Blushing Bouquets

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens


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Kieran Collins Brooke Bishop

When the night of their third date arrives, Kieran is quite glad that he's planned it as he has. After being taken to task the night before by Sera for neglecting to tell Brooke about owning Eclairant and being reminded to 'be gentle' with the red head, he's considering it karmic that he planned out things as he did.

A student of people and their reactions, Kieran knows that Brooke was embarrassed (possibly mortified) with the level of physical intimacy and intensity in their last date. The point of tonight is to soothe her and get her back into that place where she's comfortable and relaxed, and wants to be out with him without being on edge. He's called her and texted her, light conversation and edging toward flirtatiousness but nothing too suggestive or lewd, and nothing to make her think that his only goal is to get her into bed. This is one of those rare times when it really isn't his only goal.

The vampire is intrigued by Brooke, though he can't begin to fathom why or figure out what it is that makes her different from other women. It puzzles him, but he doesn't dwell on it for too long. It's easier to just forge ahead, letting the pieces fall into place and seeing what happens.

He's sent a car for her, to bring her to meet him at the Botanical Gardens. When the car arrives, there will be a bouquet of lillies waiting for her. Kieran is waiting to greet her at the entrance to the Gardens themselves.


Thanks to a wonderful sale, Brooke's managed a brand new dress for the evening. A beautiful clay colored knit dress, with a draping skirt. She's accessorized it simply with a gold belt, and a few chunky gold bracelets. Nothing overly extravagent, but something that definitely screams 'her'.

Really, she needs that to start the evening feeling comfortable instead of worrying if Kieran actually likes her, or she's just a stepping stone on his way to finding what he wants. The calls and texts were nice, and worked wonders to boost her confidence as well. He wouldn't have gone so far as to make that much contact with her if she were nothing but another notch in the bedpost.

Stepping out of the car, with the help of the driver, she smiles at the man before turning to face Kieran.

Spying the bouquet of lilies, she squeaks in delighted surprise and then picks them up. She can see Kieran waiting at the entrance, and she hurries over to him. Quickly leaning in, she presses a shy kiss to his cheek and then smiles.

"They're beautiful, thank you."


"You're beautiful," Kieran whispers, leaning down to press his lips to her cheek in return. He lets the kiss linger there, and then straightens with a smile. "You look lovely this evening."

Turning toward the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, Kieran offers his arm. "I thought that we'd take advantage of the warm summer's night. I love the outdoors and can't ever get here during the day. So … tonight, we are going to dine and explore the gardens at our leisure."


He earns a blush.

Brooke dips her head down, smiling at him shyly. "Thank you." She knows that it's not a dress he's probably used to his dates wearing, but she likes it and feels confident in it and that's what matters to her. Yet, even just the compliment is enough to make her feel shy in his presence.

"I imagine you'd never be able to get away during the day. Not with three businesses to run."

Taking his arm, she smiles at him and then quietly says, "I hope you weren't keeping the name of the restaurant from me on purpose. Because you think I'm shallow or something." She needs to get that cleared up before she'll be able to be honestly comfortable this evening.


Three businesses, taking care of his court duties for Kostas, and the whole being trapped inside during daylight hours all play a large part in unavailability. The latter moreso than any others.

"Ah yes," Kieran sighs with a rueful shake of his head. "I was told that I'd been terribly remiss." He reaches over and places a hand lightly atop of hers and gives it a squeeze. Blue eyes look over and down at her, and he gives her a sheepish smile. "To be honest, Brooke, it slipped my mind after our first conversation. I didn't know if I'd told you the name or not, and I wasn't preoccupied with it. It wasn't intentional."


"Purgatory was intentional, but only because I wanted to surprise you with that one."


"Okay," she says, exhaling a breath she wasn't even aware she was holding. "I was just a bit shocked when Sera mentioned it is all. I'm planning a book signing masquerade there for her, and it came as a shock that you'd be there because you owned the place." Smiling, Brooke leans over and shyly kisses his cheek again.

"I'm really glad you don't think I'm shallow, or that you have to hide who you are from me."


"It was a surprise. It was the best surprise. I had such a wonderful time there."


"I know." Kieran squeezes her hand again and gives her a grin, as he leads her to The Palm House. It's empty tonight, but brightly lit with gold and white lights. A string quartet plays a lilting melody in one corner not too far from the lone table that's been placed on a small octagonal stage all its own.

A pale gold runner leads from the doorway toward the table dias, strewn with white, red and pink rose petals. The music swells briefly then quiets again as they cross the threshold.

"About the signing, I meant. That's why it slipped my notice and I didn't think about it. I guess that somewhere in the back of my mind, I assumed that I told you, or Sera had." Pausing he fixes his blue eyes on hers, "I don't think that you're shallow and I'm hardly hiding myself from you." The vampire has rented out the Botanical Gardens for the evening, not an inexpensive 'date,' in the least.

"I did too," Kieran tells her. "You're a brilliant … .dancer." There is a long, intentional pause between the words. Kieran doesn't wish her to think that he's forgotten or is trying to ignore what happened between them, however he wants to be clear that he's not dwelling on it either.


It's the gold and white lights that strikes her first — her favored colors. Just that brings a smile to her face, and she turns to face him. She hadn't realized until that moment that he's rented the entire place out.

