Love is a Storm

Jasper was walking down the street, heading to the cafe where he was supposed to meet his girlfriend, Shannon when he heard someone call his name.  He turned and saw that it was Raina, Shannon’s friend from university.  She stood there, dressed in an odd white top, denim capri pants with a smile on her face.  Around her arm was a gold band and several handcraft chains around her neck.  In his mind he juxtaposed her image with Shannon’s.  They were different as night and day.  Shannon was glamorous and Raina was not.  Yet, it was Raina who made his heart race and his stomach do somersaults.  He walked over to her.

“Hi Raina,” he said, nervous and excited at the same time.  She had that effect on him.

“Hi, yourself.  Where’re you off to in such a hurry?” she asked.

“I’m meeting Shannon for lunch at Kennington Lane Cafe.”

She had a way of tilting her head to the side as she looked up at him.  “It’s been a while since I last saw you.  Are you avoiding me?”

He blinked.  “Why would I be avoiding you?” he asked.  Was she on to him?  Did she somehow guess that he had been avoiding her?

“Maybe because of what almost happened the last time we saw each other.”

He felt his face grow hot when he recalled the incident she was talking about.  He had invited some friends over to celebrate Shannon’s birthday.  Raina got there early so that she could set things up.  She was busying stringing the decorations when he went into the living-room.  He stood beside the mantelpiece and watched her.  As if sensing that he was there, she turned, a smile on her face.   And then, to his surprise, the smile disappeared and she gaped at him for a few minutes before turning abruptly away.  Frowning, he walked over to her and stood in front of her.

“What’s the matter, Raina?” he asked, still clueless.

She avoided looking at him.  “Your–your shirt is open,” she mumbled.

He glanced down.  Sure enough.  It was unbuttoned.  Blushing profusely, he quickly buttoned it and tucked it in his pants.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  “You can look now.”

She did and for a long moment their eyes locked.  Then, she turned and went over to the step ladder to finish stringing the Happy Birthday, Shannon sign.  “Could you hand me those balloons, please?”

He picked up the balloons stringed together and gave them to her.  She put them below the sign.  After checking to make sure her handiwork was fine, she started to come down the ladder when she stumbled.  He reached up and caught her.  Winded, she leaned against him for a few minutes, trying to catch her breath.  This was the closest he had ever been to her and it excited him.  His heart began to pound and his breath quickened.  They stared at each other, the air around them pulsating.  She felt so soft against him and he couldn’t hide his reaction.  His smoldering gaze lowered to her lips which parted.  Inflamed, he leaned over to devour them when the doorbell rang.  They draw apart immediately and raking his fingers through his hair, he went to answer the door.

For the rest of the evening, he avoided her but he hadn’t been able to think of anything else but how badly he wanted to kiss her.  For weeks, he tried to stay away, afraid to face her.  And now here she was.  He swallowed hard, his expression tense as he returned her searching gaze.  “I would have kissed you if the others hadn’t shown up then,” he said.

“I know,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

“I haven’t been able to think about anything else.”

“Me neither,” she admitted.

“Why did my open shirt bother you so much?”

“You know why,” she said.

“I want you to tell me.”

“Seeing your bare chest turned me on.”

His eyes darkened.  “You turn me on and right at this moment, I want to take you back to my place and show you how much.”

“Jasper…”

“This is why I’ve been avoiding you.  I’m afraid of what I would do and say when we’re alone together.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t be alone now,” she said.  “Maybe I should go…”

He caught her by the hand.  “Don’t go,” he said.

“I should,” she insisted.  “Besides, you have a lunch date, remember?”

“When can I see you again?” he asked, still holding her hand.

She blinked, trying to think but found it hard with him rubbing his thumb against the inside of her palm.  “I-I don’t know.”

“How about later?”

She shook her head.  “I can’t.  I have a date–”

His expression darkened at once.  “A date?” he repeated.  Jealousy ripped through him.  “Who’s the guy?  Do I know him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“How long have you been dating him?”

“I haven’t been.  This is our first date.”

“How did you meet him?”

Before she could answer, his cell rang.  Muttering under his breath, he released her arm and whipped his cell out. “Yes?”  A pause then:  “I’m on my way now.  I should be there in five minutes.”  He listened and then rang off.

“You’d better go now or she’ll go ballistic.”

“Raina…”

“I’ve to go,” she said and quickly walked away.

 

“What’s the matter with you?” Shannon asked him as they sat by the window having veggie burgers, salad and shakes.  “You’re acting a bit odd.”

“Nothing’s the matter with me.”

Shannon looked at his unfinished burger and then at him.  “You’ve hardly touched your lunch.”

“I’m not very hungry.”

“Aren’t you feeling well?  You look a bit piqued.”

“I’m fine,” he insisted.  “Let’s drop it.”  He picked up the burger and forced himself to eat it.

She wasn’t convinced but she dropped the matter.  After lunch, they went a Jazz concert and then he took her home.  She wanted him to stay but he made an excuse and left.

 

“I had a terrific time and you’re a really nice guy, Joel but…”

“But you’re not interested,” he finished.  They were standing outside of her flat.  “It’s another guy, isn’t it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Well, whoever he is, he’s a lucky guy.”

“Goodbye, Joel,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Goodbye, Raina.”  He took her hand and raised it to his lips.  And then, he was gone.

She turned and unlocked her door.  Once inside, she thankfully removed her shoes and wriggled her toes.  They were gorgeous but they hurt her feet.  She was about to head for the bedroom to change when the doorbell rang.  Frowning, she turned and peered through the keyhole.  Her heart lurched when she saw Jasper standing there.  She opened the door.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  He looked amazing in the black shirt and black pants.  She saw the way his gaze traveled over her body clad in the black cocktail dress with cap sleeves and a side slit.  Her curly hair framed her face which was devoid of makeup.

“You look beautiful,” he added, his expression tense.

“Thank you.”

“May I come in?”

She stepped aside for him to go inside and closed the door behind him.  Afterwards, she turned to face him.  “What are you doing here?” she asked again.

“I had to see you, Raina.”

“You shouldn’t be here, Jasper.”

“Why?  Do you have company?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.

“No.  I’m alone.”

“Where’s your date?”

“He left.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.  We had a terrific time, he brought me home, we said goodbye and he left.”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“You know why.” She watched as he moved closer.  The air was charged between them.

“I want you to tell me.”

“I’m stuck on you.”

In a flash, he was standing in front of her, his body trapping her against the door.  “And I’m stuck on you,” he muttered thickly.

Her hands went up to push at his chest.  “We shouldn’t,” she protested weakly, her heavy breathing mingling with his.

He took her hands and pinned them above her head.  His scorching gaze met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her, his lips almost devouring hers.  Raina kissed him back wildly.  Outside, dark clouds had gathered and minutes later, it was pouring rain.  Lightning flashed across the sky and the loud clap of thunder followed.  Inside the flat a different storm was raging.  It moved from the foyer and into the bedroom.  Minutes later, they were under the sheets, their bodies undulating to the tempo of  lovemaking which increased as their feelings for each other engulfed them.  Outside the storm continued to rage.

The following day, Jasper ended his relationship with Shannon.

Love is a storm that engulfs the senses – Lee Hiller

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The Weekend

When Deandra took her niece to see the musical, Aladdin, for her thirteenth birthday, she certainly didn’t expect to bump into Harrison and his date.  It was when they were leaving the theatre.

As they were going down the stairs, she asked Maya, “So how did you like the show?”

Maya shrugged.  “It was okay,” she said.  “I prefer the movie with Robin Williams as the genie.”

“Me too.  Well, I hope you had a good birthday anyway.”

Maya smiled.  “Yes, I did.  Thanks for taking me for dinner and bringing me to the theatre.”

Deandra put her arm around her shoulder.  “It was my pleasure.  I can’t believe you’re thirteen.  Where does the time go?  It seems like only the other day you were wearing pampers.”

“That’s right, Dee.  I’m not a baby anymore.”

“You’re growing up.  Soon you’ll be dating.  Any cute guys at your school?”

“Well, there’s this one guy in my Math class that I really, really like.”

“What’s his name?”

“Curtis.”

“Does Curtis like you too?”

“I think so.”

“Did you tell your Mom about him?”

Maya shook her head.  “You know how Mom is.  She will just tell me to concentrate on my school work and that there is plenty of time for boys when I’m much older.  You’re the only one I’ve told about Curtis.  You’re cool, Aunt Dee.  I can talk to you about anything.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being interested in boys at your age as long as it doesn’t interfere with your school work.  I know you’re a very sensible girl.”

