Love Stands No Doubts

Alisha stood at the window, looking out, her mind on what happened or almost happened between Fabian and her this afternoon in his office.  It was like any regular day or so she thought until she walked into his office.

She went over to his desk to leave some papers for him to check over before signing them when he glanced up from the laptop screen to stare at her.  The expression on his face was grim and she frowned, puzzled.  “I brought the documents for you to review in case there any changes you want to make before you sign them,” she explained.  It was hard to think straight with him staring at her like that.  She was transfixed by the most captivating feature in his handsome face–his eyes.  They were an usual shade of green.  They were almost transparent.  It was hard to describe them but they were stunning.

“When were you going to tell me?” he demanded, startling her.

“Tell you what?” So, she was the reason why he was in a foul mood.  She watched as he pushed back his chair and sprang to his feet, leaning over the desk with his palms flat against the hard surface.

“That you had lunch with Bob Ford last week.”

“But how did—?”

“Did I find out?  It doesn’t matter.  The fact is I found out…from someone else.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shifted from one foot to the other, feeling much like a child who was in trouble being scolded by a parent.  “Well, Bob called me and asked me to have lunch with him and–”

“Why did he want to have lunch with you?”

She fumbled for words, still not understanding why he seemed to have a problem with her having lunch with Bob.  “He wanted to catch up.  We haven’t seen each other since I left the company to come and work here.”

“Is that all he wanted to do?  Catch up?”

“What are you implying?” she asked.  She was beginning to resent his interrogation.  Whom she had lunch with shouldn’t concern him.  He was her boss not her boyfriend, although she wouldn’t object to him being the latter.  She wondered what he would say if he knew how she felt about him.  At lunch, she had confided in Bob who advised her not to act until she was absolutely sure that Fabien felt the same way.  And to be quite honest she wasn’t sure.  She had seen the way he looked at her sometimes but she always chalked it up to wishful thinking.  And now, she wasn’t sure why he was acting this way over her and Bob.

“You and he were once in a relationship.”

“I know but–”

“What would you do if he wanted to resume your relationship?” he moved around the desk so that he was standing close to her.  His eyes were dark as they stared down into her upturned face.  “Would you take him back?”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing now.  Suddenly the atmosphere in the office had changed.  It was palpable with raw sexual tension.  Was that her breathing or his that she was hearing?  Her eyes were trapped in a steady, penetrating stare with his.  She shook her head and her voice was barely above a whisper when she answered, “No, I–I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because–because I don’t want to be with him.”  It had gotten so difficult to breath.  Her heart was pounding wildly against her ribs and her legs felt weak.  Her eyes dropped to his mouth and her lips parted with intense longing.

He made a move toward her, his eyes darkening with desire when the phone rang.  The shrill peal jarred their ears and senses, ruining the moment.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he turned and walked back around the back of the desk to answer the phone.  She turned and walk unsteadily out of the room.  Instead of going straight back to her desk, she went to the bathroom where she tried to compose herself.

If the phone hadn’t rung when it did…she closed her eyes, trembling as she remembered the look on his face.  He wanted her.  The realization thrilled her.  The desire that raged inside her was on his face.  And it explained why he was so bent out of shape about her lunch with Bob.  For some reason he thought that Bob wanted to get back together with her and that she would take him back.

While it was true that soon after they broke up that Bob wanted to reconcile, she had refused.  She cared for him but she didn’t love him.  All she wanted from him was friendship, nothing more.   Besides, she was in love with Fabian.  She fell in love with him the very moment when she first met him.  When she confided this to Bob at lunch today, he seemed a bit wistful but her happiness, even if it were with someone, was all that mattered to him.  When they parted, he wished her all the best and hoped that things worked out between Fabian and her.

Ten minutes later, she went back to her desk and had just sat down behind the computer when Fabian came out his office, closed the door behind him and went over to her.  She noticed that he had his briefcase with him which told her that he was leaving.  “I have a meeting at the head office and won’t be back to the office.  Call me on my cell if there is an emergency.”  He was all business again.

She nodded.  “See you tomorrow.”

“See you in the morning,” he replied before he turned and walked briskly away.

She watched him go until he disappeared around the corridor before turning her attention to the computer screen.  For the remainder of the afternoon, she buried herself in her work, trying not to think about what almost happened between.  She would have plenty of time to do so later when she was alone in her flat.

And here she was, hours later, at home, looking out of the window, reliving the moment in Fabian’s office and wishing that they hadn’t been interrupted.  In the distance, she heard Big Ben strike the hour of eight.  It was still very bright.  The sun wouldn’t set until around nine.  Was he at home now? she wondered.  Suddenly, the idea of stopping by his place occurred to her and her heart began to thud with nervous excitement.  Moving away from the window, she rushed into the bathroom, stripped and took a quick, hot shower, got dressed in a yellow top and denim skirt.  Since she would be walking in sand to get to his house which overlooked the beach, she donned a pair of canvas shoes, grabbed her handbag and left.

As she drove, she wondered if he would be pleased to see her.  She hoped so.  She hoped that what almost happened between them today was the beginning of what could be an exciting relationship.  Twenty minutes later, she was walking up the beach, gazing at the sea as it shimmered in the sunlight and the waves rolled onto the sand.  Unable to resist, she removed her shoes and smiled as her toes sank into the soft, wet sand.

Fabian was on the deck, looking out when he spotted her.  He stood there watching her for several minutes, his heart racing.  All afternoon and evening he couldn’t stop thinking about her and how close he had come to kissing her.  If the confounded phone hadn’t rung, he would have taken her in his arms and shown her just how much he wanted her.  His body reacted now to the thought and pulling on the hoodie, he ran down the steps leading to the beach, anxious to reach her.

Alisha saw him coming and her heart began to beat faster and her footsteps quickened.  Soon they were facing each other at the water’s edge, standing inches apart, their eyes locked in a gaze.  “I had to come,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked, running his fingers through his hair when what he really wanted to do was take her in his arms.

“We have some unfinished business,” she told him huskily, dropping her shoes in the sand.

Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  Her arms went round his neck as his mouth sought hers, ravishing it and she responded feverishly.   As they stood there, the water swirling about their feet, the sun began to set, casting a red and orange glow on them while a flock of birds flew against the backdrop.  Oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings, they continued to exchange passionate kisses.

When she broke off their kiss to bury her face in his bare chest, he hugged her tightly against him, breathing harshly, his eyes still closed.  “I love you, Alisha,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry that I drilled you about Bob but I was so jealous.”

She raised her head to look up at him.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of him or anyone else,” she assured him.  “I love you.”

“I didn’t know how you felt about me until today in my office.  I saw what I was feeling inside written all over your face and that encouraged me.”

“Yes, for the first time since we have been working together, today was the first time I didn’t have any doubts about your feelings for me.”

“I once read a quote which says, Love stands no doubts.  Whatever doubts we had about each other, they were swept away today.”

“Then it was a good thing that I had lunch with Bob, after all,” she concluded.  “If I didn’t how much more time would have passed before you and I admitted how we feel about each other?”

“I would like to think that I would have worked up the courage to tell you without Bob’s help.”

She smiled and then cried out when he suddenly scooped her up in his arms.  He started toward the steps leading to his beach house.  “My shoes,” she protested, trying to struggle free so that she could go and get them.  But his grip tightened and she gave up after a while, putting both arms around his neck.

“They’ll be there in the morning,” he promised her.  “Besides, you won’t be needing them where we’re going.”

 

 

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The Park

It was such a beautiful, sunny day that after visiting her aunt, Jessie decided that she would go to the park and spend an hour or so before heading home.  She loved this old park.  As a child she used to come here with her aunt and her cousins.  She went to her favorite area where there were three benches facing the pond.  As she approached them, she noticed a very attractive man sitting on the one in the middle.  Their eyes met when she walked past him to get to the third bench.  She sat down, placed her handbag beside her and leaned back, crossing her legs.

She was acutely aware of him and wondered if he was there alone or waiting for someone.  Unable to resist, she turned her head and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him watching her.  His arm rested along the back of the bench.  Although he was dressed casually in a pink tee shirt and jeans there was an air of elegance about him.  He looked like he was in his mid to late thirties.  They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time and then, he smiled.

