Adelaide in Danger

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Photo by Jodi McKinney

Adelaide watched as the mist spread across the field like a veil.  How strange it looked.  It was a bright, sunless morning.  The air was cool and comfortable–a perfect day for a walk with the amiable Mr. Philips.  A kindly gentleman with a very agreeable disposition made him the perfect suitor for her by her parent’s estimation.  Of her own feelings about the matter, she wasn’t sure.  She liked him fairly well but it wasn’t the sort of liking that would lead to a deeper affection.  Still, he was a very fine fellow and she looked forward to seeing him.

She heard her name and turned.  It was Mr. Philip striding briskly toward her, smiling broadly.  He was accompanied by a very handsome and smartly dressed gentleman whom he introduced as his brother, Lionel.

She curtsied and he bowed.

“I hope you don’t mind me accompanying Henry and you on your walk.”

“Not at all.”

Henry offered her his arm.

Her eyes met Lionel’s.   I fear that I’m in danger of falling for him.

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy.  For more details visit here.  To read other stories for this photo prompt, visit here.

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Misinformed/Summit #writephoto

summit

Copyright Sue Vincent

 

Emily’s face turned ashen.  “That cannot be true,” she exclaimed.  “You must be mistaken, Charlotte.”

Charlotte’s expression was one of great concern when she saw her cousin’s reaction to the news.  She took her hand and led her over to the sofa. After, she gently pushed her onto the seat, she sat beside her.  Holding her hands in hers, she said to Emily, her gaze unwavering, “I assure you, dear cousin, that I am not mistaken.  I received the news from a very reliable source.”

“May I inquire as to whom this source was?”

“His sister, Anne.  I was on my way to the drugstore when a fine carriage pulled up alongside me.  It was Anne.  She called me over and inquired after my family and my own health. And then, she announced that Edward was to be engaged to Mabel Turner.”

“Mable Turner?”  Emily looked aghast.  “That nasty little creature?”  Mabel Turner was the last person on the planet she would have expected Edward to have any romantic attachment to.  She was the most insufferable person she had ever had the misfortune of knowing.  They met when Emily’s older sister Viola was employed as Lady’s Maid for Mrs. Turner.

They instantly disliked each other.  Mabel disliked her because she was smart and clever and Emily disliked her because she was vain and pretentious.  She hated when Mabel called her “Mole face” because of the moles on her face and referred to the birthmark on her neck as “hideous”.  This discord between them continued into their teenage years and presently.

“Emily, I know about your history with Mabel, but you must put all of that aside.  She is Edward’s intended.  There must be something commendable about her character to stir the affections of a man such as Edward.”

Emily’s eyes flashed at her.  “I don’t know how she managed to get her claws in Edward but it had nothing to do with her character, I can assure you.”

Charlotte sighed.  “Whatever you might think of her she is to marry Edward.  The wedding ceremony is in a fortnight.”

Emily sucked in her breath sharply and tugging her hands from her cousin’s, she rose unsteadily to her feet.  She wrung her hands, the tears threatening to fall.  “How could he do this?” she cried, her voice a broken whisper.  “Oh, Edward.”

She threw herself onto the ottoman and broke down.

Alarmed, Charlotte rushed over to her and tried to put her arms around her but she pushed her away.  “Please leave.”

Charlotte drew back, her own face pale.  “Very well, dear.  I will leave you be but I shall call upon you in the morning.”

She turned and left the room, her skirts making a swishing sound.

After she was gone, Emily stayed there on the ottoman, weeping as the pain of Edward’s treachery ripped through her.  She thought he loved her.  The way he looked at her whenever they were together spoke volumes of his unprofessed love. So, why was he marrying someone else?  What made it unbearable and highly reprehensible was that it was Mabel, her mortal enemy.

Anger filled her and the sobs subsided.  Brushing her wet cheeks, she got up from the Ottoman and hurried from the room.  She was going to change and go for a long walk in the moors.   As she climbed the stairs to her room, Hilda, the housekeeper called out to her, “Miss Emily, Mr. Edward is here to see you.  He’s in the drawing-room.”

Emily’s heart lurched and her grip tightened on the handrail.  “Please inform Mr. Taylor that I’m not receiving any visitors today.”

“Mr. Edward said that he is here on a very important matter, Miss Emily.”

Fresh tears pricked her eyes.  He’s here to tell me about his engagement.  “Hilda, I don’t care why he’s here.  I don’t want to see him.  Send him away.”

“But, Miss Emily–”

“Send him away, Hilda.”

“Very well, Miss Emily.”  Hilda turned and scurried off.

Emily turned and ran back down the stairs, through the foyer and out of the door.  She headed for the summit, and didn’t stop running until she was at the top.  She leaned against the fortress, her cheeks flushed from the exercise.  Her chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath.  Below the sea continued on its unhurried pace and the sun hide behind the clouds.  A gentle breeze stirred the strawberry blond ringlets which framed her face.  Usually her place of solace and contentment, today it offered her neither.

She started when she heard a sound behind her and turned.  Her body stiffened when she saw Edward’s tall figure rapidly approaching her.   When he was standing in front of her, she glared at him, her green eyes hostile as they met his tawny ones.  “What are you doing here?” she demanded.  “I told Hilda to send you away.”

“I had to see you, Emily.”

“Why, what could you possibly have to say to me?”

“I came to clear up a misunderstanding.”

“What misunderstanding?”

“You are under the impression that I am to marry Mabel Turner.”

“Yes.  Your sister Anne had informed my cousin, Charlotte of your engagement.”  She looked away so that he couldn’t see the tears in her eyes.  “The wedding is in a fortnight.”

“Emily, your cousin has been misinformed.  There is no nor will there ever be such an occasion between Miss Turner and me.”

She looked at him.  “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that Miss Turner and I are not engaged nor are we ever likely to be.”

“But why would your sister say otherwise?”

“Anne and Miss Turner are dear friends and it has always been my sister’s wish that I would form a romantic attachment to her friend.  Even after she saw that my affections were engaged elsewhere, it did nothing to divert her intention to secure what she believe to be a very agreeable match.”

“So, you have no feelings for Mabel?”

He shook his head.  “No.  How could I have feelings for her or anyone else when my heart belongs to you?”  He moved closer, his expression earnest now.  “I need to know if my feelings are returned.”

She gazed up at him, squinting as the sun emerged from behind the clouds.  “They are,” she assured him.

He moved so that he was blocking her from the sun.  His eyes met hers in a steady gaze.  “Emily, will you make me the happiest man in the world by becoming my wife?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  The tears ran down her cheeks.

He took her hands in his.  “And now, that I have secured your consent, I must see your father and secure his as well.”

She smiled.  “I’m quite certain that he would not withhold it.”

 

 

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Summit for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

On Top of the World

She stood there next to the doorway, debating whether

or not to spend at least half-hour sitting outside on the

café’s patio having her Latte.  It was such lovely

spring day with a light breeze.   She looked around at

the different people sitting there, enjoying the weather

and it was then that she spotted Antoine.  She stared at him

in surprise.  What was he doing here?  He was alone and having

what looked like a cup of cappuccino.

 

Heart pounding, she went over to his table and stood beside

the chair opposite his.  “Hello, Antoine.”  He looked very attractive

in the charcoal grey suit and black silk shirt.  She felt under-

dressed in her thin white blouse and denim skirt.

 

He glanced up and a smile spread slowly across his face.  “Hello,”

he greeted her softly.  “Join me.”  He stood up and walked round

the table to pull out the chair for her to sit.  She caught a whiff of

his aftershave.    After a slight hesitation, she sat down.  “I didn’t

think I would see you here,” she remarked.

 

His eyebrows rose quizzically.  “Why not?” he asked as he resumed

his seat.

 

“This isn’t the kind of establishment a man of your pedigree

would normally come to.”

 

He pursed his lips.  “I may be rich but I’m not a snob,” he

replied.  “I happen to like this café and have been here on

more than one occasion.

 

His gentle rebuke made her feel bad.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized.

 

“Do you have something against all rich men or just me in

particular?”

 

She lowered her eyes under his intent scrutiny.  “No, I don’t have

anything against you.  And you’re the only rich man I know.”

 

“I don’t want my wealth to be the cause any problems between us.”

 

“It-it isn’t.”

 

“Good.  How have you been, Cécile?  It has been a while since we

last saw each other.”

 

“I’m fine.  I got a promotion last week.”

 

“Congratulations.”

 

“Thank you.  What about you?  What have you been up to?”

 

“Aside from going on business trips,  I threw a bachelor party for

my brother, Sergei, attended my sister, Natasha’s wedding and

helped my parents to move to Saint-Chinian after their retired.”

 

She stared at him.  “You’ve been very busy.”

 

“Yes, I have been,” he agreed.  But during all that time I couldn’t

stop thinking about you and hoping that I would see you again.

“It’s nice to be sitting here and enjoying a cup of cappuccino.”

 

“Yes, I can imagine.”  You were too busy to think about me but I

have been thinking about you every day and wondering when I

would see you again.

 

“Is there a man in your life?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

 

She shook her head at once.  “No,” she answered, her mouth

going dry when she saw the expression on his face.

 

“That’s good to know,” he said quietly, “because I want to

be the man in your life.”  He reached over and covered

her hand with his, making her heart race and butterflies

flutter in her stomach.

 

She was at a loss for words.  She couldn’t believe this was

happening.  He was holding her hand and telling her that

he wanted to be her man.

 

“You’re speechless,” he observed.  “Have I shocked you?”

 

She nodded. “Yes,” she managed to say.

 

“Does it shock you to know that I want to be with you?”

