten up this early for nothing. The Oscar nominations were being broadcast and it was barely 6 in the morning. Kingdom of Heaven had already been nominated for 5 awards including best original screenplay and score, but this was the category she cared about. After Orlando had been snubbed by the Golden Globes, she’d been making regular wishes that it wouldn’t be the same with Oscar.
It came down to the final name. “….and Orlando Bloom for Kingdom of Heaven.”
She couldn’t help but shriek when she heard his name, leaping up and jumping up and down in joy. She continued to dance and laughed happily as Orlando burst into her room, ready to fight even though he was only in boxers, his hair was mussed and he was half asleep. “Wha…what is it woman?! I was sleepin!”
She laughed, his accent much thicker when he was struggling to wake up. She bounced over to him and hugged him, kissing him on the cheek.
“Ok, it’s something good.” He smiled and laughed as she moved his hands so they were dancing and laughed more as she dipped him. “Tell me already!”
“Someone got nominated for an Oscar!” She sang, still dancing around the room, her grin feeling brighter than the sun practically.
“Oh! Brilliant! Johnny got nominated again! That’s fantastic!” But not worthy of waking him up at such a god awful hour he probably thought.
She laughed. “He did and Viggo got nominated too, but someone else, someone in this room got nominated!” She sung again, not dancing but bouncing lightly in one spot, watching his face.
Then it hit him and she wished she had a camera nearby to tape his reaction. “What? No…no…you’re playing with me. That’s not funny Emma! Tell me you are kidding!”
She stopped bouncing and shook her head negative with a smile. “Mr. Orlando Bloom was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Film by the Academy. Do you have a tux or am I going to have to rent you one for the ceremony?”
“Oh my fucking god.”
She waited, knowing the real reaction was about to hit.
“OH MY FUCKING GOD!” He leaped into the air like a boy hearing the bell of the ice cream truck before he grabbed her and twirled her around the room. “This is fantastic! Oh my god! I have to call everyone I’ve ever known! I have to call my mother! I have to call Sam and yes, I should call Liam! Oh he probably already knows! Ridley too! And then there’s Eva and I should call my Ring mates! Emma, oh my god!”
She laughed, hugging him as he finally put her down and then did another victory dance. “Just think how you are going to feel when you win.”
“Oh don’t curse it Emma! I’m just happy I got nominated!”
“I’m not cursing it. I’m just telling you what will happen.”
“You don’t know I’ll win. You want me to win, thank you.”
She shook her head. “You are going to win. I know it. I can see it already.” She grinned. “So do they let assistants go to the Oscars?”
“They might, but I don’t know for sure.” He waited half a moment before continuing. “So I’ll bring you as my date.”
This time it was Emma who had the priceless reaction. “Surely, you can’t be serious.”
“I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.” He grinned. He grabbed her hands and kissed her knuckles. “Be my date.”
“Shouldn’t you bring your mom or Sam?”
“Yes, but I want to bring you.” He pulled her into his arms and twirled her around the room like they were ballroom dancing. “We’ll get all dressed up and have a great time and no one will pay attention to me because they’ll all wonder who the beauty on my arm is.”
“I don’t even understand how he got nominated at all! I mean, nothing against the kid, but when you put him up against his former costars who are fellow nominees and their performances, you have to ask who the hell got paid off to put Orlando Bloom of all people on an Oscar list. I would have been less surprised to see Keanu Reeves!”
“I wouldn’t be that brutal about it Roger. His performance as Balian in Kingdom of Heaven, by your own words was overlooked by many because of the poor editing of the film. But I will agree, that if you compare it to Viggo Mortesen in History of Violence, Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Eric Bana in Munich or even Johnny Depp in Willy Wonka, it’s hard to understand how Orlando Bloom came up when the Academy was considering who to nominate. Needless to say, he has a very very small chance of winning.”
Emma groaned and turned off the TV. Ever since Orlando had been nominated, all anyone could say was “How the hell did that happen?” and it was driving her insane. Even some fans were wondering how he managed to get nominated and there were even protest sites from fans of the films Capote and Good Night and Good Luck that were saying that the lead actors from those films deserved it a lot more. “Fuck you!” She said to the TV tossing the remote to the side.
