Winners and Losers

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It’s eight o’clock on a Saturday morning.  I’m on my way to buy groceries when my cell vibrates.  I stopped and I pull it out of my handbag.  It’s him.  He’s texting me.  Tonight still on?

I reply, Yes.  See u at 8.  I slip my cell back into my bag and continue walking towards the supermarket.  It’s a nice, mild morning.  I try to ignore my conscience which is telling me that what I’m doing is wrong.  I’m not a bad person.  I’m a nice person who gets along with most people and I go to church every Sunday.  Yet, why doesn’t it bother me that I’m sleeping with my friend’s boyfriend?  It should but it doesn’t.  Am I a heartless woman?  Have I ever stopped and considered how I would feel it the tables were turned and Wanda was sleeping with my man?  I guess I haven’t.  Love can be a powerful thing and it can blind you too.

Yes, love.  I’m in love with Jose.  If I weren’t I would be with him.  I never expected to fall in love with him.  Before him, Wanda dated other men and I wasn’t attracted to any of them and even if I were, I wouldn’t have done anything about it.  Wanda was my friend and I would never ever hurt her by hooking up with her boyfriend.  That was my mantra until I met Jose.  I was instantly attracted to him but I tried to fight my feelings  for as long as I could.  It wasn’t easy at all, especially when I realized that he was attracted to me too.  We sneaked looks at each other and when we were alone, he would touch my hand or slip me a note for us to get together.

The first time we crossed the line was when he and I “accidentally” bumped into each other at a nightclub.  He was there with his friends and I was there with mine.  Wanda was out of town at the time.  She had gone to visit her sister in Tampa.  Jose and I were careful how we interacted with each other but when he offered to give me a ride home, I readily accepted.  On the drive over to my apartment, we talked about different things but the air was crackling with sexual tension.  At one point, he reached over and rubbed his knuckles against my arm, making me tremble.

When we got to my apartment, he saw me to my door.  We could have said goodnight then and parted company but I invited him in.  As soon as the door was closed, we were all over each other.  In between frenzied kisses, we tore off each other’s clothes and then we were on the sofa making love.  Afterwards, we showered and had something to eat.  He left after one in the morning.  While Wanda was away, he came to my place ever evening and sometimes stayed over.  When she got back, we couldn’t see each other as often but we texted and called each other everyday.

Last night when we were together, he told me that he loved me.  I was thrilled to hear him say that because I loved him too.  I know that he doesn’t love Wanda and I think that he should break up with her.   I know that it won’t be easy for him to end a five year relationship but he has to do it.  It’s no use prolonging the inevitable.  Wanda will be devastated and it will be the end of our friendship.  It’s unfortunate but that’s how life is sometimes.  It throws us a curve-ball.  And in Wanda’s case, she couldn’t dodge hers.

“In love there are no winners or losers, there are only those who are hurt more or those who are hurt less” – Thai Proverb

 

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Encounter on the Beach

Tanya was rubbing sunscreen on her arms when she felt someone watching her.  Looking up, she saw Benjamin.  He was lying on his stomach in the sand, close to the water’s edge, his head propped up by his hand.  His glistening body was covered in sand.  She couldn’t deny that she was extremely attracted to him but he was younger than her.  She never went out with men younger than her.  They were either her in age group or older.

He didn’t hide the fact that he was attracted to her.  Whenever they saw each other, he would ask her to go out with him and she would turn him down.  He was very persistent.  Right now he look so good lying in the sand.  Shaking her head and ignoring her body’s response, she dragged her eyes away from him and continued applying the sunscreen.

Several minutes later, he was standing next to her.  “Hi, Tanya.”

She had no other choice but to look up and when she did, she couldn’t prevent her eyes from traveling over his dripping body.  He had washed the sand off.  She swallowed hard when her eyes met his.  “Hi, Ben.”

“It’s always a pleasure to see you.  Are you here alone?”  He began to dry his skin, his eyes never leaving her face.  His lips twitched slightly when he saw her gaze follow the movements of the towel.

“Yes, I’m–I’m alone.  What about you?”  What did she have to sound so breathless?  And she wished her heart would stop racing.

“Yes, I’m alone too.  Do you mind if I join you?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t.”

He finished drying himself, spread the towel beside her and sat on it.  His eyes left her face to slowly travel down her bikini clad body.  “You look amazing,” he remarked, his expression serious as he met her gaze.  “You’re easily the most beautiful woman I know.”

“Thank you.”  His eyes were caressing her and she sucked in her breath sharply when he reached out and ran his fingers down her arm.  A jolt of electricity coursed through her body and there were curious sensations in the pit of her stomach.  It was becoming impossible to breath normally.

“Why won’t you go out with me?” he asked.  “I know you’re attracted to me.”

“You’re younger than me,” she mumbled.  He had taken the sunscreen from her hand and gotten on his knees.  She jumped when she felt him smearing it across her back.  His fingers felt nice and firm against her skin.  She closed her eyes.  How was it possible for something as simple as putting on sunscreen to become so sensuous?

“There’s only a seven years age difference between us,” he pointed out.  “Don’t let something like that prevent us from having what we both want.”  He moved closer so that his body was touching hers.  His breath was unsteady now and unable to help himself he lowered his head and pressed his lips against her shoulder.  He felt her tremble against him.  He raised his head, his heart pounding.  “Tanya, please have dinner with me tonight.”

She was incapable of doing anything else except nod her head in assent and whisper, “Yes.”

“Thank you,” he murmured.  He set the bottle down.  “I think we should go and cool off in the water.”  He stood up and helped her to her feet.

Her legs felt wobbly.  After she regained her senses and composure, she followed him to the water’s edge.  Holding her hand, he led her into the cool water where they spent a good chunk of the afternoon.

Following that encounter on the beach and a night of dinner and dancing, they began dating and a year later they tied the knot.

Ready to Propose

Kay was on her way back to the office when she spotted Quinn sitting outside of the museum with a young woman.  She stopped in her tracks, her heart thudding as she feared that the premonition which had dogged her all week had come true.  It all started when Joanna kept insinuating that Quinn was having second thoughts about their relationship.

When the older woman found out that Kay and her younger brother were seeing each other, she was livid and she stopped talking to Quinn for weeks.  During that time, she made life miserable for Kay and there wasn’t much she could do because Joanna was now her boss.  She became manager after Rachel left the company for a more lucrative job in New York.  Joanna used her position to make things tough for Kay and several times she came very close to quitting but she needed the income.  Things eased up a little when Joanna and Quinn were back on speaking terms but every opportunity she got, Joanna would make remarks like, “You’ve been seeing each other for almost three years now and he still hasn’t proposed.” Or, “I see you’re still not wearing a ring.”

Yesterday when she made one of her snide remarks, Kay replied, “He loves me.”

“Apparently he doesn’t love you enough to propose.”

“He will propose when he’s ready.”

“And what if he doesn’t?  What are you going to do if he never proposes?  Continue to see him, hoping that he will change his mind?  You’re a smart woman, Kay.  Why don’t you stop fooling yourself and face facts?  Quinn hasn’t proposed to you as yet because he probably doesn’t intend to marry you.  It would be better for you if you ended things now before you get hurt.”

“You would like that, wouldn’t you?  You would like me to end our relationship but I won’t, Joanna.  I love Quinn and he loves me.  And he will propose when he’s good and ready.” And she walked away, fuming and shaking at the same time.  Joanna was like a thorn in her side, constantly tormenting her but she couldn’t allow her to get to her.

This morning she heard Joanna say to Jenny, her secretary, “I ran into Wendy, an old friend on Monday.  She was with her younger sister, Lizette.  Wendy and I hadn’t seen each other for a very long time so I invited them over for dinner just to catch up.  I was hoping that Quinn would join us but he had other plans.  I’m thinking of inviting him over lunch on Sunday and have him meet Lizette.  They would make such a nice couple.”

