Saturday, November 3, 2012
Saturday's Chapter - A Surprising Seduction by Janet Lane Walters
A Surprising Seduction
Bright morning sun glinted on the stained glass windows of the gray stone church. Lauren Grant left the memorial garden where the ashes of her sister and brother-in-law had been interred. They rested inside the stone wall near her parents’ site. She rubbed her arms to chase the chill of the autumn day.
Conversations flowed around her. She drew a deep breath to force back the tears ready to fall. Not yet. She had to leave. More words of sympathy might release the flood. As she dashed past the stairs leading to the sanctuary, she saw him standing with the pastor, two of Jim’s colleagues and a teacher friend of Carrie’s.
Tony Carlin. Tall, broad-shouldered, dark hair. She felt sure his piercing blue eyes compelled witnesses to tell the truth when he questioned them on the stand. Jim’s brother and the man she had to share custody of their ten month old nephew troubled her. She wasn’t sure why, except sharing wasn’t part of his nature.
She reached her six-year-old hybrid sedan. In the sunlight the car appeared more blue than green. She slid into the driver’s seat, started the engine and drove through the streets of the Hudson River town to her classmate’s house. The action gave her time to control the need to cry. She was on the way to pick up Jamie. The baby didn’t need to see her grief.
She parked in the driveway of the white frame house and rang the bell. With Jamie in her arms friend opened the door.
“Tee. Tee.” Jamie’s happy cries greeted her.
She held out her arms and he almost leaped into them “Were you a good boy?”
Marsha smiled. “He was a dream. Wish my hellions were the same. I have your notes from yesterday’s class. Will you be there tomorrow?”
“Have to be.” Lauren sank on the couch. “With midterms looming I can’t afford to miss another day.”
“Makes two of us. I made a list of classmates willing to watch Jamie. Do you have someone for tomorrow?”
Lauren nodded. “The young man I tutored for Carrie signed up for weekend duty. He watched Jamie for them several times so they could go out to dinner.” Lauren struggled to fit her squirming nephew into his blue jacket.
“Study hard tonight,” Marsha said. “I’m sure there’ll be a quiz.” She walked with Lauren to the door.
“Never fails.” Lauren wished she could follow her friend’s suggestion. Hopefully there would be time to copy yesterday’s notes as well as do battle with Tony Carlin over the guardianship issue. What did a playboy know about caring for an infant?
The trip from her friend’s house to Carrie and Jim’s condo took ten minutes. Jamie’s chatter had ceased the moment she’d fastened him in the car seat. At least he hadn’t cried the way he had when she brought him home from the hospital. Did he remember the accident?
She turned into the circle of the development and parked in the driveway of the unit. She’d lived here since the day of the accident and the deaths so Jamie would be in a familiar environment. After opening the garage door she lifted Jamie and carried him inside.
She nearly lost her composure. “Just Auntie.” Tears she dare not shed burned her eyes. “Just Tee.”
“Tee.” He patted her face.
“Hungry?” She removed his jacket and put him in the blue and yellow highchair. After setting a pan of water to heat she opened two jars of baby food and heated the meat and vegetable combination. She poured milk from one of his bottles into a cup. Jamie used the plastic container as a hammer. He settled as soon as she popped a plastic bib over his head. She sat on a bar stool at the counter separating the narrow kitchen from the rest of the first floor. With a spoon she fed him.
After Jamie finished both jars of food and drank milk from the cup she carried him to the spacious nursery. There she changed his diaper and sat in the rocker to feed him the rest of the bottle.
When she placed him in the crib he was asleep. She turned on the monitor. For a time she studied him. How much he resembled his father and uncle, except for his hazel eyes, a gift from Carrie.
With a sigh she walked downstairs, straightened the kitchen and leaned against the counter. The tears of grief she’d held inside refused to be contained any longer. As though a water pipe had ruptured, tears spurted and gasping sobs accompanied the flood.
She gulped deep breaths attempting to control the gush of grief. She cried for her young nephew deprived of the parents who had adored him. The tears turned bitter when her own loss arose. Carrie and Jim had dragged her from a slide into self-destruction and helped her become a woman with a future. The sobs morphed into mourning for the couple who would never achieve their potential and never see their son grown into a man.
