Entrapment

by Madison McFay (aka Angelica Saxon)
Copyright 1998/2001 She pushed the elevator button in a recession of clicks, her heart pounding as quick as her fingers pressed and repressed for the lobby level. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Not now, please don't let it be now." Elevator doors wouldn't close fast enough. Maybe he won't make it; maybe he'll take the hint and leave well enough alone... But all hope of that happening diminished as a black shoe fit into the remaining six-inch gap. Like a bad dream, both doors bumped against expensive leather and slid open. Damn it! It would have taken him at least ten minutes to shoot down the stairwell, enough time to get in her car and make tracks. Kate took a deep breath as the doors retracted. Her gaze rose slowly from that expensive black leather shoe, to black pleated trousers, matching jacket, and a white shirt that sported a black bow tie. His formal tux would have to accentuate that build of his perfectly, she silently noted, just like everything else this model wore. Lingering between his corded neck a bit tight with tension, and a cleft chin dotted with a hint of stubble, knots of anxiety turned to scattered butterflies in the pit of her stomach. "Nice of you to wait." Pride propped her to press the lobby button again, this time in wordless retaliation. It did little good; one of his hands simply reached up to block the closing doors before he strode into the elevator. Sliding doors shut. She mustered as much foreign flippancy as she could, turned away from him, and slowly paced the twelveby-twelve carpeted reciprocal. "Shouldn't you be somewhere else?" "You started something I'd like to finish." "A first." "Pardon?" "This isn't the place to have at me." "Wrong, it's the perfect place to end these games." The span of silence that fell between them was so thick, soft vibrations of Jazz that filtered from overhead speakers sounded more like a full-scale concert. Putting an end to her pacing, she glanced down and pretended to study her sling-back shoes as she prepared herself for the worst. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and silently lined up all the excuses she was going to need in order to survive this emotional disaster. "Katie?" The gentle touch on her shoulders startled her. Burying all her anxieties, she opened her eyes hoping her best poker face showed. Oh double damn. Her vision met the reflection of a full-length mirror that ran the back of the wall; Devin StGeorge standing behind her. Plain to see how vulnerable she felt, she held her ground and stared at their image in spite of it. Classic petit features surrounded in a silver gray satin gown in front of this black tuxed male gave an intriguing visual of delicate against strength. As her gaze further roamed the reflection, the rugged features she'd been avoiding made her heart skip a beat. A mouth that knew exactly how to persuade was still parted from uttering her name. Blue midnight eyes that held the capacity to probe her soul searched . . . wondered . . . speculated. Stray wisps of coal hair too stubborn to stay corded up at his nape framed a face so rakishly appealing, she had to give herself moments to gather her thoughts. Kate gave herself a mental shake. "I don't need placating 'GQ'." His movements through a mirror was a shock to her senses. His touch from one bare shoulder caressed its way up her neck and trailed over her fluttering pulse while his other hand weaved into reddish ebony waves of her hair, gently tugged, and expose more of her throat to both their gazes. "Actually, I was about to ring your neck." It took every ounce of courage to smile with indifference. "Should I scream?"

His grasp loosened and she pulled away, walked over to the button panel, and pounded her index finger against the open doors button. Nothing. She pressed a random succession of buttons. The same results. He was quick; she'd give him that. It just hadn't dawned till then just how quick he managed to sabotage her surroundings. Whirling around she found him leaning against the wall, with arms crossed as-calm-as-you-please. "Don't worry, someone's bound to discover the elevator's out of order." "Fix it." "And miss out on this fantastic opportunity? Oh come on, Red." Eyeing a near-by fire extinguisher, then him, she spoke her thoughts out loud. "Female photographer murders egomaniac model. Women all over the world rally Kate McDowell for Sainthood. International Holiday underway. Yes, indeed 'GQ', this is one fantastic opportunity." "Ouch," Devin St George winced with soft laughter, "and you said spontaneity was one of my better qualities?" "You were in front of the camera at the time." Turning to the panel again she opened the compartment labeled with a phone emblem for just such emergencies. The damage stared right back at her. Three ripped wires. She didn't have to pick up that phone to know the connection wouldn't work. "This is turning out to be one heck of an evening." Turning to lean against the wall, she slowly slumped down until she sat on the carpet. When she reached up to rub throbbing temples, she dreadedly asked, "What's this going to solve?" She chanced a glance at him. He still stared in her direction. "The truth." "I apologize for ruining your evening. There. Now fix the elevator." She heard his movements, but refused to take another glance until she heard soft words nearby, "Here, lean forward." Her eyes fell on his jacket. Since she knew it wouldn't do any good to disputing his gesture, she eased forward and was instantly enveloped by the warm and woodsy scent that was totally him. As a last moment pot shot, she sarcastically murmured, "Ever the gentleman" under her breath. "Don't count on it", came the dry reply. A minute later an undone bow tie fluttered on her lap. Dumbstruck, Kate cautiously picked it up and eyed the item with weary amusement. "A memento?" She glanced up just in time to watch the man undo remaining shirt buttons . . . slowly shrug the shirt off . . . Dear heaven above . . . Kate held her breath, all coherent thought flying out the window as muscle, sparse dusted black hair, and golden bronzed skin did more for her own body temperature right then, than Devin StGeorge's jacket could ever do. How many times had she glimpsed him like this behind a camera lens? Why be effected now; had her camera served that much of a barrier between them? "Um . . . Devin?" The shirt fell on her lap with all the insinuation of trouble in the making. Staring at it, she told her heart to calm down and her hormones to quit reminding her she was human. Then the soft clink of something interrupted those thoughts. Even though she didn't have to look in order to realize what that was, she glanced up anyway. Elongated fingers were undoing the strap-belt from its buckle. "Devin . . . " Hands stopped in mid-motion as her eyes roamed up muscular plains and met a mischief blue stare along-side a mouth that tried hard to suppress humor. "That's Smooth Operator playing, not The Striper. Besides, all I'm carrying tonight is plastic, no bills." That smile won out and turned to soft laughter. "Funny, Red." The soft hiss of fine leather drawn from belt loops seconds later was added to the mounting pile on her lap. "I hate being confined in a starched shirt, irritates the hell out of my skin." Turning away she still tried to get her bearings. "Most guys wear a T-shirt underneath." "Too suffocating. Can't breath with that many clothes on." All too suddenly the man eased down to the carpeted floor beside her. From the corner of her vision she watched him unlace shoes that moments later were haphazardly discarded and followed by socks. "Hmmm, much better." Human nature prompted her to go ahead, give into temptation even though common sense knew better. Compromising, she glimpsed the wall mirror.

