Harvard

She noticed him during her second year at Harvard.  He was standing outside the entrance talking to a pretty brunette.  She was probably his girlfriend.   Daphne had to pass them to go inside.

As she went up the steps, she saw him turn his head and their eyes met.  She expected him to look away soon after because she knew she wasn’t the type of girl who would attract someone like him.  She didn’t kid herself about her looks.  She knew she wasn’t pretty but she had a lot going for her intellectually.  To her surprise, he didn’t look away but his gaze locked with hers.  Her heart began to pound at the realization that he was taking notice of her.

For a long moment everything and everyone around them faded into the background.  It was as if only the two of them existed.  Then, the spell was broken when she almost walked straight into another student who was coming down the steps.  Embarrassed, she turned and mumbled an apology and then quickly let herself into the building.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Nora looked at Hayden.  “Did you see the way that girl was staring at you?” she asked disdainfully.  “She almost walked straight into that poor girl.  You would think she’s never seen a good-looking guy before.”

Hayden was hardly paying attention to what she was saying.  He was thinking about the girl.  She was obviously attracted to him and he was attracted to her.  He wanted to find out who she was but knew it would be better not to ask any of his friends.  They would make fun of him and chastise him for being interested in this girl when there were so many pretty girls on campus, including Nora who made no secret of the fact that she liked him.  Yet, as lovely as she was, he was not attracted to her and was quite content with being just friends with her.  “You say that about all of the girls who look at me,” he said to Nora.  “You can’t stop them from looking.”

“Well, you don’t usually take any notice of them but this time, you did.  Don’t tell me you find her attractive.”

He glanced at his watch.  “We should be heading to our classes now,” he said as he took up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder.

Nora’s mouth tightened.  She walked up the stairs with him and as he held open the door for her, she glanced up at him.  “She’s not your type,” she told him emphatically.  “She’s plain and dull looking.”

Hayden didn’t answer.  She may be plain and dull to you but not to me.  He and Nora parted ways and he walked to his class.  He tried to focus on what the professor was saying but his thoughts were elsewhere.  The next time I see her, I will talk to her.  

All morning Daphne thought about him.  She saw him again and this time her friend, Susan was with her.  “Who’s that very handsome guy over there wearing the very expensive looking blue sweater?”

“That’s Hayden Marsden.  He transferred to Harvard from Oxford this semester, that’s why you never saw him on campus before.  He lives with his mother and step-father in Berkshires.  I once saw photos of the estate featured in The Boston Living Magazine.  It is absolutely beautiful and huge.  Forget about him, Daphne.  He’s way out of your league.  Besides, his mother is very particular about the kind of girls he associates with.”

Daphne told her about the time she saw Hayden and ended her account with a sigh.  “I guess it was wishful thinking on my part.”

“Ah, not necessarily,” Susan said, looking over her shoulder.  “Brace yourself.  We’re about to have company.”

Alarmed, Daphne glanced around to see what she was talking about and her heart lurched when she saw Hayden approaching them.  She glanced down at her white top and knee length denim skirt and ankle boots, thinking how unsophisticated she must look compared to the brunette she had seen him with the last time.  Her heart was pounding like crazy.  Hayden looked first at Susan and then he turned to her, his tawny eyes riveted to her face.  “Hello, Daphne,” he said, holding out his hand.

She stared at him.  He knows my name.  She put her hand in his large one, feeling his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake.  “Hello, Hayden.”

It pleased him that she knew his name.  This close, she was stunning.  His heart was beating so fast that it felt as if it was going to fall out of his chest.  He was very nervous.  No girl ever had such an effect on him before and it scared him.  Her hand felt soft and small in his and he wanted to continue holding it but had to release it in order to shake her friend’s hand when she introduced them.  He smiled at Susan as he shook her hand.  “Nice to meet you,” he said.

She smiled.  “Likewise.”  Turning to Daphne, she said, “I am going to the library.  See you later.”  She excused herself and walked away.

Alone now, Daphne and Hayden stood there, looking at each other, feeling shy and nervous.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.  He had to know.

She shook her head.  “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked.  She was thinking about the girl she had seen him with.

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend and the girl you saw me with is just a friend.”

“She’s very pretty.”

“Yes, she is,” he agreed, “but, she’s not the one I’m interested in.  Are you busy later?”

She shook her head.

“How would you like to go for dinner and a movie with me?”

“I’d like that very much,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  He’s asking me out.

He smiled and looked relieved.  “I’ll meet you right here after class this evening.”

“All right.”

They talked for a while longer and then he walked her to her class.  For the rest of the day, she was on cloud nine.  And as soon as her last class was over, she hurriedly packed her bag and almost fled from the room.  He was waiting for her.  How he longed to hold her hand but he decided it was too soon.  He didn’t want to overwhelm her.  He was so excited that they were going out on their first date.  As they walked across the campus grounds to the parking lot where his car was, he told her where they were going to have dinner and which movie they were going to see.  It was a Friday night so they didn’t have to worry about staying out late on a school night.

They had dinner at Amelia’s Trattoria before they headed over to Kendall Square Cinema to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas.  It was a very pleasant evening and first date.  She was sorry when it was over and it was time for him to take her home.  He walked her to the door of her parents’ home.  “I’d like to see you again tomorrow,” he said.  “We can spend the day together, doing different things.”

She nodded at once.  “Yes, we can do that.”

“I’ll pick you up around nine, if you think that’s too early for a Saturday.”

“Nine is fine.” She wished it were already nine.

“See you tomorrow.”  I want to kiss her so badly.

“See you tomorrow.”  I guess he thinks it’s too soon for us to kiss. She watched him as he walked to his car and waved as he drove off.  Suffice to say, she hardly slept a wink that night because she was thinking about their first date and excited about seeing him the next day.  The next morning, she got up early and had breakfast.  It was about eight-fifteen when she went upstairs and had her bath.  She wasn’t sure what to wear at first but then decided that a sweater and a pair of jeans and dressy but comfortable ankle boots would work.  Her mother was in the living-room when she walked in, surprised to see her up and about when usually on a Saturday morning she was still in bed.  When she noticed that she was dressed, she asked, “Where are you off this early?”

“I have a date,” Daphne told her gleefully.  “Hayden and I are going to spend the day together.  This is our second date.”

Her mother’s eyes widened.  “Is this is the same guy you told me about?”

“Yes.  It is.  He will be here any minute.  Would you like to meet him?”

“Yes, I’d like to meet the young man who has achieved something I have been trying to for years—get you out of bed on a Saturday before noon.”

Daphne pursed her lips.  Just then, the doorbell rang.  Her heart skipped a beat.  “He’s here.  How do I look?”

“You look fine.  Now, you’d better go and answer the door before he changes his mind.”

Daphne hurried to the door and opened it.  Her face brightened when she looked up into Hayden’s.  He looked amazing in a striped shirt with a green pullover and a pair of jeans.  Even when he was dressed casual, he looked elegant.  “Good morning,” he said with a smile.

