Anabelle waited patiently on her sofa. She was all dressed and ready to hit the streets. It was amazing how quickly the time had run off. It was now the third week of November and, true to the schedule they had set, today was the day to start getting all the stuff that would be needed to decorate the complex. The committee had to break down the tasks based on how many things there were to get. They also had to decide which vehicles were available to transport what. Joshua had volunteered his truck and so automatically he would be selecting the trees and other parts of the décor that carried bulky items. At least six trees would be needed: one for each block and a main one for the center. She had volunteered to go with him as he was still not familiar with a lot of the places around town. But honestly her motives for shopping with him were purely selfish.
Over the past few weeks she had started to become very relaxed around him. She had begun to see some aspects of his personality that had her gravitating towards him. He was kind and conscientious. He was always looking out for everyone’s needs first. She saw it whenever they handed out the refreshment at the end of each meeting. He would ensure that everyone else ate before partaking. He would also make it a point of duty to help her clean up. There had not been a repeat of her falling asleep before letting him out so the whole experience of him putting her to bed had no repeats.
She jumped up as she heard a knock on the door.
“Coming!” She grabbed her bag and a light jacket and flung open the door. She tried not to gawk. It had been a few weeks since their first meeting, yet it never ceased to amaze her how he could always look as if he had just come from a photoshoot. She swore he could make wearing a garbage bag look good. He wore a black pullover sweater that clung loosely to his lean hips. His long legs were encased in a pair of snug black denim. The ensemble was topped off by black boots and a forest green jacket. He had his ever-present backpack slung over one shoulder. A pair of aviator shades showed her reflection and she giggled at how pronounced her face was from this angle. She fought the childish impulse to use it as a mirror.
“Good morning to you too. What’s so funny?” He flashed that brilliant smile of his.
“Morning. Your shades are like a mirror. I feel as if I should be checking my appearance in them or something.”
His blank gaze skimmed over her.
“It seems as if we had the same fashion thoughts this morning.” He gestured towards her get up, which now that she took a second look was the same as his. The only difference was her jacket was grey.
“Well so we have.”
He murmured under his breath so low that she almost didn’t hear him. But teachers are trained to hear everything. “I wonder what other similar thoughts we’ve been having.”
She fought back a blush at the implications of his murmured statement and turned to lock her door before turning back to face him with a bright smile.
“To shop? No. But to spend the day with you? Lead the way. Your will is mine to do milady.”
“Well a gentleman descends the stairs first.”
“So, he does. My bad.” He touched his forehead in a mock salute and went ahead of her. She was treated to a lovely view of his firm backside as it pulled at the taut denim with each step. She took a steadying breath. She was not going to allow this. She was going to be with him all day and could not be in a state of arousal all day. That would lead to her throwing herself at him at the end of the day. And that would lead to further complications and embarrassment and awkwardness between them. She took one final peek and then forcefully pushed her libido to the back burner. Today they had business to conduct and business it would be.
She stopped beside the passenger door and waited for him to open it. It was a long way up. But trucks like this tended to have a ladder-like step.
“What the bloody hell!?” She shrieked as she found herself hoisted into the air and deposited into the seat with ease. He grinned at her.
“Just saving you the time and energy to navigate the steps.” He slammed the door shut and made his way to the driver’s seat. He casually slung his backpack into the cab and climbed up into the seat.
“Seatbelt please. Safety first.”
Obediently she buckled in as one final stray thought chased through her imagination and she wondered whether he would think of safety first the first time they had sex. She swallowed hard. It was going to be a mighty long day.
Joshua felt as if he had not missed his morning workout. For someone so short and stout Anabelle moved like lightning. Outside of his being physically fit he would have had a hard time keeping up with her. The way they were moving kept them warm enough with just the sweaters so they ended up leaving their jackets in the truck. Now the real similarity in their attire was evident. He saw several pedestrians do a double-take as they walked by. He could only imagine them thinking of them maybe doing what newlyweds do in dressing alike.
Anabelle knew all the crevices and nooks to score real bargains. In about an hour, the biggest of the purchases, the five trees, were secured in the bed of his truck. They continued to browse and shop, adding more and more purchases to the flatbed. He was about to heft a box into a narrow space, when Anabelle’s hand on his arm stopped him.
“Put that in the cabin.”
“But there’s space right here.”
“Cabin section please and thanks.” She continued to shift around other parcels until the narrow space was a bit wider. He stuck his tongue out at her when she wasn’t looking.
“I saw that.”
“Keep sticking it out and see if I don’t find a way to nip it off.”
“Well, if it’s those little pearly teeth of yours that’s going to do the nipping, I’ll gladly stick it out some more.” He flashed her his sexiest grin and was pleased to see her cheeks turn a flaming red.
“Anabelle? Anabelle Landers?”
They both turned at the sound of a strange voice. Instinctively he moved to Anabelle’s side.
“Ummm yes? Do I know you?”
“It’s Rochelle. Rochelle Riley. From high school.” The blonde’s eyes skittered over Anabelle and he felt his anger rise at the disdain that showed clearly on her face. She tittered spitefully.
“Still the same round and rosy Anabelle. Although you’ve put on a few extra since high school haven’t you.” She flashed her hand and laughed as if it was the biggest joke. “You haven’t changed a bit! And neither have I” She placed a hand on her narrow hip and tossed her head so that her blonde curls flipped over her shoulder.
“Oh! Rochelle. Head cheerleader Rochelle! I’m sorry it took me a while to remember you. We didn’t move in the same circle if you can recall. I have no idea how you could have remembered little old common me.”
