Checkmate

chess-eyes

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

She stared at the board, the pieces reflecting in her eye.  The move was right there in front of her.  She could end the game right now but she didn’t want to if it meant being with him a bit longer.  He was flying back to Moscow shortly.

She could feel him watching her.  Did he have any idea of how she felt about him?  Perhaps, not.  If he did, she’d be history.  Theirs was a purely physical relationship.  No strings attached.  But, that was before her heart got involved…

He glanced at his watch.

She made her move.  “Checkmate.”

100 Words

This was written for Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Visit here for more details Here). To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  The Odyssey

 

A Harmless Tradition?

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Photo Credit: Rick Spaulding

Roxanne glanced down at the four pumpkins.  When Ellen saw the expression on her face, she asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Have you any idea of what Halloween is really about?”

Ellen shook her head, thinking, no, but I bet you’re going to tell me.  “It’s a harmless tradition in my family.  The kids look forward to trick and treating every year.  And they look great in their costumes.”

Roxanne’s chest swelled.  “Well, it’s not a harmless tradition as so many think.  It’s a pagan tradition called Festival of the Dead.  It begins at the end of October and ends at the beginning of November. Souls of the dead and fairies cross into our world on Halloween. Once here, they’re up to no good, because their reasons for crossing often involves vengeance on the living. In order to hide their identities and protect themselves from vengeful souls and fairies, people dressed in various costumes and masks.  If I were you, Ellen, I wouldn’t have anything to do with Halloween.”

Ellen remained calm.  “Thanks, Roxanne for your concern. Was there anything else?”

Roxanne shook her head.

“Well, goodnight, then.”

“Good night.”

Ellen closed the door. “Kids, time to go trick and treating!”

200 Words

I’m not a Halloween fan, but I was curious about its origins.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  GAHA Entertainment

Giulia

stone-in-the-wood

Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the odd shaped structure.  It was covered in moss.  Everything else seemed to fade into the background.  It reminded her of when she visited the Accademia Gallery and she saw Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Israel’s most beloved king, David.  Her eyes were fixated on the figure, moving towards it as if hypnotized.  The other works of art faded into insignificance.  She spent as long as she reasonably could, just admiring what for her was the masterpiece of masterpieces.  So engrossed was she in the art that she failed to notice the stranger who had been observing her.

He stood behind a tree, watching her now.   His face was pale–as if he were seeing a ghost.  He recalled the first time he saw her.  He had decided to visit Florence for the first time since he moved to Paris and was standing in the gallery, observing the other works of art while everyone gravitated to the statue of David.  He never could understand people’s fascination with it.  There were other greater sculptures and personally, he preferred Bernini’s David.  He was contemplating taking the train to Rome the following day and visiting the Galleria Borghese when she walked past him.  She didn’t notice him standing there just like now.  He felt the color drain from his face.  The resemblance was remarkable.  She looked so much like Giulia.

Giulia.  Twelve years had passed and yet, he still couldn’t come to terms with her death.  Every where he went, he imagined that he saw her.  His heart ached for her.  His life felt empty without her.  His mind and dreams were filled with her.  She haunted him.  His love for her was still strong and no passage of time seemed to quell it or diminish it.  Other women were interested in pursing a relationship with him but he put them off.  He couldn’t imagine himself being with anyone else.  Giulia was the only girl for him.  When they met, she was a slip of a girl.  Seventeen, with thick black hair that tumbled down her back ending at the small of her back.  Her eyes were tawny and framed by thick lashes.  Her lips were like pink pomegranates and just as sweet.  Everyday after school, she met him on the Ponte Vecchio.

He was much older than her but that didn’t seem to bother her.  She was as madly in love with him as he was with her.  He would have married her if–if she hadn’t fallen into the Arno River one evening.  They were supposed to meet but he was late.  When he finally showed up, the place was swarming with police and he learned that a girl had fallen into the river.  One witness said that the girl jumped into the river.  He refused to believe that it was suicide.

He later discovered that she was pregnant.  One of her friends said that she was afraid of what her parents would do if they found out.  They were strict Catholics.  That was what she was going to tell him that day when he was late.  He would have promised to marry her and take care of her and their child.  Why did she jump?  Was it out of desperation?  Did she think he wasn’t going to show up?  He never forgave himself for being late and a couple of weeks after her funeral, he packed up and left.  And now he was back.  And here he was watching a girl who bore a striking resemblance his beloved Giulia.

