A/N: Gina Torres' character from Suits has a wardrobe that is utterly stunning. Of course, there are no pics of Jill Scott attired in Jessica Pearson getup, so just imagine the fierceness that is Jill wearing Jessica's clothing.
“Cherish the Day”
“Nothing Can Come Between Us”
“Is It A Crime?”
“I Couldn’t Love You More”
I missed being in the courtroom. When I had to prepare for a trial, I had tunnel vision. It was problematic for the people in my life, but it was my life’s blood. I missed having that kind of focus. It was now that I realized how smart I was to avoid even semi-romantic entanglements back when I was on my upward hustle. He was gone again; he left me a note saying he had to be away for a while because an urgent matter came up. I was at once elated and saddened. I needed time away from him to get my head right; but he had to be the one to go away, because I wouldn’t be able to stay away from him. What did that mean for me?
I sat at my desk, looking at five manila folders. Ty, Cornelius, and I always chose our junior partners in what might be best described as a triple-blind process. Our secretaries blocked the names of the candidates, presented us each with a set of files for each, and we decided individually which would make the cut of three. Then we would meet two weeks later and compare our results. We would hash out why we rated the way we did and come to some kind of consensus. If there was unanimity on any particular candidate or candidates, then they were chosen without preamble. This method has worked for us for quite some time, as the whittling down process to even be considered for partnership kept the dreck from rising to the top. Those five folders represented the absolute best of the best, and for the two who weren’t chosen, they went back into the files for future consideration. Every associate at Rothschild, Fairfield & Littleton knew what it took to make partner.
I had my three choices, and we were going to meet this afternoon for one hour and choose our new partners. As I was reviewing my notes, my mind turned to Kelton. In an uncharacteristic move on my part, I got up and left my office. I got on the elevator and punched the number to his floor. A couple of minutes later, I was walking towards his office, looking completely flawless in my white form-fitting de la Renta and Tom Ford heels. As was the norm, eyes followed me from the elevator, across the floor, to my final destination. I rarely made visits to the lower floors, and if I did, it usually meant that I was displeased. I could imagine the resultant water cooler chatter. “Somebody’s getting fired!”
Kelton’s secretary, Maxine, looked at me, her eyes wide. Maybe she thought it was her. “Miss Rothschild, may I help you?”
“Is Mr. Trahan available, Maxine?”
I stood with one hand on my hip and examined my red nails. I was in need of a trip to the salon. Not that anyone else would notice.
Maxine looked at me. “He’s available, Miss Rothschild.”
I flashed her a brief smile as I walked into his office. Of course he was. “Thank you, Maxine.”
I hadn’t seen Kelton since our date, so it was understandable the look in his eyes when I strolled into his office looking absolutely fierce. He looked at me, then up and down, and then down and up before meeting my eyes once more. That grin broke out on his face and I knew he liked what he saw.
“Miss Rothschild! To what do I owe the pleasure? And it is a pleasure.”
I put my hands on his desk and leaned forward so that my face was inches from his. “We can do this thing on two conditions.”
To his credit, he didn’t act dumb. “Name them.”
“One: it must be kept out of sight, away from this place.”
“Two: Let’s just spend some time; let’s get to know each other without the declarations of emotion or critical romantic pronouncements. Let’s keep this fun and light. Is that all right?” It better be.
“I’m not allowed to court you, is that what you’re saying?”
“Maybe you should get to know me first. You may change your mind about that.”
“Oh I doubt it,” he said, swallowing slowly, his eyes never leaving mine. “I do love a challenge.”
“What are you doing tonight?” I was being extremely bold, but I felt powerful and that’s how I needed to feel, especially after…
“Uh…nothing too much; this merger’s becoming—”
“I’m coming to your house for dinner. Seven o’clock okay with you, Kelton?” It better be.
He stared at me and I wondered what he was thinking. “You don’t have to get all fancy. I prefer the Kelton I spent that Saturday with.”
He smiled at me, unaffected by my bold nearness. “Seven it is, then.”
“I’ll get your address from your file.”
“May I ask what brought this on, Iolanthe? Not that I have a problem with it; I just—”
“Kelton, don’t question me when I want to do something, all right?”
“You’re the boss.”
