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 his 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 cappuccino in his hand.

She turned to Mavis.  “This is my friend, Mavis.  Mavis, this is Fenton Hardy, Tom’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.  “I 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, do 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 a 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 revealing 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

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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

 

 

 

The Cabin

Bethany lay there, thinking about Lysander and his winsome smile.  Groaning, she turned over in the bed, burying her face in the pillow.  She was mad at him yet, she missed him so much.  She knew that if she weren’t laid up here in bed, her body covered in hives, she would be driving up to the cabin to see him.  Why on earth did she have the chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert, knowing that she was allergic to them?  She blamed it on what happened between Lysander and her.   Depressed, she thought having what used to be her favorite comfort food would help her to feel better.  It didn’t.  She was still depressed.  Sighing heavily, she allowed her thoughts to drift back to that last visit to the cabin…

It was a mild winter day so she decided that she would drive up to the cabin.  She had a proclivity for showing up unannounced, especially after she had a row with her sister-in-law.  Her teeth gritted when she thought of Cicely.  Who was she to tell her that she shouldn’t go about throwing herself at Lysander, a man who was so much older than her?  She wished Cicely would stop telling her to date a guy at her university or trying to set her up with her friends’ sons.  She was old enough to know what she wanted and she wanted Lysander.

She had known him since she was a child but fell in love with him when she became a teenager.  He was her brother’s best friend and best man at his wedding.  Lysander was always very nice to her but he treated her like a little sister which frustrated her.  Sometimes she felt like they were Almonzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie before Almonzo noticed Laura.  Would the same thing happen for her?  Would there come a time when Lysander would see her as a woman instead of a little girl?

All of these thoughts were running through her mind as she made her way to the cabin which was about an hour’s drive from the city.  It was a cozy place in the woods and very peaceful.  It was no wonder that Lysander spent so much of his time there.  He was there every weekend and during the holidays.  When she visited they would go for long walks and then return to sit outside for hours, talking, having lunch or playing card games.  She was looking forward to seeing him and her foot pressed down a little harder on the accelerator.

Soon the cabin was in sight and her heart began to pound.  As she pulled up, she saw his jeep and the door on the driver-side was open.  He was either on his way out or had just arrived home.  She stopped the car a little distance away and turned off the engine.  After fixing her hair and checking her face in the mirror, she grabbed her handbag and got out of the car.  He was still sitting in his jeep so she walked over to him.  “Hello, Ly,” she called out, smiling.  Her smile soon faded, though, when she saw the expression on his face.  He wasn’t smiling at all.

“What are you doing here, Beth?” he asked.  She couldn’t tell if he was getting in or out of the vehicle when she showed up.  She hoped that it was the latter.

“I came to see you, of course,” she replied flippantly although she was wary.  She had hoped that he would be pleased to see her. They hadn’t seen each other in about two weeks.  He had been out of town on business and got back yesterday.  Didn’t he miss her?  She had missed him like crazy.  Her gaze slipped over him as he got out of the jeep.  He looked sexy in the tan colored jacket with the fur trimmed hood and collar and the leather pants.  How she longed to run over and throw her arms around him but his demeanor was not forthcoming and she doubted that he would welcome such a display of emotion.   “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“You can’t keep dropping by unexpectedly like this,” he said.  “What if I had company?”

She stiffened.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “Are you seeing someone?”  The thought of him seeing another woman was unbearable.

He sighed.  “Beth, you and I can’t continue seeing each other like this.”

“Why not?” she asked in a trembling voice.  This couldn’t be happening.

His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her face.  “My feelings for you have changed.”

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding.  “They have?”

“Yes.  I’m deeply attracted to you.” His gaze lowered to her lips and his parted.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he said to her, “I think it would be best if you go now.”

Shaking her head, she reached up and held his face between her hands.  “Don’t send me away, Ly,” she pleaded huskily.  “Let me stay.  I want to be with you.”  Before he could say anything, she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him.  She moaned when she felt his response and his hands go around her waist, pressing her tightly against him.  They stood there in the crisp wintry air with the sun bathing them, exchanging passionate kisses.  She loved and wanted him so much it ached.

Lysander continued to kiss her and then he pulled away, his face flushed.  It took a moment for him to catch his breath.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “Please go.”

“But, I don’t want to go,” she protested, reaching for him again but he stepped back.  “I love you, Ly.  I love you so much.  Please let me stay.”

“No!” he cried, startling her.  “I’m too old for you.  You should be with someone your own age.”

“I wish you would stop using our age difference as an excuse,” she retorted.  “I’m twenty-four years old and you’re forty.  So, we have sixteen years between us, why is that such a big deal?”

“You should be with someone your own age,” he insisted.

“So, you are willing to throw away what you and I could have because of something as stupid as our age difference?” her voice was trembling now.  She was hurt and angry.

“I doing what I think is the only viable thing to do.  In time you will get over me.”

“Fine,” she cried.  “I will go away and leave you alone–” her sob rose to her throat before she could stifle it and she turned and ran back to her car, ignoring him as he called after her.  She yanked open the door and got in, slamming it behind her.  Her fingers shook as she put the key in the ignition and turned it.

The tears were falling now and almost blinded her.  She saw him coming towards the car and she quickly reversed and raced off down the gravel.  When she got back to the city, she went to a secluded spot where she broke down and cried.  Her heart ached for Lysander.  Her lips still felt tender from his kisses and she knew that if he were to call her on her cell then and asked her to go back, she would in a heartbeat.

