The Photographer

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He watched her, camera ready to take pictures.  She didn’t seem to notice him as she stood there, alone, apart from the others, in her the black off the shoulder dress and wearing what looked like tassel earrings.  He knew because his ex-girlfriend used to wear them too.

He was supposed to be circulating around the room, snapping pictures but after spotting her, he was riveted to that spot.  He supposed he could go ahead and just take the pictures like he was hired to but he wanted her undivided attention. So, he waited.

She turned her head suddenly and saw him.  Their eyes met and held.  Then, he went over to her.  “Hi,” he said.  “I hope you don’t mind me taking your picture.”

“You’re the photographer,” she replied.

“Yes.  My name’s Gaston.”  He held out his hand.

“Kiana.”  She smiled as they shook hands.  “Pleased to meet you and the answer is no.”

His eyebrows rose quizzically.  “No?”

“You asked if I minded you taking my picture.  The answer is no, I don’t.”

He smiled.  “Good.”  He took several.  “Are you here alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  Are you married?”

For a moment he was startled then he saw her looking at the ring on his right hand.  “No, I’m not married.  This is my father’s ring.  I have been wearing it since he passed away a year ago.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “Were you close?”

“Yes, we were.  Are you cold?”

She nodded.  “A little.  It suddenly gotten a little drafty in here.”

He removed his jacket and draped it around her.  This close, she smelled wonderful.  “Here you go,” he said softly.  “This should keep you warm.”

She smiled up at him.  “Thank you.”

“Pardon me for asking but, do you have un petit copain–a boyfriend?”

“No.  What about you?  Do you have a girlfriend?

“No.  I’m a single man.  After this fête is over, would you go out for a drink with me?”

“Sure.”

Bon.  I hate to leave you, Kiana, but I must get back to doing what I was hired for.  I will see you later.”  He excused himself.

She watched him go and for the rest of the evening, she could think of nothing else but him and his incredible eyes.  As soon as the party was over, he was at her side.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, tassel. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Life’s Surprises and Unspeakable Joy

It’s lunch break at school and as I was walking down the hallway heading towards the cafeteria, Colton texted me.  He wanted me to have dinner at his place tonight.  Excited, I texted him back.   Things were really heating up between us.

Last night after we left the ice rink, we went back to his place and as soon as we went inside, we were all over each other, kissing and pulling off each other’s clothes.  We ended up making love on the rug in front of the fireplace.  Afterwards, we ordered take in Thai food and ate it while watching a movie.  Then, he took me home.

I guess it was inevitable that I should fall madly in love with Colton.  Actually, I think I fell for him since the first time we met which was at a party celebrating Lance’s 18th birthday.  Colton was there with Heather, his then girlfriend, a very pretty blonde.  The moment I saw him, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  Several times, he caught me staring at him and smiled.  Then, just before the cutting of the cake, when I was coming out of the bathroom, he was coming down the hallway.  He walked over and stood right in front of me, towering over me.  I looked up at him, thinking that he was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen in my life.  My heart was beating like crazy.  We were totally alone.  Everyone was in the dining-room, gathered around the table.

“So, are you Lance’s girlfriend?” he asked.

I shook my head at once.  “No, we’re just friends.”

He smiled. “Good. I’m glad to hear that. If you’re not busy tomorrow afternoon, I’d like to take you bowling and then for a bite to eat afterwards.”

I was so blown away by the fact that he was asking me out that I didn’t even think of asking him about his girlfriend.  I found out a couple days after that he had broken up with her.

“I’m not busy tomorrow,” I assured him breathlessly.  “And I’d love to go bowling.”  Actually, I have never been bowling but have heard lots of positive things about it.  And it’s on several lists of perfect first date ideas.

“Where do you live?”

I told him.

“I’ll pick you up at five-thirty.”

“Okay.”

