Bethany lay there, thinking about Lysander and his winsome smile. Groaning, she turned over in the bed, burying her face in the pillow. She was mad at him yet, she missed him so much. She knew that if she weren’t laid up here in bed, her body covered in hives, she would be driving up to the cabin to see him. Why on earth did she have the chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert, knowing that she was allergic to them? She blamed it on what happened between Lysander and her. Depressed, she thought having what used to be her favorite comfort food would help her to feel better. It didn’t. She was still depressed. Sighing heavily, she allowed her thoughts to drift back to that last visit to the cabin…
It was a mild winter day so she decided that she would drive up to the cabin. She had a proclivity for showing up unannounced, especially after she had a row with her sister-in-law. Her teeth gritted when she thought of Cicely. Who was she to tell her that she shouldn’t go about throwing herself at Lysander, a man who was so much older than her? She wished Cicely would stop telling her to date a guy at her university or trying to set her up with her friends’ sons. She was old enough to know what she wanted and she wanted Lysander.
She had known him since she was a child but fell in love with him when she became a teenager. He was her brother’s best friend and best man at his wedding. Lysander was always very nice to her but he treated her like a little sister which frustrated her. Sometimes she felt like they were Almonzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie before Almonzo noticed Laura. Would the same thing happen for her? Would there come a time when Lysander would see her as a woman instead of a little girl?
All of these thoughts were running through her mind as she made her way to the cabin which was about an hour’s drive from the city. It was a cozy place in the woods and very peaceful. It was no wonder that Lysander spent so much of his time there. He was there every weekend and during the holidays. When she visited they would go for long walks and then return to sit outside for hours, talking, having lunch or playing card games. She was looking forward to seeing him and her foot pressed down a little harder on the accelerator.
Soon the cabin was in sight and her heart began to pound. As she pulled up, she saw his jeep and the door on the driver-side was open. He was either on his way out or had just arrived home. She stopped the car a little distance away and turned off the engine. After fixing her hair and checking her face in the mirror, she grabbed her handbag and got out of the car. He was still sitting in his jeep so she walked over to him. “Hello, Ly,” she called out, smiling. Her smile soon faded, though, when she saw the expression on his face. He wasn’t smiling at all.
“What are you doing here, Beth?” he asked. She couldn’t tell if he was getting in or out of the vehicle when she showed up. She hoped that it was the latter.
“I came to see you, of course,” she replied flippantly although she was wary. She had hoped that he would be pleased to see her. They hadn’t seen each other in about two weeks. He had been out of town on business and got back yesterday. Didn’t he miss her? She had missed him like crazy. Her gaze slipped over him as he got out of the jeep. He looked sexy in the tan colored jacket with the fur trimmed hood and collar and the leather pants. How she longed to run over and throw her arms around him but his demeanor was not forthcoming and she doubted that he would welcome such a display of emotion. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“You can’t keep dropping by unexpectedly like this,” he said. “What if I had company?”
She stiffened. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Are you seeing someone?” The thought of him seeing another woman was unbearable.
He sighed. “Beth, you and I can’t continue seeing each other like this.”
“Why not?” she asked in a trembling voice. This couldn’t be happening.
His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her face. “My feelings for you have changed.”
She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. “They have?”
“Yes. I’m deeply attracted to you.” His gaze lowered to her lips and his parted. Dragging his fingers through his hair, he said to her, “I think it would be best if you go now.”
Shaking her head, she reached up and held his face between her hands. “Don’t send me away, Ly,” she pleaded huskily. “Let me stay. I want to be with you.” Before he could say anything, she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him. She moaned when she felt his response and his hands go around her waist, pressing her tightly against him. They stood there in the crisp wintry air with the sun bathing them, exchanging passionate kisses. She loved and wanted him so much it ached.
Lysander continued to kiss her and then he pulled away, his face flushed. It took a moment for him to catch his breath. “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly. “Please go.”
“But, I don’t want to go,” she protested, reaching for him again but he stepped back. “I love you, Ly. I love you so much. Please let me stay.”
“No!” he cried, startling her. “I’m too old for you. You should be with someone your own age.”
