Alexis lay on her back with heavy-lidded eyes turned toward the window.
She smiled softly at the glow of the moon that sifted in through the curtains. The room was dark but for that faint glow. Alexis didn't mind. That night, being alone in a darkened room didn't scare her. Not even a tiny twinge of anxiety was finding an easy mark in her. Instead, Alexis was enveloped in a dreamy kind of warmth - a sense that all was safe and right. It felt as if a missing link in the chain of her life had suddenly returned to its proper place, but she hadn't even known it was gone. And all her mind and body could hold was Sonny.
"I came back for you."
Alexis let her lids close as she sleepily pulled one fistful of soft, lacey sheets upward. She hugged the bunched cotton against her chest and rolled over onto her side. Her other arm crossed over her stomach, palm wrapping itself around her waist. It came to rest flush along the parallel curving of her ribs, just below her shoulder blade. She knew she still felt a little thinner than normal, but Sonny didn't say a word. Nor had he made mention of the small pin still taking up a bit of slack in the waistband of her pajamas. He had to have felt it, the way his hands had gently roamed the plane of her back.
But Sonny stayed silent. He wanted her to be proud of her weight-gaining progress, even if her perception of it was a tad exaggerated. It was sweet, and it made her smile. Her fingers began to move back and forth along the slippery fabric, once cool but now flush with the warmth of her body...her memory. She could still feel his strong arms around her, his palms feeding their heat into her skin through the whisper of silk that covered it. And Alexis could still feel his lips pressed to hers in a kiss that was sweetly erotic and head-to-toe electric. It was a kiss of intent. A kiss of need. A kiss of want. Sonny had wanted to kiss her, and he did - for real.
"Are you okay with it?"
She drew in a deep breath as she languidly stretched her limbs, enjoying the familiar, light rustling sound her legs made as they moved between the crisp sheets. And then, Alexis relaxed, releasing the weight of her body into the firm softness of the mattress with a contended sound that was both a sigh and a moan. Her eyes blinked open, and she gazed down at the fluffy white pillow next to hers. Alexis ran her tongue across her lips. She wondered if she could still taste the spice of him there. Or the vague saltiness. Or the unnamable male essence that she had already come to know as his, just in the fleeting meeting of their mouths the night before. And it struck her that as well as she knew Sonny already, there were so many ways left for her to know him still - to know him more deeply.
Her hand found its way to the smooth expanse of cotton on the empty place beside her. As her palm brushed upward along the sheet, toward the pillow, she remembered the way Sonny had looked as he lay there by her side. He was so beautiful, and so unassumingly masculine with his tanned skin and black hair resting upon snowy lace. Alexis has awakened to his soft lips grazing her skin, soothing away the stress of a difficult morning at the hospital, and the tiny hurt of a new needle mark that Tony had added to her arm. But he soothed so much more than he intended - so much more than he knew. And as he lay on the pillow beside her, gazing at her with those bottomless, smoky eyes, Alexis felt loved. Truly, unconditionally, and silently loved.
"Say yes. Please?"
She curled her arm up alongside her face and pulled it into the pillow, snuggling her cheek into the downy white softness. The glow through the window had barely moved, as if the moon stood still. She wondered how late it was, and how long she'd lain there replaying his last words and his last touches in her mind. Alexis lifted her head and turned her eyes to the nightstand. It was almost eleven o' clock. And the alarm was set for one thirty. She hadn't turned it on. Not yet. She longed to leave it alone - to let herself fall asleep and hope the frightening, confusing images would stay away. But if didn't make herself wake up and the images came, the blissful feeling that lulled her into the night would be ruined. Alexis didn't want to take the risk.
She turned further onto her back, squirming to the right. Her arm stretched, hand grabbing the clock and pushing the button that set the alarm. The penguin gazed down at her from its place between the clock and the telephone, one small black wing raised just a bit higher than the other. It looked as if he was waving at her...or reaching out to her. Alexis reached back, plucked it up by its waving little wing, and laid it against her cheek. Her eyes closed as she dug her fingers into the furry softness, and she smiled. There it was -cloves. It wouldn't be so bad after all. Just one more night of waking herself up every few hours to stave off bad dreams.
At least she'd still have the blissful feeling to lull her back into the night.