There's a look of awe on her face, and something of an admiring smile. Brooke can't help but crouch down and run her fingers through the rose petals. A white one is lifted and rubbed delicately over the pulse point on each wrist; a natural perfume.

"No, I suppose you aren't hiding yourself from me at all, are you?"


"Though the VIP pass was a bit much. I don't know that I'd want to go to the club without you as an escort." There's another pause, and then a deep flush comes into her cheeks at his intentional pause between words.

"This is so beautiful, Kieran. No one's ever done anything like this for me before. I'm astounded by the thought and care you've put into it." Giving his hand a squeeze, she glances to the string quartet and then smiles. "It's almost… magical."

The soft floral scent in the area, the privacy, the twinkling lights. It's all enough to make Brooke think that she's in one of Sera's novels.


The look on Brooke's face tells Kieran that he's done something right. He's typically good at this, but one never can tell when a woman might think that everything is too much. Fortunately, he does have glamour in his back pocket as his super secret weapon. He's happy that he doesn't have to use it.

Blue eyes track the witch, following her movements with a fond smile. "No, I'm not trying at all to hide from you." Once she's done with the rose petal, Kieran steps forward and takes her wrist. He turns it upward and places a light kiss there. "I may have a few surprises I'm saving, but I'm not hiding."

Lacing his fingers through hers, Kieran continues to lead the way to the table. "I like to make a statement, when there's a woman worth making a statement for." He leads her carefully up to the dias, biting his tongue against the comment about seeming to have a habit of being her 'first' at things. It's really not appropriate to the atmosphere or the moment, although that's not saying he won't bring the conversation back around to it later.

"This is also an apology and a show of my goodwill." Kieran holds out her seat and waits for her be comfortably seated. "I know our last date wasn't what either of us expected and things might have gotten away from us. I'm a bit embarrassed that I allowed things to escalate like that, and worried that I might have given you the wrong idea."


Kieran sweeps a hand over her shoulder, once she's seated and leans in to kiss her sweetly on the cheek. "You're a very beautiful and intelligent woman, Brooke. I don't want you to think I'm only interested in you as a plaything. I won't lie and say I'm not madly attracted to you and don't want to get my hands on your body again." Kieran places another soft kiss to the spot just beneath her ear, and then backs away, trailing fingers down to her hand which he gives a squeeze. "But I also want to get to know you, and I hope that you don't think I'm too much of an overgrown randy teenager?"


A soft titter rings out at the kiss to her wrist, and she wants so desperately to tell him that his lips will likely taste of rose petals now. She bites the inside of her lip to keep from saying anything, and smiles as he holds her hand and leads her to the table.

"You've definitely made a statement," Brooke says, voice still full of awe. Even as a new blush creeps into her cheeks at the comment that she's worth making such a statement for.

"Oh, Kieran…" Giving his hand a squeeze she exhales a sigh. "If anything, it should be me that's apologizing to you. I should've been more able to restrain myself and to keep it from happening."


"But I accept the apology, and I don't think you're just trying to get me into bed. I've been worrying that you might think that of me." Biting her lip, she smiles up at him and laughs. "All if forgiven if you can see fit to offer me the same? I've been so stressed out and worried that you'd think I was easy, and that's just not who I am at all."


Chuckling softly, the vampire leans in and places another kiss on her cheek. "Let's just call it even, then?" With a final lingering squeeze to her hand, Kieran pushes her chair in and takes a seat across from her at the table. "We both got a wee bit carried away … I'm going to consider it a compliment," Kieran winks at her.

Seated, he motions to one of the servers standing discreetly away, holding a wine bottle. The man comes forward and pours a dry white into each of their glasses and with a smile at the pair, hurries away leaving the bottle in an ice bucket beside the table.

"I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of ordering the meal. I thought that we'd do a traditional multi-course meal. It'll give us plenty of time to unwind and talk." Kieran gives her a boyish smile, "I can bore you with stories of my childhood and you can regale me with the exciting adventures of your youth."


"Fine, we're even then."

Brooke is loving the attention. The view of the lily pool just beyond the windows, the way the white and gold lights almost look like fireflies in the darkness around them. He really did go out of his way to make it seem extremely special and magical, and while she doesn't need to be wowed in such a manner, she is eating it all up.

He really is a gentleman. I don't know how I could have thought he was being malicious.

"I don't mind in the least. I think it's quite charming, actually."


"Though my youth was entirely boring. You'll be yawning by the second course."


"Why don't I be the judge of that?" Kieran asks. He lifts his wine glass and takes a small swallow. "There has to be something you did that you didn't want your parents to find out about?"


"Come on, then. Tell me one thing about Brooke Bishop that no one knows. Or that very few people know."


Oh, there's plenty that Brooke did that she didn't want to tell her parents about. Sorcerer magic for one. That's not something she can exactly tell this man about though, because that would likely scare him away.

"Not really."


"I grew up in a smaller, more rural community outside of the city. With a close knit family."


"I made out with a girl in my junior year of university."


Kieran stops himself before he asks, 'Is that all?' Given her situation and upbringing, crossing that line and exploring her sexuality in such a way likely was a big deal.

Humans. They miss so many of the possibilities.