Suddenly she turned and she saw him.  Lips pursed, she marched over to him, her hair flapping about her shoulders.  She stopped a short distance from him.  “Why are you following me?” she demanded.

For a moment, he was at a loss for words.  “I’m not following you,” he denied.

“Then, why are you here?”

“It’s a public place,” he said.  “I was just walking through.”

“You were standing behind that tree watching me.  Why?”

“Well, you remind me of someone.”

“Do I really or is that one of your pick up lines?”

“You remind me of a girl I used to know.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died twelve years ago.  You look so much like her.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better be heading home.”

“Don’t go, Giulia.”

“My name isn’t Giulia,” she informed him.

“I’m sorry.  It’s just that you remind me so much of her.  How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“She would have been twenty-nine.”

“Look, I really must be going.”

“Please, may I see you again?”

She shook her head.  “No.  And please don’t follow me any more.  I’m not Giulia.  She’s dead.  You need to move on.  Goodbye.”  She turned and walked briskly away.

He stood there watching her retreating figure.  She was right.  It was time to move on.  But how could he?  He couldn’t get over Giulia.  She was in his heart, his mind and in his blood.  He just couldn’t go on without her.  They say that time heals all wounds but that wasn’t true.  His weren’t healing.  The pain was as deep now as it was ten years ago.

Sinking to the ground, he buried his face in his hands.  “Oh, Giulia,” he whispered brokenly.   At the funeral, he had stood far from the mourners, not wanting anyone to see him, especially her parents.   After they left, he went to the grave and threw himself on it, sobbing, the pain overwhelming–like it was now.

After several minutes, he got up, dried his eyes in his sleeves and headed in the direction of the Arno River.  An hour later, they found his body.  The police said that suicide was “likely”.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Way-stone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Mark’s Letter

“You need to sign for this, Seth,” Lucy said as she handed the registered letter to her boss.

He took it and swallowed hard when he saw who the sender was.  It was sent a week after Mark’s death.  His funeral was two days ago.  He still couldn’t believe it.  Mark was only twenty-five.  He had finally lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy which he had since he was born.  It was when he was six that he began to slow down.  It was hard watching his younger brother confined to a wheelchair in his latter years, unable to shoot hoops like he used to.

He picked up the pen and signed for the letter.  After she left, he opened it. He leaned back in this chair and slowly read the words on the single sheet.

Dear Seth, I had my nurse write this letter as it would take too long for me to do it myself.  Besides, her writing is far better than mine.  I know that I don’t have much time so I wanted to tell you what has been on my mind for a very long time.  It has to do with Gabrielle.  You know that I am in love with her and wanted to marry her but she turned me down.  She cares for me but she isn’t in love with me and she didn’t think it would be right for her to accept my proposal.  And she was aware that our parents didn’t approve of her for obvious reasons and she believed that you had your own objections but for different reasons.  I know what those reasons are, Brother.  You are in love with her.  I may be slow now but, I’m not blind.  I saw the way you tried not to look at her every time the three of us were together. 

“I still remember the first time I brought her to meet you.  You had just returned from a spin on your new boat.  In your get up you looked like a sea captain minus the cap.  I could tell that Gabrielle was impressed though she tried not to show it, for my sake, I guess.  We were on our way to the hospital and I suggested that we stop by the marina and see you.  I wanted her to meet my incredible brother whom I have looked up to my entire life.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the two of you were attracted to each other.  At first I was miffed but then when I thought about it, I figured that if she were to have feelings for someone else, I would rather it be you.   When I’m gone, I want you to go to her and tell her how you feel.  Don’t pass up a chance for happiness out of a sense of loyalty to me.  Nothing would please me more than to knowing that the two people I love most in the world have found happiness with each other.  What I’m saying, Seth, is that you have my blessing. 

Please take care of yourself.  And tell Gabrielle, that best thing that ever happened to me was knowing her.

Your loving brother and best friend,

Mark

Seth carefully folded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope before breaking down.

Gabrielle looked at the beautiful pendant Mark had given her as a birthday present a couple of years ago.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  She couldn’t believe that he was gone.

