Infatuation

skull

Photo by Sue Vincent

“With all the money this latest book is raking in, we’ll be able to go on an extended holiday in the South of France,” Roz Taylor remarked to Valentijn Liske after he signed the last copy.  He was book signing and having his picture taken with fans at Waterstones Piccadilly.  It had been a busy but very pleasant afternoon.

Valentijn didn’t reply.  He stood up, stretched and donned his jacket.  He was ready to escape to his home in Yorkshire.  After thanking and having a few words with the organizers of the event, he left the bookshop.

“I think this is your best novel, so far,” Roz said when they were in the car.  She glanced down at a copy that was on her lap.   “I can see it being made into a film like the others.  Can you imagine how much money will roll in?  We can use some of it to buy and develop the land which is featured here on the cover.  You’ve always entertained the idea of owning a home in Queensland.”

Valentijn turned to her, “You keep saying ‘we’,” he muttered.

Her head shot up and snapped to the left, her eyes wide as they met his.   “What do you mean?” she asked.  “This book was a collaboration.”

I wrote it,” he informed her coldly.

“Yes, but the idea for the cover was mine.  You wanted to have a dead body with a smoking gun next to it but I suggested that you have a skull lying in a field to add mystery to it.”

“And for that suggestion you think you’re entitled to everything?  You’re beginning to sound like my greedy ex-wife.”

She swallowed hard.  “I thought we were in this together.  I thought I was more than your agent.  I thought we had something…”

“Well, you thought wrong,” he snapped.  “From now it will be strictly business between us.”

“But, why?”

“I’ve grown bored with you, Roz, it’s that simple.”

Color flooded her pale cheeks and her eyes flashed at him.  “It’s that little tart I’ve  seen hanging around you lately, isn’t it?”

“I presume you’re referring to Alina?”

“Yes!  I notice the way she’s been throwing herself at you and you encourage her.”

“She’s full of spirit which I rather like.”

“Have you and she…?”

“Slept together?  No, not as yet.  But I promise you it wouldn’t be long before we do–” He was interrupted by a hard slap across the face.  He rubbed his smarting skin, his gaze narrowing.

“You disgust me,” Roz cried as hot, angry tears spilled down her cheeks.  They were stopped at a traffic light.  “Find yourself another agent.  I’m through with you!”  She tossed the book at him, grabbed her bag and pushed open the door, slamming it hard behind her.

Valentijn watched her go, shrugged and then, tapping the glass partition, he said to the driver, “Turn right at the next intersection.  I’d like to stop by the florist.”

“Very well, Sir.”

Valentijn settled back in his seat, smiling slightly as he looked out of the window.  He could just picture Alina’s face when she saw the lavender gladioli.  Lavender was her favorite color and the gladioli symbolized his infatuation for her, a girl almost half his age.  And the girl who had cost him the best agent he ever had.  He hoped she was worth the trouble.

Infatuation is the most fragile kind of love – C.S. Lewis

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Bone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

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His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The painting was almost complete.  He just had to add a few touches.  Painting landscapes was never his thing but he had been forced to paint them since…He tossed the paintbrush down and got up.  He walked over to the window and stared out into the street below.  It was quiet now.  It was Sunday.  Almost everyone was in church.  He had stopped attending Sunday mass three years ago.  He had stopped doing a lot of things three years ago.  Three years ago she had stood right there by the door, ready to removed her coat when her cell rang.  He had no idea who called her but after she ended the call, she grabbed her knapsack and said, “I have to go but I will be back later,” before she pulled open the door and rushed out.

He waited all day for her to return or to call but neither was forthcoming.  Three years later and she hadn’t returned.  He had no idea where she was.  Maybe she went back to her home in Benin.  She was the reason why he stopped painting people and started painting landscapes.  He had broken his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure.  She was supposed to be his muse–that was all.  He had painted hundreds of women before and not once did any of them stir any passions in him.  He was immune to them.  To him there were just muses.