That one little word had quite possibly changed his life. And the moment he heard it whispered from Alexis's soft, pink, just-kissed mouth, it felt as if a magic spell had been cast upon him. Sonny stayed silent as he stared down at that mouth, a rush of bliss washing over him. He was afraid to speak - afraid to break the spell by breaking the silence. Alexis seemed to sense it. She didn't make another sound as she gazed at him expectantly. He could feel her eyes trying to command the attention of his, and he obeyed them. He wanted her to see all that lived within the windows to his soul and know that it lived for her. But what Sonny saw in Alexis's eyes was vague disbelieve, as if she still wasn't quite sure that his kiss had meant what she thought it did. And so, he took her face in his hands and settled one more upon her ready, willing mouth. He wanted her to be sure.
Alexis began to smile before his lips had even parted from hers. He could feel it. And after he pulled away, Sonny opened his eyes and saw the dimples had firmly etched into her flushing cheeks. He brushed the backs of his fingers down the side of her face and watched with a bursting heart as her eyes drifted shut for just a moment. Before he knew it, he was taking a step back and letting his hand away fall from her. His instincts told him he had to leave, or risk spilling everything to her in a torrent of release that could scare her away. Sonny took another step back, and Alexis opened her eyes. He smiled softly as she scrunched a shoulder in a familiar gesture of contentment. It was then that he knew for sure - Alexis wasn't scared by his kiss. It was just enough, at just the right time. She didn't run. She stayed.
And Alexis kissed him back.
Sonny sighed as he stretched his arms back and hugged the pillow to his head. He felt like a bit of a rat at the remembrance of Johnny's curious eyes following him as he walked in silence from Alexis's door to his own. He was still under a spell, and he wanted to stay that way...though it hardly seemed fair to keep poor Johnny in the dark. But he was a very perceptive man, and Sonny was sure that the expression on his face had told Johnny everything he wanted to know. He wondered if the expression on his face had told Alexis too. He sighed and closed his eyes. What was Alexis thinking right then? Was her mind racing with thoughts of what was and what might be, just like his? What was she feeling? Was her body possessed by a lovely tingle of heat, just like his? Or had she seen the love in his eyes and allowed it to carry her into an easy sleep filled with beautiful dreams?
And as he wondered, the love in his heart carried Sonny into an easy sleep filled with beautiful dreams.
The last swallow of orange juice was making its way down her throat when the distant ring of the telephone turned her head. Alexis set the glass down on the kitchen counter and hurried into the living room, her hand lightly touching down on each piece of furniture to steady herself along the way.
"Alexis Davis. Hey!" She smiled wide and settled down into the big leather chair. "You got my message? No, you didn't wake me. I was up by nine, just like I said I'd be. Not only was I up at a decent time, I've finished getting dressed and had my breakfast too. No, Sonny went back home the night you were here for dinner. Right now, he's across the hall, in his own apartment, probably eating his own breakfast. Stefan, you know that he's MORE than made good on his promise to take care of me. But the poor man has been at my beck and call, twenty-four seven, for two weeks now. Enough is enough. I'm all better, and it's time for me to take care of myself while Sonny gets back to his own life."
She sighed and moved the phone to her other ear as she unconsciously glanced at the front door. It was getting late. At least, for him. Was he was awake yet? Would he come by to see her? Or would he avoid her instead?
"No, it doesn't mean I've changed my mind. I already told you that I'm not dropping him as a client - or anything else, for that matter. I know how you feel about him, but I just don't want to hear it again because I feel differently and that isn't going to change. So please don't keep making it an issue of contention between us."
Alexis closed her eyes as she swiveled the chair around, turning her back to the door. She ran her tongue across her lips as a wave of contrition came over her.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to jump down your throat. I just...feel like Pavlov's dog. It seems as if I'm always having to justify myself about Sonny to someone or another, so I automatically get defensive whenever his name is mentioned. It's grown to be a reflex." She smiled softly. "I hoped I wouldn't feel that way with you so much anymore, after...well, after the last couple of times that you were here. I thought I'd caught you kind of warming up to him a little bit. Okay, maybe that's not quite the appropriate way to put it. But you did see more in him that what you believed was there. Didn't you?"
Her eyes grew wet, and Alexis bit her lip.
