Those of you who read my short story, Amara’s Freedom, will be happy to know that I am now working on her novella, maybe, book. There will be some changes to what you know about her since I had to develop a real character; one who can hold up in a longer story but the root of who Amara is, is still there. Her beau from the hotel now has a name- Noah. Enjoy the snippet below and as always, let this writer know what you think.
The butterflies flapping their obnoxious little wings in my stomach kept me company as I waited for his
approach; his slow, easy strides marking his always smooth demeanor. Noah was never in a rush but always on time.
I’d rather it be him coming to me than the other way around so arriving slightly before our scheduled meeting time, allowed me time to mentally practice my speech so that this would be easier. Easier to stay on topic and away from conversation that would spark the fire that always existed between us whenever we were anywhere near each other.
I also had to remember that I am practically engaged. Noah was not the man for me. Not anymore. But damn he looked good today in his broadcloth button up and charcoal grey dress slacks. The multicolored striped tie wrapped around his neck held hints of pink which not surprisingly made him seem more masculine.
“Good morning.” I almost shivered from his nearness combined with his deep voice greeting me.
“Good morning, Noah.”
“What are you having?” His eyes moved about my face like he was a camera, snapping shots of each detail. I wondered if I’ve changed in his eyes.
“Pike with one shot espresso. I was just about to order.”
“Let me,” he said to me. “How do you like it?”
I stared at him for a moment, my thoughts taking me to another place in time.
“How do I like what?” I said in a near whisper.
“Your coffee? Cream—sugar?”
“Oh! Both. Thank you.” I glanced away, embarrassed by my less than clean thoughts as he stood and made his way to the counter. He returned after a few minutes following my failed attempt to not stare at his wide shoulders and long muscular arms ; the cables of it moving as he added my cream and sugar while leaving his, black and strong, like him.
“So you wanted to talk about this project you are working on.” He said when he got back to the table.
“And you think I can be of help,” he said as placed my cup in front of me then he slid into his chair, drawing my attention to his long fingers as he sipped from his cup.
“Yes,” I said clutching onto my hot cup of brew, thankful for the crutch; hoping it would make this conversation easier.
“Tell me about it. Wait. First tell me what you’ve been up to since I last saw you. You have your master’s in Human Resources, right?” His voice was the same mellow baritone timber. The one that would have me climbing the sheets, the cotton seized in my white knuckled grip as he talked dirty into my ear while deep stroking shrieked responses out of me.
His voice brought me out of my intoxicating musing. “And you now work in employee relations with Covenant Health System, right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” I said softly and an uncomfortable silence slid in between us as I stared into my cup.
“Okay, Amara. You’re going to have to warm up to me.” When I still didn’t say anything, he reached out to touch my arm; which was the last thing I needed- physical contact.
“What’s up?” He asked, his voice sounding concerned.
I released myself from my vision swimming in the murky liquid of the cup. The one I always saw when he was near. We were in bed, my head lying on his chest, sticky from perspiration and his arm wrapped tightly around me, his fingers brushing against my hip. I was happy and utterly exhausted from our play and the love making and he seemed calm and content to have me close. My fingers played with the coarse hair under his navel and I watched how his stomach would tense and shake to avoid letting out the chuckle bursting inside since he was in fact ticklish. I glanced up into his dark brown eyes and sighed. I can do this.
“Yeah. The last time we spoke I had just graduated.” I paused and then added, “It’s been a while.” He nodded; waiting for me to continue. Knowing he was forcing my hand.
“Currently I oversee the employee relations division of all of the research and child and adolescent ambulatory programs for my hospital. I make sure compliance is maintained for all regulatory bodies and we have many. I sign off on all disciplines and terminations, defend our position with all unemployment claims, assist Legal with any investigations, work with compensation and Finance on issues related to Job title, pay, and job descriptions and any equity issues. I approve promotions; give advice on performance related issues and I occasionally need to be involved in FMLA and other personal leave situations.” I paused for a moment. “But that’s not why I asked you here.”
“I didn’t think so.” His stare was direct and unwavering.
I smiled and looked away. It was typical for him to want to go there with me and I can’t blame him. Over the years, most of my calls were for one thing; to explore all of my carnal desires. The one liberty I allowed myself with a select few. Which is why this whole conversation was difficult but Noah was good at his job; all of them.
“It’s not like that,” I said in soft protest. “It’s been a while since I called you like that and you know it.” When I first met Keith and we started dating, it was supposed to be over with Noah, but it wasn’t. Not for a while. For a while it was still on whenever I needed the thing he could give me that Keith wasn’t able to. But I started to rely on him more and I knew it wasn’t right. If Keith was ever going to have a chance, I needed to get rid of Noah.
“I understand and that’s not what I was implying although that would have made our talk over coffee more interesting; don’t you think?” Finally he flashes me his signature smile, the one showing off his pearly whites; straight, even and perfectly situated between a set of nice soft lips. Noah had the type of smile that had the power to make me remember. And then make me forget why I really asked him here.
