Dinner at Sunset

Noelle was having a private meeting with Barry Forbes in her office when the door opened and Sandra, her secretary walked in.  Noelle glanced up at her, unable to hide her irritation at the disruption but before she could say anything, Sandra spoke. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Noelle, but I have an urgent phone call for Mr. Forbes.”

Immediately an expression of concern crossed Barry’s face and he asked, “Who is it from?”

“It’s your wife.  She sounds very upset.”

Noelle said to him, “You can take the call on my phone.”

“It’s on line one,” Sandra said.

Noelle picked up the receiver, handed it to him and pressed the line one button.  She watched as Barry spoke to his wife and saw his face go pale.  It must be very serious, she thought in alarm.  As soon as he was finished speaking, she said to him, “If you have to go, go.”

“It’s Sam, our youngest daughter.  She was struck by a car and they said it was very serious.  My wife’s at the hospital now.”  He stood up and pulled on his jacket, his hands trembling slightly.

“I hope and pray that she will be okay,” she said.  “Are you okay to drive?”

He nodded.  “I’ll be fine.  I’m just a bit shaken up.”

Noelle got up and walked with him to the elevator.  “Please call me on my cell and let me know how Sam is.”  She reached out and clasped his hand.

“I will,” he promised.  The doors of the elevator opened and he stepped in.  He leaned against the wall as they closed.

Noelle stood there for several minutes, praying that Samantha would pull through.  She was only fifteen, the same age as Tatiana.  She couldn’t imagine how she would feel if she were to receive news that her sister had met with a terrible accident.

“Are you all right?” a voice inquired behind her.  She turned and found herself staring up into a pair of amazing blue eyes.  They belonged to Horst, the new director of the company.  He was absolutely gorgeous with thick, wavy black hair, athletic build and a deep, sexy voice with a German accent.  As usual when she was around him, her heart began to beat faster.

“No,” she said.  “Barry Forbes and I were having a meeting a few minutes ago when he got an urgent phone call from his wife.  Their youngest daughter, Samantha got struck down by a car and is in serious condition.  Barry is heading over to the hospital right now.  Poor man.  I hope Samantha will be all right.”

Horst’s eyes filled with sympathy.  “I hope so too,” he said quietly.  “I remember how awful it was for my parents and me when my older brother had a skiing accident.  He was in such serious condition that they didn’t think he would survive but, thank God, he did.  After months of physiotherapy, he was fully recovered.  He walks with a slight limp but the important thing is he survived.  I’m sure the doctors will do all they can for Samantha.”

Noelle smiled slightly.  “Thanks,” she said.  “I feel a little better.”

“Good,” he said, rubbing her arm.

She swallowed hard, hardly able to think straight because of the sensation of his fingers on her bare arm, stirring up all sorts of sensations.

“Noelle, have dinner with me tonight at my place,” he said, startling her.  His eyes held hers in a steady gaze and his expression was intense.  “We can sit on the terrace overlooking the ocean while we eat.  It’s summer so the sun wouldn’t set until around nine.  We can watch the sun set.”

It took a while for it to sink in that he was asking her to have what sounded like a romantic dinner with him at his beach house.  Of course, she was going to accept his invitation.  She would be a fool not to.  She would worry about what to wear later.  “Yes,” she said now rather breathlessly.  “Dinner sounds wonderful.  What time would you like me to be there?”

His features became relaxed.  “Come for seven,” he said.

She expelled a shaky breath when he stopped rubbing her arm and placed it in his pocket.  “I’ll be there for seven.”

“Good.”  He smiled, making her heart melt before he excused himself and walked away.

The rest of the day was a complete blur for her.  Then, it was time to leave.  It was Friday and a great start to the weekend.  As she drove home, she wondered how things fared at the hospital and hoped that Barry would call her.

As soon as she got home, she took a quick shower and then went through her wardrobe for something to wear.  She chose to wear a long, floral print off the shoulder summer dress with a side slit below the knee and a pair of wedge heeled sandals.  Her hair was pulled back in a French knot.  Satisfied with the way she looked, she grabbed her handbag, keys and left the flat, her heart racing with excitement.  It was a lovely evening.  The sunshine was bright and it was a very pleasant drive up the coast.

Horst answered the door soon after she rang the bell.  He smiled broadly, clearly delighted to see her and his gaze traveled over her as he held the door open for her to go in.  “You look beautiful,” he remarked after closing the door and turning to face her.

She smiled self-consciously.  “Thank you.”  He looked incredibly handsome in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His hair was a bit tousled.  Her fingers itched to bury themselves in the thick, silky tresses.  Realizing that she was staring, she turned away.

“Come, let me give you a quick tour of the place before we have dinner.”  He led her through the foyer and into the living-room which was bright and airy with lots of natural light coming through the windows.  The stunning all white living-room decor looked like something she would see in Elle Decor magazine.

The kitchen was large and bright with windows, unlike hers.  It had granite counter-tops, an island with chairs.  The tantalizing aroma of dinner lingered in the air although the windows were open. There were three guest bedrooms and the master bedroom.  The master bedroom was decidedly masculine and the French doors opened onto the balcony, affording one an unobstructed view of the sea.  It must be a treat to wake up to that every morning, she mused as she followed him to the terrace.

“Have a seat, while I go and get dinner.”  He held out the chair that was facing the sea for her to sit in.  Then, he went off to the kitchen.

While he was gone, Noelle leaned back in the chair and surveyed the table which was covered in a white cloth, with a vase of red roses in the center.  There were two glasses and a bucket of ice with a bottle of what she supposed to be wine in it.  There were utensils and napkins.  And there were two white candles.  They were not lit.  Perhaps he was going to light them after the sun set.

She smiled, breathing in the tangy salt air.  The beach was deserted.  It was nice and peaceful unlike where she lived.  She watched as the shallow frothy waters rolled onto the sand.  It must be so nice taking long walks, with nothing but sand, sea and sky around for miles and miles.

Horst brought out two salads and sat down in the chair on her right.  After he said a prayer, they tucked into the Quinoa, Beet, and Arugula Salad.

“This is delicious,” Noelle exclaimed.  “I’m so used to having the Greek or Italian or green salads.  This is a really nice change.”

He smiled.  “I ate this salad at a restaurant a couple of months ago and always promised myself that I would make it.”

Twenty minutes later, he brought out the main course.  She gazed at the plate with the Crispy Parmesan Garlic Chicken with Zucchini, her mouth watering with anticipation.  “You’re an amazing cook,” she said after having a mouthful.  “Where did you learn to cook like this?”

“I learned fast that eating out could be expensive so I taught myself to cook.  I searched the Internet for different recipes and tried them.  After lots of trials and errors, I finally got it right.”

“Well, you’ve definitely got it right.  I can’t get over how soft and succulent the chicken is.”

“Thank you.”  He poured the wine into the two glasses.  It had a sweet and savory taste.

“So, now I know that you are a great cook.”

“What else would you like to know about me?”

“I can tell from your accent that you’re German.”

“Yes, I was born in Hamburg, Germany.  I always wanted to come to America.  I used to watch a lot of American movies.  I especially liked the classics and the westerns.  My favorite western was The Magnificent Seven with German actor, Horst Buchholz.  After I graduated from university, I moved here.  Initially, my parents weren’t happy but when they visited and saw how well I was doing, they became supportive.”

“Are you an only child?”

“No.  I have an older brother and a younger sister.  He lives in Berlin with his family and my sister lives in Vienna with her husband.  He teaches at the Vienna University of Technology and she works as a nurse at a private clinic.”

She asked him more questions about himself and his family and then it was his turn to ask questions about her.  That evening they learned more about each than they had in all the years they worked together.

After dinner, she helped him to clear the table and he stacked the dirty plates, glasses into the dishwasher.  “Are you up for dessert?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “Not right now, thanks,” she said, patting her stomach.  “I don’t think I have any more room for it.”

“All right.  Let’s go back on the terrace and watch the sun set as promised.”

They sat down facing the ocean.  Ten minutes later the sun began its descent.  As Noelle watched it set, Longfellow’s quote came to her.  “Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai.”  

They sat there for a while longer.  It was such a fun evening that she didn’t want to leave but it was getting late and the drive home was close to 80 minutes.  “I’d better be heading home now,” she said, getting up from the table.