“But, Quinn and Kay are dating,” Jenny objected.

“Oh, that relationship isn’t going anywhere,” Joanna replied, dismissively.  “They have been dating for a while now and he hasn’t asked her to marry him as yet.  I think he will get tired of her and dump her.  And when he does, Lizette will take her place.”

Kay didn’t wait to hear any more.  She headed for the washroom which was empty at the time and after locking herself in one of the stalls, she burst into tears.  She was crying not only because the words hurt—cutting into her like a knife but they brought to the surface the fears that she herself had been harboring lately.  As co-workers, friends and relatives got married after dating for a shorter period than Quinn and her, she began to wonder when it would be her turn.  He had not broached the subject of marriage and she didn’t want to bring it up.  It didn’t help when friends and family asked her, “When are you and Quinn getting married?”  And she would always reply, “When we’re ready.”  Sometimes that answer was enough but other times, the follow-up question was, “And when do you think that’s going to be?”

Joanna’s remarks and the questions only fed her own doubts and insecurities about her relationship with Quinn.  He said he loved her but was it enough for him to want to marry her?  The physical side of their relationship was healthy and robust but she wanted more.  She wanted to be his wife, not just his lover.

She didn’t know how long she was in the bathroom stall but it was time to leave.  After wiping her eyes, she unlocked the door and stepped out.  Thankfully, no one was there. She washed her face and dried it.  She glanced at her watch.  It was noon.  She would take her lunch break now.

As soon as she got back to her desk, she donned her sunglasses to hide her red, swollen eyes and grabbed her handbag.  “I’ll be back in an hour,” she said to Jenny as she passed her desk.  Five minutes later, she was walking down the sidewalk to the café at the corner where they served amazing cappuccinos and delicious sandwiches.  She chose a table at the back in the corner.  Although she wasn’t really hungry, she ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, a salad and a hot chocolate.

As she sat there, hardly tasting the food, her mind went back to the day when she met Quinn at Joanna’s barbecue.  It was love at first sight for her and when he told her that he loved her on the night when she went over to his place after exchanging words with Joanna, she was thrilled.   Now she was beginning to wonder if his love for her was waning even if his desire wasn’t.  Was it possible to fall out of love with someone but still be physically attracted?  Then, she remembered watching a steamy love scene in a soap opera between two people who disliked each other intensely.  So, it was possible that Quinn could fall out of love with her but still want her—until that changed too…

Agitated, she pushed the plate away.   She left the café and stood outside the entrance for a moment before heading back to the office.  She wished she could go home instead.  It was a beautiful and mild winter day but she hardly noticed.  Preoccupied with thoughts that refused to go away, she crossed the courtyard leading to the museum.  And then, she spotted them…

Quinn looked very handsome in the blue turtleneck sweater which she had given him for his birthday last year.  And the woman was dressed in a chunky pullover sweater.  Her chestnut hair fell in thick waves about her shoulders.  Quinn was looking very intently at her as she talked animatedly to him.  She looked to be in her early twenties.  Kay stood there, unobserved, watching them, her fingers tightening around the strap of her handbag as jealousy coursed through her.  Who was the redhead and what was Quinn doing with her?

She ought to go over there and find out but she didn’t want to make a scene.   Instead, she stood there, letting her imagination run wild. The ringing of her cell jolted her and she quickly fished it out of her handbag.  “Hello?”

It was Jenny.  “Where are you?” she asked.  “We have a meeting in ten minutes.”

Darn.  She had completely forgotten about the meeting.  “I’m on my way.” She ended the call and dropped the phone back in her handbag.  After looking over at the two figures at the table, she turned and walked away.

She barely got back to the office in time for the meeting and she sat there, finding it hard to concentrate.  All she could think about was Quinn and the woman.  Fortunately, she didn’t have to say anything. Joanna did most of the talking.  As soon as the meeting was over, Kay went to her desk and after a slight hesitation, she picked up the phone and called Quinn.  His cell rang for a long time.  She hung up, crestfallen.

Quinn glanced at his watch.  “Louisa, I really must be going.  Do you need a lift anywhere?”

She shook her head.  “No, Uncle Quinn, I drove.  Thanks for meeting me and listening to me go on and on about Dave.”

“I hope things work out between you two.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell to check for messages.  He flipped it open and saw that there was a missed call from Kay.  He would call her when he was alone.  He closed his phone and reached for his jacket.

“Thanks, Uncle Quinn.  I was so busy talking about my life and my problems that I didn’t even ask you how you’re doing,” she added.  “Have you met that special woman as yet?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I have.  We met three years ago at your Aunt Joanna’s barbecue.  The moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Tonight, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

“That’s wonderful.”

“I have a photo of her.”  He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out his wallet.  He flipped it open and took out a photo which he handed to her.  She took it and stared at it.  It was a nice photo of Kay sitting at a table of an outdoor restaurant, holding a glass of what looked like Cranberry juice in her right hand and her left hand propping up her face.  She was laughing at something.

“What a lovely photo.”

“We were on our first date.  I asked the waiter to take it and I told her to pretend that he wasn’t there.  I said something which made her laugh and that was when he took it.”

“I can’t wait to meet her,” she said as she handed the photo back to him.

“You’ll meet her before the wedding.”

“Does she have any idea that you’re going to propose tonight?”

“None.  We’ve never talked about marriage.  She probably thinks that I don’t want to marry her.”

“Why would she think that?”

“I’m sure your Aunt Joanna has something to do with it.  For some incomprehensible reason, she dislikes Kay.”

“She never liked Mom either.”

“Your aunt wanted your Dad to marry a woman she felt was more suitable for him but he was adamant about marrying your mother just as I am adamant about marrying Kay.”

“My Dad adored my mother just as you obviously adore Kay.”  When they stood up, she hugged him tightly.  “I wish you all the best, Uncle Quinn.”

“Thank, Louisa.  Call me anytime you need to talk.” He watched her walk away before he went in the opposite direction.  When he got into his car, he took out his phone and called Kay.

She answered on the third ring.  “Hello, Quinn.”

“Hello, Darling.  I’m sorry I missed your call.”

“I just called to say hi.”

“Are you all right?  You sound a bit subdued.”

“I’m all right, just a bit tired.”

“Are we still on for tonight?

“Yes.”

“Good, I’ll see you at seven.  I love you. ”

“I love you too.”

He rang off and turned the key in the ignition.  As he drove off, he thought how strange she sounded on the phone.  No doubt Joanna was the cause.  He was looking forward to this evening and the expression on Kay’s face when he proposed.  His heart leapt at the thought.  He was on his way now to pick up the ring he had custom made especially for her.  It took several trips to the jewelry store, different designs before he settled on the one that he knew was perfect for her and it cost a lot but she was worth it.

It was six-thirty.  After taking a long and unenthusiastic look at herself in the mirror, she grabbed her coat and left her flat.  Half-hour later, she was standing in front of Quinn’s door.  She rang the bell and her heart leapt in her throat when the door opened and he stood there, looking gorgeous in the ribbed grey sweater and dark blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp.  He smiled and stepped aside to let her in.  As soon as he closed and locked the door behind her, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her.  Groaning and unable to help herself, she pressed against him and eagerly kissed him back.

Quinn unbuttoned her coat and dragged it off as he continued to plunder her lips.  It was tossed on the floor and his arms went around her waist, holding her close as they exchanged feverish kisses.  This continued for several minutes and then, he drew back to gaze down at her, his face flushed, breathing heavily.  “I wish we could continue this in the bedroom,” he muttered thickly, his eyes dark with desire, “but I think we should have dinner now before it gets cold.” He released her to pick up her coat and hang it in the closet.

