Christmas Break (open)
Julian had found himself a little cafe on the corner of two intersecting streets on Nachton's busy strip. He didn't have a lot of Christmas shopping to do. He needed gifts for his parents, one or two things for friends from college and one or two small gifts for friends in the Symphony. He enjoyed shopping, usually, a trait that he knew made him more appealing to his female friends than the male ones, but he had to admit fighting against the crowds was a little exhausting.
He shouldn't have waited this long but Christmas was a difficult time of year for him. Therapy aside, it still felt like he should be buying presents for Andrea, chatting with her about her Christmas break and their next skiing trip.
His parents had talked him into visiting next weekend, after the holiday concerts were over and before the new year's schedule could begin. Julian had tried to excuse himself but his father had pretty much told him he was coming to get him and would brook no refusal.
Sitting in a booth alone in the crowded cafe, Julian knew he should be thankful his parents loved him and worried about him. He really loved them too, but they hadn't been the ones stuck in that car with Andy. He didn't want to go home for Christmas but he knew he had to eventually.
He slouched back in his seat, trying not to look at the people around him. Normally he wouldn't avoid their gazes but today wasn't a good day. What he really needed was to go get hammered. Okay, he probably didn't need that. He'd been drinking far too much lately and he knew it. But he might, anyway.
Christmas was just not a good time of year.
Tonight was a little different though, she wasn't exactly an imposing figure and had been jostled about more than her fair share by harried holiday shoppers and had gotten more than a little frustrated by it. She'd ducked into the cafe for a little bit of relief. Of course, even it was crowded.
With a roll of her eyes she looked about for a likely spot to just sit for a second or five. She was just thinking maybe she'd go home when her eyes lighted on a booth with only one occupant. While it wasn't exactly an American custom she had enough of a European mentality to simply take herself over there and ask if he minded a bit of company for a few minutes. It did occur to her that he might be waiting for someone, he wasn't exactly bad looking. It was also possible she'd be more interesting than whoever he was waiting for, modesty had never been her strong suit after all.
"Pardon me love, do yo mind if I borrow the other side of your table for a bit? There seems to be a bit of a shortage."
She said it with a bright cheerful smile. Her dress was rather casual a blue green funnel neck sweater, skin jeans and her lovely lovely grand tall boots from Jimmy Choo. They were new and she was rather thankful there was no snow about thus far to ruin them. Her accessories were limited to a long tassel necklace with a jet stone featured at matching earrings, that danced just above her shoulders. She wasn't carrying any shopping bags though and that seemed to make her stand out more than anything.
"Be my guest," he said, gesturing to the empty half of the booth. "I got lucky and caught someone on their way out."
He had taken in her appearance already and couldn't help adding, "Nice boots, by the way."
Julian supposed it didn't always help his image when he commented on his female friends' attire, but, well, he was secure in his masculinity and quite positive that he wasn't gay. If he came off that way now and then, well - it had helped him score in the past, believe it or not.
He glanced out the window at the streetlamps, decorated with wreaths and lights for the holiday season. Taking a sip of his coffee he pointed down at his bags, having noted the redhead didn't have any of her own.
"Just starting the madness, or staying out of it altogether?"
It had to suck if you just wanted to sit down for a cup of coffee without being trampled by last-minute Christmas shoppers.
Val quipped cheerfully as she slid into the booth with a small sigh of relief. Her shoulders relaxed a bit as she was no longer having to fight for her own space, but she still sat perfectly straight.
She wasn't tall enough to hold her leg out from under the table to admire her footwear and given how busy the place was she probably would have tripped some one as well. But she did grin broadly and brightly at his comment.
"Thank you. A recent acquisition and I'm quite pleased with them myself."
She didn't immediately assume he was gay, after all they were very pretty boots and quite striking (in her opinion). Although the comment did place the possibility in her head, especially given his hair. It was beautifully and artfully styled to take advantage of those curls. Some straight men would take the time and trouble for that, some wouldn't. She'd leave the jury out and not worry about it.
For as busy as it was, the servers were doing a great job and one came by quickly to take her order. She would have preferred anything 'Irish' but this didn't seem like the kind of establishment that would slap whiskey in things at random, so hot tea was the order of the day.
With a light laugh she shook her head, very aware of how it made her earrings move. And rather enjoying the feel of the soft swaying.
"Staying out of it, or trying too. Believe it or not this is calm compared to my last few days."