 

“Yes.  You—you never indicated that you were interested in

me.”

 

“I guess I was better at hiding my feelings than I thought.  I’ve

wanted to be with you since we met but wasn’t sure that you

would feel the same way.  I got the impression that my wealth

posed a problem for you.  I hope I never made you feel that you

weren’t good enough for me.”

 

“You never did but I didn’t think you would want to date me

when—when there were plenty of other women, more

beautiful and sophisticated to choose from.”

 

His eyes darkened.  “Yes, I have dated beautiful women but none

of them could hold a candle to you.  You’re the most beautiful and

desirable woman I have ever met.  When I first saw you I thought of

the story Jesus told about the Merchant who found a pearl that was of

such great value to him that he went and sold everything he had so

he could buy it.  One look at you and I was willing to give up

everything I have just to be with you.  I still am.”

 

She blinked the tears that sprang to her eyes.  She had read that

story so many times but never did she ever imagine that a man

would think that she was as precious as that pearl which Jesus

likened to the kingdom of heaven.  “You don’t have to give up

anything to be with me,” she told him huskily.  “I want to be with

you too.”

 

He gently squeezed her hand.  “Good. What do you say to leaving

here and going for a walk along the Seine and then go to the top

of the Eiffel Tower just before the sun sets?”

 

She smiled.  “I say yes.”

 

They both got up and he reached for her hand as they left

the patio.  It felt wonderful holding hands and she couldn’t

stop smiling.

 

As they strolled along the Seine, stopping to soak up the

atmosphere and admire the surrounding architecture,

they made plans for the future.   When they were at the

top of the Eiffel Tower, gazing down at the city of love as

it was bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, he pulled

her against him and whispered in her ear,  “I know that we’re

on top of the Eiffel Tower but right now, I’m on top of the

world because I’m with you.”

 

She leaned back against him and smiled.

 

 

Source:  Trip Advisor

First and Only Love

Colleen lay down in the grass, savoring the smell of the flowers and loving the warmth of the sun on her face.  It was in this very spot, fifteen years ago and on the day she turned eighteen where Jarrett and she made love, something she had dreamed of but never imagined would ever happen.

Since they were children, Colleen had a crush on Jarrett but he didn’t pay her any attention because she was a tomboy, always playing rough and tumble games with his brother, Arthur. She used to climb trees, run wild about the place and wrestle with the other boys.  Jarrett had never seen her wear a dress and most of the time her clothes were skewed.  Her hair fell in unruly curls about her face and she liked to be bare feet.  She was not like the other girls at all.

Colleen remembered how jealous she was of a particular girl whom Jarrett liked and who was always hanging around him.  Brittany was a pretty girl with long, red curly hair and light green eyes and freckles.  One day Colleen saw her kiss Jarrett on the cheek and she lost it.  In a flash, she was pulling Brittany’s hair and the girl was struggling, screaming.  Jarrett and Arthur had to pull Colleen off her.  While Arthur took Colleen away, Jarrett comforted the shaken Brittany.

When she went home, she got a spanking she would never forget and was grounded on top of that.  She was not allowed to go over to the manor for a month.  A whole month of not seeing Jarrett was worse than the spanking she got or even worse than having to apologize to Brittany.  During that time, she moped about the house, thinking about him, missing him like crazy and wondering if he missed her too.  Probably not, she decided, her heart sinking at the thought.  He was probably too busy with Brittany.  Renewed dislike and jealousy rose to the surface and she ran up to her room, slamming the door shut.

Finally, the day came when she was allowed to go and play with Arthur.  When she got to the manor, she came across Jarrett in the garden.  He was sitting on a bench, reading a novel.  She went over to him.  “Hello Jarrett,” she said, thinking how handsome he looked in the white polo shirt and brown pants, his hair neat as usual.  She wanted to bend down and kiss him on the cheek but thought better of it.

He glanced up from the book.  His eyes ran over her in the blue tee shirt and jeans.  “Hello,” he replied politely.  He was never rude to her, just indifferent.

“Did you miss me?” she asked.  She had to know although she suspected that he didn’t.

“Well, it was a lot quieter when you weren’t here,” he replied and she stared at him, crestfallen.

Just then Arthur joined them and he at least, was delighted to see her and hugged her before taking her hand and pulling her toward the moors where they spent all afternoon.  The sun was setting when they returned to the manor.  Mrs. Baldwin invited her to stay for dinner and then gave her a ride home.

At dinner, she noticed at the corner of her eye that Jarrett was watching her but every time she looked directly at him, he turned away.  That continued even after they became teenagers.   The furtive glances and him avoiding being alone with her went on until she had had enough.  On the afternoon of her birthday after they finished having a celebratory lunch, she slipped out when she saw Jarrett heading in the direction of the moors.  Arthur was preoccupied with her friend, Lucy and everyone else was mingling and having a great time.  They didn’t notice when she left.

It was a beautiful, sunny summer day.  She took off her sandals and ran through the field.  Jarrett stood gazing out at the moors with his back to her when she caught up to him.  He started when she moved around so that she was standing in front of him.  A guarded expression came over his face.

“What are you doing out here?” he asked.  “Why aren’t you up at the house, celebrating with the others?”

“I wanted to be alone with you.”

“Why?” he asked, looking wary.

“You haven’t kissed me yet for my birthday,” she told him.  “Now is a good time.  We’re all alone.  No one can see us.”

Jarrett stiffened when she moved closer to him.  “This isn’t a good idea,” he muttered.

“Why not?” she asked, her eyes meeting his in a steady gaze.  Her heart was pounding and her breath had quickened.  She could hear his heavy breathing and saw the expression on his face.  He wanted her.  “What are you afraid of, Jarrett?”

“I’m not afraid of anything,” he denied.  A muscle was throbbing along his jaw line and he was breathing heavily.  As if to prove her wrong, he bent his head and brushed his lips against her cheek, making her tremble.  When he raised his head, his eyes were dark and smoldering.

It took a few minutes for her to catch her breath and then, she murmured, “That’s not the kiss I had in mind,” before she reached up and pulled his head down to hers and fastened her lips to his.  She felt his response and her fingers gripped his hair as they exchanged wild kisses.  His arms went around her waist, holding her tightly against him.

Then, he drew back to remove his polo shirt, groaning when she buried her face in his chest.  Grasping her hair at the nape of her neck, he pulled her head back, making her gasp and his mouth closed hungrily on hers, plundering it.  Her knees buckled and she suddenly found herself lying in the grass with him over her.  He dragged off her clothes and soon, they were making love in the field with the sun above them and the breeze caressing them.

Afterwards, they lay there for a long while.  Then, he raised his head and looked down at her.  “Happy birthday, Colleen,” he said with a smile.

“It is now,” she said, touching his face.  “I love you, Jarrett.”

“I love you too,” he confessed.  “I’ve loved you for a very long time but was too scared to tell you.  If you hadn’t made a move on me a few moments ago, I would still be avoiding you and my feelings.”

“Well, I’m glad that I took the bull by the horns and here we are.”

“I have a confession to make.  Remember the time when you asked me if I missed you?”

She nodded.  “Yes and you said, ‘Well, it was a lot quieter when you weren’t here’.  I was hurt to the core.”

“Well, I what I really wanted to say was that I missed you very much and the place was quiet and boring with you not around.  I was happy to see you although I didn’t show it.”

“I thought you didn’t miss me and I thought that it was because of Brittany.”

“Brittany?  I was never interested in her.  I liked her but just as a friend.  After that incident with you, she never came back to the house.  I didn’t miss her at all but I missed you.”

“I missed you so much, Jarrett and when I saw you I wanted to kiss you on the cheek.”

“Oh, yes?  Well, how about giving me that kiss now?”  He raised his head to gaze down at her.

She reached up and pulled his head down to hers but when she made to kiss him on the cheek, he turned his head so that their lips met.

The sense that someone or something was blocking out the sunlight jolted Colleen back to the present and her eyes flew open.  She smiled when she found herself looking up into Jarrett’s face.  “Aren’t you hot in that sweater?” she asked.  “It’s gotten so warm that I had to take off my jacket.”

He knelt down on the grass beside her.  “What were you daydreaming about?” he asked, his eyes twinkling as they met hers.  “You had a big smile on your face.”

She sat up.  “I was thinking about the first time you and I made love right here in this spot.  It made my birthday a very special and memorable one.”

He pulled his sweater up over his head and laid it on the grass beside him.  After smoothing his hair down, he pulled her against him and buried his face in her hair.  “When I first saw you, a high-spirited tomboy with curly hair, big, expressive eyes and a wild streak, I never once imagined that I would end up falling madly in love with you but here we are, fifteen years later, happily married with two rambunctious boys.”

Colleen smiled.  “Yes, it’s funny how life turns out.  Everyone expected you to marry a more refined woman but instead of me, an upstart and a thorn in your mother’s side.”

“You’re no thorn in my mother’s side,” he said.  “She adores you and she knew long before I did that you were the girl for me.”

“Yes.  Your mother is a very wise woman.”

He gently turned her so that she was looking up at him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “She was right.  You’re the perfect woman for me, Colleen,” he murmured before lowering his head.

As they kissed, she couldn’t help thinking how blessed she was to spend the rest of her life with Jarrett whom she had loved all her life.  While most people know that their first love will not be their only love, I know that for me, he is both.

 

 

Sources:  Her Way; Quote Fancy; Board of Wisdom

The Weekend

When Deandra took her niece to see the musical, Aladdin, for her thirteenth birthday, she certainly didn’t expect to bump into Harrison and his date.  It was when they were leaving the theatre.

As they were going down the stairs, she asked Maya, “So how did you like the show?”

