In Danger

His fiancée, Madeline was giving a lecture at the university and he encouraged his students to attend.  He hoped that one in particular would attend.  Yesterday, he had approached her about it.  She was leaning against a tree, gazing off in the distance when he joined her.

She started when she turned and saw him standing there.  A guarded expression came over her face.  She always seemed so reserved around him.  He couldn’t get her to open up.  Sometimes he got the impression that life was hard for her.  He wanted to know so much more about her.  She intrigued him—more than he cared to admit.  Even now, he realized that being alone with her like this wasn’t a good idea.  He couldn’t stop staring at her.  She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty but her face beguiled him.  Long after he dismissed the class and she had walked out of the classroom, an image of her face would linger.  He found himself thinking about her constantly and feeling guilty about it because of Madeline.

“I’m sorry, Marcy.  I didn’t mean to startle you.”

The expression on her face was a mixture of shyness and apprehension, though why the latter, he wasn’t sure.  She had nothing to fear from him or did she?

black girl with short hair“It’s all right, Professor Bonneville,” she said.  “You didn’t startle me.”

When he realized that he was staring at her, he shifted his gaze to the scene before them.  “This is one of the reasons why I chose to teach here at King’s College.  During my breaks I love to come here and relax by the River Cam.”

She followed his gaze.  “Yes, I like to come here too in between classes and watch the students punt.  Sometimes I have my lunch here under this tree.”

He found himself wanting to be here when she was.  There’s wasn’t anything wrong with them spending time together here in the open, was there?  He forced himself to focus on the reason he had approached her.  “I have to leave shortly,” he informed her.  “But before I do, I was wondering if you have decided if you’re going to come to the lecture tomorrow evening.”

She hesitated for a moment as if weighing the decision in her mind.  “Yes, I’ll come.  The topic, Endangered Speeches, sounds very interesting and I’ve heard that Madeline Haigh is an exceptional speaker.”

He smiled.  “Yes, she is.  Well, I’m delighted to hear that you’re coming.  Are you coming alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow evening, then.”

“Yes, Professor Bonneville.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to say, “Please call me, Leighton,” instead, he said, “Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

“Thank you.”

He turned and walked away.

The following evening came and he stood in the Great Hall talking to different people but his eyes were constantly moving to the doors as students filed in.  He really hoped she would come.  He glanced at his watch.  In fifteen minutes the lecture would start.

“What a great turnout,” Madeline commented, sounding quite pleased.  “You did a remarkable job getting the students to come.  I should hire you to be my PR person.”

He glanced down at her.  “I think your reputation as a great speaker had something to do with it,” he remarked with a smile before turning his attention back to the doors.  Where was she?  And then, he saw her.  His countenance brightened.  “Excuse me,” he said to Madeline before he hurried over to where she stood just beside one of the doors as if trying to decide where she was going to sit.  “I was beginning to think that you weren’t coming,” he said.

“I had to wait a while for the bus,” she explained, sounding apologetic.  “I was worried that I would be late.”

“You made it just in time,” he assured her.  “Where would you like to sit? Perhaps closer to the front?”

She shook her head.  “I don’t want to sit closer to the front.  Here’s fine.”  She removed her jacket and spread it over the back of the seat.  Their eyes met and held before she lowered hers.

“Don’t leave after the lecture is over,” he said.  “There will be a light reception afterwards.”

“All right, Professor Bonneville.”

He excused himself and left.  Her being there meant more to him that it should have.

Marcy sat down and watched him as he made his way to where the speaker was.  He was the real reason why she came this evening.  Granted the topic sounded very interesting and she did hear great things about the speaker but she came because of him.  It was foolish to be in love with a man who was not only your professor but engaged as well.  She knew that Madeline Haigh was his fiancée.  Like him, she came from an elite and upper-class family.

They met a couple of years ago at Wimbledon through a mutual friend.  They have been together since.  It was at the beginning of this year when they announced their engagement.  It was all over social media.  Everyone was thrilled, except her.  Before she enrolled in his class this semester, she used to see him around campus and admire him from afar.  He was the youngest of the professors at the university and extremely handsome.

