The Inheritance

He stood there, leaning against the tree, hands in pockets, watching her with his younger brother.  They were walking in the garden having what appeared to be a very deep conversation.  Try as he did, he couldn’t deny that it bothered him to see them together.  It wasn’t because he shared his mother’s theory that Rhonda was only interested in his brother for his money.  Granted, William would be left a sizable inheritance when their mother died but that wasn’t what troubled him as he observed them.  It was what he planned to do that concerned him.

He wanted to prove that his mother was wrong about Rhonda and the only way he could think of doing that was to spend more time with her.  While William and the rest of the family were away on the annual winter vacation in the Grand Cayman, he would remain here.

You know that proving your mother wrong isn’t the only reason why you want to get close to Rhonda.  You are in love with her and that’s why it bothers you to see her with William.  He closed his eyes as the truth he had tried to suppress rose to the surface, unrelenting.  He remembered exactly the moment when he realized that he was in love with her.  It was last year Autumn when she had wandered into the library by mistake when she was looking for the drawing-room.  He was sitting in the armchair, reading a book when she walked in.

She looked surprised but very pleased to see him.  Or maybe it was wishful thinking on his part.  He must have appeared rather calm to her but his heart was pounding.  She had that effect on him.  His eyes were riveted to her face.  Such a lovely face.  She laughed, apologetically.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.  I was looking for the drawing-room.  This is only my second time here so I still have trouble finding my way around.”

“When you leave here, turn left and the drawing-room is two doors down the hall on your right.”  He hoped she would stay for a while.

She lingered.  “What are you reading?” she asked.  He showed her the cover and she read the title out loud, “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.”  A curious expression came over her face.  He could tell that it wasn’t what she expected him to be reading.

“It’s for my students,” he explained.  “A fellow teacher recommended it.  So, I’m reading it first to get ideas and then I will get copies for my students.  This book will help them to learn, accept and appreciate other cultures and differences in others.  It will also help them with their language and writing skills.”

She smiled.  “Oh yes, you teach Primary School.  How do you like it?”

“It’s very rewarding.  Sometimes, I learn from them.”

“My sister is a teacher too and she loves it.  How long have you been teaching?”

“For twelve years.  It’s not the lucrative job my mother was hoping that I would have.  She would have preferred that I were an airline pilot or a medical practitioner or a lawyer or even a broker.”

“Then, I guess she’s happy that William is a barrister.”  She was a court clerk and that was how they came to know each other.

“Yes, she is.” She is happy about his career choice but not about his relationship with you.  He could still see the expression of disapproval on his mother’s face whenever she thought of William with Rhonda.  She insisted that she had nothing against the young woman but she really was not suitable for William who would be far better off with a young lady came from a similar background as his.

He knew how his brother felt about her but he wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  A part of him hoped that she reciprocated William’s feelings and another part of him hoped that…He didn’t finish the thought as guilt filled him.  Instead, he closed the book and set it aside.  He got up from the armchair and walked over to the window where he stood looking out at countryside beyond the garden.  It was a warm, dry sunny day.  Perfect for a walk.

Rhonda joined him at the window.  She was wearing a light brown plaid jacket over a green turtleneck, brown corduroys and brown boots.  Her thick, short brown hair framed her face.  She looked amazing.  He tried not to stare but he couldn’t help it.  She was by far the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and it was at that moment he knew that he was in love.

She turned her head and their eyes met.  They stood there staring at each other for a long time and then, William walked into the room.  He looked from one to the other before inquiring of her, “Are you ready for that walk?”

She nodded and before moving away from the window, she glanced up at him again.  He saw something flicker in her eyes as she said quietly, “It was good seeing you again, Ambrose.”

He swallowed.  “It was going seeing you again too.”  I hope I see you again soon.

She moved away from the window and walked over to William who inclined his head at him before they left the room.  He had stood there for several minutes, watching the door and thinking how empty the room felt without her.

“Ambrose.”  The sound of his name brought him back to the present.  His eyes flew open and he straightened away from the tree when he found himself staring into William’s face.  Rhonda was standing beside him, looking concerned.  “You look like you were out of it for a moment there.  Are you all right?”

Ambrose ran his fingers through his hair.  “I’m fine,” he assured him.  “I think I’ll head back inside now.  It’s getting colder.”

“I need to talk to you when I come back from taking Rhonda home.”

“I’ll be in the library.”  He looked at Rhonda.  “Hello.”

“Hello.  I don’t have trouble finding my way around the house anymore,” she told him.  She was visiting more frequently, much to his mother’s chagrin.  Fortunately, the lady of the house wasn’t home today.

He smiled.  “You’re always welcome to come to the library even if you don’t get lost.”

She smiled in return and then she was quickly following William across the lawn. It seemed like he was always watching her walk away from him, leaving him forlorn and aching for her.  Sighing heavily, he walked slowly back to the house and when he reached the library, he sank down in the armchair.  He sat there until William joined him some time later.

After closing the door and approaching Ambrose, William got straight to the point.  “While I’m away, I’d like you to take care of Rhonda.  I don’t want her spending the Christmas holidays alone.  And as far as I know, you don’t have any plans, so the two of you can be company for each other until I come back.  What do you say?”

Ambrose stared at his brother.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  This was precisely what he had thought of doing—getting closer to Rhonda and here the opportunity was being offered to him.  How uncanny this was.  “I don’t mind doing you this favor but what about Rhonda?”

“I spoke to her about it and she was up for it.  She’s very fond of you.”

Ambrose turned away so that William wouldn’t see the expression on his face.  I want her to love me the way I love her, he thought and then chided himself for wanting something he shouldn’t.  “As long as she agrees to this, then, I have no objections.

“Thanks, brother,” William said, sounding very appreciative.

They talked about other matters and then he excused himself to go and start packing for the trip.  They were leaving that evening.  The house was going to be awfully quiet after they were gone but then, Rhonda was going to be there.  Ambrose’s heart skipped a beat when he thought of spending time alone with her.  He planned to invite her over to the manor for lunch tomorrow and after lunch he could take her for a drive to Cotswold which looked very picturesque in the winter.  His mind was swarming with ideas of how they were going to spend the Christmas holidays together.  He tried not to think about how hard it would be for him once William returned from vacation and things returned to normal.  Later that evening, after dinner, he called her and invited her to have lunch with him the next day.  She readily accepted and they spent over an hour on the phone talking.

The following day, she came and they had lunch before they headed off to Cotswold where they spent the afternoon.  The snow covered village reminded her of a postcard.  It was very quaint.  She loved it.  They visited the German Christmas Market where she ended up buying hand painted Christmas decorations.   When they returned to the house, they put up the Christmas tree and she put the decorations she bought on it.  They had dinner and sat in front of the fireplace, talking and making plans for the rest of the week.  It was after ten when he finally took her home.

One morning, they went to the Christmas festival where they enjoyed street entertainment, carolers, tasty food, cakes and other festivities.  She picked up gifts and when they returned to the manor in the evening, she went into the library where she wrapped them while he went to the kitchen to see about dinner.  When she was finished, she placed the gifts under the tree.   After they ate, they went to the library where they planned to spend the rest of the evening until it was time for him to take her home.

“I had a wonderful time today,” she told him.  “Cotswold is such a wonderful place.  The people are warm and friendly and there’s so much to do and see.  It’s my second favorite place.”

He smiled.  “What’s your first?”

“This library,” she said.  It’s my favorite place because of you.  “I could spend hours in here, reading.  Have you read most of the books on the shelves?”

He nodded.  “Yes, most of them.”

She got up from the chair and walked over to one of the shelves, her eyes scanning the scores of massive volumes and worn leather-bound books.  “I was wondering if I could borrow that book I saw you reading—the one you said you would use for your class.”

“The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.  Sure, I’ll find it for you.”  He got up and went over to the bookcase.  “I believe it’s on this shelf.”

“I think I see it.” They reached for the book at the same time and their hands touched.

Mesmerized, she watched as his hand moved so that his fingers closed around hers.  She trembled as he pressed his lips against her palm.  They felt so warm.  She longed to feel them on her lips.  As if he read her mind, he released her hand to cup her face between his hands and his mouth was on hers.  He was ravenous, all the pent up emotions he had kept bottled up inside came gushing out and when he felt her feverish response, he lost his head.  She reached under his sweater and tugged his shirt out of his pants.  Her hands were on his bare skin, her nails digging into it as she kissed him back wildly.  It was then, that he pulled away, breathing harshly, his face flushed and his eyes dark with the emotions churning inside him.

