Don’t judge a book by the first phrases, it’s not a romance…

Excerpt:

When he looks at me with those nemesising eyes, I love and hate the way I feel. I’m lost. No consciousness of the world around me. I know that I could never tell him no. I would do whatever he asked. Christean was a man among men. He made me feel more like a woman just by being next to him.

“Vanessa”, he whispered in my ear. His warm breath persuading my neck. As he moved closer to me, his 5 o’clock shadow teased my cheek. I wondered if he could feel my heart stop and start with every contact of his body to mine. He was an architect. His hands were strong and slightly rough. He gripped my waist as he said my name again,

“Vanessa”, pulling me even closer, closer that I could have envisioned. Christean could sense my reluctance. He waited for me to give him permission. To allow the urges we both had been denying to be gratified. Would I give in? Should I give in? I deserve to be happy, even if it’s just for one night. I knew nothing good could come from this. But how could I say no? How could I say it and mean it? Every time I attempted to pull away from him, he knew I didn’t mean it. I placed my hand on his chest to restrain him, hoping my actions would speak for the words that were impossible say. What a mistake that was. Excited by our closeness his swift and unsteady heartbeat pulsated through my fingertips right to my soul. If I closed my eyes, if I didn’t look at him, could I walk away?

Ready for a little more

Maybe he didn’t hear me run into this room.  The house was dark and steamy. It was always hot this time of year. No matter what you did the heat would smother. I loved it here anyway. I loved the clear summer nights. The sky so bright that the moon made shadows that danced on the floors and walls. I tried to control my breathing. Not to make a sound as I hide in the dark. I could hear the ticking of the clock in the great hall. I listened as hard as I could. Praying that I was just going crazy and my mind was playing tricks on me.

The intruder cut the power to the house about nine. But he waited till ten to enter, when I was getting ready for bed. He must have watched me go upstairs. I had just finished surfing the web, the laptop battery was at 20%. I knew I should have charged it earlier. Lucky for me, it was a breezing night. I undressed and contemplated pajamas. It would be a night for sleeping with the windows open. I blew out the candle that failed to stop me from stubbing my toe on the table in the hall. Just as I relaxed and closed my eyes, I thought I heard a popping sound downstairs.

It was amazing how quite my new home was with no power. I could hear the crickets outside. The booming bass of a teen returning home late a few blocks away.

After the popping, it sounded like the patio door slide open, my heart stopped. For a moment, I couldn’t move. Fear had me paralyzed. I wasn’t prepared. No home alarm system. I haven’t even finished unpacking. No cell phone.

“No big deal”, I had said, just hours ago to the girl in the bathroom at the restaurant when she knocked my phone into a sink full of water. I didn’t want to be a bitch.

“ I’ll just get a new one tomorrow, that’s what insurance is for”, I said with a smile.

The young girl brought me dinner to express how sorry she was. I didn’t press the issue to refuse, mainly because she didn’t look like she could afford to by me dinner and especially not a new Blackberry. How odd that a cell phone could save my life tonight, if I had one that is. I immediately thought, I can’t get caught in my bed. I got up and went to my bedroom door. I listened. I didn’t hear anything, but was that because he was listening for me? I stepped into the hall and ran as fast and as quietly as I could to the hall closet. I prayed for no squeaky doors. I sat I listened I prayed and I couldn’t breathe again. Someone was in the house.

My sister had said, ” don’t move to a city where you don’t know anyone, and of course alone”.

My sister Terri, was the safe one, the play it by the book. Get married, have kids. Day in and day out of the same thing. Trapped if you ask me in a lifeless marriage, living vicariously through her children. She tried every trick in the book to get me to stay. She even tried to set me up, hoping I would get attached and not want to leave. I don’t get attached. But look at me now, not even a week into my new home and I’m about to be killed. Just fuel for her fire.

I can hear her now saying,” I knew it, I warned her”.

I held my breath, afraid to exhale. My stomach turned. Again, I heard the intruder moving up the stairs now. Was this really a good place to hide? What am I ten? The house was deadly silent. I had never hated the peace and quite of the night till this very moment. How I wished my alarm would go off and I didn’t have to face the intruder in my home. What was I going to do? I need to get out of here. If I could just get outside. I could flag down someone for help.

Beep Beep Beep!

Pause.

Beep Beep Beep!

I’m alive. It’s seven a.m., there’s no intruder. I still feel sick. The feverish sweat that I awoke to, reminded me of the last few moments of my dream.

