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Old 09-02-2010, 04:47 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 17

Alright - here's the first piece of this story I've written in four years. I hope it flows smoothly with everything I already had down.

As always, please remember this is a fan fic; while Raye is occasionally written in semi-autobiographical manner, it's not the retelling of any actual events.

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Raye stepped into the great room from the deck and immediately smelled coffee brewing, confirming her suspicion that at least a portion of the group were dressed and had made it downstairs. Expecting to greet her housemates, she entered the kitchen with a bounce in her step and a smile on her face. She was stopped in midstride by the discovery of a completely barren room.

“But the coffee…”, she slowly spoke out loud to herself and scanned for evidence that anyone else had made it downstairs. There was none to be found as Raye walked to the bar and sat down, placing her coffee cup on the counter in front of her. Suddenly, clenching her eyes shut and smacking her forehead with her left palm, she muttered out loud, “You idiot!” Sitting right in front of her was the answer – her own coffee mug. The smell of coffee hung in the air because she’d brewed a pot to serve herself before going outside to call Sandra. In the excitement of bringing San up to date on all the weekend’s happenings she’d completely forgotten about making it. You better get your head together now, she warned herself, or you’ll look like a complete idiot out there today.

Realizing she was hungry and wanting something to focus on besides chastising herself, Raye walked over to check the breadbox by the coffee maker. Finding it empty, however, she began to look around for a pantry or cabinet where another loaf of bread may be. At the far end of the kitchen, across from the breakfast nook, was a small door that Raye hadn’t noticed before. In full ‘search’ mode, she turned the handle and cautiously opened the door of a very impressive walk-in pantry, lined floor to ceiling with sundries. On the third shelf from the bottom, about midway into the small room, were several loaves of bread. Raye stepped into the pantry, grabbed a loaf of honey wheat and stopped to look around for anything else she may need. Seeing a jar of strawberry preserves nearby and remembering that she’d nearly used all the jam on her toast the previous day, she picked up another jar and headed back to the kitchen. She’d just placed two pieces of bread in the toaster and was choosing her toast settings when she heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

“Good morning”, Edge greeted her. “Cooking us a proper Irish breakfast, then, are you?”

Raye turned to see a smiling Edge approach the bar and sit down, followed by Adam, Larry and most surprisingly, Bono. Raye would have bet good money that he’d be the last one downstairs every time.

“Morning, guys”, she answered with a smile. “Actually, I was just starting on my breakfast specialty – toast and jam. I’ll be happy to cook up a big batch if everyone wants some, though.”

“Well,” Bono was the first to respond, “if you’re going to all that trouble, it’d be rude of us to say no, now wouldn’t it?” He smiled at Raye as he stood up from his seat at the bar, and while it was a perfectly gorgeous smile, it didn’t take Raye’s breath away as it had on previous occasions. Either I’m quickly becoming immune to it, she thought, or his charm isn’t at full strength first thing in the morning.

“Can you lead me to the coffee cups?”, he asked her as he rounded the counter to where Raye was standing.

“Sure can. They’re in that cabinet, there.”

Raye pointed to where she’d found the mugs earlier that morning, but he misinterpreted which one she’d meant and was instead reaching for one door too soon. Taking several steps toward Bono, she said, “No, the next one. Right here.”

Having already moved away from the wrong cabinet, Bono was now directly in front of Raye and they nearly bumped fists as each one reached for the correct cabinet door at the same time. Raye stepped back to avoid another collision with another band member. “Okay, now you’re in the right place”, she said to him with a laugh.

Being within a foot of him now, Raye had to quickly rethink her earlier assessment about Bono. He was absolutely stunning up close. Even if his charm did need time to warm up (which Raye seriously doubted), he still looked amazing and smelled indescribably scrumptious. So much that Raye had to fight the urge to actually close her eyes and inhale deeply in his direction. She quickly rerouted her thought process to something less socially unacceptable.

“Who else wants coffee?”, she turned to ask Edge and the others. They were just announcing their beverage preferences when Paul and Leo descended the last stair and entered the kitchen.

Within 10 minutes, everyone had settled into seats with a hot cup of tea or coffee made to their liking and were munching either toast or one of a selection of breakfast pastries, taken from a white bakery box that Leo had produced from somewhere inside the pantry.

Comparing the chocolate-drizzled croissants that were now available to the toast already sitting with butter and jam on the plate in front of her, Raye playfully pouted as she asked Leo, “Now where did those come from? I was just in the pantry for the wheat bread and didn’t see them.”