“Thanks, Aunt Dee, for having such faith in me.  I wish my parents were the same.”

“I know how you feel.  My parents were very strict with your Mom and me, but with me especially because I was younger.  I got spanked and grounded a lot.  I kept thinking how unfair and unreasonable my parents were until I grew up and realized that everything they did was for my good and that’s why I turned out the way I am—a relatively decent person.”

“Okay, Aunt Dee, I’ll go easy on my parents and try to remember what you said the next time I get a lecture.”

Deandra smiled.  “Good.  Always remember that they love you even when it doesn’t feel like it.  It’s the same with God.  Remember where it says that getting chastised doesn’t feel good but God does it out of love and for our benefit.”

“Isn’t that Harrison over there?” Maya asked suddenly, startling Deandra who looked around in panic.  Harrison here?

“Where?” she demanded.

“Over there.”

Deandra followed her gaze and her heart somersaulted when she saw the tall, familiar figure standing close to the exit.  Her eyes shifted to the woman standing beside him and jealousy ripped through her.  Another one of his conquests, no doubt.  The man was incorrigible.  Grabbing Maya’s hand, she urged, “Let’s get out of here before he sees us.”

“Too late,” Maya announced.  “He saw us and is coming over.  Who’s that with him?  She looks familiar.”

“How should I know?” Deandra muttered irritably.  The last thing she wanted was to face Harrison Reed and his date.  Why did she have to run into him?  She watched him approach, her heart beating so fast that she felt a little out of breath.

“Aunt Dee, you’re crushing my hand,” Maya said.

“Sorry,” Deandra mumbled, letting it go.  She shoved her hand into the pocket of her coat and tried to appear calm.

Harrison and his date were standing in front of them now.  The thinning crowd leaving the theatre walked around the four of them.  He smiled his disarming smile—the one that made her go all weak and chide herself for it.  “Good evening, Ladies,” he said in that silky voice of his.  “Maya, it’s good to see you.  You’ve grown a lot since the last time I saw you.”

Maya smiled.  “I turned thirteen today,” she informed him.

His eyebrows arched.  “Happy birthday.”  He reached down and hugged her.

“Thank you, Harrison,” she said when he drew back.  “Deandra treated me to dinner and this.”

“That was very nice of your aunt,” he commented, turning to look at Deandra.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes.  Then, he turned away to introduce his companion.  “Deandra, Maya, this is Eva.  Eva is in London for a couple of weeks.”

Eva gave them a dazzling smile and held out a bejeweled and well-manicured hand to Deandra who shook it and forced herself to smile in return.  The woman was stunning, exotic with lustrous black hair that fell about her shoulders.  “Pleased to meet you,” she said in a soft voice with a hint of a Spanish accent.  “Happy birthday,” she added when she shook Maya’s hand.

Maya stared at her.  “Now I remember where I’ve seen you before,” she said.  “You’re Eva Vasquez, the Mexican model on the cover of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan.”

Eva nodded.  “Yes.”

Maya began to ask her all sorts of questions and while the two of them chatted, Deandra’s eyes shifted to Harrison who was staring at her.  “What happened to that reporter you were seeing last month?  Wasn’t she exotic enough for you?” she asked in a low, tight voice.

“You sound upset,” he remarked.

Her mouth tightened.  “I’m not upset,” she retorted.  “What possible reason could I have for being upset?”

“It’s that green eyed monster called jealousy—”

It took supreme effort not to raise her voice.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” she replied angrily.

He moved a little closer, his eyes riveted to her face.  “When are you going to admit that you’re attracted to me?”

“Attracted to you?  Don’t make me laugh.”

“I’m attracted to you, Deandra.  I have been since we met three years ago at Rachel’s engagement party.”  Rachel was his older sister who was married to Deandra’s brother, Kenneth.”

Her breathing was unsteady now and her resolve weakening.  “Yes, you’re so attracted to me that every time I see you, you’re with a different woman.”

“I would rather be with you, Deandra,” he admitted huskily.  “I’m going up to the cabin this weekend.  Come with me.”

She swallowed hard.  “I-I can’t—”

“Can’t or won’t?  How long are you going to run away from me and your feelings?”

“I’m—I’m not running away from anything,” she denied weakly.

“Okay, prove me wrong by coming with me to the cabin this weekend.”

“But what about Eva?”

“There’s nothing going on between Eva and me.  We’re just friends.”

“Let-let me think about it and-and I’ll call you in the morning.”

“Please don’t pass up something that can be amazing for both of us.  I’ve never been more serious about wanting to be with a woman as I am with you.  I want to be in a relationship with you, Deandra.”

“I’ll call you in the morning,” she said.

“All right,” he conceded, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as she turned away to interrupt Maya’s conversation with Eva.  At least she’s going to think about it, he thought, consoling himself.

“Well, young lady, it’s time I took you home.”

Maya turned back to Eva, “It was really nice meeting you.”

Eva hugged her.  “The pleasure was all mine.  You’re a lovely young lady.  Don’t ever change.”

Maya said goodnight to Harrison.

Deandra shook hands with Eva and then she turned to say goodnight to Harrison before walking away with Maya.

After they were gone, Eva went up to Harrison and slipped her arm through his.  Looking up at him, she inquired, “So, did you ask her?”

He nodded.  “She said she would think about it.”

“I have a feeling that you won’t be going up to that cabin alone.  I saw the way she looked at you and I could tell that she was jealous of me.  No woman is jealous over a man unless she has feelings for him.”

“You’re not just saying that to make me feel better, are you?”

“No, you should know by now that I don’t tell people what they want to hear.”

“So, you think I have a chance with her?”

“Absolutely.  Now let’s go to that little café around the corner and have cappuccinos with cream and bits of chocolate on top.”

“Aunt Dee, I had a great evening and birthday.  Thank you.”  They were outside of Maya’s home.  “I can’t believe I met a famous model too.”

Deandra smiled.  “I’m happy that you had a good time.  Say goodnight to your Mom and Dad for me.  Tell your Mom that I will call her on Sunday night.”  They hugged and then she waited until Maya went inside the house before she drove off.

On the ride home, she thought about what Harrison said.  Was she really running away from her feelings for him?  Was that why she automatically turned him down the first time he asked her to go to the cabin with him?  She panicked and said the first thing that came to her head.  The thought of being alone with him for an entire weekend terrified her.  She hated to admit it but he was right.  She was attracted to him.

When they first met, her attraction for him had been immediate, much to her chagrin, because of the stories she had heard about him and his bevy of women.  She had tried really hard to fight it because she didn’t want to have feelings for a man who seemed to go through women like he went through his wardrobe.  But it seemed that the more she tried to fight her attraction for him the stronger it got.  Seeing him with the other women drove her mad with jealousy and tonight was no different.  She couldn’t hide her feelings from Harrison and she could tell that he didn’t buy her feeble attempt to deny them.

What was she going to do now?  Should she call him tomorrow and tell him that she couldn’t go to the cabin or should she throw caution to the wind?  Right now her mind and emotions were in a fierce battle.  She would have to sleep on it although she couldn’t imagine getting any rest.  Why out of all the men in London, did she have to want Harrison Reed?  No man ever made her feel the way he did.  He filled her thoughts, her senses and her heart…She sighed heavily.  Yes, she was in love with him too.

When she got in, she went straight to bed but as expected, she couldn’t sleep.  The following morning, she rolled on to her side, blinking as the sunshine streamed into the room.  She must have fallen off to sleep at some point.  She glanced at the time on the alarm clock.  It was eight.  She stared at the phone.  Her heart racing, she picked up the receiver.  Her fingers trembled as she punched in the numbers.  He answered on the second ring.  “Good morning, Deandra.”

“I-I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“I’ve been up since six.” A pause and then, “So, what have you decided?”

“I’ll come to the cabin.”  I hope I’m not making a terrible mistake. She had wrestled all night because her mind was telling her one thing and her feelings another.  Her feelings won.

When he spoke again, she could hear the relief in his voice.  “You won’t regret it, Deandra. I promise.  I’ll pick you up at ten-thirty.”

“All right.” She hung up and got out of the bed.  After packing an overnight bag, she showered and had a light breakfast before heading down to the lobby to wait for him.

