Forbidden Ch. 02byDawnJ©
Dr. Benjamin Mandeville sat with his bare feet on the coverlet, staring blankly at the television screen. His hands were shaking slightly, and his dark blue eyes were glittering. He tried to take a drink of the water in the glass at his elbow, but his hand trembled too much for him to do so without spilling it. He inhaled deeply through his nose, letting the air out through his mouth, and finally he was calm enough to drink the whole glass of water and pour himself another. It had been three years since he had felt this way about a woman. Jackie had been his whole life, and he had lost himself in her. When she died he thought his world would implode. If it hadn't been for their children, he would have lost his mind, he was sure of it.
Now, here he was, forty-eight years old, feeling like a callow schoolboy again. He couldn't keep his mind off Bronwyn Kerr, and at lunch today, he couldn't keep his hands off her, either. She was beautiful, and she didn't even know it. And although she was married, God help him, he didn't care. He wanted her so badly, he thought he'd go crazy. She hadn't noticed him when she'd checked in yesterday after lunch. He'd been coming in from a game of tennis, and she was reaching for her suitcase, after thanking the receptionist in a lilting voice with the trace of a foreign accent. She bent over to retrieve the handle so she could pull the suitcase along, and the jeans she wore pulled taut over her rounded rear end. Ben felt desire shoot through him like a bolt of lightning, and he knew he would have to get to know her better. He followed her into the elevator, but she remained oblivious to him.
Her hair was long, thick, and streaked with gray, but her youthful face made it hard to tell her age. She was a big woman, voluptuous, with long legs and round arms. He had read her name on her suitcase, and was delighted to find that she was on the same floor as he was. Now all he had to do was find a natural way to meet her, so he could ask her out. When he had seen her in the gym earlier today, it was the answer to his prayer. He knew she had run away from him in the gym, that she didn't have an appointment, but he also knew where she was staying.
Ben had never been shy, and it was not a problem for him to go to her room and invite her out. And all through their time in the bar, and again at lunch, he had had to restrain himself from doing more than touch her hands, when she let him, and her face. Kissing her was out of the question, but that was all he had wanted to do. When she had all but admitted that the attraction was mutual, with that business about him being competition for her husband, he'd been hard pressed not to let out a war whoop, grab her arm, and claim his prize.
Now he had a date with her later, his first date in five years, and he couldn't stop the tremors of anticipation that shook him. Bronwyn was deliciously plump, and she had the most expressive chocolate brown eyes he'd ever wanted to drown himself in, set in an oval face, with groin-hardening lips that seemed always on the verge of a smile, even when she was afraid or angry. Her skin was a rich milk-in-coffee color, warm and smooth. She was also a straight arrow. She cared deeply about her marriage vows, he could tell that, and she was strong enough to keep them, even when she herself also felt the tug of this attraction that he felt between them.
Ben didn't want to sleep with her. Not yet, anyway. He knew she wasn't ready for that, that it wasn't an option open to either of them, and he had meant what he'd said about sex without friendship. But he yearned to have a taste of her full, ripe lips, and to feel her arms around him, holding him, caressing him. He changed the channel on the television when he saw what was on -- a couple in bed together, making love. He heard their impassioned moans and whispers, and his heart slammed up against his chest. I'll probably never know what it is to make love with Bronwyn, he thought.
He picked up the phone and called the front desk.
"Where can I order some flowers?" he asked.
He took down the number and made the call. A dozen yellow roses, for friendship. How he wanted to send her red roses, but he couldn't! He told them where to deliver them and lay back on the bed, thinking about the way she colored up when she let herself feel the tug of their mutual attraction, and how that made his desire for her whip through him like stormy winds. He didn't know when he fell asleep, but it was dark in the room when he woke up. He sat up in a panic and looked at his watch, then breathed a sigh of relief. Seven-thirty. He had time for a quick shower and shave.
At eight o'clock, he was standing outside her door, his chocolate brown slacks hugging his hips and flowing smoothly down his long, muscled legs, the buttery yellow of his shirt gleaming in the light from the hallway. He had the matching jacket slung over his shoulder. When Bronwyn opened the door, his heart lurched violently. She was wearing a simple pale yellow silk dress, form fitting, cowl-necked, three-quarter sleeves, buttons down the back, and she looked stunning. She wore simple gold knobs in her ears, and her rings flashed on her hands. In her black high-heeled slingbacks, she was still three or four inches shorter than he was.