She missed him so much.  He was such a beautiful person, so full of love and goodness.  She felt blessed for knowing him and knew she would always cherish their friendship.  There were times when she wished that she loved him the way he loved her but she couldn’t force something that wasn’t there.  And when he proposed she had to turn him down.  She couldn’t marry a man she didn’t love.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him at all.  His family was probably relieved when he told them that she had rejected his offer of marriage.  Even Seth was probably relieved too.  Seth…Not a day went by when she didn’t think about him.  She hadn’t expected to fall in love with him but when they met she knew she was in trouble.

At the funeral, she had sneaked glances at him as he stood there, tall, well-built in his expensive black suit with his head bowed and his hands clasped tightly in front of him.  His parents stood beside him.  His father had his arm around his weeping mother’s shoulders.  She wanted to go over and offer her condolences but wasn’t sure of the reception she would receive.  After they laid Mark to rest, she was about to leave when Seth approached her.

“Thanks for coming,” he said quietly, his expression drawn.

“I had to come,” she replied.  “He was my friend.”

“He cared very deeply for you.”

“And I cared deeply for him too.  I will miss him.”

“Yes, we will all miss him.”

A pause and then, “Please offer my condolences to your parents.”

“I will.”

Their eyes lingered on each other’s face before she said, “Goodbye, Seth.”

“Goodbye.”

She turned and walked slowly away, tears welling up in her eyes.  She was crying not only because of losing Mark but at the prospect of never seeing Seth again.

The ringing of the doorbell jolted her from her reverie and she put the pendant back in its box and in the top drawer of the bureau before leaving her bedroom.  On her way to answer the door, she glanced at the clock on the wall.  It was eight-fifteen.  It was dark outside. The sun had set over an hour ago.

She peered through the keyhole, her heart lurching when she saw who it was.  Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.  Seth towered over her, looking extremely handsome in a black silk shirt and black pants.  His hair was slicked back.  “I hope I’m not calling you at a bad time,” he said, his eyes restless on her face.

She shook her head.  “No, you’re not,” she assured him as she stepped aside so that he could step into the foyer.  “I didn’t think I would see you again.”

After he removed his shoes, he followed her into the living-room.  Instead of sitting down on the sofa, he went over to the window where he could see the CN Tower. She joined him and stood watching him, thrilled to see him but couldn’t help wondering why he was there. After a few minutes of silence, he turned to face her.  “I received a letter from Mark this morning,” he told her.  “It was mailed a week after he died.”

Her eyes widened.  “A letter?” she repeated.  “He didn’t write it himself, did he?”

“No, he had his nurse write it. Would you like to read it?” he asked.

“If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.”  He reached into his shirt pocket and took out the envelope.  He pulled the letter out and handed it to her.

She took it, unfolded it and began to read.  Seth watched her, his expression tense.   When she was finished, she looked up at him, her eyes wet.   “He knew,” she said.

“Yes, he knew how we felt about each other even if we didn’t.”

“And he wants us to be together.  That’s why he wrote this letter.”

“He has given us his blessing.”

“Yes.” She folded the letter, slipped it back in the envelope and held it out to him.

He took it, his eyes never leaving her face and put it inside his shirt pocket.  “What about you, Gabrielle?” he asked tightly.  “Do you want us to be together?”

“Yes.  Is it what you want?”

“Yes!” he muttered thickly and reached for her.  “It’s what I’ve wanted ever since we met.”

“Me too,” she managed to say before they kissed.

Mark got his wish.  Two years later, they got married and named their first child, Mark.

Source:  ABC News

Stand Still

“Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God – Job 37:14

When was the last time you stood still and just drank in the beauty around you? A lot of times we are so busy getting from place to place or preoccupied with our lives that we don’t take time to notice the Lord’s handiwork.

I will never forget the day when I was in a park and saw what was the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen. It was as if the sky were a giant canvas and splashes of red, orange and gold covered it. Everyone who was there at the time, stopped whatever they were doing and just stood still drinking in the amazing view. God was making His presence known. What will it take for God to get your attention?

The next time you take a walk in the park or go for a drive, on an errand or on your way to work or college, take a moment to appreciate the wondrous works God.

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Meant to Be

Ashton Emsworth was waiting for his girlfriend, Jessica, when he spotted Trisha Adams, his former professor from university.  Immediately, his heart began to beat fast.  She was wearing a dark jacket over a white blouse and jeans.   She looked terrific–as usual.  The last time he saw her was three years ago at his graduation.  He wondered if she even remembered him.  He thought about her every single day, wondering if he would ever see her again.  And there she was.