"Was she cute?" Kieran asks teasingly. "How was it?" His voice has a lightness, a sort of teasing about it, but not in a malicious way. He's trying to relax her a bit, without having to rely on the glamour or lusting to pull her out of her shell.


It's not all, but it's all she can really tell him off the top of her head without fabricating something, and she really doesn't want to do that. Brooke likes him, and lying to him isn't something she wants to do.

Nor does she want to irk Regina until it's absolutely necessary to reveal that she's a witch, because the Coven Leader really prefers that they sort of keep that to themselves until they're absolutely sure about the person that they're dating.

"She was blonde. Green eyes. Busty." Brooke frowns a little, uncertain as to whether that makes her 'cute' or not. "It was entirely unlike I thought it would be. I'd explored my own body before, but exploring another woman's…" Blushing, she looks down at the table and laughs a little nervously. "Different."


"I told you, a boring youth. I dated Bryn for five years. From middle school until high school ended." He was her first. "We didn't get up to too much trouble." Except with the magic. "He went back to the UK, and I prepped to come to school in the city."


"You like blondes or was she just an opportunity presenting itself?" There's a hint of genuine curiosity in his voice, in the slight lift of one brow. He smirks and takes another sip of from the wine and touches his tongue to his top lip.

Then he chuckles and waggles his eyebrows, "Yes, I find that a woman's body is quite different." Now, he's messing with her again.

"The bloke you brought to the launch party?" Kieran asks. He really can't identify the man as 'The Priory's new sorcerer,' because he does play by the rules. "Who snogged Sera?" Those really are the only recollections Kieran has of the man. Other than the fact that Sera thinks he's "yummy" and wants to shag him, but he's too proper and she's too busy playing nice and human with The Priory and won't use her other skills to her advantage.

"And the big city is where the good farm girl went rogue and started snogging buxom blondes at frat parties." Yes, he added the 'frat party' bit for the purposes of levity.




"I mean it was just an opportunity. She was just an opportunity." Brooke looks and sounds flustered, so she lifts up the wine glass and takes a sip. It's just a small one.

"Yes, that one. I haven't seen him in twelve years, and thought that it would be fun to catch up with him." She knows that he snogged Sera, but she seems completely unconcerned about it. Brooke had a lot of feelings for Bryn, but those all disappeared the moment she saw Kieran.

Laughing, she nods. "Pretty much. Though it was a house party, not a frat party. It's where I met the boys from Steel Clover, actually."


"You're ruining the movie in mind," Kieran winks. "Once it moved past frat party, I was going for sorority girl slumber party. Lingerie, pillow fights… "

The first course is brought out then, a tray laden with an array of antipasti and complimentary fare: green and black stuffed olives, cheeses, grilled vegetables and artichoke hearts, marinated tomatoes, mozzarella and mushrooms, and an assortment of breads. Kieran takes a small plate and places a taste of every thing on it and sets it in front of Brooke. Then he makes a plate of his own.

"You met the boys from Steel Clover at a house party where you discovere buxom blondes weren't your thing?" Beat. A sly smile, "Or are they?"


Brooke laughs and shakes her head. "Do I look like the sorority type?" The witch certainly wasn't 'Greek' in her university days. "That's not to say we didn't have slumber parties, just that I wasn't wearing skimpy little pink things and sparkles."

The tray is stared at, and she's not at all sure what to take, when thankfully Kieran takes care of that for her. Smiling at him shyly, she picks up a small fork and pokes at a piece of cheese.

"She was definitely not my thing," she replies with a chuckle. "Tristan was. So that's the second most interesting point of my youth; I dated a guy in a band."


Kieran murmurs something that sounds a good deal like 'Too bad.' If the witch hears it, he'll just chalk it up to being a typical heterosexual male when it comes to the thought of two women.

"Wild parties and a band groupie," Kieran teases. "Here I thought you were the respectable sort."


Though Brooke can't really hear the murmur all that well as she's not been blessed with supernatural hearing. She can definitely make assumptions as to what he said.

"I prefer the dark haired, light-eyed type." Popping an olive into her mouth, she swallows it and then takes a small sip of the wine again.

"Even us respectable types are allowed to have a bit of down time once in a while." Winking at him, she spears the tomato and then shrugs. "I started promoting Steel Clover then, which lead to a freelance job at one of the bigger PR firms in the city while I was still in school."


"So what about you, Kieran? Any deep dark secrets I need to know?"


"Not really," Kieran smirks. "I am as pure as the driven snow."

He waits a beat or two for her reaction and then chuckles, shaking his head. "I'm not sure what I can tell you … I was a little less well-controlled in my youth. I wouldn't want you to think poorly of me." Kieran gives her a wink and takes a long swallow of wine.

Of course, he'll 'embellish' something, it's just a matter of what the embellishment will be. He slept with his step-mother and got a child on her? Probably not a good one to go anywhere near.

"I might have engaged in an act that could have been classified as public lewdness at a nightclub … had I been caught." Kieran waggles his eyebrows. "Which I suppose is better than being pissed drunk or doing illicit drugs?"


Brooke just stares at him for a moment, then snorts. There's no way the man in front of her is in any way pure. Not with the way he looks. Unless he was planning on becoming a priest or a monk.

