The deadline for financials was looming, and Juliana was trying to concentrate on getting them completed. However, there was a distinct electrical charge in the office, almost like a buzz or humming permeating through the hallways that kept distracting her. She had no idea what it was and even though she was curious, she needed to get through these reports and couldn’t take the time to investigate. One entire wall of her office was glass, she could see the hallway and any activity. Generally, she kept the vertical blinds closed because she hated people staring at her while she worked. She had petitioned Damon to move her to an office without the glass wall, but he enjoyed torturing her and made her stay where she was. His excuse? Her office was large and had its own conference room, and there was no place he could move her to that would allow for the same amenities. She thought his reasoning was lame.
Today the blinds were partially opened so she could see small groups of women moving up and down the hallway toward Damon’s office and then back again. The movement always caught her attention, and she decided to close the blinds to reduce the distraction. As she moved to pull the cords, she caught sight down the hall of the activity near Damon’s office, and she wondered what in the world was suddenly so exciting about his office. Then she remembered, he was supposed to have a meeting with a restauranteur about a new venture. She figured everyone was gathering to catch sight of him, maybe he was good looking or something. This is when it would really be handy to know pop culture and who was who. The women in the office were always chattering about the food shows and this chef and that chef. Apparently, it was one of those guys who happened to be here.
Ten minutes later she was desperately trying to find a file and hoped her secretary had it on her desk. She fired off an instant message to Kelly, but there was no immediate response. After a few minutes, she picked up the phone and dialed her extension. Juliana was anxious, and it drove her insane when Kelly was unresponsive. When the call went to voicemail, she huffed out a breath and pushed away from her desk, determined to just find the damn file herself. As she began going through the stack of files on Kelly’s desk, she heard giggles and chatter from down the hall. She turned to see a contingency of the women in the office huddled together staring at Damon’s office; the blinds to his office were partially opened. The ladies looked like starved women staring at the last slice of cheesecake. Since when did restauranteurs and chefs garner such a huge following? Was food really that erotic?
Juliana shook her head in disbelief and strolled back into her office. She knew as an officer of the company she should have confronted the women and told them to get back to work. But it was after 4 pm, and it had been a long week, in her mind, they deserved to blow off a little steam. So, she was going to look the other way and ignore it. She went back to work and had lost track of time until the grandfather wall clock struck 5 pm; it made her jump as the chimes broke the silence.
Juliana’s heart had finally gotten back to a normal rhythm, and her breathing had steadied; she put her head down and began going through the financials again. This time, she was startled by his deep voice, “I know you’re busy, but do you mind if I interrupt you?”
Her head snapped up, and she found Chris standing in the doorway of her office. He was leaning seductively against the door jamb with at least two dozen roses in his hand. Red, white, and pink roses were tied with a beautiful ribbon; she had never seen a bouquet quite like it. She was so surprised to find him standing there, she couldn’t speak, at least not right away. Unlike their time in the cabin, today he was wearing dress slacks and a button down oxford shirt, no tie but the top buttons of the shirt were undone. He was breathtakingly handsome.
She pushed herself away from the desk and stood up, “Please, come on in,” she managed to get out. She walked around the side of her desk just as he approached her. He placed the flowers down on the small table next to the couch in her office. He then put one arm around her waist and one hand at the base of her neck and pulled her into him for a kiss. The kind of kiss that a man gives his lover when he hasn’t seen her in a while. The kind of kiss where the passion is felt all the way to your toes and you swear if you touch anything you will burn it to the ground.
As he broke the kiss, he whispered softly, “Hey, beautiful, I missed you. I hear that son of a bitch, Damon ruined the surprise of me coming to see you. I’m sorry if you thought I was holding out on you,” he kissed the tip of her nose and grabbed her hand to pull her to the couch.
“I missed your face,” she rubbed her palm against his cheek and down his jaw. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a heartsick puppy,” she hung her head in embarrassment, unable to look him in the eyes. “What made you come down here this weekend?” She was more curious now as to why he was visiting.
