As she started jogging the next morning, Laura felt tense with anticipation. The past two mornings he had been here, and he had told her that he ran every morning, so she had no doubt she would run into him again. She was beginning to come to terms with the sale of the restaurant, and the fact that she and Fernando would not become romantically involved, now all she had to do was figure out her own plans. She was allowing herself to nurture the small grain of hope that somehow, Sean Fenton could be a part of those plans. The only problem being that she couldn’t imagine leaving this town to start again somewhere else, and he clearly did not belong in a small Spanish coastal town, where there was nothing more exciting going on than a few small scale fiestas, obligatory for any Spanish town, no matter how small. Still Laura’s mind refused to let that small inconvenience dampen her excitement at the prospect of exploring Sean Fenton further!
Sure enough, right on cue, she saw him. The sweat on his bare chest catching the golden rays of the morning sun in such a way that Laura could not believe the perfection she saw coming towards her. Every muscle was perfectly defined and equally perfectly bronzed by the sun. As he ran, the tension, rippling through those muscles seeming to reverberate through her own body, as he ran on, drawing inexorably nearer with each stride, neither of them were able to take their eyes off each other.
Sean saw her approaching him, her well toned arms swinging back and forth as her smooth measured stride carried her seemingly without effort across the firm sand. To him she represented the epitome of perfection in a woman’s body. Slim, athletic, and tall, he imagined she would match him perfectly in the bedroom, as he pictured her endless, shapely legs wrapped around him. Warning himself not to rush her, he reminded himself to take it slow and spend time talking with her first, as women liked to do he thought, before sweeping her off to his bed for the prize he desired most. He slowed his pace preparing to stop as they reached each other like two magnets, unable to resist the force that seemed intent on bringing the two of them close together.
“I promise not to kiss you this morning,” he said. The deep tones of his voice sending shivers through her already keenly aroused body.
“And what makes you think I don’t want you to?” replied Laura, finding her old confidence had returned with her conscious decision to explore the Sean Fenton option in her life.
Sean only just managed to hold himself back from sweeping her up off her feet and taking her straight to his bed there and then. Self control, he reminded himself. “Is that an invitation?” he responded, raising his hand and stroking his finger gently across her lips. Laura tensed every muscle in her body to try and keep her mind thinking straight. Dear God, what powers did this man possess to make her feel this way with mere words? Her lips burned where his finger had been a moment ago. She watched as his soft, full lips widened into a smile and Laura knew she only had moments before she threw herself at him physically and completely recklessly. She was ready to consider he may be part of her life, but she was not ready to throw caution to the wind completely. She had to get this right, keep her emotions firmly in check and not let herself get carried away. She would not allow the steely self control she had honed over the past four years to let her down again. Security and trust was what she needed, not wild abandon, with no thought to future consequences.
“How about an invitation for lunch,” she countered, noticing the clench of his jaw muscles which indicated that was not the invitation he was hoping for. Still it was all she was willing to give just yet. She hoped it was enough.
“Lunch it is”, I can pick you up in my car if you give me your address.
“No!” Laura said abruptly, making Sean wonder at the edge in her voice in response to such a simple suggestion. Perhaps she didn’t want him knowing where she lived.
“Let’s meet in the town square at eleven, there are plenty of cafes to choose from and people watching over lunch in the square is something of an institution in our town.”
“I shall look forward to it Laura,” he replied. She liked the fact that he was still using the Spanish pronunciation of her name despite the fact that they were now speaking solely in English. Now that he knew she wasn’t Spanish, there seemed little point in not using both their mother tongues.
They remained standing facing each other for several moments, neither wanting to break the connection that was undeniably strong between them. In the end it was Laura who stepped backwards, looking down at her feet awkwardly as she fumbled for something to say, “I’d erm, better get going, Fernando will be dropping off the cakes at the restaurant and I have to be there to open up the kitchen for him.” Laura saw a frown crease Sean’s brow momentarily, then he straightened up and with a nod said, “Yes, I have some things I need to attend to this morning as well. I shall see you at eleven,” and with that, he turned and began jogging back in the direction of the hotel.
