Each Other’s World

On Friday morning as Taliyah took the lift up to her workplace, her stomach churned nervously.  She wondered if she would get the same frigid treatment she got from Dax yesterday.  It was evident after he returned from a business lunch and she went to his office to give him a file to go through at his leisure.  He seemed very detached and she had no clue why.  Every time she tried to talk to him about it, they were interrupted.   At the end of the day, she lingered, hoping to speak to him but he was gone for a long time and she had to leave.  She called him at his home but the machine picked up and his cell was turned off.  Was he out or was he ignoring her calls?

Was this the brush off?  Had he lost interest in her?  Was he planning to end their relationship?  But, it didn’t make any sense to her, especially not after Wednesday night when he was at her place.  She trembled now as she remembered their lovemaking.  It was steamy and explosive.  And now things were frosty between them.

The lift stopped and the doors opened.  She stepped out and forced a smile for Belinda, the receptionist who greeted her as she walked past.  As she approached her cubicle, she saw Dax standing at the doorway of his office and her heart began to pound heavily.  He glanced up as she approached and their eyes met.  She saw something flicker in his before he turned and went back into his office.  Not a smile or a word of greeting, she thought, feeling hurt.

She went to her desk and got settled in.  After checking phone messages and emails, she went to fix herself a cup of hot chocolate and was on her way back to her desk, when Dax stepped outside of his office.

“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.  His eyes traveled over her in the black jacket, top and jeans.  It was casual Friday.  She looked amazing.  Desire coursed through him like a fever.  Muscle throbbing along his jawline, he turned and walked briskly away, his back rod straight.

She set her mug on the desk and then went to his office.  He was standing at the window, looking out.  He heard her go in but didn’t turn around.  After closing the door behind her, she joined him.  It was flurrying outside.  She stared at his profile, her pulse racing.  How she longed to reach out and touch him.  She loved him so much it ached.  “I missed you last night,” she said huskily.

He turned toward her then, his cold demeanor belied the emotions that were raging inside him.  “Did you?” he asked tautly.

She frowned.  “Of course, I did.  I called for you because I wanted you to come over.  I was hoping that we could enjoy a quiet and romantic evening together.”

His hands tightened into fists as he struggled to stay calm.  “You must really take me for a fool,” he muttered tightly.

She looked at him, stunned.  “Why do you say that?”

“Wednesday after I left your place, I was on my way home when I realized that I didn’t have my cell.  So, I came back to get it and saw you with him.  Who is he, Taliyah?”

She swallowed hard.  “Dax, please let me explain—”

“Explain what?” he demanded angrily, his eyes stormy as they met hers.  “What is there to explain?  You waited until I left and then you invited your other lover over.”

Flabbergasted, she exclaimed, “I don’t have another lover.”

“I saw you hug him before letting him into your place.  Did he spend the night?”

“No,” she protested.  “Dax, you’re wrong about Mark and me–”

“Mark?” he hissed.  The mere mention of the other man’s name made his blood boil.  Red, hot jealousy consumed him and it took every ounce of his will power to keep his anger in check.  “While you and he were inside, I stood out there in the hallway for a while and then I left.  It was after twelve when I finally got home.  I couldn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned, thinking about you and him.”

She moved closer to him.  “Dax…”

“You have to make a choice, Taliyah.  It’s either him or me.  You can’t have both of us.”

“Dax, Mark and I aren’t lovers.  He’s my friend–that’s all.  He suffers from depression and last night, he needed to talk.  We spent hours just talking.  I offered to help him to find a doctor or therapist and to go with him on the first visit.”

Dax could see that she was telling the truth and he calmed down.  He reached for her and pulled her against him.  “I’m sorry to hear that your friend Mark is suffering from depression,” he said.  “It’s good that he had you to talk to and that you’re encouraging him to get the help he needs.  And I’m sorry that I acted like such a jerk.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I would have reacted the same way too if I had seen you let another woman into your flat,” she told him.

“You don’t have to worry about any woman showing up at my flat for any reason.  Now, regarding your friend, Mark, I know you want to help him, but remember, you can only do so much.  You have your own your own health to think about.  You don’t want it to suffer because of Mark’s depression.”

“I promise to set boundaries.  I don’t want my friendship with him or my desire to help him to affect my relationship with you.  You are my world, Dax, and I love you so much.”

His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  “And you are my life. My world. My love. My everything,” he declared before he lowered his head and kissed her.  They kissed for a long time before he raised his head, his face slightly flushed.  “My place later?” he asked.

She nodded with a smile.  “Yes.”

 

Sources:  Help Guide; Ali Express; Lovable Quote

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Free/Pillars #writephoto

pillars

Photo by Sue Vincent

“Mr.  Johnson, how does it feel to be a free man after spending twenty-five years in jail?” a reporter asked Leroy Johnson as he stood in front of the courthouse with its massive pillars.  His mother was beside him.