Which she highly doubts.

"Surely you and Sera got up to some sort of mischief in the summers you spent together?"


"Something tamer so that I don't think too poorly of you," she teases.

At the last, she blushes and then nods. "Yes, I suppose it is…"


Kieran laughs, amused at how she's blushing. The bits of innocence and naivete that peek through with Brooke are intriguing for him, and fortunate for her. He wants to explore that, to see what it takes to push past it and bring out the sexiness from the other night. Kieran doesn't like one more than the other; he appreciates the dichotomy.

"Sera and I …" Kieran trails off, and shakes his head with another laugh. "Got up to a lot of mischief, though I'm sure she'd kill me if I told you some of it."

He has a piece of cheese and chuckles as though recalling a fond memory. "We went skinny dipping in the quarry one night. Got interrupted by a patrol officer, and ran off into the woods. Dripping wet and starkers, and then remembered that we'd left our clothes." The best lies are those rooted in truth. They did go skinny dipping in a quarry, but it was in 1950, and they only ran so that the lone officer would give chase and they could turn the tables on him. Fed from him, and sent him on his way, not even remembering that he'd interrupted anyone.


It's hard not to blush when she's making the assumption that he was talking about what they got up to in the nightclub.

"I imagine so. You practically grew up together, and that does lead to being able to trust each other even through the mischief." Brooke smiles at that, trying to reassure herself that Sera's not interested in him as anything more than just a friend.

"Did he catch up with you? I imagine that would've been the most embarrassing part, really. Call your parents?"


Kieran knew that was the assumption she would make, and he's willing to let her have that assumption for now. It's better than either explaining or coming up with a story to go along.

"He did catch up. It was a small town and everyone knew everyone and we were the 'summer' people. I already had a reputation for getting into trouble so it was all on me. I led Sera astray as far as he was concerned." Kieran rolls his eyes for emphasis, as though he truly was annoyed by such happenings. "The only reason he didn't tell our parents was because Sera started bawling and begged him to not tell and promised that we'd go straight home and never do it again."

Kieran shrugs, "I wasn't really embarrassed, I just stood there in all my glory, but Sera was mortified that he'd seen her naked."


"I did want to hit him, because he did look." He could be a writer himself.


"I can just imagine, I'd have been grounded for life if I were ever caught skinny dipping."

Does that mean that Brooke did go skinny dipping at some point in her life? It's possible, but she's not confirming that.

"Poor Sera. Did you ever do it again?"


"Hitting a cop would've been a bad idea. He'd have tossed you, and all your glory, into prison for at least a little while until your parents showed up."


"Considering that you aren't grounded, you must not have gotten caught?" Kieran notices the subtleties in the language and can't help but point it out. He does so with his usual boyish grin and chuckles.

Then he feigns the most innocent look. "We were told not to."


"Of course we did. We just very carefully made sure we weren't caught again."

Nodding Kieran chuckles. "That's why I didn't hit him. I knew where to draw the line, and if I'd gotten taken in? My da would have tanned my hide."


Brooke stares at him. Gapes even. Then she laughs. He did catch her on that one. "Never got caught. Which is a damned miracle, considering the pond we were doing it in was on the property."

Chances are either her mother or father new, but didn't say anything to her. They likely told Bryn's father though.

There's another laugh at his confession, and she smiles at him. "So what other secrets do you have, Kieran?"


The servers easily swoop in to relieve the table of the first course, replacing them with the hors d'oeuvres - baby crab cakes, grilled scallops with lemon aioli, coconut shrimp with roasted red pepper sauce, Asian shrimp dumplings and various hand rolled sushi.

Again, Kieran prepares a plate for Brooke and then tends to his own. "I like older women. A year, two, five." Beat. "That's not really a secret though."

He takes a sip of wine and then tops off both their glasses. Waits until she's not eating. "I have a dirty little secret passion. I like karoke."


Watching with amusement as he prepares her a plate again, she smiles. He's making sure she gets at least one of everything that's brought out, and no more than he figures she can eat.

"This is all really amazing," she says of the food before taking a small bite of a crab cake and washing it down with the wine.

"So do I," Brooke admits. "Though I'm not a great singer."


"Well, I'm no Pavaratti," Kieran chuckles. A bite of sushi is picked up, and after adding a dab of wasabi and topping it with pickled ginger, Kieran pops it in his mouth. He chews thoughtfully and chases the swallow with wine. "It's fun to go, though. I like to show off and ham it up." That should come as no surprise.

"Then there is the people watching. As the night gets later and people have had more to drink? They start to think that they're Grammy Award winners." He blames Sera for the karoake thing. She wanted to go and 'experience' it and they both had more fun than he was willing to admit at the time. Now, it's one of their guilty little pleasures.

It helps that they usually never go home alone either. The last he's not sharing with Brooke.

"You do realize that we are now going to have to go sometime, yeah?"


"I don't think you'd want to be Pavaratti at karaoke. Bon Jovi maybe." Brooke eats the other half of the crab cake slowly. Really it was a one-bite deal, but splitting it in two is allowing her to enjoy the flavor a bit more.

"People watching can be fun. I'm sure that's why most people go. To watch me make an idiot of myself up on the stage, fumbling the lyrics, messing up the beat."

