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How Long Will I Love You? ~ Part 7

Lara 2

Catch up here

I text Chase as I wind down at work.

Do you need me to pick anything up for tonight?

I’ve got it under control. I’ll be there in an hour.

Can’t wait.

Me neither.

A grin breaks out from ear to ear. I call up to tell Trevor I am leaving for the day.

“Hang on a sec. I’ll walk you home. I need some air.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs.”

I step out of the elevator and Kate is walking away from the desk with her purse.

“Night, Lara!”

“Night, Kate.”

Trevor bursts through the stairwell door and Kate jumps, letting out a squeal.

“Sorry ‘bout that, Kate,” he says.

She lays a hand over her chest. “You’re going to break that bar on the door one day, Trevor.”

“Possibly,” he winks at her and we all head to the door.

I lock the door behind us and we part ways with Kate.

“So what’s up with you?” he asks curiously.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve had this crazy grin on your face all day.”

“Oh, that.” I grin.

He grabs my shoulder. “You’re seeing someone!”

My cheeks flush. “His name is Chase Ashton.”

“Trust fund baby?”

“Investment banker.”

“I need to meet this guy.”

“You did. He bought one of your paintings.”

“Which one?”

Trevor is bad with names so it’s no surprise he can’t remember meeting Chase. “Hope.”

I can see the wheels turning in his head then his eyes widen when the wheels click into place. “That guy?” He squeezes my arm hard. “Holy hell, Lara! I’d do him.”

I giggle. “He’s too straight for you.”

He lets go of my arm. “Straight out of GQ hot. I remember his eyes.”

“Yes, his eyes,” I say dreamily.

“You’ve got it bad.”

I hook my arm through his and smile. “Yes, I do.”

He kisses my cheek when we arrive at my building. “See you tomorrow.”

“Good night, Trevor.”

I change into black yoga pants and a teal tank top then roll out my yoga mat to work out the kinks from my day through yoga.

A soft knocking comes from the door as I roll up the mat. I put the mat away in the coat closet and open the door.

Chase is smiling, looking impeccable in a tailored navy suit, white shirt, and a cream silk tie. He holds a reusable bag of groceries in one hand and a garment bag over his shoulder in the other.

“I approve,” he says nodding at my yoga clothes.

“You caught me just finishing.” I step to the side and let him in.

He stops and softly presses his lips against mine. “Mind if I use your room to change?”

“Go ahead. Let me take that,” I say grasping the handles of the bag of groceries.

I remove the groceries from the bag and lay them out on the counter while Chase changes in my room. The door opens a few minutes later and he exits the room in jeans and a grey v-neck t-shirt hugging his body.

Oh to be jeans and a t-shirt stretched tight against his soft skin.

“Can I help with anything?” I ask when he joins me in the kitchen.

“I’ve got it.”

“Okay. I’m going to change.” I turn to leave.

“No.” He tugs me back by my wrist.

“What?”

“I like you in your yoga clothes.” He grins and skims his hands down my sides to my hips. “Leave them on. Please?” He sticks out his lower lip and knits his brows together.

The effect on me is catastrophic: my heart races, my temperature rises, my head spins.

“You don’t play fair,” I comment.

“Neither do you in that.”

I open my mouth to tell him it doesn’t make any sense, but realize I’d end up in a circular argument with him that would be fun yet completely frustrating. I turn away and leave the kitchen. “I’ll be in the living room if you need me.”

I sprawl out on the sofa and read The Count of Monte Cristo while all manner of clinking, thunking, whirring, and sizzling emits from the kitchen followed by mouth-watering aromas and the popping of a cork.

“Dinner is ready,” he announces.

I set my book on the coffee table and head back into the kitchen.

Chase artfully arranged dinner on each of our plates; broiled steak over a small portion of mashed potatoes with Hollandaise drizzled asparagus spears falling off the side.

“I think you missed your calling,” I say in wonderment.

He pulls out my chair for me. “I like my job. This just helps deal with the stress of it.”

“If this is how you deal with stress,” I sit down, “you’re going to spoil me.”

He sits in his chair. “I would love to spoil you.”

My heart thumps against my ribs. I take a sip of the white wine and it hits all the sweet spots on my tongue. “Would you be interested in having drinks with Robin on Friday?”

“If he is.” he asks cutting several bite size pieces of steak.

I nod.

“Sure. Basil? We can have dinner then meet him in the bar.”

