Nils

She stood there, smiling and trying to act like she was interested in what the guy in the green shirt was saying when he walked by.  Their eyes met and she caught the tantalizing scent of his aftershave.  She had noticed him the moment he entered the room.  His spiky blond hair, strong, square jawline, piercing blue eyes, flaring nostrils and amazing looking lips made her head spin.  Underneath the navy blue silk shirt she could see his bulging muscles and body.  He looked away and her eyes followed him to see where he was going.  She saw him head over to the bar and sit down on one of the stools, leaning over and resting those massive arms on the counter.

She turned to the guy in the green shirt who hadn’t missed a beat  and was still talking about the latest in technology and smiling sweetly, she said, “Excuse me, I just spotted someone I know.”  She walked away.

She headed straight for the bar, her heart beating faster with each step.  She went and stood right next to him.  When she turned her head, he was looking at her and she could see from the expression on his face that he liked what he saw.  She knew she looked good in the off the shoulder black dress.  This close, he was even more devastating and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath.  Her stomach was doing bizarre things.  “Where’s the guy I saw you with?” he asked.

“I ditched him,” she admitted and saw his eyebrows arch.  “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.  He seemed like a nice guy but I just wasn’t interested and rather than stringing him along, I excused myself and here I am.”

“His loss,” he remarked.  “May I buy you a drink?”

“Sure.  What are you having?”

“A Blood Orange Punch.”

“Hmmm.  Sounds interesting.  Does it have alcohol in it, though?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

She slid onto the stool beside him.  “I’ll have one, then.  Thank you.”

After he ordered the drinks, he held out his hand.  “Nils.”

“Corinne.”  When their fingers touched, she felt a spark that rendered her a little breathless.  She was happy to note that he wasn’t wearing a wedding band.  “Nils.  That’s a Swedish name, isn’t it?”

He nodded with a smile.  “Yes.  I was born in Sweden but moved here with my parents when I was five.  What about you?”

“My parents are from Nigeria but I was born here.”

“You know you’re easily the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting?”

She lowered her eyes, feeling self-conscious.  “And you’re the hottest guy I’ve ever seen.”

His eyes darkened.  “After we’re done here, I’d like to take you back to my place and…”

She laughed, her pulse racing as their eyes met.  “Do you usually work this fast?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, not usually but then I never met a woman like you before.  While I’m sitting here talking to you, all I can think about is how good you would look in my bed.”

“All right. Let’s finish our drinks and then leave.” She had never done this before and it was both terrifying and thrilling.

They talked some more as they drank the Blood Orange Punch.  As soon as both glasses were empty, they bade Michelle, their hostess, goodnight and left.  Michelle watched them go, a smile on her face.  Good for you, Corinne, she thought to herself.

A short ride in his Ferrari brought them to his flat which overlooked the Thames River.  As soon as he closed the door and locked it, she was in his arms and his lips were ravaging hers.  Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck as she responded wildly to his kisses.  And then, he swept her off her feet and carried her to his bedroom.

The next morning when she came out of the bathroom, he was lying on his stomach, completely uncovered and she felt her body respond.  “I should go,” she said, although she didn’t want to.

“Stay and have breakfast with me,” he suggested.

“All right.”  Her heart lurched when he climbed out of the bed and walked over to her.

“Let’s make it a late breakfast,” he murmured as he pulled her into his arms.

They ended up having a very late breakfast and many more breakfasts after that.  In a couple of months, they were engaged and then in the following Spring they got married.  Michelle was her maid of honor.

Corinne never imagined that when she went to Michelle’s launch party, she would meet her soulmate.  A smile touched her lips as she remembered the quote,When your eyes met mine, my soul pointed at you and whispered to my heart, “Him..”  Yes, Nils was definitely her soulmate.  She squealed now as he picked her up and ran towards the foamy waters as they licked the white sandy beach of Bora Bora.

 

Sources:  BBC Good Food; Best Image Quotes; Quotes ‘nd Notes

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New York City

The phone rang and Nahla rolled over, groggily reaching for it.  “Hello?”

A recording came on reminding her that she had requested a wake-up call.  She hung up and rolled on to her back.  She closed her eyes and said a prayer.  She lay there for a few minutes before climbing out of bed and heading for the bathroom.  After brushing her teeth, she took a long, hot shower before getting dressed.  She put on her new black and white skirt suit, checked herself in the mirror.

Glancing at her watch, she noted that it was seven.  She went over to the window and looked out.  The street was far below.  She was in New York City, the Big Apple which was pulsating with life even this early in the morning.  Excitement filled her.  This was her first visit to the city although it was purely on business.  She hoped that she would have time for sightseeing.  Perhaps she could persuade Simon. Simon.  A smile came over her face when she thought about him.

Nahla loved working with Simon.  He was very professional but also very easygoing.  She heard horror stories from friends and family about bosses who micromanaged everything they did.  She counted herself to be very blessed to have a boss like Simon.  She wondered if he was awake.  Most likely he was.  He was an early bird.  Every morning, no matter how early she went into the office, he was always there.  Sometimes, it was just the two of them.  He was the reason why she went to work early.  They would sit and talk in his office for half-hour or a little longer until nine o’clock then she would go to her desk.  She enjoyed his company tremendously and looked forward to spending that time with him.

Last night on the flight from London to New York, as they sat next to each other, she couldn’t help remembering how sexy he looked in the brown leather jacket and jeans as he walked over to her in the departure lounge at the airport.  He had an errand to run so they arranged to meet there.  It was the first time she had seen him in anything but a suit and it was refreshing.  His usually slicked back hair was slightly tousled.  She longed to run her fingers through the silky strands.  On more than one occasion when they were sitting in the lounge, he caught her staring at him and she quickly looked away, feeling embarrassed.