Scrunching her face up at him, she laughs. "Yeah. It actually does sound fun."


"It's a date," Kieran announces with a waggle of his brows. "I know a few places that do karaoke nights, and a few that have the stage available every night if people want to entertain the masses."

He playfully points his fork at her, "I have a reputation. The first rule of a karaoke date is that we don't talk about the karaoke date."


"I'm sure you're a lot better than you give yourself credit for being. And, if you aren't? I won't laugh."


"Too much."


He's already proposing a fourth date, and the third is barely underway. Brooke can feel her heart do a flutter-leap as he announces that, and she smiles at him brightly. "I look forward to it then."

At the point of his fork, she laughs. "I won't tell a soul, I promise." People really don't need to know what she's doing on her dates anyhow.

"I'll let you laugh for one song, though if I'm truly atrocious I hope you tell me in a sweet, kind manner, and you keep me from the stage for the rest of the night."


"I can't have you think that I don't know how to do normal things and have fun," Kieran says. His eyes are smiling, so he's clearly not truly concerned that she'll think him boring. "If we'd met earlier in the year, I would have taken you ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

"You're going to have to settle for a walk in the gardens after dinner, sadly."

Kieran enjoys another piece of shrimp and sushi. "If you are truly terrible, I will save you from yourself and humiliation."


There he goes. Smiling with his eyes. Brooke's heart just melts, and she can't stop staring at him. For a long moment, she forgets to eat, or reply.

"Rockefeller Center?"


"They'll start skating again in five months," she replies jokingly. If Kieran's still interested in her in five months, she'll try to remember to bring it up again, but she's not holding her breath yet.

"I'd love a walk in the gardens. There's only a few things here that won't be blooming yet."


The look on her face makes Kieran smile more. He's not sure what he's said or done to put that look there, but he'd like to figure it out so he can put it there again. Brooke's pretty, but her face just opens up when she seems to lose herself like that for a moment out of time. Kieran can always appreciate the aesthetics, and he loves having that effect on her.

He traces her cheek with a finger and taps her lightly on the nose. "Yes. Ice skating. In front of the huge Christmas tree."


"Well … if you I haven't chased you off by then, I guess I know what we'll do." It's the only appropriate thing to say to such a statement, and it's friendly without making any promises.

"As soon as we're done eating, we'll go for our walk."


The more he smiles, the more lost she looks. Brooke doesn't even think about eating, until she realizes that they won't be going for a walk unless she at least attempts to eat this course and gets on with the next.

Wiggling her nose at the tap, she laughs.

"I've always wanted to do that, if I'm being honest. I used to love skating when I was younger. We'd go on the pond every winter. I just felt silly going to Rockefeller Center by myself though."

Brooke really doubts that he'll chase her off. It'll likely be the other way around. So she tells him so.

"You mean if I've not chased you off."


"I might be harder to chase off than you think." Kieran takes her hand and raises it to his lips, pressing a light kiss over her knuckles as he winks at her. He'll need to keep her around a while if he does decide on Brooke as a suitable, public companion.

Maybe even a suitable private companion. He can't deny that there was something intoxicating about knowing the sexy wantonness that's hidden beneath the surface.

"Why don't we have the next course and then go for a walk while that settles in? We can come back for dinner and dessert."


"Me too," she whispers, blushing at the wink. He may not mean it to say so much, but it sends a shiver right down her spine when it's coupled with those smiling eyes of his.

"That sounds lovely. The grounds are so large though. Do you have a specific spot in mind for a stroll, or would you prefer to just wander?"


"I like to play it by ear sometimes." Kieran motions around with a hand, indicating the gardens. "We won't get to see everything, but we'll just wander. I'm glad just to spend the time getting to know you."

The salads are brought out, and Kieran politely thanks the servers as they quickly replace and remove plates.

"Did you have a particular spot you'd like to visit or flowers or plants that you want to see?"


"The Shakespeare garden. I've always been fascinated by English gardens, and I think the majority of those blossoms will still be in bloom." And rather than large sprawling pathways, they'll be able to enjoy the smaller, more intimate setting.

Brooke smiles across at him, reaching out to delicately trace a finger over the back of his hand.

"Wandering works too though."


"I love English gardens. One of the things I loved about visits to London. There are old country manor houses there that still have traditional English gardens." Kieran can't very well say that he was at court there, unless he wants to earn some questions and a few odd looks.

His eyes drop down to her finger, and he flips his hand to gently catch her fingertips. "We'll do both. The English gardens are cozy."


"You're so well traveled. I'm quite envious, you know. The furthest I've ever been was to Florida when I was a teenager for a family vacation." Brooke's family was large enough they couldn't afford to go away every summer, and now that she's on her own she really doesn't have time to travel.

"But there are a few places in the city with English gardens. I sometimes like to sneak out to them to work if the opportunity presents itself."

She can't concentrate when he's holding her hand.

"They are. Cozy. Lots of little nooks to explore…"


"Did you like Florida?" Kieran rubs his thumb over her hand before squeezing it and releasing. "I visited Miami when Sera lived there for a year or two. It was hot. I've never really been able to be happy when it's too hot. I don't mind short visits, but the only good thing about summers in Louisiana was that I had a friend there."


"I do like Mardi Gras, though."


