It was a Saturday night and she was at a launch party at an industrial gallery in Soho. She stood in the rear studio, away from the main gallery and the crowd. She leaned against the wall, facing the windows and wishing she were at home instead of here. She had only come at Evan’s insistence. From the moment she arrived, she was sorry that she let him talk her into coming and was tempted to walk right back out, especially when she saw Dominic talking to a group of people and the beautiful brunette beside him.
She didn’t want to go over and say hello but she had no choice but to follow Evan across the room. With each step, dread filled her. Evan greeted them and introduced her. She forced a smile as she acknowledged them and shook hands. While Evan was talking to them, her eyes strayed irresistibly over to Dominic and her heart skipped a beat when she found him staring at her. He was wearing a charcoal suit on charcoal shirt and no tie. He looked amazing.
She saw his eyes travel over her and hoped that she looked good in her black off-the-Shoulder Midi Dress with the long bell sleeves. It fitted her snugly, flattering her shape. Her only jewelry was the pair of dangling earrings that she wished now she hadn’t worn. She had decided to wear her hair up to give herself an elegant appearance. A pair of black, strappy sandals completed the outfit. She stood there feeling self-conscious and when his eyes returned to her face, there was a strange expression on his. Before she had time to understand what it meant, Evan took her by the elbow and took her over to another group of people.
The first opportunity she got, she slipped away. And she found this spot where she had been for the past several minutes.
“Why is it that every time I see you, you’re with my brother?” The voice came suddenly from behind her, startling her.
She turned to find Dominic standing there and watching her, his expression one of displeasure. She raised her chin, her eyes defiant and guarded at the same time. He must never know that she was deeply attracted to him. “Does it bother you?” she asked.
His expression darkened and his eyes flashed at her. “Yes, it does,” he admitted tightly.
“Do you object to our relationship because you don’t approve of me?”
“So, you admit that there is a relationship?”
“I am not admitting anything,” she retorted and would have turned away when he caught her arm. Her skin tingled and her pulse began to race, especially when he drew her closer to him. Her gaze flew up from his hand on her arm to his face. Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity. What beautiful eyes he had. She couldn’t tell if it was her raspy breathing that she heard or his.
His eyes dropped to her lips and she saw his part. “You infuriate and inflame me at the same time,” he muttered before releasing her arm and walking away, leaving her staring after him, confused and flustered.
“What was that all about?” Evan asked as he joined her a few minutes later. “It looked pretty intense and Helen was not at all amused.” Helen was the woman Dominic was dating. She watched them together now, jealousy eating away at her.
“Nothing,” she mumbled, not wanting to talk about it. “We had a little disagreement, that’s all. I think I’ll go home now. I’m tired.”
“I’ll give you a ride,” Evan offered. “I insist,” he added when she was about to protest.
She wished she didn’t have to walk past Dominic and his date but she couldn’t very well leave without saying goodnight. Her heart began to thud as she crossed the room. She looked first at Helen who gave her a disdainful look then she turned to Dominic who was watching her, his expression guarded. “Good night,” she said quietly before she left the room as quickly as her trembling legs permitted.
On the ride home, she didn’t say much. Her thoughts were swirling in her head and she kept replaying what Dominic said to her before he walked away. You infuriate and inflame me at the same time. And she remembered the way he looked her before he said those words.
“I don’t think Dominic likes seeing us together,” Evan said, breaking the silence. “I saw the way he looked at me when we were leaving.”
“He assumes that we are in a relationship because we are seen together a lot.”
“Really?” Evan sounded both surprised and amused. “But why should he care? He’s got his hands full with Helen. Unless…” He glanced at her the same time she glanced at him.
“Unless what?” she asked.
“Unless he has a thing for you.”
She looked at him as if he were crazy. “You’re talking nonsense,” she scolded him.
“Terri, Dominic is not blind. He sees what other men and I see. You’re a gorgeous woman.”
For a moment, she didn’t know what to say. She thought of telling him what Dominic said to her but decided not to. “You’re mistaken, Evan,” she said finally. “Now, let’s talk about something else.” For the rest of the ride, they talked about the party and other things.
It was a little after ten when she let herself into her flat. She thankfully slipped off her sandals and walked across the cushiony carpet to her room. After taking a quick shower, she fixed herself a cup of hot cocoa and was on her way to the living-room to watch the News when the phone rang. Wondering how it could be calling her so late, she picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“It’s Dominic,” came the clipped reply. “I apologize for calling at such a late hour.”
She set the cup of hot cocoa down on the table because she had almost spilled it and leaned against the wall. “What do you want?” she asked.
“I want you to stop seeing my brother.”
“Why?” she demanded.