“I’ll let him know.” I slice an asparagus spear into six pieces and fork one into my mouth.

“I’ll make the dinner reservations.” He scoops a piece of steak with mashed potatoes into his mouth.

The asparagus is steamed perfectly with a little crunch to it. “This is better than the lasagna.”

“Thank you.” He smiles and his eyes brighten.

My heart melts. Those eyes coupled with his smile will be my undoing.

I tell him about my walk home with Trevor and he laughs.

We finish washing dishes and he is staring at me intensely as I dry my hands with the kitchen towel. “What?”

“I’m just waiting for you to put that towel down.”

I give him a quizzical look then toss the towel on the counter.

He swoops in, grabs my face in his hands, and brings it closer to his. Our mouths crash together in a fury. I slip my hands under the hem of his shirt and skim his defined abs with my fingers. His mouth breaks away briefly as he exhales a hot breath. I feel his stomach tremble.

He picks me up by the waist and sets me on the counter. His eyes flare as our gazes lock and he caresses my outer thighs. He leans in and kisses the dip in my neck. His hands slide under my tank top and explores my lower back, sides, and abdomen as he runs his tongue in a circle inside the dip.

“Oh, fuck,” I gasp. My whole body shudders and I want nothing more than to tear his clothes off to put out the fire he started.

He lets out a throaty laugh and moves his hands higher, toying with the edge of the shelf bra, but not lifting it. “Too bad I need to leave.”

“You really don’t play fair,” I say still catching my breath.

“I can’t always play fair at work.”

I give him a half smirk and wrap my legs around him. “Oh, so I’m work now? Am I a merger or an acquisition?” I hook a finger between his waistband and underwear and slide it across, letting my knuckle graze his skin.

He grins. “If I’m lucky, both.” His eyes dull then he removes my hand from his waist and brushes his lips against it. “Lara, I’m still not ready.”

I inhale to quell the hormone overload and massage my free hand over his chest. “When you’re ready, I’m ready,” I assure him and smile.

He enfolds me in his embrace and I feel a large breath expel from his chest.

Whatever his ex did, it weighs heavy on him. I can’t fathom what type of person would willingly hurt the beautiful man in my arms.

©Debi Smith, 2014

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How Long Will I Love You? ~ Part 6

Lara 2

Catch up here

I gaze out through the floor to ceiling windows from my leather desk chair to the tree-lined street. I still don’t know what to say or do about the situation that I haven’t already said. After the text exchange on Saturday, he gave me my space and did not try to contact me again.

The phone intercom buzzes and shakes me out of my thoughts.

“Lara,” Trevor says in his deep voice through the speaker, “I need you to come up and settle something for me.”

“I’ll be right up.”

I slip my feet back into my silver sandals and smooth out my grey silk sheath dress. A wisp of red leather circles my waist and I make sure the buckle is centered. I still like being presentable even if it’s just to see Trevor in his studio upstairs.

I step out of the elevator into the open studio and the heel of my sandals click on the concrete floor and echo through the space.

Trevor twists around at the waist with his arms over his torso. His short, dark molasses hair is dotted with paint. His muscles bulge through the light denim shirt and the white t-shirt underneath it. The shirts and his army green cargo pants are also covered in paint spatter.

His partner, Dean Baxter, is next to him in a yellow polo tucked into bright blue skinny jeans with a tan and navy striped canvas belt. His mocha hair is slicked back and his light brown eyes shine in the afternoon sun.

“That was fast,” Trevor says.

“You’re the boss.”

He snorts. “I’m the artist. You’re the boss.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” I tease. “What am I settling?”

He points to the three canvases propped up against the wall of windows to the left. They are part of his new cityscape series.

“Dean doesn’t think those will sell.”

”You called me up here to settle a lovers spat?” I exaggerate an eye roll at them. It is not the first time it has happened.

“You’re the impartial party, Lara,” Dean says.

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You know which ones will sell.”

“Why does it matter? Trevor already painted them. Make a bet on them and see what happens with the sales,” I suggest as a maneuver to get out from the middle. “I’ll be down in the gallery until close if you need me for something other than settling your quarrels.” I rush to the elevator. “Bye, Dean! Good to see you!” I call as the doors close.

I pick up my cell phone off my desk, unlock it then open the text thread with Robin.

Cuppa Joe in 15?

Already here.

He knows me so well.

I’ll be there as soon as I lock up.

K.

Kate, a recent college graduate, sits behind the desk at the back of the gallery, watching the front door through her black-framed rectangular glasses. Her white dress shirt is open at the collar and the desk hides her black pencil skirt. She turns when she hears the elevator sigh open. Long jet black curls cascade down the side of her face and past her shoulders.

“Hi, Lara,” she smiles. “All quiet on the home front.”

“Go ahead and leave if you’d like. I’ll take care of things until close.”

“Are you sure?” she asks her brown eyes lighting up.

“Positive.”

“Thanks!” she exclaims and pushes the rolling chair away from the desk. She opens the bottom drawer of the desk and draws out her purse.

I drop my purse in the chair then walk the gallery, making sure everything is in order. I lock up and walk next door to the coffee shop.

Robin sits in the back corner with two large mugs on the small bistro table in front of him. He smiles hesitantly and waves. I reach the table and he stands, wraps his arms around me then squeezes me into his chest.

I inhale his spicy cologne and close my eyes. As much as I loved the time I spent with Chase over the weekend, I missed having Robin to talk to about my new relationship. I sit across from him and he pushes one of the mugs in front of me.

“Decaf Americano.”

“Thanks.” I pick it up and take a sip of the rich espresso.

“I’m sorry,” he says solemnly.

“For what?” I ask for clarification and set the mug down.

“For putting you on the spot like I did Friday.” He sets his forearms on the table. “You were right. I should’ve had the balls to say something before.”

I sit up at the unexpected change in Robin’s attitude. I worried he would try to talk me out of continuing to see Chase.

“And you were right about taking a break. It gave me time to think and see your side.”

“I don’t know what to say,” I say still shocked.

“I was an asshole. If you had shown up at my place while I was getting ready to go on a date with a woman I was into then told me you loved me, I probably would’ve done the same thing. It was completely unfair of me to put you on the spot like that.”

“So where does this leave us? I know you can’t just change your feelings for me.”

“I leave it up to you. You’re the one in the relationship.”

“What about you? I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable with Chase. Or with me.”

“Lara, you’re my best friend. I’d be more miserable without you than seeing you with Chase.”

I exhale and feel as if the world just fell off my shoulders. “I’d be miserable without you, too, you know.”

“You’d be lost without me,” he teases.

“Oh, please. You’d be lost without me.”

“Yes, I would.” He snickers. “So, how are things with Chase?”

“Excellent. He’s coming over tomorrow to cook dinner.”

“Impressive.” He nods his approval.

An idea pops in my head. “Why don’t the three of us go out Friday for drinks? Maybe getting to know him better will help.”

“Will he be okay with that?”

“He wants me to be happy and he knows I choose him.”

He winces almost imperceptibly then nods. Robin is adept at keeping a straight face and only those of us who know him well would catch such a slight change in his facial expression.

I am on dangerous ground.

©Debi Smith, 2014

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How Long Will I Love You? ~ Part 4

Lara 2

Catch up here

The ordinary ring of my cell phone wakes me heartlessly from slumber. My hand creeps out from under the comfort of the covers and swipes the phone off the nightstand. I answer groggily without looking at the screen, “Hello?”

“Good morning, gorgeous,” Chase greets cheerfully.

“Morning.” A smile breaks out across my face.

“Did I wake you?”

“Mmhmm.” I stretch languorously between the sheets.

“Time to rise and shine.”

“It’s Saturday. I get to sleep in.”

“It’s ten o’clock, Lara,” he chides teasingly. “Would you like to go for a picnic today?”

“That sounds lovely.”

“Is that a yes?”

A picnic with Chase the day after our first evening date? Hell yes.

“Yes,” I confirm with the smile still on my face.

“I’ll pick you up at noon.”

I drag myself out of bed and into the shower. I dress in a green t-shirt and khaki shorts and my hair is pulled back into a ponytail. White canvas tennis shoes cover my feet.

My heart stutters when I open the door. Chase stands there smiling in black shorts and a loose white linen shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and the top two buttons left open.

He opens the trunk of his car and retrieves a picnic basket with a folded blanket on top when we reach his car.

“Where are we going?” I ask, surprised he opened the trunk instead of the passenger door.

“The park around the corner. Sheffield Park, correct?”

I nod as if I should have known we were staying close to home.

We choose a spot away from a group playing Frisbee and Chase lays out the blanket. I sit facing him on his left as he removes sandwiches, a container of hulled strawberries, and two bottles of Perrier. I pick up a sandwich wrapped in parchment paper, unwrap it, and inspect it. Roast beef with mixed greens, tomato, and mustard on a French baguette.

“It won’t bite,” he jokes.

“Are you sure? It looks a little suspicious. This tomato slice might try to blind me,” I play along.

“Positive.” He winks.

My insides turn to melted butter at the sight and I bite into the crusty sandwich to cover my reaction. Crumbs rain down into the parchment paper on my lap.

“Which deli did you go to?” I ask after finishing my first bite.

He gives me a hurt look with aquamarine puppy dog eyes. “I made them myself.”

“You did not,” I say in disbelief while trying to ignore the near pout that is waking a desire to throw myself at him.

“I did. Honest. I told you I like to cook,” he says then bites into a plump strawberry.

“I need to see for myself. You can say you like to cook, but doing it is another thing.”

“You are on.” He flashes a smile. “Dinner at my place tomorrow.”

“Deal.”

His smile is as bright as his eyes and it makes me smile as I marvel at the contrast between him and my exes.  None of them would have made a picnic for me. Not even with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I resist the urge to pinch myself to make sure this is real in front of him.

He scoots closer so we are hip to hip then leans over and lowers his eyelids. I exhale as butterflies swarm inside me. Our lips affix themselves together gently and linger a moment. His strawberry sweetened tongue reaches through, searching leisurely.

The ringing of my phone breaks us apart.

“Sorry,” I apologize and let loose a tirade of profanity in my head for the horrible timing. I fish the phone out of my pocket. Robin’s name and number shows on the screen. I exhale and toss the phone in front of me.

The phone is relentless, beeping seconds later. Chase picks it up and hands it to me looking slightly perturbed at the interruption. I take it and look at the screen. The text icon is showing. I unlock the screen with my password and open the text thread from Robin.

Call me. Please?

I told you I’d call Monday after work. I’ll talk to you then.

I set the phone to silent and turn it screen side down next to me.

“Robin?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

He turns his head away for a moment and we finish our lunch in awkward silence. I think about all the ways to chastise Robin for not listening because I cannot think of anything to say to Chase to break the stillness.

Chase slips his hand into mine on our way back to my apartment. “Lara, I do not want to come between you and Robin.”

“I don’t want him to come between you and me.”

“You have a long history with him,” he says defeated.

“We’re friends, Chase. He may be in love with me, but the feeling is not mutual,” I assure him. “It will work out. It’s just new terrain.”

I almost believe it myself. Almost.

“I hate seeing you torn.”

I turn my head to him and bore into his brilliant eyes. “This isn’t a choice between either of you. He already knows how I feel.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Positive,” I say boldly.

He grins in response and squeezes my hand.

I meant it. I did not go out for coffees and lunches with Chase to suss him out and lay the groundwork to have it undone by Robin’s Hail Mary at the twelfth hour. I spent those small dates making sure Chase was the kind of man I wanted to be with; genuine, compassionate, and unafraid of an independent woman like myself.

Chase stows the basket and blanket in his car trunk then walks me up to my second-floor apartment. We stand in front of my door and he tugs me into him by my waist. He brushes his lips against mine then releases me.

My breath catches in my throat from bewilderment at the briefness of the kiss. I search his aquamarine pools for a sign and I am met with fear and longing battling each other in a cage match. Last emotion standing wins.

I reach up and stroke his jaw with my fingertips. He closes his eyes and a tear escapes. I wipe it away with my thumb.

He fears I will choose Robin instead and it pains him. He spent the same amount of time ensuring I was who he wanted in his life and the possibility of losing is too much for him. At least that is what I imagine is swirling about behind those mesmerizing eyes of his. My words did nothing to reassure him he is my choice and Robin never will be. All I had left were actions.

I wind my arms around his neck, drawing him closer and I connect with his mouth. He meets my kiss greedily, asking for more with his lips and his tongue. His arms encircle me and press me closer, tighter.

Sometimes a kiss says what words cannot.

Our chests heave against each other when the kiss ends.

“Tomorrow at six?” he asks low.

I keep one arm around his neck and use my free hand to stroke his lips. The fear is gone from his eyes. Longing wins and will soon be replaced with something better.

“Most definitely,” I reply breathily then cover his mouth with mine again.

©Debi Smith, 2014

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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