Part 5. You can read the previous parts here:
Ilia set her gently on her feet and then grabbed her hand. He tugged her into a sprint and led her at a breakneck pace toward the open street. They burst onto the crowded thoroughfare, gasping for air as they came to a stop. Sam leaned wearily against the cool brick of a building, trying desperately to provide enough air to soothe her burning lungs.
“I have got to quit eating out so much,” she muttered.
“Kiss me.” The demand in his voice was urgent.
“Pardon?” Sam arched an eyebrow at him.
“Now, just because I think your handsome doesn’t mean—” Her response was cut off by his lips as they stole hers.
His kiss started soft and gentle but it deepened, and he brought his hands up to frame her face. Ilia kissed her like a man starved and she found her legs weakening rapidly as something inside her rose up in response to the urgency and desperation that heated his kiss. When at last he released her from the powerful embrace she felt as if she was going to sink into the ground, unable to support her own weight.
Sam had never been kissed like that. Ilia looked just as surprised, and he brought a shaky hand up and gently touched his own lips, perhaps trying to confirm what had just happened.
Her palm cracked across his cheek.
“Ouch!” he brought his own palm up and cradled his cheek. “Okay, I deserved that.”
“Why did you kiss me?” She demanded.
“Those men were coming out onto the street, and I didn’t want them to see my face,” he explained, perplexed.
“Oooh.” She slapped him again.
“I’m not sure I deserved that.” He rubbed his rosy cheek and his eyebrows knit together in a perplexed glower.
“You’re lucky I didn’t break your nose.”
“You have an odd obsession with my nose.” He smiled down at her.
“Only because I feel a constant desire to punch you in the face.”
He chuckled. “I like the face you make when you want to clobber mine.”
She changed the subject as they wove through the crowded sidewalk “Those guys were talking about a delivery. What kind of delivery?”
“Vacuum belts,” he answered matter-of-factly.
“Did they say when it would be delivered? Or where?” He attempted nonchalance, but Sam frowned at him.
“No, but one of them said he would send some guy named Nikolai a message before the ball dropped.” She studied the angles of his face as he looked into the windows of the stores they passed by.
Ilia stopped and pulled Sam around to face him. “Look, I want to make all this up to you. I have an invite to a very ritzy New Year’s party. Go to it with me?”
“Oh, a New Year’s party?” She put air quotes around the words New Year’s party. “If it’s anything like getting a drink with you, it’s bound to be a disappointment.”
“It’s a real party, no breaking and entering. Square biz.”
“Square biz?” She snorted.
“My nephew says it all the time. It means I’m being honest.”
“I know what it means.” Sam glared up at him. “I just don’t think anyone over the age of 30 should say it. Ever.”
“You have so many rules,” he said in mock exasperation.
“Ilia, why do you want me to go with you?”
“So that we can dance the night away.”
“In all honesty, I’m in way over my head. Whatever this is you’re involved in, I don’t belong being a part of it, and I think you know that. Why do you want me to go with you?”
Ilia ran a hand through his long hair. “I don’t know what you’re going to do and you continually surprise me. I find that I want to throw you into different scenarios just to see how you will react and watch you as you work through things.” His voice fell away, and he was silent for a long moment, watching as people drifted by.
Finally, he said, “I didn’t realize how lonely I was until you blundered into my life.” He sighed heavily and shook his head. “And now I’m being a bastard by dragging you into this. Come on, I’ll walk you back to Powell’s.”
“No,” She whispered. “I would like to go to this party with you.”
A brief smile danced on his lips before he said, “You really shouldn’t.”
“I shouldn’t have broken into a building or jumped out a window either, yet I did.” Sam lifted her chin defiantly.
A brilliant smile spread across his face once again. “Samantha, you are one of a kind.”
Sam winked at him. “And don’t you forget it.”
“I doubt you’d let me.”
“I’d break your nose if you did.”
“Again with the nose. I’m beginning to think you have anger issues.” He took her hand and led her down the street, twining his fingers with hers.
Several blocks up Ilia pulled Sam into a beautiful hotel with marble columns and a great stretch of dark marble flooring. Gently, he led her to a large elevator and pushed the up button.
“This looks very ritzy.” Sam ran a nervous hand over her skirt.
“Just as promised.” Ilia pulled her into the elevator and pushed the button for the top floor.
“I’m not sure I’m properly dressed.”
“You look beautiful.” His voice deepened into a gravelly tone, and her heart thundered in her chest.
Sam blushed and studied her feet, hoping he wouldn’t notice the hot, crimson color of her cheeks.
“Where did you come from?”
She glanced up, perplexed by the odd question, and found Ilia studying her with a furrowed look so intense she thought his eyebrows might permanently fuse together.
“That’s not what I meant.” He shook his head. “To find someone like you in a world full of fake smiles and smothering egos is extremely…” He looked around the elevator as if searching for something. “Refreshing.”
The elevator door slid aside with a ding. They exited together, hands intertwined. Sam was beginning to think she’d made the right decision when Ilia leaned down and whispered, “Oh, and just so you know, you are going to have to call me Leiv at this party.”
I was challenged by a friend to write a story about a dull woman who becomes interesting. I hope you enjoyed the fruits of this challenge. I will continue adding to this story until it is complete.