It was a glorious day. The sun was bright, illuminating the field dotted with wild flowers and a soft, gentle breeze wafted caressed the leaves on the trees. Intermittently, the trill cries of birds broke the silence. From where she was, she could see the cavity in the tree above her and an adult bird peeking out. It was the Nuttall Woodpecker. She stood very still because she didn’t want to disturb it. What a beautiful bird with its colorful plumage. She wished she had brought her camera.
She stood there watching it for a while and then, she decided to sit on the grass and lean against the tree. It was so relaxing out here. Her eyes began to feel heavy. She stifled a yawn. I’d better go before I fall asleep, she thought. But it was so nice being in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Five more minutes and then, she would leave.
She must have dozed off because the next thing she knew, Julien was standing over her, blocking the sunlight. Startled, she scrambled to her feet. “What—what are you doing here?” To her own ears, she sounded breathless and her heart was pounding. He was dressed casually in a light blue shirt and khaki slacks. His hair was slightly tousled from the breeze. And his eyes…she couldn’t get over their unusual color. They were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. She felt as if she would drown in them.
“I live over there, remember?” he replied, indicating the palatial estate on her right.
She had been when he invited the staff during the summer and Christmas holidays. It was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by immaculate grounds. He lived there on his own with a fully functional staff. His parents died in a boating accident when he was in his twenties and he had no siblings.
She heard co-workers say that the lucky woman whom he married would be the mistress of the estate and living comfortably for the rest of her life. I wonder who she will be? There was some speculation that it would be the beautiful Catherine Taylor whom she had seen him with on several occasions. She had to admit that the thought of him with Catherine or any other woman bothered her tremendously which was very foolish of her because she didn’t stand a chance with him. The difference in age and background made her an unlikely candidate.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, startling her.
“How long have you been standing here watching me sleep?” she asked evasively. You can’t know what I’ve been thinking.
“About five minutes. I was returning from a walk when I saw you. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
She felt so embarrassed that her boss had caught her sleeping under a tree not far from where he lived. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I should be going now.”
He caught her by the arm. “No, please don’t go,” he said quietly. “Stay a little while longer. It’s a beautiful day to be outdoors.”
“Yes, it is.” She couldn’t think straight with his fingers on her arm. They felt warm and they were stirring all sorts of feelings in her and when their eyes met, she was mesmerized.
His gaze was riveted to her face and his eyes darkened as he muttered, “Tue es adorable quand tu dors.”
She swallowed hard. “What-what did you say?”
“I said that you are lovely when you are asleep.” Now he was holding her by the shoulders and drawing her toward him.
By now her heart was pounding wildly as she saw his gaze lower to her mouth before she saw his getting closer and closer…And then, they were kissing wildly, passionately, unleashing feelings which had been pent up for such a long time. He pulled her down on to the grass which tickled her calves. She was wearing capris. They rolled over and over in the grass like tumbleweed, still exchanging kisses. Her fingers were buried in his hair which was so soft and silky. She wanted him to take her right there in the field among the flowers with their heady scent pervading her senses.
The sound of ringing jolted her and her eyes flew open. She started when she realized that she was sitting at her desk with her head propped up. She had been daydreaming again but this time it seemed so real and the kisses…she touched her lips. Answer the phone. She grabbed it. “Hello?”
“Where are the reports? The meeting starts in seven minutes.” It was Julien. He was calling her from the boardroom. His French accent was more pronounced when he was annoyed.
“I’m—I’m on my way,” she stammered, flustered. She wondered what he would say if he knew that she had been daydreaming about him. Shaking her head, she grabbed the reports which were sitting on her desk and rushed to the boardroom.
He was there with nine other men sitting around the table and she felt self-conscious as she walked into the room, carrying the reports. She avoided looking at him as she handed them out and then she walked out of the room.
After she was gone, one of the men, Russell Benson, commented, “You have a young and very pretty secretary.”
Julien’s expression darkened. “She’s my assistant. Now, let us get down to business.” He was irked because he noticed the way Imani avoided looking at him and it didn’t help that she smiled with Russell before she left the room.
The meeting lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and while the other men stayed behind to talk to Julien, Russell excused himself and left the room. He went straight to Imani’s desk and holding out his hand, he introduced himself. “Russell Benson.”