“After that kiss, I thought it might be obvious, I missed my girl,” he gave her another soft kiss and smiled at her. The million watt smile that could light up a room. She was sure her panties had already melted because when she was in his arms, her insecurities and fears somehow subsided just a bit. “You’ve got no idea how much I’ve missed you. I’ve never wanted to turn back time so much. But I would break the clock, not wanting it to ever move forward. Plus, New Year’s Eve is coming up, and I wanted to make sure I had you in my arms to kiss at midnight.”
“You know just the right things to say to make a girl feel all warm and fuzzy,” she snuggled her head up under his chin and didn’t want to move. “You better watch it, you say things like that, and I might not want to let you leave and go back to Boston.” After the words had left her mouth, she worried that they sounded too serious for him. She wondered if he would think she was trying to make permanent plans for them after such a brief time together. This was when Juliana cursed herself for not having a vast amount of relationship experience to know if she was screwing this up.
Chris was quiet, no responding to her remarks. Instead, he held her, rubbing his hand up and down her arm. His thoughts were centered on how natural it felt to have her in his arms and how he could get used to this on a regular basis. He needed to snap out of those thoughts, they could really get him in trouble if he wasn’t careful. He finally spoke up, “I made dinner reservations for us. Are you up to going out with me tonight?”
Juliana sat up and smiled, “I’d rather stay in.”
He laughed lightly, “Well, we have to get out to leave this office. So, how about we go get something to eat on the way to your place? Then we can stay in the rest of the night.”
“Did you get a hotel room?”
“I was presumptuous and figured I’d stay with you. But if you’re going to kick me to the curb, I can stay with Damon.”
Juliana started to laugh, “Oh, I’m not kicking you to the curb. Not after you show up with roses and say those nice things. Even if you are presumptuous, my bed has room for you.”
As the two of them got up, Chris excused himself to get his suit jacket and his coat. He was wearing gray trousers and a pale blue oxford shirt. From far away, the shirt looked white, but when you were close to him, you could see it was blue. It enhanced the color of his eyes, making them stand out even more. Juliana watched his stride as he moved toward Damon’s office. He walked with purpose and grace; he looked every bit the successful businessman she expected that he was. It dawned on her, as he disappeared through Damon’s door that he was the one the women in the office were drooling over. A sudden wave of jealousy washed over her as she thought of them ogling her man; she was suddenly very possessive of him. So, now she figured that Chris must have been the restauranteur that Damon was meeting with. She had a sudden desire to learn all she could about cooking.
Chris came strolling back toward her, he had his jacket on, and his dress coat draped over his arm. He gave her a wry smile, “So, where’s your coat?”
“Oh, crap, I left it in my office. I guess I was so excited to leave that I forgot to grab it.” Chris turned around and went back into her office, pulling her coat off the back of her door and bringing it back out to her.
“You can’t forget this when it’s the end of December in New York,” he scolded as he helped her put it on. “The last thing I need is for you to end up being sick the entire time I’m here.”
He reached for her hand, lacing their fingers together, and walked to the elevator. As the doors opened, he put his hand on the small of her back, directing her into the waiting car. He shrugged on his own coat, then pushed the button for the lobby. He then pulled Juliana to his side, his arm around her, making it clear she was his.
They got into their waiting car, and Chris gave the address for the restaurant to the driver. Juliana looked at him with an amused look, “We’re going to One if by Land, Two if by Sea?”
“Oh, you know the place?”
“I think everyone knows about it, it’s hard to get into. Are you aware of how long the waiting list is for reservations?”
“I think I heard something to that effect,” there was that smile again, “But I happen to know a few people, and I made a couple of phone calls. Luckily I was able to secure a table. It’s not something I’m proud of or can do very often. But I wanted to make sure our first official date was memorable.”
~ * ~
Juliana was so excited when the car pulled onto Barrow Street, the narrow road where the restaurant was situated. There was no large sign to announce it’s location, just the iconic doors and alabaster archway that reference the site as once being a carriage house. The center oak doors don’t open and are purely for imagery and impact. The small door to the left of them served as the entrance to the restaurant, and a small shingle hung out over the door.
Juliana didn’t want to tell Chris that not only was this restaurant one of the most romantic in the city, it also had historical significance. Since she was a history nerd, this date was a big deal on several levels. The carriage house once belonged to Aaron Burr, and she had a slight obsession with Burr and Hamilton. She didn’t want to scare Chris away with that fact. But then again, he might understand since Hamilton was the father of modern banking and she was working in the finance industry in New York.
