The phone rang precisely two times before Robert got to it.
“Hello?” he answered, practically juggling to balance the bowl in his hand.
“Look at that!” replied a rather happy voice. “It seems that those people from WHO can indeed get anyone’s phone number in the world!”
“Sienna!” Langdon grinned. “I wasn’t expecting – You – ahn –”
She gave a throaty chuckle, and he could hear a strong wind as though she was in a car.
“How’re you doing, Robert?”
“Fine,” he answered promptly. “I’ve been doing fine. What about you? How are things in Geneva?”
“Actually …” Sienna sighed. “I landed in Boston a couple hours ago.”
“Did you really?” Robert frowned staring out the window, though he kept a small smile on his lips.
“Any chance you can meet a friend for dinner?”
“Why yes, of course!” he exclaimed then glanced at the bowl full of vegetables in his hand. “But, um, you know what? Why don’t you stop by, and I’ll cook you dinner?”
“Sounds perfect.” She wouldn’t even need to tell the driver to change the route. “I should be there in about 20 minutes. Yeah, I guess. Where should I meet you?”
“Harvard Square. It’s easy enough to find,” he told her.
“All right,” she said.
“I’ll see you then.”
Langdon turned off his phone and looked around. Well, it wasn’t as if he could get that mess organized.
Fifteen minutes later, he found himself at the Harvard Square. As usual, it was full of students entering the stores or just walking around talking about their days. He pocketed his hands and leaned against a lamppost to wait, nodding every now and then when one of his students passed by him. It was an odd feeling, waiting eagerly for a young woman who he had not seen or heard of in three months. It was as if only now he realized that he had missed her, though in hindsight, he had thought of her quite a few times in the last trimester. He recalled the day they spent together in Florence; he didn’t even need to close his eyes to see her perfectly. Oftentimes during this time apart, he had found himself wondering whether it had been indeed only one day that they had spent together. Certainly it felt like so much more. However, he knew all too well that life-threatening situations often brought people closer more effectively than weeks of acquaintanceship. A moment later, Langdon didn’t need to imagine her anymore, he saw her, and a small smile spread on his lips.
Sienna Brooks left the cab, pausing for a short moment to lean against the car’s window to pay the driver. She wore a white T-shirt and jeans, ones that highlighted her slender waist, he noticed; her blonde hair was once again tied in a ponytail, a shoulder bag was in her hands as she stowed away her wallet while thanking the driver. She was just turning around to search for him when Langdon’s tall frame caught her eye.
“Only you to wear a turtleneck to meet a friend at the square,” she remarked with a wide grin, shouldering her purse as she neared him.
“I’m a professor, I have a reputation around here,” he said, smiling still.
Sienna threw herself at him, holding him tightly. Robert returned the hug, wrapping his arms around her. Her eyes closed, and she nuzzled his shoulder. Three months thinking of meeting him again once the World Health Organization no longer needed her, and now she was finally here. How relieved she felt …
“I missed you, Robert,” Sienna whispered breathing deeply.
“I missed you too, Sienna.”
Langdon loosened his grip around her, but she seemed attached to him, and it took her another moment to finally let go of him. Of course that if she had her way, that welcome wouldn’t end with that hug – wouldn’t even have started with it to begin with though she wasn’t at all opposed to being in his arms. Sienna stepped back, smiling at him as she gestured for him to lead the way.
“How long are you staying?” Robert asked as they started to walk.
“Just one or two days,” she answered. “Need to go back to my job. I’m already missing the patients.”
“You do work at the ER or was that just –?”
“No, I do. I do,” she confirmed. “It’s a mess, you know, taking fast decisions and blood and flu, but I like it. I really like it.”
“Keeps you busy then, doesn’t it?” Langdon remarked.
“Yes!” Sienna nodded. The essential part of her job and anything she did. “Very busy.”
“Look!” He pointed to an old sign that said ‘The end is near.’ “Remember I told you about them?”
“I do, yeah,” she answered. “At least now something has been done about it.”
They walked past the square, contouring the library until they arrived at his quarters. Langdon opened the door for her, his cheeks going slightly red as the apartment became visible to her.
“Sorry about the mess.”
His so called mess consisted of a few neatly folded clothes over the couch, an open luggage on the floor and cutlery and bowls all over the small kitchen. Her eyebrows rose.
“Honestly, Robert,” Sienna began, “Botticelli’s fourth level of hell in the Mappa was more organized than this.”
Langdon chuckled whilst closing the door behind them, hoping she had indeed been mocking and didn’t mind it.
“Avaricious? Me?” He shook his head. “Oh no. For more knowledge perhaps … Mind you, I’m leaving for Florence tomorrow, that’s the reason for the mess.”