“Maybe they're right love.” Orlando’s softer than usual voice made her jump and she turned to see him standing in the doorway, a sad look on his face. “If this many people all think the same thing, maybe they are right and I shouldn’t have been nominated.”
Emma shook her head. “No, no they aren’t right and don’t want you to think they are.” She waved him into the room and he walked in, shoulders slumped as he took a seat next to her on the couch, only to be pulled so he was resting with his head on her lap, looking up at her. “Sweetheart, I wish you wouldn’t listen to the critics. They don’t know anything.”
“You’re only saying that because you’re my friend. I appreciate that.”
“No, I’m saying it because I believe in what you do. You are a good actor Orlando Bloom, no matter what anyone says. So what if the movie didn’t make a bazillion dollars, you gave a fantastic performance. And you definitely deserve to be up there with a crazed candy man, a gay cowboy, an assassin and a mob guy.”
Orlando chuckled a little, but was quiet. “And when I lose, all the critics will feel like they were right.”
“You aren’t going to lose. What did I tell you?”
“I just don’t understand why they seem to single me out. I just don’t know what to do. What do they have against me?”
“I don’t know sweetheart.” She ran her fingers through his hair, her heart aching for him. It had to be so difficult to have so many people being publicly critical of something he'd worked so hard for. “I wish I knew why they don’t see you the way your fans and people of taste see you.”
“That you are more than just a pretty face. They don’t want to see that, no doubt because they are jealous. But when you win that statue, they’ll have no choice but to see it.”
He took her other hand in his and pressed a kiss to her palm. “Thank you, Mouse. I don't know if I ever say that enough. I'm truly thankful.”
She smiled. He didn't need to say it, she knew. “I know. Come on, let's go out and get some ice cream or something else wholly awful to eat.”
Orlando woke slowly and smiled, tightening his arm around Emma’s middle as he spooned her. Her hand was resting on his arm and she made a soft happy sound in her sleep, shifting her legs a little and nearly making him jump when her ice cold foot came in contact with his leg. Lifting his head, he could only wonder what someone would think if they walked into the bedroom right now.
From the way the sheets were, they wouldn’t be able to tell if he had anything on, his legs were mostly uncovered as was his chest. Then there was the fact that their legs were tangled together and he’d been tucked so close to her and all that could be seen of her clothes was the silk tank top that went to the pajamas he’d gotten her for Christmas and the one visible strap had fallen off her shoulder in a rather provocative fashion.
It looked downright romantic and felt that way too. He always felt better, waking up with Emma. He’d never met anyone who craved physical contact and affection as much as he did. There was no awkwardness about asking for a hug or even just nonchalantly putting his arm around her or even going to her in the middle of the night. One would think that there would be some kind of awkwardness, considering the weird ways they woke up in the morning, all tangled together like they’d passed out after a long night of lovemaking.
It brought a thought to his mind. Had she experienced that with her ex, Michael? Since he was the only lover she’d ever had, had he ever made love to her till dawn or just spent an entire day in bed with her? He wondered if Emma had taken care of the man like she’d taken care of him at New Years. He knew she’d never met Michael’s family and yet she’d practically been adopted by his.
Looking at the woman in his arms he wondered if Michael missed waking up with her like this? Did he truly feel guilt over how he had ended the relationship? He wondered how he would have reacted, finding out that he was a father but that the only way he could spend time with the child was to leave the woman he loved. He shook his head and lay back down, letting his face rest in Emma’s curls. He had been given his own ultimatum, though not as dramatic as being father to an unknown son and he was glad for his decision. He wondered if Emma had been thinking of Michael’s decision that night when she ran out of the hotel assuming that he’d chosen Capar.
Chewing his bottom lip, he looked at the digital calendar that rested on the nightstand, the time readout saying it was too early for him to even be conscious. Especially considering the amount of sweets they'd both put away the night before at the restaurant oddly named The Pie Hole.
It took a moment for him to register what the calendar readout read. February 5, 2006.
Then it hit.
Valentine’s Day was little more than a week away. He knew seeing her ex again had put Emma in bit of a depression, as much as she tried to hide it. Then there had been how touchy she’d been about anyone knowing of her lack of experience and dating history. Perhaps it would be an opportune moment to make her feel like the most wanted woman in town?
He smiled, his mind whirling with ideas as Emma turned in her sleep and snuggled up to him, pressing her face into his neck and throwing an arm over his waist. He was going to make this the best Valentine’s she’d ever had. She deserved to feel admired and adored.