"Thank you for saying that. It means a lot to me. He doesn't let his guard down very often or with very many people. He did with you...because of me." Her voice drifted as her fingers fluttered against her mouth. "I'm sorry? Yeah, I am looking forward to seeing him too. I've missed him a lot. Did you talk to him last night? You told him I got a clean bill of health from Tony? Good. It should make it easier for him to hear the whole ugly truth if he knows that it's all over and I'm really okay."
Alexis suddenly remembered her vitamins. She rose from her chair and moved to the kitchen.
"I mean the truth about the heroin. I'm going to tell him what Sorel really did to me."
The palpable silence on the other end of the line made her ache. The awful word was so foreign to Stefan's ears, just as it had been to her own just weeks before. She took a slow, deep breath and reached for the cluster of bottle on the counter.
"Stefan, it's just a word - that happens to hurt a little bit. I have to use it anyway, so...I'm going to. And I'm going to tell Nikolas because Zander and Emily already know. It's not right that I keep it from my own nephew."
She popped a couple of pills into her mouth and opened a bottle of water. Her eyes drifted to the sink as she downed the vitamins. A small smile crept over her face as she remembered the sprayer in Sonny's hand and the mischievous grin on his face as he pointed it her way. She remembered his expression of surprise and his capture of her wrist as she emptied her bottle over his head. And she remembered the feel of Sonny's fingers brushing against her wet cheek...and the heated mirage conjured by desire. Her desire.
"Hmm? No, Stefan, nothing's wrong. I'm just a little distracted, I guess." She took another swallow of water and put the bottle into the refrigerator before making her way back to the living room. "What? Oh, please. Don't tell me you didn't know darn good and well that I'd have forgiven you sooner or later for pretending to be dead - even if I hadn't almost died for real myself." Alexis abruptly halted, and her eyes squeezed tightly shut. "Oh God. I'm sorry. No...no, please, calm down. No, it didn't happen at the hospital, it was...it was before I even got there. When they found me, I had overdosed."
She cleared her throat and took hold of the edge of the desk to steady herself as she sat back down. Her brother was understandably upset, and that always invoked the same anxious response from her five year-old self. But Alexis took a deep breath, and forced herself back to adulthood.
"Stefan, it doesn't matter now. The paramedics knew what to do, they did it, and please don't be mad at Tony for not telling you. It isn't something that you really needed to know. I didn't even know myself until a few days ago. And I don't think they intended to tell me at all. Sonny and Taggert. They were filling me in on a few blank spots in my memory, and it kind of slipped out."
Alexis closed her eyes and let her head release down from her neck. She rubbed at her temple, mindful of the carefully applied make-up covering the nearly faded bruise on her cheekbone.
"I'm sorry. I just told you a lie. It does matter. It scared me to find out how close I came to never waking up again. M-maybe I didn't tell you because subconsciously, I didn't want to scare you too. I know it's why Sonny kept it from me for so long. He's very protective of me - like you've always been." She smiled. "I kind of like being protective of you too, when you let me. Hey, did I tell you how much I loved that you came over to surprise me the other night? You don't have to confess. I know he did. He was right - I did need you. I do. So does Nikolas, and that will never change. And I intend to impress upon him that life is fleeting, and it's much too precious to waste being angry and letting that anger destroy love. In about an hour."
The chair swiveled and Alexis rose again, moving to the mirror beside the door. She wanted to make sure everything was still in place. Bangs, band-aid, cover stick...
"No, Johnny's taking me. Sonny made me promise to let either him or Johnny accompany me when I go out - at least until Sorel's legal status has been formally determined. I don't know. I hope to hear something very soon. Yes, he's an excellent driver. AND an excellent guard. I forgot. You DO know that firsthand, don't you?"
She laughed lightly as she wandered toward the door, letting her hand brush over the knob as if flirting with the notion of turning it and peeking outside into the hall. Would he come by to see her, or was he avoiding her?
"I'll call you when I get I get back to let you know how things went. Um...no, tomorrow would be better, I think. I have another stop to make after L&B, and to be honest, I'm still tiring pretty easily. This is going to be my first real, full day back out there, and I think I'll just want to come home and be a spud. Oh, come on! Don't be so stuffy. It's better than SOME nicknames I've had."
Nicknames...her five-year old self...a little ugliness. The image of a dark face flashed in her mind. Stavros. Alexis winced as a quick, sharp pain invaded the side of her head. It buckled her knees and she leaned her back against the door for support. One hand flew up, the heel of her palm pressing firmly into the screaming place on her skull. And as suddenly as the pain had hit, it was gone. Stefan's words continued to feed into her ear, and soon, they were registering in her brain once again.
