They pulled out of the parking lot and got back on the road. Sidney leaned on the center divider in the car and pretended it was because she was tired but really she wanted to get the best possible smell of Petrocelli's cologne. There was something so rich and full about it. She casually brushed her arm against his and she could feel how he withdrew from her touch. He shied away, but just enough to be polite.
"So you're a pretty decent guy, huh?" She asked, readjusting the sleeve of his polo shirt, even though it was already perfect. She let her fingers slide under the bottom edge and feel his smooth, cool skin.
"I don't understand the question." He kept his eyes on the road, pretending nothing was happening.
"You played with a kid, you stopped a guy from being mean to me. That's pretty decent." She let her hand linger on his bicep for a few extra moments and wondered for a split second what she was doing.
Petrocelli stopped at a red light and turned to her. She withdrew her hand immediately and hoped she wasn't about to get in trouble. "I asked to work with you because I thought you had an interesting standpoint."
"What?" Sidney didn't understand what was happening.
"You have an obvious tie to the bay, a compelling story, and you're beautiful." Petrocelli kept his tone flat and even as he spoke to her, but he still looked intimidating. Sidney nodded, but stayed silent. "I did not ask to work with you to try to sleep with you."
"Technically you asked my dad to work with me." Sidney pointed out.
The light changed and Petrocelli rolled forward, continuing toward the Wilson Bridge. "Sidney," he said, keeping his eyes on the road, "I am on the board of trustees for the Save the Bay foundation. It would be an honor to hear your story and work with you on a campaign for the foundation. Would you consider working with me?"
The sudden formality was a shock, until she realized this was his way of making fun of her. She smiled and waited until he looked over at her. "I thought you'd never ask."
"Alright. Now I would like you to remember that the professional relationship we have is not contingent on any personal relationship."
"Are you saying you would like to have relations with me?" Sidney leaned on the center divider again, since Petrocelli had returned to his normal size.
"I'm saying working with each other shouldn't come with the expectation that we will have 'relations.'" He was back to being serious and Sidney realized this had probably been an issue for him in the past.
They crossed over the Wilson Bridge and Sidney looked out at the lights of the city and let the silence hang in the car. Even though she wasn't sure if Petrocelli was being serious about this and even though she thought it was ridiculous to try to draw lines around relationships, it still made her feel ridiculously comfortable and she had the urge to lean forward and put her head on his shoulder. She resisted and tried to be satisfied with just looking at the lights on the bridge.
Petrocelli turned off the bridge onto a smaller, more deserted road and away from the beltway. Sidney watched as the surroundings went from decidedly urban to decidedly rural. The trees came up closer to the road and there were only a few streetlights, which all looked quaint instead of commercial.
"What is this?" Sidney asked.
"What?" Petrocelli had been lost in thought and Sidney felt a little guilty for pulling him away.
"I've never been down this road. And I thought I'd been down every road." Sidney said, looking out the window and trying to see the stars overhead.
"You do know we're going to my house, right?" Petrocelli said, looking over at her for a moment before turning back to the road.
Sidney nodded and laughed sarcastically.
The road turned to stone and it took a moment for Sidney to see the house they were driving toward. She thought she could make out a wrap around porch, but couldn't see the windows, or judge the size of the house. Petrocelli hit a button on the visor of the car and a garage door opened to reveal a line of mint condition sports cars. It was like a rainbow of vehicular art, and Petrocelli paid no attention. He pulled the car into the garage and went to get Sidney's door. She ignored the gesture this time and got her own door. Petrocelli didn't comment, but took her hand, leading her out of the garage.
"You can't get into your house through the garage? That seems silly." She said. Again Petrocelli didn't respond, but closed his garage, using a keypad on the outer wall. He led her back out on the stone driveway and up a stone walkway until Sidney realized why they hadn't walked through the garage. The front of the house was visible with porch lights, and Sidney could see a heavy looking wooden door that looked like it had been hand carved. The porch was wide with a swing at one end and the windows all looked like they had been supersized. The overall effect was a quaint cottage that had been put on billionaire crack. Petrocelli let her look at the house for a few moments before turning her around. "You don't impress a girl by turning her away from the house." She said.
