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.

 

 

 

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The Retreat

She stood there admiring the bright yellow mixed in with flaming orange and red leaves on the trees as they dotted the green landscape and stood proudly over the still water of the lake, seeming to admire their reflections.  It reminded her of a giant water color painting.  It was so peaceful there.  Coming to this retreat for a week was a blessing.

It was her friend Maura who suggested it.  She and her husband were there last year and absolutely loved it.  She had watched videos on the website, the acres of land with its natural beauty and the promise of refuge and renewal and peace and presence sold her.  And here she was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying quiet time with the Lord and nature.

She got up early and came down here just before sunset.  After she finished praying, she glanced up and saw the sun rise.  It was the first time she had ever seen a sunrise.  For several moments, the sun appeared to be sitting on the water before it rose higher in the sky.  What a breathtaking scene and display of God’s power.  She lingered there for a while longer and then headed back to the lodge to have breakfast.

When she was leaving the dining room, a tall and very handsome man walked in.  He was alone.  He was wearing a blue sweater and jeans.  As she approached him, he turned and looked at her.  Their eyes met and held for several moments.  He smiled at her and she smiled back.  This close she saw that he had beautiful brown eyes.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” she replied and then she walked past him and out of the dining-room.  She could feel him watching her.  He really was quite good-looking and seemed very nice.  Then, she chided herself.  You’re here to commune with God. Don’t get distracted.  She went to her room to freshen up and then to the bench facing the stream where she planned to spend the rest of the morning.

This time she took her Bible and a notebook.  The warm sunshine on her face felt good and a sigh of satisfaction, she sat down.    After she finished reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and taking notes, she set her Bible and notebook aside.  As she sat there, gazing at the lake, her thoughts drifted to the guy she saw in the dining-room.  Who was he?  Was he single?  Was he here alone?

He was the first man she was attracted to since Reuben.  It was strange but when she thought about Reuben, she didn’t feel anything.  He was like a distant memory now.  She could hardly remember what he looked like and when she tried, she saw the other guy’s face instead.  It was five years since Reuben broke up with her.  They had been dating and everyone thought they would have gotten married.  She did too and then, he shocked her by telling her that he was in love with someone else.

It turned out that while they had been dating, he had been giving Bible studies to a woman who lived in his building.  Feelings developed between them and he realized that she was the one he wanted to be with.  She was devastated but with the love and support of her church family, she was able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life.  Reuben transferred to another church and the last she heard of him, he and the woman were married and had two children.  She wished them well.   It was clear to her now that Reuben and she were not right for each other.  He was with the person he was meant to be with and one day, she would be with the person she was meant to be with.

“Do you mind if I join you?” a voice broke into her reverie and she looked around, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was the guy from the dining-room.

She shook her head.  “No, not at all.”  She moved her Bible and notebook closer to her, leaving enough room on the bench for him to sit down.  When he lowered his tall frame on to the seat beside her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She realized then that Reuben never had such an effect on her.  Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap to stop them from trembling.  She could feel him watching her and she turned her head.  Their eyes met and held.  She wondered if she looked as nervous as she felt.

He held out his hand, “Brandon Lee.”

She took his hand and felt his firm clasp.  “Esther Richards.”

“Nice to meet you, Esther.  Is this your first time to the retreat?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine was here last year with her husband and she encouraged me to come.   I’m very happy I did.  It’s a beautiful place and it’s nice to get away from the city.  What about you?” She knew she sounded a little breathless but she couldn’t help it.  His closeness had that effect on her.  She couldn’t decide as yet if he was a Godsend or if he was a distraction.  She truly hoped that it was the former.

“I was here once with a group of people from my church.  It is a great place–so much to see and enjoy.  This is actually my favorite spot.  I could sit here for hours.”

“What church do you go to?” she asked.  He told her and she told him the name of her church.  “Are you involved in any ministries?”

“Yes, I am the leader of our Youth Ministry. ”

“I am involved in the Women’s Ministry and I sometimes lead out in our weekly Bible Study group meetings.  For our next Women’s Ministry retreat, I will recommend that we have it here.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.  And you?”  Do you have a girlfriend?

“Yes.”  I hope she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  “Do you have family here?”

“Yes, I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here but my parents live in Florida.  They moved there after I graduated from university.   I usually spend Christmas with them.”  I’m glad I didn’t move to Florida too or I wouldn’t have met you.

“No siblings?”  Thank You, God for keeping her here in London or I wouldn’t have met her.

“No, I’m an only child.  What about your family?”

“My parents live in Yorkshire and I visit them on the weekends.  I live in London and my sister and her family live in Manchester.  We spend the Christmas holidays in Yorkshire.  Speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping as yet?”

She laughed.  “I haven’t even started.   I have no clue what I will get everyone.”

“I’m done.  My advice to you is to get gift cards.  Once you know what people, like, you just get gift cards instead of trying to figure out what they would like.  For my nieces and nephew, though, I don’t mind spending hours browsing toy stores.”

“Gift card?  I never thought of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.”

Talking to him had relaxed her to some degree.  He was easy to talk to.  She enjoyed his company.  They sat there, chatting about other things and then it was time to go for lunch.  They sat next each other at a table and continued talking to each other and some of the people around them.  After lunch, he invited her to go for a walk with him.

From that day on, they spent time together, going for walks, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible and joined in fun activities with other singles such as Finish the Sentence, Bible Pictionary, True or False, Bible Telephone, Bible Hangman, Name Game, Who Am I, Bible Bingo, Bible Scavenger Hunt, Name That Hymn and Bible Scene.  Her favorite was Finish the Sentence and when it was her turn to finish the sentence, I am blessed, she said, “I am blessed because God has shown me favor.” and she looked at Brandon when she said this.  I’m blessed because God has brought us together.  His answer was, “I am blessed because God has brought new joy into my life.”  His eyes were on her when he said that.

They spent the evenings alone together–talking or going for walks.  On the last evening before they were to leave the retreat and return to London, Brandon stopped and turned to her as they strolled the grounds.  It was beautiful night.  The full moon cast a ghostly light on them and the still water of the lake.  He reached out and took her hands in his.

“Esther, these past few days with you have been the happiest of my life.  I had planned to come to the retreat next week but I felt a very strong impression to come this week and I am thankful that I did because I met you.  I don’t want to say goodbye to you.  I want to continue to see you.  I’m not in a relationship.  Am I safe to assume that you’re not in one either?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not in a relationship,” she confirmed.

“I want to be in a relationship with you, that is if, it’s what you want too.”

“I-I want to be in a relationship with you too.”

“Good.  Tomorrow, we drive back to London together.”  He raised her hands to his lips and kissed them before they continued their stroll.

She raised her head to the starry sky and silently mouthed a prayer of thanks.  Coming to he retreat had changed both of their lives.

