If Love Were By Design, page 16
“You two are dating?” Brice asked.
William shrugged. “I did see her first.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? I was way out of line asking her to dance, and . . . you should have said.” Brice complained.
“No harm done, it was only dancing.” William said and smiled. “We’re going to eat. Do you want to join us?”
“I would, but . . . I asked her out!” Brice cringed.
“Yeah, I noticed that.” William said.
“You should have told me! I feel like a pompous ass!” Brice said.
“No, don’t. That’s the last thing I want you to think.” William added with a shrug, “You didn’t know.”
“No, I didn’t!” Brice added, “And we will have dinner, but I should stay with Brandon tonight.” He smiled, and feeling awkward avoided Veronica’s eye. “I’ll call you next week.”
“I didn’t think it called for an elaborate kiss. He’s still my friend, after all. But now we’re even.” William said when they were alone again. He grinned.
“I could have told him no.” She said, but she was grateful she didn’t have to.
“And I could have told Aurora off too, but where is the fun in that. I like your way better.” He continued to smile. She laughed. “You’re not blushing. So, does that mean I didn’t embarrass you?”
“No, I’m not embarrassed. I think I’ve become desensitized after being humiliated in front of you repeatedly. Apparently, you’ve broken my shell.” What she didn’t say was her desire to be kissed again was strong enough to push aside any other feelings. However he didn’t kiss her again, he merely said it was about time. He laughed, and then took her back to the table with Andrea and RJ, and the four of them had dinner. They danced until eleven, stayed one more hour, and then he took her home.
Her new place was still strange to come home to. She wasn’t used to it, because she had been in her Queens’s apartment for years. It was twice as big, and the soft blue walls always felt so welcoming, but nevertheless, it didn’t feel like her home yet; it was too lavish and rich. She had hoped that Kimmy would move in with her, but she decided to live with Travis, instead. So, her second bedroom was filled with work materials and a desk with her laptop.
William came in and closed the door. “It’s pretty late.” Veronica said.
She was about to ask him if he wanted to sleep on her couch, but he said, “It is, you’re right.” He looked at his watch. “I’ll go home.”
“I was going to say you shouldn’t go home.” Veronica clarified. She wanted to say, “And we should try that kiss again,” but she couldn’t bring herself to speak the words.
“Your couch is extremely uncomfortable!” He laughed. “I think you need a new one, Veronica.”
“You don’t have to sleep on the couch.” She said.
He looked at her. She could see him considering her invitation, but she didn’t know what he was thinking. “Okay,” he said slowly. “I’ll change in the bathroom.”
She lingered in the hallway after he left. She waited until William was in the bathroom when she frantically called Kimmy. “Kimmy!” Veronica whispered in excitement and relief when she answered the phone.
“Hi!” Kimmy said. “How was your opening party?”
“Never mind that! Brice was there and William kissed me. Kind of like I did with him in front of Aurora, but it was so quick. I’m not sure it meant anything. But I really care about him! I have no idea what to do! He was going to leave but I told him to stay over. Then he said he didn’t want to sleep on the couch. So, I told him he didn’t have to. I don’t think he got my hint because he’s changing in the bathroom. I’m clueless. Clueless! What do I do?” She whispered as quietly as she could and spoke so quickly that she hoped Kimmy didn’t need her to repeat it.
“Wear a bra and panties, and that’s it. Then cuddle him and see if he makes a move.” Kimmy said.
“What if he doesn’t? What if you were wrong and he is friendly? Nothing more!” Veronica acknowledged in a panic. “It wouldn’t be the first time I was dead wrong . . . .”
“You’re wasting time! Go in your room and change while you still can!” Kimmy implored her and then hung up before Veronica had a chance to breathe another word of protest.
Veronica dropped her phone in her purse. She kicked off her shoes as she ran to her room. The moment she was there she took off her dress and hung it, and then dug through her dresser for the black bra she knew he liked. She found the panties that went with it, and changed. She panicked. Kimmy hadn’t told her what else to do after she changed. Was she supposed to wait outside the bed, or under the covers?
She heard the guest bathroom door open. Veronica hurried to the side of bed, and got in. She pulled the comforter up over her, and thought, “What am I doing? I’m crazy!” It was too late to turn back now. She was going to be forward—too forward, whether she was ready or not.
William knocked on the door. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah.” She said. She smiled at him then cleared her throat nervously.
He came in wearing his pajama pants and no shirt. He looked at her. “Why are you nervous? I don’t have to come in here—I don’t want you uncomfortable. I can even go home if you want.”
“I’m fine.” She replied.
“You saying, ‘I’m fine’ isn’t usually a promising statement.” He pointed out. She assured him she wasn’t anxious. It was a lie, but nevertheless, he turned off the lights, and walked across the room. She heard him walk around the bed, and felt him get in.