"I liked it well enough. It's not a place I'd want to live, but it was good for a visit. The theme parks helped quite a bit with that too though." Brooke did like walking through the Magic Kingdom and the like.


"That's the theme for Sera's party. She said her new book takes place in New Orleans."


"I know you're going to be there because you own the place, but you'll come in costume at least?"


"It's a Masquerade Ball, of course I'll come in costume," Kieran assures Brooke. "Besides," he reaches out and taps her hand lightly with his finger tips. "I suspect that if I don't Sera will have my head."


"You wouldn't like her when she's angry," Kieran laughs.

"I think it's an excellent idea. For the promotion and the book signing. It was really nice of you to offer to do such a thing." Kieran holds up a hand. "I know it wasn't all alturistic, but still, it was wonderful. Sera's very, very happy and excited."


"It definitely wasn't all alturistic," Brooke replies with a laugh. "I've wanted her to do a signing for years. I've still got my first hardbound copy of Scarlet's Song with the original dust jacket." Not to mention that she does have a copy of the European cover as well, thanks to Bryn.

"You will save me one dance that evening? I know I'll be a bit busy with ensuring everything goes perfectly but…" Should she invite him?

If I don't invite him will he be insulted? If I do invite him will he be insulted if I can't spend a lot of time with him?

"… maybe you'd like to go as my date? You don't have to. I know how that might look. The owner of the venue with the woman who set everything up, and I don't want anything to ruin Sera's night."


"I really don't know why she doesn't do them," Kieran shakes his head, feigning ignorance. It's easier to not do them than it is to try and arrange them after sunset if she sets a precedence. "I've encouraged her, but … " He trails off with a shrug.

"Brooke. I would be honored to go with you as your date," Kieran gives her hand a squeeze. He would add a caveat that that's assuming Sera doesn't need an escort, but his Child has never lacked for dates and suitors when she wants them. "I will stay out of your way and from underfoot, and simply be your arm candy."


"Besides, I'm sure there will be things I need to look in on."

Kieran gives another shrug. "Yes, it smarts of nepotism and favoritism, but this is me not caring. The proceeds are going to charity, and what's that saying? Oh, yes, everyone can suck it up. My best friend is an excellent and talented writer showcasing her work, and my date is a beautiful woman with exquisite tastes and an eye to promotions. It all works out."


"I honestly think it's the crowd thing." Brooke finally remembers that there is a wonderful salad in front of her and eats a little bit of it. Washing it down with the wine, she smiles. "It's easier to do it when you add a bit of fun and mystery to it. Turn it into a launch party for a new book rather than just throwing a bunch of fans into a room waiting their turn for a signature."

The way she's got the event set up, Sera can autograph books enough for every attendee pre-event, and those that wish a personalized message can pay a little extra later in the evening for it.

As he agrees to go as her date, she relaxes and smiles. "It's not being in my way I'm worried about," she states quite honestly. "It's distracting me with your smile. Your touch. Hell, just knowing you're there is going to distract me," she adds with a laugh. "But I will be far happier knowing that you're there as my date, and therefore a good distraction, than wondering who you've come with."

Biting her lip, she looks down at her salad and eats a little more of it. Ashamed at her honesty. She's not sure where it came from and as she washes the food down, she slowly lifts her eyes.

"Eclairant will be getting a good deal of free publicity from this event too. Could I perhaps persuade you into donating to the charity?"


"I think you may be right. I don't think she's comfortable in crowds unless she's had a few drinks and is doing karaoke or is on a dance floor."

Kieran moves his attention to his own salad, but stops mid-bite when the woman says what she does. "You would worry about who I came with?" That seems to surprise him. Kieran takes a sip from his wine, watching her over the rim of the glass. "I'm flattered. I'm going to take that to mean that I've made something of an better impression this date than the last."

He's used to his dates getting possessive or concerned early on, but he does manage to look surprised by it. "I can be dour and not touch you," Kieran offers playfully. "Or I can promise you a dance and point out that I'll be equally distracted."


"By you."

He eats and drinks in silence a few moments, then smiles again. "Consider it done. It's for a good cause."


"That surprises you?" Brooke bites her lip, staring down at her salad. She moves the fork around through the leaves, not really eating anything. "It would concern me because it would mean that you've lost interest already and that wouldn't bode well for me," she points out with a quiet mumble. Looking highly embarrassed, she finishes off her glass of wine and pushes the salad in front of her.

"I enjoy your company," she points out quietly.

"Thank you. It really is for a good cause, and it's a great promotion for Eclairant to add a donation."


"Brooke, I am nowhere near losing interest." Kieran shakes his head and chuckles softly. He lifts his hand to indicate the room and the surrounding gardens. "I'm trying very hard to impress you, so I should think that speaks loudly. I wouldn't try so hard if I thought my attention would wane so quickly."

He slides his chair back from the table and rounds the table to her side. She's a conundrum, this woman, and Kieran wants to explore this a bit further. Leaning over her chair a bit, without any further words or warning, Kieran leans down and kisses her quite firmly and yet still gently. He teases her lips apart with his tongue and slowly explores every part of her mouth. When he comes up so that she may breathe, he licks his lips. "Not bored yet."