“That would be because they were hidden from sight, somewhat,” Leo answered, after a sip of coffee. “I had Joy pick these up yesterday from my favorite bakery, but I knew if we left them on the kitchen table like she suggested that this lot” – he swung his free hand around the room to indicate its occupants – “would attack them with the ferocity of a locust swarm. Some people have no self control in regards to their sweet tooth. Do they, Mr. Clayton?”

Leo playfully pointed at Adam, who stopped eating a massive cinnamon roll long enough to take a sip of his hot tea and reply with a look of mock innocence , “I’m sure I have absolutely no idea what you’re referring to.” He immediately returned his attention to the cinnamon roll with a slight smile on his face.

“Whether he’ll admit to his problem or not”, Leo was saying, “I had these on the upper shelf behind the door to prevent discovery. I suppose that won’t be effective any longer.”

The lighthearted conversation continued until the group had satisfied themselves with breakfast and discussion turned to the day’s itinerary. As promised earlier, Larry was still intent on joining everyone and was first to place his breakfast dishes into the sink before heading to the back deck to check the morning’s weather. Edge and Bono opted to join him while everyone else finished getting their things together. Leo had left his jacket upstairs in his room and Paul remembered that he’d forgotten to take one of his morning medications so they, too, placed their dishes into the sink and headed back up the stairs, promising to meet everyone back in the great room in a few minutes.

Raye and Adam were left alone at the counter, now separated by the two empty chairs that had held Larry and Bono. Raye looked from the kitchen sink, full of cups, saucers, plates and spoons, back to the things that she and Adam still had in front of them. She knew that Joy was likely due at the back at the house later in the afternoon to prepare their dinner and would expect to have the dishes waiting for her, but Raye couldn’t see the point of leaving dirty things for Joy to wash up when she was perfectly capable of giving them a good rinse and placing them into the dishwasher herself. Besides, she thought, that’s the very least I can do. Knowing full well, though, that Leo would quickly run her off if he came back downstairs to find her doing such a task, Raye looked at her breakfast companion with a sly grin. Adam eyed her suspiciously before questioning her motives.

“What are you up to?” he asked, with his own sly smile. Combined with the diffused morning light coming into the kitchen, the sparkle in his gorgeous blue eyes, and the black turtleneck sweater he had paired with tan slacks and leather driving moccasins, the combined effect was almost more than Raye could take. She was certain she could feel something dark and primal rising up in her throat and was almost afraid to speak, for fear of emitting a wolf-like growl rather than an intelligent sentence. Realizing she’d been holding her breath, she quickly grabbed her plate and coffee mug and stood up from her chair. Exhaling, she walked to the sink where she was able to keep her back to Adam and address him with actual words.

“Nothing – honestly,” she said, setting down her things and turning on the faucet. Thankful for the burst of cold water that splashed over her hands (her body heat seemed to have increased by at least eight degrees in the last millisecond), she went about organizing the dirty dishes and continuing the conversation. Satisfied that she was past her little ‘moment’, she turned her head over her right shoulder and spoke again.

“I just hate the thought of leaving these things for Joy to do when she’ll already have her hands full cooking dinner’” she explained to Adam. “So I’m going to rinse them quickly while Leo is upstairs. If he catches me at it, though, I know he’ll have a tongue-lashing for me. I just need you to be a co-conspirator and act as my lookout.” She flashed what she hoped was a charming smile (not a cheesy one) and turned her attention back to the sink.

“Ah – spy maneuvers. I’d love to stand as your lookout,” was the answer Adam gave. Raye heard his chair move along the floor as he stood, presumably to walk over to the stairs and listen for the approach of Lionel and Paul. Pleased with her sneakiness, she was already busy rinsing the cups, completely engrossed in the task at hand. Her focus, along with the rushing water from the faucet and the clatter of the breakfast dishes, however, prevented her from hearing Adam as he approached the sink and stood just behind her.

Being a single woman who sometimes worked in sketchy areas with sketchy men, Raye liked to believe that she always had a keen awareness of when someone was approaching her personal space. As she stood rinsing cups and saucers and spoons, however, she couldn’t deny that it wasn’t her ‘sixth sense’ alerting her of a presence. Instead, it was the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end, the sudden scent of male cologne, and – Dear God, no!, she thought in horror – the hardening of her nipples that caused her to jerk her head straight up to face the backsplash in front of her with her eyes wide. Blinking quickly and shaking her head ever so slightly, she frantically stole a look down at her chest to see if the bra & sweater she was wearing were thick enough to hide the undeniable physical reaction she was having. She partially turned to her right to confirm that Adam was, indeed, within half an arm’s length from her.

