Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Anything Can Happen


     Snap, went the flash of the cameras to the left and right of Alaric as he exited the limo. He both loved and hated these things, but premieres had their purpose. This was the business side of entertainment and if he wanted to make the transition from the small screen to the big screen in America, this was the job and he had to be on his game tonight. The jackals of the media world were waiting and lined both sides of the red carpet. Here we go, Alaric noted as he adjusted the top button of his form fitting, grey, Armani suit.
     Alaric was well prepared for events like tonight. He had grown up in the “Biz” as it was called here in the States. His father, Sven Sorenson, was a Broadway stage actor and been in a film or two. Alaric had followed in his father’s footsteps, reluctantly. With a recognizable name at home in Sweden he had been able to get acting jobs fairly easily, but he wanted to make sure that it was the right choice.
            As a teenager, Alaric had done a few commercials and bit roles on Swedish TV, but he didn’t feel a connection to acting like his dad had always talked about. During secondary school he had participated in the theatre program, but he still loved his other classes like drafting and mathematics. He had thought long and hard about if he wanted to do the predictable thing and go into acting or become something else entirely, like a doctor or architect. It had taken several years for him to decide and feel the yearning that his dad had said he would feel if acting was to be his career.
Alaric had completed his national military service and even spent time traveling and studying in Europe. However, it wasn’t until he found himself on the island of Cyprus, watching a classic Greek tragedy being performed at a small outdoor amphitheater, that he felt the first pings of yearning to act again. The feeling that this was the right choice only grew from there and Alaric soon found himself auditioning and back in front of the camera.
“Sorenson! Alaric,” a polished young woman with dark black hair and bright red lips, was pressed up against the barricade, beckoned to the actor as he began the stroll towards the entrance of the theatre. Alaric recognized the young woman from previous media laden events, she was with LA! Magazine.  What was her name? Oh come on Ric think! Jen or Jenna…Jemma!
Alaric veered his path towards Jemma and stopped just far enough away that she had to stretch a little to get out pass the other photographers and reporters ready to pounce on his every word.  “Jemma,” he said to the woman in front of him, “Good to see you!” Alaric smiled and directed his attention to her. He knew addressing her would give her the chance to ask the questions first.
“Looking ravishing in…is that Armani?” Jemma smiled as if she had won the prize.
“Yes, thank you,” Alaric responded and touching the lapel of his jacket.
“So tell us about your first big Hollywood summer blockbuster – The Last Battalion!” She now stretched the little metallic recorder out in front of Alaric.
“Well…It’s about a warrior that survives an outer space battle with a deadly alien foe.  He returns to Earth and then has to train the last remaining soldiers as a defense against the same foe, which has finally made it to our solar system. He is aided by a beautiful scientist, who thinks she has discovered the aliens’ weakness.” Alaric repeated the description he had regurgitated a hundred times in the last week. He knew there would be more to follow, as that was not what Jemma would really want.
“There is talk that this film really brings you to the forefront of leading men right now. Are you pleased to hear that?” She raised an eyebrow at Alaric and her smile deepened.
“Well…I am just happy to have the chance to expand beyond my current role on Destiny as Roric.” That was true, films were what Alaric wanted to move more towards, but Destiny had given him the exposure he needed to find a spot on casting lists and it paid the bills currently. It would be a little while before film deals that really paid well would come along. The Last Battalion helped fill the coffers, even if it was slightly higher than B grade as far as films go. Alaric was smart about it and knew this was just the first in a string of summer action flicks to wet audience’s appetites. It would pay for itself, but this was not the type of film that would garner him any awards. It was merely a stepping stone.
“It is a big change from the European films that you have made in the past. Do you enjoy American films and TV over the European films and TV?” Jemma pressed onward in the discussion.
 “It is very different, in what both audiences enjoy. I like doing both and I don’t think I would turn down any European offers, but I’m focused on Hollywood right now…it’s become my second home.” Alaric hoped that the answer had been diplomatic enough not to alienate either market.
It was a tightrope walk to transition from European films to the American industry. Would his looks be enough, would he sound American enough, would people accept a Scandinavian name like Alaric Sorenson? Alaric had to relax a little and remember that it was his manager’s job to worry about that and he had the best, so what else could he do.
“I heard a little bird says that there was some romancing going on between you and fellow Last Battalion co-star Emily Gardner. Is that true?” Jemma finished with the crème-de-la-crème question.
And there it is! Alaric had been waiting to see how long before the dating question would come up. He had flirted with Emily on the set and they had tried dinner. It had been good press for the film, but there was a secret Emily had and Aleric was not going to be the one to reveal it. Emily Gardner was Hollywood royalty and he was not spouting off to anyone about another actors love life, especially as he was about to spend the night side-by-side with his co-star.
“No…no, we’re just friends and co-workers. Emily is beautiful and a great actress to work with. We had fun making this film.” Aleric didn’t want to press this any further, so he made the turn to answer other questions and pose for a few shots.
     Jemma looked defeated now and withdrew a little back into the swarm of reporters. A few more people called Alaric’s name as he waved and paused occasionally to pose as he finished making his way inside. Alaric had hoped his name would not be splashed about in every magazine about his dating failure with Emily. God if only these people really knew what it was like having your life turned inside out each week, he thought silently.
     Alaric had tried to give the most unimpressive answers when it came to his love life, but the truth is not what the writers and paparazzi wanted. They would turn the answer into a “maybe” or that he was in “denial” to sell more copies at the stands. They wanted a story at any cost and there was real cost at times. The media had pretty much destroyed his last relationship with actress Kristin Blakely.
      Kristin and Alaric had met doing an advertisement together and had enjoyed similar activities. She was a knockout with her chestnut colored hair and green eyes. Kristin was also slightly younger than Alaric. She had a standing role on a daytime drama and was starting to transition into films. Things had been pretty serious between them and they had even thought about living together. However, there was rumor after rumor of infidelity that they had to deal with as a couple and in the end it had been too much for Kristin. Eventually, she felt as if the relationship was having a negative impact to her career.
     Alaric was not surprised when shortly after their break-up Kristin was already dating an editor to a predominant east coast magazine. She had gone home to Connecticut to get away from the constant news about why she and “playboy” Alaric had split ways. It was while she was in New Haven that she had met Marcus Davenport. He had not wasted time and swept her off her feet instantly. His very demeanor said stable and grounded; there was no way Alaric could have competed with that. Kristin and Marcus were now married and her career was going smoothly. Alaric had been disappointed at hearing about their nuptials, but happy for them both at the same time.
      Now if only he could ditch the undeserved playboy label and do the same. Things were never easy in Hollywood and finding a way to balance love and success was a rarity. If Alaric was doing well in his career right now, then maybe not being in a relationship was the trade-off he had to make for success. He did want to have a family one day and finding someone who could help create that balance in life he desired would be like unearthing a hidden gem.
      In the end, it had probably been for the best that Emily had other relationship interests in play. Alaric just wanted to focus on work for a while. He was glad to be done with the questions and through the doors, on his way to watching what the special effects masters had done once they had gotten their hands on the final shots.

      It was Tuesday night and I, Rebecca Anders, was in my usual routine with Paula Davis. Paula and I had met when I took a position at Olympic College outside of Poulsbo, Washington.  I was the new literature faculty member and Paula had been with the college English department as an office assistant for six years. From the very first day, we hit it off as friends and I had gotten to know her husband, Ed Davis, and her two sons, Peter and Simon, well over the last two years. Paula was a great asset at the college and a valuable resource to have in such a small seaside community as Poulsbo. 
     This was my first major faculty position and I was glad to have landed the job after several adjunct positions. However, Washington was very different from my native Colorado. I had grown up in the heart of Denver and always loved the outdoors and mountains. Denver was for the most part similar to Seattle in size, with one very distinct difference – water. Denver was fairly flat and the beginning of the great American plains. Therefore Denver was dry and had very little humidity. Seattle on the other hand was hilly, lush, and completely dominated by access to the ocean that Puget Sound offered. I of course would not be so lucky to find a position in downtown Seattle, but across the water in Poulsbo.          

     Poulsbo isn’t your typical metropolis by any means, but instead a small picturesque town on the Kitsap Peninsula across the Sound from downtown Seattle. Life was slower and more rural on the peninsula. The town itself sat quietly tucked up at the end of an inlet off the Sound and completely encompassed by farmland. Along with a deep history in fishing, the town is home to a large Scandinavian population and holds an annual Viking Festival in honor of its heritage. I have felt at home here with the signs in Norwegian saying “Velkhommen”, greeting the many visitors. It had reminded me of my time spent studying in Denmark. However, with the smaller population, there was less options when it came to my love life.