As Chris helped Juliana out of the car, she began to smooth out the skirt of her dress and fidgeting with her hair; she was nervous. Chis was talking to the driver of the car, and then he turned his attention back to her, “Are you alright?”
“I think I might be underdressed for dinner here. I mean, we came straight from work, and I didn’t fix my hair or makeup. I’m sure I probably look a little scary.
“You look gorgeous. Quit worrying, you’re not underdressed,” he kissed her temple and reached for her hand, squeezing it for support. “Let’s go inside because it is too damn cold to stand out her and talk.”
The hostess made eye contact when they walked in. She was almost speechless as Chris approached the podium. He didn’t need to say anything, she found her voice. “Good evening, Mr. Evans. We have your requested table in the Constitution Room ready for you. Please follow me.”
Once again, Chris placed his hand on the small of Juliana’s back to help guide her through the restaurant. He tried not to make eye contact with anyone, hoping they would leave him alone for the evening. As they reached their table, Chris assisted in the removal of Juliana’s coat. After removing his, the hostess agreed to take them to coat check on their behalf. Chris pulled out Juliana’s chair, being the gentleman that he was, helping her to sit before taking his own seat.
Juliana kept looking around the room, taking in the sights and sounds. “You know this was Aaron Burr’s carriage house, right? It was built in 1767, and the rumor is that it’s haunted by his ghost. In the 1830’s it was turned into a brothel and then became a restaurant for the first time in 1910.” She turned her eyes back to him and noticed he was watching her intently, she blushed, “I’m so sorry,” she offered sheepishly.
“Now why in the world would you be apologizing?” Chris sat back as the waiter arrived and poured the wine that he had pre-ordered for the evening. Actually, Chris had taken care of the entire night. Since the restaurant had a Four Course Prix Fixe, he arranged for that to be served so they would not have to be bothered with menus or the wait staff. “I’m a bit of a history nerd, and since this building has so much of it, I’m just intrigued. I don’t mean to bore you with all of that.”
Chris reached across the table for Juliana’s hand, he pulled it to his lips and kissed her knuckles ever so softly. “I happen to find smart incredibly sexy, so you can tell me all you want about this building. I will add history nerd to the growing list of things that I love about you.” For a moment, her heart stopped. His kiss on her knuckles was the most seductive and erotic thing that she had ever experienced in public. “So tell me, why is this building so damn impressive?”
“Um, well, it belonged to Aaron Burr, the man who shot Alexander Hamilton. I’m obsessed with Hamilton and the musical, so that is probably a little extra incentive as to why this place is so intriguing to me.”
“Ah, yes the Hamilton musical. Have you seen it?”
“Are you kidding, tickets are sold out, and when you can get them, they are out of my price range.”
“Wait, you work for Damon, and he’s your best friend, couldn’t he get you tickets? Maybe I need to have a talk with him about helping you get the tickets.”
“No, I mean I don’t need his help to buy them. I mean, he could pull strings to get me access I’m sure, but I can’t justify the ticket price. It’s the fiscally conservative accountant in me, I guess. I don’t spoil myself enough is what Damon would say. Besides, I would never take advantage of my relationship with Damon for something like that, I just wouldn’t feel right about it.”
“Ok, that’s going on the list, too,” he said as he took a sip of wine from his glass.
Juliana pulled her hand from Chris’ and sat back in her chair. She took a sip of wine from her glass and tried to figure out the best way to start the conversation. “I assume Damon told you what the situation was the other day. You know when I wasn’t available via phone,” she took another drink and watched for his reaction.
Chris leaned forward, putting his glass back on the table. “Ah, you’re referring to the fact that you were afraid I put you in the friend-zone? Yeah, Damon told me, but he couldn’t explain to me why you felt that way. And honestly, sweetie, why didn’t you say something to me about what you were feeling?”
