All of Me

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He had set the lofty goal of becoming one of the top five wealthiest men in the world and reached it at the age of thirty-five.  He bought a castle that once belonged to a Lord.  He had a large staff which took care of everything.  He had his privacy.  He had his own beach and could take long walks along its shore anytime.  The only thing missing was someone to share his life with.

He was tired of going on dates with women he had no interest in.  Most of them were only interested in his wealth.  He was lonely and longed for companionship.  Then, he had the idea of hiring a companion.  He was willing to pay for them.  He preferred that the woman be between the age of thirty and fifty.  She had to be attractive, well read and employed.  He had his secretary place the ad in the local newspaper and screen the calls and do the interviews.  Out of hundreds of applicants, only a handful were chosen for him to interview himself.

The woman he chose was a French university Art professor who moved to Brussels five years ago.  She was very attractive, engaging, shared the same interest in books and a love for the Arts.  She was forty but looked younger.  They got along very well.  She had made it very clear that she wasn’t doing this for money.  Most of her friends were married and her family was in France and like him, she yearned for companionship.  She told him that when she saw the ad, at first she was hesitant to apply but after thinking about it, she decided to do it and was happy she did.

They spent every waking moment together, learning about each other and sharing parts of themselves they had never shared with another living soul.  They swam in the ocean, went for walks, drives, went to the opera, enjoyed classical musics in his private movie theatre and enjoyed intimate dinners in the large dining-room or on the terrace facing the sea.

Then one terrible day, he got a call from her.  She sounded upset.  She informed him that she couldn’t continue seeing him.  Alarmed, he asked her why.  After being evasive, she finally informed that she had been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.  She didn’t want to burden him with her illness.  “It wouldn’t be fair to you,” she said.  “I’ll be in and out of hospital.” However, he insisted that he wanted to be there for her and after they ended the call, he went over to her place.

He was there for her during the daily dialysis and several hospital stays.  He took her food and helped her to get dressed.  He spoke to the doctors, anxious to find out everything he could.

When he found out that she needed a transplant and after learning that her relatives couldn’t be donors, he asked to be tested.  Despite her protests, he was tested and it turned out that he was a match.  Both of them were tearful when they got the news.  They underwent the kidney transplant and on her forty-first birthday which was a couple of weeks later, he proposed to her.  She happily accepted, knowing in her heart that not only had she met the man who selflessly gave his kidney so that he could save her life but she had met the man of her dreams.  As they sat on the terrace gazing out at the sea one afternoon, she said to him, “I have your kidney and you have my heart.”

He smiled and reached for her hand.  “You have all of me.”

Picture2 of woman in bw photo

This story was inspired by one I read today of a man who donated his kidney to save his girlfriend’s life.  If you would like to read their story, click Here.

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

Source:  Leicestershire Live

 

Finishing What They Started

Louis DowlerMonique had just taken off her dressing-gown and was about to get dressed when the door opened and Shane walked in, bold as brass.

“Who gave you permission to just walk into my room?” she demanded, hands on hips.  In the past, she would have covered up to hide her curves but that was before she had come to accept and be proud of her appearance.  She even became an advocate against body shaming.

“We’re going to finish what we started,” he informed her as he walked right up to her.  His expression was dead serious.  The air crackled with the tension between them.  The way he looked at her made her heart pound heavily against her chest and her breath quicken.

Her chin raised just a fraction higher and her eyes were wary as they met his.  “What do you mean?” she asked.

He was standing very close now.  Their bodies were almost touching.  “Don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten what happened the last time we saw each other?”

No, she hadn’t forgotten.  She had thought of nothing else since it happened.  They were at a mutual friend’s barbecue and after having something to eat, she decided to go for a walk on the beach.  She was standing at the water’s edge, facing the ocean, enjoying the feel of the sun on her face and the breeze on her skin when he joined her.

It was the first time they had ever been alone together and it made her very nervous.  She was bare-feet and carrying her sandals in her hands.  The floral print sundress reached just above her ankles and it flattered her.  Her hair was pulled back in a French knot with a few strands framing her face.

Shane was dressed in a yellow tee shirt and khaki shorts.  He looked absolutely gorgeous.  She tried not to stare at him but she couldn’t help it.  The expression on his face as he looked at her made her mouth dry.  “I hope you don’t mind me being here,” he said.

She glanced away.  “Why should I?” she replied.  “You have as much right to be here as I do.”

“What are you afraid of?”

His question caught her by complete surprise.  It took several minutes for her to recover enough to declare, “I’m not afraid of anything.”

“I think you are, Monique.”

“All right, you seem to know me better than I know myself.  What do you think I’m afraid of?”

He moved closer.  “I think you’re afraid to be alone with me.”

She swallowed hard.  “Why should being alone with you make me afraid?” she wondered breathlessly.  She wanted to step back but she couldn’t seem to move.

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he leaned over and kissed her.  His hands went around her waist and held her tightly against him when she responded.  The feel of his lips on hers was her undoing and she clung to his shoulders, her nails digging into the sleeves.

The sudden ringing of his cell phone was like being doused with a bucket of cold water.  At first he ignored it and let it ring but when it rang again a couple of minutes later, muttering under his breath, he released her to answer it.  She turned and ran up the sandy slope as fast as she could.  When he returned to the house, she wasn’t there.  She had left.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  She hadn’t seen him again until now.

“I see that your memory has returned,” he murmured.  “We were interrupted by that  call.”

She turned away.  “Maybe it was a good thing we were.” aHR0cHM6Ly9pLnBpbmltZy5jb20vb3JpZ2luYWxzL2M0LzVjL2YyL2M0NWNmMmEwYjM0YjA5ZGI3OWI1YTYwZGVmMjNjNjRkLmpwZw--

“You don’t believe that any more than I do.  And there isn’t anything to interrupt us now.  I don’t have my cell on me and we’re the only ones here.  Everyone’s gone into the city.  We can finish now what we started that day on the beach.”

She felt her resolve weakening and when he pulled her roughly against him, his eyes dark with desire, she didn’t resist.  When his mouth hungrily sought hers, she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and feverishly kissed him back.

An hour and half later, they showered and got dressed.  He took her into the city for a romantic, candlelight dinner with a spectacular view of the sea.

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

Unfinished Business

When Irina, the managing editor of Eye on You, decided that it would be a great idea to dedicate a big chunk of the summer Issue to eligible bachelors, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.  The magazine was female skewed so they knew that their readers and subscribers would get a kick out of these, especially as they received many letters asking if they could feature stories on men who were looking for love.

After wading through scores of submissions from all over the world, they narrowed the entries down to twenty-five.  Sheree got the enviable job of interviewing the lucky ones that would be featured in Eye on You. Irina’s daughter, Carly, the magazine’s Photographer was to accompany her.

The interviews were to be done over a period of five days on the beautiful island of Jamaica.  In such an inviting and scenic backdrop, the men would be completely relaxed and open up to her.  She had no reason to believe that anything would go wrong.  The weather was pleasant—sunny every day and blue, cloudless skies.  She hadn’t been to the island since she moved to the United States with her parents when she was six years old.  She was looking forward to going although it was a working vacation.