It was hard being around him because of her feelings.  She couldn’t be sure if he was aware of them.  She tried to hide them as best as she could.  There were times, like yesterday, when she sensed that there was something between them but always ended up dismissing it as wishful thinking.  And yet…The lecture began and she tried to concentrate on it.

After it was over, everyone filed out.  Many stayed for the reception.  She stood there by the door and waited for Professor Bonneville.  He went over, accompanied by Madeline.  He introduced them.  “Madeline, this is Marcy Williams.  Miss Williams is one of my top students.”

Madeline shook her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said.  “Leighton has told me so much about you.  I suspect that you’re the teacher’s pet.”

Marcy didn’t quite know what to say.  She was surprised to learn that Professor Bonneville had even mentioned her to his fiancée, much less that she had been the subject of many conversations.  She looked at him and found him looking at her, his expression inscrutable.

“I think you’re embarrassing her,” he said to Madeline.  “Why don’t we go and have some refreshments now?”

They left the hall and went to area where the refreshments were.  While Madeline chatted with the students and faculty, Professor Bonneville stood next to Marcy who felt really out of place.  She wasn’t keen on social gatherings.  She planned on leaving in half-hour.

“Are you glad you came?” he asked her.

“Yes.”

“I’m glad you did too,” he said.  “Do you live far from here?”

“It takes me half hour to get here.”

“May I give you a lift home?”

She looked him.  “If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“It isn’t.”

“Thank you, Professor Bonneville.”

“Please call me, Leighton…Marcy.”

The way he said her name made her pulse race.  “Thank you, Leighton…” Their eyes were locked in a steady gaze.  Surprisingly, no one else seemed to notice.

Hearing her say his name thrilled him and made his heart beat faster.  It was no use denying it.  He was deeply attracted to her.  Right now, he wished that they were somewhere else, alone.   “Do you have a boyfriend?” he heard himself ask.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Are you busy tomorrow evening?” Tomorrow was Saturday.

Again she shook her head.  “No.”  Her heart was pounding now as she wondered about him asking all of these questions.

“Do you like classical music?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a Vivaldi Four Seasons concert at the St Martin-in-the-Fields Church.  I thought you might be interested in going.”

“What-what about Miss Haigh?”

“Madeline won’t mind,” he said.  “She’s flying to New York in the morning but she gave me the tickets and told me I can take whomever I liked.  I’d like to take you, Marcy.”

There wasn’t anything wrong with them going to a concert together, was there?  Besides, wasn’t being with him what she wanted?  “I’ve never been to a live concert before,” she said.

“Trust me, you’re going to enjoy this one.”

“What are the two of you conspiring over here?” Madeline inquired as she joined them.

Professor Bonneville turned to her.  “I just invited Miss Williams to go to the Vivaldi Concert with me.”

“Oh, Leighton, why don’t you call her by her first name?  Miss Williams sounds too formal.  I’m sorry I can’t go with you to the concert.  At least you won’t be going alone.  Marcy, I’m sure you will enjoy it.  It’s Vivaldi, if you like his music and being held in the beautiful and historic Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields where my parents got married.  Are you ready to leave?” she asked her fiance.  “It’s getting late and I have an early flight in the morning.”

“Yes.  Oh, I hope you don’t mind, but I offered Marcy a lift home.”

“That’s fine,” Madeline said.  She waved good night to the people still milling about before heading towards the entrance with Professor Bonneville and Marcy following.  It was a bit cold but thankfully, the car was parked very close.  After he held the door open for Madeline to get in, he opened the passenger door for Marcy.  She caught a whiff of his aftershave as she moved past him to get into the car.

She fastened her seat belt, thankful for the lift and the heat that soon filled the car.  Not much was said on the drive to her flat.  Marcy asked her about her field of study and then talked about her trip to New York.  She was a guest lecturer at Columbia University.  Marcy listened but was thankful when they pulled up outside her flat twenty minutes later.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said to Madeline.