"Just for the record," Brooke says quietly, "You don't have to try to impress me. You already do impress me. You own three businesses, you have an outstanding love of beautiful things, and I enjoy your company. I'd be just as happy with tickets on Broadway, or an evening in with a decent movie and a bowl of popcorn."


"But this is…"

He cuts her off with the kiss, which, when it ends, leaves the witch extremely breathless. Closing her eyes, she runs her tongue over her lips tasting him still there upon them.

"Beautiful. Amazing. More than anyone has ever done for me before."


"I very much hope to amaze you a bit more in the future," Kieran murmurs, dragging his mouth to her ear and nipping it softly. There's a smile in his voice as he adds, "Although movie and popcorn can be very relaxing and fun too."

Drawing back, he straightens and extends a hand to Brooke. "Let's go for a walk. We can come back for the main course."


"I have no doubt that you will, Kieran." Brooke gets the impression from him, that he'll go to great lengths to keep her happy if they do get more serious, and if they don't, he'll go to great lengths to keep her on his arm regardless. It's good for his image until he finds someone he wants to get serious about.

Taking the hand, she pulls herself to her feet and rests her hand in the crook of his elbow.



Kieran leads Brooke from the Palm House, and then beyond the indoor gardens. Outside, the paths are alight with small white LED lamps placed at random intervals, close enough to keep the paths safely lit, but far enough apart to allow some areas to fall into a romantic shadowing without being too dark.

He squeezes her hand lightly where it rests in the crook of his arm, and grins down at her. Kieran runs his fingers over the back of her hand. "I hate to assume, but does this mean that you're willing to see me again after tonight?"


Brooke is honestly astounded by how beautiful the garden looks at night. It's not something she's been able to experience, since the gardens are usually only open at night for special events or wedding ceremonies. Neither of which she's attended. It's a real treat for her to be able to enjoy it like this.

She's so enamored by the view, and the flowery fragrances that tease at her senses that she almost wants to run off and just sit in one of the beds of flowers and surround herself.

Brooke catches herself before she actually does so.

"Yes," she whispers at him. "I did ask you to be my date for Sera's masquerade after all. The question is do you want to see me again after tonight?"


"I did agree to be your date for Sera's masquerade," Kieran responds cheekily, his eyes twinkling. He stops walking and turns to face Brooke. One hand pushes a strand of hair from her face, the other landing lightly on her waist. "I'd like to keep seeing you for the indeterminate future, Brooke."

Blue eyes hold hers for a moment and then he leans in to kiss her. It's soft and gentle, nothing too heated, but very sweet.

When he parts, he grins at her. "I like you. I want to get to know you. Just don't be too disappointed if one of our next dates is dinner and movie."


"You did." Brooke smiles at him, her heart stopping almost completely when he turns to face her. Catching her breath in her throat, she nods very slowly. "I'd like that, Kieran. I really would." She knows she's agreeing to see him for an indeterminate amount of time, but she really doesn't care. The witch smiles, and reaches up to gently touch his cheek as the kiss breaks.

"I like you too. I'd love that, honestly. It sounds like the perfect night out."

She did point out that she loved staying in and watching movies, so it really would be a great date for her.


"Good," Kieran turns his head and catches her fingertips with his lips. Slowly he turns, and tucking her hand back into his arm, resumes walking. "I do like doing things that aren't so over the top and lavish." Though he can tell Brooke truly loves the evening in the gardens, and he has more like this in him as well.

"I suppose that just leaves me with one other question." Kieran stops and picks up a blossom that has fallen into their path. He turns to Brooke and tucks it gently into her hair. "I know it's short notice, and it wouldn't so much be a date as a group outing. Are you free on Monday the 18th? I have a table at the Shakespeare in the Park Gala that still has seats open."



Brooke stops, turning to stare at him, even though she's not let go of his arm as of yet. There's a smile on her lips, and she leans in to press a shy kiss to his cheek.

"It is short notice, and I'll need to find an appropriate dress, but I would love to go to the Gala with you." She does note that he said it wasn't a date, but she doesn't care. To get to attend something like that is a great opportunity. Especially to show those few clients that she does have that will be there, that she's got the ability to attend.

Granted that's not why she's agreed. She's agreed because she enjoys spending company with Kieran and even in a friendly setting it should be fun.


"Really," Kieran repeats. He originally intended to buy tickets for himself and Sera when his Child started gushing about the whole thing, but then realized he'd much rather have a table for them than share with strangers.

The comment about the dress earns a faint smile and the glimmer of an idea in the back of his head. He'll see to it that she doesn't have to worry about the dress.

"I'm glad," Kieran tells her with a wink. "I'll enjoy having you by my side and on my arm."


Dating Kieran is like a dream come true, almost. Brooke feels like royalty when she's with him. Even when doing something as simple as enjoying a garden in the moonlight. It's magical and she really can't believe her luck at having met him.

"It will definitely be worth being there on your arm, Kieran."

Moving swiftly, she releases his arm and then stands in front of him. They've reached a little alcove in the Shakespeare garden where the light is dim and there's a bench.

Wrapping her arms around him, she just holds him for a moment, then quietly tilts her head up to place a very delicate kiss upon his chin.

"Thank you for thinking to invite me."