At exactly ten-thirty, Harrison walked into the lobby.  At once her heart began to pound wildly.  He looked sexy in the brown leather jacket with the white fur trimmed collar, white turtleneck and faded jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and tousled.  He took her bag from her and they walked out of the building to where his jeep was parked.  He opened the door for her to get in before putting her bag in the trunk.

When he got behind the wheel, she glanced at him and their eyes met for a few minutes before she looked away.  He donned his sunglasses before firing up the engine and pulling out of the parking lot.  Soon they were on their way to the cabin which was about a 90 minute drive from the city.  “What are you in the mood for?” he asked and she looked at him, startled.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What type of music are you in the mood for?”

“Oh, um. Something relaxing, I guess.”

He turned on the radio, searched until he found a station which played Smooth Jazz.  For a while only the sound of the music and the muffled traffic outside filled the silence and then, he said, “What made you decide to come with me?” he asked.

“I wanted to come,” she said simply.  No use beating around the bush.

He glanced at her.  “I didn’t expect you to say that,” he told her.

She returned his stare, “What did you expect me to say?” she asked.

“That you wanted to prove me wrong about what I said about you running away from me and your feelings.”

She turned away.  “I’m not a coward,” she muttered.  “I don’t run away from anything.”

“I didn’t say that you were a coward.  All I did was to challenge you.”

“I’m not here to prove anything,” she insisted.  “I’m here because I want to see the countryside.”

He decided to change the topic. “You’ll like the countryside.  It’s a welcome change from the city.”

“Am I the first woman you’ve invited for a weekend at the cabin?”  She had to ask.  It had been bothering her ever since last night.

“You’re the only woman I’ve invited to the cabin.”  He reached for her hand but she jerked away at once, her eyes wide as they met his.  He didn’t get upset.  He waited until she put her hand back on the seat and he held it.  This time she didn’t pull away.  Her fingers felt soft and small in his.  How he longed to press his lips into the palm but he didn’t want to rush things.  He had waited too long to be with her to blow it all now.

She turned to look out of the window.  After traveling on it for about half-hour, they turned off the road which ran parallel to railway tracks and turned onto another one.  All around them was land that seemed to stretch for miles and miles.  She saw sheep and cattle grazing, bales of hay and rolling hills.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  This was the first time she had ever been to the mountains and it was a marked change from the hectic pace and feel of the city.  Now she could understand and appreciate why so many people owned or rented cabins on the outskirts of the city.  It was their way of escape.

“We should be there in about ten minutes,” Harrison said.  And she sat up, her eyes glued to the window as she waited to catch the first glimpse of the cabin.

About ten minutes later, she saw it.  It sat there, quiet and secluded, nestled amongst the birch trees with a pond beside it.  He pulled up at the side of the cabin and turned off the engine.  He glanced at her as she stared at the cabin, her eyes wide with wonder and he smiled before opening his door and stepping out.  He walked round to open the passenger side door for her to climb out.  “So, what do you think?” he asked.

“I like it,” she said.  “It’s very quiet around here, except for the chirping of the birds.”

“This evening you can see the deer come down the hills to graze.”

“I can see why you like to come here.  It’s so peaceful and the views of the hills are stunning.”

“I promise you will enjoy the weekend so much that you will want to come again.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” she said.

“I’ve wanted to for a very long time but I’m happy that you’re finally here.  Let me take the bags out of the trunk and then we’ll go inside.”

She went with him to the back of the jeep and would have reached for her overnight bag when he prevented her.  “Let me take some of the groceries in then,” she offered.

He gave her the lighter bags while he carried the rest.  He went back for her overnight bag and slammed the trunk shut.  He opened the door to the cabin and pushed it open for her to go inside. After all the bags were inside, he closed the door and locked it.  “Let’s put these in the kitchen.”

As she followed him, her eyes traveled over the rustic interior of the cabin.  It was quite spacious and lots of natural light streamed through the windows.  It was cozy and nicely furnished.  She loved the kitchen with its breakfast nook and open concept.  He took the parcels from her and put them on the counter.  “Let me give you a tour and then take you up to the guest room.”

He took her into the rustic living-room with its high ceiling and large windows looking out at the birch trees and the hills in the distance.  There was an electric fireplace incased in stone facing modern furniture.  Glass doors opened on to the landing.  “Do you eat out there?” she asked.

“Yes, sometimes.  During the summer, of course when it’s warm.”  He took her upstairs and showed her the master bedroom which was enormous with a view of the hills.  He showed her the guestrooms and the one closest to the bathroom was the one he chose for her.  It was a lovely room, big with its own fireplace and a bed facing a large window from which she could mountains in the far distance.   They were still covered with snow in some areas.  He looked at her.  “I hope you like the room,” he said.

She nodded.  “Yes, I like it very much.”

“Good.”  He went and got her bag and brought it into the room.  “I’ll give you a chance to settle in while I go and get lunch ready.”

When he was gone, she closed the door and went into the bathroom.  Ten minutes later she went back into the room, feeling refreshed after washing her face.  She unpacked her bag and then she stood, looking out of the window for a while before heading downstairs to the kitchen.  Lunch was on the table and Harrison was just pouring what looked like Cranberry Juice in glasses.  “Have a seat,” he said.  “I hope you don’t mind having take-out.”

She sat down beside the window, her back to the kitchen.  “I don’t mind.  It smells really good.”

“It’s what I consider to be the best authentic Greek food.”

He was right about that.  It was the best Greek food she had ever had.   While they ate, they talked about different things.   After lunch, they went for a walk and then returned to the cabin.  They spent most of the afternoon watching movies and then Deandra went upstairs to take a nap.  While she was upstairs, Harrison went to his study where he spent a couple of hours doing some work before preparing dinner.

It was after six when Deandra woke up.  She had a shower and then went downstairs.  Harrison met her at the bottom of the steps.  He looked extremely attractive in the white shirt and black jeans.  His eyes traveled over her in the red top and denim skirt which revealed long legs.  “We’re having dinner in the dining-room,” he informed her.  They went into the dining-room with its two-sided fireplace.  The table was set.  He pulled out the chair for her to sit before going into the kitchen to bring out two salads followed by the main course which was Seared Tilapia with Spiralized Zucchini.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.

“This is delicious,” she exclaimed before taking a sip of the sparkling white wine.  “Rachel mentioned that you’re an excellent cook.  I thought she was just being bias because she’s your sister but she wasn’t exaggerating.”

He smiled.  “It’s something I learned to do years ago when I moved out of our parents’ home.  Over the years I have come to really enjoy it.  And this would be a tremendous blessing for the woman I marry because she won’t have to do all of the cooking.”

“I can’t imagine you getting married,” Deandra interjected.

“Why not?”

“You’re too much of a ladies’ man to ever settle down with one woman.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he took a couple of sips of wine before continuing to eat the pasta.  In the background classical music played.  “In about twenty minutes you will see the deer coming out to graze,” he told her.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that.  The only deer I’ve seen were in movies.  How long have you had this cabin?”

“I’ve had it for about seven years.”

“And in all that time, you’ve never brought a woman here before?”

He shook his head, his expression serious. “No.”

“Okay.  I believe you.”

He glanced at his watch.  It was eight o’clock.  “If you go to the window now and look out, you will see the deer.”

“I’ll help you clear the table first,” she said, putting her napkin on the table and getting up.  She took up the empty salad bowls and glasses while he carried the rest of the things into the kitchen.  While he stacked them into the dishwasher, she took a damp cloth and wiped the table down.  When she was done, she hurried over to the window and looked out.

Harrison joined her.  A few minutes passed and then, she saw something move.  It was a deer. She leaned forward, pressing against the window in her eagerness as she watched the magnificent animal made its way down to the grassy slope, her eyes shining.

Harrison watched her, thinking that she never looked more beautiful.  “Deandra…”

She turned her face toward him and her heart lurched when she saw the expression on his face.

“I want to kiss you so badly,” he murmured huskily.

“Is that what you usually say to a woman before you sleep with her?”  The minute she said those words, she was mortified and wished she could take them back, especially when she saw the hurt look on his face.  “Harrison, I’m sorry—”

His face was flushed and he raked his fingers through his hair in frustration, his eyes flashing at her.  “You have a really low opinion of me, don’t you,” he muttered angrily.  “To you I’m a libertine, a Lothario who wants to bed every woman he meets.  For your information, the number of women I’ve slept with isn’t as high as you may think.  And since I met you, I haven’t bedded any.  Maybe bringing you here wasn’t such a good idea.  I should take you home.  I wouldn’t want you to spend the weekend with a man you so obviously despise.”