Laura was puzzled at the change in atmosphere once she had stepped back from Sean and said she had to go. He had seemed almost angry with her. She dismissed the thought almost as quickly as it had popped into her head. He probably had a lot of work to do, she imagined he was a busy man, probably didn’t have a lot of time for social lunches when he had a large company to run. She remembered he had mentioned that he had no brothers or sisters to help him run the family business. She resolved to ask him more of about it over lunch. With that, she set off at a slow jog back to the restaurant to meet Fernando, happy she had not ruined her friendship with him after her unexpected kiss with Sean Fenton yesterday.
Sean ran back towards the hotel, trying to get the image out of his head of the man he had seen Laura embrace the other morning at the restaurant. There had seemed a familiarity between the two of them that suggested more than mere acquaintances. He felt sure this was the Fernando she was referring to that she was going to meet now. Sean could not shake the feeling of jealousy at the thought of Laura with another man. He felt possessive of her, and it made him all the more determined to have her for himself.
At eleven o’clock sharp, Sean stood in the centre of the town square, scanning the approaching faces for Laura. “I’m so glad you’re on time” he heard her English accent behind him and spun around to see her standing eyes level with his, high heeled sandals bringing her up to the same height as him, asserting herself as his equal. She looked breathtaking in a green sundress with buttons all the way down the front. The neckline was low, and her pendant, a glittering green heart-shaped stone hanging from a gold chain, pointed like an arrow towards the gentle curves of her breasts. Her hair was loose and carelessly tucked behind one ear, revealing drop gold earrings, also set with green stones that sparkled brightly.
“You look beautiful” Sean said admiringly.
“And I see you’ve made an effort too,” Laura grinned cheekily. He looked immaculate and cool. His open necked white shirt, and casual grey trousers fitting him so perfectly, she guessed they were tailor-made. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up drawing her attention to the dark hair on his forearms, leading down to those long-fingered artistic hands she had noticed that first evening at the restaurant.
“No sketchbook today?” she enquired, an image of the red-head she had seen him with at the hotel jumping unbidden into her mind.
“No, it’s more of a business sketchbook,” he replied. “So which of these cafes would you recommend for lunch?”
“All of them are good, but my favourite is this one right here,” she said pointing to the bright yellow tables and chairs to their right, that were slowly beginning to fill up with people.
“La Sonrisa Del Sol,” Sean read the large sign above the entrance to the cafe, “the smile of the sun” he translated, then looked at Laura’s face to see a smile had lit up her face to match the description he had just read, and he felt his heart clench. He reached out and took her by the hand, matching her smile with one of his own, that reflected the wholeness he felt right at that moment, just standing next to her. He led her over to a vacant table on the edge of the square, and pulled out her chair, inviting her to sit down with him. As soon as they were both seated, a waiter appeared with a jug of water and two glasses. He poured them both a drink and handed them menus.
“So I take it from the lunch invitation that you’re no longer angry with me for buying the restaurant,” Sean ventured, anxious to clear the air about that particular subject before relaxing into something more neutral.
“No, I’m not angry any more. Pedro has assured me he is comfortable with selling his restaurant, and is taking his chance for a retirement spent fishing on his very own boat, which he intends to buy with the money you are offering.” Laura smiled fondly, thinking of Pedro spending his days fishing, and his nights cooking his catches, much like he did now, but without the stress and commitment to work. He deserved a life of leisure, she saw how hard he worked, and he wasn’t getting any younger, although she saw no signs of him slowing down just yet!
Sean could see that Pedro and his restaurant meant a lot to her, but he didn’t push her to tell him what her own plans were. He didn’t want to go there, he would enjoy her company for his few remaining days here, then he would have to move onto his next business deal, and wouldn’t return until he restaurant reopened under new management. By that time, he reasoned, Laura would have moved on. He found he did not like the idea that he wouldn’t see her again past this week, a feeling he found strange, since he had no desire for any kind of commitment, his business was his life and there was no room for a woman as well in his busy schedule that took him off travelling the world constantly. He shook off the feeling, telling himself that after a few days with Laura, he would be glad to be leaving and have his own space back, he didn’t want to encourage her into thinking this was any more than a casual fling borne from a strong mutual physical attraction.