“Yeah, well it wasn’t something I was proud of for thinking. I mean, we’ve talked since we left Vermont but our calls have been tame. Nothing that would make me think you might have lingering feelings or anything. And then for Damon to say you were coming to town and you didn’t tell me, my mind just went there,” she picked up her glass of wine and took another drink. “I can’t help it, I have these insecurities that keep rearing their ugly head.”
As Chris was preparing to respond, the waiter arrived at the table to present their first course. They held their discussion until their soups were in front of them and the wait staff and politely backed away. Chris leaned forward, keeping his voice low as to not draw attention to their topic, “I don’t know why because I thought I was pretty clear when we were together at the cabin. You’re stunning, and I worship every single inch of you. Or, do you think I’m the kind of guy that just says that to a girl for the hell of it?” He wasn’t angry, and there was no spite in his voice. He wasn’t even offended for himself. He was more upset that she had this belief for herself.
Juliana couldn’t eat, she mindlessly stirred her soup and watched the pattern the spoon made in the thick liquid. She was afraid to answer Chris, knowing that it wouldn’t matter what she said, any response could be misunderstood. She could torpedo a relationship on the first date. “I realize I make no sense to you, on most days I make no sense to myself. Damon tells me I’m nuts every chance he gets,” she finally decided to look up and noticed that Chris was just watching her. “I don’t think you’re a bad guy, far from it. I don’t believe you said things to me just to get me in your bed, but I was positive that I was the only one with lingering feelings.”
“Why, is that? If I didn’t have an interest in you do you think I would call you every day?” He waited for her to respond, but she didn’t immediately, so he continued, “I don’t know how but I’m going to make you realize you don’t need to have those insecurities. So, you thought I friend-zoned you because I didn’t tell you that I was coming to New York? Damon and his big mouth. It was a surprise, I wanted to sweep you off your feet because you wouldn’t be expecting me.”
A smile began to grace her lips. His words were so sincere and sweet, no man had ever talked to her that way. Well, Damon doesn’t count because there were never romantic overtones in his talks. “I was so sure you friend-zoned me that I drank two bottles of wine with dinner. I ignored your phone call, went to bed and woke up the next morning with a raging hangover.” Juliana took a sip from her wine glass and watched as Chris began to eat his soup. He elected not to offer his own retort, he was pretty confident that her nerves would get the best of her and she would begin talking again. He also figured what she would say would be enlightening once the words started to tumble out; he wasn’t disappointed.
“So, because I have no shame, I stayed in bed and ate my feelings while trying to get rid of the hangover. I love Cary Grant, so I always try to find his movies on TV and overdose on him. But I could only find one of his movies on so I got stuck watching modern stuff.”
“I’m assuming there is a story there?” Chris looked up, wiped his mouth with his napkin and took a sip from his wine glass. “Please go on, I’m curious to hear how this played out.”
“Ok, I have no pop culture references, I mean absolutely none! Damon makes fun of me all the time for it. I like nostalgia, and I don’t have a chance to go to the movies these days anyway. Heck, I don’t even have time to watch TV. So, when people in the office talk about this movie or that, it goes right over my head. I don’t even know who actors are when they discuss them.” She took a sip of wine and then took a deep breath, she knew that this next bit would be embarrassing. “I was thinking about you so much that every movie I watched I could swear you were the in it.”
Chris was bringing his spoon to his mouth when he stopped cold, “You were thinking of me all day?”
“Yes, I was thinking of you. Goodness, that is all you took out of what I said?”
“No, but you were thinking of me, and that makes me feel good. I should tell you that depending on what movies you watched, it very well could have been me.” He watched as the color drained from Juliana’s face and confusion set in. “You seriously don’t know who I am or what I do?”
She slowly nodded her head and then began to slowly shake it; adding to her confusion. “You’re Chris Evans, from Boston and a good friend of Damon’s. I thought all along you were a businessman, but I knew he had a meeting with a restauranteur today, and you were there. So, I figured that is what you do. But when I saw all the girls staring at you and filing past Damon’s office, I thought you must be one of those famous Chef guys on TV all the time.”
Chris dropped his head and tried to hold back his laugh, “Oh sweetheart, you really are clueless, aren’t you? Please don’t take that wrong, I think it’s adorable, and I’m adding it to the list. So, what is the first movie you watched? The one where you thought it was me.”