“Harrison, I don’t despise you,” she protested and reaching out, she caught him by the arm.  She could feel his muscles contract underneath the material of the sweater.  His eyes darkened on her upturned face and a muscle was throbbing along his jawline.  “I’m sorry for what I said.  I regretted it the moment I said it.”

“Why did you say it then?”

“I was jealous.”

“Jealous?”

“Yes, I’m jealous of the women you’ve been with.”

He groaned.  “Oh Deandra, what will it take for you to believe that you’re the woman I want to be with.  Those other women are in my past.  My present and future are with you.”  He reached up and cupped her face between his hands and his eyes met hers as he whispered, “I love you.”

She began to cry.  “I love you too,” she sobbed.  “That’s why I’m acting like a jealous fool.”

No woman is jealous over a man unless she has feelings for him.  Eva was right.  Deandra loved him.  The realization filled his heart with joy and unable to help himself, he lowered his head and kissed her.  When he felt her immediate response, the kiss became more intense.  They stood there in front of the window, exchanging wild and fiery kisses.  Then, he picked her up and carried her upstairs to the master bedroom where in the throes of unbridled passion, they made love.

When they were lying spent in each other’s arms, he murmured, “I want you to know that being here at the cabin with you means a great deal to me and I hope that this is the first of many weekends that we will spend together.”

She raised herself up to gaze down at him and lightly traced her finger along the tattoo just below his right shoulder blade.  “You know I’m not crazy about tattoos,” she said.  “Promise me that you won’t get any more.”

“I promise.  I got this one when I was in high-school.  I was trying to impress my girlfriend at the time.”

“Speaking of girlfriends, you’re officially off the market.”

He smiled.  “Does this mean that we are officially a couple?”

“Yes,” she said before he reached up and pulled her head down to his.  What was that quote she read the other day—oh yes, it went something like this, “The Only Happy END That I Know It’S The WeekEND”

 

 

Sources:  Eagle Brae; Aneilve; Houzz; Woman’s Day; The Fresh Quotes

A Memorable Birthday

Todd had finally provoked her into ending their relationship.  She refused to continue to tolerate his wandering eye and embarrassing behavior in public.  He tried to sweet talk her into taking him back but it didn’t work this time.  She was fed up with him and wanted a break from relationships.  She was just going to concentrate on her career.  Right now she was at her beach house in Devon, enjoying the solitude and the sound of the waves was very soothing.

One afternoon she was walking on the beach when she saw a stranger sitting on sandy mound, watching her.  She stopped and stared at him, wondering who he was and why he was there.  Curious, she approached him.  He stood up, his six feet plus frame making her feel small.  Well dressed in a dark blue suit over a purple shirt, he was extremely handsome and was most likely in his mid to late twenties.  “What are you doing here?  This is a private beach.”

“Miss Flanning, I’m sorry to be trespassing but I had to see you,” he explained.  “You see, my mother is a big fan of yours and she’s celebrating her fiftieth birthday this Saturday.  I was hoping that if you weren’t otherwise engaged, you would come and sing for her as a surprise.  It would be a real treat for her and most likely the best gift she has ever had.”

Lola was touched by his request.  “I don’t have any engagements this weekend so I will be more than happy to do this for your mother.”

He looked very relieved and smiled.  “Thank you, Miss Flanning,” he said.

She smiled.  “Please call me Lola,” holding out her hand.  “What’s your name?”

“Julian Mortimer.”  They shook hands.

“What time is the party?” she asked.

“At seven.  Here are the particulars,” he added, reaching into the breast pocket of his jacket and taking out an invitation which he gave her.   “I’d like you to come at eight.  By then everyone will be there.”

She took the invitation.  “I’ll be there at eight,” she promised.  “This is a very thoughtful thing you’re doing for your mother.”

“Thank you.  Every year I give her flowers or take her to the opera or ballet but this year I wanted to do something different for her fiftieth birthday.  I surfing the Internet for ideas when I came across a recent interview you had on the BBC.  And the thought occurred to me what a wonderful treat it would be for my mother to have you sing at her birthday party.  The only problem was I didn’t know how to get close to you.  Then, I remembered that one of my friends knows your publicist and he spoke to her on my behalf and here I am.  I hope you don’t mind and that your publicist doesn’t get into trouble because of me.”

“Don’t worry.  No one’s going to get fired or anything like that.  Besides,  I trust my publicist’s judgment and obviously, she believed that this was a worthy cause.  And I must admit that singing at a private venue is a welcome change.”

“Well, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you doing this.  My mother will be thrilled.”

“Are you and she close?”

He nodded.  “Yes, we are.  I’m an only child and after my father died, we became closer because I was all she had.  She doted on and still does.  I love her dearly and would do anything for her.”

“She’s a very lucky woman to have a son like you,” she remarked.

“I believe that I’m the lucky one.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I must be going,” he said apologetically.  He held out his hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you, Lola.”

She shook his hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you too, Julian.”

“I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.”

“I look forward to being there.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”  He smiled, making her heart skip a beat before turning and walking away.

She stood there watching his retreating back until he was no longer visible before she turned and walked along the water’s edge.  Truthfully, she was looking forward to seeing him again too.

Saturday came.  She opted to wear a black pant suit with a white sequin top.  Her only jewelry were a pair of pearl earrings.  After examining herself in the mirror and satisfied with the results, she grabbed her handbag and left the house.

Twenty minutes later she was driving up a long, winding driveway flanked by imposing trees until the mansion suddenly came into view.  Her mouth dropped open.  It was was magnificent and it reminded her of one of those mansions she saw in the show, Hidden Mansions or something out of a Jane Austen novel.  The stately home made her beach house look like a doll’s house in comparison.  She parked her car where she saw other cars parked and got out.

Heart racing, she went up the short flight of stairs to the enormous door and stared at the antique lion door knocker before lifting it to alert someone inside that she was there.  A few minutes later, the door opened an gentleman stood there.  She presumed that he was the butler.  “Good evening,” he said.  “You must be Miss Flanning.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Master Julian informed me that you would be coming at this time.  Please come in and I will take you directly to the drawing-room where they are.”

“Thank you,” she said, stepping inside and followed him through an impressive entrance hall with two side by side winding staircases to an exquisitely beautiful drawing room with antique furniture, rug, decorative walls, paintings, high ceiling, gigantic hanging chandelier and enormous windows through which light streamed and afforded one an unobstructed view of lush and immaculate green lawns.  She didn’t have time to really appreciate her surroundings as she was aware that there were over thirty people in the room watching her.  To her relief, Julian was one of them and he immediately came over to her, looking extremely pleased to see her.  “Hello,” he said.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“Hello,” she said, feeling a bit nervous.

“Don’t be nervous,” he said.  “You look very beautiful.”

“Thank you.  And you don’t look bad yourself.”  He looked amazing and very elegant in the black suit and black tie and with his hair slicked back.

He smiled.  “Thank you.  Come let me introduce you to my mother.”  Taking her arm, he escorted her over to the group.

“Which one is she?” she asked.

“The one in the wheelchair,” he answered, startling her.  “My mother has Multiple sclerosis.”

She glanced up at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want you to feel obligated to come tonight.”

“I would have come regardless.  How is she doing?”

“Her symptoms come and go in phases.  There are times when she suffers from fatigue and other times when she seems fine.  Right now, she seems fine.”

“Does she live here on her own?”

“No, I live here too and she has a live-in nurse.  Between the two of us, we take care of her.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees you.”

Lola blinked back the tears that sprang to her eyes and put on a bright smile as she stood behind him.

“Mother, I have a big birthday surprise for you.”

She glanced up at him.  “What is it?” she asked.

“Here she is.” He stepped aside while she stepped forward.

“Happy birthday, Mrs. Mortimer.”

She saw the woman’s eyes widened in shock.  “Lola Flanning?” she exclaimed, turning to look up at Julian.  “You brought Lola Flanning to my party?”

Julian beamed.  “Yes, Mother.  I wanted to surprise you.”

Mrs. Mortimer’s returned to Lola who held out her hand.  The older woman grasped it, her eyes welling with tears.  “I can’t believe that you’re here,” she said.  “Thank you.”

Lola covered her hand with her other one and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.  “It was my pleasure,” she said when she drew back, her own eyes moist.

“Yes, Mother, Lola graciously agreed to come and sing for you on your birthday.”

