A Little Bit Brave

Charmaine was waiting at the bus stop on her way home when a sleek black Rolls Royce drew up.  As she stared curiously at it, the window rolled down and Dorian Breckenridge stuck his head out.  Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly.  He had that effect on her.  He was her best friend, Ella’s uncle.  They met last year at Ella’s brother’s wedding.

For Charmaine the attraction was immediate.  All evening she watched him, thinking how foolish she was to set her sights on a man who was out of her league.  He was very handsome, sophisticated and much older than her. He was seen in the company of beautiful and elegant women.  She was just a university student still living at home with her parents.  There was no way that a man like him would be attracted to her.  To him, she was just a girl, the same age as his niece.

She walked over to the car now and stared down at him, her heart melting when he smiled up at her.  “Where are you heading?” he asked.

“I’m on my way home.”

“Hop in,” he said, “I’ll give you a lift.”  He quickly got out of the car and held open the door for her to climb in.  He slid in beside her and closed the door.  As the car merged into the traffic, he tapped on the glass partition.  “Henry, we’re going to be making a stop.”  He turned to her, “What’s your address?”  After she gave it to him, he relayed it to Henry who nodded before closing the partition.

She glanced shyly at him, wondering if her heart would fall out of her chest because it was beating so hard and fast.  Her hands were clasped tightly together in her lap because she was afraid that he would notice that they were trembling.  “Thank you for the lift,” she said.

He smiled.  “It’s my pleasure,” he assured her.  His eyes flickered over her small frame, thinking how lovely she was.  Straight, long hair framed a beautiful face with the most amazing eyes he had ever seen.  His fingers itched to caress her face, curious to see if the skin felt as soft and smooth as it looked.  Forget it, he chided himself, she’s too young for you.  He quickly turned his head and gazed out of the window, a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line.  “How have you been?”

“I’ve been busy with my studies,” she said, looking at him, unable to help herself.  He had thick dark auburn hair with grey at the sides, making him even more attractive.

“What are you studying?” he asked.  He turned to look at her.

“Journalism.”

“Which area of journalism are you interested in?”

“Print.  I’m like writing.  Ella was encouraging me to do Broadcast but I’m way too shy to be in front of a camera.”

He smiled.  “When do you graduate?”

“Next year June.”

“So, what do you like to do when you’re not studying?”

“I read a lot.  I just finished reading a book about Rube Goldberg.  One of the things that struck me about him was how badly he wanted to go to New York City because it was the perfect place for cartoonists.   It took a lot of courage for him to leave the West Coast where his cartoons were growing in popularity to go to New York City although he hadn’t received an offer from a publisher there.  I don’t think I could just leave my family and friends and move to another city without any job offers.”

“I personally believe that if you want something badly enough, you must be willing to take a chance for it.  Are you free Saturday evening?” he heard himself ask.  He had to see her again.  It wasn’t enough seeing her occasionally at parties, dinners and barbecues.  He wanted to see much more of her.  In fact, in spite of their age difference, he was seriously considering having a relationship with her.

She nodded, her eyes questioning as they met his.

“Would you like to go with me to see Carmen?”

Pulse racing, she nodded again, unable to hide the excitement in her eyes.  “Yes.”

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at five.”

They had reached her house and he got out of the car to hold the door open for her.  As she climbed out, their eyes met and held for several minutes.  “Th-thank you for the ride,” she stammered, her heart racing.

His eyes darkened on her face.  “Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“Yes.”  She turned and walked quickly to the front door, pausing to watch the Rolls Royce as it drove away.  A big smile broke out on her face.  Dorian Breckenridge had asked her to go to the opera with him.  He had asked her out on a date.  She couldn’t believe it.  When she let herself in, she had to turn on the light beside the door.  Her parents were on vacation in Miami so she had the house all to herself.  As she climbed the stairs to her room, she kept replaying in her mind, the words, would you like to go with me to see Carmen?  Then her thoughts turned to what she was going to wear.

As soon as she got to her room, she made a beeline for the wardrobe and looked through the clothes hanging there until she came across a burgundy lace dress with long sleeves.  This would do nicely, she thought.  It reached her just above the knees.

She wanted to call Ella and tell her about the date but decided that it would be best to keep it to herself.   Besides, she didn’t know if anything would come of it.  For all she knew he had intended to take someone else but she couldn’t make it so he asked her instead because he didn’t want the tickets to go to waste.  She brushed aside the negative thoughts and after taking a quick shower, she went downstairs and fixed herself dinner.  Afterwards, she relaxed on the sofa, the television on but her mind elsewhere.  She willed Saturday to come quickly so that she could see Dorian again.  She didn’t know how she would be able to concentrate on her studies.  At eleven, she went to bed but lay awake for a while before finally falling asleep.

The following day at university, she went through the motions and was relieved when it was over and she went home.  She washed her hair and set her dress out and the shoes she was going to wear with it.  That night she was too excited to sleep and it was after one in the morning when she drifted off.  She got up early and busied herself with cleaning the house and laundry.  The day seemed to drag but soon it was time to get ready.  Excited, she showered and put on her dress.  It fitted her snugly and she pulled her hair back in a French twist with a few strands across her forehead.  No makeup, only lip-gloss.  Tiny gold earrings studs in her ears were the only pieces of jewelry she wore.

