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Chapter 10: Chapter Ten: The Voice in Her Head
Chapter Ten: The Voice in Her Head
“How old are you?”
“Where were you born?”
“What was your childhood like?”
And so it went. For two long weeks, Rose spouted off question after question, covering every topic imaginable, quickly burning through the list she’d brought with her to their first meeting. Krum, for his part, would respond with as few words as possible, being so vague at times that he might as well not have bothered to answer her at all. The only topic he seemed even remotely interested in discussing was Quidditch.
“How was it that you first got involved in the sport?”
They were seated at his dining table, just as they had been every day for the past week. Rose had offered to meet with him somewhere else – down at her office perhaps, or at some other neutral location of his choosing – but he’d declined, preferring instead to stick closer to home. Rose couldn’t blame him. So far, he’d managed to keep his current location a secret, but once the press found out where he was hiding, they’d be on him like a Bowtruckle on wood.
“There was a local team,” he told her. “They played in the voods behind my house. Their seeker had come down with dragon pox the night before some big match. A friend and I, we vere horsing around on our broomsticks, chasing after birds. One of the players happened by -- asked if I’d be interested in chasing something a bit harder to catch. I said yes, and the rest is...history.”
“And you’d never played Quidditch before then?”
Krum shooks his head. “Not once.”
“Did you win?”
“Oh God, no,” he said with a laugh. “The other team wiped the pitch with us. But afterwards, the men took me vith them to the pub, to drown our sorrows, as it were. Next thing I know, they’re all shitfaced and some girls I’d never seen before are shoving their tits in our faces like we’d just von the fucking Quidditch Cup. And I thought to myself, damn, if this is what happens when you lose, what must it be like to actually vin a match?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “And you were how old at the time?”
“Don’t be so judgmental, Rose. It doesn’t suit you. Besides, it was a learning experience. You should try it some time. Cut loose once in awhile.”
“This isn’t about me,” she reminded him.
“But it could be...”
Rose ignored that little aside, asking instead, “And were your parents at that first match?” She’d already tried several times to broach the subject of his family, but so far she was having no luck getting him to open up on the matter. Rose was hoping that coming at it from another angle might loosen his tongue, but Krum saw right through her efforts.
“You’re wasting you time,” he said, tapping his cigarette against the rim of his ashtray, which was already overflowing with discarded cigarette butts. He’d been chain-smoking since she’d arrived earlier that afternoon, and she wondered if there wasn’t something on his mind. She was getting used to the smell, but the smoke itself still left her feeling lightheaded – not an uncommon sensation around Krum, she was quickly learning. She would have objected, asked him to at least open a window, but it seemed to relax him, giving him something constructive to do with his hands while they talked.
“And why is that?” she asked, looking up from the notebook where she’d been jotting down his answers – or lack thereof.
“Because there’s nothing there. Vhatever you're looking for, you won’t find it buried in my childhood.”
“Who says I’m looking for anything? I’m just trying to get a sense of who you are. Don’t you think your family had any influence on the person you are today?”
He smiled at her. “Not in the way you think.”
“And how do I think?”
He took another pull on his cigarette. “You think a man like me -- a man with my problems. He must have had a real shit of an upbringing. Vhy else would his life have turned out to be such a mess?”
“I never said—”
“Well, I hate to break it to you, Ginger, but my dad didn’t beat me, and my mother never called me a disappointment. My problems are my own and have got nothing to do with my family, so quit barking up that tree.”
“Fine,” Rose said, setting down her quill. She was doing her best to keep her temper in check but this whole process was starting to grate on her nerves. Krum was starting to grate on her nerves.
So what if he was right, that she was digging for something that might not be there? She had to try something. They’d been at this for nearly two weeks now and Rose still didn’t have a single thing she could use for the book. She was no closer to understanding Krum than she was when she’d first met him more than a month ago – save for the fact that she now knew he’d been a randy teenager, possessed an upper-cut nasty enough to bust a man’s face open, and seemed to genuinely enjoy trying to make her squirm.
She supposed Heart would love it. It would feed right into what the press was already saying about him: that Krum was an impulsive bad-boy with a penchant for trouble. But Rose wasn’t writing for the tabloids. She wanted to write a real story, something she’d be proud to put her name on. Besides, she knew there was more to Krum than this drivel he was giving her.
“Fine,” she said again. “Then what do you want to talk about?”
Krum stubbed out his cigarette, looking over at the now empty pack on the table beside him. “I want to talk about dinner.”