“Good morning,” she beamed at him.  “Come in and meet my mother.  You don’t have to take off your shoes,” she added when he started to.  She took him to the living-room where her mother was.  “Mama, this is Hayden.  Hayden, this is my mother.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Williams,” Hayden said holding out his hand which was clasped in a warm handshake.

Mrs. Williams smiled at him.  “The pleasure’s all mine,” she said.  “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“So, what do you have planned for today?” Daphne asked him, her eyes sparkling.

“We are going to spend the day exploring Boston.”

“That sounds like fun.”  Daphne grabbed her handbag and kissed her mother.  “See you later,” she said.

“Goodbye, Mrs. Williams.”

“Goodbye, Hayden. I hope you will stop by again for a longer visit.”  She watched them as they almost ran to the car.  She had never seen Daphne so happy.  Hayden seemed like a decent young man and it was obvious that he liked Daphne.  She wasn’t sure how his family would feel about him dating her.  She couldn’t speak for the rest of her family, but personally, she had no objections.  Daphne’s happiness was all that mattered to her and she seemed to have found it with this young man.

“I like your mother,” Hayden commented as they drove off.

“She likes you too.”

“Is it just the two of you living in such a big house?”

“No.  I have a brother and a sister but they are spending the weekend with my grandmother.”

“What about your father?”

“He died of a heart attack when I was twelve.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  So, your mother’s the breadwinner.”

“Yes.  She has worked very hard to raise us and make sure that we have a good education.  I’m in Harvard because of her.  She’s a phenomenal woman.  I hope to be like her one day.”

He glanced at her.  “I think you’re already there,” he said quietly.

She turned her head and smiled at him.  “Thank you.”

It was a beautiful, sunny and mild day, perfect day for a walk on the Freedom Trail which is where they began their day tour of the Boston.  With so much to see and do, the time seemed to go very quickly and before she knew it, it was evening and they were having dinner at an Italian restaurant.   They lingered over their pasta, recapping the places they had seen.  When she told him that she was going to download the photos they had taken and post them on her Facebook page, he didn’t object.

As they walked along the bridge, admiring the scenery, he reached for her hand and she felt her heart begin to race when his laced his fingers through hers.  She glanced up at him and he stopped, leaned over and kissed her.  She closed her eyes and kissed him back.  When he felt her response, he deepened the kiss and his arms went around her waist, holding her tightly against him.  They were oblivious to the passersby who watched them in amusement, annoyance, displeasure or indifference.

At length, he raised his head.  “I want to see you again tomorrow and every day after that,” he said huskily.  “I want to be your boyfriend, Daphne.”

“And I want to be your girlfriend,” she replied.

He kissed her again and then he put his arm around her shoulder as they continued walking down the bridge.  She slipped her arm around his waist, her face upturned to the setting sun.

They began to date exclusively from that day but their relationship met with some opposition from his friends and he almost punched one of them for his remarks about Daphne.  Nora refused to have anything more to do with him.  He was relieved when the Christmas break rolled around.  His step-father and mother were out of town, preferring to spend their holidays in Florida.  He declined to go with them.  The weekend before Christmas, he invited Daphne up to the house.  She couldn’t get over how huge it was and she enjoyed the tour he took her on, marveling at the number of rooms.  One could easily get lost in a place like this, she thought, as she followed him along endless corridors, up winding staircases and in and out of countless rooms.

After having dinner, they went into the drawing-room where they sat cross-legged on the hearth, the glow of the fire illuminating their faces.  They had the place all to themselves.  “You are invited to have Christmas dinner with us,” she told him.

“I gladly accept,” he said, smiling.  “I’m looking forward to enjoying more of your mother’s cooking.”  He had been over to her house several times for dinner.  “Watching Transformers’ Prime with Terrence and seeing Rhea’s photos of the Jingle Ball.”  He and her nine year old brother got along famously and her fifteen year old sister thought he was the bomb for getting her those Jingle Ball tickets.  It was nice to see how easily he fitted in with her family.

“What about me?” she asked, punching him playfully.

He got serious and the expression on his face made her swallow hard.  “Right now, I want to take you upstairs to my room and make mad, passionate love to you but I won’t until you’re ready.”

She reached out and touched his face.  “I’m ready.”

His eyes darkened.  “Are you sure?”

She nodded.  “Yes.” And to leave him in no doubt that she meant what she said, she got to her feet and stood looking down at him.  He scrambled to his feet and scooping her up, he carried her out of the drawing-room and in the direction of the staircase leading up to the bedroom.

Sometime later, they lay wrapped in each other’s arms, spent.  Daphne raised herself up on her side and gazed down at him.  “Is attraction all you feel for me?” she asked.  Nora’s remarks still plagued her.  The encounter happened a week ago when she was waiting for Susan and Nora approached her.  She had a nasty expression on her face.  After she looked her up and down in disgust, she said, “Don’t kid yourself that Hayden Marsden is serious about you.  All he wants is sex from you and once he’s had his fill, he will dump you just like.   She snapped her fingers and then she walked off, leaving Daphne staring after her.  She told Susan about it.  “She’s just jealous,” her friend said dismissively.  “Paid no attention to her.”

Hayden looked at her, frowning.  “Why do you ask?” he wondered.

“Well, it’s just something Nora said to me last week.”

“What did she say?”

She told him.  “I shouldn’t let her get to me,” she added with a sigh.

Hayden reached up and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  “What I feel for you is much more than physical attraction, although you drive me wild with desire,” he added, his eyes darkening.  “I’m madly in love with you, Daphne Williams.”

She stared at him, hardly able to believe what she was hearing but she could see the sincerity in his eyes and her heart melted.  “I’m mad about you too,” she said huskily.  “I have been since the first time I saw you.”

“I have so many plans for us.  How would you like to relocate to Seattle after we graduate?”

“Seattle?  I never thought of moving there but I’ll go wherever you want to go.”

“We’ll get married first and then move to Seattle.”

“Married?”

“Yes.  You want to marry me, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do, but what about your family?”

“I’m now estranged from all of them except my father.  It was his idea to move to Seattle.  He offered me a job at his company at least until I could find something more in line with my major.  I told him about you and emailed him a photo.”

“And he doesn’t object to our relationship?”

“No, he doesn’t.  My father is nothing like the rest of my family.  He’s excited about seeing me and is looking forward to meeting you.”

“Your friends will definitely have a problem with you marrying me.”

“They are not my friends any more.  I broke all ties with them when they started making derogatory remarks about you.  When it comes to choosing between you and my family or my friends, I will always choose you.  I knew from the moment I first saw you that you were the girl for me and I have promised myself that I would never let anyone come between us.”

She smiled and put her arms around his neck.  “I can’t wait to marry you and move to Seattle where we can begin a new life together.”

His arms went around her waist, pressing her close against him.  “I can’t wait to put a ring on your finger,” he murmured softly.  “I love you so much.”

