Pauline’s Predicament

Pauline was walking down the street heading towards the subway when she heard someone call her name.  She turned and saw Larson, her fiance’s friend.  Smiling broadly, she stopped and watched as he approached.  She was always delighted to see him.

When he reached her, they hugged.  “You look great,” she said as they separated.  He was wearing a grey pinstripe suit and a matching tie over a white shirt.  With his looks he could have been a model but he was a CFO at a multi-national company.

“Thank you,” he replied.  “You look terrific, as always.”

His compliment made her feel good and her smile deepened.  “So, how are you doing?  It has been a while since Karson and I last saw you.”

“I’ve been keeping busy.  How are Karson and you doing?”

“Fine.  He went away on a business trip to Toronto.”

“For how long?”

“A month.”

“What are you going to do while he’s away?”

She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Maybe hang out with my friends or catch up on my reading.  Or maybe you’d like to come over on the weekend and we can spend time together.”

“I’d like that.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I’m sorry I can stay longer and chat but I have to get back to the office now.  I have a meeting in twenty minutes.  It was great running into you, Pauline.  I’ll be in touch.  Please tell Karson I said hi the next time you speak to him.”

“I will.  Call me.”

“I will,” he promised.  He watched her walk away before heading in the opposite direction.  As he walked, he wondered if it would be wise for him to visit her when Karson wasn’t there.  He was totally attracted to her.  When they hugged, he tried to hold her in such a way that she couldn’t feel his arousal.  The last thing he wanted was for her be aware of his feelings which were growing by leaps and bounds.  Those feelings were the reason why he hadn’t been visiting.  When he called her, he would suggest that they go somewhere.

Pauline reached the platform and waited for the train.  It was great running into Larson.  It had been a while since she last saw him.  She missed him.  In the past, he used to visit Karson and her often but lately, he wasn’t.  Perhaps, he was just very busy since the promotion or maybe he had a girlfriend.  The mere thought of him having a girlfriend made her jealous.  I shouldn’t be feeling this way, she chided herself.  He’s Karson’s friend.  But, she couldn’t stop thinking about how it felt when they hugged.  She had her arms around his neck and he had his around her waist.  The scent of his cologne and the feel of his hard body against hers made her head spin.  The hug seemed to last longer than it should have.  And when they parted, she wondered if he also sensed the sexual tension between them.

She somehow managed to act as if nothing was amiss but her body and senses were in turmoil.  Inviting him over to the house while Karson was away was a crazy and reckless idea but she wanted to see him again.  She couldn’t let another month go by without seeing him.  Maybe instead of them being in the house, they could go somewhere.  When he called, she would suggest that.

Three weeks passed and he still hadn’t called Pauline.  He had come to the conclusion that it would be best if they didn’t see each other.  He would wait until Karson was back and maybe drop by for a visit.  On a Saturday night, the week before Karson was due back in London, Larson was relaxing on the sofa, reading a book when the doorbell rang.  He closed the book and set it down, not particularly thrilled at the interruption.  When he looked through the keyhole, his heart leapt in his chest when he saw Pauline standing there.  What is she doing here?  Sucking in his breath, he drew back the latch and opened the door.  His expression was tense as he looked at her.

She was wearing a red dress which accentuated her lovely complexion.  “Good evening.  May I come in?”

He moved aside so that she could enter the foyer and closed the door.  His heart was pounding and his head was spinning.  When he turned around he tried not to let his gaze drop below her face.  “You shouldn’t be here, Pauline,” he said quietly.

“You didn’t call so I thought I would come by to see if you’re okay.”

“I’m fine.  I was reading.”

“I wasn’t sure that you would be home on a Saturday night.”

“My weekends are usually very quiet.”

“What about a girlfriend?”  She had to know.

“I don’t have one.”  Was that relief he saw on her face before she turned away?  He moved away from the door and followed her into the  living-room.  While he sat down on the steps, she walked over to the windows and looked out.

“What an incredible view,” she remarked.  “I remember the first time I came here.  While you and Karson were talking, I came over here and stood for a long time just admiring the view.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he watched her, a pulse throbbing along his jawline.  This time he couldn’t prevent his eyes from traveling down her slender body as she stood with her back to him, watching the flickering lights of the city.  The dress hugged her in all the right places and it revealed her shapely legs.  He fought to resist the temptation to go over there and…

She turned around and came over to him.  “So, why didn’t you call me, Larson?” she asked.  “You said you would.”

“I’ve been busy,” he muttered.

“Too busy to call?”

She was standing in front of him now, looking down at him.  He was finding it hard to breathe now.  He should get up and move as far away as possible from her.  Maybe he should tell her that he wasn’t in the mood for company or that he just remembered, he had somewhere to go.  Anything to get out of this but, he just sat there, looking up at her and thinking about how sexy she looked in that bloody dress.  “Pauline, I think you should go,” he muttered tightly.