Kate always thought pure sin was a heaping scoop of double-Dutch brownie ice cream covered in rich melted fudge. What met her vision in the mirror made her realize she'd gone through life way too sheltered. Devin StGeorge leaned against the wall, head tilted back just so, lips parted and eyes closed while that lithe body stretched catlike. Masculine toes curled into the carpet with pleasure as he purred provocatively, "New shoes are hell." The flicker of eyelash was the only giveaway he'd been studying her reaction. Of all the sneaky . . . conniving . . . With a whole lot of exasperation, she threw the bundle of clothes on her lap right at him. "What luck, I'm stuck in an elevator with a closet nudist." Tossing clothes away he had nerve to tease her further, "Oh, then if you don't mind. . . ?" From the corner of her eye she spotted his hands reach for the waist of his trousers, and undue the top button before she quickly put a stop to what he was about to unzip. "Don't you dare." Her eyes locked with that amused gaze that non-the-less probed her thoughts. Encased, hard, aroused male pressed against her palm bringing scorched memories of a night nearly a month ago to mind, when temptation crossed into sweet bliss. His blunt stare silently dared her to consider the possibilities again, but it only took a split second to also remember the man's heart never ventured where his libido wound up. She tentatively pulled her hand away and read the disappointment in his eyes. "Coward." "Excuse me?" He quickly assessed her wardrobe with mock curiosity. "Pardon me Miss Sunnybrook Farms, but I couldn't help notice your lack of clothes this evening. Tell me, what's under the gown?" Ok, he had her there. The silk was so drapy, even wearing an under-slip would have caused unsightly ripples. She wouldn't have ever considered wearing a gown like this before, but just once, she wanted to flaunt in his face what he'd never have again. She had Jenean to thank for it, too. If it wasn't for her friend's reminder of all the numerous times she promised to make her next party, Kate wouldn't have worn the dress and she certainly wouldn't be in this sort of situation now. "Are you implying I wore this dress for your benefit?" The touch of fingertips under her chin turned her gaze to meet fathomless depths so close, warm swirls of air caressed her lips. "Yeah, to torture the living hell out of me." In a matter of moments she was back on her feet. Hoping her actions seemed more exasperated with his ego instead of jumbled emotion, she walked over to the other side of the elevator. "I'm flattered I could fluster the notorious StGeorge." Leaning against the wall for support, her body tried to recover from the almost kiss that would have happened. The silence of Jazz was too deafening to think it could be that easy. She glanced his way. With knees drawn up, arms crossed in front, his gaze turned serious. "What's the matter Kate?" A little weary from all the sparring, she decided it was time for some honesty. "I don't want your pity." "I don't know where you've been these past few minutes lady, but I've been doing my damnedest to show you pity's the last thing on my mind." "I'm looking for more than testosterone, Devin." His unwavering gaze narrowed. "You think I used you the first time?" "You wanted me, you had me." "I see. And what was your motivation, Kate? Everyone else had him so why not me?" The remark struck with wounding capacity. Silently refusing to be baited, she bit back her retort in hopes that his ego would get her out of this elevator that much sooner. He continued on with sarcastic flippancy, "Hmmm, well I'm glad I lived up to your expectations. Feel free to mention my name to the next circle of friends looking for a little diversion." Fighting off another wave of emotional hurt she turned away, took a deep breath, and hated herself more for her reply. "You're very good at what you do." "Why thank you. Another satisfied female. I love a good reference." Before she could rethink impulsiveness, she tugged off her sling-backs and hurdled them at him. Too bad he ducked just in time to watch her shoes hit the wall where his head laid moments before.