“It’s nearly eight," he said, taking a brief glance at his watch. "You’ve interrogated me right through my supper. And I can be a very cranky boy when I’m hungry.”
He winked at her and Rose felt that familiar flash of heat – the one she’d felt that night in the pub when he’d stroked her cheek, and again at the Ministry when he’d teased her about being at his beck and call.
She ignored the feeling, looking down at her own watch. He was right. They’d been at this for hours. ”All right,” she said, closing her notebook. “I suppose we can stop for the night. We aren’t exactly making a lot of progress here anyway.”
Rose made to stand up but Krum reached out a hand, wrapping his fingers around her wrist, holding her in place. “And just vhere do you think you’re going?”
She blinked. “I’m going home. You just said—”
“I said I was hungry. I didn’t say I was finished with you yet.”
Rose looked down at her hand still clasped in his. Where his looked weathered and strong, her hand looked pale and weak. “What exactly did you have in mind?”
Krum let her go, reaching into the breast pocket of his shirt and pulling out a new pack of cigarettes, which he tapped against the table but didn’t open. “I’ve decided I’m going to let you buy me dinner. You owe me that much, at least.”
“Oh, really? And how do you figure that?”
“My generous hospitality, of course. I’ve velcomed you into my home nearly every day this week. The very least you can do is buy me dinner.”
“This place doesn’t even belong to you.”
Krum gave her a dismissive wave. “A technicality. I’ve still given you the pleasure of my company, and that must be worth something to you. So vhat do you say?”
Rose hesitated. She knew he was teasing her; she was starting to grow accustomed to his flirtatious way of addressing her, the same way she was now so accustomed to his accent that she hardly noticed it any more. Rose knew she didn’t owe him anything. Still, a part of her was afraid to refuse. What if he took it as an insult? He might be even less inclined to open up with her, and time was ticking away on her deadline. That said, she couldn’t exactly forget what happened last time the two were out in public together.
“Well?” he asked, looking up at her.
“All right,” she agreed, even as the little voice in her head told her this might be a very bad idea. “But only if we make it quick. I’ve got to go into the office early tomorrow. I haven’t been in all week.”
Krum clapped his hands together once. “Vonderful. Then it’s a date.”
“Isn’t this place kind of...fancy?”
Rose had half-expected to be ushered off to another seedy pub – somewhere they were sure not to be recognized – but Krum had something else in mind. He’d led her out of his building and down several side streets before stopping in front of an upscale Italian restaurant - the kind with cloth napkins on the tables and waiters who'd refill her water glass without being asked.
Rose looked down at what she was wearing. It wasn’t exactly jeans and trainers but she was far from ready for a night on the town. Her skirt was wrinkled from hours spent sitting at Krum’s table, and one of her boots had a scuff on the toe. “I’m not exactly dressed for the occasion.”
Whatever this occasion might be.
“Relax,” he said, opening the door and gesturing her inside. “With a face like yours, I can promise you, no one is looking at your shoes.”
The air inside was cool, the lighting dim. It was busy for a weeknight, but they didn’t have to wait long. Within minutes, they were being led to one of the few empty tables in the back, their escort a petite girl no older than Rose, dressed all in black, her pale blonde hair cropped short and sticking straight up in the back. Rose didn’t care for the way she looked at Krum – like he was something for her to sink her perfectly white teeth into. But she didn’t have time to object. The woman had already handed them their menus, and with one last look at Krum, she disappeared into the crowd.
They were silent as they perused their menus, glancing up only once their waiter had arrived. He offered the wine list to Krum, who declined. The waiter then turned his attention to Rose.
“Water is fine."
Krum looked over at her. “Don’t abstain on my account.”
“I’m not,” she assured him, though that was only half-true. As much as Rose could have used a drink at that moment, she really didn’t feel comfortable indulging in front of Krum, knowing he’d given up alcohol. But more than that, she was concerned about the cost. She wasn’t sure if he’d been serious when he’d said she could buy him dinner. Rose made a point of carrying around a bit of Muggle money in case of emergencies, but she wasn’t sure how far her cash might go in a place like this.
After they’d placed their orders and the waiter had gone, Krum turned to Rose and said, “All right, now it’s my turn.”
“Your turn for what?”
“To ask you some questions.”
“And why would you want to do that?”
“Let’s just say I’m interested in what you have to say.”
She considered this for a moment, weighing her innate desire for privacy against her need to keep Krum talking. She supposed she couldn’t expect him to share his most intimate details with her unless she was willing to give him something in return.
“Fine,” she said. “What is it you want to know?”
