“Fire & Ice: A Love Story”, Ch. 26: Sunday Evening Dinner and a Fireside Chat, 6/25/12 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #216)
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[I will illustrate my story with images of actors representing my ‘dream cast’–including Richard Armitage and Anne Hathaway for the lead characters of Thomas and Caroline, respectively, as noted in the image credits.]
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Author’s Mature Content Note: “Fire & Ice” is a romantic thriller. As such there will be some passages in this story involving heartfelt love scenes and some passages involving intrigue and some violence. I will label those chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings I provide, then please don’t read those chapters. This is my disclaimer.
Author’s Story Recap: Sunday lunch in the park was fun as they fed the ducks and Trevor played on the playground equipment with his Daddy, Thomas, spotting him. Nap time was amusing with Thomas and Caroline getting caught embracing naked in their bedroom by Trevor. But he was merely interested in his Mommy and Daddy waking up to play with him and feed him, not that they were missing their jammies–since almost three and a half year old toddlers are more interested in themselves than other people. But Thomas and Caroline were slightly embarrassed and resolved to lock their door in the future during their alone time. [Today is a short installment. More on Friday.]
“Fire & Ice”, Chapter 26: Sunday Night Dinner and a Fireside Chat
There was some chicken left over from Saturday night, So, Thomas cuts it off the bone into small bite sized pieces while Caroline boils a saucepan of egg noodles in butter. When the noodles are ready, she has Thomas drain them of all but a quarter cup of fluid–because she can’t do that one handed–then she adds more butter and adds in the chicken to cook for a few more minutes. This meal is an old favorite of Caroline’s and Thomas’—from when they lived together before. They also have cut green beans and fruit to round out their dinner. Trevor loves their chicken and noodles meal—even though he has a hard time chasing the slippery egg noodles around in his bowl to Thomas and Caroline’s mutual amusement.
Since today has been another long day at the park, as well as attending church, little Trevor eagerly goes to bed to sleep after a bedtime story after his bath. Then once again, Thomas and Caroline have some private time to themselves as they sit on the couch by the fireplace. The flickering light of the gas flames casts a soft glow over the room and them.
Thomas: “Caroline, this has been a wonderful first couple of days together as a family. I love you and our little son Trevor so much!”
Caroline: “I know. We love you so, Thomas. It’s almost been like a dream. A dream that I don’t want to end.” Caroline tears up a little bit. Though Thomas has continued to express his love for Caroline and his wish to marry her, it will still take her some time to feel completely secure in his love.
Thomas: “I don’t want us to end either. Nothing will part us ever again, Caroline my love. Nothing!” Thomas looks steadfastly at Caroline and he kisses her lovingly and adoringly. “You know, we’ll have to pick out your engagement ring this week and start thinking about a wedding date.”
Caroline: She smiles up at him. “Yes, that will be nice. But, with me starting work with you tomorrow, I still want to keep us strictly professional at work.”
Thomas: “Certainly. Of course, with us carpooling in together, folks might get an inkling.” He raises his eyebrows sheepishly.
Caroline: “Well, let them have an inkling. We just don’t have to indulge their questions for now.”
Thomas: “Right. Well, we’ll handle your new hire like we do any new hire. I usually have a meeting with the new person first thing in the morning to go over some basics of how we work and summarize some of our current projects. Then, I’ll introduce you to the team and you’ll be assigned to a mentor to help you get up to speed on our projects. Then, we all go out for lunch together on me. Sort of a welcome to the team spirit building activity. Then, once a month, we head out early on a Friday afternoon for drinks and appetizers just to decompress—that is, when projects don’t keep us there.”
Caroline: “Ha ha ha! You weren’t kidding! You really do espouse a team spirit, an esprit de corps.” She smiles at him impishly.
Thomas: He shrugs his shoulders and tilts his head in acknowledgement of his proactive business management practices. “Well, it’s kept our division cohesive for the past year and a half. The only reason we had an opening for you to be hired for was because of a retirement due to poor health.” Then Thomas pauses because what he will tell her next is not pleasant–and he is not sure how she will take it. “I also want to warn you about something.”
Thomas: “Paul Foster also works in the building—as another Division Chief.” Thomas says this with great trepidation because Paul caused the split and heartache between Thomas and Caroline–losing four years of their lives—though it was Thomas’ fault for believing Paul’s lies that Caroline was unfaithful to him.