Carly and she were to arrive a day before the bachelors whose expenses were paid by the magazine.  They were to scout the place to see where the interviews could be conducted without any interruptions or distractions and the locations where their photo shoots would be taken.  As they boarded the plane, they began to feel both Nervous and excited.  It wasn’t every day that they were going to interact with twenty-five gorgeous single men.

The men would have leisure time when they were not being interviewed or photographed but they were not allowed to fraternize with any of the female guests staying at the hotel.  It went without saying that Sheree and Carly could not get involved with any of them.  On the last evening there, they would have a celebratory dinner before parting ways. They were to each receive a complimentary copy of the summer issue of the magazine and other gifts, courtesy of Made for Men.

The hotel where they were staying was amazing and the staff was really quite friendly and helpful.  Sheree found quiet spots on the beach and around the hotel where she would do the Interviews and Carly was excited about the locales for her photo shoots.  After they finished getting ready for what would be a busy tomorrow, they spent a couple of hours on the beach before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

After dinner, they both decided that they would turn in early.  The next morning, Sheree got up bright and early and headed down to the café to have breakfast.  Carly joined her a few minutes later.  Over coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs and toast, they went over the day’s itinerary. There were going to be five interviews and five photo shoots–two in the morning and three in the afternoon.  While she interviewed the first Bachelor, Carly got busy taking photos of the other bachelor before his interview. The morning went very well and quickly.

Over lunch Sheree and Carly compared notes.  They both agreed that the two guys from Sweden and Brazil were really, really nice.  “I’m looking forward to meeting the guy from Australia,” Carly said.  “He’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t believe that he’s single.”

Sheree’s heart leapt at the mention of the one guy she couldn’t stop thinking about. “I’m looking forward to meeting him too.”

After Lunch, it was time to meet the bachelors from France, Argentina and Australia. The French guy was charming, the Argentinean was a little flirtatious and then it was the Australian’s turn.  Her heart thudded when she walked into the lobby where he was waiting for her.  He was tall and athletic and a sharp dresser in a white linen suit with a Royal blue silk shirt underneath.

The first thought that came to her mind when she saw him was that his picture didn’t do him justice.  She remembered how she had stared at it, unable to look away from those incredible eyes and face.  He was the one she had looked forward to meeting and interviewing but now that they were face to face, it was going to be a problem.  It was going to be hard to act professional with him when she found him so extremely attractive.

Taking a deep breath, she smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Sheree Wilson.  I will be interviewing you, Mr. Jones.”

“Please call me Ryder.”  He shook her hand, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sheree.”

The feel of his warm palm against hers sent all sorts of shivers up her spine.  And it took a moment before she could say, “We’ll be doing the interview in the gazebo”

He smiled, releasing her hand.  “Sounds good.”

She could feel him watching her as they made their way to the gazebo and it made her nervous and excited at the same time.  He waited until she was seated before he sat down.  When she crossed her legs, she noticed that his eyes dropped to them momentarily before returning to her face.  Clearing her throat, she began the interview.  “Why you’re still single?”

“I think it’s because I have a tendency to put my career before relationships.  I spend so much time and energy building up the marketing company that I haven’t had time to look.  My sister and some of my friends think I’m picky and they have tried to set me up on dates but I just couldn’t seem to find the time so they gave up until my sister saw your magazine’s search for eligible bachelors and she managed to convince me to send in a bio and photo and was thrilled when I got the call saying that I was one of the twenty-five chosen.  She took me out to celebrate.”

“What about you?  Were you thrilled that you were chosen out of more than one hundred entries?”

He shrugged.  “I guess I was.  It helped to put things in perspective.  Although I like being single, it would be nice to get back into the dating game and meet different types of women.”

“What are you looking for in a woman?”

“Well, I like a woman with character, someone who is genuine and real, who’s not afraid to be herself around me and doesn’t take herself or life too seriously.  She must be affectionate, intelligent, confident, ambitious and humble.  As you can see it’s not about looks for me.  For me true beauty is what’s on the inside.  What matters to me is who a woman is not how she looks.”

She tried not to show how impressed she was with his answer.  The other men she interviewed placed more emphasis on the woman’s looks.  “What is your dream date?”

“I would say, having dinner on the beach, watching the sun set over the ocean and then going for a walk, barefoot in the sand, holding hands.  And at the water’s edge, I take her in my arms and kiss her”

Was it getting a little hot in the gazebo?  She asked him more questions and then she got to the trivial ones.  “Which do you prefer?  Sports or Arts?”

“Both.  I love working out at the gym and playing soccer.  I enjoy going to museums and the opera—when I have time.”

“Boxers or briefs?”

“Boxers.”

“Are you kid or pet person?”

“Both.  I love kids.  I enjoy spoiling my nieces and nephew.  Rover, the family dog and I were thick as thieves.  I was devastated when he died.”

“One last question.  What is the one thing that you think women should know about men but don’t?”

“We like to snuggle too.”

“And that wraps up our interview.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  It was a pleasure getting to know more about you.” She switched off the recorder, sorry that the interview had come to an end.  “I must admit that I enjoyed that very much.  And now, it’s time for you to go and see Carly for your photo shoot.”

“Do I have to go right now or could I take a five minute break?”

She glanced at her watch.  “I guess five minutes wouldn’t hurt.”

“How long have you been working at Eye on You?”

“About two and a half years.”

“Are you married?  Single?”

“I was married but my husband died in 2014.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  If you don’t mind me asking, how did he die?”

“He was a surgeon in Sierra Leone where he was infected with the Ebola Virus.  When I got the call that he was being flown from Freetown in a specially equipped air ambulance for treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center, I made arrangements to take go there.  By the time he arrived in the United States his kidneys weren’t functioning and he was unresponsive.  The doctors worked really hard to save him but it was too late.  The disease was already in its advanced stages.  By the time I got there, he was dead so I never got a chance to say goodbye or tell him that I loved him.  A couple of weeks after the funeral, I sold our house in Maryland and moved to New York.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.  Do you have any children?”

She shook her head.  “No.  He couldn’t because of an injury.  We talked about adopting, though.  He would have been a terrific father.”

“He died just four years ago which is still fairly recent.  I guess you still haven’t gotten over losing him.”

“I still miss him but my job keeps me busy and I have Friends who are always inviting me out somewhere.  I don’t think I would have fared well if I had remained in Maryland.  I couldn’t stay in the house because it seemed so empty without him.  I think moving to New York was the wisest thing to do.  It made the grief a little more bearable and each year it gets better.  He will always have a special place in my heart.”

“I wish we could stay here a while longer but I think my five minutes are up,” he said regretfully.

She glanced at her watch.  “You’re right.  I’d better take you to Carly now before she begins to wonder where you are.”

After putting her notes and recorder away in her bag, she stood up.  He got up too and for several minutes they stood there, just staring at each other before she walked past him.  He fell into step beside her.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked.

“I am going to interview the Italian guy and after him, the guy from Indonesia.”

“And afterwards?”

“I’ll probably relax by the pool or go up to my room and take a nap.”

He wanted to ask her to meet him for mock-tails after dinner but decided that it would be premature.  They had just met and she was still carrying a torch for her dead husband.  “I guess I won’t see you until tonight at dinner,” he said.

