It was completely unexpected when Cal asked Gillian out on their first date. Well, not completely unexpected: He had, of course, tested the water and found out how she would react to him asking her out; he had told her that he intended to ask her out 'one day'.
But, in moments when she had forced herself to be realistic - and stopped the daydreams that cast them as characters in one of her romance novels - Gillian had admitted that it was unlikely that he really would ask her out. Oh, it had been painstakingly clear from the way his eyes had held hers - looking at her, into her; wanting her - that he longed for them to be more than the friends and business partners that they were. But, realistically, she knew that Cal was most likely as scared as she was about taking things a step further. And, though there were some risks Cal would take without even a second thought, she knew their partnership - on all levels - meant too much to Cal for him to put it in jeopardy.
Therefore, Gillian had permitted herself the same periodic moments of fantasy that she always had; and, occasionally (okay, at least once a day!), she would replay the moment when he had asked her if she would say yes if he asked her out. She would remember the flutter in her heart; the ripple of anticipation that had sent a shiver through her body; the unguarded desire in Cal's eyes minutes later when he had teased her with those two words: "One day." She had filed the scene away with the rest of their flirtatious moments, trying hard to not let her heart and head be carried away with thoughts that it might, 'one day', lead to something more.
So, you can understand her surprise - and degree of confusion - when, three weeks after their exchange in his office, Gillian arrived at Cal's house for dinner with him and Emily, only to find Emily rushing out of the door.
"Oh, hey, Gill," the young woman greeted her warmly, but with surprise at nearly having collided with her. When she had recovered, Emily's smile was 'knowing'. That, perhaps, should have been Gillian's first clue. As it was, however, she thought nothing of it.
"Hi, Em," she returned, on a breath of laughter. "Going somewhere?"
Emily stepped back to allow Gillian into the house. "Yeah, don't worry, I'll not be in the way," she grinned.
Gillian did notice this smile and was frowning, and about to ask what had prompted that remark, when Emily turned away from her and shouted, "Dad, Gill's here! And I'm really going this time!"
Cal's voice carried through from, presumably, the kitchen, with a, "Thanks, 'bye, love," and Emily faced Gillian again. She didn't speak, she just smiled, giddily, her eyes twinkling, then she hugged Gillian before running out of the door.
Gillian knew that her frown had deepened: That encounter had been strange. She didn't have long to ponder it though, as Cal appeared through a nearby doorway, wiping his hands on his flowery apron.
"Hi, love," he greeted her with a smile. Then he stepped towards her and kissed her cheek - just missing her lips, as he always did.
And her heart fluttered - just as it always did.
"Hi," she responded. "I thought Emily would be joining us."
For a split second, she thought Cal looked confused. But, then it was gone. He shook his head. "Nah. She's going out with her friends. Shopping, cinema, pizza, you know." Then he grinned, playfully, "Anyway, you're right on time. Let me show you to our table."
He held out his arm for her to take, and she rested her hand on it, whilst slowly shaking her head in amusement at his overly gentlemanly behaviour.
He led her through to the dining table, and her breath caught when she saw it. The places were set, as usual, but to the side of them sat a vase of tulips - beautiful in shades of pink and purple; in the centre two candles flickered softly and released a light aroma of vanilla into the room. Cal didn't usually go to so much trouble.
She quickly ran through the key dates in their friendship: The day they met; the date she first suggested going into business together; the day they officially formed The Lightman Group. None fell on that date; she hadn't forgotten any anniversary.
She was saved from trying to figure out what was going on when Cal brought them to a stop beside the table and commented, "I know it's customary to take a girl out for a first date, but I think we know each other well enough for a more private evening."
She didn't really hear much after 'first date'. This was a date? She studied Cal's face for any sign that she had misunderstood, or that he was teasing her. His smile seemed completely genuine and the way it morphed into a look of confusion as the silence drew on confirmed for her that he was serious - and that she had somehow missed a vital piece of information about tonight.
"This is a date?" she heard herself ask before she had figured out a better way to phrase the question.
Cal looked as if she had just punched him. "You didn't… know that?"
She shook her head and, softly, answered, "No."
Cal nodded. "Ah." Then he shrugged, "I told you I would ask you out one day."
Gillian smiled instantly - an automatic reaction to thinking about that conversation. Then she thought about how Cal had asked her to dinner that night, and she laughed. "Oh, so 'Foster! Dinner tonight. My place. 7 o'clock,' was you asking me out?" she smirked.
Cal visibly relaxed and Gillian realised that he must have been worried that she was going to object to the date.
"Well, I remember it being more romantic than that, but… Yeah, when you put it like that, I can see where the message might have been lost."
They shared a laugh, and as Cal's eyes locked onto hers and she saw the affection that swirled there, the full meaning of what was happening hit Gillian full force.
As the laughter subsided she felt suddenly shy. She could feel a blush creeping up her neck and onto her cheeks. She was on a date with Cal. And though it was a major step, and she knew all the reasons why they shouldn't do this, she found that no part of her wanted to put a stop to it. It was a risk, but she had absolutely no qualms about taking it.
"So," she began, quietly, "This is a date?"
Cal nodded. "I thought a little homemade pineapple chicken, a bottle of wine, strawberries and chocolate sauce for dessert, flowers, candles -" He stopped, grabbed a remote control from the table and pressed a button: Gentle music filled the air. "Music," he added with a sheepish grin.
Gillian's smile widened and she nodded. "Sounds like a perfect first date."
Cal shook his head as he moved past her and pulled out her chair. "Nah, it's what happens after dinner that determines if it's a perfect first date."
Gillian's mouth fell open slightly in shock, and she turned to offer him a glare. It lost all of its intensity though when she met his smirking face. Pursing her lips and fighting the blush that was once again forming on her cheeks, she reminded him, "I'm a good girl, remember?"
Cal chuckled and motioned for Gillian to sit down. She did as asked, with a gentle smile of gratitude to him, and Cal assisted with pushing in her chair.
She had just settled and was smoothing out her skirt when Cal's voice from right beside her ear startled her.
"I told you I don't think you are a good girl," he whispered huskily, the rough sound sending a tremble to her core.
Before she could respond, she felt the warmth of his cheek against her ear as he smiled, then he planted a quick kiss on her cheek and stood up.
"Dinner will be served shortly," he told her, his tone back to normal. He headed into the kitchen, without looking back at her.
She watched him go, feeling her heart hammering in her chest, butterflies battling in her stomach, and a warm excitement spreading throughout her body. A smile crept slowly across her lips.
This was definitely going to be a perfect first date.