“Do you have plans for tomorrow?” he asked as he walked her to the door.

She shook her head.  And even if she did, she would happily cancel them.

“Spend the day with me tomorrow.  Come for eight so that we can have breakfast together and bring a swimsuit.”

“Sounds wonderful,” she said with a smile.  “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.  Thank you for a lovely dinner and evening.”  Are we going to kiss goodnight?  For some women it might be too soon but not for me.  I’ve wanted to kiss this man for a very long time.

He wanted to kiss her so badly but didn’t want to rush things.  Instead, he reached down and kissed her on the cheek.  When he drew back, his eyes were dark when they met her wide ones and his face was slightly flushed.  “It was my pleasure,” he said huskily.  “I wanted to ask you over for dinner for a very long time.”

The air was suddenly very charged between them.  Her skin tingled where his lips had been and her heart was pounding wildly.  “I-I’m glad you finally got around to it,” she stammered.

“So am I.  I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Noelle.  Call me when you get home tonight.”

Noelle opened her mouth to say something when just then, her cell rang.  It was Barry.  He called to tell her that Samantha’s condition was stable and the doctors were very optimistic that she would make a full recovery.  “Thank God,” Noelle exclaimed.  “Thanks for calling, Barry.  We’ll be in touch.”  She ended the call and put the phone back into her bag.

“His daughter is going to be all right,” she said to Horst.  “I’m so relieved.”

“I’m sure her family is very relieved too,” he replied, his expression tense.  “Noelle…”

“I should leave now,” Noelle said but she didn’t move.  She stood there gazing up at him, her breath quickening.

Groaning thickly, he reached for her, the desire in his eyes almost scorching her as he pressed her against him.  His lips found hers and ravaged them.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  After several minutes of exchanging passionate kisses, he drew back to gasp, “Spend the night with me.”

She nodded.  “Yes,” she managed to say before he lowered his head again to kiss her.

Two hours later, clad in dressing-gowns, they were relaxing on two chaise lounge chairs on the balcony outside of his bedroom, having two Black Forest Cannoli Parfaits with a view of the moonlit ocean before them.  It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.  The following morning, they had a late breakfast before she went home.

They became romantically involved and a year later, they got married.  On the first evening after they returned from their honeymoon, they had a sumptuous dinner, which Noelle prepared, on the terrace and watched as the sun set over the horizon.

Source:  AZ Quotes

 

 

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A Love Meant to Be

Serena stood there on the Staten Island Ferry, watching the choppy, frigid waters, her emotions churning inside her.  She leaned against the rail and wrapped her arms about her.  I’m pregnant.  She found out that morning when she went to a walk-in clinic.  After leaving there, she decided to come on the ferry ride to get away for a bit so that she could process the news that she was five weeks pregnant.

Robin was the father.  Robin.  She closed her eyes as she thought about him and the night they spent together.  They hadn’t meant for it to happen.  He was still dating her friend, Connie at the time.  It was on a Saturday afternoon and she was on her way home from the movies when she bumped into him.  He was just coming out of the barbershop where he had gone and to get a haircut.

His face broke into a big smile.  He looked handsome as usual dressed in a blue jersey, jeans and a leather jacket with a fur trimmed collar.  The haircut suited him.  “Hello, Serena.”

She smiled up at him, thinking what beautiful eyes he had.  “It’s good to see you, Robin.”

“Do you live around here?” he asked.

“Yes, I live over there,” she said, pointing to a set of buildings behind him.  “So, what are you doing around these parts?”

“I was visiting my brother.  He lives around here too.  Then, I decided to get a haircut.  What about you?  Are you going somewhere?”

“Actually, I just came from the movies and am heading home.”

“Did you go to the movies alone?”

“Yes.”

“What did you go to see?”

“The Black Panther.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “The Black Panther?”

She laughed.  “I know.  I’m not into those kinds of movies but I heard such great reviews about this one that I finally decided that I would go and see it.”

“And what did you think?”

“I actually liked it.”

“Listen, are you in a hurry to get home?”

She shook her head.  “I’m just going home to a leftover dinner and Masterpiece Theater,” she replied.

“What do you say we grab a bite to eat at the bistro across the street?”

“Sure.”

They crossed over the street and went into the bistro which was filled with the sounds of laughter, glasses tinkling and mouthwatering aromas.  They sat at the back in the corner.  She had never been in there before.  The atmosphere was very cozy and relaxed.  He ordered the Fillet Mignon and she ordered the Wild Salmon.

Over dinner they did a lot of catching up because it had been a while since they last saw each other.  He was dating her friend, Connie.  They met at the gym but interestingly enough, Serena knew him much longer than Connie because they used to go to the same university.  Since then she had been attracted to him but nothing had come of it.  He was always in a relationship with someone she knew.  She couldn’t help wondering why he never asked her out and reluctantly came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t interested in being more than friends with her.

“Are things getting serious between Connie and you?”

“Not for me,” he replied quietly.  “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.”  It was hard sitting across from him and not stare at him.  Nothing had changed.  She was still madly in love with him.  “How come you never asked me out?” She had to ask.  Her heart began to beat faster as she waited for his answer.

He looked straight at her as he replied, “I was attracted to you the very first time I saw you on campus and I wanted to ask you out but I wasn’t sure you’d want to go out with me.”

She gaped at him.  “Why would you think that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure you’d want to go out with me because—well, because I’m white.”

“And that’s why you dated other women instead.”

“Yes.”

The check came then and after paying it, he pulled on his jacket.  She put her coat on and they left the bistro.  It was dark outside now.  The temperature seemed to have dropped slightly.  He walked her home and when they were standing outside of her unit, she said, “Thanks for dinner.”

He smiled.  “It was my pleasure,” he said.

“Would you like to come in for a while?” she asked hopefully.

He nodded.  “I’d like that.”

She unlocked the door and they went inside.  After they removed their coats, she led him into the living-room.  “I’ll fix us some hot chocolate,” she said and went into the kitchen.

When she joined him, he was standing at the window, looking out.  She put the two mugs on the coffee table and went over to him.  He turned to face her.  “You have a spectacular view,” he remarked.

“Yes, I do.”

He was staring at her and then the next thing she knew she was in his arms and he was kissing her.  She wound her arms around his neck and clung to him as she kissed him back.  They exchanged wild kisses for several minutes and then he picked her up and carried her over to the sofa.

After he put her down, he drew back to remove his sweater, his eyes stormy as they met hers and he was breathing heavily.  She pulled her top over her head and then reached for him, her fingernails digging into his flesh as they kissed feverishly.  They made love and hours later, he left.  She showered and went to bed where she lay staring up at the ceiling for a while, reliving her night with Robin before finally falling asleep.

In the days that followed, she couldn’t stop thinking about him and aching for him but she couldn’t help feeling guilty because of Connie.  When he called her and asked to see her again, she put him off, telling him that it wasn’t a good idea.  It wasn’t long before she started experiencing nausea and other strange symptoms.  She decided to go to a walk-in clinic.

She had to tell Robin.  Taking a deep breath, she dialed his number and when he answered, she said simply, “I need to see you.”  She arranged where they would meet and then she ended the call.

After she got off the ferry, she walked to Battery Park to the spot where she arranged to meet him.  As she waited, she couldn’t help feeling nervous.  How was he going to react to the news that she was pregnant?  Would he be thrilled or feel trapped?  Perhaps he would want to do the honorable thing and marry her or give her financial support to raise the child on her own.  She didn’t want him to feel obligated to her.  And what about his relationship with Connie?

She sighed when she thought about her friend.  She could kiss their friendship goodbye once Connie found out about the baby.  One night of passion had changed three lives forever.  She was determined, however, that no matter what happened, this baby was going to be showered with lots of love and know that he or she is a gift from God.  She placed her hand protectively on her stomach.  Still, it would be so wonderful if Robin and she could be together…She heard her name and turned to see Robin coming towards her.

Her eyes ran eagerly over his tall frame.  It was a little over a month since they last saw each other.  He stood in front of her now.

“I go here as soon as I could,” he said, studying her face.  “Are you all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’m all right.  How are you?”