“I see.” Sienna nodded walking further into the apartment. She knew that of course, after all, Robert Langdon had been the main topic of conversation between her and Dr. Sinskey when they first headed to Geneva, and the elder woman had told her all about the conversation she had had with Robert as they went to Florence in that same airplane the day before, how he was terrified of the closed space due to a childhood trauma in a well and craved any distraction he could get, especially talking with an old lady about the city he had visited many times while attending a conference with several important people in the art business.
“Are you hungry?” Robert asked. “I know these companies don’t give us much to eat these days. You must be starving.”
“Quite a bit,” she confirmed.
“I’m making a beef stew,” he told her stepping into the kitchen. “To be honest it’s rather fortunate that you arrived, I don’t want to leave anything in the freezer to go to waste when I return.”
“Let’s feast in beef stew then,” Sienna declared with a small grin leaving her purse on a chair nearby and following him. “Need any help?”
“No, it’s all right.” Langdon motioned to an empty spot on the couch. “You’re my guest ... and you must be tired from your trip.”
Sienna rolled her eyes, letting her breath out in a puff.
“You know I can’t really stand boredom, Robert. I’m all right,” she declared and promptly dismissing his attempts to let her relax while in his place. “What do I do?”
Defeated, Robert smiled sheepishly.
“You can slice the vegetables then,” he offered, gesturing to a knife beside a bowl with half a potato, a tomato, and a carrot that he had earlier when she called him.
He walked to the stove and placed a pan on it.
“How were things in Geneva? That should have been my question over the phone, shouldn’t it?” Langdon enquired.
“I suppose it should have,” she said having finished the carrot and moving on to the tomato. “But let’s keep the best for when the main dish is served, shall we?”
“As you wish.” Robert got a second bowl filled with meat and poured its content in the pan. “Do answer me one question though. Please.”
Sienna looked at him sideways for a moment, but something in his piercing blue eyes made a grin play at the corner of her lips.
“Do I have a chef in my apartment right now or am I doomed to bore you with my humble cooking skills?”
Sienna burst out laughing.
“No, Robert.” She shook her head, her ponytail swinging from one side to the other as she did so. “You most definitely do not have a chef in your apartment. Unless you’re one yourself, and I don’t know. We never really shared a meal, did we?” she asked with a small frown.
Langdon shook his head, trying to remember, but the only thing he recalled eating while in her presence were caffeine pills.
“Oh, wait – No! We did! We had sandwiches on the train on our way to Venice!” she grinned and seeing his nod as he recalled it, she returned to finish the potato. “Anyway, my memory helps while cooking though. I can remember very well what worked the last time I tried a certain recipe – and what didn’t.”
“Forgive an old man’s memory,” Robert started, “but I don’t think a beef stew works without vegetables. Done?” he asked smiling.
“Done.” Sienna nodded handing him the bowl, and he let the sliced vegetables fall in the pan along with the beefs. “Was it always you by yourself? No girls living in here?” she inquired after having shot a glance around the place full of pieces of art on every shelf, they screamed Robert Langdon.
“Oh, yes.” He nodded following her gaze. “Just me. Unless you count the professor who previously lived here. I cannot speak for him. Might have had several ladies here with him, and we shall never know.”
“Well,” she stepped closer to him, “you do have a lady in your apartment now, professor.”
A very beautiful lady.
For a split second, Robert wasn’t sure how he should reply. Was she flirting? She 'was' flirting, right? In his despair to look cool, he found himself letting a small smirk come to his lips, though he quickly turned it to a small, fond smile to her, and before he knew, he was staring at her mouth. God, he was sure that the way she licked her lips was somehow unfair. With his heart racing inside his chest, Langdon forced himself to look away from her and turned off the stove. The only thing in his mind was that he should not let their food burn; the only thing other than that she was young and stunning, and he – Well, he shouldn’t flirt back.
Taking the pan with him, Robert headed to the table he had set with plates, tableware, and glasses after she had called him. He had chosen the fancy set he always did when he had guests, save a few of his colleagues. Now, however, he found himself wishing he had put some candles as well. Just to make the room look better. His table was a tiny one with four chairs, one on each side. He started serving the stew to her first, but Sienna pulled another chair and sat beside his usual spot.
“There, that’s enough. Thanks,” she said with a smile and dragged the plate to herself whilst Robert served himself.
“Bon appétit!” he grinned, sitting down.
“Merci,” Sienna thanked, returning the smile and taking the first bite. She took her time to chew and swallow before started talking again between mouthfuls. “So, um, Dr. Sinskey and I went to Geneva that day as you know.”
“Yes.” Langdon nodded.
“It wasn’t at all like I expected,” she told him. “Awful. All those rulers wouldn’t hear of me. Most of them were way older than Dr. Sinskey and thought they owned the world!”
“They’re sounding like the Vatican,” he remarked.
Sienna chuckled with him.