 

Sources: Ashburnham Place; Christian Camp Pro

Harvard

She noticed him during her second year at Harvard.  He was standing outside the entrance talking to a pretty brunette.  She was probably his girlfriend.   Daphne had to pass them to go inside.

As she went up the steps, she saw him turn his head and their eyes met.  She expected him to look away soon after because she knew she wasn’t the type of girl who would attract someone like him.  She didn’t kid herself about her looks.  She knew she wasn’t pretty but she had a lot going for her intellectually.  To her surprise, he didn’t look away but his gaze locked with hers.  Her heart began to pound at the realization that he was taking notice of her.

For a long moment everything and everyone around them faded into the background.  It was as if only the two of them existed.  Then, the spell was broken when she almost walked straight into another student who was coming down the steps.  Embarrassed, she turned and mumbled an apology and then quickly let herself into the building.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Nora looked at Hayden.  “Did you see the way that girl was staring at you?” she asked disdainfully.  “She almost walked straight into that poor girl.  You would think she’s never seen a good-looking guy before.”

Hayden was hardly paying attention to what she was saying.  He was thinking about the girl.  She was obviously attracted to him and he was attracted to her.  He wanted to find out who she was but knew it would be better not to ask any of his friends.  They would make fun of him and chastise him for being interested in this girl when there were so many pretty girls on campus, including Nora who made no secret of the fact that she liked him.  Yet, as lovely as she was, he was not attracted to her and was quite content with being just friends with her.  “You say that about all of the girls who look at me,” he said to Nora.  “You can’t stop them from looking.”

“Well, you don’t usually take any notice of them but this time, you did.  Don’t tell me you find her attractive.”

He glanced at his watch.  “We should be heading to our classes now,” he said as he took up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder.

Nora’s mouth tightened.  She walked up the stairs with him and as he held open the door for her, she glanced up at him.  “She’s not your type,” she told him emphatically.  “She’s plain and dull looking.”

Hayden didn’t answer.  She may be plain and dull to you but not to me.  He and Nora parted ways and he walked to his class.  He tried to focus on what the professor was saying but his thoughts were elsewhere.  The next time I see her, I will talk to her.  

All morning Daphne thought about him.  She saw him again and this time her friend, Susan was with her.  “Who’s that very handsome guy over there wearing the very expensive looking blue sweater?”

“That’s Hayden Marsden.  He transferred to Harvard from Oxford this semester, that’s why you never saw him on campus before.  He lives with his mother and step-father in Berkshires.  I once saw photos of the estate featured in The Boston Living Magazine.  It is absolutely beautiful and huge.  Forget about him, Daphne.  He’s way out of your league.  Besides, his mother is very particular about the kind of girls he associates with.”

Daphne told her about the time she saw Hayden and ended her account with a sigh.  “I guess it was wishful thinking on my part.”

“Ah, not necessarily,” Susan said, looking over her shoulder.  “Brace yourself.  We’re about to have company.”

Alarmed, Daphne glanced around to see what she was talking about and her heart lurched when she saw Hayden approaching them.  She glanced down at her white top and knee length denim skirt and ankle boots, thinking how unsophisticated she must look compared to the brunette she had seen him with the last time.  Her heart was pounding like crazy.  Hayden looked first at Susan and then he turned to her, his tawny eyes riveted to her face.  “Hello, Daphne,” he said, holding out his hand.

She stared at him.  He knows my name.  She put her hand in his large one, feeling his fingers clasp hers in a firm handshake.  “Hello, Hayden.”

It pleased him that she knew his name.  This close, she was stunning.  His heart was beating so fast that it felt as if it was going to fall out of his chest.  He was very nervous.  No girl ever had such an effect on him before and it scared him.  Her hand felt soft and small in his and he wanted to continue holding it but had to release it in order to shake her friend’s hand when she introduced them.  He smiled at Susan as he shook her hand.  “Nice to meet you,” he said.

She smiled.  “Likewise.”  Turning to Daphne, she said, “I am going to the library.  See you later.”  She excused herself and walked away.

Alone now, Daphne and Hayden stood there, looking at each other, feeling shy and nervous.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.  He had to know.

She shook her head.  “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked.  She was thinking about the girl she had seen him with.

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend and the girl you saw me with is just a friend.”

“She’s very pretty.”

“Yes, she is,” he agreed, “but, she’s not the one I’m interested in.  Are you busy later?”

She shook her head.

“How would you like to go for dinner and a movie with me?”

“I’d like that very much,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  He’s asking me out.

He smiled and looked relieved.  “I’ll meet you right here after class this evening.”

“All right.”

They talked for a while longer and then he walked her to her class.  For the rest of the day, she was on cloud nine.  And as soon as her last class was over, she hurriedly packed her bag and almost fled from the room.  He was waiting for her.  How he longed to hold her hand but he decided it was too soon.  He didn’t want to overwhelm her.  He was so excited that they were going out on their first date.  As they walked across the campus grounds to the parking lot where his car was, he told her where they were going to have dinner and which movie they were going to see.  It was a Friday night so they didn’t have to worry about staying out late on a school night.

They had dinner at Amelia’s Trattoria before they headed over to Kendall Square Cinema to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas.  It was a very pleasant evening and first date.  She was sorry when it was over and it was time for him to take her home.  He walked her to the door of her parents’ home.  “I’d like to see you again tomorrow,” he said.  “We can spend the day together, doing different things.”

She nodded at once.  “Yes, we can do that.”

“I’ll pick you up around nine, if you think that’s too early for a Saturday.”

“Nine is fine.” She wished it were already nine.

“See you tomorrow.”  I want to kiss her so badly.

“See you tomorrow.”  I guess he thinks it’s too soon for us to kiss. She watched him as he walked to his car and waved as he drove off.  Suffice to say, she hardly slept a wink that night because she was thinking about their first date and excited about seeing him the next day.  The next morning, she got up early and had breakfast.  It was about eight-fifteen when she went upstairs and had her bath.  She wasn’t sure what to wear at first but then decided that a sweater and a pair of jeans and dressy but comfortable ankle boots would work.  Her mother was in the living-room when she walked in, surprised to see her up and about when usually on a Saturday morning she was still in bed.  When she noticed that she was dressed, she asked, “Where are you off this early?”

“I have a date,” Daphne told her gleefully.  “Hayden and I are going to spend the day together.  This is our second date.”

Her mother’s eyes widened.  “Is this is the same guy you told me about?”

“Yes.  It is.  He will be here any minute.  Would you like to meet him?”

“Yes, I’d like to meet the young man who has achieved something I have been trying to for years—get you out of bed on a Saturday before noon.”

Daphne pursed her lips.  Just then, the doorbell rang.  Her heart skipped a beat.  “He’s here.  How do I look?”

“You look fine.  Now, you’d better go and answer the door before he changes his mind.”

