If love were by design, p.15

If Love Were By Design, page 15


If Love Were By Design

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  “Oh, you like it?” She grinned.

  “Obviously.” He dropped his nose to the top of her head and left it there.

  “It’s Amber Aromas by Frederick & Smith.” She informed him.

  “I won’t lie, it’s kind of intoxicating.” He admitted.

  “It must be the rocking of the boat that is making you tipsy.” She jested.

  “Okay, well it’s definitely making me hungry.” He replied, smiling.

  “I like your cologne. Who got it for you?” She asked.

  “A friend of mine who has excellent taste.” He said.

  “Is her name Veronica Mitchell, by chance?” She asked.

  “You know, it was a gift from the woman who broke my nose.” William said.

  “Well, it’s good to see you don’t hold a grudge.” Veronica said, smiling.

  “It’s just my nose. I didn’t need to smell anything anyway. Smelling is overrated.” He said.

  “So is seeing.” Veronica said facetiously.

  “But tasting is not! I’m hungry! I want vanilla yogurt and granola.” He decided.

  “I think I need coffee.” She acknowledged.

  “Okay, let’s get up. We can take the boat, and go out to eat if Travis and Kimmy are still not up.” He suggested.

  They carried their shoes and socks up to the cabin. Then they took turns showering in a washroom that previously acted as a food storage pantry before it was converted. It had a cement floor, so she had to wear flip–flops even in the shower.

  When she got back into the cabin Kimmy was cooking breakfast on the wood–burning stove and commenting about how hungry she was. Travis and William were playing King’s Corners at the table. “There you are.” Kimmy said to Veronica. “We were just talking about you. Travis and I are going shopping today. Did you forget anything that I need to go get you?”

  “I didn’t bring suntan lotion or a beach towel.” Veronica said.

  “I have that.” William said. “You two should come with us. Seriously! We can take the boat out, and grab a few things together. Besides, there are lots of little private islands that can be reached only by boats, and it’s fun to check them out. They’re always deserted.”

  “You two should go alone. You’ll have more fun that way.” Kimmy said.

  “Yeah, we won’t intrude.” Travis added.

  “Intrude on what?” William asked with a laugh. “We will have just as much fun with all of us together. Right, Veronica?”

  “Of course, you’re coming with us, Kim! I haven’t seen you in forever!” Veronica said. “We should all go.”

  “Put on your swimsuits and we’ll head out.” William said.

  “After breakfast, of course.” Kimmy corrected him.

  “Yeah, that’s what I meant. After we eat.” William said. “I’m hungry, too.”

  “Are you sure?” Travis asked.

  “Yeah. Besides, I’m sure Veronica doesn’t want to hang out with me all day in a bikini. She’s uncommonly shy.” William said. “And I want you to drive my boat so I can ski today.”

  “You’re right. She’ll get nervous. Okay, we’ll go.” Kimmy said.

  “I’m right here.” Veronica said with a laugh. Both William and Kimmy looked at her with guilty smiles and an expression that admitted they knew, but neither apologized.

  They had breakfast and an hour later they were navigating down the large lake. They weren’t far from the cabin when William suddenly slowed to a stopped. He announced that he had decided to ski. He got the skis out of the bench seat in the back, a vest and a bottle of suntan lotion.

  “Can you spray this on me?” He asked Veronica and handed it to her. He quickly took off his shirt. As she applied it to his tan, olive skin, she couldn’t help but notice his muscles stiffen with his movements. She couldn’t decide which part of him she liked most. It was difficult to choose, because everything was easy on the eyes. Especially once his skin was shining with oil. He smiled and continued to while saying, “Thanks.” He then paused before asking, “Do you want some?”

  “No.” She said quickly.

  He laughed under his breath, and then tossed the skis into the water. Stupidly, she continued to stare. It wasn’t until he put on his vest that she realized what she was doing. She turned her back to him and grinned. She was in so much trouble! He was too good looking to give her a chance to resist him.

  There was a splash as William jumped in. He put on the skis while floating effortlessly. Travis attached the line, and threw the handle into the water next to him. As they waited Kimmy and Travis took turns putting on suntan lotion.