When they got on board the plane, he removed his jacket and put it in the overhead compartment.  The navy blue ribbed turtleneck sweater looked really good on him, accentuating his broad shoulders, arms and chest.  Sitting that close to him was unnerving.  Her heart skipped a beat now as she recalled the moment when the magazine slid off her lap as she tried to adjust her seat.  They both reached for it and their hands touched.

Immediately, their eyes met and held as they both straightened up and settled back into their seats.  He handed her the magazine.  She swallowed hard before she thanked him.  For the rest of the flight, she couldn’t stop thinking about the strong feelings that stirred in her when their hands touched.  The moment, although brief, was charged with the attraction that they obviously felt toward each other.  It had always been there, lurking, but in that instance, it was palpable.

The phone rang, making her almost jump out of her skin.  She hurried to answer it.  It was Simon.  “Good morning, Nahla.”

“Good morning, Simon.”  The sound of his voice was doing crazy things to her.

“I know we got in late last night,” he said.  “Was checking to make sure you were able to get up.”

They had got in to LaGuardia after ten and by the time they got to the hotel, it was time to turn in.  They had had dinner on the plane.  He had accompanied her to her suite, stayed to make sure she was settled in before going to his.  The suit was big and unlike anything she had ever seen.  She enjoyed a good night’s rest.  “I probably would still be asleep if it hadn’t been for the wake-up call,” she said.

“I was up before I got the call.  Have you had breakfast as yet?”

“No.”  Just then, she felt pangs of hunger.

“Join me in my suite. We can have breakfast together.”

“All right.  I’m on my way.”

Five minutes later, Nahla stood outside of Simon’s suite.  She took a deep breath before raising her hand to knock on the door.

“Come in,” she heard him call.

She opened the door and walked in, stopping short when she saw him standing there half-naked, his shirt was in his hand.  Flustered, she looked away, her heart pounding.

A faint smile played on his lips as he observed her reaction and how she deliberately avoided looking at him.  He could tell that she was attracted to him and that thrilled him because he was extremely attracted to her.

She was his new secretary because the last one he had was very inefficient. The moment Nahla walked in the boardroom, he knew that he going to hire her but as a formality, he interviewed her.  When it was over, he told her right then and there that she got the job.  That was two years ago.  It turned out that hiring her was the best thing he did. They worked very well together.  But, he wanted to have more than a professional relationship with her.  He was hoping to change things between them while they were here in New York.

“Room service will be here shortly,” he informed her as he pulled on his shirt and started to button it.  “While we eat we can go over the day’s schedule.”

She didn’t answer.  How on earth was she going to concentrate on anything now when all she could think about was seeing him shirtless?  It was hard standing there and trying not to stare at him.  She wished he would hurry up and button his shirt.

“Is something the matter, Nahla?” he asked. “You seem bothered about something.”

“What—what if it had been room service instead of me just now?” she wondered.  “The person would have walked in and seen you…”

“I knew it couldn’t be room service,” he assured her quietly.  “As soon as I got off the phone with you I called them and they said they would be here in about ten minutes.  Five minutes later I heard the knock.  I figured it had to be you because you’re just a couple doors down the hall.  And somehow, I don’t think seeing me half-naked would have bothered the person as much as it obviously bothers you.”

“It doesn’t bother me,” she replied quickly, too quickly and her heart leapt in her throat when he moved closer, his eyebrows raised.

“Doesn’t it?” he asked, his eyes intent on her face.  “Is that why you avoid looking at me now?”

He was standing so close now that she could feel his warm breath on her forehead.  The heady smell of his aftershave assailed her nostrils making her lightheaded.  She was finding it really hard to breathe normally.  Her eyes darted to his face and she trembled when she saw the expression on it.  “Simon…” his name was a whisper.

His eyes darkened and he pulled her roughly against him.  “Nahla,” he muttered thickly before he kissed her.   His hands pressed into the small of her back while his mouth hungrily devoured hers making her senses spin.  He groaned when she kissed him back.  Her hands went under his shirt which wasn’t tucked in his trousers and her nails dug into the smooth skin on his back as they exchanged fiery kisses.

The loud knock on the door startled them and he raised his head, his face flushed.  “It’s room service,” he panted.  He released her and gave her a moment to collect herself before he called out, “Come in.”

A young man came into the suite pushing a room service table.  He pushed it over by the window and after spending a few minutes explaining what he had brought for them, “Enjoy your breakfast and please don’t hesitate to call us if you need anything else” with a courteous smile before quickly leaving the room.  After he was gone, Simon went and locked the door.

Nahla looked at the spread but she couldn’t think about food at the moment.  Her mind was on what happened before the waiter showed up.  She glanced up as Simon came over to her. Their eyes met.  “Are you hungry?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Neither am I,” he replied.  He reached for her and pulled her toward him, swallowing hard when he saw the desire in her eyes.  “Let’s finish what we started.”

“But what about the meeting at nine-thirty?” she protested weakly.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it,” he promised.

She opened her mouth to say something else but he smothered it with a kiss.  Closing her eyes, she put her arms around his neck and responded wildly to his kisses.  An hour later they quickly got dressed, had breakfast and left the hotel.  They arrived at the meeting five minutes before it started.

On the way back to the hotel in the afternoon, Simon turned to her, “Do you regret what happened between us this morning?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  Do you?”

He shook his head.  “No.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

“It’s something I’ve always fantasized about.  I didn’t think it would happen here in New York, though.”

“Nahla, I know that we work together but after this morning, I can’t go back to how things were between us.  I don’t want to dream of being with you with any more, I want it to be real.”

Nahla reached for his hand, her eyes shining.  “I want to be with you, Simon.  It’s as simple and complicated as that.”

He leaned over and kissed her.  And as she kissed him back, she thought, I got my fairy-tale ending here in New York City.