“I love you very much too.” She closed her eyes when he bent his head and kissed her.  Her heart was filled with so much joy that it felt as if it would burst.  She was about to embark on an exciting future with the man she loved and it all began that day on the steps of Harvard.

 

 

Sources:  Boston.Com; Boston in a Day; Harvard University

 

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The Secret Relationship

Douglas was in the kitchen, stacking the dishwasher while she was in the living-room, admiring the décor and the beautiful patina of the antique table beside the fireplace and below a painting of a person walking along a tree-lined path in the rain.  She paused to admire it.

The myriad of bright oranges, reds and yellows suggested that it was in the fall.  The path and the bench were soaked from the pouring rain.   Yet, the walker looked dry underneath the umbrella and in no hurry to get out of the rain.  She wondered if she should come out of the rain before she got wet.  Douglas and she had been seeing each other for months now.  This was the first time they were at his place.  So far they had been going out but avoided places where they might run into people they knew.  They couldn’t afford to allow anyone to find out about them or Douglas could lose his job.  He was her Economics professor.

The moment she walked into his class and saw him, she knew she was in trouble.  She tried not to stare but it wasn’t easy.  She would shoot him furtive glances every opportunity she got and when the class was over, she would linger, spending a little long packing up her bag. Thankfully, his was the last class for the day so she didn’t have to rush off to the next one.

One afternoon when she was packing up her bag, he went over to her desk.  She glanced up and their eyes met.  He had the most incredible green eyes and his face–she realized that she was staring and quickly looked away.

“I’m going to grab a cappuccino,” he said quietly.  “Would you like to join me?”

She looked at him, her heart racing.  He was asking her outGet a hold of yourself, girl.  It’s just a cappuccino.  “Yes, I’d like to,” she answered.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll meet you at the front entrance.”

She zipped up her bag and left the classroom.  She waited on the steps, watching the sun set.  Five minutes later he drove up and stopped at the side of the curb.  She ran down the steps and got into his car.  They drove off.  On the way over to the coffee shop, he asked her what her major was.  “Sociology,” she said.  “I want to make a difference when it comes to the social problems that we face in our society and around the world such as poverty, race relations, gender inequality, globalization and environmental change.”

“When I tell people that I teach Economics, they look at me as if I were crazy.  Most people remember it as a very boring subject but when I explain to them that the course I teach is Urban Economics they become interested.”

They continued talking about university and courses until they arrived at an Italian cafe in Greenwich Village.  Over a Hazelnut Cappuccino and a Hot Chocolate, they talked about other things.

“Do you ice-skate?” he asked an hour and a half later when he was taking her home.

She nodded.

“Do you have any plans for tomorrow evening?”

She shook her head.

“We can go skating at Bryant Park and then have dinner at the restaurant there.”

They went to Bryant Park and she had a wonderful time.  It had been a while since she last skated and after a few shaky steps and falls, she was fine.  Afterwards they had dinner in the restaurant where it was nice and warm.  He asked to take her out the following evening and they began seeing each other regularly after that.

The sound of his footsteps behind her brought her back to the present.  She joined him on the sofa.  They were going to watch an old movie classic but she couldn’t concentrate.  She was intensely aware of him and the fact that they were sitting very closely together so that his knee was touching hers.  At one point she could sense that he was looking at her.  As the movie progressed, she was on tenterhooks, wondering if at any point, he was going to make a move and longing for him to.

Finally, unable to bear it any longer, she turned to look at him when she knew that he was watching her.  Their eyes met and held.  Deliberately, she lowered her gaze to his mouth and parted her lips.  Without saying a word, he reached for her and pulled her across his lap.  His head swooped down and he was kissing her.  Her arms went around his neck and held him tightly as they exchanged passionate kisses.

After a while, he raised his head and gazed down into her face, his own flushed.  “I’ve been a professor for ten years now and not once have I ever been attracted to any of my students.  Then, you walked into my classroom.  I didn’t want to be attracted to you but I couldn’t fight it.  I approached you at the risk of losing my job.”

She reached up and touched his face.  “I was never attracted to any of my teachers but the moment I saw you, I was in trouble.  Common sense told me to transfer to another class but I listened to my heart instead.”

“Robyn, I want us to continue seeing each other but under the quiet until you graduate.”

She nodded.  “Okay.”

“By the way, who was that guy I saw you talking to in the hallway on Thursday before you came to class?”

She tried to remember who he was talking about for a moment.  “Oh, that was Eric.”

“What did he want?” he asked tightly.

“He wanted to know if I was free Saturday night.”

His eyes darkened in jealousy.  “And what did you tell him?”

“I told him that I wasn’t.  I also told him that I was seeing someone.”

“I hate the idea of other guys asking you out.”

She reached up and kissed him.  “You don’t have to worry about any of them,” she murmured against his lips.  “They don’t stand a chance.”

Groaning, he kissed her back and then, putting his hands under her knees, he stood up and carried her to his room.

They managed to keep their relationship a secret and on the day of her graduation in June, he asked her to marry him.

 

Sources:  Thought.co; Huffington Post; University of Kent; NYU; Cafe Reggio;

The Ranch

As Mr. McGregor riffed on about how much America had changed under Trump, Leah stole a glance at Garrett and her heart skipped a beat when she found him watching her.  They hadn’t said much to each other since they arrived yesterday.  They were staying at his father’s ranch for the Christmas holidays.  It was the second year in a row that she had been invited and she had looked forward to it because it meant she would get to see Garrett.

Last year when she was here, he took her to the stables and showed her the horses.  He offered to teach her how to ride but at the time she was terrified.  They went for walks over the grassy fields, pausing so that she could admire the picturesque surroundings.  He took her bird-watching and hikes along the trails and hills.  Sometimes, they had picnics by the lake or the creek.  They had so much fun together but then, it all changed when his younger brother, Austin showed up.

Austin was outgoing, funny and good-looking but he didn’t make her heart skip a beat every time she saw him or wish for him to hold her hand or kiss her.  She liked him but wasn’t attracted to him.  She only had eyes for Garrett.   She remembered one night after dinner, she was outside on the porch to enjoy the night air when Austin joined her.

“Lovely night, isn’t it?” he commented.  “One of the reasons why I like to get away from the city and come out here, is I can look up and see the stars.”

“I know what you mean.  I lived in New York before moving to Texas and I couldn’t see the stars or the moon in the nights.  The city lights took care of that.”

“When I came outside just now, you looked disappointed when you saw me,” he said, startling her.  “Were you expecting someone else—Garrett, maybe?”

“Well, yes.  He and I would usually come out here after dinner for a while.”

“I don’t think he’ll be joining you tonight.  I thought I saw him heading out.  Maybe he’s gone to see Madison.”

“Who’s Madison?” she asked calmly.

“She’s a former Texas beauty queen whom Garrett has been dating.”

Her legs seemed to give way and she sank heavily down in one of the chairs.  “He never mentioned…”

Austin sat down beside her.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“I’m—I’m fine.”

“Didn’t Garrett tell you about Madison?”