Satisfied with how she looked, she grabbed her handbag and went downstairs.  She opened the coat closet and was just buttoning her coat when the doorbell rang.  Heart racing, she went into the foyer and opened the door.  Dorian stood there, smiling at her.  “Good evening,” he said.

“Good evening.”  She turned and locked the front door before she preceded him down the steps.  As she got closer to the parked car, she realized that it wasn’t the Rolls Royce.  It was a different car.

“It’s just the two of us this time,” he remarked as he held the door open for her.  “And I thought it would be nice to drive my own car for a change.”

She smiled as she climbed into the car, delighted that they were going to be alone.  As she settled in the seat and fastened her seat-belt, she was tempted to pinch herself.  She still couldn’t believe that she was going out with him.

Carmen is over three hours long so I made reservations for dinner first at a nearby restaurant,” he said when he got in the car.  “I hope you don’t mind.”

She shook her head at once.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”   It thrilled her to no end that she was going to have dinner with him. He took her to a classic French brasserie in the heart of Covent Garden’s opera quarter.  Its true Parisian style décor and warm welcoming atmosphere made the restaurant an instant favorite for her.

She smiled when she saw his eyes travel over her after he helped her off with her coat.  As they followed the waiter to a table near the window, she felt his hand on her elbow and when he held her chair out for her, he murmured quietly, “You look very lovely.”

“Thank you.”  His compliment stirred all sorts of feelings in her and she fit a curious sensation at the pit of her stomach and she was thankful to sit down because her knees felt weak.  When he sat down, she couldn’t help admiring how he looked in the charcoal grey suit and a black turtleneck sweater.  He oozed class and sophistication.

“I’m afraid we have only an hour to have our dinner,” he said apologetically after the waitress brought the menus.  “Fortunately, it’s less than a five minute walk to the theatre.”

They had only the main course from the theater menu and skipped dessert.  It was a quarter to seven when they reached the theater.  Charmaine had never been to the theater before so she was very excited when she walked into the auditorium and saw the red curtains of the stage, the stunning ceiling, the glittering gold of the proscenium arch and the red and gold lights.  Dorian smiled when he saw her gazing around her in wonderment.  “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a theater,” she told him as she saw down.

He settled his tall frame beside her.  It pleased him that her first experience at the theatre was with him.  There were so many wonderful things he wanted her to experience with him but for the present, he wanted her to enjoy this moment.  The lights began to dim and he settled back in his seat.  The curtains rose and the show began.

During the intermission, he leaned over and inquired, “So, are you enjoying it?”

She turned to him, her eyes shining.  “Yes,” she said.  “I love the singing, the story, the costumes—everything.”

He smiled.  “Good.”

They talked a little about the show and then it was time for it resume.  At the end, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  Charmaine blinked back the tears as she clapped.  As Dorian helped her with her coat, she remarked, “Although it ended in tragedy, next to Romeo and Juliet, Carmen has become one of my favorite love stories.  I felt sorry for Micaëla who loved Don Joséand I felt sorry for him because of how Carmen treated him.”

“Yes, it would have been best for the three of them if Don José and Carmen had never met.”

They walked to the car which, thankfully, was not parked far from the theater.  The temperature seemed to have dropped and she was grateful for the warmth of the car.  When they were standing outside of her parents’ home, she turned to face him after unlocking the door and turning on the porch light so that they could see each other clearly.  “Thank you for a lovely evening,” she said huskily.

He looked her, “It was my pleasure,” he told her quietly.  “Charmaine, how do you feel about being in a relationship with a man who is much older than you?”

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding.  “On top of the world,” she informed him.

He reached for her hands and drew her closer to him, his eyes gazing into hers.  “I’ve wanted to be in a relationship with you ever since we met but our age difference prevented me but this evening I made up my mind that I was going to follow my heart.”

“I’m happy you did,” she confessed.  “For the longest time, I’ve wanted you to notice me but didn’t think I stood a chance—not when you were used to be around older and more glamorous women.”

“The first time I saw you, my heart skipped a beat and whispered to me, ‘she’s the one’.  When I was with those other women, my mind was filled with thoughts about you and my heart ached to see you again.  And every time we saw each other, we never had a chance to be alone.  It was quite by chance that I saw you on Tuesday.  Usually, I would have my face buried in a newspaper or papers but I didn’t feel like doing anything except to relax and enjoy the ride.  When I spotted you at the bus-stop, I couldn’t believe my luck and seized the opportunity to be with you.  And as for the tickets to Carmen, I ordered those after we dropped you home.  Fortunately, the seats hadn’t filled up as yet.  Carmen was my excuse to see you again.”

“It was by pure chance that I was waiting at the bus-stop.  Usually, I would take the tube because it was faster but I decided to take the bus instead because it was a nice, mild day.  When I saw you, I was so thrilled because I didn’t know how long I would have to wait before I saw you again.”

“Well, we don’t have to wait to see each other,” he said huskily.  “If you’re free tomorrow, I would like to take you to the British Museum and then for lunch afterwards.”