 

Sources: HBR Webinar ;Good Reads

 

The Date

Alessandro came out of his office to see if Belinda was there.  Today was the day he was going to ask her to have dinner with him.  His heart skipped a beat at the thought.  To say that he was very nervous was an understatement.  For the longest while he had wanted to ask her out but never worked up the courage.  They had been working together for six years and she was the best assistant he ever had.  She joined the firm fresh out of university.

He wasn’t exactly sure when it happened but one afternoon while he was sitting in his office, he realized that he was in love with her.   The realization floored him.  He never imagined that he would fall in love with someone so young.  She was in her late twenties and he was approaching forty.  He sat there that day, mulling over the matter until it was time to leave.  He didn’t know how she felt about him.  She was always pleasant and seemed to enjoy working with him.  She was a breath of fresh air and every day he looked forward to seeing her.

All of last week, they worked late and during those times, he would stare at her as she pored over the paperwork.   She didn’t have a boyfriend and he had made sure that she knew that he wasn’t in a relationship.  Once when they were working late, they both reached for the same file and their hands touched.  Immediately his eyes flew up to her face and found her staring at him.  For one tremulous moment, the air was charged between them and he wanted so badly to lean over and…there was a knock on the door.  It was the food he had ordered being delivered.

The sound of voices interrupted his thoughts now and he stood there, his heart thudding as he waited for Belinda to appear.  She did a few minutes later, laughing and talking to Lindsey.   As she approached her cubicle, she saw him and she said something to Lindsey before she went over to him after placing her handbag on her desk.  “Sorry, if I’m a little late,” she apologized.  “Lindsey treated me to lunch today and I guess the time went by very quickly.  Do you need me for anything?”

He nodded.  “I need to ask you something,” he said quietly.  “Come and see me in my office when you have a chance.”  He turned and went back into his office.

She removed her jacket as she walked back to her cubicle and draped it over the chair.  She put her handbag in one of the drawers, logged on to her computer to see if she had any urgent messages before she got up and went to his office.

He was standing at the window, looking out with his hands clasped behind his back and turned when he heard her go in.  She closed the door behind her and then crossed the carpet to where he stood.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes.  “Do you need me to work late again this week?” she asked.  “I have plans this evening with Marco but—”

His expression changed.  “Marco?” he repeated.  “You have plans with Marco?” Marco was his nephew.  He had introduced them two weeks ago when Marco stopped by the office to see him.  “You’ve been in touch with him?”

She watched him warily.  He didn’t seem at all pleased.  “He came by yesterday to see you but you were at the conference.  He said that he would call you later in the week.  Before he left, he told me that he had two tickets to a basketball game and asked me to go with him.  I didn’t have any plans so I said yes.”

He ran his fingers through his hair as he tried to remain calm.  Jealousy burned through him like a wild fire.  “And what do you plan to do after the game?”

“I–I don’t know.  Alessandro, if you need me to work late tonight, I can cancel my plans with—”

He held up his hand.  “No, don’t cancel your plans on my account.  Go and have a good time with Marco.”  He turned and walked over to his desk.  He pulled out the chair and sat down.

Belinda stared at him for a while, longing to tell him that she would rather work late with him than go to the basketball game with Marco but at that moment, he reached for the phone and turned his chair so that he was backing her.  She turned and walked quickly out of the office, tears pricking her eyes.  How she wished she hadn’t accepted Marco’s invitation.  Marco was a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him at all.  She was in love with his uncle.

Instead of going back to her desk, she went into the washroom where she stayed for a little while, leaning over the sink, trying to pull herself together.  The expression on Alessandro’s face when she told him about Marco was one she would never forget.

As soon as she had gone, Alessandro hung up the phone and leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes.  He felt as if he had been punched in the stomach.  Marco?  She was going out with Marco.  He hadn’t seen that coming.  It hurt like hell.  And to think he was going to ask her out for dinner.  He saved himself the humiliation of being turned down in favor of his nephew.  Anger toward Marco burned in him even as he realized it wasn’t his fault that Belinda preferred to be with him instead of his uncle who should have known better than to fall in love with a girl so much younger than he.

How was he going to get through the rest of the day?  He couldn’t, he decided and getting to his feet, he grabbed his keys and left the office.  Belinda wasn’t at her desk, so he said to Lindsey, “Please let Belinda know that I’ve left for the day.  If anything urgent comes up, she can reach me on my cell.” And he was gone.

When Belinda returned to her cubicle a few minutes later, Lindsey relayed the message.  “He didn’t give any reason why he was leaving so early?” she asked and Lindsey shook her head.  Belinda sat there, trying to understand why Alessandro had left.  It wasn’t like him.  She picked up her phone and called Marco.  “Hi Marco, I’m calling to tell you that I can’t come to the basketball game with you.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.  “Is everything all right?  You sound upset.”

“I am,” she said in a trembling voice.  “It’s Alessandro.  I think he was very upset when I told him about you and the basketball game.  I offered to cancel our plans but he told me not to do so on his account but I could tell that he was upset.”

“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?  I could tell by the way you talk about him.  Do you want me to talk to him?”

“He’s not here.  He left for the day.”

“Wow, he must really be upset.  It’s not like him to leave work for any reason.”

“What should I do, Marco?”

“Go and see him later.  Tell him how you feel about him.”

“Okay.  I will.”

“Good luck, Belinda.”

“Thanks, Marco.”  She hung up.  Yes, she was going to go over to Alessandro’s place later.  Hopefully, he would be there.  If not, she would talk to him tomorrow in his office.  Either way, she had to straighten things out with him.

Alessandro had just stepped out of the shower and was getting dressed when the doorbell rang.  He quickly buttoned his shirt and tucked it into his jeans before he left his room and went to answer the door.  After peering through the keyhole, he unlocked the door and opened it.  His expression was tense as he stared down into Belinda’s face.  His heart was pounding as he ached to touch her.  What is she doing here?  Why isn’t she at the basketball game with Marco?