She shook her head.  She shivered although it was very warm outside and she felt him put his arm around her shoulder.  Just then, Garrett walked out on to the porch.  He froze when he saw them and before she knew what was happening, Austin was yanked to his feet and sent flying across the floor.  Garrett stood over him, his fists clenched, breathing heavily and his expression thunderous.

After recovering from her shock, she went over to Austin who was nursing his jaw. “Are you badly hurt?” she asked, kneeling beside him.

He sat up.  “I’m fine,” he said, sitting up.

She helped him up and he leaned against the wooden structure for a moment.  “Are you sure you’re all right?”

He nodded.  “I’m fine except for my jaw.  I’ll go and put an icepack on it.  Excuse me.”  He walked slowly into the house.

As soon as he was gone, Leah rounded angrily on Garrett.  “Why did you hit him?” she demanded.

“He had his hands on you,” he muttered tightly.  “Or hadn’t you noticed?”

“I was upset and he was just trying to help.”

“I know my brother and I can see that he was making moves on you so I thought I would put a stop to it.”

“Well, I can take care of myself,” she retorted.  “I don’t need you to go around beating up guys for me.”

“Why didn’t you push his arm away?”

“You didn’t give me a chance to do anything.”

“What were you so upset about that he felt he had to comfort you?”

“He told me about Madison.”

“Madison?  What did he say about her?”

“He told me that she was a former beauty queen and that you’re dating her—”

“It’s true.  She and I used to date.”

“Austin told me that you had probably gone to see her tonight.”

“And you believed him?” He raked his fingers through his hair, his face glowering.  “When it comes to my brother, I’m always dubious of his intentions.  He may seem charming but that could prove to be very detrimental for the gullible.”

She glared at him.  “Are you saying that I’m gullible?” she retorted.

“I didn’t say that you were but you should be on your guard with Austin is concerned.”

“I hope he’s all right.  You shouldn’t have hit him.  What got into you?”

His mouth tightened.  “If you’re so concerned about him, why don’t you go and see how he’s doing.”  He started to walk away.

Alarmed, she called out, “Where’re you going?”

“Out,” was the terse reply before he left the porch and disappeared around the corner.  Moments later, she heard his car.

Tears of frustration sprang to her eyes.  What a disaster this evening had turned out to be.

The sound of laughter brought her back to the present.  She started when she saw that Garrett wasn’t there.  Getting up, she quickly left the room.  On her way to the porch, she run into Consuela, the housekeeper.  “Hi Consuela, do you know where Garrett went?”

“Yes, he said that he was going for a ride.  He’s in the stables.”

“Thank you, Consuela.”

She left the house and headed for the stables, her heart pounding with excitement and trepidation because she didn’t know what kind of reception she would get. He was leading the horse out of the stables when he saw her.  He stiffened and his expression was wary.  Hands shoved deep in the back pockets of her jeans, she approached him.  “Hi Garrett,” she greeted him huskily.  How she longed to throw herself in his arms.

“Hi,” he said.  “Why aren’t you in there with the others?”

“I wanted to see you.”

“I’m going for a ride.  It’s too beautiful a day to stay cooped up inside.”

“Take me with you.”

He looked surprised.  “I thought you were afraid of horses.”

“I’m not afraid of horses,” she denied and as if to prove her point, she reached out and gingerly rubbed the horse’s side.  “You once offered to teach me how to ride.  Is that offer still open?” She was willing to do whatever it took just to be with him.

“Yes,” he said.  His expression was still guarded but at least he was thawing toward her.  “Are you sure?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“I’ll go and saddle Sadie for you.  She’s a gentle one.  You’ll be safe with her.”  He was about to turn and head back into the stables when Austin walked up to them.

Her heart sank and she watched him warily.  He cast a sidelong glance at Garrett who was watching him then he turned to her.  “So this is where you wandered off to.  You promised me a game of pool, remember?”

Blast.  She had forgotten all about the darn pool game.  She opened her mouth to say that she had changed her mind when, Garrett grabbed the reins of his horse and led it away.  “Go and play your game of pool,” he muttered before he mounted the horse and galloped off.

Austin gazed after him.  “Just as I suspected,” he said, turning to look at her.  “You know he’s in love with you, don’t you?”

She stared at him.  How she wanted to throttle him for ruining things between Garrett and her again.  “What are you talking about?” she snapped.

“Why do you think he punched me the last time we saw us together?  He was fit to be tied.”

“He thought you were coming on to me and just now, he was going to teach me how to ride but you came along then and now.  Why did you have to follow me out here just to remind me about a stupid pool game which could have waited until later?  Do you enjoy ruining things for your brother and me?  Does it give you some sick thrill?”

“Whoa, whoa, calm down,” he said raising his hands.  “I had a theory and just wanted to prove it.”

“And what theory is that?” she really was in a foul mood now and wanted him to go away.  She was wondering if she should wait for Garrett out here or in the stables.  Would he be gone long?

“I suspected that Garrett was in love with you.  His behavior has that I’m right.  Granted he didn’t swing for me just now but the expression on his face was a dead giveaway.”

“He practically threw us together,” she said, feeling dejected now.  “He doesn’t care what I do or whom I do it with.”

“You really check for him, don’t you?  I’m sorry that I made a mess of things.  What can I do to make up for it?”

“Nothing.  I think I’ll go up to my room and lie down.”

“Leah, I know my brother and I’ve never seen him fly into a jealous rage over a woman before—not even over Madison.  Garrett is in love with you.  I’m sure of it.  Don’t give up on him.  Chances are he’s not sure how you feel about him and he doesn’t want to get hurt.  I’ll stay out of your way.”

She looked at him and saw that he was serious and sincere.  “Thanks, Austin.”

“You should probably wait until tonight to talk to him.  Give him time to cool down.  I’ll make sure Consuela lets him know that you went straight up to your room when you got back to the house.  That way he’ll know that you and I didn’t play pool.  Then, I’ll head into town for a while and be back before dinner.”

She smiled at him and then turned and walked away.  In her room, she lay on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, thinking about what Austin had said.  Could it really be true? She wondered.  Was Garrett in love with her? Oh, I hope so, she sighed, closing her eyes.  I love him so much.

She sat up with a start.  She must have dozed off.  A quick glance at her watch told her that she had less than twenty-five minutes to get ready for dinner.  Scrambling out of the bed, she rushed into the bathroom after quickly straightening the bedspread.  As she showered, she thought again about what Austin had said.  Tonight, she was going to straighten things out with Garrett.  She had to let him know how she felt about him.  Her heart began to thud heavily against her chest at the thought of facing him again.  She hoped he had had time to cool off.

When she went downstairs to the drawing-room, everyone was there except Austin.  Her eyes immediately went to Garrett who was standing by the fireplace looking handsome as usual in a black suit, black shirt and tie.  They eyes met and held for several minutes and then he looked away, his body and demeanor rigid.  Her heart sank and her resolve to settle things with him began to weaken.

