One Night Only by Samj Chapter 6

Republisher’s Note: Bill makes a trip up from Springfield.

One Night Only by Samj Chapter 6

Michelle briefly closed her eyes, hoping that Bill was merely a figment of her imagination created by stress and hunger. Unfortunately, when she opened them again she discovered that he was all too real – standing in front of her with wearing the same stupid expression that drove her crazy during the time they were together. She tried to casually brush his hand from her shoulder, but when her efforts failed she blurted out in surprise and frustration, “Bill, what are you doing here?”

Bill smiled calmly down at her as he removed his hand from her shoulder and brought it up towards her ear, brushing some loose strands of hair away from her face. “Michelle, darlin, is that any way to greet an old friend?” He squeezed her hand then held it firmly while taking a seat on the bar stool next to her. “Aren’t you even going to say that you missed me?”

Michelle softened slightly as she thought of all the fun times she and Bill had shared in Chicago when they were children, long before family expectations had changed their relationship and ultimately destroyed it. She gave him a genuine smile and answered, “Of course I missed you, Bill.”

Before she could elaborate on her statement the bartender interrupted to take Bill’s drink order.

“You could of fooled me,” Bill challenged. “Really, Michelle, it’s been over a year now, and you haven’t been to Springfield once. You haven’t even bothered to call me.” Realizing he was raising his voice, Bill paused to take a few sips from his Corona and then continued, “It’s time to end this, Michelle.”

Startled, Michelle wrenched her hand from his and asked, “End what, Bill?”

“Your little rebellion,” he mocked her with the word. “You’ve shown everyone just how independent you can be, living here in Chicago, now it’s time to come home where you belong.”

“Where I belong?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yes, where you belong,” he repeated slowly, as though she were a child having trouble comprehending his words. “You belong in Springfield, Michelle, with your family and your friends. And,” he leaned down and whispered in her ear,” you belong in my life…in my bed.”

Suddenly Michelle couldn’t speak. In fact, she could barely breathe. Images of Bill dragging her back to Springfield, to the perfect life she’d finally escaped, paralyzed her.

“Don’t worry darling,” Bill whispered, mistaking her fear for the feelings of remorse he expected from her, “I forgive you. Really, I do.” He rubbed circles along her back in a gesture of comfort. “You were just confused, and you made some bad decisions because of that, and I forgive you.” With that he leaned down to kiss her.

Seeing Bill’s face nearing her own snapped Michelle out of her trance. She quickly hopped off the bar stool and stood facing him, her arms crossed firmly across her chest. “You have some nerve, Bill Lewis, coming here and magnanimously,” she threw her arms wide, offering your forgiveness,” she sneered. “I don’t want your forgiveness.” She poked her finger into his chest. “Frankly I don’t need it, because I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Michelle paused to take a breath, but before Bill could interrupt she exploded once again. “I don’t need you, or my parents, or Springfield society to tell me what I should be doing and where I should be doing it. I’m a grown woman, and I can make my own choices. And I choose to be in Chicago. And I choose to continue my residency here. And I choose not to marry you. What part of all of that don’t you understand. I mean, really, do you need me to draw you a map, Bill?”

Bill couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Who was this stranger making a scene in the middle of a restaurant? What happened to the sweet Society girl he’d loved since childhood? Where was the well-bred, loving woman he’d dreamt of every night for the last year? It was obvious that he had been right to come to Chicago to take her home; the city had already changed her, but a little time at home with her family would restore her to her senses.

“Calm down, please,” he crooned gently, “there’s no reason to get so upset. Look, why don’t we go back to your apartment so that we can talk in private, huh?” He stood up and walked slowly towards her. “Plus, it’ll give me a chance to show you just how much I missed you.”

An exasperated grunt escaped Michelle’s throat upon hearing Bill’s offer. “Have you actually heard a single word that I’ve said, Bill?” she asked. “I’m happy here in Chicago. I’m not going back to Springfield. And I’m certainly not going to go to bed with you.” She walked back to the bar and snatched up her bag in an effort to flee the conversation.