As Lauren wiped her eyes, thoughts of Tony Carlin rose. He had as little family as she did. Only Jamie belonged to both of them. Her body shook. Tony was determined to shove her out of their nephew’s life. His vision of her was based on a single meeting four years ago in California, a few months after Carrie and Jim had helped her pull her life together. A few of her rebellious quirks had remained. Not now. Not for three years.
Two years ago she had returned to the area where she and Carrie had grown up to start college. She’d been happy when Jim had accepted a position at a nearby research laboratory. Carrie had found a position teaching English at one of the area colleges. Since their arrival she had seen them several times a week.
Through her grief and a fresh spate of tears grains of resentment abraded. In the five months that Carrie and Jim had lived here, Tony had never visited once. Jim and Carrie had gone to the city several times to visit him. They hadn’t wanted to intrude on his busy work and social life.
What was wrong with him? Didn’t he care?
Stop it. She didn’t know why Carrie and Jim had named two guardians for their son. She didn’t know what kind of relationship Jim and his brother had. She only knew she missed them. Fresh tears began.
The doorbell rang. She blew her nose and blotted her eyes. Tears continued to drip. The glass panel of the door and her tears blurred the man’s face but she knew the dark hair and broad shoulders meant he had arrived. She opened the door.
In an instant his arms enfolded her. She pressed her face against the gray wool of his overcoat. He used his foot to close the door. As he stroked her back, Lauren fought the desire to let the comfort he offered make her forget they weren’t friends.
His hands slid lower and he cupped her rear pulling her against his erection. Lauren raised her head to protest. Before a word emerged, his mouth covered hers in a kiss that shot jolts through her body.
One of his hands slipped beneath her sweater and stroked her skin. Slowly he backed her from the door past the kitchen and the stairs leading to the second floor. He steered her toward the couch. His tongue played along her lips. Awareness struck. He didn’t like her. Why this passionate assault? A reason clicked. He would use her response against her when she asked for sole custody of Jamie.
She jerked her mouth from the drugging kiss. “Stop.”
“Stop. You’ve gone far enough.”
“Wrong. I haven’t gone anywhere.”
She pulled free and nearly tumbled over the arm of the couch. His hands on her arms prevented the fall.
She glared. “I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong.”
He grinned. “I don’t think so. I want you. You want me. Believe me. It’s going to happen.”
A cry from the nursery put an end to the discussion. She ducked under his arm and ran up the stairs. Hopefully once she rescued Jamie, Tony would be on his way back to the city.
* * * * *
Tony stood at the foot of the stairs. What had just happened here? He would have taken her like an animal in rut. Not his style at all. Slow seduction with every move orchestrated brought great rewards. His body throbbed with need and frustration. He wanted her beneath him while he pounded his way to a peak of elation.
Whoa. Where did that thought arise? He didn’t know her. He didn’t like her. There’d been a single meeting four years ago at Jim and Carrie’s wedding. Granted Lauren had changed, at least in appearance. Could a runaway rebellious teen change into a solid citizen? He had grave doubts.
Sure her blond hair no longer had blue and green streaks and didn’t flow to her waist. The nose and lip rings were gone. She didn’t wear tight skirts so short little was left to the imagination. The first time they met she’d dressed like the hooker he believed she was. And he had been tempted.
He had to fight this insane attraction. Why had Jim allowed her to be named as one of his son’s guardians? From all he’d seen, she seemed to have a rapport with the boy he didn’t have. Babies had never been his thing. Still, he couldn’t permit Lauren to have custody of the child. Not with the lifestyle he felt sure she followed.
On Wednesday and Thursday evenings he’d called the condo. Both times the phone had been answered by a person claiming to be the sitter. When he asked when Lauren would be home the answer had been “late.” He definitely knew what that meant, especially when the sitter had refused to tell him where she was.
The opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth sounded. He pulled the phone from his pocket. “Mark…You got the message…Wish I could…Matt can take my place. Tell him the teacher and the shopkeeper are hot……Good luck…Call me when you get back.” He laughed. “I’ll be playing Daddy…Not sugar. To my nephew…Ciao.”