    My last boyfriend, Robert, had opted not to come with me to Washington. He was an academic like me, but in the field of Environmental Sustainability. He was tall, dark, and handsome in a kind of geeky way. I thought of him as my Clark Kent. Once the glasses came off and he started talking about anything other than environmental policy, he could be damn sexy. I thought Seattle and Washington would have been appealing to him, but he wanted to pursue his involvement with a new degree program at the University of Colorado. He didn’t want to leave and more importantly he had wanted the stay at home wife and two point five kids. I was not ready to give him that and he made it clear that he had always thought of my degree as fluff. I find it funny how we overlook the fact that our relationships don’t quite mesh when we have our head in the clouds because of love.

     Scandinavian Literature was really my specialty and the reason the college hired me was to beef up both their English department and their Scandinavian Studies program. I had spent a good part of my graduate studies in Copenhagen and looking at medieval works such as Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. The college saw an opportunity to connect to the Scandinavian culture within the local community, as well as a way to tie into the University of Washington across the bay. 

      I of course was very happy to try and help the college meet those goals. As part of expanding the Scandinavian Studies, I had hoped to create a study aboard course and take a group of students to either Copenhagen or Stockholm to study literature and culture this upcoming summer. I had loved my studies aboard and wanted to share the experience with Olympic College’s students. However, the funding fell through for this year and I was on the hunt for support. Paula was more than willing to provide support and was already on board to help me find the funds for next year.

As usual tonight though, Paula had dropped the boys off at karate at six forty-five and was now comfortably positioned for the next hour on my couch to enjoy the rerun episode of Destiny. We were attempting to catch up on the last few episodes of season two that we had missed last summer, due to vacations and class schedules. At the same time, I was attempting to finish up the papers I had to review for my Early English literature class on Thursday morning. The class was in the process of analyzing the heroic poem of Beowulf and the influence of Scandinavia on English literature of that time period. I would sit and scan the papers, while half listening to the TV show that my best friend in this small town had gotten me hooked on.

      Paula and I had worked out a system, in which Paula gave me a vocal cue that it was really time to pay attention. Of course that would be the parts involving our favorite character of Roric, bad boy of the show – the one you loved to hate and hate because you love him so much. Sometimes it was a cough and sometimes, if the story was really good, it was an “Oh here we go!” Tonight it was an “Oh here we go” type of night. On this episode Roric was apparently the main focus of the story. Every girl in the nation would kill to get their hands on Roric, aka Alaric Sorenson, and he visited my living room every Tuesday night via Destiny.

       If I was going to get hooked on a TV show, then Destiny was the one to fit the bill. Destiny was a science fiction story about a town caught in a time vortex, with the characters arriving in the modern day, but small town of Mystery, from various times within history. Paula’s favorite character of course was the gorgeous Alaric Sorenson, who played a Saxon invader caught in the vortex and dropped into Mystery midway through season one.

        Alaric was your typical Scandinavian hunk - tall, blonde, blue-eyed and six-pack abs. He of course was the antagonist to the characters of Alexi, a modern day girl born and raised in the weirdness of Mystery, and Will, a pioneer from early American history. Roric had become the area bad boy and Will the mister clean and well behaved. Alexi, Will, and Roric always ended up fighting over something or someone that showed up in the small town. This episode they were trying to stop an outbreak of some horrible disease, the likes of smallpox, which had arrived with the most recent time traveler. It was a rare time in the show when all three characters were working together.

       I watched off and on as I tried to make sure my students were grasping the finer details of Beowulf. I had just found a student who actually did the reading and had brought up an interesting point about Grendel in their analysis, when Paula screeched out loud, “Holy Cow! Shut the front door!” Next thing I know, she is jumping up and down and saying that I have to enter some contest.

      “What are you talking about?” I reached out and grabbed her hands to try and calm her down.

        “You weren’t paying attention again! It was an ad for the Destiny contest!”


        “What ad? Explain it?” I said looking at her.

       “We can win two tickets to the summer Destiny party!” Paula had reverted to that teenage groupie attitude and was almost in a panic.
“Okay what is the summer Destiny party?” I said to her trying my best to let Beowulf rest until later.
       “Every year a lucky winner gets 2 tickets to attend the cast party in Los Angeles and meet the actors of Destiny!” she chirped almost too excitedly for a woman of thirty-nine. “It will be June fourteenth, which will be perfect timing as you won’t have classes this summer and my work load is lightest then. I say we do it, Becca!”

“Okay…okay…what exactly do we have to do?” I resolved to make my only friend happy, least she give me up forever as being pathetic and boring.
“We can enter on Twitter, by hash tagging Destiny Party in a reason we should be chosen. Oh it could be our summer girl’s vacation!” she shook her head yes at me.
“I don’t know anything about Twitter and don’t even have an account…you know me, I don’t get the difference between tweeting and texting.” I grimaced.
     “These days tweeting is the new texting darling,” she said and reassured me, “I’ll help you!”  
      Next thing I know we are on the computer and I am getting my first lesson in Twitter. Paula was certain if we made ours stand out we would get noticed. So, I think I responded in iambic pentameter and hash-tagged away. Unfortunately, it also meant that I didn’t get as many papers read and we missed that episode of Destiny, again. The things we do out of love for our friends!


      The arms of the clock in the reading room pointed to seven in the morning and it was the beginning of another typical day on set for Alaric. It would start early and end late; a twelve hour day would not surprise him. Things never went as smoothly or quite as scheduled.

      Alaric, like the other cast members, had gotten the newest script a couple of days ago and he had already glanced through his parts. Things were looking up for Alaric’s character, Roric was about to enter into a relationship with a newly introduced female character to the town of Mystery.  As a result, Andrea Rankin’s character, Alexi, becomes jealous and admits her true feelings about Roric. This would make the love triangle between Will, Alexi, Roric a main focus of the storyline.
This could be an interesting twist in the story; Alaric smiled to himself as he sat down with the other cast members and did the first read through. The love triangle would also mean more screen time for Alaric’s character, which always helped one’s career. However, he could tell already that Andrea was not too pleased with some of the upcoming scenes. There would be a good deal of nudity this season, which didn’t bother Alaric as much as some of his co-stars.
Then it was off to get ready to finish filming for the current episode. There would be a good hour spent in make-up and wardrobe.  By mid-morning Alaric would finally be able to have discussions on stunts and block out action sequences. Even though many of the cast members liked to use stand-ins for establishing the camera angles to be used in certain scenes with the director and camera crews, Alaric liked to be present and a part of the process.
Right before lunch, the script re-writes for the next episode were issued for the last time and the cast was able to go through them again quickly, while the crews finish getting the sets ready for filming. In the down time between resetting, lighting and sound checks, and all the crew moving to and fro, Alaric had found a quiet space out of the way of people to sit, read, and decompress. This was his only miniature escape during these types of days, to read a few pages and let the mind wander.
“Have you gone through the contestants yet?” Don’s voice broke through the book Alaric had his head buried in as he waited out the shooting schedule for the day.
“What?” Alaric looked up surprised to see the Executive Producer on set. “You want me to look at them?”
“Well…yah!” Don responded holding out his hands in desperation. It had been a week since the Destiny party contest closed and it was time for the big reveal of the winner. “You are going to be the date boy for these two lovelies.”
“Now hold on, I thought I was just meeting them on the red carpet for pictures!” Alaric retorted.
 “No, you will be picking them up at their hotel in the limo and delivering them to the red carpet, pictures in there somewhere.” Don was getting red faced.
“When did this all change?” Alaric pleaded with the show producer.
“It doesn’t matter! We have narrowed it down to 25 names; pick the one that hits your fancy.” Don was already walking away as he as he added, “My assistant, Caroline, will take care of the rest.”
Caroline slid up taking Don’s place quickly. “So, here are the tweets printed out and handles. There are a few really good ones in there.” She handed the sheet to Alaric.
“Bra Herre!” Alaric swore under his breath. He began reading as quickly as possible; they were only 140 characters at least. Some were a bit forward and that could mean trouble, others cutesy. Then one caught his attention, it was old English and iambic pentameter. Impressive for so short a message and Alaric pointed to the page, “This one!”
Caroline grabbed back the papers and looked for the name attached. “Yah, I thought it was good too!”
“Let’s hope it isn’t a grey-haired granny,” Alaric could just see spending a night escorting two grandmothers around.
“Hopefully a hot college co-ed, the handle is @BAndersOlympicEdu,” Caroline winked at Alaric.
     Alaric remembered the two contestants that had won last year’s tickets to the party. They had been two lovely young fans of the show and luckily it had been Andrea Rankin’s turn to act as host.  They had gotten a little tipsy and loud, therefore Andrea had to find them an escort back to the hotel early. Alaric prayed that he would be so lucky not to have anyone that would embarrass him on the red carpet and at the party. Someone who could handle themselves at such an event would be miraculous. 