“This is fantastic Mouse. Can I ask the occasion?” Orlando asked, sitting down at the kitchen table, which was set for what looked like a five course breakfast with all his favorites. He tried to be nonchalant about waking up early when he didn’t have to and then trying not to be noticed looking at his watch. The florist was due to arrive in 10 minutes with the first bouquet, he better not be late.
“It’s Valentine’s Day, silly. Look at your plate!”
He looked down at the plate and laughed at the child’s Valentine’s card that had Thomas the Tank Engine and said “I choo choo choose you!” on it with a big heart. “Very cute. Look in the crisper love.”
She looked at him confused before she opened the refrigerator, then the crisper and broke out laughing, pulling out the small heart shaped box of chocolates and a similar card, this time with Legolas on it that read “My elf eyes only see you”. She gave him a big grin and closed the refrigerator and walked over, giving him a kiss on the forehead. “Thank you.”
“I should thank you! Please tell me you are going to help me eat all this!”
“I’ll help a bit, but it’s your breakfast.”
“Do you remember the first time you made me breakfast?”
Did she remember? How could she forget?
She’d woken up feeling more rested, comfortable and safe than she had in years and then she discovered why and had to swallow the shriek of surprise. She had a human pillow and knew from the cologne that it was Orlando. His heart beat steady and slow under her ear. His skin was warm under hers since he wasn’t wearing a shirt. She couldn’t believe she’d been so upset a few hours before that she hadn’t noticed it. His hand was resting under her tshirt on her back, holding her close.
Oh my god, Orlando Bloom is in my bed. ORLANDO BLOOM is in my bed! Her mind seemed to chant the obvious as she struggled not to panic. The dry soreness of her eyes reminded her of him coming in to comfort her after the disaster that was the store party. What had made her so bold in asking him to stay? Was it the fact that in a few days he’d be gone and this was the closest she’d been to a man since Michael left?
Her heart clenched and she pushed the thoughts of Michael out of her mind. She had to get out of this bed so she could gather her thoughts.
Slowly, she started to pull away only to feel his arm tighten around her. “Mmm, where are you going?” His husky voice asked and she looked up to see his eyes barely open and looking down at her.
“I…uhh…I was going to make some breakfast? You must be hungry, right?” She scrambled for words, trying not to think of how sexy this man was when he first woke up.
“That’d be great. Why don’t I take you out for breakfast though? It’s the least I could do since you let me stay here.” He suggested, finally letting go of her and allowing her to sit up more.
“That’s alright. I like to cook. It’s been awhile since I’ve made a proper breakfast. What do you like?”
After he told her of his fondness for eggs and pancakes she’d nearly fallen over herself to get out of the room and away from the near naked man in her bed. As she started preparing the meal and wondering how she’d manage to eat anything with the way her stomach was jumping, she heard the shower turn on.
He was taking a shower…in her shower! Orlando Bloom was naked in her bathroom!
She groaned and turned on the radio in an attempt to drown out the teenaged voices screaming in her head like the girls had been at the Kingdom of Heaven sneak preview the other night. How was it that nearly getting run over by an overweight businessman ended up with her having a naked celebrity in her shower?
Putting more concentration into her cooking and the music on the radio, she never heard the doorbell ring. Granted, it was a weak sounding doorbell to begin with, but she didn’t even hear that much over the music and the sizzle of the skillet.
“I’ll get it!” Orlando’s voice broke through and she moved to the kitchen doorway to see what he was talking about and before she could yell for him to stop, he opened the door to reveal Katherine, who promptly looked like she was going to scream or pass out, or both.
It wasn’t that it was Orlando, she’d met him the night before and the two had gotten along rather well considering Katherine’s ravenous adorations for the actor. Part of it may have been that he was answering the door of her apartment at 10am after leaving the party with her. Most of it probably was the fact that he’d answered the door wearing nothing more than jeans and a shirt over one shoulder, his curly hair still wet and dripping.
“Well hello there.” Katherine greeted finally with a grin. “Looks like the night improved.”
Emma couldn’t help but giggle a little since Orlando’s face took a lovely shade of pink as he moved aside for Katherine to enter. She took her time, letting her eyes drink him in. Emma rolled hers and smacked her friend on the arm before hugging her. “Behave!”