Heart racing, she smiled back.  This was so exciting.  Here she was making eyes with a perfect stranger in a park she visited frequently.  Does he live around here?  She wondered.  That seemed very unlikely.  He looked out of place in this modest neighborhood.

Her heart leapt when he got up from his bench and went over to her.  “May I join you?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  This close he was even more attractive.  He had the most amazing green eyes and smile.  She pulled her handbag closer to her to make more room on the bench.

He sat down beside her and held out his hand.  “Paul Bentley.”

She shook his hand.  “Jessie Moore.”

“I don’t usually approach a woman I don’t know in a park but I had to meet you.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “Do-do you live around here?” she asked.

“I used to,” he said, surprising her.  “I grew up here and then my family moved when my father started his own business.  I still come back here sometimes, though.  Life was tough at times but we got by.  What about you?  Do you live here?”

She shook her head.  “No, my aunt lives here.  I used to spend weekends with her and my cousins and we used to come to this park. It has changed a lot since then but I still love coming here.”

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No, I live on my own.”

“Do you live far from here?”

“Not really.  I take the tube and it’s about a twenty minute ride.”

“What about you?”

“I live in Canary Wharf.”

“That’s a really nice, upscale area,” she exclaimed.  “I went there a couple of times and loved it.”

“I like living there.  I especially enjoy going to the park or walking along the docks to unwind after a long and tedious day.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a High Court judge.”

“You’re a judge?” She stared at him.  “But, you look so young.  Most of the judges I see are older men.”

He smiled.  “I’m thirty-eight,” he informed.  “I was appointed to the judgeship two years ago.”

“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”

“I sit in the Family Division which deals with personal human matters such as divorce, children, probate and medical treatment.  The Division exercises jurisdiction to hear all cases relating to children’s welfare, and has an exclusive jurisdiction in ward-ship cases.”

“Do you like what you do?”

“For the most part.  Although sometimes the decisions we make are seen as controversial as in the case where  the hospital was given permission to separate conjoined twins without the parents’ consent and the woman who was allowed to have her life support machines turned off but a husband wasn’t allowed to give his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent.  We have faced a lot of criticism but ultimately, we practice law and equity. ”

She tried to envision him in a robe and wearing a white wig, seated on the bench with a gavel in his hand.  “I’ve never met a judge before.”

And I’ve never met a woman who makes me want to lose myself in her eyes and her smile.  He couldn’t get enough of her.  He wanted to know everything about her.  “Tell me about yourself.  What do you do when you’re not sitting in the park talking to a judge?  Do you have brothers and sisters?”  Never once did he imagine that he would be attracted to someone who looked much younger than him but from the moment he saw her, he knew he had to talk to her.

She looked at him, feeling shy again.  His eyes were intent on her face.  She began to tell him a little about herself.  “I graduated from university last year.  Got a job at Trends as a Digital Copywriter.  I have two older brothers and a younger sister.  My parents are retired and my mother volunteers at a women’s shelter.  On the weekends, I go vintage shopping or the cinema or pop into the library or hang out with friends or stay in and read a book or watch television.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”  She hoped that her age wouldn’t matter.  It would be a shame if it did because she really liked him.

“I’m not married,” he said, startling her.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”  He could tell that she was attracted to him too but he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t already in a relationship because that would only complicate things.

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Relieved, he said, “I would like to continue our conversation over dinner.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was six o’ clock.  They had been talking for an hour.  “I know a nice family run trattoria where we can go.”

“That sounds good,” she murmured as she took up her handbag and stood up, excited that they were going to spend more time together.

He got to his feet and she felt small beside him.  For a moment they stared at each other, their bodies close together.  She was really quite beautiful.  “Jessie, I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I would really like to see you again after we have dinner tonight.”

Her heart was racing.  “I–I would like that too.”

He smiled.  “Good.”  Unable to resist, he raised his hand and brushed his knuckles gently against her cheek before they headed to the entrance of the park.

Over Penne Arrabiata and non alcoholic wine, they made plans to see each other again.   Two years later, when they went back to the park where they met, they were married and expecting their first child.

 

Source:  Court and Tribunals Judiciary; Wikipedia; Wikipedia; The Culture Trip

Getting Away

He had just walked out of the synagogue when he saw them.  Arrested, he stood there watching Brittney with her ex-boyfriend, Andre, his heart breaking.  Burning jealousy swept through him.  They were standing a few yards away but she didn’t see him.

His sister, Anna joined him, saw his face and followed his gaze to where the couple stood talking.  Then, she looked back at him, concerned.  “Who is she?” she asked.

It took a moment for him to speak because he was so upset.  “Brittney.”

“Is she a friend of yours?”

“Yes.”  He turned away, unable to watch them any longer.  He started walk away and Anna followed him.

“Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“Does she know how you feel?”

“No.”

“Are you going to tell her?”

“What’s the point?” he snapped.  “She doesn’t feel the same way.”

“How do you know that?”

“We just saw her with Andre, her ex.  It’s clear that she hasn’t gotten over him and I was a fool to believe that she had.”

“Oh, Paul, I’m so sorry.  What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.  I need time to think.”

“Why don’t you go to Paris for a few days?  You haven’t taken a vacation in ages.  You’re long overdue for one.”

He glanced down at her.  “You’re right,” he said.  “I need to get away and try to figure out what I’m going to do.  If I stay here in London, I will be tempted to go to her and I can’t bear to see her right now.  It hurts too much.”  A muscle began to throb along his jawline and he quickly turned away.

Anna reached for his hand and held it tightly.  It hurt to see her brother like this.  He was a brilliant businessman but when it came to matters of the heart, he lacked good judgment.  This wasn’t the first time a woman broke his heart but it seemed that he fell really hard for this one.  Hopefully, he would get over her as soon as possible.  He deserved better.  The trip to Paris would do him good.  She went back to his flat with him and while he changed, she got his lunch ready.  She had just put a plate of food she had prepared yesterday and brought on the table for him when the phone rang.

“Do you mind answering that for me?” he called from the bedroom.

“Hello?” she listened for a moment.  “No, you have the right number.  This is Anna speaking.  Hold one moment, please.”  She placed her hand over the mouthpiece.  “It’s Brittney,” she said when he came into the living-room.

He shook his head, indicating that he didn’t want to talk to her.

“I’m afraid he’s not available at the moment.  Perhaps he will call you back later.  Goodbye.”  She replaced the receiver into the cradle and turned to look at him.  “Are you sure you don’t want to talk to her?”

He shook his head.  “I can’t right now.  I need to clear my head first.  I’ll call her when I come back from Paris.”

“All right.  Do you need me for anything?”

He smiled.  “No, Anna.  I’ll be fine.  You should go home to Peter and the kids.  I will call you tomorrow when I check into the hotel.”

She hugged him tightly.  “I love you,” she said drawing back to look up at him.

“I love you too.  And thanks for the food.”  He followed her to the door and they said goodbye.  He shut the door and leaned against it for a moment.  Why did Brittney call him? Was it to tell him that she was back with Andre.  He closed his eyes in despair.  It would kill him if she was.

Brittney stared at the phone, her mind swirling with all sorts of thoughts and questions.  A woman named Anna had answered Paul’s phone.  Who was she?  Red, hot jealousy surged through her and she was tempted to go over to his place right now and find out.  Then, she remembered that he had a sister and her name was Anna.  Relief washed over her.  Paul wasn’t seeing another woman.  But why hadn’t he come to the phone?  She looked at the clock above the mantelpiece, debating whether she should call again or wait for him to call.  It was after seven.  She decided that she would let him call her.  In the meantime, she fixed herself a light dinner and ate it in front of the television.

When ten o’clock came and she still hadn’t heard from him, she began to worry.  It wasn’t like him not to call.  It was too late for her to call him.  She would have to wait until the morning to do so.  Disappointed, she turned off the television and went to bed.

The next morning, she got up, showered, dressed and had breakfast.  After she was done, she hurried to the phone and called Paul but there was no answer.  When the machine came on, she left a message.  She went to church and as soon as she got home, she called but still no answer.  She tried his cell but it was turned off.  She tried all day calling both his home number and his cell until finally, in the evening, she decided to go over to his flat.  She rang the bell and knocked but it was clear that Paul wasn’t there.  Where could he be?  After standing there for a while, she left.  She was worried and had a restless night.