“Exactly! They’re not even going to have kids anymore! I mean, they would have descendents, grandchildren, and all, but …” She exhaled heavily and chewed another bite of her beef. “Anyway, after a lot of talk, she convinced them to hear me out, I explained, and it felt like it worked for nothing. I mean, some of them did understand the point, but if they agreed with letting the virus do its job, they remained silent. Dr. Sinskey convoked meeting after meeting, and we were gathering more and more people to our side, but most of them insisted on saying that we have the right to choose to reproduce or that Zobrist’s work might not be accurate. Granted, all they had was my word that there was once a letter saying that Inferno does what it does. There’s no other way to prove it. Still, I asked them if they really thought that a genius in genetics like Bertrand would simply invent a virus that didn’t do anything since it had been over a month then, and no one had heard of any abnormal symptoms. We were in New York once,” Sienna pointed out the window with her thumb as though the city was just across the street, “when they insisted on trying to find someone who could deactivate Inferno or at least invent some other virus to infect everyone again and … you know how it goes from there. They called geneticists, debated, voted. Took me several hours of explaining it all to make them see how dangerous it’d be, and especially the importance of letting the virus in our system.” Another sigh and she put one more bite in her mouth. “Eventually, they agreed to do nothing. Things will remain the way they are, and our species will slowly decrease …”
Robert watched as she placed a piece of beef in her mouth then proceeded to roll a slice of carrot around in her plate as she chewed the meat outstandingly slowly. He had experienced how good of an actress she could be, how Sienna could change her mood in the blink of an eye, but something told him that that was not the same as some of the other change of moods he had seen. The silence stretched for a long moment, and he barely dared to move, but he felt like he should say something.
“You don’t sound half as happy as I thought you’d be,” Langdon commented.
Sienna let out a tiny, humorless laugh.
“I’m not,” she stated, sucking a sharp breath to re-start talking. “When I told you I had trouble trusting people, you asked me to trust you, Robert.”
“And I do,” she continued. “You’re a nice guy and you do what you think is right, no matter what.”
He was never one to blush easily so what was happening on that night? Still, he was thankful for the remark and nodded once more, offering her the tiniest smile.
“But them?” Sienna let her fork fall and started gesticulating madly. Robert instinctively dropped his fork as well, observing her carefully. “They said they won’t do a thing, but after all that … I just have to take their words for it? Who’s to say that they didn’t just agree to shut WHO and me up so we wouldn’t try to know what they’re doing? Who’s to say they won’t hire some geneticist to create something to reverse Inferno? There’s nothing I can do to stop them now! Everyone has the damn virus in their system now! There’s plenty material around! What if they decide to do just like Bertrand did? What if they release another viral vector, and everything goes to shit? What if –”
As her hand lowered with her latest question, Langdon caught it and held her firmly in his own. Tears were forming in her eyes, if out of anger or fear, he wasn’t sure, but he knew he didn’t want to ever see cry again.
“Sienna,” he spoke in a dense voice, gazing deeply into her eyes and waited an instant to add “it’s going to be OK.”
“How?” she begged, knowing that she simply couldn’t trust all those men she had never seen before, let alone believe that everything would be OK as Robert was claiming.
With a fond smile on his lips, Langdon leaned to her, wrapping his arms tightly around her lithe form. Surrendering, she let her eyes close and hugged him back. Her anxiety in the face of the issue was not the only reason her heart was beating so fast.
“I’m not sure how … but it will,” he added.
Sienna exhaled heavily, her arms relaxing and falling to his waist.
“I’ve never been the kind of child that you could just give a cuddle, say that every little thing will be fine, and I’d believe.”
That didn’t surprise him. Still, he rubbed her back soothingly, not letting her go just yet.
“Is this the part when you tell me that there’s nothing I can do so I shouldn’t sacrifice my happiness trying?” she asked.
“No,” he answered, and Sienna thought she heard the slightest amusement in his tone. “This is the part that I remind you that you once told me that the only thing that keeps you going is your belief that we are capable of being better than we are.” Robert paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully not only because the woman in his arms had been through terrible things all her life, but also because his heart was swelling with emotion for her just to read her story, a kind of emotion he hadn’t felt in a very long time. “You could put bugs in their offices, hire people to follow them or even follow them yourself, you and I know you’re good enough to do that, but … you should follow your heart and believe that they can be better men instead. Trust is about faith, Sienna. It’s a shot in the dark. You won’t know for sure whether they are trustworthy until you trust them. Yes, there are people who don’t deserve your trust, but you have to put yourself out there. You have to make them see that it is the future of our species, and we should be in this together as a team. A team that will make mankind better, that will allow the ‘posthuman’ age that Zobrist believed in to happen. Though, perhaps in a slightly different way.”
Sienna pulled away, and Langdon wasn’t sure what emotion he was reading in her eyes, but he felt he had said the right thing, exactly what she needed to hear.