“You’re just going to make fun of me, aren’t you?”
“No, cross my heart,” he offered as he went back to eating his soup.
“It was some teen movie, but I don’t remember the name of it. The guy was really young, and he had dark hair, I mean it clearly wasn’t you, but I could’ve sworn it was.”
Chris almost choked. He brought his napkin to his mouth as he started coughing. Once he composed himself, he tossed his napkin down, “Shit, Not Another Teen Movie, you watched that? Me, with a banana in my ass and whipped cream on my dick? Good grief.” He sat back in his chair and tried to keep from laughing at how ridiculous this situation was. He also didn’t want to bring unwanted attention upon himself. “Of all of my movies that you could have watched, that had to be the first one you watched?”
“Of all your movies? What are you saying, Chris? Damon told me I was supposed to ask you what you do for a living because he laughed at me when I told him that story.”
Chris leaned forward, “I’m an actor, Jules. You did see me in that movie, you weren’t just thinking about me and picturing me in it, I was really in it. I was Jake Wyler in Not Another Teen Movie, and for the record, that was not a real banana.”
Juliana put her head in her hands, she was beyond embarrassed at this point. She then looked back up at him, he was smiling at her, “So, was that you in What’s Your Number?”
“Yeah, that was me. But it was not my bare ass jumping into the harbor. I mean, I jumped into the harbor, but I had a butt double for the shot.”
“You think I’m an idiot, don’t you?”
“No, baby, I think this is adorable. Do you know how many people come after me because of my roles and not because of me? I love the fact that I can say your feelings for me have nothing to do with my career. I’m going out on a limb assume you’ve never seen Captain America?” She shook her head in response, “Okay then, go ahead, Google it.”
Juliana reached into her purse and pulled out her cellphone. She did a quick Google search for his name and almost passed out at the number of responses that came back. She clicked on the Google Images link, and her eyes widened as the photos began to display. “Oh dear God!” She exclaimed and then continued to scroll down the photo results. “How can you look like two entirely different people with the beard and without? It’s amazing.”
“It helps that for Cap, I’m wearing a blonde hairpiece. So it enhances the fact that I look different. I know we stayed away from career stuff when we were in Vermont, but I thought you knew who I was and just didn’t say anything. I didn’t realize you actually had no idea.”
“See, you are making fun of me,” she pushed her lip out in a pout.
“No, baby I’m not, I promise. But I’ve got to say, you live in New York, and I’ve been all over Times Square. Between my Gucci ads and the Captain America billboards; I’m just amazed you didn’t recognize me.”
“Oh my God, that’s you in the Gucci ads? The Gucci Guilty sexy ads?” Chris nodded his head, and Juliana sat back in her chair, fanning herself with her hand. “I’m an idiot, but boy do I have good taste in men.” She began to giggle and reached for her glass of wine. She downed what was left in the glass and then helped herself to a refill.
~ * ~
The remainder of dinner was far less entertaining but ever so romantic. Chris told Juliana about his career in Hollywood and how he loved the job but hated the loss of his anonymity. That was one of the reasons he liked the idea that she didn’t know who he was, it allowed him to establish a real relationship with someone. Chris explained that he met Damon in Boston through a mutual friend. And, Damon didn’t know who he was either when they first met. Although he had heard of Captain America, he just didn’t recognize him with the beard.
Chris paid for dinner and helped Juliana with her coat before they stepped out into the crisp winter night. The driver was waiting for them just down the street. Chris laced his fingers with Juliana’s and walked with her down to the waiting car.
“I’d like to make one more stop if you don’t mind before we go home for the evening,” Chris whispered into her ear, the soft wisp of his breath sending shivers down her spine.
“That’s fine, I don’t mind,” she offered back to him.
Chris nodded to the driver, an unspoken communication between the two of them. He then opened the door for Juliana to enter the backseat; he took his place next to her and shut the door. The driver pulled into traffic and began to navigate through the Manhattan streets without a single word passing between him and Chris.
Juliana was snuggled tight next to Chris and, admittedly, was not paying attention to where they were traveling to. Twenty minutes or so had passed, and the car came to a stop. As Chris flung open the door, she immediately recognized where they were. “You brought me to Rockefeller Center?”