“I guess so,” she said.  She was looking forward to seeing him again.   They were in the lobby now and her next interview was waiting for her.  Turning to Ryder, she held out her hand.  “Thanks for an enjoyable interview.”

He clasped her hand, his eyes riveted to her face.  “It was my pleasure, Sheree,” he said quietly.

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “Enjoy the rest of the afternoon,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Thanks.  You too.”  He released her hand and after a lingering gaze, he turned and walked away.

She stood there until he disappeared from view before she went over to the Italian guy.  After introducing herself, she took him to the meeting room where they were to have their interview.  As they walked down the corridor, she couldn’t help thinking about Ryder and how much she was looking forward to seeing him again.

That night at dinner, she couldn’t help glancing surreptitiously over at the table where Ryder was and each time, she found him already looking at her.  There was an attraction there but nothing could come of it.  He was one of the bachelors which meant that under no circumstances could she become involved with him.

All through dinner, she tried to focus on what Carly was saying but she was aware of Ryder at the next table and found herself wishing that she could be alone with him.  Is it wrong for me to feel like this?  Am I betraying Alan and our life together by having feelings for another man—a man I just met today?

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Carly’s voice intruded upon her thoughts, startling her.  “You look like you were miles away.”

“I was just thinking about something.  It’s not important.”

“All right.  I won’t pry.  Do you feel up to going to the beach and watch some limbo dancing?”

Sheree shook her head.  “No, I think I will have an early night.”

“I’ll see you in the morning, then.  Have a good night.”

After dinner, she went up to her room and after spending several minutes on the patio, gazing out at the ocean, she went to bed.  It took a long time for her to fall asleep because all she could think about was Ryder.  She kept reliving the moment when they had stared at each other in the gazebo.  The look on his face…she closed her eyes, trembling at the memory.

She didn’t want to admit it but when she met Alan, she wasn’t attracted to him at first.  It wasn’t until she got to know him that she began to have feelings for him.  With Ryder it was different.  From the time she saw his photo, she was attracted to him and it got very intense when she met him face to face.  He stirred emotions in her that she had never experienced before and that terrified her.  She didn’t want to lose her head over a man she hardly knew or would never see again after this was over.  The best thing for me to do, she decided, is to stay clear of Ryder.  Easier said than done because the next morning, when she was got up early and went down to the beach, she bumped into him…

He was coming out of the ocean, dripping wet when she saw him and immediately, her heart began to pound and her mouth felt dry.  Unable to help herself, her gaze swept over his magnificent body clad in red swimming trunks.  His hair was glistening wetly in the light and rivulets of water were running down his broad chest and flat stomach.  “Good morning,” he called, startling her and her eyes flew up to his face.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

She tried to act nonchalant which required a lot of effort.  “Good morning.  Do-do you usually go for a swim this early?”

He was standing in front of her now and she saw the way his eyes traveled over her.  “Yes.  I like to come to the beach before it gets crowded.  It’s nice and quiet at this time.  How come you’re out here at this hour?”

She shrugged.  “I-I just wanted to take a walk before breakfast.”  She tried to keep her eyes fixed on his face.

He walked over to where his clothes lay in the sand and picked up his towel.  As he dried his skin, he walked back to where she was.  “I’ve never been to Jamaica before but I can see why a lot of my friends come.  It’s a beautiful island.”

“Yes, it is.  I was born here in Montego Bay before I moved to US with my parents when I was six years old.  This is the first time since I left that I have come back here.”

“How come you haven’t been back before now?”

“I have been so busy but I guess I wanted to see other places first.  Alan and I had planned to go on a cruise the following year after he returned from Sierra Leone.”

“I’m sorry that your husband’s untimely death left so many of your plans unfulfilled.”

“Me too.”

“Do you mind if I accompany you on your walk?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”  Surely, there was no harm in them going for a walk together.

He finished drying his skin and tossed the towel on the sand next to his clothes before they walked along the water’s edge.  “How did you meet your husband?”

“We met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  We sat at the same table at the reception and when we were the only two people left there because everyone had gone dancing, we struck up a conversation.  He was a nice man and when he asked me for my number I didn’t hesitate to give it to him.  We started going out and then a year and a half later, we got married.”

“Were you happy?”

“Yes.  We were happy.  He was a good man and husband.”

“Do you think you will find happiness with someone else?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Before you settled down, did you date a lot?”

She shook her head.  “No, I dated only five men.  They were all nice but I couldn’t see myself being married to any of them.  Over the years, I’ve met all sorts of men.  Some of them were great but I wasn’t attracted to them and others were only interested in one thing.  So, after my relationship with the fifth guy ended, I stopped looking and then I met Alan.”

“My sister has given up trying to find someone.  She told me that she broke up with the last guy because she couldn’t deal with his narcissism.   She felt like she was competing with his ego.”

Sheree laughed.  “Yes, I’ve met guys like that.  Tell her not to despair.  Somewhere out there is the man for her.”

They walked and talked some more and then it was time for her to head back to the hotel, have breakfast and get ready for the first interview of the morning.  When they were standing where his clothes were, he turned to her and asked, “Can we do this again tomorrow morning?”

She knitted her brow.  “Ryder, I don’t think—”

“Please,” he insisted.  “We will just walk and talk like we did today.  I enjoy your company, Sheree.”

“I enjoy yours too,” she admitted.  “All right.  I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning.  Have a good day.”

He smiled.  “Thank you.  You have yourself a good day too.”  He reached for his shirt and pulled it on.

After a lingering glance, she turned and walked away, feeling his eyes on her.  She couldn’t resist turning around to wave at him.  She was looking forward to being alone with him tomorrow morning.

They met the next morning and every morning after that.  Each time, he would be coming out of the ocean after a swim, dry himself off and then they would set off down the familiar stretch of beach where they usually went for their walks.  They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at some of his stories about his family, friends and dates gone wrong.  She enjoyed being with him and looked forward to their morning meetings.

On the last morning before they were to leave the island, they went for their usual walk.  This time the mood was heavy.  After today, she was never going to see him again.  The reality of this thought filled her with despair and her feet dragged in the sand.  When he stopped and they stood there at the water’s edge, the water lapping at their feet, he turned to her, his expression tense.  “I’m going to miss this,” he said tightly.  “I’m going to miss our walks on the beach and our conversations.”

She swallowed hard, thankful that she was wearing sunglasses so that he couldn’t see her shiny eyes.  “I’m going to miss them too.”

“Sheree, you must know by now that I’m extremely attracted to you.”

She nodded.  It was no use pretending that she didn’t.  She could tell by the way he looked at and acted around her.  She was sure that her feelings for him were obvious to him too.  “Yes, I—I do.”

“And I know that you are attracted to me too.  I can tell from the way you look at me and I can feel it.  Oh, Sheree,” he moaned and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, his eyes darkening on her face.

Panicking, she struggled against him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “Ryder, please let go of me.”

His grip tightened as he tried to hold her still.  “Stop fighting something that is stronger than both of us.”

“Ryder, we can’t get involved with each other,” she protested weakly, her heart pounding heavily in her chest but the hands that were supposed to be pushing him away were gripping his shirt.  She watched, mesmerized as his face got closer to hers and her eyes fell shut when she felt his lips on hers, teasing them and tormenting her.