“You’ll doubt yourself in the beginning,” he continued, “but don’t let it get to you. I know you’re strong enough for that. Give them a chance to be men capable of taking action to avoid a catastrophic future.”
As Robert finished, her eyes fell to his lips, and by the way her pulse quickened, Sienna was sure that she wouldn’t be able to stop herself so she moved her gaze back to his eyes, searching for any sign that it was only in her head. Finding none, she looked down to his lips one more time, though it only lasted a second, and her lids closed. Her lips pressed against his careful and yet sure of what she was doing. Unlike their previous kiss, this time she didn’t pull away, and he responded. Before long her hands were pulling him closer, and their tongues met, tentative at first, but soon they were caressing each other, cautious, soft. Her hands traveled up his back, and … he pushed her away.
“Wait,” she interrupted him, placing her thumb against his lips and pulling away. God, it had been so predictable that he would stop her. “Before you say anything, Robert, let me explain,” she asked, but unlike pulling away from him as he had thought she would do, she remained in the same position.
Langdon swallowed hard, their thighs were touching, her left hand was still on his waist, and he had to stop himself from reaching for her hand and holding it in his.
“It’s been three months, and I haven’t changed my mind. It’s safe to say that this is not something I’m choosing to do based on the moment or anything like that. I don’t know what it is about you that makes me think of you as more than a friend, but it’s something I’ve felt ever since we were in that apartment in Florence – ‘my’ apartment. Bertrand had died a week before, we had barely talked, but you made me feel this way without even trying, just because you cared. You knew nothing about me, I had told you I wasn’t there legally so you could’ve assumed that I was some sort of criminal, but you didn’t. You preferred to believe that I was good, you apologized, you trusted me – you cared. You’re a good man, Robert.”
Sienna pulled her hand from his waist and laced her own fingers in front of her chest. Was she about to cry?
“Now, I know I’m far from perfect. I have a hell lot of baggage, I’m a mess, I’d probably bring you trouble at some point – You don’t really know much about me. I know I lied to you, I drugged you and-and – and …” Frustrated, she let her breath out in a puff, chin trembling just slightly. “I’d like to change that, however. If you let me, of course. In all honesty, Robert, I do want you to know me, even if I’m damaged or-or problematic and I’m definitely not easy to live with. So if you – if I can ask you this … Please, do what you want, Robert. Do notice that I said want. I didn’t mention your age because it honestly doesn’t matter to me; when I’m with you, I’m happy … and not lonely, and that’s what I want. I’m an adult so don’t give me the whole ‘we shouldn’t’ or ‘you can find someone better’ or anything like that. So if I can ask you such a thing is to just follow your heart if you want to explore this … us, do it, that’s it. If not, just say the word, and I’m out that door, and you’ll never see me again.”
She lowered her hands to her own lap, clenching her teeth while relief for finally saying it all started to settle in.
“Sienna,” Langdon started slowly, reaching her shoulder to give her a reassuring squeeze. “If I were to say no to this, I would still want to see you on occasion. I suppose that sounds somewhat selfish of me when I know you’d want to leave to avoid any heartache,” he concluded with an awkward chuckle to which she dismissed by shaking her head with a nervous smile on the corner of her lips. Though he had to admit that if she simply changed her wig, she could pass by him on campus, and he wouldn’t even look at her twice. That thought pained him more than he thought it would.
Sienna had told him that she was not a stranger to moving around, to being lonely and at that moment, Robert hated the thought of seeing her leave him and not ever see her again, especially after he knew that she would move around until she found the millionth place she could be and settle down. He could not deny how attracted to her he felt, from the first moment he saw her, Langdon had noticed her exquisiteness and even if the events that followed were a façade she was part of, he still held her dear. He gazed at her face for a long moment, studying her. There was the obvious sadness as she considered the unhappy outcome of his decision, there was the experience far beyond her thirty-two years of age and the clear hope for him to grant her desperate wishes. Want … If it was a matter of want, if he simply had to do what he wanted regardless of what society would think of a professor nearly in his fifties dating a woman who had barely entered her thirties … Robert couldn’t lie to himself, he wanted to see her happy. Moreover, he wanted to be the one to make her happy, as happy as she deserved to be.
“This may not be the best timing for anything,” he said. “As I told you, I’ll be leaving to Florence tomorrow –”
Was he trying to get all the guilt out of his system? No … Perhaps … Most likely.
“Robert, I came to Boston knowing that I would only stay for two days if that much,” she told him. “I’d either come back to Florence with you or choose the next place I’d live in.”
His eyes widened in surprise.
“You learn a thing or two when you work for the Consortium for years,” she pointed out, hiding her mocking. “That and several hours in a plane with Dr. Sinskey result in talking about lots of subjects … including you,” she grinned shyly.
