Buenos Aires

Ayana sat there staring at the computer screen, still reeling from her run in with Inga, Rolf’s girlfriend a few hours ago in the parking lot.  The unpleasant incident happened when she was on her way to meet a friend for lunch.  She was about to open the car door when she heard someone yell her name and turned to see Inga marching toward her.  Startled, she stood there, wondering what the blonde wanted with her and why she looked so livid.

When she reached her, she said rather nastily, “Is it because you don’t have a man of your own that you’re trying to move in on mine?”

It took a few minutes for Ayana to recover from her surprise.  Why would she make such an assumption?  “I’m not trying to move in on Rolf,” she said finally.  “He and I work together, that’s all—”

“Since when does work include the two of you flying off to Argentina?”

“Our trip to Buenos Aires is purely business, Inga.  I’m Rolf’s secretary so I have to go with him.”

“You expect me to believe that you and he are going to work all the time you’re there?  What about at nights when you don’t have any meetings?  What will you do then?”

Ayana shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“I can’t imagine that you would be eating alone.  Knowing Rolf, he will invite you to join him for dinner.  My concern is what will happen after dinner.”

“Inga, you don’t have anything to worry about.  Rolf and I have been working together for about four years now and nothing has ever happened between us.  Besides, you’re mistaken about me not having a man of my own.”

“You have a boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“But, Rolf said that you didn’t—”

“Well, I just started dating him.  Rolf doesn’t know about him.”

“And it sounds like you don’t want him to.”

“I don’t see why it should be any concern of his.  We just work together.”

Inga studied her for a few minutes.  “Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s strictly business between the two of you.  And I won’t say anything to him about your boyfriend.  And you won’t say anything to him about our little conversation.”

“He won’t hear about this from me,” Ayana promised.  She just wanted to get out of there.  She had never been accosted by a jealous woman before and it was very unsettling.

“Good.”  Inga looked her over, her expression one of disdain before she turned and walked away.

Ayana quickly opened her door and got into the car.  She started the engine and drove off.  Her head and heart were pounding.  She hated confrontations.  Fortunately, no one had observed them.  Why did Inga think that she had designs on Rolf?  Did she sense that she had feelings for Rolf?  How could she not?  Rolf was an extremely attractive man.  No woman could resist him. Just thinking about him now made her pulse race.  There were times when they were alone in his office, working and she could hardly concentrate because she was painfully aware of him.

While he was poring over some papers, she would sneak a peek at him, noting the way, he furrowed his brow when he was concentrating.  His hair would fall rakishly across his forehead making her ache to brush the strands back.  He would remove his jacket and tie and loosen the top buttons of his shirt.  Underneath the shirt sleeves she could see the chiseled muscles of his arms.  She wanted to reach out and touch them.  The smell of his aftershave tantalized her senses and his eyes when he looked at her made her heart flutter.  And when he absentmindedly stroked his jaw as he focused, she found herself imagining what it would be like to have those long fingers caressing her face.

Sighing now as she sat in her cubicle, Ayana had to admit that Inga had every reason to distrust her.  She had lied to her about having a boyfriend.  She wasn’t dating anyone.  None of the men out there or in the office interested her.  She was stuck on Rolf, which was unfortunate for her.  How was she going to manage being in Buenos Aires with him for twelve days?  They were to leave tomorrow night and arrive in Buenos Aires the following morning.  The flight was over ten hours long.  What were they going to talk about?  Should she take a novel?  How could she read, though with him there?  Her head was beginning to hurt from all of these questions and she rubbed her temple.

Just then her phone rang, startling her.  She glanced at the display.  It was Rolf.  She quickly picked up the receiver.  “Yes, Rolf.”

“Do you have a minute?”

“Yes.  I’m on my way.”  She hung up and got up from her desk.

He was putting on his jacket when she went into his office.  “I’m heading out now,” he informed her.  “I have errands to run.  Are you all set for tomorrow?”

She nodded.  “I have the plane tickets, the files we will need and the itinerary for each day.  Was there anything else you needed me to take care of?”

He glanced around before shaking his head.  “No, I think we’re good.  I will pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll be waiting in the lobby.”

“See you tomorrow evening.”  He grabbed his briefcase and preceded her out of the office.

She went back to her cubicle to finish up some work.  The next few hours went by quickly and soon it was time to go home.  After showering and having dinner, she made sure she had packed everything she needed, including the new outfits she had bought earlier in the week.   When she was finished, she watched the News and then went to bed.

The following day went quickly and soon it was time to go to the airport.  She quickly showered, got dressed in a pair of dressy jeans, a red blouse and a denim jacket.  She was ready and waiting outside on the steps leading to the front entrance of her building when the company car pulled up and the chauffeur went round to the trunk to open it.  She wheeled her luggage over and he hoisted it into the back along with her carry-on.  She thanked him as he held the passenger door open for her to climb in beside Rolf who looked very attractive in the black shirt and grey slacks.

She saw his eyes flicker over her before he smiled.  “Excited about going to Buenos Aires?” he asked as the car drove off.

“It’s the first place I’ve been to outside of the United States,” she told him.  “I’m a little nervous, I guess.”

He reached out and gently squeezed her hand, making her heart skip a beat.  “There’s nothing to be nervous about,” he assured her.  “I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Have you ever been there before?”

“No, but I’ve heard great things about it.  A female friend of mine who has been there said that it’s a city that is alive and sexy and gets under your skin.”

“Sounds exciting,” she remarked.  Her heart was racing now because he was still holding her hand.

“It does,” he agreed, withdrawing his hand.  “I hope you brought a camera because we will have time for some sightseeing.”

“I did,” she said.  And she brought a book to read as well.  It turned out that she didn’t need it.  They talked and then she watched a movie while he looked over some papers.  It was just after mid-night when she went to sleep.

Buenos Aires was beautiful.  She loved the colorful buildings mixed in with the faded European grandeur.  She stared out of the window of the taxi, her eyes drinking in the sights.  Their hotel was located in the most stylish neighborhood of La Recoleta and surrounded by the best city´s restaurants and shops.  After they checked in, they went up to their rooms.  “We have time to unwind, shower and go over some notes before the meeting,” Rolf told her as they rode the elevator.  “I’ll meet you by the front desk.”

“All right.”  She couldn’t wait to shower and change.  It was going to be a long day.    Her room was bright and spacious.  The bed looked so good that she wanted to throw herself on it.  Instead, she took out what she was going to wear, stood for a moment, looking out the sliding doors at the buildings opposite before going into the bathroom to undress and take a long, hot shower.  Rolf wasn’t by the front desk when she went down but a very handsome young man was there.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Buenos dias,” he said.

“Buenos dias,” she replied.  “I’m afraid I don’t speak much Spanish.”

“That’s okay.  Most people who come here don’t.  My name is Ramon.”

“Ayana.”

“Is this your first time to Buenos Aires?”

“Yes.  On my way over here, I saw a little of the city and it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is a very beautiful city.”

Just then the elevator doors opened and Rolf stepped out.  She turned to Ramon, “Excuse me, Ramon.”

“It was nice meeting you, Ayana.”

“It was nice meeting you too, Ramon.”

She walked away and joined Rolf.  They had breakfast and then they went through the papers until it was time for the meetings.  The day went quickly.  The attendees were from Europe, America and Asia.  They were about two women in attendance.  During the breaks, she spoke with them.  Annette, the one from Cleveland nudged her saying, “You have a very attractive boss.  Is he married?”  She herself was married and had three children.

Ayana shook her head.  “No.  He has a girlfriend, though.”

“Too bad.  I think you and he would have made a very nice couple.”

Ayana didn’t answer.  She just smiled.  Over the next couple of days, when they had spare time, Rolf and she went sightseeing.  She loved Buenos Aires and hoped that she would visit it again someday.   The days went by very quickly and it was their last evening before they flew back to New York in the morning.  Tonight, Rolf was taking her for dinner at a popular restaurant where they would be treated to a Tango show.

After she finished getting ready, she went downstairs to the lobby to wait for Rolf.  Ramon was on duty and he smiled broadly when she walked over to the reception desk to give him her key.  “Buenos noches, Ayana.” he greeted her, his dark brown eyes traveling appreciatively over her figure in the black cocktail dress.

“Buenos noches, Ramon.”

“The man you’re with, is his your boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No, he’s my boss.  We’re here on business.”

Ramon smiled.  “Bueno.  Then, he won’t mind if I took you dancing later.  I can teach you the tango, if you like.”

He was very nice man but she wasn’t interested in him.  Smiling apologetically, she said, “I’m sorry, Ramon but I can’t go dancing with you tonight.  I already have plans.”

“What about tomorrow night?”

She opened her mouth to tell him that she was leaving in the morning when Rolf joined them.  He looked at her and then at Ramon who said to him, “Your taxi is waiting outside, Senor.”

“Thank you.”  Rolf handed him his key and then turned to Ayana.  “Are you ready?” he asked abruptly.

“Yes.  Goodnight, Ramon.”

“Goodnight, Ayana.”

She didn’t notice Rolf grimace but when he started to walk away, she followed him.

He held the door open for her and when she climbed into the back, she caught a whiff of his cologne.  After he got in and told the driver where they were going, he leaned back in the seat.  For several minutes neither of them said anything.  They were both looking out of the window.  Then, she heard him say, “You and the guy at reception seem to be on very friendly terms.”

She looked at him but his head was still turned toward the window. “Ramon is a really nice guy.  Very friendly.”

“A little too friendly,” he replied.  “Tonight wasn’t the first time I’ve seen him flirting with you.”

“He wasn’t flirting with me.  He was just being friendly.”

“I saw the way he was looking at you, Ayana.  He wants to be more than friends.”

“Well, he invited me to go dancing with him tonight but I told him that I already had plans.”

Rolf looked at her then.  “If you and I weren’t going to dinner and a show, would you have gone dancing with him?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I wouldn’t have.  I like Ramon but I’m not interested in him.”

“Is there someone you’re interested in, Ayana?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, but you’re already in a relationship.”

He reached for her hand, making her heart leap in her chest.  “I ended my relationship with Inga last year.”

Ayana stared at him.  “Last year?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”

“No, I didn’t.  When I saw her in the parking lot on the day before we flew out, she made it sound like you were still seeing each other.”

“You saw her in the parking lot?”

