“I sympathize with your situation but I’m afraid you don’t fit what we are looking for. You have the qualifications but you just don’t fit what we are looking for. I’m sorry. I hope things work out for you.”
These words played over and over in Shannon’s mind as she walked down the sidewalk, tired from job hunting and interviews that ended the same–rejection. What was wrong with her? Was it her appearance, her color? Was it her hair which was very short and natural? She had the qualifications and when they called her for an interview, they sounded enthusiastic but when they saw her in person, the reception was lukewarm. And the interview didn’t last long at all. She was in and out of there in less than half-hour.
What on earth was she going to do now? If she didn’t get a job soon, she would be evicted from her flat. That meant she would have to move back in with her parents until she could find a job. She didn’t relish the idea of moving back with her parents after being on her own for a while. Sighing heavily, she decided to go to the park and sit there and try to figure out what to do. First, she would grab a cappuccino. Maybe she could try an employment agency. A temporary job was better than nothing.
It was after twelve and the cafe was filling up. As she joined the line to place her order, she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around. Her heart skipped a beat when she found herself staring up into the handsome face of Arran Carter, her ex-boyfriend’s uncle.
His hazel eyes were riveted to her face which he thought was exquisitely beautiful. “Hello, Shannon,” he said quietly. Since the first time they met, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind.
“Hello, Mr. Carter,” she said trying to sound calm when her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing. He had this effect on her. After meeting him, she knew she couldn’t continue to see Hugh. It wouldn’t have been fair to him continue their relationship when she had fallen for his uncle.
“Please call me Arran. It’s so good to see you. How have you been?”
“Well, I haven’t been so good,” she told him. “I have been out of a job for about a year now and haven’t found anything as yet and time is running out. I could lose my flat if I don’t find something soon.”
“Have you had lunch?”
She shook her head. “No. I just came from an interview and was going to get a cappuccino.”
“Let me buy you lunch and we can talk more.”
She smiled, grateful. “Thank you.” He put a hand under her elbow and led her to a table in the corner by the window. She removed her coat to reveal a navy blue skirt suit and a white shirt. As she sat down, she couldn’t help thinking about how she used to dress when she first attended university.
During the summer, she wore top with spaghetti straps, bulky and cheap chains and necklaces and too much makeup. And in the winter, she wore mostly black and leather, torn jeans and impossibly high pointed toe boots. In her senior year, she underwent a complete make-over. Her style went from edgy to elegant so that her friends and parents were shocked and pleased at the transformation. She wondered what Arran would have thought if he had known her then.
She studied him as his six foot two inches frame settled in the seat opposite her. He was wearing a tan colored jacket which he removed, a black shirt and pants. His dark hair was thick and spiky, giving him a rugged look which she found very attractive. She wanted to reach over and ruffle it. Realizing that she was staring, she turned and looked out of the window.
The waitress brought menus and after they browsed through them and placed their orders, he said, “You mentioned that you had an interview earlier. I don’t imagine that it went as you’d hoped.”
She shook her head as she played with the folded napkin on the table. “No. They said I didn’t fit what they were looking for even I had the qualifications.”
He pursed his lips. “That was an unethical thing to say,” he remarked tersely. “If you have the qualifications, they should have hired you.”
She glanced up at him. “Perhaps, they had a problem with the way I look.”
“What ‘s wrong with the way you look?” he wondered in surprise. You look amazing.
“Nothing as far as I’m concerned.”
“Do you have a copy of your resume with you?”
“Yes, I do.” She reached for her handbag and produced a copy which she gave to him. She watched anxiously as he read it.
“May I hold on to this?” he asked.
She nodded. Just then, the waitress brought their orders. She toyed with her salad, wondering if he was going to give her resume to someone he knew.
“You have all the qualifications I’m looking for,” he said. “My assistant Loretta is going on maternity leave in two weeks so I’ll be needing someone to fill her position. How would you feel about working for me?”