Daphne hurried to the door and opened it.  Her face brightened when she looked up into Hayden’s.  He looked amazing in a striped shirt with a green pullover and a pair of jeans.  Even when he was dressed casual, he looked elegant.  “Good morning,” he said with a smile.

“Good morning,” she beamed at him.  “Come in and meet my mother.  You don’t have to take off your shoes,” she added when he started to.  She took him to the living-room where her mother was.  “Mama, this is Hayden.  Hayden, this is my mother.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Williams,” Hayden said holding out his hand which was clasped in a warm handshake.

Mrs. Williams smiled at him.  “The pleasure’s all mine,” she said.  “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“So, what do you have planned for today?” Daphne asked him, her eyes sparkling.

“We are going to spend the day exploring Boston.”

“That sounds like fun.”  Daphne grabbed her handbag and kissed her mother.  “See you later,” she said.

“Goodbye, Mrs. Williams.”

“Goodbye, Hayden. I hope you will stop by again for a longer visit.”  She watched them as they almost ran to the car.  She had never seen Daphne so happy.  Hayden seemed like a decent young man and it was obvious that he liked Daphne.  She wasn’t sure how his family would feel about him dating her.  She couldn’t speak for the rest of her family, but personally, she had no objections.  Daphne’s happiness was all that mattered to her and she seemed to have found it with this young man.

“I like your mother,” Hayden commented as they drove off.

“She likes you too.”

“Is it just the two of you living in such a big house?”

“No.  I have a brother and a sister but they are spending the weekend with my grandmother.”

“What about your father?”

“He died of a heart attack when I was twelve.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  So, your mother’s the breadwinner.”

“Yes.  She has worked very hard to raise us and make sure that we have a good education.  I’m in Harvard because of her.  She’s a phenomenal woman.  I hope to be like her one day.”

He glanced at her.  “I think you’re already there,” he said quietly.

She turned her head and smiled at him.  “Thank you.”

It was a beautiful, sunny and mild day, perfect day for a walk on the Freedom Trail which is where they began their day tour of the Boston.  With so much to see and do, the time seemed to go very quickly and before she knew it, it was evening and they were having dinner at an Italian restaurant.   They lingered over their pasta, recapping the places they had seen.  When she told him that she was going to download the photos they had taken and post them on her Facebook page, he didn’t object.

As they walked along the bridge, admiring the scenery, he reached for her hand and she felt her heart begin to race when his laced his fingers through hers.  She glanced up at him and he stopped, leaned over and kissed her.  She closed her eyes and kissed him back.  When he felt her response, he deepened the kiss and his arms went around her waist, holding her tightly against him.  They were oblivious to the passersby who watched them in amusement, annoyance, displeasure or indifference.

At length, he raised his head.  “I want to see you again tomorrow and every day after that,” he said huskily.  “I want to be your boyfriend, Daphne.”

“And I want to be your girlfriend,” she replied.

He kissed her again and then he put his arm around her shoulder as they continued walking down the bridge.  She slipped her arm around his waist, her face upturned to the setting sun.

They began to date exclusively from that day but their relationship met with some opposition from his friends and he almost punched one of them for his remarks about Daphne.  Nora refused to have anything more to do with him.  He was relieved when the Christmas break rolled around.  His step-father and mother were out of town, preferring to spend their holidays in Florida.  He declined to go with them.  The weekend before Christmas, he invited Daphne up to the house.  She couldn’t get over how huge it was and she enjoyed the tour he took her on, marveling at the number of rooms.  One could easily get lost in a place like this, she thought, as she followed him along endless corridors, up winding staircases and in and out of countless rooms.

After having dinner, they went into the drawing-room where they sat cross-legged on the hearth, the glow of the fire illuminating their faces.  They had the place all to themselves.  “You are invited to have Christmas dinner with us,” she told him.

“I gladly accept,” he said, smiling.  “I’m looking forward to enjoying more of your mother’s cooking.”  He had been over to her house several times for dinner.  “Watching Transformers’ Prime with Terrence and seeing Rhea’s photos of the Jingle Ball.”  He and her nine year old brother got along famously and her fifteen year old sister thought he was the bomb for getting her those Jingle Ball tickets.  It was nice to see how easily he fitted in with her family.

“What about me?” she asked, punching him playfully.

He got serious and the expression on his face made her swallow hard.  “Right now, I want to take you upstairs to my room and make mad, passionate love to you but I won’t until you’re ready.”

She reached out and touched his face.  “I’m ready.”

His eyes darkened.  “Are you sure?”

She nodded.  “Yes.” And to leave him in no doubt that she meant what she said, she got to her feet and stood looking down at him.  He scrambled to his feet and scooping her up, he carried her out of the drawing-room and in the direction of the staircase leading up to the bedroom.

Sometime later, they lay wrapped in each other’s arms, spent.  Daphne raised herself up on her side and gazed down at him.  “Is attraction all you feel for me?” she asked.  Nora’s remarks still plagued her.  The encounter happened a week ago when she was waiting for Susan and Nora approached her.  She had a nasty expression on her face.  After she looked her up and down in disgust, she said, “Don’t kid yourself that Hayden Marsden is serious about you.  All he wants is sex from you and once he’s had his fill, he will dump you just like.   She snapped her fingers and then she walked off, leaving Daphne staring after her.  She told Susan about it.  “She’s just jealous,” her friend said dismissively.  “Paid no attention to her.”

Hayden looked at her, frowning.  “Why do you ask?” he wondered.

“Well, it’s just something Nora said to me last week.”

“What did she say?”

She told him.  “I shouldn’t let her get to me,” she added with a sigh.

Hayden reached up and caressed her cheek with his knuckles.  “What I feel for you is much more than physical attraction, although you drive me wild with desire,” he added, his eyes darkening.  “I’m madly in love with you, Daphne Williams.”

She stared at him, hardly able to believe what she was hearing but she could see the sincerity in his eyes and her heart melted.  “I’m mad about you too,” she said huskily.  “I have been since the first time I saw you.”

“I have so many plans for us.  How would you like to relocate to Seattle after we graduate?”

“Seattle?  I never thought of moving there but I’ll go wherever you want to go.”

“We’ll get married first and then move to Seattle.”

“Married?”

“Yes.  You want to marry me, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do, but what about your family?”

“I’m now estranged from all of them except my father.  It was his idea to move to Seattle.  He offered me a job at his company at least until I could find something more in line with my major.  I told him about you and emailed him a photo.”

“And he doesn’t object to our relationship?”

“No, he doesn’t.  My father is nothing like the rest of my family.  He’s excited about seeing me and is looking forward to meeting you.”

“Your friends will definitely have a problem with you marrying me.”

“They are not my friends any more.  I broke all ties with them when they started making derogatory remarks about you.  When it comes to choosing between you and my family or my friends, I will always choose you.  I knew from the moment I first saw you that you were the girl for me and I have promised myself that I would never let anyone come between us.”

