“This is an interesting change of pace,” Kevin Collins mused aloud.

Ellen Burgess did not even attempt to guess at the meaning of her dinner companion’s cryptic statement.  From the moment Kevin rang her doorbell she had been off-balance.  Nothing was as she expected, beginning with Kevin himself.

I am usually the one trying to figure out what makes someone tick.”  The psychiatrist leaned across the table.  “So…what you decided, Doctor Burgess?”

Involuntarily Ellen leaned back in reaction to the white-hot intensity of her colleague’s gaze.  It was an act that the doctor immediately regretted.  She did not require a degree in psychiatry to know that her revealing act would no doubt provide Doctor Kevin Collins a wealth of insight into her feelings where he was concerned.

“You have changed,” she finally said.

“Yes.”  Kevin gave Ellen a slow intimate smile.  “In ways that I hope you will enjoy.”  He suddenly pushed back from the table and stood up.  “Come with me.”

Ellen stared suspiciously at his outstretched hand.  Kevin had thus far managed to keep her so off-guard that she was almost afraid to guess at the destination he had in mind.

“I want to dance with you,” the handsome psychiatrist said in answer to Ellen’s unspoken question.  “The dishes can wait until later.”

His strong warm hand wrapped around hers as Kevin led her into the living room.  Ellen watched silently as he moved around the room, clearing a small space where they could dance unimpeded.

Kevin crossed the room and began the stereo playing softly. As Ellen watched, she reflected just how comfortably her dear friend navigated her home.

It was true that as close colleagues and friends they had spent considerable time together in each other’s homes.  But something about this situation felt different.

A small frown creased the petite doctor’s forehead as she tried to put her finger on just what niggled at her.  With a start she realized what was different.  The Kevin Collins before her moved about her home with an air of self-possessed confidence.

Ellen was reminded of a nature special she had watched late one sleepless night.  Like the powerful big cats featured on the television special, Kevin strode about her home as though he had some natural right to be there… as though he had claimed it as his own.

And Ellen as well.

The thought both thrilled and chilled the beautiful doctor as she melted into Kevin’s embrace.