Maya shrugged.  “It was okay,” she said.  “I prefer the movie with Robin Williams as the genie.”

“Me too.  Well, I hope you had a good birthday anyway.”

Maya smiled.  “Yes, I did.  Thanks for taking me for dinner and bringing me to the theatre.”

Deandra put her arm around her shoulder.  “It was my pleasure.  I can’t believe you’re thirteen.  Where does the time go?  It seems like only the other day you were wearing pampers.”

“That’s right, Dee.  I’m not a baby anymore.”

“You’re growing up.  Soon you’ll be dating.  Any cute guys at your school?”

“Well, there’s this one guy in my Math class that I really, really like.”

“What’s his name?”

“Curtis.”

“Does Curtis like you too?”

“I think so.”

“Did you tell your Mom about him?”

Maya shook her head.  “You know how Mom is.  She will just tell me to concentrate on my school work and that there is plenty of time for boys when I’m much older.  You’re the only one I’ve told about Curtis.  You’re cool, Aunt Dee.  I can talk to you about anything.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being interested in boys at your age as long as it doesn’t interfere with your school work.  I know you’re a very sensible girl.”

“Thanks, Aunt Dee, for having such faith in me.  I wish my parents were the same.”

“I know how you feel.  My parents were very strict with your Mom and me, but with me especially because I was younger.  I got spanked and grounded a lot.  I kept thinking how unfair and unreasonable my parents were until I grew up and realized that everything they did was for my good and that’s why I turned out the way I am—a relatively decent person.”

“Okay, Aunt Dee, I’ll go easy on my parents and try to remember what you said the next time I get a lecture.”

Deandra smiled.  “Good.  Always remember that they love you even when it doesn’t feel like it.  It’s the same with God.  Remember where it says that getting chastised doesn’t feel good but God does it out of love and for our benefit.”

“Isn’t that Harrison over there?” Maya asked suddenly, startling Deandra who looked around in panic.  Harrison here?

“Where?” she demanded.

“Over there.”

Deandra followed her gaze and her heart somersaulted when she saw the tall, familiar figure standing close to the exit.  Her eyes shifted to the woman standing beside him and jealousy ripped through her.  Another one of his conquests, no doubt.  The man was incorrigible.  Grabbing Maya’s hand, she urged, “Let’s get out of here before he sees us.”

“Too late,” Maya announced.  “He saw us and is coming over.  Who’s that with him?  She looks familiar.”

“How should I know?” Deandra muttered irritably.  The last thing she wanted was to face Harrison Reed and his date.  Why did she have to run into him?  She watched him approach, her heart beating so fast that she felt a little out of breath.

“Aunt Dee, you’re crushing my hand,” Maya said.

“Sorry,” Deandra mumbled, letting it go.  She shoved her hand into the pocket of her coat and tried to appear calm.

Harrison and his date were standing in front of them now.  The thinning crowd leaving the theatre walked around the four of them.  He smiled his disarming smile—the one that made her go all weak and chide herself for it.  “Good evening, Ladies,” he said in that silky voice of his.  “Maya, it’s good to see you.  You’ve grown a lot since the last time I saw you.”

Maya smiled.  “I turned thirteen today,” she informed him.

His eyebrows arched.  “Happy birthday.”  He reached down and hugged her.

“Thank you, Harrison,” she said when he drew back.  “Deandra treated me to dinner and this.”

“That was very nice of your aunt,” he commented, turning to look at Deandra.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes.  Then, he turned away to introduce his companion.  “Deandra, Maya, this is Eva.  Eva is in London for a couple of weeks.”

Eva gave them a dazzling smile and held out a bejeweled and well-manicured hand to Deandra who shook it and forced herself to smile in return.  The woman was stunning, exotic with lustrous black hair that fell about her shoulders.  “Pleased to meet you,” she said in a soft voice with a hint of a Spanish accent.  “Happy birthday,” she added when she shook Maya’s hand.

Maya stared at her.  “Now I remember where I’ve seen you before,” she said.  “You’re Eva Vasquez, the Mexican model on the cover of the latest issue of Cosmopolitan.”

Eva nodded.  “Yes.”

Maya began to ask her all sorts of questions and while the two of them chatted, Deandra’s eyes shifted to Harrison who was staring at her.  “What happened to that reporter you were seeing last month?  Wasn’t she exotic enough for you?” she asked in a low, tight voice.

“You sound upset,” he remarked.

Her mouth tightened.  “I’m not upset,” she retorted.  “What possible reason could I have for being upset?”

“It’s that green eyed monster called jealousy—”

It took supreme effort not to raise her voice.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” she replied angrily.

He moved a little closer, his eyes riveted to her face.  “When are you going to admit that you’re attracted to me?”

“Attracted to you?  Don’t make me laugh.”

“I’m attracted to you, Deandra.  I have been since we met three years ago at Rachel’s engagement party.”  Rachel was his older sister who was married to Deandra’s brother, Kenneth.”

Her breathing was unsteady now and her resolve weakening.  “Yes, you’re so attracted to me that every time I see you, you’re with a different woman.”

“I would rather be with you, Deandra,” he admitted huskily.  “I’m going up to the cabin this weekend.  Come with me.”

She swallowed hard.  “I-I can’t—”

“Can’t or won’t?  How long are you going to run away from me and your feelings?”

“I’m—I’m not running away from anything,” she denied weakly.

“Okay, prove me wrong by coming with me to the cabin this weekend.”

“But what about Eva?”

“There’s nothing going on between Eva and me.  We’re just friends.”

“Let-let me think about it and-and I’ll call you in the morning.”

“Please don’t pass up something that can be amazing for both of us.  I’ve never been more serious about wanting to be with a woman as I am with you.  I want to be in a relationship with you, Deandra.”

“I’ll call you in the morning,” she said.

“All right,” he conceded, a muscle pulsating along his jawline as she turned away to interrupt Maya’s conversation with Eva.  At least she’s going to think about it, he thought, consoling himself.

“Well, young lady, it’s time I took you home.”

Maya turned back to Eva, “It was really nice meeting you.”

Eva hugged her.  “The pleasure was all mine.  You’re a lovely young lady.  Don’t ever change.”

Maya said goodnight to Harrison.

Deandra shook hands with Eva and then she turned to say goodnight to Harrison before walking away with Maya.

After they were gone, Eva went up to Harrison and slipped her arm through his.  Looking up at him, she inquired, “So, did you ask her?”

He nodded.  “She said she would think about it.”

“I have a feeling that you won’t be going up to that cabin alone.  I saw the way she looked at you and I could tell that she was jealous of me.  No woman is jealous over a man unless she has feelings for him.”

“You’re not just saying that to make me feel better, are you?”

“No, you should know by now that I don’t tell people what they want to hear.”

“So, you think I have a chance with her?”

“Absolutely.  Now let’s go to that little café around the corner and have cappuccinos with cream and bits of chocolate on top.”

“Aunt Dee, I had a great evening and birthday.  Thank you.”  They were outside of Maya’s home.  “I can’t believe I met a famous model too.”

Deandra smiled.  “I’m happy that you had a good time.  Say goodnight to your Mom and Dad for me.  Tell your Mom that I will call her on Sunday night.”  They hugged and then she waited until Maya went inside the house before she drove off.

On the ride home, she thought about what Harrison said.  Was she really running away from her feelings for him?  Was that why she automatically turned him down the first time he asked her to go to the cabin with him?  She panicked and said the first thing that came to her head.  The thought of being alone with him for an entire weekend terrified her.  She hated to admit it but he was right.  She was attracted to him.

When they first met, her attraction for him had been immediate, much to her chagrin, because of the stories she had heard about him and his bevy of women.  She had tried really hard to fight it because she didn’t want to have feelings for a man who seemed to go through women like he went through his wardrobe.  But it seemed that the more she tried to fight her attraction for him the stronger it got.  Seeing him with the other women drove her mad with jealousy and tonight was no different.  She couldn’t hide her feelings from Harrison and she could tell that he didn’t buy her feeble attempt to deny them.

What was she going to do now?  Should she call him tomorrow and tell him that she couldn’t go to the cabin or should she throw caution to the wind?  Right now her mind and emotions were in a fierce battle.  She would have to sleep on it although she couldn’t imagine getting any rest.  Why out of all the men in London, did she have to want Harrison Reed?  No man ever made her feel the way he did.  He filled her thoughts, her senses and her heart…She sighed heavily.  Yes, she was in love with him too.

When she got in, she went straight to bed but as expected, she couldn’t sleep.  The following morning, she rolled on to her side, blinking as the sunshine streamed into the room.  She must have fallen off to sleep at some point.  She glanced at the time on the alarm clock.  It was eight.  She stared at the phone.  Her heart racing, she picked up the receiver.  Her fingers trembled as she punched in the numbers.  He answered on the second ring.  “Good morning, Deandra.”

“I-I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“I’ve been up since six.” A pause and then, “So, what have you decided?”

“I’ll come to the cabin.”  I hope I’m not making a terrible mistake. She had wrestled all night because her mind was telling her one thing and her feelings another.  Her feelings won.

When he spoke again, she could hear the relief in his voice.  “You won’t regret it, Deandra. I promise.  I’ll pick you up at ten-thirty.”

“All right.” She hung up and got out of the bed.  After packing an overnight bag, she showered and had a light breakfast before heading down to the lobby to wait for him.

At exactly ten-thirty, Harrison walked into the lobby.  At once her heart began to pound wildly.  He looked sexy in the brown leather jacket with the white fur trimmed collar, white turtleneck and faded jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and tousled.  He took her bag from her and they walked out of the building to where his jeep was parked.  He opened the door for her to get in before putting her bag in the trunk.

