Twice The Charm Ch. 08bycassandraharper©
"You've been MIA recently. Is everything ok?" Manni asked Scott as he stepped into her condo with Star bouncing on his back.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"You don't look fine," she told him reaching up on tiptoes to rest a cool palm against his forehead. He looked paler than usually and his radiant red hair was somewhat dull. "Are you sick?"
Scott shook his head, removing Manni's hand from his hot skin. She had been correct in assuming that something was off with him. He was stressed from having to admit his mother into a hospital. The in-home nurse had quit after one of his mother's many violent bouts, leaving him to take care of her. And when his mother had once more refused to eat and take her medication, he checked her in after noticing that her weight was steadily decreasing. He was scared.
"Scott...Scott!" Manni called, watching him literally jump back to attention.
"Seriously, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," he snipped, resting Star's bag on the living room floor then setting her down to run off and play. "What is it?"
She frowned up at him uncertain of whether to speak or let him be. Manni knew for sure that something wasn't right, but she wouldn't force him to talk to her. They had promised each other three months ago, after letting the cat out of the bag concerning their breakup, that they would put in an effort to communicate. That promise had been in effect until a month ago. Scott was clamming up on her again just like old times. "Forget it."
"No," he said regretfully as he grabbed her arm to stop her from walking away from him. "What is it? Tell me."
Manni looked down at her feet calming the vulnerability she was feeling on the inside from his wishy-washy attitude. She ruffled the front of her afro then took a deep breath before giving him back her attention. "I know that this is a bit sudden, but I was wondering if you could keep Star for two weeks. I have an unexpected photoshoot in the Virgin Islands that I can't turn down."
"What's so important about that? It's not like you're the only makeup artist."
She almost took offense to his words, but decided to ignore them instead. "Since you don't know, I'll explain things to you. There are six main full-time, professional makeup artists in my division. Three are responsible for overseas trips and three for out of state trips. I'm in the out of state division; however," she continued before he could interrupt. "The three main makeup artists for international photoshoots are all suffering from food poisoning. They went to some ethnic food restaurant that they weren't used to and now they are all laid up in the hospital with IV lines in their arms. Since I'm the head of my department, it is my responsibility to lend a helping hand. Therefore, I cannot refuse."
"The thing is, right now is not a good time for me," Scott said with his eyes wandering to his watch. He had an appointment with his mother's doctor to see if she was getting better. If her condition improved, he would take her back home.
"Ok, I'll just ask my parents," Manni replied, picking up Star's bag to unpack it.
"Don't say it like that," he said in exasperation, putting his hands on his waist.
"Like what? You just told me that you can't keep her. No harm no foul. I'm not going to force you to do something that you can't."
Scott felt frustrated inside and his head was ready to explode from it all. He didn't know what to do anymore.
"Did you buy her this adorable dress?" Manni asked in surprise as she held up a pale green dress with the Care Bears on the center of the chest. "I thought we agreed that we wouldn't use this bag anymore since you have things for her at your place?"
Scott sighed unable to take his eyes off of Manni's back. It seemed that, over the years of his absence, she had taken to wearing more feminine clothing at home instead of the chic and edgy style she normally sported when on the job and continued to wear even on her off days. His eyes ran down the length of her simple white skirt that reached mid-calf then down to her bare feet. She was looking beautiful to him. Even more beautiful than before. He felt her pressed against him before he could come to his senses and leave her alone. He nestled his nose into her thick afro and inhaled her honey scented shampoo as he continued to lean against her, holding her closer against him now that his arms were wrapped about her abdomen.
"Don't move," he told her, closing his eyes to savor the moment. "Let me just stay like this for a little while, please." He held onto her, feeling his troubled heart start to settle down as her body heat melted in with his own. Her derriere nestled against the top of his thigh, only inches below his manhood, reminding him that every part of her pleased him. The way she still fit so perfectly in his arms brought him back to the past when they were both so awkward and young in the beginning. He missed those days.
"Talk to me, Scott. Tell me what's wrong," Manni softly said, reaching her arm back until she was touching his hard shoulder. She knew that it was dangerous for them to stay in such an intimate position, but it had been a long time since she was last held. And she didn't want to fight this. Not anymore. She was still desperately in love with Scott. But for their daughter's sake, she wanted to push her feelings aside and do what was best for her because where Manni's feelings were involved, there was bound to be trouble. She wanted their daughter to have a peaceful relationship with both of her parents.
His heart was beginning to pound again only this time from Manni's nearness. He knew that he should let go of her especially with his arousal coming to life against her. She turned in his arms to look up at him with big, innocent brown eyes. His insides shuddered. Manni never once realized how much of an affect she had over him. Would she ever know that?
He cleared his throat, stepping away from her and dropping his arms. "When will you be leaving for the trip?"
"In three days," Manni answered, praying that her face wasn't expressing how regretful she felt now that he was putting a bit of distance between them.
She shrugged her shoulders looking away from him, "I have to figure that out now that I will be taking her to my parents' house. My plane leaves at twelve which means I have to be at the airport by nine, because you're supposed to check in at least three hours in advance for international flights, so I guess I'll have to be out of here around seven. That way I'll reach my parents by eight and drive back to make it for my check-in by nine. There you have it. I'll be leaving at seven."
"Don't worry about that. I'll be by to pick her up at eight."
"But you just told me that--"
"I'll be by to get my daughter at eight," he repeated with a finger pressed against her full lips. He wanted to kiss her. And from the slightly surprised look in her eyes, Scott could tell that she knew just that.
"Stop that," Manni told him as she pushed his hand away then vigorously rubbed her chest. "My heart feels ready to explode. We have to limit these kinds of interactions between us."
"What kind of interaction?"
"The kind that makes me so aware of you," she admitted with her heart thumping rapidly against her palm. "I'm starting to feel confused and...flustered. I'm not a teenager anymore. I shouldn't still be having these types of reactions."
He smiled as he raised a red eyebrow in amusement, "confused and flustered," Scott repeated, forgetting that he was about to leave. "That's good, Manni. I want you to always be aware of me just like I always am of you."
She gave him a worried gaze unable to reply to such a statement without a few brief moments of reflection. "I don't know what you're devising, but you should stop it."
"I'm not being devious in any way," Scott assured her then walked away to find Star to give her a goodbye kiss. "I'll see you in three days," he told Manni, bending to kiss her forehead before taking his leave.
She released her pent up breath still struggling to get a hold of herself. If she didn't act wisely with him, Scott would have her right back where he wanted her. In his arms.