“See you tomorrow.”  And then he was gone.  I stayed there for several minutes, leaning against the door, trying to settle my nerves.  I couldn’t believe that Lance’s brother had just asked me out.  The rest of the evening was a blur for me.  I couldn’t sleep that night because I was too excited.  Colton showed up at exactly five-thirty, looking sexy in his white shirt and jeans.  I saw the way he looked at me and I felt tingly all over.  I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail and was wearing a red top with jeans.  We talked a lot on the way to the bowling alley and had so much fun.

Afterwards, we went to an Italian eatery and enjoyed mouth watering pasta dishes.  He didn’t take me home right after.  We went for a drive along the coast, stopped to admire the view of the Bay for a little while and then he took me home.  Outside on the porch, he asked me out on another date which I promptly accepted.

On Monday when I saw Lance at school, I was bursting with excitement.  We were standing by the lockers when I told him about Colton.  He didn’t seem to mind at all, although I couldn’t see why he should.  That was what we were talking about when those girls saw us and went berserk.

After Lance and I parted company, they ascended on me like a swarm of bees and made all sorts of crude and racist remarks which I ignored.  I didn’t get into anything with them.  I was above that.  Instead, I walked away with my head held high.  One of them said that there was no way that Lance would be into me because I was an ugly girl with glasses.  Hmmph.  Well, there was no way that he would be into her because she was hateful.

I didn’t let their remarks ruin my day.  I had a date with Colton that evening and was looking forward to it.  It was on our fourth date that we made love for the first time.  After we went to a concert in the park, we went back to his place.  He made hamburgers which we ate on the terrace while we watched the sun set.  Then, after finishing our Red and Blue Berry Lemonade Slushes, we went inside.

Without saying anything, he took my hand and led me to his bedroom. After closing the door, he began to kiss me.  I put my arms around his neck and kissed him back.  The kisses soon became very intense and the next thing I knew, we were naked, our clothes strewn on the floor.  He backed me over to the bed, pushed me down gently and then got on top of me.  His mouth covered mine the same instant he took me.  I cried out because of the pain but it soon went away and all I could feel then was intense and mind-blowing pleasure.  I will never forget my first experience.

Last week Saturday my parents went out of town to spend the weekend with my sister and her family.  I called Colton and invited him to come over.  He came over in the evening.  We had the dinner which my mother made earlier that day.  There was enough to feed an army.  We went for a drive, stopped for some ice-cream and then went back to the house.  We spent the evening watching television.  It was after mid-night when we went to bed.  We were in my room.  After we brushed, we slipped under the sheets and made love.  We fell asleep in each other’s arms.

The next morning, he was still sleeping when I woke up.  I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek but he didn’t stir.  He was a deep sleeper.  I got up and drew back the curtains for the sunlight to stream in.  I turned to look at him.  He looked so adorable and sexy, laying there on his left side with his hand resting on my side of the bed.  Unable to resist, I bent over and kissed him on his shoulder before   I went into the bathroom and took a quick shower.  I left a clean, folded towel for him to use on top of the wash basin before getting dressed and heading down to the kitchen to make breakfast.  We spent the day together and then he left late afternoon, a couple of hours before my parents got home.  It was the best weekend I had ever had.

As I sit down now at the table to have my lunch, I can’t help but reflect on our relationship.  We have been dating for half a year now.  For me it’s very serious because I’m so in love with him but I’m not sure if he feels the same way.  I know that he wants me.  I can see it on his face when he looks at me.  Just thinking about how much he wants me makes me tremble and feel warm all over.  I wish we were together right this very minute but I will just have to wait until later.

Thankfully, the day went by quickly and at a quarter to six, I was standing outside of his apartment and ringing the bell.  When he opened the door, my eyes eagerly drank every inch of him.  He looked incredible in the black shirt and jeans.  His hair was slightly damp as if he had just taken a shower.  One of my fantasies is to make love with him in the shower.  It was feeling a bit hot in the hallway all of a sudden.

“Hello,” he said with a smile before he reached down and kissed me hard on the mouth.  When he drew back, his face was slightly flushed.  “Come in.”