“Aww mom, do I have to?”
“Good morning Katherine.” Orlando’s voice made both girls jump as he made his way into the kitchen. “The food smells delicious Emma.”
Orlando grinned at the pink that appeared in Emma’s cheeks as she no doubt thought about the morning when he’d answered the door of her flat half dressed. He hadn’t really thought anything about it when he did it. “Alright, then I get to take you out to dinner tonight at La Dolce Vita. We never got to go a few months ago.” He hated bringing up the messy breakup with Capar, but it was true that they never did get to check out the Italian eatery like planned.
“Orlando, it’s Valentine’s. They are probably booked.”
“Which is why I made reservations over a week ago.” He answered confidently taking a sip of his orange juice. He was rather proud of the planning he'd put in to the day, all by himself besides.
“You can make reservations?” Emma gasped dramatically and held her hand to her heart. “Who are you and what did you do with my boss?”
The door bell rang and Orlando felt his heart race. Now to see if all that planning would pay off. Here went nothing. “Why don’t you answer the door and I’ll think up something witty to answer that with?”
She headed off for the door and he got up and followed enough so he could see without being seen. She opened the door and nearly jumped at the sight of the dozen roses in the hands of the middle aged delivery man’s hands. “I’m looking for a Emma O’Malley?”
“Well, here you are.” The man put the bouquet in her hands. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Emma looked flustered and confused and Orlando thrilled at the look of shock on her face. “I don’t understand, there’s no card. Who are they from?”
“I’m sorry Miss, I don’t know the answer for that. Apparently the giver would like to remain unknown. It looks like you have a secret admirer. Have a nice day.” He turned and walked away, leaving Emma looking at the flowers now more in awe and confusion with the door wide open.
“Love, what’s..” Orlando pretended like he hadn’t seen the whole thing and pretended to be shocked at the site of the flowers. “You received flowers?”
She nodded before looking up at him. “There was no card. Is this you?”
He shook his head even though he wanted to say it was just to get the big smile he knew he would get. He loved that smile. “I wish it were. I just planned on dinner tonight, I totally forgot about flowers.” He acted like he felt a bit silly for forgetting flowers. “Do you know who they could be from?”
She shrugged. “No clue.”
I know...I know. It's been forever. Unfortunately life has been kicking my butt lately and while I've been managing a little updating here and there, it's nowhere as much as I used to. Trust me, unemployment due to mental health, several surgeries (ongoing) for a jaw infection and financial crisis do not make writer's block any better. Just reinforces the wall really.
Anywho, here we go. Thanks for reading.
“Whoever he is, he’s very sweet.”
“Only you would think a stalker was sweet.”
“He’s not sending me body parts in the mail Orli. It’s roses!” She smiled, putting her latest bouquet into a vase with another, fingering one of the blossoms and sniffing at it with a wistful look. “I’m going to have to get more vases if he keeps it up.” It was midafternoon now and she’d received 5 bouquets, all of different colors and all with the same reaction of surprise and awe that just seemed to grow with each bouquet.
“Provided it’s a guy. What if it’s a woman?”
Emma stopped, then shrugged and continued. “Then she’s sweet, but I would have to turn her down. Nicely of course. My affections are for people of the male persuasion only.”
“Aww Mouse, you’re destroying all my fantasies!”
She laughed and flicked water at him from the vase. “It’s just so weird, this whole thing. I mean, who the hell could be doing all of this?”
“I don’t know. It would be helpful if they put a card with one of the bouquets.”
“Maybe the last one will have a message. Or they’ll deliver them in person?”
“It’s an idea.”
“I hope he’s cute.”
“I don’t know who this person is, who’s sending you these flowers, but that’s not going to stop me from taking you out tonight. You and I are going to go to La Dolca Vita, have a fantastic Valentine’s dinner, probably get our picture taken by paparazzi on the way home and if the secret admirer, stalker, whoever he is doesn’t like it, oh well.”
“Oh Orlando, you’re all determined. It’s turning me on!” Emma played, fanning herself with one hand, her other placed at her forehead like she was about to faint.
“Keep it up and dinner is going to be at McDonalds.”
“Ohhh! Drivethru!” She cried, pretending to be overwrought but laughing the whole time.