Desire surged through her like a wild fire and she was kissing him back like a mad woman.  They stood there exchanging hot, searing kisses for a long time before he broke it off to bury his face in her neck, breathing heavily.  She clung to him, trembling like a leaf and gasping for air.

After a few moments passed, he raised his head to gaze down at her.  “When this is all over, I want us to finish what we started,” he muttered thickly.

“But you’ll be in Sydney and I’ll be in New York.”

“As soon as I sort out my business back home, I’m taking the first available flight to New York.”

“You would fly all that way just-just to see me?”

“Yes!  I would fly to the end of the world if I had to.  Now that I’ve met you, I can’t let distance keep me from you.  I will come to you.”

“And I will be waiting.”

He bent his head and kissed her again before they continued walking along the beach, his arm around her shoulders and hers around his waist.  They parted ways on the beach and she was in her room when he left for the airport.  On the flight back to New York, she told Carly everything and she was thrilled.  “I suspected that there was something between you two,” she said.  “Don’t worry about Mom.  I will sort it out with her.  It won’t be the end of the world if we end up with twenty-four bachelors instead of twenty-five.”

Sheree squeezed her hand.  “Thanks, Carly.”

Carly smiled.  “I’m a romantic at heart.”

As soon as Sheree got home, she sent an email to Ryder letting him know that she had arrived safely and waited eagerly to receive a reply which came the following day.  Over the next several weeks, she busied herself putting together the feature in the magazine.  Initially, Irina wasn’t thrilled that they were minus a bachelor, especially, the hottest one, in her opinion but, she didn’t want to stand in the way of Sheree’s happiness.  Sheree learned that once Ryder had been notified that he wouldn’t be featured in the magazine, he reimbursed them for the travel and hotel expenses.

Ryder and she exchanged emails every day and occasionally spoke on the telephone.  It had been several weeks since they last saw each other and she kept wondering when he would eventually come to New York.  Weeks turned into months and still no sign of him although they kept in touch via email.

It was Christmas Eve and she was about to fix herself some lunch when the doorbell rang.  She dried her hands in the towel hanging on the oven handle and went to see who it was.  Her heart somersaulted when she peered out of the keyhole, bursting with excitement and joy, she unlocked the door and tugged it open.  Her eyes slipped eagerly over his tall frame in the black winter coat with the fur trimmed collar and hood.  “Hello,” she greeted him.

He smiled that smile which made her knees go weak, pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  “Sorry it took so long for me to come,” he said after a while.

“You’re here just in time to celebrate Christmas,” she said.  “Come in and warm yourself.”  She opened the door wider so that he could go in.  She took his coat and hung it up while he removed his shoes.

“Where’s your luggage?” she asked.

“I dropped it off at the corporate apartment where I will be staying before coming over here to see you.”

Taking his hand, she led him into the living-room and invited him to sit on the sofa.  “I was just about to have lunch.  Are you hungry?”

He nodded. “A little.  Do you know what time it is now in Sydney?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“It’s two in the morning.  We’re 14 hours ahead.  It’s one of the things I had to factor in my decision to move here.”

She gaped at him.  “Move here?”

“Yes.  I’m going to be living in New York now that I am the new Director of our office here.”

“When did you decide to move to New York?”

“On the morning we said goodbye on the beach.  I knew then that I couldn’t go back to my life in Sydney when the woman I wanted to be with was in New York.  So, I made all the necessary arrangements and here I am to finish what we started in Montego Bay.”

Her response was to put her arms around his neck and kiss him.  Two years later, their unfinished business ended in marriage and their honeymoon was in Montego Bay where it all began.

Sources:  The Guardian; Just Mommies; Prokerala; The Washington Post; The 416 Magazine; Elite Daily; Thought CatalogHalf Moon;

Dinner at Sunset

Noelle was having a private meeting with Barry Forbes in her office when the door opened and Sandra, her secretary walked in.  Noelle glanced up at her, unable to hide her irritation at the disruption but before she could say anything, Sandra spoke. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Noelle, but I have an urgent phone call for Mr. Forbes.”

Immediately an expression of concern crossed Barry’s face and he asked, “Who is it from?”

“It’s your wife.  She sounds very upset.”

Noelle said to him, “You can take the call on my phone.”

“It’s on line one,” Sandra said.

Noelle picked up the receiver, handed it to him and pressed the line one button.  She watched as Barry spoke to his wife and saw his face go pale.  It must be very serious, she thought in alarm.  As soon as he was finished speaking, she said to him, “If you have to go, go.”

“It’s Sam, our youngest daughter.  She was struck by a car and they said it was very serious.  My wife’s at the hospital now.”  He stood up and pulled on his jacket, his hands trembling slightly.

“I hope and pray that she will be okay,” she said.  “Are you okay to drive?”

He nodded.  “I’ll be fine.  I’m just a bit shaken up.”

Noelle got up and walked with him to the elevator.  “Please call me on my cell and let me know how Sam is.”  She reached out and clasped his hand.

“I will,” he promised.  The doors of the elevator opened and he stepped in.  He leaned against the wall as they closed.

Noelle stood there for several minutes, praying that Samantha would pull through.  She was only fifteen, the same age as Tatiana.  She couldn’t imagine how she would feel if she were to receive news that her sister had met with a terrible accident.

“Are you all right?” a voice inquired behind her.  She turned and found herself staring up into a pair of amazing blue eyes.  They belonged to Horst, the new director of the company.  He was absolutely gorgeous with thick, wavy black hair, athletic build and a deep, sexy voice with a German accent.  As usual when she was around him, her heart began to beat faster.

“No,” she said.  “Barry Forbes and I were having a meeting a few minutes ago when he got an urgent phone call from his wife.  Their youngest daughter, Samantha got struck down by a car and is in serious condition.  Barry is heading over to the hospital right now.  Poor man.  I hope Samantha will be all right.”

Horst’s eyes filled with sympathy.  “I hope so too,” he said quietly.  “I remember how awful it was for my parents and me when my older brother had a skiing accident.  He was in such serious condition that they didn’t think he would survive but, thank God, he did.  After months of physiotherapy, he was fully recovered.  He walks with a slight limp but the important thing is he survived.  I’m sure the doctors will do all they can for Samantha.”

Noelle smiled slightly.  “Thanks,” she said.  “I feel a little better.”

“Good,” he said, rubbing her arm.

She swallowed hard, hardly able to think straight because of the sensation of his fingers on her bare arm, stirring up all sorts of sensations.

“Noelle, have dinner with me tonight at my place,” he said, startling her.  His eyes held hers in a steady gaze and his expression was intense.  “We can sit on the terrace overlooking the ocean while we eat.  It’s summer so the sun wouldn’t set until around nine.  We can watch the sun set.”

It took a while for it to sink in that he was asking her to have what sounded like a romantic dinner with him at his beach house.  Of course, she was going to accept his invitation.  She would be a fool not to.  She would worry about what to wear later.  “Yes,” she said now rather breathlessly.  “Dinner sounds wonderful.  What time would you like me to be there?”

His features became relaxed.  “Come for seven,” he said.