"Hi," he breathed, and put out his arm. "You must be psychic," he continued, indicating their matching colors. "You look wonderful!"
Bronwyn took his arm, smiling, and he closed her door behind them. He could feel her tremble slightly, and he knew she was trying to calm her wildly beating heart as he was doing. He took steadying breaths, and waited until he could speak without huskiness.
"I'm taking you to a little French restaurant I used to take my wife to," he told her, and heard her faint gasp with a small smile. She was so innocent, he knew he would have to protect her, not only from himself, but from herself as well. Although he had his car, he didn't want to drive. He wanted to be with her without having to concentrate on anything else. So once outside, he hired a waiting cab and sat with her in the back. He did not touch her, though he was aching to put his arms around her and kiss those sexy peach-colored lips until she begged for mercy.
The scenes rolled past outside, but he missed them all. He had eyes only for her, and he wanted her to know it. He could smell the scent of her perfume, some heady concoction with jasmine in it. He heard her sigh and looked into her face. She was looking at him with an emotion she was trying to conceal lurking in her eyes, and he felt his groin tighten. This was going to be harder then he had thought, when he had promised not to do anything she didn't want him to do. He smiled, and saw her eyes widen.
The cab stopped, and he got out and helped her out. After paying the driver, he led her down a few steps into a small intimate space. There were a few patrons already there, and Ben led her to the counter where he asked for a table for two. They were led upstairs, and taken out on to the balcony above the street, to a cozy table in one corner. Tall glasses were filled with water and menus were brought.
"What's your pleasure?" Ben asked, then remembered her reaction the last time he had asked it. He looked at her again, and saw that she remembered too.
"I'll have whatever you're having," she said in a low voice, keeping her eyes averted. He heard the faint accent again, and it gave him an odd thrill. He'd follow that particular clue to her life tomorrow.
"Will you follow my lead in everything tonight?" he asked suggestively.
"Everything to do with the meal," she replied quickly, looking him in the eye for the first time. She had pinned her hair up on top of her head, but a few tendrils had come loose and streamed down her neck and the sides of her face, making her look even younger than usual.
Suddenly, he wanted to know everything about her -- how old she was, what she did for a living, where she lived. He knew that she did not have to tell him any of these things, that knowing them would only complicate their relationship. At least he could ask how long she was staying.
"I'm leaving the day after tomorrow," she replied. His heart sank.
"Why so soon?" he asked. He only had one more day with her.
"You forget," she said, "I have a family. Children who will be off to college in a couple of weeks. A husband who expects me to help him with all the last minute preparations. And I do have a job." Her voice held irony.
"What do you do for a living?" he asked.
"I'm a teacher in a high school," she answered, and her whole face changed, became softer. He could tell she loved what she did.
"What subject?" he asked, and was not really surprised when she answered, "English."
"A complicated subject for a complicated woman," he said, smiling appreciatively.
The salad came, and their fingers touched as they were both reaching for the dressing. Ben felt that familiar electric shock bolt through his arm and sizzle in his chest. He looked over at his companion, and she appeared to be calm, but her eyes were lowered, and he knew she was hiding her reaction from him. My God, he thought, who would ever believe that touching fingers could make me so hot?
He watched her as she forked some salad into her mouth. She licked off the drop of dressing that clung to her full lower lip, unaware of his eyes on her, and he felt his whole body harden in response. Eat something, he admonished himself, lowering his gaze, and he ate everything on his plate without really tasting any of it, even forgetting to use the dressing.
"You're as odd as my son Josh," she said suddenly. "Don't you like this salad dressing?" She had watched him eat the dry salad leaves.
"I can live without it," he answered, pretending that he did that often.
He drank some water, as much to dislodge the dry leaves from his throat as to have something to do with his hands, and then waited impatiently for the next course to be served. She finished her salad while he wondered how he was going to let her go out of his life the day after tomorrow. He still barely knew anything about her, but he felt as though she were the most important person in his life, and that when she left his heart would go with her. How could he have fallen so hard in such a short period of time for someone so different from all the other women he'd ever had, or the woman he'd loved and married? And what was he going to do when she was gone?
"You're staring again," Bronwyn told him, an edge to her voice. He was immediately contrite.
"Sorry, b...Bronwyn," he caught himself on the word 'baby'. It would never do to start with endearments. I have to protect her from being hurt, he reminded himself. He knew he'd have to keep careful control of his emotions from now on.
"So, where are your kids going to college?" he asked, as the second course was served.
"Josh is at UPenn, and Damaris will attend the University of Michigan. What about yours?"
"Fiona, my eldest, is in med school at Johns Hopkins. The other two, Jake and Caroline, are at Duke. Caroline is about to graduate, and Jake is a sophomore." He spoke with pride in his voice.
"You've had an empty nest for a while now," she commented. "How does it feel?"
"Although I miss the kids, I love being able to go where I want and do what I want when I want to, and not have to worry about them. I really miss Jackie the most." His voice was pained.
"Your wife?" Bronwyn asked.
"Yes," he answered shortly, his voice clipped.
He looked at her as he spoke, wondering if he should tell her how he felt about her, and how he wanted her to fill the void that Jackie had left. She was so close, and yet so far from him. She would never be his, unless, God forbid, something like death took her husband away from her, and he wouldn't wish that on her. Remembering his own hurt, still there though less intense, after three years, he couldn't bear the thought of her in pain. He didn't think she was the divorcing kind, either, and there had been no suggestion that she was unhappy in her marriage. He guessed he'd have to get over her; he'd have to see this as a fleeting affair, a ripple on the placid surface of his life and hers.
The waiter was at his ear, asking about wine.
"What would you like?" he asked Bronwyn.
"Nothing dry, please. Other than that, you choose," she answered.
He placed the order, and when it came, he raised his glass to her.
"Here's to friendship!" he said softly, and touched his glass to hers. He sniffed the wine and let its heady aroma seep into his nostrils, all the while watching her sip delicately. Her nails were perfectly manicured, the diamond she wore twinkling in the subdued lighting of the restaurant. It was a small diamond, and he thought how he would like to give her large diamonds and any other jewel she wanted. He fancied that she would probably not want a lot of jewelry, since she was wearing only her wedding rings on one hand, and a sapphire graduation ring on the other.
"Do you like jewelry?" he asked, and watched her eyes fly to his.
"Why do you ask?" she hedged. He could see her thinking he was going to offer her jewelry and worrying about how to refuse it nicely, and a smile curved his lips. He saw her eyes widen, and he had to force himself to stay seated.
"Nothing, just curious," he lied.
He watched her take another sip of wine and pass the tip of her tongue over her lips. He licked his own suddenly dry lips, wishing he could play the child's touching game with her. Only this time, they'd touch tongues. The thought simmered in his mind for the rest of the evening.
"You know what I do for a living, but I know nothing about you," she said. "Do you have a job?" Her glance was teasing, and he chuckled.
"Yes, I do, actually," he replied. "I have a very busy practice."
"So you're a lawyer," she concluded. He shook his head.
"A doctor?" He nodded.
"OB/GYN," he said, and waited for the blush. She did not disappoint him, and he chuckled again. Making her blush even more. She avoided his eyes, until he reached over and touched her chin. Then her eyes flew to his face.
"What are you doing?" she asked in a panic.
"The only thing you'll allow me to do," he replied. He stared at her mouth as he spoke, and she licked her lips again, nervously. He groaned low in his throat, and traced those lips with his thumb.
"Dr. Mandeville..." she began, but he stopped her with a finger to her lips.
"Ben," he corrected her. "Call me Ben." When she didn't respond, he urged her, "Go ahead, say my name." He waited while she struggled to hold his gaze.
"This is too intimate," she protested, and backed away from him. "You're acting like a lover, and I thought we agreed you wouldn't do anything I don't want you to do."
"And you don't want me to...?" His eyes were still on her mouth.
"Look at me like you're doing now. Touch me the way you're touching me. It's too intimate," she repeated. "I feel like you're kissing me without putting your mouth on me." Her voice held a protest.