She stood there, trembling, trying to catch her breath and her legs felt like jelly.  If he hadn’t pulled back, she would have let him make love to her right there in the foyer or wherever he wanted.  He made her lose her head when she wanted to keep it clear as she confronted him about that afternoon.  “Quinn, we need to talk.”

He closed the closet door and went over to her, his expression serious.  “What’s on your mind?” he asked.

“Who’s the young woman I saw you with this afternoon?”

He frowned.  “You saw us?”

“Yes.  I was on my way back to work after having lunch and—”

“Did you have lunch alone?”

“Yes.”

“I wish I had known that you were going to be in the area.”

She looked at his warily.  “Why?”

“Then, I would have taken you to lunch myself or asked you to join Louisa and me.”

“Louisa?”

“Yes, Louisa, my niece.”

“Your niece?” She repeated.  “The young woman I saw you with was your niece?”

“Yes, she’s Arthur’s daughter.  I’ve mentioned him to you before.  He’s my half-brother from a previous marriage.”

“When I saw you with her, I thought…” her voice trailed off and she lowered her head, feeling awful.

He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until their eyes met.  “Kay, I love you,” he told her quietly.  “I would never do anything to hurt you.  Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman.  The first time I saw you, I knew that you were the woman for me.  I loved you from that moment and haven’t stopped loving you since.  Soon after we started seeing each other, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you, marry you, have kids with you and grow old with you.  I know that Joanna has been feeding you a lot of lies but she can’t hurt you if you don’t let her.  Promise me, Kay, that from now on, you won’t let her or anyone else come between us.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I promise.”  Her voice was barely above a whisper.  He said he wanted to marry me.

He lowered his head and kissed her tenderly on the lips before he led her over to the dining-room.  After he pulled out the chair for her to sit, he went into the kitchen and got dinner ready.  The table was beautifully set with two burning candles, glasses, a bottle of wine, napkins and dinnerware.  It reminded her of the elegant and romantic French restaurant they went to a couple of times.  He served dinner and after they lifted their glasses in a toast, they enjoyed a scrumptious meal, followed by a light, airy, and refreshing dessert.  While he stacked the dishwasher, she relaxed on the sofa.

A few minutes, he put on a CD before joining her on the sofa.  The mellow sounds of smooth jazz filled the room and he leaned back, putting his arm around her shoulder.  She rested her head against him.  They sat like that for a while, the only sound was the music and then he got up, excusing himself.  He left the room for a moment and returned a few minutes later.

Instead of resuming his seat next to her, he got down on one knee instead, making her gasp.  Her hand flew up to her mouth when she saw the small red box which he opened to reveal the most exquisite ring she had ever seen in her life.  He took it out and then he looked up at her, his expression very serious.  “Kay, I searched high and low for a ring for you but nothing I saw captured your beauty and your spirit.  So, I had a ring made especially for you.  This ring is one of a kind, just like you and it  symbolizes my love, devotion, passion and fidelity to you.  My life began the day I met you and it won’t be complete without you there to share it.  Will you marry me, Kay?”

She nodded, the tears rolling down her cheeks.  “Yes,” she gulped.  He took her hand and slipped the ring onto her finger.  It was a perfect fit.  He rose to his feet and pulling her to hers, he took her in his arms and kissed her.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and responded, her heart almost bursting with joy.  And the thought that went through her mind was…he was always ready to propose to me but, first he had to find the perfect ring to give me.

The Admission

She turned on the radio and tried to listen to a talk show her friend had told her about but there was so much static, that after five minutes of endless crackling, she changed it to another station.  As the smooth sounds of R&B filled the car, she tried to relax but she couldn’t.  All she could think about was Mac and the redhead she saw him with last night at the café.  Red, hot jealousy had burned in her as she watched them.  Thankfully, he didn’t see her and she managed to slip out unnoticed.

After leaving the café, she had fumed all the way home, chiding herself for feeling the way she did.  Never once did she entertain the thought that she would fall for the very same guy she had pegged as conceited.  All the women at the office fawned over him but she had remained aloof, or so it appeared.  She treated him professionally but kept him at a distance, making it crystal clear that she wasn’t interested.  Yet, deep down, she couldn’t deny that she was strongly attracted to him and seeing him with another woman last night, forced her to acknowledge that she was in love with him.

Gripping the steering wheel, she fought back the angry tears and tried to figure out what she was going to do.  How was she going to continue to act indifferently toward him when she was in love with him?  Of all the men at the company, why did she have to fall for him?  Everyone kept raving about what a nice guy he was but to her he came across as cocky.  It was probably a bruise to his ego that she didn’t go for him.  Well, the joke was on her now because she wanted him too and it was driving her crazy.

Two days ago they were in the last two to leave the office and as she was clearing off her desk, he went over to her.  She didn’t look up but was painfully aware of him and the whiff of his cologne was tantalizing.  He looked incredible in the striped navy blue suit, black shirt and tie.  His spiky hair gave him an edgy look which she found very attractive.  He was sexy and he knew it and that irritated her.  She tried to ignore her pounding heart and busied herself with putting away papers and signing off the computer.  She could feel him watching her and she resisted the urge to look up.

“It’s been a very hectic week,” he commented.

“Yes.”

“Any plans for tonight?”

“No.”

There a brief pause and then, “Have dinner with me, then.”

Her head shot up then and she stared at him.  He couldn’t possibly be serious.  Why would he think that she would have dinner with him?  Of all the conceited—“No, thank you,” she said curtly.  “Perhaps you should ask Joan or Nancy or one of the other women.  I’m sure they would love to have dinner with you.”

“I don’t want to have dinner with any of them, Brianna.  I want to have dinner with you.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t—”

“Why not?”

“I—I just can’t.”

“That’s not a good enough reason.”

“It’s the only one I can give you,” she retorted.

“What are you afraid of?” He asked, startling her.

“I’m not afraid of anything,” she said quickly, too quickly.

“I think you’re afraid of being alone with me.”

“Why should I be afraid to be alone with you?” she demanded, wishing she didn’t want to kiss him so badly.

“You’re afraid because you want me as much as I want you.  I wanted you from the moment I first met you—”

“This is exactly why I can’t stand you,” she cried, her voice sounding a little high-pitched.  She wanted so desperately to get out of there now.  It was becoming increasingly hard to stand there so close to him and not want to tear off his clothes.

“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.

“I think you’re conceited and that you think you’re God’s gift to women.”

“You mistake self-confidence for conceit and you’re wrong about how I see myself when it comes to women.  I don’t think that I’m God’s gift to them.  Women find me attractive just as men find you attractive.  That is something neither of us can prevent.”

She quickly lowered her gaze, feeling chastised.  He certainly put her in her place and in a very gracious way too.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

He reached out and touched her arm, making her jump.  Her eyes were wide as she stared up at him and her heart was beating at an alarming rate.  Somehow she found herself trapped between him and the desk.  And she stood there, helpless, watching mesmerized as his face got closer.  Her eyes dropped to his lips and hers parted in anticipation.

Then, he was kissing her and she was kissing him back ravenously, her arms going around his neck, clinging to him as she was leaning back over the desk under the onslaught of his kisses.  At one point he lifted her on top of the desk and continued to kiss her and then his cell phone rang.  He ignored it.  It stopped ringing.  They continued kissing and then, it rang again.

Groaning in frustration, he pulled away from her, fumbled for the cell and answered it.  “Hello?” he panted.  He listened for a moment.  And then, he said to her, “I have to take this call.”