Ayana told him what happened.  “To diffuse the situation, I told her that I had a boyfriend,” she concluded.

“I’m sorry that you had such a nasty run in with her.”

“She heard about our trip to Buenos Aires and jumped to conclusions.”

“I wonder how she found out about it.  I will have a word with her when we return.  I don’t want her accosting you anymore.”

“I have to admit that it was very unnerving.”

“Let’s not think about the incident any more.  It’s our last evening in Buenos Aires. Let’s enjoy every moment.”

She nodded.  “Yes, let’s enjoy every moment.”

He raised her hand to his lips.  “And I hope that tonight will be the first of many enjoyable nights you and I will spend together.”

The brush of his lips against her hand made her pulse race and her stomach flip flop. Yes, the evening was off to a very exciting start.

 

Sources:  Smart Meetings; Prokerala; Four Seasons; CTrip

 

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God’s Way

As Larissa Scott sat on the beach, watching the tide roll away she thought about how far she had allowed herself to drift from God’s will for her life.  She hadn’t meant for it to happen.  It did when she met and fell in love with Steven.   About a year ago, she moved to Seattle because of a job opportunity which she could not pass up.  It was tough leaving her family, friends and church but she had prayed about it and knew that it was God leading her to a new life in a new city.

Nervous and excited at the same time, she packed up and left. After settling into a new apartment and the new job, she looked for a church to join and found one not far from where she lived. From the moment she walked in, she knew that was the church for her. She felt completely at home among people who loved the Lord and were active in the community and was blessed by the moving and inspiring sermons and uplifting worship music. She attended every week and quickly developed friendships. It wasn’t long before she transferred her membership to the church and got involved in their women’s ministry.

The first time she met Steven was at the weekly prayer meeting.  He was the elder in charge of the meeting that week.  She had noticed him before but they hadn’t actually met.  As he spoke, she studied him.  He looked to be in his late forties and was very attractive.  She wondered if he were married and hoped that he wasn’t.

When it was time to split up into twos to pray, he left the podium and walked over to her.  “Hello,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I’m Elder Steven Johnson.  I have seen you before but just didn’t have the opportunity to meet you until now.  You recently joined our church.  I don’t believe I was here when you were introduced to the congregation.”

She smiled and shook his hand.  “Larissa Scott,” she said.  “Yes, I moved to Seattle and I visited this church the week after I arrived.  It reminded me so much of my old church in New York.  There the people were warm and zealous for the Lord.”

“Well, I’m delighted that you are a member of our church family.  Now, we can pray for each other.”

They knelt down side by side, heads bowed and hands clasped before them.  He prayed first and when he was done, she prayed.  “Thank you,” she said when she was finished and they got up.

He smiled and went back up to the podium to wrap up the meeting.  She sat down in the chair before standing for the closing song and prayer.  While everyone was filing out, she lingered.  He took up the papers and his Bible and left the podium.  “Do you have a ride home?” he asked.  It was dark outside.

“I took the bus.”

“I can give you a ride home, if you like.”

She suddenly felt very shy and a few moments passed before she said, “Thank you.”

They left the back way which led to the parking lot.  He set the alarm and closed the door before taking her to where his car was parked.  He held the door open for her.  After she got in, he closed the door before walking quickly round to the driver’s side.  “It has gotten very cold,” he remarked as he started the engine.  “The temperature must have dropped.”  He turned on the heat before pulling out of the parking lot.  “Do you live far from here?”

She shook her head.  “No, I live about twenty minutes from away.”  She told him where she lived.  She could have easily taken the bus because they ran frequently but she was grateful for the ride because it was cold.

“Where did you live before you moved to Seattle?”

“I lived in Manhattan, New York.”

“What made you decide to move here?”

“The job of a lifetime and the conviction that this was where God wanted me to be.”

“What about your family?  How did they react to your move?”

“They were very supportive.  They said that if it were God’s will, then His will be done.  I’m in touch with them every day.  Have you always been at this church?”

“Yes.  I attended it since I was a child.  It’s my second home.  The members are my extended family.  It is where my parents met and got married.”

“How long have you been a church elder?”

“For about five years.”

“Do you like it?”

“Yes, I do.”

“What do you like best about being an elder?”

“I like visiting members in their homes to pray with them and give them encouragement.  I like to assist in giving Bible studies to prospective members.  I enjoy leading out in worship service and being a spiritual mentor.”

“My father is an elder too and his favorite thing is the visitation.”

They reached her building and he pulled up in front of the entrance.   He got out of the car to hold the door open for her.  “Have a good evening,” he said as she stepped out.  “I’ll see you on Saturday morning.”

“Thank you for the ride home, Elder Johnson,” she said.  “Have a good evening.”  She watched as he got into the car and waved as he drove away.  As she ran up the short flight of steps to the revolving doors, she found herself looking forward to seeing him on Saturday.  She still had no idea if he was married or not.  She had never observed him with a particular woman so, hopefully, that meant that he didn’t have a wife.  He wouldn’t be the first unmarried elder.

For the rest of the week she thought about him and really looked forward to seeing him again.  When Saturday came, she got up bright and early in the morning and got ready for church.  As soon as she entered the sanctuary, her eyes scanned the rows of seats in search of him but he wasn’t there.  Maybe, I will see him after the service, she thought as she went and sat down.  Fifteen minutes later the Sabbath School program began and she immersed herself in it.  When it was over there was the ten minutes before the worship service was to begin, he came out to address family matters which family matters and make the announcements.  She was so happy to see him.  Her heart began to beat fast.

After he left the podium, she took the bulletin from out of her Bible and read it.  It was then that she saw that his name was on it.  He was slated to do the Intercessory prayer and the Benediction which meant that he was going to be on the podium for the entire service.   So, she wouldn’t get to speak to him until after the service.

As usual, the worship service was uplifting and she was blessed.  As the pastor and Elder Johnson came down for the podium, she stared at him, hoping that he would see her when he passed the row where she was.  He did.  He smiled and said “Happy Sabbath,” before continuing down the aisle toward the double doors leading out to the entrance hall.  When they were gone and the music stopped playing everyone got seated again.

She picked up her handbag and Bible and waited for the usher to motion for her and the people in her row to leave.  When he did, she immediately got up and left.  Her eager eyes espied him standing by the door beside the pastor and talking to the members as they filed past him.  First she shook the pastor’s hand and told him how blessed she was by his sermon before she moved toward Elder Johnson who turned to greet her warmly and shake her hand.  “It is good to see you, Miss Scott.  Did you have a good week?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did, thank you.”

“Will you be coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday?” he asked.

“Yes, I will be there.”

“Good.  I will see you then.  Enjoy the rest of the day and have a good week.”

“Thank you, Elder Johnson.  You too.”  She moved away as another member joined them.  She wished she had more time to talk to him but he was busy at the moment.  She went downstairs to get her coat and after chatting with a few of the women she left and went straight home.  At least she was going to see him during the week but right now, Wednesday seemed like a very long way off.

Wednesday finally arrived and thankfully, the day flew by and as soon as she got home, she had dinner and then showered.  When she got to the church, there were a few people in the sanctuary but he wasn’t one of them.  After she said hello and chatted with them for a while, she found a seat.  A few minutes passed and then he sat down next to her.  Heart racing, she smiled at him and she felt butterflies in her stomach when he smiled back.  “Good evening,” he greeted her.  “I trust you’re having a good week so far.”

“Yes.  I can’t complain.  What about your week?”

“It has been a busy one so far but God has helped me to get through it.  I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to talk more the last time we saw each other.  I wanted to tell you about a spring concert at the Green Lake Church on Saturday at 4:30pm and ask you if you would be interested in going to it with me.”

He wanted to take her to a concert.  This confirmed that he wasn’t married.  “Yes, I would like go,” she told him.  “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Don’t mention it,” he replied.  “Excuse me.  I’ll be right back.”  He got up and went across the aisle to talk to another church member for a few minutes before rejoining her.  This time, it was the pastor’s wife who led the prayer meeting and it was very engaging.  When it was time to split up in twos to pray, Elder Johnson prayed with the member he had been talking to earlier while she prayed with the pastor’s wife.  When it was over Elder Johnson took her home.

The concert was a real treat and she couldn’t stop raving about it as they went to a vegetarian café afterward.  Over Moroccan Tagine and Spring Nettle Pappardell, they talked about the concert, the worship service and other things.  It was a very pleasant evening and she was sorry when it was over.  Outside of her building, she turned to him and said, “Thank you, Elder Johnson for a wonderful evening.”

“Please call me Steven,” he said quietly.  “Are you busy tomorrow?”

She shook her head.

“How would you go on the Harbor Cruise and then have lunch afterwards at the Space Needle?”

“I would like that very much,” she said, her eyes dancing with delight.  He was asking her out on a date.

He smiled.  “Good.  I will pick you tomorrow morning at eleven.  Goodnight, Larissa.”

“Goodnight, Steven.” She watched him drive away before she went inside the building.

After their cruise and lunch at the Space Needle, they began dating exclusively.  They went all over Seattle, giving her a real taste and appreciation for the city.  They visited museums, the zoo, art galleries, parks, the Aquarium and their excursion to Tillicum Village on Blake Island was an experience she would never forget.  They went for scenic drives to Snoqualmie Falls and Seward Park to the Washington Park Arboretum where one was treated to with an incredible view of Mount Rainier in the distance.

At church, they were circumspect around each other not wanting anyone to know that they were seeing each other.  For the time being, they wanted to keep their relationship on the quiet.  They never went to each other’s place but went out instead.  They did not kiss for the first few months they were dating but held hands when in public.

Then one afternoon when he went by her place to pick her up to take her to see the iconic brick wall covered with chewed up gum in an alley under Pike Place Market and the Giant Ferris Wheel, it began to rain cats and dogs.  It was a real bummer because she had been looking forward to going out.  It had been overcast all morning but she had been hoping that it would clear up but now rain was coming down in buckets and it didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon.  She turned away from the window, bitterly disappointed.  “Oh, well,” she said.  “I guess we will have to take a rain check.”

“I’m sorry about the weather,” he said.  “I know how much you were looking forward to going out.”

“It’s okay,” she said, shrugging.  “I’m sure we can find something to occupy ourselves with until the rain ends.”

“Do you have anything in mind?”

“Yes.  I have a few board games we can play.  We have Bibleopoly which is the Biblical alternative to Monopoly, Bible Scrabble and Bible or Not.”

“They all sound very interesting and it has been a while since I played board games.”

“Good.  We’ll on the carpet in front of the sofa.”  She left and brought out the games, setting them on the coffee table.  “Which one do you want to play first?”

He looked at each of them for a moment and then, he took up Bible Scrabble.  “I’ve always enjoyed Scrabble,” he said.  They set things up and sat down, cross legged on the carpet and began playing.  They played all three games.  The time went by very quickly and it was time to have something to eat.  They packed up the games and she put them away before going into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Dinner was Spicy Kale and Coconut Stir Fry, one of her favorite recipes to make.  For dessert, they had Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.  Then they relaxed on the sofa and watched The War Room.

It was still raining outside when she checked a couple of hours later, though not heavily as before. Steven joined her at the window.  “It seems to be easing up,” she remarked turning to face him.  “Would you like anything to drink—maybe a hot chocolate?”

He shook his head.  “No, thank you.  I should be leaving now.  I have an early day tomorrow at work.”

“All right.  I have an umbrella. Would you like to borrow it?”

He smiled.  “I’ll be fine,” he said.  Then, taking her hands, he added, “I’m happy that it rained because I really enjoyed the time we spent here together.  And thanks for the delectable dinner and dessert.”

She smiled, feeling very pleased. “I had a wonderful time too and I’m glad you enjoyed my cooking.”

His expression got serious as they stood there in front of the window, holding hands.  Then, without saying anything, he bent his head and kissed her.  It was tentative at first but it deepened when he felt her response.  He let go of her hands to cup her face as he kissed her passionately.  She put her arms around his waist.  For several minutes they kissed and then, he broke off the kiss to unbutton his shirt, his face flushed as his eyes met her wide ones.   Their heavy breathing mingled as she helped him with the buttons.  When his shirt was discarded, she removed her top.

Then, they were kissing again, wildly now.  Her fingers dug into the flesh on his back and groaning, he picked her up and carried her over to the rug in front of the fireplace.  After putting her down, he stood up to remove the rest of his clothes before kneeling down to remove hers.  There in front of the fireplace, they made love while outside the rain continued to fall.

Several hours later, he got dressed and left, after a lengthy goodbye at the door.  That night was the first of many such trysts between them.  They both knew it was wrong to have sexual relations outside of marriage but they allowed their passion for one another to override the instructions God brought to their minds.  This continued for weeks.  They hardly went out.  Instead they stayed in inside either at his place or hers and spent a good chunk of their time in bed, ravaging each other before surfacing to engage in other activities.

Then, one Sabbath, the pastor preached a sermon which Larissa felt was directed to her.  It was Youth Day and the message was about youth abstinence.  The words that struck her like a blow were, “True love waits” which was the title of the sermon.  The challenge was for young people to abstain from having sex until marriage and using the Bible, he shared the benefits of abstinence.

As she listened, Larissa felt convicted.  She recalled how she had always planned to save herself for the husband that God was going to bless her with.  When she met and fell in love with Steven, that vow was broken.  Love and desire took precedence and now she was being reminded of that promise she had made to herself.  Tears came to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  She didn’t want to lose it right then in front of everybody, especially Steven.  She sat through the sermon and by the time it was over, she had come to the painful conclusion that she had to stop seeing Steven.

As soon as the service was finished, she hurried out of the sanctuary and left the church through the back entrance.  All the way home on the bus, she thought about how hard it was going to be to break up with Steven but they couldn’t continue sleeping together.  In her mind, she heard the apostle Paul’s admonition, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  She had given her body to Steven because she loved him but he wasn’t her husband. She wanted to do things God’s way and if it meant ending her relationship with Steven, then she had no choice but to end it.

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she brushed them away.  Lord, I love Steven so much.  I can’t imagine my life without him in it.  It will be hard going to church and seeing him.  My only other option is to transfer to another church but I love this church and the people.  Lord, I want to do things Your way but this is so painful. When she got home, she changed and then headed straight to the beach to think things through.

And here she was now, staring out at the sea and thinking about how far she had drifted from God.   She stood there for a long time, wishing that her life wasn’t in such a turmoil.  It wasn’t so long ago when she was so happy.  Things were going so well for Steven and her until they became sexually involved.  She closed her eyes as images of their intense lovemaking flashed across her mind and she felt her body react strongly.  Her eyes flew open as guilt filled her and she scrambled to her feet.  She ran all the way to the bus stop and got there just as the bus pulled up.  

She was heading toward the entrance of her building when she heard her name.  Her heart skipped a beat when she turned and found herself staring up at Steven.  His eyes were restless on her face and his expression was serious. “You’ve been crying.”

She didn’t answer.

“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.  “My car is parked over there.”

She didn’t say anything but followed him to his car.  When they were seated, she looked down at her hands clasped in her lap.  “I-I was going to call you later,” she said.

He reached out and covered her hands with his.  “Larissa, I know that the sermon today was difficult to hear because of our relationship.  We crossed a line we shouldn’t have and I’m sorry.  I was the one who made the first move but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much.”

“I wanted you too,” she admitted, still not looking at him.

“I looked for you after the service but you were gone.  I went home and called you from there but there was not answer.  I decided to come over and see if you were here.  I was just on my way up to your place when I saw you.  I have something I want to say to you.  I was going to wait until your birthday but I realize that now is the best time.”  He released her hands to reach into the breast pocket of his shirt.  “This morning before I came to church, God told me that we had drifted outside of His will for our lives and that in order for us to get His blessing and anointing on our relationship, we have to do it His way.  True love waits.”

She looked at him, wondering what he was talking about when she saw the black box in his hand.  Her heart began to pound and her eyes flew up to his face.

He opened it and took out a beautiful diamond cross engagement ring.  “Larissa, the first time I saw you, my heart stopped.  And every moment I spent with you was heaven on earth.  I love you with an everlasting love and it would make my heart glad with unspeakable joy if you would spend the rest of your life with me.  Larissa, will you marry me?”

By now the tears were just flowing and it took a few moments for her to whisper, “Yes.”

He blinked back his own tears as he slid the ringer on her finger.  “I love you,” he murmured before leaning over to kiss her.

“I love you too,” she murmured against his lips.  Her heart was singing.  God didn’t want her to end her relationship with Steven, He just wanted it to be done His way.  She was going to wait until she and Steven were married to experience sexual intimacy the way God intended.  No, she didn’t mind waiting at all.  Waiting is a sign of true love and patience. Anyone can say ‘I love you,’ but not everyone can wait and prove it’s true.

Sources:  Emerald City Community Church; Cicero SDA Church; First SDA Church; Ministry Magazine; Cafe Flora; Seattle Tours; Argosy Cruises; Christian Cafe; CBS Seattle; Christianity Today; Cookie and Kate; The Food Network; Box Cast; Sermon Central; Apples of Gold; Married and Young; Ask Ideas

Angry With God

Don’t you just love it when your child decides to have a temper tantrum when you’re in the supermarket, a restaurant or anywhere in public?  Some of us feel embarrassed and mortified, especially when we get those “why can’t she control her child?” looks.  We try to deal with the situation as best as we can.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could vacate the premises as fast as the superhero, Flash?  Or better yet, beam home?  When it comes to dealing with temper tantrums, we have to diffuse the situation and try to remain calm while doing that which isn’t easy at all.

What about us?  Do we throw temper tantrums when we don’t get our way with God?  Do we get angry and sulky when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want?  I can think of two examples of people in the Bible who threw tantrums when things didn’t go their way.  The first is Cain.

Cain was the older of two brothers.  He was a a “tiller of the ground” while his brother Abel was a “keeper of sheep”.  Both brought offerings to God.   God respected Abel and his offering but didn’t respect Cain and his offering.  Cain became very angry and depressed.   Why did God reject his offering?  Hebrews 11:4 states, By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.  Abel offered the best that he had from among his flock while Cain brought an offering of the fruit.  It doesn’t say that the fruit were the first fruits of the ground which were offered unto God just as the first-born of man and animals but it would explain why God rejected Cain’s offer. 

If we don’t give God our best and He rejects it, why should we get angry?  Cain’s anger toward God was unreasonable.  God spoke to him about it.   “Why are you angry? Why is your countenance fallen?  If you do well, shall you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must rule over it.”

God dealt with Cain’s behavior in a calm and loving manner.  God knew what was the cause of his anger and told him what to do about it.  If you know why your child is acting up, try to help them to see how their behavior will not get them what they want.  Cain’s anger was not going to make things right with God.  He had to change his attitude and do what is right before God could accept him.  Your child needs to know that their unruly behavior is unacceptable and that if they behave themselves, all will be well for them.   Some of them may calm down and behave themselves while others continue acting up.  Sadly, Cain didn’t get over his anger and it resulted in his brother’s death.

Jonah is the other adult in the Bible who threw a temper tantrum.  When God first sent the prophet to the wicked city of Nineveh to cry out against it, “because their wickedness has come up before Me,” Jonah fled in the opposite direction to Tarshish.  After surviving three days and nights in the belly of a large fish which vomited him up on dry land and acknowledging that “Salvation is of the Lord!” God again called the prophet to “Get up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

Jonah had no other choice but to go to Nineveh this time.  When he entered the city, he cried out, “In forty days’ time, Nineveh will be overthrown!”  The people believed God and proclaimed a fast.  They all put on sackcloth and when the king heard the news, he left his throne, removed his robes and put on sackcloth.  He made a decree that both people and animals would fast and that all shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands, believing that it was possible that God “may relent and change His mind. He may turn from His fierce anger, so that we will not perish.”

When God saw their actions and that they had turned from their evil ways, He relented and didn’t bring disaster on them.  However, this act of mercy greatly angered Jonah and he told God why he fled to Tarshish.  “This is the reason that I fled before to Tarshish, because I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in faithfulness, and ready to relent from punishment.”  He asked God to take his life because death was better than living to see the people of Nineveh spared. 

Do we get upset with God when He shows love and compassion toward people we don’t think are deserving of His mercy?  Are any of us deserving of His grace?  When Jonah was thrown into the sea as per his request to the men in the ship with him, God showed him mercy by sending a large fish to swallow him, preventing him from drowning.  Jonah confessed that salvation was of the Lord and yet, he was angry with Him for saving the people of Nineveh who repented.  God will not destroy those who repent but will show them mercy instead.  This was the God whom Jonah served and yet, this was the reason why he was angry with Him.