She glanced up and saw him.  Her face broke into a big smile and then she was coming over to him.  He ran his hands nervously over the seat of his jeans, his breath coming a little faster now.  When she reached him, he tried not to stare but he couldn’t help himself.  She was still so beautiful.  “Hello, Ashton,” she said and hugged him warmly.

He closed his eyes as he breathed in her fragrance.  She felt small and soft in his arms.  Heat coursed through his body.  When she pulled back to look up at him, his expression was tense.  He felt so awkward and nervous.  “Hello, Miss Adams,” he managed to say.

“Please call me Trisha.  How have you been?”

“I–I’ve been well, thanks.  W-what about you?”  He wondered if she had any clue that he was extremely attracted to her.   He had been since the first time he walked into the classroom and saw her.

“I’m well, thank you.  How’s your family?”

“They’re good.  They’re vacationing in the Bahamas.”

“Lucky them.  How come you didn’t go with them?”

“I didn’t feel up to it.”

“Well, it’s good that you didn’t go or we wouldn’t have run into each other.  How do you find life after university?”

“It was tough at first because I had spent four years studying and not having to worry about anything but after graduating, I had to figure out what to do next.  I thought of taking a graduate job then I considered pursuing post graduate study.  I ended up taking a gap year.  Are you still teaching at the University of London?”

She shook her head.  “No, I left the year you graduated.  I’m now teaching at King’s College.  Are you waiting for someone?”

“Yes.”  He didn’t mention whom.  For some reason he found himself hoping that Jessica wouldn’t show up just then.

“I won’t keep you then.  Ashton, I was wondering…Are you busy tomorrow evening?”

He thought about it for a moment.  Tomorrow was Saturday.  Jessica was working tomorrow evening.  She worked part-time at a café close to the university.  “No, I’m not busy tomorrow evening,” he said.

Trisha looked relieved.  “Great.  I’d like to take you out to dinner at this great restaurant.  We have a lot of catching up to do.”

She’s asking me out to dinner.  He couldn’t believe it.  Excitement and nervousness filled him.  “I’d like that very much,” he said.

“I’ll pick you up at seven.”

He balked.  “Shouldn’t I be picking you up?” he asked.

“I’m taking you out to dinner so I should pick you up,” she said, her eyes twinkling.  “We’re living in the 21st century, Ashton.  A woman can take a man out of dinner and she can pick him up at his flat too.  Now, what’s your address?”

He told her and she made a mental note.

“Well, I had better be going,” she said.  “I’ll see you tomorrow evening at seven.  Enjoy the rest of the afternoon, Ashton.”

He was sorry that she had to go.  If he weren’t waiting for Jessica, he would have asked her to have a cappuccino with him.  Still, he ought to be grateful that he was going to see her tomorrow.  “Thanks.  You too.”

She touched his arm, making his heart leap in his chest and then turned and walked away.  He watched her go, his skin tingling where her fingers had been.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Jessica said, suddenly appearing beside him.  “The lineup in the music store was horrendous but it was worth it.  I finally got the CD after hunting for it all over London for it.  I’m famished.  Let’s go and grab something to eat.  I saw this little bistro just down the street.”  She grabbed his hand and started walking.  All the way to the bistro she talked non-stop about how tempted she had been to buy other CDs and the DVD set of Jane Austen movies.  She congratulated herself on not giving into the temptation.  Ashton didn’t say anything.  His mind was elsewhere.  He was thinking about tomorrow evening and was anxious for it to come.

It came after what seemed like a very long time to him.  As he waited for her in the courtyard outside of his building, he felt tingly all over.  He was thrilled and terrified at the same time.  He hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t make a fool of himself.  His cell phone was turned off.  He didn’t want Jessica calling him while he was having dinner.  He tried not to think about how she would feel if she knew that he was going out on a date with the professor he was besotted with.

A silver grey Mercedes Benz pulled up and the window rolled down.  Trisha stuck her head out.  “I hope you weren’t waiting long,” she called.  “I tried to get here as fast as I could.  The traffic is very heavy.”

He shook his head.  “No, I wasn’t waiting long,” he said as he walked over and got into the car.  Compared to waiting for over two years to see you again, what are a few minutes?  As he fastened his seat-belt, he glanced at her.  She looked amazing in the red jersey dress.  Its rich deep color flattered her.  Her hair was in an updo with strands falling across her forehead and against her cheeks.  She turned her head and caught him staring.  Color suffused his cheeks and he looked away.