Nachton was a big city and nothing about it was a sleepy little town, but New York was a beast unto itself and she'd been there for the past few days working at the dealership and with a few other things on the side.
"Did you find everything you were looking for or are you still short and just recharging for a bit?"
When she asked, he held up the one bag he'd had sitting on the seat next to him. "Just a quick caffeine break and I'm back to it. I probably should have done this weeks ago but it's been nuts."
The Symphony was pretty busy this time of year, too. Not only were they into their winter season schedule but he'd been playing with Jan when he could and on top of that many of Nachton's prominent citizens had hired soloists and duos and trios and quartets for their various functions. They came to the symphony often to hire musicians, wanting the best available, and as Julian was one of their prominent soloists he had received many requests.
Fortunately since he wasn't a permanent member of the Symphony (yet - he had actually talked once or twice with the board, who were interested in having him stay on a longer-term basis), he still retained a little say in where he performed. Not that he'd turned down many requests; he wanted both the money and the exposure.
Tonight was the first completely free night he'd had in the last few weeks where he hadn't had a rehearsal or performance of some sort. He didn't have much to do, but he did have to get it all done.
"Big plans for Christmas, or no?" He asked, by way of keeping the conversation friendly. "I'm Julian, by the way."
He held out his hand across the table to shake.
"I always swear I'm going to do things on line and always forget to order in time and they skin you alive on shipping."
Despite the complaint she sounded fairly cheerful. Mostly because Val didn't do much in terms of Christmas shopping, she tended to buy things for people when the mood was upon her no matter the season and when she did decide to do Christmas the shipping wasn't an issue.
"But ten points for taking a break, pausing through takes all the enjoyment out of it."
He knocked up half a point on the gay scale as most men seemed to be get in, get out, get on with it sorts.
She took his had with her best warm, friendly and professional please buy this car hand shake.
"Valentine, Val if you'd rather. Nice to meet you Julian. But no, not really I'd have to go across the pond for a family Christmas and it just isn't worth the hassle of flying these days. We'll catch up later though I'm sure."
It was half true any way. She had a few other 'siblings' courtesy of Giovanni and of the ones she kept track of one was in Europe, one in Africa and one in South America. But there was no point in going into those details, besides they sounded a bit suspicious.
"What about you. I'd imagine you have a few folks about."
She nodded at the bags. He was pushing the shipping time line too if they were for folks out of state.
He looked down at his single gift bag; it was a large one, granted. He shrugged. "Actually, no. No family here in Nachton. My folks live in New York. Upstate. I'm going to spend some time with them. The rest of it's just small stuff for friends and co-workers here. Nothing really grand but I did want to get them all a little something."
Julian sipped at his coffee again. At least this Val was a good conversationalist. She was definitely doing the trick of keeping his mind off the more maudlin aspects of Christmas, for him.
"So where exactly are you from, if you don't mind my asking?"
He certainly wasn't going to assume anything just because she was a redhead. She could be from anywhere, really.
Apparently her employees got a bonus for Christmas or something like that. She wasn't always as on top of those things as she should. Val did have a number of friends in the city, not good friends per say but she should perhaps get them something. But, she decided with a mental shrug, it was too late to worry about it now.
Deciding her tea had probably cooled enough Val echoed his gesture and sipped at it. She hadn't quite decided if she was going to play this little encounter straight or if she wanted to adopt a persona. If she wanted a bit of a meal to go with her tea or if they were just chatting. So many options, so little time. She'd improvise, it usually worked out.
"Ireland. I've lived her almost as long as I've lived there though, before you ask about the accent."
A cheerful cheeky smile was added there, just in case he thought about taking offense to her words. Some people would, but usually if you played a bit of the Irish scamp for them they'd forgive you.
"My family is all in Kildare not too far from the National Stud."
Apparently she was in a story telling mode today, mixing bits of the truth with bits of fiction. This could prove fun, she just had to keep her details straight as they went along.
Julian shrugged and shook his head apologetically when she described her homeland. "I'm not very familiar with Ireland," he said. "Not the culture, anyway. The music, I'm very intimately acquainted with."
He had been a fiddler for so long he sometimes forgot it was Irish. It had been the first style he'd really started to enjoy when he'd first taken up violin as a little boy. His parents had home videos of him fiddling away as a nine-year-old. Some kids got very good at video games; Julian had gotten very good at advanced fingerings. Same principle, really, only Julian held a violin while the other kids his age were holding game controllers.