I stepped inside, my head spinning from that kiss.   A tantalizing smell assailed my nostrils.  “Something smells really great,” I exclaimed as I followed him through the foyer and into the living-room.

“It’s Crispy Lemon Pepper Chicken.  It’s one of my favorite dishes.”

“Do you need any help?”

“No, thanks.  Just relax in the living-room until everything is ready.”

While he was busy in the kitchen, she turned on the stereo and found a station where they played R&B.  Five minutes later, he was setting things down on the table in the dining-room.  He lit two candles.  He called me to have a seat at the table while he went and got our drinks which were Sparkling Pear Punch.  He sat down and smiling, he said, “Dig in.”

“This is delicious!  How did you learn how to cook like this? Did your mother teach you?  My mother taught me—is still teaching me.”

“No, I learned after I moved out and was living on my own.”

“Lance wasn’t kidding when he said that you’re a phenomenal cook.  He even said that you’re as good as or maybe even better than your mother.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Did you ever make dinner for your ex-girlfriend?”

“No.”

That made me feel really special and I smiled as I raised the glass to take a sip of the punch.

“Have you told your parents about me?”

“Yes, they’re dying to meet you.”

“I bet they are.  Do they know that there’s a considerable age difference between us?”

“Well, they know that you’re not a student.”

“Do they know that I’m white?”

“Yes and they don’t have a problem with that.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.  Jaleesa, there’s something I need to ask you after we finish having our dinner.”

“Okay.”  I wondered what it could be.  I didn’t have to wait very long to find out.  As soon as dinner was over and we were relaxing in the living-room, he turned to me, his expression very serious.

“We’ve been dating for a while now.  In a few months, it will be a year.”

I nodded, my heart beginning to beat faster as I had no idea where this was leading.  I hoped that it wasn’t a preamble for a breakup speech.

“I think it’s time for a change, Jaleesa.”  He reached into his back pocket and took out a small box.  I watched as he got down on his knee beside me.  My eyes popped open and my hand flew up to my mouth as he opened the box and revealed an exquisite diamond ring.  “I’m a bit nervous,” he admitted as he looked up at me.  “I-I’ve never done this before.”

I was almost beside myself with shock and excitement.  Tears were making him a big blur.  And the fact that he was nervous about proposing for the first time was very endearing.

“I love you, Jaleesa.  I fell in love with you the first time we met.  I noticed you the moment you walked into the living-room on the day we were celebrating Lance’s birthday.  Even though I was there with Heather, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  And the first opportunity I got, I had to ask you out but before I did, I had to make sure that you weren’t Lance’s girlfriend.  Soon after you and I got together, I broke up with Heather.  I bought this ring weeks ago and have been dying to propose to you but couldn’t find the courage until now.  And even now, I’m nervous as hell.  Jaleesa, what I’m trying to say—to ask is, will you marry me?”

“Yes!” I was blubbering now and after he slid the finger on my finger, I held his face between my hands and kissed him.  He fell back on the carpet, pulling me down on top of him.  We ended up making love in front of the sofa and celebrated our engagement with non-alcoholic wine afterwards.

Yes, life was full of surprises and unspeakable joy.

Jesse/Imagination #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Every time I walk past the mural on the street where I used to live, I stop and stare at it.  Memories of my friend, Jesse flood my mind.  He was a phenomenal artist.  I honestly think he was born to be one.  It was his passion.  It was what made him a beacon of hope for us.  He rose above his circumstances.  He created beauty in a place where violence, drugs, alcohol and crime were prevalent.  He was a light in a very dark place.  He made other kids and me want to be somebody–to pursue our dreams.

Jesse is gone.  He was taken too soon.  It wasn’t a bullet that got him or some random act of violence or drugs–he never touched the stuff.  It was HIV.  He got it from his girlfriend who got it from a guy she cheated on Jesse with.  She’s still alive but it’s only a matter of time before she dies too.  The guy she got it from died a couple of years ago.  She said that if she had known that he had it, she wouldn’t have slept with him.  Her mistake killed her and my friend, Jesse.  I have long since forgiven her for what she had done.  Hating her wouldn’t bring Jesse back.