He leaned back in his seat. “Let’s start with an easy one. How old are you?”
“Not so young,” she said, not really sure why she felt compelled to argue the point. What was it to her if Krum thought she was young? Young compared to what -- to the other women he let buy him dinner?
“And how old are your parents?”
She had to think about that for a moment, doing some quick maths in her head. “Fifty. No. Fifty-one. Mum will turn fifty-two in a few weeks. Why?” But Krum just shrugged. “That’s the second time you’ve brought them up, you know. My parents.”
“Yes, it is. You mentioned them in the pub. You said I looked like my mother. Have you ever met my parents?”
“I thought I was the one asking the questions.”
“You are. I mean, you can. Ask me whatever you like. But tell me first, do you know my parents?”
Krum dropped his eyes, focusing for a moment on his water glass, swirling it around before setting it back on the table. “I met them once or twice, a very long time ago. Long before you were born.”
“Really? Where?” For some reason, the idea of Krum knowing her parents tickled her.
Krum put up a finger. “You’re not playing fair, Rose. I answered your question. It’s my turn again.”
“Fine,” she said, letting the matter go for the moment but making a mental note to follow up on it later. “What else do you want to know about me?”
He was looking at her again, his face serious. “I want to know why you came to see me that night at the Ministry.”
“What do you mean?”
He leaned forward in his seat. “I mean, why did you come? You didn’t exactly look thrilled to be there.”
“Of course I wasn’t thrilled. You’d been arrested. Who in their right mind would have been thrilled to see you like that?”
“Oh, I can think of a few people. But that still doesn’t answer my question. Why did you come?”
“I told you that night. I came because I wanted to ask you about the book.”
“And why else?” he asked, still staring at her. He seemed not to blink, as if refusing to break eye contact for even a second.
Rose couldn’t take the intensity, averting her eyes, suddenly very interested in a tiny droplet of condensation that had formed on the outside of her glass. “Are all your questions going to be like this? Wouldn’t you prefer to know my favorite color or something? It’s blue, by the way.”
Krum smiled. “You’re excellent at changing the subject when the topic doesn’t suit you.”
“I could say the same about you.”
Krum looked like he was about to reply but their waiter appeared then, carrying a tray of food. He carefully removed their plates, setting them down on the table, their contents steaming.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked, looking first at Krum and then over at Rose. Krum barely looked up at the man, giving him a dismissive wave.
“No, thank you,” Rose said, making a point to smile at the waiter in an effort to make up for Krum’s rudeness. The waiter gave her a curt nod before departing, leaving the pair alone once more.
“Vell...?” Krum asked, ignoring the food that had just been set in front of him.
“Are you going to answer my question or not?”
“Can’t we put the interrogation on hold while we eat? You were the one who said you were so hungry.”
Krum agreed and the two fell silent again. Rose busied herself with her food, the name of which she hadn’t recognized but which turned out to be a bowl of tiny square-shaped pasta stuffed with cheese and covered in a pale brown sauce that tasted like toasted butter. It was good, if a bit too rich for her liking, and after only a few bites, she was already getting full.
“You don’t like it?” Krum asked, watching her push the noodles around on her plate.
“No, it’s fine. I guess I’m just not that hungry after all.”
Krum set down his fork and folded his arms across his chest, the tattoo on his forearm clearly visible against his black shirt. She’d tried to ask him about it – the odd collection of letters and symbols he’d thought were important enough to display so prominently on his body – but it was just another one of those topics he’d refused to discuss.
“Do I make you uncomfortable, Rose?”
“Of course not.” But the words sounded just a bit too earnest, even to her ears. He said nothing but she could swear he wasn’t buying her denial for a second. Just like he’d said that night at the pub: he could read her like a book. “Didn’t you have some other questions you wanted to ask me?” Rose was desperate to change the subject. The truth was, Krum did make her nervous, only she still hadn’t figured out why. Or maybe she had, and she just wasn’t ready to admit it yet.
“Feeling talkative now, are we?” he asked, his mood brightening.
“You should try it sometime. It would make this whole book process go a lot faster. The sooner we’re done, the sooner I can stop pestering you.”
“Is that what you think you’re doing? Pestering me?”
Rose shrugged. “Well, I am, aren’t I? I mean, you certainly don’t act like you’re enjoying the process.”
Krum didn’t answer. He’d pushed aside his plate, resting his arm on the table. “Give me your hand.”
“Why?” she asked, immediately suspicious of where this was going.