The way he glanced at that very spot, then her, spoke volumes of insinuation "Ooooo...we're making progress." "You deliberately goaded me!" His eyes widened with mock shock while one of his hands flattened against his chest in wounded pretense. "I wonder why?" Slowly rising from the floor, his gaze wandered around the elevator lost more to outspoken thoughts than his surroundings. "Maybe because you're the most exasperating female I've ever come across in my life?" His stare pointedly turned her way. "Probably." "Just my luck that's an admiral trait by your standards." The scrutinizing stare still full of insinuation had her nervously adjusting his jacket. "Among others. Still cold?" If it were anything but that almost too innocent voice backed up by bedroom eyes, she would have given him points on sincerity. However, it didn't take a genius to figure his off-handed comment was based on his discovery of her aroused condition. "I'll survive." It was easy to see her double-edged answer was taken like a thrown down gauntlet. Leaning back against the wall, his expression changed to thoughtful contemplation. "That's another thing I like about you, Red, your gumption." Rolling her eyes, feeling her headache gain force, she wearily shook her head. "Devin . . ." With a held up palm, he put her protests on hold as he continued "No, really, once you make up your mind you stick to it. Take this situation," His eyes darkened to even deeper fathomless depths as he focused on her lips, "here you are holed up with a half naked man bent on seducing you - thoroughly I might add - and you've already made up your mind to hold out. Not typical behavior for a woman who's already given into the moment, but granted, you're not typical." One of his hands casually combed through coal tresses in back of his nape to free long strands held together by a tied cord. "All I can think about is the last time you screamed ecstasy. Ironic isn't it? Here I am pondering ways to make you tremble again, and all you're considering is the best way around it. Yup, gumption all right." Not quite sure what he meant, she cautiously asked, "Did you just insult me?" "I'm working on it." Counting to ten didn't help, but it did give her time to reevaluate his words. Crossing her arms in front of her she ground out. "Just because I won't give into the moment - in an elevator of all places - doesn't label me frigid." "Frigid? Did I say frigid? Aw Red, anything but." "And it doesn't mean I'm not human." "Didn't say that either." "Then what in the world is your problem, for-pete's-sake?" His head tilted a bit to the side and amusement turned to curiosity, "I was wondering what made you forget gumption the first time." With an exasperated groan she scanned the four walls of the elevator, then up at the ceiling. Maybe...but it was too high up to reach any panels. Even if she got to the elevator's roof, it wasn't a guarantee she'd make her way to a floor. "StGeorge, if someone doesn't discover us soon, I swear, you won't live to see the light of day." She glanced back just in time to see him shrug shoulders and notice the way his gaze focused on her slingbacks on the carpet floor. "Sue me for speculating." No, it's more than that, she thought. Suddenly she understood what he was talking about and she didn't like it one bit. "No you don't. Just because I was fool enough to say what I did at the party, doesn't mean you get another personal account." His gaze came up connecting with hers quicker than if she'd turned on a light switch. That smile returned with a vengeance. "Can't take it back though, can you?" "I'm sure that's convenient." Taking a deep breath she taped down whirlwind emotions and channeled them into anger. "You hear me getting all emotional about us, and automatically assume the best way to handle your guilt is cornering me to give the I'm-flattered-but-you'll-get-over-it speech." She stopped herself before she said something more she'd regret if her temper got the best of her. "Go ahead, Kate. Finish." Prompting her with that soft whisper only made matters worse. After a short silent conflict between her heart's desire and her head's reasoning, she tossed reason out the window while emotions began to take their toll.

