Francine and I followed Lee and Amanda out of the conference room. Lee and Amanda were talking about leaving early because they had already written their reports on their stay at the Romantic Dreams Inn. We had too, but I knew I had a lot of work to catch up on. At the doors to the bullpen, Lee and Amanda turned right to go back up to the Q Bureau and I turned to Francine. “Come to my office for a bit?”
“A bit of what?” Francine asked me suggestively.
“None of that!” I shook my head and smiled. “Didn’t we just get through telling Billy that we wouldn’t let our relationship interfere with our jobs?”
“You’re right. So what’s on your mind?”
“Not here. Let’s wait till we get to my little corner of this nest of spies.”
We walked in silence, not holding hands but close enough that we would brush against each other with each step. Entering my domain, I immediately turned, shut the door and locked it. If anyone wants something from the quartermaster they’ll just have to wait.
I walked over to the coffee maker and took two cups down from the shelf. “Coffee Francine?”
“Yes please. What’s wrong Tony? You’re being very skittish.”
After handing her a mug of coffee, I picked up mine and leaned against the counter, wondering exactly how to start this conversation.
Uh oh, he used my full name, this can’t be good. Oh God, don’t tell me he’s going to dump me – we just finished telling Billy, Lee and Amanda that we’re in love, he can’t dump me now. Could he?
I closed my eyes. That’s twice he’s said my name without saying anything else; he’s definitely nervous. This is going to be bad news.
“Tony! What’s wrong?”
“Franny, I think we started off on the wrong foot.” Huh? What does he mean by that? I stared at him as if he’d grown two heads.
“Well not the wrong foot exactly, but we seem to have skipped a couple of bases.”
“Bases? Now you’ve really lost me Tony.”
“Yeah bases. We went straight to bed. I didn’t even get to wine and dine you first. Now I’d like us to take a couple of steps back.”
“Steps back?” Damn, I’m starting to sound like an echo. I watched Tony as he pushed himself away from his perch against the counter and started to pace. Coming to a stop in front of me, he ran a hand through his hair and looked at me. Oh yes, he was nervous; so nervous in fact, that he wouldn’t even meet my gaze.
“Francine, will you go out with me?”
Oh boy. I couldn’t help it, I laughed. The relief was palpable.
“Go out with you? Of course I’ll go out with you. How else would we get to see each other?”
“No, Franny. I mean I want to step back and date. And our dates don’t necessarily have to end up with breakfast the following morning.”
So now I was confused. “Bit late for that isn’t it? We’ve already made love, more than once I might add. Why wouldn’t you want a repeat performance? Was it so awful?”
“I remember, yes I do, and no it wasn’t awful, it was incredible. But I think that if this relationship we’re building is going to grow and survive, we have to build it on a foundation stronger than just sex.”
“Okay. I think I can manage to last through a few dinners before I attack you.” I grinned at him in such a way that he knew exactly what I was thinking. “When do you want to go on this ‘date’?”
“How about Saturday?”
“Sure. Pick me up at seven? That’ll give me plenty of time during the day to make myself beautiful for you!”
“First, you’re already beautiful. Second, I’ll be picking you up closer to seven in the morning.”
I had to smile in spite of myself when I saw the expression on her face when I told her I was going to pick her up at seven in the morning. I think she was in shock because she didn’t even react when I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her gorgeous lips. For a few seconds I considered actually carrying out my threat to arrive at her home that early for a date, then I took pity on her.
“Don’t worry, Sweetcakes. I’ll let you have a little more time to get ready. How about I swing by at nine-thirty Saturday morning, will that give you enough time?”
“Yes, but if you ever call me Sweetcakes again you’ll be swinging in a different direction by the time I’ve finished with you. Wait. Get ready for what? Where are we going?”
I have to admit I was tempted to let her guess, but then she might wear something unsuitable for what I had in mind for Saturday. She would have to change her outfit and I’d be very tempted to help her and we’d never get out of her apartment.
“We’ll be spending most of the day outdoors so dress comfortably and sneakers would be a good idea, too. Now, you and I have been out of the office for ten days, my work is piling up and I bet that Billy could really use your help.” I pulled her up from her chair and held her loosely with my arms around her waist. Kissing the tip of her nose I grinned at her before turning her to face the door and gave her a little push on her very pert behind.
“Hey! Hands off. We haven’t even had our first date yet!” Blowing me a kiss she flicked the lock on the door and sailed out of my office. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I turned to go into the back room and face the pile of paperwork that had built up while I’d been playing hotel employee.