His eyes darkened.  “Much better now that I’m seeing you.  I haven’t been able to think about anything else but you.  I wanted to see you, Serena.  I wanted to be with you but you told me that it would be best if we didn’t.  So, when you called me today, I was thrilled.”

“I thought it would be best not to see you because of Connie.”

“I broke up with her,” he informed her.

Her eyes widened.  “You did?” she exclaimed.  “Why?”

“After what happened between you and me, I had to end our relationship.”

“Did you tell her about–?”

“No, I didn’t but I told her how I feel about you.”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “How do you feel about me, Robin?” she asked.  She knew he wanted her.  That was obvious the night they made love.  He was like a made man, his hands and lips were all over her, driving her wild.  At one point, he had her hands pinned above her head while he buried his face in her neck, his breath hot and heavy on her skin.  She felt her body respond now to the memories and looking at him now she could tell that he was remembering too.

“I showed you how I feel about you that night,” he told her huskily.  “I’m madly in love with you, Serena.  I have been in love with you since university.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  Robin loved her.

“I’ve loved you for sixteen years but it seems more like a few days.  It’s like Jacob who served seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage but to him it was like a few days because of his love for her.”

She felt the tears prick her eyes.  “Oh, Robin,” she cried huskily.  “I love you too.  I have loved you since the day you walked into my English class and sat down next to me.”

He smiled and taking her hands, he drew her toward him.  “One look at you and I knew I was in love.”

“I wish we had told each other how we felt back then.”

“Me too.  Serena…”

She glanced down at their hands.  “Robin, I have something to tell you.”

“What is it?”

Raising her head, to look at him, she announced quietly, “I’m going to have a baby–our baby.”

He stared at her for a long moment.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.  Five weeks.  I found out this morning.”

“You’re going to have a baby.”

We’re going to have a baby.”

“How are you feeling?  Are you okay?  Do you want us to sit down on the bench over there?”

She smiled.  “I’m fine,” she assured him.  “I don’t need to sit down.  Are you okay with this?”

His face brightened.  “I’m ecstatic.  Oh, Serena.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

She responded, her heart almost bursting with joy and relief because his reaction to the news was way better than she could have ever hoped for.  “I’m so relieved that you’re happy about this,” she said a few minutes later when she drew back to gaze up at him.

“How could I be otherwise?  We love each other and we’re going to have a baby.  Do you know what that means?”

“No, what?”

“We’ll have to find a bigger place.  After we get married, we can go house hunting.”

“Married?”

“Yes, I want to marry you, Serena.  I’ve waited for over sixteen years for you.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I can’t wait to marry you and to raise our child in our dream home,” she murmured.

“I told my mother about you.  Before she died, she said that a love meant to be will be, no matter how much time passes or how many obstacles it faces.  I wish—I wish she were here to see this—to see us together and you carrying her grandchild.”  Tears welled up in his eyes as he got choked up.

She reached up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly, blinking back her own tears.  His arms went around her waist, holding her close.  They stood like that for several minutes before she drew back to look up at him.  She brushed the tears away from his cheeks.  “Let’s go to my place where it’s nice and warm.  We can snuggle under the covers as we make plans for our future.”

He nodded and with their arms around each other, they walked to where his car was parked.

Sometimes when it comes to love you may be in for the long haul but in the end, it’s worth the time and effort when it turns out to be the real thing.

 

The Verdict

Raul gripped the steering wheel as an image of Candace hugging another man flashed across his mind.  Jealousy ripped through him like a tornado.  It was quite by chance that he saw them.

It was just after two in the afternoon when he was meandering through the shopping mall that he got a call that the verdict was in.   He was defending the Chief Financial Officer of a large corporation, accused of embezzlement.  He quickly made his way to the parking lot.  It was when he was getting into his car that he spotted Candace with an older man.  They were standing beside a grey sedan talking.  He froze.  His expression darkening as he watched them.

Candace was wearing a yellow summer dress and low heel sandals.  The man was dressed in a white shirt and grey pants.  He appeared to be in his late thirties.  He’s my age, Raul thought.  Who is he and what is she doing with him? As he stood there, staring at them, his heart racing, he saw them embrace for a long time.  Color suffused his cheeks and he was tempted to march over them and break it up.

His hands curled into tight fists as he longed to punch the man but it wouldn’t be good publicity for the defense attorney in a high profile case to get into a fight in a parking lot because he had caught his girlfriend hugging another man.  Besides, if he didn’t head back to the courthouse that very instant, he would be late and that too would look really bad.  Muttering under his breath, he climbed into the car and slammed the door.  He left the parking lot and drove to the courthouse which was about ten minutes away.

He got there just before the jury filed in.  His client looked a bit nervous.  He tried to read the faces of the jurors but their expressions were inscrutable.  The judge came in and everyone stood up until he was seated.  The courtroom was silent as His Honor spoke before calling on the foreman to read the verdict.  It was not guilty.  There was an enthusiastic response from the defendant’s family and the judge banged his gavel calling for silence in the courtroom.  After he told the defendant that the court has found him not guilty and that he was free to go, Raul turned to his client who looked very emotional.  “You’re a free man, Mr. Cartwright,” he told him.

Mr. Cartwright, shook his hand warmly.  “Thank you, Mr. Davies.  You have given me back my life.  My family and I will always be indebted to you.”

Raul forced a smile.  “You’re welcome, Sir and I did this with the help of a terrific team.” They shook hands and then Mr. Cartwright went over to his family, hugging them before they left the courtroom.

Raul sat there for a few minutes.  He had won the case but the victory was hallow because all he could think about was Candace and how much it hurt to see her with someone else.  “Congratulations, Raul,” a voice said beside him.  He glanced up into the face of Marsha Williams, his secretary and Candace’s mother.  She was smiling but the smile faded when she saw the expression on his face.  “What’s the matter?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “Nothing,” he denied.  “I’m just a bit tired, that’s all.  This case took a lot out of me but I’m thrilled that it turned out the way that I had hoped.”

She looked unconvinced but didn’t press him.  “Well, there’s no need for you to go back to the office.” she said.  “Why don’t you go home and relax?  Or better yet, have Candace come over and cook you a nice dinner.  You deserve it.”

The mere mention of her daughter’s name cut him to the quick but he masked it behind a fake smile.  He stood up and grabbed his briefcase.  “Thanks, Marsha.  I’ll take you up on your suggestion.  See you in the morning.”  He touched her on the arm before turning and walking away.

Candace and her brother parted in the parking lot.  It was great having Avery back in London even if it were just for a week before he headed back to Paris where he lived with Viola and the kids.  She knew their mother was planning to take him out for dinner tonight and had invited her to go with them but she declined.  She told her that she and Raul were going to spend the evening together at his place.

As she went back into the mall, she wondered how the case went.  She knew that the verdict would be in today.  Just then, her phone rang.  It was her mother.  “Raul won the case,” she told her.  “You should be very proud of him.  It was a tough case but he poured his time, resources and heart into it and got the right verdict.”

Candace beamed.  “Yes, Mom, I’m very proud of him and I would have been even if he didn’t win.  He’s an remarkable lawyer.  I won’t be surprised if one day he becomes a judge.”

“He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I expected him to be, though.  He chalked it up to tiredness but I think something else is troubling him.  Perhaps he will tell you when you see him later.”

“I will have him relax while I make dinner.  Speaking of dinner, enjoy yours with Avery.  He and I spent a really nice afternoon together.”

“I’m sorry that Viola and the grand kids couldn’t come with him this time but he promised that they will for Christmas.”

They chatted for a little longer and then Candace rang off, anxious to go home, take a shower and then head over to Raul’s place which overlooked the Thames River.

Raul was lying on the sofa, staring at the television but not paying attention to what was on when the doorbell rang.  Slowly, he got up and went to answer the door.  His heart lurched when he saw Candace standing there.  Muscle throbbing along his jawline, he opened the door and stared at her, his eyes dark with the turmoil raging inside him.  He ached to pull her in his arms and kiss her but he couldn’t forget what he had seen that afternoon.  She reached up to hug him but he stepped away, opening the door wider so that she could go in.

Candace frowned, thinking about what her mother had said.  Something was wrong.  Raul wasn’t himself.  After he closed and locked the door, she touched his arm and felt him stiffen.  “What’s wrong, Raul?” she asked, concern etched her features as she gazed up at him.  He looked so handsome in the black tee shirt and blue jeans.