She swallowed hard, her pulse racing.  “May I come in?” she asked.  How she longed to reach up and touch his face–the face she loved so much.

He stepped aside to let her into the foyer and then he closed the door behind her.  After sliding the latch back into place, he turned to face her.  “What are you doing here?” he asked quietly.  “Won’t you be late for your date with Marco?”

She put her handbag on the table and met his gaze head-on.  “I don’t have a date with Marco.  I called and told him that I can’t go to the game.  He was cool about it.  I’m sure he found someone else to go with or maybe he ended up going alone.  I don’t know.  I’m here because I have something important to tell you.”

A muscle was throbbing along his jaw line now.  “What do you need to tell me?” he asked tightly, his eyes were restless on her face.  He wanted so much to take her in his arms.  It was torture standing there, looking at her and wanting to feel her body against his.

She took a deep breath, her heart was beating so hard that it felt as if it would fall out of her chest.  Her palms were sweaty.  She was so nervous but she had to say what she went there to say.  “I–I love you, Alessandro.  That’s what I came here to tell you and–” Her voice ended in a gasp when he pulled her roughly into his arms and held her tightly against him.

His eyes were dark and smoldering when they met hers.  “I love you too,” he muttered thickly.  “Oh, Belinda,” he groaned before his head swooped down and his mouth sought hers, moving hungrily and feverishly when he felt her fiery response.  Her fingers were in his damp hair, gripping the silky strands as they exchanged hot kisses.

After a long time, he raised his head to gaze down into her face, breathing heavily.  “Can you stay for dinner?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.  “And for breakfast.”

He smiled and picking up her in his arms, he said, “I hope you don’t mind having a late breakfast.”

 

british couple6

The Christmas Present

It was Christmas Day and she was sitting by the tree, going through the presents.  There were several–from family, friends, co-workers and…Kevin.  Kevin.  He was her brother in-law’s youngest brother and eleven years younger than her yet she felt like a lovesick schoolgirl whenever she was around him.  Every year they exchanged Christmas presents.  His were always so creative and unique.  She loved them.  Last year he had given her a box of chocolate soaps which she truly enjoyed.  She couldn’t wait to see what he got for her this year.

She reached for the neatly wrapped present, read the card which said, “Having you in my life has given me a reason to celebrate every day.  Merry Christmas.”  What a lovely sentiment.  Setting the card aside, she eagerly unwrapped the present, anxious to see what was inside.  There was a little box inside and she opened it.  Her eyes widened when she saw the sterling silver heart necklace.  She examined the heart closely.  On it were written the words, “Be Mine”.

Her heart was pounding now.  There was no mistaking what this meant.  She had seen those words on dozens of Valentine’s cards.  It was something a person would say to the one they loved.   Was Kevin telling her that he loved her and wanted to be with her?  She sincerely hoped so because she felt the same way.  Yes, in spite of their age difference, she was in love with Kevin.  She held the heart in her hand and stared at it, thinking it was the most precious present she had ever received.  Putting it carefully back in the box, she got up and went over to the phone to call.  She picked up the receiver and was about to dial his number when the doorbell rang.

Hanging up the phone, she went to answer the door.  It was Kevin.  She opened the door, her heart racing as she met his gaze.  He looked a bit nervous as he stood there in the hallway.  “Good morning,” she greeted him and stood aside for him to go in.  After she closed the door behind him, she turned to face him.  “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” he answered quietly.

She showed him the box and opening it, she took out the necklace.  “Thank you for your beautiful present,” she said.  She handed it to him and turned around, lifting her hair so that her neck was exposed.  “Would you mind putting it on for me?”

She felt him put it around her neck, his knuckles brushing against her skin, making her shiver.  When he was done, she turned to face him.  He was staring at her, his expression no longer tense.  She returned his gaze.  “I’ve been yours since the first time we met,” she told him huskily, reaching up to brush his hair back from his forehead.

His eyes darkened and he caught her hand.  He pressed his lips into the palm, making her tremble.  “I’ve wanted to tell you for such a long time how I feel about you but never worked up the courage until now.  I decided that the necklace would say what I couldn’t say.  I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so nervous.  I wasn’t sure how you felt about me and worried that you might not accept this present. That’s why I came over as soon as I could to find out if you like the necklace.  Then, when you asked me to put it on, it gave me hope.”

“All those times when we were together, I wanted to tell you how I felt but I kept thinking that you should be with someone younger.”

“Do you still think that?” he asked thickly as he pulled her against him.

“No,” she groaned and reaching up she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged passionate kisses for a while then, she drew back to look up at him, her breath unsteady.  “There’s a communal service at my church today at eleven.  We can go to that first and then go and celebrate Christmas with the family.  What do you say?”

He nodded, his face flushed.  “I say it’s a good idea.”

“Have you had breakfast?”

He shook his head.  “As soon as I got up, I showered, dressed and came straight over here.  Breakfast was the last thing on my mind.”

She took his hand and led him over to the table.  “Let’s have breakfast and then head over to the church.”  While he sat at the table, she shared out the breakfast and he smiled as she set a plate in front of him.  It was the Egg Croissant Casserole, his favorite.  His mother used to make it at Christmas time too.  His mouth watered just at the sight of it and he was ready to dig into it.  But first, she said a prayer.  Afterwards, she raised her glass of orange juice.  “Here’s to a wonderful Christmas.”

He raised his.  “Here’s to joy, peace and…love.”  They touched their glasses.  “Thank you for making this Christmas the best one ever.”

She reached over and covered his hand with hers.  “And thank you for the Christmas present which has changed my life forever.”  He smiled and gently squeezed her hand before they began to enjoy their first Christmas breakfast together.

Source:  Uncommon Goods

The Ball

Monica was walking on the immaculate grounds of Whitmore Manor where her friend and co-worker Alex invited her to spend the afternoon.  It was the day before the annual charity ball and already there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.  This was to be her first one since she only started working with Alex in autumn of last year.

As she pondered over what to expect, her gaze drank in the beautiful landscape which spread before and around her.  She was so caught up in her surroundings that she didn’t notice the tall man heading towards her until she almost ran into him.

Her eyes flew up from his broad chest to his face.  Her breath caught in her throat when she found herself looking into classic handsome features.  Dark, wavy hair, dark brown eyes, chiseled nose and his lips…she realized that they were moving which meant he was saying something.  She pulled herself together.

“I–I’m sorry,” she apologized.  “I was so busy admiring the place that I didn’t see you until a moment ago.”

His eyes were riveted to her face.  “And, you are?”

She held out her hand.  “I’m Monica.  I’m here because of Alex.”

“Jared.”  He grasped her hand.  “Does he know you are here?”

“Yes.  He brought me here to spend a quiet afternoon.”

“Where is he?  He’s not a very good host leaving you out here by yourself.”

“He didn’t mean to desert me,” she said, trying to act calm when her heart was racing.  Jared was staring at her with those penetrating eyes of his and he was still holding her hand.  “He had to run an errand and said that he would be back shortly.”

He released her hand then and shoved both of his in the pockets of his trousers.  “So, how long have Alex and you known each other?” he asked.

She put her hands behind her back.  “September will make it a year,” she said.

“You’re different from his other girlfriends,” he noted as he studied her face.

She was about to tell him that she was not Alex’s girlfriend when Alex himself showed up.

He came from behind Jared.  He grinned at Monica.  “I see you have met my big brother,” he told her.  He turned to Jared.  “Thank you for taking care of Monica while I was gone.”

Jared inclined his head.  “It was my pleasure,” he said before his gaze shifted to Monica.  “It was nice meeting you.”

She smiled at him.  “It was nice meeting you too.”

“Excuse me.”  He turned and walked away.  Monica was sorry to see him go.

When they were alone, she turned to Alex, “He thinks I’m your girlfriend,” she told him, looking very displeased.  “What gave him that impression?”

“Well, the only women I brought here to meet Mother and Jared were the ones I dated so when he met you, he naturally assumed that you were my current girlfriend.”  He looked at her.  “Does it bother you that he thinks that we are dating?”

“Yes, it does.”

Alex groaned.  “Don’t tell me that you have fallen for his dark, brooding looks too.”

“Is that why you never mentioned to me that you even had a brother?”

“It must have slipped my mind.  Anyway, let’s talk about something else.  Are you all set for the ball tomorrow evening?  I won’t be able to bring you, I’m afraid.  I have to be here, greeting the guests.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve never been to a ball before.  Is everyone going to be there?”

“By everyone, you mean Jared.  Yes, he’ll be there–he and his brooding looks which always seems to attract the ladies.”

Monica looked at him.  “Do I detect a little bit of jealousy?”

Alex sighed.  “Yes, I am jealous and have been since we were children.  He was always getting the attention and the girls.  That hasn’t changed.  Just once I would like to find a woman who will be immune to his charms and prefer me instead.”

Monica tucked her arm in his and gave him an encouraging smile.  “I’m sure you will find such a woman.  Now, this woman would like a tour of the grounds, if you don’t mind.”

He smiled.  “It would be my pleasure.”

It was the night of the ball and she entered the room, her eyes wide with wonder as she espied the magnificent room and the beautiful decorations.  When Alex saw her, he whistled.  He was standing by the entrance receiving the guests with his mother and Jared.  She was wearing a strapless cream chiffon gown and her hair was swept up exposing her long, slender neck.   “You look amazing,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”  Her gaze shifted to Jared who was staring at her.  He looked absolutely gorgeous in his black tuxedo.  Even in her heels, she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.  “Hello, Jared,” she said shyly.

“Hello, Monica,” was his quiet reply.  He had a curious expression on his face.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“It’s good to be here.”  She lingered there for a moment before she moved reluctantly away.  She could feel his eyes on her as she greeted his mother.  The older woman beamed at her.  “You look lovely, my Dear,” she said.  “I am delighted that you could come.  I hope you enjoy yourself.”

Monica smiled.  “Thank you, I will.”  She moved on, taking in the atmosphere, the people.  She saw a few of her co-workers milling about and she joined them.  At dinner time, she sat at the same table with the Whitmore family.  She was seated next to Alex and opposite Jared.  Every now and then, she raised her eyes to look at him and found him already looking at her.  Each time their eyes met, she felt her heart race.  No one else seemed to notice.

The food was amazing and afterwards, there was dancing.  She danced a couple of dances with Alex who was in very high spirits.  Then, as she was about to follow Alex back to the table, Jared barred her.  “Dance with me,” he said and wordlessly, she acquiesced.   Her heart did a somersault when he pulled her to him and they moved to the music.

He was a terrific dancer and his movements were fluid.  She was acutely aware of his hand in the small of her back, their bodies inches apart.  He smelled really good.  It felt wonderful dancing with him and she wished that it would last.  At one point she looked up at him and he was looking down at her.  His eyes were dark and smoldering and a muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  They didn’t say anything but the moment was charged as their attraction for each other was palpable.  She saw his gaze lower to her lips and they parted.

“Mind if I cut in?” Alex’s intrusive voice startled her and she felt Jared release her.  Then she was in Alex’s arms and he swirled her away as Jared walked stiffly off the dance floor.  For the rest of the night, Alex tended to her and she didn’t have a chance to dance with Jared again.  She left the ball feeling frustrated, especially after his cold manner toward her when they said goodnight to each other.

She tossed and turned all night and in the morning, she decided that she would go over to Whitmore Manor and straighten things out with him.  She couldn’t let him continue to believe that Alex and she were dating.  Last night it might have seemed that way, though.  She let Alex have it last night when he was driving her home.  He was sorry and he told her to drop by the manor and talk to Jared.

She finished her breakfast, showered and pulling on a pair of dress jeans and a yellow top, she left her condo.  She took the train from London to Surrey and then a short taxi ride to Whitmore Manor.  The place seemed quiet—she supposed it was because it was a Sunday morning.  She hoped Mrs. Whitmore wouldn’t mind her dropping by unexpectedly.  She ran up the steps leading to the front door and rang the bell.  As she waited she looked over at the spot where she first met Jared.  How handsome he looked that day in his denim jacket over a black shirt and tan colored trousers.

The door opened and the butler stood there.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning.  Is Mr. Jared Whitmore at home?” she asked.

“He is but he gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.  Perhaps, you would like to see Mrs. Whitmore, instead.  She’s in the drawing-room.”

“Yes, thank you.” The man stepped aside to let her into the foyer.  He took her to the drawing-room and after informing Mrs. Whitmore that she had a visitor, he left.

Monica went over to the armchair where the woman was seated.  “Good morning, Mrs. Whitmore.”

Mrs. Whitmore smiled when she saw her.  “Good morning, Dear.  How nice of you to drop by this morning.  Did you have a good time at the ball last night?”

Monica nodded.  “I did.”

“It was an extremely good turn out and I believe that this year we received more donations.”

“Mrs. Whitmore, I came to see Jared but was told that he didn’t want to be disturbed.”

Mrs. Whitmore sighed.  “He’s been cooped up in the study all morning.  Can’t imagine what he’s doing in there.  He hasn’t had any breakfast.  I have a good mind to send a tray in to him.  You know, that’s exactly what I will do.”  She pulled the cord beside her.  “He needs to eat something.”

“Mrs. Whitmore, do you mind if I take it to him?”

“No, not at all.  You may be a welcome distraction.”

A few minutes later a maid appeared and Mrs. Whitmore asked her to prepare a tray for Mr. Whitmore and to bring it to the drawing-room.  As they waited, Monica and Mrs. Whitmore exchanged pleasantries and spoke of the ball.

Then, the maid went in carrying the tray.  “Thank you, Janet,” Mrs. Whitmore said. “Set it on the table over there.”  Janet did so and left the room.

Monica went and took it up.  She went to the door but stopped, unsure of where to go.

“The study is down the hall here and on your right.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Whitmore,” she said gratefully before she departed.

Her heart thudded with every step as she went down the hallway.  She set the tray down on the floor, opened the door and pushed it open.  She took up the tray and went inside.  She stood at the door.  Jared was sitting at the desk backing the door but when he heard it open, he said.  “I gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.  I don’t take kindly to having my orders disobeyed…” his voice trailed off when he swung the chair around and saw her standing there.  “What are you doing here?”

She stood there, unsure of what to do next.  He was standing now, his expression guarded.  “I brought this tray for you.  Your mother said you haven’t eaten.  She’s concerned about you.”

His gaze shifted to the tray and then back to her.  “So, she sent you with it instead of sending Janet?”

“I offered,” she told him.   “I needed to speak to you.”

“Set it on the table over there.   What do you need to speak to me about?”

“It’s about Alex and me…”

His expression darkened at once and he dragged his fingers through his hair.  “Never once in all of my years have I ever been jealous of my brother.  Not even when I see how our mother continues to pamper him as if he were still a child, but that all changed when I met you.”

She stared at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked, looking confused.

“I am jealous of him because of you, Monica.  From the moment we met, I wanted you.  That’s why I said that you were different from his other girlfriends.  I was never attracted to any of them.  You were different because I was immediately and deeply attracted to you.  Last night at the ball, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  I watched you dancing with him and wished that I was the one dancing with you. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and that’s why I asked you to dance with me.  The way you felt in my arms…” he closed his eyes at the memory.  “It felt so right.  I asked myself how could something that felt so right be wrong.  I wanted to kiss you so badly but just then, Alex came and claimed you and I had no choice but to step aside.  I watched you with him for the rest of the night, kicking myself for falling for a woman who belonged to someone else.”

It took a moment for Monica to answer because she was stunned.  She couldn’t believe what she just heard.  “Jared, I don’t belong to Alex,” she told him.  “He and I are just friends who happen to work together.  When you and I met, you assumed that I was another one of his many girlfriends and when I tried to clear up that misunderstanding, Alex joined us.”

“My brother has a knack for interrupting at the most inopportune moment.”

She took a step closer.  “That’s why I came here this morning, Jared.  To clear things up.  I couldn’t go on letting you believe that I was in a relationship with Alex when I am not.  Alex knows how I feel about you.  He knew it since the first time I met you.”

Jared moved around the desk so that he was standing in front of her.  “How do you feel about me?” he asked, his expression tense.  His hands were at his sides, aching to hold her.

“I never thought it was possible but when I met you it was love at first sight,” she said, her feelings unguarded.

He pulled her into his arms then and he muttered, “I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you and I felt like a heel because of Alex.  That’s why I have been cooped up in here all morning.  I was sitting here, thinking about you and feeling guilty.  And now that I know Alex and you are not romantically involved, I feel like a guilty man who has been granted a reprieve.”

She reached up and cupped his face between her hands.  “You have no reason to feel guilty anymore,” she said, “We are both free and we both know what we want…”

“Yes,” he groaned and his head swooped down.  His mouth closed passionately over hers.

She sighed and closed her eyes as she responded to the kiss which she had been dreaming of since last night at the ball.

Source:  Trainline

Summer in Surrey

It was summer and Diane was spending it in Surrey with Maggie, her friend from university.  Maggie’s parents had gone to Florida for their vacation but her brother, Rupert remained at the mansion.  The first time Diane and he met, it was quite by accident.