"I should probably visit sometime," he mused, sipping at his coffee. "In fact, I think it would be a lot of fun to hear some real fiddling firsthand."
Julian didn't have a lot of international travel under his belt, something he really did want to remedy. It was at the heart of his conflict over his current position with the Symphony. He was hesitant to take a long-term position with them because his opportunity to travel would be very limited. They kept offering him more and more money, though, and it was getting very difficult to remain impartial.
Some people had a love of all things Irish. They tended to romanticize things too and make everything granger or more dramatic, the potato famine, the troubles, the people running around between thatched cottages and pubs with leprechauns on their shoulders. She had mixed feelings on it. Some times Val found it amusing, even charming, some times it was just annoying. But the way Julian said it she didn't immediately get that vibe from him and so relaxed some.
"I would highly encourage it. It is a beautiful country, I might be biased but the most beautiful in my opinion. Not that I don't love the States you understand."
She added quickly fully aware that some people, not all but some, could get a bit prickly if you weren't totally patriotic.
His comment that it would be fun to hear some real fiddling gave her a rather spur of the moment idea. Val's eyes lit up .
"Do you really want to? I know a place, off the beaten track, but the owner is from Castlebar. It isn't much beyond a hole in the wall but that's all the better if you ask me, and they have live music most nights."
It was just called The Long Bar and from the outside it was nothing to look at, most people passed it by. The reputation grew by word of mouth and it seemed that ever Irish ex-pat in the city knew about it, it made it quite home like for Val. And she was told that it for those who just wandered in it was a great deal like a quick trip to Ireland.
"Not always professional you know but it is always done with heart."
In her opinion some of the locals were better than the pro's they played with heart, they really understood the music, after all, they'd grown up with it.
"Musician," he said. "I play for the Symphony here in Nachton. Violin; classical and electric. I also fiddle. Real fiddling, as real as I can get without having been raised in Ireland myself."
He clarified quickly; just because he wasn't born and raised there didn't mean he didn't know how to hold a bow. He'd actually played with the Chieftains twice when they'd been in New York and they didn't come much more real than that.
Val's enthusiasm was obvious when she perked up and asked if he'd been serious. She then invited him to a 'place' she knew of to hear some music. Julian hesitated, looking at his shopping bag, but the decision wasn't difficult. He took a good swallow of his cooling coffee and nodded at her.
"Yeah. If you want, I'd love to."
Julian could be impulsive at times, especially at night when he was seeking just about any distraction from sleep. Plus maybe this place would have some good drinks. Whiskey, or something similar. He still hadn't quite abandoned the idea of getting hammered. Getting hammered in the company of a pretty redhead was an even more appealing notion. He knew he had a reputation to uphold, given his position in the Symphony, but he didn't think anything terribly untoward would happen.
He stood and picked up his shopping bag. "Tell me there's a good stiff drink or three waiting there and I'm all in."
He raised his brows at Val, as if still measuring whether to go along or not, but he was buttoning his coat back up already.
"That's impressive. I wish I could play.â€
She could, under duress, scrape out a tune of sorts but it was only suitable if someone wanted to drum or sing or some such. It barley qualified as music, she didn't even own her own fiddle.
"It is just not something I've ever had the patience or talent for.â€
She grinned when he agreed to come with her. It was starting to look like he'd be worth something more than random small talk over a hot beverage. Her only question was how far it would go. Val gulped down her tea without a second thought and a huge smile.
"Great, then let's go.â€ She laughed when he mentioned a drink. "It is an Irish pub, some of the stereotypes are true. Besides I wanted a bit of a drink myself.â€
Granted she'd be able to drink him under the table, vampiric advantage and all that, but she might play a bit tipsy and let him take advantage of her. Oh this could get fun.
They managed to get there with very little fuss and unlike the cafe it was only moderately busy, they were able to slide into a table without having to fight for it or wait. She loved the pub, it was dimly lit, the high set windows were made of art deco inspired stained class obscuring any view of the street. The wood paneling was all real, a lovely honey maple, the tables and chairs all showed suitable wear and character.
What was probably most striking though was the music. A fiddle whistle and uilleann pipes were playing together with a bodhran playing a reel. The two men on the pipes and bodhran were approaching seventy, although James, on the bodhran didn't look it. But she didn't know either the fiddler, a woman of middle years and less than striking appearance, or the young blond on the flute who looked barley old enough to be allowed in the Long Bar.
The little stage area was big enough to hold six, maybe eight musicians and the acoustics in the little pub were good enough that there were no microphones. That also made it possible for there to be quiet corners for conversation even on a busy night. Val hadn't gone for one of those corners though, not when the music had been the reason for them coming here.
Together they were good enough that they had inspired a couple of the more daring, or intoxicated, patrons to dance.
"Looks like an open mic night. What did you want to drink, first round is on me.â€
It really was a no strings attached offer, but it might also be a bit of a signal that she was interested.
Pubs were traditionally a place where you got up and placed your order on your own rather than a server come around and get it for you and Kevin, the owner, kept this one that way. Drinks you were on your own, food, if you wanted some from the rather limited menu, would be brought to you after you went up to the bar to place your order. A small brass disk with a number engraved in it was sunk into the corner of each table so you could tell the bar tender what table you were at.
Beyond the music there were four dart boards, all with chalk boards for scoring, Kevin refused to have an electronic board in, and a fooze ball table. There was, however, no jukebox. If no one was playing there was no music.
He accompanied Val to the pub she had mentioned, perfectly willing to make some excuse if the place looked like some kind of seedy dive. To his surprise, though, it turned out to be an unassuming building on the outside and, as she had claimed, probably about as close to authentic as you could get in the US on the inside.
The table they chose was close to the bar, which suited Julian. He knew deep down he probably shouldn't drink as much as he did but some nights when he couldn't sleep, alcohol was the only way to get around the memories that plagued him.
"Open mic? Damn," he said. He wished he'd brought his own instrument with him. He'd love to play here. If they did this often, however, he could come back. He turned to Val with his eyebrows raised, surprised that she would offer to buy.
"Whatever you're having," he said with a shrug, "and the next round is on me."
There was some drunken dancing happening, which Julian hoped Val wasn't expecting him to join in on. His limp wasn't terribly pronounced at the pace they had walked here at, but it was still evident. He didn't dance; she was on her own there.
After two shots of whiskey, however, he did summon up the nerve to ask the fiddler if he could borrow her instrument just for a song. She graciously allowed it, and with the accompaniment of the pipes and flute Julian played 'Boil the Breakfast Early,' one of the songs he'd done with the Chieftains and a favorite of his as it required many intricate and difficult fingerings.
It was good enough that he was able to smile and bow to a decent round of applause when he was finished. He handed the fiddle back and returned to Val and another shot of whiskey. He took it, feeling it warm him from the inside out. Along with the previous two, it was doing a fantastic job of improving his attitude.
"Well that was fun," he said to Val, stretching his legs out under the table and slightly to the side so he didn't kick her. "I'm glad you knew about this place. I'd like to come back the next time they have an open mic night."
While not enough of a regular for the bartender to know her name, he did know her by site, and sound. The man just remembered those that came in with an accent, and he was good enough to recognize what county you were from and if it was fake or real.
She was happy enough with some casual idle chatter and watching the musicians and suspected Julian was too. So it was a surprise that he would get up and borrow the fiddle. The man knew what he was doing that was for damned sure and she enthusiastically joined in the applause even letting out a shrill whistle of approval as he came back. She was still ginning when he sat back down.
"Not bad, not bad at all. I think you really should make an effort to get to Ireland. I think you'd like it."
As she spoke two of the musicians drifted out of the circle and three more came in and with a bit of banter and settling in they started up again, a round of Christmas carols that got a number of folks singing as well.
"I'd be happy to bring you back. Its mostly like this though, Kevin only has people in two nights a week. Friday and Monday typically."
He never advertised that either and it could vary but those were the days more often than not. The most you'd ever see would be a flier inside the pub doors.
"But even then some times people play between sets. It is rather hit and miss, I think the madness outside has driven a lot of people inside. Safer here, and more relaxing."
Val grinned again as she sipped at her whiskey. She was keeping up with him, but just barley letting Julian finish his drinks first and waiting a bit before she ordered another.
"You'll have to tell me where you learned to play like that though, or are you a prodigy?"
Looking at her, petite and cute and friendly, he didn't even really mind the dental work to make her teeth pointy. He kind of wanted to know why she did it, because she didn't really seem the type, but what did he know from a one-night acquaintance? The music here was good, the whiskey felt fantastic going down, and Val seemed like a great woman to hang out with for a bit. This was exactly what he'd rather have been doing, aside from shopping and being moody about the season.
"I'd like to come back," he said pleasantly. "Next time I'll bring my own fiddle and play some more."