Astra inclinant, sed non obligant. The stars incline us, they do not bind us, Robert thought. In the end, it was his choice, but … Could it be simply a coincidence that she had been freed of her role with the WHO only a day before he left for Florence? He didn’t believe so. If he had left, and she was busy, they would never be able to discuss their relationship there. Assuming she would find him there of course, but after what she had mentioned about the Consortium, he had no doubts that she would be able to do it. They were given a unique chance by the stars or fate or god or whatever one likes to believe. Suddenly, a week in Florence simply attending lectures and visiting museums seemed dull. It surely would be when on the other hand was the opportunity of seeing her beautiful face every day. Who else would make him jump a wall to a place where students smoke weed and fool around?
Langdon let his fingers meet her lips, slowly tracing them and watching satisfied as she smiled slightly; she was undoubtedly guessing what was going through his mind. The beauty mark above her upper lip caught his eye and before he knew his thumb had moved to fondle it. As his lids fell shut, her pulse quickened. Was he closing his eyes to stop himself from the temptation? Or was it because he was about to give in? Yet, she couldn’t help but notice that Robert’s features were oddly happy … and that observation only made her heart beat faster. The next moment, he was bending over and kissing her as though they hadn’t kissed just a little while before, as if he was picking up from where they had stopped. Her arms flew to his neck, and let her eyes close as well. If he wasn’t so desperate to actually tell her, he could have let the kiss extend for the whole summer.
“If it’s a matter of want,” Langdon spoke calmly, “then yes.”
Sienna chuckled as though she couldn’t contain the giddiness inside. Would it feel like that every time she kissed someone she was in love with for the first time? God, she hoped so. Even if technically it wasn’t their first time, just their first time knowing that the feeling was reciprocal. At that moment, she didn’t feel thirty-two, she didn’t even feel like an adult; Sienna figured that that was how teenage girls felt when their crushes confessed to return their feelings. She wouldn’t know for sure, as much as she had tried to fit in, she never could and even if she had managed to fit in, it wouldn’t have worked like that, by the time she entered her teenage years, she had already graduated high school anyway; the closer she had to friends her age were the colleagues with whom she engaged in social projects with.
“Were you serious about coming to Florence with me?”
“Yes.” Sienna nodded. “Yes, I am. Unless you think it’s too much for us now, we can use the trip to try how we living together would be like. You in lectures all day, and – Well, I wouldn’t be working, but I can find something to keep myself busy.” ‘Keep myself busy’ had been her mantra; too much free time meant too much thinking, and that never ended well for her.
Langdon caressed the back of her hand and returned to the last of his food.
“I do have free periods here; you wouldn’t need to stay away from me all day long,” he pointed out then started scratching his nape. “But, um, as much as I’d love to – I’m a professor – Yes, here at Harvard, and I’m not exactly at the beginning of my career here. The truth is I don’t think I should pay plane tickets, hotel, restaurants, and whatnot for both of us.”
Sienna stopped chewing at once and looked him in the eye.
“Robert, we’ve been together for literally one minute, and you think I expect you to pay for our trip on your own?” she asked giving him a look, Langdon returned an embarrassed gaze. “I wouldn’t dream of that. I’m not after your money, professor, I’m not that kind of person,” she assured him.
“I’m sorry,” he said between mouthfuls to end dinner quickly, “have you bought a ticket yet though?”
“No.” She shook her head smiling. “I didn’t go that far. I just thought we’d go, and if it didn’t work out as expected, I’d go to another place, probably in Europe since I was there already. If it did work out, and we had a great week in Florence then I’d come back, find a place for me and I don’t know, visit the hospitals to try something.”
All he had hoped to have with Vittoria years before, Sienna was now offering to him with an open heart. The fantasy of having her live with him in his tiny apartment was not quite what Sienna had suggested. Not for now, at least; later on, perhaps. Robert knew relationships had to be nourished, one could not suck more than they could give, and he most definitely did not want to ruin his newest relationship. He hadn’t been enough to make Vittoria settle down, but he seemed to be all Sienna had. All she wanted to have was more like it. And for all he knew of her life, he truly believed he could help her, he could make her some good, he could make her happy. Sienna was offering him exactly what he had once wanted in his life, was assuring to him that it wasn’t too late and she was sending his heart racing with kind eyes and a warm smile.
“Maybe this time you’ll be working at the Massachusetts General Hospital,” Langdon chuckled. “In case I ever wake up with amnesia once again.”
“If they have an open spot, I don’t see why not,” she grinned. “But let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.”
“Sienna, with your curriculum, they’d make a spot for you. Either way … regardless of where you’d be working, I’d rather have a familiar face by my side if I ever woke up again not knowing how I had ended up there. I’ve played the being alone part and I most definitely didn’t like it.”
Did that mean he wanted to make her his emergency contact? Sienna frowned slightly as she watched Robert finish his dinner and wipe his mouth in the napkin, entirely unaware of her thoughts.