He grabbed her wrist and turned her to face him again. “Hey, don’t cheapen what we have together – it’s more than that, and you know it.” He dropped her wrist and wrapped his arm firmly around her waist, pulling her towards him. “I love you, Michelle.”

Michelle felt pulled in a dozen different directions. Bill had been a good friend to her since childhood, and she hated to break his heart, again, like this. But she couldn’t sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of his, and she knew now, thanks to her night with Danny, that being with Bill just wouldn’t make her happy. She had found true passion, that elusive chemistry, and even though it had only been one night she had made a promise to herself that she would settle for nothing less in her life.

She pulled away from his embrace and placed her hand lightly on his arm. “Bill,” she began, trying to find the words that would let him down easy, “you’ve been my best friend for…well, for forever now. And you know I love you.” She cringed as she saw his entire face light up at her words. “But,” she emphasized the word, “I’m not in love with you. Bill, I’m so, so sorry. I tried, I really did.”

Bill snatched his arm away and practically spit out, “Gee, Michelle, I’m sorry that it was so much work trying to have feelings for me! It must’ve been so awful for you.”

“Bill, wait, no…that isn’t what I meant. You’re twisting my words. Will you please just try to listen, try to hear what I’m saying?”

He nodded reluctantly.

She took a deep breath then started again. “You are a wonderful guy, and a wonderful friend, and I love you for that. I do. But there’s more to being in love than that. And we both deserve that – it wouldn’t be fair to either of us to settle for anything less.”

“More to it?” he pressed. “What exactly do think is missing here, my love?” Bill started pointedly at Michelle’s cell phone, which she had left sitting on the bar. “Does he give you what you need? What I don’t?”

Michelle shook her head in confusion, following his gaze but not his meaning.

“The guy on the phone, Michelle,” Bill elaborated, the frustration and jealousy evident in his voice. “Are you in love with him?”

Realizing that Bill had heard only the end of her conversation with Katie, Michelle’s first inclination was to explain, “Oh that wasn’t…” but instead she stopped mid-sentence and stated firmly, “That phone call really wasn’t any of your business.”

“Hmm, well,” he disagreed, “I happen to think that it very much is my business, since I’m the guy you left behind.”

Michelle racked her brain in search of a way to get through to Bill. Deciding that it was most likely hopeless, she grabbed her cell phone and shoved it into her bag before heading for the door. She would call Katie about the unexpected change of plans once she was safely in a cab back to their apartment.

Damn. Bill was apparently going to follow her out of the restaurant. What do I do now? she asked herself. And then, as if in answer to her unspoken question, the crowd of people standing in the doorway dispersed and she saw him, standing there alone, waiting to be seated. Danny.

She didn’t have time to think about the coincidence, or to wonder about the fortuitous timing. She didn’t even have time to wonder if he was still angry with her for her behavior at the hospital. She just prayed that he would follow her lead long enough to get rid of Bill.

That’s pretty cold, her conscience admonished. She didn’t have time to feel guilty about using him, though, either. I’ll make it up to him somehow, she promised.

He hadn’t seen her yet, so she used the element of surprise to her advantage. Faking confidence she didn’t feel she forced a broad smile and exclaimed, “Danny! I’m so glad you’re finally here!” She slipped one arm loosely around his waist and confided, “I’m starving.”

Danny had been trained since childhood to assess situations quickly and then use them to his advantage. He watched Bill walk over to them, jealousy and rage barely concealed on his face, and surmised that Michelle was the object of this man’s unwanted attention. Turning back to Michelle, he looked down into her eyes and saw the anxiety there as she silently pleaded for a little cooperation. It was too much for him – really, just having her this close was too much for him; whatever she wanted from him, he would give it to her willingly. And he knew exactly what he wanted in return.

Determined to resolve the situation as quickly as possible, Danny brushed his lips against Michelle’s forehead and then drawled seductively, “I’m sorry, baby, you know I how much I hate keeping you waiting…for anything.”

Bill cleared his throat loudly and looked at Michelle for an explanation. Michelle turned in Danny’s arms so that she was facing Bill, her back resting lightly against Danny’s chest. The contact between them sent her senses reeling, and for a moment Michelle forgot all about Bill and the situation she was trying to get out of – all she could think of was Danny, and the night they’d spent together.