This time, I brought a rose with me which I now place on the ground in front of the mural.  It’s for Jesse.  It’s a token of my love of a friend whose light has gone out of the world but it still illuminates my heart.

Our minds are like canvases and our imaginations are the brushstrokes.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Imagination at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Turned Upside Down/Hidden #writephoto

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Samuel Villan stood on the rocks, looking at the stream winding its way in at an unhurried pace.  This was his favorite place.  It was where he came when he wanted to think, to clear his mind and to forget…

Life had been fairly quiet and uneventful for him since Julia died.  It had been twenty years since she passed away.  They never had any children.  When, her older sister died from complications after giving birth to her son, Julia and he adopted him.  His father had been killed in the line of duty.  He was a police officer.

After Julia died, he and her nephew became close.  It was nice having him around during those tough times but now he was gone.  He had moved to London where he was living and working.  During the holidays, he would visit and they would go for long walks or sit by the fireplace and talk.  Sometimes, they played Chess.

Yes, life was relatively simple, some even, say it was dull but it was how he liked it–no stress, no complications.  That was until, she came and turned his world upside down.

It all began last year Christmas when he was expecting Colin to visit as he usually did.  This time, however, he didn’t come alone.  He brought a Nigerian girl he worked with.  The moment Samuel laid his eyes on her, he knew that he was in danger of falling in love with her.  She was stunning with eyes that were large and framed by long lashes.  Her skin was smooth and flawless.  Her hair was cut short like a boy’s but it flattered her.  Her neck was long and slender.  She moved with such grace and had a pleasant voice.  She was vivacious and the entire house seemed to come alive when she was there.  He could tell that she liked him.  She was always seeking him out and seemed to enjoy his company.  While Colin was out walking the dogs, she would remain at the manor and sit in the drawing-room with him.  He taught her how to play Chess.

One afternoon when they were alone in the drawing-room, he got up from the chair in front of the fireplace and went over to the window to look out.  She joined him.  They stood there for a while, not saying anything but were acutely aware of each other.  “Do you get lonely being here by yourself?” she asked, staring straight ahead.

“Sometimes,” he admitted.

“Would be it presumptuous of me to ask if I can visit you sometimes?”

He looked at her then.  “Do you want to?”

She looked at him and nodded.  “Yes.”

She was staring at him so intently that he felt his face grow hot.  He stood there, not knowing what to do or say.  He wanted her to visit him as often as she could but was afraid of what would happen if she did.  She ignited in him an unquenchable fire and filled him with a fierce hunger.  He never imagined that he would ever feel this way about a girl half his age.  “What about Colin?” he finally asked.  “Wouldn’t he mind you coming to see me?”

“Why would he?”

“Aren’t you and he…?”

She shook her head.  “No.  We’re just friends.”

“I thought you were his girlfriend.”

“No, I’m single–like you.”

“I’m a widower.”

“We’re both single.  We’re not seeing other people so what’s preventing us from seeing each other?”

He blinked.  He wasn’t used to such forthrightness.  It thrilled him.  It also scared him.  “Are you always this direct?”

“Sometimes.  I like you, Samuel and I know that you like me.  I think we should give us a try.”

He swallowed hard when she moved closer.  “I would like that very much,” he muttered.

She was standing right in front of him now and reaching up, she kissed him on the lips. “You’re standing under the mistletoe,” she said when she drew back.  They were both breathing heavily.

He reached for her and kissed her with all the passion that consumed him.  Their moment was interrupted several minutes later by the sound of barking and Colin’s voice.  That night, they continued where they left off when he went to her room.

He ran his fingers through his hair now as he stood there by the stream.  For twenty years, he had lived a life of solitude, interrupted by Colin’s yearly visits but now, here, he was, the happiest he had ever been.  Yes, life was exciting and wonderful now that she was in it.  He turned now as she joined him.  He smiled and putting his arm around her shoulder, he drew her to him.  She slipped her arm around his waist and rested her head against him.  “How are you feeling?” he asked.