"No, look." He said, pointing out past the thin line of trees. She looked carefully, not wanting to miss anything and then saw the familiar twinkle of marina lights under the Wilson Bridge.
"So you're a stalker." Sidney turned around into his chest and tried to look up into his eyes, but they were hooded by darkness.
"It's the cheapest hobby I have." He said, and this time she caught the hint of humor.
"How about you show off your house." Sidney felt emboldened by the darkness and put her hand on his chest. The cotton of his polo was so soft it was almost fluffy and his chest was in direct contrast, hard as stone.
"Showing off" was an understatement. The second Sidney walked in she was swept away by how beautiful the house was. Everything was wide and open and had the distinct feel of a Nantucket home mixed with a southern plantation. Petrocelli was horrible at gloating, letting her walk through the grand foyer without mentioning the crown molding, dark wood floors or arched openings into the living room.
"Can I get you something?" Petrocelli asked as he gestured toward the plush sofa sitting on a thick rug that was so large it nearly touched the edges of the massive room. He had a fireplace about as large as an elevator and above it was an old wooden crew boat mounted on the wall.
"Whatever you're having." Sidney said, trying not to gush over everything about the room. "So," She said, as Petrocelli handed her a crystal tumbler filled with dark liquid, probably scotch, "Who's your decorator?"
Petrocelli sat at the other end of the couch and leaned back into the cushions, bringing his foot up to rest on the opposite knee. The transformation was immediate, from important businessman entertaining company to handsome billionaire lounging in the leisure class. "A woman named Stacy. I let her have free reign." He gestured casually around to the array of furniture and knickknacks that all looked like they had been picked above millions of others, although they probably had been. "I'm thinking about doing a movie. We'll have someone follow you around on the bay, introduce them to your friends, explain what's going on and then have an eco-friendly premier."
"Hm?" Sidney finally said when she realized Petrocelli was waiting for a response. She had been busy looking at a print on one of the far walls that portrayed what she could only imagine was the Kentucky Derby.
Petrocelli smiled. It was a slow, lazy smile and as his face broke into a beam, Sidney could feel the heat rise in the pit of her stomach. She imagined what it would be like to be on the receiving end of one of those smiles on a regular basis. "I normally don't spend my time here." He said. "Want to see my favorite room?"
Sidney nodded and followed his lead when he stood. He took her hand casually and led her upstairs. The whole top floor had exposed beams and whitewashed walls with wooden trim that matched the beams. There was an upholstered chair in the living room done in blue seersucker with a small table and framed pictures next to it. She tried to catch a glimpse of the photos, but Petrocelli walked too fast. They walked past many rooms all carefully decorated until he got to a door and stopped, turning around to look at her. "Ready?" He asked, smiling again, his eyes bright. He didn't wait for her response and opened the door out onto a deck.
"Your favorite room is the outdoors?" she asked.
Petrocelli laughed, "Yeah, I guess so." He let her hand go and went to lean over the railing of the deck. The curve of his butt was perfect as he casually stood against the background of trees and the bay.
She waited a moment before joining him, trying to take a mental picture of the scene in front of her. She stood next to him and realized just how perfect this was. There was no immediate sign of civilization as she looked out from the deck. It was at the very edge of the house, so she could forget she was currently in a mansion and there were no other houses or buildings on the horizon that got in the way of her view. He had also maintained the tree line, which was a nice change from the other mansions that insisted on a perfectly clear view and then damaged the rock and soil underneath, sending deposits into the bay. A breeze came through and Sidney shuddered from the sudden change in temperature.
Petrocelli looked down at her and put a hand on her back, in between her shoulder blades and the weight was immediately soothing, as if she was being protected from being uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, do you need a jacket?" He asked.
