For the Love of a GodBy: Rosanna Leo
"Aren't you going to have a real drink?” she asked.
"I'm good,” he chuckled quietly. “I don't drink alcohol."
Oh God, she thought. Was he an alcoholic? Or a health nut? She wasn't sure which scenario alarmed her more.
"So,” he continued. “Do you mind if I call you by your first name?"
"Don't like being so formal with your peons?"
He stared back at her, obviously holding back a retort. His eyes flashed as if lit from behind. For the first time, she noticed all the golden specks surrounding his dark pupils. They made his eyes seem an even deeper green, like the forest after a storm. It was such an arresting effect. She had to look away for a moment.
"I hope, going forward, you'll call me Eric,” he said in his deep voice. “Not asshole or moron."
It was her turn to laugh. “Fine. Then you can call me Maia."
"Thank you, Maia,” he replied, almost in a whisper.
Her vagina clenched. It actually seized. Feeling tremendous unease, Maia looked away again. He hadn't said anything sexual or vulgar. He'd only said her name. Yet, for some reason, the way Eric Lord said it made her feel as if he was touching her, caressing her most intimate places. She adjusted the way she was sitting, and angled away from him a little.
God help her, her panties were wet.
"You look a little flushed,” he said, staring at her lips. “You okay?"
She let out a nervous titter and took her jean jacket off. “Yeah. Boy, where is the waitress with our drinks?” She scanned the pub. “So, what were you working on before you graced our presence here in Toronto?"
He smiled and lowered his eyes. “I was in Greece. My family has a home there. I've been busy doing research for some time."
Finally, two topics she loved: research and Greece. She seized on one of them. “Really? Where do you live in Greece?"
He paused, looking back up at her. “Oh, it's quite out of the way. No one would even believe it existed.” He smiled, as if enjoying a private joke. “Let's talk about you. Tell me everything your resume doesn't tell me. How did you end up at the museum?"
Eric stared at her so intensely it was uncomfortable. And his eyes kept dropping to her lips. She'd never given her lips much thought. They were average lips. But he seemed fascinated by them.
And before she knew what was happening, she saw his eyes drop to her neckline and then to her breasts. They lingered there, considering.
Although she was surprised to be the recipient of such attention, she wasn't shocked he would be offering it. After all, despite his professional exterior, his whole persona was practically drenched in the insinuation of sex and heaving bodies. He was probably used to people looking at him the same way. But no one had ever looked at her with such sudden ... hunger. He was looking at her the way she looked at Snickers bars.
He blinked and the look disappeared, only to be replaced by one of grim determination. His fascination with her many charms was apparently short-lived.
"Sorry,” she mumbled. “Lost in thought. What brought me to the museum? Well, my dad, frankly."
"Ah, yes. The famous Dr. Jim Douglas.” Eric watched Maia grin, noting the grin did not reach her eyes. Why would the subject of her father grieve her? “He must be happy you followed in his footsteps."
Her face was suffused with an emotion he couldn't quite make out. “He is. And he was happy I went into conservation, even though conservators don't get any glory. He used to take me to digs all over the world, and I loved it, but I was more interested in preserving history, rather than being the one to dig it up.” She paused, already lost in the topic. “It kills me when I see a bad conservation job. So many conservators in the past have tackled sculpture with heavy chemicals and beeswax, so much so the works end up looking like pristine Barbie dolls. I was taught sculptors create pieces that will age gracefully. And I wanted to preserve that process.” She stopped talking and breathed. “Sorry. I'm rambling. I just think it's crucial to maintain our artifacts for the next generations."
Eric stared at her, almost at a loss for words. “You're not rambling, and I couldn't agree with you more. I guess it makes us kindred spirits. When I went back to Greece after many years and saw the changes, it grieved me. To see all the modern buildings. All the pollution and the cars zipping along ancient roads. It all seemed so wrong, and made me long for a more innocent time."
"Why, Director Lord, you sound positively Victorian. The way you talk, it sounds as if you were around for the Industrial Revolution!” She winced immediately, as if she regretted her words. “Sorry. I don't always say the right things."
He looked at her and laughed quietly. “No, no, you're right. I guess sometimes I just feel like an old soul. Mind you, a lot of change can occur, even in one lifetime.” After regarding her for an uncomfortable moment, he asked, “So, why do you love Greece?"
She smiled up at him from under dark lashes, flattered by his interest. “My dad's favorite place to dig was always Greece, so I spent most of my childhood there. The ancients have always fascinated me. Even as a little girl, all I ever read were stories of the gods. I learned them inside and out. I was never happier than when I was visiting a museum or had my head stuck in a dusty old book. In a way, it was an escape for me. I've always been a little awkward around ... real people. I guess I just do better with pretend people. Maybe that's why I get so attached to my statues. They don't judge me. They just take me back to a time I wish I could see for myself."
He was frowning at her. Maia closed her mouth, suddenly aware she had been blabbing again. “There you have it,” she said. “I'm a museum geek. And I get verbal diarrhea when I'm nervous."
He drew closer to her. Just by a few centimeters, but enough to make her pulse quicken. “You're not a geek, Maia. You're passionate. I respect you. And I really don't want you to be nervous with me.” Then, as if realizing the conversation was drifting into uncomfortable territory, Eric cleared his throat. “Like I said before, your job's safe. For now."
And then he smiled again, making her heart do a little pole vault in her chest.
"Why did you fire Mark?” The question spilled out, even though it wasn't her business.
"Because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's lack of passion. Lack of respect. I've been watching the goings-on at the museum for a while. Mark wasn't contributing. Not like you."
He moved closer still. She could feel his hot breath on her face. Her heartbeat sped up to an alarming rate.
Without warning, he cupped her face with both his hands. “I want all my staff to think like you do. When they examine an artifact, I want them to see the way you see. When they speak, I want them to cry out with your passionate cries. When they touch, I want it to be with your reverent caress. I want them to shed the tears I've seen you shed for pure love of the work. I want everyone at the museum to share your passion.” He breathed in. “I want to share your passion."
His strangely intimate words made her feel unsettled, with a foreign burning in her sex. If he hadn't still been cupping her cheeks, she would have run to the bathroom to splash water on her face, and her crotch for good measure.
And he still hadn't let her go.
Seconds later, his thumb moved to her bottom lip, pressing its moist fullness.
Eric's mind railed. What am I doing? Let her go. Stop touching her soft lips!
But he couldn't.
For just a brief moment, Eryx wanted out. He wanted a taste.
She looked transfixed. He could make it so she wouldn't even remember the kiss. At the same time, he wanted Maia to remember. All of it.
He lowered his head and breathed in her quick breaths. She smelled good. Guinness, with an undertone of sugary sweetness. Probably the maple cream donut he'd seen her scarf earlier. Would she taste just as good?
He let his lips graze hers. Their softness took him aback. He was just hard up. He needed a little something to sustain him. It had been so long since he'd allowed himself to kiss a woman. One as annoying as Maia shouldn't taste so sweet, but she did.