She placed her hand on her swollen stomach.  “Extremely happy,” she replied.  In seven months, they were going to have their first child.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, love comes along and turns your world upside down – Notes to Women

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Hidden at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Why He Married Her

Lindsey was leaving the drugstore when she ran into Alicia, a former university classmate and Alton’s ex-girlfriend.  The stunning blonde gave her a nasty look.

“Well, if it isn’t the expectant mother.” she said.  Her eyes dropped to Lindsey’s midriff.

Lindsey didn’t answer.  Of all the people she could have run into, why did it have to be her?

Alicia’s gaze returned to Lindsey’s face.  Jealousy and resentment flashed in her green eyes.  “You know why he married you, don’t you?” she asked.  “It isn’t because he loves you.  You got pregnant and he wanted to do the honorable thing.”

“I really don’t have to stand here and listen to this,” Lindsey said and brushed past her, seething.  On the drive home, she fumed.  She turned on the radio and to a Christian station.  Gospel music filled the car.  It helped to calm her down.

When she got in, she went straight to the kitchen to fix herself something to eat.  She was hungry.  She carried the large plate of wild rice, stew Chicken, veggies and potatoes, with salad on the side into the living-room.  She settled comfortably in the sofa and ate as she watched reruns of Downton Abbey.  When she was finished eating, she got up and put the dirty dishes into the Dish washer, had a tall glass of milk and then went back to the living-room.  She relaxed on the sofa with her feet on the coffee table.

A couple of hours later, she read her Bible, made dinner and then took a nap.  When she woke up, it was six o’clock.  Alton would be home at any minute.  She got up, took a shower, fixed her hair and went downstairs.  She heated dinner and then laid it out on the table in the dining-room.  Just as she put the glasses of Cranberry Juice on the table, she heard the key turn in the lock.  She left the dining-room and went into the foyer.  The door opened and Alton went in.  He smiled when he saw her.  After he closed and locked the door, he greeted her, “Hello, Sweetheart.”  He hugged and kissed her, thankful to be home.  “How was your day?”

“The usual,” she replied, helping him to remove his jacket.  “I went to the drugstore to pick up the Materna.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine.  The morning sickness isn’t as so bad anymore.  How was your day?”

“Busy as usual.  It’s great to be home.  Something smells really good.”

She took his hand and led him to the dining-room.  “I thought we’d eat in here for a change,” she said.  Usually, they ate in the kitchen.  “I’ll be right back.”  She went and got a pair of candles and placed them on the table.  After she lit them, they sat down.  He said Grace and then they tucked into the Beef and Parmesan Pasta. 

Over dinner, they talked about his day, the plans his company had that would bring in even more revenue which meant that they would be able to buy a house outside of the city.  As she listened to him talk, her mind alighted on her run in with Alicia.  She wondered if she should mention it.  No, she decided that then wasn’t the right time.  She didn’t want to spoil their evening.  She would tell him later.  The nagging doubts rose to the surface but she pushed them away.

After he helped her to clear the table, he went to take a shower while she loaded the dishwasher.  She was in the living-room when he joined her.  He was wearing just a pajama pants.  It was during the summer.  He sat next to her and rested his arm along the back of the sofa.  They watched a couple of movies and then called it a night.

He was in and out of the bathroom quickly while she stayed a while longer.  After she wiped the top of the sink she switched off the light and went into the bedroom.  He was lying under the covers.  He rolled over unto his side when he heard her but when she stood there watching him, he asked, “Aren’t you coming to bed.”

“In a minute,” she answered.

He sat up, frowning.  “What’s the matter, Lin?”

“I ran into Alicia this morning.”

He grimaced.  “What happened?”

Lindsey told him.  “Is this why you married me?” she asked, placing her hand on her swollen abdomen.

Alton threw back the covers and climbed out of the bed.  He went over to her, towering over her as she stood there, in the black vest and silk pajama shorts.  He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until she was looking up at him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “You should know by now why I married you,” he said quietly.

She swallowed.  “Maybe I need for you to tell me,” she replied.

“I love you, Lin,” he confessed.  “I would have married you even if you hadn’t gotten pregnant.  Alicia’s bitter because I broke up with her long before I met you.  She wants to ruin our relationship.  Don’t let her.  She knows I married you because I love you.”

“I’m sorry,” Lindsey mumbled.  “I had my doubts and she just played on them.  I guess I never could get over the fact that a guy like you would be interested in me.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “You’re the most beautiful and desirable woman I know.  The first time I saw you, I knew that I was in trouble.  As you recall, I didn’t waste anytime introducing myself to you and asking you out.  I fell hard for you and was planning to ask you to marry me when you told me that you were pregnant.  I was on top of the world, Lin.  Didn’t you ever wonder how was able to put a ring on your finger the same night as your announcement?”

She nodded.  And at that moment, she felt like a complete fool.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized again, lowering her eyes.

“Oh, Lindsey,” Alton muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him as she kissed him back.  As they exchanged passionate kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

He laid her gently down and stretched out beside her.  Lying on his side, he gazed down into her face, his face flushed.  “You wanted me to say that I love you,” he murmured huskily.  “Now, I’m going to show you how much.”  He lowered his head and she reached up and clutched his head.

“I love you,” she whispered just before their lips touched.

 

Love is a Storm

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.”

“Jasper…”

“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.”

“Raina…”

“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.

“Thank you.”

“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?”

“He left.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.  We had a terrific time, he brought me home, we said goodbye and he left.”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“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

Guarded

Marisa was sitting in the armchair in the drawing-room, waiting for Ewan when his older brother, Reed walked in.  Immediately, her heart and pulse began to race.  He wasn’t handsome like Ewan but his virility and sophistication made him more attractive.  She remembered Ewan telling her that most of the women he dated ended up falling for Reed and the first time she met him, she could see why.

I’m not immune, she thought now as she watched him walk over to the window and look out.  She liked the way he moved–like a jaguar.  He looked amazing in the expensive grey suit, matching tie and white shirt.   His dark brown hair was neatly in place as usual.  As he stood there, with his chiseled looks, she thought that he could have been a model.

He turned suddenly, startling her.  They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity before he walked over where she sat and stood above her, making her really nervous.  This close, he was even more devastating and he smelled good too.  “I’m waiting for Ewan,” she said to break the silence.  She sounded a little breathless.  Maybe that was because of the way he was looking at her.  She knew she looked great in the black cocktail dress with the spaghetti straps.  It reached just below her knees but had ridden up a bit as she was sitting down, exposing her legs where she saw his gaze linger for a moment before returning to her face which felt hot.

“My brother’s a very lucky man,” he muttered.  There was envy and something else lurking on his face.  It was the something else that made her heart skip a beat.  “So, where is he taking you tonight?”

“We-we’re going for dinner at a new Spanish restaurant and then dancing afterwards.”

“He’d better watch out for other men.  They won’t be able to take their eyes off you.”  He was staring at her intensely and she could feel the tension between them.  It was so palpable.  She knew that if he were to touch her now, she wouldn’t be able to resist…

“Reed, Darling, I’ve been looking all over for you.”  It was Imogen.  She sailed into the room, looking glamorous in a lilac pants suit which flattered her figure.  Her shoulder length chestnut hair fell in thick, luxuriant waves about her heart shaped face.  She threw her arms around Reed and hugged him for several minutes before she drew back.  It was then that she noticed Marisa who had gotten up from the chair.  Her green eyes narrowed and her lips pursed in disdain, her gaze critical as it swept over her.  She turned to Reed.  “And who is this?”

“Marisa.”

“Another one of your conquests?” she inquired.  She sounded jealous.

“She’s Ewan’s girlfriend,” Reed informed her.

Marisa stared at him.  He thinks I’m Ewan’s girlfriend.  Why would he think that?

“That’s a relief,” Imogen said and turning her back on Marisa, she put her arms around Reed’s neck and kissed him on the lips.

Marisa turned away, seething with jealousy.  Why is he standing there, letting her kiss him?  

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Ewan apologized as he walked into the room.  “Oh, I see you’ve found him, Imogen.”

“Yes,” she said, turning to face him as she slipped her arm through Reed’s.  She was sticking to him like glue.  “This was the first place I had looked but it was empty at the time.  And then I was heading outside when I passed by here and saw him.  I thought he was alone.”  Her gaze shifted to Marisa, unable to hide her displeasure.

Marisa hurried over to Ewan and hooked her arm through his.  “Ready?” she asked.  She just wanted to get out of there.  She couldn’t stand seeing Reed with Imogen any longer.  It was frustrating.  I know he’s attracted to me and yet, he wasn’t rejecting Imogen’s advances.  Why?  Maybe he was still attracted to her.  Ewan had mentioned that they used to be in a relationship.  The thought of Reed still being attracted to his old flame distressed her.

Ewan nodded.  “Yes, let’s go.”  He looked at the other two.  “Have a good evening, you two.”  Then, Marisa and he left the room.

As soon as they were gone, Reed extricated his arm from Imogen’s hold and walked over to the window.  He stood there, gazing down into the courtyard.  He leaned against the window seat, his palms resting on it as he watched for them to appear.  Ewan’s Bentley was parked there.

“What are you looking at so intently?” Imogen asked and then she joined him.  At that moment, Ewan and Marisa were walking to the car.  She watched as he held the door for her.  After he shut it, he walked round to the driver’s side.  He paused and glanced up.  He waved at them before getting into the car.  A few minutes later, it was speeding down the winding driveway.

Imogen looked at Reed.  He was still looking in the direction of the car which was no longer in sight, his expression inscrutable.  “You’re attracted to that girl, aren’t you?” she said, breaking the silence.  “I saw the way you looked at her.  It bothers you that she’s with Ewan, doesn’t it?”

Reed straightened up and turned towards her.  It was no use denying it.  “You’re right.  I’m attracted to her and it kills me to see her with him.”

Her face grew pale.  “It’s more serious than I thought,” she replied.  “You’re not just attracted to her, you’re in love with her.”

A muscle began to throb along his jawline and he ran his fingers through his hair, his expression taut.  “Rather foolish of me, isn’t it–to fall in love with my brother’s girlfriend.”  He moved away from the window and started towards the door.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“For a walk.”

“May I join you?”

“I’m sorry, Imogen but, I’d rather be alone.”  He walked out of the room, leaving her standing there, bereft.

A week later when Marisa had just come out of the tube and was heading towards her flat when she heard someone call her name.  She turned and surprised to see Imogen hurrying towards her.  What does she want?  Trying not to show her annoyance, she stood aside and waited for the other woman to catch up to her.  “I’d like a word with you,” Imogen told her.

“I’m actually in a hurry,” Marisa told her.  The last thing she wanted was to talk to this woman who made it very obvious that she didn’t like her.

“This won’t take long,” Imogen replied.  “It’s about Reed.”

Marisa frowned.  “What about him?”

“Before I answer that, let me ask you a question.  Is it serious between Ewan and you?”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

“It is when it concerns Reed.”

“How does it concern him?”

“It bothers him that you’re with Ewan.”

“It does?  Why?”

“Believe it or not, he’s in love with you.”

Marisa’s mouth dropped open.  “He’s in love with me?”

“Yes!  And he’s beating himself up about it because of your relationship with Ewan.”

“My relationship with Ewan?”

“You’re his girlfriend, aren’t you?”

Marisa shook her head.  She was in a daze.  Reed was in love with her?  “No, I’m not Ewan’s girlfriend.  We-we’re just friends.  Did Reed really tell you that he was in love with me?”

“Yes and it was like a knife turning in my stomach because I want Reed.  Right now I want to scratch your eyes out but what good would that do me?  You’re the one he wants.  You’re the one he’s in love with.”  Her gaze swept over Marisa contemptuously.  “I never once imagined that a man like Reed would fall in love with someone like you.”

Marisa’s mouth tightened.  “Clearly you didn’t know him as well as you thought you did.  Excuse me.”  She turned and walked briskly away, fuming.

It was almost nine o’clock when Reed went into the living-room and stood at the window, looking out at the flickering lights in the distance.  She was out there somewhere, he thought.  Was she alone or was she with Ewan?  He closed his eyes at the thought, the jealousy almost suffocating him.  He had to get her out of his mind, his thoughts, his system–the ringing of the doorbell startled him.  He hoped it wasn’t Imogen.  He was really not in the mood to deal with her right now.

He went to answer the door and was surprised when he saw Marisa standing there.  Unable to help himself, his eyes traveled over her, thinking how good she looked in the off the shoulder print summer dress.  And her legs…His eyes darted back up to her face. “What are you doing here?” he asked tightly.  “Are you here to remind me of what I can’t have?”

“I’m here to set things straight,” she informed him.  She tried to appear calm but her heart was pounding.  He looked so good in that white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck and the jeans which hugged his narrow hips and muscular thighs.  She wanted to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him so badly.

He stepped aside so that she could go inside and closed the door behind her.  They stood in the foyer facing each other.  He leaned against the door with his arms folded, trying to appear nonchalant when his heart was racing and his body was aching for her.

“Does Ewan know that you’re here?”

“Yes, he does.”

“And it doesn’t bother him?”

“Why should it?”

His expression changed and he lowered his eyes so that she wouldn’t see the pain in them.  “You’re right,” he muttered tautly.  “He has nothing to worry about where you and I are concerned, does he?  He can trust you implicitly even though you’re alone with a man who wants you.”

“You want me?”

He raised his eyes to look at her.  “You know I do,” he replied.  “I let my guard down that day in the drawing-room before Imogen walked in.  I couldn’t hide my attraction for you from her.”

“Is there something going on between you and her?”

He shook his head.  “No.  We’re just friends.”

“It’s very obvious from the way she kissed you last week Saturday in the drawing-room that she wants to be more than friends.  And you just stood there and let her.”

He studied her.  “It was a harmless display of affection.”

A harmless display of affection?  She was practically throwing herself at you.  It makes me wonder how far she would have gone if I hadn’t been there.”

“Is that why you’re here now, Marisa?  Did you come to rake me over coals because of Imogen?  Don’t you think you’re being rather presumptuous, considering that Ewan is the one you’re involved with and not me?”

“I’m not involved with Ewan,” she was quick to correct him.  “He and I are just friends.”

“Just friends?” he exclaimed.  “I thought you and he were…”

“No, we’re just friends.  We go out sometimes but as friends, nothing more.  As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of setting him up with my co-worker, Ginny.  I think they’d hit it off.”

“So, there’s nothing between Ewan and you?” He wanted to be dead certain before he did anything.

She shook her head.  “No.  That’s why I came tonight. I wanted to set the record straight.  I don’t want you to continue thinking that I’m Ewan’s girlfriend when I’m in love with you and—” The rest of her words were smothered beneath his lips.  It had happened so quickly.  One minute they were standing apart and the next, she was in his arms and he was kissing her.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

They kissed for a while before he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face and confessed, “I love you.  I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you.”

She smiled.  “I never would have guessed,” she teased.  “You were so standoffish with me.”

“I had to be on my guard.  I didn’t want anyone to know how I felt about you, least of all, you.”

“Well, I’m happy that you don’t have to be on your guard anymore.”

“Me too” he agreed before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She gasped against his lips when he swept her off her feet and carried her to his room.

A year later, they got married.  Ewan was the best man.  Not surprisingly, Imogen didn’t attend the wedding although she was invited.

 

 

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