“Likewise.”

Marcy got out of the car, her eyes met Professor Bonneville’s as she passed him.  They faced each other on the curb.  “Thank you for the lift,” she said to him.

“You’re welcome.  Goodnight, Marcy.”

“Goodnight, Professor Bonneville.”  She waved before turning and walking up the steps to the entrance.  She couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow evening.  Her heart skipped a beat at the thought.  She wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight.

Leighton watched her until she disappeared inside before shutting the door and walking round to the driver’s side.  He was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow evening.

“You know I was quite jealous of Marcy because you spoke so much about her,” Madeline remarked as they drove off.  She leaned her head against the back of the seat with her head turned towards him.  “but after meeting her this evening, I have no reason to feel threatened by her.  She isn’t at all what I expected.  For one thing, she’s not very attractive, is she?  Although I suppose some men might find her so.”

Leighton glanced at her.  “What if I found her attractive?” he asked.

Madeline laughed.  “Oh, don’t be absurd, Leighton,” she said.  “Why do you think I don’t mind you going to the concert with her?  I know that you’re in no danger of falling in love with her.”  She laughed again and turned her head to look out the window.

Leighton’s mouth tightened and his eyes glowered behind his glasses.  He wished he could wipe that smile off her face.  For the rest of the ride, he was quiet.  He walked her to the door of her flat but declined to go in.  “You have an early flight in the morning, remember?” he reminded her.

“You can spend the night and then we can have breakfast before I head up to the airport,” she suggested, putting her arms around his neck.

He gently disentangled her arms.  “You’d better get your rest,” he said.  “I’ll see you when you get back.  Goodnight.”

She didn’t look at all pleased.  “Goodnight,” she said, grudgingly before reaching up to kiss him on the mouth.

He turned and headed down the corridor to the lift.  There was a time when he would have gladly spent the night but that was a long time ago and that was before he met Marcy.

The following day went by quickly and soon it was evening.  He picked her up outside of her flat promptly at six.  It was a pleasant evening.  Not cold like the previous one.  On the ride over to the concert, they talked about several things.  He learned that she was an only child of her parents who lived in Kingston, Jamaica and whom she spoke to as often as possible.  She worked part-time to support herself while she studied.  This meant that she didn’t have much down time during the week but she made up for that on the weekends.

Madeline was right, she thought when they walked into the church.  It was beautiful, especially in the candlelight.  They found seats close to the front.  She enjoyed the concert so much that she bought the CD which he played in the car on the drive to her flat.

He walked her to her flat and they stood outside the door.  “Would you like to come inside?” she asked.

“I really shouldn’t,” he replied.

“You must be hungry and I can fix us something to eat,” she said.

“All right,” he said.  He was hungry.  He hadn’t eaten since lunch.  He wished now that he had thought of taking her to dinner after the concert.  It was rather very nice of her to invite him in for a bite to eat.  He stepped inside the flat and she closed the door behind him, locking it.  It was a small, modest place but very warm and inviting.

“Please make yourself comfortable in the living-room while I get things ready,” she said after she took his jacket.

He went into the living-room which was smaller than his study at home.  He went over to the window and looked out.  In the far distance, he could see Big Ben.  Behind him he heard her in the kitchen getting things ready.  He moved away from the window and went over to the sofa.  He sat down and stretched his legs in front of him while he looked over the rest of the place.  It was impeccably kept.  Nothing was out of place.  And it was nicely decorated with potted plants, a bookcase, a small desk with a laptop and a handful of watercolor paintings.

She popped her head into the living-room to let him know that dinner was ready.  They sat around the small dining-table.  Dinner smelled delicious.  It was Stew Chicken over rice and peas and served with a tossed salad.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.  Afterwards, they went into the living-room where they had Apple Cider Hot Toddy while watching TV.