When she would have reached for him, he groaned and moved away, tucking his shirt back in his trousers.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly although his senses were screaming at him to continue.

She looked at him, bewildered.  “Why not?” She asked.  She ached to be in his arms again, kissing him.

“We can’t because of William.”

She stared at him.  “William?”

“Yes, you’re his girlfriend—”

“I’m not William’s girlfriend,” she told him.  “He and I are just very good friends.”

He pushed his fingers through his hair as he tried to digest what she was saying to him.  “You’re telling me that you and William are not in a relationship?”

She shook her head.  “No.  So, your mother has nothing to worry about—at least, not where William is concerned.”  She moved closer to him.  “I wonder what she’s going to do when she finds out that it’s her older son that I have my eyes on.  Is she going to think that I’m after you for your money too?  Yes, I know what she thinks about me,” she added when she saw the expression on his face.  “William told me.”

“I was going to get close to you just to prove that she’s wrong about you and then William asked me to take care of you while he was gone…”

“William knows how I feel about you, that’s why he arranged things so that we are spending so much time together.”

He moved closer to her.  “How do you feel about me, Rhonda?” he asked.  He knew she was attracted to him but he wanted more—much more.

“I’m in love with you,” she said huskily, reaching up and touching his face, trembling as he turned his head and pressed his lips against her palm.

He pulled her into his arms, his expression darkening.  “I’m love with you too.”

She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him.  “So, you don’t mind being with a woman of meager means?” she asked.

He shook his head, “Having your love is more valuable to me than having all the money in the world.  If my mother decides to disinherit me, then you and I will live a simple but extremely happy life together on our meager salaries.”

“Yes.  Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is” she murmured before she reached up and kissed him.

Slide1

Source:  Peabody Elementary; Career Addict;

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The Foolish Plan

“What could they still be talking about for so long?” Yolanda grumbled as she looked over at the closed door.  “He’s been in there with her for almost an hour.”

Doris observed her as she sat there craning her neck to see what was going on inside the office while her fingers danced over the keyboard.   “You’ve really got it bad for him, don’t you?” she said.

Yolanda looked at her.  “I don’t,” she denied albeit not convincingly.

“Then why are you getting so upset because he’s in his office with Paulina?”

“I’m not upset.  I was just wondering why they are in there for so long.  Doesn’t she have any work to do?  And how would he like it if I were to spend such a long time in Max’s office, for example?”  She sighed.  “Then, again, he probably wouldn’t even notice.”

“I’ll have to disagree with you on that one.  I think he has a thing for you too.”

Yolanda stared at her.  “Seriously?” she said, incredulous.

“I’ve seen the way he looks at you when he thinks no one is watching.”

Yolanda shook her head.  “No, I don’t stand a chance–not when Paulina is around.  I mean look at how different we are.  She’s tall and beautiful and I’m short and dumpy.”

“I think that you’re pretty and vivacious.”

“Thanks, Doris, but I’m no match for Paulina’s beauty and elegance.  I might as well be invisible for all the notice he pays me when she’s around.”

“All right, have it your way.”

Yolanda glanced at her watch.  “I’d better be leaving now.  I promised Kenneth that I would meet him for lunch at twelve.”

“Who’s Kenneth again?”

“He’s a guy I went to university with.”

“I’ll let Leif know that you’ve gone out for lunch, if he asks.”

Yolanda got up from the desk.  “I doubt that he will,” she said dryly as she grabbed her handbag.   Just as she was about to walk away, the door to Leif’s office opened and Paulina stepped out.  She looked stunning in the white slim fit pant suit that hugged her curves and the matching white strappy sandals.  Her strawberry blonde hair fell in thick waves about her shoulders.  She was laughing at something Leif said.  He was standing in the doorway looking gorgeous as usual in a charcoal grey suit, matching tie and black shirt.  They looked really good together.

Jealousy ripped through her like a knife.  She turned and quickly walked away.

Kenneth was in the lobby, waiting for her.  He looked great.  They hugged.  He was a welcome distraction but looking at her, he could see that something was wrong.  He decided to wait until they were having lunch before he broached it.

“It’s good to see you too,” he said, smiling and they left the building.  It was a mild, sunny day.  They walked to the bistro around the corner and got a table at the back in a corner.   After they ordered, he looked her straight in the face and asked, “Okay, who’s the guy?”

She stared at him, startled.  “How can you tell?”

“I have seen that look many times.  You’re in love.  So, who is he?”

She sighed.  “His name is Leif and he’s my boss.”

“So, what’s the problem?  Is it against the company’s policy for you and he to date?”

“No.  A few of my co-workers are dating each other.”

“So, why do you look like you’ve just come from a funeral?  Is he married or already in a relationship?”

“No, none of those things.  I’m just not sure how he feels about me.  Doris, my co-worker told me that she has seen him looking at me on the quiet and seems to think that he’s interested.  And then, there’s Paulina.  She’s more his type.”

“If she’s his type, how come they’re not dating?”

She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  They were in his office for a long time today, though.”

“Well, there’s only one way to find out where you stand with this guy,” Kenneth declared as their orders arrived.  “Let him think that there is someone else in your life.  If he thinks that another guy’s interested in you, it may push him to act.”

“You mean try to make him jealous?”  She shook her head.  “Bad idea.”

“Do you have a better one?” he demanded.

“And what if it doesn’t work?”

“Then, you wouldn’t have to wonder any more about how he feels about you and you can move on.”

She shook her head again.  “I don’t like the idea.  If he’s interested, he will make it clear to me.”

“What if he doesn’t because he isn’t sure about your feelings for him?”

“Kenneth, I don’t want to play any games.  We’re not going to try to make Leif jealous.”

Kenneth shrugged.  “It’s your call but if you change your mind, let me know.”

“I won’t change my mind,” she insisted and changed the subject.

They talked and reminisced about their time at university, the professors they liked and those they couldn’t stand, the friends they lost touch with and those they connected with on Facebook.  The hour went by very quickly and soon they were heading back to her office.

“Come up and meet Doris,” she said when they were in the lobby.  “She’s a really nice lady.”

“Sure.”  Kenneth walked with her to the lift.  He hoped he would get to see her boss as well.  His curiosity was piqued.

Doris was at her desk and she was very pleased to meet Kenneth.  “You didn’t tell me that he was this good looking,” she remarked as they shook hands.  They chatted while Yolanda removed her jacket and put away her handbag.

“I’ll walk you to the lift,” Yolanda said to Kenneth when she saw that it was getting late and she needed to get back to work.

After Kenneth and Doris expressed mutual appreciation of meeting each other, Yolanda walked with him to the lift.  As they waited, he asked her, “Does Leif have red hair, dresses really well and sort of looks like Kenneth Brannagh?”

She raised her eyebrows.  “Kenneth Brannagh?”

“Okay, maybe he doesn’t quite look like Kenneth Brannagh.  Anyway, your boss is coming over.”

Immediately, her heart began to beat faster.  She turned around to find Leif striding toward them.  He looked grim, or was that her imagination?

He glanced at Kenneth and then at her.  “I see that you made it back for the meeting.”

She stared at him.  Meeting?  What meeting?  Behind her, she heard Kenneth clear his throat.  “Oh, Leif, this is Kenneth.  Kenneth, Leif.”

The two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries although Leif wasn’t smiling.

Kenneth turned to Yolanda.  “I’ll call you later,” he promised.  They hugged and as she was about to pull away, he bent his head and kissed her on the lips.  The lift came just then and Kenneth stepped into it, turning to wink at her just as the doors closed.

She stood there, aghast for several minutes, painfully aware of Leif standing behind her.  She was embarrassed to turn around and face him.  When Kenneth called her later, she was going to give him a piece of her mind.

Taking a deep breath, she turned to face Leif.  He was staring at her, his face glowering.  Before she could say anything, he snapped, “My office, now,” before turning and walking away, his back rigid.

What on earth was the matter with him?  And who did he think he was talking to her like that?  She had a good mind not to go to his office but, he was her boss.  She headed there now.

He was standing in front of the window and turned when he heard her enter the room.  “Close the door.”

She closed it quietly behind her and then walked over to where he was.  “Okay, is this where we’re having the meeting?”

“There is no meeting.”  He wasn’t wearing his jacket or the tie and had loosened the top two buttons of his shirt, exposing his neck.  She tried not to let her gaze go below his jawline.

“But, you said—”

“I know what I said,” he retorted.

She raised her hands.  “Okay, no need to bite my head off.”  What had gotten into him?  He seemed really angry about something.  Boy, was he attractive when he was angry–

“When you speak to Kenneth later, kindly let him know that the next time he wants to make out with you in public to do it somewhere else.  This is not the place for it.”

That set her off.  Her hands clenched into tight fists as she glared up at him.  “For your information, I am not in the habit of making out in public.  And I don’t care if you’re my boss, it doesn’t give you the right to insinuate what you like about me or talk to me anyhow.  And next time you want me to get back to work, just say so instead of making up some stupid excuse.”  After casting him a withering glance, she turned and stalked off, leaving the door wide open.

Instead of going straight to her desk, she went to the washroom to compose herself.  She felt so humiliated at that moment.  Renewed anger toward Kenneth filled her.  His foolish plan had backfired as she knew it would.  Leif was livid, yes, but he was not jealous.  This whole disaster just reinforced what she had thought all along–Leif wasn’t romantically interested in her.  He would have reacted differently if it had been Paulina instead of her.

She stood there for several minutes, then, taking a deep breath, she turned and walked out of the washroom.  Once she was at her desk, she buried herself in the work and it kept her busy until it was time to leave.  Doris encouraged her to have a good weekend and then left.

Yolanda switched off her computer, packed up her bag, pulled on her jacket and got up from her desk.  As she walked past Leif’s office, she said goodnight to him and left the building.  On the bus ride home, she tried to read the novel Doris lent her but her mind kept going on Leif.  Their working relationship was ruined now.  Maybe she should start looking for another job.  It wouldn’t make sense to continue working there now.  Over the weekend, she would do some job hunting on the Internet.

When she got home, she showered, changed into a plaid flannel nightshirt and had dinner.  After watching some television, she picked up the phone and called Kenneth.  As soon as he answered the phone, she said to him, “Your plan didn’t work.  You didn’t make Leif jealous.  I told you that it wouldn’t work but you didn’t listen to me.  You went ahead and did what you wanted to do just so you can prove that you were right.  Do you have any idea how humiliated I was?”

“Calm down, Yolanda and just tell me what happened.”

She told him what Leif said.  “I was so hurt and angry.   I wish I hadn’t taken you upstairs to meet Doris.  If I hadn’t, none of this would be happening.”

“When did he tell you this?  Before or after the meeting.”

“There wasn’t any meeting.”

“Then why did he tell you that there was?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yolanda, did it ever occur to you that he made the meeting up as an excuse to get rid of me?”

“Why would he want to get rid of you?”

“Because he was jealous and didn’t like seeing us together–”

“No, enough of this jealousy foolishness.  Why can’t you admit that your brilliant plan didn’t work–?”  She broke off when she heard the doorbell ring.  “Someone’s at the door.”  She went to see who it was and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Leif.  “He’s here.”

“Who’s there?”

“Leif.  What’s he doing here?  I’m not dressed for company,” she added, flustered as she glanced down at her bare legs peeping out from underneath her nightshirt.  “I have to put on a pair of jeans or something.”

“Why do you suppose he showed up at your place now?”

“I don’t know,” she snapped.  “I’ve got to go.”

“Call me and let me know what happened.”

“Yes,” she said and hung up.  The doorbell rang again.  She turned off her cell phone and hurriedly placed it on the table before dashing off to her room to pull on a pair of leggings.  Then, she rushed to open the door.

As she stood there watching Leif who looked amazing in the turquoise v-neck sweater and blue jeans, the anger she felt toward him dissolved.  “I didn’t expect to see you,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  She stepped aside so that he could go in and closed the door behind him.  She turned and faced him.

“I should have called first instead of just showing up like this,” he said quietly, his eyes restless on her face.  “I wanted to apologize for my behavior earlier today.”

She leaned against the door.  “You seemed very angry,” she said.

“I was but it doesn’t excuse the way I spoke to you and I’m very sorry.”

“I accept your apology.”

“Is Kenneth your boyfriend?”  The suddenness of his question startled her and a few minutes went by before she answered.

“No, we’re just friends.”

“Then why did you let him kiss you?” he demanded.  His hands were shoved deep in his jeans pockets, his body stiff and his expression dour.

“I didn’t let him kiss me.  He took me completely by surprise. ”

“If the two of you are just friends what possessed him to kiss you like that?  Are you sure you didn’t encourage him?”

Her mouth tightened.  “I didn’t encourage him.  He kissed me because he wanted to make you jealous.”

“Well, it worked.   I was jealous from the moment I saw the two of you together.  That’s why I came over and told you that there was a meeting.  I had to have a reason for interrupting your little tête-à-tête.  And when he kissed you, I saw red.”

She gaped at him.  “But, what about Paulina?”

He frowned.  “What about her?”

“I thought you and she—”

“Paulina is a very beautiful woman, yes, but I’m not attracted to her.  You, on the other hand, are a different story.  I’m deeply attracted to you.  I have been for a very long time.”

Her heart was pounding now.  “I didn’t think you even noticed me.”

He looked surprised.  “Not notice you?  Have you any idea of how hard it is for me to be around you and not want to touch you?  Like right now.”

Her chest was rising and falling swiftly now and she seemed to have trouble breathing normally.  “All this time I thought you had a thing for Paulina,” she said, swallowing hard when she saw the expression on his face as he moved closer to her.

“No, it has always been you,” he muttered thickly and then, his hands were pulling her against him, making her gasp.  His mouth closed hungrily over hers and she kissed him back, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.  She was wedged between him and the door.  As they exchanged passionate kisses she had to admit that if it weren’t for Kenneth, this wouldn’t be happening right now.  His foolish plan had worked after all.

 

 

 

The Studio

“You don’t have to be a genius to see that this relationship will not last,” commented Marie as she and Caitlin sat in the corner of a trendy restaurant in the fashionable district of Chelsea.  It was celebratory dinner party for the opening of Ava’s boutique in the area.  She had invited Marie, her sister-in-law who had in turn invited Rachel.  They were sitting having non-alcoholic drinks after a delicious dinner while the others were on the dance floor.

Marie’s remark was directed at Ava and her boyfriend, Reid, a businessman/artist.  They had been dating for less than a year now.  They were dancing but he seemed a bit uncomfortable.   Clearly, he didn’t like the public display of affection but Ava didn’t seem to care.  This was her way of letting the other women know that he was not available.

As Rachel watched them, she couldn’t deny that they made a very attractive couple.  Ava had thick dark brown hair that tumbled down in unruly waves down her tanned back.  She looked absolutely stunning in the strapless fuchsia dress.  Several male eyes were on her but she only had eyes for Reid.  Rachel’s gaze shifted to Reid.  He was tall and very attractive.  He looked amazing in the navy blue striped suit, navy blue shirt and matching tie.  His thick dark brown hair was neatly combed as usual.

She remembered the first time she met Reid.  It was at a mutual friend’s place.  It was early autumn and as she came out of the cottage to go for a walk in the gardens, she noticed him standing among stalks of wheat which seemed rather out of place to her.  She expected the grounds to be covered in green grass and surrounded by trees with changing colors.  He was wearing a blue sweater over a checkered shirt and dark blue trousers.  He didn’t notice her at first as she stood there just staring at him and thinking that he was drop dead gorgeous.  Then, he turned his head slightly to the right and their eyes met.

Shortly after, he went over to her, his eyes never leaving her face.  She was wearing a black and white striped shirt and black pants.  She hoped her hair looked fine.  He held out his hand.  “Hello, I’m Reid,” he said.

She smiled as he clasped her hand.  “Rachel.”  After he released her hand, she folded her arms.  She saw the way his eyes slipped over her before they settled on her face again.

“Do you have a jacket?” he asked.  “It’s a bit cool today.”

“It’s inside with my handbag,” she said. “I came out to go for a walk and forgot how cool it was.  I’ll go quickly and get it.”  She went back to the house and when she went back, he was standing where she had left him.

“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked.

She shook her head, smiling.  “I would like the company,” she said.

“Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” she turned to look at him as they headed for the gardens.  “Did you?”

