Alain and Andrea were co-workers who became fast friends because they got along very well and enjoyed each other’s company. Sometimes they went out for lunch at a bistro just around the corner from the office. It became their favorite place.
Soon their time together wasn’t limited to lunch at the bistro. Alain invited her to a concert and then treated her to dinner afterwards. At the office she won two tickets in a draw to the exclusive screening of the first episode of season three of Outlander UK and asked him to go with her. Over dinner, they talked animatedly about the show and how they got to see some of the cast.
They saw each other practically every day and on the odd day when they couldn’t see each other, they would talk for hours on the phone. Andrea cherished the five years of friendship she was enjoying with Alain.
It was a late Saturday afternoon and she was just about to ring the doorbell to Alain’s flat when the door opened and a man she had never seen before but who looked a bit familiar stepped out into the hallway. Alain was standing behind him. The stranger smiled at Andrea. “Hello,” he said, pleasantly, looking her over and clearly liking what he saw. He held out his hand. “I’m Henri, Alain’s baby brother.”
She smiled and shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Henri. I’m Andrea.”
Alain pursed his lips. “Henri was just leaving,” he said, looking at his brother.
Henri rolled his eyes. “That’s my cue,” he said. “And just when things are starting to get interesting.”
Andrea laughed. “Well, I hope we meet again,” she said before she walked past him and into the flat.
“I thought you said you didn’t have a girlfriend,” Henri said in a low voice.
“Andrea’s not my girlfriend. She’s a very close friend.”
Henri’s face brightened. “She’s cute and hot,” he commented. “Do you think she would go out with me?”
Alain’s expression darkened. “She has a boyfriend,” he told him abruptly.
Henri looked surprised. “If she has a boyfriend, what is she doing here alone with you in your flat?”
“Her boyfriend trusts me. Goodbye, Henri.” He went back inside the flat and closed the door quietly behind him.
Henri stood there for a moment, looking puzzled, and then he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
Andrea was standing at the window looking out when Alain joined her. She turned and smiled at him, thinking how good he looked in the black shirt and light blue jeans. “So, that’s your brother. There is a slight resemblance. Which one of you was the troublemaker? Let me guess, you?”
Alain laughed. “I was a bit of a rebel growing up but I wised up when I turned fifteen. Henri was the quiet one who didn’t get into any trouble. Now, it seems like we have switched personalities. Now, I’m the quiet one and he’s the outgoing one.”
Andrea shook her head. “I never would have pegged you for a bad boy,” she said. “I bet all the girls were into you. I know I would have been.”
“You were into bad boys?”
“Yes, because they were more exciting. It was true that the nice guys finished last.”
“What about now?” he asked. “Is there a particular type of man you are attracted to?”
She wanted to say you. “I’m attracted to the introverted man—he’s easy to be around, intellectually stimulating, has a sense of humor and self-assured.
He turned away so that she couldn’t see the expression on his face. “Sounds interesting. Have you met anyone like that as yet?”
Yes…you. “I’m not looking.” That was the truth. “So, what would you like to do now?”
“Let’s go to the cinema and then afterwards have dinner at one of those riverside restaurants.”
The weather was so pleasant that they went for a walk before going into the cinema. A couple of hours later, they sat enjoying a tasty meal on the riverside terrace of a restaurant with an unobstructed view of the Tower Bridge. It was while they were walking back to the car that she asked him, “What type of woman are you looking for?”
He glanced at her but she was facing straight ahead. “I’m not looking,” he said quietly. I have already found her.
“If you were looking, what would you look for?”
“I would look for a woman who is outgoing, intelligent, assertive and resourceful.”
“Sounds interesting.” And they walked on in silence until they got into a discussion about the foreign film they went to see.
It was Monday and Andrea was in high spirits. She was still thinking of yesterday when Alain and she took a full day trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford. It was while they were having dinner on Saturday night that he told her about the trip. He remembered that she had always wanted to visit Windsor Castle and Stonehenge. Touched, she got up, went round to where he sat and leaning over she hugged him.
She wanted to thank him again so she left her desk and was heading toward his office when she overheard someone ask for Sophie. Sophie was a pretty blonde who recently started working there. She heard the other person say, “She mentioned something about lunch and then I saw her leave with Alain.”
Andrea froze in her tracks. Alain went for lunch with Sophie? She had seen them talking a couple of times but had thought nothing of it. Yet, the thought of them having lunch together made her jealous. She went back to her office and sank heavily down into the chair behind her desk. She was staring out the window but not seeing anything when there was a knock on her door. She swung her chair around to see who it was. It was Henri.
“Henri,” she greeted him and getting up from the behind the desk, she went over to where he stood in the doorway. “Come in. It’s good to see you. Come and have a seat.”