Danny’s concentration was fairing little better as the scent of Michelle’s vanilla shampoo conjured images of their time together. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her gently against him, resting his chin on the top of her head and breathing deeply.

“So, Michelle, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” Bill asked through clenched teeth.

Michelle’s anxiety caused her words came out in one long rush. “Of course, I’m sorry. Bill, this is Danny. Danny, this is Bill, an old friend from Springfield.” She tried not to cringe while waiting to see what would happen next.

Much to her relief Danny continued to play along, offering his hand to Bill for a shake. “Nice to meet you, Bill.”

Bill’s expression said it all – he wasn’t interested in meeting Danny and he wasn’t even going to bother to pretend otherwise.

Danny dropped his hand back to Michelle’s waist and continued, “What brings you to Chicago?”

“Michelle,” came Bill’s simple response.

Danny could feel Michelle shaking slightly in his arms. He wondered what exactly the story was between the two. And he wondered why he felt an overwhelming need to protect a woman he’d known for only a week. But he didn’t have time to work that all out at the moment. Instead he kept his voice upbeat as he said, “Oh, did you guys have plans tonight? I’m sorry, baby, I thought I’d have you all to myself tonight. At least, I was really hoping so.”

Michelle brought her hand up to Danny’s cheek and caressed it softly, then wiggled out of his arms and turned to face him. “I’m definitely all yours tonight, babe,” she assured him, giving him a wink before turning around to face Bill.

Danny was left to wonder just how much protection Michelle Bauer really needed – she seemed perfectly capable of taking care of herself, which in truth made her that much more attractive to him.

Her flirtatious smile giving way to a serious expression, she tried one more time to make Bill understand. “Bill, we shared a really great childhood, and I will always be grateful for that. But we’re adults now, and our lives are taking different paths, and you’re just going to have to accept that. Okay?” She nodded her head as she spoke, like a mother trying to convince her child to nod in agreement. Bill remained stony-faced. “Now give me a hug,” she instructed, opening her arms wide. He did so willingly, and when he bent his head down towards hers she finished, “And go back to Springfield.”

Bill dropped his arms as though she had burned him physically and stepped back. Searching her face for some sort of encouragement he found none.

Before Bill could say another word, Michelle grabbed Danny’s hand with one of hers and opened the door with the other. “Come on,” she sing-songed, the flirtatious grin returning, “I’m sure we can find someplace else to eat tonight.”

They walked out of the Mexican restaurant hand-in-hand, neither speaking, much like their exit from the crowded dance club a week earlier. Lost in her own thoughts about both Bill and Danny, Michelle barely considered where they were going until Danny opened the passenger door to his shiny black Jag and offered his hand to help her inside.

“Wait a second, Danny,” she objected forcefully, “where are we going?”

“Dinner,” he replied nonchalantly, leaning against the car. “Isn’t that what you told Billy-boy back there?”

“Yes, Danny, and I really am sorry about using you that way. I….”

He cut her off with a waive of his hand. “Don’t worry, you can tell me all about it over dinner. I know this great little Italian place that also happens to have one of the best wine collections in the city. You do like Italian, don’t you?”

“Yes, Danny, I love Italian, I….” She stopped herself again. “You know, I don’t remember ever agreeing to have dinner with you.”

“Well, I think you owe me….” his words trailed off.

“I don’t owe you a damn thing, Danny Santos,” she fired back quickly, suddenly afraid of what he would want from her.

“Well, the least you owe me is an explanation, don’t you agree?” he asked seriously.

She reluctantly nodded her head in agreement.

“And there’s no harm in giving me that explanation over a nice dinner, right?” he queried, a sexy smile curving his lips.

She nodded again, unable to take her eyes from his lips.

“Good, then it’s settled,” he declared happily, helping her into the car.

She dug into her bag for her cell phone, hoping that Katie hadn’t yet reached the Mexican restaurant. Change of plans indeed. As she dialed the number and waited for Katie to answer, she couldn’t help but wonder what else the night had in store for her.


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