Wednesday, July 11, 2007
No Love Policy Part 2
“Sam, we need to talk.”
Noting the serious tone of Patrick’s voice, I rolled over and propped myself up on my elbows. He sat up on the edge of the bed, head bowed and the muscles of his cinnamon-coloured back tense.
Lord, I was just about to drop off to sleep, what could he possibly want! I thought, but instead I asked, “What’s wrong, Patrick?”
He rubbed his face agitatedly before turning to me. “Where’s this relationship really heading?”
I almost burst out laughing. Men never ceased to amaze me. “What do you mean, where it’s heading? Where do you want it to go?”
He threw his hands in the air and started pacing the room. “That’s exactly what I mean! I’m here trying to be serious and you’re being callous as usual. Tell me the truth. All you want from me is sex, isn’t it?”
I regarded Patrick silently for a few seconds, then climbed out of bed and strode naked to the chair where my clothes were piled. Before he could ask where I was going I was half-dressed.
“Home, that’s where. Because you seem to forget that when we met I told you I wasn’t interested in anything complicated. You obviously want more from me than I can give you so I’m outa here.”
“Wait, wait, don’t leave.”
He came over and wrapped his arms tightly around me. “It’s not my fault I want more from you. You’re a great lady, sexy as hell,” he fondled my behind, “and I’m a greedy guy. I want you all for myself.”
I pursed my lips and playfully punched him. “It’s not like I’m seeing somebody else, Patrick. I like my men one at a time.”
“So, nobody's trying to steal you away from me?” He started to lightly stroke my back, and I twitched with pleasure. He always knew exactly which buttons to push to get me going.
For a second Daniel Forde inexplicably flashed across my mind. Now, I wouldn’t mind him pushing my buttons, I admitted for a second, as Patrick lowered his lips to mine and led me back to bed.
“Is this seat taken?”
I looked up from the annual report I was editing and saw Daniel Forde standing next to my table in the employee cafeteria with a styrofoam container and Zephyrhills water bottle in hand. I moved my half-eaten chicken teriyaki wrap aside and made room for him to sit.
“Did anyone ever tell you it’s bad for your health to eat and work at the same time?” he joked, opening up the container and assailing me with the scent of Chinese food.
“It’d be worse for my health if I don’t get these edits done. If the printer doesn’t get this report this evening he’s not going to be too happy.”
Daniel nodded, taking a sip from his water bottle. I didn’t realise until then that the simple gesture of lips curving around a bottle could be so sexy. Damn my stupid hormones!
A month had elapsed since Daniel had joined the firm, and although I was still annoyed over not getting his job, I still had to admit he was a very good manager. He was fair, respectful and made his staff feel like important members of the team. He far outranked his predecessor, who was sexist, prejudiced and loved to play favourites.
Daniel toyed with a forkful of the chicken fried rice. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. I’m holding a barbecue at my place next Saturday and I wanted to invite you and some other folks from the office. That is,” he grinned, “once you’ve forgiven me and can actually stand being in my presence outside working hours.”
My traitorous heart skipped a beat. I sipped some juice before replying. “Can I get back to you on that? I’ll have to check with my roommate and see what’s happening first.”
“Oh,” he responded, and I wondered if I heard a hint of disappointment in his voice.
“Feel free to bring him, if you want. The more the merrier,” he added.
Before I could correct his mistake he continued. “And don’t forget your swimsuit, there’s a pool out back too.”
“I’ll let you know,” I returned. After a few more minutes of companionable silence, he gathered his belongings and excused himself, as he had to attend a 1:30 pm board meeting. Able to concentrate at last, I banished visions of Daniel in swim trunks from my mind and continued editing the report.
“What’s really going on here?” Shanice asked, eyeing me suspiciously. “You’re dressed to death and taking me rather than Patrick to this work party. Who’s gonna be there?”
“Stop being so suspicious, Ras’ Shan,” I teased. She hated when I called her that. “Patrick has to work and I always look good. I can’t help it.”
I pretended to fluff my hair, grinning widely. I had to admit I did look pretty hot. I was decked out in a shimmery turquoise top, white shorts and leather sandals. My hair was in a casual ponytail and I carried a beach bag containing a classy, red, one-piece suit and a matching wrap.
Shanice snorted, not buying it for a second. “Well, you’re the one who always says you don’t work and play in the same place. Remember that.”
“Yes, Mummy,” I retorted, poking her in the ribs. I pulled into the avenue leading to Daniel’s home in Atlantic Shores and looked out for the house he had described in his directions. I parked in front of the two-storey, coral stone building and whistled. With its palatial columns, Spanish-tiled roof and manicured lawn, the house stood out from the others in the avenue.