She expelled a shaky breath when he stopped rubbing her arm and placed it in his pocket.  “I’ll be there for seven.”

“Good.”  He smiled, making her heart melt before he excused himself and walked away.

The rest of the day was a complete blur for her.  Then, it was time to leave.  It was Friday and a great start to the weekend.  As she drove home, she wondered how things fared at the hospital and hoped that Barry would call her.

As soon as she got home, she took a quick shower and then went through her wardrobe for something to wear.  She chose to wear a long, floral print off the shoulder summer dress with a side slit below the knee and a pair of wedge heeled sandals.  Her hair was pulled back in a French knot.  Satisfied with the way she looked, she grabbed her handbag, keys and left the flat, her heart racing with excitement.  It was a lovely evening.  The sunshine was bright and it was a very pleasant drive up the coast.

Horst answered the door soon after she rang the bell.  He smiled broadly, clearly delighted to see her and his gaze traveled over her as he held the door open for her to go in.  “You look beautiful,” he remarked after closing the door and turning to face her.

She smiled self-consciously.  “Thank you.”  He looked incredibly handsome in the black shirt and dark blue jeans.  His hair was a bit tousled.  Her fingers itched to bury themselves in the thick, silky tresses.  Realizing that she was staring, she turned away.

“Come, let me give you a quick tour of the place before we have dinner.”  He led her through the foyer and into the living-room which was bright and airy with lots of natural light coming through the windows.  The stunning all white living-room decor looked like something she would see in Elle Decor magazine.

The kitchen was large and bright with windows, unlike hers.  It had granite counter-tops, an island with chairs.  The tantalizing aroma of dinner lingered in the air although the windows were open. There were three guest bedrooms and the master bedroom.  The master bedroom was decidedly masculine and the French doors opened onto the balcony, affording one an unobstructed view of the sea.  It must be a treat to wake up to that every morning, she mused as she followed him to the terrace.

“Have a seat, while I go and get dinner.”  He held out the chair that was facing the sea for her to sit in.  Then, he went off to the kitchen.

While he was gone, Noelle leaned back in the chair and surveyed the table which was covered in a white cloth, with a vase of red roses in the center.  There were two glasses and a bucket of ice with a bottle of what she supposed to be wine in it.  There were utensils and napkins.  And there were two white candles.  They were not lit.  Perhaps he was going to light them after the sun set.

She smiled, breathing in the tangy salt air.  The beach was deserted.  It was nice and peaceful unlike where she lived.  She watched as the shallow frothy waters rolled onto the sand.  It must be so nice taking long walks, with nothing but sand, sea and sky around for miles and miles.

Horst brought out two salads and sat down in the chair on her right.  After he said a prayer, they tucked into the Quinoa, Beet, and Arugula Salad.

“This is delicious,” Noelle exclaimed.  “I’m so used to having the Greek or Italian or green salads.  This is a really nice change.”

He smiled.  “I ate this salad at a restaurant a couple of months ago and always promised myself that I would make it.”

Twenty minutes later, he brought out the main course.  She gazed at the plate with the Crispy Parmesan Garlic Chicken with Zucchini, her mouth watering with anticipation.  “You’re an amazing cook,” she said after having a mouthful.  “Where did you learn to cook like this?”

“I learned fast that eating out could be expensive so I taught myself to cook.  I searched the Internet for different recipes and tried them.  After lots of trials and errors, I finally got it right.”

“Well, you’ve definitely got it right.  I can’t get over how soft and succulent the chicken is.”

“Thank you.”  He poured the wine into the two glasses.  It had a sweet and savory taste.

“So, now I know that you are a great cook.”

“What else would you like to know about me?”

“I can tell from your accent that you’re German.”

“Yes, I was born in Hamburg, Germany.  I always wanted to come to America.  I used to watch a lot of American movies.  I especially liked the classics and the westerns.  My favorite western was The Magnificent Seven with German actor, Horst Buchholz.  After I graduated from university, I moved here.  Initially, my parents weren’t happy but when they visited and saw how well I was doing, they became supportive.”

“Are you an only child?”

“No.  I have an older brother and a younger sister.  He lives in Berlin with his family and my sister lives in Vienna with her husband.  He teaches at the Vienna University of Technology and she works as a nurse at a private clinic.”

She asked him more questions about himself and his family and then it was his turn to ask questions about her.  That evening they learned more about each than they had in all the years they worked together.

After dinner, she helped him to clear the table and he stacked the dirty plates, glasses into the dishwasher.  “Are you up for dessert?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “Not right now, thanks,” she said, patting her stomach.  “I don’t think I have any more room for it.”

“All right.  Let’s go back on the terrace and watch the sun set as promised.”

They sat down facing the ocean.  Ten minutes later the sun began its descent.  As Noelle watched it set, Longfellow’s quote came to her.  “Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai.”  

They sat there for a while longer.  It was such a fun evening that she didn’t want to leave but it was getting late and the drive home was close to 80 minutes.  “I’d better be heading home now,” she said, getting up from the table.

“Do you have plans for tomorrow?” he asked as he walked her to the door.

She shook her head.  And even if she did, she would happily cancel them.

“Spend the day with me tomorrow.  Come for eight so that we can have breakfast together and bring a swimsuit.”

“Sounds wonderful,” she said with a smile.  “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.  Thank you for a lovely dinner and evening.”  Are we going to kiss goodnight?  For some women it might be too soon but not for me.  I’ve wanted to kiss this man for a very long time.

He wanted to kiss her so badly but didn’t want to rush things.  Instead, he reached down and kissed her on the cheek.  When he drew back, his eyes were dark when they met her wide ones and his face was slightly flushed.  “It was my pleasure,” he said huskily.  “I wanted to ask you over for dinner for a very long time.”

The air was suddenly very charged between them.  Her skin tingled where his lips had been and her heart was pounding wildly.  “I-I’m glad you finally got around to it,” she stammered.

“So am I.  I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Noelle.  Call me when you get home tonight.”

Noelle opened her mouth to say something when just then, her cell rang.  It was Barry.  He called to tell her that Samantha’s condition was stable and the doctors were very optimistic that she would make a full recovery.  “Thank God,” Noelle exclaimed.  “Thanks for calling, Barry.  We’ll be in touch.”  She ended the call and put the phone back into her bag.

“His daughter is going to be all right,” she said to Horst.  “I’m so relieved.”

“I’m sure her family is very relieved too,” he replied, his expression tense.  “Noelle…”

“I should leave now,” Noelle said but she didn’t move.  She stood there gazing up at him, her breath quickening.

Groaning thickly, he reached for her, the desire in his eyes almost scorching her as he pressed her against him.  His lips found hers and ravaged them.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  After several minutes of exchanging passionate kisses, he drew back to gasp, “Spend the night with me.”

She nodded.  “Yes,” she managed to say before he lowered his head again to kiss her.

Two hours later, clad in dressing-gowns, they were relaxing on two chaise lounge chairs on the balcony outside of his bedroom, having two Black Forest Cannoli Parfaits with a view of the moonlit ocean before them.  It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.  The following morning, they had a late breakfast before she went home.