“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said as he followed her over to the desk. He waited until she was seated before he took the chair in front of her desk.
“Not at all. What brings you here?”
“I’m here to meet Alain.” He glanced at his watch. “I made sure I got here at least ten minutes early. I didn’t want to keep him waiting.”
“I’m sorry but Alain is not here. He’s gone out for lunch with Sophie.”
Henri looked surprised and a little put out. “Well, how do you like that? He and I were supposed to grab lunch. I guess he forgot, although it’s not like him to do so.” He glanced at her. “I would ask you to have lunch with me in his place but I doubt that your boyfriend would like that.”
She stared at him. “I don’t have a boyfriend. Who told you that I did?”
She looked puzzled. “Why would he say that?” she wondered. “He knows that I’m not seeing anyone.”
“That’s what he told me when I asked him if you would go out with me. Maybe he doesn’t want me to take you out because he likes you himself.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. He sees me as a very good friend, nothing more. Besides, he went out for lunch with Sophie.”
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you? I can see it on your face and when you mentioned Sophie.”
“Yes, I am,” she admitted, sighing heavily. “A lot of good it’s doing me.”
“Why don’t I take you out for lunch and we can talk more about this?” he suggested. “I’m a great listener.”
At first she hesitated but he was so persuasive that she gave in. They walked to the nearby bistro and over tasty pasta dishes they talked about Alain.
“It’s possible that you’re wrong about Alain and Sophie. They may not even be together now.”
“Someone said she saw them leave together.”
“They may have left together but that doesn’t mean that they are together. Don’t jump to conclusions before talking to Alain first. I still think he lied about you having a boyfriend because he has feelings for you.”
“Well, I hope you’re right.” She glanced at her watch. “I should be heading back to the office now. Thanks for lunch and for being such a good listener. I’ll let Alain know that you came by the office.”
After a warm hug, they parted company. When she got back to the office, she went directly to Alain’s office to see if he was there. He was. She went in and closed the door behind her. He looked up from what he was doing as she crossed the carpet to stand in front of his desk. He smiled and gave her his trademark wink. Usually, she would respond with a wink and smile but this time she didn’t. She was miffed with him.
“Did you have a good lunch with Sophie?” she demanded.
He frowned. “Sophie?” he repeated. “Why do you think I had lunch with her?”
“One of the women, I think it was Sharon, said that she saw the two of you leave together and seemed to think that you were going out for lunch together.”
“Well, Sharon or whoever said that was mistaken. Sophie and I left at the same time, yes. We rode the lift together but then she went off with Tony from Accounting and I went in the opposite direction. I had an errand to run.”
Relief washed over her. Henri was right. “Henri came by,” she told him. “You two were supposed to have lunch together.”
“The errand took longer than I anticipated. I didn’t get back here until around twelve-forty-five. We were supposed to meet at twelve-thirty. I thought he would have waited. Was he terribly upset?”
“He was surprised and a little put out.”
“I’ll call him later and apologize. So, what did you do for lunch?”
She hesitated, suddenly feeling guilty. “I went for lunch with Henri…” Her voice trailed off when she saw the expression on his face.
He got up from the desk and came round to where she was standing, his face glowering. There was anger and something else in his eyes. “You went out for lunch with Henri?”
She involuntarily stepped back, her eyes wary as they met his. “I didn’t have any plans so when he asked me, I—I accepted.”
“Where did you go?”
“To the bistro around the corner—”
“You took him to our place?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to go too far.”
“Instead of having lunch with him, why didn’t you have him wait here in my office until I got back?”
“I thought you went for lunch with Sophie, remember?”
“Then, you should have let him leave instead of going for lunch with him.”
“Why are you so upset?” she asked. “And why did you tell him that I have a boyfriend?”
“I don’t want you to see my brother.”
“Why not?” she asked. “He’s nice and very good-looking.” She knew she was goading him now but she wanted to find out if Henri was right about his brother’s feelings for her.
Alain’s eyes darkened. “Are you trying to get a rise out of me?” he demanded, the jealousy eating up his insides.
“I’m sorry,” she said, contrite. “I just want to know why you’re so upset.”
“Do you want me to tell you or show you?”
She swallowed. “Show me?”
“Yes, show you,” he muttered thickly and then, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp. His mouth found hers and hungrily devoured it while his hands held her tightly against him.
Andrea closed her eyes and kissed him back, savoring the moment she had dreamed of for so long. It made her heart sing to know that Alain returned her feelings.
After several minutes, Alain raised his head to look at her, his face flushed and his breathing labored. “I’m in love with you,” he confessed. “I have been for quite a long time.”
She gazed up at him, her eyes misty. “I have been in love with you for a long time too,” she told him.
“Dinner at my place tonight?”
She nodded and then reached up and pulled his head down to hers.