It was her friend Zoe’s engagement party and it was being held at Lord’s The Home of Cricket. It was a beautiful venue. Dinner was to be held in the elegantly furnished and intimate Writing Room. On the walls hung paintings of cricketing scenes such as an imaginary game between England and Australia watched by high society ladies and gentlemen. From there one could see the views of the Ground from the north end of the Pavilion. However, neither of these things held her interest. All she could see was him.
She stood against the wall watching him now. He was talking to a couple. She had noticed him the moment he walked in. He was easily the most handsome man in the entire room. Tall, slender with thick black hair dressed in an expensive looking black suit, white shirt and black tie, he looked very stylish. He probably wouldn’t even notice me, she thought.
Just then, he looked up and their eyes met. Her heart skipped a beat. She wanted to look away but couldn’t. She saw him say something to the couple and then he was walking toward her. By now her heart was pounding heavily and her breath quickened. As he approached she saw his eyes travel over her. She was wearing a red ankle length dress which flattered her with red strappy low heel sandals and her hair was swept up in a pile of curls on top of her head.
He was standing in front of her now and this close he was even more striking. He had exquisite brown eyes which were riveted on her face. “Hello,” he said, holding out his hand. “I’m Cole.”
She put her hand in his and his fingers enclosed hers in a warm handshake. “Stephanie.”
“Are you here alone?” he asked. He was staring at her and she could see the admiration in his eyes.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Are you Gary’s friend or Zoe’s?”
“Zoe’s. She and I have been the best of friends since we attended university together. I’m her maid of honor.”
“I’m her uncle.” He smiled when he saw her surprised look. “I get the same reaction from other people.”
He looked rather young to be Zoe’s uncle. He was most likely in his late thirties which meant that he was a child himself when she was born. All of her uncles were old enough to be her father. She wondered what Zoe would say if she knew that she was attracted to hers. Right now she was captivated by him. “Zoe mentioned that you’re giving her away.”
“Yes. Her father, my older brother died two years ago.”
“It’s a pity that he couldn’t be here. Zoe has told me so much about him. They seemed very close.”
“Yes, they were. You’re very beautiful,” he said suddenly, startling her. His expression was serious.
She swallowed hard, her eyes wide as they met his. His thumb was caressing the back of her hand causing all sorts of tingling sensations in her. “Th-thank you,” she managed to say.
“I see you’ve met my dear Uncle Cole,” Zoe’s voice said over his shoulder and he released Stephanie’s hand.
They turned to the smiling redhead who looked radiant in her gold lace maxi dress. “I was going to introduce you but I see you have beaten me to it. Isn’t he handsome?” she asked Stephanie, with a twinkle in my eyes. “I think all of my girlfriends had a crush on him.”
“You’re exaggerating as usual,” Cole said to her. “Are you having a good time?”
“I’m having a wonderful time, thanks to you and Mother. They took care of all the arrangements,” she explained to Stephanie.
“It’s a wonderful venue,” Stephanie agreed. “After dinner I would like to take a walk in the grounds.” Cole glanced at her when she said that.
“Well, now it’s time to have dinner,” Zoe said. “The two of you are sitting at my table.” She slipped an arm in each of theirs and walked with them to the Writing Room. Stephanie sat between Cole and Zoe. Dinner was superb. Afterwards there was dancing. Stephanie watched as Zoe and Gary danced, thinking how romantic they looked. Then, she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around. It was Cole. He bent down and said in her ear, “Do you still want to take a walk on the grounds?” She nodded. He straightened up and she got up from the table.
It was a warm evening and still bright. Cole took her first to the cricket ground where the stands were and then to see the W.G Grace Statue. “Who’s this?” she asked marveling at the sculpture.
“It’s W.G. Grace. He was an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of cricket. He is considered to be one of the sport’s greatest players. He played first class cricket for a 44 seasons. He came from a family of cricketers.”
“Does it look like him?”
“Yes, it’s a remarkable likeness.”
“Are you a cricket fan?”
He shook his head. “No. I’m more partial to soccer and rugby. My father, however, was a cricket player and was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, owner of the Lord’s Ground.”
“It’s really nice out here,” she said. “Do you mind if we sit for a bit on one of the benches over there?” To be honest, she wanted to rest her feet for a bit. They were starting to feel sore because of the heels. She was not used to doing a lot of walking in them and they were still fairly new.
“Not at all,” he said and they went over to one of the benches and sat down. She was facing forward while he was turned towards her with his arm resting along the back of the bench. “You know, it feels strange being alone with you like this,” he commented after a moment of silence passed.
She turned to look at him. “What do you mean?” she asked. She enjoyed being here alone with him and wished that they could stay there for a long time.
“I’m at least ten years older than you. I’m deeply attracted to you and you’re my niece’s friend.”
Her pulse began to race. “I’m twenty-six,” she said. “How old are you?”