They became romantically involved and a year later, they got married.  On the first evening after they returned from their honeymoon, they had a sumptuous dinner, which Noelle prepared, on the terrace and watched as the sun set over the horizon.

Source:  AZ Quotes

 

 

The Love of God

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky – a Hymn by Frederick M. Lehman

The love of God is brighter than the most luminescent star in the sky and more vast than the universe He created.

God-Loves-Us-Poem.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ALuMelGKSy

Sunrise on the Beach

A creature of habit, he went for a walk on the beach very early in the morning before the sun rose.  It was quiet and peaceful at that time and he could clear his thoughts.  This morning was different, though.  His mind was in turmoil.  He couldn’t stop thinking about her and what almost happened between them last night.  He wanted her but he couldn’t have her because she was his brother’s girlfriend.

Last night he watched them together when they were all in the drawing-room following a sumptuous dinner, jealousy eating him up.  When he saw Laurence put his arm around her waist, he wanted to go over there and pull them apart.  Instead, he rose abruptly to his feet and stalked out of the dining-room.  He went into the library where he planned to spend the rest of the evening.

He was sitting in the armchair, deep in thought when the door opened and Laila walked in.  He stiffened at once and a muscle began to pulsate along his jaw-line.  Involuntarily, his gaze swept over her slender frame in the short coral reef shade strapless mesh dress with the sweetheart neckline.  It reached just above her knees revealing a pair of long, shapely legs in impossibly high strappy sandals.  Her neck was long and graceful and her shoulders smooth.  Her skin was flawless.  Her hair cut short like a boy’s suited her.  She was an extremely beautiful woman and she took his breath away.  He tried to ignore the feelings she was stirring inside him and exuded a calm demeanor he was far from feeling.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she said, going over to stand beside him.  “I saw when you left the room.  Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” he replied in a tight voice.  You disturb me more than you know.  “Laurence is probably wondering where you went off to.”  He wanted to insist that she leave him because he was afraid of what he might do if she stayed.

She shrugged.  “Laurence can do without me for a little while,” she said.  “I’d like to stay here and keep you company.”

He caught a whiff of her perfume which tantalized his senses with its blended scents of hyacinth and primrose. She was standing too close for comfort and he couldn’t hide the desire that was raging inside him. For one betraying moment, his gaze lowered to her mouth which he longed to ravish, especially when he saw it part invitingly.  He stood up.  Their bodies were inches apart and their heads were moving closer together.  In a few seconds, their lips would touch and he would taste the sweetness within…

Then sound of footsteps in the hall reached their ears and they broke apart.  He sank heavily back down in the chair, his face flushed and his heart racing while she moved closer to the bookcase.  Laurence went into the room, his eyes shifting first to her and then to his brother, his expression quizzical.  “So, this is where you two dashed off to,” he said.  “Father and Mother are about to cut the cake.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss that.”  He took Laila’s arm.  “Aidan, are you coming?”

“Yes.” He stood up, his eyes avoiding her as he walked past them and out of the room, his back rod straight.  He would have preferred to stay in the library but it was his parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary and it would look rather amiss if he were absent when they cut the cake.  He stood by the window, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jacket, watching as his parents beamed at each other as they got ready to cut the three tier cake.  Just then Laurence and Laila entered the room.  Unable to resist, his eyes lingered on her.  She seemed to be looking around the room.  Was she looking for him?  There wasn’t any doubt in his mind that Laila was attracted to him and if Laurence hadn’t walked in when he had…

The thunderous applause jolted him and he dragged his eyes away from Laila to see his parents kiss before they cut the cake.  He went over and congratulated them.  He stayed and mingled with the guests until they left and then, he escaped to his room.  He lay there for a long time, staring up at the ceiling and trying to put what almost happened between Laila and him out of his mind.  It was almost one in the morning when he finally dozed off.

He woke up at his usual time which was just before sunrise and made his way down to the beach.  It promised to be a beautiful morning but it did nothing to lift his spirits.  He removed his loafers and left them in the sand while he walked to the water’s edge.  He stood gazing at the calm ocean, wishing that was how he felt inside.  Of all the women in England, why did he have to fall in love with her?

Sighing heavily, he dragged his fingers through his hair.  Right now he felt guilty because of Laurence but bitter disappointment because of what could have happened if only they hadn’t been interrupted.

Just then the sun appeared as a bright yellow ball above the ocean, illuminating its calm waters.  It was one of the most magnificent sunrises he had ever seen and he found himself wishing that Laila was there to enjoy it with him.  Frustrated with himself, he quickly removed his clothes and ran stark naked into the water to cool off.  It felt great against his skin and he floated on his back for several minutes, closing his eyes.

Laila sat there watching him.  She had followed him after she saw him leave the house.  She knew that he was heading for the beach.  It felt a bit cool at first when she came out into the early morning air and was glad that she was wearing a light jacket.  She made sure he didn’t see her and kept close to the rocks, watching him as he walked along the sandy shore.  He was bare feet.  His shoes were in his hands.  He was dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt and a pair of jeans.  He stopped and turned toward the ocean, standing there for a few minutes.  Then, she gasped when she saw him strip and walk naked into the ocean.  Her heart began to pound as she watched him wade out into the water before he disappeared under its surface.

Suddenly, she was feeling hot and she pulled off her jacket.  She wanted to get from where she was perched on the sandy slope and join him but there was the possibility of the water being a bit too cool for her liking.  She decided to stay put and just watch him.

Last night she hadn’t been able to sleep.  All she could think about was how much she wanted him to kiss her and he would have if Laurence hadn’t interrupted them.  Laurence knew that she was in love with Aiden and he teased her about it.  Last night, much to her chagrin, he put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to whisper in her ear, “I know that my little brother is besotted with you but he wouldn’t do anything about it because he thinks that you and I are in a relationship.”

She turned to stare at him.  “Why does he think that?” she asked.

“I may have alluded to it.”

“Why would you do that?”

“To get a rise out of him.”

“Is that why you’ve been flirting with me all night?”

“He’s leaving.  I thought he would have come over here and punch me or something.”

She turned to see Aidan hurrying out of the room.  Grimacing, she removed Larry’s arm from around her.  “Well, you’ve succeeded in getting a rise out of me too.”

Laurence looked contrite.  “I’m sorry.  I was just trying to help things along.  You’ll find him in the library.  It’s where he always goes when he’s upset.”

“Thank you.”  She excused herself and quickly walked away.  Her heart thudded with each step as she headed for the library.  She found him sitting in the armchair  by the windows overlooking the courtyard.  He didn’t look pleased to see her but she didn’t mind.  Her desire to be with him trumped his desire to be alone.  She trembled now as she remembered when he stood in front of her and they were about to kiss.  How she longed to feel his lips on hers.  Darn Larry for spoiling the moment.

Aidan was coming ashore and she rose to her feet, her eyes riveted as she saw him walk over to where his clothes lay on, spread his shirt out and sit on it with his knees drawn, gazing out at the sea.  She sat there for the longest time watching him and debating whether or not to go down to him.

A gentle breeze was blowing and it was becoming warm.  He felt invigorated after the swim and now he sat there allowing the air to dry his hair and skin.  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight o’clock.  The others were probably awake by now.  He would head back in ten minutes.  Right now, he just wanted to enjoy his solitude…Something, he didn’t quite know what, alerted him that he wasn’t alone anymore and he swung round, his face going beet red when he saw Laila coming down the slope toward him.

Muttering under his breath, he scrambled to his feet, snatched up his jeans and dragged them on, his fingers trembling as he fumbled with the zipper.  He fastened the button and was about to pick up his shirt when she reached him.  He felt self-conscious standing there half-naked in front of her and he felt his body react when he saw her eyes travel over his torso.

His expression was tense as he looked at her and his heart was pounding wildly against his ribs.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded tightly as he scooped up his shirt and pulled it on.

“I saw you leave and followed you.”

“Laila, you can’t stay here.”

“Why not?” she asked.  “Is it because of what nearly happened between us last night?”

“Yes!” he hissed.  He was trying really hard to control his emotions but she was making it impossible.  “You need to go back to the house right now.”

“I don’t want to go back to the house, Aidan.  I want to stay here.”

“All right.  Then, I’ll leave.”  He was about to walk past her when she caught his arm.

“Leaving me here wouldn’t change anything,” she told him huskily.  “It wouldn’t change what we feel for each other.  Last night I couldn’t sleep.  All I could think about was how much I wanted you to kiss me…”  She was standing very close to him now and her gaze had dropped to his lips, her own parting eagerly.

Groaning, he turned away from her as every fiber of his body screamed for him to take her in his arms and unleash the hunger that was consuming him.  “No, as much as I want you, I can’t do this to my brother.”

“Aidan, I’m not Larry’s girlfriend.

Aidan turned back to stare at her.  “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Larry and I are not romantically involved.  We’re just really good friends.”

“If that’s true, why is he always fawning all over you?  Last night, he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes and hands off you.”  Jealousy flashed in his eyes at the memory.

“That was for your benefit,” she informed him.

His eyes widened.  “My benefit?” he exclaimed.

“Yes.  He was trying to get a rise out of you.”  She moved closer.  “He seems to think that you’re in love with me.  Is he right?”

His eyes darkened on her face and reaching out, he pulled her against him.  “Yes,” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  His lips plundered hers hungrily, feverishly and she pressed against him, her fingers gripping his hair as she responded passionately to his kisses.  They stood there for a long time, kissing while the sunlight bathed them.  Then, he broke off the kiss to bury his face in her neck.  “I love you,” he whispered.

She smiled.  “I love you too,” she murmured.  Then, they were kissing again.  She tugged at his shirt and he released her to pull it over his head.  His jeans followed.  Her fingers moved eagerly over his bare skin and she felt him ease her gently down on to the sand which felt soft and cushiony against her back.  They made love right there on the beach and in the following Spring they got married.  Laurence was the best man.

The first thing, Aiden and Laila did the following morning after they returned from their honeymoon in Bermuda was to go to the beach to watch the sunrise.  They stood there at the water’s edge, the water swirling about their ankles, arms around each other watching the sun as it rose slowly in the sky.  He turned to her and murmured huskily, “This is why I bought a house on the beach.  I want to stand here and watch the sunrise with you every morning for the rest of our lives.”

She smiled at him, her heart in her eyes.  “What a beautiful thing to say,” she said.  “It reminds me of a quote I once read.  It went something like this, ‘Someday, you will find the one who will watch every sunrise with you until the sunset of your life.’

“Yes, we found each other.”  He reached down and kissed her.

Source:  Pure Love Quotes

The Last Session

He glanced at his watch.  She was late.  Sighing, he got up from the chair and walked over to the window where he stood gazing out at the street below.  Where was she?  She was supposed to be there ten minutes ago.  Was she with him again?  The last time she was late, she had run into Devon who persuaded her to have a coffee with him and she didn’t show up here until almost half-hour later, apologizing profusely.  Fortunately for her, he didn’t have any other appointments for the afternoon so he was able to see her but he had advised her not to be late again.  And now, she was late again and most likely, Devon was the reason.

He closed his eyes as jealousy ripped through him.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he made up his mind that he couldn’t continue seeing her.  Today they would have their last session and then he would refer her to a colleague.

It was his sister who had referred her to him and when she walked into his office, he should have realized that he was heading straight toward the slippery slope.  He tried to remain detached and professional as he listened to her talk about her relationship troubles with Devon, a young man she had been dating since high-school but as the weeks went by, he found himself wishing that she would do them both a favor and end her relationship with Devon.  She deserved better.  She was beautiful, smart and had so much going for her.  She didn’t need to be in this dead-end relationship with a man who clearly didn’t appreciate her.  She had so much love to give but she was giving it to the wrong person and that drove him crazy.  Whenever he thought of Devon, anger and jealousy consumed him.  He doesn’t know how lucky he isIf I had an incredible woman like Ramona, I would treat her like a queen.

He turned when he heard the door open and his heart leapt when he saw her standing there.  She came over to where he was.  “You’re late,” he said unnecessarily.

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said, looking anxiously at him as she quickly removed her leather jacket.

He couldn’t prevent his gaze from traveling over her.  She was wearing a black turtleneck sweater, a knee length red skirt with knee high black boots.  Her hair fell in thick waves of curls about her face and shoulders and for one maddening moment, he wanted to bury his face in them.  Abruptly, he walked over to the chair where he remained standing until she sat down on the sofa.  “We only have twenty-five minutes for the session so we’d better get started.”

She sat with her hands in her lap.  “Twenty-five minutes isn’t much time,” she said.

“You were supposed to be here thirty-five minutes ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Let’s not waste any more time with apologies and talk about why you’re here today.”

“I saw Devon at the café yesterday afternoon and—”

“Did you arrange to meet him there?”

“No, I went to get a cappuccino and he was there.”

“Did you leave the café after you bought the cappuccino?”

“I was about to when he came over to me.”

“What did he want?”

“He just wanted to say hello.”

“And after he said hello, did you leave?”

She shook her head, beginning to look uncomfortable now.  “Well, we left the café together.”

“Where did you go?”

“We walked back to my flat.”

“What happened when you got there?”

“He wanted to come upstairs but I told him that it wasn’t a good time.”

He tried to remain calm and pragmatic.  “So, the only reason he didn’t go up to your flat is that it wasn’t a good time.  The last time we spoke, you indicated that you wanted to end your relationship with him but it seems to me that you had an opportunity to do so yesterday but you didn’t take it.  It is obvious that you still have feelings for him and don’t want to make a clean break.”  He glanced at his watch.  “Your time is up.”

She looked upset.  “Already?”

“I’m afraid so.  Before you leave, I have something to tell you.”

“Yes?”

“This is our last session.  I will arrange for you to see my colleague, Mike Harris.”

She looked at him as if he had just given her devastating news.  “But why?” she asked.  “I’ve gotten so used to talking to you and you know so much about me.  Why do you want me to see someone else?”

“I don’t think I can help you.  You need someone who would be more objective.”

She got up from the sofa and went over to him.  “Jackson, please, I need to continue seeing you.  I promise I won’t be late again.”

He felt himself weakening when he stared up into those beautiful brown eyes and he wanted to reach up and pull her head down to his…Muttering under his breath, he sprang to his feet and went to stand behind the desk, putting as much distance between them as possible.  “I’m sorry, Ramona, but I think you would be better off seeing another therapist.  I will have the office get in touch with you.”

She stared at him for a long moment and then, stifling a sob, she grabbed her jacket and handbag and bolted from the room.  He stood there, trembling as he fought the temptation to go after her.  He believed he had done the right thing–the sensible thing yet why did he feel rotten?  He had to take a few moments to collect himself before he was able to see his next client.

He was packing up to leave when the door opened and his sister walked in, her expression a mixture of censure and concern.  He looked at her in surprise.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Jackson, what happened between Ramona and you this morning?” Noreen asked him.  “She came to my office in tears.”

He continued what he was doing.  “I told her that I couldn’t continue with our sessions and I recommended that she started seeing Mike.”

“Why did you do that?”

Without looking up, he confessed quietly, “I’ve done something that a therapist should never do.  I fell in love with her.”

“And your solution to this problem is to send her to someone else?”

“I can’t continue seeing her when there’s a conflict of interest.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit in that chair and listen to her talk about another man?  I get so jealous that I can’t think straight.  She deserves to be helped by someone who can be objective.”

“She said that you were upset with her for being late.”

“Yes, I was.  I thought that she was with him—”

“Well, you were wrong.  It’s my fault that she was late.  I offered to give her a lift but wanted to stop by the cemetery first to put flowers on Tom’s grave.  Today is his birthday, you know.  He would have been fifty-three.  I spent a longer time than I intended and we had to rush over here.  Poor Ramona was mortified and was afraid that you wouldn’t see her.  I wanted to come up with her and explain why she was late but she declined my offer.”

“Okay, I was wrong about why she was late today but the fact remains she’s still hung up on her boyfriend even though he treats her like…” he broke off as he found himself getting upset.  “Let’s face it, Noreen, I’m in love with a woman who wants to be with a man who doesn’t deserve her.  Such is life.”

“Is that what you believe?  You believe that Ramona wants to be with Devon?”

“Yes.” The word came out as a strangled whisper.  It was torture loving and longing for someone he couldn’t have.

Noreen touched his arm, her eyes searching his face and seeing the pain etched in its features.  “You’re wrong about this too,” she told him quietly.  “Ramona doesn’t want to be with Devon.  She broke up with him weeks ago.”

Jackson stared at her.  “She broke up with him?” he repeated, looking puzzled.  “But why did she continue to come here and talk to me about him if she ended their relationship?  It doesn’t make any sense.”

“People do strange things when they’re in love, Jack.”

“In love?  Are you saying that–?”  He shook his head.  “No, you must be mistaken.  She may have broken up with him but she’s still carrying a torch for Devon.  That’s why she’s been coming and talking to me about him.”

“I’m not mistaken.  She told me herself.  She kept coming to your sessions because she wanted to continue seeing you.  And when you told her that you were referring her to another therapist, she was devastated.  She didn’t tell you how she felt about you because it would be another reason for ending your sessions.  She was in quite a state when she came to my office.  I gave her a lift home.”

He raked his fingers through his hair, trying to digest what he was hearing.  His heart wanted to believe that Ramona loved him but his mind kept resisting.  “This is probably transference.  You know when a patient transfers his or her feelings to the therapist…”

“I know what transference means, Jack.  I don’t believe that it applies here, though.  Ramona is in love with you.  Why don’t you go over to her flat and tell her how you feel?  Put both of you out of your misery.”

“I’m afraid, Noreen,” he confessed, his voice a bit unsteady. “I’m afraid to hope and believe that she could love me when she has loved him since high-school. I’m afraid that he will always be between us.”

“Jack, love is a funny thing.  We can’t help whom we fall in love with. Sometimes, it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  But, love is like the ocean.  It can be calm or rough, shallow or deep but we can’t know unless we venture out and get our feet wet.  Don’t let fear prevent you from following your heart.  Life is too short for fears and doubts…and regrets.”  She sighed.  “What I wouldn’t give to have my Tom alive and with me.”  Tom, her husband of thirty years had passed away five years ago, leaving behind their three children and her.  “Go to her, Jack.”

Heart racing, he decided to take her advice.  “All right,” he said.  “I’ll go and see her now.  Thank you, Noreen.”

Noreen smiled and her eyes seemed a bit moist.  She reached up and hugged him tightly.  “Don’t mention it.”  They walked out the office together and parted ways in the parking lot.

He sat in his car for a few minutes, wrestling with himself and then he pulled out of the parking lot, heading for the highway which would take him to Ramona.  Twenty minutes later, he was standing outside of her flat, his heart pounding hard.  His hand shook as he raised it to ring the bell.  The door opened and she stood here, staring at him.  How he longed to take her in his arms.

“I didn’t think I would see you again,” she said in a trembling voice.  Her eyes were red from crying.  She stepped aside so that he could go in.

“I’m sorry about today,” he said after she had closed the door and was facing him.  “Noreen came to see me and she explained why you were late.”

“I wanted to be early,” she said.  “I couldn’t wait to see you.  I was looking forward to spending an hour with you but because I was so late, I got to spend only twenty-five minutes which went by so quickly.”

“My next appointment was in ten minutes.  Noreen told me that you broke up with Devon.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

She glanced down at her hands which were twiddling with a crumpled tissue.  “I was afraid that if I did you would stop seeing me and—and I couldn’t bear that.”

“Why Ramona?” he asked huskily.

“I love you,” she murmured, still holding her head down.  Her heart was racing.  She wanted to throw herself in his arms but uncertainty about his feelings for her held her in check.

His fingers clenched into fists as he fought the urge to take her in his arms.  “What about Devon?” His faceless rival hovered between them.  “Did you see him yesterday?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did but it didn’t transpire the way I told you.  I went to the café to meet my friend, Brandi and he was there.  We spoke for a while and then he left.”

“So, all that stuff about him wanting to go up to your flat, that wasn’t true?”

“It’s true but it didn’t happen yesterday.  It happened a long time ago when we were on and off and before I started seeing you.”

“What about now?” he asked, his expression tense.  “Do you still have feelings for him?”

She looked up then, her eyes wide as they met his.  “No.  He and I are finished.  I don’t love him.  I don’t believe I ever did.  It was an infatuation which died when I met you.”

He swallowed hard.  “I want to hear you say that you love me again.”

“I love you.”

“Say my name.”

“I love you, Jackson.” She moved closer to him.  “I love you so much that the thought of never seeing you again was unbearable.”

He pulled her into his arms, his eyes dark and stormy.  “I love you too, Ramona,” he muttered thickly.  “You have no idea how much it pained me when you ran out of my office.  I wanted to come after you but I thought about Devon and…”

She raised her hand and touched him gently on the lips.  “Let’s not talk about Devon anymore.  He’s my past and you’re my future.  And now we have the present.”  She trembled when he held her hand and pressed his lips into the palm before he bent his head and kissed her.  Cupping his face between her hands, she responded wildly.

For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then she drew back to gaze up at his flushed face.  “Does this mean that you’re no longer my therapist?” she gasped.

“Yes.  Today was your last session.”

“Being with you is all the therapy I need,” she murmured before she pulled his head down to hers.