“I look forward to hearing you sing,” Mrs. Mortimer said, “but first, sit beside me.  Have you had anything to eat?”

“Actually, no, but–”

“Julian, please have Sophie fix a plate for Miss Flanning.”

“Please call me Lola and I really don’t want to put you to any trouble–”

“It’s no trouble at all,” Mrs. Mortimer insisted.

Julian excused himself and quickly left the room.  After he was gone, Mrs. Mortimer introduced Lola to the rest of the guests, some of whom were also fans and asked for her autograph.  They were excited that she was going to sing.  One of the women, remarked, “I was so relieved when I read that you had broken up with that womanizer, Todd Collins.  You deserve better.”

Lola smiled but didn’t answer.  Just then, Julian returned with a plate of a variety of delicious looking and mouth-watering smelling food.  Feeling a bit self-conscious, she began to eat it while the conversation kept going, touching on all sorts of topics ranging from her career to hot vacation spots and favorite charitable organizations.

After she finished eating and was ready, Julian sat behind the piano while she stood beside it and began to sing, her voice smooth and soulful as she belted out her popular ballads while the others watched rapt.  Mrs. Mortimer relaxed in her chair with a smile on her face.  Julian’s eyes were on her the whole time as his fingers ran over the keys.  An hour later, the room was filled with thunderous applause and after bowing graciously, Lola resumed her seat next to Mrs. Mortimer who thanked her, her expression one of deep gratitude.

“You’re more than welcome, Mrs. Mortimer.”

“Please call me, Olivia.  You’ve made this birthday the happiest I have ever had.”

“You owe it all to Julian.”

“Yes,” she agree, looking over to where he stood talking to a couple.  “He’s my pride and joy.  Besides God, he has been my rock through the rough moments of this terrible disease.  I don’t know how much longer I have but I hope and pray that before I go, I will see him settle down with a good woman.”

“Whoever she is, she’d be very lucky to have him,” Lola commented, her eyes wandering over to where Julian was.  Too bad I’m not ten years younger, she thought regretfully.

Just then Julian turned and their eyes met.  Mrs. Mortimer observed them and a smile tugged at her lips.  “It seems like I don’t have to wait long to get my wish,” she remarked and Lola turned to look at her inquiringly.

“I beg your pardon?”

Mrs. Mortimer.  “I was just saying that it has been a long time since I’ve had so much fun.”  That was true.  Tonight was a wonderful evening—one that she would never forget.  And she wished it would last longer but she suddenly felt very tired and she couldn’t prevent the yawn she had been trying to stifle.  In a flash, Julian was at her side.

“Mother, you’re tired.”

“No, I’m not,” she protested.  “Stop fussing.”

“You’re tired,” he insisted.  “I can see it on your face.  It’s after ten.  You should be going to bed now.  I will take you up to your room and Margaret will take care of you.  Please don’t argue with me, Mother.  Say goodnight to Lola and your other guests.”

Mrs. Mortimer sighed.  “Sometimes I wonder who is the parent and who is the child.  Very well, Son, I will say goodnight to these good people and then retire.”  Everyone in the room took turns wishing her all the best and made plans to visit when she was ready.  After they said goodnight to Lola, they left.

Lola took the older woman’s hands in hers.  “Olivia, it was a real treat for me to be here tonight.  You’re one of the most gracious and strong women I have ever met.  And it is my hope that we will see each other again.”

Olivia squeezed her hands.  “Have tea with me one afternoon,” she said.  “I will have Julian get in touch with you.  Thank you for making this birthday a memorable one.  God bless you.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Lola released her hands and straightened up.  She looked at Julian who was watching her, his expression inscrutable.

“Don’t leave,” he said.  “I will be back shortly.”

“I’ll wait here,” she promised.  After watching him wheel his mother out of the room, she turned and walked over to the windows.  It was dark outside but the lights from the house illuminated the grounds.  She had once considered buying a stately home not far from here but decided to get the beach house instead because it required less maintenance and she liked being close to the ocean.   She wondered what it was like for Julian to grow up in this house and if it was ever lonely for him.  As a child, she had lots of friends and family to play and spend time with so she never experienced loneliness.

She turned when she heard Julian come into the room.  He joined her at the window.  “How is she?” she asked.

“She seems fine.  I left Margaret reading the Bible to her.”

“Your mother is a remarkable woman.  I admire her.”

He smiled.  “Yes, I’m a great admirer of her too.  Her inner strength is all due to her faith and it was one of the qualities that my father loved about her.  Would you like to take a short walk around the grounds before you leave?”

“Sure.  I was admiring them earlier when I first walked into this room.”

They went outside.  It was a balmy night.   He took her around the grounds, showing her the tennis court, the swimming pool and the Garden fountain where they paused for a little while as she admired its details.

As they made their way back to the front of the mansion, she asked,  “Was living here ever lonely for you?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted.  “But, I tried not to show it because I didn’t want Mother to know because she tried so hard to make my life here as content as possible.  As I got older, life got better and attending university helped because I made lots of friends whom my mother invited to spend the summer and Christmas holidays.  I could tell that she loved having a house filled with young people but after I left university, we decided that we wanted it to be like it used to be.  So, we spend quiet summers and Christmases.  And that’s fine for me.  We enjoy each other’s company.”

“I can tell that the two of you have a special bond which I don’t think it will change when you get married—”

He stopped abruptly and turned to face her.  “So, she has been talking to you about my future.”

She nodded.  “Yes, she expressed her wish to see you settle down with a good woman while she’s still around.”

“Do you wish to see me marry a good woman?”

She lowered her eyes.  “It doesn’t matter what I wish.”  The thought of him getting married bothered her more than she cared to admit.  How was it possible for her to care so much about a man she’d only met once before now?

“It matters to me, Lola.  Do you know that all during the week, I have thought of nothing else but seeing you again?  I couldn’t concentrate on my work.  I kept seeing your lovely face.  And tonight, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  You take my breath away, Lola…”

Her head shot up then, her eyes wide as they met his and her heartbeat accelerating at an alarming rate when she saw the expression on his face.  “We-we shouldn’t be having this conversation,” she stammered.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, because…How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“I’m thirty-nine.  Next year May, I’ll turn forty.”

He seemed unfazed.  “It doesn’t matter that you’re older than me.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to be with a woman closer to your age?”

“I’ve dated women my age but I was never attracted to any of them the way I’m attracted to you.  So, the answer to your question is no.  I would rather be with you.”

“Well, you can’t be with me,” she told him in frustration because for one maddening moment, she wanted to grab the lapels of his jacket, pull him against her and plant one on him.  She was so attracted to him that it drove her crazy and scared her at the same time.  “I–I need to go now.”  She started to walk away when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Why?” he demanded, his eyes searching her averted face, his grip tightening as she struggled to break free.  “Are you afraid of what would happen between us if you stayed, Lola?  Are you afraid that if I were to kiss you, you wouldn’t want to leave?”  He was breathing heavily now and she could feel his body against her, awakening a desire in her that was so strong it made her gasp and then, his mouth was on hers, devouring it feverishly.  And for one unguarded moment, she responded wildly as she tried desperately to assuage the hunger that was raging inside her.

Then, she came to her senses and with supreme effort she pushed him away and ran to her car, panting.  She got in, slammed the door and after fumbling for the key, she put it in the ignition and the engine roared to life.  When she saw him coming towards her, she frantically put the car in reverse and then sped off.  As soon as she got home, she took a cold shower before she went to bed.  Sleep evaded her.  Her mind was spinning.  All she could think about was the kiss and how much she wanted him.  She closed her eyes in despair.   Julian Mortimer had breached the fortress she had built around her heart.

Three weeks passed since that night.  She was restless.  Her thoughts were filled with Julian.  Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face and her longing for him clawed at her relentlessly, driving her crazy.  Sleep was fitful and it was hard to concentrate on anything because her mind was constantly on him.  She gave up trying to write the new lyrics and went out on the balcony.  The water was calm and she envied it.  The sun was high, bathing the sea and sand in its golden light.  Seagulls soared in the sky.  What a glorious day.  Too bad she couldn’t enjoy it.

Something caught her eye and she started when she realized that it was Julian.  Heart thudding, she ran down the steps and down the grassy slope to the water’s edge where he stood, hands in pockets, facing the ocean.  He was less formally dressed this time, clad in a white shirt and tan slacks.  There wasn’t a wrinkle of crease anywhere on his clothes.  As usual, they looked like they had just come straight off the rack.

