This week our assignment is to write a love scene for a romance novel. Love scenes in romance novels are not graphic accounts of sex. We learned that romances emphasize the emotional connections, which may be conveyed by body, voice, expression, thought, action or interpretation.
So here goes, somewhere in the story, of course, in a coffee shop:
Cole’s silence as he read Cheri’s words wrapped fear around her heart. This might have been a bigger mistake than leaving her crayons in her smock on wash day when she was in the first grade. Her mother had set the machine on “hot/cold,” which first created a rainbow lava flow that then hardened onto all of the clothes…and the inside of the machine. Not only were the clothes ruined, the machine had to be replaced, too. This story just might be that same kind of disaster, she thought, gleaning no clues from his poker face. She silently willed Cole to say something, anything, forgetting to be careful with wishes. To her horror, he did speak. He read the last sentences of the story out loud:
Thank you, dear and darling you, for the still moments of being, one beside me and somehow deep inside me, belonging without any kind of touching, except that kind only spirits arousing, accepting, and everywhere ascending, only spirits believing and giving love freely entwining desire with breathing…this is what they, now we becoming, yes, this we touchingly know.
Cheri stopped breathing.
“This isn’t just a story, is it?” Cole asked, his voice low, insistent.
The sound of his voice tricked heat into flaming above and below Cheri’s heart, in places she had denied such heat for much too long.
For some reason she felt her head sway to the left and then to the right. It was going where she knew she should not go but she couldn’t seem to stop it.
“It isn’t just a work piece, Cheri. You wrote this for me.”
Cheri bowed her head but said nothing, thinking instead about how the story had a love scene in a coffee shop. Was it wishful thinking or premonition? She’d never say, but she would admit that the story’s hero bore a striking resemblance to the man who was praising her pages. Life is art, Cheri strongly believed, a Magritte canvas and window: which came first and which held the other was impossible to discern…which was quite the point.
Cole reached across the table and took Cheri’s hand in his. He very gently rubbed her hand with his fingers.
Cheri felt the current surge up her arm and almost whimpered out loud. Too much! It was too much! It had been too long and too long in the making. Cheri pulled back, pulled her hand back, put her hand over her mouth. “Cole, I, I…what I, I can’t, here, can’t, I…”
“I can apologize if you want me to,” Cole offered, his very blue eyes intensely watching her. “Do you want me to?” His hands were seeking hers on the table but she kept hers in her lap.
She felt paralyzed, unable to say either yes or no, move toward or away. She wanted to disappear, frightened by the realization that her passion, which she thought had been so cleverly disguised, was so readily apparent…and about to overtake her.
“Come outside with me, Cheri.” Cole said, reaching under the table to brush her knee.
“Cole, we have work to do! We can’t just leave!” Indignation returned her words to her.
“Of course we can; you work for me. We’re done for now. So let’s go sit in my car. It’s getting too loud in here.”
She looked at him. He was crazy. “It’s freezing cold outside!”
“I have heated seats, Cheri, and I will keep you warm. Come outside and talk with me. You need to talk to me; I can see it.” Cole sat back, pulled his scarf from his lap and draped it around his neck. He then tucked the pages back into his laptop envelope, clearly ready to leave.
“Oh, heated seats. That makes all the difference!” Against her better judgment, which seemed to be eager to take off work, too, Cheri managed to stand up by gripping the table for balance. She wiped off her mouth and fingers with napkins before shrugging on her coat and wrapping her own scarf around her neck. She wondered what to do about their coffee cups. She took a large gulp to almost finish her almost cool latte. She wedged the pile of used napkins into the cup and marched over to the trash can, where she dumped them.
Buttoned up and tightly wound, she mutely followed Cole, who had popped a lid onto his still full latte, to and out the side door of Mocha Joe. She thought of bolting to her own car and racing far, far away, but Cole turned to her, as if he knew that, and gently took her elbow. “Come sit with me, Cheri,” he simply said.
He opened the passenger side door for her and helped her up and inside his SUV, pushing her door closed once she was seated. It was a small gesture that she never appreciated from others, but from Cole it made her feel pretty. Cole slipped around to the driver’s side. He deposited his folio in the back seat and then he slid into the driver’s seat. He started the car, switched on the heat, and placed his drink in the cup holder in the front console below the stereo panel, which he tapped. Soft music began to play. Cheri watched all of this, and realized the man was preparing to seduce her. Her heart hammered in her chest and her mouth suddenly went dry.
Cole took a breath, turned sideways towards Cheri. He took her hand in his.
“Poor little cold fingers,” he said, curving them into the palm of his hand. He covered the little fist her hand made with his other hand, and pressed his warmth into it. “Are you okay, my Cheri?”