Then, he met her one day at the gallery where his work was on display.  She was eighteen at the time.  Her youth was so refreshing.   She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty and her eyes seemed too large for her small face but she intrigued him.   He wanted to paint her right then and there.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she was going to be his next muse.  After they left the gallery, he took her for a cappuccino.  She was a bit hesitant at first although she was flattered that he wanted to paint her but he was very persuasive.

She turned out to be the perfect muse, inspiring him to produce his best work.  He churned out painting after painting.   She sat there day after day, still as a statue.  He supposed that it was gradual but one day he realized that he that he had fallen for her–of all he foolhardy things to do.  He was twice her age, for pity’s sake.  He thought of finding another muse to replace her but he couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.  She had brought light and joy into his otherwise dull existence.  Life without her would be intolerable.  He didn’t replace her but it became increasingly hard to paint because he couldn’t concentrate.  Instead of painting her, he wanted to take her in his arms and…

He leaned forward, his palms flat on the window seat, his tortured gaze scanned the horizon.  She was out there somewhere.  His life was empty.  There was a great big chasm and his heart ached every time he remembered how she had literally run out of his life.  He never got another muse.  No one could replace her.  Oh, Johari, my inspiration, my grand passion, my torment.

He heard a sound behind him and turned.  His face became ashen when he saw her standing there.  If she didn’t blink, he would have imagined that she was an illusion.  All sorts of emotions churned inside him.  His hands curled into tight fists as he tried to hold them in check.  Part of him wanted to take her in his arms and lavish her with kisses while the other part wanted to lash out at her for the misery she had put him through.

“I came back, Adriel,” she said, moving closer.

He didn’t budge.  “Yes, three years later.  Where have you been all this time?”

“I’ve been in Benin.  That day when I was here with you, I got a call from an uncle that my father had fallen ill and that I was needed home right away.  I got the first flight out of London.  I helped my mother to look after him until he recovered.  My mother asked me to stay until she could afford to hire a private nurse.  I tried calling you but there wasn’t any answer.  I think your cell was off.  I wrote to you while I was in Benin but you never answered.  Adriel, you must know that only a family emergency would make me leave you.  All the time I was away, I thought about you and missed you.  I wondered why you didn’t write me.  I thought you were out of the country or busy with gallery showings or—that you had met someone.”

He quickly closed the distance between them.  “I’ve been here all this time,” he told her.  “Missing you and wondering where you were.  I had my phone turned off and I never received any of your letters.”

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

He shook his head vigorously.  “No!” Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “I couldn’t be with anyone else even if I wanted to.  I love you, Johari.”  He covered her face with kisses, unable to help himself.

She hugged him tightly about his waist and murmured, “I love you too.”

They stood there in the sun-dappled room locked in a passionate embrace.  He stopped painting for a long while and he no longer had any need for a muse.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in SaintPauldeVence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  When he returned to painting, he did portraits while Johari worked in a museum which featured his work.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Faraway at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Each Other’s World

On Friday morning as Taliyah took the lift up to her workplace, her stomach churned nervously.  She wondered if she would get the same frigid treatment she got from Dax yesterday.  It was evident after he returned from a business lunch and she went to his office to give him a file to go through at his leisure.  He seemed very detached and she had no clue why.  Every time she tried to talk to him about it, they were interrupted.   At the end of the day, she lingered, hoping to speak to him but he was gone for a long time and she had to leave.  She called him at his home but the machine picked up and his cell was turned off.  Was he out or was he ignoring her calls?

Was this the brush off?  Had he lost interest in her?  Was he planning to end their relationship?  But, it didn’t make any sense to her, especially not after Wednesday night when he was at her place.  She trembled now as she remembered their lovemaking.  It was steamy and explosive.  And now things were frosty between them.

The lift stopped and the doors opened.  She stepped out and forced a smile for Belinda, the receptionist who greeted her as she walked past.  As she approached her cubicle, she saw Dax standing at the doorway of his office and her heart began to pound heavily.  He glanced up as she approached and their eyes met.  She saw something flicker in his before he turned and went back into his office.  Not a smile or a word of greeting, she thought, feeling hurt.

