His friend nodded. “You never had the other girls up here. Not that there have been many. Why now?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t feel comfortable letting them into my life that much. It’s my own private space. I felt like they would be invading it. But Liat—she comes in and makes it her space as much as mine and demands I share it. And it’s okay. She belongs here.”
“Just so you know I wasn’t trying to interfere.”
“I know that. It embarrassed you worse than it did me.”
“Probably right about that. When you do finally do put your tractor beam into her incision, you’ll be sure to warn me? Or at least take it in the bedroom.”
“I imagine you’ll no doubt hear her screaming my name.” He winked. “As to keeping it in the bedroom—” He paused, raising an eyebrow. “Probably not. I find I like the kitchen.” He danced out of Dwight’s way when his friend tried to hit him. “I’ll put my tie on the doorknob.”
“You won’t. Do you know how much that cost?”
“Not a clue.”
“Too much to risk someone walking off with it. Just send me a text. No details, just saying I’m going in. Or something like that.”
“I’ll think of something.”
“Good. Get dressed. You’ve got a dinner date.”
“Aren’t you coming? You’re part of this too.”
“Are you sure? I only made the reservation for the four of you.”
“Owen won’t care. Just come along. This is your victory too.”
“Thanks. I’d better change. You too. You look like a Nirvana reject.”
Austin chuckled as the door closed. They met up again at six minutes until eight. They rode down the elevator together, stepping off in unison. They stopped, hands in pockets, scanning the room for their friends.
Liat saw Dwight and Austin come off the elevator and strike a pose. Intended or not, they stood with their heads turned, profiles prominent. She had never realized that they looked enough alike to be brothers. Dwight had lighter hair and eyes, but their basic features; strong jaw, cleft chin, high cheekbones and sloping noses, were strangely similar. Taking out her camera, she snapped a picture before they spotted her.
She and her parents met up, walking across the lobby to the elevators. Hugs and kisses all around, they went to the restaurant. Heads turned, but the customers were, for the most part, residents and regulars. No one bothered them, though a few smiled and waved.
Dinner was in a small, private dining room that Owen reserved for friends, family and small gatherings. Sensing that Austin and Liat wouldn’t want to be in the public eye after their TV appearance, he had the hostess take them through.
They had a short evening since most of them had to be up early for work. After giving Austin a chaste kiss, Liat went home with her parents.
“I’d hoped you’d stay,” he whispered.
“Another time,” she promised. Her lips brushed his ear and her fingers wound in his hair. “Soon.”
He had to be satisfied with that, though it was getting more and more difficult to give her a kiss and just walk away. Their session that afternoon had done nothing to quell his attraction and quite a bit to increase his desire. Had Dwight not walked in when he did, it would probably have ended in a satisfying, but somewhat embarrassing, episode. Since the idea was to build a relationship with Liat, not drive a wedge between them, it was probably as well it hadn’t happened.
The following week was a mad, dashing blur for Austin. When he wasn’t filming, he was hopping from one interview to another. He had a lot of time with Liat, but most of it was on camera. When they had time, they kissed and made promises about how they would share their upcoming alone time.
It interested Austin that, after their initial interview, the hosts didn’t belabor the arse angle or the argument with Irving, and spent more time talking to them as individuals. They didn’t dwell on his homelessness either, though they always mentioned the fund and the great work they were doing.
Their last interview was on Friday, for Late Night Ladies, a show hosted by women for women. Sometimes, they dealt with women’s issues, but more often they just had fun. They didn’t take themselves too seriously, but woe to any guest who made light of anything they felt strongly about.
The show taped in front of a live audience, consisting of all women. There were very few men on the crew. Austin felt somewhat intimidated by the number of women present. He was introduced first, as usual, and was greeted by a massive wave of applause. Fortunately, no one threw their panties at him. He got hugs and kisses from all the hosts. They ranged in age from 30 to 60.
“Maggie and Fiona and Bridget and Ginny—Oh, my!” he said as he took the stage.
“Are we better than lions and tigers and bears?” Fiona, a woman in her mid-fifties, asked. She hardly looked her age. She was nearly as tall as Austin with auburn hair, green eyes and a voluptuous figure.
“Oh, yes,” he purred, kissing her hand.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes