Take a Chance on Me
Weddings by C & C, Book 1
by Mia Epsilon
Ebook ISBN: B00ZLN91Z6
[ Romantic Suspense, MF ]
When coworkers take a chance on romance, the consequences cost more than their friendship: one could lose his/her life.
Computer screens couldn’t distort his sex appeal. He looked good enough for her to reach out and touch. Charlie had beautiful eyes, so dark blue they appeared navy, set in a deeply tanned face. Memorizing, hypnotizing, drawing you in, and promising all sorts of wonderful things. Not a tease, but most definitely a promise. A woman could drown in those orbs, just sink in, and never come back out again. No doubt she sat gazing at him like some fan girl at a star’s webpage.
“So, there are no changes?”
Christine blinked and shook her head, clearing it to answer his question. “For now, no.”
“Those are the magic words, I believe, ‘for now’.” Charlie laughed and something in her stomach curled up all warm and snug. “How many years have we been doing this?”
She had to think for a minute. “It’s been just over six years.”
Oh yum, the way he smiled. His lips looked better than chocolate and probably tasted sweeter, darker, and more satisfying. “You always call me back at least once with more figures and new orders.”
“Buyers change their minds every thirty minutes sometimes. When they change, I have no choice but to call you.” So, okay, sometimes she stretched the reason for those calls. Her small monitor web cam couldn’t compare to the video screen here at work. Charlie deserved to be on the big screen.
He laughed again and she barely kept herself from touching his face. Such an incredible face, so strong and yet tender. She’d seen him amused and saddened, frustrated and content, everything but satiated. What would it be like to feel his tanned skin in more than a platonic way? “When does your vacation begin?”
She passed a hand over her hair as she struggled to adjust to the change in subject and her raging libido. “I leave tomorrow.”
“I wish I could go with you. I could show you such delights.”
She hesitated, unsure as always if Charlie meant an innuendo or just conversation. He was a world class flirt, a charmer like none she’d ever encountered, and Christine never felt quite steady around him. For six years he’d seen her as a coworker, then a buddy, then as a good, close friend but not as anything more. Damn it all. “Oh, I bet. You’re a world class traveler and adventurer after all. When did you last visit Australia?”
“Eight years ago. You will love it.” Charlie leaned back in his chair, the window behind him showing the rolling waves of the ocean. “There’s nothing like the Sydney quay and the Nations Row houses in Canberra. I’d love to see your face when you see them.”
She sighed. So much for a romantic vacation with him. He meant friendly conversation. It was all for the best really. They’d both seen how rumors regarding coworkers being more than coworkers affected the professional atmosphere. “This has been a dream of mine, especially with Maddy begging me for ages to visit.”
“I understand.” Of course he did. She’d mentioned the trip several times. Charlie even helped her make the flight arrangements to finally visit her best friend. “No one deserves it more. The last three years have been horrible for you.”
“I do need this vacation.” So why did it feel so empty to be going alone?
“Don’t forget to have fun.” He winked. “I could give you some ideas on fun.”
Geez, he had to be aware how his wink affected women. Every female in ten miles went all fluttery in the knees. Did he have to use it on her? “Stop flirting with me. You don’t need practice. It comes as natural to you as breathing.”
“Who says I’m flirting? Your plane flies right over Honolulu. Stop by and see me in person. We could have dinner, see the sunset, and play on the beach. I’ll drool over you in a bikini while you feast your gaze on me in a Speedo.”
She laughed even as the idea almost took root. Charlie in a Speedo, wet, glistening in the sun with nothing but a few scraps of tiny material between them. Oh heck no. “Like I’m ever going to put a bikini on in front of you? You’ve had chances to stop here on the east coast and see me. Yet you didn’t.”
He lost the smile and the teasing light in his face faded. “I did when you needed me most.”
She swallowed, wishing she could take back the thoughtless words. “I remember. So much I’ve forgotten or blocked, but I recall your face and voice. You held me and made me feel safe. Why haven’t you visited since?”
“Because I’m obviously a fool.” Charlie tapped his long fingers together against his chin.
She felt her gaze widen. He couldn’t be serious. But damn, he seemed so intense, leaning forward, navy gaze all but drilling into her. She swallowed again. Maddy always told her to be bold. She could push a bit, flirt back then lick her rejection wounds during the fifteen hour flight to the other side of the world. “I always have your favorite brand of scotch on hand.”
She shrugged, crossed her legs, and tried to appear nonchalant. Maddy would be proud. “Your favorite scotch, favorite foods, nice cleans sheets on the bed, and a jogging trail all waiting for you here.”
One finger stroked his full bottom lip then slid down his chin. She’d love to trace the same path with her mouth. “You believe you’re so well acquainted with my wants and desires?”
“We’ve shared years of video conferences, emails, phone calls, and messenger notes.” She mimicked his movement, drawing one finger from her bottom lip down her chin and throat then back again.
He stroked his hand over his chin, gripped it and let go. “One day you can prove just how much more you’re willing to learn about me and what I want.”
She twirled a strand of hair around her finger. “You’ll find I’m no wallflower when I teach you a few things, Mr. Jergens.”
His deep laugh felt like a sensual caress waking her from sleep after a night of lovemaking. “A vixen hides under your cool demeanor, doesn’t she?”
“Maybe.” Hell no, but she could be a great actress.
“A woman, who is confident in what she wants and how to get it?” His whisper feathered over her skin even through the distance between them, making goose bumps rise on her skin.
“Aren’t independent, strong, confident women vogue now?” Her daughter Anna had said so after sending some article in some magazine about men and how to attract their attention.
“Ah, Christine, it depends on the woman.” His lips lifted at one corner, utterly kissable.
She leaned forward a bit. “I’d say it depends on the man. Confident, sexy, and independent is your preference, isn’t it?”
She faltered a second. He’d dated models and movie stars; he could be a model or movie star. Of course he wanted a match to his strong independence. “Isn’t it?
He stroked his cheek. Had he just shaved? His skin appeared smooth, ready for her to cup and caress. How could any one man be so darned sexy talking about mundane figures and hypothetic situations? “Perhaps cool appearing honey blondes with huge brown eyes and sexy southern accents are more my preference.”
Damn. Friendly teasing again. Christine sighed and placed her hand on her forehead. “Darn. You described me until the ‘sexy accent’ part. Le sigh, le moan, le massive disappointment.”
“Have you taken a lunch break yet?”
She shook her head a bit startled at the abrupt change of subject. “No. Why?”
“Consider this your break and off company time. Hit the timer and let me call your cell. I want to say this outside of work.”
Ah, hell, had she pushed too hard? He’d call and reprimand her, reminding her they were just friends and to cease and desist. Heart thumping, she pressed the little timer beside her to count down thirty minutes and dug her cell phone from her purse. “We’re off the clock, so to speak. What’s wrong?”
He flipped a similar timer without taking his gaze from hers. “Give me a second.” The computer screen went blank as he broke the connection. Her cell rang moments later. “So, Ms. Independent, how confident are you?”
Not a reprimand or a reminder. Christine breathed again. Just more flirting to see how far she’d go, like she’d challenged him. Fine, she’d flirt back and watch him back down this time. “I’m a mature, responsible woman. I’m not a clueless teenager.”
“No, you’re not.” His voice held a touch of amusement. “Not even your children are teenagers any longer.”
His comment irked her. She may be older, but not ancient as his words implied. Besides, he had more years than she did. Why did men get better with age and women simply get old? Damn him. She could flirt and be sexy. “Neither are you. Isn’t it a glorious thing I prefer mature men?”
“I’m mature enough to be aware what I want and how to get it.” Charlie sighed long and low. “Except, apparently, when it comes to getting you.”
Christine all but choked. “Whoa, an innuendo. I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack, but I’m not the dimmest either.”
“I would never call you dim. You shine brighter than any star in the sky.”
So much for flirting. She stank at it obviously. One little whisper and she fell apart. Okay, time to laugh this off and take it back to friendly banter. She laughed. “What a line. Does it work all the time?”
“It’s not a line. Come to Hawaii, Christine.” His murmur was smooth and rich like melted chocolate drizzled over strawberries making her shiver. “Let me add to your experiences.”
She cleared her throat. If he used this intense voice all the time, no wonder women fell at his feet. But he remained way out of her league. She cleared her throat a second time. The direct approach seemed best. Force his hand, have a good laugh, and then end as friends. “My experiences in travel or in sex and pleasure?”
“Are we talking about sex and pleasure?” The way Charlie said the words ‘sex’ and ‘pleasure’ like some pagan promise proved hot enough to make her panties go up in flames. Damn him. The deep husky sound washed over her like a sensual wave. “Christine, you delight me.”
“Perhaps one day I truly will, in every way you can image.” Ha, take that lust inducer. He didn’t reply, and she wanted to kick herself. Obviously her flirting fell flat because she’d pushed their friendship past boundaries. Now he’d try to gently let her down.
“I’ll take your offer. Are you finally ready for me, Christine?”
No. Oh hell no, she couldn’t handle this without exploding. She shouldn’t have started this. Stupid, Christine, stupid, stupid, stupid. “I think the question should be, are you ready for me?”
His next words had her squirming. “If you stop in Hawaii, I’ll show you. It could be an interesting lay over for you.”
“But more so for you.” She switched off the timer. He had plenty of opportunities in the last few months to make a move and not taken any of them. “Okay, enough silliness. I need to get back to work. I’ll email photos and updates from the trip.”
He didn’t answer for a long moment. Then he coughed and followed it with a sigh. “Have you had any more night terrors?”
Talk about subject shift. Geez, how could she ever possibly keep up with him? She almost answered no, but he knew she couldn’t lie to him or be some sophisticated sexpot flirt. “I’ve had a few. It’s nothing to worry about. You’ve helped.” Each night, he’d send an IM or text to talk to her about fun things and put her into what he’d call ‘peaceful repose’. This made her begin to fall in—no, she wouldn’t even consider such an impossible thing, however tempting it might be. Some dreams weren’t meant to come true.
“Come here and I’ll show you ways to chase those nasty dreams away forever.” He emphasized the word ‘come’.
Damn him and his flirting. Christine re-crossed her legs. Nothing like wanting a man you couldn’t have. “Just being in Hawaii could chase any bad dream away. I have to get these other invoices finished. Laci is handling my accounts while I’m gone and I want to leave everything in perfect order.”
“Laci?” He sounded like he had no idea who she meant.
“Laci Souter, the blonde, figure-like-a-model, rep you took to dinner last time you were here.” Did she sound envious? Probably, since Laci wasted no time the next day at the office telling everyone Charlie behaved like a marathon man in bed. Their supervisor, Jim, had pouted for a week, since rumors also placed Laci very close to him. “Y’all went to a club after, I heard.” Then back to her apartment and bed.
“Do I detect jealousy in your tone?” She could all but see his grin.
Devil. Damn him. She’d been envious, furious, and then heartbroken, but she was over it now. So very over it. “She’ll get whatever you need.”
He laughed. The low sound arrowed straight through her heart. “I don’t need anyone but you, Christine.”
She wished she could believe it. She wouldn’t fly to Australia, but straight to him. “Hopefully, everything will go well. Take care, Charlie.” I’ll miss you. She blew out her breath and put away her cell. Her desk stacked high with piles of papers and files. She’d do better to focus on them rather than what could never happen.
Charlie cursed after she disconnected. He’d wanted her every moment of the last six damn years, especially the last two. Six, for God’s sake, and still he couldn’t progress beyond mere flirting and suggestion. What would she say if she knew he couldn’t wait for their nightly chats, even if they only lasted one or two minutes? He often searched for hours for a funny joke or story to tell her so she’d laugh that cute little giggle he loved so much. He wanted to take their relationship far beyond simple friendship. She occupied many of his waking thoughts and all of his dreams. He dated a lot, trying to forget her and never could. No other woman measured her standard, her intelligence, her beauty, joy, and sweetness.
He’d never been the type to sit and wait on any woman, yet Christine remained different. He’d wait as long as she needed. He wanted more than just a few nights of sex. He wanted her in his life, cooking meals with him, watching television, jogging, or just reading together. He wanted her face to be the last thing he saw before they slept and first when they woke. He hadn’t wanted anything close to that in a long time. What made Christine so different?
He felt like a bloody horny teenager whenever he saw laughter in her deep brown gaze and heard her voice. The mere sound of her reading figures over the phone gave him a raging hard on. She had one of the sexiest voices ever. Lightly accented with a ‘southern belle’ tone she didn’t even realize she possessed. He smiled as he stared at the dark videoconference screen. She’d been shocked the first time he pointed out how many times she’d said ‘y’all’ during one of their first ordering sessions. He could hear her voice, calling out to him as he suckled her breasts and licked along her creamy smooth skin. He groaned and leaned back in his chair. Was she a screamer? Or would she just sigh when their bodies joined and she climaxed around him?
He tossed a pencil across the room. What the hell? It hadn’t been that damn long since he last had sex. He shouldn’t be this worked up over simple flirting. They worked together for God’s sake. They talked online every night as friends. He hated the word friends. A nonsense word that couldn’t begin to describe what they had. He ran a hand through his hair. His own fault really, since he’d given her no reason beyond the flirting to think he needed more. Why hadn’t he made some move? Being with her, even just talking, would beat the hell out of berating himself for not taking their relationship beyond friendship. He grinned and booted up his laptop. “Take a chance, Christine, and so will I.” He began to type and hoped he didn’t appear a fool.
Your Journey begins
And takes you Far from Me
Yet closer than we have been in so Long
Be safe on your travels.
The Path we started Long ago
And the Light which will stay burning
In the window only for You
Until you come safely back Home.
Charlie sighed and read over the lines three times before he took a deep breath and hit ‘send’. He leaned back and let his breath out in a long slow stream. He’d either just made a complete ass of himself or set something wonderful in motion. All he could do now was wait and see. He closed his laptop and walked away.
The next day Charlie snarled into the intercom. “I told you to find the figures twenty minutes ago. What the hell is the hold up?”
“You’ll have them in five minutes, sir.” His administrative assistant switched off her com.
He slammed his fist on the desk. What the hell had got into him? He’d snapped her head off when she didn’t deserve it. The figures weren’t even needed for another hour or so. He sighed. He’d been in a foul mood ever since Christine departed for her dream trip and hadn’t responded to his poem. He understood why. She’d been through hell and back. Taking a chance might still be too much to ask.
He stalked to his window and watched the ocean. Waves met the shore, retreated, and surged forward once more. He felt this way. Each time he made progress with Christine, she retreated. Maybe this time apart would be good for them both. She and her friend Maddy needed the fun of a girls’ vacation. But when he dared to suggest she stop by and see him, she’d laughed as if it were the greatest joke in the world.
He leaned his head against the cool glass. His desire to take them from friendship to the next step seemed completely logical to him. He’d not once in all the years since his divorce been tempted to take this leap into another commitment. He wanted Christine, plain as the sunshine outside. He’d seen her glances at him, her pretty little blushes when they flirted and the almost wishful hope in her expression at times. Why wouldn’t she take a chance?
He watched as a hand holding couple strolled along the beach. A typical sunny day, warm and pleasant, every bit the paradise travel brochures called this bit of the world. He wanted to share this view, these islands, and their people with his best friend.
“God, Christine,” he whispered. “I miss you. I miss your face, your smile, your voice. I miss flirting with you just to see the lovely shade of pink in your cheeks. I miss seeing your ID on my cell and your name on my email or Skype. Couldn’t you send even one message? Are you so busy you can’t even think of me? Or do you just not think of me at all?”
He had it bad. So bad he talked to himself. A knock thundered on his door. He turned and prepared to apologize to the best administrative assistant any man could ever have.