Enter The Realm of the Pendragon

Duplicity

Genre: Drama
Rating: 15
Word Count: 6,249
Author's Notes: Written for NaNoWriMo 2005
Claire is a lowly administration assistant in a local government office where she keeps very much to herself.
Dante is a young perky gay blond who does something important in marketing but seems to spend most of his time hanging out in a coffee shop with a select group of friends.
They live entirely seperate lives until one day; Dante disappears and only Claire knows where he is. She soon realises that he owes his life to her in more than one way. The question is, which one of them will survive?

Chapter Six

Claire stood in her bedroom, clad only in a large bath towel and stared at the contents of her wardrobe. She was painfully aware of time ticking away and this served only to make her slightly more stressed than she already was. She had managed to persuade Blake to meet at 7 o'clock rather than half past six in order to give her time to get home and dress in something more appropriate. Once Rhea had found out that she had a date with Blake, she was only too happy to send her home a little bit earlier than normal. Claire took advantage of even that 15 minutes extra because it enabled her to miss the rush hour traffic and got her home with enough time to have an extremely quick shower and wash her hair. However, she was now panicking that her hair was now too soft and clean to spike up, but she'd deal with that problem once she'd got over the current one: what should she wear?

"Okay, let's try finding the first things first," Claire said to herself. "Underwear." She crossed the room to her chest of drawers and pulled open the top drawer which contained her underwear. "Except, if I don't know what I'm putting on top, I might put on the wrong things underneath. Gah!" She slammed the drawer shut with a sudden burst of temper and glared over at her wardrobe. Catching sight of her reflection in the mirror on the front of the wardrobe door, she took a few steps forward to take a better look at herself.

She pulled the towel up a few inches, standing first face on and then sideways on to study her legs. They appeared the same as they always had done, short and chunky with prominent muscles in the calf and thigh area, making her drop the towel back down in disgust. There was no doubt that she would be wearing trousers as she didn't possess anything else, but the brief examination of her legs only confirmed her opinion that she never had and never would have the right kind of legs for skirts. They just didn't look right on her.

She pulled open her wardrobe door, examining the few pairs of smart trousers that she owned. Discounting the ones she wore for work only left her with two pairs to chose from and as one of them she preferred over the others, the choice was soon made. She pulled out the black linen trousers glad to see that they were hardly creased and laid them on the bed. Now all she needed was something to wear on top. For work, she tended to wear simple shirts in plain colours so she wanted to wear something different, for Blake to see what she was like off-duty as it were. Her casual choice of top was usually t-shirts in the summer and long sleeved t-shirts or jumpers in the winter, neither of which were at all suitable for such an occasion as this. She frowned. What on earth were you supposed to wear on a date? It had been so long since she'd last dated anyone, at least three years and that was with her ex Simon.

They'd met at the initial rehearsals for a local amateur dramatic society's production of The Wizard of Oz and had got talking in the breaks. They found out that they had similar tastes in music and films and when she expressed an interest in a recent blockbuster that had just been released, he asked if she would like to go and see it with him. It was a more casual kind of date so she had decided on that occasion to wear jeans and a t-shirt. It wasn't until further on in their relationship that they went out to eat at restaurants as opposed to fast food places or cafés and by that time, he knew her and her style, besides which she didn't feel the need to impress him quite so much. There had been times when he'd complained about the fact that she very rarely wore dresses and he'd even bought her one as a present the first Christmas they were together. She'd accepted it gratefully and even wore it on a couple of occasions to please him but she always felt uncomfortable in it and was extremely pleased to take it off as soon as she could.

"I guess I'm just not a girly girl," she'd sighed to Rhea the last time Simon had brought this up, about two months before he dumped her. Rhea had nodded sympathetically, personally thinking that Claire's problem was a severe lack of self-confidence and once she had that, there would be no stopping her. It would be make-up and short skirts and high heels all the way. She'd seen it often enough before, usually in magazines or television make-over programmes and her fingers itched to be able to do the same to Claire.