The next morning, she called him but got the same results.  She got ready for work.  On her way to the office, she called his cell but it was still turned off.  Intermittently, throughout the day, she tried to reach him but to no avail and by the time the workday was over, she was very anxious.  Why wasn’t he answering his phone and why hadn’t he called her back? When she got home, she decided that she would call his sister.  She took out the phone directory and searched for her name. She remembered that Paul said that she lived in South Kensington, twenty minutes from where he lived and that she was married to Peter Goldstein, the reporter from the Times.  She searched under Goldstein and found the number.

A woman answered and she recognized her voice.  “Hello, Anna, this is Brittney.  I spoke to you yesterday evening when I called for Paul.  Do you know where he is?  I have been trying since Saturday to reach him.  I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Hello Brittney.  Paul is in Paris.”

“Paris?” Brittney exclaimed.  “What is he doing there?  Is he there on business?”

“No.  He needed to get away.”

“What did he need to get away from?” she asked, bewildered.  “It’s not like him to go away and not tell me.  And he didn’t return my call on Saturday.  Is-is he seeing someone?”

“No.  He went to Paris alone.  Brittney, I was with him on Saturday when he came out of the synagogue and saw you with Andre.  It upset him so much that I suggested that he should take a break and go to Paris.”

“Oh no,” Brittney groaned.  “He saw me with Andre and thought—”

“That you were back with him.  He was devastated.  I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this but Paul is in love with you.”

“And I’m in love with him.  I have been for a long time.”

“He thinks that you’re still in love with Andre.”

“I’m over Andre.  I have been for a long time now and it’s because of Paul.  Meeting Paul and his friendship has changed my life.  And seeing Andre again made me realize that the feelings I had for him are nothing compared to my feelings for Paul.  Andre wanted us to pick up where we left off but I told him that I was in love with someone else.  I wished him well and then, I walked away.  My past with Andre is over and done with.  My future is with Paul.  Anna, please tell me where he’s staying.  I want to go to him.”  Her life felt so empty without him.  She missed him so much it ached.  How she longed to be with him.

There was a brief moment of silence and then, Anna told her the name of the hotel where he was staying.  After Brittney thanked her profusely, she said, “I’m very relieved to know that you love my brother and I wish you two all the happiness in the world.”

Brittney thanked her again and rang off.  She quickly called the office and informed her assistant that she was taking the rest of the week off.  Then, she dialed the number to book the first available flight for the following day to Paris.  She packed a bag, her heart thudding with excitement.  She was going to see Paul in a matter of hours.  I can’t wait to see him.

Paul stood on the terrace looking at the city bathed in the crimson glow of the setting sun, wishing she was there with him.  “Oh, Brittney,” he whispered brokenly, dragging his fingers through his hair as he ached for her.  Paris was a city for lovers.  If only Brittney and he were lovers instead of just friends.  If only she were with him instead of Andre…

Frustrated, he went back into the room and was going over to the bed to lie down when he heard a knock on the door.  Frowning, he went to answer it.  Opening it he was startled to see Brittney standing there, luggage in tow.   He blinked, thinking he was imagining things.  She couldn’t possibly be here in Paris.  Then, she said, “Hello Paul.” She reached up and touched his face, her gaze almost a caress.

He eyes darkened and he caught her hand to draw her into the room.  “What are you doing here?” he asked when he had closed the door and was facing her.

“I had to come.  I called your sister and she told me where you were.  I had been calling for you since Saturday but when I couldn’t reach you, I got really worried.  I went by your flat but you weren’t there so when I got home.  I called your sister on Monday and we spoke for a while.  She told me that you were here in Paris and explained why.  You saw me with Andre.”

His expression became drawn at the memory.  “When I saw you with him, I felt as if someone had pushed their hand into my chest and ripped out my heart.”

She moved closer to him.  “I’m so sorry that you saw us,” said, wringing her hands.  “It wasn’t at all what you thought.  Andre wanted to resume our relationship but I told him that I was in love with someone else.”

“And what did he say?” he asked as he moved closer, his heart pounding.

“Nothing but I wished him well and walked away.”

“So, it’s over between him and you.”

“Yes and it has been over for a long time now.”

He was standing right in front of her now, their bodies inches apart.  Wordlessly, he pulled her against him and his head lowered towards hers.

She watched transfixed as his face drew closer to hers, her gaze dropped to his mouth.  Her eyes closed as waves of indescribable pleasure undulated through her body when she felt his lips brush against her.  Putting her arms around his neck, she responded passionately to his kisses.  They stood there in the room in the dappled shade of the setting sun as it streaked through the windows, exchanging feverish kisses.

“I love you,” he muttered when at length, he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I love you so very much.”

She smiled at him.  “I love you too,” she told him.  “That’s what I came to Paris to tell you.”

“It’s funny but just a few minutes ago, I was wishing that you were here with me in the City of lovers and then you show up.”

“Yes.  You came to Paris to get away from me and here I am.”

“Yes, here you are.  I never want us to be apart again.  It was foolish of me to think that coming here would help in some way.  I missed you so much even when I thought you had gone back to him.”

“Let’s not think about when we were apart but enjoy being together now,” she suggested huskily.  “We are in the city of love so let’s do what lovers do.”

“Yes,” he whispered and picked her up in his arms.

 

 

 

 

The Cabin

Bethany lay there, thinking about Lysander and his winsome smile.  Groaning, she turned over in the bed, burying her face in the pillow.  She was mad at him yet, she missed him so much.  She knew that if she weren’t laid up here in bed, her body covered in hives, she would be driving up to the cabin to see him.  Why on earth did she have the chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert, knowing that she was allergic to them?  She blamed it on what happened between Lysander and her.   Depressed, she thought having what used to be her favorite comfort food would help her to feel better.  It didn’t.  She was still depressed.  Sighing heavily, she allowed her thoughts to drift back to that last visit to the cabin…

It was a mild winter day so she decided that she would drive up to the cabin.  She had a proclivity for showing up unannounced, especially after she had a row with her sister-in-law.  Her teeth gritted when she thought of Cicely.  Who was she to tell her that she shouldn’t go about throwing herself at Lysander, a man who was so much older than her?  She wished Cicely would stop telling her to date a guy at her university or trying to set her up with her friends’ sons.  She was old enough to know what she wanted and she wanted Lysander.

She had known him since she was a child but fell in love with him when she became a teenager.  He was her brother’s best friend and best man at his wedding.  Lysander was always very nice to her but he treated her like a little sister which frustrated her.  Sometimes she felt like they were Almonzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie before Almonzo noticed Laura.  Would the same thing happen for her?  Would there come a time when Lysander would see her as a woman instead of a little girl?

All of these thoughts were running through her mind as she made her way to the cabin which was about an hour’s drive from the city.  It was a cozy place in the woods and very peaceful.  It was no wonder that Lysander spent so much of his time there.  He was there every weekend and during the holidays.  When she visited they would go for long walks and then return to sit outside for hours, talking, having lunch or playing card games.  She was looking forward to seeing him and her foot pressed down a little harder on the accelerator.

Soon the cabin was in sight and her heart began to pound.  As she pulled up, she saw his jeep and the door on the driver-side was open.  He was either on his way out or had just arrived home.  She stopped the car a little distance away and turned off the engine.  After fixing her hair and checking her face in the mirror, she grabbed her handbag and got out of the car.  He was still sitting in his jeep so she walked over to him.  “Hello, Ly,” she called out, smiling.  Her smile soon faded, though, when she saw the expression on his face.  He wasn’t smiling at all.

“What are you doing here, Beth?” he asked.  She couldn’t tell if he was getting in or out of the vehicle when she showed up.  She hoped that it was the latter.

“I came to see you, of course,” she replied flippantly although she was wary.  She had hoped that he would be pleased to see her. They hadn’t seen each other in about two weeks.  He had been out of town on business and got back yesterday.  Didn’t he miss her?  She had missed him like crazy.  Her gaze slipped over him as he got out of the jeep.  He looked sexy in the tan colored jacket with the fur trimmed hood and collar and the leather pants.  How she longed to run over and throw her arms around him but his demeanor was not forthcoming and she doubted that he would welcome such a display of emotion.   “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“You can’t keep dropping by unexpectedly like this,” he said.  “What if I had company?”