“So tell me how you discovered our little town, Sean” Laura asked, setting down her menu on the table beside her.
“A friend of mine stayed at the new hotel several months ago, and his description of the place was so enthusiastic I decided to look into it. There aren’t many unspoilt locations left on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and those few there are, develop pretty quickly once their name becomes known,” he replied.
“But tourists have been coming here for years, and it’s still only a small town, what kind of development are you talking about. What exactly are you planning to do to Pedro’s restaurant?” Laura asked curiously.
“A different type of tourist is beginning to come here now. The penthouse suite of the hotel is booked out almost a year in advance now. I had to wait several weeks to get in, and then did so only because some Arab Sheik cancelled his plans at the last minute. I plan to turn Pedro’s place into a very expensive and exclusive restaurant. I have a top chef lined up to work in it, and since the Fenton company name is well known for its luxury resorts, hotels and restaurants around the world, that alone will attract enough attention when it opens, to put it firmly on the hot list of places to be and be seen amongst the rich and famous.” He explained.
The waiter appeared just at that moment to take their orders, so Laura stole a moment to take in what Sean had just said. This town was set to change in a big way if what he said was true, and she had no reason to doubt him. What had started as a small fishing town, and then developed into quite a popular tourist spot, was going to become something like the stretch of coast that was Monte Carlo, Nice and Cannes. She had never visited those places, but what Sean was talking about was how she imagined them to be. Not just her life was changing, but that of the whole town, she thought. Change and progress was inevitable, as she was discovering in her personal life. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind and turned her attention back to Sean.
“You say you have business ventures all around the world, but where do you call home?” Laura asked.
“I’m originally from Canada, and I still have the Fenton family home there not far from Niagara Falls, but I rarely go there now. I spend most of my life in hotels. My work keeps me on the move.”
“You must have a base for your company? An office you work in?”
“Our company headquarters are in Toronto, I travel back there once a month for board meetings but other than that I can keep in touch by phone or email.”
“But don’t you get lonely travelling around so much?” Laura asked, but then the thought struck her that maybe he wasn’t alone, just because he was having lunch with her, didn’t mean he was single, “or do you have a “she paused, searching for a suitable term, “a travelling companion?”. She held her breath waiting for his reply, what if he was in a relationship and he was looking to have an affair? Or even married? He could easily have taken his ring off. Laura’s overactive imagination began running riot, with possibilities. She really knew nothing about this man, what was she getting herself into? She looked across the table and saw he was smiling at her, those black eyes of his completely unreadable. The waiter chose that moment to arrive with their food, and forced Laura to wait even longer to get an answer to her question, that now that she hadn’t really considered until this point.
Sean could tell from Laura’s discomfort in asking him about his personal life, that she was unsure if he was single. He wondered if it mattered to her if he had a partner or not? She had already flirted with him, kissed him and asked him to lunch. He knew his money was a powerful attraction to plenty of women who wouldn’t care if he was married! But somehow Laura didn’t seem like that kind of woman, and he reluctantly admitted he was attracted to more than just her stunning appearance, he felt an overwhelming need to be honest with her. “No I don’t have a ‘travelling companion’ as you put it. I am single and available,” he replied with a suggestive smile that made Laura blush.
“So who was that red-head I saw you with at the hotel last night?” She asked before she could stop herself. She hurriedly picked up her glass and took a sip of water to stop her runaway mouth!
Sean raised his eyebrow and regarded Laura intently, “Have you been spying on me Miss Knight?” he asked. The idea that she had been watching him was a little disconcerting. She was still largely a mystery to him, and he wondered again if she worked for someone else and was trying to muscle in on his lucrative deal. He shrugged off the thought, everything was signed and sealed now, there was nothing she could do to stop it. He decided not to answer her question, and instead asked one of her in reply.