Claire shook off the memories of the past and concentrated on finding something special to wear for Blake. She flipped through the hangers until she came across the very thing hanging in-between the shirts she wore for work and her more dressy tops. She'd bought it in a fit of madness the only time she'd been clothes shopping with Rhea. Both her friend and the sales assistant had assured her that the colour suited her and that the fit was perfect but the main clincher was that it had been reduced in the sale down to five pounds. Even if she only bought it to shut Rhea up and never actually wore it, it wasn't a great deal of money wasted.

It was a deep burgundy, not at all the kind of colour that Claire usually wore; she tended to stick to more pastel shades which went better with her fair hair and skin. When she got the blouse home, she noticed that it was run through with thin stripes of a scarlet cloth which brightened the dull red base. On a closer inspection, she realised that the dull red fabric was actually a kind of chiffon and therefore verging on transparent and as a result, the item had been shoved into her wardrobe and never seen the light of day since. She just didn't have the confidence to wear something that revealing, even if the stripes of chiffon were not that wide and interspersed with a solid cotton making it not quite as see-though as she had first thought.

She held it up to herself and gazed thoughtfully at her reflection in the mirror. It would suit the trousers she had already picked out and the colour would brighten the black to something less sombre. She even had a bra that would go underneath it, a red velvet one that Simon had bought for her one Valentine's Day which she had worn once and then never again. She wondered momentarily if it was bad taste or even bad luck to wear an item given by one boyfriend on a date with a prospective new one. Well, it didn't matter because apart from the fact that she didn't believe in such things, she didn't have anything else suitable and time was running short.

It didn't take her long to find the bra and suitable underwear and she was soon dressed in those, the trousers and blouse. She rummaged in the bottom of the wardrobe amongst the shoeboxes there to find the one that contained her smart going-out boots that she saved purposely for special occasions such as these. They were a zip up boot of black leather with stitching similar to that which would be found on a cowboy boot and were the comfiest boots she'd ever worn. That was the main reason she kept them for best; that and the fact that they went with anything she had, smart trousers, jeans and even casual trousers.

She grabbed a pair of black socks from her sock drawer and pulled them on, followed by the boots. She took a quick look at herself in the full-length mirror on the wardrobe door and nodded with satisfaction before going into the bathroom to do her hair. She was glad her hair was now so short, it mean that in the space of time it had taken her to find an outfit and get dressed, her hair was practically dry. She picked up the pot of hairwax from off the shelf and after rubbing a small amount between her palms, applied it to her hair until it was spiking it up every which way to her satisfaction. With one final glance at her appearance in the mirror, she pulled on her navy blue duffle coat, picked up her bag and set off into town to meet Blake at Café Ma&ntilda;ana.

One of the things that made Claire extremely nervous was arranging to meet people she barely knew in places she wasn't used to seeing them. Meeting a work colleague she had only spoken to briefly, albeit on half a dozen occasions, in a café she had never been before certainly came under that category. As she walked from the car park to the café, she began to wish that she'd arranged to meet Blake outside; she was concerned that she would enter the café, look around and not recognise him there and subsequently die of embarrassment when he revealed himself to be sitting right under her nose. She glanced at her watch, it was ten to seven and the café was only on the corner at the end of this street. It wouldn't take her ten minutes to get there so she slowed down drastically lest she be much too early which she thought would either make her look extremely eager or very desperate. Neither were particularly good. She stalled a minute or two examining the clothes on the dummies in a boutique window and was momentarily distracted by wondering what sort of people would actually pay those kinds of prices for clothes she would be far too embarrassed to purchase, never mind wear.

Finally she couldn't delay her arrival anymore, at least not unless she actually turned round to go back up the street and come down it again. She pushed open the door of the café and was hit by a waft of warm air heavy with the scent of Italian cooking. It made her stomach grumble and she realised how hungry she was. The café was mostly empty, only three of the tables were occupied and it didn't take her long to be sure that none of the occupants were Blake. She was unsure what to do. Should she take a seat and wait for Blake there or would she be better waiting outside so that they could go in together? She perused the tables again, trying to decide which one she would like to sit at, when the door opened behind her and a blast of cold night air came in. She glanced over her shoulder and was confronted by a familiar face.

"Hello Claire. You know, we really must stop meeting like this."

"Hello Blake," Claire smiled shyly. She ran her eye over his outfit, the black reefer jacket, a soft shirt made of that kind of material that appears blue from some angles but green from others, a smart pair of dark grey trousers with a faint silver pinstripe. She realised that he would be giving her the once-over too and was suddenly aware of her hair, her coat, her boots, her bag; everything that was on show as well as everything that might be on show once she took her coat off.

"Where would you like to sit?" He deferred to her and she glanced once more around the café.

"Oh. Erm, how about over there?" She pointed to a table in a secluded area over by the wall and he nodded.

"Looks good to me." He lead the way over and pulled out a chair for her.

"Thank you," she murmured, feeling slightly uneasy. It was all so polite and strangely formal. She felt slightly out of place, as though she was in a play but had no idea of the script or the plot.

She placed her backpack on the floor by her feet next to the wall. She began to wish that she had a nice dainty little bag like Rhea's instead of the rucksack she used for work. Blake had removed his jacket and hung it over the back of his chair before taking the seat opposite her. Claire suddenly felt very wary of the revealing blouse she was wearing and although she was loathe to take her coat off, she knew she couldn't sit there with it on all night. She slowly unfastened the buttons, glad that her fingers weren't shaking to give away how nervous she was.

Get a grip on yourself, Claire! She scolded herself as she shrugged her duffle coat off her shoulders. You are just having something to eat with a friend, it's no different from going out for lunch with Rhea during the day. Blake is a very nice guy, he's friendly and easy to talk to. You've practically been flirting with him for the past two days for crying out loud. Now relax and enjoy yourself. And stop worrying about your stupid blouse!

"You look very nice," Blake said, smiling at her. "I like the colour."

"Oh, thank you," she blushed, genuinely surprised.

He passed her a copy of the menu and she fought the urge to hide behind it. "I don't know about you but I am starving! The food here is really nice. I highly recommend all of it."

"All of it?" Claire quickly scanned the selection of dishes that were on offer. They were a mix of Italian and Spanish with quite a variety from each. "You must come here a lot," she commented, only realising belatedly how clichéd it must sound, even if it wasn't exactly 'do you come here often?'

Blake either didn't notice or was too polite to say anything but it still made Claire cringe inwardly. "I used to come here once a month with a friend of mine. We practically worked our way through the entire menu."

"You used to?" Claire queried, trying to decide if she'd rather have a starter or a dessert.

"Oh, he found a girlfriend, he doesn't have time for his mates any more." He didn't sound bitter or resentful at all, simply as if he was stating a matter of fact. Claire wondered if he was over the hurt by now or just used to pretending it didn't exist. Before she could say anymore, he changed the conversation. "I wonder if I want a starter or a dessert."

"I was just wondering the same thing," Claire smiled. "Mind you, I'm now looking at the selection of puddings and I think I might have to pass on the starter."

"Oh? What's caught your eye?"

"Cheesecake." It was Claire's favourite and there was no way she was going to pass up on the opportunity to have it.

Blake grinned. "Well, that's me sold too. I think I will have the penne a la arabiata first though. As much as I'd love to just sit here and eat cheesecake all night."

"Oh, where's that?" Blake leant over and indicated the place on the menu. Claire pondered it for a moment. "No, I think I'll have the chicken cacciatore." She looked up just as a waitress was heading over to their table.

"Are you ready to order?" she asked and Blake nodded. He gave their order, they chose drinks and then they were left alone to wait for their meal.

There was silence. Claire shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "So, how was your day?" she asked finally.

He smiled. "Surprisingly good. I had a lot of e-mails from a very nice girl who was helping me with a rather tricky project. I think we made some progress with it." She looked up at him with a question on her lips that died when she noticed his expression and realised that he was talking about her. She flushed and had to look away.

"Oh. Yes." She was at a loss for words.

"I always think e-mails are a poor second when it comes to an actual face to face meeting though," he continued.

"Presumably in a more comfortable surrounding than the kitchen," she added.

"Oh indeed."

They were interrupted by the waitress bringing over their drinks so they waited until she had left them alone again before resuming their conversation. "You know, I think it's surprising who you can meet in the kitchen." He gave her a questioning glance. "Well, take yesterday for example. Before I met you in there, you met Rhea. She was quite taken with you, but it seems that the interest was not reciprocated."

Blake choked a little on his drink. "Well, that's because I know Rhea. Or to be more precise, I know of Rhea. Let's just say her reputation precedes her."

Claire giggled. "I don't think she'd take too kindly to knowing that. As much as I know she likes to be noticed, I don't think that's the kind of thing she wants to be noticed for."

"I can quite well believe it. Word soon gets around places like ours though. How long did she think she would be able to hop from one bloke to another before word got around? I mean, don't get me wrong, I imagine she's probably a very lovely girl, I just didn't want to be another notch on her bedpost. Besides, it wouldn't reflect very well on me."

Claire nodded thoughtfully. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

"That's because you're not that sort of girl," Blake informed her.

She was saved from answering by the arrival of their food. It looked good and smelt delicious. Claire's stomach growled, reminding her of how hungry she was and she wasted no time in tucking in. Blake approved of this. He had been out with enough girls who would order a nothing but a salad and a glass of water because they were watching their figures, even though they generally didn't have much of one to watch, and then would want to pick at his own meal. It was a refreshing change to actually be with someone who wasn't like that at all. Actually, Claire was a refreshing change completely. She wasn't like most girls. He liked the fact that she didn't bother with make-up and looked perfectly fine without it. He also was intrigued by the way she said what she thought, she didn't play games and try to trick him. She was a very welcome breath of fresh air and the more time he spent in her company, the more he liked what he saw.

Claire watched Blake out of the corner of her eye. She had been expecting him to wolf down his meal in a manner not dissimilar to that of her ex. He always seemed to be able to eat his entire meal in ten seconds flat, no matter whether it was piping hot curry or freezing cold ice cream and then he would make a start on hers. It had been one of the things about him that annoyed her the most. That and the griping about her preferred choice of clothing.

The conversation carried on while they ate. They discussed various books and films that they liked, the music they were into. Blake recommended two bands that he thought Claire might like, she tried to persuade him to try a new Young Adult fantasy author that she expected was the kind of thing he would enjoy judging by the other writers he preferred. They found it nice and comfortable in each other's company; Claire forgot to be so self-conscious about her blouse and Blake was surprised to find a girl who not only appreciated the same things that he did, but one who was articulate enough to be able to dissect them with him.

They had finished their cheesecake quite some time ago. Blake drained his glass and decided that he didn't want another. The waitress came over to clear the plates away and returned with the bill.

"I think they want us to leave."

Claire giggled. "Not necessarily. They could just want the money."

"Good point." Blake opened up the folded slip of paper and without a word pulled his wallet from out of his jacket pocket. Claire watched anxiously. Would he expect her to pay for her share? Should she even offer or would that offend him? She wasn't sure what was the best thing to do. Maybe if she got her purse out of her bag, that would be enough to get him to say one way or the other. She leant over as if she was going to reach down to her bag. Blake looked over at her and smiled. "This is my treat, you know."

She smiled back at him. "Thank you. And you were right, the food is really nice here."

