\ 20:28 "Bluewater Gril" | unlimitedi.net
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  2021-05-10 20:28 Monday
Bluewater Grill
31 Union Square West at 16th St


“Oh, excellent – more sushi.” Alison smiled her thanks at the waiter as he laid a fresh platter of sushi between her and Pablo. They sat at a small table in the courtyard of the Bluewater Grill, enjoying the warm spring weather and catching up on the last seven years. So far they’d kept it fairly light. Pablo had told her how he’d got promoted a few times and was now the highest-ranking Detective in his unit. She had a feeling there was more to it that he hadn’t told her yet, but for her part she’d also been a little coy.

When they’d been seeing each other they’d both been just starting out and neither of them had much by way of money or success. Now he was doing very well career-wise, but Alison still felt a little self-conscious about the wealth that her Darque books had brought her and was loathe to bring up exactly how well-off she was these days. She’d talked about her career as a journalist, and was pleased when Pablo revealed that he’d been following her byline, and he even remembered that she’d been nominated for a Pulitzer for that exposé piece on government corruption. She’d also told him about the various romance novels she’d written under assorted pseudonyms, but as she expected he hadn’t heard of any of them.

She selected a piece of eel sashimi and popped it in her mouth, savouring the sharp tangy flavours that exploded across her taste buds, and the cool fire that ran through her nose from the wasabi. She watched Pablo do likewise with some spicy shrimp and took a moment to appreciate that he’d obviously been looking after himself. They’d both taken a few moments to get more casual – Pablo had removed his tie and loosened his shirt, and while she didn’t have a change of clothes so was still wearing her book signing outfit, at least she’d been able to tone down her makeup. Without the dramatic dark eye-liner and vivid lipstick she was able to relax and feel more like herself.

“It wasn’t until I started writing the vampire novels that people began to take notice of me as an author,” she said once she’d finished chewing. “At first it wasn’t anything spectacular, but then after the second book it got a write-up on Wil Wheaton’s blog and he has a gazillion followers, so people began to read them.”

She paused and pointed a chopstick at Pablo. “You know, it was all your doing. I have you to thank for my success, I suppose.” He quirked an eyebrow at her and she explained. “You remember when we first met, at that crime scene? You tried to kid me and tell me it was vampires who’d murdered those people. It planted a seed – when I decided to write in a slightly different genre I thought about that and figured that vampires are always popular subjects. That’s why I made my new hero a vampire.”

Pablo smiled. He had thought about that very day many times himself. In some ways that same day had launched his career. Pablo had insisted to the detective in charge and to his superior that vampires had been responsible. Finally, despite the abuse his fellow officers had inflicted on him - fangs in his locker among other things - a Unit Chief named Kevin O'Barrow had told him that he had been absolutely correct. He had taken him to the Old Police building and down into the basement where he had seen the monsters that preyed on the citizens of the city. That week he had been transferred to SCU. His career had rocketed from there. And he had Alison to thank for not making him feel like an idiot for speaking his mind.

"Alison, I’m glad things have been so good for you. My life hasn't always been easy but I’m doing important work for the city and I even though I’m still alone, I'm happy."

“Believe me, I know how important police work is. I still do crime pieces now and then, and I know how dangerous it is too. And I honestly can’t imagine you doing anything else. I remember the fire you had about your work. Those times I stayed over, you’d head out in the mornings with such purpose.”

Her expression altered, grew a little wistful. “And sometimes you’d come home and I could tell something profound had happened, but you didn’t want to talk about it very often. I’m sorry you’re alone now – you need someone to hold you on nights like that.”

She dropped her gaze to her plate and blushed, something she hadn’t done in a long time. “I’m sorry, that sounded like a come-on, and it wasn’t. I just meant that you deserve someone nice in your life. Not that I meant me or… you know what, I think I’ll just shut up now.” To underline her statement, she popped another piece of sushi in her mouth and mock-glared at Pablo, daring him to make fun of her.

"Alison, it could easily have been you. Under different circumstances. I still have the church though. For those times I have to talk, I talk to God."

Pablo reached for her hand, "But it is nice to have someone you can hold, too."

“You haven’t mentioned anyone in your life. How is an intelligent, gorgeous,” he grinned evilly, “rich woman like you not seeing anyone?"

She let him take her hand, and ran her thumb over his knuckles. “Oh,” she said airily, matching his cheeky tone, “there’s been a veritable bevy of men through my doors, don’t you know? I keep a stable of them handy for social occasions, and one for Sunday best.”