*** *** ***
He still won’t tell me where we’re going. We’ve been on the road for almost half an hour and we’re well into Maryland. This is suburbia. He’s got to know this isn’t me. And while I’m on the subject of something not being me; what’s with this vehicle of his? I know he can afford something better than this old beat up pick-up so why is he still driving a heap like this?
Oh my God! He hasn’t? No, he wouldn’t do something like this to me, would he? Damn, he is… he’s joining the line of cars waiting to go in. “Leatherneck, please don’t tell me we’re going to a county fair.”
“Okay, I won’t tell you we’re going to a county fair. I’ll tell you we’re already here. Franny, it’ll be fun, trust me.” As he said that we finally got to the head of the line and he drove, or I should say bumped, over the field finally pulling into a space.
Trust him? He is so going to pay for this. For our next date he’s going to take me to the most expensive restaurant in D.C. But right now, I guess I should be thankful that it’s been so dry lately and I’ll only be in danger of stepping in dust.
I watched Tony as he walked around the front of the truck to open my door. I hadn’t really taken time to really look at him when he picked me up earlier, so, as I waited for him to do the gentlemanly thing, I took a moment to admire his attire. He was wearing a short sleeve black T-shirt that looked like it was painted on him and a pair of old beat-up Levis. It should be illegal for a man to look that sexy.
Opening my door, he held out his hand for me to hold while I stepped down.
“Watch where you’re stepping...”
Unfortunately his warning came too late and I stepped right into something some dog had left behind at least I was hoping it was a dog. With this place one could only imagine. Lifting my foot up, I glared at the now soiled sole. Ugh! That’ll teach me to not be so absorbed by the play of his muscles instead of being aware of my surroundings. Wiping my shoe off as best as I could on some grass, I grabbed hold of Tony’s hand and we walked into the fair grounds.
“Anyone would think you’d never been to a fair before Franny. It won’t be as bad as you think it’ll be. Just relax and have fun, you’re going to have a great time.”
“Actually, I’ve never been to a fair. My father would always say it’s for the common people not for people like us. My pap-pap would have taken me but we never seemed to get around to it and then I was grown up and it was too late.”
Tony put his arm around my shoulders and hugged me to his side. “Then, sweet lady, you are in for a treat. What would you like to do first?”
Looking around at the concession stands, without thinking I said the first thing that came into my mind, “I’d like a cappuccino.”
Tony looked around and then at me “Regular coffee is all there is, I reckon. Will that do?”
I shrugged my shoulders and nodded. I knew I was being rude but I was determined not to enjoy myself.
She’s mad, I know she’s mad. Her eyes have stopped sparkling. She pretty much started getting mad in the truck. It was probably the first time she’d ever been in a truck like mine. It’s old, and the bodywork is no longer pristine by any stretch of the imagination, but the engine runs like a dream. Then she stepped in that pile of dung and now she couldn’t get her fancy coffee. What next? Perhaps this was a mistake. I wanted her to see how normal people live, and when I read about the Montgomery County Fair I thought it would be perfect. I’ve always loved the fair, and thought she would too. I figured we could spend time together, doing non-spy things, talk and have fun. If I don’t do something to improve the situation soon, then fun will be the last thing on the agenda.
I handed her the cup of coffee and she sat down on a bale of hay to drink it. Standing next to her with one foot up on the bale beside her I looked around, trying to think of what to do next. Seeing the Ferris wheel, I thought that it would be a good starting point.
“Have you ever been on a Ferris wheel, Franny?”
“Once when I was quite small but it was a miniature one, nothing like that monster over there,” she nodded in the direction of the Ferris wheel set up on the edge of the fairground.
“Finish your coffee and then I think it’s about time you went on a big wheel.”
“Oh no, you’re not getting me on that thing. It’s probably poorly constructed and will break down with us stranded at the very top!”
Taking her empty cup out of her hand and dumping it in the trash, I ignored her protests and tugged gently at her hand until she stood up and walked alongside me towards the wheel. I didn’t let go of her hand and continually rubbed my thumb over her knuckles as we walked. We were almost at our destination before I felt the tension starting to ebb out of her and her hand relaxed in my grip.
I paid for tickets and we boarded a car. Pulling the safety bar down, I put my arm around her shoulders pulling her as close to my side as I could.