“I’ve been looking forward to seeing you all day,” she told him as they drove off.

He looked at her, surprised.  “You have?”

“Yes.  I’ve been thinking about you all day.  By the way, you look very handsome in your suit.”

He blushed, feeling a little self-conscious.  “Thank you.”  A pause and then, he said, rather shyly, “And you look very beautiful.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.”  There was a brief silence for a moment.  Only the sounds of soft music filled the air and then, she asked, “How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”

“I’m twelve years older than you.  Does that brother you?”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“It used to bother me.  When I first saw you in my classroom, I was taken aback by how attracted I was to you.  I tried to fight it, of course, because you were my student and the age difference.  Many times, I wanted to ask you out but propriety prevented me.  It was against the school’s policy for a teacher to be involved with a student.”

“What about after I graduated?” he asked.  “Why couldn’t we have seen each other then?”

“We could have if it weren’t for our age difference.  I couldn’t see myself getting involved with a guy so much younger than me but I couldn’t stop thinking about you and wondering if I would ever see you again.  And then, quite by accident or perhaps, it was God’s doing, we ran into each other yesterday.”

“I think it was God.”

“I think you’re right.  Well, here we are.”  They had arrived at the restaurant. It turned out to be a really nice, cozy and friendly establishment.  The food was incredible.  They spend a very pleasant evening, talking and getting to know each other.  He was sorry when it was time to leave.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked after they pulled out of the parking lot.

The question was so sudden that he blinked.  “Yes,” he said.

“You were waiting for her yesterday when I saw you.”

“Yes.  Does this mean that we can see each other again?”

“Well, that depends on you.”

“I want to see you again, Trisha.”

“What about your girlfriend?”

“I’m going to end my relationship with her.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.  I want to be with you.  All this time I’ve been with her, I’ve thought of nothing or no one else but you.  I tried to get in touch with you.  I went on the university’s website to get your email address or number but I couldn’t find anything.”

“I’m on Facebook.”

“I don’t have a Facebook account,” he said, somewhat sheepishly.

They were stopped at a traffic light.  She leaned over and kissed him.  He eagerly responded and for several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses.  Then, she pulled away just as the light changed.  “How about a nightcap at my place?”  She sounded breathless.

He nodded, trying to catch his breath. His heart was racing, his face felt hot and his body on fire.   When they got to her place, the nightcap was forgotten as they fell into each other’s arms and ended up making love in front of the hearth.   That night was the beginning of a torrid relationship and culminated in marriage.

If two people are meant to be together, it will happen no matter where, when or how it happens.

 

 

 

 

Sources:  Top Ten Reviews; Prospects

Guarded

Marisa was sitting in the armchair in the drawing-room, waiting for Ewan when his older brother, Reed walked in.  Immediately, her heart and pulse began to race.  He wasn’t handsome like Ewan but his virility and sophistication made him more attractive.  She remembered Ewan telling her that most of the women he dated ended up falling for Reed and the first time she met him, she could see why.

I’m not immune, she thought now as she watched him walk over to the window and look out.  She liked the way he moved–like a jaguar.  He looked amazing in the expensive grey suit, matching tie and white shirt.   His dark brown hair was neatly in place as usual.  As he stood there, with his chiseled looks, she thought that he could have been a model.

He turned suddenly, startling her.  They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity before he walked over where she sat and stood above her, making her really nervous.  This close, he was even more devastating and he smelled good too.  “I’m waiting for Ewan,” she said to break the silence.  She sounded a little breathless.  Maybe that was because of the way he was looking at her.  She knew she looked great in the black cocktail dress with the spaghetti straps.  It reached just below her knees but had ridden up a bit as she was sitting down, exposing her legs where she saw his gaze linger for a moment before returning to her face which felt hot.

“My brother’s a very lucky man,” he muttered.  There was envy and something else lurking on his face.  It was the something else that made her heart skip a beat.  “So, where is he taking you tonight?”

“We-we’re going for dinner at a new Spanish restaurant and then dancing afterwards.”

