One Night Only by Samj Chapter 7

Republisher’s Note: Danny and Michelle go on a date.

One Night Only by Samj Chapter 7

“So that’s the whole sordid story,” Michelle finished on a sigh, swirling the wine around in her glass before setting it back on the table untasted. “Basically I couldn’t handle everyone’s expectations of me, so I ran away like a coward.” A guilty expression on her face, she quickly dropped her eyes and took a bite of what she had to admit was an excellent fettuccini alfredo con pollo.

“I don’t see it that way at all,” Danny disagreed. When Michelle didn’t answer, and instead continued to stare at her plate, he placed two fingers under her chin and gently lifter her face until her eyes met his. “I think it takes a lot of courage to do what you did,” he whispered softly. I wish I had that much courage.

“You do?” she asked, her surprise evident. So few people seemed to understand what she had done.

“Yeah, I do,” he repeated, running those same two fingers lightly over her cheek before playing with her earlobe. He couldn’t begin to explain the attraction between them, but whenever he was around her he felt the need to touch her, to be connected to her in some way.

His fingers on her earlobe brought memories of their night together to the front of her of her mind – the way he had tugged at it with his teeth while slowly unzipping her dress…. Before her thoughts could carry her away again, she sat back in her chair, breaking the contact.

Michelle took a deep breath, trying to break the intensity of the moment, and said conversationally, “Well, I’m sure it’s a situation completely outside the realm of your experience.”

“Huh?” Danny asked, at a complete loss to understand her meaning.

“I mean, I realize I don’t know you very well,” – there’s the understatement of the new millennium, commented her cynical inner voice – “but you,” she searched for the right word, “exude so much confidence,” she began to speak faster, embarrassed by the boldness of her confession, “that I can’t imagine there’s anyone who could tell you what to do.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” he mumbled, shaking his head. Fantastic! his inner voice yelled. This amazing woman finally gives you a break, and you’re gonna tell her that you’re nothing more than a Mama’s boy? I don’t believe this!

Loyalty, Daniel, his mother’s voice echoed in his head, you never have to defend to others your loyalty to your family. His father had taught him the importance of loyalty, and his mother had reinforced the lessons after Miguel’s death.

Michelle’s next question brought Danny back to the present. “So what awful things does your your family expect you to do?”

Extortion, smuggling…maybe even murder. Doesn’t really compare to marrying Mr. Perfect, now does it? He continued shaking his head, causing Michelle to wonder if he’d even heard her.

“Danny?”

“It isn’t important,” he answered quickly, finishing his glass of wine.

“Come on Danny,” she prodded, “I just told you practically my entire life story.” Leaving out certain details, of course, she admitted to herself, like the fact that part of the problem with her relationship with Bill was the mediocrity of the sex. “Don’t you think it’s only fair….”

Why are you so interested? her persistent inner voice challenged as her words trailed off. You never want to see him again, remember?

I know, I know, it’s just – he understands. I don’t know why that matters, but it does.

“Security,” Danny offered shortly, pouring himself another glass of wine. “My family owns a security business,” he elaborated. That isn’t a total lie, he argued when his conscience objected to the statement. The only real difference between the Santos family “protection” racket and a legitimate security business was that the Santoses knew exactly whom they were protecting their clients from – the Santoses…and the other families who would willingly replace them.

Michelle took another bite of her pasta, then waved her empty fork at Danny, encouraging him to tell her the down side.

“Running the business is everything I never wanted,” he continued. “But my father died a few years ago and -”

” -I’m sorry,” she interrupted, her voice filled with genuine sympathy.

” -so now, I’m running the business here in Chicago,” he finished matter-of-factly, brushing off her sympathy. “Like I said, it isn’t important.”

Seeing the pain cross his face at the mention of his father’s death, Michelle decided not to push. “Is it dangerous?” she asked instead, trying to fill in for herself why he didn’t want to run this business.

“Dangerous?” he parroted, wondering suddenly if she somehow knew…. No, he decided, seeing the genuine concern in her eyes, she doesn’t know.

“Nah,” he drawled almost lazily, “I run the pure business stuff – plans, systems, payments. We have trained professionals to handle the dangerous stuff.”

“Good,” she almost sighed, surprising them both with her reaction.

And awkward silence followed, which Danny broke by joking, “It isn’t half as dangerous as what Ray does.”

“How is Ray?” Michelle asked seriously, realizing that she hadn’t even thought to ask about Danny’s cousin earlier.

“Fine, all things considered,” Danny assured her. “Of course, he pretty much thinks he’s invincible.”

“I noticed,” she chuckled. “After his test results came back he wanted to be released immediately.”

“That’s our Ray,” Danny agreed. “Don’t worry, he has a wonderful housekeeper named Beatrice – she’s the one person capable of keeping him in line.”

Thrilled that Michelle finally appeared relaxed and comfortable, Danny tried to keep her amused with stories of Ray’s antics as a child. The two were still laughing when a busboy arrived to clear their table. Their waiter followed behind, pushing a well-stocked dessert cart.

“Please,” the waiter said in a charming Italian accent, “let me interest you in dessert. Tonight we have a classic cheesecake with fresh strawberries, a chocolate tort with raspberry sauce, traditional spomone (spelling?), and our chef’s specialty, an incredible tira misu.”

Danny and Michelle simply stared at the cart without answering, neither wanting the evening to end but both unsure what the other was thinking.

The waiter, not easily deterred, continued describing the choices on the cart, then returned to the chef’s specialty. “Our tira misu is considered the best in the city. Many customers find it the perfect way to end a romantic dinner -”

” -We’re not-” Michelle contradicted quickly.

” -That’d be great,” Danny told the waiter before Michelle could finish her sentence.

“Wonderful sir,” he smiled. “I’ll bring one plate with two forks.”

Michelle waited until the server was out of earshot before she spit out through clenched teeth, “why the hell did you do that?”

“O-kay,” Danny exhaled slowly, trying to control his own anger, “exactly what great sin did I commit this time?”

“You ordered dessert,” Michelle accused, as though the answer were perfectly obvious.

“Uh-huh…and?” Danny prompted. “I thought you were enjoying dinner. I thought you would enjoy dessert.” His attention was diverted by the nervous motions of her hands as she twisted the napkin in her lap. “What are you so afraid of?” he challenged, staring directly into her eyes.

The incredible pull between us. That I can’t stop thinking about you. That I might see you again. That I might not.

Michelle knew she couldn’t confess any of those things to Danny, so instead she went on the offensive. “I’m not afraid of anything,” she asserted. “We need to get something straight here – this isn’t a date. I only agreed to have dinner with you because I felt bad about what happened earlier, with Bill.”

“Oh, you mean when you used me to get away from him?” His words were cold and measured.

“I know,” she conceded. “It wasn’t fair to you. It’s just that, Bill showed up out of the blue and…it threw me. I’m sorry.”

He wasn’t ready to accept her apology. “That’s funny, you seemed completely in control of the situation.” Not offering her a chance to respond, he leaned in and questioned harshly, “Tell me this – when you were “so concerned” about me, and about my family commitments, was that just part of your debt repayment?”

Michelle could not have felt more of a sting if Danny had physically slapped her. “No!” she practically shouted. “No,” she repeated more softly. “I admit that what I did earlier was really lousy, but,” she reached across the table and tried to take his hand, “I would never dig into your feelings unless…”

He jerked his hand away, causing tears to well in her eyes.

“What more can I say, Danny?” she asked plaintively. “I already told you I’m a coward.”

The sight of her tears undid him; his resolve crumbled, and he placed his hand back on the table. Just then the waiter returned, appearing unsure of whether to approach the pair.

“Hey,” Danny said to him, tearing his eyes from Michelle’s bent head, “I hate to do this to you, but could you box that up for us?”

Michelle’s head shot up, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “I don’t want to go yet, Danny,” she informed him.

He searched her eyes for some clue of what she was thinking. “Are you sure?” he questioned.

“Mm-hmm,” she responded, steadily holding his gaze.

“Okay, scratch that,” he told the server, a slight smile daring to show itself as he moved his chair closer to hers.

They shared the dessert in a companionable silence, restricting their conversation to comments complimenting the chef. Finishing the last bite, Danny broached the subject of their earlier argument. “Michelle,” he sighed, “I’m really sorry that I accused you-”

Her fingers flew to his lips, covering them softly in an attempt to stop him from continuing. “No, Danny, I’m the one who should be sorry. And I am. Really. I had no right to -”

“It’s okay,” he assured her. He laughed suddenly, then stopped because of her puzzled expression. “Our sentences seem to be overlapping a little tonight,” he explained, throwing money on the table to cover the bill and rising from his chair to help her from hers.

“Yeah, they do,” she agreed, smiling at him.

While walking out of the restaurant Danny asked, “Did you leave your car at Pablo’s?”

“Actually, I took the bus,” Michelle answered, quickly buttoning her coat against the chilly night air. “My roommate has my car, she needed to run some errands before dinner. I’ll just take a cab home.”

“Don’t be silly,” Danny scoffed, his brow crinkling slightly. “I’ll drive you home.”

Michelle immediately wanted to decline, but she remembered that Danny already knew where she lived – he’d sent the roses to her apartment.

“Of course not.” He tipped his head in the direction of the car. “Come on.”

He offered his hand and she took it. Almost instantaneously the sexual attraction they had been fighting the entire night spilled forth, overwhelming their senses and obliterating rational thought. Danny pulled her close, molding her body to his, his tongue exploring her mouth almost leisurely in contrast to his hands exploring her curves. Michelle met his every move with one of her own, increasing the intensity of the pleasure for both of them.

“Michelle,” Danny moaned against her lips, “I don’t want to drive you to your apartment.”

She looked at him with eyes glazed in passion, but was too breathless to speak. “I want you,” he whispered seductively in her ear. “I want you in my bed tonight.”

He planted soft kisses down her neck, then swept them along her collarbone. “Please?” he groaned, an edge of desperation mixed with his desire and need.

Unable to form the words, she nodded her head, but he needed to hear her say it.

“Michelle…” he breathed.

She laced her fingers through his curls and pulled his head up. Looking deep into her eyes, he saw the passion he felt for this woman reflected there. “I want you too, Danny,” she responded, still catching her breath. “I want….”

Before she could utter another word he lifted her lightly off the ground and carried her towards his waiting car.

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