"Too Americanized, huh? You don't know the half of it. I have Tupperware. Oh, for Pete's...it's these little plastic containers that you...never mind. You'll never need to know anyway. You have Mrs. Landsbury to know these things FOR you." She turned and rested a shoulder against the door, palm flush against the wood. "Listen, I have to finish getting ready to go. I'll call you later, okay? And Stefan, heroin IS just a word. I'm not going to let it hurt me anymore, so I don't want you to let it hurt you either. Or Sonny, or Johnny, or N-Ned..."
Ned. Oh God. Ned. The adrenaline began to surge through her. What would she say to him when she saw him in an hour's time? Would he look at her face and see the guilt? Would he look into her eyes and see that someone else had found his way into her heart? Would he look at her mouth and know that it had been kissed by someone else? And could she stand the thought of hurting Ned again, when the love she felt for him was still real and true, only...different, somehow? Her mouth went completely dry, and Stefan's voice became a static blur as he said his goodbye. Alexis mumbled the same in return. Her eyes drifted to the stairway as her hand found the base of her throat. She envisioned the jewelry box on her dresser and the diamond nestled safely inside of it, right next to Kristen's ring. She set down the phone, and her legs began to carry her up the stairs.
Her stomach still fluttered. Was she getting ahead of herself? Was she conflicted over nothing? It was just one little kiss. There may never be a second, let alone anything more. But the WAY that he kissed her...the question he asked her, and the look in his eyes...they all promised something more. Ned had been more. Ned was almost her husband. But the fears consumed her, and Alexis ran away. She wasn't running now. And she stood tall and steady in front of the dresser with the carved wooden box that now lay open upon it. Her fingers quickly snapped the familiar clasp, and as Ned's sparkling round diamond settled against her neck, Sonny's one little kiss stayed with her. Alexis closed her eyes and touched her fingertips to the stone. She would listen to her heart. It was the best she could do - for herself, and the two men who lived inside it.
Sonny was nervous.
He'd slept soundly through the whole night, and it was the first such night he'd had since...well, since he could remember. He'd awoken feeling thoroughly rested and at peace, and it shocked him. He's forgotten what it felt like to sleep like a normal human being instead of a fitful wreck. But it didn't take long for the restless anxiety to wash over him. All it took was for his palm to slide across the cool, slippery sheets covering his bare chest, and Sonny's thoughts went to silk pajamas - and the sweet, sexy creature who was wearing them right then, right across the hall. Sonny's thoughts went to Alexis. And his hungry, awakening mouth craved the feel of hers once more.
It was then that the nervous twinge began to invade...and keep holding on an hour later. Francis told him that she was up. She'd retrieved the paper at least twenty minutes before, yet Sonny stalled. He slowly, thoughtfully sipped his coffee in his own living room instead of rushing across the hall, as he'd wanted to do the minute he'd woken up. He was besieged by 'what's, 'how's and 'please, God's. What should he say to her when she opened the door? What would she say to him? How should he be with her? How would she be with him? And please, God, don't let her take back the 'yes'.
Sonny worried that after he left, Alexis had retreated into her head, making a laundry list of all the reasons why she SHOULD take it back - why what happened between them could never happen again. And the awful thing was, he knew she'd be justified. It still hurt. But it was all his own doing. The dangerous life that he led was a choice that he made, long ago, before he understood what it could cost him. Being a part of Sonny's life had almost cost Alexis hers, and the smartest thing for her to do would be to run. He would die before letting her get hurt again, but would she be still be willing to take the risk. Would she trust him to keep her safe? And was he getting too far ahead of himself to contemplate beyond his unabashed display? He had to see her. He had to see her face the moment she looked at him in this, the morning after, to know.
He took a deep breath and loudly sighed it out. His eyes shifted to the door as he took a last swallow of coffee and moved to the kitchen. Five minutes later, Sonny was knocking on Alexis's door. A cappuccino was in his hands, with chocolate sprinkles on top. He knocked a second time, and finally, the door opened. Sonny almost dropped the mug. Someone he hadn't seen in a long time was suddenly standing before him - Alexis Davis, attorney at law. Her eyes sparkled as she smiled. Thank you, God. She wasn't going to take back the yes. Sonny swallowed, and then smiled back.