He moved away again, muttering, “Nothing.”

Something was wrong.  He was acting as if he didn’t want her to touch him.  Usually, they hugged and kissed when they saw each other but this time they didn’t and she had no idea why.  His behavior toward her was strange and hurtful.  She tried to hide her feelings behind a smile.  “Mom called and told me that you won the case,” she said.  “Congratulations.  We should celebrate–”

His expression darkened.  “I’m not in the mood to celebrate,” he replied curtly.

Her face fell.  “Raul, I know something is wrong,” she insisted.  “Why won’t you tell me what it is?”

“All right, Candace,” he said, turning to face her.  “Who was the man I saw you with in the parking lot at the shopping mall this afternoon?” he demanded.

She stared at him.  “You were at the shopping mall?” she exclaimed.  “But, I thought you were in court–”

“I left court while the jury was out and went to the mall to kill some time and then I got the call that the verdict was in.  It was when I was about to get into my car that I saw you with him.  Who is he, Candace?  What were you doing with him?”

“Avery?” she wondered, puzzled.  Then it suddenly dawned on her why he was acting the way he was.  He was jealous.  “Avery is my brother, Raul.  He’s visiting from Paris where he lives with his family.  He and I spent the day together, catching up.  This evening he is having dinner with Mom.  She invited me to join them but I turned her down because I wanted to be with you.  I came over here to celebrate your victory by cooking you dinner.”

He stared at her.  “The man I saw you hugging in the parking lot is your brother?”

She nodded.  “Yes!  Oh, Raul, how could you think that I would be cheating on you when I’m mad about you?  I have a good mind to throttle you for that.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, looking contrite now.  “I’m sorry, Candace,” he mumbled.  “When I saw you with him, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  And when I saw you hug, I wanted to come over there and punch him but sanity prevailed and I drove away instead.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I think I should punish you a little for thinking that I would two time you.”

He put his arms around her waist, pressing her against him.  “I’m guilty of jumping to the wrong conclusion,” he admitted.  “I hope you will forgive me.”

“Let me think about it…” she murmured before she reached up and kissed him.

Groaning, he kissed her back, hungrily, feverishly.   All the torment that he had endured for the last several hours dissipated.

They exchanged wild, passionate kisses for several minutes and then he drew back to gaze down into her face, his flushed and his breathing heavy.  “So, what’s the verdict?” he asked huskily.

“Not guilty, due to reasonable cause,” she said.  “I might have reacted the same way if I saw you with another woman.”

“I love you,” he muttered thickly before he picked her up and carried her over to the fireplace where they made love.   Three hours later, they were having dinner outside on the terrace.

Dating Again

Dionne was having lunch with her friend, Mavis when Fenton Hardy walked into the cafe.  He looked disturbingly handsome in the grey jacket, pale blue shirt and jeans.  This was the first time she had ever seen him dress casual and it suited him.  His dark hair with streaks of grey added to his attraction.  And like clockwork, her heart began to pound and she placed her hands in her lap so that Mavis couldn’t see that they were trembling.  He always had this effect on her.  She would never forget the first time his son, Joe introduced them.

He was dressed in an expensive pinstriped grey suit and black shirt, no tie and had just walked into the library where she were searching the internet for information for a research paper Joe was doing.  They both glanced up when they heard him and Joe got to his feet.  “Hello, Dad,” he greeted him, getting up and extending his hand.

“Hello, Joe.”  They shook hands and then Joe’s father’s gaze shifted to Dionne who was staring at him and thinking what a handsome man he was.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.

“Oh, Dad, this Dionne.  Dionne, this is my father.”

She got up and held out her hand.  “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Hardy.  Joe has told me so much about you.”  What piercing blue eyes he had.

His hand clasped hers in a firm grip, his gaze riveted to her face.  “A pleasure to meet you, Dionne.”

“I-I was just helping Joe with a research paper he’s doing,” she stammered.  His palm felt warm against hers and she was acutely aware of him.  His cologne and nearness titillated her senses, making it hard for her to think straight.  She was relieved when he released her hand and stepped back.  She sank heavily back into the chair and gripped the edge of the desk.  Her legs felt like jelly.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt you,” he said to Joe, although his eyes were on Dionne.  “Will you be joining us for dinner?”

She looked at Joe.  “Well, I–”

“Yes, she’ll be joining us.”

“All right.  I’ll let Mildred know.  Excuse me.”  He turned and walked out of the room.

After he left, Joe returned to the desk and sat down beside Dionne who was still trying to recover from meeting his father.  She had heard so much about him but never once did she ever imagine that she would be attracted to him.  He looked young for his age which was somewhere in the mid-forties.  He was a widower.  His wife died eight years ago in a skiing accident.  Joe was their only child.  He lived there at the manor with his father and was currently in university.  He and Dionne met through a mutual friend and they hit it off.  They have been friends for two and a half years now.

“Are you okay?” Joe asked her, looking at her with a frown on his face.

“Yes, I’m okay.  I finally got to meet your father.”

He studied her closely and then groaned, “Oh, no, not you too!”

She stared at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked warily.

“I’ve seen that look before.  You find him attractive, don’t you?”

“Well, he is very handsome,” she replied defensively, turning her head away.

“And what am I?  Chopped liver?”

“You’re very cute but–”

“Cute?” he exclaimed, shaking his head.  “A baby is cute but I’m a grown man.”

She laughed.  “Okay.  You’re drop dead gorgeous.”  He had his mother’s Scandinavian looks.

His mouth twitched and his eyes twinkled.  “That’s much better.”

“Let’s finish up here,” she suggested.

“Yes, we should.  I’m glad you’re staying for dinner.”

“What time is dinner?”

“It’s at seven.”

She glanced at her watch.  It was six forty.  In twenty minutes she was going to see Fenton Hardy again. Her heart lurched at the mere thought.

Dinner was served in a fine dining room with a crystal chandelier hanging low over a long antique dining-table covered in a lovely snow white lace table cloth, massive oil paintings adorned the walls and a decorative arched ceiling above their heads.  Her surroundings reminded her of Downton Abbey.  I feel I should be wearing a gown, she thought, glancing down at her white blouse and navy blue skirt.  I’m being ridiculous.  Joe was dressed in a shirt and jeans and his father…she started when she glanced at him and caught his watching her.  He had changed into a brown shirt and tan colored pants.  His hair looked damp as if he had just taken a shower.  Her fingers itched to run themselves through the thick strands to see if they felt as soft and silky as they looked…

A tap on her arm brought her back to the present and she looked blankly at Mavis.  “Wow, you were gone for a while.”

Dionne shook her head.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “My mind wandered for a moment.”

“It seemed more than a moment.”

“I saw someone I know and it brought back memories.” She wanted to get up and go over to him as he stood in the line but courage failed her.

“I was thinking of going to Walthamstow Market after I leave here to pick up some fabric.  Did I tell you that I bought a sewing machine and have decided that I’m going to make my own clothes?”

Dionne found it difficult to concentrate on what her friend was saying because her mind was on Fenton Hardy.  “Yes, I think you did.”  What if he leaves without seeing me?  

Suddenly, Mavis leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “I meant to tell you that a very handsome man has been staring at you since he came into the cafe and now he’s coming over.”

Dionne’s heartbeat accelerated at once and her breath quickened.  She fought to stay calm as she waited for Fenton to come over.  When he did, she smiled nervously as she glanced up at him.  He towered over her.  His eyes held hers in a steady gaze.  “Hello,” she greeted him, thinking she sounded a little breathless.

“Hello,” he replied quietly.  He had cappuccino in his hand.

She turned to Mavis.  “This is my friend, Mavis.  Mavis, this is Fenton Hardy, Tom’s Dad.”  She watched they shook hands.

“I saw you when I came in but I wanted to grab this first before coming over and saying hello.”

Mavis suddenly got up.  “I’ll be right back,” she said and hustled off before Dionne could say anything.

Alone with him made her even more nervous.  She didn’t know what to say, except invite him to sit down in the seat Mavis just vacated.

He leaned forward, his eyes meeting hers directly.  “I want to ask you something,” he said.  “I has been on my mind since we met.”

“What-what do you want to know?”