     Fans of the show were for the most part middle-aged women and fairly harmless. However, some of the fans were unpredictable. Simon Middleton, who played Will on the show, had received some scandalous fan mail, including a pair of women’s underwear once. Alaric didn’t follow twitter or Facebook, as the fans could be so aggressive and overwhelming. He loved having that distance between fans and his personal life. Back home in Sweden, there was a sense of personal space and he rarely had the same issues with fans or paparazzi that he had in the US.

     It had been several weeks since the Destiny contest submittal and I was sitting in my office giving full attention to the now revised essays on Beowulf, when Paula entered in a hurried fashion. She glared at me before saying, “Well have you checked?”
“Checked what?” I questioned.
“The results are to be released today!” She shook her head at me in disbelief.
“Results for midterms?” I teased.
“You know exactly what results, I am talking about!” She gave me her best mother look, hands on hips included.
“Okay, okay, I give in…I’ll look!” I set down the papers and turned to my computer. I brought up twitter and logged in. When the page finally loaded a stream of tweets flew by from the weeks of inactivity.
“Now what?” I asked. I didn’t have the first clue what to look for.
 “There! There is a response to your tweet,” Paula said as she hovered over my shoulder fixated on the screen. She directed me to the upper left to a bell that said notifications.
I clicked on the tweet and it had a standard thank you for entering and a link. When I clicked on the link the page that opened was animated and had little fireworks going off. In the center was a message that started by saying Congratulations you have been chosen…and I don’t think I remember the rest because at that point Paula’s arms descended around me and she began to scream and jump up and down, “We Won!!! We won Becca! Oh, My Dear God! We are going to L.A.!”
I think my mind began to work again, because panic started to set in. There was no way in hell I had just been chosen for the Destiny party. How could this have happened? There had to be a mistake or, Shakespeare be blessed, people seriously underestimate the power of iambic pentameter these days. Okay, at this point I gave in and did a massive foot stomp and swiveled in my computer chair.
When Paula got home, Ed didn’t believe her at first. I had to pull up the tweet to provide proof and this time made it through all of the link information, including instructions on how to claim the prize. I wrote down the number to call and begin the arrangements. Ed had mixed feelings about Paula going to L.A. and hanging out with sexy stars without him. I had my own doubts about myself going and hanging out with sexy stars.
First of all, Paula for the record was a tall, blonde bombshell herself. Granted she toned it down at work, but I had helped pick out her 15th anniversary dress for a very romantic getaway at the beginning of the New Year. In no way did she look thirty-nine and the mother of two in it. I had actually witnessed students try and hit on her, only to be stunned that she was a hair close to being their mother’s age. I on the other hand had something to worry about.
It would take a serious pair of heels to get me anywhere near Paula’s natural height and unless I scheduled liposuction for tomorrow, I was never going to lose the twenty pounds above my target weight that I had acquired. I am also a red-head and that puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to being tan and not having some pasty, white skin showing. Finally, I am an academic and sexy clothing is not common place in my wardrobe. Oh my Odin, help me!
When things had finally calmed down and our feet were solidly planted on Earth again, I got the courage up to call the number and figure out what exactly what we were expected to do. The girl that answered, Caroline, was straight to the point. We would be responsible for getting to L.A. and getting home. The hotel was also up to us, but transportation to the event would be covered by the show and our escort would meet us at the hotel on the night of the event. We would be expected to wear evening cocktail dresses for the red carpet and we were not allowed cameras or other photographic devices. Pictures would be taken by professionals at the party and sent to us afterwards. We were to conduct ourselves appropriately and politely throughout the event.
Over the weekend, I made sure to go through the details with Paula and we scoured the internet for cheap flights and a descent hotel not far from the venue the event was to be held at. We needed a place to stay that also offered a spa or salon, as Paula pointed out we had to be camera ready for the big night. This also reminded me I needed to update my make-up bag, as I didn’t wear make-up often and by now light blue eye-shadow was probably out of fashion.
 Next, Paula demanded a look through of my closet to see what I had in mind for our California adventure. She was not at all pleased with what I had readily available and of course took control of the internet to see what would be considered acceptable for such an occasion. She also insisted on looking for a bathing suit for me, as she declared that board shorts and a tank top were not pool worthy in California. All I could think to myself was Hotel check, flight check; glad I have a credit card with a deep limit – priceless! 
I thought the call from Paula, the day before the trip, would be to remind me to wax before leaving so that I could wear the swimsuit she had somehow talked me into getting. Instead, tragedy had struck and Paula was lying in the emergency room area of the local clinic with a broken ankle.
“How did this happen?” I asked stunned.
“I came home, carrying groceries from the car, and apparently the boys had laid their baseball gear out by the door. A bat found its way to the floor and I didn’t see it as I came in. Next, thing I know I’m on a trip to the living room and missed the step-down.” She relayed the whole incident. Then I could hear the tears as she said, “You’ll be on your own for the Destiny party.”
“Oh Paula, I couldn’t go without you…” I began, but was sharply reprimanded.
“You will not change your plans! You have to do this for both of us now Becca!” Paula said sternly.
“Yes ma’am!” I answered as if on direct orders.
       “Oh Becca, I am so sorry!” She said with a sigh. “Please tell me all about it when you get back.”
“Okay Paula, I will.” I said crushed for her.
“Got to go, they are sending me across to Seattle for surgery. Love you! Bye!” Paula hung up.
As I put down the phone, I think I was in shock. I would be on my own at the party! No, wing man to hold me up and keep the attention of the stars diverted away from me. Holy mother of Thor!
That night I checked and double checked my carry on to make sure I had everything I needed. The new swimsuit was no longer necessary, although I had still waxed just in case I changed my mind. I also made sure to put my dress in a special garment bag, so that it didn’t become a wrinkled mess. It was a beautiful light sea foam chiffon dress and more importantly it had passed the Paula test. She had also found a pair of four inch heels in buff to complement the dress. I did not look like a stiff academic in the dress and that was the best I could do.
When the alarm clock went off at five o’clock in the morning, I rose and drug myself to the shower and then finished loading the car in order to make it to the ferry on time. It just felt so wrong to be going without Paula and the feeling followed me all the way to the SeaTac airport. I had butterflies as I loaded the plane and realized it was really happening.
By the time the plane landed in Los Angeles, I had already planned the rest of my evening around dinner and time enough for painting toe nails. I might even sneak in a serious glass of wine to calm my nerves. I would also need to check-in with Caroline again, so they know I actually made it and that Paula had not and what hotel I was staying at.
As I spoke to Caroline, she said that there would be a timetable for pick-up the next evening and they would send over the party passes. I was to meet the escort in the hotel lobby at 5:30 sharp! A limo would be provided to take me to the venue. I made sure to brand the information into my mind, least I miss my escort and then have to face the wrath of Paula when I got home.
The next morning I woke with a start, as if I was already behind schedule. I looked at the clock and it held fast in its red numbers five thirty-two. I turned over and sighed, it was going to be a long day. There was a lot of time between five thirty in the morning and five thirty that evening and I had a feeling it would drag through the morning and then slip past in the afternoon. So, I turned back over and hoped for another hour of sleep, which might help me make it to ten o’clock tonight before I fizzled out.
At ten past six, I couldn’t sleep anymore and the adrenaline was starting to build. I got up and took a long, hot shower and pampered myself with a lovely honey infused lotion. I also attempted to somewhat tame the frizz nightmare that I knew my hair would become shortly after drying. The humidity of L.A. was not going to play nicely with me or my hair. Although I had a secret weapon ready and I had made a hair appointment in the salon downstairs in the attached spa. This put me at ease of not having to pack rollers and straightening irons, etc. I would leave it to the pros to wage war with my red tresses.
After dressing, I found the breakfast vouchers and went in search of sustenance. I found the little café shop off the hotel lobby and ordered a Grande, Carmel macchiato and a blueberry bagel with cream cheese. A gazillion calories, but Paula was not here and I was on vacation. Not only that, but I needed comfort for all the torture I was about to endure this evening.
 On my way back up to the room I stopped by the front desk to see if they had an iron and if the pass had arrived. Sure enough there was an envelope with my name on it and a badge of sorts inside with instructions. I took the iron and the packet and returned to my room. Well, so it begins!
By two o’clock I had read a good part of the book I had brought with me, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and was feeling like I needed to find a protest rally rather than attend a celebrity bash. I had also been proactive and pressed any creases out of my dress and laid out my sexiest panties and bra. However, I had to get a move on to make the hair appointment.
“What did you have in mind?” the girl asked that ended up with my disastrous mess.
“See, here is the deal…I am attending a very big party tonight and need to look…well not like me.” I hoped that was information enough for her to get the point I needed gorgeous.
“What party?” she asked
I put my hands to my temples in embarrassment, “The Destiny cast party.”
“Oh my God, you’re going to that!” she whirled me around and as if by magic a plan had formulated in her brain. She grabbed a magazine and added, “How about something like this?” She showed me a picture of a couple girls with their hair done in knotted buns.
“I prefer it down, I’m a bit self-conscious about my neck,” I said grabbing hold of the left side of my neck.
“Mm,” she paused a moment and flipped more through the magazine. “Here, what about a half and half.”
It was a picture of Amy Adams and her red locks in perfect bouncy curls with one side pulled around exposing only one side of her neck. How could I argue with the glamour that Amy was able to produce; she made me glad to be a red-head. 
“Go for it if you think I can pull it off,” I countered.
“Alright, let’s start with tackling the frizz and give you a serious conditioning.” The hair-goddess directed me to the sink at the back and began her magic therapy.
It felt wonderful to be fussed over in this manner and I think I absolutely made her day. In the end she had accomplished nothing less than a miracle, but it had eaten a good chunk of time. I had to hustle back to my room after tipping her an extraordinary amount.
The dress, although difficult to zip without help, and the hair were superb. Paula would have been so proud of me. I made sure to take the badge and room key and slip them into my matching clutch purse. Finally, I recounted the instructions, which indicated an escort would pick me up at five thirty in the hotel lobby and not to be late. I slipped on my shoes and had about ten minutes to make it to the lobby. One final check in the mirror and I hoped that I wouldn’t embarrass myself tonight.
When the elevator doors opened at the lobby, I took a deep cleansing breath and reminded myself that I could do this. I had my doctorate for Pete’s sake and I’d like to see one of these actors defend their thesis in front of an international group of experts. I was building my confidence up, until I saw the tall blonde in sunglasses and an expensive tux headed my way. Was that? It couldn’t be, could it? He removed his glasses as he approached and I could clearly see those dusky blue eyes that were his trademark. Oh mighty Odin! It was Alaric Sorenson himself and I had to glance around to make sure this was not a joke.