She went to her desk and got settled in.  After checking phone messages and emails, she went to fix herself a cup of hot chocolate and was on her way back to her desk, when Dax stepped outside of his office.

“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.  His eyes traveled over her in the black jacket, top and jeans.  It was casual Friday.  She looked amazing.  Desire coursed through him like a fever.  Muscle throbbing along his jawline, he turned and walked briskly away, his back rod straight.

She set her mug on the desk and then went to his office.  He was standing at the window, looking out.  He heard her go in but didn’t turn around.  After closing the door behind her, she joined him.  It was flurrying outside.  She stared at his profile, her pulse racing.  How she longed to reach out and touch him.  She loved him so much it ached.  “I missed you last night,” she said huskily.

He turned toward her then, his cold demeanor belied the emotions that were raging inside him.  “Did you?” he asked tautly.

She frowned.  “Of course, I did.  I called for you because I wanted you to come over.  I was hoping that we could enjoy a quiet and romantic evening together.”

His hands tightened into fists as he struggled to stay calm.  “You must really take me for a fool,” he muttered tightly.

She looked at him, stunned.  “Why do you say that?”

“Wednesday after I left your place, I was on my way home when I realized that I didn’t have my cell.  So, I came back to get it and saw you with him.  Who is he, Taliyah?”

She swallowed hard.  “Dax, please let me explain—”

“Explain what?” he demanded angrily, his eyes stormy as they met hers.  “What is there to explain?  You waited until I left and then you invited your other lover over.”

Flabbergasted, she exclaimed, “I don’t have another lover.”

“I saw you hug him before letting him into your place.  Did he spend the night?”

“No,” she protested.  “Dax, you’re wrong about Mark and me–”

“Mark?” he hissed.  The mere mention of the other man’s name made his blood boil.  Red, hot jealousy consumed him and it took every ounce of his will power to keep his anger in check.  “While you and he were inside, I stood out there in the hallway for a while and then I left.  It was after twelve when I finally got home.  I couldn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned, thinking about you and him.”

She moved closer to him.  “Dax…”

“You have to make a choice, Taliyah.  It’s either him or me.  You can’t have both of us.”

“Dax, Mark and I aren’t lovers.  He’s my friend–that’s all.  He suffers from depression and last night, he needed to talk.  We spent hours just talking.  I offered to help him to find a doctor or therapist and to go with him on the first visit.”

Dax could see that she was telling the truth and he calmed down.  He reached for her and pulled her against him.  “I’m sorry to hear that your friend Mark is suffering from depression,” he said.  “It’s good that he had you to talk to and that you’re encouraging him to get the help he needs.  And I’m sorry that I acted like such a jerk.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I would have reacted the same way too if I had seen you let another woman into your flat,” she told him.

“You don’t have to worry about any woman showing up at my flat for any reason.  Now, regarding your friend, Mark, I know you want to help him, but remember, you can only do so much.  You have your own your own health to think about.  You don’t want it to suffer because of Mark’s depression.”

“I promise to set boundaries.  I don’t want my friendship with him or my desire to help him to affect my relationship with you.  You are my world, Dax, and I love you so much.”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “And you are my life. My world. My love. My everything,” he declared before he lowered his head and kissed her.  They kissed for a long time before he raised his head, his face slightly flushed.  “My place later?” he asked.

She nodded with a smile.  “Yes.”

 

Sources:  Help Guide; Ali Express; Lovable Quote

Mr. Thornber’s Distress/Fall #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

After he washed and dried his face, Mr. Thornber walked to the window and looked out.  His room afforded him one of the most pleasant views of the grounds.  It was another rather agreeable afternoon.  The first signs of spring were visible.  He could see the buds on the trees and the emergence of the water in the pond which had been covered in ice not so long ago.  Earlier this morning on his ride back here, he’d stopped at the waterfall where he used to while away many happy childhood hours.   Presently, the quietness was broken by the twittering of birds.  He smiled.  He couldn’t wait to go back outside.  His eyes swept across the grounds when they were arrested by something.

