“You’re the most infuriating, insufferable, arrogant man I have ever met,” she fumed.
He looked unperturbed. “Is this what you came all the way over here to tell me?” he asked. “You could have just as easily phoned me and save yourself an hour’s drive.”
“I wanted to tell you what I think of you to your face,” she retorted.
He moved closer. “Why don’t you admit it, Debra?”
“Admit what?” she asked, eying him suspiciously and warily. He was a little too close for comfort.
“That you want me as much as I want you.”
Alarm filled her and for a brief moment, she was at a loss of words. Then, lifting her chin, she declared, “You’re mistaken.”
“I’m not afraid to admit that I want you. I wanted you from the first time I saw you. Feel what you do to me.” He took her hand and pressed it against his heart. It was pounding wildly—like hers.
She tried to pull her hand away but his grip tightened. Her eyes flew up to his face and her mouth went dry when she saw the unbridled passion shining in their depths. Desire coursed through her body and she tugged at her hand, desperate to put as much distance between them as possible. “Please let go of me,” she begged.
“Why?” he asked thickly. “Am I making you feel things you don’t want to feel?”
Just then, the sound of someone clearing his throat came from the doorway. Then, a voice called, “Mr. Rhys, Sir?”
Without turning his head, Rhys said, sounding somewhat put out at the interruption, “Yes, Albert, what is it?”
“You have a telephone call.”
“I’ll take it in the study. Thank you, Albert.”
When Albert left, she tugged at her hand again and he released it this time. She stepped back, grateful to Albert for the interruption.
Rhys watched her. “Will you wait here until I return?”
“No,” she said crossly. “I have things to do.”
“Have dinner with me tonight,” he said quietly.
She glared at him. “Even if my life depended on it, I will never have dinner with you. Good day.” She stormed past him and out of the room, leaving him watching after her, his expression a mixture of irritation and longing.
On the drive back to London, she fretted and fumed at herself for the brief betraying moment when she wanted to succumb to the feelings he aroused in her. If Albert hadn’t interrupted when he did she would not have been able to resist him any longer and that scared her. She didn’t want to have feelings for the man who was responsible for her sister’s misery.
Her sister was the reason why she went to Surrey to see him. She had meant to find out why he was opposing Vanessa’s marriage to his brother, Mark but when she saw him, she just lost it. She hoped she hadn’t make things worse. Just who did he think he was? Insufferable man. How she disliked him. Yet, how was it possible to loathe a man and want him at the same time?
She didn’t go back to her flat, instead, she went over to her friend Marcy’s cottage. “You look fit to be tied,” her friend exclaimed when she saw her. “Come on in. A cup of tea would do you some good, I think. Come to the kitchen and tell me what’s on your mind while I get the tea ready.”
Debra sat down at the table while Marcy put the kettle on. “I went to see Rhys,” she said, trying to be calm.
“You mentioned that you were going to find out why he was stalling his brother’s wedding plans. What did he say?”
“I didn’t give him a chance to say anything. I just laid into him because he got me so mad.”
“What did he do to get you so mad at him?”
“Well, nothing, really,” she said. “When I saw him, looking so smug, I lost it.”
“So, you didn’t find out why he is stalling the wedding?”
“What other reason could there be besides the fact that he doesn’t think that my sister is good enough for his precious brother?”
“Deb, you can’t assume that’s the reason. It might be something else.”
“What other reason could there be? Mark and Vanessa love each other. They have been dating since high-school and all through university. No one was surprised when they announced their engagement. Plans have already been put in place for a spring wedding and now, they have been put on hold because of Rhys. He acts more like Mark’s father than his older brother.”
“I guess he feels responsible for him because after their parents died, he raised him. It’s only natural that he wants what’s best for his little brother.”
“Doesn’t he think that marrying my sister would be the best thing for his brother? Is it because she’s not from rich family like Mark and he?”
“Deb, you and I can sit here all morning and speculate about Rhys’ reasons for putting everything on hold. There’s only one way to find out for sure and that’s to talk to him.”