Brooke is impressed, and Kieran is smugly satisfied in the knowledge that he has impressed the woman. It's an investment for his human facade, but one that will pay out nicely. Some of his kind prefer to rely on the glamour and mental control, but they forget that sometimes humans break those chains and then things get messy. Kieran prefers that they come of their own free will, as it makes things so much more manageable.

There's a niggling at the back of his mind that taunts him, but Kieran can't figure out what it's about so he ignores it.

He locks his arms around her waist. Kieran smiles mischievously down at her, then leans and presses his lips softly to hers. He palms his way up to her back, holding the back of her neck with care given to her hair and his other hand tugs her in close to his body. His lips caress hers sweetly and gently before his tongue teases along the seam of her lips to find its way into her mouth.


Brooke is impressed, more so than she thought she'd be. Though, not by his wealth or flashy dates, but that he tends to think of her. There are always calls or texts when they're not seeing each other, flowers that she sets in her office that remind her of him. He's charming and thoughtful, and to her that happens to be the perfect man to be dating.

Or seeing indefinitely.

Whichever they want to call it.

There's a smile offered up to him as he hugs her in return, seconds before she catches the impish expression. The soft kiss is welcomed, though it breaks briefly when she squeaks in surprise as he tugs her closer. Brooke whimpers softly as she feels his tongue, and near instantly her heart starts to race as she recalls just how skilled he is with it.


The soft whimper only encourages Kieran to swallow it and deepen the kiss. His tongue gliding and twisting expertly against hers, the hand on her waist squeezing and then sliding up and down her back. He's doing nothing more than kissing her, enjoying the sweetness and intimacy that comes from just tasting her mouth, her teeth, her tongue. Sometimes stopping and pausing to break for air (for her) and nipping at her lips as he does so.

"I really need to properly thank Sera for introducing us," Kieran whispers, pressing his forehead against hers.


How one man can drive her so completely from a kiss, she'll never be able to figure out. Brooke enjoys this kiss just as much as any other. It's halfway between sweet and heated, and is in no way out of control like she was at the club. Her tongue teases against his until they pause and break for air. Then they seem to return to kissing just as passionately, again and again.

When he finally breaks the kiss, Brooke exhales a slow, shaky sigh and laughs.

"Yes, I suppose we both do." Though the party is really Brooke's gift to Sera for the introduction.


"Brooke Bishop, I believe you're blushing," Kieran teases. He taps a kiss to the tip of her nose, and turning, tucks her into his side so that they can continue walking. After their last night together, he's making an effort to be respectable. The anticipation will drive her mad.

"We should walk a bit more before I forget myself out here."


"Me? Blushing?" Brooke does blush with the sweet little kiss to the tip of her nose, and she leans herself in against him as they walk. The anticipation is driving her absolutely mad but she does figure that it's worth it. Brooke may be embarrassed after their last date, but that doesn't mean she can't recall how skilled he was.

"Yes, right. Do you think the roses will be blooming yet, or would it be too early for them?"


"I believe that some of them have started to bloom," Kieran says. He leans toward her as he speaks, brushing lips against her temple. He inhales the scent of her hair. "Though I doubt they're as pretty as you are, even in full bloom."

They walk for a bit in silence, his arm comfortably around her, sometimes dipping his head to kiss her temple or nuzzle her hair. Kieran never tires of how women (and men) can be coaxed to a reaction with fleeting touches and hovering closeness. Brooke is no exception.

When they reach the roses, there is a small stone bench sprinkled with rose petals. On the bench is a bouquet of roses - pink, white, and red, carefully done up in a white bow, with all of the thorns stripped away. It was a gamble that they'd come this way, but Kieran always figured he could have the bouquet picked up and delivered to her later.

Giving her an impish grin, he picks up the bouquet and presents it to her, "These are for you."


Smiling, eyes downcast toward the path, Brooke whispers, "You are far too kind, Kieran." Far too charming too. Dangerously so. It's been three dates, and a few conversations besides, and the witch can feel herself already falling for this man.


It's driving her absolutely insane. Never mind what his touches, and hovering closeness do to her. She doesn't mind the silence. In fact, Brooke quite enjoys the fact that it seems to be a comfortable silence rather than an awkward one.

When they reach the roses in the Shakespeare garden, Brooke gasps. "How did you…?" There's no way he could've known that she'd want to come this way, and she didn't see him signal to anyone while they were eating. "They're beautiful, Kieran!" Taking the bouquet, she brings it slowly up to her nose and inhales the heady scent of roses.

Wildflowers may be her favorite, but roses come a very close second.

Feeling so happy that she might burst, she turns to him. One hand is placed very delicately on his cheek as she leans forward. The softest, most fluttering of kisses is pressed gently on his lips before she pulls away.


Kieran basks in her reaction and when she tries to pull away, he draws her back, deepening the kiss until he knows she's needs to be released to breathe. He dots small kisses over her cheek and her forehead, and hugs her close for a few moments.

"Thank you, Brooke, for agreeing to see me again." His voice is full of projected sincerity as he tilts his forehead to rest against hers. Fingers trace her cheek and he smiles sweetly, "I think we are going to have a wonderful time ahead of us."

So many implications there in his words, and really, she's almost too perfect for his arm.

He's looking forward to the summer.

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