“I’m free tomorrow and every afternoon during the week,” she told him. “I’ve never been to the British Museum.”

“Then, it’s settled.  I’ll pick you up at eight.  Goodnight, Charmaine.”

“Goodnight, Dorian.”  He was holding her hands and staring into her eyes.  Was he going to kiss her?  With all her heart, she hoped so.  It would be the perfect end to a perfect evening.

As if he had read her mind, he lowered his head and kissed her.  It was tentative at first but when he felt her eager response, it deepened.  He released her hands to cup her face as his lips moved passionately on hers.  She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him, her senses spinning.  How true the words, “No one ever fell in love without being a little bit brave.”  She concluded that she must be very brave because when she fell in love with Dorian she had no clue that he felt the same way.

 

Sources:  Rube Goldberg: Inventions; Royal Opera House

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Denying Love

Chase just finished having dinner with his girlfriend, Mia at her flat when his cell rang.  He plucked it out of his breast pocket and flipped it open, grimacing when he saw the number displayed.  “Hello, Alexa.”

“Hi, Chase, I’m sorry to be bothering you but I’m stuck here.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m outside of nightclub.  Chase, I hate to do this but could you come and pick me up?”

“What about Shawn?” Shawn was his brother who was married to Alexa’s sister, Karyn.

“They are in Florida for March break.”

“Did you go to the club alone?”

“No, I came with my friends.”

“So, why can’t one of them take you home?”

“They met some guys they really like and they don’t want to leave.”

“What about taking a cab?”

“I don’t have enough money for a taxi.  Chase, I’m really sorry to be putting you out like this but I have no other choice.”

He sighed.  “All right, I will come and get you.”

“Thanks, Chase.  I really appreciate this.  I’ll be waiting out front.”

“Where’s this club located?”  There was a pause as he listened.  “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”  He rang off and snapped his phone shut before shoving it in his pocket, his eyes apologetic as they met Mia’s.  “I’m sorry,” he said to her.

“When are you going to stop letting Alexa take advantage of you?” she demanded.  “All she has to do is call you and you drop everything and go to her.”

Chase got up from the table.  “No one takes advantage of me,” he muttered tightly.  “She’s stranded and I’m just helping her out.”

She watched him suspiciously.  “Are you sure there’s nothing going on between you two?” she asked.  “It’s no secret that she has a thing for you but what about you? Do you have feelings for her?”

“Alexa is family,” he replied evasively.  “I really hate to eat and run but I have to go.  I will call you tomorrow.”  He walked over to her and kissed her on the lips before he let himself out of the flat.

On the ride down in the elevator, he thought about what she said.  If he were honest with himself, he would admit that he would do anything for Alexa and it wasn’t because she was family.  From the moment they first met ten years ago at Shawn’s wedding, he wanted her.  He tried to deny it because she was seventeen at the time and he was engaged.  Like Mia, Janet suspected that his feelings for Alexa were not platonic and she broke off the engagement.  She refused to marry a man who had feelings for someone else.  He had no idea how she could have suspected anything when he had tried so hard to hide his feelings, especially from Alexa herself.

Then he remembered that one unguarded moment when he thought that Alexa and he were alone.  As he started the engine, his thoughts went back to that evening two years ago.  It was at the family’s annual summer dinner and dance held at the family estate.  They had just finished having dinner and some of the guests were enjoying cocktails while others were dancing.  He wasn’t in the mood for dancing but Janet wanted to.  He accommodated her for a while and then excused himself.

He went out on to the terrace, thankful to be out in the fresh air—it was beginning to get a bit stuffy inside.   He leaned over the balustrade, gazing down at the courtyard which was illuminated in the bright sunshine.  It would be another hour or so before the sun set.  He didn’t hear her come up behind him until she was standing next to him.  “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?” she remarked, leaning against the balustrade, facing the direction she had just come from.

He straightened up at once, his expression guarded as he turned his head toward her.  “Is that why you’re out here instead of in there with what’s his name?”

“You mean Nigel.  I left him talking to Shawn.”

“Is it serious between him and you?” It was foolish of him to ask her that but he couldn’t help it.

“No,” she said, sounding surprised that he would ask such a question.  “We’re just friends.”

“I’ve seen the way he acts around you, Alexa.  He wants to be more than friends.” And who could blame him?  Unable to resist, his gaze traveled over her.  She looked stunning in the ankle length, black dress with the spaghetti straps and slit on the right side.  Her hair was in an up do, giving her an elegant look.  She looked older than nineteen.

“I’ll have to have a talk with him, then.”

“I’d better head back in,” he said.

“Why?” she asked, her head cocked to one side as she stared at him.  “Will Janet come looking for you if you’re not by her side in five minutes?”

He pursed his lips.  “I won’t stand here and listen to you make fun of Janet.”

“I’m not making fun of her.  She doesn’t like me.”

“And why should she dislike you?”

“Maybe she thinks that there’s something going on between us.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he exclaimed.

“What’s so ridiculous about it?” she demanded.

“I’m engaged.”

“So?  That doesn’t prevent me from being attracted to you and I’ve noticed the way you look at me sometimes.  Chase…”

“I’d better go back inside.”

“What are you afraid of?” she asked, moving so that she was standing in front of him.

