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