If Love Were By Design, page 11
Veronica captivated his attention again by putting a finger on his chin and gently turning his head. She leaned forward and kissed him. Her eyes were open long enough to see Aurora turn beet–red with anger. But her previous thoughts disappeared the moment her lips touched his. His lips were warm and soft. He drew her toward him. One hand wrapped around her waist and other cradled her neck. His mouth opened and their tongues easily found each other. Before she was aware of what she was doing she found her arms around him. He sucked on her lip, and she almost buckled from the feeling. It was like fireworks were exploding around her. She felt goose bumps rise on her skin. He stood, without breaking his kiss. He lured her closer until their bodies touched. He licked her tongue again. Then he kissed her gently several times before he let go of her. She swayed toward him when he let go. She opened her eyes when his hands cupped her face. He held her gaze, and then slowly started to smile.
Veronica looked to where Aurora was before they had kissed. She was gone. She looked back at William. “I . . .” She didn’t know what to say. She wished she had thought it through before she had kissed him. After taking a step away from him and uncomfortably straightening her clothes, she still wasn’t able to look him in the eye. The idea that he might not have even wanted her to do that didn’t even cross her mind until that moment. How could she have been so brash? She wondered if he kissed her like he did just to make her feel better about her impetuous behavior. Truthfully she gave him no choice. To make matters worse, Veronica was aware that a big part of her wanted him to kiss her again. Why did the kiss have to be amazing? “Sorry.” She touched her lips and hoped her emotions weren’t written all over her face. “I shouldn’t have done that!” She cringed at her own stupidity. “I don’t know what came over me.” She took another step backward, and looked to the bar knowing exactly what had possessed her to do that. “Vodka,” she murmured.
“I obviously didn’t mind.” He said with a smile.
“You don’t have to say that to make me feel better.” She replied.
“Don’t apologize. I get what you were doing.” He added, “And it worked. So, don’t say sorry. I’m not, and I’m certainly not about to ask for forgiveness.”
She finally looked at him. “Can we not talk about it ever again?” She asked.
“Okay.” He said with a nod. “If you’re not uncomfortable around me. I’m still expecting you at my place at six, promise?”
“No, I’ll be fine. I’ve embarrassed myself in front of you so many times I can’t even count, so add this to my tally.” She laughed feeling a bit anxious.
Veronica approached the front desk of William’s building, and asked for Tom. The moment she said, “Tom,” she saw his nametag. “Oh. I’m Veronica Mitchell. William Berks informed me he’d ask you to let me up to his apartment. Did he?” He immediately smiled and snatched his key to the elevator. Tom, an old, short man in a bellman’s jacket took her up to William’s apartment. The doors to the elevator opened on the top floor. Tom mentioned the door to his apartment was unlocked. She went inside, and thanked him before closing the door.
It was quiet, and William’s absence was unsettling. It was strange to be in his apartment without him. She put the two bags of groceries on the counter and then put everything into his fridge that needed to keep cold. She took out a bottle of water and became familiar with the kitchen before she pulled out a pot and pan. Immediately, she started to brown bacon, then she cut up celery and an onion, and tossed them in the pot with frozen corn. The bacon chowder started stewing in warm milk in no time. It was a half hour later that she heard the elevator ding outside William’s door. She turned down the chowder and quickly came out of the kitchen and went to open his door.
He opened the door before she had a chance to reach it. He stopped when he saw her. “Hi!” He smiled. “I take it you got in okay.”
“I did. Thank you.” She said.
“Good.” He put his keys in the black bowl, and started to empty his pockets. “I’m going to go change into something other than a suit.” He took off his jacket. “Did you want to watch a movie tonight?”
“I hadn’t thought about it.” She added, “But sure.” He looked different to her today. She had wondered all day if kissing him the night before had changed anything, and looking at him now she couldn’t help but suspect that maybe something did. At least in her there was a difference. She smiled as she tried to figure out what it was. He loosened his tie, but stopped when he noticed her watching him. He smiled. “Sorry.” She apologized for her infatuated gape and then left the hallway to go into the kitchen.
He went into his room, and came out five minutes later wearing shorts and a gray t–shirt. “It smells good.” He said. He leaned against the counter next to her and drank from her water bottle.
“It’s bacon chowder. My mom makes it. She got me addicted to it when I was a kid. I still love it.” She shrugged, “I hope you’re not lactose intolerant or anything. But you had cheese last night on the nachos, so I figured . . .” She blushed, and turned away to stir the chowder.
“I lived off chicken nuggets and canned green beans with ranch on them. But I can’t eat the stuff now.” He said. He turned toward her, taking a step closer. “Do you want wine?”
“No. I’m done drinking. I was sick almost all day today. I started feeling better around five.” She added, “I was so drunk last night. But I don’t need to tell you that.” Why did she keep bringing up the night before?
“You were sick like throwing up sick?” He asked, disregarding her comment.
“No, feeling sick but that is all.” She clarified.
He took a spoon and put it in the chowder, and then blew on it to cool it off. His eyebrows raised after he tasted it. “This is good, Veronica.”