“Are Joe and you more than friends?”

His question startled her and a few minutes passed before she answered.  “No, we’re just friends.  Why-why do you ask?”

“I wanted to make sure before-before I asked you to have dinner with me.”

“Dinner?” she repeated, swallowing hard, her mind reeling.  He’s asking me to have dinner with him. 

His expression was serious.  “Yes, I would like you to have dinner with me, Dionne.”

“Yes,” she replied simply.

“Tomorrow evening at seven?”

“Yes.”

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

She gave him her address.

He got up just as Mavis returned.  “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he told Dionne before saying, “It was nice meeting you, Mavis.”  And then, he turned and walked away, leaving the two friends and other women in the cafe staring after him.

After he was gone, Dionne turned to her friend, her eyes shining with excitement.  “He asked me to have dinner with him,” she gushed.  “This means that he’s interested, right?”

Mavis sat down, grinning at her friend who was beside herself.  “Yes, he’s interested.  I saw the way he was looking at you and it’s obvious that he’s got a thing for you.”

“What am I going to wear?” She racked her brains, trying to figure what was in her wardrobe.

Mavis patted her hand.  “Don’t worry,” she told her.  “I’m sure you will find something to wear.  I hate to cut this short, Honey, but I really have to go.”

They split the bill and left the cafe.  When they were in the parking lot, they hugged and promised to meet up again.

She had just finished getting dressed when the phone rang.  As she hurried to answer it, she prayed that it wasn’t Fenton calling to cancel their date.  “Hello?”

“Hello, Dee.”  It was Joe.  Relief washed over her.

“Hi, Joe.  I’m just on my way out.”

“I know.  That’s why I’m calling.  I know that you’re having dinner with Dad and I just wanted to say that I—approve.”

“You do?”

“Believe it or not, I do.  You’re the first woman my father has shown any interest in since my mother died.  Until he met you, he was living like a recluse, only leaving the house to go to work.  He didn’t socialize nor have friends come over.  He spent most of his time in the study or going for walks on the grounds.  It was as if he stopped living after my mother died.  That afternoon in the study, I saw the way he was looking at you and at first, I was miffed because as you know, I’m smitten with you but when it became very clear to me that you were attracted to him, I decided that I would do the honorable thing and step out of the way.  My father is a terrific person and he deserves to be happy again and if you’re the woman who could make that possible, then you have my blessing.  He’s going to show up looking very dapper and that’s thanks to yours truly.  I told him he had to dress to impress.  He’s really nervous, so go easy on him and have fun.”

This was so typical of Joe, always saying something that either made her laugh or cry and that was why she loved him dearly and cherished their friendship.  Blinking back tears, she muttered, “Thank you, Joe.  Having your blessing means a lot to me.”

“Now, do go getting all sentimental on me.  I’ll call you during the week.  Take care, Dee.”

“Bye, Joe.”  She hung up and finished getting ready, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was five minutes to six.  Fenton would soon be there.

As he rode up in the lift to her flat, Fenton leaned against the wall, his heart thudding.  He felt as nervous as a young man going on his first date.  It had been a very long time since he had asked a woman out.  After Caryn died, he hadn’t been interested in dating until now.  When he met Dionne, he was taken aback at how deeply attracted to her he was.  It blindsided him.  And when he shook her hand, feelings he had never experienced before surged through him like a flood.  When Joe’s other friends were over at the house, he never asked any them if they were staying for dinner but it was different with Dionne.  He wanted her to stay and, besides, it felt good having another woman besides Mildred, in the house again.

All during dinner, he could hardly keep his eyes off her and after she left, he couldn’t stop thinking about her or wondering when he would see her again.  It was a purely by chance that he saw her today.  He was on his way home when he decided to stop in the cafe and grab a cappuccino.  When he saw the long lineup, he decided that he would go somewhere else when he spotted her.  He couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk to her so he went in.

He watched her as he stood in the line, wishing she were alone.  After he bought the cappuccino, he went over to her table.  When she looked up at him and smiled, his heart stopped.  He couldn’t stop staring at her and he was so nervous.  He was relieved when her friend left them and he seized the opportunity to ask her the question which had been plaguing him since they met.  He wanted badly to ask her out but he had to make sure that there was nothing between Joe and her.  He never imagined that he and his son would be attracted to the same woman but it thrilled him to know that Dionne was attracted to him too.

And now here he was, on his way up to her flat to take her out for dinner.  The lift stopped and the doors slid open.  He walked through them, his heart accelerating with each step closer to her flat.  After taking a deep breath, he raised his hand which trembled slightly to ring the doorbell.  The door opened and Dionne stood in its aperture, smiling up at him.  His eyes darkened on her face.  He wanted to kiss her so badly.  “Good evening,” he said.

His eyes slid irresistibly over her slender figure in the flattering black long sleeve knot dress which hugged her in all the right places and revealing a pair of long, shapely legs.  She looked amazing.  How he was going to get through dinner without wanting to touch her, he had no idea.

She couldn’t get over how gorgeous he looked in the black jacket, black silk shirt unbuttoned at the neck and black pants.  His silky dark hair was slicked back with a few strands falling across his forehead giving him a rakish look.  She wanted to brush them back.  Realizing that she was staring, she lowered her eyes as she replied, “Good evening.”

She stepped out into the hallway, pulling the door in behind her before she turned and locked it, her hand trembling slightly.  When she turned to face him, he was staring at her and the expression on his face made her knees go weak. For several minutes, they stood there, their eyes locked and the attraction between them palpable.  Then, the sound of voices reached their ears and they moved away from each other and walked to the lift.

On the ride over to the restaurant, they were intensely aware of each other and many times, their eyes met, the air between them charged.  By the time they got to the restaurant, they could hardly think about anything except how much they wanted each other.  Dinner was at a French restaurant, the dim lights and décor added to its warm and romantic ambiance.

Over non-alcoholic wine and a sumptuous meal, they got to know each other.  She learned that he was the second of eight children and that his parents met in high-school and got married after they graduated.  All of his siblings were married with families.  His parents died before he got married so they never met Caryn or Joe.  He and Caryn met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  He was the best man and she was one of the bridesmaids.  They hit it off immediately.  They began dating and two years later they got married.  Joe came along in the third year of their marriage.

“Caryn’s family was from Norway.  After her parents died, she moved to London.  She shared a flat with another girl until she got a job and was able to afford one of her own.  Every winter, she loved to go up to the ski lodge and always got me to go along although I’m not a fan of skiing.  The year she had the accident, I wasn’t with her.  I was out of town on business and Joe was spending the weekend at a friend.”

Instinctively, she reached out and covered the hand which was resting on the table.  He looked down at their hands and then up at her, his expression inscrutable.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, withdrawing her hand.

He was sorry that she removed her hand.  It felt so soft on his.  “I’ve told you about me and now I want to hear about you.”  He asked her many questions about herself, eager to learn everything he could about her.  He sat there, listening to her talk, thinking how lovely she looked, especially when she talked about her father to whom she was very close, her eyes sparkling as she shared childhood memories of him.  She had an older married brother who lived in New York and her mother had moved to Fort Lauderdale to live with her sister and her family.

“So, I’m the only member of my family still living here in London,” she said, concluding her life story.

“I’m happy that you didn’t leave London or we wouldn’t have met.” His expression became intense now as he returned her stare.  “Dionne, you’re the first woman I’ve looked at since Caryn died.  I’m deeply attracted to you and I would like to be in a relationship with you.” He reached for her hand.

Her pulse was racing and she could hardly think with him holding her hand.  “I—I would like that too,” she replied breathlessly.

He smiled then.  “Good.”  At that moment, dessert arrived and they talked more as they savored the French Lemon Tart.  Then, it was time to go.

Thirty minutes later they were standing outside of her flat.  She invited him inside for a nightcap.

“Thank—thank you for a lovely evening,” she said, her heart pounding.  “I—I had a wonderful time and—” Her words were cut off when he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp and his head swooped down.  His mouth closed hungrily over hers and she responded wildly, eagerly, putting her arms around his neck.

Desire coursed through Fenton like a wild fire, consuming him and making him reckless.  All evening he had yearned to take her in his arms, feel her body against his and kiss her.  No woman had ever made him feel this way, not even Caryn.

