He watched intently as she approached. He tried to look professional, but with a woman that stunning it was impossible to be anything but captivated.
Come on, fall back on your training.
It didn’t work. This wasn’t a mission. It was a dinner meeting. No, no. It wasn’t even a meeting. It was a blind date.
Why can’t you?
It wasn’t that he was easily hooked. Far from it. Most woman disinterested him at best beyond the basic primal physical attraction between a man and a beautiful woman. Even then, he was always self controlled and able to avoid being flustered let alone trapped. But right now? He was surely trapped. He had resisted everything at some point with decent success. From plain old seduction to alien poisoning with aphrodisiacs that were a heart attack in a bottle. He always had managed to although admittedly barely, keep his self control. But his fixation on the lady in front of him–and make no mistake she was indeed a lady–was far deeper than merely a physical attraction.
“Hello.”, she said dryly. Her lips relaxed, but controlled. He couldn’t help but study them. Lush and full, a dark wine colored lipstick that accentuated them even more.
He adjusted his suit collar and reached for her hand. Gently planting a kiss. On her hand not her lips. Though the thought was not far from his consciousness.
“The pleasure is all mine.”
“It sure is.” she quipped without missing a beat. Which is more than could be said about Matthew who looked like he had just hit a patch of ice and was now violently spinning out of control.
Ouch. Hold yourself together.
“I sure hope so.”
Ronald had said nothing about an attitude. Recalling the conversation, Ronald had described her as “Essence of heaven accidentally left behind on Earth…or whatever planet you were from.” Ronald himself was a short stubbly man who was balding–okay bald, I was trying to be nice–and was all analytical and far from anything creative or artistic. Ronald was Ronald. Not Ron. Not Ronnie. Ronald. Dry. Boring. Ronald.
It was odd that Ronald had even engaged him in a conversation that didn’t involve work. Ronald was a workaholic and his life, almost literally, had been absorbed by his duties as a ISID (International Space Intelligence Directive) Mission Advisor. That wasn’t too uncommon for Mission Advisors. Their goal was to act as human computers. It was far safer to send a message through a trained individual programmed to fight and survive than on a data storage device that could easily be absconded. Although it seemed that every day inched closer to the breakthrough that would allow the copying and tampering of humans–especially against their will.
Thus, most MA’s tended to keep to themselves and preferred not to remember much about their underlings. Either because they didn’t want to compromise an agent if tortured or because they lost so many agents nowadays that being disconnected from them was the only way to survive the job.
Okay. Deep breath. Offer to take her coat.
“Would you like me to carry your coat, ma’am?”
Ma’am? She’s not your mother or your superior. Thank God she’s not your superior.
“I can carry it.”
“Only if you insist.”
He swore even through her makeup he could see her blush turn a darker shade. Was the callous shell just a cover? Was he thinking too much into this? Probably. If there was anything Matthew did it was think too much. Then again it kept him alive–so far.
This isn’t a mission. Relax. Take a deep breath.
Gently grabbing her coat he proceeded through the entry way door holding it open for her, maybe a little too widely. He still couldn’t shake it. Her amber hair was intricately braided, even then it reached halfway down her back. Let free it probably reached to her bottom. He wasn’t going to let his thoughts wander there. It was hard not to. Her figure was athletic and toned, her face was smooth and gentle. Very contrary to the persona she was portraying. She wasn’t quite an hour glass, but it didn’t matter. Whatever she was it worked for her. He tried to ignore the sway of her hips. A very delicate and fluid motion. Not intentionally. If anything she was trying to cover it. But she couldn’t no matter how much she tried. He had to fight the nagging desire to place his hands on her hips and dance the night away faintly and slowly. There was an elegance about her that was just–
“Hm?” she examined his face up and down, down and up. She was seemingly caught off-guard.
Did you just say that out loud? Crap. This is going to be a short night. No…no! Don’t screw this up. Save it. Be honest.
“Oh-well. I was just thinking. You look very-nice. I mean good. Handsome. I mean not handsome. I’m handsome. Well I mean I hope I am. What I mean is that you look absolute positively breathtaking.”
Kudos to not overdoing it. /sarcasm Wait is she yes…she’s blushing…
Her serious edge seemed to dim if only for a moment. A glimpse of that angel Ronald had herald seemed to almost burst out from behind the mask of the ice queen.
“Oh. Well. Thank you.” She smiled for the first time. “You don’t look too bad yourself.”
“You are welcome.”
Not another word was said while the entertainer led them to their seat. Matthew made it a point to pull her chair out and scoot her in before taking a seat himself. They both seemed to retreat to a flustered, embarrassed safe place. Unsure of what to say. Awkward silence…yet not so awkward? There seemed to be an unspoken understanding that both of them had just left their comfort zones and that a short recess to collect their composures was needed.
A waiter promptly came by and introduced himself as “Keshar Telnuv.” An odd name. Obviously a combination of Vega Prime and Russian. Most likely a descendant of the Vega Centari mining operation. The Russian Federation of Former Soviet States had established a mining colony on Vega Centari about a fifty earth years ago. Vega Prime, the only other inhabitable planet in the Vega solar system, had been colonized by some obscure African-esque humanoids. “African-esque” because there was absolutely no record that the African Confederation had ever managed to colonize outside of the Terran or Alpha Centari solar systems. And those colonies themselves hadn’t been occurred until the last couple of decades.
But really that was the bizarre matter of the galaxy. Terran’s had managed to meet many aliens but none of them really were all that alien. All had the same DNA structure of a human. All seemed to mirror Terran cultures and peoples. Most of course could be traced–with some effort–to any one of the number of colonizing efforts of the last 200 years. Although various adverse and freakish situations had lead to some of those people’s forgetting their origins. Most you could guess. But there were always some, like those from Alpha Prime that couldn’t be explained. At least not conclusively and rarely logically. Many tried, but there was always some odd fact that through a wrench in the gears.
Matthew ordered a lemonade. Pink. She ordered a sparkling water with two lemon slices.
“So, what did Ronald say that convinced you to go ahead with this crazy idea?”
A bit of the coldness had crept back into her voice.
Maybe its just a cover for her own insecurity?
“That’s easy. He described you as an angel and that I would be a fool not to listen to him.”
“Listening to Ronald is usually foolish when it doesn’t involve a cloak and a dagger.”
“Oh good, so you don’t have a dagger under that pretty red dress?”
Her lips tightened as if to unleash a fierce cutting insult, but after a moment they remitted and her expression softened; if only slightly.
“I suppose that was only fair.” He couldn’t help but watch her deep, forest green eyes as they wandered for the proper words. “I’m not use to being anywhere for personal reasons.” She began as a dry admittance, ” If I’m going out for dinner its usually because I’m sedu-… coaxing an answer out of someone, blackmailing them, or planning to assassinate them.” She hesitated a moment before continuing, but only briefly, it was understood that was a normal part of their line of work
“And the few rare times I have gone out the guy isn’t looking at my eyes, skips the desert, and tries to take me back to his apartment/yacht/mansion as his desert. If you get my drift.”
He wasn’t quite expecting such an honest and open response so soon. It took him a moment to realize she had just opened her heart to him. She was now standing out there vulnerable and he was ready to meet her there. Her candor only increased her appeal.
“To be honest, as I see we are being, I can relate. Well to most of it. Its not very often men are trying to drag me back to their yachts.”
Was that a smile? Maybe. Keep going.
“And if its any comfort I like ice cream way too much to skip it.”
“Me too. I like butter pecan with hot fudge.”
“Vanilla with caramel. If it has marshmallows and whipped cream even better.”
Okay, that time it was a smile. A very girlish and unguarded smile. Good. I might survive this night yet. My turn.
“Its not very often that Ronald uses any kind of metaphor, let alone a remotely poetic one to describe anything let alone a person. If even he could articulate the words to describe you then you had to be something pretty special. Not to mention a relaxing evening with someone who could offer ‘intelligent and meaningful’ conversation is something I don’t pass up. Dealing with the scumbags of the galaxy on day to day basis with people who are as genuine as silicon implants, and as trustworthy as a hundred year old rope bridge you learn to take what little you can get of some semblance of decency and sanity.”
She smiled gently. A connection was obviously forming. For most people a frank and rapid conversation like this would be awkward at best, unheard of, and well, out of place. But for two people who spend their lives acting and reacting to the most unusual circumstances with the most unusual people in a job where playing games lands you in a body bag…this kind of conversation was just as natural as assassinating foreign alien dictators.
“Well I can’t promise anything intelligent or sane coming out of my mouth, Mr. Iksoye, but I pride myself in decency and meaningfulness.”
“Call me Matthew.”
“Okay, Matthew. You can call me Katie.”
This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Peripetia Story 1, Part 1