Austin walked in just as it was time to go into the dining-room.  He kept his word and stayed clear of Leah.  All through dinner, she kept glancing over at Garrett who seemed to be avoiding looking in her direction.  Although the food was scrumptious as usual, she couldn’t enjoy it and longed for dinner to be over so that she could be alone with Garrett.  Finally, it was and as the others filed out of the room, she made her way over to Garrett.

She stood next him and when he turned to look down at her, his expression impenetrable, she said, “I’d like to speak to you.  We can go to the study.”  She knew that the study would be empty as everyone else would be in the drawing room or on the porch.  Besides, she had a very good reason for wanting to talk to him there.

He didn’t say anything but aside so that she could precede him out of the dining room.  Her legs were trembling as they walked down the hallway, her heart accelerating with each step.  When they got to the study, she closed the door and turned to face him.  “We’re standing under mistletoe.”

He glanced up and saw it hanging from the ceiling right above their heads.  His gaze returned to her face, his eyes darkening.  “You want me to kiss you?” he asked thickly.

She moved closer, her heart was pounding wildly.  “Yes.”

“What about Austin?”

“Do you want me to kiss him instead?” She didn’t know why she said that.  Perhaps, she wanted to see how he would react or maybe she was feeling reckless now.  Her mouth went dry when she saw the expression on his face.

“No,” he groaned before he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him.  Her eyes closed just as his mouth closed hungrily over hers.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly as she responded to his kisses.  They exchanged wild, passionate kisses as the feelings that they had harbored for so long came gushing out, threatening to sweep them away.

Finally when he raised his head to catch his breath, she asked, “Are you in love with me?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  I have been since we met.”

“So, Austin was right.  He said you were and that’s the reason why you punched him.”

“When I saw the two of you together, I saw red.  And when you made such a fuss over him, I was mad with jealousy.  I thought you had feelings for him.”

“How could I when I was madly in love with you?  You had no reason to be jealous of Austin then and now.”

“And you have no reason to be jealous of Madison.  She and I are not even in touch with each other.  Austin said that we were just to stir up trouble between you and me.  Unfortunately, it worked.”

“Let’s put all that behind us.”

“Yes,” he agreed.  “Let’s forget about Austin and Madison and just concentrate on each other.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

 

 

Source:  Brushy Top

The Precinct

“How’s Viola?” Franco Manetti asked his friend and partner of twelve years, Joe Martin, as he was getting ready to leave for the night.

Joe stopped writing his report to look at him, his expression was one of exasperation.  “Why don’t you ask her out already?” he demanded.  “You’re always asking about her and she’s always asking about you.  You’re not dating anyone and she’s not dating anyone.  Why don’t you two date each other?  Look, the precinct is having its Christmas party is next month, why don’t you ask her to go with you?”

Franco considered his suggestion.  “That’s a great idea,” he said.  “Are you sure you don’t mind me asking your little sister out?”

Joe rolled his eyes.  “If I minded you asking her out, would I be encouraging you to?”

Franco laughed.  “I guess not.  I’m sorry, pal.  I just thought it might be awkward for your partner to be taking your sister out, that’s all.  Well, have a good night.  I’ll see you in the morning.  Say hello to Dora for me.”

“You have yourself a good night too.  By the way, Viola is coming over for dinner at our house tomorrow night.  You’re welcome to drop by.  You can ask her to the Christmas party then.”

“I can’t come by tomorrow, I’m afraid.  I am having dinner over at my parents’ place.  Could I call you instead and talk to Viola?”

“Sure.  She’ll be there until ten.”

Franco pulled on his jacket and grabbed his keys.  “‘Night, Joe.”

“‘Night, Franco.”

On his way home, Franco recalled the first time he met Viola.  It was on a Tuesday, around noon.  She came to the precinct to see Joe.  They were going out for lunch.  He was at his desk doing paperwork when she walked in.  He looked up as she went over to where Joe sat.  Joe was away from his desk.

Franco stared at her.  She was dressed in a black pants suit over a red blouse and her hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck.  For several minutes, he just sat there staring at her.  She smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Viola, Joe’s sister.  You must be Franco.”

He got up and shook her hand.  “Pleased to meet you,” he managed to say.  He waited for her to sit down in the chair beside Joe’s desk before resuming his seat.

“Joe has told me a lot about you,” she said.  “You and he have been partners for a long time.”

“Yes, for twelve years.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She was so beautiful.

“I remember when Joe joined the force our mother was terrified at first.  She feared that he would get shot or killed but Dad encouraged her to have faith.  He told her that Joe was serving God and his community.  It took some time to convince her but now instead of worrying she prays a lot.  What about you?  Did your family have a problem with your choice of career?”

He shook his head.  “My parents were just relieved that I wanted to be in law enforcement instead of ending up like some of the kids I used to hang out with in our old neighborhood.”

He wanted to ask her if she had a boyfriend.  He could hear his mother saying to him, “I hope that before I die, you meet a nice Italian girl and marry her.  Nearly all of your cousins are married and have children.  Guido is married and has blessed your father and me with two grandchildren.  Your little sister, Sophia is married.  You’re the eldest and you’re still single.  What are you waiting for?”

He noticed that Viola glanced at his hand to see if he was wearing wedding ring.  Just then Joe returned to his desk.

“I see that you two have met,” he said with a smile.  He grabbed his jacked and pulled it on.  “Ready?” he asked Viola who was looking at Franco.

She glanced up at her brother and nodded.  As she stood up, she turned to Franco who was on his feet, watching her.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said, smiling at him.  “I hope we see each other again.”

“Me too.”  He watched her walk away, thinking he had just met his dream woman.

As he pulled into his parking space, Franco promised himself that he was going to ask her to have dinner with him on Saturday and then invite her to go with him to the Christmas party.

They were having dinner when out of the blue, his mother asked, “So, have you met a nice Italian girl as yet?”

Franco was about to lift the fork to his mouth but he paused to look over at his mother who was watching him very intently.  “I met a nice girl, Mama,” he said quietly, “but, she’s not Italian.”

She wrinkled her brow.  “She’s not Italian?  What is she?”

“She’s Joe’s sister.  You remember Joe.  I’ve brought him here for dinner once before when his wife, Dora was visiting her parents in Florida.”

“Yes, I remember Joe,” his father said.  “He’s a very nice guy.”

“How come you never mentioned his sister to me before?” Mrs. Manetti asked.

“I did. I told you about the time when she and I first met.”

“Oh yes, but that was last year.  You mean to tell me you haven’t been dating anyone since then?”

“No.  After meeting her, I don’t want to date anyone else.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight-thirty.

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” his mother asked irritably.  “Are you going somewhere after you leave here?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I’m going straight home after I leave here.”

“Why do you keep looking at your watch, then?” she insisted.

“Oh, Carmela, leave the boy alone,” Mr. Manetti snapped.  “If he wants to look at his watch, that’s his business.”

“If you must know, Mama, promised Joe that I would call over at his house tonight.”