That was three weeks ago.  She hadn’t seen nor heard from him since that awful day.  And now she was stuck in the house because of a bowl of strawberries.  The antihistamine she had taken seemed to be working because the headache was gone and the swelling was going away.  In a matter of hours or in a day or two she should be back to normal.  Until then, she didn’t want to see anyone.  She closed her eyes.  When she opened them again, it was morning.

She sat up and stretched.  It looked like another beautiful sunny day.  I wonder what Lysander is doing now.   Is he thinking about me?  Probably not.  She felt her eyes well with tears at the thought but she quickly blinked them back.  I’m not going to cry.  The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness.  She threw back the covers.  The hives on her body were fading, thank goodness.  She got out of bed.  After soaking in a warm, oatmeal bath, she got dressed in loose clothing and went downstairs to have breakfast.  Cicely was sitting at the kitchen table having hers.  “Good morning,” she greeted her sister-in-law.

“Good morning,” Cicely said, watching her as she helped herself to some scrambled eggs, toast and tea.  “How are you feeling?”

“Much better, thanks.  By tomorrow, the swelling and the hives will be completely gone.  Where’s Derek?”

“He had to take the car to the mechanic.  It has been giving trouble again.  I have been telling him to get rid of it and buy a new one”

“He loves that car.  He’s had it for years.  I can’t see him buying a new one any time soon.”

“Buying a new car would be better than wasting money on a beaten up old one but it’s his decision, I guess.  So, do you have any plans for today?”

Bethany shook her head.  “I don’t plan on going anywhere until my skin clears up.  I’ll just catch up on my reading and do some studying.”

There was a pregnant pause and then, “Lysander was here last night.”

Bethany stared at her.  “Ly was here?” she exclaimed.  “When?” It must have been when she was sleeping.

“Around eight-thirty.  He stopped by to see Derek but he asked for you.”

“What did you tell him?” she asked, her heart racing.  How she wished she had been awake when he came by.  She would have gotten out of bed, dressed and gone downstairs just to see him.

“I, um—told him that you weren’t at home—”

“Why did you tell him that?” she demanded.  “He must have seen my car parked in the driveway.”

“Well, I told him that you were on a date—”

Bethany glared at her.  “Why did you do that?” she demanded.  “Are you trying to ruin my life?  You know I love Lysander and that he’s the only man I want to be with.  Why did you make him believe that I was seeing someone?  Do you dislike me that much, Cicely?”

“I don’t dislike you, Bethany and I’m not out to ruin your life.  I still think that Lysander is too old for you but after seeing his reaction to what I said, I realize that your feelings for him are not one-sided.”

“What do you mean?” Bethany was on the edge of her chair now.

“I believe that Lysander is in love with you.  I saw the look on his face when I told him that you were on a date.  He looked hurt, devastated.  I felt bad for lying to him and wanted to tell him the truth but he said he had to go and to give his apologies to Derek and then he left.”

Bethany pushed back her chair and got up.  She had lost her appetite.

Cicely looked up at her.  “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Where do you think?” Bethany retorted, giving her a withering look.  “To see Lysander.”

“Do you think you should drive all that way now—so early in the morning?”

“When do you think I should go or do you even think I should go at all?”

“Well, I think it would be best for you to see him somewhere else rather than driving over to his place.  A girl your age shouldn’t be alone with a man as experienced as Lysander—”

“I’m not a girl and this isn’t the 1800s.  Now, you have interfered in my life for the last time, Cicely.  As soon as I graduate in the summer, I will find a job and move out.” She turned and marched out of the room, her expression thunderous.

In ten minutes, she was on her way to the cabin.  She had no idea of what kind of reception she would get but she had to see him and clear up the misunderstanding.  What he must think of her now, especially after her declaration of love.  How could she say she loved him and then go out on a date just three weeks later?

She gripped the steering wheel as fresh anger toward Cicely consumed her.  When Lysander asked for her, why couldn’t she have told him that she was not feeling well or come and let her know that he was there?  No, she decided to take it upon herself and tell him an outright lie.  Oh, Ly, she cried, tears stinging her eyes.  I hope Cicely is right and that you love me too.

When she got there, his jeep was parked outside. Relieved, she quickly parked her car and ran to the front door, letting herself in.  It was nice and toasty in the living-room.  She removed her coat and boots and then went over to the fire to warm her hands.  She looked around.  Why was Lysander?  It was so quiet.  Perhaps he was still sleeping or maybe he was outside getting more wood for the fireplace.

She went to the window and looked out.  There was no sign of him.  It was such a beautiful sunny day, albeit a bit nippy.  Perhaps he went for a walk.  Then, she heard a sound in the bedroom and she hurried to investigate.  The door was ajar and she opened it wide enough to go in.  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Lysander.

He was standing in front of the bureau.  His broad, bare back was toward her and she allowed her gaze to travel slowly over his muscular frame clad only in a pair of jeans.  He had taken a sweater out of the drawer and was about to pull it on.  She watched him, her heart pounding wildly.  How she longed to go up behind him and put her arms around him while she buried her face in his smooth skin…

He turned around and started when he saw her standing there, gawking at him.  Dragging on the sweater, he demanded, “What on earth are you doing here?”

“I—I came to see you.”

He pulled the sweater down, covering his torso as he watched her, his expression inscrutable.  “When did you get here?  I didn’t hear your car.”