Debra took the steaming cup of coffee from Marcia. She didn’t relish the idea of seeing Rhys again but if she wanted to get to the bottom of this, she had to. “I’ll stop by his office tomorrow during my lunch break,” she sighed.
The next day, she made sure she called Rhys first to find out if it was all right with him to stop by his office around twelve-thirty. He sounded surprised to hear from her but said that he was free to see her at that time. She got there at about twelve thirty-five and was shown into his office which modern, spacious and had a remarkable view of the city. He was sitting behind the desk but stood up when she walked in. He went over to the door and closed it. Then, he offered her a seat. “What a pleasant surprise,” he remarked. “What brings you here?”
She sat down and came straight to the point. “I want to talk to you about Mark and Vanessa. Why are you standing in the way of their happiness?”
He sat down behind the desk, his expression serious now. “I’m not opposed to their happiness,” he said. “But I do have my misgivings. I think they are too young to get married. He’s twenty-three and your sister is twenty-two. Mark has a trust fund which doesn’t have full access to until he’s twenty-five. Right now, he can live comfortably from the money in the trust fund but with marriage comes so many responsibilities that I’m not sure he’s ready for.”
“So, your objection is based solely on their age and not on their suitability for each other.”
He nodded. “I have always heard of many cases where young marriages don’t work out. I just don’t want Mark and Vanessa to be one of those couples.”
“But how long do you expect them to wait? Until they are in their thirties? That doesn’t seem fair. Those marriages you mentioned failed most likely because the couples were not mature. Mark and Vanessa are mature and very sensible beyond their years. If you still have misgivings why don’t you consider having them go for pre-marital counseling? I have a friend who has counseled many couples, including those in their twenties. I could arrange for her to see Mark and Vanessa. The sessions will determine whether or not they are ready for marriage.”
“That would be very helpful,” Rhys agreed. “It would put my mind at rest.”
“All right, I will call my friend this evening.” She got up.
He stood up too. “Are you leaving so soon?”
“I have to head back to the office. Thanks for taking the time to see me. Rhys…” she looked at him, feeling a little embarrassed. “I wanted to apologize for the way I spoke to you yesterday.”
He came around to where she was and stopped a few feet away from her. “I will accept your apology on one condition,” he said quietly, his eyes studying her face. “Have dinner with me tonight.”
“All right,” she said.
“I’ll see you at seven-thirty, then.”
She turned and crossed the carpet towards the door with him following closely behind. The same time she reached for the knob, he did and his hand covered hers. Heart leaping in her chest, she turned her head to look up at him and met his penetrating gaze. Without saying anything, he took her hand and pressed it against his thumping heart then without any warning, he reached over and kissed her.
Unable to help herself she turned so that she was facing him and her arms reached for him as she responded to his fiery kisses. Several minutes later, she felt herself pressed up against the hard surface of the door while his hands on her hips held her tightly against him as he ravaged her lips. Then, his lips were hot against her neck and she groaned, reaching up to bury her fingers in his hair.
A knock on the door jolted them and he pulled away, his face flushed. He took a few moments to control his breathing and regain his composure before he moved to open the door slightly. “Yes, Betty?” Betty was his secretary.
“They are waiting for you in the boardroom, Mr. Yardley.”
“Okay. Thank you, Betty. Inform them that I will be there shortly.”
He closed the door and turned to Debra. He ran his fingers through his hair. “I forgot that I have a board meeting at one,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
She smoothed her hair and straightened her white top with the V neck and her navy blue skirt. “I should be heading back now,” she said, stooping down to pick up her handbag which had dropped to the floor.
“I look forward to seeing you again later,” he said quietly. He held open the door for her and she glanced at him before she went out.
On the way back to her office, all she could think about was the kiss and how much she wanted him. She couldn’t wait to see him later. When she got to her desk, the first thing she did was to call her friend, the marriage counselor.