She stiffened.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “Are you seeing someone?”  The thought of him seeing another woman was unbearable.

He sighed.  “Beth, you and I can’t continue seeing each other like this.”

“Why not?” she asked in a trembling voice.  This couldn’t be happening.

His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her face.  “My feelings for you have changed.”

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding.  “They have?”

“Yes.  I’m deeply attracted to you.” His gaze lowered to her lips and his parted.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he said to her, “I think it would be best if you go now.”

Shaking her head, she reached up and held his face between her hands.  “Don’t send me away, Ly,” she pleaded huskily.  “Let me stay.  I want to be with you.”  Before he could say anything, she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him.  She moaned when she felt his response and his hands go around her waist, pressing her tightly against him.  They stood there in the crisp wintry air with the sun bathing them, exchanging passionate kisses.  She loved and wanted him so much it ached.

Lysander continued to kiss her and then he pulled away, his face flushed.  It took a moment for him to catch his breath.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “Please go.”

“But, I don’t want to go,” she protested, reaching for him again but he stepped back.  “I love you, Ly.  I love you so much.  Please let me stay.”

“No!” he cried, startling her.  “I’m too old for you.  You should be with someone your own age.”

“I wish you would stop using our age difference as an excuse,” she retorted.  “I’m twenty-four years old and you’re forty.  So, we have sixteen years between us, why is that such a big deal?”

“You should be with someone your own age,” he insisted.

“So, you are willing to throw away what you and I could have because of something as stupid as our age difference?” her voice was trembling now.  She was hurt and angry.

“I doing what I think is the only viable thing to do.  In time you will get over me.”

“Fine,” she cried.  “I will go away and leave you alone–” her sob rose to her throat before she could stifle it and she turned and ran back to her car, ignoring him as he called after her.  She yanked open the door and got in, slamming it behind her.  Her fingers shook as she put the key in the ignition and turned it.

The tears were falling now and almost blinded her.  She saw him coming towards the car and she quickly reversed and raced off down the gravel.  When she got back to the city, she went to a secluded spot where she broke down and cried.  Her heart ached for Lysander.  Her lips still felt tender from his kisses and she knew that if he were to call her on her cell then and asked her to go back, she would in a heartbeat.

That was three weeks ago.  She hadn’t seen nor heard from him since that awful day.  And now she was stuck in the house because of a bowl of strawberries.  The antihistamine she had taken seemed to be working because the headache was gone and the swelling was going away.  In a matter of hours or in a day or two she should be back to normal.  Until then, she didn’t want to see anyone.  She closed her eyes.  When she opened them again, it was morning.

She sat up and stretched.  It looked like another beautiful sunny day.  I wonder what Lysander is doing now.   Is he thinking about me?  Probably not.  She felt her eyes well with tears at the thought but she quickly blinked them back.  I’m not going to cry.  The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness.  She threw back the covers.  The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness.  She got out of bed.  After soaking in a warm, oatmeal bath, she got dressed in loose clothing and went downstairs to have breakfast.  Cicely was sitting at the kitchen table having hers.  “Good morning,” she greeted her sister-in-law.

“Good morning,” Cicely said, watching her as she helped herself to some scrambled eggs, toast and tea.  “How are you feeling?”

“Much better, thanks.  By tomorrow, the swelling and the hives will be completely gone.  Where’s Derek?”

“He had to take the car to the mechanic.  It has been giving trouble again.  I have been telling him to get rid of it and buy a new one”

“He loves that car.  He’s had it for years.  I can’t see him buying a new one any time soon.”

“Buying a new car would be better than wasting money on a beaten up old one but it’s his decision, I guess.  So, do you have any plans for today?”

Bethany shook her head.  “I don’t plan on going anywhere until my skin clears up.  I’ll just catch up on my reading and do some studying.”

There was a pregnant pause and then, “Lysander was here last night.”

Bethany stared at her.  “Ly was here?” she exclaimed.  “When?” It must have been when she was sleeping.

“Around eight-thirty.  He stopped by to see Derek but he asked for you.”

“What did you tell him?” she asked, her heart racing.  How she wished she had been awake when he came by.  She would have gotten out of bed, dressed and gone downstairs just to see him.

“I, um—told him that you weren’t at home—”

“Why did you tell him that?” she demanded.  “He must have seen my car parked in the driveway.”

“Well, I told him that you were on a date—”

Bethany glared at her.  “Why did you do that?” she demanded.  “Are you trying to ruin my life?  You know I love Lysander and that he’s the only man I want to be with.  Why did you make him believe that I was seeing someone?  Do you dislike me that much, Cicely?”

“I don’t dislike you, Bethany and I’m not out to ruin your life.  I still think that Lysander is too old for you but after seeing his reaction to what I said, I realize that your feelings for him are not one-sided.”

“What do you mean?” Bethany was on the edge of her chair now.

“I believe that Lysander is in love with you.  I saw the look on his face when I told him that you were on a date.  He looked hurt, devastated.  I felt bad for lying to him and wanted to tell him the truth but he said he had to go and to give his apologies to Derek and then he left.”

Bethany pushed back her chair and got up.  She had lost her appetite.

Cicely looked up at her.  “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Where do you think?” Bethany retorted, giving her a withering look.  “To see Lysander.”

“Do you think you should drive all that way now—so early in the morning?”

“When do you think I should go or do you even think I should go at all?”

“Well, I think it would be best for you to see him somewhere else rather than driving over to his place.  A girl your age shouldn’t be alone with a man as experienced as Lysander—”

“I’m not a girl and this isn’t the 1800s.  Now, you have interfered in my life for the last time, Cicely.  As soon as I graduate in the summer, I will find a job and move out.” She turned and marched out of the room, her expression thunderous.

In ten minutes, she was on her way to the cabin.  She had no idea of what kind of reception she would get but she had to see him and clear up the misunderstanding.  What he must think of her now, especially after her declaration of love.  How could she say she loved him and then go out on a date just three weeks later?

She gripped the steering wheel as fresh anger toward Cicely consumed her.  When Lysander asked for her, why couldn’t she have told him that she was not feeling well or come and let her know that he was there?  No, she decided to take it upon herself and tell him an outright lie.  Oh, Ly, she cried, tears stinging her eyes.  I hope Cicely is right and that you love me too.

When she got there, his jeep was parked outside. Relieved, she quickly parked her car and ran to the front door, letting herself in.  It was nice and toasty in the living-room.  She removed her coat and boots and then went over to the fire to warm her hands.  She looked around.  Why was Lysander?  It was so quiet.  Perhaps he was still sleeping or maybe he was outside getting more wood for the fireplace.

She went to the window and looked out.  There was no sign of him.  It was such a beautiful sunny day, albeit a bit nippy.  Perhaps he went for a walk.  Then, she heard a sound in the bedroom and she hurried to investigate.  The door was ajar and she opened it wide enough to go in.  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Lysander.

He was standing in front of the bureau.  His broad, bare back was toward her and she allowed her gaze to travel slowly over his muscular frame clad only in a pair of jeans.  He had taken a sweater out of the drawer and was about to pull it on.  She watched him, her heart pounding wildly.  How she longed to go up behind him and put her arms around him while she buried her face in his smooth skin…

He turned around and started when he saw her standing there, gawking at him.  Dragging on the sweater, he demanded, “What on earth are you doing here?”

“I—I came to see you.”

He pulled the sweater down, covering his torso as he watched her, his expression inscrutable.  “When did you get here?  I didn’t hear your car.”

“I came about ten minutes ago.  You were probably in the shower when I arrived.”  His hair was glistening damply in the light coming through the windows.  Her fingers itched to run themselves through the silky strands.  “It has been three weeks since we last saw each other, Ly.  How have you been?”

“I’m fine,” he said curtly.  “I don’t have to ask you how you’ve been.”

Her eyes widened.  “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been dating.  You don’t waste any time, do you?” His face was glowering now.

“That’s not true,” she protested, crossing the carpet to stand a few feet away from him.  “I’m not dating.”