He broke the connection and sank on the couch. He would miss his best friend’s wedding but leaving here before his right to the baby’s custody was clear wouldn’t do. He groaned. Visions of the hot babes he’d met the last time he stayed at the inn in Vermont danced in his thoughts. While he was stuck here instead of scoring with one or both women, Matt would enjoy the pair. That was an event to regret.
No sense thinking about what might have been. He called the number of the agency he hoped would provide an instant nanny. The sooner one was in place the happier he would be. The moment the news about the accident and the deaths reached him, he had called.
“Tony Carlin here. Mrs. Bunch, please.”
A moment later the pleasant voice of the woman greeted him. “Mr. Carlin, I’m sorry there’s been no action taken on your request. You haven’t visited the agency to complete the paperwork so I can finalize the choices.”
“Why can’t I do this over the phone and through emails?”
“Agency policy. If you can stop by the office on Monday at one, we can complete your application and I can arrange interviews with our currently available candidates.’
“One PM. I’ll be there.”
“Oh, just to warn you. Since the nanny will be a live-in she must have her own room and a separate one for the infant. Most of our women insist on at least one weekend day off.”
When she stopped talking, he hung up. He had no choice except to accept the agency’s demands. How soon would the boy be ready for nursery school? At that point the nanny would only be needed for evenings and nights. He found a scrap of paper and made a to-do list. His brow wrinkled. There was another option. He could let Lauren share custody.
He nodded. Let her have the infant on weekends. A frown tightened his brow. Was that a good idea? Might put a spike in her ability to earn a living. He leaned against the back of the sofa. Maybe something could be arranged, like what she’d refused not so long ago.
Laughter reached him. Lauren appeared with the child in her arms. She dropped a blanket on the deep blue carpet and crouched to straighten the cloth. She added some toys and rattles.
“Watch him while I start laundry.” She dashed upstairs and returned with a basket. She entered the area near the door into the garage.
“We need to talk,” he said.
She peered around the wall. “I know.”
“I’ll be staying for the weekend. Since I must be at the office Monday morning, I’ll leave Sunday evening. You should plan to move out by next weekend. I want to sell the condo and put the money in trust for the boy.”
The look on her face puzzled him. She stepped toward the couch. “I don’t live here. I’ve stayed because it’s important for Jamie to be in familiar surroundings. I’ll ask my landlady if she minds having a baby in the apartment. I can move his crib and dresser there.”
“Wrong. I’m taking the boy to the city. I’ve arranged for a nanny.”
“Jamie. His name is Jamie.” She strode forward. “Did you forget we have joint custody? I refuse to allow my nephew to be shoved in a cell with a strange woman so you can forget he exists.”
Tony clamped his lips together and sought an answer. He didn’t trust her. He knew what she was. “I refuse to let you drag a different man into his life every night.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I know how you earn a living. If you’d like I’ll pay you for two nights.”
“Excuse me.” She fisted her hands on her hips. “You know nothing. You’re making assumptions and that makes you an ass.” The words spat like bullets.
The baby cried. Lauren scooped him into her arms and held him close.
“No, love, not today. Just Auntie.”
His sobs slowed. “Tee.” He buried his head against her shoulder.
Tony stared at his hands. He didn’t understand her anger. Couldn’t she admit the truth? Guilt for making the boy cry swamped him. “We’ll discuss this later.”
“Just remember I want what’s best for Jamie. If I must I’ll fight you.”
“I want the same for the child. If you fight I’ll win and you’ll be exposed.”
She whirled and walked away. Her black slacks fit perfectly, showing her narrow waist and curving over her delectable ass. His cock surged to attention. He rose and then sank back. He wouldn’t chase her and prolong the argument. He gulped deep breaths. No way would she win the battle over custody. He would have sole charge of the baby and he would have her body writhing beneath him.
The phone rang. He grabbed the receiver on the first ring. A man spoke. “See you tomorrow at eight.”
“There’s no need. Matters are handled.” Tony hung up and chuckled. He would definitely handle the situation when she learned she had no date. But the lady wouldn’t be disappointed.