"What's with you? Any man who was that cool the next morning would've reveled in the fact I was doing them a favor." She expected some sort of sarcastic repertoire to jump in any minute, but thoughts of it didn't stop her from continuing. "The calls I didn't take, the visits I was scarce for? Didn't that give you a clue I chalked that night up as a fluke, Devin? If you want to make this break up official, fine. Just don't think you can self righteously stand there and accuse me of being frigid to appease your ego." She strode over to him, anger seething like an erupted volcano as she whipped off his jacket, flung it at him, and finished, "Don't do me any favors!" He didn't even have the grace to flinch as his jacket hit his chest dead-center, then fall to the floor. She stood there taking gulps of air teetering on the brink between anger and hurt, praying he'd say something mean enough to keep her in the throes of hating him instead of giving into an emotional tidal wave of tears. He didn't disappoint her. His expression hooded. His hand reached out, took a stray lock of hair, and gently tucked it behind her ear with all the insinuation of a parent placating a child. "Well, you sure told me." That did it. With a seething shriek of exasperation she did a quarter-turn, raced up to the elevator doors, and pounded her fists a few times and yelled, "Somebody! Anybody! I'm stuck in this elevator! Can anybody hear me?" Then turning around to face him, she seethed, "You know how to fix this elevator, fix it!" "Don't you think your over-reacting - just a tad?" Anger mounted to furry. Over-reacting? She'd show him overreaction. Turning back to the shut doors she doubled her pounding efforts and screeched, "There's a dead man in here!" then glaring over her shoulder at one Devin StGeorge who was doing his best to keep laughter under wraps, she shouted even louder, "There will be a dead man in here if no one opens these doors right now!" Her pounding slowed as she heard Devin StGeorge's laughter finally give in. Whirling around she watched him slump to the floor, eyes dancing with hilarity as he clutched his side. "God I missed you, Katie." Eyeing the fire extinguisher she weighed the odds. The puny size of it was only enough to give him a slight bump on the head; but maybe it'd knock some commonsense into him. Racing to it wasn't the problem, but she miscalculated the time factor of getting it down before he stopped her. The next thing she knew, she was flat on her back, Devin right above her. "Damn you, Devin . . ." "I thought a doomed man got a last request?" She tried to struggle, but his strength was ridicules to out match. "Let me up." "I also want last rights." She almost choked on laughter. "Confession should take eternity alone." Turning away, she placed her faith in the higher powers that were, and hoped for intervention. "Forgive me, Red, I've made grave mistakes." He began, the words soft with the ring of sincerity too near her ear. "The first was eavesdropping on your phone conversation the morning after we made love, mistaking your brother as competition. The second was being too consumed with jealousy to let you believe the night before meant anything to me." Confused wonder washed a sea of emotions through her making it difficult to speak. She turned to scan a mouth that was barely a breath away and midnight eyes that were tenderly trying to relate their own cauldron of emotions. "That guy you called that morning. What did you say? 'No, can't make it tonight Dave . . . um . . . something's come up. I'll call you later. Yes, I love you too.' That ring a bell?" "You thought my brother David . . .was some lover?" Oh dear Lord, suddenly his behavior that morning made perfect sense. Echo's of conversation earlier that evening in her best friend's kitchen, a room away from the party, returned with new clarity. That look of keen revelation he had when she discovered him eavesdropping wasn't just because he overheard her confessed feelings, but that he finally understood that phone call. 'Kate what's with you? You've been so out of sorts it's unreal.' 'I know, I'm just tired tonight, that's all.' 'I must have called the studio a dozen times before I finally got a hold of you. I thought you hated outside assignments?' 'Dave's short on staff and Joe, the photographer that usually does the sports shoots, is going through personal problems so big brother asked me to fill in. Its no big deal, but you know Basketball season - evening shoots. Morning's I've been checking proofs at the paper and afternoons I've been catching up on sleep.'

'That doesn't leave room for studio work. Kate, you know how fickle Designers are. If they can't get a-hold of you, competition wins over even if you're out of commission for a little while. Tell Dave to get someone else.' 'Jenean, a month isn't going to put me out. Besides I could use the time away from the studio. Dealing with models right now isn't a priority. In fact . . .' 'Katie what's wrong? Why are you crying? Oh, I'll kill him who ever he is! Katie?' 'I'll be fine. It's my fault anyway. I should have known better than to fall in love with him.' 'Oh now I'll really kill him. Sit down Hon. I'll grab some Kleenex and then we'll make plans for murder.' 'I can't believe I was so stupid. Sleeping with Devin StGeorge was definitely the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life.' 'Devin? Katie, honey, this is all about Devin?' "Jealousy?" she cautiously murmured her thoughts out loud. Midnight eyes glittered while words hinted at taped down possessiveness. "Knowing there was someone else that meant more to you then what happened between us? Red, you don't have a clue." "Why did you let me believe the worst?" "The last thing you needed to know was how involved I was." She saw sincerity touch his eyes as he drew closer. "So I played it cool," the brief touch of a soft kiss whisked across her lips as he mussed regretfully, "A bit too cool." "Devin . . ." Tips of his fingers gently pressed against her lips. "I had it all figured out. A few well placed calls to Designers and I'd be in your studio again. Seducing you away from him for the sake of good sex wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I'd work out the rest once I got that far." A lone fingertip outlined her lips slowly then ventured lower to gently tap against her chin. "The problem was, you put all projects on hold." His eyes darkened, glanced down at her parted lips then back to her stare. "It didn't take much to enlist Jenean's help. If she talked you into doing one project - just one - my chances of ruining the relationship you had with that other guy was as good as done." Her vision swept the determined handsome features of reckless coal tresses that framed deep midnight blue eyes, a slight narrow nose, and sensual mouth that fluttered her stomach into knots. "You've always been sneaky . . .underhanded . . . unfair," she managed breathlessly. Trailing words that brushed along her lips made it damn hard to keep a clear mind. "Being in love drives me to it." His words made her eyes mist as it all sunk in. He loved her. All along she thought he was trying to say goodbye only to find out he was lost out of his mind without her. Leaning up she tested her own resilience as she kissed him lingeringly, then smiled up at him reading the tender passion he held for her. "So, now that you've entrapped me, Devin StGeorge, what's next with this plan of yours?" As if on que, The Wedding March burst out from above speakers at double the volume that sensual Jazz had moments before. A female voice accompanied it seconds later. "There'll be a priest here within the hour when those doors open." Kate fell into fits of laughter over the astonished shock on Devin's face. No, it didn't take a genius to figure whose voice was booming into the elevator with all the seriousness of a messenger from heaven. Tilting his head towards the ceiling, the man above her unbelievably queried, "Jenean?" "Oh don't have a cow, Devin. Almost everyone knows security in this building is one of the best. I made sure video was off, but I couldn't help keeping the audio on." "How'd you figure we were in here?" "Please. Do you think I'd let Kate leave without knowing she was OK? I saw her enter the elevator with you in pursuit. Just be thankful I had sense enough to race down to the security office and run interference. You didn't injure him too bad now did you Katie? That ruckus I heard had me wondering." She couldn't help it; the thought of her friend overhearing everything from thrown sling-backs to her tousle on the carpet made her laugh all the more. It also had Devin suspiciously glare her way. Shaking her head she reassured him between choked up laughter, "I didn't know . . . I swear!" "Since I'm reasonably sure the situation's under control, I'll cut the audio. Oh, but before I leave you two alone, there's something you ought to know, Dev. This priest is ready to ordain Kate a Saint if marriage isn't on the agenda. Ta-ta you two." The sounds of Jazz filtered in once again while Kate tried to get her laughter under control. "You. You think that was funny?"