“I wish you would stop using our age difference as an excuse,” she retorted. “I’m twenty-four years old and you’re forty. So, we have sixteen years between us, why is that such a big deal?”
“You should be with someone your own age,” he insisted.
“So, you are willing to throw away what you and I could have because of something as stupid as our age difference?” her voice was trembling now. She was hurt and angry.
“I doing what I think is the only viable thing to do. In time you will get over me.”
“Fine,” she cried. “I will go away and leave you alone–” her sob rose to her throat before she could stifle it and she turned and ran back to her car, ignoring him as he called after her. She yanked open the door and got in, slamming it behind her. Her fingers shook as she put the key in the ignition and turned it.
The tears were falling now and almost blinded her. She saw him coming towards the car and she quickly reversed and raced off down the gravel. When she got back to the city, she went to a secluded spot where she broke down and cried. Her heart ached for Lysander. Her lips still felt tender from his kisses and she knew that if he were to call her on her cell then and asked her to go back, she would in a heartbeat.
That was three weeks ago. She hadn’t seen nor heard from him since that awful day. And now she was stuck in the house because of a bowl of strawberries. The antihistamine she had taken seemed to be working because the headache was gone and the swelling was going away. In a matter of hours or in a day or two she should be back to normal. Until then, she didn’t want to see anyone. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again, it was morning.
She sat up and stretched. It looked like another beautiful sunny day. I wonder what Lysander is doing now. Is he thinking about me? Probably not. She felt her eyes well with tears at the thought but she quickly blinked them back. I’m not going to cry. She threw back the covers. The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness. She got out of bed. After soaking in a warm, oatmeal bath, she got dressed in loose clothing and went downstairs to have breakfast. Cicely was sitting at the kitchen table having hers. “Good morning,” she greeted her sister-in-law.
“Good morning,” Cicely said, watching her as she helped herself to some scrambled eggs, toast and tea. “How are you feeling?”
“Much better, thanks. By tomorrow, the swelling and the hives will be completely gone. Where’s Derek?”
“He had to take the car to the mechanic. It has been giving trouble again. I have been telling him to get rid of it and buy a new one”
“He loves that car. He’s had it for years. I can’t see him buying a new one any time soon.”
“Buying a new car would be better than wasting money on a beaten up old one but it’s his decision, I guess. So, do you have any plans for today?”
Bethany shook her head. “I don’t plan on going anywhere until my skin clears up. I’ll just catch up on my reading and do some studying.”
There was a pregnant pause and then, “Lysander was here last night.”
Bethany stared at her. “Ly was here?” she exclaimed. “When?” It must have been when she was sleeping.
“Around eight-thirty. He stopped by to see Derek but he asked for you.”
“What did you tell him?” she asked, her heart racing. How she wished she had been awake when he came by. She would have gotten out of bed, dressed and gone downstairs just to see him.
“I, um—told him that you weren’t at home—”
“Why did you tell him that?” she demanded. “He must have seen my car parked in the driveway.”
“Well, I told him that you were on a date—”
Bethany glared at her. “Why did you do that?” she demanded. “Are you trying to ruin my life? You know I love Lysander and that he’s the only man I want to be with. Why did you make him believe that I was seeing someone? Do you dislike me that much, Cicely?”
“I don’t dislike you, Bethany and I’m not out to ruin your life. I still think that Lysander is too old for you but after seeing his reaction to what I said, I realize that your feelings for him are not one-sided.”
“What do you mean?” Bethany was on the edge of her chair now.
“I believe that Lysander is in love with you. I saw the look on his face when I told him that you were on a date. He looked hurt, devastated. I felt bad for lying to him and wanted to tell him the truth but he said he had to go and to give his apologies to Derek and then he left.”
Bethany pushed back her chair and got up. She had lost her appetite.
Cicely looked up at her. “Where are you going?” she asked.
“Where do you think?” Bethany retorted, giving her a withering look. “To see Lysander.”
“Do you think you should drive all that way now—so early in the morning?”
“When do you think I should go or do you even think I should go at all?”