Alexis laughed as she looked down at herself. "Almost forgot, did you? Me too."
She surely did. Her hair was swept back in a loose twist, with a light fringe of layers framing her face. And that face was flawlessly made up. Not overly so, but enough to cover all that Alexis wanted to hide and make her look as if she'd never been ill a day in her life. She wore a sleek, tailored, black skirt with a matching one-buttoned jacket and a creamy silk blouse underneath. And Alexis stood quite tall in her sling-back high heels. It was wonderful to see her looking so much like her pre-Sorel self...yet Sonny also felt a strange sense of loss. His tousle-haired spud, sporting oversized sweats and adorably bare feet, was gone. But he knew that she was really still there, well hidden beneath the sharp picture of perfection that Alexis needed to show to the world. The picture of a barefoot, tousle-haired spud was all his.
But without warning, the faint sparkle beneath the small hollow of her throat abruptly stole his focus...and his breath.
Alexis cleared her throat and tilted her head. Sonny was staring with an odd expression on his face, and it made her nervous. She thought she would be able to see it if he regreted the night before, but there was too much going on in his eyes to tell. But he was there at her door, cappuccino with chocolate sprinkles in hand. That had to mean something good. As the sweet, earthy smell of the coffee filled her head, Alexis pushed at her bangs and shyly dropped her gaze away from his face, down to the ground, and back up again.
"I hope you don't think you need a formal invitation to come inside."
Sonny shook his head once, as if trying to clear it. He laughed lightly and shrugged. "It's nice to know, formally, that I don't." He held out the mug. "I come bearing cappuccino."
"So I see. Thank you." She took his offering and stepped back as Sonny moved past her and into the living room. "I made coffee this morning, but I threw it out. I mean, my coffee was always bad, but since I've gotten so used to you making it so well, mine tastes even worse. And I needed my caffeine today."
He resisted the temptation to confess that he'd been using decaffeinated espresso beans for her coffee AND cappuccino since she'd gotten home from the hospital. Caffeine wasn't good for her while she was recuperating. But as long as she didn't notice the difference, he wasn't going to bring it up. A thought suddenly occurred to him.
"Wait a minute...I didn't set the coffee maker last night?"
Alexis carefully blew a foam hole and took a small sip. "It's okay."
"I'm sorry. I guess I got...distracted."
Sonny felt his own cheeks begin to warm as he watched her lower lip get slowly licked, then bitten. His eyes settled onto hers, and Alexis smiled again. By the time he smiled back, her gaze had already shifted back to mug in her hands.
"Well, I suppose an impromptu water fight will do that to a person. Distract them, I mean." She blew another gentle breath into the white peaks, feeling herself begin to blush with the memory of her own distraction in the kitchen.
"Water fights, among other things." He murmured.
The stared with softly smiling faces, eyes searching and speaking to each other in a way that their tongues were too hesitant to do.
"Um...did you s-sleep well?" Alexis stammered, peering at him over the foam.
"I did, actually. You look like you did too."
She nodded. She slept as well as could be expected when awakening every two or three hour throughout the night. But it was worth it. The bad dreams had stayed away, and that was all Alexis wanted. Only Sonny's face, voice and tough were with her - no one else's. Just his.
Sonny watched as Alexis slowly lowered the mug down, away from her face. Her tongue made another sweep across her lips, and he couldn't help but yearn to take her face in his hands and wish her a proper good morning. His brow suddenly furrowed. He checked his watch.
"I can't believe I slept as late as I did. You must be starving. How does an omelette sound?"
"No, I'm fine. I already had breakfast."
"Oh." There was clear disappointment in his voice. He paused a moment, and then grinned as he wagged a finger at her. "Wait a minute. Leftover popcorn is NOT breakfast."
She laughed. "I didn't HAVE leftover popcorn. You're close though - I had corn flakes. Same food, different format."
Sonny shook his head and turned toward the kitchen. "That's almost as bad. I'm making you something decent."
Alexis followed him, protesting as she went. "What's wrong with corn flakes? Half the free world eats corn flakes for breakfast. I even had orange juice, which I knew would make both you AND Johnny happy. And before you ask, yes, I took my vitamins too."
Sonny halted abruptly as he entered the kitchen. He lifted his head up, sniffing at the air with a frown. Alexis quickly turned around and began heading back to the living room.