At exactly seven-thirty he was at her flat. He looked amazing in a fitted black suit, white dress shirt and no tie. His hair was slicked back, giving him a polish and slightly rakish look. His eyes slipped over her when he saw her in a short navy blue dress with a beaded neckline which flattered her figure and her hair pulled back at the nape with a clasp. She looked simple but elegant. “You look incredible,” he commented as they walked to the lift.
She smiled. “Thank you,” she said. “So do you.”
He took her to his favorite restaurant which offered them privacy, spectacular view of the city of London and food to die for. They talked and opened up to each other. She mentioned to him that she had called her friend and that whenever Mark and Vanessa were ready, she would see them. “I really believe that things will work out for them,” she said.
“I hope you’re right,” he said.
“I was wrong about you,” she admitted. “I thought you were causing problems for my sister because you didn’t think she was suitable for your brother.”
“That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I like Vanessa. She’s a remarkable girl.”
Debra smiled. “Yes, she is. Sometimes when I look at her, I can’t believe that she’s that kid that used to follow me around and look up to me.”
“It was the same with Mark. I was his role model. My good opinion and approval meant a lot to him. He turned out to be a very fine young man. I’m very proud of him.”
“Here’s to the two remarkable young people in our lives.” Debra held up her glass and they made a toast.
“And here’s to us,” he said, his expression serious as he returned her gaze. Their glasses touched and then, he signaled to the waiter for the bill.
They left the restaurant and went back to her flat. As soon as she closed the door and locked it behind her, he grabbed her, pulled her roughly against him, muttering “I’ve been dying to do this all evening,” before his head swooped down and his hungry lips sought hers.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back, her fervor matching his. As they exchanged feverish kisses, she kicked off her shoes while he dragged off his jacket and tossed it on the floor. Then, breaking off the kiss, she drew back, almost fighting for breath and without saying a word, she grabbed his hand and led him toward the hallway to her room where they spent the rest of the night.
The following year, on a beautiful day in May, Mark and Vanessa tied the knot. The service took place at the church where his parents got married and the reception was held at their home in Surrey. It was a happy occasion. The pre-marital counseling had really paid off and after receiving assurance from the counselor that the couple was ready for marriage, Rhys happily gave his consent and the wedding preparations went ahead.
As Rhys stood beside Debra at the foot of the steps leading down from the front entrance, he turned to her, “It looks like you’re next,” he commented, indicating the bouquet which she had caught. “When would you like to get married? In the spring like your sister or in the summer?”
She stared at him. “Stop teasing me,” she scolded him.
“I’m not teasing you,” he said and he pulled out a small velvet box from his pants pocket. “I was planning to give you this later after dinner but I don’t think I could wait until then. Come with me.” He grabbed her hand and led her off to a quiet spot out of ear shot of the wedding guests.
He got down on his knee, opened the box and took out the ring. “Will you marry me, Debra?” he asked huskily, his eyes tender as he looked up at her.
“Yes,” she cried, laughing as the tears ran down her face. “Yes, I will marry you.”
He put the ring on her finger and then stood up. “I love you,” he murmured before he kissed her.
“I love you too,” she answered when he drew back. She reached up and touched his face. Then, the sounds of voices reached them.
“They’re leaving,” Rhys said. “Let’s go and say goodbye.” He took her hand and they hurried off to say goodbye to the happy couple as they came down the stairs laughing as rice grains were thrown at them.
Debra hugged Vanessa tightly. “I’m very happy for you,” she said. “You make such a beautiful bride. I wish you great happiness.”
“Thank you, Deb. And I wish you the same.” When she saw her sister’s engagement ring, she was so overjoyed. She hugged her again. “Congratulations. Rhys is twice my brother-in-law. I couldn’t be happier.”
Later that evening as she stood on the terrace, looking out at the grounds, Rhys joined her. He put his arms around her waist and she leaned against him. “That night when you agreed to have dinner with me, did you do so because you felt badly about the way you spoke to me?” he asked.
She turned around then and faced him. “No,” she said softly. “I did it because my happiness depended on it.”
“So did mine,” he murmured before he took her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom.