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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