“Julian, what are you doing here?” she called out just before she reached him.

He turned at once to face her, his gaze traveling slowly over her figure in the light green top and denim shorts, his gaze lingering on her bare legs.  “Mother wants you to have tea with her tomorrow afternoon at two–that if you aren’t busy.”

“You could have called or emailed me,” she told him.  “You didn’t have to come in person.”  Although I’m thrilled to see you. 

“All right,” he sighed.  “I came because I can’t stay away any longer.  I had to see you, LolaI can’t stop thinking about the last time we saw each other.  When we kissed…”  His eyes dropped to her mouth, his darkening at the memory.

“Julian, we can’t do this,” she protested.  “I’m much older than you.”  The truth was he scared her because the feelings he aroused in her were so powerful and unlike anything she had ever experienced.  What she once felt for Todd paled in comparison.  Her heart urged her to throw caution to the wind and give into her feelings but her mind resisted.

“Lola, please don’t let our age difference prevent us from being together.  Ever since we met, I haven’t stopped thinking about you and longing to be with you.”

“Julian, please…” She felt her resolve weakening fast, especially as he pulling her against him.  The expression on his face mirrored the emotions that were raging inside her, making so hard for her to resist him.  She wanted him with every fiber of her being but…Her hands came up to push him away.

“I know you feel the same way,” he persisted, his eyes darkening on her face.  “I felt it when we kissed and I can see it in your eyes right now.  Oh, Lola…” he moaned thickly before he bent his head and kissed her.

Powerless against her feelings and him, the hands that had tried to push him away gripped the back of his shirt as she kissed him back feverishly, blindly and with total abandon.

They entered into a relationship.  In April of the following year, they got married, much to the delight of Mrs. Mortimer.  Nine months later, she held Olivia, her first grandchild in her arms and as she smiled down into the red, crinkly face, she silently thanked God for granting her far more than she had expected.

 

Source:  NHS Choices;

A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”

The Orphan

“What’s the matter, Honey?” Ralph Forrester asked six year old Janet as she lay there in bed, crying.  He was there to read to read her a bedtime story as usual and was surprised to find her in her present state.  When he sat down on the bed, she sat up and hugged him.  He gently patted her on the back, trying to soothe her until the sobs subsided.  “Now tell me what’s the matter,” he coaxed when she drew back to look up at him.

“Aunt Agnes called me a Gremlin,” she wailed.  “Gremlins are ugly, horrid creatures.”

“They are also very mischievous,” he told her, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious although to her it was.  “Did you get yourself into trouble again?”

She hung her head.  “Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.  “It was my idea to bathe the dog in the bathtub because he was so dirty.  Matthew helped me to put him in the bath.  While I was washing the dog, he went to get a towel to dry him off and that’s when Aunt Agnes walked in.  She was really mad and that’s when she called me a Gremlin.”

“Honey, she was understandably angry because you were bathing a dirty animal in her nice, clean bathtub.  And you must have made quite a mess.”

“She said that I was a bad influence on Matthew.  What does influence mean?”

“It means you make Matthew do things that he wouldn’t usually do.”

She looked contrite.  “I don’t mean to make Matthew do bad things,” she said, “or to get him into trouble.  He’s my best friend.”

Ralph patted her hand.  “I know.  We never mean to get others in trouble but sometimes we do.  I think it would be best for now if you didn’t visit Matthew at the manor.  He could come here instead.  Beth and I will make sure you don’t get into any mischief.”

“I don’t think Aunt Agnes likes me very much,” she said, surprising him.  “Is it because I’m adopted?”

He stared at her.  “Who told you that you’re adopted?” he asked.

“Aunt Agnes.  She told me that you and Beth adopted me when I was a baby.  What happened to my real parents?”

“They died and you were placed in an orphanage.  Beth and I always wanted to adopt a child from Africa. We chose South Africa because we were there once on a mission trip and loved it.  As soon as our application was approved, we went the orphanage where you were.  We loved you the very first moment we saw you.  I remember you staring up at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes of yours and I promised God and myself that I would take very good care of you.  We named you Janet which means ‘God’s gracious gift’ because you were a gift from God.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy that you and Beth adopted me,” she said, hugging him.  Then, she settled back on the pillows and waited for him to read to her.  When he was done, he kissed her goodnight, switched off the bedside lamp and left the room.

Beth was in the kitchen fixing them a pot of tea when he went downstairs.  He went over to the table and sat down.  Beth turned and looked at him.  “What’s the matter, Honey?” she asked.

He grimaced.  “Agnes told Janet that she’s adopted. What right did she have to do so?”

Beth brought over the two cups of steaming tea and after setting one in front of him, she sat down.  “While I agree that it should have been left to us to tell Janet that she’s adopted, it must be obvious to her by now that she’s different.  You remember the other day when she came home from school, very upset because some children had asked her how she could have white parents when she was black.”

“I wish people would mind their own business,” he muttered crossly.  “Janet doesn’t think that Agnes likes her because she’s adopted.”

“There are very few people whom Agnes likes,” Beth said dryly.  “She didn’t approve of you marrying me.  I was a bad influence on you.  It was on account of me that you gave up your rather cushy job to become a missionary.”

“For as long as I live, I will never regret marrying you, becoming a missionary and adopting Janet.  Agnes has always been a controlling woman but she has never been able to manipulate me, though she tried to.  She objected to my marriage, change in career and decision to adopt but her objections fell on deaf ears.  I’m happy with the life I have made for myself and will not tolerate any interference from her.  She’s my sister not my mother.”

“Sometimes, she acts like she has two sons instead of one.”

“Poor Matthew.  She’s always doting on him.  I pity the girl he ends up marrying.  Unless, Matthew and his bride moved far away from Yorkshire and his mother’s influence, they will never get a moment’s peace.”

“I’m very fond of Matthew.  He’s such a loving and considerate child.  No doubt he takes after his father, God rest his soul.”

“Yes, if I had a son, I would have wanted him to be like Matthew.”

Beth looked at him.  “Do you still regret not having children of you own?” she asked. They had tried to conceive but couldn’t.  It turned out that he had an undescended testicle when he was a baby.  He was devastated because he was looking forward to raising a family with Beth.  Beth had pushed aside her own disappointment and sought only to console him.  Several years went by before they considered adopting and six years ago, they welcomed Janet into their lives.

“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted.  “But I have since realized that things happen for a reason.  If we had been able to have our children, that precious little girl upstairs would not be here.  She has brought so much joy in our lives.  I can’t imagine not having her around.  I thank God every day for her.  She is truly a blessing.”

Tears pricked Beth’s eyes and she reached out and covered his hand with hers.  “Yes, she is.”

Twelve years later, they were gathered in the living-room watching and smiling as Janet blew out the nineteen candles on her cake.  Ralph and Beth watched her.  It was hard to believe that it was same girl they had brought home from the orphanage.  She had grown into a lovely young lady.  They watched as she put a piece of the cake in Matthew’s mouth, laughing as he got some of the icing on his nose. “Do you suppose that those two will end up falling in love?” Beth asked in a low voice so that the others couldn’t overhear.

Ralph glanced at her.  “I wouldn’t object if that were to happen but you know Agnes…”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “She will do her best to sever any romantic attachment that may develop between them.”

Just then the doorbell rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” Ralph said.

“I’ll and see who it is.”  Beth hurried from the room and down the corridor to the front door.  She peered through the keyhole and her eyes widened in surprise and delight.  She opened the door.  “Blaine,” she exclaimed, hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you too, Beth.”

“When did you get back?”

“Yesterday.”

“Come in.”

He went in and glanced toward the living-room where he heard voices and laughter.  “It sounds like you’re having a party.”

“Yes.  We are celebrating Janet’s birthday.”

“How old is she now?”

“Nineteen.”

“The last time I saw her, she was ten.”

“Yes, well, she’s all grown up now.  Wait till you see her.  Come and let me introduce you to everyone.”

He removed his shoes and followed her to the living-room.  Beth introduced him to Janet’s friends, some of the girls cast admiring glances at him.  He shook hands with Matthew.  “You’ve gotten tall,” he said, grinning.  Matthew smiled.

Blaine’s attention shifted to the girl standing next to Matthew.  “Janet?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He stared at her. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since the last time I saw you,” he said.

She smiled.  “I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a woman.”

“A young lady,” Beth interjected.  “Are you hungry?” She asked Blaine.

