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1/3/04 5:30 p.m., San Diego, CA
Jennifer walked into her apartment after a long day of work. She and Rachel had been at it all day, helping the daughter of one of the town's wealthiest plan her dream Valentine's Day wedding. They had already been working on the account for months. Jennifer was beginning to hate pink, really hate pink.
She dropped her purse on the counter and went over to the fridge to grab a bottle of water. The lights were off in the kitchen and living room and the place was quiet. She was alone. She leaned back against the door to the refrigerator, flipped on the overhead light to the kitchen, closed her eyes and released a sigh.
"You're home late," said Mac.
"Ahh!" shrieked Jennifer. She jumped, dropping the water bottle on the floor.
"Christ!" said Mac as he jumped back a bit himself before retrieving the bottle and handing it back to her.
"Sorry." She gave him a sheepish smile. "It was a tense day. I thought I was alone."
"I had been working on reviewing my new case files," explained Mac. "When I started, it was light out. I must have drifted off a bit ago. I woke up when you came in. Why was today so awful? Couldn't the bride decide what color napkins she wants?"
Jennifer frowned. "It's an important decision. A bride wants everything to be perfect on her wedding day."
"That's an unreasonable standard," said Mac, tilting his head to indicate that he wanted her to move.
"What?" she asked stepping away from the fridge. "I suppose you'll just have those brown paper napkins made from recycled material at your wedding."
Mac grabbed a beer from the fridge and opened it as he headed back towards his room. "No, I would forego napkins altogether and just have the guests all wipe their mouths on their shirtsleeves, like I do."
Jennifer rolled her eyes and laughed.
He turned around, raised an eyebrow and asked, "Do they really make napkins with recycled content?"
"We're not buying them."
"Why not?" he shouted as he passed through the door to his room.
She walked over to his door, leaned against the doorframe and replied, "They're yucky looking and they cost more."
"But it's good for the environment," he pointed out, then sat his beer on his nightstand. Mac climbed back on the bed, opened up a case file and began reading.
Jennifer took a minute to look around. The room had been totally transformed in the last two days. Initially it had contained just the dark walnut antique four poster bed and dresser surrounded by white walls. The first change had been those walls. When Jennifer came home from Rachel and Tom's on New Year's Day, she discovered that Mac had painted them red. Red.
"You painted the walls red?" she asked.
"No. It's not red. The guy at the paint store said it's called rendezvous."
"Right, rendezvous! Did he give you a discount?" she said laughing and shaking her head.
"You don't like it?"
"It's a bit.red."
"I've got a vision. It's gonna be great," he replied, not deterred in the least.
And he was right. After he painted the walls the rich wine color, he had stenciled on the Chinese symbols for peace, love, and faith. There was a three by five oriental rug with black, red, gold, and blue in it positioned between the antique dresser and the footboard of the bed. The richness of the colors set off the dark wooden tones of the hardwood flooring and walnut furnishings. There was even a large tray of sorts resting on top of the dresser, filled with pillar candles that Mac had fashioned out of an old portrait frame.
The bed itself was adorned with a black chenille duvet cover, trimmed in red Chinese silk. There was a little table being used as a combination nightstand and side table. He had placed it so that it sat between his bedside and the black leather chair that he had retrieved from storage. In addition to a clock and his beer, there was a lamp, about four or five books on the table, and a pair of reading glasses.
The overhead light in the room was turned off. The only light came from the candles and the bedside lamp. The room with filled with a warm glow, and interesting shadows danced across the dramatic walls as the flames of the candles flickered.
"You coming in?" asked Mac from his perch on the bed.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. If it's alright?" said Jennifer, feeling a bit awkward.
"Of course," said Mac gesturing to the leather chair.
"New table and lamp," she observed.
"Found the table this morning over on Adams in one of those little antique stores," said Mac as he flipped through his case file.
"Did you have the lamp already?" asked Jennifer.