“You bet your ass I am.”
And as abruptly as I’d entered, I left. I walked away from his office, a secret smile on my face. It’s good to be the King.
I knocked on his door at 6:59, carrying a wine box and flowers for the table. I wore a sleeveless black jumper and sandals with a sheer pashmina around my shoulders. I was excited. I’ve never done anything like this before and I wondered if it was going to work.
He opened the door, clad in jeans and a white shirt. I have to admit, that’s a look I really like. It’s sexy and unpretentious, and it worked on him in a different way than the other him.
“Iolanthe,” he said, smiling. Damn, he was gorgeous.
I smiled back. “Kelton.” Then I handed him the wine and flowers. “For you.”
He stared at me; that infectious smile lit up his entire face. “Why, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten flowers before! Do come in, Iolanthe.” He checked the wine and smiled. “Ah, merlot!”
I walked in and stood in the foyer, eyeing his elegant apartment. Everything looked high-end, top-notch, quality. Then I sniffed.
“Are you cooking?”
“Yes, and I’d be honored if you’d assist me. I just started a few minutes ago. The merlot was a good choice.”
He put the wine and flowers on the table and removed my pashmina. “You look fantastic.”
“Do you mind if I remove my shoes?” I asked. As much as I adored my vast collection of designer shoes, I loved being barefoot even more.
“Not at all. You have beautiful feet.”
He picked up the flowers and the wine and escorted me to the kitchen. “Let me get these in some water and you can put them on the table.”
I smiled. There was music playing; Sade’s “Smooth Operator.” Nice.
His kitchen, which was bigger than mine, was ripe with wonderful smells. I closed my eyes and inhaled, and then jumped as I felt his hands on my bare shoulders.
“Love, you’ll need an apron.” He put one over my clothes and tied it.
I secretly liked it when he called me ‘love.’ It was sweet. “What’s for dinner?”
“Beef tenderloin with blue cheese cream sauce, Brussels sprouts with pancetta and red potatoes roasted in truffle oil. There are also goat cheese tarts to accompany the meal.”
“This is you cooking, Kelton?”
“Of course. I am marvelously self-sufficient. Do you mind checking on the sprouts? I’m about to roast the pancetta.”
I couldn’t help but grin as I grabbed a spoon and started stirring, as another Sade track came on. It was “Nothing Can Come Between Us.” I shook my head. “I’m impressed.”
He opened the oven and the most amazing smells emerged. “I should hope so. I’ve never done this before.”
“What? Cook? Bullshit you haven’t.”
“No, I mean cook for a lady in my home.”
He removed a pan of bread; obviously the goat cheese tarts. My stomach wanted to roll over; they smelled so good. He put the pan on the island, quickly removed the tarts and slid them on a beautiful green glass serving tray. “You may find this a bit shocking, but I truly am a lazy sod. Taking a lady out to dinner is more my style. Saves time.”
I giggled. “Really now?”
He washed his hands and laid pancetta rounds on the same pan. Without missing a beat, they went into the over underneath the tenderloin. A moment later, he slid another pan next to the pancetta—the red truffled potatoes—and with a flourish, he closed the door. “Most women prefer the pomp and circumstance of dinner at an elegant restaurant.”
I shrugged. “Sorry to disappoint you. I’m a homebody."
“But Iolanthe,” he said, coming close to me and covering the hand that stirred the sprouts, “you’re not just any woman.”
“Is It a Crime?” was next on the playlist. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It might be. Jeez, he smelled good. I moved my hand from the spoon and took a step back. “You got that right.”
He smiled at me. “Would you get the blue cheese, cream and butter from the fridge? Also the parsley. It should be right there in front.”
“When did you have time to go to the grocery store?” I asked as I opened up the fridge and got the items he asked for. He never left RF&L before six; that was the word on the street.
“Oh love, I had them delivered. The moment you walked out of my office, I got online and arranged a delivery. I am a lot of things, but foolish isn’t one of them.”
I grinned. “What else can I do to help?”
“There are vases in the cupboard, there.” He pointed. “If you would be a dear and put those flowers in some water…?”
“I’d be happy to,” I said, smiling. I was having a good time.