Well, when he turned and walked away a little distance to talk, she used that as an opportunity to leave.  She slid off the desk, grabbed her handbag and ran out of there.  She knew that if she had stayed there, she would have made love to him right there in the office.  She still had reservations about him and was afraid of getting hurt.  That night, she couldn’t sleep.  All she could think about was how his lips felt and how it thrilled her to know that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

The next day, she avoided him as much as she could and when he managed to ask her why she had run out on him, she replied, “It was getting late and I had errands to run,” before she walked away.  At the end of the day, she made sure she left before he did.  After picking up her winter coat and some suits from the laundry, she decided to treat herself to a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and sandwiches.  She had just finished her second sandwich when Mac walked in.

The blare of a car horn jolted her back to the present and she saw that the light had changed to green.  As she drove off, she was sorely tempted to go over to Mac’s flat and confront him.  No, I won’t give him the satisfaction, she decided, her mouth tightening.  I won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how much it hurt to see him with her.  No, I’m going home and take a nice, hot bath.  I’m not going to let Mac ruin my weekend.

She turned down the street that would take her home.  Ten minutes later, she let herself in her flat.  After hanging her coat in the closet and putting her handbag away, she got undressed.  The hot water felt good against her skin but it couldn’t erase him from her mind.  She donned a pair of pajamas and went over to the sofa to watch some TV.  She stared at the screen but nothing registered.  All she could think about was Mac.  Closing her eyes in despair she leaned her head against the back of the sofa.  They soon opened again when she heard the doorbell.

Glancing at the clock above the mantelpiece, she wondered who would be stopping by to see her at nine-thirty.  She got up from the sofa and went to answer the door.  Her eyes widened when she peered through the keyhole and saw Mac standing there.  Immediately, her heart began to race. What is he doing here?  She opened the door.  He looked so good in the white shirt and jeans.

His expression was serious as he met her gaze. “I’m sorry to be dropping by at this time but you and I need to talk.”

“Okay.”  She moved aside to let him in and closed the door behind him.  After he removed his shoes, she preceded him to the living-room.  They sat down on the sofa and he turned so that he was facing her.

“Why did you run off that afternoon when we were together?” he asked.

“I told you—”

“Yes, I know what you told me but I want to hear the real reason, Brianna.”

She looked down at her hands.  “I was afraid that if I stayed, I would have let you make love to me.”

His eyes darkened.  “Why would something so incredible make you afraid?”

“I just didn’t want to get hurt.  You could have any woman you want and you say you want me but that could change…”

“Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman—”

“Then, who was the redhead I saw you with at the café?” she demanded, rising to her feet.

He looked up at her, startled.  “Redhead?” he repeated, knitting his brow.  “Oh, you mean Amber.”

“Yes.” She couldn’t hide the jealousy that was raging inside her.  “I was in the café and I saw when you came in.  I sat there and watched the two of you.”

“Why didn’t you come over and say hello?” he asked, looking perplexed.

She turned away.  “I didn’t want you to see me.”

He got up and taking her by the shoulders, he turned her around to face him.  She kept her eyes downcast, not wanting him to see what was in them.  “You’re jealous,” he realized.  “There’s no reason for you to be.  Amber is my cousin.  She was having boyfriend problems and needed my advice.  We decided that we would go to the café and talk there over cappuccinos and sandwiches.”

Brianna raised her eyes then.  “When I saw you with her, I thought…”

He released her shoulders and slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him.  “You thought I was seeing someone.  Oh, Brianna, after what happened between us at the office, how could you think that?  I told you how I feel about you that evening.”

“You said you wanted me—”

“Yes, and I do very, very much but desire isn’t all I feel for you, Brianna.  What I’m trying to say is that I love you.”

“You love me?” she could hardly believe it.

“Yes!”

She reached up and cupped his face.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “Admitting to myself that I was in love with you was the hardest thing for me to do because of the man I thought you were.  Perhaps, I painted that unflattering picture of you because I was afraid to let myself fall in love with a man who could have any woman he wanted.”

“You’re the only woman I want and love,” he declared huskily before he lowered his head and kissed her.

As she responded to his kisses, she thought how true these words were: You can’t stop the feelings you have for someone.  You can’t lie to yourself either.  Your heart knows the truth all too well.

 

Harvard

She noticed him during her second year at Harvard.  He was standing outside the entrance talking to a pretty brunette.  She was probably his girlfriend.   Daphne had to pass them to go inside.

As she went up the steps, she saw him turn his head and their eyes met.  She expected him to look away soon after because she knew she wasn’t the type of girl who would attract someone like him.  She didn’t kid herself about her looks.  She knew she wasn’t pretty but she had a lot going for her intellectually.  To her surprise, he didn’t look away but his gaze locked with hers.  Her heart began to pound at the realization that he was taking notice of her.

For a long moment everything and everyone around them faded into the background.  It was as if only the two of them existed.  Then, the spell was broken when she almost walked straight into another student who was coming down the steps.  Embarrassed, she turned and mumbled an apology and then quickly let herself into the building.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Nora looked at Hayden.  “Did you see the way that girl was staring at you?” she asked disdainfully.  “She almost walked straight into that poor girl.  You would think she’s never seen a good-looking guy before.”

Hayden was hardly paying attention to what she was saying.  He was thinking about the girl.  She was obviously attracted to him and he was attracted to her.  He wanted to find out who she was but knew it would be better not to ask any of his friends.  They would make fun of him and chastise him for being interested in this girl when there were so many pretty girls on campus, including Nora who made no secret of the fact that she liked him.  Yet, as lovely as she was, he was not attracted to her and was quite content with being just friends with her.  “You say that about all of the girls who look at me,” he said to Nora.  “You can’t stop them from looking.”

“Well, you don’t usually take any notice of them but this time, you did.  Don’t tell me you find her attractive.”

He glanced at his watch.  “We should be heading to our classes now,” he said as he took up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder.

Nora’s mouth tightened.  She walked up the stairs with him and as he held open the door for her, she glanced up at him.  “She’s not your type,” she told him emphatically.  “She’s plain and dull looking.”

Hayden didn’t answer.  She may be plain and dull to you but not to me.  He and Nora parted ways and he walked to his class.  He tried to focus on what the professor was saying but his thoughts were elsewhere.  The next time I see her, I will talk to her.  

All morning Daphne thought about him.  She saw him again and this time her friend, Susan was with her.  “Who’s that very handsome guy over there wearing the very expensive looking blue sweater?”

“That’s Hayden Marsden.  He transferred to Harvard from Oxford this semester, that’s why you never saw him on campus before.  He lives with his mother and step-father in Berkshires.  I once saw photos of the estate featured in The Boston Living Magazine.  It is absolutely beautiful and huge.  Forget about him, Daphne.  He’s way out of your league.  Besides, his mother is very particular about the kind of girls he associates with.”

Daphne told her about the time she saw Hayden and ended her account with a sigh.  “I guess it was wishful thinking on my part.”

“Ah, not necessarily,” Susan said, looking over her shoulder.  “Brace yourself.  We’re about to have company.”

Alarmed, Daphne glanced around to see what she was talking about and her heart lurched when she saw Hayden approaching them.  She glanced down at her white top and knee length denim skirt and ankle boots, thinking how unsophisticated she must look compared to the brunette she had seen him with the last time.  Her heart was pounding like crazy.  Hayden looked first at Susan and then he turned to her, his tawny eyes riveted to her face.  “Hello, Daphne,” he said, holding out his hand.

She stared at him.  He knows my name.  She put her hand in his large one, feeling his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake.  “Hello, Hayden.”