She stared at him for several minutes. “I would like that very much,” she managed to say. “Thank you, Arran.”
“You’re welcome.” He had done it for himself as much as he had done it for her. Hiring her as his assistant meant that he would get to see her on a regular basis. “I’d like you to start on Monday.” He took out his wallet and pulled out a card which he handed to her. It was a business card. “When you get there, have the receptionist call me and I will come and get you.”
She put the card in her wallet, grateful to him for his kindness. Her appetite was back and she tucked into the salad. “I haven’t asked you how you’ve been,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic.
“I’ve been fine, thanks,” he said, studying her. Her eyes captivated him. “Work keeps me busy.”
She wanted to find out if he was seeing anyone but instead she asked, “Do you go out on the weekends?”
“Sometimes. What about you?”
“Sometimes I go out but most times I stay in.”
“I ran into Hugh the other day.”
“How is he?” She hadn’t seen him since the break-up.
“He seemed fine. He mentioned that you broke up with him.”
“That’s true,” she acknowledged.
“Are you seeing anyone now?” he asked. His expression was inscrutable as he watched her.
“No, I’m not seeing anyone now,” she said, looking at him. “What about you?”
“I’m not in a relationship,” he said. Their eyes met and held for several minutes, then he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”
She nodded. “Yes.” Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of having dinner with him. “My address and number are on my resume.”
He smiled. “I know. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
They spoke about other things and then it was time for him to head back to the office. “Thank you so much for lunch and the job,” she said putting on her coat while he paid the bill. “I really appreciate it.”
“It was my pleasure,” he replied. “May I give you a ride somewhere?”
“You can give me a ride to the tube if it’s not out of your way.”
“It isn’t.” He pulled on his jacket and they walked out of the cafe. They walked a short distance to where his BMV was parked. He held the door open for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.
As she strapped herself in, she couldn’t help but marvel at how her day was turning out. She promised herself that she would get down on her knees as soon as she got home and thank God for turning things around for her. Arran got in beside her and soon the engine purred to life and they pulled into traffic. It was twenty minute ride to the train station and after she climbed out of the car, she turned to him. “Thanks again for everything.” She held out her hand and her senses swam when she felt his fingers wrap around hers.
“Don’t mention it,” he said quietly. “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening.”
“Me too.” She was sorry when he released her hand. She waved at him before she turned and quickly walked away.
He stood there and watched her until she disappeared into the underground before he got back into his car and drove off.
It was five minutes to seven and she was ready. She stood in front of the full length mirror looking at herself. The V Neck Jersey Long Sleeve Red Mini Dress accentuated her figure and complimented her coloring. The pearl necklace and tiny pearl earrings added a touch of elegance. Satisfied, she walked out of the room and was just getting her coat of the closet when the doorbell rang. She glanced at the clock. Exactly seven. Arran was punctual.
She pulled on her coat, quickly buttoned it and grabbed her the nude handbag which perfectly matched her nude pointed toe pumps as she walked to the door. Her heart pounding with excitement, she eagerly opened and her face broke into a big smile when she saw Arran standing there. His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look. “Good evening,” she said, holding out her hand.
“Good evening,” he replied, taking her hand, his gaze never leaving her face as he raised it to his lips.
The smile faded as she felt all sorts of sensations run through her body at the feel of his warm lips against the back of her hand. Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and her heart was beating wildly. She found herself wondering what it would be like to feel those lips on hers. When he released her hand, she turned and locked the door, her hand trembling slightly. She almost dropped the key on the floor instead on in her handbag. Her legs felt a bit wobbly as they walked to the lift.
He took her to a French restaurant where the view of the city was breathtaking and ambience was warm and cozy. She felt shy when she saw the way he looked at her when she removed her coat. And he looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey dress suit, matching tie and light blue shirt.