“When I stopped by last night, Cicely told me that you were out on a date.”

“She lied to you, Ly.  I was upstairs in my room sleeping when you stopped by.  I came down with hives because I ate too many strawberries.  If you don’t believe me, I will show you the rashes on my arms.  They are going away but you can still see them.  I haven’t been anywhere since I got them a couple of days ago.”

“Why would she lie to me?”

“She lied to you because she thinks that I should be with someone my own age.”

“Perhaps she’s right—”

“No, she isn’t.  I don’t want to be with anyone else, Ly.  I love you and I want to be with you.  If you don’t feel the same way about me, tell me now and–and I will go away.”  She moved closer and her mouth went dry when she saw the expression on his face.

He reached for her and pulled her roughly against him.  “I can’t let you go,” he told her thickly.  “I love you, Beth.  That’s why I came to see you last night.  I wanted to tell you that I was sorry about the way I acted that day at the cabin.  As soon as you drove away, I was afraid that I was making a terrible mistake.  I wanted to come after you but I decided that it was probably the best thing for us not to see each other for a while until I could really think things through.  During the time when we didn’t see each other, I nearly went out of my mind thinking about you and missing you.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s why I decided to come to you.  When Cicely told me that you were on a date, I was blindsided.  It was the last thing I expected to hear, especially after you told me that you loved me.  I realized then that in spite of what I said to you, the last thing I wanted was for you to be with someone else.”

She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him, loving the feel of his firm body against hers.  “The important thing is that we’re together now,” she told him huskily before she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

The following week, they got engaged and in the summer after she graduated from university, they got married in a small, intimate wedding ceremony.  Derek was the best man.  After they returned from their honeymoon in Nice, Lysander sold his flat in London and they moved into the cabin.

 

The Breakup

She stood there watching Philip and his date.  They were at his sister’s Julia’s engagement party.  Julia and she were friends since high school and it was during the summer holidays at a beach resort where she first met Philip.  The attraction was immediate and they wasted no time getting to know each other.  After dinner, they would go for strolls along the beach or to a nightclub.  One night they enjoyed the percussive guitar playing of a Cuban artist.  Afterwards, they went back to his bungalow and made love.  No one suspected that anything was going on between them.  She slipped out after dinner and he followed some time later.

They began a torrid romance which lasted for little over a year.  She should have known what was coming, especially since Philip was adamant that they kept their relationship a secret.  They always met at his flat because she roomed with Julia.  He would take her home but never see her to the door.

She closed her eyes as she recalled that evening when he broke her heart.  They were sitting in his car outside of the apartment building where she lived.  They had just come from his flat.  As she turned toward him, he said, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

She swallowed hard, her heart thudding.  Dread filled her.  “Why?” she asked in a trembling voice.  She loved him so much.  The thought of not being with him anymore was unbearable.

“I’m so much older than you,” he said.  “You’re twenty-one and I’m thirty-nine.  I’m going to forty in December.”

“Our age difference doesn’t matter to me,” she cried.

He turned to look at her then.  “But, it does to me,” he said quietly.  “You should be with someone closer to your age–”

“I don’t want to be with someone closer to my age,” she cried.  Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I want to be with you, Philip.”

He closed his eyes.  “Please don’t make this harder than it already is.”

She stared at him for a long time and grabbing her handbag, she turned and pushed open the door.  “Goodbye, Philip,” she said before jumping out of the car and slamming the door.  Blinded by tears, she ran towards the entrance to the building and ran all the way to the lift.  Thankfully, no one was in the lift but still she tried to hold it in.  After fumbling with the key in the lock, she let herself in and headed straight for her room.  Fortunately, Julia wasn’t there.  She closed the door, flung her bag on the floor and threw herself on the bed, her body racked with the sobs she had held back.

That was three months ago.  Now, here she was watching the man she still loved with someone else.  She turned away, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall.  He didn’t waste any time, she thought.  Here she was pining over him and he was with a tall, statuesque redhead.  How could he?  He knew that she was going to be there tonight.  How could he flaunt his new love interest in her face like that?  How she wished she could hate him but try as she did, she couldn’t stop loving him.

She wanted to get out of there but what would Julia think?  As she stood there, wondering what to do, David, Julia’s other brother joined her.  David was a nice guy and wanted to go out with her but she wasn’t interested in him.  “What’s the matter, Daniela?” he asked, looking a bit concerned.

“I–I’m not feeling very well,” she said.  “Maybe a bit of fresh air will help.”

“You seem upset about something.  Is it Philip?”

She looked at him, startled.  How on earth did he guess that Philip was the source of her distress?  “Philip?” she repeated, feigning ignorance.

“Yes.  I saw when the two of you went to his bungalow in the Bahamas.  I had gone for a walk and was on my way back to mine when I saw you.”

She was speechless.  David had seen them.  David knew about them.  Yet, he hadn’t said anything until now.  “How come you didn’t say anything?”

“I wanted to confront you about it but decided that it would be wise to hold my tongue.  I was upset, though, for again I was the underdog because another girl I had a high regard for had fallen for my big brother.  I regret to say that I was hoping that things wouldn’t work out between you and him. ”

“Well, you got your wish,” she said in a choked voice.  “He dumped me.”

David looked contrite.  “Daniela, I’m sorry.”  He reached out and put his arm around her shoulder.

She felt the tears coming and was desperate to get out of there.  “Excuse me,” she said and quickly walked away.  The terrace was empty and she leaned against the rail, her fingers gripping it as she let the tears run unabatedly down her cheeks.  The pain in her chest was almost suffocating.  How on earth was she going to go back in there and face everyone when she was in such a state?

She heard footsteps behind her and after quickly wiping away the tears she turned, stiffening when she saw that it was Philip.  He stopped a few feet away from her, observing her closely.  “You’ve been crying,” he said.  He made a move to touch her face but she turned away.  “You don’t want me to touch you yet, you didn’t seem to mind David touching you.”

“David didn’t touch me.”

“I saw him put his arm around your shoulder.  Are you in a relationship with him?”

“I don’t see how that is any of your business,” she said.

“It is,” he muttered tightly.  “Are you and he seeing each other?”

She swung round then to face him, her chest rising and falling swiftly as all sorts of conflicting emotions surged through her.  She wanted to slap him and then kiss him.  “What does it matter to you?  You dumped me, remember?”

“If you and David are in a relationship, I want you to end it.”

You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she retorted.  “You lost that right when you ended our relationship.  Besides, David cares for me—”

His expression darkened and his fingers clenched into tight fists at his sides.  “What about you?” he asked tensely.  “Do you care for him too?”

His question upset her.  Did he really think that she had gotten over him as easily as he had her? “Why don’t you leave me alone, Philip?  Go back to your date.  She’s probably wondering where you are.”

He stared at her.  “My date?”

“Yes!  The beautiful redhead I saw you with.  You didn’t waste any time jumping into bed with someone else, did you?”

“That redhead happens to be my cousin,” was his terse reply.  “She flew in from Paris alone.  Her husband is away on business.  That’s why I brought her to the party.”

“She’s your cousin.”

“Yes.  I want you to stop seeing David.”

“I see.  So, that’s how it’s going to be.  You don’t want me but you don’t want anyone else to have me.”

He moved closer, his eyes darkening on her face.  “You think I don’t want you?” he asked.

“Yes,” the word came out as a sob.

Muttering under his breath, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him.  “Does this feel as if I don’t want you?” he demanded thickly.

Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes were wide as they met his stormy ones.  Then, he was kissing her and in spite of herself she responded.  Her arms went around his neck and she felt his hands pressed her even tightly against him.  They exchanged frenzied kisses as if to make up for the time they had been apart.  The hurt and anger she had felt just a few moments ago dissolved and in their place was the satisfaction of knowing that Philip still wanted her.

It was a long time before they broke off the kiss and stared at each other.  “I was fool to let you go,” he said huskily.  “I allowed our age difference to come between us.  Seeing you tonight made me realize how I had allowed fear to jeopardize my happiness.”

She crinkled her forehead.  “Fear?” she repeated.  “What were you afraid of?”