"I am," he admitted. "I've wanted to kiss you since about nine o'clock this morning." He watched her face become still, and then he added, "Okay, if you don't want to be kissed by proxy, I'll stop."
"Maybe we should leave now," she said, her cheeks burning. "I'm tired. It's been a long day."
"Without coffee? Or dessert? Don't tell me you're going to forgo dessert again tonight?"
"Please," she pleaded, her eyes clouded with emotion. "Don't make this harder for me." Her accent was even more pronounced now, and he wondered that he could be so turned on by every little thing about her, even when she was upset.
Ben sat back in his chair, his fingers on the stem of the wine glass. He would leave if that was what she wanted, but he didn't want the evening to end like this. He had scared her, and he wanted to make amends.
"Look," he said, "why don't you choose something for dessert? I'll order it to go. Then you can enjoy it in your room, without me to watch." He looked at her plate. "Besides, you don't seem to have eaten too much of your meal."
Bronwyn wiped the corners of her mouth on the napkin and nodded mutely.
"What would you like?" he asked.
"Something chocolate would be nice," she said stiffly.
He raised his hand to place the order and ask for the bill, and she excused herself to go to the ladies' room. He watched her walk away, her back straight, her shoulders squared, her hips swaying gently. She was trying to maintain a cool outward appearance, but every step of her long legs sparked with erotic energy and an awareness of his eyes on her that he could read in her straight shoulders and erect posture. She was trying not to turn him on, and she was having the exact opposite effect. When she returned, peach lipstick re-applied, he felt the spark change to flame, burning more fiercely in his chest. He clenched his hands into fists to avoid grabbing her.
"Ready?" he asked redundantly. She nodded, and they walked downstairs where he paid the bill and they stepped together into the cool night air.
"Let's walk down to the plaza," he suggested. "We can find a cab there." He took her unresisting arm and strolled with her down to the traffic light. Across the street, they walked through the brightly lit park to the plaza, where a number of taxis were waiting for fares. He was about to hail one, when she touched his arm and said,
"Can we walk down to the water first? I love looking at the lights on the river at night."
Ben took her hand and placed it in the crook of his arm, and they walked down to the end of the plaza, where some benches had been built and a wall separated them from the rocky beach and the river. She knelt on one of the benches and looked over the wall into the dark water, her arms crossed under her chin, letting the beauty of the night scene envelop her.
"The hardest thing I've ever done in my life is what I'm doing now," Ben said suddenly above her right ear, his face touching her hair.
"And what might that be?' she asked, turning her head slightly to look sideways at him.
"Stand so close to the woman I desire and not take what we both want," he answered, fighting the urge to hold her and kiss her into submission. He moved behind her and put his hands on either side of her elbows on the wall, careful not to touch her, but imprisoning her nonetheless. His breath fanned her cheek, and all he had to do was shift his weight and his lips would replace his breath.
"Please," she pleaded, "you promised."
She stood up, with her back to him, forcing him to move his arms and back away from her, and when she turned around and saw how close their lips were, she stepped away from him, but the wall stopped her flight. He put his hands back on the wall on either side of her. Anyone passing by would think they were kissing each other.
"Say my name," he begged her softly, his eyes sending blue darts of flame into hers.
"Ben," she breathed into the space between their lips, refusing to meet his hot gaze. "Please don't do this!"
But Ben knew it was too late. He lowered his head, and touched her mouth with his. Ah, God, it was so sweet, she was so sweet. He increased the pressure, and heard her moan low in her throat. Oh, baby, he thought, come to papa! He moved his hands to her shoulders and pulled her away from the wall and into the fullness of his kiss.
"Oh God, Ben, please, don't do this!" Bronwyn's voice was a cracked and shaken whisper. She tried to back away from him, but he wouldn't let her go this time. He couldn't.
"Just one more kiss, baby! Please!"
He touched her mouth with his again, letting his tongue graze her lower lip. Her knees buckled, and she pressed her hands against his chest and opened her mouth to him. His loins exploded with scorching desire, his heart hammered in his chest, and he hugged her warm, round body to his, kissing her face, her neck, letting his hands tangle her hair. He wanted her so badly now, it hurt his chest.