“I am fine,” Cheri assured him, though she wasn’t sure she was. His next move would determine how fine or unfine she really felt, but she couldn’t decide which move she preferred, or which would be fine and which would not. Cole’s fingers lightly stroked her hand until her fist unclenched and her fingers spread, opening to him.
“I am not OK,” Cole said. “I am struggling. You see, there’s something about you I can’t quite explain. Something impossibly alluring. I can’t stop thinking about you, Cheri, and God knows I’ve tried.” Cole raised Cheri’s hand to his mouth and kissed it, then let their hands slowly lower. “But you seem so delicate sometimes, and so guarded, I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Delicate?” Cheri asked, bewildered. “I may be small but I am not delicate. I am quite capable of taking care of myself. I do a fine job of it, actually.”
“Quite fine, oh, yes, you are, my dear!” Cole said, smiling. “Fine in so, so many ways. You also are working for me and I don’t want to take advantage of my position.”
“So fire me,” Cheri offered, shocking both of them, though her pulse raced at the thought of the lost opportunity, to say nothing of the very necessary income.
At that Cole laughed a big, hearty laugh, which seemed to lighten the air that had become too dense for breathing. “Sounds so easy but I can’t. I need you. You are quite important to the publishing house and to my plans, young lady.” He smiled. “You have incredible talent; that’s part of your allure. All this.” His hand waved up and down, “and gifted as hell to boot.”
Cheri laughed, too. “All what, I can’t possibly imagine, but thank you for appreciating my talent. I love working with you, for you, however the arrangement.”
“What about the rest?” Cole asked.
“The rest of what?”
“My very unprofessional interest in you. Does that interest you at all?”
“I…I don’t know,” she tried to reply, her heart knocking so loudly she thought he could hear it. He looked at her through somehow rounder azure irises and she wondered if he was going to scold her for not answering. She stiffened for the reprimand, and was stunned when, instead, Cole pressed his lips to hers.
Cheri thought at first it would be a quick kiss, like the quick kiss he gave her a few weeks ago when he thanked her for her hard work and she had blushed, delighted and embarrassed.
But this was not that kind of kiss. This was a kiss that Cole deftly steered, from tentative to fully engaging to fiery desire igniting. His teeth softly bit the swell of her lower lip, and then his tongue traced the circumference of her mouth before matching his lips to hers. He opened her mouth with the soft probing of his tongue, and suddenly Cheri’s brain exploded with fireworks flashing out YES! YES! Oh, yes oh yes oh YES!
Cole held one of Cheri’s hands tightly in his, as if knowing he needed to tether her so she wouldn’t soar away. His other hand cupped her face for a moment, and then fingers traveled the line from her temple to her cheekbone to her jaw, and Cheri thought, “My face is in your hand Cole. Hold onto me.”
Cole finally broke the kiss to pull back and admire his handiwork. Cheri’s mouth was swollen, her eyes round and wide, unfocused. She panted softly, staring up at him, his effect splashed all over her face.
“Wow,” she whispered to Cole.
“I know,” he replied softly. “I know, I know,” he said a few more times, and pulled her close to him, tucking her head beneath his chin. “I know, my darling, I know.”
“I always wondered what it would be like to kiss you,” Cheri confessed.
“Well, how did I do?” He kissed the top of her head.
“Better than I imagined. You are an incredible kisser,” she said against his chest, her fingers reaching up to stroke his face.
“You are the expert kisser, my dear. I just followed your lead.” Cole’s hands stroked her back through her coat and he kissed the top of her head again.
She smiled, then, against his chest, which felt like her new home, knowing he could not see her face. Words like love she silently breathed, relieved to speak the truth while keeping it still well out of his reach.
“Hmm? My dear?” Cole whispered to her. “What did you say?”
“Nothing, I was sighing is all.”
“Is that a good sign, then, a sigh from you?” Cole raised her chin with his fingers. He smiled into her eyes.
“You have the most beautiful blue eyes,” Cheri marveled, “And I say that without being partial to blue.” What she didn’t add is that she got lost in them every time he looked at her: it sounded so cliché. And maybe lost wasn’t the right word because that sounded pejorative. Lost meant directionless, without a clue, or floundering. She felt none of those things. What she did feel was weightlessness, an intense pull, a fascinating yearning. Those eyes were hypnotic, the way they promised so much but confessed so little. Cole’s face and its well-trained features usually betrayed nothing about what was floating or churning inside the man. Right now, however, Cole’s eyes seemed to be warming and Cheri could swear she saw the flicker of affection, which she hoped wasn’t just her own projection.
“Ah, my dear Cheri, you are incredibly pretty. Everything about you is lovely. Your own eyes are so expressive, they way they flash when you’re talking about what moves you. And your talented fingers!” he put her hand to his lips and kissed each fingertip. “I like the way they touch my skin, as if they were made just for that task.”