When he got behind the wheel, she glanced at him and their eyes met for a few minutes before she looked away.  He donned his sunglasses before firing up the engine and pulling out of the parking lot.  Soon they were on their way to the cabin which was about a 90 minute drive from the city.  “What are you in the mood for?” he asked and she looked at him, startled.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What type of music are you in the mood for?”

“Oh, um. Something relaxing, I guess.”

He turned on the radio, searched until he found a station which played Smooth Jazz.  For a while only the sound of the music and the muffled traffic outside filled the silence and then, he said, “What made you decide to come with me?” he asked.

“I wanted to come,” she said simply.  No use beating around the bush.

He glanced at her.  “I didn’t expect you to say that,” he told her.

She returned his stare, “What did you expect me to say?” she asked.

“That you wanted to prove me wrong about what I said about you running away from me and your feelings.”

She turned away.  “I’m not a coward,” she muttered.  “I don’t run away from anything.”

“I didn’t say that you were a coward.  All I did was to challenge you.”

“I’m not here to prove anything,” she insisted.  “I’m here because I want to see the countryside.”

He decided to change the topic. “You’ll like the countryside.  It’s a welcome change from the city.”

“Am I the first woman you’ve invited for a weekend at the cabin?”  She had to ask.  It had been bothering her ever since last night.

“You’re the only woman I’ve invited to the cabin.”  He reached for her hand but she jerked away at once, her eyes wide as they met his.  He didn’t get upset.  He waited until she put her hand back on the seat and he held it.  This time she didn’t pull away.  Her fingers felt soft and small in his.  How he longed to press his lips into the palm but he didn’t want to rush things.  He had waited too long to be with her to blow it all now.

She turned to look out of the window.  After traveling on it for about half-hour, they turned off the road which ran parallel to railway tracks and turned onto another one.  All around them was land that seemed to stretch for miles and miles.  She saw sheep and cattle grazing, bales of hay and rolling hills.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  This was the first time she had ever been to the mountains and it was a marked change from the hectic pace and feel of the city.  Now she could understand and appreciate why so many people owned or rented cabins on the outskirts of the city.  It was their way of escape.

“We should be there in about ten minutes,” Harrison said.  And she sat up, her eyes glued to the window as she waited to catch the first glimpse of the cabin.

About ten minutes later, she saw it.  It sat there, quiet and secluded, nestled amongst the birch trees with a pond beside it.  He pulled up at the side of the cabin and turned off the engine.  He glanced at her as she stared at the cabin, her eyes wide with wonder and he smiled before opening his door and stepping out.  He walked round to open the passenger side door for her to climb out.  “So, what do you think?” he asked.

“I like it,” she said.  “It’s very quiet around here, except for the chirping of the birds.”

“This evening you can see the deer come down the hills to graze.”

“I can see why you like to come here.  It’s so peaceful and the views of the hills are stunning.”

“I promise you will enjoy the weekend so much that you will want to come again.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” she said.

“I’ve wanted to for a very long time but I’m happy that you’re finally here.  Let me take the bags out of the trunk and then we’ll go inside.”

She went with him to the back of the jeep and would have reached for her overnight bag when he prevented her.  “Let me take some of the groceries in then,” she offered.

He gave her the lighter bags while he carried the rest.  He went back for her overnight bag and slammed the trunk shut.  He opened the door to the cabin and pushed it open for her to go inside. After all the bags were inside, he closed the door and locked it.  “Let’s put these in the kitchen.”

As she followed him, her eyes traveled over the rustic interior of the cabin.  It was quite spacious and lots of natural light streamed through the windows.  It was cozy and nicely furnished.  She loved the kitchen with its breakfast nook and open concept.  He took the parcels from her and put them on the counter.  “Let me give you a tour and then take you up to the guest room.”

He took her into the rustic living-room with its high ceiling and large windows looking out at the birch trees and the hills in the distance.  There was an electric fireplace incased in stone facing modern furniture.  Glass doors opened on to the landing.  “Do you eat out there?” she asked.

“Yes, sometimes.  During the summer, of course when it’s warm.”  He took her upstairs and showed her the master bedroom which was enormous with a view of the hills.  He showed her the guestrooms and the one closest to the bathroom was the one he chose for her.  It was a lovely room, big with its own fireplace and a bed facing a large window from which she could mountains in the far distance.   They were still covered with snow in some areas.  He looked at her.  “I hope you like the room,” he said.

She nodded.  “Yes, I like it very much.”

“Good.”  He went and got her bag and brought it into the room.  “I’ll give you a chance to settle in while I go and get lunch ready.”

When he was gone, she closed the door and went into the bathroom.  Ten minutes later she went back into the room, feeling refreshed after washing her face.  She unpacked her bag and then she stood, looking out of the window for a while before heading downstairs to the kitchen.  Lunch was on the table and Harrison was just pouring what looked like Cranberry Juice in glasses.  “Have a seat,” he said.  “I hope you don’t mind having take-out.”

She sat down beside the window, her back to the kitchen.  “I don’t mind.  It smells really good.”

“It’s what I consider to be the best authentic Greek food.”

He was right about that.  It was the best Greek food she had ever had.   While they ate, they talked about different things.   After lunch, they went for a walk and then returned to the cabin.  They spent most of the afternoon watching movies and then Deandra went upstairs to take a nap.  While she was upstairs, Harrison went to his study where he spent a couple of hours doing some work before preparing dinner.

It was after six when Deandra woke up.  She had a shower and then went downstairs.  Harrison met her at the bottom of the steps.  He looked extremely attractive in the white shirt and black jeans.  His eyes traveled over her in the red top and denim skirt which revealed long legs.  “We’re having dinner in the dining-room,” he informed her.  They went into the dining-room with its two-sided fireplace.  The table was set.  He pulled out the chair for her to sit before going into the kitchen to bring out two salads followed by the main course which was Seared Tilapia with Spiralized Zucchini.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.

“This is delicious,” she exclaimed before taking a sip of the sparkling white wine.  “Rachel mentioned that you’re an excellent cook.  I thought she was just being bias because she’s your sister but she wasn’t exaggerating.”

He smiled.  “It’s something I learned to do years ago when I moved out of our parents’ home.  Over the years I have come to really enjoy it.  And this would be a tremendous blessing for the woman I marry because she won’t have to do all of the cooking.”

“I can’t imagine you getting married,” Deandra interjected.

“Why not?”

“You’re too much of a ladies’ man to ever settle down with one woman.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he took a couple of sips of wine before continuing to eat the pasta.  In the background classical music played.  “In about twenty minutes you will see the deer coming out to graze,” he told her.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that.  The only deer I’ve seen were in movies.  How long have you had this cabin?”

“I’ve had it for about seven years.”

“And in all that time, you’ve never brought a woman here before?”

He shook his head, his expression serious. “No.”

“Okay.  I believe you.”

He glanced at his watch.  It was eight o’clock.  “If you go to the window now and look out, you will see the deer.”

“I’ll help you clear the table first,” she said, putting her napkin on the table and getting up.  She took up the empty salad bowls and glasses while he carried the rest of the things into the kitchen.  While he stacked them into the dishwasher, she took a damp cloth and wiped the table down.  When she was done, she hurried over to the window and looked out.

Harrison joined her.  A few minutes passed and then, she saw something move.  It was a deer. She leaned forward, pressing against the window in her eagerness as she watched the magnificent animal made its way down to the grassy slope, her eyes shining.

Harrison watched her, thinking that she never looked more beautiful.  “Deandra…”

She turned her face toward him and her heart lurched when she saw the expression on his face.

“I want to kiss you so badly,” he murmured huskily.

“Is that what you usually say to a woman before you sleep with her?”  The minute she said those words, she was mortified and wished she could take them back, especially when she saw the hurt look on his face.  “Harrison, I’m sorry—”

His face was flushed and he raked his fingers through his hair in frustration, his eyes flashing at her.  “You have a really low opinion of me, don’t you,” he muttered angrily.  “To you I’m a libertine, a Lothario who wants to bed every woman he meets.  For your information, the number of women I’ve slept with isn’t as high as you may think.  And since I met you, I haven’t bedded any.  Maybe bringing you here wasn’t such a good idea.  I should take you home.  I wouldn’t want you to spend the weekend with a man you so obviously despise.”

“Harrison, I don’t despise you,” she protested and reaching out, she caught him by the arm.  She could feel his muscles contract underneath the material of the sweater.  His eyes darkened on her upturned face and a muscle was throbbing along his jawline.  “I’m sorry for what I said.  I regretted it the moment I said it.”

“Why did you say it then?”

“I was jealous.”

“Jealous?”

“Yes, I’m jealous of the women you’ve been with.”

He groaned.  “Oh Deandra, what will it take for you to believe that you’re the woman I want to be with.  Those other women are in my past.  My present and future are with you.”  He reached up and cupped her face between his hands and his eyes met hers as he whispered, “I love you.”

She began to cry.  “I love you too,” she sobbed.  “That’s why I’m acting like a jealous fool.”

No woman is jealous over a man unless she has feelings for him.  Eva was right.  Deandra loved him.  The realization filled his heart with joy and unable to help himself, he lowered his head and kissed her.  When he felt her immediate response, the kiss became more intense.  They stood there in front of the window, exchanging wild and fiery kisses.  Then, he picked her up and carried her upstairs to the master bedroom where in the throes of unbridled passion, they made love.

When they were lying spent in each other’s arms, he murmured, “I want you to know that being here at the cabin with you means a great deal to me and I hope that this is the first of many weekends that we will spend together.”