She reached for his side, and when he felt her touch he rolled toward her, and put his arm around her side, and held her close. She could feel his warm skin against her body. He put his leg between hers, and she wrapped her leg around him. He smelled like the cologne she loved, she took a deep breath, and he squeezed her when she embraced him. His hand rubbed her bare back, and Veronica anticipated the pleasure of his kiss. She even lifted her head to look at him. However, his eyes were closed. A minute passed, and then two. Ten minutes passed, and slowly she began to feel incredibly stupid. When he fell asleep an hour later, she could hear his heavy breathing telling her he was in a deep sleep. Veronica slipped out of the bed and went down the hallway and called Kimmy again.
“He fell asleep! I told you he doesn’t love me! I was an idiot!” Veronica whispered harshly. “That was the worst idea you have ever had in your life!”
“What do you mean he fell asleep?” Kimmy asked. “Travis he fell asleep!”
“Don’t tell him! What kind of a friend, are you? You’re making it worse! Don’t you dare let him tell William I called you about this or I swear I will never speak to you again.” Veronica snapped. “Tell him not to right now!”
“You’re not allowed to breathe a word of this, Travis. Or I swear I’ll break up with you!” Kimmy posed as an empty threat. “It’s that serious. She’s totally freaking out.”
“Don’t say that either! Stop talking to him! What am I supposed to do now? He put me in the friend zone! Do I get dressed and pretend it never happened?” Veronica asked.
“Kiss him!” Kimmy commanded.
Veronica got back into bed, and pulled the covers over her. However, she didn’t move to the middle of the bed, nor did she try to kiss him. She went to sleep after wrestling with her thoughts for two hours; the only thing she decided was she should never have got into the bed without more clothes on.
Veronica woke up alone. “William?” She sat up, and looked around the room. “William?” She felt panic stricken. Why did she have to listen to Kimmy last night and go to bed in nothing but a bra and panties? It had scared him right out of her bed, because he was being friendly, and nothing more. She jumped up and frantically threw on a long pajama shirt. Then she ran out of her room, and down the hallway. “William?” She asked. He wasn’t in the living room, either. With each step she felt an even greater sense of loss. For the first time she was frightened that she ha
She heard a clinking dish from in the kitchen. Her sense of relief was so great she felt like crying. Instead she flashed a pained smile as her lip quivered. After that, she shoved all her emotions down with a deep breath. She swore to herself she would never go to bed with him in only a bra and panties. “William?” She called his name again as she rounded the corner of her kitchen.
“Oh, morning.” William smiled. He lifted a frying pan of eggs and asked, “Hungry?”
“No, but I’d love some coffee.” She said.
“I made a pot.” He said and pointed to it with the spatula. “I had the worst dream last night, and woke up around five. After that I couldn’t go back to sleep because you were cuddly and . . . anyway I tried for an hour, but then I got up. I would have gone to the store because you’re out of milk, but I didn’t want to keep your door unlocked while you were sleeping.” He put the eggs on a plate and ate them as he watched her pour herself a cup of coffee. “Maybe we should exchange keys. You know, in case something happens, or if you go out of town, or I want to go to the store for milk and not leave your door unlocked.”
“Yeah, I’ll make you one.” Veronica promised. She stared at him feeling the lingering fear that she pushed him to discomfort enough he left her room, and overwhelming relief that he was still in her condo.
“Good. I’ll make you one, too.” He smiled.
“So what was your dream about?” Veronica asked.
“It was terrible. You were dating Brice and he kept cheating on you and I was so pissed. We ended up fighting.” He laughed, “I’m still mad at him.”
Veronica laughed. “Well, that will never happen, so don’t worry.”
“I know! He’ll never touch you now that he thinks we’re dating.” He smiled. He put his plate in the sink. “I was thinking. Do you want to go get a new couch today? I don’t want to assume I’ll be sleeping in your bed every time I come over, but I really do hate that couch.”
“I tried to warn you. I get your point, though, and I’ll get a new one.” She drank her coffee.
“I’m going to hop in the shower. Are my spare clothes in your closet?” He asked and then added, “Or in the dryer?”
“Closet.” She said.
“Okay.” He said. He was halfway out of the kitchen when he turned around and said, “Oh, by the way—nice kitty pajamas, Veronica.” He winked at her and then left.
She smiled, but it quickly faded. It still scared her that he wasn’t next to her when she woke up. She didn’t want to know what it felt like if he was gone for good. She felt lucky she hadn’t scared him as much as he had scared her. It was hard not to wonder if he purposefully asked her to get a new couch so he never had to sleep in her bed again. If it was a hint she got it. Before the day was over she would have a new couch!
Veronica drank her coffee, showered, and then dressed in gray slacks, a pink ruffled shirt, and a small gray vest. She wore a pair of her gray shoes she had designed at Saxton Hip, and went into the bathroom and put on makeup. It was while she was putting on makeup that William came into her bathroom. He said he was ready to go when she was. Then he told her she looked nice and he watched her apply pink lip–gloss that matched her shirt. She smiled at him though the mirror. He smiled back.
“You’re hair is getting long. I love it.” He said.
“Thanks.” She said. “I’m ready to go.” She put down her lip–gloss on the counter. It was littered with all the rest of the makeup. She wouldn’t have noticed, but William smiled at her pile of cosmetics. “What?”
“I think you need a maid, Veronica.” He laughed under his breath.
“Why do I need a maid?” She asked.