His expression was tense.  “I’m not afraid of anything,” he muttered tightly.  His heart was pounding heavily.

“Why are you leaving, then?  Stay out here with me for a while longer, please, Chase.  It has been a while since we spent any time together.  I’ve been waiting all evening to be alone with you.  I saw you come out here and I followed you.” She moved closer.

“Alexa,” her name was a strangled whisper now and his hands, as if of their own volition, caught her by the shoulders and instead of moving her out of the way so that he could walk past her, he was pulling her toward him.  He saw her eyes drop to his lips, her own parting as he lowered his head to kiss her…

“There you are,” Janet’s voice was a bucket of cold water doused on them and they broke apart.  When she reached them, she looked from one to the other.  Then, putting her hand on his arm, she said, “I would like to leave now.  I’m feeling a bit under the weather.  I’ve already said our goodbyes to everyone so we can leave this way.”

He looked at Alexa, reluctant to leave her.  “Goodnight, Alexa,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Chase.”

Janet didn’t say anything to her and as soon as they got into the car, she said to him, “When I came out on the terrace, I interrupted something that was going on between Alexa and you, didn’t I?”

He looked at her but didn’t answer.  What could he say?  He couldn’t lie and say that she was imagining things.  They didn’t speak until they were parked outside of her building.

She turned to him.  “I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you but I want it to stop,” she said.

He stared at her.  “What do you mean?”

“I want you to stop seeing Alexa, Chase.”

“But, she’s family—”

“She’s Shawn’s family not yours.  He’s the one who married into her family.”

“Janet, you’re being unreasonable—”

I’m being unreasonable?” she exclaimed, incensed.  “What about you?  Every time I turn around you are with her.  She throws herself at you and you encourage her.  Chase, she’s nineteen years old.  She’s not even in university.  And what about us?  We are supposed to be planning our future together.  You’ve let Alexa come between us and I won’t stand for it anymore.  You have a choice to make.  It’s either her or me.”

He raked his fingers through his hair, his mind racing.  Finally, he muttered, “Janet, I’m sorry…”

She met his gaze for a moment, her eyes shining and then she slipped the ring off her finger.  She took his hand and pressed it into his palm before closing it.  “Goodbye, Chase.”  She turned, pushed open the door and walked out of his life.

For several minutes, he sat there, feeling awful because he hurt her.  He slipped the ring in the breast pocket of his jacket and fired up the engine.  After the break-up, he tried to stay away from Alexa but he couldn’t for very long.  He avoided being alone with her, though, because he was afraid that almost happened on the terrace would happen again.  He dated several women but nothing serious came of it.  Then, a year ago he met Mia, a Software Developer, whom he hoped would help him to get Alexa out of his system but it was no use.  He was in love with her and there was nothing he could do about it.

And here he was driving to a nightclub to pick up Alexa instead of relaxing with Mia after a romantic dinner.  Admit it, you would rather be with Alexa than with Mia or any other woman.  She was waiting outside on the building for him and when she saw him get out, she hurried over.  “I’m so glad to see you,” she said as he opened the door for her.  She saw his eyes travel over her figure in the black off the shoulder dress before she got in and he closed the door.  “I’m sorry you had to come and get me,” she added when he climbed in behind the wheel.  Her eyes flickered over him, thinking how sexy he looked in the white shirt which accentuated his swarthy complexion and how she would like to run her fingers through his thick dark hair.

“When you called I had just finished having dinner with Mia.  We were going to relax and watch a movie or something.”

Jealousy consumed her at the thought of the two them having a romantic, candlelight dinner at Mia’s place.  “I bet she wasn’t at all happy about you coming for me.  She doesn’t like me.”

“You said the same thing about Janet.”

“I’m happy you didn’t marry her.  She was all wrong for you.”

“What about Mia?”

“She’s not right for you, Chase.”

“And I suppose you know who’s right for me?”

“Yes.  I’ve known it for a very long time.”

His hands gripped the steering wheel.  “And who might this woman be?”

She looked at him.  “Me,” she said huskily.  “I’m right for you, Chase.  I’ve loved you for ten years.  It hurt seeing you with other women but I refused to give up.  I know that you have feelings for me.  I’ve seen the way you look at me and in spite of what you say, I know that you want to me with me as much as I want to be with you.  You didn’t love Janet and you don’t love Mia.”

They were at a stop light and he turned to her.  “You’re right,” he admitted.  “When I met you I realized that I didn’t love Janet and marrying her would have been a terrible mistake.  I care for Mia but I don’t love her.”

She reached out and touched his face.  “I love you, Chase.”

“I love you too, Alexa,” he muttered thickly before he leaned over and kissed her.  Her hands held his face as she responded wildly to his kisses.  This lasted until a horn blared behind them, forcing them to break apart.  “I loved you the moment I first saw you,” he admitted as he drove through the intersection that would take them to her apartment building.

She leaned her head back against the car seat, her senses swimming.  What she had hoped for and dreamed of had finally come true.  Chase loved her.  When they pulled into the parking lot and left the car, she slipped her hand in his, lacing her fingers through his.  After she let them into her flat and locked the door, she turned to him.

