At the sound of the doorbell, Beth checked her hair in the hall mirror, picked up her bag, Â excited the apartment and went swiftly down the stairs. She opened the front door and smiled.
â€œHello Anthony. Thank you so much for picking me upâ€, she felt his gaze pass over her and wondered if she was underdressed. William had said casual, and so she had chosen jeans and a red checked shirt with her favourite canvas hightops. She had left her hair down, tied back from her face with a plain cotton scarf and carried a light jacket.
â€œNo problem, Beth. No point in your getting the bus out to Williamâ€™s house when I am practically passing your door. I have parked just around the cornerâ€, Anthony gestured. He was the epitome of chic European style in chinos, a slim fitting cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a cashmere pullover over his shoulders.
Anthony opened the car door and waited for Beth to sit down before closing the door for her. She couldnâ€™t recall a man ever opening a car door for her before and wondered if it was a continental habit.
She surreptitiously stroked the leather seat and relaxed into the luxurious car. With a growl, the car sprung into life. â€œWould you prefer me to put the top up?â€, Anthony asked?
â€œOh, no. Please leave it down. It is a beautiful day todayâ€, Beth replied, secretly thrilled that she was to travel in style. The sun beat down on her head as Anthony indicated and moved out into the traffic. They chatted about the weather and their weekend, Beth telling her boss about her enjoyment of the market the day before.
â€œYou should come over to Carouge to the market next Saturday, it is one of the prettiest in Genevaâ€, he suggested.
â€œCarouge â€“ is that where you live? How far out of town is it?â€
â€œI live in the centre of the village. It is not really out of town at all, just about 10 minutes from the old town and on a tram line. There is a charming market place, where you can buy fruit and vegetables, meat and fish and handmade craft items. The Christmas Market is very prettyâ€.
â€œI might have a wander out next weekend. Is the market only on in the morning?â€
â€œYes, they start packing up just after lunchtime. Why donâ€™t we meet for lunch, I will take you to my favourite restaurantâ€.
Beth held her hair with one hand as Anthony accelerated. They had left the town centre and were now zipping down the lakeside road. â€œThat would be lovely. Thank youâ€.
The wind whipped Bethâ€™s hair up and she laughed as she tried to tame it. She slipped the scarf off and retied it, covering her hair. â€œThere. That is betterâ€, she said as they drew up at a traffic light.
Anthony leaned over and picked up a strand of hair that she had missed. â€œThis bit escapedâ€.
Beth held her breath as played with the curl, twirling it around his finger. â€œYou have stunning hair, Beth. I am glad that you left it untied today. I have been wondering what it looks like downâ€.
She was unable to formulate an answer. Her eyes were wide, her heart beat so loud she feared he would hear it over the engine noise. â€œI.. It… gets in the way when I am working. That is why I put it upâ€.
â€œYes, it looks more professionalâ€, his mouth moved in a slow smile. She should not be concentrating on his mouth. She needed to look away, but she was fascinated. He had sculpted lips and perfect white teeth. Thank goodness he didnâ€™t smile too often at work.
The sharp toot toot of the car behind them alerted Anthony to the traffic light, which had turned to green without them noticing.
Anthony turned the conversation to more general chat, leaving Beth confused. Had she imagined that interlude? If it were not for the tingling in her lips and the racing of her heart, she would have conclude that she had.
By the time they arrived at Williamâ€™s house, Beth had managed to calm her nerves. She took the scarf off her hair, and combed it through while Anthony got out of the car and walked around to open her door. When she laughed and called him a gentleman, he bowed and held out a hand to assist her out of the car, â€œMilady, may I have the pleasure of your company?â€.
She placed her hand in his and stood. He led her to the gate, holding on to her hand for just a moment longer than a colleague normally would. She was flustered, not only by his attention, but also by the glimpse of a different side of his personality. He had not struck herÂ as a flirt. This week he had been polite and friendly but had not given her the impression that he was interested in her. Had she missed something?
Casting her mind back over the weeks gone by, she searched for clues. He had certainly been attentive, popping into her office several times a day, inviting her for lunch or coffee most days. Was that more than him looking after a new employee?
Anthony let go of her hand to ring the bell. She glanced at him as they waited for William to answer the door. In contrast to her, he seemed controlled and calm.
â€œHello! Welcome to our humble abode!â€, William greeted them. He reminded Beth of a Labrador â€“ friendly and bouncy with tons of enthusiasm, his large brown eyes dominating a kindly face.