She shook her head trying her best to stilt laughter, and for a few moments she actually managed her best poker face as she teased, "It was terrible of her to imply what a great Saint I'd make." His gaze flared disbelief, and that was all it took to trip her into laughter once again. That stare above her narrowed in mischievous promise, and moment's later fingers ran along both sides of her ribs with ticklish payback. She squealed with unexpected surprise as she tried to out maneuver those fingers. "All right . . .I take it back . . . I take it back . . .I love you too much to become a Saint!" Hard warm contours lowered slowly against hers, and midnight mischief turned to seductive coercion. Batting her lashes innocently she couldn't help murmur one last teasing retaliation using his own words playfully against him, "I guess you showed me." With a tender smile tentatively lowering toward her, Devin StGeorge whispered against her lips before kissing her thoroughly, "And that's my next plan Mrs. StGeorge-to-be. Right after you say I do, I'm going to show you just how much I love you."

Forever
by Angelica Saxon
Copyright 1999/2001 You want me to do what with the coffee girl?" "For your information that girl just finished a tour off Broadway." Jake Rogers glanced over to the twenty-ish woman yards away in form-fitting jeans and a fleece pullover. Nice. At least it's not the blond with the attitude. "What happened to Gina?" "Don't get me started, just do it." "Wait." He fixed the Director with one of his no-nonsense glares before the man turned away. "What's her take on this?" "Does it matter?" Normally no, his thoughts mussed, but she looks awful uncomfortable for a woman that's seen curtain calls. "Maybe." Sid the Director transformed into Sid his standing buddy of ten years. His friend arched that speculative brow with a wealth of insinuation. "She's doing hours with Production. I pulled her out and asked her to do a freebie. It's her first." Her first kiss in front of a camera. Great, just great. "Oh thanks a lot Sid. First she spills coffee on me, and now I've gotta walk her through." His friend gave him that sort of smile that mirrored his own deeper thoughts, "And it's just killing you, huh?" Damn mind reader. As quickly as that, Sid turned all Director again, spun around, and shouted to no one in particular. "Five minutes on set people!" Someone positioned her in front of him, another person milled around taking readings, and she could feel somebody else's fingers fix her hair. "Jitters?" She quickly glimpsed a strong jaw and sensual mouth at eye-level. That's all it took for her stomach full of knots to scatter into butterflies. "I hope it's not obvious." She needed to look anywhere but him and stop thinking of what she was going to do in front of dozens of people ready to capture it on film. Stupid stupid stupid, for getting talked into this, she kept thinking. Abby Jackson nervously licked her lips, regretting it. The person that'd been at her hair somehow managed to render a lip-brush to instantly re-coat her mouth with gloss. "He's supposed to do that Hon, keep it on till then."