“In any case, I have a computer in the study, you can use to book your ticket and check your e-mails, even if a secret society is after you to kill you.”
Sienna laughed, mocking a bow.
“Thank you very much, that’s very kind of you.”
Langdon stood up, letting the dirty napkin fall upon his plate.
“I’ll turn it on for you,” he said, stepping to the study. “Just a minute.”
“OK,” she murmured, watching him leave unable to stop the smile in the corner of her lips.
Sienna collected the plates, put them in the sink and had just stowed the rest of the beef stew in the freezer when she heard the usual sound of Windows starting, her cue to fetch her credit card and follow him into the study. Robert was sliding the chair a few inches away when she entered.
“All yours,” he said, gesturing to the monitor.
She thanked him one more time and sat. The browser was already open, and she quickly started typing the website where she usually bought her tickets.
“What’s your flight?” she asked after performing the search.
Langdon furrowed his brows, glancing at the flights on the screen to see if any of them rang a bell. All he remembered was that it was at night so he would fall asleep easier.
“That one,” he told her pointing to it. “8:32 pm.”
Sienna started clicking and filling the blanks with her info.
“Have you done the check-in?”
“Not yet,” he replied feeling rather satisfied, and she grinned in response.
“Do you have –”
“I’ll go get my laptop.”
Sienna’s grin widened.
“Where do you usually sit?” she asked once he had his laptop open beside his desktop.
“At the front,” Robert answered, typing the website. “The closer to the entrance I can get.”
“No patience for lines or hoping to have the food still hot when it gets to you?” she asked with a small smile.
“Neither.” Langdon cleared his throat. “Claustrophobic.”
“Oh, right, of course.” Sienna squeezed his hand.
“It’s all right …” He forced himself to smile.
“You have an awful fake smile,” she told him. “So 6A and 6B are better, right? Unless you prefer the corridor, ‘cause there’s 4F and 4G.”
“No, you’re right, 6A and 6B are better.”
“All right, I’ve got 6A. Now click that damn thing, I don’t want to travel four thousand miles away from you.” Sienna placed a kiss on his cheek.
Half a minute later he had booked the 6B seat and was placing a kiss on her cheek in return.
“There. You won’t have to.”
This time, Sienna kissed his mouth, though it would be more appropriate to say that she stole the kiss since he had no time whatsoever to kiss her back. The way she bit on her lower lip, the way her teeth was ever so slowly letting her lip slid away seemed to dare him to kiss her back. In a good way, however. She wanted to feel wanted, didn’t she?
Robert let his hand rest on the small of her back, and his lips found hers, though he didn’t pull away immediately like she had done. If Sienna wanted it to continue, he would give her the chance. And just as he had thought, her lips pressed back against his. And again. And again and again. Without breaking the kiss, her torso turned to him, and before he knew both his hands were on her waist. His fingers moved to underneath her T-shirt, pressing against her skin as their tongues met once more. Her hands found his scalpel and slowly started to massage him there as their lips moved in harmony. Eventually, he broke the kiss though did not look at her right away, his eyes stayed on his own lap, and his fingers loosened the grip around her waist, lazily caressing whilst his lungs worked to even his breathing. Sienna cupped his cheek, and he could feel her eyes seeking his, but he still didn’t look at her.
“Unless you tell me that your bed is a real mess of folded clothes and luggage, I suggest we move this to your bedroom,” she proposed biting on her lower lip.
Langdon let out a breathless chuckle as though he could not quite believe what he had just heard. Yet, he kissed her lips one more time before reaching for her hand and standing up.
“Ladies first,” he said gesturing to the door. Their eyes crossed for a split second as she stood, but Robert glanced at the door after getting a glimpse of her smile. “On the left,” he instructed as they reached the corridor. His bedroom door was opened, revealing a double bed, not as tidy as it usually was, but he did have to travel soon. Indeed there were luggage and folded clothes on the corner, precisely like on his couch, but nothing like she had pictured when she suggested that his room was messy.
Giving two steps into the bedroom, she turned around and pressed her lips to his one more time, deepening the kiss almost immediately and got down from her flats. Sienna sat on the bed, sliding to its center, and at last, their eyes met for a whole second. The corner of his lips curled in a small, uncertain smile whilst he took off his shoes and socks. Robert crawled to her, eyeing her and trying to read her for a moment before leaning in to another kiss, but Sienna placed her hand on his chest, pushing him away. Puzzled, Robert furrowed his brows, but all he saw in her eyes was her telling him to not go any further.
“Are you sure you want this?”
“See? You’re hesitating!” she exclaimed. “Ever since I suggested it, you’re hesitating. I don’t want this if you don’t want this, Robert. Has to be us.” His eyes softened, and it couldn’t be clearer to her that he would rather wait. “It’s all right, we don’t have to, and it won’t get awkward or anything, yeah? We have plenty to deal with. For instance, did you rent a room with a single bed? Because I can just rent another room in the same hotel and I’ll get your couch tonight. You’re too tall for that, your back will be destroyed tomorrow.”