He looked around at the sea of reporters with their mikes shoved in his face and the flashing cameras and smiled.  “It feels great!” he exclaimed.

Leroy was freed after spending twenty-five years of his life behind bars convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.  He was a free man now thanks to a couple of law students who examined the questionable circumstances surrounding his conviction and got his case opened.    Malcolm Holder, the real killer confessed to the killing.

“Do you feel any resentment toward Malcolm Holder?”

Leroy shook his head.  “Why should I feel resentment toward him?  He came forward and confessed to the killing twice.  The first time he did it was a couple of days after the shooting but he wasn’t arrested.  He tried to do the right thing but nobody listened.  They arrested me instead, an innocent man and sentenced me to forty years in jail with no chance of parole before 2029.”

“Is there anything you want to say to him?”

“Nothing except, that he did the right thing coming forward.”

“Mrs.  Johnson, how does it feel to have your son back?”

Mrs. Johnson smiled.  “It feels wonderful,” she replied.  “After twenty-five years, the Lord finally answered my prayers.  My son is a free man now.”

“Mr.  Johnson, what do you plan to do now that you’re free?”

He put his arm around his mother’s shoulders.  “I’m not thinking that far ahead but right now, I’m taking my Mama to lunch.”

I was inspired to write this story after hearing about the New York prisoner, Valentino Dixon whose conviction was overturned because of an investigation Golf Digest’s Max Adler helped to open.  Valentino was accused of shooting a man back in 1991.  He was arrested and convicted even though the real killer, Lamarr Scott admitted to local media just days after the murder that he shot Torriano Jackson but, he was never arrested.  To read the story, visit here.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Pillars at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources:  USA Today; Bossip

Buenos Aires

Ayana sat there staring at the computer screen, still reeling from her run in with Inga, Rolf’s girlfriend a few hours ago in the parking lot.  The unpleasant incident happened when she was on her way to meet a friend for lunch.  She was about to open the car door when she heard someone yell her name and turned to see Inga marching toward her.  Startled, she stood there, wondering what the blonde wanted with her and why she looked so livid.

When she reached her, she said rather nastily, “Is it because you don’t have a man of your own that you’re trying to move in on mine?”

It took a few minutes for Ayana to recover from her surprise.  Why would she make such an assumption?  “I’m not trying to move in on Rolf,” she said finally.  “He and I work together, that’s all—”

“Since when does work include the two of you flying off to Argentina?”

“Our trip to Buenos Aires is purely business, Inga.  I’m Rolf’s secretary so I have to go with him.”

“You expect me to believe that you and he are going to work all the time you’re there?  What about at nights when you don’t have any meetings?  What will you do then?”

Ayana shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“I can’t imagine that you would be eating alone.  Knowing Rolf, he will invite you to join him for dinner.  My concern is what will happen after dinner.”

“Inga, you don’t have anything to worry about.  Rolf and I have been working together for about four years now and nothing has ever happened between us.  Besides, you’re mistaken about me not having a man of my own.”

“You have a boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“But, Rolf said that you didn’t—”

“Well, I just started dating him.  Rolf doesn’t know about him.”

“And it sounds like you don’t want him to.”

“I don’t see why it should be any concern of his.  We just work together.”

Inga studied her for a few minutes.  “Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s strictly business between the two of you.  And I won’t say anything to him about your boyfriend.  And you won’t say anything to him about our little conversation.”

“He won’t hear about this from me,” Ayana promised.  She just wanted to get out of there.  She had never been accosted by a jealous woman before and it was very unsettling.

“Good.”  Inga looked her over, her expression one of disdain before she turned and walked away.

Ayana quickly opened her door and got into the car.  She started the engine and drove off.  Her head and heart were pounding.  She hated confrontations.  Fortunately, no one had observed them.  Why did Inga think that she had designs on Rolf?  Did she sense that she had feelings for Rolf?  How could she not?  Rolf was an extremely attractive man.  No woman could resist him. Just thinking about him now made her pulse race.  There were times when they were alone in his office, working and she could hardly concentrate because she was painfully aware of him.

While he was poring over some papers, she would sneak a peek at him, noting the way, he furrowed his brow when he was concentrating.  His hair would fall rakishly across his forehead making her ache to brush the strands back.  He would remove his jacket and tie and loosen the top buttons of his shirt.  Underneath the shirt sleeves she could see the chiseled muscles of his arms.  She wanted to reach out and touch them.  The smell of his aftershave tantalized her senses and his eyes when he looked at her made her heart flutter.  And when he absentmindedly stroked his jaw as he focused, she found herself imagining what it would be like to have those long fingers caressing her face.