“Oh.  Eat your spaghetti before it gets cold.”

It was nine o’clock by the time, they finished eating and he helped to clear the table.  He excused himself and went down into the basement to make the call.  Joe answered.  They spoke for a while and then he went to call Viola.  Franco’s heart began to pound.  He was really nervous now.  When he heard her voice, his heart leapt in his chest.  “Hello, Viola,” he said, sounding a bit breathless.  “How are you?  Good.  I’m fine too.  I—I was wondering if you would have dinner with me on Saturday evening.  You would?  That’s great.  I’ll pick you up at seven.  Sure, I’ll take down your address.  Just hold on while I find something to write on.”  He put the receiver gently on the sofa and got up.

He looked around wildly for some paper and a pen.  He saw an old newspaper on the coffee table and a pen beside it.  It was opened to the Crossword section.  Dad, he thought, with a grin.  He tore a piece of paper and grabbed the pen.  He hurried back to the phone.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  He wrote down her telephone number and address and put the piece of paper in the breast pocket of his shirt.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”  He sat down in the sofa and talked with her for a while before he said, “Good night, Viola,” and hung up.

His parents were in the living-room.  His father was watching TV in his favorite chair while his mother was on the sofa mending his shirt.  She glanced up when Franco entered the room.  “How is Joe?” she asked.

“He’s fine.”

“You were on the phone for a long time.” She looked at him, suspicious.  “Are you sure it was Joe you were talking to all this time?”

“Carmela, leave the boy alone.”

Mrs. Manetti clucked her tongue and continued mending the shirt.

Franco sat down on the sofa beside her and spent an hour with them before he left.

“Viola told me that you invited her out for dinner tomorrow night,” Joe said to him the next morning as soon as he sat down at his desk.

“Yes, I did.  I wanted to go out with her before the Christmas Party.”

“Good for you.”

Franco smiled and got to work, although every now and then his mind went on Viola.  He couldn’t wait to see her the following night.

He took her to the River Café, nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge with stunning views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  They got a table beside a window where she could see the East River.  For the appetizer, they both had the summer salad and for the main course, she had the Organic Chicken while he opted for the Lamb.  And for dessert, they shared the Chocolate Brooklyn Bridge.  The conversation between was easy and they felt very comfortable with each other.  He learned that she was a Community Outreach Coordinator at a government agency in the Bronx and that she was bullied in high-school because of her weight.

“I was overweight,” she said.  “I ate a lot of junk food and spent most of my time sitting around the house, reading or watching TV.  I wasn’t active except when I was doing gym at school.  So, I was teased at school because of my weight and height.  I didn’t fit in with the other girls who were tall and skinny.  In grade ten, I decided that I wasn’t going to change my habits.  I stopped eating unhealthy foods, went on a diet and walked home from school instead of taking the bus.  It worked.  I dropped to and maintained a weight that worked for me.  As you can see, I’m not skinny but I’m not overweight either.”

He looked at her.  “I think you’re beautiful,” he said.

She smiled, feeling a little shy.  “Thank you.”

“We are having our annual Christmas party on December 16 and I was wondering if you would like to go with me.”

“Yes, I’d like that.”

After dinner, they went for a walk, enjoying the warm night air and the views of the bridge over the River.  Then, it was time to take her home.  When they were standing outside of her condo in Queens, he said to her, “I had a great time tonight with you.  Viola, I really, really like you and I want to be in a relationship with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I do, Franco.”

He smiled, looking relieved.  “Good.  I’ll call you tomorrow.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She watched him as he walked away, her pulse racing and her heart pounding.  Things were really looking up now.

They began dating and by the time the Christmas party rolled around, things had gotten very serious between them.  He took her to meet his parents one Sunday afternoon.  Viola was nervous about meeting his mother.  Mr. Manetti was very warm and friendly.  At first, Mrs. Manetti didn’t say much.  She was busy sizing her up.  Then, when the men went out into the backyard, leaving the two of them in the living-room, Mrs. Manetti cleared her throat.

“Come and sit beside me,” she said, patting the empty seat on the sofa.

Viola went over and sat down next to her, trying to act calm when there were butterflies in her stomach.  She turned to look at the older woman who was studying her with those sharp eyes of hers.

“I had my reservations when Franco told me about you,” she began.  “I wanted him to find and settle down with a good Italian woman because my other two children married outside of their culture.  Franco is my first born.  He will always have a special place in my heart.  I want him to be happy.  And I can see that he is very happy because of you.  I can tell that you love him and I know that he loves you.  So, you’re not Italian but as long as you’re good for my Franco, that’s all that matters.”

Viola breathed a sigh of relief.  “Thank you, Mrs. Manetti.  It means a lot to me that you feel this way.”

“Good.”  Mrs. Manetti smiled and patted her hand.  “Now, why don’t I cut you a nice big slice of cake?  I baked it just this morning.”

When Franco and his father joined them a while later, they were chatting as if they had known each other for years.  “It looks like you’ve won over my mother,” he said when they were alone.

“Yes.  She’s a wonderful woman who wants what’s best for her son.”

He reached for her hands and held them, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.  “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I love you, Viola.”

“I love you too.”

“Marry me,” he said as he released one of her hands to reach into his pants pocket for the box.  Then, he got down on his knee and opened the box to show her the engagement ring.  She gasped when she saw it.  It was an elegant 3 carat oval shaped diamond.

“Yes, I will marry you,” she replied, her eyes wide and watery.  She watched as he put it on her finger and then he was on his feet.  He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

A short while later, he announced their engagement to his parents.  “This calls for a celebration,” Mr. Manetti said and he disappeared into the kitchen.  He was back with a tray four glasses and a bottle of wine.  After he filled each glass he raised his in a toast.  “To Franco and Viola,” he said.

They all raised their glasses in merriment.  And in Spring of the following year, Franco and Viola got married at her family’s church and had the reception at Prince George Ballroom.  It was a glorious night.  “We never thought we would see Franco settle down,” Guido said to her, laughing.

Sophia said to her, “It’s good to see Franco so happy.  I wish you two a lifetime of happiness.”

“Happy?” Franco asked as Viola and he danced.

“Very,” she replied.

He smiled and then twirled her around the dance floor as his mother watched them, happy to see that her son had finally found and married a nice girl.

Sources:  River Cafe; Marisa Perry; Prince George Ballroom

The Fashion Show

Martin glanced at his friend, Albert and was amused when he saw him staring at Brenda who was strutting down the runway, hands on hips and big smile on her face as she modeled the black and white 50’s looking dress.  The fashion show was actually a charitable event and sponsored by Martin’s company.  After much cajoling, he managed got his friend to come.  Until now, Albert had seemed unimpressed and rather bored with the fashion show.  None of the beautiful women who walked past him got his notice.  And then, Brenda walked out.  Albert glanced up with the same bored expression on his face which immediately changed when he saw her.  His eyes followed her up and down the runway.