The wheel turned slowly but before long we were close to the top and the view was amazing. It was a clear day and we could see for miles in all directions. Francine let out what almost sounded like a giggle as she took a deep breath and looked around. Looking at her out of the corner of my eye I realized she was starting to enjoy herself. When she turned to face me I couldn’t resist, I placed my hand behind her head and pulled her closer. I started the kiss softly, almost like the touch of a butterfly’s wings, but the feel of her lips urged me on to taste her and I pressed closer, flicking my tongue out to caress and gently pry her lips apart. For a few seconds she allowed me to deepen the kiss before pulling away.
“We can kiss later, Tony, right now we’re missing the view.”
I knew then that the County Fair had been the right choice for a first date and she’d made up her mind to give it a chance.
*** *** ***
“You’ve never had a corn dog?” I realized that in my surprise I’d raised my voice and we were attracting attention, so I brought my voice down a few notches as I continued, “you, my girl, are in for a treat.”
I bought two and handed one to Francine. She looked at hers as if it was going to attack her. “You have to bite it before it bites you!”
If looks could kill, I’d be keeling over right about now.
I watched her as she took a bite and moaned, I guess that meant she liked it. I couldn’t take my eyes off her mouth as she placed her lips around the corn dog again. I watched as she bit into it, more slowly than before, as if she was savoring the taste. She pulled the treat out of her mouth and I felt myself harden. I’d never before given even the slightest thought to a corn dog being phallic. In Francine’s hands and mouth a simple food item had become an erotic experience. I couldn’t take my eyes off her as her tongue licked a crumb off her lips.
“You know Tony, today has been a day of firsts.”
I shook my head a little to clear my mind as I tried to concentrate on what she was saying. “Firsts?” I asked.
“Yes. First date. First ride on a Ferris wheel. First time I’ve eaten a corn dog too, which, by the way, is really delicious. And the first time I’ve noticed what a good shot you are as well.”
“Yeah, I think I had an unfair advantage at that rifle range. It was worth it though,” I smiled and nodded to the item in her arms, “you got that cute polar bear.”
Francine hugged the soft toy to her chest and leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Thank you Tony.”
“For what? For winning you a soft toy? That was nothing.”
“No. For being so wonderful. You weren’t put off by my bad mood when we arrived here and you’ve gone out of your way to make sure I’ve enjoyed the day. I have to admit that today has been a lot of fun, and I want to thank you for being so patient with me.”
If I didn’t love this woman, and believe in her as much as I did, I probably would have been very surprised at how relaxed she was today; such a difference from the woman that everyone at the Agency knows.
“So, what do you want to do next?”
“Can we wander around the livestock – might as well go totally native!” She smiled at me… that wonderful smile that could make me do anything. If she asked me to take her to the moon, I’d move heaven and earth to do it.
*** *** ***
I’m exhausted. Happy and content, but totally wiped out. We’ve been on our feet for over five hours, doing things that normal people do, and I really didn’t mind a bit; being on my feet for that long for fun is better than doing it because of work. Now I understand Lee a little more and appreciate why he’s so happy being a normal family man. I really didn’t realize how much fun it is being ‘normal’.
So now we’re back in Tony’s truck, which I still don’t like. He’s taking me home and I have to think about what I’m going to say when we arrive. Should I invite him in? To eat? To stay for breakfast? We agreed to take a few steps back, but do I really want to give up on making love with this man, even for a few days? My body says no, I don’t want to give up on that, but my mind agrees with Tony. We did move too fast.
What I really want right now, though, is a shower. I can even taste the dust from the fairground. Yes, a long hot shower. I wonder if Tony would like to join me?
“Tony. What are you doing this evening?”
“Spending it with you, I hope.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “I was just going to ask if you’d like to order something in and stay with me this evening.”
Tony slanted a look in my direction before returning his gaze to the road. “Just this evening or does that invitation include breakfast, too?”
“I thought you wanted to step back a little,” I ran a finger along his jaw and continued, “but yes, the invitation definitely includes breakfast, but first, perhaps a shower?”
“Do I get to wash you?”
“Then my answer is a resounding, yes.”
Tony pulled into the parking garage of my building and switched off the engine. Turning to me, he looked into my eyes, his eyes and as I looked back into his which were ablaze with obvious love and quite a bit of lust. Leaning forward across the console, I reached out and pulled him closer so I could kiss his lips; lips that I knew were capable of such magical things, and then there was his tongue... Oh boy, I was so looking forward to that shower.