"Does it get taxing being so chivalrous?" She asked, looking back up at him.
He stopped rubbing her back "Sweetheart. Sometimes people are nice with no ulterior motive. Don't mess it up." He gave a short smile and Sidney felt a little guilty for giving him a hard time.
"Yes please." She said, changing tack.
He patted her on the back gently and left his scotch on the railing. She turned to watch him leave. He walked down the length of the deck, past the door they had just walked out to a wall made completely out of glass. She walked a few steps down to see into the room. Petrocelli turned on a light and it illuminated a bedroom, with a dark wood headboard, crisp white trim and cream-colored linens. She could see a modern looking bench at the end of the bed, facing out toward the water. The rest of the room looked fairly untouched, keeping the line of sight out to the water impeccable. Sidney imagined waking up to that view. Petrocelli came back into sight, a jacket in his hand and Sidney imagined waking up to that view. She watched as he glided effortlessly across the room and opened the door.
"Nice bedroom." She said, putting her glass down on the railing and taking the jacket. "Thank you." She said, letting him help her put it on.
"Thank you," He responded.
"Am I going to be invited in?" Sidney asked, seeing how far she could push the boundaries without getting scolded again.
"Not yet." Petrocelli said, guiding her back to the seating area on the deck and retrieving his drink.
"How long have you been living here?" Sidney asked as they sat together. Sidney took satisfaction in the fact that the only chair he had was a loveseat, so this time he wouldn't be able to separate himself. She pulled her feet up onto the seat, letting her knees rest impossibly close to his side.
"A few years." He said. "How long have you been teaching sailing?" He took a slow drink from his glass and fixed his eyes on hers, ignoring her knees now gently touching his side.
"Since I was a kid." She said, slowly sliding her feet away from her body. "Are you going to go on the regatta trip?" She tucked her feet under his thick, muscular thigh and looked at the grass stained knee of his khakis one more time.
Petrocelli didn't respond. He waited until she looked back up and then held her gaze. She shrugged as if she had no control over what just happened and he cocked an eyebrow, but decided to let it go. "If your father asks, then I'll see-"
"I'm asking." Sidney interrupted.
She wasn't supposed to see it, but the corners of Petrocelli's mouth twitched slightly at her insistence. "Then I'll see." He said. "Are you still cold?" He asked, watching her teeth chatter slightly. "We can go back inside."
"No-" Sidney tried to protest, but Petrocelli stood, letting her feet slide flat.
She felt like she was in trouble as he took a step away from her, but let out a small sigh of relief when he turned back around, holding out his hand to her. She accepted and let his enormous hand envelop hers. She knew he had not just invited her into bed but she still felt a little bit of disappointment when he led her back into the formal living room. This time she was prepared though, and let him sit first, then picked the spot next to him. He opened his mouth, probably meaning to protest, but didn't make a sound.
"So tell me about this movie you're making." She said, finishing her drink, depositing it on the coffee table and sitting as far back on the couch cushion as possible. She didn't look at Petrocelli, instead looking up at the old wooden boat on the wall.
He took a moment to respond, putting one arm across the back of the couch. Sidney wondered for half a second if she could get away with crawling on his lap, but decided that would be going too far. Instead she moved so her hair brushed over his forearm.
"The foundation has done a lot of things, but they've all been more general." He started, ignoring her hair now fanned out on his couch. "The day I met you it was clear you had a story to tell and it was inseparable from the story about the bay. So we'll tell that story and you can do some work as a spokesperson."
Sidney sighed. "I'm sure you have a lot of experience as a businessman-"
"I do." He interrupted and she could hear a slight edge, as if he was about to warn her not to overstep her bounds.
"But wouldn't that be kind of boring?" She turned her head to look up at him.
"Only if you tell a boring story." He said.
A/N: I would love to hear what you all think about Petrocelli, his house, Sidney's need for attention, his controlling attitude, whatever.