He shook his head.  “I had a late lunch.”

“Would you like a slice of cake?” Janet asked.

“Yes, thank you.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She had changed so much.  Gone was the little girl with the pigtails who used to follow him around, chatting incessantly about school, beg him to push on her on the swing and give her a piggyback ride.  Standing before him was a very attractive young lady in a pretty blue dress with a smile that melted his heart.

She cut a slice of cake and gave it to him.  “How long will you be staying?”

“Two weeks.”

“Only two weeks?”  She couldn’t hide the bitter disappointment she was feeling.  In the past his visits had been sporadic but she never had to wait for more than a year to see him.  This last time, nine years had passed before she saw him again and it would be for only two weeks.  He was a Management Consultant.  How she wished that he had a different job—one that would not take him out of the country and away from her.  She missed him terribly.  “Will you come again tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully.

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said quietly.  “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then one of her friends pulled her away to take photos and Matthew joined him.  For the rest of the evening, they were apart, mingling with other people and at the end of the evening as things were winding down, he went over to her.  “I’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“You promise you will come tomorrow?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He reached down and hugged her.  “Happy birthday, Janet.”

She saw him to the door and stood there watching his tall, slender figure stride briskly to his parked Aston Martin car and climb in.  She waved and waited until the car disappeared before going back into the house.  She couldn’t wait to see him the next day.

He showed up the following afternoon as promised and subsequently every day for the two weeks he was in London.  She would sit there and listen to Ralph and Beth ask him countless questions about his travels, patiently waiting for her time alone with him.  As soon as that time came, she would take him outside where they would spend most of the afternoon.  Once, when they were standing by the swing, he said, “You’re too grown up now for me to give you a piggyback ride, but I can still push you on the swing.  She sat down and laughed as he pushed her.  It brought back memories.  Other times they sat on the deck talking for hours or go for walks.

Then, it was his final evening and they were out in the backyard.  The sun was setting.  It cast an orange glow on them as they stood there facing each other.

He studied her face.  “I must be leaving now,” he said quietly.  “Are you sorry to see me go?”

She glanced up at him.  “Yes,” she answered, surprised that he would ask such a question.  I don’t know when I will see you again.

“May I kiss you goodbye?” he asked, moving closer to her.

She looked up at him, her heart racing.  “Yes,” she said breathlessly.  She lowered her head so that he could kiss her on the forehead like he used to when she was a child.  Instead, she felt his hand under her chin raising her face up so that she was staring up into his.  She watched, mesmerized as he bent his head slowly towards hers and his lips get closer.  Her breathing was quick and unsteady now.  She felt his mouth on hers and readily responded. Blaine’s hands cupped her face as the kiss became more intense.

She clutched his arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of his jacket as she felt herself going weak in the knees.  Eyes squeezed shut as if to blot out the world, she savored her first kiss, wishing that it would last.  It lasted for several minutes and then Blaine drew back, his face flushed.  She reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at him.  They were both breathing heavily.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered thickly.

“Why?” she asked.  “Why can’t you stay a little longer?”

“If I stay, I will kiss you again.”

“I want you to kiss me again—”

“No,” he groaned, pushing his fingers through his hair, his eyes darkening.  “I can’t.”

She looked bewildered.  “But why?”

“I’m too old for you, Janet.  You need to be with a guy your own age like Matthew.”

“But, I don’t want to be with Matthew or anyone else,” she cried.  “Why can’t I be with you?  You’re only ten years older than me.  You’re not like Maxim DeWinter who was forty-two and married a girl my age.”

“You’re right, I’m not Maxim DeWinter.  I can’t be with a girl so much younger than me.  In September, you will be attending university.  That means you will around people your age.  Sooner or later, you will meet someone, fall in love with him and forget about me.”

She shook her head.  “No, I won’t,” she cried.  “I love you,”

A muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  “You’re infatuated not in love.”

“Do you think because I’m young, I don’t know what love is?”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you,” he said.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was an utterly foolish thing to do–” he broke off when she started to cry.  He pulled her into his arms and held her closely.  “Don’t cry,” he begged, as she buried her face in his chest.

The feel of her body against his was his undoing.  Unable to help himself, he gripped the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back so that he stare down into her wet face before his lips closed feverishly over hers.  Her impassioned response to his kisses inflamed him.  It was no use.  He couldn’t walk away from her now.  She was in his blood and in his heart.

Slide1

Sources:  Gov.UK; International Adoption Guide; Evening Standard;  The Guardian; London City Mission

Happy News

It was late by the time Abigail got home and she was tired.  Gingerly, she opened the front door went inside.  The light in the foyer was on.  Noah must have left it on for her.  It’s a good thing she had grabbed something to eat.  She wasn’t hungry and could go straight to bed.  As she was about to go upstairs to their bedroom, she noticed that the light in the basement was on.  Noah was still up.

She went downstairs.  He was sitting on the leather sofa watching TV.  He turned when he heard her.  She smiled at him.  “Hi, Honey,” she said.  “I thought you’d be in bed.”

“I wanted to wait up for you,” he said.  He turned off the television and glanced at the clock.  “It’s almost midnight.”

“I know and I’m sorry.  Vicky wanted to go for dinner and dancing on her birthday so we went to a popular Latin restaurant.  We had a good time but I had to leave.  They are still there.  You wouldn’t think that they have to go to work tomorrow.”

She went over and leaning over she kissed him.  He pulled her down on the sofa next to him.  “Did you dance with anyone?” he asked.

“Of course not,” she said, playfully punching him.  “I’m a married woman, remember?”

“No one would be able to tell that you’re married because you’re not wearing your ring.”

“That reminds me, tomorrow I have to stop by the jeweler’s and pick up our rings.”  They had them engraved with the Hebrew word, Mizpah which meant, May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from one another.

“You and I met at a nightclub,” he reminded her.  “You were with your friends and I was with a couple of guys from work.  When I saw you, I felt as if someone had knocked the breath out of me.  I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

“I noticed you the moment you walked in and thought it was cute the way your friends were urging you to come and talk to me.  You were the only guy I danced with that night.  We exchanged phone numbers and had our first date the following day.  And the rest, as they say, is history.”

“We’ve been married for three years.”

“Yes, and one day we will be married for fifty years and counting.”

He smiled and reached over to kiss her.  “I look forward to growing old with you,” he murmured against her lips.

“Me too,” she said.  She drew back to look at him.  “Noah, remember how I told that I’ve been feeling tired lately?  I don’t know how I managed to get through tonight. ”

He frowned.  “Yes, I remember.  And I’ve noticed it too.”

“Well, I went to see the doctor this morning.”

He was looking very anxious now.  “What did she have to say?”

She reached out took his hands in hers, her eyes meeting his.  “‘She said, congratulations, you’re going to have a baby.'”

He stared at her.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes,” she cried in delight.  “We’re going to have a baby.”

He looked emotional.  “A baby,” he repeated.  “I’m going to be a father.”

“Yes, in about eight months.”

He cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you,” he muttered huskily.

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I love you too.”

They kissed and then, he stood up and pulled her gently to her feet.  “Is it okay for us to…”

She laughed.  “Yes, it is.”  They held hands as they walked out of the basement and up the stairs to their room.

At the doorway, he picked her up in his arms and carried her over to the bed.  He lowered her unto the soft coverlet and stretched out beside her.  He caressed her face, his eyes filled with love and adoration.  “Thank you for making me so happy,” he said.

“Ditto,” she murmured as she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

two people in a room

Source:  The Knot

The Cafeteria

He was always having lunch by himself every time she went to the cafeteria.  She would pass his table and he would look up.   Their eyes would meet and then she would smile.  He smiled back and she continued walking until she reached the table where she usually sat with Angie, her co-worker.

On day, Angie wasn’t there, so she was sitting at the table alone.   She was about to tuck into the Fettuccine with Spinach, Ricotta, and Grilled Eggplant when she heard someone ask, “May I join you?”

She looked up and her heart leapt when she saw that it was him.  Up close, he really was very attractive.  He had beautiful eyes and a pleasant face.  “Sure,” she said.

He pulled out the chair opposite her and sat down.  “That looks really good,” he said, looking at her plate.

She nodded.  “Yes, it does.  I couldn’t decide between it and the BBQ Chicken Salad.”  He was having the Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Sandwich which looked very appetizing.  She made a mental note to try it the next time it was on the menu.