“I came with Ava.”

“Ava Parker?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know her?”

“Not very well.  She’s my friend Marie’s sister-in-law.”

“Yes, I have met Marie.  A very pleasant woman.”

As they walked he asked her questions about herself.  She learned that he met Ava at a gallery where his artwork was on display.  She suddenly stopped and stared at him.  “Are you Reid Faulkner?” She asked.

He nodded with a smile.

“I’ve seen some of your paintings and they are amazing.  They are so real.  My favorite so far is of the homeless young girl.  You did it in black and white.  It was beautiful and haunting at the same time.  It’s now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

“I like to paint about current issues,” he said.  “I’m more into realism than the other forms of art like impressionism and romanticism.”

“You captured the sadness in her eyes, the dirty fingernails and the hopelessness of her situation.  Whatever became of her?”

“She’s in a homeless shelter for the youth now.  When she learned that her portrait was in the gallery, she was over the moon.”

“That’s great.  How do you do it—your painting, I mean?”

“I sketch and then, I paint.  I don’t have to have the person pose for me.”

They continued walking and then they decided to head back to the cottage.  When they got there, Ava was waiting in front and as soon as she saw them, she hurried over to Reid.  “There you are,” she exclaimed, slipping her arm in his.  “I was wondering where you had gone off to.  Oh, hello, Rachel,” she said, her green eyes shifting to her and pursing her lips.  The displeasure on her face was unmistakable.  She tugged gently on Reid’s arm.  “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.  Excuse us, Rachel.”

Reid barely got to give Rachel a backward glance before he was whisked away.  They hadn’t had a moment alone after that.  Ava saw to that.  However, she couldn’t prevent them from looking at each other every opportunity they got and on her way home, Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about Reid and how much she wanted to see him again.  And couple months later, here they were in a Chelsea restaurant.

She turned now to Marie who was looking at her.  “You were somewhere else for a bit,” she said.

“I was just remembering something,” she said evasively.  “Why don’t you think their relationship will last?”

“She’s too clingy and men don’t like that.  They don’t like to be smothered.  Besides, I don’t think he’s as into her as she’s into him.  It’s all in the body language, my dear.  Look at him.  The dance is over and he looks relieved.  Why don’t we invite them to join us?”  She waved at the couple as they parted and were heading back to their table.

Rachel’s eyes went immediately to Reid and her heart began to beat fast.  She smoothed her hair down and rubbed the palms of her hands on the skirt of her blue elastic waist dress.  Reid’s gaze went first to Marie and then to Rachel where they remained.  Ava noticed and said, “Why don’t we go over to the bar and sit there or outside on the terrace where it’s a lot cooler?”

At that moment, Marie got up from her seat and said to Ava, “Why don’t we go and freshen up?” and she grabbed her arm and escorted her away before she could object.

Alone, Reid sat down beside Rachel.  “It’s good to see you again,” he said quietly.  “I was hoping that we would meet again.  How have you been?”

She smiled and tried to act calm although she was nervous.  He was staring at her, his expression was intense.  “It’s good to see you again, too,” she admitted, sounding a bit breathless.  “I’m happy to see you and I’ve been doing well.”

“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?” he asked.

“No.”

“I’d like you to come over to my studio,” he said.  He took out his wallet and removed a business card.  He scribbled something at the back of it and handed it to her.  As she read the name and address of the studio, he added, “I’d like to paint you.”

She glanced up in surprise.  “Paint me?” she exclaimed.  “But why would you want to paint me?”

“You’re beautiful,” he said simply.  “I want to capture that beauty.”

“I’m not sure,” she said, suddenly feeling very self-conscious.  “I’ve never had such a proposition before.” He thinks I’m beautiful.

“Think about it.  I will look out for you tomorrow.  If I don’t see you, I’ll know that you decided not to do it and although, I will be disappointed, I will understand.”

“Thank you,” she said and she put the card in her handbag.  She didn’t feel pressured now.

“If you like, you can still come to my studio just to see my work.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

He smiled and just then, Ava and Marie joined them.  Ava’s eyes flashed at Rachel.

Marie said to Rachel, “I think we should leave now,” she said.  “It’s getting late and I have a busy day tomorrow with the hubby and kids.  Ava, congratulations on your new business venture.  I’ve no doubt that it will be a great success.  Reid, as always it is a pleasure to see you.”

Rachel got up and came round the table so that she was standing next to Reid.  She could feel his eyes on her.  She said goodnight first to Ava whose expression was hostile and then she turned to Reid, holding out her hand.  He took it and her pulse raced when she felt him squeeze it gently.  Their eyes held for a brief moment and then she turned and walked away.

On their way to her car, Marie remarked, “There’s something going on between Reid and you.  I sensed it and I know Ava did too, that’s why she didn’t want to leave the two of you alone.  So, what did he say to you?”

“He invited me to go to his studio tomorrow.  He wants to paint me.”

“Wow, that’s a great compliment.  I wish I had an artist ask to paint me.  Well, are you going to do it or not?”

“I’m not sure…”

“I think you should do it.  It might be fun and besides, it gives the two of you a chance to be alone.”

“But, what about Ava?”

“Ava’s history.  I won’t be surprised if he breaks up with her tonight.”

“I don’t want to be the cause for their breakup.”

“It would have happened even if you weren’t in the picture.  Don’t feel bad about it.  Ava’s not the right woman for Reid.  And that’s a fact that’s clear to everyone, except her, unfortunately.”

Rachel sighed.  “She already doesn’t like me and now I’m giving her a good reason to hate me.”

“Don’t worry about Ava,” Marie advised her.  “She’ll get over Reid in time.”

Rachel thought about it as she lay in bed that night and by morning, she had decided that she would go to the studio.  It was on a quiet street and located on the second floor of a warehouse.  The door was open and she went in.  There was an easel with a blank sheet of paper on it.  Framed paintings stacked against the walls.  Bright light effused the spacious room.  She could smell the paints and she smiled as she looked around.  It was such a treat being in an artist’s studio and seeing his work.  There were a couple of floor lamps, chairs, a stool and a table with the paints.

As she was studying and admiring the paintings on the wall adjacent to the windows, Reid came in.  He smiled when he saw her.  “Hello,” he said.  “I’m glad you came.  I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place.”

She turned toward him, thinking how sexy he looked in the black shirt and blue jeans.  “No, I didn’t have any trouble finding it.  It’s a really nice with lots of natural light.  I was just admiring your work.  Some of them, I recognized.  Has Ava ever been here?”

“Once.  Would you like something to drink?”

She shook her head.  “Not right now, thanks.”

“So, what have you decided?”

“I’ve decided to let you paint me.”

He grinned, rubbing his hands together.  “Splendid.  Now, all you have to do is sit on the stool over there and try not to move.  You can set your handbag and jacket on the chair over there.  Thanks for agreeing to do this, Rachel.”

She did as he instructed and climbed up on the stool.  As she sat down, she was glad that she had worn jeans instead of the long black skirt with the side slit.  She watched as he mixed the paints and then stood behind the easel and got to work.  After two hours of not moving, she was relieved when he set his brush down and stepped from behind the easel.

“We’re done for today,” he said.

She slid down from the stool and stretched.  “How long will it take to complete?” she asked.

“Two weeks.  You don’t have to sit every time because I know you’re busy.  I have a sketch that I can work from.”

“I can come in the evenings after work,” she offered.

“That would be great.  Are you hungry?”

She nodded.

“There’s a bistro around the corner where we can have something to eat or we can order take out delivery and eat here.  Which would you prefer?”

“Take out.”

They had Thai food delivered to them and they sat cross legged on the floor, eating and talking.  It was dark outside by the time they left the studio.  Before they parted, they arranged to meet again at the studio the following day.  For two weeks, she went to the studio and sat for two hours as he painted her.  Finally, the day came when she would see the finished painting.  Excited, she let herself into the studio and closed the door.

She went over to the chair to put her jacket on it when Reid came into the room.  She turned and her breath caught in her throat when she saw that he was not wearing a shirt.  It was in his hand.  He stopped short when he saw her.  “You’re early,” he commented as he pulled it on but didn’t button it.  He went over to where she stood.  Flustered, she turned away.

She felt his hands on her shoulders turning her around to face him.  Their eyes met and what she saw in his made her mouth go dry.  Desire shone in their depths.  “Rachel,” he muttered huskily.  “You must know by now how I feel about you.”