  “Don’t be so modest, Veronica. Travis won’t look anyway, because he only has eyes for me.” Kimmy said when Veronica ignored the fact that she still had on shorts and a t–shirt. Veronica snapped that she wasn’t modest, and then proved it by stripping down to her bikini. Kimmy took her clothes from her, as William asked Veronica to hold the orange flag. She was to hold it up any time he was in the water.

  Travis started to slowly pull William until the rope was tight. “Hit it!” William called out. It was only a few seconds before he was up. He skied for fifteen minutes as Travis took them further down the lake. William was flawless as he zoomed from side–to–side. As with everything he did, he made it look easy. Veronica was beginning to think there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, and she found him simply irresistible. She was mesmerized as she watched him. William simply let go of the handle and sank into the water when finished. When they circled back to get him, he said as he pointed, “I was thinking we should go to that island.” He added, “Unless anyone else wants to ski.”

  “I will, but later.” Travis said.

  “I’ll try later, too.” Kimmy said.

  “I should get an inner tube.” William proposed when he got into the boat. He was dripping wet, and had goose bumps from the cold water. He peeled off his life vest. “Cause you want to inner tube, right, Veronica?”

  “Yeah, that would be fun.” She said without looking at him.

  They took the boat to the small island and drove it up onto shore enough to anchor it. They all got out by jumping off the back. “I’m going to lie in the sun and warm up.” William said as they waded in the water. “Come with me?” He asked and took Veronica’s hand. He lay down and watched her lay next to him.

  Kimmy and Travis followed suit. “This is such a good idea.” Kimmy sighed and relaxed. “I have finals coming up, and I’ve been so stressed lately. I needed this! We should do things like this more often. You know, vacation together.”

  “Veronica and I are going to Paris in two weeks.” William said. “We should all go.”

  “When are you going, because I have a three–day conference in Texas?” Travis asked.

  “What exactly do you do?” Veronica asked him.

  “I’m a doctor.” Travis said.

  “I didn’t know that.” Veronica said.

  “He’s a pediatrician.” Kimmy exclaimed proudly.

  “Oh.” Veronica said. Kimmy was beaming and not masking her love for him.

  “So, what days are you going to Paris?” Travis asked.

  “In two weeks, Monday through Saturday. We are leaving the 12th.” William said.

  “Oh, that’s perfect.” Travis said. He then turned to Kimmy, “Want to go?”

  “Of course, I do!” Kimmy rolled toward Travis and kissed him. “Come on. I want to ‘swim’ with you.” She hinted and they got up.

  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kimmy happier.” Veronica said to William when they were alone.

  “I would say the same for Travis, too. I bet they’re married within a year.” William predicted.

  “A year? They met not too long ago! I know Kimmy is more outgoing and bolder than I could ever be, but even she wouldn’t think so foolish.” Veronica said.

  “What’s foolish about marrying someone you’re crazy about?” William asked. “A year is plenty of time to know you’re ready. I’m betting she was
tes no time marrying him once he asks her. I’ll bet they’ll elope in Vegas because they won’t want to wait.”

  “All right, I’ll take that bet.” Veronica said. He looked at her and laughed. He hadn’t meant it as an actual bet, but he didn’t back down. He quickly asked her when she thought they would marry. “They will get married in New York two and a half years.”

  “Two and a half years? That is forever! Now that is foolish. No man that in love would wait that long.” William stressed. “Maybe if you said a year and a half I might be nervous, but two and a half. No way!”

  “Two and a half years isn’t ‘forever’. You hardly know a person after two years. If they were sensible they would wait at least four years or even five before they got married.” Veronica said.

  “Five years?” He looked at her. He rolled toward her and asked, “So you’re saying you wouldn’t get married in less than two years even if you were madly in love? I don’t think I can believe that about you.”

  “Me? Of course, I wouldn’t get married in less than two years! I would have to live with him and see if we were compatible, and sleep with him long enough to see if years down the road he was still attracted to me enough to always want me. I don’t want to be boring to my husband. And I certainly don’t want to wake up one morning to find out that he decided he doesn’t love me anymore. All those things take time.” Veronica asserted.