It pleased him that she knew his name.  This close, she was stunning.  His heart was beating so fast that it felt as if it was going to fall out of his chest.  He was very nervous.  No girl ever had such an effect on him before and it scared him.  Her hand felt soft and small in his and he wanted to continue holding it but had to release it in order to shake her friend’s hand when she introduced them.  He smiled at Susan as he shook her hand.  “Nice to meet you,” he said.

She smiled.  “Likewise.”  Turning to Daphne, she said, “I am going to the library.  See you later.”  She excused herself and walked away.

Alone now, Daphne and Hayden stood there, looking at each other, feeling shy and nervous.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.  He had to know.

She shook her head.  “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked.  She was thinking about the girl she had seen him with.

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend and the girl you saw me with is just a friend.”

“She’s very pretty.”

“Yes, she is,” he agreed, “but, she’s not the one I’m interested in.  Are you busy later?”

She shook her head.

“How would you like to go for dinner and a movie with me?”

“I’d like that very much,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  He’s asking me out.

He smiled and looked relieved.  “I’ll meet you right here after class this evening.”

“All right.”

They talked for a while longer and then he walked her to her class.  For the rest of the day, she was on cloud nine.  And as soon as her last class was over, she hurriedly packed her bag and almost fled from the room.  He was waiting for her.  How he longed to hold her hand but he decided it was too soon.  He didn’t want to overwhelm her.  He was so excited that they were going out on their first date.  As they walked across the campus grounds to the parking lot where his car was, he told her where they were going to have dinner and which movie they were going to see.  It was a Friday night so they didn’t have to worry about staying out late on a school night.

They had dinner at Amelia’s Trattoria before they headed over to Kendall Square Cinema to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas.  It was a very pleasant evening and first date.  She was sorry when it was over and it was time for him to take her home.  He walked her to the door of her parents’ home.  “I’d like to see you again tomorrow,” he said.  “We can spend the day together, doing different things.”

She nodded at once.  “Yes, we can do that.”

“I’ll pick you up around nine, if you think that’s too early for a Saturday.”

“Nine is fine.” She wished it were already nine.

“See you tomorrow.”  I want to kiss her so badly.

“See you tomorrow.”  I guess he thinks it’s too soon for us to kiss. She watched him as he walked to his car and waved as he drove off.  Suffice to say, she hardly slept a wink that night because she was thinking about their first date and excited about seeing him the next day.  The next morning, she got up early and had breakfast.  It was about eight-fifteen when she went upstairs and had her bath.  She wasn’t sure what to wear at first but then decided that a sweater and a pair of jeans and dressy but comfortable ankle boots would work.  Her mother was in the living-room when she walked in, surprised to see her up and about when usually on a Saturday morning she was still in bed.  When she noticed that she was dressed, she asked, “Where are you off this early?”

“I have a date,” Daphne told her gleefully.  “Hayden and I are going to spend the day together.  This is our second date.”

Her mother’s eyes widened.  “Is this is the same guy you told me about?”

“Yes.  It is.  He will be here any minute.  Would you like to meet him?”

“Yes, I’d like to meet the young man who has achieved something I have been trying to for years—get you out of bed on a Saturday before noon.”

Daphne pursed her lips.  Just then, the doorbell rang.  Her heart skipped a beat.  “He’s here.  How do I look?”

“You look fine.  Now, you’d better go and answer the door before he changes his mind.”

Daphne hurried to the door and opened it.  Her face brightened when she looked up into Hayden’s.  He looked amazing in a striped shirt with a green pullover and a pair of jeans.  Even when he was dressed casual, he looked elegant.  “Good morning,” he said with a smile.

“Good morning,” she beamed at him.  “Come in and meet my mother.  You don’t have to take off your shoes,” she added when he started to.  She took him to the living-room where her mother was.  “Mama, this is Hayden.  Hayden, this is my mother.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Williams,” Hayden said holding out his hand which was clasped in a warm handshake.

Mrs. Williams smiled at him.  “The pleasure’s all mine,” she said.  “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“So, what do you have planned for today?” Daphne asked him, her eyes sparkling.

“We are going to spend the day exploring Boston.”

“That sounds like fun.”  Daphne grabbed her handbag and kissed her mother.  “See you later,” she said.

“Goodbye, Mrs. Williams.”

“Goodbye, Hayden. I hope you will stop by again for a longer visit.”  She watched them as they almost ran to the car.  She had never seen Daphne so happy.  Hayden seemed like a decent young man and it was obvious that he liked Daphne.  She wasn’t sure how his family would feel about him dating her.  She couldn’t speak for the rest of her family, but personally, she had no objections.  Daphne’s happiness was all that mattered to her and she seemed to have found it with this young man.

“I like your mother,” Hayden commented as they drove off.

“She likes you too.”

“Is it just the two of you living in such a big house?”

“No.  I have a brother and a sister but they are spending the weekend with my grandmother.”

“What about your father?”

“He died of a heart attack when I was twelve.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  So, your mother’s the breadwinner.”

“Yes.  She has worked very hard to raise us and make sure that we have a good education.  I’m in Harvard because of her.  She’s a phenomenal woman.  I hope to be like her one day.”

He glanced at her.  “I think you’re already there,” he said quietly.

She turned her head and smiled at him.  “Thank you.”

It was a beautiful, sunny and mild day, perfect day for a walk on the Freedom Trail which is where they began their day tour of the Boston.  With so much to see and do, the time seemed to go very quickly and before she knew it, it was evening and they were having dinner at an Italian restaurant.   They lingered over their pasta, recapping the places they had seen.  When she told him that she was going to download the photos they had taken and post them on her Facebook page, he didn’t object.

As they walked along the bridge, admiring the scenery, he reached for her hand and she felt her heart begin to race when his laced his fingers through hers.  She glanced up at him and he stopped, leaned over and kissed her.  She closed her eyes and kissed him back.  When he felt her response, he deepened the kiss and his arms went around her waist, holding her tightly against him.  They were oblivious to the passersby who watched them in amusement, annoyance, displeasure or indifference.

At length, he raised his head.  “I want to see you again tomorrow and every day after that,” he said huskily.  “I want to be your boyfriend, Daphne.”

“And I want to be your girlfriend,” she replied.

He kissed her again and then he put his arm around her shoulder as they continued walking down the bridge.  She slipped her arm around his waist, her face upturned to the setting sun.

They began to date exclusively from that day but their relationship met with some opposition from his friends and he almost punched one of them for his remarks about Daphne.  Nora refused to have anything more to do with him.  He was relieved when the Christmas break rolled around.  His step-father and mother were out of town, preferring to spend their holidays in Florida.  He declined to go with them.  The weekend before Christmas, he invited Daphne up to the house.  She couldn’t get over how huge it was and she enjoyed the tour he took her on, marveling at the number of rooms.  One could easily get lost in a place like this, she thought, as she followed him along endless corridors, up winding staircases and in and out of countless rooms.

After having dinner, they went into the drawing-room where they sat cross-legged on the hearth, the glow of the fire illuminating their faces.  They had the place all to themselves.  “You are invited to have Christmas dinner with us,” she told him.

“I gladly accept,” he said, smiling.  “I’m looking forward to enjoying more of your mother’s cooking.”  He had been over to her house several times for dinner.  “Watching Transformers’ Prime with Terrence and seeing Rhea’s photos of the Jingle Ball.”  He and her nine year old brother got along famously and her fifteen year old sister thought he was the bomb for getting her those Jingle Ball tickets.  It was nice to see how easily he fitted in with her family.

“What about me?” she asked, punching him playfully.

He got serious and the expression on his face made her swallow hard.  “Right now, I want to take you upstairs to my room and make mad, passionate love to you but I won’t until you’re ready.”

She reached out and touched his face.  “I’m ready.”

His eyes darkened.  “Are you sure?”