“He’d better watch out for other men.  They won’t be able to take their eyes off you.”  He was staring at her intensely and she could feel the tension between them.  It was so palpable.  She knew that if he were to touch her now, she wouldn’t be able to resist…

“Reed, Darling, I’ve been looking all over for you.”  It was Imogen.  She sailed into the room, looking glamorous in a lilac pants suit which flattered her figure.  Her shoulder length chestnut hair fell in thick, luxuriant waves about her heart shaped face.  She threw her arms around Reed and hugged him for several minutes before she drew back.  It was then that she noticed Marisa who had gotten up from the chair.  Her green eyes narrowed and her lips pursed in disdain, her gaze critical as it swept over her.  She turned to Reed.  “And who is this?”

“Marisa.”

“Another one of your conquests?” she inquired.  She sounded jealous.

“She’s Ewan’s girlfriend,” Reed informed her.

Marisa stared at him.  He thinks I’m Ewan’s girlfriend.  Why would he think that?

“That’s a relief,” Imogen said and turning her back on Marisa, she put her arms around Reed’s neck and kissed him on the lips.

Marisa turned away, seething with jealousy.  Why is he standing there, letting her kiss him?  

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Ewan apologized as he walked into the room.  “Oh, I see you’ve found him, Imogen.”

“Yes,” she said, turning to face him as she slipped her arm through Reed’s.  She was sticking to him like glue.  “This was the first place I had looked but it was empty at the time.  And then I was heading outside when I passed by here and saw him.  I thought he was alone.”  Her gaze shifted to Marisa, unable to hide her displeasure.

Marisa hurried over to Ewan and hooked her arm through his.  “Ready?” she asked.  She just wanted to get out of there.  She couldn’t stand seeing Reed with Imogen any longer.  It was frustrating.  I know he’s attracted to me and yet, he wasn’t rejecting Imogen’s advances.  Why?  Maybe he was still attracted to her.  Ewan had mentioned that they used to be in a relationship.  The thought of Reed still being attracted to his old flame distressed her.

Ewan nodded.  “Yes, let’s go.”  He looked at the other two.  “Have a good evening, you two.”  Then, Marisa and he left the room.

As soon as they were gone, Reed extricated his arm from Imogen’s hold and walked over to the window.  He stood there, gazing down into the courtyard.  He leaned against the window seat, his palms resting on it as he watched for them to appear.  Ewan’s Bentley was parked there.

“What are you looking at so intently?” Imogen asked and then she joined him.  At that moment, Ewan and Marisa were walking to the car.  She watched as he held the door for her.  After he shut it, he walked round to the driver’s side.  He paused and glanced up.  He waved at them before getting into the car.  A few minutes later, it was speeding down the winding driveway.

Imogen looked at Reed.  He was still looking in the direction of the car which was no longer in sight, his expression inscrutable.  “You’re attracted to that girl, aren’t you?” she said, breaking the silence.  “I saw the way you looked at her.  It bothers you that she’s with Ewan, doesn’t it?”

Reed straightened up and turned towards her.  It was no use denying it.  “You’re right.  I’m attracted to her and it kills me to see her with him.”

Her face grew pale.  “It’s more serious than I thought,” she replied.  “You’re not just attracted to her, you’re in love with her.”

A muscle began to throb along his jawline and he ran his fingers through his hair, his expression taut.  “Rather foolish of me, isn’t it–to fall in love with my brother’s girlfriend.”  He moved away from the window and started towards the door.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“For a walk.”

“May I join you?”

“I’m sorry, Imogen but, I’d rather be alone.”  He walked out of the room, leaving her standing there, bereft.

A week later when Marisa had just come out of the tube and was heading towards her flat when she heard someone call her name.  She turned and surprised to see Imogen hurrying towards her.  What does she want?  Trying not to show her annoyance, she stood aside and waited for the other woman to catch up to her.  “I’d like a word with you,” Imogen told her.

“I’m actually in a hurry,” Marisa told her.  The last thing she wanted was to talk to this woman who made it very obvious that she didn’t like her.

“This won’t take long,” Imogen replied.  “It’s about Reed.”

Marisa frowned.  “What about him?”

“Before I answer that, let me ask you a question.  Is it serious between Ewan and you?”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

“It is when it concerns Reed.”

“How does it concern him?”

“It bothers him that you’re with Ewan.”

“It does?  Why?”

“Believe it or not, he’s in love with you.”

Marisa’s mouth dropped open.  “He’s in love with me?”