“And what about you Laura, you seem very close to the man delivering the cakes to the restaurant,” Sean said, finding himself wanting to hear a denial that there was anything between her and this man.
The fact that Sean had not answered the question about the red-head did not go unnoticed, but distracted by his own question to her, Laura flushed red and she hung her head slightly before replying in a quiet voice, “No, Fernando is just a good friend, nothing more.”
Sean wondered at the lack of eye contact from her, whether or not she was telling the truth there. He did not like the idea of her with another man, but he told himself that if she was willing to be with him, what did it matter. He wasn’t proposing marriage, just some fun for a few days, then he’d be gone. He decided to change the subject.
“So how about you Laura, how did you come to this town?” he asked, genuinely curious as to how she came to be here.
“I came for a holiday a year ago when the hotel opened. I met Pedro at his restaurant and helped him out one night, after which he offered me a job. I liked the place and decided to stay.”
“Just like that,” he asked?
“Just like that,” she replied, offering nothing more.
Sean probed further. “So what did you do before you came on holiday?”
“I worked in a hotel of the same chain in England.” Again, Laura gave as little information as possible. She did not like talking of her past
“Don’t you have family back home whom you miss? There must have been more than just an offer of a job waitressing to make you stay here. What about your life back in England?” It just didn’t add up, Laura seemed like she should be so much more than a waitress in a small town, and he was determined to find out why.
“My mother died when I was eighteen, I never knew my father” Laura replied simply.
“I’m so sorry Laura” said Sean. “Were you close to your mother?”
“Very” answered Laura, her voice dropping to a whisper. “I still miss her every day.”
“What happened to her?” Sean asked
Laura had only ever spoken to Pedro about her mother. That was after she had known him a long time, and even then she hadn’t said much about her death. Yet she felt somehow compelled to talk about her mother now, with Sean whom she really didn’t know at all, but that didn’t seem to have much bearing on her actions around him, she thought ruefully, as she remembered their passionate kiss on the beach.
“She was killed in a car accident” she told him.
Sean noticed her touch the tiny scar on her face as she mentioned the accident.
“Is that how you got that scar? Were you in the car too?” Sean asked, the urge to stand up, walk over and hold her in his arms was overwhelming. Laura suddenly seemed so lost and vulnerable, and he wanted to protect her so much.
Laura could not bring herself to tell Sean the whole truth of that day. She didn’t think she would ever be able to tell a soul. She was surprised at how much she had told him already and wondered again what it was about this man that made her want to give of herself so completely to him.
“Can we change the subject please?” Laura asked, blinking back tears that were burning her eyes, and threatening to spill out of her in torrent of unstoppable emotion.
Sean reached over and took her hand with a tenderness she had not expected from him. His eyes were full of understanding and concern. Her mother’s death had clearly had a huge impact on her life. And for the emotions to be so close to the surface four years on, it clearly still was impacting her. Sean remembered how long he had taken to come to terms with the death of his parents, to whom he had never been that close. He couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been for Laura to lose her only parent, who she had said she was close to.
The sound of laughter from a nearby table broke their sombre thoughts and Laura pulled her hand back from under Sean’s self-consciously. Honestly, she thought to herself, he must think I’m crazy; I can’t seem to control my emotions, or anything else around this man. Not wanting to dwell on that thought any longer, she concentrated on taking a bite of the delicious steak sandwich she had ordered.
“You were right Laura, this food is delicious” said Sean, as he took a mouthful of his seafood paella.
Laura smiled, “Did you doubt me? “she asked, relaxing a little with the change of subject. The food here was one of the first things I fell in love with. I think it has as much to do with the weather as anything. To be able to eat outside all year round is just fantastic.
Sean agreed, happy to see Laura smiling again. They settled into an easy conversation then, enjoying each other’s company, the topics many and varied, flowing easily into one another.