A door closed, jolting them and he raised his head, his breath harsh and unsteady.  “I’d better go,” he muttered.

She shook her head.  “Let’s go inside,” she gasped.  She pulled away from him and fumbled in her handbag for the key.  She opened the door and they went inside.  After she closed and locked the door she turned to face him.  Then, she was in his arms again and they were exchanging passionate kisses.

After several minutes passed, Fenton broke off their kiss, his face flushed as he met her gaze.  “I want this, I want us, I want you…forever,” he muttered thickly.

“You have this, you have us and you have all of me…forever,” she murmured before reaching up to pull his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips locked.

Sources:  Pinterest; Brainy Quote

Ready to Propose

Kay was on her way back to the office when she spotted Quinn sitting outside of the museum with a young woman.  She stopped in her tracks, her heart thudding as she feared that the premonition which had dogged her all week had come true.  It all started when Joanna kept insinuating that Quinn was having second thoughts about their relationship.

When the older woman found out that Kay and her younger brother were seeing each other, she was livid and she stopped talking to Quinn for weeks.  During that time, she made life miserable for Kay and there wasn’t much she could do because Joanna was now her boss.  She became manager after Rachel left the company for a more lucrative job in New York.  Joanna used her position to make things tough for Kay and several times she came very close to quitting but she needed the income.  Things eased up a little when Joanna and Quinn were back on speaking terms but every opportunity she got, Joanna would make remarks like, “You’ve been seeing each other for almost three years now and he still hasn’t proposed.” Or, “I see you’re still not wearing a ring.”

Yesterday when she made one of her snide remarks, Kay replied, “He loves me.”

“Apparently he doesn’t love you enough to propose.”

“He will propose when he’s ready.”

“And what if he doesn’t?  What are you going to do if he never proposes?  Continue to see him, hoping that he will change his mind?  You’re a smart woman, Kay.  Why don’t you stop fooling yourself and face facts?  Quinn hasn’t proposed to you as yet because he probably doesn’t intend to marry you.  It would be better for you if you ended things now before you get hurt.”

“You would like that, wouldn’t you?  You would like me to end our relationship but I won’t, Joanna.  I love Quinn and he loves me.  And he will propose when he’s good and ready.” And she walked away, fuming and shaking at the same time.  Joanna was like a thorn in her side, constantly tormenting her but she couldn’t allow her to get to her.

This morning she heard Joanna say to Jenny, her secretary, “I ran into Wendy, an old friend on Monday.  She was with her younger sister, Lizette.  Wendy and I hadn’t seen each other for a very long time so I invited them over for dinner just to catch up.  I was hoping that Quinn would join us but he had other plans.  I’m thinking of inviting him over lunch on Sunday and have him meet Lizette.  They would make such a nice couple.”

“But, Quinn and Kay are dating,” Jenny objected.

“Oh, that relationship isn’t going anywhere,” Joanna replied, dismissively.  “They have been dating for a while now and he hasn’t asked her to marry him as yet.  I think he will get tired of her and dump her.  And when he does, Lizette will take her place.”

Kay didn’t wait to hear any more.  She headed for the washroom which was empty at the time and after locking herself in one of the stalls, she burst into tears.  She was crying not only because the words hurt—cutting into her like a knife but they brought to the surface the fears that she herself had been harboring lately.  As co-workers, friends and relatives got married after dating for a shorter period than Quinn and her, she began to wonder when it would be her turn.  He had not broached the subject of marriage and she didn’t want to bring it up.  It didn’t help when friends and family asked her, “When are you and Quinn getting married?”  And she would always reply, “When we’re ready.”  Sometimes that answer was enough but other times, the follow-up question was, “And when do you think that’s going to be?”

Joanna’s remarks and the questions only fed her own doubts and insecurities about her relationship with Quinn.  He said he loved her but was it enough for him to want to marry her?  The physical side of their relationship was healthy and robust but she wanted more.  She wanted to be his wife, not just his lover.

She didn’t know how long she was in the bathroom stall but it was time to leave.  After wiping her eyes, she unlocked the door and stepped out.  Thankfully, no one was there. She washed her face and dried it.  She glanced at her watch.  It was noon.  She would take her lunch break now.

As soon as she got back to her desk, she donned her sunglasses to hide her red, swollen eyes and grabbed her handbag.  “I’ll be back in an hour,” she said to Jenny as she passed her desk.  Five minutes later, she was walking down the sidewalk to the café at the corner where they served amazing cappuccinos and delicious sandwiches.  She chose a table at the back in the corner.  Although she wasn’t really hungry, she ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, a salad and a hot chocolate.

As she sat there, hardly tasting the food, her mind went back to the day when she met Quinn at Joanna’s barbecue.  It was love at first sight for her and when he told her that he loved her on the night when she went over to his place after exchanging words with Joanna, she was thrilled.   Now she was beginning to wonder if his love for her was waning even if his desire wasn’t.  Was it possible to fall out of love with someone but still be physically attracted?  Then, she remembered watching a steamy love scene in a soap opera between two people who disliked each other intensely.  So, it was possible that Quinn could fall out of love with her but still want her—until that changed too…

Agitated, she pushed the plate away.   She left the café and stood outside the entrance for a moment before heading back to the office.  She wished she could go home instead.  It was a beautiful and mild winter day but she hardly noticed.  Preoccupied with thoughts that refused to go away, she crossed the courtyard leading to the museum.  And then, she spotted them…

Quinn looked very handsome in the blue turtleneck sweater which she had given him for his birthday last year.  And the woman was dressed in a chunky pullover sweater.  Her chestnut hair fell in thick waves about her shoulders.  Quinn was looking very intently at her as she talked animatedly to him.  She looked to be in her early twenties.  Kay stood there, unobserved, watching them, her fingers tightening around the strap of her handbag as jealousy coursed through her.  Who was the redhead and what was Quinn doing with her?

She ought to go over there and find out but she didn’t want to make a scene.   Instead, she stood there, letting her imagination run wild. The ringing of her cell jolted her and she quickly fished it out of her handbag.  “Hello?”

It was Jenny.  “Where are you?” she asked.  “We have a meeting in ten minutes.”

Darn.  She had completely forgotten about the meeting.  “I’m on my way.” She ended the call and dropped the phone back in her handbag.  After looking over at the two figures at the table, she turned and walked away.

She barely got back to the office in time for the meeting and she sat there, finding it hard to concentrate.  All she could think about was Quinn and the woman.  Fortunately, she didn’t have to say anything. Joanna did most of the talking.  As soon as the meeting was over, Kay went to her desk and after a slight hesitation, she picked up the phone and called Quinn.  His cell rang for a long time.  She hung up, crestfallen.

Quinn glanced at his watch.  “Louisa, I really must be going.  Do you need a lift anywhere?”

She shook her head.  “No, Uncle Quinn, I drove.  Thanks for meeting me and listening to me go on and on about Dave.”

“I hope things work out between you two.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell to check for messages.  He flipped it open and saw that there was a missed call from Kay.  He would call her when he was alone.  He closed his phone and reached for his jacket.

“Thanks, Uncle Quinn.  I was so busy talking about my life and my problems that I didn’t even ask you how you’re doing,” she added.  “Have you met that special woman as yet?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I have.  We met three years ago at your Aunt Joanna’s barbecue.  The moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Tonight, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

“That’s wonderful.”

“I have a photo of her.”  He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out his wallet.  He flipped it open and took out a photo which he handed to her.  She took it and stared at it.  It was a nice photo of Kay sitting at a table of an outdoor restaurant, holding a glass of what looked like Cranberry juice in her right hand and her left hand propping up her face.  She was laughing at something.

“What a lovely photo.”

“We were on our first date.  I asked the waiter to take it and I told her to pretend that he wasn’t there.  I said something which made her laugh and that was when he took it.”

“I can’t wait to meet her,” she said as she handed the photo back to him.

“You’ll meet her before the wedding.”

“Does she have any idea that you’re going to propose tonight?”

“None.  We’ve never talked about marriage.  She probably thinks that I don’t want to marry her.”

“Why would she think that?”

“I’m sure your Aunt Joanna has something to do with it.  For some incomprehensible reason, she dislikes Kay.”

“She never liked Mom either.”