She smiled and put her arms around his neck.  “I can’t wait to marry you and move to Seattle where we can begin a new life together.”

His arms went around her waist, pressing her close against him.  “I can’t wait to put a ring on your finger,” he murmured softly.  “I love you so much.”

“I love you very much too.” She closed her eyes when he bent his head and kissed her.  Her heart was filled with so much joy that it felt as if it would burst.  She was about to embark on an exciting future with the man she loved and it all began that day on the steps of Harvard.

 

 

Sources:  Boston.Com; Boston in a Day; Harvard University

 

The Breakup

She stood there watching Philip and his date.  They were at his sister’s Julia’s engagement party.  Julia and she were friends since high school and it was during the summer holidays at a beach resort where she first met Philip.  The attraction was immediate and they wasted no time getting to know each other.  After dinner, they would go for strolls along the beach or to a nightclub.  One night they enjoyed the percussive guitar playing of a Cuban artist.  Afterwards, they went back to his bungalow and made love.  No one suspected that anything was going on between them.  She slipped out after dinner and he followed some time later.

They began a torrid romance which lasted for little over a year.  She should have known what was coming, especially since Philip was adamant that they kept their relationship a secret.  They always met at his flat because she roomed with Julia.  He would take her home but never see her to the door.

She closed her eyes as she recalled that evening when he broke her heart.  They were sitting in his car outside of the apartment building where she lived.  They had just come from his flat.  As she turned toward him, he said, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

She swallowed hard, her heart thudding.  Dread filled her.  “Why?” she asked in a trembling voice.  She loved him so much.  The thought of not being with him anymore was unbearable.

“I’m so much older than you,” he said.  “You’re twenty-one and I’m thirty-nine.  I’m going to forty in December.”

“Our age difference doesn’t matter to me,” she cried.

He turned to look at her then.  “But, it does to me,” he said quietly.  “You should be with someone closer to your age–”

“I don’t want to be with someone closer to my age,” she cried.  Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I want to be with you, Philip.”

He closed his eyes.  “Please don’t make this harder than it already is.”

She stared at him for a long time and grabbing her handbag, she turned and pushed open the door.  “Goodbye, Philip,” she said before jumping out of the car and slamming the door.  Blinded by tears, she ran towards the entrance to the building and ran all the way to the lift.  Thankfully, no one was in the lift but still she tried to hold it in.  After fumbling with the key in the lock, she let herself in and headed straight for her room.  Fortunately, Julia wasn’t there.  She closed the door, flung her bag on the floor and threw herself on the bed, her body racked with the sobs she had held back.

That was three months ago.  Now, here she was watching the man she still loved with someone else.  She turned away, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall.  He didn’t waste any time, she thought.  Here she was pining over him and he was with a tall, statuesque redhead.  How could he?  He knew that she was going to be there tonight.  How could he flaunt his new love interest in her face like that?  How she wished she could hate him but try as she did, she couldn’t stop loving him.

She wanted to get out of there but what would Julia think?  As she stood there, wondering what to do, David, Julia’s other brother joined her.  David was a nice guy and wanted to go out with her but she wasn’t interested in him.  “What’s the matter, Daniela?” he asked, looking a bit concerned.

“I–I’m not feeling very well,” she said.  “Maybe a bit of fresh air will help.”

“You seem upset about something.  Is it Philip?”

She looked at him, startled.  How on earth did he guess that Philip was the source of her distress?  “Philip?” she repeated, feigning ignorance.

“Yes.  I saw when the two of you went to his bungalow in the Bahamas.  I had gone for a walk and was on my way back to mine when I saw you.”

She was speechless.  David had seen them.  David knew about them.  Yet, he hadn’t said anything until now.  “How come you didn’t say anything?”

“I wanted to confront you about it but decided that it would be wise to hold my tongue.  I was upset, though, for again I was the underdog because another girl I had a high regard for had fallen for my big brother.  I regret to say that I was hoping that things wouldn’t work out between you and him. ”

“Well, you got your wish,” she said in a choked voice.  “He dumped me.”

David looked contrite.  “Daniela, I’m sorry.”  He reached out and put his arm around her shoulder.

She felt the tears coming and was desperate to get out of there.  “Excuse me,” she said and quickly walked away.  The terrace was empty and she leaned against the rail, her fingers gripping it as she let the tears run unabatedly down her cheeks.  The pain in her chest was almost suffocating.  How on earth was she going to go back in there and face everyone when she was in such a state?

She heard footsteps behind her and after quickly wiping away the tears she turned, stiffening when she saw that it was Philip.  He stopped a few feet away from her, observing her closely.  “You’ve been crying,” he said.  He made a move to touch her face when she away.  “You don’t want me to touch you yet, you didn’t seem to mind David touching you.”

“David didn’t touch me.”

“I saw him put his arm around your shoulder.  Are you in a relationship with him?”

“I don’t see how that is any of your business,” she said.

“It is,” he muttered tightly.  “Are you and he seeing each other?”

She swung round then to face him, her chest rising and falling swiftly as all sorts of conflicting emotions surged through her.  She wanted to slap him and then kiss him.  “What does it matter to you?  You dumped me, remember?”

“If you and David are in a relationship, I want you to end it.”

You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she retorted.  “You lost that right when you ended our relationship.  Besides, David cares for me—”

His expression darkened and his fingers clenched into tight fists at his sides.  “What about you?” he asked tensely.  “Do you care for him too?”

His question upset her.  Did he really think that she had gotten over him as easily as he had her? “Why don’t you leave me alone, Philip?  Go back to your date.  She’s probably wondering where you are.”

He stared at her.  “My date?”

“Yes!  The beautiful redhead I saw you with.  You didn’t waste any time jumping into bed with someone else, did you?”

“That redhead happens to be my cousin,” was his terse reply.  “She flew in from Paris alone.  Her husband is away on business.  That’s why I brought her to the party.”

“She’s your cousin.”

“Yes.  I want you to stop seeing David.”

“I see.  So, that’s how it’s going to be.  You don’t want me but you don’t want anyone else to have me.”

He moved closer, his eyes darkening on her face.  “You think I don’t want you?” he asked.

“Yes,” the word came out as a sob.

Muttering under his breath, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him.  “Does this feel as if I don’t want you?” he demanded thickly.

Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes were wide as they met his stormy ones.  Then, he was kissing her and in spite of herself she responded.  Her arms went around his neck and she felt his hands pressed her even tightly against him.  They exchanged frenzied kisses as if to make up for the time they had been apart.  The hurt and anger she had felt just a few moments ago dissolved and in their place was the satisfaction of knowing that Philip still wanted her.

It was a long time before they broke off the kiss and stared at each other.  “I was fool to let you go,” he said huskily.  “I allowed our age difference to come between us.  Seeing you tonight made me realize how I had allowed fear to jeopardize my happiness.”