Over white non-alcoholic wine and amazing dishes, they talked and laughed. She learned that his father was British and his mother was French. He had one sibling–an older sister who was Hugh’s mother. His father died five years ago from a stroke and his mother lived with her widowed sister in Manchester. Arran told her that he had dated on and off over the years, but nothing serious ever came of those relationships. He loved his job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed watching sports or for long drives in the countryside.
“Perhaps you would like to come with me for a ride in the countryside tomorrow,” he said. “We can go to Richmond Park and walk along the trails. It’s beautiful at this time of the year. You’ll see the deer that live there and we can have lunch afterwards at the lodge.”
“That sounds great,” she said, her eyes sparkling. She was going to see him again tomorrow.
They spent a very pleasant evening together and when they got to her flat two hours later, they lingered outside the door, reluctant to part even though they were going to see each other the next day.
“I had a wonderful time this evening,” he said quietly, his eyes restless on her face.
“Me too.” A pause. “Would you like to come in and we can talk some more?”
He nodded. “Yes, I’d like that very much.”
She unlocked the door and held it open for him to go inside and then she locked it. After sliding of her shoes, she took his coat and went to the closet where she hung it along with hers. “Would you like something to drink?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No thank you. You have nice place.”
“Thank you.” She sat down on the sofa beside him.
“I guess Hugh has been here.”
“Yes.” There was a long pause and then, she said, “You know he and I never—”
He stared at her. “You mean you and he never–?”
“We kissed but that was as far as it went. I told him that I didn’t want to have sex outside of marriage anymore. I didn’t always feel that way. When I was in university I was a bit wild and my first and only time was with a senior at the back of his bright yellow pick-up truck when we went on a camping trip. I was curious and most of my friends were sleeping with their boyfriends. I was a little tipsy and we were alone. The others had gone skinny dipping. I couldn’t swim so I didn’t go and he stayed with me. We started kissing and one thing led to the other. I felt awful the next morning and I avoided him. We never hooked up again after that. After that night, I promised myself that I will never sleep with a man unless I loved him. Every time I think of that night I feel ashamed and wish it had never happened.”
Arran reached for her hand. “We’ve all done things that we regret,” he said. “When I was sixteen I slept with my best friend’s mother. I met her when I went over to my friend’s house for a barbecue. She and his father were separated at the time. I thought she was hot and she made it clear that she liked me. One afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to hang out but he wasn’t there. He went to the library to return some books. She was alone at home and she invited me to go in. She offered me a glass of lemonade because it was hot outside. We sat on the sofa and talked about all sorts of things and then she leaned over and kissed me. I was shocked and excited at the same time. Well, one thing led to another and we ended up doing it right there on the sofa. Afterwards, I felt awful and I left before my friend got home. I never went back to his house. He never found out about his mother and me. His parents got divorced the year after and he and his mother moved to Liverpool.”
Shannon stared at his long fingers as they played with hers, hardly able to concentrate. “I have a confession to make,” she said. “I broke up with Hugh because of you. When I met you I knew that I couldn’t continue to see him. It wouldn’t have been right to be with him when you were the one I wanted to be with.”
His eyes darkened. “This may sound corny but the moment I laid eyes on you, my heart belonged to you.”
“You know the heart speaks,” she said huskily. “That night at the campsite it spoke to me. It told me to get away from that campsite before I did something I would regret but I didn’t listen to it. It told me not to date Hugh but I didn’t listen. I listened to it when it told me to break up with Hugh because I knew I was in love with you.”
“Is your heart speaking to you now?” He asked. She nodded. “What is it saying?”
“It’s telling me to let go of the past and all of the regrets and hold on to the love that is right here in front of me.” She moved closer to him and groaning, he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her. Her hands were on his thighs, her fingers digging into the material as she kissed him back. They exchanged passionate kisses and then he was lying on his back and she was stretched out on top of him. That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together.
Nothing speaks louder than your heart. Listen to what it’s telling you – Georgia Cates