Wordlessly, they fell into each other’s arms and as they exchanged passionate kisses, he thought how true the words, “True love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor can it be denied where it does.” 

 

 

Source:  Brainy Quote

The Nutcracker

It was on a Saturday night at the London Coliseum where Alexis and her sister Gwen ran into Mrs. Bannister, Alexis’ music teacher, a wonderful lady who didn’t look as if she had aged very much at all.

She was delighted to see her former pupil, her face beaming and her light blue eyes sparkling.  “Hello My Dear,” she said, “What a lovely surprise and on my birthday too.  How are you?  Are you still practicing on the piano?  You were a very promising student and one of my favorites.”

“It’s so good to see you, Mrs. Bannister,” Alexis said as they hugged.  “Happy birthday.”

Mrs. Bannister turned to the young man who was standing beside her.  “This is my grandson, Jeremy.  He brought me to the ballet this evening for my birthday.  He has always been a very thoughtful young man.  Jeremy, this is Alexis.”

Alexis’ attention shifted to the older woman’s companion.  He was tall and very handsome.  His thick brown hair was a bit long but it suited him.  He was wearing a fine and rather expensive looking dark grey suit, blue shirt and tie.  His light green eyes met hers and she thought she saw admiration shining in them.

He took the hand she proffered and shook it.  “A pleasure,” he said with a cultured English accent.

She smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you.   This is my sister, Gwen,” she said.  He acknowledged Gwen with a smile and shook her hand.  Then, he returned his attention to Alexis.

“Did you enjoy the ballet?” he asked.  “Grandmother has always wanted to see The Nutcracker and I promised her that one year I take her for her birthday.”

“Yes, I enjoyed it very much.  I’ve always wanted to see it too.  It was my good fortune that my brother-in-law is not a fan of ballet or musicals so Gwen asked me to come with her.”

“I should thank your sister for bringing you tonight,” he said quietly.  “I got to meet you.”

She smiled, not sure of how to respond to that remark.  He was staring at her making her feel both nervous and flattered.  She had never had a man this young interested in her before.  He had to be at least ten years younger than her.  “Are you and your grandmother close?” she asked.

“Very,” he said.  “She always says that I’m her favorite.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“I have an older brother and a younger sister.  Do you have other siblings?”

“No, Gwen is the only one I have.  We were very close growing up.  Now she is married with two girls and a boy.”

He glanced down at her hand.  “I see that you’re not wearing a ring,” he said.  “I guess you’re not married.”

“No, I’m still single.”  She didn’t mention that she was once engaged but she broke it off when she found out that her fiancé was two-timing her with his new assistant.

Just then, Mrs. Bannister said to her, “Alexis, how would you like to have tea with me tomorrow afternoon, if you have no other plans, of course.”

Alexis smiled.  “I would be delighted,” she said with a big smile.

“Splendid.  So, I shall see you tomorrow afternoon at two.  Gwen, it was a pleasure to meet you.   Come, Jeremy, it is past my bedtime.  Thank you, Dear, for a lovely evening.  I shall never forget it.”

Jeremy said goodnight to Alexis and Gwen, his eyes lingering on the former before he took his grandmother’s arm and led her away.

Gwen looked at her.  “Mrs. Bannister seems like a really nice lady, very gracious and friendly.  I had a rather nice chat with her.  Her grandson is very handsome.  I noticed him paying you a lot of attention.  What did you think of him?”

“He’s very handsome and polished.”

“Were you attracted to him?”

It was no use denying it.  “Yes, very attracted, a lot good it would do me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, for one thing, he’s younger and another, he’s upper crust.”

“It seemed like neither of those two things mattered to him and if he’s anything like his grandmother, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t at least entertain to idea of dating him.  Don’t allow what happened with Sidney prevent you from having a love life.  I never did like him.  Good riddance to him, I say.  You can do much better.  So, if you happen to see Jeremy again and he asks you out, don’t turn him down.”

Alexis looked unconvinced.  “I don’t know if I will see him again and even if I do, I don’t think he’ll ask me out.  No, I’m not going to get my hopes up.  I’ll go and see his grandmother tomorrow and we will spend a pleasant afternoon together, catching up.  Now, what do you say, we grab a bite to eat before you head home to your brood?”

The next day, Alexis drove over to Mrs. Bannister pretty cottage, nestled among thick foliage and surrounded by immaculate gardens.  She had a live in housekeeper who opened the door and showed Alexis to the drawing-room where the lady of the house was seated.

Mrs. Bannister’s face lit up when she saw her.  “Hello, my Dear.  Come and sit beside me and by the fire.  It must be cold outside and grey too.”

Alexis went over to her and after hugging her warmly, she sat down on a chair close to the one the elder woman was occupying.  “What a lovely home you have,” she remarked.  “I couldn’t help admiring your gardens.  I imagine that your grandchildren must have loved playing in them when they were young.”  She wanted to ask her so many questions about Jeremy and what he was like as a boy but thought better of it.

Mrs. Bannister nodded, smiling.  “Oh yes, they loved playing in the gardens which they were children.  Jeremy’s favorite spot was the lake. He would swim there sometimes.  He was always scampering about the place, vexing his mother who thought he was a bit too wild.  I always told her that he was a boy and boys were supposed to be a little unruly.  When he comes he could take you for a walk on the grounds and show you the lake.”