For a moment she looked a bit taken aback and then she shrugged.  “All right.  I’ll go.  I’m sorry I interrupted your evening.  I’ll see myself out.”  She started up the steps when contrite, he stood up and blocked her.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “It’s not that I don’t want you here.  The problem is that I do.”

“Then why do you want me to go?”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “I’m afraid that if you stay I will be tempted to make a pass at you.”

She looked straight into his eyes and said, “Maybe that’s why I came over tonight.”

When he saw her eyes drop to his mouth, it was his undoing.  Groaning, he caught her by the shoulders and pulled her against him.  His head swooped down and his hungry mouth sought hers.

Pauline put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  She knew that coming over here tonight could lead to this but it was something she had wanted for a very long time.  Deep down she knew that if she had met Larson first, she wouldn’t be with Karson.  Desire raged inside her like an inferno and breaking off the kiss, she dragged the denim jacket off and then pulled the tee shirt over his head.  She bent her head and pressed her lips against his heaving chest.  He closed his eyes as he felt her warm breath on his bare skin.

Then, he pulled her head back to devour her mouth.  For several minutes his lips plundered hers as his insatiable desire for her consumed him.  He picked her up and carried her to his room.  After kicking the door shut, he carried over to the bed and laid her on top.  He dragged the dress off before removing the rest of his clothes.  Then, his hands and lips were all over her body, driving her wild.  Her nails clawed at the skin on his back.  They made love on top of the duvet.

When it was over and they lay there entangled and spent, she turned her head towards him and said, “When Karson comes back, I will give him back his ring and move out.”

“What if he asks why?”

“I will tell him the truth.”

“I’m going to lose a very good friend.”

“I know,” she said, her face lined with deep regret.  “I wish I’d met you first.”

“Me too.”  He leaned down and kissed her on the shoulder.  “I’d like you to move in here with me.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, reaching up and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

“Yes.”

She smiled.  “Okay.”

He gazed into her eyes as he whispered, “I love you.”

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers.  “I love you too,” she murmured against his lips.

The following week, she gave Karson his engagement ring back and moved out.  He was livid and that was to be expected.  She moved in with Larson.  A year later, they got married.

Clemency

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Photo Credit: Fandango

I stood there, gazing at the city across the bay.  Somewhere in that concrete jungle was the prison where I spent fifteen years before I was granted clemency and released on parole.  It felt good to be standing there in the open, the sun hitting my face and listening to the lapping water.   It felt good not being behind bars.

When I turned sixteen, I never thought I’d wind up in prison.  My life changed when I killed Mick, the man who forced me to prostitute myself.  I was a victim of sex trafficking but I was treated like a criminal and sentenced to life, a sentence which the governor now considers to be too harsh.  Thanks to the celebrities who came to my defense, I’m standing here now.

I didn’t want to kill Mick but I feared for my life.  He would have killed me that night if I hadn’t defended myself.  I don’t hate him.  It wouldn’t do me any good.  I want to focus on rebuilding my life.  While in prison, I earned my Associate’s Degree.  I know that opportunity came from God.  I thought my life was over but, it’s not.

195 Words

This story was inspired by the true story of Cyntoia Brown who was arrested and charged with homicide of Johnny Allen who offered to have paid sex with her.  She was accused of murder and robbery and sentenced to life.  

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Direction

A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps – Proverbs 16:9

Have you ever made plans without consulting God first? You decide that you are going to go into missionary work because you saw a program on TV or know someone who is in the mission field but have you asked yourself if that is what God wants you to do? He might want you to be a missionary where you work or where you live instead of you going off to another country.

You might be planning to quit your job and move to another city or country but is that what God wants? What if He wants you to stay put because He has plans for you? You may be planning to get married but what if God wants you to wait? What if the timing is not right? OR what if the person you want to marry is not the right person? How many people could have avoided heartache, unhappiness, failed marriages if they had only waited on the Lord.

Let the Lord direct your steps. If you have plans, share them with Him. You may or may not have His blessing but either way you will be much better off than if you were to go ahead and follow your own plans instead of waiting on Him to give you direction.

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Making Plans

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you are rejoicing in your boastings. All such rejoicing is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin – James 4:13-16

How many of us make plans way ahead in the future? And how many of those plans end up going nowhere? Why does the Bible liken making plans to boasting? It could be because we are doing so without consulting God. We act as if we are in control of our destiny when He is the One who is. As Christians, we should make our plans based on what God wants or think is best not what we want. He may have much better plans for us. Take the prophet Jeremiah. What would have happened if he had made plans for a career, travel or marriage? Those plans would have come to nothing because God already had plans for his life.

Remember the Tower of Babel? The people had the bright idea of building a tower so high that it would reach heaven. What were their reasons for building the tower? “…let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted to stay put instead of going abroad and populating the earth. In other words, they were making their own plans which were outside of God’s will. They were boastful in thinking that they could do things their way instead of God’s way.

Nothing is wrong with having plans but they must never be contrary to God’s will. To them, it seemed reasonable to stay where they were and build up a city instead of going out into the world to start new lives. There are times when we want to stay put but God wants us to step out in faith as He did with Abraham. And there are times when we want to go places but He wants us to stay put like Jeremiah. We have to be attuned to what God wants for us so that our plans will line up nicely with His perfect will for us.

It is always best to say, “if the Lord wills…” when it comes to making plans. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that God approves of your plans and will bless them?

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The Charity Case/Glimmer #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

 

Shanice sat on the summit overlooking the city.  This was her place.  It was where she could be alone with God and her thoughts.  She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them.  Her life had been a tough one.  She grew up in a rough neighborhood.  When she was seven, her father was killed in a drive by shooting.  Ten years later, her mother overdosed on crack.  She went to live with her uncle but ran away after he started sexually abusing her.  For several months she lived on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins for food because she refused to turn to prostitution.  She believed in God and that her body was a temple.

It was one Autumn morning when she met Neil Patterson, the city’s councilor.  He was a very popular man who had been doing a great job cleaning up the city.  She was standing outside of a café, watching the people inside having their hot coffees and chocolates along with donuts or bagels, her mouth watering when she sensed that someone was standing behind her.  She turned around at once and found herself looking up at a very tall and distinguished man dressed in an expensive black coat.  His sandy colored hair was neatly combed and she could tell that he didn’t belong in these parts.  He looked familiar too.  Then, she remembered where she had seen him.  He was on the cover of yesterday’s newspaper.  He was even more attractive in person and looked to be in his early forties.  He smiled now.  His eyes were an unusual shade of blue.  “Are you hungry?” he asked.

She nodded and wondered if he was going to give her money to buy something to eat.  To her surprise, he said, “Come, let’s go inside where it’s nice and warm.”  He opened the door and after a slight hesitation, she went inside.  He led her over to a table by the window as several gazes followed them.  People recognized him and greeted him.  They didn’t look at all surprised to see him with an African American teenager who looked like she hadn’t had a bath in years.  They were used to seeing him rubbing elbows with the dregs of society.  It was part of his appeal.

He seemed nice enough and she let him buy her a meal.  Hunger overpowered pride.  Besides, she didn’t know when again she would be treated to a free meal.  While she wolfed down the food, he talked.  He was a good talker and she could see why he was where he was.  He was charismatic and she found herself warming up to him.  And he was very attractive.  She always did have a thing for older men.  The guys her age were full of themselves and so immature.

He wasn’t married.  She didn’t see any ring on his finger but then, again, he might be one of those men who didn’t bother to wear one.  It was foolish sitting there thinking these things when she wasn’t going to see him again.  He was being kind to her and she was thankful for that.  After they left this café, they would go their separate ways and he would forget all about her.  She knew that she would never forget him.

He didn’t have anything to eat.  All he had was some hot chocolate.  He asked a lot of questions about her life which she was unwilling to answer but did anyway.  She left out the part about her uncle, though.  He asked her about going into a foster home and a homeless shelter but she made it clear that she didn’t want to be in either.  She had heard horror stories about those places and she wanted nothing to do with them.  She would rather take her changes on the streets until circumstances changed for her—until God intervened.  She didn’t mention God to him.  Most people were put off by religion.

She liked being in the café.  It was warm and friendly.  She wished she could stay there longer but she knew he was a busy man and had places to go and people to see so she didn’t want to keep him.  After she finished her hot chocolate and he paid the bill, she stood up.  Holding out her hand, she thanked him for his kindness and was about to walk away when, he said, “Instead of going back to the streets, why don’t you come and live with me?  I have large estate, with lots of room and staff.  You will have your own room.  You can come and go as you please.  I won’t put any restrictions on you.”

She stared at him.  “Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I just want to help you.  I have a sister your age.  What do you say?”

“Well, I don’t want to be a freeloader,” she said.  “Is there a job I can do to pay for my keep?”

“What about college or university?” he asked.  “Aren’t you interested in furthering your education?”

“Of course, I am but my mother couldn’t afford to send me to college.  What little money we had she wasted on drugs.”

“Instead of working for me, you’ll go to the college or university of your choice.  What do you say?”

She stood there for a moment, considering all of this.  This was better than being homeless—living in the streets and struggling to survive.  Besides, the weather was getting colder and all she had was this beat up jacket which wasn’t keeping her warm at all.  She studied him.  He looked like someone she could trust.  And she didn’t hear any alarm bells going off in her head.  Shrugging, she said, “Sure.  Thanks again.  As soon as I graduate from university, I’ll be gone.”

He smiled.  “Whatever works for you, Shanice.”