“Thanks.” She said.
“What other domestic skills do you have?” He asked with a laugh. “Do you know how to do laundry?”
She laughed, “Of course I know how to do laundry. I’m not a simpleton.”
“Ouch!” He laughed, “I don’t know how. I mean I have a washer and dryer that came with the apartment, but I’ve never tried to figure it out.”
“Are you serious?” She laughed under her breath. “So, you dry clean your boxers?”
“No. I have a maid. She does my laundry that I don’t dry clean.” He admitted.
“Show me where you keep your dirty clothes.” Veronica quickly said.
He smiled. “You’re going to show me?” She nodded. “Alright, follow me.” He first took her back into his walk–in closet in his bedroom and gathered a small pile of clothes from inside a wicker basket, and then he took her to a room which had the washer and dryer. He stood next to it, and held his clothes as he queried, “Okay, so what do I do?”
“First you have to separate your light clothes from your dark. So here, you have a lot of blue, so let’s wash your dark.” She decided. She opened the lid and he tossed in several pairs of blue boxer briefs and socks. Everything else he put on top of his dryer. “So, now you figure out if it’s a small, medium or large load, and put in the correct amount of laundry soap. Typically, it’s best to put your soap and let it fill with water before you add the clothes, but I’m not patient enough.”
“Yeah, I’m not going to stand here and watch it fill up, either.” He agreed. She showed him how to turn on the washing machine and explained what temperature to wash colored clothes. He added the soap, and then looked inside. “That isn’t a big load, though. Even for small.” At his words he decided to take off his shirt and dropped it into the machine. “There.” He said satisfied, and the closed the lid. “Now what?”
Veronica didn’t answer him right away. She bit a smile and tore her eyes from his abs. The muscles low around his hips burned into her memory. She forced herself to lose her smile, which was difficult. “That’s it. It’s simple.” She cleared her throat after another quick glance at his pecs and arms. “In a half hour or so we’
“I’ll have no problem remembering it.” He laughed, “Kind of ridiculous I didn’t know that really.”
“You said it, not me.” She teased him.
“Alright, I walked into that.” He rolled his eyes.
They returned to the kitchen, and William asked if she wanted any help. “You can get us bowls and spoons.” She suggested. She turned off the stove, and removed the chowder. She watched him when he wasn’t looking at her. He got out the dishes she asked for, and put them on the counter.
“Do you want to watch a movie while we eat, or after?” He asked.
“No, let’s watch a movie now. It will be late if we start it after we eat, and I’m still not feeling that great. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’m tired, too. I want to go home early and sleep tomorrow. I have to make a decision about quitting, too. I’m nervous about it, but I’ve almost convinced myself. I still have my $50K bonus I haven’t cashed, but I could live off it. Although, I still feel guilty about cashing it considering I’m thinking about leaving, but I don’t have a choice. I’ll need it. So, unfortunately I’m not getting out of Queens like I hoped. I hate Queens.” She poured the chowder in the bowls and handed one to William. They took them to his coffee table, and sat on his couch.
“How long have you been sitting on this bonus?” He asked.
“Since Paris.” She said.
“I’m going back next month. You should go with me to the next fashion show. I could take you to a sushi bar.” He offered.
“I don’t know if I could get away.” She considered it for a moment.
“You could make time. There’s no such thing as being too busy.” He stated. “So come with me. I’ll book it, so we can take the same flights. And we’ll get rooms next to each other, too. It will be fun. We’ll spend two days in Paris and work the rest of the time. It will be great experience for you, my little protégé.”
She laughed. “When is it?”
“I think five weeks from now.” He guessed. “It’s something like that. I’ll give you the reservations when I have them, and then you can plan around it. If you quit I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for it.”
“Do you think I should do this? I mean, what if I completely fail? And it ends up being the worst decision I’ve ever made.” She said.
“Veronica, you’re going to be a success.” He assured her, and then added, “But if you get a year into your new store and you decide it’s not for you, or you wished you were back under Marcus’s wing, you can always come work for me. You’ll always have options with the talent you have. Don’t sell yourself short. You’ll be great. I think the only thing you should be worrying about right now, is what movie we’re going to watch.”
“I thought you didn’t want to give me a job anymore because you were passing me off on other people.” She said.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to pressure you into anything. And I’m being honest when I say you have options. But I will always want to work with you.” He said. “It makes business sense for me to hire you. But Andrea is great; she might be exactly what you need.”
“Well,” she smiled, “I feel a lot better about quitting knowing that.” She took a deep breath. There was nothing stopping her now. She did have options, and for once in her life she was going to do something on a whim. She smiled, and then thanked him. He told her she didn’t have to. “Can I ask you something? I mean,” she paused, “I’m not exactly sure why you’re doing all this. It’s really nice, and I get that you’re naturally this nice guy, but I’m not that talented. Not as talented as you say I am.”
“No, you are that talented,” he began.
“I’m not fishing for compliments,” Veronica quickly repudiated. “I just don’t know why you’re doing this.”
“You saw my closet, and I’m not sure you noticed, but I have purchased every shoe you have made in the men’s line of Yutan VM for the past year; I have nearly all of your collection. I actually have known of you for nine months now. You are talented. Trust me! If I can pick out your shoes, and then another pair, and then another before five shoes later I realize I have been purchasing shoes from the same maker—that is saying something. Once I realized I kept buying your shoes I started purposefully getting them.” He added, “If you weren’t every bit as good as I’m telling you, I wouldn’t be doing this. Because in the long run it wouldn’t work out, and I wouldn’t be doing you any favors. But you are talented, and you deserve a break. So don’t sell yourself short.”
“That’s nice of you to say.” She thanked him.
“No, not really.” He said.
“Can I say something else without sounding like a complete idiot?” She asked already laughing.
“Of course.” He implored her.
“I’m kind of glad I broke your nose.” She laughed.
He laughed. “I’m glad you broke my nose, too.”
“No you’re not!” She laughed and playfully rolled her eyes.
“Okay, your right. I’d rather have met you on the plane. But I get what you’re saying, and I’m glad I met you, too. I think you’re nice as well, which is why I have every intention of making you one of my best friends, and I don’t have a lot of those. I like hanging out with you. In fact, we should do something next weekend. What do you want to do?” He asked.
“I hear there’s a new dolphin exhibit at the aquarium, unless Brice already took you.” She said with a laugh. He smiled.
“That’s funny. Yeah, I’ll take you on Saturday. Do you want to do something Sunday?” He offered. “We could take my boat out again and go inner tubing.”
“Can Kimmy go?” She asked.
“Yeah. I’ll tell Travis to bring her, and it will be us four. But we’ll want to fish for a while, but you don’t have to. You can tan.” He said.
“Alright, it’s a plan.” She accepted.
“Do you go to fundraisers? I would recruit you as my best, best friend if you want to go to a black tie event on the following weekend. Do you have a dress you could wear?” He asked.
“I could find one.” She said.
“What size are you? I’ll get you something.” He said.
“I’m a six.” She said. “What kind of a fundraiser is it?”
“Political.” He said. “The worst kind.” He groaned. “And I’ll warn you, you probably won’t have any fun.”
“I take it you hate going to fundraisers.” She laughed.
“Yes, but it will be much better with my best, best friend there.” He said and laughed. She agreed to go. He put his bowl down and got up. “Okay, so what movie? We better start watching this before it gets late, or I’ll fall asleep.”
“A Comedy.” She recommended.
“Romantic Comedy?” He asked.
“No. I don’t want to torture you.” She said with a smile.
“No. I don’t like tearjerkers.” He declared. “I’ll watch a romantic comedy with you. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one.”
“Okay.” Veronica finished her soup as William told her movie choices and they picked one out. She asked William if he wanted more chowder as he put in the DVD, but he said he would get it. He took their bowls into the kitchen, and then he left for his room. A minute later he came back out carrying a blanket and pillows from off his bed.
“If you want we can lay this couch back. It’s an electric futon.” He pressed a button and it started to lean backwards.
“This is fine for now. But can I have a pillow?” She asked.
“Yeah.” He handed her one of the pillows, and then dropped the blanket next to her. He then got another bowl of chowder before he sat beside her. He ate as they watched the movie. After he was finished, he took the bowl into the kitchen and once again returned to the couch to relax. He got comfortable with his pillow behind his neck and covered up his legs and bare chest with the blanket. A few minutes later Veronica yawne
Veronica was half asleep and on the verge of waking when she felt the covers move. She felt an arm that was around her waist slide off of her, and her leg dropped when what she thought was a pillow pull away from her. Then a hand brushed her cheek, at least she thought perhaps it had happened, but she wasn’t sure if it was her dreaming. She dreamt she was with Kimmy in a new building . . . a shoe store, and Kimmy was begging to let her design clothes and join in partnership. Kimmy wanted Veronica to name her store China Hutch. Veronica smelled bacon in the air, and her store turned into a deli. The smell became so strong she woke up. She blinked her eyes open. It took her a moment to realize she wasn’t in her apartment, but William’s. She bolted upright, and gasped.
“Good morning!” William said exiting the kitchen with a fork in his hand. He changed into jeans and a white t–shirt. She jumped off the futon.
“What time is it?” She asked. She placed the other half of the blanket that was on the floor back onto the couch.
“It’s around eight. Did you sleep well?” He asked.
“How could you let me sleep here?” She quickly walked to the kitchen counter where her car keys and purse were. “I swear I’m never going to have a normal experience around you! This is so embarrassing!”
“I fell asleep.” He said. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going home.” She said. She hung her purse over her shoulder.
“Oh, no don’t. I’m making you breakfast. Aren’t you hungry?” He asked.
“No. I usually drink coffee in the morning, and eat lunch around eleven or eleven thirty.” She combed her hair with her hands. She then said, “I’m going to go, but thanks for the movie.”
“I wish you wouldn’t.” He said. “Slow down.”
“No, I have to go. This is the second time I’ve woken up . . .” She turned and walked to the door. “I’ll,” she spun around to say she would see him soon, but he had followed her to the door and was so close she jumped.