Martin leaned over and said in a low voice.  “She’s a stunner, isn’t she?”

Albert didn’t answer.  He watched as she paused at the end of the runway before heading back in his direction.  As she drew nearer, he sat forward, anxious to see her.  She stopped right in front of him.  After acknowledging Martin, she shifted her attention to Albert.  Their eyes met and he felt his heart stop when she smiled at him.   Then, she was gone.

“Would you like to meet her?” Martin asked him.

Albert watched her retreating figure until she disappeared from view before he turned to his friend.  “Yes.”

Martin grinned.  “Good,” he said.  “You’ll meet her after the show.”

“Is she going to come out again?”

“I don’t believe so.”

Albert looked disappointed.  He sat back in his seat, anxious for the show to be over so that he could meet the model who had captivated him.

She was standing on the terrace, looking down at the gardens when they joined her half hour later.  She was wearing a simple orange pant suit which complimented her complexion and flattered her figure.  As she watched them approach, her gaze went to the tall and attractive man with the thick dark brown hair, dressed in the dark grey sweater over a white shirt and dark grey trousers.  The glasses he wore suited him.  She didn’t usually go for the preppy, nerdy type but something about his guy made her pulse race and heart do somersaults.  He looked shy.  She liked that. He would be a welcome change to the obnoxious and overbearing men who usually hit on her.

“Brenda, thank you for being a part of a very worthy cause,” Martin said when they joined her.  “You looked really great out there.  Have you ever considered modelling for a new career?”

She laughed.  “No, the thought never occurred to me.  Besides, I’m too short.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity.  I had fun.” Unable to resist, her gaze shifted to his friend who was watching her.  Behind the eyeglasses, she could see that he had beautiful, expressive eyes.

Martin observed them, smiling.  “Brenda, this is my good friend, Albert.”

Albert was nervous.  He tried not to stare but he couldn’t help himself.  His gaze was riveted to her face.  “Hello,” he said when what he really wanted to say was, I’m so very pleased to meet you.  He took the hand she offered and clasped it in a firm handshake.  Her fingers felt small and delicate in his, yet they had the power to stir feelings in him which he never experienced before.  His heart was pounding and he began to worry that he might make an utter fool of himself.  In all of his forty years, not once had he had ever been tongue-tied or nervous around a woman.

She smiled at him.  “I’m very pleased to meet you, Albert,” she told him.  “Did you enjoy the fashion show?”

He realized that he was still holding her hand and he released it.  He put his hands behind his back in an attempt to appear relaxed.  “The last bit of it,” he said.  He didn’t want to admit that until she walked out, he was bored out of his mind.

“I’m not into fashion shows but I don’t mind doing them if it’s for charity.”

Martin chimed in.  “If you two will excuse me, I have to go and find Margot.” He left them and headed off to find the fashion photographer whom he was currently dating.  Margot used to be a model until she decided that she liked being behind the lens better.

Alone together, Albert and Brenda became intensely aware of each other.  They couldn’t hide their attraction for each other even if they tried.  “You really are very beautiful,” Albert said to her, his expression tense.

She had been paid many compliments before but she was never affected by them as she was by his.  Albert made her feel beautiful just by the way he said it and the way he looked at her as he said it.  “Thank you,” she replied.

“I’m not usually this bold,” he sounded apologetic, “but I was wondering if perhaps, we can go for a walk in the gardens?”

“Yes, I’d like that.”

“What do you do when you’re not modeling for charity?” he asked as they strolled across the well manicured lawn.

“I work at a law firm.  When I’m not working, I like to curl up with a good book.  What about you?”

“I’m a Financial Director at Shadoworks Company.  I like to write essays in my spare time.  Just recently, I wrote how the words of Christ, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, would be the panacea for the social ills plaguing our society such as abuse, bullying, racism, violence, oppression, sexual harassment.”

“And gender inequality, rape and human trafficking.  This world would be such a different place if we all were to follow the teachings of Christ.  I’d like to read your essay.”

He smiled, flattered that she wanted to read something he had written.  “It’s in the Opinion section of the April 4 issue of the Daily Observer.

“I like the Daily Observer.  It has great articles and it’s not afraid to address sensitive issues.  Yesterday I read a very frank and informative article on sexual harassment in the workplace.  At my firm, we deal with hundreds of cases of sexual discrimination and harassment and bullying in the workplace.”

“I would imagine that it becomes overwhelming sometimes, having to deal with such cases.”

“It does.  I still remember the case of a lawyer whose was being sexually harassed by one of the partners at the law firm where she used to work.  She sued him and the firm and won.  Now she has her own practice helping women who are victims of sexual harassment, discrimination in the workplace, including law firms.”

“It’s unfortunate but sometimes people have to go through terrible experiences so that they could turn around and help others.  But, you like what you do.”

“Yes.  I like being a part of the solution.  Although I have been working there for four years, compared to the others, I am still the neophyte of the firm but every day I am learning and growing.”

They found somewhere to sit and talked for a long while about different things, learning more about each other and finding that they have a lot in common.  Then, he glanced at his watch and an expression of deep regret came over his face as he looked at her.  “I’m afraid that I must go,” he said apologetically.  “I have a pressing engagement.  It’s my niece’s piano recital,” he added quickly when he saw the look on her face.

She smiled, relieved and stood up.  “How old is your niece?” she asked as they started back to the building where the crowd was starting to disperse.

“She’s fourteen.”

“What is she playing?”

“I believe it’s a piece by Mozart.”

“I wish I learned how to play the piano.  It’s my favorite musical instrument.  I am a big fan of Chopin.”

“I’m more partial to the violin and Bach.”  They were standing at the foot of the steps now.  “Do you need a lift to anywhere?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “Thank you, but my sister, June is meeting me here in about fifteen minutes.  I’m spending the rest of the day with her and her family.”

“I really enjoyed our time together,” he said quietly, his eyes serious on her face.

“Me too.”

There was a pause as he seemed to be contemplating something. “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?” he asked, his expression hopeful and apprehensive at the same time.

“Yes, I will,” she said.  She opened her handbag and after tearing out a sheet of paper from the back of her address book, she wrote her address and phone number.  She folded it and gave it to him.

“I’ll pick you up at seven” he said as he took the paper and tucked it in his wallet.  “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“See you tomorrow.”  She watched him ascend the steps and waved when he stopped to glance back at her.  When he disappeared from her sight, she stood there for a moment, thinking about him and how much she had enjoyed his company.  Then, she went to meet her sister at the front entrance of the building.  As soon as she got into the car, she said to her, “I met him today.”

June stared at her.  “Who’re you talking about?” she asked, pulling away from the curb.

“The man I’m going to marry.”

June laughed.  “Really?” she exclaimed, sounding very skeptical.  “And what made you come to that conclusion?”

“I used to think that love at first sight was a foolish romantic notion but today it happened to me.”