They left the café and her life on the streets behind.  That was four years ago.  She was in university now, studying Sociology.  Their relationship had started out platonic and then, this morning, when she went back to the estate after a night of partying at a friend’s house, he was waiting up for her.  She sneaked into the living room and paused until her eyes adjusted to the darkness when the room was flooded with light.  Blinking, she went over to the sofa and sat down, tugging off her strappy sandals.  Her black dress was short and hugged her body.  The skirt rode high, revealing her legs.  She watched as his gaze traveled over her and the color flood his cheeks before he demanded, “Where have you been?”

“I was at a friend’s birthday bash,” she explained.  “I tried to be very quiet so that I wouldn’t disturb you—“

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

She glanced at her watch.  It was five minutes to three.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I didn’t mean to stay out so late.”

He went further into the drawing-room, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his silk robe.  His hair which was always neatly in place was slightly disheveled.  “I knew that I had told you that you were free to come and go as you please but, I still expect you to act responsibly.  For this infraction, you are forbidden to leave these premises unless accompanied by me for the rest of the summer.”

She jumped to her feet, aghast.  “That’s not fair,” she cried.  “This is the only time I’ve stayed out late.  You can’t hold this one time against me.”

“And another thing, I don’t want to see you dressed like that again.”  Anger flared in her at that moment.  “You’re not my father,” she retorted.

“No, but I am responsible for you and as long as you live under my roof, you have to abide by my rules.”

“Fine!” she said, grabbing her shoes and handbag.  “If that’s all, I’d like to go to bed.  I’m tired.” She was about to walk past him when he caught her by the arm.  She turned her head and looked up at him, the anger in her eyes dissipating when she saw the expression on his face.

“I care about you, Shanice,” he muttered urgently.  “I was out of my mind with worry when it was midnight and you hadn’t come home.  I had no idea where you were.  I tried calling you but your cell was turned off.  In future, you need to tell me where you are so that I don’t worry or in case I need to get in touch with you.”

“You’re right,” she acknowledged.  “I should have let you know where I was last night.  I’m sorry.”

“And I’ll do the same,” he said.  “I’ll let you know where I’ll be at all times, in case you need to reach me.”

The grip of his fingers on her arm was very distracting and he was staring directly into her eyes.  She suddenly had trouble breathing properly and her heart was pounding.  “Am-am I still forbidden to leave the premises?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, you’re not,” he said softly.  “You’re not a prisoner.”

“So, I can leave whenever I want?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He moved closer.  “You’re free to leave here as agreed four years ago but I hope you decide to stay.  This place and my life would not be the same without you.  They would be empty.”

That was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to her.  She was touched to the very depths of her being and she could feel her eyes water.  She loved it here.  It was the home and life she had always dreamed of.  And she loved being with him.  She realized that she had loved him since the first time they met but had convinced herself that she could never be more to him than a charity case.  But, the way he was looking at her and what he had just said proved her wrong.  Without thinking, she reached up and touched his face.  He turned his head and pressed his lips into the palm before he pulled her into his arms.

She smiled now as she remembered that first kiss.  It was out of this world.  It sent tingles all over her body and she could swear that she heard fireworks.  Scrambling to her feet, she watched as the sun finally disappeared over the horizon.  Tomorrow was the first day of her last year at university.

It was getting late.  It was time to head back.  She wanted to be there, waiting for him.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Glimmer curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves

 

Finish the Race

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that in town after town the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and suffering are waiting for me.  But I don’t place any value on my life, if only I can finish my race and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” – Acts 20:22-24, ISV

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Sharing the Gospel is no easy task.  It is with beset with hostility, resentment, persecution, opposition and in some cases leads to imprisonment or even death.  This is how it was in the apostle Paul’s time.  He testified,  I served the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I never shrank from telling you anything that would help you nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:19-21, ISV)He was beaten, imprisoned, in danger of his life at the hands of those who wanted to stop him from doing the work Jesus had called him to do. 

Yet, Paul persevered.  He didn’t allow the actions of others or fear to impede him.  He was in a race and he was determined to finish it even if it cost him his life.  He was  true soldier.  He was in a war that will continue to rage until Jesus returns.  It is a spiritual war and as he pointed out we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:12, ISV).  These were the forces which were working against him at every turn of his ministry but through it all, he had the assurance that the Lord was with him. 

When he was in Corinth, the Lord spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”  Paul was encouraged and he remained in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching the Word of God (Acts 18:9, 10, NKJV).

We have the same assurances as Paul did.  We are not alone in our ministry to share the Gospel.  The Lord is with us every step of the way.  We cannot be afraid to do the Lord’s work.  Instead, like the psalmist, we can boldly say, The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NKJV).  So, no matter what the enemy throws at us, we are to speak and not keep silent.  The salvation of so many is at stake.  We, like Paul, must finish the race.

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