Dara opened the oven door and took the pound cake out of the oven so that it could cool over the next hour.
"Wow, I hope that this tastes as great as it did when my grandmother used to make it. It smells great," she thought as she placed it on the island in the kitchen. "O.K. Everything is ready. The vegetable casserole and salads are made and I'll start brewing coffee as we sit down to dinner. I should shower and get ready. Mac will be here in within the hour."
As she got ready Dara was surprised how much she was looking forward to the evening. She was having a tug-of-war within herself. One part of her - the cautious part - kept saying that this was just dinner with a friend. The other part - the hopeful part - was saying that this was dinner with a friend at her home on Christmas Eve and that this was a big deal. The cautious part held the upper hand by convincing her not to expect much so that she wouldn't be disappointed. This had been a great week, so let it end with a nice dinner with a friend and don't try to build it into anymore than that. Dara was applying the last touch of her makeup when the doorbell rang. She went to the front door to open it.
"Hi Dara," Mac said as she opened the door. He was carrying a pan covered with aluminum foil and a shopping bag. He stood there in the doorway gazing at her before entering the apartment. "I'm really glad that we're having dinner tonight. I can't think of a better way to spend the evening. You look really great", he said as his eyes gazed over her body.
"Thanks. Let me take this bag from you. Come on in the kitchen. And let me take your coat."
Mac followed Dara into the kitchen, placed the food on a counter, and handed Dara his coat & scarf. He was wearing a multicolored sweater (Italian-made Dara thought) and brown pants. His hair was slightly damp from the snow that started to fall just as he arrived. He watched Dara as she put his coat & scarf in a hall closet.
"She really does look great," he repeated his comment silently. The short-sleeved, scooped-neck camel-colored cashmere top and short tan skirt fit her body perfectly.
"How was your day?" Dara asked. "Do we need to heat anything?"
"Why don't we put the London Broil and rolls in the stove for 10 minutes?" Mac turned on the stove and placed the items in the oven. He then looked around the room. "You have a nice place here," he said. This was the 1st time that Mac had been to Dara's apartment.
"Come on, let me show you around. They went into the living room, which had a fireplace. There were a few photographs on the mantel. "Your family?" Mac asked.
"Yep, that's my mom and my sister, who was 18 when that picture was taken a few years ago. My father died about 10 years ago.
"And pictures of college?"
"Yes, I went to Northwestern in Evanston, IL. Near Chicago.
"That explains the framed poster of the Chicago Jazz Festival," he said. Mac looked at a large Norman Rockwell picture on a wall of a young black girl walking with four men dressed in uniforms around her. They were passing a wall which had the word nigger scrawled on it and a stain from a thrown tomato on it. The picture was titled "The Problem We Live With". "That's a great picture," he said. "Is it a lithograph?"
"Yes, it's actually as signed lithograph by Norman Rockwell himself. I bought it 15 years ago for $2000. It was absolute madness to pay that much money for a picture back then when I was a struggling college student, but I saw it and I absolutely had to have it. Now, after Rockwell has died, it has become a famous picture. I'm not sure how much it is worth today, but I don't have it as an investment. I have it because of what it represents."
Mac nodded his head understanding what she meant. He turned and walked at bit and said, "You have a balcony." Dara opened the French doors and followed him outside. It was snowing very lightly, the snow really wasn't sticking yet but it was still chilly. "You can see the lake from here," he said. "It must be nice on a clear day."
Dara shivered a bit and Mac rubbed both of her arms. "Come on, let's go back inside. I forgot that you had short sleeves on." He continued holding her arms and rubbing them for a few seconds after they walked inside. "I'm fine now, thanks", Dara said looking up into his eyes. "Let me lock the patio door."
Dara pulled away and caught her breath. She locked the door and turned to see Mac staring at her. "Well, there really isn't much more to see. It's just a one-bedroom apartment."
Mac smiled as he realized that she was feeling a bit nervous. That was really attractive to him. It's been a long time since a woman felt nervous around him. With Felicia he didn't remember anything demure or shy about her relationship with him. And it was the same with Katherine Bell. Shy and reserved were two words that would never apply to Katherine.
"Let's get the food out of the oven."
They sat down to a dinner of London Broil, vegetable casserole, wheat rolls, salad, and pound cake topped with strawberries. Mac had brought a nice Bordeaux wine, which they finished during dinner. Dara was surprised to see that he had also brought a bottle of champagne. She uncorked it after dinner and brought it into the living room with 2 glasses. Mac had started a fire in the fireplace. Dara placed the champagne down on a table and place a CD on the player.