  “You’re intriguing. No man is going to fall out of love with you once he’s lucky enough to marry you, Veronica.” He confessed, as he rolled onto his back. “But I will say there is no way I would ever go longer than a year before proposing. I learned a long time ago women get impatient, and if she weren’t, I sure would be. The next woman I date I plan to marry. Period.” He laughed under his breath, “And I’m sure Travis is as ready as I am. So, I’ll take your bet. And this is the wager; if they elope to Vegas in less than a year, then you have to do something with me every Friday and Saturday night for six months.”

  “I practically do that, anyway.” She pointed out.

  “Alright, Friday, Saturday, and you have to let me crash on your couch every Wednesday night. You’re place is closer to my work.”

  “Wow! One night of you sleeping on my couch—I’ll get out of that so easily. But if you’re wrong and they don’t elope by this time next year, you have to take me on a vacation to someplace like Cancun. Time for time!” She said.

  “Deal.” He said. “I’ll take you to Cancun for two weeks, just us. But I would do that without a bet. I kind of hope I lose, actually. That’s a good idea. We should go.”

  “Oh, trust me, you’ll lose!” She said. “Vegas in a year? Only crazy people do that!” She laughed.

  “Do you want to know what I think?” He asked.

  “Of course.” She said.

  “I think once you’re in a serious relationship that is proven healthy you’ll throw all your previous assumptions about a five–year engagement out the window.” He said.

  “Why do you say that?” She asked.

  “Because you feel everything strongly.” He added, “I like that about you.”


  Veronica wore a red dress that was form fitted, backless, with a three–inch short train. She felt William’s hand on her bare skin of her shoulder blades. Andrea was on Veronica’s other side with her husband next to her. They smiled at a wall of cameras as they stood in front of a large poster that had N. Y. Soles in gold print. It was the store’s opening night, and Andrea had arranged a large party and invited the press. She was in a great mood because William had decided to come with Veronica after all, saying it was great PR. William was worried Veronica would find herself in another front–page article. Veronica said if he didn’t come she would be going alone. Kimmy wouldn’t be coming to the party. She went with Travis to California because his grandfather, who was more like a father to him, was gravely ill. So, William agreed to come on one condition: that he designs the dress she wore. It was beautiful, fit like a glove, and left nothing to the imagination. However, she felt glamorous and confident in it. William kept telling her she looked gorgeous, which only made her feel more secure and in no doubt that opening night belonged to her.

  The four of them spent nearly an hour talking with the press, and then went into a large ballroom with tables, dance floor, and an open bar. There were many tables set up, a dance floor, and a free bar. Andrea and her husband, a tall, thin, balding man named RJ, sat next to them. Within fifteen minutes of talking with him she learned he was a genuinely nice guy and he was completely devoted to Andrea. He was also rich enough he could purchase a small island.

  “Here’s to N. Y. Soles, opening in two days!” Andrea said. The four of them raised their glasses, “And to getting the store up and running in three months.” They drank to her words.

  “And here is to another successful store, Andrea. I’m so proud of you, Honey.” RJ said. He kissed her and then they drank.

  “Also, to William Berks who introduced us.” Andrea said with a smile to William. “I’m glad you did.”

  “You’ll soon have the reputation of the best shoe designer in New York, Veronica.” William said as he smiled at her warmly.

  “I agree with that!” Andrea concurred. “Well said.”

  “Thank you.” Veronica said, grinning while blushing.

  William glanced across the room. He had to do a double take before he waved. “If you’ll excuse me,” William announced to the table, “I see someone I know. I’ll be right back.”

  “Do you want me to go with you?” Veronica asked.

  “Yeah, go. We’ll be here.” Andrea said.

  She stood, took his hand, and then followed him. He walked her across the room, and met up with a blond man that looked a few years older than William. “Larkin, hi!” They shook hands. “I thought you were your brother there for a second. How are you?”

  “I’m good. It’s been a while. I think the last time I saw you was at your birthday party.” He said.

  “Brandon, this is Veronica Mitchell, the woman opening N. Y. Soles with Andrea. Veronica this is Brandon Larkin, Brice’s brother.” William said. “He’s also one of the editors for the magazine, The City Sun.” Veronica smiled to greet him.

  “Brice is here, too. I told him I was coming and he asked to tag along. He should be around here somewhere.” Brandon said. He looked around the room, but when he didn’t see him right away he quit searching.

  “I’ll keep my eye out for him.” William said. “So, how is the editing world? They are keeping you busy. I didn’t see you at my barbecue a month ago.”

  “Yeah, it was the one night I couldn’t do it.” Brandon said. “But I sent you an invitation to my sister–in–law’s wedding.”

  “I got that last week. I’ll go for sure and bring a guest.” William said gesturing to Veronica. “I had my assistant formally respond to her so I guess you wouldn’t have known that.”

  “William! Veronica! Hi!” Brice said walking up to them. “I was at the bar and about to get a drink, but then I saw you.” Brice smiled at Veronica. “I haven’t seen you in what, four months? Congratulations on your store! I’m very happy for you!”

  “Thank you.” Veronica smiled.

  “Wow! You look amazing!” Brice complimented her, “Red looks really good on you.”

  “Thank you, William made it.” Veronica said. She beamed at him, but he hadn’t noticed. He was watching Brice as he once again lavished Veronica with another flattering remark.

  “Well, he knows what he’s doing! But William, you make women’s clothes? Isn’t that completely against everything you believe in?” Brice asked and laughed. William smiled but he didn’t respond. “Well, you look amazing, Veronica.” He paused and turned to his bother. “Brandon, you remember me telling you about William’s stowaway, right? She also broke his nose, so you know she’s got spunk.” Veronica turned pink. Brandon tried not to notice. Brice quickly asked, “Do you feel like dancing?” St
umped, Veronica looked at William. She was hoping he would say something to Brice, but he didn’t. Instead he continued to look at Brice. “It’s your party. You are planning on dancing, right?”

  “I am.” Veronica reluctantly admitted.

  “Good. We should dance.” Brice said and held out his hand. She looked at William one last time and then Brandon. She smiled at Brice, not wanting to be rude. Veronica apprehensively took his hand. He took her out to the dance floor. “I didn’t know you and William were still friends. At least he hasn’t mentioned you. But he’s friends with everyone so I shouldn’t be surprised to see him here.”

  “Yeah, I sensed that, too. That he’s friends with everyone, I mean.” Veronica smiled. She looked back to Brandon and William. They were watching them as they talked. She smiled at William. She couldn’t help it. He looked extremely handsome in a tux. His hair was perfectly slicked back. He had never been more attractive. She loved him in suits, but him in a tux was downright seductive. She would do anything to be dancing with him instead of Brice.

  “I’m glad you agreed to dance. I was hoping if I came tonight I would be able to see you. I never got that answer, by the way, if you wanted to go to the aquarium with me.” Brice said. “But I admit I’d much rather take you out to dinner.”

  “Oh.” Veronica let go of him, and stopped dancing. She tried to smile but instead stared at the floor and tried to think of a polite way to say no. After all, it was William’s friend. “I don’t . . . usually date people I don’t know.”

  “What do you mean? Of course, you know me. We spent an entire day on a boat together.” Brice said. He laughed tensely, realizing he shouldn’t have come on so strong. It wouldn’t have surprised Veronica if he was used to women saying yes to him. She was guarded, but even if she wasn’t, she cared for someone else.

  “I know. And . . . it was fun . . . .” She felt a hand on her back and she turned to see William. She relaxed at the sight of him, and fought an urge to thank him for saving her. Instead she grinned at him.

  “Hi.” He said, smiled, and then tucked her hair behind her ear. He slid his hand behind her neck and leaned toward her. He kissed her lightly on the lips. A burst of fervor filled her that she couldn’t contain. She leaned into him ready to open her mouth, but at that exact moment he broke the kiss. He smiled at her. She blinked. It was a disappointment he stopped so quickly.

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