 Alaric had gotten to the hotel a tad early and went into the lobby just on the off chance that the lucky winner might be ready early. He felt completely out of place in a tux standing in the middle of a hotel lobby and was a bit peeved that Don had even made him do this. He was about to head back out to the limo and wait, until the ding of the elevator made him pause.
The woman that walked out of the lift was dressed in a sea-foam colored cocktail dress that dipped in a V-neck, exposing a hint of bust and making her eyes pop. The heels she wore made her stand tall and straight and accentuated how her chest came forward a little more. Her hair, however, reminded him of a familiar red-headed queen of film and other than being slightly overweight, she would have fooled the best into thinking she was the lady herself.
Alaric moved towards her as if drawn by a magnet. This had to be one of the contest winners, but wasn’t there supposed to be two of them? And then suddenly she stopped abruptly and looked around as if trying to find a place to run and hide. This is going to start off well Alaric said silently to himself.
“Hi, I’m Alaric Sorenson and I’m going to be your escort tonight,” he held out his hand and smiled.
“Are you serious? They sent you to pick me up?” the woman in front of him now blurted out.
“You are Rebecca Anders, correct?” he hesitated now, unsure he had the right person.
“Yes…Yes, I am,” she replied more shyly now.
“Great, then I have the right woman. Where is your companion?” he inquired.
“My companion?” she seemed confused by the question. “Oh…Oh you mean Paula! Tragedy, she broke her ankle two days ago and couldn’t come. So, it’s just me.” She furled her brow now at Alaric, “I thought Caroline would have said something to you.”
“That’s sad to hear,” Alaric said politely and then added with a grin, “No, Caroline didn’t get me the message. I guess it’s just you and me!”
He turned now and held out his arm indicating the limo that waited outside.
“Thank you,” She said as she moved pass him cautiously.
There was an overwhelming sense of relief that @BAndersOlympicEdu had not turned out to be a granny, but this beauty was older than the typical college co-ed. She had to be close to Alaric’s own age and probably a soccer mom as well. She was a bit of an oddity and he was curious to find out more about his tag-a-long for the evening.
      The driver held the door open as I got in and slid across to the far seat. Alaric followed and thanked the driver. As he adjusted himself in the seat next to me he asked, “So…where are you from?”
“Poulsbo, Washington…it’s across the bay from Seattle,” I said trying not to fidget too much. “It’s a small sea-side town, very proud of its Norwegian heritage.” I winced. Oh help me, that sounded great!
“And what do you do?” Alaric smiled, he was trying to pass the time between the hotel and arriving at the venue.
“I teach literature for Olympic College at the Poulsbo campus,” I tried to recover and sound more intelligent.
“How is it that your friend broke her ankle?” Alaric inquired.
“Kind of comical, really! Her sons play baseball in a summer league on Tuesday nights and apparently she had a run in with an escapee bat in her entryway. She was carrying groceries in and never saw it coming.” Poor Paula, she was going to die knowing that I spent the evening with Alaric Sorenson as our designated escort.
“Do you have kids as well?” he probed cautiously.
“Me? No, no kids and no husband…yet!” God I sounded pathetic and desperate.
“But you could have brought your boyfriend or is he not into Destiny?” Alaric followed up.
“Ahhh…I don’t have one of those either.” My life had been filled with my books and research and now teaching. Not that I didn’t have a boyfriend in the past, just nothing since moving to Poulsbo.
I was suspicious why he was asking, “Why do you ask, are you needing a date Mr. Sorenson? If I remember correctly, you are not married and do not currently have a girlfriend either.”
Suddenly, Alaric looked like a deer caught in headlights. “Ahhh…,” he answered realizing I had turned the tables on him. “No, I was just curious if you were the soccer mom type, which we get a large following of around the show.” Alaric had to scramble with his answer.
“I see…no that would be Paula.” How had I mustered the courage for that interaction I wondered and turned to look out the window at the stores passing by, silently high-fiving myself.
“So there are a few things to go through before we arrive, Miss Anders,” Alaric said breaking the now building silence since his last question. “We will be dropped-off on the side of the building and the entrance will be on the right-hand side of the car. The walkway will be split in two, half for us to walk down and half for the media to stand behind a barricade. If you exit after me from the car and follow along to the right, close to the building, I will meet you at the door and show you around inside, after the media have had their way with me. Deal?”
 “Sounds good to me, I’m glad to stay out of the limelight,” I said with as much relief as possible. I was very glad Alaric was there to take the questions and the photos. I was hardly able to converse with him, let alone a group of magazine reporters.
As we pulled up to the venue, it was just as Alaric had said. The red carpet stretched along the narrow walkway between two buildings. To the right side of the walkway was our path and the media was relegated to the left-hand side and against the neighboring building. I quickly took out my badge and slipped it over my head. I felt like a groupie at a rock concert. Breathe Rebecca! Just breathe! I reminded myself as the car came to a halt.
The driver jumped out and before I knew what was happening Alaric was getting out and flashes were going off like fireworks. I slid over and approached the door. Alaric moved towards the crowd and was all smiles and waves. I waited just a little while till I felt I could bolt to the right.
As I left the limo, I couldn’t help but lower my head a little with all the flashes. It was a bit disorienting and the driver was kind enough to say, “That way Miss Anders.”
“Thank you,” I blushed at him and made my way to safety and towards a pillar. Suddenly, a cheery girl came forward and stretching out a hand saying, “Miss Anders? I’m Caroline. How are you? Welcome!”
I smiled and tried to focus on her. I released my breath that I was holding and took her hand, “Well at least I made it this far.”
She laughed and turned to point out where we were headed, “Right this way.” We took about ten steps forward and I glimpsed towards Alaric, who was even with us and talking to a dark-haired and lovely young reporter. My attention was jostled again when a dark-haired man in front of Caroline turned and said, “Miss Anders, I am Don Alston, Executive Producer for the show. How lucky to have you join us tonight for the Destiny cast party. I hope you enjoy yourself.”
“Thank you,” I said shaking his hand. Suddenly my attention was drawn back to the media as someone yelled, “Is that the winner of the contest?”
In that instant all eyes were on me and I realized it was the dark-haired girl in front of Alaric that had called me out. “Can we meet her?” she begged of Alaric and then looking at Don.
“Sure!” Don said and the next thing I knew a hand in my back was propelling me forward towards the flashes and barricade. Luckily, Alaric was able to read the fear in my face and stopped me by stepping back towards me and cutting the trip towards the crowd short.
“This is the lucky winner Miss Rebecca Anders from Poulsbo Washington,” Alaric quickly introduced me to the media.
There was no real excitement from the media on meeting me and it seemed very absurd, but the dark-haired girl leaned forward and asked, “Are you excited to be part of the party tonight? What an ultimate dream.”
“Yes…it is very exciting and I cannot wait to meet more people from the show.” That sounded okay and not dull I hope. I relaxed my clutch in front of me and tried to smile.
“Wait…are you Dr. Rebecca Anders?” I heard a male voice say from somewhere to the left of the dark-haired girl. A man was ogling his phone and asking the question at the same time. I cringed. How had he figured that out?
“Yes, I’m Dr. Rebecca Anders.” I said looking at the man in shock.
Alaric looked at the man with surprise and then back at me. I hadn’t exactly disclosed my PhD to Alaric in the car ride over.
“You were on an episode of History Revealed, about your research on the impact of Scandinavian invaders on British culture.” The reporter smiled and then looked straight at me.
How the hell did someone find that? Damn Google and YouTube! I thought to myself. I definitely had not mentioned my past TV appearance to my host. I looked at Alaric, who now wore a wide grin across his face looking at me. I didn’t know what to do or say, I just stood there looking at Alaric, all the while snaps could be heard from every direction.
Finally, Don stepped up next to me on the left and said that we had to get inside for the party. Alaric turned slightly towards the doors and waved to the reporters. I was a bit frozen by the whole ordeal and therefore Alaric had to reach back and grab my hand, pulling me along behind him. Once we were across the threshold, I think I finally came to again.
“So, Dr. Anders…you didn’t say you were famous,” Alaric teased me.
“I…I sat in a chair and told a camera about Cnut. I don’t think that hardly qualifies me as famous,” I retorted in a whisper.
“Thank God that is over!” Don said and quickly headed in a different direction as Alaric and I slowed down by a waiter with glasses of champagne.
“Well…so now what?” I turned to face Alaric. “Do I get assigned to the guest table or maybe sit with the lighting crew?”
Alaric grabbed two glasses and handed me one as he laughed, “Here you might need this. No, you are assigned to me for the duration of the night.”
“Ah, you don’t have to keep me company all night. Just find me a good dark corner and I’ll go hide after that experience,” I said taking the glass.
“I don’t recall you specifying that you did Scandinavian literature.” Alaric looked at me with a raised brow.
“Sorry about that. Yes, I have my doctorate in Scandinavian literature and I studied abroad in Denmark. I even speak Swedish!” I said coyly and finished by replying, “Hur mår du Mr. Sorenson?”
I think I caught him off-guard taking a swallow of champagne, because it made him cough when I spoke Swedish.
“That bad? It’s been a few years and I’m a bit rusty,” I apologized.
“No…no…it was fine. Just unexpected,” he said recovering. “Unusual that the woman I get assigned to escort is a doctor in Scandinavian Literature and speaks Swedish, don’t you think?”
I think I blushed and looked at my feet, “Your lucky night I would say!” I quickly drained the glass of champagne  I was holding and could feel the lightness the alcohol brought to my head. Before, I could think Alaric handed me another glass and ushered me towards the seating area. This time I went a little slower on the champagne.
As the night went on there was music and food and lots of talk. The volume of the room went off the charts as far as decibels. However, the whole time Alaric was true to his word and rarely left me. If he did, he eventually found his way back to me or introduced me to various people from the show that stopped to chat to him. He was very courteous and asked if I needed anything and somehow magically keep my champagne glass filled all night.
 Alaric made me feel very comfortable and we talked about a wide range of things from interests, to my research, and anything he was willing to bring up. Halfway through the night I found that Alaric spoke to me just as much in Swedish as in English, like a secret code. I must have smiled a great deal, because by eleven o’clock my cheeks ached, I was feeling a little tired, and probably a little bubbly from the champagne.
“Are you doing okay?” Alaric asked.
“A little tired and a little buzzed probably. I am just not use to all this.” I said honestly.
“Has Cinderella’s clock hit midnight?” he jested.
“Usually, I’m in bed with a book by now,” I simpered.
“Well, I can call for the carriage my lady – if you want?” he bowed a little.
“Better make it quick or it might turn into a pumpkin,” I joked.
“Very well,” he said softly. “I’ll make the arrangements.”
I shook my head in acknowledgement of his gesture. All good things must come to an end. I looked around and the party had begun to thin slightly. Tomorrow would just be another day for some of the people here and I would be flying home away from all the glitz and glam. It had been fun and the best part had been my host. Paula would shed tears, I knew, when I told her about my night.