She nodded.  “Yes.” And to leave him in no doubt that she meant what she said, she got to her feet and stood looking down at him.  He scrambled to his feet and scooping her up, he carried her out of the drawing-room and in the direction of the staircase leading up to the bedroom.

Sometime later, they lay wrapped in each other’s arms, spent.  Daphne raised herself up on her side and gazed down at him.  “Is attraction all you feel for me?” she asked.  Nora’s remarks still plagued her.  The encounter happened a week ago when she was waiting for Susan and Nora approached her.  She had a nasty expression on her face.  After she looked her up and down in disgust, she said, “Don’t kid yourself that Hayden Marsden is serious about you.  All he wants is sex from you and once he’s had his fill, he will dump you just like.   She snapped her fingers and then she walked off, leaving Daphne staring after her.  She told Susan about it.  “She’s just jealous,” her friend said dismissively.  “Paid no attention to her.”

Hayden looked at her, frowning.  “Why do you ask?” he wondered.

“Well, it’s just something Nora said to me last week.”

“What did she say?”

She told him.  “I shouldn’t let her get to me,” she added with a sigh.

Hayden reached up and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  “What I feel for you is much more than physical attraction, although you drive me wild with desire,” he added, his eyes darkening.  “I’m madly in love with you, Daphne Williams.”

She stared at him, hardly able to believe what she was hearing but she could see the sincerity in his eyes and her heart melted.  “I’m mad about you too,” she said huskily.  “I have been since the first time I saw you.”

“I have so many plans for us.  How would you like to relocate to Seattle after we graduate?”

“Seattle?  I never thought of moving there but I’ll go wherever you want to go.”

“We’ll get married first and then move to Seattle.”

“Married?”

“Yes.  You want to marry me, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do, but what about your family?”

“I’m now estranged from all of them except my father.  It was his idea to move to Seattle.  He offered me a job at his company at least until I could find something more in line with my major.  I told him about you and emailed him a photo.”

“And he doesn’t object to our relationship?”

“No, he doesn’t.  My father is nothing like the rest of my family.  He’s excited about seeing me and is looking forward to meeting you.”

“Your friends will definitely have a problem with you marrying me.”

“They are not my friends any more.  I broke all ties with them when they started making derogatory remarks about you.  When it comes to choosing between you and my family or my friends, I will always choose you.  I knew from the moment I first saw you that you were the girl for me and I have promised myself that I would never let anyone come between us.”

She smiled and put her arms around his neck.  “I can’t wait to marry you and move to Seattle where we can begin a new life together.”

His arms went around her waist, pressing her close against him.  “I can’t wait to put a ring on your finger,” he murmured softly.  “I love you so much.”

“I love you very much too.” She closed her eyes when he bent his head and kissed her.  Her heart was filled with so much joy that it felt as if it would burst.  She was about to embark on an exciting future with the man she loved and it all began that day on the steps of Harvard.

 

 

Sources:  Boston.Com; Boston in a Day; Harvard University

 

A Misunderstanding

“Is your uncle at home?” Ashley asked casually as they walked the grounds on a beautiful, sunny spring afternoon.  She was wearing a denim jacket because it was still a bit cool.  They were at Eastwell Manor where Bradley was staying with his uncle until he found his own flat.  It was a magnificent place surrounded by acres of land, immaculate gardens and rolling hills.  She had been here several times and loved it here.  It was peaceful and the air was crisp and fresh.

Bradley glanced at her.  “You’ve got a thing for him, haven’t you?” he teased. “Most women who meet him do.  My uncle is cordial toward them but expresses no romantic interest whatsoever in any of them.”

“How long were he and your aunt married?”

“Fifteen years.”

“And they never had any children?”

“No.  Aunt Carol couldn’t have any.  What a great pity.  She would have been an excellent mother.”

“How did she die?”

“It was a car accident.  She was on her way home when an intoxicated teenager ran the red light and plowed into her as she was leaving the intersection.  She died instantly.  Uncle Anthony was a wreck.”

“What was she like?”

“She was a lovely woman, kind and very generous.  She adored Uncle Anthony and he adored her.  She was my favorite aunt.  She was like a mother to me.  I adored her.”

“How very sad.  I don’t think your uncle approves of our friendship.”

“Why do you think so?”

“I see the way he looks whenever we are together.  There’s disapproval written all over his face.  I can’t imagine why he should have any objections.  Perhaps he thinks you spend too much time with me and should be in the company of a girl closer to your age.”

“I haven’t met any girls my age that I am interested in as yet and besides, I enjoy your company.  We have known each other for some time now and I can’t imagine not having you around.  I can talk to you about anything.  You’re like a sister to me.  I don’t know why my uncle would disapprove of me having a friend such as you—unless, he thinks we are more than friends, though, I still can’t imagine why that should be any concern of his.  He’s not my father and I’m not a child.”

“Your uncle just wants what’s best for you.”

“I know.”

They continued walking and talked about other things.  Then it was time for her to leave.  As they walked toward the mansion, Bradley suddenly grabbed and dipped her before he bent his head and kissed her squarely on the mouth.  She clung to him to keep her balance.  It lasted a few seconds and then he raised his head, straightening and then releasing her.  She glared at him, her chest heaving in indignation.  “What on earth did you do that for?” she demanded.

“It was for my uncle’s benefit,” he told her.  “He was in the study watching us through the window.”

She swung round and looked up at the window where she knew the study to be.  There was no one there.  She turned back to Bradley.  “What you did was childish and very insulting to me.”

He looked contrite.  “I didn’t mean to upset you, Ash.  I was miffed at him for thinking that he can control my life simply because I am living under his roof.  When it comes to my friendship with you, I will not put up with his interference.”

“What will he think of me now?” she wondered.

“What does it matter?  He already thinks that we are a couple.”

“But, we’re not.  We’re just friends.”

“Why does it matter so much to you what he thinks?” Bradley pressed.  “Is it because you’re in love with him?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

“All right.  Would you like us to go and clear up this misunderstanding right now?”

Her heart lurched at the idea of seeing Anthony Eastwell after what just happened.  She couldn’t imagine how he would look at her now.  She shook her head.  “I can’t face him right now,” she said.  “I’m going home.” She turned and walked away.

Bradley followed her.  “I’m sorry, Ash,” he said, his expression apologetic.  “Please forgive me for acting like a fool.  I will straighten things out with Uncle Anthony, I promise.”

She looked at him.  “I’m very upset with you right now,” she said.  “But, I’ll get over it.  Call me later.” She was about to walk off when she froze.  Anthony Eastwell was walking toward them.

Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly and her breath quickened.  He always had that effect on her.  In spite of her distress, she couldn’t prevent her gaze from traveling over his tall frame and thinking how disturbingly attractive he looked in the tan ribbed sweater and navy blue slacks.

He stopped abruptly in front of Bradley who watched him warily.  “Please wait for me in the study,” he instructed in a tight voice.

Without saying a word, his nephew turned and walked toward the house.  Anthony waited until he was gone before he turned his attention on Ashley.  To say that he was angry would have been an understatement.  His brown eyes were dark with fury and his face was flushed.  “What do you mean by making a spectacle of yourself with my nephew out here in plain view for everyone to see?” he demanded.

She swallowed hard.  “He kissed me and I—”

“Don’t tell me that you put up a fight.  I saw you from the window and it was clear to me that you welcomed his advances which leads me to believe that your relationship is not platonic as you would have me believe.”

“Please, you don’t understand—”she protested.

“I understand perfectly,” he muttered thickly.  “You would rather be with him than—” He broke off and turned away, dragging his fingers through his hair as he struggled to compose himself.  Several minutes passed before he faced her again.  “If you are going to throw yourself at my nephew, I would prefer if you did it somewhere else.”