She crinkled her forehead.  “Fear?” she repeated.  “What were you afraid of?”

“I fell hard for you—a girl so much younger than me and I was afraid that after a while your feelings for me would change.  I feared that you would wind up falling in love with another guy—one closer to your age.  So, to save myself the trouble waiting until that happened I decided to end the relationship when I did.  Believe me, it wasn’t easy but I felt I had no other choice.  I was so afraid of getting hurt that I didn’t consider that you were getting hurt in the process.  I thought that in time you would get over me.”

“That night when you broke up with me was the worst night in my life.  I felt as if my heart had been ripped out.  I wasn’t infatuated with you, Philip.  I loved you.  I still love you and will never stop loving you.  I have seen many guys on campus and off campus and some of them have asked me out but I turned all of them down.  David asked me out and I turned him down.  I couldn’t go out with any of them because of you.  I didn’t want to be with anyone else.  And tonight when I saw you with the woman I thought was your date, I was hurt and angry.  It seemed as if you had gotten over me very easily.”

“I haven’t been with anyone else,” he told her.  “I could have dated several women but I didn’t because I couldn’t stop thinking about you and longing for you.  Many times I was tempted to stop by your flat on the pretext of visiting Julia.  I often wondered how you were and if you were dating anyone.  Whenever I saw Julia, I wanted to inquire about you but was afraid that I would give my feelings away.  I knew that I was going to see you tonight and braced myself for the possibility that you would show up with someone.  And when I saw you with David, I assumed that you were involved.  When I saw him put his arm around you, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  I walked to come over there and separate you but I saw you leave.  I followed you.   I had no idea what I was going to say to you because it has been months since we last saw each other but I just knew that I had to be alone with you.”

“I was angry with you just now when you asked me about David.  You seemed to think that I was so fickle that I would go from one brother to the next, sort of on a rebound.”

“I was speaking out of jealousy,” he said.  “I thought what I had feared had come true—that you had gotten over me with David.  When I saw that you had been crying, I thought it was because of him and when I tried to comfort you, you recoiled from me.”

“I was crying because of you.  David saw that I was upset and guessed that you were the reason.  He told me that he saw us going into your bungalow.  He knows about us.  I told him that you ended our relationship and then I left and came out here.  I didn’t want you to touch me because I knew that if you did, I wouldn’t be able to help myself.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he muttered thickly.  “That night when you said goodbye and left my car, it took superhuman strength for me not to get out and run after you and tell that I had made a terrible mistake.  During the months we have been apart, I have been kicking myself for letting you walk out of my life.”

“So, where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want us to get married,” he said.  “I don’t want to waste anymore time.”

Tears of joy came to her eyes.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  I love you, Daniela.”

She smiled through the tears.  “I love you too, Philip,” she said huskily.

He lowered his head and kissed her.  Her arms around his neck tightened as she kissed him back.

 

The Cottage

As she stood there, looking around at the countryside, she wondered if Ryan would be happy to see her.  It had been ten years since they last saw each other.  Ten years was a long time–too long.  She gazed wistfully at the hills they used to run up and down when they were children, wallowing in the sludge much to his mother’s chagrin.   Once they climbed the oak tree behind his grandmother’s cottage to see a Robin’s nest.  In it were three blue eggs lying closely next to each other.  How she used to look forward to the holidays when she would see Ryan.  They were thick as thieves and got into plenty of mischief.

Then, things changed between them as they got older.  They developed feelings for each other but were careful to hide them when other people were around.  She remembered the first time they kissed.  It was the same day she arrived at Northampton to spend the summer holidays before Ryan started university.  She had climbed up the oak tree again to see if there was anything in the bird’s nest.  It was empty.  Disappointed, she started to climb back down the tree.  He reached up and helped her down.  They were standing very close to each other, his hands were on her waist and their bodies were inches apart.  She looked up at him and found him staring at her with a curious expression on his face.

She watched as his lips drew closer until they were on hers, tentative at first but deepened when he felt her response.  She felt him pull her closer against him and she put her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly as they kissed passionately.  This lasted for several minutes, and then he drew back, his face flushed.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her behind him as he ran across the lawn.

“Where are we going?” she asked, breathless from the kisses and trying to keep up with him.

“To the cottage.”

“But, your grandmother–”

“She won’t be back for a while.  We’ve got the place all to ourselves.”

He let them into the cottage through the back door.  They ran up the stairs to one of the bedrooms and as soon as they were inside, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her as he backed her over to the bed, dragging off his shirt as he did so.  In no time, their clothes were in a heap on the floor and they were under the covers making love.  They made love several times after that whenever his grandmother was away.

The one afternoon when they were in the throes of passion, the door opened.  The audible gasp and the slamming of the door jolted them and they broke apart.  Ryan’s face went pale when he saw his mother standing there and Tamara pulled the sheets up to her chin, feeling ashamed.

“I came over here to check on your grandmother and this is what I find,” Mrs. Bellamy muttered between clenched teeth, her face beet red.  She marched over to the strewn clothes on the floor and threw them at them.  “Get dressed now!”  She marched out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

As soon as she was gone, they jumped out of the bed and quickly got dressed.  Wordlessly, they straightened the sheets and then left the room.  She was waiting for them downstairs in the living-room.  “Ryan, go back to the manor and wait for me in the study.  Tamara and I need to talk.”

Ryan looked like he was about to say something but thought better of it.  He reached out and squeezed Tamara’s hand before leaving the room.  Left alone with Mrs. Bellamy, Tamara was petrified.  She stared at the floor.

“Tamara, I want you to go back to the house and pack your bags.  The car will take you to the train station.  You’re not welcome here anymore.”

Tamara raised her head, her eyes wide with shock and distress.  “You mean I won’t see Ryan ever again?” The thought was unbearable.  “But, we love each other…”

“What do you know about love?” Mrs. Bellamy demanded.  “He’s eighteen and you’re just sixteen.  You’re too young to know anything about love.  I can’t let you remain here—not after what has been going between you.  I have to be the responsible one in this and as long as the two of you are under the same roof, I can’t trust you.  So, you will leave Twin Oaks Manor now.”

“Will I get to say goodbye to Ryan?” She was crying now, her heart breaking.  Mrs. Bellamy watched her, her face devoid of any mercy.  Tamara’s tears didn’t move her.  In fact, they seemed to have the opposite effect.

“I’m afraid not,” she said coldly.  “I don’t want him to make a scene.  Now, when we get back to the manor, I will keep him busy in the study while you go and pack.  Please be quick about it.  The sooner you leave the better.”