Alexis’ heart lurched.  “Jeremy’s coming here?” she asked.  The thought of seeing him again thrilled and terrified her at the same time.  She couldn’t believe that she was behaving like this over a younger man.

“Yes, he said that he would stop by around three.  He doesn’t usually come and see me on a Sunday so I was quite surprised when he called me this morning to tell me that he was coming over this afternoon.  I’ll ring for our tea now.”

They had their tea and sandwiches as they talked about old times and other things.  The time went by very quickly and Alexis had just finished drinking her tea when Jeremy walked into the drawing room.  He went over to his grandmother and hugged her.  When he drew back she looked up at him, beaming.  “It’s good to see you, Dear.”

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” he said, smiling at her.  Then he turned to Alexis.  “Have you had a chance to see the gardens?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “I saw them when I was coming up the driveway.  They look amazing.”

“I told Alexis that you would take her for a walk in the gardens and show her the lake where you used to swim as a child.”

“I’d be happy to,” he said, his gaze still on Alexis.  “Shall we?”

She got up and after excusing herself, she followed him out to the foyer.  She got her coat and scarf from the closet.

“I won’t keep you outside too long,” he promised.  “It’s very nippy.”

They walked through the gardens and to the path which led to the lake.  She looked around her in wonder.  Autumn in Surrey was breathtaking.  The thick foliage on the opposite side of the lake was cloaked in rich, bright colors.  The air was cold but very fresh.  “I can see why you loved coming here,” she commented as they stood there watching two swans gliding through the gold lake.  It was so peaceful out there.   It was a nice change from the city.

“Yes.  I used to come out here all the time and swim or feed the swans.  I loved being here more than at my parents’ estate in Yorkshire.  Yorkshire is even more beautiful in the autumn but I prefer being here in Surrey.  You’re right about it being peaceful here and that’s why this is still my favorite place to relax and think about things.”

“Do you still swim in the lake?”

He smiled and shook his head.  “I stopped doing that when I turned thirteen.  Besides, I don’t want to scare away the swans.”

“This is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” she remarked.  “Your grandmother was surprised that you visited her today.  She said that you don’t usually visit her on a Sunday.”

“She’s right.  I’m usually at home or out with my friends but I came here today because of you.”

She swallowed.  “Me?”

“Yes, I wanted to see you again.”

A slight breeze started blowing and she shivered.  She pulled the hood over her head and shoved her hands in the pockets of her coat, wishing she had worn her gloves.

“You’re cold,” he observed.  “Let’s go back to the cottage.”

He helped her remove her winter gear and then he took off his coat and hanged everything in the closet.

When they went into the drawing-room, Mrs. Bannister was not there.  She went over to the fireplace to warm her hands.  He joined her.  He turned toward her and took her cold hand in his and rubbed it between his.  Her heart was pounding as she watched his long fingers move slowly but vigorously to warm hers.  Then, she raised her head to look up at his face and her breath caught in her throat when she met his smoldering gaze.  “I want to kiss you,” he muttered thickly.

She trembled at the thought.  “Your grandmother could return at any minute,” she said, trying to remain rational in spite of her senses which were screaming at her to let him kiss her.

“You’re right,” he admitted.  “It would be awkward if she were to walk in and find us kissing.  Have dinner with me tonight, Alexis.”

“Yes,” she said simply.  She gave him her address and he made a mental note of it.  “I think she’s coming.”  He released her hand and moved away from the fireplace just as his grandmother entered the room.

“Did you enjoy your walk?” she asked as she went over to the chair she had vacated and sat down.

“Yes, I did.”

“Good.  You must come in the summer.  It’s really nice then.”

“Mrs. Bannister, I must be leaving now.  Thank you for inviting me to tea.  I had a wonderful time.”  She went over and kissed her on the cheek.

“Goodbye, Dear.  Jeremy will see you off.”

He walked with her to her car and held open the door for her to get in.  As she was about to, he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes at the sensation of his warm lips against her skin.  When he drew back, their eyes met and held for a while.  “I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said quietly.  She nodded and got in the car.  He stepped back and watched as she drove off.

When he returned to the drawing-room, he sat down in the chair Alexis had occupied and looking at his grandmother, he said, “Grandmother, I’m in trouble.”

“You are attracted to Alexis, aren’t you?” she asked.  “I noticed the way you looked at her last night.”

“I couldn’t help it.  That’s why I’m here today.  I wanted to see her again and I asked her to have dinner with me tonight.”

“Now, that wasn’t a wise thing to do.”

“I know and I feel like such a fraud,” he muttered, exasperated.  “She has no idea that I am engaged.”

“Well, from where I’m sitting, you have only two options—break off your engagement to Bridget or forget about Alexis.”

“I can’t forget about Alexis.  And I can’t marry Bridget.”

“It seems then, that you have made your decision.  I never did think that Bridget was the right girl for you.  I imagine that the engagement was all your mother’s doing.  Well, it’s time you started making your own decisions.  You’re old enough now.  You should go and deal with Bridget right now.  And when the time is right, you can tell Alexis everything.”