As He did with Cain and with us, God tried to reason with Jonah, showing him how unreasonable he was being.  He asked him, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Is it right for us to be angry when God accepts a person whom we considered to be a backslider back into His fold?  Was it right for the brother of the prodigal son to be upset with the father for welcoming his wayward son back home?  To illustrate His point, God did a little experiment.  As Jonah sat down to see what would happen to the city of Nineveh, God had a plant grow and give shade to the prophet.  Jonah was thankful for the plant because of its shade from the heat.  The next day, though, God had a worm eat the plant until it withered and then raised up a scorching east wind. When the sun beat upon the head of Jonah he became faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

God asked him if it was right for him to be angry about the plant.  Jonah replied that his anger was justified even to death.  And God’s response was, “You are troubled about the plant for which you did not labor and did not grow. It came up in a night and perished in a night.  Should I not, therefore, be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people, who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Do we, like Jonah, place more importance on things and animals than we do people who are lost and need God’s mercy?  The people of Nineveh were living in sin until God sent Jonah to warn them so that they could turn from their wickedness and be saved.  There are many people in the world who are living in darkness and God wants bring them into the light.  We don’t determine who deserves His mercy and who doesn’t.  When it comes to someone’s salvation, there’s no room for temper tantrums but a changed heart and attitude that would allow us to see what God sees and rejoice with Him when that sinner repents.

Sources:  Bible Study Tools; Bible Gateway

Paradise

They met in Paradise Island.  She had taken a spontaneous trip to the island.  It was to get away for a while.  She had just broken up with Lemarr, the treacherous cur.  He two-timed her with her best friend.

She saw them one morning outside of his building, holding hands and kissing.  Not wanting to make a scene, she stood there in the cold, her heart breaking.  The tears spilled down her cheeks and she brushed them away with a gloved hand.  She watched as they walked away, oblivious to the pain their treachery caused. They never even noticed her standing there.

When Lemarr had to nerve to drop by her flat the following day, she coldly told him that their relationship was over and slammed the door in his face.  After she had a good cry, she picked up the phone and booked a flight to Paradise Island.  It was by pure luck that she was able to book a room at a luxury hotel, notable for its elegance and relaxing atmosphere.  She had read about it on line and the glowing reviews and looked forward to spending seven fabulous days there.

It felt good to get away from the lingering cold and Lemarr.  Soon after she arrived at the hotel, she donned a swimsuit, a pair of sunglasses and went down to the beach.  The sun felt great and she breathed in the tangy salt air.  It had been years since she was anywhere tropical.  And if it hadn’t been for Lemarr and Wanda, she wouldn’t be here.  Wanda.  She still couldn’t believe that her best friend had stabbed her in the back like that–the same friend whom she was so proud of when she saw the mayor bestow a plague of appreciation for her outstanding work as a volunteer.   She hoped she never saw the miserable wretch ever again.

It wasn’t until she was walking along the beach when she noticed him standing there at the water’s edge, gazing out at the sea.  She tried not to notice.  The last thing she wanted was to get involved with another man.  It was way too soon and she would be doing it to get back at Lemarr.  Yet, she couldn’t help but stare at him.  He was absolutely gorgeous.

As if he sensed that he was being watched, he turned his head and their eyes met.  She saw his gaze travel over her and then return to her face.  The raw feelings that his appraisal stirred inside her both shocked and disturbed her. How could she be experiencing these sensations so soon after her break up with Lemarr?  Didn’t she love Lemarr and was heartbroken over his betrayal?  Then why was she getting hot and bothered over a guy she had never seen before in her life?

What should she do? Walk past him as if he weren’t there?  That was unlikely.  Should she smile and say hello and continue walking?  Or should she turn around and walk in the opposite direction.  As she agonized over what to do, he started to walk toward her.  Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs.  Oh, dear, what am I going to do now?

He walked right up to her and extending his hand, he introduced himself.  “Hi, I’m Sean.”

She hesitated for a moment and then she put her hand in his, feeling a jolt of electricity at the contact.  His fingers clasped hers in a firm hand shake.  “Dinny.”

This close, he was even more handsome.  His thick dark hair glistened wetly and rivulets of water ran down his broad chest and flat stomach.  He must have just come out of the water.  She saw the towel in his hand and swallowed hard when she imagined him drying his skin with it.  She was thankful that she was wearing sunglasses.  He couldn’t see the look in her eyes.

“Did you just arrive, Dinny?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes.”  He was still holding her hand.

“I thought so.  I would have noticed you if you were here before.  Where did you fly in from?”

“New York.”

“I’m from Seattle.  Are you here alone?”

“Yes.”

“Me too.  Is this your first time to Paradise Island?”

“Yes.”  She knew she kept giving him one word answers but she couldn’t think straight with him holding her hand.

As if he had read her mind, he released her hand, much to her relief.  “How long are you here for?”

“A week.  What about you?”  It was the first time she had asked him a question.  Did that mean she was warming up to him?  No, she was just being polite.

“Eight days.  I got here yesterday.  It looks like we will be leaving on the same day.  I know this may seem a bit forward but I was wondering if we could spend time together or at least sit at the same table for dinner.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why not?  What harm could there be in us getting to know each other better?  Are you married?”  He couldn’t see if she was wearing a ring because she was carrying a beach towel.

She shook her head at once.  “No, I’m not married.  Are you?”

“I wouldn’t be here by myself or talking to you if I were.”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

“Are you in a relationship?”

“I was but now it’s over.  I’d rather not talk about it.”

“All right.  I’ll respect your privacy.  Are you going to go for a swim?  The water is great.”

“I want to walk first and then go into the water afterwards.”

“All right, I’ll leave you to your walk.  If you change your mind about spending time together, let me know.  I’ll be over there.”  He pointed to an area on the beach, further up where there was a beach chair under an umbrella.  A beach towel was rolled up in the chair with a book next to it.

She looked at him, tempted beyond belief but she needed to think about it.  “I’ll think about it,” she said and he smiled.  She excused herself and walked away.  She could feel his eyes on her and she turned once to look back.   Yes, he was watching her.  She turned away and continued along the beach as far as she could go before she stopped somewhere, removed her wrap skirt and put it down on the dry sand with her beach towel and flip-flops.  She walked towards the water, anxious to feel it on her skin.

She spent about half hour in the water, soaking in the tranquility which surrounded her.  It was at that moment that she felt God’s presence and a peace came over her.  The anger, hurt and bitterness that had eaten her up seem to ebb away with the gentle waves.  And Sean’s face swam into focus.  Was it by pure chance that they met or was it by Providence?  She wasn’t sure.

She knew was that it would be foolish to find herself in another relationship so soon after her breakup with Lemarr but Sean was so intriguing.  It was very obvious that he found her attractive.  And to be quite honest, she was attracted to him too.  Was there really any harm in them spending time together?  It would be nice to have someone to talk to and was better than eating alone.

By the time she came out of the water, she had made up her mind to take Sean up on his offer.  She was a free woman now and didn’t have to answer to anyone, least of all–Lemarr.  She dried her skin and hair before putting on the wrap skirt.  Taking up her flip-flops, she made her way back to where Sean said that he would be.

He looked even more disturbing reclining on the lounging chair.  He smiled when she approached him and closed the book he was reading.  “Have a seat,” he invited, indicating the chair beside him.  “Had a good swim?”

“Yes, I did.”  She realized that he had set up another chair because she remembered seeing only one.  “You seem very sure that I would come,” she remarked, sitting down.

“I was hopeful.  We can sit here for a while and then have lunch.”

“Is this your first time in Paradise Island?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  I’ve been to the Bahamas before, though.  I went to Nassau about five years ago.”

“Were you alone that time too?”

“No.  I was with my then girlfriend.”

“What happened to her?”

“We broke up.  There was too much interference from her friends in the relationship.  I got tired of it and walked away.”

“I have seen a lot of my friends’ relationships end because they listened to their single girlfriends.   Some of them tried to get into my relationship but I refused to let anyone who had never been in a long term relationship give me advice.”

“So, what was the cause of your breakup?”

She turned to look at the ocean.  “He cheated on me with my best friend.”

Sean reached out and covered her hand with his.  “I’m so sorry to hear that.  I can’t imagine how you must have felt.”

His hand on her arm was comforting and thrilling at the same time.  “I was very angry and very hurt,” she admitted.  “I saw them together when I went by his place. They didn’t see me.  I stood there watching them until they walked away.  The next day when he came by my place, I told him that it was over and slammed the door in his face.  Then, I picked up the phone and made travel arrangements.  And here I am on Paradise Island.”

“Well, I wish we could have met under better circumstances.   I know this is easier said than done, but what do you say we forget about the past and just enjoy the present.  We came here to relax and have fun.  Let’s not think about broken relationships or the people who have hurt us.  They have moved on with their lives and we should do the same.”

She glanced at him.  “I’m willing to try,” she said.  “Sometimes, these things happen for a reason.  Maybe Lemarr and I weren’t meant to be.”

“Maybe.”  He agreed and then he changed the subject.  “Tomorrow morning, I am going on the Atlantis , would you like to come?”

She looked at him in alarm.  “Is that where they go scuba and shark diving?”

He chuckled.  “We don’t have to do either of those things,” he said.  “We can go snorkeling or snuba diving.”

“What’s snuba diving?”

“Snuba diving is like scuba diving but without the tank.  Instead, you get oxygen from a tube.”

“Which would you recommend?  Snorkeling of snuba diving?”

“I recommend snuba diving because it gives you more freedom to explore and enjoy your surroundings than snorkeling.  It’s easy and it’s for people who have never snorkeled.”

“All right, I’ll come.  I’m sure you would have preferred to go scuba diving, though.”

“I prefer to do whatever makes you comfortable, Dinny.  Besides, I’ve never been snuba diving before so it will be a new experience for me too.”  He glanced at his watch.  “Let’s go and have something to eat.  We can come back here again afterwards.”  He got up and helped her up.  Their eyes met briefly and then he turned away.  They walked back to the hotel, agreed to meet in the lobby after getting changed and freshening up.  Ten minutes later, they were having lunch.  They talked about different things and she began to feel very relaxed with him.  And he watched her, thinking how lovely she looked when she smiled.

She learned a lot about him.  He had two brothers–one older and one younger and a younger sister.  He was the Founder and CEO of Zanoah, a non-profit organization which caters to the “cast off” of society like prostitutes, prisoners, young offenders and the disenfranchised.  His church had a partnership with other non-profit organizations and he was a part of the delivery team which delivered pre-made meals once a week to individuals living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS and/or other chronic diseases.  When he wasn’t busy working or doing community work, he liked to go cycling or hiking to keep fit.  He liked to travel and did so once every year.  After he told her everything he could about himself, it was her turn to talk about herself.

She had a younger sister who lived in Atlanta with her husband. Her parents moved to Fort Lauderdale after they retired.  She was a Computer and Information Systems Manager.  At church, she was involved in Women’s Ministry and participated in the Downtown Feeding Ministry.  In her spare time, she liked to read, go for walks, shop, hang out with friends or take in a performance at Lincoln Center.  Most of the time, though, she stayed at home.

After lunch, they went back to the beach where they spent the rest of the afternoon, relaxing, talking, walking along the water’s edge and then going for a swim.   It was after six when they left the beach and headed back to the hotel.  Before they parted ways, they arranged to have dinner at seven.  He was going to stop by her room this time instead of meeting in the lobby.  Compared to his, her life sounded boring.

Once she got to her room, she spread the dress she was going to wear out on the bed.  It was a sleeveless black dress with a scooped neckline, a keyhole cut-out back and a flare skirt ending above the knees.  A pair of strappy black sandals would complete the outfit.  After taking a long, hot shower, she got dressed and when she was finished, she examined herself in the mirror in the bathroom.  Satisfied, she switched off the light just as she heard a knock on the door.

Heart pounding, she went and answered it.  Sean stood there, looking extremely handsome in the black suit and white dress shirt with no tie.  His eyes traveled slowly over her and when they returned to her face, she saw admiration and something else shimmering in their depths.  Swallowing hard, she stepped outside and closed the door behind her.  “You look amazing,” she heard him say as she turned to lock the door.

When she turned to face him, he was looking at her, a serious expression on his face.  “Thank you,” she said quietly.  “So do you.”  She walked beside him on shaky legs, wondering if he could hear how fast her heart was beating.  She wondered what Lemarr would do if he were to see her now.  It was the first time in hours that she thought about him and that was a good thing.

They had dinner at Café Martinique which didn’t quite look like the old one made famous by its appearance in the James Bond movie, Thunderball.  Over Sesame Crusted Salmon and Spiced Rack of Lamb, they talked about their excursion to Stuart’s Cove in the morning.  She was both nervous and excited at the prospect.  After dinner, they went the Joker’s Wild Comedy Club before they called it a night.

The next morning, Dinny went to Poseidon’s Table where an elaborate breakfast buffet awaited her.  She stood there, not knowing where to start.  Everything looked so appetizing.  Sean joined her, looking refreshing in a white tee shirt and jeans.  She was dressed in a yellow tee shirt and a denim Capri pants.  After some time passed, she finally settled for fresh fruit, toast, veggie omelet and tea.  He had fruit, blueberry pancakes and a coffee.

When they were finished they hurried back to their rooms to get what they needed for their trip and twenty minutes later they were on their way.  There were a lot of people on the boat, couples, families, seniors and singles but it wasn’t overcrowded.  The captain and his assistant were very nice and tended to everyone.  After they were shown basic skills, they were in the water.

Dinny stayed close to Sean, holding his hand as they explored the reefs, her eyes widening when she spotted a lion fish among the coral reef.  She liked the yellow and black striped fish.  They spent a while in the water and then they went back on the boat.  It was a wonderful experience and they made plans to go on a snorkel trip and while Sean swam with the sharks, she would remain on the boat and watch.

When they got back to the hotel, they had lunch before heading to the beach to relax for the rest of the afternoon until it was time for dinner.  During the week, they visited Dolphin Cay where they interacted with sea lions and swam with the dolphins.  It was the first time Dinny had ever worn a wet-suit.  They went snorkeling among the ruins of Atlantis where they spotted rays and colorful tropical fish.  She got nervous when she saw sharks and held on tightly to Sean’s hand.  They went down the Challenger Water slide of the Mayan Temple and Sean won.

One day, they went the spa and each got a massage.  Dinny got a facial as well.  And while he went to the fitness center to get a workout, she went shopping.   They went on a tour of galleries to get a taste of Bahamian art and culture.  Afterwards they had lunch at Hillside House.

It was their last night at the resort and they were having dinner at Sip Sip, a beach front restaurant.  The mood at the table was very solemn.  She toyed with her salad, her expression downcast.  She was going to miss him terribly.

He raised his head to look at her.  “I wish I could take you back to Seattle with me,” he said quietly.

“I wish we could stay here for another week.”

“I know that we said that we will keep in touch by phone and email but that isn’t the same as seeing each other like we are now.”  His eyes darkened.  He was going to miss being with her.  The time they spent together was the happiest he had ever experienced in his life.  He couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her.  “May I visit you in the summer?”

She nodded at once.  “Yes.  I’d like that very much.”

“And you could visit me at Christmas.”

“Yes, I could do that.”

“Dinny, my IT Manager is retiring at the end of the month.  The position is yours if you would consider moving to Seattle.”

She stared at him.  “Move to Seattle?”

“If I didn’t have Zanoah, I would move to New York in a heartbeat.”

“I was born and grew up in New York.  I’ve never thought of leaving.”

“Please think about it.  I will give you until the end of the month.  If you show up at my flat before then, I’ll know that you have decided to leave your life in New York behind to start a new one with me.”

“And if I don’t show up?”

“Then, the position will be filled and I’ll know that we’ll have a long distance relationship until we eventually end up in the same city.”

She smiled.  “I’ll think about it.”

He smiled too.  “Now, how about we try to enjoy our last dinner together here in paradise?”

They tucked into their food with relish.  Afterwards, they went to Aura Nightclub but sat in a VIP parlour where they talked over non-alcoholic drinks late into the night.  It was close to midnight when he walked her to her suite.  She opened the door and then turned to face him.  Their eyes met and held for a long moment.  “Good night, Dinny,” he said quietly, his expression tense.  He wanted to kiss her so badly.

She swallowed hard.  “Good night, Sean.”  She wanted him to kiss her so badly.

Neither of them moved.  They just continued standing there, gazing at each other for a long, heart palpitating moment and then she was in his arms and he was kissing her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses as the longing they had been kept in check rose to the surface.  This continued for several minutes until he broke off the kiss and buried his face in her neck.

“I want you so much,” he moaned thickly.  “But, not now like this.  I’m willing to wait until the time is right.”  He raised his head, his eyes dark with desire as they met hers.  Reluctantly, he released her and stepped back.  “Good night, Dinny.  I’ll meet you for breakfast at the usual time.”

She nodded, her voice barely above a whisper when she bid him, “Goodnight.”  She was trembling so badly that she had to hold onto the door frame.  She watched him walk away and then she went into the suite, closing the door behind her.  For a moment she leaned against it, trying to catch her breath before she walked rather unsteadily into the bathroom where she got ready for bed.

As soon as Sean got to his suite, he stripped and took a cold shower.  When he was done, he pulled on a pair of silk pajamas and knelt beside the bed.  “Lord, You know how I feel about Dinny,” he murmured.  “I never thought it was possible to fall in love with someone I’ve known for only nine days but it has happened.  I didn’t come to Paradise Island looking for love but it found me that day on the beach when I saw this incredibly beautiful woman walking towards me.  Lord, it’s hard for me to part from her.

“A few minutes ago, I was really, really tempted to show her how I feel about her but You helped me to exercise self-control.  It wasn’t easy, though.  I want Dinny in my life.  Is it selfish for me to want her to move to Seattle?  If I didn’t believe that it is Your will for me to continue the work I’m doing through Zanoah, I would move to New York, no problem.  Lord, if Dinny moves to Seattle before the end of the month to be with me, then I will know that we have Your blessing.”  He got up off his knees and climbed into bed.

The next morning they had breakfast and then she waited with him in the lobby for the shuttle to take him to the airport.  When it came, she followed him outside and they hugged tightly before he climbed into it.  She waved until it disappeared out of sight and then returned to the hotel, dejected.

Soon she was on her way back to New York.  Life seemed very dull after being on Paradise Island and she missed Sean like crazy.  Talking to him on the phone and emailing him was not enough.  She wanted to see him.

Sean was standing at the window, looking out, thinking about Dinny when the doorbell rang.  He went to answer it.  His heart skipped a beat when he looked through the keyhole.  His face braking into a broad smile, he opened the door, his eyes eagerly running over her.  He pulled her inside and closed the door.  “Hello,” he murmured before bending his head to kiss her.

She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  After a while, she drew back to look up at him.  “So, when do I start my new job?” she asked.

“On Monday,” he said.

“You were very sure that I would come.”

“I was hopeful,” he said with a smile.

“If you are up to it, I was hoping that you would take me sightseeing.”

“Sure,” he said.  “Where’s your luggage?”

“At the hotel.  Staying here with you wouldn’t be a good idea.  Things could get tricky.”

“You’re right,” he agreed.  “The first thing you and I are going to do is buy a ring.  Then, we will get married as soon as possible and you can move in here with me.”

“Sounds good,” Dinny murmured as he lowered his head towards her.  When she felt his lips on hers, she thought that paradise wasn’t just about places but about moments like this one.  She was with the man who loved her and whom she loved.  What could be better than that?

 

Sources:  Atlantis Bahamas; Your Tango; Girls Love Style; Simply Dresses; Cafe Martinique; Trip Advisor; Blue Letter Bible; Grace Seattle; Seattle Church; Reader’s Digest; Pinterest

The Heart Speaks

“I sympathize with your situation but I’m afraid you don’t fit what we are looking for.  You have the qualifications but you just don’t fit what we are looking for.  I’m sorry.  I hope things work out for you.”

These words played over and over in Shannon’s mind as she walked down the sidewalk, tired from job hunting and interviews that ended the same–rejection.  What was wrong with her?  Was it her appearance, her color?  Was it her hair which was very short and natural?  She had the qualifications and when they called her for an interview, they sounded enthusiastic but when they saw her in person, the reception was lukewarm.  And the interview didn’t last long at all.  She was in and out of there in less than half-hour.

What on earth was she going to do now?  If she didn’t get a job soon, she would be evicted from her flat.  That meant she would have to move back in with her parents until she could find a job.  She didn’t relish the idea of moving back with her parents after being on her own for a while.  Sighing heavily, she decided to go to the park and sit there and try to figure out what to do.  First, she would grab a cappuccino.  Maybe she could try an employment agency.  A temporary job was better than nothing.

It was after twelve and the cafe was filling up.  As she joined the line to place her order, she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around.  Her heart skipped a beat when she found herself staring up into the handsome face of Arran Carter, her ex-boyfriend’s uncle.

His hazel eyes were riveted to her face which he thought was exquisitely beautiful. “Hello, Shannon,” he said quietly.  Since the first time they met, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind.

“Hello, Mr. Carter,” she said trying to sound calm when her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  He had this effect on her.  After meeting him, she knew she couldn’t continue to see Hugh.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him continue their relationship when she had fallen for his uncle.

“Please call me Arran.  It’s so good to see you.  How have you been?”

“Well, I haven’t been so good,” she told him.  “I have been out of a job for about a year now and haven’t found anything as yet and time is running out.  I could lose my flat if I don’t find something soon.”

“Have you had lunch?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I just came from an interview and was going to get a cappuccino.”

“Let me buy you lunch and we can talk more.”

She smiled, grateful.  “Thank you.”  He put a hand under her elbow and led her to a table in the corner by the window.  She removed her coat to reveal a navy blue skirt suit and a white shirt.  As she sat down, she couldn’t help thinking about how she used to dress when she first attended university.

During the summer, she wore top with spaghetti straps, bulky and cheap chains and necklaces and too much makeup.  And in the winter, she wore mostly black and leather, torn jeans and impossibly high pointed toe boots.  In her senior year, she underwent a complete make-over.  Her style went from edgy to elegant so that her friends and parents were shocked and pleased at the transformation.  She wondered what Arran would have thought if he had known her then.

She studied him as his six foot two inches frame settled in the seat opposite her.  He was wearing a tan colored jacket which he removed, a black shirt and pants.  His dark hair was thick and spiky, giving him a rugged look which she found very attractive.  She wanted to reach over and ruffle it.  Realizing that she was staring, she turned and looked out of the window.

The waitress brought menus and after they browsed through them and placed their orders, he said, “You mentioned that you had an interview earlier.  I don’t imagine that it went as you’d hoped.”

She shook her head as she played with the folded napkin on the table.  “No.  They said I didn’t fit what they were looking for even I had the qualifications.”

He pursed his lips.  “That was an unethical thing to say,” he remarked tersely.  “If you have  the qualifications, they should have hired you.”

She glanced up at him.  “Perhaps, they had a problem with the way I look.”

“What ‘s wrong with the way you look?” he wondered in surprise.  You look amazing. 

“Nothing as far as I’m concerned.”

“Do you have a copy of your resume with you?”

“Yes, I do.”  She reached for her handbag and produced a copy which she gave to him.  She watched anxiously as he read it.

“May I hold on to this?” he asked.

She nodded.  Just then, the waitress brought their orders.  She toyed with her salad, wondering if he was going to give her resume to someone he knew.

“You have all the qualifications I’m looking for,” he said.  “My assistant Loretta is going on maternity leave in two weeks so I’ll be needing someone to fill her position.  How would you feel about working for me?”

She stared at him for several minutes.  “I would like that very much,” she managed to say.  “Thank you, Arran.”

“You’re welcome.”  He had done it for himself as much as he had done it for her.  Hiring her as his assistant meant that he would get to see her on a regular basis.  “I’d like you to start on Monday.”  He took out his wallet and pulled out a card which he handed to her.  It was a business card.  “When you get there, have the receptionist call me and I will come and get you.”

She put the card in her wallet, grateful to him for his kindness.  Her appetite was back and she tucked into the salad.  “I haven’t asked you how you’ve been,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic.

“I’ve been fine, thanks,” he said, studying her.  Her eyes captivated him.  “Work keeps me busy.”

She wanted to find out if he was seeing anyone but instead she asked, “Do you go out on the weekends?”

“Sometimes.  What about you?”

“Sometimes I go out but most times I stay in.”

“I ran into Hugh the other day.”

“How is he?”  She hadn’t seen him since the break-up.

“He seemed fine.  He mentioned that you broke up with him.”

“That’s true,” she acknowledged.

“Are you seeing anyone now?” he asked.  His expression was inscrutable as he watched her.

“No, I’m not seeing anyone now,” she said, looking at him.  “What about you?”

“I’m not in a relationship,” he said.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes, then he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”  Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of having dinner with him.  “My address and number are on my resume.”

He smiled.  “I know.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

They spoke about other things and then it was time for him to head back to the office.  “Thank you so much for lunch and the job,” she said putting on her coat while he paid the bill.  “I really appreciate it.”

“It was my pleasure,” he replied.  “May I give you a ride somewhere?”

“You can give me a ride to the tube if it’s not out of your way.”

“It isn’t.”  He pulled on his jacket and they walked out of the cafe.  They walked a short distance to where his BMV was parked.  He held the door open for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.

As she strapped herself in, she couldn’t help but marvel at how her day was turning out.  She promised herself that she would get down on her knees as soon as she got home and thank God for turning things around for her.  Arran got in beside her and soon the engine purred to life and they pulled into traffic.  It was twenty minute ride to the train station and after she climbed out of the car, she turned to him.  “Thanks again for everything.”  She held out her hand and her senses swam when she felt his fingers wrap around hers.

“Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening.”

“Me too.”  She was sorry when he released her hand.  She waved at him before she turned and quickly walked away.

He stood there and watched her until she disappeared into the underground before he got back into his car and drove off.

It was five minutes to seven and she was ready.  She stood in front of the full length mirror looking at herself.  The V Neck Jersey Long Sleeve Red Mini Dress accentuated her figure and complimented her coloring.  The pearl necklace and tiny pearl earrings added a touch of elegance.  Satisfied, she walked out of the room and was just getting her coat of the closet when the doorbell rang.  She glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven.  Arran was punctual.

She pulled on her coat, quickly buttoned it and grabbed her the nude handbag which perfectly matched her nude pointed toe pumps as she walked to the door.  Her heart pounding with excitement, she eagerly opened and her face broke into a big smile when she saw Arran standing there.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  “Good evening,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Good evening,” he replied, taking her hand, his gaze never leaving her face as he raised it to his lips.

The smile faded as she felt all sorts of sensations run through her body at the feel of his warm lips against the back of her hand.  Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and her heart was beating wildly.  She found herself wondering what it would be like to feel those lips on hers.  When he released her hand, she turned and locked the door, her hand trembling slightly.  She almost dropped the key on the floor instead on in her handbag.  Her legs felt a bit wobbly as they walked to the lift.

He took her to a French restaurant where the view of the city was breathtaking and ambience was warm and cozy.  She felt shy when she saw the way he looked at her when she removed her coat.  And he looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey dress suit, matching tie and light blue shirt.

Over white non-alcoholic wine  and amazing dishes, they talked and laughed.  She learned that his father was British and his mother was French.  He had one sibling–an older sister who was Hugh’s mother.  His father died five years ago from a stroke and his mother lived with her widowed sister in Manchester.  Arran told her that he had dated on and off over the years, but nothing serious ever came of those relationships.  He loved his job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed watching sports or for long drives in the countryside.

“Perhaps you would like to come with me for a ride in the countryside tomorrow,” he said.  “We can go to Richmond Park and walk along the trails.  It’s beautiful at this time of the year.  You’ll see the deer that live there and we can have lunch afterwards at the lodge.”

“That sounds great,” she said, her eyes sparkling.  She was going to see him again tomorrow.

They spent a very pleasant evening together and when they got to her flat two hours later, they lingered outside the door, reluctant to part even though they were going to see each other the next day.

“I had a wonderful time this evening,” he said quietly, his eyes restless on her face.

“Me too.”  A pause.  “Would you like to come in and we can talk some more?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

She unlocked the door and held it open for him to go inside and then she locked it.  After sliding of her shoes, she took his coat and went to the closet where she hung it along with hers.  “Would you like something to drink?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No thank you.  You have nice place.”

“Thank you.”  She sat down on the sofa beside him.

“I guess Hugh has been here.”

“Yes.”  There was a long pause and then, she said, “You know he and I never—”

He stared at her.  “You mean you and he never–?”

“We kissed but that was as far as it went.  I told him that I didn’t want to have sex outside of marriage anymore.  I didn’t always feel that way.  When I was in university I was a bit wild and my first and only time was with a senior at the back of his bright yellow pick-up truck when we went on a camping trip.  I was curious and most of my friends were sleeping with their boyfriends.  I was a little tipsy and we were alone.  The others had gone skinny dipping.  I couldn’t swim so I didn’t go and he stayed with me.  We started kissing and one thing led to the other.  I felt awful the next morning and I avoided him.  We never hooked up again after that.  After that night, I promised myself that I will never sleep with a man unless I loved him.  Every time I think of that night I feel ashamed and wish it had never happened.”

Arran reached for her hand.  “We’ve all done things that we regret,” he said.  “When I was sixteen I slept with my best friend’s mother.  I met her when I went over to my friend’s house for a barbecue.  She and his father were separated at the time.  I thought she was hot and she made it clear that she liked me.  One afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to hang out but he wasn’t there.  He went to the library to return some books.  She was alone at home and she invited me to go in.  She offered me a glass of lemonade because it was hot outside.  We sat on the sofa and talked about all sorts of things and then she leaned over and kissed me.  I was shocked and excited at the same time.  Well, one thing led to another and we ended up doing it right there on the sofa.  Afterwards, I felt awful and I left before my friend got home.  I never went back to his house.  He never found out about his mother and me.  His parents got divorced the year after and he and his mother moved to Liverpool.”

Shannon stared at his long fingers as they played with hers, hardly able to concentrate.  “I have a confession to make,” she said.  “I broke up with Hugh because of you.  When I met you I knew that I couldn’t continue to see him.  It wouldn’t have been right to be with him when you were the one I wanted to be with.”

His eyes darkened.  “This may sound corny but the moment I laid eyes on you, my heart belonged to you.”

“You know the heart speaks,” she said huskily.  “That night at the campsite it spoke to me.  It told me to get away from that campsite before I did something I would regret but I didn’t listen to it.  It told me not to date Hugh but I didn’t listen.  I listened to it when it told me to break up with Hugh because I knew I was in love with you.”

“Is your heart speaking to you now?” He asked.  She nodded. “What is it saying?”

“It’s telling me to let go of the past and all of the regrets and hold on to the love that is right here in front of me.”  She moved closer to him and groaning, he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her.  Her hands were on his thighs, her fingers digging into the material as she kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses and then he was lying on his back and she was stretched out on top of him.  That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together.

Nothing speaks louder than your heart.  Listen to what it’s telling you – Georgia Cates

 

The Daydream

It was a glorious day.  The sun was bright, illuminating the field dotted with wild flowers and a soft, gentle breeze wafted caressed the leaves on the trees.  Intermittently, the trill cries of birds broke the silence.  From where she was, she could see the cavity in the tree above her and an adult bird peeking out.  It was the Nuttall Woodpecker.  She stood very still because she didn’t want to disturb it.  What a beautiful bird with its colorful plumage.  She wished she had brought her camera.

She stood there watching it for a while and then, she decided to sit on the grass and lean against the tree.  It was so relaxing out here.  Her eyes began to feel heavy.  She stifled a yawn.  I’d better go before I fall asleep, she thought.  But it was so nice being in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Five more minutes and then, she would leave.

She must have dozed off because the next thing she knew, Julien was standing over her, blocking the sunlight.  Startled, she scrambled to her feet.  “What—what are you doing here?” To her own ears, she sounded breathless and her heart was pounding.  He was dressed casually in a light blue shirt and khaki slacks.  His hair was slightly tousled from the breeze.  And his eyes…she couldn’t get over their unusual color.  They were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

“I live over there, remember?” he replied, indicating the palatial estate on her right.

She had been when he invited the staff during the summer and Christmas holidays.  It was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by immaculate grounds.  He lived there on his own with a fully functional staff.  His parents died in a boating accident when he was in his twenties and he had no siblings.

She heard co-workers say that the lucky woman whom he married would be the mistress of the estate and living comfortably for the rest of her life.  I wonder who she will be?  There was some speculation that it would be the beautiful Catherine Taylor whom she had seen him with on several occasions.  She had to admit that the thought of him with Catherine or any other woman bothered her tremendously which was very foolish of her because she didn’t stand a chance with him.  The difference in age and background made her an unlikely candidate.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, startling her.

“How long have you been standing here watching me sleep?” she asked evasively.  You can’t know what I’ve been thinking.

“About five minutes.  I was returning from a walk when I saw you.  I didn’t want to disturb you.”

She felt so embarrassed that her boss had caught her sleeping under a tree not far from where he lived.  “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.  I should be going now.”

He caught her by the arm.  “No, please don’t go,” he said quietly.  “Stay a little while longer.  It’s a beautiful day to be outdoors.”

“Yes, it is.”  She couldn’t think straight with his fingers on her arm.  They felt warm and they were stirring all sorts of feelings in her and when their eyes met, she was mesmerized.

His gaze was riveted to her face and his eyes darkened as he muttered, “Tue es adorable quand tu dors.”

She swallowed hard.  “What-what did you say?”

“I said that you are lovely when you are asleep.” Now he was holding her by the shoulders and drawing her toward him.

By now her heart was pounding wildly as she saw his gaze lower to her mouth before she saw his getting closer and closer…And then, they were kissing wildly, passionately, unleashing feelings which had been pent up for such a long time.  He pulled her down on to the grass which tickled her calves.  She was wearing capris.  They rolled over and over in the grass like tumbleweed, still exchanging kisses.  Her fingers were buried in his hair which was so soft and silky.  She wanted him to take her right there in the field among the flowers with their heady scent pervading her senses.

The sound of ringing jolted her and her eyes flew open.  She started when she realized that she was sitting at her desk with her head propped up.  She had been daydreaming again but this time it seemed so real and the kisses…she touched her lips.  Answer the phone.  She grabbed it.  “Hello?”

“Where are the reports?  The meeting starts in seven minutes.”  It was Julien.  He was calling her from the boardroom.  His French accent was more pronounced when he was annoyed.

“I’m—I’m on my way,” she stammered, flustered.  She wondered what he would say if he knew that she had been daydreaming about him.  Shaking her head, she grabbed the reports which were sitting on her desk and rushed to the boardroom.

He was there with nine other men sitting around the table and she felt self-conscious as she walked into the room, carrying the reports.  She avoided looking at him as she handed them out and then she walked out of the room.

After she was gone, one of the men, Russell Benson, commented, “You have a young and very pretty secretary.”

Julien’s expression darkened.  “She’s my assistant.  Now, let us get down to business.”  He was irked because he noticed the way Imani avoided looking at him and it didn’t help that she smiled with Russell before she left the room.

The meeting lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and while the other men stayed behind to talk to Julien, Russell excused himself and left the room.  He went straight to Imani’s desk and holding out his hand, he introduced himself.  “Russell Benson.”

“Imani Johnson.”

“Tell me, Imani, how long have you been working with Julien?”

“Four years.”

“Do you like working with him?”

“Yes, I do.”  Russell seemed like a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him.  All she could think about was Julien and how much she wanted to be with him.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

She stared at him for a moment.  “No, I don’t.”

“How about having dinner with me, say tomorrow night?”

She shook her head.  “I’m sorry, Russell, but I’m going to have to say no.”

He arched his eyebrows.  “Wow.  Not to sound conceited or anything but this is the first time a woman has turned me down.”

“You seem like a really nice guy but—”

“…but you’re just not interested.”

“Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize.   I don’t think Julien would have approved anyway.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, when I mentioned that you were very pretty, he didn’t seem at all pleased.”

“Really?”

“And speaking of the devil…” he said looking past her and getting up from her desk on which he had been sitting.

Imani’s heart was racing but she didn’t turn around.  She didn’t have to.  Julien went and stood right beside her desk.  She looked up and their eyes met briefly before he turned to Russell.  “What are you still doing here?” he asked.  “I would have thought that you would be heading home after your long flight.”

“I arrived from New York this morning,” Russell explained to Imani.  “I remember why I hate flying.  I had to wait a long time for my bag because there was a problem with the conveyor belt.  By the time it was sorted out, I had to come straight here.”

Julien turned to Imani, “I need to see you in my office.”

She nodded and quickly looked away.

Julien held out his hand.  “Goodbye, Russell.”

Russell smiled and shook his hand.  “Goodbye, Julien.”

Julien turned and walked away.  When he was out of earshot, Russell leaned over and whispered almost conspiratorially, “I believe that if a certain Frenchman had asked you out for dinner you would have said yes in a heartbeat.”

She gaped at him.  “How did you–?”

“…figure that out?  Well, I noticed the way you acted around him just now.  It’s obvious to me, maybe not so much to him, that you are in love.”

“I don’t know what to do.  He hasn’t shown any sign that he’s interested?”

Russell stared at her in amazement.  “Are you serious?” he exclaimed.  “Didn’t you see the way he acted just now?  He obviously had a problem with me hanging around you.  I’d better leave before he has me escorted out.  It was really nice meeting you, Imani.  Julien is a very lucky man.”  He held out his hand.

“It was nice meeting you too, Russell,” she said, taking his hand.  “And thank you for being such a good sport.”

He clasped her hand in a warm handshake before he turned and walked away, whistling when Zara, an attractive blonde passed by him.  Imani chuckled, shaking her head.

She got up from her desk and went to Julien’s office.  He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in.  “Close the door,” he called.

She closed it quietly behind her and walked over to him, her heart thudding.  “You needed to see me,” she sounded a tad breathless.  She was standing in front of the desk now directly opposite him.

“What did Russell want?” he asked abruptly.

“He-he wanted me to have dinner with him.”

His mouth tightened.  “Did you accept?”

She shook her head.  “No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I-I didn’t want to have dinner with him.”

“Ne le trouvez-vous pas attirant?”  He seemed surprised.

“What?” she asked.  He had a tendency to lapse into his native tongue.

“Don’t you find him attractive?”

“No, I don’t.”

Êtes-vous attiré par quelqu’un?  Pardon.  Are you attracted to anyone?”

“Yes, Julien.  I’m attracted to you.”  She couldn’t believe she said it.

Julien’s eyes darkened and he moved around the desk to stand right in front of her.  “I’ve never been attracted to anyone I worked with until I met you,” he admitted.  “I wanted to ask you out for such a long time but I wasn’t sure if you would want to because I’m your boss and quite a bit older than you.”

She moved closer.  “I was attracted to you the first time I saw you and wanted you to notice me but you were always so businesslike whenever we were together.  And I when I saw you with Catherine, I thought that you were serious about her.”

“Catherine and I are just friends.  I know that there have been rumors to the contrary but I assure you that my feelings for her are strictly platonic.  Imani, will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Yes!”

He reached out and took her hand.  His fingers felt warm against her skin, making her tremble.  Her pulse was racing and she seemed to have difficulty breathing as he reached for her other hand to pull her against him.  “J’ai voulu t’embrasser si longtemps”, he muttered before he bent his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  This was better than any daydream.  Just in case, though, she pinched her arm and felt the pain.

A New Relationship

Paulette walked into Antonio’s office to place some files on his desk.  He wasn’t there.  It was half-past eight.  He usually got in around eight forty-five.  She went over to the windows and looked out at the bustling city below.  Five years ago, fresh out of university, she had stood there on the sidewalk staring up at this very building, nervous and excited about starting her first day here.  It was hard to believe that so much time had passed.  She loved working at the company but she knew that the main reason was Antonio why she looked forward to going into the office every weekday.

She didn’t kid herself that he would show any interest in her other than professional because of their age difference.  At the age of thirty-nine, he was twelve years older than her.  She wanted him to see her as a woman—a woman who loved him so much it ached.  Until she met him, she had no clue of what it meant to be in love.

When her friends talked about falling in love, she couldn’t relate because it hadn’t happened for her.  She envied them, though, wondering what it would be like to experience what they were experiencing.  And then, she met Antonio and it was then that she realized that love at first sight wasn’t a myth.  She knew that she loved him the first time she saw him.  It was a surreal experience. Everything seemed to be at a standstill and it felt as if they were the only two people in the world.  Everything else faded in the background and all she could see was him, coming toward her, his hand extended and an incredible smile on his face.

And that deep, sexy voice of his and the way he said her name still made her shiver.  She could almost hear it now and then she started when she realized that he had walked into his office and was standing beside her at the window.  Feeling embarrassed, she turned toward him, hugging the files which she was supposed to have left on his desk.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized.  “I-I didn’t hear you come in.”

He looked so good in his navy blue suit, black shirt and matching tie.  His thick dark hair glistened damply in the light and she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Yes, he looked and smelled good…She realized she was staring and looked away.

“Something out there really got your attention,” he said as he walked over to his desk.  “I was calling you but you didn’t hear me.”

“I was just watching the people below and thinking about when I first joined this company.  I can’t believe it has been five years.”

“Yes, you’ve been with us for that length of time.  I hope you still like working here.”

“I do, very much.”  I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  Working with you is sheer bliss. She realized that she was staring again and that she really ought to be getting back to her desk.

Walking over to his desk, she set the files down.  She could feel him watching her and raised her head to look at him.  Her heart skipped a beat when she saw his gaze leave her face and travel over her before returning to her face.  She hoped she looked fine in the light grey long sleeved top, black pencil skirt and black knee high boots.  “I’d-I’d better get to back to my desk.”

“Are you going to Rita’s Christmas dinner?” he asked as she was about to turn away.

Rita was a retiree who used to at the firm.  She retired two years after Paulette starting working there.  Paulette was sorry to see her go but they kept in touch.  She was like a mother to her.  This year she was having a dinner and dance party at a banquet hall in London.  Paulette had received her invitation in the mail a week ago and had started shopping around for a dress to wear.  She wanted to wow Antonio, if he was going. “Yes, I’m going.  Are you?”

“Yes, I am.”

She wondered if he was taking anyone.  It would ruin her night to see him with another woman.

“Are you going with anyone?” he asked, glancing up from the papers he had been going through.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t we go together?” he suggested much to her surprise.

“Together?” she repeated.  The thought of going with him thrilled and made her nervous at the same time.  It would be the first time that they would be seeing each other outside of the office.  What were they going to talk about on the ride over to Rita’s place?  Would there be an awkward silence?  She heard herself say, “Sure.  That’s a great idea.”  No chance of him showing up with someone else.  Tomorrow evening she was going to dazzle him.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”  He returned to sorting through the papers which was her cue that she should get to work.  She turned and walked quickly out of his office, her heart pounding with excitement.  She couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.

The day went by very quickly and it was like a blur for her.  All she could think about was seeing Antonio tomorrow.  She imagined them staring at each other across the table and slow-dancing afterwards.  Oh, stop daydreaming and concentrate on your work, she chided herself.  It was hard concentrating but she forced herself to do it and in no time it was the end of the work day.  She cleared her desk, turned off her computer, locked her drawers and stood up to pull on her scarf and coat.  After turning off the lamp on her desk, she grabbed her handbag and walked over to Antonio’s office to say goodbye.

He was typing something and stopped when she poked her head in.  “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.  See you tomorrow.”

She smiled as she walked to the lift.  Yes, I don’t have to wait until Monday to see you.  When she got home, she took out the dress she was going to wear.  It was perfect.  When she tried it on and examined herself in the mirror, it looked great on her.  The champagne color suited her complexion and the style of the dress flattered her figure.  She didn’t bother trying on any other dresses.  This was the one.  She hung it carefully back in her wardrobe and slid the doors shut.

After fixing herself a sandwich and salad, she sat down and ate while watching the news on TV.  She decided to turn in early although she knew that it would be a while before she fell asleep because she was so excited about tomorrow.  It was around mid-night when she finally drifted off, a smile on her face.

Saturday came and she spent the day, cleaning the flat, doing laundry and grocery shopping.  Then, it was time to get ready for the dinner/dance.  Excitement filled her as she got dressed.  For a few minutes she looked at herself in the mirror before she left her room.  She had just put on her coat and grabbed her clutch purse when the doorbell rang promptly at seven.  Immediately, her heart began to beat fast and she felt a little nervous as she opened the door.

Antonio smiled.  “Good evening,” he said.  His eyes lingered on her face before shifting to her hair which was in an updo with a few tendrils framing her face.  She saw what looked like admiration flicker in them.  She couldn’t wait to see his reaction when he saw her dress.

“Good evening.”  She stepped out into the passageway, closing the door behind and turned to lock it.  She turned and saw that he was still watching her and she smiled.  This was going to be a very exciting evening.  They walked to the lift and as they rode down in the lift, they exchanged glances but didn’t say anything.  It was a bit cold when they got outside but she soon felt warm in his car as they drove off.  Smooth jazz filled the car.

“How come you don’t have a boyfriend?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

“I don’t know.  My mother has asked me the same thing.”

“Speaking of family, are you an only child or do you have siblings?”

“I’m the younger of two daughters.  My older sister, Pam is married and has three children.  She was with my mother when she took in ill.  I was away on a trip at the time and had to fly back immediately.”

“What happened?”

“This was a few years ago—during my senior year at university.  My mother suddenly collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital.  We weren’t sure that she was going to make it but her pastor encouraged us to pray for her and she made what could only be called a miraculous recovery.”

He glanced at her.  “I’m happy to hear that your mother recovered.  Are the two of you close?”

“Growing up, I was closer to my father but after he died, my mother and I became close.  Almost losing her has made me cherish every moment I have with her now.”

“Yes, family is very important.  Both of my parents are dead but I have two brothers and a sister.  They are all back in Italy.  I try to visit them when I can.”

They talked more about his family and why he left Naples to come to London, especially since he had many fond memories of growing up there.  She laughed as he imitated his father who was very strict and his mother who was always complaining about something or the other.  He still missed them although they had died over ten years ago.  His father died of a heart attack and his mother was devastated.  She couldn’t survive without him and died the following year.  “I have a photo of them in my wallet,” he told her.  “It was taken the year before Dad died.”

Paulette stared at him, touched that he carried a photo of his parents in his wallet.  She didn’t say anything.  She didn’t know what to say and they had reached the banquet hall.  He parked the car, got out and walked around to open the door for her.  As they walked to the entrance, she felt the nervous excitement rising in her.  They went to the coat room to check in their coats.  With trembling fingers, she unbuttoned hers and removed it.  After she handed it to the girl there, she turned and looked at Antonio who was staring at her.  She saw his gaze travel slowly over her– the beaded bodice, the plain long skirt with the side slit which reveal her leg as she stood there.  He looked amazing in the black dinner suit and as he walked over to her, she felt her mouth go dry when she saw the expression on his face.

“You look amazing,” he said quietly, his eyes meeting hers.

“So do you,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

They stood there staring at each other and then he extended his arm.  She took it and they walked to the hall where they heard voices and laughter.  Rita was at the entrance greeting everyone.  She was delighted to see them.  “You look handsome as usual,” she said to Antonio before hugging him.  Then, she turned to Paulette, her eyes widening.  “And you, my Dear, you look absolutely stunning.  That dress was made for you.”  They hugged.  “I think Antonio agrees with me,” she said in a low voice so that he couldn’t hear.  “He can’t stop staring at you.” She drew back and addressed them both.  “It’s great to see you both.  You’re both sitting at my table but not next to each other.  I hope you don’t mind.”

They both assured her that they didn’t mind although Paulette was disappointed but it turned out that he was sitting directly opposite her.  She was seated next to Rita’s grandson while Antonio was sitting next to Marissa, a co-worker.

Every now and then, when Paulette looked over at Antonio she found him staring at her.  She wished it were just the two of them having a romantic, candlelight dinner with soft R&B music playing in the background.  Rita’s grandson, Mark was talking to her and she tried to be attentive but she couldn’t help being distracted.  When dinner was over, she excused herself and went to the bathroom to freshen up.  When she returned, people were dancing and Mark asked her to dance.  She was about to open her mouth to turn him down when, she felt a hand on her arm and turned to find herself staring up at Antonio.  “I believe you owe me this dance?” he said.

Heart thudding, she allowed him to escort her to the dancefloor.  He turned after finding a spot and his hand found the small of her back as they moved to the music.  It was a slow number, one of her favorite songs.  She couldn’t imagine dancing it with anyone else.  She put her arm round his shoulder and just allowed her body to follow his lead.  It felt so good being in his arms.  She felt like Eliza Doolittle, wishing she could dance with him all night.

They danced until the slow music ended and faster music replaced it.  The rest of the night was spent at the table talking and having non-alcoholic drinks.  When it was time to go, she had mixed feelings.  She was beginning to feel a little tired and wanted to go home but it meant that her evening out with Antonio was over.  Rita hugged them and wished them a Merry Christmas.  She hoped to see them again soon.

It had gotten colder so Paulette was huddled in her coat as she followed Antonio across the parking lot to where his car was parked.  She was thankful when she climbed in and sank down against the soft leather.  The car was soon suffused with warm air.  On the drive home, they talked about the dinner party and both agreed that they it was a success.  She planned on calling Rita tomorrow to thank her for a wonderful evening.

Twenty minutes later, they were standing outside of her flat.  She had unlocked the door and stood on the threshold, facing him.  The place was quiet because it was near one in the morning.

“Goodnight,” he said softly.

“Goodnight,” she replied, wishing he would stay.  They stared at each other and then she was in his arms and he was kissing her.

She threw her arms around his neck and they tightened as she kissed him back passionately for several minutes.  Then, she broke off the kiss, grabbed his hand and pulled him inside the flat, closing the door behind them.  She fumbled with the lock before turning to face him, her eyes feverish as they met his.  She reached for him and felt his arms encompass her waist, pressing her into him as she pulled his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair.  He was kissing her like a mad man, unable to contain himself.  They stood there kissing for a long time and then they released each other long enough to remove their coats and discard them on the floor.  She kicked off her shoes while he removed his.

“I want us to start seeing each other outside of the office,” he muttered thickly as he removed his dinner jacket and tossed it on the floor.  His tie soon followed.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she gasped when he scooped her up and strode through the living-room.  “Third door on the left.”

That was the beginning of their new relationship.