Tears came to Tamara’s eyes now as she remembered walking back to the manor, head held down, tears streaming down her face, the ache in her heart at the prospect of not even getting to say goodbye to Ryan.  She and Mrs. Bellamy parted in the foyer.  She ran upstairs to her room and packed her suitcase as quickly as she could.  Before leaving, she wrote a note and hid it in the top drawer of Ryan’s dresser, under some vests.   She had thought of leaving it on his pillow but couldn’t risk his mother or anyone else seeing it.  Then, she walked out of the doors for the last time and got into the waiting car.  As it pulled away, she looked up at the window of the study, hoping for a glimpse of Ryan but none was forthcoming.  That was ten years ago.

She had written Ryan over the years but all of her letters were returned unopened.  She never received any from him.  She went to university and buried herself in her studies but always, she thought about him and longed to see him.  Finally, she couldn’t stay away any longer and decided that after she graduated from university, she would come to Northampton at the first opportunity.  She and Ryan were adults now and Mrs. Bellamy couldn’t prevent them from resuming their relationship even if she wanted to.

Would Ryan want to pick up where they left off, though?  Did he still love her?  She had never stopped loving him.  He was her first and only love.   She had the opportunity to date other guys but she wasn’t interested in any of them.

She turned and walked along the path to the cottage and made her way to that oak tree.  Gingerly, she climbed up and looked into the nest.  This time there were two baby robins in the nest.  She smiled and was tempted to touch them but decided not to.  She watched them for a while and then carefully made her way down the tree.  As she touched the ground, she heard a dog barking.  Curious, she went around the front of the cottage and stopped short when she saw Ryan at the fence, a bag carrying what looked like a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder and holding the leash of the barking dog.  Her heart began to pound.

He was standing there, watching her, his expression unreadable.  He was ten years older and gone were the boyish features.  He was a man now.  And he was even more handsome.  His thick dark hair looked slightly tousled.  Her fingers itched to bury themselves in it like she used to when they made love.

“Hush Rover,” he said to the dog.  The animal stopped barking, sat down and simply stared at her.   Ryan turned to look at her.  “What are you doing here?”

She moved closer.  “I came to see you,” she said.  She wanted so much to throw her arms around him.  Seeing him again brought back memories of the happy times they spent together and the love they shared before they were separated.  “It has been a long time.”

“Ten years to be exact.  Why did you leave without saying goodbye?”

“I wanted to but your mother won’t let me.  I wrote you a note.”

“I saw it.  I still have it.  It was all I had from you.”

She frowned.  “But, I wrote to you.”

“I never received any letters from you.”

“They were all returned to me, saying on them ‘return to sender’.”

“Every day I checked the mail to see if you had written but I didn’t see any letters.  I wanted to write you but I didn’t have an address.”

“I tried emailing you but my emails came back undelivered.”

“I changed my email address but had no way of letting you know that because yours didn’t work either.”

“That’s because my mother restricted my access to the Internet when she caught me once trying to email you.  I was only allowed to use the Internet for school assignments.  As soon as I finished university, got a job and found a flat, I moved out.  I searched the telephone directory for your number and when I called, your mother answered.  She told me never to call again and hung up.”

“Even before she caught us together, she had been complaining about how much time we were spending together.  She felt that I should have had more friends and show an interest in girls.  She had a particular girl in mind.  Emily Rosen.  Mother kept trying to throw us together but I wasn’t interested.  How could I be when my heart belonged to someone else?  Mother eventually gave up.  However, she became even more determined to keep us apart.  She made sure that while I was at university, I wasn’t allowed any calls or visits from anyone outside of the immediate family.”

Tamara sighed, her expression one of deep regret.  “I had hoped that she wasn’t still holding a grudge against me.  I haven’t been to the main house because I didn’t want to run into her.”

“Mother’s not here.  She’s visiting my grandmother in the nursing home.  Grandmother has Parkinson’s.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that.  I like your grandmother.  She has always been very kind to me.”

“Yes, she was rather fond of you.  After you left, I spent most of my time at the cottage with her.  I couldn’t stand being at the house.  I would go to the guest room, lie on the bed, close my eyes and think about you.  Grandmother knew that I was unhappy and although I said nothing to her about it, she knew that it was on account of you.  That is why she gave me the cottage.  She believed that you would come back. ”

She swallowed hard.  “I had to come back,” she said huskily.

His eyes darkened and he made a move toward her but then changed his mind and turned instead towards the cottage.  “Let’s go inside.”

She followed and when they were inside, he put the bag with the rifle away and then unleashed the dog.  The animal bounded over to his favorite spot on the rug and lay down.  “How long have you had him?” she asked as Ryan removed his jacket and took hers when she took it off.

“I’ve had him for about four years.  We go for long walks.  He loves the countryside as much as you did.”  He went to hang the coats in the closet.  “Why did you come back, Tamara?” he asked when he rejoined her.  His expression was taut.

She walked over to him.  “You know why,” she said, her eyes wide as they met his stormy ones.

A muscle began to throb along his jawline.  “I want you to tell me,” he muttered thickly.

“I came back because I still love you,” she admitted.  “I never stopped loving you.”

He groaned and reaching for her, he pulled her roughly against him.  “And I still love you,” he cried.  “I couldn’t stop loving you even if I tried.  You fill my thoughts, my senses and my heart. The ten years we’ve been apart have been torture for me.”

She reached up and cupped his face between her hands.  “For me too,” she murmured.  “That’s why I had to come back to Northampton and you.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come back.”

“Hush,” she whispered before she began kissing him.  His arms tightened around her and he responded hungrily to her kisses.

For several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses as years of pent up desires and long denied feelings swept through them like a tidal wave.  Then, he broke off the kiss and picked her up.  He carried her up the stairs and to the guest room.  He kicked the door shut and strode over to the bed where he laid her down.  He was breathing heavily as he watched her lying there on the coverlet.  He hastily removed his clothes and then climbed in next to her.  His mouth found hers and as he ravaged her lips, he dragged her top over her head.  Soon they were making passionate love and her fingers gripped his hair, reveling at the feel of the soft, silky locks.

Sometime later, Ryan got up and went over to the dresser.  He took something out of it and closed the drawer.  He walked over to the bed and went on the side where she was.  She stared up at him.  He got down on his knees beside her.  Curious, she raised herself up on her elbows.  He showed her the box.  “I bought this in January,” he said.  He opened the box and took out the sparkling ring.  “I wanted to believe what Grandmother told me.  I wanted to believe that you would come back to me.”

Tamara stared at the ring and then at him, tears glistened in her eyes.  “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.

He took her hand and looking up into her face, he asked huskily, “Will you marry me?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak and he slipped it on.

He rose from his knees and went back to his side of the bed.  After he climbed in he turned on his side and propping his head on his hand, he gazed at her.  “When you find true love, you hold on to it,” he said quietly.  “You are my one and true love.  I lost you once and I don’t want to lose you again.”