It was on the morning after she arrived from London.  She was trying to find the drawing-room but found herself in the library.  Forgetting her dilemma at the moment, she walked over to the shelves of books, her eyes traveling over the thick volumes, textbooks, Encyclopedias and literature. Her eyes spotted a collection of writings by Jane Austen. She was about to pull it out when she became aware that someone else was in the room. She turned.

It was Rupert. “I don’t believe I know you,” he said, quickly closing the distance between them.  He stopped a short distance from her, his green eyes searching her face, his expression quizzical.

For a moment she was distracted by his looks. Tall, slender, thick dark hair with a few strands falling across his forehead. He was incredibly handsome. He was dressed casually in a white shirt and grey slacks. “I’m Diane, Maggie’s friend from university.” She held out her hand and it was clasped in a firm grip. “It’s good to meet you, Rupert. Maggie has told me so much about you.”

He released her hand but his eyes stayed on her face. “She did mention that she was bringing a friend to spend the summer holidays here.”

She glanced around the room. “You have a very fine library here,” she commented. “I was on my way to the drawing-room but ended up here instead. I’m glad I did. I was looking at the books when you came in. I saw several that I would like to read. I hope you don’t mind me being here.”

He turned away then. “You are free to come in here whenever you like,” he said. “This is the time when I usually come to catch up on my reading.  To get to the drawing-room, just turn right and it’s at the end of the hallway.”

He went over to one of the book shelves and took down a large book and walking over to the armchair, he sat down. He opened the book, signaling that their conversation was over. She turned and walked out of the room, thinking to herself that he and Maggie were as different as night and day.  That was several weeks ago. Since then, they hadn’t interacted much and when they did it seemed stilted.

On Saturday evening she and Maggie were standing in the circular driveway, waiting for a taxi when the front door opened and Rupert stepped out.  He paused when he saw them.   “Diane and I are going to the theater with Andrew and William,” Maggie informed him.  “We are going for dinner afterwards.”

Rupert stiffened, his gaze shifted to Diane.  “I hope you enjoy your date,” he said coldly.  “I too have an engagement.  Good evening.”  He strode off, his back straight as a rod.  A couple of minutes later, his Rolls-Royce drove past them.

Diane watched the car until it was out of sight, her heart heavy.  She wondered whom he had an engagement with.  Was it Ava?  Ava was the beautiful blonde she had seen at the mansion with Rupert a few times.  Maggie had assured her that they were just friends.  Still, the thought of him going out with Ava now filled her with pain and jealousy.

Of course, she didn’t enjoy the theater or dinner. All she could think about was Rupert and how he looked when Maggie told him about their double date.  On the ride home, Diane hardly said a word.  A couple of times, Maggie asked her what was wrong but she told her that she was tired.  She left Maggie in the drawing-room and headed for her room.  She was at the foot of the stairs when she heard the key turn in the lock.  It was Rupert.  She waited and her heart somersaulted when she saw him.  He opened the door and stepped into the foyer.  He didn’t noticed her until he closed the door and turned.

He stiffened.  She saw his eyes travel over her this time as she stood there in her simple, strapless dress in the becoming shade of cherry.  It accentuated her color and shape.  Her hair was pulled back at the nape with a clasp and several loose strands framed her face.  “Did you enjoy your date?” he asked, his expression darkening.  “Which one was he?”

“William.”

“Did you enjoy William’s company?  Are you going to see him again?”

She wanted to tell him that she didn’t enjoy herself at all and that she had no intention of seeing William or any other man for that matter.  She wanted to tell him that he was the man she wanted to be with.  Taking a step toward him, she began, “Rupert…” but he interrupted her.

“It’s of no concern to me.  Good night.”  And he walked past her.  She turned and ran up the stairs, anxious to get to her room before she dissolved into tears.

This morning, she got up after tossing and turning.  It looked beautiful outside.  After a quick shower and light breakfast, she went outside for a walk.  She headed to her favorite spot, away from the mansion, where it was quiet.  She needed to clear her head.

She came to an abrupt stop when she saw Rupert standing a few feet away from her, staring off into the distance.  The sunlight glinted on his dark hair and the light blue shirt complimented his olive skin.  He looked so regal, so autocratic and so…She started when she realized that he was looking at her.  She had no choice but to continue heading in that direction.  She felt as if she were intruding.

“Good morning, Rupert.”  She attempted a smile but it wavered then disappeared altogether when he remained aloof.

His eyes flickered over her.  “Good morning,” he replied in a clipped voice, turning his head away.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” she commented.  He was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans, something she had never thought she would see.  They looked great on him.

He noticed her looking at him and his eyes darkened.  There was a moment of silence for several minutes as their eyes were locked in a gaze.  “Are you going to see him again?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

“Who?”

“Your date from last night.  Are you going to see him again?”

“No,” she mumbled, confused by his question and the anger she heard in his voice.  “I don’t plan to.”

“Why not?” he asked.  “Maggie’s seeing his friend this evening.  I thought that you and he would be joining them.”

“William’s a nice man but I’m not interested in him.  I’m happy for Maggie, though.  She’s really into Andrew.”

“Why did you go out with William if you weren’t interested in him?”

“It was Maggie’s idea.  She wanted to make it a double date.”

“Last night I asked you if you enjoyed his company and if you planned to see him again.  You were about to answer but I didn’t give you a chance to do so.  I was afraid that you were going to tell me that it was none of my business so I saved you the trouble. What were you going to say?”

“I was going to tell you that I didn’t enjoy myself at all.”

“Why not?”

Her courage was beginning to fade but she couldn’t allow that to stop her.  She had to level with him. It was now or never. “I didn’t because I was thinking about you.”