Sighing now as she sat in her cubicle, Ayana had to admit that Inga had every reason to distrust her.  She had lied to her about having a boyfriend.  She wasn’t dating anyone.  None of the men out there or in the office interested her.  She was stuck on Rolf, which was unfortunate for her.  How was she going to manage being in Buenos Aires with him for twelve days?  They were to leave tomorrow night and arrive in Buenos Aires the following morning.  The flight was over ten hours long.  What were they going to talk about?  Should she take a novel?  How could she read, though with him there?  Her head was beginning to hurt from all of these questions and she rubbed her temple.

Just then her phone rang, startling her.  She glanced at the display.  It was Rolf.  She quickly picked up the receiver.  “Yes, Rolf.”

“Do you have a minute?”

“Yes.  I’m on my way.”  She hung up and got up from her desk.

He was putting on his jacket when she went into his office.  “I’m heading out now,” he informed her.  “I have errands to run.  Are you all set for tomorrow?”

She nodded.  “I have the plane tickets, the files we will need and the itinerary for each day.  Was there anything else you needed me to take care of?”

He glanced around before shaking his head.  “No, I think we’re good.  I will pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll be waiting in the lobby.”

“See you tomorrow evening.”  He grabbed his briefcase and preceded her out of the office.

She went back to her cubicle to finish up some work.  The next few hours went by quickly and soon it was time to go home.  After showering and having dinner, she made sure she had packed everything she needed, including the new outfits she had bought earlier in the week.   When she was finished, she watched the News and then went to bed.

The following day went quickly and soon it was time to go to the airport.  She quickly showered, got dressed in a pair of dressy jeans, a red blouse and a denim jacket.  She was ready and waiting outside on the steps leading to the front entrance of her building when the company car pulled up and the chauffeur went round to the trunk to open it.  She wheeled her luggage over and he hoisted it into the back along with her carry-on.  She thanked him as he held the passenger door open for her to climb in beside Rolf who looked very attractive in the black shirt and grey slacks.

She saw his eyes flicker over her before he smiled.  “Excited about going to Buenos Aires?” he asked as the car drove off.

“It’s the first place I’ve been to outside of the United States,” she told him.  “I’m a little nervous, I guess.”

He reached out and gently squeezed her hand, making her heart skip a beat.  “There’s nothing to be nervous about,” he assured her.  “I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Have you ever been there before?”

“No, but I’ve heard great things about it.  A female friend of mine who has been there said that it’s a city that is alive and sexy and gets under your skin.”

“Sounds exciting,” she remarked.  Her heart was racing now because he was still holding her hand.

“It does,” he agreed, withdrawing his hand.  “I hope you brought a camera because we will have time for some sightseeing.”

“I did,” she said.  And she brought a book to read as well.  It turned out that she didn’t need it.  They talked and then she watched a movie while he looked over some papers.  It was just after mid-night when she went to sleep.

Buenos Aires was beautiful.  She loved the colorful buildings mixed in with the faded European grandeur.  She stared out of the window of the taxi, her eyes drinking in the sights.  Their hotel was located in the most stylish neighborhood of La Recoleta and surrounded by the best city´s restaurants and shops.  After they checked in, they went up to their rooms.  “We have time to unwind, shower and go over some notes before the meeting,” Rolf told her as they rode the elevator.  “I’ll meet you by the front desk.”

“All right.”  She couldn’t wait to shower and change.  It was going to be a long day.    Her room was bright and spacious.  The bed looked so good that she wanted to throw herself on it.  Instead, she took out what she was going to wear, stood for a moment, looking out the sliding doors at the buildings opposite before going into the bathroom to undress and take a long, hot shower.  Rolf wasn’t by the front desk when she went down but a very handsome young man was there.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Buenos dias,” he said.

“Buenos dias,” she replied.  “I’m afraid I don’t speak much Spanish.”

“That’s okay.  Most people who come here don’t.  My name is Ramon.”

“Ayana.”

“Is this your first time to Buenos Aires?”

“Yes.  On my way over here, I saw a little of the city and it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is a very beautiful city.”

Just then the elevator doors opened and Rolf stepped out.  She turned to Ramon, “Excuse me, Ramon.”

“It was nice meeting you, Ayana.”

“It was nice meeting you too, Ramon.”

She walked away and joined Rolf.  They had breakfast and then they went through the papers until it was time for the meetings.  The day went quickly.  The attendees were from Europe, America and Asia.  They were about two women in attendance.  During the breaks, she spoke with them.  Annette, the one from Cleveland nudged her saying, “You have a very attractive boss.  Is he married?”  She herself was married and had three children.

Ayana shook her head.  “No.  He has a girlfriend, though.”

“Too bad.  I think you and he would have made a very nice couple.”

Ayana didn’t answer.  She just smiled.  Over the next couple of days, when they had spare time, Rolf and she went sightseeing.  She loved Buenos Aires and hoped that she would visit it again someday.   The days went by very quickly and it was their last evening before they flew back to New York in the morning.  Tonight, Rolf was taking her for dinner at a popular restaurant where they would be treated to a Tango show.

After she finished getting ready, she went downstairs to the lobby to wait for Rolf.  Ramon was on duty and he smiled broadly when she walked over to the reception desk to give him her key.  “Buenos noches, Ayana.” he greeted her, his dark brown eyes traveling appreciatively over her figure in the black cocktail dress.

“Buenos noches, Ramon.”

“The man you’re with, is his your boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No, he’s my boss.  We’re here on business.”

Ramon smiled.  “Bueno.  Then, he won’t mind if I took you dancing later.  I can teach you the tango, if you like.”

He was very nice man but she wasn’t interested in him.  Smiling apologetically, she said, “I’m sorry, Ramon but I can’t go dancing with you tonight.  I already have plans.”

“What about tomorrow night?”

She opened her mouth to tell him that she was leaving in the morning when Rolf joined them.  He looked at her and then at Ramon who said to him, “Your taxi is waiting outside, Senor.”

“Thank you.”  Rolf handed him his key and then turned to Ayana.  “Are you ready?” he asked abruptly.

“Yes.  Goodnight, Ramon.”

“Goodnight, Ayana.”

She didn’t notice Rolf grimace but when he started to walk away, she followed him.

He held the door open for her and when she climbed into the back, she caught a whiff of his cologne.  After he got in and told the driver where they were going, he leaned back in the seat.  For several minutes neither of them said anything.  They were both looking out of the window.  Then, she heard him say, “You and the guy at reception seem to be on very friendly terms.”

She looked at him but his head was still turned toward the window. “Ramon is a really nice guy.  Very friendly.”

“A little too friendly,” he replied.  “Tonight wasn’t the first time I’ve seen him flirting with you.”

“He wasn’t flirting with me.  He was just being friendly.”

“I saw the way he was looking at you, Ayana.  He wants to be more than friends.”

“Well, he invited me to go dancing with him tonight but I told him that I already had plans.”

Rolf looked at her then.  “If you and I weren’t going to dinner and a show, would you have gone dancing with him?”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I wouldn’t have.  I like Ramon but I’m not interested in him.”

“Is there someone you’re interested in, Ayana?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, but you’re already in a relationship.”

He reached for her hand, making her heart leap in her chest.  “I ended my relationship with Inga last year.”

Ayana stared at him.  “Last year?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”

“No, I didn’t.  When I saw her in the parking lot on the day before we flew out, she made it sound like you were still seeing each other.”

“You saw her in the parking lot?”

Ayana told him what happened.  “To diffuse the situation, I told her that I had a boyfriend,” she concluded.

“I’m sorry that you had such a nasty run in with her.”

“She heard about our trip to Buenos Aires and jumped to conclusions.”

“I wonder how she found out about it.  I will have a word with her when we return.  I don’t want her accosting you anymore.”

“I have to admit that it was very unnerving.”

“Let’s not think about the incident any more.  It’s our last evening in Buenos Aires. Let’s enjoy every moment.”

She nodded.  “Yes, let’s enjoy every moment.”

He raised her hand to his lips.  “And I hope that tonight will be the first of many enjoyable nights you and I will spend together.”

The brush of his lips against her hand made her pulse race and her stomach flip flop. Yes, the evening was off to a very exciting start.

 

Sources:  Smart Meetings; Prokerala; Four Seasons; CTrip

 

Luis

Nichelle watched Luis as he sat at a table by the window of a Tapas restaurant having lunch with a very beautiful woman.  She had thick black hair and olive skin.  Who is she and what is he doing with her? she wondered jealously.  She wanted to go over there and find out but she didn’t want to make a fool of herself.  Instead, she grabbed the takeout and quickly walked out.

All the way back to the office, she fumed.  Was he playing her?  Didn’t last night mean anything to him?  It was the first time they made love since they met last month and it had been explosive.  She felt her body react as she had flashbacks.  He was like a wild animal.  And afterwards, they lay spent, arms and legs wrapped around each other.

When she woke up this morning, he had already left but on the kitchen table was a covered plate.  When she lifted the lid, it was a Spanish Omelet.  It was hot and delicious.  She finished it in no time and washed it down with a cup of hot chocolate.  He was an excellent cook and it warmed her heart that he had taken the time to make breakfast for her.  Wasn’t that an indicator that he had feelings for her?  If that’s the case, why was he having lunch with another woman? a traitorous voice inquired.

The take out sat unopened on her desk as she didn’t have an appetite because she was so upset.  The tears threatened to come but she blinked them back, determined not to lose it at work.  There would be plenty of time to break down and let the tears flow like the rapids when she got home later.

Somehow, she managed to get through the rest of the afternoon but as soon as it was five o’ clock, she packed up and was out of the office like a flash.  She turned the radio in her car but turned it off immediately when she heard a slow jam she and Luis had danced to when they went to a nightclub on their fourth date.  Things had gotten hot and heavy between them on the dance-floor.  She was acutely aware of him.  Their bodies were touching.  The smell of his aftershave filled her nostrils and his hand pressed into the small of her back as they moved to the music.

When the music ended, they walked back to the table, his hand around her waist.  She noticed the admiring glances several woman tossed his way but he seemed oblivious to them.  And when he took her home, he gazed down at her, his dark eyes searing her before he bent his head and kissed her.  His lips moved hungrily on hers, making her head spin and her knees go weak.  She clung to him, her fingers gripping the sleeves of his jacket as she responded feverishly to his kisses.  And then, he broke it off, breathing heavily, his eyes smoldering with desire.  “I’d better leave,” he panted, releasing her.

She stared at him, bereft, longing for him to take her in his arms again but he was stepping away, his hands clenched into tight fists at his sides as though he were trying to control his emotions.  “All right,” she said, unable to hide the disappointment on her face.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said before he turned and walked away.

She closed the door and leaned against it, frustrated.  After she took a cold shower, she went to bed.

Now, she was frustrated but for a totally different reason.  She let herself into her flat and headed straight for the bathroom where she took a hot shower.  After donning a pair of pajamas, she was about to fix herself a salad when the doorbell rang.  Sighing she left the kitchen and walked to the foyer.  She really wasn’t in the mood for company.  She peered through the keyhole, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was Luis.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.  He looked so good in the white silk shirt which accentuated his swarthy complexion and the jaded jeans which hugged his narrow hips and muscular thighs.  His hair, dark as a raven was slightly tousled.  How she longed to run her fingers through its soft thickness.  Focus, she chided herself.  Don’t get distracted.  She opened the door wider for him to go in.

He was smiling but when he saw her expression, the smile faded.  “What’s the matter?” he asked after she locked the door and turned to face him.  He reached for her but she moved away.

“Let’s go into the living-room,” she suggested and started walking towards it.  He followed her, looking perplexed.  “Before I tell you what’s on my mind, I wanted to thank you for breakfast this morning.”

“Did you enjoy the omelet?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I enjoyed it very much.  You’re an excellent cook.”

“I learned from my mother.  What’s wrong, Nichelle?  You won’t let me touch you and you’re avoiding my gaze.”

She hoped she could get through this without making a fool of herself.  “Luis, are you seeing another woman?” she asked and saw his bewildered look.

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not seeing another woman,” he replied.  “Why would you think that?”

“I-I saw you today having lunch with a beautiful dark-haired woman at the Tapas restaurant.  Who was she?”

He looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, “You’re referring to Consuela.”

“Consuela?  What is she to you?”

He studied her closely now.  “You’re jealous,” he concluded.

She raised her chin, her eyes flashing at him.  “You haven’t answered my question.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, his features relaxed now.  “Consuela is my sister.”

She stared at him, thinking she must be hearing things.  “Your sister?” she repeated.

He nodded.  “Yes.  Consuela is my younger sister.  She invited me to have lunch with her today because it has been a while since we’ve seen each other.”

“When I saw the two of you together, it never occurred to me that she was your sister.  I thought…”

“You thought that I was two-timing you.”

She nodded, her eyes downcast.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

He reached out and pulled her towards him.  “Nichelle, look at me.”

She raised her eyes to his face and trembled when she saw his expression.

“I thought I had made my feelings for you very clear last night and this morning but I guess I was wrong.  Would you like me to spell them out for you?”

She nodded.

“I love you, Nichelle,” he muttered thickly, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.   “I love you so much.”

Her heart was racing now and her eyes were brimming with tears as they met his.  “I love you too,” she cried and gasped when his mouth covered hers in a passionate kiss.  She put her arms around his neck as he picked her up and carried her to her room where they spent the next several hours.  It was after mid-night when they emerged to enjoy a late but very light dinner which he quickly prepared while she made the salad.  They toasted to their future.

It wasn’t until she took the last sip of the wine when she felt something touch her lips.  Startled, looked into the glass and her eyes widened when she saw what looked like a ring.  She reached in and took it out.  It was an exquisite ring with a heart shaped diamond.  She looked at Luis who was grinning.  “I slipped it in when you weren’t looking,” he said.

She brushed aside the tears.  “It would have served you right if I’d swallowed it,” she scolded him.  She looked at the ring again.  “It’s beautiful.”

“It would look even more beautiful on your hand,” he said and he took it from her.  Getting down on his knee, he took her left hand in his.  “Nichelle, will you marry me?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Luis.”

He slipped the ring on her finger before he raised her hand to his lips.  “You’ve just made me a very happy man,” he murmured softly before he rose to his feet and resumed his seat.  “More wine?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

True love doesn’t have a happy ending, because true love never ends.

 

 

Dating Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She looked at Joe.  “Well, I–”

“Yes, she’ll be joining us.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what am I?  Chopped liver?”

“You’re very cute but–”

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

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

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

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

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

“What time is dinner?”

“It’s at seven.”

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

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

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

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

“It seemed more than a moment.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What-what do you want to know?”

“Are Joe and you more than friends?”

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” she replied simply.

“Tomorrow evening at seven?”

“Yes.”

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

She gave him her address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, Joe.  I’m just on my way out.”

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

“You do?”

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

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

“Now, don’t go getting all sentimental on me.  I’ll call you during the week.  Take care, Dee.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sources:  Pinterest; Brainy Quote

Ready to Propose

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

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

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

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

“He will propose when he’s ready.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s wonderful.”

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

“What a lovely photo.”

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

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

“You’ll meet her before the wedding.”

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

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

“Why would she think that?”

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

“She never liked Mom either.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I just called to say hi.”

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

“I’m all right, just a bit tired.”

“Are we still on for tonight?

“Yes.”

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

“I love you too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He frowned.  “You saw us?”

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

“Did you have lunch alone?”

“Yes.”

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

She looked at his warily.  “Why?”

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

“Louisa?”

“Yes, Louisa, my niece.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the Mold

It was around noon and Rory Bentworth was walking and texting, not really looking where he was going.  He barely heard the words, “Watch out,” before he glanced up and narrowly missed walking straight into the woman who was carrying some books.  A couple of them fell on the ground along with his cell phone.

Apologizing profusely and feeling very embarrassed, he stooped down and picked up the books.  “You know you really ought to look where you’re going,” she said.

He looked up and found her standing over him, gazing down at him.  She didn’t look angry.  In fact, there was a slight smile on her face.  She was stunning.  The attraction was immediate for him.  He stared at her, tongue tied.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Rory.” He didn’t tell her that his last name was Bentworth because the inevitable question would have been, Are you by any chance related to Elizabeth Bentworth? The late Elizabeth Bentworth was the renowned mystery writer whose books were bestsellers, many of which were adapted to film.  And being Elizabeth Bentworth’s grandson meant that her only son, Arthur, once reputed to be London’s finest barrister, was his father.  He wanted this beautiful woman standing over him to be interested in him, not in his family connections.  He was determined to see her again.

“Rory, may I have my books, please?”  She held out her hand.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, his face turning beet red, he handed her the books.  She took his breath away.

“Thanks.  Don’t forget your cell phone.”

He scooped it up and got to his feet.  He dropped it in his pocket, his eyes never leaving her face.  She was looking at him.  “What’s your name?” he asked.  His heart was racing.

“Kristen.”

“Is this where you work?” he asked indicating the building they were standing in front of.

She nodded.  “Yes.  What about you?  Do you work close by?”

He shook his head.  “No, I work about twenty minutes from here.  I was on my lunch break and heading back to the office when I literally bumped into you.”

“Well, I’d better go.”

“I see that you’re not married.  Are you seeing anyone?” He wasn’t usually this forward but he had to know if she was in a relationship.

She laughed.  “You’re not shy, are you?” she commented.  “No, I’m not seeing anyone.”

“Nor am I.  Can I see you again?”

She studied him for a moment and then she said, “Come with me.”  She turned and walked towards the steps leading to the building where she worked.  He followed her, admiring her slim figure in the navy blue skirt suit and the long shapely calves in the black high heeled shoes.  Her hips swayed slightly as she walked.  They went through the revolving doors and up to the reception desk.  She set the books down on the counter and asked the guard on duty for a pen and paper.  When he handed them to her, she scribbled something down, folded the paper and gave it to Rory.  She picked up her books and smiled at him.  “It was nice meeting you, Rory,” she said.  “I’ll see you around.”  And then, she walked away.

He stared after her until she disappeared from his view and then, he opened the sheet of paper she had given him.  On it she had written her name and number and the words, I’m free for lunch tomorrow at twelve-thirty. I will meet you down here in the lobby. Grinning broadly, he folded it and put it in his wallet.  He couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.  On his way back to work, he stopped by a bake shop and bought a funnel cake which he finished eating by the time he reached the office.

The next day, he was in the lobby waiting anxiously for her.  He was nervous and excited at the same time.  He felt like a lovesick schoolboy.  He hoped he looked good in the charcoal grey suit, black shirt and matching tie.  When he saw her coming towards him, his heart began to race and his gaze eagerly travelled over her.  She was wearing a black skirt suit with a light blue shirt underneath.  Her hair was pulled back and she was wearing pearl earrings and a matching necklace.  She looked amazing.  She smiled at him now.  “Hello, Rory,” she said.  “You’re very punctual.  I like that.”  She was standing in front of him now and he towered over her even though she was wearing heels.

“Hello, Kristen.”  He wondered what she would say if she knew that all morning he had been looking at his watch, anxious for noon to come so that he could head over here.  Last night he thought of nothing else but seeing her again.  And here they were standing in the lobby of the building where she worked about to go for lunch.  “Where would you like to go for lunch?”

“There’s an Italian restaurant just ten minutes from here.  They serve the best pasta dishes.”

He knew the one she meant.  He had passed it several times but never went in.  “Sounds good.”

“Let’s go,” she said and preceded him to the revolving doors.  When they were outside, she put on her sunglasses which made her even more alluring.   It was a beautiful summer day.  The sun was shining and many people were milling about, simply enjoying the weather.  “So, how come a handsome guy like you doesn’t have a girlfriend?” She asked as they walked.

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I guess I haven’t met anyone I liked until now.”

She glanced at him when he said that.  “And you like me?”

“Yes.”

“Even though you hardly know me.”

“You hardly know me but, we are having lunch together.”

Touché,” she said smiling.

“What about you?  How come you’re not in a relationship?”

“My work keeps me busy and the last relationship I had didn’t work out.  We wanted different things.  Besides, he hadn’t gotten over his ex.  The last I heard, they are back together.  I wish him well.  Here we are,” she added as they approached the restaurant.  “It’s not very crowded now.”

He held the door open for her and she went in, removing her sunglasses.  They chose a table by the window.  It was a nice, pleasant and bustling place.  Immediately, a waitress went over to their table with the menus and took their orders for drinks.  When she returned they gave her their orders.

“I know it must have been hard for you but I’m glad that things didn’t work out between him and you.  We wouldn’t be here together if they did.”

Kristen studied him.  He had such a gorgeous face and his hair.  It was so thick and unruly.  She wanted to reach over and ran her fingers through it.  She was extremely attracted to him but he looked young.  “How old are you?” she asked.

“Twenty-eight.”

“I’m older than you,” she informed him.  “I’m in my late thirties.”

“I guess this means you’ve never dated a younger man before.”

She shook her head.  “The men I’ve dated were either my age or older.  I never once considered dated a man younger than me.”

“What about now?” he asked, his expression serious as he looked at her.  “Would you consider it now?”

This guy didn’t waste any time going after what he wanted.  She found that very exhilarating.  “I might,” she said.  It flattered her that someone his age wanted to go out with her.  Their orders came then and they ate.  They talked about other things.  Thankfully, she didn’t ask him about his family and they didn’t talk about work.  There were other, more interesting topics they discussed and the time went so quickly—too quickly.  It was time to leave.  Reluctantly, they paid the bill and walked out into the sunshine.

“Have dinner with me tonight, Kristen,” he asked as they were standing in the lobby fifteen minutes later.

“I’m sorry but I can’t have dinner with you tonight,” she said.  “I have to work late but how about tomorrow night?”

“Yes, tomorrow night is fine.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”  He wanted so much to hold her hand but he didn’t want to rush things.

She wrote her address on the back of her business card and put it in the breast pocket of his jacket.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes before she said goodbye.  She turned and walked away.  Before she rounded the corner, she glanced back to find him still standing there, watching her.  She turned away, smiling.

Rory hurried from the building, excited.  When he got back to the office, he saw that his mother had called.  He dialed her number and he was connected to her right away.  “Hello, Mother. You called?”

“Yes, I called to let you know I have a speaking engagement this evening, so I wouldn’t be able to have you over for dinner tonight.”

He had completely forgotten that he was supposed to have dinner with her tonight.  He would have gone to dinner with Kristen if she hadn’t other plans and wouldn’t have remembered to call his mother to cancel his plans with her.  “We can do it another time,” he said.

“What about tomorrow night?”

“Sorry, Mother, but I have plans.” He hoped she wouldn’t ask any questions.

“Well, if there are with Isabella, I have no objections.  I will call you on Sunday.  Goodbye.”  She rung off and he hung up the phone.

Why was she always pushing Isabella Stanton on him?  Isabella was a nice girl, smart, easy going, not at all snobbish like her parents and older sister but he wasn’t attracted to her.  Why his mother would assume that his plans were with Isabella, he had no clue.  He had never given her any indication that he was the least bit interested in her friend’s daughter.  He wonder what his mother would do if she knew that Isabella was in love with a law clerk?  He knew exactly how she would react if she knew about his attraction for Kristen.  She would have a fit.  Kristen was older than him and of a lower social status.  She was a far cry from Isabella Stanton.

Yet, it was Kristen who stirred in him feelings he had never experienced before in his life.  She filled his thoughts and aroused fierce desires in him, making him yearn for her.  Whenever they were apart it was torture for him because the hours seemed to drag.  And when they were together the time went by so quickly.   And it seemed like he was waiting for weeks instead of hours for Saturday evening to come.  And when it finally did, he was standing outside of her flat at promptly seven.

He was dressed in a black suit, black shirt and no tie.  His hair which had a proclivity to be tousled in a very disarming way was slicked back, giving it a sleek look.  His brown eyes complimented his olive complexion.  Kristen couldn’t stop staring at him.  Her heart was racing, especially when she saw the way he was looking at her.  There was admiration in the depths of his eyes and something else.  It was the something else which made her senses tingle in excitement.  She was wearing a black figure hugging black dress with a V-neckline.  Her hair was swept back in an up hairdo.

“You look amazing,” he told her, his face riveted to her face as she gazed up at him.  He wanted to kiss her so badly.

“Shall we go?” she said, sounding a little breathless.  She knew that if they stayed there any longer, they would probably end up going inside her flat instead of going out for dinner.  No, she had to keep a cool head.

“Yes,” he muttered and stepped aside so that she would precede him to the lift.  How on earth was he going to get through dinner when all he wanted to do was take her in his arms and…?  He had to keep a cool head.  This evening was another opportunity for them to get to know each other better and depending on how it went Kristen would determine whether or not she wanted to have a relationship with him.  He couldn’t afford to allow anything to ruin his chances with her.  He had to take it slow.

They went to a Cajun/Creaole restaurant where the food was excellent.   The atmosphere was warm and friendly.  Over tasty and spice dishes and mocktails, they laughed and talked.  She never had so much fun and she was still laughing when they walked through the lobby of her building.   “I had a really great time tonight,” she said as they stood in front her flat.  “Thank you.”

“I had a great time tonight too,” he said, his expression tense as he met her gaze.  He didn’t want to leave.

Kristen saw the look on his face and her heart ached.  He looked so forlorn.  She would be a fool to send him away now, especially when she desperately wanted him to stay.  She pushed open the door and grabbing his hand she pulled him inside the flat.  After slamming the door and locking it, she turned towards him.  Their eyes locked for several palpable minutes and then they came together like two magnets, drawn together by a force they were powerless to resist.  All of her reservations went out of the window as she gave into the passions that raged inside her.  As they exchanged feverish kisses, he removed his jacket.  In a matter of minutes, their clothes were strewn on the floor and they were on the rug in front of the sofa, making love.

After that night, they became involved.  It was his first serious relationship.  And he hoped, his last.  He knew without a doubt that Kristen was the one.  He fell in love with her that day when he ran into her.  Meeting her that day had turned his world upside down.  He couldn’t imagine his life without her.  It seemed to him that he had been waiting for her all of his life.   He knew his mother would have a problem with his relationship with Kristen but he had to follow his heart.  Right now, he was blissfully happy, lying on his back on the sofa with his head on her lap, his eyes closed as she played with his hair.

“You’re Amanda Bentworth’s son, aren’t you?” the question jolted him and he sat up, swinging so that his feet were on the rug so that he could face her.  She was watching him curiously.

“How long have you known?” he asked warily.

“Since this morning.  Heather, a co-worker, mentioned that she had gone to a luncheon where the guest speaker was Philanthropist and Women’s Rights advocate, Amanda Bentworth.  She showed me the brochure and said that it was a very well attended affair and that Mrs. Bentworth was a great speaker.  Then, Heather asked me if I had ever seen Mrs. Bentworth’s gorgeous son, Rory?  I didn’t recall ever seeing him so she brought up an image of your mother and you at your father’s funeral.  Why didn’t you tell me that you’re a Bentworth?”

“I wanted you to be interested in me not in my family name.  And I was afraid that if you knew who I was you wouldn’t want to see me.”

“I admit that finding out that you are from a famous family floored me but it doesn’t change anything.  To me, you’re simply Rory.”

He took her hands in his, his eyes searching her face.  “How do you feel about marrying a Bentworth?” he asked huskily.

She swallowed.  “No way in particular,” she said quietly.  “I’d marry you no matter what your name was.”

He raised his hands to cup her face between them, his eyes darkening on her face.  “I love you,” he muttered thickly.

She placed her hands on his thighs.  “I love you too.”

He reached over and kissed her.  “Marry me,” he murmured against her lips.

“Yes,” she whispered and then they were kissing.

They got married the following year in the spring.  At first, his mother was determined not to attend the wedding because she was still upset with him for falling in love with another woman when she had her heart set on him marrying Isabella.  However, when she learned of Isabella’s engagement to a law clerk, she decided that she would not have been a suitable match for Rory, after all.  And when she attended the wedding and saw how happy he was as he danced with his bride, her resentment gave way maternal pride when it dawned on her that Rory was the first Bentworth who had married for love.

 

office woman