"But feel free to make something for yourself and I'll watch YOU eat for a change." She took another sip of her cappuccino as she glanced back over her shoulder at the sound of Sonny's feet behind her.
"What did you burn?"
"You do know that corn flakes don't get cooked?"
Alexis stopped and spun around. Sonny gave her huge dimples. She sighed heavily.
"Yes, Mr. Smarty Pants, I KNOW they don't get cooked."
Sonny tilted his head and moved closer. "So what did you burn?"
"Toast." She shifted her weight into one leg. "I got busy cutting the tape on a band aid so it would cover the scrape on my forehead without getting stuck in my hair, and I didn't hear the little bell thingy go off so the toast kind of...over toasted. Hence, the corn flakes. A bowl, a spoon, some milk...it's a no-brainer."
Sonny stopped right in front of her, his eyes honed in on the right side of her forehead. "You did a good job with the band aid."
Alexis looked down at her mug and cleared her throat. "Good. Thanks. And before you ask that too, yes, I put the Vitamin E on it this morning. Although I admit I forgot about it last night."
"Impromptu water fights can distract a person."
"Yes...well." She smiled and scrunched a shoulder as she turned and moved toward the couch with Sonny following. "I really did have enough breakfast though, so please don't worry that you're falling down on your houseboy duties because you're still A-number one in my book."
She turned suddenly, and was startled to see Sonny right behind her. Alexis swallowed, and gave him a curious expression.
"Did I tell you I also had orange juice?"
"God, you're cute."
Her eyes widened. Alexis opened her mouth to speak, but as she did, Sonny's gaze lowered and locked on the temptingly parted rosy lips.
Sonny's whisper halted her voice. His eyes drew a path upward, from her mouth to her eyes, and Alexis tightened her palms that wrapped around the smooth ceramic mug. He exhaled, long and slow, as he lightly touched his fingertips to the edge of her face. Her head reflexively released, tilting toward the feel of him as her lids dropped closed.
"How do you feel about...what happened last night?"
His murmur opened her eyes, and she looked at him with hesitance.
"H-how do YOU feel about it?"
She squinted and bit her lip. Deflection - he expected it, but he wouldn't allow it. Sonny reached down to take the half-empty mug from her white-knuckled fingers. Alexis glanced down at the feel of his palm setting gently down on her wrist, and watched as he put the mug on the desk beside her.
"Let me put it another way. A simpler way. If I asked you the same question right now that I asked you last night, would your answer still be the same?"
"W-would you want it to be?"
He couldn't help but smile. "Yes."
"Well okay then."
Her left dimple teased him. But he needed to hear it. Somehow, Alexis knew.
"Yes." She added.
"Are you sure? I don't want to make you uncomfortable or put you on the spot. But I also don't want to compromise the trust between us, or push the bounds of our friendship into someplace that you didn't want it to go."
"You've been to hell and back on account of me, and I am so honored that of all the people who love you and wanted to see you through it, you let it be me. I honor YOU, Alexis. And I wouldn't have crossed the line I crossed last night if I didn't think that it was...if I hadn't believed that you..."
Alexis stopped his rambling mouth with a palm pressed to his chest. She smiled and leaned in, laying a soft, firm kiss against his lips. He held his breath, closed his eyes, and let her take control. Whatever she was ready to give to him, he took joyfully, and was mindful to meet equally rather than with more. He touched a single fingertip to her jaw, and he heard her slight intake of breath. And as he felt her begin to pull away, Sonny slowly exhaled with a low, light, raspy sound. Alexis opened her eyes and stared deeply into his.
"Do you believe me now?"
The sound of the telephone just a foot away made them both jump as if they'd been hit by lightening.
"Oh God..." Alexis heaved a sigh and smiled as she let her forehead drop against his chest.
"Be still my beating heart." Sonny murmured with a shake of his head. His heart WAS beating like fury, but it wasn't because of the phone.
Alexis lifted her head and let her hand fall from his chest. "What a couple of ninnies, huh? Scared by a telephone."
She rolled her eyes as she reached to answer it. Sonny smiled and ran his tongue across his lower lip, tasting cappuccino, gardenias, and Alexis. He thought that the two of them were anything BUT ninnies. At least, for the last five minutes.
"Alexis Davis. Oh - hi."