Amused, Robert waited with his professorial patience, but as she didn’t seem to stop any time soon, he carefully placed his index finger on her lips.
“Are you going to let me state my opinion on the matter?” he asked lowering his hand.
A look of confusion crossed her eyes.
Langdon neared her until his mouth was almost touching her ear and whispered “I want you,” so affectionately that sent shivers down her spine. Thus, all she could do was blink when he pulled back and gazed into her eyes, reaching for her hand. “I just don’t want to mess this up.”
“And you think we’d mess this up by having sex?” she asked after an instant, cocking an eyebrow at him.
“By having sex too soon,” he explained. “Our relationship has just started, and … I’m afraid it might be too much.”
Sienna smiled fondly at him.
“Robert, I know it’s just started, but I don’t think our relationship has the same strength as if we had gone out for dinner after meeting out of the blue on the street. We know each other much better than that, don’t you think?” she questioned cupping his cheek.
“I know it was just a day, but we saved the world together.” Sienna winked at him. “And even if it was just a dinner, if it’s something we both want, I can’t see why not,” she reasoned. “But I’ll leave it up to you.”
“Maybe I’m just getting old to think of saying that while there’s a stunning woman in my bed.”
“Thanks,” she whispered feeling her cheeks grow hotter and wondering whether that was indeed a ‘yes’.
Robert let his eyes fall close, leaning in to kiss her with even more fervor than he had done before, pressing his weight against her body, and Sienna lied on the mattress. Her arms went up his back, holding him closer to her as his lips left hers and started tracing her jaw. She closed her eyes allowing herself to feel everything inside her at that moment; they were indeed in his bedroom, Robert on top of her kissing her, touching her, turning her on. God, she wanted him. Nothing else mattered, but the two of them. Her fingers ran through his hair, gripping, bringing him closer. He had reached her collarbone and returned to look her in the eye. Sienna lowered her hands to pull his turtleneck upward, and he supported himself on his knees to help her take it off. She pushed herself up and kissed him deeply before his hands reached the hem of her T-shirt, it was gone a moment later. Her hand was on his chest as he leaned closer once more, and she bit at her bottom lip.
“I’ll be back in a second,” she said sliding her long legs out of bed and leaving Langdon utterly confused as he watched her leave the bedroom in jeans and a bra.
Questions from: Have I done something wrong? to Did she want to take off a tampon? ran through his mind, but before long she had returned with her ponytail and her breasts swinging. My, they looked wonderful. Sienna raised the tiny square package in her hand as an explanation.
“The last thing I want is an unwanted pregnancy.”
Robert nodded understandingly. Even if he had his own personal stash of condoms in his nightstand, he said nothing and pulled her in to resume from where they had left.
Although the wonders of every first time made themselves present, his fingers were working magic on her skin. Perhaps it was the result of months of longing for him, but she didn’t think she could be any more satisfied to be in bed with him. Sienna seemed to know exactly which of his buttons to push – some of which, even after all these years, he didn’t even know he had – and Robert found himself moaning before she had even reached his waist. He melted under her touch and couldn’t be more surprised of how perfectly she fit around him. He teased, fondled, licked, and rubbed her most tender spots, hoping to give her as much pleasure as she was giving him, and he didn’t stop until her back was arching from the bed, her features contorted in unmistakable heavenly delight. After a moment of gazing into his blue eyes with her kind, brown ones, Sienna pulled him into a kiss; soft and deep, matching the intensity of his movements. It didn’t take him long to feel his brain exploding behind his eyes, all the building pressure suddenly relieving, and she propped herself up to press her lips to his once again as bliss traveled through his veins. He kissed her a couple more times before letting himself fall on the mattress beside her. Sienna turned, watching Robert catching up his breath and taking off the condom with a fond smile on her lips.
“That was amazing,” he told her turning to look at her as well.
“Well, what can I say?” Sienna shrugged. “If there’s one thing doctors know, it is the human body. Limits, reactions … location of nerves,” she grinned causing him to chuckle breathlessly. “Of course I don’t know your body that well yet, but you know what they say: practice makes it perfect.”
It would only get better. Robert’s eyebrows rose.
“Now I’m feeling rather self-conscious about my performance.”
Sienna shook her head lightly.
“You’ve nothing to worry about. It was brilliant!”
“That’s the most British thing I have ever heard you say,” Langdon mused after a moment.
“Bollocks!” Sienna exclaimed, and he noticed something different about her voice right away. “I didn’t know you were the kind of bloke to fancy birds who speak like a Londoner.”
Her accent. He should have known.
“Not birds. A bird,” he pointed out turning on his side and closing the gap between them. “I fancy – I like you, not all the women from London.”