Orlando tried not to laugh, tried to stay stern, but it was difficult with Emma having a giggle fit on the couch. The plan was working perfectly. She had no idea it was him, although he was a little hurt that she gave up so easily on him being the culprit. Watching her face each time she got another delivery was like Christmas on an hourly basis. Her eyes widened, she bit her bottom lip, her cheeks flushed. Hadn’t her ex ever done anything like this for her before? With her being a self-proclaimed romantic, one would think that one boyfriend or admirer at some point would have had the idea to go all out on Valentines.
Emma checked her appearance one more time. The whole day had kept her mind whirling like a tornado. Not only was some mysterious person sending her roses every hour no matter where she was, but Orlando seemed to be jealous! He just seemed like he was more than concerned about whoever was sending her the roses, using the word stalker more than once. Granted, the thought had gone through her own head since it was downright impossible for the person to know where she was each hour no matter what. If she had a regular schedule that she followed every single day, it wouldn’t be that hard to believe. Her schedule was the absolute opposite of regular and even the word schedule could barely be used itself.
Grabbing a small bag, she left her room, hearing the sound of CNN playing on the TV downstairs, no doubt Orlando waiting for her. She had automatically thought that he had been the one sending the flowers. Who else would know where she was every hour if not the person who was with her nearly the whole time? But his reaction made her question it and then of course there was the fact that the whole thing was incredibly romantic.
It would be too good to be true for it to be Orlando.
Part of her was thankful that it wasn’t Orlando. She kind of liked seeing him jealous and just the smallest touch of possessive. It wasn’t like she had men crawling out of the woodwork to chase her. Maybe it’d be good for him to see that she was desirable to others. She laughed to herself quietly as she made her way downstairs. Keira and Elijah were both of one mind, both arguing that although Orlando hadn’t said anything, he did have feelings for her, that she just needed to give him a reason to act. It would be funny if they were right after all.
“There you are.” He stood up and her jaw dropped. He was dressed in a stylish suit, a dark gray with a dark silver shirt, the first couple buttons opened to reveal just a few tantalizing inches of bare skin. His hair was curled at the nape of his neck, thankfully not tied back in a ponytail, a habit he had that drove her insane. She’d hoped he would dress up a little, but this was more than she bargained for. “You look fantastic love.”
She smiled. Orlando was nothing if not complimentary. She was dressed in a simple black cocktail dress, one she’d worn before although she hadn’t had the opportunity in a while. The one interesting part to her job was that when Orlando had to dress up for an event, as his assistant, she not only got to go, but she got to dress up as well. “Thank you. You do too.”
“I wore my hair down, just for you.” He gestured to his hair. “Happy?”
She smiled, walking over and put her fingers through the curls at the nape of his neck. “Very. Thank you.”
He nodded and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Come on then.” He took her other hand and headed for the door.
“Oh for the love of…” Orlando’s voice drifted off as he looked at something over her shoulder, making her turn. It was the waiter with a bouquet of roses. “It has to be a paparazzi. It has to be. No one knew we were here!”
She shook her head. “Why would a paparazzi send me 10 dozen roses?”
“To make it look like I did it so they can get pictures for their magazines about how romantic I am, whatever. They’ll do anything even play with the emotions of an innocent.”
She shook her head and took the roses from the waiter with a smile and a thank you, then she gasped. “It has a card!”
“Read it! I want to know what we’re dealing with.”
Emma looked at the card that arrived with the flowers, giving Orlando a glance that showed her obvious displeasure at his insistence that it couldn’t be something good. She knew he was just showing his concern. Paparazzi were known for their devious ways. This was the first bouquet that had arrived with a card. Would she find out who the hell had been sending her flowers all day now or get more questions? He shrugged and gestured to the card.
Opening the card, she read Maybe there is a reason I was nominated for an Oscar, love. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Her jaw dropped as she looked up from the card to see Orlando with the biggest grin on his face that she’d ever seen. Smug romantic sweet bastard. “I hate you.”
“You love me.” He grinned. “Quite passionately I would wager.”
“Whatever. Jerk.” She fought at the goofy smile that was threatening, playing with the card before putting it back with the roses.
He laughed out loud and shook his head. “I do something that most every woman on the planet would find as terribly romantic, that would normally guarantee a night of exhausting sex or at the very least, a decent massage, maybe a teary display of thanks. Not you though.” He grinned. “That’s what I love about you Emma, you are a complete puzzle.”