Leighton tried to concentrate on the program but it was hard because he wanted to touch her so badly.  He turned to look at her.  She was staring straight ahead.  Unable to resist, he reached out and rubbed the back of his index finger against the side of her neck.  She didn’t move away or anything.  He watched as she closed her eyes instead as if she was enjoying the caress.  He saw her lips part and that was his undoing.  He used his other hand to turn her head towards him.  She opened her eyes and he saw in them, the desire that was raging inside him.  Groaning, his mouth found hers and when she responded, he plundered it hungrily.

As they kissed wildly, passionately, he unbuttoned his shirt and dragged it off, moaning against her lips when he felt her hands on his bare skin.  Desire coursed through him like an uncontrollable fire and he knew in that instant that it was over between Madeline and him.  When she returned from New York, he was going to break off their engagement.  He realized then, too that, in spite of what she said, he was in danger of falling in love with Marcy.

Source:  King’s College; Candlelight Concerts; King’s College Job Hunting

A Vision of Beauty

She was leaning against the building, a vision of beauty.  Flaming curly red hair framed a beautiful face.  She was obviously waiting for someone–a friend or a boyfriend?  He hoped that it wasn’t the latter.

As he stood there, trying to figure out whether or not he should approach her, she moved away from the wall and started walking towards him.  His heart began to pound and although on the surface he appeared calm, he was nervous.  Was she coming over to tell him that she didn’t appreciate him staring at her?  How embarrassing would that be?  Well, there was a first time for everything.

Just as she got close, she smiled and he felt relief wash over him.  As far as he knew a woman didn’t smile at you before she put you in your place.  He waited with bated breath to see what would happen next.  For the moment, he smiled back.

“David Corbyn?” she said.

He was surprised now.  She knew his name.  “Yes?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” she asked.  “I guess you wouldn’t because the last time we saw each other I was a scraggly kid in pigtails and glasses.”

He stared at her and then exclaimed, “Lexi Davies?”

She laughed, making his heart skip a beat.  “Yes!”

“Wow! You’ve changed.”  He couldn’t believe that this was the same little girl who used to hang about him.  She was his best friend, Erick’s little sister.  “Little Lexie is all grown up now.”

“You haven’t changed much,” she remarked.  “You’re as handsome as ever.  I had a big crush on you, you know.”

He felt his face go hot.  “I didn’t know that,” he confessed.  “I thought you just liked being around me because I was always bringing treats and lending you books.  You used to read a lot.”

“I still do.  As a matter of fact, I work at Daunt Books.”

“So, how are your Mom and Dad?”

“They are doing well.  They recently retired and are planning to go on a Mediterranean cruise next month.”

“What about Erick?  The last time I heard from him, he was in Jerusalem.”

“He’s busy juggling a family and his job as a photojournalist.  He couldn’t be happier.”

“Are you waiting for someone?”

“Well, I was waiting for my friend, Veronica.  We were supposed to go the The Jazz Café to see Atlantic Soul Orchestra.  I thought she’d be here by now.”

“I thought you were waiting either for a friend or a boyfriend.  I was hoping that it wasn’t the latter.”

She smiled.  “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.”

She started to say something when, her cell rang.  “Maybe this is Veronica.”  She answered the call.  It was her friend and from what he overheard, it sounded like she wasn’t going to make it.  “Something’s come up so she isn’t coming,” Lexi explained a couple of minutes later.  “Say, do you have any plans?”

He shook his head, thankful that he didn’t and even if he did, he would have cancelled them in a heartbeat.

“Would you like to go to the concert with me?” she asked, sounding hopeful.  “I know it’s short notice–

“I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend my evening,” he said, his expression serious now.

She blushed.  “Me too,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  “We’d better go now before we’re late.”  She went over to the wall and grabbed her knapsack from the sidewalk.  He joined her and they walked to his car which was parked nearby.

The concert was amazing.  It was the best band he had ever seen.  Afterwards, Lexi and he walked to a nearby restaurant where they enjoyed a tasty dinner and each other’s company.  It was the first of many dates and the beginning of a lifetime together.