“Oh, dear heavens no! We were the popular ones and you guys just… weren’t. But you did have your fifteen minutes of fame if I recall.” Her eyes flicked over to Joshua and he could see the wheels turning in her pretty fluff of a brain. He had to think fast. He pulled Anabelle to stand in front of him and wrapped his arms around her. He was happy he caught her off guard and she could not resist, so the action looked natural.
“Who’s this baby?”
Rochelle’s eyes narrowed as she took in the possessive way Joshua held Anabelle.
“Just one of the girls I went to school with.”
Rochelle held out her hand.
“Rochelle Riley, former head cheerleader. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
He ignored the outstretched hand.
“Dr. Joshua Gentles. Owner of The Gentle Life and significant other of this lovely lady here.” He gave Anabelle a peck on the cheek to cement my point. He saw Rochelle pale at the scene playing out before her. Her eyes glittered coldly.
“It’s always nice to see a chubby girl get a break. We little ones can’t handle them all you know.”
“No dear. I’m the one who got a break. I thank her every day for being the real deal and not some artificially made up, a shallow excuse for a person, like…”
“Baby we need to get to the next store before they think we’re not picking up that huge order.” Anabelle spun around in his arms and Rochelle was forgotten. He looked deeply into her eyes and saw the silent plea. He took a deep breath and relaxed then leaned down and whispered a kiss across her lips and heard Rochelle gasp.
“Right as always my love.” He moved quickly to swing Anabelle up into his arms then had an inspired idea for a parting shot. He turned to Rochelle, pausing for her to get the full effect of Anabelle cradled in his arms.
“Could you get the door for us please?”
Speechless Rochelle pulled open the passenger door then stepped aside while he deposited Anabelle in her seat. He closed the door then walked back to secure the flat bed before moving to his seat. He started the huge vehicle and revved it, feeling pleased when the still gawking Rochelle jumped. He leaned across Anabelle.
“Miss Riley, have a good one.” He moved the vehicle smoothly into the line of traffic.
Anabelle covered her face as she laughed uncontrollably.
“That was so bad! But soooooo good! You’re so naughty, Joshua!”
“Well I just wasn’t going to stand by and let her insult you.”
“I can handle myself. I wasn’t one of those who went through high school with a complex about my weight. It is what it is, and I worked with it.”
“And that’s one thing that I have admired about you from day one. Your self-confidence.”
She blushed at that and hung her head as they pulled into another vast parking lot. He shut off the engine and turned to face her.
“Anabelle? Look at me.”
Obediently she turned.
“You’ve knocked me off my feet since the first day I met you.”
“Well technically, you knocked me off my feet literally that first day.” She gave a half-smile and he rolled my eyes.
“You are a bright, outgoing beautiful person, inside and out. I don’t care about your size. I don’t care about your height. All I care about is the fact that each time we part I can’t wait to see you again. And when we meet again, I want it to last forever but even hours with you seem to be mere minutes. That boyfriend act wasn’t an act. I would like it if you considered me as a potential for that position in your life. Please? And know that I may be saying ‘please’ but I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” He reached across the cab and caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers. He sensed no resistance to his touch. He didn’t hesitate to capitalize on her defenses being entirely down. He leaned in and captured her lips with his.
Anabelle felt as if she was caught up in a whirlpool of emotions as Joshua leaned into her. She waited and the split second before his lips met hers felt like forever. She sighed breathlessly as she felt his cool firm lips meet hers. He did not rush her but instead coaxed her until she sighed and melted into his embrace. His mouth moved urgently over hers. His tongue ran along the seam of her lips, demanding entry. She had no option but to open and give him the entry he desired. He did not hesitate. He pulled her halfway across the console as his hands pressed her into his body. His mouth slanted over hers and she moaned at the first touch of his hot tongue to hers. All her resolve to keep her libido in check, melted in the heat of his touch. She heard a moan as if from a distance and realized with a start that it came from her! He gave and she took. She gave and he took. It was long moments later before he raised his head. His eyes glittered with the heat of his desire. They were both breathing hard as if they had just run a marathon. He caressed her cheeks with both his hands and kissed her gently on the forehead.
“My sweet darling, Anabelle. You will be mine. That was just a preview.”
She took a shuddering breath. She was reduced to a mere puddle. Surely the main event would blast her to smithereens. She sat back on her side of the console as she tried to get her breathing under control. He was attempting to do the same. She saw him try futilely to hide the tent behind his zipper. Her fingers itched to test its length and girth, but she kept them to herself. She heard him swear.
“Calming down is not going to happen with us both in here. You go ahead to the store. I’ll catch up with you.”
“Okay.” She wiggled her way out of the high seat and shouldered her bag before slamming the door. She had taken a few steps when a streak of mischief hit her. She turned to look over her shoulder and when she was sure she had his full attention she turned back around and continued walking. But this time she swayed her hips as if she was on a catwalk or better still a stripper on the stage.
“You wench!” she heard him shout.
She laughed and turned to blow him a quick kiss before continuing her performance to the door.
She had already gone online and chosen the design for the Christmas wreaths and was now waiting for the warehouse to send them over since they were there to pick them up. She paid for them and had cleared security checks and was halfway back to the truck with them when Joshua met them.
“Took you long enough.” She smiled innocently.
“Not long enough, babe. It will never be long enough.” He looked at her hotly and she felt the heat rising to her face. She had lost track of the number of times he had caused her to blush uncontrollably. And from this point on it was going to get worse. Before it had been a wishful thought. Now they both knew it was an inevitable act.