The waitress came over and took the card Blake proffered. She soon returned with the credit slip for him to sign and when he had scrawled his signature on it, she smiled and wished them both a pleasant evening.

"Did you drive in?" Claire asked as she stood up to pull on her coat.

"No, I only live a few streets away actually," he replied. "How about you?"

"Oh, I drove in, I live out in the suburbs. I parked just round the corner though."

Blake fastened up the buttons on his jacket and watched as Claire settled her bag over her shoulder. "Shall we go?" Claire nodded and led the way out. Once outside, he asked her where her car was and she pointed out the car park. "Oh, right. My flat is just over there. Would you like to come up for a coffee?"

Blake's flat was above a small independent computer shop a couple of streets away from the main road that ran through the town centre. It was more or less a glorified bedsit; the main room contained both bedroom and living room, with a tiny kitchen at one end hidden behind a screen. The bathroom was a separate room off a short corridor which also contained a washing machine.

The livingroom/bedroom area was a long thin room with several large windows. It was painted a pale honey yellow and fitted out with black metal furniture which gave it a strangely modern yet Mediterranean look. A large screen tv stood facing a futon that converted into a bed therefore taking up less space on the floor. A small coffee table in the area between the television set and the futon doubled up as a dining table and could easily be pushed out of the way at night. The walls were covered with framed pictures and photos and two large bookcases, one of which actually contained books, the other was filled with videos, dvds and CDs. In front of the screen that divided the kitchen into a separate room was a computer workstation, cluttered with tissues, empty mugs, CDs and a couple of chocolate bar wrappers.

The Japanese wooden screen looked slightly out of place amongst all the black metal but on the other side, it rather resembled a large pinboard, having recipes and shopping lists stuck to it with drawing pins and Blu-tack. The kitchen area mainly combined a small worksurface that ran the width of the room with a tiny sink at one end. Cupboards both above and below provided storage area for food and kitchenware and a small fridge stood on its own near the screen, next to a tiny cooker. It was quite cramped and slightly claustrophobic if there was any more than one person in there, but for someone on their own it was fine.

Blake gave Claire the grand tour which took all of two minutes.

"This is the bedroom and over here - " he took a step to the left "is the living room. Situated quite conveniently close to each other I think you'll agree, maximises space but also cuts down on time spent wandering from one room into another." He indicated the bookcases "This is the library, it contains many books and other media, including several early editions of The Beano annual." Claire assumed a suitably impressed expression. "Over here you'll see several great works of art." Blake walked over to the framed photos, waving his hand over them in the manner of a stately home tour guide. "This one is particularly special, it's called 'young boy in bath' and the subject is actually the master of the house aged about 2. All the young ladies think it a particularly delightful scene, I believe." Claire aww'ed appropriately and he grinned. Turning towards the other end of the room, he took several steps in the direction of the computer. "This is the study. I won't let you in there, it's a bit of a mess, that's where the master spends most of his free time actually." His gaze fell upon the oriental screen next to it. "Now, this piece has an interesting history. It was actually found in a back bedroom in Henley-on-Arden and was offered to the master of the house as being a suitable addition to the house's art collection. It was valued quite recently by an expert and we are told that the actual price of it was something in the region of 'elaborately painted firewood'." Claire giggled. Blake frowned. "A friend of mine said it was naff and that was pretty much all it was good for, but it used to belong to my aunt so I like it."

"It doesn't really go with the rest of the furniture," Claire said.

"I know, but the workstation is wood and so are the bookcases so it's not that out of place. Besides, it looks all right on the other side with the kitchen cupboards." Claire peered her head round and agreed that it did. "Anyway, I'm afraid this is where the tour ends. Ordinarily, in the summer months, the tour would continue out into the gardens but they are closed at this time of year."

"Gardens?" Claire asked in some surprise.

"There's a flat roof," Blake explained, "You can get to it by way of the door in the hallway and in the summer it's nice to sit up there. There's not really any greenery as such, but I suppose I could put some plants there in tubs." He pondered. "I'd probably forget to water them though."