The feelings churning inside her were on her face.  “What about Ava?” she asked, trying not to look at his chest.

“I ended my relationship with her that night at the restaurant.  She blamed you.  She saw the attraction between us.  I told her that I would have ended our relationship even if you and I had not met.  I told her that we were not right for each other.  I felt badly about it but I couldn’t continue pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t.”

“I feel sorry for her but, I can’t say that I’m sorry that you’re available now…”

“Oh, Rachel…” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She kissed him back, her arms going around his neck as she pressed against him.  The sunlight flooded the room, bathing them in its warmth as they exchanged passionate kisses.  “I love you,” he murmured against her lips.

“I love you too,” she whispered.  She had loved him that day when she saw him standing there among the wheat, looking like he just had stepped out of the pages of GQ.

Several hours later, he unveiled the painting and her mouth dropped open when she saw.  Moved to tears, she said, “It’s beautiful.”

His eyes were tender as he looked at her.  “That’s how I see you,” he said quietly. “You’re beautiful within and without.  This painting is going to be for my private viewing.  It’s not going to be placed in any gallery.”

“Good,” she said, putting her arms around his waist.  “I don’t relish the idea of hanging in public for everyone to gawk at me.  Both the painting and I are for your eyes only.” And with that, she reached up and kissed him.

Sources:  End Youth HomelessnessReitman’s; Social Lifestyle Magazine; Albert’s Club

The Ball

Monica was walking on the immaculate grounds of Whitmore Manor where her friend and co-worker Alex invited her to spend the afternoon.  It was the day before the annual charity ball and already there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.  This was to be her first one since she only started working with Alex in autumn of last year.

As she pondered over what to expect, her gaze drank in the beautiful landscape which spread before and around her.  She was so caught up in her surroundings that she didn’t notice the tall man heading towards her until she almost ran into him.

Her eyes flew up from his broad chest to his face.  Her breath caught in her throat when she found herself looking into classic handsome features.  Dark, wavy hair, dark brown eyes, chiseled nose and his lips…she realized that they were moving which meant he was saying something.  She pulled herself together.

“I–I’m sorry,” she apologized.  “I was so busy admiring the place that I didn’t see you until a moment ago.”

His eyes were riveted to her face.  “And, you are?”

She held out her hand.  “I’m Monica.  I’m here because of Alex.”

“Jared.”  He grasped her hand.  “Does he know you are here?”

“Yes.  He brought me here to spend a quiet afternoon.”

“Where is he?  He’s not a very good host leaving you out here by yourself.”

“He didn’t mean to desert me,” she said, trying to act calm when her heart was racing.  Jared was staring at her with those penetrating eyes of his and he was still holding her hand.  “He had to run an errand and said that he would be back shortly.”

He released her hand then and shoved both of his in the pockets of his trousers.  “So, how long have Alex and you known each other?” he asked.

She put her hands behind her back.  “September will make it a year,” she said.

“You’re different from his other girlfriends,” he noted as he studied her face.

She was about to tell him that she was not Alex’s girlfriend when Alex himself showed up.

He came from behind Jared.  He grinned at Monica.  “I see you have met my big brother,” he told her.  He turned to Jared.  “Thank you for taking care of Monica while I was gone.”

Jared inclined his head.  “It was my pleasure,” he said before his gaze shifted to Monica.  “It was nice meeting you.”

She smiled at him.  “It was nice meeting you too.”

“Excuse me.”  He turned and walked away.  Monica was sorry to see him go.

When they were alone, she turned to Alex, “He thinks I’m your girlfriend,” she told him, looking very displeased.  “What gave him that impression?”

“Well, the only women I brought here to meet Mother and Jared were the ones I dated so when he met you, he naturally assumed that you were my current girlfriend.”  He looked at her.  “Does it bother you that he thinks that we are dating?”

“Yes, it does.”

Alex groaned.  “Don’t tell me that you have fallen for his dark, brooding looks too.”

“Is that why you never mentioned to me that you even had a brother?”

“It must have slipped my mind.  Anyway, let’s talk about something else.  Are you all set for the ball tomorrow evening?  I won’t be able to bring you, I’m afraid.  I have to be here, greeting the guests.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve never been to a ball before.  Is everyone going to be there?”

“By everyone, you mean Jared.  Yes, he’ll be there–he and his brooding looks which always seems to attract the ladies.”

Monica looked at him.  “Do I detect a little bit of jealousy?”

Alex sighed.  “Yes, I am jealous and have been since we were children.  He was always getting the attention and the girls.  That hasn’t changed.  Just once I would like to find a woman who will be immune to his charms and prefer me instead.”

Monica tucked her arm in his and gave him an encouraging smile.  “I’m sure you will find such a woman.  Now, this woman would like a tour of the grounds, if you don’t mind.”

He smiled.  “It would be my pleasure.”

It was the night of the ball and she entered the room, her eyes wide with wonder as she espied the magnificent room and the beautiful decorations.  When Alex saw her, he whistled.  He was standing by the entrance receiving the guests with his mother and Jared.  She was wearing a strapless cream chiffon gown and her hair was swept up exposing her long, slender neck.   “You look amazing,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”  Her gaze shifted to Jared who was staring at her.  He looked absolutely gorgeous in his black tuxedo.  Even in her heels, she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.  “Hello, Jared,” she said shyly.

“Hello, Monica,” was his quiet reply.  He had a curious expression on his face.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“It’s good to be here.”  She lingered there for a moment before she moved reluctantly away.  She could feel his eyes on her as she greeted his mother.  The older woman beamed at her.  “You look lovely, my Dear,” she said.  “I am delighted that you could come.  I hope you enjoy yourself.”

Monica smiled.  “Thank you, I will.”  She moved on, taking in the atmosphere, the people.  She saw a few of her co-workers milling about and she joined them.  At dinner time, she sat at the same table with the Whitmore family.  She was seated next to Alex and opposite Jared.  Every now and then, she raised her eyes to look at him and found him already looking at her.  Each time their eyes met, she felt her heart race.  No one else seemed to notice.

The food was amazing and afterwards, there was dancing.  She danced a couple of dances with Alex who was in very high spirits.  Then, as she was about to follow Alex back to the table, Jared barred her.  “Dance with me,” he said and wordlessly, she acquiesced.   Her heart did a somersault when he pulled her to him and they moved to the music.

He was a terrific dancer and his movements were fluid.  She was acutely aware of his hand in the small of her back, their bodies inches apart.  He smelled really good.  It felt wonderful dancing with him and she wished that it would last.  At one point she looked up at him and he was looking down at her.  His eyes were dark and smoldering and a muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  They didn’t say anything but the moment was charged as their attraction for each other was palpable.  She saw his gaze lower to her lips and they parted.

“Mind if I cut in?” Alex’s intrusive voice startled her and she felt Jared release her.  Then she was in Alex’s arms and he swirled her away as Jared walked stiffly off the dance floor.  For the rest of the night, Alex tended to her and she didn’t have a chance to dance with Jared again.  She left the ball feeling frustrated, especially after his cold manner toward her when they said goodnight to each other.

She tossed and turned all night and in the morning, she decided that she would go over to Whitmore Manor and straighten things out with him.  She couldn’t let him continue to believe that Alex and she were dating.  Last night it might have seemed that way, though.  She let Alex have it last night when he was driving her home.  He was sorry and he told her to drop by the manor and talk to Jared.

She finished her breakfast, showered and pulling on a pair of dress jeans and a yellow top, she left her condo.  She took the train from London to Surrey and then a short taxi ride to Whitmore Manor.  The place seemed quiet—she supposed it was because it was a Sunday morning.  She hoped Mrs. Whitmore wouldn’t mind her dropping by unexpectedly.  She ran up the steps leading to the front door and rang the bell.  As she waited she looked over at the spot where she first met Jared.  How handsome he looked that day in his denim jacket over a black shirt and tan colored trousers.

The door opened and the butler stood there.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning.  Is Mr. Jared Whitmore at home?” she asked.

“He is but he gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.  Perhaps, you would like to see Mrs. Whitmore, instead.  She’s in the drawing-room.”

“Yes, thank you.” The man stepped aside to let her into the foyer.  He took her to the drawing-room and after informing Mrs. Whitmore that she had a visitor, he left.

Monica went over to the armchair where the woman was seated.  “Good morning, Mrs. Whitmore.”

Mrs. Whitmore smiled when she saw her.  “Good morning, Dear.  How nice of you to drop by this morning.  Did you have a good time at the ball last night?”

Monica nodded.  “I did.”

“It was an extremely good turn out and I believe that this year we received more donations.”

“Mrs. Whitmore, I came to see Jared but was told that he didn’t want to be disturbed.”

Mrs. Whitmore sighed.  “He’s been cooped up in the study all morning.  Can’t imagine what he’s doing in there.  He hasn’t had any breakfast.  I have a good mind to send a tray in to him.  You know, that’s exactly what I will do.”  She pulled the cord beside her.  “He needs to eat something.”

“Mrs. Whitmore, do you mind if I take it to him?”

“No, not at all.  You may be a welcome distraction.”

A few minutes later a maid appeared and Mrs. Whitmore asked her to prepare a tray for Mr. Whitmore and to bring it to the drawing-room.  As they waited, Monica and Mrs. Whitmore exchanged pleasantries and spoke of the ball.

Then, the maid went in carrying the tray.  “Thank you, Janet,” Mrs. Whitmore said. “Set it on the table over there.”  Janet did so and left the room.

Monica went and took it up.  She went to the door but stopped, unsure of where to go.

“The study is down the hall here and on your right.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Whitmore,” she said gratefully before she departed.

Her heart thudded with every step as she went down the hallway.  She set the tray down on the floor, opened the door and pushed it open.  She took up the tray and went inside.  She stood at the door.  Jared was sitting at the desk backing the door but when he heard it open, he said.  “I gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.  I don’t take kindly to having my orders disobeyed…” his voice trailed off when he swung the chair around and saw her standing there.  “What are you doing here?”

She stood there, unsure of what to do next.  He was standing now, his expression guarded.  “I brought this tray for you.  Your mother said you haven’t eaten.  She’s concerned about you.”

His gaze shifted to the tray and then back to her.  “So, she sent you with it instead of sending Janet?”

“I offered,” she told him.   “I needed to speak to you.”

“Set it on the table over there.   What do you need to speak to me about?”

“It’s about Alex and me…”

His expression darkened at once and he dragged his fingers through his hair.  “Never once in all of my years have I ever been jealous of my brother.  Not even when I see how our mother continues to pamper him as if he were still a child, but that all changed when I met you.”

She stared at him.  “What do you mean?” she asked, looking confused.

“I am jealous of him because of you, Monica.  From the moment we met, I wanted you.  That’s why I said that you were different from his other girlfriends.  I was never attracted to any of them.  You were different because I was immediately and deeply attracted to you.  Last night at the ball, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.  I watched you dancing with him and wished that I was the one dancing with you. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and that’s why I asked you to dance with me.  The way you felt in my arms…” he closed his eyes at the memory.  “It felt so right.  I asked myself how could something that felt so right be wrong.  I wanted to kiss you so badly but just then, Alex came and claimed you and I had no choice but to step aside.  I watched you with him for the rest of the night, kicking myself for falling for a woman who belonged to someone else.”

It took a moment for Monica to answer because she was stunned.  She couldn’t believe what she just heard.  “Jared, I don’t belong to Alex,” she told him.  “He and I are just friends who happen to work together.  When you and I met, you assumed that I was another one of his many girlfriends and when I tried to clear up that misunderstanding, Alex joined us.”

“My brother has a knack for interrupting at the most inopportune moment.”

She took a step closer.  “That’s why I came here this morning, Jared.  To clear things up.  I couldn’t go on letting you believe that I was in a relationship with Alex when I am not.  Alex knows how I feel about you.  He knew it since the first time I met you.”

Jared moved around the desk so that he was standing in front of her.  “How do you feel about me?” he asked, his expression tense.  His hands were at his sides, aching to hold her.

“I never thought it was possible but when I met you it was love at first sight,” she said, her feelings unguarded.

He pulled her into his arms then and he muttered, “I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you and I felt like a heel because of Alex.  That’s why I have been cooped up in here all morning.  I was sitting here, thinking about you and feeling guilty.  And now that I know Alex and you are not romantically involved, I feel like a guilty man who has been granted a reprieve.”

She reached up and cupped his face between her hands.  “You have no reason to feel guilty anymore,” she said, “We are both free and we both know what we want…”

“Yes,” he groaned and his head swooped down.  His mouth closed passionately over hers.

She sighed and closed her eyes as she responded to the kiss which she had been dreaming of since last night at the ball.

Source:  Trainline

The Nursing Home

It was Saturday morning and Andrea was at the nursing home visiting Mrs. Alvarez, dear woman whom she met through her grandmother.  After her grandmother passed away, Andrea continued to visit Mrs. Alvarez who was always delighted to see her.  She was in a wheelchair and although she was ninety years old, her mind was a sharp as ever.  She reminisced a lot about her life in Buenos Aires and was always telling Andrea, to “go and visit.  You will fall in love with it.”

Mrs. Alvarez moved with her family to Canada when she was a teenager.  She went to University of Toronto where she met her future husband, Miguel. Miguel was from Madrid.  After dating for six months, they got married.  A year later, they had Mateo and then, three years later, Isabella.  Isabella now lived in New York with her husband and their three children while Mateo was here in Toronto.  He was still single.

It was four years ago when Andrea met Mateo the first time.  She and her grandmother were in the courtyard enjoying the lovely weather when Mrs. Alvarez joined them.  Mateo was pushing her wheelchair.   Mrs.  Alvarez introduced him to them, her face beaming.   Andrea smiled at him and when he reached over and shook her hand, they eyes met and held for several minutes.  He didn’t say much but was very pleasant and Andrea warmed to him immediately.

Since that first meeting, they  had been seeing each other at the nursing home. Sometimes she would still be there when he visited and she would observe him with his mother.   His attentiveness toward the elderly woman was so endearing.  He was a bit reserved, not much of a conversationalist but he was very knowledgeable and she found herself enthralled any time he said something.  His mother doted on him. They were very close.

“Mateo will be stopping by this afternoon as usual,” Mrs. Alvarez said now, interrupting her reverie.  “I will be sure to give him the slice of this lovely cake you baked.”  She was still eating her slice, clearly enjoying every morsel.  The crumbs fell on the napkin spread neatly in her lap.  “I used to love baking.  Miguel was always complimenting me on my baking.  He particularly loved my lemon squares.  And Mateo, he loved my banana cake.  Sometimes, I baked Argentine sweets and desserts like Arroz con leche which is a rice pudding and Cubanitos which were chocolate covered biscuit rolls.  Yes, the kitchen always smelled of baking.”

Andrea smiled.  Mrs. Alvarez was always going off on a tangent.  She had grown to love this dear lady and cherished their time together.

“My son loves you, Andrea,” she said suddenly, startling her.  “Yes, I can tell just from the way he looks at you.”

Andrea sighed.  “Then why has his behavior toward me changed?”  Lately, he seemed distant with her and whenever he showed up and his mother was not in the room, he would make some excuse and leave.  It was as if he didn’t want to be alone with her.  Once when they were alone, she reached out and touched his arm, he pulled it away as if she had burned him, his expression darkening.  He mumbled something and left the room, leaving her standing there, hurt and bewildered.  The next time she visited his mother, she told her about it and the old lady didn’t seem at all surprised.

“He thinks you’re too young for him,” she said now.

Andrea looked at her in frustration.  “I’m not that much younger than him,” she protested.  “I love him, Mrs. Alvarez.  I want to be with him.”

Mrs. Alvarez smiled.  “I know, Querida.  Don’t give up.  When two people are meant for each other, things will work out.”

Andrea stood up.  “I have to go now,” she said reluctantly.  “I am sorry that I didn’t get to see Mateo this time.  I was in the area and thought I would visit you earlier than usual.  Please say hello to him for me.”  She pulled on her jacket and her satchel.  She went over to Mrs. Alvarez who had by now finished her slice of cake and took up the napkin which she tossed in the garbage bin.  Then, she hugged the woman and kissed her on the cheek.  “I’ll come by again during the week.  Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

Mrs. Alvarez patted her on the shoulder.  “You too, Querida.”