He looked surprised.  “You were thinking about me?”

“Yes and feeling miserable because I know you don’t like me.”

Now his expression was incredulous.  “Not like you?” he muttered.  “You think I don’t like you?”

“Yes, because you are always so cold towards me.  Even just now, you didn’t seem at all pleased to see me and I felt as though I were intruding.”

He released his breath in an unsteady sigh.  “Oh, Diane,” he cried, his eyes darkening on her face as he raked his fingers through his hair.  “You have no idea of how I really feel about you, do you? Let me give you an idea.  The first time we met, I was blown away.  I couldn’t get over how stunning you were.  I was so besotted with you, it scared me.  So, I reacted by dismissing you on the pretext that I wanted to read.

“After you left, I closed the book and sat there for a long time, just thinking about you.  In spite of myself, my feelings for you grew and that evening when Maggie told me about your date, I was livid.  I acted as if I didn’t care but I was mad with jealousy.  I couldn’t bear the thought of you with someone else.  I mentioned that I had an engagement too.  That wasn’t true.  I didn’t have any plans but pride made me say that I did.  I ended up going to the movies which was a waste of time and money.  I was just sitting there in the dark theater, thinking about you with him.”

“I thought you were with Ava,” she confessed.  “And that’s why I was miserable all evening.”

“Ava is just a friend.  She was there for me when I went through a really tough time after I broke up with my ex.  I will tell you about it some other time but it’s what made me indisposed to having another relationship.   And when I met you and you aroused feelings in me that I thought had died, I got scared.  I didn’t want to fall in love again—not after I got burned the last time I did.  So, I tried to fight my feelings for you but it was no use.  For the second time in my life, I have fallen in love and this time, I have fallen hard.  I think that’s what scared me.  My feelings for my ex pale in comparison to my feelings for you.”

“I’m so sorry that you got hurt,” she said.  “but, I promise you that you don’t have worry about me.  I will never hurt you.  I love you so much, Rupert.”  She reached up and touched his face, her heart in her eyes as they met his.

“Oh, Diane,” he groaned, pulling her into his arms.  His head swooped down and he kissed her.  Then, he buried his face in her hair.  “I love you so very much.”  He held her tightly as if he were afraid to let her go.

She whispered, “I’m not going anywhere, my love.”

 

The Visit

She stood at the window watching

the snow fall in thick white sheets

on the streets below.  It had been

like this all morning.   What was

it going to end?

 

All night she had looked forward

to seeing Rupert.  When they had

last seen each other which was a

fortnight ago, he had promised to

visit her today.

 

When she woke up this morning

all cheerful, she was appalled at

the wintry scene outside her bedroom

window.  The snow fell relentlessly

with no promise of that it will taper

off any time soon.

 

Skipping breakfast, she came straight into

the library to occupy herself with a book

but it was no use.  She couldn’t concentrate

on anything.  She got up from the armchair

by the fire and walked over to the window.

She drew aside the curtain and watched

the snow which she now regarded as her

enemy.   It blanketed everything in its path.

The streets were deserted.  No one

dared to venture out in such blizzard-like

weather.  Why, of all days, did it have

to snow today?  There was no reason to

believe that Rupert would even attempt

to brave the weather just to see her.

 

Yet, an irrational part of her hoped

to see a carriage pull up in front

and a tall and slender figure alight.

She remembered how handsome he

looked in his officer coat when she

she first saw him.  It was at the ball

thrown by her Aunt in honor of her

husband, a retired officer.  Her eyes

scarcely left him and she urged her

aunt to introduce them.  Which she

did with relish.

 

Rupert was friendly and gracious and

she was immediately put at ease.

They spent most of the evening talking and

she was fortunate to have a couple of

dances with him.  It vexed her when she

saw him dance with other young women

but always, he returned to her side.

 

It was with deep regret that she bid him

farewell that night but her constitution

brightened considerably when he

promised that he would visit her in a

fortnight.

 

And here she was, watching her hopes

diminish with each falling snowflake.

Even if it were to taper off, the roads

were now impassable.   She might as

well face the inevitable.  She was not

going to see Rupert today.  And she

wasn’t even sure about tomorrow.

 

She turned away in distress.  Just then

the door opened and Rupert stood in

its opening.  I must be dreaming, she

thought.  I want to see him so desperately

that I am conjuring his image now.  Perhaps,

I need to go and lie down.  She felt a bit faint.

Perhaps not having a morsel to eat for

breakfast was taking its toll on her now.

 

As she started forward, the image

moved towards her.  Her eyes widened

in shock.  It was Rupert.  He was there–

but how?  He came forward, smiling and

took her hands in his.  His dark brown eyes

steady on her upturned face.  “I came by

very early this morning,” he explained.

“When the snow was just starting to fall.”

 

She still couldn’t believe that this was

real.  He was here.  “But, no one told me

that you were here.”

 

“When I arrived you were still in bed.  I asked

her aunt not to disturb you.  Your Uncle invited

me to join him in the drawing-room where I

was quite content to bide my time until you

were available.  Your Aunt had been to your

room to check on you but found that you had

vacated it.  On her way to the drawing-room,

she popped her head in the library and saw

you standing at the window.   She came and

informed me.  And, so without further delay,

I quit your Uncle’s company and came straightaway

here.”

 

“I thought—with the weather being so bad

that I wouldn’t see you today.”

 

“Hannah, you will soon learn that I am a

man of my word.  I promised that I would

visit you and here I am.  Besides, I have been

thinking of little else.   Come, let us go

and sit by the fire.  Your hands are cold.”

 

She glanced back at the falling snow.  A

smile touched her lips.  She no longer

felt resentment toward it but was thankful.

It meant that Rupert was going to be here

for a while.  Yes, it was to be an extended

visit after all.

 

Victorian woman looking out window

Source:  Military Heritage