“Give me your hand,” he repeated. After a pause, Rose set down her napkin and held out her right hand, which he took in his. He ran his fingers across the small gold chain that hung around her wrist. “Tell me about this.”
“It’s a bracelet.”
“I can see that. But vhat’s the story? Every time I see you, you’ve wearing it. It must be important to you.”
She looked down at her hand. He was still stroking the thin chain, the tips of his fingers brushing her skin in a gesture that felt oddly intimate. And she let him do it – just like she’d done that first night. Those first few touches.
“So what’s the story?” he asked again.
“No story,” she said, keeping her eyes on his fingers. “It’s just an old bracelet. I’ve had it for years.”
“And was it a gift?”
“Of sorts, I suppose.”
“Just an old friend,” she said, using the same line he’d given to her when she’d asked him whose flat he was staying in.
“And is this 'old friend' a man, by chance?”
"And what if he was? It was a long time ago."
"You must have cared about him deeply if you're still wearing this. Did you love him?"
That seemed to break the spell, and Rose lifted her hand from his, placing it back on her lap. “Does it matter?”
“You’re deflecting again. It's just a simple question. Yes or no. Did you love him?”
“I think it’s my turn to ask another question," Rose said. "Tell me, are you married?”
"Does it matter?" He grinned at his own cleverness as he used Rose’s words against her.
Rose was about to reply when something caught her attention. It was after nine and the restaurant had emptied; only a few of the tables were still occupied, but Rose had noticed someone near the bar. Someone she was pretty sure she recognized. He had spotted her too and was now waving over at her.
Krum turned around, catching sight of the man. “Do you know him?”
“I think I do...” she said. “Will you excuse me?”
Without giving him a chance to respond, Rose stood up, Krum watching her intently as she set her purse down on the table and headed over to the bar, which was clear on the other side of the restaurant. As she drew closer, her initial suspicions were confirmed.
“I thought that was you,” Albus Potter said, hopping down off his barstool, giving Rose a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek in way of a greeting. “What in the world are you doing here?”
“I was just about to ask you the same thing.”
Her cousin was positively beaming, the grin on his face reminding Rose of exactly how Hugo had looked when she’d caught him talking on the phone with Billy. He was a lot more put together than the last time she’d seen him. His clothes were no longer wrinkled; his hair had been cut and now lay flat against his scalp. He looked taller somehow, though Rose was sure that was just her imagination.
“You look great,” she told him, and she meant it.
“I feel great. That’s why we’re here. We’re celebrating.”
“Who is? Celebrating what?”
Al looked around as if checking to make sure the coast was clear. “Well,” he said, keeping his voice low. “Amelia and me, we’re going to...that is to say...we’re having a baby!”
Rose's mouth fell open, the way that, until that moment, she imagined only happened in cartoons. “What?” Rose shouted. The bartender shot her a look, and she quickly lowered her voice. “What do you mean you’re having a baby? How is that even possible?”
Albus laughed. “Well, Rosie, when two people love each other very, very much—”
"I know how babies are made, Al. But...what happened? I thought you two had broken up.”
“We did. I mean, we were. But then, well, we weren't anymore. We didn’t plan it but...Well, isn’t it just great, Rose? We’re going to get married and everything. Do it up all proper like. We’re going to be a family.”
Rose could hardly believe what she was hearing. Barely a month had passed since Al had shown up at her flat, swearing up and down that he and Amelia were never getting back together again. And now they were having a baby? And getting married?
“Well, say something...” he said, looking at her.
“I—” But Rose didn’t know what to say. Albus looked positively over the moon about the whole thing. What was she supposed to do -- tell him that this was just about the worst idea she’d ever heard? The two of them fought like children and now they were going to try and raise one? This had disaster written all over it.
But of course she couldn’t say any of that. It wasn’t her place. And besides, she didn’t have the heart – not the way he was looking at her, grinning like he’d just won the lottery.
So Rose plastered on her most convincing smile and said, “Congratulations, Al. That’s really great.”
“Thanks," he said, and he seemed to genuinely mean it. "You’re the first one I’ve told. We just found out for sure last week. It’s the first night Amelia’s felt up to leaving the house. You know, morning sickness and all that...only I guess it’s more like night sickness in her case.”
Rose nodded as if she understood exactly what he was talking about, though nothing could have been further from the truth. Rose had about as much experience with babies and pregnancy as she had with playing Quidditch. In other words: none whatsoever.
“Is she here then?” Rose asked, looking around for any sign of Al’s girlfriend. Correction, she thought. Al's fiancé.
