The one month free hotel stay arranged by Sutton & Pardini had ended already, forcing Valentina to rent a small apartment to live in for the reminder of her internship in Houston. Since Val was living on an internship salary (she was lucky to even have a salary,) Val figured it’d be good sense to take Maria’s offer to move in together. That way they could split the bills and save some money. The apartment wasn’t the nicest, nor was the neighborhood for that matter, but for the very first time Val was pulling her own weight financially, and she felt good about it. However, that was not the reason she was feeling ecstatic. In less than an hour, Tom would be there, in that tiny apartment, to take her out on their first date. Valentina was over the moon.
Standing in front of her tiny closet, Val surveyed the cramped clothes, trying to decide what to wear. It shouldn’t have been a hard decision; she was going on a date with a blind man, after all. It probably didn’t make any difference to Tom what she wore, yet somehow she felt compelled to look her best for him. He was a gorgeous man, and she would have to kick it up a notch to look remotely as attractive as him.
Given that the weather was still warm, she decided to wear one of the few skirts she owned. The short flowy skirt was of a navy-blue color, sprinkled with small black dots that could be seen only up close. She matched it with a simple black sleeveless top that she wore under a slimming black blazer, and finished the look with black suede ankle boots.
Reminding herself that there was one more thing missing from her attire, she opened her closet’s first drawer, and picked up the small wooden box where she kept her jewelry. She quickly found the small blue velvet bag she was looking for and opened it, letting its content slide out of the bag onto her hand. She carefully scanned the beautiful pair of silver-opal leaf shaped earrings that sat on her hand, they looked as perfect as the first time she had laid eyes on them. All those years she’d kept them safe in that bag, thinking that they would wear away if she ever dared to wear them. It was the one reminder of that special night that she and Tom had shared in Mexico, and she cherished them as if they were a treasure. With mixed feelings, unsure if the earrings were a good or bad reminder of the past, she put them on and looked at her face in the mirror. The earrings sure looked pretty under her sleek dark hair, they even matched her green eyes, so she decided to leave them on.
She scanned her frontal image in the full-length mirror, definitely liking what she saw, and then turned around to inspect her back, which also looked great. In her humble opinion, she looked smoking hot. Despite favoring the use of comfortable pants, Val had to admit that the skirt made wonders for her butt, it actually looked semi-normal. This led her to thinking of the deal she’d made with Tom, of letting him feel her butt if he took her on a date. She chuckled lowly shaking her head, still feeling a little embarrassed just by the memory of that talk. Embarrassing as it was, it worked. That date was happening just about now.
Unconsciously, her mind began to wander, imagining Tom slowly slipping his hands under her skirt and softly caressing her bum, then moving his hands up under her shirt and to her back, her waist, her breasts…
Stop fantasizing Valentina, if you continue this, you’ll have to take another shower.
She sucked in a deep breath and fanned her warm flushed face with her hands, returning to the reality of her previous state of anxiety, but now combined with sexual arousal. The only measure for escaping her current predicament, would be cold water. Luckily, she could take that water in the form of a drink.
Val made her way to the kitchen and found Maria sitting on the couch watching TV, then heard a loud catcall.
“You look hot Val. That’s a lot of effort for someone that can’t …” Maria cut herself short, probably thinking that she was being rude.
“You can say it. He can’t see. I wanted to look good for him anyway.” Val shrugged, not feeling like getting into the details of the meaning of this date to her.
“Don’t you mind. That he’s blind?”
Val could see in Maria’s expression nothing more than genuine curiosity. No disapproval, just curiosity. A few years ago, Val probably would have felt attacked by Maria’s question. She used to be so damn insecure. She cared too much of what people, and especially her parents, would think of her if she ever dated Tom. She still cared of what her parents thought, though, that would never change. However, knowing that Tom was an amazing man and that he was the one that could make her happy, their opinion didn’t hold that much weight anymore. Her parents would just have to accept it, and hopefully, be happy for her.
“Tom’s amazing, Maria,” was all she answered, trying not to gush excessively.
“You really like him, huh?” Maria offered a small approving smile.
“Yeah,” Val breathed, grinning from ear to ear.
“Well, you look great. He’s a lucky guy.”
And I’m a lucky girl.
Few minutes had passed when Val’s phone rang.
“Hi!” She answered her phone eagerly, incapable of erasing the smile from her face.
“Hi, Valentina.” Tom’s voice sounded strained, Val could tell that something was wrong.
“Yeah?” she muttered, elation replaced with apprehension. Guess there was a way to erase her smile, after all.
“I have good and bad news.” He sounded uptight. “I’m pretty sure I’m in your building, on your floor, but I haven’t been able to find…”
Valentina let out a relieved breath and hurried out to the hallway. She saw Tom standing close to the elevator, cane in one hand and holding his cell phone close to his ear with the other, looking somewhat disconcerted.
She pressed the red button to end the call and walked straight up to him, checking his appearance. Instead of the formal slacks he wore at work, he was wearing dark jeans, which gave him a resemblance of a younger Tom. He was sporting one of his formal button up shirts in an informal fashion, untucked and rolled up sleeves, revealing a hint of the tiger tattoo that had always fascinated her.
His expression changed when he heard her approaching, now a huge smirk spread on his handsome face, accompanied by red cheeks and ears.
“Sorry Valentina, I …”
Val locked her arms around his neck, and without a warning, planted her lips over his.
Instead of returning the kiss, Tom’s body stiffened immediately. However, not long after, he melted like chocolate under her embrace, wrapping his arms around her waist, and deepening the kiss hungrily.
Realizing that they hadn’t even started their date and she was already all over him, Val reluctantly ended the steamy kiss, mentally excusing herself for her eagerness. How could she have not kissed him? He looked sexy as hell.
“I was dying to do that. You look really good. Sorry.” She chuckled sheepishly, then added, “Not really. Not sorry,” and let out a heartily laugh.
Tom cleared his throat. “I’m not sorry either. I think I just got to first base effortlessly. I’m that good!” he wiggled his eyebrows as he pushed his phone into the side pocket of his jeans. “I think I can go home now, my job’s done. See you on our second date.”
He turned on his heels and Val reached for his elbow to stop him, then tugged him towards her, “Come here silly, you’re not going anywhere, you’re stuck with me all night,” she said as she dragged him back to her apartment.
“This is my new place. It’s very small, not much to say about it.” She walked him through the small apartment and when they made it to the living room she acknowledged Maria. “Of course, you know Maria from work, she’s my roomie.” Val waved at Maria, excitement showing on her whole body’s demeanor.
“Hi Maria!” Tom flashed her his charming smile.
“Uh, hi,” Maria said shyly gazing up at him as if he were a strange occurrence.
Val placed his hand, which she was still holding, on the back of the armchair placed beside the sofa Maria was sitting on. “If you’d like, sit here. I’m gonna get my purse really fast.”
She disappeared into her room and gave herself a quick glance in the mirror, noticing her lipstick was gone. She felt a little tingling remembering why.
No time to dwell on that, just put on some more, lady!
After putting some gloss on her lips, she grabbed her bag from her desk and went back to the living room.
Tom was still standing next to the armchair, speaking with Maria about the movie she was watching.
“Okay, ready?” Val said cheerily as she approached Tom.
“Been ready for a long time,” he said, chuckling.
Instead of dragging him like she had done before, she positioned herself to his left side and offered her arm. He wrapped his hand around it without hesitating, yet still holding his cane unfurled.
They both said their goodbyes and walked out of the apartment. “It’s the third one to your left, walking straight out of the elevator,” Val said suddenly. “In case you want to visit.”
“I might take you up on that.” Tom smiled and nodded.
As they walked out through the main entrance, Val could see a beautiful grey Audi Q5 parked outside of her building. Tom quickly moved ahead of her, reaching out with his cane until he smacked the car, he stretched out his hand and swiped it over the door a few times, clearly trying to locate the door handle. She felt the urge to help him, but restrained herself, she had to let him be a gentleman and enjoy the moment.