“I fell hard for you—a girl so much younger than me and I was afraid that after a while your feelings for me would change.  I feared that you would wind up falling in love with another guy—one closer to your age.  So, to save myself the trouble of waiting until that happened I decided to end the relationship when I did.  Believe me, it wasn’t easy but I felt I had no other choice.  I was so afraid of getting hurt that I didn’t consider that you were getting hurt in the process.  I thought that in time you would get over me.”

“That night when you broke up with me was the worst night in my life.  I felt as if my heart had been ripped out.  I wasn’t infatuated with you, Philip.  I loved you.  I still love you and will never stop loving you.  I have seen many guys on campus and off campus and some of them have asked me out but I turned all of them down.  David asked me out and I turned him down.  I couldn’t go out with any of them because of you.  I didn’t want to be with anyone else.  And tonight when I saw you with the woman I thought was your date, I was hurt and angry.  It seemed as if you had gotten over me very easily.”

“I haven’t been with anyone else,” he told her.  “I could have dated several women but I didn’t because I couldn’t stop thinking about you and longing for you.  Many times I was tempted to stop by your flat on the pretext of visiting Julia.  I often wondered how you were and if you were dating anyone.  Whenever I saw Julia, I wanted to inquire about you but was afraid that I would give my feelings away.  I knew that I was going to see you tonight and braced myself for the possibility that you would show up with someone.  And when I saw you with David, I assumed that you were involved.  When I saw him put his arm around you, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  I wanted to come over there and separate you but I saw you leave.  I followed you.   I had no idea what I was going to say to you because it has been months since we last saw each other but I just knew that I had to be alone with you.”

“I was angry with you just now when you asked me about David.  You seemed to think that I was so fickle that I would go from one brother to the next, sort of on a rebound.”

“I was speaking out of jealousy,” he said.  “I thought what I had feared had come true—that you had gotten over me with David.  When I saw that you had been crying, I thought it was because of him and when I tried to comfort you, you recoiled from me.”

“I was crying because of you.  David saw that I was upset and guessed that you were the reason.  He told me that he saw us going into your bungalow.  He knows about us.  I told him that you ended our relationship and then I left and came out here.  I didn’t want you to touch me because I knew that if you did, I wouldn’t be able to help myself.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he muttered thickly.  “That night when you said goodbye and left my car, it took superhuman strength for me not to get out and run after you and tell that I had made a terrible mistake.  During the months we have been apart, I have been kicking myself for letting you walk out of my life.”

“So, where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want us to get married,” he said.  “I don’t want to waste anymore time.”

Tears of joy came to her eyes.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  I love you, Daniela.”

She smiled through the tears.  “I love you too, Philip,” she said huskily.

He lowered his head and kissed her.  Her arms around his neck tightened as she kissed him back.

 

 

Love in the Office

When she went to the kitchenette to fill her bottle with water, Anton was there telling a couple of people about his camping trip with his friends.  She couldn’t help but smile.  He was such a droll when it came to telling stories.  She filled her bottle and turned so that she was facing the group.

“Sounds like you had a lot of fun on your camping trip,” she said a few minutes later, when they were alone.

He went over to where she was.  “I did,” he said, his eyes riveted to her face.

She wondered if he knew how much his closeness affected her.  “Good,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  “Where did you go camping?”

“Wild Boar Wood in West Sussex.”

“So, were there any women on your camping trip?” She had to ask.

He shook his head.  “No, just the guys.”

She couldn’t hide her relief and she saw his expression change.

“Even if women were there, I wouldn’t have been interested in any of them,” he said quietly.  “You must know by now, Tina, that I’m deeply attracted to you.”

Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and she seemed to have trouble breathing.  “I’m your supervisor,” she reminded him.

“Yes, I know that we have a working relationship but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  I know that you’re attracted to me.  I saw the look on your face when I told you that there weren’t any women on the camping trip.  You don’t want me to be with another woman any more than I want you to be with another man.  You can’t deny that you have feelings for me, Tina.  I can see it on your face.”

Her resolve was beginning to weaken.  “I’m older than you,” she said.

“Age is just a number,” he said dismissively.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“All right,” she acquiesced.  “You win.” She was no match for the emotions that raged within her or his power of persuasion.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll pick you at seven-thirty.”

“I think we should get back to work now,” she said.

“Right,” he agreed.  “I’ll get started on the report you asked me for.”  He excused himself and quickly walked away.

For several minutes, she stood there, wondering if she had acted wisely.  She couldn’t get past the fact that she was his supervisor and that there was a considerable age difference between them.   Yet, try as she did, she couldn’t deny her feelings for Anton.

From the moment she first saw him, she knew that she was in trouble.  His good looks, charm and friendly disposition made him irresistible.  Working with him was a challenge.  Many times, she found herself watching him and wondering if he had a girlfriend.  She couldn’t imagine that someone like him would be unattached.  It bothered her to see him talking to other women in the department, especially the younger ones.

Just yesterday, she had walked by the photocopier on her way to the boardroom for a meeting when she saw him standing there talking to Wendy, a pretty redhead.  He had his back turned to her so he didn’t notice her.  Her steps faltered and as she watched them talking, red, hot jealousy raged inside her.  She was tempted to go over there and interrupt them but she came to her senses and hurried away before he saw her.  When she was in the meeting, she had to literally force herself to focus on the business at hand and put the sight of Anton and Wendy out of her mind.  Later when they were alone in her office going over some files, she said, “Wendy’s pretty, isn’t she?”

He glanced up at her.  “I suppose so,” he said.

“I saw the two of you at the photocopier earlier today.  I think she likes you.”

“Are you trying to set me up with her?” he asked, startling her.

“No,” she protested.  “I—I was just making an observation.”

“Wendy’s a very nice girl but I’m not attracted to her.”  He was staring at her now and the expression on his face made her heart palpitate.  That was the first time she became aware of his attraction for her.

“Tina, Mr. Foster is waiting for you in your office.”  Annette’s voice brought her back to the present.

“Thanks, Annette,” she said and followed her out of the kitchenette.

Several hours later when it was time to leave, Anton stopped by her office.  She was straightening her desk.  He went over to her.  “Normally, I would tell you to have a good weekend,” he said.  “But, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”

“Yes,” she said.  She handed him a slip of paper with her address on it.  When he took it, their fingers touched and her breath caught in her throat.  Her skin seemed to burn.  Their eyes met and held for a long time before she turned away to remove her jacket from the back of her chair.   “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Tina.”  She heard him leave and turned round when he closed the door behind him.

Her skin still tingled where his fingers had touched it.  She traced the area, her heart pounding when she remembered the expression on his face as they stared at each other.  The desire she saw there was unmistakable.  She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t turned away.  On the drive home, she mulled over it and nervous excitement rose in her whenever she thought of seeing Anton the following evening.  What on earth am I going to wear? She wondered, racking her brains to see if there was an outfit that would be suitable.  It had been ages since she had been on a date and it felt very strange going on one with someone she worked closely with.

As soon as she got home, she searched for something to wear and settled on a dress she had bought a month ago and had worn only once.  It was a black slash neck dress with a flare skirt.  On Saturday evening, she put it on and was satisfied with how it looked.  She wore her hair in a chignon, allowing a few tendrils to frame her face.  The strappy black and silver heels completed the outfit.  The doorbell rang just as she took one last look at herself in the mirror.  When she opened the door and saw Anton standing there, her heart leapt.  He looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey suit with the black dress shirt and black tie.  His eyes slid over her and when they returned to her face, admiration and desire shone in their depths.   “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

“So do you.”  As they walked to the lift, she could feel him watching her and she smiled, flattered.

The restaurant, set in a snug 18th century townhouse, was atmospheric in that the tables candle lit.   Over dinner, he told her about himself.  His father was British and his mother French.  He had an older brother and a younger sister.  He asked many questions about her and her family.

When they were having dessert, he said with a serious expression on his face, “I want to have a relationship with you, Tina.  I know that you are hesitant because we work together and the age difference but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  It’s so hard for me to be around you and not want to touch you or kiss you.  Quite a few people in our department are dating each other.  At least, let’s give it a try and see what happens.   What do you say?”

She toyed with her Black Currant Sorbet for a moment and then, looking up at him, she nodded.  “Yes, let’s give it a try.”  He was right.  There was nothing to prevent them from having a relationship except her own misgivings which she knew had to do with her fear of getting hurt.  She still couldn’t believe that he was attracted to her instead of someone closer to his age.