He raised an eyebrow and grinned. “I don’t know. Maybe because you have three bras hanging up, a pile of clothes behind the door, and makeup all over the counter.” He laughed. “I should have Norma come over and start cleaning your house.”
“I don’t want you to do that!” She asserted. “Besides, the rest of my house is practically spotless.”
“But you’re going to be running your own store now. I’d rather hire a maid and spend that time with you than not because you’re housecleaning. It’s such a waste of time. You’re only going to get busier.”
“Well, I obviously don’t spend that much time doing it.” She said and smiled.
“So let me send her over here.” He said.
“I’m messy, and it bothers you. Is that what you’re saying?” She asked. She pushed him playfully in the chest.
“No, I didn’t say you’re messy. And it’s only your bedroom and here.” He said and shook his head. “Your house is lived in. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Lived in?” She looked at him skeptically.
“I’m being honest. You’re not messy, or I’d be picking up your house because I’m obsessive compulsive that way.” He laughed, but quickly stopped when she stared at him. She blinked, trying to decide if she was upset or not. “Okay, I won’t say another word about it. But I’m sure she can always use the extra cash.” She was going to argue, but decided it wasn’t worth it.
“Alright, I’ll hire her as a maid and I’ll pay her. Let her know she can start coming over next week.”
“Okay.” He smiled. “Are you mad at me for saying all that?”
“Only a little and I’ll get over it.” She said, and waved a dismissive hand ending the conversation. “Let’s go.”
“No, come here!” He pulled her arm. When she didn’t move toward him he tugged it harder, and she fell against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her. “Hug me!” She put her arms around him. “Don’t be mad at me. You’re not allowed.”
“I’m not mad. You’re right. I’m definitely ‘living’ in this condo.” She added, “But you don’t have to say it! And you aren’t paying for it.”
“Why don’t you want me to pay for it? Does it bother you if I spend money on you?” He asked.
“Not if we’re going out and doing stuff. Everything else no.” She said.
“Okay, so I pay for the dates we go on, but nothing else. Got it.” He repeated. A moment later he scrunched his nose confused. “But what about gifts, can I get you gifts?”
“Yeah, my birthday is coming up. Then there is Christmas, and I’d be hurt if you didn’t get me anything.” She laughed but she was being honest. “I’m planning on getting you something for Christmas. Despite the fact that you have everything you want.”
“When is your birthday?” He asked.
“November eleventh.” She said. “I’ll be twenty–four!”
“Wow, you’re getting old!” He smiled. She pushed him playfully and rolled her eyes. “What do you want to do for your birthday?”
“I have no idea!” She said. “I’ll have to think about it. If it was warm I’d say a party on your boat, but it will be cold by then.”
“Well don’t think about it too long. It’s coming up. I had no idea your birthday was so soon. That’s less than a month away.” He pointed out, and then added, “So, let’s go get this couch.”
They went downtown to a furniture store where William had bought a desk for his office. They went inside and started to look around. They sat in countless couches before narrowing it down to a loveseat that reclined, and an L–shaped white couch that had two ottomans. “This one goes better in my condo, but it’s big.” Veronica said. “I think the recliner is more suitable for my place.
“Yeah, but I can’t exactly watch television with you in the recliner.” William protested. “That recliner is too small, and I won’t be able to sleep in a recliner. I don’t want it.”
“But it would fit in my condo better. Plus it’s gray and would go with my blue walls.” Veronica said.
“I’m not staying over and sleeping in a recliner.” He said again.
“I already told you that you don’t have to.” She said.
“I still like this one better.” He sai
“I’m not saying we couldn’t watch television in it. I’m saying it’s too big for my place. My condo is much smaller than yours.” She paused, “We should look somewhere else. Where did you get your futon?”
“It came with my place, remember?” He stood, and then helped her out of the couch. “But you can have my futon if you want it and I’ll get this couch for me.” It took Veronica thirty minutes to decide it was a good idea. He bought it, and they left the store.
William and Veronica decided to go on a walk and they ended up wandering the streets. An hour later he said he was hungry. “Want a hotdog?” He asked her when they were about to pass the stand.
“Sure.” She said. He took out a twenty–dollar bill from his pocket and bought two. They ate them by the stand and used the napkins liberally. William was halfway finished eating when he lowered it, and stared across the sidewalk. He inhaled, tossed his hotdog and then looked mournfully at Veronica. “What?” She asked him.
“I’m so sorry, Babe.” He apologized and took a few steps away to the other stand across the sidewalk.
She gasped when she saw it. Once again she was gracing the cover of New York City Slander. The photo was taken opening night for N. Y. Soles. They were both on the dance floor kissing with Brice’s face in the back ground. She picked up one of the newspapers, and read the title, “Lip Locked Lovers at the Premiere of N. Y. Soles.”
“I’m so sorry, Babe! I’m so sorry! I wasn’t even thinking that we were in a room full of reporters. I’m such an idiot.” He said. He thought about hugging her but when he reached out about to touch her, he quickly pulled his hands back, and cursed. “I can’t even hug you out here! I hate this! Please don’t be upset.”