He encouraged me to sit down at the table. I did so, smiling as wide as my face allowed. The evening was a success so far. Dinner sounded and smelled like it was going to be out of this world. The music; he clearly was a fan of Sade, as she was all we’d been listening since I got there. No problems with that at all; if she can’t do anything else, Sade can set a mood. Kelton kept things light by keeping up a stream of amiable chatter as he cooked. I was enjoying myself thoroughly. It had been a good idea to bumrush him.
He brought the food to the table and I tried to offer my help, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
“You’re my guest, and you’ve helped enough. Please sit.” He picked up a beautiful green plate and began plating it, even adding garnish. He set it in front of me and then plated himself. Then he brought out the wine, which he aerated with a weird-looking contraption. Then he sat across from me and raised his glass. I followed suit.
“To you, Iolanthe,” he said, tapping my glass.
“To you, Kelton. Thank you for such a lovely evening.”
“You’re thanking me already? Is it over? Surely not, not after all my efforts.”
“No,” I giggled. “I’m just having a great time and I wanted to let you know.”
“Well, if I can keep that smile on your face…”
I took a sip of wine and was about to pick up my fork when he sat his glass down. “Enough of that, then.” He stood up and picked up his plate and wine stem. “Come on love, let’s go.”
I looked up at him. “What? Where are we going?”
He motioned his head into the living room. “In front of the telly, love. It’s where I usually take my meals.”
I burst out laughing and stood up, grabbing my plate and wine. “Lead the way, then.”
The man was amazing. After we sat on the couch, he turned off Sade and turned on the television; a flat-screen of epic proportions. He turned on the DVD player.
“Have you ever watched any Wallace& Gromit, Iolanthe?”
“No. Who are they?”
He winked at me. “I’ll introduce you.”
And then I was treated to the most hilarious stop-motion British movie I’d ever seen; not that I’ve ever seen any. It was silly but gut-bustingly funny, full of sly Brit humor, puns, and shady references. Try enjoying beef tenderloin with cream sauce and truffle potatoes while laughing hard enough to evoke tears. He’d obviously seen the movie before, but I think he was more amused at my reactions to it. By the time the movie was done, my stomach hurt in a full and pleasant way. I’d spilled sauce and crumbs on my top, but I wasn’t the least bit salty about it.
He cleared the dishes and when he came out of the kitchen, he pulled a pocket door closed. “Are you in the mood for dessert, Iolanthe?”
“Actually, no,” I said. “It’s late and I have to leave.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. Because I forgot to purchase dessert. I was more concerned with dinner, you understand.”
I couldn’t help but laugh again. “Kelton, please…stop making me laugh.”
“But you’re so alive when you do it,” he said, coming towards me with my pashmina.
“Yeah, I don’t laugh a lot,” I said. “Regrettable.”
“If I may be so bold,” he began.
“You were that when we first met,” I interrupted. “Don’t stop now.”
He smiled. “I would dearly love to keep you laughing, if you’ll allow me.”
I looked at my hands. “Kelton…”
“I know,” he said. “I know the rules.”
“It’s just that…” I closed my eyes and thought for a second. “You asked if there was someone…”
His face fell. I kept talking. “A not-husband, a not-boyfriend…those were the words you used.”
Kelton’s face was still on the floor. “Yes.”
“I’m kind of in a weird place in that regard. It’s neither, you understand, but there is someone…I don’t want to talk about it, but I do have to work it out if I’m to be fair to you.”
He looked at me evenly. “How close are you to resolving…that situation?”
“It’s complicated. I’m not sure. Things were under control…and now they’re not. That’s all I can say.”
He came towards me and cupped my face. Then he tenderly kissed my forehead and the pit of my stomach fell out.
“These things are very simple, Iolanthe; either the chap wants you or he doesn’t. The bloke should be beaten with a cat-o’nine if a woman like you has to question his heart.”
How do I tell this man that it wasn’t that man who had the problem; that the person with the question was staring him in the face?
“May I escort you to your car?” He put my pashmina on my shoulders and I wrapped myself up in it before grabbing my purse.
Why not? “Of course.”
You would have thought I agreed to give him a little with the smile that broke over his face. He opened the front door and took my arm. “Your chariot awaits, love.”
As I drove home, I shook my head, wondering where all my good sense went.