She raised herself up to gaze down at him and lightly traced her finger along the tattoo just below his right shoulder blade.  “You know I’m not crazy about tattoos,” she said.  “Promise me that you won’t get any more.”

“I promise.  I got this one when I was in high-school.  I was trying to impress my girlfriend at the time.”

“Speaking of girlfriends, you’re officially off the market.”

He smiled.  “Does this mean that we are officially a couple?”

“Yes,” she said before he reached up and pulled her head down to his.  What was that quote she read the other day—oh yes, it went something like this, “The Only Happy END That I Know It’S The WeekEND”

 

 

Sources:  Eagle Brae; Aneilve; Houzz; Woman’s Day; The Fresh Quotes

The Moors

Dana walked into the study and went over to the massive bookcase.  She placed the book she had borrowed back on the shelf and stood there looking at the names of the other books.  She was about to reach for the volume containing all of Jane Austen’s writings when she heard what sounded like a dog growling.

Startled, she swung around and her eyes widened when she saw a big and beautiful black, copper and whitish dog sitting at the feet of…her eyes traveled up long knees covered in tan colored and trousers, a white shirt until she found herself staring into the face of a very attractive man with dark brown hair with touches of grey.  He was watching her.

“I-I didn’t know that anyone was in here,” she stammered.

He smiled.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized.  “Heathcliff and I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Her eyes shifted to the dog.  “Heathcliff?” she repeated.  “His name is Heathcliff?”

“You can blame Avery for that.  Heathcliff is his dog.”

“He’s a beautiful dog. What breed is he?”

“He’s a Bernese Mountain Dog.  By the way, I’m Avery’s Dad.” He got up from the armchair and went over to her, his hand extended.  He was tall and athletic and looked a lot younger than she expected.  He was probably in his early fifties.

“I’m Dana,” she said as they shook hands.  “I’m pleased to finally meet you, Mr. Faulkner,” she said, smiling shyly.  “Avery has told me so much about you.”

“I have heard a lot about you too.  Avery’s not here.  He had to run some errands but he should be back in an hour or so.  You’re welcome to wait here in the study, if you like or you can go for a walk with Heathcliff and me.”

She looked at Heathcliff who came over to stand beside Mr. Faulkner.  “Are you sure he won’t mind me tagging along?” she asked warily.  He was a huge dog.  She didn’t have anything against dogs but some of them made her nervous.

Mr. Faulkner’s lips twitched.  “No, he won’t mind,” he assured her.  “It’s not everyday that we have a pretty young woman accompany us on one of our walks.”

She smiled.  He thinks I’m pretty.  “Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I’m wearing jeans and comfortable shoes.  I would be more than happy to go for a walk Heathcliff and you.”

“Very good.  Let’s go, then.”

Dana followed him and the excited Heathcliff out of the study.  Before they left the manor, Mr. Faulkner informed Nigel that they were going for a walk in case Avery came back before they did.  It was a glorious day.  A comfortable summer day with a cool, gentle breeze and all around her and as far as the eye could see was picturesque land, a myriad of bright hues of green, yellow and the tops of the cottages tucked snugly among the foliage.  They headed straight for the moors, Heathcliff racing ahead of them, tail wagging.

“Now, I think I understand why his name is Heathcliff,” she said. “In the novel, Wuthering Heights it was where the character, Heathcliff felt most comfortable to be himself.  He felt more at home in the wild moors than at the house.  It’s the same with Heathcliff.  Look at him scampering about the place as if he owned it.  He’s not at all the same animal I saw sitting in the study a few moments ago.”

Mr. Faulkner smiled.  “Yes, he loves it out here and that’s why I bring him here every day.”

She drew a deep breath.  “I can’t blame him.  It’s beautiful out here.  It beats living in the city.”

“Don’t you like living in the city?”

“I like it more for convenience.  I can easily get around using public transportation and I live close to work and amenities.  I only drive my car when I’m going out of town. I enjoy the drive here to Yorkshire.  It feels nice leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind even if it’s just for a while.”

“I can understand where you’re coming from.  Years ago after I graduated from Oxford, I left this estate and moved to London.  A couple of years later, I met the woman who was to become my wife at my best friend’s wedding.  Holly and I got married a couple of months later.  A year before Avery was born, we moved back here to Yorkshire after my parents left the estate to me and moved to Basel, Switzerland.”

“So, Avery is a country boy,” she remarked, smiling.

“Yes, we both decided that raising children in the countryside would best.  I don’t know if Avery told you this but he had a younger sister.  Her name was Lily.  She was a lovely child and was fair like her mother.  Unfortunately, when she was only eight, she died of Leukemia.  We were devastated. Before she died, Holly used to visit the grave on Lily’s birthday.  This May she would have been twenty-one.”

“Yes, Avery told me about her and he showed me a picture of her. You’re right, she was a splitting image of your wife.  It must have been tough for you when Mrs. Faulkner died.”

“It was.  When she complained of having the worst headache in her life, I took her to the hospital.  She suffered from migraines but this headache seemed out of the ordinary.  It was hard to really tell what it was.  It could have been a toxic headache caused by the over the counter painkillers she was using for her migraines.  In retrospect, the only warning sign was when Holly said that it was the the worst headache she had ever had.  Hours later the doctor came out and told me that she died to complications from a ruptured brain aneurysm.  I sat there for a long time in a daze before I came home here to tell Avery the terrible news.  The manor seemed so empty without her.  For a long time after, I would walk into the study or the drawing-room and expect to find her there.  It took a long time for me to get over the shock of losing her.  Although, she died five years ago, I still miss her, especially on her birthday and around Christmastime.”

“You never really get over losing someone you love.  My father died when I was six but I still miss him and wish that he were here.  We were very close and I always promised myself that when I got married it would be to a man like my father.”

“Aren’t you a bit young to be thinking about marriage?” He stopped and turned to face her.

She looked up at him.  “I’m not that young,” she replied.  “I’m twenty-five.”

“At my age, twenty-five seems very young.”

“If you don’t mind me saying so, you look a lot younger than I expected.”

He smiled.  “I’ll take that as a compliment.  It’s not every day that woman in her twenties tells a fifty-three year old man that he looks young for his age.”

She wondered what he would do if he knew that she was attracted to him.  As they walked, she gave him sidelong glances and thinking Avery’s good-looking but his father is extremely good-looking and sexy.  “Avery mentioned that you’re retired.  What made you decide to retire early?”

“I have more time now for doing the things I enjoy such as writing, lecturing, travel, playing golf and going sailing.”

He could afford to retire because he was wealthy, she thought.  As for her, she would have to work until she reached the retirement age which seemed like a long, long time from now.  “Do you ever get bored?”

He shook his head.  “No.  There’s always something to do.”

“When I retire, I’d probably travel.  There are other parts of Europe I would like to visit.”

“You don’t have to wait until you retire to travel.  Avery and a group of friends are leaving in a couple of weeks for San Sebastian where they will be spending the entire month of July.  Why don’t you go with them?”

She shrugged.  “I can’t be away from the office for that long,” she said.  Besides, San Sebastian sounds expensive. 

“Well, while Avery’s away, you’re welcome to come to Yorkshire and spend time with Heathcliff and me.”

She smiled.  “I’d like that,” she told him and thought that beat flying off to San Sebastian.

He glanced at his watch.  “We’d better be heading back,” he suggested.  “Avery’s probably back by now.”  He called to Heathcliff who came bounding over to him.

When they got back to the manor, Avery met them in the courtyard.  Heathcliff ran over to him and he squatted to ruffle his fur and got slobbered in the face.  “Easy boy,” he said to him before he stood up.  He looked first at his father and then at Dana.  “I see that you met Heathcliff and my father,” he said with a grin.  “Did you enjoy traipsing about the moors with them?”

She nodded.  “I did.  Now I know why you love the moors so much.  I can spend all day out on them.”

“Well, I don’t think I’ll be missing them while I’m enjoying the sea, mountains, city and countryside of San Sebastian. Are you sure you won’t change your mind and come?”

She shook her head.  “Sorry, I can’t but I’m sure you’ll have a great time anyway.”

“Will you stay for dinner?” he asked.

“I wasn’t planning to–”

Mr. Faulkner turned to her, “Please do,” he urged. “It would be a shame for you to leave now when you can stay and have dinner with us.”

“All right, I’ll stay for dinner.  Thank you.”  You’re reason why I’m staying.  She watched him walk toward the manor, after excusing himself, with Heathcliff close at his heels.  When he was gone, she turned to Avery.  “I like your father,” she said.  “He’s very nice, pleasant and easy to talk to.”

“Yes, he’s terrific.  I wish he would go out more often, though.  He spends too much time here on the estate.  It’s been five years since Mother died. I think it’s time he considered dating.”

“He seems quite content with his life, doing the things he enjoys.  Dating might not be on his list of priorities right now and I think you should respect that.”  She knew she was saying this because she didn’t like the idea of Mr. Faulkner dating anyone.

“I suppose you’re right.  Well, enough about my father, let’s go and sit in the garden until it’s time for dinner.”

She went with him to the immaculately kept garden with its fountain and sat down on the grass with her legs stretched out in front of her.  The warmth of the sun felt great on her face.  She wanted to talk more about his father but decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea.  Instead she talked about his upcoming trip and other things.  The time went by quickly and soon it was time for dinner.

Dinner turned out to be a very pleasant affair and she found herself laughing at the stories Mr. Faulkner told her about Avery when he was a child until he begged his father to talk about something else.  After dinner, they retired to the drawing-room where they played Charades, Monopoly and then Dana sat back and watched father and son play Chess.  Two hours passed and it was time for her to leave.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Mr. Faulkner,” she said as they shook hands.  “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Dana,” he replied with a smile which made her heart flutter.

“Goodbye, Heathcliff,” she said as she reached down and patted him on the head.  Avery followed her out of the drawing-room and to her parked car.  “Goodnight, Avery.”

He held the door open for her and she quickly got in.  “Goodnight, Dana.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

She waved at him before driving off.  I’ll be back here in July, she thought.

July came and every afternoon, she drove to Yorkshire and Mr. Faulkner and she would go for walks on the moors or sit in the study or in the garden and have dinner.  On the weekends, they would go for picnics or drives to other parts of the countryside.  One Sunday morning, he took her sailing on his yacht and they had lunch on the deck.  She had never been sailing before so it was quite an exhilarating and terrifying experience because she wasn’t very good swimmer.

It was a Saturday afternoon and they were in the study when he got up from the armchair to look out of the window.  “It looks a bit grey but we can still go for a walk.”

She joined him at the window.  “But Nigel said that it’s going to rain.”

“We can go and come back before it does.  Let’s go.”

“What about Heathcliff?”

“I’d like it to be just the two of us this time.”

They left the dog sleeping on the rug and hurried down the hallway.  They met Nigel on the way.  “Nigel, we’re going for a walk.

“But, Mr. Faulkner, it’s going to rain any minute now.  If you and Miss Brown get caught in it you will be soaked to the skin.”

“Don’t worry, Nigel, I’m sure we’ll be back before it rains.”

Nigel opened his mouth to suggest that they take umbrellas but they were gone. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and went to check every room to sure that the windows were closed.

The sky looked overcast now as they went across the moors and she had a terrible feeling that Nigel was right about the rain.  There were heavy black clouds looming above them and it was windy.  Avery had mentioned to her a long time ago about the summer storms in Yorkshire and she prayed that she wasn’t about to be caught in one.  Just then, she saw lightning in the distance and then the loud clap of thunder, making her almost jump out of her skin.  She looked frantically about her.  They were too far from the house to make it back before the rain came.  And came it did, a few minutes later.  It swept across the moors.

“It’s really coming down, isn’t it?” He commented.

“We should have listened to Nigel.  He told us that it was going to rain.”

“Yes, I should have listened to him.  Come, I know a place where we can go for shelter until the rain stops.”  Taking her by the hand, they ran across the moors as the rain pummeled them.

They came upon an abandoned and rundown farm house and went inside.  The front door was missing but most of the windows were boarded up.  They went to an area of the house where the rain couldn’t get in and waited there.  Dana listened as the rain beat down mercilessly on the roof.  “Is this a summer storm?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t think so. But from the looks and sound of it, we could be here for a while.  I’m sorry, Dana,” he said, turning toward her.  “We could be in the study now, dry and relaxing instead of being here in this farmhouse, soaked.”

She looked up at him.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “I think it’s romantic.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “Romantic?”  The place was in a terrible state.  The walls were dirty and peeling, there wasn’t much of a floor where they were standing and a couple of beaten up chairs.  This was hardly what he would call a romantic setting.

“Yes.” She wanted to reach up and touch his face. What she was feeling must have been evident on her face because she saw his eyes darken and his expression change.  Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs and she moved closer to him.  “I think it’s romantic–the two of us here, alone in an abandoned farmhouse on the moors because we got caught in the rain.  No one knows we’re here.  Something can happen between us and no one would know.”

He swallowed hard.  “Do you want something to happen between us?” he asked tightly, his heart racing.

She nodded, her eyes dropped to his lips and she moved closer.

Muttering under his breath, he quickly closed the distance between them and reaching up, he cupped her face between his hands, his eyes meeting hers in a scorching gaze before he bent his head and kissed her.  Dana pressed against him and closed her eyes when she felt his lips moving hungrily on hers.  She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back.

Outside the rain continued to fall, beating against the window.  The grey light streaked through the window bathing them as they stood there exchanging wild kisses.  He broke off the kiss to stare down into her upturned face, his breath harsh and unsteady.  He wanted her so badly.  With supreme effort, he released her and turned away.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.

She went up behind him and put her arms around his waist, burying her face in his back.  “I want you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily.  “And I know you want me too.”

He closed his eyes.  “Yes, I want you, Dana, I want you so much I can’t think straight but I’m almost twice your age.”

“I don’t care, Emmett.  I want to be with you.”

“And I want to be with you,” he groaned, turning around to face her.   “But not here in this abandoned farmhouse.  Let’s go back to the manor.”

“But it’s still raining.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.  “We’re already soaked. At least at the manor we can get out of these wet clothes.”

“All right,” she agreed. The wet clothes were sticking to her making her feel uncomfortable.  She couldn’t wait to get out of them.  They made their way gingerly to the front door and dashed through the rain, across the moors and to the manor.

Thankfully, Nigel wasn’t around.  They went straight upstairs to Emmett’s room and stripping, they went into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower together.  Afterwards, they put on his toweling robes and she sat at his feet while he dried her hair.  When he was done, he set the towel aside, got up from the chair and pulled her to her feet.

Their eyes met as he untied the sash and slid the robe off her shoulders.  It fell at her feet.  He removed his and they were standing there, facing each other.  He picked her up and carried her over to the bed where they made love while outside the rain continued to fall.  She ended up spending the night.  The rain ended early the following morning.  After breakfast, she went home and returned in the afternoon.  This time she brought an overnight bag with her so she could spend the weekend with Emmett.

They became lovers and spend every waking moment together.  They went sailing, to concerts, the opera, museums, dinner and on day trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.  Dana was delirious with joy because she got to be with the man she was madly in love with and do fun things with him.  This was turning out to be the best summer of her life.

Emmett stood at Dana’s bedroom window looking out at the flickering lights of the city in the distance.  Tomorrow Avery was coming back from his trip and he was filled with mixed feelings.  He was happy to have his son back but he knew it would change things for Dana and him.  They wouldn’t be able to see each other as often and openly as they had been for these past weeks.

He heard the phone ringing in the living-room and wondered who could be calling so late.  He heard Dana stir behind him and then minutes later, he felt her arms go around his waist.  “What are you doing out of bed?” she asked sleepily, burying her face in his bare back.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he admitted.  “I guess it’s being in the city again with all its sounds.  Your phone was ringing.”

“Whoever it is will leave a message.  Let’s go back to bed.”

He turned to face her when she released him.  She took his hand and led him over to the bed.  After they got under the covers, she turned on to her side and gazed down at him.  “I love you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily.  “I love you so much.”

He reached up and gripped her head, pulling it down to his.  “I love you too,” he moaned against her lips.  They made love and then fell asleep in each other’s arms.

When she woke up the next morning, he wasn’t there.  After pulling on a dressing-gown she went to look for him and found him in the kitchen making breakfast.  He turned when he heard her and smiled.  “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she kissed him before she sat at the table and watched him.  “Something smells really good.”

“What you’re smelling is my specialty—Grilled Tomatoes with Fried Eggs and toast.”  He had already set the table.  He put a plate in front of her along with a glass of Orange Juice and a cup of tea before doing the same for himself.  “I hope you enjoy it,” he said when he sat down.  “I haven’t made breakfast since Holly died.”

Touched that he made breakfast, she took her first bite.  “This is delicious,” she exclaimed.

He smiled.  “Thank you.” Then his expression became serious.  “I hope this will be the first of many breakfasts I make for you.”

She reached out and touched his hand.  “I hope so too.”

After breakfast, they showered together and he left.  She was going to see him later at the manor but first, she had a busy morning ahead of her.

Around noon, Emmett was in his study, sorting through the mail when his phone rang.  It was Avery.  “Hello, Son,” he said.  “I don’t have to ask if you had a good trip.  I could tell from your postcard.”

“Yes, San Sebastian was amazing.  We all had a great time.  Have you seen Dana?  I’ve been trying to reach her since last night.”

Yes, I know.  I was with her when you called.  “Is it urgent that you get in touch with her?”

“Well, I have something very important to say to her.  I’ll pop round to her flat later.”

Emmett wondered what it was that Avery wanted to say to Dana.  Was he going to tell her that he wanted to get back together with her?  They used to date when they were attending university until Dana decided to end it.  He always wondered why Avery never brought her to the manor to meet him while they were dating.  Did Avery think that he would object to their relationship because she was black?  He should know better than that.

“Dad?  Are you still there?”

“Yes—yes, I’m still here.  Sorry.  What were you saying?”

“I’m going to drop by and see you later.”

“All right.  I will see you later.”  He hung up and sat there, staring at the phone.  What was he going to do if it turned out that Avery wanted to renew his relationship with Dana?  What would happen if he found out that she had been seeing his father?  It would destroy his faith and trust in both of them.  And it could ruin his relationship with his son forever.

Emmett dragged his fingers through his hair in despair.  Why did he have to go and do a foolish thing like fall helplessly in love with his son’s ex-girlfriend?  Being with her these past several weeks had been the happiest times in his life.  She brought joy and excitement to his otherwise staid life.  And now…he had to end their relationship for Avery’s sake.  He closed his eyes, his expression one of torment.  He would end it today when she came by the manor.

Hours later, he instructed Nigel to send Miss Brown to the study and that he didn’t want to be disturbed.  As he sat in the armchair, waiting for her, memories of their time together flooded his mind.  He would never forget the first time they kissed and he knew that he would go to that abandoned farmhouse again.

He stiffened when he heard her come into the room and close the door.  Heart racing, he stood up and his eyes were restless as she hurried over to him, her eyes dancing and a big smile on her beautiful face.  For a moment, he wanted to forget the whole thing and just take her in his arms.  “Dana, we need to talk,” he said quietly and saw the smile disappear.

Frowning, she asked, “What’s wrong, Emmett?” She could see now that he was upset about something.  And she realized that he hadn’t pulled her into his arms and kissed her like he usually did.  Instead, he stood with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his body stiff and his expression tense.  Something was definitely wrong.

“I don’t quite know how to say this,”

He was scaring her now.  “Just say it.”

“Dana, we have to end our relationship.”

His words were like a blow she didn’t see coming even though she knew that something was up and it took several minutes for her to catch her breath and ask, “But why?”

“I’m too old for you.”

“When we were in that farmhouse, you said the same thing but afterwards you told me that you wanted to be with me.”

“Yes, I did.  I still do but it doesn’t matter what I want, especially when it will hurt Avery.  He still cares for you, Dana.”

“So, Avery’s the real reason why you want to end our relationship?”

“Yes.  I don’t want to hurt him.”

“But, I love you,” she cried in a trembling voice, tears welling in her eyes.

He turned away and closing his eyes, he muttered tightly, “And I love my son.”

That cut through her like a knife, and stifling a sob, she turned and ran from the room, past Nigel who was walking down the hallway.

After she disappeared, he went to the study where he found slumped over his desk with his face buried in his hands.  “Is everything all right, Sir?” he inquired.

Emmett glanced up at him, his face pale and drawn.  “No, Nigel,” he muttered.  “And it will never be all right again because I just made the biggest mistake of my life.  I chased the woman I love out of my life.”

Dana ran blindly down the steps and straight into Avery who managed to keep his balance as he caught her by the shoulders to steady her.  “What on earth is the matter?” he asked.

“I…want…to… go…home,” she sobbed and tried to pull away but his grip tightened.

“You’re in no shape to drive,” he told her.  “I’ll take you home.”  With his arm around her shoulders, he led her over to where her car was parked and helped her in.  He reached in and strapped her in before closing the door and walking around to the driver’s side.  He glanced at her as he fastened his seat belt.  What on earth happened in there?  He had never seen her in such a state.  She was slumped against the seat, her body racked with sobs.  He grabbed a box of tissues and placed it on her lap.  As he pulled away from the manor, he thought he saw his father looking out from the window of the study.

He allowed several minutes to go by and when the sobs had subsided, he gently pressed her.  “What happened at the house, Dana?  Did my father say something to upset you?”

“I–I’d rather not talk about it…” her voice trembled and ended in a sob.  She pressed a wad of tissues against her mouth to stifle another sob as fresh tears fell.

Avery didn’t ask her any more questions but he suspected that his father had something to do with it and he planned to have it out with him as soon as he returned to the manor.  For the rest of the drive, he didn’t say anything.  He took her up to her flat and spent some time with her until he was comfortable leaving her alone.  He left, called for a cab and went to the manor.

An hour later, he went into the study and over to his father who turned when he heard him and asked, “What happened between Dana and you?  She came running out of the house, hysterical when I arrived.  I had to take her home because she was in no condition to drive.”

Emmett’s face was pale and drawn.  It was no use denying the truth.  “While you were in San Sebastian, Dana and I had been seeing each other.”

“I know that, Dad,” he said much to his father’s astonishment.  “Nigel told me.”

Emmett looked aghast, still trying to recover from his shock.  All this time Avery knew about Dana and him.  “Nigel told you?” he repeated.

“Before I left for my trip, I asked him to keep an eye on you.  I would have asked Dana to do it but I thought she would be too busy.  And one day when I called and you weren’t here, imagine my surprise when he told me that you and she had gone sailing and that you had been spending a lot of time together.  He even mentioned that Dana spent many nights here at the manor and that he had never seen you happier.”

“I was so sure that you would be angry with me because you and Dana used to date.”

“Dad, that was a long time ago.  Dana and I are just very good friends.”

“But, today, you said that you had been trying to reach her because you had something important you wanted to say to her.  So, I thought that you still had feelings for her and wanted to get back together.”

“No, I wanted to tell her that I met a terrific girl on the trip.  Her name is Isabella…”

Emmett went behind his desk and sank heavily down in the chair.  Groaning, he buried his face in his hands.  Alarmed, Avery rushed over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Dad, are you all right?” he asked.

Emmett looked up at him.  “I ended my relationship with Dana because I didn’t want to hurt you,” he muttered tightly.  “I love her and I let her go.”

“You broke up—?  So, that’s why she was in such a state.  I’m so sorry, Dad.  I wish I had told you about Isabella and then none of this would have happened.  It’s just that I wanted Dana to know about her first because she was always telling me that one of these days, I would meet the girl of my dreams.”  He looked at his father’s face and his heart almost broke.  “Dad, I feel badly about what happened with Dana.  Why don’t you go over to her place right now and tell her that you made a terrible mistake?  If you like I could take you there myself.  It’s the least I could as this is entirely my fault.”

Emmett nodded and got up from the chair.  He followed Avery out of the room.

Dana was curled up on the sofa, hugging a cushion when she heard the doorbell.  She got up and went to answer it.  When she saw Emmett standing there, she immediately opened the door. Before she could say anything, he blurted out, “Dana, I made a terrible mistake.  Can you ever forgive me?”

Eagerly, she reached out and pulled him into the flat, slamming the door shut.  “Yes,” she cried.  “I forgive you for breaking my heart because you’re here now to put the pieces back together.  Oh, Emmett, I thought I would never see you again.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  Her eyes were red and puffy from crying but to him she looked exquisite.  Reaching up he cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you, Dana and I want to spend the rest of our lives showing you how much.”

Smiling, she put her arms around his waist, watching, transfixed as his face drew closer to hers and murmured, “I love you too, Emmett,” before his lips touched hers.

 

 

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The Betrayal

Althea closed her Bible and placed it back on the coffee table.  She felt like Judas because she had betrayed Tyson.  Guilt racked her but if she were brutally honest with herself she would admit that what happened between Greg and her was something she had wanted for a very long time–even before she started dating Tyson.

Last night when Greg took her home after working together over time on a pending project, she invited him in to have a hot chocolate.  After he went in and she closed the door, she unbuttoned her coat, with her back to him.  She felt him pull it off her shoulders, discard it then, he pulled her back against him, so that she could feel his hard body pressing into hers while he buried his face in her hair.  She closed her eyes as desire raged through her.  Then, she turned to him, her eyes meeting his in a steady stare.  She reached out and unbuttoned his coat.

His coat was soon disposed of, his tie followed and then, with trembling fingers, she loosened the buttons on his shirt, her heart pounding with anticipation.  She could feel his warm breath on her temple and soon he was shirtless.  Eagerly she ran her hands over his chest and before reaching up and pulling his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips fastened.  His arms went about her waist, pressing her into him as they exchanged passionate kisses.

Several minutes later, Althea drew back, gasping for breath as she dragged off her jacket and everything from the waist up, longing to feel his skin against her.  Greg groaned as she pressed against him, her eyes feverish as they met his smoldering ones and he swept her up into his arms and carried her into the living-room.  They made love on the sofa.  He ended up spending the night and the following morning, they made love again before he left after having breakfast.

Running her hand over the cushion where his head was, she trembled as she recalled how explosive the lovemaking was and it was something she had never experienced with anyone–not even Tyson.  Greg excited her like no man ever did and she wanted to be with him again.  She wasn’t satisfied with having just a working relationship with him.  She wanted more…but what about Tyson?

How could she face Tyson after what she did but how could she stay with him when she wanted Greg?  And what about Greg’s girlfriend, Audrey?  She had completely forgotten about her.  She remembered the first time she met the willowy blonde and her jealous reaction.  It was at one of the company’s picnics.  She was there with Tyson and Greg was there with Audrey.  They were sitting at the table with the director of the company and his wife.  Tyson and she joined them.  She was sitting between Tyson and Greg who introduced them to Audrey.  He and Tyson had met before.

Audrey was what most people would consider to be classically beautiful with her fine features. She was regal and elegant.  When she was introduced to Tyson, she smiled and was very gracious to him but when she was introduced to Althea, she was a bit aloof and the smile on her lips didn’t reach her light blue eyes.  The two women barely said anything to each other and Greg commented on that when they were in the office.  “I couldn’t help but notice that you and Audrey didn’t hit it off.  You’re usually get along with everyone and Audrey too but somehow, you two didn’t warm up to each other.  How come?”

Althea had shrugged and offered him an offhand explanation.  “I guess we can’t always get along with people.”  She couldn’t let him know that she was jealous of Audrey and for some reason Audrey didn’t like her.  Perhaps she sensed that Althea was attracted to her boyfriend.  Women were more intuitive when it came to those things.

“Tyson and I get along even though he’s your boyfriend,” Greg had remarked and she looked at him, quizzically.  His expression was inscrutable.  What does he mean by that? Before she could ask him, his cell rang and he excused himself.  Ever since then, she had been meaning to ask him about the remark but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

The ringing of her phone brought her back to the present and she got up from the sofa to answer it.  It was Tyson.  Heart thudding and hand gripping the phone, she said, “Hello, Tyson.”

“Hi Baby, I tried to get you last night but your machine came on and your cell was turned off.  I thought about coming over but I didn’t want to drop by just like that.”

Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t, she thought.  Or you would have caught me with Greg.  “Tyson, I’m fine.  I was wiped so I must have been sleeping and that’s why I didn’t hear the phone or the cell ring.”  Lying came so easily to her that it startled her.

“Okay.  I called to remind you that we’re going to the Blue Note tonight to see the John Scofield Quartet.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

She had totally forgotten about tonight.  The last thing she wanted was to be at a jazz club but what excuse could she give?  “All right.”

“Great!  Oh, I invited Greg and Audrey to join us.  I hope you don’t mind.”

Her heart was racing now.  She was going to see Greg.  And Audrey was going to be there.  How was she going to be able to hide her feelings or stop the images of Greg and her making love from popping into her head?  “I wish Audrey weren’t coming,” she said.  “The woman doesn’t like me.”

“Maybe she’s jealous of you,” Tyson remarked.

Althea stiffened.  “Why should she be?” she asked warily.

“You are a gorgeous woman, Althea and you work closely with Greg.  I would be jealous too if I didn’t trust you.”

She closed her eyes as the guilt consumed her.  He trusts me.  I feel like a traitor.  What am I going to do?  I never meant to cheat on him but my feelings for Greg got the better of me.  I was a fool to have a relationship with Tyson when I really wanted to be with Greg but at the time Greg was already seeing Audrey.  Oh, what a mess I have gotten myself into…

“Althea?  Are you still there?”

“Yes–yes.  I–I have to go now.”

“All right.  I’ll see you at seven.”

“See you then,” she replied and hung up, her head throbbing.  She went back over to the sofa and sank heavily down, her brow knitted, frantic about how the evening was going to pan out and that she might do or say something to give herself away.  “Dear Lord, please help me to keep it together tonight,” she begged.

Several hours later when Tyson picked her up, she was composed or appeared to be.  The closer they got to the Blue Note Jazz club, the more nervous she became and by the time they walked into the place, her palms were sweaty and her legs felt like jelly.  Thankfully, Greg and Audrey weren’t there as yet.  It gave her time to collect herself.

It was a nice club.  The atmosphere was casual and intimate.  Their table was situated in such a way that all four of them would be able to get to see the band.   The band had already set up and in ten minutes they were going to play.  She looked up just then and her heart somersaulted when she saw Greg and Audrey approaching their table.  Audrey was wearing a red top with a black pants.  Her hair was pulled back in a chignon giving her an elegant look.  She gave Althea a frosty smile and greeting before she sat down opposite her.

Althea’s eyes shifted to Greg as he sat down beside Audrey and opposite Tyson.  He was dressed in a black dress shirt with black jeans.  He looked so sexy that it was hard for her not to stare.  Their eyes met and she smiled nervously as she greeted him, acting as if they hadn’t seen each other since yesterday at the office.

They ordered drinks, appetizers and dinner and settled down to enjoy the band which was starting up.  As the sounds of jazz filled the air, Althea sneaked a peek at Greg whose head was turned toward the stage and her heart skipped a beat when she caught him looking at her.  She quickly turned away and tried to concentrate on the music and enjoy the dinner but she could feel his eyes on her.

After dinner and during a break, Audrey excused herself and went to the washroom while Tyson went to the bar to order a Club Soda.  Althea had passed on having anything else to drink and was nursing her Cranberry Juice.  Alone with Greg, she couldn’t resist looking at him and her mouth went dry when she saw him looking at her intently.  “You look amazing,” he told her.  “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”

She was wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps and her hair was pulled back at the nape.  “Thank you,” she replied, feeling shy and thrilled at the same time.  “You look incredibly sexy.”

“Althea, I can’t stop thinking about last night and this morning.”

“Me neither,” she confessed.  “What are we going to do?  I feel like such a traitor because Tyson trusts me but I can’t help how I feel about you, Greg.  What happened between us last night and this morning happened because I wanted it to.”

“We have to tell them,” he told her.  “We can’t continue hiding our feelings and pretending that we are happy in our relationships when we’re not.  I want to be with you, Althea.  I’ve wanted it ever since we started working together.”

She stared at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me this before I started dating Tyson?” she demanded.  “I only went out with him because you were with Audrey.”

“I thought you loved Tyson and that’s why I didn’t do anything.  You have no idea how hard it is for me to see you with him.  I like him and we get along but I’m jealous of him because he’s your boyfriend.”

“And I’m jealous of Audrey because she’s your girlfriend.”

“I think she suspects that I have feelings for you.  She didn’t want to come tonight because of you but I managed to talk her into it.  I came because I wanted to see you.  Can I come over later?”

“Yes,” she said.  “We’ll talk more later.” Just then, both Tyson and Audrey joined them.

The band came back and played for another hour.  It was time to leave.  The four of them walked out of the club and to the parking lot.  They said their goodnight and parted.  As Althea walked to Tyson’s Land Rover, she watched Greg and Audrey walk to his Jaguar.  Seeing them together made her decide that she was going to end her relationship with Tyson.  She wouldn’t do it tonight, though.  Tomorrow was Sunday.  On her way to church, she would call him and suggest that they meet in the afternoon at Bryant Park.

It was after ten when she got home and she quickly undressed and took a shower.  She changed into floral print Chemise which flattered her figure and complexion.  Her hair was loose about her shoulders and after dabbing a little of her favorite Ralph Lauren perfume behind her ears, she went into the kitchen.  She just finished pouring hot toddies into two glass cups when the doorbell rang.  Her heart racing, she hurried to answer the door, smiling when she saw Greg’s eyes travel over her.

As soon as she closed the door and locked it, he pulled her into his arms.  “I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he murmured, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  He was wearing a navy blue shirt and blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and he smelled really good.

She put her arms around his neck.  “I fixed us some hot toddies.  Let’s sit on the sofa and drink them before they get cold and then…”

He smiled and released her.  “You’re right.  If I kiss you now, I wouldn’t be able to stop.”

They walked into the living-room and while he relaxed on the sofa, she went and got the hot toddies.  She handed him his before she settled down next to him.  She reached for the remote for the stereo and turned it on.  Smooth jazz played in the background.  “I am going to break up with Tyson tomorrow,” she announced quietly.  “I’m going to do it in the park.  I read that a lot of couples call it quits in a park because it’s a public place so not much drama there and it’s quiet and relaxing.  I will call him in the morning to arrange a time when we will meet.  I’m not looking forward to it at all.”

Greg sighed.  “I know what you mean,” he said.  “I broke up with Audrey tonight and it was terrible.  She was hurt and angry.  After she screamed at me and slapped me in the face, she stormed out of the car, slamming the door so hard, I thought the window would break.  I felt like a jerk.  I never meant to hurt her but I should never have gotten involved with her when it was you I wanted to be with.  That was unfair to her.”

“Does she know about us?”

He nodded.  “I didn’t have to tell her.  She figured it out and I couldn’t deny it.”

Althea pursed her lips.  “She must really hate me now.”

“I feel really badly about Tyson.  He’s a really nice guy.  Under other circumstances, we could have been good friends.”

“When he asked me to go out with him I should have turned him down.  It would have been the decent thing to do.  And now, what I have to say to him tomorrow will break his heart and completely destroy his trust in me…” Her voice trembled and tears came to her eyes.

Greg took her toddy and put it and his down on the coffee table.  He put his arm around her shoulder and she rested her head against him.  “I know that you feel badly about Tyson.  Breaking up with someone is never easy.  It can be very painful.  All I can say is that Tyson and Audrey deserve to be with people who will love them in return.”

“You’re right,” she said and brushing the tears away she drew back to look at him. “You and I never meant to hurt them but we can’t help the way we feel about each other.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “I love you, Althea,” he murmured huskily.  “I have loved you since the first time we met.  I tried to fight it because of Audrey but it was no use.  And those nights when we worked overtime, were torture.  It was hard not to touch you.  Last night my feelings were too strong to ignore.  I wanted you so much.”

“I love you too, Greg.  I fell in love with you the first time I saw you but I didn’t do anything about it because I found out from Krystal that you had a girlfriend.  Seeing you everyday and working late with you was bittersweet.  It wasn’t easy hiding my feelings for you or coming home to this apartment which felt empty and thinking about you, wishing you were here.  You have no idea how often I have fantasized about you and…” her words were smothered against his lips.

The next afternoon, she met Tyson in the park.  Dread filled her as they walked to a bench in a quiet area and sat down.  Taking a deep breath, she repeated the words she had rehearsed on the drive over.  By the time she was finished, he was livid.  “So, when I called you on Friday night and yesterday morning, Greg was there with you?”

“Yes.”

“So, he spent the night.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  When I asked you why you didn’t answer my calls you lied to me.  You told me that you were sleeping but the truth is you and he were doing it on the sofa.  Oh, hell, Althea, I trusted you and you betrayed me.” He jumped to his feet.

“Tyson, I’m so sorry–” she said, rising from the bench.

“I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry.  You know I had many opportunities to cheat on you too but I couldn’t because I cared about you and besides, when I’m in a relationship I don’t cheat. Last night when we were at the Blue Note having a good time, not once did I suspect that there was anything going on between Greg and you.  But Audrey knew something and that’s why she didn’t like you.  She saw you for the liar and cheat you are.  I’m going to leave now before I say something I will regret.” He looked her over with an expression of disgust on his face before he turned and walked away.

She watched him go and then sat back down on the bench. She sat there for a long time, feeling awful that she had hurt someone so badly. Tyson was a terrific guy who didn’t deserve what she had done to him. She couldn’t blame him if he never forgave her.

After leaving the park, she went straight to Greg’s place.  As soon as he closed the door behind her and turned to face her, she went straight into his arms and clung to him.  “It’s over between Tyson and me.”

He held her tightly.  “It’s better to end the relationship than to continue cheating,” he said.  “We don’t have to sneak around.  We can love each other in the open.”

She drew back to look up at him.  “You’re right,” she agreed.

He bent his head and kissed her, thinking of Bill Russell’s quote: “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, but to be loved by the one you love is everything”

 

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