He smiled and reaching over, he caressed her hand, making her pulse race.  They spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and made plans to see each other the following day.  When he took her home, he leaned down and was about to kiss her on the cheek when, heart thudding, she turned her head so that their lips touched.

Groaning, he deepened the kiss while backing her into the flat.  Once they were inside, he kicked the door shut, his mouth moving feverishly over hers.  She clung to him, kissing him back while her hands removed his jacket.  His tie and shirt soon followed and then, she broke off the kiss, panting and grabbing him by the hand, she took him to her room.

The following day at the office, they smiled and kept exchanging knowing looks.  She felt like a lovesick schoolgirl.   When other people were around, they acted professionally around each other as before. They spent every evening together, either at her flat or his.  Over the weekends, they went for drives, to the cinema, dinner, the theatre, concerts and nightclubs or for walks along the Quay.  Tina knew that she was falling in love with him and hoped that he was with her.  Once when he was taking a shower, she joined him and as he gazed down into her face, the water beating on his back, she saw the look in his eyes before he kissed her.  There was no doubt in her mind that he cared for her.

One afternoon, she was on her way home to visit her sister, Vivien when she spotted Anton in front of a café.  He was not alone.   There was a traffic signal right there and she stopped as the light turned to red, craning her neck to see him and the girl he was with.  She watched as he leaned over and said something to the pretty brunette, making her throw back her head and laugh.  Then, she saw the girl reach up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him closely.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as jealousy ripped through her.

The honk of a car horn behind her startled her.  Dragging her eyes from the two figures on the sidewalk, she glanced up and saw that the light had changed to green.  She pressed her foot on the gas and drove off.  All sorts of thoughts were running through her mind.  Who was the girl and what was he doing with her?  And what about me?  Is he getting bored of me?  But he couldn’t be—not after the way he made love to me last night.  She trembled at the memory.  Is he seeing the both of us at the same time?  Is he sleeping with her too? The pain and jealousy almost suffocated her.

How she managed to get to Vivien’s home without getting into an accident, she had no idea.  As soon as her sister opened the door, she broke down.  Concerned, Vivien hugged her for a moment until she had calmed down, then she put her arm around her shoulder and led her over to the sofa.  “Tell me what’s got you so upset,” she encouraged her gently.  She handed her the box of tissues that was on the coffee table and waited patiently while she dried her eyes and wiped her nose.  “I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Taking her time, Tina told her everything.  “I love him, Vivien.  It really hurt to see him with her.”

“Does he love you?”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He hasn’t said so as yet.”

“Based on what you have told me, it’s obvious that he has feelings for you.  There might not be anything going on between him and the girl.  It may all turn out to be innocent.  When you see him tomorrow, ask him about her.”

“And what if he’s seeing her?”

“Then, you must end your relationship with him.” She reached out and covered her hands.  “I hope it all works out for you, Tina.”

Tina didn’t answer.  At that moment, her world was in an upheaval and she didn’t know what she was going to do if it turned out that Anton was two-timing her.

She drove to work the next day, feeling awful.  She hadn’t slept a wink at all last night.  Anton wasn’t at his desk when she got in and she went into her office and closed the door.  She knew she couldn’t avoid him but she dreaded the moment when she would have to talk to him.  Once when he knocked on the door and poked his head in, she pretended that she was on the phone.  He didn’t disturb her after that.

It was after twelve when she came out of her office and stopped short when she saw the same girl she had seen Anton with sitting in a chair next to his desk.  What is she doing here, she wondered, resentfully.  The girl didn’t see her.  She was sitting with her back turned to her and was on her cell phone texting.

She was tempted to walk over to her and find out who she was.  As she stood there, trying to figure out what to do, Anton came up behind her.   She felt him caress her arm and she swung round to face him.

“What’s the matter?” he asked when he saw the expression on her face.

“Who’s the girl over there at your desk?” she demanded in a low, angry voice.  She couldn’t hide her jealousy.

He looked over her shoulder and then back at her.  “You mean my sister?” he asked, raising his eyebrows quizzically.

She gaped at him.  “Your sister?” she repeated, wondering if she had heard correctly.

“Yes, my sister.  Come, let me introduce you.”  He took her by the arm and led her over to the brunette who glanced up at them.  “This is my sister, Louise.  Louise, this is Tina.”

Louise smiled and held out her hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Tina.  Anton has told me so much about you.”

Tina shook her hand, dazed and feeling like a complete fool.  “It’s nice to meet you too,” she murmured.

Anton turned to her, “Louise and I are going to have lunch.  Would you like to join us?”

She shook her head.  “Thank you, but I already had my lunch and I have a meeting in about fifteen minutes.”

Anton grabbed his jacket and pulled it on.  “I’ll see you when I get back.”

Louise stood up.  She was a tall girl.  “I hope to see you again, Tina,” she said.

Tina managed a smile.  “Me too.”  She watched them as they walked away and then went back into her office.  She sat down at her desk and leaned her head against the leather upholstery, her mind whirling.  The heaviness which had been on her heart was gone.  She went to her meeting in better spirits.  When it was over, she went back to her office and waited for Anton to return from lunch.

When he did, she called him on his extension, asking him to go in and see her.  He went in right away and walked over to her desk.  “You’ve been avoiding me all morning,” he said, “and I’d like to know why.”

She got up from the desk and went up to him.  “I have a confession to make,” she said quietly, wringing her hands nervously.  “Yesterday I saw you with Louise, only I didn’t know at the time that she was your sister and I thought…”

“And you thought that I was seeing another woman behind your back.  Oh, Tina,” he groaned, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration.  “How could you think such a thing?  Can’t you tell by now that I love you?”

Her heart stopped.  “You love me?”

“Yes! I love you so much that I ache inside.”

“I love you too.  I’m sorry for being such a jealous fool.  When I saw you with her, I was so hurt, so jealous.  I—I was going to talk to you about it today but I couldn’t seem to work up the courage to do so.”

He reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of other women,” he told her huskily.  “I love you.  I want to be with you.  I want to marry you.”

She stared at him.  “Marry me?”

“Yes.  That’s why you saw me with Louise yesterday.  She went with me to De Beers to help me to choose a ring for you.  I was planning to propose to you tonight over dinner at my place.  Afterwards, we went to a cafe.  You must have seen us just before we parted company.”

She began to cry and he hugged her tightly.  “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed.

He drew back to look down at her.  “What are you sorry about?” he asked.

“I’m sorry for ruining your surprise and for doubting you…”

“Don’t  cry,” he said.  “You haven’t ruined anything and I would have reacted the same way if I had seen you hugging a strange man.

She smiled at him through her tears.  “I’m so lucky to have you,” she cried.

He cupped her face between his hands and rubbed the tears away with his thumbs.  “I’m the lucky one,” he muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.  Wrapping her arms tightly around his waist, she kissed him back.

Slide1

 

Sources:  Time Out;Ali Express; Andrew Edmunds; De Beers

 

The Flirtation

Christian was pulling on his shirt when the doorbell rang. He quickly buttoned it and tucked in his trousers before leaving the bedroom to go and open the door. He peered through the keyhole and smiled when he saw that it was Amanda.

He buttoned his cuffs after opening the door and stood there in the aperture, his gaze travelling over her slim figure in the light grey skirt suit and the dark purple tee top underneath. “Good morning,” he said softly. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Amanda tried to ignore the fact that he looked incredibly handsome in the stark white shirt that accentuated his olive skin and tried to avoid looking into those amazing eyes of his which seemed to see right through her. She showed him the folder she had in her hand. “I brought over the proxy form for you to take with you to the shareholders’ meeting in Boston. Your uncle has already signed it.”

Christian glanced down at it. “You didn’t have to bring it over here, you know,” he said. “I could have easily dropped by the office before heading to the airport.”

“I wanted to save you the trouble,” she said, still avoiding his eyes.

“Well, thank you for taking the trouble. I appreciate it. I would ask you to come in but I am pressed for time.”

“I didn’t come to stay,” she replied shortly. “I just came to drop this off. I have to be heading to the office now.” She held the folder out to him.