“I know,” she said, no longer speaking like a Londoner.
“A gorgeous bird,” he stressed and cupped her cheek.
Was that her blushing? With her complicated past, he would be surprised if she was used to receive compliments that weren’t related to her intelligence. Zobrist, certainly, and her father perhaps, though he did not know how her relationship with her parents was nowadays. The only clue he had was ‘Sweetheart, never forget you’re a miracle,’ which he had always assumed to be the words of a caring mother. Robert moved his fingers to her hair, not exactly her hair, he knew. Still, he grasped the ponytail firmly and started pulling it down; Sienna tensed up. He stopped and returned his hand to her cheek, caressing her.
“I know that you don’t really like it,” he said, and she remained silent. Could he blame her? “I apologize for not asking beforehand. May I?” he asked with his hand in her hair once more.
“Yeah,” she agreed, shrugging a shoulder. “Not like you haven’t seen it before.”
She had played for a bit of a laugh and even chuckled, but for Langdon it was clear that she was still uptight. Yet, he continued, and her wig slowly slid from her head. He let it rest on the mattress behind her. His fingers gingerly touched the sensitive skin above her ear, and he placed his lips upon where her hairline would have started, kissing her lovingly.
“Your lack of hair doesn’t define you, Sienna,” he told her pulling away a few inches to look her in the eye. “I still think you’re stunning.” He smiled, cupping her cheek in his hand. “And if I didn’t, it wouldn’t matter.”
Sienna felt her heart pummeling inside her. She knew all that of course. From a very young age, she had learned that who she was, her personality, her intellect, her gifts, those were far more important than her appearance. Still, hearing it from a man like Robert made her feel wonderful and even more certain about her decision to come find him. He had been honest, kind, and truly concerned about her from the moment they met. What else could she possibly want in a man?
“I love you,” Sienna whispered and upon noticing his wary eyes, she shook her head. “No, no, you don’t have to say it back. I’m not expecting you to, I just … wanted you to know, in case you didn’t know already.” She sucked in a deep breath and turned to lie on her back, staring at the ceiling. “I’m sorry, it was too much. I should’ve waited.”
Robert swallowed hard, but didn’t look away from her.
“First of all, don’t apologize for that. Second, I’m not going to tell you I feel something that I don’t, not until I’m certain,” he began, and she nodded, expecting no less of him. “But I do have feelings for you, strong ones, and definitely not the kind I feel for any other female colleague in the campus.”
Sienna chuckled albeit somewhat nervously, turning to look at him at last.
“These feelings don’t let me think of any other woman to sleep in my hotel bed next week, which is a double one, by the way,” he added with a small smirk, “and I most definitely don’t want you sleeping with any other man.”
She nodded shortly with a smile on her lips and assured him, “I won’t and I will gladly take the place of your roommate.”
“Speaking of hotels – do you have a hotel in Boston?”
“I do, yes,” she answered with a nod.
Robert cleared his throat.
“I know we’ll spend a week together already, but if you don’t mind being in the campus, you’re welcome to stay.”
“I don’t mind the campus,” she told him. “Thank you. I’ll probably just hit the gym there in the morning though. Hmm, and you and I can have some hotel breakfast,” she suggested with a grin.
Langdon feigned frustration.
“I thought you’d liked my dinner!”
“Just trying to repay the favor.”
“You didn’t rent an apartment for two,” he pointed out.
“So? Do you plan on eating enough to leave them broke?”
“I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
“Don’t be such a good boy for once, Robert.”
“You mean don’t be such an old man?”
“No, I meant ‘Don’t be such a good boy for once, Robert,’” she repeated.
He gave her a look already knowing that he wouldn’t win that argument.
“Fine,” he agreed and threw a sheet on top of their naked bodies, raising his arm to invite her in. “Now come here. I figure you’re still in a time zone a few hours ahead, and I could use an early night as well.”
Sienna grinned and turned around so her back was against his chest, and he was spooning her. She felt comfortable like she hadn’t felt in years. Her wig still lay in front of her, on the bed, and although, a part of her wanted to put it on, she resisted it and reached for his hand just below her breasts. She was at ease in his embrace, and a wig wouldn’t change that. In just a few minutes she felt her eyelids growing heavy, and her mind relaxing, starting to drift towards sleepiness, and she only managed a lazy murmur.
Robert hugged her tighter, amazed at how perfectly she seemed to fit against him. Every inch of her body was touching him, their legs intertwined underneath the thin sheet: perfection, but then again he had never been with a woman this tall. He placed a kiss behind her ear and, as he did so, he was reminded of a sentence he hadn’t thought about in three months. Maybe it was a prelude for the future or maybe his mind was just playing a trick on him by implying that Dante still had more to show them, but that woman in his arms and those nine words were the last thing in his mind before he drifted off.
Remember tonight for it is the beginning of forever.