He got up and hugged her.  “Thanks, Grandmother.  I’ll go and see Bridget now.”

“Be gentle, Dear.”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

His meeting with Bridget went better than he expected.  She too had been having second thoughts about their engagement but didn’t know quite how to tell him.  They parted on amicable terms.  They realized that what all this time their feelings for each other had been platonic rather than romantic.  He let her keep the ring.

Over dinner at a trendy and romantic French restaurant, he told Alexis everything.  “I’m so thankful I met you,” he said.  “If I hadn’t, I would have married the wrong woman.”

“So, the two of you never slept together?”

“No.  We had decided that we would wait until we were married but I never wanted her.  Yet, I wanted you from the moment I saw you.  After I took my grandmother home, I went down to the lake to figure out what I was going to do.  I was engaged to one woman but had fallen hard for another.  I didn’t want to hurt Bridget but I couldn’t get you out of my mind.  When I saw you again the next day, I knew that I couldn’t give you up.”

“Where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want to see you—go out with you,” he said, covering one of her hands with his, his expression earnest.  “I want to be in a relationship with you.”

She covered his hand.  “I want that too,” she admitted.

After dinner that night, they became romantically involved and a year later, they got married.  His father, brother, sister, grandmother and Bridget attended the simple wedding but his mother was conspicuously absent.

 

The Waters of Life

She thought of the sea as one’s life.  Never static. Always moving.

Sometimes it was calm and others time it was choppy.  Before she

found Christ, she wanted to remain in the shallow waters where it

was safe.

 

She didn’t want to be swept away by the currents of change or the

rough waters of trials and tribulations.  She didn’t want to be pulled

out to sea where she would have to struggle to keep afloat or to be

swept under because she was tired of treading the water.  Besides,

she was not a good swimmer.

 

Many times she walked along the beach alone with her thoughts

watching the water as it swelled and surged unto the sand, coming

as far in as it could before it rolled back out.  As she watched this

fascinating cycle, these words came to her mind, “When He assigned

to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His

command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth”  (Proverbs 8:29)

 

God was in control.  If He would put a limit on the sea which

to her was a mighty force of nature, untamed and scary, He

could do anything.  He could help her to overcome her fear

of life with its ups and downs, hardships and heartaches

and to trust that no matter what it threw at her, He was

there to sustain her.  Everything had a limit–including

the trials that everyone will face.  There were times

when she would be in the shallow waters and other

times when she would be in the deep.  It was all

part of life.

 

Now she could look at life as she looked at the sea and no longer

be afraid.  She had her Anchor to hold on to.  He will carry

her through the currents of life.  He promised, “For I, the

Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you,

“Fear not, I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13)

woman staring at the sea

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Open Bible

The Photo Shoot

She had photographed many men but this one took the cake.  This was her first trip to Scotland for a photo shoot for the fashion magazine she worked for.  She had never seen a man in a kilt before but this guy looked incredible in the traditional garb.  He wore it extremely well.  And those smoldering eyes and rugged looks didn’t hurt.

She willed herself to remain professional and just do the job at hand.  However, she couldn’t help wishing that she could exchange places with the glamorous woman standing beside him.  Perhaps, she could ask the woman to take a photo of her with him after the shoot and…

Don’t be silly, she chided herself.  You are here to do a job.  Just do it.  

She continued clicking away and was relieved when it was over.  She was packing up her gear when he joined her.  She tried not to give away the fact that she was as nervous as a schoolgirl with a crush and smiled sedately.

“Callum,” he said with that Scottish lilt that was as disarming as his smile.

She held out her hand.  “Holly.”  He clasped it in firm but warm handshake.  She felt a bolt of electricity course through her body.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.  He was holding her hand a lot longer than was necessary, not that she minded, of course, but she could feel her face grow hot.  He seemed to realize it too and released her hand, almost apologetically.

“Is this your first time in Edinburgh?” he asked, after clearing his throat.

“It’s my first time in Scotland.”

“How long are you here for?”

“I’m here for another two weeks.  I’m here for the International Fashion Festival and after that I’m off to Glasgow to check out the boutiques.  Then it’s back to London.”

“If you’re not busy tomorrow, I’d like to take you out for lunch and then on a tour around the city.”

She couldn’t believe it.  He wanted to take her out to lunch and show her around Edinburgh.  “I’d like that,” she said.  “I’ll get a chance to try your national dish.”

He laughed.   “I’ll take you to best place where they serve Haggis,” he promised.

“It’s a deal.”  Not only was he handsome but he was really friendly and easygoing.  She felt very relaxed with him and was looking forward to seeing him the next day.  She wrote down the name of the hotel where she was staying and handed it to him.  “Bye.”

“See you tomorrow, Holly.”  Oh, how good her name sounded in the Scottish accent, she thought as she walked away.  She made a mental note to thank Margo for assigning her to the photo shoot here in Scotland instead to the one in Paris.

Slide1

Sources:  Culture Trip; Edinburgh International Fashion Festival

The Dinner Invitation

He resisted the urge to bury his face in her hair and…  Sharon stopped typing and stared at the laptop screen.  She was tired and the thoughts were not coming as they should. Her mind was not on the story she was writing.  She was thinking about Jason.  

This afternoon when she walked into the reception and Lauren greeted her with, “Good afternoon, Susan.  Please let Jason know that I’m here,” she had to grit her teeth to stifle the angry retort that rose to her lips.  Plastering a smile on her face, she said for the umpteenth time, “It’s Sharon.  And, I will let Mr. Armani know that you are here.”  She got up from her desk, grabbed the folder with papers she needed him to sign and walked away.

She fumed as she headed to her boss’s office.  How she detested Lauren Forbes.  She was a beautiful, statuesque and glamorous woman with thick, bouncy strawberry blonde hair.  Sharon felt plain and ordinary compared to her.  She saw the admiring glances that her male co-workers cast at Lauren who seemed oblivious–perhaps because she was so used to the attention.

Jason was sitting at his desk, typing something when she knocked on the door.  “Come in,” he called without looking up.

Sharon went in and closed the door behind her.  “Lauren Forbes is here,” she announced dryly.

He looked up then.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, his eyes searching her face.

“Nothing,” she said, busying herself with the papers in the folder.

“I know you, Sharon.  You’re upset about something.  What is it?” he insisted.  She had his full attention now.

She paused to look at him.  “I can’t stand the woman,” she admitted.  “She gets on my nerves.”

His lips twitched.  “You really shouldn’t let Lauren get to you like this,” he advised.

“I don’t know—” her voice trailed off.  She had been about to say, “I don’t know what you see in her.”   Really flustered now, she stepped back from the desk.  “I will send her right in.”  And she was out of the office before he could say anything else.

“You may go straight in,” she told Lauren who gave her a rather disdainful look before sauntering off.  For the rest of the afternoon Sharon was in a bad mood.

Now she sat in front of her laptop, staring at the screen, unable to concentrate.  What on earth did he see in her?  She seemed so shallow.  He could do so much better.  

The sound of the doorbell startled her.  She glanced at the time on the laptop.  It was seven.  Who could be stopping by now?

She got up and went to the door.  She looked through the keyhole and her eyes nearly popped out of her head.  It was her boss.  What was he doing here?  She drew back from the door, agitated.  She wished he had called to warn her that he would be dropping by. She was in her dressing-gown and her hair was pulled by in a not so flattering hairstyle. She couldn’t keep him standing out there while she changed.  She had no choice.  Taking a deep breath, she unlocked the door and opened it.

She saw his eyes travel over her and she shifted self-consciously from one foot to the other.  “I wasn’t expecting anyone,” she told him.  Least of all you.   He looked so fine in his charcoal grey suit and black shirt with a matching black and grey tie.  He looked like he just walked off the pages of GQ.  She could feel her pulse racing and she hoped she didn’t look as nervous as she felt.

“I apologize for dropping by unexpectedly,” he said.  His eyes seemed to linger on her face which was beginning to feel hot.  “May I come in?”

“Yes, sorry.” She stepped aside and she caught a whiff of his cologne as he passed her.  She closed the door and leaned against it for a moment.  Her heart was beating really fast now.  “Was there something you needed me to take care of?” she asked.  Why was he here?

He looked around the unit and then turned to face her.  “Very nice place you have here,” he commented.

“Thank you.”  He looked really, really good.  She hoped she wasn’t staring.

“This is not a business call,” he told her.

“Oh.” was all she could say.  He was obviously going somewhere.  Perhaps he and Lauren were going out for dinner and for some reason he decided to stop by here before…

“Have dinner with me.”

Stunned, she blurted, “Pardon me?”

“I wanted to ask you to have dinner with me tonight this afternoon when you came to my office but you left before I could.”

“You want me to have dinner with you?”

“Yes, that’s why I am here.”

“But I thought that you and Lauren—”

“What did you think about Lauren and me?”

“I thought you and she were going out.”

“It’s strictly business between Lauren and me.  Besides, she’s not my type.”

“What is your type?” the question was out before she could prevent it.

He smiled.  “I will tell you over dinner.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I made reservations for eight.  You had better get ready now.  I will wait over here.”  He turned and was walking over to the table where her laptop was.  She hurried past him and closed the top. The last thing she wanted was for him to see her poor attempt at writing a romance.  He didn’t say anything but sat down.

“I won’t be long,” she promised, all the while wondering what she was going to wear.

Thank goodness she had had a shower around six-thirty.  She rushed to her bedroom and closed the door.  After frantically searching through her walk-in closet, she seized the black dress she had bought just recently.  She hadn’t worn it as yet.  Well, it was about to make its debut.  She got dressed and tried to fix her hair as best as she could.  She was not a make-up person.  A flattering shade of lip gloss was all she needed.  After a quick once over in the mirror, she slipped her feet into a pair of pumps and grabbed her clutch purse.

When she walked into the living-room, Jason’s eyes traveled slowly over her, obviously liking what he saw.  “You look amazing,” he said.  He stood up.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”  As they walked to the door, she was aware of him and that his eyes were on her.  She still couldn’t believe that this was happening.  She had planned a quiet evening, working on her story.  Never did she expect Jason Armani to show up at her door and invite her out for dinner.  This was going to be some evening.