 

 

 

Sources:  Careers Portal; Wikipedia;

Affairs of the Heart

When Bianca went out on to the balcony of her friend Connie’s spacious flat, she was pleasantly surprised to see Chandler sitting there.  He looked so elegant although he was dressed very casually in a tan colored jacket, denim shirt and jeans.  The brown belt he wore matched the spiffy shoes she saw on the mat by the front door.  He was so handsome, she thought, her eyes eagerly drinking in each feature—the thick, silky dark hair, the incredible light grey eyes, olive skin and his lips…She started when she realized that she was staring.

For his part, he was staring at her too.  “It’s good to see you, Bianca,” he said as he got up and went over to her.  He put his arms around her and hugged her.  She hugged him back, closing her eyes and breathing in his fragrance.  He smelled so good.  It felt so wonderful being in his arms and held closely against him.  She put hers around his waist and wished that they could stay like that for a long while.  But just then, Connie’s voice reached them and Chandler drew back, releasing Bianca, his expression tense as he looked at her.  He moved away from her and stood leaning against the rail with his hands shoved in his pockets, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as he watched Connie approach.

Bianca sat down in the chair closest to her, her legs trembling.  She had to pull herself together before Connie saw her.  It was a hug between two friends but there was something else.  She felt it and sensed it.  At one point, she felt his arms tighten around her and his face in her hair.  What would have happened if Connie hadn’t been there?

She joined them now, her gaze going immediately to Chandler, her regard for him very evident on her face.  Then she turned to Bianca, her expression changing.  She doesn’t seem very pleased to see me, Bianca realized in surprise.  Perhaps it is because I didn’t call to tell her that I was coming over.

“Bianca, what are you doing here?” she asked.

Bianca got up from the chair, feeling a little embarrassed now.  “I’m sorry I didn’t call before I popped over but it was when I was on the tube, that I decided I would stop by your flat and ask you if you wanted to go with me to the Jazz concert in Chelsea.  It’s free and it sounds like fun.”

Connie shook her head at once.  “No thank you, Bianca.  I will pass.  Besides, I have already made plans.  Chandler and I will be spending the afternoon together.”

Chandler spoke up, “The Jazz concert sounds like a good idea.”

Connie pursed her lips.  “Jazz gives me a headache.  I prefer to go somewhere less crowded and I know the perfect place.  Well, Bianca, I guess you had better be heading off to your concert.  Call me later and let me know how it was.”

Bianca got up from the chair, wishing now she hadn’t bothered to come but then, she wouldn’t have seen Chandler.  Her eyes sought him and her heart lurched when she found him looking at her.   She went over to him and said, “It was good seeing you as usual, Chandler.”

“I hope we see each other again soon,” he replied.  And he reached out and caught her hand.  From where Connie stood she couldn’t see what he was doing but it was all Bianca could do to keep her composure.  It was hard when his thumb was caressing the back of her hand, stirring up all sorts of sensations.  The expression on his face made her mouth go dry. His light grey eyes were dark and stormy.  It was so obvious that he was attracted to her.  And it must be obvious to him that she was attracted to him too.  What about Connie?  Her gaze shifted to her friend and was mortified when she saw the hostility and jealousy in her countenance.  Yes, Connie had noticed the attraction between Chandler and her.

“I’d better go,” Bianca murmured looking away.  “I don’t want to be late for the concert.”

He released her hand with some reluctance and watched as she hurried past Connie. They heard the door close.  “You were a bit rude to her,” he said with some displeasure.

Connie glared at him.  “I saw the way you were looking at her,” she cried.  “You want her don’t you?  Well, you are wasting your time.”

He frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“She has a boyfriend.”

He grew pale.  “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I’m sure.  His name is Darnell.”

Chandler ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.  “I had no idea,” he said in disbelief.

“Well, now you know.”

Chandler turned away and his hands gripped the rail as bitter disappointment filled him.  He closed his eyes but they soon opened when he saw Bianca’s face and remembered the look on her face when he was caressing her hand.  She could not have been in any doubt that I have feelings for her, he thought, and I could tell that she has feelings for me too but how could I pursue a relationship with her when she’s already in one? What a wretched business this thing called love is. He swung round to face Connie.  “I’m afraid I will have to cancel our plans,” he told her.

Connie stared at him in dismay.  “But, why?” she cried.

“I don’t feel up to going anywhere now,” he said simply.  “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’re cancelling on me because of Bianca?” she demanded.  “I knew her showing up here unexpectedly today was going to be a problem.   Now what am I going to do for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I’m sorry, Connie.  I’ll take a rain check.”  He walked past her and a few minutes later the door closed behind him.

Her face beet red, Connie marched into the living room, took up a vase of flowers and threw it on the floor.

Bianca sat at the concert, oblivious to the turmoil she was causing elsewhere.  Her mind and attention were not on the smooth sounds she was hearing but on Chandler.  This was the first time Connie and she wanted the same man.   They had been friends since high school but that friendship was in serious jeopardy now.  She would never forget the look on Connie’s face when she saw the attraction between Chandler and her.  Bitter resentment and jealousy marred her features.  She wondered what happened after she left.

She left the concert feeling that it was a waste of an afternoon.  When she got home, she was surprised to hear a message from Connie on her answering machine.  It said, “Well, Bianca, I hope you’re happy.  Chandler canceled our plans.  I can’t imagine why.  I saw the way you were looking at him.  If you want to remain my friend, you will forget about Chandler and set your sights on someone else.  Goodbye.”

Bianca stared at the machine.  All this time she thought Chandler and Connie were spending the afternoon together.  As she removed her jacket, she couldn’t help wondering why the sudden change of plans.  Connie didn’t seem to know or if she did, she wasn’t saying.  Perhaps, something unexpected came up and Chandler had to be somewhere else.  Whatever the reason, she couldn’t deny that she was relieved that they weren’t together now.  I wonder when I will see him again.  Then, she reproached herself for thinking such thoughts.  I must forget about him.  Connie met him first and they are more suitable for each other.  They are from the same pedigree.  I’m way out of my league.  What he feels for me may just be a physical attraction—nothing more.” The thought that his interest in her might just be purely sexual hurt but she had to be sensible about this. 

So that very day, she resolved to stay away from Chandler, not only because Connie requested it but to spare herself any heartbreak.  For the next several weeks, she avoided the usual crowd where she was sure to run into him.  She and Connie met for lunch once and she heard nothing but how much time Chandler and her friend were spending with each other.  She had to sit there and listen to Connie talk about how amazing Chandler looked in his swimming trunks and how wonderful it felt when he put sunscreen on her back.  “His hands felt so good on my skin,” she said, her eyes almost glazed over at the memory.  Bianca smiled but inside she was hurting.  The jealousy stabbed at her like a knife.  After that lunch, whenever Connie wanted them to meet up again, she always found an excuse not to.  She wasn’t going to sit there and listen to Connie talk  incessantly about her relationship with Chandler.

During the day, it was easy to occupy her mind but in the nights, her thoughts were filled with him, wondering if he ever thought about her.  Nothing had changed for her. She still loved and wanted him and it pained her to no end.  She lay awake for hours before drifting off into a fitful sleep.  How she longed to get away—go somewhere far but she knew that it wouldn’t make a difference.  No place existed where she could go and forget about Chandler.

One night, she was lying on the sofa, watching the television but not paying attention.  It was just background noise.  The doorbell rang and she sat up, wondering how it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Connie.  She really wasn’t in the mood for one-sided conversations.  She got up from the sofa and went to the door.  Her eyes widened and her heart somersaulted when she saw Chandler standing there.  How on earth did he find out where she lived?  It couldn’t have been from Connie.  She would never do that.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, her heart pounding.  How good he looked in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His face looked drawn and it seemed to her that he had lost a little weight.  Alarmed, she asked, “You’re not ill, are you?”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not ill,” he told her.  “It’s nice to know that you still care.”