Caroline: “Hhhh!” Caroline gasps as if someone just punched her solar plexus. Then she says with great concern. “I didn’t realize that Paul would be in the building when I accepted the position.” Understandably, Caroline hates Paul for what he did to her and the time that their family lost from not being together. “Do you ever run into him?”
Thomas: “Unfortunately, I do—at Division Chief meetings with the Director. So, far we’ve managed to keep our distance from each other. But, if he tries anything again to harm us or our family, I’ll kill him.” Thomas says this coldly and ruthlessly–like the trained operative he was in his earlier life with the Company.
Caroline: “Let’s just hope Paul does nothing. … Does he know that I’m starting work Monday Morning?”
Thomas: “Probably. New employee profiles are circulated among the division heads.”
Caroline: “We’ll just have to steer clear of him and be mindful of any subterfuge that he might initiate through third parties.” Both of them are thinking strategically and analytically as the trained operatives that they are. “I have a thought, since Paul may think he can use our past history together against us, why don’t we cut him off before he can spread rumors about us?”
Thomas: “What do you mean?”
Caroline: “I know I said that I don’t want my new coworkers to know that we’re a couple. But my now knowing that Paul is there changes things. Why don’t we be open about it? You tell your boss first thing in the morning and then, we can tell the team when you introduce me to them. We can lay down the ground rules then and there so that they won’t think that I’m getting special treatment because you and I are engaged and we have a child together.”
Thomas: “Well, actually, my boss already knows our history as a couple. I felt that I had to seek his advice when the search committee put forward your name for the position before we hired you—you were their only choice, by the way.”
Caroline: “Thanks for letting me know that. What did your boss say?”
Thomas: “Well, he thanked me for my candor and my willingness to set aside my personal feelings for the sake of the team.” She looks at him quizzically. “You see, my boss, was also our boss when we were in the field together before and were a couple.”
Caroline: “You mean Peter Wendt is the Director?” She looks at Thomas a bit stunned—since learning of internal hierarchies is not standard to new employees before their first day of work–not knowing if Peter being in charge is a good thing or a bad thing.
Thomas: “Yes. Peter also knows what really happened between you and I—that Paul spread lies about you to me. So, Peter’s only concern for your being hired by my Division was that he knew the effect my realization of my betrayal of you and our love had on me.” Caroline does not speak, but she looks searchingly into Thomas’ eyes. Then Thomas gets very quiet as he continues revealing his past to Caroline. “You see, I became rather self-destructive there for about six months after I found out the truth and I fully felt my guilt and blame for what happened to us. … I accepted dangerous field assignments.” Thomas pauses and then says slowly. “And I began taking unnecessary risks.”
Caroline: “Oh my love.” Caroline squeezes Thomas’ arm, mindful that she could have lost him forever if he had died while on assignment.
Thomas: “Peter reigned me in and he helped me to get control of my life again. He also pulled me out of the field to work as a Senior Analyst in the division that I’m head of now. I focused all my attention on the work. It turns out that I was so good at it, when our Division Chief retired, I was named to replace him a year and a half ago.”
Caroline: “Did Peter have any suggestions for how to deal with the issue of us as a couple if it came up?”
Thomas: “Yes, he said that he would be happy to assuage any concerns that the team members might have about us by him participating in your annual performance evaluations and such. That is standard when couples or family members work together. We have actually had this situation in the past when team members have become a couple after working together. It helps everyone feel that they are on a level playing field. No one is getting special treatment, nor is anyone being left behind because we’re trying to bend over backwards to show that we’re not showing any favoritism.”
Caroline: “So, is there still another couple on the team currently?”
Thomas: “Well, if there were, that would be up to them to reveal that to you when they meet you tomorrow.” Which, of course, means that there is another couple working on the team. Because if there weren’t a couple already on the team, Thomas would have just said so.
Caroline: “Fair enough. Maybe you and I should plan to avoid ‘shop talk’ at home so that we don’t risk compromising our positions at work.”
Thomas: “Good idea.” Then Thomas pulls Caroline closer to him as they cuddle and he kisses her warmly. “Besides, we have enough to fill our lives at home between Trevor and our nights together.
Caroline: Smiling lovingly at Thomas, she says. “I agree.”
Having broached the minefield of navigating their work life together—with the specter of their nemesis Paul Foster lurking in the background—Thomas and Caroline turn their attentions to their love and lovemaking. Thomas and Caroline do make love on the hearth rug—but quickly as parents of toddlers need to do. They resolve that when they find a new and larger home for them all to live in together, that their master bedroom needs to have its own fireplace for just such romantic interludes in the future.
To be continued with Chapter 27
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