“Yes!  And he’s beating himself up about it because of your relationship with Ewan.”

“My relationship with Ewan?”

“You’re his girlfriend, aren’t you?”

Marisa shook her head.  She was in a daze.  Reed was in love with her?  “No, I’m not Ewan’s girlfriend.  We-we’re just friends.  Did Reed really tell you that he was in love with me?”

“Yes and it was like a knife turning in my stomach because I want Reed.  Right now I want to scratch your eyes out but what good would that do me?  You’re the one he wants.  You’re the one he’s in love with.”  Her gaze swept over Marisa contemptuously.  “I never once imagined that a man like Reed would fall in love with someone like you.”

Marisa’s mouth tightened.  “Clearly you didn’t know him as well as you thought you did.  Excuse me.”  She turned and walked briskly away, fuming.

It was almost nine o’clock when Reed went into the living-room and stood at the window, looking out at the flickering lights in the distance.  She was out there somewhere, he thought.  Was she alone or was she with Ewan?  He closed his eyes at the thought, the jealousy almost suffocating him.  He had to get her out of his mind, his thoughts, his system–the ringing of the doorbell startled him.  He hoped it wasn’t Imogen.  He was really not in the mood to deal with her right now.

He went to answer the door and was surprised when he saw Marisa standing there.  Unable to help himself, his eyes traveled over her, thinking how good she looked in the off the shoulder print summer dress.  And her legs…His eyes darted back up to her face. “What are you doing here?” he asked tightly.  “Are you here to remind me of what I can’t have?”

“I’m here to set things straight,” she informed him.  She tried to appear calm but her heart was pounding.  He looked so good in that white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck and the jeans which hugged his narrow hips and muscular thighs.  She wanted to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him so badly.

He stepped aside so that she could go inside and closed the door behind her.  They stood in the foyer facing each other.  He leaned against the door with his arms folded, trying to appear nonchalant when his heart was racing and his body was aching for her.

“Does Ewan know that you’re here?”

“Yes, he does.”

“And it doesn’t bother him?”

“Why should it?”

His expression changed and he lowered his eyes so that she wouldn’t see the pain in them.  “You’re right,” he muttered tautly.  “He has nothing to worry about where you and I are concerned, does he?  He can trust you implicitly even though you’re alone with a man who wants you.”

“You want me?”

He raised his eyes to look at her.  “You know I do,” he replied.  “I let my guard down that day in the drawing-room before Imogen walked in.  I couldn’t hide my attraction for you from her.”

“Is there something going on between you and her?”

He shook his head.  “No.  We’re just friends.”

“It’s very obvious from the way she kissed you last week Saturday in the drawing-room that she wants to be more than friends.  And you just stood there and let her.”

He studied her.  “It was a harmless display of affection.”

A harmless display of affection?  She was practically throwing herself at you.  It makes me wonder how far she would have gone if I hadn’t been there.”

“Is that why you’re here now, Marisa?  Did you come to rake me over coals because of Imogen?  Don’t you think you’re being rather presumptuous, considering that Ewan is the one you’re involved with and not me?”

“I’m not involved with Ewan,” she was quick to correct him.  “He and I are just friends.”

“Just friends?” he exclaimed.  “I thought you and he were…”

“No, we’re just friends.  We go out sometimes but as friends, nothing more.  As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of setting him up with my co-worker, Ginny.  I think they’d hit it off.”

“So, there’s nothing between Ewan and you?” He wanted to be dead certain before he did anything.

She shook her head.  “No.  That’s why I came tonight. I wanted to set the record straight.  I don’t want you to continue thinking that I’m Ewan’s girlfriend when I’m in love with you and—” The rest of her words were smothered beneath his lips.  It had happened so quickly.  One minute they were standing apart and the next, she was in his arms and he was kissing her.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

They kissed for a while before he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face and confessed, “I love you.  I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you.”

She smiled.  “I never would have guessed,” she teased.  “You were so standoffish with me.”

“I had to be on my guard.  I didn’t want anyone to know how I felt about you, least of all, you.”

“Well, I’m happy that you don’t have to be on your guard anymore.”

“Me too” he agreed before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She gasped against his lips when he swept her off her feet and carried her to his room.

A year later, they got married.  Ewan was the best man.  Not surprisingly, Imogen didn’t attend the wedding although she was invited.

 

 

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