The smile vanished from his face when he saw the two figures standing beneath the oak tree.  He recognized one as belonging to Miss Roth and the other belonging to a gentleman he had never seen before.  He leaned out as if to get a closer look which wasn’t possible from that point.  Who was this stranger?  Jealousy burned in him like a wild fire as he watched them stroll over to the bench and sit down, facing each other.  What was he doing here?  When did Miss Roth meet him?

His face pale now, he watched them, wondering what they were talking about.  And feeling like an utter fool.  He had cut his business short today just so he could rush home to be with her.  All morning she had occupied his thoughts, making it impossible for him to concentrate.   He enjoyed their walks and talks and had planned to take a turn in the garden with her as they had been doing for the past several weeks.  He was under the impression that she enjoyed his company too.  Perhaps he was mistaken.  She seemed to enjoy this fellow’s company a great deal.  They were having a rather animated conversation.  He appeared younger too.  Why shouldn’t she prefer a man closer to her age?

His hands curled into tight fists as he struggled to keep his feelings in check.  It was propriety and pride which kept him from going to there and demanding to know who this interloper was.  How would it look a man eight and thirty behaving like a jealous fool over a girl of nineteen?

What was he going to do now?  He couldn’t remain here watching them and torturing himself.  He had to leave Cedar Manor at once for he feared that running into Miss Roth would be his undoing.  He had no idea where he was going but he had to get out of there now.  He turned away from the window and strode over to where his jacket laid and swept it up, pulling it on as he left the room.

He ran down the steps two at a time and passed the housekeeper, Mrs. Westcott in the foyer.  She glanced at him in surprise, wondering what in the world could make him take off without so much a word to her.   Perhaps, he had urgent business to attend to, she reasoned.  Shrugging her shoulders, she continued down the foyer and went up to her room to have a nap.

Outside as Mr. Thornber was hurrying to the stables to get his horse, he saw his niece Emily returning from her walk with her nurse Ada in tow.  She broke into a run when she saw him. “Uncle Edward,” she cried.  She stopped short when she saw his face.  “What’s wrong?”

His distress clearly didn’t escape her notice.  “Who is the gentleman with Miss Roth?” he asked before he could stop himself.

“Oh, you mean Julian?” her face brightened.  “I like him.  He’s very nice.”

Mr. Thornber’s expression darkened.  “I didn’t ask if you liked him, Emily,” he snapped.  “I asked who he was.”

“He’s Miss Roth’s childhood friend.”

“How long has he been here?”

“He came this morning.  He was in the school room with Miss Roth and me and then he had lunch with us.  After we finished my lessons, he and Miss Roth came with Ada and me for a walk but they came back before we did.  Do you want to meet him, Uncle?”

“No, I do not want to meet him.  Tell Mrs. Westcott that I won’t be back until late.”  And with that, he turned and strode away, his steps quick and furious.  Both Emily and Ada gazed after him in bewilderment.  Moments later he was racing out of the stables and away from Cedar Manor.

Emily turned to Ada.  “Why was Uncle Edward so angry?” she asked.  “And why didn’t he want to meet Julian?”

Ada put her arm around Emily’s shoulders.  “Emily, perhaps you are too young for me to be telling you this but I think your uncle is jealous.”

“Jealous?” Emily exclaimed, looking even more bewildered.  “But why?”

“Never mind, little one,” Ada told her.  “And please, I beg you, don’t tell your uncle what I said.”

Emily shook her head, thinking adults could be so strange sometimes as she and Ada walked to the house.

 

This was written for to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Fall at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Coveted

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PHOTO PROMPT © Yvette Prior

 

Carmine Pirelli always got what he wanted and he wanted Desiree.

He watched her as she greeted the steady flow of people as they descended upon the room where everything was set up for them to watch the presentation.  It was the annual TV Fall launch and everyone who was anyone in the business was there.  The red dress flattered her figure and flawless ebony skin.

He knew the attraction was mutual but she was married.  Well, he’d taken care of her husband.  Blackmail was a nasty business but it gave him what he wanted.  Desiree belonged to him now.