That was when she got upset.  “For your information, I’m not throwing myself at your nephew,” she retorted.  “I don’t make it a habit of throwing myself at any man, no matter how attracted I am to him.”

“So, you admit that you’re attracted to Bradley?”

“I’m not admitting anything.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Eastwell, I have to go.”  She turned and strode off.

He stood there watching her, his face now pale and his eyes filled with torment.  How he longed to go after her and tell her how he really felt but pride kept him where he was.  He remained there for a while before he went back to the manor.

Bradley was standing by the window when he joined him in the study.  “Uncle, I hope you weren’t too hard on Ashley,” he said.  “The kiss was my idea not hers.  She was very upset with me.”

Anthony looked unconvinced.  “What are you talking about?” he demanded.  “From where I was standing the kiss looked mutual.  I saw her clinging to you.  That was not the action of a woman who didn’t want to be kissed.”

Something about the way he spoke and the expression on his face made Bradley stare at him closely.  “It upset you to see us together, didn’t it?” The look in his uncle’s eyes was all the confirmation he needed.  “Uncle Anthony, this has all been a terrible misunderstanding.  You see, Ashley and I are just friends.  I kissed her because I was angry with you.  I didn’t like you interfering in my friendship with her.  Ashley is not interested in me.  I’m like a little brother to her.  She’s in love with you.”

Anthony looked stunned now.  “In love with me?” he exclaimed.  “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.  I can tell from the way she talks about you and when she’s around you. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed.  Besides she admitted it to me.”

“I thought it was you she cared for,” he said.  “I had hoped but never imagined that she would have feelings for me.”

“Do you love her?”

“Yes.  I have loved her since the day we met.  I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love again after losing your Aunt Carol but it has happened.”

“Why don’t you invite Ashley over for dinner tonight and tell her how you feel?”

“After what I said to her earlier, I’m not sure she would want to see me. I’m afraid I wasn’t very pleasant.  I was acting out of jealousy.”

“Then, you can go over to her flat and see her.  She won’t refuse to see you once you turn up.  I’ll give you her address.”

“All right.  I’ll go and see her this evening and hopefully straighten things out with her.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle Anthony, this was entirely my fault.”

Anthony patted him on the shoulder.  “Don’t worry about it,” he said.  “All is forgotten.  I have been interfering in your life and I’m sorry.  You’re free to do as you wish as long as it doesn’t get you into any trouble. No hard feelings?” He held out his hand.

Bradley smiled and shook it.  “No hard feelings,” he said.  “I’m happy that you’ve found love again.  Ashley is a remarkable woman.”

“I know.”

It was after seven when Anthony showed up at Ashley’s flat.  In his arms he carried a box of red roses which he handed to her when she opened the door.  “These are for you,” he said simply as she stood there gaping at him.  “May I come in?”

She blinked.  “Yes, yes.  Come in.” She moved aside so that he could step inside and she closed the door behind him, hardly able to believe that he was here.  She opened the box and gasped when she saw the big, beautiful red roses.  There were a dozen of them.  “They’re beautiful,” she exclaimed.  “Please make yourself comfortable while I go and put them in some water.” As she hurried to the kitchen, she couldn’t deny that she was thrilled to see him, in spite of their earlier exchange.  She hadn’t expected to see him again.

She filled a vase with water, cut the ends of the roses and then placed them in the vase.  She went back into the living-room and put the vase on top of the faux fireplace mantle, stepping back to admire them.  They added more color and a pleasant aroma to the room. She turned to find Anthony standing by the sofa watching her.  She allowed her gaze to travel over him.  He was wearing a navy blue suit, blue tie and white shirt.  His hands were in his pockets and his expression was both serious and sheepish as he looked at her.

“I owe you an apology,” he said quietly.  “I acted like an unreasonable fool this afternoon.  My only excuse is that I was jealous.”

Her eyes widened in surprise.  “Jealous?” she cried.

“Yes.  When I looked out of the window and saw Bradley and you kissing, I was consumed with jealousy.  I couldn’t bear to watch so I moved away from the window.  I didn’t know what to do.  For a few minutes, I just paced up and down in the study and then I decided that I would confront the two of you.”

She watched him, her heart pounding. This seemed so surreal.  “I always thought you disapproved me because of my friendship with Bradley,” she said.  “I thought it was my age which made me unsuitable for him.”

“You’re right.  I disapproved of your relationship with him but not for the reason you thought.  I didn’t know that you were just friends.  I thought you were romantically involved.  In the garden this afternoon, I said the things I did out of jealousy and when you walked away, I wanted to come after you and tell you how I felt but pride prevented me.  I didn’t want to throw myself at the woman whom I thought cared for my nephew.”

“I do care for Bradley but I don’t love him.  What I feel for him is affection and what I want from him is friendship, nothing more.”

Anthony’s countenance changed.  Hope flickered in his eyes.  “I didn’t come over here just to apologize,” he said, moving closer.  “I came to tell you that I love you.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met.”

She moved closer.  “I love you too.  I have since the first time I saw you.  I didn’t think I stood a chance, though, because of your wife.  I feared that I would end up like those other women whose feelings for you were not reciprocated.”

“I didn’t think I could love again until I met you.  You stirred feelings in me that I thought had died with Carol.  What I feel for you is a deep and consuming love.”  By now he had closed the distance between them and was standing in front of her.  He reached out and caught her by the waist, pulling her against him.  His smoldering eyes met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She clung to his shoulders, her fingers gripping the material of his jacket as she responded to his hot, searing kisses.

After a while he raised his head to gaze down into her face, his eyes dark and stormy and his face flushed with desire.  “Do you think you could get used to being Bradley’s aunt?” he asked.

She nodded, smiling.  “It would feel weird at first but I can get used to it,” she said breathlessly.

“Good,” he murmured before he kissed her again.

Sources:  Fantasy Name Generator; Pinterest

Not His Type

She stood at the window watching Byron Ellsworth walking on the grounds with Eliza Forrester.  They stopped under the window and talked.  He said something and Eliza threw back her head, her chestnut hair bouncing about her shoulders and laughed.  It was then that she looked up and saw Kiara.  She stopped laughing and said something to Byron who looked up.  Feeling embarrassed, Kiara moved away from the window.

How she wished they hadn’t seen her.  She didn’t want Byron to think that she was watching him.  She had been admiring the view from the window when she spotted him with Eliza.  They made a very attractive couple.  He was tall, athletic and handsome while she was of medium height, graceful and stunning.   They had a lot in common.  They attended the same schools, mixed in the same social circles and shared the same tastes in the arts, music and theater.  She wondered if they would eventually get married.  Why did the thought disturb her so?  She shouldn’t care what Byron Ellsworth did with his life, especially not after what she overheard him say to his grandmother a few weeks ago.

She was standing outside of the library, about to open the door and go in when she heard her name.  She didn’t mean to stay there and listen but curiosity got the better of her.  “Byron, I notice that you are spending far too much time with the Lewis girl.   I hope you are not developing an interest in her.”

“Grandmother, you are mistaken,” was Byron’s curt reply.  “I’m not interested in Kiara.  She’s not my type.”

“That’s good, then.  You need to remember that as an Ellsworth, you cannot give your affections to someone who is not of the same social status as you.  I daresay, Miss Lewis is a decent young woman but she is not suitable for you.  So, I strongly advise you to limit the amount of time you spend with her and turn your attentions elsewhere.”

“You mean Eliza Forrester?”

“Yes, her breeding makes her a far more suitable match for you.”

Humiliated, Kiara turned and hurried down the corridor, almost running, desperate to get away from there as fast as she could.  After that she avoided Byron as much as possible or she made sure that they were never alone together.