Andrea left the room and the nursing home.  She walked out to the bus-stop and waited for the bus to take her to the subway station.  As she sat on the bus, all she could think about was Mateo and how much she wished he would stop running away from his feelings.  She had half a mind to go over to his place now and confront him.  She glanced at her watch.  It was twelve-thirty.  He usually visited his mother around four.   She would be at his condo in about half-hour.  Yes, she made up her mind to go there and face him.  Her heart somersaulted at the thought.

Thirty five minutes later she stood outside of his door, nervous but determined. Taking a deep breath, she rang the doorbell, praying that he was home.  A sense of relief washed over her when she heard the lock slide back and the door opened. Mateo stood there.  A tentative smile touched her lips and then it faded when she saw the expression on his face.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“May I come in?” She didn’t want to have this conversation in the hallway.

He moved aside to let her go in.  After closing the door and locking it, he turned to her, his eyes wary as they met hers.  “Why did you come?”

“I needed to see you,” she said.  “Why are you so cold towards me, Mateo?”

He muttered something in Spanish and raked his fingers through his hair.  “Cold towards you?” he exclaimed, his expression darkening.  “When it comes to my feelings for you, cold isn’t the word I would use.”

“You’ve been distant with me lately and avoiding me.  I want to know why.”

“You want to know why I’m acting the way I am.  It’s simple.  You’re twenty-eight and I’m forty-three.”

“What does age have to do with anything?”

“For me it has to do with everything.”

“So, you are saying that you would rather see me with someone closer to my age?”

He closed his eyes then and a pained expression came over his face.  “It would kill me to see you with someone else,” he muttered tightly.

She took a step toward him.  “Mateo, I don’t want to be with anyone else.  I want to be with you because I love you.”

He opened his eyes, raw with the unbridled passion that shone in them.  Reaching for her, he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  “Yo también te amo!  I love you too,” he groaned before he bent his head and kissed her.  She dropped her bag and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him back wildly.

For a long time, they stood there, exchanging passionate kisses until he raised his head and whispered, “Spend the rest of the afternoon with me.  I’ll call Mother and let her know that I will stop by and see her tomorrow.  I don’t think she would mind when I tell her that you’re here.”

Andrea smiled.  “I think you’re right.”

 

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; Spanish Dict

The Barbecue

“You’re not his type.” If that smile were meant to take the sting out of her words it didn’t work.  Kay was smarting from it.  “I don’t mean to upset you, Kay, but I thought I would warn you because I have seen the way you look at Quinn every time you see him.  I don’t want you to fool yourself into thinking that a man like him would notice someone like you.”

Kay tried to remain calm.  They were riding down in the lift to the indoor parking lot of their office building.  “What do you mean someone like me?” she asked.  “What is wrong with me?”  She knew that this had nothing to do with race because Joanna’s son was married to a Somalian girl whom she adored.

“I have seen the women Quinn has been involved with and you’re nothing like them.  For one thing, they are stunning, sophisticated and move in high circles.  You are out of your league.”

“I may not be stunning, sophisticated and move in high society but I have a lot going for me.”  She wondered what Joanna would say if she knew that for the past several weeks she and Quinn had been seeing each other.

“When I invited you to my home and you were introduced to him, I didn’t expect you to get any fanciful ideas about him.  He’s a bachelor and enjoys being one but if he decides to settle down one day, I can say with great certainty that it won’t be with someone like you.”

They had reached the parking lot and the doors of the lift opened.

“You have made your point, Joanna.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to be getting home.”  She left the lift and walked briskly to her car, fuming.  What a great way to start the weekend.  She unlocked her car, climbed in and slammed the door.  As she turned the key in the ignition, she saw that her hand was trembling.  How she hated scenes like that.  She and Joanna had never really gotten along.  They tolerated each other because they worked together.  She found the older woman to be infuriating and condescending.  Granted, Quinn was her brother but he was a grown man who didn’t need her interference in his love life.

Quinn.  The memories of their first meeting flooded her mind.  It was on a Sunday and Joanna had invited her co-workers to her country cottage for a barbecue.  She went with another co-worker and as they were walking up to the area where the chairs and tables were set up, she noticed a tall, handsome and sexy man sitting on a wooden bar. Hmmmm, she thought.  He looked incredible in the white shirt and tan colored pants.  His premature gray hair was very flattering; it actually suited him, although she could see that he was in his late thirties.  She turned to her friend, “Who’s that?” she asked.

Jenny smiled.  “He is gorgeous, isn’t he?” she agreed.  “That’s Quinn, Joanna’s brother. He’s looking this way.  Let’s go over and I’ll introduce you to him.”

Kay’s heart lurched.  “Do I look all right?” she asked nervously.  She was wearing a dark green scarf over her head and loosely wrapped around her neck because she wanted to look chic and a light green dress which complimented her slim figure.

Jenny touched her arm reassuringly.  “You look great.”

They went over to Quinn who slid down from where he was perched; his eyes went first to Kay, then Jenny and back to Kay where they stayed.  By now Kay’s heart was beating wildly and her feet felt wobbly but she resolved to appear calm even though she was far from feeling so.  This close, he was even more devastatingly handsome and his light brown eyes framed by long, dark eyelashes captivated her.  She felt as if she would drown in them.

Jenny looked at one and then the other, amused.  “Hello, Quinn,” she said, greeting him and he had to drag his gaze away from Kay to look at her.

“Hello Jenny,” he said with a smile.  Then, as if unable to resist, his gaze shifted to Kay.  “Who’s your friend?” he asked.

“This is Kay.”

He held out his hand.  “Hello, Kay.”  He smiled at her and she felt her heart stop.

She took his hand and felt his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake.  “Hello,” she mumbled.  She felt a bolt of electricity surge through her at feel of his warm palm against hers.  Those eyes were so mesmerizing.  Did he have any idea of the effect he was having on her?

“Where’s Joanna?” Jenny asked.

“She’s probably in the kitchen,” he told her.  He was still holding Kay’s hand.

“I’ll go and see what I can help her with,” Jenny said.  “Excuse me.”  She winked at Kay before she walked away.

Now they were alone and Kay felt extremely shy and nervous.  She didn’t know what to do.  She was not used to having a man like Quinn staring at her, making it obvious that he was attracted to her.  She was sure that Jenny was going to tease her about it.  “What-what a lovely place Joanna has,” she stammered, looking away.  “It seems quiet and peaceful.”

“Am I making you nervous?” he asked, releasing her hand.  “I don’t mean to.”

“It’s all right,” she said turning her head towards him again.  “Did you come by yourself?”

“Yes.  I am alone or was alone until you came. I want to enjoy more of your company.  Would you like to take a walk in the English countryside?  We won’t go far or Joanna will be miffed.”

She nodded and fell into step with him.  As they walked, she began to relax and open up, admiring the lush, rolling hills and the sheep grazing peacefully.  It was truly a glorious experience being there in the countryside with its magnificent views–a welcome change from the city.

They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at his childhood stories.  When they returned to the cottage, everyone was gathering around the tables where the food was laid out and helping themselves.  Everything looked appetizing. They ended up sitting at separate tables, much to her disappointment.  He was at Joanna’s table while she was at the same one as Jenny. After they finished eating, Quinn took her to the little river and bridge where they spent the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go.

Before they parted company, he asked for her phone number.  “I enjoyed our time together,” he told her as they stood under the tree.

She smiled.  “Me too.”

“I will call you,” he promised before he took her hand and raised it to his lips.  “Goodnight, Kay.”  Her skin tingled.

“Goodnight, Quinn.”  He released her hand, albeit reluctantly and she could feel him watching her as she headed to the cottage to say goodbye to Joanna and the remaining guests and get a ride home with Jenny.

True to his word, Quinn called her the following evening and they spoke for hours on the phone, making plans to see each other and have been seeing each other since.

Stirring from her reverie now, she decided that she would go over to his place instead of going home.   She needed to be with him now even though they had made plans for tomorrow.  She went straight up as the man in the concierge recognized her.  She rang the doorbell and a few minutes later the door opened and Quinn was standing there.  He was dressed in a black tee shirt and jeans.  “Hello,” he said.  He pulled her inside and closed the door.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

“I was on my way home but decided to come here instead because I really needed to be with you tonight.  I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to see you.”