He took it but not without deliberately brushing his fingers against her hand. It was then that her eyes flew up to his face and his darkened when he saw what was reflected in them. “Before you leave, let me give you something to think about,” he muttered and before she knew what was happening, he put one arm around her waist and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp. Then his mouth was on hers, moving passionately and unable to help herself, she responded.

They stood there for several minutes exchanging feverish kisses and then, he raised his head to stare down into her upturned face, his own flushed. “I’ll see you when I get back,” he said and released her.

She stood there, trying to catch her breath. Her legs felt like jelly and without saying a word, she turned and made her way to the lift. She pressed the button frantically and was relieved when the doors opened. She stepped inside and after pressing for the lobby, she leaned against the panel. Her lips were throbbing from the onslaught of his and her hand still tingled where his fingers had caressed it. She hadn’t seen that coming. He had always flirted with her but she didn’t think he was serious. A moment ago, she was proven wrong. It was very clear that he was attracted to her and she couldn’t hide the fact that she was attracted to him too. Now what? She worked for his uncle. Would the old man approve?

Widowed and childless, Christian was all the family he had and he treated him more as a son than a nephew, no doubt planning to one day leave the business to him. He seemed to have Christian’s future all planned and it wouldn’t surprise her if he had someone in mind for him to one day marry. Perhaps, he already did. Her mind went to Hope, the pretty blonde whom she had seen Christian with on several occasions.

Mr. Walker seemed very taken with her and always talking about how lucky the man who married her would be and following that latter remark, his gaze would immediately alight on his nephew, leaving no doubt that he hoped for a match between them. Amanda would say nothing. It wasn’t her place to but the idea of Christian marrying Hope bothered her more than she cared to admit.

Christian didn’t flirt with her when his uncle was around. Usually, they were alone when he did and it disconcerted her because she didn’t know if he was simply amusing himself at her expense. Now she knew that his interest in her was real and not a game. The doors drew open and she stepped out of the lift. She stumbled down the steps and climbed into the taxi cab waiting at the curb.

As it headed to the office, she leaned her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes. How she was going to get through the day now, she had no idea. Her thoughts would be filled with Christian and what happened between them in the hallway outside of his flat. Already, she missed him and he hadn’t even left the country as yet. He would be gone for a week. She hoped the days would go by quickly so that she could see him again.

When she got to the office, Mr. Walker was already there. She opened her desk drawer, put her handbag in before she went to see him. He smiled as she approached his desk. “Good morning, Amanda,” he greeted her jovially. “Did you have a good weekend?”

“Good morning, Mr. Walker. Yes, I had a good weekend, thank you. I wanted to let you know that I dropped off the proxy form at Christian’s flat.”

“That’s fine, fine. I think it would be good experience for him to AGM meeting for a change. I have been attending them for years. It’s time for someone younger and just as capable to attend in my absence. And it’s good for our business partners to get better acquainted with Christian who will soon be taking over the reins—it’s only a matter of time.”

She stood there not sure of what to say next. “I have been Boston and it’s a great city,” she finally remarked. “I hope he will set aside some time for sightseeing.”

“Yes, yes,” he agreed. “It’s too bad Hope isn’t with him. I’m sure she would enjoy seeing something of the city too.”

It was then that Amanda decided to excuse herself. She didn’t want to hear him go on and on about Hope. At her desk, she got busy with work, although more frequently than not, her mind drifted to incident between Christian and her. She closed her eyes every time she remembered the sensation of his lips on hers. Once when she did that, she was startled when she suddenly heard Mr. Walker’s voice above her.

Flustered, she apologized to him and tried to concentrate on what he was instructing her to do. For the rest of the day, she forced herself to focus on her job and to put Christian out of her mind. At home, when she was alone, she could afford to think about him as much as she wanted.

She was relieved when Friday evening came and looked forward to a quiet weekend. The phone rang when she was about to fix herself something for dinner. “Hello?”

“Hello Amanda.” It was Christian.

Her heartbeat began to accelerate. He was calling her from Boston. “How do you like Boston?” she asked, sinking down to the floor and leaning against the wall.

“It’s nice but would be much nicer if you were here with me,” he said. “I miss you, Amanda. Do you miss me?”

“Yes,” the word came out as a breathless whisper.

“I can’t stop thinking about what happened between us the day you came to my flat.”

“I—I think about it a lot too,” she admitted.

“I want to see you as soon as I get back.”

“When will you be back?”

“On Sunday around noon or early afternoon. I want to see you in the evening.”

“Okay. I’ll-I’ll be here.”

They spoke for a while later and then he had to go. “Good night, Amanda.”

“Good night, Christian.”

After she hung up the phone, she sat there for a long while, trying to process what had just happened. Christian had called her from Boston just to tell her that he missed her and wanted to see her when he got back. She wondered what Mr. Walker would say if he only knew. He would have a fit. As fond of her as he was, she wasn’t a suitable choice for his beloved nephew. He would definitely fire her. Standing up, she decided that she wouldn’t worry about Mr. Walker just yet. Instead, she would plan a nice homemade dinner for Christian.

Sunday afternoon, she prepared the Baked rice with chicken and chorizo. It took two hours to cook so by the time Christian showed up it would be nice and hot out of the oven. After she showered and got dressed she shared the dinner out and sprinkled the chopped parsley on top. She served it with a green salad.

Just as she put the stuff out on the table, the doorbell rang. She glanced at the clock. It was exactly six. Christian was always very punctual. Excited, she rushed to the door and opened it. Her eyes ran eagerly over his tall frame. He looked gorgeous in the black silk shirt and black jeans. His hair was slightly damp and a few strands fell rakishly across his forehead.

Pulse racing and heart pounding, she pulled him inside and closed the door. After locking it, she turned to face him and he reached for her, pulling her against him. Their lips locked in a heated kiss which lasted for several minutes before she drew back to gasp, “I made dinner. It’s on the table.”

He smiled. “I didn’t realize that I was hungry until you mentioned dinner.”
She took his hand and led him over to the dining table which was nicely set and ready for them to sit down and eat. Two glasses were on the table and a bottle of non-alcoholic wine. They sat down and after she sat Grace they tucked into the salad first and then the pasta dish.

“Hmmm, this is delicious,” Christian said.

She smiled. “Thank you. It’s a recipe I have been meaning to try for a long time.”

“I’m honored,” he said and had another mouthful.

As they ate, he told her what it was like being at the AGM meeting and the places he was able to visit in Boston during his free time. For dessert she served Roasted banana & cinnamon ice cream. After placing the dirty dishes and glasses in the dishwasher, she joined him on the terrace where he stood, looking out at the city lights and the Tower Bridge in the distance.

He turned when he heard her and reaching for her he held her in his arms. She put her arms around his neck. “You know your uncle would have a fit if he saw us together like this,” she remarked.

“It doesn’t matter what he thinks,” Christian told her. “I’m not a child. I know he has plans for me but I have my own plans.”

“He has his heart set on you marrying Hope–”

“I don’t love Hope. I never did. We went out a few times but it was never serious for me.”

“I’m happy to hear that don’t love her.”

“Why is that?” he asked. “Why are you happy that don’t love Hope?”

She swallowed. “Because I love you,” she admitted.

He groaned. “And I love you.” He lowered his head and kissed her.

They kissed for a long time and then she drew back to ask him, “What are you going to tell your uncle?”

“I’ll simply tell him that I love you and that I want to marry you.”

She blinked. “Marry me?”

“Yes. As a matter of fact, I have the ring here with me.” He reached into his pants pocket and produced a black box. “I bought it when I was in Boston.”

She gaped at the diamond ring as he took it out of the box.

“Will you marry me, Amanda?” he asked. “I know we haven’t dated but I don’t want to be your boyfriend, I want to be your husband. I know without a doubt that you’re the woman for me. I knew it since the first time we met.”

She managed to say “Yes.” Tears sprang to her eyes as he slipped the ring on her finger and then his lips were on hers again. She closed her eyes and hugged him tightly around the neck as she responded to his kisses.  It didn’t matter what Mr. Walker did now.  He couldn’t prevent the inevitable from happening.

Sources:  Jamie Oliver; Lux Bond & Green