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

“Each time Connie told me she saw you, I asked if you inquired after me and she said no.”

“She never gave me a chance.  All she talked about was your relationship and all the great things you were doing together.”

“We don’t have a relationship.  I admit that I tried to get forget you with her and she was quite willing to help.  One night at her flat after dinner, we started to get undressed—“

Bianca turned away, agitated.  “I don’t want to hear this,” she cried as the pain and jealousy tore through her.

He moved so that he was standing in front of her, his eyes dark and tormented.  “I thought that making love to her would get you out of my system,” he muttered tightly.  “But, I couldn’t go through with it. When I was kissing her, all I could see was your face.  I put my shirt back on and ran out of there as if the devil were chasing me.  I haven’t been in touch with Connie since.  This was about a month ago.  These past few weeks have been hell for me, Bianca.  I can’t stop thinking about you and wanting you.  I tried to stay away out of respect for Darnell but I had to see you one last time.”

She looked at him then, “Darnell?” she repeated.  “What do mean out of respect for him?”

“You have no idea how much the mere sound of his name torments me,” Chandler told her, his eyes were haunted as they met hers.  “Ever since I found out about him, I haven’t stopped thinking about how lucky he is to have an exceptional woman like you.  Many times I have wished that I could trade places with him.”

She was really confused now.  “What are you talking about, Chandler? “

He looked frustrated now.  “I’m talking about Darnell,” he muttered tightly.  “Connie told me about him.”

“What exactly did Connie tell you about my brother?”

He stared at her as if he hadn’t heard correctly.  “Darnell is your brother?”

“Yes.  He’s my older brother who lives in Manchester with his wife, my niece and nephew.  What did Connie tell you about him?”

He muttered something under his breath, his expression thunderous.  “She told me that he was your boyfriend.”

“My boyfriend?” she was aghast.  “Why would she do that?”

“No doubt, she did it out of jealousy.  She knew how I felt about you so she wanted to make sure that nothing would come of it.   It never occurred to me that she was lying.  All this time, I thought you were in a relationship and that drove me mad because I wanted you so much.”

“Chandler, is it just desire you feel for me?” she asked warily.

He shook his head and she could see the sincerity in his eyes as he answered, “No.  I feel a deep and consuming love for you, Bianca.  I have never experienced love before but I know that what I feel for you real.”

She reached up and touched his face, her eyes filled with the love which burned in her heart.  “I love you, Chandler.  I tried to get over you because of my friendship with Connie and because I was afraid of getting hurt.  I wasn’t sure that your feelings for me were more than physical.”

He lowered his head to kiss her.  She closed her eyes when she felt his warm lips on hers and her arms went around his waist, holding him closely against her.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then he raised his head to gaze down in her face.  “I love you, Bianca but as much as I am dying to show you how much, I think we should wait.”

She nodded.  “Why don’t we go for a walk in the park,” she suggested.  “It’s safer and it looks lovely outside.”

He smiled.  “Okay.  And we can stop somewhere and have a bit to eat as well.”

A couple weeks later they got engaged and after six months of trying to abstain from lovemaking, they got married.  Connie was not invited.  Bianca’s friendship with her ended the day when she found out about the lie she told Chandler.

They spent their honeymoon in Sorrento.  On the first night there, they went for a walk after dinner, holding hands and strolling through the little streets lined on both sides with shops.  They walked to a quiet spot where they stood watching the silent and looming Mount Vesuvius in the distance and the setting sun as it hovered over the Bay of Naples.  They sat on the bench for a little while just enjoying the pleasant evening and the view.  Then, they bought two gelati and ate them on the way back to the hotel.

As soon as they got back to their room, Chandler picked Bianca up and carried her over to the bed.  “Now, I finally get to show you how much I love you,” he murmured, his eyes darkening on her face.

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, thinking no one else in the world could be as blissfully happy as she was at that very moment.

 

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