“Tell me, Imani, how long have you been working with Julien?”
“Do you like working with him?”
“Yes, I do.” Russell seemed like a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him. All she could think about was Julien and how much she wanted to be with him.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
She stared at him for a moment. “No, I don’t.”
“How about having dinner with me, say tomorrow night?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Russell, but I’m going to have to say no.”
He arched his eyebrows. “Wow. Not to sound conceited or anything but this is the first time a woman has turned me down.”
“You seem like a really nice guy but—“
“…but you’re just not interested.”
“There’s no need to apologize. I don’t think Julien would have approved anyway.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, when I mentioned that you were very pretty, he didn’t seem at all pleased.”
“And speaking of the devil…” he said looking past her and getting up from her desk on which he had been sitting.
Imani’s heart was racing but she didn’t turn around. She didn’t have to. Julien went and stood right beside her desk. She looked up and their eyes met briefly before he turned to Russell. “What are you still doing here?” he asked. “I would have thought that you would be heading home after your long flight.”
“I arrived from New York this morning,” Russell explained to Imani. “I remember why I hate flying. I had to wait a long time for my bag because there was a problem with the conveyor belt. By the time it was sorted out, I had to come straight here.”
Julien turned to Imani, “I need to see you in my office.”
She nodded and quickly looked away.
Julien held out his hand. “Goodbye, Russell.”
Russell smiled and shook his hand. “Goodbye, Julien.”
Julien turned and walked away. When he was out of earshot, Russell leaned over and whispered almost conspiratorially, “I believe that if a certain Frenchman had asked you out for dinner you would have said yes in a heartbeat.”
She gaped at him. “How did you–?”
“…figure that out? Well, I noticed the way you acted around him just now. It’s obvious to me, maybe not so much to him, that you are in love.”
“I don’t know what to do. He hasn’t shown any sign that he’s interested?”
Russell stared at her in amazement. “Are you serious?” he exclaimed. “Didn’t you see the way he acted just now? He obviously had a problem with me hanging around you. I’d better leave before he has me escorted out. It was really nice meeting you, Imani. Julien is a very lucky man.” He held out his hand.
“It was nice meeting you too, Russell,” she said, taking his hand. “And thank you for being such a good sport.”
He clasped her hand in a warm handshake before he turned and walked away, whistling when Zara, an attractive blonde passed by him. Imani chuckled, shaking her head.
She got up from her desk and went to Julien’s office. He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in. “Close the door,” he called.
She closed it quietly behind her and walked over to him, her heart thudding. “You needed to see me,” she sounded a tad breathless. She was standing in front of the desk now directly opposite him.
“What did Russell want?” he asked abruptly.
“He-he wanted me to have dinner with him.”
His mouth tightened. “Did you accept?”
She shook her head. “No, I didn’t.”
“I-I didn’t want to have dinner with him.”
“Ne le trouvez-vous pas attirant?” He seemed surprised.
“What?” she asked. He had a tendency to lapse into his native tongue.
“Don’t you find him attractive?”
“No, I don’t.”
Êtes-vous attiré par quelqu’un? Pardon. Are you attracted to anyone?”
“Yes, Julien. I’m attracted to you.” She couldn’t believe she said it.
Julien’s eyes darkened and he moved around the desk to stand right in front of her. “I’ve never been attracted to anyone I worked with until I met you,” he admitted. “I wanted to ask you out for such a long time but I wasn’t sure if you would want to because I’m your boss and quite a bit older than you.”
She moved closer. “I was attracted to you the first time I saw you and wanted you to notice me but you were always so businesslike whenever we were together. And when I saw you with Catherine, I thought that you were serious about her.”
“Catherine and I are just friends. I know that there have been rumors to the contrary but I assure you that my feelings for her are strictly platonic. Imani, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
He reached out and took her hand. His fingers felt warm against her skin, making her tremble. Her pulse was racing and she seemed to have difficulty breathing as he reached for her other hand to pull her against him. “J’ai voulu t’embrasser si longtemps”, he muttered before he bent his head and kissed her.
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. This was better than any daydream. Just in case, though, she pinched her arm and felt the pain.