She looked down, unable to keep from smiling. She knew he was playing with her and that he knew that she was like nearly every other woman on the planet and really wouldn’t object to a night of sex, exhausting or not. If only he knew how right he was when he said that she loved him. This just made her love him more. But she just had to ask.
“Why? I mean, it’s amazing, but I don’t understand. All of this for me?”
“Of course love.” He moved forward and reached over the table for her hand, careful of the glasses and candles. “I wanted to do something sweet for you, to make you happy.” He leaned over the small table a bit while pulling her hand closer and kissed her knuckles. “Let’s just say, I wanted to thank you for always keeping your door unlocked.”
She was thankful of the dim light of the restaurant because she had to be the same color as the candle flame. This was possibly the most romantic thing any man had ever done for her and for Orlando to do all of this was just blowing her mind. She wondered if he felt the jolt of electricity that had run up her arm with the touch of his lips. If this was what it was like to just be his friend, what did he do for girlfriends? She felt a momentary stab of jealousy for Capar and all of Orlando’s exes until she remembered, they weren’t around anymore. She was.
“Why Mr. Bloom, are you propositioning me?”
He gave her a grin that made her glad she was sitting down because otherwise she would have fallen over. “Depends. How much did you like the roses?”
Her mind whirled with the different ways she could answer the question and the possible outcomes. That night of exhausting sex was sounding really good at the moment. “Not that much buddy.”
He slumped playfully, pouting.
She smiled, let go of his hand and got up. She walked the few steps to his side, put her hand to his cheek and kissed his jaw right near his ear. “Thank you Orli.”
A knock on the door made Orlando look up from the script he’d been paging through before he went to sleep. He hoped the reading would make him sleepy since he was still a bit keyed up from the whole day and constantly calling the florist to let them know where to deliver the next set of flowers without giving himself away and making sure Emma made it to or stayed at a destination in time to get them. Her reaction at dinner had been classic. He was rather proud of himself, being able to hold onto the secret without her figuring it out all day.
During dinner, he caught her looking at him in what seemed to be wonder. It was understandable. They weren’t exactly dating and sending her nearly 10 bouquets of roses and going through everything that was involved with such an undertaking was a bit over the top for a couple that wasn’t a couple, but he wanted to do something for her for Valentine’s. Something that not only thanked her for being there but something that showed her how much she meant to him. Maybe she would start thinking of him as a fellow romantic.
“Come in.” He called out.
Emma opened the door and stood in the doorway, dressed in the pajamas he’d given her for Christmas, playing with a single rose. “I think it’s safe to say the house is going to smell like roses for a while. I think there’s a vase in every room.”
He laughed. “I think we’ll be able to deal.”
She smiled, looking at the rose in her hand. “I thought….I think you should know that for a long time, after Da died and then Michael left and well…9/11….for a long time I felt like I would never be happy again. Travelling around and then ending up in Miami, I found that changing location didn’t help things at all.” She watched the rose twirling in her fingers, never looking up at him. “I was starting to think that I wouldn’t know what it was like to be happy again. I guess part of me was scared to try, thinking it would be taken away. You know?” She moved the rose to her other hand, twirling it with her fingers in the opposite direction. “I think I forgot what it felt like. For a while.”
“But then, then I met this guy in a bookstore.” Her mouth, from what he could see, had a faint smile. “I’d been having a rotten day, but I guess someone must have been watching out for me when they had that businessman whoever he was bump into me and have me practically fall into the arms of this guy.” She looked up and a soft smile, a wistful smile was on her lips. She had very nearly been tackled by this huge businessman who didn’t even look back to see if he’d knocked into anyone in his hurry and Orlando had been there just in time to keep her from hitting the floor. “He turned out to be my hero, I guess I just didn’t know it when I first met him. But over the last year, he’s shown me what it was like to be happy again.” She looked down at the rose once more before looking up again. “I just thought you should know that.”
She gave him a smile and murmured good night before moving out of the doorway and closing the door behind her, leaving a flabbergasted Orlando in her wake. He blinked and felt a smile take his face as he put the script he’d been reading on the nightstand and turned off the light, rolling over to go to sleep. Only Emma would be able to make him truly feel like a hero with just a few words.