Taggert. Her stomach tightened as she cast a guilty eye over her shoulder at Sonny's sweet smile. Alexis still hadn't said a word to him about seeing Thomas Malloy, and deep down, she didn't really want to. Not yet. Not before it was over and done. For Sonny to sway her against it would be easier than she wanted to admit. But she had to do it, on her own, on her own terms, and with as much clarity as she could find. She didn't want anyone else's voice in her head, or anyone else's judgment clouding her own. She needed to trust her instincts and act upon them...even if it meant delaying telling the truth. She turned away from Sonny's smile and back to Taggert's voice.
"Yes, I'm still planning on it. I'm sure, Taggert." She cleared her throat. "Two thirty? I'll be there. Okay. I'll see you then."
"Y-yeah." Alexis set the phone down and turned around. "I called the PCPD yesterday to see what, if anything, was happening with the Wilson case. Dara was in court all day, so I spoke to Taggert. He had no news, but I mentioned I might want to stop by there today to give either him or Dara any further statement or information they might need for my own case against Sorel. So...he was just calling to confirm."
Sonny stared. Alexis set her palms down on the edge of the desk and wrapped her fingers around it.
"I'm going to drop by the station after I leave L&B."
"When are you going to L&B?"
"I said I'd be there around eleven thirty. Johnny's back when, eleven? Notice how I'm not putting up an argument over your order that I be escorted?"
"I'll take you."
"You don't have to."
"I want to."
"You have your business to attend to, and Johnny has his as well. He's a guard. Let him do his job."
"Well, if you miss him that much, we'll just bring him along." He winked.
"I want to take you myself today. I'll drop you off at L&B, go to the warehouse for a couple of hours to do some work, and then I'll pick you back up and take you to see Dara and Taggert."
Alexis gave him a small, almost sad smile as she cocked her head and gazed up at him. Sonny was in full protective mode, and it showed all over his face. She took a moment before speaking, and lowered her voice to a resonant murmur.
"You need to let Johnny take me. Think about it, Sonny. I'm going to be walking into my place of business, for the first time since becoming a case number myself. I can't walk in there with my number one client, who's also their number one usual suspect, holding my hand."
Sonny's eyes drifted from her face down to the floor, his head slowly nodding with a numb understanding. The reality of who he and Alexis were to the rest of the world, outside of their private cocoon, had just fallen on him like a wall. She was respected and admired, both personally and professionally. He was reviled. And something as human as lending emotional support by being at her side could do her professional harm. What kind of an idiot was he to think that she could ever be his without losing everything she had? His jaw tensed, and he finally looked up, ready to speak words that went against his heart for her own good. But Alexis had moved away from the desk and was standing right before him, all dark eyes, soft dimples, and chestnut hair smelling like paradise. The instinct to enwrap her in his arms and hold on for dear life was primal. The tender touch of her hand taking hold of his froze him, and put an unexpected sting into his eyes.
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
"It isn't you." He almost choked on his first few words. Sonny swallowed and flexed his fingers before curving them back around hers. "It's my life and my choices that keep me from being able to show you a...um...certain level of support in public. Especially where you conduct business. And I know that you need to stand on your on, for yourself as much as for your professional image. And speaking of image, did I tell you how drop-dead beautiful you look today, councellor?"
"Well, you did say 'wow'. I extrapolated from there. Thank you." She whispered. "And thank you for wanting to hold my hand."
"I still can, you know. Even if it's not literally."
"You can, and you do."
Sonny gave the end of her nose a tap. "Yay for me."
Alexis laughed and shifted her weight. Her legs weren't prepared, and she wobbled slightly. Sonny firmed his grip on her hand and clasped his other hand around her shoulder.
"I'm alright. I'm just having a bit of difficulty readjusting to high heels. All this time walking around barefoot like a hippie has turned my Manolos into an unexpected challenge." She squinted up at him. "On second thought, maybe I DO need you to hold my hand - to keep me from falling on my face."
"I have faith in you. Wearing high heels is probably like riding a bike - once you learn how to do it, you never forget. You may be wobbly at first, but it all comes back to you before you know it."
She raised an eyebrow. "A bike, huh?"
"Sorry. I forget who I'm talking to." He grinned. "It's like riding...a horse?"
Alexis sighed. "Well said."
It was also like falling in love. You may be wobbly at first, but it all comes back to you before you know it.