“I can’t bear to see you with him.”
That hurt. “Is it because you don’t think I’m good enough?” She was agitated now. “You’re such a snob, Dominic. You turn your nose down at me because I’m not from high society like you. In your eyes, I am beneath you and therefore, very unsuitable for your brother. You and Evan are so different. He’s charming and witty–”
“I don’t want to hear about Evan’s charm and wit,” he snapped. “And, I’m not a snob–”
“You can deny it all you want,” she said. “And as far as Evan is concerned, I will not stop seeing him. Good night.” She hung up the phone and taking up her cup of hot cocoa, she went over to the sofa and sat down. The hot cocoa went untouched as she sat there thinking about what had just happened.
An hour later when she was lying in bed, her mind was still preoccupied. Whenever she closed her eyes, she saw Dominic’s face and the way he looked at her when they were at the party. And try as she did, she couldn’t deny that she wanted him. How she wished she didn’t. It took a long time for her to fall asleep and when she did, it was fitful.
The next morning, it was a struggle to get up but she managed to. After a long shower and quick breakfast she left the flat. All day at work, she kept thinking about Dominic and chiding herself for letting him think that she was in a relationship with Evan. She was thankful when it was time go home and looked forward to the weekend. She didn’t plan on going anywhere.
As she sat on the tube, she thought of how different the two brothers were. Evan was outgoing and funny while Dominic was more reserved. He was what she would consider a preppy. Evan was more her type yet, it was not he who made her blood run hot. It was not his face she saw every time she closed her eyes or him she thought about every day. She sighed heavily. Why did she have to fall in love with the wrong brother?
She stopped at the market before walking to her flat. It was a pleasant evening, perfect for a jog or a long walk but she was not in the mood to do either. She just wanted to go home and relax. When she got in, she took a shower and fixed herself a salad and then relaxed on the sofa to watch some television. She must have dozed off because she was jolted awake at the loud peal of the telephone. She staggered over to answer it. Stifling a yawn, she put the receiver to her ear. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s Evan.”
“I saw Dominic today. He came to my flat this morning.”
She was wide awake now. “What did he want?”
“He wanted to talk about my relationship with you. I’ve never seen him so bent out of shape. Dominic is usually so sedate that sometimes I’m tempted to check his pulse. Yet, when it comes to you, it’s a different story. You’re the first woman I’ve seen get under his skin.”
“What did you say to him?”
“I told him that we’re just friends. How do you feel about him?”
She swallowed. “I love him.”
“Good. Tell him that when you see him.”
Just then, the doorbell rang. “Someone’s at the door.”
“It’s probably him. He said that he might be dropping by your place this evening.”
Her heart lurched. “Why didn’t you call me earlier today to tell me this?”
“I didn’t have a chance. Now, don’t keep him waiting. Have a good evening. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He hung up before she could say anything.
Flustered, she hung up. She glanced down at her red silk pajamas, wishing she could change into something else but the bell rang again. Her heart thudding, she went quickly to the door and peered through the keyhole. It was Dominic.
He was dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants. She had never seen him looking this casual before and it was refreshing. “I needed to see you,” he said simply. She stepped aside for him to go in before she closed and locked the door.
“Evan called and told me that you might be coming over.”
“Yes, I went to see him this morning. I’m afraid that I acted like a fool but I couldn’t help it.” His eyes were restless on her face. “I was out of my mind with jealousy.”
Her eyes widened. “Jealousy?”
“Yes. I was jealous, Terri. I couldn’t bear to see you with him. That’s why I wanted you to stop seeing him. I know I came across as an arrogant, pompous fool but I didn’t know what else to do. Last night at the party, when I saw the two of you together, I had to come over and let you know that it bothered me. At first you seemed so indifferent toward me that it exasperated me but then I saw the look in your eyes when I was holding your arm and it excited me. I wanted to kiss you right then and there but common sense made me walk away instead. I thought about you on my way home and decided that I just couldn’t let the matter rest so I called you.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “You called me a snob and accused me of being prejudiced against you. You were wrong about my motives. I was acting out of jealousy. I wanted you so much that it tortured me to see you with him.”
Terri swallowed hard. “I had no idea you felt this way,” she said. “You always seemed so cold toward me.”
“That was my poor attempt to suppress my feelings but they were too strong. Terri, how do you feel about me?” he asked, his expression guarded.
She moved closer to him. “I want you too,” she said huskily. “I wanted you the first time I saw you, even though you looked so haughty and full of yourself.”
He reached for her and pulled her against him. “You really got under my skin,” he muttered before his lips eagerly sought hers and ravaged them as the feelings that had long been held in check poured out and she responded wildly, surrendering to the love that burned in her heart.