"Yeah, I've had it for a while. It was made in Thailand from dark bamboo and flax. When my mum was sick I saw it in a store up in LA, in Chinatown. It was nighttime when I found it. I don't remember why I was there. I was probably just killing time. I remember walking over to it and looking at it, it was...unusual, you know? Anyways, this old guy walks over to me. For a few minutes he didn't say anything. He just stood there and looked at it. Finally he said, "Peaceful, isn't it?" and walked away. I bought it for her that night and took it over to her room at the hospital. We turned off all the lights, plugged in it, and just sat there together. I don't know what it is. Maybe the way that the light gets diffused as it passes through the flax paper but it seems-"
"Warm," interjected Jennifer as she studied it. "The place looks great, Mac. It feels nice," she said as she leaned back in the chair, kicked off her shoes and propped her feet up on the end of his bed."
"You look like you're ready for a nap," he said smiling at her.
"Maybe a hot bath," she said, closing her eyes. "How do you feel about take-out Chinese for tonight?"
"Can't join you tonight, blondie," he said, getting up and draining the rest of the beer before setting it back on his nightstand. "I've got a date."
Jennifer's eyes flew open and she watched him walk over to his closet and pull out his leather coat. She tilted her head to one side and after quickly sizing up his appearance said with confidence, "You do not have a date."
"Why would you say that?" asked Mac.
"Because you're not even dressed?" said Jennifer, looking at him.
Mac wrinkled his forehead in confusion, looked down at his obviously clothed body and said, "Of course I'm dressed, what are you talking about."
As he picked his keys and billfold up off of the dresser Jennifer explained, "You're not dressed up . You know, so that you can make a good first impression."
"Look, it's supposed to be casual. This is what I normally wear," said Mac stuffing his billfold into the pocket of his jeans.
"That doesn't mean you shouldn't put in a little extra effort. You know, put your best foot forward. Did you even shower?" asked Jennifer standing up and stretching.
"Course I did! I showered this morning when I came back from my run. Let me guess," he said, crossing his arms in front of his chest, "you're one of these girls that puts on airs, trying to impress so that you can reel some unsuspecting bloke in. Just when, may I ask, are you supposed to start to show your date the real you?"
"You think your date is going to let you see the real her?" asked Jennifer.
"Don't know. The truth is I have no control over that. What I do know is if I like what I see and she's willing to go out with me again that it'll be because she saw something in me that she liked. I won't have to be guessing about whether what she liked was just the facade," said Mac as he walked back over towards her so that he could retrieve his empty beer bottle. "Recyclable," he said.
"At least let me help you with your hair," she offered. "I could put some gel in it and spike it up. It'd look great."
"You just leave my hair alone! It's fine the way it is," he said.
"You know what I think? I think you're being just a teensy bit disingenuous," teased Jennifer. "This is all part of an image," she said, waving her hand, gesturing towards him, "the black boots, leather coat, rumpled t-shirt that screams I'm such a tough bad boy-"
Mac wrapped the arm that held the beer bottle around her waist and in one, fluid motion pulled her body flush against his. He placed his other hand firmly behind her head, bent his knee to encourage her to separate her legs a bit, and bowed her backwards in a low dip. He positioned his lips so that they just grazed the shell of her ear and in a low, seductive voice said, "Little girl, you have no idea."
He felt her shudder involuntarily and knew in an instant that he had made a mistake. He initially took her into his arms to be playful, teasing. But his smile turned serious as he began to realize how good she felt, how good she smelled. He breathed in the scent of her, and nuzzling her neck added, "Baby, I've always been a bad boy."
"You mean, what you've shown me? This great sensitive guy I've been getting to know isn't the real you?" she asked, slightly breathless.
Mac lifted his head so that he could look at her. Her face was flush and her chest was rising and falling rapidly from her shallow breaths. As he looked searchingly into her eyes, a surge of undeniable desire passed between them.
"We all have a dark side, Jennifer," he murmured, "A part that lurks within us that longs to live for the moment, act on wild impulses.give in to temptation. Don't you ever feel that?"
Jennifer's heart was racing and her mouth was dry. It was as if time had suddenly stopped. As she looked into his impossibly blue eyes, she realized that this was one of those defining moments. One of those times when, with a single action, you could change the course of your life. If only you were willing to take the chance.