“I came about ten minutes ago.  You were probably in the shower when I arrived.”  His hair was glistening damply in the light coming through the windows.  Her fingers itched to run themselves through the silky strands.  “It has been three weeks since we last saw each other, Ly.  How have you been?”

“I’m fine,” he said curtly.  “I don’t have to ask you how you’ve been.”

Her eyes widened.  “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been dating.  You don’t waste any time, do you?” His face was glowering now.

“That’s not true,” she protested, crossing the carpet to stand a few feet away from him.  “I’m not dating.”

“When I stopped by last night, Cicely told me that you were out on a date.”

“She lied to you, Ly.  I was upstairs in my room sleeping when you stopped by.  I came down with hives because I ate too many strawberries.  If you don’t believe me, I will show you the rashes on my arms.  They are going away but you can still see them.  I haven’t been anywhere since I got them a couple of days ago.”

“Why would she lie to me?”

“She lied to you because she thinks that I should be with someone my own age.”

“Perhaps she’s right—”

“No, she isn’t.  I don’t want to be with anyone else, Ly.  I love you and I want to be with you.  If you don’t feel the same way about me, tell me now and–and I will go away.”  She moved closer and her mouth went dry when she saw the expression on his face.

He reached for her and pulled her roughly against him.  “I can’t let you go,” he told her thickly.  “I love you, Beth.  That’s why I came to see you last night.  I wanted to tell you that I was sorry about the way I acted that day at the cabin.  As soon as you drove away, I was afraid that I was making a terrible mistake.  I wanted to come after you but I decided that it was probably the best thing for us not to see each other for a while until I could really think things through.  During the time when we didn’t see each other, I nearly went out of my mind thinking about you and missing you.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s why I decided to come to you.  When Cicely told me that you were on a date, I was blindsided.  It was the last thing I expected to hear, especially after you told me that you loved me.  I realized then that in spite of what I said to you, the last thing I wanted was for you to be with someone else.”

She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him, loving the feel of his firm body against hers.  “The important thing is that we’re together now,” she told him huskily before she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged hungry kisses and then, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

The following week, they got engaged and in the summer after she graduated from university, they got married in a small, intimate wedding ceremony.  Derek was the best man.  After they returned from their honeymoon in Nice, Lysander sold his flat in London and they moved into the cabin.

 

Starting Over

Christmas was just around the corner and she was back in Seattle.  She was on her way to see Jordan after she found out where he lived.

As she walked down the sidewalk, hands nestled deep in the pockets of her coat and her chin tucked into the scarf wrapped around her neck, her mind wandered back to the past.  Jordan and she both attended Pacific University.  The first time they met was when walking down the hallway on her way to Language class and he was coming from the opposite direction.  He was with a friend.  He was tall and very good looking.  The ribbed green sweater and jeans accentuated his athletic build.  His thick chestnut hair looked soft and silky.  He was talking to his friend but as they drew closer, he turned his head and that was when he saw her.

Their eyes met and held.  And as they approached each other, she wondered who he was and why she hadn’t seen him before.  When they were abreast, he said, “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she replied and they walked past each other.  She turned round to look at him and saw him turn quickly to glance at her before he turned away.  Soon he was out of sight.  She stood there in the hallway for a moment.  Then, she glanced down at her black turtleneck sweater, denim skirt and black boots.  She hoped she looked okay.  Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was wearing her new glasses.  Would a guy like him really be interested in a girl like her?  He was a hunk while she was–well, a geek.  There were so many pretty girls on campus, why would he notice her?  He probably was probably used to girls staring at him and not wanting to be rude, he didn’t ignore her.  He even said, “Good morning”.  She was kidding herself if she thought that she stood a chance with him.

Sighing, she continued on down the hallway to her class.  The next time she saw him it was in History class.  She was seating at her seat when he walked in.  He paused when he saw her and to her surprise he sat at the desk next to hers.   She could feel him watching her and she turned her head to look at him.  He smiled and held out his hand.  “Jordan,” he said.

She shook his hand, thinking, what incredible eyes he has.   “Whitney.”  Her pulse was racing.  She couldn’t believe that she was talking to him.   Just then, the professor closed the door, signalling that class was about to begin so Jordan released her hand and faced the front.  After class, he lingered while she packed her bag and together they walked out of the class.

“So, where are you heading now?” he asked when they were in the hallway.  He was so tall that she had to tilt her head back to look up at him, even in the low heels she was wearing.

“I have English now.

“I heading off for now.  Can we have lunch together?”

“Y-yes.”  He wants to have lunch with me.

“Okay.  I’ll meet you at the cafeteria.”

“Okay.”

“See you later.”  He smiled and then walked away.

They had lunch together that day and every day after that.  Her friends saw them together and were convinced that he liked her but she still wasn’t sure.  They spent a lot of time together, studying, going for walks, walking to class and after school, they went to a burger place nearby where they hung out, talking about different things.  She invited him to a youth program her church was having on a Friday evening.  Strangely, they never made plans to see each other over the weekends.  They saw each other during the week and always on campus.

By then, Whitney was in love with Jordan and was wondering how he felt about her.  Once when they were out walking, she stumbled and fell against him.  He steadied her.  They were standing very close to each other, their bodies inches apart.  He was looking down at her and there was a tense expression on his face.  She saw his gaze lower to her lips and his part and for one heart-stopping moment she wondered if he was going to kiss her.  Then, he released her and turned away.  Disappointed, she fell into step beside him as they headed back to the campus.   Why didn’t he kiss her?  It was a perfect opportunity.  It wouldn’t have been wrong for them to kiss as long as they didn’t get carried away.