Alaric didn’t know what he was feeling as he left Rebecca’s side to find Gerald, the driver. Dr. Anders had honestly been a bit of a surprise for him. She was smart and funny and he couldn’t find the words in English for it, but she was “sjalvironi”. Rebecca didn’t take everything so serious and had been able to eventually laugh at what had happened earlier with the reporters. She also didn’t have a clue how beautiful she was.
Alaric had found himself drawn back to her side all night long. Rebecca’s bluish green eyes seemed to illuminate when he stood next to her and as they talked. Her red locks somehow glistened like gold in the sun on their way in and now framed her face in warm inviting waves.  She was a real woman and he did not detect an ounce of alteration and plastic about her. Rebecca didn’t hide her imperfections and Alaric could appreciate her naturalness.
Rebecca also actually ate and enjoyed the dinner that had been served, instead of picking at her plate like many of the women Alaric had dined with previously. It was refreshing not to have complaints over the need to exercise or meet the trainer in the morning, due to the calories she was consuming. He could tell she liked it too, because she had made this soft moaning sound with several bites. It had been the most arousing dinner he had ever experienced and it took a great deal of self-control not to show the effects it was having on him.
Then there was the Swedish thing. When Rebecca had spoken in his native tongue earlier it had completely taken Alaric by surprise. Her accent was not bad and had a bit of a French sound to it. Eventually, he found himself conversing in both English and Swedish throughout the night. Rebecca had not seemed to miss much of what he had said to her in either language and her Swedish vocabulary seemed to have reawakened as she conversed throughout the night.
He had actually felt a jolt of disappointment when Rebecca had said she was ready to go. Alaric did not want the night to end yet and so he hatched a plan as he approached the driver. “Gerald, Miss Anders and I are ready to go…but I was wondering if you could do me a favor?”
When Alaric returned he held out his arm and said, “Come with me.”
I followed Alaric and he led me out the doors and past what remained of the paparazzi to the limo. I had fully expected for him to stay behind and was greatly surprised when he came along for the ride.
“Oh! I didn’t mean for you to have to leave,” I said apologetically.
“It’s okay, I want to deliver you back to your hotel Dr. Anders,” he said looking me directly in the eyes and smiling.
“Okay, enough with the Dr. Anders…Becca will suffice.” I blushed when he called me doctor and probably had done so all night.
“Okay Becka,” he said my name with his Swedish accent.
It was quiet for a little while before Alaric asked something that totally shocked me, “Would it be okay if I arranged a detour before taking you back to the hotel?”
“A detour?” I asked a little worried.
“Yes, somewhere more quiet and less public,” He said carefully.
I swallowed and twisted my lip, “Where exactly did you have in mind?” I think the champagne was overriding my sensibility at this point.
“My place…I want to finish our conversation that we started.” He said in a more husky tone.
I don’t know where my mind went in that moment, but my racing heart took over and I answered nervously, “Sure.”
     It was a quiet ride out of the city and up a darkened hill. I could see the lights twinkle below, unable to guess where we were exactly. The limo finally stopped outside a very modern and well landscaped house. It was a beautiful integration of sculpted concrete and wood accents; very much the essence of modern Scandinavian architecture. Alaric exited the limo as earlier, only this time reached back in to offer me his hand.
“Välkommen till mitt hus, Dr. Anders,” he said in a very welcoming manner.
“Tack, Mr. Sorenson,” I answered thanking him. The house was not extravagant by any means and to many it would have been ordinary. I knew well that the house was a reflection of Alaric’s culture to do well with your life, but not boast about it.
He took my hand and led me up the stone walkway to the front door and then he waved to the driver, who disappeared around the other side of the car and began to drive away.
“Wait! How do I get back to the hotel?” I panicked a bit seeing the limo drive away.
“Not to worry I have Gerald’s number, so he can come back for you later.” Alaric said as he opened the door with a security code. “Come on in.”
Alaric stepped through the front door and taking my hand again led me through the foyer towards the living room. The lights seemed to magically come on as we moved room to room.
“Sensors?” I asked curiously.
He smiled, “Yes, they come in handy when you don’t want to fumble around for a light switch.”
“Very green idea!” I said approvingly.
“Thanks, I take energy usage seriously and try to be proactive with sustainability.” He looked back at me as he made his way to the edge of the sofa. “It amazes me that Americans have not jumped on to alternative energy like Europe has.”
Alaric offered me a seat and somehow my legs carried me forward, although every part of me tingled and my heart was fluttering in my chest. The man intrigued me and like a little kid, I couldn’t help but reach out for the shiny object dangling in front of me. As I sat, Alaric headed into the nearby kitchen and I could hear him open a door and glass tink on the counter. “Would you like some wine?”
“Yes, please,” I responded almost like a giddy schoolgirl. I sat looking out the picturesque window at all the city lights. I tried to calm my nerves and tell myself that this was just two adults getting to know each other and maybe forging a strange friendship from it all. Famous Hollywood stars have friends right! I mean, don’t they always talk about those unnamed friends as people they can just be themselves with. Maybe that was what Alaric was looking for in me.
A few moments later and he returned carrying two glass of white wine. “Here, it’s Vidal - an ice wine from Sweden - a little sweet, but very good.”
I took a sip and he was exactly right in his description. After he sat down in the chair next to the couch, we fell back into conversation easily and I found myself losing track of time again. As I finally finished my glass, I inquired as to the time.
“It’s one-thirty,” he said looking at his watch. “I think it’s a little late to call Gerald.”
He stood and took my glass and set it on the nearby counter. “You can stay in the guest room and I’ll take you back in the morning.”
“You can just call a cab,” I offered out of desperate fear of spending the night in Alaric Sorenson’s house.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” he acknowledged me with a hard look and rubbing his hands together.
“Oh…right!” I said finally comprehending the bad media it might bring if word got out that Alaric ordered a taxi for a drunken woman at two o’clock in the morning leaving his house.
“Here I will get you something to sleep in and show you a room.” He led the way down the bedroom hallway and stopping at the each door he identified the room, pointing like a tour guide, “Guest bathroom, next is guest bedroom, and then…the master bedroom.”
I thought he would stop at the guest bedroom, but he kept going and turned on a light in the master bedroom. I stood motionless in front of the guest bedroom door. I heard a drawer open and shut and Alaric reappeared with a popular Swedish soccer team t-shirt in tote.
He handed it to me and said, “Sorry, it is the best I can do. Anything else that you might need?”
“Ahhh…” I stammered and finally wincing, “Can you undo the little clasp and zipper on the back?”
Grinning Alaric replied, “Sure.”
He didn’t even hesitate and goose bumps ran up and down my arms as his hand gently brushed my hair to one side. Like a pro he undid both without much trouble. I could feel his hand run the length of my back as the zipper came down and I nearly died. I think I was shaking a bit with the sexual tension I was experiencing in that moment and I turned around a little too fast and stepped smack into him.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said breathy and inches from his chin. I looked up at him and my eyes fluttered slightly in embarrassment as I stepped around him and headed to the bathroom to change.
This was surreal and I could not begin to believe I was spending the night at Alaric’s house. Regardless, here I was putting on one of his soccer shirts and preparing for bed. It took a moment to come to my senses and finish changing. The shirt was a men’s large and long enough to cover my panties, if just barely, and it smelled of his cologne and fabric softener. I had to splash cold water on my face to help waken me from this dream. When I finished changing, I grabbed my belongings to head back to the guest bedroom.
I only made it two steps out of the bathroom and I almost ran into Alaric for a second time. This time he was coming back down the hallway after returning from elsewhere in the house. Alaric stood in front of me with his tie gone and his shirt half unbuttoned and untucked. I froze, clutching my possessions to me, hoping he had not seen my silken panties peeking out from the edge of the shirt.
“Sorry, I forgot to set the alarm,” Alaric apologized in surprise of my quick exit from the bathroom. He looked me straight in the eyes and then the next thing I knew his hands were on either side of my face and his lips caressing mine. Whatever was in my hands hit the floor and I lost all my senses in that moment.
As he pulled back gently and looked at me, I couldn’t take my eyes off of his. There was a glimmer of fire there and the next thing I knew he was guiding me further down the hall and the master bedroom door was slamming shut behind us. His hands worked quickly and the shirt I was wearing was gone in seconds, exposing my breasts and just the silken panties that I had left. His lips were on mine in a flash and I enjoyed taste like the sweetness of the wine.
I worked as fast as I could to reveal the chest that lay hidden under the last few buttons of his shirt. As I worked on the shirt, I felt myself being stepped backwards until the bed hit the back of my legs. I was finally able to get the buttons undone and with a slight gasp at seeing his bare abdomen, worked the shirt off his shoulders and arms. God his torso was stunning and it made me shy about my own body. I am sure that my cheeks were turning scarlet now and my body temperature jumped at least a good ten degrees.
I could feel his hands come to rest on my waist as he moved slightly closer. They didn’t stay there long, as I felt my panties being edged off of my hips. At the same time, I felt his hot breath grace my collarbone. I closed my eyes with his gentle kisses that brushed my neck and sent butterflies throughout my body. When my panties came to rest at my ankles, I remember stepping out of them and flicking them to the side with my foot.
At this point, I did the only thing I could do.  I grabbed hold of Alaric at his belt to steady myself, but also to make the playing field more equal. I don’t know how I found the buckle with my eyes closed, but I was able to undo his belt and unzip his pants. This action released a moan from Alaric, just below my earlobe and sent tingles down my spine. With my eyes still shut, I could hear his pants hit the floor and I could feel his growing excitement against my hip. Alaric now trailed kisses up my cheek and hairline to my forehead.
I swallowed hard and opened my eyes, looking him square in the face, as my hands came to rest on his pecks. Apparently he liked what he saw too, because the passionate expression that I saw in his eyes a moment ago in the hallway had not changed. With one hand around my waist and one around my neck, the last thing my brain was able to process before my lust overtook me was being laid down across the soft bedspread with the heat and weight of his body coming to rest against me and his lips delicately working against mine.


     Oh Freya, what just happened? I lay for an instant not knowing exactly where I was, a bit bewildered by my surroundings. As I turned over to get a better grasp on my situation, I realized that I was not in my hotel room and not alone. Suddenly, like instant replay, everything that happened from the moment I stepped into the limo until I closed my eyes last night came crashing back across my mind.

Had everything that flashed through my mind really happened? Had I just spent an entire night locked in conversation with one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous men? Had we spent hours exposing our souls and dreams to one another? Had he actually brought me back to his home? Had Alaric and I shared an innocent kiss that turned into a passionate one, followed by the most intimate sex I have ever experienced? Or was I just replaying some Destiny episode in my head and somehow transposing myself in place of a major character.
I turned my head across the pillow slowly to glance to my right and I could make out shoulders and a head of blonde hair buried into a tan arm that reached up over his pillow. It had all happened and a tingling sensation rocked my very core as I remembered how his lips had played their way down my stomach and to my very essence. I closed my eyes and took a deep inhale trying to calm my body from the need to flee.
Suddenly, the arm which had hidden his face from me reached down across me and trapped me where I lay. I turned slightly to face him, only to see his eyes slowly blink open and a smile form in the corners of his mouth. “God morgon...Becka,” Alaric said in Swedish and a slightly hoarse voice.
My right hand shot up to cover my mouth as I mumbled through my fingers, “Hej! Good morning,” I replied as my body stiffened and I must have had a look of terror, because Alaric smiled and chuckled to himself.
“Are you okay?” He said now raising to an elbow and turning himself more on to his side with a deep crease in his brow from concern.
This only exposed more of his chest to my eyes and I had to remind myself to stay calm. “Mm hmm,” I whimpered back with my hand still over my mouth, “I’m only trying to protect you from morning breath.” I winced as I said it.
This made him flop completely over on his back, thus removing his arm from my hip and using it to cover his eyes as he laughed hard. He sighed when the chuckling stopped and he tucked both arms up behind his head, turning his dusky blue eyes towards me.
“Good… you looked like you were going to get sick for a moment there. I was worried,” he said as his eyes moved down the outline of my body that hid under the sheet.
“No, I’m fine!” I bit my bottom lip and removed my hand from in front of my mouth.
We both laid there a little while in total silence, until my bladder decided I had received plenty of time to wake up and could now give it my full attention. “Excuse me,” I said as I slid to the edge of the bed and reached my feet to the floor.
I sat on the edge of the bed facing away from Alaric and could feel the paperweight that my brain had become after one too many drinks last night. I quickly found the t-shirt Alaric had offered me last night as sleeping attire and then he had so gracefully removed it after a minute of me wearing it. I slipped the shirt on that had been tossed to my side and tried to locate my under wear which were missing on my side of the bed. Well, I was going to have to give up on them, as my bladder now screamed at me. I would have to go commando in front of Alaric, so I tried to make it quick as I darted for the bedroom door to go find the guest bathroom. The entire time I could feel Alaric’s eyes following my every move.
“Where are you going?” His voice caused me to pause and turn quickly. “Guest bathroom,” I answered innocently.
“No, don’t be silly…use mine,” he said pointing to his right.
“Oh, I don’t…” I was about to plead my case, when he interrupted.
“It’s okay…really!” he was insisting now and started to sit up, which revealed his tight abs and his long legs.
“Are you sure?” I said as I twisted the knob behind my back, still on autopilot for flee mode.
“Becka, please…don’t do this,” he warned and then grabbed something off the floor in front of him as he stood. With a little force behind his words he added, “Use the master bathroom!”
All I would allow myself to catch a glimpse of was his perfectly shaped ass, with its dimples just above each cheek. As I moved my eyes to the floor, I also caught what appeared to be a tattoo on his left leg. It was a unique anchor, not like the typical American ones with a rope wrapped around it, but narrower and the arms were more like stars.  He held out the mystery object, which turned out to be my panties that he had claimed from their hiding spot in the room.
He was right, why was I being silly about this. He chose to be with me last night, as much as I chose to be with him. We were adults and this was not like a college hook-up. I swallowed, made direct eye contact, and I slowly walked over and took the silken panties from him as I turned towards the master bathroom.
“Thank you,” I whispered as he relinquished them to me. “Nice tattoo, sailor.” When I made it to the bathroom door, I turned to glimpse him again standing there with a grin and in all his beautiful glory from head to toe.
The bathroom was pure splendor with all its marble accents and fabulous walk-in shower. The whole house had been a reflection of his Scandinavian culture, simple and refined. I quickly relieved myself and then took full advantage of the shower. As the warm water sprayed down on me, I heard a knock on the door and then Alaric asking if he could come in.
“Yes!” I hollered back and kept myself well hidden behind the mist covered shower glass. I was still self-conscious in front of him, although he had obviously seen me naked head to toe last night.
“You’ll need a robe and these.” He said as he laid something on the sink with a clunk.
I peeked around the mist covered glass wall and caught his eyes as he leaned against the edge of the sink. He had put on Addis sweat pants by now, but he still made them look good. He picked up the items and flashed them back and forth. It was a tooth brush and a travel size tube of toothpaste.
He smiled as he said, “You’re in luck, I keep extras for visiting relatives from Sweden.”
I blushed and smiled back thanking him, “Tack!”
I held out my hand and signaled him to bring them to me. I took the toothbrush and tooth paste and I went back to washing, not caring now if he stayed or left. I grabbed whatever he had available in the shower caddy and finding a bottle of Birch Leaf body wash I didn’t care if I smelled like a “Swedish forest on a summer day”, so be it.  I noted that he lingered at the edge of the shower for a moment taking me in before he turned and departed. As I rinsed off, I brushed my teeth and realized I was just a little sore in certain areas that had not been exercised in a while. Hjälp mig! Help me Odin get through this morning!
When I left the bathroom and returned to the bedroom, Alaric was nowhere to be found, but the bed had been somewhat remade, and my dress, shoes, bra, and clutch were neatly laid out on the foot of the bed. I grabbed my bra, put on my panties, and opted not to put the dress back on, but instead choose the shirt. I was bold enough to venture into a drawer or two, until I found a pair of workout pants. They were a tad long, but I rolled them up and went with them anyways - that would have to do.
I piled my damp hair up and found the clip that held my hair in its place last night on the side stand. I grabbed the dress, clutch, and shoes and went out into the hall. I could hear movement from the kitchen area and proceeded to face the music. As I exited the bedroom hallway, I found Alaric moving about the kitchen as he filled a coffee pot with water. He had pulled a set of cups out and what looked like sugar and cream.