"What's Christmas without Christmas music?" she asked.
"Nat King Cole." Mac said appreciatively. "Come on, let's make a toast."
"To your recent successes in court. You've work hard and you deserve the success your having now."
"Thank you." They clicked glasses and drank the champagne. Mac refilled the glasses "How about you, Mac? Can we toast to something for you? How about a new beginning? You've turned the PCPD around you know."
Mac said, "A new beginning can apply to my personal life also. You know, moving on after Felicia."
"I don't know if we should toast to that yet. From what I see, you & Felicia spend quite a bit of time together and it's not all because of the girls. I think that it's going to take some time for you to move on from Felicia."
"So you don't think that I'm really ready to move on from Felicia? A little of that may be true. It's hard to give up on a fantasy or dream that you've had for so many years. But after a while, even though some feeling may still be there, you start to look and realize things that you let pass by because you were chasing your dreams.
"Things like what?" Dara asked anticipating his response.
"Things like us. Dara, can you tell me that there was never anything between us, especially a few years ago before I took up with Felicia? I know that I felt an attraction but I never acted on it. Didn't you feel it?"
"I don't know."
"Don't you feel it now?"
"I don't know."
Mac leaned forward and placed his hand on her cheek and caressed it. "I think that you do feel it. Just as I do now." His hand moved behind her head and pulled her to him.
Dara raised her hand and placed it on Mac's shoulder. "Mac..." her words were silenced as he pressed his lips against hers. She felt as if she couldn't breathe. Dara just held her breath as Mac kissed her lips gently urging a response. Finally Dara gave in to her feelings and started responding to the kiss. She started returning his kisses. Mac tongue touched her outer lips and quickly entered Dara's mouth as her lips began to part. His left arm snaked her waist and pulled her close to him.
Dara felt as if she was drowning and had to come up for air. After a several seconds she gently pulled back and opened her eyes. Mac still had his eyes closed and continued holding the back of her head.
"Years ago and recently I wondered what this first kiss would feel like, how you'd feel in my arms," he said as he slowly opened his eyes. "It was all I imagined and more." Mac gazed into her big brown eyes and smiled. "Those eyes," he thought, "you could get lost in those eyes and not want to return." He moved forward to capture her lips again but Dara pulled back and held him back from her.
"Mac, wait. This is too fast," Dara said.
"Too fast? We've known each other for 5 years! I don't think that we could have moved much slower if we tried."
"No, you know what I mean. I don't want to get you on the rebound. I don't want to be used as a way for you to try and get over Felicia. I'm your friend, but there is a limit to our friendship" Dara said as she tried to smile weakly.
Mac let her go and thought about her statement. "You know, I can see why you're saying that. And to be totally honest there may be some truth in what you are saying. But you know Dara there has always been something between us. Just because I wasn't smart enough to act on it doesn't mean that real feelings didn't or don't exist. But I know what it's like to feel as if you're the second choice, so I just have to work to make sure that you won't ever feel that way. That will just take time. So O.K., we'll take our time. But don't think that we're going back to being 'just friends'".
"O.K. Let's finish the champagne and just enjoy the rest of the evening". And they did. They talked a bit more but mainly they listened to music and enjoyed each other's company. At 11:00 Mac got ready to leave.
"It's not Christmas yet so I'm not going to wish you a Merry Christmas now," he said. "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"During the morning and afternoon I'll be at General Hospital with some of your finest PCPD officers. We will be visiting children in the pediatrics ward passing out Christmas gifts donated by various businesses and people. In the evening I'm going to drive to Buffalo to visit a girlfriend and her family."
"Well, you know that I'm going to have dinner with Felicia & the girls tomorrow night, but I would love to go with you to General Hospital. I've heard about this yearly event by the department but I've never gone, which isn't good since I'm the police commissioner," he laughed. Mac paused before asking, "Can we go there together?"
"Marcus is going to pick me up to go there. But you can meet us there. We'll start around 11:00."
"O.K. I'll meet you there. Dara, thanks for dinner and the evening tonight. I really enjoyed myself," Mac said as he took her hands into his. His right hand's thumb caressed the back of her hand.
"I had a great time too Mac. You'll have to let me find out what else you can cook!" which was a light-hearted way of saying that she would like to do this again. "Thanks for suggesting it."
Mac leaned forward and quickly, lightly kissed her on the lips. He pulled back with his head a few inches from her and smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight" Dara said as he let her go and left the apartment.