Now she waited in the drawing-room for Miranda, Byron’s sister and her friend.  They were going to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool.  She felt a bit self-conscious about wearing a swimsuit, especially with Byron around.  Maybe he had left with Eliza.   Jealousy coursed through her at the thought and she closed her eyes in frustration.

“Hello, Kiara.”

Her eyes flew open when she heard his voice.  He was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame with his arms folded.  Her heart began to pound as she saw his gaze travel over her.  She was wearing a white tee shirt and a denim skirt.  Her fingers tightened on the strap of her bag as she tried to remain calm.  “I-I didn’t expect you to still be here,” she said.

“Where did you expect me to be?” he asked quietly as he moved away from the doorway and walked slowly and deliberately over to where she was.  He stopped a few feet from her, his eyes focused on her face, making her very nervous.

“I thought that you might have gone out with Eliza,” she said sounding a little breathless.  “I—I saw the two of you earlier walking.”

“I know because I saw you looking out of the window.  Where are you off to?” his gaze dropped to her bag.

“Miranda and I are going to spend the afternoon by the pool.”

“Maybe, I will join you,” he said alarming her.  “It has been a while since I went for a swim.”

“What about Eliza?  Wouldn’t you rather spend the afternoon with her?”  She wondered if the panic she felt was evident on her face.

“Why are you so anxious to get rid of me?” he asked, moving closer.

“I’m—I’m not,” she denied, feeling all flustered.  “I just thought that you would prefer to be with someone who’s more your type…” her voice trailed off when she realized that she had said too much.

“So, I was right,” he said.  “I thought I heard a sound outside the door.  It was you.”

Her mouth tightened.  “I wasn’t eavesdropping,” she retorted.  “I was about to open the door because there was a book I wanted to return when I heard your voices.”

“So, you heard what I said and that’s why you have been giving me the cold shoulder.”  His eyes darkened on her face and he moved closer.  “Kiara, let me explain—“

“There’s nothing to explain.  You’re not interested in me because I’m not your type.  As far as I am concerned, your grandmother and Eliza have nothing to worry about.”

She would have walked past him if he didn’t reach for her hand.  His fingers closed round hers as he pulled her back in front of him.  His eyes were stormy as they met hers and a muscle was throbbing along his jawline.  Her chest was heaving now and a myriad of conflicting and very strong emotions were splayed across her face.  “Please let go of me,” she said.

“What if I don’t want to,” he muttered thickly.

Just then, they heard quick footsteps down the hall and then Miranda’s voice before she appeared in the doorway.  Relieved, Kiara tugged at her hand and Byron let it go.  She almost ran from the room, thankful to get away.

Miranda frowned as she looked at her.  “Are you all right?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

Miranda looked past her to where Byron stood with his back to them.  “Are you going to join us, Byron?” she asked.

“No.  Thank you” was the quiet reply.

The afternoon at the pool passed uneventfully but Kiara couldn’t stop thinking about Byron and what happened between them in the drawing-room.  He had assured his grandmother that he felt no attraction for her and yet, she had seen something on his face which she hadn’t expected to see and she didn’t know what would have transpired if Miranda hadn’t interrupted them when she did.

The sun was setting when she decided that it was time to go home.  As she walked around Miranda’s car to climb into the passenger side, she glanced up and her heart lurched when she saw Byron standing at the window, watching her.   She quickly looked away and got in the car.  Moments later they were heading away from the mansion.

Several weeks passed before she saw Byron again and during that time, he was constantly on her mind.  Then one afternoon she was walking back to her flat when she saw him.  He was standing on the pavement, leaning against the post, hands in pockets watching her.  His stance was casual but the tense expression on his face betrayed him.  Heart racing, she walked up to him.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I had to see you,” he said quietly.  “I have waiting here for half-hour.”

She couldn’t stand there on the pavement talking to him because people were passing and looking at them–actually at him.   He looked so handsome in the dark blue jacket, striped tee shirt and dark jeans.  If he wanted to, he could have been a model.  He had the looks, height and appeal.  She could just imagine the women undressing him with their eyes.  Like you are doing right now? Abruptly, she looked away.  “Let’s go,” she said and started to walk away.

He followed her.  Even in her heels she felt very short beside him.  They walked in silence and all the way up in the lift.  She could feel his eyes on her as she unlocked the door to her flat.  She opened it and locked after he followed her inside.  “You have a very nice place,” he commented, looking around.

“Thank you,” she said as she slipped off her shoes before removing her jacket.  She saw his gaze travel over her white strapless dress.

“Where did you go all dressed up like that?” he asked.

“I went to the Marie Curie Autumn Lunch.  It’s a very worthy cause.  They raise money for their nurses and hospices so they can help people living with terminal illness and their families.”
“Did you go alone?”

“Yes.” She walked into the living-room and after laying her jacket on the back of the sofa, she went over to the window to draw the curtains aside.  She stood there for a moment, looking out. She didn’t know that he was behind her until she felt him pull her back against him and his mouth press against the nape of her neck.  Trembling, she closed her eyes as desire coursed through her.  Then, she felt his hands turning her around and she tried to push him away as the memory of what he said to his grandmother came back to her, “What do you want from me?” she groaned.

An expression of intense longing came over his face and he muttered, “This is what I want,” before his head swooped down and his mouth sought hers hungrily, devouring it like a mad man.  Overwhelmed by her own feelings, she kissed him back.  The hands that tried to push him away were wrapping themselves around his waist.

Several minutes passed as they exchanged passionate kisses and then she pulled back to gaze up into his flushed face, her heavy breathing mingling with his.  “What about Eliza?” she asked.  “She’s the one you should be with.”

He shook his head.  “No.  You’re the one I want to be with,” he declared.

“But what about what you said to your grandmother about me?”

“What I said to her was partially true,” he said.  “When I said that you weren’t my type, I was telling the truth but I was lying when I said that I wasn’t interested in you.  I said that just to get my grandmother off my back.”  His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “I was attracted to you from the moment I saw you.  That’s why I was always hanging around you.  My grandmother noticed and decided that she would put a stop to it.  That’s the conversation you overheard.  I ended my relationship, if you could call it that, with Eliza the day after you and I had our little encounter in the drawing-room.  I knew right then and there, that I couldn’t continue seeing her when I wanted to be with you.  Last night, I went to see my grandmother and told her that I was in love with you and that I was going to ask you to marry me if you would have me.”

She stared at him, hardly able to believe what he was saying but she could tell from his expression that he was dead serious.  “What did your grandmother say?”

“After she recovered from her shock, she told me to pack my bags and leave the premises immediately.  She also told me that she was going to change her will so that I will be left with nothing.  So, I was evicted and disinherited all in one week.  I stayed with Miranda until I found a flat of my own.  I had to look for a new job with a much higher salary.  That’s why I haven’t been to see you before now.  I have been busy trying to put my life back in order.  So, I’m no longer a rich heir but a regular bloke.”

She blinked as the tears sprang to her eyes.  “I’m sorry to be the cause of the rift between your grandmother and you,” she said.  “She wanted what was best for you and in her opinion, it wasn’t me.”

“I too want what’s best for me and that’s you, Kiara,” he said huskily.  “I love you and I want to marry you.”

“I love you too,” she said.  Her breath caught in her throat when he got down on one knee and pulled a box from the right side pocket of his jacket.  He opened it and took out the most exquisite ring she had ever seen.  It was a white gold diamond ring.

“Will you marry me, Kiara?”

She nodded, “yes,” she sobbed, the tears falling down her face now.  He gently and carefully slipped the ring on her finger.  Then, he stood up and cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.

 

 

Source:  The Marie Curie Autumn Lunch; LDN Fashion

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