“How long have you been working at the company?” he asked.

“For a year and a half.”

“Really?” He sounded surprised.  “How come I haven’t seen you before?”

“It’s only recently that I started coming to the cafeteria to have lunch.  I eat at my desk until my co-worker encouraged me to have it here instead.”

He smiled.  “You must thank your co-worker for me,” he said.  “I wouldn’t be having lunch with you now if it weren’t for him or her.”

“Her.  What about you?  How long have you been working here?”

“About five years.”

“Which department are you from?”

“Engineering.  And you?”

“Marketing.”

“What’s your name?”

“Samantha.  My friends call me Sam.”

“Graham.  May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“I’m not seeing anyone either.”

The rest of their time together went pleasantly now that they were each aware that the other was not already in a relationship.  He asked her questions about herself and she learned that he was the fourth of six children.  His mother was Argentinian and his father was British.  He still had relatives in Italy and visited them every year in the summer.  He used to play soccer but stopped when he turned thirty.  In his spare time he liked to watch sports, especially English football or going for long walks or spending time with his family or playing video games with his nephews. They shared the same birthday in November and love for classical movies, art, food and travel.

Then it was time to go back to work.  “Will you have lunch again with me tomorrow?” he asked as they cleared the table.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’ll be here at the usual time.”

He walked with her to the elevator.  “It was really nice meeting you, Sam.”

“It was really nice meeting you too, Graham.”

The doors to the elevator opened and she stepped in.

“See you tomorrow,” he said.

“See you tomorrow.”  The doors closed and she was on her way back to her cubicle.

Suffice to say, she couldn’t wait for the following day to come.  This time she was there before him.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I had a meeting at eleven.  I rushed out of there as soon as it was over.”

“I got here a couple of minutes ago,” she told him.  They went to buy lunch and sat at his table which was in a better area.  She had a salad and a chicken burger while he had soup.  They talked about all sorts of things.  At one point he made her laugh so hard that tears came to her eyes.  She thoroughly enjoyed his company.

They met for lunch every day that week and the subsequent weeks.  When her Angie returned from vacation, Samantha told her that she was having lunch with someone else.  Angie was thrilled for her.  “I know him and he’s a really nice guy.”

One day at lunch, he asked her, “Do you like dancing?”

She nodded.  “I love it.”

“I’d like to take you out for dinner and dancing on Saturday.”

“I would like that very much,” she told him, her eyes bright with excitement.  Finally, they were going to see each other outside of the cafeteria.

“Good,” he said smiling.  And they continued talking and eating until it was time to go back to work.

On Friday, she gave him her address and phone number.  That night she sorted out what she was going to wear and then turned in early.  Saturday came, bright and sunny and she got up, her thoughts immediately falling on Graham.  She wondered if he was as excited about tonight as she was.  She couldn’t wait for seven o’clock to come and when it did, she was ready and waiting.

When she opened the door and saw him standing there, she couldn’t help but exclaim, “You look amazing.”  He did in the black silk dress shirt and black dress pants, no tie or jacket.  The top button of the shirt was undone, exposing his throat and the area just above where his chest hairs would begin.  He looked sexy.

He smiled and allowed his eyes to travel slowly over her.  The red cap sleeved dress fitted her nicely and flattered her coloring.  The elegant black dance shoes with the low heels completed the outfit.  His gaze lingered on her legs before they returned to her face.  “You look beautiful,” he said, looking serious now.  “I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you.”

She laughed.  “That’s the idea,” she told him before locking the door behind her.  As they walked down the hallway, she could feel him staring at her.  When they were in the lift, she looked at him and her heart began to pound when she saw the expression on his face.  He moved closer to where she was, his eyes lowering to her lips which had parted and for one heart stopping moment she thought that he was going to kiss her but just then the doors opened.   She preceded him out of the lift on trembling legs.

It was a warm evening.  The sun was going to set in about an hour.  His car was parked on the street.  He held the door open for her to climb in before he walked round to the driver’s side and got in.  And off they went to restaurant where they served up good food and salsa for those who loved to dance.  She had the Chicken Escalope while he opted for the Chimichurri Half Chicken.  She ordered a virgin Pena Colada and he had Sangria made with pomegranate juice instead of wine.  Like her, he didn’t drink alcohol.  They talked as they ate and afterwards, they went downstairs to the nightclub where the music was pumping.  Samantha was ready to let loose.  After they secured a table, they went on to the dance floor.

Graham took her hand and twirled her around, their bodies moving to the pulsating Latin beat.  He was a terrific dancer and made it easy for her to follow him.  She watched his hips, their movement almost hypnotic and moved hers to match them.  They danced for a while until she needed to take a break.  While she sat down at the table to catch her breath he went to the bar and ordered two virgin Chi Chi drinks.

As they nursed their drinks, they watched other people dance.  Then, they danced a couple more songs before calling it a night.  It was near two in the morning when he took her home.  It had been ages since she had stayed out so late and it was obvious.  At the door, when they said goodnight, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes as the feel of his warm lips against her skin awoke all sorts of sensations.  When he drew back, his eyes were dark.  “Good night, Sam,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Graham.”  She watched him walk away and then went inside, leaning against the door after she locked it.  It had been a lovely evening, one she would always remember.

The next day, he called her and they spoke on the phone for hours before he rang off.  She busied herself with housework, laundry, cooking and getting ready for work the following day.  That night, she lay in bed, thinking about him and their night together.  She couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow.

As soon as the time display on her monitor read 12:00, she got up from her desk and rushed down to the cafeteria.  He was already there.  “Hello,” he said when she joined him.

“Hello,” she said.

They went and bought their lunches and then sat down.  “I wrote you a poem,” he said, pushing a neatly folded piece of paper across the table toward her.  “Please don’t read it now.  I shall be very embarrassed if you do.”

She smiled and put it in her handbag.  “I look forward to reading it.”

They talked about their evening at the restaurant and made plans to go out again.

As soon as she got home, she took the note out of her bag and eagerly unfolded it.  She didn’t get past the first couple of lines before she began to cry.

Into my boring life you came,

your beautiful smile and face I see.

My world will never the same

because of the joy you bring me.

 

There’s not a day that goes by

when I don’t think about you

which lifts my spirit up high

fills my heart with love anew.

 

Words alone cannot express

what I feel for you in my heart

They fill my thoughts to excess

but are difficult for me to impart.

 

I have written a poem to tell you

how much you mean to me

I hope that in time you too

Will see that we are meant to be.

 

She read it over and over, the page becoming a blur as the tears ran down her cheeks then she folded it and held it against her chest.  I have to see him now, she thought.  I have to let him know that I read this and that I love him too.  Brushing aside the tears, she rushed over to the phone and called for a taxi.  After hanging up, she hurried into the bathroom, hurriedly got undressed and took a quick shower.  She dragged on a shirt and pair of jeans.  After putting the poem in her handbag, she left the flat and went downstairs to wait for the taxi.

On the way over to Graham’s flat, she read the poem again and when the tears threatened to fall again, she put it back in her handbag.  After paying the taxi driver, she ran up the steps and pushed open the doors, anxious to get to him.  Thankfully, there was no one else in the lift so she went straight up to his floor.  She rang the bell and waited, her heart racing.  The door opened and Graham stood there, staring at her in surprise.

“Hello,” he said.  “What a lovely surprise.”

“I had to see you,” she said in a choked voice.

He stepped aside for her to go in and closed the door.  When he turned to face her, she was crying again and he became alarmed.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.

She took out the poem and showed it to him.  “I read this,” she said.  “It’s so beautiful.”

“I didn’t mean for it to upset you,” he said, looking troubled.

“I’m not upset,” she told him as she put the poem back in her bag and pulled out a tissue to wipe her eyes.  “I came over here to tell you that I read it and that I love you too.”

Graham’s eyes darkened and he moved closer to her.  “You love me?”

“Yes, I do.”  She dropped her handbag on the floor and went up to him.  Reaching up, she pulled his head down to hers.

He groaned against her lips and his arms went round her waist, pulling her tightly against him as he kissed her back.   They stood there for a long time, hungrily exchanging kisses.  Then, he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I love you, Sam,” he said huskily.  “I think I loved you the first time I saw you.  When you smiled at me my heart stopped.”

“I have to remember to thank Angie for encouraging me to have lunch in the cafeteria.  It changed my life.”

“And mine,” he rejoined before kissing her again.

 

 

 

Source:  Bar Salsa