“She’s in the loo. She was afraid she might start hurling again.”
Al laughed. “I guess it will all be worth it in the end. But what about you? You haven’t told me what you’re doing here. Are you on a date or something?” He looked off in the direction of her table, which was now obscured by a large group of diners who were making their way towards the door.
“Err...” she began, not really sure how to answer him. She hadn’t thought so at first, but after the way Krum had been looking at her, stroking her hand, she wasn’t so sure anymore. On a date with Viktor Krum. It had a certain ring to it.
“Well, you should hop to it, Rosie. We aren’t getting any younger. I mean, look at me. I’m gonna be a dad!”
She knew he was teasing, but she didn’t appreciate the tone. His girlfriend had been pregnant for all of about five minutes and already he was an expert on families and relationships.
“I guess I should go check on Amelia,” he said. “Make sure she isn’t in there puking her guts out. Promise not to tell anyone you know about the baby, all right? Amelia will kill me if she finds out people already know before she’s had the chance to tell them.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Thanks, Rose. You’re the best.” He gave her another peck on the cheek before turning around and heading off towards the bathrooms.
Rose stood there for a long moment, contemplating what had just happened. She couldn’t wrap her brain around it. Albus was going to be a father.
Still mulling it all over, Rose made her were back toward her table, but as she drew close, she saw that it was empty. Krum was nowhere in sight.
“Excuse me,” she said, flagging down their waiter as he passed by, arms laden with empty plates. “The man who was sitting here. Do you know where he went?”
“What, the rude one? Oh, he left.”
The waiter nodded. “Yeah, just a couple of minutes ago.”
“Did he say where he was going? Is he coming back?”
The man shrugged. “Dunno where he went, but I doubt he’s coming back. He already paid the bill.”
The waiter nodded again. “Left a nice tip too.” When Rose failed to say anything, he asked, “Is there something more? Only these plates are getting heavy...”
“Oh, no,” she said. “Thank you.”
The man gave her a half-hearted smile and left.
Rose didn’t understand what was going on. Where had Krum gone? What could have made him up and leave in such a hurry? Rose looked around. Her purse was missing too. It had her wand in it, and all her money. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to make her way home. She sincerely hoped Krum had thought to take it with him when he left. Everything else was easy enough to replace, but she was rather fond of her wand and hated the idea of having to buy a new one. And they weren’t exactly cheap either.
Not sure what else to do, Rose turned around, left the restaurant and headed back towards Krum’s flat.
Ten minutes later, she was back at his door, banging her fist as loud as she could, praying he was inside. After a long pause, she heard movement on the other side. Seconds later, the door swung open.
“There you are,” she said, slightly out of breath from having just climbed four flights of stairs. Krum was standing in the doorway, one arm resting against the frame as if trying to stop her from coming inside.
“Where else would I be?” His tone was flat, all the traces of his earlier good humor wiped away.
“What happened to you? Why did you leave the restaurant?”
“It was getting late.”
“Late?” she repeated. “You up and took off because it was getting late?”
“Yes, Rose. It’s late, and I’m tired. Vhat is it you want?”
She opened her mouth but words failed her. What exactly was going on here?
“Well...?” he asked.
“I...I wanted to make sure you were all right.” When that failed to elicit a response, she added, “And I want my purse.”
Krum sighed. He dropped his arm and turned around, heading back inside. Rose followed him, though he hadn’t exactly invited her in. He crossed to the counter, picking up her bag and handing it to her.
“There,” he said. “Now you have vhat you came for. So goodnight, Rose.”
He turned his back on her, a clear indication she was meant to see herself out, but Rose remained where she was. She didn’t have a clue what had gotten into him but she wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily.
“Wait just a minute,” she said. “You don’t get to behave like this. You asked me to dinner and then disappear halfway through? What kind of way is that to treat someone? It’s rude.”
He spun back around, one eyebrow raised. “Rude? You think I’m the one being rude?”
“Yes, I do.”
He smiled, but the look was devoid of any humor. “That’s rich coming from you.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“You left me there, sitting at that table like an idiot. Vhat was I supposed to do?”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t leave you. I was only gone for five minutes. What’s the problem?”
“Don’t play dumb, Rose. It’s not your style.”
“I’m not playing at anything. I honestly don’t know what you’re on about.”
“Then you’re not the girl I thought you were. Goodnight, Rose.” Krum crossed back over to the door, holding it open, waiting for her to leave.
“No,” she said, still standing her ground. “I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on. What exactly did I do that was so wrong?”
