She turned on the radio and tried to listen to a talk show her friend had told her about but there was so much static, that after five minutes of endless crackling, she changed it to another station. As the smooth sounds of R&B filled the car, she tried to relax but she couldn’t. All she could think about was Mac and the redhead she saw him with last night at the café. Red, hot jealousy had burned in her as she watched them. Thankfully, he didn’t see her and she managed to slip out unnoticed.
After leaving the café, she had fumed all the way home, chiding herself for feeling the way she did. Never once did she entertain the thought that she would fall for the very same guy she had pegged as conceited. All the women at the office fawned over him but she had remained aloof, or so it appeared. She treated him professionally but kept him at a distance, making it crystal clear that she wasn’t interested. Yet, deep down, she couldn’t deny that she was strongly attracted to him and seeing him with another woman last night, forced her to acknowledge that she was in love with him.
Gripping the steering wheel, she fought back the angry tears and tried to figure out what she was going to do. How was she going to continue to act indifferently toward him when she was in love with him? Of all the men at the company, why did she have to fall for him? Everyone kept raving about what a nice guy he was but to her he came across as cocky. It was probably a bruise to his ego that she didn’t go for him. Well, the joke was on her now because she wanted him too and it was driving her crazy.
Two days ago they were in the last two to leave the office and as she was clearing off her desk, he went over to her. She didn’t look up but was painfully aware of him and the whiff of his cologne was tantalizing. He looked incredible in the striped navy blue suit, black shirt and tie. His spiky hair gave him an edgy look which she found very attractive. He was sexy and he knew it and that irritated her. She tried to ignore her pounding heart and busied herself with putting away papers and signing off the computer. She could feel him watching her and she resisted the urge to look up.
“It’s been a very hectic week,” he commented.
“Any plans for tonight?”
There a brief pause and then, “Have dinner with me, then.”
Her head shot up then and she stared at him. He couldn’t possibly be serious. Why would he think that she would have dinner with him? Of all the conceited—“No, thank you,” she said curtly. “Perhaps you should ask Joan or Nancy or one of the other women. I’m sure they would love to have dinner with you.”
“I don’t want to have dinner with any of them, Brianna. I want to have dinner with you.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t—”
“I—I just can’t.”
“That’s not a good enough reason.”
“It’s the only one I can give you,” she retorted.
“What are you afraid of?” He asked, startling her.
“I’m not afraid of anything,” she said quickly, too quickly.
“I think you’re afraid of being alone with me.”
“Why should I be afraid to be alone with you?” she demanded, wishing she didn’t want to kiss him so badly.
“You’re afraid because you want me as much as I want you. I wanted you from the moment I first met you—”
“This is exactly why I can’t stand you,” she cried, her voice sounding a little high-pitched. She wanted so desperately to get out of there now. It was becoming increasingly hard to stand there so close to him and not want to tear off his clothes.
“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.
“I think you’re conceited and that you think you’re God’s gift to women.”
“You mistake self-confidence for conceit and you’re wrong about how I see myself when it comes to women. I don’t think that I’m God’s gift to them. Women find me attractive just as men find you attractive. That is something neither of us can prevent.”
She quickly lowered her gaze, feeling chastised. He certainly put her in her place and in a very gracious way too. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
He reached out and touched her arm, making her jump. Her eyes were wide as she stared up at him and her heart was beating at an alarming rate. Somehow she found herself trapped between him and the desk. And she stood there, helpless, watching mesmerized as his face got closer. Her eyes dropped to his lips and hers parted in anticipation.
Then, he was kissing her and she was kissing him back ravenously, her arms going around his neck, clinging to him as she was leaning back over the desk under the onslaught of his kisses. At one point he lifted her on top of the desk and continued to kiss her and then his cell phone rang. He ignored it. It stopped ringing. They continued kissing and then, it rang again.
Groaning in frustration, he pulled away from her, fumbled for the cell and answered it. “Hello?” he panted. He listened for a moment. And then, he said to her, “I have to take this call.”