He drank the fourth whiskey much more slowly, feeling the pleasant buzz settle in. Julian was a drinker; he knew how to hold his liquor. And while he very much wanted to get totally hammered he was enjoying himself here so he'd settle for a good drunk. He figured he could do another three before things started to get out of control. Maybe four...
Val asked about his musical background and he smiled. "Went to Julliard," he said, "but my grandmother played and she loved to fiddle as well. I got that from her. It was one of the first things I learned to do."
Julian had some Irish heritage on his grandmother's side of the family. He didn't think it was very obvious with his coloring but her maiden name had been Donnelly and she had been born in Ireland herself.
Whiskey loosened his tongue some and he smiled into his glass, a little bitterly. "I almost lost it," he said. He held his hand up so Val could see the outside of the left hand and wrist. He was sure she hadn't missed the scars on his face but the hand wasn't so obvious unless you were looking right at it, and then you may as well put a neon sign on it.
"Took a lot of therapy to get all the feeling back that I needed," he said. "I try to make sure I won't lose it again."
He didn't want to make a big deal out of the topic, though, so he asked, "What about you, Val? What exactly brought you here, and what do you do for a living?"
"I'd love to see what you can do with your own instrument."
She managed to say it with a bit of smoke, a bit of a suggestive gleam in her eye. The more she was with him the less convinced Val was he was gay, at least not completely. Currently she was thinking he might play for both teams.
"My father taught me horses. Not nearly as practical or portable a skill. But that is a wonderful heritage to get to pass down from generation to generation."
Sometimes some things just went over her head. She had to think about what Julliard was. Even after thinking about it she wasn't sure but had a bit more confidence in her response.
"Julliard? That is quite impressive and explains how you wound up in the symphony."
While he didn't go maudlin there was some acid, a shift in his mood and Val was sensitive to that. She would have had considerably more whiskey in her to miss that, most people would have. It was a risk and she knew it but she took his hand and traced his fingers lightly. She wasn't afraid to or squeamish about looking at the scars but she didn't stare either, obviously this was a big deal and she wasn't his lover she couldn't blow it out of proportion.
"I'd say the effort was well worth it, you obviously have a delicate touch and a great deal of strength in these."
Val was trying very hard to be both sensitive to the topic and flirtatious at the same time. Even with his scars he was rather good looking. It wouldn't be a hardship at all to spend a few more intimate hours with him.
Leaning back a bit, still working to develop an intimacy but giving him a bit of space to indicate if he was also interested.
"Family brought me here, we lived in Chicago but then my grandfather got quite ill and so Da moved us all back to Ireland to take care of he and my grandfather. Then I wound up back her for school. I'm working on an MBA."
The story sprung from her lips with no effort. She'd used bits and pieces of it before so it wouldn't be hard to remember. She also had a young enough appearance to pull the story off with little or no effort.
"Well," he said slowly, swirling his whiskey in his glass before taking another swallow. "There's seeing, and then there's experiencing. You have to get the full impact to really appreciate it."
Because they were talking violins, of course. He could do the double entendre, too.
"Horses?" Now that was interesting. He raised his eyebrows at Val. "So, I take it you know how to ride. Sounds like a good time."
His tone was lightly suggestive. Julian never came on strong. He rarely ever made the first move, too, unless he had a good reason to. But Val was clearly interested in a little nightcap, as it were. Even if she just wanted to flirt and play around that would be fun.
When she took his left hand and traced the scars lightly he watched her to see if there was any distaste on her face, but he found none. Her words, her eyes, were more focused on the potential for the rest of the evening. He smiled softly at her.
"It takes a lot of practice," he said, neither confirming nor denying his delicate touch, "but it pays off."
God, he really was slightly more than buzzed wasn't he. He wouldn't usually talk himself up so much. The last thing he needed was to not be able to measure up to Val's standards. Bad enough he'd already had four. He should stop here if he really did want to entertain her... yet the call of the alcohol was very strong. One more. He polished off the rest of his current drink.
When she said she was working on her MBA he gave an 'ah' of understanding. "So, brains and beauty. You're a very interesting lady, Val."
She had leaned back; he leaned in to her, this time, reaching across the table and resting his hand on hers very lightly. Her skin was soft. He could definitely be convinced to spend a little more time discovering how soft. Christmas shopping was going to have to wait.
Success! Val knew when the bait had been taken, or at least when the 'fish' was tugging at it and thinking about taking the hook. She'd gotten her message across.