“Your aunt wanted your Dad to marry a woman she felt was more suitable for him but he was adamant about marrying your mother just as I am adamant about marrying Kay.”

“My Dad adored my mother just as you obviously adore Kay.”  When they stood up, she hugged him tightly.  “I wish you all the best, Uncle Quinn.”

“Thank, Louisa.  Call me anytime you need to talk.” He watched her walk away before he went in the opposite direction.  When he got into his car, he took out his phone and called Kay.

She answered on the third ring.  “Hello, Quinn.”

“Hello, Darling.  I’m sorry I missed your call.”

“I just called to say hi.”

“Are you all right?  You sound a bit subdued.”

“I’m all right, just a bit tired.”

“Are we still on for tonight?

“Yes.”

“Good, I’ll see you at seven.  I love you. ”

“I love you too.”

He rang off and turned the key in the ignition.  As he drove off, he thought how strange she sounded on the phone.  No doubt Joanna was the cause.  He was looking forward to this evening and the expression on Kay’s face when he proposed.  His heart leapt at the thought.  He was on his way now to pick up the ring he had custom made especially for her.  It took several trips to the jewelry store, different designs before he settled on the one that he knew was perfect for her and it cost a lot but she was worth it.

It was six-thirty.  After taking a long and unenthusiastic look at herself in the mirror, she grabbed her coat and left her flat.  Half-hour later, she was standing in front of Quinn’s door.  She rang the bell and her heart leapt in her throat when the door opened and he stood there, looking gorgeous in the ribbed grey sweater and dark blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp.  He smiled and stepped aside to let her in.  As soon as he closed and locked the door behind her, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her.  Groaning and unable to help herself, she pressed against him and eagerly kissed him back.

Quinn unbuttoned her coat and dragged it off as he continued to plunder her lips.  It was tossed on the floor and his arms went around her waist, holding her close as they exchanged feverish kisses.  This continued for several minutes and then, he drew back to gaze down at her, his face flushed, breathing heavily.  “I wish we could continue this in the bedroom,” he muttered thickly, his eyes dark with desire, “but I think we should have dinner now before it gets cold.” He released her to pick up her coat and hang it in the closet.

She stood there, trembling, trying to catch her breath and her legs felt like jelly.  If he hadn’t pulled back, she would have let him make love to her right there in the foyer or wherever he wanted.  He made her lose her head when she wanted to keep it clear as she confronted him about that afternoon.  “Quinn, we need to talk.”

He closed the closet door and went over to her, his expression serious.  “What’s on your mind?” he asked.

“Who’s the young woman I saw you with this afternoon?”

He frowned.  “You saw us?”

“Yes.  I was on my way back to work after having lunch and—”

“Did you have lunch alone?”

“Yes.”

“I wish I had known that you were going to be in the area.”

She looked at his warily.  “Why?”

“Then, I would have taken you to lunch myself or asked you to join Louisa and me.”

“Louisa?”

“Yes, Louisa, my niece.”

“Your niece?” She repeated.  “The young woman I saw you with was your niece?”

“Yes, she’s Arthur’s daughter.  I’ve mentioned him to you before.  He’s my half-brother from a previous marriage.”

“When I saw you with her, I thought…” her voice trailed off and she lowered her head, feeling awful.

He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until their eyes met.  “Kay, I love you,” he told her quietly.  “I would never do anything to hurt you.  Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman.  The first time I saw you, I knew that you were the woman for me.  I loved you from that moment and haven’t stopped loving you since.  Soon after we started seeing each other, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you, marry you, have kids with you and grow old with you.  I know that Joanna has been feeding you a lot of lies but she can’t hurt you if you don’t let her.  Promise me, Kay, that from now on, you won’t let her or anyone else come between us.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I promise.”  Her voice was barely above a whisper.  He said he wanted to marry me.

He lowered his head and kissed her tenderly on the lips before he led her over to the dining-room.  After he pulled out the chair for her to sit, he went into the kitchen and got dinner ready.  The table was beautifully set with two burning candles, glasses, a bottle of wine, napkins and dinnerware.  It reminded her of the elegant and romantic French restaurant they went to a couple of times.  He served dinner and after they lifted their glasses in a toast, they enjoyed a scrumptious meal, followed by a light, airy, and refreshing dessert.  While he stacked the dishwasher, she relaxed on the sofa.

A few minutes, he put on a CD before joining her on the sofa.  The mellow sounds of smooth jazz filled the room and he leaned back, putting his arm around her shoulder.  She rested her head against him.  They sat like that for a while, the only sound was the music and then he got up, excusing himself.  He left the room for a moment and returned a few minutes later.

Instead of resuming his seat next to her, he got down on one knee instead, making her gasp.  Her hand flew up to her mouth when she saw the small red box which he opened to reveal the most exquisite ring she had ever seen in her life.  He took it out and then he looked up at her, his expression very serious.  “Kay, I searched high and low for a ring for you but nothing I saw captured your beauty and your spirit.  So, I had a ring made especially for you.  This ring is one of a kind, just like you and it  symbolizes my love, devotion, passion and fidelity to you.  My life began the day I met you and it won’t be complete without you there to share it.  Will you marry me, Kay?”

She nodded, the tears rolling down her cheeks.  “Yes,” she gulped.  He took her hand and slipped the ring onto her finger.  It was a perfect fit.  He rose to his feet and pulling her to hers, he took her in his arms and kissed her.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and responded, her heart almost bursting with joy.  And the thought that went through her mind was…he was always ready to propose to me but, first he had to find the perfect ring to give me.

A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”

A Little Bit Brave

Charmaine was waiting at the bus stop on her way home when a sleek black Rolls Royce drew up.  As she stared curiously at it, the window rolled down and Dorian Breckenridge stuck his head out.  Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly.  He had that effect on her.  He was her best friend, Ella’s uncle.  They met last year at Ella’s brother’s wedding.

For Charmaine the attraction was immediate.  All evening she watched him, thinking how foolish she was to set her sights on a man who was out of her league.  He was very handsome, sophisticated and much older than her. He was seen in the company of beautiful and elegant women.  She was just a university student still living at home with her parents.  There was no way that a man like him would be attracted to her.  To him, she was just a girl, the same age as his niece.

She walked over to the car now and stared down at him, her heart melting when he smiled up at her.  “Where are you heading?” he asked.

“I’m on my way home.”

“Hop in,” he said, “I’ll give you a lift.”  He quickly got out of the car and held open the door for her to climb in.  He slid in beside her and closed the door.  As the car merged into the traffic, he tapped on the glass partition.  “Henry, we’re going to be making a stop.”  He turned to her, “What’s your address?”  After she gave it to him, he relayed it to Henry who nodded before closing the partition.

She glanced shyly at him, wondering if her heart would fall out of her chest because it was beating so hard and fast.  Her hands were clasped tightly together in her lap because she was afraid that he would notice that they were trembling.  “Thank you for the lift,” she said.

He smiled.  “It’s my pleasure,” he assured her.  His eyes flickered over her small frame, thinking how lovely she was.  Straight, long hair framed a beautiful face with the most amazing eyes he had ever seen.  His fingers itched to caress her face, curious to see if the skin felt as soft and smooth as it looked.  Forget it, he chided himself, she’s too young for you.  He quickly turned his head and gazed out of the window, a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line.  “How have you been?”

“I’ve been busy with my studies,” she said, looking at him, unable to help herself.  He had thick dark auburn hair with grey at the sides, making him even more attractive.

“What are you studying?” he asked.  He turned to look at her.

“Journalism.”

“Which area of journalism are you interested in?”

“Print.  I’m like writing.  Ella was encouraging me to do Broadcast but I’m way too shy to be in front of a camera.”

He smiled.  “When do you graduate?”

“Next year June.”

“So, what do you like to do when you’re not studying?”

“I read a lot.  I just finished reading a book about Rube Goldberg.  One of the things that struck me about him was how badly he wanted to go to New York City because it was the perfect place for cartoonists.   It took a lot of courage for him to leave the West Coast where his cartoons were growing in popularity to go to New York City although he hadn’t received an offer from a publisher there.  I don’t think I could just leave my family and friends and move to another city without any job offers.”