His soft cough captured her attention. Meeting a whisky colored gaze with a wealth of humor, she silently cursed double at her predicament. "So, how do we do this?" Not a smart question. "I mean, how do you want me?" Damn it all, I can't even think, "A --" "Promise to be gentle. They'll start filming whenever." That humor was disarming. "Do this often do you?" "Keep breaking my heart with that smile, and make-up 'll earn their pay." He's flirting? No, he's trying to calm my nerves - and it's working. "Strawberry." She felt his fingers hook into the belt-loops of her jeans; felt herself pulled slowly forward. "What's that?" "What that woman smeared all over my lips." A thigh brushed her hip, warm, hard, adding definite undercurrents to the man's next words. "She's got a dozen roses coming." That did it, she couldn't help but laugh. "Incorrigible." One of his hands reached for hers to rest it against his chest. About to glance down to make sure that actually was his heartbeat erratically tripping under her finger tips, his other hand cupped her cheek just in time to keep that from happening. "Shhh, I'm human." His thumb glided across her bottom lip as that whiskey colored stare lowered. "In fact you had me the moment you spilled coffee." With the slightest brush of his lips, he finished, "It's a wonder I wasn't burned alive." Sensations engulfed in slow degrees while his lips explored the shape of her own. Taking a deep breath, she parted hers with anticipation. "Way over my head." she murmured. His hands wove in her hair and his teasing trails of coaxing deepened to gradual discoveries of her mouth; slow and lazy at first, incredibly tender, then deeply passionate. It should have been Christmas or the Fourth of July, it should've been anything else but what she thought she'd tell kids of her own someday. Forever in a kiss. Her hands moved, feeling their way up the spance of a shirted chest that shivered at her touch; her fingers delved into silken tuffs of hair urging for more... Suddenly there was noise; wolf whistles, catcalls, applause, as the Director shouted, "That's a wrap!" Maybe she didn't feel it, he mussed, chemistry was a heck of an excuse, and she was a good actress... "What are you up to?" The styrofoam cup tilted, spilling hot liquid all over the table and himself in the process. "Damn it Sid, that's the second time today." "Third. That kiss was supposed to be chaste. Pity we're dubbing the audio on this commercial, your little tetea-tete brought tears to my eyes. The rep for Pulse Cologne loved it though. Had dollar signs in his eyes all the while he watched the take. He's already tabulated all the upcoming sales the company's going to make with this Valentines Day campaign." He shot his friend a measuring glare that earned him a reprieve of words. "Whoa, I was about to say if you break her heart, I'll break your face. You wanna marry her, make sure I get the invitation. By the way, she's over there; takes hers' light and sweet." *** "A white picket fence, seven kids, two dogs, and a cat named Pepe." Abby turned around to face a cup of coffee along with another wave of nerves she hoped didn't show. "Pardon?" "That's what I felt. You?" That disarming humor again. "Four kids, two dogs, and the cat's name was Sid. Only fair since he schemed that kiss between us." "Gathered that. What do you say we debate kids over dinner?" She didn't need time to ponder; the answer to life was shining in his eyes. "That might take a while." His smile softened, he took a step forward, and he joined his hand with hers. "Fancy that, just so happens I've got forever."

Hope
by Angelica Saxon
Copyright 1999/2001 It had to been the dozenth time she walked this path, and as ironic as it was, she always wound up here. The large Oak tree before her beckoned. Like every other time in the past few hours when she found herself drawn to its aged trunk, her vision touched on the deeply carved weathered initials encased in a heart; a date beneath. Valentines Day, twenty odd years before. This time she didn't resist the urge to reach out and trace her fingertips along its deep groves. Yes, the glimmer of the eighteen-year-old she'd been still existed within the mature woman she was. Regardless of lost dreams, she believed in miracles, and with all her heart she hoped for one now. The largest branch pointed the way to a path that wasn't as worn as the others. Knowing where it led, she impulsively took it. Twigs and brush obstruct the path here and there, but the passing of time was kind enough to tell her the clearing still existed. Strange. The further she ventured, the more the shift of change around her became apparent. The chill in the air carried a tinge of warmth while traces of snow dissipated to bare ground and trees, then to patches of grass and budding limbs. Was her mind playing tricks on her? She wasn't sure how winter gave way to spring so quickly unless her burdened heart fed her imagination. When she came to the clearing it was nothing more then an overgrown garden. The slate walk bore places where weeds camouflaged its path, the wrought iron bench held patches of rust, and the Angel fountain in the middle of the small garden was half covered in climbing rose vines. But she remembered the garden the way it was, and that Valentines Day long ago. She was leaving that next day, half a wold away; her fathers' work found a promoted position with double the salary he was making now. She could have stayed, she wanted to so badly, but Mike was going off to Med school and she wasn't selfish enough to ruin his dreams. "I love you Jennifer Ferral...I want to give you the world…say you'll wait for me…" The necklace he'd given her, the pledge their hearts made, and the whiling hours they spent that day passionately loving each other was still so vivid, she unconsciously skimmed her fingers across her throat to feel the cool weight of a dangling heart necklace that should have been there. All her fingers found were smooth skin, remembering she'd lost it that very same day. "Damn it, you promised Jenny, you promised." She jumped. Her mind still had to be a bit frazzled, that was it. Echoes of memories just didn't materialize out of thin air into the very person her heart never stopped loving. Moments ago she'd been the only person here and then in the blink of an eye there he was. A part of her desperately denied it. Faced with the back of a dark wool overcoat encased over broad shoulders with a spill of golden tasseled hair had to be longing playing tricks with her imagination. Those words had to be her hearts conscience, not reality. But the moment that figure shifted stance, his profile knotted her stomach into a fleet of scattered butterflies. She took a few steps forward to face startling attractive strong plains she hadn't seen for nearly two decades. A cleft chin, firm full mouth, noble nose, deep set eyes fringed with long sooty lashes and brows, and golden layered hair that framed it all. Now the only exception to her memories were fine lines etched into the corners of amber eyes. "Michael?" There wasn't the least bit of acknowledgment. Perhaps he was as lost in his own thoughts as she'd been? He looked so wrapped in weariness for him not to be. He walked around the fountain holding a long stem rose, his gaze lost to the water's reflection. "She's just like you Jen. A walking vision filled with attitude and guts. I was blown away when she found me." He was plumb blind if that's what he thought of Carrie. Their own sweet daughter was nothing like her. Her determination reflected his strength. Even after explaining the pitfalls she might come against to find her father, it all hadn't mattered. Carrie hadn't inherited that courage from her.

"They never told him mom. He tried to find you when he came back from School but - Oh you can both talk about that when you get here. I didn't tell him where you were because you said not to, but he wants to see you. Say you'll come - please?" Her daughters' words over the phone were so full of happiness. Without a second thought she packed a bag and drove through three states, every mile of the way wondering what to say to the man she never stopped loving. He released the rose along the waters' surface of the fountain and stared at it for a time before whispering, "I've made mistakes, I've lived with regrets, but I never stopped loving you." Her heart emotionally learched. "Oh Mike…" What can I say to heal the passing years? Hands braced along the edge of the fountain, as he leaned forward and glared up at the statue. "I want her back. I haven't gone through years of hope just to lose her again." Something was wrong. Why hadn't he heard her? Everything from his demeanor to his words signaled he was oblivious to her presence. Was she dreaming? Hallucinating? She searched her mind for a plausible explanation. A trace of memory formed. Heavy snow was hitting her windshield; she needed to pull over… Oh my God. "No…" it was another trick of her subconscience. She was here. "Michael, see me." Cars' headlight in her own lane came at her too fast. Her horn wasn't warning enough… She gazed up at outstretched marbled angels wings ready to take flight, posed arms that reached skyward and implored heavens help, then an angelic face that held a wealth of understanding. "Make him hear me!" The bridge was too narrow… her foot slammed the break. Another car's horn sounded before the whirling vertigo of her own vehicle felt the impact. The pain…the sound of sirens… voices surrounding brilliant white light… "Oh my sweet Jen, she needs you and he loves you so much. Your father and I will be here for you always. We want you to be sure." No, it couldn't be! Racing up to him in order to shake him out of his thoughts, she gasped with shock as he suddenly turned away from the fountain, came at her with unseeing eyes… He past through her. White-hot sensation cursed throughout her body, and for that brief moment she felt everything that was Michael Connor. His heart beat, his thoughts…He felt so alive. Quickly turning, she watched how he paused mid-step, his back ridged in stance. He'd felt it, she knew he had. "Please, Mike. Try. See me." His head tilted to one side lost to deep speculation. Moments latter he heaved a heavy sigh and started walking away. "No!" She whirled around to face the angel pleading for a miracle. "I love him, don't take this chance away please!" A shaft of sunlight filtered between marbled angel's wings, and following its course, there on the ground near the base of the fountain glinted part of a gold chain. She didn't question reason, just hastily unearthed the rest of the delicate chain she knew carried the small ruby teardrop encased around a gold heart. With him nearly at the paths beginning she impulsively gathered a clump of earth and on a whispered prayer, flung it in his direction. It hit his shoulder. He felt the impact. Starring at the clump, he slowly bent down to the ground seeing the chain she'd accidentally meshed with earth when she'd thrown it at him. "I love you Michael. Please, see me." Amber eyes sharply averted to her. A muscle twinged at his jaw, his mouth parted with the scant breath of her name as he got to his feet again. "Jenny?" Her eyes filled with overwhelming tears she smiled through. "So handsome, still want to get married?" Suddenly she was enveloped in his arms, his embrace crushing. The feel of him against her was a solid foundation she gloried in as his words rasped unfathomable emotion. "Don't wake me. Dear God don't wake me. I want this so much…" "I…Michael, I don't know what's going on. I was walking and then -- am I losing my mind or--?" His kiss was feverent, silencing, intoxicating. It rushed her with warmth, vibrance, and a life-force she didn't know she lacked till that very moment.

Pain rushed her body with the same velvet warm of that kiss, but she could bear it as long as he held her, as long as she had reason to believe in miracles. Faint voices around threaded through her conscience…Doctor, she's showing signs of waking… "Yes." Her eyes fluttered opened to a blur then focused on an amber set of eyes. She tried to smile through lingering trails of pain her body felt from her head right down to her toes. Concentrating on those handsome features etched with a wealth of relief, she asked, "How long has it been?" His answering smile wasn't enough to mask the stains of weary sleeplessness. She felt him squeeze her hand. "Twenty years, eleven months, three weeks, six days, and seven hours." "That long?" She laughed weakly; glad she could see worry lines on his face ease away. Feeling something pressed between their joined hands, her gaze fell on the heart charm that was the only part of her necklace dangling between them. Maybe he found it some time ago. "I had one heck of a dream…,"she started to say when the ruby teardrop winked at her causing her vision to look beyond to a large over coat haphazardly slung over his chair. Words faltered when the sight of dried dirt caught her gaze. He glanced over to where she'd been looking, then back at her with a wealth of tenderness, "Two hours ago. Heck of a way to propose to a fella, especially on Valentines Day." He only paused for a moment to brush a warm kiss against her hand, "And in case you didn't hear me the fist time, I said yes." The crash of the door hitting the jam caught their attention, and racing towards her hospital bed was a flying blur of long golden hair and falling styrofoam coffee cups that hit the floor. "Mom! Oh mom…" Their daughter's arms tangled gently around her, and that was all it took for tears of joy to spill from her own eyes. Wrapping an arm around her daughter, hugging her close, she gazed into his heart filled eyes of the man she loved as he squeezed her hand. His lips moved silently, I love you, Jen. With a silent prayer of thanks for hearts, angels, and miracles, she whispered back, I love you Michael.

My Best Friends Wedding
by Madison McFay
Copyright 1999/2001 Soft-spoken words swirled near her ear. "Six months, ten days, and eleven hours." "Doesn't sound long enough." Strong arms closed the distance between their bodies; the silent action an assured retaliation. "Excuse me for pining." Eight minutes, she thought, when its over I'll be the first maid-of-honor to murder the bride over the longest 'their song' in history. "You accused me of fooling around." "No, I pointed out Brian was a shark -- you didn't see it the same way." "And that's why we're at his wedding?" Forget the bride, I'll kill the best-man I'm dancing with first. Cristy craned her head back expecting to meet bitter resentment. Instead, dark sapphire revealed too many raw emotions her own heart mirrored. If only he'd given her the chance to explain before he left the party those months ago -- it was just a brief peck under the mistletoe for-peat's-sake -- a chaste one designed to make Patricia give Brian the time of day since their last tiff. Of course she voiced reservations about the deception, but Brian begged he needed to do something… "Fine. I should've clubbed you over the head and dragged you back to my cave." "For a kiss on the cheek?" "If you hadn't turned your head, no way would it have been."

Her shoe accidentally stepped on his with hurt emphasis. "And you wonder why it's been six months." He flinched, but didn't miss a step. "Ouch…if memory serves me right, phone calls and flowers didn't work." Oh she remembered. That next day the phone rang constantly, the florist visited her doorstep every hour, and three boxes of kleenex got littered all over her apartment because her boyfriend thought she was the ficklest woman on earth. "We both agreed on no involvement. You were the one moving to Canada, so it was just as well." "That was before I started having insane fantasies of waking up beside the woman I love for the rest of my life." "You … ?" She wasn't sure she wanted to murder the bride now, or give her the biggest hug in the world. Her shock must've shown because that next instant, handsome features lowered with all the forewarning of sweet coercion. "I'm gonna kiss you," he murmured, warm wisps of words caressing her lips as he finished, "then carry you off somewhere private to persuade an I do out of you." Coaxing tenderness mirrored the love she'd felt for so long, but hadn't realized was shared till now; and all too quickly passion engulfed all thought of time until a very loud throat cleared startling them both back to their senses. "That certainly looked like a yes." Cristy glanced at the wedded couple beside them. "I do," she corrected with a heart full of joy. Good to his word, she was lifted up into the arms of the man she loved as he added before carrying her off, "And I plan to make sure she definitely does."

The Bet
by Madison McFay
Copyright 1999/2001 "You bet. Sure thing. Yes." Not again. "What now?" "My answers to can I be your fantasy; would you like a love-slave; and, will you marry me? Look, Beefcake sighting at twelve o'clock." Gloria glanced at her girlfriend on the neighboring beach-towel. "Not interested." "Well he sure looks a lot more interesting then what you've got going there with…" her novel was snatched out of her hands and the back cover scanned. "Barnibus Alexander? Would that be Barney for short? Geesh, brings purple dinosaurs to mind." Flipping the book over, her friend lingered on the book-cover caption. "Hmmm, nice. But still, no comparison to Mr. Beefcake over there." "Spare me." Grabbing her book, Gloria flipped back to the page she'd been reading. "With a mouth like that who'd wanna be? Hey, you're not even looking!" "Anne…" Gloria sat up on her beach-towel and glared at her friend who pointedly stared back. She knew that look wasn't about to let her enjoy the solitude of her novel -- not with her friends mind preoccupied with thoughts of a summer fling -- so with a resigned chuckle, Gloria put her book down and gazed over to where her friends stare had been. "There, happy now?" Nothing but sand and serf. "No, you Party-pooper. You missed out on the next best thing to Adonis." To her bewilderment, her friend adjusted her sunglasses and laid back on her towel. Gloria shrugged, picked up her book again, and playfully threw back, "Maybe, but I bet he can't kiss like Barnibus." Finding the page where kisses were the least of what was going on, her sight was suddenly covered by a large pair of warm hands while a male velvet voice tripped near her ear. "You're on." "What the…? Anne!" The only response her friend gave was uproarious laughter.

Lifting a hand to the ones that blocked her vision, Gloria tried to tap down her embarrassment. "A…who ever you are, I was only kidding about -- " "Shhh...I'm reading," his amused whisper teased. "And my-my, if we're talking word for word here, these kisses aren't about to be mouth to mouth." Oh, for crying out loud! Her embarrassment doubled; the hot rush of her blush cursing from toes to nose. Dropping her book; hoping both hands could gain her sight back, she stammered, "Ok Anne, y-you got me good this time. Joke's over." The moment she could see again was when everything seemed to happen at once. In seconds she was hoisted into the mans arms to stare straight at the sexiest emerald eyes and the most persuasive mouth she'd never forget. "Let me know how it turns out, 'k ?" As her husband began carrying her off, Gloria threw over his shoulder, "No competition, whatsoever." http://members.aol.com/whisperslit/Page1.html

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