I set the dress, clutch, and shoes on the edge of the couch in the living room and then moved to the large granite counter that separated the living room from the kitchen. “Thanks for finding my dress and stuff,” I said as I took a chair along the counter.
“No problem…do you want some coffee?” he said looking over his shoulder at me.
“Sure.” I smiled when I saw the old style percolator that was more common in Europe and had gone out of style in the States, until recently. Coffee would definitely help my head, which still felt a little heavy from the alcohol last night.
“Nice outfit!” He commented as he finished up putting the coffee to boil and turned to face me.
“Yeah…sorry, I had to borrow these until I get back to my hotel and can properly change.” I am sure my cheeks flushed for the thousandth time with him.
He looked at the floor and then moved towards me. He finally stopped directly in front of me and leaned across the counter, as if to be on the same level with me. “Well…they look good on you. Not as sexy as the dress, but then what would the hotel staff think if you showed up in the same dress you left in yesterday?” He lifted an eyebrow at me and grinned.
“What would they think Mr. Sorenson?” I countered, trying to be as devilish.
“Let them think what they want.” He stood now and finished coming around the counter. “Where in the world did you come from Miss Anders?”
“Poulsbo, Washington…you know up north,” I smiled and tilted my head and nudged to the right as if to indicate which direction north was.
Alaric took the sides of my face in his hands and before I knew it his lips had descended on mine in a soft and warm kiss. As he pulled back, he rubbed his nose along mine and I swear I forgot to breathe.
“You have to be careful with those, you can seriously cause a girl a problem,” I said with a deep exhale.
“What time is your flight back to Seattle?” Alaric said as he slowly opened his eyes and released me.
My heart hit my stomach, when he asked the question. “At three thirty,” I answered and then glanced around for a clock. I had to be careful, as I could easily lose track of time with Alaric.
“Do you want something to eat?” he asked as his eyes tensed sensing my discomfort.
“Sure, what do you have on the menu?” I tried to cut the tension with humor.
“It’s not much…hot cereal, bananas, or left over…well let’s not go there,” Alaric said as moved back into the kitchen and he peered into the refrigerator. He returned to the stove to take the coffee off the burner now.
“I’ll go with the hot cereal and bananas.” I smiled and fidgeted in my seat. He handed me a cup of fresh coffee and my choice of sugar or cream, “Sugar only, thanks! I like it sweet, but black and straight to the vein.”
I stood with my cup and ventured to the living room, as the books that framed the flat screen offered a sanctuary to my mind. I wasn’t ready to have the conversation about how great this had been, but now it wasn’t reasonable for anything serious. We would go our separate ways with an incredible experience, but that would be all it could be. I just wanted to savor it some more before it was gone.
            I could hear the clink of bowls, a pan being filled with water, and then the slicing of bananas as I sat on the edge of the couch and reached out for the book that graced the top of the table in front of me. I didn’t remember seeing it last night as we sipped wine sitting here. Of course my attention was completely on my host last night.
It was Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf and I immediately thought of the passage as Hesse describes the two halves of the soul, one man and one wolf, and how they each rear their heads at different times. Alaric must be preparing for his role in Man Unraveled. Had I read something in the gossip column or was it last night that we had discussed that Alaric was taking on the role of a man that slips slowly away from society? Either way, Hesse’s book tackles the subject head on, so it makes for good research.
“Have you read it?” Alaric said as he slid around the other side of the couch and sat adjacent to me.
“Yeah, in graduate school …abroad.” I added reminiscing.
“Denmark was it?” he said not as much as a question, but instead trying to show he had paid attention last night.
“Yes, I spent one year at the University of Copenhagen and two summers studying and traveling through Norway and Sweden.” I smiled and met his eyes in approval of his attempt.
“How long did you stay in Stockholm? I don’t remember you saying.” He furled his brow a little at the idea I had not mentioned it last night.
 “I was there for three weeks at least,” I said recounting my time there. “I had got permission to examine some very rare and old Swedish texts. I was able to stay with some friends I had met in Denmark, who were from Stockholm, Johan and Annalise.”
He looked at me with a look of confusion, but then went on to ask, “How did you ever find an interest in Scandinavian literature…I mean it doesn’t seem your everyday area of study.”
“I fell in love with a story I came across during my Shakespeare Festival Plays course as an English major. We were studying Hamlet and I did research on trying to identify the source of the story. That’s when I came across…”
Alaric interrupted me with a funny smile on his face “Amleth! Amleth lead you to Scandinavian literature?”
“Yes,” I laughed. “You seem to know the story.”
“It’s like asking a Dane if they know the story of the little mermaid. It’s history to some, myth to others.” He looked over my shoulder and back to the kitchen. “Breakfast should be ready. Shall we?”
I had to give Alaric credit; he was being an exceptional host for having a complete stranger enter in his life so suddenly. I didn’t know if he was generally this nice, as we never really know the real person behind the actors that we think we know. Their true enjoyments in life are usually so guarded from the general public and sadly overrun if ever discovered.
“Does your family visit often?” I asked and then regretted asking. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.”
 “Don’t be sorry,” he said smiling and tensing his brow at me. “You can ask me what you want to know.” Alaric spooned the hot cereal into the two bowls and set them on the counter.
“I…I was just remembering what you had mentioned in the bathroom.” I said trying to appear as if I wasn’t prying into his personal life.
“My dad visits only when he has a show on the west coast, otherwise I visit him more when I’m in New York for premieres or filming projects.”
“Your dad is a stage actor primarily?” I tried to remember.
“Yes and his wife is a costume designer for Broadway. I have a much younger sibling from their marriage, Nelson.”
“And your mother is in Stockholm. Is she a nurse?” I took a bite of the hot cereal.
He shook his head yes, as he finished his first bite. “That is how my mother and father originally met. She treated him for bronchitis at a clinic she used to work at.” He continued, “I have two younger brothers, Olaf and Kristoff. Olaf is a writer and has written a Swedish screenplay that is being produced and Kristoff is finishing a second tour with the Swedish military as a medic. I also have a younger sister, Inga, who is finishing a degree in Art. They come over when they can, but mostly I travel to be with them in Sweden.”
“You miss Sweden and your family?” I half asked and half stated.
“All of the time. What about you, any siblings?” Alaric asked turning the tables on me.
 “Unfortunately, I’m an only child. I wish I had come from a big family, but it didn’t happen.” I thought of mom and dad and how they had wanted six kids and ended up with one. “Instead, I have tons of cousins, which have always seemed to treat me like a sibling. Anna is a dentist and married to a dentist, Sarah is a nurse, Donna is an artist, Stephen is an academic like me, but in Biology, and Sandra is a nutritionist. I think I have the healthcare package covered in my family.”