Krum said nothing for a long moment, seeming to steady himself for something. Finally, he looked up at her. “You should go, Rose. Before I lose my temper.”
But Rose had no intention of leaving. It was like being back at the Ministry all over again. She was intent on pushing his buttons, trying to get a rise out of him. In a way, she was no better than the man at the pub, the one who kept insulting Krum over and over again until he’d finally snapped. Rose knew she was playing a dangerous game here, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“You think you’re the only one around here who gets to lose their temper?” she asked, slamming her purse back down on the counter. “Well, guess what? I’m pretty pissed myself at the moment. I’ve been trying for weeks to get you to talk to me, but you keep shutting me down. And now you’re doing it again. Well, I’ve had enough. You either say what’s really bothering you or else I walk out that door and you can write this goddamn book yourself.”
“Rose, I’m warning you...”
“To hell with your warnings,” she said, crossing over to where he stood, looking him straight in the eye. “I won’t let you bully me around. I’m not afraid of you.”
He looked back at her. They were only inches apart now. He was still holding open the door. “I won’t tell you again—”
“Stop talking to me as if I’m some silly schoolgirl. I’m not a child, Viktor.” It was one of the few times she'd had cause to addressed him by his first name. It felt odd against her teeth.
“Aren’t you?” he asked, his voice low.
“Aren’t I what?”
“I saw you tonight, Rose. Playing me like the old fool I am.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw the way you looked at him. You left me behind without a second thought.”
“Left you? I didn’t—” But Rose stopped. Something occured to her then, only she didn’t want to believe it. Could it possibly be true. “Are you...jealous? Of Al?”
Krum looked bemused. “Oh, is that his name?”
“But...you don’t think... He's not..." She wasn’t even talking sense anymore. Her mind was racing. Could they really be talking about what she thought they were talking about? Had Krum gotten the wrong idea, thinking she’d ditched him to run off with another man? Another man. That implied that she already had a man. That she was somehow with Krum. She looked up into is face, which seemed to have aged a decade in the last five minutes. “Why are you jealous, Viktor?”
Krum had leaned in, resting his weight against the door. He was so close now she could feel the heat of his body against her skin. “Don’t make me say it out loud.”
It wasn’t the answer she was looking for, but his meaning was more than clear. “I think you’ve misunderstood,” she said, her voice calm, even while her heart pounded in her chest. “Al’s not my boyfriend. He’s my—”
But he cut her off. “I don’t really give a damn who or what he is. I think I’ve made my intentions more than clear tonight, Rose. Now you must decide. The choice is yours.”
He was staring at her so intently now she could almost feel her knees start to give way under the pressure. Her choice. Her choice to do what? What intentions? The invitation to dinner. The flirtatious questions. The fingers on her wrist. Had he been sending her signals all night that she'd been either unwilling or unable to see? And it wasn't just tonight, Rose knew. A part of her had sensed it that first night at the pub, and almost every moment she'd spent with him since. Every little touch, every wink, every coy smile. It wasn't a just a show. It was all for her.
So where did that leave her? If a part of her had known what he wanted all along, then a part of her must have been planning for this moment. Deciding what her answer would be...
“The choice is yours,” he said again, leaning in until his chin was almost flush against her cheek. “Just, please, leave a man with at least a shred of self-respect. Only the ones we care for can truly strip us of our dignity.”
Rose gasped, her mouth falling open. “But that’s...That’s a line from my book!”
“I know,” he said, his lips only a whisper away from her own.
“But how did you--?”
“I told you,” he said, looking deep into her eyes. “I can read you, Rose. And I know all your secrets.”
Maybe it was the intimacy of his words – the way he already seemed to be inside her. Maybe it was Al’s warning that she needed to step up before life passed her by. Or maybe it was simply ego, the allure of hearing her own words whispered softly in her ear. Whatever the reason, he'd triggered something deep within her, a low hum that traveled through every nerve in her body. It had been a long time since Rose had felt like this, like she was on the precipice of something big. Something primal. Something raw and full of need.
And so Rose made her choice. Maybe it was stupid, foolish even. But it was hers to make.
She reached out then, taking his hand and peeling his fingers from the door, which swung closed with a soft click, sealing them inside.
“There’s no going back, Ginger,” he whispered, his breath hot on her cheek.
Rose shuddered once and said, “Then I guess we better make this good.”
A/N - Another huge thanks to momotwins for being wonderful enough to look this over. She suggested I beef up a few areas, which I did, so any remaining mistakes are all my own. Any and all reviews are always welcome! Thank you to anyone still reading along.