June glanced at her and realized, “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am.  We spent about an hour just talking and getting to know each other.  I loved being with him. He’s so different from the men I usually go for.  We had the most stimulating conversation and I could have sat there all day just talking to him but he had to go to his niece’s recital.  He asked me to have dinner with him tomorrow evening.”

“Wow.  I wish I’d come earlier to meet him.”

“Don’t worry.  You’ll meet him.”

“Does he know that he’s going to marry you?” June teased her.

“Maybe not as yet”

She thought about him for the rest of the day, wondering how his niece’s recital went and if he was thinking about the time they spent together.  She looked forward to seeing him the following evening and was thankful when it arrived.

He showed up at promptly seven wearing a black suit over a white shirt and no tie.  His hair was slightly damp, a few tresses falling across his forehead and he was not wearing his glasses.  He looked so handsome that she couldn’t stop staring.  “I’m wearing contacts,” he said unnecessarily.  Perhaps he was as nervous as she.

Her heart was pounded wildly, especially when she saw his eyes travel over her and the expression in them when they returned to her face.  She was wearing a Burgundy Long Sleeve Shift Dress with rounded neckline and long sleeves with lightly puffed shoulders.  Long, shapely legs clad in sheer hosiery, peeped out from under the hem and black dress pumps completed the outfit.  “I didn’t think it was possible for you to be even more beautiful than you already are.”

“Thank you,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  He offered her his arm which she took and they walked to the lift.  Fortunately, for her it was a balmy evening but she had brought her shawl just in case.  On the way to the restaurant she asked him about his niece’s recital and as he talked about it, she could tell that he was very proud of her.

They went to a modern French restaurant in Covent Garden.  It was reputed to be the world’s most romantic restaurant.  They started with the Crispy Parmesan Polenta & Saint Marcellin Cheese and for the main course, she had the Oven Roasted Free Range Chicken Leg Stuffed with Duck Liver & Truffle while he had the Pan Roasted Organic Irish Sea Trout as they each enjoyed a glass of white wine.  They had a lively conversation and made plans to see each other again.  For dessert, they had both had the Greek Yogurt & Lemon Zest Mousse, Yuzu Curd & Honey Comb.

After dinner, they drove to Canary Wharf.  He parked the car and took her on a little tour of the office district, showing her the building where he worked.  The place looked beautiful at night and the tall office buildings reminded her a little of Manhattan.  “How long does it take you to drive to work?” she asked as they walked back to the car about half-hour later.

“Approximately 35 minutes, depending on the traffic.  Longer during the winter.”

“I like it here.  Very busy, upscale and lots to see.”

“I will bring you here again another time and we can spend a longer time, walking around and perhaps go to a concert, if you like that sort of thing.  We can grab dinner afterwards.”

“That sounds wonderful,” she said smiling as she got into the car.  “Thank you for dinner.”

“It was my pleasure.  Do you have any plans for tomorrow?”

“No.”

“I was thinking that we can go on the Little Venice to Camden Walk.  Someone at work mentioned it to me a while ago and I have been meaning to look into it.  Afterwards, we can visit the Waterside Café before the walk.

“I didn’t know that there was a Little Venice in London.  Sounds very interesting.  I would love to go.”

“I read online that it was named such by the poet Robert Browning who lived overlooking the canal in the 1800s. I’ve never been to Venice but hope to one of these days.”

On the drive to her flat, they talked more about their plans for the following day.  Outside of her door, he said goodnight and then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  They held each other’s gaze for several minutes before he turned and walked away.  She watched him go, touching the side of her face where his lips had been before she went inside her flat.

They went for the Little Venice to Camden Walk and had a wonderful time.  After that, they started seeing each other on a regular basis and by the end of the year, they were dating each other exclusively.  Spring of the following year came and it was when they were in walking in St. James’ Park that he turned to her and said, “I have been meaning to say something to you all morning.”  They were standing at the western end of the park from where they had a clear view of Buckingham Palace.

She stared up at him, wondering what was on his mind.  He looked very serious, nervous.  He took her hands in his and clasped them.

“I love you, Brenda,” he confessed.  “I fell in love with you the first time I saw you.  You came into my life and changed it completely.  The times you and I have spent together have been the happiest for me.  I can’t imagine my life without you in it.  So, if you have no objection and I hope and pray that you don’t, I am asking you to marry me.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  She raised their entwined hands to her lips and kissed his.  Her heart was in her eyes when she raised them to his face.  “I love you too, Albert,” she admitted huskily.  “Until I met you, I didn’t believe in love at first sight.  Of course, I will marry you.  You’re the man for me.”

Albert released an unsteady breath and letting go of her hands, he hugged her around her waist and pulled her against him.  He bent his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  For several minutes they stood there, kissing while the ducks waddled about the grass before some of them headed for the pond.

At length, he drew back and said, “I have something for you.”  He reached into his pants pocket and took out the box with the ring.  He opened it and her eyes widened when she saw the exquisite diamond.  He took it out and taking her hand, he gently slid it down her finger.  It was a perfect fit.  When he raised his eyes to look at her, they were filled with emotions.  “I love you.”

She swallowed.  “I love you,” she managed to say and then he kissed her again.  They left that spot a few minutes later, his arm was around her shoulder and hers was around his waist.

They had a summer wedding.  June was her matron of honor.  When they had a chance to speak, Brenda said to her with a smile and a wink, “I told you that I was going to marry him.”

June laughed.  “Yes, you did.  And after meeting him and getting to know him, I can see why he’s the one you ended up with.” She hugged her younger sister tightly.  “I wish you both the very best and God’s many blessings.”

“Thank you.”

It was a lovely reception and afterwards, they left for their honeymoon in Venice.  They did return to Canary Wharf and it was when they were sitting on a bench, having sandwiches that she told him they were going to have their first child.  She laughed when he almost choked on his.  He quickly put it back in the paper and put it down on the seat beside him before turning to hug her tightly, burying his face in her neck.  She hugged him back as she felt his tears wet her neck.  They sat like that for a long time.

Sources:  Fantasy Names Generator; Findlaw; Lulu’s Fashion; YouTube; Trip Savvy

The Room in Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Before going inside, they took photos of its architecture which was a mixture of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian, the impressive work of artists and craftsmen who came from all over.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.

When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.” They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

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

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  As they enjoyed the Chicken and Mushrooms and Pasta & Oca respectively, they talked about the places they had visited that day and where they planned on going the next day.  For dessert, they had Rosada cream with orange.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”

After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

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

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

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

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

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

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I couldn’t sleep either because I kept thinking about how sexy you look without a shirt…”

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

“I love you too.”

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

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

“Yes, they are.”

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

“Why this room?” he asked.

“It’s where you and I first made love and declared our feelings for each other.  I will always remember this room for those two reasons.”

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

The Flirtation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello Amanda.” It was Christian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When will you be back?”

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

“Okay. I’ll-I’ll be here.”

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

“Good night, Christian.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Hmmm, this is delicious,” Christian said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She blinked. “Marry me?”

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

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

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

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

Sources:  Jamie Oliver; Lux Bond & Green