“See there you go. One word responses.”
“I am.” I gave him my practiced shy-girl smile.
“Since when?” His lips twitched but he doesn’t smile.
“I don’t buy that.” He shook his head slowly and leaned back in his chair. The relaxed pose said a lot. He was enjoying this exchange. Me, I hadn’t even warmed up.
“You should. You should know me.”
“I do know you,” he said and I knew exactly what he was thinking. “Every inch.”
“Stop.” I practically breathed the word out. It was torture to hear his voice, to see his smile, to remember all the delicious things we’d done together.
“Stop acting shy and I won’t try to pull it out of you.”
I sighed. He was right. I’m fighting a battle that doesn’t even need to be waged. This meeting isn’t about me and him. But we might have to work together so I need to get it together.
“Okay, so I have this project that will require me to use the integration of a software program into our main database that keeps track of our training and development programs. I oversee that too for my division.”
“Damn.” By his tone I can tell he’s impressed.
I looked away for a moment to gather myself. I’m pleased beyond measure, but not wanting to show it. Looking back at him I return to business mode. “I must be able to produce verification of not only enrollment but attendance to these trainings that are required but also keep track of those that employees enroll in for their own professional development. It’s for compliance.” He nodded again; contemplative. Typical Noah, he was as much a thinker as I am, only he let go and had plenty of fun after hours. He was the guy all the other guys wanted to be like because he made being a geek look attractive, while cashing in the dough. I, on the other hand didn’t want anyone to know just how much I could let go. But Noah knew. Lord, did he know.
“This is just one project I’m spearheading, but I thought you’d be the perfect person to discuss it with. I have to start a bidding process, but given the nature of these things, I can see you winning it,” I paused to gauge his level of interest in the project. “That is if you’re interested.”
Shocked by his immediate agreement, I asked him, “Really? Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“Okay.” Still in a state of disbelief, I just looked at him, trying to read him.
“Yes?” What else could I say? He’d made it easy. The whole practiced speech worked and I had nothing else to give him. Nothing I’d be willing to put out there, anyway.
“Is that all?”
“Okay, cool,” he said while finishing off his cup before placing it back on the table. “I’ve got to run to a meeting.”
“Okay.” I’ll admit to being disappointed. No, I didn’t want to discuss us, but I thought I would have a little longer with him. To stave off the emotion of him seemingly dismissing me, I firmed up my lip, straightening my posture and watched as he pulled out his phone, checking the time since the man never wore a watch. I tried to get him to, but he politely accepted the gift and I never saw it again, outside of lying in his mahogany trinket box.
“There you go. Clamming up.”
“Yes. It’s always that way. You play shy and aloof.”
“I’m not playing at anything, Noah.”
“Maybe I should call it peek-a-boo.”
I laugh, my curls falling in my eyes. That was a cute way of putting it.
“See. You’ve come out again because I see you, Amara.”
My laughter died. And then we just stared at each other, the tension crackling between us like it always did, making it clear that no matter how long it’s been, this thing that we have will never die. Not even over business talk. But it was wrong. I’m not available to him that way anymore. I shouldn’t be.
I brush my hair away from my face, making it neat again.
“It’s not right, Noah.”
“This is why I retreat and you know it.”
“I do know the reason. But I don’t like it.”
“So you think we can work on this project?”
“Why wouldn’t we be able to?”
“Because if you hold back, it’s in my nature to pull you out. And you’re going to hold back, Amara. I know it. I feel it now.”
“I know that.”
“And you’re still in?” His thick dark brow raised in question.
“Yes,” I said confidently, although I admit, my gut instinct had been in direct opposition with my intellect for a week since I called him. It must know something, something I refuse to admit. That by contacting him, I was bringing back the spark I tried so hard to dim for the past two years.
“Cool. Tell Keith I said hi.”
I shake my head, exasperated with this fine man. “You know he wouldn’t appreciate knowing you and I have spoken, so no.”
He shrugs, the gesture painting him unconcerned.
“What? The man won. He doesn’t have to play peek-a-boo. He sees you every damn day, Amara.”
I don’t have anything to say. I can’t deny it.
“Think about it. Think about if you really want to play the game. The contract provides engagement. Are you willing to play?” There was an edge to his voice and while it should make me more cautious, as if that were possible, it didn’t. It intrigued me. I liked the edge in him, always did.
“I’ll be in touch soon.” I stand up, stretching my hand out to shake his but he surprises me and comes around the small café table and instead of shaking my hand he grabs it, pulling me into a short embrace that scorches me from the roots of my brown curly hair down to my red pedicured toenails.
“Looking forward to hearing from you, Amara.” Then he released me and walked out of the shop, leaving the scent of his warm, musky cologne behind to linger with my tortured thoughts.
© Aja 2013