She got her answer the following day.  It was by accident.  She and her friend, Sonia were in the shopping mall one Sunday afternoon, trying to finish their Christmas shopping when they spotted Jordan coming out of one of the stores and he wasn’t alone.  A pretty brunette was walking beside him, with shopping bags in one hand while the other was holding his hand.  Whitney stopped in her tracks and Sonia looked at her, feeling sorry for her.  She reached out and grabbed her hand.  “Let’s cut through here,” she suggested, hustling her down another passageway in the opposite direction.   She led her through the mall and out of the closest exit to the parking lot.

Whitney felt sick but she managed to keep it together until they were in Sonia’s car.  Then, she just burst into tears.  Sonia held her for a long while until she was spent and then she handed her a box of tissues before turning on the ignition.  The rest of the day was a blur for Whitney.  When she got home, she went straight to her room and threw herself on her bed where she stayed until it was dark outside.  Not feeling hungry, she skipped dinner, took a shower and went straight to bed.

The next day, she went through the motions of getting ready for school, dreading when she would see Jordan in History class.  How was she going to face him without breaking down?  Unbidden the image of him with the other girl flashed across her mind and the painful jealousy that it elicited almost suffocated her.  Woodenly, she walked to the bus-stop down the block and waited.

When she reached the university, her footsteps dragged.  She wanted badly to turn around and go back home but she kept going towards the building.  The first class went by and then, it was time for History.  As she walked down the hall toward the classroom, her heart began to pound.  She paused in the doorway, her eyes going straight to his desk.  He wasn’t there as yet.  She hurried over to her desk and sat down.  She took out her textbook and notebook and waited.

About five minutes later, when he walked in, her heart leaped.  He said good morning when he sat down and she mumbled in reply but didn’t look at him.  She avoided looking at him all through class and when it was over, she started to shove her books and pen into her bag, anxious to get out of there.  She could feel him staring at her but she couldn’t look at him.  When she grabbed her bag and was about to walk away, he stood up and blocked her way.

Still, she couldn’t look at him.  Instead, she stared at his sweater.  “What’s the matter, Whitney?” he asked.  “Why are you giving me the cold shoulder?”

“I have to go.  I don’t want to be late for my class.”

“Can I walk with you to your class?”

“No, thank you.”  And without saying another word, she brushed past him, her back rigid.  Instead of going straight to class, she went to the washroom to collect herself.

She didn’t go to the cafeteria for lunch.  Instead she went outside and leaned against the tree where the two of them used to hang out.  She closed her eyes in despair.  How she wished it didn’t hurt so much.  Her heart was aching because she loved him so much.  She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes and she felt in her pocket for a tissue.  When she opened her eyes to dab them, she was startled to find Jordan standing in front of her, a concerned look on his face.  “How long were you standing there?”

“I just got here,” he said, moving closer.  “What’s wrong, Whitney?” He reached out to touch her but she drew away as if he had stung her.

“I saw you yesterday at the shopping mall,” she said.  “Was that your girlfriend you were with?”  She looked at him then and saw his face go pale.

“Whitney, please let me explain–”

“Is she your girlfriend?”

“Yes.  Callie and I have been dating since high-school.  She and I were both attending Northwest University until this year when I transferred to here.   I felt impressed to transfer to Pacific and I have learned that when God wants me to do something, I do it even if it doesn’t make sense.  I never meant to deceive you, Whitney.  When I saw that we were getting close, I should have told you about Callie but I was afraid that you would end our friendship.”

“Is friendship all you want from me?” she demanded in a trembling voice.

His eyes darkened and he moved even closer.  “No,” he admitted thickly.  “I want to be more than friends with you.  I love you, Whitney–”

He had finally said the words she had longed to hear but they gave her no joy now.  It only made things worse.  “I love you too but what good is that?” she cried, her voice tight as she fought to keep the tears back.  “You have a girlfriend.”

“Does this mean that you want us to stop seeing each other?”  There was a pained expression on his face.

“Yes,” the word was a strangled sob.  The tears followed, unabated.  Everything became a blur and she felt his hands on her face, cupping it and his lips on hers.  For a brief, unguarded moment, she kissed him back.   Then, with a groan, she broke off the kiss, pushed hard at his chest until he released her and she was free.  She turned and ran away.

Life on campus after that was torture for her.  And she was thankful when the Christmas break came but the holidays were anything but jolly for her.  All she could think about was Jordan and how much she missed him.  The New Year came and she was back at school.  When she saw Jordan she longed to wish him a happy New Year but didn’t.  She exchanged desks with another girl in the class so that she didn’t have to sit next to him.  Her desk was at the back of the class and every now and then, her eyes drifted over to him.   As soon as class was over, he was gone.  They saw each other around but avoided contact.  It was painful but necessary.

After graduation, she decided to move to New York where she was able to find a job and an apartment, thanks to her uncle.  She kept in touch with her friend, Sonia.  It was through her that she found out that Jordan had broken up with Callie since last year November.  “Why didn’t he let me know?” she asked her.

“You made it clear to him that you didn’t want to see him anymore, remember?  He’s still in love with you, Whitney.  Every time I see him, he asks about you.  Do you still love him?

“Yes.”

“Then, you need to come down here and let him know that.”

“I’ll come for Christmas,” she promised.  And, here she was back in Seattle, hoping to run into Jordan.  They hadn’t seen each other since graduation.  How she longed to see him.  The separation had been unbearable.  Many times she had been tempted to fly to Seattle just to see him but then she was reminded of why they were separated in the first place.

She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice someone standing there her until she heard her name.  Startled, she glanced up and her heart somersaulted when she saw Jordan.  He was wearing a toque, a leather jacket opened to reveal a tee shirt and a pair of jeans.   Seeing him again filled her with such emotion that she felt as if her heart was going to burst.  She stood still watching him when she longed to run up to him and throw her arms around him.

He stood there watching her for a moment and then he slowly approached.  His expression was tense when he gazed down into her face.  “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I–I was on my way to see you,” she said.  Her heart was pounding and she was very nervous.  “How have you been?”

His eyes darkened.  “How do you think I’ve been?” he asked thickly.  “I’ve been miserable ever since we stopped seeing each other and when you moved to New York, I felt my whole world come crashing down around me.”

“Sonia told me that you broke up with Callie.”

“Yes.  I broke up with her the week after you decided that you wanted to stop seeing me.  It was a terrible time.  She was devastated and I felt like a jerk but I didn’t think it was right to continue seeing her when I was in love with you.  After graduation, she moved to Boston where her father lives.”

She couldn’t help feeling sorry for Callie and hoped that things would work out for her.  She knew first hand what it was like to be without the person you loved and she never wanted to experience that feeling again.  “Jordan, I moved back to Seattle because of you.  I was hoping that we can start over.”

“As friends?”

“No, not as friends but as two people who love each other and want to be together.”

“Are you sure?” he asked as he moved even closer so that they were standing inches apart.

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure.”

He reached up and cupped her face between his hands.  “I love you,” he murmured before he lowered his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back.  They stood there on the sidewalk kissing and then, he drew back.  “Let’s go somewhere warm and have a couple of hot chocolates,” he suggested.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be alone at my place right now.”

She smiled up at him.  “Good idea.”  He put his arm around her shoulders as they turned and walked in the direction of a cafe.  As she slipped her arm around his waist and nestled against him, she was grateful that they were able to start over.

Sources:   Seattle Pacific University;American Historical Association

The Cafeteria

He was always having lunch by himself every time she went to the cafeteria.  She would pass his table and he would look up.   Their eyes would meet and then she would smile.  He smiled back and she continued walking until she reached the table where she usually sat with Angie, her co-worker.

On day, Angie wasn’t there, so she was sitting at the table alone.   She was about to tuck into the Fettuccine with Spinach, Ricotta, and Grilled Eggplant when she heard someone ask, “May I join you?”

She looked up and her heart leapt when she saw that it was him.  Up close, he really was very attractive.  He had beautiful eyes and a pleasant face.  “Sure,” she said.

He pulled out the chair opposite her and sat down.  “That looks really good,” he said, looking at her plate.

She nodded.  “Yes, it does.  I couldn’t decide between it and the BBQ Chicken Salad.”  He was having the Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Sandwich which looked very appetizing.  She made a mental note to try it the next time it was on the menu.

“How long have you been working at the company?” he asked.

“For a year and a half.”

“Really?” He sounded surprised.  “How come I haven’t seen you before?”

“It’s only recently that I started coming to the cafeteria to have lunch.  I eat at my desk until my co-worker encouraged me to have it here instead.”

He smiled.  “You must thank your co-worker for me,” he said.  “I wouldn’t be having lunch with you now if it weren’t for him or her.”

“Her.  What about you?  How long have you been working here?”

“About five years.”

“Which department are you from?”

“Engineering.  And you?”

“Marketing.”

“What’s your name?”

“Samantha.  My friends call me Sam.”

“Graham.  May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“I’m not seeing anyone either.”

The rest of their time together went pleasantly now that they were each aware that the other was not already in a relationship.  He asked her questions about herself and she learned that he was the fourth of six children.  His mother was Argentinian and his father was British.  He still had relatives in Italy and visited them every year in the summer.  He used to play soccer but stopped when he turned thirty.  In his spare time he liked to watch sports, especially English football or going for long walks or spending time with his family or playing video games with his nephews. They shared the same birthday in November and love for classical movies, art, food and travel.

Then it was time to go back to work.  “Will you have lunch again with me tomorrow?” he asked as they cleared the table.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’ll be here at the usual time.”

He walked with her to the elevator.  “It was really nice meeting you, Sam.”

“It was really nice meeting you too, Graham.”

The doors to the elevator opened and she stepped in.

“See you tomorrow,” he said.

“See you tomorrow.”  The doors closed and she was on her way back to her cubicle.

Suffice to say, she couldn’t wait for the following day to come.  This time she was there before him.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I had a meeting at eleven.  I rushed out of there as soon as it was over.”

“I got here a couple of minutes ago,” she told him.  They went to buy lunch and sat at his table which was in a better area.  She had a salad and a chicken burger while he had soup.  They talked about all sorts of things.  At one point he made her laugh so hard that tears came to her eyes.  She thoroughly enjoyed his company.

They met for lunch every day that week and the subsequent weeks.  When her Angie returned from vacation, Samantha told her that she was having lunch with someone else.  Angie was thrilled for her.  “I know him and he’s a really nice guy.”

One day at lunch, he asked her, “Do you like dancing?”

She nodded.  “I love it.”

“I’d like to take you out for dinner and dancing on Saturday.”

“I would like that very much,” she told him, her eyes bright with excitement.  Finally, they were going to see each other outside of the cafeteria.

“Good,” he said smiling.  And they continued talking and eating until it was time to go back to work.

On Friday, she gave him her address and phone number.  That night she sorted out what she was going to wear and then turned in early.  Saturday came, bright and sunny and she got up, her thoughts immediately falling on Graham.  She wondered if he was as excited about tonight as she was.  She couldn’t wait for seven o’clock to come and when it did, she was ready and waiting.

When she opened the door and saw him standing there, she couldn’t help but exclaim, “You look amazing.”  He did in the black silk dress shirt and black dress pants, no tie or jacket.  The top button of the shirt was undone, exposing his throat and the area just above where his chest hairs would begin.  He looked sexy.

He smiled and allowed his eyes to travel slowly over her.  The red cap sleeved dress fitted her nicely and flattered her coloring.  The elegant black dance shoes with the low heels completed the outfit.  His gaze lingered on her legs before they returned to her face.  “You look beautiful,” he said, looking serious now.  “I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you.”

She laughed.  “That’s the idea,” she told him before locking the door behind her.  As they walked down the hallway, she could feel him staring at her.  When they were in the lift, she looked at him and her heart began to pound when she saw the expression on his face.  He moved closer to where she was, his eyes lowering to her lips which had parted and for one heart stopping moment she thought that he was going to kiss her but just then the doors opened.   She preceded him out of the lift on trembling legs.

It was a warm evening.  The sun was going to set in about an hour.  His car was parked on the street.  He held the door open for her to climb in before he walked round to the driver’s side and got in.  And off they went to restaurant where they served up good food and salsa for those who loved to dance.  She had the Chicken Escalope while he opted for the Chimichurri Half Chicken.  She ordered a virgin Pena Colada and he had Sangria made with pomegranate juice instead of wine.  Like her, he didn’t drink alcohol.  They talked as they ate and afterwards, they went downstairs to the nightclub where the music was pumping.  Samantha was ready to let loose.  After they secured a table, they went on to the dance floor.

Graham took her hand and twirled her around, their bodies moving to the pulsating Latin beat.  He was a terrific dancer and made it easy for her to follow him.  She watched his hips, their movement almost hypnotic and moved hers to match them.  They danced for a while until she needed to take a break.  While she sat down at the table to catch her breath he went to the bar and ordered two virgin Chi Chi drinks.

As they nursed their drinks, they watched other people dance.  Then, they danced a couple more songs before calling it a night.  It was near two in the morning when he took her home.  It had been ages since she had stayed out so late and it was obvious.  At the door, when they said goodnight, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes as the feel of his warm lips against her skin awoke all sorts of sensations.  When he drew back, his eyes were dark.  “Good night, Sam,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Graham.”  She watched him walk away and then went inside, leaning against the door after she locked it.  It had been a lovely evening, one she would always remember.

The next day, he called her and they spoke on the phone for hours before he rang off.  She busied herself with housework, laundry, cooking and getting ready for work the following day.  That night, she lay in bed, thinking about him and their night together.  She couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow.

As soon as the time display on her monitor read 12:00, she got up from her desk and rushed down to the cafeteria.  He was already there.  “Hello,” he said when she joined him.

“Hello,” she said.

They went and bought their lunches and then sat down.  “I wrote you a poem,” he said, pushing a neatly folded piece of paper across the table toward her.  “Please don’t read it now.  I shall be very embarrassed if you do.”

She smiled and put it in her handbag.  “I look forward to reading it.”

They talked about their evening at the restaurant and made plans to go out again.

As soon as she got home, she took the note out of her bag and eagerly unfolded it.  She didn’t get past the first couple of lines before she began to cry.

Into my boring life you came,

your beautiful smile and face I see.

My world will never the same

because of the joy you bring me.

 

There’s not a day that goes by

when I don’t think about you

which lifts my spirit up high

fills my heart with love anew.

 

Words alone cannot express

what I feel for you in my heart

They fill my thoughts to excess

but are difficult for me to impart.

 

I have written a poem to tell you

how much you mean to me

I hope that in time you too

Will see that we are meant to be.

 

She read it over and over, the page becoming a blur as the tears ran down her cheeks then she folded it and held it against her chest.  I have to see him now, she thought.  I have to let him know that I read this and that I love him too.  Brushing aside the tears, she rushed over to the phone and called for a taxi.  After hanging up, she hurried into the bathroom, hurriedly got undressed and took a quick shower.  She dragged on a shirt and pair of jeans.  After putting the poem in her handbag, she left the flat and went downstairs to wait for the taxi.

On the way over to Graham’s flat, she read the poem again and when the tears threatened to fall again, she put it back in her handbag.  After paying the taxi driver, she ran up the steps and pushed open the doors, anxious to get to him.  Thankfully, there was no one else in the lift so she went straight up to his floor.  She rang the bell and waited, her heart racing.  The door opened and Graham stood there, staring at her in surprise.

“Hello,” he said.  “What a lovely surprise.”

“I had to see you,” she said in a choked voice.

He stepped aside for her to go in and closed the door.  When he turned to face her, she was crying again and he became alarmed.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.

She took out the poem and showed it to him.  “I read this,” she said.  “It’s so beautiful.”

“I didn’t mean for it to upset you,” he said, looking troubled.

“I’m not upset,” she told him as she put the poem back in her bag and pulled out a tissue to wipe her eyes.  “I came over here to tell you that I read it and that I love you too.”

Graham’s eyes darkened and he moved closer to her.  “You love me?”

“Yes, I do.”  She dropped her handbag on the floor and went up to him.  Reaching up, she pulled his head down to hers.

He groaned against her lips and his arms went round her waist, pulling her tightly against him as he kissed her back.   They stood there for a long time, hungrily exchanging kisses.  Then, he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I love you, Sam,” he said huskily.  “I think I loved you the first time I saw you.  When you smiled at me my heart stopped.”

“I have to remember to thank Angie for encouraging me to have lunch in the cafeteria.  It changed my life.”

“And mine,” he rejoined before kissing her again.

 

 

 

Source:  Bar Salsa

Friends and Co-Workers

Alain and Andrea were co-workers who became fast friends because they got along very well and enjoyed each other’s company.  Sometimes they went out for lunch at a bistro just around the corner from the office.  It became their favorite place.

Soon their time together wasn’t limited to lunch at the bistro.  Alain invited her to a concert and then treated her to dinner afterwards.  At the office she won two tickets in a draw to the exclusive screening of the first episode of season three of Outlander UK and asked him to go with her.  Over dinner, they talked animatedly about the show and how they got to see some of the cast.

They saw each other practically every day and on the odd day when they couldn’t see each other, they would talk for hours on the phone.  Andrea cherished the five years of friendship she was enjoying with Alain.

It was a late Saturday afternoon and she was just about to ring the doorbell to Alain’s flat when the door opened and a man she had never seen before but who looked a bit familiar stepped out into the hallway.  Alain was standing behind him. The stranger smiled at Andrea.  “Hello,” he said, pleasantly, looking her over and clearly liking what he saw.  He held out his hand.  “I’m Henri, Alain’s baby brother.”

She smiled and shook his hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Henri.  I’m Andrea.”

Alain pursed his lips.  “Henri was just leaving,” he said, looking at his brother.

Henri rolled his eyes.  “That’s my cue,” he said.  “And just when things are starting to get interesting.”

Andrea laughed.  “Well, I hope we meet again,” she said before she walked past him and into the flat.

“I thought you said you didn’t have a girlfriend,” Henri said in a low voice.

“Andrea’s not my girlfriend.  She’s a very close friend.”

Henri’s face brightened.  “She’s cute and hot,” he commented.  “Do you think she would go out with me?”

Alain’s expression darkened.  “She has a boyfriend,” he told him abruptly.

Henri looked surprised.  “If she has a boyfriend, what is she doing here alone with you in your flat?”

“Her boyfriend trusts me.  Goodbye, Henri.”  He went back inside the flat and closed the door quietly behind him.

Henri stood there for a moment, looking puzzled, and then he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

Andrea was standing at the window looking out when Alain joined her.  She turned and smiled at him, thinking how good he looked in the black shirt and light blue jeans.  “So, that’s your brother.  There is a slight resemblance.  Which one of you was the troublemaker?  Let me guess, you?”

Alain laughed.  “I was a bit of a rebel growing up but I wised up when I turned fifteen.  Henri was the quiet one who didn’t get into any trouble.  Now, it seems like we have switched personalities.  Now, I’m the quiet one and he’s the outgoing one.”

Andrea shook her head.  “I never would have pegged you for a bad boy,” she said.  “I bet all the girls were into you.  I know I would have been.”

“You were into bad boys?”

“Yes, because they were more exciting.  It was true that the nice guys finished last.”

“What about now?” he asked.  “Is there a particular type of man you are attracted to?”

She wanted to say you.  “I’m attracted to the introverted man—he’s easy to be around, intellectually stimulating, has a sense of humor and self-assured.

He turned away so that she couldn’t see the expression on his face.  “Sounds interesting.  Have you met anyone like that as yet?”

Yes…you.  “I’m not looking.” That was the truth.  “So, what would you like to do now?”

“Let’s go to the cinema and then afterwards have dinner at one of those riverside restaurants.”

“Sounds great.”

The weather was so pleasant that they went for a walk before going into the cinema.  A couple of hours later, they sat enjoying a tasty meal on the riverside terrace of a restaurant with an unobstructed view of the Tower Bridge.  It was while they were walking back to the car that she asked him, “What type of woman are you looking for?”

He glanced at her but she was facing straight ahead.  “I’m not looking,” he said quietly.  I have already found her.

“If you were looking, what would you look for?”

“I would look for a woman who is outgoing, intelligent, assertive and resourceful.”

“Sounds interesting.” And they walked on in silence until they got into a discussion about the foreign film they went to see.

It was Monday and Andrea was in high spirits.  She was still thinking of yesterday when Alain and she took a full day trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford.  It was while they were having dinner on Saturday night that he told her about the trip.  He remembered that she had always wanted to visit Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.  Touched, she got up, went round to where he sat and leaning over she hugged him.

She wanted to thank him again so she left her desk and was heading toward his office when she overheard someone ask for Sophie.  Sophie was a pretty blonde who recently started working there.  She heard the other person say, “She mentioned something about lunch and then I saw her leave with Alain.”

Andrea froze in her tracks.  Alain went for lunch with Sophie?  She had seen them talking a couple of times but had thought nothing of it.  Yet, the thought of them having lunch together made her jealous.  She went back to her office and sank heavily down into the chair behind her desk.  She was staring out the window but not seeing anything when there was a knock on her door.  She swung her chair around to see who it was.  It was Henri.

“Henri,” she greeted him and getting up from the behind the desk, she went over to where he stood in the doorway.  “Come in.  It’s good to see you.  Come and have a seat.”

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said as he followed her over to the desk.  He waited until she was seated before he took the chair in front of her desk.

“Not at all.  What brings you here?”

“I’m here to meet Alain.” He glanced at his watch.  “I made sure I got here at least ten minutes early.  I didn’t want to keep him waiting.”

“I’m sorry but Alain is not here.  He’s gone out for lunch with Sophie.”

Henri looked surprised and a little put out.  “Well, how do you like that?  He and I were supposed to grab lunch.  I guess he forgot, although it’s not like him to do so.”  He glanced at her.  “I would ask you to have lunch with me in his place but I doubt that your boyfriend would like that.”

She stared at him.  “I don’t have a boyfriend.  Who told you that I did?”

“Alain.”

She looked puzzled. “Why would he say that?” she wondered.  “He knows that I’m not seeing anyone.”

“That’s what he told me when I asked him if you would go out with me.  Maybe he doesn’t want me to take you out because he likes you himself.”

She shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  He sees me as a very good friend, nothing more.  Besides, he went out for lunch with Sophie.”

“You’re in love with him, aren’t you? I can see it on your face and when you mentioned Sophie.”

“Yes, I am,” she admitted, sighing heavily.  “A lot of good it’s doing me.”

“Why don’t I take you out for lunch and we can talk more about this?” he suggested.  “I’m a great listener.”

At first she hesitated but he was so persuasive that she gave in.  They walked to the nearby bistro and over tasty pasta dishes they talked about Alain.

“It’s possible that you’re wrong about Alain and Sophie.  They may not even be together now.”

“Someone said she saw them leave together.”

“They may have left together but that doesn’t mean that they are together.  Don’t jump to conclusions before talking to Alain first.  I still think he lied about you having a boyfriend because he has feelings for you.”

“Well, I hope you’re right.”  She glanced at her watch.  “I should be heading back to the office now.  Thanks for lunch and for being such a good listener.  I’ll let Alain know that you came by the office.”

After a warm hug, they parted company.  When she got back to the office, she went directly to Alain’s office to see if he was there.  He was.  She went in and closed the door behind her.  He looked up from what he was doing as she crossed the carpet to stand in front of his desk.  He smiled and gave her his trademark wink.  Usually, she would respond with a wink and smile but this time she didn’t.  She was miffed with him.

“Did you have a good lunch with Sophie?” she demanded.

He frowned.  “Sophie?” he repeated.  “Why do you think I had lunch with her?”

“One of the women, I think it was Sharon, said that she saw the two of you leave together and seemed to think that you were going out for lunch together.”

“Well, Sharon or whoever said that was mistaken.  Sophie and I left at the same time, yes.  We rode the lift together but then she went off with Tony from Accounting and I went in the opposite direction.  I had an errand to run.”

Relief washed over her.  Henri was right.  “Henri came by,” she told him.  “You two were supposed to have lunch together.”

“The errand took longer than I anticipated.  I didn’t get back here until around twelve-forty-five.  We were supposed to meet at twelve-thirty.  I thought he would have waited.  Was he terribly upset?”

“He was surprised and a little put out.”

“I’ll call him later and apologize.  So, what did you do for lunch?”

She hesitated, suddenly feeling guilty.  “I went for lunch with Henri…” Her voice trailed off when she saw the expression on his face.

He got up from the desk and came round to where she was standing, his face glowering.  There was anger and something else in his eyes.  “You went out for lunch with Henri?”

She involuntarily stepped back, her eyes wary as they met his.  “I didn’t have any plans so when he asked me, I—I accepted.”

“Where did you go?”

“To the bistro around the corner—”

“You took him to our place?”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to go too far.”

“Instead of having lunch with him, why didn’t you have him wait here in my office until I got back?”

“I thought you went for lunch with Sophie, remember?”

“Then, you should have let him leave instead of going for lunch with him.”

“Why are you so upset?” she asked.  “And why did you tell him that I have a boyfriend?”

“I don’t want you to see my brother.”

“Why not?” she asked.  “He’s nice and very good-looking.” She knew she was goading him now but she wanted to find out if Henri was right about his brother’s feelings for her.

Alain’s eyes darkened.  “Are you trying to get a rise out of me?” he demanded, the jealousy eating up his insides.

“I’m sorry,” she said, contrite.  “I just want to know why you’re so upset.”

“Do you want me to tell you or show you?”

She swallowed.  “Show me?”

“Yes, show you,” he muttered thickly and then, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His mouth found hers and hungrily devoured it while his hands held her tightly against him.

Andrea closed her eyes and kissed him back, savoring the moment she had dreamed of for so long.  It made her heart sing to know that Alain returned her feelings.

After several minutes, Alain raised his head to look at her, his face flushed and his breathing labored.  “I’m in love with you,” he confessed.  “I have been for quite a long time.”

She gazed up at him, her eyes misty.  “I have been in love with you for a long time too,” she told him.

“Dinner at my place tonight?”

She nodded and then reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

 

 

Sources:  Telegraph; Good Men Project; Trip Advisor;