“I personally believe that if you want something badly enough, you must be willing to take a chance for it.  Are you free Saturday evening?” he heard himself ask.  He had to see her again.  It wasn’t enough seeing her occasionally at parties, dinners and barbecues.  He wanted to see much more of her.  In fact, in spite of their age difference, he was seriously considering having a relationship with her.

She nodded, her eyes questioning as they met his.

“Would you like to go with me to see Carmen?”

Pulse racing, she nodded again, unable to hide the excitement in her eyes.  “Yes.”

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at five.”

They had reached her house and he got out of the car to hold the door open for her.  As she climbed out, their eyes met and held for several minutes.  “Th-thank you for the ride,” she stammered, her heart racing.

His eyes darkened on her face.  “Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“Yes.”  She turned and walked quickly to the front door, pausing to watch the Rolls Royce as it drove away.  A big smile broke out on her face.  Dorian Breckenridge had asked her to go to the opera with him.  He had asked her out on a date.  She couldn’t believe it.  When she let herself in, she had to turn on the light beside the door.  Her parents were on vacation in Miami so she had the house all to herself.  As she climbed the stairs to her room, she kept replaying in her mind, the words, would you like to go with me to see Carmen?  Then her thoughts turned to what she was going to wear.

As soon as she got to her room, she made a beeline for the wardrobe and looked through the clothes hanging there until she came across a burgundy lace dress with long sleeves.  This would do nicely, she thought.  It reached her just above the knees.

She wanted to call Ella and tell her about the date but decided that it would be best to keep it to herself.   Besides, she didn’t know if anything would come of it.  For all she knew he had intended to take someone else but she couldn’t make it so he asked her instead because he didn’t want the tickets to go to waste.  She brushed aside the negative thoughts and after taking a quick shower, she went downstairs and fixed herself dinner.  Afterwards, she relaxed on the sofa, the television on but her mind elsewhere.  She willed Saturday to come quickly so that she could see Dorian again.  She didn’t know how she would be able to concentrate on her studies.  At eleven, she went to bed but lay awake for a while before finally falling asleep.

The following day at university, she went through the motions and was relieved when it was over and she went home.  She washed her hair and set her dress out and the shoes she was going to wear with it.  That night she was too excited to sleep and it was after one in the morning when she drifted off.  She got up early and busied herself with cleaning the house and laundry.  The day seemed to drag but soon it was time to get ready.  Excited, she showered and put on her dress.  It fitted her snugly and she pulled her hair back in a French twist with a few strands across her forehead.  No makeup, only lip-gloss.  Tiny gold earrings studs in her ears were the only pieces of jewelry she wore.

Satisfied with how she looked, she grabbed her handbag and went downstairs.  She opened the coat closet and was just buttoning her coat when the doorbell rang.  Heart racing, she went into the foyer and opened the door.  Dorian stood there, smiling at her.  “Good evening,” he said.

“Good evening.”  She turned and locked the front door before she preceded him down the steps.  As she got closer to the parked car, she realized that it wasn’t the Rolls Royce.  It was a different car.

“It’s just the two of us this time,” he remarked as he held the door open for her.  “And I thought it would be nice to drive my own car for a change.”

She smiled as she climbed into the car, delighted that they were going to be alone.  As she settled in the seat and fastened her seat-belt, she was tempted to pinch herself.  She still couldn’t believe that she was going out with him.

Carmen is over three hours long so I made reservations for dinner first at a nearby restaurant,” he said when he got in the car.  “I hope you don’t mind.”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”   It thrilled her to no end that she was going to have dinner with him. He took her to a classic French brasserie in the heart of Covent Garden’s opera quarter.  Its true Parisian style décor and warm welcoming atmosphere made the restaurant an instant favorite for her.

She smiled when she saw his eyes travel over her after he helped her off with her coat.  As they followed the waiter to a table near the window, she felt his hand on her elbow and when he held her chair out for her, he murmured quietly, “You look very lovely.”

“Thank you.”  His compliment stirred all sorts of feelings in her and she fit a curious sensation at the pit of her stomach and she was thankful to sit down because her knees felt weak.  When he sat down, she couldn’t help admiring how he looked in the charcoal grey suit and a black turtleneck sweater.  He oozed class and sophistication.

“I’m afraid we have only an hour to have our dinner,” he said apologetically after the waitress brought the menus.  “Fortunately, it’s less than a five minute walk to the theatre.”

They had only the main course from the theater menu and skipped dessert.  It was a quarter to seven when they reached the theater.  Charmaine had never been to the theater before so she was very excited when she walked into the auditorium and saw the red curtains of the stage, the stunning ceiling, the glittering gold of the proscenium arch and the red and gold lights.  Dorian smiled when he saw her gazing around her in wonderment.  “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a theater,” she told him as she saw down.

He settled his tall frame beside her.  It pleased him that her first experience at the theatre was with him.  There were so many wonderful things he wanted her to experience with him but for the present, he wanted her to enjoy this moment.  The lights began to dim and he settled back in his seat.  The curtains rose and the show began.

During the intermission, he leaned over and inquired, “So, are you enjoying it?”

She turned to him, her eyes shining.  “Yes,” she said.  “I love the singing, the story, the costumes—everything.”

He smiled.  “Good.”

They talked a little about the show and then it was time for it resume.  At the end, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  Charmaine blinked back the tears as she clapped.  As Dorian helped her with her coat, she remarked, “Although it ended in tragedy, next to Romeo and Juliet, Carmen has become one of my favorite love stories.  I felt sorry for Micaëla who loved Don Joséand I felt sorry for him because of how Carmen treated him.”

“Yes, it would have been best for the three of them if Don José and Carmen had never met.”

They walked to the car which, thankfully, was not parked far from the theater.  The temperature seemed to have dropped and she was grateful for the warmth of the car.  When they were standing outside of her parents’ home, she turned to face him after unlocking the door and turning on the porch light so that they could see each other clearly.  “Thank you for a lovely evening,” she said huskily.

He looked her, “It was my pleasure,” he told her quietly.  “Charmaine, how do you feel about being in a relationship with a man who is much older than you?”

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding.  “On top of the world,” she informed him.

He reached for her hands and drew her closer to him, his eyes gazing into hers.  “I’ve wanted to be in a relationship with you ever since we met but our age difference prevented me but this evening I made up my mind that I was going to follow my heart.”

“I’m happy you did,” she confessed.  “For the longest time, I’ve wanted you to notice me but didn’t think I stood a chance—not when you were used to be around older and more glamorous women.”

“The first time I saw you, my heart skipped a beat and whispered to me, ‘she’s the one’.  When I was with those other women, my mind was filled with thoughts about you and my heart ached to see you again.  And every time we saw each other, we never had a chance to be alone.  It was quite by chance that I saw you on Tuesday.  Usually, I would have my face buried in a newspaper or papers but I didn’t feel like doing anything except to relax and enjoy the ride.  When I spotted you at the bus-stop, I couldn’t believe my luck and seized the opportunity to be with you.  And as for the tickets to Carmen, I ordered those after we dropped you home.  Fortunately, the seats hadn’t filled up as yet.  Carmen was my excuse to see you again.”

“It was by pure chance that I was waiting at the bus-stop.  Usually, I would take the tube because it was faster but I decided to take the bus instead because it was a nice, mild day.  When I saw you, I was so thrilled because I didn’t know how long I would have to wait before I saw you again.”

“Well, we don’t have to wait to see each other,” he said huskily.  “If you’re free tomorrow, I would like to take you to the British Museum and then for lunch afterwards.”

“I’m free tomorrow and every afternoon during the week,” she told him. “I’ve never been to the British Museum.”

“Then, it’s settled.  I’ll pick you up at eight.  Goodnight, Charmaine.”

“Goodnight, Dorian.”  He was holding her hands and staring into her eyes.  Was he going to kiss her?  With all her heart, she hoped so.  It would be the perfect end to a perfect evening.

As if he had read her mind, he lowered his head and kissed her.  It was tentative at first but when he felt her eager response, it deepened.  He released her hands to cup her face as his lips moved passionately on hers.  She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him, her senses spinning.  How true the words, “No one ever fell in love without being a little bit brave.”  She concluded that she must be very brave because when she fell in love with Dorian she had no clue that he felt the same way.

 

Sources:  Rube Goldberg: Inventions; Royal Opera House