She chuckled, and squeezed his hand lightly. “Well, there’ve been one or two guys I dated for a while. But they never seem to work out. Mostly they can’t understand that I have to devote an awful lot of time to my work. One of them in particular seemed to think that I should just retire and be his housekeeper for the rest of my life.” She made a face. “He didn’t last long.”

"It’s sort of the same here. The usual collection of supermodels and actresses, but the few that hung around past the length of time it took to get to know me weren't willing to share me with my duty."

She had to laugh. “Supermodels, eh? Anyone I might know?”

She’d forgotten how easy it was to talk to Pablo, how he got her sense of humour when so many others hadn’t: the way he’d seen her stable of boy-toys and raised her a few supermodels reminded her forcefully of that. Her last boyfriend would have had a fit if she’d made a joke like that with him.

“I feel like a bit of a fraud,” she confessed once her laughter had subsided. “You’ve got a far more important job than I do. I devote most of my time to making up fantasy stories about mythical creatures, and doing the occasional bit of investigative journalism, but you’re out there saving us from drug barons and murderers. I think you’ve got more right to be bitter about lovers who won’t stay the course.”

"Your work is important in the same way that any successful woman's is. You prove to the world that you’re a match for anything in this world. You don't need a man to protect you, provide for you or to speak for you. Don't sell yourself short, Alison, your work is important so that others will follow."

Pablo smiled and grabbed another bit of spiced tuna. He thought how ironic that he really believed what he had said but at the same time he was protecting her from the truth that was out there. The underbelly of monsters that lurked in the dark places. The same monsters that were cloaked in the very fantasies that she wrote. He knew he had to say something. But experience he had not yet earned when they had first met told him that this was not the moment.

“You make it sound so noble,” Alison commented. “Though I get what you mean. In a culture that’s still essentially patriarchal a strong, independent woman can be a role model for others. But,” she paused and sipped at her sake, “there are times when it’d be nice to be a tough, independent woman with someone safe and strong to snuggle down with.”

She rolled her eyes and withdrew her hand from his, ostensibly to pick up another piece of sushi. “And here I am again, sounding like I’m interviewing you for the job. I’m really not, honestly.”

Right now she wished she’d had the foresight to bring a change of top at the very least. Her low-cut ‘Lucinda’ look suddenly made her feel self-conscious again. She was interested, sure. She and Pablo had got on very well when they’d dated, and it’s not like it had ended badly or anything. They’d just sort of drifted into their own worlds and saw less and less of each other. But tonight, every time she opened her mouth it seemed like she was making veiled suggestions that they should get together. While she couldn’t say it was the furthest thing from her mind, it wasn’t something she wanted to leap into.

Pablo enjoyed sitting quietly with Alison. It was...comfortable. It had been a weird encounter. From seeing her picture in the window of the bookstore to now. Not planned, but organic and natural. It felt like something that had been meant to occur. "Listen, Alison, I know you’re a busy woman and that your life is going to be full of book signings and promo tours. It’s been a lot of fun to reconnect with you and I'd like to see more of you."

His eyes unconsciously strayed to her cleavage and he blushed. "I mean...see you again."

Something about meeting Pablo again had made her feel more like herself than she had for a long time. Maybe it was because she rarely met men who knew her as anything other than Lucinda Graves, and that was what they expected of her all the time. Even when she told them it was her public persona for the books, they still wanted her to be sultry in private and it simply wasn’t her nature. That was probably why she’d had so few relationships that lasted more than a handful of dates in the last few years.

“That would be great,” she replied warmly. “I’ve got signings most afternoons and evenings this week, and a party on the weekend, but I’m free most nights from about eight.” She toyed with her sake glass, watching the blush slowly fade from Pablo’s cheeks. “I’m really glad you came into the bookstore tonight.”

"I'm glad I made the impulsive choice to go and see you again. My evenings are usually busy since I work mostly in the evenings but I have a very flexible schedule. One of the perks of rank," he grinned, "I'm free tomorrow night, for instance, after 10 o'clock. I know this great Irish bar in Little Italy with some of the best food. And a lot of my friends...meaning cops...hang out there."

Alison grinned. “It sounds perfect. I’ll have time to get home and get changed after tomorrow’s signing, so I don’t give your cop buddies heart-attacks with my heaving bosom or anything.”

“It’ll do some of them a bit of good, more likely,” he laughed. “I’ll give you the address.”

He pulled out one of his NYPD business cards and wrote the address on the back. As he handed it to her he said, “I look forward to our second first date.”

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