There were other ways to get a meal beyond seduction. She could and did use them, but this one was just so much fun, it was also simple and had lovely fringe benefits as well.
"I -love- to ride. I just don't get as much chance as I'd like in the city you know. Do you ride too then?"
If they were talking about horses at this point she was English and that wouldn't be happening any time soon.
She relaxed slightly when he didn't shut down or pull his hand away. Some people would object to her looking their weakness or disfigurement in the eye. It probably helped matters that she wasn't put off by the scars. They really didn't matter to her. Blood was blood, sex was sex and neither had anything to do with external scars.
"Do you practice every day then?"
As he rested his hand on hers Val decided with certainty that she wanted to take him 'home' with her rather than just bite and run. Her smile was a bit more demure this time, hiding her teeth.
"Flattery will get you everywhere Julian."
Boldly she leaned in for a kiss. It was firm and slightly aggressive but not so forceful as to emphasize her canines. They were enough of a problem before she got worked up and they were only going to get worse as they went on to play.
His grin was slightly impish at that; he couldn't help it. The flirting only continued, with the riding references (no, he didn't ride but he was willing to learn), and more on the subject of practice (which he readily admitted he could never do enough).
Then Val leaned forward across the small table and kissed him. Julian responded immediately, well aware that hormones were completely overpowering alcohol just then. That was fine with him. He could feel Val's canines, and they certainly didn't feel fake. They were pretty sexy, honestly, and he wasn't a big 'vampire genre' guy.
He was breathless when they broke apart, his head reeling from more than just drinks. He had one last drink now, which he'd asked for when he last round had been ordered. He took a healthy swallow and his head spun a little more. He loved that; intoxication was addictive, of course. He wasn't there yet but he knew he could be and would be if he didn't watch himself.
"It wasn't flattery," he said, his lips quirking up in an honest, wry smile, "and where, exactly, is everywhere?"
He glanced around the room pointedly; they were hardly going to have a one nighter here in public. If that's what they were going to have. Julian wasn't exactly looking for a girlfriend but he wasn't opposed to dating the same girl for a little while. Right now, though, one thought pervaded his mind and was getting out of this pub, wonderful as it was, and someplace more appropriate for what they both clearly had in mind.
Pulling away she licked her lips, well satisfied with the turn the evening had taken. Maybe she should get jostled about in crowds more often.
"Two blocks or so I think... unless you want to stay here all night."
She wasn't notorious for being patient and she certainly wasn't taking him home with her but there was a half way decent hotel near by. It wasn't the Piazza but it didn't charge by the hour either, some innocuous chain hotel with a free continental breakfast and blackout curtains. Not that she would stay all night, Julian might though. The experience might be a bit draining for him.
He agreed readily enough and they made their way to the hotel. It was unfortunate that hotels required a credit card these days, in case of damages and for pay per-view movies and mini bars. She missed being able to put down cash and flash a fake ID. But she paid any way, totally ignoring the look the desk clerk gave them for having no luggage, and they found themselves settled in a second floor room, king bed, non-smoking, totally neutral decor.
"Shall I be shy now or is it too late for that?"
She asked with a grin as she sat on the edge of the bed, making no attempts at being subtle, crossing her legs and tossing her coat across the room.
He was headed to a hotel with a total stranger who he'd met only a couple hours ago for completely irresponsible sex. Should he have gotten drunk? No. Should he be exercising better judgment than this? Yes. Was he going to get it on with this adorable redhead who had, in his defense, made the first move? Oh, hell yes.
The walk was not long, and it was punctuated with several stops for more of those deep, whiskey-flavored kisses. Julian noted that Val paid for the room before he could even grope for his wallet, which was slightly embarrassing, but at that point hormones were speaking louder than anything else.
Once inside, he watched Val as she made herself at home, sitting on the bed and throwing her coat away to land haphazardly on the sofa. Julian shrugged out of his own coat, hanging it more or less neatly on the back of the desk chair. Then he walked toward her. When he reached her he slid his hands onto her knees and gently pushed her legs apart so he could step between them. Running his palms gently up her thighs he bent to her and kissed her again.
"Little late for modesty, I think," he said with a grin afterward. He meant himself as well, for he could feel his cheeks reddening and it had nothing to do with the cold winter air they'd walked through to get here.
One night stands, yeah, he'd done those here and there, but in this case he knew he was drunk. And quite possibly being taken advantage of... which, oddly enough, he didn't mind at all. Val seemed perfectly at ease with being the aggressive one, and Julian was happy to let her lead.