100 Words

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.   To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

 

Sue’s Customers

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To passersby, it appeared to be a regular shop but its innocuous façade concealed something far more disreputable. Men lingered at the display of slippers at the front until the owner went out, talked to them and then invited them inside. Once inside, these “customers” were shown into another room where Sue was. Like an automaton, she got undressed and lay down.

Orphaned at twelve, she was taken in by her uncle who was kind to her, unlike her aunt. When he died five years later, her aunt kicked her out of the house, telling her to stop freeloading and find work. Sue found odd jobs here and there but the money wasn’t enough. Then, she came to this shop and begged for a job. She got one all right but it wasn’t selling slippers.

The owner was arguing with one of the “customers”. This was her opportunity. Slowly she backed away and then bolted. She ran to a nearby shelter. Shortly after, the shop went out of business and the owner was arrested.

174 Words

This was written for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Mystery Man/Spectral #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

She didn’t know what it was about the shell of what was left of Haverley Manor that fascinated her.  This morning as mist covered it and the surrounding area, giving it a ghostly appearance.  Perhaps it was the figure of a man walking across the fields and appearing at the first window which drew her here on this grey and cold morning.  She adjusted the bonnet upon her head and drew her coat closer about her.

The man stood at the window still as a statue.  Who was he?  Was he real?  She shook her head impatiently.  Of course, he’s real, Hettie, she chided herself Ghosts don’t exist. They’re just figments of people’s imaginations.  She was getting closer to the structure when she heard a man call out to her.

She stopped and turned around.  He was stocky with long whiskers and carrying a rifle.  His face was ruddy and he looked to be middle-edged.  “What is your business here, Miss?” he asked.

“Are you the caretaker?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, Miss.  The name’s Finnegan and I was just passing by on my way to shoot some pheasant when I saw you going towards the remains of the old manor.  It isn’t safe.”

“The day before yesterday I saw a man go into the manor.  He’s there now.”

The man looked past her.  “I don’t see ‘im, Miss.”

She turned.  “But, he’s right there at the window on the second floor.”

“That’s impossible, Miss.  The structure is nothing but a shell.  There’s no way anyone can be up there.”

Frustrated, she turned and pointed.  “I’m telling you, he’s there.  I saw him go in just a few moments ago and he’s standing at the window now.  I can’t believe that you don’t see him.”

The man shook his head in bewilderment.  There wasn’t anyone at the window.  Perhaps, this young lady had a fanciful imagination.  “Miss, there’s only one way to settle this.”  He started toward the manor.

She followed him, her heart pounding with excitement as she looked up and saw the tall figure at the window.  Now, she was going to get a good look at this mystery man.

Finnegan walked around the back and watched the color drain from her face.  “You see, Miss.  It’s just a shell.  There’s no way that anyone could have been at the window like you said, unless he’s a ghost.  What did the man look like?”

It took several moments for her to gather her wits in order to speak.  “He appeared to be tall, pale with black hair and a slight limp.”

Finnegan looked startled.  “It can’t be,” he exclaimed.

“You know the man.  Who is he?”

“He was Abram Chaddesley, the late master of Haverley Manor–”

“The late master? You mean he’s dead?”

“Yes, Miss.  He died when lightning struck the manor.  It was reported that he was standing at the window on the second floor when it happened.  He was the only one who perished.”

“How-how long ago did this happen?”

“Thirty years ago, Miss.”  He stared at her.  She didn’t look a day over nineteen.  How could she have seen Master Chaddesley as he was before he died?  It just wasn’t possible.  “We best be leaving, Miss,” he suggested.  “You look a little peaked.”

“Yes, I feel a bit faint,” she gasped, clutching his arm for support.

“Do you live far?”

“No, no, I live at Ramstead Place.”

“I shall take you there, Miss.”

“Thank you.  You’re very kind.”

“It’s no trouble at all.”  He steadied her as they left the remains and started across the field.

She wanted to look back but was afraid to.   After that day, she never set foot near that place again.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Spectral  for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Source:  Mental Floss