“Okay, yeah, it might seem cheesy but hear me out. You don’t like the holidays, but that’s because you’re alone, right? So, now that I’m here, we can celebrate some of the holiday traditions, even if Christmas was two days ago. The tree is still up, and it’s beautiful. I thought we could watch the ice skaters and just mill around here for a bit. Unless you want to do something else?”
Juliana turned to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling his head down to her for a kiss. He wasn’t expecting it, but she had been dying to do that for the last half-hour, at least. “I’m sorry, I typically shy away from public displays of affection. But, I couldn’t resist any longer.”
Chris wasn’t one for PDA, either. Generally, the pictures ended up on the internet, and the ugly comments and bullying started almost immediately. That was the only reason he wanted to keep any relationship with Juliana private; if she had self-confidence issues, he didn’t need them exacerbated by trolls on the internet. But there was a part of him that didn’t care who saw them together because he wasn’t embarrassed by her. He just wanted to shelter her feelings.
“I don’t want to skate, so can we just walk around?” Her question was almost childlike and innocent.
“We can do whatever you want. But can we at least stand here for a minute while I think about my sister having sex or any other thought that can make it safe for you to step away from me?”
Her eyes flew open wide, “So, you are in fact happy to have me in your arms?!” Very innocently she took her hands away from his neck and pretended to put them in her coat pockets. She just slipped one hand between the two of them to begin rubbing his crotch. “Oh, wow, maybe we need to just go home,” her voice was seductive.
“Fuck, you need to move your hand, Juliana. I can’t have you doing that in public,” he put his hands around her waist and pulled her closer to him. “I mean, I need that to go down.”
She pulled her hand away, “Okay, I’ll stop teasing you. Think of cold showers and your grandparents getting it on.”
Chris stepped back, took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes for a minute. When he opened them, he looked into Juliana’s eyes and said, “Okay, let’s walk. Come here,” he reached out, putting his arm around her waist and they began to stroll through Rockefeller Center. They turned and started to walk down 49th Street. It was late, and there weren’t that many people on the street. Their car was once again waiting for them just up the block.
Juliana provided her address to the driver, she lived in a brownstone on the Upper East Side. The drive from Rockefeller Center was only 15 minutes, and Chris spent it making fun of the fact that she lived in such a posh neighborhood. She took the heat, figuring she would make him pay once they got into the house. As the driver pulled in front of the address, Chris was impressed with the neighborhood and her place. She had concrete steps with wrought iron railings leading up to black double front doors. He guessed they opened into a small foyer before leading into the house. Somehow, this place looks like it fit his history nerd, nostalgia-loving, adorably clueless girlfriend.
The driver popped the trunk and took out Chris’ bag, handing it to him so he could follow Juliana up the steps. Chris tipped the driver for the evening, he was from a car service and he knew he would be compensated well, but the guy was quiet and let them be all night; that deserved a larger tip. He followed Juliana, and she deftly opened the lock, swinging the front door open and ushering Chris in. She turned on the small lamp on the hallway table to illuminate the foyer and to give him a good look at the place.
She turned and locked the door and set the alarm. As she finished, Chris grabbed her and spun her around, pushing her back against the wall. His hands rested on her hips, “Do you have any idea how badly I’ve wanted to touch you tonight?” Juliana bit her bottom lip and slowly shook her head. He leaned forward, nipping at her earlobe and then kissing down her neck. He then trailed soft kisses back up her neck and across her jaw until his lips found hers. He opened his mouth as if he was going to kiss her, she responded in kind, but he pulled back suddenly.
“I want to be clear about something. I like you, every inch of you. You have curves, and I like them. I don’t want you to be bashful with me or insecure, understand? You’re mine, and I want you, understand?” Juliana nodded her head, a tear escaping her eye and trailing down her cheek. “I hope that tear is a happy one, baby. Now, tell me where your bedroom is.”
“No man has ever talked to me like that. Ever said they like me for me, flaws and all. So, yeah, it’s a happy tear. The bedroom is at the top of the stairs and to the left.”
Chris grabbed his bag in one hand and Juliana’s hand in the other and headed upstairs.