Chapter Seven: Nerissa

The dinner was off to a better start than I could have imagined, despite the slight awkwardness. And Killian looked good. Very good. Women must be falling at his feet. A burst of jealousy shot through me at the thought and I tampered it down. Killian wasn’t mine, he could see who he wanted. But right now, he’s here with you, my mind whispered. He was, wasn’t he? I resolved to make the most of this evening and his company.

   The waitress from earlier returned with our drinks and asked for our order. “Can I get the bruschetta to start and then the ravioli?” I asked without missing a beat.

She nodded and jotted it down before turning to Killian.

“Er, I’ll have the soup to start and then the ravioli as well.” He smiled, handing the menu back to the waitress.

She nodded again, pen scribbling quickly as she wandered off to the kitchen.

“You won’t be disappointed.” I grinned at his choice.

“I never doubt you when it comes to food Nissa.” He grinned back. “I feel I’m at a slight disadvantage though.”

“How do you mean?” I asked puzzled. He was handsome, had money to burn and a successful career. What could he feel disadvantaged about?

“You know a lot about me, but I’m very out of the loop with you.” He murmured, eyes downcast. They almost seemed regretful.

    I sucked in a deep breath. I’d prepared for this. I knew this was going to happen. I just hoped I could give some convincing answers.

“Well, what would you like to know?” I plastered a reassuring smile on my face.

Killian appeared a bit happier at my question. “First thing I suppose, why did you stay in Osegate? I’d have thought you’d have moved somewhere scenic, lots of beautiful views for painting.”

Ok, here goes everything. “Ah, well, erhm, you see, it didn’t quite pan out. Being an artist I mean. I still paint, but more for fun.” I shrugged, trying to exude the impression it was no big deal. As if I hadn’t spent hours talking his ear off years ago about art. He wasn’t fooled. I could tell by the way he raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” He responded, sincerity coating his words, but I could see the curiosity behind his eyes. “So what do you do know?”

“I’m a criminal lawyer.” I answered with pride. Sure, it was a radical career change, but I still loved my job. It was fascinating seeing two sides of the events, though usually, the truth lay somewhere in the middle of both versions.

“Wow Nissa, I’d have never thought you’d have ended up a lawyer. Not that I mean that in a bad way, I mean, you’re smart, you could do anything you wanted. I just didn’t see criminal lawyer on your path. Not that that’s a bad thing! I mean…” He trailed off as a giggle slipped past my painted lips. His nervous rambling was kind of cute. I did not just think that.

“It’s Ok, I knew what you meant.” My assurance caused his lips to quirk in relief.

“So, er, what changed your mind?” He asked.

“Tomato soup?” Thank goodness, saved by the waitress. Killian claimed the soup and the bruschetta was popped in front of me.

“Enjoy.” The waitress uttered in parting, leaving us with our food.

     Immediately, I dived into the bruschetta, engulfing a large bite of crispy bread, succulent tomatoes and herbs. It was like heaven on my tongue and I couldn’t help the small moan that escaped me. Killian was gazing at me very intensely, eyes hooded and I felt heat bloom in my cheeks. “Er, you ok Killian?”

My words seemed to shock him out of his stupor. “Er yeah, yeah fine.” He mumbled, a delicate blush of his own gracing his face. “It’s good soup.” He stumbled out quickly, raisin another hasty spoonful to his lips. I took another bite out of my starter. It was silent for a few more minutes while we tucked in, but then Killian’s voice broke it.

“You never answered my question.”

Dammit. I was hoping he’d forget. “Oh, about switching to a legal career?”

He nodded.

“Oh well, you know, I was watching this documentary about cold cases, evidence and such. They went through criminal proceedings and I just found it all so fascinating. Around the same time, a er…friend got into some trouble and I ended up doing some negotiations on her behalf. It was so thrilling that I thought I’d give the whole lawyer thing a go.” Lies, lies, lies. Like I could ever tell him the truth. I watched his face warily, but he seemed to accept my answer.

“That’s incredible Nissa. It’s amazing how one event can have such an impact.”

“Yeah, funny how life works out isn’t it?” I commented airily, resisting the urge to touch my cheek with everything that I had, maintaining a tight grip on my fork. I hoped Killian wouldn’t notice.

    “Indeed.” He said, draining the last of his soup before continuing. “I think I understand what you mean about an event having an impact. When Cyrus dies suddenly, I didn’t know what to do with myself or the business. But his death made me realise that my life needed more balance, between family, friends and work. It was one of the motivating factors for my return to Osegate. To be able to spend time with the people I care about.”

    My grip on the fork increased the moment that name was uttered. Cyrus. Killian’s deceased brother. I gritted my teeth, keeping a tight rein on the whirlwind of emotion echoing through me. “I’m sorry about what happened to him. It must have been very difficult for you. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to attend the funeral; I was in another city at the time on a case.” Like I’d ever attend that bastard’s funeral. But Killian didn’t need to know that.

“Thank you Nissa.” He smiled at me, though his expression was still tinged with sadness. No doubt from Cyrus haunting his thoughts.

“You’re welcome.” I smiled back, hoping I looked somewhat supportive. “I just need to nip to the bathroom though. I’ll only be a sec.” I vacated my seat and walked steadily towards the toilet.

    I needed to get a grip, fast. And make sure the foundation was still plastered over my face, hiding the real reason I’d changed career.

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