“Oh!”, she chirped at him, trying to sound pleasantly surprised and not the least bit erotically aroused. “I thought you were watching the stairs.”

“I checked them,” he answered, stepping to her side at the double sink and handing his used dishes to her. “But we’ll get this done twice as quickly if you rinse while I load the dishwasher.” He playfully flashed a conspiratorial grin and raised his eyebrows at her, waiting for her reply.

“Good thinking”, she answered, as she took Adam’s plate, cup and saucer from him. Their hands brushed against each other just slightly during the exchange but Raye could swear that Adam was slower than necessary to withdraw his hand from hers. He gave her a quick nod then began to busy himself with loading the things Raye had already rinsed into the dishwasher.

Oh my God, what was that? Was it anything at all?, she screamed in her head. Her heart felt like it was going to escape from her chest at any second and she was suddenly aware of the subtle clatter of clinking china. Looking down into the sink at hands that didn’t seem to belong to her any longer, Raye realized with shock that she was causing the noise – she was actually shaking. She snuck a quick look out of the corner of her eye to see if Adam had noticed; mercifully, his back was to her as he considered the optimal arrangement of the items in the dishwasher. Thankful that the sound of the faucet must be louder than the rattling, Raye willed her hands to calm themselves and rinsed the remainder of the breakfast things with the determination of a Rottweiller. As quickly as she could, without throwing anything, Raye put the last of the dishes into the sink that Adam was loading from, grabbed a dish towel from her side of the counter and began drying her hands as she walked to the breakfast nook. She stood there, gazing out onto the front of Leo’s property, berating herself furiously.

What the Hell is wrong with you?, she seethed at herself. She’d have rather been alone somewhere with a mirror, screaming out loud at her own reflection, but settled at the moment for the ghostly outline of herself that she could see in the kitchen window. Do you have any idea what kind of fool you are making of yourself? Raye felt her jaw clenched tight enough for the tendons in her neck to stand out, but she wasn’t the least bit concerned at that moment with the inevitable headache that her rage would leave behind after she calmed down. She was absolutely livid with herself and continued the verbal self flagellation. You stupid, stupid bitch! You are here to photograph a nice old man and his son, not get touchy-feely with their guests. You may have ogled pictures of Adam Clayton for most of your life but you are nobody to him – absolutely nobody! Drop the fucking fairy tale, quit acting like a lovesick cow and just do your job.

Raye’s death stare at the window was distracted just then by a beam of sunshine bouncing off the handle of her Pathfinder’s door. For a fraction of a second, she considered coming up with a ‘work emergency’ and leaving Leo’s for the week. The pause was enough for her to get control of her thoughts, though, and she decided against it. Firstly, she wanted to be honest with Lionel – he deserved at least that much from her, if nothing else, for all his generosity. Secondly, she realized, she didn’t want to go home to an empty house and spend the rest of the week eating tubs of ice cream, staying up all night watching old movies, and generally wallowing in self-hate and self-pity.

“Here they come!”

Raye turned around, unclenching her fists and putting on her best fake smile, to see Adam looking toward the stairs. He had just closed the dishwasher door and was double stepping back to his seat at the bar. She quickly ran the dish towel back to its place by the sink, then scurried to return to her own seat and wait for Lionel and Paul.

“Here!” Adam whispered to her, as he pushed a portion of the day’s newspaper toward her, while keeping one for him self. Just before his eyes disappeared behind the World News section, he gave her a quick thumb’s up and grinned like an errant schoolboy. Raye followed suit, quietly admonishing herself once more to forget how beautiful Adam had just looked. They both appeared to just be enjoying a few quiet moments with the news by the time Leo and Paul entered the room, approximately five seconds later.

“Are we all ready to get on with the day, then?”, Lionel asked as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

Adam and Raye looked up from their papers, convincingly appearing as though they’d been sitting there all along. As they put the newspapers down and stood up from their chairs, Raye was a little over enthusiastic in answering.

“Absolutely – let’s get out this house!” She promptly made a beeline past Adam, Lionel and Paul, leaving them for her equipment in the great room.

A bit startled at Raye’s quick exit, the three men look looked at each other quizzically for a moment before shrugging it off and trailing after her, heeding Paul’s joking suggestion that they try to keep up.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:51 PM   #2
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Aww, what a lovely chapter! I love the intensity between the two! She's got the hots for Adam, she can't deny it. Can't wait to see what you have waiting for us!
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