His eyes darkened and as he removed her jacket, he began to kiss her.  She kissed him back, struggling to free her arms from the sleeves so that she could put them around his neck.  Finally, they were free and she clung to him as she was pressed against the door.   The jacket was discarded on the floor at their feet and his arms went around her waist as they exchanged fiery kisses until he raised his head to gaze down into her face, his own flushed.  “I love you, Kay,” he muttered huskily. “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” she said in a raspy voice, “I do, Quinn.”

“Stay with me tonight, then.  Now that you are here now, I don’t want you to leave.  I want to wake up in the morning with you next to me.  Say you will stay.”

“Yes, I’ll stay…” Her voice trailed off as his lips sought hers again.

 

 

 

The Birthday Gift

Today was her birthday.  It was a sunny, pleasant day, not as muggy as yesterday. Too bad she couldn’t treat herself an iced tea.  She was late, thanks to a delay on the tube. It was ten minutes after nine.  She hurried down the sidewalk and arrived at the office building seven minutes later.  She took the lift instead of the stairs.  As she walked through the work area to her cubicle, she caught a few people staring and smiling at her.

She stopped short when she got to her desk and saw the white box tied with a red ribbon lying in the center.  There was an envelope tucked underneath the ribbon.  She pulled it out and opened it.  She took out the card.  It was a pretty card with a bird and flowers on it with the words, “Happy Birthday.” She opened it and read the neat handwriting which simply said, “Best wishes on your birthday”.  There was no name.  Curious, she opened the box and gasped when she saw a dozen beautiful orange roses.  She had never seen roses this color before.  Their sweet scent filled the air.

By now, a few of her co-workers had gathered around her desk, admiring the roses and teasing her about having a secret admirer when she told them that she had no clue who gave them to her.  “Are you absolutely sure that you don’t know who sent you these?” Stella asked.

She shook her head.  “I honestly don’t know who sent me these.”

“You know I read somewhere that orange roses express admiration and attraction,” Ruth commented, looking enviously at the roses.  “These are definitely from an admirer.”

She stood there trying to figure out who it could be.  There was one person she wished they were from but dismissed the thought.  When everyone returned to their desks, she went to the kitchen to fill a vase with water.  She took the roses out of the box and put them in the vase.  She set the vase on the shelf above her desk.  It was hard concentrating on her work as she kept wondering who sent her the roses.  The card offered no clues.

When her friend Irene called to let her know that she was on her way to pick her up for lunch, she asked her to come upstairs.  She wanted to show her the roses and the card.

After Irene wished her a happy birthday, hugged her and gave her a small gift bag, she showed her the roses and the card.  “I have no idea who sent me them.”

Irene read the card and then handed it back to her.  “I do,” she said.

She looked at her.  “You do?” she asked, incredulous.

“Those roses are from my garden and this is Edward’s handwriting.”

She shook her head in disbelief.  “No, that’s not possible.  You’re pulling my leg.”

Irene looked amused.  “I assure you, I am not.  I saw him in the garden this morning, picking the roses and when his pants leg got caught on the thorny bush.  Then, I saw him get into his car and drive off.  He didn’t even bother to pop his head in to say hello.”

She looked at her friend dazed.  “I can’t believe it,” she murmured.  Well, you wanted the roses to be from him, didn’t you?

“Come along now, my Dear.  We will talk more about it over lunch.” She took her by the arm and escorted her out of the office.

“Why would he send me roses for my birthday?” she asked when they were sitting in the restaurant.

“Why do men usually send roses to women?” Irene asked dryly.  “Obviously, he is besotted with you.”

“But, he can’t be,” she protested.  “He’s never let on that he is.”

“Edward was always good at hiding his feelings, too well, if you ask me.  He’s the male equivalent of Elinor Dashwood.  I had no clue that he harbored any feelings for you until this morning.”  Just then their orders arrived.  Irene raised her glass in a toast.  “Here’s to many more happy birthdays,” she said.

She raised her glass, her mind still reeling from what she had just learned.  The plate of flavorful Chicken Biryani sat in front of her but she hardly tasted it.  Could it really be true?  Did Edward have feelings for her?  How she hoped that were true.

“Edward’s coming over to my place this evening,” Irene informed her.  “Why don’t you come over and thank him personally for the roses?”

Her heart did a somersault at the thought of seeing him.  “Won’t he wonder how I know that they are from him?

“Leave that to me.  Come around 7:30.”

“All right, I’ll come.” Knowing that the roses were from Edward made them even more precious.  She would take half of them home with her.  They would look lovely on the mantelpiece and definitely brighten up the flat.

They spent the rest of lunch talking about other things and then Irene gave her a ride back to the office.

It was 7:30 and she was walking up driveway to Irene’s quaint cottage.  Her eyes fell on the rose bush.  She tried to picture Edward picking twelve roses from it, getting pricked and entangled but it seemed so fanciful.  She rang the doorbell, her heart pounding.  She heard footsteps and then Irene opened the door.  She smiled at her.  “Come in,” she said.  “Frank and the kids are at the playground and Edward’s out in the backyard.

“Thank you for the lovely scarf and funny card,” she said, hugging her friend.

“You’re welcome.  Would you like something to drink?”

“Not right now, thanks,” she said as she stepped into the foyer, thinking what a lovely and cozy home it was.  It was warm and welcoming.  She removed her sandals and carried them.  She followed Irene through the living-room and through the kitchen.  Her heartbeat accelerated with each step and when she saw Edward sitting in a chair with his back to the door, she felt nervous.  She put on her sandals, feeling three inches tall again.  Irene stood at the door while she went onto the deck and down the steps.

“Hello, Edward,” she called as she approached him.

He turned around at once when he heard her and then got to his feet.  His eyes were wary as they met hers.  “Hello, Anne,” he said quietly.

She rested her handbag on the table and put her hands behind her back so that he wouldn’t see that they were shaking.  “I—I wanted to thank you for the beautiful roses,” she stammered.

“You’re welcome.  It was rather remiss of me not to sign my name in the card. It would have saved you the trouble of trying to figure out who sent the roses.  I’m sorry.”

“No need to apologize.  Everyone thought that they were from a secret admirer…” her voice trailed off as she immediately wished she hadn’t said that but she was so nervous and he seemed so rigid.

“Do you know why I chose orange roses instead of red?”

She shook her head, her eyes wide as they met his.  Her mouth went dry as he moved closer, looking intense.

“Not only do I feel a deep love for you but a wild passion.  I know that to you I may seem stiff and aloof but that’s just on the surface.  Underneath, I am like a volcano, ready to erupt.  Am I scaring you?” His eyes were dark now and stormy with the emotions he was feeling inside.

She shook her head again, moving closer.  His words shocked and thrilled her at the same time.  She never imagined that beneath that reserved exterior such feelings existed.

He reached up and cupped her face between his hands and his lips covered hers, moving passionately on them, not seeming to care that they might be seen.  He kissed her like a man who had long been restrained from showing his feelings and was now breaking free from those restraints.  She responded to his fiery kisses, her arms tight about his waist.  This continued for several minutes until the sound of voices reached their ears.  Frank and the kids had returned.  They broke apart. Edward pushed his fingers through his hair as he tried to steady his breathing while Anne gripped the top of the chair next to her, her chest heaving as she struggled to catch her breath.

“Let me take you out for dinner,” he asked, his eyes earnest as they met hers.  “I want to celebrate what’s left of your birthday with you.”

“I’d like that very much,” she managed to say.  What could be more perfect way to celebrate her birthday than a romantic dinner with Edward?  She walked around the table to where her handbag was.  Opening it, she took out her lip gross and with a trembling fingers, applied it to her lips.  After she placed it back in her bag, she went back to where Edward stood, waiting for her.

As they walked toward the house, the children came bounding out, followed by Frank and Irene.   While the two girls chatted excitedly with Uncle Edward about their afternoon in the playground, Irene came over to her.  She put her arm around her shoulders.  “How did it go?” she asked.

Anne smiled.  “He’s taking me out for dinner,” she said.

“Well, have fun,” Irene said and hugged her.  “I’ll call you during the week.”

Anne went over to Edward who was talking to his brother-in-law.  The children had darted back inside the house.  Frank smiled at her.  “Happy birthday,” he said, hugging her.  “How was your day?”

“Thank you.  It has been a wonderful day,” she remarked, looking at Edward.

Frank gave them both a knowing look.  “Well, enjoy the rest of it,” he said.

“I will.”  She turned and waved to Irene before she and Edward walked away, his hand reaching for hers.

 

 

Source:  Teleflora