My quick description made Alaric laugh. “Mom and dad are in Colorado. I miss home, but I love Washington too,” I added.
We took a break from talking long enough to finish breakfast and our coffee. When Alaric had finally cleared the dishes, he turned and suddenly looked somber. “Do you want me to drive you back to the hotel or call you a taxi?”
It was inevitable and the time had finally come for the bubble to burst. My mind cranked into high gear now as I tried to think this through reasonably. I knew the consequences of paparazzi getting hold of this. Alaric caught in one night stand with unknown girl! Ack! I could just see a horrible picture of me getting into or out of his car. My eyes must have glazed over and I had started nibbling on my thumb, because Alaric looked at me very curiously all of a sudden.
“Is it a difficult question?” He asked to bring me out of my dilemma.
“Do they know your car?” I asked quickly.
“Ahhh…I know what your brain is stuck processing.” He moved in front of me.
“Yeah…what will be best for you?” It was all I could do to answer, although I knew what I would have liked.
“I know what I hope you will choose! However, you will have to be comfortable with what may happen…either way.” Alaric bent his head down towards mine, so we were closer to eye level to each other.
I closed my eyes and shook my head, “Would you drive me back? I know it is a selfish request, but I don’t want it to end yet.”
 He smiled and simply said, “I’ll get my keys. It’s ten o’clock, so we should probably leave now. Traffic may be good and get us there before you have to check-out.”
I grabbed my dress, my clutch, and carried the heels for now towards the garage following behind Alaric. As I entered the grey garage I was surprised to see two cars, one the complete boy toy and the other a little more reasonable. “Get in!” he pointed to the more reasonable of the two.
“Ah not fair! You don’t feel the need for speed this morning,” I teased as we entered the Audi over the Porsche.
“Trust me it probably has enough speed to whip your hair into a frazzle. What is it that you drive?” He said giving me a sideways glance.
“Oh please! My Subaru Outback can take your Audi any day…on a mountain road, in the rain that is!” It made him laugh at least. I made sure to buckle up, as I had never experienced the road with my new driver at the helm. The garage door ascended and we backed out. With a quick whip of the steering wheel and a devilish grin he added, “Hold on Becka!” 
For the most part the car ride was exhilarating. I have no idea how Alaric avoided getting a ticket at the speeds we seemed to be going. However, the funny thing about cars they can be many different things for the people in them. A place to talk, a place to work, a place to live, even a place to fall in love. Worse of all they can be a place of absolute silence and distance, which is exactly what happened when we reached the hotel.
I looked at Alaric and all I saw was a rigid jaw and the inability to look at me. He gripped the steering wheel and seemed to come out of his trance a bit, enough to try and say something, “Becka…I…I ugh…” 
I shook my head in understanding and finished for him, “…I know it was a wonderful night and an experience we won’t forget, but life is too complicated…for both of us. I get it. Tack så mycket, vi ses!” I said goodbye and quickly got out, putting on the heels and grabbing the dress and my clutch.
I made my way as quickly as possible across the entrance walkway, through the doors, and straight to the elevator. I fumbled with the snap on my clutch, trying to find the room key inside as the doors closed. I hit the button for the 3rd floor and tried to keep everything together, but I was so mixed up and I felt hurt and angry and sad all at the same time. I took a deep breath and swallowed hard, holding the tears back.
Why couldn’t he have just said “It was great, I enjoyed the evening” or “It was pleasurable meeting you”, anything but silence would have sufficed. I walked quickly to the room and once inside threw everything on to the bed, including myself. Crap! This was not the way it should have ended, I said to myself in my head.
The bliss was gone and I needed to check-out soon, so I found my suitcase with my clean clothes and changed for my flight. What was I going to do with his clothes I had borrowed! Well apparently they were mine now and going home to Washington. I folded them up and put them in my case. I returned the dress to its garment bag and did the same with the shoes and clutch. Cinderella was all neatly packed away and I was back to my usual self.
I double checked I had everything and then I called the front desk and asked if they would call for a taxi. I proceeded to make my way downstairs to check-out and head out for the airport. I must have looked dreadful, as the girl at the front desk avoided eye contact with me, but was extremely pleasant. I took the opportunity to wallow in my own pity and ordered a macchiato from the café again before leaving. Calorie laden foods are so necessary in times like this.
Somehow, I managed to make it to the airport and through the two hour wait for boarding without once losing it. I felt empty and emotionless through the whole damnable flight and even the ferry ride and drive home. However, it was a different story once I walked into the house and closed the door behind me. I collapsed to the floor in a sobbing mess with no ability to make it stop.
I sat there on the cold floor until my cell phone suddenly began to chirp. I quickly brushed aside the tears and glanced at the number. I didn’t recognize it, so I put it to voice mail. I had to get myself out of this funk and get moving again, so I stood and started to deal with my luggage. It must have been 5 minute or less and the phone rang again. It was the same number again and this time I thought it might be something important considering the person calling was persistent.
“Hello?” I said trying to clear my throat.
“Hej…” A male voice said hesitantly.
“Hello? Who is this?” I asked not recognizing the voice immediately.
“It’s Alaric, Becka.” I could hear the softness in his voice and I didn’t know what to do. “Please don’t hang up!”

“How…how did you get my number?” I asked trying to breathe and not cry. I didn’t remember giving it to him at any point last night or this morning.
“Caroline had it in your contact information. Are you okay? You sound like you have been crying,” he said and I could hear the empathy in his words.
God bless Caroline! I had to be strong so I did what I had to, I lied. “No…it is just travel exhaustion.”
“Bra Herre! I am sorry Becka, I know I hurt you…I’m an idiot and I don’t know what happened. I just couldn’t think and find the words I wanted to tell you…and then you were gone.” His words were coming out in spurts now and I could hear his desperation and regret. He took a deep breathe finally and sighed, “I am going to have my manager contact you and send you some information. Don’t hang up on him! I should have told you that I thought our short time together was incredible and I want to see where this goes Dr. Anders, if you will let me.”
I didn’t know what to say and I think I released a squeak of some sort because he asked, “Is that a yes?”
Snap out of it! I had to scold myself. “Ahh…yes…okay!”
“I have to go, I got called into work this afternoon and I am about to start a series of scenes on some night reshoots.” He said quickly and then with a husky tone he finished by saying, “God natt min kära vän.”
      He had just called me his dear friend! “God natt Alaric,” I said before Alaric hung-up.

      Now I felt like the world was spiraling a bit and had to sit down again, but this time I found the nearest chair. I had just been on an emotional low and suddenly I was in shock and adrenaline was freely flowing. Alaric Sorenson wanted to see where things would go with me…Rebecca Anders. My heart raced with that thought. Was I about to start dating an international T.V. and film star? Almighty Thor, anything can happen now!

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