"That wouldn't matter so much if they were outside," she pointed out. "They'd get watered when it rained."

"This is true." Blake turned to the kitchen. "I offered you a cup of coffee, how do you like it?"

"Oh, right. With two sugars but no milk please. Not too strong."

"Okay, I won't be long. Make yourself at home." He waved his hand at the futon and disappeared behind the screen. Claire looked at the direction he had disappeared in for a second or two before turning back into the room. She walked back over to the futon and put her bag down on the floor next to it. Unfastening her coat and slipping out of it, she folded it over the back of the futon before looking around the room. The framed pictures caught her eye and she wandered over to take a better look at them.

The majority of the photos were of Blake at various stages of his life: with a couple that she presumed were his mum and dad, blowing out the candles on his fifth birthday cake; at Disneyland with Goofy aged about 9 or 10; a high school photo; with a young girl that could have been his first girlfriend, and then in a graduation cap and gown. Mingled in between were pictures of him in various settings and with a variety of people. It looked like he'd travelled pretty widely, some of the scenery was definitely not that of the British Isles. There were gorgeous sunsets, fantastic waterfalls and brilliantly white beaches. In every single one, Blake was surrounded by happy smiling beautiful people and looked totally at ease with them. This didn't surprise her really, he could quite easily be one of those beautiful people himself even though his good looks weren't quite so stereotypical. It made her a little sad for some reason she couldn't quite put her finger on.

"There you are, one black coffee with two sugars and made not too strong. I hope that's okay, I don't tend to make coffee for other people."

Claire turned round and took the proffered mug. "Oh, it looks all right, I'm sure it will be fine." She indicated over her shoulder. "I was just admiring your photos, it looks like you've travelled a lot."

Blake took a sip of his coffee and nodded. "Yeah, I was a member of a youth orchestra and choir up until I was 25 and we did performances in lots of different countries." He indicated some of the photos. "France, Germany, Austria. That's Boston in America and that's San Francisco. Oh, and that's New Zealand."

"Wow," Claire breathed, impressed despite herself. She had always wanted to see more of the world than the little corner of England in which she had resided these past 23 years and to meet someone who had done just that was enough to make her slightly jealous. "I bet you had a great time."

"Oh yeah, I loved it, I didn't want to leave the group at all, but it's a youth thing and that means you can only be a member up until the age of 25. There isn't even an adult version that you can move onto so once you've left, there's just this big huge gap in your life." He strode over to the futon and sank down upon it, staring moodily into his coffee.

She watched him, unsure of what to say or do. He seemed quite a different person than the cheerful easy-going man she'd been used to so far that night. She took a hesitant step towards him and then walked more confidently to sit down with him.

"It sounds like you really miss it," she empathised and he nodded.

"Yeah, but things change. Times change and we move on. I couldnt expect it to last forever." She leant forward, putting her mug down on the coffee table. He watched her and seemed to regain his earlier mood. "That's what I like about you, not just that you're easy to talk to, but you seem to understand where I'm coming from. Most girls just either act like they do or don't really care at all, but you're not like that."

She was a little startled by this and didn't quite know how to respond. She'd been told before that she wasn't like most girls and had even declared it on several occasions, but it sounded different coming from Blake. He placed his coffee down on the floor and shifted round to face her. "I mean it, I just feel like I can really talk to you and that you'd listen." He leant forward slightly, looking intently at her. She felt her mouth go dry.

"Oh." She couldn't think of anything else to say.

"You're quite an amazing person."

She gazed at him as though hypnotised. He moved steadily forward until he was up close; Claire licked her lips anxiously and the next thing she knew, his mouth was on hers and he was kissing her.

The kiss only lasted a few seconds but it seemed to take longer than that. As Blake pulled away, she realised that she had been holding her breath and let it out in a long slow sigh. He took this as an indication that she'd liked it and moved back in for another kiss. Claire was too taken by surprise to do anything but as his lips moved back on hers, she found herself caught up in the moment and began to respond.