“You never lost me,” she said, settling down again.  “I came back because I’m yours forever.”  She reached up and pulled his head down to hers.  As they kissed, she thought of Mrs. Bellamy and how her plan to sever their attachment had failed.  The separation had only proven that in spite of their youth, they had known all along what true love was.

Slide1

Love in the Office

When she went to the kitchenette to fill her bottle with water, Anton was there telling a couple of people about his camping trip with his friends.  She couldn’t help but smile.  He was such a droll when it came to telling stories.  She filled her bottle and turned so that she was facing the group.

“Sounds like you had a lot of fun on your camping trip,” she said a few minutes later, when they were alone.

He went over to where she was.  “I did,” he said, his eyes riveted to her face.

She wondered if he knew how much his closeness affected her.  “Good,” she said, sounding a little breathless.  “Where did you go camping?”

“Wild Boar Wood in West Sussex.”

“So, were there any women on your camping trip?” She had to ask.

He shook his head.  “No, just the guys.”

She couldn’t hide her relief and she saw his expression change.

“Even if women were there, I wouldn’t have been interested in any of them,” he said quietly.  “You must know by now, Tina, that I’m deeply attracted to you.”

Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and she seemed to have trouble breathing.  “I’m your supervisor,” she reminded him.

“Yes, I know that we have a working relationship but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  I know that you’re attracted to me.  I saw the look on your face when I told you that there weren’t any women on the camping trip.  You don’t want me to be with another woman any more than I want you to be with another man.  You can’t deny that you have feelings for me, Tina.  I can see it on your face.”

Her resolve was beginning to weaken.  “I’m older than you,” she said.

“Age is just a number,” he said dismissively.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“All right,” she acquiesced.  “You win.” She was no match for the emotions that raged within her or his power of persuasion.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll pick you at seven-thirty.”

“I think we should get back to work now,” she said.

“Right,” he agreed.  “I’ll get started on the report you asked me for.”  He excused himself and quickly walked away.

For several minutes, she stood there, wondering if she had acted wisely.  She couldn’t get past the fact that she was his supervisor and that there was a considerable age difference between them.   Yet, try as she did, she couldn’t deny her feelings for Anton.

From the moment she first saw him, she knew that she was in trouble.  His good looks, charm and friendly disposition made him irresistible.  Working with him was a challenge.  Many times, she found herself watching him and wondering if he had a girlfriend.  She couldn’t imagine that someone like him would be unattached.  It bothered her to see him talking to other women in the department, especially the younger ones.

Just yesterday, she had walked by the photocopier on her way to the boardroom for a meeting when she saw him standing there talking to Wendy, a pretty redhead.  He had his back turned to her so he didn’t notice her.  Her steps faltered and as she watched them talking, red, hot jealousy raged inside her.  She was tempted to go over there and interrupt them but she came to her senses and hurried away before he saw her.  When she was in the meeting, she had to literally force herself to focus on the business at hand and put the sight of Anton and Wendy out of her mind.  Later when they were alone in her office going over some files, she said, “Wendy’s pretty, isn’t she?”

He glanced up at her.  “I suppose so,” he said.

“I saw the two of you at the photocopier earlier today.  I think she likes you.”

“Are you trying to set me up with her?” he asked, startling her.

“No,” she protested.  “I—I was just making an observation.”

“Wendy’s a very nice girl but I’m not attracted to her.”  He was staring at her now and the expression on his face made her heart palpitate.  That was the first time she became aware of his attraction for her.

“Tina, Mr. Foster is waiting for you in your office.”  Annette’s voice brought her back to the present.

“Thanks, Annette,” she said and followed her out of the kitchenette.

Several hours later when it was time to leave, Anton stopped by her office.  She was straightening her desk.  He went over to her.  “Normally, I would tell you to have a good weekend,” he said.  “But, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”

“Yes,” she said.  She handed him a slip of paper with her address on it.  When he took it, their fingers touched and her breath caught in her throat.  Her skin seemed to burn.  Their eyes met and held for a long time before she turned away to remove her jacket from the back of her chair.   “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Tina.”  She heard him leave and turned round when he closed the door behind him.

Her skin still tingled where his fingers had touched it.  She traced the area, her heart pounding when she remembered the expression on his face as they stared at each other.  The desire she saw there was unmistakable.  She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t turned away.  On the drive home, she mulled over it and nervous excitement rose in her whenever she thought of seeing Anton the following evening.  What on earth am I going to wear? She wondered, racking her brains to see if there was an outfit that would be suitable.  It had been ages since she had been on a date and it felt very strange going on one with someone she worked closely with.

As soon as she got home, she searched for something to wear and settled on a dress she had bought a month ago and had worn only once.  It was a black slash neck dress with a flare skirt.  On Saturday evening, she put it on and was satisfied with how it looked.  She wore her hair in a chignon, allowing a few tendrils to frame her face.  The strappy black and silver heels completed the outfit.  The doorbell rang just as she took one last look at herself in the mirror.  When she opened the door and saw Anton standing there, her heart leapt.  He looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey suit with the black dress shirt and black tie.  His eyes slid over her and when they returned to her face, admiration and desire shone in their depths.   “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

“So do you.”  As they walked to the lift, she could feel him watching her and she smiled, flattered.

The restaurant, set in a snug 18th century townhouse, was atmospheric in that the tables candle lit.   Over dinner, he told her about himself.  His father was British and his mother French.  He had an older brother and a younger sister.  He asked many questions about her and her family.

When they were having dessert, he said with a serious expression on his face, “I want to have a relationship with you, Tina.  I know that you are hesitant because we work together and the age difference but we can’t deny how we feel about each other.  It’s so hard for me to be around you and not want to touch you or kiss you.  Quite a few people in our department are dating each other.  At least, let’s give it a try and see what happens.   What do you say?”

She toyed with her Black Currant Sorbet for a moment and then, looking up at him, she nodded.  “Yes, let’s give it a try.”  He was right.  There was nothing to prevent them from having a relationship except her own misgivings which she knew had to do with her fear of getting hurt.  She still couldn’t believe that he was attracted to her instead of someone closer to his age.

He smiled and reaching over, he caressed her hand, making her pulse race.  They spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and made plans to see each other the following day.  When he took her home, he leaned down and was about to kiss her on the cheek when, heart thudding, she turned her head so that their lips touched.

Groaning, he deepened the kiss while backing her into the flat.  Once they were inside, he kicked the door shut, his mouth moving feverishly over hers.  She clung to him, kissing him back while her hands removed his jacket.  His tie and shirt soon followed and then, she broke off the kiss, panting and grabbing him by the hand, she took him to her room.

The following day at the office, they smiled and kept exchanging knowing looks.  She felt like a lovesick schoolgirl.   When other people were around, they acted professionally around each other as before. They spent every evening together, either at her flat or his.  Over the weekends, they went for drives, to the cinema, dinner, the theatre, concerts and nightclubs or for walks along the Quay.  Tina knew that she was falling in love with him and hoped that he was with her.  Once when he was taking a shower, she joined him and as he gazed down into her face, the water beating on his back, she saw the look in his eyes before he kissed her.  There was no doubt in her mind that he cared for her.