“Well, I think it would be best for you to see him somewhere else rather than driving over to his place. A girl your age shouldn’t be alone with a man as experienced as Lysander—”
“I’m not a girl and this isn’t the 1800s. Now, you have interfered in my life for the last time, Cicely. As soon as I graduate in the summer, I will find a job and move out.” She turned and marched out of the room, her expression thunderous.
In ten minutes, she was on her way to the cabin. She had no idea of what kind of reception she would get but she had to see him and clear up the misunderstanding. What he must think of her now, especially after her declaration of love. How could she say she loved him and then go out on a date just three weeks later?
She gripped the steering wheel as fresh anger toward Cicely consumed her. When Lysander asked for her, why couldn’t she have told him that she was not feeling well or come and let her know that he was there? No, she decided to take it upon herself and tell him an outright lie. Oh, Ly, she cried, tears stinging her eyes. I hope Cicely is right and that you love me too.
When she got there, his jeep was parked outside. Relieved, she quickly parked her car and ran to the front door, letting herself in. It was nice and toasty in the living-room. She removed her coat and boots and then went over to the fire to warm her hands. She looked around. Why was Lysander? It was so quiet. Perhaps he was still sleeping or maybe he was outside getting more wood for the fireplace.
She went to the window and looked out. There was no sign of him. It was such a beautiful sunny day, albeit a bit nippy. Perhaps he went for a walk. Then, she heard a sound in the bedroom and she hurried to investigate. The door was ajar and she opened it wide enough to go in. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Lysander.
He was standing in front of the bureau. His broad, bare back was toward her and she allowed her gaze to travel slowly over his muscular frame clad only in a pair of jeans. He had taken a sweater out of the drawer and was about to pull it on. She watched him, her heart pounding wildly. How she longed to go up behind him and put her arms around him while she buried her face in his smooth skin…
He turned around and started when he saw her standing there, gawking at him. Dragging on the sweater, he demanded, “What on earth are you doing here?”
“I—I came to see you.”
He pulled the sweater down, covering his torso as he watched her, his expression inscrutable. “When did you get here? I didn’t hear your car.”
“I came about ten minutes ago. You were probably in the shower when I arrived.” His hair was glistening damply in the light coming through the windows. Her fingers itched to run themselves through the silky strands. “It has been three weeks since we last saw each other, Ly. How have you been?”
“I’m fine,” he said curtly. “I don’t have to ask you how you’ve been.”
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve been dating. You don’t waste any time, do you?” His face was glowering now.
“That’s not true,” she protested, crossing the carpet to stand a few feet away from him. “I’m not dating.”
“When I stopped by last night, Cicely told me that you were out on a date.”
“She lied to you, Ly. I was upstairs in my room sleeping when you stopped by. I came down with hives because I ate too many strawberries. If you don’t believe me, I will show you the rashes on my arms. They are going away but you can still see them. I haven’t been anywhere since I got them a couple of days ago.”
“Why would she lie to me?”
“She lied to you because she thinks that I should be with someone my own age.”
“Perhaps she’s right—”
“No, she isn’t. I don’t want to be with anyone else, Ly. I love you and I want to be with you. If you don’t feel the same way about me, tell me now and–and I will go away.” She moved closer and her mouth went dry when she saw the expression on his face.
He reached for her and pulled her roughly against him. “I can’t let you go,” he told her thickly. “I love you, Beth. That’s why I came to see you last night. I wanted to tell you that I was sorry about the way I acted that day at the cabin. As soon as you drove away, I was afraid that I was making a terrible mistake. I wanted to come after you but I decided that it was probably the best thing for us not to see each other for a while until I could really think things through. During the time when we didn’t see each other, I nearly went out of my mind thinking about you and missing you. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s why I decided to come to you. When Cicely told me that you were on a date, I was blindsided. It was the last thing I expected to hear, especially after you told me that you loved me. I realized then that in spite of what I said to you, the last thing I wanted was for you to be with someone else.”
She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him, loving the feel of his firm body against hers. “The important thing is that we’re together now,” she told him huskily before she pulled his head down to hers. They exchanged hungry kisses and then, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.
The following week, they got engaged and in the summer after she graduated from university, they got married in a small, intimate wedding ceremony. Derek was the best man. After they returned from their honeymoon in Nice, Lysander sold his flat in London and they moved into the cabin.