He flicked the tip of his tongue along her bottom lip and she tried to gasp. As her mouth opened under his, he slipped his tongue in and began to deepen the kiss. It felt strange to her, in that way that kissing someone new does after being with the same person for a long time and getting used to the way they do things. It wasn't unpleasant, simply different and made it hard for her to completely relax into it. A little part of her was aware of what was going on and wondering what was going to happen next. Then his hand slid round her shoulders, pulling her body towards his, before slipping up into her hair at the back of her neck, his thumb working little circles at the nape. It made her shiver. A soft moan escaped her lips and all at once, she was lost.

Afterwards, she wasn't entirely sure how she had come to be lying down on the futon with Blake resting on top of her. She remembered him kissing her neck and sucking softly on the skin there, making her close her eyes and breathe hard at the sensations it awoke within her. He had slipped one hand down her side, brushing away the flimsy material of her blouse and trailing his fingers along the soft skin of her waist. When he reached the fastening of her trousers, he gently eased them open and slipped his fingers inside to work their way into her underwear. It was at this point that she gasped out loud and tried to sit bolt upright, reaching down to tug his hand away as she did so.

"What's wrong?" He asked in confusion.

"No no, not there." She pulled at his hand again, managing to remove it and started to do up her trousers.

He sat up slightly and watched her, a frown creasing his forehead. "What?"

"I can't. I don't like it."

"You don't like what? Being touched?"

"I'm sorry." She stood up, smoothing out her trousers and pulling her blouse down. She looked down to where he was half-sitting half-lying on the futon.

Blake sat up, running a hand through his hair trying to work out what had just happened. "No, it's okay. Really it is. I didn't actually mean to go that far, it just sort of happened." Claire nodded unhappily, biting her lip. He stood up and took hold of her arms. "It's not your fault, I'm glad you said no when you did. I'd rather you did that than... Well... It's important that you're comfortable."

She sighed and looked down at her shoes, biting her lip. "That's just the thing. I'm not comfortable. It's hard to explain. I have... issues and I just can't... I just can't. I'm sorry."

He blinked and took a deep breath. He didn't think she was a tease, far from it. There was obviously some genuine problem here but he had no idea what it was. "It's okay, though. Nothing happened. No harm done, right?"

She glanced up at him, meeting his eyes briefly before looking away. "Right." She nodded slightly. "I think I should be going home."

He released her and took a step back. "Okay." He moved over to the futon, picking up her coat from off the back of it and opened it up, holding it out to her for her to put on. She slipped her arms into it and fastened up the buttons. As she bent down to pick up her bag, he went to get his jacket from the chair at the workstation where he'd placed it early. "Let me walk you to your car."

"It's not that far," she protested.

"I wouldn't let you walk there on your own at night," he stated simply.

She gave him a small smile. "Thank you." He nodded and walked over to the door. He held it open for her. "Shall we?"

They walked in near silence to the car park a short distance away in a nearby street. It was practically empty and there were very little streetlamps so Claire was glad that Blake had offered to walk her there, despite feeling marginally uncomfortable at his presence.

"There's my car," she said, pointing it out. They stopped and she turned to face him. "Thank you for a really nice night, I had a great time." She was going to say something further about more recent events but she thought maybe it was not a good idea and ended up trailing off.

"So did I," he responded. "I meant what I said, I think you're a really special girl." She blushed a little and looked away in embarrassment. "So, I'll see you at work tomorrow?"

"Oh yeah, in the kitchen probably." She chuckled and he grinned.

"All right, see you tomorrow then."

"See you tomorrow." Claire smiled up at him and he ducked his head, placing a soft kiss on her lips before she turned and walked over to her car. He waited until she had started the engine and began to pull away before walking back up to his flat.

Chapter Seven.

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