“Thirty-nine. I will be forty in September.”
“There’s not that much of an age difference between us,” she said.
“It feels strange being attracted to a girl who’s the same age as my niece.”
She got up and looking down at him, she told him, “I’m not a girl. I’m a woman and I know what I want.” She saw his expression darken and then, he was up on his feet and pulling her roughly against him.
“And I know what I want,” he muttered before he kissed her passionately, his lips almost devouring hers. And her arms went up and encircled his neck. She pressed closer against him as she responded to the onslaught of his kisses.
There they stood for a long while exchanging hungry kisses before he raised his head to gaze down at her, breathing heavily, his eyes dark and stormy and his face flushed. “We’d better go back before they start to wonder where we are,” he said.
Fighting to catch her breath, she could only nod and he released her. On trembling legs she walked back to the party with him. Before they went inside, he paused to look at her. “When can I see you again?” he asked huskily.
“Any time you want,” she said. How she longed to kiss him again.
“Good,” he said with a slight smile before he reached out and caressed her cheek with his knuckles. Before they parted company, she wrote down her phone number and address on the back of his business card and gave it to him. He thanked her as he put it in his breast pocket. He joined his mother and other guests while she joined Zoe and their other friends.
It was after mid-night when she left the party. She got a ride home with a friend. Before she left, she went over to Cole and said goodnight to him, his mother and the people with them. She tried to be discreet where he was concerned and so she could only afford to give him a brief glance before walking away. He watched her go, his expression drawn and a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line.
Weeks passed and she didn’t hear from him. By the third week she was heartbroken. Zoe kept asking her what was wrong when they met to fit on the dresses for the wedding but she assured her that she was fine. She didn’t want to upset her friend. Why hasn’t he gotten in touch with me? The wedding was in two weeks. What was she going to do when she saw him then? Act as if nothing had happened between them? Act as if everything was all right when her heart was breaking? How she ached for him. She spent sleepless nights, thinking about him and wondering why he hadn’t called or visited her.
It was the night before the wedding and she was feeling terrible. How she wished she didn’t have to go but how could she not? Zoe was counting on her being there as her friend and as her maid of honor. She couldn’t let her down. But how was she going to face Cole? What if he showed up with a date? That would be devastating, to say the least. She wouldn’t be able to hide her distress and everyone would know that she was in love with him.
She got up from the sofa and went over to the window to look at the flickering lights of London. He was out there somewhere, she thought. Was he alone or was he with a woman? She closed her eyes as fierce jealousy tore through her. She pressed her head against the cool window pane as the tears ran down her cheeks.
Her eyes flew open when she heard the doorbell. She moved away from the window, wiping her eyes in her tee shirt. She looked through the keyhole and her breath caught in her throat. She quickly pulled back the latch and tugged open the door, her eyes eagerly slipping over Cole’s tall frame. He was wearing a navy blue suit and a checkered shirt. Unable to help herself, she reached out and pulled him inside. She closed the door, locked it and leaned against it, her chest heaving.
He turned to stare at her, his expression drawn. “I couldn’t stay away,” he muttered thickly. “I tried to but I just couldn’t stay away from you.”
“But, why did you want to stay away from me?” she asked, bewildered. “I thought you wanted to see me again. You said so at the engagement party.”
“Yes, I wanted to see you again so badly but our age difference kept bothering me.”
“I don’t care about the age difference,” she told him angrily. “I want to be with you, Cole. And I know that you want to me with me. That’s why you’re here now. Have you any idea how miserable I’ve been these past weeks, wondering why I haven’t heard from you?”
“Many times, I wanted to call you or stop by but I managed to convince myself it would be better if I didn’t get in touch.”
“Better for whom?” she was beside herself now. The emotions were just pouring out now and the hot tears were spilling down her cheeks. She was angry at him and she began to pummel at his chest. “How could breaking my heart be better for me?”
His eyes darkened and his eyes were filled with pain. “I’m sorry,” he said as he caught her fists and held them firmly. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, Stephanie. Please forgive me for being such a fool.”
She calmed down and he released her hands which fell at her sides. He reached up and cupped her face, his thumbs wiping away the tears. Her eyes met his and the emotion in them made him groan. He lowered his head and kissed her. Moaning, she closed her eyes and kissed him back, her arms wrapping themselves tightly about his waist.
After several minutes, he broke off the kiss to look into her eyes. “I love you,” he muttered huskily. “I love you so much.”
Fresh tears sprang to her eyes. “I love you too,” she whispered.
“Will you go to the wedding with me tomorrow?” he asked.
“Yes, I would love to but everyone will know that you and I…”
“I don’t care,” he declared. “They will find out soon enough.”
“What about Zoe?”
“It may take some time but she’ll get used to her uncle dating her best friend. Do you have any more objections?”
She shook her head.
“Good,” he murmured before he kissed her again.