“Damn, somebody’s living large,” Shanice said, staring in awe and I nodded in agreement.
We strolled up the crazy-tiled driveway and pressed the doorbell. After a few minutes, the door was thrown open by a smiling Daniel. Damn! Does this man always look good? I thought, taking in his short cargo pants and sleeveless t-shirt. His body was as muscular as I thought it would be.
I introduced my best friend and he raised an eyebrow when he realised she was the roommate to whom I had referred. I shrugged and smiled at him innocently.
“Come on out back. I left Roy from IT manning the grill, so I hope we don’t have coals for lunch,” he chuckled.
“Nice house,” I complimented him as we walked through the spacious rooms.
“Thanks. I inherited it from my parents when they passed on. I had some renovations done when I moved back to Barbados,” he explained.
The patio at the rear of the house was crowded with about 30 persons, some of whom I recognised immediately. Robin was chatting with Angie and Jenny from HR, and a group of six guys from IT were hooting loudly over a video game. A few strangers were sipping drinks by the kidney-shaped pool, their legs dangling in the water.
Daniel steered us towards the pool. “C’mon, I’ll introduce you to my people.”
As we drew closer, I realised one of the persons in the group wasn’t as unfamiliar as I had thought. Shanice touched my arm and I nodded grimly.
“Hey guys, I’d like you to meet my work mate Samantha and her friend Shanice. Ladies, these are my cousins Cheryl and Kevin, and my buddies Vic, Ryan and Mark,” Daniel said.
We exchanged pleasantries with the group. Ryan remained silent and averted his eyes, and I sent a cold glance in his direction. Daniel gave me a quizzical look before excusing himself to look after the barbecue.
After mingling with our workmates, Shanice and I grabbed some sodas and strolled around the property. It was a gorgeous day and the ambience of the grounds was enchanting. A tree-lined path led to a gate in the fence surrounding the property, where a flight of steps descended to a strip of beach and the inviting waters of the Caribbean Sea.
“I could really get used to this,” Shanice sighed, holding her wrap skirt as it billowed in the breeze. Suddenly, a frown appeared on her face and I turned to see what had caused it. Ryan was heading in our direction.
Shanice sucked her teeth. “Barbados is too small sometimes. I hope he doesn’t come with any chat today, ‘cause I still owe him a foot up the butt.”
I couldn’t help laughing at the image of my tiny friend beating down a man almost three times her size.
Ryan approached us warily. “Sam, Shanice, how you all doing?”
“Fine, till you came over. Why don’t you go and try breathing underwater in the pool?” Shanice retorted.
He exhaled deeply and shuffled his feet. “Ah, Sam, can I talk to you in private?”
I was about to unleash six years of pent up bitterness on him but I remembered my colleagues were nearby and bit my tongue. This called for discretion.
I nodded at Shanice and she headed back to the pool area, but not before cutting her eye at Ryan.
“What do you want Ryan? Really, what could you possibly have to say to me?”
He stared at the ocean before replying. “I know I deserve your anger. I’ve done a lot of growing up since then and what I did to you was unforgiveable. I just wanted to apologise.”
I gazed coolly at the man who had broken our engagement suddenly and fled the island. I had loved him with my whole being and had thought that at 29 I would be happily married and the mother of his children. Instead, I was a career-focussed single woman who was afraid to love. A wave of sadness engulfed me, not because I mourned my shattered dreams but because I had allowed this man and others like him to destroy a special part of me.
“For what it’s worth Ryan, I forgive you. Forgiving myself is going to be harder.” I started down the steps to the beach, leaving Ryan with a puzzled look on his face.
I was halfway up the beach, lost in thought, when I heard someone shouting my name. I turned to see Daniel jogging up the beach behind me.
“You alright, Sam?” he asked with concern when he reached me. “I realised something went down between you and Ryan so I came to check on you.”
I gave him a faint smile. “Sorry to drag you away from your guests, Daniel. I’m okay, really.”
He stared at me intently, then surprised me by running a finger along my cheek. I closed my eyes instinctively, enjoying the warmth of his touch. When I reopened them, he was staring at me with a strange look on his face.
“I’m here for you, if you need someone to talk to,” he said quietly.
He was standing so close that I could feel the heat emanating from his body. I longed to reach out and touch the intriguing scar at the side of his mouth, or to rest my head against his broad chest. Instead, I stepped back and cleared my throat.
“Thank you Daniel, I appreciate it.”
He dropped his hand and stepped back as well. “Anytime. Lunch is ready. You coming?”
I nodded and we strolled in silence back down the beach to his house.
With a sigh of relief, I clicked on the SEND link and watched as my status report was electronically transported to Daniel. I stretched and looked at my watch, which indicated it was just past 6 p.m. I didn’t usually work so late on Fridays, but since I was traveling on the weekend to conduct a training workshop at our St. Lucia office, I was trying to tie up a few loose ends.
I smiled and shook my head when I thought of my manager. Since that day on the beach Daniel had been watching me closely, concern printed all over his face. I was fine, so fine in fact that I had a long talk with Patrick and decided to end our farce of a relationship. It wasn’t fair to string him along when I held no romantic feelings for him.
Daniel’s concern also fueled an attraction I was fighting hard to suppress. My earlier feelings of resentment toward him had long vanished, to be replaced by respect and admiration. Unlike most of the other arrogant, condescending males in upper management at Symmonds and Chandler, he treated me as an equal.
Just as I had shut down the computer I heard a knock on my door and Daniel peered in.
“I had a feeling I’d find you here,” he grinned, pushing the door wide to reveal two large boxes of Chinese food in his hands. I laughed in delight.
“I didn’t know you were back from your meeting!” How’d it go?” I asked as I made room on my desk for the food.
“Not bad. I think this product launch will be one of our best ever.”
He loosened his tie and rolled back his shirt sleeves to reveal tanned, muscular forearms. He never looked so good.
“I emailed you my report. Don’t forget I won’t be here for three days next week.”
He passed me a fork and a cup of sweet and sour sauce. “That’s why I brought you dinner, I wanted to give you a little bon voyage party.”
I smiled and thanked him. We spent the next hour talking about work, our mutual love of St. Lucia and our childhood experiences. My curiosity over his scar was satisfied; he had gotten it during a fishing accident.
“Ryan told me what happened between you two,” he said suddenly, and I glanced up from breaking an egg roll and shrugged.
“Water under the bridge. That was a long time ago.”
“I had cursed him out over it, back then. I was the one he stayed with when he came to Trinidad. He said he had gotten cold feet and run out on his fiancée. I’m so sorry it was you.”
I smiled at the irony of Ryan seeking refuge with Daniel. “Qué sera and all that. I’ve moved on,” I replied.
“You sure? You looked pretty low at the party.”
“I’ll tell you about that sometime,” I added, not wanting to delve too much into the past. Heck, the present was way better.
I jumped as Daniel suddenly reached over and wiped the side of my mouth.
“Sweet and sour sauce,” he laughed, showing me his napkin.
“Thanks.” I hesitated, then reached over and stroked his lips with my fingers.
“I got some on me too?” he asked, rubbing his mouth.
“No, I just wanted to touch you.”
He stared at me for a moment and I held my breath, wondering if I had gone too far.
He gave me a slow smile. “At the risk of sounding cliché, your place or mine?”
I exhaled, relieved. We decided his home might be more appropriate and gathered up the remains of our dinner hurriedly.
I followed his Santa Fe in my Skoda Octavia. The 15 minute drive seemed like a lifetime and I came close to changing my mind several times. When we pulled into the driveway I prayed I wasn’t about to mess up a wonderful working relationship.
Daniel took me by the hand and led me upstairs to his bedroom. It was large, airy and neatly kept. The king-sized bed was accentuated by an intricately designed wrought iron headboard. Leaving me to look around, he moved over to the bed and turned on of the bedside lamps.
“Come here,” he said softly, holding out his hand. Slowly, I approached to stand next to him. He stroked my face, then undid the clip in my hair. He ran his fingers through my mane, then cupped my face and pressed his lips against mine. Our tongues met in a tender duel and I pressed my body against his and moaned.
“You’re so beautiful Sam,” he growled, kissing my neck and ear, “I wanted you from the moment I laid eyes on you.”
I sighed as he removed my jacket and tossed it aside. I ran my tongue along his lower lip, bit on it gently and kissed his scar.
“I wanted to hate you because you stole my dream job, but you’re a hard man to hate, Daniel Forde.”
I inhaled sharply as he lowered his head to gently kiss my breasts, igniting a flame that spread throughout my body. I fumbled impatiently with the buttons on his shirt, and he chuckled and assisted me. He sighed as I ran my fingers across his muscular chest and down his toned abdomen to his belt buckle.
A few minutes later we were both naked and kissing under the shower. Yes, I thought, as Daniel pressed me against the cool tiles of the wall, Daniel Forde was definitely a hard man to hate.
The finale tomorrow!