“This is Monet.” She absent mindedly answered her ringing phone. Though she knew she had picked up the phone, her mind was currently on the design she had been laboring over for the past couple days.
“Hey, Monet,” came the deep voice from the other end of the phone.
“Bristol.” Monet suddenly abandoned all thoughts of her design. “How are you?”
“I’d be doing a lot better if I were with you,” he replied with a sigh.
“No, you wouldn’t. Believe me.”
“What are you working on today?”
“The same thing I’ve been battling around for the last two days.”
“Oh. Your design for Sylvia? Have you finished it yet?”
“No,” she said, discouraged. “I can’t seem to get it to work. For some reason, it isn’t right and no matter what I do, I can’t fix it.”
“Tell you what,” Bristol said. “Why don’t you fax it to me and I’ll see what suggestions I can make.”
“You’d do that?”
He chuckled. “When will you realize that I want you working for me? Until I have convinced you, I will do whatever I can to sway you.”
“You know my answer.” She smiled, knowing he was only half serious.
“Yes, I do. And you know the offer stands.” He paused. “You’ll fax it to me?”
“Okay, but I need to get started on it because Sylvia wants it next week.”
“I’ll have it back to you by tomorrow morning. I promise.”
“Thank you so much. You’re a life saver.”
“Any time. I just have one question.”
“Okay.” She waited for him to reply but he didn’t at first. Just then her attention was arrested by someone standing in the doorway of her office.
“How about lunch?”
Monet couldn’t tell if his voice came from the phone or not. As she looked up, she realized that the man standing just inside her office was Bristol Kelly. Hanging up her phone, she stood to face him, with surprise evident on her face. Bristol chuckled and she knew her expression pleased him.
Glancing past him, she could see that curious eyes from others in the office. They seemed eager to see the handsome stranger and know what business he had with Monet Carlson. It was common knowledge that Monet did not receive friends or guests in her office. She was too business-oriented for that. Combine that with her lack of social involvement and visitors were scarce as far as Monet was concerned.
However, as Monet surveyed Bristol’s attire today, she noted that he looked as though he might have stepped off the cover of GQ magazine. In fact, she was certain she could actually recall seeing him on the cover one month. Yet, here he stood, in worn jeans and a white t-shirt that clung to his torso, exposing his muscular body. Her stomach fluttered madly seeing him. In an effort to distract herself, she closed the door to her office, something else she never did.
As she moved away, Bristol grabbed her wrist. Her legs turned to jelly and she doubted their ability to support her weight.
“So how about it?” His eyes traveled over her face.
“How about what?” Her mouth filled with excess moisture in longing as she gazed into his face.
Smiling, as if reading her thoughts, he whispered, “Lunch.”
“Oh.” She shook her head in an effort to clear thoughts of kissing a man she hardly knew. “Of course. That sounds wonderful,” she said, more confidently. “Should I bring my sketches?”
“No. Today, we are just friends.”
He reached up and brushed a strand of hair from her face. “You’re just as beautiful as I remember.” He placed a lingering kiss on her cheek.
The sensation caused her legs to give way and he had to hold her up, lest she fall in a heap at his feet.
A chuckle erupted from his throat and she dared to look into his face again.
His head descended towards hers again. But before his lips would have kissed her eager ones, the door to her office swung open and Macall let herself in.
Monet stepped away from Bristol and his hands dropped to his side.
Macall looked back and forth between Monet and Bristol as though she were watching a tennis match. Her mouth spread into a toothy grin as her gaze finally stopped on Bristol.
“Can I assume that you are the famous Bristol Kelly?”
He chuckled and extended a hand. “You must be Macall Stevens. It’s a pleasure.”
Macall took his hand, and then smoothed her hair back. “How long are you in town, Mr. Kelly?”
He glanced at Monet and winked. “I’m not sure yet. I have some meetings the next couple of days, but I may be here for a week or two.”
Monet rolled her eyes at Macall’s sappy tone.
“I’m going to lunch, Macall. I may be late.” Monet went to her desk and placed some papers in a folder and placed them in her desk.
“Take your time.” Macall’s tone was condescending.
Monet looked up at her friend. I will, she thought. As the little hairs on her neck stood on end, she narrowed her gaze at Macall. Something felt amiss.
Macall seldom cared about Monet’s lunch plans, and her interest in Bristol was too keen. Macall didn’t have interests in clients – even high dollar clients. She had dated the same guy for the last five years. They would be married by now if she hadn’t called of the wedding three times due to her fear of finding the perfect man. Or rather of not finding him.
Macall threw a dazzling smile at Monet and sauntered out of the office.
Monet fished out the keys from her purse and locked her desk drawer, for good measure.
~ * ~
“I’m really sorry about this,” Bristol said as he led Monet to his hotel suite. “I can’t believe I left my wallet.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.”
He placed the key card in the door, the light flashed, and the lock clicked open. He opened the door and led her into the spacious room. Plush leather furniture lined the room and a large fish tank spanned the side wall, glittering in the sunlight.
Looking around, Monet determined that the suite was easily as large as some of her friend’s apartments.
“Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be only a minute.” Bristol left into another room.
Monet let her fingers trail over the couch. Feeling things helped her establish memories. If things did not last between her and Bristol, she wanted to have as many memories of him as possible. She walked slowly around the room and noticed sketches, papers, and swatches of fabric laying in various places around the room in no particular order. A smile found its way to her face. When she had first met him, Bristol appeared so put together and organized but as she viewed his hotel room, she realized it was only a façade. His messiness was an endearing, manly trait and she couldn’t resist the slight giggle that erupted in her throat.
“Who are you?” A small voice startled Monet and she turned around to see a small child looking curiously up at her.
“I’m Monet. Who are you?”
“I’m Brook. I’m four and get to go to preschool at fall time,” the girl said proudly.
“Four? You’re quite the little lady then.” Monet smiled and the girl beamed.
“Do you like to read?” Brook asked.
“Yes. Do you?”
“It’s my favorite thing. Will you read a story to me?”
“Do you have one?” Monet asked. With black curls and deep brown eyes, the child was simply beautiful. Monet couldn’t resist her charm.
Moments later the girl was back. “This one’s my favorite!” she exclaimed. “It’s about a bat and her friends.”
“Yep. And she pretends to be a bird. It’s pretty silly.” Brook’s laugh sounded like the tinkle of silver bells.
Monet’s chest warmed from seeing the girl’s excitement. How could she deny the child such a simple request? She couldn’t. So she sat down on the sofa. Brook climbed up beside her with her head leaning on Monet’s arm in an effort to see the pictures. As she began to read, Monet’s eyes and throat stung with emotion, making the speaking difficult. If things had gone differently for her, she’d have a child this age.
As they were finishing up the story, the door to the other room opened and Bristol emerged, sifting through a small stack of papers.
His head shop up and he smiled.
Monet felt her heart clench and drop to the floor in a shattered mess.