At last, he found the door handle and opened the door for her saying, “Madam,” while gesturing with his hand for her to enter.
She peered through the open door finding that the car was as fancy in the inside as it was outside, with its dark swanky leather seats and formally attired driver. She greeted the driver and sat comfortably on the back seat. Tom walked around to the other side, taking less time to open his door, and sat right beside her.
The car ride to the restaurant was filled with anxiety. Tom fidgeted with his folded cane, which Val could recall as something he did when he was nervous. Val was staring at his hands with her jaw clenched and shoulders tense. It was hard to believe that just minutes before, they were sharing an intense kiss in front of her apartment.
“Do you like Italian food?” he asked, probably to cut the silence. He most likely knew that she loved it.
“Of course. Who doesn’t, right?” She giggled, wondering why, that wasn’t even funny.
To ease the tension, she moved closer to him, grabbed his hand and squeezed it lightly. He turned to face her, smiling endearingly and turning his hand to lace their fingers. An overwhelming urge to kiss him right then almost took over, but she contained herself figuring she would seem overly eager if she allowed her body to act at its will.
“This is my favorite restaurant. I’ve been coming for years. The food’s amazing. You’re gonna love it,” said Tom, when they arrived at Gino’s, a nice old fashioned Italian restaurant she had never visited before. As they followed the hostess to their table, Tom held Val’s hand gently, yet held his cane outstretched in front of him with his other hand as well. She remembered how at ease he looked letting Alex guide him, and with her he wasn’t there yet. She felt an unwarranted pang of jealousy, she knew nothing had happened between Tom and Alex, but she just couldn’t help it.
“This place is lovely. Thank you, Tom,” said Val as they were seated next to each other. The small and cozy restaurant, was adorned with natural flowers, which combined with the dim lighting and the soft music playing in the background, created a delightful and romantic ambience. Although, come to think of it, he could have taken her to the hot dog stand down the street, and it would have been just as romantic.
“Thank you for honoring me with your presence.” Tom smiled stifling a laugh.
Valentina followed, bursting into a heartedly chuckle as well.
“Do you say that to all your dates?” she teased, when she was finally able to say it coherently without giggling.
“Yep. Works like a charm.” He smiled mischievously.
Their laughter died down and they both sighed, followed by a short silence.
“It shouldn’t be so hard.” Tom shook his head. “We get along so well that it’s starting to feel like we’re best friends again.”
“We’re best friends?” Val asked, slightly baffled. Was he implying that he wanted to be just friends?
“Of course! I’ve never had a friend like you, Valentina; even after four years of not seeing each other, everything just fell into place between us. I just wish it was as easy to be your date for the evening.”
“True,” she agreed, thankful that he still thought of this dinner as a date. “So here is an idea. Let’s take it easy. No pressure. See where the evening takes us.”
“What a great idea.”
Once they let go of their anxiousness, the rest of the dinner was as pleasant as all their talks, with the difference that there was much more flirting and sexual tension. Tom was exuding confidence and charm like she had never seen him before. Whenever he had the chance, he’d lay his hand over hers, sometimes gliding it up her forearm and down again, other times lacing their fingers together. He was either teasing her, or he had no idea the anticipation he was creating. It was as if he had turned on some sort of sexiness button that he had locked up accumulating dust over the years. She had never seen him like this. It was such a turn on.
Once the dinner was over, they made their way back outside. This time, when she positioned herself to his left side, as she always did, he let his hand slide up to her arm.
“Do you mind?” he asked.
“Of course not!” Val answered, slightly ashamed of the avidness in her voice. He wasn’t even using his cane!
The grey Audi was parked just in front of the restaurant when they walked out. Val was a little disappointed that his attempts didn’t make it pass the arm stroking and hand holding. All this pent up sexual arousal was beginning to make her desperate. At least he was letting her guide him, there was some progress. And they had the whole ride back home to work on what was she was eagerly expecting.