Their food finished, they stayed at their table, chatting over a glass or two of wine, for long after most of the other guests had left and the town had begun to quieten down for the daily siesta. Laura couldn’t remember the last time she had enjoyed someone’s company so much and felt so much like her old self. She thought again of her mother, and the hours they used to spend just talking. She was surprised to find the memory did not bring about the usual sadness she felt when thinking of her mother. Instead it was a warm feeling of a happy time shared with someone she loved. Laura looked across at Sean. She found it hard to believe of someone she had known for only a couple of days, but was love a word she could associate with this man? The instant attraction she had felt for him when he first appeared at the restaurant, and the constant yearning from within her ever since then to be around him. She felt so at ease in his company, could she dare to hope he felt the same way about her?
“So how long are you planning to stay in town?” she asked, her thoughts starting to turn to the future, feeling a glimmer of hope for the possibility it might hold for her with Sean Fenton.
“Until the end of the week, I just have a few more loose ends to tie up” he said.
Laura felt stunned. Only until the end of the week? She had imagined he would be staying a lot longer than that, to oversee the work on the restaurant. He couldn’t just leave. She had decided to get to know him, and consider how he might fit into her life. Like Pedro had said, there was a connection between the two of them. She was planning on exploring that connection further. Her mind sped from one thought to another. She began to feel anger rising inside of her towards this man again. If he was only planning on staying here a few days, then she was obviously just a fling, nothing more. Not that he had ever said anything to suggest otherwise, but she had begun to hope! Something she had not allowed herself to do for four years. She felt like an idiot.
“So what is it you are expecting from me, Sean? Why waste all this time getting to know me if you’re not going to stick around?” Laura tried to keep her voice steady.
Sean, caught the warning tone in her voice and felt the temperature between them drop several degrees as he realised that she had not been expecting him to say he was leaving so soon. “I was hoping to spend some time with you Laura, you are a very attractive woman, and I enjoy your company.”
“Just a fling, and then you will move onto the next town, the next deal, the next pretty girl you find.” Laura, felt herself losing control. How could she have made such a mistake in judgement. What happened to her mantra? “Keep your eyes on the present; don’t lose what you’ve got now for a mere dream of something in the future.” She had done exactly the opposite. In nursing the dream of something in the future with Sean, she had lost Fernando. Fernando was real. Sean was just a passing fantasy. How could she have been so stupid!
“That’s not how it is Laura” Sean protested, angry that she would cast him as a heartless womaniser. He was attracted to her, and she to him, what was wrong in doing something about that? They were two consenting adults enjoying each other’s company. Why did it have to be anything more?
“What were you expecting? A marriage proposal? We barely know each other?” He flung back at her, angry too that things were not going as planned. Far from it. This woman had succeeded once again in making him lose his self-control. Well maybe he was better off without her. Attraction or no attraction he did not let other people dictate his life, especially not a woman.
“I’ve tried the whole commitment thing Laura, and it doesn’t work for me. I’m here until Friday. If you change your mind and would like to have some fun with me, you can come to my hotel. I’m staying in the penthouse.” And with that, he stood up, flung some money down on the table to pay for lunch and stormed off.
Laura could not believe how arrogant he was. To suggest that she would go to his hotel room for some fun! She was not a prostitute, which was how he seemed to expect her to be! He obviously thought that he could have whatever he wanted. Well, he had another thing coming if he expected her to come running to him. She had had enough of Sean Fenton. Laura picked up her bag, aware that the other remaining diners were looking at her curiously. It was a small town after all, and this was a very public place to have such an argument with such a strikingly handsome man. Laura groaned as she realised that the whole town would be gossiping about her by the end of the day, wondering what was happening between her and Sean Fenton. Nothing, she thought determinedly.
The waiter came over to see if everything was ok. Or just to be nosey, she thought wryly. “Yes, thank you” she replied. ”Lunch was delicious” and she handed him the money Sean had left on the table, which was more than enough to cover the bill. “Keep the change” she added, before walking away in the opposite direction to that Sean had headed in, not knowing where she was going, but needing to walk and calm herself down. And then figure out what the hell she was going to do now!
The story continues tomorrow.....