The sun shined brightly through my bedroom windows. I will have to get a window treatment for this room that would block out the sun on the mornings when I wanted to sleep late. But that doesn’t happen very often; maybe I’ll just leave them wide open. There’s nothing like the sun rising on a Monday morning to start my day off right. I hate raining days; they make me lazy. Today was going to be one of those full on hectic, no time to waste days. I would need the sun to encourage the developments for today, to keep all my endeavors in that sunny frame of mind.

After last nights’ dream, I think getting an appointment for the alarm system to be set-up just moved to the top of the list. I can’t believe the nightmares have started again. I really thought I was making progress. That moving here was a good decision. Maybe I should have stayed in Boston. Maybe I should have tried harder to deal with the death of John. But everyone and everything reminded me of him, of us, of what there would be no more.

So, now I’m here in Alton. Alton, Virginia a small town about 10 miles from the Virginia, North Carolina state line. A little speck on any map and has one of everything, but you would be pressing your luck to ask for two. The town has a peace about it. It was simple. I needed simple. Alton was just big enough that everyone didn’t know everyone else, but small enough to have the regulars no matter where you went. The old man that sat in his rocking chair on his porch every day and waved at passers by.  Jack Jones, who ran up Main Street every morning at 6:30 am on the dot. The days started early and ended even early. Only when the college kids would come home on the weekends or college breaks would there be any late night ruckus. Nothing really happens here but the occasional UFO sighting. The first was in 1964, by Horace Burns. Since then Hwy 250 has had to occasional sighting, everyone fails to mention that the witnesses just left the bar on Hwy 250.

“Good morning, my name is Vanessa Austin, and I just moved to town and would like talk to someone about setting up an alarm system in my home.”

“Yes ma’am, and you said the last name was Austin?”

“Yes”.

“Well we can have Alex out to see you tomorrow morning if you are free.”

“Yes”.

“Is nine a.m. a good time for you?”

“Yes”.

“Great, well hold on for one sec and let me get some information from you Mrs. Austin.”

“Okay”.

Alarm system, check. Now it’s off to the new job. I’m excited and anxious about today. I haven’t been excited about anything in months. I’m a little nervous to meet Christean Vega, the SVP for Audubon. Audubon, one of the most respected architectural firms on the East coast is known all over for designing and building the 7 wonders of the modern world.  It has 10 subsidiary companies that make it an architectural mogul. The President and CEO, Jeff Audu went to college with Dean and I. We knew he was eccentric. But to have the pillar of his Fortune 500 company in a little town in Virginia was radical. With Jeff being eccentric and a magnate, I guess there is room to do whatever he wanted, be it crazy or unheard of. Thank god, Dean and I were nice to the strange kid in college.

Jeff was just to eager for me to come work for his company. I’m not sure if it is to show off his company. How the weird kid made it big or he really always knew I was talented. I like to think the later. But these days you never know the motives of those around you. I haven’t had a boss in 5 years. It would be strange to have to report to someone again.  I wasn’t sure what Mr. Vega was like or even Jeff for that matter. I knew what I was like as a boss and some managerial styles can be difficult to work with. Jeff assured me that Christean and I would get along well, even if, it was just because I got along so well with everyone. He said Christean was the same way.

I didn’t know anything about Mr. Vega. So I did my research. I googled “Christean Vega”. The Internet is amazing. You can find out just about anything and everything about someone and most definitely something.

He had a few hits and even an article that he published in the Architectural Review. What I found most interesting was the recent engagement announcement to Ava Radcliff. The article was in the Alton Daily. It seemed more like a gossip column read than an engagement announcement. But since Alton didn’t have a gossip column, I guess this was their way of spreading it like wildfire. I almost giggled as I read it. This of course made me extremely curious about the couple. I wondered if I was going to be a marriage of convenience or out of obligation. I was sorely disappointed that there was not a picture of the couple. One more clue that it was gossip and not a true announcement. When women announce their engagement, they have the perfect couple picture to accompany the article. No perfect picture announcement; definitely not a picture perfect marriage.

I arrived at the office at nine a.m. sharp. The office was only 10 minute from my home. I would never have an excuse to be late. No morning rush hour traffic. If anything, ducks crossing the street would be the only thing holding up traffic. As I drove down the street I saw the office building. I had the urge to call Dean at that very moment. It was like having the Statue of Liberty in the middle of your town.

The building was beautifully constructed. The structure itself wasn’t large but its presence was overwhelming. I knew without asking that Jeff designed the building and oversaw the construction himself. It had his name written all over it, literally. The front of the building was steel and glass. The glass formed the shape of an A. I could only venture to think that his office faced out the glass window at the top of the A. However, that was not the eminence of the design. Both the steel and the glass had the letters AUDU imprinted in such a way to either block light or allow light in.

Upon entering the edifice, I was greeted by my receptionist, Cecil. He was young and could be no older than 23. His dark skin and blue eyes immediately caught my attention. When he spoke, he had in Australian accent.

“Good Day Mrs. Austin, I’m Cecil and I will be your personal slave,” he said as he reached to shake my hand.

“Cecil, I think you may be a keeper”.

“I surely hope so ma’am.”

“Oh Cecil, Mrs. Austin is fine”.

“Yes ma’am. Sorry, Mrs. Austin.” He hurriedly moved toward the elevator. “Let me show you to your office. Also, Mr. Vega has an appointment set for you two this afternoon to have lunch with him and Mr. Audu. They both will be out of the office today till noon.”

“Great, do you know where they are, Cecil”?

“Yes ma’am. Sorry, yes, they are out playing golf. They play every other Monday morning.”

“Cecil, the only thing more annoying than you saying ma’am, is you apologizing after each time you do it. It’s okay to say ma’am. It’s actually, very respectful and I appreciate it. It also makes me feel like my mother too. So, unless you want me to start wiping your nose and dropping you off at school. Tone it down just a bit”.

“ Yes, ma’ O.k.” I could see he was going to have to work on the name. Cecil made a great first impression. I’m sure I will get his best for the first few weeks. I will only know how dedicated and trust worthy he is with time. I’m sure he knows I will be watching his every move.

My office was captivating. From the moment I stepped into the room, I felt comfortable. There was an energy that couldn’t be explained. The space and the lighting were enthralling. There would be no need to redecorate. The paintings on the wall were even perfect. I would not have made a better choice if I had picked them out myself. Of course, it was no secret that I loved Baroque art. I sat at my desk for a few moments just to take in the moment.

Noon came faster than I anticipated. Jeff and Christean came into my office looking like a pair of polo twins. I wondered if they meant to dress alike. It had to be a coincidence. Jeff entered first, followed by Christean.

“Hey Vanessa, this is Christean Vega, my right hand man.”

“Hello, nice to meet you”. I extended my hand to shake his.

“Hello Vanessa, I have heard some great things about you. I really look forward to us working together.”

“I do too”.

At that very instant, his hand touched mine and a warm sensation passed through my fingers. I almost thought it was a static shock but it was different. Instead of wanting to pull away, I wanted to hold on to his hand. He then took his other hand and placed it on top of the outside of my hand. I started to feel lightheaded. The room got very warm all of a sudden and I could no longer feel my feet. The room went black and I loss consciousness. When I began to regain my senses, Jeff, Cecil and Christean were standing over me.

“Maybe we should call a doctor.”

“No”, said Christean. “Lets just see how she feels in a minute. She’s coming around”.

“I think we should call a doctor too,” said Jeff.

“No, no doctors”, I said groggily. “I’m fine. I just need to eat something.”

“Get her some water and some crackers or something out of the eatery.”

Cecil rushed out of my office to the eatery. I could hear him mumble under his breath that I needed a doctor not a cracker. As my eyes gained focused, I realized that Jeff was holding a wet towel on my forehead and that Christen was standing a few feet behind him.

“Vanessa, what happened?

“I don’t know. I’ve never fainted before”. I looked to Christean, “do you have this affect on every woman you meet?” Jeff and I laughed but Christean replied dryly with a simple, culpable no.

“How do you feel?”

“I’m okay, I think. Maybe, I should really eat something”.

“ Would you like us to order something for you?”

“No, some fresh air might be good for me too.”

Cecil came running into the office out of breath with a basket full of food. I believe he ran all the way there and back. Sweat had begun to run down his forehead.

“Cecil, what is all this?”

“ I just grabbed everything I could.”

“Thank you. I’ll eat a muffin on the way to the restaurant.”

“What! Don’t you think you should lay down for awhile?”

“No, no, I’m fine. See, I can touch my toes and walk in a straight line.” I demonstrated that I could stand up straight. It actually took a lot to get up. But, it’s the first day on the job and I just fainted. I have to suck it up from here on out. I can’t have everyone thinking I’m sick or weak.

At lunch, I could tell that the guys were keeping a close eye on me. Jeff was explaining the current project with the enthusiasm of a 5 year old that had just made a new friend on the first day of school. He gave far to many details for me to remember them all. Christean watched me furtively. I wondered if the touch of my hand to his gave him the same awkward feeling. I guess not, since he wasn’t the one who passed out.

“Stop looking at me like your waiting on an accident to happen.

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