Well, when he turned walked away a little distance to talk, she used that as an opportunity to leave. She slid off the desk, grabbed her handbag and ran out of there. She knew that if she had stayed there, she would have made love to him right there in the office. She still had reservations about him and was afraid of getting hurt. That night, she couldn’t sleep. All she could think about was how his lips felt and how it thrilled her to know that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
The next day, she avoided him as much as she could and when he managed to ask her why she had run out on him, she replied, “It was getting late and I had errands to run,” before she walked away. At the end of the day, she made sure she left before he did. After picking up her winter coat and some suits from the laundry, she decided to treat herself to a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and sandwiches. She had just finished her second sandwich when Mac walked in.
The blare of a car horn jolted her back to the present and she saw that the light had changed to green. As she drove off, she was sorely tempted to go over to Mac’s flat and confront him. No, I won’t give him the satisfaction, she decided, her mouth tightening. I won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how much it hurt to see him with her. No, I’m going home and take a nice, hot bath. I’m not going to let Mac ruin my weekend.
She turned down the street that would take her home. Ten minutes later, she let herself in her flat. After hanging her coat in the closet and putting her handbag away, she got undressed. The hot water felt good against her skin but it couldn’t erase him from her mind. She donned a pair of pajamas and went over to the sofa to watch some TV. She stared at the screen but nothing registered. All she could think about was Mac. Closing her eyes in despair she leaned her head against the back of the sofa. They soon opened again when she heard the doorbell.
Glancing at the clock above the mantelpiece, she wondered who would be stopping by to see her at nine-thirty. She got up from the sofa and went to answer the door. Her eyes widened when she peered through the keyhole and saw Mac standing there. Immediately, her heart began to race. What is he doing here? She opened the door. He looked so good in the white shirt and jeans.
His expression was serious as he met her gaze. “I’m sorry to be dropping by at this time but you and I need to talk.”
“Okay.” She moved aside to let him in and closed the door behind him. After he removed his shoes, she preceded him to the living-room. They sat down on the sofa and he turned so that he was facing her.
“Why did you run off that afternoon when we were together?” he asked.
“I told you—”
“Yes, I know what you told me but I want to hear the real reason, Brianna.”
She looked down at her hands. “I was afraid that if I stayed, I would have let you make love to me.”
His eyes darkened. “Why would something so incredible make you afraid?”
“I just didn’t want to get hurt. You could have any woman you want and you say you want me but that could change…”
“Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman—”
“Then, who was the redhead I saw you with at the café?” she demanded, rising to her feet.
He looked up at her, startled. “Redhead?” he repeated, knitting his brow. “Oh, you mean Amber.”
“Yes.” She couldn’t hide the jealousy that was raging inside her. “I was in the café and I saw when you came in. I sat there and watched the two of you.”
“Why didn’t you come over and say hello?” he asked, looking perplexed.
She turned away. “I didn’t want you to see me.”
He got up and taking her by the shoulders, he turned her around to face him. She kept her eyes downcast, not wanting him to see what was in them. “You’re jealous,” he realized. “There’s no reason for you to be. Amber is my cousin. She was having boyfriend problems and needed my advice. We decided that we would go to the café and talk there over cappuccinos and sandwiches.”
Brianna raised her eyes then. “When I saw you with her, I thought…”
He released her shoulders and slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him. “You thought I was seeing someone. Oh, Brianna, after what happened between us at the office, how could you think that? I told you how I feel about you that evening.”
“You said you wanted me—”
“Yes, and I do very, very much but desire isn’t all I feel for you, Brianna. What I’m trying to say is that I love you.”
“You love me?” she could hardly believe it.
She reached up and cupped his face. “I love you too,” she confessed. “Admitting to myself that I was in love with you was the hardest thing for me to do because of the man I thought you were. Perhaps, I painted that unflattering picture of you because I was afraid to let myself fall in love with a man who could have any woman he wanted.”
“You’re the only woman I want and love,” he declared huskily before he lowered his head and kissed her.
As she responded to his kisses, she thought how true these words were: You can’t stop the feelings you have for someone. You can’t lie to yourself either. Your heart knows the truth all too well.