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Liam watched the rain bead and drip, bead and drip, on the narrow window beside his desk. Despite the double panes, the cold seeped through and he could just make out the relentless droning of the downpour. He scratched his face, realized he forgot to shave this morning. Lately, all he'd wanted to do was get out of the house, away from the white walls, pale wood floors and silvery artwork. He really should have taken a stand on the decorations; he knew even as he gave in that he would grow to hate them. He glanced at the small, framed photo of his wife beside his computer. She smiled, but it was her polite and rather distant smile of obligation, not the increasingly rare genuine smile that he'd been ensnared by. Liam spun around in his chair and faced his worktable; He reached for his notepad and a charcoal pencil. He rubbed his hands together; lately he couldn't seem to get warm.
He heard the chair in the office across the hall squeak. His eyes followed the sound to see Scarlett leaning back in her chair, back arched, hands lifting her heavy chocolate curls from the back of her neck. Liam imagined pressing his lips to the pale exposed skin of her neck, gripping the heavy curtain of hair. She only moved so gracefully, so unconsciously when she thought no one was watching. Deliberately, he relaxed his body; but his mind and his eyes lingered on Scarlett. She was wearing a vibrant aqua button up shirt topped with a charcoal gray sweater. The cuffs and collar peeked out from beneath the soft sweater, and the buttons were undone all the way to the bottom of the sweater V-neck. It was her trademark, whether she knew it or not. Liam wondered briefly when he'd begun to associate sweaters with Scarlett. He imagined she wore something soft and comfortable under those shirts. Abruptly, he closed his eyes, stopped his thoughts.
He heard her chair roll back from her desk, her soft steps across the hall. He saw her shadow fall across his eyelids. He opened his eyes to see hers, pale as spring leaves, smiling into his. "What are you working on?" When did her voice begin to stir him so? He didn't remember; he didn't care. Liam looked down at his notepad and saw the dress he'd been sketching idly while he watched Scarlett. It was a long sweeping dress, designed to lengthen and accent a tall, curvy body. The neckline stopped in a daring V between the breasts and a slit ran up the right side to mid thigh. "I like it," she said, moving to stand behind him.
"It's not bad," Liam acquiesced.
She leaned over and traced along the line of the back, "If you soften the line here," she demonstrated, "and here, it might change the feel a bit-"
"-From harsh and sexy, to soft and sleek," he finished, already reaching for his gum eraser.
"Exactly," she smiled to herself and wandered back to her office. She sat and watched Liam work from the corner of her eye. He was hunched over his worktable, his graceful, long-fingered hands making broad, fevered strokes across the white paper. Over the last few months she'd picked up his rhythm. He drew when he was troubled, distracted, rarely when he was in an average mood. It was all highs or lows for him, and the passion that rode him, that made him draw, sucked the moods from him like a vampire on a lover's neck.
"Scarlett." Their editor stood in front of her, blocking her view of Liam. "I need you and Liam to stay late tonight; we're too close to deadline. I'll need you both do some copy editing as well."
"But," Scarlett began.
"Look honey, you have copy editing experience, right? Well good. Because one of ours just quit and the other is stuck in a hospital in Vegas. Deal with it." She turned to Liam's office.
"Did you hear that? Good. Get to work. We've got a magazine to put out."
Liam cocked an eyebrow and leered at Scarlett, "I guess this means I get to keep you out late tonight," she laughed and blushed, turned so he wouldn't see it.
But he did, and it made him smile. She was an odd assortment of confidence and innocence; but he was beginning to understand her. He looked down at the sketch beneath his hand. It was better because of Scarlett's suggestions. Liam eyed the simple gold band around his finger. It was the same as the gold band that his wife had thrown across the room at him, two weeks ago. Hers was still hiding beneath the sideboard, communing with the dust bunnies.
Liam and Scarlett migrated to and from each other's offices through the night, sometimes working together, other times alone. Scarlett glanced up from her computer, noticed the clock read 9pm. She rubbed her eyes, blinked the mascara out of them, and then reached for her reading glasses. "Uh oh, you must be tired," Liam said.
"Why is that?"
"You hate your glasses,"
"You do too. It's your only vanity." Liam sat on her worktable, ran his hand over his jaw. She looked up at him and realized, with a jolt, that the funny feeling in her belly that happened around him was, in fact, attraction.
"Don't you need to call your wife?" she asked.
"No." he raised an eyebrow, "Why?"
"It's late. You used to..." she trailed off as she realized that he hadn't called her when he worked late for the last few months.
"You know, I just realized, I don't even know her name," Scarlett turned to face her computer, stared blindly at the monitor.
"She left me Scarlett. Weeks ago." He lowered his hand; it was freezing against his face.
Was she a horrible person because her heart leaped at those words? She wondered.
"I can't get you out of my head. You sneak up on me Scarlett, when I go to sleep at night. When I wake you're the only thing on my mind." He blurted. His skin reddened as he waited. She turned and stared at him, her tired eyes wide, so he continued, "Every time you walk out that door I want to be beside you. Every time you sing that damn song," she blinked, surprised, "I hope it never ends, even though you can't sing worth a damn. I want everything about you, Scarlett." He stopped, stood and paced to the doorway. He felt ill.
"Liam. You're married." She said the rational thing, but inside hope was struggling to unfurl.
"By law, yes I'm married." He turned and stared down at her with amber eyes storming emotions. "But the day you walked into this office with your cute sweater vests and cautious eyes I was yours." He closed his eyes, clenched his jaw. He was sure he was failing.
"What? I don't know what to say!" She stood and walked toward him, her eyes unpredictable as a river swollen with winter run off.
"Do you want me?" he breathed out, fear turning his voice to a whisper.
"Oh God. Yes. Yes." Scarlett turned, "You were supposed to be safe," she said, almost to herself. She pulled her glasses off and tossed them onto the desk. She whirled back her lip trembling with anger or fear, Liam couldn't tell.
"Dammit, Liam why does it have to be complicated? Why does it have to be you? I didn't ask for this. I don't want these feelings that I have stuck inside my chest. We've been pretending for so long now, why do you have to make it live?" her voice broke on a cry, and she spun away from him, pressed the heels of her hands into the cold windowsill and stared out into the darkness and rain.
"You're the only color in my life." He ran a hand down her hair. She trembled.
"It's wrong. Isn't it Liam? Isn't it wrong for me to want you, when I know you belong to someone else?"
"I can't see it as right or wrong anymore, Scarlett. I only see you. I only want you."
Scarlett turned and faced him. She lifted her hands as if she would cup his face, then hesitated. A tear slid down her cheek, another chased it down. The fat drops slipped off her chin to fall to the floor. Liam reached out, wrapped his hands around hers and brought them to rest on his cheeks. Their fingers entwined, his hands warmed. Slowly Scarlett raised her lips and Liam lowered his. He waited, a breath apart, breathing in the sweet scent that he knew as Scarlett. Then he brushed his lips across hers, delicately, as if she might break. He swept his tongue across her bottom lip, tasted her tears.
She was the only thing that mattered.
Edited by Tank, 18 April 2007 - 03:00 PM.