One afternoon, she was on her way home to visit her sister, Vivien when she spotted Anton in front of a café.  He was not alone.   There was a traffic signal right there and she stopped as the light turned to red, craning her neck to see him and the girl he was with.  She watched as he leaned over and said something to the pretty brunette, making her throw back her head and laugh.  Then, she saw the girl reach up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him closely.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as jealousy ripped through her.

The honk of a car horn behind her startled her.  Dragging her eyes from the two figures on the sidewalk, she glanced up and saw that the light had changed to green.  She pressed her foot on the gas and drove off.  All sorts of thoughts were running through her mind.  Who was the girl and what was he doing with her?  And what about me?  Is he getting bored of me?  But he couldn’t be—not after the way he made love to me last night.  She trembled at the memory.  Is he seeing the both of us at the same time?  Is he sleeping with her too? The pain and jealousy almost suffocated her.

How she managed to get to Vivien’s home without getting into an accident, she had no idea.  As soon as her sister opened the door, she broke down.  Concerned, Vivien hugged her for a moment until she had calmed down, then she put her arm around her shoulder and led her over to the sofa.  “Tell me what’s got you so upset,” she encouraged her gently.  She handed her the box of tissues that was on the coffee table and waited patiently while she dried her eyes and wiped her nose.  “I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Taking her time, Tina told her everything.  “I love him, Vivien.  It really hurt to see him with her.”

“Does he love you?”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He hasn’t said so as yet.”

“Based on what you have told me, it’s obvious that he has feelings for you.  There might not be anything going on between him and the girl.  It may all turn out to be innocent.  When you see him tomorrow, ask him about her.”

“And what if he’s seeing her?”

“Then, you must end your relationship with him.” She reached out and covered her hands.  “I hope it all works out for you, Tina.”

Tina didn’t answer.  At that moment, her world was in an upheaval and she didn’t know what she was going to do if it turned out that Anton was two-timing her.

She drove to work the next day, feeling awful.  She hadn’t slept a wink at all last night.  Anton wasn’t at his desk when she got in and she went into her office and closed the door.  She knew she couldn’t avoid him but she dreaded the moment when she would have to talk to him.  Once when he knocked on the door and poked his head in, she pretended that she was on the phone.  He didn’t disturb her after that.

It was after twelve when she came out of her office and stopped short when she saw the same girl she had seen Anton with sitting in a chair next to his desk.  What is she doing here, she wondered, resentfully.  The girl didn’t see her.  She was sitting with her back turned to her and was on her cell phone texting.

She was tempted to walk over to her and find out who she was.  As she stood there, trying to figure out what to do, Anton came up behind her.   She felt him caress her arm and she swung round to face him.

“What’s the matter?” he asked when he saw the expression on her face.

“Who’s the girl over there at your desk?” she demanded in a low, angry voice.  She couldn’t hide her jealousy.

He looked over her shoulder and then back at her.  “You mean my sister?” he asked, raising his eyebrows quizzically.

She gaped at him.  “Your sister?” she repeated, wondering if she had heard correctly.

“Yes, my sister.  Come, let me introduce you.”  He took her by the arm and led her over to the brunette who glanced up at them.  “This is my sister, Louise.  Louise, this is Tina.”

Louise smiled and held out her hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Tina.  Anton has told me so much about you.”

Tina shook her hand, dazed and feeling like a complete fool.  “It’s nice to meet you too,” she murmured.

Anton turned to her, “Louise and I are going to have lunch.  Would you like to join us?”

She shook her head.  “Thank you, but I already had my lunch and I have a meeting in about fifteen minutes.”

Anton grabbed his jacket and pulled it on.  “I’ll see you when I get back.”

Louise stood up.  She was a tall girl.  “I hope to see you again, Tina,” she said.

Tina managed a smile.  “Me too.”  She watched them as they walked away and then went back into her office.  She sat down at her desk and leaned her head against the leather upholstery, her mind whirling.  The heaviness which had been on her heart was gone.  She went to her meeting in better spirits.  When it was over, she went back to her office and waited for Anton to return from lunch.

When he did, she called him on his extension, asking him to go in and see her.  He went in right away and walked over to her desk.  “You’ve been avoiding me all morning,” he said, “and I’d like to know why.”

She got up from the desk and went up to him.  “I have a confession to make,” she said quietly, wringing her hands nervously.  “Yesterday I saw you with Louise, only I didn’t know at the time that she was your sister and I thought…”

“And you thought that I was seeing another woman behind your back.  Oh, Tina,” he groaned, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration.  “How could you think such a thing?  Can’t you tell by now that I love you?”

Her heart stopped.  “You love me?”

“Yes! I love you so much that I ache inside.”

“I love you too.  I’m sorry for being such a jealous fool.  When I saw you with her, I was so hurt, so jealous.  I—I was going to talk to you about it today but I couldn’t seem to work up the courage to do so.”

He reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of other women,” he told her huskily.  “I love you.  I want to be with you.  I want to marry you.”

She stared at him.  “Marry me?”

“Yes.  That’s why you saw me with Louise yesterday.  She went with me to De Beers to help me to choose a ring for you.  I was planning to propose to you tonight over dinner at my place.  Afterwards, we went to a cafe.  You must have seen us just before we parted company.”

She began to cry and he hugged her tightly.  “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed.

He drew back to look down at her.  “What are you sorry about?” he asked.

“I’m sorry for ruining your surprise and for doubting you…”

“Don’t  cry,” he said.  “You haven’t ruined anything and I would have reacted the same way if I had seen you hugging a strange man.

She smiled at him through her tears.  “I’m so lucky to have you,” she cried.

He cupped her face between his hands and rubbed the tears away with his thumbs.  “I’m the lucky one,” he muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.  Wrapping her arms tightly around his waist, she kissed him back.

Slide1

 

Sources:  Time Out;Ali Express; Andrew Edmunds; De Beers

 

The Room in Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run once in with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The highlight for her was Michelangelo’s David.  She stood there for a long time just studying it.  Afterwards, they visited the Uffizi Gallery.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Before going inside, they took photos of its architecture which was a mixture of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian, the impressive work of artists and craftsmen who came from all over.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.

When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.” They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  As they enjoyed the Chicken and Mushrooms and Pasta & Oca respectively, they talked about the places they had visited that day and where they planned on going the next day.  For dessert, they had Rosada cream with orange.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she, took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jawline.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”

After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I kept thinking about how sexy you look without a shirt…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was the room in Venice.”

“Why this room?” he asked.

“It’s where you and I first made love and declared our feelings for each other.  I will always remember this room for those two reasons.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

 

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves