Jasper was walking down the street, heading to the cafe where he was supposed to meet his girlfriend, Shannon when he heard someone call his name. He turned and saw that it was Raina, Shannon’s friend from university. She stood there, dressed in an odd white top, denim capri pants with a smile on her face. Around her arm was a gold band and several handcraft chains around her neck. In his mind he juxtaposed her image with Shannon’s. They were different as night and day. Shannon was glamorous and Raina was not. Yet, it was Raina who made his heart race and his stomach do somersaults. He walked over to her.
“Hi Raina,” he said, nervous and excited at the same time. She had that effect on him.
“Hi, yourself. Where’re you off to in such a hurry?” she asked.
“I’m meeting Shannon for lunch at Kennington Lane Cafe.”
She had a way of tilting her head to the side as she looked up at him. “It’s been a while since I last saw you. Are you avoiding me?”
He blinked. “Why would I be avoiding you?” he asked. Was she on to him? Did she somehow guess that he had been avoiding her?
“Maybe because of what almost happened the last time we saw each other.”
He felt his face grow hot when he recalled the incident she was talking about. He had invited some friends over to celebrate Shannon’s birthday. Raina got there early so that she could set things up. She was busying stringing the decorations when he went into the living-room. He stood beside the mantelpiece and watched her. As if sensing that he was there, she turned, a smile on her face. And then, to his surprise, the smile disappeared and she gaped at him for a few minutes before turning abruptly away. Frowning, he walked over to her and stood in front of her.
“What’s the matter, Raina?” he asked, still clueless.
She avoided looking at him. “Your–your shirt is open,” she mumbled.
He glanced down. Sure enough. It was unbuttoned. Blushing profusely, he quickly buttoned it and tucked it in his pants. “Sorry about that,” he apologized. “You can look now.”
She did and for a long moment their eyes locked. Then, she turned and went over to the step ladder to finish stringing the Happy Birthday, Shannon sign. “Could you hand me those balloons, please?”
He picked up the balloons stringed together and gave them to her. She put them below the sign. After checking to make sure her handiwork was fine, she started to come down the ladder when she stumbled. He reached up and caught her. Winded, she leaned against him for a few minutes, trying to catch her breath. This was the closest he had ever been to her and it excited him. His heart began to pound and his breath quickened. They stared at each other, the air around them pulsating. She felt so soft against him and he couldn’t hide his reaction. His smoldering gaze lowered to her lips which parted. Inflamed, he leaned over to devour them when the doorbell rang. They draw apart immediately and raking his fingers through his hair, he went to answer the door.
For the rest of the evening, he avoided her but he hadn’t been able to think of anything else but how badly he wanted to kiss her. For weeks, he tried to stay away, afraid to face her. And now here she was. He swallowed hard, his expression tense as he returned her searching gaze. “I would have kissed you if the others hadn’t shown up then,” he said.
“I know,” she said, sounding a little breathless.
“I haven’t been able to think about anything else.”
“Me neither,” she admitted.
“Why did my open shirt bother you so much?”
“You know why,” she said.
“I want you to tell me.”
“Seeing your bare chest turned me on.”
His eyes darkened. “You turn me on and right at this moment, I want to take you back to my place and show you how much.”
“This is why I’ve been avoiding you. I’m afraid of what I would do and say when we’re alone together.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t be alone now,” she said. “Maybe I should go…”
He caught her by the hand. “Don’t go,” he said.
“I should,” she insisted. “Besides, you have a lunch date, remember?”
“When can I see you again?” he asked, still holding her hand.
She blinked, trying to think but found it hard with him rubbing his thumb against the inside of her palm. “I-I don’t know.”
“How about later?”
She shook her head. “I can’t. I have a date–”
His expression darkened at once. “A date?” he repeated. Jealousy ripped through him. “Who’s the guy? Do I know him?”
“I don’t think so.”
“How long have you been dating him?”
“I haven’t been. This is our first date.”
“How did you meet him?”
Before she could answer, his cell rang. Muttering under his breath, he released her arm and whipped his cell out. “Yes?” A pause then: “I’m on my way now. I should be there in five minutes.” He listened and then rang off.
“You’d better go now or she’ll go ballistic.”
“I’ve to go,” she said and quickly walked away.
“What’s the matter with you?” Shannon asked him as they sat by the window having veggie burgers, salad and shakes. “You’re acting a bit odd.”
“Nothing’s the matter with me.”
Shannon looked at his unfinished burger and then at him. “You’ve hardly touched your lunch.”
“I’m not very hungry.”
“Aren’t you feeling well? You look a bit piqued.”
“I’m fine,” he insisted. “Let’s drop it.” He picked up the burger and forced himself to eat it.
She wasn’t convinced but she dropped the matter. After lunch, they went a Jazz concert and then he took her home. She wanted him to stay but he made an excuse and left.
“I had a terrific time and you’re a really nice guy, Joel but…”
“But you’re not interested,” he finished. They were standing outside of her flat. “It’s another guy, isn’t it?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Well, whoever he is, he’s a lucky guy.”
“Goodbye, Joel,” she said, holding out her hand.
“Goodbye, Raina.” He took her hand and raised it to his lips. And then, he was gone.
She turned and unlocked her door. Once inside, she thankfully removed her shoes and wriggled her toes. They were gorgeous but they hurt her feet. She was about to head for the bedroom to change when the doorbell rang. Frowning, she turned and peered through the keyhole. Her heart lurched when she saw Jasper standing there. She opened the door. “What are you doing here?” she asked. He looked amazing in the black shirt and black pants. She saw the way his gaze traveled over her body clad in the black cocktail dress with cap sleeves and a side slit. Her curly hair framed her face which was devoid of makeup.
“You look beautiful,” he added, his expression tense.
“May I come in?”
She stepped aside for him to go inside and closed the door behind him. Afterwards, she turned to face him. “What are you doing here?” she asked again.
“I had to see you, Raina.”
“You shouldn’t be here, Jasper.”
“Why? Do you have company?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.
“No. I’m alone.”
“Where’s your date?”
“Nothing. We had a terrific time, he brought me home, we said goodbye and he left.”
“Are you going to see him again?”
“You know why.” She watched as he moved closer. The air was charged between them.
“I want you to tell me.”
“I’m stuck on you.”
In a flash, he was standing in front of her, his body trapping her against the door. “And I’m stuck on you,” he muttered thickly.
Her hands went up to push at his chest. “We shouldn’t,” she protested weakly, her heavy breathing mingling with his.
He took her hands and pinned them above her head. His scorching gaze met hers before he lowered his head and kissed her, his lips almost devouring hers. Raina kissed him back wildly. Outside, dark clouds had gathered and minutes later, it was pouring rain. Lightning flashed across the sky and the loud clap of thunder followed. Inside the flat a different storm was raging. It moved from the foyer and into the bedroom. Minutes later, they were under the sheets, their bodies undulating to the tempo of lovemaking which increased as their feelings for each other engulfed them. Outside the storm continued to rage.
The following day, Jasper ended his relationship with Shannon.
Love is a storm that engulfs the senses – Lee Hiller